British Council Bangkok

Correcting pronunciation errors from Thai speakers of English

There are plenty of posts online explaining typical pronunciation errors from Thai speakers of English. Most seem accurate, and are a good starting point if you don’t have a copy of Swan’s Learner English to hand.

Knowing what the problems are and why learners might make them is very useful. However, I’ve found less info on how teachers actually address these errors in class. With this in mind, here are a few of my reflections on a handful of those errors – what I do that works ok, plus what I don’t do and why. I’m hoping that Mark over at TESOL Toolbox will write a follow-up post on this, and between us we’ll start getting a bit of an ideas bank together.

The missing S

Sammy the snake for correcting the missing /s/

Learners often omit the /s/ in plural forms or verbs in 3rd person, even when they know the grammar rules. I find myself eliciting things like ‘I work, you work, he/she….?’ on loop, although I reckon this is a fossilized error for a fair few of my learners…

Still, one thing has helped addressed this. I’ve found Herbert Puchta’s snake visual very useful in both adult and young learner classes. Board or display a visual somewhere of a colourful looking snake. Inform the learners that if you hear the ‘missing s’ error you’ll point to the snake. Do so as an on-the-spot correction as you monitor speaking activities. Make the snake a commonplace visual in lessons and learners will hopefully start to self-correct more.

Good for… YLs. Better once they start to point to the snake to peer-correct

Downside… Using the visual as a reference without reiterating the correct form can lead to exaggerated responses… ‘workssssssssssssssss’. Expect that!

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Lesson idea: crazy recipes

I feel like I say this a lot, but thanks to ELT-cation (Svetlana) for yet another great lesson idea. Your post on Wordless Videos for ELT was awesome.

I used the Western Spaghetti video from PES as inspiration for a crazy recipe task…

The basis of the task was for students to…

1) choose a dish they know well, write down the ingredients

2) think of a theme (sports, school, music, etc)

3) relate each ingredient to the theme – so for a school theme bread might be an exercise book, pepper might be chopped up pencil lead, etc

4) Write the recipe and illustrate

5) post-it note vote on the best/strangest recipe

Svetlana’s post came along at the perfect time for our module on cooking. It was a great end of term task for the students. They produced some really creative work that on the whole was pretty accurate and included plenty of target language for cooking processes. Thanks for planning my weekend lessons Svetlana! I guess that was a gift from one British Council to another!

                  

Making things up… during observed lessons

Last weekend I had a pretty scary lesson observation…

I’ve been observed more at British Council Thailand than in any other teaching job, which is to me a good thing. There have been formal observations twice a year, observations during training courses like the CELTA YL extension, short management observations during teaching/learning reviews, peer observation schemes, the list goes on…

Personally, I think there are things we can do to optimise our observation procedures. I touched upon one of these in this IATEFL-related post. However, I can’t argue with the amount of opportunities we have to get feedback on our teaching from managers and peers.

Anyway, about the weekend. I’m lucky – my current boss and I get on alright. She was my tutor on last year’s CELTA young learner extension course, and she’s well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I like her feedback style and I welcome her comments as they are always constructive. She unnerves me a bit during observations with the way she stares, yawns and subconsciously shakes her head, but she never reads this blog so I can get away with saying that.

My rapport with the boss should have put me at ease – so why was this observation particularly scary? Well, because I decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to try and impress anyone. What do people learn about me as a teacher if they constantly see me trying to put on a performance? During peer observations I’m normally just myself, but whenever a manager comes to observe I feel like I’m being judged – like I have to ‘up my game’ or something. In particular, I feel I have to stick to the plan rigidly. (more…)

Lesson idea: Introducing inventions (2)

My Primary students (aged 11) are studying technology and inventions at the moment. I used this activity to introduce the topic – it worked well. This idea could be used for generating interest, sharing personal responses, developing schematic knowledge, revising comparatives, developing spoken fluency, and much more… It’s amazing what a few images can too – it’s fairly low-prep.

  1. Students work in pairs or groups. Give each group some images of inventions (like above). Do a ‘name the invention’ mini whiteboard challenge, or some variation. Use word scrambles for support (e.g. theelonep = telephone). Check and drill the invention names
  2. Instruct students to put the images in order – which was invented first?

Give them process language to help, e.g.

A: I think _______________ was invented before ____________

B: I agree / maybe / hmmm, I’m not sure. I think….

Etc. (more…)

Students that make my job easy

Full marks to my awesome teen class last week. The work they produced was fantastic and I’m so proud of them.

We did a short project based on describing graphs. It started off with scanning tasks and a few activities on reporting data, based on an infographic in Gateway B1+ (Macmillan)…

(c) Macmillan

Students then made their own questions for a class survey. Once they’d gathered data I gave them my own fairly shoddy model of a graph and a description of the data. They completed an ordering task and discussed the purpose of each part of the description. (more…)

Lesson idea: present perfect time markers

activity from Gateway (Macmillan)

Here are a few fun activities for practising time markers used with the present perfect. There’s a review of these markers in a B1 level teen coursebook we’re using (Gateway, Macmillan). I found the meaning/rule activity in the book useful, but the practice tasks following it were a bit boring so I made up a few more.

Time markers practised: already, for, just, never, since, yet

BEEP game

  1. Students write one sentence for each time marker. They should personalise this.

e.g.

I’ve never been to Laos

I haven’t done my homework yet

Etc

  1. Students self-correct / peer-correct sentences with a partner. You could draw attention to possible errors (e.g. are the time markers in the right place?) or typical errors you know your learners make (e.g. *I’ve never been yet), just for a bit of direction
  2. Students change partners. They keep their sentences a secret. They read each sentence to their partner, but replace the time expression with the sound ‘BEEP’. Their partner guesses the missing word by repeating the complete sentence, like this….

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Funny ELT illustrations

I picked up some interesting throw-outs from the British Council library here in Thailand. I’ve been flicking through Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language by Christine Nuttall (1996) this week. It’s clear, well-organised and has lots of practical activities for teachers to help them understand the skills or strategies they are teaching learners. But there’s something else you can’t miss in the book, especially in Chapter 1 – the illustrations.

This is a great illustration of a passive reader (see paragraph below image). For some reason it seems to induce post-nasal drip whenever I see it… (more…)