The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 6

This is Varinder Unlu’s account of her 6th Day using the coursebook.

Click here if you need a refresher on what’s happened till now.

Meanwhile, let me hand you over to Varinder

Varinder's boardwork for today

30th April 2012

 

Today’s lesson objectives:

To recap use of “wish”

To differentiate between formal and informal language

Making formal phone calls

To improve listening and pronunciation

Pages 86 and 87 from Global Intermediate

We spent about the first ten minutes of the lesson talking about what the students had done over the weekend. The following language emerged: festival, farewell party, other than, raining cats and dogs, postcards.

I then went through what we were going to be doing in today’s lesson.

  1.     I gave students an activity taken from resource sections at the back of  English File Intermediate on wishes.  There are a 12 sentences with the same number of blank circles below them.  Students (A and B) have to choose 7 of the sentences they want to talk about and write something in the correlating circle below.  All sentences are about wishes.  I gave students five minutes to write down their answers before working with a partner to ask them about what and why they have answered the way they did.
  2.    Once students had completed their circles I matched up student A and B together (they had different sentences) and students asked their partner about their answers.  This activity seemed to go down very well with the learners and they asked for clarification on language as I went round and monitored.  I allowed the activity go on as the students were clearly enjoying what they were doing and using a lot of excellent language to speak to each other about their wishes. 
  3.     I conducted some feedback after the activity not by going through each wish of each student but asking students to tell me one interesting wish they had found out about their partner. Language emerging from this activity: on/to the moon, patience, mint, earth and of course the target structure with wish: I wish I didn’t have to swim, I wish I could go swimming, I wish I had more patience are just a few examples of the kind of things the learners were expressing.  I corrected where necessary.
  4.      We then moved onto the first activity in the book on page 86.  There are two pictures: on of a call centre and another in a doctor’s surgery.  Students worked in pairs to discuss where they would like to work if they had a choice.  Most of the class preferred picture B (Doctor’s surgery).  One pair of students said neither because both looked boring.
  5.      We then move onto exercise 2 and again students worked in pairs to discuss the questions about mobile phones.  The conversation centred round mobile phones and how much we use them.  Two of the students work for mobile phone providers in Brazil and so had quite a lot to say about this.  We talked a little about what it life was like before mobile phones and that many people in the class probably didn’t know a life without them. Language emerging from this: stock exchange, competitors, behind the scenes, backstage, landline, handsets, emergencies, in the past.
  6.      I now asked the students to look at the sentences in the Listening activity and gave them some time to have a look at them.  I then explained that they would be listening to three conversations and one of them doesn’t match the pictures at the top of the page.  I played the listening and students checked their answers in pairs before I asked for class feedback.  They got the right answer but there were a few comments about the listening and that they couldn’t hear some of the things that were being said.  The students found the third listening funny as they had all been in that situation and we discussed how they felt about this kind of phone call.  Language emerging from this part: automated response
  7.      Next the students had to say whether the sentences were true or false.  I played the listening again and students checked in pairs before class feedback.
  8.      The final activity before the break was the Language focus activity where students had to say if the sentence was said by the caller or the person who answered the call.  They did this in pairs before we had feedback for the answers.
  9.      After the break we focused back on the sentences in the Language focus activity and looked at stress and intonation in the sentence.  I played the listening again and students had to decide which one sounded the most polite and which the most formal. 
  10.     I then gave students a hand out with formal – informal language for making phone calls (idea taken from our Executive centre’s handbook).  It also had the NATO phonetic alphabet (ie a for alpha, b for bravo etc).  I thought the students might find this useful especially if they ever had to spell things out over the telephone – I know I always have to spell my name to people when speaking on the phone because it’s not Susan!!
  11.    The students were then put in pairs and I gave them their role-paly instructions on pieces of card (taken from page 86 of Global).  I asked the students to work together with one person playing the receptionist and the other the patient.  I did the dental surgery role play only because I thought it would have been too much for the students to do both suggested of in the book.  I may come back to the second one later in the week to reconsolidate the language of phone calls.  I monitored and helped during this stage.
  12.    During the feedback stage students listened to each pair and commented on how polite and formal they sounded.  We also focused on some error correction during this part.
  13.    We then looked at formal and informal language in social English and what is acceptable or not when meeting and speaking to someone they have met for the first time.  Language emerging from this stage:  small talk, text speak, how do you do, can I introduce you to…/I’d like you to meet.., pleased to meet you.
  14.    Students were interested in small talk and I explained what this was and the difference between text speak and small talk.  We went through a few examples of text speak: c u l8tr, btw, omg, lol etc which amused them.
  15.    I gave the students the reading on page 87 for homework.

 

An interesting lesson which can be adapted and extended.

 

The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 5

This is Varinder Unlu’s account of her 5th Day using the coursebook.

Click here if you need a refresher on what’s happened till now.

Meanwhile, let me hand you over to Varinder

It’s Friday – can’t believe how quickly this week has gone.

