Hello world!

 

Welcome to Teacher Talking Time.

This is a blog for teachers interested in teacher education, teacher training and development, teaching and learning and related topics. We will be inviting a variety of  people to share their experiences on a regular basis – so keep coming back!.

The latest post is by Galina an ITI DELTA student working in Samara, Russia. She describes the three-day ITI Master Classes held at her University. Liz and I had a wonderful time and thank Galina for inviting us and also writing it up for our blog. 

I have written the first two posts to get the ball rolling. My first post is about ‘whole person learning’ and explains my personal philosophy that learning should utilise the whole person in terms of stimulating the mind, body and emotions.

My second post is also personal and describes my experiences over the last two years facing cancer. Like staring down from a precipice, confronting our fragile mortality is terrifying, and yet, at the same time by confronting the inevitable, it provides a unique opportunity to perceive from a new and sharper perspective and to learn valuable lessons about the nature of learning and life.

I hope you enjoy these postings and future ones.

Best wishes

Tom Godfrey (Director of ITI)

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Tom’s Drama Workshop Tour to Ukraine and Russia

I am travelling to Kiev, Ukraine to do a workshops focussing on how to encourage holistic learning by exploiting drama techniques that use our learners’ minds, bodies and emotions to enhance the language experience.

The workshop in Kiev is on Saturday 13th October

Here’s Teachers for Teachers page on facebook:

Then the next workshop is in Rostov on Don, Russia on Saturday 27th October.

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Speech Bubbles

The Speech Bubbles Players adult group starts October 14th 2018 on Sunday mornings 10.00 – 13.00.

 If you are considering a career in the theatre or enjoy acting, and being creative or simply want to try new experiences, then this is for you!

Explore different acting techniques
Take part in physical theatre
Discover characters through script work
Devise and create original work as a group
Delve into a variety of scenes and plays – find the drama within!

And most importantly regular opportunities to perform to an audience

Come and create with us

 The membership fee is 50 GBP for the year.

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Forum Theatre in ELT: The Story of Peter Black Role Play.

A Tragic Story of the Financial Crisis.

Introduction.

This is one of my favourite lessons. ‘The Tragic Story of Peter Black is about a middle-aged man who is made redundant during a financial recession and the tragic consequences that folllow. The lesson explores the themes of unemployment, depression and suicide and allows learners the opportunity to explore their reactions to these themes. Learners are invited to critically interact with the story by role playing the fateful meeting when Peter Black learns from the Personnel Manager of his redundancy. The lesson exploits Forum Theatre to explore alternative outcomes to the scenario based on Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (1979). Additionally, the learners discuss the story outcomes in an Oprah Wimfrey style Talk Show exploiting a ‘problem-posing education’ model as advocated by Paolo Freire (1972) in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Language and skills

The lesson is an integrated skills lesson that practices receptive reading and aims to develop speaking skills through role play, discussion and exploiting ideas adapted from Forum Theatre and the work of Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.

Lesson Stages.

The lesson consists of 5 main stages although as with any lesson these represent a flexible outline and need to be adapted to the level and needs of the group.

  • Setting the scene and arousing learners interest and personalising the topic. I use a video of images depicting the financial crisis to elicit relevant lexis, and questions students can discuss in pairs to generate interest such as: – ‘Does your city have a large unemployed population?’ A further task is a collaborative brainstorming activity in which learners create a spidergram with lexis related to the financial crisis.
  • Pre-Reading: I show a photo of the main protagonist, Peter Black, and elicit ideas by asking questions such as – How old is he? What is his job? And then I dramatically draw a large black cross next to the visual. This usually elicits an exclamation: ‘He is dead!’ After confirming that Peter Black is indeed dead I invite students to write questions they would like to know about him. In this way learners are in effect writing their own comprehension questions (an idea adapted from Mario Rinvolucri’s Revenge Questions). The first few questions are typically along the lines of: ‘How and why did he die?’ but quickly become more creative as the learners predict their own scenarios – ‘Who was the last person to see him alive? Did he have many enemies?
  • Reading: Firstly, I get the learners to skim the story to find whether the answers to their questions can be found in the text, then we do a scanning activity in which they find key lexis (this can be done as a race in pairs or teams to generate some kinesthetic energy as they run to the teacher with their answers).
  • Forum Theatre Role Play: The learners re-enact the meeting between Peter Black and the Personnel Manager with the aim of exploring alternative outcomes. Does the outcome inevitably lead to Peter Black’s suicide or are there alternative endings to the story? There needs to be sufficient preparation prior to the role play in terms or both generating ideas but also practicing relevant target language. There is controlled practice of expressions for ‘breaking bad news’ to develop learners’ pronunciation and the role plays and discussions provide opportunities to develop and practice oral fluency. A special feature of role plays is the opportunity to work on ‘pragmatics’, the skill of communicating messages through culturally appropriate language and gesture. In this role play the Personnel Manager’s task is to break the bad news to Peter Black that he has to be made redundant. Pragmatics allow us to reach our communicative goals without offending or hurting others’ feelings.

