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Posts tagged ‘CAM’

Pronunciation problems for Czech speakers of English

I wrote this as part of the IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology course which I’ve been following this year. It was partly gleaned from my own experience, and partly from this excellent piece of work conducted at the Pedagogical Faculty at the university in Ceske Budejovice. The only scientific research that went into it was done by the people at the university, and not by me!

Czech is one of the languages which does not appear in Micheal Swan’s excellent Learner English, which details not only pronunciation problems, but also grammar and vocabulary errors, for speakers from a variety of language backgrounds.

I hope you find it useful! (Please let me know if any of the phonetic symbols don’t show up properly and I’ll attach a pdf version too)


1.     Segmental

1.1.  Vowel Sounds

1.1.1.     Czech only has 5 vowel phonemes, compared to 20 in English. As Czech has a direct link between spelling and pronunciation, this can cause problems for speakers when they do not know which vowel sound to use in a particular English word.

1.1.2.     In Czech all syllables are pronounced equally. All vowels are strong and no equivalent to the English schwa /ə/ exists.

1.1.3.     Czech speakers find it hard to differentiate between the sounds /æ/, /e/ and /ʌ/, in pairs such as bad/bed, cap/cup


1.2.  Consonant sounds

1.2.1.     Neither pronunciation of the morpheme ‘th’ (/ð/, /θ/) exists in Czech. Learners have a tendency to replace them with similar sounds which do not involve putting the tongue between the teeth, namely /d/ or /dz/ for /ð/ and /f/ or /s/ for /θ/.

1.2.2.     /w/ does not exist in Czech. Learners often replace it with /v/. They sometimes also use /w/ in place of /v/.

1.2.3.     /r/ is pronounced in the middle and at the end of words, where it should only be pronounced at the beginning. Czechs also sometimes roll the /r/ sound, which is not necessary in English. Students do not use it to lengthen the preceding vowel sound (see

1.2.4.     /ŋ/, /g/, /k/: these phonemes are most often confused at the end of a word ending in -ing (thing/think, sing/sink). The /g/ can be lost or pronounced as /k/.

1.2.5.     Voiceless /s/ and voiced /z/ are often confused, such as bus/buzz.

1.2.6.     ‘ch’ exists as a single phoneme /x/ in Czech. Learners transfer this to English, especially to replace /k/ in words such as chaos.

1.2.7.     The phonemes /p/, /t/ and /k/ at the beginning of a word are often not aspirated by Czech speakers of English. Alternatively, they over-aspirate the same phonemes in mid- and final positions in a word.


1.3.  Other

1.3.1.     All Czech words are stressed on the first syllable. This is often transferred to English.

1.3.2.     The differences between English spelling and pronunciation cause the following problems:         incorrect choice of vowel sound (see 1.1.1)         confusion when V+C= vowel sound e.g. ‘er’ in father = /ə/ not /ɜr/, ‘al’ in calm = /a:/ not /æl/         pronunciation of silent letters, such as /b/ in bomb         a difficulty in predicting the pronunciation of previously unseen words


2.     Suprasegmental

2.1.  Czech is a syllable-timed language, whereas English is stress-timed. Czech speakers of English therefore find it difficult to use weak forms of common words such as of, a, can. They tend to place equal stress on all the words in a sentence. This is further confused when contrastive stress is introduced to students and they have to decide which stress pattern to choose.

2.2.  There is a much wider range of intonation patterns in English than in Czech. This can lead to Czech English sounding ‘flat’ to a native speaker.

2.3.  Linking words and sounds through assimilation and elision is much more common in English than in Czech.


Reference (consulted 11 May 2011)

-, (1997/1998), ‘Most common pronunciation problems of Czech speakers of English’, Pedegogical Faculty JU , Cesky Budejovice,

If I were a boy (Beyoncé and the Lexical Approach)

As part of my CAM course I was required to teach an experimental lesson using an approach which I haven’t tried before. This is similar but a lot less intense than the DELTA experimental lesson. The lesson had to part of a longer series of lessons trying out a lesson descriptor (like PPP or TTT), again which we hadn’t used before. I decided to use Micheal Lewis’ Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment, which I had trouble with understanding and blogged about here.

