Teaching with interactive stories | Teacher training materials

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Attribution:  Pratham Books | Illustrator: Priya Kuriyan | CC BY 4.0

Here’s the next set of materials I wrote on an ITDI course called Creating ELT Materials with Katherine Bilsborough. For this assignment, we were asked to create activities around an authentic text. I decided to use an open-access children’s book from Pratham Book’s Storyweaver (what a brilliant resource!). I ended up designing loop input-ish materials for teachers that integrate interactive storytelling techniques with raising their awareness of the third conditional (if you take a look at the book, you’ll see why).

I had a bit of a think about whether a children’s book from an organisation that promotes literacy is authentic. I think it is for the target audience – lower primary teachers. I’ve included a rationale for this on the last page.

Here’s how the handout is organised:

  • Participant handout (pp. 1-2)
  • Trainer notes (p. 3)
  • Overview (p. 4-5) – this was something Katherine asked us to put in and includes background information on the text and the tasks.

The book – It’s All the Cat’s Fault – is available in more than 58 languages ranging from Telugu and Punjabi to Serbian and Khmer. So you could easily make the materials work within your own context if the teachers you’re training would benefit from reading the book in their L1.

I’ve got a multilingual activity using a book from Storyweaver in the pipeline incorporating at least five or more Indian languages (English, Marathi, Konkani, Kannada and Hindi) so do watch out for that.

Life in the 21st century | An image-based lesson

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Here’s the third assignment from the ITDI course I did a couple of months ago on Creating ELT Materials with Katherine Bilsborough. We were asked to design materials around an image or images. I created some activities around three public domain images from the late 19th century. At the turn of the century, several French artists imagined what life in the 21st century would be like and they came up with some pretty fanciful images. The materials I designed focus on grammar – and a somewhat obscure but useful grammar point –  ‘future in the past’ structures with some speaking activities. My  favourite is image 1!

Have you ever used public domain images to develop materials?

 

500 Grammar based conversation questions | Book review

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Title: 500 Grammar based conversation questions with explanations of grammar points

Authors: Larry Pitts

Publisher: ESL Conversation Questions Publishing

Year of publication: 2015

Companion resources: NA

Source: Print copy bought from Amazon India

What really attracted to this book was the caption “Conversation questions designed to elicit the thirty most common grammar points”. I increasingly find myself in situations where I need to answer the question “how can I elicit this target language?’

500 Grammar based conversation questions is a large book in terms of dimensions but it’s fairly slim both in terms of its page count and contents.  It has lists of questions prefaced by a brief explanation of the target language. In principle, this could still be invaluable to new teachers. However, almost every single question includes the target language.

As … as : Are cats as fun as dogs?

Present perfect: What are some good restaurants you’ve eaten at?

Used to: Who did you use to play with in elementary school?

Will : What will happen to privacy  in the future?

This is consistent throughout the book with the exception of the section on imperatives which has scenarios that would prompt the use of the target language:

Imperatives: What’s a card game from your country? How do I play it?

So I gather that the author’s interpretation of the word ‘elicit’ is different from how I see it. I think by elicit, he means targeted practice and he’s got some commentary at the back about using these questions in the classroom. He’s essentially describing a stage of the lesson where we provide practice with language that’s been taught as opposed to the language presentation stage which is what I had in mind.

From that perspective, this book isn’t all that useful. It contains suggested topics along with the target language in the form of a question. These sorts of conversation prompts are more effective when they are aligned to learner interests and the context of the lesson. In How to Teach Speaking, Thornbury describes criteria for effective speaking tasks and there are two that I reckon are really critical: productivity and purposefulness. I doubt whether prompts like “Where should I go to buy electronics?” will achieve either criterion in the context of advice.

On the other hand, I suppose for new teachers, the questions could be a helpful starting point but I don’t see them dipping into 500 Grammar based conversation questions for too long.

7 creative grammar activities | IATEFL webinar summary

Last week’s IATEFL webinar saw the legendary Charles Hadfield sharing some creative grammar activities. He did say he would share seven although my notes seem to indicate it was only six. I wrote to him but it seems he couldn’t find the mystery seventh activity either.
Activity 1: Platform 1
What?  Collaborative pattern poem describing people.

Language focus: Present continuous, describing people

Procedure: Use a picture prompt of a train station platform with people on it (Check Flickr for images). Ask Ss to use the following pattern to create a poem. You may need to demo an example.

Poem pattern

Line 1: Where are they? (is s/he)

Line 2: A (adjective) (woman/man) with (clothes or physical features)

Line 3: What are they (is s/he) doing?

Line 4: … and thinking of?

Example

Sitting on the bench

a sad woman with a long nose

staring into space

and thinking of wasted time

Charles Hadfield webinar 1 Image attribution: Platform 4 by Brett Davies | Flikr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Activity 2. Preposition painting

What? A pattern for describing a picture

Language focus: prepositions

Procedure: Show Ss the picture and ask them to identify the different things in it. Then give them a decision tree like this one and have them craft a description of the picture.  They should create 5 lines plus an extra one starting with “lies a” which they don’t write but have their peers guess.

