How to Teach Functional Langauge

Most students struggle to communicate effectively in some social situations because most teachers focus overly on grammar and often neglect teaching students functional language.

The heart of functional language is understanding the implied social meaning of certain expressions. We use language mainly to perform some kind of communicative behavior like make a request, offer help, offer advice, give apology, … etc. The expressions that we use to achieve these functions are called functional exponents.

There are two basic ways of presenting a language function:

1. Inductive way:  

* Give the learners different examples of the function and ask students to identify it: E.g. “Any chance of a coffee?” What is the speaker’s intention here? What language or expressions did he use to express his intention?

2. Deductive way: 

Present a situation in which the function is needed and ask students to respond to it. E.g. you dropped the vase and it broke down. What would you say?

The best way to teach language functions is in context, that’s in dialogues 

When focusing on dialogues that contain functional language, there are three things should be clear for students to help them think about and analyze the target language:

  1. The place where the dialogue is taking place.
  2. The relationship between the two speakers.
  3. What the speaker A / B wants to do or say.

Practical steps to teach a dialogue with some language functions:

1. Introduce the dialogue telling students the names of the speakers and present the difficult words if it is necessary.

2. Play the dialogue or read it as a whole then ask students about:

  • where the dialogue is taking place (to check understanding of the context)
  • the relationship between the two speakers (to check language appropriateness)

3. Divide the dialogue into mini dialogues; a stimulus and its response (functional expressions) and write them on the board.

4. Talk about the speakers’ intentions and give students the functional meaning.

5. Underline the key words in the expressions and highlight the form.

6. Draw students’ attention to the choice of particular words or structures to express certain meanings.

7. Ask students to say the expressions focusing on stress and intonation (pronunciation practice).

8. Ask students to practice the dialogue in public pairs (controlled oral practice)

9. Write a scrambled dialogue containing the functional language on the board asking students to rewrite it in the correct order (controlled written practice).

10. Create a real-life situation asking students to perform a dialogue using the target functional exponents (freer oral practice).

After that, you need to tell students that there are common functions in English. Write a list of them and ask students to match each function with its exponent (the way of expressing it).

E.g. 

1. Making suggestion. d a. I can’t make it tonight – sorry.
2. Inviting. h b. I’m afraid I was disappointed by the service.
3. Giving advice. e c. I should have left earlier.
4. Requesting. i d. We could order in a pizza.
5. Making apologies. g e. It’d pay to talk to the boss.
6. Refusing. a f. I’d go along with that.
7. Agreeing. f g. I’m really sorry about the vase.
8. Regretting. c h. Why don’t you come over tonight?
9. Offering. j i. Any chance of a coffee?
10. Complaining. b j. I’ll pay.

At last, you should tell students the following principles associated with functional language:

  • There are many functions in English, and there is also a wide variety of exponents that can be used to express each function.
  • One structure can have more than one functional meaning so it’s difficult to understand the meaning of an utterance out of context.
  • The kind of functional exponent that you use changes depending on how well you know the relationship between the two speakers.
  • Pronunciation, in particular sentence stress and intonation, has a key role to play in learning functional language so you should always practice it orally.
  • Functional exponents can often vary greatly depending on the structure so we should focus on grammatical form too.
  • Some functions can be indirect and subtle so you should know their meanings.

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Test Your English – Vocabulary & Grammar

I invite you to join my group “Test Your English” on Edmodo to be aware of your level in English, vocabulary, grammar, functions and the four skills. It’s free to join the group and it takes under a minute to create an account on Edmodo.

Instructions to join this group:

  1. Visit www.edmodo.com from your mobile or computer.
    2. Click on the “Join a group” button and enter the code, z3jgwd.
  2. Follow the instructions to create a new account or login to your account to join “Test Your English” group on Edmodo.

Twelve Steps to Introduce the Present Perfect Tense for the First Time

Most students who have learned English as a foreign language often use only three tenses: present, past and future. They rarely use the present perfect tense as it is one the tenses that is soon forgotten or replaced easily with simple past tense.

Students don’t realize the importance of present perfect tense. If they know this importance, they will try to master it. To ensure that your students will use this tense, you must teach it right. This article provides some clear steps that will help you teach the present perfect tense effectively.

* Introduce the present perfect tense with regular verbs:

1. Give examples in the simple past tense: e.g. yesterday, I received two emails. I visited my grandmother once… etc. then give the examples in the present perfect: e.g. I have received two emails today. I have visited my grandmother once this month.

2. Show students how the present perfect is formed: e.g. have/has + pp (= past participle) telling them that pp of regular verbs ends in “ed” just as in the simple past.

