ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

By - Martin Sketchley

Instructions in the Classroom: Teacher Training Session

Instructions 3Instructions 1Instructions 2

Last Friday, I gave a teacher training session on “Instructions in the Classroom”.  I had been reading an awful lot about instructions and tried to plan a good training session for these two recently qualified CELTA teachers and it was the first time that I covered this area of classroom management.  There was a good selection of blog posts that I had read recently about instruction giving and a highly invaluable blog post written by about preparing an instruction training session.
Here is a breakdown of what happened during the training session:

  1. I introduced the topic of the training session and the usual aims.  I started off the session by giving my teachers some really bad, wordy and poorly designed instructions: “What I would like you to do is stand up … but not yet [they sit back down again] … you need a pen and you both need to go to this side of the room.  Sorry … just one person to this side of the room and you sit down here!  You need a piece of paper … do you have a piece of paper? On this err … this paper … just write down some … err ideas or things about err …” – you get the idea.  I asked the teachers to make a list of good and bad instructions and work together.  Hopefully, my really bad instructions inspired my teachers to create a good list.
  2. The teachers sat down together for about three minutes and noted down some ideas: “Eye contact with students”, “Gestures”, etc.  I then showed some ideas that I had from my PowerPoint (please refer to this below).
  3. I then handed out some coursebook activities (roleplays, listening, speaking, etc) and asked the teachers to prepare their instructions for a minute.  The teachers were recorded by my smartphone and then we listened to this playback and then they each gave each other peer feedback.
  4. After a few turns, I then gave each teacher an activity to prepare instructions on the spot with no prior preparation.  This seemed to work quite well and the teachers were getting into giving instructions to a group of ghost students.
  5. The teachers were then asked to consider ICQs to supplement the instructions and for each activity given previously.  The teachers prepared their ICQs and then peer feedback was given again.
  6. Next, I showed the teachers some advice regarding ICQs (“Always prepare a question where the answer is either x or y”, etc).  They noted this down briefly.
  7. The following activity was looking at gestures in the classroom.  I got the teachers to consider suitable gestures to include for common areas: “Listen to me!”, “Please repeat that”, etc.  They were all standing up and they looked as if they were traffic cops or going through a dance routine.
  8. Finally, I handed out some additional reading and referred to some books to consider looking at in their free time.  Reading included teacher training books as well as blog posts (links are provided below).

The PowerPoint slides are available to view via Slideshare (embedded below) and if you have any questions regarding this training session, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Otherwise, you can ask a question in the comment’s section below.

Additional Reading:

Some of the following blog posts are incredibly helpful if you would like to check a bit more about instructions and ICQs. They were really helpful when I was preparing the training session and I also referred my teachers to these blog posts.

By - Martin Sketchley

Drawing Challenge

I was reading some wonderful blog posts and saw that David Harbinson took up a drawing challenge which Sandy Millin started.  I really enjoy including drawings to complement vocabulary – I believe that it brings the language to life and students either end up taking photos or copying my (usually poor) drawings which accompany the vocabulary.  I suppose when I first started language teaching, I never included any drawings on my whiteboard and relied on flashcards (due to teaching young learners) or using my phone to translate words.  However, the past few years, I decided that it was probably best to develop my skills in drawing.  I have always been, what I consider, an artist with two left hands.  I find it incredibly difficult to draw anything representing animals or anything complex on the whiteboard.  I usually get ripped into by my young learners at how bad my drawings are.  Nevertheless, I thought it would be great to take up the drawing challenge.  Just below was a picture that I included in a young learner classroom around Halloween last year.

My best attempt at drawing a scary skeleton
My best attempt at drawing a scary skeleton

The Rules (as described by Sandy)

1. Choose four things you often have to draw in the classroom, or that you’ve had bad experiences drawing in the past (!). I suggest a person doing a particular action or job, an animal, a vehicle, and a miscellanous object, but you can draw whatever you like.
2. Draw them in any way you see fit (on a board, on paper, on a tablet…) but don’t spend any more time on it than you would in a lesson.
3. Share the results for us to guess what they are.

My Drawings

I shall let my readers tell me what you think these are.  You are probably wondering what number 3 is but I did say I was pretty awful at drawing pictures.

Attempted drawing

By - Martin Sketchley

“Where’s the CD?” – Ideas for Missing Audio

What do you do when you can’t find an accompanying CD for your coursebook or a listening lesson?  Scream?  Shout?  Point fingers?  Don’t worry, there are a few things you can do in replacement of the CD if it seems lost for that moment you need it.  At our school, the problem for missing audio CDs seems to be a reoccurring problem.  Each week, there is a frenzy to locate the missing CDs, and yes sometimes missing tapes.  Unfortunately, those involved would often quickly place blame on other people for the missing CDs: “So and so used it last, so they mustn’t have put it back!”.  I find it somewhat amusing that particular teachers are blamed but there seems no immediate plan to recover lost CDs.  So, what is the best way to teach a lesson if you have lost a coursebook CD and what ideas could be incorporated for the future?

One thing that I have done in the past, actually when I was doing my Diploma at the University of Sussex, was to record our own soundtrack.  I grabbed a few teachers and said, “Look, I can’t find the CD for this activity so I would like to record ourselves.”  They were more than happy to help and I handed out the transcript to each teacher, got my phone and started the sound recording application.  We took a few takes, recorded ourselves with the transcript to hand.  The teachers were always so helpful and it made quite a nice change.  I suppose you could spin it another way and get students to record themselves with their own smartphones, attach their smartphone to speakers and then get students to answer the comprehension questions which are then in the coursebook.  All coursebooks have transcripts from their CDs, so it just makes life easier when you record teachers or students for missing audio.

One thing to do is to photocopy the transcript, tip-ex some of the words out, photocopy the amended transcript (after the tip-ex has dried – otherwise you end up removing the tip-ex from the glass panel from the photocopier) and then hand to students. The students then work together and try to reconstruct the transcript.  Once reconstructed, you could students to act it out, record on a video and then upload to YouTube.  The students will find this activity enjoyable and more memorable rather than forgetting about the listening that they done for 10-15 minutes.

Another thing that I like to do at home is to digitalize all my music and CDs on to my computer.  Fortunately, with the advance of technology, you don’t have to worry too much about CDs breaking or getting misplaced.  You can burn your CDs on to your computer and then transfer to an MP3 so you don’t have to juggle around with so much equipment when setting up and preparing your lessons.  You could even get your laptop/PC to communicate with your smartphone via Bluetooth and play the audio through this method.  If you do lose a CD and you have a digital copy, you can always burn it again to CD from your computer and have a backup just in case.  I am surprised by the number of schools that rely on the original CDs but when they disappear, it can really hit the fan.  If you have access to computers or servers are setup within your school and have access to these in your classroom, it would make sense to make a digital copy of your CDs or otherwise, purchase IWB software which contains all the audio and video included with it.  This would save you time with juggling between CDs and/or tapes as well as DVDs to play in the classroom.  You would be able to play the audio straight from your computer or school server.  When I was undertaking the CELTA at the British Council in Seoul, all computers in the classrooms had access to the school server and all audio could be accessed via these computers.  Of course, with any reliance upon technology, there were a few times when the computers crashed.

What are your best ways to incorporate the tapescript into your clasroom?  Do you have problems with your school with lost audio CDs or tapes still?  Do you have any advice for ensuring CDs do not go missing?