“Bringing Avril Lavigne into Classroom”
Written by: Herri Mulyono
Researches on humanistic approach have given us clear understanding that human psychological elements must also interfere the classroom teaching and learning in order to sustain the improvement of human language learning. If not, teaching and learning process likely would never achieve its success. In such view, teaching and learning process is about to treat human as “the whole person” that teacher not only deals with cognitive side of his or her students, but also emotion or I would say as “affective interference.” I agree with Harmer with his argument that “the decision to use humanistic-style activities will depend on how comfortable teachers and students are working with real lives and feelings” (Harmer, 2007: 91).
This article would briefly describe the process of teaching and learning carried out under the principles of humanistic approach, particularly Suggestopedia. I would like to take a sample from my teaching and learning activities for grade XI science class at public senior high school of 92 (SMAN 92 Jakarta) with total of 36 students. Half from the total number of those students have been so much familiar with me as they joined my previous grade X class while others are to be strange and seemingly need time for adaptation. Classroom used for teaching and learning process was in a common setting where whiteboard was placed on the front of the class wall, just near the teacher’s desk. Students’ desks were set in eight rows with 6 students in each and were sat in group of two. The teaching and learning process was carried out in classroom context of SMAN 92 Jakarta without making any changes.
In addition, justification of such practice above would be conducted further to provide correspondence between the real practice of Suggestopedia and its fundamental principles. Each step from my teaching and learning practice would be explained if they are tailored to the teaching and learning principles under Suggestopedia. At the final session, conclusion would be made to give general possibility of practicing Suggestopedia in Indonesian classroom context.
In previous meeting of my teaching and learning activities, I had a lesson “self introduction.” It was grade X lesson review actually and was naturally conducted by teacher especially at every beginning of school days. At the time, I didn’t introduce some expression used for self-introduction but had my student directly introduce themselves from their seat. I used English as instruction media. Some students were surprised, especially those who didn’t my previous class, and referred to their seat-mate for clarification. At final session, I ordered my students to make a paragraph of self-introduction for homework. Yet, I didn’t ask students to introduce them selves throughout the writing but had them pretend as famous persons in the world. They might pretend as artist, actor, scholar, politician, etc.
The teaching and learning activities are shown below:
Teacher : “Good morning students, how are you today?”
Students : “Good morning, Sir. Fine”
“How are you?”
Teacher : “Pretty well, thanks”
Teacher : “I’m sure you have done your homework, haven’t you?”
Students : (Students directly opened their book. Some saw others’ work as they wanted to know figure of their friend pretended)
Teacher : “Well, you’re going to present what you have done in front of the class room.”
(Teacher checked students’ work around the class)
“And, I’m very happy because now we have many famous people in our class. Today, in our class we have many artists, actors, and some politicians, and some others.”
“For example, we have a very special guess …”
(Teacher pointed one of the students in the front row)
“What’s your name, Ms?”
Student 1 : “Dina, Mr. …”
Teacher : “No, … not that name”
(Teacher gave a sign to the student to refer “the person” in her paragraph)
Student 1 : “Oo, sorry Mr. My name is RA Kartini”
Teacher : “All right, we have RA Kartini here in our class.”
“How about, you … Mr., what is your name?”
Student 2 : “My name is Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono”
(All students laughed)
Teacher : “What a pleasure, we have Mr. President here. Are you not too busy Mr. President to come to our school of SMAN 92 Jakarta?”
Student 2 : “No, Sir. I don’t busy.”
(Other students laughed)
Teacher : “You ARE NOT busy”
(Teacher tried to correct student’s grammar)
“Is there any singer, here???”
Student 3 : (raising her hand)
Teacher : “What a nice day, a world singer came to our school.”
“What is your name, Ms.?”
Student 3 : “My name is Avril Lavigne”
Teacher : “Wow, a very famous and beautiful singer is here with us.”
(All students laughed and clapped their hands)
“Could you come forward to the front of the class, Ms. Avril?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, lets welcome the famous singer, Avril Lavigne.”
(As she walked, all her friends were laughing and teasing her)
“Everyone here has known Ms. Avril, haven’t you?”
“But, I’m afraid there are some who don’t know Ms. Avril very much.”
“Would you like to introduce your self, Ms. Avril?”
(Teacher took her book in order to let her speak naturally)
Student 3 : “Hello my friends, my name is Avril Lavigne.”
(Some students laughed, but she ignored it and continued …)
“I was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada on September 27, 1984. I am white skinned, have long hair, blue eyes, thin lips and sharp nose. I’m a singer. I just released an compiled album from my debut entitled, “Let go.” It went to number #1 on Billboards Top 100 while earning my 5 Grammy nominations, MTV music awards, MTV European and many more.”
