OK – What Happens Next?

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[The power of investment]

Watching football at the pub with the lads is a favourite male pastime in the UK – but James Lang and his friends thought they’d make the whole thing somewhat more exciting. Every Thursday, they would pick three matches and try to predict who the winner was going to be. The guy with the best crystal ball won a beer from each of the others. Then Lang noticed something interesting: he could remember these games a lot better than the others (‘Small Teaching’ – p. 42).

Why does this happen? Lang gives us two answers:  i) increased attention and ii) emotional engagement. If this is the case, then this is something we could certainly use in class. But has it been tested? Well, consider the following study (‘Stumbling on Happiness’ – p. 116): researchers got two groups of children together. They told the first group that they would ask them some general knowledge questions (e.g.  ‘What is the longest river in the world?’) and then they would give them a reward for their participation – either a chocolate bar, or the answers to the questions. Guess which reward the kids went for… 😊

With the second group though, they did things differently: they asked them the  questions first and only then did they offer them the choice of reward. To everyone’s amazement, this time the children actually eschewed the chocolate in favour of the answers! This is completely counter-intuitive; before the study, the researchers had asked teachers and psychologists to predict what children would choose, and everyone had said they would choose the chocolate in both conditions.

The moral: Getting students to invest in an activity by getting them to guess/predict something is a sure way to motivate them. So how can we do this? We could get them…

… to guess the answers to the questions before giving them a text;

… to complete half-sentences before playing an audio/video track;

… to guess what certain numbers might refer to, etc. etc.

Or you could just get them to predict how a story continues. Take these three ads for instance. You ask students: ‘Why has this happened? What is going to happen next?

  • A boy is standing in front of his mother’s mirror carefully applying lipstick on his lips….
  • A mother is taking her little daughter to school when she is stopped for speeding. Her daughter writes something on a piece of cardboard and shows it to the policeman…
  • A man is playing with his daughter in the garden. In the garden next to theirs, a wedding party are posing for photos. Suddenly, the girl runs up to them…

When the students have written a few lines about how each story unfolds, you play them the clip below. Enjoy!  😊

The Moral: To generate motivation, get students guessing!

What can Put-Pocketing Teach us?

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[How demonstrations trump explanations]

A crowded place is a pick-pocket’s paradise. How do you get people to take better care of their belongings? Well, the obvious thing to do is to put up a sign: ‘Beware: Pickpockets Operate in this Area’. What happens when you see this of course is that you automatically tap your pocket to make sure your wallet is still there – which sends just the right message to any pickpocket who may be around! 😊

What to do? The Ogilvy team came up with a brilliant idea: why not employ former thieves and magicians to actually put things inside people’s pockets? And what they put in was a leaflet with a message saying that they too could have their stuff stolen and directing them to a site where they could get more info about what they could do. The results: for every 100 leaflets dropped, 93 people visited the site. Amazing! (Groom & Vellacott ‘Ripple’ – p. 38) Watch this clip:

So what can we, as teachers, learn from this? Well, I have often noticed for instance that when I give my students tips on how to write essays, their eyes glaze over. Sure, they can repeat back the information (‘Yes, yes, we know all this’), but I can tell it has not actually registered. So what I sometimes do, is I get them to read an essay telling them how great it is, and of course they agree. Then I start taking it to pieces by pointing out all kinds of structural and linguistic mistakes which they have failed to notice…  Now the message really sinks in! 😊

But the worst offenders are of course colleagues. I often encounter this attitude at PD events. ‘We are qualified, we are experienced – we know all this stuff’. So what I do then is I challenge them. I give them a short story which describes a lesson and I get them to see whether they can spot all the little things the teacher did well as well as the moments when he slipped up. And I am going to do the same with you now.

This particular story was shared more than a thousand times when it was posted on the British Council Facebook wall. It contains 14 interesting moments – both good and bad. You read the story, you make your notes and you compare them to the commentary underneath. If you get more than 10, you are really good. Enjoy! 😊

The Moral: A good demo can really drive your message home.

One Up on Nature

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[Exploiting supernormal stimuli]

How could a beer bottle lead to the near extinction of the Australian jewel beetle? If you are thinking toxic chemicals or the destruction of the beetle’s habitat, you are on the wrong track. The answer is that the beer bottle was just too sexy! You simply have to watch this amazing 3-min clip:

So, there you have it: the perfect example of a ‘Supernormal Stimulus’: the bottle was just as orange as the female jewel beetle, but it was much bigger and it had many more dimples. Supernormal stimuli are things which trigger certain responses in the way that natural stimuli do – only much more so. Here are three examples:

·       We have evolved to find ripe fruit deliciously sweet, but fruit cannot compete against cheesecake which (in the words of Steven Pinker) ‘packs a sensory wallop’.

·      Men have evolved to find pretty women sexually attractive, but even top models cannot compete against the digitally enhanced images we are exposed  to today.

·       We have evolved to crave belonging and acceptance, but no social circle can compete against the social media which can deliver more pats on the back in the form of ‘likes’ in a single day than some people would normally get in a lifetime.

OK – so what does all this have to do with EL teaching? Well, in her excellent book ‘Supernormal Stimuli’ (p. 159) Deidre Barrett mentions one more type which is of particular interest to us: ‘humans were rewarded by nature for seeking novel, challenging problems and attacking them […] the intellectual curiosity generates its own ‘supernormal stimuli’ – problems more intriguing than real life’.

Think about sudoku puzzles or crosswords; these do not exist in nature and they can be extremely addictive. Of course, sudoku puzzles will not help you improve your English, but crosswords most certainly would. Here are three more ideas (answers below):

·       Logical puzzles: e.g. ‘A baseball bat and a ball, together cost $ 1.10; the bat costs $ 1 more than the ball. How much does each of them cost?’

·       Lateral thinking puzzles: e.g. ‘There are a carrot, a pile of pebbles, and a pipe lying together in the middle of a field. Why are they there?’

·       Riddles: e.g. ‘If I have three, I have three; if I have two, I have two, but if I have one, I have none. What is it?’

So this is the moral: use puzzles in class. Students simply love them – and the same is true for teachers. I often finish a presentation with some rapid-fire questions like the following: ‘How many times can you take 4 from 33?’ And my absolute favourite: ‘What do you sit on, sleep on and brush your teeth with?’ Enjoy! 😊

The Moral: For top motivation, use puzzles and riddles in class.

[ Answers: $ 1.05 and $ 0.05  / They are what is left of a snowman / Choices / All the months naturally! / a chair, a bed and a toothbrush of course! 😊 ]

How to Make your Lessons Memorable

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[The power of emotions]

‘My mother was feeling cold… so now I’m wearing a sweater’. I came across this tweet ages ago, yet I still remember it. Why? Because of its powerful emotional content. So what is so special about emotions? Actually, there are a number of things.

Nature has crafted two ways for us to process reality: there is the rational route and the emotional route. Then nature said: ‘You can think and debate about trivial things all you want; I will see to it that you have the right responses about the important things’. Thus it is that we do not get to choose whether we feel fear – or love – or jealousy. Feelings are nature’s way of telling us ‘something really important is going on here’ (‘The Influential Mind’ – p. 40).

There is another thing too. Nature wants us to remember these things – precisely because they are important. This is something that advertisers have always known of course. In his book ‘Brainfluence’ Roger Dooley (p. 241) quotes an interesting study: an analysis of 1400 ads showed that those with an emotional content were about twice as effective as those appealing to reason. Researchers attribute this to the fact that the former are processed subconsciously – that is, instantly, and that they are more powerfully encoded – in other words, they are more memorable.

Now if you reflect on language learning, I think you will agree with me that it is for the most part a cognitive exercise. No wonder most lessons are forgettable. So how can we introduce emotions in class? Well, there are a number of ways; for example, we could…

 …use a song, instead of the listening track in the coursebook;

 …play an emotional scene from a film, instead of that video interview;

…get students to bring in class and talk about an object that is really special to them.

Or you can use my favourite way: play an emotional ad in class. For instance, you can get students to predict how this story continues:

‘There is this group of old men in their 80s – they have been friends since their teens. Then they hear that one of them has died. So they meet at the funeral. They sit around the table, sad, silent, thinking about all the health problems they have. Then one of them comes up with a crazy idea…’  You get students to write 3-4 lines about what happens next. Then you play the following clip. Chances are they will remember this lesson.

The Moral: To make an experience memorable – just add emotion.

What can we Learn from Customer Service?

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[Considering the ‘experience’ aspect of the lesson]

I remember when I first started reading ‘The 10 Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’ by Matt Watkinson. It was like the scales had at last fallen from my eyes! It suddenly dawned on me that what our students are actually buying is the total learning experience of which the learning aspect is only a small part. Think: is food and cost the only thing you consider when going to a restaurant?

So what are these 10 Principles? And can they help us craft better lessons? Here is the full list. The principles are Watkinson’s (pp. 35-36) – the comments are mine.

Great customer experiences…

…reflect the customers’ identity. Think about how our learners think of themselves. For instance, it would be a mistake to stress a native-like accent if your learners are ‘Greek – and proud of it’.

…satisfy our higher objectives. Your students may be asking for Grammar, when actually they need communication skills. ‘People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole!’

…leave nothing to chance. So pay attention to detail. Seating arrangements. Lighting. Temperature. Decoration. Background music. Your own appearance. Every single thing matters.

…set and then meet expectations. Tell students what your aims are. ‘By the end of the lesson, you’ll be able to manage a short interaction on the phone’. Set goals – and then make sure you deliver.

…are effortless. Sure, we want students to push themselves when it comes to practicing, but the rest of the experience should be smooth. Routines help. It also helps if everything is ready and readily available – both in class and online.

…are stress-free. Confusion and uncertainty are the two enemies here. Give clear instructions – and check them. Inform students about assignments and exams – and make sure they get feedback and results as soon as possible.

…indulge the senses. Sure, a school is not a restaurant, but what about soft background music? And what about smell? Nightclub patrons danced longer in a scented nightclub – and later reported they liked the music more!

…are socially engaging. This single aspect can completely transform the lesson. Think: do your students really interact with each other at a personal level? Do the students feel as part of a group? Would they want to go out together after class?

…put the customer in control. How much autonomy do students have? Are they given choices? Do they get to work on projects where they get to organise themselves and take all the decisions?

…consider the emotions. If you want your lessons to be memorable think about the emotional aspect. A poem or a song perhaps; a film clip; a moving ad or a story. It need not be long: ‘For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn’ (E. Hemingway).

Of course, for EL teachers not all of these elements are equally important. Now go through the list and see if you can identify the ones that really matter. Oh – and read that book too.

The Moral: Look at the lesson from the ‘customer experience’ angle.

It’s Like Magic!

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[The importance of spill-over effects]

Q: How do you make chocolate taste sweeter? A: You make the blocks round! (Rory Sutherland – Psychology of Digital Marketing [27:00]). This is a perfect example of a spill-over effect. Here we clearly have a case of mental association, but what is interesting for me is how a certain quality (shape) colours our perception of another, completely unrelated one (taste). Here are some more examples. Try guessing the answers before looking at the key:

  1. How can you make wine taste better?
  2. How can you increase the effectiveness of painkillers?
  3. How can you enhance the flavour of restaurant food?
  4. How can you reduce the ‘pain of paying’?
  5. How can you make someone appear taller?
  6. How can you make someone warm up towards a stranger?

OK – time is up! Here are the answers:  1) pour it from a heavier bottle;   2) increase the price of the pills;  3) use calligraphic font in the menu;  4) get people to pay by credit card;  5) tell people s/he is a University Professor;  6) give them a hot cup of coffee to hold before introducing them to that person.

It’s like magic, isn’t it? Well, you may be surprised to hear that Psychology has revealed a number of similar effects that can be useful to us teachers. Once again, let us see whether you can get the ‘right’ answers:

  1. How can you make an activity more interesting?
  2. How can you make a session more memorable?
  3. How can you improve the students’ evaluation of the lesson?

Naturally, there are a number of ways of getting these results, but here are some possible answers – did you get any?:  1) use game mechanics: teams – scoreboards – time pressure etc. (gamification!);  2) include an emotional element (e.g. a story, a song or an ad);  3) make sure you end with a bang (e.g. a joke, a quote or a fun activity).

‘Ah’ you might ask ‘but how can I get the students to like the whole course?’ Well, there are answers to this question too – at least three of them:  i) be likeable;  ii) be interesting or, if you cannot manage these…. iii) be beautiful. 😊

The Moral: Use spill-over effects to enhance your lessons.

The Valley of Disappointment

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[The importance of persevering in building learning habits]

In his excellent book ‘Atomic Habits’ James Clear makes some very interesting points about the nature of progress (pp. 20-23).

