The first students I ever taught were accustomed to being asked to participate in the lesson in an entirely predictable order, depending on where in the classroom they were sitting, something which, itself, never varied. The ones at the front on the left expected to be called on first, and – since there were over 50 students in the class – the ones at the back on the right knew that it was a reasonable bet that they wouldn’t have much to do and could catch up on their sleep with impunity.
I soon discovered that within a nanosecond of the lesson beginning, they had all calculated precisely which question in the coursebook they would be required to answer or which sentence of a text they would be asked to read aloud – and, therefore, which parts of the book they could safely ignore. Asking them questions at random produced shocked expressions and aggrieved mutterings, and my classroom procedures were widely denounced as unfair.
So, if you thought that the articles in this issue of ETp had been chosen with a degree of randomness, you would be right – as I firmly believe that randomness is something to be celebrated! And it would seem that I am not alone ...
Alex Case finds that getting his students to toss a coin to determine how to answer a question, what role to take in a roleplay or whether to make a true or a false statement in an activity, not only introduces a fun element of chance, but takes away the anxieties involved in having to make a choice.
Our Scrapbook examines the nature of randomness in various aspects of life, and there is a photocopiable worksheet for you to use with your students, which has a text on randomness and a crossword.
Chris Payne discusses whether English collocations consist of entirely random combinations of words or whether we can show our students ways to predict which combinations will work and which will not.
Alison Carse maintains that language mistakes are not random failures, but vital steps in the learning process, and that close examination of these in a supportive and caring environment can point the way to better achievement.
Our main feature in this issue is about differentiation. Adrian Tennant is keen to emphasise that, although we should structure our lessons to accommodate differences in the students’ level and ability, we should accommodate in better ways, so that our classrooms are fully inclusive and differentiation doesn’t become exclusion.
The sleeping students at the back right of my first classroom may not have been happy to be chosen at random to answer questions, but at least they were included rather than excluded from the lesson!
Don’t forget that the deadline for our filmmaking competition is approaching. Last year’s entries were of a very high standard and the students clearly had a lot of fun making them. Perhaps this is something that your students would really enjoy, too. Full details of the competition are on page 55.