The Right Kind of Study Tips

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.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. I am such a pretender and you are so much the guru! I am a novice at TESL and so enjoy it when a pro like you validates some of my ideas.

    I feel like I am patronizing my students sometimes when I model every step they should take, even though they don’t mind. I simply learned (as a US Army Drill Sergeant )that ya tell them, ya show them, make them show me (until I am tired;), then tell them again.

    I already know I like you and your approach, thanks for sharing Mr Stillwell too.


    PS left a question on your YouTube mail.

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Dear George,
      If you watched one of my first videos for 2009 (topic: connotations), you’ll know I took on the title of Guru on YouTube with a lot of reservations. We all have so much to learn. I’m no exception.
      Keep up your good efforts. Happy teaching!

  2. Jennifer,

    I prayed about you before writing you and your response is (for me) an official “God thing”. That you are so willing to help others without reservation is great. I’m already married or I would court you;)

    I would like to purchase whatever video’s are available that you would be willing to allow me to upload to Just send me the particulars for money transfer.

    I promise to do my best to bring honor to your efforts in how we introduce others to your material. If I ever do anything that upsets you please let me know so I can correct my missive.

    I am so happy I have found you and you should know that when you help “the least of these” there is someone else who takes notice from above.


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