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Workstations for reviews (young learners)

I saw my boss use a simple workstation activity during a peer observation. It was a really good way to prepare students for their final task. I often include a quick 10-15 minute workstation activity in my YL classes now. Here’s an example from the other day.

The task was for my teens to produce a doctor/patient dialogue. During the lesson we reviewed vocabulary for illnesses, listened to a model conversation, identified important language (e.g. giving advice), and so on. As a pre-task students worked in groups of 4 and completed a short review task at various stations around the room:

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At station 1 students listed target language or other useful phrases that might help them when writing their dialogues.

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At station 2 students reviewed a dialogue from the lesson. They put the dialogue in the correct order and practiced reading it (text from Beyond A2+ published by Macmillan).

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Note: thanks to Rabia Ahmad who pointed out the spelling error in the above dialogue!

At station 3 students practised saying chunks of language, with a focus on how they sound in connected speech. During the activities this was the station I monitored as students required clear modelling of each phrase. On reflection, using a pronunciation task at one of the stations was problematic (classroom management-wise) but still useful.

At station 4 (the interactive whiteboard) students reviewed useful vocabulary by playing a game on Quizlet.

I could have used various different tasks during the workstations. The review game proved to be a bit of a distraction on a couple of occasions, but it was a fun feature to include. The activity at station 1 was probably the most useful as students had some good ideas to refer to while creating their dialogues.

Learning points

  • During the CELTA YL extension course we had an input session on workstations. Most of the workstation tasks seemed much longer or more substantial. However, there’s no reason why workstations can’t just be a short and snappy way to review learning and provide a change in classroom dynamic.

If you want to try something like this…

  • If you use the same set up then make sure each task is ‘stand-alone’. You can’t have one task as a prerequisite for another in the way I’ve arranged it here, but you could make some tweaks if you want that to happen.

Feature image: Puzzle by Davo Sime from the Noun Project

Lesson idea: should and shouldn’t…

A repeat of the must/mustn’t game I mentioned a while back. I used this for should/shouldn’t the other day, in the context of illness.

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Choose an illness, or some kind of problem related to your context. Prepare three pieces of advice, keep them hidden. Students work in pairs/groups and write down as much advice as they can using ‘you should/shouldn’t’. Allow a few minutes. Reveal your answers. If students’ ideas match the advice on the board (or it’s close enough) they get points.

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Always seems to be fun and engaging. Let me know if it works for you.

akathecoach

Q+A: Reading and listening texts for DipTESOL teaching practice

Someone contacted me on this blog asking a question about the DipTESOL.

Q: Where/how did you find good listening and reading materials for the teaching practice?

My answer:

a) I recorded my own

b) I sourced authentic materials on the net and adapted them

A bit more explanation: (more…)

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An EFL book I’ve used: Incredible English

Last year our course book for primary level learners was Incredible English. This was the first coursebook I ever used for teaching primary learners, and I have to say I thought it was great. It seemed like the perfect book for a novice primary EFL teacher. Here are just a few of its great features…

  • Fun stories (in comic form) that really engage the learners
  • A standard structure to units which helps learners know what to expect in a lesson
  • A separate workbook which means the coursebook isn’t full of dull gap fills
  • Some excellent online and interactive tasks
  • Dialogues which are easy to extend and exploit
  • Nice visuals, not too cluttered layout

I’m just listing random points here. Above all though, it seems clear to me that Incredible English was written by experienced teachers of young learners. I mean, you’d hope that was the case (!), but some of the previous coursebooks I’ve used just don’t feel they’ve been written by a practising teacher… Hmm, that sounds so damning…

Our new primary product (in-house) is good too – I don’t want to put it down. But there are things I miss about Incredible English, and the stories are one of them.

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example of the stories in Incredible English (c) OUP

(more…)

TEFL sniglets – ‘tiglets’

sniglet (noun): any word that should be in the dictionary, but isn’t. (Hall, 1983).

