Grammar at Upper
by Sam Smith
- Lesson Plan 1
This lesson comes about 5 months into a general English
extensive course. The group meets twice a week for one and
a half hours, so we have been together for about 65 hours.
The course book we are using is Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate
and we are now in unit 8. It is a supplementary lesson,
connected with and adding to units 7 and 3 where the focuses
were annual events and past tenses respectively. In unit
7 the only focus on 'used to' and 'would' was a couple of
exercises in the work book, which will be done for revision
of this lesson at a later date. It also connects with the
topic of verb forms (unit 8) and modal verbs in the past
and present (unit 9). It's main purpose, though is to extend
the students' linguistic precision when talking about their
lives, a topic which is relevant throughout the course as
the students' (and teacher's) personal experience has been
one of the main ideas, central to the classes. It will be
followed up at home with written homework from the content
of the lesson and relevant exercises from the students'
work book and in class with a further spoken fluency exercise
and a reflection exercise a week later. As Scott Thornbury
(Uncovering Grammar, 41) suggests maybe production activities
should be delayed as 'Learning is remembering you have understood
Throughout the course, we have been focusing on communication,
due to a noticeable difference in the students' level, enabling
the weaker students to feel part of the group, breaking
down barriers of shyness and feelings of inferiority.
This may have been to the detriment of some of the better
students' developing interlanguage. By encouraging strategies
for communication in listening, speaking and reading, I
may not have been pushing the students to try out, hypothesise
and structure and re-structure their language.
I feel that I have been trying too hard to get the students
to simply communicate, and through their success they have
not felt enough the need to develop and refine the grammar
they are using to get their message across. While we have
made considerable progress lexically, the students' vocabulary
and ability to notice and use collocations has improved
considerably, and they are all much more fluent than at
the start of the course, the students need to improve their
use of grammar as a process when speaking, particularly
in the finer points of grammar.
The methodology behind this lesson is aimed at redressing
this balance, by making focusing on form important to meaning,
not putting too much pressure on students when producing
the language (by giving enough preparation time), by helping
students notice the target language in a naturally occurring
context and that its use does have an effect on meaning
and by repeating the production tasks (or similar ones)
in later lessons so as to revise the structures or help
students 'remember they have understood something'.
So far in the course we have looked at the larger area of
tenses, past, present and future and more recently we have
begun to look at more intricate points, specific verb structures,
clauses and word order in them and soon will move on to
modality, realised verbally and lexically and then hypothetical
The chosen language, that of 'used to' and 'would' for past
reference is a similar area where the students can realise
their meaning in communication more exactly and efficiently.
It is something that has not been represented in any significant
way in the course book and is also something I have noticed
to be lacking in these particular students and in general
in my students up to proficiency level. To highlight this
point, I recently taught this language point to a 'First
Certificate' group and was unpleasantly surprised to find
that half the group claimed never to have met 'would' as
used to talk about a past habit before.
will begin this lesson by predicting and then me telling
the students about the differences in my everyday life between
living in Ukraine and in Spain as a way to interest the
students, give them an example to work from and setting
up the context, i.e. when something was different in a past
period in life.
The students will then prepare their own version based on
their real experiences but the actual telling or doing of
the task will be delayed to a later stage to allow a chance
to provide input of the target language. Thus, creating
a need for the target language as opposed to just presenting
it and practising it with no need having been created as
in a PPP approach or putting in the input when it is already
too late, i.e. after the production stage as in Test Teach
Test or the Deep End Strategy.
A second prediction and listening stage (this time from
a tape of a colleague who lived in Zimbabwe) will then serve
as a vehicle to introduce the target language through a
noticing and analysis activity after the text has been first
processed for meaning.
Once the meaning of the target language has been made salient,
we will briefly focus on its perception and pronunciation
through a teacher led dictation and drill before going on
to some practice activities. Firstly, in a gap-fill exercise
where the form is vital to the meaning of the sentences
and secondly, in a jigsawed mini-task where the students
have to prepare and then pass on some information using
the target language as a deciding factor in the making of
a decision based on their shared information.
Finally, the content, prepared near the beginning of the
lesson will be used in the final task of talking students
about themselves, comparing life now with a time in the
past. This is aimed at providing some sort of freer practice
where the target structures are likely to occur and also
to serve as the basis for the students' homework which will
be writing a summary of what their partners have told them.
more preliminary information
a print friendly version
the articles index