Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondHello, everyone. Welcome to Week 4. Hello, everyone. Now, Marie Therese, what's happening in Amal's lesson? Well, Amal is teaching grammar. Amal is teaching phrasal verbs. So in the lesson that we saw the clip at the end of last week, first of all, she shows the phrasal verbs to the learners in the text. And she gets them to do a little matching exercise, so they can work out for themselves what the language means in the context of the text. And then she puts it up on the board and elicits from them what the different types of phrasal verbs are. And of course, this week we're talking about teaching language, so that's why we showed you that clip.

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 secondsBut first of all, before we start the week, we're going to do the questions and answers from last week. And the first question - we've had lots of questions, of course - but the first question that we picked out to talk about is a question about the balance between the four skills - last week we talked about communication skills. And somebody's asked a question about, is there a rule of thumb about how to balance speaking, listening, reading and writing in a classroom? Well, I think it's a good idea to have a bit of each in the lesson. In fact, you almost inevitably are going to have a bit of each.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsBut obviously, it will depend on the aim of your lesson. If your aim is to develop listening skills or your aim is to develop writing, then the main focus is going to be on that. But you'll have speaking exercises warmer to the listening or warmer to the writing activity. Oh, you have a model reading text that they then copy. They use that as a model for their own writing. I think it's like in life, really - you're going to have a mixture of reading, writing, listening and speaking, so depending on the aim of your lesson. But do try to get a bit of balance and variety, I would say. Absolutely.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 secondsI think if you're looking at half of your lesson as listening, then I think that would be really very boring to the students. If you have a one hour lesson, I think, even at higher levels, listening of more than 10 minutes is just too much because you have to play the tape two or three times. So try and get a bit in, but main aim is important. There was another question that was raised about shared expectations of parents and children or adults expecting to make very fast progress, not tolerating speaking with lots of mistakes. And they think that's not good enough. So how the teachers deal with that?

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 secondsWell, I think the issue really - the main question that was asked was about fluency activities. And students saying, no, I don't want to do fluency activities because I don't want to make mistakes. And that led us to other kinds of expectations. And I think, actually, that the way that teachers have to deal with it is to explain to students why they're doing what they're doing. Because why should they know? They haven't been trained as teachers. So they don't understand methodology, they don't understand that you have a good reason. And so I think both with parents and with the learners themselves, explain why fluency activities are important. Explain why you do pair work. Explain why it's OK to make mistakes.

Skip to 3 minutes and 10 secondsAnd I think then students are more likely to want to take part in the activity. We also had a question from somebody about homework, about students that don't want to do homework.

Skip to 3 minutes and 24 secondsYou ask them to write about their last holiday and they write, my last holiday was good. End. My solution to that one is to give it a writing frame. So say, write about your last holiday. Say where you went, say what you did there. Say what you liked about the holiday, what you disliked about the holiday. And then maybe the most memorable aspect of the holiday. So I think giving a writing frame, because people aren't used to writing so much these days. That's true. My solution to it, is to ask them to write a couple of paragraphs about why they don't like writing. Oh, does that work? I think it works quite well.

Skip to 4 minutes and 8 secondsBecause actually, they probably have quite a lot to say about that. Maybe they can't think of anything very much to say about their holiday, but they know why they don't want to do their homework. So write an essay about why you don't want to do your homework. I think also if you do something like you mentioned last week with people writing into their mobile phone, writing about their hobbies. So making it something a bit different. But with writing and speaking, Marie Therese, there were lots of questions about the correction - whether you correct written work, whether you correct speaking work. Alexandra, I think, said something about the need for sensitive and gentle correction.

Skip to 4 minutes and 43 secondsSo I think we're not saying that you don't correct at all, but we're saying, sensitive and gentle correction or writing down the mistakes that people make and then doing a focus afterwards. Letting people get the confidence to express themselves. But I think correction is really important because I think students value getting feedback on things. Otherwise, why are they doing it? Just speaking for speaking's sake. So I think going around and noting down errors and then showing them and maybe putting them into pairs to correct the things that you've put on the board is a really useful way.

