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Listening loop
Game or language practice activity?


listening loop

When I first began training teachers I read Tessa Woodward's excellent book 'Models & Metaphors in Language Teaching' (CUP). The book is about the process of training teachers & one of the techniques discussed is 'loop input'.

Loop input basically means carrying out an activity in that manner. Imagine you are giving a seminar to teachers on developing listening skills - with loop input you would impart the information about the skill through a listening activity using those same very same sub-skills on the teachers. So not only do they learn about it but they experience it at the same time.

Why not do the same in your language lessons? Tape an interview with a student on her difficulties with the listening skill & what strategies she adopts - choose a student who is fairly aware of this. Then use the tape with a group as a listening activity, introducing the strategies that she talks about.

A stimulating technique that catches everyone's attention.

If you are thinking of embarking on teacher training then an essential read is 'Models & Metaphors in Language Teaching'. It can be found on the books page in the training section at the bottom.

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accurate, actual, authoritative, bona fide, certain,
dependable, factual, faithful, genuine, legitimate,
original, pure, real, reliable, simon-pure (Rare), true,
true-to-life, trustworthy,valid, veritable

Antonyms - counterfeit, fake, false, fictitious, fraudulent,hypothetical, imitation, misleading, mock,
spurious, supposed, synthetic, unfaithful, unreal, untrue

Collins English Thesaurus

A lot has been written about 'authenticity' in language teaching; directly & indirectly also in past teaching tips. In his book 'Sound Foundations' Adrian Underhill has this to say about the development of intonation:

' Authenticity in human relations could encourage more authentic uses of intonation.'

Best sentence in an excellent book. But how does one go about this aspect of authenticity - making human relations in the classroom more authentic? Here are just a couple of things to think about with your 'learner-based approach':

- treat the lesson as a meeting between all the people involved - rather than another sixty minute lesson to get through. How can you make it an enjoyable & useful experience for all, including yourself?

- treat the group as a collection of individuals rather than a group. Respond to the individual.

- personalise as much as possible: the presentations, the practice, the skills work - think of how these stages can be related to the student & their experiences.

- be flexible in you planning & go with your students' pace & interests - give them & yourself 'space'. Make sure, depending on needs, that the following things are covered - some skills work, some input, some output & some feedback. Achieve you main aims & then diversify if appropriate.

- think about what YOU can learn from being with these people for an hour & a half. Although the students are there to learn English, treat the lesson as a learning experience for you too.

I know it's easy to write about it but another thing to actually do it. It's all to do with attitude. Some people are better at this than others but everyone is capable of making the lesson more authentic. Unfortunately other things can get in the way - lack of experience, the need to get through the programmed course in a limited time etc.

Oh, dear - reading through the above again, we'd better get back to something more concrete next week!!

'Sound Foundations' is a very good all round combined theoretical & practical phonology book.

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Game or language practice activity?

Last week we looked at providing challenge so this week it's the turn of the lighter activity in class.

What do you say to your students when you introduce a game-type activity? Do you call it a 'game'? Or do you just treat it like another activity? It depends, you say! Yes, if the group want games & react well to a change in focus to a fun, less demanding task then the term 'game' will produce smiles all round.

But have you been in the situation where you mention that a 'game' is coming up & you find there is no reaction? This might happen when your students are serious about getting value for their money & see games as frivolous activities. A game then becomes a turn off.

All is not lost. I would suggest that you could use exactly the same activities but instead of calling a lighter activity a game, call it a language practice activity & point out the aim. The students will then see the value & feel able to enjoy themselves.

Here's such an activity that I first came across in 'Teaching & Learning Vocabulary' by Linda Taylor (Prentice Hall). It a vocabulary dice game. You need two dice & on the board you draw two circles with 1 - 6 around the perimeter. Next to each number of each circle write a different adjective, the group of words that you have recently introduced. The idea is that, in small groups, a student throws two dice - without letting the others see what has been thrown by quickly putting a hand over them, looks at the two numbers & decides on something that is described by the corresponding adjectives. The student tells the others that thing, who have to work out what the original adjectives were & when they have it, the original student uncovers the dice to show the throw. The it is the turn of another student.

Here are some adjectives:

For an elementary level:

Dice 1

1 - good
2 - big
3 - happy
4 - thin
5 - strong
6 - small

Dice 2

1 - ugly
2 - beautiful
3 - wide
4 - old
5 - expensive
6 - new

big + beautiful = Spain
strong + old = Tower Bridge

For more advanced levels - from the above book:

Dice 1

1 - revolting
2 - gorgeous
3 - hideous
4 - minute
5 - colossal
6 - ghastly

Dice 2

1 - priceless
2 - hilarious
3 - unique
4 - outrageous
5 - invaluable
6 - terrifying

minute + priceless = a diamond
hideous + outrageous = the Big Brother TV programme

A variation is to get the groups to throw the two dice together six times, thinking of six things. Then they tell the class the things who guess the original adjectives for each.

Have fun with your language practice activities!

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