Showing posts with label teachingtip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teachingtip. Show all posts

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pairwork Activities - If Students Aren´t Sharing, They are Not Pairing

What is a “pair”? The American Heritage dictionary begins its definition of this word by calling it “Two corresponding persons or items similar in form or function”. 

_1030187 15/12: Ceci & MarianoFor the purpose of language teaching or any other kind of teaching, for that matter, the “corresponding” aspect is of the greatest pertinence. A moment comes in a great many lesson plans when the teacher thinks, for example, “OK, we’ve gotten through inductively figuring out how the present perfect is different from the past tense. Check. We’ve engaged in a spate of mental gymnastics filling in blanks in a series of PPT sentences. Aha! Used a technological resource. Check. Looked at lines of prose and eliciting individually in a crisscross pattern among students sitting in a U-shape that facilitates eye contact and intelligible oral exchanges…. decided which sentences contain the present perfect tense and why that tense was used in those situations. Check. Now it must be time for pairwork. Right. So the students are given the assignment to work in pairs on exercise B on page 46 of their textbook. Right timing; ineffective strategy. If the students are naturally gregarious, they will do the exercise collaboratively, or at least verify whether their responses match. But, was there anything about the exercise which necessitated a joint exchange, mutual input, utterance and response? If the answer is “no”, then you don’t have pairwork; you have two individuals sitting side by side engaged in a similar task which can be carried out without the “correspondence” of two people who depend on each other’s contributions to achieve a requested result. 

The following are a few examples of textbook-type set-ups that result in genuine pairwork.
Two students have cue cards which indicate the direction a question & answer exchange might take:  Policeman vs person suspected of automobile theft.   
              P:    for the past three hours
              T:    shopping mall
              P:    own the car you are driving
             T:    two years                                     

Students receive A & B dialog cards to practice role-play situations which include the structure or vocabulary in focus and which can be sequentially shared whole-class; these varied dialogs can also be rotated from pair to pair in closely timed progression.

Two students exchange comments on the ways in which a city has changed in the past few years, the ways in which parental rules have been modified, the changes that have taken place in common domestic technology.
Students pair up to ask and answer questions which will result in the creation of an ID profile card which can then be shared with the rest of the group. Ex: Where have you lived, worked, studied, traveled – etc – in the last two years?

 Variations of these possibilities are as infinite as our general inclination to communicate, and can be found by way of multiple resources, including – most probably – the textbooks you are currently using. But awareness is key in your inclusion of pairwork in your lesson plan:  as regards your students, if they’re not sharing, they’re not pairing. 

Katy Cox

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Song Activities for the EFL Classroom

Music is undeniably a great and effective tool for language learning. We can use songs to encourage language awareness in many different levels, from semantic aspects to grammar structures. It can also lighten up our classes and motivate our students to practice English in fun ways.

Our CTJ teachers Jorge Alexandre and Cleide Frazão presented a while ago in one of our seminars about different ways to use songs in the classroom. The presentation became a project and now teachers can retrieve ready-to-use musical resources in their classes with just one click!

Check the wonderful activities and artifacts that Cleide is constantly creating and sharing with our Educational Community.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Practical Ways of Developing Fluency

What do you do when a student asks:

“How do I improve my fluency?”

I attended the 2nd Alumni, CTJ, & IBEU TEFL Conference last week.  One of the speakers, Michael McCarthy, talked about how fluency is one of these terms where everyone knows what it means, but have difficulty in defining it:  Think about readiness.  Think about spontaneity.  Does the speaker have their independent ideas about the subject at hand? Fluency means “not causing strain to either the person listening nor feeling strain while speaking”.

Ok, so what does that look like? Here are some terms you need to know:
  • Speed of delivery--how many words per hour does your student speak? Casual conversation is 10,000 words per hour!  Your student doesn’t have to speak that fast when it comes to giving speeches, however.
  • Pauses--your student should not pause for longer than half a second!  A big “NO NO” is pausing when it is your turn to speak or in the middle of fixed phrases such as “You know what I mean?”  You don’t want to say “You-- know-- what-- I mean.”
  • Dysfluency--getting lost in your thoughts.  You say, “What was I talking about?”
  • Automaticity--that knee-jerk reaction when it comes to having response to fire off right away.
  • Confluence--the ability to carry out a conversation in a way where you create opportunities for your listener to understand when your turn is almost over so that they are ready to start their turn--and they provide you with that same courtesy!

