Essential Agreements in an English course

Friday, a beautiful, warm evening and some motivated students meet for their twice-a-week, compact English course.

It’s the second meeting and my plan for them: Establishing essential agreements. What are those? Read about them here and over at What Ed Said’s blog. In a nutshell, they are agreements related to attitude, behaviour and treatment that a particular group establish, usually when they get together for the first time.

In the past I have established essential agreements with my primary grades, and it was the first time I have done this with an adult English course. It was supposed to engage them and to make them feel more connected to the course. I don’t want the participants to feel like this is a 4 week course to just get over and done with. I want it to be an experience, I want them to want to come back. I want them to learn, and I want them to own their learning. Just like I always do…

The level of English is probably pre-intermediate (some have a better grasp of the language, some less so), so this provided a good opportunity to look at the situation and vocabulary of discussing and consensus-finding. I provided some basic phrases and words they might find useful in their discussion and then followed some simple steps:

1. Discussion about negative experiences regarding learning. Every participant thought about their previous experiences and got to talk about the “bad stuff”. They then shared their ideas with the whole group.

2. Making the negative positive: We then created positive situations out of the negative statements.

3. The participants got together in small groups to consider important agreements.

The time just flew by. They talked and talked. They enjoyed it, as their exit cards showed. And now we have agreements that will make the remaining 6 sessions a delight!


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