Andrew Wright

The wordpress gremlin decided that my Times Roman typeface used in the draft should be replaced by a sans serif face…it doesnt look too bad but it was not my choice.

These notes are copyright not Copy Wright.

If you would like to use them with your own students, please do so without telling me. If you would like to publish them or part of them then email me and tell me about it. I am almost certainly going to say, Yes!

But you must agree to acknowledge my name and website. If you don’t, it is plagiarism, unfair and theft of my intellectual property.

andrew@ili.hu

http://www.teachertraining.hu

This article offers some ideas for helping the teacher to make materials and design activities which have a chance of engaging the students as people and involving them in using the target language for communicative purposes.

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1 Starting with what other people have produced!

Language teaching resource books

Why invent the wheel? There are many wonderfully rich teachers’ resource books centrered on challenge and/or sharing. The cost of them is repaid if the book saves you one evening’s preparation! Books are amazingly inexpensive when compared with your time.

Other subject areas

I have taken many of our ideas from the teaching of other subjects. For example, I took the idea of juxtaposing pictures in order to stimulate the sharing of ideas and associations, from books intended for the teaching of social skills. (Wright, A. What Do You Think? Book 2. Longman. 1974)

Web sites

All the publishers have web sites and some of them offer excellent ideas free of charge week after week!

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2 Starting with your own daily experiences, ideas and feelings

Keep one eye open for a particular language teaching focus in interesting things that happen to you during the day and then make a note of them afterwards.

Example 1 A holiday catalogue (expressing preferences and saying why)

A holiday catalogue: where would you like to go? (also a What’s On copy of events in town)

If you could go by yourself where would you like to go…where would you have liked to go when you were younger…what can you do at that hotel…what would you like to see/do in that country? Here is a picture of a family…where would they like to go. Could they find a holiday which is good for all of them?

Why would you like to go there? It doesn’t cost too much/it costs less than…You can swim, play tennis, eat well, go to interesting places, etc. My friend would like that place because she could play golf and she would be able to go on coach trips.

Do it directly like this in the classroom. You might decide that it would help the students if you put key phrases on the board. Holiday catalogues are free and can be in the mother tongue without lessening the value of this oral activity.

Example 2 Accidents (being able to do something practical)

Accidents. If there is a road accident then you must…if a person is not breathing you must…

In the classroom discuss what you must do in the case of various types of accident. Follow this discussion with an exchange of experiences of accidents.

Example 3 Lost and found (responding to a challenge to remember)

You lose something and you try to remember all the places you went to. How good is your memory? Students in pairs try to describe in precise detail what they did in the first hour of their day.

Students try to remember all the details of a picture or try to remember what is on the wall behind them or in the street which you can see through the window but they can’t.

Example 4 Reading instructions (responding to a challenge to work out a general rule)

You buy a product and try to understand the instructions in order to put it together.

An instruction in a foreign language…you try to work out the gist and/ or detail of what it says. Take into the class the actual object or items.

Example 5 Memory: no, we didn’t! (responding to a challenge to remember)

You get into an argument with someone about what was done/said/agreed, etc. And you use past tense forms perhaps with linking words like’ then’…in order to reconstruct the sequence of events as you remember them…but the other person remembers it all quite differently.

Pairs then the class try to reconstruct exactly what happened in the lesson, from the beginning an who came in first, etc and which activities were done and who contributed, etc.

Alternatively, pairs plan a series of actions which are communicated by sound only. All the students close their eyes and then a pair acts out their actions making an appropriate noise so that each can be identified. The students then try to identify and to remember the sequence of actions.

Example 6 Identifying an ambiguous drawing (A real challenge to identify)

You do some awful drawings on the board and nobody can recognise what you wanted to represent.. So in the next lesson you do some more awful drawings, deliberately, and offer perfect practice in, What’s this? I think it is supposed to be a dog.

Example 7 Guessing what is being said (A challenge to guess)

You turn on the tele and there is no sound…you suddenly realise you are trying to guess what they are saying. In class you show part of a video without the sound, get the students to guess what is being said and then play the video and sound together. I think he said…I think she said that…

Example 8 Estimating physical properties (A challenge to guess)

You are waiting for someone…you think you have waited ages and they arrive and assert a totally different amount of time has passed by.

In class you challenge the students to estimate: amounts of time; lengths of pieces of string; numbers of marbles in a bottle; area of a book cover; which colours are similar or the same, in the room; how heavy something is; the temperature of the room…in different places; how tall people are in the class (guess first and then get them to stand at the front). I think it was/is about…

Example 9 Comparing costs of living (An interesting subject)

Prices of things affect all of us, of course. But simplified selections of prices do not paint the full picture. In class show examples of receipts from supermarkets and work out comparative costs of similar products in different countries…extend to cover, transport, housing, etc. To be able to make the comparisons you will have to have similar receipts from more than one country. One way of getting such receipts is to agree on a shopping list with a friend in another country and thereby acquire two identical lists of items. I imagine the big stores in each country have a price list on their websites, but we haven’t checked this out.

Example 10 Maps (exploring and comparing internalised representations of places)

Most people have a very subjective perception of geographical location…roads, buildings, etc. even of their own town or suburb (even of their own sitting room)! In class ask each student to draw the layout of streets in their town centre and to place on them an agreed number of public buildings and facilities. Then go into pair work and then try to do it as a class on the board…then compare this sketch with an actual map. Longer/shorter, too big/small will occur a lot.

