Meaningful & meaningless
I'm sure that most teachers
get their students to repeat examples of the new language
introduced i.e. a repetition drill. It is certainly useful
as students need to get their mouths round the new language
& practise the pronunciation. But what
might they actually be saying?
Look at this exchange:
T: 'I get up at seven o'clock.' - everybody!
Stds chorally: 'I get up at seven o'clock.'
But do they all get up at seven o'clock?
I doubt it. This is an example of a 'meaningless drill'.
Here's a question & answer drill to practise
'Do you like...?' The teacher is giving prompts & the students
are asking questions across the class - open pairs.
T: 'visiting London'
Std 1: 'Do you like visiting London?'
Std 2: 'Yes, I do.'
Maybe student 2 has never been out of the
country let alone abroad to London. Another 'meaningless drill'.
So how about making it more 'meaningful'
- the students give examples & give answers truthfully. In
the first example let the student say what time they get up
& in the second provide the negative so the student can choose.
It can be tricky to organise but clearly the more 'meaningful'
the utterence, the more interesting, motivating, personalised,
memorable ..... meaningful it all is.
to the contents
Quick-thinking group roleplay
You need a situation where there
are a group of people & a degree of conflict between the people.
'Conflict' is a great ingredient of roleplay. The group could
be workers, a parents' association, a housing association,
a group of friends, etc. The idea is that you explain the
situation & the students start talking when you stop - there's
no time for preparation, it's fairly spontaneous & provides
oral fluency practice.
This is the situation I use on training courses:
'You all work for me at the OK School
of English. I'm having economic difficulties & need to make
one teacher redundant. As I'm a fairly democratic chap I've
decided to let you decide who should go. I cannot have any
part-time teachers & it is clear you all want to stay on for
one reason or another; you might have seven children to feed,
an elderly relative to look after, etc. I'll come back later
for your decision. Thank you.'
Clearly this has to be done in a fun, light-hearted
way so that it does not become personal. The maximum number
in the groups would be six to give all a chance to speak &
argue their case. In the situation above there is conflict
but this is not a necessary condition of the roleplay. It
does make it interesting though.
While the activity is going on, take notes
for linguistic feedback afterwards. There's no reason why
this spontaneity cannot be used in a pairwork roleplay - you
give the situation & they begin straightaway.
This roleplay contrasts with Tip
4 that looks at promoting specific language use in freer
to the contents
This activity can be used with
an audio or video tape - the latter is better as the students
can see the lip movements & there are the paralinguistics
- the body language - to view.
Choose a short part of the text, eg. 8-10
lines of the dialogue, & give the script out for the students
to read & listen at the same time. At this stage they could
analyse the script & mark the sense groups - words which are
said together between pauses.
Play it again but this time the students
talk along with it in exactly the same way as the speakers,
taking on their accents. If it is a dialogue, you could have
each speaker being imitated by different halves of the class.
Play the tape a few times & as the students become more confident
& accurate, slowly turn the volume down so that you can't
hear the original, only the students. So in effect they are
dubbing the text.
Tape the students' version & use it for a
comparison with the original & an analysis of different phonological
Your students will be trying really hard
to sound as natural as the speakers on the tape, gaining confidence
as they realise how good they sound & the ensuing discussions
can be very productive.
Needless to say, it's a lot of fun.
A variation of this is to actually re-dub
a small part of a film that has already been dubbed into a
different language. The students translate the section into
English & then, with the video, dub over it. And if you have
the original in English to compare....
the Past Teaching Tips