Updated: Dec 2, 2020
When it comes to maintaining a positive learning environment and a high level of motivation in your ESL classroom, curiosity is a key factor – even if you are a cat😊 While there may be an old adage that curiosity killed one, cats are curious, there are many still alive and as a species they have travelled further than Genghis Khan😊All human beings are curious creatures, especially children, so being able to awake motivation in them is a superb way of connecting and learning.
Even now, in a large number of classes motivation is not a major part of a lesson plan. In order to be motivated and acquire language, students need to be exposed to a range of input that they consider interesting and receive encouragement and support for the efforts they make. If the teacher shows interest in student issues and personal preferences, this will add to the level of motivation: a good teacher-student rapport is not only positive, but necessary. With apologies to Lewis Carroll, we want our students to be ‘curiouser and curioser’ 😊
The Impact of curiosity in ESL
Stimulating a sense of wonder in your classroom help students improve their learning experience and enjoy it. We do know that students can achieve short-term learning goals and high grades without being curious, but this lack of curiosity will seriously impact their potential in a world in which creativity is increasingly valued.
There could be many reasons why a student fails at acquiring a new language: lack of interest in general, high difficulty, a high affective filter (intrinsic or extrinsic), boredom, and the list goes on 😊 Although it’s not entirely up to us to make a student learn, we really can help. If we succeed only in making our students curious, we have already done our job. As William Arthur Ward said, ‘Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.’
Curious students often spend a lot of time reading, investigating, asking questions and trying to fill the gap they feel between what they know and what is to be learned. They tend to be constantly preoccupied with learning, which helps them meet their goals.
Tips to Motivate Students and Awake their Curiosity
Here are some ideas that will help you have your students motivated and curious in the ESL classroom:
Ask your students (or find out) what their interests are: what kind of music they like, what they watch on screens, what hobbies they have, what they do with their families, what sports they do and who they admire. Knowing about their interests will help you plan interesting lessons that will engage them throughout – do remember that a major part of retaining interest is suitable tasking – have them interact with each other about these topics.
Expose them to audiovisual material with clear tasks. Another good strategy is to use part of your lesson (this will depend on how much time you have) to show them audio or video of fluent speakers in cartoons, movies, series, documentaries, etc. This will not only engage them and raise their curiosity but it will also improve their awareness of different pronunciations, which is a vital skill in a global world of English. If you haven’t already, check out the accent types on the Train The Teacher certificate in International TESOL. Start your lesson with a question. You can use the board/screen to write a big question. Remember to be clear on the task, set a thinking time, and check partnering. Questions are always more stimulating than answers (unless it is from your boss 😊) as they require the students to be active learners. This may be a simple idea, but it works. If you haven’t already, check out asking intelligent questions on the Train The Teacher certificate in International TESOL. Encourage them to be curious. Reward those who ask questions and encourage them to keep asking, and remember to keep your answers real and sincere. Avoid the tendency to skip through the answer to get onto your next task. Sincere interest in listening will motivate everyone in the classroom. Students often feel embarrassed to ask questions and they tend to keep them to themselves (adolescents especially). By making them feel comfortable about asking, you will be stimulating curiosity.
Give them projects they can work on in groups. This is especially useful for those students who are very shy and feel more comfortable working with others than alone as they have people backing them up when talking about their project.
Pay attention to a student’s affective filter: if the affective filter is high, try to identify what’s causing it and take action. For example, a student may be reluctant to learn English because of cultural or family issues. You can lower the filter by explaining the benefits of learning a new language for their future.
So, as a teacher, you’re probably reading this because you are curious, and you know that learning is as essential to your growth as it is to a student’s. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but at last count there were somewhere between 200 and 600 million cats alive and well in the world. It seems like curiosity works 😊
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