Is finding your own language learning material the best way?

I’d already written a post about finding or making your own learning materials on the Language Trainers UK blog, but then I read a blog post by Steve from Lingq, recommending that teachers always let their students find their own content.

I think that this can work in some contexts, such as a one-on-one or small group class, where students can study independently and then receive native-speaker or expert help during their class time. However, I think for young learners and big groups, this may become problematic.

Steve says: If I had a class with 25 or 30 learners, and if I were allowed to do so, I would have them come in once a week, 5 or 6 people at a time. Those that did not come to class would be asked to go to a study room and listen, read or write. I would use LingQ or some other system to monitor what they are doing.

I can get on board with this to a certain extent, but do find it a bit idealistic. Students often need more motivation, and it’s likely that people will feel a bit shortchanged if they are paying for a teacher but only seeing them some of the time. Also, if everyone is studying something different, the teacher may not be able to advise on specialist subjects without some time for research.

For younger students, too, it is often more fun to learn songs and chants together, and it is a bit unrealistic to expect that young learners be able to fully direct their own study.

I do agree that it’s often not that useful to speak a new language with other learners (especially if the teacher isn’t there to listen and give feedback), but I do think that there are advantages to studying in groups. I have benefited from having time to prepare my own answers, and a chance to watch and critique (and learn from, of course) other students’ input. I propose a teaching method in between teacher and student-guided study. Perhaps the teacher could suggest a broad theme for a class or ask students to propose the class topics, while homework topics are self-guided for the teacher to look at at their own leisure.

Does this topic speak to you? What’s your opinion?

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