*or “5 things no CELTA trainer ever said but which they see on every course!”
Please don’t do these things! Read on to find out what to replace them with and why.
Spend 10 minutes lecturing students about grammar
That’s definitely not how we learn grammar: by listening to somebody else tell us about it for ten minutes, often in confusing, over-complicated language, with only minimal examples. Also, the students have probably heard versions of the lecture before. The problem isn’t whether they can understand your lecture and explain the rules to somebody else, it’s whether they can actually use the language.
Instead of lecturing, get the students doing a task showing whether they can use the grammar as soon as possible.
If you’re not confident with this area of grammar, the task might be asking them to match rules to examples, with all of the examples taken from a clear context introduced earlier in the lesson. Often this is what a grammar box does in a coursebook (a light version of guided discovery), if you’re using one. Focus on the form, drill pronunciation, and give them controlled and freer practice activities. This is called present-practice-produce or PPP. While it’s not always the most efficient way of teaching language, students can still benefit providing they get enough practice and feedback on their performance.
If you’re a little confident, get students to start with an activity where they have to produce this specific language point. A controlled practice exercise can be turned into a mini test (in a test-teach-test or TTT model), which you can use to find out which parts of the grammar the students are having problems with. Check carefully whether the exercise tests their knowledge of meaning or form, and consider how you can test their pronunciation too. One activity I like is to give them a couple of minutes to say all of the sentences as quickly as possible in pairs. Don’t put them on the spot in open class to do this as that might put them off English for life if they struggle! Once you’ve gathered information about what they can and can’t do, fill in the gaps with your teaching, for example, by revising the negative form only because they’re already OK with the positive form. Test them again at the end of the lesson. This is a good approach because it allows you to target your teaching to the problems they have, instead of the broad brush approach of TTT.
If you’re very confident, give them a fully communicative speaking or writing activity which might lead them to using the target language of your lesson – you can adapt this from a freer practice exercise in the coursebook. An easy example would be having students tell each other a story at the beginning of a lesson on past tenses. You can find out the range of tenses they’re using (only past simple and past continuous? only present tenses?), as well as spot problems with form and pronunciation of the language you’d like to focus on. Then choose one or two grammar (or lexis or pronunciation or discourse) areas to focus on in your teaching to upgrade their language. Give them more opportunities to practice, perhaps with controlled practice, but most importantly with another speaking or writing activity where the focus is on communication, not accuracy of language, but where they can use the definitely use the target language. This is called task-based learning (or TBL), and is a useful approach because the focus is primarily on communication using all of the language resources at students’ disposal, not only using the specific target language the teacher has chosen for today.
Present all vocabulary items separately before students do their first vocabulary exercise
This might feel like you’re being helpful, but it removes all of the challenge from the vocabulary exercise, generally takes a long time, and reduces the opportunities students have to struggle a little, make mistakes, and get feedback – where the real learning happens. If we’re not struggling, we’re not learning.
Instead, let the students have a go at the exercise first. If they work alone, give them a chance to compare in pairs before you check their answers with them. Make sure you have analysed the meaning, form and pronunciation of all of the words in your lesson plan, just in case, but you don’t need to go over all of them with the students, only the problem words.
Even better, let the students work in pairs to do the exercise. That way, they can support each other with questions they find challenging and learn from each other. You can also hear them pronouncing the words. When monitoring during the activity, you can identify which words you need to check the meaning of more carefully and which ones you need to drill.
This might mean you go from looking at the meaning, form and pronunciation of eight words, to the meaning of two, the pronunciation of four, and checking the spelling of two other problem words. As you can imagine, this will take a lot less time, and students will be more engaged because it’s only dealing with their problems, instead of going over ground they’ve already covered before. It also means more time for the all important practice and feedback on it.
Read every question from a comprehension exercise aloud before you start the activity
While it’s great that students are aware of the questions before they do the reading/listening activity, this means students are listening to you for a long time. If you’re displaying the activity too, they’re trying to read and listen at the same time, which we normally do at different speeds. While this can help some students, for others it will interrupt their processing and make it harder. If you’re not displaying the questions, the students are trying to work out how much attention they should be paying – should they answer the questions? Remember them? Or what? If you ask students to read out each comprehension question, you’re generally putting them on the spot (they’ve rarely rehearsed) asking them to pronounce things that were meant to be read not spoken, and possibly are quite challenging. Other students are struggling to understand what they’re hearing, and again possibly getting distracted by the written form of the questions.
Instead, if it’s questions for a listening activity, give students 1-2 minutes (depending on how many questions there are) to read the questions in silence. You can give them a little task if you like e.g. underline any words which you’re not sure about. I don’t tend to do this though, as I’ve either already taught them a challenging word or two from the questions, or they’ll ask me themselves if they don’t know it and I’ve built up a relationship of trust and asking questions openly. It might also be worth highlighting the pronunciation of one or two words with strange sound-spelling relationships, such as queue, to prepare learners to notice it in the audio. Then ask learners if they’re ready to listen and play the audio.
If it’s a reading, it’s generally enough to highlight one or two words students might not understand in the questions, trying to elicit the meaning where possible rather than just telling the students. Then let them do the reading – they don’t necessarily need separate time to read all of the questions first.
Drill all the answers
After a reading or listening activity, you don’t need to drill the correct answers as students are answering the questions. It shifts the focus of the stage from ensuring that students all have the correct answers and know why they’re correct, to a pronunciation drill. If they’ve already got an answer with a similar meaning, they’re likely to start doubting themselves. They might not want to volunteer an answer if they’re worried about pronunciation. It can particularly confuse students when you shift back and forth between asking for an answer, drilling a version of it, asking for the next answer, drilling it, etc. as they don’t know what to focus on: the answers or the correct pronunciation?
Instead, make sure the students have all of the correct answers first. Here are a few ways to do this (some of them are Zoom-specific):
Teacher nominates students for verbal feedback (what we most commonly see, but this can take a long time and be very teacher-centred)
Students nominate each other.
All students answer the question verbally. (works well for short answers e.g. a, b)
Thumbs up/down if you agree with my answer.
Reveal the answers on PowerPoint from behind boxes – one at a time / all at once
Move pictures or words to provide visual support to oral feedback.
Type on the screen to provide visual support to oral feedback.
One student reads out all of the answers, the others say if there are any problems.
Display the answers with a couple of mistakes. Students have to find them.
Zoom: Type in the chat box – everybody types the same answer at the same time, controlled by the teacher.
Zoom: Type in the chat box – 1 student types each answer, e.g. Student A types 1, B types 2, C types 3, etc.
Zoom: Use the stamp function in annotate to tick/cross statements. (tell them it’s under ‘view options’ – only on computers, not phones)
Zoom: Get students to send answers only to you in the chat using the private message function.
Zoom: Students type all the answers, but don’t press enter until you tell them to (especially good for two or three short answers)
Zoom: Write longer answers in Google Docs/Padlet, preferably while doing the activity rather than afterwards.
If there were any major pronunciation problems which really impeded communication, make a note of them and go back to them once the students have all of the correct answers. If they didn’t impede communication, it’s OK not to worry about them.
The teacher must be in complete control of everything the students say and do throughout the lesson
This includes but is not limited to:
Lead ins which are a question and answer session between the teacher and the whole class, with only one student speaking at any one time
Long teacher-centred grammar presentations
A complete lack of pairwork or groupwork, only whole class, teacher-mediated activities
Feedback stages which consist of the teacher nominating each student in turn to basically repeat when they just said during pairwork
While each of these activities may (very!) occasionally be useful, if you never give the students any space or freedom to experiment with the language during the lesson, they won’t learn. Again, if we’re not struggling, we’re not learning. If you try to make sure that everything they ever produce is perfect, some students will shut down completely and stop trying to communicate. If you fully dominate the lesson, the pace often drops, students lose engagement and (particularly with kids and young learners) you start to have problems with classroom management as students don’t want to be there. I once heard this salient reminder from a feedback session (substituting my name for the person concerned): “Remember, Sandy, it’s not the Sandy show. You’re there to help the students, not do the work for them.”
Instead, hand over control to the students as much as possible. Set up pair and group work and monitor from the sidelines, being prepared to help when needed. Do this right from the start of the lesson, and take yourself out of the question. Find other ways to work with grammar (see the first point above). Vary your feedback stages so they’re not as teacher-centred. Let them decide how long activities should take, or choose which game you’re going to play (if they already know a couple). Give them opportunities to make the lessons and the language their own.
(A tiny bit of theory)
If CELTA trainers never tell their trainees to do these things, why do they happen on so many courses? I think I’ve seen all five of these things on every course I’ve done!
My feeling is that the apprenticeship of observation has a lot to do with it. This is a term coined by Dan Lortie in 1975 describing the fact that we spend many hours in classrooms as students and therefore form very fixed pre-conceptions of what a teacher should do and be. For many trainees, CELTA is the first time they’ve encountered a student-centred approach to teacher, where the aim is to set up the conditions for students to learn and facilitate activities and practice, rather than lecture them and control everything. When planning a lesson and not sure what to do, trainees are unlikely to remember a minute or two the couple of hours or so of a demo lesson or an observation showing them how we’d suggest they do a particular activity, especially if the trainee doesn’t really believe this is the ‘correct’ way to teach. Instead they fall back on ‘tried and tested’ methods of teacher control, lecturing, and reading aloud and nothing much changes until they get trainer feedback.
I know some trainers try to combat this by doing an early session on the course encouraging trainees to think about what being a good teacher actually means and how we learn both inside and outside the classroom. This helps trainees to uncover their beliefs and begin to question them straight away. I’d be interested to know what other ideas people have for resolving this issue, or at least bringing it to light as quickly as possible.
On 3rd June 2020, I presented a webinar for IH Bucharest demonstrating how to exploit activities in lots of different ways, with minimal planning required by the teacher. Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to use every activity in the same lesson, but the ideas I shared were designed to demonstrate how you can make a single exercise lead to a much wider range of practice activities, depending on what your learners need help with. The slides are here (though they’re much more useful when presenting than referring to them later! See below the slides for a more useful link!):
All of the ideas in the webinar were originally designed for a face-to-face classroom, but most of them can be used as is or with only minimal adaptations in an online classroom. They were originally shared on my blog in the post One activity, multiple tasks, based on a task from ELT Playbook 1. ELTPB 1 is a book of short tasks for teachers to help them reflect on their teaching.
My ebook, Richer Speaking, costs less than $1, and contains 16 ways to adapt speaking activities to help students get more out of them. You can find four of the ideas for free in this post.
If you’d like ideas specific to teaching online, particularly using Zoom, then try ideas for adapting group lessons to working on Zoom. Some of these may take a little longer to prepare, but I’m a firm believer in teachers doing less work and students doing more!
Let me know which ideas you’ve tried out and how they go with your classes.
Here is a list of some of the things I have noticed students doing since I arrived in Poland three years ago. Caveats:
My numbers here are based on impressions – there is no formal research to back it up! If you want more scientific and in-depth information about problems which Polish learners have with English, look at pages 162-178 of Learner English: A teacher’s guide to interference and other problemsedited by Michael Swan and Bernard Smith [affiliate link].