Pattern

In                          table

On                        chairs

Near           a         sofa

Beside                   bookshelf

Under         the      fireplace                 lies a …

Next to                   tree

lake

mountain

beach                     is a

grass

bench

moon etc.

Example

On the bench

next to a tree

beside a lake

beneath the mountains

under a sunset sky

lies a …

Charles Hadfield Webinar 2 Image attribution: Peaceful mind by Peter Thoeny | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Activity 3. Maternal Advice

What? Advice from a mother animal to its baby.

Language focus: imperatives, infinitives & gerunds; remember, try to take care, don’t forget, be careful + full infinitive, avoid beware of, forget about, refrain from, resist + ing

Procedure: Do you recognize this passage? Listen carefully. Who is talking? To whom? Listen and then compare ideas with a partner.

“When in doubt, any kind of doubt, Wash!” That is Rule No. I,’ said Jennie … `If you have committed any kind of an error and anyone scolds you—wash,’ she was saying. `If you slip and fall off something and somebody laughs at you—wash. If you are getting the worst of an argument and want to break off hostilities until you have composed yourself, start washing … That’s our first rule of social deportment, and you must also observe it.

`Whatever the situation, whatever difficulty you may be in you can’t go wrong if you wash. If you come into a room full of people you do not know, and who are confusing to you, sit right down in the midst of them and start washing. They’ll end up by quieting down and watching you. Some noise frightens you into a jump, and somebody you know saw you were frightened—begin washing immediately … `If somebody calls you and you don’t care to come and still you don’t wish to make it a direct insult— wash. If you’ve started off to go somewhere and suddenly can’t remember where it was you wanted to go, sit right down and begin brushing up a little. It will come back to you. Something hurt you? Wash it. Tired of playing with someone who has been kind enough to take time and trouble and you want to break off without hurting his or her feelings—start washing …

Any time, anyhow, in any manner, for whatever purpose, wherever you are, whenever and why ever that you want to clear the air, or get a moment’s respite or think things over—WASH! `And,’ concluded Jennie, drawing a long breath, `of course you also wash to get clean and to keep clean.’ `Goodness!’ said Peter, quite worried, `I don’t see how I could possibly remember them all.’ `You don’t have to remember any of it, actually,’ Jennie explained. All that you have to remember is Rule 1: “When in doubt—WASH!” ‘

Jennie by Paul Gallico

Elicit that Jennie is a cat giving advice to Peter, a kitten. How many animals can you think of? Ask Ss to brainstorm. Then, ask Ss to choose one of the animals they brainstormed and write maternal advice from a mama animal to its baby.

Activity 4. Overheard in a cafe

What? Reporting on imaginary conversations.

Language focus: Reported speech, said, replied, denied, asked

Procedure: Show pics of people and ask Ss to select two and think of the conversation they might have. Ss then uses reported speech to describe the conversation the two people might have. Charlie had some paintings in this mix including Van Gogh’s self-portrait and some quirky ones such as a dog and a cat looking at each other.

Activity 5: The house that Jack built

What? Build progressively longer sentences.

Language focus: Relative clauses

Procedure: Show the Ss the following sentence pattern.

This is the house that Jack built. This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built This is the rat, that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.

webinar grammar Then ask Ss to construct their own from this photo. So their sentence would beging with “This is the photo that Jack took”. You may also want to to supply  words:

Man fish girl boat wind wave whale rod camera rock beach shark cook friend chips cat

Image attribution: Bass fishing by Eileen Jones | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Activity 6: How it’s done

What: Instructions for various topics

Language focus: Imperatives and sequencing words

Procedure: Run Ss through an example of how something is done.

Example

How to make a cup of tea

Firstly, boil some water in a kettle

When it’s hot, pour a little in a teapot to warm it

Then throw out the water and put in two spoonfuls of tea leaves

Bring the water back to boil

Pour the boiling water on tea leaves in the pot

Leave to stand for two minutes

Serve in two cups

Ask Ss to use this template to write instructions for one of the following:

  • Eating spaghetti
  • Falling in love
  • Getting promotion
  • Bathing a dog
  • Going to a wedding
  • Looking after a two year old
  • Taking an exam
  • Having a relaxing evening

Charlie recommended using these activities in conjunction with the following:

  • Sharing session: Choose the best piece you wrote during the lesson and share it with others in a small group.
  • Student control: After doing a couple of these activities, hand over control to the Ss. Give them a particular grammar concept and ask them to come up with their own creative exercise around it.
  • Student ideas: Dialogues, sketches, poems, nonsense sentences, sabotaging the coursebook (playing around with sentences from the coursebook)

References

He had many other references in his list which had to do with the importance of creativity. Here’s a truncated list of language teaching references:

  • Nematis, A. 2009. Memory Vocabulary Learning Strategies and Long Term Retention. International Journal of Vocational and Technical Education 1 (2), pp. 14-24
  • Oxford, R. 1990. Language Learning Strategies. Newbury House
  • Schmitt, N. 2000. Vocabulary in Language Teaching. CUP