We've briefly touched on Community Language Learning (CLL) in other Tips so it's time for a slightly more detailed look. This approach was developed by Charles Curran (1972) in his Counseling-Learning model of education. He took his core idea from Carl Rogers, who promoted the students as a group, rather than a class, & all the dynamics that a group entails. CLL views the teacher as the counselor, who guides the students, the clients, within the supportive group.
The basic procedure is as follows:
1. The students sit in a circle, having already built up a dynamic of trust. They have a tape recorder in the middle of the circle & they decide what to talk about, the topic, something that they choose & all are interested in.
2. When an individual has something to say, they record it on the tape. If they don't know how to express themselves, or wish to do it better, they can confer with the teacher, who is outside the circle. This can be done in the mother tongue & the teacher gives the student the English version of what they need to say. This is then taped. The whole conversation is built up on the tape.
3. At the end, after about ten minutes or so, the teacher stops the activity & before the next lesson, transcribes the conversation.
4. The transcribed conversation is used for analysis; highlighting new language, memory jogs on old language, pronunciation work etc.. & hopefully, the students will be able to work out the different aspects but if not, the teacher, would explain & clarify.
On first reading this you may wonder at the stilted nature of the recording task. This can be less fluid than you might hope for at the beginning but after a few times the procedure moves along smoothly. And if you are worried that the the students don't know what to talk about, you could do some pre-work on this by supplying a series of current topics to choose from. You might also need to work out strategies for avoiding one or two students dominating the discussions. And clearly, the smaller the class, the more manageable.
There are lots of variations on the basic procedure. The students, instead of the teacher, could transcribe the conversation at the end of the activity. A lot is made of the bilingualism of the teacher, being able to understand what the student says in the mother tongue & then give an appropriate way of saying the same in English. For beginner groups, it is necessary to have a high level in the mother tongue of the students but from intermediate & up, you could do the whole activity in English. The students could give an approximation of what they would like to say in English for the teacher to give a better way of expressing it.
This technique is clearly very student-centred & can be lots of fun for all. It was designed with beginner students in mind with the idea that after several sessions, the learners begin to incorporate the language from previous sessions & begin to become autonomous, & less dependent on the teacher. Whichever level it is used at, the students really listen to each other & it is good for developing the dynamics of the group.
Read up on CLL as it is a lot more than the procedure described above, & then try it out.