Unlocking Self-expression through NLP: Integrated skills activities

Authors: Judith Baker and Mario Rinvolucri Publisher: Delta Publishing Summary: A collection of rich activities through which students can learn about themselves and each other. It is a rare thing to find a collection of ESL activities that people might do purely for pleasure, and this is what Judith Baker and Mario Rinvolucri have produced. […]
Reviewed for Teflnet by Clair Taylor

Authors: Judith Baker and Mario Rinvolucri
Publisher: Delta Publishing
Summary: A collection of rich activities through which students can learn about themselves and each other.

It is a rare thing to find a collection of ESL activities that people might do purely for pleasure, and this is what Judith Baker and Mario Rinvolucri have produced. By ‘pleasure’ here, I don’t mean just a superficial sense of ‘fun’, I mean a deeper sense of pleasure that comes from your whole self being really absorbed in what you are doing or thinking. ‘Unlocking Self-expression through NLP’ is a collection of activities which can really engage your students, and take them on a journey of self-discovery.

Each activity is based on an aspect of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, so that the students (and the teacher!) can acquire some NLP modes of thinking as they engage in the exercises. The students are not explicitly ‘taught’ NLP, and may not even be aware that they are ‘doing’ NLP, but you will be able to see from the students’ facial expressions, body language, and eye movements, that there is a lot of rich brain activity going on.

The aim of these integrated skills activities is to create the desire to say something or express something through writing. Often, the students are invited to imagine and experience smells, tastes, feelings, sights and sounds. These sensory-rich internal journeys provide stimulation for writing and discussion. In other activities, students are encouraged to think about something in a novel way, which leads to a new awareness and a need to communicate this awareness to their partner, group or written audience. In practice, I found that the oral and written activities I tried with my students did lead to a high level of student output, in which the quality of the language was surprisingly good.

I loved the fact that my students got to know each other better through these activities, and became more interested in each other. It was clear they were enjoying themselves and that the group was bonding. One student wrote in her written feedback: ‘Today I can’t stop laughing. And I used [my] brain many.’
One concern that I have with using these activities is that NLP language does not reflect typical conversational usage. We don’t usually go around asking people: ‘What is your curiosity like?’ or ‘Who are you?’ Although I had pointed out to my students that these kinds of questions were not appropriate for ordinary conversation, I found my students started using the question, ‘Who are you?’ after practicing it in one of the activities (they meant, ‘What was your name again?’. Teachers need to be aware that these kinds of errors may be generated and take steps to remedy them.

My only other complaint would be that there are few activities for low level learners. In Japan, for example, it is not uncommon for students who have studied English for six years to still be at a false beginner level. These kinds of students could really benefit from NLP, and it would be nice to have more activities to choose from. There were plenty of activities for higher level learners.

This book would be ideal for supplementing a speaking class or a creative writing class, and can be used successfully to enrich general English courses. The activities will work best with groups of 30 or fewer students, and could work well in a low-tech environment as most don’t even require a photocopier. You don’t need to know anything about NLP to use them, though once you start dipping into this book you are likely to develop the desire to find out more!

Reviewed for Teflnet by Clair Taylor
May 2008 | Filed under Teaching
Clair Taylor teaches at Toyo Gakuen University in Chiba, Japan.

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