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Teaching Tips 199

Lesson shapes
The deep end
Visiting discussions

Lesson shapes

We looked last week at a test-teach-test approach to lesson planning. This enables students to see the relevance of the new language.

Test usually through a speaking task
Teach - the language focus & practice
Test again with a similar speaking task

The students are given some form of test, a roleplay or discussion to see what language they use, then additional language is introduced, & finally the students are tested again with a similar speaking task, putting the new language into practice. This shape might take place over several lessons & might be considered a form of task-based lesson shape.

There are many different ways of shaping a lesson & we turn to the shapes that work well for both our students & us. Some might commonly use the following shape for their lessons:

Controlled practice
Reading or listening skills
Speaking through a roleplay or discussion - freer practice of the language introduced earlier in the lesson

Within this shape there is the procedure known as PPP - presentation, practice, production. Teacher often find this approach restrictive & unrealistic, as the freer practice tended to come in te same lesson. Little allowance was made for assimilation time.

Language teaching has moved towards a discourse-based approach in recent times. This is the use of texts in the classroom to provide the context for language. So you might find a lesson shape such as the following:

Text - reading or listening skills development
Language focus through noticing tasks, problem solving, of language within the text
Language consolidation & practice
Speaking skills development or recycling of language from previous lessons

Texts can be either written or spoken, thereby providing reading or listening skills development before a language focus. This language focus can come through a 'noticing' activity, the teacher guiding the students to notice a feature that is present in the text. This feature is then analysed, preferably with the students working out manageable rules themselves, & checked by the teacher. Depending on the focus, a controlled practice task might then take place. Then the final speaking might return to the content of the text in the form of a student response to the text, not demanding production of the language in the prior focus, but practice of some other skills or language from past lessons. This last stage makes the lesson cyclical, going back to the content of the text & the timetable cyclical in that it brings in recycled language from before.

With this last shape, the text is all important. The teacher needs to invest time in looking for Interesting texts, interesting in content & in the language they contain.

There are lots of different lesson shapes, each reflecting a particular approach to language & learning, & there are many pros & cons of each, too many to go into here. The nice thing about a discourse-based lesson shape is the exposure to the language you provide through the text, as well as the context for the language focus. The last stage also recognises the need for time to assimilate language before production in semi-controlled practice activities.

Students like to know where they are going in a lesson & familiar shapes provide this. But as with anything, the familiar can change into the monotonous if used all the time.

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deep end

The deep end

One way to approach skills & language development in class is through a Test - Teach - Test approach. Originally referred to the 'deep end' approach, the idea is that you throw the students into the deep end of the pool to see if they sink or swim, then give them the skills to swim, & then throw them in again & watch them paddle away on their own! There are two ways of carrying this out, depending on your intention.

If you feel that your group is weak on a particular area, you design a speaking activity that begs the use of the area you wish to develop. Ask the students to do the activity & note how they cope with it, with special attention to the area you originally thought of. Then, in the same lesson ,you teach/develop & practice the area, before returning to the same speaking activity which the students do again. The idea is that the students do the last 'test' activity better in the light of the previous teaching, they can see the relevance of the language you have taught as they might have been lacking the language to fully carry out the first activity, & they become much more confident by breezing through the last activity. (What a great teacher they think!)

Here's an example outline:
1. Test - a roleplay in a shop between customer & assistant. The customer is complaining about some trousers that have shrunk.
2. Teach - elicit examples of complaining, apologising + offering solutions that the students used in the roleplay. Introduce more ways of doing these. This could be through a listening. A couple of controlled practice activities follow.
3. Test - the students are given a similar shop complaint roleplay & asked to incorporate the new language.

This is not necessarily just centred around the speaking skill & language areas. You could do the same with listening skills development, or an area of phonology - any area. Some would argue that carrying this out with the writing skill might be a bit much if you ask the students to write a whole text before the teach stage, as the students might not appreciate the time & effort invested when you could have taken other routes to get to the same point.

