Lately I have found some really enlightening accounts of unplugged teaching, teachers opening the doors of their classrooms to give us all an insight into to what goes on in a Dogme lesson. In sunny Spain, Adam Beale is taking a leap of faith with his learners, giving us some colourful accounts and reflections of his lessons. In Japan, Oli Beddall is diving deep into post lesson reflection on his blog, providing an equally fascinating read for all those interested, with a sprinkling of second language acquisition theory thrown into the bargain. In Costa Rica, Chris Ożóg gives us some food for thought with post-lesson reflections. To add to that, Chiew Pang’s collection of reflections is an absolute must for any experiences, curious of aspiring Dogme teacher. All fantastic blogs I have learned a lot from in the past few weeks, so thanks for blogging.
Continuing along the lines of unplugged ideas, I would like to share a few ideas for extending conversation. Adam Beale wrote in a recent post, “now is time for the leap of faith”, which I think sums up very nicely the part of the lesson when an engaging conversation is coming to an end and it is up to the teacher to mould the language into the next part of the lesson. It is at this point that having a few activity skeletons up your sleeve comes in handy, which can be called upon for a variety of different topics. Hopefully at least one might be of use:
1. Conversation reviews
You have a board full of new lexis from a conversation. Now ask learners to write a review of their conversations using it.
Instead of a review a newspaper article provides an opportunity to reuse emerging language. A student comes late because of bad traffic, why not an article on the traffic problems in the city? Talking about how improve your English? Different languages? This can make up the focus of the final part of the lesson. Collect them in at the end of the lesson and use them for a language focus at the start of the next lesson.
I used headlines in this lesson and lots of interesting and quite entertaining use of language emerged from it. Headlines can also be useful at the start of the lesson as an alternative to “what did you do at the weekend”. Include one of your own as a stimulus.
4. Telling lies, telling the truth
I came across this activity when one of my students started talking about how she had become obsessed with ‘Skins’, the British TV series about a group of dysfunctional teenagers in Bristol. When the chat had died down, I asked each learner to write three phrases about teenagers in their country, including at least one lie. We then read our facts or false-truths and used them as a springboard for discussion.
5. Do you agree?
All you need is a piece of paper and a pen. Ask groups to write a set of opinions on a topic recently discussed (some examples include changes to the school, homework policy, rubbish collection system, eating habits, how to best bring up your children). Make sure a gap is left underneath for other groups to discuss and write their opinion. Ask groups to swap, discuss and respond. At the end of the activity discuss some of the responses as a class.
The school accommodation service, the price of a bus ticket, the best way to make a coffee, why do you use facebook? These sorts of topics emerge a lot in my classroom. Ask groups to make interview questions concerning a topic that emerged in class, note down answers in a sort of information-gap activity. After a few interviews, each learner writes up a short summary of the classroom opinion. In an IELTS class there is the possibility of introducing some language to describe trends, or drawing charts/graphs for habits/opinions and explaining them to the class.
Little explanation required. I normally try and make a role-play include lots of functional language for the real world and involve real-life situations. Presenting to the International Monetary fund a new plan to cure world poverty to me seems a bit much if the learners are never going to need to use English for this purpose.
I taught a business course once with a focus on writing. What I found hardest was finding materials that would appeal to a bunch of thirty-something business types in London. I found that asking them to conduct meetings about issues in their workplaces provided a good springboard for teaching note taking, writing reports, minutes and emails. Ask learners to write an agenda for a meeting, select a boss to manage the meeting and let things role.
Even traditional dictation is useful to focus on specific language points. I usually use it to focus on connected speech, selecting some phrasal verbs in context or some functional language like “you really should think about…” and dictating them at normal speech rate, asking students first to count the number of words, then try as hard as they can to write every single word. Discuss the areas that were difficult for learners to hear (consonant-vowel linking with many phrasal verbs, elision, weak forms etc) and highlight them on the board.
Grammar up dictation: dictate a review of a conversation but leave out pre-selected grammar words which learners then fill in. Be careful not to make it too difficult or ambiguous. Keep it simple by selecting one language point, perhaps one that learners have particular difficulty with before.
Dictogloss: mentioned also on Oli Beddall’s blog, used at the start of the lesson to facilitate discussion or after to capture discussion. After a conversation, it is a useful tool to introduce new language already in context i.e. the conversation before. Let learners hear the text once. Ask them to discuss what they understood. Let them hear it again and take notes. From their notes they construct a final version of the text to compare with the original.
9. Sentence anagrams
Write a couple of sentences about what learners are talking about. This is a good chance to introduce some new phrasal verbs in context or highlight some collocations.
X is really getting behind with his studies
The weather is really getting Y down
Z finds getting around town really difficult when there’s a tube strike
Jumble them up into three anagrams, e.g.
studies getting X is really behind with
Ask learners to unscramble the anagrams, accepting grammatically correct alternatives but pushing students to come as close to the original as possible. Reveal the examples after and clarify context, meaning, form and pron.
For this activity a slightly more creative and confident class is required but it can produce some interesting results. Take a subject being discussed and tell learners they are going to write a poem. Ask each learner to write two lines. Form two groups and ask each group to construct a poem using their contributions and write it on the white board. There should be two poems at the end of the activity. Discuss topics in the poems and language used to extend the activity further, normally lots of interesting lexis arises.
Topics do not necessarily have to be poetic, great topics I have used are:
If I were a man/If I were a woman
What can I see sitting by the window in Starbucks
In London we stand on the right, walk on the left
What I didn’t do last weekend
11. Rephrasing cards
This activity works on learners’ ability to paraphrase and can be adapted for lexis or grammar, quite handy for FCE classes. Take some language that emerged from a conversation and clarify meaning and context, keep this language on the board. Distribute the language on cards to pairs and ask them to rephrase each chunk on he other side of the card, (again, this could be a different collocation or a rearranging the structure of the sentence, playing with modality or grammar). Give each group two or three then ask them to swap and guess which chunk is being rearranged from the examples on the board.
An alternative involves writing a paraphrase of the original phrase on the back of the card and swapping with other groups. This worked well after a conversation about first impressions, using adjectives and idioms to describe personality.
Ask learners to make a top-five list, or a list of causes, effects, influences based on a recent topic of conversation. Form groups and ask learners to justify their choices to each other and discuss interesting points that come up. For example, after a discussion on how to get by on a shoe-string budget in London, we made lists of the top ways to pass a weekend in London without spending anything, which was then made into an article.
There, a couple of my favourites tried and tested with groups of adults. I hope these might be at least of some use.
How do you extend a conversation?