A LETTER TO THE TEACHERS OF ENGLISH: 28Make use of the learning opportunities created by the learners [Archives:2003/672/Education]

September 29 2003

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear fellow teachers,
This is yet another suggestion for the benefit of your students. In the last letter, I pointed out that some teachers fail to make use of the learning opportunities even if they happen in the classroom by chance. If you are careful and alert, you can find many occasions in the classroom which can be turned into useful learning opportunities. Take a very simple example. When you say a word in English, for example, a hammer and ask the class what it means, one of the students gives the Arabic word for a spade; you can immediately ask the class if they know the English word for it, thereby making use of the situation.
Look at what happened in one of the classes I observed:
Teacher: Where is Ahmed Said going?
Pupil: English
Teacher: No, England.
This is not a careful teacher. A careful teacher can make use of the answer and make the students understand the difference between England and English easily. Many such instances happen in our classrooms and we should make use of them. In another class, the teacher asks the students 'Who can write the English word for al bahr?' One of the students writes 'see' on the blackboard, and the teacher says 'no' and corrects it to 'sea'; instead he can ask the class 'What is 'see' in Arabic?' and make the difference clear to them.
In one of the classes, the teacher was teaching the lesson about the United Kingdom and in the course of the lesson, some one said KSA in connection with the word 'kingdom' and the teacher just ignored it, as if it had no relevance at all to the lesson. On the other hand, if the teacher had made use of this leaner-created opportunity and asked him/her what KSA stands for, the class could have learnt something new and the learner would come forward with such things often in the future. In another class, to the teacher's question 'Where do you buy bread?', one of the students said 'bakery' and the teacher ignored it, as he expected the answer 'supermarket'; this teacher could have made use of this learner-created opportunity and asked the class 'What is a bakery?' or 'Do they sell or make bread in a bakery?'
This happens often in the higher classes where the learners are matured with more experience. More often the students raise questions for us to answer and these serve as learning opportunities and ignoring them will have a negative effect in terms of their self- esteem. In my grammar classes, students often come up with sentences they want to clarify the grammar of and they serve as opportunities for me to teach them more.
Let us not think for a moment that our learners are not capable of participating in the classes; most often we fail to give them chances to do so. They may hesitate a little in the beginning, but in due course they will enthusiastically participate in the classroom activities, provided we don't jump to correct their errors when they are trying to say something and kill their enthusiasm. English classes will become productively noisy, if we encourage them to come up with whatever they want to say. Try with your students. Good luck.

Yours fraternally,
Dr.M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])