I realise that some of the things I’m correcting might not be in line with English as Lingua Franca, but they should be useful if you have students who want to take exams like Cambridge Proficiency. They’re often things which teachers don’t notice in my experience.
Having said that, I’ve skipped /th/ (who cares?!) and features of connected speech like weak forms because everyone has trouble with those things in English!
Please feel free to add to the list, or correct anything which you think I’ve got wrong!
The following do not exist in Polish (or, indeed, any Slavic language) so students tend to avoid them initially, then over-use them for a long time before they get them right:
By my estimate, they tend to start getting them right at around high upper-intermediate (B2) level, and are normally pretty consistent by advanced. Articles are the last things to stick – I think at C1 they get about 90% of them correct, and C2 is when they’re 99% correct.
In Polish, conditional sentences are marked in both clauses. When producing English conditionals, Polish learners often use would or will in the ‘if’ clause: *If it will rain, I won’t go.
Nouns are gendered in Polish. When replaced by a pronoun, masculine nouns become on (which is ‘he’ or ‘it’ in English), and feminine nouns become ona (‘she’ or ‘it’). At low levels, students sometimes therefore use ‘he’ and ‘she’ in English.
I’ve noticed that Polish speakers of English overuse the ‘of’ possessive because this reflects the word order of Polish possessives: Bart is the son of Homerrather than Bart is Homer’s son (Bart jest syn Homera.)
Verbs which follow another verb are used in the infinitive in Polish, rather than the gerund, leading to mistakes like *I suggest to visit Warsaw. I suspect it would therefore be more important/useful for Polish learners to memorise lists of verbs followed by the gerund than it would be for them to memorise those followed by the infinitive, as they’re likely to transfer the latter pattern but not the former.
As in many languages, a single Polish word can be used for each of the following groups of English words:
say, tell, speak
teach, learn, study
come and go are also very confusing, though there are many, many different translations for these verbs. On that note, in Slavic languages ships and boats ‘swim’, rather than ‘float’ or ‘go’.
In Polish, you ‘make a photo’, rather than take a photo.
The preposition with is often added after verbs like contact and telephone, by analogy with Polish: *I need to contact with his parents. *I’ll telephone with Mark tomorrow.
My new favourite mistranslation is *guarantee guard instead of security guard 🙂 Another favourite is *I like eating Polish kitchen instead of I like eating Polish cuisine, or I like eating Polish food, which is the sentence I try to get students to say in this case. My students can sometimes be resistant to using food instead of cuisine!
Ordinal numbers are used in Polish in places where cardinal numbers are normally used in English. The main time I hear this is when students are referring to exercises or questions, so they say ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘third’, where I would say ‘Question 1’, ‘Exercise 2’, or ‘Number 3’.
The nouns ‘colour’ and ‘shape’ are often used when they are unnecessary in English. For example, *It has green colour. rather than It’s green. or *It has square shape. not It’s square.
For Polish learners (in Bydgoszcz at least!) ‘communication’ means the transport system, rather than being connected to sending information. A ‘karta komunikacja’ is a kind of travel pass, which they sometimes translate as a *communication card. I’ve heard sentences like *In Bydgoszcz we have a very good communication. meaning In Bydgoszcz we have a very good transport system.
‘Actually’ is a false friend. As in many languages, it means something like ‘currently’ or ‘up-to-date’ in Polish, depending on the context. ‘Buty’ is the general word for ‘shoes’, not just ‘boots’. ‘Pilot’ in Polish means ‘remote control’ in English.
My students overuse the word ‘hour’ in place of ‘time’. Examples of mistakes include *We start work at different hours.*It’s break hour. and *The hour of the concert was changed.
Stress almost always falls on the penultimate syllable in Polish words, so students do this by extension in English too. For example, I heard students saying /viOlin/ in a recent observation. Not necessarily super important for international communication, but useful to know about when predicting problems.
The intonation range of Polish is much narrower than in English, so students often sound pretty bored or robotic. I find this is less common if students watch/listen to a lot of English (so teens!). Students need to be really encouraged to be expressive in English and push themselves to use intonation to carry/emphasise meaning.
Sound-spelling relationships are very transparent in Polish, in contrast to English. Some spelling combinations in Polish cause confusion when encountered in English words, particularly for low-level students. For example, ‘ci’ in Polish is pronounced like ‘ch’ in English, but ‘c’ alone is pronounced like ‘ts’ in English. The word specialist particularly confused one group I had – some pronounced it with ‘ch’ in the middle /spe-cha-list/, and others with ‘ts’ and an extra syllable /spe-tsy-a-list/.
The most confusing vowel minimal pair for Polish/Slavic learners is /æ/ and /ʌ/, which is important for me as I often get called Sunday 🙂 This causes confusion with pairs like cap/cup, hat/hut and began/begun.
I tend to group problematic letters together when teaching the alphabet, rather than using an alphabet song. Here are the groups I use, ranked by my opinion on the most to least confusing for Poles:
a, e, i, y
g, h, j
u, v, w
f, l, m, n
b, d, p, t
I don’t normally include the final two groups apart from for beginners, as these letters are pretty similar in Polish I think (though I haven’t learnt the Polish alphabet properly myself yet – oops!) Here are some alternative groupings:
f, v, w
i, j, y
g, k, q
In Polish, the equivalents to ‘you’ (Wy, Pan, Pani…) are capitalised when they are polite, and ‘I’ (ja) is only capitalised at the start of a sentence. Look out for sentences like this: *He helped me so i understood. *What are You doing? Some of my upper intermediate students still did this – I guess nobody had ever pointed it out to them that our capitalisation rules are different!
Months and days start with lower-case in Polish, not capitals as in English.
Clauses introduced by ‘that’ (że) take commas in Polish, so learners produce sentences like *I know, that he is famous. In general, commas are used much more often in Polish than they are in English, and with a much wider range of conjunctions.
As in most European languages, dots and commas in numbers are the opposite way round in English to Polish, so Polish 0,5 would be English 0.5 (nought point five) and Polish 1.234 would be English 1,234 (one thousand, two hundred and thirty-four).
This is a collection of talks I saw at IATEFL Brighton 2018 which have ideas that can be used in the classroom, or thoughts on methodology that may influence your classroom practice. They’re arranged roughly from what I perceived to be the most theoretical to the most immediately practical (as in, activities you could use in class tomorrow).
The frequency fallacy
Leo Selivan’s talk examined how useful frequency-based word lists really are. You can watch the full talk yourself, or read my summary. We can often over- or underestimate how frequent words actually are due to the availability bias, which says that if something is easy to remember, it must be more frequent. There are many different ways you can check how frequent a particular word is, for example by looking at the information in learner dictionaries. In the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, there is information about how common a word is in both spoken and written English. For example, abroad is in the top 2000 words of spoken English, and top 3000 of written English. 80% of English texts are made up of high frequency words, and they are used as defining vocabulary, so it can seem a good idea to focus on them in our teaching.
However, there are many problems with these high frequency words. We can assume that if you know high frequency words you’ll be fine, with a high-level of understanding. Polysemy (same word, different meanings) isn’t acknowledged in word lists, for example the different meanings of ‘rough’ in ‘He’s got very rough hands.’ and ‘It’s just a rough estimate.’ ‘Cast’ has 10 different meanings as a verb, without thinking about its meanings as a noun. It’s essential to consider co-text too. This implies that we should teach collocations straight away, not wait until higher levels. Another problem with frequency lists is the grouping of words, so ‘name’ and ‘namely’ are there as a single item (I think!). This implies that learning ‘name’ should mean understanding of ‘namely’, which it obviously doesn’t! Some words we often use in the classroom don’t appear on frequency lists, like ‘homework’. Leo challenged us to think of 6 words or chunks that we think of when we see the word ‘travelling’. Mine were ‘plane’, ‘alone’, ‘passport’, ‘go away’, ‘holiday’ and ‘backpack’. Leo pointed out that most of the ones we came up with probably aren’t in the top 2000 or 3000, but if we’re travelling, they’re really important, so we also need to consider student needs, not just general frequency of words.
Another issue is that chunks like ‘at all’ or ‘bear in mind’ are non-transparent, so although some or all of the words may appear on a frequency list, it doesn’t mean students can understand them by learning the component words. The PHRASal Expressions List (PHRASE List) and PHrasal VErb Pedagogical List (PHaVE List) are two new frequency lists designed to take this into account, by including non-transparent multiword items.
I found the talk very interesting, and it certainly made me think about how useful frequency lists really are, but I was left wondering what we should do instead. I know it’s hard to answer that in 30 minutes, but I’m hoping Leo will go into more detail on his blog at some point.
Mark Hancock’s was called ‘Towards a pedagogical phonology’ and looked at developments in the way he believes that phonology should be taught in a post-ELF world. He highlighted that accent snobbery is pointless, as there are so many different accents in the world and none of them are any better than any others. He also said that it’s important to expose students to a variety of accents, since no matter how ‘perfectly’ you might speak, you can’t control how your interlocutor speaks. It also doesn’t matter which accent you use to speak, as long as it gains you access to the international community.
The more common a variant is between accents, the more likely it is to be understood. This therefore makes it less problematic for listeners to understand. For example, ‘free’ is such a common variant of ‘three’ now, that it is almost always understood. It also generally doesn’t make you less intelligible if you pronounce something that is written, like the ‘r’ in ‘Mark’, but it might make you less intelligible if you don’t say it. We should aim to build or grow our students’ accents, rather than to replace them.
When we think about teaching pronunciation, we ultimately have to think about what is essential and what is superficial. Mark used the metaphor of aliens finding a car in space and trying to copy it. They don’t know that the scratches on the car are not a key part of what makes it work, so they copy them with the same level of care as they copy the engine and the wheels. In pronunciation, the equivalent of the engine and the wheels are things like syllables and phoneme distinctions, whereas the schwa, weak forms and elision are like the scratches. Having said that, it’s important to negotiate the syllabus with students, as they may have different ideas to you about what they want.
You can use this inverted triangle as a kind of hierarchy of pronunciation skills to be developed, with lower order skills at the bottom, and higher order ones at the top:
The full set of Mark’s slides are available here, and there is a treasure trove of other useful materials on the HancockMcDonald site, which he shares with Annie Hancock.
Nicola Meldrum and Mark McKinnon shared some of the insights into pronunciation which they have come up with while running teacher training courses. They were working with A1 groups, and wanted to ensure that they modelled an equal focus on meaning, form and sound/pronunciation with all groups. This meant using natural speech and intonation patterns, even at very low levels, and highlighting what happens when form and sound don’t seem to match. Often students and teachers seem to focus on meaning and form, neglecting the sound of new language. They shared a 3-minute video of Toni, talking in Spanish (subtitled) about his experiences of pronunciation in class. It’s well worth watching, as Toni described how useful he found individual drilling, transcription of phonemes, and being able to concentrate just on the sound of new language at times, among many other insights. Before these lessons, he only used to focus on the written form and not the sound, and now he notices a real difference in how much more confident he is.
