2 simple ideas for adapting your course book

After a very prolonged silence (life gets  in the way dontcha know!), here I am again! Greetings, all. For my first post back, I thought I’d share two very simple ways that I adapted two standard course book activities from New Headway Upper Intermediate unit 1 (so this was a while back, as we are now on Unit 3, but it’s taken me that long to get round to writing this post!), which worked very well with my Level 7’s. Both adaptations could easily be applied to other activities of this type, at any level from pre-intermediate upwards.

At upper intermediate level, in my context, we have the luxury of TIME: instead of 6 units to be covered over the duration of the course, the magic number is 4. So, as I wasn’t in a hurry, and I wanted the learners to mine the maximum possible out of the activities in question, which are both linked with tense review, I did some adapting…

1)

Course book activity:

A grammar-focused warmer activity consisting of a list of sentences, a box of time expressions. Students to insert the time expressions into the sentences. The time expressions can be used more than once and some will fit in more than one place in a given sentence.

My adaptation:

  • Write each sentence on a separate piece of paper
  • Stick the sentences up around the room
  • Give each pair or small group (3) – depending on numbers – of learners the box of time expressions.
  • Pairs to go round the classroom, stopping at each sentence to decide which time expressions could be used with it and where they should fit.
  • Once all have finished, whole class feedback: the teacher reads out each sentence with the time expressions where students have put them. The class as a whole decides if the sentence is correct or not.

Benefits:

  • A lot of discussion, both at the pair/small group stage and at the whole class feedback stage: learners really engage with the language.
  • Pairs/small groups can see what other pairs/small groups have done, and decide whether they agree or disagree.
  • Provides a nice energetic start to the lesson, as learners are moving around rather than sat still.

2. 

Course book activity:

A set of sentence starters which between them will generate a range of tenses. Students to complete the sentences with their own ideas, then read their sentences to a partner and respond to their partner’s sentence.

My adaptation:

  • In advance of the lesson, teacher completes the sentences with own ideas
  • In the lesson, teacher focuses learners on the sentence starters and tells them that she has completed those sentences making them true for her.
  • Learners to try and guess what the teacher has written. E.g. for the sentence starter “At weekends I often…” Students might say, “At weekends, you often go out for a drink with your friends!” or “Do you often go out for a drink with your friends at weekends?“. Of course, the teacher can feed in clues to help the learners guess. This stages provides the model for the next stage.
  • Learners then complete the sentences to make these true for them.
  • Then learners repeat the guessing process in small groups.

Benefits:

  • The teacher can provide linguistic feedback at the modelling stage, if learners make mistakes when guessing. Learners will then hopefully produce sentences that are more correct than they would have been, in the subsequent stage. (Of course teacher monitors to check for any errors)
  • The activity is more interactive and engaging. Rather than a learner reading out their sentences and another learner half-listening, there is some genuine communication going on, which requires use of the various tenses under review.
  • The nature of guessing means that learners produce multiple sentences using the sentence frames and target structures.

Nothing very earth-shattering or “new”, no great deal of preparation required, but sometimes the simplest things can be pretty effective. This was the case with the two activities described above.

Hopefully, at the very least, I have reminded you of these two different ways of going about approaching the activity types in question: lately I have been reminding myself of various classroom management techniques via Jim Scrivener’s book of that name, so I am a fan of reminders!

Enjoy 🙂 (And I hope it won’t be so long till the next time I post something!)

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