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I had a less than stimulating start to the week! On a Monday morning I have a B1.1 group at 10.30 and there are a wonderful group and generally quite enthusiastic and talkative. I like to put some discussion questions on the board before they arrive for three reasons:
- It’s good to start the lesson with something communicative
- They don’t all arrive on time so this gives those who arrive on time something useful to do and is something latecomers can easily become involved in with little guidance from me
- It’s based around the theme for the lesson (activating schemata and all that metalanguage jazz!)
This week there were some questions on the board with the title Harry Potter as we would later be doing a reading about JK Rowling. The learners’ response to the initial questions was far less positive than usual as there were no Harry Potter fans in the class and in fact most said they thought the saga was unrealistic and silly (allowed a great teachable moment of some negative adjectives!).
I feel as though this initial stage then set up the atmosphere for the rest of the lesson. In later discussions, the learners seemed less animated than usual which made me wonder whether they had been negatively affected by an initial phase which was so uninteresting for them.
Here’s an example of a guided visualisation using a close-up as a starting point. Remember when doing guided visualisations to speak slowly and calmly, grading language to your learners’ level. By grading language, we make the experience of the visualisation much more calming, as if faced with unknown or unclear language, students can become unfocussed. I also like to give further prompts to students after asking the initial question and these are in brackets below.
Look at this rock.
Now close your eyes.
Take a step back and look around you. Where are you? (Perhaps you’re in the mountains, or the countryside, or next to the sea)
What can you see around you?
What can you hear? (Perhaps there are birds above you, or insects flying around)
What can you smell? (Perhaps you can smell flowers, or the sea air)
Is anyone with you? (Perhaps you’re with family, or friends)
Imagine you’re taking your shoes and socks off. What can you feel beneath your feet? (Perhaps there’s grass or rocks or sand)
How do you feel?
When you’re ready, open your eyes and tell your partner what you saw.
At this point, you can monitor, helping with new vocabulary and collecting errors for whole group feedback afterwards.
This is an easy activity to get learners speaking and practising question words. Give learners a piece of paper and tell them to draw eight clouds, with a topic in each. Then they write one question in each cloud, after which they interview a partner. After the interview, learners swap papers with their partner and add another question to each cloud. Then they interview a different partner, swap, add another question, and so on… It keeps learners motivated as they talk to different people and the questions vary a little each time. Also, they have to think of more questions about each topic and classmates may have chosen different topics.
A few years ago at TESOL-SPAIN, I saw a great talk by Catherine Morley about using dictation in the class. She demonstrated a number of activities and one which has always stayed with me is “A 2 Day in 5“.
I created my own version for a group today as we were doing a reading activity related to aliens. Here goes…
3. personality adjective
4. body part
5. friend’s name
9. different colour
12. another friend
13. action with -ing
One day (12) was walking in (6) when s/he saw something very strange. It looked like a (3) person, but it had (1) skin and (10) (4). (12) went closer and asked “(7)” “I don’t know,” replied the alien. “But I’m hungry and I want to eat a (11) (9) (2). (12) thought this was very odd, so s/he called (5) and together they took the alien to the (8) and started (13).
I’ve done the Shark Attack activity recently with a couple of groups and they really enjoy the task – it’s an easy, enjoyable, controlled practice activity of the past continuous. However, I was doing a lesson today with past continuous and past simple and adapted the activity so learners would use both tenses.
The first part of the activity was the same: we brainstormed things to do at the beach and then I told them to draw the beach (I didn’t mention a shark) and then mingle to find out what their classmates were doing. Once we had mingled and done some feedback, I told them to draw the shark and to think about what happened next. There were some very inventive ideas:
Ana and Elena were swimming in the sea. When the shark attacked, they died.
Álvaro and Carlos were playing football. When the shark attacked, Álvaro jumped into the sea to save the girls and Carlos called the police.
Pepe was sitting under an umbrella. When the shark arrived, he saw Pepe and they fell in love and moved to another country.