Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Quick Fixes: making book work more engaging part 2: 'THE ACCURACY CASINO'

OK, so you have to do a certain amount of 'accuracy' exercises in your classes.

You have to
'work through'

'fill in'
the book.

As I suggested in a previous post,that is no reason why the dynamic and communicative part of your class needs to come to a sudden (ugly) stop.

I mentioned having students work in small groups to resolve and then change again to discuss problems.

A further suggestion on how to expediate the 'filling in of the book'  without compromising dynamism  - and even stimulating dynamic language analysis:


Let's suppose there are 10 problems in a given book exercise to resolve.

  • Put students into small groups. Rather than having each group complete every item, share the items out among the groups such that each group completes only one or two items. (If giving them 2 items, make it one from the early part and one from the late part of the set, as typically exercises start with easier items and become more challenging.)
  • Have groups write their answers on the board; Now the board is complete with 10 solutions, which may or may not be 'correct'.
 HERE IS WHERE you switch from BOOK MODE, switch into GAME MODE to play ACCURACY CASINO.
  • each group starts with 100 points with which to 'BET'.
  • ask how much of their 100 points they wish to bet on ITEM #1 solution, as it appears on the board, being correct.
  • give each group analysis time and time to decide their BET amount.
  • keep a record of bets made alongside the item.
  • finally discuss and have students explain why the answer was, in fact, correct or incorrect. 
  • add or subtract points from each groups 'betting fund' accordingly.
  • students write the 'corrected' example in their books. 
  • Continue with other items.
The group at the end with the most 'points' wins.

You should find this leads to extremely motivating, dynamic and effective language analysis, which sees 'the book' completed without the pain, strain and dull dull dull tediousness so often associated with bookwork.


And please do share any other ideas you might have!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Quick Fixes: making 'book work' more engaging

You've done the fun stuff. Watched some funny skits for input. Students have come up with and presented their own versions, given each other feedback and analysed together some common errors.

Now it's time for the dreaded dull bit: time to open your books. Grammar exercises. Focussed book practice. You can't avoid it, working through the book is required by the institution. Or perhaps you don't even wish to avoid it, some focussed practice is necessary to round-out your students' mastery of what you're working on.

But suddenly your high-energy, highly student-centred class comes crashing back down to normal old classroom-land with a thud and a yawn.

So how can you keep the energy zinging and at the same time have your students more dynamically engaged with the learning process?

  • have them work in pairs or small groups - instantly they must discuss and negotiate their answers and be more dynamically engaged with the subject matter. The number of skills being used rises, from the classic book reading and writing, they must also listen and speak, postulate, defend and negotiate answers.
  • have them switch partners to check answers. Monitor to check they are on the right path. Often 'whole group' checking may be proven unnecessary. 
  • another excellent alternative is while small groups work on exercises in their books, have particular groups come up and write their answers on the board. When they have finished, have them pass the marker on to another group. This provides for excellent and easy group discussion of any problem areas.
  • if there is something incorrect,  you can identify the problem area by underlining it and then hand the marker onto another group to have them try to propose a solution.
Students engage more actively and meaningfully with the problems they are working on, as they struggle collectively to come up with the answers. They also engage more communicative skills. More learning styles are catered to - there is student-generated visual as well as the classic auditory checking, and the kinesthetics of standing writing on the board, handing the marker on, switching partners stops them from yawning and tuning out.

Working with books does not have to be downtime!

Do you have any other book-work gems to share?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

FREE teacher training in the comfort of your own home

Consider attending the Macmillan Online Conference 2011
the 8th and 9th of November, UK time.

details here

and from the link above: 

I highlight in green what I find most interesting:

Tuesday 8th November:

Adrian Tennant Photo12.30-13.30: Ceri Jones: Getting the reading habit 
....In this practical workshop we’ll look at reading from a number of different perspectives and explore a range of different activities, both classroom based and not, that can help us guide our students to discover the pleasure of reading in English.

