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English Language Teaching


Clear-cut teaching steps

Useful sample lessons
Interesting games and
supplementary activities

For Internal Use Only

Table of contents

TEACHING PRONUNCIATION ..............................................................1

TEACHING VOCABULARY ...............................................................122
TEACHING GRAMMAR ......................................................................256
TEACHING READING ......................................................................... 44
TEACHING LISTENING ...................................................................... 64
TEACHING SPEAKING ....................................................................... 77
TEACHING WRITING ........................................................................ 109
ELICITING ........................................................................................... 110
USING TEACHING AIDS ................................................................... 114
ASKING QUESTIONS ........................................................................ 129
CLASS MANAGEMENT .................................................................... 134
PLANNING A LESSON ...................................................................... 143
APPENDICES ....................................................................................... 142
ELT Module 2

 The importance of pronunciation
• Pronunciation is of paramount importance, since successful communication
cannot take place without correct pronunciation. (Celce-Murcia, Brinton &
Goodwin, 1996).
• Pronunciation is necessary for both comprehensible and effective speech and
for the learning of new forms in an L2. It helps learners build a framework for
how the new language functions.

 General issues on teaching pronunciation

 The teaching of pronunciation should focus on the students’ ability to identify
and produce English sounds themselves. Students should NOT be led to focus
on reading and writing phonetic transcripts of words, especially young
students, because phonetic transcripts are more abstract and less meaningful.
 Introduction to phonetic rules should be avoided at the beginning stage.
 Stress and intonation should be taught from the very beginning.

 Why can most learners not acquire native pronunciation?

To answer the question, we must take into consideration three things:

Whether pronunciation needs special attention of focus depends on many factors,
especially learner factors.
• Learners whose native language has similar sounds to English vs. those whose
native language has very different sounds from English;
• Learners who have more exposure to English vs. those who only learn English in
the class;
• Adult learners vs. young ones.

1. Age: the Critical Period Hypothesis

• The hypothesis claims that if humans do not learn a foreign language
before a certain age (perhaps around puberty), then it becomes impossible to
learn the foreign language like a native speaker because of changes such as
maturation of the brain.
• The hypothesis is still controversial/debated, because both positive and
negative answers have been given by researchers.
Most people agree, however, that those who learn a foreign language after
puberty will have an accent.

2. The amount of exposure to English: At the present time, most Vietnamese

learners of English do not have enough exposure to English to acquire native-like

3. The learner’s innate ability: Students have different phonetic abilities due to
biological and physiological differences. Some are more sensitive to sounds and
are better at imitating sounds than others.

 Common problems that are likely to occur

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ELT Module 2

Pronunciation problems will of course vary greatly from one country to

another/Common problems that are likely to occur:
- Difficulty in pronouncing sounds which do not exist in the student's own
language, e.g. for many students, the consonant // (in 'the') and the vowel // (in
- Confusion of similar sounds, e.g. /i:/ and /i/, or /b/ and /p/;
- Use of simple vowels instead of diphthongs, e.g. /i:/ instead of //;
- Difficulty in pronouncing consonant clusters, e.g. /desks/, /fif/;
- Tendency to give all syllables equal stress, and a 'flat’ intonation.


a. Focussing on a difficult sound

There is normally no need to teach the sounds of English individually; students are
able to 'pick up' the sound system of the language by listening to the teacher (or other
voices on cassette) and by practising words and structures. However, there may be
particular sounds or sound combinations which students find difficult, or students
may simply make mistakes in pronunciation without being aware of it. In such cases,
it is useful to focus on the sound or group of sounds which is causing the difficulty.

b. When is pronunciation taught?

• Whole lesson: spending the whole lesson on pronunciation
• Discrete slots: spending some portion of the lesson on pronunciation
• Integrated phases: teaching as an integral part of the teaching of skills
• Opportunistic teaching: teaching when pronunciation becomes a problem to

c. Presenting sounds
The basic steps:
- The teacher says the sound clearly in isolation (so that students can focus on it)
and in one or two words and for students to repeat the sound, in chorus and
- If students confuse two similar sounds, it is obviously useful to contrast them so
that students can hear the difference clearly.
- If students have difficulty in producing a particular sound (usually because it
does not exist in their own language), it is often very useful to describe how it is
pronounced, as long as this can be done in a way that students understand (using
simple English or their own language).
- Writing words on the board is not necessary, and could confuse the students - the
focus should be on pronunciation, not on spelling.

d. Practising sounds

• Minimal pairs
Minimal pairs are pairs of words which only differ in one feature, e.g. sing, song;
park, bark; loose, lose; ship, sheep. They can be used to focus on differences in vowel
or consonant sounds.

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• Minimal pair drill

i) Say the words 'will' and 'well' in random order, and ask students to tell the
number of the word each time, e.g.:
T: well Ss: two
T: will Ss: one
T: will Ss: one, etc.

ii) Say other words which have either the sound /i/or /e/. Students say which
number fits the word, e.g.:
T: bell Ss: two
T: fill Ss: one
T: win Ss: one, etc.

• Missing words
The teacher says short sentences or phrases in which one word is missing. The
students guess the word, which contains the sound that the teacher wishes to practise.
(The sentences do not of course need to be written.)

Two demonstrations: one practising the simple vowel /3:/, the other practising the
diphthong //. 
i) Ask the students to complete the sentences in the exercise.
ii) Say these sentences, and ask students to give the missing word.
Children love to ……………. games.
Black and white together make ………………..........
After April comes ……………………..

• Making sentences
The teacher writes words on the board, and students say sentences using them. The
words can either be used to practise one sound, or two similar sounds that are easily
Ask the students to look at the two groups of words, and make three sentences, paying
attention to the pronunciation of the two vowels.
e.g. She drives a black car.


 Stress refers to the amount of force with which a sound or syllable is uttered.

 Weak forms
Most words with two or more syllables have one stressed (or 'strong') syllable and two
or more unstressed (or 'weak') syllables. Often the vowel in the unstressed syllables is
pronounced as / or /. We call these reduced vowels.
Certain of the unstressed words change their pronunciation from the way they are said
when they are in isolation, and have a different phonetic form in the sentence or
phrase. These are prepositions, auxiliary and model verbs, pronouns, others –

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who, that (as a relative pronoun), a, an, the, some, and, but, as, than, there, not,
unless the word is being specially stressed (e.g. 'John and Mary - both of them').
Reducing vowels in this way is a feature of normal spoken English - it is not
'uneducated' or 'substandard' usage.
Most of these words, when they are not in a stressed position, which is always at the
end of a sentence and sometimes at the beginning, are said weakly and the vowel
sound is usually reduced to schwa //.
In connected speech (when we say sentences rather than single words), many more
vowels become reduced because complete words are unstressed. Look at these
I ate bread and cheese. /a et 'bred n 'i:z/
Look at us. /'lk t 's/

 a 'stress-timed' language

English is a 'stress-timed' language. This means that the length of time between
stressed syllables is always about the same, and if there are several unstressed
syllables they must be said more quickly. (This is why vowels tend to be reduced in
unstressed syllables.)

- He wrote a letter.
- He wrote a long letter.
- He wrote a very long letter.
In each sentence, the syllables ('a', 'a long', 'a very long')
took about the same amount of time to say: so 'a very long' had to be
said more quickly.
- Take John.
- Take it to John.
The two unstressed syllables ('it to') are said quickly to fill the space
which would normally be left between two stressed syllables ('Take -

This 'stress-timing' is a very important feature of spoken English. If students become

accustomed to hearing English spoken with a natural rhythm in class, they will find it
easier to understand real English when they hear it spoken outside the class.

 Word stress
1. a syllable can carry primary stress, that is to say strong stress. The
syllable is longer, louder and said with more breath effort.
2. A syllable can be unstressed. In other words it is said very quickly,
lightly and with very little breath effort.
3. A syllable can carry secondary stress. This syllable is said with more
breath effort than 2 but less than 1.

 Sentence stress

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In a normal English sentence certain words are stressed and certain words are
Normally stressed are content words – the words that are essential for conveying a
message. These are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and demonstratives.
Normally unstressed are form words, the grammatical or structure words. These
words are not essential to the communication of a message
E.g.: I ‘saw your ‘brother ‘yesterday.
Would you ‘like a ‘glass of ’beer?
Can I ’carry your ‘suitcase?
I must be ‘going.
My ‘wife’s ‘waiting for me at the ‘corner of the ‘street.

 Techniques for teaching stress

1. Using your voice:
- Saying the sentence, exaggerating the difference between stressed and
unstressed syllables.
- Representing each syllable with a sound, e.g. a kilo of sugar = de-DA-

2. Using gestures:
-Thump the air when saying the stressed syllable
- Make a downward stroke of the hand - marking the beat like a
- Punch the palm of his other hand.
- Clap your hands
- Bang your hand against something.

3. Using blackboard:
- Writing dots and dashes: e.g. a kilo of sugar : .-.-
- Underlining the stressed syllables: a kilo of sugar
- Writing the stressed syllable in heavier letters: a KIlo of SUgar. (This
technique is often used in textbooks, and would be suitable for wall charts.)

 Functions of intonation
Basically there are four functions of intonation:
1. It indicates grammatical meaning.
He lives in London. Do you come from London?
He lives in London? You come from London?
2. It indicates functions.

Sorry! (Apology) Sorry? (please repeat.)

3. It can change meaning.

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I want to see your son ‘Harry. (the son is called Harry)

I want to see your ‘son, Harry. (the speaker is talking to Harry, who
has a son, whose name we do not know.)
Mary said her mother had gone to the cinema. (Mary’s words are
being reported. It is her mother who has gone to the cinema.)
Mary, said her mother, had gone to the cinema.

4. It indicates the speaker’s attitude.

Really? May be an expression of great surprise or merely a polite
conversation oilier, depending on the intonation pattern.

In some cases both grammatical meaning and attitude are conveyed by

the intonation pattern alone.

A: I’d like a drink.

B: - You ‘would? (simply a conversation oiler - asking for confirmation
of the statement.)
- You ‘would. (here annoyance and criticism is conveyed. The
implication is: ‘Well, that’s typical of you. You always want a drink.’)

It is clear that the attitudinal function of intonation is a complex area, as it is

connected to the individual personality and it reflects the culturally –bound factor, e.g.
it is nearly impossible to make an introverted student produce an exclamation of great
surprise when may be he would not do such thing in his mother tongue. Therefore
teacher should concentrate on the use of intonation to convey grammatical meaning
and limit the attitudinal function to listening and recognizing at low levels and include
only a limited amount of production at more advanced levels.

 Intonation patterns
There are four possible tune movements – two of them simple (moving in one
direction only) and two of them compound (moving in two directions)
Simple - falling (moving downwards)
- rising (moving upwards)
Compound - falling then rising
- rising then falling
Note that the necessary minimum to be taught for production by the students are the
1. High Fall: a fall from a high level: statements, questions beginning with question
2. High Rise: a rise from a middle or lower level: questions asking for something to be
repeated or clarified.
3. Low Rise: a rise from a low level: yes, no questions, lists (up to the last item),
conversation oilers (encouraging the other person to go on.)
4. Fall Rise: corrections, polite contradictions.
Two tunes have been eliminated from the list of six - the Rise – Fall, because this is
used mainly for expressing certain more exaggerated attitudes, such as great surprise

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or flattering admiration, and the Low-Fall, which conveys the same meanings as the
High – Fall but not so politely.

For teaching oral English at a fairly low level, teachers need to be aware of two basic
intonation patterns:
- Rising tone: used in asking Yes/No questions, and to express
surprise, disbelief, etc. The voice rises sharply on the stressed
Really?  Is he your friend?  Do you want some tea?

- Falling tone: used for normal statements, commands, and for WH-
questions. The voice rises slightly earlier in the sentence, and then
falls on the key word being stressed.

Open your book, please.  How long have you been learning English? 
 Practising stress and intonation
Mood and attitude
The teaching of intonation in the early stages should concentrate on the grammatical
and not the attitudinal function. We do not accept a dull, monotonous disinterested
tone. We do want the foreign learners to sound polite, friendly, and interested.
However, students are often shy and embarrassed rather than unable to produce the
required pattern. The teacher needs to create the right atmosphere in the classroom to
overcome the students’ reticence.
Mood cards: one indicating a bored, uninterested mood. The other a bright, lively,
enthusiastic mood. These act as aids to correction whenever the dull intonation
pattern is produced.

Mr. Grumpy Mr. Happy

For more advanced level, a more sophisticated contrast can be set up, using
mood card.
a. a bored, overworked immigration officer at an airport (role A -  )
and a tired, hungry, bad tempered traveler (role B -  ).
b. a handsome young man (role A- ) and an attractive girl in a disco
(role B-  ).

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Obviously there will be a much greater degree of friendliness and

interest here, on both sides.
A. What’s your name? A. What are you doing here?
B. Monica Simonson B. I’m on holiday.
A. Where are you from? A. How long are you staying?
B. Sweden. B. 6 weeks.

In short
The easiest way for students to practise stress and intonation is by repetition. If the
focus is on pronunciation, traditional 'repetition drills', which are often boring for
students to do, can be made interesting and challenging; students are not asked
simply to repeat a sentence, but to repeat it using a 'particular stress and intonation
pattern’. For this to be effective, it is important for teachers to:
- give a good model of the sentence themselves; saying it at normal speed, making a
clear difference between stressed and unstressed syllables, and using natural
- indicate the stress and intonation clearly, using gestures;
- make sure that the students pay attention to stress and intonation when they repeat
the sentence.

 Back-chaining technique
One way to help students use natural intonation is to practise saying the sentence in
sections, starting with the end of the sentence and gradually working backwards to
the beginning, e.g.: living here / been /living here / have you been /living here / How
long have you been living here? This technique is known as back-chaining.

Back-chaining can be used as part of a repetition drill.

i) Say the whole sentence. Show the stress and intonation using
gestures. Students listen.

T: Listen. How long have you been living here? How long have you been
living here? De-DA-de-de-de-DA-de-de. How long have you been living
ii) Students repeat, starting from the end.
T: Living here. Living here. Everybody.
Ss: Living here.
T: Been living here.
Ss: Been living here.
T: Have you been living here.
Ss: Have you been living here.
T: How long have you been living here?
Ss: How long have you been living here?

iii) Groups of students repeat the whole sentence, then individual students.
T: (gesture to indicate a group)
G: How long have you been living here? (and so on)

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1. Do not distort when giving a model

Teachers frequently try too hard to help students with pronunciation – they
slow down to such an extent when giving the model for the students to imitate that
it is distorted. While few teachers would pronounce the last part of comfortable as
if it were table, it is very common in other words to give the neutral vowel its full
value instead of reducing its value.
In the stressed patterns of normal speech weak forms and contractions occur
frequently. The danger in slowing down is that weak forms will be stressed and
contractions lengthened. If students have difficulty, for example, with a phrase like
they mustn’t’ve it is not helpful to slow this down to the point where it becomes
they must not have which is totally unnatural.
Distortion usually results from speaking in a slow, exaggerated fashion. It is
better to give students a model at natural speed, using natural pronunciation and if,
necessary, repeat it several times, rather than slow down.
2. The model must remain the same
Exact repetition (the same words, the same structures, the same stress patterns,
and the same pronunciation) is extremely rare. The very act of repeating usually
means that an alternative stress pattern is appropriate. When repeating a model for
a student two or three times it is important for the teacher to maintain absolute
consistency. This is particularly difficult in giving examples of stress or
intonation. The best way to acquire the skill of being able to repeat the same
sentence is practice but if you find it difficult to repeat the same sentence
identically several times in quick succession, it is useful to remember that if you
say something else between – a simple comment will do, (I’ll say that again) – it
is easier to produce an identical repeat. The interpolated comment should be short
enough to distract you, but not long enough to distract the students.
3. Use choral pronunciation
The technique of choral pronunciation is much under- used. Teachers feel they can
not do pronunciation with students who are not beginners, or that they can not use
it with particular classes because of the type of students involved. The technique is
useful with all students, at all levels, and save for classes containing only two or
three students, for all class sizes.
It is true that it is of particular use with larger classes, with younger
students, and with student at lower levels. This does not mean, however, that it
should not be used with other classes. It can also be a useful classroom technique
even if its main objective is not always only improved pronunciation.
Choral pronunciation serves to bring the class together and to re-focus
students’ attention on the teacher after some activity where their attention has been
elsewhere – perhaps private study of a text, or pair work. The manner in which the
choral pronunciation is done can ensure that the students’ attention is focused on
the teacher.
The technique is useful not only in bringing a class together, but in taking the
pressure off the individuals.

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4 . Move around the room when doing choral pronunciation

- possible to note which individual Ss are not speaking or need helps with a
particular problem.
- keeps the Ss‘ concentration on the teacher.
- keeps everyone involved.
- helps to ensure that the individuals you ask after the choral repetition change
from one practice to another as you inevitably tend to ask Ss near you.

5. Keep your language to a minimum in pronunciation practices

- To comment on the standard of pronunciation: a smile or slight shake of the
head is sufficient.
- To invite Ss to speak: again a gesture is sufficient.
- To saying Good or something longer: a smile and a nod, or a slight shake of the
head followed by an immediate new model from the teacher to be repeated
immediately by the student who made the mistake, is quick, sufficient, amusing
and avoids inhibiting Ss.

6. Vary your criterion of ‘good’ in pronunciation practices

While it is true that a consistent accent is easier to listen to, it is certainly neither
necessary nor desirable that many learners should achieve native speaker
pronunciation. Some students find pronunciation particularly difficult, e.g. to hear
distinction clearly or to mimic accurately. This does not mean that they will not
reasonably successful in other areas of language learning. It is psychologically
important not to discourage those who find pronunciation difficult in the early
stages of learning. As different students progress at different rates, it is wise to
accept different degrees of variation from the ‘ideal’ target. It will help nobody if
particular students have their confidence undermined and are constantly being
asked to repeat because their pronunciation is less good than the rest of the class.
A positive atmosphere, an encouraging teacher, and time, will probably do more
than over- insistent teacher correction.
The implication is that Good is to be used differently to different students;
and differently at different stages of each student’s learning.

7. Articulation is an important first step in practice

Presenting language to the students does not guarantee that they will be able to use
it and, of course, what they are unable to pronounce is useless to them. Students
will frequently need to practice the articulation of new language before moving to
more meaningful practices. To practice if I were you I’d…., for example, begin
with choral and individual pronunciation of a number of sentences using the
If I were you I’d wait / phone her/ ask him/ do it/ try
Time spent here will be more than saved in later practices which will not need to
be interrupted so often to correct pronunciation.

8. It is helpful to do articulation practices more than once

You can not communicate anything unless you can say the words in a way which
the hearer can understand. The ability to articulate particular sounds or groups of
sounds will frequently more effective if the students do them more than once.
They need to repeat articulation practices several times in order to gain control
over their pronunciation. If you explain why you are doing such practices again

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and if they are done briskly, no one will mind. Students never resent and are never
bored by practices which they see are helping them.

9. Bring variety to ’say after me’

Pronunciation is much more than ’ Say after me’. In real life we use language
in a wide variety of ways on different occasions – sometimes we shout, sometimes
we whisper. This can be introduced to the classroom. There are many techniques
for bringing variety to the simple ’Say after me’ teacher- model followed by CIP.
(choral and individual pronunciation) The class can be divided into halves and
speak alternately; into lines or rows which speak consecutively. With some more
complicated pronunciation work pairs can ask and respond simultaneously, or

10. Don’t explain intonation, demonstrate

Although students may find intonation difficult, the teaching of intonation is
usually most effective when the teacher uses the simplest methods of presentation.
These involve giving an exaggerated model and indicating the pitch movements of
the hand, or by simple arrow drawings on the blackboard. The principle is clear
from the two different intonations of the single word ‘sorry’:

Sorry! (Apology) Sorry? (please repeat)

11. Refer to stress and intonation even when not specifically teaching it
If students do not have reasonable control of pronunciation, stress and intonation,
they will be both difficult to listen to, and easily misunderstood. For this reason, it
is important that the teacher bears in mind that stress and intonation are important,
even if doing comprehension questions after a text or the example from a grammar
practice. If students deliver the answer to the questions in a dull, monotonous or
mechanical way, that is as much a ‘mistake’ as a pronunciation or grammatical
error and should come under consideration as one of the mistakes worth
correcting. If students are to use the spoken language effectively, stress and
intonation need to be given their real place in the teaching at all times.
The impression people form of each other is frequently more dependent on
intonation than grammar, and this should be a constant reminder of the important
role it should play in teaching.

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1. Students need to be exposed to a word at least six times in context before they have
enough experience with the word to ascertain its meaning and make it perdurable.

2. Even superficial instruction in new words enhances the probability that students
will understand the words when they encounter them.

3. One of the best ways to learn a new word is to associate a mental image
or symbolic representation with it.
4. Direct vocabulary instruction works. Teaching new vocabulary directly increases
student comprehension of new materials.

5. Direct instruction on words that are critical to new content produces the most
powerful learning.

A new item of vocabulary may be more than a single word: for example, post
office and mother in law, which are made up of two or three words but express a
single idea, so a useful convention is to cover all such cases by talking about
vocabulary’ items ‘ rather than ‘words’.


Teachers should identify whether a lexical item is concrete or abstract, and
active or passive.
Form: what a word sounds like (pronunciation) and what it looks like (spelling)
Grammar: e.g.: past form, transitive, intransitive, singular, plural, verb form
that follows them (enjoy-ing ) or preposition ( responsible for).
Collocation (the way words are used together)
e.g.: take/ make decision but come to a conclusion
throw a ball but toss a coin
Aspects of meaning
• Denotation: the meaning the word refers to in real life:
e.g.: dog: a kind of animal

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• Connotation: the association, positive or negative feelings it evokes

which may not be indicated in the dictionary, e.g.: dog: positive
connotation: friendship and loyalty, negative connotation: dirt, inferiority.
• Appropriateness: polite/ taboo, formal/ informal, e.g.: weep and cry.
Aspects of meaning:
(b) meaning relationship
• Synonyms
• Antonyms
• Hyponyms: specific example of a general concept, e.g.: dog, lion, mouse
are hyponyms of animal
• Co- hyponyms or co-ordinates: items that are the same kind of things,
e.g.: red, blue, green and brown are co-ordinates
• Super ordinates: general concepts that cover specific items, e.g.: animal
is the super ordinate of dog, lion and mouse
• Translation
• Word formation: prefixes and suffixes


We do not need to spend the same amount of time and care on presenting all new
vocabulary; some vocabulary will be more important to students than others. In
general, we can distinguish two types of vocabulary:
- Words which students will need to understand and also use themselves. We call
this active vocabulary. In teaching active vocabulary, it is usually worth
spending time giving examples and asking questions, so that students can really
see how the word is used.
- Words which we want students to understand (e.g. when reading a text), but
which they will not need to use themselves. We call this passive vocabulary.
To save time, it is often best to present it quite quickly, with a simple example.
If it appears as part of a text or dialogue, we can often leave students to guess
the word from the context.

Note that students should understand far more words than they can produce - so
we should not try to treat all new words as active vocabulary.


Different teachers have different ways to present new words.

Here are some techniques:

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 Say the word clearly and write it on the board.

 Get the class to repeat the word in chorus.
 Translate the word into the students' own language.
 Ask students to translate the word.
 Draw a picture to show what the word means.
 Give an English example to show how the word is used.
 Ask questions using the new word.
 Provide creative examples.
 Elicit meaning from the students before telling them.
 Use related words such as synonyms, antonyms etc. to show the meaning.
 Think about how to check students’ understanding.
 Relate the new word(s) to real life context(s).
 Predict possible misunderstanding or confusion.

 The value of different techniques:

Demonstration one
Present the word 'rumble'.
i) Write it on the board, give a direct translation of the word (explain in L1 that it
is the noise made by thunder) but do not give any examples.
ii) Get students to repeat the word a few times in chorus.

Demonstration two
Present the word 'grumble'.
i) Write the word on the boards then give an example in English to
show what it means, e.g.:

Some people grumble about everything. For example, they grumble about the
weather. If it's sunny, they say, 'Oh dear, it's much too hot today'; if it's cool, they
say, 'Oh, it's too cold' - they're never satisfied.

ii) Check that students understand the word by asking them to say it in their own

Discussion: the first presentation was obviously quicker, and also much easier for
the teacher. The second presentation took a longer time, but it achieved more and
was more interesting:

- Translating a new word is in itself a useful technique - it is often the simplest

and clearest way of showing what a word means. But if we only give a direct
translation, students cannot see how the word is used in an English sentence;
to show this we need to give an example.
- Instead of telling the students what the word means, we can give examples
and then ask them to give a translation. This checks that they have
understood, and encourages them to listen to the word being used in English.

- Just getting students to repeat words is of limited value. It focusses attention

on the form of the word only (how it is pronounced). It does not teach the
meaning of the word, which is more important.

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 Showing meaning visually

1. How could the meaning of these words shown?

watch window elbow

Answer: By simply pointing at them and saying 'Look - this is a watch', etc.
This is one way of showing the meaning of new words by showing a real object.

What kinds of words can be presented in this way?

Possible answers:
Anything that is already in the classroom: furniture, clothes, parts of the body.
Also many objects that can be brought into the classroom: other items of clothing
(hats, ties, handkerchiefs); food (oranges, rice); small objects from the home
(soap, cups, keys), etc.

A presentation of the word 'watch':

T: Look — this is a watch [pointing to his or her watch]. A watch. A
Ss: A watch.
T: (gesture) What is it?
Ss: A watch. (and so on)

2. How could the meaning of these words shown?

tree tractor cow

Answer: By showing a picture. This can be done in two ways:
- By drawing a picture on the board.
- By showing a picture prepared before the lesson (a drawing or photograph)

3. How could the meaning of these words shown?

sneeze dig stumble

Answer: By miming, using actions and facial expressions.

What other words could be taught using mime?

Possible answers: Most action verbs (sit, stand, open, write); some adjectives (happy,
worried, ill).

A presentation of the word 'sneeze':

T: Look - (mime someone sneezing) Atchoo! I've just sneezed.
Sneeze. Sneeze. Can you say it?
Ss: Sneeze.
T: Again.

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Ss: Sneeze.

4. General points about presenting vocabulary visually (using real objects, pictures,
or mime):
- For suitable vocabulary, it is a very effective method: it is direct, it is
interesting, and it makes an impression on the class.
- Of course, not all words can be presented in this way. Vocabulary should only be
presented visually if it can be done quickly, easily and clearly.

 Giving examples
1. Another way to show what words mean is by giving an example, using the word
in a context.
Demonstration one
Houses are buildings. This school is also a building. In big cities
there are many large buildings' - there are hotels, and offices, and cinemas. They
are all buildings of different kinds.

Demonstration two
Some people work hard. Other people don't work hard - they are
lazy. For example, I have a brother. He is very lazy. He gets up late
and then he does nothing all day. I say to him, 'Don't be so lazy! Do
some work!'
- It is not necessary to give a complicated explanation; the meaning can be shown
by simple sentences. This can be done by making statements using the word (e.g.
'Houses are buildings. This school is also a building'), or by imagining an example
(e.g. 'I have a brother-He is very lazy. He gets up late, and then be does nothing all
- A good example should clearly show the meaning of the word to someone who
does not know it already.' So it is not enough just to say 'My brother is lazy' - it
doesn't show what 'lazy' means. We need to add, e.g. 'He gets up late, and then does
nothing all day'.
- Examples are especially useful for showing the meaning of abstract words, e.g.
love, happiness, imagine, quality, impossible.

 Some common techniques to show the meaning of lexical items

• Concise definition (as in a dictionary, often super ordinate with

qualifications, for example: a cat is an animal which …)
• Detail description (of appearance, qualities)
• Examples (hyponyms)
• Illustration (pictures, objects)
• Demonstration (acting, mime)
• Context (story or sentence in which the item occurs).
• Synonyms

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• Opposites/antonyms
• Translation
• Associated ideas
• Collocations
• A combination of techniques can be used to show the meaning of a

presenting the word 'smile':

- first drawing a picture on the board

T: Look - he's smiling. Now look at me. I'm smiling (show

by facial expression). Smile. We smile when we are happy.
Smile. (gesture)
Ss: Smile.
T: Good. What does it mean? (students give

Discuss the different techniques used in the demonstration, and why each one is used:

- Picture on board (interesting, students remember it).

- Facial expression (gives meaning clearly).
- Examples (show how 'smile' is used as a verb).
- Translation (to make sure everyone understands).

Each technique is very quick (a few seconds), and they all reinforce each other.


A. The teacher has just presented the word 'market'. Now she is asking questions using
the new word. What is the purpose of this?

Does your mother Do you live near a

go to the market? market?

What do they
When does she go there ? sell there?
What does she buy?

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The purpose of questions of this kind:

- They help the teacher to be sure that students really understand the word.
- They give the students more examples of how the word is used, in a way that
involves the class.
- They give a chance to practise other language (big, small, present simple tense,
cook, etc.).
Questions using a new word should be simple and require only short answers.


• Multiple choice
• Matching
E.g.: Draw lines connecting the pairs of opposites:
A. brave B. awake
female expensive
cheap cowardly
asleep male
Which of the prefixes in column A can combine with which of the words in
column B? Write down the complete words.
A. over B. human
trans flow
dis form
super infect
• Odd one out: e.g.: Underline the odd one out:
goat, horse, cow, spider, sheep, dog, cat
• Writing sentences: e.g. For each of the following words, write a sentence
that makes its meaning clear:
wealth, laughter, decision, brilliant
• Gap –filling
• Gap- filling with a “pool” of answers
e.g.: Complete the passage using the words from the list.
• Translation
• Sentence completion: e.g.: I feel depressed when …..

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1. A vocabulary item can be more than one word.
Two speakers of English meeting for the first time will both say: How do you do.
How do you do is a complete phrase with a single meaning – linguists would call it
a lexical item. The meaning of this group of words can not be deduced from the
meaning of the individual words from the phrase – how, for example, at first
suggests that the phrase will be a question but since both speakers use the same
phrase, it is quite clear that neither is a question, each is a greeting. Such groups of
words are common and, rather than keeping a list of ‘words’ in a ‘vocabulary
book’, students need to be encouraged to keep list of words and phrases (i.e.
lexical items) with, in some cases, direct equivalents in their own language but in
other cases simply a description of how the phrase is used – in the case above a
definition such as ‘a greeting used by both speakers when meeting for the first
time in fairly formal circumstances‘.
Such phrases are of great importance in both the written and spoken
language and students should be encouraged to see them as whole items. Further
examples are phrases such as
Cheer up! if you like
put up with, I’m afraid not.
Look out for (some one)
Some phrases may be seen as part of the structure of the language, and
phrases which can be learned as single units. An example of such a phrase would
be: as soon as possible.
In many cases students can be helped to achieve greater fluency by learning
certain phrases as complete items at a relatively early stage in their learning
program, while perhaps, only seeing or understanding their structure at a later
The important thing is to develop in the students an understanding that
languages do not consist of ‘words’ with equivalents from one language to the

2. Do not discuss the structure of the lexical items.

Some years ago teaching was almost entirely based on structural progression.
Students learn do you want … ? relatively early in their course, because it was an
example of a question made in the present simple, which comes early in most
structural courses. It was only relatively late in their course that they learn would
you like….? because this was ‘ a conditional’ which, in turn, came relatively late
in structurally oriented courses.
One of positive results of the notional functional approach to language
teaching has been to point out that students frequently need certain language items
for practical communication relatively early in their course even if these items
may seem structurally quite complex. It is now quite common for phrases such as
would you like to appear in Book 1 under a functional heading. There is no
difficulty about this providing teachers explain the phrase by explaining its
function - ‘We use this when we want to offer somebody something - would you
like a cup of tea? or when we want to invite them to do something – would you

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like to go to the cinema this evening?’ Such explanation is sufficient, and teachers
must resist the temptation to draw attention to the structural features of the phrase
which is being taught as a lexical item at that stage of the course.

3. There is a difference between active and passive vocabulary.

Well- educated native speakers ‘know’ many thousands of words in the sense that
when they hear or read them they cause no difficulty in understanding. At the
same time the people probably use only about 2,000 words in normal daily
conversations. Somewhat surprisingly, native speakers command of as small a
vocabulary as 2,000 words means that you can function quite happily within an
English speaking community - providing the command is comprehensive, and the
2,000 items are the right 2,000!
‘Learning’ more and more vocabulary items does not necessarily increase a
person’s fluency. By definition, the extra items are less and less useful. Despite
this obvious fact, teachers, and even more students, feel that increasing their
vocabulary will increase their fluency – either in speech or in writing. This is very
far from the truth.
Knowing a vocabulary item is not a simple process – it means much more
than simply memorizing the word. From the receptive (passive) point of view, it
means recognizing its meaning when it occurs in context – a relatively simple
process. For students to add the word to their active vocabularies they need to
know the contexts in which it can occur, the possible and impossible collocations
of the word (words it can, or can not co – occur with) as well as more details of the
connotational meaning of the word. In a very simple sense, little and small ‘mean
the same thing’ – most students of English have no difficulty understanding the
sentence: which would you like – the big one or the small / little one? Even such
‘simple’ words, however, present difficulties for active use – it is possible to say
what a pretty little dress, but not what a pretty small dress
The message for the teacher is that in dealing with ‘new words’, it is
helpful to guide students towards those words which will help them to add to their
active vocabularies, and to distinguish those for students from the much larger
number of passive items. At the beginning of most conventional language
courses, all the words which are taught are intended to be acquired for active use;
later, at intermediate and advanced levels, most of the words students meet will
only be needed for passive use. This change in the nature of the vocabulary they
are learning is rarely made clear to students.
In more modern courses, particularly those which emphasize listening skills
based on authentic material even early in courses, a distinction between active and
passive language must be made at a much earlier stage. It is an important part of
the listening process that students learn to understand items which they do not
need to add to their active vocabulary.

