Six lists that can greatly improve lesson planning

Right! We continue work here at Six Things by, erm, not continuing work but getting others to do it for us! Actually, I’m happy to have another repeat offender here, none other than Hall Houston a fellow teacher, blogger and author. Please check out his website and especially his book Provoking Thought, a collection of thinking activities for ELT (with some really nice ones on critical thinking). Here he shares some lesson planning ideas.

In a previous guest post by Vladimira Michalkova on the Six Things blog, the author suggested keeping multiple intelligences theory in mind when designing homework assignments in order to appeal to students with different needs and interests. As Vladimira put it, “Keep changing the style!”
This gave me the idea of assembling six lists for a similar purpose.

These lists could serve as…

* a reminder of the many things a lesson can contain
* a challenge to be more creative
* a gentle nudge to use a broader range of activities

There is some overlap between the lists, and there are probably many other lists that could be included here.

1. Four skills and Five systems
2. Three macrofunctions
3. Stimulus based teaching
4. Five senses
5. Seven (or maybe eleven) Multiple Intelligences
6. Higher order thinking skills

1. Focus on the basics – the four skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and the five systems (structure, lexis, phonology, function, discourse). A good place to start.

2. Focus on macrofunctions – Michael Halliday’s list of three macrofunctions. These are social (for example, exchanging thoughts, opinions, feelings), service (for example, getting information from television, public announcements, or a newspaper and using it), and aesthetic (for example,  reading a poem or creating a webpage) This list can remind teachers to involve students in a wide range of functions to maximize language use.

3. Focus on adapting stimuli – Tessa Woodward’s unbeatable list of five steps for stimulus based learning. This list is recommended for teachers who want to put a little creativity into their lesson planning. Woodward describes five ways of adapting a stimulus (an object, a text, a podcast, a picture) to encourage language practice in class. These are: meeting the stimulus (introducing the stimulus to students), analysis (breaking the stimuli down to its basic elements), personalization (asking students to relate the stimulus to themselves in some way), alteration and transfer (making a change such as reducing, expanding, creating parallels or opposites), and creation (students make something such as a poster or recording). See Woodward’s Planning Lessons and Courses (P. 56-58) for more about stimulus-based learning including some examples.

4. Focus on the senses – vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. The first two relate directly to language through reading and listening, and indirectly through use of images and music. The other three provide more of a challenge to incorporate into a lesson. You can bring in realia, food and beverages for students to describe, but a more economical alternative would be to get students to use their imaginations to recall things appealing or unappealing to the senses.

5. Focus on intelligences – Howard Gardner’s Multiple intelligences theory –  The seven intelligences are visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, musical- rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. In addition, there are four more intelligences that are not widely accepted , but might make for some interesting lesson ideas – naturalist intelligence, spiritual intelligence, moral intelligence and existential intelligence.

6. Focus on thinking skills – Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation) can help with guiding students through different levels of thinking. The website www.in2edu.com has an easy to follow chart for ways to exploit Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom. (Bloom’s Taxonomy Wheel)

So what’s missing? What lists would you recommend for other teachers? Post them here.

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Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 3:25 pm  Comments (15)  
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Six things authors would rather NOT hear

Right, as many of you know I have stopped teaching as of December 2009 and am doing a lot of promotional travel and conference-attending this spring. An awful lot. In all these trips I meet teachers, representatives from the publisher, conference organisers and fellow authors and teacher trainers (and recently students too!). Ninety-nine percent of the time everyone is really nice, but there are some things that I think all authors prefer NOT to hear. Here are six that “get my goat” to a greater or lesser extent.

1. The distributor has not got copies of your book here.

This one is usually from an extremely frustrated sales representative. It doesn’t matter how good the book is, they go on to say, if we don’t have copies they we can’t sell it. Distribution problems can really make or break a book but more so a publisher. A school who has ordered X copies of your book and it doesn’t arrive will think twice before ordering from that publisher again. This is a dreaded scenario.

2. There is a typo on page XX of your new book.

How is it that, even after a manuscript has been through countless edits there are still pesky little typos that get in there? I’m convinced there are little gremlins in the production stage that do it out of sheer spite. Now, there are typos and there are typos. Some are relatively harmless and slightly annoying and others are real howlers. This sentence is sometimes uttered with glee by a teacher, who then watches the author squirm like a bug stuck on a needle. I believe that almost ALL first print runs of new books, be they methodology, coursebooks, dictionaries even, have one or two typos. And in case you are wondering if my new book has a single typo in it well I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to find out for yourselves!

3. Can you make your session 30 minutes shorter/longer?

This one comes from the local representative or the conference organiser. I don’t mind adapting a talk or workshop but not an hour before I start. Still, I’ve learned to be quite pragmatic about this and just get on with it. Throwing a bit of a tantrum does not help, nor does it endear you to the poor event organiser who is probably dealing with a million other problems at the same time. Jeremy Harmer has more on conference talks and such things at his excellent blog by the way here.

