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Teaching Tips 145

Post it up
Base it on the learners
Working with dialogues


Post it up

A useful way of providing variety of focus, activity & interest is to use student-generated posters on the walls of the classroom. Here are a couple of ideas:

A very nice way of brainstorming ideas is to use a poster presentation. Put your students into groups of three or four & supply them with a large piece of card & a variety of coloured pens. If you haven't got any card, sheets of paper can be used. Set the task - to storm everything they know about subject - crime, education etc. Encourage them to draw a mind map, with the topic in the middle & ideas growing out of this. All could write or you could elect a secretary in each group. Give them 10-15 minutes. Then get them to stick them on the walls evenly spaced around the classroom. They then wander around discussing the ideas on the other groups' posters. This is then followed by a whole class discussion.

Instead of the one area, you could give out different topics for them to design a poster for. These could be areas you have looked at over the past month - language areas & topics - & use this as the progress review. All look at the posters, bringing recent work to mind once again.

Posters are a great way of presenting mini-projects with younger learners. I saw one recently that was about a 'crazy zoo'. The children had designed new animals from the different parts of other animals - eg. a camels' head, zebra's body with the two legs of a bird. These new designs had been drawn & coloured in & covered one wall of the classroom. Good visual revision of animals & body vocabulary.

Corporate clients are used to 'flip charts' & will take to poster presentations. Ideas for this could be a poster designed to represent company structure, an advert for a new product, a sales process etc.

Posters can be used to present fields of expertise - a simple drawing of certain processes that they are explaining - eg. how a certain machine works, the players in their favourite football team. The students then use the posters while they give a mini-presentation.

As with language teaching, posters are great for reviewing areas in teacher training. Give your trainees the card & pens & get each group to storm an area you looked at that week - language practice, testing, vocabulary teaching etc. All look at each others' & everyone gets to review the week's work.


The Tour de France is on at the moment so for some lesson material get along to this past Tip:

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Base it on the learners

We've recently been looking at language practiuce activities - narrative & dialogue building & other ways of using dialogues.

An important ingredient of practice activities, if at all possible, is the inclusion of a degree of personalisation. When learners are using the new language to talk about themselves, their feelings, their experiences & their interests with the new language, there is greater depth & meaninfulness to
the activity that makes it much more memmorable.

A useful way to get to the personalised practice is through the personalised presentation

Here's an example of a learner-based presentation & practice:
The target language is 'likes & dislikes' & can be varied according to level.

1. Put the following columns on the board:
Elicit the varying degree of feeling from love >> hate but not the language - that comes later.

2. Dictate a series of nouns & verb-ing examples e.g. chocolate, learning English, studying, watching TV, playing football, computers, reading, driving etc.
Students put them under the columns for how they feel about them - I would put chocolate under Mmmmm! & watching TV under Ugh!
I should dictate about 15 different things - they should know the vocabulary already.

3. Presentation - elicit or give the language for each column:
I love/adore - I like/enjoy - I don't mind - I don't like/enjoy - I can't stand/hate
Elicit the form - each can be followed by + noun, + verb-ing, + pronoun
Elicit examples & drill when relevant.
Students copy down the new language.

4. Practice - students in pairs or small groups compare their dis/likes e.g. 'What have you got for chocolate? I like it. What about you?'
To make it more interesting I should get them to explain why they feel as they do about the things.
The object is to find three things in common - the communicative purpose to the activity.
As they do the activity go around & correct.

So here not only is the presentation completely learner-based but the practice also uses the same information about the students. They provide the content & you provide the language!

Above we had used the dictation in columns as the vehicle to get to the language & then the practice. Another vehicle is the graph. Have a look at the following page for ideas on this:

Hopefully the above ideas will lead you to coming up with your own learner-based presentations & practice tasks, making your lessons interesting & relevant.

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Working with dialogues

Over the last couple of weeks we've been looking at using picture stories, building narratives & building dialogues -

Here are some more ways of working with dialogues in class:

Dialogues are clearly a very important focus in the classroom & we use them for many purposes in class, from focusing on language to providing a structure for speaking. Here's a round up of a few ideas in no particular order:

1. Dialogue building - this is where you elicit dialogue prompts onto the board, drilling each line as you go along so that the students then have the dialogue in pairs. They repeat the dialogues, taking it in turns to take a role, & then they substitute different ideas into the dialogue but still keeping the structure of the dialogue. See the past Tip 'Dialoguing' for more:

2. Dialogue completion - students fill in the missing parts to check that they understand the target language of the lesson, & then the dialogue is read aloud to each other. If the dialogue is open-ended, the students continue it with their own ideas, hence incorporating a degree of fluency practice at the same time.

3. Dialogue drama >> give out a 6-8 line dialogues, assign roles & students practice the dialogue 4 or 5 times, enough so that they memorise the dialogue. Then they discuss the situation, what came before the dialogue & what came after. Then they act out the whole scene & finally act it out for the class.

4. Mutual dictation - choose a dialogue that contains language you want to review. Give out one side of the short dialogue to student A & the other half to student B. They read aloud their parts & write in what the other says until they both have complete dialogues. Then focus on the language in the context of the dialogue.

5. Unjumbling dialogues - copy & cut up, jumble up & the students put the dialogue in order. It's a good way of contrasting formal & informal language if you jumble up two dialogues.

6. Chain dialogue - students take it in turns in providing the next line to a two-person dialogue.

7. Pronunciation focus - any dialogue can be exploited for pronunciation awareness. After a listening, give out the tapescript & students mark certain features such as the tone units & prominence, weak forms, intrusion & elision etc.. After marking the students listen to verify their versions.

8. Flow charts - very underused dialogues with choices - see the Tip 'Going with the flow':

9. Simple written dialogue - if you are at a loss for a practice activity, simply ask the students to write a dialogue containing the target language items.

10. Transcribing dialogues - while the students are doing a speaking task, tape them & type up a section & then use the transcript to focus on a language area. You might even get the students transcribing dialogues to bring into class for use.

11. Shadow reading - hand out a dialogue, the students listen to it & read silently. They then read along to the dialogue in exactly the same manner as it is being played on the tape. Assign roles & they read these aloud at the same time as the tape & gradually turn down the volume as they become better at the dialogue so that it is the students sounding exactly like the original on the tape. See the Tip 'Shadow Reading':

12. Presentation dialogues - check out the two past Tips 'Lifting it off' & 'Using the script' for ideas on presenting language from dialogues.

Sometimes the problem with using teacher & coursebook -produced dialogues is that they tend to sound unnatural & fail to contain features of natural speech. A tape of you & your friends can be very revealing when used in class. Students can see all the hesitations & false starts & see that native speakers make mistakes & that conversation is not the neat dialogue that they see in coursebooks. Focusing on these features help them to become more effective communicators.

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