- a CAE error awareness
by Gregory Gobel
I have chosen a short extract from a novel for this resources/materials lesson because I generally avoid using novels or novel extracts. We are using Frankenstein because of the theme link (cloning, genetic engineering) with CAE Gold unit 6. Also, it is a well-known novel with which learners may be somewhat familiar – at least with the story and characters. I have chosen a short extract because of the length (19 lines) of the spelling/punctuation correction task in CAE English in Use Paper 3 and because the language is quite complex – I want both my learners and myself to have a successful, positive experience with using literature. The main aim of inferring literary language seems a natural exploitation of this 200 year-old novel and is designed to help learners interpret what they read to encourage more enjoyment and understanding. I have found that learners at this level often appreciate the subtleties of how a writer manipulates language. Gist reading is generally a useful skill for learners and one that, at times, this class has had trouble with, especially with more complex bits of writing. The main aim of proof-reading awareness is specifically designed to help learners with the CAE spelling/punctuation correction task that my prior CAE learners have found deceivingly challenging.
The lesson uses pairs and/or groups throughout to encourage learners to be cooperative, give speaking opportunities, and increase possibilities of success with challenging tasks.
Stage 1 asks learners to stand and move around while they correct mistakes. It will already be 25 minutes into the lesson so this will help re-energize the learners and focus them on typical CAE mistakes.
Stage 2 involves learners in a self-discovery activity, which should help learners work out and remember typical mistakes they will encounter.
Stage 3 involves learners discussing some guided questions that will help them understand the story and see how the passage they will get later fits into Frankenstein as a whole. It will help them understand and empathize with the characters which will help them understand the passage to come.
Stage 4 develops their gist reading skills in the context of how gist reading can help them succeed with the CAE correction task. This gives them a tangible reason to read for gist – more than because the teacher asked them to.
Stage 5 gives learners a controlled opportunity to help each other notice, analyze and correct typical CAE mistakes that I have introduced into the Frankenstein extract. The creative adaptation of literature here to replace an otherwise tedious exam task could increase learners’ motivation.
Stage 6 is optional because, although the intensive questions may help with further comprehension, they are not a main aim and time could become tight.
In stage 7 learners infer the meaning of literary language to help develop their interpretive abilities. I have included hints to increase achievability/decrease frustration and to save time, if needed.
Time may not allow for stage 8’s role play, which can be moved to the following lesson.
- The class – As a whole, the class has developed good rapport and a relaxed yet motivated atmosphere that is conducive to learning English. They help each other and try their best on tasks in class. Overall, they are punctual and attend frequently. Attendance is generally good. (There were nine learners out of ten in the first class after the holiday break.) They are generally timely with their homework and understand that a lot of exam-focused homework is necessary and extremely helpful for CAE preparation. That said, this class tends to take a little longer with most classroom tasks than the other CAE class that I teach. They also score consistently 5-10% points lower on practice exams than the other class.
- Elena G.L. – Elena is taking English lessons primarily to improve her speaking ability. At the beginning of the year she expressed that she was not that interested in taking the CAE, but recently has hinted at reconsidering. Last year she was at the pre-intermediate level, but after traveling in Britain for several months, she was strong enough to jump several levels. Because of this, at times she lacks a bit of confidence because her vocabulary is not as broad as most of the other students in class. Elena is the only class member to fail the first practice CAE reading paper (from October) but both she and I agree that her 59% (1 below passing) was a mighty achievement considering she has jumped up several levels. However, as the school year goes on, I am becoming more and more convinced that, although Elena is able to manage some success at this level, she would probably gain more in a First Certificate class.
- Elena O. -- Elena O. is an unassuming anchor in class. She does, however, have a tendency to come about 10 or 15 minutes late sometimes due to outside circumstances. Her skills are quite solid but she surprisingly did rather poorly on her practice CAE English in Use homework paper. Although many students find that paper of the exam to be extremely challenging, I really thought she would get above 60%. This was helpful, though, because otherwise I think both she and I would have taken that part of the exam for granted and now we know that a little more work than we thought might be necessary will be.
