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The Coaching Twist

For teachers and their students, online resources for learning languages made available in the last few years should be the answer to our prayers. Learners now have the tools to learn effectively at their fingertips. But ask yourself: have you noticed much of a rise in the level of English among your students? How many of your learners are making use of Skype language exchange chats or vocabulary apps? Some, definitely. But most?

The primary question learners need to answer, then, is not: What can I do to improve my English? First they need to ask themselves: What is stopping me from improving?

Here is an activity you can do with your students tomorrow morning.

  1. Write this question on the board: What stops you learning English?
  2. Get students to call out options and write them on the board. You may end up with a list something like this: lack of time, maintaining motivation, not speaking to people in English, unsuitable methods of learning, not enough money, feeling embarrassed speaking a foreign language, lack of access to good materials, bad teacher…
  3. Ask them to rank the reasons in order of importance for them personally and then compare in small groups. As you go around the class, encourage them to explore their responses, by asking questions like these: What would make you feel less embarrassed? When do you feel your motivation is lowest/highest? How could you practise speaking more? How much time do you spend a week practising English? How could you increase that?
  4. Round up with a whole-group discussion. At the end, ask students to choose one of the obstacles they have listed, from near the top of their list if possible, and say how they will remove it or at least reduce it. For example, if motivation is an issue, help them think of one or two practice activities that they haven’t tried before that might be more fun.
  5. Make sure they commit in some way to making the change. You could tell them that they have to tell the class how it went, or get them to sign a contract. You could just tell them that you will be checking up on them. Then do check up a week or two later to see how they are getting on.

This activity could be called Obstacles. Tennis coach Timothy Gallwey has this to say about obstacles:

In every human endeavour there are two arenas of engagement: the outer and the inner. The outer game is played on an external arena to overcome external obstacles to reach an external goal. The inner game takes place within the mind of the player and is played against such obstacles as fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions. The inner game is played to overcome the self-imposed obstacles that prevent an individual or team from accessing their full potential.

Gallwey (1974)

Obstacles are an intrinsic feature of human endeavour; whether it is learning English, losing weight or writing a blog post, there are always obstacles – real and imagined – which can slow us down or even stop us completely from achieving our goals. Activities like this help students to think about how to overcome, reduce or avoid obstacles, and in some cases turn them into opportunities. For example a student who feels her chief obstacle is lack of time may commit to a small increase in dedication, say 30 minutes a week, or she may conclude that her current time commitment is as much as she can make and accept this, perhaps adjusting her goals accordingly. Either way, she shrinks the obstacle and boosts her confidence and motivation.

By helping students to address their ‘inner game’ we can support their efforts to learn more effectively and with a more positive attitude.

Join us in our InnovateELT pre-conference workshop, where we will be looking at more strategies and activities to help students get motivated, get organized and get practising. More info here.

Join Pre-Conference Training!

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