The NOW!PROF. Key Communication Method of language teaching is underpinned by the following interwoven, complimentary concepts which make up our philosophy of teaching:
Elicitation : Through guided questioning students are the ones who drive the lesson content, beginning from the very first grammar explanations. This then forms the lesson boardwork and subsequently their notes. Students are empowered, examples are personal and relevant. The topic of elicitation returns when students make mistakes during the lesson, with the boardwork left present on the board the teacher is able to guide the students to the relevant construction issue for them to reason and self-correct, thus eliciting the correction directly from the student rather than simply providing the correct form. This forces the student to reflect and engage with their error and self-correction is a powerful way to summon the relevant mental activity to allow real, lasting correction.
Personalisation : Students immediately see how the grammar is relevant to them, it is no longer an abstract concept, but something with a real meaning for them. The use of real life, personal examples when presenting the grammar is extremely powerful for memorisation. Consider two people, one is an avid football fan and the other has no interest in football at all. Both are shown the weekends football results for 1 minute and asked to memorise as many as possible. 5 minutes later they are asked to write down what they remember. They were shown the information for the same amount of time, just names (of teams) and numbers (the score) who do you think would perform better? It has been shown in repeated tests that the football fan performs significantly better, the reason lies inside our brains and is a fundamental concept of why we remember and retain certain information. For the football fan the results have a real meaning, they make up part of a tapestry in his mind and they are bolted on to his accumulated knowledge about football. For the non-fan the results are just an abstract collection of words and numbers. This principle is key to understanding how powerful language personalisation is for students. Imagine you are teaching the Present Continuous for ongoing current situations and rather than giving a generic example of this use, you begin by asking students a question like “what is happening in your life at the moment?” / “Is there anything that is frustrating you at the moment?” A student may then respond with a personalised sentence such as, “my washing machine isn’t working at the moment”. If this is an ongoing problem for the student, they are angry about it, the washing machine has ruined their clothes, flooded their house, they have had to call out a plumber at great expense, etc… all of this real-life background provides a pertinent and powerful tapestry onto which the English grammar can be bolted. How does this help the student? Because the sentence is pertinent to their real-life there is more chance that they will remember the sentence, just like the football fan and the football results. Then from remembering the sentence they also find the grammar rule, so remember the sentence, remember the rule, reuse the rule in other situations.
Relevance : Immediate personalisation of the taught language is essential for effectiive, efficient learning. And what is more, it creates a real relationship between teacher and student and students within the class, because it provides a point of discussion which is real, talking about real things has relevance, it’s engaging and as such provides genuine motivation to use the language to further the discussion.
Motivation : This is key for students continued pursuit of learning English as well as their propensity to engage in lessons. Personalising lessons from the get-go and providing immediate opportunity for students to use the language and drive the lesson content should go a long way to keeping students motivated. Add to this varied, stimulating practice activities and students should stay motivated and engaged for a long time to come! The importance of motivation is most evident when considering the nemesis of motivation… frustration! Frustration in language learners leads to disillusionment and abandonment of learning faster than little else.
Satisfaction : Through relevant, immediate personalisation and immediate use of the language students gain an immense sense of satisfaction. This satisfaction is what students need to feel that they are making progress with their learning and this is what gives them the motivation to continue. Learning a language can be a daunting undertaking and it is always important to remind students not to look solely ahead at what they still have to learn, but to look back and appreciate what they know today that they didn’t know yesterday, last week, last year. The opposite side of satisfaction is frustration and this is what causes students to give up on learning a new language so it is essential that students are left with a rewarding sense of satisfaction at the end of every lesson. The easiest way to attain this is through a clear understanding of the topic achieved through a well-organised presentation of the language in the Building Boardwork phase of the lesson, followed by immediate spoken practice. When presented with a complex topic such as the third conditional, students may often understand the construction when presented on the board, but then raise a hand and say, “but, I’ll never be able to use this in a real situation”. This is typical and it’s essential to remind students “when did you learn this?” The answer is moments ago so the teacher needs to work to immediately get students using the language so that it becomes natural.
Enjoyment / Variety : If you enjoy something, you are motivated to continue and to get better. NOW!PROF. lesson plans include a host of practice activities for each lesson allowing you to keep your students guessing with a a varied arsenal of activities to ensure lessons are always fun and engaging, never dull and predictable.
Immediacy (students start using language in spoken immediately, this is a very powerful, confidence building technique which eliminates the traditional academic bridge between theory and use. The theory is still present, it is still essential to correct construction, but it is no longer abstract, it is relevant and has been elicited from the students, they were participative in the initial production of the rules that they find written on the board and in their notes. Once the Building Boardwork phase is completed, we move directly to fun activities where students use the language. there is no down-time where we break the flow of communicative speaking in the classroom to complete in a gap-fill or other controlled practice. We drive the lesson through relevant spoken use of the language.
Challenge / New Personal Best (PB): (working in the zone of proximal development) This need not always be between students, but also students trying to achieve a new “personal best”. Language learning is something which takes place in the mind, the results, are, as such, not visible. This can lead to a false idea of under-achievement and frustration as students are not fully aware of the progress they are making. As teachers we need to make students progress as evident to them as possible. Consider a different type of activity like athletic training, yesterday you ran 10km, today you push yourself to run 11km, it’s difficult, but you manage it, tomorrow 11km starts to feel easier and gradually becomes the new normal, your new base level and 10km starts to feel like a walk in the park. Or you lift weights, every session you try to lift a little heavier or complete a few more repetitions, language learning should work off the same concepts, students pushing themselves within their limits of proximal development to improve. To push students without exceeding requires teachers to be attunded to students level and how far they can be challenged without creating confusion and subsequent frustration and lack of motivation.
Competition : competing against other students or against themselves, competition is a fantastic way to make lessons fun and engaging for students of any age. The NOW!PROF. Key Communication Method includes lots of flexible competition activities to keep your lessons lively and engaging.
SOME USEFUL ANALOGIES TO KEEP IN MIND:
Bringing up children. They need stability (to give them confidence and security) supplemented with a variety of stimuli (to develop ideas and grow mentally). Apply this is your teaching approach. Stability : organised boardwork presentations, with consistent colour coding and annotations provides safety and uniformity when learning new topics. Variety of stimuli : varied practice activities to keep students engaged and having fun (think of the bored child, “no, not again…” Avoid the bored child effect in your lessons!
Learning the piano. You study piano theory, you listen to piano music and then someone gives you a piano. Can you play it? No. To speak you need to practice speaking! Good speaking skills come from speaking practice!
6-pack abs. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see a 6-pack if you don’t go the gym often enough! Consistency is key to students achieving their language goals and staving off frustration (the nemesis of motivation!). Really this is an off-shoot of the idea of personalisation, as a teacher give students as many ways as possible to integrate English into their daily lives, including homework!