(All students listened carefully, no one talked to others)
“That’s all about me …”
Teacher : “Wow, that’s very amazing, Ms. Avril. You have great achievements and for sure, you have many fans, including here at SMAN 92 Jakarta.”
“All right then, Ms. Avril. I’m sure some of your friends here want to chat a bit with you.”
“Is there any question to Ms. Avril?”
Student 4 : (raising his hand)
Teacher : “Yes, good. What is your question to Ms. Avril?”
Student 4 : “May I know where were you born?”
Student 3 : “Yes. I was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada.”
Teacher : That’s very good answer, Ms. Avril.
Is there any question more?
Student 5 : (raising his hand)
Teacher : (nodding) “Ok, go a head with your question.”
Student 5 : “What’s your parent’s name?”
Student 3 : (Surprised, she didn’t mention about Avril’s parents in her paragraph. She looked at the teacher and shook)
“I don’t know.”
Teacher : “Well, Ms. Avril is too much exhausted, very tired. Maybe, she didn’t sleep last night after concert so that she totally forgets her parents’ name. Do you??”
(All students laughed loudly)
Student 3 : “Yes, Mr. I’m very tired. That’s why I forget my parents’ name.”
(after couple questions given from some other students, teacher let the student to back to her seat)
Teacher : “Thank you very much Ms. Avril for introducing yourself in this class.”
“Ok class, give applause to Ms. Avril”
(Students clapped their hands)
Then, teacher called out other students to come in front of the class. Many students introduced their alias and got many responses from their friends. Some other students pretended as singers sometimes were asked to sing and some to dance. While they sang some students gave high appraisal. The class ran vary dynamic and in very enjoyable atmosphere.
In this session, the teaching and learning activities shown above would be valued using principles of humanistic approach, particularly Suggestopedia.
1) T asked students to make self-introduction paragraph pretending as famous person
The Suggestopedia advocates main authority of learning on teacher. In this point, teacher is supposed to provide learning material which is mainly in form of dialogue and reading.
In addition, students don’t get any homework before and after learning activities that Suggestopedia itself attempts to decrease level of tense or burden students might experience before or after learning. Instead, a reading is given for students just to read before bed and after getting up.
2) T directly used English as instructional media
The method suggests teacher to provide translation of learning material in other printing.
3) T: “And, I’m very happy because now we have many famous people in our class. Today, in our class we have many artists, actors, and some politicians, and some others.”
T then asked students to introduce themselves using information on the paragraph they have prepared
In this session, T was trying to create suggestion that students were in a middle of international community (even T still suggested that students were at school still that teacher didn’t make any changes of classroom arrangement). The suggestion was made throughout learning environment especially students’ mental interference. By this suggestion, teacher expected that students might convince themselves native English speaker.
The above principle is likely in contrast with Suggestopedia which mostly is characterized by poster, furniture, decoration, arrangement of classroom, the use of music, and authoritative behavior of the teacher. (Richards and Rodger, 1986: 142)
Communication is emerged particularly not from students’ materials rather than teacher himself to prepare such materials for some activities like role play, games songs, and gymnastic exercises.
4) Both teacher and students converse in natural way without dramatizing intonation, voice quality and timing.
The purpose of Suggestopedia is to teach communication competence where the ability to perform oral communication becomes main issue to carry out.
Although the activity provided room for both teacher and students to communicate, the nature of English native language seems to ignore such as native like intonation, voice quality and probable timing. Teacher committed to Indonesian accent and dialect to.
5) T corrected Ss’ grammar mistake
Suggestopedia minimizes chances of making mistake in language learning as students are to act out dialogue teacher has already prepared. Communication in some role plays is carried out strictly based on the dialogue. Yet, students’ participation in performing the language out of the lines still becomes other expectations in Suggestopedia.
6) T created natural communication as he opened questioning session
This activity is suitable with the objective of Suggestopedia. Yet, learning type activities are mostly relevant to Suggestopedia.
Giving questions by the students is one of expectation when implementing the method.
7) T made jokes related to the issue delivered
Suggestopedia concept uses music to relax as “mental state of the learners is critical to success.” (Richards and Rodgers, 1986: 149)
8) Almost all students laughed and felt very relaxed
It is rather contrast from what I practiced and what the principles suggest particularly on how me myself views what is meant by “suggestion” and some other things might constitute to the term. I see “suggestion” as how students convince themselves (or are convinced) for particular abilities, conditions, or some other potentials on them that then students could function those abilities to perform the target language. On this point, I think it is not so much different with Lozanov’ Suggestopedia. Instead, the obvious contrast is on how to implement such view. In my teaching and learning activities, it seems I was less on preparation compared to Lozanov’s procedure as he carefully and intentionally used the method for an amount of time in a learning sequence while me myself planned it only periodical (certain occasion when I think certain lesson might be suitable to implement under the principles of Suggestopedia).
