Czech EFL

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Learner-centred discussions

After some time in my previous job I came to realize how often I had dominated our discussions with my adult classes. Being very opinionated I simply didn't steer clear of presenting my own views and by doing so I effectively stifled any further opinions on the subject from my students.

Now it makes me wonder. If a student makes an effort to express themselves in English we sure ought to praise that effort and encourage the students to keep on. So what exactly would you do if a student, out of the blue, presents some ideas that you strongly oppose, eg. gives reasons why they admire Adolf Hitler?


  • At 9:16 AM, Blogger AJ said…

    Looks Great

    Your blog looks great! Good to hear you're getting settled in Prague.

    Regarding your question from this post... usually you can let the other students argue with the students.

    If one says, "Hitler is great".... its probably as simple as turning to the other students and saying, "Do you agree"?

  • At 12:45 PM, Blogger Czech TEFLer said…

    Great suggestion!

    I was also thinking of introducing some phrases to do with agreement and polite disagreement and then going round the class with it. Damn, sounds pretty easy!

  • At 1:10 PM, Blogger EFL Geek said…

    I'm with AJ on this one. I would deflect the comment back to the class and see what they think. Sometimes it's really hard to bite your tongue, but it's worth it in the end.

  • At 8:53 PM, Blogger The Tefltradesman said…

    I would fear that if a student said "Hitler is great" and I invited others to comment, many might agree! I actually had a rather prominent nationalist in my class once, he was a Basque, and was ridiculing others (Spaniards) in the class as they didn't have proper Basque names or provenance. That was not the moment to throw the floor open, I felt.

    Other arguments have gone awry too in classes of 'adult' students (re feminism, politics, fascism, etc), and I feel you have to (a) be very sure that you understand your students and (b) able to resume complete control before entertaining such ideas.

    Best start them on something bland and get them used to the idea of 'sparring' in English before approaching the deeper and more polemical subjects, I reckon.

  • At 9:28 AM, Blogger AJ said…


    TEFL Tradesman... I disagree. I think emotion is EXACTLY what you want to encourage in class. Emotion is memorable, bland is not.

    And in the end, if one or more students say they like Hitler, so what? Why do we need to control their thoughts? If they are bigoted racists thats their problem... and one well beyond an English teacher's ability to change in one class.

    From a language learning point of view.. a passionate argument about Hitler will be more interesting, emotional and memorable than a bland talk about "What is your favorite food" (for example). And thus, more language is acquired... and the words flow more fluently.

    I think we can accept our students as adults. I find it hard to imagine that such a statement "Hitler is great" would go unchallenged by other students..... especially in a Western country with students who are familiar with the history.

    I prefer Tyler Durden's advice, "Stop trying to control things and just let go"


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