Teaching Techniques

Here follow some ideas to help ELT teachers to improve their teaching skills

  1. Asking questions
    Asking targeted questions can help learners to pinpoint meaning. It’s often a good idea to start with closed questions, which offer a choice, before moving onto more open questions. For example, if you want to check the meaning of ‘I lived in Delhi’ you could ask:
    * Am I talking about the past, the present or the future? (the past) closed question * Do I live in Delhi now? (no) closed question * Tell me about a place where you lived before open question Remember that asking ‘What does this word mean?’ can be tricky for lower level learners. Think about how you would answer before asking this! Also, if you ask ‘Do you understand?’ it is easy for learners to answer ‘Yes!’, but you won’t really know unless you check properly. Some learners are reluctant to say when they don’t understand something.
  2. Asking learners to demonstrate
    Examples: ‘How do you look when you feel interested?’, ‘Point to something which is heavy’, ‘Show me what you do when you yawn’. Of course, this doesn’t work for everything. You could ask individuals or the whole class to demonstrate.
  3. Testing knowledge
    Giving learners an exercise to complete is one way of seeing how much they understand. There are lots of options: examples include a matching activity, wordsearch, crossword, writing words for definitions/writing definitions for words. Multiple choice activities probably need to be followed by another way of checking too, as learners may have just guessed! Learners need to be reassured that if they don’t know the answers, it’s OK!
  4. Using images
    Displaying an image and asking questions can be a good way to check understanding. For example, you could show a picture of a man in prison and ask ‘What has he done?’, to check the present perfect structure. Or simply show a picture of a word you want to check, like ‘ski resort’. You could ask younger learners to draw the item you want to check.
  5. Using translation
    You could ask learners for a translation, or give a translation and ask for the English word. Of course, not all words or phrases directly translate between languages, so this technique can be problematic. It can be useful for abstract concepts

Source: © British Council

Comparative / Superlative Adjective and Adverb

Learn how to use them

Language of comparison and contrast

In Describe Image items, you are likely to be presented with a graph. In these cases, it is important that you show appropriate relationships by comparing and contrasting the information contained in the graphs. Let’s see how you can use language of comparison and contrast.

Comparative adjectives: Use these when comparing two nouns and can be formed as follows:

  • Adjectives with one syllable: add ‘-r/-er’ (e.g. higher, larger, bigger).
  • Adjectives with two syllables ending in ‘-y’: change the ‘y’ and add ‘-ier’ (e.g. happier, prettier).
  • Adjectives ending in ‘-ed’ or ‘-ing’ and most adjectives with two syllables: add ‘more’ before the adjective (e.g. more boring, more crowded, more common, more peaceful).
  • Adjectives with three or more syllables: use ‘more’ before the adjective (e.g. more attractive, more successful).
  • Include ‘than’ as part of your sentence (e.g. It is more expensive to live in a city than in a small town).

Superlative adjectives: Use these when describing a noun that is at the highest or lowest limit of a group. They can be formed as follows:

  • Adjectives with one syllable: add ‘-st/-est’ (e.g. highest, largest, biggest).
  • Adjectives with two syllables ending in ‘-y’: change the ‘y’ and add ‘-iest’ (e.g. happiest, prettiest).
  • Adjectives ending in ‘-ed’ or ‘-ing’ and most adjectives with two syllables: add ‘the most’ before the adjective (e.g. the most boring, the most crowded, the most common, the most peaceful).
  • Adjectives with three or more syllables: use ‘the most’ before the adjective (e.g. the most attractive, the most successful).
  • Remember to include ‘the’ before the adjective or most (e.g. This was the cheapest car I could find.).

Comparative/superlative adverbs: The rules above apply when the comparison requires the use of an adverb. Examples:

  • I usually speak more quickly than my friends.
  • The students often work harder towards the end of the semester.
  • You can contact me the easiest by text.
  • The team played the best they could, but they didn’t win the match.

as … as: Use this structure when the two nouns being compared are equal in some form. The adjective does not change. Examples:

  • Divorce rates are twice as high as they were last year.
  • This room is as big as the one next door.

This structure can also be used with adverbs to compare two actions:

  • We didn’t finish as quickly as we’d hoped.
  • The presenter spoke as enthusiastically as he possibly could.

