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#5 / Don’t Worry, Be Happy! / the affective filter hypothesis


The goal for this article is to help students understand that language acquisition becomes difficult when they are anxious, have low self-esteem, or do not consider themselves to be potential members of the group that uses the language (Frank Smith calls this the [English] Literacy Club.). As teachers, we can help in two ways. We can create and maintain a warm, welcoming, low-pressure learning environment. And we can directly address how students think about themselves and their English-acquisition process.

There are things that students, too, can do to help themelves; they can:
  • Get involved in high-interest easy-to-understand reading and listening that will fully engage their attention and imagination.
  • Remember that if they do, their English acquisition will improve, and the "mistakes" they are concerned about will gradually disappear.
  • Use their imagination to visualize themselves using English comfortably and confidently.

Ideas for Teaching

  • It would be appropriate to teach these concepts in the students' L1 for classes with low English L2 proficiency.

Into (before)
  • Int/Adv (Activating prior knowledge) Build two web diagrams/mind maps. Build the first - Worries - around the question, "What are your worries about using English?" Build the second - Feelings - around the question, "What feelings to you have when you experience these worries?"

Through (during)
  • Do as a teacher read-aloud. Stop as appropriate to (a) clarify vocabulary or ideas and/or (b) to "think aloud" about the ideas, expanding them, applying them, etc.

Beyond (after)
  • Ask students appropriate questions to check comprehension.
  • Engage students in a summarizing (not retelling) discussion, saying it again in their own words.
  • Use Think/Pair/Share (TPS), Write/Pair/Share (WPS) to answer and discuss, "How can I personally use this information to improve my English?"