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Yes-No Questions as a Research Tool

Submitted by Lester John A. Cajes, Las Piñas National High School, Philippines

Students perform better when they realize that what they are learning is relevant to their current needs and interest. For instance, teaching the structure of yes-no questions to students of a research-oriented program can be integrated with making a survey form or a questionnaire. In this case, the students will find it highly necessary to learn how to write accurate questions to be able to come up with presentable survey tools that will not only enhance their research but also impress their survey respondents who might be their peers as well.

Here are the steps.

  1. Present examples in class, and let the students discover the pattern in formulating yes-no questions. Let them transform statements into questions and vice versa for further familiarization.
  2. Let the students think of a topic that they may use in an actual research, e.g., study habits, choosing friends or peers, school club preference.
  3. Ask the students to work in groups (3 to 4 members look fine) and draft questions that will let them gather information as regards their chosen topic. Then, they have to decide on whether their target response is a simple “yes or no” or a range of options, e.g., never, seldom, often, and always. Remind them to make their questions clear and concise. They should also avoid using negative markers such as “not” and “never” to avoid making their respondents confused.
  4. Collect their drafts and give comments on their content and grammar. Let them revise until all the questions become accurate and appropriate.
  5. After finalizing the questionnaire, ask the students to prepare for the actual survey. Have a brief discussion on the lines or spiels and procedures that have to be observed. Once ready, send them to the battlefield; let them conduct the survey.
  6. Finally, let the students use graphs or tables to present the data they have gathered. Then, they interpret such figures in linear form. At this point, they have to make sure that the information is properly transcoded from linear form to non-linear form or vice versa. Well, that’s another language skill for them to refine. See, this activity lets you hit two birds (even several birds) with one stone.

The Implementation of Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy

Submitted by Elih Sutisna Yanto, Universitas Singaperbangsa, Indonesia

Pre-reading activity

Viewing Video

This activity is the first step for implementing vocabulary self-collection strategy (VSS). The teacher takes a clip from a video containing second language research terminologies. Once the teacher has the video, extract all vocabulary items related to the second language research terminologies that students need to know to comprehend the text and include them in a list that teacher can complete with other relevant words of the second language research terminologies that are not included in the video. Through modelling the process of using the VSS, the teacher demonstrates how to use the strategy.

Teacher scaffolding

The teacher then projects a copy of the text in the video on LCD and uses a think-aloud as a way of modelling how to select words that are important for understanding the reading. The teacher indicates his interest in a word that may result from his not knowing the word, or finding it difficult or interesting. He shares with the class the need to know something more about the word to understand the text. The teacher, then project a graphic organizer that includes a box for the word, the reason for selecting the word, and the definition of the word as shown in Figure 2.1, Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy Chart. He writes the word in the appropriate box, says the word, and ask the students why they think he chose this word as an important one for leaning. He then writes the reason in the appropriate box. Next step, the teacher defines the word, writing the definition in the next box. Finally, the teacher consults the dictionary about the word’s definition.

2.2. During reading activity

The teachers directs the students to view video containing second language research terminologies. After viewing the video to do the following

  1. After viewing the video, revisit the text and select at least five words that they think are important to their understanding of the readings or that they found interesting or challenging.
  2. Complete the VSS student Chart in figure 2.1 that directs them to write the word, they found it at what page, the reason for selecting the word, and a definition of the word if they know it and finally consult dictionary the definition.

2.3. Post reading activity

Forming groups

Students are divided into small groups that can be formed based on a teacher decision, a student preference, a mixture of genders, a mixture of students’ proficiency level in language and reading abilities. More critically, a teacher facilitates students to form groups in order to the mutual agreement about composing together can be reached through negotiation between teacher and students or between individual members of each group.

