Expanding Review

Get Back to the Basics and Show your Students How to Actually Use English (Graphic via: Designblog.org)

Long time no post. Today I want to talk about expanding the length of review as a means of reinforcing important language. Let me write today about my theory and examples, and later in the week I will tell you about a fun game to use.

In my special needs class, I am lucky to have a small class of 5 capable and interested students. In this class I have been experimenting with this technique and have gotten some pretty remarkable results.

It started when I realized the phrase “here you are”/”thank you”/”you’re welcome” (when handing something to someone) was underutilized and underestimated by students and teachers.

So, in my special needs class I have taken the last 5 or 6 lessons to give a short 5-10 minute preview of the many and various situations this phrase can be used in, and had the students practice them. For example: handing someone a piece of paper, handing someone a gift, giving out candy (during Halloween), offering someone some coffee, etc.)

In the regular class, this phrase is used almost exclusively when handing things to and from the teachers. Understandably, it becomes dead and tiresome language.

Seen in this expanded review, however, students can come to appreciate the variety of situations it is necessary for, and, consequentially, the phrase becomes a meaningful and useful part of the students’ vocabulary. The phrase suddenly makes sense and students are motivated to use it!

This approach of slowing down, focusing and refocusing on important phrases, showing a variety of situations they are used in provides the structure for understanding and using English in a natural context. It is what I am terming “Expanded Review” (even though, in my opinion, it might just as well be a feature of the regular cirriculum). It has me using more English in class and getting more real communication with students (i.e. back and forth conversation) than I could have ever imagined in any kind of class.

The downside of the regular class, of course, is that students miss opportunities like this to focus and re-focus on a phrase. In the breadth of everything that teachers cover in one year, phrases lose their meaning and are thus easily forgotten. Language becomes forced and arbitrary.

Now, I am using the special needs class as a testing ground for ideas like this. My hope is that showing how it works effectively in this classroom, I can start conversations with JTEs at my school and tell them how important an expanded review of small structural language like this are to students’ understanding of and success in English.