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Teaching Tips 36

Keep on moving
The honeymoon is over!
Tape & transcribe

Keep on moving

Great Curtis Mayfield song. What about your students - do you get them up out of their chairs at least once in most lessons? It can make a big difference to the general atmosphere of the lesson, helps them take a physical break from some intense tasks, gets the blood circulating again, makes the lesson more dynamic & can be lots of fun. Most students can see this but you do get the odd one who groans when you ask them to stand up. Sometimes they might refuse to get up. As with most things, the more you do it the easier it is. So if you don't regularly get them up, start incorporating it into each lesson.

Here are a few activities when students get up out of their chairs:

- mingle activities - for example a Find Someone Who activity - students mingle, talking to everyone in order to find a person that matches the information that is asked for on their sheets.

Another example, a very light-hearted 'conference advice sessions' are lots of fun - e.g.. a group of phobics, each with a different wacky phobia, mingle & discuss their problems, giving & getting advice to help. A group of travel agents on the verge of a breakdown, each having different customer experiences which drove them to despair, again mingle & discuss their problems, giving & getting advice to help.

- students using the board - filling in timelines, writing vocabulary, drawing etc.. When planning to use the board in a lesson, think if you can get the students to do it for you. Takes more time but can be interesting.

- roleplay to add more realism & paralinguistics to the activity. Before the roleplay the students discuss where they'll be standing, what (invisible) props there will be, & how they will act. They act out the roleplay several times, trying to make it as real as possible.

- total physical response activities - see the Tip 'Action'

- running dictations - see the Tip 'Running Around'

- viewing texts that you have put on the walls of the classroom - a convenient way to view a lot of texts - this could be an information gathering task or just looking at examples.

For the younger learner you could put pictures of objects on the walls or colours & when you say the object/colour they run & touch it.

- viewing other students' work on the walls - either just looking or correcting written work of others or deciding which is the best letter, advice written etc..

- warmer, coolers & games......see the list of warmers

A game for the younger learner - Mr Wolf - assign a student to be Mr Wolf & stand her at one side of the room. The others are at the other side & ask the question, 'What's the time, Mr Wolf?' who might reply 'It's one o'clock' & the students all move one step towards Mr Wolf. When Mr Wolf decides that it's time, she might say 'It's time to eat you/for pizza' & tries to catch as many students as she can before they manage to run back to their side. The ones she catches joins her on the other side. The object is for Mr Wolf & caught partners to catch the rest of the class.

- drama activities - for example, here's a very nice activity called 'Dramatic Moving'. Clear the room of chairs & desks & get the students at one side of the room. You then give them instructions on how they should move to the other side of the room & back. For example:
- you are really happy with life & you going to an important & exciting meeting.
- you are on a beach & have to get to the water, 50 metres away, but the sand is blistering hot.
- you are carrying two heavy suitcases up a steep hill, the sun is beating down & you're wearing a heavy overcoat.
- you're on a tightrope, 50 metres in the air with no safety net, you need to get to the other side. There are occasional breezes that make balancing difficult.

Lots of fun.

It can be awkward asking small groups & one-to-one classes to stand up & move around but it is still very useful for the reasons mentioned at the beginning.

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The honeymoon is over!

I'm sure most of us have had this experience. You've got a beginner's group & all is going really well for the students. They enjoy coming to class, get on with each other & have fun with the new language. Progress is seen by all. Then after about a month or so, things begin to get a bit more complicated with the grammar getting complex & you realise that the 'honeymoon period' is over.

Here are a few ideas to help:

- pre-empt when this might happen & pave the way by gradually developing a knowledge of grammar & terminology used to describe language.

- keep all of the language relevant & interesting. Unless there's a need, forget about unnecessary language - for example nationality vocabulary in a monolingual group - get them talking about themselves & their opinions as soon as they can - the language of discussion.

- look critically at the coursebook - decide whether your students really need to cover what is presented. Jump around & cater to the students. Tell them why you're not sticking to the coursebook. Given the choice, I would tend to start the coursebook after a few months.

- give them group & individual tutorials - pep talks.

- put yourself in their shoes & help them around their individual problem areas.

This is a crucial time for beginner students & if not dealt with sensitively they can lose motivation & leave the course. Think ahead & help.

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Cassette image

The tape & the tape recorder is an essential classroom resource. Coursebooks contain ready-made tapes & the transcripts for instant use but do you often find that the tape isn't quite what you need? Do you just carry on & use it all the same or ignore it & look for something else in the book? How often do you make your own tapes? Time-consuming but well worth the extra effort.

Making your own tape can be tricky. There are basically three types of homemade tapes; scripted, semi-scripted & authentic. Here's a quick look at each.

scripted tapes: here you write out the script.
+: you can make sure the tape contains exactly what you want.
-: making this type of tape sound natural can be very difficult.

semi-scripted tapes: here you give the idea or language item you want used & the speakers try to get it in as naturally as they can.
+: this sounds more natural.
-: you need to find good teacher actors to make these.

authentic tapes: here the speakers are unaware they are being recorded.
+: natural
-: the density of the language might make it difficult to use.

It is worth making the effort to produce your own tapes. A drawback of making your own semi-scripted or authentic tape is the lack of a transcript. It can take ages to write it all down but sometimes it is necessary. A variation on this is to get the students to transcribe a part of the text themselves. Give them the recorder so they can stop, rewind & start when they want & let them write down what they hear.

We've mentioned using transcripts before as a means to helping students see where they have had problems in their listening & also as a means to noticing aspects of language - we usually get them to underline examples or contrast examples. When they have transcribed a section you could lead them to analyse what they have in front of them. A nice variation.

Here are some more listening ideas from past Teaching Tips:

Friendly listening
High speed dictations
Get it taped
Dramatic Monologues
Thought groups
Knock on wood
Listening analysis
Listening loop

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