I chose to try out the Lexical Approach since it linked directly to the descriptor I had chosen for the other lessons. We’d been looking at conditionals, and herein lay my problem – the Lexical Approach is for vocabulary, but I wanted to teach grammar with it. So, as with all of these things, I put out a call on Twitter, and Fiona Mauchline responded. With her help I put together the materials below. They worked well in class, but whether or not it was a true Lexical Approach lesson or whether the students will remember the phrases afterwards I still don’t know.

If you have any suggestions on how to improve the lesson or add more Lexical Approach aspects, please leave a comment below. Feel free to download and use the materials any way you like, crediting the source please. If you have any problems with it, I’m happy to help.



For the International House Certificate in Advanced Methodology which I’m studying at the moment I need to plan and teach a series of lessons using a different lesson planning descriptor to ones which I’ve applied before.

I’ve been trying to find out about the “Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment” descriptor used by Michael Lewis in The Lexical Approach (1993) as an alternative to PPP (Present-Practice-Produce) and seem to have come up against a brick wall. Most of what I’ve read consists of the same quote from page vii of the book with no extra information:

The Present-Practise-Produce paradigm is rejected, in favour of a paradigm based on the Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment cycle.

This is what our notes have to say about OHE:

First of all they [learners] observe language in use, for example through listening to or reading a text. Then they make hypotheses about the way that language works and experiment with creating it themselves in their own contexts.

Observation isn’t just a case of receiving language input but also submitting it to critical examination.  Otherwise,  it  will  be  impossible  to  make  hypotheses  about  language behaviour. The  hypothesising and experimenting stages involve activities such as identifying, sorting and matching and their aim is to encourage curiosity about language and among learners. We as teachers need to take a longer term view of learning and cannot expect to limit language to a single structure and presume this has been learnt by the end of the class (as PPP advocates) because language learning simply doesn’t work like that.

I’ve found a couple of other explanations:

From ‘Alan DELTA

The “OHE” or “III” model (Lewis & McCarthy)

1. Lewis and McCarthy’s view on PPP;

2. Observe, Hypothesize, Experiment;

3. Ss get an “Illustration” followed by “Interaction” with the lgg, which will hopefully lead to an “Induction”

From this presentation on Methods and Approaches:

Michael Lewis claims that students should be allowed to Observe (read or listen to language) which will then provoke them to Hypothesise about how the language works before going on to the Experiment on the basis of that hypothesis.

This quote sums up my problem:

In his own teaching design, Lewis proposes a model that comprises the steps, Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment, as opposed to the traditional Present-Practice-Produce paradigm. Unfortunately, Lewis does not lay out any instructional sequences exemplifying how he thinks this procedure might operate in actual language classrooms.

I seem to understand all of the words, but can’t make the leap from that to an actual lesson plan where I can clearly apply the descriptors. So these are my questions:

  • What would an ‘Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment’ lesson actually look like? i.e. Does anyone have an example they could share with me?
  • How much does ‘observation’ involve? What should be done to fulfil this stage?
  • Can it only be used for lexical chunks since it came out of the Lexical Approach? Or could it be used for grammar / skills work too? This is a lesson I planned to practise writing an article which I think fits the OHE descriptor but I’m not sure – what do you think?
  • I have to plan a series of four lessons applying the same descriptor. Does that mean each lesson should contain the full set of OHE with stages being repeated if necessary (I think this is the case) or should it be more of an over-arcing thing?

Apologies if this is not very coherent, but I’m really confused at the moment!

Thank you for your help!

Write on!

This  week has been all about writing for myself and my students. On Wednesday, I took part in the #eltchat on Writing and Marking (transcript here, summary here) and on Friday we had a CAM (IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology) session on Writing. In the course of both I was thinking about the writing my students have done recently, and realised that we’ve done many different things. Here is a selection of them in no particular order.

