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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* Make the game competitive. In most classes competition increases motivation and interest considerably. Divide the class into teams and have a scoring system to record the wins and losses of each group. The group with the most points wins.

* Have a quick run-through with you choosing a person or an object first and with you answering the students" questions. This will provide the students with a model for the activity. Then pass the game over to the students as far as possible. You can also get the students to do the scoring.

* Make sure you have checked all your instructions sufficiently.

* Make sure you have allowed the right amount of time for the game. It is very difficult to have to follow on from one that has petered out. Equally, it is very frustrating for the students to have to finish before the game has come to an end.

* Get all the students involved.

* Make the game fun!

Type 2: Less predictable language

The Objects Game

For intermediate and advanced students.

Instructions: Each student in the group is given, or chooses, a profession: one might be a doctor, another an architect. Each group has a pack of cards - each card depicting an object, eg a bucket, a dictionary, an umbrella, a portable telephone. The cards are turned over one by one. The students in turn have to convince the others of why they might need that object. The person who puts his or her case most convincingly wins the card. The student with the most cards at the end is the winner.

* Make sure that each student has time to argue his or her case.

* Give credit for creative expression and skills of persuasion.

* The students might need time to prepare for the game by practising some expressions: for example, I'd use it to ...,It would be really useful for -ing.... and the language of one or two 'turn-taking' expressions (for example, Listen, sorry I don't agree ...').



To evaluate speaking activities in a coursebook.


1 Choose a unit in a coursebook - perhaps the one you are using with your TP class.

2 Look at each speaking activity and categorize it as 'controlled', 'guided' or 'freer/creative'.

3 Compare your ideas with a colleague.

4 Decide how each activity should be monitored and how and when you would correct/give feedback.


You may decide that the balance of activities could be improved to suit your class: ie you may need to add an extra controlled practice activity or extend the practice with a more creative exercise. If so, try to find/create such an activity.

Task 2


To give some idea of the kind of language necessary to carry out an activity.


1 Select an interaction activity suitable for pairwork - one with an information gap.

2 Each member of the group then privately writes down the language items that they think will be used to complete the activity.

3 The activity is then given to two members of another group to carry out and the language they use is recorded on paper or on tape.

4 The predictions and the actual language used are then compared.

5 You may then want to give the same activity to your TP students to see what language items they use to complete it.


1 Don't be too discouraged if you find я huge difference between what is and what actually occurs.

2 Noting the language down on paper as the activity is carried out is less time-coasumirig,thangpiag, over tapes; on the other hand, taping can rule out fruitless arguments.



To experience and evaluate the 'pyramid1 discussion technique.


1 Write down six controversial statements about EFL teaching (for example, Vocabulary teaching is more important than the teaching of grammar. It's better for students to be fluent than accurate. Pronunciation teaching is a waste of time).

2 Give the list to your group and ask them individually to modify the statements so they can agree with them.

3 Modify them for yourself.

4 In pairs, compare the modified statements and modify them again so that you can both agree with them.

5 Repeat the procedure in groups of four.

6 Double up the groups until the discussion involves the whole group.


1 Did discussion take place, involving all members of the group?

2 Were you happy to discuss the sentences so many times - and if not, at which point did it get boring?

Task 4


To give some idea of the length of time a roleplay will take.


1 Select two roleplay activities, one at intermediate or advanced level and one at a more elementary level.

2 Work in groups of three, with two carrying out the roleplays and the third timing them.

3 Repeat the roleplays more than once.

4 Discuss the time each took and estimate how long it might take with learners of the appropriate level.

5 Discuss the preparation needed to set it up and the length of time it would take with a group of students.

6 Discuss whether it was useful to do the roleplay more than once.


This activity might be more useful if done in a foreign language which would mean grouping yourselves according to languages you speak.

General comment

Communication activities are by their nature something involving thought on the part of the people involved. They can all, therefore, usefully be tried out in pairs or groups of teachers before being given to students.

5. Productive skills: writing

Writing is often not as important to many students as speaking and it tends to get rather neglected in many classes, unless the students are working for a written examination. In TP there is often not enough time to complete a long written task as the process may need to extend over several lessons. However, there are many ways in which the importance of writing can be impressed upon students and a number of activities to help them improve their written skills.

It is useful to consider what types of writing your students may want or need to do - in other words, the reasons they may have for writing: for example, letters to request information or to complain, forms and questionnaires, lecture notes, exam essays, reports, etc.

