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How Grammar Can Help to Maintain
Motivation of Advanced Learners
by Greg Gobel
- lesson plan 1

Preliminary information

Main aims:
To raise learners awareness of a more authentic way of reporting in English. (S1,S2)
For learners to help each other work out patterns and types of reported speech (i.e., summary and approximation/constructed dialogue). (S2)

Subsidiary Aims:
For learners to interpret dialogue from television show segments and make somewhat successful attempts to report these to their peers by using summarizing and approximation/constructed dialogue style of reporting. (S3)

Timetable fit:
We are progressing through Unit 8 in the Advanced Gold coursebook, which includes a small section practicing reported speech in the typical way that grammar and coursebooks present it, which Yule calls ‘quite inadequate accounts of what…learners are likely to encounter…outside the classroom’ (Yule, 1992: 245). Two lessons prior to this one, we took a look at those activities because I wanted to find out what the learners already knew about reported speech. The downside to this is that perhaps it reinforced these mechanical rules. The upside, however, is that I know they are quite good with these mechanics. I elicited their opinions about these mechanical rules and they said they were quite hard and that it seemed unnatural to have to slow down fluency to make sure they change all the tenses correctly. I told them not to worry, and that we will investigate another way of approaching reported speech soon.

From 18:35 until 19:00 in today’s lesson, we will spend some time brainstorming and discussing types of ‘life change’ and any personal experiences the learners may have had or anticipate to help activate schemata and set the scene and topic for the rest of the lesson. Learners will also listen to the authentic taped segments that will be used in Stage 1 in the lesson plan below. The learners will listen for gist understanding of each segment by deciding who the speaker in each segment is and what ‘life change’ he or she is talking about. This way they will have a better chance at success in stage 1 and the weaker listeners will be more comfortable with the recorded material.

Homework: Learners will get a summarized version of the information that Yule presents about authentic ways of reporting. Their task will be to read it and come to the following class with any questions they may have. As in class we will be taking an inductive approach to the grammar area, I think it would be helpful for learners to get a clear description of what they discover in class for reinforcement and further clarification.

In part of a future lesson, the learners will take part in mock CAE speaking exams. They will take turns being candidates and examiners. In their role as examiners, they will have to report to other ‘examiners’ how the exam went and what their ‘candidates’ spoke about. This will give learners more practice and reinforcement with using summarizing and constructed dialogue types of reported speech.

Assumptions:
Learners will appreciate and relate to the summary-type of reported speech as this is a natural way of reporting in Spanish.

Learners are capable of discovering the pertinent concepts of the focus language themselves (i.e., learners are capable of guided self-discovery).

Using authentic materials and real people’s voices (audio recordings and DVD) will help motivate learners.

Teaching and learning these styles of reporting are useful and helpful for learners at advanced level.

Anticipated Problems and Possible Solutions:
Affective:
Learners may be intimidated by being asked to report what they hear from a real television show. Solution: Playing the DVD segments more than one time and letting learners take notes and consult peers to get ready to report should help reduce anxiety.

The room can get stuffy and hot. Solution: T will be aware of room temperature and open the door to let some fresh air in when needed.

Learners may not be that forthcoming with a personal life change in stage 5. Solution: Let them know that the life change could be a positive one and that it need not be that serious if they are not that comfortable with that.

One of the audio clips talks about a father dying from cancer. Some learners may be sensitive to this issue. The speaker speaks sensitively about the issue, so hopefully this will prevent possible problems. This class is mature, so I think they will see the audio clip for what it is and not let it affect them too much. Solution: That said, if a learner does become emotionally overwhelmed, he/she can step outside the class if needed.

Linguistic:
Learners will be used to reporting mechanically and not automatically adjust to a more authentic style of reporting. Solution: This is to be expected, so in making attempts to report more naturally they are starting to solve this on their own; they cannot be expected to be able to do it perfectly in one lesson’s time.

Classroom aids-related:
The lesson is reliant on audio material. I must be ready for malfunctions with the machines or a power outage in the school (which has happened already this school year). Solution: I will also have the CD recordings on tape in case the CD player does not work well. Also, I will have batteries for the tape player in case there is a power outage. I will also have all the transcripts handy as a last resort. I will act out the Seinfeld dialogues for the learners if there is a power outage.

Learners may have trouble understanding some of the Seinfeld characters’ dialogue. Solution: Multiple playings of the cd to give learners enough opportunity to listen. They are encouraged to help each other understand it, so they do not have to understand every little bit. Also, as they do not need to report every word, they do not need to understand every word.

Time:
In previous lessons I have spent too much time in T-S feedback to activities and lost precious time in the lessons. Solution: Less time will be spent in T-S feedback than in prior lessons.

Number of learners:
An odd number of learners would mean that during the reporting sequence with the DVD there would be one group of three. Solution: Use a group of three and two learners would share the reporting.

Classroom Aids:

  • White board, board pens (S2, and as needed)
  • CD player (S1)
  • Remote control (S1/S3)
  • Homemade CD with ‘life changes’ audio extracts (S1, carry over from timetable fit)
  • Visuals of Kofi Annan, Elvis Presley, my sister, a work colleague, and Adam Clayton and Bono of U2. (S1, carry over from timetable fit)
  • Handout with reports (S1/S2)
  • Seinfeld DVD, episode ‘The Revenge’ (S3)
  • Hallway near receptionist’s desk (S3)
  • Prediction Task 1 worksheets (S3)
  • Prediction Task 2 worksheets (S3)
  • TV (S3)
  • DVD player (same as CD player) (S3)
  • Transcript handouts (5 audio extracts, Seinfeld extracts) for after the lesson (take-home)
  • Grammar summary sheet for after the lesson (take-home)

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