creatively extend and speechify tefl/esl coursebook material?
June 23, 2010 11:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm using textbooks for my tefl/esl classes (teaching English to adults). I'm looking for ways to use the coursebook material more creatively and extend practise time, and how to create speaking material from it.

I don't have a lot of prep time at the moment as I'm teaching 6 hours a day and I'm also a new teacher, so making tailored lessons that lead the students through step by step is not on the cards.

I'm looking for ways to quickly extend and create new stuff out of my coursebooks. My students are badly in need of more speaking practise so I've tried to get them talking with the materials.

They are mostly monolingual and either not that motivated or speak much worse than their other skills so need to find ways to get them to use the target language as well instead of just saying what they've always said in a half arsed way.

What I've come up with so far:

Use the answers to questions as ideas only, students come up with different answers

Students write their own questions

Turn questions into a pair speaking activity.

Personalise it - make it about a place they know from home.

Also any good reading for this sort of thing. I've come across 'Humanising your coursebook' by 'Mario Riavluen on the net, but haven't seen a copy.

Any active forums to discuss this kind of thing as well?
posted by Not Supplied to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't take this the wrong way, but do you know how to teach English? By this I mean: do you have any formal training?
posted by smorange at 12:11 PM on June 23, 2010

I'll write this assuming you don't have any formal training. The basic rule for teaching speaking is: get the students talking, and maximize student talk time as much as you can. In a 50-minute speaking class, the teacher should speak to the class for 15 minutes or less, and there should be as little teacher talk time as possible. In integrated skills classes, the formula changes somewhat, but not that much. For speaking practice, pair work is better than group work is better than class discussion. There are two main reasons for this: 1) you maximize student talk time by keeping numbers lower; 2) you decrease the amount of pressure on your students when there are fewer students listening to them (in education jargon: you lower their affective filter).

If you want your students to speak as much as possible, you need to get them in pairs or groups of three. Textbooks mostly suck for this; besides, students rarely get excited about textbooks, even when the textbooks are good. So, you should supplement the textbook with some activities of your own. Sometimes these are simple discussion questions; other times they're board games; most of the time they're mini tasks that the students have to complete by using the target language. All of these fall under one umbrella term: communicative speaking activities. It takes a lot of time to prepare these in the beginning, but you get much better and much faster at it with experience. The upfront time investment pays off down the line, when you can create good activities in a matter of minutes.

It's hard to create activities if you don't know what you're doing. So, if you don't know what a speaking activity looks like--and it sounds like you don't--I recommend you read some or all of the following books, all published by Cambridge. They will teach you how to create speaking activities. In order of usefulness: Discussions that Work, Keep Talking: Communicative Fluency Activities for Language Teaching, Grammar Practice Activities, and Five-Minute Activities. I'd pick up a general ESL/EFL book as well. It doesn't matter much which one you choose. Something like Harmer's How to Teach English is fine.

If you have access to supplements, use them. I'm partial to the American Cutting Edge series. The Move Up books are good too, especially for larger classes. Speaking Extra is a nice resource for fluency practice. There are some good resources on the internet as well, though there's a lot of crap. The British Council maintains a website that's among the best (disclaimer: a friend of mine works there).
posted by smorange at 12:55 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks
posted by Not Supplied at 10:35 PM on June 23, 2010

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