This month I’ve been thinking about the characteristics of student-centered, or learning-centered, activities (in contrast to teacher-centered ones). My colleague Josh coincidentally has also been thinking about this, and he came up with the following acronym CAN-FIT, for these criteria: challenge (not too much, nor too little), all students actively participate, needs/interests of Ss are engaged, freedom & control, interaction with self-expression, and task with real-world purpose. These criteria are adapted from Scott Thornbury’s criteria for communicative tasks (see link below).
My puzzle is not really what makes an activity learning-centered, or not, because I know how to design one, and I can recognize one when I see it. Instead, my puzzle has been about the role of drilling. Alas, Sir Thornbury has written on the subject already, but the question lingers, for me framed in this way: what is the role of drilling in a learning-centered lesson? On the one hand, it seems dismissive to suggest no drilling. How else can students learn? I’m reminded of a wonderful activity that my colleague Mary Scholl did for English teachers at a conference at Centro Cultural in San Salvador. Her theory is that people who say they are bad at remembering names, in fact just never have the opportunity to practice names enough in order to remember them. To illustrate, she put participants into groups of 10. Then she led the groups through a series of drills to practice learning and remembering each others names. Indeed, these were drills (like say each person’s name aloud three times), but they felt learning-centered.
Can a drill be learning-centered? What made Mary’s drill feel learning-centered? And what about all those mind numbing drills done in language classrooms all over the world: choral repetition, memorizing, fill-ins, etc. Do we need them? Or can they tweaked in ways to make them learning-centered?
_ What is the fount of your inspiration and love for doing what you do? I stumbled on this puzzle this week from two different directions. First, one of my students asked me for some recommendations for where she could find teaching activities. She is beginning her teaching practicum and will soon graduate to become a real teacher. She needs practical inspiration. Can you recommend books or websites that are good resources for EFL teachers?
The other direction from which I came to meet this puzzle is a bit more circuitous, more abstract. I realized this week that now it is February, when Valentine’s Day is celebrated by some. One of its celebrants is my wife, for whom it is her favorite holiday. Not for its materialism or Hallmark platitudes, but rather just for love and all its myriad incarnations. So I’ve been pondering love. In addition, I got to thinking: what brings, and renews, love and passion to your work?
In conclusion, I’d love to hear your comments for both or either of these puzzles: recommended resources for teachers and/or how you stay passionate about your work. In short, inspire us.
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