Have you recently given your students a real-life task? A genuine out-of-classroom task that they were supposed to complete in order to make their lives (personal or professional) better: sending an email, publishing a blog or social media post, giving a presentation, etc.
A few years ago, at an English language centre I was in charge of, our students would do presentations quite frequently. But very often we felt those presentations were not benefitting them as much as they should.
It seemed our students often treated those presentation as yet another classroom activity that needed to be completed before the lesson was over. They didn’t give those presentations enough focus, they didn’t push themselves hard enough to really bring their language proficiency to another level. The classroom environment was too safe.
Therefore, one day, I thought we could ask our students to give presentations in front of other groups of students at the campus where our institution was located. We wanted them to literally walk around the campus knocking on other classrooms’ doors, and present in front of people they might not be friends with, or even people they might have never seen before.
As you can imagine, our students were quite apprehensive about it. But once they started, and once they realised they were doing something they would probably need to do at some point in their lives outside of the classroom anyway, they started enjoying it. We got great feedback from almost everyone involved.
But good feedback wasn’t the only thing we wanted to see. We also hoped to see real engagement, hard work, and language development. And we did! Loads of it!
And that made us think again: Was there anything else we could do for our students? Was there anything that would benefit them even more?
We thought, “Why not take English learning outside of the classroom entirely? Why not give our learners a task that would put them in a position that would really make them do their best?”
And when do people do their best?
Well, usually when they are being watched, don’t they? And, it appears, only when they are aware that someone is watching them.
Thus, we thought, “Why not provide our learners with a chance to give a talk in front of a live audience that they don’t know? A talk about their own interests and experiences. After all, we all love talking about ourselves, don’t we? And why not film it all professionally so that the talks can later be watched online by anyone who wishes to do so?”
That’s how English Talks started – as a motivator. That extra push learners of languages need in order to excel. However, it soon developed into something quite different. Since we decided to open English Talks to anyone who had something interesting to say, and anyone who wanted to share it with people around the world, it has developed into this sort of platform for anyone who used English – or aimed to use it – in order for their ideas to reach a wider audience.
The first edition of English Talks took place in 2015 in Brazil.