Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondHello, everybody. Welcome to Week 4. Hello, everyone, Week 4! Welcome! We're going to start by an apology. Last week we used a bit of jargon without explaining what L1 was. We didn't explain that L1 meant learners' first language. Actually, what happened was that other people in the course explained it to those that didn't understand. And that's what happens in real classrooms, isn't it, Mary Therese. Absolutely. Everybody's a teacher. Yeah. Everybody's a teacher. So let's start, then, Mary Therese by answering questions about what Amal was doing at that stage of the lesson. So Amal was introducing, really, the topic for this week, which is about teaching language and about vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 secondsAnd what she was doing was in the text that the learners had read, there were some language items that she wanted to focus on. In fact, they were phrasal verbs. And so she got the learners to read the text again and to look at some definitions, find the word in the text, and match the definition with the word. So first of all, she's putting the language that she's teaching in context, showing the learners how the language works in context and what it means in context. Because if things are in context, they're easy to understand. And also she's developing this skill that native speakers, everybody does, of guessing the meaning of words in the text.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 secondsAnd then after the learners have done that, presumably she did some sort of feedback on that activity, and then she put the words up on the board. And what kind of words were they? They were phrasal verbs. So instead of saying, today, we're going to learn about phrasal verbs, she led them gently into that. And they could see what they mean. They're in the text. And then the next thing she's doing on the board is dividing the phrasal verbs into different types of phrasal verbs, whether they can be separated or they cannot not be separated.

Skip to 1 minute and 49 secondsAnd the learners are helping her to go through those things and to put the verbs in each column so that they know how they work. Thanks, Mary Therese. So hopefully you got those answers. Mary Therese, a lot of the questions that came in the Q&A last week were about teaching beginners and how you teach beginners when you don't speak their language, they don't speak enough English to be able to communicate very well with you. So what strategies do teachers have to deal with beginners. I mean, there's a school of thought about using translation and translating from L1, from students' first language into English and back and forth - which is fine. I mean, why not if you can do that?

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 secondsTo some degree. Absolutely. But the problem with that is the students only ever say what you tell them to say, because you're always translating. What you say in English, they'll repeat, rather than becoming more independent in the way that they speak English. But anyway, it's also often not possible, because many of us will have classes where the students in the class all have different languages, and you can't speak 15 different languages or 12 different languages. And also, maybe, you are in a country where you don't speak the language of the learners, so you can't use translation, you can't speak to them.

Skip to 3 minutes and 9 secondsAnd I think having your classroom as an English space is really important in terms of developing the transition from speaking in your native language to speaking in English and thinking in English and dreaming in English and all those sorts of things. But the answer, really, to the question about beginners is use simple language. Don't use weird language. They don't' speak in staccato - look, book, now. Use ordinary English - look at your book now - but grade your vocabulary. So you use simple words and don't talk a lot, because they don't speak English. There's no point in talking, because they don't understand what you're saying. So reduce the amount of language you use, and keep your language simple.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 secondsBut also use visual aids. Use realia. You know last week you used your sponge. Do you remember? You brought in some. Bring things in. Bring in your teaching vegetables. Bring in a bag of vegetables. Or mime. Mime, absolutely. So use those non-linguistic things that people were talking about last week as well when we talked about communication skills. So reduce your language, use visual things, use gestures, and use simple texts to help your learners. That's great. Great ideas, Mary Therese. But there's also, I've found, a series of lessons and lesson plans on a website called OneStopEnglish, which we're going to post on here, because they're free and there are about 15 lessons, lesson plans, and materials.

Skip to 4 minutes and 46 secondsAnd they're beautiful, there really nice. So the other question that came up very frequently was how to help unconfident learners with speaking. Well, you've got some great ideas. Well, and also how to stop people being embarrassed in front of the whole class. So the first thing I'd say is, no, not in front of the whole class. Get people to speak in groups first, and maybe then people can come out and do things in front of the whole class. I'd just like to share a couple of ideas with you. Sometimes it's good to take something that's topical in the news, and last week we had the Oscars, the Oscars films.

Skip to 5 minutes and 18 secondsSo one idea I had that I could use if I had a class at the moment was to make your Oscar speech. Oh, very good. Now if you are a beginner learner, you can dress up and you can make an Oscar speech saying, "Thank you, thank you so much, so much. Thank you to my mother. Thank you, my father. Thank you, my friends. I'm so happy. I'm so happy. Thank you, everybody." But a more advanced learner could make a speech, for example, "Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate that one day -" Very sophisticated language. Exactly.

