Teach English in ZhuozixianshibAtai Zhen - Wulanchabu Shi — Ulanqab

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Teaching English -or any subject for that matter- requires a number of varied techniques in order to allow students to learn in the most complete and efficient fashion. Drilling just is one of those techniques. Let’s start with defining what drilling actually is. From the Cambridge dictionary; “drill noun [C] (REGULAR ACTIVITY) an activity that practises a particular skill and often involves repeating the same thing several times, especially a military exercise intended to train soldiers drill verb (PRACTISE) [ I or T ] to practise something, especially military exercises, or to make someone do this [ T usually + adv/prep ] to tell someone something repeatedly to make them remember it” In the context of learning english, drilling is the practice and repetition of a certain point of language with the goal of engraining it into the memory of the students. It seems like this technique has been through quite some controversy in recent times, with some educators considering it as too repetitive and unoriginal, while others consider it as a fundamental part of learning a language. Historically, it was thought that repetition of ready made structures and phrases was enough for a learner to learn and master a new language. We also know that language is far more than just a basic means of communication, it is also creative and it should reflect to the personality of the speaker to a certain extent. Language can also be quite subtle, which means that just repeating learned phrases strung together cannot allow the learner to effectively convey a feeling or a specific intention. Nevertheless it is also true that in every language, few words are very often repeated and many words are seldom repeated (the words "the," "be," "to," "of," "and," "a," "in," "that," "have," and "I" make up approximately 25% of everything we say in English, and this is also true for certain language structures) Don’t we also say “practise makes perfect”? With these elements in mind, we need to consider the question of drilling with more nuance than just deciding whether it is or isn’t an effective method. I believe in first instance that simple repetition of basic structures can be quite effective for beginners of a language in order to engrain the new language and learn the pronunciation and the specific rhythm of a language. While repeating a simple phrase the student can get familiar with the pronunciation of words without having to always to wonder what the idea is behind the sentence. This practise allows them to just concentrate on certain aspects of speech. And this is probably where an important element comes into play; concentrating, and being aware of what we are practicing. It is essential to be mindful for the drill to bear fruit. With this in mind, the teacher must always be aware of how the repetitions are executed and what is the level of attention of the students. If the students get bored with a repetition, they probably won’t benefit fully from the exercise. If we consider that engagement is an important factor in learning, it becomes clear that the mission of the teacher is to keep the lesson interesting for the students. Which is why meaning matters a lot. Even though it can be useful to just concentrate on the pronunciation of a sentence, it will be very important to move on from this and make sure that the students have a good understanding of the phrases they are repeating. We can also insert small variations in the repetitions, like changing the subject or the object of the verb. This will allow the students to understand why the phrase is structured as it is. Making affirmative sentences into questions or negatives will add a challenge to the exercise and thus require more attention from the students. I also believe that grounding the sentences into real life examples, with input directly from the students gives more life and meaning to an otherwise hollow sentence. While certainly not the only tool for teaching English, drilling is certainly an essential one that can serve a number of purposes, from learning basic structure, to pronunciation. It can also serve as a revision exercise, helping the teacher identify mistakes that have been integrated over time and take time to correct. To conclude, I do believe that drilling is useful and important, on condition that it is done mindfully, and used within a well thought out course.