21 February 2007

The real challenge is to not demotivate the students

Shoppers 'set their own prices'

A supermarket reportedly let customers pay what they liked for their shopping after a thunderstorm knocked out the cash tills. The Mirror says the Asda store at Monks Cross in North Yorkshire was soon packed as word about the give-away spread. Bosses reportedly let people guess their shopping bill rather than make them wait for power to return. Manager Colin Storey said: "It was worth it to keep our customers happy."

The question is not IF vocabulary should be taught but HOW. Those of us who adhere to more communicative approaches believe it should be presented in an authentic way that interests and engages the student. We believe that once the interest is aroused it will allow vocabulary to be retained much better.

After reading the above story the students will be very interested in understanding: thunderstorm, knocked out, cash tills, packed, give-away, worth it.

Imagine one teacher asking this:

"Students, remember the ten words we learned on Monday?" or

"Students, remember the story about the supermarket that let customers pay what they want?"

In which case will the students best be able to retrieve the words and use them in a proper context?

The story above came from the Ananova news website. They have a special section called Quirkies and it's full of curious news items under the categories: Eccentrics, Quirky gaffes, Strange crime, Sex life, Animal tales, Sporting quirkies, Showbiz quirkies, Business quirkies, Heartwarmers, Rocky relationships, Bad taste and Unlucky.

Of course, the teacher should create some opportunity for the students to use the words they learned. Perhaps they could talk about what they would do if they were a manager or customer in that situation or if they were a business consultant examining it.

People have a natural curiosity and motivation to learn things. As Andrew Littlejohn, author of Primary Colours and Cambridge English for Schools, said when he visited us in China, "It is not the teacher's job to motivate the students - it's the teachers job to not de-motivate them."

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