Posted in Games and activities, Thoughts about TEFL Teaching

Be a Benevolent Dictator in the TEFL class

Why write things on the board for the students to write in their notebooks when you can dictate them to the students?

Dictation gives your students a clear model of pronunciation and allows them to practise their listening and writing skills.

Here’s an example:

Imagine you have a few topic questions you want your students to discuss.

You could write them on the board yourself or let them read the questions on the handout or in the coursebook, but if I were you, I would……

DICTATE THEM

The teacher’s words are in italics. Note the use of imperatives to instruct the learners.

“Close your books”

“Write down what I say”

“When the hell… are you bunch of fools… actually going to learn English?”

“I’ll repeat. When the hell are you bunch of fools actually going to learn English?”

(Pause while they write down what they have just heard)

“Now, discuss what you have written with your partner. Don’t show what you have written.

(Make exaggerated gesture hiding your notebook from your partner).

(Let them discuss what they have written, spelling out words out to each other if necessary)

“OK, one more time. When the hell are you bunch of fools actually going to learn English?”

(Let them make any final changes)

You have 2 options here:

Option 1

“Paco (there is one in every class here in Spain) Tell me what I said.”

Option 2

“Paco, write the question on the board.”

“Everybody, is Paco correct?”

(If Paco is correct, proceed to the next step. If he isn’t, see if the other students can produce the correct sentence)

“Everybody, repeat after me. When the hell are you bunch of fools actually going to learn English?”

(Students repeat in a choral drill)

Paco, say the sentence. Juan, your turn, Carmen, Patricia. (Ask each student or several students to do individual drilling)

Now, in your pairs, discuss the question. You have 5 minutes.

Now, you might feel a bit uncomfortable dictating at first – and I wouldn’t recommend trying it out with the question used in the example above –  but, in my opinion, it’s a very student-centred teaching strategy which allows you to identify and deal with any grammar, lexical or pronunciation issues.

  1. Dictation is an effective teaching strategy for recycling lexis or grammar structures: if they are familiar with the language, why board it?
  2. Dictation is an effective teaching strategy for introducing new language: English is often cited as being a non-phonetic language but many words actually have a strong sound and letter relationship and students can benefit from predicting spelling patterns. And if the sound / spelling relationship is weak, dictating a word, letting students attempt to spell it, and then giving them the correct form may prove to be a vivid strategy for retention.
  3. Finally, dictation helps students develop their note-taking ability. A useful skill to have in meetings, conferences, lectures etc.

Try being a benevolent dictator for a while. Do it sitting down, standing up, walking around the room (although I would draw the line at goose stepping like a Nazi).

Let me know how it goes.

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Author:

I'm a teacher trainer doing lots of different things in Granada, Spain and back in the UK. I've been a Course Director on Trinity TESOL programmes, worked as an EAP tutor at universities in the UK, spent a couple of years as a DoS at a wonderful school in London, and have also dabbled in online teaching, course creation, blogging and materials development.

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