The English Classroom

A HELPFUL GUIDE FOR PRESERVICE TEACHERS

Students need to understand why they are studying a subject. Sometimes, as the teacher, it is completely obvious. However, how often do we really communicate the why of our subject – aside from the haphazard “it’s to help with your test”.

To truly communicate the importance of teaching English, you need to unpack some serious examples.

Below, I have outlined two scenarios which emphasis the importance of studying reading, writing and speaking.


Reading and Writing at a High Level

One of my favourites responses from my students about studying English is, “I can already read and write”.

Of course, I say. You learnt that in primary school. However, reading and writing can be achieved at vastly different levels. There is a difference between a 6 year old writing a sentence for the first time and an 18 year old writing a film analysis.

Consider a runner. Usain Bolt was able to run 100 metres in merely 9.58 seconds. This is vastly different to your casual weekend runner, or someone who hasn’t run since high school, 30 years ago.

The difference here is that people are not running all the time. However, we communicate almost all day, every day. We communicate through body language and the words we choose. We communicate with our choice of words. We communicate through handwriting and the structure of our sentences. Communication is incredibly vast and showing aptitude in one area is not synonymous with all areas.

We can all communicate on some level. However, the impact of poor communication is far more evident. I might be able to get through life without needing to run everyday, but I will absolutely need to communicate everyday. Not all of us will be Olympian athletes at communication; however, we can always strive to improve.

Understanding the impact of communication emphasises the importance studying English in the classroom. Poor communication affects our relationships and our job prospects. Poor use of language impacts the way we tell the world who we are. Language helps us construct an identify and, ultimately, a legacy.


The Importance of Storytelling

Consider the following scenario.

You are at a job interview and the the employer asks for an example of your leadership. Where do you start?

“I was the captain of my football team for two years in a row.”

True, but much is lacking in this response. You haven’t said anything about the types of leadership that you engaged with.

Verbal communication is not just the process of talking. It is also, largely, about connecting with others. Storytelling allows you to bring to life a moment from your past. Stories allow us to make connections and identify that all human experience variations of the same experience.

Now consider an alternate response.

“”I was the captain of my football team for two years in a row. I discussed with coach about who should be the starting players based on their strengths. In one instance, our team was losing during halftime. In that moment, I knew that I had rally the team and motivate them to lift their game. Firstly, I highlighted all their strengths – where we were going right with the game. Then, I spoke about where we need to improve – areas where the other team ran circles around us. By providing this feedback. Somehow, we managed to scrap through for a win in the final moments of the game. It was unbelievable.”

Now this final example, although not perfect, brings to life what leadership means to the applicant.

Elsewhere, stories allow us to connect with people in out life. Consider the following questions on a date:

  • Tell me something about yourself?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What is your biggest regret?
  • What is your favourite moment from the last week?

Imagine not being able to provide even anecdote, or not being able to conjure the appropriate structure for your story. Imagine sitting there and not knowing what to say.

Relationships are founded on clear and effective communication. Studying language allows us to understand how to better communicate and connect with the people in our lives.

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