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19 February 2019

Commanding Language Learners’ Attention in a Fast-Paced World of Distractions

For how many of you, does my morning feel familiar? I listened to voicemails while I ran for the train. Once crammed into a carriage, I scrolled my social media feeds while listening to a business-news podcast. I checked emails over breakfast, half-listening and half-participating in colleagues’ conversations around me. I then reviewed my calendar and prioritised a lengthy list of tasks and attended to some double-bookings.

As trainers to business people, we recognise that this busy, multi-tasking lifestyle full of distractions and competing priorities is the reality for most of our learners. And so how can we command our students’ attention for learning and make sure their training goals are achieved? How can we compete with the mass of information flooding their eyes and ears throughout the day, particularly when it is presented in attention-grabbing sound-bites with all the colour and pizzazz that multi-media has to offer?

1) Embrace the distracting technology!

Our learners rely on apps and websites to manage so many elements of their lives – and expect this technology to be available for language-learning too. In fact, there is a wealth of e-learning resources on the market but quality varies. We, as teachers, should guide our learners to the most effective resources. This might include vocabulary memorisation apps, grammar practice exercises online, real-life listening and reading texts adapted for different ability levels, and so much more. We strongly believe that digital learning can accelerate progress by supporting learners to amass vocabulary and practise language covered in class.

2) But remember the importance of disconnection from technology – at least for parts of the lesson!

When working with adults and, business people in particular, complete disconnection from devices in class may not be possible. But you may want to agree some ground rules for when phones will be used so that they don’t become a distraction from learning.

3) Remember: variety is king!

Modern learners are accustomed to being entertained with access to a vast array of digital media on the fly, from news feeds to podcasts to episodes of their favourite shows. Access is instantaneous, and flitting between media is common.

To compete with this in the classroom, variety is key. All aspects of the lesson can be varied to enhance your learners’ experience and appeal to different learning styles and interests: presentation styles, activity types, materials, student groupings, everything! Whether it’s setting a digital assignment rather than traditional homework or taking your learner on a field trip to practise language outside the classroom, changing things up can promote engagement and lead to learning breakthroughs.

4) Maximise human-to-human interaction

The antidote to constant device checking is human-to-human connection. Tempt your students away from their phones by engaging them in communicative tasks that promote connection with classmates and engross them in the task at hand. Whether this is a debate, a negotiation, a team project or competition: make sure the topic is engaging and relevant, and each learner is given a real purpose in the activity.

5) Highlight and reward your students’ successes

The language mountain can seem steep and when overwhelmed, distractions hold strong appeal. We, as teachers, need to show our students their successes, however small. This can be as simple as setting objectives at the start of the lesson and demonstrating to learners how these have been achieved. You might use an end-of-class quiz. Or you could set up a practical, work-based activity where your learners can use the language they have learnt in meaningful ways. Make sure to praise your students when they use a new piece of vocabulary or grammar structure correctly – and highlight how they can use their new skills at work. Regular progress reports are also key for documenting progress and demonstrating to your students the rewards of focused hard work.

We design bespoke language training courses with our learners’ and clients’ specific needs in mind. Contact Simon & Simon today to find out how we can help you and your organisation.

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Commanding Language Learners’ Attention in a Fast-Paced World of Distractions
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Commanding Language Learners’ Attention in a Fast-Paced World of Distractions
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As trainers to business people, we recognise that this busy, multi-tasking lifestyle full of distractions and competing priorities is the reality for most of our learners. And so how can we command our students’ attention for learning and make sure their training goals are achieved?
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SIMON & SIMON International
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