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Teaching Tips 187

Knock on wood
Student managers
Jigsaw holidays

knock on wood

Knock on wood

One of the many useful things we do in the classroom is to give our students exposure to the language through listenings or readings, especially if the students are learning in their home country. Through this exposure we are providing 'input' - we want the students to take it in, mull it over, add it to what they already know & come out with it in the future. It's not really enough to leave it at that as we have to convert this 'input' into what is called 'intake' i.e. the student consciously notices certain aspects & draws it in. We can do this through 'noticing' tasks.

With reading texts, a typical noticing task is to get our students to underline certain language. We have been looking at a newspaper article & have predicted the content from the headline, read to verify the predictions, followed on with a more detailed comprehension task & before the 'response' to the text - the discussion or roleplay - we ask the students to underline all the examples of the past simple in the text. This is the 'noticing'. This can act as a memory jog or be a springboard for a more in- depth look at the area.

What do we do with listening texts though? OK, after the extensive & intensive listening we can then give out the script & the student underlines specific language. Alternatively, again after the extensive & intensive stages, we can ask them to listen out for specific language & tell them to say 'stop' when they hear it. The stronger student will shout out first. Then you can highlight it for all.

I would do it a bit differently first. Play it all through without stopping & as they listen get them to knock on the desk when they hear the items. You are then able to see who is getting it & who isn't & act accordingly. If there were general difficulties, go back, stop & highlight afterwards. The first time you do it, do the task with the students so they can see what to do.

You can do this just as well with live listenings as recorded material. Just set the task, tell your story or anecdote & the students knock when they hear the language item. And then onto further analysis.

An easy, reusable & fun noticing task.

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There are many ways of developing the group dynamics in a class. One way is to involve the students in the running of the lessons, adding new meaning to the idea of students being 'active' in the classroom. Here are a few ideas:

- at the end of an exercise - a comprehension task or a grammar gap fill - choose a student who you see has the answers correct & ask them to do the feedback, as you would normally do, by eliciting from the group.

- get the early finishers to monitor & help out the others. Encourage them to correct each other.

- to help with sub-skill awareness, ask the students how long they might need on a certain task, or how they would like to tackle it. If they say they'd like to take 5 minutes for a scan reading task then you will need to correct them but the more you do it the better they will become at gauging the requirements.

- negotiate what will be in the next two week of lessons by discussing the upcoming units & see if they are interested in the themes. Plan accordingly.

- students take it in turns to choose some vocabulary to review as a warmer. You could give them five or six activities to choose from to use with the vocab & they do the warmers for you.

- encourage student to student correction in both oral & written activities.

- if you need to do a roll call with younger learners, get them to do it, taking it in turns each day.

- also for younger learners, get them to draw & write on the board for you.

- ask the students to take it in turns to bring in an article for all to read. You could ask them to design a comprehension task to go with it. Clearly this would only work with those with easy access to English reading materials. Ask the student who brings the text to give it out, give instructions, control feedback etc..

- the idea of getting more advanced students to give presentations on areas of their interest fits in here as well.

- at the beginning of a lesson assign a student to tell all that happened in the previous lesson.

- assign study buddies - if a student misses a lesson, instead of you explaining what was missed, the study buddy does the job.

- at the end of a lesson, assign a student to run through what has been covered.

While the above are taking place, keep an eye on what is going on but make a point of getting out of the way. You may feel that some of the above ideas are asking too much of the student & that it is your job & what they pay you for. OK, but if done sensitively, you are giving the class back to the students & it will become much more enjoyable for all. Think about what the student might be able to do & transfer it over to them - not all the time at once, but now & then until they are comfortable.

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palm beach Jigsaw Holidays

The holiday period is upon us in the northern hemisphere & hopefully some of our students, & us, can still afford to go on holiday, so here are some holiday-related jigsaw reading lessons.

To begin with a brief explanation of jigsaw activities:

The students read or listen to the different parts of the text, with or without specific reading & language noticing tasks for each different part of the text, & then when they have extracted the relevant information from their texts, they join the other students with different texts to exchange the information. This exchange of information then gives the whole picture & enables the students to discover or do something with all the information. i.e. there is a communicative purpose to the activity - it isn't just a case of exchanging the information for the sake of it, there should be some purpose to the exchange.

The advantages of using listening or reading texts as jigsaw activities is that the skills are integrated, the speaking skill is incorporated & if the material is chosen well, interest & motivation is high.

