WARMERS AND COOLERS
A bag load of warmers and coolers are a teacher’s best friend. A warmer is a short game or activity at the beginning of the lesson and a cooler is the same at the end. Imagine going into a class, as a student, and the teacher immediately bombards you with grammar and worksheets. It’s like playing sport without warming up or asking someone to marry you without a first date. A warmer is a great way to review vocabulary from a previous class, introduce the topic of today or just relax and entertain your students. You can really tell the difference between a class that has taken part in a short warmer and one that hasn’t. Throwing students into a heavy class without any kind of introduction is painfully unnatural.
Googling Warmers and Coolers will bring you a plethora of games and having some in your back pocket is always handy. As you teach more you will keep the games and activities that work for you and your students and discard the ones you don’t like as much. Warmers that involve competition, movement or creative thought are especially good because they break the classroom dynamic that students must sit and listen and the teacher speak. Coolers work in the same way and games that review vocabulary that have come up in the lesson are fantastic. Keep a list of the vocab somewhere and play games to test the students at the end of the class and the beginning of the next. This is how students will remember and learn. The more often they are exposed to a new word or phrase the more likely it is to stick. Explaining a new word once is not enough for most. Continued use and exposure will help cement the word in their brains.
Warmers and coolers are also good for class morale and dynamics, students will look forward to the start of the class and the end – but for good reasons. A warmer also helps put students at ease and a cooler rounds of a lesson nicely. Even adults enjoy warmers and coolers, obviously they will need to be adapted to the age and personality of each class but warmers and coolers can take many shapes and forms. Start and end your class well and the middle will sort itself out.
STUDENT TALKING TIME
Student talking time (STT) and teacher talking time is something that was highlighted a lot during my CELTA training and for good reason. In my classes at school and even at University the general practice is for the teacher to preach and the student to listen. Although this may be effective in some ways and fit some people’s learning styles, it is not for everyone. With language learning in particular I have found that absorbing information solely from listening to a teacher is incredibly hard. What modern teaching techniques advise and what the CELTA encourages is to maximise STT. This not only helps break the often endless cycle of the teaching speaking and wakes students up but speaking is often an under appreciated skill and needs to be practiced more.
This can be hard with lower levels and is obviously hard with complete beginners but the main aim of language is to communicate and often this is by talking, so this must be a key priority in the classroom. Even if it is just reading aloud, or asking simple questions or saying easy sentences. All spoken activities are beneficial for pronunciation practice, familiarisation with noises and for building confidence. Whilst working in Spain I have heard over and over again how students learn grammar inside out but never have the opportunity to speak. Therefore despite all the grammar locked away deep inside their heads they struggle to express any of it because they have had limited speaking practice.
In bigger classes stimulating discussion can be difficult and with low levels it is tricky but there are endless pair work activities you can do and with some good classroom management you can encourage students to participate, to try and not be afraid to make mistakes. Although exams are important and examiners will be on the search for errors in speech the main aim of communication is getting your point across and students need to practice that. Students should be encouraged to try and get their point across and then errors can be identified if and when they arise.
I think increasing STT can be difficult because the natural idea of a teacher is that they teach and students listen but a growing trend is for learning to be more collaborative and interactive. Increasing STT by doing lots of pair work, group discussions or asking them lots of questions can be great ways to increase student’s confidence when talking and give them the tools to express themselves verbally.