ESL Development 6: Never change a winning game—Be an actor in a show

Don’t change just for the sake of novelty

Marianne Raynaud
My ultimate goal is to have my students become competent and confident in speaking English. With experience, I have come to realize that novelty is not sufficient for a theme to be entertaining or engaging. In the QualityTime concept" of language teaching, we change topics or activities when they become outdated. But if you have something that works well, stick with it. As they say, “Never change a winning game” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We, teachers, are like actors performing in a show—an interactive show in which we hope our students will participate frequently and with enthusiasm. Actors say their lines (the same lines) time and time again, and with each new performance they try to be even better and make the audience laugh more or make the tension or suspense even more perceptible or unbearable for the spectators. Great actors never get bored. They are perfectionists like us.

The silent teacher—the facilitator

QualityTime teaching methods rarely call for a student to speak directly to the teacher in front of the whole class—except for prepared talks that students have rehearsed. In our various pairwork situations, be they correction of homework, recitations, role-plays, discussions or debates, the teacher passes from one group to the next helping with grammar and pronunciation. Usually, there are not too many grammar mistakes as one of the students always leads the activity with a key and thus knows the correct answers. And the teacher does do not debate with the students, because that is not the objective of the course.

The teacher is not the "master who knows everything and corrects the students’ thinking" but rather the facilitator, the coach, the cheerleader. This mentor encourages communication and regulates it, but the students do most of the talking all at the same time. Occasionally, the teacher intervenes by guiding the students through a brief analysis. Because such "teacher talk" comes only at specific moments, the students welcome these insights. But most of the time, i.e., 75% of each hour, the teacher remains silent—though very attentive. This may be difficult to comprehend and implement at first, but once you have seen your students change their attitude and become active participants in their learning process, you never go back to the traditional teacher role. Instead, you adopt "intensive pairwork" to the curriculum for all classes and all levels.

Finding effective pair work activities

All the pairwork activities in QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource Book 2.0 can be used immediately with very little preparation. Read the instructions in the text, download and print the worksheets and keys. Then you will be ready to explain to the students what they are supposed to do. Leave it up to them to teach each other. Once you have understood and tested this method with the materials offered in the digital book, you will be ready to transform other activities and exercises using this more dynamic way of teaching.

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