ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

Category: Teacher Tips (page 7 of 8)

Drilling and Repetition in the ELT Classroom

Circle Drilling in action at the BC Bucharest

Since starting my teaching career in Korea, I was introduced to the importance of drills in the classroom to introduce vocabulary and develop pronunciation based on various drills.  We all know the nominated drilling, choral drills or substitutional drills but how else could drills be livened up a bit more?  Recently, I thought of the following activities to jazz up the use drills in the classroom.

Silent Dialogues

This is by far my favourite activity with young learners or adults.  What you need to do is prepare a dialogue or think of a situation that you wish to cover in the classroom (at the post office, booking cinema tickets, etc) and think through a functional dialogue between two people.  You start the activity by speaking silently and overacting body language or simulating sounds using your mouth.  This will get learners to try to decode what is being said (silently) and focus on pronunciation and vowel sounds based upon the varying positions of the mouth.  You encourage learners with thumbs up during the process and then get learners to re-do the dialogue in pairs or groups.  This activity will develop learner memorisation, focus on pronunciation as well as provide a lively and interactive element to any possible drill.

Circle Drilling

I came across this activity during the TYLEC Course in use during an input session on drilling for young learners.  It is a very engaging activity and I would recommend any YL teacher to incorporate this during lessons.  Prior to the lesson, ensure you have prepared flashcards or vocabulary cards for this activity.  You get learners to sit in a closed circle with the teacher at the front (preferably with the IWB or whiteboard behind you).  You show one flashcard/word card and then tell the class the key vocabulary.  Next, you pass the card to the student on your right and get that learner to say the vocabulary and then you continue with the student passing the card around the circle of students.  Once you have gone through a number of flashcards/word cards, you then start to speed up the process and hand out the cards to the students on your right as well as your left and put on the pressure for learners to receive a card (from either their left or right) and then have to say the key vocabulary.  It is quite a lively activity which is sure to get YLs jumping around and engaged in the lesson.

Emotional Drilling

For this activity, you need to prepare two separate groups of flashcards: one with key vocabulary and the other with pictures of emotions (happy, sad, bored, etc).  You drill vocabulary as normal (either choral or nominated) and then you have to combine emotion flashcards with vocabulary and learners have to say the word in the relevant emotion.  You could either get this completed in a competitive format by getting learners standing up and then nominating learners to say the corresponding word in the correct emotion.  If pronounced incorrectly, then the learner sits down.  The winner is the remaining person standing.

Volume Controlled Drills

This was an activity inspired from a teacher that I work with at LTC Eastbourne.  I was observing his class and he was doing some drilling with his young learners but used various volumes to get vocabulary pronounced correctly.  He started off quite quiet and then built up to an ear-shattering volume.  It was very interesting to observe and very interesting to see how the learners were motivated by this activity.  This activity can be incorporated into any type of drills with young learners or adults.

Drilling Through Music

The last activity which could be considered is drilling through music.  This is an activity which can be watched via the TeachingEnglish website and something Rachael Lawson developed with her Asian learners.  I really enjoy incorporating songs and chants into the classroom particularly to introduce and drill vocabulary.
What do you think are your favourite activities when it comes to pronunciation and drilling?  Do you think there is a time and place for drilling?  Would you drill with higher levelled learners or more with lower levelled learners?  Why is this the case?

Using Prezi in Talks and Workshops

I have been invited for a talk on Wednesday 12 December for the postgraduate students on the MA ELT course about Dogme ELT.  It is an honour to be asked up to give a talk on this subject.  Furthermore, it is the first time that I am going to be trying to Prezi in the classroom instead of carrying around my MacBook Air and all the paraphernalia to give a talk.  Fortunately, the computers at the University of Sussex are all connected to the internet and I will be able to use Prezi (fingers crossed).  The Prezi for this talk can be viewed below.

On the off chance that the Prezi talk fails, I have a backup on my external hard-drive with a copy with PowerPoint.

The handout for this talk (available for attendees) is embedded below.  Feel free to contact me should you wish for a copy to be emailed.