Methodology

The lesson methodology is strongly influenced by Boal’s concept of Forum Theatre. Boal’s vision of theatre is as a creative and reflexive process through which participants view themselves and their conditions. He was greatly influenced by the work of Paolo Freire and he modelled much of his theatre work on the ‘problem-posing education’ model outlined by Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972).  According to Feire, ‘problem-posing education’ should begin with the participants’ lived experiences and then after reflection, explore solutions and act to change. As such,

‘In problem-posing education, people come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation.’ (Feire 1972:64).

Boal’s Forum Theatre similarly is one of theatre as transformation. Forum Theatre entails the spectators joining with the actors in the performance to explore alternative endings to the story.   The act of performing the story with different outcomes, allows people to move away from ‘mechanical’ reactions that recreate dominant, normative discourses, opening the way for transformation. Essentially in an ELT context, Forum Theatre involves using a story as a stimulus to allow learners to critically reflect on the scenario and together to co-construct through mutual agreement a series of alternative endings and re-create a fictitious transformative result. The principal features of this lesson are:

  • Learners focus on issues, characters, mood, conflict and dilemmas in the story as a stimulus for learning.
  • Learners respond personally drawing on their own experience, psychology and values.
  • Learning occurs as learners explore the issues and dilemmas symbolized in the story
  • Learners bring the story to life through improvisation and discussion

I was first introduced to ‘The Tragic Story of Peter Black’ by Jon Naunton at IH London in 1985 and I have since taught it countless times in different formats. As I live in Istanbul the effects of financial recession are all too common. There are many middle-aged Peter Blacks coping with redundancy and depressions here!

The power of Forum Theatre.

Psychologically stories can represent a part of human consciousness that exists in all cultures. They fulfill a human need to listen to and tell stories and invariably evoke a personal response. This story of Peter Black allows learners to confront issues related to telling people ‘bad news’ and the strategies they can use to negotiate awkward (but not uncommon) situations. Each learner will respond differently as their relationship with the story depends on their own interpretation of the world. Not only does the cultural, social, sexual and physiological make up of the classroom impact on learners’ responses, but also each individual learner’s struggle with contradictory viewpoints of the world. Paulo Freire (1970) claims that at the heart of education is an ability to help learners (and teachers) to reflect and act upon the world, and through that transform it into a better place.

LANGUAGE AIM(S):

Sts will have been introduced to and practiced the target lexis related to the financial crisis. Particularly they will be exposed to the following lexical set: To be made redundant, to be laid off, unemployed, to commit suicide, financial crisis, mortgage.

In addition they practice functional language exponents to beak bad news:

Preparing to give bad news Giving bad news Other expressions
 

 

 

 I’m afraid I have some bad news.

There’s no easy way to say what I have to say.

You might want to sit down before you hear what I have to say.

 

I’m very sorry to have to tell you that you are being made redundant

As you may have suspected, I have to tell you that…. you are being made redundant

It is my unfortunate duty to inform you that….. you are being made redundant

 

There is nothing I can do unfortunately.

I wish I could help you. I really do.

The decision is out of my hands.

I’m really sorry. I know this must be a bitter disappointment.

As in any activity developing oral fluency learners need to have the ability to effectively manage an interaction. There are many features of oral interaction that a teacher can focus on but one useful area is that of breaking bad news as highlighted in the table above.

The teacher can introduce these exponents in a previous lesson and monitor how effectively learners use them in this lesson. Alternatively at the end of this lesson (especially if the discussion can be video recorded) learners can reflect on their turn-taking strategies and self-evaluate.

