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?


  1. or your could give them all one of those 5 hour energy drinks! - lol - peace, Al

  2. Ha ha ha! yes, actually excellent idea! They should be handed out at the door on their way into class.

    our poor students often come from working all day in their day jobs and then have to hang in there for a three or four hour class!