The groups will focus their discussions on the words they have selected and their reasons for choosing the words. Through their texts and completed VSS charts, each group is directed to do the following:

  1. The group appoints one student to act as leader whose role is to keep the discussion moving as they focus their talk on the words they have selected.
  2. Each student submits one word he or she has selected and provides the reason for choosing the word that becomes the focus of the discussion. The discussion may center on the word’s meaning, the importance of the word in understanding the reading, whether the members of the group selected the word, or another reason. The group then decides whether the word should be selected for the group chart.
  3. The group leader uses the group chart to record the word, the reason it has been selected by the group, and the word’s contextual definition. Each group limits the number of words included on the VSS chart to five.
  4. Writing the contextual meaning of each word is the last step of using the VSS. Students then validate the meaning of each word through the use of the dictionary both printed or electronic dictionaries or the glossary that may be found in the text.
  5. After the small-group discussion, the teacher brings the groups together for a class discussion. Each group leader reports to the class, providing the list of words selected by the small group. The teacher or student records the words on the VSS class chart, along with reasons for choosing the word and the contextual meanings.
  6. The teacher may list additional words overlooked by students that are required for understanding the text. For words with a high-difficulty level that the students do not understand, the teacher provides direct instruction, focusing on the words’ contextual meaning.

Practicing interview skills

Submitted by Lester John Cajes, Manila, Philippines

Letting students conduct an oral interview can be an effective task to help them enhance their skills in formulating accurate and appropriate WH questions.  Also, it can serve as a good practice for their oral communication and interpersonal skills, and boost their confidence in speaking. Here are the steps:

  1. Have a brief discussion on formulating WH questions. Let students transform statements into questions to assess if they can already do it correctly.
  2. Decide on who the interviewees will be – they can be teachers, their fellow students or some members of the community. General questions or specific topics like job-related stuff can be the focus of the interview.
  3. Let the students draft ten to fifteen questions. Be sure to remind them to consider courtesy in their choice of questions and avoid too personal ones such as those on romantic relationships, salary, age, etc.
  4. Have them submit the draft. Then, check the structure and meaning of the questions. Give comments and corrections if necessary. Upon receiving the paper, they should be advised whether they have to revise, add some more questions, just rewrite or finally conduct the interview. Multiple revisions may be necessary. This may also serve as an exercise or drill for them to master the structure of WH questions.
  5. Once the questionnaires are finalized, tell the students to set an appointment with their interviewees. Issuing them with a copy of the rubric to be used can also be a signal that they can finally conduct the oral interview. The rubric contains indicators on voice, delivery and confidence. It should be accomplished by the interviewees.
  6. Before they finally take on the interview, they should be reminded about some tips in conducting it, i.e., appearance, greetings, follow-up questions and voice modulation, among others.
  7. You may ask them to videotape the whole interview or make a written report out of it. This is for you to have your own assessment of their performance.

Make Connections Between Grammar and Vocabulary

Submitted by Rodney and Graham UK/Hong Kong

A simple activity that helps strengthen knowledge of connections between grammar and vocabulary is gap-filling. Having learners either listen for the missing ‘bits’ in the transcript of a spoken text, or try to work out from the context what is missing in a written text can be a good way of drawing their attention to the use of particular forms in particular contexts, and can provide a starting point for exploration of their functions. Also, having them compare ways that they have filled in blanks with the original version of a text or conversation can help them notice where they are having difficulties producing appropriate forms and to explore why certain forms are appropriate and certain forms are not.

The following procedure can be used:

  1. Find, adapt or write a text containing occurrences of a particular feature you would like your students to work on.
  2. Prepare a version of the text with some or all of the occurrences of this feature blanked They may be single words or longer stretches of text like phrases or clauses.
  3. Have the students fill in as many gaps as they can, either based on some limited exposure to the original text (listening to it or reading through it once) or based on their own contextual or grammatical knowledge.
  4. Present the original text to the students (either in spoken or written form) and have them compare the ways they filled in the gaps with the occurrences of the feature in the original text and notice the kinds of forms that are used and where their answers are different from the original.
  5. Have students explore the reasons why certain forms are appropriate or inappropriate by trying to either justify what they wrote or explain why it should be changed.
  6. Have students practice producing the feature in an appropriate way in similar conversations or texts.