Pedagogically, stories provide an opportunity to develop and practice receptive skills (reading in this lesson) as well as provide a rich context for language input. Once students are familiar with the story outline and content, the story provides a model to focus on structure, lexis and phonology and provides a ready context for follow-up writing and speaking activities. Most importantly for me, a story with an unresolved conflict can provide opportunities to explore alternative endings using Forum Theatre. Learners explore issues, events and relationships through improvised exploration and discussion. Typically, texts are presented in course materials in a static and lifeless manner, as content to be absorbed; however every effective teacher understands that real learning is not generated by the materials but is generated by co-construction and negotiation between teachers and learners in a lived experience which is why every lesson is unique and learning outcomes unpredictable.

The advantages of Forum Theatre.

  1. Driven by inquiry. The context presents a problem that is authentic and emotive. The problem can arouse genuine passion and strong and emotive learner responses.
  2. Meaning is ‘learner generated’ through their responses to the story and not transmitted from an external source.
  3. The lesson stages are logically sequenced and yet the structure is flexible as it depends on unpredictable learner responses. The method is powered by risk-taking as the process relies on challenging learners to respond and engage with the materials and issues raised.

Peter Black lesson plan

Peter Black Read the passage and answer these questions

Peter BlackPreparing to give bad news

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A Challenge to Education

We need to reform education to meet the needs of children in the new millennium. The current system involves placing children in boxes (called schools) for most of the daylight hours; and once inside these boxes they are divided into batches (according to age) and then placed in cells (called classrooms) from which they are allowed out for short, supervised exercise breaks when the bell rings. Inside the cells they sit in rows, they are not encouraged to interact with each other, they are fed knowledge artificially divided into subject areas. They are required to process texts, course materials and deductive problem-solving activities in set time frames and tested on a regular basis. The process is supervised by a controlling adult warden (called a teacher).

What do children learn from this process? Despite living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth, children learn that school is boring and tragically they learn that learning is not fun. Education, as Sir Ken Robinson (2008) claims, is ‘alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school’.

The education system needs to be turned inside out. Effective learning is interactive, co-operative, learner centered and involves the whole person. Humans are physical, mental and psychological beings. When encouraging our kids to learn we need to recognise and satisfy their ‘whole person’ needs and abilities.  In other words, we need to address physical, mental and psychological as well as purely learning needs. Traditionally learning is confined to the mental world of problem-solving, rule application and artificial contexts. Education needs to unlock the ‘whole-person’ and develop physical, creative, imaginative and emotional responses to learning contexts.

One way of unlocking this potential is through the ‘arts’. The arts (Robinson, 2008) address the idea of aesthetic experience. ‘And aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you are present in the current moment, when you are resonating with the excitement, when you are fully alive. Essentially dramatic arts have the power to liberate the student from the confines of the conventional classroom structure and gives the learner the opportunity to draw on their own experiences and imagination, in creating the material on which the class is based.  These activities draw on the natural ability of every person to imitate, mimic and express him or herself physically.  They are dramatic because they arouse interest by drawing on the unpredictable emotional power generated when emotional memory is triggered by a stimulus and when a person is brought together with others. Great learning happens in groups so the class learn and discover together, all the while feeling part of something larger than themselves and experiencing the support of the group.

One of the main benefits of exploiting the arts in education is to provide an active, stimulating and creative environment in which to develop the children’s learning potential.

To encourage young people to gain confidence, engage in personal development, and to stretch themselves to reach their full potential, Speech Bubbles are sponsoring the “Performing Arts Challenge”. The “Performing Arts Challenge” is a challenge to young learners and schools to create an innovative work of drama that includes song and dance. The drama is then performed at the Performing Arts Challenge Festival.

We are looking for ‘partner’ schools to help us host the festival and participate in the Performing Arts Challenge. In addition to performing at the Festival, learners may enter their performance for the internationally recognised Trinity College Certificate qualifications in drama and performance.

If you agree with us that children can build powerful learning skills through creativity, collaboration and performance then join us to build confident, inquiring and inter-connected learners for the 21st Century.

If you are interested in participating in the Performing Arts Challenge as a ‘partner’ school we are inviting you to register your interest on our web site: http://www.speechbubbles.org/pages/challenge

Smell of Rebellion

The Performing Arts Challenge

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What is TEFL?