3. Explain when the present perfect is used by contrasting finished and unfinished time. Ask students: Is yesterday finished? (they should say: Yes, it’s finished). Then ask them: Is today finished? (they should say: No, it isn’t)

4. On the board, draw two columns. On the top of the left write: Yesterday, Last .. , 2000, etc. and write examples (only with regular verbs) that go with finished time. On the top of the right write: Today, This day, This week, This month, … etc. and write examples (only with regular verbs) that go with unfinished time.

5. Tell students the difference between the two tenses. E.g. Last month, I received two emails and “Last month is finished”. This month, I have received only two emails. But this month is not finished so I may receive more emails before the month is over.

6. Give more examples with regular verbs, in all persons and ask students to tell the difference.

* introduce the present perfect with irregular verbs:

7. Divide the board into three columns and write some irregular verbs in the first column, their simple past form in the second column, and finally the irregular past participle in the third one.

8. Give examples as you go over each verb: e.g. I’ve had two cups of tea today. I’ve read one book this week. I’ve met Ahmed once this month … etc. Make sure that students have a list of irregular verbs and then they can provide more examples with other irregular verbs from this list.

* introduce the negative form of the present perfect.

9. Say, “I saw my grandmother last week. I haven’t seen her this week.” And give more examples alternating between affirmative in simple past and negative form of present perfect. E.g. I went to Cairo last year, but I haven’t been there this year.

10. Write some affirmative statements in present perfect on the board and ask students to give their negative forms, and you can introduce the use of “yet” here.

* introduce the interrogative form of the present perfect:

11. Model questions with “have” and elicit from students: Yes, I have or No, I haven’t and then change the person using “has” eliciting from students: Yes, she has or No, she hasn’t.

12. continue with questions using question words and model these questions writing them on the board and making sure that you write questions in all persons both singular and plural. Make sure that students understand that if they answer questions with “when, where and why” referring to a specific time in the past, they need to use the simple past tense.

Naturally, students should be taught the other uses of the present perfect with already, just, ever, never, for, since, etc. In this article we covered only the best steps to follow to introduce the present perfect for the first time and contrast it with the simple past, i.e. the distinction between finished and unfinished time. Once students understand this distinction, they will be ready to understand everything else.

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Five Effective Strategies to Make Vocabulary Stick

Many experiments demonstrated that vocabulary forgetting starts as soon as learning happens. So what can be done? Research shows that there are some effective strategies teachers can use to help make vocabulary learning stick. The following are the main five of them:

1. Use peer explanation:

Ask students to explain what they’ve learned to their classmates. They can pronounce the words and explain their meanings. This strategy can not only increase retention but make vocabulary learning permanent in the long-term memory. In addition, it encourages active learning and students’ engagement.

2. Recycle the key vocabulary:

Review important vocabulary throughout the school year. Re-expose students to the previous vocabulary and give them multiple opportunities to use them in new contexts. Research shows that students perform better in their exam when they are given a brief review of what was covered several weeks before.

3. Give frequent practice tests:

In addition to regular review of the previous vocabulary, frequent practice tests on vocabulary can boost their long-term retention. Frequent practice tests protect against stress that often impairs memory performance. You can use a quick quiz at the start of each lesson to test your students’ knowledge of the vocabulary taught in the previous lessons. It is an effective remedial plan for low achievers who often forget vocabulary quickly.

4. Use word mapping:

Write a key word on the board or on a wall sheet and ask students to write related words or phrases to it. When similar words are grouped together, students will remember them more often. In addition, their stock of vocabulary will increase. This approach is helpful for students when writing a paragraph on certain topic.

5. Combine text with images:

It’s often easier to remember words that have been presented with visual aids. Visual aids can not only attract students’ attention, but also they can facilitate and reinforce learning. It’s easier to remember what’s been read and seen.

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Question Types to Test Your Students’ English Skills

As a teacher of English, you need to test your students’ English periodically to know to what extent they learned the language. Learning English should include mainly learning vocabulary and grammar. In addition, you should test their reading comprehension and writing skill. If you want your test to be complete and comprehensive, your test should include a listening activity and a speaking task. Here are some suggestions for the questions you may include in your test:

Vocabulary

To test knowledge of vocabulary, you can ask students to:

  1. Write words which relate to common topics such as family, work , school, jobs, …etc.
  2. Use the appropriate word from a list to fill in the space in a context.
  3. Match the words with their meanings.
  4. Choose the right word from certain options to complete a context.