4. Explain difference of meaning, not meaning.

Understanding or explaining ‘what something means’ is more complicated than
teachers or students sometimes recognize. There is a temptation, for example, for
teachers to ‘explain’ a word by a direct translation. It is exceptionally rare for a

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word in one language to have a direct equivalent in another. Much translation –

based teaching ignores this, and encourages the idea of simple equivalents.
Language is a system and each word has its meaning defined in relation to
other words. This insight leads to an easier, more effective and theoretically
sounder way of explaining. It is always more helpful to explain difference of
meaning rather than meaning itself. If the reader is in any doubt then try to explain
the meaning of bush. It is easy if done visually and contrastively.

tree bush
The principle is that contrastive explanation is easier, more efficient, and most
importantly of all, reflects the real nature of language.

5. Words are often best taught in groups.

An individual word in a language frequently acquires a meaning because of the
relationship between it and other words. Awareness of certain kinds of relationship
makes explaining vocabulary easier for the teacher, and learning it simpler for the
student. Here are some important relationships:
a. synonyms
Though words may have similar denotative meaning (they represent the same
concept) their connotational meanings often differ. Sometimes, however, it is
possible for the teacher simply to say ‘enormous’ means the same as ‘very large’.
b. antonyms: these are often thought of as ‘opposites’ such as hot/ cold. It is
important for teachers to remember that not hot, does not always mean cold;
sometimes it is a question of degree. In these cases students usually start by
learning the extremes and later learn the intermediate words: hot – warm- cool –
c. complements: Here two words exist and one automatically excludes the
other – single/ married. In this case, it is possible to explain by saying ‘single’
means ‘not married’.
This idea maybe extended to groups of incomplete words – each is defined by
being ‘not the others’: morning/ afternoon / evening / night. Obviously it is best to
teach such words in groups, as the meaning of one depends directly on the
meaning of the others.
d. converses: Each of the pair of words implies the other: parent/ child,
employer/ employee. Again, such words are best explained together.

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e. hyponyms: car, van, bus, lorry are hyponyms of vehicle. Often, such
words are difficult to handle without translating. It is not much help to be told a
carnation is a kind of flower. If you want to know the meaning of the word, you
want to know what kind of flower. In such cases translation is often necessary.
These theoretical ideas may often be usefully extended by the idea of an Area of
Vocabulary. If, for example, students are to do some work on traffic, does it make
sense to pre – teach the vocabulary and lexis associated with the topic? Because
many words are defined by their relationship to other words, it is easier to teach
vocabulary in ‘area’ than through lists of isolated items.

6. Vary the way you explain.

a. Demonstrate: There is something ridiculous about providing a translation
or explanation of words such as stagger, chuckle. If the teacher does give a verbal
explanation, it should at least be accompanied by a physical demonstration. The
demonstration both helps to make the meaning clearer, and helps to fix the word in
the students’ minds. If every word is ‘explained’ in the same way – either by
translation or verbal explanation, they merge into a sea of language in which it is
difficult to distinguish individual items. Demonstration highlights a particular
word and helps associate it in the students’ mind with both visual and aural
b. Use the real thing: Teachers become so pre- occupied with teaching that
sometimes they explain, or even draw on the blackboard things which are
immediately available in the room. Sometimes the explanation is no more
complicated than pointing!
c. Draw or sketch: Teachers do not need to be artists to make simple
sketches which illustrate meaning.
d. Use the blackboard to show scales or grade: Words like cool, orange
(color), or probably may be explained by presenting them with groups of related
hot - warm- cool – cold
red- orange – yellow
certainly - definitely
probably - possibly
e. Antonyms: There are two problems for using a synonym to explain a new
word – firstly there are very few exact synonyms within the language and, as
mentioned above, it is easy to give the wrong impression by, for example,
equating little and small. Secondly, in most cases it is extremely difficult to find a
synonym which is simple enough to help the student – there is little point in
simply providing another new word to explain the one the student does not
It is usually much easier to offer explanation of the kind Rude means not
polite. It is worth mentioning that the explanation given here are not exact
definition of the word – the level of the explanation must be suitable to the
students’ level of English at the time so that dictionary – like accuracy can often
be counter – productive.

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f. Synonyms: It is still helpful if teachers remember to say it is similar in

meaning to …, rather than it means the same as …, the former phrase helps to
build in the student’s mind the idea that language consists of choice, that words do
not mean the same as each other, the second undermines this important attitude.
g. The dictionary: too often teachers forget that it is the students who are
learning and, in general, the more the students are involved in the process the more
successful that is likely to be. Texts should not contain very large number of new
words so there should not be a great number of new words at any one time. One
technique for explaining which teachers too frequently overlook is asking the class
whether anybody knows the word – individual students do learn things outside the
classroom – and if not, asking one or more students to look the word up in a
dictionary (at lower levels a bi- lingual dictionary; at higher levels a mono –
lingual dictionary) In this way the process of ‘ learning a new word’ also provide
practice in important learning skills – dictionary using – and, for those using a
good mono –lingual dictionary – ensures that they do have other examples for
words used in context, a note on its stress, etc.
h. Verbal explanations: some language items are best explained by being
used in a variety of contexts, with the teacher commenting on the use. It is
important with such explanations to use more than one context to avoid any
incidental features of that particular context.
This kind of explanation is particularly useful in dealing with the lexical
items common within functional teaching. Most ‘functional phrases’ are best
explained by two or three examples and a description of the function performed.
It is not usually necessary to add further explanation.
i. Translation: although some teachers over- use this technique, it is equally
true that others under –use it. To some it is seen as boring and traditional. For
some words, however, the only sensible way to explain is by translation. – this is
often the case with certain types of technical words – measles – and for words
which are ‘a kind of…’ e.g. oak.
7. Allocate specific class time to vocabulary learning
In the hustle and bustle of our interactive classroom, sometimes we get so caught
up in lively group work and meaningful communication that we don’t pause to
devote some attention to words. After all, words are the basic building blocks of
language; in fact, survival level communication can take place quite intelligibly
when people simply string words together – without any grammatical rules
applying at all. So if we are interested in being communicative, words are among
the first orders of business.
8. Help students learn vocabulary in context
The best internalization of vocabulary comes from encounters (comprehension or
production) with words within the context of surrounding discourse. Rather than
isolating words and / or focusing on dictionary definitions, attend to vocabulary
within a communicative framework in which items appear. Students will then
associate new words with a meaningful context to which they apply.
9. Play down the role of bilingual dictionaries
A corollary to the above is to help students to resist the temptation to overuse their
bilingual dictionaries. In recent years, with the common availability of electronic
pocket dictionaries, students are even more easily tempted to punch in a word they

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don’t know and get an instant response. Unfortunately, such practices rarely help
students to internalize the word for later recall and use.
10. Engaged in ‘unplanned’ vocabulary teaching
In all likelihood, most of the attention given to vocabulary learning will be
unplanned: those moments when a student asks about a word or a word has
appeared that the teacher feels deserves some attention. These impromptu
moments are very important. Sometimes, they are simply brief little pointers; for
example, the word ‘clumsy’ once appeared in a paragraph students were reading
and the teacher volunteered:
T: Okay,’ clumsy’. Does any one know what that means? [writes the word on
the board]
Ss [silence]
T: No one? Okay, well, take a look at the sentence it’s in ‘ His clumsy
efforts to imitate a dancer were almost amusing.’ Now, was Bernard a good
[Mona raises her hand] Okay, Mona?
S1: Well, no. He was a very bad dancer, as we see in the next sentence.
T: Excellent! So, what do you think ‘clumsy ‘ might mean?
S2: Not graceful.
T. Good, what else? Anyone?
S3: Uncoordinated?
T: Great! Okay, so ‘clumsy’ means awkward, ungraceful, uncoordinated
[writes synonyms on the board] Is that clear now?
Ss: [most students nod in agreement]
Sometimes, such impromptu moment may be extended: the teacher gives several
examples, and/or encourages students to use the word in other sentences. Make
sure that such unplanned teaching, however, does not detract from the central
focus of activity by going on and on, ad nauseam.

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What is grammar?
Grammar describes how we combine, organize and change words and parts of words
to make meaning. We use rules for this description.


1. Should grammar be presented inductively or deductively?
Generally, an inductive approach (the method of logical reasoning that obtains or
discovers general laws from particular facts or examples) is currently more in
favor because:
• it is more in keeping with natural language acquisition (where rule is
absorbed subconsciously with little or no conscious focus.)
• it conforms more easily to the concept of interlanguage development in
which learners progress through possible stages of rule acquisition.
• it allows students to get a communicative feel for some aspects of language
before getting overwhelmed by grammatical explanation.
• it builds more extrinsic motivation by allowing students to discover rules
rather being told them.
There may be occasional moments, of course, when a deductive approach is
indeed more appropriate. In practice, the distinction is not always apparent.

2. Should we use grammatical explanation and technical

terminology in CLT classroom?
In CLT classroom now, the use of grammatical explanation and terminology
must be approached with care. We teachers are sometimes so eager to display our
hard –earned metalinguistic knowledge that we forget that our students are busy
enough just getting the language itself that the added load of complex rules and
terms is too much to bear. But clearly, adults can benefit from a bit of explaining
from time to time. So:
a. keep your explanations brief and simple. Use L1 if students can not follow
an explanation in L2.
b. use charts and other visual aids whenever possible to graphically depict
grammatical relationship.
c. illustrate with clear, unambiguous examples.
d. try to account for varying cognitive styles among your students.
e. do not get yourself tied up in “exception” to rules.
f. if you don’t know how to explain something, go not risk giving false
information. Rather, tell students you will research that point and bring an
answer back the next day.

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3. Should teachers correct grammatical errors?

We have no research evidence that specifically shows that overt grammatical
correction by teachers in classroom is of any consequence in improving learner’s
But we do have evidence that various other forms of attention to and
treatment of grammatical errors have an impact on learners. Therefore, it is
prudent for you to engage in such treatment as long as you adhere to principles of
maintaining communicative flow, of maximizing student self- correction and
sensitively considering the affective and linguistic place the learner is in.

Look at this sentence on the board:

I'd like to visit Paris.

Identify the structure in the sentence, and underline it.

This is one example of a structure. Other examples are written in the form of a table.

I'd like to climb Mount Everest.

earn more money.
go home.

The importance of structures: We can use one structure to make many different
sentences; so if students learn the main structures of English, it will help them
greatly to speak and to write the language.
Grammar rules also describe grammatical structures, i.e. the arrangement of words
into patterns which have meaning. The rules for grammatical structures use
grammatical terms to describe forms and uses. ‘Form’ refers to the specific
grammatical parts that make up the structure and the order they occur in. ‘Use’ refers
to the meaning that the structure is used to express.

Grammar rules describe the way that language works, but language changes over
time, so grammar rules are not fixed. They change, too. Unfortunately, grammar rules
and grammar books don’t always change as quickly as the language, so they are not
always up to date. For example, some grammar books say that we should use whom
rather who after preposition, but, in fact, except in some situations, who is generally
used, with a different word order, e.g. “I’ve just met the girl who I talked to on
Friday.” is much more common and accepted than “I’ve just met the girl to whom I
talked on Friday.”.

Grammar rules traditionally describe written language rather than spoken language.
For example, repetition, exclamations and contractions (two words that are
pronounced or written as one, e.g. don’t from do not) are common features of spoken
language, but they are not always described in grammar books. Some grammar
books are now available which describe spoken language too.
Just learning grammatical rules and structures doesn’t give learners enough help with
learning how to communicate, which is the main purpose of language. So, much
language teaching has moved away from teaching only grammar, and now teaches,
e.g. functions, language skills and fluency as well as grammar.

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When we present a structure, it is important to:

- show what the structure means and how it is used, by giving examples;
- show clearly how the structure is formed, so that students can use it to make
sentences of their own.



The simplest and clearest way to present a structure is often to show it directly,
using things the students can see: objects, the classroom, yourself, the students
themselves, pictures.

Now look at a technique for presenting the structure 'too … (adjective) ... to …':
T: [point to the ceiling] What's that?
Ss: The ceiling.
T: [reach up and try to touch it] Look – I’m trying to touch it. Can I touch it?
Ss: No.
T: No, I can't. Because it's too high. It's too high to touch. Too high. The ceiling's too high to
touch. (say this sentence again in the students' own language)

Here is the second demonstration, to show how you could present the same
structure using a blackboard drawing. Draw this on the board:

T: Look at this. Is it light or heavy?

Ss: Heavy.
T: Yes, it's heavy. How heavy is it?
Ss: A hundred kilos.
T: That's right. It's very heavy. Could you lift it?
Ss: No.
T: No. of course you couldn't. It's too heavy. It's too heavy to lift.


It is not always possible to show the meaning of a structure visually, using what is
in the class. Another way of showing meaning is to think of a situation from outside
the class, in which the structure could naturally be used. The situation can be real or

1. This is a demonstration of how to use an imaginary situation to present a more

advanced structure: 'There's no point in . . .-ing':

T: Listen. Imagine you are with a friend. You're going to visit your uncle,
who lives quite near. Your friend says, 'Let's go by bus'. What will you say?
Yes or no?

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Ss: No.
T: Why?
Ss: Because he lives near. Yes, he lives nearby. So you might say, 'We can
walk there in 15 minutes. There's no point in going by bus'. There's no point
in doing it. No point, (say this again in the students' own language) There's no
point in going by bus.

2. Continue your demonstration by giving other examples:

T: Here's another example. You want to read a book. But I know it isn't a
good book. I might say to you, ‘Don’t read that book. There's no point in
reading it - it isn’t at all interesting'. Another example: You have a bicycle,
and you are going to clean it. But I know the weather is going to turn bad,
so it would get dirty again. What could I say? There's . .. Yes?
Ss: There's no point in cleaning the bicycle.
T: Very good.

3. Comments on the demonstrations:

- By giving several different examples, the teacher helps the class to build up a clear
idea of what the structure means and how it is used.
- After giving a few examples, the teacher can just give the situation and try to get
the students to give the example. This checks how well the students have understood,
and also helps to involve the class more.

Discussion: Ways of showing meaning

This is how different teachers presented comparison of adjectives to their students.

Which presentation do you think is: - the most interesting? - the easiest? - the
most useful?

Discuss the four presentations. Suggest any other ways of presenting the structure.

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Possible comments:

Drawing lines on the board: very simple and clear, but not very interesting.
Comparing two students: would certainly be interesting, but it could be very
embarrassing for the two students concerned; drawing two imaginary people on the
board would be safer and just as clear.
Referring to local buildings: would be very clear, could be made more interesting by
showing pictures.

Look again at the first two structures, and think how you could present them.

Possible answers:
- Shall I . . .? can easily be presented directly, using things in the classroom, e.g.
'It's hot in here. Look - the window's closed. Shall I open the window?'
- He seems to ... could be presented through a situation, e.g. 'A man lives next
door to me. I don't know him well. But I think he's rich, because he has many
expensive things. He seems to be rich.'


Focusing on form
As well as making it clear how a structure is used and what it means, it is also
important to show clearly how it is formed. There are two basic ways of doing this:
- By giving a clear model and asking students to listen and repeat two or three times.
Quickly demonstrate this, using the example 'It's too heavy to lift':
T: Listen. It's too heavy to lift. It's too heavy to lift. (gesture for repetition)
Ss: It's too heavy to lift.
The aim of doing this is just to give students the 'feel' of the structure, and especially
to make them familiar with the way it sounds. It should not be continued for too long
- a few repetitions by the whole class, perhaps followed by one or two repetitions by
individual students.
- By writing the structure clearly on the board. Demonstrate this by writing 'It's too
heavy to lift.' on the board. Say the words as you write them, and underline the 'fixed'
part of the structure:

It's too heavy to lift.

An alternative technique is to get the students to tell you what to write. Quickly show
this: rub off the example, then get students to ‘dictate' it to you and write it again.
(Prompt them with questions: 'What's the first word? And then?'). This has the
advantage of involving the class and focusing their attention on the structure.


Discuss what order the stages should be in, and which of them are the most

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The most likely order would be:

i) Draw the pictures and give the example.
ii) Give a model and ask the class to repeat.
iii) Ask individual students to repeat the sentence.
iv) Write the-sentence on the board.
v) Explain how the structure is formed.
vi) Ask the class to copy the sentence.
vii) Give other situations and examples.
Note: Many variations are possible, e.g. the teacher could give several different
examples at the beginning, or could write the structure on the board before asking
the class to say it. Many of the stages could be left out. It would be important to give
the situation and example (which could be done without pictures), and to give a clear
model (although the class could just listen instead of repeating). Writing the sentence
on the board would also be important, but it might not be necessary to explain the
structure or ask students to copy it - this would of course depend on the type of class.
Here is a demonstration of how the main stages might appear in practice.
Situation and example to show meaning
T: (drawing picture) Look, see this woman. What's she doing?
Ss: Waiting for a bus.
T: Yes. Look, it's four o'clock. She's just started waiting.
(drawing second picture) What's the time now?
Ss: Five o'clock.
T: Yes - and look, the bus is coming. But the woman's been waiting for a long time. How
long? Can you tell me?
Ss: One hour.
T: That's right. She's been waiting for an hour.
Model the structure
T: Listen. She's been waiting for an hour. Let's say it together. For an hour.
Ss: For an hour.
T: She's been waiting for an hour.
Ss: She's been waiting for an hour.

Model the example on the board

T: Now, let's write it. Who can tell me? (write 'She's) She's .. . What comes next?
Ss: Waiting.
T: Not yet - before that.
Ss: Been.
T: Good, (write 'been') Now - what next?
Ss: Waiting.
T: That's right, (write 'waiting') And then?
Ss: For an hour.
T: Good. (write 'for an hour', and underline the structure)

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Other examples
T: (draw another person, a man and a clock) Look - here's another person. He arrived at
three o'clock. What can we say about him? He's been . . .?
Ss: He's been waiting for two hours.
(and so on)
 Comments on the value of teachers giving their own presentation of a new
structure, rather than just relying on the textbook:
- Often, examples and situations given in textbooks are not clear enough or
sufficiently close to the students' interests. It is easy for teachers to find their own
examples which will mean more to the class and be more interesting.
- Teachers can use the situations and examples given in the textbook, but present
them in their own way, before asking students to read them in their books. The class
will be far more involved if they are watching and listening to the teacher, looking at
the blackboard, and answering questions, than if they have their 'heads down' in the

1. Sometimes we need not only to present single structures, but to show the
difference between two structures; this is especially important when there is a
contrast between two structures in English which does not exist in the students' own
language. There are two basic ways of doing this: by giving examples and by giving
simple explanations.
To illustrate this, think about the structures 'How much?' and 'How many?':
- We could give examples to show the difference between them: 'How much
butter/flour/sugar? How many eggs/loaves of bread/plates?'
- We could give an explanation: 'How many is used with words that have a singular
and a plural form (an egg - eggs)'.
Below are the values of giving 'rules' and explanations to the class:
- Well-chosen examples are the clearest way to show how a structure is used. Rules
and explanations can be useful by providing a kind of 'short cut' for the student, but
they should be seen as an aid in learning, as something 'extra'. Only knowing rules
will not help students to use language.
- It may not always be necessary to explain differences between structures. Students
can get a sense of the way structures are used by hearing or seeing examples, without
ever 'knowing the rule'.
- If we give explanations, it is usually best to give them in the students' own
language, to increase their chances of understanding them (the language of the
explanation will nearly always be more complex than the structure itself). Obviously,
explanations should always be as clear and simple as possible.

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1. Mechanical Practice
- A drill where there is complete control of the response; students produce the correct
form, not using the structure to express meaning.
- MD should be drilled at a rapid pace with books closed; purpose: memorise the
- Drills like these are useful only if done for a short time (a few minutes) as the first
stage of practice, just to help students to 'get their tongue round' a new structure. This
kind of practice is of limited value for three reasons:
- It is completely mechanical. Students can easily do the practice with their minds
'switched off - in other words thinking about something completely different while
they are doing it. Because it is so easy to do, it is also easy to forget.
- The teacher cannot be sure that the students understand what the words mean. It is
quite possible to do drills like these without knowing what you are saying.
- Some commonly-used kinds of mechanical drills:
T: Let's play football.
Ss: Let's play football. Single word prompts
T: Let s go swimming. T: cinema
Ss: Let's go swimming, etc. Ss: Let's go to the cinema.
T: football
Ss: Let's play football.
T: You want to play football. Free substitution
Students make up their own sentences,
Ss: Let's play football.
e.g.: Let’s go fishing.
T: You want to go swimming
Ss: Let’s go swimming.

Picture Prompts

- The easiest way to practise the structure would be to do a repetition drill: the teacher
gives other examples and gets the class to repeat them. This might be useful as a first
step only, just to make students familiar with the structure (although this has already
been done in the presentation). It is a very limited form of practice - the students have
to do almost nothing.

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- It would be more useful to use one of the other techniques, which are all different
kinds of substitution practice: the teacher gives prompts, and gets the students to give
the examples. This would keep the class more active, and give students practice in
forming the structure themselves. (Point out that the prompts can be a whole sentence,
a phrase or word, or a picture.)
- The aim at this stage of the lesson is simply to give students practice in forming or
'manipulating' the structure. All the techniques shown are very controlled kinds of
practice which would be done very quickly.
All the techniques would not of course be used together, but a teacher might use a
combination of them. Give a demonstration to show how this might be done.
(Teachers should imagine that you have just presented the structure.)
T: Now, can you make some more sentences? Listen. You want to watch television, so you
say, ‘Let's watch television. Now - you want to listen to the radio. Let's ...
S: Let's listen to the radio.
T: Good. Again.
S: Let's listen to the radio.
T: You want to go to the river:
S: Let's go to the river.
T: Good. (Indicating another student) Can you say it?
S: Let's go to the river.
(and so on)

T: Now, I'll just say a word, and you say the sentence. OK? Television.
S: Let's watch television.
T: Radio.
S: Let's listen to the radio.
(and so on)

T: Now - who can make another suggestion? Make your own sentence.
S: Let's go to the cinema.
T: Good. Another one.
S: Let's go for a walk.
(and so on)

With a large class (more than 30 students) there are two main ways to involve the
whole class in the practice and give as many students as possible a chance to
- By getting responses from individual students (to be sure that the response is
correct) and then getting the whole class to repeat in chorus.

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- By getting two or three students to respond in turn to each prompt (by saying
'Again' or simply pointing). This is a good way of giving weaker students a chance to
say something.
With smaller classes there would be less need to do chorus drilling, and students
could respond individually. Note that chorus repetition is not an ideal way of
involving the class - the more chorus repetition there is, the more mechanical the
practice becomes.

2. Meaningful Practice
There is still control of response although it may be correctly expressed in more than
one way and less suitable for choral drilling. Students cannot complete these drills
without fully understanding structurally & semantically what is being said. They
express meaning. Students are now concentrating on meaning rather on form, on an
answer which is true rather than correct. Teacher, therefore, should insist on both
form & content.

There are three possible ways of making practice more meaningful:

- By getting students to say real things about themselves.

1a. Anne likes tea but she doesn't like 1b. Say true sentences about yourself:
coffee. I like tea. or I don't like tea.
a) folk music / pop music What about: a) coffee?
b) walking/swimming b) pop music?
c) cats/dogs c) cats?

Exercise 1a procedure: Students make sentences from the prompts, e.g. Anne likes
folk music but she doesn't like pop music.
Exercise 1b procedure: Students make true sentences, using either 'I like' or 'I don't
*Comment: 1a is completely mechanical — it can be done without thinking or
understanding, e.g. what pop music is. It is also quite meaningless, and so very
uninteresting to do.

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- By giving situations which imply the structure, but leave the students to decide
exactly what to say.
2a. You are a stranger. Ask about 2b. You are a stranger. Ask about
places in the town. places in the town.
a cafe: You want to see a film:
Is there a cafe near here? Is there a cinema near here?
a) a grocer's shop a) You want to buy some fruit.
b) a cinema b) You want to post a letter
c) a fruit stall c) You want to spend the night

Exercise 2a procedure: Give the prompts orally - students respond with a question.
Exercise 2b procedure: Read out each situation; students give responses. More
than one response is possible, so encourage students to think of different responses,
a) Is there a fruit stall / a shop / a market near here?
b) Is there a post office / a post box near here?
c) Is there a hotel / a youth hostel near here?

Comment: 2a sounds natural and gives useful basic practice of the structure. But it is
mechanical - students could ask the questions correctly without any idea what they
were asking. In 2b, students must understand the situations and must think about
what to ask. So it is more meaningful, but also more difficult than 2a as students
have to provide the names of places themselves.

- By letting students add something of their own.

3a. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘I'm 3b. ‘Where are you going?’
going to the station’ ‘I'm going to the station.’
a) cinema ‘Why?’
b) zoo 'Because (I want to buy a train
c) river ticket).'
… a) cinema
b) zoo
c) river

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Exercise 3a procedure: Ask the question and give a different prompt word each time,
T: Where are you going? cinema
S: I'm going to the cinema.
Exercise 3b procedure: Ask the questions, students answer and give a reason. They
can give any reason they like that makes sense (e.g. cinema: Because there's a good
film on; Because I want to see a film; Because I've got nothing else to do).

Comment: 3a is mechanical; the question is always the same and to answer the student
merely fits the prompt into the sentence. In 3b, the exercise becomes meaningful
because students have to add a reason, so they must understand what they are saying.
It is also of course a freer exercise, so it could be done after 3a.


Communicative Drills
Normal speech for communication, free transfer of learnt language patterns to
appropriate situations. Main difference between a meaningful drill and free practice
is in the latter, speaker adds new information as the real world.
Free practice gives students the chance to use the structure to express their own ideas
or to talk about their own experiences. Two kinds of topics are useful for free oral
- We can get students to talk about real life (themselves, their friends, things in the
- We can ask students to imagine a situation which is not real.

Look at the following topics. They could all be used for free practice using the
structure 'going to': in the first, students talk about real life; in the second, they
imagine a situation; and in the third, they imagine events based on a picture.

Talk about one of these topics.

- What are you going to do at the weekend? What about your family and friends?
- Choose one person in the class. Imagine it is his/her birthday soon. Everyone is going to give
a present. Say what present you are going to give, and why.
- Look at the picture shown by your teacher. Imagine what each of the people in the picture is
going to do when they arrive home.

i) Activities like these can be done with quite a low level class - students only
have to make simple sentences with 'going to'. It would be important to
introduce the activity very carefully, giving instructions in the students' own
language and giving a few examples.

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ii) With a large class, it may be necessary to make the activity more highly
organised, rather than done freely in groups. For example:
— The teacher could ask students in turn to give sentences, and then get students
to ask each other.
— The teacher could give a few minutes preparation time - students work alone
or in pairs and think of sentences they could say. Then the teacher asks
students to give their sentences.
iii) The aim of the activity is to get students to talk as much as possible. So the
teacher should try to 'prompt' rather than ask full questions (e.g. 'What about
you?', 'And you?', 'Lucie, ask Francoise'): the less the teacher says, the more
chance students have to speak. Let’s demonstrate this, e.g.:

T: Marie, what are you going to give?

S: I'm going to give her a book - because she likes reading.
T: Christina, what about you?
S: I'm going to give her flowers.
T: Why?
S: Because it's spring.
T: Lucie, ask Francoise.
S: Francoise, what are you going to give?
T: I’m going to give her some money - then she can buy a present for herself.
[and so on]


1. Encourage students to see patterns
Whenever the teacher can guide students to the perception of a pattern, the
learning load will be lighter. On the other hand, if the student is taught that
something is the pattern which in fact is not so, he is likely to be unnecessarily
confused. It is the job of textbook writers and teachers to try to draw attention to
helpful patterns and, in the modern classroom in which the student is involved in
his own learning, to help the student to discover the pattern for himself. Here are
some simple examples:
Arrange the irregular verbs alphabetically: Feel Felt Felt
Find Found Found
Fly Flew Flown
Forget Forgot Forgotten
Group the verbs according to the phonological patterns:
Free Froze Frozen
Speak Spoke Spoken
Steal Stole Stolen
Weave Wove Woven
The ability to recognize items which are similar in some way will make it easier
for the student to learn. Part of the teacher’s job is to construct and draw attention
to groups which make such similarities clear to students.

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2. Good rules can help students

An understanding of the nature of language rules helps teachers and students. A
few teachers still believe in prescriptive rules – rules which tell us what ‘should’
and’ should not ‘be possible in the language. This is a mistake. All linguists
believe rules should be descriptive – they should say how the language is used, not
how it should be used.
In a similar way all linguists are agreed that it is not sufficient to divide
language into ‘ right’ and ‘wrong’; language is more complicated than that. Full,
accurate descriptive rules will need to describe language as standard / non
standard, appropriate / inappropriate, spoken / written, formal / informal, etc. for
many students some of these distinctions are too complicated and too subtle, but
for language teachers, all are always important. For the language teacher a
compromise need to be made between the accuracy of the rule, and its
accessibility. In short, a rule which is perfectly accurate but which students cannot
understand is no help to them. Equally important, however, is that a rule which is
inaccurate, even if students can understand it, will often at a later stage in learning
lead to confusion.
Very often language teachers are so anxious that the student will understand
the ‘rule’ that they lean towards accessibility at the expense of accuracy. Many
teachers, for example, teach the ‘rule’: Some in positives
Any in negatives and questions
Such a rule is nonsense as the following examples show:
I like some pop music.
I don’t like some pop music.
I like any pop music
I don’t like any pop music.
What is the clue to the use of good rules? It is first important to understand that the
rule is not just a brief verbal description. The rule is a combination of a wide range
of natural examples and verbal description. Natural examples help students to see
how the language is used; good verbal descriptions help students to understand the
significance of particular points of usage. The examples support the explanation,
the explanation supports the examples. Understanding rules is a process, in which
understanding is deepened through re – cycling examples and explanation.
3. Understanding involves examples, explanation, and practice
Sometimes a pattern quickly emerges from examples:
A. Have you…? A. Can you …?
B. No, I haven’t. B. No, I can’t.
The examples reveal the structure of B’s response. Little explanation is necessary.
Sometimes, partly because of the language itself, and partly perhaps because
of mistaken ideas introduced in the student’s early learning, explicit explanation
may be much more important. Many students believe, for example, that there are
two quite different kinds of questions in English – questions with (do) and
questions without (do). If the former are taught first, the latter are ‘exceptions’. In

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fact, all questions follow the same pattern and the explicit statement of a rule may
help students to see this:
To make a question invert the order of the subject and first auxiliary; if there
is no auxiliary introduce (do) as a ‘dummy’ auxiliary, and follow the basic
The example illustrates the problem – the rule alone does not help the student,
and examples alone make it difficult for student to find the rule.
Understanding is a cycle which involves each of explicit explanation,
example, and practice. Each part of the cycle contributes in its own way to
understanding. It is not sufficient for students to understand intellectually; what
students ‘understand’ should directly influence their language performance. This is
best achieved if teachers constantly bear in mind the important link between
explanation, example, and practice.
4. Terminology can help or hinder
This is a complicated idea for students because terminology can confuse as much
as help – particularly if it is not introduced as a deliberate part of the teaching
program. As already discussed, understanding involves a statement of the rule,
examples and practice. If the normal terms are used, teachers must be aware of the
potential confusion introduced by the terminology. Teachers need to approach the
problem stage by stage. First, give examples of the grammar category, and then
introduce the name. Check that students understand the name by asking students to
sort examples into those which belong to the category and those which do not.
Then ask students to divide words into category. All of this has nothing to do with
students producing language, or doing exercises. It is only ensuring that students
understand, and can use the terminology the teacher is going to use and which the
students will themselves need.
After this initial introduction of the term, the teacher should draw attention to
the difficulties. In the case of countable and uncountable nouns, this means
pointing out that a noun is not always countable or uncountable. The same noun
may have a countable meaning and an uncountable meaning. Until students have
grasped this, they do not have a clear idea of the meaning of the term.
No terminology should be taught for its own sake. It should provide teachers
and students with a convenient shorthand. It can only do that if the terminology is
taught and understood before students are expected to use it. Teachers should bear
two rules in mind:
a. if a term is introduced, time needs to be taken to ensure that students
really understand it the terminology needs to be taught as part of the lesson.
b. a term should only be introduced if it is going to help the students.
Terminology introduced to show off the teacher’s knowledge, or simply because it
sounds impressive, is dishonest and counter- productive.
5. Filling in a fill- in exercise is not enough
Fill – in exercises assume that the sentence which is given contains sufficient
context to reveal the ‘correct’ choice to be filled in. this means that elsewhere in
the sentence there are clues to the correct answer - the part to be filled in in some
way collocates with other words in the sentence. In such circumstances, it must be

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necessary for the student to say the whole sentence aloud, thereby increasing the
chance of the item being memorized correctly.
It is incorrect for the teacher to give the number of the question, and the
student simply to say the fill- in part, it is even worse for the teacher to read a
sentence from the book and pause at the gap while the student says one or two
words (the fill- in) before the teacher finishes the sentence.
Teachers may care to consider whether fill- in practices will be more
effective if exploited three times – orally in class, as written homework, and
finally checked again orally in class.
The students need the practice. The teacher should say the number; the
students should say the complete sentence.
Students need to practise form as well use.
Language teaching based entirely on getting the forms correct becomes
meaningless and boring, and has little to do with the real nature of language. At
the same time it is difficult to be communicative if your hearer can not understand
what you say!
The teaching should maintain a balance between practices which concentrate
on fluency, and those which concentrate on accuracy. On the whole, fluency
practices concentrate on why a person is speaking (function) and accuracy
practices on how a message is conveyed (structural form). A good language
teaching program involves both. Students have little difficulty in understanding
that some verbs have irregular past tense forms, or how certain questions forms are
made in English. Practicing the forms – sometimes very uncommunicatively – is a
legitimate part of a well- balanced teaching program.
6. There is place for oral and written practices
Oral practice is natural, and ensures that a wide range of structures co –occur,
develops the ability to understand and respond quickly, and the ability to articulate
– but it is not the whole of language teaching. Written practices, where students
have time to pause, think, and consciously construct, also have an important place.
As usual in language learning, a policy of doing both activities rather than one or
other, is best.
In general, it would usually best to for students first to do oral practice, then
use written practice for reinforcement and, finally, further oral free practices.
It is worth emphasizing that oral and written practices are both useful even if
the students’ main objective places the emphasis strongly on oral or written
English. Clearly, the student who needs a high level in written skills requires more
written practice than the general student, but in such a case, oral practice provides
a valuable alternative and supportive learning strategy. Similarly, for a student
who requires a high level of oral skills, some written practice provides useful
support which can not be gained through a purely oral approach.
7. Use ‘gimmicks’ to combat popular mistakes
Some mistakes are always ‘popular’ – the third person –s, making questions,
and, for each language group, certain interference mistakes, as students carryover
too directly the patterns or vocabulary of their own language.