Nicola and Mark also recommended feedback focussed planning, where you consider what problems students might have with the sound of new language and plan how you can help them with it. Give students time and space by reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ to get through and leaving time for feedback. A supportive listening cycle is also useful here: time and a variety of tasks means students can spend time really understanding the sound of new language. They have written a series of blog posts covering all three of the concepts they mentioned during their talk: MFS (meaning, form, sound), SLC (supportive listening cycle) and FFP (feedback-focussed planning).
Heloisa Duarte’s talk looked at what we can do to support older learners in the classroom. Depending on your context, older learners can start at anything from 45 to 70. As Heloisa said, there aren’t many generalisations we can make about older learners, but one thing we can say is that their parents didn’t force them to come to the classes! They tend to be highly motivated, perhaps wanting to learn English to talk to new family members, perhaps to move to an English-speaking country, or to feel better about themselves and boost their confidence. For others, it is just because they’ve always wanted to and now have the time and money to do it. The social side of courses can also be very important for these students.
Challenges for older learners include health problems, like mobility, hearing or eyesight. For example, the higher the pitch of a voice, the harder it can be to understand. There may be affective factors, such as previous bad experiences with English teachers, or a feeling that it is too late for them to learn, affecting their self-confidence. There may also be cognitive challenges: ‘I want to learn, but I forget.’ Some younger students may have the perception that older students are helpless, or less able to participate, and this is very rarely true.
Heloisa asked us to think about how we might adapt the lessons for three possible students. One of them was shown in one of my favourite adverts ever:
She advised us to help learners to acknowledge every victory they have, and work hard at boosting their confidence. She recommended Seeds of Confidence by , [affiliate link] published by Helbling languages, as a source of other confidence-building activities.
Other advice included:
Choose coursebooks with appropriate topics, making sure they’re not pitched too young.
Adapt activities to suit the interests of your students. One example she gave was to listen to ‘Old Macdonald had a farm’, then write an advert for him to sell his farm because he’s going crazy!
Use and teach memorisation techniques.
Revise and recycle as often as possible.
Find out about learners and value their experience.
Ultimately, it’s most important to adjust the classroom and lessons to your learners, rather than demanding they adapt to you.
David Connolly shared some Venn diagrams he has used to help students to understand grammar points, rather than trying to navigate the long and often complicated explanations that appear in a lot of course books. I was particularly interested in this session as I have been experimenting with different ways of clarifying language points for a while now, as any of you who have been following my blog for a while will know (another articles chart, anyone?!) David emphasised that Venn diagrams don’t provide a complete explanation covering all exceptions to rules, with context still being key. However, they can be used as a starting point for understanding. Here is one example for the uses of past simple, ‘used to’ and ‘would’ for past habits:
Bruno Leys showed us a lot of pictures of real English in use that he has noticed in the UK and abroad, along with the kind of questions and follow-up tasks he uses with them. I would highly recommend looking at the full presentation, here, to see both examples of the pictures and his reasoning for approaching grammar in this way. I’ve selected a couple of my favourite examples to give you a taster. These two are great as the present perfect causes problems for speakers of a lot of languages, including Slavic languages, and these pictures help to make the meaning very clear:
For a lot of teachers, it can be hard to find the time or the opportunity to observe and learn from other teachers’ lessons. If that’s you, hopefully you’ll find these videos useful.
I’ve divided them into loose categories, with a sentence or two to help you decide which are the most relevant to you. Within the categories, they’re just in the order I found them! I’d like to thank the many people who’ve sent me links to these videos over the years (though unfortunately I can’t remember exactly who sent me what!)
Please feel free to tell me about other videos I may have missed in the comments, as well as any broken links. I’d particularly appreciate any VYL, YL or teen videos that may be out there, though I know they may be hard to find.
P.S. I’ll admit that I haven’t watched all of these from start to finish, just bits and pieces, so please proceed with caution…
Hubert Puchta introducing vocabulary and using Total Physical Response (TPR) and telling an action story (7 minutes)
An American kindergarten teacher working in a French-language immersion school (27 minutes) (via David Deubelbeiss)
Teacher Allen singing a song and teaching a demo lesson with Chinese kindergarteners (10 minutes)
Another kindergarten lesson in China, this time with 33 children (30 minutes)
Michael Roxas working on adjectives, using TPR and introducing clothes with a kindergarten group, working with a Chinese teacher (27 minutes) Michael has other videos of him teaching kindergarten on his YouTube channel.
This one shows Mark working with puppets (3 minutes)
Paul Pemberton teaching kindergarteners in China (30 minutes), including a really nice routine for getting kids to put their hands up
Shaun teaching 3 year olds in China for a parents’ open day (15 minutes)
Hannah Sophia Elliot teaching kindergarten in China (41 minutes)
Ann teaching children using a story bag (9 minutes)
Watts English have a series of videos showing children in Prague kindergarten. Here’s the first (20 minutes) Look at the Czech playlist for more, as well as the games bank.
Here’s an example of a teacher using a puppet as part of their WOW! method (5 minutes)
Savannah building rapport with a brand new group of students (4 minutes)
Tony using role plays as part of a demo lesson (23 minutes)
Najmul Hasan (a.k.a. Peter) also has a range of videos of him teaching kindergarten. Here’s one (25 minutes)
Rebecca Eddy teaching shapes to a kindergarten class in China (13 minutes)
This video is designed to show teachers how to run a demo lesson, but there are also lots of useful tips in there and examples of how to set up activities (9 minutes)
Tanner Applegate teaching 3 year olds in China (6 minutes)
Marco Brazil teaching colours to very young learners (4 minutes)
Teaching weather to kindergarten children, with a Chinese teacher also in the room (15 minutes)
Introducing body parts (4 minutes)
Thanks very much to Lucy, who suggested in the comments that I look up kindergarten ESL teacher on YouTube, which led to most of the above videos!
Adi Rajan suggested the Teacher Development films available on the British Council website, accompanied by workbooks. Here’s one example (52 minutes):
Marisa Constantinides playing the ‘please’ game, and thereby demonstrating total physical response (TPR) (8 minutes) She wrote about this activity, plus two more with accompanying videos (Thanks for letting me know, Marisa!)
Ashley Haseley teaching sensory reactions in China (12 minutes)
Kaila Smith talking about teaching children in China, with lots of clips from her classes (4 minutes)
Pass the bag, a video of a game shared by Ian Leahy (90 seconds)
Sam playing a days of the week game with Thai children (2 minutes)
This video shows you how to do guided reading with elementary learners – it’s mostly describing the technique, but there are various clips of the teacher at work (11 minutes)
A counting game for kids (2 minutes)
This is a video describing various classroom management techniques shared by Ian Leahy. Although there is a voiceover throughout the entire video, there are lots of clips of exactly what’s happening. (16 minutes)
Gunter Gerngross demonstrating TPR with young learners (3 minutes)
Karlee Demierre using a body parts song (3 minutes)
Introducing animal vocabulary in a demo lesson, with lots of flashcard games (32 minutes)
A shopping lesson with pre-intermediate students using Solutions Pre-Intermediate (17 minutes)
Ross Thorburn introducing the rooms in a school (6 minutes)…
…and showing how unmonitored group work ran (35 seconds)
Ross Thorburn using flashcards with beginner young learners (1:10)…
…and with elementary young learners (1:30)
Ross also has tips for behaviour management, including live examples from class (5 minutes)…
…and demonstrating routines (7 minutes)
In this video, Ross introduces vocabulary, then takes his class into a shopping mall (8 minutes)
Sarah Troughear teaching a group using Life Pre-Intermediate, based on the topic of transport (60-minutes, including post-lesson analysis)
Clive Brown teaching a group using Life Upper Intermediate, based on the topic of documentary film-makers (37 minutes, including post-lesson analysis)
Andrew Walkley using an image to get students interested in a coursebook topic and lead in to a discussion (6 minutes)
Hugh Dellar teaching listening lexically – part 1 (13 minutes)
and part 2…
Stacey Hughes teaching using an e-book – find out more (10 minutes)
Me 🙂 teaching upper intermediate students – working with gerunds and infinitives (8 minutes) – find out more
Me clarifying the difference between ‘borrow’ and ‘lend’ with upper intermediate (9 minutes)
Me teaching money vocab to intermediate students (15 minutes)
Billy Hasirci teaching a demo lesson for a CELTA course (he’s the tutor!) He’s working with intermediate students, listening to a song (41 minutes)
Lindsay Warwick teaching second conditional (1 hour)
Hugh Dellar demonstrating the lexical approach, including lots of whiteboard work (18 minutes)
Elizabeth Kuizenga Romijn teaching high-level beginners (I would say elementary) cooking vocabulary using realia (38 minutes)
John Bartik teaching beginners the phrase ‘I like ______’ (13 minutes)
Chris Westergaard teaching animal vocabulary to a group of intermediate students (14 minutes)…
…and movie vocabulary to another intermediate group (10 minutes)
Functional language to help students debate, I’d guess at intermediate or upper intermediate level. I don’t know the teacher’s name, but it was shared on the ELT Experiences blog (17 minutes)
Hugh Dellar teaching a one-hour Skype lesson based on Outcomes Advanced with three students from Krasnodar, Russia. It includes examples of Hugh works with lexis, as an advocate of the lexical approach.
Angelos Bollas teaching a CELTA demo grammar lesson to upper intermediate students on Zoom, showing you what it’s like from the teacher’s perspective:
Angelos again, teaching another CELTA demo lesson, this time using task-based materials using the Fluency First blog:
CELTA TP7, as uploaded by English with Stephanie, intermediate students, restaurants (45 minutes)
And TP8, focussing on functional language, again with intermediate students (35 minutes)
David teaching during CELTA uploaded by Insearch LearningCentre (60 minutes) – I’m guessing it’s elementary or pre-intermediate students, talking about a trip to Japan
Anastasia, a Russian trainee who did her CELTA in 2012 (47 minutes)
Please feel free to suggest any extra videos or to tell me if there are any broken links.
I put together this selection of memorisation activities for a CELTA course at LangLTC in Warsaw and thought it would be a good idea to share the activities here too. The activities can be used:
after error correction
to help students fix bits of new language in their heads before they need to produce it at a later stage in the lesson
to exploit decontextualised sentences, for example from a gapfill
to improve students’ confidence with bits of language
as learner training – once they’ve learnt them, a lot of the activities are things they can try themselves or with fellow students, without needing a teacher to set them up
They are taken from various wonderful people I’ve worked with in the past, plus a couple of my own ideas. If you think there are any that should be credited differently, please let me know. It would also be great if you could add your own ideas for activities in the comments. Enjoy!
Draw your sentence
Aims: To exploit students’ creativity. To personalise language.
Use this after students do a controlled practice exercise or study a new set of vocabulary.
Students fold a piece of A4 paper into 8 boxes and put small numbers in the corner, like so:
On the left half of the paper only (which should have 4 boxes), they illustrate four of the sentences/words in any way they choose, one per box. They shouldn’t write the sentence/word.
Everyone puts the original sentences/words away.
Give them the paper from another group. On the right-hand side of the paper, they should write the corresponding sentence/word.
The original group corrects their answers and gives them feedback.
A more high-tech version of ‘draw your sentence’, via Luke Raymond. Use this video to help you make your book:
Page 1 (the front cover) shows the target word/sentence. Each student should have a different item.
