T-shaped lessons

The "T-shape" is a very useful idea. It means the right balance of two things: 

  • The shape is shallow, wide, general knowledge. 
  • The | shape is narrow, deep, specific knowledge. 

Every lesson must have both parts. 

So, let's look at each one. 


Let's start with the wide, shallow, general part. 

You can talk about ideas that catch your attention, or you find interesting, or that connect to other topics. 

You don't need to be an expert in it. You don't even need to stay on one topic! You can branch out and connect ideas together.

For example, you might pick a discussion topic that catches your eye. You can learn a little about culture or history or business, or anything you like.


Now, let's talk about the narrow, deep, specific part 

Your lesson needs to have some specific information. It has clear rules. It supports the general knowledge by giving you confidence that you are correct. 

For example, you might study a pronunciation point. You would learn specific, clear rules for how to make an English sound.

In practice

Here are a few lessons that have excellent and I shapes. 

Example 1: 

  • -shape: You start by talking about your week. You talk about your manager and your work schedule. You say, "Recently, I am busy." But your teacher corrects you, "Recently, I've been busy."
  • | -shape: Your teacher shows you specific rules for the perfect tense (I've been).
  • -shape: After learning the rules, you talk correctly about your week and your manager. 

Example 2: 

  • | -shape: You are studying the Grammar In Use textbook. The lesson gives the rules for choosing "will" or "would". 
  • -shape: You and your teacher talk about what you will do this weekend, and what you would do, if you could. 

Example 3: 

  • -shape: You are studying the Business Result textbook. The topic is motivation. 
  • | -shape: You see a new word, "incentivize." Your teacher explains the meaning and use.
  • -shape: You use the word "incentivize" to talk about your own motivation. 

Example 4: 

Lessons at The English Farm often have both elements. Consider the first lesson from the Transitions course: Adding points while discussing education.

  • -shape: Discuss your thoughts on education.
  • | -shape: Learn specific phrases you can use to add points. 

You need both

Lessons are boring without context and discussion. Imagine studying the rules of the word "would", but never using it to talk about things that are interesting. 

Lessons are useless without rules. If you hear, "I've been busy" but you don't learn the deep, specific rules, then you won't be able to speak correctly.

So, in every lesson, learn rules and use them to support general, interesting communication.