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Such mistakes are rarely ‘important’ from a communicative point of view, but
may make the students sound odd, or may be mistakes which are heavily penalized
in tests. In these cases it is usually better to combat the mistakes by some kind of
gimmicks, rather than constantly explaining or taking a stern attitude.
Many teachers find it useful to prepare a large card containing nothing but a
very large letter S. This is kept flat on their desk and each time a student makes a
third person – s mistake, the teacher, without speaking, simply raises the card;
other teachers have a large S on the wall of their classroom and simply point to it.
‘Popular’ mistakes can demotivate students – ‘they know’ it is a mistake, but
continue to make it. A light – hearted method of correction of such mistakes
ensures that the mistake is drawn to the students’ attention, without depressing
students unnecessarily.
8. Use beehives with large classes
One of the most effective techniques for large classes is the beehive drill.
Such practices work best in classes who are sitting in rows. A clear model is
presented - either orally or on the blackboard:
How old are you?
The model consists of a simple two line- dialogue. Then, simultaneously, all
the people sitting in a particular line, for example, next to the windows, ask the
question to their neighbors; their neighbors answer and, without pausing, turn to
their neighbors and ask the questions; these students answer and, without pausing,
pass the question on.
In this way six or seven pairs are involved at any one time and the whole
class is involved in saying something (two sentences each) in a practice which
lasts less than half a minute.
On the other occasions the practice starts from the opposite side of the room
or from the front or back of the classroom with the question being passed on to the
student immediately behind or in front.
Such practices are only effective if the two – line dialogue is simple, and the
model clear. The first time they are done they are often chaotic but as soon as the
class has the idea of how such practice works it is sufficient for the teacher to
present the model and then say simply: beehive practice starting, here (pointing)
The name of such practices is, of course, based on the fact that all the bees in
the hive work at the same time. It is a model which is very appropriate for the
language classroom!
9. Most of language games are structure practices
It is characteristic of language games that the same formula is constantly
repeated. That is precisely the same characteristic that is shown by structure
A simple game like hangman is easily converted into a useful structure

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Each dash represents a letter; as letters are guessed, successful guesses are
filled in, and for each unsuccessful guess part of the hanging scene is drawn. If the
scene is completed before the word, the game is lost. The game is often used to help
teach the alphabet. It can, however, be simply adapted to a very useful practice of
there. Students use this formula:
Is there a (p) in it? There’s a (p) here.
No, there isn’t / yes, there is there are two - , here and here.
Instead of just calling out letters, the game has the extra rule that students
must use the Is there…? formula in their questions.
Teachers working with school classes often think that ‘games’ can only be
used for a few minutes at the end of a lesson, or occasionally on Friday afternoons.
Almost all language games, with very little preparation from the teacher, can be
turned into lively and effective structure practices. Needless to say, most students,
particularly in schools, would rather play a game than do a grammar practice.
Teachers should remember that if the students are enjoying what they are doing,
and it has an underlying serious language teaching purpose, it is more likely to be
effective than a more conventional practice.
10. Free situations are important
Most language lessons develop from controlled to free practice. Teachers
like to be in control of their lessons and therefore like controlled practice. The
lesson moves smoothly, can be timed carefully, and gives an impression of
efficiency. Unfortunately, there is a big gap between controlled practice and
natural language use. Natural language use involves not only knowledge of the
language, but social skills, self- confidence, the ability to improvise, etc.
controlled practice is nothing more than a first step in the teaching sequence. The
free practice part of the lesson is, by definition, the part over which the teacher has
least control. The students have more chance to make mistakes, to show that they
have not learned, and to show that even if they can do controlled practice, they
have not yet developed the ability to use the language. Such practices – situations,
dialogue building, information gap – based pair work, discussion, or writing about
the student’s own interests, are an essential part of the learning process. Such
practices develop the whole range of skills which are required for effective natural
language use. In doing them, teachers must encourage such skills, and not
concentrate only on accurate structural knowledge. At the same time teachers
should remember that these are still classroom practices. Neither the teacher nor
the student should expect too much. They are an important step in the complex
process which leads from structural accuracy to spontaneous fluency.

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Reading is one of the four language skills. It is a receptive skill which involves responding to texts,
rather than producing it. Very simply, we can say that reading involves making sense of text. To do
this, we need to understand the language of text at word level, sentence level and whole-text level.
We also need to connect the message of the text to our knowledge of the world. Look at this
sentence, for example:
The boy was surprised because the girl was much faster at running than he was.
To understand this sentence, we need to understand what the letters are, how the letters join together
to make words, what the words mean and the grammar of the words and the sentence. But we also
make sense of this sentence knowing that, generally speaking, girls do not run as fast as boys. Our
knowledge of the world helps us understand why the boy was surprised.
In short, reading means ‘reading and understanding’. A foreign language learner who says ‘I can
read the words but I don’t know what they mean’ is not, therefore, reading in this sense. He or she
is merely decoding – translating written symbols into corresponding sounds.



How to use a reading text depends on the purpose for which we want to use it: Is it to develop
reading comprehension skills? Is it a way of presenting new words and structures? Is it a basis
for language practice?
We need to choose the right texts for our learners. Texts should be interesting for learners in
order to motivate them. Texts should also be at the right level of difficulty. A text may be

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difficult because it contains complex language and/or because it is about a topic that learners
don’t know much about.
Sometimes we may ask learners to read texts that are specially written or simplified for
language learners. At other times they may read articles, brochures, story books, etc. that are
what a first language speaker would read. This is called authentic materials. The language in
authentic materials is sometimes more varied and richer than the language in simplified texts.
Experts believe that learners learn to read best by reading both simplified and authentic
 In real life
Reasons for reading influence how we read, i.e. which reading sub-skill (a skill that is part of
a main skill) we use. For example, if we read a text just to find a specific piece or pieces of
information in it, we usually use a sub-skill called reading for specific information or
scanning. When we scan, we don’t read the whole text. We hurry over most of it until we find
the information we are interested in, e.g. when we look for a number in a telephone directory.
Another reading sub-skill is reading for gist or skimming, i.e. reading quickly through a text
to get a general idea of what it is about. For example, you skim when you look quickly
through a book in a bookshop to decide if you want to buy it, or when you go quickly through
a reference book to decide which part will help you write an essay.
A third reading sub-skill is reading for detail. If you read a letter from someone you love
who you haven’t heard from for a long time, you probably read like this, getting the meaning
out of every word.
Another way of reading is extensive reading. Extensive reading involves reading long pieces
of text, for example a story or an article. As you read, your attention and interest vary – you
may read some parts of the text in detail while you may skim through others.
Sometimes, especially in language classrooms, we use texts to examine language, For
example, we might ask learners to look for all the words in a text related to a particular topic,
or work out the grammar of a particular sentence. The aim of these activities is to make
learners more aware of how language is used. These activities are sometimes called intensive
reading. They are not a reading skill, but a language learning activity.
We can see that reading is a complicated process. It involves understanding letters, words and
sentences, understanding the connections between sentences (coherence and cohesion),
understanding of different text types, making sense of the text through our knowledge of the
world and using the appropriate reading sub-skill. Reading may be a receptive skill but it
certainly isn’t a passive one!
 In class
There are three possible ways of reading a text in class:
 The teacher reads aloud while the students follow in their books.
 Students read aloud in turn.
 The students all read silently to themselves, at their own speed.

Demonstration one

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Question: Only very few animal remains become fossils. Why?

The teacher reads the first part of the text aloud, and then individual students take turns to
read the text aloud, sentence by sentence.
How to get preserved as a fossil
Unfortunately the chances of any animal becoming a fossil are not very great, and the chances of a fossil
then being discovered many thousands of years later are even less. It is not surprising that of all the millions of
animals that have lived in the past, we actually have fossils of only a very few.
There are several ways in which animals and plants may become fossilised. First it is essential that the
remains are buried, as dead animals and plants are quickly destroyed if they remain exposed to the air.
Plants rot, while scavengers, such as insects and hyenas, eat the flesh and bones of animals. Finally, the few
remaining bones soon disintegrate in the hot sun and pouring rain. If buried in suitable conditions, however,
animal and plant remains will be preserved. The same chemicals which change sand and silt into hard
rock will also enter the animal and plant remains and make them hard too. When this happens we say
that they have become fossilised. Usually only the bones of an animal and the toughest part of a plant are
Demonstration two
Question: How can soft parts of animals become fossilised? What kind of fossils are often found
in caves?

All the students read the second part of the text silently.

The soft body parts of an animal or the fine fibres of a leaf may occasionally become fossilised, but they must be
buried quickly for this to happen. This may sometimes occur with river and lake sediments but is much more
likely to happen with volcanic ash. One site near Lake Victoria, where my parents worked, contained many
thousands of beautifully preserved insects, spiders, seeds, twigs, roots and leaves. A nearby volcano must
have erupted very suddenly, burying everything in a layer of ash. The insects had no time to escape before
they were smothered.
Caves are another site where fossils are easily formed, and luckily our ancestors left many clues in caves
which made convenient shelters and homes. Things that people brought in as food or tools were left on the
cave floor, and they were buried by mud, sand and other debris washed in by rivers and rain.
(from Human Origins: R. Leakey)

Which technique:
- makes it easier to understand the text?
- is more helpful in developing reading ability?

1. Compare the two ways of reading a text: reading silently and reading aloud:
- Understanding the text: Teachers may intend to help students by reading the text aloud to
them, but it can in fact make reading more difficult. In silent reading, students can all read at
their own speed, and if they do not understand a sentence they can go back and read it again.
If the teacher is reading the text aloud, this is impossible - everyone must follow at the
speed set by the teacher.
- Developing reading ability: When students read English - in the future (e.g. for studying,
reading instructions, reading magazines), they will need to do so silently and without help,
so this is the skill they need to develop. We need to give them practice in looking at a text

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and trying to understand it, without always hearing it at the same time.
- Control of the class: Teachers often prefer to read the text themselves because it seems to
give them more control over the activity; but of course they cannot be sure that the students
are actually following the text at all. In silent reading, nothing seems to be happening, but
students are in fact concentrating on the text and thinking about meaning.

2. Individual students read aloud in turn:

Reading aloud can be useful at the earliest stages of reading (recognising letters and
words); it can help students to make the connection between sound and spelling.
ii) For reading a text, it is not a very useful technique, because:
- Only one student is active at a time; the others are either not listening at all or are
listening to a bad model.
- Students' attention is focused on pronunciation, not on understanding the text.
- It is an unnatural activity - most people do not read aloud in real life.
- Because students usually read slowly, it takes up a lot of time in class.
iii) Reading aloud is very difficult - many people find it hard to read aloud in their own
language. So if a teacher wants students to read aloud, it should be the final activity at the
end of a reading lesson.



Reading in real life:
- In real life, we do not normally read because we have to but because we want to. We usually
have a purpose in reading: there is something we want to find out, some information we
want to check or clarify, some opinion we want to match against our own, etc. We also have
a purpose in reading when we read stories for pleasure: we want to find out how the story
develops, 'what happens next'.
- We do not usually begin reading with a completely empty mind - we have some idea of
what we are going to read about. We will usually have certain questions in our mind (things
we want to know), and we may also be able to make a number of predictions or guesses
(things we expect to find out about).

Read the following texts. What questions might you have in mind as you start reading, and what
guesses you might make about the text? The following examples show how headlines, chapter
headings or book cities often make us think about the text before we begin to read.

Example one
A newspaper article, with the headline 'Plane crashes in desert'. (The article will probably give
details of the crash, explain how it happened, what caused it, etc. Questions the reader might
have in mind: Which desert? Where? Any survivors? How did it happen? Whose fault? Which airline?
Perhaps - Was anyone I know involved?)
Example two

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A chapter in a popular science book called Mosquitoes.

(The chapter may tell us what mosquitoes look like, what their life cycle is, and perhaps how
they spread malaria and how people are trying to control them. We might want to know: Why do
only some mosquitoes carry malaria? How do they spread the disease? What chance is there of controlling
it? etc.)

Example three
A romantic story called 'The quiet stranger'. The first line is 'The first time Vanessa met Jonathan, she
did not notice anything unusual about him'.
(We would probably wonder: Who is Vanessa? Is Jonathan the quiet stranger? Why is he quiet?
Where did they meet? What will she notice about him? Will she fall in love with him?)

Questions and guesses like these make us want to read (because we want to know the answers),
and they also help us to read (because we are looking for particular information as we read and
we can partly predict what we will find in the text).
In fact, in English classes the situation is often very different. Usually students read a text not
because they want to, but because the teacher tells them to, or simply because it is there - it is
the next activity in the textbook. So to help them to read, it is important to give the students
some reason for reading and to give them information they want to find the answer to. This can
be done in two ways:
- By giving a few questions for students to think about as they read, and discussing the answers
afterwards. (These are called 'guiding questions' or 'signpost questions'.
- By organising an activity before students read the text, which arouses their interest in the topic
and makes them want to read. Activities of this kind are called 'pre-reading activities' or 'pre-
reading tasks'.

There are various things we can do before reading a text which will make it easier for students to
understand the text and help them focus attention on it as they read. They include:
- giving a brief introduction to the text;
- presenting some of the new words which will appear in the text;
- giving one or two 'guiding' questions (orally or on the board) for students to think about as they

a. Introducing the text

It is important to introduce the theme of the text before we ask students to read it. This serves two
- To help students in their reading, by giving them some idea what to expect.
- To increase their interest and so make them want to read the text.

One way to introduce the text is just to give a simple sentence (e.g. in the above text: "We are
going to read about fossils. The text tells us how animals and plants become fossils.”). This could be in
English or in L1.

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A more interesting way would be to have a short discussion, to start students thinking about the
topic (e.g. in the above text: 'Do you know how fossils are formed? Where do they come from? Have you
ever seen a fossil? What was it like?').

Note that teachers should not say too much when introducing a text, or they will 'give away' what
it has to say, and kill the students’ interest instead of arousing it.

This is an example of a bad introduction which gives too much away: 'You are going to read a text
about fossils. The text tells us that very few animals become fossils. When they die, most animals are eaten
by insects or by other animals. To become a fossil, the animal must be buried soon after it dies.'

 Activities to introduce the text

Suppose that you are looking at the picture of the earthquake in Japan. Think of what seems to
have happened and where it might be.

The following are different pre-reading activities (A, B or C).

Work in groups. Do one of these activities before you read the text.

You are going to read a text-about the earthquake in the picture.
What would you like to know about the earthquake? Write down at least five questions, which you hope
the text will answer.

B. You are going to read a text about the earthquake in the picture. Try to imagine what the text will tell
you about:
buildings boats people hills around the city trains the land and the sea

C. You are going to read a text about the earthquake in the picture.
Here are some words and phrases from the text. Can you guess how they are used in the text?
the sea-bed the Richter scale a huge wave
tremors massive shocks having a bath Tokyo and Yokohama

Now read the text.

At two minutes to noon on 1 September 1923, the great clock in Tokyo stopped. Tokyo Bay
shook as if a huge rug had been pulled from under it. Towering above the bay, the 4,000 metre
Mount Fuji stood above a deep trench in the sea. It was from this trench that the earthquake
came, at a magnitude of 8.3 oh the Richter scale.
The sea drew back for a few moments. Then, a huge wave swept over the city. Boats were
carried inland, and buildings "and people were dragged out to sea. The tremors dislodged part of
a hillside, which gave way, brushing trains, stations and bodies into the water below. Large
sections of the sea-bed sank 400 metres; the land rose by 250 metres in some places and sank
in others. Three massive shocks wrecked the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama and, during the next
six hours, there were 171 aftershocks.

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The casualties were enormous, but there were also some lucky survivors. The most remarkable
was a woman who was having a bath in her room at the Tokyo Grand Hotel. As the hotel
collapsed, she and her bath gracefully descended to the street, leaving both her and the
bathwater intact.
(from Earthquakes and Volcanoes: S. Steel)

These activities are alternatives, and the teacher would use only one of them in class; they are
presented together here to show a range of possibilities.
Other possible types of pre-reading activity, e.g.:
- Students are given sentences which refer to the text, and they guess whether they are true or
- Students are given a summary of the text with gaps; they try to guess what words should go
in the gaps.
- Students are given the topic of the text; they write a list of things they know and things they
do not know about the topic.
- If the text puts forward an opinion, students discuss the topic beforehand and give their own
point of view.

b. Presenting new vocabulary

• We do not need to present all the new words in a text before the students read it; they can
guess the meaning of many words from the context. An important part of reading is being able
to guess the meaning of unknown words, and we can help students to develop their reading
skills by giving them practice in this. Only the words which would make it very difficult to
understand the text need to be presented beforehand; other words can be dealt with after
reading the text.

Look at this example:

The children were bleebing all over the playground.

Students guess what the nonsense word 'bleebing' means. It should be possible to guess that:
- it is a verb (from the form);
- it involves movement (because of 'all over');
- it is something children do, e.g. playing or running.

• Read the text and try to understand the general meaning of the story. (All the words in italics
are nonsense words.)

A country girl was walking along the snerd with a roggle of milk on her head. She began
saying to herself. “The money for which I will sell this milk will make me enough money to
increase my trund of eggs to three hundred. These eggs will produce the same number of
chickens, and I will be able to sell the chickens for a large wunk of money. Before long, I will
have enough money to live a rich and fallentious life. All the young men will want to many me.
But I will refuse them all with a ribble of the head – like this …”
And as she ribbled her head, the roggle fell to the ground and all the milk ran in a white stream
along the snerd, carrying her plans with it.

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- It is quite possible to understand a text without understanding every word, and it is possible
to guess many unknown words from their context.
- Asking students to try to guess the meaning of new words helps to focus attention on them,
and makes them want to know what the words mean. (see the text about the doctor and his
patient in the workbook – Task 3)

c. Guiding questions
Before the students read the text, the teacher can give one or two guiding questions (either orally
or written on the board), for students to think about as they read.
Look again at the guiding questions for the text above: ('Only very few animal remains become fossils.
Why?' 'How can the soft parts of animals become fossilised?' 'What kinds of fossils are often found in
The purpose of these questions:
- To give the students a reason to read, by giving them something to look for as they read the
- To lead (or 'guide') the students towards the main points of the text, so that after the first
reading they should have a good general idea of what it is about.

To achieve their purpose, guiding questions should be concerned with the general meaning or with
the most important points of a text, and not focus on minor details; they should be fairly easy to
answer and not too long.

Here are a few examples of good and bad guiding questions for text 1 above:
Good: Very few animal remains become fossils. Why? What kind of fossils are found in
caves? How do animals become fossils?
Bad: What is a fossil? (we already know the answer)
What are hyenas? (focuses on a single difficult word)
Where did the volcano erupt? (a detail)
Why did the site near Lake Victoria contain such well-preserved fossils? (question
too long and difficult to understand)

 Preparing for silent reading

Workbook Task 2

Texts are usually used in English classes for two main purposes:
- As a way of developing reading comprehension - by looking at the text and trying to
understand its 'message' (what it has to say).
- As a way of learning new language - by looking at the text and focusing on particular words

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and expressions.

Often, these two aims are combined in a single lesson. First, students read the text and try to
understand it. After they have understood its general meaning, the teacher goes through the text
again, checking detailed comprehension and also focusing on important new vocabulary.

VI.2.1 Checking comprehension

While-reading activities
Different reading comprehension tasks and exercises focus on different reading sub-skills.
Teachers need to recognize which sub-skill a task focuses on.
Teachers need to choose comprehension tasks very carefully. They need to be of an
appropriate level of difficulty and practice relevant reading sub-skills.

a. Completing a table
Good questions should help the students to read by leading them towards the main ideas of the
text. But answering questions is not the only way of doing this; we can also give students a task
to do as they are reading: for example, they might read a text and label a diagram; read and
choose a picture chat fits the meaning of the text; read sentences which are not in the correct
order and rearrange them; read and draw a picture, etc. One of the simplest kinds of reading
task is for students to read a text and note down the main information in the form of a table or
chart; this helps students to organise the information in a text in a clear and logical way. (This
kind of task is sometimes called 'information transfer'.)

- The main purpose of completing the table is to help focus students' attention on the main
points of the text, and make it easier for them to organise the information in their minds.
- Completing the table does not replace asking questions. Questions are still necessary to
check detailed comprehension, as students could fill the table in without fully understanding
the text. Trying to complete the table should make the students more interested in answering
the questions and finding out the meaning of unfamiliar words.

This type of task can be used with most texts which give factual information, and also with
many texts which tell a story. It is easy for the teacher to prepare and organise, and requires no
special aids or materials except the blackboard and the students' own exercise books.
Alternatively, the teacher may decide which paragraph to use this task and which other
paragraphs to ask and answer the questions or other appropriate tasks. (Refer to the text of the
earthquake above and also the types of task suggested in part c below.)

b. Comprehension questions
Look at text 1 again. Here are a series of comprehension questions and they require short
answers. (Possible answers are given in brackets.)
How old are most fossils? (very old, thousands of vents old)
Do most animals become fossilised? (no, very few)
Do most fossils get discovered? (no, very few)
An animal or a plant dies. What's left? (the remains)

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Will the remains become a fossil? (not always)

What has to happen? (it has to be buried)
And if it isn't buried, what happens? (it's destroyed)
What is it destroyed by? (animals, insects, scavengers, the sun, rain, etc.)
What do insects do? (they, eat the flesh of animals)
What are hyenas? (a kind of wild dog)
What do they do? (eat the flesh and bones)
Can you guess what 'scavengers' are? What other animals are scavengers? (rats,
jackals, vultures, crows)

Note that the main purpose of asking comprehension questions should be to lead students to
look closely at the main points of the text, and to help them understand it. To achieve this:
- It is best to ask a series of short, simple questions which help to 'break down' the meaning
of the text and make it easier to understand.
- Students should only be required to give short answers (the aim is to check comprehension,
not to get students to reproduce the text).
- Students should keep their books open, so that they can refer to the text to answer the
- Even if the textbook contains good comprehension questions, it is often a good idea for the
teacher to ask his or her own questions first; the teacher can be more flexible and modify
questions if the students do not understand. The 'set' questions in the book could be
answered afterwards in pairs, or the answers written in class or for

c. Using questions on a text

Here are some of the questions which followed the text on the earthquake in Japan.
1. What time did the earthquake start? What time did it finish?
2. Did it start: a) in the mountains?
b) in the sea?
c) in the city?
3. Beside each sentence, write T (= true), F (= false) or DK (= we don't know from the text).
a) Parts of the sea became deeper.
b) A hillside slid down onto the city.
c) Most people died by drowning.
d) The Grand Hotel survived the earthquake.
e) The woman in the bath survived the earthquake.

Note that there are two main aims in asking questions on a text:
- To check comprehension - to show how well the students have understood the text, and what
needs to be more fully explained.
- To help the students read the text. If the questions are good ones, they should focus students'
attention on the main points and lead them to think about the meaning of the text.

To achieve these aims, the teacher must make sure that the whole class is involved in answering
the questions and that students know why answers are right or wrong; the questions should not

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be used simply to 'test' the students, but to lead them towards an understanding of the text.

These three teachers used the questions in different ways:

Teacher A:
My students sat in groups to answer the questions. Then, we went through the answers together.

Teacher B:
I asked my students to write the answers to the questions. Then we went through the answers together.

Teacher C:
I asked the questions round the class, and got different students to answer.

Which approach do you think is the most effective? Why?

- Getting students to work in groups and getting them to write the answers (teachers A and B)
are, both good ways of involving the whole class. When the teacher goes through the
answers afterwards, all the students are likely to be interested in the answers and to want to
discuss them.
- Or these two techniques (A and B), group work encourages more discussion, and so makes
students think more carefully about the meaning of the text; it also gives a chance for good
students to help those who are weaker. However, getting students to write the answers is
easier to organise and control, and so may be more suitable for a large class. (Students
should of course only be asked to write short answers - the aim is to check comprehension,
not to practise writing.) '
- Answering questions orally round the class (teacher C) is a very common technique, but not
usually a very successful one for large classes. As only one student answers each question,
most of the class do not need to pay attention, and it is difficult for the teacher to see
whether students have really understood the text.

 Comprehension text and questions

Read the text and answering the following questions:

Yesterday I saw the palgish flester gollining begrunt the bruck. He seemed verychanderbil, so I
did not jorter him, just deapled to him quistly. Perhaps later he will bestand cander, and I will
be able to rangel to him.

1. What was the flester doing and where?

2. What sort of a flester was he?
3. Why did the writer decide not to jorter him?
4. How did she deaple?
5. What did she hope would happen later?
Cambridge University Press, 1996
You probably had no difficulty in answering the questions; however, this obviously did not
show that you had understood the passage!
The conclusion has to be that answering ‘comprehension questions’, as such, may not
encourage, or provide proof of, successful reading.

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What is it about these questions which make them answerable in spite of the
incomprehensibility of the source text?

That is because their vocabulary simply echoes the text, while the grammar of both text and
questions is fairly obvious and corresponds neatly, so that if you recognize the grammar
context, you can simply slot in the appropriate vocabulary.

 Read the text and answering the following questions:

Yesterday, I saw the new patient hurrying along the corridor. He seemed very upset, so I did
not follow him, just called to him gently. Perhaps later he will feel better, and I will be able to
talk to him.

1. What is the problem described here?

2. Is this event taking place indoors or outside?
3. Did the writer try to get near the patient?
4. What do you think she said when she called to him?
5. What might the job of the writer be?
6. Why do you think she wants to talk to the patient?
Cambridge University Press, 1996

Here, the reader would have to understand the content of the passage in order to answer these
The questions here are different in that they do not quote verbatim from the text but paraphrase
it, or request paraphrases, or invite some measure of interpretation and application of the
reader’s background knowledge. They thus demand real comprehension, and encourage an
interactive, personal ‘engaging’ with the text, as well as being more interesting to do.
Interpretative questions often have more than one possible answer and can be used as a basis
for discussion.
However, one disadvantage of the conventional text-plus-questions remains: the reader has no
particular motive to read the text in the first place.

 Types of Reading comprehension questions

• Questions for literal comprehension. (Answers directly and explicitly available in the
• Questions involving reorganization or reinterpretation. (Require Ss to obtain literal
information from various parts of the text and put it together or reinterpret it)
• Questions for inferences. (what is not explicitly stated but implied)
• Questions for evaluation or appreciation. (making a judgement about the text in terms of
what the writer is trying to convey)
• Questions for personal responses. (reader’s reaction to the content of the text)

 Making inferences
Making inferences means “reading between the lines”, which requires the reader to use
background knowledge in order to infer the implied meaning of the author.
e.g. What can you infer from the following?

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• Blandida is a country which has every climatic condition known to man.

• When she came into the room, the large crowd grew silent.
• The painting had been in the family for years, but sadly Bill realised he would have to sell it.

VI.2.2 Learning new language

While checking comprehension, the teacher may refer to some new language that hasn’t been
dealt with in the pre-reading stage by using definition questions, do not ask What does
..... mean?

Many teachers, including native speakers, find explaining new items difficult. It is a skill
which students will not need outside the classroom, and something they will find extremely
difficult. There is, therefore, no point in asking students What does ……. mean? Experience
shows that if they are asked this question they normally respond with a simple translation.
Providing that is all the teacher expects, the question occasionally has a limited use.
In doing word study, however, the ‘definition question’ is much more valuable – the teacher
provides the definition, and invites the student to use a new word.
T What word in the text means very very big?
S1 Enormous.
T Good yes, and what word means worried and upset?
S2 Anxious
T That’s right, can we all say that, please – anxious.
Ss. Anxious.

As this short transcript shows, definition questions have two important advantages – the teacher
does the difficult work of verbalizing a definition, and the students have to locate and say the
new word or phrase.
The same technique can be used for functional phrases where the teacher asks a question such
What phrase does John use when he wants to tell Mary the best thing to do next? (Why don’t you
…. )?
Definition questions are an important part of the teacher’s strategy in following up the
presentation of new language in a text, and also from a tape recording.

 Recommendations for efficient reading: (Cambridge University Press 1996)

1. Make sure your students get a lot of successful reading experience: through encouraging
them to choose their own simplified readers, for example, and giving time to read them.
2. Make sure that most of the vocabulary in reading texts is familiar to your students, and that
words that are unknown can be either easily guessed or safely ignored.
3. Give interesting tasks before asking learners to read, so that they have a clear purpose and
motivating challenge. Or use texts that are interesting enough to provide their own motivation.
4. Make sure that the tasks encourage selective, intelligent reading for the main meaning, and
do not just test understanding of trivial details.

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5. Allow and encourage students to manage without understanding every word by the use of
scanning tasks, for example, that require them to focus on limited items of information.
6. Provide as wide a variety of texts and tasks as you can, to give learners practice indifferent
kinds of reading.

 Eliciting a personal response

Task III.2. Eliciting a personal response

i) The questions in group A are straightforward comprehension questions, focusing on the text
itself. The questions in group B all go beyond the text; they require students to respond to the
text and to contribute something personal that comes from their own experience or expresses
their own feelings.
ii) The questions in group B show three possible ways of eliciting a personal response from
- By asking students to match what they read against their own experience.
- By asking students to imagine themselves in a situation related to the text but beyond
their own experience.
- By asking students to express feelings or opinions.

The value of asking questions of this kind as part of a reading activity:

- Because they are talking about themselves, students usually want to answer questions like
these; so it will also make them more interested in reading the text.
- An important part of reading in real life is comparing what we read with our own
experience; for example, it is interesting to read about another country because we can
compare it with our own, or we can imagine ourselves being there. So questions in class
which ask the student to give a personal response are natural questions to ask about a text.
- Although personal questions go beyond the text, they also focus students' attention on the
text itself and make them read it carefully.

Note that such questions would not replace 'normal' comprehension questions, but be used in
addition to them. To make reading a text interesting, it is important to include a variety of
different activities: activities before reading the text, and questions and tasks of different kinds
after reading the text.


If texts are fairly short and simple; and contain language which is useful for students to
produce as well as understand, they can be used as a basis for language practice. This practice
should of course only be done after the students have understood the text completely.
Any of these activities could be done after the students have read the text in Workbook - Task 4.

Which type of activity do you think is most useful?

Which is least useful?

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Discussion questions
Do you think he was a good doctor? How do you thin the young man felt?

Reproducing the text

Tell part of the story from these prompts: Doctor - village - annoyed. People - stop - street -
advice. Never paid - never - money.

Role play
Act out the conversation between the doctor and the young man.

Copy and fill the gaps:
One day, the doctor ............................................... by a young man.
The doctor .............................................. interested.
He left the man in the street with his tongue out.

Note that some of the activities (discussion questions, role play) use the theme of the text as a
basis for free language practice; others (gap-tilling, reproducing the text) give practice in the
language contained in the text.


As well as knowing what questions to ask, teachers also need to know how to organise
question and answer work in class. There are many different ways of asking questions:
teachers can ask each student in turn round the class; they can let any student call out the
answer; they can choose a student to answer; they can get the class to answer in chorus, and so
on. These are called questioning strategies (or 'nomination strategies').

Look at the pictures of four different strategies for asking questions in class in the Workbook, and
recognize what questioning strategies they show:
A) The teacher asks questions and simply lets students call out answers. If students call out
different answers at the same time, the teacher chooses one student to give the answer
B) The teacher asks a question, then pauses to give the whole class a chance to think of the
answer. Then the teacher chooses one student to answer. Students are not allowed to call
out the answer or to raise their hand.
C) The teacher first chooses a student (by pointing or saying the student's name), and then
asks the student a question. If the student cannot answer it, the teacher passes it on to the
next student.
D) The teacher asks a question and lets students raise their hand if they think they know the
answer. The teacher chooses one of the students with their hands raised to answer.

