In this post, Tyson Seburn explains how to make students more aware of the limitations of Google Translate, while at the same time giving us an idea of how to use the theme songs of popular TV series in class. Great fun for the new term.
One of the things which I try to do in my conversation classes is to help students become aware of the structure of the texts they are interacting with at the same time as they develop their speaking skills. For this reason, I like to include dictation exercises from time to time, although I use variations which require the students to manipulate the text in some way themselves. In previous posts, I have examined Picture Dictations and other variations on dictations. In this post, I’m going to focus on what I have come to call ‘Jigsaw dictations’.
The main idea behind a jigsaw dictation is that the students initially receive the sentences of the text jumbled up, and after the dictation they have to decide how to put the sentences together to recreate the original text. In doing this, the students not only have to transcribe the words that are dictated, but also apply their knowledge of grammar and text structure – what Halliday and Hasan (1976) called ‘texture’ – in order to produce a coherent text.
The initial text can be delivered to the students in a variety of ways. The teacher can dictate the sentences to the students in the traditional way, first making sure that the students write down what they hear as discrete sentences rather than as a paragraph. Alternatively, and this is the option I prefer, the list of sentences can be pinned up on the wall, and the students can do a running dictation in groups. In this way, the students take an active part in the dictation from the start. Another option is to give each student one of the sentences when they come into the classroom and they have to find partners who have the other sentences from the text before they dictate their sentence to the team they have formed (here it is important to tell them how many different sentences there are in the text, so they know how many people they need in their group). I used this variation to begin my talk ‘Making connections‘ at the II Arenas Teaching
Once the sentences have been dictated, the students should try to recreate the original text in pairs or groups. It is important that they get a chance to talk about their ideas, as in this way they activate their knowledge of the language as they explain the reasoning behind the order they are suggesting. The teacher should be going around the class monitoring the activity, but should not intervene at this stage unless absolutely necessary. The students need time to experiment with the language and try out different combinations.
Here is an example of a jigsaw dictation which I used with my B1 class this year, and also in my talk ‘Making connections’:
- Today, in comparison with places like London or Manchester, Norwich is quite small, with a population of 150,000, but in the 16th century Norwich was the second city of England.
- The first cathedral was built in 1095 and has recently celebrated its 900th anniversary, while Norwich itself had a year of celebration in 1994 to mark its 800th anniversary as a city.
- Norwich, the capital of the part of Britain known as East Anglia, has existed as a place to live for more than 2000 years.
- At the time of the Norman invasion in 1066 it had grown to become one of the largest towns in England.
- With two cathedrals and a mosque, Norwich has long been a popular centre for various religions.
- Nowadays, there are far fewer churches and pubs, but in 1964 the University of East Anglia was built in Norwich.
- It began as a small village beside the River Wensum.
- It continued to grow for the next 300 years and got richer and richer, becoming famous for having as many churches as there are weeks in the year and as many pubs as there are days in the year.
The correct version can be found in the powerpoint ‘Making connections‘. The title of the text is ‘Norwich’.
The TESOL Spain Convention next year will take place on 7th – 9th March, 2014 at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The theme is ’21st Century Teaching on the Move’, and the online submission of speaker proposals will be open from 1st September to 31st October. More information will be available from http://tesol-spain.org/
While we spend ages training our students to speak about important issues and discuss things in depth using lots of discourse markers and a wide range of linkers, we rarely focus on a speaking skill which many native speakers (myself included) find extremely difficult – making small talk. In this excellent post, Sandy Millin suggests a series of ways in which we can make our students more aware of the social conventions involved and give them practice in the art of initiating, maintaining and ending dialogues at social functions.
The end of term is in sight, and now more than ever we need original ideas to counter the stress of exams and final assessments, and to engage students whose minds are already on the coming holidays. In this post we’ll visit five websites which offer something a bit different for our final classes of the school year, and, what is more important with all the admin which we have to do in the coming weeks, lesson plans which are ready to use.
