How Do You Inspire Adult English Language Learners?
Mar 29, 2013 Adults 2501 Views
Intrinsic Motivation - A Most Powerful Force!
What an incredible tool for motivating adult English language learners. It is at the heart of first-language acquisition and naturally most effective for acquiring second language. The challenge for adults is to make the second-language process more like the first-language process: make it meaningful, make it real, and make it active.
An inner stimulus is at the base of our being, that urge that keeps us vital, that fundamental drive that compels us to learn. When we interact with language in an intrinsically motivating way we tap a ultra-natural process which implants the language in our long-term memory. That is what we bring to our language learners when we make the lessons come alive with meaning and interactivity.
Do you recall how you acquired your first language? Do you have memories of magical moments of learning as you worked to gain competency at some communication skill: the early grasp of a new word, a school paper, a reading assignment, or having completed a book that mesmerized you. If those images are vague, try remembering the times when you found yourself fully involved in any form of discovery. Your learning capacity felt limitless, and often the only thing that interrupted you was fatigue or hunger. Acquiring a second language should fall directly into that kind of experience.
Make it meaningful! Plant a meaningful activity firmly at the heart of each lesson. Base the activity on the topics of life (people and places, transportation, occupations, food, housing, medical, shopping, finances, rights and responsibilities, recreation, sports, and entertainment, and so forth). For example, if the topic is entertainment, design an activity that involves the learner in some element of entertainment (discussing a book, critiquing a movie or play). If the topic in shopping, design an activity in which the learner can simulate a shopping trip. The entire lesson, including grammar forms, easily wraps around that activity.
Textbooks are great for suggesting life topics, but those topics are relevant only as the learner makes them meaningful. Pull the learner into decision-making about the angle as it related to him or her. Discussing the angle becomes a part of language-learning process. Continuously recycle and integrate life topics. In other words, you may have offered lessons in banking, but the language was on a beginning level of banking vocabulary. Recycle the topic by bumping it up a notch each time, based on the learner's interests, questions, and suggestions. Once the learner has the basic vocabulary, bump it up to interest rates, dividends, working in a bank, and one of the banking positions that might interest the learner. An activity can include the learner acting as the teller and you as the customer. Later another lesson might be interviewing a prospective bank employee.
Make it active! Use authentic materials (real stuff) as much as possible, and use role play. Get the learner involved in the action process. That allows the learner to take responsibility for his or her learning. It gives the learner something meaningful to do. It makes the entire process active. It is that interactivity with language that taps the learner's interest and sets the language into long-term memory. Get the learner involved in the simulation process. Give the learner a task of designing virtual activities. Promote whole language (listening, speaking, reading and writing) throughout the process, and encourage the learner to use the four language components in the lesson. For example, if the activity is to simulate a job interview, have the learner write out an outline of the process and then read it aloud. Encourage the learner to involve you in the simulated interview, and give the learner an assignment to write a summary or reflective essay of the experience.
It might seem a huge challenge to come up with meaningful activities for everyday lessons; conversely, as the burden in taken on by learner the process takes on a natural flow and the experiences become part of his or her language usage and learning process. It involves the learner in all components of language, and it makes the process meaningful, real and active. Then you have learning incentive at its finest and you have language acquisition.