Note that there is no single 'best' strategy - it is important for teachers to be aware of different
possible strategies and to be flexible. Pay attention to these points:

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- With a large class, strategy A can be effective for simple questions with Yes/No answers.
Otherwise, it is likely to be too noisy and uncontrolled - It would, of course, be suitable for a
small class where there are no discipline problems (e.g. a group of adults).
- Strategy B keeps the class involved but still under control. It enables the teacher to give a
chance to weaker students as well as more confident ones, although if the questions are too
difficult it may make students feel threatened. In general, it is a good strategy for routine,
fairly easy questions.
- Strategy C is highly controlled, but is not a good way of keeping the attention of the class,
as all the students except the one answering the question can 'switch off. In general, it is
better to ask the question first and then choose who is to answer it.
- Strategy D encourages bright students and makes the class seem to be successful because
students are volunteering answers. But if it is the only strategy used, it allows the class to be
dominated by the best students while weaker and shy students tend to be excluded; it also
makes it easy for students to avoid answering questions. In general, it is a good strategy to
use for difficult questions that only some students will be able to answer.


1. Too many new words make a text impossible.

Most language teachers have, as students, had the experience of using a dictionary with a text
containing a high density of new items and, after checking all the new words, still having little
or no idea of the meaning of the text as a whole. Although it may be a good idea to leave
students to guess the meaning of a few words from context, in order to do this they have first to
be able to understand the majority of the text. If there are more than about 6 new words per 100
‘running words’ (i.e. all the words of the text) it is too difficult. Difficulty does not increase
with the number of new words as in figure 1, but more rapidly, as in figure 2.

Fig 1 Fig 2
No matter how much preparation is done on a passage containing too many items, it will not
help significantly. Too much new material simply can not be mastered at one time.
2. Nothing is “interesting” if you can’t do it.
Teachers are often keen, particularly when looking for texts for students, to find something
‘interesting’. Although the aim is a good one, there is a serious difficulty attached to it. The
teacher who finds an article in a newspaper or magazine is frequently tempted to use it with a

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class. It is important to remember before you do this that your vocabulary is probably at least
twice that of even the best foreign learners below university level.
The criterion for choosing a text must be ‘will these students find this interesting? ‘the answer
to that questions can not possibly be “Yes” unless those students can understand it without
great difficulty. Nothing is more depressing than struggling word- by- word at snail’s pace
through a piece of material so that you can do something with it or talk about it only to find that
understanding the material has taken so long that the interesting follow up activity lasts only a
moment or two or disappears altogether.
3. Distinguish between intensive and extensive reading.
Intensive reading means students are expected to understand everything they read and to be
able to answer detailed vocabulary and comprehension questions.
Extensive reading means students have a general understanding of the text without necessarily
understanding every word. Intensive reading helps to improve extensive reading, but the latter
also needs to be practiced, principally to give students confidence in dealing with authentic
Too often teachers plough through the text in a uniform fashion, dealing with all the material
intensively, thereby ensuring it takes too long, interest is lost, and an important language skill
which needs to be practiced is ignored.
Even if a text is to be dealt with largely intensively, it helps to encourage students to get a
general understanding first by using pre- questions. In the early stages of students’ learning
programs it is helpful to introduced texts containing some unknown language, but where
students will know enough to understand the gist. Having taken such a text into class, however,
it is then essential that the teacher is not tempted to explain all the words, or to ask too many
questions. All that needs to be done is to encourage students to pick out particular information,
and equally important, to encourage students not to worry at ignoring other, perhaps quite
large, sections of the text which are not relevant to the task they have been given.
Teachers used to a traditional, structural approach expect the texts of their textbooks to be
carefully structurally graded. The implicit assumption is that all the material in the textbook
will be dealt with intensively. It is particularly important for these teachers to realize that when
authentic material is presented at an early stage in modern textbooks, its objectives are different
and, if they approach such material intensively, they will de - motivate their students, and
create problems for their students and themselves. On the other hand, if they approach such
material extensively they will see that it can have a very positive effect on their students, who
realize that, even with the little English at their disposal, they can actually use ‘real’ English
language materials.
4. Do not ask students to read aloud unseen.
Reading aloud is a very difficult skill. Unseen texts probably contain new vocabulary items
which students will not know how to pronounce; dialogues may require particular intonation
patterns unfamiliar to students. Unprepared reading will be hesitant, unnatural and difficult for
other students to follow.

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Asking a student to read aloud unseen also means that he may concentrate so hard on
pronouncing the word that he will be unable to concentrate adequately on their meaning too.
He may read correctly but afterwards will not be able to tell you what he has read!
The first reading is best done by the teacher or on tape. Alternatively the class may prepare
silently, with the teacher helping individuals with difficulties. Prepared reading will always be
more effective than unseen and preparation time is certainly not wasted.
5. Vary the method of reading.
The simplest method of reading, frequently forgotten by language teachers, is silent reading. It
is the method we normally use with our native language, and on the whole, the quickest and
most efficient. It is the only method which is appropriate for extensive reading. Silent reading
must, of course, be followed by questions to ensure that all the class did read and understand
the appropriate section
Silent reading is often ignored because teachers see reading aloud as a way of teaching
pronunciation. This is most unsatisfactory. Teachers must understand that text should only be
read aloud which have been written to be read aloud – poetry, rhymes and dialogues. Very few
prose texts are intended to be read aloud and asking students to do so is to ask them to do
something completely unnatural.
If teachers insist on reading aloud, there are two golden rules – it must be prepared; it must be
done in a variety of ways.
a. at very low level: the teacher reads, followed by the class reading chorally sentence by
b. also for low level: the class repeat chorally after the tape (more difficult than after the
c. the teacher reads a paragraph, then the class reads the paragraph chorally, possibly
followed by an individual reading the same paragraph
d. an individual reads sentence by sentence after the teacher.
e. the class is divided into groups and each group prepares a paragraph, the one
representative from each group reads so that the whole text is read aloud.
f. with dialogues, students prepare in pairs and then all students read aloud in pairs
simultaneously before one pair reads aloud for the whole class.
Texts are a part of the lesson which can easily drag and, as they so frequently come at the
beginning of the lesson, they can create a dead and deadening atmosphere. Varying the method
of reading minimizes the possibility of the text killing the lesson.
6. Students cannot use what they cannot say.
Teachers sometimes ask after the text has been read Is there any thing you don’t understand? and,
even more foolishly, Is there anything you can’t say? It is not completely clear how the student is
supposed to answer this second question!
The wise teacher, before going on to comprehension questions, or other material which exploits
the text, does brief choral and individual pronunciation (CIP) of all the items students may find
it difficult to say. Using the technique CIP as many as a dozen items can be practiced in this

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way in a matter of three or four minutes. This time is far from wasted as it increases students’
confidence before going on to the principal work of exploiting the new material of the text.
7. ‘Difficult’ words are not the same as long words.
A word has an appearance, a sound and a meaning. A word will be “difficult” for students if
any one of those factors confuse.
a. if the pronunciation is not reflected by the spelling, teachers should ensure that they give a
model pronunciation and follow with choral and individual repetition.
b. If the word looks similar in the students’ own language but is different in meaning, particular
attention should be drawn to it.
c. If the word looks similar, and has a similar meaning, teachers tend to ignore it; because
students can understand it, teachers do not see that it can still be ‘difficult’
In examining, explaining and practicing “the difficult words”, teachers need to think of each of
spelling, pronunciation, and meaning and not concentrate only on the last.
8. Not all comprehension questions check understanding.
Notice what happens with the following text and ‘comprehension’ questions:
The sharve thrang up the hill.
T What did the sharve do?
S1 Thrang up the hill.
T Good. Where did it thring?
S2 Up the hill.
T Good. What thrang up the hill?
S3 The sharve.
T That’s right. And how did it get there?
S4 It thrang.
T That’s right. can you give me the principal part?
S5 Thring, thrang, thrung.
T Good. Now, do you think it was tired when it got to the top?
Ss ???

It is possible to produce a nonsense text, and ask questions which are all correctly answered but
none of which exhibit any kind of understanding – how can they when the text is nonsense!
There are three types of ‘comprehension questions’:
a. Those where the answer may be read directly from the text.
b. Those where the answer is a simple structural manipulation of the grammar of the text.
c. External questions – it is necessary to understand how the words of the text relate to
something outside the text. In the example it was only the last question which was a genuine
comprehension question in this way.
The first kind of question – where the answer can be read – is almost useless except perhaps for
checking that students know where you are in the text. The second kind is useful only for

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intensive language practice – if the teacher wishes students to say a particular word or phrase.
To check understanding, it is only the third kind of question which is effective.
The easiest way to construct questions of this kind is to ask questions which expect the answer
No; the question is in some way based on a false assumption. A short example illustrates this:
Mr. Smith hates getting up early. He loves to stay in bed late. During the week he gets up at 8
o’clock but at weekends he sometimes stays in bed until 10.
Does Mr. Smith like get up early?
Does he get up at the same time every day?
He gets up at 9 o’clock on Saturdays, doesn’t he?

These questions, because they introduce external ideas, do test comprehension. An

understanding of hate, for example, involves understanding that is ‘not liking’. An
understanding of weekend, means identifying it with Saturday.
In general, comprehension questions which require the responder to ‘correct’ the questioner, do
test comprehension.
9. Use comprehension questions and conversation questions together.
Comprehension questions are about the text; conversation questions about the students.
Conversation questions involve the students individually and personally responding to what
they are studying.
Comprehension questions used alone make the text remote, and unless it is of exceptional
interest, rather boring. Conversation questions involve individuals but do not keep the class
moving forward together. Combined, the lesson develops with every one involved, and
individuals personally involved.
Here is a simple example:
When she opened the envelope and read the letter, she found she had won the first prize: £
5,000! She wondered whether to spend it or save it.
What did she find out from the letter?
How do you think she felt? How would you feel?
Did she know what to do with it?
What would you do with £ 5,000?

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Listening is one of the lour language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Like reading, listening
is a receptive skill, as it involves responding to language rather than producing it. Listening involves
making sense of the meaningful (having meaning) sounds of language. We do this by using context and our
knowledge of language and the world.


- We cannot develop speaking skills unless we also develop listening skills; to have a successful
conversation, students must understand what is said to them. Later, the ability to understand spoken English
may become very important (for listening to the radio, understanding foreign visitors, studying, etc.). To
develop this ability, students need plenty of practice in listening to English spoken at normal speed.
- Listening to spoken English is an important way of acquiring the language - of 'picking up’ structures and
vocabulary. In a situation where learners are living in a country where English is the first language, they
have plenty of 'exposure' to the language - they hear it all the time, and can acquire it more easily than
learners who do not hear English spoken around them. So we need to give these learners as much
opportunity to listen to spoken English as possible.


Listening involves understanding spoken language, which is different from written language.

Written language in English Spoken language in English

Stays on the page and doesn't disappear. Disappears as soon as it is spoken. Sometimes it is
spoken fast and sometimes slowly, with or without
Uses punctuation and capital letters to show Shows sentences and meaningful groups of words
sentences. through stress and intonation.
Consists of letters, words, sentences and Consists of connected speech, sentences, incomplete
punctuation joined together into text. sentences or single words.
Has no visual support - except photos or pictures The speaker uses body language to support his/her
sometimes. communication; for example, gestures (movements of
hands or arms to help people understand us), and facial
expressions (the looks on our face). This helps the
listener to understand what the speaker is saying.

Is usually quite well-organised: sentences follow Is not so well organised; e.g. it contains interruptions,
one another in logical sequences and are joined to hesitations, repetitions and frequent changes of topic.
previous or following sentences.

Usually uses quite exact vocabulary and more Often uses rather general vocabulary and simple
complex grammar. grammar.

Here is an example of spoken language. You can see that it can be less well organised and less
exact than written language:

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FATHER: How's your homework? You know, your history?

SON: Easy.
FATHER: You sure?
SON: It's just... I mean all we need to do is, well, just read some stuff.
FATHER: But d'you understand it?
SON: Yeah. Can I go and play with Tom?

To help us understand spoken language we need to use the context the language is spoken in and our
knowledge of the world. In this example, our knowledge of relationships between fathers and sons, and of
children's attitudes to homework helps us understand, but if we knew the context of the conversation (e.g.
the place where it took place, the father's and son's body language, their attitudes to homework), we would
understand more.
When we listen, we also need to be able to understand different kinds of spoken text types such as
conversations, stories, announcements, songs, instructions, lectures and advertisements. They contain
different ways of organising language and different language features, and some consist of just one voice
while others consist of more.
We also need to understand different speeds of speech. Some people speak more slowly and with more
pauses. Others speak fast and/or with few pauses. This makes them more difficult to understand. We need
to understand different accents too (e.g. Scottish or Australian English).
But we do not listen to everything in the same way. How we listen depends on our reason for listening. We
might listen for gist, specific information, detail, attitude (listening to see what attitude a speaker is
expressing), or do extensive listening.
We can see that listening involves doing many things: dealing with the characteristics of spoken language;
using the context and our knowledge of the world; understanding different text types; understanding
different speeds of speech and accents; using different listening sub-skills, such as:

• Hearing the differences between common sounds

• Identifying important words in what someone has just said
• Understanding and responding to simple instructions and commands
• Recognising basic differences in information (e.g. commands vs questions)
• Following a simple narrative spoken by the teacher with the help of pictures
• Recognising the sound patterns of simple rhyming words
• Understanding the development of simple stories
• Understanding and responding to simple requests and classroom instructions
• Identifying main ideas


1. I have trouble catching the actual sounds of the foreign language
2. I have to understand every word; if I missed something, I feel I am failing and get worried and
3. I can understand people if they talk slowly and clearly; I can’t understand fast, natural native-
sounding speech.
4. I need to hear things more than once in order to understand.
5. I find it difficult to ‘keep up’ with all the information I am getting, and can not think ahead or
6. If the listening goes on a long time I get tired, and find it more and more difficult to


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1. Trouble with sounds.

Since most listeners rely mostly on context for comprehension, they are often themselves unaware of
inaccurate sound perception.

2. Have to understand every word.

This is a very common problem, often unconsciously fostered by teachers and /or listening
comprehension materials which encourage the learner to believe that every thing that is said bears
(equally) important information. The effort to understand every thing often results in ineffective
comprehension, as well as feeling of fatigue and failure. We may need to give learners practice in
selective ignoring of heard information – something they do naturally in their mother- tongue. Word
should explain this point to the learners, and set them occasional tasks that ask them to scan a
relatively long text for one or two limited items of information.

3. Can’t understand fast, natural native speech.

Learners will often ask teachers to slow down and speak clearly – by which they mean pronounce each
word the way it would sound in isolation; and the temptation is to do as they ask. But if teachers do,
they are not helping students to learn to cope with everyday informal speech. They should be exposed
to as much spontaneous informal talk as they can successfully understand as soon as possible; and it is
worth taking the time to explain to them why. One of the advantages of teacher- produced talk is that
the teacher can provide them with this sort of discourse at the right level for them, getting faster and
more fluent as their listening skills develop.

4. Need to hear things more than once.

There may be very good pedagogical reasons for exposing learners to texts more than once. But the
fact remains that in real life they are often going to cope with ‘one – off’ listening; and we can
certainly make a useful contribution to their learning if we can improve their ability to do so. We can
for example, try to use texts that include ‘redundant’ passages and within which the essential
information is presented more than once and not too intensively; and give learners the opportunity to
request clarification or repetition during the listening.

5. Find it difficult to keep up.

Again, the learner feels overloaded with incoming information. The solution is not (so much) to slow
down the discourse but rather to encourage them to relax, stop trying to understand everything, learn to
pick out what is essential and allow themselves to ignore the rest.

6. Get tired.
This is one reason for not making listening comprehension passages too long overall, and for breaking
them up into short ‘chunks’ through pause, listener response or change of speaker.


In most cases, the listening materials in the classroom are daily conversations or stories, but in reality,
we listen to far more things.

• Telephone conversations about business;

• Lessons or lectures given in English;
• Instructions in English;
• Watching movies in English;
• Dealing with tourists;
• Interviews with foreign-enterprises;
• Socializing with foreigners;

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• Listening to English songs;

• Radio news in English;
• Conversations with foreigners;
• Watching television programmes in English;
• Shop assistants who sell goods to foreigners;
• International trade fairs;
• Negotiations with foreign businessmen;
• Hotel and restaurant services.

In real life, there are two ways in which we often listen:

- 'Casual' listening: Sometimes we listen with no particular purpose in mind, and often without much
concentration. Examples of this kind of listening are: listening to the radio while doing some housework;
chatting to a friend. Usually we do not listen very closely, unless we hear something that particularly
interests us, and afterwards we may not remember much of what we heard.
- 'Focussed' listening: At other times we listen for a particular purpose, to find our information we need to
know. Examples of this kind of listening are: listening to a piece of important news on the radio; listening to
someone explaining how to operate a machine. In these situations, we listen much more closely; but we do
not listen to everything we hear with equal concentration – we listen for the most important points or for
particular information. Usually, we know beforehand what we are listening for (the things we want to
know), and this helps us to listen.

Focussed listening
In class, we are usually concerned with the second kind of listening: we expect the students to listen closely
and remember afterwards what they heard. But if we just ask the class to 'listen' and we ask questions
afterwards, we are giving them a very difficult task. We can make it easier by telling them beforehand what
to expect and what to listen for — this will help them to focus their listening.
There are two ways of doing this: by giving a simple listening task and by giving guiding questions.

Demonstration one
i) The teacher will talk to students about himself/herself (or, if he/she prefers, someone else or an imaginary
person). The teacher includes the information students need to complete the table, but add other details as
well. Students listen and write notes in the table.

Home town

ii) The teacher then asks students to tell him/her the main points they noted down.

Demonstration two
i) The teacher tells the students that he/she will read them a text in which someone remembers things he did
when he was a child. The teacher asks students to listen and try to find the answers to the questions in the
task below.
b. You will hear a text about someone's childhood. Listen and try to answer these questions.
1. Where did he stay?
2. What does he say about

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- the river?
- his bicycle?
- the fruit trees?

ii) Read this text aloud:

I remember when I was a child we often went to stay with my grandfather - he had a farm in the country, and we
used to stay there, and I had a wonderful time - there was so much for a child to do there. I remember there was a
small river that ran past the farm, and I used to go swimming in it - I suppose the water must have been fairly
clean. And another thing I remember was - I had a bicycle and I rode it round and round the fields, and along the
river bank, too. And what else? Oh yes, climbing trees. There were quite a lot of fruit trees on the farm, peaches
and apricots, mostly, and I used to climb these trees and pick the fruit for my grandfather. Of course sometimes 1
climbed them and picked the fruit when he wasn't looking as well, but I don't think he ever found out!

iii) The teacher goes through the answers to the questions. If necessary, the teacher reads the text a second

Note that the table and the questions serve the same purpose:
1. they focus the students’ attention by giving them something specific to listen for;
2. they give them a reason to listen and also help them to listen by leading them towards the
main points.


A teacher used this dialogue for listening. How could the teacher help her students to listen?

Doctor: Now then, what seems to be the matter?

Peter: Well, I've got a sore throat. I’ve had it for three days now. It's really sore - it hurts when I try to
swallow, and it's very painful if I try to eat anything hard, like bread or anything like that. And I feel a
bit cold and shivery all the time.
Doctor: Open your mouth and let's have a look.


Well, you've got a throat infection, but it's nothing serious. Here you are — take this to the chemist's
and he'll give you some tablets to take. That should clear it up. If it isn't better in two or three days,
come and see me again.

1. Which sentences are true, which are false?

a) Peter has a sore throat.
b) He feels hot.
c) He can't eat bread.

The teacher really only tested the class's comprehension by asking questions; when he/she found that they
did not understand she moved to reading. Below are some ways the teacher could do to help the students to
listen and so improve their listening skills.

- She could introduce the topic before getting the class to listen to the dialogue, e.g. by discussing
what you say when you go to the doctor, what the doctor does, etc. This would help the students to
predict what the dialogue would be about. If necessary, the teacher could also present new
vocabulary at this point.

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- She could give one or two 'guiding questions' before the listening stage, e.g.:
o What's wrong with Peter's throat?
o What does the doctor do?
This would help focus students’ attention on the main points of the dialogue.

- She could divide the listening into stages, e.g.:

o First listening: Students listen for main idea only, to answer the guiding questions.
o Second listening: Students listen for details, e.g. How exactly does Peter feel? What things
does he have to do?
For the second listening, the teacher could divide the dialogue into two sections, and check
comprehension after each section. (This would be very important with a longer piece of

Below is a possible procedure for using the dialogue:

i) Introduce the topic.

ii) Give guiding questions.
iii) Read the dialogue. Students listen for the main idea and answer guiding questions.
iv) Read the first part again, and ask questions to check detailed comprehension. Do the same with the
second part.
v) Students open their books. Read the dialogue while students follow.

- If this procedure were followed, the questions in the book would be unnecessary, or could be used
as written exercises for homework.
- Although you used a dialogue in your demonstration, exactly the same techniques could be applied
when using a text for listening.


1. Using a cassette recorder for listening activities does have some advantages and problems:
- The cassette recorder gives a chance for students to listen to a variety of voices apart from the
teacher's, and it is a way of bringing native speakers' voices into the classroom. Students who have
only heard English spoken by their teacher often have difficult understanding other people.
- Recorded material is useful for listening to dialogues, interviews, discussions, etc. where there is
more than one person speaking. Otherwise the teacher has to act the part of more than one person.
- Listening to a cassette recording is much more difficult than listening to the teacher. When we
listen to someone 'face to face', there are many visual clues (e.g. gestures, lip movements) which
help us to listen. When we listen to a cassette these clues are missing.
- In a large class with bad acoustics, listening to a cassette may be very difficult indeed. Up to a
point, trying to listen to something that is not clear can provide good listening practice, but if it is
too difficult it will just be frustrating.

2. An important part of listening is being able to 'catch' words and phrases that we hear; students who have
not had much chance to listen to English often fail to recognise words that they already know. The cassette
recorder is very useful for giving practice in this, because the cassette can be stopped and a phrase played
over and over again. This kind of listening practice is often called 'intensive listening'.

Below is a possible procedure for teaching a spoken text using a cassette recorder:

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i) Introduce the listening, and give one or two guiding questions.

ii) Play the cassette once without stopping, and discuss the guiding questions.
iii) Play the cassette again. This time, focus on important points, pausing and asking what the person said
each rime. If teachers are unable to 'catch' the remark, rewind the cassette a little way and play it again.

Note that the aim is to focus on the most important remarks only, but not of course to go through the
whole of a listening text phrase by phrase!


An important part of the skill of listening is being able to predict what the speaker is going to say
next; as we saw earlier, we can help students to listen by giving them some idea of what they are going to
listen to.
When doing listening activities in class, we can also ask students to guess what they are going to
hear next; this will help them develop listening skills, and is also a good way to keep the class actively
involved in listening. This technique is especially useful for telling stories to the class; a natural part of
listening to an interesting story is to wonder what will happen next.
The teacher tells the students an imaginary story about himself/herself (or, even better, a real one).
The teacher stops frequently, and ask them to guess what you are going to say next. Try to get as many
suggestions as possible each time, e.g.:
A few nights ago, I was asleep at home as usual. At about three o'clock in the morning . . . (What happened?)
... I was suddenly awakened by a noise ... . (What noise?) ... of rushing water . . . (What was it?) It came from
the bathroom, so I got up and went to investigate . . . (What was it?) I found to my dismay that the cold water
pipe had burst and water was pouring all over the floor . .. (So what did I do?) So I got a bucket and put it
underneath . . . (What should I have done?) Then I realised what I should have done. I went out into the hall
and turned off the mains tap. After your demonstration, discuss the technique. Make these points: - Asking
questions keeps the class involved, and is also a way of checking that the students are following the story. (It
is, of course, a technique used by story-tellers everywhere.)
 The same technique can be used with any kind of story - a story about yourself, a historical story, a folk
tale, or a fable. Stories are one of the easiest ways for teachers to give listening practice if there are not
enough listening activities in the textbook.


1. No overt response
The learners do not have to do anything in response to the listening; however, facial expression and body
language often show if they are following or not.

• Stories. Tell a joke or real-life anecdote, retell a well-known story, read a story from a book; or play
a recording of a story. If the story is well-chosen, learners are likely to be motivated to attend and
understand in order to enjoy it.
• Songs: Sing a song yourself; or play a recording of one. Note, however that, if no response is
required learners may simply enjoy the music without understanding the words.
• Entertainment; films, theater, video. As with stories, if the content is really entertaining
(interesting, stimulating, humorous, dramatic) learners will be motivated to make the effort to understand
without the need for any further task.

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2. Short responses

• Obeying instructions. Learners perform actions, or draw shapes or pictures, in response to

• Tick off items. A list, text or picture is provided: listeners mark or tick off words/ components as
they hear them within a spoken description, story or simple list of items.
• True / false. The listening passage consists of a number of statements, some of which are true and
some false (possibly based on material the class has just learnt.) learners write ticks or crosses to indicate
whether the statements are right or wrong; or make brief responses.
• Detecting mistakes.
The teacher tells a story or describe something the class know, but with a number of deliberate mistakes
or inconsistencies. Listeners raise their hands or call out when they hear something wrong.
• Cloze.
The listening text has occasional brief gaps, represented by silence or some kind of buzz. Learners write
down what they think might be the missing word. Note that if the text is recorded, the gaps have to be
much more widely spaced than in a reading one; otherwise there is not enough time to listen, understand,
think of the answer, and write. If you are speaking the text yourself, then you can more easily adapt the
pace of your speech to the speed of learner responses.
• Guessing definitions.
The teacher provides brief oral descriptions of a person, place, action or whatever; learners write down
what they think it is.
• Skimming and scanning.
A not-too-long listening text is given, improvised or recorded; learners are asked to identify some general
topic or information (skimming), or certain limited information (scanning) and note the answer (s).
Written questions inviting brief answers may be provided in advance; or a grid, with certain entries
missing; or a picture or diagram to be altered or completed.

3. Longer responses

• Answering questions. One or more questions demanding fairly full responses are given in advance, to
which the listening text provides the answer(s). Because of the relative length of the answers demanded,
they are most conveniently given in writing.
• Note-taking. Learners take brief notes from a short lecture or talk.
• Paraphrasing and translating. Learners rewrite the listening text in different words; either in the
same language (paraphrase) or in another (translation)
• Summarizing
Learners write a brief summary of the content of the listening passage.
• Long gap-filling.
A long gap is left, at the beginning, middle or end of a text; learners guess and write down, or say, what
they think might be missing.

4. Extended responses

Here the listening is only a ‘jump-off point’ for extended reading, writing or speaking; in other words,
these are ‘combined skills’ activities.
• Problem-solving. A problem is described orally; learners discuss how to deal with it, and/ or write
down suggested solution.
• Interpretation.
An extract from a piece of dialogue or monologue is provided ,with no previous information; the listeners
try to guess from the words, kinds of voices, tone and any other evidence what is going on. At a more

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sophisticated level. A piece of literature that is suitable for reading aloud (some poetry, for example) can
be discussed and analyzed.


1. Multiple choice questions

You will hear an interview about snowboarding. For questions 1-7, choose the best answer A, B or C.
The recording will be played TWICE.
1 How long has Liz been snowboarding?
A. one year
B. five years
C. every year since she was a child
2 According to Liz, if you want to be a snowboarder
A. you have to be naturally sporty.
B. you need to be born with good co-ordination and balance.
C. you don't need long to acquire the skills.

2. Multiple choice questions with graphics

Choose the best answer to the following questions.

3. List selection

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4. Sentence completion

Listen to the recording and complete the sentences.

1. DJ-ing isn't the same as it was in _____________________________.
2. DJs often use ______________________________ turntables at the same time.
3. Many DJs are also _________________________________.

5. Summary completion

Complete the summary using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS or A NUMBER for each answer.
The Flagship of the Royal Fleet
The Mary Rose sank in the year 11..................... The king stood on the shore and watched her go clown. The ship
then lay on the sea bed for 12........................ years. In 1982 she was 13...................................... and brought back
to dry land. By analysing the 14............................ of the ship, scientists believe they are closer to learning why she

6. Note completion

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7. Completing diagrams

8. Completing flowcharts

9. Labeling graphs

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10. Completing tables/grids:

11. True / False (/ Not given)

You will hear a conversation between a boy, Cris and a girl, Amy in a computer shop.
Decide it each sentence is TRUE or FALSE. In your answer sheet, write T for True and F for False. The
recording will be played ONCE only.
True False
1. Cris has to pay the full cost of a new computer himself.

2. Amy thinks it would be better to buy a laptop.

3. Amy thinks the printer they look at is expensive.

12. Detecting & correcting mistakes

Listen to the man’s opinion about the restaurant he stayed in. Correct seven mistakes. You are allowed to
listen ONCE. flew
My friends and I walked down here to the beach for spring vacation. Of course we’re really excited about swimming,
and partying, and surfing the internet. Our hotel is full of families and little kids, though! The restaurants are excellent –
really crowded with kids, and noisy – and they’re really slow, too. The hotel should have one restaurant that’s just for
teachers, I think.

13. Ticking off items

Listen to four speakers talking about scams. Who is talking? Look at the chart, and check () the correct
column. You are allow to listen ONCE
Who…? Joe Rosa Peter Beth
did not think cautiously?
had lost his/her family members?
easily believed people?

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14. Cloze
Listen to three people sharing their opinions, then fill in the missing words.
I did like the fact that there were (1)_____________ responsibilities when I was twelve. I didn’t have (2)___________ to
pay, and I could spend all my time eating (3)_____________ and reading comic books and watching a lot of television.

15. Answering questions

Dr. Alexander, an expert on the brain, is giving a lecture. Briefly answer the following questions.
1. According to scientist, in what aspect are the brains of women and men the same?
2. Write ONE example of the tasks men are better at.


1. The tape recorder is just as important as the tape.

However good the tape is, it will be useless if the tape recorder has a poor speaker or if the motor speed
keeps changing and the tape goes faster or slower. Make sure that the tape recorder can be heard all round
the classroom. Remember too that if you want to use your tape recorder for music as well as speech you
may need a better machine.

2. Preparation is vital
Teachers and students need to be prepared for listening because of the special features of listening.
Teachers need to listen to the tape all the way through before they take it into class. That way, they will be
prepared for any problems, noise, accents, etc., that come up. That way they can judge whether students
will be able to cope with the tape and the tasks that go with it.
Students need to be made ready to listen. This means that they wick need to look at pictures, discuss the
topic, or read the questions first, for example, to be in a position to predict what is coming. Teachers will
do their best to get students engaged with the topic and the task so that they really want to listen.

3. Once will not be enough.

There are almost no occasions when the teacher will play a tape only once. Students will want to hear it
again to pick up things they missed the first time. You may well want them to have a chance to study some
of the language features on the tape.
The first listening is often used just to give students an idea of what the listening material sounds like so
that subsequent listenings are easier for students. Once students have listened to a tape two or three times,
however, they will probably not want to hear it too many times more.

4. Students should be encouraged to respond to the content of a listening, not just to the language.
As with reading, the most important part of listening practice is to draw out the meaning, what is intended,
what impression it makes on the students. Questions like:

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‘do you agree?’ are just as important as questions like:’ what language did she use to invite him?’

5. Different listening stages demand different listening tasks.

Because there are different things we want to do with a listening text, we need to set different tasks for
different listening stages. This means that, for a first listening, the task needs to be fairly straightforward
and general. That way, the students’ general understanding and response can be successful – and the stress
associated with listening can be neutralized.
Later listening, however, may focus on detail – of information, language use, pronunciation etc.

6. Good teachers exploit listening texts to the full.

If teachers ask students to invest time and emotional energy in a listening task – and if they have spent
time choosing and preparing the listening – then it makes sense to use the tape for as many different
applications as possible. Thus, after an initial play of a tape, the teacher can play it again for various kinds
of study before using the subject matter, situation or tape script for a new activity. The listening then
becomes an important event in a teaching sequence than just an exercise by itself.

7. What if students do NOT understand the listening tape?

• Introduce interview questions: Questions can be given first and students are encouraged to role-
play the interview before listening. This will increase their predictive power.
• Use ‘jigsaw listening’:
Different groups are given different bits of the tapescript. When the groups hear about each other’s
pieces of tapescript, they can get the whole picture.
• One task only:
Non-demanding tasks can be assigned such as listening and deciding on the sex, age, status of the
speaker or the setting of the listening.
• Use the tapescript:
- It can be cut into bits for students to put in the right order as they listen.
- Students can look at the tapescript to gain more confidence and ensure what the tape is about.
- Students can look at the tapescript before, during, or after they listen. The tapescript can also
have words or phrases blanked out.

8. Include both bottom- up and top- down listening techniques.

Bottom- up processing proceeds from sounds to words to grammatical relationships to lexical meanings,
etc, to a final message. Top-down processing is evoked from ‘a bank of prior knowledge and global
expectations’ and other background information that the listener brings to the text. Bottom-up techniques
typically focus on sounds, words, intonation, grammatical structures, and other components of spoken
language. Top down techniques are more concerned with the activation of schemata, with deriving
meaning, with global understanding, and with the interpretation of a text. It is important for learners to
operate from both directions since both can offer keys to determining the meaning of spoken discourse.
However, in a communicative, interactive context, you don’t want to dwell too heavily on the bottom – up,
for to do so may hamper the development of a learner’s all – important automaticity in processing speech.

