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Teaching Tips 5

Giving Tutorials
Homemade materials
Developing classroom language

Giving Tutorials
This is a chance for you to talk to individual students for five to ten minutes. You can give feedback on their progress & they can give you feedback on how they feel the course is going. It is also a time to sort out any problems that have come up.

In the lesson before give out a pre-tutorial task sheet & get the students to bring the completed task sheet along to the tutorial. These enable the students to think & prepare themselves for the tutorial, giving a focus to the discussion. To see some examples of these.

You will probably have to do the tutorials during class time so you need to prepare a lesson that does not need you to be present. So get together materials - reading, listening, grammar..etc with the answers. It could be the next couple of pages in the coursebook. Give clear instructions at the beginning & let them get on with it while you talk to each student in turn. If you have a self-access centre then the lesson could take place there.

You will need a quiet place to talk - not in the same room as the group! Talk about their ideas in the task sheet & try to give clear ideas on where they need to concentrate their efforts, not forgetting to give positive feedback for progress they have made.

For a group attending three hours a week I should carry out tutorials every term & at the end of a course it's a very good idea to give pointers on how they can carry on developing.

After the tutorials it draws everything together nicely if you give general feedback to the group on the feedback you got from the individual students. And don't forget to use ideas from the tutorials in future lessons.

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Homemade materials
With all the talk of 'authenticity' & how we should be using authentic materials it is easy to forget the usefulness of teacher-produced materials - reading & listening texts produced by the teacher. Authentic materials are more motivating but we might make our own tape if we can't find one that contains examples of language we are presenting. Or the text we have might be too difficult so we grade it better for our particular group. There's no point in spending hours looking for some authentic material when we can make our own that will be just as effective - time saved can be focussed on other aspects of the plan.

When we make a tape the usual procedure is to write out a script & get a couple of colleagues to record it. Instead of a script, just give them the ideas & examples of the target language & let them invent the dialogue - semi-scripted. This way you're bound to get a more natural-sounding dialogue

After writing out a text to use as a reading, get a colleague to look it over to see if it reads naturally.

And don't forget a professional presentation. Type a reading text out if you can. If it is supposed to be a newspaper article then make it look like one with a title & columns. Make the tape without any breaks in the dialogue. This is usually where homemade materials fall down - they don't sound/look interesting & are not motivating for the student.

There is a time & place for your own materials so when you make them try to make them as natural as you can.

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Developing classroom language
Are you finding your students are speaking too much of their native language in the class? This might be the case with the lower level group.

Try not to blame the students. They could be tired or confused about what they should do. More often than not they probably haven't got the actual English to express what they want to say. Listen to what they are saying, even tape them, & work out if they could have said it in English. This happens a lot when asked to do pairwork activities that involve the language of negotiation - putting things in order, comparing answers, partially dis/agreeing etc. So, if they don't have that language then teach it to them. Prompt the students to use this language & review it briefly before the activity e.g. 'give me three ways of agreeing & three ways of disagreeing'.

This can also apply to higher level students as well. Think carefully, when planning, about what you expect the students to actually say. Wouldn't it be better if all of the lesson were in English - rather than just the specific language practice activities? This language is the language they need for their immediate needs!

I'm all in favour of leaving the coursebook for a couple of months when beginning with an elementary group & concentrating on this language that they will need immediately in the classroom. A typical elementary coursebook tends to deal with a lot of less useful language in the first few units - where are you from?/that's an armchair/where can I find a supermarket.

This obviously applies much more to the general English student studying in their home country. If in an English- speaking country then there will be an immediate need for functional English.

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