The number of non-native English speaking students in the United States has increased drastically in the past years. According to the 1998/1999 Florida Department of Education ESOL report, there were limited English proficiency students (LEP) from 53 countries and 49 different languages in this writer’s county. Despite of the ever-growing ESOL population, national ESOL standards are still quite unclear for parents and some educators.
The NCTE – National Council of Teachers of English – Website clearly states the national standards for the English language arts. Nevertheless, standards for K-12 ESOL are not specifically addressed. Students whose first language is not English are mentioned in item number 10 of the standards’ list, which states that non-English speaking students make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum. The vision guiding these standards is that all students must have the opportunities and resources to develop the language skills they need to pursue life’s goals and to participate fully as informed, productive members of society.
Language teaching and language learning focus on four skills: Reading comprehension, Aural Comprehension, Writing and Speaking. Most course books authors organize their materials so as to teach these skills in an integrated way.
This seems eminently reasonable, but is it?
Have you ever had a class wanting/needing to improve conversational skills on the post-intermediate level and chosen an integrated skills course book for them – only to find yourself getting bogged down in long texts for pre-discussion work? Have you ever had a class wanting/needing to improve writing skills on the pre-intermediate level and chosen an integrated skills course book for them – only to find yourself tied up with audio materials to present the topics? The reason for this is that the underlying assumption of the integrated skills approach to language learning: That all four of the learners’ skills are equal to each other at the beginning of a course and they progress at the same pace during a course.
Not long ago, a (non ESL) teacher/friend noticed the term ‘graded material’ in an article and asked me: ‘ What? Are ESL teachers expected to grade (mark) their material as well as their students?’
Graded material, as any ESL teacher knows, is material arranged in order of difficulty – progressing from the simple to the more complex. Carefully graded materials are important in most areas of teaching, and in language teaching, they are essential.
What is the criterion for determining difficulty?
Forty years ago, difficulty was determined solely by word level: There were official wordlists for beginners all through to advanced learners. Structural levels of difficulty were largely ignored, and you could find sentences in basic level textbooks/readers such as: ‘And he was never heard from again’ (because the lexical item again appears on the basic level wordlist). Just imagine having to teach/learn English that way!
About thirty years ago, the emphasis shifted. Structural level became the criterion for determining difficulty and materials were graded accordingly.
Doing boring things with songs
If you want to bring songs into your class but are not sure what to do with them, the first thing you can do is all the boring stuff that students usually hate. If you just add the music element they will happily indulge in exercises that usually make them groan and learn language points that usually scare them off. This is also great practice for exams, for example the FCE Use of English paper. Examples of ‘doing boring things with songs’ are:
- Gap fills (Open cloze)
- Match the sentence halves
- Error correction
- Put it into order- Words and lines
- Put words into the correct form
- Pronunciation work
Gap fills (Open cloze)
Remove single words from the text, by tippexing them out on the page or replacing them with gaps in a Word document. Students try to guess what the missing words are and then listen to check. DO NOT remove random words and ask students to listen to fill the gaps without having even read the lyrics through first. As popular as this ‘random gaps with random songs’ task is with students and some teachers, it has no actual teaching aim. To make sure your activity does have an aim, make sure that:
PowerPoint is an incredibly popular piece of software, mainly because it comes with Microsoft packages. PowerPoint files are easy to create and can be e-mailed as attachments. They can be posted on or downloaded from websites. Not only can PowerPoint presentations be traded and exchanged, they can also be modified to fit any individual classroom setting. Although PowerPoint has been around for years, it’s just begun to spread to schools and ELT classrooms as more and more classrooms and teachers have access to computers and the hardware to use PowerPoint. For these reasons, PowerPoint is becoming an increasingly popular medium in ELT.
A reading comprehension lesson plan in PDF/Doc format.
During 2002, India and Pakistan have been laying landmines along their disputed border in Kashmir, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). The ICBL says it is possibly the largest deployment of mines in decades. Mary Wareham, the Landmine Monitor Report’s global coordinator, recently said: “Mine-laying in India and Pakistan is startling because of the length of the border and the length of the minefields and their proximity to villages and farming land.”
Numerous civilians and soldiers have died as a result of the landmines laid on both sides of the Line of Control in the disputed region of Kashmir. After declaring ceasefires (stopping fighting) in 2002, both Angola and Sri Lanka have stopped using landmines. However the ICBL has reported that the government of Russia and to a lesser extent Georgia continue to use the device.