With my head still swimming with impressions from the recent TESOL convention, I offer this posting on study tips. The idea was inspired by the work of one creative man, Christopher Stillwell of Kanda University of International Studies. Under the session heading “Autonomy through Video, or ‘You Can Do That on Television,’” Mr. Stillwell presented material from his workshops and DVDs that promote independent study.
The basic idea in his approach is to model exercises in autonomous learning. Mr. Stillwell mostly focused on the use of TV news reports, and he demonstrated how students should watch such reports to get the best language experience out of them. He arms his students with questions to aid their comprehension, and he models the thought process one goes through in trying to answer those questions.
What we can take away from all this is the importance of how study tips are presented to our students. It is much more effective take the time to model a practice than simply rattle off a quick suggestion as students pack up and head toward the door.
Here is one use of music that I often share with my YouTube viewers who write to me for ways they can practice English on their own. It is an exercise you can easily do as a class, making the steps familiar and easy to recall for later independent study. You can even print out these steps as a handout:
1. Find a recording of a popular song. Think about the title and what the song must be about.
2. Listen to the song once through. Was your original understanding of the title correct?
3. Listen again and pause as needed in order to write the lyrics down on paper. If you cannot catch all the words, leave those lines blank.
4. Find a copy of the lyrics (from a CD case or online). Compare your set of lyrics to the original and make all necessary corrections. Look up new words and try to understand their meanings in the context of the song.
5. Listen to the song and read along.
6. Listen to the song without looking at the lyrics.
7. Find out some background information about the artist(s). You can use CD liner notes or the artist’s website.