|Teaching English as a Foreign Language - to Large, Multilevel Classes (Peace Corps, 1992, 243 p.)|
|The whole class|
E There are some general communicative techniques that work well as whole-class activities. These include drama, writing tasks, games, jazz chants and music. They can be applied as desired (and as appropriate) in any phase of the lesson.
Drama is a popular language learning technique that works well with lessons on literature and content subject matter and helps develop social skills. You can ask the class to act out an event from a story or a content area. For example, the sprouting-harvesting cycle of a plant, studied in biology, can become a creative skit; or, students may want to dramatize a scene from a published play, even one of Shakespeare's. You may even want students to demonstrate their negotiating and paraphrasing skills through a mock trial.
You have the option to assign roles impromptu as role plays or have the class research and write dialogues or even a play before performing. And do not forget to use mime. This works well in a large, multilevel class with students of both beginning and advanced levels of English proficiency.
WRITING LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE APPROACH (LEA)
Writing, as you know, can take many forms. One way to involve the whole class simultaneously is through an LEA exercise. The LEA, originally developed to teach literacy skills to adults, works well in a multilevel class. After your students engage in an activity, such as going on a leaf collection hunt, picking up litter, or making rehydration formula, they dictate a summary of what happened for you or for an advanced classmate to write on the board. Students then work together co organize the written ideas and, if desired, make corrections. You may want to copy the dictation co use another day for review, motivation, or even a lesson on grammar and editing.
CREATIVE WRITING Another writing idea for large, multilevel classes is the traditional creative writing exercise. It may be possible that your students are not ready to free-write, so you want to provide some structure. One way is to show them a picture and, as a class, list some of the objects or characters depicted and brainstorm some possible story lines around the scene. Some students may copy words or make simple sentences using the class' ideas. Others may branch out and extend the lists or take a different tack entirely. A variation would be to use the picture as a stimulus for writing a dialogue.
A technique that can help students write comparative essays also uses pictures. Try to find two pictures that have similar characteristics but different details. For instance, you may have two pictures of floral bouquets. Begin by asking students to make a list (as a class or individually) of the similarities and a list of the differences. According to their abilities, the students can use those lists to write sentences, paragraphs or an essay about the pictures.
Some other familiar writing techniques will work well too. Tell half a story and ask the students to finish it or have students read or listen to a story and then retell it from the point of view of a different character.
The use of journals is another writing technique that appears as a whole-class activity, but actually prepares students for individual work. By starting students with journals you offer them opportunities for self-expression, unpressured writing and reflection. You can decide how often you want students to write (maybe daily or twice a week), and if-and how often-you will read the journals. Some students may even volunteer to read aloud. For less proficient students, you can ask them to start with illustrations in their journals and slowly move into writing. In this way, all students in your multilevel class can participate.
You may choose to let writing topics be entirely selected by the students or you may want to provide the writing topics, at least some of the time. To tie the journals into your lessons, you may use them for lesson closure by having students summarize what they learned in the lesson that day or for motivation the next day by having them summarize a previous lesson.
A group journal is one variation that may be used for whole class writing. It is set up in this manner. The teacher designates a single notebook as the group journal. The teacher starts off the journal with an entry on a particular topic. Students then take turns writing in the journal. Turns are not assigned or regulated. Some students may choose to write frequency; others not at all. Students may initiate topics or respond to something already written. Any entries may be read by anyone who writes an entry. The teacher writes entries occasionally, but not in response to each piece of student writing. All writing is to be done in the classroom-the notebook can never be taken home by a student. There are no grades, no error corrections, no "character attacks," only written interaction about the content of the entries.
This variation of journal writing may be less realistic for your large classes. In dialogue journals teachers respond to student writing. They do not edit student work; they add positive and supportive comments, ask questions or share ideas, and model, in their responses, correct language forms. The teachers let students know how often they will read and respond to the journals. Some teachers will respond to every piece of writing; others will respond once a week or less. The teacher comments may vary in length and depth too. If you do want to try this technique, pace yourself carefully, especially if your class is large.
