What is Peer Learning and Why is it Good for ESL Classes?
Understanding the main purpose of any language usage as a means of exchanging, obtaining information, rendering our emotions, feelings, desires, states, or transmitting ideas inevitably involves this process, other people. In other words, we use language to communicate with other language speakers. So why not use this peculiarity in the process of language studying? Thereby using peer learning techniques in an ESA classroom becomes an essential and inherent part of it.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Mariia M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Where implementing Peer-to-Peer learning?
Let us consider teaching a lasting group of students having lessons twice a week throughout one year. Peer learning may and should be involved in all stages of ESA lessons conducted to a group of students. We may start a lesson with warming up and use a tongue twister for this purpose. We work on the tongue twister all together by drilling separate words and sounds, then repeat the whole piece chorally, and after that ask students to say it over to each other. It will be funny, relaxing and at the same time a useful activity. During the Engage stage we can show students a flashcard or write a topical word on the board and ask them to think in pairs of associations or ideas and present them to the whole class. As one of the activities of the Study stage, it is extremely productive to ask students to check their answers in pairs first, discuss them, and then check with a teacher or the whole group. And finally, the Active stage is unthinkable without peer activities which could be role play, communicative games, story building, or even producing some creative materials.
If we consider the benefits of peer learning the list of them could be long but the most essential are as follows. Peer work reduces the tension of students bearing individual responsibility for fulfilling the task and making mistakes. Thus when they work in pairs they have mutual solutions to the task and even in case of some mistakes or incorrectness they are both to face it. In peer work students can assist each other in understanding the task, coming up with ideas, words, or phrases and as a result, reducing TTT. Peer work is an irreplaceable tool in correcting mistakes as they may not occur at all if a teacher puts a stronger student weaker in pairs. In case they still occur stronger students are likely to correct the weaker ones and it again contributes to more STT and reduces pressure. If a teacher tries to build each time different pairs of students for peer work it can help them to set up a good and friendly rapport with all group members. If there is an uneven number of students then a teacher may add to the pair, therefore, performing the role of participant. Peer tasks involve true to life situations and games and in such a way English and even difficult grammar aspects become not something abstract but very applicable and realistic. Students tend to memorize pictures, some funny moments, partner’s reactions, jokes, or answers during peer activities, and all these help them afterward to recall necessary information.
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Ideas for outside the classroom activities
If we consider making “prolonged pairs” of students for the course duration and give them creative tasks like some projects then they are forced to communicate and use English outside the classes and as a result, we bring them into a necessity to use English even more. As well if a teacher gives specific and precise extending far into the future task to each one in a “prolonged pair” students are likely to have continuous cooperation and collaboration. To illustrate this point we can consider the situation when one student has difficulties with learning three forms of irregular verbs and we ask the other student to help with this task and give them a certain period. On the expiry of this term, both students in a pair are responsible for the result and show their progress. In such cases, a teacher performs the role of resource or facilitator and other students act out as assessors of pair headway. The same technique could be used with peer learning or phrasal verbs, correlated tenses, topical vocabulary, and many more.
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As we see from all above mentioned points peer learning is not only useful but also an integral part of any ESA lesson as far as we understand peer learning as an educational practice in which students interact with other students to achieve certain aims, involving peer work during the whole lesson, anticipating probable difficulties and meeting students expectations.
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