In most cases, when we are learning something, progress is much slower at the beginning (when we are building the foundations of learning as it were) and it gradually accelerates as we continue. Think about learning words for instance; initially, you have few other lexical items in the L2 to peg the new ones on to. Later however, you can link new vocabulary to all kinds of synonyms, opposites, similar words, collocations etc.

If one were to present this diagrammatically, the line you would get would be one curving upwards – it is exactly the same line as if your English keeps getting better at the rate of, say, 1% every week. And yet when we study, most of us expect our progress to be linear (‘I have put in so much effort – I expect to see some results’).

Look at this excellent diagram (James Clear ‘Atomic Habits’ – p. 22). Notice the grey area. Clear calls this ‘the valley of disappointment’ and it represents the period of frustration when we keep working at something and the results seem meager at best. This can go on for months and months. But notice what happens then: beyond a certain point, we experience a period of progress which just seems explosive and it is way beyond our expectations.

I have seen this time and again with my students: they study and study and complain about how poor their English is and then they travel to the UK and when they come back they are ecstatic ‘After the first few hours I started talking and talking so freely and easily and I just couldn’t believe it was me!’

So this is the moral here: choose a few learning habits and stick with them. Keep reading a few pages of that reader every day. Keep singing along to songs. Keep watching your favourite series with English subtitles. All this work is bound to pay off and when it does, you will be amazed.

The Moral: Stick with your habits even if you cannot see any progress.

A Lesson from Marathon Runners

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[The importance of setting short-term goals]

On average, people who decide to take part in a marathon race, cover the distance of 42.2 km in around four and a half hours. Some are faster, some are slower, so if we were to create a graph of everyone’s performance, we would expect a normal distribution – something resembling a bell curve.

Yet this is not what we find. Have a look at the image below. You will notice that many runners somehow cluster just before the 3:30-hour mark, the 4:00-hour mark etc. How does this happen? The answer is that runners push themselves just that little bit harder towards the end, so they can tell themselves (and all their friends!) that they ran the marathon in less than three and a half ours, or less than four hours and so on.

So how do they manage that? Apparently, there are experienced athletes who have timed themselves repeatedly and run at such a pace that they know they are going to finish in a little less than 3:30 hours or 4:00 hours etc. These people are called pace-setters and they ran with big placards on their back, displaying their respective times. Ordinary runners who know their limits more or less, simply run behind the right pace-setter and so they do not have to worry about constantly checking their time. In this way, in the New York City Marathon, while 500 people finish with a time of 3:59, only 390 finish with a time of 4:01 (Adam Alter ‘Irresistible’ – pp. 95-97). Still not convinced? Here is what another study found. Watch this clip:

There is a big lesson for us here: whatever you do, when you set yourself a short-term goal you push yourself just that little bit harder. Why not use this insight when practicing your English? ‘I am going to try to remember the words from yesterday’s lesson, and I want to recall at least 15 out of 20’ or ‘I am going to record myself giving a mini-monologue about my job and I am going to speak without hesitation for at least 40 seconds’. This little tweak may well mean you perform 10% better than you would without a goal. It’s well worth it, don’t you think?

The Moral: Before doing an activity, set yourself a short-term goal.

Cleansing Cow

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[The importance of lesson-opening rituals]

You know how when you visit some posh restaurants, they sometimes give you an acidic sorbet to ‘cleanse your palate’ – the better to appreciate the food later? OK – just keep this in mind.

Now imagine you have just walked into Denis Martin’s modernist restaurant in Switzerland. You sit at your table and the first thing you notice is a small cylinder with a cow on top of it. What is this?

Denis Martin had noticed that diners (businessmen for the most part) often failed to appreciate the dishes he so lovingly prepared because they were too preoccupied with work or other thoughts. Could there be a way of ‘cleansing their minds’ before the first course arrived?

So he came up with this strange object and placed one on every table. People just don’t know what to make of it – is it some kind of salt-cellar perhaps? At some point, someone picks up the object to look underneath, whereupon the cow lets out a doleful ‘Mooooo’. Before long, everybody else does the same and the room is full of giggling diners. And this is the cue for the staff – out come the hors d’ oeuvres. The cow is in fact a ‘mind-cleanser’! What a brilliant idea! (Charles Spence ‘Gastrophysics’ – pp. xiv-xv)

So, could we not learn something from Denis Martin? Do our students really appreciate the texts we find, the activities we organise, the time and effort we invest into putting together our lesson plans? Why not start the lesson by clearing their minds with a little story? Or an interesting ad? Or a joke?

The Moral: Start by cleansing your students’ mental palate.

Some Tips for Presenters

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Watch this 2-min clip. What feedback would you give the presenter? (I hope you like the joke at the very end by the way [I wish I could take credit for it, but in fact I have pinched it from J. J. Wilson…  🙂 ]).

Interestingly enough, researcher N. Ambady has conducted research showing that one could predict what kind of rating a lecturer would get during the student evaluations at the end of a course by having a group of student rate a silent video of the same lecturer giving a talk before the course started.

Then Ambady wondered how short that clip would have to be for the assessment to still be an accurate predictor of the final evaluation.The answer was incredible: it was 5 seconds! (Ambady, N & Rosenthal, R. 1993) When I read about this I reflected on how right Ambady was. I cannot say I am an expert on the subject but I have given quite a few presentations myself and I have attended many more. Alas, very often almost as soon as a talk starts one finds oneself thinking ‘Ooops… This is going to be painful…’ 🙂

So I thought I would come up with a list of DOs and DON’Ts for presenters – and I have asked colleagues to contribute ideas as well. The list turned out to be a longish one, and I am sure that even old hands could find a few ideas here that perhaps they hadn’t thought of (e.g. 2, 5, 15, 21, 27, 29). Enjoy.

DO…

  1. …check the seating arrangements. Is it easy for people to get in and out? Can people interact? Can they see the screen?
  2. …remove the back seats! You do not want five empty rows at the front. If there are no seats, people have no choice. You can add chairs as more people come in.
  3. …find out about your audience. Why are they there? What do they want? Will they be able to follow you? Are they keen to participate?
  4. …go through your checklist to make sure everything is ok. (What do you mean you haven’t got one?)
  5. …have someone introduce you – and sing your praises. Research shows this is much better than you saying a few things about yourself.
  6. …start with something attention-catching (a joke – something weird – a story); you only have a few seconds.
  7. …give an outline of your main points at the beginning. It makes it easier for people to follow you.
  8. …segment your talk, and regularly let people know which part of the talk you are in.
  9. …include pictures in your slides. Pictures facilitate the processing of textual information.
  10. …say interesting things. Content matters. (Ask yourself: would someone still find your talk interesting if they were not an EL teacher?)
  11. …use stories and anecdotes to make your talk more interesting. Stories are our mother tongue.
  12. …use stories to convey information; stories are far more memorable than giving studies or numerical information.
  13. …move from the concrete to the general. It is easier for people to understand a principle if you have given them a concrete example first.
  14. …include some practical elements. People need to be able to answer a question like ‘What did you get out of this?’ afterwards – regardless of how brilliant the talk was.
  15. …add value to your talk through ‘social currency’. Include interesting little tit-bits of info that people can share with others (‘A glass ball will bounce higher than one made of rubber’).
  16. …add some variety in your talk (an ad / a funny video / an animation / sound effects). Variety is the spice of life. Do not show this point to your partner.
  17. …include ‘peak’ moments in your talk (a striking example; a paraprosdokian; a motivational quote etc.). This is what people will remember later (cf ‘The Peak – End Effect’).
  18. …use your body, your arms and your facial expressions to liven up your presentation.
  19. …colour your voice; you may never become Kenneth Williams but pitch fluctuations, stress and the strategic use of pausing help immensely.
  20. …talk with confidence and assurance. This means two things: i) you have to know your stuff and  ii) you need to have faith in what you are saying.
  21. …use incongruity. Weird things like the sudden appearance of a dinosaur on the slide can help wake people up.
  22. …use the power of association. Make that dinosaur a cute baby or a kitten. Advertisers have used kittens to advertise pizza. They know what they are doing.
  23. …use emotions (uplifting soundtracks, moving poems, anger-provoking pictures, etc.) Emotions help print your message in people’s memory.
  24. …interact with the audience (e.g. by eliciting information, by asking them questions, by using simple discrimination tasks, or asking them to predict something).
  25. …engage the audience somehow (e.g. by giving them an activity to try out or something to discuss with a partner). Interactive elements boost information retention.
  26. …demonstrate activities. No matter how well you explain, unless people see how something works, chances are they will get it wrong.
  27. …find your volunteers in advance. Most people are relunctant to step up and help with a demo, so find your people and rope them in early.
  28. …use the power of modelling. Whether it is responding to elicitation, or asking questions, use some ‘plants’ to get the ball rolling. See the previous point.
  29. …play with the language. Neuro your message. Participants may want to passive; active them. Bombshell your audience.
  30. …circulate among the audience (esp during the ‘interactive’ parts). This way you make the experience more immediate and you get to see how engaged people are.
  31. …summarise just before the end. Perhaps elicit some of your key points from the audience. It gives people a sense of completion.

DON’T…

  1. …stand behind the podium or talk while sitting down. If possible, move about and take your message to the audience – perhaps by moving among them.
  2. …read off a text or your notes / …overload your slides / …read off the slides.
  3. …choose titles like ‘The situated construction of divergent modalities in the quest for a fundamental positionality’.
  4. …use long, complicated sentences. Forget you are an academic for the duration of the talk (…better still: ‘Forget you are an academic’).
  5. …skip slides. It looks like you this is a shortened version of an older talk and you did not bother to remove the extra material.
  6. …be surprised by your slides. It suggests you did not rehearse enough.
  7. …stumble over your words. People assume you are playing by ear, filling things in as you go along.
  8. …try to force people to do things. If people are reluctant to ‘interact’ during the interactive part, just move on.
  9. …let the talk sag; make sure you maintain a brisk pace. Monitor activities and cut them short if people are losing interest.
  10. …go over time; even the best attendees start getting restless if you do (plus it is unfair to the organisers and the next speaker).
  11. …fade out; end with a bang (a quote – a joke, etc.) – and clearly signal to the audience where they are supposed to applaud. This helps round off the experience (see 2:00 – 2:12 in the clip above).

There is one more tip I would like to offer here: be what your audience expect. If you are a famous speaker already (someone like Jeremy Harmer, Luke Prodromou or Ken Wilson in our field) you may even ignore the tips given above if you so wish.

If you are not a celebrity, make sure you tick as many of the ‘right’ boxes as possible (in our field this basically means being male, white and a native speaker). To see just how important expectations are in shaping perceptions, just watch the short film below. Then read all about the fascinating experiment involving the amazing Dr Myron Fox…  🙂

 

References:

Ambady, N & Rosenthal, R. (1993) “Half a Minute: Predicting Teacher Evaluations from Thin Slices of Nonverbal Behaviour and Physical Attractiveness”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 431-441.

Motivation – Peak Moments

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‘A moment can be worth a thousand minutes’

A hotel with a difference:  Imagine you are in LA and you are looking for somewhere to stay. Naturally, you turn to TripAdvisor and it is there that the ‘Magic Castle’ hotel catches your eye. It is not even a proper hotel – it is a building that was converted into one. The rooms are nothing to write home about, the facilities are fine but nothing really special. And yet… this hotel has the second highest rating based on thousands and thousands of reviews! What could its secret be? Well, I do not want to spoil it for you. I would rather let the great Dan Heath describe the place to you. Just watch this clip – then ask yourself this question: ‘Could I use a similar approach to motivate my students?’ Could it be that Rory Sutherland was on to something when he talked about ‘the centrality of peripheral elements’? (Sutherland 2011 – p. 31)

How can I make my lessons memorable?:  Could we learn something from the ‘Magic Castle’ – something that could help us improve our lessons? Heath and Heath argue that in most experiences (educational ones included) we are far too preoccupied with making sure things run smoothly – that no problems occur. This is fine, but nothing to post something on Facebook about. Instead they claim, we should make an effort to include ‘peak moments’ in these experiences. The justification for this lies in the way memory works.

Look at the first picture. Imagine the curve shows the course of a lesson. What we tend to think is that our memory keeps a record of everything and when we want to evaluate it, we work out the average of each point. Research by Kahnemann however shows that this is not so. What happens is that our brain compresses the memory, keeping just some of the points. In recalling the event, the brain is disproportionally influenced by ‘peak’ moments (good or bad) and by the way the experience ends. This is called the ‘Peak – End Principle’. (See Kahneman 2011 – ch. 35: ‘Two Selves’; To watch a short clip about these studies, just click here).

