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Teaching Tips 19

Working holiday
Strangers on a train
A communicative drill?


Working holiday
This is more of a warmer idea this week. Have you ever wondered about the contradictions in terms like 'found missing', 'alone together', 'small crowd' & one of my favourites 'Microsoft Works'? Have your students? These terms are called oxymorons.

As the Collins English Dictionary says, they are 'an epigrammatic effect, by which contradictory terms are used in conjunction: beautiful tyrant; found missing. (via New Latin from Greek oxumÇron, from oxus sharp + moros stupid)'

A way of looking at them in class: Choose which oxymorons you want to look at & write them on the board - but make sure the individual words are jumbled up. The students have to find pairs of words that make an oxymoron - & then discuss whether they agree that it is a valid oxymoron.

As a follow up you could get the students to invent a story using a number of the oxymorons & then discuss how they are translated into their language(s).

A way to review some vocab, introduce some collocations & have some fun with the language.

For a list of oxymorons

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Strangers on a train
This is an excellent activity to promote oral fluency practice & specific language practice at the same time.

Get the students to imagine they are strangers in a train compartment - get them sitting opposite each other in groups of four. Elicit what people usually talk about on the train - the weather, where they are going/coming from etc. Tell them you are going to give them a line to memorise & that it's secret - give them out, students memorise & you take them back in.

Then explain what they have to do - to say their lines as naturally as they can in the conversation without the others guessing it is their line. So they have to direct the conversation so that they can say their line naturally, without the others noticing. They must have one conversation & not split into two as the others will miss their lines when they come to say them.

The lines you give them could contain a language item that you have recently been looking at or off-the-wall sentences (eg. My girlfriend sleeps in the garden). I had to do this in a Spanish lesson when I first started learning the languiage & my line was 'yo tampoco' - 'me neither' - so I had to wait for a negative to say my line.

At the end the students then tell each other what they thought were each others' lines. It's an activity that you can use again & again & it's lots of fun!

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A communicative drill?
Is their such thing as a communicative drill? It seems a contradiction as drills tend to be repetition practice while communication is unpredictable.

Put in an 'information gap' & a 'communicative purpose' & you have a pseudo-communicative drill. Here's an example for practising the past continuous interrupted. Set up a gory murder situation - Jeff was murdered at 7 o'clock last night & the students are going to find out who it was - they are police people. Each student has the name of a murder suspect & the suspect's alibi on a piece of paper. The students have to mingle & exchange information - e.g. 'What was Peter doing at 7 o'clock last night?' 'He was watching TV with Jim.' The students fill in a chart & when completed they will be able to see who the murderer is - the communicative purpose.

The completed chart after the mingle

Charles - at the pub with Sam
Sam - at the pub with Charles
Jim - watching TV with Peter
Peter - watching TV with Jim
Sarah - at home alone
John - at the cinema with his girlfriend
Bob - with Sarah
etc..

Can you work it out - who has the weakest alibi? Change the names to fit those of your students - lots of fun.

To see the 'Providing a communicative purpose' Tip.

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