This section comprises lesson plans and teaching ideas which have been submitted by MATEFL members. All of them have appeared in the newsletter at some time and will be added to as new newsletters are published.
If you have a lesson or teaching idea you would like to share please send it to the newsletter editor at bethanychristianinstitute.org.in or Write to us
Getting started in teacher training By John Hughes
A different kind of classroom
Unlike other career paths for experienced English language teachers which tend to lead out of the classroom, teacher training appeals to those who actually want to stay in the classroom. As a senior trainer once said to me, ‘There are those who are often looking to get out of the classroom and there are teacher trainers looking for a different kind of classroom.’ If you are thinking of moving into teacher training, here are few ideas on how people get started in teacher training and what to do next.
Who are teacher trainers?
Many teacher trainers are people with extensive knowledge and experience of the subject. They have probably taught many different levels of student, different class sizes, cultures, nationalities, age ranges and students with different needs – from young learners through to adults with specific work-related requirements. Your CV or resume won’t cover every part of the ELT spectrum, but you’ll be a reasonable ‘jack of all trades’ and perhaps even a reasonable specialist in one of two of them.
Longevity in ELT is often a job requirement for teacher training and most teachers who move into it have been in the profession for some considerable time. However, the first signs of wanting to train can, in fact, emerge at an early stage of a teacher’s career. You’re standing in the teacher’s room organising some materials for your next lesson and someone asks you what you’re doing with your students today. You explain the idea behind a lesson or task and your colleague thinks that’s a really great idea and asks to borrow it. For many teachers, the pleasure of suggesting and sharing ideas is their starting point into training.
Run a workshop
A few more lessons and a few more good ideas later, and you’re being asked by your Director of Studies to present your ideas at the monthly workshop for teachers within the school. This slightly more formal setting might also include leading a discussion of any issues arising from your presentation or facilitating teachers to share their own experiences and ideas by spring-boarding off what you have presented. However nerve-wracking presenting to your colleagues is, if you find it satisfying and enjoyable, then you may well like the idea of working as a teacher trainer.
In some schools there also exist systems of mentoring, where newer, inexperienced teachers are assigned to a more ‘senior’ teacher. Again, the supporting role of mentor with the opportunity it gives to help and develop a colleague may be something a potential teacher trainer cherishes.
These early stages of training form some of the commonest routes into teacher training. I’ve never met anyone involved in teacher training who knew from the outset that that was what they wanted to do. They found their way into the field by being noticed as a senior teacher, someone who was experienced and often very helpful to less experienced colleagues. For some teachers, working in schools with formal teacher training departments, there was possibly a vacancy to be trained up and to work on pre- and in-service courses.
Training as a Director of Studies
One other significant category of trainer who doesn’t quite fit the description above may be the Director of Studies. The core of this person’s job is often the day-to-day administrative management of students and staff. Nevertheless, as probably the most experienced teacher and as part of the job description, this person will often be called upon to provide in-house training.
Working towards being a trainer
If you are in the process of thinking about becoming a trainer or are working on your own as a trainer with little or no formal input, then the following ideas may help you take action.
Watch other teacher trainers at work. Ask if you can observe a trainer in an input session or sit in on an observation of a trainee teacher and the feedback process that follows. If you regularly attend conferences or workshops, notice what the presenter or trainer does and also how your peers react.
Think back to when you first trained as a teacher and the people who trained you. What did you like or dislike about their techniques? What aspects of the course did you find beneficial?
Volunteer to run an in-house workshop for your fellow teachers. If your school doesn’t have teacher development meetings, then suggest that they start. Offer to run the first one.
Read journals, books and websites. Stay up-to-date with what people are talking about in the world of ELT.
Get more qualified
Because teacher training is so varied and expectations vary from country to country, it is hard to say what qualifications you should have. If you have the specialist know-how, then you may well get a job, but in the UK, for example, the Trinity or Cambridge Diploma qualification is often a minimum pre-requisite for someone looking to become a trainer. Around the world, many training positions can expect a candidate to have post-graduate qualifications, such as an MA in Applied Linguistics or TESOL.
Points to bear in mind
Jumping in too soon
As you can see, the route into teacher training in ELT doesn’t necessarily follow a formal path. If you are lucky, you may have the opportunity to receive formal training and an induction programme. Training courses on how to become a trainer also exist, but for the majority of trainers, informal ‘on-the-job’ learning was their starting point. As a final word of warning, don’t skip too quickly from teaching into training. Be very secure in your experience of teaching English before launching yourself as a trainer.