Email Workshop

  • SS sent me examples of real emails written in English.
  • I printed them, along with a couple of real emails I have sent to other native speakers, and cut them up to take into class.
  • SS sorted them on a scale (roughly) from formal to informal.
  • SS read the emails in more detail, attaching post-it notes to them with examples of good language from them. There was also a bit of scrap paper next to each where they could write any questions.
  • We took the emails one by one and went through the post-it notes and scrap paper, adding extra notes as they came up.

An example of an email we had looked at

  • At home, I scanned the emails with the post-it notes still stuck on them and emailed them to the SS.
  • For homework, SS added to a GoogleDoc to serve as a final reference which they can access at any time after the class. This is the original template, which you’re welcome to use (please ask me if you need access).

With five students and nine emails, this has already taken one 90-minute class, and could easily take another. The students are really enthusiastic about it and told me it was very useful at the end of the session.

Email conversations

One of the first things I did in my classes at the beginning of the year was to gather the SS’ email addresses. We are constantly in contact with each other, mainly about homework but with other emails related to holidays and issues the students have.

Short summaries

After a discussion in class, I encouraged SS to write a very short summary (3-4 sentences) of what they learnt. I then collected it, marked it quickly while they were doing some listening, and returned it asking them to email it to me for homework. This could have been done without marking, but as these students are training to take the CAE exam and are generally reluctant to write, every little helps!

Discussion questions and answers

The same group did some speaking in class based on a wordle of money questions from New English File Advanced. I gave them the original teacher’s book page for homework, then asked them to choose two questions. For one, they had to record an answer through audioboo or on their mobile phones; for the other, they needed to send me short paragraph by email. I posted the results on my student blog here. Half of the class did their homework, which is a pretty good hit rate for them!

Essay writing

In the CAE exam class, I introduced the group to essay writing. We followed a task-based approach, with the students writing essays in pairs, followed by an examination of linking phrases they could use to improve cohesion. They then had a chance to redraft their essay using the language and tips from the coursebook. I gave them online feedback for the first time (example) using Jing for the recording, along with OmniDazzle to do the mark-up. One student has already replied:

Thank you very much for this feedback. I think it very useful and I really like it. I believe that it will help all of us.

Thanks to all those on #eltchat who suggested feedback like this – it’s a great tool to add my toolbox.

EnglishRaven’s materials

Jason Renshaw is one of my favourite bloggers to follow. He constantly inspires me with all of the materials he posts on his excellent blog. This week I finally got to experiment with two of them – the Wizard English Grid (WEG) for emergent language, based on this post, and the reading and questions template from this post. The former is still a work in progress with the various groups I’ve introduced it into, but the latter was very successful. Having covered advanced family vocabulary with one group last week, I wanted to revise while pushing the students further. I found an article about demographics in the Czech Republic to paste into the empty space in Jason’s template, then gave the students time to create their own questions. We only had half an hour in class, but the way the discussion was going we could easily have continued for an hour. And where was the writing, I hear you cry? Well, the questions the discussion was based on were all written by the students themselves – something which they don’t often practise.


With two 1-2-1 students I recorded speaking, which they then typed a transcript of for us to work on the language. Neither of them noticed that they were writing, and they commented afterwards that they had never of thought of doing this before.

YLs and Teens

Even my younger learners didn’t escape! In the YL class of pre-intermediate nine- to ten-year-olds we’ve been watching a few minutes of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the end of each lesson as a reward for all of their hard work. This week, there was a space in the syllabus which was the perfect time to teach them some of the vocabulary they’d been struggling with. As a follow-up they wrote a couple of sentences about the film and draw a picture on this sheet:

The intermediate-level teens started writing a script for a presentation we’re going to make next week on their technology use.

The End

I think that pretty much covers it, and I hope it’s useful to someone! When I started thinking about it, I was very surprised at just how much writing there was in one week’s worth of lessons. What I’m concentrating on at the moment is trying to make all writing I do relevant and to give the students as much of a sense of purpose as possible. I know I was definitely guilty of ‘the next page is writing, so we’ll do it on Monday’ and ‘do the writing for homework’ before, and I hope the things featured in this post are the first steps to changing this!

