General English – The most popular course and what most courses are based on.
During your first day at Alpha College, you will take an assessment test so that you are put in the appropriate class for your level. However, some people learn faster than others: for this reason, at Alpha we make sure, through regular interviews and assessment tests, whether you are making progress and if you are ready to move up to a higher level. The classes are fairly small (a maximum of 14 students but with an average of 8/9 students per class) so you can be sure you will receive the proper attention from your teacher. We also host people from 53 different nationalities, which means there are plenty of opportunities to speak English to people from different countries.
You can begin your course every Monday throughout the year (however there are some exceptions: in particular if you are a total beginner or a proficient user. Click here for more detail) and the week is finely engineered to cover all the four skills – speaking, writing, reading and listening. The teachers, two per classes, work towards objectives. This means the class is task-based. The course is also strongly interactive: this means you won’t only sit and listen but also will learn how to produce spoken language. The plan for each week is posted in the classroom so you will know exactly what to expect!
The class work includes individual, pair and group work, together with teacher-led discussions. Each week the class works on a project, which may consist in discussions, mini-presentations, reviews, cultural investigations and debates, and the topics range from news items, films, books and so on.
You can find more detailed information on the courses, levels and schedules here.
This is all useful information, but it is a bit technical and doesn’t really give justice to how the Alpha method works. I wanted to see with my eyes the secrets of Alpha, so I decided to get out of the office and to attend a couple classes myself. And now I want to share this experience with you.
Although time seemed to fly in this class, in just two lessons, 55 minutes each, we managed to cover a lot in an easy and fun way. We first introduced the topic – crime – by speaking about Dickens, weird laws, and life in prison in old England. Although I already knew most of the vocabulary, I still had the chance to learn some cultural trivia (for example, did you know that women did not have the right to vote in Switzerland until 1971?). At the same time, the teacher integrated grammar explanation. The students had then the chance to practice both in pairs and in group, to discuss and do some grammar exercises. Stig has the amazing capability of involving all the students, calling them out to complete the exercise in the high-tech whiteboard: such a friendly atmosphere means that nobody was embarrassed to make mistakes.
An entertaining lesson implies that nobody gets distracted or gets lost among boring grammar rules and vocabulary to learn. Using what you learn in a fun way makes it stick more easily without making too much of an effort.
I attended Ian’s class during a Friday, so I had the chance to assist at the presentation of the weekly project. This particular project consisted in a presentation of a topic chosen by the student. This type of project is great for practising many skills: speaking, when presenting the subject to the class, listening, when you listen your classmates, but also public speaking and how to make an interesting speech.
However, even in this case, the presentation project not only involved language learning, but also gave the students the chance to discover some interesting things about different subjects, therefore making language learning more fun. I learnt why Spiderman is allegedly better than Spiderman, about the festivals of India and the food culture in Brazil. The students further practiced their listening and speaking skills, since after the presentations they discussed the topic (not everybody agreed that Spiderman is better than Batman!). And a very attentive Ian made sure to provide a full feedback, explaining any grammatical mistakes and encouraging the students on the progress they made.
One of our students, Luiz Antonio, wanted to share with us one of the projects he made. You can find it here.