Teacher's Toolbox | Grammar for Fluency

A language is truly rich and powerful.

It does not just convey what we mean to say. It reveals our moods and feelings, our culture and upbringing, our strengths and weaknesses, and our goals and intents.

We, teachers and coaches, need the right tools to help our students grasp these subtleties and master the language.

This is how to build our teacher toolbox. 

  1. Soft and Hard Skills

  2. Methodology Choice

  3. Lesson Planning: Effective Teaching and Efficient Preparation

1. Soft and Hard Skills

We start by determining whether we are going to be focusing on a "soft" or "hard" skill, or even a combination of both in this particular lesson or series of lessons. 

Hard skills are the engine of the language: the grammar, vocabulary, collocations, idioms, functional language, etc. All of these can be understood and automated with the expertise of a teacher/coach.

A hard skill can be broken down into a formula or a structure, and a basic logic or an explanation that speakers can rely on. This basic logic and structure must then be automated until it becomes second nature to the speaker

Soft skills are the cultural and human aspect of communication: praising, criticising, negotiating, compromising, debating, etc. These cannot be fully automated the way hard skills can. They can be trained and developed within a safe environment. 

A soft skill can be demonstrated or developed as a collection of scenarios and strategies. These must be practised and experimented on through role plays, tasks and projects until the speaker feels confident in their approach.

2. Methodology Choice

All methodologies have their strengths and weaknesses. Our role as a teacher is to pick the right methodology for the right skill, the right student and the right circumstances. 

This is part of the core of the art of teaching: knowing which methodology to use to teach this particular skill to this or these particular student(s) under these particular circumstances.

These are our recommendations. You know best as you are the teacher/coach and you know your students.

Most commonly used EFL, ESL, ELT methodologies:

  • Presentation Practice Production PPP

    • Pros​

      • Simple to control the class and rhythm​

      • Easier to manage for large groups

      • Time efficient

    • Cons

      • Lots of teacher talking time

      • No self discovery

  • Test Teach Test TTT

    • Pros​

      • Great to identify student strengths and weaknesses​

      • Gives students a chance to shine first

    • Cons

      • May discourage students if too hard​

  • Content Based Learning CBL / Content Based Approach CBA

    • Pros​

      • Work with real life content only​

      • Great exposure to natural speech

      • Self-discovery

      • Engaging

    • Cons

      • May discourage students if not independent enough​

      • Time consuming

  • Task Based Learning TBL/ Task Based Approach TBA

    • Pros​

      • Student centred​

      • Self-discovery

      • Engaging

    • Cons

      • Time consuming​

  • Project Based Learning PBL/ Project Based Approach PBA

    • Pros​

      • Student centred​

      • Self-discovery

      • Engaging

    • Cons

      • Time consuming​

  • Teaching Lexically

    • Pros​

      • Focus on lexical chunks​

      • Practical approach to real life situations

      • Rapid development of speaking abilities

    • Cons

      • Focus on specific cases​ rather than the skill as a whole

      • Not time efficient

      • Can easily become a speaking club

  • Communicative Approach

    • Pros​

      • Focus on communication goal

      • Practical approach to real life situations

      • Rapid development of speaking abilities​

    • Cons

      • Not time efficient​

      • Can easily become a speaking club

  • Whole Brain Teaching/Power Teaching

    • Pros​

      • Great class management for groups of kids​

      • Engaging

      • Variety of energy levels

      • Variety of memory and learning techniques

    • Cons

      • Time consuming​

      • Energy demanding

The more owe master these methodologies, the richer our teaching palette is. And the better we can help our students develop their mastery of the English language. 

The right combination will always depend on your students, on you and on the circumstances at the time.

You might want to teach one group with a combination of PBL for soft skills and Communicative Approach for hard skills, while you mainly use PPP and TTT to prepare an individual for an exam. The professional who tells you there is only one way to teach is a biased professional.

3. Lesson Planning: Effective Teaching and Efficient Preparation

Once we have determined the skill(s) we are focusing on and the most effective methodology, we are going to start planning our lesson(s).

The core of all lessons is the practice. These are the stages at which students take control, develop their understanding, build their reflexes, and master the skill(s). 

Whatever the methodology selected, there must be a practice section to the lesson. Practice makes perfect!

When it comes to soft skills, students develop a certain understanding of the communicative strategies through exposure.

Soft Skills:

  • We use real life content:

    • articles

    • PR statements

    • interviews

    • reports,

    • stories,

    • etc.

  • We vary in types of mediums:

    • text,

    • video,

    • audio,

    • etc.

  • We plan our lesson/session with maximum exposure and practice for the learners:

    • Exposure or Practice #1:

      • Project

      • Task

      • or Lead-in​ Material

    • Reflection and ​Learning

      • Brainstorming

      • or Communication Strategies​

    • Exposure or Practice #2​

      • Project​

      • Task

      • or Production Activity

When it comes to hard skills, learners can develop automatic responses, build reflexes and master the skill as any other repeated action. 

Our approach here is inspired by the works of Daniel Kahneman on System 1 and System 2 Thought Processes (Thinking Fast, And Slow by Daniel Kahneman) and of Anders Ericsson on Deliberate Practice

Hard Skills:

  • We lead our students to solid explanations that marry accuracy and fluency. A solid explanation needs to:

    • be clear

    • be consistent

    • show the necessity of this skill in communication

  • We provide our students with the right environment to develop expertise and mastery of the skill:

    • start in the "student safe place"​

      • the learner feels they should learn this because they understand the necessity of the form

      • the learner feels they can learn this because they the basic logic and the structure are clear and consistent

    • challenge students

      • slowly build up in difficulty and in confidence

      • the learner feels rapid development and progress thanks to teacher feedback

      • the learner feels in control thanks to self and peer correction

    • marry accuracy and fluency

      • drill the basic logic​

      • drill the structure

      • push students to react spontaneously in real life context

      • showcase their results

  • We plan our lesson/session with maximum time for drilling and speaking practice:

    • Practice #1​

      • P1​

        • 5 minutes

          • "Fill in the blank" type activities

          • Goal: to consolidate the rule in the mind of the learners and make them feel that "I can do this"

    • Practice #2​

      • P2​

        • 10 to 15 minutes​

          • Drilling type activities​

          • Goal: to build reflexes in the mind of the learners and make them feel that "I am doing this"

    • Practice #3​

      • P3​

        • 10 to 15 minutes​

          • Short speaking type activities​

          • Goal: to develop and test accurate fluency and make the learners feel that "I just did this"

We are teachers and coaches. Our knowledge does not matter as much as our ability to train new skills in learners. Knowledge can be found all over the internet and in libraries. Skills are what matter nowadays.

This is our Teacher's Toolbox. It is our expertise and our know-how. This is our value to society.

 
 
 

EFL Materials designed to be flexible and independent for the teacher, and to build up in fluency and confidence for the student.

 

Contact us if you have more questions about our teacher support.

© 2018 by Resource Education

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