So what does all this mean for our lesson? In a few words, if you want students to rave about your lessons, make sure you incorporate some ‘peak moments’ in your lessons. How can we do this?

[NB: This post is based on a plenary talk I gave in Athens in March 2018. To go through / download the slides just click below].

Four Principles – Four Activities: Heath and Heath (on whose excellent book ‘The Power of Moments’ [Heath & Heath 2017] this whole article is based) single out four elements which can lead to great, memorable moments: Elevation – Pride – Insight – Connection. In what follows I describe each one briefly and I outline one activity for each of them that we can use with our students.

Peak Moments I – Elevation:  Some moments simply stand out from the others (think about fireworks or the moment the rollercoaster plunges down). ‘Elevation’ does not have to be something which is mentally uplifting; anything that rises above the drab and mundane can come into this category. Think about a gift with a dedication; or a little child’s drawing with your name on it; or simply watching a funny stand-up comedy clip. In the words of Heath and Heath: ‘Experiences which rise above the everyday. Times to be savoured. Moments that make us feel engaged, joyful, amazed, motivated. They are peaks’. Very often these are moments we might want to share.

How can I use this in class?: Anything that can break the monotony of the usual EL class can create such a moment. A mingling activity; a competition; singing along to a song; puzzles (think: ‘MindTrap’!); using jokes in class; a funny clip (see ‘Comedy for ELT’ on YouTube) or even an activity which presents students with an unusual challenge – like the one below (on the importance of incongruity for attracting attention, see Dutton 2010 – p. 234).

Activity 1: AQBL [To download a word document with all the activities, just click on this link].

Peak Moments II – Pride:  These moments are special because of something we have done – moments that capture us at our best. Think back to when you won a race for instance, or you created something beautiful or you gave a memorable performance. Alternatively, such moments can also be ones where others recognize our contribution – special award ceremonies, graduation ceremonies, the moment when we receive a certificate or even a simple ‘Thank You’ note from one of our students for helping him/her do well at a test. Once again, these are moments that we might want to share with others.

How can I use this in class?: Any activity where you ask students to create something themselves (rather than simply manipulate language) can potentially be a source of pride for them (see ‘The IKEA Effect’ in Ariely 2010 – ch 3). Projects fall into this category, as do mini presentations, the acting out of sketches, creative writing and activities like the one below.

Activity 2: A New Kind of Animal [To download a word document with all the activities, just click on this link].

Peak Moments III – Insight:  There are moments which capture our thoughts; moments when a realization hits us – when we experience an ‘A-ha!’ moment and we come to understand something that had puzzled us before, or we become aware of something new (why this should be rewarding is explained in Leslie’s excellent book ‘Curious’ – Leslie 2014). Such moments rewrite our understanding of the world. Frequently, they are the result of actual experiences, but very often they are things that we read – poems, stories, epigrams or anecdotes which move us or change the way we see things. The effect is stronger when there is an element of incongruity, when such texts are phrased in a strange way which highlights a hidden layer of meaning.

How can I use this in class?: Thanks to technology such material can be found everywhere today. TED talks, short videos on YouTube (e.g. ‘List 25’), mini sagas, surprising facts that students can research and present are all things we can use. I particularly like the ‘Stories of Mr Keuner’ by Brecht, but I have also found that using quotes is great too (see below).

Activity 3: Quotes [To download a word document with all the activities, just click on this link].

Peak Moments I – Connection:  These are moments which are special because they create some kind of a special bond between ourselves and others. Moments when we feel we belong, when we feel a strengthening of the bond with people we care about, such as celebrations, surprise parties or special outings. However, these can also be moments when we bring people closer to us by disclosing something about ourselves (hopes – dreams – fears – experiences) or moments when we discover that we share things in common with others. Anything that might facilitate this bonding, such as collaborating with someone or simply chatting about personal matters can foster this feeling of connection. (for more ideas on the importance of bonding and ways of getting people to connect, see the excellent Brafman & Brafman 2011).

How can I use this in class?: Any ‘humanistic’ activity fits the bill here though discovering similarities is obviously better. According to Brafman and Brafman (ibid pp 36-46), the more personal/intimate the information we disclose to others, the stronger the bond we forge with them. This can be a little sensitive, so simple ‘show and tell’ activities are perhaps best – like the one below.

Activity 4: Mobile Photos [To download a word document with all the activities, just click on this link].

One Last Activity:  This is a true story. Imagine you are on board a plane. At some point the voice of a flight attendant is heard on the intercom: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have a newlywed couple with us today…John and Leslie – raise your hands!’ And then he goes on to say something else…Once again I do not want to spoil this for you. Just watch this 1-min clip. Now think: Could we not use this activity in class? What about if a student is leaving? Or if a new student is joining the class? What if it is a special occasion for someone – or for the school? The possibilities are endless…. But how can we come up with such activities? Well, to paraphrase H. Schultz it pays to remember that ‘We are not in the language business teaching people; we are in the people business teaching languages’.

 

References

Ariely, D. ( 2010) The Upside of Irrationality. London HarperCollins

Brafman, O. & Brafman, R. (2011) Click. New York: Virgin Books

Dutton, K. (2010) Flipnosis: The Art of Split-second Persuasion. London: Random House

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2017) The Power of Moments. London: Bantam Press

Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Allen Lane

Leslie, I. (2014) Curious. London, Quercus Publishing

Sutherland, R. (2011) The Wiki Man. London: It’s Nice That and Ogilvy Group

‘Why Rediscover America?’

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Using Commercials in the ELT Classroom

Duchamp’s Idea: The great 20th Century artist Marcel Duchamp came up with an extraordinary notion. He thought that in the past artists had to create something from scratch; yet the industrial era had churned out a multitude of objects, many of which were undoubtedly beautiful by dint of their design. So a sculptor for instance could simply peruse various items, take one out of context and present it as something original! After all, it is the thought rather than the execution that sets the artist apart! Following this logic, Duchamp produced a series of pieces which he dubbed ‘readymades’ – of which this one, the ‘fountain’, is the most famous; incredible as it may sound, in 2004, 500 art experts voted this the most influential work of Art of the 20th century!!

Taking a leaf out of Duchamp’s sketchpad: As teachers, our number one problem is how to motivate our learners. To do this we rack our brains on a daily basis, trying to come up with interesting / exciting / original ideas – ideas that will intrigue our students and motivate them to work harder. Yet there is fantastic material out there, which with minimal work on our part can become part of our arsenal as EL teachers – advertisements.

Advertisements are short, authentic and many of them have an unexpected element – indeed they often have to, otherwise they cannot attract the consumers’ attention. All we need to do as EL teachers is select some carefully and think of how we can use them to get students to practice the L2. Ads which contain language obviously lend themselves to the development of listening skills (Part I). But even commercials without language can be exploited as we can see below (Part II).

[NB: To illustrate activities I use Ads from the ‘Ads for ELT’ channel on YouTube. The reason is that in many cases I have included simple worksheets to go with the ads. You can find these by clicking on the link under the clip (on YouTube)].

Part I – Ads with Language:  These ads contain a dialogue or a narration. Once we have typed this up, we have a script and then we can use the full battery of activities normally use in classroom listening tasks such as gap-filling (a), sentence completion, word deletion or insertion of extra lexical items, summaries containing mistakes etc. However, certain ads have special features which we can use when designing activities; for instance in the fantastic ‘Ads for ELT – Genie’ the obvious question to set our students is ‘What are the girl’s 3 wishes?’  (for other ads with ‘special features’ see b – d)

Fill in the gaps:  Some commercials contain a lot of language and as it is scripted and rehearsed the delivery can often be extremely fast!  To help our students we can type up the text and leave some blank spaces for them to fill in.  A good example of such an ad is  ‘Ads for ELT – Blind Date’ – which could also form the basis for an extension task (‘What first-date tips would you give someone like Jim?’)

Spot the beep!: Other ads lend themselves to a different kind of treatment. For example, in the hilarious ‘Ads for ELT – Sex and the City’ the message is ‘censored’ as some words / expressions are deemed unacceptable! A natural first task would be to ask our students to make a note of which lexical items these are! Then they can go on to listen to the text and again change it according to what technique we have decided to use.

Spot the mistake: In the amazing ‘Ads for ELT – LA Fair’ the girls, their mother and the shop assistant make all kinds of factual (not linguistic) mistakes. Here again, the most natural task is to ask students to spot the latter. Incidentally, the idea of people making a fool of themselves through sheer ignorance is such a straightforward one that students could go on to script their own versions, record themselves and perhaps upload the clips on YouTube!

Flesh out the text: The brilliantly creative ‘Ads for ELT – E-bay Motors’ produces a funny effect by using the kind of abbreviations which are familiar from Classified Advertisements in newspapers (e.g. mls = miles) Here it makes sense to ask students to list the advantages of the new way of advertising (‘E-bay Motors’) and then you can give them the text with some gaps and get them to fill them in with the actual words – not the abbreviated forms they hear!

Part II – Ads without any Language: Being a great Ad lover, I used to get frustrated when I saw a brilliant one and I thought I could not use it in class. Not anymore. There may be no text, but the ad shows a sequence of events. This means, we can write the text ourselves!!  Then we can use most of the activities we saw above as in (a) and (b). Alternatively we can use a more ‘natural’ ways of exploiting the ads, as in (c)

Spot the difference: In the handout of this very original commercial (‘Ads for ELT – Huggies’) the story is told through the eyes of the main character. The text describes the events but I have included some inaccuracies. Students read the text, then they close their handouts and they watch the ad. After that, they look at the text again and they try to spot the mistakes. The more subtle the changes, the harder the task! This means that this activity can easily be used as H/W; students choose their favourite ad, they change some things about the way things happen and then they challenge another group to spot the differences!

Watch and select: If you are the one writing the text, there is nothing to prevent you writing more than what is in the commercial, thus getting more ‘mileage’ out of it. In ‘Ads for ELT – Harvey’ a number of household chores are shown, but we can add even more! In this way we can in a sense use the ad as a springboard for teaching vocabulary. Having done a preliminary task, students can then watch the commercial and underline the items (in this case household tasks) which are actually shown.

Describe and Rate:  We could also use ads with little or no language to give our student practice in reading.  We could write a short paragraph describing each ad and then ask students to rate it.  They can then watch it and give it a second mark which could be higher or lower depending on whether they felt the ‘concept’ was realized effectively.  Finally, the class could vote for the best one.  An excellent set of such ads which have proved extremely popular with my ss are the ‘Ads for ELT – The 3rd Conditional’.

Last words – keep it simple!:  Very often the best activities are the simplest ones. These tend to replicate real communication as it happens in the world outside the classroom. Now think about commercials – what do we normally do with them in real life? Well, we watch them and then we talk about them. So here is the best fluency activity in my repertoire: I describe to my students one of my ads I like best – the amazing ‘Ads for ELT – Art’ (see below); then I tell them to turn to the person next to them and talk about their personal favourites. Having done that, I know that if I feel like it I can just walk out of the classroom and have a cup of coffee… chances are, when I get back they will still be at it!  🙂

How to Use Comedies in Class

What is missing from ELT coursebooks? Open any coursebook you like. Chances are you will find a Unit on sports, the environment, food, celebrities – the one Unit you will not find is one on Humour (well, in 95% of coursebooks anyway…). But watch this clip for instance (see below). Is it not far superior to any ordinary ELT audio track? It is funny isn’t it, that in a field dominated by British publishing houses, you may find numerous texts on British food (!) and not a single one on the one thing British people should really be proud of: British comedy.

[NB: The examples I use all come from the ‘Comedy for ELT’ channel on YouTube. The reason is that most of the clips there are accompanied by ready-to-use handouts, which means that if you like one of the videos, you can use it with your students immediately! Here is what you do: you go on YouTube and you type ‘Comedy for ELT’. Under most of the clips, you will see a link (see the picture). You simply click on the link and you can download a handout (+ the Key, + the script). The handout typically contains a short paragraph which sets the context, a first, global task (focusing on general comprehension) and a second task which draws the students’ attention on language. Sometimes ideas are given for follow-up activities.]

What can I use this material for? Well, the fact that most of the sketches are quite short suggests that they can be used as ‘fillers’ – a fun break during the lesson and a way of recharging the students’ ‘motivational batteries’. Alternatively you may choose to structure a whole lesson around some of them.  For the most part however, I see them as one of the ingredients of a good lesson. For instance, you may choose to use such clips to…

  • … introduce some topic (‘Comedy for ELT – Mistakes’ [click here])
  • … practise topic vocabulary (‘Comedy for ELT – Technology’ [click here])
  • … demonstrate activities (‘Comedy for ELT – The ‘Yes-No’ Game’ [click here]) or
  • … practise situational / functional language (‘Comedy for ELT – Small Talk’ [see below])

How can I use comedy clips? Although this material is somewhat different than the ordinary audio tracks we use in class, there is no reason why our methodology should differ. As a rough guide, we can follow these steps:

Step 1: Set the context: This is particularly important if we want to help the students understand what is going on. We want to say a few things about the setting (time and place), we may need to explain the relationship between the speakers, explain 1-2 culturally-specific details if necessary and maybe give students an idea of what is funny about the sketch, without giving away the ‘punch-line’ which would detract from the students’ satisfaction (see this clip for instance).

