Tag Archives: elementary

Using Visualisation for the Present Continuous

1 Feb

This is an idea I tried out with an elementary group of young learners the other day.  The focus in the coursebook was on teaching the present continuous for actions that are happening now and at the book had very helpfully provided a recorded phone conversation between two people meeting at a railway station that went something like this:

“Where are you?”

“I’m standing on platform nine and three quarters.  Where are you?”

“I’m waiting under the big clock.  What are you wearing?*”

“I’m wearing a red t-shirt.  What are you wearing?”

“I’m wearing a yellow t-shirt.  Ah!  I can see you!”

“Hello Frank.”

“Hello Matilda.”

* And are we really sure we want to be teaching our learners the phrase “What are you wearing?” in the context of telephone conversations?  

Having achieved “presentation” we then moved onto “practice”, which involved a nice un-jumbling word order task, because apparently putting words into the correct order helps the learners to process the meaning and use of the present continuous.  Or something.  I don’t know.  You may be able to tell that I don’t really like this particular book very much.

In any event, before the class died of boredom I thought it might be useful to get them to try and use the target language meaningfully.  The trouble is, that unless you’re prepared to have the learners go round the class and say what they’re doing, there isn’t a lot you can do with the present continuous for actions happening now:

 “I am sitting down.”  “He is learning English.”  “I am also sitting down.”  “She is losing the will to live.”

So I thought that using visualisation techniques might work better.

I asked the learners to get a pen and paper ready and have it in front of them on their desk.  I asked them to sit back in their chairs, close their eyes and relax.

I played them some “Visualisation music” I found on You Tube.  The purpose of the music from my perspective was three fold; I wanted to give them something to focus on, I wanted there to be something different going on that was “taking them away” from the normal environment, and I wanted to use the music to cover some of the mundane and distracting sounds from outside and from other classes that were going on.

 While they were sat there, I guided them through this visualisation process:

Look up at the sky.  What colour is it?  Can you see any clouds?  Look down and you start to see trees and buildings. What kind of trees can you see?  What kind of buildings? Are there a lot of buildings or a few?  Are they old or new? In front of one of the buildings, you see a person.  Do you recognise them?  They are doing something.  What are they doing?  You look left and see a tree.  In front of the tree you see an animal.  What kind of animal?  What is the animal doing?  You look right and you see someone near you.  It’s a friend of yours.  Who is it?  What’s their name?  They are doing something.  What are they doing?

And then I brought them back out of the visualisation and asked them to write down what they had seen in their notebooks.  While they did that I wrote up on the board:  “In my dream I am standing ………   In front of me I can see ……”  I asked the class to reformulate their ideas into a more fluid description, using the present continuous where possible.

It was a nice activity and the learners seemed to like it, though being a class of young learners there was a little bit of resistance and messing around with the idea of sitting back and having your eyes closed.  In general the output used the target language and there were some nice opportunities to provide relevant language.  I think this made it more memorable and personal for the class, so hopefully it will stick a bit more strongly.

dream-333815_1280

Image Credit: Pixabay

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First Lesson Aims: Dave Tucker Guest Post!

15 Sep

If you’ve had time to look at recent posts on this blog, you’ll have noticed a series of “first lesson” ideas and activities…  after all,  it’s September, we’ve all got “back-to-school-itis”!

Stepping back from the plethora of great teaching ideas to fill the class time, today our guest blogger, Dave Tucker, looks at some broader learning and teaching goals that we might want to think about before we start planning!

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First Lesson or First Week Ideas

9 Sep

Back in July I posted a selections of 20 ideas and activities that might be worth trying out as you get to know your new classes this school year – and since then there’ve been a couple of additional ideas to throw into the mix:

Recently, the 24th Edition of EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival : A Journey in TEFL got posted on Eva Buyuksimkesyan’s “A Journey in TEFL” blog.  I strongly recommend taking a look here if you’re in need of inspiration – Eva’s collated over 40 (I lost count) posts from different contributors.
The Lesson Plans Page also has a wide range of back to school resources and materials, though these are aimed more at native speaker young learner classes than a language learner class – and I’ve not tried any of them, so can’t vouch for them personally!

First Lesson: I don’t know what you did last summer!

5 Sep

A very quick alternative to the standard composition task “What I did on my Summer holidays”.

Essentially, you ask the learners to write the composition (100 words? I guess length will be age & level dependent) about somebody else in the class.

I think I’ve blogged a similar activity at some point before, but not sure when.  Anyway, the key to the activity, is that if John is writing about Amy’s holidays, John can’t talk directly to Amy.  John has to ask the other learners in the class, Frank, Marta and so forth to ask Amy the questions that John wants to know the answers to.

Thus through a constant process of questions and answers John eventually gets enough information to write Amy’s composition for her.  Of course, Amy will be writing Marta’s, Marta Frank’s and Frank John’s, so it all evens out eventually.

This is intended as an alternative for classes where learners do know each other – but it also works really well as the final part of a lesson with a class where nobody knows each other, as John will constantly be explaining to his classmates WHO Amy is, thus meaning everyone should have a much better idea of who everybody else in the class is by the end of it!

Having gathered together all the information during the lesson – the actual writing up of the composition can either be done in class or as a homework task.  What can then be interesting is for the writer and the subject to check how close to the truth the composition is.  The subject can then feedback and edit both the content and language of the composition for later revision – though this would be an optional stage depending on the abilities of the class.

