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Teaching Tips 110

Good habits
A few tips
Where's Wally?


Good habits

A few links for Easter materials:
Spring breaks
Easter, Festivals & Spring


Having been involved a lot in CELTA courses recently, initial training courses validated by Cambridge ESOL, there are certain areas that come up again & again that it is hoped are instilled in teachers at the beginning of their careers. Here's a list of essential teaching habits:

1. Preview the lesson - tell the students what they are going to be doing simply verbally or, better, have a 'menu' on the board. go through the menu at the beginning & then as you reach each new stage point it out on the board.

2. Recap at the end - quickly go through what was covered - 'what did we do first... & next... & what did we finish with.' An essential stage as the students will probably only remember what you did at the end. Recap at the end of each week & each month as well.

3. Build on what the students know - start with the known & then introduce the new, similar to the 'given-new' principle in discourse.

4. Minimise photocopies - consciously reduce the amount of copies you give out to a minimum. This means copying different things on to one page, rather than a copy per activity.

5. Not a copy of another page from the coursebook - make the effort to make a master & cut out the bits you need from a coursebook page, making it look professional. The lazy approach is to just copy the whole page - it looks lazy to the students.

6. Source your materials - at the bottom of copies, put on where you got it from, the authors & publisher - the least you can do.

7. Get them talking - start all of the students talking in the first couple of minutes of the lesson. Get them into pairs or small groups with a discussion or warmer. Sometimes students don't get to open their mouths until halfway through the lesson - way too late.

8. Write a plan - it sounds obvious but worth pointing out. Students expect you to have planned the lesson & seeing a plan, no matter how brief, validates it for them.

9. Elicit rather than give - as a general rule, try to get new language, ideas etc from the students rather than giving it.

10. Keep a record - there is so much language that comes up each lesson that it's difficult to keep track of it all. Have an exercise book for each group you teach & jot down during & at the end of the class the vocab & language that cropped up. Also use it to take notes on speaking performance - good things & things that need correction when the students are involved in freer speaking activities. Then you have a record to refer back to in your planning.

11. Something new - make sure your students go away with some new language each lesson, written down in their notebooks. The major areas this applies to are new vocabulary, grammar, functions. It's not enough to just work through skills & hope the students appreciate it.

12. Let the students into the secret - with skills work, reading, listening, writing & speaking tasks, tell the students why you are asking them to do the activities you are doing. You do know yourself, don't you?

13. Provide challenge & engage the students - consciously plan how you are going to achieve these into your lessons.

What do you think? Do you follow all of these?


A few tips

Carrying on in the same vein of the last two weeks, I came across a lovely list of learning tips titled 'Hacking Knowledge: 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better'. The article begins:

'If someone granted you one wish, what do you imagine you would want out of life that you haven't gotten yet? For many people, it would be self-improvement and knowledge. New knowledge is the backbone of society's progress. Great thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and others' quests for knowledge have led society to many of the marvels we enjoy today. Your quest for knowledge doesn't have to be as Earth-changing as Einstein's, but it can be an important part of your life, leading to a new job, better pay, a new hobby, or simply knowledge for knowledge's sake — whatever is important to you as an end goal.

Life-changing knowledge does typically require advanced learning techniques. In fact, it's been said that the average adult only uses 10% of his/her brain. Imagine what we may be capable of with more advanced learning techniques. Here are 77 tips related to knowledge and learning to help you on your quest. A few are specifically for students in traditional learning institutions; the rest for self-starters, or those learning on their own. Happy learning.'

Have a look at the list at:

It's a very useable classroom text, especially if you've got internet access in class as quite a lot of the tips have internet links attached to them to follow up.

A nice idea to start using this would be to take out the headings & ask the students to read & predict the headings, & then provide them with the jumbled up headings for them to insert into the article.

Then a more intensive task might be appropriate, for example a scanning task that gives a list of questions which the students have to answer as quickly as possible, with a time limit.

Then they can go through them together discussing their value, whether they are relevant for learning English or how they can be adapted, & then move on to their top ten tips.

If you have internet in the classroom, you could allocate different links to follow up with the students reporting back on their findings.

One of the many interesting links in the article - in tip #16 - is the Spreeder web site. Here you paste in some text that you want to read & set the speed. The idea is that it helps you speed up your reading ability, a skill that most of our students need. There is a useful plugin for your browser that enables you to use Spreeder as you surf the net. Try it out yourself & then encourage your students to use it.

And then there is a link in the article - in tip #51 - to the idea of 'Quantum Learning', which claims to be moving into mainstream education in the US. Here are the elements of the framework:

Enroll — Use teacher moves that capture the interest, curiosity and attention of the students.

Experience — Create or elicit a common experience, or tap into common knowledge to which all learners can relate. Experience before Label creates schema on which to build new content.

Learn & Label — Present, sequence and define the main content. Students learn labels, thinking skills and academic strategies. Students add new content to their existing schema.

Demonstrate — Give students an opportunity to demonstrate and apply their new learning.

Review and Reflect — Use a variety of effective, multi-sensory review strategies and empower students to process their new content through reflection.

Celebration — Acknowledge the learning. It cements the content and adds a sense of completion.

I don't think many of us would find any of this particularly new. Georgi Lozanov's learning cycle is given credit for the source of the above - Lozanov was behind Suggestopedia. Interesting how ideas flow between the different spheres of education - the more crossover, the better.
The link to the Quantum Learning article:

Two of the several web sites drawn upon in the tips article & well worth following up are:

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Where's Wally?

Where's Wally?

Continuing on from last week's Tip 'Ten Commandments', this week we take a a brief look at one of the points mentioned; 'Use right-brain processes - Get the BIG picture'

H.Douglas Brown in 'Principles of Language Learning & Teaching' quotes the contrastive brain functioning list that Torrance (1980) gives. Have a look at the following:

Left- and Right-Brain Characteristics

Intellectual Intuitive
Remembers names Remembers faces
Responds to verbal instructions and explanations Responds to demonstrated, illustrated or symbolic instructions
Experiments systematically and with control Experiments randomly and with less restraint
Makes objective judgments Makes subjective judgment s
Planned and structured Fluid and spontaneous
Prefers established, certain information Prefers elusive, uncertain information
Analytic reader Synthesizing reader
Reliance on language in thinking and remembering Reliance on images in thinking and remembering
Prefers talking and writing Prefers drawing and manipulating objects
Prefers multiple choice tests Prefers open-ended questions
Control feelings More free with feelings
Not good at interpreting body language Good at interpreting body language
Rarely uses metaphors Frequently uses metaphors
Favors logical problem solving Favors intuitive problem solving

Clearly the two hemispheres of the brain work together simultaneously but the point here is that individuals & cultures lean towards one or the other & if we can stimulate the use of both through the activities we use in the classroom then the more complete learning might become.

This distinction very much correlates with the idea of field dependence & field independence. Do you remember the books 'Looking for Wally', or in North America 'Looking for Waldo', Charlie in French, Valli in Icelandic, Holger in Danish etc....? This is where you have to find Wally & his girlfriend & a series of objects amongst a mass of similar-looking things - lots of fun. This is a test of your field dependence - are you able to pick out the details amongst a lot of distracting items (field independence) or do you find it difficult to find the things but at the same time see the whole as a more unified total (field dependence).

Again these are not mutually exclusive, they operate together, but, as above, we lean towards one more than the other. And it is not the case that one is more important to language learning than the other, they each have things to offer. This is a very interesting area but we have no time to go any further in a short Tip but do take the time to follow it up. Here's the Google link: 8&rlz=1B2GGGL_enES177&q=field+dependence

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