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December 09, 2006



My background is in ESL, and I remember doing a paper on the "affective environment" on language learning. It is really difficult to learn a second language if one is afraid of making mistakes! Kids don't worry about it...


Nice view you've given us into a potentially difficult pro situation. I, too, work in ESL, and can very well relate. Cheers


Language and culture are so intertwined, what a challenge that must present for ESL teachers.
This also points out what true freedom of speech we still have here in the U.S. - you can voice your opinion, no matter how wrongheaded you might be!
Thanks for another great post.


I taught for nine years and it was always a discussion among my colleagues- how much positive praise for each negative? We taught drama and the kids were baring their souls in ways perhaps only speaking a foreign language does! We figured a 3 to 1 ratio on feedback for weakness/strengths. It's not always easy to come up with 3 to 1. I can't do it for myself, at least. Thanks for sharing your day- it's interesting.


I can so relate to this post! I am trying to teach in what is basically a really negative environment and the kids seems to have this same fear of losing face and making mistakes. I am wracking my brains trying to figure out what to do, I have to give quizess which about 80% can't do well on, so they don't get enough positive re-enforcement of their ability, so their affective filters go up and they don't learn. Here's hoping I can create more positive opportunities where we can share each other's culture and they can feel good about their learning. Glad your English Corner turned out well!


One of the games we played was "Do you like your neighbor?" So the students had to learn 'neighbor', then they learned the practical applications of different colors, and words like 'hair', 'long', 'short', 'cell phone', 'slippers', 'socks', 'jeans', 'sweaters', etc. It was a really fun game - a big violent at times, but the students were able to learn in a fun environment. It also brought down lots of barriers and was very rewarding. If I was teaching full time, I think I would play games a lot for the sake of learning! Thanks for your notes.

ally bean

What an interesting take on the prompt. Making mistakes is such a natural thing to me that I'd never not say something for fear of goofing up. But I can see how if you were from an environment that was quick to punish, then you wouldn't try. I'm glad that you got the group talking so that they could learn in a rewarding environment.

Rose of Sharon

That is simply fascinating! I'm Chinese and I can definitely empathize with your students in that I grew up with more punishments than rewards. It was usually the fear of punishments that drove me to achieve, rather than the lure of a reward. Isn't that something? I studied hard and did well in school because I knew that if I didn't, I would be punished or be cursed with a hard life (poor education=bad job).

Come to think of it, I would be afraid to speak up in class, especially in discussions because I didn't want to sound stupid or ignorant. I guess I'm more like your students than I thought!

Thanks for sharing this with us. I love your take on this week's prompt. It really made me take a good look at myself and what drives me.


Sharon, isn't that funny! At school, I was rewarded and complemented all the time, and achieved a lot because of it. At home, I was always punished, even for things that weren't my fault. Consequently, I was driven from home and spent all my time in school. I never thought of it before, but I love to study and will always be a student, because of all the rewards I got as a child in school. You know that the Chinese have a saying, 'to live to an old age is to study to an old age'. Thanks for sharing. And, thank you, everyone who has read my blog and given me feedback. I feel rewarded for all the nice complements! Thanks!

Rose of Sharon

Hi Bonnie! The sad thing is, you probably know that Chinese saying in Chinese!!!!! I wish I never let go of my Mandarin. My parents really should have sent me to chinese school when we immigrated to the U.S. but perhaps they wanted me to be more American and thus I never did get "punished" to chinese school on Saturdays.

I think it's interesting how the rewards you got at school drove you to excel and learn more. If we rewarded students more instead of making students fear grades etc, do you think we would have better lifelong learners/students and thus better teachers like you? Interesting thought to chew on.

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