- Theresa – Theresa is a pleasure to have in class. She is hard-working with a sense of humor and very willing to actively take part in tasks. Her German skills are also very good as she has been working for a German company and traveling to Germany for work. She is a little bit older than most of the other students but this is never an issue.
- Javier – Javier quietly and methodically does most things extremely well. At times, he need a little time to think and generate what he wants to say. Javier scored above a 90% in June on the FCE, so is well grounded and confident. He is already scoring high marks on his CAE practice tests. For example, he earned a 75% on the English in Use paper the class did in the middle of November. This is a great achievement considering he only passed the FCE less than 6 months ago.
- Javier -- Javier loves to take part in class and his favorite thing is to speak, albeit not as accurately as he would like and at times, creatively inventing new ‘words’ along the way, which sometime lead to confusion, but mostly lead to the corrected form that he was attempting to make. Although this means he takes part actively in group/pair work, it also means that at times he can dominate a little bit. Javier was a late addition to the class, joining us in the second week. He fit right in, though, without losing a beat. Like, Theresa, he is a little older than the others, but age difference is not a problem in any way. Javier did not attend Monday’s class, the first after the holiday break.
- Belen -- Belen and Isabel are good friends from outside class and tend to work well together. Belen is confident, out-spoken when she wants to be, and very helpful with her peers. Her writing is very accurate but I think she could challenge herself a little bit more with the type of language she uses in her writing.
- Isabel – Isabel and Belen are good friends from outside class. Isabel is quieter and not as sure of herself, but an active participant nonetheless. She tends to make everything into one sentence in her writing, so as the course progresses she will need to work on punctuation and when to start and end sentences, and just how much to include in each. Sometimes Isabel will unnecessarily speak Spanish in class – not too much, but just enough to show that perhaps she is not as confident as some of the other learners at this level. This occurs most when she is seated next to her friend, Belen, so it is important to have a balance of Isabel working with Belen and many other peers throughout lessons.
- David -- David works at the mint across the street from the school. While many of his colleagues take business English courses, David, like many others, prefers to take the general courses with an exam focus. His smile is contagious. David is a little bit weaker grammatically than the rest of the class, but this does not generally impede his ability to maintain successful communication. David’s attendance is a little lower than most of his peers because of work demands.
- Victor – Victor is of the ‘let’s talk and talk, and not worry about grammar’ attitude. So, he is quite fluent but makes seemingly more mistakes than his peers. With Victor a little more than the others, more accuracy is a long-term goal. Victor really helped with the rapport of the class from the first day of classes, when he came in a few minutes early and smilingly started chatting in English to one of his new peers. This really helped to set the mood and atmosphere of the class. Victor is attempting to take more control of his learning. One example of that on a bi-weekly basis he checks out an advanced reader from the school’s library. I think this is great, but have even suggested that he could borrow some of my English novels if he wanted to attempt reading the original versions.
- Nacho – Nacho is a brand new student in the class. This will be only his second class. He mentioned to me after the first class that it has been years since he needed to use English, but he is confident that with some time and effort he will be comfortable with it again. He was a little apprehensive to take the floor on his own in his first lesson on Monday, but was active in pairwork, albeit not as active as his partners. He was able to read through a complex authentic text about the benefits of cloning and able to show understanding through summarizing and arguing some of the points in a debate with his new peers.
- Christina - Christina, mentioned in the lesson from 15/11/04, finished the fall term but has not rejoined the class as she has no intention of taking the CAE and was unwilling to do the heavy work load that this course demands of the learners.
- Sentence strips for the walls (Stage 1)
- Tape recorder (Stage 1)
- Music tape for background music while learners walk and correct (Stage 1)
- Handout with correction statements and chart (Stage 2)
- Board and board pens for chart (Stage 2)
- Visual of monster (Stage 3)
- Gist questions handout (Stage 4)
- Exam strategies handout, on back of gist questions (Stage 4)
- Main reading text, extract from Frankenstein (Stage 4)
- Literary language worksheet (Stage 7)
- Take home handout: Chapter 17
- Take home handout: Punctuation rules
- Take home handout: Shelley’s introduction
- Teacher and peers (all stages)
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