Today’s lesson objectives were as follows:

To learn/revise structures with wish                   

To understand different types of humour and practise telling jokes

To practise speaking

To revise defining and non-defining relative clauses

To conduct tutorials with students

Global pages 84 and 85

 

At IH London students change classes every four weeks and this happens on the recommendation of the teacher after a tutorial with individual learners in week three.  Today during the final hour of the lesson I set the students a revision activity – relative clauses and conducted their tutorials in which we discussed if they will be moving up to the next level or staying in the same level.  I also discussed their progress with them and asked them what progress they thought they had made over the past three weeks.

The lesson started fairly slowly and I had three students absent today.

We very briefly discussed how the students were feeling and what plans they had for the weekend. Next I did what I always do at the start of every class and put the lesson objectives up on the board and put up a vocabulary column.

  1. I asked students to turn to page 84 of Global and told them to look at the pictures which tell a joke.  Students worked in pairs to put the pictures in order and figure out what the joke was.  One of the Brazilian students got the joke after re-arranging the pictures and started laughing.  The Asian students were a little perplexed at his reactions and couldn’t understand why he was laughing so much – more on this at the end of this post. I then told them that there was one extra picture and asked them which one they thought it was.
  2. I then played the joke so that the students could listen and check if they were right or wrong.  They had managed to get the pictures in order.  The Brazilian and Italian students said that they had something similar in their languages and were familiar with this.  The Asian students had not come across anything like this joke before.  We discussed the fact that humour is usually very specific to different cultures and that what one person finds funny may not be something that they may find funny.
  3. Next I focused the learners attention on the “extend your vocabulary box” – and asked them to read the other ways of saying funny. We clarified any issues with the language – students asked if they could use witty for things and when to use humorous.   From this we looked at the expression: sense of humour, clown, clowning around.  I asked the students to work in small groups and think of the following: a witty person they know, a hilarious actor or actress, a humorous story about something they said or did when they were a child, an amusing advertisement on television.  (This is from the book).
  4. During feedback we only talked about the first one and students were keen to talk about someone they knew who was funny/witty.  (I didn’t want to rush them onto the next one as they had quite a lot to say about this one thing and from monitoring during their group work I had heard them talking about the other things anyway).
  5. We then looked at the sentences from the first activity – the joke.  I elicited and boarded the sentences and asked the students to look at the grammar explanation on the use of wish. 
  6. The next activity in the book asks the students to look at the pictures at the bottom of the page and write two captions for each one using I wish + a caption from the box.   In between the pictures and the caption box there is exercise 3 which asks the students to complete the poem using the beginnings of the sentences.  The ordering of these activities is really confusing for the learners and I think that perhaps the pictures should be straight after the caption box.   I noticed as I was monitoring that each student had started to complete the poem trying to use the captions and the pictures.  I had to stop them and ask them not to complete the poem.
  7. Once students had completed the sentences, we wrote a few of them on the board and I went through any questions they still had about the uses of wish.
  8. Now we looked at the exercise 3 and I asked the class to complete the sentences for themselves – I didn’t ask them to do it as a poem as I thought it seemed a little random to start writing a poem at this stage.  Normally I would lead into a poem exercise with more preparation so that students have a model to work from but here it felt out of place and asking students to just complete the sentences was a better idea.
  9. We had a lot of laughter during the feedback after this activity – students had written some funny sentences about themselves and one of the Brazilian students said that he wished he hadn’t got married and started on the subject of how difficult it is to live with women and then went on to tell the class why and this lead to the female students “fighting back” saying how difficult it is to live with men.  I let this happen as they were clearly enjoying the banter and there was quite a bit of language emerging.
  10. I left the pronunciation activity out and went onto the matching up of the jokes in the speaking activity.  We checked the answers and then I asked students (for homework) to think about a joke from their country and write it down.
  11. After the break I set the class the exercise on relative clauses and while they were completing this, I conducted their tutorials.

This was an interesting lesson because although it worked and the class were clearly engaged and enjoying it, I would do it very differently next time.  I would lead into it with something else and then look at the pictures – there seems to be something missing at the beginning.  I would also change the ordering of the Grammar activities on page 85 because of all the confusion about which activity students were meant to be doing – the pictures should come straight after the phrases in the box.  When I ask students to work on a poem (and poetry is something I’m a big fan of in class), I usually build up to it differently – with some kind of example and work on a real poem.  Here what would have fitted in really well is something like this:

Wishes

by Rose Fyleman

I wish I liked rice pudding,
I wish I were a twin,
I wish some day a real live fairy
Would just come walking in.

I wish when I’m at table
My feet would touch the floor,
I wish our pipes would burst next winter,
Just like they did next door.

I wish that I could whistle
Real proper grown-up tunes
I wish they’d let me sweep the chimneys
On rainy afternoons.

I’ve got such heaps of wishes,
I’ve only said a few;
I wish that I could wake some morning
And find they’d all come true!

Students can see what they being asked to do and it gives them the confidence to be more creative.

