To start with, what is intensity in terms of studying a language? Intensity is how often a student has lessons in a month or a week and how long they are. Most students understand that the more they study, the quicker they progress, but they don’t always understand why. We, teachers, are always interested in high students’ intensity to see the progress of our students quicker, to concentrate on fewer students and earn more. In this article, I want to share some intensity boosting strategies and explain why students need that.
Why does a student need high intensity?
First, I want to note that 1 lesson 50-60 minutes long a week is considered to be low intensity (which is good only to stay on the same level and not to forget the language). 2 times a week is a good intensity for learning language as a hobby, while more than 3 lessons a week is a high one, which is good while preparing for the exam or if a student has an urgent goal.
So why does a student need high intensity?
- Quick results. According to Cambridge recommendations, a student needs approximately 200 hours of guided learning to acquire a new level. Obviously, the more often the student has lessons, the quicker he or she reaches a new level.
- Forgetting less. High intensity allows to ‘beat’ student’s forgetfulness (forgetting the studied material between the lessons). Hermann Ebbinghaus has determined a mathematical formula – a forgetting curve describing the rate at which something is forgotten after being initially learned. So, if a student has lessons every second day and does hometask on days when he or she doesn’t have lessons, he doesn’t let the information to be forgotten. This benefit, in turn, leads to the next one.
- Reduced costs. One more benefit for students – in case he/she does not forget information, then less time of the lesson is spent on the repetition, then fewer classes is needed. As a result, the total expenses for studying language reduce.
So how a teacher boost intensity?
- explain the correlation between high intensity and progress. This point is not obvious to students, thus, take time, calculate the length of the course with the student and explain what forgetfulness is.
- Make sure the objectives are clear. “Study English” is not a goal; it should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound). You can read more about SMART goal in the article. For example, in case a student wants to pass IELTS in a month, knowing the parts and types of the tasks (you can read about them here), you can assume that you can dedicate 1 week to 1 skill (listening, reading, writing or speaking) and calculate the number of classes and amount of homework the student should have.
- divide long-term goals into smaller ones and bring a sense of achievement into your class. The student should feel what he can do and clearly see the next goal.
- set deadline and figure out the recommended intensity. If you don’t have a deadline, it is possible to teach the student forever. There should be a strict deadline (for a short-term goal, for example), and a method of assessment to measure the progress.
- offer time slots and arrange classes. Well, it is obvious that to offer a student to intensify studying, you need to have free time slots. If you already have some, just ask: “You know, I have a time slot for you on Wednesday at 10, let’s make an experiment and meet 3 times a week (instead of 2 times) for the next 2 weeks. You will see the progress more quickly, if not – we will return to our previous schedule”.
One more reason to boost the intensity is to have classes on a topic that is not closely connected with the main goal. For example, one of my students struggles with listening. All his other skills are on the Pre-Intermediate level, but his listening is weak Elementary. What we do is having classes on General English course 2 times a week, and once a week we concentrate on Listening (and speaking), and work either with the book Listen in English, or watch fragments from series and TV shows and try to tame student’s ears.
What I would recommend is not to try to foist higher intensity in case you see that a student doesn’t need it or you don’t believe that it is more effective yourself. Love your students, treat them with care and attention and they will reciprocate.