Currently Browsing: Teaching Strategies

Review Questions Game

Review Questions Game

This is a Jeopardy like game for classes that have studied a lot of materials

Create five categories For categories, you might choose “Grammar”, “Vocabulary”, “Spelling”, “Culture Bits” and “Your Teacher”. It depends on your class and your textbook.

Create fifty questions Now, think of 10 questions for each category. Order the questions by difficulty. The easiest questions will be worth 100 points. The hardest questions will be worth 1000 points.

Set up On the board, create a grid. Label the columns with the categories. Then there should be rows for 100 point questions, 200 point questions, etc.

Create teams and play Divide the class into teams. The teams choose a category and a point value. If they get the question right, they get the points. If they get it wrong, the next team gets a chance.

Five Ways to Practice Stress

Five ways to practice stress

Two weeks ago, we discussed word stress. Here are five ways to teach it.

First off Start by giving them a handout of, say, ten sentences. Write the first one on the board and underline the stressed words as you read it out loud.  Then, move towards having them do it on their own. Ask the class to discuss which words are stressed. Then, they can do it in groups. Finally, they can try it alone or even take a quiz.

Quizzes Nothing like a quiz to get students motivated. Ask students to listen to something and then underline the stressed words on a transcript.

Just the Stress Read something and only say the words you would stress when saying it. For diminished words, ask the students to fill in the blanks. (See this lesson plan.)

Music Listen to songs that have the same lines again and again. In a song, stressed words are often even more obvious. They’re louder, longer, and the pitch changes to boot. Here’s a song you might use. Here’s another.

Throw Your Hands in the Air Use physical gestures. Read sentences with the students. The more stressed a word is, the higher everyone’s hands go while reading.

Focus on Reductions Rather than focusing on the words that are stressed, point out all the unstressed words. Often, these words get said like one word. For example “Jawanna” = “Do you want to” and “I’m going to go” = “I’m gunna go”. Teach common ones so the students know which words usually aren’t stressed.

Beaker Method Beaker was a character on The Muppet Show (popular in the U.S. in the 1970s). He could only speak making “Meep!” sounds. He communicated entirely with word stress, timing, and intonation. Have your students try the same. Here’s a lesson plan to help.

 

Recordings

Recordings

Two ways for you and your students to make audio recordings and five ways you might use them to help your students.

Two technologies for making self-recordings

You already have this on your computer On a PC, you can use the built in sound-recorder (Start/Programs/Accessories/Entertainment/Sound Recorder)

But this is much better Or you can download Audacity, which is easy-to-use software for making home recordings.

In both cases, the controls work the same as a tape recorder. In Audacity, you’ll want to choose “export” in order to save the file as an MP3 (so you can play it on a computer that doesn’t have the Audacity software). Once you have the MP3, you can send it in an email as an attachment.

Six ways to use recordings to enhance classroom

Send me your speech Why not have students make recordings of themselves and send you speeches the same way they send you essays?  Class of presentations are great, but it’s a challenge to keep other students from tuning out. Sending you the speech lets them refine it and doesn’t waste class time.

Or to each other Have students send their speeches to each other for peer editing. They can CC you on all the messages.

Practice Tests For students studying for tests like the TOEFL, they should definitely be making and listening to recordings of themselves. Not doing it is like never reading an essay you write.

Create listening comprehension exercises Sometimes you search in vain for just the right listening exercise.  Just creating it on your own can solve the problem. Then, send it to your students or bring it into the classroom.

Listen and repeat Listening and repeating something is a great way to improve pronunciation and fluency. Record the phrases you want your students to get good at and send them the file.

VOXOPOP.com Use this great site to create an audio message board with your students. (There’ll be a review on this blog soon, but Jason Renshaw already did it great. Click here to check out his video explanation of this site.)

Stressed Words

Stressed Words

Beaker can communicate with just stressed sounds, intonation, and timing. Can you?

Teachers, when you teach word stress, how do you explain it? What is a stressed word in a sentence? How can you tell which word it is? What’s more, why is it important? Here are answers to all of those questions. Here’s to hoping they’ll help you build and enhance lessons.

First, listen to this sentence.

I ate three eggs and two big bowls of cereal.

Now, listen again.

I ate three eggs and two big bowls of cereal.

Hopefully, you instantly see that the first time, the sentence is about eggs and the second is about the size of the bowls of cereal. We can tell because of the stressed words in the sentence (“eggs” in the first and “big” in the second).

How do we know which words are stressed? They’re louder and we stretch them out. For example “big” becomes “BIIIIIG”.

Why is word stress important? Well, it tells us which words are important in the sentence.

In the first sentence, the stress on “eggs” means the speaker really wants the listener to understand that word. Maybe the listener didn’t understand the first time they heard the sentence.

In the second sentence, the speaker wants to emphasize that they didn’t eat small bowls of cereal. Perhaps they were supposed to finish the cereal and are feeling defensive.

Finally, listen to a more regular reading of our sentence.

I ate three eggs and two big bowls of cereal.

The stressed words are: three, eggs, two, big, bowls, cereal.

Even if you only heard these six words, you would understand the sentence perfectly. (Assuming some context tells you that the sentence was in the past.) The words “I, ate, and, of” are less essential, so we don’t stress them.

When speaking naturally, we rarely stress each word in a sentence. In fact, some words are so diminished, you couldn’t possibly know what they are unless you know the language well enough to guess.

In lessons, if you can get the students used to listening for word stress and not worrying so much about catching every word, but rather knowing the kinds of words that are likely to be unstressed, listening will become that much easier.

Next week, you’ll see some suggestions for how to do just that.

Limericks

Limericks

Using Limericks to help students improve intonation, timing, and word stress.

A limerick is a humorous, five line poem where the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme. The third and fourth lines rhyme too (i.e. AABBA rhyming). Often, the lines that rhyme also have the same number of syllables.

After the bear caught the fish 7

A genie gave him a wish 7

The bear didn’t know what to say 8

So, he sent the genie away 8

“I already have the fish!” 7

Note: This site is helpful learning how to count syllables.

Limericks (and other poems) can be great for helping students improve speaking skills. They give English a little bit more structure and repetition makes it easier to feel intonation, timing, and word stress patterns.

When students write enough of their own poems, they’ll begin to instinctively write lines with the same number of syllables. This is when you know they’re really getting English patterns down.

Moreover, if students are paying attention to the syllable counts, they’ll begin to see how we can play with English to create new effects. Exceptions to rules drive students crazy, but not native speakers. We use and create exceptions to make English work for us. To wit: subjects don’t have to come at the beginning and words like “everyone” can be pronounced with three or four syllables.

The only problem is that limericks often have so much new vocabulary and strange grammar that teaching them can be tricky. So, with apologies to actual poets, we wrote four limericks that you might use in the classroom. Can you add anymore? Post in the comments!

There once was a sad man with a beer 9

From the side of his face fell a tear 9

Yes he was so sad, 5

His heart felt so bad, 5

When he saw his face in the mirror! 9

The rain fell upon the once dry ground 9

And sent everyone running around 9

They didn’t want to be wet 7

So they were filled with regret 7

For warm summer sunshine they moaned 9

Tim rode his blue bike to school 7

Brad took his time like a fool 7

Judy wandered alone 6

Bobby talked on the phone 6

Tim was all alone at school 7

« Previous Entries Next Entries »