The above description uses the approach in one lesson. On a broader level, as promoted in early writings about the Communicative Approach, one could base the course around this approach. For example, at the beginning of a period of time, a roleplay could be given & observed. The teacher records the activity & takes away the recording for analysis. As a result of the analysis, the next part of the course is planned & taught. At the end of the teach bit the same roleplay is given & afterwards analysed to show the students how much they have progressed. They could listen to the first roleplay to see the differences (you hope!!). The next part of the course continues in the same way with no coursebook being used as the course structure, as the students' needs dictate the structure.

This might be more of an authentic way of using test-teach-test. In the first way the teacher clearly knows what is going to be taught & is using this approach to show the relevance to the students. The area to be looked at could be what is coming up in the next unit, & the approach is being used for 'cosmetic' reasons. (There is also the idea that the students might not yet have assimilated the new language enough to be able to come out with it at the end of the same lesson so this last 'test' could be delayed to the next lesson or two.) The second way takes a 'process' approach to the course & the students, reacting to the students' needs as the course progresses. It obviously doesn't have to be this clear cut though.

This extended approach can be good for those students who have specific real-life reasons for learning. It would, for example, be useful for the business learner who needs to develop presentation & negotiation skills. Let the learners show what they can do, develop them in the light of this present knowledge & then show them how much more successful they are. A summer course in the UK could revolve around this as the teacher helps the learners survive outside of the class. This can all be very much related to a task-based approach to learning.

This throwing the students in at the deep end sounds a bit harsh on the students but if you explain what you are doing, they readily go along with you. It's all about relevance & seeing progress. Try it out if you haven't already.

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This is a nice idea for helping group work become more productive.

Imagine you have got the class working in groups of fours in a freer speaking activity where they have to solve a problem. They are coming to a conclusion in their discussion, so instead of going into class feedback, allocate one member of each group to visit each of the other groups to see how they have been getting on with the problem-solving. So each group & visitor explains to each other what they have been discussing - rotate the visitors every two/three minutes.

When all of the visitors have been to all of the groups they go back to their original group to explain all they have learned & see if they can add any ideas into their discussion/decision.


world environment day

It's World Environment Day on the 5th - lots of material for discussion, reading & language development. There is a colourful booklet to download so if you have access to a photocopier you could make copies for the stds to use, one copy shared between two students.
Booklet download:

There's some nice material in Spotlight on FCE (Heinle) in unit 8 about Freegans & Freecyclers which relates to this year's theme - see below.
Spotlight on FCE - Jon Naunton & John Hughes (Heinle)

'World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment Day activities take place all year round and climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere.

The World Environment Day celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

Through World Environment Day, the United Nations Environment Programme is able to personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.

World Environment Day is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.

Everyone counts in this initiative and World Environment Day relies on you to make it happen! We call for action — organize a neighborhood clean-up, stop using plastic bags and get your community to do the same, stop food waste, walk to work, start a recycling drive . . . the possibilities are endless.'

'The theme for this year's World Environment Day celebrations is Think.Eat.Save. Think.Eat.Save is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your foodprint. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.
Given this enormous imbalance in lifestyles and the resultant devastating effects on the environment, this year's theme – Think.Eat.Save – encourages you to become more aware of the environmental impact of the food choices you make and empowers you to make informed decisions.
While the planet is struggling to provide us with enough resources to sustain its 7 billion people (growing to 9 billion by 2050), FAO estimates that a third of global food production is either wasted or lost. Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts.
This year's campaign rallies you to take action from your home and then witness the power of collective decisions you and others have made to reduce food waste, save money, minimise the environmental impact of food production and force food production processes to become more efficient.
If food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the food are also lost. For example, it takes about 1,000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk and about 16,000 litres goes into a cow's food to make a hamburger. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions from the cows themselves, and throughout the food supply chain, all end up in vain when we waste food.
In fact, the global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change.
Making informed decision therefore means, for example, that you purposefully select foods that have less of an environmental impact, such as organic foods that do not use chemicals in the production process. Choosing to buy locally can also mean that foods are not flown halfway across the world and therefore limit emissions.
So think before you eat and help save our environment!'

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