The book is passed to student B who draws a picture on page 2 to represent the target language.
Student C looks at the picture and writes the word/sentence they think it is on page 3, without looking back to page 1. They fold the book so page 3 now becomes the front cover.
The process is repeated until the book is finished.
Much hilarity ensues as the students see the way the language has been illustrated and how it has changed throughout the book.
Students love the ‘Chinese whispers/telephone’ nature of this game 🙂
What do you mean you didn’t read the sentences?
Via Olga Stolbova
(I now call this ‘evil memorisation’!)
Aims: To encourage students to notice context. To make them aware of gaps in their language.
Use this after students do a gapfill exercise.
Check the answers by writing them on the board (just the answers, not the complete sentence).
Students put away the original exercise.
They look at the answers on the board and have to recreate the original sentences. Expect protests! 🙂 Encourage them to write whatever they can remember, even if it’s just isolated words or phrases.
If they’re really struggling/When you start feeling sympathetic, give them one minute to look at the exercise without writing anything, then close their books again and continue to work on reproducing the sentences.
Students compare their recreated sentences to the originals. What were the differences?
Optional extra evilness: put away the sentences you’ve just rewritten. Now say them all to your partner./Write them all again. You can also do this at the end of the lesson when they’ve done other things in between.
If students are depressed that they can’t remember everything, tell them you don’t expect this. I normally say that I want them to remember about 80% of the sentences immediately (with some effort), and about 50% by the end of the lesson, once we’ve done a few other things and they’ve had time to forget. It can be useful to show them the forgetting curve too.
Vocabulary revision game
Via Anette Igel
Aim: To revise vocabulary covered in previous lessons.
Give each group a stack of small pieces of scrap paper (about 1/8 of A4 in size).
They should write the English word/phrase on one side, and put either the translation, definition or example sentence on the other side. The game can also be played with word/vocabulary cards if this is something you use with your students.
To create counters, rip one piece of small scrap into coin sized pieces. They write a letter or draw a symbol on each to indicate which is theirs. Alternatively, they can use any small item they can find (e.g. a paperclip, pen lid, etc).
The final thing they need to prepare the game is either a coin, or a scrap paper ‘coin’, which can be made by folding another small piece up into a tight square, then writing ‘heads’ on one side and ‘tails’ on the other.
The words should be arranged in a circle to create a game track. All of the counters should be placed on the same word to start.
One player flips the coin. Heads = 2, tails = 1. To help them remember which is which, H has two legs, T has one leg. They move 1 or 2 spaces around the circle. When they land, they can do one of two things:
If the word/phrase is face up, say the translation, definition or example sentence.
If the translation/definition/example sentence is face up, say the word/phrase.
In either case, if they are correct, they turn the card over and stay there. If they are wrong, they turn the card over and go back to where they started the turn.
The winner is the person who has moved furthest around the circle at the end of a specified time.
Back translation/Reverse translation
Aims: To help students notice differences between L1 and L2. To help them notice gaps in their language.
Select one sentence per pair or ask students to choose one. Sentences could be from controlled practice exercises, tapescripts, reading, sentences produced by students…
Each pair translates their sentences from English into L1. For multilingual groups, they work alone.
Either: give the sentence to another pair immediately (if they share a language) OR take sentences away and return them to the same person/pair in the following lesson.
Students translate the L1 sentence back into English.
They then compare their English version to the original, and notice any differences. The teacher’s job is to point out whether the students’ English version is still acceptable, and to help them understand any mistakes or differences in meaning. Though it obviously helps, you don’t need to speak L1 to do this activity.
This could also be set up as a mingle activity. Student A says their L1 sentence, student B says it in English, then student B says their L1 sentence and A says it in English. If they get it wrong, the ‘L1’ student should say ‘No, try again.’ until they get it right. My students seem to get a lot out of this, especially with language that differs structurally from Polish, like verb + gerund/infinitive.
Drill, drill, drill
Aims: To improve student confidence before speaking. To help students internalise the language.
There are hundreds of ways to drill new language.
Point at words/flashcards, moving rapidly between them and returning to problem words often.
Whisper, shout, go slow, speed up, say it like an old lady/Arnold Schwarzenegger, be happy/excited/sad.
Boys and girls, call and response (e.g. half say question, half answer).
What’s missing? Students close eyes/turn around. You remove one or more flashcards/words.
Disappearing text (good for dialogues): start with the whole dialogue on the board. Gradually remove parts of it, either a line at a time or leaving behind key words, with students repeating it multiple times.
Key word drills (good for functional language): draw a table with numbered cells. Put one word from each sentence in each cell e.g. for the phrases How about going to the cinema?What about seeing a film? Let’s watch a film. you could have:
1. How 2. What 3. Let
They say the phrase from memory. They can test each other by saying the number and their partner saying the sentence. Removing the words (but not the numbers!) increases the level of challenge. Follow up: can you remember all the phrases without looking?
Mingle: students have one picture/word each. They mingle, show their paper to their partner who has to say the correct word/phrase. To add challenge, they swap after each turn.
Circle drill: pass a flashcard around the circle. Each person says it in turn. You can also turn it into a dialogue e.g. Receiving student: What’s the weather like today? Passing student: It’s sunny. To add challenge, time the class to see how long it takes to pass around the whole circle, then repeat faster.
Some important things to remember are:
Make sure students know the meaning of the language before the drill.
Choral > group > individual. Don’t put students on the spot too early.
Model language naturally: you need to sound like a stuck record. It’s easy to overstress when correcting.
Keep the pace up. Add variety wherever possible. For example, can they drill it in pairs and listen to each other?
Many of these can be done as pairwork after a teacher demonstration. Some are useful for fast finishers too.
Say all of the new vocabulary/sentences from the exercise as fast as you can to your partner. You can do this before drilling as a test, so that you only drill language students struggle with.
Can you remember the word/sentence before X on the list? If students really struggle, give them 1 minute to look and remember before doing the exercise.
How many of the words from the page can you write alone in two minutes? Compare with a partner. This can be at the end of a lesson after lots of work with the language, or at the start of the next class.
Mistake sentences: read the sentence with a mistake and students correct it. Mistakes could be false friends, articles, tenses (especially ones where connected speech confuses)…
Pause sentences: read a sentence but pause in the middle of the collocation. Do students know what comes next? Good for improving the ability to predict upcoming language when listening.
Quizlet is an easy-to-use website which allows you to create lots of activities for the price of one – add some vocabulary and you immediately have about 6 games, plus the ability to print flashcards for lots more. For a full guide to how to use Quizlet and create your own content on there, plus links to level-specific groups, see http://independentenglish.wordpress.com/quizlet – it’s a bit out-of-date as the site has changed it’s layout, but most of what’s on there still holds. If you have at least 6 devices (phones, tablets etc) in your classroom, you can also play Quizlet Live – my students absolutely love it!
Since I did an assessed lesson based on listening for my Delta, I’ve been interested in finding out more ways to help my students develop their listening skills. I even did a presentation on it myself at IATEFL Harrogate 2014, heavily influenced by John Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom [affiliate link]. Richard Cauldwell’s book Phonology for listening: Teaching the stream of speech[another affiliate link!] has also been very useful in helping me to understand why it can be so difficult for learners to decode fluent connected speech. I was therefore very pleased to be able to attend presentations given by both John and Richard during this IATEFL. The other presentations summarised in this post were from the Forum on Listening.
I haven’t tried to summarise Jane Setter’s plenary on intonation for two reasons: 1. I couldn’t get it all into tweets, 2. to fully appreciate the intonation differences, you really need to watch/listen to it yourself!
You can also watch an interview with Jane recorded after the plenary.
John started by telling us that he has been ‘worrying about listening for the last 34 years’.
The typical comprehension approach starts with pre-listening and activating schemata, something that doesn’t reflect real life. We also don’t pre-teach vocabulary in real life, so it’s counter-productive in training. The next step is to set questions to target listening, then play the recording, check answers, and replay key sections (providing answers as we go). However, this approach doesn’t actually train learners to become better listeners.
(not a great picture, I know, but it shows why the student thought the answer to a question was ‘crack’, when in fact it was ‘nature reserves’ – they misheard the word ‘attract’ in the stream of speech)
John thinks that we can get a lot more out of the comprehension approach. We should forget about activating schemata and pre-teaching vocabulary, as these don’t happen in real life, though we should quickly introduce students to the context and the number of speakers, as they would normally know this, e.g. two people talking on a bus.
It isn’t usually the script that causes the problem, it’s the recording. The item writer is not involved in the recording. Tasks also need to be carefully thought out, as we give away in writing a lot of what’s in the recording, and encourage test-wise strategies, rather than strategies for general listening. To improve their approach, the teacher needs to prepare the listening in detail – using the script WITH the recording. What’s perceptually difficult?
There should be a first play for SS adjust to speakers’ voices, listening globally without the pressure of questions, and without using questions to guess in advance what they’re likely to hear. If you’re going to use questions, set them before the second listen, so that they don’t interfere with the learners’ perceptions the first time they hear the text. Check and DIAGNOSE reasons for learners’ answers, then replay parts identified by you AND students as perceptually difficult. Transcribe short sections, especially if they are particularly problematic. Listeners are individuals, each with their own problems with a recording, and these change over time and with experience. If you can afford it, provide a listening centre where listeners can work on their own problems individually. Give learners a transcript at the end of the lesson and ask them to listen again. Set listening homework. Though my students almost never do it – I need to have more engaging tasks and clearer developmental reasons for them to do it!
Do we need better materials? YES! New writers often don’t have a clear idea of what a skills approach is. Materials should take pressure off the teacher, guiding them, and focussing on the difficult parts of the recording. Field suggests open-ended questions, so the class can talk about possible answers. Sometimes you could use short clips with a single question, instead of the more normal long excerpts with multiple questions. You could also embed oral questions in the script rather than written questions to stay within the same modality (so have the speaker ask a question, then pause for answer). Materials should demonstrate a better understanding of the processes that underlie successful listening and design questions to target them.
We also need to understand better what it is we’re actually teaching! When you listen you:
search for words
Sometimes context makes us distort the phonemes we think we’ve heard to make it fit the context. To handle the speech signal, we have to adjust to speaker’s voice (pitch, speech rate etc), then match the set of squeaks/buzzes we hear to the sound system of English. But do phonemes really exist? They are so variable, maybe they don’t. This echoes Richard Cauldwell – see below. To handle words, we have to divide connected speech, recognise spoken word forms, link them to what’s know about the topic. To parse, we must hold in our heads the words which have already been said, recognise grammatical patterns, and work out the word’s sense in it’s co-text. To construct meaning, we have to put what we’ve heard into a wider context, interpret new information in relation to this, infer information the speaker has taken for granted, and link words like he/she/it to what they refer to. This is followed by putting it into wider discourse (I couldn’t keep up at this stage!) There’s an awful lot going on!
