I am beginning to be influenced by a major change in ESL at this point. It is the switch to communicative language approach which is put forth by sociolinguist Dell Hymes. The weirdest thing about this is that the reform movement is simply about what we as ESL teachers should have been doing all along. That is, get students to respond to input in the classroom.
I have instituted a number of ideas for communicative language teaching CLT:
- Long wait times. Allow there to be uncomfortable silences.
- Constantly stop to ask if there are questions.
- Give the students a checklist of questions to ask
- Stop getting in the way of student input: shut up and allow them to speak.
- Minimize Teacher Talk Time (TTT)
- Maximize Student Talk Time (STT)
Get the student’s attention without being overtly officious. The minute that you lose the temper, that is the moment that CLT breaks down. I have been trying to institute these in my ESL classroom with varying success. Sometimes, there is just no output. In that case, I revert to TTT. But more often than not, I try to implement these CLT objectives.
I got so many yawns with the top-down approach. When it is all about what I know, the students tend to tune out. But when I try a bottom-up format, suddenly they are more engaged than they ever were.