Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

As a Director of Studies, I no longer get much time in the classroom or much time to plan for my lessons (!), but when I do, I like to try and experiment a bit. Here are three things I’ve tried this week:

Translation mingle

After introducing a new set of vocab or bit of grammar:
  • Get students to write 2-3 personalised examples of the language, which you check as they write.
  • They choose one sentence to translate into L1, in this case Polish.
  • Students mingle, saying their Polish sentence. Their partner has to translate it back into English.
  • The L1 speaker tells them “Yes, that’s perfect.” or “No, try again.” Once they’ve tried it a few times, the L1 speaker gives them the correct version if they’re struggling.

This worked particularly well with gerunds and infinitives, where patterns differ from Polish. You don’t need to know the L1 to do this activity, as students will correct each other. It’s probably the second or third time I’ve done it, and it definitely won’t be the last.

Mystery words

I learnt this activity years ago, but have never had a chance to try it. Having worked with some easily confused words (e.g. remind/remember, avoid/prevent) in the previous class, it seemed like a good opportunity to try it this week. We revised the words at the beginning of the class. I then gave each student a piece of scrap paper with one pair of words on it. They remembered them, wrote their name on it, and gave it back to me. Throughout the rest of the lesson, they had to use the words as much as possible and notice what words other people used. At the end of the lesson, they said what pair of words they thought other students had.

Unfortunately it didn’t work particularly well, as although I tried to change pairs a couple of times, students didn’t really have the chance to use their words with a lot of others in the class, so they could only guess about two or three pairs. Some of the cunning ones used a whole range of words to confuse the rest of the class, which was a good idea. I asked the group if they liked it, but they weren’t that enthralled, so it’ll be a while before I use it again.

Listening training

Listening attentively

Regular readers will know that I’m quite interested in trying to work out how to train students to become better listeners. A 5-minute audio in our coursebook this week prompted me to find a different way to approach it, as the two tasks in the book seemed like an invitation for boredom (listen once, tick the things the speaker mentions; listen again, make additional notes). Instead, students had to listen and clap when they heard one of the things the speaker mentioned, at which point I paused the audio. They then had to tell their partner/group what they’d heard, and write on a mini whiteboard what they thought would come next. For instance, this could be ‘an example of X’, or some specific phrases they expected to hear. We then listened to check if they were correct. The idea here is to tap into the natural prediction that we do all the time when listening/reading, and show students that they were able to do it in English. We used about half of the audio in this way, then did the original tasks for the second half. It seemed to go down well, and I think the group were generally quite surprised at how well they could do it. I was also very pleased that one of the weaker students in the group was the only person to clap the first time round, as the others were listening for exact words instead of the general message – hopefully this served as a confidence boost.

What did you try in your classroom this week?

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Comments on: "Three things I’ve done in class this week" (5)

  1. I love the last activity idea – seems like a great way to get the students to become better at listening 🙂

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  2. This sounds amazing. My seniors, mostly Chinese, have begged for help with their listening skills. This indeed sounds MUCH more engaging and effective than the old standby “listen and tick.”

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    • I’d definitely recommend Listening in the Language Classroom by John Field. It’s got lots of useful micro listening activities which I’ve found really help students – it’s probably where I got this from, though I read it a couple of years ago now and don’t really remember! If you happen to buy it through my affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2nAoqn7 I’ll also get a few pennies 🙂 Good luck!

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  3. I like the sound of listening training. That’s a week area for a couple of my teenage groups so I may give that a try in our next term of courses.

    3 things I tried last week that I will (hopefully) get round to blogging about after IATEFL is out of the way:

    1. Using Kahoot! with a class of 6 year-olds. I’ve always used it with teens but thought I would try it with younger kids who are still learning common sight words to build their vocabulary and reading skills. The data at the end of the quiz has provided me with a goldmine of info on which letters/letter combos they are struggling with.

    2. Using iPads for speaking assessments. Instead of asking nervous students to stand up in front of the whole class and give a mini-presentation, I had them use a recording app and checked it after the lesson. That gave them the chance to record, listen, make changes and record again and it gave me the chance to give them really detailed feedback.

    3. Getting end of course feedback from students. With an adult class, I had them complete an online survey to get honest feedback about the course and me as a teacher. I got some feel-good comments and a few things to think about as well.

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    • Thanks for that Dave. It never occurred to me to use Kahoot with kids that young, and I definitely need to get more end-of-course feedback. See you in a couple of weeks!

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