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Process Options for Training Sessions
by Judy Guttridge
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3. Reading Circles is another activity that I use in the classroom as highly satisfactory way of giving input to trainees.

• In the classroom one of the main aims of the activity is to give students a chance to practise taking longer turns at speaking.

• In an ideal world the number of students in the class should be a multiple of four, and there should be a different piece of text for each group of four! (Should this not be the case, teachers or trainers will adapt to groups of five or three as s/he sees fit, ensuring that weaker students are not left alone!)

• The type of text I choose for the classroom might be a short anecdote or a piece of interesting information. (I have found suitable material from old textbooks, which I cut up and stick on card.) Each group has a different text to read, understand and remember (not memorise) as all participants will be called upon to relay their information. One of the reasons for having students in groups is so that they can give each other technical and moral support, at the beginning in the understanding of the texts, and during the activity in the relaying.

• The different groups of four form a large circle, with two people in each group facing in a clockwise direction (As) and two in an anti-clockwise direction (Bs). For the activity the Bs will stay put and the As will move on to the next group, but only when the teacher/trainer gives the cue, otherwise chaos would ensue.

• When the As meet with a new pair of Bs the two pairs exchange stories.

• When all groups have finished this stage, at the cue the As move on to the next pair of Bs. And so the activity continues.

• Each pair is getting practice at a long turn of speech, probably refining delivery as the activity progresses. In fact, the time needed for 'telling' tends to reduce, but not because participants have become bored. Simply because they have become more fluent.

• At the same time they should have been participating as active listeners. If they are aware that the information they are receiving will be necessary for a further activity then listening should become even more purposeful.

With the trainees I chose a text by Jack Richards, Communicative needs in foreign language learning (1990) which gives a clear exposition of different aspects of communication and is fairly neatly organised for division into shorter pieces of text. In fact, I reduced the length of the text further so that the activity could be completed within a satisfactory time limit. Trainees found the reflections on language highly stimulating, and became very involved. Moving around was not complicated with the group of trainees, but probably needs careful thought and preparation for use with a class of younger learners.

Again the trainees were experiencing a process and at the same time elaborating technical information, and needless to say the activity is evaluated by the whole trainee group in the same way as the previous exercises. However, at this stage the trainees may well be ready to reflect in smaller groups with less trainer supervision.

I have a strong belief in the need for mental and physical involvement, and for activities that are going to stimulate the use of memory, be it consciously or otherwise. It would appear to be a common sense approach to trainee sessions to combine practice and theory in a highly motivating way, providing trainees with material for reflection and for the development of personal theories and practices.

References

Richards, J.C. 'Communicative needs in foreign language learning', a plenary address given at the Japan Association of Teachers' Convention, Tokyo, November 21, 1981 in Rossner R. and Bolitho, R. (eds.) 1990. Currents of Change in English Language Teaching, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Widdowson, H.G. 1978. Teaching Language as Communication, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Woodward, T. 1991. Models and Metaphors in Language Teacher Training, Loop input and other strategies, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

This article was first published in the IATEFL Teacher Trainers' & Educators' SIG Newsletter December 2001


Judy Guttridge works at the University of Florence, Italy, but has many years of experience of teaching, particularly to adults, and training Italian teachers of many different school levels. She has also been involved in projects with teachers for the teaching of Italian both in L1 and L2 situations.
Judy can be contacted at:
j_guttridge@yahoo.com

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