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I have learned a lot about motivating my students to produce language in a caring and supportive way in which they can relax enough to practice the target language and create language of their own.
Frankie, Seoul
Free Activities: Learn to Let Go
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In most any lesson, it comes time to let go and let the students practice the target language. By practice, I don't mean a strictly controlled activity, such as a scripted dialogue, a worksheet that has students fill in the blanks, or even an exercise on verb conjugation. Although these all prove important, they serve the class better during the early stages of the lesson, not later

Instead, in most any lesson, the teacher must let students experiment with the target language. This means several possible answers in an exercise. This means dynamic conversations and/or exercises. This means students mix and match today's language with material from past lessons. This means students challenge themselves to their own personal abilities.

For example, in a lower-intermediate lesson about occupations, each student discusses in pairs several questions about good jobs, bad jobs, career success, and so on. This not only allows students to use and reuse vocabulary and grammar structures, but also allows them to personalize the language. The conversation goes where the pair of students takes it, thereby maintaining a high level of interest and challenge. In addition, each pair of students has a different conversation, which also allows follow-up activities like reporting the conversation to another partner, assessing the information and reasons, or even repeating the activity with students working with another partner.

It's important to note that weaker students will stick more closely to the target language, working to the best of their ability. Stronger students in the same class have opportunities to experiment with the language, again working to the best of their ability. This simply isn't possible with a worksheet or controlled activity that allows only one or two possible answers. This guarantees maximum participation, which also leads to improved retention.

As a final comment, it remains vital that these sorts of activities follow adequate practice with drills and other accuracy-building exercises. Students still need to feel comfortable with the new material in order to successfully apply it in new and novel ways at the end of any lesson. Yet if the teacher learns to let go, then the interest, challenge, and retention of the target language all see marked improvement.