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Speaking is a productive skill. It involves using speech to express meanings to other people.
Speaking covers a lot of categories like grammar and vocabulary; functions, features of connected
speech, appropriacy, body language and interaction.
Interaction is two-way communication that involves using language and body language to keep
our listener involved in what we are saying and to check that they understand our meaning.
Examples of these interactive strategies are: making eye contact, using facial expressions, asking
check questions (e.g. Do you understand?), clarifying your meaning (e.g. I mean …, What I’m
trying to say is …), confirming understanding (e.g. mm, right).
We speak with fluency and accuracy. Fluency is speaking at a normal speed without hesitation,
repetition or self-correction, and with smooth use of connected speech. Accuracy in speaking is the
use of correct forms of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.
When we speak, we use different aspects of speaking depending on the type of speaking we are
involved in. If you go to a shop to buy some sweets and ask the shopkeeper “How much?”, then
leave after s/he replies, you don’t use many of them. If you go to the bank to ask the bank manager
to lend you £50 000, you will probably need to use many more. If you eat a meal with all your
relatives, you will also use many in conversation with them. Therefore, speaking is a complex


1. Language features

Among the elements necessary for spoken production are the following:

• Connected speech: effective speakers of English need to be able not only to produce the
individual phonemes of English ( as in the saying I would have gone) but also to use fluent
‘connected speech’(as in I’d’ve gone). In connected speech sounds are modified (assimilation),
omitted (elision) added (linking r), or weakened (through contractions and stress planning). It is for
this reason that we should involve students in activities designed specifically to improve their
connected speech.
• Expressive devices
Native speakers of English change the pitch and stress of particular parts of utterances, vary
volume and speed, and show by other physical and non- verbal (paralinguistic) means how they are
feeling (especially in face to face interaction). The use of these devices contributes to the ability to
convey meanings. They allow the extra expression of emotion and intensity. Students should be
able to deploy at least some of such supra-segmental features and devices in the same way if they
are to be fully effective communicators.
• Lexis and grammar: spontaneous speech is marked by the use of a number of common lexical
phrases, especially in the performance of certain language functions. Teachers should therefore
supply a variety of phrases for different functions such as agreeing or disagreeing, expressing
surprise, shock or approval. Where students are involved in specific speaking contexts such as a job

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interview, we can prime them, in the same way, with certain useful phrases which they can produce
at various stages of an interaction.
• Negotiation language: effective speaking benefits from the negotiatory language we use to
seek clarification and to show the structure of what we are saying. We often need to ‘ask for
clarification’ when we are listening to someone else talk. For students this is especially crucial. A
useful thing teachers can do, therefore, is to offer them phrases such as the following:
(I’ m sorry) I didn’t quite catch that.
(I’m sorry) I don’t understand.
What exactly does X mean?
Could you explain that again please?

2. Mental/ social processing

If part of a speaker’s productive ability involves the knowledge of language skills, success is also
dependent upon the rapid processing skills that talking necessitates.
• Language processing: effective speakers need to be able to process language in their own
heads and put it into coherent order so that it comes out in forms that are not only comprehensible,
but also convey the meanings that are intended.
Language processing involves the retrieval of words and phrases from memory and their assembly
into syntactical and propositionally appropriate sequences. One of the main reasons for including
speaking activities in language lessons is to help students develop habits of rapid language
processing in English.
• Interacting with others.
Most speaking involves interaction with one or more participants. This means that effective
speaking also involves a good deal of listening, an understanding of how the other participants are
feeling, and a knowledge of how linguistically to take turns or allow others to do so.
• (On-the-spot) information processing: quite apart from our response to others’ feelings, we
also need to be able to process the information they tell us the moment we get it. The longer it takes
for the ‘penny to drop’ the less effective we are as instant communicators. However, it should be
remembered that this instant response is very culture- specific, and is not prized by speakers in
many other language communities.


1. Learners talk a lot

As much as possible of the period of time allotted to the activity is in fact occupied by learner
talk. This may seem obvious, but often most time is taken up with teacher talk or pauses.

2. Participation is even
Classroom discussion is not dominated by a minority of talkative participants: all gets a chance
to speak, and contribution is fairly even distributed.

3. Motivation is high
Learners are eager to speak: because they are interested in the topic and have something new to
say about it, or because they want to contribute to achieving a task objective.

4. Language is of an acceptable level

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Learners express themselves in utterances that are relevant, easily comprehensible to each
other, and of an acceptable level of language accuracy.


1. Inhibition
Unlike reading, writing and listening, speaking requires some degree of real- time exposure to
an audience. Learners are often inhibited about trying to say things in a foreign language in the
classroom: worried about making mistakes, fearful of criticism or losing face, or simply shy of
the attention that their speech attracts.

2. Nothing to say
Even if they are not inhibited, teachers often hear learners complain that they can not think of
any thing to say: they have no motive to express themselves beyond the guilty feeling that they
should be speaking.

3. Low or uneven participation

Only one participant can talk at a time if he or she is to be heard; and in a large group this
means that each one will have only very little talking time. This problem is compounded by the
tendency of some learners to dominate, while others speak very little or not at all.

4. Mother-tongue use
In classes where all, or a number of, the learners share the same mother- tongue, they may tend
to use it: because it is easier, because it feels unnatural to speak to one another in a foreign
language, and because they feel less ‘exposed’ if they are speaking their mother- tongue. If they
are talking in small groups it can be quite difficult to get some classes – particularly the less
disciplined or motivated ones – to keep to the target language.


1. Use group work.

This increases the sheer amount of learner talk going on in a limited period of time and also
lowers the inhibitions of learners who are unwilling to speak in front of the full class. It is true
that group work means the teacher can not supervise all leaner speech, so that not all utterances
will be correct, and learners may occasionally slip into their native language; nevertheless, even
taking into consideration occasional mistakes and mother- tongue use, the amount of time
remaining for positive, useful oral practice is still likely to be far more than the full – class set –

2. Base the activity on easy language.

In general, the level of language for a discussion should be lower than that used in intensive
language – learning activities in the same class: it should be easily recalled and produced by the
participants, so that they can speak fluently with the minimum of hesitation. It is a good idea to
teach or review essential vocabulary before the activity starts.

3. Make a careful choice of topic and task to stimulate interest.

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On the whole, the clearer the purpose of the discussion, the more motivated participants will be.

4. Give some instruction or training in discussion skills.

If the task is based on group discussion then include instructions about participation when
introducing it. For example tell learners to make sure that every one in the group contributes to
the discussion; appoint a chairperson to each group who will regulate participation.

5. Keep students speaking the target language.

The teacher might appoint one of the group as monitor, whose job it is to remind participants to
use the target language, and perhaps report later to the teacher how well the group managed to
keep to it. Even if there is no actual penalty attached, the very awareness that someone is
monitoring such lapses helps participants to be more careful.
However, when all is said and done, the best way to keep students speaking the target language
is simply to be there yourself as much as possible, reminding them and modeling the language
use yourself: there is no substitute nagging.


VI.1 Controlled speaking activities
 We can develop learner’s skills by focusing regularly on particular aspects of speaking,
e.g. fluency, pronunciation, grammatical accuracy, body language.
 In many classes, learners do controlled practice activities (activities in which they can
use only language that has just been taught). These are a very limited kind of speaking
because they just focus on accuracy in speaking and not on communication,
interaction or fluency. Controlled practice activities can provide useful, if limited,
preparation for speaking.
 Tasks and less controlled practice activities give some more opportunity than controlled
activities for learners to practice communication, interaction and fluency.
 Sometimes learners speak more willingly in class when they have a reason for
communicating, e.g. to solve a problem or to give other classmates some information
they need.
 Because speaking is such a complex skill, learners in the classroom may need a lot of
help to prepare for speaking, e.g. practice of necessary vocabulary, time to organize
their ideas and what they want to say, practice in pronouncing new words and
expressions, practice in carrying out a task, before they speak freely.
 Learners, especially beginners and children, may need time to take in and process all the
new language they hear before they produce it in speaking.

Look at the controlled speaking activities in the Workbook and think of the way you can organize
each of them.
- Pattern practice: This can be done in pairs. Any controlled oral practice can be done first with
the whole class, and then in pairs.

- Practising short dialogues: Acting out short dialogues can very easily be done in pairs, with
little chance of students making mistakes. It can be done first with pairs of students in front of the
class, and then with all the students working in pairs at the same time.

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- Reading a text and answering questions: Students can discuss questions in pairs or groups and
then read the text; or they can read the text silently, and then ask and answer questions in pairs or
groups. This is a good way of involving the whole class in answering questions.

- Grammar exercises: Students can do grammar exercises orally in pairs; the teacher goes
through the answers afterwards with the whole class, and students write the exercise for homework.
This is more interesting and productive than students doing exercises alone, in silence.

VI.2 Communicative speaking activities

The aim of these activities is to bridge the gap between language practice in the classroom and
real-life communication.

A. Look at the three short conversations in the Workbook and discuss:

- in what situation each conversation might take place in real life;
- why the person might be asking the question.

There are of course many possible answers, e.g.:

- Father asking mother about daughter - he has just arrived home and she is not in the room, so he
wonders where she is.
- A friend calling at Hana's house and asking her mother - she wants to go out with her.
- Someone being interviewed for a job (e.g. as a secretary). The interviewer needs to know because
the job involves typing.
- Someone enquiring about a room which they want to rent, or someone booking a room in a hotel;
they want to know if it is suitable.

From the discussion, bear in mind these main points:

- In all the conversations, the two people are genuinely exchanging information. There is
something that one person does not know and wants to find out, and that is why he or she is asking
a question. We can say that the person has a 'communicative need’.
- Although this is not the only reason why people communicate in real life, it is one of the main
reasons; very often we talk in order to tell people things they do not know, or to find things out
from other people.

B. Now, look at the picture of the room in part B of the Workbook and imagine that it is being used
for language practice in class.
Compare this activity with the conversations in part A, and remember these points:
- In part B, the students are asking and answering questions, but they are not genuinely
exchanging information. They are not asking the questions in order to find out anything they need
to know (for example, they do not really want to know how many chairs there are, because they can
see that there are two). So they do not have any 'communicative need'.
- The students are using similar language to the people in the 'real life' conversation, but the
purpose of the questions is quite different - it is simply to practise language.

Although activities like this provide useful language practice, they are often not very, interesting,

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because there is no real purpose in asking the questions, nor any need to listen to the answers. The
activity would become more interesting if we could create a reason for asking the questions. We
can do this by hiding the information, either from all the students or from some students, so that
there is something they need to find out. This is sometimes called an 'information gap1 - one person
has information which another does not have, so there is a need to communicate. In this part, you
will deal with three simple kinds of 'information gap' activity: guessing games, information gap
exercises for pairwork, and activities in which students exchange personal information.


1. A guessing game using a picture. Use the picture below, or any other fairly simple picture which
shows people engaged in some activity (it could be a picture from a magazine or a drawing).

i) Tell the students that you have a picture (but do not show it to them). In the picture there are a
man, a woman and a train. They must find out exactly what the picture looks like by asking
questions. You can only answer 'Yes' or 'No' - but you can help them by giving hints (e.g. 'You still
don't know where the train is').
ii) When they have a clear idea of the picture, they should try to draw it.
ii) Finally, show them the picture.

Compare it with the way the picture was used in Activity 1:

- Hiding the picture gives students a genuine reason to ask questions: there is information they
need to find out. They also have to listen carefully to the answers, so that they can draw the picture.
- Although the activity as a whole is controlled by the teacher, the students are mainly asking
questions that they want to ask, not ones the teacher tells them to ask.

2. Read through the following three examples of guessing games and comment briefly on each one
and discuss what other language could be practiced using the same technique. Note that they could
all be used either as fairly free activities (perhaps for general revision of vocabulary), or as an
interesting way to give quite controlled structure practice. Although they are called ‘games’, they
provide intensive language practice, especially in asking questions – so they should not just be
regarded ad an ‘extra’ activity.

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Different ways of organising guessing games. Look at the pictures and discuss the two techniques.

Here are two ways of organising guessing games in class. Which do you think is better? Why?

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Remember these points:

- In any guessing game, it is a good idea for the teacher to stand aside and let students take over
the activity (as shown in both pictures).
- The technique shown in the left-hand picture (one student at the front, the others guessing) gives
more students a chance to ask questions, but in a large class it might be difficult to involve all the
students. The technique shown in the right-hand picture (two students at the front, one guessing and
the rest of the class responding in chorus) is more highly organized and keeps the whole class
involved, although most students do not have to say very much - so it might be a useful technique
for a large class.
- Guessing games can also be organised with students working in small groups. The teacher gives
a picture or a" sentence to one student in each group, and the others in the group try to guess it. The
pictures or sentences can be circulated from one group to the next, so it is not necessary to produce
very many copies.

Other guessing games which are widely used in English language classes:
- Famous people: One student pretends to be a famous person (alive or dead) who is known to the
others. They try to guess who the person is, by asking questions, e.g.:
Are you alive or dead? (alive)
Are you English? (yes)
Are you a writer? (no)
- What's my line?: One student chooses a job, and mimes a typical activity which it involves. The
others try to guess the job by asking questions either about the activity or the job, e.g.
Were you mending something?
Were you digging?
Do you work outside?
- What and where?: The teacher sends two students out of the room.
The other students hide an object. The two students come back and guess what the object is and
where it is hidden, by asking questions,

Is it made of wood?
Is it a pencil?
Is it on this side of the room?
Is it high or low?

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a. 'Information gap' exercises

Many communicative activities are designed to be done by students working in pairs. To create a
need to communicate, the two students in each pair are given different information. The activity
can then work in various ways:
- One student has some information, and the other student has to find it
out by, asking questions.
- One student has some information and tells it to the other student.
- Both students have different information, and they tell each other.
Here are some exercises for pairwork. In each pair, the two students are given different information.

This morning Tonight Kim is going to stay at
home, because he wants to
Tomorrow write a letter to a friend.
morning Tomorrow morning he has
Tomorrow classes as usual at college; but
afternoon he has the afternoon free, so
he's going to help his father
Tomorrow repair the roof on their house.
evening In the evening he's been
invited out to a party.

Procedure: Students sit in pairs. In each pair, Student X has an empty grid, and Student Y has the
text, which he or she does not show to Student X. Student X completes the grid by asking
questions, e.g.: What's he going to do tomorrow afternoon?

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Procedure: Students sit in pairs. In each pair, Student X is a customer, and has a shopping list.
Student Y is a shop assistant, and has a list of items in the shop and their prices. They do not look
at each other's list, Student X tries to 'buy' the things on his or her list, e.g.:
A: Have you got any tea?
B: Yes, I have.
A: How much does it cost?
B: 50p a packet.

C. Find important differences:

Procedure: The two students in

each pair have pictures which
are identical except for some
important differences. They do
not look at each other's
pictures, but try to find the
differences by describing their
picture, e.g. 'In my picture
there's a boy lying in bed'.
When they find a difference,
they mark it on the picture.

Discuss the advantages and

problems of using activities
like these in class.
Advantages: They provide
intensive and interesting
language practice. Although
the exercises are quite
controlled and use simple
language, the students are
really exchanging information
and using language
Problems: They can easily be
done in a small class (up to 20
students). In a large class there
are the following problems:
- Preparation: for a class of
40, the teacher would have to
make 20 copies of each half of
the exercise.
- Organisation: the teacher would have to distribute 40 pieces of paper, make sure students in

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each pair get different parts of the exercise, and stop students looking at each other's information.
Discuss ways of adapting the activities for use in a large class:
- Exercise A: The students could copy the grid from the blackboard, then sit in groups. One student
in each group could be given the text, and all the others ask questions. So for a class of 40, the
teacher would only need to make about ten copies of the text.
- Exercise B: This could be done without any preparation by the teacher. Students could make
their- own lists, either of what they want to buy, or of what they have in the shop. (This could be
done for homework before the lesson.)
- Exercise C: Copies of the picture would have to be produced beforehand. The class could be
divided into two teams: team x has one picture (two or three students sharing), team y has the other.
Students from each team take it in turns to say something about their picture.

b. Exchanging personal information

One of the easiest and most interesting forms of communicative activity in the classroom is for
students to tell each other about their own lives, interests, experiences, etc. When students talk
about themselves, there is a natural 'information gap', because everybody has something slightly
different to say.
This is a simple activity in which students exchange information about their daily routine:
i) Ask students to look at the grid. Think of what questions they could ask about each topic, e.g.:
When do you get up?
When do you have breakfast? / What do you have for breakfast? When do you go to school? / How
do you go to school?

1. Work in pairs. Ask your partner questions about his or her daily routine.

Get up?
Go out?

Discuss the activity:

- Students are genuinely communicating - finding out things from each other that they did not
know already, and which they need to know in order to complete the grid. Completing the grid is
an essential part of the activity, because it makes the students listen to their partner's answers.
- The activity gives intensive practice of time expressions and questions and answers using the
present simple tense.

Design a similar activity, using a grid.

Suitable topics, e.g.:

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What people like and dislike.

What people are good/bad at doing. '
What makes people scared.
Experiences (things people have and haven't done).
Predictions (e.g. what people think will happen in the next ten years).
Opinions (e.g. about well-known people).

VI.3 Guided speaking activities

These activities aim at developing both accuracy and fluency.

3.1 Role play

What is meant by 'role play'?
i) Role play is a way of bringing situations from real life into the
classroom. When we do role play, we ask students to imagine.
They may imagine:
- a role: in other words, they pretend to be a different person (e.g. a farmer);
- a situation: in other words, they pretend to be doing something different (e.g. planning a
- both a role and a situation (e.g. a police officer asking about a lost bag).
ii) In role play, students improvise. The situation is fixed, but they make up the exact words to say
as they go along. (So reading a dialogue aloud is not the same as role play.)

Look at these examples of role play activities.

One student imagines he/she is a farmer. Other students ask him/her questions about his/her daily routine.

A group of students imagine they are friends planning a holiday together. They try to decide where to go and what to

One student has lost a bag. He/she is at the police station reporting it to the police. The other student is the police
officer, and asks for details.

- Which activity would be the easiest for your students to do? Which would be the most difficult? Why?
- What other roles and situations would be suitable for role play activities in your own class?

Remember that the situations we use for role play should as far as possible be within the experience
of the students. In general, the more familiar a role or situation is, the easier it will be. Suitable
roles for school classes would be:
- People familiar to students from everyday life, e.g. parents, brothers, sisters, teachers,
shopkeepers, police officers.
- Characters from the textbook, and from other books or from television.

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Suitable situations:
- Situations which students see or take part in in everyday life, e.g. shopping, holidays, using local
transport, asking the way to places.
- 'Fantasy' situations from stories they read, or from the textbook.

3.2 Improvising dialogues

Role play can often be based on a dialogue or text from the textbook. Used in this way, role play
gives students a chance to use the language they have practised in a more creative way.
Look at the dialogue. Read through the dialogue, and imagine that the teacher has already
presented and practised it.

1. What role play activities could be based on this dialogue?

Angela: Good morning. I want to send a letter to Singapore.

Clerk: Yes - do you want to send it air mail or ordinary-mail?
Angela: I think I'll send it air mail. I want it to get there quickly. How much does it cost?
Clerk: To Singapore? That will be 30 pence, please.
Angela: [gives the clerk 50 pence) Here you are.
Clerk: Here's your stamp, and here's 20 pence change.
Angela: Thank you. Where's the post box?
Clerk: You want the air mail box. It's over there, by the door.
(adapted from Living English Book, A. G. Abdalla et al.)

2. Plan a similar role play based on a dialogue or text in your textbook

Demonstrate a role play activity based on the dialogue.

i) Write these prompts on the board to guide the role play:
air mail / ordinary mail?
how much?
post box?
Talk as you write, to show what the prompts mean e.g.: Look — you should talk about these things.
First of all, say where you want to send the letter - to France, to Japan, to the next town?
Then - how do you want to send it? By air mail or by ordinary mail?
Next - ask how much it costs. Then ask about the post box. Where's the post box? And at the end,
of course you must thank the clerk - so say 'Thank you'.

ii) Call two students to the front: one is Angela, the other is the post
office clerk. They should improvise a conversation, using the
prompts to help them.

Note that:

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- The conversation should be similar to the one in the textbook, but not exactly the same. They
should think of new places, prices, etc., and the form of the questions and answers can be slightly
- The conversation can be shorter than the presentation dialogue. It should just cover the main
points indicated by the prompts.

The conversation might sound something like this:

Angela: Good morning. I want to send a letter to England.
Clerk: Yes. Do you want to send it by air mail?
Angela: Yes, please. How much does it cost?
Clerk: 50 cents.
Angela: Give me a stamp, please. Where is the post box?
Clerk: Over there, on the left. .
Angela: Thank you.

3.3 Interviews based on a text

Look at these texts. What role play activities could be based on these texts?


If you met 15-year-old Jane Cole in the street, you might not notice anything special about her. But she is no
ordinary schoolgirl, because as well as studying hard for her exams, she's training to take part in the
European table tennis championship this summer. Jane will be one of the youngest contestants, but those
who know her stamina and determination are confident that she will do well. Jane's main problem at the
moment is finding time for both table tennis and schoolwork. For the last month, she's been getting up at six
every day and doing an hour's table tennis practice before school: and then fitting in another hour w the afternoon.

Edward caught the express train early in the morning. He was going to the next town to visit his relations. He
had got up very early, and he felt tired, so he soon fell asleep. About an hour later, he woke up suddenly in
the middle of a dream. In his dream, he was in a crowded tunnel. People were pushing him from all directions,
and pulling at his clothes. As he woke up, he realised that it wasn't only a dream - somebody-was really
pulling at his coat pocket. He opened his eyes just in time to catch sight of a man slipping out of the
compartment. His hand went to his pocket -his wallet was missing! He jumped up and ran into the corridor. But
the man had vanished.
Demonstration one
i) Read through the first text, and then ask one student to come to the
front and take the role of Jane.
ii) The other students ask her questions about her training, free time, etc.
[Note: They should ask not only questions which have answers in the text (e.g. What time do you
get up?) but also questions which go beyond the text (e.g. Do you think you will win the
Why do you like table tennis?). The student acting the part of Jane does not have to answer using

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the exact words of the text.]

Prompt questions by suggesting topics, e.g.:

Ask her about her training.
What about the evenings?
Ask her about her friends.

Demonstration two
i) Read through the second text. This time ask students to think of three questions they would like
to ask Edward, and to write them down (they can do this working alone or in pairs).
ii) Ask one student to come to the front and take the role of Edward.
The other students ask him questions.
Discuss the activity:
Role play interviews are a way of bringing a text to life and making it seem real to the students, as
well as giving language practice.
- They are simple to organise, and can easily be done in a large class.
- The activity is more likely to be successful in a large class if all the students have a chance to
prepare questions (as in your second

3.4 Free role play

 Organising free role play

So far in this unit we have been concerned with fairly controlled role play, based on dialogues and
texts in the textbook. We will now consider freer kinds of role play, using situations which go
beyond the textbook.

Look again at the third example in Activity 1. C.

One student has lost a bag. He/she is at the police station reporting it to the police. The other student is the police
officer, and asks for details.

Note that, if this role play is not based on a text or a dialogue in the textbook, the students
themselves have to decide what language to use and how the conversation should develop. So in
order to use an activity like this in class, careful preparation would be necessary.

How to prepare for a role play like this in class:

i) The teacher could prepare with the whole class, by:
- discussing what the speakers might say (e.g. the police officer would ask the student how he/she
lost the bag);
- writing prompts on the board to guide the role play, and any key vocabulary.
ii) Divide the class into pairs , and:
- let them discuss together what they might say;

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- let them all 'try out' the role play privately, before calling on one or two pairs to act it out in front
of the class.

Now carry out the role play:

i) Tell the class the situation;

ii) Elicit from the class some of the questions the police officer might ask (e.g. when, where and
how he/she lost the bag; what it looks like; what it contains).

Build up a list of prompts on the board, e.g.:

When? Where? How?
Describe it - colour

iii) Divide the class into pairs to practise the conversation. One person in each pair should take the
role of the person who has lost the bag, the other should be the police officer.
iv) Ask one or two pairs to come to the front in turn and improvise the conversation.

It is also possible to ask students to prepare a role play for homework, to be performed later in
class. Outline one way of organising this:
i) Students divide into pairs or small groups, choosing their own partners. The teacher gives four or
five different role play situations. Each group chooses one of them.
ii) In their own time (outside the class), each group prepares their role play. They can ask the
teacher for help, but the teacher should not give them ready-made dialogues to learn.
iii) The teacher arranges a time for each group to perform their role play. This can be spread over
several weeks, with just five minutes of a lesson being used for two or three groups’ role plays.

 Situations for free role play

1. For free role play activities in classes, it is a good idea to choose situations which are not exactly
the same as those in the textbook, but which are based on the same general topics. These topics will
be familiar to the students, and they will be able to draw on language they have already learnt.

local place interests, sports

food and drink jobs
holidays, the world
school, education free time
home and family

2. Choose three of the topics. For each one, think of suitable situations for free role play. Examples:
Topic: School, education.
Situation: You meet some foreign visitors to your country. They are interested in your school.
Answer their questions about it
Topic: Health.

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Situation: A visitor to your town is ill. Find out what is the matter with him/her. Tell him/her
where to find a doctor.

- Role play increases motivation. Always talking about real life can become very dull, and the
chance to imagine different situations adds interest to a lesson. (Refer to the 'interview' role plays
you demonstrated. Talking about a sportsman's or sportswoman's work may be more interesting
than talking about your own.)
- Role play gives a chance to use language in new contexts and for new topics; (Refer to the free
role plays you demonstrated. Reporting a lost bag gives a chance to practise vocabulary of size,
shape, colour, clothing, etc., and also to use the past tense in a natural context.)
- Children and even teenagers and adults often imagine themselves in different situations and
roles when they play games. Sp by using role play in class, we are building on„something that
students naturally enjoy;
- Because they are 'acting out' a situation, role play encourages students to use natural expressions
and intonation, as well as gestures.

3.5 Discussion
One of the reasons that discussions fail is that students are reluctant to give an opinion in front of
the whole class, particularly if they can not think of anything to say and are not, anyway, confident
of the language they might use to say it. Many students feel extremely exposed in discussion
The ‘buzz group’ is one way in which a teacher can avoid such difficulties. All it means is that
students have a chance for quick discussions in small groups before any of them are asked to speak
in public. Because they have a chance to think if ideas and the language to express them with
before being asked to talk in front of the whole class, the stress level of that eventual whole- class
performance is reduced.

3.6 Prepared talks

A popular kind of activity is the prepared talk where a student (or students) makes presentation on
a topic of their own choice. Such talks are not designed for informal spontaneous conversation;
because they are prepared, they are more ‘writing- like’ than this. However, if possible, students
should speak from notes rather than from a script.
Prepared talks represent a defined and useful speaking genre, and if probably organized, can be
extremely interesting for both speakers and listeners. Just as in process writing, the development of
the talk, from original ideas to finished work, will be of vital important.

3.7 Questionnaires
Questionnaires are useful because, by being pre-planned, they ensure that both questioners and
respondent have something to say to each other. Depending upon how tightly designed they are,
they may well encourage the natural use of certain repetitive language patterns.
Students can design questionnaires on any topic that is appropriate. As they do so, the teacher can
act as a resource, helping them in the design process. The results obtained from questionnaires can
then form the basis for written work, discussions or prepared talks.

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VII.1 Introduction
Pairwork and groupwork involve:
- In pairwork, the teacher divides the whole class into pairs. Every student works with his or
her partner, and all the pairs work at the same time (it is sometimes called 'simultaneous
pairwork'). Note that this is not the same as 'public' or 'open' pairwork, with pairs of students
speaking in turn in front of the class.
- In groupwork, the teacher divides the class into small groups to work together (usually four
or five students in each group). As in pairwork, all the groups work at the same time.

Remember that pairwork and groupwork are not teaching 'methods', but ways of organising the
class. They can be used for many different kinds of activity; and are naturally more suitable for
some activities than for others.

These are three activities: the first two are examples of pairwork and the third is an example
of groupwork. The purpose of these activities is for you to gain the experience of doing
language practice in pairs and groups, as a basis for later discussion. They do not necessarily
show exactly what teachers would do in their own classes.

a) Activity A. This is an example of pairwork, used for controlled oral practice; it practises
vocabulary and conditional structures.

A. Work in pairs. Ask and answer the questions.

What happens if...

a) you eat unripe fruit?
b) you eat too much food?
c) you leave ice in the sun?
d) you drive over broken glass?
e) you drop a match into a can of petrol?
f) you sit in the sun too long?
g) you leave milk for a few days?

Now think of two more questions like this.

i) The teacher asks the first two questions to the whole class to see how the activity works.
(More than one answer is possible:
e.g. (a): You'll be sick/You'll get a stomach ache.
(b): You'll be sick /You'll get fat.)
ii) Students work in pairs to ask and answer the other questions.
iii) When most pairs have finished, go through the answers together.
iv) Ask some pairs to tell the questions they thought of themselves. Get other students to
answer them.

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b) Activity B. This is an example of a reading activity done in pairs. Students work together to
try to understand the text.

B. Work in pairs.
1. Can you answer these questions?
- What is acid rain?
- How is it caused?
- What damage does it do?

Read the text and find the answers.

Underline all the words in the text which you do not understand.
With your partner, try to guess what they mean.

Throughout Europe, and also in other areas of the world such as India. China and parts of America.
forests are being destroyed. According to one prediction, 90% of Germany's forests will have vanished by
the end of the century. This destruction is caused by air pollution. Power stations and cars are mainly
responsible — they emit gases into the air which, after a series of chemical changes, turn into toxic acids.
These acids fall as 'acid rain', raising the level of acidity in the soil, in lakes and in rivers to dangerous
levels, and destroying not only trees but also fish and other wildlife. The industrialised world is slowly
waking up to the fact that urgent action is needed to reduce air pollution, otherwise our environment will
be damaged beyond repair.

i) Work in pairs to do the activity.

ii) When most pairs have finished, discuss the questions together.

c) Activity C. This is an example of a discussion activity done in groups. This is a much freer
activity, and aims to develop fluency in speaking.

C. Work in groups.
nurse farm worker doctor taxi driver teacher engineer

Which of these people earns the most money in your country? Write them in a list starting with the highest
paid and ending with the lowest paid.
Who do you think should earn the most money? Who should earn more, and who should earn less?

i) Students work in groups of four or five. Read through the instructions to make sure that each
group understands what to do. Choose one ‘secretary' in each group to write the list - but
remember that everyone in the group should agree on what to write.
iii) When some groups have finished their discussion, ask one person from each group to report
on what they decided.

VII.2 The advantages and problems of pair/groupwork

 The advantages:

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i) More language practice: Pairwork and groupwork give students far more chance to speak
English. Refer to Activity A: working in pairs, each student makes seven sentences (either a
question or an answer). If the exercise were done 'round the class', students would only say one
sentence each, and in a large class many students would say nothing at all.
ii) Students are more involved: Working in pairs or groups encourages students to be more
involved and to concentrate on the task. Refer to Activity C: if this discussion were conducted with
the whole class together, it would probably be dominated by a few students and the others would
lose interest.
iii) Students feel secure: Students feel less anxiety when they are working 'privately' than when
they are 'on show' in front of the whole class. Pairwork and groupwork can help shy students who
would never say anything in a whole-class activity.
iv) Students help each other: Pairwork and groupwork encourage students to share ideas and
knowledge. In a reading activity (e.g. Activity B) students can help each other to explore the
meaning of a text; in a discussion activity (e.g. Activity C) students can give each other new ideas.

 About the problems, these are ways of overcoming them:

i) Noise: Obviously, pairwork and groupwork in a large class will be noisy, and this cannot be
helped. But:
- Usually the students themselves are not disturbed by the noise; it is more noticeable to the
teacher standing at the side or to someone in the next room.
- The noise created by pairwork and groupwork is usually 'good' noise - students using English,
or engaged in a learning task.

ii) Students make mistakes: During a pair or group activity, the teacher cannot control all the
language used, and should-hot try to do so. When doing controlled language practice in pairs or
groups, the number of mistakes can be reduced:
- By giving enough preparation. The activity can be done with the whole class first, and
pairwork used for the final stage.
- By checking afterwards. The teacher can ask some pairs or groups what they said, and then
correct mistakes if necessary.

iii) Difficult to control class: The teacher has less control over what students are doing in pairwork
and groupwork than in a normal class. To stop activities getting out of control, it is important to:
- give clear instructions - about when to start, what to do, and when to stop;
- give clearly defined tasks which do not continue for too long;
- set up a routine, so that students accept the idea o£ working in pairs or groups, and know
exactly what to do.

Teacher X had an intermediate class. She presented 'like / don't like', and then she used this exercise for freer
practice in pairs:
Exercise: Likes and dislikes
Pairwork. Ask what your friend likes and doesn't like. Ask about:
food sport music school subjects

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The pictures below show what she did before, during and after the activity.

