Models and samples as a resource for writing
by Greg Gobel
Level: Advanced (CAE)
| Main Aims:
- To enable the learners to write an information sheet (for homework) by sensitizing them to the appropriate language (Stage 7,8), form/structure/style (Stage 3,5), and content (Stage 4,6,7,8) that the CAE expects for this type of writing.
- By the end of the lesson the learners will have written an outline/plan for the CAE information sheet type of writing. (Stage 8)
| Subsidiary Aims:
- To be able to use their worldly knowledge to assess a situation involving cultural interaction in a film (Stage 1).
- To brainstorm topics that could lead to cultural gaffes. (Stage 4)
- Learners will practice their noticing skills by looking for inappropriate language in an information sheet and by comparing that by looking for appropriate language in a second information sheet. (Stage 7)
- To encourage learners to have confidence in writing what is likely a new genre of writing for them. (Stage 3,5,7,8)
| Timetable Fit:
This will be the sixth week of the school year. We are just finishing Unit 2 in the CAE Gold course book.
For the CAE exam, there are many particular types of writing that students must learn to do effectively. One of these is the ‘Information Sheet’. In Unit 1, the students focused on writing a formal complaint letter and an informal note. The note was a type of writing not part of the FCE, as is this Information Sheet. By the end of Unit 2, the students will therefore have experienced two ‘new’ types of writing. This is important to do focus on early in the course so that the new types of writing are not left until the end. As students have some room for choice in the Writing Paper of the CAE, it is important that the students experience writing all the types of papers they may be asked to do, but also to think about which ones they are more comfortable writing so that they feel confident when taking the exam.
This particular lesson focuses more on the planning/generating stages in the process writing cycle. This is not to downplay the other stages, but 60 minutes is just not enough for all of the process stages for such a long composition. Drafting will be focused on in the following lessons in this manner: first, the students will make a draft at home thinking about the five guided questions for drafting in Unit 2; then, they will bring the homework in and I will check it for errors, register, style, format and write some questions for each student; then, I will bring those back in and the students will help each other address the issues that I guide them to. The students will then have the choice to rewrite the information sheet at home. They are very busy, so I feel that giving them this choice caters to their busy work or student lifestyles (we must be realistic and understand that English class is not the only thing in our students’ lives) and also encourages them to take more control of their learning. In this way, also, the drafting process becomes a thread through several lessons and helps the students keep in mind that they may have to write an information sheet in the exam, thus minimizing the problem that students and teachers sometimes seem to focus on something for a day, only to forget about it for months.
1. The students are interested in finding out a little bit about what I know about the Czech Republic and Prague from my experience of living there. They have mentioned this to me before, and we have had little chats here and there about a few aspects of that experience.
2. The students will know about important cultural aspects of Madrid and/or Spain and/or a region or town in Spain.
3. The students are willing to help each other in pair work and group work.
4. The students will feel successful because there will be enough that is challenging but that the tasks will be achievable as well.
| Anticipated Problems:
- Some students may not be used to writing out a plan before they write, so they may have some difficulty or be hesitant when they write their planning ideas in Stage 8. Solution: I can tell these students that the plan will help them a great deal when it comes time to write their Information Sheet at home.
- Students may not notice the inappropriate language on the first information sheet they read. Solution: Be ready to guide them with hints and line number references. Learners will be working in pairs, so they can help guide each other to the language.
- On the other hand, learners may have trouble ‘softening’ the language once they find the ‘harsher’, inappropriate language. Solution: Some exercises focusing on ‘softening’ expressions can be done before this lesson to help enable the learners to have some success in the activity.
- Students may not understand everything in the short video clip. This could lead to frustration. Solution: I can tell them that it’s fine if they do not understand everything, because that is not essential for the task. The visual input from the video should be able to make up for any words that the learners do not hear or understand and prompt discussion nonetheless.
- Students may struggle to generate ideas in the planning phase. Solution: By monitoring I will be able to notice who may need a prompt for an idea. Also, as learners will be working in pairs, they may get some help and ideas from their partner.
- Some students may finish before others. Solution: I need to remain aware of this and either prompt these students to continue discussing, prompt them to help the students who are still working, or have another brief activity related to the one they have finished early ready for them.
