June 25

“genuine and meaningful communication”

Genuine and meaningful communication between learners takes place

This is one of the criteria in the DipTESOL assessed teaching unit – what does this mean and how can we ensure it occurs in our lessons?

Perhaps we should first look at the two adjectives used in the criterion: genuine and meaningful.  By genuine, I understand natural, honest and authentic communication; by meaningful, I understand that there is a purpose for communication.

The question is whether the communication which takes place in our classes is genuine and meaningful.  It could be argued that communication which takes place in the EFL classroom is meaningful as we are practising TL, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the language being produced is genuine.

The key is to find ways of personalising the TL and context of our lessons.  Here are some ideas:

  • In grammar activities, such as Las Vegas Grammar, use the learners’ names in the sentences – this increases their engagement in the activity and you can extend the task by guessing whether the sentences are correct or not after correcting them.
  • Provide identifiable contexts for language – a group of Spanish teenagers may not be interested in what Japanese teenagers like listening to in their free time, so either change the context or allow the learners space and time to give their opinions or contrast the context to their own.
  • Make all TL personal – this is easier than you may think.  Whatever the TL, you can generally ask one of the following questions: “Do you have…?”, “Do you like…?” or “What do you think about…?”

A second aspect of the DipTESOL criterion worth mentioning is the word between – depending on the age of your learners, there may be more or less interaction between them and I do know people who have chosen YL groups for their DipTESOL assessed lessons.  It would be interesting to know whether classroom language qualifies as “genuine and meaningful communication between learners” as there may be more natural communication in this respect than in practising the TL of the lesson.  This also leads on from my previous post on making the class less teacher-centred as by encouraging communication between learners we can give them more of a voice and more responsibility for their learning.

Here are a couple of other blogposts worth reading on the topic of personalisation:

A Matter of Confidence – Personalising

P is for Personalization

May 7

What’s a ziggurat?

I learnt a new word in English the other day.  One which is sure to pop up in my everyday conversations this week and one which I’ll wonder how I ever survived without before.  The word…well, it’s fairly obvious from the title of this post, ziggurat.  And where did I learn this wondrous new word?  From the English coursebook of a 10-year-old.

It really makes you think about the vocabulary we expose our students to and as well to what extent we expect them to use and remember it.  Will she have to remember this word for an exam?  If so, it’s likely to be one of the easiest to remember as it’s so unusual.  But as we all know, remembering vocabulary for a test is not the same as being able to use it.  And how often does a 10-year-old talk about ancient temples; if they do, are they more likely to use the word temple than ziggurat?

So, a challenge for you this week – can you get the word ziggurat into an everyday conversation (without the conversation being about the random vocabulary EFL coursebooks expose our students to)?

January 5

What are you singing?

I started using lots of British nursery rhymes with my early primary learners last term.  It was a great way to get them up and using a bit of energy before settling down to do a quieter activity.  I found I could remember a lot of the actions from when I was a child and, if there were any I wasn’t sure about, I just invented something which seemed to fit.

Here’s are some of the songs I’ve been teaching them…

Incy Wincy Spider

If you’re happy and you know it

I’m a little teapot

The wheels on the bus

The Hokey Cokey

Anyway, as I was singing and doing the actions, I started thinking whether it actually meant anything to the students and whether by singing and miming they were actuallyy learning any new vocabulary.  It made me question whether I was doing the nursery rhymes for a good reason.  But then I thought back to when I was a child and some of the songs which we used to sing which, thinking about them now, didn’t make much sense to me at the time.

Take for example, “Ring a ring of roses” (if that’s even the correct title).  The lyrics to that make more sense to me now having studied a bit of history, but twenty-five years ago, it was just a song we’d sing and dance to.


A seven-year-old has much more fun in class standing in a circle and singing the Hokey Cokey than filling in a worksheet of body parts.  So perhaps teaching English should be more about enjoying using language in as natural a state as possible.

August 25

Visual Literacy

End of Week 3 now and I’m very excited as this afternoon I’m doing the session on Visual Literacy.  Followers of the blog will have noticed I’ve been using more multimedia resources this year and this afternoon’s session is a very hands-on look at using video and photos in the classroom.

For the trainees attending the session, and for anyone else who’s interested, here are some useful links to sites and lesson plans using video and pictures:

• Ceri Jones has some great lesson plans on her blog close up

Lesson Stream, Jamie Keddie’s site, provides very detailed lesson plans based on short clips

• On this blog you can find a lesson plan on Planking and another on character builds taken from a screenshot

• Michelle Worgan has posted some great activities on her blog, including a lesson based on Free Running

eltpics gives teachers a place to share pictures on a variety of topics, all of which are available under a Creative Commons License.  If you’re interested in joining the venture, check out this post on Sandy Millin’s blog

English Attack is a great site where your students can learn English watching short video clips and music videos

• The onestopenglish article Teaching English Using Video also provides very detailed plans for teaching different levels and looks at the different activities you can do with video