Before: During: After

 Discuss why the activity in the workbook was not successful, and what the teacher could do
to make it more successful:
• Do you think the activity was successful?
• What do you think might have gone wrong?
• What could she do to make it more successful?
- She could prepare for the pairwork by establishing what the questions and answers should be.
She could also demonstrate the pairwork by asking questions round the class, or by getting one
pair of students to ask and answer in front of the class. Then students would know exactly what
to do.
- She could be more active in starting the pairwork. Instead of just saying 'Work in
pairs', she could show students who to work with, check that everyone had a partner, and
check chat everyone had started working in pairs. This would be very important if the
class were not used to pairwork.
- During the activity, she could move quickly round the class to check that students
were talking and to see when they finished.
- Instead of waiting for everyone to finish, she could stop the activity. Then there would
be no chance for students to get bored and start talking about other things.
- After the pairwork, she could ask some pairs what they said, or ask a few pairs to
repeat their conversation in front of the class.

 Demonstration
This is a demonstration to show how the activity could be conducted. Pay particular attention to the
way you organise the pairwork. A possible procedure:
i) Introduce the exercise and show what questions and answers students can give:
T: Now. You're going to talk about things you like and things you don't like. Look at the
exercise. What questions can you ask?
What about food? Ss: What food you like?
T: Good. What answer could you give? Ss: I like chocolate.
I like eating fruit.
I like rice.
(and so on)
Write the basic question on the board: What (food) do you like?

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ii) Ask a few questions round the class, to show the kind of conversation students might have:
T: What kind of music do you like? Miguel?
S: I like pop music.
T: Pop music. Which singer do you like best?
(and so on)
Ask two students to have similar conversations, while the others listen.
iii) Divide the class into pairs.

T: Now. You're going to work in pairs. (Indicate pairs by pointing, If there are single students left
without a partner, make groups of three.) Ready? Ask and answer the questions. First one
person asks all the questions, then change round. Start now.
iv) Students work in pairs. Move quickly round the class, checking that everyone is talking (but do
not try to correct mistakes, as this will interrupt the activity).
v) When most pairs have finished, stop the activity. Ask a few students what their partner said:
T: Joanna, tell me about Lisa. What does she like? S: She says she likes ice cream, pop
music, and swimming. And she likes English, but not every lesson. She doesn't like writing.

 How to organize pair/groupwork

Pairwork and groupwork, like any other class activity, can quickly become a routine. Once
students are used to it and have regular working partners, it can be organised quickly and easily
(for example, simply by saying 'Now get into your groups', 'Do this in pairs'). The first few
times that teachers try pair or groupwork are very important - they need to give more careful
instructions and know exactly how they will divide the class.

Discuss the best ways of forming pairs and groups in the class, and what instructions would be

Possible answers:
- For pairwork: Most students could work with the person next to them. Student 7 could turn
round and work with Student 13, and Students 8, 9 and 10 work as three together. Or: Student
10 could move to work with Student 11, and the front row could be divided into two pairs and
one three.
- For groupwork: Students could work in threes and fours along each row - this would be easy to
organise but would make it difficult for students to work well as a group, as they would be in a
straight line. Or: Students in the front row could turn round and form groups with those behind
(either three groups of three and one of four, or two groups of four and one of five).


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VIII. 1 Pre- speaking

1. Introduce the activity.

The introduction may simply be a brief explanation. It almost always should include a statement
of the ultimate purpose so that students can apply all the other directions to that objective.

2. Justify the use of small groups for the activity.

The teachers may not need to do this with the classes all the time, but if the students have any
doubts about the significance of the upcoming task, then tell them explicitly why the small
group is important for accomplishing the task. Remind them that they will get an opportunity to
practice certain language forms or functions, and that if they are reluctant to speak up in front
of the whole class, now is their chance to do so in the security of a small group.

3. Model the activity.

If the students have done the activity before, modeling may not be necessary. But for a new and
potentially complex task, it never hurts to be too explicit in making sure students know what
they are supposed to do. The modeling must be done first by the teacher and an individual or a
group, then two other individuals or groups will do it again for sure.

4. Give explicit detailed instruction.

Now that students have seen the purpose of the task and have had a chance to witness how their
discussion might proceed, give them specific instructions on what they are to do. Include:
 a restatement of the purpose
 rules they are to follow
 establish a time frame
 assign roles

5. Divide the class into groups.

To ensure participation or control, teacher may want to reassign groups in order to account for
one or two of the following:
 Native language
 Proficiency levels
 Age or gender differences
 Culture or sub cultural group.
 Personality types.
 Cognitive style preferences
 Cognitive / developmental stages ( for
 Interests
 Prior learning experiences
 Target language goals

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6. Check for clarification.

Before students start moving into their groups, check to make sure they all understand
their assignment. Do not do this by asking: ‘does everyone understand?’ Rather, test out
certain elements of the lead-in by asking questions like: ‘Keiko, please restate the
purpose of this activity’.

7. Set the task in motion.

VIII.2 While – speaking

Monitoring the task

The teacher now becomes a Facilitator and Resource. There may be actually a few
moment at the outset where the teacher does not circulate among the groups so that they
can establish a bit of momentum. The rest of the time it is very important to circulate so
that, even if the teacher has nothing to say to the group, s/he can listen to the students
and get a sense of individuals’ language production.
A few don’ts
 Do not sit at your desk and grade papers
 Do not leave the room and take a break
 Do not spend an undue amount of time with one group at the expense of
 Do not correct students’ errors unless asked to do so.
 Do not assume a dominating or disruptive role while monitoring groups.

VIII. 3 Post – speaking

1. Reporting on findings

Make sure that there is enough time for the groups to report their findings and the
teacher may entertain some brief discussion but be sure not to let that discussion steal
time from other groups. This whole – class process gives each group a chance to
perceive differences and similarities in their work.

2. Recording mistakes.

Teachers must observe, watch and listen to students when they are reporting so that they
can give feedback on how well students have performed. However, it easy to forget what
students have said after the event. Most teachers, therefore, write down points they want
to refer to later, and some like to use charts or other forms of categorization to help them
to do this, as in the following example.

 Teaching speaking strategies

The concept of strategic competence is one that few beginning language students are
aware of. They simply have not thought about developing their own personal strategies
for accomplishing oral communicative purposes. Your classroom can be one in which
students become aware of, and have a chance to practice such strategies as:

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• Asking for clarification (What?)

• Asking someone to repeat something (Huh ? Excuse me?)
• Using fillers ( Uh , I mean , Well ) in order to gain time to process.
• Using conversation maintenance cues (Uh, huh, Right. Yeah, Okay, Hmm.)
• Getting someone’s attention (hey, Say, So)
• Using paraphrases for structures one can’t produce.
• Appealing for assistance from the interlocutor ( to get a word or phrase, for
• Using formulaic expressions (at the survival stage) (How much does ---- cost?
How do you get to the -----?)
• Using mime and nonverbal expressions to convey meaning.


As with any other type of classroom procedure, teacher needs to play a number of
different roles during the speaking activities. However, three have particular relevance if
we are trying to get students to speak fluently:
• Prompter: students sometimes get lost, can not think of what to say next, or in some
other way lose the fluency we expect of them. We can leave them to struggle out of such
situations on their own, and in deed sometimes this may be the best option. However, we
may be able to help them and the activity to progress by offering discrete suggestions. If
this can be done supportively – without disrupting the discussion, or forcing students out of
role - it will stop the sense of frustration that some students feel when they come to a ‘dead
end’ of language or idea.
• Participant: Teachers should be good animators when asking students to produce
language. Sometimes this can be achieved by setting up an activity clearly and with
enthusiasm. At other times, however, teachers may want to participate in discussions or
role- plays themselves. That way they can prompt covertly, introduce new information to
help the activity along, ensure continuing student engagement, and generally maintain a
creative atmosphere. However, in such circumstances, they have to be careful that they do
not participate too much, thus dominating the speaking and draw all the attention to
• Feedback–provider: The vexed question of when and how to give feedback in
speaking activities is answered by considering carefully the effect of possible different
When students are in the middle of a speaking activity, over- correction may inhibit them
and take the communicativeness out of the activity. On the other hand, helpful and gentle
correction may get students out of misunderstandings and hesitations. Every thing depends
upon our tact and the appropriacy of the feedback we give in particular situations.
When students have completed an activity it is vital that we allow them to assess what they
have done and that we tell them what, in our opinion, went well. We will respond to the
content of the activity as well as the language used.

Feedback during fluency work: The way in which we respond to students when they
speak in a fluency activity will have a significant bearing not only on how well they

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perform at the time but also on how they behave in fluency activities in the future. We need
to respond to the content not just the language form; we need to be able untangle problems
which our students have encountered or encountering, but these are things we may do well
after the event, not during it. Our tolerance of errors in fluency sessions will be much
greater than it is during more controlled sessions. Nevertheless, there are times when we
may wish to intervene during fluency activities, just as there are ways we can respond to
our students once such activities are over.


1. Guessing games (Elementary) Using 20 Yes-No questions

Class has to guess, what object, person, action or place one student is thinking of or has a
picture of.

2. “What’s in the box?” (OBJECT)

One person or team thinks of an object. The others can ask up to 20 questions with Yes or
No answers in order to guess what the object is. If they guess less than 20 questions, they
have won. Questions like: Is it alive? Is it made of wood? Does it have 4 legs? Is it bigger
than a car? etc are possible.

3. Glug (ACTION)
Similar to ‘ what ‘s in the box’ except that glug stands for an action, e.g. ‘ dance’.
Questions like ‘Do you like glugging’? ‘Do you glug in the kitchen’? ’Have you glugged
today’? …. can be asked.

4. What’s my job? (PEOPLE)

Similar to ‘what’s in the box?’. Questions like ‘Do you wear a uniform’? ‘Do you travel a
lot’? ‘Do you work outside’?... can be asked.

Variation: Most names (Intermediate)

Step 1: Without letting the student see it, the teacher fixes a name tag to each student’s
Step 2: The students circulate around the room. They have to find out by asking yes/ no
questions ‘who ‘they are. They are not allowed to ask any one person more than three
questions. As soon as somebody has found out who he is, he tells the teacher. If he is right
he receives a new nametag. The student who has most nametags on his back – and thus has
guessed ‘his’ different personalities most quickly in a given time (20 minutes) is declared
the winner.

5. A day in the life (Intermediate)

Step 1. The class is divided into groups. One member of each group leaves the room.
Step 2. The remaining group members decide on how the person who is outside spent the
previous day. They draw up an exact time schedule from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and describe

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where the person was, what he did, who he talked to. So as not to make the guessing too
difficult, the ‘victim’s day should not be divided into more than six two- hour periods.
Step 3. The people who waited outside during step 2 are called in and return to their groups.
There they try and find out – by asking only yes/ no questions – how the group thinks they
spent the previous day.
Step 4. (Optional) When each ‘victim’ has guessed his fictitious day, the group tries to find
out what he really did.


Each person in the pair has a picture or some information that the other needs, but can not
see. They must find out, by asking questions and explaining, enough information to solve
the problem or complete the task.

1. Find the differences (with two nearly identical pictures or maps)

Step 1. Each student works with a partner. One student receives a copy of the original
picture, the other a copy of the picture with minor alterations. By describing their pictures
to one another and asking questions they have to determine how many and what differences
there are between them. They are not allowed to show their pictures to their partners.
Step 2. When they think they have found out all the differences they compare pictures.

The materials can be varied in many ways. In stead of pictures, other things could be
used, e.g. symbolic drawings or drawings.

Preparation: a comic strip (or picture story) of at least 4 pictures is cut up, and the pictures
pasted in random order on two pieces of paper, so that each sheet contains half the pictures.
Half the students receive one set of pictures each, the other half, the other.
Step 1. The students work in pairs. Each partner has half the pictures from a comic strip.
First, each student describes his pictures to his partner. They do not show each other their
Step 2. They decide on the content of the story and agree on a sequence for their total
number of pictures. Finally, both picture sheets are compared and the solution discussed.
Remarks. If the teacher prepares a number of picture sequences in this way, students can
exchange materials after completion of one task.

3. Strip story
Preparation: A story with as many sentences as there are students. Each sentence is written
on a separate strip of paper.
Step 1. Each student receives a strip of paper with one sentence on it. He is asked not to
show his sentence to anybody else but to memories it within two minutes. After two
minutes all the strips of paper are collected in again.
Step 2. The teacher briefly explains the task: ‘all the sentences you have learnt make up a
story. Work out the correct sequence without writing anything down.’ From now on the
teacher should refuse to answer any questions or give any help.

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Step 3. The students present the sequence they have arrived at. A discussion follows on
how everybody felt during this exercise.
Variation. Instead of a prose text a dialogue is used.


1. Find some one who……

Preparation: Handout, e.g. Find some one who

chews chewing gum.

reads more than one book a week.
has been to Scotland.
has played this game before.
Step1. Each student receives a handout. Everyone walks around the room and questions
other people about things on the handout. As soon as somebody finds another student who
answers yes to one of the questions, he writes his name in the space and goes on to question
someone else because each name may only be used once. After a given time (15 minutes)
or when someone has filled in all the blanks, the questioning stops.
Step 2. Students read out what they have found out. They can preface their report with: ‘I
was surprised that X liked…… ‘ I never thought that Y liked……..’

2. What would happen if ………?

Preparation: About twice as many slips of paper with an event/ situation written on them
as there are students.

Procedure: Every student receives one or two slips of paper with sentences like these on
them: ‘What would happen if a shop gave away its goods free every Wednesday?’ ‘What
would you do if you won a trip for two to a city of your choice?’ One student starts by
reading out his question and then asks another student to answer it. The second student
continues by answering or asking a third student to answer the first student‘s question. If he
has answered the question he may then read out his own question for somebody else to
answer. The activity is finished when all the questions have been read out and answered.

Variation. The students can prepare their own questions. Some more suggestions:
What would happen if:
Everybody who told a lie turned green.
People could get a driving license at 14?
Gold was found in your area?
What would you do if
You were invited to the Queen’s garden party?
It rained every day of your holiday?
You got lost on a walk in the woods?

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3. Ageless
Each group/ class talks about age, guided by the following questions:
What do like about your present age? What did you like about being younger? What will
you like about being 5/ 10 / 30 years older? What will you like about being elderly?
What is the ideal age/ why? What could you say to someone who is not happy about his
age? Do you often think about age/ growing old/ staying young?

Variation. The questions can be distributed to different students, who ask the other
members of the class/ their group when it is their turn.
Remarks: This exercise works well if the students have known each other for a while and
a friendly, supportive atmosphere has been established.


1. Desert island
Step 1: The teacher tells the class about the situation and set the task:
‘You are stranded on a desert island in the Pacific. All you have is the swim- suit and
sandals you are wearing. There is food and water on the island but nothing else. Here is a
list of things you may find useful. Choose the eight most useful items and rank them in
order of usefulness.’

a box of matches an atlas

ointment for cuts and burns a blanket
a magnifying glass a transistor radio with batteries
a saucepan a watch
an axe a nylon tent
a knife and fork a towel
a bottle of whisky a camera and five rolls of film
20 meters of nylon rope a pencil and paper

Work with your partner. You have 8 minutes.

Step 2. Students present their solutions and defend their choices against the others’
Remarks. There is of course, no correct solution to the task in this exercise. It should be
seen as a lighthearted activity which will help provide an element of imagination and fun in
the foreign language class.

2. Secret topic (Advanced )

Step 1: two students agree on a topic they want to talk about without telling the others what
it is.
Step 2: The two students start discussing their topic without mentioning it. The others
listen. Anyone in the rest of the group who thinks he knows what they are talking about,
join in their conversation. When about a third or half of the class have joined in, the game
is stopped.

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Variations: Students who think they know the secret topic have to write it on a piece of
paper and show it to the two students before they are accepted.

3. Balloon debate (Advanced)

In this kind of debate, there are no teams. Instead, each speaker represents a type of job or
occupation. Usually there are five speakers – for example, a doctor, a lawyer, a farmer, a
housewife, and a teacher.
Preparation: Picture of a gas balloon.
Step 1: teacher introduces the debate like this:
Before airplanes were invented it was possible to travel through the air using a gas balloon.
The large part above was full of gas which kept the balloon in the air. The people were in a
large basket underneath, sometimes known as a gondola. The balloon needs to be full of
gas in order to remain in the air.
Step 2: the five characters and the audience are asked to imagine that they are in gas
balloon moving through the sky. Unfortunately the gas is leaking and the balloon’s load has
to be lightened. This can only be done by throwing one person out.
Step 3: The five speakers go to the front. As a first stage, each one speaks for three minutes
explaining to the audience why they particularly should not be thrown out.
Step 4: After they have all spoken, the audience votes by writing the name of the person
they think is the least useful to the world on a small piece of paper. After counting the
votes, the one found to be least useful is sent back to the audience, leaving four.
Step 5: these four are then given three minutes each to speak against each other. The
audience votes again. One more is thrown out, leaving three.
Step 6: These three are now questioned by the audience, who can either asked ask them
individual questions or put the same questions to them all. Again, the audience votes, and
they are reduced to two.
Step 7: for the final round, the two remaining candidates are allowed to speak once more,
before a final vote is held to find the winner.
Note: Remember to emphasize that the audience should vote on good points and on good
speaking, not according to the opinion they held already. For instance, the best ‘housewife’
may actually be a man!

4. Shrinking story
Preparation: Story or picture.
Step 1: Five students are asked to leave the room. The rest of the class is read the story (or
played a recording.) They listen to the story twice and after the second reading agree on a
few important points which a summary of the story should contain. These are written down
by everyone.
Step 2: The first student is asked to come in and listen to the story (once). The second
student is called in and hear the story from the first student while the class notes down
which of the important points have been mentioned. Student 2 then tells the story to student
3, student 3 to student 4 and student 4 to the last one. Student 5 tells the story to the class.
Step 3. Using their notes, the students who were listening and observing report on the
changes in the story. The original is read (played) once again.

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5. Chain story
The teacher starts the story by giving the first sentence, e.g.: ‘It was a stormy night in
November.’ A student (either a volunteer or the person sitting nearest to the teacher)
continues the story. He may say up to three sentences. The next student goes on.
Variations: Each student is given a number. The numbers determine the sequence in which
the students have to contribute to the story.

6. Picture stories
Preparation: Pictures from magazines and cartoon strips with the words in the speech
bubbles blanked out.
The students have to write texts for the pictures or fill in the speech bubbles.
1. If more than one pair of students receive the same pictures/ cartoon strips, their results
can be compared.
2 . One pair of students fill in the first speech bubble on a cartoon strip then hands the page
to the next pair who fill in the next bubble, and so on. The first pair, in the mean time, fill
in the first speech bubble on another strip, and then pass that on in the same way.

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I.1. What is writing?
- Writing is one of the four language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Writing and
speaking are productive skills. That means they involve producing language rather than
receiving it. Very simply, we can say that writing involves communicating a message
(something to say) by making signs on a page. To write we need a message and someone to
communicate it to. We also need to be able to form letter and words, and to join these together
to make words, sentences or series of sentences that link together to communicate that
I.2. Key concepts about writing
- All written text types have two things in common. Firstly, they are written to communicate a
particular message, and secondly, they are written to communicate to somebody. Our message
and who we are writing to influence what we write and how we write. For example, if you
write a note to yourself to remind yourself to do something, you may write in terrible
handwriting, and use note form or single words that other people would not understand. If you
write a note to your friend to remind him/her of something, your note will probably be clearer
and a bit more polite.
- Writing involves several sub-skills. Some of these are related to accuracy, i.e. using the correct
forms of language. Writing accuracy involves spelling correctly, forming letters correctly,
writing legibly, punctuating correctly, using correct layouts, choosing the right vocabulary,
using grammar correctly, joining sentences correctly and using paragraphs.
- But writing isn’t just about accuracy. It is also having a message and communicating it
successfully to other people. To do this, we need to have enough ideas, organize them well and
express them in an appropriate style.
I.3. Why do students write in class?
- If we think only of long-term needs, writing is probably the least important of the four skills for
many students; they are more likely to need to listen to, read and speak English than to write it.
Their need for writing is most likely to be for study purposes and also as an examination skill.
- The main importance of writing in the classroom is to help students to learn. Writing new
words and structures helps students to remember them; and as writing is done more slowly and
carefully than speaking, written practice helps to focus students' attention on what they are


There are 3 main types of writing activities: controlled, guided and free writing.


There are 2 types of controlled writing activities: mechanical and meaningful writing activities.

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1.1 Mechanical writing – teaching handwriting

If the students' own language uses a different writing system to English, the first task will be to
master English handwriting. So the earliest activities will be copying letters, letter combinations,
words, and simple sentences.

 Things to remember:
- Mechanical writing activities are used when students’ mother tongue is different from English.
- When to start: There is no need to wait until students have mastered other skills before
introducing writing. They can begin to learn individual letters from the very beginning. The
earlier students learn to write, the more chance they have to practice.
- What style to teach:
o The first style is printing. The letters are separate, and they look the same as in printed
o The second style is simple cursive. Most letters are joined, but they keep the same
basic shape as in printing.
o The third type is full cursive. All the letters are joined and many have different shapes
from printing.
- The advantages and disadvantages of each style:
o Printing is easier to learn. However, students will need to write in cursive later, so it is
probably more convenient to teach them cursive from the very beginning.
o Simple cursive is easier to learn than full cursive. The basic shapes of each letter are
quite clear, and it is easy to see how to join the letters. In full cursive, the loops make it
difficult to see the basic letter shape.
o In simple cursive, the letters look the same as those the students read, so reading and
writing are more likely to help each other.
- What order to introduce the letters
o It’s not necessary to introduce letters in alphabetical order – the alphabet can easily be
learned separately.
o Possible orders in which to teach the letters
 Letter with similar shapes are taught together. This helps students see
important differences between them.
 Vowels are introduced near the beginning. This is useful as they are common,
and can be joined to other letters to make words.

a. Teaching individual letters

- The essential steps are writing letters on lines on the board and getting students to copy it
several times. It is also very useful to describe the letter, to help students see how it is formed –
this can be done in simple English or the student’s own language.
- It is useful to give the usual sound of the letter, so that students can connect sound with
spelling. But there is no need to get students to repeat the sound: the aim is to practise writing,
not pronunciation.
- Knowing the name of the letter is useful, for example when spelling words aloud, but is not
really necessary for writing. Giving the name of the letter at this stage can be confusing,
especially if the name is different from the sound (e.g. vowels).
- Some teachers find it useful to get students to practice forming the letter in the air before they
write it down; this helps students to “feel” the shape of the letter. However, this can be difficult
to control in a large class.
- Demonstration of how the main steps fit together:
o Draw lines on the board, and then write the letter “n”, large enough for everyone to

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o Tell the class what sound it makes, and give some words it appears in (e.g. man, ten,
no new)
o Show how to form the letter. Write it 2 or 3 times and describe the direction: “looks - it
starts here – then down, back up again, then round and down. See – it stands on the
o Students copy the letters in their books. Ask them to write it several times (separately)
along the line, from left to right. Move around quickly, checking.

b. Writing words
- Joining letters:
o When students learn a new letter, they can practice joining it to other letters they know
already. Obviously, they should only practice combinations which really exist in
words, and as soon as they know enough letters, they should practise writing words
and sentences.
o Letters joined can be practiced in the same way as individual letters. It is very
important to show how we make joins from the end of one letter to the beginning of
the next.
- Demonstration: (teaching students how to join “c” and “h”)
o Write “c” and “h” separately on the board.

o Point to where “c” ends and “h” begins and draw

o Then draw the joined letters many times and described the shape (‘… round, then up to
the top of the “h”, then down ….)
o Ask students to copy the joined letters several times. Go round the class and check.

c. Copying words
- Once students have learned enough letters, they can start writing words and simple sentences.
The simplest and most controlled form of practice is copying:
o For students who have to learn English scripts, copying is a useful exercise; students
do not have to produce words of their own, so the focus is entirely on handwriting.
o Simply copying words or sentences from the board can be a very MECHANICAL
activity. Students can easily do it without really thinking and it soon becomes very
- One way to make copying more challenging is to use “DELAYED COPYING”. The teacher
writes a word on the board or shows it on a card, and the students read it; then the teacher
erases the word, and the students write it. In this way, students have to think what they are
writing, and they have to think of the word as a whole, not just as a series of letters.

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- Another way to make copying more interesting is to include a simple task for the students to
do. For example, we can ask students to match words together, match words with pictures, put
words in the correct order, etc. This makes sure that the students think about what they are
copying and understand what the words mean; it also gives a reason for writing the words.

 Simple copying tasks

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1.3. Meaningful writing – moving beyond copying

As soon as possible, we should encourage students to go beyond mechanical copying and give
them exercises which require them to think and add something of their own; but exercises at this
level should still be controlled, so that students do not make too many mistakes.

a. Making copying more meaningful and more interesting

Discussion 1: Look at the following activity. What do you think about it? Do you think
students will find it interesting?

Activity: Teacher writes this sentence on the board, and asks students to copy it:
Sahiba goes to school by bus.

- The activity is completely mechanical. Students can copy the sentence even if they do not
know what it means. Their attention is not focused on the meaning of the sentence at all.
- Because it is so mechanical, it is very uninteresting. The students are not required to think or
use their imagination in any way.

Discussion 2: How can teachers make the activity more meaningful and more interesting,
while still keeping it fairly controlled?

Suggested answer:
- Leave out part of the sentence for the students to write themselves,
e.g. 'Sahiba ...................................... by bus.' or 'Sahiba goes to school
................................ '.

Either let students decide for themselves what to write in the gap, or say the whole sentence
and ask them to write what they heard.
- Say the sentence, but write only the outline on the board, e.g. 'Sahiba - school - bus'. Students
write out the whole sentence.
- Draw a picture to replace part of the sentence, e.g.:

- Ask students to write the whole sentence in words.

- Write the sentence-on the board, and ask students to write a similar true sentence about

 In all these techniques, students have to add something of their own. The activities are
still very controlled, with little chance of students making mistakes, but they have to think
about what they are writing.

3. Meaningful writing activities

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Below are some examples of controlled writing activities. As they are very short, they could easily
be written on the blackboard.

A. Gap-filling

Listen to the teacher, and then write out the complete sentences.
Paper……………wood. It…………… the Chinese in…………………

i) Teacher reads out these sentences: ‘Paper is usually made from wood. It was invented by
the Chinese in the first century AD.’ Teacher asks students to copy them, filling in the
ii) Teacher asks students to read back the complete sentences, and write them on the board.

B. Re-ordering words
Write the sentences correctly.

We/six o'clock/and/tea/drink/get up/at. Then/the patients/wake/go/and/the wards/we/round.


i) Note that the sentences describe the start of a nurse's working day. Ask students to write out
the sentences correctly.
ii) Ask students to read out the sentences, and write them on the board.

C. Substitution

Write a true sentence like this about yourself.

Samir enjoys playing football and reading adventure stories.

i) Ask students to write a similar sentence about themselves.

ii) Correct the sentences orally, e.g.:
T: What do you enjoy doing, Juan?
S: I enjoy sleeping.
T: OK. (write 'sleeping' on the board) Who else enjoys sleeping? (and so on, building up a list
of words on the board)

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D. Correct the facts

Re-write the sentences so that they match the picture.

At the market, I saw an old woman sitting in a chair.

She was selling eggs. It was raining.

i) Ask students to write the sentences, correcting the facts.

ii) Ask students to read out the correct sentences, and write them on the board.
[Note: This activity could be used with any picture in the textbook, and the 'untrue' sentences
written on the board.]

1.4. Dictation
a. Advantages and disadvantages of dictation as a writing exercise

Discussion: In your group, demonstrate the following short dictation.

- Read the text once through. Then dictate it phrase by phrase.
- Read it through once again.
Important talks have been taking place today / between the Prime minister and Trade Union
leaders. / They have agreed to co-operate to find ways of combating inflation / and reducing "'
present levels of unemployment in the industrial sector.
- Check the dictation orally, by asking students to read the text back to you sentence by

After you demonstration, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of dictation as writing

 The main advantages and disadvantages of dictation as a writing exercise. Advantages:

- It is an intensive activity, which makes students concentrate.
- The teacher can keep good control of the class, so it is a suitable technique for large classes.
- It helps develop listening as well as writing.
- It takes up a lot of time in the class, especially if the dictation is corrected word by word
- It does not really develop writing skills - students do not have to express ideas in a written
form, or rind ways of constructing sentences. The main skill practised is spelling.
- It is an unrealistic activity - listening is 'word by word' and at an unnaturally slow speed.
- It can be done quite mechanically, without real comprehension.

Discussion: How can you make dictation more interesting and meaningful to students?

b. Alternatives to dictation

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An alternative to dictation, which develops both listening and writing skills and focuses on
meaning, is for the students to listen to a text and then try to reconstruct it from prompts.

Discussion: Look at the following demonstration of the technique. Compare it with the ‘normal’
i) Write these prompts on the board:
Giovanni – fishing - friend's house - bus – river - tree – fishing - a few minutes - Giovanni- small
ii) Read the text. Ask students to listen but not to write anything.
Giovanni decided to spend the day fishing. He went to his friend's house and they took a bus to the
river. There, they sat down under a tree and began fishing. After a few minutes, Giovanni caught
a small fish.
iii) Ask the students to write a version of the text, using the prompts on the board. (It does not have
to be exactly the same as the original; the first sentence could be, e.g. 'Giovanni decided to go
iv) Go through the exercise orally, asking different students to read out sentences.

Compare this technique with ‘normal’ dictation: Students have to listen carefully to understand the
text, and then have to think about what they are writing and how to construct the sentences.

Activity: Find a short text in the textbook you are using (or any suitable one) which you could use
for a similar activity, and to write a set of prompts based on it.


1. Problems of free writing

Discussion: Imagine giving this writing task to a class of intermediate level students. Discuss what
problems might be involved in giving a completely free writing task such as this.
Write a paragraph, describing your town or village.

- Many students would probably find it quite difficult, and make many mistakes. If so, they
would find the task frustrating and probably not learn very much from it.
- Students would probably approach the task in different ways, and produce a wide variety of
different paragraphs. So the only way to correct their work would be individually, book by
book; this would be very time-consuming for the teacher.
- As soon as they have mastered basic skills of sentence writing, students need to progress
beyond very controlled writing exercises to freer paragraph writing. However, students will
make this transition more easily and learn more if we can guide their writing. There are two
main ways of doing this:
o By giving a short text as a model.
o By doing oral preparation for the writing.

2. Writing based on a text

How a text can be used as a model for writing:

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- Students read a short text, and perhaps study particular features of it (e.g. the way sentences are
joined, the use of verb tenses, the use of the passive). They then write a paragraph which is
similar, but involves some changes.
- Examples of texts that could be used: Students read a paragraph about a student's day, then
write about their own day; students read a description of a car, then write descriptions of other
cars from notes; students read a description of a room, then write a description of another room
shown in a picture

1. Read the following text. Demonstrate how you can carry out the activity.

Jopley is a small town in the north of England. It is on the River Ouse, not far from Leeds. The
town has a wide main street, with a stone church, the town hall and a cinema. There is a large
supermarket in the town centre, and many smaller shops and cafés. Most people in Jopley
work in the local factory, which produces farm machinery.

1. Write a similar paragraph about Bexham. Use these notes:

Bexham — small village — south coast.
Harrow street — two shops — church.
Most people - farmers. Grow vegetables, wheat.

2. Now write about your own town or village.

2. Adapt this exercise so that it is about your own country. Then discuss:
- What difficulty might your own students have in writing the paragraph?
- What preparation could you do to make the activity easier?

3. Work in groups, and write a similar model text about a town in your own country (it can either
be real or imaginary), and a series of notes for a writing exercise. When you have finished,
demonstrate how you will carry out this activity.
4. Work in groups and comment on the technique. Discuss what difficulties students might have
in doing the exercises, and what preparation might be necessary.

Note these points:

- The model text might be too limiting, especially if the students' own town or village has quite
different features. This may lead students either to follow the text too closely (and so write
something which sounds unnatural) or to move away from it too much (and so make many
mistakes). If all the students are writing about the same town, it would help to go through the
exercise orally with the class first, and ask students to suggest what to include in the
- The main problem with this kind of exercise is finding a suitable text. It is sometimes possible
to adapt a text from the textbook - this can be written on the board before the lesson, or copied
onto worksheets.

3. Oral preparation

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1. Another way of guiding paragraph writing is to do oral preparation beforehand with the whole
class; the students make suggestions, and the teacher builds up an outline or a list of key
expressions on the board. The students then use this as a basis for their writing. This approach
has several advantages:
- It is flexible: it can be done in different ways according to the interests and ability of the class.
- Ideas about what to write come from the students themselves; this makes the activity much
more interesting and involves the class more.
- It does not require specially-prepared texts or other materials

2. Look at the picture above, and make sure that you understand what is happening: it is an
Egyptian class, and the students are going to write a description of Cairo; to prepare for this,
the teacher is asking questions about the city and writing notes on the board.
1. This teacher is building up notes on the board for a description of Cairo in Egypt.
What were the teacher’s first three questions?
What will he write next?

2. The teacher wants to elicit these other facts about Cairo, and write them on the board.

Important business centre

- International hotels
- The Pyramids (2500BC)
- many famous mosques
- market area (gold copper – leather)
Very crowded-traffic problems
- new underground railway

What questions could he ask?

