IH Teachers Online Conference 2020 – “Handing over to your learners” slides

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for watching my talk, I hope you enjoyed it and had a take away or two for your future classes. I love getting feedback so do let me know if you used any of these activities and how well received they were by your students. 🙂

Handing over to your learners – A2 “Accountable” Vocabulary, personality adjectives

This is another activity in which learners make use of a good online dictionary as well as Thesaurus to increase their lexical range. The preparation might be done as homework – for instance, students look up personality adjectives – and the warmer next class could be done as a testing activity, checking whether they remember the meaning and/or pronunciation of the words they came across.

Source: HEYDERMAN, E. & MAUCHLINE, F. (2013) Motivate! 2. London: Macmillan, p. 46.

This activity prepares students to discuss the topic of myths and legends. Surely A2 students will have seen words such as friendly and funny, and speakers of Romance languages can easily say what brave and cruel mean even if they have never seen those words. Then, each student looks up a word and gives the translation as required in the original task. In these cases, it would take a lot longer to CCQ what some of them are using L2 rather than resort to Google Translator or a bilingual dictionary!

After that, a classic activity which demands no preparation whatsoever is “Who in your family?”. Students ask each other in pairs “Who in your family is loyal? Why?”, “Who in your family is stubborn? Why?” and discuss reasons for their choices using simple language. If they don’t want to talk about themselves, you could ask them about superheroes or mythical creatures as this ties in with the topic of the lesson. At the end of the day, the same game or activity could be used with multiple levels as shown below. What changes is the amount of scaffolding provided and the language output expected.

Can’t give you Chris Hemsworth cos of copyright. Sorry about that. 😉

You can even raise awareness of social responsibility, getting them to think about who our real heroes are (doctors, nurses, teachers), as well as other people/groups they might be interested in. After they get back from breakout rooms, say a few adjectives again to aid their lexical retrieval and remember to check if they have used the adjective correctly (e.g. “By the way, do you think Cristiano Ronaldo is stubborn?”)

If you tried out this activity, let me know how it went!

TESOL Spain 2020 presentation slides – Making the reading process visible to learners

My debut as a speaker in a major face-to-face conference. A big thank you to IH World for allowing me to be in Salamanca and share ideas with an enthusiastic group of teachers. See you next time!

Helping learners with Gapped Text tasks

Since a number of my students have experienced difficulties taming the so-called “beast” of the Reading & Use of English paper in Cambridge Exams, I’ve decided to delve into the subject and come up with effective strategies to highlight what’s at stake when it comes to tackling this task. As far as I’m concerned, it all comes down to successfully predicting what could go in each gap while skimming the text and then marking any references you find in a very systematic way. Look at the following idea and if you decide to try it out with your students, let me know how it went! 

Procedure:

  1. Learners attempt the task for 12-15 minutes under exam conditions and are then given the correct answers.
  2. Next, the teacher draws a diagram on the board with three coloured categories indicating areas of cohesion: pronouns and demonstratives; linkers and discourse markers; lexical. In pairs, learners focus on one or two answers they got wrong using three different colour pens to identify connections between items, using different shapes (eg. circle, rectangle, brackets or underlining). They could also highlight distractors separately to explain why they do not fit later on.
  3. During feedback, the teacher asks learners the importance of doing this and when else such awareness of cohesion and coherence is useful. To provide further practice, learners try another task to check whether this process helped them perform better.

Example of teacher’s annotations for a Part 7 from C1 Advanced. Students’ notes needn’t be so detailed, although it’s essential that they understand the rationale behind this! Coursebook rights reserved to Norris, R. & French, A. (2014).


In the separate paragraphs, students can refer to the line in which they’ve found each reference for faster retrieval of information, and can also make notes on what’s happening in each gap (an example, development of the same topic, a new topic, a contrast between ideas). Coursebook rights reserved to Norris, R. & French, A. (2014).

An example of board feedback, with students noticing references and the line in which they were found.

  • Noticing and marking cohesive devices highlights text structure and the importance of connections to achieving overall text coherence, which is key in reading comprehension. Nuttall claims that “the reader who does not know what a pronoun refers to (…) will not be able to establish its signification” (1982:83).
  • Drawing arrows and circles helps learners notice anaphoric and cataphoric reference (Hasan 1984:183) and visually conveys the issue of their distance from each other in a text, which can hinder automatic recognition of reference.
  • Marking referents is essential because when moving our eyes from the text to the separate paragraphs on the other page, we tend to easily forget what a certain pronoun or determiner referred to, especially if it is repeated many times throughout the text. Clearly stating reference and line/extract allows for faster retrieval of information.
  • Colours appeal to visual learners and also enable them to retrieve an item more easily, thus saving them precious time when pressurised by exam conditions.
  • Finally, lexical cohesion – namely the most difficult for learners to identify – between seemingly random items can be facilitated by identifying semantic relations determined by linkers and discourse markers, made apparent by highlighting phrases as exemplified above.

References:

Hasan, R (1984). Cohesive and coherence harmony. In Flood, J. (ed.) Understanding Reading Comprehension. Delaware: International Reading Association, 181-219.

Norris, R. & French, A. (2014). Ready for Advanced Coursebook 3rd Edition. London: Macmillan Exams.

Nuttall, C (1982). Teaching reading skills in a foreign language. Oxford: Macmillan Education.

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