From Passive Learners to Active Learners—
Motivating Your Students to Speak Out More in the Chinese classroom
As language teachers, we believe that it is critically important for students learning a foreign language to speak out clearly and volubly in class. This gives them a change to practice organizing their thoughts into sentences and sounds – without practice, they cannot learn. So we find ways to encourage our students to express themselves in class. The more they speak the better. But some students do not want to speak in class and find ways to resist, eg by avoiding eye contact, asking questions, or refusing to be cooperative conversationalists (answering with short, uninformative answers, mumbling, etc.) Sometimes, students are tired and cannot muster up the extra energy it takes to speak a foreign language; some students are shy or self-conscious, even in their native languages; some cannot accept the limitations of speaking in a foreign language rather than a native one; and some come from cultures in which speaking out in class is not encouraged. So what is a teacher to do in such cases?
In this presentation, I am going to discuss some specific methods that I have used in the teaching of Chinese at Harvard and Tufts to change shy, passive students into active participants. Part of the solution is finding activities that are relevant and meaningful for all students, regardless of personality or cultural background.