Helping your stds to sound more
Have you thought how monotone & boring your students sound when they are involved
in pair & group work? This could be for a variety of reasons:
the activity might not be particularly interesting, there
is no genuine communication happening, the stds are tired,
the activity is too difficult or they might be concentrating
on saying the right words & forgetting about how they are
saying it - the intonation.
A simple way to help them with this is
to focus on pitch (sometimes called key). This is the height
of the voice & can be high (for interest, surprise, shock
etc.), mid (for information, neutral) or low (for boredom,
disinterest etc.) - it's all to do with how you feel about
what you're talking about.
Here are some ways of encouraging the stds
to sound more interested:
1. Explain that they sound uninteresting & ask them how they would react to a speaker like that.
If they don't believe you then tape them & play it back
2. Talk to your stds in the same monotone
way & they'll soon get the message!
3. As you monitor mimic them & tell them
to sound more interested.
4. Tape several short conversations & the
stds identify whether the speakers are using a high, mid
or low pitch. Then in threes, two stds read two line dialogues
& the third std identifies the pitch they are using - rotate
speakers & identifier to give all a go.
5. In listening activities focus on the
feelings of the speakers. A classic extensive task is; how
many speakers are there & what's the relationship between
them/how do they feel?
6. Put a sentence on the board & stds
say it together in different ways; surprised,bored, astonished,
7. Compare the pitch of your stds native
language with English. If they use a narrow range in their
own language then make them aware of the difference with
8. Give out roleplays & not only give the
role but also how they should feel.
9. Mime roleplays - give stds rolecards
with a scene on it & three adjectives to incorporate into
the given scene - the stds practise & then mime the scene
in front of the class who try & guess the three adjectives.
10. Give an 'opposite mood' roleplay: one
std is happy about a few things & the other is unhappy about
the same things so they have to convince each other to change
to their mood. This is similar to the activity 'Moaning
Minnies' in Communication Games - Advanced by Hadfield (Longman).
11. Informal/formal language - play two
conversations, one informal (usually higher pitch) & the
other formal (usually lower pitch) but the pitch is wrong
- stds discuss the differences - then they can have the
conversation with the script using the right pitch & carry
on the dialogues.
So it's not necessarily what you say but
the way you say it!
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Learner-based language presentations
If you base your presentations, & any other activity, on your students' interests, feelings
& experiences then the target language will be more memorable
& the presentation more interesting.
Here's an example of a learner-based
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
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,
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
Which other language areas lend themselves
to this type of presentation? Can/can't, future continuous/perfect
Back to the contents
This is an excellent idea for two-way
feedback between you & the individual student about the
course & the learning process. The student gets a chance
to privately let you know how the course is going, get feedback
from you & also be involved in authentic writing practice.
You get valuable feedback on your lessons.
Provide, or get your students to buy, a
notebook exclusively for the diary. The students complete
them individually after every lesson/week/two weeks depending
on the frequency of the lessons.
I should give some guidelines to follow:
Which parts of the lesson did you enjoy?
Which parts did you find challenging?
Which parts would you like to go through again?
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Mode 3 (Collins) has an introduction to
learner diaries in unit 4. For very low levels you could
translate it into their native language.
If your students cannot complete the diaries
outside of class time then let them write in class for 10
minutes at the end of the week.
Take in the diaries & comment in each.
You are mainly interested in the content but also give them
some feedback on the writing - not too much as it might
put them off the diaries! You can also comment on other
things that have happened in the class e.g. praise the student
for a good performance in a roleplay or encourage more attention
to pronunciation etc. Encourage the
students to write as often as they like & stick to the minimum.
You will have to talk to the students & convince them that
it is a good idea to use learner diaries but once you get
the project going all should see the benefits.
the Past Teaching Tips