Scholarship Circle “TEFLising EAP” (5 and 6)

Today was the sixth 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 sixth: the fifth was last week but Friday seems to have rolled round again before I’ve got round to writing it up. Life and work happened! The sixth, and also the last for this term (sob!), so a special thank you to my colleague, Holly, whose brainchild it was and who has consistently brought along interesting ideas to get the discussion going. We’ve all got a lot out of it, in terms of ideas, motivation and generally a happy Friday feeling! 🙂 

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.

Session 5

Last week, the focus of the session was how to make students more aware of what words they can and can’t use with countable and uncountable nouns – to try and minimise, amongst other things, the number of instances where we see “These research show” and “Many research prove” etc. This sequence was adapted from Teach This 

We began with a variation of backs to the board/jeopardy:

To start with, there was nothing on the board except the score table. The teacher writes a word on the board, e.g. spare key. In order to get their team member whose back is to the board to guess the word, the students have to ask a grammatically correct question, e.g. “what do you give to your neighbours so that they can water your plants while you are on holiday?”. Rather than erasing the word to write another, the word is left on the board and another is added, either underneath it or in the column next to it. Obviously one of the columns is for countable nouns and one for uncountable nouns.

Once the game is finished, the teacher then elicits from the students what each column of words is (countable/uncountable) and what question you could ask about each (How many…? or How much…?) Students should then work in pairs and identify one similarity and one difference between them, using these questions. So, student A might ask “How many tattoos do you have?” and Student B might reply “2”. Student A would either say “me too!” or “I have ten” or “I have none” and that would be a similarity or difference, depending on the response.

Next, students brainstorm quantifiers that can be used with each column (or you can give them a list of quantifiers and get them to match which ones go with which column). Then the teacher hands out an empty grid of quantifiers per pair or group of students:

What now follows is a few rounds of Stop the Bus! In other words, the teacher gives the students a category (e.g. no. 1 above was “Things you might have in your bedroom”) and students have to write nouns that fit the category and go with each quantifier.  After each round, do some whole class feedback to make sure groups have correct words. (Be aware, a teacher, I mean a student, of course, from one group might argue rather tenaciously against a word given by another group 😉 )

Once you have done a few rounds of Stop the Bus, write up a few examples from groups’ tables.

E.g.

  • happiness
  • carrot
  • books

Elicit a correct example definition for each and use it to review what words are and aren’t used with uncountable, singular countable, plural countable.

In the case of our EAP classes, this whole sequence then leads onto editing their coursework writing: students choose four nouns that they have used repeatedly (e.g. research!!!!) and use the ‘search’ function in Word to find all the occurrences and check the grammar around them. They should check if the noun is countable or uncountable, and if the noun is countable they should think about whether they want it as singular or plural. The grammar around the word is then edited accordingly.

Session 6

Today, we started by looking at Getting to know you activities: the current term is drawing swiftly towards its conclusion and the new one will arrive sooner than anyone might think, so this was a bit of forward-thinking.

So, here are the ideas that were shared.

Find that person

  • Each student writes one thing about themselves on a small piece of paper and screws it up.
  • All the papers are thrown up in the air in the middle of the classroom.
  • Each student comes and takes a piece of paper (throwing it back and taking again if it is their own)
  • Students mingle and ask questions to find out a) who their piece of paper belongs to and b) more information about what is written.

Getting to know the teacher

Variation 1

  • Students work in pairs to write 5 questions they want to ask the teachers. Each question should be in a different grammatical tense.
  • Pairs swap questions with another pair and check the grammar.
  • Depending on numbers/time, group pairs and pieces of paper and allow a question or two from each pair or group, that you then have to answer.

Variation 2

  • Choose 6 pictures (the more obscure the better) that relate to different periods of your life and display them on the board.
  • Students discuss what they think the pictures are about and what they suggest about the teacher.
  • Students share their ideas with the teacher and bit by bit the real story comes out.

This could also alternatively be done with 6 names or years or places.

Variation 3

  • Teacher writes 3 truths and one lie (mixed up) about him/herself on the board.
  • Students have to ask questions to try and decide which is the lie.
  • Once the lie has been guessed, they can then do the activity in pairs and share their findings with the rest of the class.

Conversation starter

  • Students write their name in the middle of a piece of paper. Around it, they write the name of someone important to them, a year, a place, and something random (their choice) about themselves.
  • Students mingle and find out more about each of the things their classmates have written on their papers.

Shipwreck

This is for when you’ve done a bit of getting to know you but still have more time left and want to get students talking some more.

  • Give the students the scenario that there is a shipwreck, a lifeboat that only holds 5 people and a need to decide who is going to be allowed onto that lifeboat.
  • Give them a list of ten people (for example roles search “lifeboat ESL game”
  • They have to discuss and decide who to save
  • Extension: they have to take on that role and try to persuade the others on the ship to let them on the lifeboat (obviously creative license comes into play, they can go beyond the information on the role card!).

Survival

As above, this is for when you’ve done a bit of getting to know you but still have more time left and want to get them talking some more.