We also talked about “I wish I were” and “I wish I was” – something which I think is important to highlight to student is that they will hear both forms being used and that “I wish I was” is becoming more and more  common.

This was a lesson that I wish I had prepared better as I think there’s a lot more that could have been done with the subject.  However I’ve been teaching, blogging and fulfilling my DOS duties throughout the week and by this morning I was feeling quite tired and my energy levels were low. (Don’t want to sound as if I’m trying to make excuses for not preparing properly!!). I didn’t project my tiredness on to my students though and I had one observer say how lovely the class and the students were.  This was a nice Friday lesson.

My first week of teaching from Global has been a positive one, especially because I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to top Chia’s lessons.  I have created a great rapport with my learners, I know them as individuals and see what they like and don’t like.  I can tap into that information throughout the lessons and use it to help them individually.  We have had some great laughs in lessons and we’ve also learned lot (including me!!).  I have tried to integrate learner training in as naturally as possible by giving students tips about how to become better readers, what to do to improve their listening skills, what exams expect of them etc.

Something that Chia said after her observation of me was that I have a great rapport with my class and I’m enthusiastic about teaching – this is true because I love teaching but I believe that this is not enough.  Of course, as we all know it is conducive to the learning in class if there is a relaxed, friendly atmosphere created.  Getting to know your learners as individuals is more important and making them feel that they can be free to make mistakes and experiment with the language is important.  Gaining their trust in you as a teacher is vital whether you’re teaching a Dogme class or from a course book.

Am I preaching now?  Typical teacher!

The Teach-Off – My reaction to coursebooks & Uncount Nouns

The following was originally my response to Varinder’s account of Coursebook Day 4 of the Teach-Off.

I had observed the second half of the class where Varinder was focusing on Countable and Uncountable nouns from the coursebook Global Intermediate, and was very honoured to be privy to the wonderful rapport she had with the students and the enthusiasm with which she taught the class.

After the lesson, Varinder and I had a discussion regarding the relevance of that particular grammar point and the way it was dealt with in the coursebook. Varinder mentions this discussion in her post, and this was my response.

As the response grew longer, and I grew more passionate about what I had to say,

I decided that perhaps this deserves a blogpost of its own after all.

Here is my response:

How on earth can money be uncountable???

First of all, let me first clarify a couple of things.

The issue at hand has nothing to do with being a Dogmetician or any teaching methodology for that matter.
It is about attitudes and views on grammar, on how languages are learnt (SLA), and on what is learnable and what is useful/relevant for the learners.

Taking the Dogmetician hat off and putting on my Grammar-fanatic linguist hat…

Over time, as we move from grammar translation through into the communicative approach, there has been more and more focus on communicative competence and the communication skills that enable such competence.

Meanwhile, on the SLA front, research started to show that presenting lists of discrete items of language in a linear fashion simply does not coincide with how the brain learns languages.

Language learning is emergent, feedback sensitive and non-linear (see e.g. Michael Long, Vygotsky, Krashen, etc.)

Moreover, spending an hour on generalised rules about countable and uncountable nouns when there are just so many exceptions to the rule might not be the best use of classroom time. As you said in class, ‘A lot of it can be used in both.’

In fact, many coursebook writers are now trying to get away from labelling them countable and uncountable nouns as the labels are a misnomer in themselves.
Some writers now use the terms ‘count’ and ‘mass’, while others choose to use ‘count’ and ‘uncount’ nouns, preferring to deal with how the noun in question is referring to an idea of an abstract mass, or an individual single entity.

Moreover, the design of the task in the coursebook had students filling in the gaps as follows:

Fill in the gaps with ‘countable’, ‘uncountable’, or ‘countable and uncountable’.

1. ________ can have the plural form.
2. ________ cannot go with ‘a’ or ‘an’.
3. ________ can go with ‘the’.
4. ________ can go with ‘some’ and ‘any’.


Now, I don’t have that much of an issue with numbers 1 or 2. They are fairly straightforward rules (aside from the fact that we can all think of many exceptions of nouns that are always in the plural but not necessarily countable e.g. ‘news’, ‘studies’).

But my gripe is with questions 3 and 4, to which the answers are ‘countable and uncountable’.

By making students fill in those gaps, the task is misleading the students into thinking that either ‘countable’ or ‘uncountable’ can go into the gap.
Although the answer at the end is ‘both’, by flagging this up, the students is made to sit up and take note of how ‘some’ and ‘any’ is used with countable and uncountable nouns.

Now, memory works in strange ways.
It is known that students will not remember all that is in the grammar exercise.
But what they will remember is that there was some issue with ‘some’ or ‘any’ used with countable or uncountable nouns.
This creates doubt in their minds when they are choosing to use nouns with ‘some’ or ‘any’.
Voila, we’ve created a problem where there wasn’t one before!

Now, we could argue that some students might have a problem with ‘some’ and ‘any’ before the exercise, and therefore the exercise serves to clarify the issue for those students.