Incorporating Dogme ELT in the Classroom Handout

Anyhow, has anyone else used Prezi for a presentation before?  What do you think are the benefits or disadvantages of using cloud presentation software?  Have you tried the iPad or iPhone Prezi app before to present before?

So many questions and please leave your thoughts or reflections below in the comments section.  🙂

Using SoundCloud for the Classroom

As an update from yesterday, our class focused on job interviews and using dialogues in the classroom. I decided during the lesson to record the learners whilst they were participating in a spontaneous role-play so that I could listen to individual learners and provide some opportunity for self-correction tomorrow, as well as an opportunity for them to download at their pleasure.  I must thank my adult learners for allowing me to share these recordings with my readers.  Without their support, I would not be able to share this with you.

Nevertheless, I decided to use Garageband on my MacBook to record the learners and then export to an m4a format.  This was then uploaded to SoundCloud.  It is the first time that I have used SoundCloud and I think it is a wonderful tool which could be exploited for inside and outside the classroom.  It is very simple to register and you are able to sync up Facebook with SoundCloud.  I have always listening to some of the uploads on SoundCloud due to the potential to leave comments on the audio.  It is great.  If you are able to get students to leave comments with each other, then there is the potential for more awareness raising activities outside the classroom.

Anyhow, please feel free to leave comments on the audio below.

What are your ideas about using SoundCloud with the classroom?  Have you ever used SoundCloud to record or upload a full lesson?  What are the potential advantages or disadvantages of SoundCloud?  If you have any feedback, please leave your feedback below.

Job Interviews: A Student’s Guide (Part 1)

It had to happen one day, my students were looking for work yesterday.  In a way, it is a good opportunity for my adult learners to develop those all important life skills, albeit during a lesson.  Yes, we were covering the topic of employment and job interviews during the lesson and the learners were keen to share their experiences of work, interviews and career expectations.  We initially looked at particular vocabulary and collocations associated with work and applying for a job: write up a CV, go for an interview, get promoted, work freelance, etc.  Once a lot of collocations and phrases were written up on the whiteboard, I got the learners to try to put them in chronological order.  This got them thinking and associating the vocabulary to specific periods during employment.  After a brief discussion about the order of vocabulary and phrases highlighted above, I got the learners into pairs and asked them to think about questions that are asked during job interviews.  The learners came up with some pretty impressive questions.  These included: “Tell me about yourself.“, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” as well as “Why do you want to work for us?“.

To consolidate question forms and recycle some vocabulary above, I handed out a worksheet with some of the most common job interview questions.  The learners had to re-order the jumbled question forms and then ask each other questions as if one learner was the interviewer whilst the other learner was the job applicant.  It worked quite well and focused on suitable/appropriate answers for job interviews which were then scaffolded and corrected.  After some discussion about good and bad interviews, the lesson was over.  In essence this lesson was materials-light and the learners were very keen to incorporate new phrases into their mini role-play.

Tomorrow, I am focusing on a more structured role-play which recycles the vocabulary and question forms from yesterday.  It is wonderful that the learners are so keen to develop invaluable skills such as learning more about interview questions and providing suitable answers.  Over the course of the week, I will create and upload more material associated with job hunting and applying for work.  Anyhow, today I have uploaded some of the material that I have used today and the material that I plan to use tomorrow.  The more structured role-play offers learners the opportunity to develop more drama in the classroom, recording the dialogue for future listening lessons or develop more automaticity.  If anyone is willing to record the dialogue with other teachers, please let me know as I would be keen to update the write up more lesson materials with authentic listening activities which have been created with the support of my readers.  Again, if you are interested in developing classroom material, please contact me.

Job Interview Questions and Answers

Job Interview Role Play Dialogue

The Use of Video in the Classroom

Last Friday, I decided to use a video in the classroom for the first time in a long time.  I have often found the use of videos quite a difficult task in itself.  It is rather difficult trying to use videos for language points or for more focused tasks.  Nonetheless, I decided to show “Love Actually”, a video set during Christmas with a wide range of actors and actresses, and had set some tasks for my Young Adults to complete during the watching of the movie.  The movie itself was quite long, about 2 hours in length with some great scenes which reflected the spirit of Christmas.

