Teaching a listening activity

Presenting a listening activity goes in three stages . In each stage there are some steps that should be followed:

#1. Pre-listening stage: 

 * Prepare pupils for the listening activity by:

1- Introduce the topic of listening; say the title of the topic.

2- Activate pupils’ existing knowledge; lead discussion around the topic to elicit what pupils already know about the topic and what they need to know or what information they anticipate to listen to.

3- Build prior knowledge; provide appropriate background information about the speakers, the topic, concepts and vocabulary embedded in the text and motivate pupils’ interest to listen.

4- Define a purpose for the listening activity; ask a pre-question pupils think of its answer while listening or identify a task for pupils to complete during listening.

#2. During listening stage:

* Pupils listen to the text at least twice:

1- The first time allows pupils to answer the pre-question, get a general idea about the topic and verify the accuracy of their predictions.

2- The second time and subsequent times help pupils to derive the information they need to complete the tasks identified in pre-listening stage.

* Examples for some tasks to be done during listening:

1- Answering some questions on specific information in the listening text.

2- A map chart/graph pupils complete as they listen.

#3. Post-listening stage:

* Pupils act upon what they have heard to give evidence that they understood the text.

* Examples for some post-listening tasks:

1- Summarize the main ideas of the listening text either orally or in writing.

2- Write a composition based on the material acquired during listening.

3- Outline the material they listened to in writing using charts, diagrams, etc

Teaching reading comprehension

The importance of teaching reading:

Teaching reading in the English language course should include the following set of learning goals:

1- enable students to read a wide range of texts in English.

2- develop awareness of the structures of the written English texts.

3- develop the ability of criticizing the content of texts.

4- practice different types of reading according to the purpose of reading.

5- exposing students to different types of texts to build solid knowledge of the language and to facilitate reading in the future.

Four types of reading:

1- Skimming: reading for the gist or the main idea of the text.

2- Scanning: reading to find specific information.

3- Extensive reading: reading for pleasure and general understanding.

4- Intensive reading: reading for getting the details.

A good reader:

Reading research shows that a good reader should:

1- be able to read extensively as well as intensively.

2- integrate information in the text with existing knowledge.

3- be able to use the two models of reading in processing a text.

4- be able to skim or scan a text depending on what he reads and the purpose of reading.

5- read for a purpose. His reading serves a function.

Why a person reads? A person may read in order to:

1- gain information.

2- verify existing knowledge.

3- criticize the writer’s ideas or the writing style.

4- enjoy oneself.

5- get specific information.

Three models of reading:

1- A bottom-up model: it emphasizes part-to-whole processing of a text. According to this model the readers should:

* identify sounds.

* recognize letters.

* link sounds.

* combine letters to recognize spelling patterns.

* link spelling patterns to recognize words.

Then proceed to sentence, paragraph and text-level processing.

2- A top-down model: it suggests that processing of a text begins in the mind of the reader by driving the meaning. According to this model the readers should:

* comprehend the text even though they don’t recognize each word.

* read primarily for meaning rather than mastery of letters, letter/sound relationships or words.

* use the whole meaning and the grammatical cues to identify unrecognized words.

* use meaning activities rather than a series of word recognition skills.

* read sentences, paragraphs and whole texts.

* gain the most amount of information through reading.

3- An interactive model: this model emphasizes the interaction of bottom-up and top-down process simultaneously through the reading process.

Three stages for teaching reading comprehension:

1- Stage One: Before reading ( pre-reading ):

* establish a purpose for reading ( e.g. answer a pre-question )

* activate prior knowledge.

* present new concepts and key vocabulary.

* ask students what information they predict to be included in the text.

* preview the text.

2- Stage Two: During reading:

* students read, comprehend, clarify,  visualize and build connections.

* students integrate the knowledge and information they bring to the text with new information in the text.

* pay attention to the structure of the text.

* read to achieve the purpose for reading.

* think about answers for certain questions.

* determine the meaning of unfamiliar words and concepts.

3- Stage Three: After reading ( post reading ):

* students expand prior knowledge, build connections and deepen understanding.

* students show their understanding of what they have read by answering some comprehension questions.

* evaluate the value and quality of the text.

* respond to the text by discussing its main ideas.

A helpful guide for types of questions to be asked before and after reading:

Bloom’s Taxonomy: reading activities and questions should take into account the six-level hierarchy of skills that Bloom suggested in his taxonomy. They are as follows:

1- Knowledge: includes recall or recognition of information.

2- Comprehension: includes explain, describe or rephrase the text.

3- Application: apply the information learned in the text.

4- Analysis: make inferences or derive generalizations.

5- Synthesis: combine several ideas.

6- Evaluation: judge the value or importance of the text.

Using native language in the English class

Use native language in English class when:

* translating abstract words like “love” or “hate”

* checking that pupils knew the meaning of a word after presenting it.