Further reading: Jones RH, Lock G (2011) Functional Grammar in the ESL Classroom: Noticing, Exploring and Practicing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Use Elaborating Texts as Way of Expanding Grammatical Knowledge

Submitted by Rodney and Graham, UK/Hong Kong

Elaborating refers to activities in which students add to and expand the information contained in a text, and in the process, need to use more sophisticated grammatical features. Elaborating activities can help to dramatize for them the fact that learning grammar is not just about “correctness” but that it is first and foremost about gaining control over resources for making communication more effective. The general procedures used in elaborating are:

  1. Present students with a simple text.
  2. Create a situation in which questions are asked about the text in a way that students notice that additional information would make the text better and that this new information is typically associated with certain grammatical features.
  3. Explore with students why certain kinds of additions in the text require certain grammatical features and others require different ones.
  4. Have students practice by continuing to elaborate on the same text or elaborating on a similar text.
  5. Explore with students why certain kinds of additions in the text require certain grammatical features and others require different ones.
  6. Have students practice by continuing to elaborate on the same text or elaborating on a similar text.

Further reading: Jones RH, Lock G (2011) Functional Grammar in the ESL Classroom: Noticing, Exploring and Practicing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Use Sequencing Activities to Encourage Noticing

Submitted by Rodney and Graham, UK/Hong Kong

Sequencing activities are those in which learners are presented with a text that has been altered in terms of the sequence of elements, including paragraphs, sentences within paragraphs, clauses within sentences, and words and phrases within clauses. Sequencing activities guide the learners to notice and to explore either (a) grammatical or lexical features in texts that give information about the sequence of elements (e.g. articles, pronouns and conjunctions) or (b) larger patterns of textual organization’. The general procedure involved in sequencing, are as follows.

  1. Choose a text or series of texts and change the sequence of some of the paragraphs or sentences within paragraphs or of certain elements within sentences.
  2. Have students work out what the original sequence might have been in one text or a portion of one text through noticing a particular grammatical feature or set of grammatical features.
  3. Work with the students to explore further the kinds of grammatical features that can be used as clues to help determine the original sequence and why the original sequence is
  4. Have the students practice this procedure on their own with the rest of the text or another similar text.

Further reading: Jones RH, Lock G (2011) Functional Grammar in the ESL Classroom: Noticing, Exploring and Practicing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Use Textual Enhancement to Encourage Noticing

Submitted by Danny, Canada

Textual enhancement (e.g. by underlining, boldfacing, italicizing, capitalizing, or color coding) can be used to help students ‘notice’ forms or features they may not be aware of. The procedure involves:

  1. Select a particular grammar point that you think the learners need to attend to.
  2. Highlight that feature in the text using one of the textual enhancement techniques or their combination.
  3. Make sure that you do not highlight many different forms as it may distract the learners’ attention from meaning.
  4. Use strategies to keep learners attention on meaning.
  5. Do not provide any additional metalinguistic explanation.

Use Activities That Encourage Noticing

Sumitted by Rosa, USA

The noticing hypothesis suggests that unless learners notice the way language is used, their grammatical proficiency will not develop. Noticing can be the focus of activities such as the following:

An example of a guided noticing activity is for the teacher to give out extracts from texts (e.g. magazine or newspaper articles) and to ask students to see how many examples they can find of a particular form or grammatical pattern. These are then examined more closely to observe the functions they perform at both the sentence and text level.

An example of taking a noticing activity outside the classroom is when students act as ‘language detectives’: they can be asked to observe and notice target forms in use in the ‘real world’, such as by watching interviews and other speech events on the internet or on television and documenting the use of particular grammatical features they have been asked to focus on. This can serve to reinforce vocabulary or particular forms, but it can also be used to help more advanced students become aware of how grammar works together at a textual level instead of focusing only on vocabulary or on sentence-level structures. Students can use a notebook or mobile device for recording examples and can bring these to class for further discussion or clarification.

