What happened on the #ELTwhiteboard? 

This whiteboard was for the second lesson of a course I am teaching based on Business Result Pre-Intermediate. The learners are six men at a logistics company. 

The flow

Check homework from the Practice File (gap fills for vocabulary review). 

First up was a game at the end of the chapter based on questions and answers. It gave me a chance to check question formation and adjacency pairs (speech acts that go together).

I was going to move on to ‘eavesdrop’ upon the listening on the previous page and transcribe the conversation with half the class transcribing the man and half transcribing the woman. I thought that the game went on too long to do the textbook listening so I moved on to the speaking activity. 

The speaking activity was the task at the top of the board:Introduce yourself; Targets: 80% native speed of response, 70% accurate vocabulary and grammar. They had to introduce their company, too. Matthew asked why I chose these targets. I figure that an introduction is really easy but an introduction with parameters close to what would be acceptable on business, generally, would be closer to the ‘real world’ and encourage more involvement than a task with no parameters. 

Kamila asked how I measure the speed. Basically, I wait till the preceding utterance finishes, mentally answer and count two beats from my point of answering. It sounds harder than it is. 

How I set it up was in threes, too talk one transcribes the first speaker only. This was to build accuracy in the first speaker. I read about it in this article by Skehan and Foster.  In the article, learners transcribed themselves but in this risk they transcribed each other. Conversations carried on for around seven minutes. I followed up with a focus on form. These were mainly about vocabulary or body language and a little bit on question formation with final prepositions. Advice was given based on the transcription and then the task was repeated. I then followed with pairs repeating a similar task but with a 2 min 30 sec time limit. The companies they chose to talk about were all fictionalised, hence ‘adult entertainment’. Homework set was a gap fill with ‘you’ or ‘I’ in questions. 

It went well, particularly with the weaker students in the class. Some things I wish I’d done were getting the students to record each other in pairs then transcribe themselves. This ended up being the end of the next lesson (make a podcast section to give an introduction to your company)  and homework (transcribe yourself, noting mistakes or things you would change if you did it again). Overall the lesson was quite good but I still am not totally satisfied. Maybe this is because I am still trying to figure out my rapport and how we gel. Maybe I feel it was a bit repetitive, though it was kind of a fun time. 

How I Plan Lessons

Massive disclaimer: plan like this and you will almost certainly fail certificates and diplomas. This is how I plan lessons in a task-based framework that’s a bit Long/Skehan-influenced. However, if you wish to reclaim time for leisure, read on. Many thanks to Kamila and Sarah for the spurring on.

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First thing, refer to your syllabus and notes from the previous lesson. What did you plan for in the syllabus? Does this need to change?

Syllabus: persuade people. (Authentically vague note). Remember a weakness in dealing with difficult people.

Next, what is your target task/exit task, that is what do you want learners to be able to do by the end of the lesson? How much time do they need to do it? How much time do you expect to need for reflection and feedback?
Task: Persuade a colleague to visit a disagreeable client. Estimate: 12 mins task, 5 mins reflection and feedback.

Regarding the exit task, can it be broken up into smaller components? What are they?

Greet, broach a difficult topic, hedge, point out advantages, bargain.

Would a text be useful as an example? Do you expect to do decoding, vocabulary, pragmatics, semantics, grammar, pronunciation or discourse work?

Yes. I’d love an authentic text. Unlikely though. Maybe something like a documentary or the BBC version of The Apprentice. Use an excerpt. Note time codes for difficult words/elements of connected speech. Likely 15-20 mins.

Can you cover all the smaller tasks and the text in one lesson or do you need longer, once the exit task is added to the end?

Probably in a 90-minute lesson. Greetings are fine. Broaching needs 5 mins + 5 minutes Focus on Form (likely discourse markers so prepare some corpus lines, perhaps). Hedging probably 3 mins FonF 2 mins, combine with broaching 7 mins and 2 mins FonF. Point out advantages – maybe 5, seems good for schema activation. FonF might be intensifiers. Bargaining, 6 mins with FonF around  7, possibly syntax with conditionals/modality. The FonF is just predicted. It might be totally different depending upon task performance. Component tasks may be cut as needed (see below).

What will you do to activate schematic knowledge? What about differentiation?

Brainstorm a list of advantages of talking to difficult people. Choose most persuasive three. 7 mins.

Put stages in order. 

Schema activation, 7 mins

Attempt task, 10 mins. FonF 5-10 mins. If task OK, add complexity.

Text work.

Decode these words:

tough /tʌf/

(the) first /ðə fɜːst/

I wanted to /aɪ wɒnɪtʊ/

Listen, summarise, check.

Till 13:09

FonF

Component tasks with FonF

Exit task, feedback, homework.

Gather materials.

Probably copy and paste the corpus lines (linked above) into a document, blank out the adverbs. Give it to my student if required.

Cheers, I planned my lesson.

TBL/CLIL-ish Lesson: Paper Aeroplanes

Who doesn’t love paper aeroplanes? I mean apart from the person who has to tidy them up?