Comparison and contrast language is especially useful for Describe Image tasks. Look at some example sentences from student responses to this item type:

  • The land allocated for the public park is significantly smaller than the land allocated for the school.
  • The roads are much busier during June than they are in December.
  • The most important export for this country is oil.

© Macquarie University

A, An, it The

Learn the rules and study the e examples.

Articles

Articles are words which go before nouns and their function is to show if a noun is either specific or general. Let’s study the different types of articles:

The Definite Article: ‘The’

‘The’ is the definite article and it is used to refer to a specific noun. It can be used with singular, plural, and uncountable nouns. Examples:

  • Please use the correct form to submit theapplication. (singular)
  • The final results will be released in November. (plural)
  • Fish breathe the oxygen in the water. (uncountable)

‘The’ can also be used in these cases:

  • When there is only one thing of something: e.g. The sun is very bright
  • When something has been mentioned before: e.g. I saw a mouse. The mouse was huge.
  • With the names of seas, oceans, rivers and countries with a plural noun: e.g. TheMississippi River is in the United States.
  • In noun + of + noun phrases: e.g. The south of France is beautiful.
  • In superlatives: e.g. The tallest building in the world is over 800 metres tall.

Do not use ‘the’ with the following:

  • Names of most cities, countries or continents: Sydney, India (not the Sydney, or the India)
  • Days of the weeks and months: On Monday, In March (not on the Monday, in the March)
  • Sports: I play soccer, (not I play the soccer)

Indefinite Articles: ‘A/An’

This type of article uses the forms ‘a’ or ‘an’ and it is used with singular countable nouns denoting a general idea. ‘A/an’ can be used:

  • The first time the noun is mentioned: e.g. I saw a mouse. The mouse was huge.
  • With jobs: e.g. He is an architect, She works as a teacher.

Consider the following when using indefinite articles:

  • Use ‘a’ if the word begins with a consonant (e.g. a house, a long movie). Exception: if the consonant is unpronounced, use ‘an’ instead (e.g. an honest person).
  • Use ‘an’ if the word starts with a vowel (e.g. an umbrella, an expensive car). Exception: if the vowel is pronounced with a consonant sound, use ‘a’ (e.g. a university, a useful tip).
  • Do not use ‘a’ or ‘an’ with uncountable nouns: e.g. I want a water. In these cases, use ‘some’ or include a countable noun: I want somewater. / I want a glass of water.

The Zero Article

As its name suggests, this is when an article is not used before a noun. This occurs when referring to nouns with a general or abstract meaning, and can be used with plural and uncountable nouns.

  • Elephants in Africa are under threat. (general: all elephants in Africa)
  • Oil and water don’t mix.

The zero article can be used when referring to:

  • Languages: I speak French (not the French)
  • Places, such as Wall Street, Macquarie University, JFK Airport, Bangkok, England.
  • Academic subjects: My favourite subject is biology (not the biology)
  • Meals: We need to have breakfast (not the breakfast

How young children learn

Young children learn in an integrated way and not in neat, tidy compartments. A child making shapes out of plasticine is learning maths (shape) and art (texture, shape, design, colour), building fine motor skills (physical development), and hearing or using language to describe shapes, colour, texture, materials and techniques (English). The activity drives the need to communicate.

Young children will learn a language better when they see a genuine need for communication, which is often the language they are hearing or using while they are doing an activity that they enjoy.

While adults can plan a range a activities to enhance the learning experience, not all of them will be motivating for every child. Children more likely to be motivated if the activity or experience is meaningful to them. Taking time to get to know the children and finding out what they are interested in is essential if you want to motivate them and help them learn.

The interactions you have with a child while they are engaged in an activity help develop language and communication in context, making the language learning more memorable and authentic.

Rhymes, songs and chants help children memorise words and sentence structure, and they also help with pronunciation, expression and the rhythm of sentences. Children learn their home language by playing with language in this way, and it’s a fun way for them to learn another language too!

A good story takes children to an imaginary world filled with characters and events that will make them want to find out what happens in the end, and that they will want to hear again, join in retelling, and even retell in their own words. Illustrations and actions help children understand descriptions of characters and events, because they can connect what they are seeing and doing with the language in the story.

