This one's a bit different &
more serious than last week's Tip.
A usual procedure for dealing with error
correction & freer speaking activities is for the teacher
to take notes on errors that s/he hears while it is going
on. These instances are then put on the board & students
are invited to correct their mistakes. They tend to be things
that they can correct if their attention is drawn to them.
How about varying it sometimes? Instead of
focusing on the negative, include some examples of 'good'
utterances that the students came out with during the activity.
The students first decide on the correct & incorrect utterances
& then go to the correction.
Or put up all correct utterances that are
examples of things you have covered during the past month.
A pat on the back all round! Spend a week with all of your
classes just giving feedback on the good things they come
out with & see what happens. If asked, students would put error correction
near the top of the list of reasons for attending a class.
It is important but don't forget the good contributions -
it's much easier to find the negative rather than the positive.
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Cognitive & Affective
Confusion - April Fool's Day Tip!
According to studies carried out
by the linguistics department at the University of Soto del
Real in Spain, learners have been found to make more progress
when given negative feedback as opposed to praise & positive
feedback. So even if the student comes out with something
good it is not such a good idea to praise.
If the student thinks that s/he has said
something correctly & then the teacher gives a negative
reaction this will then provoke what they call 'cognitive
confusion'. This will provoke the right hemisphere brain cells
& get the student to reassess the utterance. The greater
the cognitive confusion the better, apparently. If you are
inconsistent in giving affective feedback - e.g. non-verbal
through facial expressions & body language - scowling
& smiling - at the same time then all the better as this
reinforces the confusion.
If at the end of the lesson the students
are in a state of 'near-the-edge breakdown' then you
have achieved your aims satisfactorily. The 'over-the-edge
breakdown' state is recommended for the end of the course.
One of the advantages to this, the researchers
point out, is that we now no longer have to pretend we are
in a good mood. We can now actually take our bad mood out
on our students & come out of the lesson feeling much
better about life & at the same time maximise learning
for our students! It's comforting to know that my intuition
is backed up by solid research evidence.
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Working with triads
No, I'm afraid it's not a job advert.
Don't you get a bit fed up with putting the students into
pairs all the time? More to the point, don't they get fed
up? We try & vary it by moving the students around so
they get to talk to someone else but it can all be a bit predictable.
Putting the students into threes is a versatile
option. It helps with group dynamics & gives a breather
from predictable pairwork.
Roleplays become a lot more interesting in
threes as it becomes much more than a two-sided conversation.
Write your rolecards carefully & you'll find you won't
be able to stop them.
There's a lovely activity in 'Conversation'
by Nolasco & Arthur (OUP) that shows how triads can
be used for awareness-raising activities. The students' briefs
are; student A has to talk about some anecdote, student B
has to interrupt as much as possible & student C has to
write down all the instances of interrupting that s/he hears.
Student A doesn't know what the other two are doing. The pair
talks for a while, student C makes notes & at the end
C explains the notes s/he made & then a general class
feedback takes place with the ways of interrupting being collated
on the board.
You have shown the students how much
they know about an area of the speaking skill & now you
can go on to some tape work to introduce more ways of interrupting.
It is a bit of 'test-teach-test', with the first 'test' highlighting
the students' needs. A technique that can be used again &
again when looking at the sub-skills of speaking (e.g. techniques
holding the floor, getting back to the point etc.) & listening
(ways of asking for clarification, signalling that one is
Problem-solving activities are more interesting.
Imagine you've got your elementary students discussing the
differences between the present perfect & the past simple
- one of the three is likely to have the answer. Ah, but one
of them is going to take a back seat & let the other two
do all the work, I hear you cry! It doesn't really happen
like that - and it all depends on how you set it all up. And
anyway, why not let them take a back seat at times. A friendlier
approach to a challenging task.
Any pairwork activity can be changed into
a three & as well as providing a change of interaction,
it will probably end up being more productive.To
the Past Teaching Tips