Instant Results in Learning
See your students’ instant results in learning
As teachers, we all have our own professional goals and dreams. Perhaps the more of these we have, the more motivated we are to develop ourselves and the more benefits there will be for our students.
Whatever our individual dreams are, one which we might share is the desire to see our students make quick progress and achieve instant results. But are instant results really achievable?
Instant results vs long-term learning goals
It is true that learning a language takes a long time – for many people, it takes years to go through the levels right up to being proficient. A lot of others don’t make it even close to that level. With language learning taking so long, is there such a thing as instant results?
Yes there is, but it depends on a number of factors. As long as our lesson has a clear aim, then some results will be achieved in it. How do we achieve our lesson aims? Each stage and task of the lesson contributes to the overall achievement of our aims. Therefore, each lesson stage provides some instant results.
If we are presenting grammar, the instant result is that the students will understand it a bit better. If we are doing some controlled practice with our students, for example a gap-fill, the instant result is that students will be more familiar with the form as well as the meaning, and depending on the task, they may well be better able to contrast the grammar tense with a similar tense – past simple with present perfect, for example. Speaking tasks also produce their instant results – students will have had more fluency practice, and they will have tried to include the target vocabulary and grammar from the lesson. This develops their speaking as well as consolidating the new material in their minds.
Measuring results – the production / consolidation stage
When we teach the same group of students every day for a number of years, it can be hard to see clear and obvious results and progress. If we break this down on a lesson-by-lesson basis, there is a way that we can check progress, and that is in the final production or consolidation stage of each lesson. This is when we want our students to use their productive skills and produce the new language in speaking.
If the students can do this – or at least make a serious effort to do so – then we can say that we have achieved our lesson aims, and therefore instant results have been achieved in that lesson.
This means that when we are planning lessons, we must allow for about 10 minutes at the end for production and consolidation of the language that we have focused on in the lesson. Simply by doing lots and lots of exercises in quick succession doesn’t always mean that we make progress. Students also need time to reflect, think, plan and try to produce the language that they are studying. As said earlier, this production helps consolidation.
Adapting the task for the students
There are ways that we can help students to reflect, think and plan more. Rather than just making them do the next exercise in the book, as teachers we can lead in to tasks – prepare them for the reading, prepare them for the grammar exercise and so on. The way that we lead in to tasks, and the amount of time that we spend on this once again depends on the students and their level.
With weaker students, we may need to spend more time preparing them for a task either by pre-teaching extra vocabulary, spending longer on predicting tasks or checking that they understand the instructions. Stronger students need to be challenged more. We can do this by setting time limits or shortening the amount of time they have to make predictions.
When the task is done, we also need to spend time in a post-task stage. This may be remembering certain facts from the task, counting the number of times a certain tense was used, trying to remember as many sentences as possible from the gap-fill as well as a number of post-reading tasks that we usually offer.
A few final words
- One lesson isn’t an isolated event. It follows on from what happened before, and it leads in to what comes next. Regularly making links between our lessons gives students confidence in our approach.
- It is a good idea to have a ‘vocabulary column’ on the board, so that any new word / phrase that appears in any part of the lesson will be written there.
With certain tasks, we need to offer strategies to our students. Reading strategies, for example, are important for exams. With grammar tasks, we can also offer strategies by asking students to watch out for key words, for example words that are used with the present perfect and so on.
Senior ELT methodologist