4. I loved your last book X (when the book was not in fact your book)

Ok, this is a completely normal mistake for someone to make. I’ve made it myself to tell the truth. So it counts as a minor irritation. Actually it often leads to a rather embarrassing situation when I say “Umm, no that wasn’t me. That was someone else. But yes it is a good book.” The other person then mumbles something like “Oh, errr, and what was your book? Oh, I’m sure it’s very nice too.” There follows a silence while we both search for something to say.

5. Can you sign this copy of X (a book that is not your book)

I’ve had this situation a couple of times. The funniest is when I say that I didn’t write it the other person cheerfully says “Doesn’t matter, sign it anyway.” Now I’m an obliging sort of fellow so I often do and then feel guilty. So I’m coming clean here. Other authors reading this blog: there are quite possibly teachers out there with a copy of your book with my signature on it. Sorry!

6. Did you include a unit on (insert teacher’s favourite thing here) in your book? No?!? Well you should have!

The first part of the question is fine (although I’ve heard some very weird requests). It’s the second bit where I feel the other person getting pissed off at me because I neglected to include their favourite football team, favourite author, obscure grammar point or lexical set or what have you. When these conversations get ugly it usually finishes with me smiling and saying “You should write a book then, with that in it”. Invariably the rejoinder is “Yeah? Well maybe I will!” and the other person marches off, but not without having grabbed a (often free) copy of my offensive book first!

You may notice I have not mentioned someone coming up and saying “I don’t use coursebooks,” or “I hate coursebooks, I teach with my own materials” or “I’m a dogmeist”. Almost all authors I know are very sympathetic to dogme and teachers making their own materials and don’t take that comment really that personally. Unless of course someone comes up and says “I hate YOUR books especially” which is obviously hurtful but doesn’t happen all that much.

I hasten to add that I don’t hear any of the above that often, thankfully!

Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm  Comments (35)  
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Six best movie-clips never to use in language teaching

Warning, use these clips at your own risk!

I’m pleased to announce the first REPEAT OFFENDER here at Six Things, none other than the great Pete Sharma. I think this is a post that Pete has been meaning to get off his chest for some time, and what a treat. Here is a full multimedia collection of celluloid moments not to be used in ELT, selected by self-confessed movie-buff Pete Sharma. Enjoy!

(1) Film: Witness

Starring: Harrison Ford

Teaching point: non-verbal communication

The little Amish boy uncurls his finger and points at the photo of the cop. Harrison Ford moves slowly across to him. This powerful spine-chilling “J’accuse” moment, conveyed (crucially) without words, is totally comprehensible to absolute beginners. Indeed, the whole film is largely comprehensible to lower level learners, and a great way to tune them in successfully to the punishing authenticity that is film. Incidentally, I have actually used this clip to demo NVC (non-verbal communication) on a native speaker communication skills course.

(2) Shirley Valentine

Starring: Pauline Collins

Teaching point: Simple present with adjectives of frequency

My whole life I have done the daily routine class with students, thinking: “When do I ever, in reality, explain my daily routine?” Then, I’m watching Shirley Valentine and suddenly, shocked to find egg and chips on his plate, not steak, Joe says:

Joe: “It’s Thursday. We have steak on Thursday. We always have steak on Thursday.”

Shirley: “We’re having egg and chips for a change. You like egg and chips.”

Joe: “On a Tuesday. I like egg and chips on a Tuesday”. (Priceless). “Today is Thursday.”

Shirley: “Well pretend it’s a Tuesday.”(!!)

Joe: “Where’s me steak?”

Shirley: “I gi’e it the dog!”

Not only that, he enunciates slowly and clearly, so angry is he. I want to round off all my present simple classes with this clip! Alas, I could not find it on youtube but it’s worth getting the whole film just for this dialogue!

(3) Film: High Fidelity

Starring: John Cusack, Jack Black

Teaching point: Yet

Rob (actor John Cusack) in romantic agony questions the meaning of yet: What did Laura mean last night when she said, “I haven’t slept with him yet.” Yet! What does “yet” mean anyway? It means you’re gonna do it, doesn’t it? Or does it? We then get the rest of the great clip above. Gets to the very heart of language drilling: a real world take on asking a question to which you know the answer, but you ask anyway – just to practice!

(4) Film: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Starring: Steve Martin

Language point: The language of complaining

Coming from an indirect culture, many is the hotel I’ve been in and tiptoed down to complain that the TV is broken. “Excuse me, er, sorry to bother you but, and I’m sure it must be my fault, I’m afraid the TV is……..” Inside of me is a Steve Martin trying to emerge. Here he is, complaining that his hire car isn’t in its bay, a scene which starts off like any other customer service dialogue. Warning: you will hear the F word a LOT in this clip!

Never has the gap between ELT dialogue and the silver screen been wider. Student task: redraft this conversation to make it, er, more polite.

