That lightbulb moment

She looked a lot like the stereotype of a post-Soviet female, and by the succession of boyfriends waiting outside the language school for her over the months and a few comments she made, we all got the impression she was making the most of that Slavic mystique with the local Londonboys. That’s why every student’s head turned towards her when she released a loud “Ahhhhhh” of sudden comprehension while I was explaining the difference between inviting your date in for a cup of tea and asking him “Do you want to come up for a coffee?” (as part of a related textbook topic, although I can’t imagine now what it was).

We never did find out what situation she’d been in suddenly became comprehensible in that class, but I think everyone’s imagination was going in the same direction…

Although making students feel that they are inside a soap opera when in the classroom could be a great motivator if you could reproduce it, the main reason this memory stays with me is that the “Now I get it, I’d always wondered” moment is the one I am most looking for in the classroom but so rarely manage. Explaining obscure film titles and names of groups sometimes has the same effect, as does showing them where English words in their own language have come from (e.g. what acronyms actually stand for), but it usually has more impact with cultural differences that make them suddenly realise why their foreign boss did the things they did or said the things they said.

Anyone else have any lightbulb moment anecdotes or tips, or think that I’m putting too much emphasis on them? Any of the opposite experience- things you couldn’t explain as long as you tried? Comments below please.

This entry was posted in Cultural differences/ cultural training, Idioms, TEFL in the UK. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to That lightbulb moment

  1. My light-bulb moment was as a student of languages and then teaching them: I came upon the realization that most languages are based on the same principle; auxiliary verbs and what they say in specific times. To be says temporary action, no auxiliary verb says fact (to do for questions and negatives), to have in the present says not finished. That means that there are 3 presents, 3 pasts and 3 futures and each one is very different. There is a very big difference between:

    What are you doing? (now)

    What do you do? (for a living…everyday)

    What have you done? (in your life)

    Yet the only difference is the auxiliary verb used.

    It was a HUGE light-bulb that went off in my head and gave me the idea for

    Go figure!

  2. I remember teaching a class of prospective teachers at university. I did a simple model lesson then we sat down and talked about what had happened. One student literally gasped when she realised that one activity had been all about activating vocabulary for the next. My lightbulb moment has stayed with me ever since…. many students have no idea why we are doing anything in class, and see no links between ACTIVITIES, let alone the connections and threads through whole courses of study. It has changed the way I approach teaching, for sure.

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