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Book Review
Personalising Language Learning cover

Personalising Language Learning

by G.Griffiths & K.Keohane

Review written by Thomas Simon

Personalising Language Learning is another in the excellent Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series. We have already reviewed a few from the series & this book fits in nicely as it is at the heart of a learner-based approach to language learning. As the authors say in the introduction:

This book provides a collection of creative classroom activities designed for busy teachers who wish to enhance language learning by integrating the personal experiences, feelings, values and opinions of individual learners in their classrooms.

And go on to say:

Personal involvement is one very effective way of enhancing motivation. By this, we mean making language learning content personally meaningful. If learners feel that what they are asked to do is relevant to their own lives, and that their feelings, thoughts, opinions and knowledge are valued, and crucial to the success of the activities, they they will be fully engaged in the tasks and more likely to be motivated to learn the target language.

The book is divided into eight sections;

Starting the course
Warming up
Acting, reacting & interacting
Self-awareness & self-assertion
Values & values awareness
Self-knowledge & knowledge about others
Images & scenes - real & ideal
Closing the course

Each of the activities begins with a description of the language focus, the level it is designed for & the preparation needed. The procedure is clearly numbered & there are also follow-on activities.

Clines are used in a few of the activities & in 'Careful Listening' the students are asked to close their eyes & listen to the sounds around them. They then fill in different clines - happy to sad, annoying to pleasing etc with the sounds - bus, lorry, bell etc. A comparison then follows. In 'I'm This Type of Person' students are asked to put adjectives to describe their personality on a cline of Very to Not At All.

The 'Function Review' activity draws on the students first language as they need to recall when the used a function or two over the past couple of days & then translate it into English & pass the paper on for students to add lines to the dialogue. 'Role & Language' looks at stereotypical language & gives lots of speaking practice.

The activities are generally inherently interesting & humour is also injected throughout as in the 'Making People Laugh' activity where students have to face each other & through verbal means, make each other laugh. 'Deflecting questions' very usefully looks at avoiding answering personal or tricky questions & will be lots of fun.

There are quite a few activities where the students describe their lives so far & their wishes for the future. In 'Life Maps' they are given road signs - Stop, Straight Ahead, Turn right, Roundabout etc - with which to exemplify their lives so far - nice idea.

The authors say that the activities are meant 'to be used as occasional enrichments to supplement' & I'm sure they would be for the busy teacher. This book reminds me of the excellent 'Classroom Dynamics' (OUP) as a book that enriches all aspects of the lesson & the group. Another essential buy for the staffroom.

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