Step 2: Pre-teach key vocabulary: Sometimes much of the fun of the dialogues lie in puns and double-entendres; we need to make sure that students can actually ‘get’ most of the jokes. At the same time we need to strike the right balance; if the teacher is to spend 15 min in preparing students for a clip which lasts 90 seconds, then this is clearly not cost-effective.

Step 3: Give students a global task: the normal sequence in listening tasks is first of all to get students to listen for gist. In the case of these sketches the first task is normally easier than one would expect as focusing too much on it would detract from the students’ enjoyment.  Typical activities are T/F Qs, Complete the sentence, Ordering, or Straightforward open-ended Qs.

Step 4: Get students to focus on bottom-up skills: Global listening is usually followed by listening for detail. In my experience students want to be able to understand the dialogues as fully as possible, which is why it makes sense to get them working with the script (e.g. typically filling-in gaps combined with adding, deleting or changing words). *

[A note on repetition: For the students to both enjoy the extracts and derive the maximum benefit from them, I believe it is a good idea to listen to them more than once.  In fact (unlike other material) the less challenging their task becomes through repeated listening, the more students enjoy the dialogues as they can appreciate the humour more – their increased confidence enables them to catch things they had previously missed!]

Step 5: Get students to focus on language: The language in such sketches is often extremely rich (sometimes deliberately, in order to produce a funny effect). As with most texts, I have found that it is best to get students to highlight useful language; that means  i) phrases or collocations – not words in isolation;  ii) phrases they can understand but which they would not use.

How can I follow this up? As the main aim of the listening activities is to help students to appreciate and enjoy the dialogues, you may not want to include any follow-up language or skills work so as not to spoil the whole experience for them.  However, there are a number of things teachers can do after these listening sessions.  Here are some ideas:

Role play:  students may like a particular extract so much, they may want to act it out, or, better still, record their dialogue on audio or even video tape (‘Constable Savage’ [click here]).

Parallel writing:  students may write a similar dialogue on the same or a related theme (‘Greatest Invention Yet’ [see the clilp below]).

Extension:  where a dialogue is part of a story, students may want to continue it, or simply write a paragraph ‘predicting’ what is going to happen next (‘Letters H – Miss P.’ [click here]) They can then listen to the rest of the sketch/episode to check their predictions.

What are the key ‘DOs’ and ‘DON’Ts’?

DO: …set the context; help the students understand what is going on before they start listening.
DO: …support students with unknown vocabulary / background knowledge / cultural elements etc. (see the clip below **)

DO: …‘sell’ the idea to the students; otherwise some of them might think it is just a waste of time.
DO: …link the sketches to the rest of the lesson, so that there is a sense of purpose and continuity.

DON’T: …give students the punch-line; it spoils the sketch for them as it deprives them of the pleasure of understanding it themselves.
DON’T: …play extracts which require too much explanation.
DON’T: …take unnecessary risks with ‘dangerous / taboo’ topics (e.g. sex, politics, religion) – unless you know your class really well.
DON’T: …treat comedy clips like ordinary listening material; students should see it as a ‘treat’!

Last words: This is the main idea: You ‘sacrifice’ some of your precious contact time in the hope that the motivational effect will more than make up for it. In a sense, it is a calculated ‘gamble’; If it works, you may find that the students who spent 3 minutes in class watching a Rowan Atkinson clip (like the one below!), will then go on to spend another 5 hours at home watching every similar clip they can find!  🙂

* NB: In the ‘Comedy for ELT’ series, the words which are blanked out are not random; in most cases words are deleted so that students have to understand the missing words to ‘get the joke’ or in order to focus their attention on some important preposition, collocation etc. Similarly, when a word is substituted for another, in the vast majority it is a near synonym, so that students will not have to look up the meaning of the original word.

** For instance, in order to fully appreciate the humour in this particular clip, students need to be familiar with Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ AND with the fact that builders / electricians / plumbers etc. etc. have a reputation for being unreliable (see how this is done in the handout [click here]).

Happiness and ELT

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Activities with a Smile 🙂

[NB 1: This article is based on a presentation I gave at the TESOL Greece Conference in 2015. The content of this article is somewhat different, but if you would prefer to skip the text and watch the presentation ‘live’ instead, just click on the video below].

[NB 2: Here are the slides for the new version of this presentation]:

Twice the juice from half the fruit:  The idea first occurred to me as I was reading the excellent ‘59 Seconds’ by Professor Wiseman. In the chapter on ‘Happiness’ he quoted numerous studies and what struck me immediately was that almost all of them had to do with language! In one of them people would be asked to share experiences, in another they were encouraged to write down their reflections, while in a third they might be asked to construct a detailed plan about achieving a future objective. From this point on, it was easy to take the next logical step. In our classes we often ask students to talk about various topics, to write summaries or to plan essays. Would it not be better if we asked them to do something which would yield the same benefits in terms of language learning, but which would also make them happier? (OK – that’s still the whole fruit, but we certainly get twice the juice! 🙂 )

The Basics: The following statement came as a shock to me the first time I encountered it: ‘Nature does not want you to be happy; it wants you to be successful!’ (Nettle 2005 – p. 14). The big question is not so much what Happiness is, but what it is for! Happiness is the incentive nature offers us in order to keep us doing things which somehow help with the ultimate evolutionary goals, survival and reproduction. Happiness is the big, fat carrot that nature holds in front of us in order to keep us moving in a certain direction (‘If you get that promotion, you’ll be eternally happy’ etc.) But of course, nature lies to us. Just watch the clip below.

And it makes sense; if upon having achieved our goal we ‘rested on our laurels’ that would do nothing to promote our genes’ agenda. For this reason, nature has pre-installed another mechanism inside us. It’s called ‘habituation’ We adapt to things. Research shows that people who win huge amounts in the lottery are ecstatic for the first few months and a year later they are back to normal. It is the same with people who have serious accidents (Ariely 2010 – p. 170).

The Moral: By focusing ahead we may forget to be happy in the present, but we can choose to go against our predispositions.

An Activity: ‘Count Your Blessings’ (adapted from Emmons & Mc Cullough 2003): Individually, students make a note of three things for which they feel they should be grateful (e.g. Health / Work / Security / Loving parents etc.). Then they work in pairs. They take it in turs to share with their partner why they feel they ought to be grateful for this particular thing (e.g. ‘Health’). Their partner has to ask them one question (e.g. ‘Have you ever had an accident?’) Then they swap roles.

The Social Dimension: As we saw above, nature wants us to be successful. For humans a precondition for being successful has always been to be part of a group. This is why we feel well when we are with others, when we socialise and spend time with family and friends. This urge to be with others is so strong that if for whatever reason we spend long periods of time alone, we become moody and lose our appetite to do all kinds of things – it’s like a vitamin deficiency. Things get even worse if we feel excluded / ignored / left out. In the ancestral environment this would have meant certain death and the pain of social exclusion is felt very keenly. Professor Lieberman has conducted research on this and he has found that this mechanism can be triggered even by seemingly insignificant incidents (Lieberman 2013 – p. 58). What is more, the pain of social exclusion is very real pain – in fact, it registers in the same centre of the brain as physical pain. In this video, Professor Liberman describes a study in which his subjects were asked to play a game called ‘Cyberball’. The game is simplicity itself – all you need to do is toss the ball to one of two other players. But after some time, they stop tossing the ball back. You never get it again. Here is Professor Lieberman talking about this study:

The Moral: Any activity which fosters stronger bonds between people is likely to make us happier.

An activity: ‘My Wonderful Classmates’ (adapted from Chaplin  & John 2007): Students are divided into groups. Each group chooses one of their classmates (not one of the group) and together they come up with a ‘plateful of praise’ – a number of reasons why they like / value / respect this particular person. Then they present this to him/her. It is incredible how much warmth this activity generates. [NB: The teacher needs to make sure that nobody is excluded].

Goal Setting: What is the thing that you dread most and you tend to put off? Is it going to the gym? Is it marking essays or tests? Well, here is the great Dan Heath with a solution:

Now think back to what he said; do you remember that bit about ‘bursts of pleasure’? Why does this happen? (And it does!) The answer that if we are to be successful, we have to pursue goals; nature keeps promising huge rewards at the end, but it also gives us a foretaste of what that ‘carrot’ is going to be like in advance so as to keep us going! This has been proved experimentally; in an amazing study, a number of seriously depressed people were divided into 4 groups: one got anti-depressants, another placebos, another got CBT (sessions with Psychologists) and a fourth was engaged in ‘Behavioural Activation’ (setting goals and striving to achieve them). Amazingly, after a few months, the last group not only did better than the third, it did just as well as the first! (Wiseman 2012 – p. 169)

The Moral: Nature rewards us for making progress towards our goals.

For best effects, it is important that the goals are:  i) small;  ii) detailed – concrete; iii) feasible and iv) to be achieved within a specific time frame (in the near future).

An activity: ‘Goal Setting’ (see Service & Gallagher 2017 – Appendix 1): Students make notes about one thing they would like to achieve (e.g. lose weight) and then set themselves a small, concrete goal (‘I’ll join a gym’) and make notes about the details (which gym, when, etc.). Then they share this with a partner. The role of the partner is to help them make the steps as concrete as possible and to anticipate problems (e.g. ‘What if it is too expensive?’) help with finding solutions / alternatives, and get the first student to make his/her commitment as firm as possible.

Helping Others: We clearly feel happy when we do something for ourselves (duh!) and we also feel happy when we help others (see the second point). But are we happier in the former or in the latter situation? There have been countless studies on this. Here is Professor Michael Norton describing one such experiment, remarkable for its elegant simplicity:

So – paradoxically perhaps, helping others makes us happier! But there is another point here. In a fantastic study, subjects were invited in the lab where they were told they would play a game where participants are invited to share some money with someone else * . Before that however, they were asked to complete a task on a computer. The computer was programmed to crash at some point. In one condition, subjects were simply told to reboot and complete the task; in another somebody actually came and helped them restart the computer, and then left. Then everybody played the sharing game. Amazingly, the group who had been helped in the first task were more generous, despite the fact that the person they were generous towards was not the person who had helped them! (DeSteno & Valdesolo 2011 – p. 161) Kindness creates a ripple effect; it spreads to others!

The Moral: Doing things for others makes us happier – and this has a knock-on effect!

An activity: ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ (see Sharot 2011 – p. 87): In pairs, students come up with as many things they can do to make others happier as possible (e.g. Call a sick friend at home / Give someone an ‘I like you’ card / Say ‘Thank you’ to someone for something they did for you in the past etc.). Another idea, would be to get students to come up with things they can do for the community (e.g. Help at a soup kitchen / Collect clothes for a particular person or group / Donate old books to a school library etc.).

The role of Laughter: Naturally we laugh or smile when we are happy, but could it also be the other way round? Could it be that smiling can make us feel happier? In famous study, some subjects were asked to do a task while holding a pencil between their teeth (forcing them to smile) while others were told to hold the pencil between their nose and upper lip (thus forcing them to frown). Amazingly, the former group then reported feeling happier than the latter! (Kahnemann 2011 – p. 54) In a curious reversal, the ‘effect’ can produce the ‘cause’! Corroborating evidence comes from India: noticing the positive effects of laughter, Dr M. Kataria got people in groups to tell each other jokes so as to exploit the beneficial effects of laughter; when he later dispensed with the jokes and asked his group to simply laugh (!) the effects persisted! (Wiseman 2012 – p. 40) And that is not all; R. Dunbar has conducted studies which show that laugher is inherently a social activity (if one laughs on their own, that can be worrying! J ). According to Dunbar, grooming (the standard way of bonding in primates) becomes impractical as teams increase in size and he suggests that laughter may well have evolved as a way of strengthening social bonds in large groups (Dunbar 2012 – pp. 43-44).

The Moral: Humour makes us happier and helps foster group cohesion.

An activity: Well, a number of activities spring to mind (sharing jokes, acting out funny sketches etc.) but for me the simplest way is to show students funny clips. There are numerous advantages in this: i) the language is authentic;  ii) students develop listening skills;  iii) students can share these with friends;  iv) if they like them, students can seek them out at home. Here is a little gem (to get a handout, + the Key, + the script, just click on the link under the clip on YouTube, or just click here).