‘I am an EFL teacher and trainer’.

A typical retort to this comment is: ‘What’s that?’

For the uninitiated EFL means English as a Foreign Language. EFL therefore describes the situation where learners are learning English in a context where the official language is not English. In other words, Spaniards learning English in Spain or Japanese learning English in Japan.

My profession, ELT (English Language Teaching) adores abbreviations. These acronyms are a shorthand that are easy to bandy around if you are ‘in the know’ but what if you do not know what the letters stand for. TEFL, for example, is an acronym that describes the subject – Teaching English as a Foreign Language. However, unlike other subjects such as Maths or History there are other acronyms that describe variations such as TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) amongst others. TESOL is primarily used in the US where obviously English is the main language and not a ‘foreign’ language.

In order to enter the TEFL profession you need qualifications (initially a TEFL Certificate). This is where the confusion often arises. The question I am mostly frequently asked is: ‘What is the difference between a TEFL Certificate and CELTA?’ This is not a straightforwardOhhh an invitation question to answer because CELTA is a TEFL Certificate. CELTA (accredited by Cambridge) is the most widely known and internationally recognised initial TEFL qualification. I would recommend doing a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) if you are serious about teaching EFL. There are centres worldwide offering full-time, part-time and online / blended options such as my centre in Istanbul (www.iti-istanbul.com). iti-logo-med-large-37a71d4b7c54d91468d35691cd0f8759

When choosing a TEFL course it is important to check that it includes at least 6 hours teaching practice (TP). A TEFL course without teaching practice is going to be of limited value as training to teach has to include time spend planning and practising in a real classroom situation and getting feedback on your performance. Beware of courses that only include ‘micro-teaching’ as this means teaching your colleagues which is not the same as teaching real learners at all.

So to sum up, if you are interested in a career in ELT and want to teach EFL then the first step is to get a TEFL qualification. I would recommend a CELTA course as it includes TP. When you complete the CELTA I guarantee you will be armed with many more acronyms!

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Cheating Lale: A Psychological Dilemma.

Using ‘Storydrama’ in ELT.

Introduction.

This is one of my favourite lesson plans. ‘Cheating Lale is about a young  girl who cheats in her University final examinations and the lesson explores learners’ reactions and interpretations of  the events and characters that are involved. The lesson works on several levels: it is an integrated skills lesson that practises the receptive skills of reading and listening but primarily focuses on developing speaking skills, discussion, and turn-taking techniques. On a psychological level the lesson demonstrates how we all interpret events in our own way according to our own value system. The lesson incorporates a psychological test, in which learners can evaluate their own ‘value’ system by discussing  how they interpret the characters and events in the story.

The lesson consists of 5 stages although as with any lesson these are a flexible outline and need to be adapted to the level and needs of the group.

  • Setting the scene: arousing learners interest and personalising the topic of ‘cheating’.
  • Prediction: introducing the characters and some lines of dialogue to allow learners to predict and create their own story.
  • Reception: learners listen to the story comparing their story to the real one.
  • Analysis and dramatisation: learners use the story to focus on the language (lexical collocations) and to improvise scenes to ‘bring the story to life’.
  • Psychological test and discussion: learners evaluate the characters and events discussing their behaviour and conduct a psychological test exploring their own values.

Methodology

The lesson methodology is strongly influenced by David Booth (1994) and his work using ‘storydrama’. Essentially storydrama uses a story as a stimulus to allow learners to bring their minds and bodies together to co-construct through mutual agreement and re-create a fictitious event: to bring the story to life. The principal features of storydrama are:

  • Learners focus on issues, characters, mood, conflict and dilemmas in a story as a stimulus for learning.
  • Learners respond personally drawing on their own psychology and values.
  • Learning occurs as learners explore the issues and dilemmas symbolised in the story
  • Learners bring the story to life through improvisation and discussion

I was first introduced to Lucy’s Story by Graham Workman at IH London in 1985 (almost 30 years ago) and I have since taught it countless times in a storydrama format. It has cropped up in many forms (usually referred to as Gary’s or Kate’s etc lesson) and appears to have achieved a ‘urban legend’ status in the ELT world.  This lesson is directly adapted from a lesson that has achieved folklore status in the ELT world and is a lesson I know as Lucy’s Story. It is the story of a young girl (Lucy) who meets and falls in love with a notorious young  philanderer (Peter) and despite warnings from friends and family (Uncle William) rashly pursues Peter across the river in a boat (rowed by David). Lucy is seduced by Peter and realises that her feelings of love are not mutual. Distraught, she seeks help from potential fiance (Michael) who throws her out appalled by her debauchery. She drowns in the river. Simulating  a psychological test the learners have to order the characters according to who they like from most to least and then compare their results with the values the characters represent.

