Teaching Tips 122
In response to last week's Tip 'Lesson Habits' Jean Abbett, from California, sent in the following idea on Exit Cards:
'Have you talked about Exit Cards? Give each student an index card at the end of the lesson and ask them to write down one or two ideas they learned from that lesson. They could draw a picture or just write a phrase. It's called an Exit Card because the students give it to the teacher as they exit the room at the end of the lesson. It gives the teacher immediate feedback from the students about the current lesson. It is valuable feedback to adjust the next lesson according to what the students actually picked up from that day.
I heard about this in a training workshop about writing traits last summer. I think I might modify the card to have the students write a sticky note like a post it note and put that on the card. The sticky notes can be removed from the cards and placed on a single sheet of paper to give a total picture review for the teacher about what the students took away that time.
It could also be a log of learning for each student if each note can be placed on a page with each student's name on it. This way the teacher can collect some evidence quickly for the individual student's learning process. The index cards can be used over again once the sticky notes are removed. The student's name could be written on the index card for a smaller class so you don't have to write them on the sticky notes. Or you can keep the cards blank and ask the students to write their name or ID number on the sticky note they write on.'
And here's another contribution, from Ele Pranaityte from Vilnius, 'The Role of a Ball in a Language Classroom':
If I asked you what a ball is, you would probably describe it as 'a round object for many kinds of games'. However, teachers of English view this passable object in a slightly different light. In this article, based on my own teaching experience, I will write about the roles of a ball in a language classroom: a tool for an icebreaker, target language practice and attention concentration, target language revision, and aiding the
kinaesthetic type of learners.
A few theoretical grounds for using games in a language classroom. Wright (1983) admits that in learning a language "effort is required at every moment and must be maintained over a long period of time". Wright also points out that games help and encourage many learners to sustain their interest and work. What is important for the teacher is the fact that "the contribution of drilling lies in the concentration on a language form and its frequent use during a limited period of time. Many games provide this repeated use of a language form." Ersoz (2000) mentions the fact that language learning can sometimes be frustrating, and constant effort is required to understand, produce, and manipulate the target language. In addition to this, Ersoz also suggests that well-chosen games give students a break and at the same time allow practising language skills. Plus, the author argues, games are not only highly motivating since they are amusing and at the same time challenging, but also employ meaningful and useful language in real contexts, encourage and increase cooperation. Harvey & Oakley (2003) write that playing games is not only a natural human activity, appealing to people of all ages, but also "[…] provide a framework within which to
explore possibilities, use knowledge, develop abilities and relate meaningfully with others while having fun."
The roles of a ball in a language classroom. The first role that I hold of primary importance is that of an icebreaker tool. During the first lesson, especially with complete beginners, there is a certain amount of tension hanging in the air: new people, new experience, new surrounding, and that is enough to create apprehension. I ascribe a great deal of it to the fact that adults tend to view learning as an activity that looks odd once they are out of school, some are shy or their expectations for what happens during a lesson are different from what they get. When people see a ball in my hands, they start to smile. Many remember their childhood toys and this unexpected link with the past in a rather formal situation creates an immediate effect of humour, which is what a teacher exactly needs to break the ice. The toys from my childhood may and will differ from yours in quantity and quality, but one object is always the same and hence easily recognizable even in a mixed-age class: the ball. The second role is that of a lexical tool with close links with an icebreaker. I usually teach simple question and answer structures of the verb 'to be' during the first lesson where we spend quite a good deal of time for name games and 'getting to know you better' activities. We do not focus on grammar as such, rather on personal questions with answers and their meanings.
'My name is Ele.'
<I throw the ball to Student A>
<Student A catches the ball and repeats: my name is (their name here)>
<Student A throws the ball to a Student of Choice>
<Student of Choice catches the ball and repeats: my name is (their name here)>
<repeat if necessary>
This is a very significant lesson stage: beginner students can already produce good English and, what is very important for them, can understand what their peers are saying. (An optional activity for learning names is the following one: a student passes the ball to another student and says the target student's name; always fun and name-friendly.) After the first round, I introduce another structure (only verbally, no writing at this stage):
'My name is Ele. What is your name?'
