Friday, 28 February 2014

Receptive skills

A quick summary of what we looked at on Wednesday.
1. Language skills are all about what learners should be able to do with language, i.e. reading, writing, speaking and listening. Reading and listening are usually labelled as receptive skills although this is slightly misleading. They are not passive skills: it can take a lot of mental effort to read or make sense of an audio. 2. These macro skills can be divided into micro or sub-skills: prediction, skimming, scanning and intensive reading and listening, for example. We looked at top down and bottom up approaches. Top down approaches are concerned with looking at the overall picture of a text. Texts/audios can be very daunting for learners and it is a good idea to activate their schemata, to find out what they know about the topic and build on this. In the warmer, we can ask learners to discuss the topic of the audio/text,and show them a headline/audio and ask them to predict what the content will be. 3. To avoid the learners becoming too bogged down with vocabulary they do not know, decide which words, if any, should be pre-taught. Look at what they need to be able to understand to complete the tasks and check this vocabulary. Do not introduce too many words as vocabulary is not the main focus of the lesson (you can always look at some words later). Decide on the best way of presenting the vocabulary. If you have a few words to pre-teach, you can elicit and check the lexis, but if you have more than 4 words to pre-teach, you could use more student-centred ways of looking at the new vocabulary. For example, you could provide the learners with definitions which they match to the lexical items. 4. A gist task is a good way of looking at the overall meaning of the text/audio. This will help build confidence before looking at the text in more details. An example of a gist task is 'tick the topics you hear on the audio' or 'choose the best headline'. 5. Give learners an opportunity to compare their ideas after they have completed the gist and detailed tasks. This will give them confidence and allow you to assess progress. If you believe the learners are struggling, you will need to make some decisions. For example, you might decide to play the audio again in 'chunks' or do a few examples with the learners. 6. Provide extension tasks for learners who have finished more quickly than others. Instead of 'more of the same', think about how you can stretch and challenge these learners. 7. Finally, remember to encourage the learners to engage with what they have read/heard by providing a follow-up writing or speaking task. Remember - you language skills related tasks assignment is due in April. Please listen to the audio below for a recap of the stages. I apologise if the audio is a bit quiet or you can hear my kids shouting in the background!

Monday, 24 February 2014

top 10 teaching materials ideas

Just stumbled upon this - like the idea of adding audio to PowerPoint and adding audio to an animated face. Will definitely need to try this!

Click on the link materials

Language research

I have been doing some research into using mobile phones in the classroom and I thought I could combine two birds with one stone here: a review of language areas and using a technological device!

I hope that you can participate in this language project by uploading your own photos of a particular language point and displaying it. Here are a few areas to get you started. Do you know which language point is being described and why? You can check your answers by clicking on answers

Then you can start posting your own pictures; I have plenty more but I think it would be more useful for you to find your own. You may have to set up your own link at to post; if you get stuck, send me the image and I'll post it for you.

Happy language hunting and make sure you don't offend anyone if you take an image!!

What is the verb form 'observe'?

Which verb forms are used?
What is 'stock up' an example of?


Monday, 17 February 2014

Tips on lesson planning

I hope that now you have had the session on lesson planning, you feel more confident preparing your first lessons for teaching practice. If you don't fancy reading all the information below, you can listen to my three-minute summary here:

 Below are a few tips.

1. Think about the lesson objectives of your session, It is a good idea to make these SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-led). Consider what you want the learners to be able to do by the end of the lesson and go from there. Avoid using words such as 'understand' and 'know' in your lesson objectives as it is difficult to assess whether the learners are actually learning something. Remember as well that you want the learners to put some cognitive effort into the lesson, i.e. there should be some evidence of deeper learning going on. All learners should be 'stretched' and 'challenged' to some degree. A useful resource is Bloom's taxonomy. This provides some useful language which you can use when writing your lesson objectives. The video clip focuses on the cognitive components of Bloom's taxonomy.


2. Present language via a context whereever possible. This context should be generative, e.g. if you are using a text or audio to present language, there should be several examples of the target language so that learners can perceive patterns and hopefully 'notice' rules for themselves. We shall look at different ways of presenting language during the course.

3. Keep the function of the language in mind. When you research the language point you are teaching, you will notice that it may have many functions. For example, a third conditional form can be used to apportion blame (e.g. "If you'd got up earlier, we wouldn't have missed the plane."), express regret (e.g. "If I'd studied harder, I could have got a better job.") etc. It is, therefore, essential that you keep to this function when learners are being introduced to and practising the language. Do NOT attempt to convey ALL the uses of the present perfect, for example, in one lesson. This is potentially confusing and I doubt whether they will retain this knowledge. If you decide to use of Murphy's English in Use exercises, make sure that the exercise practises the function of the language that the learners have been introduced to earlier on.

4. Be realistic! Do not attempt to cram everything into a 40-minute lesson. Teach the learners not the plan; be flexible. You may have to spend longer on one stage than another. This is fine.

5. Ensure there is a clear link between each stage of the lesson. Ask yourself how each stage leads onto the next. For example, if you are teaching a reading lesson, think about WHY you might need to pre-teach some vocabulary. Make this clear to your learners so they are clear where they are going. 

6. Finally, try not to get too stressed. Teaching should be an enjoyable process. You are here to learn so if something does not quite go to plan in your lesson, don't worry. Nobody is a perfect teacher!  

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Teaching beginners

You might find listening and watching this useful. The trainer gives some advice on how to teach beginners, particularly useful if you are teaching entry level 3.

teaching beginners