Twitter and Screencasts as texts

As a pre-session CAM task, we have been asked to choose one written and one spoken text-type and come up with a plan to develop a (theoretical) one-to-one student’s receptive skills relating to these text types. This is my attempt:

Written: Twitter conversations

  • Genre features: short messages. Between typical spoken and written style. Generally quite informal. Many abbreviations / codes. Use of ellipsis to shorten texts (only 140 characters are allowed)
  • Schemata: SS needs to access Twitter schema (i.e. Twitter-specific lexis), plus schema related to the type of conversations they follow (i.e. celebrity chat, teachers, businessmen)
  • Sub-skills:
    • Identifying the topic of the text and recognising topic changes.
    • Identifying text-type and the writer’s purpose. (i.e. giving information, asking for help, encouraging support for a cause)
    • Inferring the writer’s attitude. (helpful, humorous, sarcastic)
    • Understanding text organisation and following the development of the text.
  • Strategies needed:
    • Activating background knowledge of the topic before reading the text.
    • Guessing the meaning of unknown words from context.
    • Seeking clarification.
    • Indicating lack of comprehension.
  • How to develop these skills:
    • First, focus on Twitter lexis (RT, ff, via, blog, post, mention, hashtag, tweet, feed)
    • Find out from the student what kind of people they follow. Divide them into groups by the function of their tweeting e.g. Do they generally tweet ideas? links? information? Work with the student to show them how this can help them to understand the messages.
    • Choose some of the conversations which the student has tried to follow. Work with them to look at cohesive devices throughout the text.
    • Using the same conversations, examine how the writer has shortened the text to fit the 140-character limit.
    • Look at example tweets from their feed and examine the writer’s attitude in each. Identify keys to recognising this attitude, including words, knowledge of the writer (are they known to be e.g. left-wing), pragmatics.

Spoken: Screencast tutorials.

  • Genre features: Supported by visuals. May include some technical language. Imperatives and other instruction-giving structures (If you click here…) Computer lexis.
  • Schemata: Computing schema, schema related to specific tool (e.g. voice-recording software), instruction-giving schema
  • Sub-skills:
    • Perceiving and distinguishing between different sounds.
    • Dividing speech into recognisable words or phrases.
    • Distinguishing between given and new information.
    • Using discourse markers and context clues to predict what will come next.
    • Guessing the meaning of words and expressions.
    • Identifying key information and gist.
  • Strategies needed:
    • Activating background knowledge of the topic before starting to listen.
    • Using non-linguistic information (situation, context, etc.) to predict what will be heard.
    • Using non-linguistic visual clues to help infer meaning.
  • How to develop these skills:
    • Focus on computing lexis, especially related to navigating on-screen (click, hover, press, button, cursor, mouse, upload, download)
    • Watch screencasts with student highlighting instances of these words.
    • Study different methods of giving instructions (imperatives, first conditional…)
    • Watch screencasts focussing on the instruction language.
    • Watch screencasts without sound to predict the content.
    • Transcribe a screencast to work on sound distinctions / divisions.
    • Use the transcription to study discourse markers / cohesion.

Has anyone focussed on these as text-types in the classroom? I’d be interested to know if my strategy reflects your own.

Writing and Marking

Advanced-level students using laptops to produce film reviews

Advanced-level students using laptops to produce film reviews

Having just spent the morning marking writing from both Cambridge CAE and non-exam Advanced students, I suddenly remembered that one of the things I highlighted in my CAM action plan as an area to work on was presenting and marking writing. It seems a blog post is therefore in order…

Writing seems to be one of those areas which is quite ephemeral – a kind of ‘practice makes perfect’ for both teachers and students. Here are some of the things I’ve heard (and maybe even said) from each side of the divide:


  • I don’t have time to write.
  • I hate writing.
  • Arghhh! I can’t write. (after being presented with a sheet of paper covered in notes)
  • What [exactly] do you want me to do?
  • Why do we have to write?
  • Writing is boring and it takes too long.


