1,2,3… be a Learning Coach! Starter Kit

Your step-by-step guide to learner coaching

If you want to foster a more learning-centred approach in your classes then this procedure may be for you. By devoting a little time in your lessons to the activities and ideas promoted in our blog, we hope your learners will feel encouraged to spend more time with English when they’re not in class.

Not quite sure that this is for you or your students? We recommend reading one or two key posts on this blog. But if you’re ready to get started, read on. First of all, a few considerations…

  • We recommend you start off with one group of students that you feel would be most receptive to a more independent approach to learning. There’s no reason that coaching ideas can’t be applied to younger learners’ classes with a little adaptation, but an adult class or one-to-one student may be easier while you experiment.
  • This is a suggested procedure. There is no need to follow the guide to the letter. In fact, we expect you’ll want to make changes for your learning/teaching environment and we’d like to hear how you adapt it.

The outline

The thinking behind the programme is straightforward. First of all , it made sense to start talking about some of the big issues with the whole class: motivation, organisation and long term goals (see Stage 1 below). This allows the learners time to reflect before Stage 2, a one-to-one moment with the coach (that’s you!). We feel that it’s important if at all possible to give the learners a personal interview so that they can articulate and structure their specific learning needs and directions. Then the learners outline a language life plan (Stage 3) to give them structure and focus.

This initial setting-up period may take a few weeks, depending on the intensity with which you want to introduce it. Once it is complete, the trick is little and often; you need to establish good independent learning practices as part of the students’ routines. This will probably involve a regular class time slot to suggest independent learning activities, discuss progress and share experiences in their outside class ‘language lives’.

The procedure

Stage 1  Awareness-raising classroom activities

Plan lessons that include time for the following activities:

Why I’m learning English

Drives – a motivation activity

Job Description: English Learner

If you see your learners twice a week for an hour and a half, for example, you might plan to do one a week over a month. Some take just 30 minutes, others take a little longer. Make sure that the learners keep a good record of what they produce in these activities, as these will form the basis of the interviews in Stage 2.

 Stage 2  One-to-one interviews

These interviews are about:

  • summarising the realisations that came out in the Stage 1 activities.
  • identifying goals, obstacles and options for the learner in their English-learning path.
  • helping them organise their learning plan.

It might be more constructive to ask pertinent questions rather than try to provide answers. Ask to see the things that they wrote in Stage 1 and ask questions about the details. Then use the ‘GROW’ model (scroll down on this page for more information) to frame a discussion about their objectives and how to best achieve them. Finally, you may want to give them a copy of the learner’s language life plan of study, ‘Operación Triunfo’, to take away and fill in for themselves.

Stage 3 Planning and Organising your ‘Language Life’

In this workshop, encourage the learners to think realistically and practically about their language life plan. We suggest you do this in class to allow learners to share ideas and compare plans. If you’ve already given the ‘Operación Triunfo’ form out at the end of the interviews, they should bring their plans to class; if they haven’t yet done this, hand it out at the start of the lesson:

Operación triunfo – an organising activity

Make sure that:

  • learners are realistic about the amount of time they can spend on English
  • they are made aware that ‘non-study’ activities like listening to songs in English count!
  • they shouldn’t be made to feel bad that they cannot devote as much time as others to English – it’s all good!
  • activities match their goals – if writing isn’t important, for example, suggest they don’t spend too long on writing!
  • learners are aware that what they decide today can be adjusted once they have started to fit with reality

Stage 4 Ongoing updates and regular class time slots

The aims in class now include addressing the language lives outside of class. This should quickly be established as part of the routine of the classroom. You can decide when and how often you wish to bring this part of their English lives into the classroom, but we suggest a minimum of 10% of class time devoted to it. That means at least 20 minutes a week if you have lessons 3 hours a week. In this time, you can be…

  • letting your learners share how they are feeling about English. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for ideas about maintaining and boosting motivation.
  • letting learners share their favourite activities and techniques for learning English. One way to do this is to invite different students each week to present something they like to do to practise English.
  • suggesting activities and formats for language practice yourself. There are many ideas on the blog of things learners can get on with alone. You’ll find them either in the top menu bar under “Activities – practising outside class”, or within the “Articles” from ETp.
  • answering any questions that the learners ask you about the English language that have come up in their independent study. One simple tool to encourage this is a “Questions for my teacher” section in their notebooks, which they fill in as they need it and bring to class.
  • showcasing particular activities, websites and techniques. If learners see, rather than just hear about, how good something is, they will be more likely to do it.

We will be really interested to hear how you get on with this approach to coaching; which bits work, which bits don’t, and so on, so please, keep in touch!

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