The initial task that I set the learners at the beginning of the class was to complete a gapfill exercise.  The first two scenes include a scene at what is assumed Heathrow Airport and then the second scene is in a music studio with Rock & Roll Legend, Billy Mack.  Get the learners to complete the handout below by themselves, before pairing them up to check their answers and finally eliciting the correct answers.

Love Actually – Intro Scenes

The second task that I set for learners was for them to complete a character matching exercise: match the character and their job/occupation.  Before watching the movie, we studied up on various occupations (housekeeper, housemaid, etc) and then I handed out a matching worksheet after the initial activity for learners to complete (which is below).  As there were a number of different characters/names, it was difficult work for students to learn about them and their occupations.  The learners were listening intensively to the dialogue and for any clues.  To check that they were listening with the first activity, I elicited the name of the Rock & Roll Legend (Billy Mack) and then told learners that they had to complete the rest of the matching activity whilst they watched the rest of the movie.

Love Actually – Characters

At one scene in the movie, where Mark and Juliet meet to discuss about a video from a wedding (about the first two minutes of the scene with the YouTube video below), I paused the movie and elicited their names.  I then went on to say that they are going to watch the next scene with Mark and Juliet with no sound and they have to predict/guess what they are saying.  I handed out a blank script and the learners will have to complete the script to the best of their ability.  It was mentioned that it made no difference whether they attempted to complete it and was wrong as it was all good practice.  I played the video and I was acting as a human remote control and learners were telling me: “pause”, “rewind”, “fast forward”, etc.  The scene was played a number of times until learners were happy to complete the activity and then act the scene out.  There was a lot of laughing and the students really got into the scene.

Love Actually – Script Juliet and Mark

Next, I played the scene with the sound off and then just the subtitles so that they could see what things were similar or different to their script.  We then played the video with the sound on and the subtitles off.  It was a wonderful activity and were quite responsive.  In the second lesson of the week, we continued with the movie and watched the ending.  I handed out a worksheet for learners to complete and it was a character summarisation.  Learners had to choose one character from the movie and write about him/her.  Luckily, all learners chose someone different and they had a look on Wikipedia or other websites to learn a bit more about their chosen character.  Fortunately, they decided not to plagiarise from Wikipedia and their writing was commendable.

Love Actually – About a Character

As I mentioned earlier in the blog post, it was the first time that I had used a movie in class to any success and the learners were quite responsive to this.  The was an opportunity for creative writing, writing about people, as well as an opportunity to act a scene out (although I have one boy and seven girls: some of the girls were quite happy to go Shakespeare and pretend to be Mark).  Anyhow, have you used videos in class before?  What activities do you include when showing a video in class?  Do you try to focus on the grammatical aspects of English when showing a video?  Do you have any advice for me when I show videos in class in the future?  It would be wonderful to hear from my readers so that I could consider them in the future.

Teaching Articles to Teenagers and Adult Learners

I have developed a lesson plan for the teaching of articles for teenagers and adult learners.  I should really thank a fellow colleague that I work with at the British Council Bucharest for inspiring me to use Mr Bean videos for the teaching of various grammar or topic areas.  It was a wonderful suggestion, and since returning to the UK (albeit for a short period) I have tried to develop material for different areas of grammar and topics.  The best thing about Mr Bean videos are the various situations that Rowan Atkinson decides to include with the character as well as being known by many international learners around the world.  Anyhow, here is the lesson plan for incorporating the teaching of articles in the classroom.