Grammar

To test knowledge of grammar, you can ask students to:

  1. Choose the right word or phrase from certain options to complete a structure.
  2. Change a sentence from tense to another using a clue.
  3. Rearrange words to make a grammatically correct sentence.

Reading

To test reading skills, you can ask students to:

  1. Read for skimming to answer questions on the main points of a reading passage.
  2. Read carefully to answer some questions on details.
  3. Summarize a long reading passage in two or three sentences.
  4. Extract some information from a short text to fill in a table.
  5. Read a story and then put the main events in the right order.

Writing

To test writing skills, you can ask students to:

  1. Write accurately certain amount of words about certain topic using correct sentence structure, word order and connectors.
  2. Write different kinds of written texts like essay, letter, email, story, short paragraph, etc. following the rules of writing each kind.
  3. Use some given guided words to write about a certain topic.

Listening

To test listening skills, you can ask students to:

  1. Listen for specific information in listening texts.
  2. Listen to short dialogues and tell the meanings of some words in context.
  3. Follow a listening short text and show understanding by doing the instructions included in the text.

Speaking

To test speaking skills, you can ask students to:

  1. Speak clearly using appropriate stress and intonation.
  2. Pronounce words so that they can be understood.
  3. Describe pictures or other visual material connecting ideas together accurately and with a range of language.

Five Things You Must Do Well If You Want to Be Effective Teacher of English

There are some important characteristics and skills which are a must for any teacher of English to do his job effectively. Without these things, it’s preferable for the person to try another job or for the teacher of English to teach any subject other than English language. These things are as follows:

1.Talk well:

As a teacher of a language, you will not be able to teach it if you prefer to be silent most of the time especially during the class. You should be a model for your students in talking well using the language. Talk and encourage your students to talk to learn the language.

2. React well:

Good reactions are the main element in the learning process. You should have the ability to react to your students’ talk, questions and responses. Your reactions should not only be in a verbal way. Non-verbal reactions are often more effective. In your reactions you should use all means you have to give the suitable and effective feedback.

3. Explain well:

The core of teaching is explanation. You need to learn how to clarify language items to your students. Explanation includes many skills; e.g. giving examples, presentation, clarification, wrapping up, … etc. it’s a joke if you are a teacher and not having the skills of explanation. But it is not too late. You still have the opportunity to learn to teach, I mean to explain.

4. Enjoy:

Learning a new language is and must be usually an enjoyable experience. Suppose that you don’t feel excited when you learn or teach the language, how come to make your students enjoy learning this language. Enjoyment and excitement make learning permanent and guarantee achieving all learning objectives.

5. Create:

Teaching a language does not only mean presenting some certain individual words or teaching grammatical rules directly using very controlled activities but it should include creating real-life situations to use the new language. If the teacher of a language is not creative, students will not have the opportunity to live with the language. Language will be something stable for them. Teacher of English should go beyond controlled and guided tasks to free production stage. This kind of transfer will not be possible unless the teacher has the sense of creativity and encourages the students to be creative, too in their use of the language.

Six General Tips to Manage a Class

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What does “Classroom Management” actually mean?

Classroom management is the most important factor affecting student learning.

It is the effective discipline in the classroom that provides a safe, comfortable learning environment, motivates your students, build their self-esteem and encourage them to be imaginative and creative in daily lessons.

It is having control of the class by organizing students and resources so that teaching and learning can occur effectively.

Reasons for disruptive behavior in the classroom:

Students misbehave for several reasons:

  • They are bored.
  • They don’t know the purpose of your presentation.
  • They are not aware of the importance of the information that you are delivering.
  • Activities are not interesting.
  • The pace of the teaching is too fast, or too slow.

Principles of classroom management:

  1. Dealing with disruptive behaviors.
  2. Minimizing off-task behaviors.
  3. Engaging as many students as possible in learning activities.

Six General Tips to Manage a Class:

1. Over plan your lessons:

If you don’t plan, the student will plan for you.

The more you plan, the more effective the lesson and delivery will be and the less problems with discipline will occur.

  • Ensure that you fill each minute of the period with learning activities.
  • Be prepared and organized well.
  • Minimize transition time among tasks.

2. Arrange the seating:

  • Rearrange the desks — both for your language lessons and sometimes even for a particular activity so that it is both easier and more natural for students to see and talk to each other.

3. Look at the students:

  • If you are standing, and your eyes are constantly moving over the class, everyone feels involved.
  • Your eyes help your students’ concentration.
  • The easiest way to check whether your students understand what you have said or what they have read or heard, is for your eyes to look at theirs.
  • Any incomprehension or confusion will show in their eyes long before they tell you that there is a problem.

