英国, 2013年, Graham Jones
ELT Kansai Expo2013における、SkypeRead予備結果の発表が終わりました。
SkypeRead brings non-native English-speakers — from all over the world — together in a Skype group call to do a read-through of a movie.
The idea came from neuroELT, a new field that combines English Language Teaching with neuroscience. NeuroELT offers many powerful ideas, including these…
♦ Emotion drives learning. Emotion is a fundamental part of cognitive processing. In essence, what excites the brain is what gets processed.
♦ We can choose a top-down or bottom-up approach. These days, learning tends to be top-down. But if we go back in time, human learning was bottom-up: nature does not provide classrooms on how to survive in the jungle.
♦ Good learners are risk-taking explorers. In particular, good learners make mistakes. If we don’t make mistakes, we can’t learn from them — and the brain is very good at learning from mistakes.
I wanted to find a way to apply these ideas, and I looked to Hollywood and one of the key stages in the movie-production process: the read-through. A read-through is where actors meet each other for the first time, and read through the script. It’s exciting and challenging. The actors begin to learn about their characters, and the way they communicate with each other. But it’s not a perfect process. The actors get some of their lines wrong — they make mistakes.
I thought: wouldn’t it be cool if we could recreate this experience online for non-native English-speakers? I asked people what they thought about the idea. Here’s an extremely perceptive comment from Robert Lane Greene, the author of “You Are What You Speak”:
“I think this is a great idea. I’m a big believer in what you might call ‘full spectrum’ language learning. Once a learner is at a certain level, it’s important to start learning different registers of the language — you don’t want to talk like a philosophy textbook at the bar, nor use inappropriate ‘gonna’ and ‘I was like’ in a job interview. So I love TV, movies, songs, rap, graphic novels and the like, all for developing an understanding of how real people talk day-to-day. Making people repeat — out loud — good quality writing that approaches natural spoken English is a great idea.”
I set up a pilot programme using “Toy Story” and “Ocean’s Eleven”. There was an incredible response: people registered from 18 countries, from Vietnam to Brazil, and from the Czech Republic to Afghanistan. I had wonderful support from within the profession, and I really do have to say a huge thank you to the ELT community worldwide.
Here’s some feedback. Participants felt they…
…had fun. 100%, no exceptions. “Fun! Fun! Fun!” said one participant.
…connected. In a deep and meaningful way. “Perhaps that is one of the nicest things about all this: the feeling that one has for others.” “It’s helped me to think about daily routines in different ways and realize that everywhere in the whole world are people.”
…improved their English.
In some cases the improvement in speaking skills was dramatic: “It is good to do it in a sequence of two or three sessions, because you can see how you improve, and the other participants, too.”
On the question of confidence, a teacher who tested SkypeRead with a whole class of students reported that: “Interestingly, the shyest girl was the most expressive and into it! She wants to do something similar again sometime!” With regard to real-life English skills, one participant said: “It’s real! I learned about 15 useful phrases. And I’m an English teacher!”
How does this all connect to our three ideas from neuroELT?
First, there’s emotion. The emotion of the social element, plus the emotion of the story and the characters.
Second, there’s the bottom-up approach. SkypeRead doesn’t involve any top-down teaching: everything is achieved by the participants, by the group. Third, there’s a friendly and collaborative atmosphere that encourages risk-taking. Participants really stretched themselves and had no fear of making mistakes.
Looking ahead, ideas for developing this project include “SkypeRead for Schools: opening young minds to the big wide world” and “SkypeRead for Business: team building for global teams!”
This presentation finished with a panel of volunteers doing a read-through of a scene from “Toy Story”. We only did five pages of the script, but the panel agreed afterwards that one of the participants, a Japanese student, improved noticeably in just those few minutes.
Is doing a read-through of a movie good for non-native English-speakers? According to our evidence: yes.