First of all, you could introduce the topic of articles (a, an, the, -) to learners via the PowerPoint file (available to download via Scribd) and is available to view below.
The Use of Articles

After looking at the grammar, tell learners that they will be watching a Mr Bean video where he prepares to meet the Queen.  Tell learners that they need to make a note of what he does to prepare the meeting of the Queen.  The video is available to watch on YouTube here:

Handout the worksheet (once the video has finished) and get learners to transcribe their notes on the handout.  It is probably best to either cut the worksheet in half or get learners to fold it over (so they don’t see the reading (which will have the answers to the previous activity).  Once learners have been given an opportunity to share their answers and the teacher provides some scaffolding for language that has emerged from the video, you can move on to the next part of the worksheet whereby learners need to choose the correct article.
Mr Bean Meets the Queen – Articles

There is also a Wordle in PDF format that is available to hand out to learners at the end of the session for them to review or analyse the use of articles in English.  I tried this lesson out with different abilities of learners and they were really focused (especially one group that has difficulty focusing during the class).  I hope that you make use of this but all credit should go to one colleague at the British Council in Bucharest that help me develop this further.
Articles Wordle

Classroom Activities to Prompt Authentic Interaction

I remember when I first started teaching in South Korea, I was handed the course book and quickly thrown in a classroom full of young children.  My heart was pounding and my head was spinning.  It was only a few days previously that I flew into the country with my family and I was still trying to find my place in this wonderful country.  Nevertheless, after a number of months I gained confidence and tried to read more about teaching from various websites to give me more ideas.  However, I quickly found that to prompt authentic interaction and conversation between the learners or the learners and myself was increasingly difficult.  I decided to use various articles that would interest the young learners but found that the 50 minute class was too short to take advantage of this.  In the end, I started using games and activities to relax and prompt authentic interaction in the classroom.  I suppose at the time, I was unaware of a Dogme ELT movement and was trying to keep teach myself at the same time.  On a side note, for budding teachers wanting to experience a different culture and get a job, English language teachers are employed in Korea with the only requirements for applicants to have a degree in any subject and an interest in the culture/language.  I suppose I am, what is now referred to, as a backpacker EFL teacher.

Anyhow, I suppose the greatest challenge for any language teacher is to get learners to converse and interact in the target language.  As I have a keen interest in authentic conversation and autonomy in the classroom, I got “Teaching Unplugged” in 2010 and this provided the basis of developing activities to prompt authentic and Dogme-esque moments in the classroom.  The lesson ideas require very little preparation, limited materials and the focus is on getting the students conversing in the hope that there is emergent language that can be scaffolded.  I have relied upon these activities with various classes and the learners have always been receptive.  Some of the activities have been customised from “Teaching Unplugged” and give credit to such a wonderful and inspirational book.

Dogme ELT – Lesson Ideas(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

I hope you get the opportunity to incorporate some of the lesson ideas in your classroom.

Pronunciation and Language Learning


Used by ELTChat (2011)

The most recent ELTChat was related to pronunciation: “How and when do you teach pronunciation?”. Also my most recent seminar and lecture at university was coincidentally about phonology and pronunciation.  The ELTChat was quite interesting and there were many great suggestions by other fellow educators that contributed during the live chat with twitter.  I thought I would share some ideas and focus on some other areas that teachers mentioned in the most recent ELTChat discussion in this blog post.

Why should teachers focus on teaching pronunciation or including pronunciation work within the ELT classroom?  Many teachers seem to, as illustrated by the ELTChat, is often overlooked by teachers and coursebooks, teachers are quite passive and believe that pronunciation, stress, intonation as well as connected speech will be acquired by learners as if by osmosis (this point is also demonstrated by my own personal research with a local school), and the rules of phonology is hard to ‘pin-down’.  It has been recognised by Seidlhofer (2001; pp. 56-64), that pronunciation is the ‘Cinderella’ of language teaching.  However, some teachers just lack the confidence to formally include pronunciation in their lessons due to the fact that teachers “often aren’t trained to teach pronunciation” (ELTChat, 2011).  Nevertheless, what areas of phonology should we focus on in classes and when is the best time to include pronunciation work?

TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC (2011)

When looking at the phonemic chart above, which is available to download for the iPad or on the internet (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/try/activities/phonemic-chart), teachers are able to focus on pronunciation at the letter level with individual sounds but is this useful?  As with any teaching, the emphasis should be on meaningful and useful language yet with the phonemic chart, students are focused upon ‘letter level’ pronunciation.  This is neither useful nor meaningful if teachers are introducing new vocabulary.  It is only useful when focusing on particular sounds but I believe that this approach is limited as teachers are ‘unable to see the words from the trees‘.  Obviously, I do believe that phonemic chart does have its uses; for example if teaching monolingual classes, teachers could focus on target sounds that learners find difficulty creating (with Korean learners they have difficulty creating some vowel and consonant sounds).  Nevertheless, if teachers are analysing new vocabulary and looking at pronunciation at a ‘word level’, areas that may be focused upon could include; stress and unstress.  Scrivener (2005) introduces the analysing of word stress and unstress by various activities which include marking stress, finding stressed syllables, and sorting stress patterns (with the columns).  A good awareness raising activity (which was introduced at my University lecture/seminar) was to use similar sounding words which contain various vowel sounds and trying to get students to transcribe a partner’s telephone number by using words which have a corresponding number.  It is best illustrated by the example below:

Pronunciation Phone Numbers
Pronunciation Phone Numbers – Ten Vowel Sounds

Phonetics Focus – A Sound Choice (2011)

There are some great resources available on the internet which can assist in incorporating phonetics in the classroom, particularly with younger learners.  However, I have used Phonetics Focus with adult learners as it is visual and the visual cues can assist adult learners just as much as younger learners.  Furthermore, there are so many activities included and the fact that flashcards can be printed for classroom use is great.  I remember when I first came across this website almost three years ago and I used the flashcards to help create a pelmanism game.  For those unaware of the term ‘pelmanism’, it is referred to by Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2011) as “a game in which players must remember cards or other objects that they have seen”.  It is more common for learners to try to match a picture on one card with the corresponding word.  For further information about pelmanism, please look at the Teaching English | British Council | BBC website (2011).

When I visited my school (LTC Eastbourne) during the week, I asked some teachers and learners to fill out a questionnaire about pronunciation.  The questionnaire is available to view below:
Pronunciation Questionnaires
Pronunciation Questionnaires – Combined 2011
Teachers’ Answers
1. “Second language pronunciation cannot be taught in the classroom, only learnt outside it” – How much do you agree with this statement, and why?
All teachers interviewed disagreed with this statement.  One teacher suggested that a combination of both classroom and individual learning is required, another teacher suggesting that teachers could concentrate on individual sounds “specific to particular nationalities” and the other teacher suggesting that students need to be aware of pronunciation to “effectively listen” to differences.

2. How important is it for second language pronunciation to sound natural?  Why?
With regards to teachers, it was interesting to note that some teachers referred to pronunciation as important but in context.  For example, it “depends on the situation” with another teacher questioning what natural is.  However, it was generally acknowledged that students, if applicable, should be “understood outside the classroom”.

3. Do you believe it is possible to achieve pronunciation similar to a native speaker?  Why/why not?
Again, all teachers agreed that students should be able to achieve pronunciation native speaker ability.  However, the statement above does not take into account English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) or World Englishes.  One teacher suggested that intelligebility is more important than native-like pronunciation.  Obviously one area that is not mentioned by teachers is that perhaps individual student ability is not taken into account and perhaps some students are able to have a natural ability to acquire a recognised native-like pronunciation.

4. What can learners do to try to improve their pronunciation?
Some suggestions by teachers were to practice particular sounds, listen and imitate sounds, watch and listen to TV or radio as well as attend classes.

5. What can teachers do to improve their students’ pronunciation?
During the ELTChat discussion, some activities that learners could use could include recording “your students and use it to focus on pronunciation issues”, modelling “the shape of the mouth, and ask [students] to think about their tongues and lips” as well as taking “chunks of text and look at the connected speech”.  There are some great ideas suggested during the discussion.  The teachers that were interviewed suggested using drills, repetition to incorporate habits (Information Processing Theory), etc.

6. What factors influence pronunciation most?
All teachers interviewed considered L1 Interference as the most important factor that influences L2 pronunciation.  However, one teacher considered word stress, tone, intonation and pitch just as important.  Additionally, as referred to by one teacher, if a student is influenced by a particular culture perhaps the student decides to emulate that particular accent (such as British English or American English).

