Here at EFA London we’re increasingly interested in using extended discussion in the classroom. EFA London teachers Dermot and Becky are currently involved in a British Council funded research project to investigate the benfits of discussion for ESOL students. On Sunday 19th January they led a training for EFA London staff and volunteers to train us in some of the tools and techniques they’ve developed.
Instigating an effective discussion with ESOL students is not straight forward, but the training provided a reasurring opportunity to exchange stories with other ESOL teachers who’d also struggled with this type of activity. Moreover, we’d also had some successes and as we pooled our knowledge and analysed why certain discussions had worked, it became obvious that good discussion requires preparation. We dissected what could be done to set up discussions effectively and by the time the training was over, we left equipped with a clear idea of how to risk trying extended discussions the classroom! As with all EFA London trainings, every activity that we did in training was something that could be replicated with ESOL learners, so we also exchanged useful games and tools.
At the end of the day, we spent time evaluating the training and our participation. Extended evaluations aren’t done enough and I was reminded, in the training, how useful they can be. I was worried that I’d talked too much so it was nice to be able to express this to the group (and implicitly ask for their forgiveness)! Writing down what we’d learnt also bolstered our confidence and left us excited to go out into our classes and try out new techniques. All in all, the day brought home to me how important discussion is for language learning but also for nurturing integration and critical awareness in a group. We’re currently developing a ‘EFA London participatory ESOL’ training scheme for ESOL teachers and I think ‘discussion’ should definitely be part of the syllabus.