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Chapter Two – Rationale/Process
As should be clearly apparent this project has been written paying careful attention to the theories behind Accelerated Learning and Suggestopedia. Therefore it will not be necessary to repeat the information available in Chapter One where we look at an overview of these ‘methods’. Nonetheless it may help to elaborate on certain choices and decisions.
The seating is best arranged in a horseshoe shape. This helps to create a greater feeling of class co-operation and assists Ss in being able to see and hear each other when they are communicating amongst themselves and with the T. Both as a S and as a T I have frequently noticed what a very large psychological effect the seating arrangement can have on how a class functions as a unit. Therefore this is NOT a little aside but a VITAL part of the lesson.
It’s important to note that for a class
already familiar with the techniques described here it won’t be necessary to
spend time explaining the reasoning behind them. However, for a class new to
these ideas an explanation as to why they are so important is strongly advised.
Sadly (IMO) breathing exercises, drawing activities and Multi -
Sensory Imaging are not commonly encountered in the foreign language classroom
and without an explanation the students may feel somewhat bewildered and
Although some considerable time is devoted to
this explanation I feel this is only being fair to our Ss who have a right to
know the rationale behind what they are being expected to do. I have frequently
been annoyed as a student myself when I couldn’t understand the point of a
given activity. However, it does only have to be done once (along with the
handouts) at the beginning of a course.
Re the breathing exercises
it is important to breathe with the Ss – you should not ask them to do
anything that you’re not prepared to do. This exercise may feel a little
uncomfortable at first, as it’s such an unusual thing to do in a classroom.
Persevere. Be confidant in your delivery...BELIEVE in what you’re asking them
to do. It works.
In fact it is worth
emphasising here how important it is for the T to believe in what ey are doing.
The T’s attitude to the lesson, whether consciously expressed or not will
be picked up by the Ss either consciously or subconsciously and this can
have a major effect on the lesson. (This confidant mindset is part of what I
understand when exponents of Suggestopedia refer to the importance of T ‘authority’.)
Use first person plural pronouns. These
pronouns have a deliberate effect – to encourage the Ss to view the teacher as
taking part in the learning process with them.
Along with the relaxed, informal style of delivery this is believed to create a
more relaxed environment.
The T’s whole attitude should exude the
power of suggestion. Total self-belief is what gives authority (and please note
the distinction between authority and authoritarianism) NOT merely being a T –
you MUST believe in what you’re doing. If you don’t, the Ss will pick up on
it and this will be a destructive psychological force. On the other hand, the
T’s belief, conviction, enthusiasm, passion and positivity is equally catching
and can be a great aid.
Of course, one must also believe in one’s
Ss – especially if they don’t believe in themselves, as is sadly sometimes
Wording is VITAL when it comes to using
suggestion. This cannot be stressed too highly. We avoid negative expressions
such as “Don’t worry...” Why? It’s simple. What’s the first thing that
comes to mind when someone says something like, “Don’t think about rainbows”?
Exactly. Rainbows. We can’t help it – it’s due to the way language is
constructed (see any book on Transformational Grammar and how negatives are
We also avoid such words as “try”. This
presupposes the possibility of failure. We use “do” instead and always
presuppose a positive outcome.
Before the Development Task we say, “We’re ready to have some fun....” and this is quite deliberate. The task involves language production on the part of the Ss but immediately we set up the suggestion that this is going to be fun rather than work. Because this is said in passing as opposed to being stressed the Ss will accept it.
Essentially this is the trick to suggestion
– it goes in without the Ss being conscious of it.
Naturally, the music used (Debussy and Beethoven by myself but others are welcome to use different music provided it’s suitable) is suggestive in itself of a relaxed and informal environment free of stress and strain.
The music is used as a powerful suggestive
force as described above. I have chosen music by Debussy and Beethoven due to
its gentle and melodic nature, which seems particularly suited to the breathing
exercise, the MSI script and the objective of creating a relaxed atmosphere.
Various exponents of Accelerated Learning and Suggestopedia recommend the use of
Baroque music where the beat is set to a specific time thought to match the
Alpha rhythm. Personally I have found that this level of detail, while
admirable, is not strictly necessary and relaxing classical music can still be
very effective. Experimentation is to be encouraged but music with words would
not be suitable due to their potential to interfere with the workings of the
left brain, which should be working on the words in the text.
