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Teaching Tips 21

Fill it with English
Review those drills
Work out where you are

Fill it with English

Here's a very nice idea from Sarn Rich. On summer courses, or any course you're teaching, it's sometimes difficult to get your students to talk to each other in English outside of the classroom. This is especially true when the students are in their home country or there is a predominance of one nationality in the class. They naturally use their mother tongue for talking to fellow nationals.

While he was teaching in the UK Sarn got his students to write down a list of conversational fillers & expressions that they use in their own language. Then he got them to translate them into English. Examples of such language: well..., errr..., mmm, you see, you know, I didn't catch that, do you see what I mean?, I'm not sure about that, for example, really?, etc.

The students then had to use these English fillers when talking in their own language to someone of their own nationality. It was put to them as a game - to see who could do it - & it did catch on. The students realised that it was a step in the right direction & as it was posed as a game, the self-consciousness was lessened.

If they can speak to each other in English then all the better but this is a halfway house. Try it out!

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Review those drills
My impression of drilling - intensive language practice - repetition practice - is that drills are really popular with students but not necessarily with teachers. Teachers feel silly doing them & so don't do as much as they could to help their students initially with new language that is for oral production.Maybe it's a question of not knowing the range & techniques that can be used. Here is a list of the more common drills:


Repetition drill
Substitution drill
Question & answer drill
Transformation drill
Personalised drill
Discrimination drill

And some techniques that can be used with drills:


For definitions of the above

Drills were used extensively within audiolingual approaches but nowadays we recognise their limitations & use them for pronunciation practice in helping the students to get their mouths round the items. It is a chance for them to say it right in a controlled, safe way before more challenging tasks with the new language. They can be used after the presentation & when correcting during a controlled activity or after a freer one. These are for oral practice so if the language you are introducing is used in the written form then give a written drill! Drills can become a bit boring & predictable if you don't keep them snappy & lively so make them fun.

It's also not the case that higher, more advanced levels don't need drilling. If they find something difficult to say then drill them. Clearly they are going to find less language that is difficult to say than lower levels but all the same if it's difficult to say then help them out.

Some past Teaching Tips related to drills:

For the tip on meaningful & meaningless drills

For the tip 'A communicative drill?'

For the tip on mumble drills

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Work out where you are

This is connected to the 'Quick thinking group roleplay' Tip. This time, instead of the group, the idea is to give one of a pair a situation role card & s/he has to begin the conversation. The other student doesn't know the situation but has to respond quickly & try to react normally. Bit by bit the student works the situation out.

Role cards for this could be:

- You are standing outside a phone box. You've been waiting for
half an hour & it's raining. You think the other person knows you're there but is not making any effort to hurry up.

- You are on a train & you go back to your seat after having a cup of coffee in the buffet wagon. You find your seat occupied - explain & try to get your seat back.

- You are in a shop & you think the shop assistant has short- changed you.

- You are waiting for your girl/boyfriend & it's late. S/he promised to be back in time for your anniversary meal. You suspect her/him of having an affair. S/he has just come back.

Do an example with a stronger student first to give the idea that they should gradually give the game away & not all at once. It can be a lot of laughs & asks the students to use language spontaneously. Try it.

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