* explaining a difficult grammar point so that pupils can understand a difference between English and the native language.

* explaining a cultural reference so that the context is clear.

 Insist on using English in primary or low-level classes so that:

* Pupils will have more reason and opportunity to use English, too.

* Pupils receive listening practice.

* Pupils learn and practice common or repeated classroom language or routines in English. (e.g. Please open your books on page ___.)

 Encourage pupils to use English in the class by:

* asking common and useful questions. ( e.g. What does X mean? How do you spell ____?)

* keeping a list of useful and common statements and questions on a classroom wall or having pupils keep this list in their notebooks.

* allowing pupils to demonstrate their understanding by doing an action also counts as using English in the classroom.

A pupil can use native language in the English class when:

* explaining to his partner how to do an exercise, he is trying to help his partner to learn. pupils often do not have the English skills necessary to explain in English.

* discussing a grammar point with his partner, they are helping each other to understand something in English.

* doing a speaking activity, a pupil may use a word in his native language when he doesn’t know the English one. He is still trying his best to communicate in English.

Giving classroom instructions in English

Pupils can understand classroom instructions in English:

# If you use English in classroom instructions, it gives your pupils a good chance to develop their listening skills in a context as English is used for real communication.

# It is true that some pupils may not be able to understand all the words when instructions are given in English at first but this is a similar situation to what happens when young children learn their own first language. If parents support children’s understanding, children usually understand the meaning, even if they don’t understand all the words.

# So do you, you can also help your pupils to understand your instructions in English by:

1- giving them clearly,

2- supporting them,

3- checking your pupils’ understanding of them.

 How to give clear classroom instructions:

* Firstly, make sure you get everyone’s attention. Wait until everyone is looking at you.

* Speak clearly, but not too slowly.

* Try to use sentences which are not too long.

* You can write instructions on a piece of paper to help you if necessary, but make sure you keep eye contact with the pupils.

How to support classroom instructions:

* You can help pupils to understand by supporting your instructions with gestures, facial expressions, your hands, and intonation.

* You can also use pictures or real objects sometimes.

* You can also write key instructions on the blackboard if this helps.

4. How to check your pupils’ understanding of classroom instructions:

* Don’t ask ‘Do you understand?’ pupils may think they have understood when they have not, or may say just ‘yes’ to please you.

* One alternative is to ask pupils to explain in their native language what they have to do. This is a clear and economical way for you to see if pupils have really understood.

* As pupils’ English develops, you can ask them some questions in English to check understanding:

( e.g. will you work in twos or fours? Will you speak or write? Have you got five or ten minutes for this activity? ….. etc )

Some ideas about correcting pupils’ speaking mistakes

Making mistakes is actually a very natural and necessary part of the learning process.

Pupils may make mistakes when:

  • They are tired,
  • They haven’t understood a part of the lesson,
  • They think in their native language,
  • They have some kind of confusion especially with vocabulary.

Making mistakes is a positive sign as it:

  • provides information about what progress the pupil and the class are making. If many of the pupils are making the same mistakes, You may decide to review part of a lesson.
  • shows learning. It is natural for language learners to overgeneralise rules. It is like an experimental process. We try something to see if it works. If it doesn’t work we try something else until we get it right. Mistakes can be a part of the experimentation.

You don’t need to correct each mistake:

  • More correction does NOT lead to fewer mistakes.
  • If the aim of the lesson is on accuracy, focus some attention on correcting mistakes.
  • If the aim of the lesson is on fluency, focus more attention on successful communication and less on the mistakes that occur.
  • If you correct too much, it could affect negatively the pupils’ willingness and motivation to participate in class.
  • Too much stress on mistakes correction may lead pupils to silence.

Some ways to correct your pupils’ speaking mistakes:

  • You can show that a mistake has been made by giving a surprised look.
  • Sometimes simply shaking your head is enough to indicate a mistake.
  • Hand gestures are also an effective way to point out mistakes.
  • You can note mistakes and write them on the board at the end of the class and ask pupils to correct them.

Some ideas to show the meaning of new words

You don’t need to explain all new words to your pupils

  • When children learn their first language, they do not learn all the new words they meet at the same time. They learn words they are interested in, or words their parents feel are useful.
  • Children can often understand the meaning of a story, or a dialogue, even when they do not know all the words.
  • If you spend a lot of time teaching new words, children don’t have the time to practise words and structures they already know.
  • So, children do need to know words, but only teach a word if it is a common, useful or interesting word for them.

Do the following to help pupils remember words:

  • Distinguish between active words (which pupils must use) and passive ones (  which pupils should understand but not use well).
  • Recycle words through games, dialogues, short tests, posters on the classroom wall. This helps passive vocabulary to become active.
  • Encourage pupils to keep their own vocabulary books. Pupils can use translation in them, but they might also try drawing pictures, writing example sentences in English, or grouping words in categories (for example the weather, travel, clothes, family, ….. etc)

When You should translate words:

  • When explaining passive vocabulary, or abstract words such as love, hate, etc.
  • When checking that pupils understood the meaning of a word after presenting it.