The first drawing task is designed to set the
scene in preparation for reading the text. This is very important especially
when working with short texts. Readers need the opportunity to establish a
‘frame’ for what they are going to read (Tomlinson, 1998). Hudson (1982)
“...hypothesised that forming an idea of what the text is going to be about
helped... readers to override their linguistic limitations”. (Cited in
Tomlinson 1998: 219).
Our text has been carefully chosen because a beach scene is something that will very rarely be unfamiliar to Ss and which is easily imagable. The potential contrast between the ‘typical’ busy, noisy, littered beach and the ‘idyllic’ scene of a deserted stretch of palm tree lined golden sand can easily generate the emotional responses we are looking for. The ideal scene also neatly sets up the Development Stage (StageThree) of the lesson where its illusory nature becomes apparent. Of course I say potential because these are my own notions of ‘typical’ and ‘ideal’ and as such are totally subjective. Nonetheless, whatever pictures the Ss produce will at least serve to provide a framework within which they can gain greater access to the text.
A potential problem with drawing activities
is that Ss who don’t feel confident about their drawing ability may be
disinclined to draw and could indeed feel very nervous. In fact, this was the
case for myself when I was first asked to draw in the classroom. I recall that I
was able to get round my fears by being assured that I did not have to show my
drawings to anyone if I didn’t want to and by the realisation of just how
remarkably effective this method could be in assisting in my understanding of
the language. As I have now overcome my fear and will happily draw anything
asked of me despite the continuing poor quality of my drawings and am quite
willing to do so in front of a whole class of Ss this suggests to me that others
can overcome their fears also. However, it is necessary to continually reassure
the Ss that we are only looking for very simple drawings, that artistic merit is
irrelevant and that they are under no obligation to show their drawings if they
do not wish to.
At this point I was considering the
possibility of putting the Ss in pairs and either having them describe a typical
beach scene A to B and then switching for the ideal scene or having them draw
one each and then comparing the two. However, I decided that it would be better
to get each S to draw each picture from their own experience, as this would
better enable them to set up the schemata we are going to be utilising in their
own minds. This should then assist them in the process of imaging the text.
Bringing Ss up to the board should be very
helpful for them as it shows them that it is not the sole prerogative of the T
and creates a greater feeling of interaction in the class. Although it can be
quite nerve wracking at first, the class is set up and will continue along a
vein which seeks to establish and encourage participation without fear. Greater
S involvement is therefore a longer term aim.
Also, starting with a production activity
reinforces our recognition of the fact that Ss bring a wealth of prior knowledge
and intelligence with them to the lesson and in activating this wealth we can
greatly enhance their interest, motivation, and learning potential. (Mckergow,
1998). This is diametrically opposed to the PPP (Present, Practice, Produce)
approach which to its great detriment (IMO) ignores this.
Reading Activity One
The extract we are using has been taken from an authentic English novel. The use of authentic texts is essential – I whole-heartedly share Tomlinson’s (1998) belief that “we should not be protecting learners from complexity but rather encouraging and helping them to respond to the richness of texts in multiple ways.”
Central to the whole concept of Accelerated
Learning and Multi-Sensory Imaging is experiential reading. Tomlinson (1998)
defines this as reading “...more or less continuously without paying much
conscious attention to the content or expression of the text that we are reading
nor to the application of the reading strategies in our repertoire. We read
holistically in order to gain a global understanding of the text rather than
analytically in order to gain understanding of each portion of the text. We try
to understand as much as possible of what we want to but we do not worry too
much if there is something which we do not really understand.”
Studial reading, on the other hand, requires,
“...conscious effort, attention and thought.” (Ibid.)
Efficient reading then, is all about knowing
when to use one and when to use the other.
It is therefore essential that we incorporate
the use of experiential reading techniques into our Ss repertoire and show them
that it is a functional combination of the two that will give the greatest and
easiest comprehension. Sadly it is too often the case that FL study programs
focus only on studial reading. This not only fails to present the whole picture
but actually damages Ss ability to learn to read experientially due to the
reinforcement of bad habits and the state of confusion that can result when they
are first asked to do tasks that encourage experiential reading (making our job
all the more difficult).