  • Linking back to the shipwreck, now that students have decided who will live and who will die, they have to decide what to take with them.
  • Give them a list of things they have on the boat, of which they can only take 5 or the boat will sink. You could include some of the things mentioned here and some random other things. (And I bet none of the students will decide to take the condom because it makes a good water bag!)

For more getting to know you activities, see my posts here and here

After the getting-to-know-you brainstorm (or what are we supposed to call it these days – thought shower or something?), we talked about self-observation. The idea suggested was that every couple of weeks you pick one of your weaknesses  (can be very simple little things e.g. instructions, board-work, getting down to student eye-level to speak to them etc.) and focus on it in all your lessons for that period of time. Whether or not you pair it with reflective writing etc was thought to be a matter of personal choice and not for everybody. Have you done something like this before?

And that was the end of our last scholarship circle for the term (because All The Marking lands next week and continues in week 9…) I will miss them!!  

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Learning students’ names: how do *you* do it?

Getting to know students’ names is something every teacher has to do. It goes with the territory. Working in a language school, you teach multiple groups of students at various levels, of various ages, which adds up to a lot of names. My latest timetable currently has 7 different classes with another 1 due to start in a few weeks. Fortunately, 2 of the classes are YL classes, kept on from last term, and one of the classes is an on-going IELTS class. The other 4 are new adult groups each with around 11 or 12 students in, and the one due to start soon is another IELTS class. Like I said, that’s a lot of names!

This blog post has come about because after my first class with one of my new groups of learners on Wednesday 4th February, I came back down to the staffroom and one of my colleagues was wondering if I had inherited his students. So I proceeded to reel off all their names for him to check against. The response was ‘Bloody hell! How do you know all their names already?!’ The simple answer is, I need to. In order for me to be able to teach a group, they need to be individuals, as soon as possible, so that I can work with them and not experience group-fear (fear of being in front of a big group of people I don’t know!) :-p

Of course, remembering these names and people just after the end of the lesson you have just spent with them is one thing. The difficulty comes when two days later, having met umpteen other new students and taught umpteen other classes, you pick up your register to meet your new class for the second time. Who are they again, these names? I had that moment today, but luckily because of what I did in the first lesson, before I walked in I was quickly able to remind myself who they all are.

Here’s how:

  • In the first lesson, you always do some kind of getting to know you activity, right? Obviously. For example, at the most simple level, find out three new, interesting things about your partner. (Always concept check ‘interesting’ here… 😉 )
  • What I find works best is if after the activity you do some kind of plenary, where the students report things about each other to the group as a whole.
  • While they speak together and while they report, I scribble bits of information down.

Here is an example page from the above-mentioned class:

names5

(You may well wonder why the book says September when we are in January. This book was a freebee from the school, which my desk ate between October and January, and recently regurgitated! 😉 ) It’s no work of art, very basic scribbles. Of course, names and ages blanked out for obvious reasons. (And I’m not entirely sure why I wrote ‘Sicilian’ down, not really a distinguishing feature here! I think though that it had been to do with cooking but I didn’t have time to finish writing!) So, some of the information relates to physical features, some is from the initial ‘3 interesting things‘ activity or equivalent, some is from the subsequent FSW activity, and some is meta-information gleaned from the activities e.g. the eye symbol, to remind me that the student in question looks like one to keep an eye on. The important thing is, moments before the second lesson with this class, I opened my notebook, looked at these notes, these bits and bobs of information I had scribbled down, and it was enough to trigger memories of who they all were, meaning I could walk into the classroom and confidently use their names straight away, which of course they appreciate and which helps with rapport.

This time round, I did the usual ‘Find someone who…‘ type-activity but I did it with a ‘learner autonomy twist’, which, as well as acting as an icebreaker and getting everybody talking to everybody else, immediately gave me an insight into/snapshot of where they are all at with regards their independent learning habits. It also encourages the students to think about what they do already, vocalise it to their classmates, and compare it with what their classmates do. Hopefully this is sowing the seeds and setting the scene for further work on helping them – and helping them to help each other – become more autonomous in their learning.

For homework at the end of the first lesson, I set them the task of writing a letter to me, with the goal of telling me about them. I told them the objective of the homework was for me to get to know them better and to see what their writing is like. Two days later, 11 pieces of writing duly plopped into my lap from my eager beavers! So, killing two birds with one stone, I’m getting extra needs analysis data both from the point of view of getting to know them better (including about their learning habits, as I encouraged them to use the ‘Find Someone Who‘ activity statements for inspiration as to what to write about) and seeing where they are at with their written production.

Obviously my initial observations in terms of speaking and listening ability or level of autonomy may not necessarily be accurate, and they are not set in stone judgements, they are just first impressions which will keep evolving every lesson, as I learn more about the students and as the students evolve. ‘Eyes’ may be added or removed and so on. Simply, this is a starting point. The main thing is, as a whole, the notes fixed the students’ faces and names in my memory from the get-go, which makes life much easier for me.

This works for me. But I’m sure other people have much more efficient ways of going about it! How do you get to know your students names? 🙂