Giving clear, simple instructions in English with accompanying actions, gestures or demonstrations is more likely to result in children understanding. Children love copying – the teacher, their parents, older siblings or friends – and will often join in after observing how something is done. Including routines is also a useful way of helping young children understand what is expected of them (e.g. every time we sit on the mat we will hear a story or sing a song). Children may not understand straight away, but giving instructions in English is an excellent way of reinforcing key language, so in the long run it’s worth the effort.

How can we play with children

Here are several games and activities to do with children to help them learn and interact.

Playing with blocks

  • use language for counting and sorting: How many are there? Shall we put the blue ones here?
  • use positional language: in, on, under, below, behind, next to
  • explore language related to size: big, small, long, short
  • describe what a child is doing while playing: finding, stacking, pulling, pushing, building, pressing, dragging
  • describe shapes and objects the children are making: square, rectangle, tower, house, castle, garden

Dress-ups (and drama)

  • describe the costumes (fairy, princess, pirate, king, clown) and actions for getting dressed: put on, pull up/down, zip up, do the buttons up, unbutton, unzip
  • highlight the relevant parts of the body: put your arms through here, tie this around your waist/wrist, put these on your feet – first your left foot, then your right foot, put this over your head
  • use nursery rhymes and stories to model language for imaginary play
  • develop listening comprehension by encouraging the children act out the rhyme or story in their costumes
  • extend vocabulary associated with role-play: hospital, airport, artist’s studio, garden centre, vet, doctor, routines (breakfast/lunch/dinner/bed time)

Making and decorating (art and craft)

  • name the materials: paint, paintbrush, crayon, felt-tip, marker, card, paper, crepe paper, shiny paper, tissue paper, newspaper, glue, scissors, cotton wool, fabric, sequins, feathers
  • describe properties and textures of materials: runny, thick, smooth, hard, long, short, spiky, rough, shiny
  • experiment with and describe colour
  • use instructions: paint, draw, colour, smudge, blur, blow, copy, pour, make, cut, stick, decorate, hang (it) up
  • art appreciation and describing what the children have made, painted or drawn.

Malleable materials (dough, plasticine, clay)

  • use language of manipulation: push, pull, drop, squeeze, press, bend, twist, roll, stretch, squash, squish, pinch, flatten, poke, scrape, break apart
  • describe length/thickness: longer than, shorter than, the same length as
  • use language related to colour and smells
  • describe texture: soft, hard, squishy, lumpy, grainy, shiny
  • talk about materials that can be added to dough: feathers, sticks, twigs, shells
  • explore language related to shapes

Music and movement activities

  • use language related to actions, position and parts of the body: put your hands up in the air, draw circles in the air, touch your nose, wriggle your fingers, jump, hop, lie face down on the floor, lie on your back, move over there, come closer, curl up into a ball, stretch your arms out as wide as you can, take a nap
  • name musical instruments: shaker, drum, recorder, xylophone, block, triangle, bell, tambourine
  • use language to describe sounds: loud, quiet, soft, high, low, long, short, fast, slow, tap, shake, scrape, knock, tick, hum, howl
  • familiarise children with a range of sounds through onomatopoeia
  • use songs and rhymes to work on pronunciation, rhythm, stress and intonation

Toys and small world play

  • extend vocabulary related to a particular topic: park, zoo, farm, hospital, transport
  • comment on the objects, toys or figurines the children are playing with
  • comment on the settings, scenes, themes or storylines children are developing as they play
  • describe the position of the things the children are playing with: behind, next to, in, on, under

Puzzles

  • describe the pictures and colours on the puzzles
  • comment on the shape of the puzzle pieces: rectangle, square, triangle, circle
  • comment on the position of the puzzle pieces: up/down, here/there
  • encourage the social aspects of using puzzles: take turns, it’s your turn next, share

Sand play and water play

  • use language related to equipment and resources: brush, spade, scoop, spoon, cup, jug, bucket, sieve, cutters, rake, comb, funnel, sponge, soap, bubbles, straw, ladle, tea pot, watering can
  • extend vocabulary related to imaginary play: boats, diggers, bulldozers, tractors, treasure, dinosaurs, pirates, gardens, tea party, firefighter, plumber, dolls
  • use descriptive language: wet, dry, damp, gritty, hard, lumpy, flat, smooth, wavy, sticky, cold, frozen, clean, dirty
  • use language related to size, shape and position
  • describe capacity and quantity: enough, more, less, too much/little, overflowing, how much/many? a pile/cup of…
  • describe actions or what is happening: it’s fallen down, it’s gone, flatten, pour, tip, fill, scoop, cover, stir, splash, leak, drip, float, sink, trickle, spray, wash, dry

Have you got anything else to add to these categories?