  • I don’t have time to include writing in my classes. / Students never do writing for homework.
  • I don’t have time to mark writing.
  • My students don’t care about writing, so why should I?
  • I don’t really know how to mark [fill in appropriate level / exam] writing.
  • I don’t want to depress my students by covering the page in red pen.
  • Their spelling / grammar / handwriting is atrocious – I can’t read it.

So what can / should we do about it?

At the risk of over-bullet-pointing my own writing, here are some of the solutions I’ve found have worked with my students so far:

  • Setting homework through Edmodo: they have a range of different ways to do the writing, and are therefore (slightly) more willing to do it. They can also send homework later if they don’t have time during the week it’s set.
  • Presenting writing through a task-based approach (this will be the subject of a future blog post – watch this space), which allows students to do the writing in class in groups and produce two versions of it so they really see the difference before and after input.
  • Using a writing code: students soon get the hang of this, although it takes a bit of explaining at the beginning of the year. They occasionally hand back writing if they want to know how to improve it (depends on the student’s level of motivation).
  • Laptops: By asking students to bring in their own laptops, I created a language lab at a school with two computers 🙂 Students enjoyed being able to edit their work quickly. They could then reedit it at home and email it to me if they wanted to.

As you can see, there aren’t many of them (otherwise there would have been no point highlighting it on my action plan!) I will therefore set you a writing task of you own, so that you can get into the spirit of things.

Choose ONE (or TWO or THREE…) of the following to answer.

  • Writing for exams: should we always mark using the criteria for the exam? If not, what should criteria should we mark to?
  • How can we encourage students to correct their work and give it back, without creating a lot more marking for ourselves?
  • How much marking is appropriate? Where do you stop?!?
  • Handwriting: is it an issue? Does it matter if students handwrite or type their texts?
  • Spelling: How can we help students to improve it? How important is spelling for non-exam students?
  • Grammar: Is it possible for students to improve their grammar through writing?
  • Feedback: Do you use a writing code? If not, what do you use? What kind of comments do you give the students?
  • Should we give the marking criteria to the students before they do the writing? Or could this be too much for them? (thinking about exam-based criteria especially here)
  • How can we teach teachers to mark writing consistently with each other when sharing a class? How can we teach teachers new to an exam to mark writing at an appropriate level? (I was new to CAE this year, and this was particularly difficult for me, although after attending a seminar in December I feel much better about it)
  • How can we encourage both teachers and students to make time for writing inside and outside class?

Answers should be 120-150 words long in an informal-neutral tone 😉

Right, I think that about covers it. I look forward to marking your answers!


PS I have thought of blogging with my students – it’s a work in progress at the moment, as I’m still working out how the blogosphere works myself and computer access is scarce to non-existent at my school!

DELTA-type lesson aims

As part of CAM, we had to plan a lesson using DELTA-type lesson aims. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that these are the same aims which appear in my ‘Evaluating Lessons‘ post – I cunningly managed to use one lesson plan to cover all or part of four CAM modules 🙂

Here are the lesson aims which I wrote:

Main aim: By the end of the lesson the learners will be better able to write a review of a book or a film.

Subsidiary aims:

  • They will have been introduced to and practised the use of participle clauses to replace both active and passive subject + verb constructions in relative clauses and following conjunctions. (Devastated by the fact…, Because he is devastated; carefully keeping, who is carefully keeping)
  • They will become more accurate and confident in using adjectives they have previously learnt for describing books / films (depressing, entertaining, fast-moving, gripping, haunting, heavy-going, implausible, intriguing, moving, thought-provoking)
  • They will become more accurate and confident in the use of adverbs of degree to modify (the above) adjectives, including the difference in register implied by the choice of different adverbs. (a bit, slightly, a little, really, very, absolutely, rather, pretty, quite, incredibly, extremely)
  • They will become more aware of the typical contents and layout of a review. (Introduction including author / director’s name; plot outline; strong points of the book film; weak points; whether the reviewer recommends the book; who the book is suitable for)

The stage aims looked like this:

