|View the video
Using video is a much better way of giving
listening practice to our students as the paralinguistics
& visual clues of the situation are all available to the
students. Video really should take over from audiocassettes
as the vehicle for lots of listening in the classroom &
I very much doubt that they are much more expensive to develop
than cassettes. The problem really is having a video player
& TV in each classroom - clearly difficult for most schools.
So what to do with videos apart from what
we usually do with cassettes? Here are a few ideas to use
before exploiting the video for language & listening skills:
turn the sound down & predict
moods, relationships & conversation from the visual clues.
Listen with sound up to confirm.
give out one half of a written dialogue
& students view the video a couple of times to fill in
the other speaker's words. Listen to confirm.
commentate - play a news scene without
the sound & students write the commentary. Listen to confirm.
speculation - cover half of the screen
vertically - students view & speculate on the covered
part. Uncover, view to confirm.
with films for language students,
in English with English subtitles, cover the film & the
students read the subtitles - speculate on what is on the
film. Uncover, view to confirm.
play the video backwards & students
then discuss what happened. Play forwards to confirm.
one half of the class view the section
of video with the sound off & the other half with no picture
but with the sound on. After, pair up one student from each
group to explain what they heard & saw.
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Don't you find reading aloud activities similar
to dictation activities before they became popular again?
They are both activities that, on the whole, students love
to do but they go against the communicative grain for a lot
of teachers. There are lots of fun & useful activities
for dictation, so maybe now's the time for reading aloud.
Students like to hear the sound of their
own voices in a foreign language & it is a chance to work
on pronunciation & voice in general. There could be many
other aims too, including language- related aims - previewing
or reviewing language. So how do you make it fun & useful?
Here are a few ideas:
- Choose texts that might be read aloud to
another person; short newspaper articles, letters, poems,
- Choose interesting texts. The more interesting
they find them, the more motivated they will be to carry out
- Give some planning time - see the
Tip 'Thought Groups' for a brief introduction to tone
units. The students can analyse the text, dividing it up into
thought groups - where the pauses & main stresses are
- & then look at the way in which it is said. And for
plays & poems, the movements that accompany the text.
- You could give rolecards that would tell
them how to say it. e.g.. Read the article aloud to a friend
as if the main character of the article is a friend of yours.
Read the poem in a loud happy voice.
With the younger learner this changes a bit as usually the
last thing they want to do is listen to each other. You could
get them to read to you individually while the others are
occupied on a task. The very young learner group cannot realistically
be expected to get on with a task individually so here you
might get them all to read chorally together. Again, encourage
them to be dramatic & have fun with the reading.
Also check out the Tip
'Shadow Reading' which looks at reading aloud from a different
Not everything in the classroom can, or should,
necessarily be 'communicative'. The classroom is a place to
practice & prepare, & so as long as we recognise this
& make effective use of the time, why not get our students
to read aloud? If you don't already get your students to read
aloud, give it a go.
And if you've got any creative reading aloud
activities, send them in.
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A bit mixed up
It's a common enough scenario, in the group
are a designated there are several different level students.
If you're lucky you can sort it out & change the outstanding
students to more appropriate classes. More often than not
though, you have to just get on with it & try to deal
with the situation, trying to keep all of the students happy.
Here are a few ideas to help with this situation:
- play around with the pairings & groupings
in the class during different activities. It might be useful
at times to put students of similar levels together &
at other times different level students together. It depends
on the activity.
- have extra activities up you sleeve for
the early finishers. This could simply be working with them,
looking over their work with them while the others catch up.
Or you could have an extra reading skills task, an extra noticing
activity, an extra roleplay etc...
- if the different levels becomes a problem
mention it in the individual & group tutorials, &
let the students know that you are aware of it &, when
possible, you are reacting to it.
- previewing what is coming up next in the
coursebook &/or on the timetable before the lessons is
a healthy activity for all students & for the particularly
weaker student even more so. The more prepared, the more they
can get from the lessons.
- one way to involve all is to call on individuals
when their area of strength comes up. For example a student
who is good at grammar but overall weak in the group can be
called upon when a grammar area comes up. You're recognising
that all have their strengths & weaknesses.
- I have mentioned this being a 'problem'
but it doesn't necessarily have to be. If you start out thinking
of it as a problem then it will become one. It might well
be more work for you, but if you begin to attend to the individuals
in any group on more than a superficial level then it does
involve more variety & more work anyway. All groups can
be considered to be mixed level. Of course, it depends how
marked the differences in level are.
The mixed-level group is a real problem that
we have to deal with. The more strategies you have up your
sleeve the better. Or turn it all around & think of each
group that you teach as mixed-level. This may put the more
marked differences into perspective.
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