As with speaking, activities to improve writing skills can range from very controlled to free or creative.

What do we mean by writing skills?

Writing involves many different aspects. It is useful to look at them under these headings:

1 Handwriting

This may be a problem for students who are not familiar with Roman script: Far Eastern and Arabic-speaking students, for example.

2 Spelling

Again, usually more of a problem for speakers of non-European languages. However, speakers of languages where the spelling and pronunciation are consistent, for example Spanish, also need help with spelling.

3 Punctuation

The conventions of English capital letters and punctuation are not universal and might have to be taught.

4 Sentence construction

The construction of sentences that are grammatically correct, using the correct word order.

5 Organizing a text and paragraphing

Dividing the information into paragraphs. Knowing when to start a new paragraph. Ordering the paragraphs to present a logical argument, tell a story, etc.

6 Text cohesion

The appropriate use of linking words and phrases so that the organization of the text is clear to the reader.

7 Register/style

Using language (structures and vocabulary) appropriate to the formality and style of the text.

You will notice that with many of the skills the emphasis is on accuracy - controlled and guided practice activities can help improve accuracy. However, it is also important to see writing, like speaking, as a means of communication-a way of getting ideas across - and to encourage fluency and communicative impact. In order for the writing to be truly communicative, wherever possible students should write for a purpose, with a reader in mind. Freer and more creative activities can help students write more fluently.

How can you encourage students to write?

1 Have a positive and co-operative attitude towards writing

* Encourage real writing tasks in the classroom. For example, for the birthday of a member of the class write greetings cards.

* Plan sufficient time for writing activities and give them due importance in the programme of work.

* Encourage the students to show each other their writing and to ask each other for advice.

* Try letting the students write in pairs or groups sometimes.

* Give encouraging feedback. (See Chapter 7: Giving feedback to students, especially pl69.)

* Be selective about the kind of mistakes you are going to mark so that you don't have to mark every mistake made.

* Display finished tasks on the wall or in a class book.

2 Prepare students for writing

Help the students gather ideas from reading, listening and talking to one another. Point out those aspects of written texts that can be used as models for their own writing: the layout of letters, for example. The analysis of a text in a reading skills lesson can lead on to students writing a text along the same lines, and often students' writing can arise naturally as a response to a listening or reading text. (See Section 1: Integrated skills.)

3 Structure writing activities

Plan writing activities carefully so that tasks progress from the more controlled, through guided to freer, particularly with students who lack confidence in their writing.

One way in which students get controlled practice, particularly at lower levels is by copying from the board. So make sure you:

* provide a clear model;

* make it clear when you want students to copy from the board;

* give them time;

* monitor carefully, especially with low-level students, as mistakes often occur at this stage;

* show that you think neat, accurate writing is important.

Practice activities can be very controlled but still be challenging. Ordering jumbled sentences and writing them out in the correct order can give useful copying practice, for example.

4 Plan guided and freer practice activities carefully

As with speaking activities you can decide whether to focus mainly on accuracy or fluency. You may want to structure writing activities carefully at first, especially at lower levels, so that the students have few demands on them. However, activities that involve creative writing can be used with quite low-level classes: for example. Write me a letter telling me about someone in you in you family. The feedback for this activity would be concerned with the communicative content of the letter rather than with grammatical accuracy. (See Chapter 7: Giving feedback to students.)

As students get used to doing controlled and guided activities and become more confident, freer activities can be attempted. Even freer writing activities, however, need careful planning if the students are to be motivated to produce work which is of worth and which will serve to improve their writing skills. In order to provide this structure you need to focus on the process of writing - the steps necessary for successful, communicative writing - rather than on the finished product. Students are encouraged to make rough drafts which they improve on before they write out their finished 'product'. Of course the final product is important, but the students learn by being led through the necessary steps rather than by being given a title for a piece of writing and left to get on with it!

Guidelines for a process writing activity

1 Introduction

Stimulate interest: through a listening or reading text, a speaking activity such as a roleplay, visuals, etc. Create a situation where a piece of writing is required. Discuss the text type - is it a letter, a poster, a story, etc? Think about the reader(s). Who are they? What will interest them? What do they need to know?

2 Working with ideas

* Get ideas from the students - through brain storm ing, using word pools, mind maps, etc.

* Note down ideas.

* Develop the ideas.

* Choose those ideas to keep and those to be rejected,

* Order the ideas.