  • Activate schemata so SS are prepared to think about books / films.
  • SS are able to activate the review-writing skills they already have to create a framework for language input.
  • SS create an initial list of the contents of a review based on their pre-class knowledge.
  • SS modify the list of review contents based on input from a detailed reading task.
  • SS notice the difference between two texts, one with and one without participle clauses.
  • SS analyse the purpose of the use of participle clauses.
  • SS practise the use of participle clauses in a controlled exercise.
  • SS identify adverbs of degree based on pre-course knowledge.
  • SS analyse the purpose of the use of these adverbs.
  • SS practise the use of adverbs of degree in a controlled exercise.
  • SS analyse the differences in register created by the choice of differing adverbs of degree
  • SS use the new language (participle clauses / adverbs of degree) and the detailed framework for a review created during the lesson to decide how to modify their review from the beginning of the class.
  • SS rewrite the review, taking into account the modifications decided on in class. Doing this as homework gives them time to absorb the new language and review framework.

It was difficult to write such specific aims, and I’m still not sure if they use the right kind of wording for DELTA-type lesson plans. I tried to find examples of DELTA lesson plans, but they’re very difficult to come across – I know that people are unlikely to publish the work that they have completed during a course, but it would certainly be useful for people like me when trying to decide whether to take the plunge or not. In a way, that’s one of the reasons I am writing this blog – to enable people to see what CAM entails and decide whether they would like to follow in my footsteps. Thus far, I’m finding the whole course very useful, despite the paucity of blog posts! There will certainly be many more after Christmas when we have the majority of the sessions.

Evaluating Lessons

As part of my CAM I had to teach a lesson and then evaluate it. It was my first attempt at Task-Based Learning (more on that in a later post). The evaluation was done in two ways:

  • a self-created questionnaire which I filled in after the lesson.
  • a questionnaire for the students, again which I created.

This is my completed self-evaluation. I based the questions on a handout we were given during the input session, some ideas from ‘Learning Teaching’ by Jeremy Harmer, and my own knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses (hence, for example, the question about instructions).

  • Did you fulfil the lesson aims? What evidence do you have to support this?
    • They will have been introduced to and practised the use of participle clauses to replace both active and passive subject + verb constructions in relative clauses and following conjunctions. (Devastated by the fact…, Because he is devastated; carefully keeping, who is carefully keeping)
      We practised the use in class. Two of the SS will need more practise of this to feel comfortable with it, but the other four had no trouble with the clauses. All three groups managed to include at least one participle clause in their final film review.
    • They will become more accurate and confident in using adjectives they have previously learnt for describing books / films (depressing, entertaining, fast-moving, gripping, haunting, heavy-going, implausible, intriguing, moving, thought-provoking)
      All groups correctly incorporated at least one of these adjectives in their reviews.
    • They will become more accurate and confident in the use of adverbs of degree to modify (the above) adjectives, including the difference in register implied by the choice of different adverbs. (a bit, slightly, a little, really, very, absolutely, rather, pretty, quite, incredibly, extremely)
      Although this was not something which the students included in their reviews, they became aware of register differences which they did not know about before the lesson.
    • They will become more aware of the typical contents and layout of a review. (Introduction including author / director’s name; plot outline; strong points of the book film; weak points; whether the reviewer recommends the book; who the book is suitable for)
      The review improved between the first and second versions as students were more aware of what they needed to include in the review.