Sure, but if these are only a portion of students, why not wait for the problem to arise in conversation, and then through the use of correction and scaffolding, the teacher can bring attention to this, solving it quickly, in context? This makes it more relevant and definitely more memorable to the student.

.
Taking the grammar-fanatic hat off, and putting my sociolinguist hat on…
ELF (English as a lingua franca) is not a methodology or approach. ELF is a global phenomenon that is happening all around us, a phenomenon that changes the reasons and the purpose for learning English. This is turn affects what and how we teach.

Apart from the very important fact that the misuse of countable and uncountable nouns is not going to alter meaning drastically in most cases, their use have also taken on special meaning with ELF research into NNS-NNS (non-native speaker to non-native speaker) communication.

Here’s an example:
The material in Global today said,
We don’t use ‘the’ with abstract nouns when we’re talking in general.
e.g. Love is important.
NOT The love is important.

But in extensive analysis of ELF use, it has been found that expert speakers of English as a lingua franca are using the articles ‘the’ with abstract nouns in order to give it emphasis.
e.g. The love is important; The life is good in Italy.

Whichever hat I choose to put on, at the end of the day, my point is this:
Using countable and uncountable nouns wrongly is not going to affect the meaning of what the speaker is saying. At an intermediate level of English (which these learners are at), there are lots of other skills and language (lexico-grammar) that would make a huge difference to their communicative abilities and their communicative competence.
This grammar area is certainly not one of them.

And if learners think they want it because that’s what their past learning experiences have taught them, then I think it is time to have an informed discussion with our learners with regards to how language are learnt, and the relevance of what they are learning.

Perhaps therein lies my issue with course books.

The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 4

This is Varinder Unlu’s account of her 4th Day using the coursebook.

Click here if you need a refresher on what’s happened till now.

Meanwhile, let me hand you over to Varinder

 

 

 

26th April 2012

Today we had four observers visit us during the class.

Objectives:

To revise countable/uncountable nouns

To increase knowledge of abstract nouns

To practise reading

To practise speaking

Pages 82, 83 and 144 from Global Int

A few students were late coming to class as there were problems with the underground.  We talked briefly about the weather and transport system with the students that were there on time.

The lesson today was around a reading about motivation and what motivates people.  It was also introducing/revising countable and uncountable nouns.  On first look at the two pages, it doesn’t look as if there is enough to last a three hour lesson and I think if it were an inexperienced teacher sticking to the book, without exploiting the materials to the full, they would probably get through it in about an hour.

I, however, did it in a three hour lesson with my class:

  1. For the lead-in I took the idea given in the teacher’s book: ________ is/are the most important thing(s) in the world.  I had this sentence on strips of paper to give to each student to fill the gap in however they wanted.
  2. In small groups the class compared what they had written down on their bits of paper and explained why they had done so.  This was followed by very brief class feedback.
  3. I then asked students to open their books to page 82 and focused their attention on Exercise 1 in the Vocabulary section.  Students filled in the missing letters to complete the words (abstract nouns).  They checked their answers in pairs before I played the listening for them to check their answers.  I then asked two students to come to the board and write the words.  We checked for spelling mistakes. (There was one – Wellthy).
  4. Students then read the Language note in the grey box about abstract nouns and completed the 5 sentences below it so that they were true for them.  In groups I asked them to discuss their answers and ask questions about why they had written what they had.   We conducted a brief class feedback.
  5. I put “Meeting our demands” on the whiteboard” and explained to the class that they were going to read a text with this title and asked them to predict what it might be about.  One student volunteered something about supply and demand (which we did in yesterday’s lesson).  Another student said something along the same lines.  I told the students that they had three minutes to read the text and answer the following question:  “What is the author’s intention in the text?”  (I didn’t focus their attention on the 3 options given in the book because I wanted them to figure out the answer without the options).   Students read the text, some took a bit longer as they were trying to understand every word.  I stopped class after about three minutes and asked them for the answer to the questions.  They were all able to tell me what the text was about but could not tell me what the author’s intention was.  I eventually managed to elicit the answer from them.  I felt that I needed to speak to the class about the importance of reading new text all the way through for the first time without worrying about the unknown words.  I explained that it was good to get into the habit of not getting stuck on every word and taking their dictionary out to check meaning and that this way of reading was particularly important in exam situations.  (During this stage I also found out that one of the students is a psychologist and was very familiar with the theory being described in the text).
  6. Next I asked the class to look at the words in the grey box and in pairs explain any words they knew to their partner.   Students read the text in more detail and completed the pyramid with the words from the box.  One of the Japanese students was very interested in what people had put in the top part of the pyramid and really wanted to discuss this in detail.
  7. When I grouped the students for the next activity, I made sure that the Japanese student mentioned above was in the same group as the psychologist so that he could ask questions.  This worked really well during the discussion activity when the students talked about the theory and whether they thought it was a good explanation of human motivation.  He was able to ask questions about the theory and the psychologist was able to explain it to him.
  8. We discussed their answers as a class and it was apparent from what they said that there were differences in their views about this theory.  The Asian students felt that for them the top part of pyramid was not as important as the bottom part and the European/Brazilian students thought the opposite.  We got on the topic of respect and the Asian students said that this was not something that motivated them as they were taught this from young age and the rest of the class felt that respect was very important as you had to earn it – be worthy of respect came out of this discussion.  The psychologist then told us that this theory was based on studies done with Western society and based very much on Western culture – which explained a lot about why there were differences.  During the discussion stage I had noted down student errors and we did some error correction.
  9. After the break we looked at page 83 – grammar section.  I wrote up all the words in white in the text on the board and asked the students to work with their partner to decide which was countable or uncountable.  As they were discussing their answers I realised that there were quite a few disagreements.  These were clarified during feedback and I asked the students to read the grammar explanation.  They then completed the sentences.  We checked the answers which raised more questions.
  10. I asked the students to complete the exercise on page 144 for homework.
  11. We moved onto the final activity of this lesson which was speaking – I asked the students what motivates them.  Then asked them what demotivates them.  After this I asked them to think about one time when they felt very motivated and to look at the questions in the speaking activity and make notes of their answers.
  12. In groups students discussed their stories and asked each other questions.  I conducted a brief class feedback.
  13. To wrap up the class I went through the lexis that had come out of discussions and checked if students remembered meaning and pronunciation.
  14. Finally we checked what we had done in today’s lesson.