Skip to 5 minutes and 51 secondsSomebody mentioned on the course last week using props, using hats or things. Fantastic for young learners, though. Young learners will dress up at the drop of a hat. Well, you see, here I've got my wig and my sunglasses. Oh, very good. So this would be your Oscar speech. This is my Oscar speech. You see, you put on the wig, put on the sunglasses, and make the Oscars speech. But to clarify you, would have the learners working in groups. They would each prepare a speech in a group, or they would prepare a group speech? You could get them doing it individually. You could get them doing it as a group.

Skip to 6 minutes and 22 secondsAnd then they would perform with their little groups, so you wouldn't make them stand up in front of the whole classroom. No, no. Well, and then you could maybe have one from each group of volunteers, and then you would vote for the best Oscars speech. Yeah, after they've done it. The other thing about working in groups as well is that it maximises student talking time. When you've got one student talking to the whole class, there's only one student speaking. But if you have a group, everybody's speaking all at the same time, so they get more practice. Another idea that I'd just like to share quickly with you is something which involves other people having to listen to you.

Skip to 6 minutes and 53 secondsI mean, you could vote on the Oscar speeches. But let's say, for example, you have people in groups of three who do a three-sentence story. So it could be something like, "The dog ran into the river. The man jumped into the river. The man saved the dog." So you make up the story, and then everyone has to listen and make a headline up for the story that when it goes into the newspaper. So you have to listen carefully, and you say, "Man saves dog." So then the actual three-part story can practise past tenses, and then in a headline, we often use the present tense.

Skip to 7 minutes and 32 secondsSo they're just two very quick ideas of how you could get people speaking and listening - and quite simple language, actually, could be used in both circumstances. And I think the other thing as well to say about speaking and speaking activities, and often when they don't work, is that the thing that the learners are being asked to do is too difficult. So the problem with speaking in a second language is that you have to have the idea, and then you have to have the language. You have to think of the idea. Then you have to think of the language that goes with the idea. And sometimes, by the time you've done that, it's too late. The conversation is gone.

Skip to 8 minutes and 8 secondsSo two things I would say about speaking activities - always give the learners a chance to prepare and prepare in pairs or prepare in groups. So, for example, your thing with the Oscars, put them together. Let them share the kinds of things that they would say. What was the film like? What was their role in the film? Get them to talk together and give each other ideas. So support them in that way. And support them with sharing ideas, but also maybe give them ideas.

Skip to 8 minutes and 37 secondsIf you're having a discussion, for example, about climate change, give them some facts and, say, let them decide whether they agree or disagree with the facts, so that all they have to do then is to think of the language to go with the idea, rather than having to come up with everything. So support the learners. And actually, with the Oscar idea, the group could go up to give the speech, and the others are the directors and they can just bow and one person could give the speech. But, Mary Therese, let's move on now, because there were lots of questions about reading. How can you make reading fun with one question?

Skip to 9 minutes and 7 secondsWell, I think the first thing to say is to choose something that people are interested in reading. So if you have a class of young learners, and you could have a class who are really interested in sports, choose articles about football or about whatever sport they're interested in. Don't make people read things they're not interested in. I know sometimes they have to because they're preparing for exams and so on. But try and think of ways - again, maybe your idea of role play - so the reader has a role. Maybe they're reviewing this really boring thing that they have to read, so they have to write a review - why is it so boring, for example.

Skip to 9 minutes and 42 secondsSo make the reading thing of interest. Other things you can do, perhaps to reduce the amount of time that students are reading in class - somebody talked about about jigsaw, listening and jigsaw reading. And of course, I thought maybe we'd do a bit of an example, or talk through an example of that. So say, for example, we're talking about climate change. That's the topic. And what you would have in a jigsaw reading activity - so you'd have three texts - so a short text about the effects of global warming in Alaska, the effects of global warming in the Indian Ocean, the effects of global warming in, tell me another place - Europe, maybe. Europe, fine.

Skip to 10 minutes and 25 secondsSo three texts - Alaska, Indian Ocean, Europe. The class would be divided into three - group A, group B, group C. Group A, read about Indian Ocean. Group B, read about Alaska. Group C, read about Europe. And they answer questions about their text. After they've answered the questions, they talk together as a group to make sure that all the people that read about Indian Ocean know everything about Indian Ocean. Then you reorganise the class. Take away the texts maybe, but they don't need the text now because they have the answers.