How does this knowledge help us? An expert listener does these things automatically, but L2 listeners need lots of effort to do each of these things, so it can be hard for them to form the ‘big picture’ of what they’re listening to. Up to about B1, learners have to give a lot of attention to decoding at word level, limiting their ability to tap into wider meaning (I’ve definitely found this with Polish). Strategy instruction should therefore mainly be done with lower-level learners to equip them with the fact that they often can’t make wider sense of what they’re hearing. Strategy training helps them with real-world situations and to compensate for gaps in text. Lower-level learners needs process training and strategies training to fill in gaps.
You can use the same audio, but vary the task to target any of the five levels of listening.
A syllabus for listening: less top-down! More bottom-up (Richard Cauldwell)
Richard relishes fast, messy speech and tries to find ways to help learners understand it. His CoolSpeech app was an ELTons 2013 winner for digital innovation, and he is currently in the process of writing a follow-up to Phonology for listening: Teaching the stream of speech[affiliate link] which will provide a clear syllabus for listening for language teachers to work from.
All words have multiple sound shapes. Decoding is the skill of recognising words in the sound substance (or ‘fog’ in John Field’s words). The sound substance is the acoustic blur of speech, which exits the mouth, travels through the air, and hits the ear. It’s what exists before perception.
Richard uses a metaphor for different speeds and qualities of speech. The greenhouse is the place for citation forms. In the garden, sounds touch each other gently through the basic rules of connected speech. In the jungle, wild things happen and all bets are off. He argues there are different goals for pronunciation (clarity/intelligibility) and listening (understanding fast, messy, authentic speech).
Teachers tend to brush the mess of sound under the carpet, so even CPE Grade A students have ‘can’t do’ listening points. Every word has a ‘word cloud’: a range of possible word shapes in fluent speech, of which the citation form is the least likely.
The examples of ‘and’ above were all taken from a single conversation, with only one instance of it even vaguely approaching the citation form.
Here are just some of the changes which can happen in fluent speech (in the jungle):
Consonant death: this can appear in many ways e.g. that changes to ‘at
d’eth drop: anenatwasat– no ‘th’s (instead of and that was that)
B-drop/B-soft – often happens with adverbs e.g. superbly – the ‘b’ can be lost or very soft
Smoothie: when diphthongs/long vowels change to just one of their elements: like > læ
There were a lot more, but I just couldn’t keep up!
To help student, we need to delve below the word that is meant to the sound substance itself – what sounds were actually produced. Field and Thorn both advocate using short clips to help students focus (see ‘the bathtub experiment’ below too). Audacity is the best tool to help you break up the stream of speech.
Try this activity: replace the ‘i’ with each of the vowel sounds in the image. This helps students to prepare for different possible ‘shapes’ and accents:
The earworm should be short term, memory length, annoying, and stick in their head to prepare them for perception. I sometimes wake up with words or phrases like this in my head from foreign languages.
Have students listen along with an audio, and when they get to the most important part of it (the ‘wave’), get them to speak along with it (‘ride the wave’):
After the conference, I noticed that Richard shared Tubequizard as a link on his handout – it’s an excellent way to help students to focus on connected speech.
Adventures in listening: the bathtub experiment (Marie Willoughby)
Marie teaches students who attend full-time classes at IH London. She finds her students only get so far with listening before they begin to disengage. Sheila Thorn inspired Marie to start trying different ways of approaching listening in the classroom, and after listening to an episode of the The Moth podcast, she realised she had the perfect material to use, talking about a man who sailed across the English Channel in a bathtub. The only problem was that it was 17 minutes long! Marie decided to break it into a series of mini episodes, each with a cliffhanger. She then used these over a series of lessons.
Marie found that the best texts to use as episodes have a clear narrative, but are outside normal experience. In this case, pure sound is better than video, as students are more invested in understanding what they’re hearing, and will therefore try harder to apply the decoding strategies. If they have pictures to help them, they don’t need to work so hard to apply the strategies. Once she had the episode, she asked two questions: What stops them underrstanding? What will help them understand later?
First, they always listened with no task, then worked together to co-construct the text with other students. They then moved on to focussing on a particular decoding strategy, which students were then able to apply in later lessons. By using short excerpts in small chunks you have time to pause and get students to consider the language in more detail. For example:
Decode past perfect v. past simple when listening, first as a gapfill with a section they were familiar with, then listening to the next part of the story and saying what they heard.
Say why a speaker would choose one particular phrase, or why they would repeat it.
Listen to his description of a problem. Draw it on mini whiteboards.
The storyteller talked about English/French attitudes to each other, so Marie asked them to research it, after which the students understood the jokes better.
Vocab was a problem, especially familiar words in a new context, so she got students to listen and complete a sentence, then think about the meaning.
What are the benefits of using an ‘adventure in episodes’? There’s no need to reset context or activate genre knowledge each time. Prediction is a natural part of listening to such a story. The students were really motivated to find out what happened next. Intensive decoding work really bore fruit – they were invested in doing detailed intensive listening work. It also developed their autonomy.
I really like this idea, especially for summer school or 121 lessons, though I think it could take quite a lot of work to prepare. It reminds me of my French teacher introducing us to the French musical version ofRoméo et Juliette, with us listening to one song each week and trying to follow the story. You could also use the BBC Short Cuts or Listening Project podcasts. Of course, once you have it for one adventure, they don’t date much, so you should have it for the future. If teachers share this kind of thing on blogs, you could have examples to draw from. If you choose to do this, please share the link below!
Listening using smart devices: effects on student interaction and autonomy (Clive Shaw)
The conventional classroom layout has speakers at the front, but Clive wanted to know what happens if we change where students/teachers are in the room. If the teacher is in control, it’s not easy to monitor, and students don’t have much of an opportunity to work on their own listening strategies. It’s also difficult for students to transition from the controlled environment of the classroom to the unguided environment of the lecture hall (Clive works in EAP – I think this is true all the time, and this prompted by IATEFL Harrogate presentation).
Clive investigated how listening from a smartphone changed the dynamic, encouraged autonomy and gave students the opportunity to employ strategies. He designed the materials based on two sources: taken from YouTube or by creating his own recordings. To get the recordings to the students he used TubeChop for YouTube and Audioboom for his own recordings, then a link shortener (my preferred one is bit.ly). Recognising that these took longer to prepare than coursebook audio, Clive deliberately selected easy-to-prepare tasks, for example two-column notetaking.
The biggest difference in the classroom was the seating plan:
Each group had one phone, and the weakest student was normally in control of it. Clive found out that students became more aware of listening strategies they employed when using smartphones. Students were more able to use context/syntax to decode problem areas as they could play it again as many times as they wanted to. Students were also encouraged to make their own decisions about when and how to review extract.
I’ve always played with seating arrangements, but it had never occurred to me to do it with listening extracts before. This seems like a great way of helping mixed-ability groups in particular, and also helps students to get used to background noise when listening, something we don’t do enough of.
Tweets from other sessions
#iatefl2017 Give Ls TIME to hear a sound. Then tasks to notice the sound. McKinnon & Meldrum. No pressure to produce.
Today I had the pleasure of attending the annual International House Torun Teacher Training Day, which consisted of pizza, twenty small workshops divided into four slots of five sessions each, a break with more pizza and some yummy Torun gingerbread, a walk to a local hotel, a plenary with Adrian Underhill, and a Q&A session with various experts, of which I am now apparently one 😉
Here are some of the things I learnt:
Growth mindset should be influencing the feedback I give students and trainees, by focussing on effort and process/strategy, rather than natural talent and results. James Egerton gave us examples like ‘You concentrated hard on my last comments, so well done.’
‘Yet‘ is really important in feedback, as it implies that something is achievable. Consider: ‘You haven’t learnt much Russian.’ and ‘You haven’t learnt much Russian yet.’ It turns out that even Sesame Street know the power of ‘yet’!
The reason the sentences ‘They just don’t have a language learning brain.’ and ‘You must be really good at learning languages.’ annoy me so much is probably because they imply a fixed mindset, whereas even before I had a term for it, I always believed that anyone can do anything with some degree of success if they have the motivation and put in the time.
I think it could be a very good idea to have a CELTA input session on mindsets very early in the course. I wonder what influence that would have on trainees’ ability to accept feedback?
It doesn’t matter how many times I see Kylie Malinowska do the elephant story, it’s still enjoyable, and I still can’t keep up! I discovered that it comes from Drama with Children [affiliate link] by Sarah Phillips.
There are at least 15 things you can do after doing a dictation when students have put the paper on their heads to draw the picture you describe. Before today I only ever got them to describe it to each other. Though the only one I can remember without asking Kylie for the slide is battleships!
Using MadLibs with children is actually incredibly useful, as it encourages them to solve problems and notice when language doesn’t fit, but also appeals to their love of the ridiculous. I’d always thought they were a bit pointless before!
You can bring language from a student’s family and friends into lessons through things like doing surveys, doing project work, writing biographies, sharing photographs or doing show and tell. Dave Cleary explained that even if students do these in L1 at home, they’ll bring them to class in L2, and they’ll have a real reason to use the language.
A great activity for playing with language is to take a photo of a famous person the students know, and get them to finish sentences like ‘He’d look really great/silly with…[earrings, a long ponytail, etc.]
Telling students the story behind an idiom, whether real or made up, can help them to remember the correct wording, and maybe also the context where you’re most likely to use it, according to Chris McKie.
There is a Hungarian idiom meaning something like ‘Let’s see what happens’ which translates as ‘The monkey will now jump in the water’.
Adrian Underhill may have been talking about the pronunciation chart for a long time, but he still considers it to be outside the mainstream of ELT.
He’s incredibly passionate about it, and it’s very entertaining and engaging to be taught to understand the chart by him. I knew bits and pieces about how it fit together and how to teach it before, but I now understand it in a lot more depth.
All pronunciation can be boiled down to four core muscle ‘buttons’: lips (spread and back or rounded and forward), tongue (forward or back), jaw (up or down) and voice (on or off). This helped me to understand how I produce some sounds in English in more depth, and even one in French that I managed to learn but had never been consciously aware of how to produce!
If he was a cheese, Adrian would be some form of blue cheese – he went into a lot more depth about this, and I’m glad I didn’t have to answer that question!
Thanks to Glenn Standish and the IH Torun team for organising such an enjoyable day. Lots of ideas to think about, as always!
I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the blogs section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.
My contribution for April is a description of the way that professional development is set up at International House Bydgoszcz. I’m always looking for suggestions to improve our CPD programme, so please let me know if you have any good ideas.
I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for October 2015, focussing on planning lessons and courses. Anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.
My contribution for October is a set of questions you can ask yourself after a lesson to help you reflect on what happened. Can you add any to the list?
If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?
I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for September 2015, some of which are to celebrate World Teaching Day, and anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.
My contribution for September includes some of the highlights of my teaching life – a random collection of moments showing how I’ve evolved as a teacher.
If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?
I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you!
My contribution for June is about accent and identity, looking at my feelings about my own accents.
How do you feel about your accent? Do you think it’s influenced by your identity?
I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for May 2015, and anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? All you need to do is register on the Teaching English site and then you can start your blog through your profile there. To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.
I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for April 2015, and anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.
My contribution for April is about exploring cultures in the classroom, based on a particularly memorable class I taught in Newcastle.
If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?