- The room is small and gets quite hot at times, so some learners may become physically uncomfortable. Solution: I can remain aware of this and open the door when it seems too warm. I can ask the learners if it is too hot.
- The students are not used to having an observer in the back of the room and as a result may feel uncomfortable. Solution: I have told them ahead of time and assured them that the observer’s focus will be primarily on the teacher. I have told them that having an observer in the room will be helpful for my teaching and result in more effective lessons in the future.
- The class will be held on a Monday before a holiday, so some learners may not be as focused as they otherwise might be. Solution: The content of the lesson should be interesting and motivating. The pace of the lesson should be snappy to keep the learners active and motivated.
- As the following day (Tuesday, November 9 th) is a holiday in Madrid, there will likely be only 5 to 7 students instead of the usual 8 to 10. This may affect the student’s comfort level in the classroom because they are used to being in a larger group. Solution: Have a relaxed, friendly, yet hard-working atmosphere in the classroom as usual, and they will likely not worry about missing classmates.
- The ‘cultural differences’ theme could tempt some learners to make inappropriate comments about other cultures. Solution: I will be ready to quickly clarify ‘stereotype’ and the potential problems of over-generalizing about cultures and types of people. This group of learners is generally mature, though, so I am confident that offensive remarks will not likely be made.
| Class Profile:
- The class – As a whole, the class has developed good rapport and relaxed yet motivated 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. Rarely are there days with less than 8 out of 10 students. They are generally timely with their homework and understand that a lot of exam-focused homework is necessary and extremely helpful for CAE preparation.
- Elena – Elena is taking English lessons primarily to improve her speaking ability. At the beginning of the year she expressed that she was not that interested in taking the CAE, but recently has hinted at reconsidering. 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. Elena is the only class member to fail the first practice CAE reading paper (from October) but both she and I agree that her 59% (1 below passing) was a mighty achievement considering she has jumped up several levels.
- Elena O. -- Elena O. is an unassuming anchor in class. She does, however, have a tendency to come about 10 or 15 minutes late sometimes due to outside circumstances. Her skills are quite solid but she surprisingly did rather poorly on her practice CAE English in Use homework paper. Although many students find that paper of the exam to be extremely challenging, I really thought she would get above 60%. This was helpful, though, because otherwise I think both she and I would have taken that part of the exam for granted and now we know that a little more work than we thought might be necessary will be.
- 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 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. At times, he need a little time to think and generate what he wants to say. Javier scored above a 90% last year on the FCE, so is well grounded and confident. He is already scoring high marks on his CAE practice tests.
- Javier -- Javier is 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. 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.
- 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.
- David -- David works at the mint across the street from the school. While many of his colleagues take business English courses, David, like many others, 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 their ability to understand him.
- Christina -- Christina is probably the weakest student in the class. She sometimes needs something a peer or the teacher says to be repeated or rephrased, whereas the others almost never do. She has yet to turn in her October practice exam homework, whereas everyone else has. I have talked to her about this, and she says, ‘Yes, yes, I will do it. But, I don’t have time.’ Over the first several weeks of class, it seems while the others are improving and starting to take control of their own learning, she is holding herself back a bit. There is still plenty of time (7 ½ months) left in the school year to develop her willingness to learn. That said, when she is in class she has a positive attitude and is never disruptive or a drag on her peers.
- Victor – Victor is of the ‘let’s talk and talk, and not worry about grammar’ 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.
| Classroom Aids:
OHP transparency: Form of an Information Sheet
- White board
- Board pens
- Tape recorder
- Tape with background music
- Czech flag
- Spanish flag
- Mind map plan: model version
- Mind map plan: blank version
- Planning information sheet questions worksheet
- Planning information sheet ‘suggested answers’ worksheet
- ‘Bad’ Info Sheet for language work
- ‘Good’ Info Sheet for language work comparison
- Do/Don’t suggestion worksheet
- Advanced Gold Coursebook/Teacher’s Book
- Chair for teacher to sit in
- DVD – Lost in Translation
- DVD player
- Remote control
- Monitoring notebook
- Ballpoint pen
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