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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 4; Issue 5; September 02

Readers Letters

The Anxiety of using Techniques learnt in a TT Workshop.

Avril Collins, Clermont Ferrand, France

Dear Mario,

Just a brief note to say "thank you" for last week's workshop. It was most enlightening and enriching and I only hope that I will now put into practice all those wonderful ideas.

I was very lucky this week to have an intensive group of business people - six students - and I used some of your suggestions. The one which was most successful ( and I must admit I was rather sceptical and nervous about using it with a very professional group - including a member of the Chambre de Commerce itself!-) was the group picture exercise.*

Once the drawing phase was over, I gave them three options:

  1. Produce a dialogue between two OBJECTS in the picture ( this I was very nervous about and, on the journey to work, questioned why I would even suggest it!)
  2. Produce a dialogue between two of the people in the picture.
  3. Freely write your own story from the picture.

The result was magic!
Several produced a dialogue between two objects! They enjoyed the exercise and certainly entered into the "fun" side of it.
Thank you.
They also loved "choosing" a partner by taking the end of a piece of paper I was holding up. *
I can't wait to see the group again next week and continue with some of the ideas.
My next challenge is that I am taking conversation classes at the University, and I have been warned they are very reluctant to talk!


  • In this technique the teacher rubs the blackboard clean and tells the group they are going to draw a "group picture". Anybody can go to the board and draw in one element of the picture, but not more. You can draw a tree, but not a bird's nest in the tree.
    The activity happens in silence and the teacher calls a halt when a sufficiently complex image has been created.
  • In this random pairing technique, the teacher holds up folded strips of paper and each student is asked to take one end of a strip of paper. There needs to be one spill of paper for every two students in the group.
    When the teacher lets go of the papers, each student finds she has a partner.

[ Editorial musing: a language teacher's repertoire of techniques is like a mechanic's tool bag. If she has a reasonable tool bag, why should she want to want to add more stuff?
How and when does a pianist add new pieces to her repertoire?
What drove Picasso to move from one of his "periods" to the next?
How have surgeons emotionally and practically dealt with learning the techniques of the new " keyhole" surgery? ]

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