(5) Film: It’s a wonderful life

Starring: James Stewart

Teaching point: conditional type 3

When alien Mork comes to earth in the old US series Mork and Mindy, it transpires all the English he learnt was from transmissions of television shows. Wow. A dream scenario! No teachers, just students totally immersed in a world of film. No need to teach Conditional Type three, then. Just show that last 20 minutes of It’s  a wonderful Life and have your learners report back. Most everything they explain will use the target  structure! We all know the ending: “Every man on that transport died! Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry. You see, George, you really had a wonderful life.”

So, if George hadn’t been born…well, you get the picture (pun intended). Cue summarising Back to the Future and a host of films on time-travel…….

(6) Film: Double Indemnity

Starring: Edward G. Robinson

Teaching point: ESP – lexis

The fabulously named Barton Keyes (Edward G.) works in insurance. Norton, Keyes’s boss, has just tried, unsuccessfully, to convince a client that her husband’s death was a suicide. It’s the words and the incredible speed of delivery that makes this speech so magnetic. Anyone for a gap-fill?

“Come now, you’ve never read an actuarial table in your life, have you? Why they’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by colour, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poison, by firearms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by “types” of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth; suicide by leaps, subdivided by leaps from high places, under the wheels of trains, under the wheels of trucks, under the feet of horses, from “steamboats”. But, Mr. Norton, of all the cases on record, there’s not one single case of suicide by leap from the rear end of a moving train. {..} We’re sunk, and we’ll have to pay through the nose, and you know it”.

I’ve waited all my TEFL life to use this dialogue with a student. Before I die, I just want to teach an actuary in order to use it. How sad is that?

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 8:06 am  Comments (17)  
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Six questions for linked language learning

Yes! Time for another guest post, this time from a colleague in Ireland, Patrick Jackson. Patrick is the author of Potato Pals. Here he shares six questions teachers can ask themselves about links, linking up and linked learning. Some good food for reflective thought here.

Think Link! Six questions for Linked (Language) Learning

1. The links between teacher and student.

Do I have mutually respectful relationships with my students and do I devote time and energy to developing these relationships?

2. The links between students.

Are my students communicating without anxiety, working together well and supporting each other? Do students have plenty of opportunity and encouragement to develop these relationships?

3. The links between teachers.

Am I connected to an active community of teachers? Does this community enrich my teaching and support my development? Is it easy for me to seek the help of more experienced teachers? Am I engaged in helping less-experienced teachers than myself?

4. The links to the world outside the classroom.

Are students being given opportunities to use the target language in a real and relevant way, linked to the world beyond the classroom? Is the language being learnt through such links? Am I giving students space and time to use this language in the context of their own lives?

5. The links between the known and the new.

Is new language being introduced in a way that makes connections with language students have already mastered. Am I helping my students to find and use these connections?

6. The ‘M’ link.

Do I use a wide variety of materials, methods and media linked in a way that students will find memorable and motivating? Mmmm.

You can find out more about Patrick’s work at his blog, The Potato Diaries, here. Thank you Patrick, for your six!

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 8:03 pm  Comments (3)  
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Six anagrams of well-known ELT bloggers

Awhile I ago someone sent me this link to an anagram generator. I’ve been thinking of ways to use it in class, barring simply making interesting anagrams from words or phrases for my learners to solve. Recently I found a whole new fun thing to do, which was put names into the generator and see what I get.

So, here’s a test on six things for you! The following are anagrams of other ELT bloggers out there (they are on my blogroll). I’ve included a little description next to each. Can you identify them?

1 Seller, Hell Try – I met Seller, Hell Try at a conference last year. She’s a great networker, very active on twitter and #edchat and her blog currently features a set of goals. Would I recommend Seller, Hell Try? Hell yes!

2 Obstruct Thorny – Obstruct Thorny does tend to ask questions worthy of his anagram last name, especially about coursebooks and grammar syllabi. However, the quality of his blog entries makes up for the thorniness of some of those questions!

3 A Giddy Uneven -Taking a trip to A Giddy Uneven’s blog about technology matters is not a dizzying experience, it’s a solidly written one. Some of his blog posts are very “even”, as long as you agree with him! 🙂

4 Transversely Keen – Her blog transverses many topics, supposedly about technology and speaking but in reality covers a lot more. Transversely Keen lives up to her last name very well, she’s one of the keenest bloggers out there – I mean that in a good sense.

5 Noel Winks – Noel Winks is a splendid chap and recent addition to the blogosphere  who is making quite an impact despite his modest claims to the contrary. Mr Winks alternately shares stories from his life in the profession with provocative posts about culture, or the things he knows about teaching English.

6 Cease Lax – The Godfather of the ELT (blog) world, Cease Lax has been blogging since before many of the others on this list. Cease Lax has a wry sense of humour, produces far too many free worksheets for his own good and probably had a post like this around 8 months ago. Many of my favourite post ideas were probably done by Cease Lax in the past.


Finally, my name is Clay Landside Find. Creator of what one reader called “a bit of a hodge podge” of this blog, which is also – according to Onestopblogs – probably too wordy. Hopefully there are some good finds in this clay landslide of text though!

Ok, let’s hear it from all the other great bloggers and readers I’ve missed. What does your name give in the anagram generator?

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 8:58 am  Comments (55)  
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