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How Grammar Can Help to Maintain
Motivation of Advanced Learners
by Greg Gobel
- lesson plan 3

Lesson Rationale

Much of the grammar included in Advanced Gold, the coursebook we are using, is revision and consolidation of grammar points from earlier levels. This is useful for learners, serving as a reminder and re-focusing their attention on what the CAE exam assumes they should know. However, based on past experience, I believe that high-level learners need more than just revision of grammar to sustain their motivation. Although this coursebook does include new grammar points as well, opportunities to make revised grammar points into new and exciting ones are often overlooked.

One such opportunity arises in unit 8 with reported speech. Like most published material focusing on reported speech, Advanced Gold (pages 96-97) takes a mechanical approach, asking learners to change tenses, perhaps change deictic markers (with no explanation of why, though), with brief attention to reporting verbs and dependant prepositions. Yule, however, rightly indicates that these areas of reporting could be broadened to include more authentic and natural approaches saying, ‘This situation is particularly problematic for those learners who have mastered the widely taught mechanics of converting direct to indirect speech forms, yet still need guidance in becoming familiar with the range of options used to present reported discourse…’ (Yule, et al., 1992: 245). It is this ‘guidance’ and some of this ‘range of options’ that this lesson seeks to help learners to discover and explore. Even though these are advanced learners, they will likely be surprised by these new possibilities of reporting, so I do not want to overload them by presenting all of the range Yule proposes. I have limited the focus to ‘summarized reports’ (see Yule, 1998: 275-276) and ‘constructed dialogues’ (see Yule, 1992: 248-249) because they seem very useful, common and achievable for learners.

This lesson draws heavily on authentic material (stages 1,2,3) from well-known personalities, real reports, and the American sit-com Seinfeld and takes a retrospective approach (see Thompson, 1996: 11) featuring guided self-discovery (stage 2) to aid awareness and comprehension of new language. The lesson, taking into account its place in the timetable fit, is an extended test-teach-test. The first test was in a previous lesson, taking a look at some of the coursebook’s brief revision of reporting, useful perhaps for the CAE English in Use paper, and working out whether the learners knew about Yule’s suggested possibilities of reporting. I felt it was important to discover how informed the learners were of more natural reporting techniques. The learners were clearly very confined to the mechanical reported speech of classic grammars. Based on this, stages 1 and 2 are the teach phase, giving learners opportunities to discover and discuss summarizing and constructing dialogues. Learners will have plenty of time to avoid feeling rushed through this discovery phase. Stages 3 and 4 are the second test phase, giving learners opportunities to report what they hear from the DVD and also from personal experience, thus catering to as many learners as possible through engaging tasks with both guided and freer speaking and active, participatory listening. Learners will have reason to listen out of curiosity: what they did not see in the DVD and to learn about their peer.

References

Acklam, Richard and Sally Burgress. 2001. Advanced Gold Coursebook. Pearson Education.
Thompson, Geoff. 1996. ‘Some misconceptions about communicative language teaching.’ ELT Journal, Volume 50/1 January 1996. Oxford University Press.
Yule, George, Terrie Mathis, and Mary Frances Hopkins. 1992. ‘On reporting what was said.’ ELT Journal, Volume 46/3 July 1992. Oxford University Press.
Yule, George. 1998. Explaining English Grammar. Oxford University Press.

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