4. Use your hands to encourage and direct students:

  • A simple gesture can indicate who is going to answer a question or which pair of students should now read a dialogue.
  • Simple gestures can also indicate that something is wrong.
  • Use a collection of gestures to avoid unnecessary language which can distract students.
  • Gestures can indicate what is required from individual students, or even from the whole class, with a minimum of fuss.

5. Vary your voice:

  • Pauses, stress and changes of voice when you change from comment to instruction and from statement to question will mean that it is much easier for students to follow and pay attention to what you say.

6. Gain attention:

  • Gain student’s full attention before giving instructions.
  • Provide instruction with simple and clear language.
  • Provide one instruction at a time – do not provide too many different instructions.
  • Make your lessons relevant and interesting to your students.
  • Use examples that interest students.

16 Types of School Tests

1- Objective Test vs. Subjective Test:

Objective test is independent of the person marking that test. There is usually a key of answers that leaves no room for subjectivity in grading (e.g. M.C tests or false-true tests) but in Subjective test, the score depends on the marker. It usually happens that different markers give different scores. The gap between the markers may be sometimes very wide (e.g. in free writing).

2- Speed Test vs. Achievement Test:

The speed test aims at measuring the speed of performance. It is made a little longer than the time given. (e.g. Two hundred items on grammar to be answered in an hour) but achievement test aims at measuring students achievement. The given time is made to be adequate; emphasis here is on measuring achievement not speed.

3- Public Test vs. Local Test:

The public test is given on a country-wide scale and prepared by a central authority. It is usually announced and relatively long. It is normally given at the end of a school cycle but the local test is locally prepared and given at the same school level by the class teacher.

4- Standard Test vs. Normal Test:

The standard test is carefully designed and undergoes long experimentation and research. Each score has a special interpretation that indicates where a certain scorer stands among a statistical population of similar individuals but the normal test is not standardized. The majority of tests, of course, belong to this normal category.

5- Written Test vs. Oral Test:

The answers for written test are to be given in a written form but the answers for oral test are to be given orally.

6- Announced Test vs. Drop Test:

The teacher assigns the test material and fixes a certain date in advance for the announced test but the drop test is given without previous announcement. It is usually a short one and it aims at keeping students on the alert.

7- Classroom Test vs. Home Test:

The test questions of the classroom test are given and answered in class but the home test is given in class but answered at home .

8- Closed-Book Test vs. Open-Book Test:

Textbook are closed while students are taking the closed-book test but students are allowed to use their books while answering the questions of the open-book test.

Eight Tips to Manage the Classroom and Keep your Students’ Attention

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Classroom management is mainly based on attracting and keeping your students’ attention. If you succeed to do that, you will be able to achieve your learning objectives easily. Here are some tips to attract your students’ attention

  1. Use a signal for zero noise (e.g. if I raise my hand, you all should keep silent.)
  2. Come close to two students chatting and surprise them.
  3. Give clear instructions for each activity telling students what to do exactly.
  4. When making transition from one activity to another, ask for your students’ attention.
  5. Eye contact with as many students as students to monitor the entire room.
  6. Differentiate and vary your activities during each lesson to break monotony.
  7. Ask questions to check students’ comprehension.
  8. Keep silent for some moments while looking at students until they pay full attention.

Quick Guidelines for Writing Effective Test Questions

It is a challenging task for teachers to write test questions, especially when a test is being used to measure certain learning outcomes. Take into account the following guidelines before you begin writing test questions.                                                     

True/False questions

True/False questions include high probability of guessing the correct response so it is better to avoid them and find a more substantial way to ask the questions. If you think of using this kind of questions, you must not include them any of the qualifying words such as “sometimes” or “always” because these words provide a clue to the correct answer. True/False questions are best used for pre-tests to help identify what the learner doesn’t know.

MCQs

Multiple choice questions or MCQs are less subject to guessing. In addition, they can be used to assess higher-level thinking. The stems and solutions or alternatives must be constructed effectively by:

  1. Stating the stems clearly presenting a single, clear problem or question in each stem.
  2. Avoiding negative phrases or irrelevant material in the stems.
  3. Avoiding clues to the right answer and using “all of the above” or “none of the above” in the alternatives.
  4. ensuring that distractions or alternatives are reasonable and presented in logical order.

Essay Questions

Essay questions are and should be used mainly to measure higher-level thinking skills such as analyzing, synthesizing and making connections. In these questions, clear guidelines should be provided about the topic, grading or marking so that students can be well aware of how to write the essay. Students should be provided with a lot of practice on writing several short essays rather than on a long one to allow them to write on a variety of topics.

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