Macmillan Books for Teachers

Practical techniques and ideas for classroom activities. Assumptions about learning. The role of TP on a teacher training course. Feedback on lessons. Eliciting, giving instructions and setting up activities. Students working outside the classroom.

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1. What is teaching practice (or TP)?

2. Assumptions about learning

3. The aims of this book

4. How to use this book

Chapter 1. Approaching teaching practice

1. The role of TP on a teacher training course

2. Working with others

3. Your own attitude

4. What do observers do during TP?

5. Feedback on lessons

6. Keeping track

Chapter 2. Managing the class

1. Use of eye contact, gesture and the voice

2. Classroom arrangement

3. Attention spread

4. Teacher talk and student talk

5. Eliciting, giving instructions and setting up activities

6. Monitoring

7. Starting and finishing the lesson

8. Establishing rapport and maintaining discipline

9. The monolingual and the multilingual class

Chapter 3. Managing resources: equipment and teaching aids

1. The board

2. The overhead projector

3. Visuals

4. Worksheets and workcards

5. The cassette recorder

6. Video

7. Computers

8. The photocopier

Chapter 4. Using materials

1. Published materials

2. Authentic materials

Chapter 5. Developing skills and strategies

1. Integrated skills

2. Receptive skills: listening

3. Receptive skills: reading

4. Productive skills: speaking

5. Productive skills: writing

6. Learner development and study skills

7. Students working outside the classroom


Chapter 6. Presenting and practising language

1. Structures: grammar and functions

2 Vocabulary

3. Pronunciation

Chapter 7. Giving feedback to students

1. Giving positive feedback

2. Correction techniques

3. Evaluation and testing

Chapter 8. Planning lessons

1. Lesson plans

2. Researching the language

3. Getting organized

4. Follow-up

5. Planning a series of lessons

Chapter 9. For the new trainer

1. Organizing TP

2. Preparing trainees for TP

3. The role of the TP supervisor

4. Giving feedback on lessons observed

5. The recruitment of 'volunteer students

6. Trainer-training

Glossary of terms

Macmillan Books for Teachers

Welcome to the Macmillan Books for Teachers series. These books are for you if you are a trainee teacher, practising teacher or teacher trainer. They help you to:

* develop your skills and confidence

* reflect on what you do and why you do it

* inform your practice with theory

* improve your practice

* become the best teacher you can be

The handbooks are written from a humanistic and student-centred perspective. They offer:

* practical techniques and ideas for classroom activities

* key insights into relevant background theory

* ways to apply techniques and insights in your work

The authors arc teachers and trainers. We take a 'learning as you go' approach in sharing our experience with you. We help you reflect on ways you can facilitate learning, and bring your personal strengths to your work. We offer you insights from research into language and language learning and suggest ways of using these insights in your classroom. You can also go to and ask the authors for advice.

We encourage you to experiment and to develop variety and choice, so that you can understand the how and why of your work. We hope you will develop confidence in your own teaching and in your ability to respond creatively to new situations.

Adrian Underhill

Titles in the series

Beyond the Sentence Scott Thornbury

Children Learning English Jayne Moon

Discover English Rod Bolitho & Brian Tomlinson

Learning Teaching Jim Scrivener

Sound Foundations Adrian Underhill

Teaching Practice Roger Gower, Diane Phillips & Steve Walters

Teaching Reading Skills Christine Nuttall

Uncovering Grammar Scott Thornbury

700 Classroom Activities David Seymour & Maria Popova

Teaching Practice

Who is the book for?

This book is designed to help you with the teaching practice element of a training course where you teach part or all of lesson under supervision. You may be: * One of a group of trainees teaching volunteer students in a class especially arranged for teaching practice.

* An apprentice attached to an experienced teacher and teaching some of that teacher's lessons.

* An untrained/inexperienced teacher working with your own class and learning on the job.

What is Teaching Practice?

A teaching practice (TP) session can range from informal practice of a particular technique, perhaps with other trainees acting as students, to a formally assessed lesson. Teaching practice can take place in an English speaking country or in a country where the first language is not English. The trainees can be native or non-native speakers of English and the classes may be monolingual or multilingual. Although much of the methodology outlined could be applicable to teaching children, it is assumed that the students are teenagers or adults. Teaching Practice sets out:

* to increase awareness of the many aspects of the TP situation

* to provide some guidelines for TP to help you get the most out of it;

* to clarify the reasons behind many of the skills and techniques needed and to provide activities to help and improve them.

The focus is on the teaching skills and techniques where the teacher is required to direct or orchestrate the learning activities of the class, largely from 'up front'.

