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Teaching Tips 37

View the video
Read out
A bit mixed up

View the video 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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Reading aloud
Read out

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, short plays.

- Choose interesting texts. The more interesting they find them, the more motivated they will be to carry out the task.

- 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 angle.

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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