  • Lucy = Love
  • Peter = Passion
  • William = Wisdom
  • David = Duty
  • Michael = Moralty

As I teach in Istanbul my main character is Lale in deference to the influence of Lucy. As in many educational contexts,  cheating is an issue where I teach.  When I devised the lesson, I needed a vehicle that allowed learners to reflect on their attitudes and behaviour , particularly as plagiarism seemed to be commonplace and almost acceptable. This particular story adolescent students find particularly memorable and fun. Many students have innovative methods of cheating they are willing, often eager, to discuss.

The power of storydrama.

Stories have been exploited for educational purposes and used to stimulate  language acquisition for centuries – and with good reason! Stories stimulate imagination, develop intellect, clarify emotions, identify anxieties, problems and aspirations, and fulfill the need for ‘magic’ in a world that often seems to lack it. I create stories for the language class for three reasons: psychological, linguistic and pedagogic.

Psychologically stories can represent a part of human consciousness that exists in all cultures. They fulfill a human need to listen to and tell stories and invariably evoke a personal response. This story of Cheating Lale was written in order to get my students to consider the importance of taking responsibility for their learning and to discuss issues related to cheating. Each learner will respond differently as their relationship with the story depends on their own interpretation of the world. Not only does the cultural, social, sexual and physiological make up of the classroom impact on learners’ responses, but also each individual learners struggle with contradictory viewpoints of the world. Paulo Freire (1970) claims that at the heart of education is an ability to help learners (and teachers) to reflect and act upon the world, and through that transform it into a better place.

Linguistically the language of stories can be manipulated to include language aimed at the comprehension level of your students. If this story is told by the teacher the language can be graded appropriately to fit the level. Equally the teacher can elicit questions and responses from the students as the story is told. Lale’s Story  is simple in basic structure but the meanings generated by the learners’ imaginations are evocative and many layered. This is an integrated skills lesson practicing receptive skills and speaking discussion skills based on a story about a young student teacher called Lale. By the end of the lesson students will have had the opportunity to practice their receptive skills and practiced controlled and less guided speaking practice leading into a discussion and then a dramatization of scenes of the story for presentation.

LANGUAGE AIM(S):

Sts will have been introduced to and practiced the target lexis related to the story of ‘Cheating Lale’. Particularly they will be exposed to the following common collocations: to go / come out with someone; to make a sacrifice for something; to look after; to pass an exam; to catch someone cheating; to expel someone from college; to refuse to have anything to do with someone.

In addition they practise language of discussion:

Stating opinions: I think that ….. is the best character…. because…

Agreeing / disagreeing: I agree / disagree and supporting opinions with reasons.. because…

As in any activity developing oral fluency learners need to have the ability to effectively manage an interaction. There are many features of oral interaction that a teacher can focus on but one useful area is that of turn-taking as highlighted in the table:

Strategies to be taught Example
1.      Taking a turn ·        I agree with you but….·        You are right but….·        I would like to add something here

·        Sorry to interrupt but….

2.      Keeping a turn ·        If you could just let me finish,·        If I could just finish,·        Let me finish please before you interrupt.
3.      Inviting someone to take a turn ·        What do you think about that?·        Do you agree with me?

The teacher can introduce these exponents in a previous lesson and monitor how effectively learners use them in this lesson. Alternatively at the end of this lesson (especially if the discussion can be video recorded) learners can reflect on their turn-taking strategies and self evaluate.

