Your style, my style - our ways of speaking

Part one: the art of teaching conversation to language learners
Starting off with the basics is probably a very good place to kick off this series (of at least 7 parts).

Do you know who your students are?

Do you know what they like? Do you know their learning styles and how they learn?
fashion show TT1000216 by AxelBuehrmannKnowing a little bit about the way people learn anything at all is one part of being a really great conversation teacher.

In general, it's one of those essential life skills, however, when used for teaching English it can help you to unlock your students' great gabbing skills.

Because let's face it, despite the fact that when they are sitting in your classroom they may appear to be all quiet and shy, nervous and uncommunicative, when they're out there with their friends, families, across the boardroom table or with their lovers they probably aren't so very quiet.
In their own language.

And this is probably true, more or less, across cultures.
Okay, okay, maybe some of them are always quiet. But here are some reasons they might not be talking a lot in their English lessons:

* the subject you brought to class isn't interesting.
* they don't like you.
* you aren't teaching them in the way they want you to.

There are many more reasons than the above - hence this is only part 1 - more in the next postings.

For now let's have a look at:
“you aren't teaching them in the way they want you to.”
Don’t switch off the computer just yet, it’s not an attack of your teaching habits. We’ve all been there. The thing is, we teachers, sorry - we humans, often think that the way we do something is the way it is always done, and if not, it should be!
So be honest:

Are you teaching in a way that is
like how they learn,
or like how you learn?
Read through this list of learner styles and have a think, not only about your learners and where they fall into this list, but also yourself and the way that you teach. There is a doorway into getting your students actively conversing, this is one of the approaches that just might work for you:

Visual learners

learn most from things they see.
They love making pictures of new words & phrases and are happy organizing their new vocabulary into little card boxes (color-coded, of course) with little drawings or diagrams to help remember what the words mean.

They enjoy photography and art. Usually they have a good sense of direction and can read maps. When they explain something to someone else, they use a piece of paper so that they can show you what they are trying to say.

Auditory/Aural learners

ear by carbonnyc learn best from the things they hear.
They love music and often can sing well.
They listen to what other people have to say, enjoy audio books and when they are learning a language, they often hear the subtle differences in accents and pronunciation.
They use i-tunes to help them study, especially all the great podcasts.

Kinesthetic/ physical learners

joe navarro by pop!techlearn most effectively when they use their hands and body, when they touch something.

Usually this type of learner also really enjoys sports and exercise and is very active.
They often talk with their hands - are physically very expressive people and learn from doing.
Activity and movement are what gets these students fired up and interested.

Verbal people

saturatedwriting by tnarik
enjoy words.

They like writing things down, increasing and using their vocabulary. They like stories and storytelling.

And boy, do they ever love talking!

talking by sashafatcat They enjoy making speeches and listening to other people's ideas, expressing opinions.

They like words that rhyme, idioms and puns and usually they make an effort to really know the meaning of words they’re using.

mathhomework by doviende Logical people

really need life to make sense. They feel comfortable with security, with rules and systems and actually enjoy learning grammar – it helps them to understand the language and put it into a format.
They think about the placement of words.

They like knowing what’s coming next and being able to prepare –they need to know that what they’re learning is something they can use again in the future.

It goes without saying, right, that you can have visual learners who are verbal and visual learners who are logical.
The logical audio guys love Beethoven, the verbal audio guys like rap.

The next thing we'll have a look at is interpersonal and intrapersonal skills or attitudes. Here we’ll call them social learners and solitary learners:

Solitary learners prefer to study at home and feel good when they achieve something by themselves. They don't mind doing homework, actually like self-study books, think independently, enjoy quiet.
jakob by zach klein
They are pretty good at self-analysis (if they used this blog posting as an activity it would be pretty easy for them, they know their learning styles already).
It’s always a good idea to let them know in advance what you want from them and allow them time to prepare an answer.
Usually, if you hang on for a bit after asking a question, they will surprise you with very well-thought out answers.

Social learners love hanging out in groups and learning together, being a part of a class or community where they can share what they know.
boyintheclassroom by hoyasmeg
They pay attention to other people's feelings, enjoy making others laugh and learn. They love playing games and activities, doing projects where several people have to create something new, together.

More in the next postings:
Knowing about your students' styles can help you prepare dynamic and interesting lessons. You can get them chatting about the things they care about simply by paying attention to where the key fits and how to turn it.
I’ll be writing about activities to do with each style, discussing motivation in speaking, giving you a list of phrases inherent, making questions and having in-depth conversations, talking a little about cultural norms and how to provide good, measurable feedback to your language learners.

In the meantime don’t hesitate to give me your own feedback and help steer the direction of these postings by asking questions.

p.s Would you like your students to have a look at this and think about some of the issues presented?

Student version:

Part 2 on the art of teaching conversation to language learners,

More information:
See article that prompted this posting (by Jason West of Languages out there), here

Websites on learning styles:
Vark, a guide to learning styles
Learning styles online
Kolb’s learning styles on business

Books on learning styles:
Knowing Me, Knowing You: An Integrated Sociopsychology Guide to Personal Fulfilment & Better Relationships: An Integrated Socio-psychology Guide to Personal Fulfilment and Better Relationships

Knowing Me, Knowing You: Exploring Personality Type and Temperament

Helping Learners Learn: Exploring Strategy Instruction in Language Classrooms Across Europe (Language Learning (Ecml, Graz))

The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners (Merrill Education/ASCD College Textbooks)

Learner-Centered Classroom Practices and Assessments: Maximizing Student Motivation, Learning, and Achievement

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