We do not wish to suggest, in talking about how and why certain things are done that these are the only ways of doing them. The rationale and practices given here form the mainstream of EFL teaching at the present time but they are the subject of constant discussion and revision in most teacher-training establishments. There is also a risk of suggesting a more teacher-centred classroom than is desirable. Wherever possible try to assess what is going on in the classroom in terms of What are the students learning? rather than What is the teacher teaching? And make sure that what you do is in the best interests of learners and a learner-centred classroom.

How to use this book

When you have read the introduction and Chapter 1, you can work through the book in any order. Refer to the contents list and the index to find the topics you need. We have avoided using technical terms, but there are some you will find it useful to know. The glossary on рр209-212 explains the most common terminology. Tasks are included at the end of each chapter/section. Some of these are tasks that you can use when observing other teachers or other trainees. Observing a peer and giving feedback afterwards should be helpful both to the person teaching and to the person observing. Others are designed to be used in a 'peer teaching' situation. In order for these to be successful it is important for everyone to 'play the game'. It can be a waste of time if everyone collapses with laughter every time they pretend to be students.

The tasks are coded as follows:

Even if you don't do all the exercises it is a good idea to read them when they are referred to and think about how they might work.


Aim ^^

To become familiar with some of the jargon used in English language teaching.



1 You may like to try this exercise in pairs.

2 If the jargon is very new to you, you can read through the glossary on pp209-12 and then use this exercise to see how much you have remembered.

3 How much jargon do you already use? When is it useful? Is it always necessary?

Further reading

Krashen, S. 1991 Language Acquisition and Language Education (Prentice Hall International)

Lightbown, P. and Spada, N. 1993 How Languages are learned (OUP)

I Jittlewood, W. 1984 Foreign and Second Language Learning (CUP)

Medgyes, P. 1994 The Non-Native Teacher (Prentice Hall International)

Richards, J. and Rodgers, T. 1986 Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (CUP)

Stevick, E. 1982 Teaching and Learning Languages (CUP) со. uk/worldservice/learningenglish

About the authors

Roger Gower

At present I'm writing EFL books, editing the Reviews section of the magazine Modern English Teacher, and working as a British Council Inspector - a varied but somewhat exhausting life sometimes!

My teacher training work has taken me to Italy, Mexico, India, the UK, Iceland, Japan and Portugal. I am interested in all aspects of teacher training, in particular the practical skills that teachers with little or no previous experience need to make them effective in the classroom.

I have also worked in ELT management as director of International House, London, Principal of the Bell Language School, Cambridge, and Operations Director for the Bell Educational Trust.

Diane Phillips

I have been a teacher of social science, sociolinguistics and English for thirty years, working with undergraduates, post-graduates and teachers in a number of different countries. I have a PGCE, MAs, and a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the universities of Cambridge and London. From 1984 until 2003 I worked for the Bell Educational Trust as a teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and manager, most recently holding the post of Head of Academic Management. I am currently a lecturer with the Open University (teaching on the MA in applied linguistics) and a British Council inspector. I am particularly interested in project work and portfolio assessment, especially with young learners.

Steve Walters

I am an academic director at the Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE). I have done teacher training in more than 20 countries, and was instrumental in starting the RSA (now UCLES) Certificate in TEFL, as well as being its first Chief Examiner.

Chapter 1 Approaching teaching practice

This chapter discusses the purpose of teaching practice (TP). It also examines the roles played in TP by you the trainee, by your supervisor, the other teachers and your fellow trainees. We also look at ways to get the maximum benefit from your own lessons and feedback sessions, and from those of your fellow trainees.

1. The role of TP on a teacher training course

Why have teaching practice on a course?

You can learn a lot about teaching by discussing it and talking about materials and techniques but, like most skills, including using a language effectively, you can't really learn it without doing it. It is one thing to describe what you are going to do in a lesson, when you might be allowed to talk without interruption; it is quite another to carry it out when it includes a group of people who expect to contribute to the lesson and perhaps influence its progress. Before you teach students who expect you to be able to do your job, there are obviously huge benefits in being able to try things out beforehand in a supportive atmosphere, such as TP should provide.

What does TP practise?

It normally focuses on four areas:

1 sensitivity to problems of language use for learners;

2 sensitivity to how learners learn, the skills they need, the strategies they employ and the problems they have;

3 classroom management skills;

4 teaching techniques.

What are the objectives of TP?

Depending on the overall aims of a particular course and the stage that TP has reached, its objectives would normally be one or more of the following:

* to allow you to simulate or approach the real teaching situation under sympathetic supervision;

* to provide you with an opportunity to try out techniques;

* to provide an arena for assessment;

* to provide you with an opportunity to have your teaching evaluated and constructively criticized;

* to provide an opportunity for you to get used to being observed (as observation often forms part of teacher appraisal in many teaching institutions);

* to encourage development of criteria for self-evaluation and self-awareness;

* to create a situation of gradually increased freedom so that you become increasingly more independent - able to make decisions about what you teach and how you teach;

* to help you develop your own teaching style;

* to provide you with exposure to real learners, their learning problems and the factors which influence their learning;

* to expose you to students at a range of levels and to develop an understanding of the differences of approach required;

* to develop your sense of responsibility for your students.

Of course TP should also provide genuine learning for the students involved.

How is what to do on TP decided?

Supervisors or tutors will probably give a lot of support and help initially, both with what to teach and with techniques and materials to use. This detailed guidance is often gradually withdrawn as trainees' ability increases in identifying the students' language needs and in preparing activities and materials to satisfy them.

The aim of a lesson should initially be identified for you. Some supervisors like to give out beforehand a timetable or a syllabus of what you are to teach and how your lessons fit in with the students' timetable and that of other teachers or trainees. Or you and your supervisor may discuss and decide the timetable together - especially if you are the class's main teacher. The syllabus should ideally reflect both your needs and the students' needs.

Shouldn't TP be based around the needs of the trainees?

In some ways this is so and most courses ensure that a wide range of teaching skills are worked at. But the most effective way of meeting those needs is by making TP reflect the real situation as closely as possible: this can only mean basing it, as far as possible, on what the students need to learn.

How can particular skills and techniques be practised?

In many of the following chapters there are references to a number of tasks. They don't form a complete programme and no doubt you and your supervisor will be able to think of others. Some are intended simply to provoke discussion, others are of the 'get up and do it' type and involve peer teaching - where one trainee teaches and the other trainees act as students.

Does this mean that things have to be got right before going into TP?

No. TP is a time for experiment. It is one of the few opportunities you may ever have for trying out a new idea and having one or more critical but supportive observers. When anything is tried out for the first time you are likely to make mistakes. Sometimes, more can be learned from the lessons that don't go so well than from the great successes.

2. Walking with others

How will I know if I am making progress?

Through self-awareness

Sensitivity won't really come until you have had experience and learned to relax with your students. As the basic classroom skills are mastered and different parts of a lesson are handled more confidently you should be able to stand back mentally and observe the class as it is going on, see what the students are doing well, what they are having problems with as well as how they are interacting as a group. You will gradually become more self-aware - of your particular strengths, and of areas where improvement is needed.

Feedback from observers

Other trainees (if they are available) and, of course, supervisors can help develop your awareness. They can sit back and observe what is going on in a more objective way, unhindered by the nerves and anxieties of the teacher.

Feedback from students

To help yourself it is worth getting to know the students well, both inside and outside the classroom, not only to find out about their interests but also to give them the opportunity of expressing what they feel their problems are with the language. They can provide useful feedback on your classes, both what they found useful and what they didn't.

What should be the end result of TP?

After TP you should:

* be more aware of the language you are teaching;

* be more aware of the factors that aid and impede learning in the classroom;

* be in control of basic classroom management skills;

* be able to plan a series of lessons, perhaps based around published materials (such as a coursebook), which are relevant to what the students need to learn;

* be able to present, practise and revise language;

* be able to use activities and materials that develop language skills;

* be able to help students develop their awareness of how they learn and what learning strategies suit them;

* be able to think critically and creatively about your own lessons.

During your training, as in most teaching situations, you will be liaising and cooperating with other teachers: perhaps fellow trainees, TP supervisors, teachers to whom you are apprenticed, other teachers working in the institution.

Working with a supervisor and/or a teacher to whom you are attached

In most institutions this person's role is:

* to help with lesson preparation;

* to observe critically;

* to give helpful feedback.

Make the most of your tutor's experience and expertise. However, it is vital that you are not over-dependent on your tutor. Certainly ask for clarification of any point you are supposed to be teaching - you can't say to a group of students that you don't know what you are supposed to be doing - even ask for your lesson plan to be checked, provided there's enough time for changes to be made. But your attitude is all-important: it shouldn't be I don't know how to do it but I wasn't sure how to do it but I thought this might work. What do you think? Expect to get less help as the course proceeds. You should always be moving positively towards independence and eventually you should get close to the real-life situation when you may be working with little or no help. Don't blame the tutor if things go wrong; you're the one with responsibility for the class while you are teaching it. Respond positively to suggestions and criticism; by all means give your reasons for doing something, but try not to be defensive.

Co-operating with other teachers working in the institution

In addition to your supervisor or 'attached' teacher other teachers can be a great help. For example, some may be prepared to give guidance as to what materials to use or tell you what you need to know about particular students. They can also give you a good picture of what teaching is actually like. However, they are likely to be busy and preoccupied with their classes and shouldn't be pestered unnecessarily. Remember: if they are teaching the same students as you are, they can make a big difference to how those students think of you. If you are observing, participating in or teaching another teacher's class it is imperative that you do everything you can to co-operate with the group's main teacher, that you know what your role is and that you don't tread on anyone's toes by turning up late, interrupting at an inappropriate time, contradicting the teacher in front of the students, etc!

Try to behave professionally with colleagues (teachers and fellow trainees) from the start:

* Clean the board when you finish.

* If you rearrange the furniture return the room to the state you found it in.

* Return borrowed materials.

* Start and finish lessons on time.

* Make sure you know how to use the machinery. Try not to break it and if the worst does happen, report it!

It is also worth remembering that institutions have expectations as to your behaviour and personal appearance. Be guided by the teachers as to what is considered appropriate. While a certain informality maybe acceptable, and indeed necessary to help the students relax, a lack of cleanliness and tidiness isn't. If you are working with students who come from different cultures from your own remember also that there are marked cultural differences as regards what is considered to be appropriate dress. Aim to gain the respect of your students, not to embarrass them.

Working with other trainees

In many TP situations you'll be expected to work together in the preparation of classes and in the sharing of views after the classes. TP isn't a competitive situation where one person's good lesson diminishes the value of someone else's.

3. Your own attitude

Often in TP you're working as part of a team in which each member supports the others and you're tackling common problems.

* You may work together on some of the tasks in this book. (See Introduction Section 4: How to use this book.)

* As well as giving support, other trainees can be an extremely useful resource. You can give one another ideas and information about language, resources and about students.

* You can offer constructive help in preparation, and check each other's plans. TP is a good opportunity for you to talk about the students and classes with other people.

* You may be able to help in other ways: before a lesson - by being responsible for arranging the furniture and organizing equipment; during a lesson - by being a time-keeper, indicating when someone teaching has only five minutes left, etc; after a lesson --by chairing a feedback session.

* You may co-operate in providing feedback on one another's teaching. This can take a number of different forms, depending on the TP situation:

- observing a fellow trainee's lesson with a group of'volunteer1 students and giving feedback (see Chapter 1 Section 4: What do observers do during TP?):

- teaching a class with another trainee (team teaching) and evaluating the lesson together, afterwards;

- taking part in a discussion group about lessons observed and taught with classes to which you are attached - reporting back to colleagues on what you observed or what you taught;

- observing a video of another trainee's lesson and giving feedback.

As with other colleagues, it is important to be sensitive and professional in your relationship with fellow trainees. (See the points made under Co-operating with other teachers working in the institution, above.) If you're teaching the same students as other trainees it is important to work together so that the lessons interrelate. At the very least make sure you keep fellow trainees informed about what you've done and what you're planning to do with the class.

We can't change our personalities but we can alter the impression we give in class:

* by smiling - that doesn't mean you have to walk around with a fixed grin, but showing a friendly attitude warms the students to you;

* by responding to what students say as communication; try to respond naturally, show interest in what they say. Don't treat every utterance as a model to be corrected or congratulated upon!

* by finding out about the students, getting to know them;

* by taking time, by showing an interest in both the learning and the personal interests of the students. Talk to them before and after the lesson. Notice if they are absent, etc;

* by trying to enjoy their company as a group;

* by showing that you are enjoying teaching them.

At first you may have difficulty in understanding what some of your students are trying to say. With experience this will get much easier. Don't panic! Apologize, say you didn't understand and be patient.

4. What do observers do during TP?

In many situations you will be observed by your supervisor, perhaps by other trainees not teaching, and possibly by a trainee supervisor. Your supervisor will usually sit apart, and will probably take no part in the lesson but observe and note what is happening.

If you are observing, let the trainee who is teaching concentrate on the students:

* Sit apart from the students.

* Be as silent and inconspicuous as possible (don't chat to other trainees!).

* Try not to make eye contact with the person teaching.

* Never interrupt.

There are obvious exceptions to this: when, for example, a trainee wants help with monitoring pairwork (perhaps in the early stages of a course), when supportive laughter might be helpful, or when you are helping the trainee with timing by indicating how much time is left.

You may be asked to observe a particular aspect of a fellow trainee's lesson, perhaps doing one of the observation tasks, such as Task 1 on p27, or Task 1 on p59. This may concern a whole general area, perhaps related to topics currently being dealt with on your course: for example, classroom management; aims; correction; interaction between students. Or it might be more specific, perhaps relating to a problem that you know .yew have: for example, instruction-giving; eye contact; 'concept' checking. Observing how others perform in these areas can be very helpful. Alternatively you may concentrate on problems that the trainee who is teaching has. Your supervisor may select an appropriate observation task or the trainees who arc teaching may ask you to observe and give feedback on an aspect they are consciously working on in that particular lesson. Of course, all observers should make notes as discreetly as possible when trainees are trying to concentrate on the lesson they are giving. Otherwise this can create unwelcome pressure!

5. Feedback on lessons

The timing and format of feedback can vary, depending on the TP situation. Feedback is often given soon after you have finished teaching, though it can take place some time later - perhaps the following day. Some supervisors like to give the trainees time to reflect on their own lesson and expect them to make written notes. Even if you are not required to do so, from time to time you might like to do a critique of one of your lessons. If you need a checklist, try using the contents list of this book.

Where feedback is predominantly oral many supervisors also give out a copy of their written notes. You may be given individual feedback by your supervisor or the feedback may take the form of a group discussion. You may be asked to give your impression of the lesson first or the other trainees may be invited to contribute, perhaps by reporting back on an observation task.

The trainees who improve most quickly are those who recognize their strengths and weaknesses and are open to suggestions for improvement. They respond positively, not defensively, to criticism - seeing all feedback as an aid to improvement.

6. Keeping track

Feedback on lessons can be frustrating and even seem unfair. This is often because:

* the students' needs are rightly being considered first;

* you may be trying out new ideas, totally unpractised. This is especially true if you are on a pre-ser vice course and doing TP at the beginning of the course;

* you don't often get the chance to have another go at something you messed up.

But your supervisors are likely to be aware of these sorts of problems and will provide support. Listen carefully to what your supervisor says; you may want to make notes on your lesson plan. After each lesson it is worth noting the skills you have used and referring back to previous criticisms. In fact if you have shown yourself to be good at some particular strategy it might be worth avoiding it on TP, to give yourself practice over a wide range of skills. Don't worry about always showing your good side. Try to think of TP as practice even if it links to a qualification.

If you are asked to give feedback on other trainees' lessons, try to do so tactfully. Why on earth didn't you show everyone the picture? is likely to provoke a defensive reaction, whereas / don't think everyone could see it is likely to be more helpful. Try to describe what you observed rather than making value judgements. Also, although you will want to be supportive, it can be just as unhelpful to overpraise a lesson as to be overly critical. Remember: being aware of the effect language can have and being able to offer non-deterring criticism are aspects of your job as a teacher.

It is worth keeping a TP file, even on courses where the tutor doesn't require one to be handed in at the end for assessment. It could include lesson plans, reflections on your own teaching, copies of supervisor's comments, examples of materials and visual aids used, students' written work. You may like to ask fellow trainees for the plans of lessons you have seen them teach and offer yours in exchange. There are further tips on how lesson plans can be stored on p 182.

You might also find it valuable to keep a personal diary of TP in which you reflect on your successes and failures: what you did, how you felt, what you resolve to do in the light of these experiences. In a diary you can include your feelings about your own TP lessons, those of colleagues, your reactions to ideas discussed in input sessions on the course and to any tasks and exercises you do.

Articulating an experience can help not only to get it in perspective but to develop self-awareness generally as a teacher. As it is of essentially private value you may or may not decide to show it to others. On some courses trainees are required to keep a TP diary and may be asked to submit part of it to their supervisor.

Further reading

Parrott, M. 1993 Tasks for English Teachers (CUP)

Scrivener, J. 1994 Learning Teaching (Heinemann)

Wajnryb, R. 1992 Classroom Observation Tasks (CUP)

Wallace, M. 1991 Training Foreign Language Teachers (CUP)

Chapter 2. Managing the class

Contrary to popular belief, it is not true that you have to be an extrovert to be a good classroom teacher. Some good teachers are very low-key in the classroom, while other teachers, both lively and amusing, survive only as entertainers. Although some teachers develop a special classroom manner, in the main your style of teaching will depend on the sort of person you are. TP is your opportunity to try a variety of approaches, to become aware of what does and what doesn't suit your personality, and to develop your own style of teaching.

However, while personality is impossible to prescribe, for a class to learn effectively you must be able to inspire confidence in your students. You must know when to be firm and directive, and when to be unobtrusive and leave the students alone. In other words, you need to subtly alter your role according to the activity without going to the extremes of dominating a class or leaving it uncertain what to do.

In this chapter various techniques for organizing and managing the class are explored. These techniques aim to help you become more professional and efficient in your approach so that your students have confidence in your competence as a teacher and as a leader. In particular we consider the balance between having a friendly, relaxed relationship with a class and the maintenance of discipline.

1. Use of eye contact, gesture and the voice

Eye contact

We all know how difficult it is to talk to someone who never looks at us or someone who looks us in the eye all the time. Similarly we know how important eye contact is in signalling such messages as I want to speak to you or I'm addressing this remark to you. Now turn to the classroom. Observe, for example, how, when and why your teacher makes eye contact with you and your colleagues.

Good use of eye contact is crucial in helping to establish rapport. A teacher who never looks students in the eye seems to lack confidence and gives the students a

/ Use of eye contact, gesture and the voice

sense of insecurity. On the other hand, having a fixed glare doesn't help either! Trainees who find it difficult to make eye contact will need to overcome this reluctance if they are to have effective control over a class.

The teacher needs to look at the students to notice their reactions and to be in touch with the mood of the class. Do they understand? Do they look puzzled? Are they enjoying the class? Are they tired? Are they bored? Would it be a good idea to change the direction or the pace of the lesson? Does anyone want to contribute or ask questions?

You, the teacher, are in a much better position to gauge the reactions and the mood of the class than observers sitting at the back of the room. Be careful, though. It's not always easy to tell what the students are thinking - particularly if you don't know them or their culture very well. The student who is laughing may be embarrassed rather than amused. The student you think is bored may in fact be paying serious attention. Different cultures have different 'rules' about eye contact. Some students may look away as a mark of respect for the teacher, not because they are uninterested or don't want to participate.

How will eye contact vary at different stages of a lesson or in different types of lesson?

As the role of the teacher varies, depending on the type and stage of a lesson, so does the degree of eye contact. The more direct eye contact the teacher maintains with all those in the class the more teacher-controlled the lesson. In activities where the students are working more independently of the teacher less teacher-student eye contact is necessary.

How can you use eye contact?

* to ensure that the students have understood what they are supposed to do and know what is going on. Puzzled expressions quickly tell you you need to try again!

* to indicate who is to speak (usually accompanied by a nod) when calling on one after the other to repeat a word or sentence, or to make a response. Using names can slow the pace of a practice activity and pointing might be offensive;

* to encourage contributions when you are trying to elicit ideas or specific language from the students. Frequently you only know students have something to say by looking at them;

* to show a student who is talking that you are taking notice;

* to hold the attention of students not being addressed and to encourage them to listen to those doing the talking. With younger students this is a way of maintaining discipline: a darting glance around the room can show that you are aware of what everyone is doing;

* to keep in touch with other students in the class or group when you are dealing with an individual, perhaps when correcting. Your eyes can say to them: You're involved in this too;

* to signal to a pair or group to start, to stop or to hurry up. It can be far less dominating than the voice;

* to indicate, with an accompanying gesture, that groups are on the right or wrong lines;

* together with a gesture (such as a shake of the head) to indicate that something is incorrect, or to show that the student should try again;

t to check that everyone is participating, especially when the group is working

together, perhaps doing repetition practice;

* to check silently with students whether they have finished an activity - perhaps the reading of a text, or the writing of a sentence during a dictation.

When should you avoid eye contact?

During any activity that doesn't demand teacher-centred control, avoid eye contact unless you are specifically asked for help or choose to join in. This can be true, for example, of pairwork, groupwork, speaking activities such as roleplay, simulations and student-led discussions, and even individual work when the student wishes to complete the task independently. As soon as you establish eye contact, or the students establish eye contact with you, you are brought into the activity, thus making it teacher-centred.

Is there any point in encouraging the students to look at each other?

Yes. Very much so. Confidence is gained and shyness lost through eye contact. In addition, a student who has difficulty understanding is more likely to understand if his or her eyes are on the speaker's face than if they are on the ground. So, when students ask each other questions, or help and correct each other, whether in pairwork or student to student across the class, they should look at each other. You can encourage students to address their remarks to each other, not through you, by avoiding eye contact as soon as the person who is speaking starts and by looking at the person who is being addressed. It is sometimes better to get them to move their chairs to make eye contact easier.

Task 1


To learn to pace a lesson by looking at individuals in the class.


1 Stand at the front of the group so that you can see everyone.

2 Dictate a short passage to the group, judging when to start each phrase by looking at everyone's hands. The aim is not to leave anyone behind.


Get the views of the group at the end, particularly the slowest writer, as to how effective you were.

Task 2


To encourage full eye contact and to practise spreading attention randomly round the class.


1 Call out the names of members of the group.

2 Make eye contact with each person as their name is called.


1 This exercise needs to be brief and rapid to make the point. Aim to cover everyone in the group once only in random order. Ask the group if they were all called and where you tended to focus your attention.

2 A later variation might be for the group to be less willing to make eye contact. How do you, as a teacher, feel when this happens? How do the 'students' feel?



To encourage evenly spread but random eye contact and to practise using eye contact in place of nomination.


Use a pack of coloured felt-tipped pens. Hold different pens up and elicit by use of eye contact and a nod It's blue, It's red, etc. Get individual members of the group to say the sentence -changing the pens each time and signalling randomly to all members of the group. Ask each member how many times he or she spoke.


1 A variation on this exercise would be to use a facial expression to indicate that a second repetition is required.

2 You can use a controlled practice activity like this (sometimes referred to as a drill) from a coursebook or make up your own.

Use of gesture, facial expression and mime

Gestures and facial expressions are an integral part of any communication where people listen and speak to each other. They help us get across what we want to say. For example, when we give directions in the street to a stranger, we not only use our voice to give special emphasis to the important points, we often use our hands to make things clear as well.

If we are deprived of what the body can express, for example when we talk on the telephone or listen to the radio, we are forced to use our imagination and try and extract all the meaning from the inflexions of the voice or the words themselves. With direct contact we often look at the other's face to gauge what their real feelings or attitudes are.

How does gesture and mime affect what we do in the classroom?

You can use gesture and mime:

* to convey the meaning of language;

* to manage the class - for example, to reinforce instructions;

* to add visual interest;

* to increase pace;

* to cut down on the amount of verbal explanation. This is particularly important at lower levels where long verbal explanations in English can be difficult and confusing.

In the early days it is often better to exaggerate your gestures a little because:

* they need to be a conscious part of your repertoire, deliberately doing what they set out to do;

* the students need to understand them. If they are exaggerated they are less ambiguous;

* many teachers are more frozen than they think they are and move little more than their lips.

Excessive gesture, though, can be silly and counter-productive. Don't let gestures interfere with the language you are teaching.

Conveying meaning

If we are in a country where we don't understand the language, gesture will help us to get the gist of what is going on. Equally students, particularly beginners and elementary students, often need to rely on the gestures we use.

The meaning of vocabulary can often be quickly and efficiently indicated through gesture or mime. If a student doesn't understand the word tail the appropriate hand gesture is easy to make. The meaning of Merger is easily conveyed by mime.

If you are giving an example of spoken language it is well worth adding facial expression and gesture to bring it to life.

We can also teach the students to understand special gestures, to help us convey meaning or highlight aspects of the form of the language. For example:

* past time: hitch-hiking gesture over the shoulder

* present time: pointing down lo the floor

* future time: pointing into the distance in front

* rhythm and stress: indicated by beating with the hand, or clapping

The students, however, need to learn what these gestures mean and you need to know that they understand. Pointing to the floor could mean 'here' and pointing in front could mean 'over there'. So teach them and check that the students understand them.

Managing the class

All language teachers develop a personal set of gestures to get a class to do what they want with the minimum of fuss and the minimum of language. There are some, however, that are quite common. For example:

* listen: hand cupped behind the ear

* repeat in chorus: firm sweep of the arm or with both hands raised make a gesture to include everyone

* get into pairs: arm, hand or finger movement to show you are 'joining' the students

* stop (pair/work, groupwork, noise!): raised hand or clap

* good: thumb up and/or smile and nod

* not right: shake head or index finger and/or indicate by facial expression

* nearly right: outstretched hand rocked from side to side

* interesting idea: raise the eyebrows

* repeat individually: nod in the direction of the student and raise the eyebrows

* eliciting a contribution: beckon with a cupped hand rather than pointing, which is rude in many cultures

* to show `yes, that's one suggestion/idea/word ... anything else?': 'counting `on the fingers

But you must be careful as gestures can have different meanings in different parts of the world; you may think you mean one thing and students may think you mean something completely different! If you are teaching a monolingual group there may well be gestures which are commonly used in their culture. If you arc working in a foreign country you can ask the teachers in the institution for commonly understood gestures that can be used in the classroom. When you observe, watch which gestures other teachers or trainees use successfully.

Remember that the students in your TP classes may take time to become familiar with your gestures. The first time you use a gesture you may have to reinforce it with words but always be on the lookout for a way to focus attention and cut down on unnecessary teacher talk.

Is there anything to be avoided?

Yes, quite a lot:

* unclear, ambiguous expressions and gestures;

* gestures which are not obvious and which you haven't taught or checked with the class;

* gestures which are rude or obscene to the students. Common ones with some nationalities are: pointing, showing the sole of the foot or shoe, holding up the index and small finger of the same hand. If you are the same nationality as your students this is a problem you do not have but if you are unfamiliar with the culture of your students it is worth discussing different gestures with them or with their regular teachers to find out what to be wary of. This will prevent embarrassment or inexplicable laughter. On the other hand, don't worry to the extent that every move you make is fraught with danger. If in doubt just stick to the one basic rule: never touch your students anywhere but on the arm -although even that might be taboo in some countries;

* irritating habits such as grinning or blinking too much. They can be very off-putting; even language 'tics' such as OK or All right? can annoy students. Other trainees can tell you about such mannerisms or if you don't believe it when someone says you are repeatedly stroking your face or pulling your hair, try to watch yourself on video. Getting rid of a habit can paralyse you with self-consciousness but it's worth it in the long run.

Should students be encouraged to imitate the teacher's gestures?

Yes, they should certainly be encouraged to use those gestures that convey meaning. If the students are practising speaking skills, even in a controlled practice activity such as a 'drill' or a short dialogue, they should be encouraged to use realistic gestures and facial expressions. They will help them to 'say it as though they mean it' and make the language far more memorable.

The students will probably not use the gestures you use to manage the class unless they are doing the teaching. Also, they probably won't need the gestures to highlight aspects of the form - although they may do so unconsciously when talking about language. But you may want the students to use gestures in a checking activity: for example, you read out a number of sentences which contain a mixture of tenses. After each sentence, pause long enough for the students to make a gesture indicating whether they think the sentence refers to the past, the present or the future.

T ask l


To see how easily gestures are understood.


Practise in front of a mirror the gestures you have decided to use for managing the class: for example, repeat together, get into pairs, try again, etc. Then try them out on friends, members of the family or colleagues. See if they can guess what you mean.


This will help you to see which gestures are obvious and which are more ambiguous and so need to be taught. Don't forget, though, that you and your friends probably share the same culture. Even if they understand certain gestures it doesn't necessarily mean your students will.

Task 2


To practise the use of gesture in front of an audience.


Play 'Charades' in teams (one person mimes the name of a book or a film and the others have to guess what it is within a certain time limit). Decide beforehand which gestures are permitted, making sure they are ones you might feel comfortable about using in a classroom (eg a gesture to encourage everyone to contribute, one to invite a contribution from only one person, a 'nearly' gesture, etc).


1 One advantage of this game is that in the playing of it self-consciousness is often forgotten. The drawback is that those trying to guess the name of the film or book are willing and enthusiastic in what they give. A normal class might be less forthcoming and more eliciting gestures would be needed. This could perhaps be simulated if the members of the 'audience' don't offer anything unless called upon by gesture.

2 Another valuable but more difficult variant of this game is to replace the book or film with a sentence which has to be mimed/gestured.



To show the value of gesture and facial expression in conveying meaning.


1 Tell the group a short story or anecdote without any gesture, movement or facial expression.

2 Repeat the exercise using as much physical expression as possible.

3 Discuss with others in the group the gestures and expressions most helpful in getting across the meaning and mood of the storyteller.


This should help show the extent to which all of us rely on physical expression to convey and interpret meaning.

1 Use of eye contact, gesture and the voice

Task 4


To show the value of mime in conveying meaning.


1 Pass a message round the group through a series of mime gestures (rather like a mimed version of Chinese Whispers). Make sure members of the group who have not yet received the message do not watch. It might be best to have everyone leave the room and come back in one at a time to receive the message.

2 Compare the final mime with the original message.

Task 5


To show the value of mime in conveying meaning.


1 Everyone is 'at a party'. Divide into two groups. One group decides on three or four messages that they are to convey to their partners in the other group: for example, My glass is empty. Can you bring me another drink?

2 Pair up with someone from the other group and stand on the opposite side of the room from your partner. Those with the messages must mime to their partners, who write down what they understand by the messages. Those who are receiving the messages can show by gesture whether they understand or not, and ask for repetition, clarification, etc.


1 Those pairs whose 'receiver' writes down messages which are closest to the original messages are the most successful at communicating through mime.

2 This is an activity which can be used with a group of students.

Task 6


To practise the appropriate gestures for getting students to listen to a model, repeat in chorus and repeat individually.


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