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Promoting a healthy profile
A question of time..
Looking it up - pt 2

Promoting a healthy profile

I often wonder why some people find learning English easier than other people. In English language teaching literature one can find lists of attributes that go to make up the 'good language learner'. Here's a brief list:

To be a 'good language learner', one should;

- organise one's own learning.
- be relaxed about learning & adaptable to the learning & language situations.
- be strongly motivated.
- look for opportunities to practise.
- analyse language in the different contexts in which it is found.
- monitor one's own production.
- test out ideas & take risks.
- be prepared to make a fool of yourself.
- consciously develop communication strategies.

This is to give a general idea, it isn't a particularly comprehensive list.

So what's the good of a list like this? It can help us as teachers to guide our learners & our learners to direct themselves.

In class, give out the list & ask the stds, in small groups, to decide which they already feel comfortable with, which they could improve on & which they could start thinking about. Then ask them to collate a list of practical ways they can develop these areas. Clearly, some points are easier to develop than others. Get the class together to collate all of the ideas, putting them on a poster to refer to during the course.

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A question of time.
Time & work

We have looked in the Tips at making more of what you've got in your plan when you have too much time in class - 'If there's time..':

There are several other considerations when you think about timing. One of them comes up in observations quite a lot when a trainee, under pressure because of the observation, says afterwards that she would have done x, y or z if it hadn't been an observation lesson. Teachers being observed feel a need to stick as closely as possible to the lesson plan no matter how the lesson is going, especially if the observer has a copy. Clearly this isn't a healthy way of dealing with your students, observation or not.

A way round this, in both the normal everyday class & the observation class, is to first achieve your main aims & then feel free to follow up other valid things that might have cropped up in the lesson. And a way to help free up the time with this approach is to achieve your main aims early on in the lesson - so plan them in the first half of the lesson!

You need objectives, as this is one of the things the student is paying you for, but you shouldn't be 'programming' lessons. Too
much flexibility can lead to a directionless course. This way you can get through what you have planned but also free less restrained, leaving you time be flexible.

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Looking it up
part 2
Dictionary entry

Continuing on from last week, here are a few ideas to help the learner use the dictionary more effectively. Clearly specific tasks will depend on the actual dictionaries you are using in class or at home.

• Begin with a scan reading task to help them find their way around the dictionary. Get together a list of 15 questions such as:

on which page can you find the word 'national'?
on which page can you find an explanatory chart of the entries?
where is there a table of prefixes?
where can you find a glossary of short forms & labels used in the entries?
how many meanings are given for the word ' root'?
what kind of word is 'rotter'?
which word does 'shrimp' ask you to compare with?
how many meanings of the word 'shower' are intransitive?
what's page F30 about?

As you ask each question get the stds to find the answer as quickly as possible & then put their hands in the air, without shouting out the answer. When most have their hands in the air, elicit the answer & clarify where it is for those still struggling. You can then easily see who is having problems.

• As a variation of the above, for warmers give out sentences that the stds, by looking them up in the dictionary, have to decide if the are true of false.

you cannot collocate 'fair' with 'promises' - 'fair promises'.
the adjectival form of 'fad' is faddish'.
you can spell 'gel' as 'jell'.

• Stds monitor their own mistakes in written work. Mark any mistakes that answers can be gained from a dictionary, give it back for the stds to self-correct.

• As mentioned last week, make the dictionary work a natural part of the lesson. Have dictionaries to hand for reference at any time.

• Try as much as possible to merge the dictionary training activities with the lesson. This way the stds will see the usefulness & not something to be done to fill a space or to keep the teacher happy.

• Brainstorming when beginning a theme. Get the stds to write all the words they know on the board about the theme in question & then look up the words that others have put up that they don't understand.

• Word families - encourage first guessing when they need to use a word as a different part of speech & then to look up the word to check they were right.

• As with beginning themes above, hand out charts to fill in gaps with the use of the dictionary:

the crime
the verb
the criminal
to shoplift
to rob a bank

• Speed scanning tasks - make the dictionary task a competition to speed up their dictionary scanning ability.

• Phonology games - stds are given a group of words & have to look up the stress patterns to see which is the 'odd one out'. With sounds they could find the schwas, weak forms etc..

• With more advanced levels use the componential grids to sort out similar words - see the Tip 'Component parts' in conjunction with their dictionaries.

• Homework tasks that use the dictionary. After a reading in class stds individually decide on 5 unknown words they'd like to know more about & look them up at home.

• Call My Bluff - two teams, each team looks up a few words in dictionary that they think the other team will not know, but will find useful - check which ones they choose. For each word they write out the dictionary definition & invent two other definitions. They then take it in turns in writing the word on the board, telling the definitions - the other team guesses the correct definition. The team to guess more correct definitions is the winner.

• Warmers & coolers - ask stds to look up words to preview the lesson ahead or at home for the next lesson.

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