For various reasons, not least the sheer size of the conference, there were various talks I missed during IATEFL. Thanks to the power of the internet, I’ve managed to catch up with some of them through tweets, videos and/or blogposts. Here’s a selection of them:
The ear of the beholder: helping learners understand different accents – Laura Patsko
Laura’s talk was on at the same time as mine so I wasn’t able to watch it. I know it started with her ‘having a cold’ to demonstrate how we can make meaning evefn when the sounds we hear don’t correspond with our expectations, and I’m intrigued to hear more about her suggestions. She’s shared her presentation, and hopefully there will be a video of at least some of it soon!
Here’s one of her tweets from another point in the conference:
Language changes thru usage. If sth ‘non-standard’ is dominantly used (through #ELF for example), it’ll become acceptable. @davcr at #iatefl
Fostering autonomy: harnassing the outside world from within the classroom – Lizzie Pinard
Lizzie‘s talk was also in the same slot as mine and Laura’s – so many possible times and they put us all on in the same one! Lizzie has written a lot about autonomy on her blog, and demonstrated it with her own Italian learning. The aspect of learner training is key when trying to encourage autonomy, and is one I’m sure Lizzie’s presentation would have helped me with. Thankfully, she’s blogged about it as has Olga Sergeeva, but it’s not quite the same as hearing it first-hand. I’m hoping the gods of IATEFL shine on all three of us next year and put us on at separate times!
Where are the women in ELT? – Russell Mayne and Nicola Prentis
As with last year, the talk which Russ was involved in is one of the ones which seems to have taken on a life of its own after the conference. Nicola and Russ picked a subject which is another very important discussion point, after Russ tackled the myths of EFL in 2014. [Original text (see comments for why I’ve kept this) As with last year, Russ’s talk is the one of the ones which seems to have taken on a life of its own after the conference. He has a way of picking subjects which are very good discussion points, and this year he was ably assisted by Nicola Prentis.] Their talk immediately followed my own and was in a tiny room, so I knew it was wishful thinking to believe I might get in, but I tried anyway. A whole group of us were waiting outside, disappointed. Last year Russ’s talk was officially recorded (content is currently being updated on the IATEFL 2014 site), and Russ and Nicola have recorded their own version this year – thank you! This area is one of particular interest to me, being a woman and in ELT as I am. 🙂 Through the Fair List, I’d become aware of the fact that plenary speakers at conferences are often men speaking to a room full of women, which seems odd. As I understand it, Russ and Nicola were questioning the fact that men feature dispropotionately at the ‘top’ of the ELT profession, despite it being a female-dominated one in general.
They did an interview about it which you can watch as a taster:
Here are two of the blog posts which were triggered by their talk, both of which have fascinating discussions in the comments which are well worth reading:
P is for Power: Scott Thornbury questions the balance of power in the ELT profession, not just in terms of gender, but also covering native/non-native speakers and the socio-economic circumstances that teaching takes place in.
Russ and Nicola have also set up their own website to examine gender equality in ELT, with a lot more information about their research. At other points in the conference there were tweets about increasing the number of non-native speakers visible at conferences and in the global community.
Walk before you run: reading strategies for Arabic learners – Emina Tuzovic
I saw Emina speaking about helping Arabic students with spelling at IATEFL last year, and she subsequently very kindly wrote a guest post summarising her talk for this blog. I’m hoping to encourage her to do the same again this year, as her ideas are very practical and deal with areas which there isn’t much coverage of in the literature I’ve read.
People, pronunciation and play – Luke Meddings
Luke shared a couple of his ideas in an interview:
I really like Luke’s focus on playing with language, which is something I’ve become more and more interested in.
Olga Sergeeva went to Luke’s talk and wrote a summary of the whole thing, although she admitted it was difficult because they were laughing too much!
Tools, tips and tasks for developing materials writing skills – John Hughes
John has shared his slides, which gives me a taster of the tips he has for developing these skills. I think the most important idea is to ‘develop a materials radar’, which echoes what Ben Goldstein and Ceri Jones talked about in their presentation on using images at the MAWSIG PCE.
These are things which I retweeted because they made me think. I’m sharing them here to make sure I don’t forget those thoughts and to see what you think. They’re loosely grouped into topics where possible.
#IATEFL Pete Rutherford: you can be a B1 student but able to communicate more competently than those at say C1.
Apart from the many sources I’ve mentioned above, there is, of course, the wonderful resources that is IATEFL online, full of interviews and recorded sessions, at least some of which I hope to find the time to watch at some point in the future. Are there any you would particularly recommend?
I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for March 2015, and anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.
Anyone following my blog will know that CELTA took over my life in August last year (2014), and will continue to dominate until the same time this year (2015). I’ve been building this list in my head for a while, and it’s finally time to get it onto the blog.
It’s arranged into categories, with subtitles and topics in bold to help you navigate. There’s a lot here, so just use the bits you need as you need them rather than trying to look at all of them – if not, you’ll end up being overwhelmed!
A quick way to find what you need it to press CTRL + F (CMD + F on a Mac) and type a key word connected to what you’re struggling with, like ‘TTT’, ‘instructions’ or ‘writing’ – this will take you straight to the relevant section.
Please let me know if any of the links are broken so I can update them, and feel free to add suggestions to the comments. I also plan to add to it as I write/find more posts. [Note added 12/12/2022: I know that the links to Jo Gakonga’s videos are broken, but hopefully if you visit her site or put the titles into a search engine you should still be able to find them. I’m hoping to be able to verify all of the links at some point in the next 6 months, but it’s a challenge to find the time! Hopefully you will still find the post useful in the meantime]
Before the course
CELTA is a very intensive experience, and it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Take a look at these to give you an idea of what to expect.
Cambridge English has a 30-minute webinar called The Ultimate Guide to CELTA which details different types of CELTA and tells you what to expect from the course. (Thanks to Viacheslav Kushnir for telling me about this)
Is the CELTA worth it? As a course and as an experience I would have to give a resounding YES!!!
Although the interviews on Adi Rajan’s blog are called ‘Life after CELTA‘, they give you a great idea of what different professionals at various stages of their careers got out of the CELTA course and why it was worth doing, even if they already had a PhD in one example! [Note: when I checked on 4/10/20, these posts aren’t available, but hopefully Adi will share them again in the future!] My favourite quote is from Vaidehi Kenia:
What running 5 miles daily for a month will do to your physique, the CELTA will do for your mind.
If you’re still not sure whether to do the course or not, Chia Suan Chong, a CELTA trainer, describes 10 things she likes about the CELTA, all of which I agree with. If you’re a more experienced teacher, you might be interested in Jason Anderson’s research on how trainees who came to the course with experience feel like they benefitted from CELTA.
If you’d like to do a course before your course, you could invest a little money in the ELT Campus Complete CELTA Preparation Bundle, online training in key ideas, teaching methods and concepts, as well as a grammar refresher.
Brushing up on your technology skills could also help you out. You’re going to spend a lot of time in front of a computer, and every timesaver you can learn will make a difference. Regardless of how confident a Word user you are, it’s worth checking out my friend Liz Broomfield’s very clear posts about making the most of Word. She uses Word for Windows. If you have a Mac and can’t work it out, Google it first, then ask me and I’ll try to help – I have Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac.
Keyboard shortcuts save a lot of time in the long run. These are 100 for Windows and some for Mac too. If you’ve got a long time before your CELTA, working on your touch typing will help you now and later. On a side note, set up a filing system on your computer and start naming files with lots of detail in the file name so you can find things easily in the future. “Document 1.docx” won’t help you, but “Personality adjectives and definitions NEF Pre-Int SB p6 and SB p145 U1B.docx” will. I always try to include the book, chapter and page numbers so I can use the search function to find things again quickly in the future.
If you set up your goal as “I’m gonna gits me an A!” then, well, it’s a worthy goal and all, but you’ll probably give yourself an ulcer, and stress so much about whether you’re doing enough or doing well enough that your freaky-outy stress will cause you to lose focus and actually do worse. Don’t look for a magic bullet or secret formula – there is none, and trying to guess at the magical combination of factors that leads to an A will just cause you to get even more freaky-outy. Always remember that it’s not a competition, so if you see someone who seems to be doing better than you, hey, you’re in it for four weeks with that person and you are quite possibly friendly with them – you are not in a race. There is not just one gold medal. Their good work does not mean you’ll get edged out for the one top spot, because there is no “one” top spot.
By the way, when I did my CELTA, one of my fellow trainees got a Pass A with no prior teaching experience, so it is possible! However, in the courses I’ve tutored on so far, I’ve yet to see an A candidate. Update (May 2017): I’ve seen a couple of A candidates now, and they’ve been very hard-working, and followed all of these tips from Ricardo Barros, among many other things!
Nicky Salmon, a CELTA trainer, tells you how to write CELTA lesson plans to make the documents as useful as possible for you and your trainer, so that you’re ready to give your students the best possible lesson.
I have a step-by-step guide to setting up an information gap, a speaking activity in which each student only has part of what they need to complete the task and they need to speak to others to complete the information.
This post has ideas from five different teachers on how to maximise student talk time, the most useful of which is probably Dorothy Zemach (the first) demonstrating how to model the kind of conversation you expect your students to produce. Doing this makes them more likely to produce quality talk, not just short answers.
Jo Gakonga also has a webinar introducing you to PPP, TTT and TBL – three different ways of presenting language, whether grammar, vocabulary or functions (35 minutes). It will tell you what the abbreviations mean! CELTA train describes ‘Presentation via a situation‘ a.k.a. situational presentations, and includes an example of one designed to introduce ‘used to’.
Pronunciation Bites has a collection of links to online transcription tools, along with reviews for each. It also tells you how to download IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) scripts onto your computer, and how to use them. Don’t forget to put the phonetics into Lucida Sans Unicode font to make sure they’ll print on any computer (I hope!)
ELTchat is a weekly hour-long Twitter conversation which happens every Wednesday. In February 2012 there was a discussion about the IPA, including reflection on its usefulness and suggestions for how to exploit it.
Nicky Salmon offers tips on how to reflect on your teaching during CELTA courses, including examples of language you can use. As she says, reflection is a skill which takes time to learn, but is one of the most important things you can do to develop professionally.
The main problem most people have with the CELTA is the workload. It’s not unusual for some trainees to stay up for most of the night and forget to sleep, and there are always some people who don’t hand in lesson planning documents because they ran out of time. In a 10-minute webinar, Lisa Phillips offers some tips for time management for teachers in general, but many of them apply to the CELTA course too. Remember to ask for help if you need it – you’re not bothering people, and you might find they’re in a similar situation. As for your trainers, that support is what you’re paying for!
Don’t forget to take some time for yourself during the course. You’ll benefit from it more than you will by just pushing on through, and no matter how important the CELTA is, your health and well-being should take priority. Get enough sleep, look after yourself and take regular breaks. If you need inspiration this might help:
Here are a few of videos I send out to encourage my trainees to take a brief break – I won’t tell you what they are so it’s a lucky dip! One, Two, Three – each one is 3-4 minutes, clean, and should make you laugh!
