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5 Steps to an English Only Classroom 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom
Have your students speaking only English in class in less than 5 days.
Eric
Nov 24th, 2005

There are many benefits to having only English spoken in your ESL classroom. The most apparent thing right off the bat is the level of noise and chatter drops dramatically. All of a sudden, when students are required to use English, that hot topic they wanted to talk about doesn’t seem so important. There are other, more substantial benefits to an English only classroom. Students start to learn useful, real world English such as expressing their feelings and desires as well as the textbook English. But most importantly, requiring students to speak only in English will help them become more comfortable and confident expressing themselves in, and communicating through, English.

By following these 5 steps you will be able to eliminate any native language speaking and replace it with English. Better yet, you’ll be able to do it in less than 5 days. Let’s get started!

HAVE A PLAN
The first step is to have a plan. How will you reward those students who choose to follow the new English only rule and how will you discourage those who break the rule? Without a reinforcement plan in place, you’ll be hard pressed to get your new rule to stick. I will say more on encouraging good behavior and discouraging bad behavior in the last step but for now, just remember to have that reinforcement plan.

BE FIRM & CONSISTENT
The day you decide to replace the native language with English, do so firmly. This requires you to walk into your class, tell the students NO MORE Korean (or whatever language they speak) and stick to your guns. At first many students will make mistakes or think you’re joking. You might even slip up yourself. For anyone who breaks your rule, implement your discouraging reinforcement, even to yourself if you have spoken the native language. Being very firm might feel very cruel at first as you may be punishing students who were otherwise very good. You might also be able to hear a pin drop as everyone has clammed up and the class comfort level plunges. This is ok. The first day is the hardest for everyone. Don’t give in. Don’t allow the English only rule to be broken, not even in the final moments of class.

Within 2-3 days your students will switch to English or be quiet as soon as the class bell rings. Either way, everyone wins.

Remain consistent in your diligence to enforce the rule. Slacking off one day will let the students know that maybe they don’t always have to follow the rules. The firmer you are and the more consistent you are the less your rule will be broken.

MODEL GOOD BEHAVIOR
There is something in that old saying, “monkey see, monkey do”. Don’t be a monkey. As the English teacher you should always be speaking English. If the students see you speaking their language, they will think that there are some things that are too hard to express in English. Additionally, if you are explaining a complex subject through English, the students will catch on and then realize that they heard AND understood an English explanation. What a boost in their confidence!

GIVE THE STUDENTS THE TOOLS THEY NEED
If you are building a house you need a hammer. If you are baking a cake, you need a pan. If you are communicating, you need words and sentences!

Just telling the students that they can only speak English is half the work. You then must equip them with the vocabulary and sentences they need to get through the class, not just the lesson. For example, I noticed my 6-year-old students had to go to the restroom quite a bit during their long, one-hour class. While I do understand what the fidgeting, legs crossed gesture is, isn’t it better just to ask, “May I go to the restroom?” Quite a long sentence for a 6 year old who doesn’t know the word ‘book’. But that’s what my students would ask me? And upon completing the question, they were rewarded with the bathroom pass. It’s a win-win situation.

Other useful expressions are:
  • How do you spell ___?
  • May I have a ___?
  • I don’t understand.

But as English gets more complex and it becomes harder and harder to rely on flashcards and realia, you’ll also need to create a space where native speaking is OK to communicate an abstract idea or structure. That’s when, “Teacher, may I speak (Korean)?” comes in very handy.

With these tools students won’t feel trapped if they are stuck and must express themselves, but they must have them otherwise they may rebel or turn off.

ENCOURAGE THE GOOD, DISCOURAGE THE BAD
This English only rule will only work if the students are rewarded for their good behavior and ‘punished’ for their bad behavior. I personally like to start off each class with everyone’s name on the board and a smile next to their name. Finish the class with a smile; you get a stamp, sticker, a pencil, etc… Break the English only rule and I erase your smile and no reward is dolled out. This is enough for 90% of students.

How do you encourage the English speakers? If you have a student speaking a lot of English or answering your questions or helping another student spell a word, reward them publicly. All of a sudden the whole class will be doing what that student just did.

Discouraging the rule breakers is usually as simple as taking away their reward or the possibility of the reward. Doing this once or twice is usually enough to stop the bad behavior.