This can be done as a class on the board or OHP, in pairs or individually.

3 Planning

Remind students of the typical features and structure of the text type they are writing; a model is very useful here.


Letter of complaint

- layout of the letter

- introducing the subject and giving any background

- making the complaint

- stating what you want done

Argument essay

- introduction to the topic

- arguments for

- arguments against

- writer's conclusion

Help the students to use this knowledge to make a plan, dividing their ideas into paragraphs.

4 Drafting

The students write a first draft, perhaps in pairs, from their notes/plan. They may need to refer to dictionaries, grammar reference books and model texts for some conventions: for example, the salutations and standard phrases used in formal letters.

5 Reviewing/editing

The students correct and improve their first draft - looking at content, language accuracy, organization, style, etc. At this stage you can take the work in and make comments.

6 Re-writing

The students write out the final version and then, if possible, give it to the intended reader(s). The intended reader may be the teacher (especially if it is a practice examination). You then have to decide what form feedback is going to take and to what extent and how you arc going to correct the text. You may want to respond in writing - by writing a letter in reply to a letter, for example. (See Chapter 7 Section 1: Owing positive feedback, especially p 164.)


Using a computer for writing is becoming more and more usual and some students may be proficient at word-processing. There are many writing tasks that lend themselves to word-processing - for example, amending texts, moving text around, summarizing, expanding - and many students are more motivated to write if they can do it on a computer.



To consider the types of authentic writing tasks your students may need to do and to plan a process writing lesson.


1 In pairs make a list of the type of writing tasks the students in your TP class may have to do in English. (The need may be immediate or in the future.)

2 Choose one type of writing from the list. Discuss the problems your students might encounter when attempting such a piece of writing. How could you prepare the students forthe writing and what activities would you ask them to do?


You could develop your ideas into a lesson which you could try out with the class.

Task 2


To design an activity using word-processing in order to provide practice for an aspect of writing.


1 Choose a text which your TP class has read recently. It could be from their coursebook or it could be an authentic text.

2 Put the text, or part of it, onto the computer.

3 Modify the text in some way. For example, one of the following changes could be made:

- To focus on correct punctuation: take out the punctuation and capital letters.

- To focus on words used to link sentences and clauses: take out the linking words such as so, then, however, also.

- To focus on how paragraphs are ordered to form a coherent piece of writing: jumble the paragraphs.

- To focus on the effect that adjectives can have in a piece of descriptive writing: take out the adjectives.

-To focus on the tense form (for example, the past simple and past continuous in a narrative): put all the verbs in the infinitive form.

4 Ask some of your fellow trainees to restore the text to its original form.

5 Get feedback from them and then, if possible, try out the activity with your TP class.


Clearly this activity can only be done if you and the TP class have access to a number of computers (one between two or three students) and the students have been introduced to word-processing techniques.

6. Learner development and study skills

Ideally one of your tasks as a language teacher is to encourage your students to take responsibility for their own learning both inside and outside the classroom. The aim of many of the techniques (pairwork and groupwork, self- and peer-correction, etc) described in other chapters is to foster independence from the teacher.

In order to be more independent and efficient learners the students need to be aware of how languages are learned and what their own preferred learning style is - how they learn best. They also need to be aware of certain study skills and strategies for learning so they can choose which work best for them and use them to continue learning outside the classroom and after their course.

To a large extent you are limited in the amount of influence you have over the development of these learning skills in TP. You may not see the students from the beginning of their course, they may come to you with a wide range of attitudes towards learning and a variety of language-learning skills and techniques already in place, and your time with them is limited. However, many of the activities you can do to promote more efficient learning can be integrated within lessons whose main aim is concerned with learning particular language items or practising particular skills. Promoting learner development is often achieved by making your attitude to learning clear to the students and by incorporating the introduction of strategies and techniques into your everyday teaching.

Awareness and responsibility

How can you encourage the students to be more aware of how they learn a language?

* Make the aims and objectives of your lessons clear to the students so they know what you and they are doing, and why. Ask them what they think they learned in a lesson, and from time to time get feedback on activities, materials and your own teaching techniques. (See also Chapter 7 Section 3: Evaluation and testing.)

* Help the students to explore their own attitude to learning: ask them to think about why they want to learn English, for what purposes they want the language - for their job or studies, for interest, or for some other reason; whether any particular aspects are more important than others - e'g do they need to be able to write the language or is it sufficient to be a fluent speaker?