Further reading: Jones RH, Lock G (2011) Functional Grammar in the ESL Classroom: Noticing, Exploring and Practicing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Helping Students Understand the Nature of Texts

Submitted by Rosa, USA

It is important for learners to understand the role of grammar within the context of longer stretches of discourse – or “texts”. There are several ways in which students can be introduced to the concept of text, the ways in which texts work and how they reflect grammatical choices. For example:

  • Have students read two texts with the same content and identify what makes one an effective text and the other not effective;
  • Have students compare written and spoken texts on the same topic (e.g. a news event) to compare how they are organized and how the grammar of the texts
  • Have students listen to or read examples of transactions such as requests made in different contexts (e.g. among friends with a boss) and see how features such as modals and pronouns work together to create politeness.
  • In more advanced academic contexts, give students examples or model texts of different types of writing and have them analyze how the text is put together and to use the information to inform their writing, e. by studying the different ‘moves’ or sections that make up a text. Students focus on questions such as: how does a text begin? Where is the main idea introduced?

Integrating Word Stress into Lessons

Submitted by David Bohlke, USA

Some languages pronounce each word with equal emphasis. In other languages, such as English, word stress is important for comprehension. A stressed syllable is said longer, louder, and with a higher pitch.

Word stress is important because stressing the wrong syllable can cause misunderstandings. It might be difficult to understand the word, or a wrongly stressed syllable can cause confusion or even annoyance for the listener. In some cases, stressing the wrong syllable word’s meaning changes the meaning or type of word.

The following suggestions may help teachers integrate word stress into lessons.

  1. Raise awareness of the importance of word stress To show how important word stress is, say a familiar word with the wrong stress. For example, say computer as COMputer instead of comPUter. Students will quickly get a feel for why this is wrong.
  1. Show stress patterns when you teach new vocabulary.

How you do this is up to you, but find a system and stick with it. You might draw large and small stress bubbles over words, underline stressed syllables, mark them as a familiar dictionary might, or write capital letters for stressed syllables.

PHOto / PHOtograph / phoTOgraphy

  1. Have students categorize new vocabulary by stress pattern.

They might do this in a vocabulary notebook to show connections between word families:

Equal / eQUAlity / Equalize / equaliZAtion NEUtral / neuTRALity / NEUtralize / neutraliZAtion

You probably would not devote a whole lesson to word stress but there may be times you create an activity to give it extra focus.

Activities

  1. Group by stress pattern

Give each student a piece of paper with a word on it. Have them regroup themselves by finding and sitting with others with the same stress pattern. For example, for a class of 28 students prepare 4 words with each of seven stress patterns.

O o (happy) / o O (enjoy) / O o o (energy) / o O o (computer) / o o O (volunteer) / o O o o (biology) / o o O o (politician)

  1. Word stress bingo

Go over words noun / verb pairs where the stress is on the first syllable for nouns and the second for verbs, e.g. EXport / export. Have students write 16 of the words in a mixed order on a 4×4 Bingo card. To play, say a word as a noun or a verb. Students mark the ones they hear. Possible words include rewrite, invite, insert, misprint, escort, contrast, increase, decrease, discount, permit, conflict, insult, contest, export, import, present, contract, object, reject, record.

  1. Scavenger hunt

Give each group a different color pack of Post-its. Tell them they will have exactly one minute to labels things in the classroom with the O o pattern (jacket, whiteboard, window, etc.). Once an item is labeled it cannot be labeled again. Give one point for each correct word.

Using Technology to Help Students Pass

Submitted by Jose Lema, Quito, Ecuador

Using technology to help our students pass their standardized exams.

There is a growing trend in using different technological gadgets to support our traditional teaching practice. Here some tips on how to do it.

Firstly, find out the testing skill or a specific part of the exam you think your students need extra practice. Vocabulary items for productive and receptive skills are usually a great way to start.