TROUBLESHOOTING
You’ve followed all the steps but there’s still that one class or student that is not responding to the rules. Here are few scenarios that may arise that make the English only rule harder to implement and their respective suggestions.

The Large Class: If you have a class of more that 15 students, constant monitoring of the students becomes a full-time job. Depending on the size of the class, assign two to four students as “Monitor of the Day” and give them the task of enforcing the rule. Make sure the monitors alternate every day or every week.

The Older Classes: Imposing rules on adults or young adults might be considered a little rude and inappropriate. Additionally, these students usually have more invested in the course and are there because they want to speak English. If you are having trouble with an older class that isn’t speaking English, explain to them that it’s in their own interest if they speak English. Usually this is enough.

The Defiant Student: Every once in a while there is a student who has no regard for your rule and does not respond to your reward system. You must ask yourself why is this student rebelling? More often than not, they are in a class that is too difficult for them and have become frustrated to the point of giving up. Seek to move the student to a more appropriate level or spend more time with the student before, after or in class.

That’s it. Follow these five steps and you’ll have all your students speaking only English, learning more English and paying more attention in class.

Enjoy.

Comments welcome!
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  #1 (permalink)  
fishead soup on Nov 24th, 2005, 06:57 pm
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

These days I'm getting a lot of second thoughts about the whole English only rule. The reason for this is that now that I am in a team teaching situation I welcome much of the input I get from my Korean co teacher this is really useful when it comes to discipline, or explaining how to play a new game.

Sure the whole English only thing works in theory but I have some classes with 45-50 students. Not that I want to make a return to Grammar translation syndrome i think that you need to make the transition gradual

The one obvious danger you have with the English only rule is that you might have some students who are just parroting you. In other words they may be repeating without understanding.
  #2 (permalink)  
Eric on Nov 24th, 2005, 07:26 pm
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Quote:
Quote fishead soup
These days I'm getting a lot of second thoughts about the whole English only rule. The reason for this is that now that I am in a team teaching situation I welcome much of the input I get from my Korean co teacher this is really useful when it comes to discipline, or explaining how to play a new game.
Absolutely! I think taking advantage of the native co-teacher can be really useful for the students. When I've had co-teachers I usually explain/say everything in English first, check their comprehension and then, if their are misunderstandings, ask the co-teacher to help. The problem with always using the co-teacher is that the students will come to rely on the translations and never be challenged to try and understand what you are saying in English.


Quote:
Quote fishead soup
Sure the whole English only thing works in theory but I have some classes with 45-50 students. Not that I want to make a return to Grammar translation syndrome i think that you need to make the transition gradual
Those are tough numbers. It is difficult to monitor the students in classrooms that size.


Quote:
Quote fishead soup
The one obvious danger you have with the English only rule is that you might have some students who are just parroting you. In other words they may be repeating without understanding.
That's where comprehenion checking questions come in. After I explain something, whether it's difficult or easy, I always ask comprehension checking questions to make sure they understood exactly what I meant.

Thanks for the comments, fishead soup!
eric
  #3 (permalink)  
fishead soup on Nov 27th, 2005, 07:03 pm
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

It's sounds like you're in a good situation. By the way do you ever have to rely on the students mother tongue.

Here are a few I 've used

Ceasa- Start bali bali hurry up kyo young i Quiet
Dar Haseyo listen and repeat
Op- dili- Opoche- Get in the push up position.
  #4 (permalink)  
mesmark on Apr 28th, 2006, 12:32 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Quote:
Quote fishead soup
Op- dili- Opoche- Get in the push up position.
I've just seen this!
  #5 (permalink)  
mesmark on Apr 28th, 2006, 12:33 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

it seems very useful. I'm going to go work on learning that in Japanese.
  #6 (permalink)  
runner301 on May 24th, 2006, 09:28 pm
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

I have found that the only English concept to be irrelevant when teaching elementary school kids. The kids learn just as quickly in either environment. The kids that respond well to an all English environment function just as well when their native language is included sometimes, and the kids that struggle in the all English environment obviously are happier when some explanations are in their native language. The key is to keep the class fun, and all the students will learn at their own pace.

