Flying robots, laughter & germs

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December 17, 2015 by gemmalunn

In October I started teaching two C1 level classes. For the majority of the students in these classes English is a hobby and there are no strict goals or pressure to improve, generally they want to expand their vocabulary and maintain their level.

Following on from the ELTchat on coaching adult students I wanted to find ways to help these students to improve and practice English outside of class. They are very confident and competent communicating with each other but not so much so when it comes to understanding new speakers, especially those with different accents. So, I thought TED talks would be perfect to help with this and also to help expand their vocabulary.

image1

Thus, I suggested that each week a different student watches a TED talk of their choice, then in the following class gives a brief summary and shares any new, useful vocabulary. None of the students had ever heard of TED (I know, i couldn’t believe it either!!) but they were all very keen to see what it was. During the ELT chat I picked up some tips on the most effective ways to coach students, such as:

  1. Don’t put pressure on busy adults.
  2. Be flexible – give them a choice with what and when to do work.
  3. Make reflection of autonomous learning an integral part of the lesson.

I took these points and all the other useful ones raised in the chat into consideration: By only having one person watching a TED talk a week it lightens the workload and students volunteer so if someone has a particularly busy week ahead they aren’t forced to do the extra work. Giving students the freedom to choose which talk they watch means they should be more interested in the topic. Along with the summary at the beginning of each class I always ask the student to reflect on the usefulness and difficulty of the talk, for example we discuss the accent and how much they were able to understand.

Both classes have really embraced this task; most students produced vocabulary lists (as below) for the rest of the class along with well prepared summaries. As always with TED talks the summaries have produced good discussion on a wide range of subjects (the title of this posts lists a few) and plenty of interest, it has also given students motivation to go and watch the summarised talks. The task also really helped me get to know each student better and find out more about what interests them. This would also help a new class get to know each other better.

image2

This is quite a fixed, guided way of coaching students and I hope that I can gradually make it freer and students report on a variety of things they’ve done outside of class to practice English. However, I wanted to start by introducing them to some new tools and then they can decide which works best for them (this was also a suggestion made during the ELTchat).

If you are not familiar with ELTchat you can find more information here, as shown in this post it is an incredibly useful way to get great ideas for the classroom. Thanks to all those who participated in the chat and whose advice and ideas I’ve included in this post.

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