Routines

I’m killing two birds with one stone with this post!  Firstly as it allows me to throw out another piece of paper with thoughts from last year written on and also it’s good for one of my new year resolutions!

At some point last year, probably during my quest to make use of more routines, I started a list of some activities I could do in class to revise language.  So here’s my list…

  • Question word O+X
  • Where’s the ghost? (good for prepositions)
  • Character Builds (great for any age and level)
  • Star Word
  • Bingo
  • Banangrams
  • Freeze! (What were you doing when…?)
  • Hangman
  • Alphabet Race
  • Guess the Question
  • The Boss Says…
  • Diappearing Sentence
  • Sit down if…
  • Different types of Dictation
  • Vocab boxes

Make no Mistake

I watched an OUP webinar by Robin Walker a while ago on errors and as I’ve been sorting through last year’s bits and bobs I came across my notes.

He divided the talk into three sections – Cause, Class and Classroom.

CAUSE

He identified six main causes of error: carelessness, L1 interference, teaching materials or method, overgeneralization, general order of difficulty and risk-taking and creativity.  Interestingly, during this section he also suggested that items which are similar and easily confused (such as past simple and present perfect) should be taught separately with a significant space between them and then compared at a later date.

CLASS

One of the key points I picked up from this section was classifying the errors as local or global: a local error is confined to an individual word or is an error which doesn’t impede understanding, whereas a global error makes the meaning unclear.  There’s quite a good flowchart on prioritising errors on the presentation which accompanied the talk.

CLASSROOM

In the final section, Robin suggested some easy activities which we can use in class to work on errors – a couple of my favourites are the 4-colour dictation and flavour of the month.

In the 4-colour dictation, they do the dictation first in one colour, then are allowed to check their work (using dictionaries or other resources) in a second colour.  Then their partner checks their work in a third colour and finally the teacher corects in a fourth colour.

In Flavour of the Month, you choose a specific error which you want everyone to pay special attention to that month.

Heads down = “real” work

We had a wonderful professional development session yesterday  by Ceri Jones on coursebooks.  It was a wonderful moment of querying the role of coursebooks in our classes and really thinking about how we use them.

We discussed what the coursebook means to us individually and the content of an ideal coursebook, looking at how our ideals compare to what the majority currently offer.  Then we went on to look at a specific two-page spread and talked about how we would teach that lesson – how we would Select, Adapt and Supplement the material (a healthy dose of SAS is important for every page of the coursebook!).

At this point, Ceri introduced us to Lindsay Clandfield‘s idea of “Heads Up, Heads Down and Heads Together” as a way of categorising the interaction patterns and activity types.  After the session, I was thinking further about this: about the variety within the class and, more importantly, what learners respond to.  We said during the session that as EFL teachers using a communicative methodology, we instinctively aim for more “heads together” activities as these encourage STT and really get the learners using the target language.  However, something that we’ve found, certainly in the extra-curricular classes we give in a local state school, is that learners respond particularly well to “heads down” activities.  Younger learners who are taught in a fairly strict, structured, “heads down” environment often struggle to recognise the boundaries of a more communicative “heads together” class, leading to classroom management issues because of noise, high energy levels and over-use of L1.  I wonder whether as well, because of their learning experience, they see more benefit in “heads down” activities or whether it’s simply a case of habit and expectations.

As always, it’s essential to have a balance of activities in every lesson.  But also, it’s important to keep those “heads down” moments to appeal to all our learners – those intrapersonal learners probably appreciate the chance to do an activity quietly and it may perhaps be their moment to shine as well.

One-Board Games…extra ideas

Thanks to everyone who came to my talk on Sunday.  Some of the materials are available here and below are the extra ideas which people shared during feedback…
 
* If you’re worried about class control (use of L1, students focussing on the game rather than the linguistic element), why not project the board and play in teams?
 
* You could use two dice and revise a specific grammar or vocab point for each number rolled (from 2 to 12)
 
* Students can create the material – they could think of ten questions each for homework.  Next lesson, correct the questions and divide the class into groups, giving each a different set of questions from their own.  Adds a personal element whilst practising question formation and answers
 
* Super-size your board!  Either draw the board out on the floor (using chalk or masking tape) or create a board on a big piece of fabric.  You could use human counters or objects which also help revise vocabulary…one day you could play with plastic fruit, another day with different toys or classroom objects
 
* Another idea is to have topics on the board or on cards and students have to speak for a set time on that topic
 
* Why not have forfeit squares?  If a student lands on a forfeit square and can’t answer the question correctly, they have to sit with their finger on their nose until their next turn (or something equally silly!)
 
* One problem with board games is time…some students rush through and have finished whilst others are still near the start.  Why don’t you make the board circular?  That way there’s no start or finish.  If students need to know who won, ask how many times they each went round the board

One-Board Games

This term is great for professional development, with something happening every month.  In January, there was the TEFL del Sur  Swap Shop, last month was FECEI‘s annual event in Madrid and now I’m getting ready for TESOL-SPAIN‘s annual conference, which this year is being held in Sevilla.

My theme for this workshop is one-board games, as I’m a huge fan of reusing materials and adapting basic things to suit as many different ages, levels and activities as possible.  So my talk demonstrates 10 activities you can do using this board with any age or level – from VYLs to FCE students (and beyond).  Find out more about the activities here and download some of the sample activities from the Activities for your Classroom page.