Let’s go back to the original question: “How do I improve my fluency?”

Here are some of my ideas:

  • Have your student find a reading passage that they really respect or enjoy and have them read the passage.  It should be a fairly decent length so that it can’t be done in two minutes.  Have them read the passage aloud for two minutes and mark where they stop. The following week, have them read aloud again for two minutes and mark it again.  How many words did they improve?
  • Have your students keep up with current events.  A great conversationalist knows what’s going on in pop culture, sports, science, politics, and art.  Have them reflect on what they read and talk about it.  Have them share their opinions with the class. Moderate a short debate!
  • Provide them some fixed phrases, 3 word chunks, and other fillers.  Ask them to insert these a few times during class discussions.  They can be things that open phrases such as “Well, basically...” and other words that will create the end of the turn such as “.. you know what I mean?”.  They have to use them quickly (speed of delivery) and automatically!
  • Also, teach them how to stall for time such as saying “The whatcha-ma-callit?” or “thinga-ma-bob” and other phrases that native speakers heavily use when they are trying to claw their way through a conversation.  Give them works such as YEAH, OH, RIGHT, WELL, and BASICALLY and teach them how to combine them in to “Oh, right” or “Yeah, that’s right” or “Well, yeah” or “Well, basically”. Use these to avoid pauses and stall for time to think! Other great words are “actually...” and “I mean...” when used to elaborate further on what you’ve already said.
  • Great speakers don’t think about what they’re going to say next while their partner is speaking. Instead, they listen to what is being said and react to some part of that.  Model how to do this for them and have them practice.  Give them useful phrases such as "I hate to disagree, but..." and "I see what you mean..." The better they are at creating flow, the more fluent they will become.

    What are your ideas? Post them in the comments!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Going Mobile


Nowadays, it's much easier to find interesting ideas online that can cause a great impact on our teaching practice. One of these days, I came across a blog called Mapping Media to the Curriculum which starts with a very simple question: what do you want to create today? The author talks about different apps that students can use to produce digital content. I explored some of the ideas and decided to experiment with Mobile Learning (mLearning). Learning a language has to be a dynamic and automonous process.  However, I had some questions on the back of my mind:

Does Mlearning add value to my lessons?
What are the benefits?
Can I use it with all group levels effectively?
Do I have to work harder?

I got together with  Jose Antonio and we presented a workshop called - One Ipad-Only Class - to tell our peers about our experiences, tips and ideas regarding mlearning. Here you can read about what we said.

We talked about the main characteristics of each age group, and we showed activities that are easy to carry out to maximize learning that respect the aforementioned general traits.

We started talking about adult learners. What are the main characteristics? What should a task designer have in mind when planning a task?

The adult learner


  • Long attention span.
  • Ability to deal with tasks that are not intrinsically motivating.
  • To maximize learning plan tasks that appeal to multiple senses and lower affective filters.

We then suggested some  activities that we used with our groups. It's important to mention that all the APPS used worked offline and are free. Click on the links below for details.
Order of adjectives
Subordinating conjunctions

The teenage learner

  • Child- like playfulness
  • Adult-like ability to hypothesize and think critically
  • Facts surrounding ego, self -esteem and  self- image are at pinnacle.
  • Teachers should affirm talents and strengths and encourage collaboration
Suggested activities

The young learner

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

  • Concrete operation
  • Centeredness in functional purposes of the language
  • Can understand patterns and examples

Suggested activities

José Antonio and I counted with the contribution of Denise De Felice, who added a prespective on how the brain works and how/why the proposed activities might be effective to boost learning.

When I reflect upon my experience, I come to the conclusion that Mlearning can be very powerful if we hold truth to our teaching principles, respect our students and find the correct practices that mirror our beliefs. I have gone mobile. Have you?