Traditionally, most class time has been spent with the teacher talking (lecturing) and directing all activities while the students just listened and worked individually . However, we now know that communicate and collaborate are not only important skills in life but, in fact, how learning really occurs. Active learning means students need to debate, discuss, brainstorm or cooperate and, when it comes to foreign language learning, what would be better than actually engage in talking?
How can we implement student- centred teaching?
Let your students get to know each other!
Do not take for granted how a suitable ice-breaker will help your students to feel at ease later on. According to Krashen´s affective filter hypothesis, (second language) performance is influenced by emotional variables. I´m pretty sure we all agree that when we feel uncomfortable in a group we are unlikely to take part, thus, playing a passive role during the lesson.
I´ve tried many activities to start off a class and «Find someone who» is one of my favourites . It is about the students finding out about each other which means that, from the very beginning, they learn about the person behind the student. That shared information will create a special bound.
Make it personal:
Knowing our students interests, motivation or background can help us teachers to decide which is the most suitable teaching strategy or how to relate class content to their lives but, above all, it establishes a necessary connection.Try to find time to talk to your students individually from time to time, ask them and make them feel like they matter to you. I usually create myself a special template to add all relevant – not academical -information about every single student: birthday, favourite colours, siblings, likes and dislikes, fears, short and long term goals… anything that makes the student be unique. Invest time on creating an emotional bond. Not only is it benetifial for learners but it will also feed your spirit.
Don´t take classroom desk arrangement for granted:
The way you arrange your desks says a lot about your teaching style. Traditional rows do not favour interaction so choose circles and horseshoes for a better communication among students. This chair arrangement gives the impression of the teacher being within the group and students usually feel more relaxed, concentrate better and feel are treated equally.
Yes, the whole class is a perfect type of grouping but it actually means the teacher is the focus. Try not to overuse this classroom interaction as it limits «Student talking time». If you think the students might have trouble understanding the procedure of an activity, demonstrate and then let them do the job. Working in pairs or small groups is not only the most frequent and natural interaction students may face in the future out of class but it also encourages interaction and participation since students don´t have the pressure of the whole class observing their perfomance.
Try peer instruction:
One day, Harvard Professor Eriz Mazur, asked his students to discuss concepts he had just explained and which nobody seemed to have diffculty to understand or questions to set out. Surprisingly, the class erupted in chaos, students started to speak and, after some time, they all seemed to have a better understanding of the said concepts. «That’s the irony of becoming an expert in your field», Mazur says. «It becomes not easier to teach, it becomes harder to teach because you’re unaware of the conceptual difficulties of a beginning learner.» Let the most advanced learners clarify concepts for you and, when working in pairs, encourage students to help each other. Playing the role of the teacher makes students take centre stage, helps to consolidate knowledge and creates a good team environment.
These are just a few of the most basic tips for making the shift to a more student-centred teaching style but there are tons of different ways for your students to be take the leading role.
What are more ideas that you would add to the list?