* Encourage them to think about how they like to learn; which activities interest them and help them make progress.

* Help them to assess their strengths and weaknesses.

* Help them to set realistic and achievable goals.

* Encourage them to monitor and review their learning through: self-assessment and correction, self-testing to check learning, and reviewing and revising language learned.

How can you help raise the students' awareness?

Awareness-raising can be done in many ways:


1 Through questionnaires with such questions as: How often do you:

* listen to English on the radio?

* read an English magazine?

* listen to a song in English?

* watch a film in Knglish?

2 Through 'credo sheets' - lists of statements which the students discuss and agree or disagree with. For example:

* If I learn all the grammar rules of English, I will be able to speak the language well.

* When you're reading a book in English, it's a good idea to look up every word you don't know in a dictionary.

* It doesn't matter if you make mistakes - it's more important to be fluent.

3 Through ordering activities. For example:

Put these ways of storing new words in order: Most useful for me --> Least useful for me:

* Writing them down in alphabetical order in a vocabulary notebook.

* Recording them on tape.

* Putting the words in groups according to topic - one page per topic.

* Putting the new words in sentences.

* Writing a dictionary definition next to the new word.

* Writing the new word on one side of a piece of card and the translation on the other.

4 Through discussing and writing 'advice for language learners' or when deciding on 'class rules'. For example:

* Always speak English in class.

* Ask a friend to check your homework before giving it to the teacher.

* Look through work you did in class every evening.

* Try to learn ten new words a day.

For more ideas, see also those suggested in the study skills section below.

These activities have the advantage of providing authentic topics for discussion and useful skills practice at the same time as raising students' awareness. Some are particularly useful at the beginning of a course when you and the students are getting to know each other, and others can be used later as a means of helping the students think about their learning both in and outside the class, and their progress. With very low-level students in a monolingual group these activities can be conducted in the first language.

How can you help students to be more independent, and responsible for what goes on in the classroom?

* Teach them the language they need to understand instructions in English right from the start. For example:

Turn to page 45. Get into pairs.

* Teach them useful expressions they can use in class: to get attention - Excuse me to ask for repetition - Sorry?

for clarification -- I don't understand; What does.... mean? How do you pronounce

this word? How do you spell.... ?

for particular words in English - What's that in English?

to check - Can you say '.....' in English?

These expressions can be written on card and put up on the wall of the

classroom for constant reference.

* Encourage them to use resources other than the teacher: for example, dictionaries, reference materials, other students. (See also the section on study skills below.)

* Ask them to bring in their own materials for use in class: for example, interesting magazines they have found in English which could be used for a reading task; photographs of their friends and family for use in a speaking lesson focusing on description; a song in English for a listening lesson. By contributing something to the classroom 'product' and taking some responsibility for the success of the lesson they are investing more of themselves.

* You may also want students to take responsibility roles in the classroom: for example, one student looks after the register; one is responsible for collecting homework; one is responsible for filling in a record of work.

* Give the students responsibility for part of the lessons: co-ordinating groupwork; chairing a group discussion; reporting back on work done as a group. You can also delegate part of the teacher's job. This may be at the level of operating OHPs or tape recorders.

At advanced levels, you might ask students to prepare lessons which will teach the others something specific (like a grammar point some of them are shaky on)

At intermediate levels, you might ask students to prepare short talks on some aspect of their country and customs, or where all the students are of the same nationality their job or their special interest - for example, photography.

* Give the students more responsibility for the timetable. You may get them to help you prepare their timetable for the coming series of lessons. Such discussion encourages them to be much more involved in their learning and helps you to realize what they think they need.

It is important to note that students of a certain age or from certain educational backgrounds may be more resistant to the notion of learner responsibility than others. In this case discussion and the gradual introduction of change is needed.

Learning strategies

Students need to be made aware of learning strategies they might find effective. You can point out techniques and strategies which other language learners have found successful. Many of the following strategies arc detailed in the sections above (Sections 2-5).

You can encourage students to use a number of strategies when practising language skills - strategies which they can employ when they are using the language independently of the classroom and the teacher. Some examples of these techniques or strategies are:


* making an effort to predict what they arc going to hear;

* choosing the appropriate 'way' of listening depending on the purpose, eg for overall understanding, or specific details. This choice can be encouraged by the teacher in class;

* using techniques of facilitating listening when taking part in a conversation (eg asking for repetition, clarification).