A balancing act
Many trainers juggle some training work with other jobs, such as teaching, examining and writing. Many training contracts are irregular, so you may be forced to balance a portfolio of work. On the other hand, there’s a strong argument that this is a healthy way to train. For example, getting back into the classroom and teaching students who are learning English is a good chance for you to remind yourself of what it’s like for your trainees. Nevertheless, taking gaps from training, as with teaching, can lead to loss of confidence and the concern that you will forget how to do it. At the other extreme, it is easy to become known only as a trainer, so you’re always either running input sessions and workshops for teachers or observing and giving feedback which, over long periods, also becomes dissatisfying.
Time and rewards
I have yet to meet a teacher who hasn’t at some point been found bemoaning both the lack of pay and the lack of time for preparation. Their complaints are probably all perfectly justified! Life as a trainer is no different. Don’t expect a slow down in the rush to plan and prepare, and don’t assume your salary will suddenly increase.
You’re on your own
As a trainer, you may find you are the most experienced person in the building. Gone are the days when there was always someone around with more experience whom you could ask. You will probably find that you are increasingly the one being asked. If you are a Director of Studies expected to train staff, for example, you may find that you’re quite isolated. This is where joining professional organisations and attending conferences or local teachers’ associations will really help your development and sense of not being alone.
ADAPTING A PICTURE STORY
Lots of teaching materials, course books etc contain picture sequences that have to be re-ordered. Students then read or listen to the story to check if they were right – and thereby develop their reading or speaking skills. This in itself is an interesting and effective activity, but a lot more can be added to make it more fun, more challenging and ultimately more satisfying. Further, an activity which in the coursebook lasts an average of 10-15minutes can be effectively spun out to last a good 90 minutes!!!
As an example. let’s use the following picture strip from the old Headway Pre-Intermediate Unit 3, the James Bond story. Here’s the technique – which of course can be used with any picture sequence.
1 Tell students they’re going to be ‘doing’ a story about …. (James Bond)
2 Cut up the pictures, mount each one on card (and laminate for long-lasting use, if you can).
3 Enlarge two of the pictures – A4 size if possible.
4 Divide the class into Team A and Team B. Ask each team to select an artist (they don’t need to draw very well – stick figures will do.). Draw a line down the middle of the board. Each team’s artist will draw on a different half of the board. So now the two teams sit as far away as possible from the board, at different sides of the classroom, whilst their artists stand at the board.
5 Give each team one of the two enlarged pictures, which they must not show to their Team Artist. Simultaneously, the two teams ‘dictate’ their picture to their Team Artist, who has to draw the picture as accurately as possible on the appropriate half of the board. Lots of ‘learning noise’ will be happening – all part of the fun. Set a (flexible) time limit for this. When they’ve finished, the two artists can look at the enlarged pictures, and each team looks at the other team’s enlarged picture. Congratulate the teams and the artists.
6 Tell the class that the two pictures form part of a sequence of pictures in a story. You are going to hand out the other pictures in the story. Students must not show their picture to anyone else.
7 Give each student one picture. Share if you have more than six students. If you have fewer than six, take a picture yourself and/or give some stronger students two pictures.
8 Tell the students that in a moment they’re going to describe their picture to the other students. The other students can ask questions for clarification. The idea is to guess the possible sequence of the pictures. Students mentally prepare, look up necessary vocabulary in their dictionaries, call you over for help in their preparation, etc. Students now proceed to describe their pictures. You might want to ask them to sit in the order their pictures come in the story.
9 When students think they have a logical sequence, put all the pictures on the board or face upwards on the table so that everyone can see them. Ask if they want to change anything. They now listen to or read the story and decide if their order was correct.
10 Afterwards, elicit the story from the students using only the pictures and the appropriate narrative tenses (books closed!) You might like to input some linkers (eg then, next,after that,suddenly, at the end etc)
11 Students tell the story to each other in pairs (usually much more effective than simply writing it).
12 Do whatever follow-up work there is in the coursebook, or on the language the students used – or didn’t use – while telling the story.
10 Activities – Using Pictures in Class
A picture speaks a thousand words! And you can get your students speaking just as many by using pictures in class. Check out these fun and engaging communicative activities below.
I find these work at all ages and the best thing is that each task can be adapted to the level you are teaching and designed with a particular language focus in mind so whether you’re teaching the Past Simple at A1 or the use of cleft sentences at C1, you can pull from your bank of pictures and adjust your instructions as you see fit!!