Pedagogically, stories provide an opportunity to develop and practice receptive skills (listening) as well as provide a rich context for language input. Once students are familiar with the story outline and content, the story provides a model to focus on structure, lexis and phonology and provides a ready context for follow-up writing and speaking activities. Most importantly for me, a story with a variety of characters can be dramatized within a double lesson period! Stories are a powerful stimulus when they raise questions or moral dilemmas. Learners explore issues, events and relationships through improvised exploration and discussion. Typically texts are presented in course materials in a static and lifeless manner, as content to be absorbed; however every effective teacher understands that  real learning is not generated by the materials but is generated by co-construction and negotiation between teachers and learners in a lived experience which is why every lesson is unique and learning outcomes unpredictable.

The advantages of storydrama.

  1. Driven by inquiry. Stories create an imaginary fictitious world but at the same time they can explore authentic and emotive dilemmas. Stories arouse genuine passion and strong and emotive learner responses.
  2. Meaning is ‘learner generated’ through their responses to the story and not transmitted from an external source.
  3. The lesson stages are logically sequenced and yet the structure is flexible as it depends on unpredictable learner responses. The method is powered by risk-taking as the process relies on challenging learners to respond and engage with the materials and issues raised

Lale’s Story_LESSON PLAN

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Let’s RAP Bro. Respect!

A learner-centred lesson.

Many teachers claim to follow a learner-centred approach but what does a learner-centred approach actually mean in practice? I hope to show what it means by describing a lesson that contains, in my opinion, 12 key principles of a learner-centred lesson. The lesson plan and materials are included at the end.

This is one of my favourite lessons. The task is for learners to write and perform a Rap Song. The lesson focuses on how a sound (phonemes such as the monophthongs/u:/ /I:/ /ɑ:/ and diphthongs /eı/ /ɔı/ /ɑı/ /əʊ/) can be used as a stimulus to build the foundations for a poem or song. The lesson starts by eliciting single phonemes and then builds to create words with those sounds for example from /u:/ we can make blue, shoe, true (rhyming words) and then sentences (‘I’m feeling blue’) and finally students write and perform a rap song.

  1. Learners generate the language.

The language generated in the lesson comes from the learners knowledge and imagination. The teacher inputs sounds for example /ɔı/  but the learners generate the actual language of the lesson: first brainstorming words with this vowel sound (boy, toy, joy) and then creating sentences with these words (I want joy). The great advantage of language input coming from the learners is that the language is graded to the learners’ level naturally. This means that a lesson  can be adapted to any level (beginners to advanced) as the learners’ themselves generate the target language.

  1. Authentic task.

The lesson has an authentic task: to write and perform a Rap Song. This is a real-life task, people do write songs. Admittedly learners may  protest that they are unlikely  to ever write a Rap Song. However it is a far more authentic writing task than multiple choice or gap-filling exercises which learners do frequently in a classroom context but would never do in real-life. Besides Rap Songs are essentially speaking sentences in a rhythmical manner ( etymologically ‘to rap’  means ‘to say)’. The advantage of Rap songs is that aside from having a definite rhythm,  there are no specific rules of structure, anything goes!

  1. Scaffolded.

The lesson follows a logical order that is transparent for the learners and provides effective scaffolding as each stage needs to be effectively completed and checked before proceeding to the next stage. This ensures both understanding and a successful outcome. The lesson consists of 3 main stages:

  1. Introduction and setting the scene. This stage needs to arouse interest in the topic by the use of visuals, brainstorming what students know about rapping and rappers and to personalise the topic: Do you like rap? Teachers could play samples of Rap music but the disadvantage of this can be that it sets an ambitious target (model) at the beginning of the lesson when we are more interested in the writing processes than a polished final performance.
  2. Input and practice. There are three stages that build on each other: 1) Introduction and practice of sounds; 2) Sounds used to create words; 3) Words used to create sentences.
  3. Creation, performance and reflection. Learners collaboratively write and perform their rap songs while other learners (replicating the X factor judges panel) reflect and provide feedback.
  1. Sense of achievement.

The performance of the rap songs provides a sense of success and task achievement. The teacher can encourage applause after each short performance giving learners a sense of well-being and heightened self-esteem while promoting a positive group dynamic.

  1. Learners are the main resource.

Apart from an optional visual of a Rapper and strips of paper with a phoneme at the top, there are no materials for the teacher to prepare. The main resource is the learners: they provide the language, the creativity and imagination. A learner-centred approach necessitates that the lesson is not ‘content driven’, in other words the course book or syllabus should not dictate the target language but in contrast the language is emergent through the lesson activities.