Skip to 5 minutes and 16 secondsI think the most common type of correction with writing is to use a correction code - you know, where you put V if it's a verb that's wrong, or T if it's the tense that's wrong, or WW if it's the wrong word. Maybe we'll put an example up on a link here - an example of a correction code. So what that encourages is for the students to correct their own work so that they, again, have another go. They write it, they look at the correction code. And actually there's a fantastic tool, digital tool called Write & Improve. Actually, I think we talk about it in Week 5 - next week - about correcting. So watch this space.

Skip to 6 minutes and 0 secondsNext week we'll talk a lot more about correcting written work. I think also you could decide, couldn't you, that you're not going to correct everything thia week. So if the focus is on writing something in the past tense, I'm just going to focus on the past tense. But if you correct everything, that's too much. And actually you're going to talk about the lady that talks about which colour - Yes, Messier. Yes, yes, Messier - about what colour to correct. And actually somebody's already replied to Messier saying that - she uses purple or green, which I think is -

Skip to 6 minutes and 34 secondsthe thing about red, actually, is that everybody can see it. So when you get back the homework - Which is why she puts red. You just reminded me of that. But also giving positive feedback as well. Absolutely. And with writing, I think, especially with children's writing, giving feedback on the content - it might be full of mistakes but really nice story which got lots of mistakes. You're saying, lovely story. But I don't think that's relevant only to kids. I think everybody likes a bit of praise, especially with all the effort that you put into it. Anyway, we had another question about grading language, about how can you have a conversation with people if you could only use very simple words.

Skip to 7 minutes and 14 secondsI think teachers do have to think about their language because it's very easy to forget they're your learners. And it's something you get with experience, isn't it? I think the question was, if you get an interesting question - what's the meaning of life or something - how can you give a simple answer to that? I think with experience, you get used to expressing complex ideas simply. Shorter sentences, not longer sentences. Simple vocabulary, rather than perhaps a more complicated alternative. Absolutely. And I think also the thing to do is not to speak funny English. Not to just use words but use whole sentences, but keep them simple. Because you don't want your students to understand funny English.

Skip to 7 minutes and 57 secondsAnd when they go and the listen to the radio, they can't understand anybody because people are speaking in whole sentences. And actually, I have heard an argument that people who don't have English as a first language actually are better at communicating because English language speakers, like you and I, tend to slip a few idioms in and we forget - oh, that person got the wrong end of the stick.

Skip to 8 minutes and 17 secondsSo grading language: when you're in class, avoid idioms, avoid colloquial language. Use simple, straightforward language. So I think we have one more question. I think we wanted to talk about - someone asked about how you can motivate people to read. Yes, this was Jane, actually, who said that the conversation - it was actually quite a long conversation among participants on the question about helping learners to increase their vocabulary and how reading helps people to increase their vocabulary. Like listening helps people to improve their pronunciation, reading generally helps you to improve your English. And people were saying, but I can't read in English, it's too difficult and I have to look up every word in the dictionary.

Skip to 9 minutes and 9 secondsAnd other people were saying, well, don't do that, don't look every word up in the dictionary. Jane's idea, actually, is a really good one, and that is to get learners to read stuff in English that they've already read in their own language. And she was talking about Harry Potter novels. If they've already read that in their own language, they know what the story is about. So they have like 50% idea of what's going on. So reading the novel in English is 50% already done because they know the story. So really it's just a question of following the rest of it in English. And I think it's a really good idea. So I think that's it for this week.

Skip to 9 minutes and 45 secondsAnd it's up to you now to finish the week. Remember, you're in the second half of the course. So if you're struggling with time, keep going because we're over the hill. And we look forward to meeting you again at the end of the week. And this week we're looking at language, we're looking at vocabulary, grammar and phonology. So good luck with that. The task is at the bottom of this step and then move on. See you at the end of the week. End of the week, yes.

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 questions from Week 3 and introduce our topic for this week. This video will be posted on Friday 21st July at around 3pm (UK time).

You can find some links to sites about correcting writing in the ‘See also’ section below.

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.

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This video is from the free online course:

Exploring the World of English Language Teaching

Cambridge Assessment English