I know this goes contrary to prevailing opinion, but I have personally seen no benefits for the students from using an all English classroom, for students up to age 8 or 9. After that, the benefits do increase, but only minimally, especially when you are teaching alone in a class of over 30 students, the negative effects of classroom chaos can overwhelm the teacher and the students.

I am frankly tired of this all English classroom argument. It certainly didn't help me to learn a foreign language to be stuck in a classroom with only that language. What helped me more was to be able to get instant, solid feedback, which doesn't happen in an all English classroom.
  #7 (permalink)  
mesmark on May 25th, 2006, 03:00 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Quote:
Quote runner301
I know this goes contrary to prevailing opinion, but I have personally seen no benefits for the students from using an all English classroom, for students up to age 8 or 9. After that, the benefits do increase, but only minimally, especially when you are teaching alone in a class of over 30 students, the negative effects of classroom chaos can overwhelm the teacher and the students.

I am frankly tired of this all English classroom argument. It certainly didn't help me to learn a foreign language to be stuck in a classroom with only that language. What helped me more was to be able to get instant, solid feedback, which doesn't happen in an all English classroom.
Well, this is always an issue, teaching strategy and I always fall into the arguement that 'it's not what but how that matters.'

In high school I went from a school where French class was taught via English to a high school where french was taught via French. I was shocked that my fellow students could speak! The students were asking questions in french and interacting with the teacher in French. I was intimidated and worried on the first day. The teacher came over and told me not to worry and that I'd get used to it. And I did and it was great.

Maybe you underestimate the flexibility of children and their ability to be and do in the environment they're in. Or maybe that style just doesn't fit you as a teacher. I don't think anyone is forcing you to do this and you can stand your ground on effectivenesss for you as a teacher using the other method. we all tend to teach how we learn. We see it as the best way and it's hard for us to teach another way.

Have you tried teaching a class all in English?

You'll also need to give up grammar explanation as a fundamental teaching tool and have to rely on teaching understanding and teaching meaning. You can still use grammar but just 'this to that' as a teaching method gets thrown out the window.

Also, where are you getting your effectiveness stats? I'd really like to read up on it?
  #8 (permalink)  
runner301 on May 25th, 2006, 09:05 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

I used to teach 100%, but now teach about 99% of my class in English. So basically, I agree with you. Especially for kids over 3rd grade. You and the research are very correct in the assumption that an all English class is the only way to go, most of the time. But to assume that all English will work 100% of the time is the same as Monbusho hiring only non native speakers for 50 years assuming students would be able to learn English well. They also had research to prove their approach would work. As with anything else in life, a balanced approach is the best approach.

For some kids, especially younger ones, communication is the most important point. If that communication is sometimes in their native language, and that stimulates their interest in you, English, and multicultural experience, I believe that is much more important that than sticking to a hard pedagogial rule.

Children are very flexible, as you have mentioned. So flexible, in fact, that if you tell them that today is an all English day, they will respond in kind. In fact, if they catch me using their native language, they get bonus points. (A great way to enforce all English days!)

My data? Nothing scientific. Enrollment in my after school English club is up over 300% since I joined the school. The previous teacher was an all English proponent. Granted, other factors are much more important in that statistic. 2nd, the mention of English in the kid's diaries in my classes is much, much greater than a coworker's classes who uses English only, all the time.

Don't get me wrong. I agree with you 99% of the time. But there is a time and a place for the students native language in the classroom. It isn't a large amount of time, maybe only 1%. But like you said, the students are flexible, and in my experience, can even understand way I sometimes use their native language--which is to improve the experience for children at risk of being left behind.

I apologize for that first post. It was hasty and harsh.

I really like your statement "it is not what, but how that matters." That is exactly why I teach the way I do. That is why I responded to your post in the first place.

Again, I am sorry and a little embarrassed at coming on so strong in that first post, especially considering I generally agree with you. I could delete, but I will leave it there as punishment to myself. Two more Dohs

Have a great day!
Tom

edited for spelling
  #9 (permalink)  
dcvp on Aug 3rd, 2006, 11:36 am
Thumbs up Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Hi: My name´s Diana Vera. I´m from Colombia. I just finished my career in English teaching and I´m working for the first time.

Your article was really interesting and fruitful. I felt lost here because in Colombia classes are very large. I have classes with 45 and 50 students!!!

