True or False?
The idea that EFL learners have limited amount of exposure to English may not be true anymore. If you teach in a context where internet access is limited or too expensive and you don’t have enough books, magazines, audios, films or other resources in English which cater to your students’ level and interests, then the answer may be: true. Otherwise, the answer is: False.
Ten years ago, I started to get interested in High school students whose high level of English could not be explained by the time they had been studying English either at school or with private tutors. I realized these students used English just for pleasure through activities they found interesting: listening to songs or reading whatever book in English they could get.
The world has changed a lot since then, now the accessibility to material and technological resources in English is much easier and cheaper. Two years ago I decided to research the topic for my master thesis (that will be available to be shared in a few months). You can see a poster with some data from my research at Research Gate.
One of the aims of my investigation was to analyse the uses of English outside of the school of 122 High School students (16-18 years old) in an EFL context (Uruguay) and these were the main results:
N/S: not specified
N/I: not identified
No private lessons: students who do not attend private English lessons outside of school.
The most common practice in English carried out by students beyond the classroom is watching films and series, followed by watching videos online.
Surprisingly, the students who get more involved in English-based activities autonomously do not attend English private lessons.
More girls than boys get involved in out-of-class activities in all modes except for online games.
Therefore, students are exposed to different types of English input outside of school, so teachers may take advantage of these affordances (Menezes, 2011) and integrate them into their classrooms. Below, you will see some ideas:
How to take advantage of students’ beyond the class modes of learning English
- Setting class time to discuss which activities they have performed using English, what they have learnt and what strategies they have used to cope with difficulties.
- Checking what activities in English they engage in and bring them to the classroom, for example watching an episode from one of their favourite TV series or watching a music video of their favourite singer/group. You may also ask for volunteer students to prepare a lesson based on it.
- Another alternative is to provide activities to be performed as homework to foster language awareness. However, teachers should refrain from focusing too much on grammar or vocabulary activities out of context (i.e.: focusing on isolated items without considering the context of use). As each student may engage in a particular activity and it’s likely that you can’t design an individual piece of homework for each of them, a good idea is to ask them to keep a learning log where they record the activity they have done, what they have learnt by doing it and again the strategies they have used to cope with unknown language.
Whatever option you choose, remember to take into account your students’ interests, as it is this personal interest and the student’ s capacity for autonomy which make these affordances so powerful for language learning.
Also, try to encourage these kinds of engagement by valuing them, offering suggestions and helping less motivated students to try out new ways of being in contact with the English language.
Menezes V. (2011) Affordances for Language Learning Beyond the Classroom. In: Benson P., Reinders H. (eds) Beyond the Language Classroom. Palgrave Macmillan, London