First Lesson: Find Nobody Who…

1 Sep

This is an alternative approach to the inevitable “what did you do on your holidays” conversation.   Many first lesson activities and ideas are based on the premise that nobody knows anybody else but often the students in your classes have come up through the levels together and the only new person in the group is you…

It should also combat those conversations with teenage classes that go:  T: “Hey, how was your summer?”  S: “Alright.”   T:  “What did you do?” S: “Nothing.”

The basic objective is that the learners have to find stuff they did over the holidays that NOBODY else did.

So a simple procedure might be:

Ask the learners if they had a nice summer and lead into a REALLY boring description of what you did over the summer.  e.g.  I watched TV and I played computer games and I did some laundry and stuff.  Ask the learners if they did anything similar.  Establish that pretty much everybody in the class watched TV and played computer games.  Then tell the learners about something slightly more interesting and less usual – for example taking a plane trip – and find out how many people did the same.  Finally, describe something really interesting that you did – or alternatively make something up (e.g. rented a Ferrari and drove up the West coast of the USA).  Find out whether anyone else did the same.

Thus having established the exclusivity principle, ask learners to find something that they did over the summer that nobody else did.  Check that they understand they need to talk to ALL the other learners in the class.

Feedback:  Find out from the learners what interesting and relatively exclusive things they did over the summer.  You could also do some reformulation of any language areas that came up during their mingle activity.

The Vortex Game

29 Jul

The Vortex Game.  This is a game I’ve created that can be used with any age or level – for pretty much any purpose.  It came out of a conversation with a colleague (thanks Sarah!) who was looking for an idea to help learners with minimal pronunciation pairs, but it can be used with pretty much anything!

I can’t claim complete originality here though – this game was inspired by a very old BBC tv show called “The Adventure Game“.  Now this is going back almost thirty years to a time when special effects were….  well a bit shoddy really.  But truly amazing by the standards of the time!  If anyone wants to look at the amount of progress the human race has made in the last quarter century, you only have to look at clips of the adventure game – of which more later…

Anyway – for game board, rules and different ways to play it (there’s a TPR style method) etc – read on!

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Working with Project Classes

12 Jul

This is an entry for everyone currently working at an ELT summer school somewhere in the world!  It’s not always easy and there’s a lot of hard work – hopefully this post will help out a bit!  I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy my summer school experiences immensely over the years and one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing most has been the project classes.  This post takes a look at what’s important to remember before the project class kicks off and gives some ideas for different projects and how to stage them.

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First Lesson Ideas / Warmers

10 Jul

For many teachers, though the school year might have just ended – the joy of summer school classes is about to start.  Or may have already, but I think lessons at my habitual summer haunt are due to begin on Monday morning – I’m not there this year, so not sure.

In any event this post contains a collection of getting to know you type activities / ice-breakers or first lesson warmers for you to choose from.  If you started teaching summer school last week – sorry about the delay – but you can probably use these or adapt these as warmer or lead in type activities – so it might still be useful!

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Postie Postie / Agony Aunt

7 Jul

This is a great activity that you can use as a warmer or as a fun practice task in a number of situations.

I should acknowledge that I originally saw my Dip tutor Peter Moran do this during a lesson in Wroclaw in 2006 – in various forms it’s been one of my staple activities ever since!

I can’t remember why Peter did this – though as I recall he was stepping in to cover an absent colleague – and I can’t even remember what the lesson was about…  In fact now that I think about it, it might have been an input seminar and not a lesson.  But there we go – the important things matter….

In it’s basic form, “Postie Postie” needs only a lot of scrap A4 paper chopped into quarters (or not – depending on how you want to adapt it).  As I recall Peter running the activity you give every learner or pair or small group a large amount of chopped up bits of paper.  The bits of paper then play the role of the message medium – in other words, the learners write short notes to each other.  When they finish writing the note, they shout “Postie Postie” and the teacher delivery system swings into operation – you collect and deliver the messages.  From that point of view, it’s probably a good idea to ask the class to address and acknowledge their messages in a “to” and “from” format.  The recipients then write their reply and send it back – and thus the conversation continues.

Adaptations:

As a warmer – if you brainstorm topic areas / conversations issues to the board (i.e. what everyone did at the weekend – or for summer schools -what the trip was like yesterday / how hot are the teachers / what’s different between my country and yours).  Then learners simply write brief notes to each other in question and reply.

As a “freer” practice task – I have a suspicion that originally I saw this done in the context of “emailing” each other.  It could of course also work in the context of a text messageathon – if text english is a lesson focus.

 

I used it that other day as an “agony aunt” style task.  The learners were paired and had a bunch of scrap A4 paper.  They were encouraged to think Jerry Springer style (e.g.   My husband is in love with a tree  /  My daughter wants to marry our goldfish) but it was basically all their own work.  They addressed their “problem” to another  pair/group in the room and wrote their letter.  As a grammatically correct postman – I refused to deliver letters with mistakes in them – but that was my choice, you could be more lenient!  The agony aunts then wrote their advice by return and so on.

At the end of the task we decided which problems and which solutions were worthy of awards…..

The general idea is a nice variation on a mingle style task.  The learners can stay where they are and can work collaboratively in a way they can’t so easily in a mingle.  Plus, as teacher, you get to vet the messages (essential with any class under the age of 16…) for content appropriacy and grammatical accuracy.  As a really pedantic postman….. this task can run and run….!

The disabled access friendly world blog challenge: Creature Discomforts

29 Jun

Following on from the recent blog challenge on raising awareness of disability access issues, I came across the Leonard Cheshire Disability campaign whilst watching Shaun the Sheep dvds with my daughter.

The campaign is called “Creature Discomforts” and has very similar aims to the blog challenge – namely to get people to think about the way they see disability.

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