I wonder how many of my students have started to go out for coffee with a friend, even if they both speak the same first language, and promise themselves that they will only speak English for 30 minutes. I remember learning that languages are learned when you have two people who are willing to negotiate meaning with one another. That is, if one person doesn’t understand, the other person doesn’t mind trying to explain what they want to say in a different way one more time. Finding someone like that, however, can be difficult. I see it all the time, but I guess people have busy lives, and if a native English speaker is speaking to a non-Native English speaker, they don’t always have the patience to negotiate meaning. That’s why I tried recommending to my students that if they can’t find an English speaker to practice with, that’s no problem, they can just practice with each other.
On another note, my students have just finished doing their presentations on the Penguin Reader Alexander the Great. The presentations were brilliant! I was actually surprised because, to be honest, sometimes I dread presentations. They can go on and on and no one understands what is being said, and the students spend the whole time speaking into a piece of paper or with their backs to the audience talking to the power point screen. Painful! However, this time, it didn’t happen. Usually, presentation time is a time of open topics with students choosing their own group members. This time, however, I randomly chose the groups for the students, and I assigned the topics. The Penguin Reader we have been reading in class has 10 chapters, so I divided the class up into ten groups, with each group presenting a different chapter in order. Although students could search the internet for pictures and maps, they weren’t allowed to use any other information except that in their books. By narrowing down the information they could use, the students really focused on the chapter they had to present, and boy did they know their stuff! I have an entire class of experts on Alexander the Great! I think by lowering the amount of work they had to do in order to find content for their presentations, they were able to focus more on the English and delivering a good presentation. On top of all that, because the groups were randomly assigned, there were speakers of different first languages in all the groups. The working language had to be English, so it was good practice as well while they were preparing. Anyway, I was very impressed! I can’t wait for the next presentations!