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Teaching Tips 25

To pre-teach or not to pre-teach 2
An overt gesture
Personal graphs

To pre-teach or not to pre-teach 2
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the criteria for deciding on vocab to pre-teach before using a written or spoken text.

When you've decided on the group of words to pre-teach, you then have to think about the 'how'. Maybe half of the items might be known to the students but you feel they still need checking. An important consideration is the time it's going to take to get through the vocab. Spending 20 minutes pre-teaching items for a five minute activity might be the wrong way round. And if you have a long list of items to pre-teach, maybe it's not a good idea to use the text in the first place.

Here are some ways of pre-teaching:

- put the items on the board & elicit what they mean. What about the context? You could give pointers to the context in your eliciting.

- put the items on the board & students look them up in the dictionary. Without a context this could get frustrating, as which meaning of a word are they to choose? Put the words in sentences, with the word you want them to focus on underlined.

- elicit the words through giving definitions, synonyms/antonyms, contrasts, translations(?), pictures, examples, acting out, storytelling etc.

- give a word/meaning matching task - more of a checking activity but if you think they may know the words then this might well be enough. Elicit/explain the items that are not known in the feedback.

And don't forget to 'check' the meaning - personalise the items if possible. Just because they're nodding their heads after your explanations doesn't mean they've all got it.

Do you drill this new vocabulary (after checking the meaning - not before!)? If it is going to be useful for oral production in general at this level then certainly, & especially if you are asking the students to produce the vocab in the lesson. Maybe if it's not too important then leave it for recognition only.

Another point might be to decide when to actually do the pre- teaching. Is it before the extensive task & texts are handed out/played, or would it be useful to give a manageable extensive task to boost confidence & then pre-teach the vocab they'll need for the more intensive task? If the task doesn't need the vocab then it might be best to leave until it does. There's also the idea of the vocabulary being in a pre-activity in an integrated skills lesson. As usual, it all depends on the lesson.

Have you got any techniques for or thoughts on pre-teaching
vocabulary? Let us know & we'll add them to the above.

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An overt gesture
When we are interacting with our students we are giving off a variety of signals & some overt ones are the gestures that we use to elicit & correct. These gestures sometimes become so much of a habit that you can find yourself with friends or family & unconsciously using them as you do with your students? Can be embarrassing correcting your uncle's use of the past simple!

The classic classroom gesture is the hand held out vertically & slowly moved from left to right to signify something that isn't right but was probably a good idea anyway. You have to be careful with gestures like this as students can get the wrong idea. The above example could be interpreted as nearly right, when in fact it was completely wrong. Some would also argue that gestures, as used by the teacher, provide the students with a false crutch to rely on which won't be there when they're 'on the outside', in the real world. They are inevitable & a useful tool.

Here are a few common gestures:

'past' - thumb pointing back over your shoulder.

'now' - point down to the floor in front of you.

'future' - point ahead of you.

'listen' - hand cupped behind ear.

'stop' - raise hands.

'give a complete sentence' - hands held apart horizontally, as if holding a brick at each end.

'repeat individually' - beckoning gesture with the whole hand.**

'repeat chorally' - firm sweep of the arm.

'break the sentence down into words' - use each finger to represent a different part.

'get into pairs' - 'join' the students with fingers on each hand coming together.

prepositions can be easily shown with one hand being 'in', 'on', 'behind' etc the other.

** Rather than pointing, with the index finger, I think this is a better way of calling on the individual. I personally don't like being pointed at. Cultural considerations are certainly important when deciding which gestures to use.

Do you think about gestures? Do you consciously think of new ones? Do you use any others? Are there any that you can't use in the culture that you are teaching in? Let us know & we'll add them to the list.

Gestures are important tools in classroom management & students can see their usefulness & do appreciate you using them.

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Personal graphs
If you have been with us a while, you may remember the Tip on learner-based presentations. This Tip is very similar but instead of using dictation, here we are using graphs. The graph is a medium that appeals to most people, especially to the professional person.

Give out uncompleted graphs & go through what each axis means - without getting into the language to express it all i.e. the language of the presentation. Then ask the students to fill in the graph for themselves - what is the probability of doing those things, how much do they like them, how often do they do them - whatever it is being focused on. They put an 'X' in the graph for how they feel about each point. The successful completion of the graph shows that they are clear on the concept you are dealing with.

You'll probably want to see a graph or two by now.

The graphs on this page are to give an idea & are not comprehensive - you'd probably add a few more things, e.g. ten, on the vertical axis.

When they have all completed their graphs, using a graph you have filled in for yourself on the board, elicit/give the target language, concept check, highlight form & phonology & drill chorally & individually - the presentation. Follow this with a copy stage.

Then the controlled oral practice is already set up through the graph as the task consists in the finding out of similarities & differences to their colleagues in the class. They will use the language & the communicative purpose could be to find three similarities &/or differences with three people in the group. As they do this you go round monitoring & correcting.

A very personalised presentation, using the clear & attractive medium of the graph that automatically supplies the personalised follow up practice activity.

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