I’ve been watching some old sniglet sketches from Not Necessarily the News recently. This one is by far my favourite (sorry for lack of quality):

Call me a bit TEFL-obsessed, but I figured that somebody somewhere must’ve already made a list of TEFL-related sniglets, (tiglets, perhaps?). I’m sure there’s a list out there. I couldn’t find it, although I did stumble across a preview of an article for using sniglets in class…

Anyway, here are a few tiglets I came up with today during a whole morning of tech problems in the staffroom. This is the best use of my planning time this year…

aimbiguous = unclear lesson aims

clinical approach = the tendency to teach all new vocab/grammar using clines, whether appropriate or not. A variant, the inclinical approach, includes lines which steadily move up the board, normally due to poor control of the whiteboard marker

collection techniques = failed attempts to help learners distinguish between /l/ and /r/

critteria = a bug on an assessment rubric

gistage = an unexpectedly long amount of time for a first listening task

ICQs = lines of teachers waiting outside a conference centre for the doors to open, normally in Siberia/Canada

morment = the sudden realisation during planning/teaching that you haven’t conveyed and checked meaning before highlighting form

PPP = starting a class in the knowledge that you need the toilet

rubricon /ˈru:brɪkɒn/ = assessment criteria for tasks about Italian rivers

rubricon /ru:bˈraɪkɒn/ = an icon in the world of writing assessment criteria

SLAting = criticising certain theorists, e.g. Krashen

subsi-diaries = a daily log book of all a teacher’s sub-aims used during the year

TEFAL = An English for Specific Purposes course for chefs

wayne-rubbing = attempts made at pronouncing the name of author Ruth Wajnryb

 

and as always, a bonus tiglet:

jimnod = a reference to Jim Scrivener as ‘old Jim…’. This is normally preceded by the following stages:

a) a teacher references Jim Scrivener in conversation

b) another teacher references Jim Scrivener as ‘Shrivener’

c) another teacher believes this is wrong and corrects the second teacher through a recast

d) pronunciation errors continue as the recast goes unnoticed

e) somebody sneakily glances at Learning Teaching, realises the author’s name is spelt with a ‘c’ (/k/) and emphasises this strongly when the name is next mentioned

f) everybody is confused and doubting themselves so they just revert to the author’s first name as if he’s a pal.

 

Please share a sniglet, sorry, tiglet or two in the comments. If we start now we’ll have a whole Tiglets Annual by Christmas J

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Highlighting success criteria to young learners

This post explains simple coding you could use to help learners notice key features of a model text. I know this type of stuff is common in primary schools, so I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s just not something I’ve come across much in an EFL context, so thought I’d share what I tried last week.

A few months ago I set my YLs the task of writing a film review. In building up to the task we’d highlighted key features of film reviews, looked at text layout, covered useful language to include, etc. Post-task, the learners completed a self- and peer-assessment sheet like this:

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It’s fine. I mean, it did the job. However, using a tick sheet was limited as it wasn’t clear that learners really understood each category! I should have got them to note down examples of each category from their partner’s text, that would prove they understood.

Last week’s task was to create a poster for a fundraising concert. During the prep students consolidated their knowledge of some key features to include in their own poster by annotating the model in their workbooks:

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This is not everything that they needed to include, but it’s a start…

They ended up with a model text looking like this:

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text copyright British Council

When the students completed their own posters I got them to do a similar process – annotate their own work. I still used a checklist, but this time they highlighted where these features appear in their own text – or their classmates did so as peer correction.

This doesn’t have to be done as colour coding – it could be as symbols, numbers, etc. If learners are really precious about their work you could just use post-its or something.

In an EFL context, this makes it really clear to me that learners know what to include in a text and that they understand new terms that we’ve covered. I only see my classes once a week, but I think they’ll remember this task and it can be used effectively in future lessons. Well, I hope so!

Do you use any techniques like this? Please comment and share your own ideas.

Feature image by Alina Oleynik from the Noun Project

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Personalising learning – self-portraits

I love the book Being Creative by Chaz Pugliese. It’s full of great activities and ideas for personalising learning. It’s also a great book for new teachers to have around as it will encourage you to experiment.

I first used Being Creative a few years back when I was teaching lots of short courses. I had to do plenty of ‘Getting to know you’ lessons and I got a bit fed up with using the same old activities. I came across ‘Self-portraits’ (Being Creative, page 62 in my copy), and have used it ever since. It’s a fantastic way for finding out about your learners and to get them sharing their interests and achievements with each other.

Here’s an outline of the activity. I mainly use it with teen classes:

Ask students to draw a table in their books with three different columns (my ones below are a bit different to Pugliese’s)

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(actually I make this 4 columns, including ‘two fun facts about me’)

Next, students write two of their own ideas in each column.

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Now it gets fun! Instruct students to draw a symbol to represent each idea. Model this well. (more…)