It’s hard not to know what we know.

(Read that again).

Which is one of the reasons why it’s so extra, EXTRA important to consciously cultivate empathy not only in the classroom, besides generally being patient with our learners, but when planning a lesson for them as well.

When I train teachers, sometimes I see them struggle to imagine what a student goes through when they read (or hear) a text with unknown words in it.

Sooooo, to help them plan an exercise –or the stage in a lesson where they teach the MEANING of any new target language–, I like to ask them to read the following ‘mini’ text:

“Yesterday I ate some reckshplot after dinner. For a second I considered giving some to the kids too, but then remembered how sugar always makes them hyperactive at night, so I thought better of it.”

I ask them to tell me what they now know about reckshplot (–a completely made-up word BTW, before you Google it ;)).

Usually we then come to some sort of agreement that includes statements like these:

• reckshplot is a kind of food,

• probably some kind of dessert,

• and so it must be really sweet

We ‘know’ all this from the co-text, and from our real-world knowledge (schemata).

This exercise in itself tends to be a total game changer for trainees who’re either completely proficient speakers of English, and/or haven’t learned a language in a while.

On top of this, I sometimes also like to show them why it’s important to then write questions to teach meaning that will prompt deep processing of these newfound ‘meanings’.

Which item, A or B is better, to teach the meaning of ‘reckshplot’? Why?

A) Don’t consume _____ if you have diabetes.

B) Yesterday I ate some _____.

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Hi. I’m Fatime. I’m an IELTS Teacher Trainer, helping CELTA-qualified English language teachers become better at teaching SKILLS, as opposed to just testing them. 

Check out my courses here:

How to Teach IELTS Listening:

How to Teach IELTS Reading:

How to Teach IELTS Writing:

How to Teach IELTS Speaking: