If I were an English teacher…

Shruti Varadarajan

If I were an English teacher, I’d ask my students to read the best storybooks of the day, such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or Agatha Christie.

If I were an English teacher, I’d ask my students to write about what they love best, like football or fashion or about their best friends.

If I were an English teacher, I’d teach my students grammar the fun and interactive way.

But I’m not an English teacher, at least, not yet. So I’d like to tell the teachers what us students would love in an English class.

Students are often made to read Shakespeare and other classics, which are extremely hard to understand and quite boring, even for some adults. Although works of literature like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ are wonderfully written, and should definitely be read at some point of time, kids of the 21st century find it hard to appreciate literature that was written over 100 years ago. This gives many teachers the wrong idea that all kids just hate reading in general. But this isn’t true. In fact, a lot of middle-and high-schoolers really enjoy books by JK Rowling, Rick Riordan, Agatha Christie, Jeffery Archer, Eoin Colfer, Anthony Horowitz, etc. Books by Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle aren’t exactly what you would call ‘modern’, but they are widely popular among teenagers today. So what I’m saying is, give us books more of this century, and plots with more action, and our vocabulary will increase ten-fold.

A lot of students find it extremely hard to do any form of creative writing. But what if you give them topics that they really love and are passionate about? Why not let a passionate cricket-lover write about the advantages of a twenty-over match compared to a fifty-over one, instead of a biography on Mahatma Gandhi? Or why not ask a fashion-lover to write an article for the Vogue instead of giving her a book report on Wuthering Heights? Slowly, but surely, students will start developing an interest in creative writing and then they will get to a point where they can write about anything, however boring the topic might be.

Grammar is a student’s worst dread; it is right up there with math and history. The main reason that students find the English grammar part of their paper so difficult and confusing is because spoken English is so much different from written English. The only way to ensure that students have a flawless vocabulary is to make them read, read, and did I mention, read? The more they are exposed to English, the more natural grammar seems. And making them read books they enjoy will make the process easier. I personally believe that reading Wren and Martin overnight or doing pages of exercise on grammar will not make one a good speaker/writer. Wrong grammar can ruin a wonderful essay or a brilliant speech. It is extremely important that students know their grammar before they leave school.

To make grammar more interesting, why not add some jokes in the mix? There are some extremely funny jokes that are not only hilarious, but also show how important grammar is in the world today.

“Dear Sir: with reference to the above, please refer to my below…”

That’s what happens when students blindly learn by-heart pages of letter format and reported speech.

The most difficult task for any teacher is to make her lessons interesting for her students. Every teacher will have her own creative approach to involve her students in the class. Why not have your students debate on “Wii Vs. Xbox” instead of the same old “Is TV a boon or a bane”? Topics like these make students feel more involved in the class and this improves their speaking skills too.

Maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe English should be taught to students so they enjoy it and feel more involved in it, because I know, and a lot of you do too, that English is one of the most interesting subjects. We just need to help everyone else figure that out.

The author is a student of Class 9 in Chennai.

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