  • How involved were the learners in the lesson? Were they responsive to the materials, tasks, each other?
    The learners were really involved in the tasks. They spoke English throughout the whole lesson, and were enthusiastic about writing, which is unusual! The tasks were motivating for them.
  • How closely did you follow your lesson plan? Was it necessary to deviate for the lesson to be successful?
    I didn’t need to deviate at all. The lesson worked without a problem.
  • How realistic was your timing for these learners?
    It was realistic – one task took 5 minutes less, and one 5 minutes more, but overall it was as I planned.
  • Was there sufficient variety in the interaction patterns during the lesson?
    Yes. There was pairwork, groupwork and individual work.
  • Were your instructions clear at all times? Did learners need more / less explanation than you gave them originally?
    The instructions I gave were clear. SS understood what they had to do.
  • What did learners need more / less of in your lesson which you had not included in the plan?
    Nothing – everything they needed was covered effectively in the plan.
  • Was sufficient error correction given? Was the correction clear? Did SS activate the corrected language at all?
    This was only an issue during the controlled practice. SS activated the corrected language by changing answers in their book and then saying the sentences out loud. They then used the newly acquired language in the writing they produced.
  • What were you pleased with at the end of the lesson? Why?
    I was pleased with the way that the students responded to a TBL lesson. They were always engaged and enjoyed the writing – this is unusual as writing is often seen as a ‘boring’ topic.
  • What features of the lesson would you change in the future? Why?
    The only thing I would change is to make it clear to students that they should spend the first five minutes brainstorming ideas and planning when writing their first draft. I wrote this stage in my plan, but failed to do it in the lesson. Apart from that I would teach the same lesson again, depending on the students.

To collect feedback from the students I decided it would be easiest to create a form using Google Docs. Here is a link to a pdf version of the document (SS completed it online).

Lesson Evaluation for SS to complete

Here are a couple of the students’ comments:

  • “I liked the idea of correcting the text we’ve written right in the lesson (for example making the sentences shorter by using participles). I also found it interesting to read the other’s work and trying to compare it or to find some mistakes.”
  • “The most useful thing about today’s lesson was that we could immediately apply new things we’d learnt in the writing and therefore remember them better.”

Overall it was a very useful exercise, and something I will probably repeat when doing further action research. It was certainly good for my ego too! 🙂

Receptive Skills

Following a session on Receptive Skills, we had to teach from either a reading or listening section of a coursebook and consider a variety of questions. This was the result:

Class: Level 7, Pre-Advanced (A7ucA)

Coursebook: New English File Advanced, SB p22-23, Exercises 4a-f (listening)

Topic: Childhood memories

Analysis of the exercises

  • Is the text authentic or graded?
    There are three texts. The first consists of five different people speaking about their earliest memories. The second and third are both taken from the same interview discussing scientific research into memory. None of the texts are graded, which is only to be expected at this level, as students should be able to understand the majority of utterances.
  • What is the purpose of the listening?
    The listening is part of an overall unit about childhood memories. Students use it as a prompt for speaking about their own memories, which should use be discussed using ‘used to’, ‘would’ and narrative tenses, the grammar focus for the unit.
  • Is the text being used for skills or language practice?
    The text is mainly being used for skills practice (discussed below), although it also re-exposes students to the narrative tenses studied during the previous lesson.
  • What are the sub-skills that are being practised?
    Ex a: Identify inferences of meaning conveyed through both intonation and choice of lexis.
    Ex b: Intensive listening.
    Ex c-d: Prediction.
    Ex e: Note-taking, intensive listening.
    Ex f:  Responding appropriately to a text.

Lesson plan and notes [ ]

  • Talk about the pictures on the page. [activate schemata before listening]
  • SB p22 Ex 4a: Listen to people talking about their earliest memory. Match them to their emotion. [SS could do this with no problems.]
  • Ex 4b: Listen again. How old was each person? What was their memory? Answer the questions using a table drawn in their books (Speaker / Age / Memory) [Two of the memories were difficult for students to pinpoint accurately as they were not aware of the meaning of the following items of lexis: ‘to be a penny short’, ‘to pine’. We discussed them and listened again, after which students had no more problems understanding.]
  • Ex 4c: Discuss the questions with your partner. [Served to activate schemata in preparation for the listening.]
  • Ex 4d: Listen and check your answers. Was there anything surprising? [SS confirmed their predictions, thereby becoming engaged with the text.]
  • Ex 4e: Write down the key words for the memory. [SS only wanted to listen once, although the book recommended doing so twice. This is a more life-like situation, as it would be unusual to hear exactly the same piece of text more than once.]
  • Retell the story. [SS were motivated and engaged. They rebuilt the text by activating a range of grammatical and lexical knowledge.]
  • Listen and check. [SS discovered how accurate their rebuilt text was. Most of the new versions were quite different from the original, helping students to understand the benefit of being able to listen to a text more than once when in class.]
  • Ex 4f: Do you have any early memories about any of these things? [Using the listening texts for inspiration, students had a long and spirited discussion about their early memories.]