Last words – Added Value: In today’s competitive environment, I believe we stand a much better chance of doing well if we can offer our students something else – over and above meeting their primary needs for improving their English. That something could be interesting content – from literature to general knowledge – all of which can translate into ‘social currency’ (knowledge that reflects positively on the individual – see Berger 2013, ch 1); it could be teaching them things or skills which could help them do better in their personal or professional life (click here to see an example); or it could even be teaching them ‘self-help’ methods which could for instance help them develop good habits (click here to see an example). Teaching them some (research-based) ways to make themselves happier falls into this last category. And imagine the impact on motivation if students regularly left your class thinking ‘I don’t know how, but I always feel happier after my English lesson…’ 🙂

References

Ariely, D. ( 2010) The Upside of Irrationality. London HarperCollins

Berger, J. (2013) Contagious. London: Simon & Schuster

Chaplin, L. N. & John D. R. (2007) “Growing up in a Material World: Age Differences in Materialism in Children and Adolescents” Journal of Consumer Research 34 [4], pp 480-494

DeSteno & Valdesolo (2011) Out of Character. New York: Three Rivers Press

Dunbar, R (2012) The Science of Love and Betrayal. London: Faber and Faber

Emmons, R. A. & Mc Cullough, M. E. (2003) Counting Blseeings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84, pp 377-389

Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Allen Lane

Lieberman, M. (2013) Social. Oxford, Oxford University Press

Nettle, D. (2005) Happiness. New York: Oxford University Press

Service, O. & Gallagher, R. (2017) Think Small. London: Michael O’Mara Books

Sharot, T. (2012) The Optimism Bias. London: Robinson

Wiseman, R. (2010) 59 Seconds. London: Pan Books

Wiseman, R. (2012). Rip it up. London: Macmillan

How to Turn Learning Strategies into Habits

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Habits everywhere:  Do you brush your teeth? Of course you do. Do you think about it though? I am sure the answer here is ‘No’. Brushing our teeth is something we do no matter what, something that does take a few minutes (esp if you do it regularly – or if you happen to have an unusually large number of teeth 🙂 ) but which is nevertheless completely effortless. It is a habit. Apparently, a great part of our everyday lives – more than 40% – consists of such routines. Would it not be great if we could help our students establish habits which would actually help them improve their English? Can you imagine how much progress our students would make if they did these things on a daily basis?

EL Learning Habits: This article is about how we can help create habits. Naturally, as teachers we would like our learners to form habits which help them improve their English. Not all strategies are equally good candidates however. In the text below I have included five simple things any learner can try to do habitually. For more ideas on Learning Strategies, click here.

How to form a habit: Charles Duhigg has studied habits extensively and his excellent book ‘The Power of Habit’ (Duhigg 2012) offers great insights into the nature of these routines and on how we can make use of them. Here are some of them:

The habit cycle: A habit consists of three parts: the cue, the routine and the reward. The cue is what ‘presses the button’ for us to perform a particular behaviour; the routine is the behaviour itself; the reward is what we get out of this. This is usually a feeling of satisfaction or pleasure or release or excitement – depending on the nature of the routine. For instance, after my morning coffee, I sit down in front of my computer and solve 3-4 chess puzzles. The cue is the coffee; the routine is the puzzles and the reward is the little shots of dopamine I get every time I successfully solve one. (To watch a 2-min clip on this, click here).

Why is the cue important? The cue is what triggers our behaviour. It can be an event (the alarm going off) or a place we find ourselves in (the staffroom) or an action that we perform (eating). Each of these can trigger a habit – e.g. going for a 10 minute jog (after the alarm), or making a coffee (upon entering the staffoom) or brushing our teeth (after eating). The cue is very important if we want to establish a constructive habit because ideally we want to engage in this behaviour without thinking (on the importance of action triggers see Heath & Heath 2011 – p. 209). The presence of the cue helps make things automatic.

Why is the reward important? Well, it is true of course that ‘virtue is its own reward’ – going for a run triggers the release of endorphins and brushing your teeth leaves your mouth feeling fresh. However, in the initial stages of habit formation we need to give ourselves an additional incentive – just as some parents do when teaching their kids dental hygiene. It is a good thing if that reward is something concrete. For instance, I always found it hard to transfer notes from the books I read to Excel sheets on my computer. Now I have decided to make at least 10 entries every morning. And then I reward myself with a quick game of online chess. It works like a charm.

Do we really need rewards? Some people feel that once they have performed the routine, they do not need the reward; this is a mistake. It is true the reward will not help them on that day, but it will link the routine with a pleasurable feeling; this will make it more likely they will stick to their habit on days when their motivation might flag. Others might feel that the risk here is that we might detract from the intrinsic pleasure of the routine if we come to expect a reward at the end. This is a valid concern generally, but it does not apply here; the reward is not for the action we perform – we reward ourselves for sticking to a habit we want to form! (For an amazing 3-minute story about the power of rewarding ourselves, click here).

What about the routine? This is a crucial point: in establishing a habit it is vital that we start small. As small as possible. Many people go wrong here; in their desire to see quick progress they set themselves impossible tasks. It is very hard to go from doing no exercise at all to jogging 20 min a day; it is much easier to tell yourself that you are going to go down the stairs rather than use the lift, or walk to the next bus stop rather than to the one closest to where you live. What matters initially is that we stick to the habit; once we have done so we can then go on to do more and more. (To watch a 70-second clip on this, click here).

How should I plan my habit? Research shows that you are much more likely to stick to your habit if you plan meticulously in advance. You need to be clear about details. For instance, let us say you decide to go jogging every morning. You need to decide in advance: i) What clothes are you going to wear? (T-shirt, short, sneakers)  ii) Where are you going to jog? (round the block)  iii ) How long are you going to jog for? (5 min). These ‘implementation intentions’ are crucial (see also Halpern 2016 – p. 144);  i) they send a message to yourself that you mean business and  ii) they make it far easier to execute your plan when the time comes. (To watch a 40-second clip on this, click here).

Does it matter if I miss a day?: In establishing a habit, consistency is key. Missing your routine for a day does not matter so much; missing two days in a row however can be serious. Missing it for three days can be disastrous. Research shows that the chances of sticking to your habit go down by 5% in the first case, but then the figure jumps to 55% in the case of two days and more than 90% if you fail to follow your programme three days running. (To watch a 30-second clip on this, click here).

How can I reduce the risk of giving up? An excellent way of making sure we stick to our habit is to make contingency plans. What happens if for whatever reason I cannot go jogging for 5 minutes because it is pouring with rain outside? No problems: we can have a Plan B that we can fall back on. In this case, we could say that instead of jogging, we could use the skipping-rope for 3 minutes, or, if we cannot do that, perhaps do 3 sets of sit-ups and 3 sets of push-ups. It does not matter if the amount of exercise we get is the same; what matters is that we are sending a signal to ourselves that we are serious about our commitment. (To watch a 70-second clip on this, click here).

How long does it take to consolidate a habit? According to some research, it takes about 66 days. This may sound a lot, but remember that this initial small investment of consistent effort (as the routine is small initially) should pay huge dividends over the following months and even years. With habits one should think long-term. Once we are pretty confident that the habit has been established, we can then increase the routine – e.g. from 5 minutes of jogging to 10 minutes plus some push-ups. The possibilities are endless. (To watch an 1-min clip on this, click here).

[OK – now you have read all this, you may want to watch this short video (from which most of the others were taken). It offers a nice summary of all the above].

Last Words – Why habits? There are two reasons why I believe the creation of learning habits is very promising:  i) once a habit is formed, it requires almost no will-power to keep it up. You simply do things on auto-pilot. This means that for a relatively small initial investment of effort, the yields over large periods of time can be huge;  ii) the habit changes your self-perception. You start thinking of yourself differently – you give yourself a new identity (‘I am an exerciser’ / ‘I am a serious learner of English’ / ‘I am a dieter’). The big idea is that this changed self-image can then trigger additional changes leading to a virtuous circle. Here is a 60-second clip in which Brian Wansik with a fantastic example. Enjoy.  🙂

* To go to a site with logic and lateral thinking puzzles, click here.

** To see an example of such a song click here.

 

 

References

Duhigg, C. (2012) The Power of Habit. London: Random House Books

Halpern, D. (2016) Inside the Nudge Unit. London: WH Allen

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2011) Switch. London: Random House

YouTube – ‘The Power of Habit’ [Animation]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxy8dDSHHaw

YouTube – ‘How to Build Habits and Execute Effortlessly’ [Animation]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LdhudFvJuE&t=69s

YouTube – Dan Ariely ‘The Secret to Kicking Procrastination: Reward Yourself’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbEa1P4sqd8

YouTube – Brian Wansink ‘From Mindless Eating to Mindlessly Eating Well’ TEDx: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ogsmh_czeY&t=4s

‘Five Simple and Easy Learning Strategies’

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Helping people change: How do we get people to change? How do we get our students to change? Getting students to become self-directed learners can be quite a challenge. It is one thing to do things at the gym with the instructor telling you what to do and how; it is quite another to motivate yourself to pick up that skipping rope at home. What is to be done? Watch this fantastic 90-sec clip with the brilliant Dan Heath.

So there you have it. The way to get people to change, is to make it easy for them to take the steps they need to in the desired direction. We need to ‘shrink the change’. What follows is a list of 5 simple things our students can do on their own to improve their English.

[NB: The key of course is to get students to adopt these strategies and turn them into habits. I will be looking at how we can do this in the next post].

Speaking [Vocaroo]: How does one get better at speaking? Well, one way is to use the L2 to speak to as many people as possible. But what if you do not happen to have any such ‘sparring partners’ or it is 2:00 am? The solution: Vocaroo! The student simply makes some brief notes on what s/he would like to talk about (their last holiday / their friend Mary / GM foods – anything) and then they make a monologue (perhaps for 1 – 2 min depending on your level) and record themselves. NB: If they get stuck, they can switch to the L1, say what they want to say and then continue in the L2. Then they can go back, listen to themselves and look up the words/expressions they did not know. And then they do it a second time. [For a simple tutorial on how to use Vocaroo, click here].

Key idea – Self-observation: One of the reasons we often fail to make progress is that we do not know how well we are doing or where we need to improve (this is also true of teachers – see Willingham 2009 – p. 193). Talking to others in the L2 is a very good idea, but how do we get better? People think they can talk and monitor their oral performance at the same time, but this is in fact impossible. We need a way to break this up into two stages. Recording ourselves allows us to speak freely and listen to ourselves afterwards. The great thing about Vocaroo (as opposed to our mobile phone) is that the student can click on ‘Click here to save’ and save the link of the recording. They can then keep a record of their progress in speaking and/or share some of these monologues with others (teachers or friends) who can give them feedback.

Listening [ELLLO]: If students want to improve their listening skills on their own, ELLLO may well be the best site around. Here is a typical example (click here). As you can see, the listening task is based around a short dialogue (2:24). Students have a few M/C Qs to focus their attention (and they get instant feedback), and they have the script to fall back on if they experience difficulties. There is also a vocabulary challenge on the right, focusing on lexical items which appear (in context!) in the dialogue. So students can read the Qs, do the listening task and make a note of the words/expressions they would like to keep. Perfect. [For a simple tutorial on how to use ELLLO, click here].

Key idea – Goal Setting: To become independent learners, students have to learn to set themselves goals (see also Fine 2005 – p. 173). Watching DVDs with the subtitles on or off is fine, but where does one stop? And how does one focus on the language? ELLLO is perfect in this respect, because the clips are short and students have options: they can choose the right level for them, they can choose the topic and even decide to focus on particular accents or choose video instead of audio. What is important is that they set themselves a goal and then put a tick next to it once they have done the activity.

Vocabulary [Quizlet]: Quizlet is simply fantastic! It is a simple tool which works on the principle of the old card system: you write an English word on the one side and a translation on the other (e.g. cast / ρίχνω) and test yourself regularly. In fact, it is best to use these virtual cards to record collocations (e.g. cast / a vote – here is a sample set). All you need to do is prepare the cards (which takes very little time) and then study whenever you want – wherever you are! Quizlet can prepare tests automatically and it also has matching games that can make the whole learning experience lots of fun. Another great thing about Quizlet is that once you have prepared a card set, you can share it, simply by sending your friends / students a link. Amazing! [For a simple tutorial on how to use Quizlet, click here; / for a detailed look of how you can use Quizlet in class, click here].