<I throw the ball to Student A>
<Student A catches the ball and repeats: my name is (their name here). What is your name?>
<Student A throws the ball to a Student of Choice>
<Student of Choice catches the ball and repeats: my name is (their name here). What is your name? >
<repeat if necessary>
There is a secret role in the role of the lexical tool in that, that it also tests if students have any difficulty with the sentences practiced as there may be false beginners mixed with complete beginners in the group; this activity can help sort them out for further teacher- assistance.
After this activity, I draw a few bubbles on the board - this has 'Ele' in the middle bubble & in surrounding bubbles '26, 'Vilnius', 'a teacher', 'no, I'm not' etc...
Then, in a different colour, I elicit/present questions: 'how old are you? - I am 26. Where are you from? - I am from Vilnius. What is your job? - I am a teacher. Are you married- No, I am not.'
Students draw their own bubbles with personal information about them in their exercise-books (I can assist personally with unknown words for jobs and age), interview their partner, then choose one question for a chain ask-and-answer activity, then they get the ball and communicate by throwing it to each other and speaking; should the group be a big one, I split it into two smaller ones with their respective balls. After enough speaking practice, we focus on contractions and do some more drilling. The role of the lexical tool not only involves drilling and reinforcement but also makes students stay tuned in and attentive because a ball's throw is a random selection; it increases the level of concentration.
The third role is that of a revision tool. At the beginning of the lesson (usually), a certain vocabulary from the previous lesson(s) can be revised: the one who catches the ball has to say a word related to the topic of, for example, family, countries, numbers (1-20 and backwards), ABC and spelling, adjectives and their opposites, pieces of furniture, prepositions, etc. The teacher is advised to follow the game carefully because in one random throw s/he becomes a participant.
The fourth role is the one of movement. When the energy level becomes very low, the day is gloomy or sitting constantly in one place becomes a pain, a little bit of stretching can never go wrong along with some revision of vocabulary. This also provides extra help for kinaesthetic students who can't sit still for long.
Conclusions. Using games in a language classroom has many advantages both for practicing the target language and creating a community learning spirit. Ball games do not require long preparation. The roles of a ball in a language classroom are those of a tool for icebreaker activities, target language practice and focusing attention, target language revision, and aiding kinaesthetic learners.
1. Ersoz A. 'Six Games for the EFL/ESL Classroom', published by The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 6, June 2000, last accessed http://www.esldepot.com/section.php/4/0 on August 8,
2. Harvey A. & Oakley J. Game On! Express Publishing, 2003, p. 4.
3. Wright, A. Introduction in Games for language learning
Cambridge University Press, 1983.
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There are a few notable days this week to focus your lessons around:
21st - Martin Luther King Jr Day - 3rd Monday of Jan.
For material, see the Past Tip 'Martin Luther King Day': http://www.developingteachers.com/tips/pasttips92.htm
25th - Robert Burns' Day - Scotland's national poet
For material, see the Past Tip 'Burns Night': http://www.developingteachers.com/tips/pasttips62.htm
26th - Indian Republic Day
26th - Australia Day
This week we have a quick look at those things that we always do before, during & after a lesson. Have a look at the following habits:
Before the lesson:
- Have you written a plan? Essential for both you to give a coherent lesson & for the students to see that you have actually thought about the lesson beforehand.
- Set up the chair formation that you want, if you can, & make sure all is tidy & presentable for the students.
- Make sure that you have all the materials that you're going to use, including board pens & make sure that they work.
- Make sure that the audio player works & that the media you are using sounds good on it - sometimes the quality varies from machine to machine.
- Put a line down the side of the board for vocab that crops up during the lesson. The rest of the board is for the stages that have the board planned into it. This keeps the board tidy.
- Put up the 'menu' of the lesson on the board in one of the top corners. i.e. what you are going to cover eg. 1.intro to shopping 2.listening 3.language practice 4.reading 5.speaking. At the beginning of the lesson preview what you plan to cover by pointing to the different stages.
- Use the warmer as an opportunity to test them on vocab from recent lessons.
During the lesson:
- As you move from one stage to the next, refer to the 'menu' you have on the board so that everyone knows where you are & where you are going.