* choosing appropriate 'ways' of reading depending on the text and the purpose for reading (eg skimming, scanning). When giving an authentic text to read the teacher can ask the students how they would read a similar text in their own language;

* using strategies for deducing the meaning of unknown words in a reading text;

* using dictionaries efficiently (see also pi 22).


* using strategies for facilitating speaking such as paraphrasing, appropriate 'fillers', etc.


* making notes and organizing them before doing a piece of 'free' writing;

* making a rough draft first and going back and trying to improve it;

* identifying their own mistakes in their written work after their teacher has indicated mistakes by symbols such as the ones at the top of p 121.

6 Learner development and study ski/Is


verb form, tense


wrong word


word order






agreement of verb and subject

unclear, I don't understand

The following are some strategies you can encourage students to use when learning, practising and revising language (see also Chapter 6: Presenting and practising language):


* deciding which words or expressions they want to learn/remember: choosing vocabulary that they think will come in useful and not worrying too much about the rest!

* using a method of recording vocabulary which suits them (for ideas, see pi 51);

* developing methods for memorizing vocabulary - for example, using visual imagery. An English-speaking person could remember the German word for town hall, which is Rathaus, by visualizing a Lord Mayor in full regalia standing on the steps of a building from which hundreds of rats are running.


* looking for patterns and generalizations in language;

* noting when structures are the same (as is the case with conditional sentences in a number of European languages) and when they are different (for example, the use of the present rather than a future after when in the sentence III tell him when he comes),

* compiling 'personalized' grammar notebooks to note down particular grammar points, perhaps with explanations in the student's own words and their own example sentences;

* using dictionaries for grammatical information (see also below).


* being aware of their own individual/nationality problems in relation to English pronunciation;

* recognizing phonemic symbols so that information in dictionaries about the pronunciation of words can be accessed.

Study skills

As well as strategies peculiar to language learning there are also a number of more general study skills that you can encourage learners to use. Many of these are reference skills which they can use when studying other subjects.


1 You can suggest and discuss ways in which learners can organize their files and notebooks, record new grammar and vocabulary, keep a record of the work they have completed, and organize their revision.

Chapter 5 Developing skills and strategies

2 You can encourage them to make full use of a coursebook by helping them use such features as the contents page, tapescripts, grammar reference section, student workbooks and student cassettes.

3 You can teach them how to use grammar and other reference books. Familiarize them with grammatical terminology - the parts of speech, the names of the tenses, etc so they can use reference books independently; practise using the contents and index pages, and cross-references to find entries and exercises.

4 You can teach them to use dictionaries. When using monolingual dictionaries practice looking up entries to find:

* headwords and sub-entries including idioms and multi-word verbs;

* meaning - definitions, examples;

* information about pronunciation (the phonemic and stress syrnbols )

* spelling - including information about irregular plurals, double letters, etc;

* grammar - eg whether verbs are regular or irregular, whether nouns are countable or uncountable, etc.

Many of these study skills can be naturally integrated into language and skills work: for example, you can use grammar reference books when doing grammar practice, or dictionary work when tackling reading or writing tasks. Or the skills can be focused on separately for part of a lesson. To what extent you need to concentrate on these study skills will obviously depend on the age, circumstances and educational background of your students. '

7. Students working outside the classroom

As part of TP you may be responsible for setting or suggesting work that students can do outside of lesson time. For some students, especially those who can only spend a few hours a week having lessons, the work they do outside the classroom forms an important part of their learning programme, and many students expect to be set 'homework'.

What type of work can students do outside the classroom?

1 Practice activities from coursebooks or workbooks

It is often a more efficient use of time, after introducing a new language item, to ask the students to do some controlled practice activities at home. This gives them time to review the language and do the exercises at their own pace. During the next lesson their answers can be compared in pairs before, perhaps, going on to do some freer practice.

2 Writing

In a process writing activity, after the interest of the students has been raised and they have had a chance to exchange ideas and note down their thoughts, they can be asked to organize their notes and write a first draft at home. Then, after this draft has been shown to and discussed with the teacher and/or other students the final piece of work can be written up outside class time.

3 Preparation

Students can often be asked to do some preparation work at home. For example, if the class is reading an extended text such as a novel together it saves a lot of time if the students can read a section before the class so that time in class can be spent_ on exchanging ideas about the text. Sometimes it is useful to give an activity to guide the students in their reading.