Below is a lesson plan that can be used with any of the five reading texts. The texts are taken from the Guardian Unlimited website &each text also has a link to the original Guardian page.

These texts are ideally suited to this kind of jigsaw activity & each text has a printer friendly version linked to it.

20 dream holidays for the 21st century
Forget the QE2, the Orient Express and a flight on Concorde... so-ooo twentieth century. Think instead of the Namibian dune mountains, paddle steamers in Mandalay or a solar eclipse in the Antarctic. Jill Crawshaw suggests 20 ideas for a truly twenty-first century experience. (Upper intermediate)

Down and dirty
Somewhere different where you can feel a bit of grit between your fingers and not worry about the nails? Gavan Naden checks out 10 places where you can get away from it all and come home without feeling the slightest bit tarnished. (Advanced)

Holidays of a lifetime for under £500
Get married in Vegas, sail down the Nile, visit Mayan temples, go birdwatching in Africa or laze on tropical beaches - Jane Knight, Tom Templeton and Jacqui MacDermott show you how to make your money go further. (Upper intermediate)

Life's a beach and it's on your doorstep
Nothing beats a holiday in a house just yards from the sea. Tom Templeton and Jane Knight select 15 of the best beach billets. (Upper intermediate)

Why break the bank?
Sean Dodson's guide to six European destinations that offer a perfect weekend away for those on a budget. (Intermediate)

Preliminary information

Time: 60-90 minutes

Level: Intermediate upwards, depending on the text you use.

To give detailed reading practice
To introduce/review 'holiday' vocabulary
To review & give oral practice with comparatives & superlatives
To practise the language of persuasion, the language of discussion....
To give freer speaking practice

That the stds will find the holidays interesting.
That the language in the text will not be too difficult & that it will be interesting vocabulary - choose the text to match the group.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Some of the vocabulary is tricky so dictionaries on hand would be helpful.

Aids: Choose one of the 5 texts listed above.


Stage 1 - Intro to holidays & vocabulary review/expansion

10-15 mins tch<>stds

1. Introduce holidays & where they might be going/have gone this year.
2. Ask if they could choose, which kind of holiday would they like - elicit different types of holiday - beach, safari, adventure, trekking, cycling, touring, weekend break, sightseeing, cruise, arctic, retreat etc.
3. If you're not going to use all of the holidays described in the text, choose some that you are not going to use & tell the class about them, asking them if they would like that kind of holiday, hopefully a discussion will ensue. Possibly elicit any ideas for other holidays that might be in the article you choose by giving the title.

Stage 2 - Reading

10 mins tch<>stds, std<>std,

1. Handout different holidays from the text to different stds or small groups - the brief is to read for detail as they will be exchanging descriptions later to find the most exciting, interesting, relaxing etc. holiday.
2. Stds read - have dictionaries on hand & go round helping when needed, encouraging the stds to guess meaning from context whenever possible. You could design reading & language tasks to go with each piece of the text.

Stage 3 - Information exchange

20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, stds<>tch

1. Put on the board

Which holiday is;

• the most relaxing

• the most exciting

• the most imaginative

• the most innovative

Or choose superlatives to suit. Other purposes could be:
- to give profiles of different people & stds find the best holiday for each.
- stds find the most appropriate holiday for another member of the class.

2. Put stds into groups, each having read about a different holiday - they have to agree on a holiday for each of the superlatives.
You might review some language that they might need before they begin, to make the task more effective - the language of discussion. Elicit/give & write some exponents on board for reference.
3. Task - while it's going on you take notes on +/- things said for feedback later on.
4. When decisions have been made get a member from each group to visit another group to report their findings & possibly give ideas to the group they are with. The roving stds then report back to their original groups who can make changes to their decisions, if they want.
5. Class feedback - see what has been decided & ask for justifications. Feedback on the language used during the task.

Follow up activities

The chosen holidays could then go on to be used in different ways:
- travel agent & customer roleplays - selling & buying
- travel agent & customer roleplays - customer complaining as the holiday wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

- stds could write another description of a holiday location, that fits with the theme of the overall text used, that they know about.
- stds could write postcards, imagining they have gone on the holiday they chose.

You could follow up on some of the travel agent links given in the article & collect a range of materials from the respective sites for use in similar activities. Or if you are lucky enough to have enough computer terminals, get the stds to do the research & make a project of it.

So, in effect, here are five lesson plans centred around the holiday theme & guaranteed to promote interest, speaking & reading. And as with all of the lesson plans & activities on the site, we hope that they act more as a springboard to developing your own ideas & directions.

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