Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head
Luke Skywalker or Han Solo?
Who did you want to be if you grew up watching Star Wars? Who did you fancy more?
Which of the two actors went on to be the biggest star?
Which one of them has a net worth of $210 million compared with $6 million?
All those answers must surely be Han Solo.
Which one would be the best English learner? ……………………………………….
I think the answer would be the same.
Because Han Solo never acted like a student. He just learned stuff. Luke needed a mentor and we watched his frustrations with being taught, failing and his weak moments. Even when he got his Jedi on, he ended up cutting off his own hand and screaming. Han might have got frozen in carbonite but he wasn’t diminished in our eyes by crying about it. He was always the finished product – a hero.
There’s something inherently weak about a classroom situation where the learner depends on the teacher. Here’s Luke learning – successfully. He tries, he fails, he gets guidance and he succeeds. Obi-Wan is a great teacher, Luke is a good student.
Who would you rely on in a fight at this point? (And, as an aside, who is sexier?)
Han Solo was definitely an autonomous learner. Orphaned at a young age, he dropped out of formal education at 8 and taught himself to read. Since he raced repulsorlift swoops (pod racing) well before he went to the Imperial Academy, we can assume he was mostly self taught to fly too.
Just like most of the successful language learners I know.
In over ten years teaching I keep coming up against the same observation. The most fluent people I’ve met were never students in classes; they’d learned by themselves.
They demonstrate the traits and habits outlined by Omaggio (1978, cited in Wenden, Learner strategies for learner autonomy. Great Britain: Prentice Hall,1998, p. 41-42)
- have insights into their learning styles and strategies
- take an active approach to the learning task at hand
- are willing to take risks, i.e., to communicate in the target language at all costs
- are good guessers
- attend to form as well as to content, that is, place importance on accuracy as well as appropriacy
- develop the target language into a separate reference system and are willing to revise and reject hypotheses and rules that do not apply
- have a tolerant and outgoing approach to the target language
Han Solo is a risk taker. He flies through an asteroid field sure the fleet pursuit would be crazy to try and follow.
C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.
He revises and rejects theories.
[trying to fix the hyperdrive]
Han Solo: Horizontal boosters. Alluvial dampers? Ow! That’s not it, bring me the Hydrospanner. I don’t know how we’re going to get out of this one.
They did get out of that one. Probably because Han has an outgoing, positive approach towards the success of something. Unlike Luke, who’s more of a pessimist.
Luke: [on first seeing the Millenium Falcon] What a piece of junk!
Han Solo: She’ll make point five past lightspeed. She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid. I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself.
The best thing we can do for our students is to turn them into Han Solos. So I propose pending the last couple of weeks of term before the holidays getting them ready to fly solo over summer.
1. Get students to watch all three films as homework or as snippets in class with appropriate lesson plans to make a lesson/justify killing time. Google tells me there’s a shocking quality of lessons based on Star Wars so create some good ones and post them somewhere the world can find them.
2. Elicit characteristics of both our heroes and evidence for them in the form of actions or quotes.
3. Ask them who they want to be. If you’ve done Number 2 right, they’ll never say Luke. If they do get caught in the Luke trap because he has a lightsaber, get them back on track with the questions about which actor had the biggest career after the films.
4. Ask them how Han Solo would approach the summer if he wanted to master English.
5. Explain about Learner Autonomy.
6. Suggest they buy a self study book on their area of greatest difficulty, or go to an English speaking country and throw themselves into real life situations.
7. Start a Facebook group for them to keep everyone up to date with what they’re doing. Because nothing happens if it’s not on Facebook. Put this quote in the header:
Look, Your Worshipfulness, let’s get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me. Han Solo, 1978