7. How do you feel when you meet someone who speaks another language well, with a good accent?
All teachers mentioned that they would be impressed if they meet someone if they are able to speak another language well with a good accent.  It is perhaps this perception of language ability connected with pronunciation which fails to recognise other foreign accents that may interfere with pronunciation but has no impact on intelligibility.  However, as with any language, intelligibility is more important than accent or pronunciation.

Students’ Answers
1. At what age did you start to learn English?
One student started learning English as early as 4 years of age whilst other learners started from either 9 years of age or 14 years of age.  The students that were interviewed were all from South East Asia.

2. How long have you been here in the UK?
All students have been in the UK for less than a year.

3. Have you ever lived in an English-speaking country before this course?
Most students had not lived in an English speaking country prior to commencing their course in the UK.  However, one Korean student had lived in India for 2 months.

4. What is your main reason for learning English?
Three of the six students interviewed decided to study English to get a good job in their home country.  Other students suggested that they wanted to speak English to a good ability.

5. In the future, who do you think you will speak English with?
Most students suggested that they would communicate with colleagues or foreigners in English.  It was all related to their future employment with some students relating their reason to whom they would communicate with in the future.

6. How important is it for your English pronunciation to sound natural?  Why?
All learners suggested that English pronunciation is very important to sound natural.  One learner mentioned that “good pronunciation” will assist the listener with what you say (Thai interviewee).  Furthermore, “clear pronunciation … [will help] understand the sentence that we speak” (Korean interviewee).

7. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your pronunciation?
It is interesting to note that Thai learners rated their pronunciation in the middle and scored it 5 whilst Korean learners were more confident and rated their pronunciation as 8 or 9.  Both sets of learners are Upper Intermediate students but this difference in perception could allow learners to judge their pronunciation accurately.

8. Do you believe it is possible to achieve pronunciation similar to a native speaker?  Why/why not?
Again the answers from the questionnaire is quite interesting.  One Korean learner suggested that pronunciation is quite easy to acquire as they had studied English since they were children.  Two Korean students made some suggestion to L1 interference with English pronunciation (“that’s not my mother tongue”).  The Thai leaners were more confident suggesting that “practice makes perfect” and pronunciation will improve over time.

9. What do you do to try to improve your pronunciation?
All students interviewed mentioned that they watch TV or listen to the radio.  One learner mentioned that they speak with L1 speakers and another learner suggested that they mimic native speaker pronunciation.  They were all quite active to improve their pronunciation and aware of the differences between their pronunciation and a native speaker.

10. What factors influence your English pronunciation most?
Half of the students interviewed suggested that the most important factor for their pronunciation was with their teacher; “When I heard good pronunciation I practised”.  The other learners suggested that it was with the other learners and that listening was just as important.

11. How do you feel when you meet someone from another country who speaks your language well, with a good accent?
All students mentioned that they were impressed if they heard a foreigner speaking their native language with a good accent.  One student said they would be very strange but proud of their own language.

12. “Foreign language pronunciation cannot be taught in a classroom, only learnt outside it” – How much do you agree with this statement, and why?
All students apart from one agreed with the statement and regarded the teacher being able to teach pronunciation formally in class; “natural pronunciation can be taught in the real situation”.  However, one Thai student disagreed with the statement saying that they would be able to learn outside the classroom perhaps by recording the inside or outside the classroom and referring to this back home to focus on pronunciation.

All in all there are some really interesting points suggested by teachers and learners.  Most students expect the teacher to formally introduce correct pronunciation but with most teachers suggesting that improved pronunciation is only achievable outside the classroom.  Additionally, there appears a difference in expectation between learners and teachers.  Perhaps with this knowledge, teachers could incorporate more pronunciation in class and provide learners the opportunity to focus on pronunciation in class.  As educators, we are able to record lessons (if all learners provide consent) and upload this for a podcast for learners to study in due course.  Additional resources could be introduced by teachers so that learners could study in their own time (http://www.englishcentral.com/speak).

