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Teaching Tips 38

More dictation
Speaking homework
Ordered themes

More dictations

A few more ideas on using that versatile activity - dictation.

Making connections:
When you want to review different sets of words, a fun way to do it is to dictate each word, the students write them down & when someone guesses the connection between the words they shout out the connection.
For example:
Sun, Mirror, Star, Independent, Times ....British newspapers
chat up, marry, split up, get engaged.......relationships
water, ball, towel, wet, sun, cream......swimming pool/beach

For lower levels & younger learners, on a smaller scale you could dictate letters & when they think they know the word they shout it out.

Picture dictation:
Another useful way of reviewing vocabulary. Find a picture that contains vocab that has recently come up - maybe one from the unit in the coursebook - & as you describe the picture the students draw it. They then check with the original picture. You could then hand it over to the students to do the same in pairs with other pictures.

Text to graph:
This is similar to the picture dictation but as you read a text, the students put the information they hear on to a graph. Good for the business student & those who have to deal with figures & trends.

Mutual dictation:
This is a nice technique when you have got a shortish text. Basically you make it in to an information exchange task by blanking out different sections of text on each copy of the text. Student A has to ask student B for the missing information & vice versa. We've used this technique in a lesson plan on the site - see stage 2 in the plan about the Euro.
And the material for this, the two texts.

Here are the links to the dictation ideas we've already looked at in the Tips:

Running dictations

Normal & shouting dictations

Dictate the information

High speed dictations/dictogloss

Learner-based presentations

Dictation in placement testing

If you don't know the book 'Dictation' by Davis & Rinvolucri (CUP), you must check it out. Lots of imaginative ways of using dictation. To see this book at Amazon

If you've got any more dictation ideas, please send them in.

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Speaking homework
Speaking homework

Homework is an essential element of classroom learning. It links the lessons, & makes up for the lack of classroom time. Mostly we tend to give writing & reading tasks for homework as the logistics of these are the easiest. What about speaking & listening homework, both areas where students feel they need the most work? Of the two, providing speaking homework is the more difficult - here are a couple of ideas:

- the obvious one is for the students to practice the dialogues & monologues they have looked at in class at home. Simply reading - in effect, drilling themselves - can certainly do no harm & may do a lot of good in the long run. With regular marking of tone units in class the students may do the same at home when preparing how to say the dialogue or monologue.

- get your students to ring each other in English. Easier said than done - if they speak the same language why wouldn't they naturally do it in their language, you ask. True, but if you explain why they are doing it & they are interested in doing it then there shouldn't be a problem. You could set up some pair work information gap in the class & they carry out the task by phone at home - one ringing a lost property office to claim something. The 'office' student has a page of similar objects & the student ringing has to describe their property in detail. Or requesting some information, plane/train/shop using timetables & price lists.

- if in an English-speaking country, ask your students to find out some information & report back. This could be going to public offices or their host families & friends. To make it more challenging they could ring up for the information.

- give your students a blank tape & make sure they have access to a tape recorder at home that records. You could structure this like a learner diary - instead of writing it down they speak on to the tape & you respond on the tape too.

For the Tip on learner diaries..

You could set specific tasks too - the students could record a monologue about a set area - you take them in & give feedback by recording yourself at the end of the monologue. The students could hand each other their tapes for additions to the task or comments.

They could prepare a dialogue, writing it out first, & tape only one of the speakers, leaving gaps for another speaker. They then swap tapes with their classmates & fill in each others' missing parts.

If you have any more ideas for giving speaking homework, send them in.

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Ordered themes
This week's Tip is about timetabling. Certain themes lend themselves to a chronological approach i.e. starting at the beginning of the process & working through each stage. Here are a few examples.

Work: looking at job adverts > writing application forms > interviewing > deciding on candidates > starting work > work & companies > promotion > being fired/made redundant > retirement

Each stage will throw up different areas to focus on e.g. scan reading the job adverts & question tags through the interview stage.

Housing: deciding on needs > house adverts > visiting the estate agent > visiting properties > negotiating house price > renovating > moving house > settling in

Crime: crimes & criminals vocab > catching criminals > arresting > bringing to court > punishments > prison > release

Shopping: writing shopping lists > different shops > talking about shopping experiences & habits > returning items & complaining > written complaints

Holidays: brochures & deciding on holidays > arranging the holiday > describing experiences > writing postcards > returning home > complaining

Money: opening a bank account > talking about expenses > asking for a loan > winning the lottery > deciding how to spend money > going bankrupt

The chronology can use the stage headings as an overview of the area & then be reviewed as each stage comes up, as in;

Relationships: meeting > picking up > small talk > asking out > going out > getting on well > going steady > get engaged > get married > have children > split up > get divorced

This gives you & your students a framework to follow - all know where they are heading. A theme can be spread out over a week or two. A problem with this approach is that your students may not be too interested in a particular theme so you need to talk to them about the themes they'd like to cover, 'sell' it well & explain the theme & at the same time make the lessons interesting & fun.

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