Today was the fourth session of our new scholarship circle “TEFLising EAP”. (You can read more about what a scholarship circle is and what it does here.)
– Yes, the fourth: the third was last week but I was buried under rather a large pile of essays so I didn’t have time to write it up. So this week is a double bill! Hurrah!
To quote from my write-up of the first session,
The idea behind this one is that EAP lessons can get a little dry – learning how to do things academically is not necessarily the most exciting thing in the world even if it is essential for would-be university students – and for the students’ sake (as well as our own!) it would be great to bring in more, let’s say ‘TEFL Tweaks’ – things that we used to do when we taught at language schools abroad (warmers, personalisation, fun activities etc!) and have got out of the habit of doing in the EAP context but that could actually be adapted for use here without losing the all-important lesson content.
In session 3, last week, we shared the following ideas:
1. Catch-all nouns and cohesion in pairs
This is a useful review activity for students who don’t seem to be using catch-all nouns in their writing.
For those less familiar with EAP-dom, “catch-all nouns”, also sometimes called “general nouns”, are nouns that can be used to condense ideas already put forward, so that you can refer to them and give more information about them. They are general words that take on specificity through what comes before (or indeed after) them, for example problem, issue, process, approach, trend etc.
For this activity you:
- give each student a worksheet with some examples of catch-all nouns in use, with the noun gapped out. Each student has a different set of examples.
- get the students to take it in turns to read out a sentence to their partner, who needs to use the co-text to guess which general noun is missing. They must also decide if they need the singular “this” or the plural “these” in front of the noun.
E.g. First the cocoa beans are picked by hand and placed in the sun to dry. Then they are put in large sacks and loaded onto lorries (sounding familiar to anyone who teaches IELTS?!). ……………….. is repeated many times a day. Answer: This process.
Here is an example set of worksheets that my colleague whose idea it was gave to us:
The benefits of this activity are:
- it makes the students think carefully about which catch-all nouns work best in which contexts.
- it forces the students listen carefully to what their partner is saying, and in order to provide the answer they of course need to listen AND understand, so it also provides some detailed listening practice.
- it also makes them think about whether the noun is singular or plural, and which determiner they need – this/these – to use with it. (Something our students tend to make mistakes with!)
Variation: Have students stand in a line; read out a gapped sentence; students step forward if they can think of a word + determiner that fit the gap. Actually I think it would work really nicely with mini-whiteboards too. Ahhh mini-whiteboards. Those were the days… 😉
2) Adapting a listening
This activity can be used with any listening extract where the speaker refers to data taken from a graph, where the graph has been provided in the materials for students to look at.
Instead of showing the graph to the students, get them to listen and make notes on it. Then put them in groups and get them to produce the graph based on what they have written down.
If any of you academic IELTS teachers out there are feeling keen, you could record yourselves talking about data from a graph (make it a funny graph so the activity is less dry!) and get the the students to produce the graph based on what you say. Then you could get the students to repeat the activity themselves – group them, get them, in their groups, to prepare a graph and discuss how they would present the information in it (using IELTS writing part 1 language) and then pair them up with someone from another group. Student A talks about their graph, student B listens and takes notes and then tries to draw the graph. (Or they could directly draw if you don’t want to bring note-taking skills into it!) They swap roles and repeat. Hopefully the language becomes more meaningful through being used communicatively.
3) Speed-reading relay
The aim of this activity, as you would guess, is to work on students’ reading speed.
- Put students in pairs or small groups.
- Give each pair or group one copy of the text
- Student A reads for 30 seconds, stops and makes a mark on the page where they got to and then verbally summarises what they just read for Student B.
- Student B reads on from where Student A stopped. Another 30 seconds. Repeat as above.
- This goes on until a pair or group gets to the end of their text. The first pair/group to do so is the winner!
You could use this activity as a way of practising different speed reading techniques: teach students a handful of different techniques (find examples here) and then use this as a fun way to practice them.
