the British Council

Writing pronunciation activities – 5 things to consider

I’ve written quite a few pronunciation activities this year for a regional product (Asia). Here are a few random thoughts on the process…

Pronunciation for… what?

As Laura Patsko mentions in this interesting Pedagogy Pop-up, pronunciation is important for all skills, not just speaking.

A lot of the pronunciation stages in our materials focus on connected speech. The aim of these activities (IMO) is more to help learners decode natural speech rather than to produce a certain pronunciation feature accurately themselves. Of course, it would be nice if they could do both…

If the purpose of a pronunciation activity isn’t clearly communicated to teachers (and to learners) then this could lead to either having the wrong expectations. There is always a production element in our pronunciation activities, but accurate production of a certain feature might not be the primary aim of an activity.

What problems do the learners have?

This year I’ve been writing a regional product. I’ve taught in 3 of the 15 or so countries where the materials are used. I’ve found it’s pretty tough to address the needs of every learner with a regional product. Resources like Swan’s Learner English have been really useful for understanding common pronunciation problems faced by learners across a region. It’s always worth asking other teachers too – I’m pretty sure that our teachers have taught across the whole region between them.

Of course, it’s worth asking the learners themselves what difficulties they have, but there are practical issues. It might be hard to do this across a whole region, plus they might not actually know what they have difficulties with! (more…)

Learn English through football

Ball ball ball, footie footie footie! I’m a bit obsessed with the beautiful game, and I’ve taught plenty of students who are too! You may have come across Premier Skills English before, the British Council/Premier League site dedicated to teaching English through football. It’s full of great resources, really well-designed and well worth a visit. Premier Skills would be my first port of call for footie related ELT material, but Languagecaster.com is a new favourite of mine! (more…)

Supporting young learners

Young learner classes at our school are mostly organised by age. This means there can be quite a range of abilities, and differentiation* is an important part of planning.  I generally find that our materials can be a bit on the tough side for my class, so I’m used to providing more support rather than extension tasks.

Here’s an example of how I supported my young learners in class last week. We were studying celebrations. I produced lots of short reading texts about different festivals/events and displayed these around the room. I’d made a couple of words in each text bold. Students did a vocabulary matching task, here’s part of it…

support

Note the HELP box. If students felt they needed more help they could move the box. There was a clue underneath telling them which text the word appeared in (e.g. ‘Text A’). This meant their choice was narrowed down to two words. (more…)

Reasons to explore your staffroom

What’s your staffroom like? Do you know what’s in all those cupboards and drawers? Is there dust collecting on most of the supplementary materials? What’s in that unlabelled ring binder?

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copyright OUP

I’m lucky to have worked in some really well-stocked staffrooms. I mean, the one in LTC Eastbourne had EVERYTHING – they were hoarders. Never had they thrown out a cassette tape(!), a freebie, a flashcard, a material produced in-house… it was a veritable ELT jungle. Despite the abundance of materials, I rarely explored the bookshelves and cupboards. The day I did… wow! Thirty minutes of rummaging saved me about 10 hours planning in the long run. It also resulted in me trialling ‘Teaching with Bear’, which wasn’t my finest hour. I can’t think why my intermediate adults didn’t take to it…

If I were inducting new staff I’d certainly schedule half an hour of staffroom rummaging. We don’t really make the most of the staffroom resources in my centre. We prepare almost everything on our computers, and search for supplementary materials online. Sure, it’s more convenient. It just that there’s a whole other wall of lesson inspiration just sitting there, and most of us have our backs to it!

So, yesterday I finally turned around. I was right, I knew I’d find something worthwhile. No ‘Teaching with Bear’ though…

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This book by Jamie Keddie was mentioned during my MA module in Materials Development. It’s full of great tasks for making the most of images and sometimes building whole lessons around them. ‘Noun Marriages’ looks like a good task, might give it a go soon…

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This ‘Top Tips for IELTS’ book is quite good too. It’s full of short tasks for practising different skills and strategies. It summaries key information about the course, and has quite a few of those tiny tips that really count for a lot of marks… (more…)

Tips for managing young learners

We set up a ‘Quality Circle’ here at the British Council Bangkok last term. Ours is basically like a reflective practice group set up for teachers, by teachers. We meet twice a term. Every 5 weeks we choose a topic to discuss. Me and my mentor Sarah put our heads together and devise a series of action research tasks on the topic. Other teachers complete the tasks (or just do their own task if they want), then we meet up and discuss our findings.

We had a great meeting the other day on classroom management. There was a 10 minute screencast from one teacher on classroom routines, some great tips from another on using gestures and expressions, and some lovely presentations on signposting and ensuring that learners have a ‘sense of progress’.

Our final short presentation was from Yvonne Leonard, and experienced teacher who works at one of our smaller centres here in Bangkok. She’d chosen a lovely collaborative task to get teachers at her centre involved in the group: (more…)

Lesson idea: retelling a story in groups

Here’s a great group task for retelling a story. I came across it during the British Council summer school here in Bangkok. My teen group were doing activities based on the movie ‘Jumanji’, but this can work for any movie, fairytale, etc.

First, summarise your story in 100 words or so. You could use an existing plot summary from IMDB or even Wikipedia, and just cut it down as needed.

Once you’ve got the text, write it out into a table so that each word is in one of 4 columns, Here’s an example for the first sentence:

In 1869, two boys bury a mysterious and magical game – Jumanji.

In

1869 two boys
bury a mysterious and
magical game Jumanji

Etc…

Here’s the important part. Jumble each line of the text up so the words are in a different order. Then number each line to help learners keep track of where they are. Here’s the handout I gave them: (more…)

18 more ways to introduce your lesson topic

This term I’ve tried out a few different ways to introduce a lesson. These ones have worked well. They might be worth reading if you’ve exhausted my previous list!

  1. Song lyric gap fill

Example: 3rd conditional, regrets

Do a short gap fill on part of a song related to your topic. Mine was on some lines from Frank Sinatra’s My Way:

Regrets, I’ve had a few… (1.19 – 1.30)

(more…)