Adrian Tennant Photo13.45-14.45: Pete Sharma: "If you've got it, use it!": four approaches to using your IWB
This session is based on the latest book in the Macmillan Books for Teachers series: '400 Ideas for using Interactive Whiteboards'.....The session is aimed at experienced IWB users and those new to the technology. Many of the practical ideas in this presentation can be used with a simple lap-top and data projector.

Adrian Tennant Photo15.00-16.00: Malcolm Mann: Metaphorically speaking: how widespread is the use of metaphor in English?
In this online workshop, we'll examine what we mean by the term 'metaphor', and ask how important it is for students to recognise when language is being used metaphorically......

Wednesday 9th November:

Adrian Tennant Photo12.30-13.30: Lindsay Clandfield: 10 mlearning activities for language teachers
This session focuses on one of the newest developments in technology and language education: mlearning. We will look at (at least) 10 practical ways that teachers can help students make the most of handheld devices ) to improve their English inside and outside the classroom.

2011-dave_spencer13.45-14.45: Dave Spencer: How to teach secondary classes (without losing your sanity in the process)
This session will offer tips and practical activities for teachers of teenagers. Areas examined will include ‘How to encourage students to speak in English’, ‘How to remain calm, sane and happy when students don’t speak in English’ and ‘How to correct grammar exercises without students falling asleep in the process’. ....

Adrian Tennant Photo15.00-16.00: Vaughan Jones: 'Class Scribe' and other ways of recycling vocabularyOff-the-cuff vocabulary explanations for unexpected language that tends to come up in lessons are very much the English teacher's stock-in-trade. Words and expressions are hastily scribbled on the board and then wiped off at the end of the lesson. However, without systematic recording and recycling this input rarely becomes intake. As the research into SLA shows, it is the quality and quantity of exposure to new language that is the single most important factor in our students’ progress. This session will focus on one idea to record this classroom ephemera and various ideas on what to do with it once recorded.


Is there anything there of interest to you?



Tuesday, 4 October 2011

emergency! emergency! - a fail-proof activity for when you must teach that emergency class.

Have you ever been in the position where you must take over a colleague's class with no prior warning?

Obviously you have no lesson plan, and very likely no indication of what the class has been working on. Sometimes you don't even have access to a copy of whatever coursebook students have been using, or any materials AT ALL. You're lucky indeed if you even have a marker in your hand.

It's happened to me, and more often than I care to recall.

Here is what I might do:

NOTE: NEVER let on to the students how horrified you are. For indeed, you have no call to be horrified at all. This is a case where less is more: you are free to enjoy a truly communicative student-centered class.

If the class is unknown to you have an 

  1. Model with yourself: Write on the board 4 things true about yourself and 2 untrue, in random order.
  2. Encourage Students to ask you questions to determine which are true and which are not.
  3. Now have Students do the same. If the class is small Ss can present their information to the whole group, or else break into smaller groups. 


  1. ask students to tell you what they've been working on
  2. brainstorm all information possible on the board.
  3. ask students to identify what they feel they most need to work on, what is most interesting, what is most useful. You can give each S a marker to circle what they like and dislike, and underline what they need to work on etc.
  1. Now have each Ss write (a) question/s based on the material developed on the board. Check questions with a partner for accuracy.
  2. PARELLEL CHAIRS*: have students sit in two rows facing each other with their question on a piece of paper in front of them. Discuss question with partner directly in front.  Give them three or four minutes as necessary. 
  3. Call out CHANGE: everyone stands and takes a step to the left, leaving the question behind and moving to the next chair, a new partner and a new question.
  4. repeat til end.
  5. REPORT SESSION. in Pairs discuss what question was most interesting, what anwer was most interesting.
Finally pairs report to the class.

TASK: based on the  material you have covered, and depending on its nature, have groups write a brief passage or roleplay based on material that arose. Present to the class or share with other for feedback.

 LANGUAGE FOCUS: as necessary work on elements identified by students.

have Ss give each other feedback on what is produced.

CLASS OVER before you even knew it! =)

* this is a wonderful technique I know not with whom to credit, but whoever they be: God Bless 'em; it's fabulous.

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