I had a great time the other day with my 11-year-olds as we were practising the present simple through picture dictations. One thing I particularly enjoy about running picture dictations with Spanish speakers is that it removes their desire to dictate “phonetically” – in a normal running dictation, learners are obviously keen to get the spelling correct and so end up dictating things like, “The to-ast is very de-li-ci-ous” or “I li-ke waa-ching TV”.
A quick stage guide:
- Introduce and model the activity with a learner.
- Pair learners up and give instructions.
- Learners work on running dictation in pairs.
- When they have all the pictures, instruct them to work together to write a sentence (remind them to use the present continuous).
- Swap papers with another pair to correct. Elicit sentences from learners, write correct sentences on the board.
I told the groups there were a maximum of five points per sentence and that they should take off a mark for each mistake (hence the numbers on some of the pictures).
Here’s a quick idea for an activity to practise the present continuous which will appeal to the artists in the group.
Stick twelve present continuous sentences around the room and divide the class into pairs. Get each pair to draw a 4×3 table and then do a running dictation BUT one student goes and reads the sentence, comes back and dictates to their partner who then draws a picture of the sentence.
When students have completed the board, you can do feedback by asking them to make a sentence abou the picture – perhaps giving points for the correct grammatical structure as well as points for how closely it resembles the original sentence.
Here are some ideas for sentences…
A fat mouse is looking at some cheese.
Two old men are sitting in the park.
Three children are watching TV in the living room.
A happy rabbit is jumping in the garden.
A tall, thin man is drinking some orange juice.
A boy is reading a book in bed.
Four people are riding horses in the countryside.
Two boys are playing computer games in their bedroom.
An ugly monster is eating three small children.
The teacher is standing next to the blackboard.
Six children are playing football on the beach.
A beautiful woman is talking on her mobile phone.
OK, thanks to Steve
for reminding me about the wonders of picture dictations. I’ve done three in the past two days!
With my Adults on Monday, we described family members who the rest of the class had to draw. (If I was doing this again, I would ask students to bring in a photo on the day, so that we could compare the drawings with the real person.)
Then yesterday evening, my 12-year-olds were looking at the topic of holidays, so they dictated the view from our hotel room to each other.
And later that evening, I did a similar activity with my advanced group, looking at vocabulary to describe landscapes.
The thing I liked most about the picture dictations with Tuesday’s groups is that we developed the story around the picture when they were done – again encouraging communication through the idea of “There are no wrong answers!” One of my students in the earlier class invented the story that he’d gone to the Moon on his holidays and there men have blue skin, women have green skin and it’s very common for people to drive eight-wheeled cars.
There’s been a change in how teachers’ professional development is covered at our school. In previous years, everyone got together every couple of weeks and we had a session on a particular topic – which mean that you could sometimes feel that content wasn’t immediately relevant to your teaching environment or, in some cases, that familiar content was being revisited again.
I’m really excited about the change for this year – today we had the first meeting and could choose one of three threads that we wanted to look at this term, These fell into the categories of The Language (specifically phonology), The Classroom (with the funky term “tissues and issues”) and The Bigger Picture…which this term also had a funky title “RetroTEFL”. (Aside: Aaaah, yet again phonology is the Cinderella of ELT. However, despite lacking a funky title, it was the most subscribed to thread for this term!).
A really engaging first session today – we identified why we had chosen that threads and set ourselves SMART goals to work on during the next few weeks. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see from my handwritten notes, but I’m planning on turning the tasks I try into blogposts, as well as jotting down my thoughts in my journal.
I managed to squeeze in some extra prepositions and classroom vocabulary practice today – completely unplanned but I was in a rush between classes! I was late leaving one classroom and had to pick up some students for their lesson and I didn’t have time to stick up the sentences for the running picture dictation. So instead I asked the students to do it by giving each a sentence and an instruction – there are some great places to stick sentences around the room…
Above the bin
Under the table
Next to the bookcase
On the floor
On the teacher’s back (!)
As well, if there are posters around the room, you can turn it into more of a game by asking them to stick the sentence next to the bus or on the goldfish – they’ll look at you as if you’re crazy at first (“Next to the bus?”) and then it’ll click.