The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures

reactive teaching

The May issue of English Teaching Professional is now out and I’m drinking my first cup of tea for the day, watching the rain fall outside and generally having a great time while reading through the magazine. Then I happen to stumble on an article by Roger Hunt: Reactive Teaching. Isn’t amazing when people take words out of your brain and put them onto paper? Love it when someone else speaks my language.

Basically, the idea behind reactive teaching is that we shouldn’t be teaching our learners pre-determined discrete items as dictated by the coursebook (no offence to coursebooks ), but instead we should look at what the learners really need to learn. Of course, we don’t really know what that is until we can see (or hear, rather) the holes in what they are trying to say. It’s almost like the idea of negative space:

credit: wikipedia

credit: Wikipedia


do you see the faces or the vase/whatever it is?

Do you hear the language your learner can produce, or what they are not producing?

Now, in order to do this, you need to be comfortable with off-the-cuff teaching. From training teachers for a few years I understand that this is not easy and it probably becomes more natural with experience, but it’s definitely worth a try. Disregarding the textbook and the lesson plan you have so carefully prepared can be frightening, but it doesn’t need to be.

First of all, it doesn’t need to be an entire dogme-style lesson, off-the-cuff from the get-go. If you notice “missing” language during the lesson, take a minute to draw attention to it and look at the different options available. Hunt gives a few examples of classroom situations that show how to do this.

Secondly, as Hunt also points out, a lot of this can be anticipated. This goes back to my idea of situational learning. If you are talking about comparisons, there is a range of language you can expect your learners to use and then there are those phrases which you would like them to use but you can imagine they won’t. So you can anticipate introducing these new structures to bump up the language in the conversation.

So there: a nice little bit of inspiration for a Thursday morning. Now for another cuppa tea.





4 comments on “reactive teaching

  1. liamjameshaddock
    May 28, 2015

    ‘Isn’t amazing when people take words out of your brain and put them onto paper?’ – YES.

    Interesting post too! 🙂

  2. Kirsten C
    May 28, 2015

    Thanks Liam. I’ve been having a week or so of dead-brain syndrome so I needed something to wake me up 🙂

  3. seventhchronicle
    May 29, 2015

    Ran my first ever lesson today, already found that you have to stray from your plan to work on areas your students struggle with!

    • Kirsten C
      May 31, 2015

      Definitely. Sometimes you need to be quite brave and let go of your plan because it’s clearly necessary to focus on one thing before moving onto another. Good luck with your classes!

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This entry was posted on May 28, 2015 by in General TEFL, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .
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