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ENGLISH LESSONS – REINFORCERS OF STUDENTS’ AUTONOMY

L. Kerin Jevtic

Gimnazija Celje - Center (SLOVENIA)
This paper presents a case example of developing students’ autonomy and literacy in a foreign language class in Slovene grammar school. Students are aged 15-19 years and after completing their final (fourth) year, they have to pass the final examination (called Matura) in 5 subjects. Three of them are compulsory (Slovene, Math, English) and two are optional (German, Spanish, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Sociology etc.). English final examination is on the B2/C1 CEFR level. Students are examined in all four skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Besides grammar, they have to show rich vocabulary in a variety of topics (relationships, environment, sports, industry, education etc.) including literature. Therefore, teachers are obliged to provide the necessary input and motivate students for an effective output.

Teaching discussed in the paper aims to enhance students’ autonomy, broaden their vocabulary related to environment, boost students’ environmental awareness, and improve students’ writing skills. Students are given instructions and needed materials. Each task is related to environment: global warming, reasons and consequences of global warming, pollution, ecological disasters, endangered species etc. Students are given 4 lessons to complete the set tasks. The order of performing the tasks is their autonomous decision. In addition, it is the students’ decision whether they prefer working individually, in pairs or in groups. The tasks are based on different taxonomical levels – from the basic to the most complex ones: sequencing, comparing, applying, analysing, origination etc. The most complex task is an individually written discursive essay, a skill which students are required to master in the final examination. The theoretical guidelines on how to write such an essay have been pre-taught. In the fifth lesson, the teacher checks completed tasks, gives additional explanations and corrections. Written assignments are marked and analysed according to the final exam criteria.

The added value of such lessons is reinforcing students’ autonomy, independence and responsibility for completed tasks. Furthermore, as students may choose group-work or cooperative learning, relationships among them are strengthened and the skills of making compromises, accepting other people’s opinion and expressing theirs are developed. In addition, the content of the lessons discussed in this paper, raises student’s awareness of a healthy and safe environment, the effects of pollution and their own influence on the world they live in.