A Snail Race
You're probably beginning
to think about the end of term progress evaluation & how you're
going to do it. If you aren't restricted to a set written
test, try this out:
At the end of term tell your students that
they are going to have a 'fun' test in the next lesson & that
they should bring all of their notes with them.
Then in the next lesson, divide them into
two or three teams. Each team finds a space to themselves
where they can't be overheard by the other teams & prepare
a number of questions (ten?) about anything that has been
covered during the term. They should use their notes to make
up the questions & they must know the answers.
When each team has a list of questions bring
them together & have a competition. The teams ask each other
questions & on getting it correct get a point.
So what about the snail? Well, I've got several
different coloured snails which I blutack to the board & draw
wavy roads in front of them & divide the roads into a series
of steps, which represent a point each. When the team with
the red snail win a point they move a step nearer to the winning
line. They don't move very fast - hence the snails!
It's a fun way of actually getting your students
to review their work when preparing the questions & then when
they ask & answer them you can use the opportunity to draw
out further points.
to the contents
Silence can be golden
There is a tendancy for teachers
to start getting nervous when there is silence in the classroom.
Maybe the students are bored, they could be upset with the
way the activity or class is going or they might be too tired
to bother - all negative thoughts about what might be happening.
Try to think of 'productive silence' - this is using silence
effectively & viewing it positively.
Here are a few ideas where silence can be
- use individual work before pairwork. It
is thought that this order is much more productive than straight
into pairwork. The individual has time to think before sharing
- use mental effort & challenge actively
as a means to working out language for themselves.
- use lots of problem solving with the adult
learner. The language then becomes much more memorable & interesting.
- have a silent reflection time of 2/3 minutes
after a language presentation or a freer oral activity. In
the former the students can think about how they might use
the new language & in the latter they can think about how
they got on & mentally prepare to tell a neighbour about the
strategies they used to go about the task. You're providing
'space' for them to think.
- reflection time could come at the end
of a lesson - the students have time to think about what was
covered & formulate any questions.
- use silence as another means of varying
the pace of a lesson. Plan this in amongst the speaking &
listening activities to create a well-balanced lesson
- the writing skill is much underrated &
neglected because of the apparent 'waste' of valuable classroom
time. OK, but writing is valuable in its own right & as reinforcement
for language work. While students are writing it is a very
active time for them. I rather suspect that the attitude to
writing has more to do with teacher prejudice than student
prejudice. More on this in a future tip.
- give silent preparation time before getting
into a roleplay or discussion. The students think about the
language they will need & how they can go about accomplishing
the task. Be on hand for any questions from individuals. The
resulting discussion will be more fruitful. This in mentioned
in the Tip 'Promoting specific language
use in freer oral activities'.
- I always try to get the adult group talking
as soon as they come into class but it is the opposite with
the younger learner class - they usually come in hyped up
after a day at school. A silent activity to begin the lesson
helps you take the reins from the start & helps them focus
on the lesson at hand.
The above looks at the student & silence
but there's also the teacher & silence - more on this in a
to the contents
The rather dominant student
It's great to see students contributing
in a lesson but sometimes a student might be contributing
too much & not letting the others have a say. It may be that
you have encouraged the student to contribute more & it is
over-compensation, in which case s/he'll quieten down soon
enough. However, the student might want to show off that s/he
knows it all or s/he might want to maximise her/his talking
time at the expense of the other students. Sometimes the student
might not even be aware this is happening. The other students
will be only too aware though.
So what do you do? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Elect students more rather than letting
it become a free-for-all. When electing & eliciting think
about who you're going to ask. Try to bring out the quieter
& shyer ones.
2. In a discussion or roleplay give out ten
rods/buttons/coins to each student. When they say something
they put the rod in the middle & when they have put all their
rods in the middle they cannot contribute any more!
3. In the same kind of activities, freer
speaking ones, rotate the roles so that all get to play the
stronger, more demanding roles.
4. Tell the 'dominant' student to 'take a
break/holiday' in a nice way - 'Thanks Julio, now let's get
some ideas from someone else.' 'Hey, Julio, take a break for
5. There are some very nice activities about
working in groups in 'Classroom Dynamics' by Jill Hadfield
(OUP). Try some of them out now & again. It will be an excellent
addition to your library. You can get it through the
6. Do some more work on what effective speaking
& listening involve. Talk about the relevant sub-skills such
as turntaking & active listening. Apart from being very useful
for all, maybe s/he will get the message.
7. If it is interfering with the lessons
then have a tutorial with the student & broach the subject.
Maybe the student is trying to tell you that the class is
too low & easy or possibly the s/he is trying to help you
out by providing so much. Whatever the reason, it will be
worthwhile finding out. See the tip on tutorials
& the accompanying pre-tutorial task sheets.
the Past Teaching Tips