Can you think of other activities or areas of childhood development and the related language development opportunities?

Share your comments with us below.

© British Council

Children need time to play

Play is fun, all children love playing, and children learn so much through play without even realising it. So we need to give children time to play, not just ten minutes when they finish their ‘work’.

When children play, they are experimenting with ideas, testing hypotheses, mastering skills, using their imaginations and representing their world. If you cut out play when teaching English you are removing a vital step in childhood development.

Here are a few examples of the different types of things children are learning and developing as they play.

  • When playing with plasticine children develop their fine motor skills. Children are working on hand-eye coordination and building up the muscles in their hands and fingers when modelling plasticine. These are valuable pre-writing skills, as good muscle strength and hand-eye coordination will help children hold and use writing tools properly later on. By playing with plasticine, children are also experimenting with things like colour, shape and texture.
  • When playing with dolls and a tub of waterthey are learning about the concepts of wet and dry, floating and sinking, clean and dirty. They are also engaging in sensory play, and experimenting with the way water feels.
  • When playing with musical instrumentschildren are developing sound recognition (the sounds that different instruments make and an understanding of how sounds can change (e.g. high, low, soft, loud, fast slow) and an appreciation of music. These valuable listening skills are transferable to the area of language and communication.
  • When playing with transport toys, children are experimenting with friction and motion, up and down, forwards and backwards, fast and slow.
  • When children are playing with blocks, they are learning about colour, shape and patterns, as well as the concepts of weight, size, height, length, vertical and horizontal.
  • In dramatic play and small world play(acting out scenes from real life, stories and/or imagination created with small figures and objects) children are representing ideas that help them make sense of the world around them. They can also experiment with playing different roles and inventing different scenarios, taking them beyond the real world and developing their imagination.

What do you think?

  • How important do you think it is to give children time to play?
  • How do you think play can help a child’s language development?

© British Council

Play and learning

We’ve talked about why children play and the benefits of play, but the idea still persists that if it’s too much fun, children are not learning.

However, the evidence suggests the opposite. Research shows that children actually learn through play. Play is learning.

Internationally renowned expert on early childhood and play, Tina Bruce, outlines in her book, Early Childhood Education, the 12 features of free-flow play:

1. Children use the first-hand experiencesthey have had in life during play.

2. Children keep control as they play. Play does not bow to pressure to conform to external rules, outcomes, targets or adult-led projects.

3. Play is a process. It has no products.

4. Children choose to play. It is intrinsically motivated and spontaneous.

5. Children rehearse their possible futures in their play. Play helps children learn to function in advance of what they can do in the present.

6. Play has the potential to take children into a world of pretend, beyond the here and now, in the past, present and future, and it transforms them into different characters.

7. Play can be solitary, and this sort of play can be very deep.

8. Children can play together or with an adult, in companionship (parallel play), associatively or cooperatively in pairs or groups.

9. Play can be initiated by a child or an adult, but adults need to respect the child’s play agenda by not insisting that the adult agenda dominates the play.

10. Child-led play is characterised by deep concentration.

11. In play, children try out their recent learning, mastery, competence and skills, and consolidate them.

12. Play makes children into whole people, able to keep balancing their lives in a fast-changing world.

Tina Bruce (2015) Early Childhood Education 5th Edition

The Year of the Rat – Chinese zodiac

Esse será o ano chinês do Rato. Um animal silencioso, rápido e que sabe se multiplicar!

Seguem alguns provérbios chineses para inspiração nesse novo ano.

Some Chinese proverbs:

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.

When there is light in the soul there is beauty in the person. When there is beauty in the person, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is honour in the nation. When there is honour in the nation, there is peace in the world.

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.

Be the first to the field and the last to the couch.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.

If you always give you will always have.

To succeed, consult three old people. Teachers open the door; you enter by yourself.

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.

To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come - Chinese Proverb (poster available)

Source: Activity Village