The topic of this lesson was of interest to the students and they had their views on the theory which generated discussion.   At the end of this lesson, I heard one of the students say how good the lesson was.

As for the countable / uncountable noun tasks – these went down very well with the learners – they asked lots of questions to clarify.  My Dogmetician friends will obviously have strong opinions about why grammar, especially countables /uncountables should not be taught in this way.  It worked, the students were engaged, learning and asking questions and surely that’s more important than what we think we should be doing according to Dogme, ELF or any other approach/method.  This lesson and my discussion with Chia after the lesson left me thinking one question: What do the learners want?

We as teachers, trainers, writers, educational specialists and academics talk about what is the right and wrong way of doing things all the time.  We have conferences/events/seminars/workshops  where we have people who have done tremendous amounts of research into something telling us that this or that is what we should be doing or that we have been doing things all wrong.  If the learner is happy and learning is taking place, does it matter?

I’m tired and rambling now so I shall stop here!

The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 2

This is Varinder Unlu’s account of her 2nd Day using the coursebook.

Click here if you need a refresher on what’s happened till now.

Meanwhile, let me hand you over to Varinder…

24th April 2012

These were my objectives for today’s lesson:

  • To introduce/revise language to describe objects
  • To introduce/revise defining / non defining relative clauses
  • To improve when writing a description  of an object
  • To improve students’ reading skills – gist and intensive
  • To improve students’ speaking skills when describing things

The class profile has changed slightly since last week.   We now have:  5 Japanese, 2 Brazilians, 2 Koreans, 1 Italian and 1 Iranian.  There are four women and seven men.  I noticed in yesterday’s lesson that one of the learners has a problem with his vision and this became more apparent in today’s lesson as he takes twice as long as the other students to read a text or when writing something.  He has to hold the page really close to his face when he reads and is almost touching the desk with his nose when he’s writing.  I’m going to photocopy some of the pages from the book onto A3 paper from tomorrow to make it easier for him to read.

I had planned a lesson around pages 78, 79, 144 and 145 of Global.  The two activities I left out from the book were Vocabulary and Speaking on page 79 as I felt that there was quite a lot to cover in the lesson and I would not have time to get to these.

When I entered the classroom today there was a much more relaxed atmosphere and I felt confident that I had a good lesson for the learners.  We talked a for a few minutes about what the students had done the previous evening and once most of the students has arrived I boarded my lesson aims so that they could see what was going to be covered.

