How democratic is your ESL classroom?
Who gets to speak in class? Whose ideas count? Who chooses the assignments? How do students receive feedback? Do students have a chance to conference with their instructors? Can YouTube be a valuable source for homework assignment? Do you want your students to become self-directed - or autotelic - in their studies?
Here=92s a quick checklist for English teachers that I created for a recent CATESOL (California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) workshop called =93Techniques for a More Democratic Classroom=94. My core assumption remains that giving students more opportunities to literally speak, write, and share their insights leads to a more engaging, dynamic, and valuable classroom experience.
1. Who do you currently teach? How would you describe the students?
2. What are some of their personal interests?
3. How can student interests be better incorporated into thecurriculum?

4. Which assignments do students currently choose? Which seems mostsuccessful? Why?

5. What are some benefits of greater student participation?
6. What are some risks of greater student participation?
7. Do you want to increase the number of choices students make?
8. What critical language skills can be taught by tapping into theirinterests?

9. How can you tweak current material to better individualizeinstruction?

10. What internet resources can you use to augment the currentcurriculum?

11. Which exercises or activities do you find most successful in yourclassroom?

12. What decisions do you keep as your prerogative as the instructor?
13. Will your students become self-directed learners?
14. How can you encourage that possibility?
15. How can you create a more democratic classroom?
16. What are some obstacles to a more democratic classroom?
17. How does technology encourage a more democratic classroom?=93Education is a kind of continuing dialogue and a dialogue assumes, in the nature of the case, different points of view.=94 Robert Hutchins (1899-1977), former President of University of Chicago and educational philosopher
Obviously, older and more self-aware students bring a larger set of life experiences and deeper interests into the classroom. Therefore, college and graduate students find it more comfortable to select their own subjects for papers and presentations than K-12 students. Yet a more democratic classroom also allows the teacher to coordinate student work and even allow students to create course content. For example, I had intermediate university students write concise reviews of YouTube videos related to job interviews. Then I compiled and slightly edited the reviews, and created a compelling list of student=92s favorite YouTube selections, and emailed the entire class the list
.
Many students, eager to watch what their classmates recommended =96 humorous or serious =96 ended up watching over 2 hours of a diverse material instead of a boring 30-minute in class educational video. Students were more invested in the material, took longer to find, watch, and review videos, and enjoyed commenting on each other=92s video recommendations. By the way, these students also performed better on their mock interviews than in previous classes. English students writing, speaking, reflecting, and sharing works better than just being passive consumers of standardized materials. Choice counts!

Likewise, many adult educators and IEP instructors can - with creativity and effort - develop more democratic classrooms. Small class sizes, as ever, remain a tremendous advantage. Yet the basic premise of giving students permission to have a larger voice in classroom can work in many English language classrooms. After all, should English language students speak English in a class devoted to teaching them to speak English?
Do you agree? Disagree? Why? Feel free to let me know.

Ask more. Know more. Share more. Create Compelling Conversations. Contact Eric Roth, the co-author of Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics, at
(Email Removed) or visit www.CompellingConversations.com .
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At 15:06:41 on Fri, 14 Nov 2008, "(Email Removed)" (Email Removed) wrote in
(Email Removed):
Here’s a quick checklist for English teachers that I created for a recent CATESOL (California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) workshop called “Techniques for a More Democratic Classroom”. 1. Who do you currently teach?

"Whom...". 5 marks deducted.
4. Which assignments do students currently choose? Which seems most successful?

"Which one seems...". (Or do you envisage that more than one can be successful? In which case, it should be "Which seem...".) 2 marks deducted.
5. What are some benefits of greater student participation?

"What are some of the benefits..." 2 marks deducted.
6. What are some risks of greater student participation?

"What are some of the risks..." 2 marks deducted.
8. What critical language skills can be taught by tapping into their interests?

"Which critical language skills..." 4 points deducted.
9. How can you tweak current material to better individualize instruction?

Almost meaningless. 10 points deducted.
10. What internet resources can you use to augment the current curriculum?

"Which Internet resources..." 4 points deducted.
12. What decisions do you keep as your prerogative as the instructor?

s/keep/reserve. 1 point deducted.
13. Will your students become self-directed learners?

Who knows? 10 points deducted for unanswerable question. (Hint: "Do you feel confident that you can encourage your students to become..." is a different question entirely.)
16. What are some obstacles to a more democratic classroom?

"What are some of the obstacles..." 2 marks deducted.

Total: 40 points deducted from potential of 100 points, leaving 60 points - well short of the passmark of 75%.
To be quite honest, I do not get the impression that you are a competent user of the English language. I trust that your implication that you presume to teach English to trusting pupils is no more than fantasy on your part.

Molly Mockford
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety - Benjamin Franklin (My Reply-To address *is* valid, though may not remain so for ever.)
Here?s a quick checklist for English teachers that I created ... Other Languages) workshop called ?Techniques for a More Democratic Classroom?.

(Snip)
Total: 40 points deducted from potential of 100 points, leaving 60 points - well short of the passmark of 75%. ... that your implication that you presume to teach English to trusting pupils is no more than fantasy on your part.

Fair does, Molly: it is for Californians.

New Marmite(TM): Not as thick! Not as dark! Not as te!

David - toro-danyo atcost uku fullstop co fullstop uk http://www.toro-danyo.uku.co.uk /
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
At 22:36:37 on Sat, 15 Nov 2008, David (Email Removed) wrote in (Email Removed):
Fair does, Molly: it is for Californians.

Every ESL speaker deserves to be taught properly and professionally!
Molly Mockford
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety - Benjamin Franklin (My Reply-To address *is* valid, though may not remain so for ever.)
Fair does, Molly: it is for Californians.

Every ESL speaker deserves to be taught properly and professionally!

Yes, but you and I use only a minor and unimportant dialect of English called "British English". Californians, I am informed, use proper 'English' as spoken by every citizen of the USofA, which differs considerably than British English.

New Marmite(TM): Not as thick! Not as dark! Not as te!

David - toro-danyo atcost uku fullstop co fullstop uk http://www.toro-danyo.uku.co.uk /
Yes, but you and I use only a minor and unimportant dialect of English called "British English". Californians, I am informed, use proper 'English' as spoken by every citizen of the USofA, which differs considerably than British English.

In my experience as an American who now makes his home in the British Isles, that should be "which differs considerably from British English", your "which differs considerably than British English" being a substandard example of American English gone awry. Another boo-boo was leaving the spaces out of "US of A".

Regards,
Chuck Riggs
Near Dublin, Ireland
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Yes, but you and I use only a minor and ... citizen of the USofA, which differs considerably than British English.

In my experience as an American who now makes his home in the British Isles, that should be "which differs ... being a substandard example of American English gone awry. Another boo-boo was leaving the spaces out of "US of A".

Have you encountered Irony yet?

John Briggs
Yes, but you and I use only a minor and ... citizen of the USofA, which differs considerably than British English.

In my experience as an American who now makes his home in the British Isles, that should be "which differs ... being a substandard example of American English gone awry. Another boo-boo was leaving the spaces out of "US of A".

I left t'full stops out an'all, Mr Bald-Eagle-Eyes.

New Marmite(TM): Not as thick! Not as dark! Not as te!

David - toro-danyo atcost uku fullstop co fullstop uk http://www.toro-danyo.uku.co.uk /
In my experience as an American who now makes his ... boo-boo was leaving the spaces out of "US of A".

Have you encountered Irony yet?

That and adolescent sarcasm, too.

Regards,
Chuck Riggs
Near Dublin, Ireland
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
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