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Teaching Tips 20

Teacher diaries
Thought groups
Picture the story


Teacher diaries
We've talked before about the usefulness of learner diaries & now it's the turn of the teacher. A teaching diary is to help you reflect on what happens in your classroom, what you do & how you go about it & what the students do & how they go about it. You could write it every day about each of your classes or just about one group you have taught each week.

Here are a few general guidelines you might want to follow:

1. How did you feel in terms of motivation & energy during the week? Can you relate any highs & lows to specific events?

2. Did the lessons keep to the lesson plans & the overall timetable? If not why not?

3. Which was the most successful lesson of the week & why?

4. Which was the least successful & why?

5. What was your personal aim for the week & did you achieve it?

6. What are your personal aims for the coming week?

7. Looking back in your diary over the last two weeks/month are there any trends coming through?

This is an excellent way of beginning your own mini-projects. You'll be able to find areas that interest you & want to do more research in your classes to develop your ideas.

To see the Tip about Learner Diaries

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Thought groups
A really useful way to help our students with their listening is to help them become aware of 'thought groups' - a term from the excellent phonology book for learners 'Speaking Clearly' -
R ogerson & Gilbert - (CUP)
. These are sometimes called 'tone units' or 'sense groups'.

Rogerson & Gilbert define 'thought groups':

'When we speak, we need to divide speech up into small 'chunks' to help the listener understand messages. These chunks or thought groups are groups of words which go together to express an idea or thought. In English, we use pauses & low pitch to mark the end of thought groups.'

A very nice way to highlight the importance is through an activity in 'Speaking Clearly' that looks at mathematical equations. Compare the following:


(A + B) x C = Y (A plus B, multiplied by C, equals Y)


A + (B x C) = D (A, plus B multiplied by C, equals D)


Say these two equations to yourself & note when you have to pause. Each pause means an end of a thought group & the start of another.

So how it is interpreted depends how the utterance is separated into chunks.

After an activity like this, there are a series of equations read out which when calculated give an answer. If the thought groups have been interpreted correctly, then the right answer will be given.

(2 + 3) x 5 = 25

2 + (3 x 5) = 17


With a listening text, after explaining the concept of thought groups with examples on the board, get your students to mark the groups on a short text. Then they can listen to the tape to see if they were right.

We mark the groups with slash marks at the beginning & the end of each group. Here is a short text, similar to one in the book, with the thought groups marked:

a. /Who shall we invite to the party?/

b. /Well, //we could ask Helen./

a. /OK,// but what about Ben./

b. /OK// we could ask Helen & Ben,// & don't forget Josh./

a. /Yes,// Josh.// What about Sarah & John?/

b. /OK.// So that's Helen & Ben,// Josh //& Sarah & John./

a. /Yes./

The division of the thought groups in line 6 tells us that Josh will be going on his own but Helen will go with Ben & Sarah with John.

This is the same idea as in the Teaching Tip 'A telegram warmer & prominence'.

Said often, but true - awareness is half the battle won! Get them marking & listening.

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Picture the story
There aren't enough picture compositions or picture stories around. These are a series of pictures that are simply drawn that follow some short sequence of events or story. Very useful material for many occasions. Traditionally they were used to provide the stimulus for narrative writing & here are a few other ways to use them:

1. Cut them up & give a picture to each student. Without showing each other their picture, i.e. they explain their pictures, they put the story in order. At the end they show the pictures to see if they were right. It's usually worth designating a secretary to
note down the order. A very communicative activity.

2. Give out each picture at a time & the students discuss what might come next. Teach predictive language first.

3. Jumble up the pictures & the students sort them out.

4. Give just the beginning/the end/ the middle/the beginning & end/ & the students predict & write the rest. They look at the missing parts to see if they were right.

5. Each student acts out his or her picture in the correct order of the story.

6. Give the description of the picture & the students draw the picture & then they put their pictures in order.

7. For picture stories with speech bubbles, tippex out the text & students fill them in.

Don't forget to think about the language they will be using while doing the above activities. Maximise the activities by jogging their memories with some useful sentence stems on the board to use.

If you're lucky enough to be able to draw, get your own together.

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