You can set different preparation activities for different students. For have a student who is very weak and lacking in confidence you can ask him or her to read the tapescript of a listening text you plan to do the next lesson. Students can prepare for an oral presentation they give in class, perhaps on a topic of their choosing. They can spend time out of class planning what they are going to say and perhaps finding pictures to illustrate their talk.

However, unless you can be sure of your students, it is not a good idea to plan a lesson which totally depends on all the students having done the preparation work.

4 Research

Students can be asked to research a grammar point or some vocabulary items out of class in order to report their findings in class. This is particularly useful if they have access to a library or self-access centre. This activity encourages them to be more independent in their learning. (See also Section 6: Learner development and study skills.)

5 Making use of the outside world

Students can be encouraged to explore other ways of accessing the language. Even in non-English-speaking countries students may be able to use videos, satellite television, radio, English-language newspapers, magazines and pop songs in English.

6 Project work

Once project work has been set up in class the students can be asked to complete certain tasks out of class time and show or report their findings in a later lesson. For example, they might design a questionnaire in class and conduct a survey among their friends and family, other students in the school or college or even, if they are studying in an English-speaking country, with members of the public.

7 Revision

You can encourage the students to go over at home what they have done with you in class by:

* asking them to look at any notes they made in their vocabulary or grammar notebooks;

* advising them to look back over any activities in the coursebook covered that day;

* suggesting that they re-read any texts dealt with in class;

* setting them some vocabulary to learn and perhaps testing them the next lesson;

* asking them to study the grammar section, if such a section is included in their coursebooks;

* suggesting that they keep a learner diary. You can offer to look at the students' diaries or they may wish to keep them private;

* setting regular progress tests based on work they have done with you in class. (See also Chapter 7 Section 3: Evaluation and testing.)



To raise your awareness of your learning style and the learning strategies you employ.


Answer these questions about the course you are doing and/or your own TP. Do the task individually and then if possible compare your responses with your fellow trainees.

True or false? T F

1Iprefer to know in advance what the sessions on the course are about so that 1 can prepare for them.

2 I like to be asked my opinion about sessions on the course or on methods of TP feedback.

3 I prefer to take an active part in sessions and in TP feedback.

4 I like it when the trainer gives us detailed written notes.

5 I like problem-solving and brainstorming activities.

6 I prefer to work on my own rather than in pairs or groups.

7 I think 1 know my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher.

8 I always review the day's work and make notes about things

I need to remember.

9 I expect too much of myself.

10 I value feedback from colleagues about my work and my lessons.

11 My notes and folders of work are well organized.

12 I tend to leave homework assignments to the last minute.

13 It is sometimes relaxing to be able to sit back and listen to the trainer.

14 I set myself realistic goals and usually achieve them.

15 I like to research teaching techniques thoroughly before putting them into practice.


1 You may want to modify the statements in order to make them clearly true or false for you.

2 You may find that your idea of yourself does not accord with that of your colleagues.

3 Do you think you are a 'good student1?

4 What could you do to make yourself a better student teacher?

Answer to the puzzle on p108

Katy had got her scarf trapped in the door as she closed it behind her. (Thanks to Jill Cosh who told me about this incident which happened to her daughter.)

Further reading


Underwood, M. 1989 Teaching Listening (Longman) Ur, P. 1984 Teaching Listening Comprehension (CUP)


Greenwood J. 1988 Class Readers (OUPA Grellet,E 1981 Developing Reading Skills (CUP)

Holme, R. 1991 Talking Texts (Longman)

Nuttall, С. 1996 Teaching Reading Skills in a Fpreign language, new edition

(Heinemann) Wallace, C. 1992 Reading (OUP)


Bygate, M. 1987 Speaking (OUP)

Byrne, D. 1986 Teaching Oral English (Lodgman)

Byrne, D. 1987 Techniques for Classroom:Interaction (Longman) DougilljJ. 1987 Drama Activities fop-Language Learning (Prentice Hall/Macmillan) Klippel, E 1984 Keep Talking CGUP)

Maley, A. and Duff, A. 1980 Drama Techniques in Language Learning (CUP) Maley, A., Duff, A. and Grellet, F. 1980 The Mind's Eye (CUP) Morgan, J. and Rinvolucri,,M. 1983 Once Upon a Time (CUP) Nolasco, R. and Arthur, A. 1987 Conversation (OUP) Porter Ladousse, G. 1987 Role-Play (OUP)