Can you believe it? Here, it´s normal. Even private schools have at least 30 students per class. I brought a lot of ideas for teaching but sometimes I lose my faith and my energy...

But this article gave me more ideas to continue and bring the English language back... Because, as my classes are large, I haven´t been able to speak the language all the time.

Thanks and if you have more ideas or advices, please let me know. I´ll be glad to hear from you.

Sincerely, Diana Vera.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Quote:
Quote Eric
There are many benefits to having only English spoken in your ESL classroom. The most apparent thing right off the bat is the level of noise and chatter drops dramatically. All of a sudden, when students are required to use English, that hot topic they wanted to talk about doesn’t seem so important. There are other, more substantial benefits to an English only classroom. Students start to learn useful, real world English such as expressing their feelings and desires as well as the textbook English. But most importantly, requiring students to speak only in English will help them become more comfortable and confident expressing themselves in, and communicating through, English.

By following these 5 steps you will be able to eliminate any native language speaking and replace it with English. Better yet, you’ll be able to do it in less than 5 days. Let’s get started!

HAVE A PLAN
The first step is to have a plan. How will you reward those students who choose to follow the new English only rule and how will you discourage those who break the rule? Without a reinforcement plan in place, you’ll be hard pressed to get your new rule to stick. I will say more on encouraging good behavior and discouraging bad behavior in the last step but for now, just remember to have that reinforcement plan.

BE FIRM & CONSISTENT
The day you decide to replace the native language with English, do so firmly. This requires you to walk into your class, tell the students NO MORE Korean (or whatever language they speak) and stick to your guns. At first many students will make mistakes or think you’re joking. You might even slip up yourself. For anyone who breaks your rule, implement your discouraging reinforcement, even to yourself if you have spoken the native language. Being very firm might feel very cruel at first as you may be punishing students who were otherwise very good. You might also be able to hear a pin drop as everyone has clammed up and the class comfort level plunges. This is ok. The first day is the hardest for everyone. Don’t give in. Don’t allow the English only rule to be broken, not even in the final moments of class.

Within 2-3 days your students will switch to English or be quiet as soon as the class bell rings. Either way, everyone wins.

Remain consistent in your diligence to enforce the rule. Slacking off one day will let the students know that maybe they don’t always have to follow the rules. The firmer you are and the more consistent you are the less your rule will be broken.

MODEL GOOD BEHAVIOR
There is something in that old saying, “monkey see, monkey do”. Don’t be a monkey. As the English teacher you should always be speaking English. If the students see you speaking their language, they will think that there are some things that are too hard to express in English. Additionally, if you are explaining a complex subject through English, the students will catch on and then realize that they heard AND understood an English explanation. What a boost in their confidence!

GIVE THE STUDENTS THE TOOLS THEY NEED
If you are building a house you need a hammer. If you are baking a cake, you need a pan. If you are communicating, you need words and sentences!

Just telling the students that they can only speak English is half the work. You then must equip them with the vocabulary and sentences they need to get through the class, not just the lesson. For example, I noticed my 6-year-old students had to go to the restroom quite a bit during their long, one-hour class. While I do understand what the fidgeting, legs crossed gesture is, isn’t it better just to ask, “May I go to the restroom?” Quite a long sentence for a 6 year old who doesn’t know the word ‘book’. But that’s what my students would ask me? And upon completing the question, they were rewarded with the bathroom pass. It’s a win-win situation.

Other useful expressions are:
  • How do you spell ___?
  • May I have a ___?
  • I don’t understand.

But as English gets more complex and it becomes harder and harder to rely on flashcards and realia, you’ll also need to create a space where native speaking is OK to communicate an abstract idea or structure. That’s when, “Teacher, may I speak (Korean)?” comes in very handy.

With these tools students won’t feel trapped if they are stuck and must express themselves, but they must have them otherwise they may rebel or turn off.

ENCOURAGE THE GOOD, DISCOURAGE THE BAD
This English only rule will only work if the students are rewarded for their good behavior and ‘punished’ for their bad behavior. I personally like to start off each class with everyone’s name on the board and a smile next to their name. Finish the class with a smile; you get a stamp, sticker, a pencil, etc… Break the English only rule and I erase your smile and no reward is dolled out. This is enough for 90% of students.