When the Suggestopedia was practiced under my view, communication plays great deal. Students are free to express their thoughts in the target language as teacher plays mostly as facilitator rather than center of attention. It is different from the original procedure of Suggestopedia which gives most authority to teacher, beginning from providing learning materials to students’ language performance.
Learning environment is main issue in Suggestopedia, instead, I’d like to argue that the presence of decoration, use of music and other furniture in order to suggest the real English atmosphere seem not to be a must requirement. In my view, the idea of Suggestopedia mostly deals with learner’s mental or affective filed. It is when they are mentally convinced that they are indeed the native of English language and able to perform the language in appropriate ways. Of course, how teacher could convince his or her students might be a great job and for such effort, teacher is viewed to be the main influencing actor behind the scene. When teacher fails to convince (or make suggestion on) their students, the successful teaching and learning will never be achieved. At this point, particularly related to the language learning, I agree with Bancroft (1972, in Richard and Rodgers, 1986: 145) for one of his Suggestopedia principles, “People remember best and are mostly influenced by information coming from an authoritative source” while the presence of those furniture, posters and etc, Bancroft convinces, merely to sustain the instruction media itself (ibid). This means that the important issue to deliver is not for providing those posters, banners, decoration or other things just to make a suggestion, but teacher, borrowing the Bancroft’s terms as the authoritative source, is obliged to do so. In this situation, teacher-students relation has to establish learning comfortable environment. When such relation is able to comfort the students to learn, in my assumption, students would be at their optimal state of memorizing vocabulary, practicing grammar, or the most important is, to perform the language as well.
It is widely understood that the primary issue carried out by Suggestopedia is oral competence, or on other words, students’ ability to communicate in oral mode of the target language. I believe that one’s understanding of ideas in communication is not mostly determined by the closer of intonation, mimic, or other ways of utterance from native language speaker (although the Suggestopedia insists that the use of intonation, rhythm is to avoid boredom.) Malaysian English speakers or English speakers from Singapore, for example, would be still be understood by other English speakers in transmitting information in English although it is carried out in different dialect, tones or maybe gesture. By this I want to emphasize that it is not about English intonation to communicate rather than any intonation, dialects or other could work best in communication as non-verbal language.
If the Suggestopedia later reasons that the use of tone and rhythm in presenting the learning materials is intended to avoid boredom of the learners, why does it still use music to release students’ tense? Or, does it think music is not enough to create relaxation? (Even Lozanov himself reported great effect of music on language learning or in general human learning, see “SuperLearning” 2000, “Students’ Response toward the Use of Supermemory Music in Reading Lesson” Unpublished Thesis: 2004). If later it is argued that those tone and rhythm are then intentionally combined by music in process of teaching and learning language, in my view, this argument seems to put Suggestopedia apart of the track as it has been originally intended by the method (Lozanov puts great number of emphases on the effect of music on language learning, see Richards and Rodgers, 1986: 144-147, why then Lozanov didn’t call his own method of language learning, for example, Music-Language method. Further examination of Lozanov’s active and passive concert (music) would be other issue for wide discussion in relation with brain, music and language learning and seemingly apart from procedures in Suggestopedia as language teaching method).
Instead, it is not always to devise music in order to create relaxation (while Gaston, 1968 in Richards and Rodgers, 1986: 143 also states the use of music to increase self-confidence) during process of teaching and learning. Jokes might be other alternative teacher may use to decrease level of tension students experience during the learning process. Singing Song, -that in my teaching and learning activities conducted mostly by students, could also release students’ stress and increase self-confidence as well.
I think it is not about to talk which is the appropriate methods for classroom language teaching as certain method might work differently regarding to classroom situation and context (if then you ask which is the right one to implement Suggestopedia, of course, the answer must be the Lozanov’s as the inventor). As I ever quoted a research result in 1923, that “no single method guarantee successful results,” interfering some language teaching method while implementing some other one might be beneficial alternative. If you further examine my teaching experience as show previously, you might see great interference of direct method (when I use English directly as instructional media), audio lingual method (when I corrected students’ mistake directly to avoid it occurs again), communicative approach (when natural communication is encouraged among students) and some others. By your own design as language teacher, let some teaching methods synergize each other and assist both you and your students during the process of teaching and learning. It is not for judging the best method to implement but how it might work in your further classroom context and situation when then students could learn in a very comfortable learning atmosphere and achieve better in their language learning activities.