Ways You can use to show the meaning of a word:

  • Using pictures, real objects or drawing on the blackboard are more memorable for pupils than translation.
  • Using  gestures, mime, body language and facial expressions to show the meaning of words such as ‘hot’,’ cold’, ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and so on.
  • Using examples from the real world (Is there a zoo in our city? What animals can you see in a zoo?)
  • Asking pupils, who know a word, to explain it in English or to draw a picture and asking others to guess the meaning. This may take a little time, but may add interest and enjoyment to the lesson.

Your belief about learning and teaching grammar

Read the following two teachers’ points of view for teaching grammar and tell me to what extent you agree or disagree and justify your decision.

1. Before beginning any unit, I always look over it in the book to know the grammar rule it includes. I start the lesson with explaining that rule directly: its meaning, form and function. And then do some exercises with the class on it. I think that really helps students to do the activities well and they learn better that way.

2. I think there is no need to teach grammar explicitly or explain the rules directly. Learners will pick them up later for themselves. The precious time of the period should be focused on using the language on communication and practicing as much English as possible by students’ interaction. If they want grammar, they can be given exercises to do at home and be corrected outside the class.

How can You deal with a mixed level class?

What is a mixed level class?

A class with different pupils in one or some of the following:

  • amount of time learning English
  • level of English in the class
  • motivation to study English
  • amount of support from parents
  • background (city or countryside)
  • age
  • gender (boys and girls)

 What difficulties can there be with mixed level classes? Some of these are:

  • Helping everyone to learn: how to help all levels learn
  • Keeping everyone’s attention
  • Getting everyone to take part
  • Lesson speed; may be too quick for some, too slow for others
  • Activities may be too easy for some too hard for others
  • Materials: may be interesting for some, boring for others
  • Assessment

How can You deal with these different needs? Think about the following:

  • Use open-ended activities: these can work well because children with different levels of language can do them.
  • Ask different-level questions: ask easier questions to those with less English, and harder questions to those with more English.
  • Correct only serious mistakes: be more tolerant of mistakes made by children with less English. Correct only their serious mistakes.
  • Give extra activities: have extra activities ready for children who finish an activity quickly. These activities might include new vocabulary to learn, pictures to talk about, or simple language games to play.  
  • Use pair and group work: sometimes children of different levels can help each other to learn when they work in pairs or groups.
  • Set flexible targets: give different targets to different children or groups for some activities. For example, you might ask one pair to write three sentences of more about their families, and a higher level pair to write five sentences or more.
  • Use a remember and tell strategy: After some activities, ask children to close their books and remember answers, questions, words or sentences from the activity, and tell each other in pairs or groups. Success depends less on language knowledge and more on cooperation.

A word about Young Learners

 

What are children like as learners?

They

– are developing quickly as individuals.

– learn in a variety of ways, for example, by watching, by listening, by imitating, by doing things.

– are not able to understand grammatical rules and explanations about language.

– try to make sense of situations by making use of non-verbal clues.

– talk in their mother tongue about what they understand and do – this helps them learn.

– can generally imitate the sounds they hear quite accurately and copy the way adults speak.

– are naturally curious.

– love to play and use their imagination.

– are comfortable with routines and enjoy repetition.

– have quite a short attention span and so need variety.

How can you as teacher help them?

– Make learning English enjoyable and fun – Remember you are influencing their attitude to language learning.

– Don’t worry about mistakes. Be encouraging. Make sure children feel comfortable, and not afraid to take part.

– Use a lot of gestures, actions, pictures to demonstrate what you mean.

– Talk a lot to them in English, especially about things they can see.

– Play games, sing songs, say rhymes and chants together.

– Tell simple stories in English, using pictures and acting with different voices.

– Don’t worry when they use their mother tongue. You can answer a mother tongue question in English, and sometimes recast in English what they say in their mother tongue.

– Constantly recycle new language but don’t be afraid to add new things or to use words they want to know.

– Plan lessons with varied activities, some quiet, some noisy, some sitting, some standing and moving.

Reference: English for Primary Teachers By Mary Slattery & Jane Willis

 

 

7 Steps to teach any activity effectively

1. Introduce the activity clearly.

2. Give pupils clear instructions and make sure they know what to do.

3. Model the activity with a good pupil.

4. Get two pupils to model the activity ( public pair )

5. Specify some time for completing the activity in pairs ( private pairs )

6. Move around to monitor pupils, listen to or look at their performance.

7. Get some pairs to do the activity in public or elicit the answers orally from pupils involving as many pupils as possible.

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