What not to say to someone who stammers

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In this lesson plan designed for the British Council Teaching English site, students read a  first-person account by a person who stammers, about how he would prefer people to respond when he does so. After some discussion about the topic, the lesson goes on to focus on some different grammatical structures to express preference and sometimes annoyance: would rather/sooner, would prefer, wish. There is some practice using sentence transformation (as found in FCE) and then some more personalised practice.

Aims:

  • To help students understand more about stammering and how (not) to respond when someone stammers
  • To practise reading for specific information
  • To be able to use a range of structures for expressing preference and/or annoyance: would prefer, would sooner, would rather, wish.

Age:

Adults and older teenagers

Level:

CEF level B1+/B2 (especially useful for Cambridge First Certificate preparation)

Time:

45 minutes

Materials:

The lesson plan and student worksheets can be found and downloaded here

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Filed under classroom ideas, Downloadable lesson materials, FCE, Uncategorized

Using your brain: what neuroscience can teach us about learning

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Considering that our brains are the key tool for learning, it is surprising how rarely teacher education focuses on neuroscience. Education is full of vague statements about only using 10% of our brains, or using the right or left brain, or being a kinaesthetic learner, but are these really based in science?

Friday 5th October 2018 is World Teacher’s Day and to celebrate I presented a free webinar as part of the British Council’s 5 on 5. In my session we looked at what recent research has to tell us about learning, looking specifically at motivation and memory, and how to apply these findings in the classroom to help students learn more easily and effectively.

You can watch a recording of the webinar here

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Filed under classroom ideas, memory, motivation, neuroscience, Working with groups

Changing ideas of beauty

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In this lesson plan designed for the British Council Teaching English site, we explore the topic of vitiligo, an autoimmune condition which causes some people to lose pigment in their skin, and look at how attitudes are changing towards what does or does not make someone attractive.

This lesson was devised to mark World Vitiligo Day on 25 June. However, it could be used at any time of year as this is not specifically mentioned.

The lesson begins with students looking at a photo of a young woman with vitiligo and discussing their reactions to the photo. They then go on to read about a model with vitiligo, Chantelle Brown-Young (also known as Winnie Harlow- pictured above), and discover what makes her special. The lesson reviews a range of tenses that might be used in a biography of a living person and looks at how to organise such a text, before the students go on to write their own.

Aims:

  • To encourage students to question their perception of what is beautiful and become more tolerant of difference
  • To practise reading for specific information (true/false)
  • To revise a range of tenses that students should know at B1 level
  • To help students structure and write a biography-type text

Age:

Adults/older teenagers

Level:

CEF Level B1 (intermediate) or strong A2 (pre-intermediate)

Time:

45-60 minutes

Materials:

Teachers notes and student worksheets can be downloaded here.

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Filed under Downloadable lesson materials, Reading, Writing

A little bit of pressure does you good?

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Speaking in English is something that many students find stressful or anxiety provoking. They can fear making mistakes, failing to understand the person they’re speaking too, or simply drying up. So shouldn’t we try to make speaking activities as stress free as possible?

There are certainly benefits to making sure students are well prepared, that they have the necessary language, that they have a clear idea of what the task demands. However, there are also some good arguments for not trying to remove all stress, and even adding some pressure at times

Read the rest of the article here

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Filed under classroom management, motivation, neuroscience, Speaking, Teaching methodology

Mindfulness, mental set and classroom management

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Most spiders have four pairs of eyes, which enable them to see what is happening all around them. And most teachers can only wish they had the same ability.

Good teachers do appear to have ‘eyes in the back of their heads’ though. They seem able to sense not just when a student is confused or off task, but even the moment before they are about to go off-task. This ability is sometimes referred to as ‘with-it-ness’, a term coined by the educationalist, Jacob Kounin (1977). Through observing many different classes, Kounin came to the conclusion that the most effective teachers were able to pick up on quite subtle changes in their students’ emotions and behaviour and respond quickly and effectively.

More recently, Robert Marzano (2003) wrote a summary of more than 100 experiments designed to find out which classroom management techniques caused the biggest decrease in disruptions. He looked at explaining and negotiating rules, relationships between teachers and students, rewards and punishments and what he called ‘mental set’. This last was a combination of awareness, or with-it-ness, and a conscious control over how the teacher responded to a disruption.

He found that, by quite some margin, mental set had the biggest positive effect, reducing the number of disruptions by 40%.

What Marzano refers to as mental set could equally well be called mindful awareness, meaning that a more mindful teacher can expect a considerably less disruptive classroom, and by extension, his or her students can expect to do better overall.

In my workshop at IATEFL Brighton 2018 (Mindfulness for ELT Teachers and students, Tuesday 14.55-15.40, Room 6 )I am going to be looking at how teachers can use mindfulness techniques to become more aware of what is happening around them in the classroom, and to respond to difficult behaviour in a more objective, calmer way. We’ll also look at some techniques you can use in the classroom to help your students gain a better mental set.

Kounin, Jacob S. (1977) Discipline and Group Management in Classrooms. Huntington, N. Y
Marzano, R (2003) What works in schools: translating research into action, ASCD

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Filed under classroom management, mental set, mindfulness, Teaching methodology, Uncategorized, Working with groups

Motivating your students to go beyond the intermediate plateau

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Every teacher recognises the concept of the intermediate plateau.

Students at intermediate, or upper intermediate level start to feel that they aren’t making real progress anymore. They just don’t feel as if they’re getting significantly better, despite putting in plenty of hard work.

Feeling this way can be pretty de-motivating and it’s one of the key reasons why learners often give up at this stage.

In this post for the British Council Teaching English site, I explore how recent findings in neuroscience can help us motivate our learners to go beyond the plateau.

Click here to read more.

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Filed under classroom management, motivation, neuroscience, Uncategorized

Being bilingual

learn-2001847_1920My latest lesson plan for the British Council Teaching English site looks at the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual, and a few myths, hoping to encourage students to value the languages they speak.

The lesson begins with a few statements about bilingualism. The students decide if these are true or false and then read a text to check their ideas. Having discussed the topic of the text, the students move on to look at impersonal report structures. These are very common in essays, articles and more academic-type writing, and it is useful for students at this level to be aware of them and to be able to produce them accurately.

After some practice with these structures, the lesson ends with a more light-hearted and personalised practice activity.

Aims:

  • To raise awareness of the benefits of speaking more than one language
  • To enable students to recognise and use impersonal report structures
  • To provide students with practice in making predictions and reading to confirm them

Age/level:

Adults or older teenagers with CEF level B2 and above

Time:

45–60 minutes

Materials:

The lesson and student worksheet (3 pages) can be downloaded here.

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Filed under Downloadable lesson materials, Grammar, IELTS, impersonal report structures, Uncategorized

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