Resources for English language teachers

Roger Hunt

An account of the role of a vital aid in language teaching and learning

A response to 'Crystals in language learning', an article by Paul Powell in IATEFL Issues Aug/Sept 2000

The role of ancillary aids in language teaching such as realia, pictures, images and so on has long been recognised. More recently the effective, affective contribution of aromatherapy, the use of crystals, shamanism and loose, flowing garments have shown a direct correlation in the efficiency of acquisition of L2 amongst a large proportion of students.

I would like to share my own facilitative ancillary aid - a head. This head came into my possession many years ago and, at first, I did not realise the potential it had to contribute to my learners' acquisition. It remained, unused, on a metaphorical 'dusty shelf'. Two or three years ago it occurred to me that the head may be of some relevance to my students of English language, so I took it to the school at which I worked and placed it in my classroom.

Before I describe the pedagogic value of the head, which I am now convinced is the single most significant feature of my students' learning, I would like to narrate the history of this head that has had such an effect on my teaching and my students' learning because, I believe that it is the historical background to this head which holds the secret of my students' success.

I first came across the head in Egypt, which is, coincidentally, where I first started teaching. I was enthralled by this head - it looked so human, yet so remote. It had, and still has, an aura of calm, intelligence, sympathy, love and knowingness. An ancient thing - yet something so present at the same time that it lives in both the past and the present. As I have said already, it sat for many years on its metaphorical 'dusty shelf' because I was unaware that it could be used. One day when discussing the various uses of the present perfect with a group of students I realised that what the head had given me in terms of serenity and understanding it could give to them. I brought it to the class and invited the group to ask it questions.

Almost instantly the group questioned the head and virtually all of their questions used the present perfect. Unfortunately many of their questions using the present perfect showed an imperfect understanding of this 'tense'. For example: What has your name been?' 'What time have you risen from bed this morning?' However, the head answered in exemplary fashion: 'My name has been many things, like beauty it is in the beholder's eye what something or someone is called.' and 'Why do you asssume I arose from my bed at any particular time? I arose when I arose - do you want to know at what time I brushed my teeth as well?'

My head spoke and my students acquired. Since then my head has accompanied me on all my teaching assignments - it has been to Australia, South America, Hungary, Poland and many other places. Currently it is with me here in London.

I have ceased using aromatherpy (I am allergic to certain oils), I have ceased using crystals (they were stolen), I have ceased as a shaman (I was a charlatan), I no longer shop around for the least restrictive garments I can find. These days I use my head.


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