Skip to 11 minutes and 2 secondsSo you regroup so that there's an A, a B, and a C - groups of three, A, B, C, in one group - and they share the information that they've read. That's a jigsaw reading. And you can do exactly the same thing with listening, and actually listening nowadays, from when I started teaching, is so much more accessible now. Because everybody's got a mobile phone. They can download podcasts onto their phones, listen in class and complete an activity, and then share the answers. So think about ways of making reading and listening to texts more interesting. Use learners' mobile phones. Make activities where they can exchange information after they've read.

Skip to 11 minutes and 45 secondsAnother strategy for reading, actually, is KWL, which is before you read you think of something that you know already - so what you know already about climate change. And then the W is things that you'd like to know. And then you read, and then afterwards you say what you've learned. That's quite a common strategy. So K is what you know, W is what you want to know, and L is what you've learned as a result of your reading the text. That's quite nice. Now, could we apply any of those strategies to writing, the fourth skill, because lots of questions ask, how can I get learners to write. How can I get them to write longer sentences?

Skip to 12 minutes and 19 secondsHow can I get them to write whole texts? Well, I think the writing thing and what we're talking about, relevance and part of your Reel last week, is important. Get students the right stuff that they understand about.

Skip to 12 minutes and 36 secondsSo we're doing mobile phones and we're doing e-mailing and we're doing looking on websites and blogs and Facebook and all of those sorts of things. That's what people do everyday in their lives, so make writing activities associated with that. So get students to write texts to each other. Get students to send emails to each other. Get students to start a blog, start a class blog. There are websites where you can create very easily - even I managed to do it with my class, made a website for my class. There's a website called Weebly - again, we'll put the link on - where you can make your own website. Students can contribute pictures, texts, all sorts of things, anything.

Skip to 13 minutes and 22 secondsYou can start a chat room on your own class website. And it just invigorates the whole business of writing, because it's asking them to write stuff they know how to do. But, again, remember the business of support. So students at low levels to write a whole story. Get them to finish a sentence, or get them to do a gap fill so they put their ideas into a text that you've written. So, remember, support, but also authentic and make it have an audience. I think that would help. Also, people can write together, can't they - so prepare a text and then swap with another group. And then the other group can make suggestions, sort of process writing approach. Absolutely.

Skip to 14 minutes and 3 secondsWriting does not have to be a lonely thing at all. You can have group writing where everybody contributes ideas, and maybe there's only one person that's actually doing the writing. And next time another person from the group can do that, so absolutely. Also, displaying writing around the room. Fantastic. Yeah, posters. Or having a book. When my children were at school, they had a "best book," and all their best pieces of writing throughout the year went into the book. And at the end of the year, it came home. See, it would go on the website in my class. Yes, well, you know, my children were younger quite some years ago.

Skip to 14 minutes and 35 secondsHave we got any more questions, Mary Therese, that we've got time for today? One or two about grammar, but that's this week's theme. We had people ask us about how to teach grammar. We're not going to do that today. That's what we're going to do this week. All this week we're going to be talking about grammar, but actually we're going to talk a lot about grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary and how those things work. Now one or two questions last week about accent as well, how you can get people to speak proper English. I don't know, because I don't speak proper English. That's one of this week's challenges.

Skip to 15 minutes and 8 secondsAnd, of course, this week we're putting up a profile of Italy, which came third, I think, in the poll at the beginning of the course about where people would like to work. So check that out. Read our text written by one of our teachers in Italy about what it's like to work there, and I think that's about all. Bye, everyone. Bye, everyone, and enjoy the week. See you on Friday. Bye.

Introduction to Week 4

Once again, we start the week by answering last week’s questions about Amal’s lesson. Monica and Marie Therese also answer your most liked questions from Week 3 and introduce our topic for this week.

In the ‘Downloads’ section below, you’ll find this week’s country profile, which is on Italy. In the ‘See also’ section you’ll find links to some lessons for beginners, and links to Weebly and Edmodo.

There’s a lot involved in teaching language, isn’t there? What do teachers need to know about language? This week we’ll talk about what people mean when they talk about ‘language’ and teaching ‘language’ and we’ll explore the things teachers need to know about language in order to be able to teach it effectively.

Once again we are going to hear from learners and teachers about the challenges learners face when they are learning about the English language. We’ll look at how teachers help learners to overcome some of the challenges of learning about language.

There will be more quizzes and discussions and lots of other activities. As before, we look forward to seeing your contributions to our tasks and reading the comments and ideas you share with us this week.


Use the comment section now to say what you think people mean when they talk about ‘language’ – we’ll talk about this in the next step. Say also what you hope you’ll learn this week.

As you work through the week, you can mark each step as complete by clicking the round, pink button at the bottom of each page.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Exploring the World of English Language Teaching

Cambridge Assessment English