The variety of activities and sub-skills practised meant that students were engaged with the listening throughout the lesson.

CAM Session 1: Thoughts and Action Plan

The first session of the IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology (CAM) was as inspiring and stimulating as I expected it to be. My school, IH Brno, is offering CAM for the first time this year, so I’m studying in a group of 12 teachers as we’re all trying hard to develop professionally as much as possible. I’m by far the least experienced, as I’m only just entering my third professional year of teaching (I taught for a year pre-CELTA in Paraguay too). Everyone else in the group has at least 7 or 8 years! On the plus side, this means I’ve got plenty of other people’s experiences to draw on.

In the session, we looked at the overall structure of the course and at one specific issue from each teacher in the group. We did this through a mingle to gather ideas and get an idea of what each of us was concerned about. I can already see lots of opportunities for my own development, and that was after only one session!

Our homework was to great a personal action plan focussing on the areas we would like to improve in. As part of the course we will be doing research and experimenting with new things in class. The four areas I’m planning to look into are listed below, along with my rationale and the way I plan to follow up on them. I’ve tried to be as exhaustive as possible when listing the sources I’m planning to use. If you have any extra ideas, please put them in the comments.

Don’t forget to come back to the blog to find out how I’m getting on.

Integrating technology into my courses

  • To make my teaching more dynamic.
  • To be more relevant to my students’ 21st-century lifestyles.
  • To provide variety – no everything is based on the coursebook.
  • To provide opportunities for students to study in a personalised way.


Making homework an integral part of my courses

  • To encourage students to study outside class.
  • To expose students to native-speaker culture (British or otherwise).


Presenting and grading writing

  • Focus on Advanced students, especially those preparing for CAE.
  • Motivating students to write, as this is something they are often unwilling to do, even when preparing for an exam.
  • Being consistent and constructive in my marking and comments.


Provide student-driven lessons

  • Increasing motivation by studying what students need / want to study.
  • Empowering students – allowing them to direct the course.


  • Peer observations
  • Follow up on other teachers’ suggestions from CAM Session 1
  • Reading:
    • ‘Learner-based Teaching’ by Colin Campbell and Hanna Kryszewska
    • ‘Learner-Centredness as Language Education’ by Ian Tudor

One month in…

(Originally posted on my googlesites blog, 26 September 2010)

After a month back at IH Brno my timetable has finally settled down, just in time for a public holiday on Tuesday 28th September! I have a range of classes covering:

  • three general English classes (one Intermediate and two Advanced)
  • a teen class
  • a YL class
  • a one-to-one with a near-native 9-year-old
  • an FCE Intensive class (5 x 3 hours per week)
  • a CAE standard class (2 x 90 minutes per week)
  • a one-to-one with a proficient ex-translator and Legal English specialist
  • two other one-to-one adults
  • an ESP financial English class
  • two other company classes (one studying Business English and one General)

So, a little bit of everything really!

And as if all that weren’t enough, I will also be studying for my Certificate in Advanced Methodology (CAM) starting on the 1st October. I will use this space for my course journal, as well as for my aforementioned thoughts on technology in the classroom, which so far has run to creating a space on Edmodo for all of my groups. The FCE Intensive group have really embraced it, replying to questions and posing their own, as well as submitting homework through the site, and generally taking the ‘community’ out of the classroom, and practising their writing skills at the same time! There’s an example of some of their exchanges below. Hopefully this can be repeated with at least some of my other groups!

An example of Edmodo use by my FCE Intensive group
I’ve also done a technology survey with almost all of my groups to find out what they already aware of. In the next month I hope to put the information I’ve gained to use and start encouraging students to make the most of the technology they have at their fingertips.

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