Learner training: Emotions and EFL!

Writer(s): 
Robert Shoichi Murphy, Murphy School of Education

 

Quick guide

  • Key words: Motivation, emotion, learner training, fluency, speaking
  • Learner English level:Intermediate to advanced
  • Learner maturity level:Junior high school to adult
  • Preparation time: None
  • Activity time:20 to 90 min
  • Materials:Pencil and paper/notebook

Introduction

Emotion is essential for learning. I have used this lesson numerous times to study the effects of emotion and learner speaking motivation while simultaneously conducting learner training. This lesson graphically calls to attention what kinds of topics are easy to discuss and which are nearly impossible. It is an easy way to get students to seriously think about how they can enhance their acquisition rate and fluency. Because this lesson requires zero prep time, it can be used any time a teacher needs an instant lesson plan that powerfully activates student talk and introspection.

Procedure

Step 1:Draw a 4x3 grid on the board. The column headings from left to right are: (blank), Positive feeling[+], Indifferent[+/-], and Negative feeling [-]. The row headings are: (blank), Nouns, and Verbs.

 

Positive feeling

[+]

Indifferent

[+/-]

Negative feeling

[-]

Nouns

1

2

3

1

2

3

1

2

3

Verbs

1

2

3

1

2

3

1

2

3

 

Figure 1. 4x3 grid categories

Step 2:Have students copy the 4x3 grid into their notebooks. Then have them write three words per open grid space. For example, the grid space corresponding to positive feeling xnounsmight be chocolate, boyfriend, and merry-go-round. Students should be encouraged to think and write honestly but briskly. Encourage students to work fast and remind them that there are no right or wrong answers. Provide examples if necessary.

Step 3:Students get into groups of two or three and exchange notebooks. Do a Rock, Scissors, Paper session.

Step 4:The Rock, Scissors, Paper winner chooses one word from their partner’s grid and simply says to their partner, “Tell me about (chosen word).” The partner proceeds to talk about the chosen word, discussing anything that comes to mind regarding the word. High-level students should be expected to ask follow-up questions, but otherwise the partners quickly change roles.

Note:Some students mayassume that they are supposed to justify the word’s grid location. For example, students may begin sentences with, “(Chocolate) is positive because…”. Discourage students from justifying the grid location in this way. Tell students to forget about the grid locations and simply talk about the specified word.

Step 5:After about 10 minutes of pair work, it will quickly become apparent that it is more difficult to talk about the words in the indifferent column(students often find this amusing), but amazingly easier and more fun to talk about their words in the positive and negative columns. Ask students if they had noticed this. Ask them why this may be the case.

Step 6:Begin a discussion and write answers on the board: What are the implications of the exercise? Why were words in the middle column difficult to discuss? Why were the other two columns so much easier? What are the implications for your own study habits? What should you change about your own study habits?

Step 7:Student pairs prepare a study plan by creating a list of ways of incorporating their own passions into their study time.

Step 8: Students assess each other’s plans. Encourage pursing the plans in real life.

Conclusion

Invariably, students are more excited and fluent when asked to discuss words in the positive and negative columns. When students realize this,it helps them see that emotion is essential for learning. Teachers should encourage students to remember this experience and always try to find ways to incorporate passion into their studies. With the incorporation of student-designed study plans, students will be able to personalize their learning. This helps cement their understanding of the importance of student-centered learning and the role of emotion in the learning process, making this activity not only a potent learner training session but also a truly inspiring English lesson.

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