  1. I started the lesson by using an activity from Reward Resource Pack Intermediate – How many uses can you think of?  Each student was given a card with an object written on it: an old toothbrush, a teaspoon, an old newspaper, a lipstick, a saucepan etc. I asked the students to write down as many uses for their object they could think of and emphasised that they could be as silly as they wanted to be with their answers.  Feedback generated laughter as students gave their answers because they had some funny ideas.
  2. Next I asked if anyone knew what an auction was. One student gave some examples: e-bay, Christies, Sotheby’s and another student tried to explain it by saying “you bid for things”. Looking at the students’ faces I could see that some had still not quite understood what it was so I gave another example and they all started nodding.
  3. I asked the students to think of an item then would like to sell and gave them a piece of card to write a description of it.  As I went round monitoring I could see that the descriptions were quite minimal and as each student finished their description,  I asked them to open their book to page 78 and focused their attention on the “Useful phrases” .  I suggested that they look at the description of their item and add some of the phrases to it so that it was a bit more detailed.   They all really appreciated having the phrases to refer to and before long we had some very detailed descriptions.
  4. Students were put into two groups and they had to read out what they had written and try and sell their item to the rest of the group and try to get as much money as possible from their “sale”.  Everyone managed to sell their items.  The highest bidders explained why they bought the item.
  5. I wrote: “A good swap” and “Trash or treasure” on the board explained to students that they were going to read a text each.  I elicited what they thought the texts were going to be about.  “Changing things” was one reply.  I set up the jigsaw reading and explained that they needed to complete the table in exercise 2.  After the reading I asked the students to tell their partner about their text from their notes.
  6. While students were talking I put the following questions up on the board: What do you think of the two systems?  What disadvantages can you think of?  We discussed these questions as a class.  The following lexis came from this part: can be misleading, antiques, unfair.  We also got on the subject of buying second hand and ex-display goods. Students were quite vocal about why they would/wouldn’t buy these.
  7. After the break we looked at the grammar section – students read the explanation for defining and non-defining relative clauses and completed the gaps in the texts below on page 78.  A check with their partner and class feedback generated quite a few questions about the grammar so I asked the students to turn to page 144 and students read a more in-depth explanation.   Once they had finished reading I asked students to tell me the differences between the two types of clauses and how you can see when it is non-defining relative clause. They explained fairly accurately and I asked them to do Exercise 1 & 2 on page 145 for homework for consolidation.
  8. As a final activity I too another activity from Reward Resource Pack Intermediate – Holiday crossword.  In two groups students had to write clues for their words using defining relative clauses.  Then I asked the two groups to sit in two rows facing each other. I elicited how they would ask for the clues to complete their crossword: What’s ___ down/across? Students spent 15 minutes asking and answering their questions.  I did notice that once they had read out their description they would use another way of explaining if their partner had not understood.
  9. At 12.05 (lesson ends at 12.00) we had a quick recap of the lexis that had emerged in today’s lesson – pronunciation and meaning and asked students to tick off the aims, put on board at start of lesson,  they thought we had achieved in this lesson.  They ticked them all.

I think that I can safely say that this was a course book led lesson with little adaptation and supplementation in which the students were able to express themselves freely whenever they wanted to.  We had a vocabulary column on the board with about 15 new items of lexis which had emerged from their speaking activities.

The Teach-Off – Introducing the Coursebook Round

It’s round two of the Dogme-versus-Coursebook Teach-Off, and today, my General English DOS, Varinder, starts teaching the same group I had for the last two weeks using the coursebook Global.

Varinder kindly volunteered to tell us a little bit about herself before embarking on posts about her coursebook-based lessons.

So, here’s introducing Varinder Unlu:

Hello

Thought I had better introduce myself to everyone.  I work at IH London and I am the one who very foolishly challenged Chia to a Dogme v coursebook teach-off.    Just a little background information about me:

I’ve been in the world of EFL for about 20 years and started teaching in Turkey.  After five years of teaching there, I returned to the UK and began working in a private language school in Greenwich where I spent twelve years, eight of which were as a DOS and Trinity teacher trainer.  I’d always had an interest in ESOL and wondered how it was different to EFL teaching and so in 2009 I thought I’d try my hand at ESOL and got a job at Greenwich Community College.  It was a really developmental time for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it every minute of it.   I learned that, yes, ESOL teaching is different in many ways but there are also many similarities to EFL.  Just as I was settling into the world of public sector teaching and environment, the private sector enticed me back with the role of DOS at IH – an opportunity that could not be overlooked and I’ve now been working here for just over eighteen months.  It’s an amazing place to work and I’m surrounded by so many talented and creative people with a real passion for teaching and developing. Oh, and I’m also an examiner for Cambridge ESOL, ESB and an inspector.

Dogme is something that raised my interest as an approach because I’ve never really followed one method or approach in my teaching.   I’m curious as to why some people feel so strongly about using it exclusively in their teaching.  So I hope some of the following questions will be answered for me:

Is it the best way to teach?

Does it work better than course books and materials for teachers? What about newly qualified teachers?

What do students think?  Do they/can they see the difference?

Are the learning outcomes increased by using this approach?

Is it good to use just one method/approach  in teaching?

Does it matter which approach you use?

Of course there are many more questions in my mind and there are many factors involved in why the results/answers will be what they are.  However, I am really excited and a little nervous to be teaching with Chia.

Varinder

The Teach-Off – The Dogme Observer’s POV

During this entire Teach-Off, we’ve decided to implement a open-door policy in which any teacher who wanted to watch the class could walk in at any time. As a result, we’ve had Shelly Terrell, Adam Beale, Emi Slater, several of colleagues at IH, and my DOS, Varinder, who will be teaching the coursebook lessons in the second half of this teach-off, come watch the class unfold.

On Thursday, Emi Slater sat in with us for the whole three hours, from 9am to 12noon.

So far, all of the blogposts on the Teach-Off have been from my point of view (POV).

We thought that it would perhaps add some objectivity to the experiment if we could hear the observer’s POV.

It is in this spirit of objectivity that I invited Emi to guest blog about her POV…

So, here is Emi Slater:

Thursday 19th April 2012-04-20

In the spirit of trying to learn more about Dogme I was lucky enough to be allowed to observe a 3-hour lesson by Chia today. I loved it. The overall impression was one of intimacy and lots of laughter. The students talked almost continuously.