This is an easy lesson to do and could take about an hour to two hours depending on how many plane types you teach.

I took different sets of instructions from www.paperaeroplanes.com and told my students to practice making the plane. I made sure to tell everyone they would be teaching how to make their plane later.

The vocabulary needed was in the reading but be aware that inattentive students may ignore it. I would have them read and copy out a list of ten or so useful vocabulary items if I did this again. Focus on form was given as we went.

There was the opportunity to ask meanings of words as we went along and the instruction task was passed if planes were made and failed if they didn’t.

Plane types were tested for speed, height and distance. Students then wrote up a short report.

As extension work, we tried folds to the wings and fuselage to see if the planes would turn or roll.

The students loved doing this and everyone was speaking English all the time. There was even more negotiation of meaning than usual, too.

Japanese New Year – free lesson ‘plan’

This is entirely user-generated content. You don’t even need to print out the sheet or give out the prompt cards. It’s basically a Task-Based lesson stewed in a Dogme-heavy sauce.

You have the learners explain and give mini presentations on different aspects of New Year. If you have international students, this will really help the others in their group as they will probably have tons of questions. They could also give differences and similarities between New Year in their countries and in Japan. Feel free to change it up, pass it on, etc. It is Creative Commons licensed.

There is a load of repetition so good chances for Task rehearsal and the tasks should be more fluent by the end. Find the sheet as a PPT and PDF in my Google Drive folder.

TBLT ELT Ideas: Energy Graph

The Lesson

I did the graph idea from the TBLT ELT ideas board today and it went well, with a couple of changes.

The board just after starting.
I drew a graph to show my own energy expended over the day and first had the learners speculate about what the graph was. (Hence the phrases on the right).

They came close by guessing sleep had something to do with it. I told them it was my energy expended then had them try to imagine what I had done. I gave feedback as to whether their answers were correct and provided written recasts of errors.

The three learners then drew their own graphs and did a three-way swap. They speculated on each other’s activities and then received feedback.

Language raised here:

Collocations with the noun ‘contract’.

One learner then came in late. I had the learners ask him questions to draw a graph of his energy use. This went well, with all four learners speaking a lot.

Another learner then came in. I set one learner as only listening and drawing and the other learners to find the latest learner’s energy use in order to draw a graph within five minutes. He was rather taciturn and evasive so it was more difficult than some of them may have thought.

Next I focussed on question forms, particularly verb choice, an issue raised through the learners’ language, then had them fill blanks on the board.

The final task was an extension exercise. I had them rank themselves according to how busy/active they are at weekends. I told them I was looking for more complexity in their language use. This raised a lot of chunks like ‘hit the gym’, ‘check your blind spot’, and ‘develop a film’.

Finally I had the learners read a dreadful textbook dialogue so I could say we used it and cover myself. They then compared their weekend lifestyle to that of the main character in the dialogue.

What would I change?

I’d probably cut the three-way swap in the first independent activity and just have the learners speculate, perhaps giving them individual time limits for turn taking.

What’s next?

Well, it’s pop psychology in the textbook so I might see if I can get them to give each other the Myers-Briggs test. If not, it’s more interesting ways to describe personality.

TBL ELT Task Idea #2

I took my second idea from the LinoIt TBL ELT Board, a lesson planned especially for this class and using a listening task as the presentation of language (Task 1).

  
I was banking on three students attending but in the end only one student came and he was 20 minutes late.

We used the entire task sequence but I looked at listening to reduced forms in connected speech by using a prepared gapped transcript (my just-in-case activity).

Was it the best lesson ever? No. It was with a student who is often late and has erratic attendance so I just don’t know his needs as well as those of the rest of the class. Did it go OK? Yes. I think I need to look at conditionals briefly for a bit of consolidation but really do more with reporting speech naturally.

TBLT ELT – Reading Gallery Task

This is a task from the TBLT ELT LinoIt board (more info on its page) that I did with my pre-intermediate reading class at university. This was a replacement task for a dull spread comparing two cities in an otherwise OK set text.

For homework they were assigned to get information about a city from a brainstormed list and print it out.

About two thirds did the homework. This was enough and I knew that I could rely on the majority of the class to generate enough content.

Aside: I did try to get some students who hadn’t done the homework to work together to try to catch up by finding 5 interesting facts about a major city but this was pointless as the lazy students were lazy and the forgetful but relatively conscientious ones did all the work instead.

I then had the students pin their printouts/notebooks/paper to the wall with adhesive tack (Blu-Tac). I then set the task: read as much as possible and rank the cities by livability.

Pairs read as much as possible within five minutes after being told reading different parts from each other would enable greater coverage. They then did the ranking exercise and reported back to the whole class on their top two and lowest one. This generated vocabulary through different pairs’ questions and also grammar awareness through written recasts on the board.

After the main bit I had the students take down three vocabulary items (chunks or words). I boarded them, corrected pronunciation and elicited student definition where possible.

The students said it was a bit difficult but that it was interesting to read up on several very different places.

I’m pretty sure I’ll do something similar again if only because it generated so much language that came from the students