For example to practice vocabulary for a specific exam:

  1. Go to https://quizlet.com/ or  https://cerego.com/browse
  2. Both websites offer searching tabs. You just type vocabulary plus the exam name.
  3. Familiarize yourself on how to practice and using the page.
  4. Once you know how to do it, you can either choose one already created vocabulary set or create one yourself.
  5. Practice along with your students first in class using a projector so that everyone knows how to do it.
  6. Tell your students that they may also practice using their cellphones or tabs.
  7. After you and your students are familiar with these software encourage them to create their own vocabulary sets aimed for the exam they are interested in and share them with the rest of the class.

Secondly, listening can also be a very challenging skill to master for exam purposes. We teachers tend to recommend listening different types of texts so our students get familiar with different English language varieties. In fact, many of our students listen to music in English. They also use the Internet to be informed, entertained or communicate with others in English. An excellent tip to help them with listening practice and checking comprehension is the website http://www.esl-lab.com/ that includes a collection of audio/video lectures for all levels of listening comprehension together with self-testing and answer options.

The following is a tip on how to use it for an easy level listening class:

  1. Go to http://www.esl-lab.com/elem/elemrd1.htm
  2. The activity includes pre, while and post listening activities.
  3. For the pre-listening stage you can ask your students to think about the topic of the lesson and carry out a brief discussion on the topic.
  4. For the while-listening stage use a projector and speakers so that your students can see you using and practicing with this website.
  5. Play the recording. They can use paper to write their answers down.
  6. When they are done ask them to exchange their papers.
  7. Then you click on the different options and click on the final score button so that everybody can see the answers.
  8. *Optional* The activity also includes an extra grammar explanation with slides and audio. Play the explanation and ask your students to take notes.
  9. On the post-listening stage ask your students to answer the questions mentioned on the web-page
  10. Tell them to share their answers in pairs.
  11. Finally you can ask them to investigate more on the topic and share their results for the next class or record their voices and their findings using the following website http://www.englishvoices.org/

Thirdly, reading for exams hinges on your knowledge of vocabulary; reading strategies such as skimming, scanning and reading for details; and your ability to understand what you read in a limited amount of time. Technology can help our students to cope with different reading test types and questions. The following may be a standard procedure to determine the level of reading comprehension and how to develop reading testing strategies.

  1. Use a projector to show the students how to do it.
  2. To test your reading level visit the following https://www.englishclub.com/reading/test.htm or http://cdextras.cambridge.org/Readers/RPT_last.swf
  3. After you verify your reading level you can start selecting appropriate materials aligned with your reading ability along with texts and different question types that challenge your reading comprehension.
  4. Visit http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/courses/elc/studyzone/ and select your language level.
  5. Click the following example for intermediate level reading http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/courses/elc/studyzone/410/reading/
  6. Ask your students to read the text and choose the correct answers taking into account the time limit.
  7. Tell them to write down their answers 8.When they finish ask them to compare their answers.
  8. Finally show the correct answers explaining your own strategies.

Fourthly, one tip for writing in exam preparation is to ascertain the specific text types for the required exam. There are some websites that include example questions, models, and activities for you to get acquainted and improve your writing testing skills.

The following websites can be helpful to practice not only writing but also other skills:

If you are not sure what exam to take, you can test your English here: http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/test-your-english/

  1. Once you have figured it out what writing text types the exam requires go to https://sat.ilexir.co.uk/ to practice and receive feedback.
  2. You and your students can register using a personal email account.
  3. Choose any of the writing tasks to procedure.
  4. After you have sent your writings, you will receive a score depending on your writing performance.

Fifthly, many different speaking and testing examples can be found on the Web and mainly in YouTube. In addition, software programs such as http://www.skype.com/ ; https://www.teamviewer.com ; https://hangouts.google.com/ and the video chat http://www.oovoo.com/ this type of software allows students and teachers to practice for the test, provide instant feedback and reflect on their speaking ability. A tip on how to prepare your students for the KET speaking exam is shown below

Before the video chat:

  • In class you practice the speaking KET parts 1 and 2 in pairs or groups.
  • Ask your students to download the video chat http://www.oovoo.com/ to their computers.
  • Plan a meeting timetable so that you and your students can participate during the video chats after class.
  • Since the video chat software allows to record the conversations tell the students they will be recorded for further feedback and analysis.

