Why get students out of the classroom?
As mentioned in my last post, there is real cultural, linguistic and sociolinguistic value in getting international students out into their local communities researching a topic of interest to them.
In my experience, the best time to do this is as soon as they arrive. This is when they are first noticing various aspects of the local culture, hearing varieties of English and making comparisons with their own cultures. This is fertile development time for them and should be capitalised upon by teachers in the classroom.
So, how do we do this? Well, there is one resource that I’ve used for almost twenty years: the Noticing Chart.
We know from Schmidt that conscious noticing is an important concept in language learning. Noticing Charts - as seen below on the left (Pdf available here) - give students the opportunity to record their real-world observations of culture and language and share their most interesting observations in the classroom. It’s not the teacher choosing what aspects of culture and language students should attend to; it’s the students. And this is what makes the experience so rich and so enjoyable for them.
Whole language or culture lessons can spring forth from their offerings and/or if you adapt it slightly - as seen below on the right (Pdf available here) - then you can help students turn their noticing into research questions, which, with some development, can be the starting point for their ethnographic research projects.
So, if you’ve got a new group of students starting and you’re looking for a resource that is totally student-centred and has the potential to be exploited further into explicit language focus or project-work, then look no further. I’m grateful to the colleague who introduced me to Noticing Charts all those years ago, and I hope readers here and your students will also benefit from this resource. Do let me know.