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Teaching Tips 22

The expert talking

Staying in control

Speedy reading


The expert talking

A very nice on-going project for the more advanced group of learners is the mini-talk. This is getting each student to decide on an area of expertise that they could talk about for ten to fifteen minutes to the others in the group. They would in effect be teaching the others about their particular area.

The area could be anything from how a car engine works to a computer programme to a series of recipes to their favourite author to something connected to their work/family.......literally any area they feel comfortable with. At first they may say they don't know anything about an area but you will have to help them find out what they can talk about.

Time in class can be given over for the preparation for the talk, as well as homework. The students will be working on their own researching & getting it together in English. Try & provide relevant materials & references in English -the internet is the obvious place for this.

Be very supportive while they are preparing & actually giving their talks. You might want to give out a general task sheet for the group to use while they listen, possibly prepared in conjunction with the student giving the talk. Take notes during or tape each talk so that you can give a personalised feedback sheet to the speaker afterwards.

It would be a good idea if you got the ball rolling by giving your own mini-talk. Maybe it could be about the town/county/state you originally come from, if different from the students.

Spread the talks out over the course & give plenty of time over for the preparation. This is a nice way of promoting learner autonomy & independence as it is at the more advanced levels that they have the tools to be able to do this & here they will be involved in an area that they are interested in.
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Staying in control
When visitors to the developingteachers.com site search the site by filling in the search box, we get to see each week which topics they have chosen to look for. Two areas come up again & again - children or younger learners & discipline. So this Weekly Tip is going to start the occasional younger learner idea & guess what we're going to begin with?

Keeping control in the younger learner class is not always easy & is a skill that one has to develop. Clearly the first thing to do is to show who's in charge & be stricter than need be & gradually ease off. Begin each lesson with a calm activity & provide a balance of - work v fun v relax - through the lesson.

However, when a learner has been consistently disruptive there is no alternative but to provide a penalty of some kind.

Here are a few ideas for dealing with this situation:

- leave the student out of fun activities & let him/her get on with an exercise of some kind.

- for each misdemeanour, write up a digit of the student's telephone number & when it is complete you ring the parents. And make sure you do ring.

- the Hand - put an outline of a hand on the wall & get the offender to stand at the wall with his/her hand on the hand on the wall for five minutes while the class get on with the lesson.

- similar to above but instead of a hand the student puts a football between the wall & his/her head & has to keep it like that for the duration of the penalty time. Hopefully you'll only need the one football, not twenty!

- send the student out of the class with some work & they can come back when it is completed.

The last three are getting serious. There is obviously much more to this than just giving out penalties but these are strategies to have up your sleeve rather than being left with a feeling of helplessness!

Do you have any ideas you use with the disruptive younger learner? If so, do send them in & I'll add them to the above & give you a credit.

Extra ideas sent in by subscribers to the Weekly Tip


hi... I teach special ed in Calif. I find that if I put the kids names on the board ... and when they "blow it" I just walk over and erase one letter of their name ... when the name is gone they lose snack time (which I have for 10 min ... as a social skills element ... they get an empty plate ..and get to watch the others eat) Plus they hate having their name not be correct ...of course I give them a chance to earn a letter back. But just the act of walking over and erasing one letter off their name really gets their attention.

Nancy Maynard, Hacienda Heights Unified in California, USA

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Speedy Reading

I'm sure you've found yourself asking the students to read a text quickly to answer the task with the result that the students take an age & end up reading every word.

Transferring native language reading skills to their English language learning is difficult & they need help with it. So getting students to read quicker helps them speed up & not read every word. But to do this is easier said than done. A simple 'trick' is to give time limits with the tasks - 'answer the task - you've only got two minutes'.

But how long should you give them? Enough time for them to complete the task. All of the students or most of them? This is a tricky one, as you'll have different abilities in the same group so aim for the middle range & have an extra task for the early finishers.

And the actual time? I've heard it said that a good rule of thumb is to time yourself doing the same task & then double it for students. Maybe. The more you time them the easier it gets to predict how long they should take. And be strict with the time as there's no point giving a time limit & then giving longer. It'll mean nothing next time you give a time limit.

And don't forget to tell your students why you are giving time limits!

This was mentioned briefly as part of a previous Teaching Tip 'Campaign for Real Reading'.

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