How do you encourage the English speakers? If you have a student speaking a lot of English or answering your questions or helping another student spell a word, reward them publicly. All of a sudden the whole class will be doing what that student just did.

Discouraging the rule breakers is usually as simple as taking away their reward or the possibility of the reward. Doing this once or twice is usually enough to stop the bad behavior.

TROUBLESHOOTING
You’ve followed all the steps but there’s still that one class or student that is not responding to the rules. Here are few scenarios that may arise that make the English only rule harder to implement and their respective suggestions.

The Large Class: If you have a class of more that 15 students, constant monitoring of the students becomes a full-time job. Depending on the size of the class, assign two to four students as “Monitor of the Day” and give them the task of enforcing the rule. Make sure the monitors alternate every day or every week.

The Older Classes: Imposing rules on adults or young adults might be considered a little rude and inappropriate. Additionally, these students usually have more invested in the course and are there because they want to speak English. If you are having trouble with an older class that isn’t speaking English, explain to them that it’s in their own interest if they speak English. Usually this is enough.

The Defiant Student: Every once in a while there is a student who has no regard for your rule and does not respond to your reward system. You must ask yourself why is this student rebelling? More often than not, they are in a class that is too difficult for them and have become frustrated to the point of giving up. Seek to move the student to a more appropriate level or spend more time with the student before, after or in class.

That’s it. Follow these five steps and you’ll have all your students speaking only English, learning more English and paying more attention in class.

Enjoy.

Comments welcome!
  #10 (permalink)  
marosik on Jun 27th, 2008, 05:00 pm
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

one question for you. if you decide to do the english-only classroom how r ur students whose L1 might not be english suppose to understand what you are trying to portray to them if they dont understand the language. I mean if a native spanish speakers comes to your classroom and maybe is in an ESL program for 1 year or so they still wont know enough english to understand the content in class. these students will them become disruptive and after a couple years will drop out because they dont feel wanted or accepted in the classroom.
i personally think that the english only approach is the worst approach. it makes students whose L1 isnt english feel inferior to the native english speakers. it makes the students feel as if their culture and language isnt important. also they wont be able to get the learning they need to know english fluently or keep their L1.
in my eyes i believe that the dual language program is the best for our students. it helps the students not only learn english but also gives them a chance to improve their L1.
if im wrong please let me know but this is what i believe is best for ELL students
thank you!
  #11 (permalink)  
little sage on Jun 28th, 2008, 02:10 pm
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Quote:
Quote marosik View Post
i personally think that the english only approach is the worst approach. it makes students whose L1 isnt english feel inferior to the native english speakers. it makes the students feel as if their culture and language isnt important. also they wont be able to get the learning they need to know english fluently or keep their L1.
Yes, ignoring the one or two non-native English speakers in a regular class would be insensitive and a lot of time can be spared by explaining in the student's native tongue, if possible.

That said, I think the context of this English-only policy is when ALL the learners are non-native speakers in an ESL/EFL class. When an English-only rule is not enforced, especially when all the students have the same L1, then it's far too easy for students to fall into their more comfortable language and the opportunity to have them use the English they know is easily lost.

My German teacher in 1st year uni taught us with German-only in my absolute beginner class. Many of us didn't even know "Guten Morgen" on day one. I personally knew nothing. We picked up everything by context, repetition, and because she taught us what we needed to say. Creating the German-only atmosphere was really effective for me since I'm shy and resorting to L1 was always a temptation.
  #12 (permalink)  
Eric18 on Sep 14th, 2008, 01:06 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Great discussion and wonderful, detailed, and illuminating article.

Here are three factors that make an English-only rule more possible - at least in an ESL context as opposed to an EFL context.
1. Partner students with speakers on another language. If you have a truly multinational, multi-lingual class, English becomes the best - and only - way for students to speak to their classmates. This global classroom aspect makes teaching English in universities often more satisfying. I currently have students from at least 15 countries.
2. Allow students to bring in both paper and electronic dictionaries. This allows students to find missing words without crossing the room and asking a fellow speaker of Russian, Korean, Spanish, or Chinese.
3. If you can't cajole students into working in international groups with soft words, than you have to assign both seating and groups. Many university students - especially in engineering - are used to working on group projects and plan to work on international teams where English is the default language. Emphasize English as the global tongue - in the real world and in your classroom.