Any attempt to pre-teach vocab then, will
immediately put the Ss into studial reading mode which is precisely what we want
to avoid. Furthermore, it does not correspond to what they would do in their MT
reading and is therefore thought to be unnatural. The instructions to ignore
words they don’t understand are also requisite. Sadly this will probably not
be enough and the T will have to monitor to make sure that Ss are not fixating
on individual words. It is likely that the bad habits previously mentioned will
already be firmly entrenched and the T will have to work hard to show the Ss
that understanding every word is not important.
To assist our Ss then, we can
use scripts such as this one to increase the likelihood that they will be able
to image a given text and achieve global understanding from which point they can
go on to do more studial activities if they choose. By taking the Ss on a mental
journey to the place described in the text prior to getting them to draw it we
move them away from the words on the paper and into the mental imagery that they
have created, which we enhance and which they then further develop. Sadoski and
Paivio (1994) in their Dual Coding Theory actually give “...equal prominence
to language and mental imagery in reading comprehension...” (Cited in
Tomlinson, 1998: 33). Even if this ‘proves’ to be too strong it nonetheless
shows how much of a role imaging can have in reading.
Imaging through the senses is
also central to Rosenblatt’s (1994) concept of the “aesthetic reader”
which is worth quoting in it’s entirety as it matches both my own conception
of the reading experience and that which I strive to help my Ss to access:
“The aesthetic reader pays
attention to, savors, the qualities of the feelings, ideas, situations, scenes,
personalities, and emotions that are called forth, and participates in the
tensions, conflicts, and resolutions of the images, ideas, and scenes as they
unfold. The lived-through meaning is felt to correspond to the text. This
meaning, shaped and experienced during the aesthetic transaction, constitutes
‘the literary work’, the poem, story or play. This ‘evocation’, and not
the text, is the object of the reader’s ‘response’ and ‘interpretation’,
both during and after the reading event.”
(Cited in Tomlinson, 1994: 131).
The MSI script also seeks to
activate each of the Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic modes of representation
through the careful use of language appertaining to each in order to activate
the full range of sensory perception and facilitate strong encoding. Indeed,
that mental imaging can have a significant affect on learning has been shown by
Anderson and Kulhavy (1972) “...who showed that people asked to create mental
images of the events described...learn two or three times as much as people
asked to read...aloud over and over again.” (Cited in Tomlinson, 1998: 116).
Tomlinson (1998) goes on to
“Those learners who do
visualise when reading in the target language at an intermediate level typically
achieve greater comprehension and recall than those who do not visualise and
they are more likely to progress to becoming advanced level readers.”
As we are working on Multi-Sensory
Imaging which goes beyond visualisation into the utilisation of all the senses
the result should be the formation of even more connections and yet stronger
encoding. Of course, testing for this is beyond the scope of this project.
It is well worth noting that
this whole concept of being taken on a guided mental journey and then being
asked to report back on what you experienced fits in with Wenger’s (1997)
“Principle of Description”. This states that:
“The more you describe of something while observing it, the more you will perceive of it.” (Cited in Turco, 1997: 1)
The drawing of pictures from
mental images can help us imagine more and more detail.
Wenger (1999), a leading
exponent of Accelerated Learning, puts primary importance on the value of mental
imagery – he advises that one create “...memorable experiences. Use your
imagination and involve all your senses” in order to assist in learning.
The script is also very
affective at relaxing the Ss, as it is essentially a guided imagery exercise. An
extract describing a beach scene has been specifically chosen due to the strong
likelihood that an idyllic beach will have an almost universal appeal and which
many people will associate with feelings of relaxation and pleasurable, positive
Naturally, as with most things in life, there are potential drawbacks to
this approach. First of all, there are those who will avidly claim that not
everyone is capable of visualisation. While it is certainly the case that there
are “low imagers and high imagers” (Tomlinson, 1998), Wenger (1998) has cast
doubt on the idea that there are those for whom it is impossible. Wenger created
a procedure called Image Streaming (the reader is directed to the Project
Renaissance pages at www.anakin.com for a full exposition) which involves the activation
of sensory imaging. Training people in its use for at least the last twenty
years he states that, “Of thousands trained...not one person has yet been
found who was unable to learn and practice the procedure for Image Streaming.”
Of course, some people have to
be assisted with various exercises in order to access and/or improve their
imaging ability – one such exercise is a guided imagery script. So already we
have incorporated into the lesson a procedure designed to help those who may
have problems. Further, Multi-Sensory Imaging is something that Ss get more out
of the more they practice it and consequently doing this kind of lesson as a one
off for whatever reason probably won’t have much impact on their learning
potential. Continued use of these techniques is therefore necessary to achieve
the desired results.
