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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Call for Advice

This is a cry for help to my PLN.

                                          Photo by Simon Howden

It is not a nice feeling, after so many years of teaching, the one you get when you have no idea of how to help a student advance. It is a feeling of complete and utter exasperation. A feeling of uselessness and hopelessness. Thoughts of incompetence run through my mind. Why don't I know what to do? Why have I run out of ideas? It is so hard not to lose patience and blame the student as well as myself for not knowing how to overcome the problem. This is why I am asking you, my network of knowledgeable friends, for help.

The Student: a one-to one student in his early forties working for a company recently taken over by a British firm. Started in February as a False Beginner, had three months off over the summer and has started lessons again in October. Two hours per week.

The Course: using an elementary level course book as a source of general vocabulary and grammar as well as skills practice.

The Problem: The student has an elementary level of vocabulary and grammar structures and can understand written texts on a wide range of topics, however his listening skills are at beginner level. He can only comprehend spoken English at sentence level (on a good day) and freezes whenever a recording is played.

The Situation: The student has face to face contact several times a year with British visitors to the factory with whom he is expected to communicate. He needs to be able to understand and respond to native speakers socially whilst showing them around the factory.

How can we improve his listening skills in a short period of time? What kind of tasks can I give the student? One of the main problems is nerves. However much I try to get him to relax and just listen, this seems impossible. We have been working on pronunciation issues such as elision and sentence stress in order to make listening easier but at the end of the day, when another teacher comes into the classroom and asks him a basic question he just freezes.

So, please if you have or know of any ideas, tasks, links, websites or even books that may help, please let me know. How can I rid my student of the sensation of being thrown into a black hole whenever he hears English?
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