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03 Apr Do Students Hear What You Want Them to Hear?

Many teachers assume that when they say something to their class, the students hear what was said. Unfortunately this is not always the case and can lead to misunderstandings such as “…but s/he never told us that!” Over the years, I have heard many cases where a student says something was on a test that wasn’t taught and the teacher says it was taught but the student could not have been paying attention.

Teachers…here is a reason why having a written lesson plan is to your advantage. In case of this kind of dispute, you can clearly demonstrate that a topic is in your lesson plan and that you did teach it.

It is particularly important in the ESL classroom where the teacher is teaching in English. This is not the first language of the students. Unless the students are advanced learners they will miss at least some of what you say. Until ESL students learn to listen only for the stressed or important words in a sentence, they try to listen to every word. What happens is that they then fall behind and often only hear the first part of what a teacher says.

Also, people sometimes think they hear what they expect to hear. For example, I live in Thailand and often take the bus instead of driving. Conductors on the buses assume that all ‘foreigners’ go to Pattaya. I don’t. I live in a community called Rong Po. Most of the conductors know me by now but occasionally I will get a new one. When s/he asks where I am going, s/he expects me to say ‘Pattaya’. When I say Rong Po, s/he is not listening for it and so does not understand what I am saying. It is not what his or her brain told her/him I would say.

Students are no different. They may be thinking about something and anticipating what you will say. In that case, in addition to the differences in languages, they may not hear what you said but what they ‘think’ you said. There is a big difference.

Students are easily distracted – especially young learners and teenagers. Their minds may be on other things and thus not paying as much attention to the teacher as they should. This applies to all classes, not only English class. Although hard to believe, I know, your lesson may not be uppermost in the minds of all of your students.

As a teacher, you cannot take for granted that what you say automatically registers with your students. The only way to be sure you are getting your message through to everyone in your class is by repetition, reinforcement and review. Even then, you may not reach all students but at least you have given it your best shot.

After teaching a topic, I usually give a least one exercise which acts as a reinforcement activity while the topic is fresh in students’ minds (hopefully). Then, at the start of the next lesson, I give another exercise, though perhaps in a different format, where I review the previous topic and test the students ability to recall and to transfer their learning before moving on to the new topic for the day. We go over the answers together as a class and that is when I ensure the information is firmly rooted. Then we move on.

If you would like a copy of my eBook “Introduction to Teaching Overseas”, contact me at rwftaylor@gmail.com

Dr. Robert Taylor

Dr. Robert W. F. Taylor

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