And just in case you think you’re entering a serious profession involving a lot of work, take a look at EnglishDroid – he’ll burst your bubble quickly (this is a site to return to as you learn more about the world you’re entering!)
To continue the reflective cycle you started on CELTA, you could keep a reflective journal, as recommended by Dale Coulter. Another option is to write your own blog, which I’ve found really useful. However you choose to do it, Jason Renshaw explains why reflection should be a vital part of any teacher’s development (and offers another suggestion for how to keep a reflective journal). Oh, and if you want to send a few pennies my way, you could investigate ELT Playbook 1, an ebook of 30 reflective tasks designed for new teachers, written by me and only costing around 5GBP/5.50€ 🙂 If you complete all five tasks from a single section, you can earn yourself a badge to put on your CV or social media, showing potential employers and/or students that you are continuing your development after the course.
The best resource on Twitter is ELTchat, a weekly one-hour chat on topics chosen by participants. Summaries of chats going back to 2010 can be found in the Summaries index on the website and cover pretty much every topic you could possibly imagine related to ELT teaching – if it’s not there, you can suggest it for a future chat.
Conferences are a great source of ideas. Both IATEFL and TESOL hold multi-day conferences each year, and although the IATEFL conference is the highlight of my year (!), they can be quite expensive. IATEFL streams some sessions from the conference, and these are available to watch after the event (for example Harrogate 2014). One- or two-day local conferences can provide lots of inspiration. There are also online conferences and webinars provided for free. David Harbinson has a long list of sources for webinars to start you off.
There are various journals and magazines dedicated to ELT, full of articles from around the world with lots of great ideas and issues to think about. The IH Journal is available free online. Most teaching associations have their own newsletter or journal. Other magazines include English Teaching Professional and Modern English Teacher, both of which are subscription only – you can choose whether to get them online or as a hard copy.
If you’d like to work on your own skills as a trainer, you might want to get yourself a copy of ELT Playbook Teacher Training, my book of 30 reflective tasks in 6 categories, as you can see below (Amazon/Smashwords affiliate links).
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic meant lots of things changed, including the sudden need for provision of fully online CELTAs. Brendan O Sé from University College Cork, Ireland, blogged about running their first fully online CELTA. James Egerton talks about how IH Rome Manzoni took their CELTA course online and offers tips for other centres doing the same. Angelos Bollas has a demo lesson with upper intermediate students on Zoom which you might want to use to show trainees how it works from a teacher’s perspective:
I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for February 2015, and anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.
My contribution for February is about teaching pronunciation to advanced students.
Click here to read it: ‘Advanced Pronunciation’. It’s based on an activity I’ve used successfully with a few classes, and there are some general tips too.
If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?
This is the recorded version of a presentation which originally took place on Friday 4th April 2014 at IATEFL Harrogate 2014.
“I’ve studied English for years, but I can’t understand anyone!” This was a common complaint from my students on arrival in the UK. This workshop aims to introduce you to practical activities and materials you can use to help students transition from understanding scripted listening materials to feeling comfortable with real-world English.
Listening is the skill we use most in a second language. We have to understand speakers in many different contexts, of different ages, genders, levels of education, and with a range of accents, both native and non-native. However, this is rarely reflected in the classroom, where listening tends to be focussed on other students in class or on scripted coursebook recordings in ‘standard’ forms of English, mostly spoken by young to middle-aged adults (or overly excited children in the case of young learner materials!). Teachers also tend to focus on testing comprehension, rather than on teaching better listening skills. This results in students lacking confidence in their listening abilities and/or lacking knowledge of how to approach listening in the real world.
The aim of this workshop is to introduce and try out a range of activities and materials which you can use in your classroom to teach listening, rather than testing it. Some of the principles discussed will be based on John Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom (Cambridge 2008), as well as my own experience in the classroom and as a second language learner. The workshop will also look at how you can make the listening you use in the classroom reflect the real world as much as possible. Finally, participants will be given the chance to share activities and materials which have worked for them, as well as discussing how to apply the activities from the workshop to their own contexts.
You can watch the full presentation in this video:
(These are affiliate links, so if you buy them or anything else after clicking on these links I will get a little money. Thank you!)
I also recommend showing your students how to make the most of podcasts. I wrote a post on my Independent English blog which you can use as an introduction or to find links to some podcasts I recommend.
I can’t imagine my childhood without Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Two of my favourite books were Please Mrs Butler and Heard it in the Playground (affiliate links), both collections of poems based around being at school.
I created a worksheet based on the title poem from Please Mrs Butler and the recording Allan Ahlberg made of it on The Children’s Poetry Archive.
I used it with pre-intermediate students as part of our ongoing thread of listening and pronunciation practice. We listened to the numbers in the introduction four or five times, and they managed to get them all. We finished the 90-minute lesson with the students repeating the poem after me, then performing it together. This was the final result:
The poem has since served as a warmer in later lessons. For homework, I asked them to watch a group of children performing the title poem from the other book, Heard it in the Playground.
I’m putting together some activities to help students understand more fluent English speech, ready for a seminar on listening skills I’m running next weekend. One of the activities is micro-dictations of common questions spoken at as normal a speed as possible. It can be difficult to find things like this ready-prepared, so I’ve recorded some and embedded them here:
What were you doing?
What were you doing?
What were you doing
At 10 last night?
I was sitting on the sofa.
I was sitting on the sofa.
I was sitting on the sofa
At 10 last night.
What were you doing?
What were you doing?
What were you doing
At 10 last night?
I was watching the TV.
I was watching the TV.
I was watching the TV
At 10 last night.
What were you doing?
What were you doing?
What were you doing
At 10 last night?
I was listening to music.
I was listening to music.
I was listening to music
At 10 last night.
What were you doing?
What were you doing?
What were you doing
At 10 last night?
I was looking at the sea.
I was looking at the sea.
I was looking at the sea
At 10 last night.
What were you doing?
What were you doing?
What were you doing
At 10 last night?
I was on vkontakte.*
I was on vkontakte.
I was on vkontakte
At 10 last night.
What were you doing?
What were you doing?
What were you doing
At 10 last night?
I wasn’t doing anything.
I wasn’t doing anything.
I wasn’t doing anything
At 10 last night!
I made up this chant, inspired by Jane Harding da Rosa, to help my pre-intermediate students with the concept of past continuous to talk about ongoing events at a fixed point in the past. I had a few ideas for verses and they added more.
We also tried a variant where they asked:
What was she doing?**
What was she doing?
What was she doing
At 10 last night.
The verse was about a particular student, and the others had to choose a possible answer. For example:
She was listening to music.
She was listening to music.
She was listening to music
At 10 last night.
…to which the student who was being discussed had to respond with either:
Yes, I was. Yes, I was.
Yes, I was. You’re right.
No, I wasn’t. No, I wasn’t.
No, I wasn’t. You’re wrong.
(followed by a verse of them saying what they really were doing)
Through the chant, the students had practice with the positive, negative, question, and short forms of the past continuous. It is also designed to help them with the rhythms of English, as they struggle with listening, especially with weak forms (something I identified using this post-listening reflection questionnaire from Mat Smith’s blog). They responded really well, and a week later were chanting it when they came into class. I tried it with my teens too, and they didn’t get it at all!
So, what were YOU doing at 10 last night?
*Vkontakte is a Russian equivalent of facebook, which is very popular among my students.
It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and although I don’t normally do anything for it, I thought that this year I would take the opportunity to share one of my favourite poems with my students. Here’s the plan in case you want to do it too.
Ask your students what day it is, and whether anything special happens on this day in their country. What do they know about Valentine’s Day in the UK?
What kind of gifts do people normally give for Valentine’s Day? Brainstorm them on the board.
Give each group the word cloud. They decide what links the words in the cloud and what she is sending her Valentine. They can also look up any words they don’t understand, so they are ready to appreciate the poem as a whole later.
Show them an onion. What connection could this have to Valentine’s Day and the poem?
Ask the students to close their eyes and put their heads on the desk (but try not to fall asleep!). Read them the poem – take your time and savour the words.
Ask them to discuss how similar the poem was to their ideas. They can then read it and decide whether they would like to receive an onion as a Valentine.
You can then do some pronunciation/speaking work. Read the poem again. This time students mark where you pause using slashes.
They talk about why you pause in those places – it’s because of line/stanza breaks, and also phrases within the lines.
They can chose whether to read Valentine, or an anti-Valentine poem. You can find lots of them on the net. This is the one I chose:
In groups with other students who have chosen the same poem, they practise reading it. They decide where the pauses should be, how fast to read it, how to space the phrases…and then some of the braver students perform it to the class, or the whole group performs the poem together (providing their patterns aren’t too different).
I just took part in my first synchronous online workshop, provided by IH Online Training. It was presented by Zoe Taylor from IH Lisbon and dealt with teaching Intonation – something which I’ve been experimenting with a lot recently.
There were 18 participants from around the world, plus Zoe presenting and Shaun Wilden helping out the with technical side. First we had to join the session and download a small piece of software onto our computers which let us into an Ellumiate chatroom. Then we had to set up all of our microphones and test the sound – this took about 10 minutes, and once we were all ready Zoe started.
She showed us around the software first, then discussed some key terminology to do with intonation (like key, tone unit and tonic syllable). She demonstrated intonation patterns with example sentences, then we discussed some intonation rules in smaller ‘rooms’. This was the most surreal part of the experience as it took most of the 10-minute time limit we had to work out whether we could hear each other! (If you ever plan to take part in a workshop like this, PLEASE make sure you are using headphones! The echo effect made it pretty confusing at times) Once Zoe brought us all back into the main room we shared the findings with everyone.
The last part of the workshop was some practical activities, with some of us volunteering to demonstrate them to the group. This was the most useful part of the session, and there are definitely a couple of activities I would like to try out. The workshop was recorded and will be posted on the IH Online YouTube channel at some point – I will post the link when I have it.
For anyone who hasn’t tried out an online workshop before, I would definitely recommend it – it’s a great free place to get new ideas and you’re in the comfort of your own home. Keep an eye on the IH Online Training page for future workshops (and you don’t even have to teach at International House to join in!)
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)
1.1. 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 18.104.22.168).
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.
1.3.1. 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:
22.214.171.124. incorrect choice of vowel sound (see 1.1.1)
126.96.36.199. confusion when V+C= vowel sound e.g. ‘er’ in father = /ə/ not /ɜr/, ‘al’ in calm = /a:/ not /æl/
188.8.131.52. pronunciation of silent letters, such as /b/ in bomb
184.108.40.206. a difficulty in predicting the pronunciation of previously unseen words
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.
Last weekend, H and I had our sixth lesson. He led this lesson, starting off with a little card he’d written with 5 sentences on it:
I am a teacher.
You are a student.
He is an actor.
She is an actress.
It is a dog.
Because he’d had so much trouble in the previous lesson with the idea of ‘I am’, ‘You are’, ‘I am not’, ‘You are not’ and the question forms, I decided we would write out these sentences in the different forms. These were the results:
As you can see, we did various things to highlight forms. The arrow shows that ‘not’ is how we make a very negative’ – in Czech ‘ne’ is used to say ‘no’ and is added to a verb to make it negative. I used an orange pen to show how the apostrophe in a contraction replaces missing letters. I also drew a line under the phrases to show how the contractions correspond to the longer versions.
