March 1

An alternative to a board rush

For a recent trainee’s lesson, the TP points originally said to do a board rush to activate schema around the topic of jobs.  Unfortunately, between writing the TP points and talking them through as a group, we decided to change rooms and the new room’s layout meant that a board rush would have been a little tricky.  So, when we talked through the lesson, we discussed alternatives and settled on the learners writing down jobs starting with each letter in pairs and then a bit of feedback on some interesting jobs which they came up with.

In the end, the teacher decided to do feedback on all the letters of the alphabet which in many ways was fabulous as it gave the learners a chance to share their previous knowledge and allowed them to introduce new lexis to classmates.  However, it did make for a slightly longer engage stage which meant the teacher was left with less time for later tasks – this wasn’t a problem in terms of aims achievement, but he had prepared a wonderful picture dictation which there unfortunately wasn’t time for.

In feedback on the lesson, which is done online as it’s a part-time CertTESOL course, I asked the trainees what they would have done differently in order to maximise time and materials.  They came up with some good ideas and one trainee mentioned an alternative way of doing a board rush which I’m going to steal for this blogpost (thanks, Val!).

She suggested having the alphabet stuck up around the room, either with alphabet flashcards or on pieces of paper.  Learners could then move around the room and add jobs to each letter, either by writing them directly on the paper or sticking post-its on.  I think this is a great way to do an alternative board rush as it means that everyone is involved, rather than the two or three people who can squeeze up at the board on a good day, and still involves the kinaesthetic element of getting up and about.  You could still have the competitive element too – either assign certain pen colours to individuals on a team as you probably would in a normal board rush, or use differnt coloured post-its (though be careful of cheats who may remove words!).  Another bonus is that the lexis can be kept much more easily – often board work is fleeting, rubbed off in preparation for the next task – unless of course you’re a die-hard #ELTwhiteboard fan and take a photo of it!

March 6

Phrasal Verb Stories

Spanish learners often find phrasal verbs difficult and can have problems using the correct one in context, often resorting to more formal Latin-root verbs which they feel more familiar with.  So, if you’re looking for extra practice for your classes or for self-study, you can now download a great new ebook by Michelle Worgan.  The book is called Phrasal Verb Stories 1 and it’s available with English definitions or, in another version, with Spanish translations.  Each story has a short video, which you can watch on the Phrasal Verb Stories channel, and a text to complete.

 

February 9

Indiana Jones and the Vocab Competition

In Macmillan’s Footprints series, there are always pages for cross-curricular learning and whilst the topics themselves are often interesting, they are frequently explored through an extended text with comprehension questions, which can be less than inspiring for our learners.  The subject for this unit in Footprints 5 was History and as the unit was on “Treasure Hunters”, the topic was archaeologists, with a photo of Indiana Jones (unfortunately from the fourth film which was fairly atrocious!).

I wanted to engage the learners in the topic and also to use a clip from a film as I don’t often use videos with these two groups.  We started with a quick game of Hangman to spell out Indiana Jones and then discussed what the learners knew about him – this surprised me as in the second group of 10, only one of them had ever heard of him and seen one of his films!  In the first group, the learners were more able to produce sentences about him and it gave one of the quieter learners a moment to shine as he was more familiar with the films than others.

We then watched this short clip and I asked them to write down as many objects as they could see in pairs.  We watched the same clip again and wrote down verbs and then a third time, writing adjectives.

The learners then competed against each other for points: an object was worth 1 point; a verb, 2 and an adjective, 3.  Plus, if they chose a word which no other team had, they won double points for it.

Unfortunately we then ran out of time, but if I had had more time, I would have asked the teams to write sentences using all the vocabulary we had boarded to retell the story from the clip.

 

November 2

Introducing new lexis with YLs

Introducing new vocabulary can often be a tedious, rote-learning affair: the teacher holds up a flashcard, elicits what it shows, models the correct pronunciation, the learners repeat and we move on to the next word. Whilst this is an effective way of exposing our learners to single words, we can do so much more to engage them and make the process of assimilating new lexis much more enjoyable.

Take for example, the flashcard below from Macmillan, “ball”. This may be as much as we want our learners to take from the flashcard, but with a little encouragement we can build them to saying, “It’s a big, orange and green ball” and more!

So how can we build this sentence with our young learners? It happens something like this:
Teacher (holding up flashcard): What’s this?
Learners: Ball
Teacher: It’s a ball. (mimes for learners to repeat)
Learners: It’s a ball.
Teacher (whispering): It’s a ball.
Learners (whispering): It’s a ball.
Teacher (shouting): It’s a ball.
Learners (shouting): It’s a ball.
Teacher: Is it big or small? (with appropriate hand gestures)
Learners: Big.
Teacher: It’s a big ball. (gestures for learners to repeat – and again the process of drilling with different voices: whispering, shouting, slowly, faster, with a robotic voice, with a squeaky voice)
Teacher: What colour is it?
Learners: Orange and green.
Teacher: It’s a big, orange and green ball. (and again the teacher drills the sentence in a number of different voices, both chorally and individually)

We’ve now moved learners away from a single word to a full sentence, using correct adjective order and grammatical structure. As learners become accustomed to this style of introducing new lexis, they begin responding more fully when asked and within a short time will automatically respond with “It’s a…”

But this style of lexical exposure can still be dull for our learners – and this is where a little imagination can have a very positive role.

It’s a sandwich. But what’s in it? Elicit tomato and lettuce and drill, “It’s a tomato and lettuce sandwich”. Then ask them if there are spiders in the sandwich – after an initial, “no! Urgh!”, someone’s bound to shout “Yes!” Then they can come up with their own ideas – anything goes if it’s in a full sentence. What’s important is that they’re repeating the core lexis – by the end of the lesson they will have said sandwich who knows how many times…and it’ll stick.

 

Images from http://www.macmillanyounglearners.com/macmillanenglish/flashcards

November 1

Circle vocab

I’m not a fan of games where people get eliminated – both in terms of the group dynamic and linguistic production.  Here’s a quick five-minute filler which will hopefully ensure learners avoid elimination.

Everyone stands in a circle and the lexical topic is chosen, for example food.  Go round in a circle naming food; if somebody repeats or takes too long to think, they go down on one knee. If they forget again, they go down on the other knee – as I use this game just in the last minutes of class, it’s always been time to go before anyone has actually got to that stage.  Another option could be that if someone is down on one knee and provides a correct answer, they can stand up again.