This question seems so simple, yet so daunting.
What do you want to learn?
What is it that can make your language competence improve?
What can you do well, what do you still lack?
The planning stage
“Chaos isn’t the problem;
how long it takes to find coherence is the real game.”
(Doc Childre and Bruce Cryer)
Imagine the following scenario. You’ve got three weeks to plan, and about three hours a week.
If you start straight, without a concept, you might go on the internet first. You might jump from website to website, get distracted, get lost, and not do anything at the end.
Or you might pick your English textbook, do a few exercises here and there, but at the end you are not really sure what you’ve learnt.
This is why we need a plan. So ask yourself:
You might ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my strengths, what are my weaknesses in English?
- Do I want to focus on your strengths, i.e. do I want to enjoy doing something that I can do well already, or do I want to focus on my weaknesses?
- Do I take one competence (reading, writing, seeing / listening, speaking) into my focus? How do I ensure not to forget about all the other competences?
- Am I going to do something mind-blowingly creative, or do I rather take a more dull, commonplace approach?
A word of caution
Don’t take this stage too lightly. There is a danger in over- and in under-planning your learning process.
You might literally put more on your plate that you can chew on. Maybe you can still do it – but it was so much to do, that afterwards you swear to yourself that you’ll never ever pick up your English learning materials again!
Or you might come up with the plan to learn three new words every day. At the end of these three weeks you know 45 new words, but you don’t really know what to do with them.
Remember the three „m“s:
The organizational stage
You must use your mind to get things off your mind.
(David Allen, “Getting Things Done”)
When you’ve answered the questions above, we need to organize your learning so that you don’t get lost.
Which resources are you going to need for it? Do you already have all of them, or do you need support and advice?
How do you want to use your time for it?
How may your classmates help you?
How can your teachers help you? (Tell them!)
How are you going to document each learning session?
How are you going to present your final product at the end?
Do you need somebody to control you, or can you manage on your own?
What shows you that you’ve succeeded, in other words: Where do you want to be at the end of these three weeks?
It might help you to write down all of this in a notebook – goals that you wrote down are more binding than the ones that you just made up in your head.
A final word
The capacity to learn is a gift,
the ability to learn is a skill,
the willingness to learn is a choice.
As a student, you are used to getting tasks from your teachers – they are your guides along the learning process. Taking things into your own hand and deciding what you want to learn can at the same time be liberating as well as challenging. I hope that you benefit from this challenge! Your teachers are still guiding you – use their help and contact them if you find it difficult to move on.