Teaching Tips 187
Knock on wood
One of the many useful things we do in the
classroom is to give our students exposure to the language
through listenings or readings, especially if the students
are learning in their home country. Through this exposure
we are providing 'input' - we want the students to take
it in, mull it over, add it to what they already know &
come out with it in the future. It's not really enough to
leave it at that as we have to convert this 'input' into
what is called 'intake' i.e. the student consciously notices
certain aspects & draws it in. We can do this through
With reading texts, a typical noticing task is to get our
students to underline certain language. We have been looking
at a newspaper article & have predicted the content
from the headline, read to verify the predictions, followed
on with a more detailed comprehension task & before
the 'response' to the text - the discussion or roleplay
- we ask the students to underline all the examples of the
past simple in the text. This is the 'noticing'. This can
act as a memory jog or be a springboard for a more in- depth
look at the area.
What do we do with listening texts though? OK, after the
extensive & intensive listening we can then give out
the script & the student underlines specific language.
Alternatively, again after the extensive & intensive
stages, we can ask them to listen out for specific language
& tell them to say 'stop' when they hear it. The stronger
student will shout out first. Then you can highlight it
I would do it a bit differently first. Play it all through
without stopping & as they listen get them to knock
on the desk when they hear the items. You are then able
to see who is getting it & who isn't & act accordingly.
If there were general difficulties, go back, stop &
highlight afterwards. The first time you do it, do the task with the students so they can see what to do.
You can do this just as well with live listenings as recorded material. Just set the task, tell your story or anecdote & the students knock when they hear the language item. And then onto further analysis.
An easy, reusable & fun noticing task.
Back to the contents
There are many ways of developing the group dynamics in
a class. One way is to involve the students in the running
of the lessons, adding new meaning to the idea of students
being 'active' in the classroom. Here are a few ideas:
- at the end of an exercise
- a comprehension task or a grammar gap fill - choose a
student who you see has the answers correct & ask them
to do the feedback, as you would normally do, by eliciting
from the group.
- get the early finishers
to monitor & help out the others. Encourage them to
correct each other.
- to help with sub-skill awareness,
ask the students how long they might need on a certain task,
or how they would like to tackle it. If they say they'd
like to take 5 minutes for a scan reading task then you
will need to correct them but the more you do it the better
they will become at gauging the requirements.
- negotiate what will be in
the next two week of lessons by discussing the upcoming
units & see if they are interested in the themes. Plan
- students take it in turns
to choose some vocabulary to review as a warmer. You could
give them five or six activities to choose from to use with
the vocab & they do the warmers for you.
- encourage student to student
correction in both oral & written activities.
- if you need to do a roll
call with younger learners, get them to do it, taking it
in turns each day.
- also for younger learners,
get them to draw & write on the board for you.
- ask the students to take
it in turns to bring in an article for all to read. You
could ask them to design a comprehension task to go with
it. Clearly this would only work with those with easy access
to English reading materials. Ask the student who brings
the text to give it out, give instructions, control feedback
- the idea of getting more
advanced students to give presentations on areas of their
interest fits in here as well.
- at the beginning of a lesson
assign a student to tell all that happened in the previous
- assign study buddies - if
a student misses a lesson, instead of you explaining what
was missed, the study buddy does the job.
- at the end of a lesson,
assign a student to run through what has been covered.
While the above are taking
place, keep an eye on what is going on but make a point
of getting out of the way. You may feel that some of the
above ideas are asking too much of the student & that
it is your job & what they pay you for. OK, but if done
sensitively, you are giving the class back to the students
& it will become much more enjoyable for all. Think
about what the student might be able to do & transfer
it over to them - not all the time at once, but now &
then until they are comfortable.
Back to the contents
The holiday period is upon us in the northern hemisphere & hopefully some of our students, & us, can still afford to go on holiday, so here are some holiday-related jigsaw reading lessons.
To begin with a brief explanation
of jigsaw activities:
The students read or listen
to the different parts of the text, with or without specific
reading & language noticing tasks for each different
part of the text, & then when they have extracted the
relevant information from their texts, they join the other
students with different texts to exchange the information.
This exchange of information then gives the whole picture
& enables the students to discover or do something with
all the information. i.e. there is a communicative purpose
to the activity - it isn't just a case of exchanging the
information for the sake of it, there should be some purpose
to the exchange.
