Studying with their Hearts.

This is where I want my students coming from.

Studying from their heads, all we get are maybe some perfect scores on a test, but everything is soon forgotten.

Studying with your head also gets us detached students who don’t care about what is going into their ears and out their mouths.

Emotional detachment may be fine for science or mathematics, where conversations take place between pencil, paper and calculators.

But English takes place between people, with feelings, opinions and sensitivities.

With emotional detachment we get students studying words like, “love”, “between”, “shop keeper”, “shrine”, all on a equal level with no emotional connection.

With emotional detachment we get kids who give up on English and even decide to hate it.

How to reverse this vicious cycle?

Have you ever considered asking?

Recently I have been asking students to care more — to connect the emotion with a word, to have a reaction, to be present when they are speaking to someone, to make eye contact, to smile.

You know the old saying, “ask and you shall receive”?

Try asking the students to care. Very few others are.





  1. I for one can definitely separate the kids who study with their hearts from those who only memorize and repeat. From what I’ve seen, those who actually see English as a means of communication and not simply as a grade of a piece of paper or a means to get into a good university are the ones who have made emotional attachments and thought-word relations.

    To help my students learn to associate words with feelings and emotions I’ve been trying to make more meaningful communication opportunities for all of them. One thing I’ve suggested to the 2nd year JHS JTE is having the students write a diary once a week in English.They are already required to write in their homeroom classes in Japanese so this will be an English version.
    I will leave comments for them in English (just as their homeroom teachers to in Japanese). Many people find journal/ diary writing to be a good form of self expression and a personal activity, so I hope this can help my students realize that English can be used to describe the same feelings and thoughts as Japanese.

    Has anyone else done anything similar? I’d be very interested in hearing the results!

    • It’s amazing how the simple act of asking people to care can make a difference. Some people need permission to engage. Some didn’t even know there was a choice. Others need inspiration or someone who’s willing to spend a little emotional energy to motivate the class. It’s funny because just asking seems to accomplish all of this.

      I really like to demonstrate the differences to students. Saying words like “happy”, “fun”, “great” with blank expressions and no emotions always gets a laugh. And the point is usually clear: disconnecting emotion from what is said is downright weird!

      Good work on the journals. One thing I have done with a class I journal with is tell the students “this is a correction free activity” — that means no red pen and no grammatical corrections. After all, the point of the activity is sharing ideas and communicating an idea successfully to another person.

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