Rixon, S. 1981 How to Use Games inLanguage Teaching (Prentice Hall/Macmillan) Ur, P 1981 Discussions that Work (CUP) Wessels, C. 1987 Drama (OUP)

Wright, A., Betteridge, D. and Buckby, M. 1979 Games for Language learning (CUP)


Byrne, D. 1988 Teaching Writing Skills (Longman) Davis, P. and Rinvolucri, M. 1988 Dictation (CUP) Hadfield,C.andHadneld,J. 1990 Writing Games (Nelson) Hedge, T. 1990 Writing (OUP) White, R. and Arndt, V, 1991 Process Writing (Longman)

Learner development and study skills

Ellis, G. and Sinclair, B. 1989 Learning to Learn English (CUP)

Chapter 6. Presenting and practising language

One of the teacher's main roles is to introduce, or 'present', and practise new language and to revise language that the students have met before. Presentation and practice techniques are particularly useful at lower levels where much of the language that students come across is new. Of course some of this new language will be acquired naturally through exposure to native speaker discourse, but learners also need and want important areas of language to be highlighted by the teacher: to be explored or illustrated in terms of meaning and form (including spelling and pronunciation), and then practised. The relative amount and the type of presentation and practice depends on a number of factors which are explored in the rest of this chapter under the following headings: 1 Structures: grammar and functions, 2 Vocabulary, and 3 Pronunciation.

It is convenient to categorize language under these three headings, but it must be noted that the principles behind the presentation of language items (as opposed to the development of skills as discussed in Chapter 5) apply - whether we are dealing with structures, vocabulary or pronunciation. So there are many areas of commonality and overlap in the approaches and techniques described in these three sections.

1. Structures: grammar and functions

Although it is recognized that people learn languages in different ways, it seems that many people can learn a language more easily if they can perceive regularities or patterns. Many of the patterns that students learn are particular grammatical items: verb forms such as the past simple, modal verbs such as will or could, particular combinations such as the first conditional (for example: If she gets the job she'll move to London). A list of grammatical items which are regularly focused on in language classes can be found in the contents list of any good learner's grammar book such as An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage by Leech (Nelson), Practical English Usage by Swan (OUP) or The Heinemann English Grammar by Beaumont and Granger (Heinemann).

Language can not only be seen in terms of grammatical form; it can also be seen in terms of 'what it does' or its 'function' in communication. Often, one language item can be used to perform more than one function in communication: for example, Can for both requesting - Can you pass the salt? - and expressing ability - Can you swim? And one function can often be performed by using more than one grammatical structure: for example, Let's... What about... ? How about...? all perform the function of suggesting. (There is no definitive list of functions as there is for grammatical structures.)

Many coursebooks aim to have an integrated syllabus - one which combines certain grammatical structures with the functions thought most useful for students at a particular level. So at beginner level the present simple is introduced with the function of describing 'facts': My name's Marta. I'm 18 and I live in Mexico City. I have three brothers. At intermediate level the same verb form can be introduced with a different use-timetabled events in the future: The plane leaves at 10.00 am. We arrive at Orly Airport at noon. From there we go straight to the hotel. Then at advanced level we may want to introduce the use of the present simple to tell stories and anecdotes about past events: So there I am, in the cafe, when up comes Jeff. He picks up my drink and he pours it all over my head.

Some books may be designed with particular groups of people in mind, and introduce structures with functions thought most useful for the students' special needs and situation. For example, books targeted at business people usually focus on the language needed for making introductions, for arranging meetings, for negotiating, and other business-oriented functions.

What aspects of a structure should you consider?

When focusing on a structure, either for the first time or for revision, the following can be considered:

1 The form

* the parts of speech. For example, is it made up of a verb plus a preposition (to put off)}

* whether it is regular or irregular. For example, a regular simple past ends in -ed (listened), irregular verbs have different forms (heard, spoke, read, wrote);

* the spelling;

* the pronunciation. For example, does the structure contain contractions (I'm, haven't, should've)}

* the word order and whether the item follows or is followed by any particular words or structures. For example, does the verb usually have to be followed by a noun (Ibought the car)}

You need also to decide how many aspects of the form you want to focus on at any one time: for example, when presenting a new verb form, you probably wouldn't want to introduce the affirmative, the question forms, the negative, short answers and question tags all in the same lesson!

2. The meaning

The exact meaning(s) you are concentrating on. This is particularly important to consider if a structure can be used to perform more than one function. For example, the past simple tense can be used to talk about the past (Last year I was in China)) to ask a question politely (What was it you wanted?), to report what someone has said (Mary said it was her birthday tomorrow).