What if everybody speaks another language? I don't know the answer, but I would be tempted to challenge the students to create a solution. State the problem. Elucidate the short term and long term consequences. Ask the class to find at least five solutions, evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each one, and make a recommendation. I might even have a class election to select our class policy to enforce the English-only rule.
Would it work? I don't know, but this exercise would teach critical thinking skills and democratic values ... and probably reduce the amount of L1 chit-chat too!
  #13 (permalink)  
Monicahaydee on Dec 5th, 2008, 09:42 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Hi, Eric

I agree with you that teachers have to make an effort to make students to speak in English as much as possible and if you can't keep them talking in English all the time at least define certain activities in which English is the only language that can be used.

Monica

Last edited by Eric : Mar 14th, 2009 at 01:07 pm. Reason: Removed self promotion link from post. Please put personal links in your signature.
  #14 (permalink)  
Eric18 on Dec 5th, 2008, 11:33 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Preparation, persistence, and pacing help also keep the students on track in English class.

Boredom, as so often, invites students to return to their best language so keep the class engaging in English speaking and writing activities.
  #15 (permalink)  
karlajeanette on Mar 3rd, 2009, 10:16 pm
Lightbulb Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

I have done the just english rule, I work with teenagers in a high school in Mexico, but the groups are so big, so I have little problems with that, but the "monitors" sounds fine, thanks, I learn new tips.
  #16 (permalink)  
revel on Mar 4th, 2009, 05:14 am
Default Historical, Social and Practical Aspects....look it up

Hello all.

I refer you all to the following article:

Reexamining English Only in the ESL Classroom

Please read it carefully.

Working with teens that are forced to sit through English Only classes in the public schools, where all explanations are given in English, where these students are faced not only with understanding grammatical and linguistic concepts different from L1 but in a language that they do not understand, I find the "English Only" concept to be an inefficient use of class time. Considering that there is a very high failure rate among these students, considering that even after more than 12 years of English study these same students are unable to speak English, one has to question the efficiency of such an approach.

Most of my students, fortunately in small groups of 5 to 7 students, do not have enough of a level of English to gleefully sit through an hour of their ESL teacher saying "bla bla bla" in a language that they do not understand. They desire clear, concise explanations and rapid translations, they do not want mime work or twenty-five minutes dedicated in the communication of a concept that could be easily understood in twelve seconds by explaining it in L1. The majority of their time is spent on discovering different ways of expressing what they want to say and then beating those new ways into an effective way of saying the same in L2. With an average of only 55 hours of ESL class in an entire year, using L1 is an effective tool for class economy. The work of getting the language into their mouths is their own homework, they must do the practice in order to wrap their lips around those strings of sounds that make up the utterances that might later become useful to them in expressing their thoughts, ideas, desires.

Refusing those students the use of their own thought processes that are later reflected in their use of L1 removes from them the power of communication. They feel powerless in the face of not being able to express themselves in English, complicated by a prohibition to use their own language. Especially adult learners feel they are being lowered to a childish level, where their complex thoughts and opinions are discarded because they can not effectively express themselves in English.

Granted, in certain activities (language games to reinforce particular patterns or structures; role-playing to encourage universe of discourse understanding) an English Only rule might be effective. However, as can probably be noted from my comments here, I personally believe that restricting the language in the ESL classroom to English Only is not only not effective, it is also not at all supported by linguistic research into the question. Do a google search and read up on the subject before implementing the idea. Make your own decision, but do keep in mind class economy and the amount of work your students are going to do outside of the classroom. Too many jump onto the English Only bandwagon without looking into the social / political sources of this concept and the psychological impact it may have on the language learner. In the end, it is the language learner who must be seen to, not an unsupported claim that English Only is the Only English.

Thanks for reading.

peace,
revel.
  #17 (permalink)  
English-coach on Mar 13th, 2009, 01:54 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

I think having an English only environment is the best way to learn...when dealing with children above 7 or 8 years old. I had a couple classes with 5 year olds and if had sat there speaking in English the whole time, I would have lost all of them.

