Thursday, 29 November 2007

Empowering learners

Dear Lorena,
Now we've got to the end of our "official" time together, I'd like to give you a small "souvenir"... Hope you like it!

One day in Hawaii a ferocious storm washed hundreds of starfish ashore. A woman, on her morning walk, bent down every few steps to throw a starfish back into the sea. A man saw her and commented, "There are so many of the poor things it can't make any real difference for you to throw these few back." With a knowing smile, she tossed another starfish into the water and turning to the man said, "It made a difference to this one."
Sue Patton Thoele , Making a Difference
(as cited by Tessa Walter (2007)
in Teaching English Language Learners - The How-To Handbook; Longman)

I know you will make a great difference in many students' life... Enjoy having this privilege!

All the best,
Gladys- your Methods teacher

PS:Thanks for having shared this blog with me and your classmates during this school year. It's been really enriching for me!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

A true communicative activity

Record a group of students performing a communicative activity. Listen to the recording and try to decide on the following:

(a) To what extent does the activity encourage or oblige participation from all of the students? The activity is connected to student's experiences so they both (because it was pair work) were involved in the activity. First St A asks St B and then St B asks St A so they equally participate and are encouraged to do so (information gap)

(b) What examples can you find of conversational adjustments as students try to negotiate meaning, for example, asking for and giving clarification, repetition, further explanation through paraphrasing? One of the students needed to know what "waste" meant and the other student explained to the first one that it meant "throwing the money" and then as Student A kept on asking, Student B told her it meant "desperdiciar"= students negotiated meaning by paraphrasing and then resorting to their mother tongue.

Students also tried to find the right word for "Shop which sells CDs" = they came up with different names such as "record shop", and "musical store" and in the end they could understand each other.

(c) What examples can you find of students correcting each other? "Disparó" (St A) = "shot" (St B)

(d) How would you comment on the general level of accuracy in the students' language? As it was a fluency-oriented activity, the level of accuracy was not so accurate. Students were involved in getting across their message, not that much on accuracy. E.g: "I've wast my money on trainers because I bought it to go to the gym and I never went to the gym". Another example: Have you ever lose a credit card or a wallet? I've losted my wallet on the bus.

(e) If the activity had a focus on some area of grammar or use of vocabulary, to what extent did this appear in the students' language? cStudents were practicing "Present Perfect" with "have you ever..." and contrasting it with Simple Past. Students almost never resorted to their mother tongue. They resorted to L1 when they didn't know a word, for example "disparar", however, Student B said "shot". This grammar appears in students' every day life, maybe Present Perfect not that much (here in Buenos Aires) but Simple Past is used worldwide. Finally:Have you ever been robbed? Yes, in the shop of my father. Five years ago and I working there with my father, he had a shop of CDs. He taked the cash and they pointed with the gun... and "disparó".

Anyway, this activity, as I said, was aimed at fluency (or at least when the girl started telling the story when she was robbed) and the message was more important than accuracy.

When you have considered these points, decide whether you think it was an activity worth doing, and why. Would you change anything in a re-run of it? I think the activity was worth doing because it was a real communication activity and students were engaged in it because they had to tell each other about their experiences. If I were to do the activity again I would let them speak and then correct some mistakes that I would jot down while they are working so as to check them later on (deferred correction).

Let's see if you agree or not. You are welcomed to comment on anything you want to. See you,



HEDGE, Tricia (2000), Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, UK, OUP; Chapter 8 "Speaking" (Discussion Topics and Projects # 8- p. 295)

Recording made by Alejandro J. and Paula V. students of intermediate level. Teacher: Gladys Baya (thank you)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Aims for a speaking course

Review the list of skills and set of questions below and use them to formulate a list of possible aims for the speaking component of a course book. Then look at a contemporary course book for intermediate students and review the extent to which it tries to incorporate your set of aims.