3 The use

How and when the language item is appropriately used; in what contexts, by which people, on which occasions? Is the structure widely used in a range of contexts and situations or does it have a more restricted use? For example, compare Would you like to come to the cinema on Saturday? (an invitation) and Would you come with me? (an instruction).

4 Potential problems

* Are there any special difficulties related to the structure's form or meaning? An example of a difficult form is should not have had, as in I shouldn't have had that third piece of cake- with its number of parts' and the double have. There may be difficulties of pronunciation, depending on the first language of your students. Structures which contain problematic sounds such as /э/ or /в/ will need special attention. An example of a difficulty of meaning is needn't have + past participle, especially when confused with didn't need to; or I used to do ... and / was used to doing...

* Can the language structure be confused with any other item in English, or with an item in the students' mother tongue?

How do you decide what approach to take?

Once you have decided what structure to teach, the way you aid the students' understanding and practise the language can depend on a number of factors:

* whether the structure is completely new, is familiar to at least some of the students but has not been focused on before, or has been presented before and is now being revised. Generally, the less familiar the language item the more controlled practice you need;

* whether one or more structures are being presented and whether or not they are being compared;

* the nature of the language: for example, whether it is the meaning and use or the form which is complex. The use of the present perfect is difficult to grasp for many students {I've been here since 3 o'clock - where in many languages it would be/ am here since 3 о 'clock). On die other hand, it is the complexity of the form rather than the meaning of the third conditional, with its many 'parts', which generally causes difficulty {If my alarm clock hadn't been broken I wouldn't have been late for the lecture);

* whether the structure is more likely to be written or spoken. Some structures are mainly found in the written form and do not lend themselves to spoken practice activities - for example, this sentence from a forma/ /etter: /enclose (the invoice I brochure I estimate). On the other hand, the students need practice in saying such utterances as It's a great (party (day (show), isn't it?

* the students:

- their level;

- their age;

- whether you can or want to use their mother tongue for explanation;

they already 'know' the language item, etc;

- their language-learning background and expectations of how language is presented - whether, for example, they expect a 'traditional' teacher-centred approach;

- their preferred language-learning style - for example, some students like to study grammar in an overt way while others (particularly children) are not interested in talking about the language and using such labels as gerund or demonstrative adjective.

What approaches can be used to present or revise language structures?

There are a number of different approaches. The factors mentioned in the previous section will help you decide what kind of approach to take - different ways may be suitable, depending on the students and the language being dealt with. One of the ways in which the approaches differ is in the amount and type of practice activities used: for certain language items and with certain students much more controlled practice is required, whereas on other occasions the practice can be freer. It's also important to remember that a variety of approach is interesting and motivating for students - so it's a good idea to try to vary the ways you present and practise language.

Visual/oral contexts

Pictures, mime and realia can be used to illustrate the meaning and to establish a context in which the target structure is set. Often the context is built up orally by the teacher with the help of visual aids and elicitation from the students.


To present:

Structure: past simple - some irregular verbs: went, had, fell, broke, took, was/were

Function/use: telling a story/anecdote (about a skiing accident)

Visual aids: a postcard of a ski resort and a series of hand-drawn pictures

showing 'me', the teacher (/ went skiing /I fell/I broke my leg/They took me to hospital/1 was in hospital for Christmas) and the scar on the teacher's leg!

The teacher can introduce the topic by showing the postcard and asking if any of the students know the resort, etc, and by establishing that this happened in the past -last year, just before Christmas.

By showing the pictures and by mime the teacher elicits any words the students know, tells the story and introduces the target language (ie the past simple of irregular verbs). After the context has been established the verbs are highlighted and practised. (For a further example of this type of lesson, see What are the possible stages in a lesson using the inductive approach? on pi 36.)

When is it useful to present language through a visual/oral context?

The introduction of structures in this way is often used:

* if the students are at a low level and the teacher wants to keep extraneous language to a minimum;

* if the students are young and would not be so interested in an overt focus on the grammar rules of the language item;

* if the meaning and use of the language is complex and so a clear, simple, but generative context is needed: you can create a context which provides a number of examples of the target language, which allows students to have plenty of controlled practice;

* if a single language item is being introduced;

* if you want to create a context that the students can relate to: if the situation is personalized in some way it will be more interesting and memorable to the students;


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