4) Variation on a debate theme
This is less of an activity and more of a variation on an activity: when you are doing a class debate, instead of dividing the class into 2 groups, half for and half against the motion, divide them into three groups and give each group a role:
- For (pick a group of people who would naturally be in favour of the motion. E.g. if the motion were to ban video games, perhaps worried parents)
- Against (pick a group of people who would naturally be against the motion. Following the above example, it could be video game designers)
- Politicians (these have to prepare difficult questions to raise during the course of the debate, imagining that they have to think about what their constituents might say in response to the arguments raised)
In session 4, today, we shared the following ideas:
1. Task-based Evaluation (mine!)
- Do a speaking ladder. Round 1:talk about the last restaurant you went to. (Rules: students must elaborate not just say “yeah it was ok, I ate curry”!) Round 2: tell your new partner about the restaurant your old partner visited and how they felt about it. You can repeat this so that each student talks about their restaurant twice and a partner’s restaurant twice so that more language can be generated.
- While they are doing this, collect examples of anything evaluative that they say.
- Then students look for example evaluative language in a text and categorise it – modal verbs, adjectives, reporting verbs, adverbs.
- Go back to the language students produced earlier and read out each example for them to put into their tables (unless you can cunningly feed it all into the computer while they are busy on one of the identification activities and then display it when they are ready! But this way they have to listen carefully so it’s still good!).
- Repeat the speaking ladder activity with the aim of students upgrading their language from their initial effort. Give them some planning time first and if there is time, do a repetition.
My thinking behind this activity was that in day-to-day life we do evaluate, but when it comes to academic writing, students think that evaluation is this really difficult thing and it usually therefore gets omitted, so hopefully rooting it in the students’ own (meaningful) output, it will be more memorable and make more sense.
2. Bringing evaluation into synthesis
This activity is an extension of the fishbowl synthesis activity we talked about in session 2. Once students have fishbowled (yes it’s officially a verb now – at least in the USIC staffroom!) and written the summary paragraph, usually what you will find is that they have just about managed to synthesise stuff but there will be little if any evaluation. To get them to make that extra step which is needed in order for it to be a good paragraph rather than just a collection of information, elicit from them what’s missing from their paragraphs (which are now on a Google doc) – i.e. evaluation – and then brainstorm/board evaluative language that they could use. Then give them time to edit their paragraphs accordingly.
(This could be used in conjunction with my activity…gotta love the scholarship circle!)
3. Error correction scavenger hunt
- Brainstorm, as a class, typical mistakes that students make in their writing. (If students say “grammar” or “vocabulary”, get them to be more specific!).
- Prepare slips of paper/post-its with one error type and example per slip before the lesson and at this point hand out one to each student. Students mingle and explain their error type to the other students. (You could then put them in groups and get them to make a list of as many as they could remember and see which group remembers the most, for a bit of fun :-p )
- Give out an error correction scavenger list like this one:
- Put up sentences, or chunks of two or three sentences, taken from students’ work, around the classroom on the walls. Anonymise it and number each piece of paper (on which is/are the sentence(s) from one student).
- Students walk round looking for the errors on the scavenger list, with speed obviously being of the essence. They find the mistake and write the number of the piece of paper they found it on next to the mistake type on their scavenger list.
- You go round and stick a post-it above each piece of paper with the error type(s) in the sentence(s) on it.
- Students go round in their pairs and check they have the correct error type per sentence and then try to correct the sentence.
- In groups, students compare their corrections.
- Whole class feedback.
The idea of the lesson is to get students looking for typical error types. It also gets them up and moving, which is always a bonus in the EAP classroom! No reason why it couldn’t work with IELTS essays and the like as well! (This idea originally came from this pdf by Ken Lackman, about getting students involved in error correction, worth a look for more ideas.)
So, two great sessions, two motivation injections, and lots of ideas. 🙂 Let us know if you use any of them and how you got on!