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13. “Choices” fuel learner motivation.

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1 13. “Choices” fuel learner motivation. on Sat Mar 29, 2014 1:52 pm

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13. “Choices” fuel learner motivation.

The provision of choices to unwieldy children is a time-honored gimmick that works for a significant proportion of the time. As anyone who has tried it knows, simply handing out candies to children is not equal to allowing children to choose their own candies. Children seem to have bigger smiles when given a choice of candies instead of being abruptly handed a candy without choice. In much the same way, learners are much happier when then are allowed to follow their passions in the classroom; if they are given a choice between a range of topics, or a range of levels, the learners are naturally happier and more motivated to do the work. This seems to be true even if there is only one obvious choice and the others choice are false (unreasonable) choices; providing the opportunity to make a choice activates networks in the brain that provide physical satisfaction, rendering this an empowerment activity. Pleasurable neurotransmitters are transmitted when the brain makes a prediction and the outcome matches the prediction.

Q. Consider one of your teaching modules. Can you redesign it so that it includes at least 2-3 ares where students are allowed to make choices regarding their study path within the module? What are your thoughts?

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Hi,
A very basic choice that I give students in my 1st year essay writing class, is the topic of their essay. The genre has been chosen by the director of the course, but the students do get to choose the topic, for example, for a cause or effect essay, students have written about "the effects of mold", "the effects of buying British designed leather shoes", " the effects of going on a homestay programme", "the causes of why the student attends their university of choice", "the effects of drinking too much alcohol", "the effects of not getting enough exercise"......and all from the one class!!  Needless to say, I learned ALOT about and from those students!!!

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Hi Sharon! Very Happy 

In the past (perhaps another forum) I think we talked about your success with choices in the classroom. Can you further elaborate on this? I'd like to hear the details!  Cool 

Robert

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Hi Robert  Smile 

A little background information about my classes:
I teach AEP at a university near Yokohama, and this year I am teaching writing, listening, and speaking classes. The students are split into 'A', 'B', and 'C' levels, with 'A' being the highest level of English ability. I teach A-level speaking, B-level writing, C-level listening.

Choices....hmmm....reflecting in this it has come to my attention that I give the speaking and writing classes more choices than the listening class. I wonder if that is due to the students having a lower level of English skills or would it be the nature of teaching a listening class. I classify writing and speaking classes as 'output' skills and listening and reading as 'input' skills. Perhaps "input" classes require more teacher control?

Anyway, I will give an example of how I give the speaking class students choices in the class. 
The students are required to do three presentations per semester. I give them the overall topic, for example, a presentation about another country. I and the students brainstormed possible sub-topics and the sub-topics that I accepted were written on the board. Approximately twenty sub-topics that could be included in the presentation were on the board. I told them to choose at least three, and that was it!! They were given complete control of what would be included in the presentation. Of course, I initially chose the sub-topics, so I did have initial input in their selection, however the students enjoyed being given a choice with the final selection. During the weeks of preparation, I checked the presentations and advised on possible further choices of images and information. I prefer to tell the students what I think would work best, but it is always up to them if they take that advice or not!
As the semester moves forward, I give the students more freedom per presentation. The final presentation last semester had to include at least two graphs; that was the only thing I stipulated. Of course, as the students thought about topics, they checked with me if it was acceptable. Out of the ten students in my class, three used the same topic as their previous presentation, however the final presentation focused on one sub-topic. I graded presentations about Harry Potter, The 2014 World Cup, Chocolate, Japanese Whaling Ships, Professional Skateboarders, and Three Top Basketball Players in the USA. I learned a lot from this class, too!!

For my writing classes, when I was introducing the cause and effect essay, I explained the meaning of the two words, went through a plan for each type of essay, and showed them examples of essays written by English learners. Prior to the students choosing their topics, we brainstormed some topics together and I wrote them on the board. This gave them something visual to refer to, plus it gave them a choice of topics if they could not decide on their own topic. It is usually the case that during each essay-writing period, there are a few students who decide to change the topic of their essay after 7-10 days of preparation. I never refuse a student that request as they need to be able to write their essay with a certain degree of passion. If they are not passionate about their topic, then this will be reflected in the quality of their essay.

Apologies for the length of my elaboration!!

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