I’m moving house (and country) in two weeks, and am in the process of buying household items on Amazon for our new home.

And although I hardly ever burst out laughing shopping for basic products like kitchenware, the description of a set of water glasses did make me ROFL today.

It said:

“Conversation piece: no matter how you use them, they will get the conversation started and delight your friends and family”. 

😀 😀 😀

Now, I don’t know about YOUR friends and family, but mine don’t often gather together to… chat about water glasses, TBH…?! :O 

Much like our learners, my friends also tend to need a bit more of GENUINE/CREATIVE PROMPTING, for things to really ‘take off’.

In other words, students typically won’t just ‘take it away’ and start talking excitedly about boring topics, or answering generic questions.

And these (slightly painful) silences in a lesson are often predictable from a LESSON PLAN in advance! 

When I see a teacher include an exercise that 

-wasn’t properly SCAFFOLDED in the exercises or stages leading up to it

-includes too BROAD or very COMMON questions (e.g. ‘Tell your partner about your job’)

-doesn’t have any kind of ‘TASK’ (i.e. a goal resembling a real-life communicative purpose ‘baked into’ it, e.g. ‘Talk about your hometown’)

I like to elicit some better alternatives, to ‘upgrade’ the original idea, for example by

-tying it to a PLAUSIBLE life situation or goal, and even better if you can make it PERSONALIZED

-make things more CONCRETE (e.g. ‘Collect 3 reasons why…’ as opposed to ‘Talk to each other about…’)

-include some sort of a ‘TWIST’ (for example a negative question, such as ‘Tell your partner why you WOULDN’T recommend [the thing they’re planning to do/sign up for/buy/etc.]

‘Hopeful’, or ‘too patchy’ planning (i.e. lacking in DETAIL) is also a problem because it will require us to think too much on our feet. This tends to then take away bandwidth from paying attention to the learner and what’s ACTUALLY happening at any given moment in a lesson (as opposed to constantly thinking ahead).

Anticipating unrealistically (i.e. too optimistically) what your students will be ABLE and WILLING to do in a lesson without proper prompting, scaffolding, and sub-skill building is not the way to go.

Asking SO good (=genuinely engaging AND linguistically relevant) questions that your learners can’t HELP answering them IS.

Do you agree?

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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:

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How to Teach IELTS Speaking: