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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You may also have access to a language laboratory, or audioactive machines, where the students can record and listen to their own voices. As there are a number of different types of language lab you must get help in the use of the one in the institution you are doing TP in if you want to take your students there. For ideas on using this technology see Chapter 5 Section 2: Receptive skills: listening, and Section 4: Productive skills; speaking.
Using the cassette recorder
The more complex the machinery the more need there is to be efficient in operating it. Practice and preparation are essential. So:
* Before you prepare your lesson make sure you know how to use the machine you'll be using. Practise inserting the cassette; make sure you know which way round to insert the side you want; try winding and rewinding to see how fast the machine performs; practise using such buttons as 'cue', 'fast forward', 'pause' or 'recap', etc. Can you use the counter button efficiently to find your place on the tape? Does the machine need a separate speaker? Is the sound quality good? (Perhaps the heads need cleaning.) What effect do volume and tone have on the sound quality - especially as heard from the back of the room?
* Check the availability of the cassette you plan to use and give yourself plenty of time to find the excerpt you want.
* Listen to the whole of the excerpt you want to use to make sure that it is complete and clear throughout.
* Before the lesson, put the cassette on, find the beginning of the piece you want to use and 'zero' the counter.
* Make sure you rewind to the right place. You can plan to do this while the students are discussing what they heard during the first listening. However, a moment's silence while you concentrate is better than losing your place. Don't forget to set the counter button again if you use a second cassette in the lesson.
Recording your own tapes
If professionally produced tapes do not suit your needs or are not available when you want them, you may have to make your own. It is fairly straightforward to record something off-air - perhaps a topical news item - if you have the right equipment. Do check any copyright conditions that might apply, though.
It is much more difficult and very time-consuming to make your own tape from scratch. The results are often of such poor quality that it is not worth the effort. However, if you are determined to have a go:
* Find a quiet room (drawing the curtains will help), although some background noise can add authenticity.
* Use a separate microphone (built-in microphones tend to pick up a lot of noise from the machine).
* Stand the machine on a soft surface to reduce the amount of noise it makes.
* Try to use other speakers (not just yourself) to add authenticity.
* If you have a script, rehearse your piece before recording it.
* For an authentic-sounding conversation, don't give your speakers a script, but give them an outline of the sorts of thing you want them to say.
To develop familiarity with the controls of a tape recorder.
1 Select a short dialogue (about six lines) spoken at fairly normal speed.
2 Find the beginning and 'zero1 the counter.
3 Play the dialogue through several times, each time using the counter to return to the beginning.
4 Play the dialogue again, stopping after one line.
5 With one finger on the 'rewind' and one on the 'stop', rewind the tape by one line of the dialogue only.
6 When you can do this successfully, move on to the next line.
7 After two or three lines, look at the further corner of the room and repeat steps 5 and 6!
student classroom lesson
Although video cassettes are not quite as common as audio cassettes in the classroom they are generally very popular with students and can add variety and a welcome change of focus in a lesson.
Video cassettes have several advantages over audio cassettes:
* Because the students can see as well as hear what is being said the recording is much closer to 'real life'.
* Video is much easier to understand; the facial expressions, the gestures and the physical background all give additional information.
* The visual element is attractive and commands the attention better than audio alone.
* Videos are often intrinsically more interesting, as many people are more familiar with watching television and video than listening to audio material other than music and songs.
Using a video machine
When using a video playback machine (VCR), exactly the same rules apply as with an audio cassette recorder. Follow the same steps outlined in Using the cassette recorder on p74. However, the leads connecting the parts of a video system are slightly more complex so it is essential that these are checked beforehand. Also you need to know which channel is used for playback on the particular machine you are using.
Another point to note is that the 'pause' facility, if it exists on the VCR, is often not as refined as on an audio cassette player. It is difficult to do intensive listening work if there is a delayed pause.
Producing your own videos
You may have access to video-making equipment - anything from a hand-held camera to a fully equipped studio. As with language laboratories you need to become fully familiar with the equipment in the institution where you are doing TP before you can use video-making equipment with students. Although you can make your own videos for viewing in class it is a very time-consuming business. It is often more appropriate to use video-making equipment in lessons which aim to develop the students' speaking skills. Video is an excellent method of providing feedback on student performance. See also Chapter 7: Giving feedback to students.
For more information on video materials see Chapter 4 Section 1: Published materials. For ideas on how to use video playback facilities and video-making equipment in skills work, see Chapter 5 Section 2: Receptive skills: listening, and Section 4: Productive skills: speaking.
To practise recording off-air and creating an accompanying worksheet.
1 Record a five-minute extract off-air (from either the radio or the television) -perhaps a short news bulletin.
2 Write some questions that focus on the main points of the news item(s). (Try to have a particular class of students in mind when you write the questions -perhaps the one you are teaching on TP.)
3 Play the extract to some colleagues and ask the questions.
4 Ask for their feedback on the choice of extract and on the questions.
You may have an opportunity to incorporate the extract in one of your TP lessons.
If the use of computers is included in your TP you will need to be shown how the particular machines used by the institution work: how to switch on and off and how you can find your way around the programmes, using the menus; whether they are stand-alone or networked with other machines; whether the programmes are on discs and, if so, how they are stored and accessed. For information about the kind of materials and activities you can use with EFL students, see Chapter 4 Section 1: Published materials.
8. The photocopier
Finally, a piece of equipment which most EFL teachers have come to depend on is the photocopier. Use of the photocopier may be an area of tension in some institutions and teachers may be limited to a certain number of copies. Make sure you know the 'house rules' about use. If there is no photocopier (or when it has broken down!) you may have to use your ingenuity to compensate. Creative use of the board, flipcharts, large pieces of card or paper, and of dictation can be just as effective and the lack of individual photocopies can be turned to your advantage: the students' attention can be focused as a group and extra writing practice can be included.
Hill, D. 1990 Visual Impact (Longman)
Wright, A. 1993 1000+ Pictures for Teachers to Copy (Nelson)
Wright, A. 1989 Pictures for Language Learning (CUP)
Wright, A. and Haleem, S. 1991 Visuals for the Language Classroom (Longman)
Chapter 4 Using materials
During your course you will probably be introduced to a great variety of materials specially designed for EFL. You will also become aware of how much authentic material there is that can be used in the language classroom. TP is a time when you can begin to explore these materials and build up knowledge of what is available. This chapter gives an overview of the most commonly used types of materials in the English language classroom under two headings: published materials and authentic materials.
1. Published materials
In fact the coursebook often comprises a set of materials: student's or pupil's book (to be used in class), student's or pupil's workbook (often useful for supplementary classwork, individual work or homework), cassettes (for use in class or at home), teacher's book and sometimes even a video.
What are the advantages of using a coursebook?
Using a good coursebook has a number of advantages:
* It is what the majority of teachers do and what many students expect.
* It provides security for teachers and students and although time may be needed to evaluate and adapt a book it is less time-consuming than designing a syllabus and creating materials from scratch. So it takes some of the preparation load off teachers.
* It provides a syllabus which is graded roughly to the level suitable for the students.
* It normally provides variety and a balanced diet of language work: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, skills work; it may contain study skills and learner development activities.
* It gives continuity and progression.
* It provides a ready-made source of tried and tested activities.
* It has a teacher's book which is usually helpful in stating aims and objectives, giving guidelines for lessons and mentioning possible difficulties to be aware of.
* It is professionally produced with visuals, cassettes, etc.
What are the disadvantages?
When using a coursebook there are a number of pitfalls to be wary of:
* It is not always easy to find a coursebook that will suit the needs and interests of all the students in your group both in terms of the language syllabus and the topics of the texts. You may have to compromise and use a coursebook that suits most of vour students most of the time.
* You may be forced to use a coursebook which is for different students, in terms of age and background, from the ones you are teaching.
* The students may not like the book and be reluctant to use it. Perhaps a student who considers himself to be 'intermediate' doesn't want to use a book labelled 'elementary'. This may seem a fairly trivial reason but to the student it may be really important.
* Exclusive use of a coursebook can become a straitjacket; it can be very predictable and boring for the students.
* It can stop you from being creative in your search for texts and activities that will interest and motivate your students.
* If you are an inexperienced teacher, following a coursebook may prevent you from exploring in depth the language you are teaching: you may find yourself 'going through the motions' without really understanding what you are doing or why.
* A coursebook is nearly always a compromise. There are too many things to be fitted into too small a pot.
So the coursebook is an invaluable resource but it may need adapting to meet the class needs. These needs will vary according to the age, language background, culture and ability of the students. Every class is different and the success of a coursebook depends to a large extent on how well it is used by the teacher.
How can you make the best use of a coursebook?
There are a number of decisions you can make and actions you can take to make the best use of a coursebook:
* Look at a range of coursebooks that could be used with the group. Your TP supervisor should give you some idea of suitable books. If a coursebook has been chosen for use in TP, spend time getting to know it - look at all the components carefully.
* If possible, don't use a coursebook immediately for the whole lesson. Spend time in the first few lessons getting to know about the students and their needs.
* When planning your lessons, think about which parts of the coursebook could be omitted, which could be used and which need supplementing with activities and materials from other sources.
* You may want to do the activities in a different order from in the book. However, this can be dangerous. When omitting, supplementing or changing the order of activities make sure that this does not cause problems - that one activity doesn't depend on doing another one first.
* Think about how long your group will take to complete tasks - you must decide how long to give an activity before going on to the next, or when to extend a task.
* Explore ways in which the book could be 'personalized' to suit the needs and interests of the students.
* Think about how activities and texts could be 'brought to life' through mime, actions, visuals and other aids.
* Above all, approach the coursebook critically: read the teacher's book carefully but also do your own research into the language; examine the exercises and texts for difficulties not highlighted by the book's authors.
Skills books, as their name suggests., focus primarily on the language skills rather than specific areas of language. Many publishers produce a series of skills books (one on reading, one on listening, one on speaking and one on writing) at two or more levels. The 'listening' and 'speaking' books are often accompanied by cassettes, and tapescripts are usually included in the back of the student's books. The teacher's books that go with the skills books often include lesson aims, guidelines as to how to use the material and activities, and a key. Increasingly, however, as publishers respond to the demand for 'self-access' materials, the student's book also contains a key.
Although the skills books go under the heading of an individual skill they nearly all link and integrate some of the skills. For example, a 'speaking' book can contain short listening or reading texts and can include tasks which practise writing. Also, in addition to books devoted to one skill (listening, reading, etc), 'integrated' skills books are available. These aim to integrate skills practice within each lesson.
Why are skills books useful?
Usually skills books are organized according to topic and so provide a clear vocabulary focus. Often, particularly at higher levels, they contain authentic materials which have been specially chosen for their accessibility and interest to learners. The accompanying tasks can be extremely useful for developing particular skills and strategies (see also Chapter 5: Developing skills and strategies), and many teachers use them to supplement the class's coursebook. Because they don't usually follow a syllabus based on grammar structures, it is possible to 'dip into' different skills books - choosing units that fit in well with the class's programme of work. It is important to develop students' confidence in the receptive skills of listening and reading texts in which they will not understand everything, and skills books can provide materials and activities that are a 'halfway house' between a very carefully graded coursebook and ungraded authentic material.
Are there any problems?
It is not always easy to assess the level of skills books: the labels attached (elementary, upper intermediate, etc) are often only a rough guide. Often they contain authentic materials and it is the tasks which are graded according to level. As most skills books do not follow a particular structural syllabus they may have texts which contain structures unfamiliar to your students. However, if you anticipate these difficulties and choose carefully, this should not prevent you from taking advantage of these materials and tasks.
Another type of book commonly used in the EFL classroom is the simplified or graded reader. These books are designed for the foreign language learner and are either specially written or adaptations of well-known novels and stories. The language content is graded according to specified levels by restricting the vocabulary and grammatical structures used. Readers are particularly useful for practising extensive reading skills. See also Chapter 5 Section 3: Receptive skills: reading.
Other supplementary books
In addition to skills books and readers there are a number of books which aim to provide practice in language and skills work and which are very useful in providing materials and activities which can be used to supplement the coursebook. They include books of language games and songs, roleplays and simulations, chants and drills. Many include communicative activities which students can do in pairs or groups. Carefully selected activities from these books can add variety and enjoyment to your lessons. However, try to make sure that activities taken from different sources link together to make a cohesive whole, and that they serve to fulfil the aims and objectives of your lesson. There's a danger that you might be tempted to give the students a series of unrelated 'fun' activities.
With the increasing emphasis on helping learners to become more independent, the use of reference books, both in and outside the classroom, is becoming more popular. The most commonly used reference books are dictionaries and grammar books. There are many excellent dictionaries specially designed with the English language learner in mind. They not only give the meanings of words but also give information about grammatical rules, pronunciation and use. They often contain useful reference sections on such things as irregular verbs, spelling rules, the difference between British and American English, etc. Some even give cultural information about the countries where English is spoken.
There is also a wide choice of grammar reference books. Again they are designed with particular learners in mind. Grammar reference books are available for students at different levels. They often have integrated exercises or are accompanied by workbooks or exercise books. Most have a key so that the answers can be checked by the students themselves.
Other reference books that can be used in the ELT classroom include specialized reference books on particular aspects of the language such as prepositions, phrasal verbs, idioms, slang, etc. Also, authentic English language reference works can be used, such as a thesaurus or an encyclopedia. Of course, in addition to reference books designed for the learner, there are those that you as a teacher will find useful when you are researching the language you plan to teach. (See also Chapter 8 Section 2: Researching the language.)
How can you use reference books in the classroom?
Before the students can use reference works to help them in their studies they need to be taught how to use them. You may want to plan one or more lessons, particularly at the beginning of a course, to help the students make the best use of any reference books they have access to - in particular their dictionary and grammar book. For ideas on how to do this, see Chapter 5 Section 6: Learner development and study skills. Once the students have good reference skills you can integrate the use of reference books into lessons dealing with grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and skills practice and set homework which involves student use of reference books.
In addition to books that you can take into class for use with students there are a number of books written for teachers that combine sections on a particular aspect of teaching methodology (teaching speaking, using drama techniques, using video, etc) with sections containing practical ideas for activities you can do in the classroom. Many even have specific lesson guidelines and plans. For example, a resource book on 'conversation' might discuss ways of promoting speaking, particularly speaking in an informal style, and then go on to give examples of lessons you can do to help the students practise the art of conversation.
As with skills and other supplementary books these 'ideas' books are an excellent source of practical activities and are well worth exploring. You will probably be able to pick up ideas for lessons that you can use many times with different classes or adapt to suit particular groups. As noted above, you have to be careful to make sure that the activity justifies its inclusion - that it fits in with the other activities and helps to fulfil the aims and objectives of the lesson.
Using video in the classroom is becoming quite commonplace and videos especially produced for the EFL classroom are improving in quality and variety all the time. Videos can be used to introduce grammatical and functional structures and they are particularly useful if you want to practise listening and speaking (including pronunciation) with a class. See also Chapter 5: Developing skills and strategies.
There are video courses which can be used instead of a more conventional coursebook and videos which are designed to supplement coursebooks in the same way that skills books and other supplementary books do; the approach you take, therefore, depends on many of the factors discussed above in relation to the more usual coursebooks and supplementary materials. However, videos are relatively expensive and so there's a more limited choice than for books. The big advantage of videos specifically published for the language learner is that they are accompanied by materials - usually students' workbooks and teachers' books. The activities and tasks are designed for students at a particular level and sometimes those with particular needs (for example, those who need English for specific purposes such as business). There are also a few interactive video packages which enable the viewer to listen to and then reply to a stimulus from the screen. These are primarily for use by individuals in self-access and so are not relevant to the TP situation.
If you are using video for the first time it is a good idea to stick fairly closely to the material prepared by professionals. However, many videos are designed to be used as a course over several lessons and you will probably not want to spend that much time on one type of lesson during TP. If you are using EFL video material only occasionally you will have to make sure, as with all supplementary materials, that you select carefully so that the video is well-integrated with the other elements of your lesson.
In addition, you may want to use television material recorded off-air, or commercially-produced videos which are not designed for the EFL classroom -most notably films. In this way you have authentic viewing materials. (Before you do, check carefully the relevant copyright laws.) Again, you have to be very careful when selecting relevant extracts and creating and grading the accompanying tasks and materials. The same rule applies to non-EFL videos as to those specifically designed for the English classroom: don't play any tape unless it serves to fulfil the learning objectives of the lesson - the provision of entertainment is not enough. As with any type of material, used judiciously video can add variety and interest; used too often and with no clear purpose it becomes boring and demotivating.
For more information on using video, see Chapter 3 Section 6: Video.
CALL, or Computer Assisted Language Learning, is popular in some institutions and there are a number of software packages designed for the English language classroom. One of the most popular and widely used requires the student to reconstruct a text. Other tasks ask the user to nil gaps with the correct word or match words and sentences. Much of this software can be 'authored' - the teacher can create the text - so the students can be working on a text they have already met, perhaps in their coursebook, or completing sentences with words they have learned for homework. Other programs are based on games and simulations: for example, the students have to find their way round London or compete on the stockmarket.
Teachers can also make good use of word-processing programs to encourage writing activities. Students who find handwriting in English difficult often welcome the opportunity to create attractively presented written work.
Many of the specially designed programs have feedback built in (in the form of answers or the successful completion of the task). For this reason they are very suitable for individual work in self-access. However, by asking two or three students to share one computer you can increase interaction and communication. The whole class can be set the same task ifthe computers are networked or if you have time in advance to set up the same program in each machine. In this way time spent using computers can be a useful integrated stage of a longer lesson or a series of lessons.
As with all materials you will have to spend time familiarizing yourself with the software available in the institution where you are doing TP and you will need to discuss the possible use of computers in your lessons with your supervisor. In addition, don't assume that all the students are familiar with computers; they may need some help in word-processing skills and familiarization with an English keyboard.
2. Authentic materials
What are authentic materials?
Anything a native speaker of English would hear or read or use can be described as authentic: theatre programmes, newspapers, magazines, poems, songs, brochures, information leaflets, menus, news broadcasts, films on video - the list is endless. Because authentic materials are not designed for the EFL student they are not graded for level, although some are obviously more difficult to understand than others. (As they would be for native speakers.)
The teacher should select the material carefully, with the needs and interests of the students in mind, and also decide what the students are to do with the material. So the same piece of authentic material can be used at different levels; an easier task can be set for lower level students and a more difficult task set for higher level students. For example, an entertainment guide from a newspaper: students at elementary level could find the price of tickets and times of performances for different shows while students at a higher level could select a show they want to see and telephone to book tickets. The first, though it may usefully practise reading skills, is not an authentic task - normally we do not write down the answers to a series of questions about theatre performances and ticket prices. The second, if the students are planning a theatre visit, is a 'real-life' situation. We should distinguish, then, between authentic material and authentic tasks.
Why do we use authentic materials in the classroom?
* For most students authentic materials, because they are 'real', are intrinsically more interesting and motivating and they give students confidence when they understand them.
* They provide examples of language as it is really used. By being exposed to authentic materials students have the opportunity to acquire or 'pick up' language.
* The real cultural content of many authentic materials encourages involvement and comparisons (especially in a multicultural group).
* Authentic materials lend themselves to authentic tasks: for example, getting information students may really need if they are planning a trip; listening to songs for pleasure; reading the menu of a restaurant they are going to eat in; etc.
* The use of authentic materials can be effectively linked with ways of helping students be more independent learners: making predictions and guesses, using reference books (grammar and vocabulary books, dictionaries).
Are there any drawbacks?
It is generally not enough to take a piece of authentic material into the classroom and let them get on with it! It takes time to find something that fits in with the class's programme of work and which is both interesting and accessible. You will have to make sure that the material is exploited well, that you have thought through the purpose of using the materials and that they are accompanied by suitable tasks.
Exposure to ungraded language needs confidence-building - so you will probably need to start off with easy tasks and convince the students that it is not always essential that they understand every word they read or hear. You may have to shorten authentic texts, or add a glossary in order to make them more accessible.
You will have to consider carefully how to grade the task to suit your students. For example, you may use the same authentic material with different level students, but ask them to do different things with it. Be careful, though, that at lower levels the task is not so simple as to be meaningless!
For more ideas on how to use materials - both published and authentic - see also Chapter 5: Developing skills and strategies, and Chapter 6: Presenting and practising language.
To evaluate one or more coursebooks.
1 Evaluate one or more coursebooks by considering them under these headings: Layout and presentation (paragraphing, headings, density on the page, use of colour, illustrations and photographs, etc)
Ease of access (contents page/map, index, reference sections, etc)
Topics (interest, variety, cultural balance?)
Language content (grammar and functions included, vocabulary, pronunciation,
balance of skills, ordering of language items)
2 Choose one unit and decide what you would include, omit and supplement if you were planning a series of lessons with the group you are observing or teaching.
1 This will be a much more useful activity if you have a particular group in mind. It would be useful to select the unit to adapt from the coursebook you use with your TP group.
2 If you do the activity with one or two colleagues (each of you looking at a different book), you can compare the advantages and disadvantages of the coursebooks you evaluate.
To design a task to go with a piece of authentic material that would be suitable for your TP class.
1 Find a piece of authentic material that you could use with the class you are teaching on TP.
2 Decide whether you need to shorten the text and/or add a glossary.
3 Consider which language and/or skills aims you could achieve.
4 Design a task forthe materials which will fulfil these aims.
5 Show the material and your task to fellow trainees, and invite their comments.
6 Try out the material with your TP group.
Is the task that you designed authentic as well as the material? You may like to consider the advantages and disadvantages of making the task an authentic one.
Cooper, R., Lavery, M. and Rinvolucri, M. 1991 I 'ideo (OUP)
Cunningsworth, A. 1995 Choosing your Coursebook (Heinemann)
Griffee, D. 1992 Songs in Action (Prentice Hall International)
Grundy, P. 1993 Newspapers (OUP)
Hardisty, D. and Windeatt, S. 1989 CALL (OUP)
Hedge, T. 1985 Using Readers in Language Teaching (Prentice Hall International)
Stempleski, S. and Tomalin, B. 1990 Video in Action (Prentice Hall International)
Chapter 5. Developing skills and strategies
Language learning is not only concerned with acquiring knowledge (about grammar and pronunciation systems, for example) - it is not just something we learn about. Rather, it is a skill, or a set of skills - something we learn to Jo, like riding a bike. So, students need meaningful, interactive practice in the skills in order to learn to use the language.
Traditionally we speak of four language skills: two 'receptive' skills - listening and reading, and two 'productive' skills - speaking and writing. The receptive skills have a number of things in common and the classroom techniques for reading and listening are often similar. In the same way, there are a number of similarities between lessons that practise the productive skills of speaking and writing.
Within the skill areas mere are a number of' `microskills' or strategies which language learners use to communicate with others. Many of these skills are common to all languages - although students may have to be made aware that skills they already use in their first language can be transferred to the language they are learning. Other strategies may have to be introduced: for example, ways of getting the meaning across when you don't know the precise word for something in the foreign language.
Increasingly it is recognized that besides language skills students may also need to have learning skills - they may need to know how to learn. 'Learner development' (or 'learner training' as it is sometimes called) is concerned with helping students to become better, more independent learners.
In this chapter we begin by looking at how the various skills are usually integrated in a lesson.
Ways of teaching the different skills are then discussed: first the receptive skills of listening and reading; then the productive skills of speaking and writing. Finally, we look at how we can help students develop their learning skills, both inside and outside the classroom.
1. Integrated skills
In real life the language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing arc generally integrated rather than occurring in isolation. When taking part in a conversation, for example, we both listen and speak; when we fill in a form we read and write, and taking notes from a lecture involves listening and writing. Often the use of one skill leads on naturally from another - we often read a novel or see a film and talk about it later to a friend. Or we may take part in a meeting and write a follow-up report.
How can you integrate skills in the lesson?
In lessons, as in real life, skills are often integrated - with one activity leading on to another. For example, a lesson for intermediate level students based around a newspaper article might have the following stages:
speaking --> reading--> writing
In the speaking stage the teacher introduces the topic (perhaps by showing a picture) and elicits what the students know and/or think about the subject. The students could discuss what they would expect to find in an article on the topic in question. In the reading stage the students read the newspaper article. Tasks could focus on assisting comprehension and perhaps a more detailed study of some of the vocabulary, or on the style of the article. In the writing stage the students could write a letter to the editor in response to the article, or write an article on the same subject from a different perspective, or in a different style.
A lesson for lower level students about finding accommodation could start with the reading of a newspaper advertisement (with a focus on some of the special vocabulary), go on to a roleplay/information gap activity in which the prospective tenant telephones the landlord/lady to ask questions and to make an appointment to see the flat. A listening text of someone being shown round the flat could follow. Finally, the students could write a letter to a friend describing their new flat. Such a lesson would have the following stages:
Reading --> speaking --> listening --¦ writing
Why is it useful to integrate skills?
* An integrated skills lesson allows for the practice of language in a way which is closer to 'the real world' and assists in the development of a full language user.
* Integrated lessons where one thing leads on to the other are more satisfying, less bitty, for the learners.
* A lesson which integrates a number of skills has more variety.
* It gives an opportunity for a topic to be fully explored and for vocabulary connected to the topic to be practised and recycled.
* Because one context or one text can be used for another activity the teacher does not have to spend time setting up something new.
For these reasons it is a good idea to choose reading and listening texts that are generative - that can be used for lessons in which a number of skills are integrated.
Can skills practice be integrated with the introduction and practice of language items?
Yes. Skills practice is also often integrated with the introduction, practice and revision of language items - grammar or functional structures, vocabulary or pronunciation. (See Chapter 6: Presenting and practising language.)
Planning a skills lesson
Although you may want to practise a number of skills in any one lesson it is important to be clear in your own mind what the overall aims of the lesson are and what the specific aims are for each stage. Your lesson may have the practice of one skill as its main aim, with other skills playing a subsidiary role, or there may be an equal balance of skills. Make sure that you and the students know what the focus is at any one stage in the lesson. This is particularly important if you are sharing a class with other trainees or teachers. (See Chapter 8: Planning lessons.)
2. Receptive skills: listening
How can you help students to improve their listening?
* Think about what you say in the classroom. Many things that happen in the classroom involve the student in listening - both to the teacher and to other students. In one lesson a learner may have to listen to and understand greetings, instructions, explanations, opinions, correction and feedback, and so on. The teacher is an invaluable source of listening practice. For that reason you should always think about what you say and how you say it from the students' point of view. (See Chapter 2 Section 4: Teacher talk and student talk.)
* Encourage students to talk and listen to each other. (See How can you encourage good group dynamics and interdependence between students? onp57.)
* Provide texts and activities which will develop listening skills and strategies at the same time as providing input for language acquisition.
How can you choose a suitable listening text?
When selecting a text with the purpose of practising your students' listening skills, ask yourself the following questions:
* What is my main aim: do I want to use the text mainly for skills development, or do I want to use the text as a resource for language (ic does it contain language that students can usefully acquire or learn?).
* Will the students find the topic and the text interesting?
* Is the text at the right level - just beyond the present competence of the students, so there is enough new language to make it worthwhile, but not so much that they will find it daunting?
* Will it be useful - something they may have to understand and respond to in 'real life'?
* Is it generative} Will it lead on to further skills work - perhaps speaking or writing (ie will it stimulate the wish to communicate) ?
* What kind of text - a radio extract, a video, a song, an interview, a real story told by the teacher or ont of the students, etc?
* What type of listening do I want them to do: what skills do I want them to practise?
* Am I going to use a recording or use my (or another speaker's) voice?
* How difficult will the text be for the aim I have in mind and what will the difficulties be?
* How much of the text do the students have to understand in order to achieve the aim?
* How much support will I have to provide in order for the aim to be achieved?
If you want the listening to be stimulating and challenging, and your students are of intermediate level and above, you will probably want to choose an authentic or 'semi-authentic' listening text - either found (and maybe adapted) by yourself or from published materials. (See Chapter 4: Using materials.) If your students are beginners or at elementary level a 'made-up' text is often more suitable - a wide choice of interesting, authentic-sounding texts are available in published materials and these are often accompanied by useful activities.
A balanced general Knglish course should include a variety of types of listening with accompanying activities: different interaction modes - monologues, dialogues; different contexts and situations - social events, meetings, shops/restaurants/banks, etc; different styles - formal or informal, with friends or strangers; different accents, etc.
What makes a listening text easy or difficult?
Generally, listening texts are easier if:
* they are fairly short,
* they have only one speaker, or two speakers who are easy to tell apart;
* the speaker(s) speak slowly (though naturally), in a standard accent, and use simple grammar and vocabulary;
* the speakers can be heard clearly - there is no distracting background noise;
* the speaker(s) can be seen and are 'live' or on video rather than recorded solely on audio;
* the topic is familiar;
* the structure of the text is simple and straightforward but not too dense - there is repetition, pausing, etc;
* the students are interested and prepared for what they will hear.
How can you help the students to understand a listening text?
Choose a text which will interest the students and formulate aims that are suitable for their level and needs. Examples of specific aims are:
* to develop global listening skills (ie to get a rough idea of what's going on);
* to develop intensive listening skills;
* to set the context for a roleplay;
* to introduce a vocabulary 'set' in a natural context.
If your main purpose is to develop listening skills then the text should be just above the students' present level of competence. If, however, your main purpose is to use the text to focus on a new language item then the rest of the text should contain language the students already know. (See Chapter 6: Presenting and practising language.)
Often in a skills lesson it isn't essential that students understand every word of a listening text. In general, if students have an overall idea of the meaning, and understand how the different parts fit together to make one piece of discourse, they can more easily go on to a more detailed understanding. So focus on general or global understanding before detailed understanding. It is essential to build up knowledge of the text gradually - to start with what the students already know in order to tackle the new, to begin with the easy aspects and go on to the more difficult.
Encourage the students to use what they already know (their knowledge of the world and of English) to help them infer meaning. Before they listen, help them to predict what they are going to hear by activating any knowledge they may have of the topic or situation. Elicit the sort of language they expect to be used. It may be helpful to revise or teach some key items of vocabulary that appear in the listening if they are important to an understanding of the text.
Remind students of the listening strategies they employ in their own language. For example, encourage them to guess how the speakers are feeling by their intonation (do they sound angry or frightened? amused or sad?); to get information about the structure of the text from the intonation (are the speakers asking or answering questions? telling a scries of events?); to guess the situation from any background noises; to use any visual clues available; to listen out for familiar words which give a clue to the topic or situation; to guess any unknown words from the context.
Give plenty of support, especially with lower level students or those who are not confident about listening. For example, some teachers like to let students read the tapescript for an authentic text if it is available, usually after they have listened to it or while they are listening to it a second time. Occasionally a weak class or one at the beginning of the course can read a tapescript, or part of it, in advance. They can do activities such as sorting out the jumbled lines in tapescripts, or filling in gaps in tapescripts, to help them prepare for what they are going to hear. You can play recorded texts in small chunks and do prediction work at the end of each chunk. You can ask students when they would like you to stop the tape recorder or let them control it, or you can play the tape as many times as the students would like.
Motivate your students by choosing texts that are interesting and that provide a real incentive for the students to understand and to contribute their own ideas and opinions. You may not want to restrict questions about the text to those that require factual answers; you can explore ways of getting your students to infer meaning or express their own views on the matters under discussion.
Choose tasks for the students to do before and while listening rather than afterwards. In that way you are focusing on understanding rather than just good memory - don't ask your students to remember details that a proficient speaker of the language couldn't! Make it clear what degree of attention is required in order to accomplish a particular listening task. For example, do the students need to listen to all the text in order to get the overall gist (as in a story), or do they need to listen out for and remember key details only (as in an airport announcement) ? These are sometimes referred to as sub-skills.
At the end of the lesson, get feedback from the students about the text, the tasks, any problems, etc. You may also want to ask how they would like to work on a listening text next time.
What are the main stages in a listening skills lesson?
There is no one way of doing a listening skills lesson - it depends on such factors as the aim, the text type, the level of the students, etc. The following are guidelines on one way of conducting a listening skills lesson.
1 Arouse interest and set the scene
Before a listening activity, encourage the students to think about and discuss what they are going to hear. Or create a 'need to know' by telling them how the listening task fits in with a later activity they are going to do.
Use prompts such as realia, visuals, questions, references to your or the students' experiences, a short discussion task to arouse the students' interest, to activate any knowledge they have about the topic and to help them predict what they are going to hear.
If you are going to hear something about a famous person's life, show a picture and elicit facts the students know or can guess about the person. You write the facts on the board (perhaps under two columns: Facts we are sure about/Facts we aren't sure about). After listening you can check which facts were mentioned. A picture - even of an unknown person - can give rise to a lot of speculation.
Don't worry about 'mistakes' during these lead-in activities - the aim here is not to focus on accuracy but rather to create real interest which will motivate the students to listen.
2 Teach key words/phrases before listening
It may be helpful to teach a few key words - without which the listening would be very difficult to understand. Even if you do not provide this support it is important that you recognize the troublesome words and have a strategy for dealing with them. (See Chapter 6 Section 2: Vocabulary for how you might teach these words or expressions.) It is rarely a good idea to teach in advance more than about five words out of context. Remember: the context can make the task of understanding easier!
Proper names, such as the names of people or places, can really throw low-level students, so it is useful to pick those out, write them on the board, and tell the students how they are pronounced.
1 Set a task to help focus on overall understanding
This can be in the form of two or three questions, or a task.
These pictures tell a story. Listen and put them in the correct order.
Don't make the completion of the task dependent on the students catching every detail. You may want to tell the students that you don't expect them to understand every word.
2 Give the listening text for the first time (either play the recording or read the text)
Whether you do read the listening text yourself or play a recording, it is probably better not to pause - this is more realistic and helps the students concentrate on getting the whole picture
2 Receptive skills: listening
Possibly ask the students to discuss their answers and opinions in pairs or groups before you elicit them. If the listening is recorded you can ask the students whether they would like to hear the whole or part of the text again before they go on to focusing on the text in more detail....
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