Intimacy and Warmth

When I arrived bang on 9 am about 3 students were already there and Chia was sitting closely with them eliciting language already. She was asking them intimate questions about their journey to school, their home life for example

What time do you need to leave home? If you live near St. Pauls where do you do your shopping?, Who do you live with?” – within minutes she was spotting problems with ‘live’ and ‘leave’, eliciting past tenses and dealing on the spot with any little grammar or lexis issues that came up. As the other students gradually dribbled in, she gently drew them into the conversation saying things like “Oh Hello, we’re just talking about….” It is only about ten past nine by now, and she has already created a lovely, warm, sensitive atmosphere where the students clearly feel comfortable and totally engaged. And a lot of language has already come up. Chia listens intently to the students and sometimes engages with one student for quite a long time helping them reformulate what they want to say. The other students listen carefully and chip in with questions and write notes constantly.

Motivation

She moves on to a recall of yesterday’s lesson. The way they support and help each other is testament to how involved they are with the lesson. James Zull of Glasgow 2012 Plenary IATEFL fame talked about  “not forcing knowledge into the brain but about motivating and creating circumstances for students to learn”. Well, in this case, Chia has certainly done that. How involved the students are in the lesson surely depends on the teacher?

Of course this could apply to any teacher, using a course book or not – that old adage – is Dogme just good teaching?

One student says to another “Oh, I wish I had your brain!” – much laughter from all. The point is, they are very enthusiastic, and it’s only 9.30 am in the morning.

Natural Conversation/Authenticity

While one group recalls and discusses the huge amount of lexis from yesterday’s lesson (Chia urges them to remember the discussions they had), she spends quite a long time with one of the groups. There are two groups of 4/3 at this point. The other group seem quite happy to continue discussing while she attends to the questions of the other. This made for a very intimate interaction between Chia and the students. She answered their questions and fed in new language and supported them carefully. The conversation is flowing naturally and fluctuating between many different topics and both groups are now discussing different things. This means that before long both groups are singing from different hymn sheets because that is of course how conversation goes. This naturally makes it difficult for the teacher whose job it will be to eventually bring all the students back together again. It is the sign of an experienced teacher that Chia was able to do this effectively later on in the lesson. By allowing this to happen, she was able to wait for the language to emerge naturally rather than from an imposed piece of text or a course book “topic”.

Of course, this begs the other old Dogme adage – do you have to be an experienced teacher to teach Dogme style?

Grammar

Never let it be said that Dogme lessons are all lexis and no grammar. In this lesson, the students were exposed to, discovered for themselves and practised, so many of what Scott Thornbury calls ‘Grammar Mcnuggets’ (check out his excellent video on G is for Grammar Syllabus) that any course book would have been put to shame. The structures emerged from the natural conversation and were ALWAYS RELEVANT. The students were trying to express something – Chia reformulated and then elicited or focused or did a guided discovery on the relevant grammar point needed to help them express their point – The students naturally wanted to know how to form the relevant structure (in this case the passive), because they needed it to say what they wanted to say.

Bingo! Motivated students learning the passive form with enthusiasm. This doesn’t happen everyday does it? I’ve heard teachers marching around where I work, on more than one occasion, muttering, “Why do the students hate the passive so much? I don’t understand. They keep asking me why they need it.”

The grammar forms which emerged, and which Chia teased out and focused on when necessary, were passive, causative structure – have something done, past participles in general, adjective forms ed/ing, and at the end a little review of present perfect and past simple. She didn’t spend hours on each form – when it was obvious that it was a new one, for example the causative structure “have + noun + done”, she created on-the-spot discovery exercises and got the students to repeat and practice.

Perhaps the students might have benefitted from more time to practise the new structures – perhaps giving them a mini role play on the spot or asking them to describe different situations in pairs – or to share their experiences might have been good. But I suppose this comes from the course book mentality of imposing a conversation topic on the students in order for them to repeat and practice. I don’t know whether Chia is planning to give them time in another lesson to practice the grammar structures she focused on more, or whether she believes that the students will do this anyway themselves. There is something to be said for the fact that these are all adults with extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to learn English so the chances are if they are introduced to a new grammar structure in Chia’s lesson, then they will probably try and practise it further themselves later in the pub, or in a conversation lesson or in the break. If Chia is relying on this motivation, it’s a risk and a very controversial one, but I quite like it!

An interesting debate related to how much we expect from our students perhaps related to Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill’s High Demand ELT question http://demandhighelt.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/reviewing-and-reinventing-our-profession/#comments.

A question many people ask about Dogme often is – how much of a chance do the students get to practise the language that emerges from a conversation driven lesson? I would say as much or as little as a course book lesson – it all depends on the teacher.

The language work at the end of the lesson on reformulating sentences emerging from the students’ presentations was a chance for the students to really go in depth into all the possibilities, and in depth they did go. This was a real chance for them to analyse the language.