Other resources suggested by the ELTChat discussion offered teachers and learners include the following:

Personally, I would encourage teachers to read more about pronunciation skills for the classroom (there are some great articles on Onestopenglish.com), share ideas with other teachers, read some books on phonology and phonetics as well as write their own blog post about their experiences of pronunciation.  Try to use the questionnaires share above and try to incorporate in a lesson.  Your learners may provide completely different opinions compared to my learners.  It would be interesting to find out what European language learners consider important with pronunciation.  I only questioned six South East Asian students in my local school so the limitation of this is that they are all of a similar ability and in the same class.

Using Newspapers in Class

My materials that were prepared a few days earlier.

Yesterday, I had my second observed teaching class and I decided for the lesson that I was going to use newspapers.  I had developed some great rapport with the students.  I have never used newspapers in class and I feel that I should develop my teaching skills to incorporate some authentic material for the classroom.  Having never used newspapers in class before, it was a personal aim to include the use of newspapers as a basis for a lesson.  I read various books to get some great ideas including “Newspapers” (Grundy, 1993), “Using Newspapers in the Classroom” (Sanderson, 1999), “Teaching Unplugged” (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009) as well as “Practical English Usage” (Swan, 2005).  All these books had some great ideas for implementing newspapers in the classroom with the later focusing on the more conventional vocabulary and grammar.  I do have to personally thank Sue Annan for emailing me and providing me with some great resources which I will definately put to good use once I have completed my Advanced Practical Teaching course.  Nonethless, the linguistic aim for the lesson was to ensure that by the end of the lesson learners will be able to read and summarise various newspaper articles.  The sub aims focused on more of the practical skills such as reading for gist, skimming, etc as well as the forms and conventions of newspaper articles.  The main task (which I will go into more detail below) focused on a using visual clues to activate schema and encourage prediction.  So, what did students do for the lesson?

I started the lesson by asking students what they have heard on the news recently.  I felt this would be a simple and effective starter for the lesson.  This discussion (which included Egypt) naturally moved towards newspapers and at this point I asked students what British Newspapers they have read.  Students brainstormed for a few minutes and I transcribed their ideas/answers on to the whiteboard.  I then referred to a list of British Newspapers that I had found and showed some titles on PowerPoint.

The next part of the lesson was to introduce some Headlines and encourage learners to create sentences from the headlines.  I demonstrated this with the “Furniture Factory Pay Cut Row” and the sentence was provided included “A ROW (disagreement) about a CUT (reduction) in PAY at a FACTORY that makes FURNITURE.”  I gave the students 3 headlines to work through and assisted with any vocabulary queries they had which included “Red Tape”, “Slug” and “PM”.  I inserted one ambiguous headline (Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge) to see if they could spot the ambiguity but it was not possible.  It wasn’t the aim of the lesson so I let this possibility fade away as the lesson progressed.

This provided some progress on to the next part of the lesson, which introduced the idea of how small changes to the verb within a headline could change the meaning.  The example that I selected from Swan’s book was the classic “Boy Found Safe” vs “Boy Finds Safe”.  I provided learners a short time to figure out the differences in meaning.  Learners were able to determine that the lexical item “safe” has two meanings; one as a noun and the other as an adjective.  From this they were able to provide some example of the difference.

With the conventions and forms of headlines were introduced, it was time for students to put what they had learnt into practice.  I decided that a jigsaw activity was useful.  I bought several newspapers one day and then sat down and just cut out all the news articles that I found interesting (hoping that students would find them also interesting).  Each article must have a picture, a headline (almost all do) and an introductory paragraph for the news article (most do).  Once I had selected five stories, the pictures and headlines were glued on my old cereal boxes with cellotape used to laminate and protect them.  The introductory paragraphs were transcribed on to my PC, printed out and cut up.  I put students into three groups; one group had pictures, the other headlines and the other group had introductory paragraphs.  Each group had to keep their material secret and describe the headline (in a full sentence), describe what was in the picture and the other group explaining the main story (summarising the information).  The learners had to match the pictures/headlines/introduction all together.  The students were really active and I just let them get on.  They were really keen to talk about the material they had with each other and discuss amongst themselves.  They worked really well and were autonomous to a greater degree.  Once the material were all grouped together correctly, I got students to select stories that they found interesting.  Again this generated more discussion and the students were really taking charge of the lesson.

