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How Grammar Can Help to Maintain
Motivation of Advanced Learners
by Greg Gobel
- lesson plan 2

Learner Profiles:
The class – As a whole, the class has developed good rapport and a relaxed yet motivated and serious atmosphere that is conducive to learning English. They help each other and try their best on tasks in class. Overall, they are punctual and attend frequently; but over the last two weeks, there is a growing tendency for a bit more tardiness. Attendance is generally good. They are generally timely with their homework and understand that a lot of exam-focused homework is necessary and extremely helpful for CAE preparation. That said, this class tends to take a little longer with most classroom tasks than the other CAE class that I teach. They also score consistently 5-10% points lower on practice exams than the other class.

Elena G.L. – Elena is taking English lessons primarily to improve her speaking ability. Elena will not be taking the CAE exam this year; she started the class not wanting to take it and has not changed her mind. This is a good decision as she needs to develop more. Last year she was at the pre-intermediate level, but after traveling in Britain for several months, she was strong enough to jump several levels. Because of this, at times she lacks a bit of confidence because her vocabulary is not as broad as most of the other students in class. As the school year goes on, I am becoming more and more convinced that, although Elena is able to manage some success at this level, she would probably gain more in a First Certificate class, and do quite well on that exam were she to take it. She feels the same way.

Elena O. -- Elena O. is an unassuming anchor in class. She does, however, have a tendency to come 15 to 30 minutes late sometimes due to outside circumstances. Her skills are quite solid but she surprisingly has done rather poorly on her practice CAE English in Use homework papers. Elena has been debating about taking the exam in either June or December. She has missed the last two classes, so I am not sure what she decided.

Theresa – Theresa is a pleasure to have in class. She is hard-working with a sense of humor and very willing to actively take part in tasks. Her German skills are also very good as she has been working for a German company and traveling to Germany for work. She was away in Germany for all of February but has just recently rejoined the class. She is a little bit older than most of the other students but this is never an issue.

Javier – Javier quietly and methodically does most things extremely well. He usually needs a little time to think and generate what he wants to say, so patience is very important with him. Javier scored above a 90% in June 2004 on the FCE, so is well grounded and confident. He is already scoring high marks on his CAE practice tests. For example, he has recently scored 79% on the English in Use paper and 80% on the Listening paper. Both of these are very solid marks for the CAE.

Javier -- Javier loves to take part in class and his favorite thing is to speak, albeit not as accurately as he would like and at times, creatively inventing new ‘words’ along the way, which sometime lead to confusion, but mostly lead to the corrected form that he was attempting to make. Although this means he takes part actively in group/pair work, it also means that at times he can dominate a little bit. Javier was a late addition to the class, joining us in the second week. He fit right in, though, without losing a beat. Like, Theresa, he is a little older than the others, but age difference is not a problem in any way

Belen -- Belen and Isabel are good friends from outside class and tend to work well together. Belen is confident, out-spoken when she wants to be, and very helpful with her peers. Her writing is very accurate but I think she could challenge herself a little bit more with the type of language she uses in her writing. She has decided not to take the CAE in June, putting it off until December, because she is more focused on the Selectividad exam, which is more important for her at this stage in her education.

Isabel – Isabel and Belen are good friends from outside class. Isabel is quieter and not as sure of herself, but an active participant nonetheless. She tends to make everything into one sentence in her writing, so as the course progresses she will need to work on punctuation and when to start and end sentences, and just how much to include in each. Sometimes Isabel will unnecessarily speak Spanish in class – not too much, but just enough to show that perhaps she is not as confident as some of the other learners at this level. This occurs most when she is seated next to her friend, Belen, so it is important to have a balance of Isabel working with Belen and other peers throughout lessons. Isabel needs another year at this level with more dedication to her own learning to properly prepare for the CAE.

David -- David works at the mint across the street from the school. While many of his colleagues take business English courses, David prefers to take the general courses with an exam focus. His smile is contagious. David is a little bit weaker grammatically than the rest of the class, but this does not generally impede his ability to maintain successful communication. He has recently been showing signs of increasing his effectiveness at self-monitoring and self-correcting which I feel will help his accuracy to start improving more. David is not interested in taking the CAE exam at all. But, I’ve been encouraging him to consider trying it next year. With a more focused goal, I think he will improve more.

Victor – Victor is of the ‘let’s talk and talk, and not worry about grammar so much’ attitude. So, he is quite fluent but makes seemingly more mistakes than his peers. With Victor, a little more than the others, more accuracy is a long-term goal. Victor really helped with the rapport of the class from the first day of classes, when he came in a few minutes early and smilingly started chatting in English to one of his new peers. This really helped to set the mood and atmosphere of the class. Victor is attempting to take more control of his learning. One example of that on a bi-weekly basis he checks out an advanced reader from the school’s library. I think this is great, but have even suggested that he could borrow some of my English novels if he wanted to attempt reading the original versions. Victor has been absent from the last three classes due to personal reasons.

Nacho – Nacho is newest learner in the class and rarely attends; he has only been to 9 classes since January, when he joined. He mentioned to me after the first class that it has been years since he needed to use English, but he is confident that with some time and effort he will be comfortable with it again. Because of this, his level of proficiency seems to be rather stagnant. He rarely speaks without being called on, but he shows no signs of being nervous or shy. Perhaps he lacks a bit of confidence or simply does not have the level to keep up with his peers. I feel he has made little improvement since joining the class. I think he should really have been placed in an FCE class instead, but there are the FCE class that is at the time he can attend is full.

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