A LETTER TO THE TEACHERS OF ENGLISH:Meaningful exposure to English enhances learning [Archives:2003/636/Education]

May 12 2003

Dr. Ramakanta Sahu
Dear Fellow Teachers,
All of us are aware that more we expose our learners to English, the better their learning will be. That is why we try to use more and more English in the classes. Will all that we speak constitute exposure? May not be. If we repeat a sentence many times, will it be interesting to our learners? No, definitely not. Mere repetition will only increase the quantity of exposure and this does not constitute meaningful exposure. Then what is meaningful exposure?
Using English in an interesting and useful way will provide meaningful exposure. One of the ways of doing it is to make your classroom language richer with English; this does not preclude the use of Arabic, if necessary, in the beginning classes with English, but you should gradually and consciously increase the amount of English in the classroom language. The more English you use by way of classroom language, the more meaningful exposure your learners have.
Another way of providing meaning exposure is to use real-life situations for presenting language items – words and grammar items – in the classroom. A real-life situation is a classroom situation naturally available to you while teaching; for example, a student coming late to class can be a useful situation for teaching 'why .?' or 'because' or 'if ' etc. Or for teaching 'too to', you can make use of a short student and ask him/her to touch the top of the blackboard and say 'He is too short to touch it', or to teach the words 'green leaves', you can point to the tree outside the classroom (if there is one) and so on. As I keep on saying, you need to be a bit imaginative and resourceful and you can do wonders in the classroom! Using personal anecdotes (incidents that have happened in your or your students' lives) or useful stories or parables in Arabic or things that have happened in the schools such as the Sports Day or the Annual Day can also make the exposure meaningful. An alternative to the real-life situations is the life-like situations or simulations, which you can use as a substitute for the former; use them cleverly in such a way that they involve your learners and create interest in them. Some of the activities provided in your Pupil's Books and Workbooks are useful in this regard and you can use them.
I have seen some of my trainees being unimaginative while teaching. For example, introducing the word 'birthday', they say several times the word and sentences such as Yesterday was my birthday, but fail to ask the student 'When is your /your sister's birthday? When is the Prophet's birthday?' to make the situation more natural. Imaginative teachers use birthday cards and make the situation realistic and the classes interesting. My suggestion is that you write down the contexts or examples in a notebook, whenever they come to your mind and store them. You can use them when you need them, because creative ideas come to your mind as sudden sparks, you do not know when; some of my best ideas were born in the bathrooms!
Be imaginative and make your classes more and more interesting and alive. Do share with me whenever you get brilliant ideas for classroom teaching. Good luck.
Yours fraternally,
Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.