  1. Collaborative learning.

The majority of the lesson (70%) involves learners working collaboratively in pairs or groups. This collaboration and interaction between learners provides an acquisition rich environment for learners to practise the target language. It also provides opportunities for peer teaching of lexis, for example a learner may come up with the word ‘joy’ (or at a higher level ‘coy’) as a rhyming word for /ɔı/ and other learners ask what it means. In the learner centred classroom the teacher recognises that learners, in contrast to the teacher or course book, are an important source of input and this can only be accessed when learners are interacting and communicating with each other.

  1. Appropriate aims and integrated skills.

SKILL AIM:

This is an integrated skills lesson focus. There is intensive listening to individual sounds and rhyming words as well as public speaking practice in the performance of the rap songs and a high degree of collaborative speaking in pairs and groups as learners work on the lesson tasks. The main skill aim is to collaboratively write and perform a ‘rap’ song. Many learners find writing activities boring, lonely, difficult and time-consuming. Often learners are not effective writers in their L1 and are unaware of effective writing processes. For this reason this lesson aims to provide a fun, collaborative task that is scaffolded to ensure that students are sufficiently challenged but also achieve success and a sense of achievement.

LANGUAGE AIM:

Learners are introduced to and practise specific sounds (i.e. /i:/, /U:/). In addition they raise their awareness of the sound – spelling relationship in English. The lesson also aims to raise awareness of words that rhyme and to practice the features of sentence stress and rhythm in a song.

  1. Movement and energy

Learners stand in a circle and produce the sounds chorally, then they mingle around the classroom writing words, finally in groups they write their rap songs before the class becomes a studio and songs are performed. Each stage involves movement which generates energy. The learners are physically active in the lesson and involvement and engagement is high.

  1. Novelty and fun.

Writing a rap song is novel. It represents a break from routine. The focus on sounds, rhythm and rhyme highlights pronunciation which is typically an area learners prioritize but teachers neglect. A learner centred approach depends on active and enthusiastic participation of the learners in a stress-free environment which encourages  laughter, spontaneity, a large quantity and variety of learner to learner interaction and a sense of fun.

  1. Risk

As the teacher, we cannot know the content or quality of the final rap songs nor the learners response to the topic or activities, there is therefore an element of risk. However a teacher locked into a risk free routine will not develop as a teacher and will not find rewards in his lessons or the learners’ progress. Without taking risks the teacher and learners never expose themselves to the possibility of failure nor to the rich learning opportunities that imagination and creativity can offer.

  1. Creativity.

Writing a rap song provides learners with the opportunity to be creative and express themselves freely. This encourages learners to experiment with the language, to be creative and to challenge themselves to express themselves imaginatively.  Learners need the freedom to experiment with the language. They need opportunities to be creative with their production and the time and space to make errors. The aim is to challenge and encourage learners to produce language rather than structuring in advance what will be achieved.

  1. Whole person learning.

The most important principle is to remember that a learner is a thinking, feeling and acting person. Learning is a process internal to the learner, it can not be transmitted from an external source (no matter how good the coursebook or teacher). Put in another way we can say that all learning has a mental, emotional or physical manifestation and in the context of this lesson a combination of all three.

Conclusion.

The vast majority of lessons are not learner centred. Opportunities for learners to participate are structured and freedom  for learner creativity limited. The majority of teachers are compelled to follow a traditional approach driven by content prescribed by the syllabus or course book (whether this is grammar based, lexical or a communicative approach). This contrasts with widely accepted beliefs that for effective learning to occur a learner needs the freedom to experiment with the language, to be creative with their production and to have the space to express themselves and make errors. In a learner centred approach language is learner generated. The primary concern is based on what the learners do in the lesson such as decision-making, discussion, critical thinking, co-operating and negotiating their needs with the teacher. A learner centred approach therefore prioritizes learning over content knowledge. The syllabus and lesson aims in this scenario derive from the learning and teaching process and the negotiating of individual learner needs rather than being prescribed or pre-determined in a content driven syllabus. The main source of language is the learner, their experiences, ideas and feelings.

Rap Song LESSON PLAN front page

Rap Song Lesson plan

 

If you try this lesson or adapt the ideas to your context, I would really appreciate feedback on how it went for you.

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