The advantages of using listening
or reading texts as jigsaw activities is that the skills
are integrated, the speaking skill is incorporated &
if the material is chosen well, interest & motivation
Below is a lesson plan that
can be used with any of the five reading texts. The texts
are taken from the
Guardian Unlimited website &each text also has a
link to the original Guardian page.
These texts are ideally suited
to this kind of jigsaw activity & each text has a printer
friendly version linked to it.
dream holidays for the 21st century
Forget the QE2, the Orient Express and a flight
on Concorde... so-ooo twentieth century. Think instead
of the Namibian dune mountains, paddle steamers in Mandalay
or a solar eclipse in the Antarctic. Jill Crawshaw suggests
20 ideas for a truly twenty-first century experience. (Upper intermediate)
Somewhere different where you can feel a bit
of grit between your fingers and not worry about the nails?
Gavan Naden checks out 10 places where you can get away
from it all and come home without feeling the slightest
bit tarnished. (Advanced)
of a lifetime for under £500
Get married in Vegas, sail down the Nile, visit
Mayan temples, go birdwatching in Africa or laze on tropical
beaches - Jane Knight, Tom Templeton and Jacqui MacDermott
show you how to make your money go further. (Upper
break the bank?
Sean Dodson's guide to six
European destinations that offer a perfect weekend away
for those on a budget. (Intermediate)
Time: 60-90 minutes
Level: Intermediate upwards,
depending on the text you use.
To give detailed reading practice
To introduce/review 'holiday' vocabulary
To review & give oral practice with comparatives
To practise the language of persuasion, the language
To give freer speaking practice
That the stds will find the holidays interesting.
That the language in the text will not be too difficult & that it will be interesting vocabulary - choose
the text to match the group.
Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Some of the vocabulary is tricky so dictionaries
on hand would be helpful.
Aids: Choose one of the 5
texts listed above.
Stage 1 - Intro to
holidays & vocabulary review/expansion
1. Introduce holidays & where they might be going/have gone this year.
2. Ask if they could choose, which kind of holiday
would they like - elicit different types of holiday
- beach, safari, adventure, trekking, cycling, touring,
weekend break, sightseeing, cruise, arctic, retreat
3. If you're not going to use all of the holidays
described in the text, choose some that you are not going to use & tell the class about them, asking
them if they would like that kind of holiday, hopefully
a discussion will ensue. Possibly elicit any ideas
for other holidays that might be in the article you
choose by giving the title.
Stage 2 - Reading
mins tch<>stds, std<>std,
1. Handout different
holidays from the text to different stds or small
groups - the brief is to read for detail as they will
be exchanging descriptions later to find the most
exciting, interesting, relaxing etc. holiday.
2. Stds read - have dictionaries on hand & go
round helping when needed, encouraging the stds to
guess meaning from context whenever possible. You
could design reading & language tasks to go with
each piece of the text.
Stage 3 - Information
mins tch<>stds, std<>std, stds<>tch
1. Put on the board
Which holiday is;
the most relaxing
the most exciting
the most imaginative
the most innovative
Or choose superlatives to suit. Other
purposes could be:
- to give profiles of different
people & stds find the best holiday for each.
- stds find the most appropriate holiday for another
member of the class.
2. Put stds into groups,
each having read about a different holiday - they
have to agree on a holiday for each of the superlatives.
You might review some language that they might need
before they begin, to make the task more effective
- the language of discussion. Elicit/give & write
some exponents on board for reference.
3. Task - while it's going on you take notes on +/-
things said for feedback later on.
4. When decisions have been made get a member from
each group to visit another group to report their
findings & possibly give ideas to the group they
are with. The roving stds then report back to their
original groups who can make changes to their decisions,
if they want.
5. Class feedback - see what has been decided & ask for justifications. Feedback on the language used
during the task.
Follow up activities
The chosen holidays
could then go on to be used in different ways:
- travel agent & customer roleplays - selling
- travel agent & customer roleplays - customer
complaining as the holiday wasn't all it was cracked
up to be.
- stds could write another
description of a holiday location, that fits with
the theme of the overall text used, that they know
- stds could write postcards, imagining they have
gone on the holiday they chose.
You could follow
up on some of the travel agent links given in the
article & collect a range of materials from the
respective sites for use in similar activities. Or
if you are lucky enough to have enough computer terminals,
get the stds to do the research & make a project
So, in effect, here are five
lesson plans centred around the holiday theme & guaranteed
to promote interest, speaking & reading. And as with
all of the lesson plans & activities on the site, we
hope that they act more as a springboard to developing your
own ideas & directions.
Back to the contents
To the Past Teaching Tips