1. Dialogue Bubbles
Choose a picture with two or more people and in pairs, students design a catchy advertisement or witty dialogue OR use it to focus on a particular grammar structure such as ‘going to’ (see below).
You could even choose a picture with two or more objects and ask your students to use their imaginations to add dialogue bubbles to the objects. This can be great fun, used at all levels and all ages and is so versatile in that you can focus on whatever grammar/vocabulary you are teaching that week!
Storyboarding is a well-known and popular task in the ESL classroom but it means sourcing a sequence of pictures which can be a challenge! If you’re feeling very creative, you could take a series of images in sequence yourself and ask students to write the story. To personalise it even more, use your town or the school as a backdrop for the story.
Storyboards are great to focus on particular grammar structures as you can assign the focus. For example, maybe ‘Past Perfect Continuous’ with your higher levels (He had been waiting for the right moment to save her) or Past Simple with your lower levels (He saved the woman and jumped out the window).
3. If I Were There, I Would…
Choose a picture in an interesting setting or location. This is a great task to practise the Second Conditional. ‘If I were there, I would get up early to watch the sunrise every morning.’ Can your students think of 3 Second Conditional sentences in relation to this setting?
4. Picture Profiles
Choose a small number of pictures of interesting people and get your students to work together to describe the appearance of the person in the picture but also to build a profile of that person using the following headings: Name, Nationality, Age, Profession, Likes/Dislikes, Life Goals and Ambitions and 3 words to describe the person’s character. When finished, groups can share their profiles and discuss their choices; a great way to practise present simple, present simple continuous and adjectives for description and character at the lower levels.
5. Yes, Chef!
Take or source a picture of either a starter, a main course or a dessert. Ask your students to describe the dish to their partners including the ingredients that were used and the recipe they think would have been used. Now, ask your students to come up with a five-course menu to include this dish!
If you provide a picture like the one below of ‘Tiramisu’, your students might consider creating an Italian themed menu and should discuss Italian dishes and drinks.
6. Nostalgia – ‘I remember when…’
Bring in a picture of yourself as a young child and describe the picture to the class. Now, tell the students about this time in your life starting with i.e, ‘I remember when I was four years old…’ This is a great task to practise structures such as ‘I would…’ and ‘used to’ to talk about past habits.
7. Compare & Contrast
This is a well-known task and useful to introduce to students of all ages to familiarize them with the format of exams such as the Cambridge suite of exams (PET, FCE and CAE).
Choose two photos with a similar theme such as the two below on the theme of work. Start by asking students to describe what they see in the two pictures to their partners and then to use phrases such as ‘They are similar in that….’ And ‘in contrast to the first picture’ to compare and contrast. As a follow-up, you could ask your students to choose their next two pictures to bring in to class to describe.
8. Picture Collage
Ask your students to work in pairs and together for homework take a series of pictures to illustrate their language learning experience (or whatever you choose). They should bring their collage into class the next day (or you could set this mini project over two days) to present to the class. Students describe their photos, why they took them and why they play an important part in their lives.
This task is great with teenagers and encourages them to use a wide range of vocabulary which they have already met; a fun and motivating fluency focused activity. If your students have access, they could use www.picmonkey.com to create online collages.
9. Picture Dictation
Student A – The Describer
Student B – The Artist
Student C – The Scribe
A fun and engaging task for groups of three students. Source a picture that has enough detail for students to
describe, draw and write about! Assign your strongest student in each group the role of ‘Describer’ – This student is the only one who will see the picture; the other students, the ‘Artist’ will draw what student A describes and the ‘Scribe’ will write the description.
When finished, the three students compare their picture, drawing and written description and together discuss the similarities and differences. Drawings and pictures could be posted on the classroom walls afterwards for other groups to decide which representation is the best and why!
10. Prediction for Reading/Listening tasks
Source an engaging picture that relates in some way to your main reading/listening task. Use the picture as a lead-in task for students to predict what the following task will be about. If they are having difficulty, give them some vocabulary on the board to help them put together a full prediction.
Course books often use lead-in pictures but if you can find a picture of your own that personalizes the topic, it will add a more intriguing layer to your introduction. For example, the following lead-in picture could be used to spark students personal interest in the topic of camping before reading an article on ‘An Increase in Camping Holidays’
Do you have any other ideas for using pictures in class? Let us know in the comments section below..