Key idea – Perceived Progress: There is one problem with skills work: it is hard to notice the progress one is making. This is why Quizlet is so great; once students have worked through a set of cards (and taken a test) they can be sure they know these lexical items. And they know this is so, because if they go back to previous sets (assuming they revise from time to time) they can see that you still remember things. It is true, Quizlet on its own is not enough as language learning is not a process of accretion. That said, the sense of constantly increasing their vocabulary can give students the psychological boost that they need in order to persevere with the other strategies (see also Ferrier 2014 – p. 122 on ‘gamification’).

Reading [Cueprompter]: One of the great problems with reading is low reading speed. A simple tool like Cueprompter can be of great help here. Here is what you do: i) you find a text (and Qs) online; ii) you read the Qs; iii) you copy the text and paste it in the empty box in the middle (see picture); iv) you add about 10-12 blank lines before the text (you will see why later);  v) from the settings (under the box) you choose ‘wide’ promter width and a ‘small’ font. Then you click ‘Start Prompter’. You use the space bar to start and stop the text and the arrow keys to control the speed. You have to read the text fast, otherwise it will disappear! When you are done reading, you try the questions. How many can you answer? [For a simple tutorial on how to use Cueprompter, click here].

Key idea – Challenge: Studying on your own can be difficult, partly because there is nobody there to put pressure on you to try harder. The great thing about Cueprompter is that it forces you to do just that; it is like a treadmill – you set the speed yourself, but then you have to follow the belt, otherwise you will fall off! Cueprompter has a set of speeds you can choose from at the top, but a good rule of thumb is this: if you can read a text and answer most of the questions at its default speed then you are pretty good. 🙂 [NB: There is a risk that you may manage to read the text but not understand anything; that is why you should try the questions afterwards].

Writing [Penzu]: Penzu is the simplest tool out there. It is just an online diary. But unlike an ordinary diary, you cannot lose it, it is always there and you can share entries with others. In my view Penzu is ideal for goal-setting and more importantly reflection (see also Peachey: Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers – p. 4). The student simply takes a few minutes each day to make quick notes on what they did, how it went, what problems or difficulties they encountered and what they should do next (at lower levels they can do that in a mixture of L2 and L1 – click here). Quite apart from the advantages this has, it helps send a message to the student him/herself: ‘I am a self-directed learner who is in charge of their own progress’. [For a simple tutorial on how to use Penzu, click here].

Key idea – Reflection: Would it not be easier to ‘reflect orally’ using Vocaroo? Yes, but it would not be the same. There is something magical about writing. With speaking, we can ‘fumble’ and think we know / have understood something; but if we can put it in writing, then we do know it (see Brown, Roediger & McDaniel 2014 – p. 210). Writing helps consolidate what one has learned. It involves both retrieval (which helps strengthen new knowledge) and ‘elaboration’ (personalizing the new knowledge). What is more, writing down what one intends to do the following day / week etc. makes the commitment far stronger.

The key to success : As I see it, the key to success when studying alone is habit-formation (see Duhigg 2012 – and see the next blog post!). Students need to learn to set themselves a number of small, immediately achievable goals. They have to be small so the learner gets a feeling of satisfaction from ticking them off. Once this becomes regular, the whole thing goes on auto-pilot so students do not need to expand ‘will-power’ in trying to get themselves to study – in the same way that we do not have to force ourselves to brush our teeth; we just do it automatically (Baumeister & Tierney 2012). Once a habit is formed, then we start seeing ourselves in a different light (‘Ah! I am an active learner!’) and that is a turning point. But enough for now… I would not want to spoil the next article for you… 🙂

References

Baumeister, R. & Tierney, J. (2012) Willpower. London: Allen Lane

Brown, P., Roediger, H., McDaniel, M. (2014) Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge Massachusetts. Belknap Harvard

Duhigg, C. (2012) The Power of Habit. London: Random House Books

Ferrier, A. (2014) The Advertising Effect. South Melbourne, Oxford University Press

Fine, C. (2005) A Mind of its Own. Cambridge: Icon Books

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2011) Switch. London: Random House

Peachey, Nik Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers

Willingham, D. (2009) Why Don’t Students Like School?.  San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass

 

Motivating Learners [An Integrated Skills Lesson]

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The situation is simple and one in which I am sure we have all found ourselves in on many an occasion. I have a coursebook. I am supposed to do Unit 5 today. There is a text in it on page 78. How do I use it? How can I make the most of it? How can I help students learn from the language in the text? Are there any activities I can attach to it? [I do realise of course that this is not the right way to think about things and we should be starting with the learning objectives etc. etc. but let us skip this issue for the time being.] What follows is a lesson plans in 10 simple steps. I believe this concrete example can provide a useful model of how we can ‘tweak’ standard activities and supplement our coursebook.

[NB: This article is based on a (hugely popular) presentation. You can find all the slides below. If you would like to use this lesson with your students, you will also need a handout. Just click here].

Step 1 – Stimulating the students’ curiosity: Ideally, I would like to get my students curious about the text, but how? According to G. Lowenstein, curiosity is the ‘gap’ between what I know is out there and my own knowledge. If I can see something or nothing – I’m not curious; if I can see the vague outline of a shape, then I am! So the key is to give students some idea of the text – and get them to use their imagination to ‘join the dots’. So what we can do is set the context (very briefly), then give students some key words from the text and get them to make up a little story about the content of the text.

Step 2 – Getting students to invest: Now we can take things further.  To maximize interest, we need to get the student to invest by making some concrete predictions about the text. The more they commit themselves, the more interested they will be. One way of doing this is by selecting some sentences from the text (or writing some ourselves), cutting them in half and then giving students only the first part. They will have to use their imagination to complete them. Notice that this gives them some additional information about the text and this makes them even more curious. In addition, it also activates their mental schemata – which makes subsequent processing easier.

Step 3 – Fast reading: One of the skills we want to develop in our students is the ability to read fast, to read for gist without focusing on every word. For this I have found that ‘Cueprompter’ is an excellent tool, but we can just give students the text and tell them they only have 60 seconds to read it in. The aim is to check whether their predictions were right – to see how these sentences should be completed in the light of the information in the text. This gives students a nice focus task – a purpose for reading. Speed is of the essence here – you will see why in the next paragraph.

Step 4 – Slow reading: Now we want our students to read the text more carefully – but how can we get them to do that? The answer is the amazing activity ‘Hidden Message’. It is very easy to prepare. You type (or copy) your text. Then you write a sentence which is your ‘Message’ to your students. Then you take the words of this sentence and insert them into the text! When students do the fast reading task, they do not usually notice these extra words, even though they may feel the text contains some mistakes. Then when you tell them they have to re-read the text to find out what the message is, they are completely shocked! They just love this task! *

Step 5 – Creative writing: Now comes another surprise. At this point you reveal to the students that you have not actually given them the full text. Although it looks like the story is over, this is not the case. So they have to work together to write a few lines in order to complete it. What happened after Ann left school? Notice three things: i) the writing flows naturally from the previous activity  ii) the students have already read the text twice, so they have a very clear idea of the context, the characters, etc. it is easier to complete something than to write something from scratch; and  iii) the task is small and fast – it does not feel onerous (perceptions matter!).

Step 6 – Focus on Language: Now that students are familiar with the text, it is a good idea to focus their attention on language. How should we do that? Whenever I ask my students to highlight useful language, they invariably focus on  i) single words…  ii) …which they do not know. This is where the teacher comes in; we need to explain to students that  ii) …perhaps they do not need to know these words (they may be too rare) and  i) it is best to focus on whole phrases / collocations. What I normally ask my students to do is to highlight expressions which they can understand, but which they would not be able to use.

Step 7 – Vocabulary Revision: OK – this step is for the next lesson. How can we get students to revise vocabulary? One very simple way is to delete some words from the text and then project the passage on the board and get the students to fill in the gaps – without showing them the missing items. This  has three advantages:  i) students get to see these items in context (again);  ii) students realise that very often there are a number of words that could be used (which helps combat the misconception of the ‘one correct answer’ which tests perpetuate) ** and  iii) (crucially) it forces students to retrieve the missing items; retrieval is effortful but it is the key to retention.

Step 8 – Speaking – A personal response: Having finished with the reading, it is vital that we ask ourselves ‘Is there another activity which follows naturally from the text?’ In this case, students could perhaps act out the scene between Anne and Emma Pye. However, there is something better which makes use of the students’ personal experience. Students can imagine a novice teacher like Anne asking them for tips on what to do and not to do. Students have strong views about what they like and they dislike about their teachers and their practices and this would be an excellent opportunity for any teacher not only to get students talking, but also to gain insights into what values/traits they consider important in a teacher.

Step 9 – Homework: There are two problems with H/W:  i) we often leave it till the very end (when students are packing their things – as though it was an afterthought) and ii) we often fail to support students enough. Look at the slide with the e-mail however. It contains ‘tips’ given by another teacher (notice how this links it to the previous step). However, these tips are clearly ridiculous. Apart from the humorous effect, this task is a much improved version of H/W:  i) students have a model (which means they know exactly what they have to do) and  ii) students have the ideas – either from the previous activity or simply by reversing this ludicrous advice. Excellent!  🙂

Step 10 – Recap and ‘dessert’: OK – there are a number of points worth remembering here. For me, the key factor is the students’ own contribution, as can be seen in Steps 2, 5 and 8. The more students invest, the more likely they are to enjoy the session and to benefit from it. The teacher’s role is to ensure that students’ curiosity is aroused (Step 1) and perhaps to introduce an element of incongruity (Step 4) and humour (Step 9) so as to make the lesson more enjoyable. It also helps if the teacher has something funny / interesting for ‘dessert’ as it were. When I do this with teachers, the most common tip they come up with in Step 8 is ‘Get out of the job while you still can’. So I show them this video clip… Enjoy. 🙂

* NB:  i) You can ‘customise’ the message to make it more fun for a particular group: [ e.g. ‘Guys I hope you are going to do better in the next test!’ 🙂 ]  ii) You can produce easy or hard versions by inserting the words in the right or in the wrong order; in the latter case the students have to spot them AND reorder them (this is excellent for Mixed-Ability classes)  iii) You can make the task harder or easier depending on where you put the extra words (e.g. the word ‘being’ is harder to spot in the first phrase than in the second: ‘Just last year she was being a student’ vs ‘Just last being year she was a student’).

** NB: In fact, it is even better if you delete whole phrases (2-3 or more words). This is even more effective in getting students to realise that there are many correct ways of saying the same thing and it provides a good opportunity for vocabulary expansion. For instance, in the first sentence, if you leave out one word (‘Anne felt nervous as she …………. the classroom’) the options you have are ‘entered’ / ‘walked into’ etc.; however, if you leave out the last three words (‘Anne felt nervous as she ……. ……. …….’) then there are more possibilities such as ‘greeted her class’ or ‘was about to start her first lesson’ etc.

10 Additional Tips on Classroom Management and Motivation [3]

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An annotated lesson: This made-up story is again meant to be an exercise. The idea is that you read through it and try to see whether you agree with the teacher’s decisions / practices. There are at least 10 interesting points in this short narrative. Can you spot them? If you agree with what John did, can you say why? If you think he has made a mistake, why do you think so? What should he have done instead? [NB: This is not meant to be a model lesson nor is John a model teacher; rather it is a collection of interesting moments from a lesson which help illustrate some good and some not so good practices relating to Classroom Management and Student Motivation].

[This is the third post on the topic; to see the first one, click here. To read the second one, click here].

John’s story: John walked leisurely towards his classroom. He was early. He glanced into the staffroom and there was Agnes, the DOS. ‘Is anything wrong?’ he asked her. ‘You don’t look your usual happy self…’ ‘It’s Mark’ Agnes replied. ‘He just called in sick and had 3 hours to teach later today….’ ‘Hang on; I know his schedule – that’s 17:00man-woman-work to 20:00, right? I could stand in for him’ said John. ‘Oh, John’ said Agnes ‘You are an angel!’. ‘That’s what colleagues are for’ replied John smiling.

‘Hi everyone’ John boomed as he walked in. Everyone smiled and said ‘Hi’ – they liked John. ‘Wow Mary!’ John exclaimed ‘Nice tan!’ Mary smiled coyly. ‘And Paul – you’ve been working out, haven’t you? Well done! You look fit and you’ve lost weight too!’ Paul flexed his muscles striking a body-builder pose. Everyone laughed.

‘Excuse me sir’ said Catherine. ‘There was something I wanted to ask you about. Now that I’ve got my B2 certificate, do you think I should take the C1 exam as well, or should I skip it and go straight for the C2 test?’ ‘Well’ John said ‘There is no point in taking the C1, is there? Since you are going to take the C2 exam, why bother?’ ‘OK – thank you sir’ Catherine replied.

