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Teaching Tips 23

Give them something to shout about

Taken to task

Come on in & take a seat!

Give them something to shout about
I don't know about you, but I love using dictation & so do my students. I'm sure you're all familiar with a straightforward traditional approach:


1. Read the text all the way through, natural speed - students listen, no writing.

2. Read each tone unit (*) twice, slower than normal speed - students write down what they hear.

3. Read the text through again, slower than normal speed, pausing now & then - students correct their versions.

4. Students self-correct their versions, each others or take them in to appraise yourself.


There's nothing wrong with the procedure, we all use it from time to time. There are also loads of ideas around on how to use dictation in different & fun ways. Here's a student-student dictation:

A shouting dictation - this is good for any group but if you have a quiet group & want them to loosen up then try this.

Find a short text - ten lines or so - divide the students into 'A' & 'B' - give stds 'A' lines 1, 3, 5, 7 & 9. Give stds 'B' lines 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10. Sit them on opposite sides of the room, put on some loudish music & the students have to dictate their parts of the text to each other over the music - i.e. they have to shout to be heard by their partner.

I should warn colleagues in adjoining rooms as it can get noisy & interfere with other classes. Tie the text into the theme of the lesson & a fun stage is had by all. Use the activity again & again.

(*) for more on tone units

Not so long ago we looked at how dictation can be used as a useful tool in classroom management

And we've also mentioned how dictation can be used in placement testing.

More dictation ideas in the future.

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Taken to task
In recent years there has been a lot of talk about 'task-based learning'. This term can mean different things to different people. Here's a simple task-based procedure:

1. Think of a task that would be useful to your students. This could be something as simple as a spot the difference activity or a complaints roleplay in a shop.

2. Brainstorm all of the language the students will need to do the task. A good idea for covering this is for you to do the task with another English speaker, tape yourselves & analyse the language you used.

3. Work out a mini-timetable of work that covers the language of the task.

4. Explain to your students the approach you are taking & the task you are building towards.

5. Teach the timetable.

6. Give the task.

7. Give feedback to your students on the language & the content of the task & assess how it went.

The nice thing about this approach is that you & the students have a relevant goal - the task. You might well be doing this & not realise it's called 'task-based learning'. If not, give it a go.

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Come on in & take a seat!

This is a very nice idea to use with any group but especially for one-to-one classes where the intensive two-way dialogue can be broadened.

The basic idea is to use a real or invented person in a roleplay. In our one-to-one lesson draw up another chair & put a photo or name on the chair, the name could come from the student. Ask the student to tell you about the person, imagine or real, maybe writing down key points or vocabulary about him/her or questions you would like to ask that person. Then ask the student to sit in the chair & take the role of this 'guest' & you then interview the student.

The person could be someone in the news, someone in a text you have just read about/listened to, a family member, someone in the same company etc. You can fit this around any topic you are dealing with. The preliminary stage is an important one, the brainstorming about the person, talking about him/her but as themselves. Then onto the 'taking over' of the person - the interview.

In a group class, you could put the students into pairs, with a third chair drawn up to them. They talk about the photo or a person/two people - one from each student - & then they take it turns to be interviewed by each other.

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