My teaching portfolio is increasing each time I add to it.

With a little bit of time left (about 10 minutes), and not really wondering if I should continue with the last activity (but did nonetheless), I introduced a humorous news article about “Crime-fighting milkman to collect MBE”.  I provided some keywords (drug deals, MBE, cow, queen, etc) and asked students to write their own expectation of the story using the keywords within their text.  They worked in groups and this really helped with creative writing.  Groups then wrote their story on the board and this gave rise to some cold error correction.  At the end, I showed the photo of the milkman collecting his MBE in a cow suit and provided the full article to the students to read at their pleasure.

Like I mentioned earlier, this was the first time that I had used newspapers in class.  I felt that I had used the newspapers well but there is so much more that teachers can do to include newspapers in class.  My DoS has mentioned that the use of “The i” by the Independent is written in such an easy to read way which could help students read extensively.  Furthermore, it is only 20p in the UK and available free on the iPad.  Anyhow, I hope to use newspapers more in class and will be referring more to the books mentioned earlier.

I have provided some resources that I used in class below for those that are interested.  Anyhow, I leave you with some questions for your own ideas.  What has been your experience of using newspapers?  What areas do you focus if you use newspapers in class?  Do you think newspapers is suitable for all levels?

Newspapers Presentation
Newspapers Presentation

Newspaper Paragraphs Ready to Cut
Newspaper Paragraphs

Crime-fighting Milkman
The Daily Telegraph – Milkman Awarded MBE

Stress In The Classroom (Part 2)

This is the second post on my blog about pronunciation.  My initial post about pronunciation, “Stress in the Classroom”, looked at intonation, rhythm and stress as I had to lead a seminar with a presentation.  This post is more about implementing and raising awareness of pronunciation as well as including suplementary areas such as intonation, rhythm and stress in the classroom.  I was lucky to attend Adrian Underhill’s workshop on injecting pronunciation in a fun and interesting way in the classroom.  The key principle that Underhill aimed when introducing the Phonemic Chart or particular sounds included the Silent Way.

The Silent Way is a discovery learning approach, invented by Caleb Gattegno in the 1950s. The teacher is usually silent, leaving room for the students to explore the language. They are responsible for their own learning and are encouraged to interact. The role of the teacher is to give clues, not to model the language. (Wikipedia)

Thornbury (2006) suggests that the Silent Way “has contributed to more mainstream teaching in a number of ways, including the widespread use of Cuisenaire rods and the phonemic chart” (A-Z of ELT).  During Underhill’s workshop at the BELTE, he suggested that teachers should try to refrain from deploying an Audiolinguistic method when introducing the Phonemic Chart (for example, the teacher says a sound, the students try to repeat the same sound and the teacher then shows that sound on the chart).  The following YouTube videos should illustrate this:

After illustrating the sounds via miming, relying upon the students for sound recreation and modelling he attempts students to come up to the front of the class and point to sounds that the teacher says or vice versa.

It is interesting that there is some form of TPR in the classroom when introducing and raising students’ awareness of phonetics.  TPR (Total Physical Response) is defined by Wikigogy as “a method for teaching language by involving students in physical activity.”  It is interesting to note that the TPR method is much like the natural which is “based upon the belief that learners need only understand input, and should not be required to speak until they are ready to” (Thornbury, 2006) which lends itself well to the Silent Way.

Nevertheless, on a personal note, the Phonemic Chart should be used lightly in the classroom and not be the focus of the lesson.  Perhaps when introducing new vocabulary in the classroom, the students should be introduced to pronunciation including other complementary areas (stress, intonation, rhythm, etc).  However, there is an increase of resources to assist in the introduction of phonetics in the classroom such as Phonetics Focus, The IPA Chart, as well as Phonetics: The Sound of English.

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