‘OK everyone!’ said John. ‘If you remember, for today you had to prepare to give a 60-sec mini presentation each. You have to describe to the class one learning strategy you use to improve your English and try to persuade us that it is effective. At the end, we will all vote secretly on which two were the most effective. As I have promised, the winner will get this amazing reader (John held up a book) OK – who would like to go first?’ [ …. ]

‘Right’ said John after everyone had finished. ‘Some great ideas there – well done. Now as homework, I would like you to do two things: I would like you to read an article of mine on ‘5 Effective ELT Strategies’. That’s based on a presentation I gave some time ago. I want you to read it and I want each of you to write a commentstudent-typing-a-response  about which of these strategies you think might work best for you’. John looked at Helen and Rose and winked at them; they winked back. John had given them two model answers and they had already posted them there.

‘But you know’ John continued ‘learning English is not just about conscious study. Your English improves every day – without you realising it. Think about the clips you watch on YouTube or the songs you listen to. Now, with the person next to you, I want you to make a list of 5 such ways in which your English gets better daily’. [ …. ]

‘OK – lots of good points here…. Now – another thing I wanted us to do today, was to have a debate. You know how the government are thinking about lowering the voting age to 17? Well, here is the idea – why not make it 15? In pairs, I would like you to debate this. But first – make notes of the arguments you are going to use. OK – you have 3 min to prepare’. [ …. ]

‘Good. I feel this has been a very productive lesson. Well done everyone. Now if you remember, last time we said that it is a good idea if we think back to the lesson later and try to recall what we did and evaluate what went well and what didn’t and whether there is one or more mental notes we need to make. So what I would like you to do when you get home is to make an entry into your journal. A short paragraph of 8-10 lines should be ok’.

The bell rang. ‘OK – class dismissed’ John said ‘but not before you have tidied up first!’ ‘Aren’t you forgetting something, sir?’ Catherine asked. ‘You said earlier that if we did well, you were going to teach us some essential ‘Survival English’ phrases in case we ever found ourselves in the US’.  ‘Ah, yes’ John said. ‘Watch this….’ *

Comments: There are a number of interesting points in this story. Some are obvious, some are less so and some are counterintuitive. All of them are research-based:

‘…I could stand in for him….’…: A very good idea. When we do things for others, they are bound to reciprocate in the future and this mutual assistance helps build stronger relationships between people. It is actually better if we do not wait to be asked and we offer to help of our own accord. And it goes without saying that help should be offered unconditionally. People will reciprocate in their own time (Cialdini 2001 – ch. 2).

‘…Wow Mary! – Nice tan!….’…: A mountain of research has shown that we like people who pay us compliments – even if we do not actually believe these to be true. Genuine compliments is one of the best and fastest ways to get closer to someone and make them feel good (Yeung 2011 – pp. 177-179). A good compliment means that at the very least you care enough about someone to have noticed something about them.

‘…There is no point … is there? ….’…: A mistake in my opinion. I am not saying that students should necessarily sit every exam there is, but it is important that they have a sense of progress; this acts as a reward. These rewards have to be frequent and piecemeal rather than rare and large As teachers, we need to make sure they can see they are getting closer to their objective. It is crucial for motivation (Levine 2006 – pp. 116-118).

‘…You have to describe one learning strategy ….’…: Excellent! Research has shown that there is a big difference between studying something for yourself and studying something so you can explain it to others; in the latter case, we activate different parts of our brain and as a result knowledge sinks in deeper! (Lieberman 2013 – p. 289) Do not take my word for it; just watch this fantastic short clip with Professor M. Lieberman (click here).

‘…the winner will get this amazing reader….’…: A big mistake. Numerous studies have shown that contingent rewards (‘Do this and you’ll get that’) are actually demotivating in the long run. Essentially, students start thinking (subconsciously) ‘If I have to be bribed to do this, then it is clearly not such an enjoyable activity’ (Pink 2010 – p. 8). On the other hand there is nothing wrong with offering a ‘surprise reward’ (‘Wow! This is an excellent story! Here is a sticker’).

 ‘…I would like you to read an article of mine….’…: This may look like showing off, but anything that sends students the message ‘Your teacher knows what s/he is doing’ can help enormously in increasing compliance and minimising discipline problems (Cialdini 2001 – ch. 6). Clearly, if students can see that the teacher writes articles for other colleagues or is a regular presenter in conferences they will trust him/her more. Hiding your credentials out of a sense of modesty is counterproductive.

‘…John had given them two model answers….’…: This is brilliant! There are many times when people want to do things, but they just do not want to be the first (e.g. asking Qs at a Conference, volunteering for an activity, or contributing ideas in an online forum). In such cases you need 1-2 people to act as catalysts by demonstrating the desired behaviour (you may need to recruit them in advance). The results can be amazing! (Ross & Nisbett 2011 – p. 223). Watch this clip. Then watch it again (from Ferrrier 2014 – p. 143).

‘…Think about the clips you watch on YouTube….’…: Another excellent idea! Apparently, simply making people aware of what they normally do can help them change the way they see themselves and hence their behaviour (Heath & Heath 2011 – p. 125). The idea is that telling people about the massive exposure they get to English these days, may well encourage them to seek this exposure and do this more deliberately and hence more effectively.

‘…I would like you to debate this….’…: A very interesting moment. Some colleagues are averse to debates preferring instead consensus-building activities. Research however shows that debates can be extremely effective at stimulating interest (Heath & Heath 2008 – p. 85). The reason seems to be arousal; heightened arousal feels good (which is why we go on rollercoaster rides). This excitement generated by debates, games etc. can spill over to the lesson and increase motivation (see Lewis 2013 – p. 27).

 ‘…a short paragraph should be ok….’…: A slip. While the idea of getting students to reflect is great, this is apparently the first or second time they will be doing this. A paragraph may be too much. When you want to change people, it makes sense to start small (Wiseman 2012 – pp 187-189). Once they get into the habit of doing something, they start seeing themselves in a different light (‘Oh! I’m a reflective learner!’). Then they can go on to write more.

The takeaways – 10 Tips:

Here are the 10 takeaways. Once again though – before reading them, see whether you can recall some of them. What are the principles? How would you have phrased them as tips for a colleague?

Reciprocity: Do little things for other people. What you do has to be unconditional and it is best if you offer to help yourself. Reciprocity strengthens our bonds with others.

Compliments: Pay people genuine compliments. Compliments oil the wheels of social interaction and lead to closer relationships.

The gain factor: Make sure that students can see the progress they are making. People need ‘milestones’. Regularly. Forget milestones – make that ‘inch-pebbles’ (Heath & Heath 2011 – p. 136).

Peer teaching: Get students to teach each other things;  i) they learn even more themselves and  ii) they come to see themselves in a different light.

Rewards: Avoid using contingent rewards as an incentive. They often undermine intrinsic motivation. (That said, it is ok to give the occasional ‘surprise’ prize).

Authority: Make sure your students know how good you are (qualifications, testimonials of expertise etc.). They are more likely to be disciplined and they will learn more.

Modelling: Sometimes you need someone to model the desired behaviour to ‘get the ball rolling’. Get students, colleagues or friends to provide this model.

The placebo effect: Make students aware of how much exposure they get to English through their daily activities; this can make them think of themselves as ‘active learner’.

Arousal: Use high-arousal activities (e.g. debates, competitions etc.) in class. They both motivate students and their excitement often spills over to the content.

Starting small: To get people to do something new, start small. Once they have taken the first small step, this will change the way they perceive themselves and they will do more.

Last words: I know I have said that before, but I will say it again: it is incredible how much better language teachers we can become by learning from looking for ideas beyond ELT. Many colleagues think that to improve as EL teachers, they need to learn more about the language, or linguistics, or methodology; I think this is only true up to a point. Once we can do our job competently enough, we need to look elsewhere. To paraphrase Howard Schultz (founder and CEO of Starbucks) “We are not in the Language business teaching people; we are in the People business teaching language” – that is quite a shift in focus.

[ * I know you are dying to watch that clip on ‘Survival English’. Here it is… 🙂 ]

References

Brown, P., Roediger, H., McDaniel, M. (2014) Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge Massachusetts. Belknap Harvard.

Cialdini, R. (2001) Influence – Science and Practice. Massachusetts, Allyn & Bacon.

Ferrier, A. (2014) The Advertising Effect. South Melbourne, Oxford University Press.

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2008) Made to Stick. London: Random House.

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2011) Switch. London: Random House.

Levine, R. (2006) The Power of Persuasion. Oxford: Oneworld.

Lewis, D. (2013) The Brain Sell. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Lieberman, M. (2013) Social. Oxford, Oxford University Press

Martin, S., Goldstein, N., & Cialdini, R. (2014) The Small Big. London: Profile Books.

Pink, D. (2010) Drive. Edinburgh, Canongate Books.

Ross, L. & Nisbett, R. (2011) The Person and the Situation. London: Pinter & Martin.

Wiseman, R. (2012). Rip it up. London: Macmillan.

Yeung, R. (2011) i is for Influence. London: Macmillan.

 

How to Use Comedies in Class

What is missing from ELT coursebooks? Open any coursebook you like. Chances are you will find a Unit on sports, the environment, food, celebrities – the one Unit you will not find is one on Humour (well, in 95% of coursebooks anyway…). But watch the clip below. Is it not far superior to any ordinary ELT audio track? It is funny isn’t it, that in a field dominated by British publishing houses, you may find numerous texts on British food (!) and not a single one on the one thing British people should really be proud of: British comedy. (‘Yes, yes’ I can hear you say ‘Never mind how good this stuff is – What matters to me as a busy teacher is this: can I use it?’ Well, now you can – and very easily too. See the note at the end. *)

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What can I use this material for? Well, the fact that most of the sketches are quite short suggests that they can be used as ‘fillers’ – a fun break during the lesson and a way of recharging the students’ ‘motivational batteries’. Alternatively you may choose to structure a whole lesson around some of them.  For the most part however, I see them as one of the ingredients of a good lesson. For instance, you may choose to use such clips to…

… introduce some topic (‘Comedy for ELT – Mistakes’ [click here] )

… practise topic vocabulary (‘Comedy for ELT – Technology’ [click here])

… demonstrate activities (‘Comedy for ELT – The ‘Yes-No’ Game’ [click here]) or

… practise situational / functional language (‘Comedy for ELT – Small Talk’ [see the clip below])

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How can I use comedy clips? Although this material is somewhat different than the ordinary audio tracks we use in class, there is no reason why our methodology should differ. As a rough guide, we can follow these steps:

Step 1: Set the context: This is particularly important if we want to help the students understand what is going on. We want to say a few things about the setting (time and place), we may need to explain the relationship between the speakers, explain 1-2 culturally-specific details if necessary and maybe give students an idea of what is funny about the sketch, without giving away the ‘punch-line’ which would detract from the students’ satisfaction (see this clip for instance).

Step 2: Pre-teach key vocabulary: Sometimes much of the fun of the dialogues lie in puns and double-entendres; we need to make sure that students can actually ‘get’ most of the jokes. At the same time we need to strike the right balance; if the teacher is to spend 15 min in preparing students for a clip which lasts 90 seconds, then this is clearly not cost-effective.

Step 3: Give students a global task: the normal sequence in listening tasks is first of all to get students to listen for gist. In the case of these sketches the first task is normally easier than one would expect as focusing too much on it would detract from the students’ enjoyment.  Typical activities are T/F Qs, Complete the sentence, Ordering, or Straightforward open-ended Qs.

Step 4: Get students to focus on bottom-up skills: Global listening is usually followed by listening for detail. In my experience students want to be able to understand the dialogues as fully as possible, which is why it makes sense to get them working with the script (e.g. typically filling-in gaps combined with adding, deleting or changing words). **

[A note on repetition: For the students to both enjoy the extracts and derive the maximum benefit from them, I believe it is a good idea to listen to them more than once.  In fact (unlike other material) the less challenging their task becomes through repeated listening, the more students enjoy the dialogues as they can appreciate the humour more – their increased confidence enables them to catch things they had previously missed!]

Step 5: Get students to focus on language: The language in such sketches is often extremely rich (sometimes deliberately, in order to produce a funny effect). As with most texts, I have found that it is best to get students to highlight useful language; that means  i) phrases or collocations – not words in isolation;  ii) phrases they can understand but which they would not use.

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How can I follow this up? As the main aim of the listening activities is to help students to appreciate and enjoy the dialogues, you may not want to include any follow-up language or skills work so as not to spoil the whole experience for them.  However, there are a number of things teachers can do after these listening sessions.  Here are some ideas:

Role play:  students may like a particular extract so much, they may want to act it out, or, better still, record their dialogue on audio or even video tape (‘Constable Savage’ [click here]).