- Make sure that you have attended to individual in some way or other. Obviously easier with the smaller group. There's nothing like the personal touch.
A few questions to consider during the lesson - with careful planning, a foregone conclusion:
- Are they all participating? If not, why not & how can you help all to become involved?
- Are the students going to go away with something new from the lesson - what most students might consider what they are paying their money for.
- Have you developed any sub-skills?
- Have you recycled any language or skills?
- Have the students had feedback on their oral output? Do you have a record of the problems they have had for use in future lesson planning.
- Are they enjoying the lesson?
At the end of the lesson:
- Set the homework.
- Get the students to fill in the vocab cards - see the Past Tip 'Vocabulary Cards':
- Remind them to continue with their 'learner diaries' - see the Past Tip 'Using Learner Diaries':
- At the end of the lesson review what has been covered so they don't leave just remembering the last thing you did. Go through the lesson with the aid of the 'menu', eliciting more information.
- Tell the students what you are going to cover in the next lesson.
- Possibly elicit how they felt a particular activity was for the them - feedback for future use.
- Make sure the room is presentable for the next group or teacher i.e. a clean board, orderly chairs & no litter on the floor.
These are just a few things that come automatically after a while & doesn't harm to review them now & again.
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One of the more difficult areas of language teaching, & one of the main reasons students come to class, is correction. Knowing when & how to correct oral mistakes can be difficult.
A useful way of looking at this is whether the correction is public or private, or hot or cold correction.
Public correction is in front of the group while private is just with the individual or pair. Hot correction is immediate as the activity takes place & cold would be delayed correction.
So how do we decide which approach to take? It would depend a few things:
- is the activity a controlled or freer activity? The former would require hot correction while the latter a more delayed approach so as not to interrupt the flow of the conversation.
A way of looking at hot correction in freer tasks is to write on a small card the mistake & correction & slip it to the particular student, they read it & from then on don't make the same mistake. This doesn't interrupt the flow & is for the kind of mistake that the std can correct if they only thought about it.
- is the mistake an individual one or of interest to the whole group?
- is it a mistake - a slip or an error - more complicated evidence of learning? If an error, it might need more consideration & time to concentrate on the area in a future lesson.
- the dynamics of the group & the individual students. Some groups are more than happy to correct each other while there may be shyer, weaker students that might find it a bit brutal to be corrected in public. Sensitivity is required.
If you are going to correct immediately then you might use one of the following ways:
- elicit the correct answer from the student or another student.
- say the part of speech 'verb' to elicit the correct response.
- say the utterance& emphasise the mistake, or stop just before the mistake.
- use a facial expression to signify there is a problem.
- show where the mistake comes on your fingers - one word per finger - finger highlighting.
- disguised correction - say the utterance again but correct in the hope that the student notices.
And for the cold, delayed correction you could:
- put up some utterances on the board & get the students to correct them.
- use the mistakes in the next lessons by way of remedial teaching, from your notes or from a recording of the activity. Tapescripts of tasks take a long time to write out but can be very useful.
- this remedial teaching can be overt or covert, you can highlight it as coming from their production or slip it in to the lessons. The former helps them see the relevance of the focus while the latter is good for not demoralising the students with language that they are still having problems with after repeated focusses.
We've mentioned it before but a very good way of training students to self-monitor in freer speaking tasks is to get them into the habit of taking notes on things they wanted to say but couldn't, while the activity is going on. They then use these notes in the feedback afterwards to clarify their doubts. If we don't do this, they have forgotten what it was they had problems with.
Clearly it is essential to talk to your students about your approach to correction. And if in doubt about whether to correct or not I always think that more is better than less. It is more preferable for the students to think that you are being over-enthusiastic rather than not doing your job.
And within all his emphasis on mistakes, don't forget to to give feedback on the good things they come out with, positive reinforcement, a pat on the back for things that are said well. When you put up the mistakes on the board, mix in three or four utterances with examples of language from recent lessons & the students decide which are the good ones & those that need correcting. Focus on both sets of utterances, giving praise for the good ones.
Another past Tip on correction awareness 'Correction triangles':
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