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Coaching tools for ELT

December 20, 2007

Hello again,

Much of our teaching involves a very direct input of grammar and vocabulary. The contract between teacher and learner is clear: the teacher imparts knowledge; the learner receives it. The teacher then helps...

...the learner to understand and assimilate the new material. This aspect is important not least because it is tangible. The teacher and learner have clear targets.

However, language learning is not as straightforward as that because language is so closely involved in the very processes by which we think and then express, not just overt messages, but clues about our culture and identity. Part of the process of learning a language is converting it into a personal tool for thinking and communicating and that process requires exposure to language in subtler ways than the mere manipulation of structures in classroom exercises.

It is here that I think some of the tools used in coaching can hep learners develop their sense of ownership of the new language. Coaches unlike teachers do not attempt to tell clients anything. Instead they help guide them along a route to self-discovery so that any changes and decisions they make in their lives stem from their own real needs. Genuine change can only occur through self-direction because external advice is imposed and thus reflects another person’s reality. Only by really knowing ourselves and acting in accordance with it can we make meaningful decisions and realize our own unique potential.

By using some coaching tools in the classroom the teacher can let the learners use their new language as a means of self discovery so that the language becomes useful to them in a very personal way. The first tool is the commonly used life wheel. This allows you to determine whether you are focusing too much on one part of your life and so neglecting others. Ask students to draw a large circle and divide it into eight equal segments. Each segment represents an aspect of their life: family, work/career, relationships, health/diet, finance, leisure, achievements, self-esteem. If you wish you can discuss with the students which eight aspects of their life they wish to include.

Then rank each area on a scale of 1 – 10 to indicate the level of satisfaction with each one. On the circle, 0 is the point at the centre and 10 the point where the radius touches the circumference. Mark a dot on the radii for each score and then join up the dots. You can get an online tool for this at http://www.new-oceans.co.uk/new/wheel2.htm/.

The diagram the students now have is a visual representation of the balance in their lives. It helps identify where they need to make changes. Pair the students and let them discuss with their partner how they felt about seeing their diagram; what areas need improvement and why and what steps they could take to help bring about hose improvements. For general class discussion ask students to disclose some information to the whole group: e.g. which areas they would like to improve and how they feel they would benefit if such changes were brought about.

Another tool you might use helps students identify their values and decide how they can take actions to reinforce those values in their lives. To make this activity personal to your group, I suggest you first brainstorm values with the group. Having collected them on the board, next agree on the 20 key ones. Now have students list the values on a sheet of paper and assign a score of one to ten according to how they rate each one. Next have them redo the list in order of their priorities so that they identify the five most important ones. Ask them to think what they currently do to ensure they reflect these values in everyday life. The pair them with a partner to discus this and to suggest ways of improving their commitment to these values.

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