During the video chat:

  • It is advisable to work in pairs and the teacher as an interlocutor.
  • Greet them and create a friendly environment.
  • Start asking questions for the KET speaking part 1 and 2 to each student.
  • Model some of the questions and answers if students find them difficult.
  • In the speaking part 2 students work together to complete the task. The first student asking the questions and the other one answering them conversely.
  • When they finish you can point out some problems you found in their performance.

After the video:

  • Select good recorded speaking examples.
  • Show them to the whole class.
  • You can repeat the same procedure until all the students become familiar with the speaking procedures for the KET exam speaking parts 1 and 2.

Teaching Teenagers Grammar

Submitted by Efren Garcia Huerta, Puebla, Mexico

Right before I start presenting new grammar. I usually find a short paragraph where the grammar that I am going to present is being used. Next, I organize the class into pairs and have them play a dictation game. One of the students is going to write the paragraph and the other student is going to dictate. The paragraph is printed in a piece of paper, and I place the text away from the students who are writing and the partner who is going to dictate will have to go to the text and memorize as much as possible, then, go back to his partner and dictate what she/he remembers, if the student does not remember. She/he will have to go back and read the text again.

During the game I use a “switch call” so that the students can change roles until they finish the paragraph. At the same time I try to find music beats that motivate my students. The students who finish first will be congratulated by the class.

This activity energizes students, but most importantly students become more interested in grammar activities.

Enhancing Listening Skills

Submitted by Hamed Nastaran, Bushehr, Iran

First you need to find an audio and its text. It can be a song and its lyrics, a movie with subtitle, or a book’s readings along with the audio track (The kind of reading with the target accent). Now depending on your English level; you may start from your desired step:

  1. Listen to the audio casually, don’t worry about the vague parts. At first it’s enough to just get the idea.
  2. Analyze it, look for details; check if you have any questions about it.
  3. Listen for the second time, and try to write what you hear. You may pause or rewind the audio.
  4. Revise what you wrote.
  5. Continue the cycle till you’re satisfied with the attempts.
  6. Check what you wrote with the original text.
  7. Correct you writing, then check with the audio.

Notes:

  1. If you are a beginner, animations are more suitable for you since the voices are recorded in a studio.
  2. Try not to understand everything in the first attempt. Some times getting some distance is the key to understanding things better.
  3. Concerts are preferred to movies and songs since you can hear different pronunciations of a word in different circumstances.
  4. Try not to get used to using headphones; if you’re a beginner, you may get started with it to boost the process, but do not stick to it.
  5. Avoid using the original text instead of your draft in the last stage.

Enhancing Speaking Unconsciously

Submitted by Hamed Nastaran, Bushehr, Iran

Here is a way to enhance accent & fluency; unconscious accuracy through subliminal content and repetition.

First you need to find an audio and its text. It can be a song and its lyrics, a movie with subtitle, or a book’s readings along with the audio track ( The kind of reading with the target accent). Now depending on your English level; you may start from your desired step. (You may repeat each step several times.)

  1. Listen to the audio while seeing the text, try to follow the text as the audio is being played. Falling behind is OK, just keep calm and do your best.
  1. Try to hum with the audio. You don’t need to read with it or even pronounce it. Just hum with the rhythm and follow the intonation.
  1. Now is the time to whisper along with it. Keep humming, but try to pronounce the words whenever it’s possible.
  1. Read with it. At first, put your focus on synchronizing your pace; then do your best to match the intonations.
  1. Elicit you favorite parts (Phrases, expressions, catch phrases, etc.) and use them in your daily routine.

Notes:

  1. Put your headphones on; do the exercise and record yourself. Next step is doing it with one of your ears free.
  2. Singing along can be really useful since you may repeat the context without getting bored. Concerts can be good sources since they contain miscellaneous pronunciations of words in various circumstances with different difficulties.