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Towards an approach to the teaching of grammar, which is both more learner-centred and more effective in terms of the learners' long-term acquisition and deployment of the structures concerned by Nicola Holmes

Lesson Plan - 1

Further practice of past simple question and short answer forms and initial introduction to regular past simple positive forms and to some selected irregular past simple verb forms

Level: Beginners - English File One

Aims of the lesson:

Main Aims:

1. Review and consolidate past simple yes/no question forms and short answers, extending their use to a variety of different regular and irregular verbs

2. Initial introduction to and familiarisation with past simple positive and negative forms:
regular 'ed' endings /I/ and /t/ pronunciation only at this stage) and with six common irregular verbs (including 'went' and 'had' which were introduced in the previous lesson). Some initial controlled practice little production at this stage.

Subsidiary Aims:

1. Review and consolidate verbs and expressions already seen in previous lessons, including some 'have', 'go' and 'get' collocates.

2. Practice of spoken fluency.

3. Practice of listening for specific information.


Timetable Fit and General Rationale:

The class attends the school on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2.55 to 3.55 in the afternoon. There are six students in the class, who have all been together since October with the exception of Tomás, who joined in the new year, moving down from the level above, where he had been struggling. The students are highly motivated and get on very well with each other. They are supportive and helpful if one of them is finding something difficult, but they also have a very good sense of humour, and enjoy teasing each other and competing against each other. This generally makes for a relaxed and productive atmosphere in class, and makes this group a pleasure to teach. All of the students also work very hard at home. I set a lot of homework, and they always find time to do it, something with is reflected in the progress they have made since the beginning of the course.

The coursebook we are using is English file One, a book which I enjoy using very much. I find it very well thought-out, with good integration of skills, phonology work and learner training, and excellent complementary resources in the Students' book, Teacher's book and Workbook. The book also has excellent in-built recycling of language and structures, and presents language in an adult, engaging, and sometimes amusing context, usually exposing students to new structures first and then guiding them into their own analysis and rule formation, before providing them with ample opportunities for practice both in class and at home. I feel very comfortable with this approach, and, as the course book provides a lot of varied and interesting activities and materials, I generally do not feel the need to supplement it as much as I would with a different book.

The observed lesson is the second in a series of lessons focusing specifically on the past simple, although students have already had some passive exposure to it in the listening and reading texts in their book in the run up to these classes. The previous units of the book also introduced students to was/were and to a number of past time expressions via a very engaging murder mystery story, which created a context for more exposure to other past forms and has lead very naturally into the current series of lessons.

In the previous lesson, students encountered past simple yes/no question, short answer and negative forms, as well as the past simple positive forms of 'go' and 'have' via another engaging and entertaining story, which reviewed common 'go' and 'have' collocates encountered earlier in the course. I feel that the focus on just two common irregular verb's freed the 'students' attention to concentrate on the more generalisable question, short answer and negative forms, without having to actively produce a great number of positive past simple forms at the same time. this approach has worked well, in allowing the weaker students to develop their confidence without feeling under pressure, whilst giving the stronger students scope to say more if they like, a situation facilitated by the small size of the class, which usually enables me to attend to individual queries quite easily.

The first part of the observed lesson will consist of the activation of and expansion on the students' existing vocabulary of weekend activities, and further revision and practice of past simple yes/no question and short answer forms, where the patterns students have encountered in the previous lesson with the verb's 'go' and 'have' will be generalised to other verbs. Although I have already pointed out to the students that these forms are the same for all verbs in the past simple (with the exception of the verb' to be), they have so far only produced them with the verbs 'go' and 'have', so I feel that this part of the lesson is important in consolidating the general rule, as well as providing an opportunity to actively practise the vocabulary of weekend activities and a lead-in on which the rest of the lesson will build. I also have a slight problem, in that two of the students missed the previous class. Miguel is a strong student, and will probably have talked to his friend Javier about what we did in the lesson, but will nevertheless need practice in the oral production of the forms studied. Tomás, however, is a much weaker students, who moved down from the level above partly because he was struggling with the past simple. I am hoping that the opening activities in this lesson will help Miguel and Tomás to catch up on what they have missed, whilst providing the other students with stimulating further practice.

The approach I am taking in this class is that of a relaxed 'guided discovery' of past simple forms, rather than a traditional 'ppp' format. The way the course book and workbook is structured gives me a lot of scope for planning over a series of lessons rather than trying to pack all the aspects of one grammar point into one class. I feel that, whilst the past simple is, of course, one of the least difficult forms for students to master, it is also one of the most important forms for them to master well. Therefore I plan to work on different aspects of it over the next four or five classes, whilst also introducing other vocabulary and structures. In the lessons to follow, students will work on months, years ordinal numbers and dates, more complex wh- past tense question forms, more past time expressions and sequencers, and the vocabulary of holidays.

In this particular lesson, I will be concentrating on just six relatively high frequency irregular verbs and a number of regular verbs with the /d / and /t/ pronunciation of their endings. This is guided by the approach of the book, but I feel that it is a good idea to give students a lot of exposure to /d/ and /t/ endings before they encounter /Id/ endings, the most common error for students in general and Spanish students in particular being the pronunciation of the 'e' in all forms. I do not plan to focus heavily on pronunciation in this class, or even to talk about the /t/ and /d/ endings. However, by just presenting these two types of verbs here, I will be able to focus on the silent 'e' quite clearly. The students will focus on the pronunciation rules in more detail in a later lesson.

Because of the more relaxed, 'guided discovery' approach I have chosen to take in this lesson, there will be more passive exposure of students to past simple positive and negative forms, and less active production of them at this stage, except in the final two activities. In the introductory activities the students will enter into the past context of last Saturday, and familiarise themselves with the vocabulary which will come up later. I then plan to give them initial aural exposure to the past simple forms, before they see the written forms, both in an attempt to introduce the forms in a relaxed, non-pressurised manner, and in an attempt to focus on the sound and pronunciation (of the regular forms in particular) from the outset. Subsequently, the students will read and listen to the forms at the same time, hopefully drawing their attention to the differences between the sound and spelling of the regular forms in particular, and giving them plenty of passive exposure to the forms before the analysis and active production stages. After, this, with the aid of the texts used, students should be able to easily complete the grammar analysis handout with the positive and negative forms of the verbs concerned, formulate the basic rule for positive regular forms, and reach some logical conclusions about the questions asked about the spelling of 'studied' and 'danced'. Finally, I plan to use the information gathered in the survey in stage 6 of the class for initial controlled practice of the positive forms, an activity which will hopefully prove relatively communicative and stimulating, as students should be working with a partner who had different initial questions.

In the last five minutes of the lesson, at the same time reviewing past time expressions already encountered in previous classes, I hope to give the students more scope for freer practice and generalisation of past simple forms in a more highly personalised discussion, which will hopefully include calling upon more vocabulary, and generalising the rules studied in this class to apply them to different verbs. I do not expect a high degree of accuracy here. I simply hope to provide some opportunity for the students to experiment more freely with the forms they have been studying, hopefully stimulating the stronger students and the weaker students alike.

In the twenty minutes after the observed hour, I may choose to extend the five-minute freer discussion if it is proving to be highly productive. Then I plan to work on a few more regular and irregular verbs (walk, talk, buy and get) by means of a short reading and listening activity based around the third text on page 77, whereby they read the description of Sylvie's Saturday and then listen to her speaking and identify six errors in the text.

In the next lesson I plan to provide much freer practice of the forms looked at here, via a listening of two friends talking about their weekend, and work on more complex wh-questions. followed by work on months, ordinals and dates.

 

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