By putting two desks together, students can easily work together, sharing ideas and peer teaching. This is very useful when your students are mixed ability as stronger ones can help those with problems.
If students are asked to complete an exercise from the course book, by working together they can help explain what they think the correct answers are and share ideas about the language. This approach means that they will have more chance of success and the teacher can spend time monitoring and helping students rather than trying to help all those with problems or keeping them quiet.
Many course books introduce language items with dialogues that children either read or listen to on a tape. To give children practice in producing oral English and to help them remember the new language, students can read the dialogues together, taking a part each. Encourage them to think about the meaning of the words and to put realistic intonation into their reading. This may seem noisy, but your students will be maximising their practice of English. To avoid purely mechanical reading (children not thinking about the meaning of what they say) get students to change the words so they are more relevant to them or to the country they are in.
This is a difficult skill. When children work together to produce a piece of text, they have the chance to try out structures and vocabulary and tend to draft (rewrite and improve) much more than when they write on their own. It is also more fun working with another student and easier to sustain energy and interest in the task.
For example, students have been learning vocabulary to describe people:
- Choose a character appropriate for the age of your students like an alien, a robber, a super hero, a corrupt politician.
- First ask the students to shut their eyes and imagine this character. Then they tell each other what this character looked like in their mind’s eye.
- Next they decide on how they want the character they are going to write about to look. They could draw a picture first.
- After this they write a list of all the main characteristics e.g. evil eyes, a long scar on the right cheek, blue skin.
- Once they have plenty of ideas, they must write a descriptive paragraph together (the length depends on the age and ability of the children). While they write they must try to be as descriptive and interesting as possible. They can make as many changes as they want while writing.
- Once they are happy that they have got a really good description they can write it up neatly.
You will notice that a text written in this way is invariably more accurate, descriptive and richer than one written by a student on her own.
Students of all ages all like doing picture dictations, which are very easy to set up and get lots of language practised:
- First the teacher describes a picture and students must draw what they hear. For example it could be to practise describing people (He is very tall, he has large round eyes and a square shaped nose…) or for prepositions of place (There is a house on top of a mountain. An airplane is flying over the house, an elephant is standing in front on the house…)
- Get students to draw their own pictures without showing them to their partners and then take turns describing their picture to their partner who must draw the picture.
- They check each others’ dictations by comparing the pictures.
Students tend not to go back to mother tongue, if they have been well prepared with sufficient vocabulary to do this task.
Teenagers: Limited resources
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Teenagers: Limited resources: Classroom set-up B