Games provide a nice break from a traditional lesson format and capture the attention and enthusiasm of a whole class. Many games can reinforce learning vocabulary, grammar rules, stories and reading selections. Students may play games individually, in pairs, and in groups. By using games as an occasional "treat" or "aside" from the lecture or whole class discussion, a teacher can casually prepare the students for the group and pair work that will be expected of them later.
Bingo can be played in many variations. For beginning students, the teacher calls out what is on the cards:
- numbers or letters;
- sight words or vocabulary based on a theme the class has been studying.
More advanced bingo cards could include these:
- numbers that represent a sum or product, for example, and the teacher calls out "eleven plus five" or "ten times twenty;"
- new vocabulary, and the teacher calls out the definitions;
- antonyms or synonyms of the words the teacher calls out;
- irregular past tense forms of the present tense verbs the teacher calls out.
Pictionary and charades are always fun. For pictionary, the student with the cue can draw clues to help his or her team guess the answer; for charades, the student must pantomime the clues. To play these games, the class is divided into two teams. One student from each draws or performs while classmates guess the answer. The first team to guess gains a point.
As with bingo, these games can be designed for varying levels of proficiency that can nonetheless include the whole class. The teacher chooses the level of difficulty of the cue based on the students' ability. For instance, two advanced students competing in pictionary may be asked to draw a scientist using a microscope, whereas less advanced students may only have to draw the microscope. Another accommodation for multilevel classes is to give some students written cues and others oral ones.
Mad libs, popular in U.S. elementary schools over 20 years ago, have their place in an EFL classroom. For initial preparation, the teacher writes a story frame with deleted words. Before reading it to the class, the teacher asks individual students to supply needed nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions or conjunctions. These are written into the story and then the story is read aloud. The general idea is to create an amusing, "crazy" story. Hut the teacher's hidden agenda is to check students' knowledge and recognition of those parts of speech.
Jeopardy and reverse jeopardy suit the multilevel class nicely. By explaining to students that the clues behind the gameboard get more difficult in proportion to the value of the square, less proficient stu dents can choose easier questions; more proficient students, more difficult ones. The gameboard with points can be drawn on the chalkboard or made permanent on a large sheet of paper. The clues behind the points would change each time the game is played. Some teachers read them aloud to the class; others like to have them written down so the students can see them.
This game is easily played by teams, with scores being kept as individuals take turns making their selections. In reverse jeopardy, questions are posed to the students in a category they select. Students answer the questions. Category options may include:
- vocabulary from The Stranger (the name of a book) - clues give definitions or synonyms;
- verb tenses - dues may be "past tense of go" or "future of can," etc.;
- categories that reflect students' interests, such as animals, sports, music;
- Iocal community services;
- comprehension questions about a story students read or an experience they had;
- connections to content classes.
Regular jeopardy is a little more difficult because the students are given the answer and need to make up a correct question. This is a good skill for the students to practice, but it may be better to introduce students to the game via reverse jeopardy and later switch to regular jeopardy.
You may enjoy exploring music and chants in your classes. These activities are motivating for students and also help teach English pronunciation and intonation patterns. Many of your students may be musically inclined, accustomed to singing a capella and in harmony. Look for songs that reinforce a grammar point or some vocabulary you are studying. Also consider American folk songs that have relatively easy lyrics and repetitive stanzas. Songs and jazz chants on content area topics would work well too. Students might even like writing their own rhymes, rap songs or jazz chants about topics like the rain forest, geometric figures or politics.
Each individual finds his or her own way to teach a song or chant. One method is to sing a verse or the whole song through once. Next, sing line by line, having the students sing after you. Then sing couplets or some reasonable grouping of lines with students repeating after you. For a jazz chant, you might want to divide the class in half, giving each half responsibility for one part in the chant. Set the rhythm by clapping and encourage the students to follow suit. If you have a tape recorder (and batteries) you may want to record the students singing and chancing and share it with them to reinforce their interest.
This chapter has examined some strategies for you to use in whole-class situations. Knowing that the students expect teacher-directed lessons, you can gradually adapt the traditional system to a more communicative approach. Remember to implement change slowly, establish a rapport, and promote mutual respect with your students. Try to incorporate their interests as much as possible and look for content to ignite your lessons.