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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 secondsHello. Welcome to Week 4. This week we're looking at language for setting up and managing classroom activities. So, Kay, how do you get learners working productively in your subject lessons? I think for learners to be productive is quite a challenge. To get them speaking English is a huge challenge in a subject lesson. I think first of all, I have to make sure my instructions are very clear, so short sentences, and at the beginning of the year I might repeat the same instructions so they become familiar with them, and then build on those during the year. I also like to give them key instruction words that I use so that they then know what they have to do with those words.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 secondsSo yes, I think, as I said, very important to start with the instructions. But it's not just the instructions. It's what do you do after the instruction to keep them going in the lesson. I think the teacher needs to be clear what they want to get out of the students as well. So you're using exactly those kind of words there. It becomes a habit, again, for them to be able to think, OK. If I've got to identify something, I now know exactly what's required of me. In this particular sense here, if you have your plan there, then you both said, OK.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsFor this particular aspect of the lesson, I want them to work in pairs, using these things, using this kind of language. Then straightaway, it becomes very clear to you. You're very clear in your mind. So when you're giving them instructions, then it's very obvious what you're saying. You don't get mixed up in what you're saying to them as well. I like the idea of writing out what you expect the learner to produce. And to pick up on your point, Paul, about the group work, I think, again, it's a bit like the giving instructions, organising who is doing what in a group work. OK.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 secondsSo it's really interesting because what we're saying here is that we need to provide learners with routines, and guidance, and support so that they feel comfortable with what they're doing in the lesson. And then they have more brain space, as it were, to think about their actual subject content, the learning that's going on in the lesson. And then therefore, their brain is free to process the new subject content. So you've already established something for them. It's precisely that. You're setting those rules for the classroom. And it sounds almost strict - there's going to be a certain discipline to use in this room.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 secondsBut as a matter of fact, if you manage to set that out really quite early on, the students will then be much more naturally engaged, and have these routines, and habits to use in their lesson. And I think over a year, although teachers may avoid group work, especially with a large class, they can still do some work with pairs, simple work, but giving them different rules. But over a year, you find that learners become better at organising themselves. It's not a big deal. And again, the timing for me is important. I don't give them too long because if it goes on too long they'll speak L1, go off task. That's right.

Skip to 3 minutes and 4 secondsAlso, you as a teacher can choose their pairs, choose their groups. They wouldn't naturally know how to do group work. It's actually a skill in itself to work in a group or in a pair. So you've got to be able to establish that kind of way of working with the students. You just don't assume they can do it, because they can't necessary do so.

Welcome to Week 4

Watch Helen, Kay and Paul talking about how to get learners working productively in English.

While you watch, take notes on what you can do to support learners when you’re setting up and managing activities, then look at the diagram and unscramble the things that Helen, Kay and Paul mention in their discussion.

For example:

eigv recal stinirsucnto = give clear instructions

Click on the image to expand it.

Setting up and managing activities - anagrams: 1) eigv recal stinirsucnto, 2) nalp stinirsucnto, 3) resgioan rpogu korw, 4) shibestal isonurte, 5) ets etmi siltim, 6) resgioan  ipra korw

Check your answers in the pdf in the downloads section below.


It’s not always easy to get learners to work productively!

Tell us what you find most challenging and why: giving instructions, helping learners get started, or organising pair and group work.

See if you can give any good tips for the challenges that other teachers experience.

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Teaching Your Subject in English

Cambridge Assessment English

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