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Now, discuss what the first three questions might have been, and what the teacher will write

Suggested answers:
Possible questions:
What is Cairo? How is it special? (the capital of Egypt)
Where is it? In the south? (in the north)
And it's on . . .which river? (the Nile)
He might write next:
Very large city.
Population: 10 million.
3. Work in pairs. Write suitable questions that would elicit the information given in the box:

Possible questions:

- What kind of city is it? What happens there?

- Where do people on business stay?
- What about tourists? What can they do in Cairo? What can they see?
- When were the Pyramids built?
- What other buildings are there?
- Where can tourists go to buy things? What are the best things to buy?
- What are the streets like? What's the biggest problem?
- What are they building now? Will this solve the problem?

4. As a possible extension to this activity, choose a writing topic from the textbook you are
using (or any suitable one), and plan an oral preparation stage. You should write:
- a series of questions which you could use to elicit ideas and information from the class;
- the notes that you might build up on the blackboard as students answer the questions.

III.1 Stages of a forty five-minute lesson

O Teacher leads into the lesson.
O Teacher introduces the topic and gives clear instructions.
O Teacher presents language input (vocab./structures/ ideas) for the task by giving cues,
helping students brainstorm for ideas, giving a model text or doing oral preparation.

O Students write in groups in class or individually at home.

O Teacher marks students’ papers and gives comments (Paying attention to errors of
competence and performance and techniques of correction.)
O Teacher gives feedback: pointing out good points and common mistakes for the whole
class to learn from peers.

III.2 Stages of a writing task

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Short writing tasks are usually controlled writing activities and done after a grammatical
structure has been taught or writing sentences following oral practice.

O Teacher introduces the task and gives clear instructions.
O Teacher presents language input (vocab./structures) for the task.

O Students write in groups or individually in class.

O Teacher gives feedback to the class (orally or by writing key on the board, pointing out
good points and common mistakes for the whole class.)


- The sub-skills of writing that we teach will vary a lot, depending on the age and needs of our
learners. At primary level we may spend a lot of time teaching learners how to form letters and
words and write short texts of a few words or sentences, often by copying models. At
secondary level, we may need to focus more on the skills required to write longer texts such as
letters, emails or compositions.
- When we teach writing, we need to focus on both accuracy and on building up and
communicating a message.
- Sometimes in the classroom, learners write by, for example, completing gaps in sentences with
the correct word, taking notes for listening comprehension, writing one-word answers to
reading comprehension questions. These activities are very useful for teaching grammar, and
checking listening and reading, but they do not teach the skills of writing. To teach the writing
sub-skills, we need to focus on accuracy in writing, on communicating a message and on the
writing process.
- By encouraging learners to use the writing process in the classroom, we help them to be
creative and to develop their message, i.e. what they want to say.



1. Correcting written work is very time-consuming for the teacher, and often seems to have very
little effect on students' progress. So, especially with large classes and at lower levels, it is a good
idea to give writing tasks which:
- are easy and limited, so that students will not make too many mistakes;
- can easily be corrected in class.

Discussion: Suggest different kinds of controlled writing activity which can be easily
corrected, and make suggestions yourself, e.g. (at elementary - intermediate level) copying
sentences in the correct order; matching halves of sentences; gap-filling; writing sentences following oral

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2. A basic procedure for correcting simple written work in class:

i) The teacher writes the correct answers on the board, or gets students to come out and write
them. If spelling is not important, he or she can go through the answers orally.
ii) As the teacher gives the answers, students correct their own work and the teacher moves
around the class to supervise what they are doing; or students can exchange books and correct
each other's work.
iii) When the teacher notices errors made by a number of students, he or she can draw attention to
these for the benefit of the whole class.

3. Advantages and disadvantages of various correction techniques:

- Correcting work orally in class is a good idea for a large class, as it greatly reduces the
teacher's workload. As he or she corrects, the teacher can move around the class to check that
students are correcting their own work.
- Correcting work immediately in class (rather than returning it the next day) means that the
teacher can draw students' attention to problems while they are still fresh in their minds.
- Getting students to correct either their own or each other's work (before the teacher gives
the correct answer) takes time in the lesson; but it gives students useful practice in reading
through what they have Written and noticing mistakes'. It is also a good way of keeping the
class involved.
- Correcting in class works best with fairly controlled writing activities, where there are not
too many possible answers.

4. Techniques for correcting written work

a. With more advanced classes it is more important for the teacher to correct students' work
individually, and even with lower level classes this will sometimes be necessary. As with oral
work, the teacher's corrections should have a positive effect on the student's work rather than a
discouraging one.

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Discussion: Imagine an exercise in which students write sentences about what they and
other people enjoy doing. Below is an example of a student's sentence on the board. Discuss
what corrections the teacher should make:

my bruther injoye to play football.

Note these points:

- The student has made many mistakes, but the sentence is not as bad as it looks - the student
has managed to write something that makes sense. Most of the mistakes are very minor ones.
- The purpose of the exercise was to practise 'enjoy + -ing', so this part needs to be corrected,
and the ‘-s’ ending is also important; the teacher can correct both these errors together by
writing ''enjoys playing” above the line.
- It might be better to ignore the spelling mistakes; correcting them will distract attention from
the main point. The teacher could make a note of them and include them in a later lesson.


The effect of so many corrections in a piece of written work would probably be to discourage the
student concerned – they make it appear that s/he has written almost nothing correctly.

1. Ways of correcting the student’s work more positively and effectively:

- The teacher could correct only the errors that seem most important, or only errors of a
certain kind (e.g. items that were taught recently, or just problems with verbs)
- The teacher could reduce the amount of underlining and write the corrections in the
margin; this would make the page look less heavily corrected.
- The teacher could simply indicate where the student has made important errors, and ask her
to try to correct them herself. This would encourage the student to look again at what she has
written and think about possible errors:

Deaf-and-dumb people cannot hear the noise even if the accident happens in their back.

- For more advanced classes, some teachers develop systems of abbreviations which they
regularly write in the margin to indicate different kinds of error, e.g. sp = spelling mistake, g =
grammar mistake, WO = word order. This leaves the students to correct all their own mistakes,
and gives good training in reading through and checking what they have written.
Below are some more examples of symbols that have been found useful in correcting written
- S – spelling
- c- concord (agreement: subject and verb)
- s /p – singular, plural
- w/o – word order
- T – tense
- V – vocabulary, wrong word or usage
- App – appropriacy ( inappropriate style or register)
- p- punctuation ( including capital letters)
- Ir – irrelevant information
- ?M - meaning not clear
- - word missing
- //-separate words
- H -wrong hyphenation

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- Teachers can withdraw their help in stages throughout the course to help students self-correct:
o Stage 1 - (elementary) underline the mistake and write the symbol in the margin.
o Stage 2 – underline the whole word / phrase and write the symbols in the margin.
o Stage 3 – do not underline the word or the mistake; only write the symbol in the
o Stage 4 – (exam classes) put a dot or x in the margin for each mistake.

Which of the above stages would these be?

- TS [i] I am not liking my new skool.
- S V [ ii] My freind arrived to station.
- S s p [ iii] I’m writeing to ask your advise
- T (app.) Please be helping me.

2. Awarding marks or grades for composition

There are two main ways of grading a piece of writing: ‘impression’ marking and ‘split’ or
(analytic) marking.
- Impression marking: you read the written work through quickly and give it an ‘impression’
mark. In an exam, at least two, preferably three, people independently should give an
impression mark for each essay, keeping a record on a separate mark sheet, not writing the
grade on the essay itself.
- Split marking: you ‘split’ total marks, and give a proportion for each of the following:
organization (i.e. plan, paragraphing, etc.) accuracy (grammar and spelling), appropriacy
(style, register) and content (relevance). Depending on what form of writing it is you adjust
the proportion of total marks given for each category. For example, out of 20, a business letter
would need a low proportion of marks for content, say 3 , and higher than usual for
appropriacy and accuracy, say 7 and 6 respectively, leaving 4 for organization of ideas (in the
case of a letter layout would be included here). You could also add or subtract a few marks
for neatness, layout etc.
This method is still subjective but easier to grade. In an exam it would still be preferable to
have three or so markers.
The marks are recorded on the student’s work thus:

org. 3/4 acc. 3/6 appr. 2/7 content 3/3 11/20


Although the teacher needs to deploy some or all of the usual roles, when students are asked to
write, the ones that are especially important are as follows:

- Motivator: One of our principal roles in writing tasks will be to motivate the students,

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creating the right conditions for the generation of ideas, persuading them of the usefulness
of the activity, and encouraging them to make as much effort as possible for maximum
benefit. This may require special and prolonged effort on our part for longer process-
writing sequences.
Where student are involved in a creative writing activity it is usually the case that some find
it easier to generate ideas than others. During poem- writing activities, for example, we may
need to suggest lines to those who cannot think of anything, or at least prompt them with
our own ideas.

- Resource: especially during more extended writing tasks, we should be ready to supply
information and language where necessary. We need to tell students that we are available and
be prepared to look at their work as it progresses, offering advice and suggestions in a
constructive and tactful way. Because writing takes longer than conversation, for example,
there is usually time for discussion with individual students, or students working in pairs or

- Feedback provider
Giving feedback on writing tasks demands special care. Teachers should respond positively
and encouragingly to the content of what students have written. When offering correction
teachers should choose what and how much to focus on based on what students need at this
particular stage of their studies, and on the tasks they have undertaken.

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In many classes, during the presentation stage, it is the teacher who talks, while the students
listen. If the students speak at all, it is usually to repeat what the teacher says, or to answer a set
Obviously, this part of the lesson will be dominated by the teacher – he or she is using English
to introduce new material. However, it is possible to involve the students more in the presentation
- by asking students for their ideas and suggestions, getting them to contribute what they know
already, and encouraging them to guess new words. We call this eliciting.

Example 1
T: (pointing to wrist) Look – this is my wrist. Wrist. Can you say it?
Ss: Wrist.
T: (write it on the board)
T: (pointing) Look – here are my fingers, and these are knuckles. Knuckles.
Ss: Knuckles.
T: (write ‘knuckles’ on the board)
(and so on, introducing other words, e.g. palm, pulse, fingertips)

Example 2
T: (pointing to eyebrows) What are these? Anybody?
Ss: Eyebrows.
T: Yes. Eyebrows. How do we write it? (write the word on the board as students spell it)
T: (pointing to eyelids) What about these? Look – I can open and close them. They are … eye
Ss: –
T: Well, we call them eyelids. Eyelids. (write ‘eyelids’ on the board) What about the hairs on
your eyelids?
Ss: Lashes.
T: Yes. Good. Eyelashes. Can you spell it? (write the word as students spell it)
(and so on, introducing other words, e.g. pupils (of eyes), nostrils, forehead, earlobes)


- Eliciting involves the class by focusing students' attention and making them think. This
happens even if students do not know the words being elicited; so elicitation can be used for
presenting new language as well as reviewing what was taught earlier.
- Eliciting encourages students to draw on what they already know or partly know. Because of
this, it is a useful technique for mixed ability classes or classes of students from different learning
backgrounds, where different students know different things.
- Eliciting gives teachers a chance to see what students know and what they do not know, and so
adapt the presentation to the level of the class.

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- Eliciting takes more time than straightforward presentation of new language. So most teachers
would not try to elicit all the time, but rather use a mixture of eliciting and 'straight' presentation.


When eliciting using certain pictures, it is often best to ask fairly general questions that allow a
variety of responses. This encourages more students to respond and leads them to say more (e.g.
in answer to 'What time of day is it? How do we know?', students could say 'The sun is low.', 'The
sun is going down.', 'The sun is setting.', 'They are going home.', 'They seem tired.', 'There are
long shadows.', etc.)

It does not matter if students cannot answer the questions. If the teacher's questions show that no-
one in the class-knows the new word, the teacher will of course present it. The advantage of
trying to elicit it first is that students' attention will now be focused on the word and they should
be listening with greater interest.


There is no clear line separating what learners of a language 'know' and what they do not know';
there are many words and structures which they 'half-know', which they are not quire sure about
but which they can guess. Because language follows rules, it is often possible to guess things
which we have never actually been taught, and an important part of learning a language is
developing this ability to make guesses. Eliciting is one way of encouraging students to guess
and to work out rules for themselves.

A teacher can give a few examples of 'double noun' phrases used to describe occupations, and
then elicit other examples which follow the same pattern.
i) The teacher writes these examples on the board:
He drives buses. He's a bus driver
She sells books. She's a book seller.
ii) Then the teacher gets students to guess what these people are called (answers in italics):
someone who drives lorries (a lorry driver)
someone who own ships (a ship owner)
someone who robs banks (a bank robber)
someone who hunts lions (a lion hunter)
someone who mends shoes (a shoe mender)
someone who loves dogs (a dog lover)

- Although students probably did not 'know' all the items, it was quite easy to guess them
- By eliciting the examples rather than simply presenting them, the teacher helped students to
see for themselves how the rule works. It also enabled him to see whether they had understood
the rule or not.

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The teachers’ technique of eliciting:

- The teacher should pause after asking each question, to give
students time to think.
- The teacher should vary his or her questioning technique according to the difficulty of the
question, letting good students answer difficult questions and directing easier questions at
weaker students. In this way the whole class will be involved.
- The teacher should try to elicit 'onto the blackboard', building up a set of examples as
students respond.


Look at the picture and the questions below.

A. Where is this woman standing?

What is she wearing?
What is she doing?
What is she holding in her hand?
What time of day is it?

B. Why is she standing here? What has happened?

How does she feel? Why?
What is she thinking? Write some of her thoughts in a few words.
Imagine this is a scene from a film. What will happen next?

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The difference between the questions in group A and those in group B:

- The questions on the left are about things that are quite clear in the picture. Each question
either has a single correct answer or a small range of possible answers, e.g. She's standing
by the sea / on a jetty; She's looking/gazing/staring out to sea, etc.
The purpose of questions like these would be to elicit key vocabulary or structures, or to
establish a situation or topic - they are the same kind of questions as those introduced in
Activity 1.
- The questions on the right require quite a different kind of answer.
They require students to interpret what is in the picture (e.g. why
the woman is standing there) or to imagine things beyond the
picture itself (e.g. what will happen next). There are no single ‘right' answers to these
questions but a wide range of possible answers: students are encouraged to express
their own ideas and feelings.
The main purpose of questions like these is to involve the class in
discussion and to stimulate freer use of language.

Both kinds of questions are important in a language class, but textbooks often include only
questions of the first type. So teachers should take every opportunity to add questions of the
second type which encourage students to give a more imaginative, personal response.
Questions of this kind can of course be asked not only about pictures, but also about texts and
dialogues, and are particularly useful in the study of literary texts.

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Aids are the resources and equipment available to us in the classroom, as well as the
resources we can bring into the classroom. They include cassette recorders, CD players,
video recorders and overhead projectors (i.e. equipment with a light in it that can make
images appear larger on a screen), visual aids (pictures that can help learners
understand), realia and the teacher himself/herself! We select and use aids by thinking
carefully about the main aims and the subsidiary aims of a lesson, and then choosing the
most appropriate ones.


- Showing visuals focuses attention on meaning, and helps to make the language used in the
class more real and alive.
- Having something to look at keeps the students' attention, and makes the class more
- Visuals can be used at any stage of the lesson - to help in presenting new language or
introducing a topic, as part of language practice, and when reviewing language that has been
presented earlier. Good visual aids are not just used once, but again and again, and can be
shared by different teachers.


a) The teachers themselves: The teacher can use gestures, facial, expressions, and actions to
help show the meaning of words and to illustrate situations.
b) The blackboard: The teacher or students can use it to draw pictures, diagrams, maps, etc.
c) Real objects (sometimes called 'realia'): The teacher can use things in the classroom and
bring things into the class - food, clothes, containers, household objects, etc.
d) Flashcards: cards with single pictures which can be held up by the teacher. They can be
used for presenting and practising new words and structures, and for revision. The teacher
can draw a picture on the flashcard, or stick on a picture from a magazine; flashcards can
also be used to show words or numbers.
e) Charts: larger sheets of card or paper with writing, pictures or diagrams, used for more
extended presentation or practice. They would usually be displayed on the wall or

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Classroom equipment Main teaching purpose

blackboard/whiteboard writing up planned vocabulary, grammar examples
and explanations
overhead projector (OHP) displaying prepared exercises on transparencies
(plastic sheets)
cassette recorder/CD player listening practice
video recorder listening practice with added visual information
computer grammar exercises »
language laboratory grammar drills
(i.e. a room where learners can listen
to recordings and record themselves)

Blackboard/whiteboard Video recorder

• writing words and ideas that come up during ihe • for information gap tasks (with one learner
lesson viewing and one just listening)
• drawing or displaying pictures • viewing without sound and guessing the
• building up ideas in diagrams, word maps, etc. language
• for learners to write answers • pausing and predicting the language (i.e. saying
• for whole-class compositions what you think is coming next)
• with a camera, filming learners' performance

Overhead projector Computer

• displaying results of group work • narrative building with a word processor
• building up information by putting one • supplementary materials for coursebooks
transparency on top of another • online language tests
• covering up or gradually uncovering parts of the • using online dictionaries
transparency • using CD-ROMs
• displaying pictures and diagrams on • email exchanges
photocopiable transparencies • online communication (chatting)
• online newspapers and magazines
• project work using the Internet

Cassette recorder /CD player Language laboratory

• presenting new language in dialogues and • pronunciation practice
stories • extensive listening
• giving models for pronunciation practice • monitoring and giving feedback to individual
• recording learners' oral performance learners
• listening for pleasure • developing speaking skills

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The blackboard is one of the most useful of all visual aids - it is always available and can
be used for various purposes without special preparation. Some of the purposes for which the
blackboard can be used: presenting new words, showing spelling, giving a model for
handwriting, writing prompts for practice. Our aim in using the blackboard should be to make
things clearer to the class and help to focus their attention. So in order to use the blackboard
effectively, it is important, to develop good basic techniques of writing on the blackboard and
organising the layout of what we write.

1. Basic principles of writing on the blackboard:

- Write clearly. The writing should be large enough to read from the back of the class.
- Write in a straight line. This is easy if teachers only write across-a section of the board, not
across the whole board.
- Stand in a way that does not hide the board. Show teachers how to stand sideways, half facing
the board and half facing the class, with their arm fully extended. In this way, the students can
see what the teacher is writing, and the teacher can see the students.
- Talk as you write. Teachers should say aloud what they are writing, phrase by phrase. To
involve the class even more, they could sometimes ask students to suggest what to write (e.g.
'What's the next word?' 'How do I spell that?').

2. Using the blackboard in presenting and practising structures

An important use of the blackboard is to show clearly how structures are formed, and to show
differences between structures. E.g.

He played football.
Did he play football?

We can make the structures clearer in these ways:

• By underlining the important features

He played football.
Did he play football?

• By using different coloured chalk (red, yellow and green stand out
most clearly).
• By drawing arrows or writing numbers to show the change
in word order.

A good way of showing the different forms of a structure together is by means of a table
(sometimes called a 'substitution table').

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He’s eating breakfast
She’s preparing lunch
We’re dinner

Keeping the attention of the class

- A. good way to involve the class would be to get students to suggest what to write in each
column (e.g. by writing 'I'm' and then getting students to give the other forms).
- Students could be asked to copy the table as the teacher writes it.
- If the table is too long or too complex to write quickly, it would be better to write it on the
board before the lesson and cover it with cloth or paper until it is needed; or to draw it in
advance on a large piece of card.

Using the table for practice

There are many ways of using the table. For example:
- Students could read out sentences from it.
- Students could write sentences from the table in their books.
- The teacher could give situations, and ask students to make an appropriate sentence, e.g.:
It's seven o'clock in the morning. What's Mrs Smith doing? (She's
eating breakfast.)
It's one o'clock. What are Mona and Lisa doing? (They're
preparing lunch.)

How to use simple prompts on the blackboard as a basis for practice.

Write this table on the board, line by line. As you write, talk and ask
questions, to make it clear what the table is supposed to show, e.g.:
Look, this is Eva's day. (write first line) OK - at half past six - what
does she do? {She wakes up and washes.)
(and so on)

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Different kinds of practice the prompts could be used for.

- Students make sentences from the table.
- Students ask and answer questions based on the table.
- Students make similar sentences about themselves.

Blackboard drawings

- Many teachers use the blackboard only for writing. But simple pictures drawn on the

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blackboard can help to increase the interest of a lesson, and are often a good way of showing
meaning and conveying situations to the class.

- Blackboard drawings should be as simple as possible, showing only the most important
details. It is not necessary to be a good artist to draw successfully on the blackboard — a lot of
information can be conveyed by means of very simple line drawings and 'stick figures', which
are easy to draw.

- It is important to draw quickly, so as to keep the interest of the class. It also helps for teachers
to talk as they draw: in this way the class will be more involved, and will understand the
picture on the board both from seeing it and from listening to the teacher.

Simple blackboard drawings

How to show other expressions (e.g. surprise by raised eyebrows, anger by a frown):

How to indicate which way the speaker is facing by changing the nose (this is useful if you want
to show two people having a conversation):

How to indicate sex or age by drawing hair:

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How to draw basic male and female stick figures: The body should be about twice as long
as the head; the arms are the same length as the body; the legs are slightly longer:

How to indicate actions by bending the legs and arms:

How to indicate buildings, towns, and directions by a combination
of pictures and words:

How to draw vehicles and how to indicate movement:

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Real objects are in many ways the easiest kind of visual aid to use in class, as they need no
special preparation or materials. Simple objects can be used not only for teaching vocabulary but
also as prompts to practise structures and develop situations.
For example, a packet of tea can be used …

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- To teach the words 'tea' and 'packet' (contrasted with other containers, e.g. a bag of sugar, a
tin of orange juice).
- To develop a description of the process of making tea: 'First you open the packet, then you
put some tea in the pot. . .' (The teacher could also bring a pot, a spoon, etc.)
- As part of a shopping dialogue, asking about price: 'How much is a packet of tea?' '5
cents', etc.
- To develop an imaginative dialogue, practising 'lend', e.g.:
S1: Could you lend me some tea?
S2: Yes, of course. What do you want it for?
S1: My relatives have come to visit me.


They can be used not only to practise words, but also as prompts for practising structures. When
you use a picture, students see what meaning to express but have to find the words themselves;
this focuses their attention on meaning and prevents the activity from being completely
How to make good flashcards:
- They should be large enough – at least 20 x 14 cm (half a piece of typing paper).
- Pictures can be drawn, using a thick pen so that they are clear, or they can be cut from a
magazine; pictures from magazine are often more interesting to look at, but it is difficult to
find pictures which are the right size and which are simple enough.
- If possible, flashcards should be made on pieces of white card – then they can be kept and
used again.


A chart (sometimes called a ‘wallchart’ or a ‘wall picture’) – a large sheet of paper or card which
the teacher can either hold up for the class to see or display on the wall or the blackboard – can
display more complex visual information, e.g. a series of pictures telling a story, a table of
different verb forms, or a diagram showing how a machine works.

The advantages of showing the pictures on a chart, rather than drawing them on the blackboard:
- The teacher does not have to spend time in the lesson drawing on the blackboard.
- As the chart is prepared in advance, it is possible to draw the pictures more carefully, and also
to make them more attractive (e.g. by using colour).
- The chart can be kept and used again with the same class (e.g. for review, or to practise a
different tense), or used with other classes and by other teachers.

Using charts with a reading text

With a text about how to make a kite, the teacher can have a chart showing tools needed and
steps to follow.
- It could be shown before students read the text, as a way of presenting the main ideas and

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- It could be on display, while the students read, to help them understand the text.
- It could be used for practice after reading the text, or for review in a later lesson, e.g. the
teacher could cover the words on the chart and ask students to explain how to make a kite.

With a text about a balanced diet, the teacher can have a chart showing a table with food groups
and examples mentioned in the text.
- It could be used before students read the text, in order to check the class’s knowledge
(they should of course already know the facts in their own language). The teacher could cover
the right-hand column, leaving only the names of the groups visible, and ask students to think of
examples in each group.
- The teacher could give students a blank table (on pieces of paper) to complete as they
read the text. Then he/ she could show the chart afterwards as the correct answer.
- It could be used later for review – the teacher could cover the chart, uncovering it line by
line as students give the information.

Displaying charts
The teacher can hold the chart up.
Two students can come out to the front and hold the chart.
The teacher can pin the chart to a wall or to the blackboard.
The teacher can hang the chart from a piece of string tied across the blackboard, using 2 nails,
string and clothes pegs.


Worksheets are exercises written or typed on sheets of paper, which are given out to the class and
then collected at the end of the lesson so that they can be used again. The exercises can be stuck
onto or written directly on pieces of card so that they last longer and can be stored more easily; in
that case they are usually called workcards. Worksheets and workcards can be used for oral
practice in pairs or groups, or for reading and writing practice, with students working in pairs or
on their own.
Why worksheets can be useful:
- The textbook may not give enough practice, so teachers may feel it useful to add exercises
of their own.
- The exercises in the textbook may not be very interesting or may be unsuitable for the
class, so teachers may wish to adapt them to make them suit the needs of the class better.
- Teachers may need to create special exercises because they want to organise the class in a
particular way. For example, they may want students to spend some time working alone at
their own speed, and this will be easier to organise if students are given individual
- In some classes, there may not be enough textbooks for all the students, or the teacher may
have the only copy; in this case worksheets will be the main material used by the class.
- The teacher may use worksheets simply for variety, to make a change from the textbook
and to give the students something different to look at.

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Worksheets for oral practice

i) Divide the class into pairs or groups of three. Give each pair a copy of the demonstration
sheet, which gives an example of a worksheet exercise. Quickly ask the first two questions
round the class to get a range of answers. ii) Students take it in turns to ask their partner the
questions, and note down the answers on a separate sheet of paper. When most pairs have
finished, stop the activity, and take back all the worksheets.
iii) As a round-up to the activity, ask different students what they found out from their
The advantages of using a worksheet for this activity, rather than just writing prompts on the
- Using a worksheet encourages students to work in pairs; their attention is focused on the
activity, not on the teacher or the rest of the class. If the information were on the
blackboard, the students would keep having to turn round to look at it.
- Using a worksheet saves time in the lesson - the teacher does not have to spend time
writing or drawing on the blackboard- Although it takes time to produce the worksheet,
it can then be used again in different classes and by different teachers.
- Giving out a worksheet makes a change of activity. It gives the students something new
to look at, which they have not seen before.
To be used successfully for oral practice, a worksheet must:
- Provide enough practice. The activity should continue for at least a few minutes, or it is
not worthwhile.
- Practise language which is already fairly well known. So worksheets are most useful as
an extension to the practice in the textbook, ox for review.
- Have very simple instructions, if necessary in the students' own language. Students
must be able to do the activity without having to ask the teacher for help.

Examples of oral exercises:

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A. Practises questions with 'How much?', prices, vocabulary for clothes. Elementary level.
Preparation: Identify the articles of clothing, and ask one or two questions round the
B. Practises present continuous tense (sentences and questions) with 'action' verbs.
Elementary level. Preparation: Whole exercise could be done round the class," with
pairwork as the final stage.
C. Practises 'category' words, e.g. building, tool, reptile, crop, and the structure 'They are
all . . .', and leads to freer discussion Intermediate—advanced level (but could be used at a
lower level with simpler items,. Preparation: Could be attempted in pairs first, then discussed
with the whole class.

Worksheets for reading and writing

How the worksheets could be used in class:

- The simplest way to use them is to make enough copies of each worksheet for every
student (or for every pair of students). All the students do the activity at the same time,

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working individually or in pairs. After the activity, the teacher goes through the answers
or students exchange books and check each other's work.
- Another way is to build up a set of different worksheets, with several copies of each (they
can also be written on cards so that they last longer). Different students can then use
different worksheets in the same lesson. This means that fewer copies have to be made,
and it allows students to work at their own level and their own speed -good students can
be given more difficult tasks, or can finish several tasks in one lesson. The teacher can
correct a student's work when he or she finishes a task.
- However the worksheets are used, students should always write on a separate sheet of
paper, not on the worksheet itself; one of the main advantages of worksheets is that they
can be collected at the end of the lesson and used again.
- Because students are working alone without much supervision by the teacher, it is
important that worksheet exercises should be simple and fairly controlled, so that students
do not make many mistakes. The instructions should be clear and easy to understand, and
if necessary should be in the student's own language.

Examples of worksheets for reading and writing:

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Building up a set of worksheets:

- The simplest way to make a worksheet is to write it on a piece of paper (a full sheet or half
sheet of typing paper), using a black pen so that it can be photocopied - or of course to type
it. This is a good method if you want to make many copies of one worksheet to give out to
the whole class {e.g. for oral practice).
- If you want to build up a set of different activities, with a few copies of each (e.g. f-or
reading and writing practice), it is better to make workcards by writing or sticking exercises
on pieces of card - these will last longer,
- Another method is to fold a piece of card to make a 'booklet', and write the exercise on the

- Paper worksheets can be protected by polythene bags (these can often be bought very cheaply).
The exercise is written on one half of a sheet of typing paper, the paper folded in half and put
in a polythene bag, and the opening of the bag stapled together:

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- If the worksheets are single sheets of paper, they can be stored in labelled envelopes or in
folders; if they are on card, they can be stored in boxes.
- Each worksheet can be given a reference number so that it can be found easily: a reference to
a unit in the textbook (e.g. I/12/1 = Book I Unit 12, Worksheet 1); letters A, B, C to indicate
level; or a letter to indicate type of activity (e.g. O = oral practice).

Sharing the work

Producing large numbers of worksheets is very time-consuming, and would be too much work
for one teacher. There are many ways of sharing the work so that it becomes quite easy and also
allows the worksheets to be used in more classes:
- Teachers in one school can share the work of producing worksheets, and build up a set which
they can all use.
- Neighbouring schools can meet to exchange copies of worksheets (this could be organised by
inspectors or supervisors).
- Training sessions can be devoted to producing and trying out worksheets, with paper and
copying facilities provided.

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Why do teachers ask questions in class?
- To check that students understand: When we present new vocabulary or structures, we can
check that students have understood by using the new language in a question. When we
present a text, we can use questions to check that students have understood it.
- To give students practice: If we want students to use a certain structure, one way to do this
is to ask a question that requires a particular answer.
- To find out what students really think or know: We can use questions to encourage
students to talk about themselves and their experiences.
In class, it is possible to ask many different kinds of question, and to ask questions in many
different ways.


Different kinds of question are appropriate to different purposes.

What is the difference between these three types of question? How might you reply to each
a) Do you drink tea?
Can you swim?
Did he go to university?
Are they coming to the party?
b) Do you prefer tea or coffee?
Are they brothers or just friends?
Will you walk or go by bus?
Did she study in Britain or in the United States?

c) What do you usually drink?

Where did she study?
How long have they known each other?
When are you leaving?

1) Yes/No questions

Look at the first group of questions:

They are Yes/No questions.

- The reply can be 'Yes' or 'No' alone or with short forms: 'Yes, I do', 'No, I can't', etc.
- Remember how to form Yes/No questions: The auxiliary verb comes first; present simple
questions use 'do/does', past simple questions use 'did'.
Have you been on a training course before?

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Do you like living in . . . ?

Do you smoke?
Can you speak French?

When can Yes/No questions be used in class? They are especially useful for checking
comprehension. They are often the easiest questions to answer - they do not require students
to produce new language.

2) 'Or' questions
Look at the second group of questions:
- They are 'Or' questions (they are also sometimes called 'alternative questions').
- The reply is usually a word or phrase from the question itself, e.g. 'Friends' or They're
friends'; 'Britain' or ‘in Britain'.

Remember how to form 'Or' questions. They are formed in exactly the same way as Yes/No
questions, but contain two final elements - 'tea or coffee', 'brothers or friends'.
Is it hot or cold in here?
Are you married or single? ,
Do you teach at a primary or a secondary school?

3) WH- questions
Look at the third group of questions:
- They are WH- questions (also called 'information questions').
- With most WH- questions, it is natural to give a short answer. So the natural answer to
'Where did she study?' is ‘in Britain’, not 'She studied in Britain'. (A few WH-questions
require long answers)

Remember how to form WH- questions: They are formed in the same way as Yes/No questions,
but they begin with a 'WH- word' - 'When’, 'Where', 'Why', etc. 'How', 'How long', and 'How
much/many' are included as WH- words.
Where do you come from?
How long have you been teaching?
How many students are there in your class?
Who's your favourite film star?

Bear in mind that some WH- questions with 'Who' or 'What' have the same structure as a normal
sentence. These are called 'subject questions', because they ask about the subject of the sentence.
Something happened … What happened? (Not 'What did happen?')
Someone saw him . . . Who saw him?
Someone knows the answer. . . Who knows the answer?
Something fell over. . . What fell over?

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III.1 Checking questions

An important use of questions is to check that students understand a new word or phrase.
Imagine that you have just presented 'made of wood/metal/glass/stone'. Ask a series of questions
with short answers:

T: Look (pointing to table) - is this made of wood?

Ss: Yes.
T: (pointing to wall) What about this? Is it made of wood?
Ss: No, it isn't.
T: What is it made of?
Ss: Stone.
(and so on)
Why do the students only need to give short answers?
There are two reasons: because it is more natural, and also because at this stage the teacher
only wants to check that they understand. Later they can be asked to produce the new
language themselves.

III.2 Real classroom questions

Many situations which naturally arise in the classroom give an opportunity to ask real questions
of the three types practised above. If the teacher asks such questions in English, it will help
students to feel that language is real, not just something in a textbook.

