Who hasn’t had a lesson where they’ve followed the lesson plan to get to a very worthy but not especially engaging activity? Students not being interested in different tasks might be related to something unrelated to the classroom, or it could be that in our plans we get a bit over-zealous.
Some experiences I’ve had lately with corporate classes:

Everybody needs to describe their company’s products; nobody likes to do it.

At a company where I teach sales and sales support staff we had a lesson about describing products. The company’s products are highly technical. Everyone did the pretask and exit task well but it seemed to be done with gritted teeth.
What could I have done? Any number of things. The lesson wasn’t bad, but I think it left my students wondering about how bloody difficult the next lesson would be. I could have cut the description into stages: basic spec, example uses, benefits. I could then have united these in the exit task. Or I could have used mass-market products first and then used the client company’s products.

Sometimes what will motivate your students is a discussion about television.

At a software company I was trying to draw blood from a stone by asking about alternative marketing and publicity stunts that could be employed to market their software. This turned into an exercise in going through the motions and then gold in the feedback – just talking about what some interesting TV shows one might watch on a popular internet video platform. This caused my student to switch on, really expand more and give me a gateway to get her to be brilliant next lesson.
So, next time, perhaps I should wing it more, don’t you think?

7 Replies to “Diversions”

  1. Hi Marc,
    Of course you should wing it more next time 🙂 Spontaneous interaction (or improvisation) is what makes the lesson interesting & motivating for students. When planning a lesson, you cannot predict what will happen in the classroom… Good improvisation means living in the moment, feeling it, exploring it and acting accordingly. Like in jazz, I think.
    thanks for your very interesting thought-provoking post

    1. Thanks so much, Ljiljana. I know I should be spontaneous but with business classes my students are frequently poker-faced. It’s difficult to tell what they want.

  2. I agree with you both – being spontaneous is really important, but with business classes it can be hard. Living more in the moment and enjoying the direction the lesson is taking you to is something we should all try to do more! 🙂

    1. Thanks Maria. Sometimes it’s not so hard to be spontaneous but when I have a ‘worthy’ task I want it to be done to enable my students to progress and increase their skills base. There is a balance to be struck.

  3. I know the feeling. Some business students want to do anything but stuff related to their jobs. There’s also greater pressure to speak well when it’s connected to your job.

    1. David, thanks a lot. Hit the nail on the head. I try to balance English for one’s own purposes (which would be useful enough for work or with significant explicit crossover) with work-based tasks. Sometimes in the task cycle there’s a big work-based one and it’s raining and the train was late… I think that’s the time to play jazz!

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