This was a real lesson in how to teach beginners for me – there are so many things we take for granted with our students, and we ended up having a lot of discussions in Czech to help H understand various concepts – I dread to think how he would have felt if we couldn’t have done this. I know native speakers who don’t speak the learners L1 can teach beginners, but I can see how much easier it is using a mix of both languages. For example, even the concept of different word order for a statement and a question was very difficult for H to grasp, since in Czech this doesn’t change.
Other problems with L1 became apparent here too: there are no articles in Czech, so he couldn’t understand why he needed one in English even though his original sentences had them already. In the end I showed him the contents page of New English File Beginner and told him not to worry about them – they would be covered in unit 2A and we’re in 1B. The existence of contractions is another thing which Czech lacks – all words are equally stressed, so he found it hard to see why there might be more than one form of these phrases.
The last problem with L1 interference was with ‘dog’ – in Czech ‘pes’ is a masculine noun as it ends in a consonant. Therefore it is always replaced by the subject ‘he’. I extended the idea to ‘It is a bag’/’It is a table’ etc to show other ways to use ‘it’, but H decided to keep his original example sentence.
All of these discussions just from five ‘simple’ sentences!
Once we’d created these tables, we practised the I/you forms using the grammar bank activities in NEF Beginner. Here again we had a couple of problems. Although the two-line dialogues were accompanied by pictures, it wasn’t always clear who was speaking. In the end, we labelled the people in the pictures as A and B to make it a bit easier. H also can’t understand why we say ‘You ARE late’ instead of ‘You ARRIVE late’ like in Czech. I said to him that I can’t understand why they say ‘You ARRIVE late’ and pointed out that that’s why you have to learn other languages 😉 I recorded the conversations so that H could listen to them at home.
After all of that, we only had five minutes left, so I decided to introduce the five long vowel sounds from the English File pronunciation chart. I also gave him these to listen to at home. Ordinarily I wouldn’t rush him with all of these sounds, but we only have three more weeks in which to have lessons, so he asked me to try to do all of them before I leave.
In the end, it was a very educational lesson for both of us!
The third lesson with my beginner student was two weeks ago.
We started by revising numbers and letters. I then tried to revise the days and the months, both of which I had sent him to practise after the second lesson. He hadn’t noticed them in his email, so didn’t know them at all. This really proved to me that the listening he does in his car is what makes him learn the words, as without it he was completely lost.
He had however recieved the third file I sent him, based on the 12 consonant phonetic sounds from the English File set introduced in lesson two. We spent a few minutes practising these and he remembered all of them without a problem.
After all of that we had about 25 minutes left (the lessons are one hour long). We used an information gap from the New English File Beginner Teacher’s Book, which I can’t reproduce here due to copyright laws. We each had the same 12 pictures. Under the pictures was either the word or a line. We asked each other “How do you spell…?” to complete our sheets. If he did not know a word, he asked “What is it?” first. I then recorded the words and the spellings for him to listen to at home. I also re-sent him the months and the days for homework, along with corresponding sets on quizlet (months, days).
We’ve just had our fourth lesson together. Even with a two-week break, he remembered everything really well. This is what we did:
Numbers: he put the flashcards in order, then closed his eyes while I removed 2-4 cards. Each time he had to say which numbers were missing. Then he said all of the numbers 1>20 and finally 20>1.
Alphabet: I placed the letters randomly on the table and he said them. Then I said a letter and he took it. No problems at all this week 🙂
Consonants: he remembered all of the words. I then got him to try to write them down as he only gets listening practice out of class. If he didn’t know how to spell the word he asked me. If he already knew it, he spelt it for me. This was good for practising spelling, and also to think about some common English sound-spelling relationships.
Days of the week: a year ago I was very happy to find a card game for children based on the popular book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In the card game, the players should put down the days of the week in the correct order (Monday, Tuesday…). When they have played all of the ‘days’, their caterpillar turns into a butterfly. The cards are really well illustrated, and I jumped at the chance to use them. I used two sets of ‘week’ cards (there are four in the pack). First he put one set in order, helped by the fact that each card also says “Day 1”, “Day 2” etc on it – especially useful for Tuesday/Thursday. I explained the story to him in a mixture of Czech and English, helped by the pictures on the cards. We then played pelmanism with both sets, with him saying the words as he turned over the cards. Despite the fact that the cards are designed for children, I think he appreciated their quality and understand the value of pelmanism for his pronunciation.
For those of you not familiar with the story, here is a youtube version:
Months: he said the months, then wrote them down. As with the consonants above, he could ask me for difficult spellings.
Six more consonant phonetics: I introduced /h/, /n/, /m/, /l/, /r/ and /w/, the latter being the most difficult as this sound doesn’t exist in Czech. He also wrote these words down. Listening to this recording is his homework.
What do you think I should do in the next class? Should I revise everything at the beginning as a confidence booster? I’m planning to start introducing some of the most common question / answer pairs, but probably won’t have time to do a lot in class. Which would you say are the most important for a businessman in his 30s (i.e. “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” etc)?
Alright, I admit it. I love Chris de Burgh. And while this is very unfashionable, I’m not ashamed in the slightest!
This week I was doubly grateful to him for providing me with an interesting story for my students to listen to (following on from ‘Story Prompts with #eltpics‘ last week) and a way to revise linking words when speaking quickly.
I showed the class the first slide of the presentation and asked them to decide what the story of the song is. They had to include something about all of the pictures in their story.
Once they had shared the stories, they listened to the song to find out who had the closest version. (The link in the presentation should take you to the video below)
I then showed them the pronunciation slides and elicited the rules.
Finally they practised saying lines from their own copies of the lyrics.
As their homework, they should find a poem or song of their own and record it, paying particular attention to the linking sounds.
Other ‘story songs’ by Chris de Burgh that you might find interesting include:
I’ve just finished my second lesson with the beginner I’m teaching and blogging about (read the first post to find out more). For homework he had to practise the alphabet using the audio file I had sent him previously.
We started the lesson by using my laminated letters to randomly practise, and he got all but H and Y without a problem. Last week he’d struggled with more than half of the lessons, so it was great to see such a quick improvement – one of the reasons I enjoy lessons with beginners!
Next, I said the numbers 1-20 in a random order for him to write down. When he had trouble I spelled the word and highlighted anything he needed to rememeber. For speaking practice, I then said a number and he had to spell it out loud.
Once we’d consolidated numbers and letters, we moved on to eliciting any and all English words he already knows, designed to be a confidence builder and an evaluation task at the same time. He wrote the alphabet down the side of the page, then wrote any words he could think of. When he had spelling problems, I helped him out.
Through this we got on to talking about the phonetic alphabet, with me attempting to explain in A2/B1-level Czech what it is, how it works and why it’s useful! We got there in the end, and once he’d understood that we talked about whether he wanted to learn it or not. He decided he did, so this week’s homework will be me going through the key consonants which are similar sounds in Czech to start him off. That should give him at least 12 of the sounds straight away. I’ll use the English File symbols and pictures, as I think they’re the most useful version of the phonetic alphabet, using pictures to help you remember the sounds.
Do you teach the phonetic alphabet to students in general? And to beginners in particular?
The Wednesday 2nd February 9pm GMT #eltchat was fast and furious. Here is a summary of the main points:
Why teach pronunciation?
‘If you’re not teaching pronunciation, you’re not teaching English’
It can help with punctuation.
Learners are keen to work on pronunciation so that they can be understood.
It helps with listening skills, particularly features of connected speech.
Pronunciation, rather than grammar / vocab, is the main barrier to understanding. If learners have bad pronunciation, listeners think their English is incomprehensible even if it’s not. Can undermine SS confidence.
Raises awareness of sounds – learners better able to distinguish between them.
What to teach
Individual sounds (perhaps using the IPA – see below)
Connected speech (perhaps through songs)
Weak forms (schwa)
Voice – get them to imitate English speakers mispronouncing their L1 – gives them a feel for sounds / rhythm
Awareness and recognition – production will come later
How to teach pronunciation
Integrate it into your lessons as much as possible OR Have courses which are entirely pronunciation focussed.
Start with little steps, and build from there.
Keep a corner of the board for pronunciation issues which emerge during the lesson.
Model the shape of the mouth, and ask them to think about their tongues and lips! Even works with elementary SS.
Combine it with listening.
Use coursebook tapescripts to integrate pronunciation: mark schwas, intonation…
Work on pronunciation with all new lexis.
Record vocab covered in class and upload it for SS to listen to between classes (example here: http://bit.ly/eP8y3S)
Record your students and use it to focus on pronunciation issues.
Get SS to record themselves on their mobile phones. (they can do this for homework too)
Use chants, clapping and songs. SS often have better pronunciation when singing, so it gives them hope when speaking. (Could reflect a question of attitude – do they resist sounding English when speaking?)
Intonation: using only the word ‘banana’, role play this situation: husband arrives home, small talk with wife, wife confronts husband about recently-discovered affair, husband denies it, husband admits it, argue, make up.
How many different ways can you say ‘no’ / ‘thank you’?
Use graded readers with small groups to focus on pronunciation and see where SS need to develop.
Use shadow reading with graded readers or with recorded versions of short texts e.g. http://bbc.in/gn4Ejp (also jokes, ads, movie trailers)
Exaggerate sounds – it’s fun, and SS can feel the difference between them.
Encourage SS to mouth words silently when reading / listening (works well with YLs)
SS put a wrapped chocolate bar (Tatranky if you’re in the Czech Republic) in their mouth. Drill vowel sounds. The chocolate should fall out of their mouth if they’re doing it properly (open mouth)
Take chunks of text and look at the connected speech, including lots of drilling
Listen to the radio and imitate the accent
Cuisenaire rods fabulous for teaching word/sentence stress, intonation etc
Mouth exercises – SS think it’s fun to laugh at the teacher
Get SS to stand up and sit down to mirror the intonation as you drill.
Exaggerate pronunciation by putting on a ‘posh’ accent – “Hello. How are you? Haven’t seen you in aaaages.”
Use drama: mini scripted sketches good for practising exagerrated voice range and intonation
Opinions: Scares a lot of teachers – puts them off teaching pronunciation; can confuse things, but OK if students are comfortable with it; can make a dictionary more useful; introduce it ASAP and it becomes integral; learners may be resistant if they don’t see the point; levels the playing field in a mixed group if no-one knows it
Students often use their own notation, so don’t feel the need to learn IPA.
Can be hard to use if SS are from very different educational / language backgrounds
Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Ref Guide by Celce-Murcia, Brinton, Goodwin (CUP 2010 2nd ed)
Learner English by Swan and Smith
A bit of fun
This video, shared by @harrisonmike during the chat, epitomises why we should work on pronunciation 🙂
Scottish voice recognition elevator (shared by @esolcourses) (April 2013 update: the link may not always work, because it is sometimes removed. Google ‘Scottish voice recognition elevator’ and you should find it!)
The Two Ronnies (shared by @ShaunWilden)
Update: On the 29th June 2011, we had another chat about pronunciation, including lots of new links. The summary is here.