ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

By - Martin Sketchley

The Value of Money: Post Lesson Review

The material used in the classroom.

I was teaching a group of Upper Intermediate adult learners on Tuesday and for some reason we looked at the value of numbers briefly (million, billion, etc).  The learners mentioned that they wanted to review the value of billion as it was different between the UK and the USA.  Here is what Oxford Dictionary mentioned about the value of a billion:

In British English, a billion used to be equivalent to a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000), while in American English it has always equated to a thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000). British English has now adopted the American figure, though, so that a billion equals a thousand million in both varieties of English.

The same sort of change has taken place with the meaning of trillion. In British English, a trillion used to mean a million million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000). Nowadays, it’s generally held to be equivalent to a million million (1,000,000,000,000), as it is in American English.

US Debt Visualized website

I was left on Wednesday wondering how to introduce this topic of a million, billion and trillion.  I remember looking at an Infographic about the size of a ten thousand dollars to around 114 trillion dollars.  The Daily Infographic is a wonderful website that reviews statistics, finance and consumption using images and it has some wonderful prospects for Upper Intermediate or Advanced learners.  I looked online for the dollar Infographic and found it eventually on the US debt visualized website.  There was a lot of information so I decided that I would print out the raw images and cut these up.  The accompanying text would also be copied and pasted into Word and will also be cut up.  What I ended up doing was handing out the images in groups of three to four students first and getting groups to guess the value of the ever increasing size of money.  Next, I decided to handout the accompanying text and learners had to match the text with the images (a sort of jigsaw activity).  Before checking answers, I got each group to compare their answers with another group and then elicited the correct answers.  It was a wonderful activity and it really brought on a new opportunity to review large numbers and it was also more visual.

When reviewing the lesson, quite a boring subject (introducing numbers) was brought alive by the use of an Infographic image and the accompanying text.  After the main activity, there was a discussion about US Public Debt and whether the USA will face a total credit meltdown, as those are experiencing in Greece currently.  Nevertheless, I have found that some of the Infographic websites have some wonderful illustrations and hope to use these in the future with various other classes.

Nevertheless, have you used Infographics in your class?  How did you use them?  Would you consider using them in IELTS preparation classes?

By - Martin Sketchley

The Wrong Passport – Lesson Plan

When I was flying to Romania, I packed all my things the evening before but when I arrived at the airport, I had picked up my son’s passport.  However, when I was waiting for the taxi to bring my passport up to Heathrow Airport, I was thinking how suitable this situation would be in the classroom to promote and develop conversation for unexpected situations.  It kind of reminds me of the Mr Bean at the Airport scenario:

After a week, I planned my first lesson and decided to include this as a typical ‘dictogloss’ activity.  ‘Dictogloss’ is best described by Wajnryb (1990) as something that is borrowed from the more traditional dictation activity, where learners “jot down familiar words as they listen … then pool their resources to reconstruct their version of the original text” (ibit. pg.5).  Thus, I decided to write a short piece involving me getting the wrong passport for learners to listen to in class and for them to recreate their version of the incident.  After students have, within groups, recreated the incident in their own words (with the possibility of reviewing grammar or certain phrases: for example, a group of learners wanted to look at the difference between “The flight was supposed to leave at …” and “The flight was due to leave at …”), there is the option to get students to guess what happened next (and the language of modals is a usual indicator for language here).  Finally, there is an opportunity for more exploratory teaching (aka. Dogme ELT discussion) from this topic but I hope the following lesson plan offers some further ideas for your classroom.

Aim of Lesson
To get learners to listen, note down and reconstruct a story that the teacher has prepared.

Sub-Aims of Lesson
To review grammar, phrases and lexis involving the airport.  To prompt discussion involving unexpected situations or accidents.

Level of Learners
This activity works best for any level from Pre-Intermediate or above, preferably teenagers or older.

Progression of Lesson
1. Start the lesson by telling students that you are going to tell a short story and that they need to just listen.
2. Once you have finished the story once, get students to individually write down any words or phrases that they remember (no sentences just yet).
3. Read the story for the second time and get learners to make a note of any other phrases or words that they remember.
4. Next, tell students that they need to individually write their version of the story in their own words (either the first person or third person is fine, as long as they can recreate the story and it reads well).
5. Once students have written their story, group students into pairs or small groups and nominate a team leader.  The team leader is responsible for writing the final version of the story.
6. When students have written the story, hand out a copy of the story to the learners so that they can compare any differences.
7. Monitor students and their writing for any key differences with regards to grammar or phrases and note anything on the whiteboard.
8. Review and scaffold any differences if necessary.
9. The next part of the lesson is to get students to work in their groups to predict what happened next in the story.  Note down any of their ideas on the whiteboard before revealing.
10.  OPTIONAL – If you wish to incorporate discussion in the classroom, you could learners (if they are willing) to share their experiences of an unexpected situation that has arisen during their travels.  As with Dogme ELT, monitor and scaffold language that has emerged during the classroom conversation.

What I wrote for the ‘Dictogloss’ activity is available to view below.  It would be great to hear your ideas regarding ‘Dictogloss’ and whether you have incorporated a similar lesson before.  The best thing about ‘Dictogloss’ is that it is very materials-light and promotes recycling vocabulary and reconstructing a story after several attempts.  The students feel a sense of achievement afterwards and it is highly motivational.

On Thursday 2nd February, I was flying to Romania for the first time.  I packed everything the night before and checked that the taxi would pick me up.  I woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning for my taxi would collect me at four thirty.  I arrived at Heathrow Airport at 6 o’clock in the morning and was checking in.  The flight was due to leave at 9:45am but I realised that I didn’t have my passport: I had my son’s passport!