Other examples of general interest from our everyday lives

Dieting. Healthy life style. Survival in nature. Best places to buy and do things in your area. The secrets for getting the most out your brain. The secret for remaining young. How to chat somebody up. How to be entertaining. How to be a good listener. How to be a good arguer. How to become computer competent quickly. How to be conversant with the latest technologies. Your rights in the EU. Statistics which contradict stereotyping eg there is more rain in Bordeaux, Brussels and Torino than in London. Basic graphic and typographic design tips for use with the computer.


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3 Starting with the students individual interests and concerns

Clearly important. Activities both from general interest and from the moment. No further comment here. But it is an obvious topic to invite students to talk about.

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4 Starting with the medium

The medium, for example, the chalkboard or a piece of A4 paper or the overhead projector, is usually seen as a slave rather than a companion. If you see it as a slave you are unlikely to be able to make use of its full potential and will only be happy if it does just what you want it to do. Being aware of the full character of a medium (and indeed a person) allows you to offer richer and more dynamic ideas.
Example 1 A messy chalkboard

The chalkboard is messy when you come into the classroom…but you see interesting shapes in the mess. What’s this? It might be a….

Example 2 Long strips of card or paper in the bin

You see long strips of card thrown away in a dustbin…you retrieve them because they are perfect to cut up for word cards for sentence construction. Or you fold them and add information to a growing sentence or to a growing picture sequence.

Example 3 Cardboard tubes

You find long cardboard rolls thrown away. You retrieve them because you can whisper down them to a neighbour and challenge some else to listen and to say what you whispered. You can put the tube to someone’s heart and count their heartbeats and then ask an attractive person to walk past them provocatively and see it his or her heart rate quickens.

Example 4 A collection of photos of people you know

You see photos of criminals in the newspaper and they look like ordinary people. So in class you show lots of pictures of people that you know and ask students to guess what their jobs are (would work for other aspects of personality etc).

Example 5 Computer dragging

The computer allows you to mix and muddle texts and also the rearrange them…eg muddle two poems together or two newspaper articles and ask the students to rearrange them correctly.

Example 6 Overhead projector

You put on the OHP and see some strange shapes. What are they? In class you do this deliberately with objects you want to test them on…or objects and cut out figures for story making.

You put a text on the overhead projector and blocking the image under the lens with a book. You then give a momentary flash of the text and see if the students can reconstruct the text from the bits they see.


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5 Challenge

The idea of ‘challenge’ as a focus in an activity was introduced above and a lot of examples were given in Section 2 Daily experiences. Here are some more challenges: identify, match, group, order, sequence, remember. Challenge the student as a whole person in such a way that he or she can take part as a student of English.


1 Challenge to identify and challenge to compare

Show a picture and ask the studentss to describe it. Flash another picture and ask them to describe what they see. Discuss the difference.

2 Challenge to identify

Hold up an object and ask the teachers to name it. Drop an object and ask the teachers to identify it by its sound only.

3 Challenge to identify (and more broadly, hypothesise)

Read a text word by word asking the students to: identify the meaning of each word, predict what word(s) might come next, hypothesise what the general content is, hypothesise who is the sender and what his/her intention is, hypothesise the receiver and the possible contexts of receiving the text. Discuss the medium and its affect on the form of the text. Discuss the society and times in which the text might have been contemporary.

4 Challenge to match

Using the card strips mentioned above match two halves of the same sentence from twenty muddled together.

Another example: match quotations with famous named people.

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6 Journalistic devices

Journalists and other popular writers make use of many basic interest rousers which can be used by the teacher in order raise the involvement of the students. Whether you feel these ideas are usable depends on the topic and your value system!

Emphasis and exaggeration

Instead of the book being on the table and the hat under the table it can be the crocodile is on the table and the hippopotamus is under the table, etc. Extreme images tend to be remembered more readily than commonplace images.

Contrast

The Guinness Book of Records will provide you with the heaviest man in the world and the longest time spent under water and so on.

A provocative quotation

‘There are no right or wrong dialects except in terms of the users of the dialect achieving what it is that they want to achieve.’

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7 Detailed analysis leading to re-defining something
Starting by doing a detailed analysis of the whole situation…the fresh viewpoint thus obtained can sometimes lead you to highly individual activities.

We have put this route to creation at the end because it is more fundamental and perhaps time consuming than the others although even partially done in a short time it can also be helpful.

A good example of this is the book ‘Dictation’ published by Cambridge University Press and written by Paul Davies and Mario Rinvolucri. They defined what dictation is and then snipped off all the characteristics which normally accompany this fundamental definition.

We are guessing that they made a sentence like: Dictation is the transmission of a text which is then written down by a receiver.

It doesn’t need to be transmitted by the teacher.

It doesn’t need to be given in short sections.

It doenst need to be written from top to bottom.

It doesn’t all need to be written.

This simple redefining of the notion of ‘dictation’ produced 100 communicative activities all based on dictation.

Here is an example of a fresh idea for dictation which has now become very well known: ‘Running Dictation’. Student A runs to read a text displayed on the classroom wall. He/she then reads the text, tries to remember part of it, runs back to Student B and tries to dictate what he remembers to Student B who must write it. Student A keeps returning to the text until he/she has dictated all of it to Student B.

Such a lovely idea is one of a rich crop of original ideas which is to be found in this book and which came out of this re-thinking of the nature of dictation.

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If you want to know more about our teacher training work.

1 General teacher training by invitation

2 Trinity College Teaching Certificate Course (Colleagues of the City College Manchester are the lead tutors)

3 London Chamber of Commerce and Industry – ARELS Certificate in the teaching of English for Business LCCI-Arels Cert TEB (Mark Powell is the lead tutor)

info@ili.hu

http://www.teachertraining.hu

 

 

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