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Course Planning - a process
by Emma Worrell
- 3

Organisation and content of activities


The content of the course was taught, as far as possible, to a process based syllabus. For example, providing opportunities for the students to have extended speaking activities in pairs and small groups, comparing answers and discussing the successes of various strategies. An attempt was also made to provide students with activities in noticing various discourse features of texts, for example, by analysing tape scripts.

Although the students were aware of the importance of exam practice, it was not a central theme to all the activities we did in an attempt to make some of the activities more fun. Students also requested homework after every class which was useful for consolidating class work and students were assured that any extra homework they wished to do (particularly with regards to writing) would be corrected. . The sequencing was adapted to provide variety or connection between themes, for example, the writing exercise in the first unit which was based on informal letter writing was contrasted by a formal letter writing exercise which was from one of the last units of the course book. This was to provide students with the relevant training from early on ( to develop 'good' habits). The book includes various recycling methods but I included more lexis recycling, especially of phrasal verbs, and each class myself or the students recorded new vocabulary from the board onto vocabulary cards which were used frequently, for example, for fast finishers or warmers.

Evaluation

Students at the academy are given formal tutorials as part of their extensive course. These are given individually and are seen as more important for those students taking the FCE.. The week after the course plan finished, the students were asked for feedback on the course syllabus in the form of group and class discussions. Feedback, in general, was very positive and students expressed their perceived progress as especially good in writing and listening (perhaps two of the things that are difficult for the students to pass in the exam). Some students commented that, in general, they had not found the course as boring as they had anticipated an exam course would be!

Consideration of resources and constraints

I have already briefly discussed the constraints of using a an exam course book. However, I have tried to incorporate other materials with which to practise exam strategies. Some of the materials in the book could be considered as fairly 'dry' and I felt it more appropriate, at times to use other, more stimulating materials from other sources. There is obviously pressure to complete certain parts of the book (e.g. the grammar revisions) and this hindered the progress of any process based timetable. In my, and other teachers' experience, it is very difficult to finish the course book in the extensive course. The students are also aware that after the mock exams in February the weighting of the course content will change significantly with the need to practise more exam techniques and progress to more challenging listenings (the listenings in the book have often been said to be too easy compared to those listenings in the exam practice books and, indeed, in the actual exam). Most of the students' attendance was good with just two of the students missing a fair amount of classes due to work commitments which made it difficult to plan follow-up and sequence activities.

Bibliography

Ackham/Burgess 1996 First Certificate Gold Course Book, Longman
Breen M.P. 1987 Contemporary Paradigms in Syllabus Design Part 2
Dubin & Olshtain 1986 Course Design CUP
Graves K. 1996 Teachers as Course Developers, CUP
Hutchinson T. and Waters A. 1987 English For Specific Purposes, CUP
Munby J. 1978 Communicative Syllabus Design CUP
Nunan D. 1988 Syllabus Design OUP

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