Pronunciation Aims:
  • Learners identify and produce the difference between several pair sounds, such as /I/ /i:/ - /U/ /u:/; and different sounds.
  • Learners recognize and produce stress in words, rhythm in sentences and intonation patterns.
Skill Aims:
  • Learners learn strategies for managing turn-taking in conversation, including taking a turn, holding a turn, and relinquishing a turn
  • Learners learn how to interact and negotiate meaning
  • Learners learn how to negotiate purposes for conversations
  • Learners learn strategies for opening and closing conversations
  • Learners learn how to initiate and respond to talk on a broad range of topics, and how to develop and maintain talk on these topics
  • Learners learn how to use both a casual style of speaking and a neutral or more formal style
  • Learners learn strategies for repairing trouble spots in conversation, including communication breakdown and comprehension problems
  • Learners learn how to maintain fluency in conversation, through avoiding excessive pausing, breakdowns, and errors of grammar or pronunciation
Communicational Aims:
  • Learners learn how to interact and negotiate meaning
  • Learners learn how to use conversation for both transactional and interactional purposes
  • Learners learn how to produce both short and long turns in conversation
  • Learners learn how to use conversational in different social settings and for different kinds of social encounters, such as on the telephone, at informal and formal social gatherings.
  • Learners learn how to produce conversational fillers and small talk
  • Learners learn how to use conversational routines

I've browsed through Adventures Intermediate and learnt that the book covers almost all of the aims I had thought taking into account the list. The only aims that the book didn't cover are the ones in italics. As you can see they are not many, and can be taught anyway by changing some activities.


HEDGE, Tricia (2000), Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, UK, OUP; Chapter 8 "Speaking" (Discussion Topics and Projects # 8- p. 296)

WETZ and GAMMIDGE (2005), Adventures Intermediate Student's Book, UK, OUP

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Pre-listening stage, always?

Are there any listening tasks with which you would not use a pre-listening stage?
What a difficult question to answer! If I had had to answer it on the spot, I would have said 'no'. But when I stopped to think about it, I realised that there are a couple of tasks that don't need a pre-listening stage. For example:
  • listen and guess the sounds (of animals, Halloween shrieks)
  • if you are using a well-known TV programme, you could ask students to listen to it and say who said what (as a warm-up to a lesson)
  • listen for enjoyment to a song
I cannot think of any other, but at least the answer is 'yes', just to go against the grain.
Feel free to enlighten me and suggest anything that comes to your mind. Hope to hear from you soon,


HEDGE, Tricia (2000), Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, UK, OUP; Chapter 7 "Listening" (Discussion Topics and Projects # 7- p. 256)

Purposeful Listening

I've browsed through an intermediate book to prepare two lists that I included below. Check if you would any other activity or kind of text that you can use in your classes.

Review a textbook in current use in your institution and make lists:

(a) Reasons for listening which learners are given as they tackle listening texts
  • listen and check
  • listen and repeat to see different types of pronunciation of the same word
  • match events with their dates. Then listen and check.
  • listen and answer questions
  • listen and repeat, then translate.
  • listen to the weak forms, then repeat the sentences
  • listen and choose the correct answer
  • listen and complete the sentences
  • put the sentences into the correct order. Then listen and check
  • listen and number the pictures
  • listen and write true or false
  • listen, repeat and mark the stress on the words
  • read some options and guess who says them. Then listen and check.
  • put the opinions in the order you hear them
  • complete the song with the words given. Then listen and check.
  • listen and read.
  • listen and complete the table
  • listen and identify the programmes
  • guess the correct answers. Then listen and check
  • tick the options that are mentioned
  • listen and match
  • listen and identify the sounds
  • listen and find mistakes in the sentences
(b) Types listening text they encounter
  • sentences
  • historical events (like documentaries)
  • isolated words
  • dialogues between pairs about everyday life matters
  • conversations between pairs who are comparing two places or things
  • radio programs
  • songs
  • pop facts
  • travel programmes
  • telephone conversations
  • sounds
  • stories


HEDGE, Tricia (2000), Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, UK, OUP; Chapter 7 "Listening" (Discussion Topics and Projects # 7- p. 256)

WETZ, Ben and GAMMIDGE, Mark (2005), Adventures Intermediate Student's Book, OUP