This excellent site run by Kieran Donaghy has recently won the ELTon award for Innovation in Teaching Resources. The site offers a wide choice of complete lesson plans and handouts in PDF format each based around one or more short videos. The lessons are graded according to the CEFR, and offer a variety of activities, both written and oral. The choice of videos is excellent, with thought-provoking topics stimulating rich discussions in class and engaging the students. I have used a few of these activities in class this year, and I think my favourite is probably ‘Real Beauty’, based on a promotional video for Dove Soap, designed for B2 and C1 students. A colleague has had a great time in her class with the activity ‘Make it count‘, which I featured here in April.
This site, written by Sean Banville, has featured on this blog before (his lesson plan covering the death of Margaret Thatcher). It offers a host of activities based on important stories in the news and covering different skills and levels. There is more than enough material to keep even the most demanding class going, including listening activities with Mp3 files provided. Sean offers a two-page ‘mini-lesson’ in addition to the complete 26-page version, thus increasing the choice available to the busy teacher.
Not content with this site, Sean has eight other sites which also offer high quality resources for teachers, notably ESL Holiday Lessons, which offers lessons focusing on special days in the calendar, some serious, some less so (World Sleep Day is a favourite of mine, and went down very well in class).There is a lesson plan for most days of the year, helpfully laid out month by month so you can plan ahead. His latest venture is Lessons on Movies, which promises to be very popular with those of us working with teenagers.
The British Council and the BBC join forces to offer this website supporting teachers with a wide variety of downloadable lesson plans for all levels and skills. These are graded according to CEFR levels, from A2 to C1, and cover all the main skills. There is also an A – Z index of content so you can search for topics which fit in with your lessons.
This website also provides more general support for teachers in the form of Teacher Development, news and downloadable research articles.
This aptly-named website offers a vast selection of printable worksheets for free, which is great news for, well, busy teachers. On the homepage you will find links to the most recent and the most popular worksheets of the moment. You can also search for seasonal worksheets by month. The material is in American English.
This website also provides articles of interest to teachers, and I have provided links to articles there on this blog before, including earlier this week (‘5 Things You Should Say to Your Class Every Day‘).
And finally, Rachael Roberts brings us a selection of downloadable PDF ideas for our classes on her blog, ELT Resourceful. Her lesson plans are again based around short videos and provide excellent ideas for ways to exploit these videos in the classroom, and providing the opportunity for very interesting class debates. Some of the videos have lessons provided at two different levels.
Rachael’s blog also provides very interesting posts on aspects of teaching English, and helpful tips for preparing your own materials.
Other useful sites:
I chose the sites above because they offer a complete service, as it were, providing lessons plans that are ready to go. However, I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning some other sites which provide lots of great resources. Although they do not provide step-by-step instructions for how to use them, with a little bit of thought they can make for a very enjoyable, useful class.
This website lets your students practise their listening comprehension while they listen to their favourite songs. al they have to do is search for the song they want to listen to, and they will find the lyrics with gaps for them to complete as they listen. There are different levels of difficulty and an option where a limited number of attempts is allowed before the song stops. This a great end of class activity for teenage students
On this website, set up by a group of educators on http://www.flickr.com, you will find a vast and growing collection of photographs which have been made available for teachers to use for educational purposes. The rights to the pictures are retained by the person who took them, so they should be carefully attributed – for the correct format, click here. The collection can be searched by category, and you can upload your own pictures to the collection. All in all, this is a fantastic resource. It is not surprising that it was a finalist in this year’s ELTon for Innovation in Teaching Resources, the same category as Kieran Donaghy’s www.film-english.com (see above).
I was originally going to include this site as one of my five, as it is very complete, offering downloadable lessons and a host of articles and resources for teachers. However, in the end I have included it here, firstly because it is a website which is offered by a publishing house (Macmillan) rather than an independent site, and also because you have to register and pay to access some of the resources. Once you have registered it is an excellent site, but I preferred to focus on what was available for free.
We all do it – using songs, authentic texts, videos to jazz up the usual textbook material and to motivate and reward our students. But what material do we use most? Here is a handy infographic provided by Kaplan International Colleges which shows which are the most popular sources of authentic material for the language classroom. How many of these have you used?
To coincide with the launch of the film, here’s an article full of resources based on The Great Gatsby.