For those that are wondering, there was no doubt in my mind that the amount of grammar structures that Chia discussed with the students was appropriate. Much more was covered than in a “normal” course book lesson as the structures were linked together rather than separated into Scott Thornbury’s sliced up omelette, but it was not too much. The students were totally engaged and keen and not overwhelmed in any way. On the contrary, I think they were glad to be exposed to grammar they clearly already had questions about.

 Lexis/Language Retention

One thing that struck me was the amount of lexis the students remembered. They had so obviously had memorable conversations during the week and this way of teaching lexis clearly works! It has to be the way to go.

Dogme for lower levels

I cannot understand where this idea has come from that Dogme cannot be done with lower level classes. In my limited experience, I would say that Dogme with lower levels is probably easier for the teacher. She/He can draw out and focus on grammar structures and lexical sets, phrases, functional language, chunking, sentence structure, and so on and so forth, in a much more controlled way. What becomes complicated is when Advanced students are asking about more complicated language, and the teacher has to have a much wider range of idioms, collocations, complex structures, and so on, at their fingertips.

It is also inevitable perhaps that at lower levels the teacher is going to manipulate the conversation more simply because the students don’t have the language or the confidence to initiate much. Chia initiated simply by being the one that kept asking them questions. Initiating the questions made her the one in control, I suppose . But even so, I think her questions and the students’ responses made for a much more natural and motivating conversation than if she had been using a course book.

Teacher as person/hiding behind the course book

The teacher is after all a person too and very often students are really interested in the teacher as a person (and the questions he/she asks) and I have never understood why so many teachers don’t want to reveal their real selves in lessons. With teenagers I can understand but these are adults. Teachers often hide behind the course books. Surely this is verging on the downright stupid?

If a teacher reveals something of themselves, then the students will do likewise. Course books are constantly asking students to talk about quite personal and intimate topics. We are always being told personalize! Personalize! If a teacher shares his/her own experience and then asks the students to do the same, surely it’s obvious that it is going to work better?

Also, perhaps more importantly, the teacher can tell very quickly if the topic is not appropriate or relevant and can switch and move on much more quickly than if the students have all just started a task on page such and such of the course book. Chia was super sensitive to this and was able to assess quickly whether students were responding or not.

Student hiding behind the coursebook

One student came to the class who had been moved from another group. After she had been in the class for about 15 minutes, Chia asked her if she had brought her notebook and pen. The student replied “No, I haven’t been given the book yet (meaning the course book)”. Chia replied “No, we’re not using a course book so you’ll need your notebook and pen more than ever. It is very important in these lessons.”

Does this reveal that perhaps the student was relying on the course book and was not thinking of taking notes. This has wider implications I think – course books certainly make teachers lazy (I know this from my own experience. When I am tired or have had a difficult week or am covering a class, I know I often rely on the course book, find me a teacher who doesn’t) but do they also make students lazy? They think “Oh, it’s ok I don’t need to write that down it’s in the book. “ The chances are they won’t look in the book after class and the action of writing the language down during the lesson will surely be better than nothing.

Style, Confidence and Content

Chia has a very sensitive teaching style. I really liked the way she gave positive delayed feedback. She said things like “That’s a great way to start a presentation but how could we change it to make it better?” or “How have you reformulated that sentence? I have chosen to change three things and you?”

It came across as respectful to the students and not patronizing. I think this style of error correction makes for more confidence building, rather than just ripping apart what the students have just said. She managed to elicit some great functional language for the students to use in their future presentations and all the language work for the last half of the lesson was based on language emerging from the students themselves.

To summarize, she covered about 5 grammar structures, a huge range of lexis and expressions ranging from topics such as money, clothes, shopping and phrasal verb, pronunciation (she drilled regularly and elicited stress patterns throughout) and some functional language for presentations plus a review of lexis from other lessons all in a three-hour stint. You could tell the students were hungry for it. None of this “Oh, we’re not doing that today, wait until tomorrow” stuff – she covered pretty much everything the students wanted to know there and then. It was full on for the teacher – never let it be said that Dogme is an easy way out.

Bravery

It is incredibly brave for any teacher to have an open door policy for two whole weeks – I am not sure I know any other teacher who has ever done that. Chia has left the door of her classroom open throughout the Dogme teach-off so any teacher can come and observe at any time. This kind of generosity in the spirit of research and sharing should be applauded and a lesson to us all.

CELTA

If this style of conversation driven teaching is the way to go, and teachers and schools finally admit that language isn’t linear and cannot be divided into bit- size chunks…If they read Vygotsky about language acquisition and start listening to what Scott Thornbury has to say about all of the above…then the CELTA will have to be completely redefined in the way that Anthony Gaughan has been saying for the last few years http://teachertrainingunplugged.wordpress.com/.

Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill want better quality, higher demand learning and teaching both from the teachers and the students. It seems to me the CELTA has allowed too many of us to get away with/hide behind low quality teaching for too long. Isn’t this where it all begins?