I’ve been teaching in Japan for more than ten years now, so I have become very sensitive towards my students’ feelings. I try not to put them on the spot or under pressure to speak spontaneously, at least until they have had a chance to get used to me and the class.
However, last month I had the chance to visit leading universities in Korea and Hong Kong, and see what they were doing in English classes and departments. It may not be a fair comparison (many things, from the environment to class sizes to university expectations, are different) but I was surprised and impressed by how much the teachers there pushed the students. This made me change my attitude towards my own classes. After all, Japanese students will be sitting in meetings with their Chinese and Korean counterparts in ten years time, and at that point no-one is going to care about the special conditions in Japan with regards to English education. They are just going to be looking at the results: can you communicate effectively and get your point across?
Classes started at my university last week, and I tried something new in a presentation class on Friday: after explaining the syllabus and course guidelines, I had the students come up to the front of the class in groups of four and introduce themselves spontaneously.
It worked incredibly well. Because the students were in groups of four, we got through all twenty-nine of them quickly, and they surpasses my expectations completely with their short introductory speeches.
Many of them were funny, interesting, and engaging. I was able to get their names and make brief notes on each student in an interactive and informative way, and made all the other students take notes too. I suspect the fact that they all went through this together will make for a friendlier and more relaxed class, too.
This new (very old) activity is going to become part of more of my classes, I suspect. Does anyone else use this?