With younger kids you need to base the class in their native lanugage and teach them small parts of the language. Little by little you incorporate more and more English into the class but their native lanugage still plays an important role.

With older children and adults...I believe that it should be 99% of the time, with one or two word confirmations thrown in.

I remember having a class of 8 adults and they were beginners. One woman, Eva, came to me after class very frustrated because she didn't understand most of the class. I assured her that the first class is always difficult but the more she listens the better she will understand...and within months she was doing better that the students who understood me to be begin with.

I loved the article though. Very informative and helpful!

All the best,
Diana

Last edited by English-coach : Mar 23rd, 2009 at 10:16 am.
  #18 (permalink)  
revel on Mar 13th, 2009, 03:47 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Hey all.

An "English only environment", as Diana pointed out, is indeed an ideal situation for accelerating the learning process. However, if English is being taught in a country where L1 is a language other than English, there is no English "environment" outside of the classroom, and any English Only environment created within the classroom will be temporary and artificial at best. The teacher will naturally scale down his/her use of English to assure that the students are understanding at least the gist. The students will be limited by their own proficiency in the language. This artificial environment is not necessarily "bad", should rather be taken advantage of. A chat with friends over a beer is not artificial. A game of Trivial is artificial. Playing Trivial in English Only might be wonderful, it is taking a real-life artificial environment and making it into a learning experience.

Understanding, comprehension comes from recognition. You can not understand a word you've never heard before in your life, a word you do not know how to say or are unaware of its meaning. So, when that scientist begins using $100 words you might get the gist of his sentences because you recognize the grammar he uses, but you won't understand what he's talking about because so much of the sound output will be unfamiliar to you. Yet, if you were also a scientist, if you also used those words on a daily basis, you would recognize them at once, you would not need to go through the task of separating words, translating them into meaningful units, then plugging them back into the sentence. An ESL student is only going to be able to understand language that he/she already controls to a certain extent. If words or constructions are used that are not within the student's language bank, there will be no recognition and thus not cognition and finally, no understanding. One does not improve listening and comprehension skills through passively listening but rather through actively speaking and adding vocabulary and structures to language.

English Only makes the head feel swollen. For the teacher it may be the feeling that he/she is always speaking ESL, or worse, that the "natural language" used is not getting through to that student with more difficulty in understanding. For the student there is that feeling of a huge cloud around their head, a cloud that sometimes is very thick and dark, other times is thin and only partially covers the sky of understanding and communicating. With both the teacher and the student feeling "uncomfortable" with the language being used in the class, the environment becomes strained and the steps forward become like walking through thick mud.

A balance, then, must be made. Perhaps it is the balance that Diana has found in her classes. Her experience is similar to mine, concerning younger kids and pre-teens. If I restrict the younger kids to English Only the only language they produce is the parrot-like "I am 6 years old" stuff that their schools teach them. If I encourage the older kids to use only English, they are more willing to create sentences based on their limited lexicon, albeit broken, fragmented, grammatically and structural nightmares of sentences. Adults feel limited, embarrassed, ashamed of their inability to communicate, they can be perfectionists or they can be shy or they can be whatever you imagine them to be, but if you shut off their natural means of communication they will shut up in all languages and you will end up with a question-very very short answer session, not with a pleasant chat or conversation.

English Only is just one of many tools that can be taken advantage of in the ESL classroom. I only wish to advise that it should not, in my opinion and experience, be made into an iron-clad rule. As an ending note, besides appreciating a teacher who is able to explain or translate a word here and there in L1, students also have a living example before them that their teacher knows what he/she is doing. If the teacher has learned the L1 of the students then that teacher has been a good student and can share that experience with his/her students. If the teacher stubbornly insists that he/she only speaks English, who is he/she to insist that the students give up their language in favor of English. The end result of the class should be gradual improvement and communication, not the application of a rule with possible punishment for breaking such.

But again, I'm pretty hard-headed and outspoken on this subject. Thanks for reading.

peace,
revel.
  #19 (permalink)  
Stevepaint on Dec 21st, 2009, 07:42 am
Default Re: 5 Steps to an English Only Classroom

Hi
I read the article and posts (briefly, thereis a lot of info here) but I get the feeling that that it is the non native English speakers who are anti the English only concept. Is my assumption correct?
Regards
Steve
 


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