This is a nice idea for helping
small group work become more productive.
Imagine you have got the class
working in groups of fours in a freer speaking activity where
they have to solve a problem. They are coming to a conclusion
in their discussion, so instead of going into class feedback,
allocate one member of each group to visit each of the other
groups to see how they have been getting on with the problem-solving.
So each group & visitor explains to each other what they have
been discussing - rotate the visitors every two/three minutes.
When all of the visitors have
been to all of the groups they go back to their original group
to explain all they have learned & see if they can add any
ideas into their discussion/decision.
to the index
Going with the flow
When developing the spoken
skill, most teachers can drill their students & most can do
fun roleplays & discussions. It seems to me that a lot of
teachers leave out the bit in the middle i.e. what have been
called 'bridging activities' - those in between the very accuracy-based
& those that are very fluency-based.These
type of activities are still accuracy-based but contain an
element of choice for the learner.
One of these activities is the underused
'flow chart'. This has been around since the functional approach
was in full force as it uses functional headings to guide
students through a dialogue. The student has to choose the
language to use from the given prompt. So for 'Greet your
friend' the student could come out with 'Hello', 'How are
you?', 'I haven't seen you in a long time.' etc.
To see some examples
of flow charts
They are easy to design but do produce contrived
& slightly unnatural sounding dialogues. Don't worry though
as the aim is an accuracy one - you want them to practise
a specific set of language. Go around & correct while they
are doing the activity.
A word of caution when designing the flow
charts. Don't make them too complicated as students might
find understanding the language used in them more challenging
than the actual activity they were designed for! Try the activity
out beforehand with a colleague.
Also, the first time you use a flow chart
with a group it will be slow going. Go through the chart &
elicit the different ways of expressing the instructions &
then do an example with a student. All will then have a clear
idea of how to proceed. As they do the activity go round &
Back to the index
Waiting for....a response
Before Christmas I suggested
a few ideas on how to use silence
effectively in class
Here's a look at silence from another angle.
A substantial amount of our teacher talk is taken up with
asking the students questions. Among the reasons for these
questions are to test their passive knowledge, to check concepts
& instructions, to check answers etc. How long do you give
your students to actually answer the questions you ask them?
This time is called 'wait time' & has been
the focus of research in classrooms. It is particularly apt
to look at this in the language classroom as not only do students
have to think of an answer but they are also burdened with
understanding the question in the first place & when they
have an answer, to formulate what they want to say & how to
say it. It's not surprising then that the language learner
takes longer to answer a question. Do we really give them
Try a little research yourself. When you
next ask questions silently count to yourself as you wait
& hang on until you get a response. See how long you have
to wait & mentally remember any effects of waiting longer.
A possible effect of this attention to wait
time is the contribution of the quieter students. Maybe when
we don't hear the stronger students come out with the answer
straightaway we jump in & give the answer & thereby shut off
the quieter ones who might be just about to offer a contribute.
the Past Teaching Tips