What questions could you ask in these situations?

a) It's a hot day, and all the windows are closed.
b) One of your students looks pale and tired.
c) You set homework last lesson. Today you are going to check the answers with the class.
d) Several students are absent today.
e) When you come into class, you find a bag on your desk.
f) When you come into class, you find a face drawn on the blackboard.

What questions could be asked for the first situation?

Possible answers:
a) Are you hot? Do you feel hot? Do you want the window open?

Think of suitable questions for the other situations.

Possible answers:

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a) Do you feel ill? Do you feel all right! Are you tired?
b) Have you all done the homework?
c) Who is absent today? Is (Marcella) here today?
d) Whose bag is this?
e) Who drew this? What's this supposed to be?


Look at these questions on the board:

What time do you get up?
What do you have for breakfast?

Note that the natural answers to these questions would be short ('At seven o'clock', 'Bread and
However, in class we often want students to produce longer answers, so that they practise making
complete sentences, e.g.:

I get up at seven o'clock, and then I have breakfast. I usually have bread and cheese and a glass
of tea.

Three possible ways of eliciting long answers:

i) We could ask a question and insist on a long answer:
T: Answer with a complete sentence. What time do you get up?
S: I get up at seven o'clock.

This gets students to practise language effectively, but only by forcing them to answer in an
unnatural way. As a result, the 'conversation' that takes place in the class becomes artificial,
and unlike real English.

ii) We could ask a more general question which would naturally lead to a longer answer:
T: What do you do in the morning?
S: Well, I get up at seven o'clock, then I have breakfast.

This is much less artificial, and allows the conversation in the classroom to be more like
language spoken in real life.

Some other examples of general questions:

What did you do yesterday? Did anything interesting happen to you? Do you have any
children? What are they doing at the moment? Why did you become an English teacher? Did
you read the paper today? What's happening in . . .?

iii) Instead of asking a complete question, we could give a short 'prompt':

T: Tell me about your day.

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S: Well, I get up early, at about seven o'clock, . . .

T: What about breakfast?
S: I have quite a small breakfast, usually just a piece of bread and some tea ...

This is often an easier and more effective way of getting students to produce language than
asking a question.

Some other examples: Tell me about your family. Describe this room. Tell me about your
home town. What about shops? What about entertainment? What kind of things do you like?
What about books? How about music?

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Class management - the ability to control and inspire a class - is one of the
fundamental skills of teaching. Teachers find it much easier if their students
believe that they are genuinely interested in them and available for them.


The way that teachers talk to students - the manner in which they interact with them - is
one of the crucial teacher skills, but it does not demand technical expertise. It does, however,
require teachers to empathise with the people they are talking to.
One group of people who seem to find it fairly natural to adapt their language to their
audience are parents when they talk to their young children. Studies show that they use more
exaggerated tones of voice, and speak with less complex grammatical structures than they would
if they were talking to adults. Their vocabulary is generally more restricted too and the attempt to
make eye contact (and other forms of physical contact) is greater. They generally do these things
Though teachers and students arc not the same as parents and children, this subconscious
ability to 'rough-tune' the language is a skill they have in common. Rough-tuning is that
unconscious simplification which both parents and teachers make. Neither group sets out to get
the level of language exactly correct for their audience. They rely, instead, on a general
perception of what is being understood by the people listening to them. Their empathy allows
them to almost feel whether the level of language they are using is appropriate for the audience
they are addressing.
Experienced teachers rough-tune the way they speak to students as a matter of course.
Newer teachers need to concentrate their focus on their students' comprehension as the yardstick
by which to measure their own speaking style in the classroom.
Apart from adapting their language, experienced teachers also use physical movement:
gestures, expressions, mime. It becomes almost second nature to show happiness and sadness,
movement and time sequences, concepts (e.g. 'heavy' and 'drunk') using these techniques. They
become part of the language teachers use, especially with students at lower levels.


This issue of how to talk to students becomes crucial when teachers are giving their
students instructions. The best activity in the world is a waste of time if the students don't
understand what it is they are supposed to do.
There are two general rules for giving instructions: they must be kept as simple as
possible, and they must be logical. Before giving instructions, therefore, teachers must ask
themselves the following questions: What is the important information I am trying to convey?
What must the students know if they are to complete this activity successfully? Which
information do they need first? Which should come next?

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When teachers give instructions, it is important for them to check that the students have
understood what they are being asked to do. This can be achieved either by asking a student to
explain the activity after the teacher has given the instruction or by getting someone to show the
other people in the class how the exercise works. Where students all share the same mother
tongue (which the teacher also understands), a member of the class can be asked to translate the
instructions as a check that they have understood them.


There is a continuing debate about the amount of time teachers should spend talking in
class. Trainees' classes are sometimes criticised because there is too much TTT (Teacher Talking
Time) and not enough STT (Student Talking Time).
Getting students to speak - to use the language they arc learning - is a vital part of a
teacher's job. Students are the people who need the practice, in other words, not the teacher. In
general terms, therefore, a good teacher maximises STT and minimises TTT.
Good TTT may have beneficial qualities, however. If teachers know how to talk to
students - if they know how to rough-tune their language to the students' level, as we have
discussed above - then the students get a chance to hear language which is certainly above their
own productive level, but which they can more or less understand. Such 'comprehensible input' (a
term coined by the American methodologist Stephen Krashen) — where students receive rough-
tuned input in a relaxed and unthreatening way - is an important feature in language acquisition.
TTT works!
A classroom where the teacher's voice drones on and on day after day and where you
hardly ever hear the students say anything is not one that most teachers and students would
approve of, however. TTT can be terribly over-used. Conversely, a class where the teacher seems
reluctant to speak is not very attractive either.
The best lessons are ones where STT is maximised, but where at appropriate moments
during the lesson the teacher is not afraid to summarise what is happening, tell a story, enter into
discussion etc. Good teachers use their common sense and experience to get the balance right.


One of the greatest enemies of successful teaching is student boredom. This is often
caused by the deadening predictabiHty of much classroom time. Students frequently know what
is going to happen in class and they know this because it will be the same as what happened in
the last class — and a whole string of classes before that. Something has to be done to break the
In his monumental book, Breaking Rules, John Fanselow suggests that, both for the
teachers sanity and the students' continuing involvement, teachers need to violate their own
behaviour patterns. If a teacher normally teaches in casual clothes, he should turn up one day
wearing a suit. If a teacher normally sits down, she should stand up. If he or she is normally noisy
and energetic as a teacher, he or she should spend a class behaving calmly and slowly. Each time
teachers break one of their own rules, in other words, they send a ripple through the class. That

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ripple is a mixture of surprise and curiosity and it is a perfect starting point for student
The need for surprise and variety within a fifty-minute lesson is also overwhelming. If,
for example, students spend all of that time writing sentences, they will probably get bored. But
if, in that fifty minutes, there are a number of different tasks with a selection of different topics,
the students are much more likely to remain interested. This can be seen most clearly with
children at primary and secondary levels, but even adults need a varied diet to keep them
However, variety is not the same as anarchy. Despite what we have said, students tend to
like a certain amount of predictability: they appreciate a safe structure which they can rely on.
And too much chopping and changing - too much variety in a fifty-minute lesson — can be de-
stabilising. Good teachers find a balance between predictable safety and unexpected variety.


The teacher's physical presence plays a large part in his or her management of the
classroom environment. And it's not just appearance either. The way the teacher moves, how he
or she stands, how physically demonstrative he or she is - all these play their part in the effective
management of a class.
All teachers, like all people, have their own physical characteristics and habits, and they
will take these into the classroom with them. But there are a number of issues to consider which
are not just idiosyncratic and which have a direct bearing on the students' perception of us.
Proximity: teachers should consider how close they want to be to the students they are
working with. Some students resent it if the distance between them and the teacher is too small.
For others, on the other hand, distance is a sign of coldness. Teachers should be conscious of
their proximity and, in assessing their students' reactions to what is happening in the classroom,
they should take this into account.
Appropriacy: deciding how closely you should work with students is a matter of
appropriacy. So is the general way in which teachers sit or stand in classrooms. Many teachers
create an extremely friendly atmosphere by crouching down when they work with students in
pairs. In this way, they are at the same level as their seated students. However, some students
find this informality worrying. Some teachers are even happy to sit on the floor, and in certain
situations this may be appropriate. But in others it may well lead to a situation where students
are put oft from concentrating.
All the positions teachers take - sitting on the edge of tables, standing behind a lectern,
standing on a raised dais etc. — make strong statements about the kind of person the teacher is.
It is important, therefore, to consider what kind of effect such physical behaviour has so that we
can behave in a way which is appropriate to the students we have and the relationship we wish
to create with them. If we want to manage a class effectively, such a relationship is crucial.
Movement: some teachers tend to spend most of their class time in one place — at the
front of the class, for example, or to the side, or in the middle. Others spend a great deal of time
walking from side to side, or striding up and down the aisles between the chairs. Although this,
again, is to some extent a matter of personal preference, it is worth remembering that motionless

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teachers can bore students, whilst teachers who are constantly in motion can turn their students
into tennis-match spectators, their heads moving from side to side until they become exhausted.
Most successful teachers move around the classroom to some extent. That way they can
retain their students' interest (if they are leading an activity) or work more closely with smaller
groups (when they go to help a pair or group).
How much a teacher moves around in the classroom, then, will depend on his or her
personal style, where he or she feels most comfortable for the management of the class, how she
or he feels it easiest to manage the classroom effectively, and whether or not he or she wants to
work with smaller groups.
Contact: much of what we have said is about the issue of contact. How can teachers
make contact with students? How close should that contact be?
In order to manage a class successfully, the teacher has to be aware of what students are
doing and, where possible, how they are feeling. This means watching and listening just as
carefully as teaching. It means being able to move around the class, getting the level of
proximity right. It means making eye contact with students (provided that this is not culturally
inappropriate), listening to what they have said and responding appropriately.
It is almost impossible to help students to learn a language in a classroom setting without
making contact with them. The exact nature of this contact will vary from teacher to teacher and
from class to class.
The teacher's physical approach and personality in the class is one aspect of class
management to consider. Another is one of the teacher’s chief tools: the voice.


Perhaps the teacher's most important instrument is the voice. How we speak and what
our voice sounds like have a crucial impact on classes. When considering the use of the voice in
the management of teaching there are three issues to think about.
Audibility: clearly, teachers need to be audible. They must be sure that the students at
the back of the class can hear them just as well as those at the front. But audibility cannot be
divorced from voice quality: a rasping shout is always unpleasant.
Teachers do not have to shout to be audible. In fact, in most classrooms, there is a danger of the
teacher's voice being too loud. Good teachers try to get this balance between audibility and
volume just right.
Variety: it is important for teachers to vary the quality of their voices - and the volume
they speak at - depending on the type of lesson and the type of activity. So the kind of voice you
use to give instructions or introduce a new activity will be different from the voice which is
most appropriate for conversation or an informal exchange of views or information.
In one particular situation, teachers often use very loud voices, and that is when they
want students to be quiet or stop doing something (see the next section). But it is worth pointing
out that speaking quietly is often just as effective a way of getting the students' attention since,
when they realise that you are talking, they will want to stop and listen in case you are saying
something important or interesting. However, for teachers who almost never raise their voices,

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the occasional shouted interjection may have an extremely dramatic effect, and this can
sometimes be beneficial.
Conservation: just like opera singers, teachers have to take great care of their voices. It
is important that they breathe correctly from the diaphragm so that they don't strain their
larynxes. It is important that they vary their voices throughout a day, avoiding shouting
wherever possible, so that they can conserve their vocal energy. Conserving the voice is one
thing teachers will want to take into account when planning a day's or a weeks work.


If the teacher needs to provide variety, then clearly he or she will have to include
different stages in his or her lessons.
When he or she arrives in the classroom, the teacher needs to start the lesson off. Where
possible and appropriate, he or she needs to tell the students what they will be doing or, in a
different kind of lesson, needs to discuss with them what they are hoping to achieve.
Teachers do not always explain exactly what they are going to do, however, since they
sometimes want to maintain an element of surprise. But even in such cases, a clear start to the
lesson is necessary just as a play often starts with the rise of a curtain, or a visit to the doctor
starts when he or she asks you, 'Now then, what seems to be the problem?' or 'How can I help
When an activity has finished and/or another one is about to start, it helps if teachers
make this clear through the way they behave and the things they say. It helps students if they are
made clearly aware of the end of something and the beginning of what is coming next.
Frequently, teachers need to re-focus the students' attention, or point it in some new direction.
In order for such changes of direction to be effective, the teacher first needs to get the
students' attention. This can sometimes be difficult, especially when teachers try to draw a
speaking activity to a conclusion, or when students are working in groups. Some teachers clap
their hands to get students' attention. Some speak loudly, saying things like, 'Thank you ... now
can I have your attention please?' or 'OK ... thanks ... let s all face the front shall we?' Another
method is for the teacher to raise his or her hand. When individual students see this, they raise
their hands briefly in reply to indicate that they are now going to be quiet and wait for the next
Finally, when an activity or a lesson has finished, it helps if the teacher is able to provide
some kind of closure — a summary of what has happened, perhaps, or a prediction of what will
take place in the next lesson. Sometimes, teachers find themselves in the middle of something
when the bell goes, but this is unfortunate, because it leaves unfinished business behind, and a
sense of incompleteness. It is much better to round the lesson off successfully.


In many classrooms around the world students sit in orderly rows. Sometimes, their chairs
have little wooden palettes on one of the arms as surfaces to write on. Sometimes, the students
will have desks in front of them. It is not unknown to find the chairs bolted to the floor. At the

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front of such classrooms, frequently on a raised platform (so that all the students can see them),
stand the teachers. In contrast, there are other institutions where you can find students sitting in a
large circle around the walls of the classroom. Or you may see small groups of them working in
different parts of the room. Sometimes, they are arranged in a horseshoe shape around the
teacher. Sometimes, it is not immediately obvious who the teacher is.

Clearly, we are seeing a number of different approaches in the different arrangements of

chairs and tables and this raises a number of questions. Are schools which use a variety of seating
plans progressive or merely modish, for example? Is there something intrinsically superior about
rigid seating arrangements - or are such classrooms the product of traditional orthodoxy? Is one
kind of seating arrangement better than another? What are the advantages of each? The following
discusses these various arrangements.
Orderly rows: when the students sit in rows in classrooms, there are obvious advantages.
It means that the teacher has a clear view of all the students and the students can all see the
teacher - in whose direction they are facing. It makes lecturing easy, enabling the teacher to
maintain eye contact with the people he or she is talking to. It also makes discipline easier since it
is more difficult to be disruptive when you are sitting in a row. If there are aisles in the
classroom, the teacher can easily walk up and down making more personal contact with
individual students and watching what they are doing.
Orderly rows imply teachers working with the whole class. Some activities are especially
suited to this kind of organisation: explaining a grammar point, watching a video, using the
board, demonstrating text organisation on an overhead transparency which shows a paragraph,
for example. It is also useful when students are involved in certain kinds of language practice. If
all the students are focused on a task, the whole class gets the same messages.

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When teachers arc working with the whole class sitting in orderly rows, it is vitally
important to make sure that they remain in contact with the students and that they keep everyone
involved. So, if they are asking questions to the class, they must remember to ask students at the
back, the quiet ones perhaps, rather than just the ones nearest them. They must move round so
that they can see all the students to gauge their reactions to what's going on.
One trick that many teachers use is to keep their students guessing. Especially where
teachers need to ask individual students questions, it is important that they should not do so in
order, student after student, line by line. That way, the procedure becomes very tedious and the
students know when they are going to be asked and, once this has happened, that they are not
going to be asked again. It is much better to ask students from all parts of the room in apparently
random order. It keeps everyone on their toes!
In many classrooms of the world, teachers are faced with classes of anywhere between 40
and 200 students at a time. In such circumstances, orderly rows may well be the best or only
Circles and horseshoes: in smaller classes, many teachers and students prefer circles or
horseshoes. In a horseshoe, the teacher will probably be at the open end of the arrangement since
that may well be where the board, overhead projector and/or tape recorder are situated. In a
circle, the teacher's position - where the board is situated — is less dominating.
Classes which are arranged in a circle make quite a strong statement about what the
teacher and the students believe in. The Round Table in the legends about King Arthur was
designed by him specially so that there would not be arguments about who was more important
than who — and that included the King himself when they were in a meeting. So it is in
classrooms. With all the people in the room sitting in a circle, there is a far greater feeling of
equality than when the teacher stays out at the front. This may not be quite so true of the
horseshoe shape where the teacher is often located in a central position, but even here the teacher
has a much greater opportunity to get close to the students.
If, therefore, teachers believe in lowering the barriers between themselves and their
students, this kind of seating arrangement will help. There are other advantages too, chief among
which is the fact that all the students can see each other. In an 'orderly row' classroom, you have
to turn round - that is, away from the teacher — if you want to make eye contact with someone
behind you. In a circle or a horseshoe, no such disruption is necessary. The classroom is thus a
more intimate place and the potential for students to share feelings and information through
talking, eye contact or expressive body movements (eyebrow-raising, shoulder-shrugging etc.) is
far greater.
Separate tables: Even circles and horseshoes seem rather formal compared to classes
where students are seated in small groups at individual tables. In such classrooms, you might see
the teacher walking around checking the students' work and helping out if they are having
difficulties - prompting the students at this table, or explaining something to the students at the
table in the corner.
When students sit in small groups at individual tables, the atmosphere in the class is much
less hierarchical than in other arrangements. It is much easier for the teacher to work at one table
while the others get on with their own work. It feels less like teacher and students and more like
responsible adults getting on with the business of learning.

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However, this arrangement is not without its own problems. In the first place, students
may not always want to be with the same colleagues: indeed, their preferences may change over
time. Secondly, it makes 'whole-class' teaching more difficult, since the students are more diffuse
and separated.
The way students sit says a lot about the style of the teacher or the institution where the
lessons take place. Many teachers would like to rearrange their classes so that they are not always
faced with rows and rows of bored faces. Even where this is physically impossible - in terms of
furniture, for example - there are things they can do to achieve this.


Whatever the seating arrangements in a classroom, students can be organised in different
ways: they can work as a whole class, in groups, in pairs, or individually.
Whole class: as we have seen, there are many occasions when a teacher working with the
class as a whole is the best type of classroom organisation. However, this does not always mean
the class sitting in orderly rows; whatever the seating arrangement, the teacher can have the
students focus on him or her and the task in hand.
Groupwork and pairwork: these have become increasingly popular in language
teaching since they are seen to have many advantages. Groupwork is a cooperative activity: five
students, perhaps, discussing a topic, doing a role-play or solving a problem. In groups, students
tend to participate more equally, and they are also more able to experiment and use the language
than they are in a whole-class arrangement.
Pairwork has many of the same advantages. It is mathematically attractive if nothing else;
the moment students get into pairs and start working on a problem or talking about something,
many more of them will be doing the activity than if the teacher was working with the whole
class, where only one student talks at a time.
Both pairwork and groupwork give the students chances for greater independence.
Because they are working together without the teacher controlling every move, they take some of
their own learning decisions, they decide what language to use to complete a certain task, and
they can work without the pressure of the whole class listening to what they are doing. Decisions
are cooperatively arrived at, responsibilities are shared.
The other great advantage of groupwork and pairwork (but especially groupwork) is that
they give the teacher the opportunity to work with individual students. While groups A and C are
doing one task, the teacher can spend some time with Group B who need special attention.
Neither groupwork nor pairwork are without their problems. As with 'separate table'
seating, students may not like the people they arc grouped or paired with. In any one group or
pair, one student may dominate while the others stay silent. In difficult classes, groupwork may
encourage students to be more disruptive than they would be in a whole-class setting, and,
especially in a class where students share the same first language, they may revert to their first
language, rather than English, when the teacher is not working with them.
Apart from groupwork and pairwork, the other alternative to whole-class teaching is

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Solowork: this can have many advantages: it allows students to work at their own speed,
allows them thinking time, allows them, in short, to be individuals. It often provides welcome
relief from the group-centred nature of much language teaching. For the time that solowork takes
place, students can relax their public faces and go back to considering their own individual needs
and progress.
How much teachers use groupwork, pairwork or solowork depends to a large extent on
teacher style and student preferences. Do the students actually enjoy pairwork? What do they get
out of it? Do the advantages of groupwork — cooperation, involvement, autonomy - outweigh
the advantages of whole-class grouping - clarity, dramatic potential, teacher control? Do the
students work conscientiously during solowork sessions?
Good teachers are able to use different class groupings for different activities. While they
do this, they will monitor which is more successful and for what, so that they can always seek to
be more effective.

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A good lesson is like …

a. a film - has a structure of beginning, middle and end. The beginning has to create interest
and the end give a sense of closure. Parts may be predictable, but other pans may provide
twists and surprises.
b. a football match - has pace (although this will vary at different stages of the match) and
energy. Trainees may compare the roles of teachers and coaches, or teachers and referees.
c. a meal - (in three courses) again has a beginning, middle and end structure and closure at
the end. A meal is a combination of ingredients that complement each other.
d. a symphony - has a predictable structure, a variety of pace and a theme or themes that run
through it

Four main things that a teacher needs to know before going into a class to teach a lesson:
- The aim of the lesson.
- What new language the lesson contains.
- The main stages of the lesson (i.e. how it divides into different activities).
- What to do at each stage.

If there is a teacher’s book, it may give information about some or all of these things.
- If the teacher's book does not give enough information, it is important for teachers to decide
the answers to these questions themselves -in other words, to make their own plan for the
- If the teacher’+s book does give adequate information, teachers should still decide for
themselves how best to teach the lesson. They should use the teacher's book as a guide and a
source of good ideas, not as a set of instructions that must be followed precisely.


Aims of the lesson

Aims are what we want learners to learn or be able to do at the end of a lesson, a sequence of
lessons or a whole course.
Lesson aims are important because...
a trainers (and directors of studies) require them
b they make planning easier
c they make lesson plans look more professional
d they frame the criteria by which the lesson will be judged
e learners need to know the focus of the lesson
f they set a goal that can be used to test the learners' achievement.

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A lesson may focus on:

- A particular topic - so the aim of the lesson may be 'To learn the names of colours' or 'To
practise language for buying clothes'.
- A particular structure - so the aim of the lesson may be 'To describe actions using the
present continuous tense' or 'To practise "going to" for talking about future plans'.
- A skill - so the aim of the lesson may be 'To understand instructions for using a machine'
or 'To express opinions freely in English about marriage".

It is important for the teacher to know exactly what language will be taught in the lesson. Most
lessons introduce either new vocabulary or a new structure, or both.
- New vocabulary: Not all new words in a lesson are equally important. As part of the
preparation for the lesson, the teacher should decide which words need to be practised, and
which only need to be briefly mentioned.
- Structures: If a new structure is introduced in the lesson, it will need to be presented carefully
and practised. The teacher should also be aware of any structures which are practised in the
lesson, but which were introduced in earlier lessons.

The teacher needs to be aware of what skills will be developed in the lesson: speaking, listening,
reading or writing. If possible, the lesson should include practice of more than one skill - this will
increase the variety and interest of the lesson.

Different kinds of aims

Main aim Subsidiary aims Personal aims

To practise making polite requests in Grammar: to revise modal auxiliary verbs. To improve my
the context of making holiday Functional exponents: Could/Would you...? organisation of the
arrangements. Vocabulary: to consolidate lexis for travel, whiteboard; to give
Example exponent: Could you accommodation. clearer examples.
give me some information about Phonology: to focus on intonation.
hotels? Speaking: to give controlled oral practice.

A main aim, like the one above, describes the most important thing we want to achieve in a
lesson or sequence of lessons. For example, we may want learners to understand and practise
using new language; to reinforce or consolidate (i.e. to make stronger) the use of language they
already know by giving them further practice; or lo revise language they have recently learnt. On
a lesson plan the main aim should also include an example of the target language we are planning
to teach.

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As well as a main aim, a lesson may also have subsidiary aims. Subsidiary aims show the
language or skills learners must be able to use well in order to achieve the main aim of the
lesson. In the example on page 86, the main aim is to practise making polite requests; the
subsidiary aims describe the language and skill that learners will need to make these requests.
Stating both main and subsidiary aims is a good way of making sure that our lesson plan focuses
on what we want our learners to learn, or to be able to do. It enables us to see how the lesson
should develop, from one stage (or part) to the next, building up our learners' knowledge or skills
in the best possible order.
In addition to learning aims for the learners, we may also want to think about our own personal
aims as teachers. Personal aims show what we would like to improve or focus on in our own
teaching. Like the ones in the table on page 86, these might be about improving the way that we
handle aids and materials or particular teaching techniques, or they might be about our
relationship with the learners. Here are some more examples:
• to try different correction techniques
• to remember to check instructions
• to write more clearly on the blackboard/whiteboard
• to make more use of the phonemic chart (a poster with phonemic symbols)
• to get learners to work with different partners
• to get quieter learners to answer questions.


Any lesson we teach naturally divides into different stages of activity: for example, at one stage
in the lesson, the class may be listening to a dialogue; at another stage, the teacher may be
explaining new words and writing them on the board; at another stage students may be doing
some oral practice. It is much easier to plan the details of a lesson if we think in terms of separate
stages rather than trying to think of the lesson as a whole.
Some important stages of a lesson:
 Presentation: The teacher presents new words or structures, gives
examples, writes them on the board, etc.
 Practice: Students practise using words or structures in a controlled way, e.g. making
sentences from prompts, asking and answering questions, giving sentences based on a
picture. Practice can be oral or written.
 Production: Students use language they have learnt to express themselves more freely,
e.g. to talk or write about their own lives and interests, to express opinions, to imagine
themselves in different situations. Like practice, production can be oral or written.
 Reading: Students read a text and answer questions or do a simple
'task' (e.g. complete a table).
 Listening: The teacher reads a text or dialogue while students listen
and answer questions, or the students listen to a cassette.
 Review: The teacher reviews language learnt in an earlier lesson, to refresh students'
memories, or as a preparation for a new presentation.

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- A single lesson would not, of course, normally include all these stages.
- The stages are in no fixed order. Usually teachers present new language, then do some practice,
then get students to use language more freely. But a teacher might:, for example, present a
structure, practise it quickly, then present and practise something else before going on to a final
production activity - each stage could occur several times in a single lesson.
- The stages overlap. For example, reading a text might be part of the presentation or it might be
a quite separate activity; answering questions on a text is part of reading but also gives students
oral practice. When we talk about "stages' of a lesson, we are thinking of the main focus of the

Example of various stages in a specific 45-minute lesson:

Level: Intermediate
Task: Writing a story to practise past simple and past continuous

Stage Time Procedure

1 0-5 c The teacher asks learners about their favourite stories when they were young.
Learners volunteer stories.
2 6-10 f The teacher gives out a short story and asks learners to underline examples of
the past simple in blue and underline examples of the past continuous in red.
3 11-18 d The teacher clarifies the form with examples on the board and then gives out a
series of rules of use of the verb forms. Learners decide which rules go with which
verb form and pick out examples from the text.
4 19-20 b The teacher asks questions to check understanding.
5 21-28 e Learners complete sentences, deciding whether the past simple or continuous is
more appropriate.
6 29-35 a The teacher divides the class into three groups. Each group makes up a story.
7 36-45 g The teacher forms new groups, comprising one person from each of the other
groups. The learners tell each other their stories.

Good lessons tend to have a variety of activities and pace. Part of achieving this depends on
having different interaction patterns:

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Activity Procedure Interaction

Speaking The learners talk about their hobbles and Interests In groups Ss-Ss
Task checking/ The teacher asks the learners what they talked about SS-T
report back
Reading for gist The learners read a text quickly to understand the gist of it Ss-text
(questions 1-3 on handout)
Checking answers Learners compare answers to reading Ss-Ss

The students, as well as the teacher, need to know the aim of the lesson as a whole and the
purpose of each stage. So it is important for the teacher to introduce each stage of the lesson.

Introducing the whole lesson: 'Today we're going to talk about clothes. We're going to say what
clothes people are wearing. Then you're going to write about your own clothes. And if there's
time, we’ll read something about clothes as well.'

Introducing each stage:

1. Do you remember last week's lesson? We learnt some words for clothes. Can you
remember them?
2. Now, let's learn some new words. Here are some clothes. What are they made of? ...
3. Let's practise talking about clothes. Look at the picture on page 93.
4. Now, I want you to write about yourselves, about your clothes. What were you wearing
last weekend? Do you remember?
5. Now, we're going to read about other countries. First, look – here are three countries
(writing on board). Where are they? . . .


A lesson plan’s main purpose should be to help the teacher.

- Writing a lesson plan helps teachers to prepare the lesson; it helps them decide exactly
what they will do and how they will do it.
- Teachers can look at the lesson plan again after the lesson, and use it to evaluate what
happened. (Did they do what they planned to do? Was each stage successful?)
- They can keep the lesson plan and use it again next year.

The main components of a lesson plan show us what the lesson is for (the aims) and what the
teacher and the learners will do during the lesson and how they will do it (the procedures). Other
components help us to think about possible problems and remind us of things we need to
remember about the learners.

Here are some ways a lesson plan helps the teacher.

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Writing down the aims and the procedures for each stage of
Before the lesson the lesson helps us to make sure that we have planned the
best possible sequence to enable us to achieve those aims.

The plan can also help the teacher to check timing-the

During the lesson amount of time we plan for each stage-and to check that
the lesson is following the sequence we decided on.

We can keep the plan as a record of what happened,

making any changes necessary to show how the lesson
was different from the plan. We can then use the plan
After the lesson
and notes to help plan the next lesson. (At this stage,
the plan may be more like a photograph, a story or a
summary, giving us a record of the lesson.)

There is no ‘correct’ way to write a lesson plan, although a good lesson plan should give a clear
picture of what the teacher intends to do in the lesson.

A lesson plan can include the following headings:

Lesson plan headings

Level & number of Ss who we are planning the lesson for
Timetable fit how the lesson is connected to the last lesson and/or the next one
Main aim(s) what we want learners to learn or to be able to do by the end of the lesson

Subsidiary aims other things we want learners to be able to do during the lesson
because they lead to the main aim
Personal aims aspects of our own teaching we want to develop or improve
Assumptions what we think learners already know or can already do related to the aims

Anticipated language things that learners may find difficult

Possible solutions action we will take to deal with the anticipated problems
Teaching aids, useful reminders of things to take to the lesson
materials, equipment
Procedures + Timing tasks and activities for each stage length of
time needed for each stage
Interaction patterns ways in which learners work at different stages, i.e. individually, in pairs,
in groups, as a whole class

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It is usually a good idea to anticipate possible problems and solutions, but in a revision lesson we
may not need these headings. Also, we may not have personal aims for every lesson, and we
may not always give learners homework!

• When we make a lesson plan, we need to ask ourselves how the procedures we have planned
will help to achieve our aims and to make sure there are strong connections between the
different stages.
• We also need to consider variety, i.e. how we can use different activity types, language skills
and interaction patterns. Learners of all ages need different activities in a lesson, but this is
especially important for younger learners.
• During the lesson we should teach the learners, not the lesson plan! We must be prepared, if
necessary, to change our plan while we are teaching. If we have a clear plan, we will be more
aware of what we are changing and why. We can include some different possibilities in a
lesson plan, e.g. an extra activity to use if learners take less time than expected to complete a
task, and this can help if we are not sure how well parts of the plan will work.
Things to remember

 When we plan an individual lesson, we have to ask ourselves a number of questions:

- Will the topic be interesting and motivating for my learners?
- Are the activities and teaching materials at the right level for all the learners?
- Have I planned enough for the time available? Do I need any extra material?
- Have I planned too much for the time available? Are there any stages I can cut if
- Have I thought about exactly how to start and end the lesson?
- Does each step in the lesson help to achieve the aim?
 It’s a good idea to make lesson plans look as simple as possible, so notes are better than full
sentences, and there's no need to describe every step in great detail. However, we may want
to write down some important things in a complete form - for example, prompts for drilling,
questions to check learners' understanding, instructions, etc.
 A lesson plan should be clear and easy to read during the lesson. Different colours, boxes,
underlining, etc. are useful. It is often helpful to include drawings of the way the blackboard
(or whiteboard) will look at different stages.
 Variety is very important both in a sequence of lessons and in a single lesson. We should
avoid always doing the same kinds of things in the same order, e.g. always beginning the
lesson with a conversation or always ending with a role-play. There are several different
ways of introducing variety into lessons. Here is a list of things we can vary:

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Pace  quick and fast-moving or slow and reflective

interaction pattern  individual, pairs, groups, whole class
skill  productive or receptive
level of difficulty  non-demanding or requiring effort and concentration
content  changing from one language point to another; from one
subject to another
mood  light or serious; happy or sad; tense or relaxed
exciting or calming 'stirring'(lively and active) or 'settling'(quietening down)
activities 

(adapted from A Course in Language Teaching by Penny Ur, Cambridge University Press 1996)

 Learners may well require more frequent revision than the coursebook provides. A scheme
of work is a good way to make sure that we recycle language (i.e. use it again) and include
regular revision activities during a sequence of lessons.
 Coursebook units are often arranged around a specific topic (such as sport or relationships),
which may be a useful way of linking together a sequence of lessons. This kind of sequence
gives us the chance to develop particular areas of vocabulary, but learners may feel that the
lessons are repetitive, so we need plenty of variety of texts and tasks.

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