The affective filter is present in ESL (English as Second Language) students and pertains to the level of stress or emotions they may feel when trying to learn another language. Teachers need to help students overcoming emotional stress to move their learning forward. If this emotional area is in the low range, the student may be up for a challenge and feel secure in his or her environment. Learning and emotions go hand in hand and learning to manage these feelings is essential.
If the filter is in the high range, the student is anxious, worried and not receptive to learning. There are ways to keep your students' affective filter in the low range, and improve their chances of learning. Creating an emotionally-friendly language learning environment is key to success. Helping students overcome difficult feelings is crucial to their progress.
ESL Emotion and Learning
1. Positive Feedback From Peers
A student may find themselves in a situation where they are mocked, or made fun of when they make a mistake, or take a risk. By setting boundaries within the class the student will feel supported and keep their filter low.
2.Positive Feedback From Teachers
Just as with their peers, the ESL student is looking for positive reinforcement and support from their teachers.
3. Keep the Setting Informal
A sterile, serious environment does little to calm the nerves. Try a more relaxed setting with couches and cushions where the students can feel comfortable and more at ease. Emotion and learning often work better when a student feels relaxed and at home.
5. Let the Students Decide When to Speak
Do not put a student in the spotlight if he or she is not ready to speak. Take physical cues and let reluctant students speak when they are ready.
6. Place Like Students Together
It will be far less intimidating to be in a class with others at the same level and with similar learning styles.
7. Use Fun Materials
Rather than following a textbook, make use of other day to day, colorful materials such as videos or magazines.
8. Boost Self Esteem
Find something about each student that makes them special and build on it in an effort to make them feel good about themselves and keep the affective filter low.
9. Set the Right Pace
No two groups of students are alike. Go slow when you need to and quicker when you can.
10. Take Frequent Breaks
Learning a new language is hard. Even a short break to clear the mind can do wonders.
By employing some or all of the above strategies to improve emotions in language learning you should begin to see a difference in those students with a low affective threshold, and hopefully an improvement in their learning ability.