Before teaching any lesson you need to begin by deciding how you’re going to go about teaching it. In this instance, teaching articles, would you use a deductive teaching approach (give them the rule then practice) and as such follow a PPP (present, practice, produce) teaching model, or would you follow an inductive teaching approach (students uncover the rule by noticing patterns in an example text and as such follow a TTT (test, teach, test) model. Below we outline a lesson idea for both approaches.
Ask learners to listen to a short story. Tell them to listen first for how many words they hear in each sentence (pause at the end of the sentence). Then ask them to listen again and transcribe what they hear. Then compare their transcription with what was said. Highlight any features of phonology they struggled with – e.g. connected speech features such as weak forms, elision, intrusion, linking, contractions, etc. This will help them to develop their listening sub-skill of segmentation (decoding continuous speech) (Field, 1998). You could choose your speed of speech when dictating the text to ensure they’re exposed to various varieties of listening texts in accordance with Cauldwell’s (2013) metaphors: greenhouse (slower speech – perhaps what they may hear in a textbook listening), garden (more natural speech – with some features of connected speech), jungle (rapid continuous speech – with features of connected speech). By developing their listening sub-skill of segmentation learners may develop their autonomy and become more intrinsically motivated as they become better at decoding rapid continuous speech – meaning they are more able to follow Youtubers, TV shows, and films in English. You could then ask them to think about how a/an and the are used in the text? – elicit the meaning, form and sound (and teach anything unknown) – e.g. the strong and weak forms:
a (indefinite article) – strong = /eɪ/ weak = /ə/
an (indefinite article) – strong = /æn/ weak = /ən/
the (definite article)- strong = /ðiː/ weak = /ðə/
Then drill any relevant pronunciation features your students need practice with, followed by a controlled practice activity – perhaps a gap fill (for weaker learners you could use a jigsaw gap fill) or matching exercise, for additional ideas you could look here. Think about how you can provide differentiated support for your learners – how are you going to help them if they don’t understand the activity or the language? (Roland and Barber, 2016) How will you incorporate structured differentiation? – you could provide a prompt sheet, have a worksheet with less gaps for weaker learners, etc. Look here for some adaptable ideas. Finally, you could end the lesson by getting students to practice writing their own short text – they could perhaps dictate it to the class afterwards, thus allowing students to practice their listening sub-skill of segmentation again, and their speaking sub-skills of accuracy and fluency when presenting (Lackman, 2010 ). You could plan your writing production activity in accordance with Hyland’s (2003) discussion of the writing process:
1. select topic
2. pre-writing (brainstorming)
4. responding to draft
5. revising work
6. responding to revisions
7. proof-reading & editing
10. follow-up tasks
When conducting feedback on the writing – if they dictated it to their partners/the class you could provide them with feedback based on what you heard. You could also collect the written texts at the end of the lesson and provide written corrective feedback perhaps by using colour codes or written codes (e.g., sp – spelling error) – remember it’s best to only directly correct or highlight errors where the language has been taught, then you could collate any errors with emergent language and use it as a teaching point in a future lesson where you provide whole class feedback on their writing.
Texts to dictate
The young boy was a wizard. He went to a magical school. You mean Durmstrang Academy or Beauxbatons Academy of Magic? No, the famous school Hogwarts. Ah that one. What does he need for the school? mm well I think he needs a wand, some books, an owl and a cloak.
The young woman worked really hard every day and night at the cafe. She made lots of cakes and saved her money so one day she could open her own restaurant. She wanted a restaurant because her father inspired her to cook. When she finally saved enough money for her restaurant she decided to bake an enormous chocolate cake to celebrate.
Alternatively, you could use the above text in a PPP lesson (or any text from a textbook or authentic material you find that’s relevant for your learners) after you have presented the meaning, form and use and asked Concept Checking Questions (for alternative ways of checking understanding look here)
This could be followed by the dictation (as mentioned above – giving them the opportunity to practice decoding continuous speech) – allowing them to recognise the grammar in a meaningful context. This could then be followed by a practice exercise – perhaps a gap fill, or an activity where students are given a series of sentences where they have to identify the correct answers and correct any errors with the target language. Remember to consider how you will differentiate and provide valuable, meaningful extension tasks for stronger students and support for weaker learners. Think about your production activity – you could do a writing activity as mentioned above – as students are provided with a model via the dictation, or you could do a speaking task.
How will you give feedback?
Will you do it at the point of error or delayed correction. Tran (2017) suggests at the point of error is perhaps more beneficial as it prevents the fossilisation of errors, although it does interrupt fluency – one way around this is to write prompts on your whiteboard or in the chat as they’re doing an activity. If you opt for delayed correction consider how you’ll display/conduct it – you could turn it into a team game where they have to fix as many errors as they can, you could practice errors (either in the target language or any emergent language) using a gap fill/substitution drill structure. You could also introduce language upgrades to challenge stronger students. Alternatively you could use a combination of the two where the delayed feedback slot is more focused on practicing problematic language and upgrading as you will prompt and directly correct during the activity (using the chat or board, or any other means you feel is effective with your learners).
Exploiting this task
See different methods of implementing dictations