Parallel writing:  students may write a similar dialogue on the same or a related theme (see the handout of the clip below).

Extension:  where a dialogue is part of a story, students may want to continue it, or simply write a paragraph ‘predicting’ what is going to happen next (‘Letters H – Miss P.’ [click here]) They can then listen to the rest of the sketch/episode to check their predictions.

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What are the key ‘DOs’ and ‘DON’Ts’?

DO: …set the context; help the students understand what is going on before they start listening.
DO: …support students with unknown vocabulary / background knowledge / cultural elements etc. (see this clip ***)

DO: …‘sell’ the idea to the students; otherwise some of them might think it is just a waste of time.
DO: …link the sketches to the rest of the lesson, so that there is a sense of purpose and continuity.
DON’T: …give students the punch-line; it spoils the sketch for them as it deprives them of the pleasure of understanding it themselves.
DON’T: …play extracts which require too much explanation.
DON’T: …take unnecessary risks with ‘dangerous / taboo’ topics (e.g. sex, politics, religion) – unless you know your class really well.
DON’T: …treat comedy clips like ordinary listening material; students should see it as a ‘treat’!

Last words: This is the main idea: You ‘sacrifice’ some of your precious contact time in the hope that the motivational effect will more than make up for it. In a sense, it is a calculated ‘gamble’; If it works, you may find that the students who spent 3 minutes in class watching a Rowan Atkinson video (like the one below), will then go on to spend another 5 hours at home watching every similar clip they can find!  🙂

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* So how can you use it? You go on YouTube. You type ‘Comedy for ELT’. Under most of the clips, you will see a link (see the picture). You simply click on the link and you can download a handout (+ the Key, + the script). comedy-for-elt-relationships-1The handout typically contains a short paragraph which sets the context, a first, global task (focusing on general comprehension) and a second task which draws the students’ attention on language. Sometimes ideas are given for follow-up activities.

** NB: The words which are blanked out are not random; in most cases words are deleted so that students have to understand the missing words to ‘get the joke’ or in order to focus their attention on some important preposition, collocation etc. Similarly, when a word is substituted for another, in the vast majority it is a near synonym, so that students will not have to look up the meaning of the original word.

*** In order to fully appreciate the humour in this particular clip, students need to be familiar with Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ AND with the fact that builders / electricians / plumbers etc. etc. have a reputation for being unreliable (see how this is done in the handout [click here]).

10 More Tips on Classroom Management and Motivation [2]

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Another annotated lesson: This made-up story is again meant to be an exercise (to see the previous one, just click here). The idea is that you read through it and try to see whether you agree with the teacher’s decisions / practices. There are at least 10 interesting points in this short narrative. Can you spot them? If you agree with what Alex did, can you say why? If you think he has made a mistake, why do you think so? What should he have done instead? [NB: This is not meant to be a model lesson nor is Alex a model teacher; rather it is a collection of interesting moments from a lesson which help illustrate some good and some not so good practices relating to Classroom Management and Student Motivation].

Alex’s story: Alex felt really happy working in this school. Everything was neat and tidy, the boards were always clean, the equipment was always in working order and there were all kinds of posters on the wall – some with interesting or funny quotes, tidy-schoolothers containing useful language. When Alex walked into the classroom the class were busy chatting to each other as usual. He looked around and coughed so the students would notice he was there.

‘Thank you, sir!’ piped up little Andrew as Alex walked into the classroom. Alex smiled and winked at him. Last time he had surreptitiously slipped a little ‘Happy Birthday’ card between the pages of Andrew’s book. ‘Hey! Did you get your IELTS results, Mark?’ Alex asked. ‘Yes, sir’ said Mark ‘Amazingly I got a 7.5! I never expected such a high mark!’. ‘Well, of course you did well’ said Alex ‘Don’t forget, we had prepared thoroughly – esp for Task 1 which was your weak point. Well done’.

Alex turned to Peter ‘Hey Peter! Don’t forget you’ve promised to show me how to use Moviemaker after the lesson’ he said. ‘I mean – what’s the point of having teenage students if they don’t teach you all this new-fangled technology stuff?’  Peter smiled. ‘Right-o sir!’ he said. ‘Are we going to do another crossword like we did yesterday?’ he asked. ‘Of course we are’ said Alex. ‘I know you love them…’

‘OK – before that however, we are going to read a text about some amazing animals. This lesson has been voted by former students as the second most interesting ever! OK – listen to these statements and with the person next to you try to complete them in a plausible way’ Alex read aloud: ‘1. There is a snake that can ………; 2. There is a plant that can eat ………; 3. There is a lizard that defends itself by ….……’.  *

The class discussed the statements in pairs and wrote down what they thought was the right answer. Then Alex gave them the text so they could check their predictions. ‘Amazing, or what?’ asked Alex. ‘OK – as homework, I would like you to search the net and next time you come I want each of you to give a mini presentation on a really special animal’.

‘OK – can someone give us a demo? Just a mini-monologue on one of the animals you’ve just read about. About 30-40 seconds. Paul – what about you? I know you like presentations’. ‘I don’t know’ said Paul sounding uncertain ‘I haven’t practiced it…’ ‘Oh, monologuecome on’ said Alex ‘It’s not a test; ok – just stand here at the front. I’ll help you if there are any words you don’t know…’

‘All right’ said Alex, when Paul had finished. ‘Thank you Paul. It wasn’t bad considering it was the first time…. OK everyone. Remember: next time you can talk about whichever animal you want to, but I want you to practice. In fact, I would like you to record yourselves before the next lesson. You can use Vocaroo – just Google it – it’s dead easy to use; you click on the red button and record your voice. Then you can send me the link of the recording by e-mail’.

The bell rang. ‘OK – class dismissed. Before you go however, I want all pieces of paper in the waste-paper basket and the desks all lined up exactly as you found them when you came in’ said Alex. The class started tidying up ‘Sir, sir – you promised you would tell us a joke!’ said Mark. ‘Did I? Oh, all right then….’ said Alex. ‘Have I told you the one with the castaway? Well, there was this guy and he was on a flight to New York. And when they started showing the film on the plane, he had seen it on TV and he was so disgusted, he got up and walked out. Now – as soon as he lands in the water….’

[* Answers: 1. There is a snake that can fly; 2. There is a plant that can eat mice; 3. There is a lizard that defends itself by squirting blood! ]

Comments: There are a number of interesting points in this story. Some are obvious, some are less so and some are counterintuitive. All of them are research-based:

‘…Everything was neat and tidy,….’…: The physical environment we operate in has a huge impact on the way we behave. Countless studies have shown that people tend to be well-behaved in an orderly environment, cheat more in dim places and be less productive in an untidy room. By changing the physical environment we can send happy-birthday-2the right (implicit) messages to our students: ‘This is a place of work’ (Martin, Goldstein & Cialdini 2014 – p. 28).

‘…a little ‘Happy Birthday’ card….’…: Very good. Little touches like that signal to students that the teacher sees them as individuals – not just as learners or members of a group and students appreciate that (see also Watkinson 2013 – p. 160). You might say ‘OK – isn’t this a cheap trick just to increase our popularity?’ Actually no, because it also impacts on students’ performance, but there is another reason too – acting like this changes you in the long run (see the last point).

‘…we had prepared thoroughly….’…: A slip. Our brain has the tendency to mull over things it cannot explain. Once it finds a reasonable / plausible explanation, it just files away the experience. This is good – if the experience is bad. It helps us achieve ‘closure’ and move on. But when the experience is a happy one, why stop thinking about it? ‘Explaining’ can mean ‘explaining away’. It is good for bad things – and vice versa (Wilson 2011 – p. 60).

‘…Don’t forget you’ve promised….’…: This is called ‘the Franklin Principle’. We assume that the more we do for others, the more they will like us; this is not wrong, but there is a much better way – getting them to do things for us! It’s pure Cognitive Dissonance: ‘Either i) this is a great guy and I’m doing the right thing helping him or ii) I am stupid’. What do you think our brain would rather believe?:-) (click here for a short video on this – see also Lieberman 2013 – p. 266).

‘…This lesson has been voted….’…: Excellent! It is very important to ‘sell’ what we are going to do to our students. How can we do that? Well, we can explain the rationale behind a task etc., but research has shown there is another, more persuasive way: telling students that other students like it. The ‘others like it, ergo it is good’ is one of the most powerful heuristic our lazy brain uses. Why not exploit it? (Berger 2016 – chapter 1).

‘…The class discussed the statements….’…: Very good! All too often, when we have something interesting to share with our class we just go right ahead. But wait! Why not tease them a little first? Studies have shown that interest and motivation soar when we make students curious about what is coming next. Getting them to predict content can be as effective as it is simple. And this also works with mundane material! (Heath & Heath 2008 – p. 80) Watch this clip.

‘…Amazing, or what?….’…: Brilliant! Methodology aside, content does matter – a lot! According to Berger (2013 – ch.. 1) when we come across something interesting – funny – weird etc., we tend to share it as it translates into ‘social currency’ (it makes us look good). Students will go home and chances are they will share this with their friends – and they will look up information on other bizarre animals on the web, which means additional exposure to the L2!.

‘…Paul – what about you? ….’…: This is a mistake though. Studies have shown that being watched by others can stimulate us to great efforts and we can perform very well provided that the task is easy or we have rehearsed it really well. Conversely, if the task is hard or we have not practiced it, feeling others watching us can cause us to fumble and perform poorly, which may in turn undermine our confidence (Ariely 2010 – p. 44).

‘…it’s dead easy to use’…: Another mistake – and a common one too. Just because we know how to do something does not mean others do too. Such misjudgments happen all the time – esp when we are giving instructions or explaining something (Heath & Heath 2008 – p. 80). It is very hard to put ourselves into the learners’

shoes, but we should try. We need to explain demonstrate and then check understanding. Watch this amazing clip (click here).

‘…Before you go however,….’…: Excellent. This is a little thing, which can easily become a routine. But in helping keep the class tidy, the students are also sending a message – to themselves. It is Cognitive Dissonance again: ‘Why am I doing this? Nobody is forcing me. If I am doing this, it must be because the class / the course / learning English is important’. The way we act, gradually changes the way we think about things (see Cialdini 2201 – pp. 63-71).

The takeaways – 10 Tips:

Here are the 10 takeaways. Once again though – before reading them, see whether you can recall some of them. What are the principles? How would you have phrased them as tips for a colleague?

presentSurroundings matter: Make sure the learning environment sends the right message to the students (‘We take learning seriously and we expect you to learn’).

‘You are special!’: Try to make your students feel special; little things such as remembering special days or their interests can go a long way.

Explaining away: If a student has had a setback, find a plausible innocuous explanation so that they stop thinking about it. But if it is something positive, do not explain it away.

The Franklin principle: Get students to do things for you (and help you with class work etc). Cognitive dissonance means they will like you more.

Social proof: Telling students that their peers like something / do something regularly is far more effective than trying to persuade your class to do it. Use Social Proof!

Tease – then tell: Instead of directly giving students information, engage their curiosity by means of Qs / incomplete sentences / guessing games. Motivation will soar.

Social currency: Use interesting materials – things that your students will want to share with others (e.g. urprising facts, witty quotes, jokes, interesting clips etc.).spotlight

The spotlight effect: Performing in public can energise people, and boost their confidence and motivation – but for this to happen they need to be well prepared for the task.

The curse of knowledge: Do not assume that people have understood what you said or what they have to do. Check understanding and instructions.

Actions into beliefs: Get students to do ‘the right thing’; we assume that beliefs lead to actions but very often it is the other way round.

Last words: Alex is of course a fictional person, but if he existed I would advise him to go home and write a few things about the lesson in his diary. What went well? What difficulties were there? What could have been done better? What opportunities were missed? Of course, when something is fresh in our minds, we think we will easily remember it, but of course this is not the case. The faintest pencil can beat the best memory any day. Even Alex forgot he had promised his class a joke. But I didn’t; it was on my notes. Here it is. Enjoy! 🙂 ).

 

References

Ariely, D. ( 2010) The Upside of Irrationality. London HarperCollins

Berger, J. (2013) Contagious. London: Simon & Schuster

Berger, J. (2016) Invisible Influence. London: Simon & Schuster

Cialdini, R. (2001) Influence – Science and Practice. Massachusetts, Allyn & Bacon

Epley, N. (2014) Mindwise. London: Allen Lane

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2008) Made to Stick. London: Random House

Lieberman, M. (2013) Social. Oxford, Oxford University Press

Martin, S., Goldstein, N., & Cialdini, R. (2014) The Small Big. London: Profile Books

Watkinson, M. (2013) The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences. London: Financial Times Publishing

Wilson, T. (2011) Redirect. London: Penguin Books