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
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.
to the contents
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
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
'listen' - hand cupped behind
'stop' - raise hands.
'give a complete sentence'
- hands held apart horizontally, as if holding a brick at
'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
to the contents
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
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.