Secondly there is the
possibility that there are Ss who have a very negative emotional response to
imagery focusing on a beach scene. This would be unfortunate but at this stage I
would have to say that one can’t always please all of the people all of the
time. In order to train the Ss in the use of these techniques one must start
somewhere. Once they have become au fait with them then we can move on to
lessons which involve much greater S choice thereby avoiding forcing what may be
negative imagery onto our Ss.
There are those who have questioned the necessity of avoiding negative imagery,
pointing out that in
some cases it may be stronger than positive imagery and thereby create deeper
processing. While there can be no doubt that this is true it is also quite
possible that negative imagery can generate unwanted stress, fear, worry,
depression, aggression – emotions that can so easily act as barriers to
learning. This is why we want to concentrate on positive imagery – to generate
positive emotional responses.
Drawing The Text
Once the Ss are returned (mentally) to the
classroom and have been exhorted to re-read and then draw the text, it is worth
reminding them that we are only looking for very simple drawings. The
instruction to start with what they know is intended to help prevent Ss from
becoming fixated on that which they don’t know.
Drawing the text, especially after the MSI
experience, is a “reader response” task (Ali, 1994: Cited in Tomlinson,
1998: 304) designed to allow “the learner to interact actively with the text
to produce meaning” (Tomlinson, 1998). This encourages precisely the kind of
aesthetic response, emotive engagement and deep processing that we are hoping to
Referring back to the original drawings and
the data that we garnered from them brings home the validity of the initial
exercise and provides a link into the next section.
The break is carefully positioned to occur
after the readings and drawings have been completed to give the Ss opportunity
to absorb what they have understood from the lesson so far in preparation for
the Development Task and Discovery Activity which will follow.
This is repeated, as is currant with the
philosophy which we have built up so far.
I had initially placed the Discovery Activity
at this stage but further reading and thought has convinced me that this would
be premature. Before focusing back into analytical mode one should use the
opportunity to let the Ss imagination go to work and have them respond
creatively to what they have been reading. Tomlinson (1998) describes such
Development Tasks as ”...language production tasks which ask the learners to
develop a theme, character, viewpoint, topic etc. which they have just
encountered in a reading text”. He goes on to say that,
“Such tasks can help to deepen the learner’s
understanding of the base text and also provide a stimulus for creative use of
the language”. (Ibid.)
I consider this last point to be particularly
salient. I firmly believe that Ss should be encouraged to see their developing
IL as something not to be derided for its lack of equivalence with standard
English but something of great beauty in itself that they can be helped to use
with as much passion and stylistic splendour as their imagination can muster.
This particular task has been chosen in the
hope that it will have an emotional impact on the Ss. After having spent so much
time building up pictures of idyllic beach scenes we are now going to trash our
pictures with visions of disaster and an array of problem situations perhaps
requiring ingenious rectification. This should serve to amuse, challenge, and
bring home the ease with which we can be seduced into an illusory ideal of
The advisability of introducing an emotional
and affective quotient into our lessons should have become apparent some time
ago and shall not therefore be repeated here.
Now that the Ss have read the text, completed
the reader response activity and the development task this is the right moment
to focus on analysis and give the Ss the opportunity to work on words and
structures that they may desire to more fully understand. At this stage in the
lesson the Ss should have a pretty clear global understanding of the text. This
should be pointed out to them and it should be stressed that they achieved this
without having to understand every word and that therefore it is not necessary
to do so in order to understand other texts either.
The pictures, activities and tasks are now utilised further to assist in working out whatever queries the Ss come up with. Grammar and vocabulary should always (IMO) be taught in context. As it is well documented and should be very clear from this project by now, Ss will learn more, remember longer and process deeper that which they discover for themselves and this is why Discovery Activities are preferred. Of course, this is also a learner training exercise as, again, the Ss can use these techniques in their own study.
Recapping over the lesson is very important as it helps to bring home to the Ss what they’ve managed to achieve. As they may often be new to this kind of approach this can be helpful in ‘proving’ the worth of what they have been doing. Also it always helps to end the lesson on a positive note to enhance the likelihood that the Ss will leave the lesson feeling good about themselves and what they have learnt.
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