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English Language Teaching Global Blog


Webinar: Warmers, fillers and other quick activities

Teacher pointing at the whiteboardJon Hird, materials writer and teacher trainer, discusses the place and function of short activities in the English classroom. Jon will be hosting a practical webinar session on this topic on 12th September.

While not a requirement for every lesson, quick, simple and largely preparation- and materials-free activities such as warmers, fillers and lead-in activities can add a bit of dynamism and fun into any class. But why do them?

Warmers can wake the students (and the teacher) up and at the same time energise and stimulate. They help to focus minds and get the students in ‘English mode’. A good warmer can get the students engaged with English without them realising they are ‘doing’ English.

Fillers can serve a similar purpose to warmers. They can be used to change the pace, energy levels and dynamics between activities or whenever needed during the class. They can both help the students to relax and give a boost when things are perhaps flagging a little. They can allow a bit of ‘time out’ between more conventional classroom activities. They are flexible and can be used at almost any time. They are also especially useful for filling time at the end of a class.

Lead-in activities, as well as performing a similar function to warmers, are at the same time designed to introduce a topic, generate interest and whet the appetite. They focus minds on the topic and activate schema. Lead-ins can also be used to check, input and pre-teach any language necessary for the ensuing activity or activities.

There are also a great many preparation- and materials-free consolidation activities that can be used to give further practice and help fix new language in a fun and engaging way once the coursebook and other published materials have been completed.

In my upcoming webinar, Warmers, fillers and other quick activities we will look at a range of such warmers, fillers, lead-ins and consolidation activities, as well as activities to help you and your students get the most out of the course book. The webinar will use content from Headway Fourth edition.


Bringing the four skills together

Christopher Graham, teacher and teacher trainer, discusses what our everyday skills teach us about skills integration and how to apply this in the EFL classroom. Chris hosted a webinar on this topic on the 7th June.

There are many pleasures in being a father, and one of them – I’d hoped – would be helping my kids with their homework. My fourteen year old son, however, seems to have other ideas – as revealed when I recently watched him starting a homework project about Indian history.

I thought his starting point would be, “Dad what do you know about ….?”.  But no, the first thing he did after reading his homework task was to send some instant messages to a group of classmates and follow that up with a group Skype call to decide what needed doing for the project. This was followed by furious Googling, lots of Wikipedia reading and copious YouTube watching. This in turn was followed, sadly, by quite a lot of cutting and pasting and just a little rewriting. The final written version was supplemented by some ideas that came from a Skype call to an ex-classmate who now lives in India. Job done and emailed to the teacher!

It was a genuine pleasure to watch highly motivated collaborative learning in action, something that we teachers have strived to achieve for years and that for so many young people today is part of their lives. Part of their lives thanks to technology.

But the use of this technology requires us to do something else too. My son was integrating skills at high speed. Reading, listening, speaking and writing were all being used, constantly intermixed and in many different combinations. This integration of skills is a requirement to make the best of the technology that we now have at our fingertips.

Think how you might book a restaurant table for a dinner with some friends. A few SMS messages to see who is free, then perhaps a look at TripAdvisor to see where to go;  follow this with one or two phone calls to discuss options and then book online with the place you’ve chosen. A few days before the event you let everyone know where and when with an email with a nice map link embedded into it. A Facebook status update on the day will be the final element of 21st century restaurant life. With lots of integration of skills.

My webinars are based on the assumption that we are preparing our students for real life. And real life means the integration of skills. What I hope to show you is why a holistic approach to integrated skills is so realistic and thus a vital element in the EFL classroom. We will also look at why the content and setting are so important. Remember how motivated my son was to do his homework or how motivated you are when you arrange to meet your friends in a restaurant. Rich and personalised content drives our desire to communicate and this creates the learner motivation and enhanced levels of confidence that we EFL teachers need to harness in our classes.

I hope that you will come away from the webinars with some practical classroom ideas for skills integration that you can adapt and use in your day-to-day teaching. What I can’t promise is that it will make your teenagers want to do their homework!

You can view a recording of this webinar here.

Christopher Graham has been working in English Language Teaching for many years as a teacher, academic manager, teacher educator and materials writer. He is now a London-based freelance consultant and travels widely, working with teachers and institutions in a range of EFL areas. His own professional interests include EAP, Writing Skills , Cross Cultural Communication and ESP.


8 Steps Towards a Successful Classroom

Verissimo Toste, an Oxford teacher trainer, discusses the ingredients of a successful lesson. Verissimo hosted a webinar on this topic on the 10th May. To view a recording of this webinar, click here.

What makes a lesson successful? Beyond the specific materials and activities, what can teachers focus on in order to deliver consistently successful lessons? These are not easy questions to answer, but there are some key points we, as teachers, can focus on in order to increase the probability of consistently successful lessons.

Consider the students. Too obvious a point, probably. But in the rush of a day’s lessons, it is easy to deliver content without focussing on the individual students we have in front of us. What are their abilities, their interests?  How do they feel that day and how could these considerations affect the lesson you are about to deliver? Sometimes it is important to take a deep breath before beginning a lesson and consider these questions. We might be able to make some slight adjustments that will help our lesson flow better.

Although easily taken for granted, it is important to begin and end the lesson well. A good beginning has impact, drawing the students’ attention and engaging them in what they are about to do. It is also clear as to what the students will be doing in the lesson. A clear idea of the outcome of the lesson will help students become more personally involved in the activities, helping them to learn better. A good ending will give students a sense of achievement, of having learned. Students can reflect on what they have learned and what skills they have developed. Equally important, they can also consider what might have been difficult during the lesson, leading them to focus on that aspect of their learning.

Of course, the material you use will greatly contribute to the success of your lesson. But it is important to look at it critically. How does it relate to your students? Is it relevant to them? Almost any topic can be made relevant, but it is important to focus on this in order to make it so. Students may find a topic boring or a language point too difficult to understand. However, making their feelings and opinions part of the lesson will help to involve them. Contributing to the lesson in this way helps them take responsibility for what happens in their lessons. They, too, contribute to the success of the lesson.

Students today learn as much outside the classroom as they do in class, maybe even more in some cases. Successful lessons take this into consideration and don’t end when the class ends. There are many ways to extend the lesson beyond the classroom. Students can find links between the topics in class, maybe from their coursebook, to their world. I discovered in a coursebook lesson based on parkour that the national champion of the sport was from the city where I was teaching. My students knew more about it than I did. Of course, this led to photos of where the sport was practised in the city and some of the people who practised it.

Technology is an integral part of our students’ lives, providing many opportunities for continuing language work outside of class. This could be based on language work integrated with the coursebook, or online work based on researching a topic. Teachers can also consider using students’ digital devices to bring their lives into the classroom. When working on the present simple for daily routine, students can be encouraged to take some photos of what they do every day. Sharing these in class will add a personal context to the language being learned.

My webinar further discussed some of the key points that bring success to the classroom. You can view a recording of the webinar here.