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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 2; Issue 2; March 2000

Lesson outlines

* Lesson 1 * Lesson 2 * Lesson 3 * Lesson 4 *

LESSON 1 - A Puzzle Story (1)

A puzzle story

Dictate this story to your class:

    A great storm came up and the wooden ship sank. Next day the sea was calm. The ship's hull could be seen rolling gently on the surface over where it had sunk.

Tell the students that they can find out why this happened by asking you YES/NO questions.

SOLUTION: The ship's cargo was salt.

Acknowledgement: the story comes from the novel Fugitive Pictures )

( If you want to find more good puzzle stories go to <www.google.com> and search for lateral thinking . Plenty good stuff there.)

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LESSON 2 - Defining Culture (2)

Level:B> Advanced

50 to 60 minutes


to invite learners to become aware of their thinking about cultural values.



Lesson outline:

  1. Ask the students to take 5-10 minutes to write down sentences that express five major values from their culture. ( Do the same yourself)

  2. Group people in fours and get them to explain their sentences to each other. ( Join one of the subgroups and take part)

  3. Ask the students to take any culture that is foreign to them and to write five negative aspects of it ( five sentences). Now ask them to re-write the five negativities as positives, adopting a viewpoint from within that culture.
    An example:

    Suppose a Northern European learner has chosen to write about Arab culture and her first sentence reads:

      Arab people don't care about time and are very unpunctual

    Her positive re-write of this from within Arab culture might read:

      In Arab culture time is not something you see out there in front of you- instead it is something inside you and so very emotional and subjective- the heartbeat is more important than the tick-tock.

  4. Group people in fours to compare their negative stereotypes and their positive re-framing sentences.

  5. Ask people to write five sentences that capture five central values from the culture of the part of the English speaking world they are most aware of.

  6. Ask half a dozen people to put their sentences up on the board. General discussion.

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LESSON 3 - Learning From the Host Family (3)

[ the suggestions in this unit apply to students studying in a country where English is the main common language of the local people, so foreign students studying in S. Africa, New Zealand, Malta, Ireland Australia, Canada, UK the US or Nigeria. This unit does not work if the students are staying in dormitory accomodation. ]

Time: in lesson 1: 5-l5 minutes to set the homework
in lesson 2: l5-30 minutes

to get the students thinking "anthropologically" about the host family they are staying with, way beyond the little activities suggested here.

What follows are several short Homework plans:

Homework plan 1.

In lesson 1 ask the students to try and find time to take a host family member into their kitchen and to ask them to teach two lists of words:

Things in the kitchen Cooking verbs
colander to sieve
skewer to boil
tea-cosy to simmer

The student should jot these down and bring them to the next lesson.

In lesson 2: ask three students to put up their two lists on the board. Other students shout out their additions to the lists. As the words go up mentally pick a dozen of them which have metaphorical uses in other areas and prepare to teach these extension meanings eg;

    to boil : " the political situation is rapidly reaching boiling point "

    to simmer: " she waited for him, simmering with rage"

    to bake: " under the baking Ugandan sun…."

    a back-burner: " to put something on the back burner "

Homework plan 2:

In lesson 1 ask students to tell you what image certain middle-sized towns in their countries have for them ( Fuchou for a Chinese, Oulu for a Finn, Gifu for a Japanese, Zilina for a Slovak and Valdivia for a Chilean. Their image will be based on a mixture of knowledge, hearsay and prejudice and this is fine for the exercise. Pick three middle-ranking towns from the English speaking country you are working in and tell the students to ask their host families what image they have of these places. ( In UK we have used towns like Hull, Oxford, Swansea, Glasgow, Exeter, Sheffield, Aberdeen, Nottingham and Lancaster )

In lesson 2 the students report on the weird and wonderful things the host families have said.

Homework Plan 3

Prepare a list of countries that are close to the country where you are teaching or which are strongly connected to that country. For work in UK we have used this list : Belgium, Holland, France, Germany , Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Canada, USA, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Cyprus and Hongkong.

In lesson 1 give the list to the students and ask them to show it to the host family who pick the two countries they have had the most contact with or about which they have most information. The student then tries to find out their view of the two countries chosen.

In lesson 2 the students report of what they have been told.

Homework plan 4:

In lesson 1 suggest to the students that they ask the host family how many houses they have lived in, which one they liked best and for what reasons.

In lesson 2 the students pool what they have discovered about native attitudes to "the house".

Home work plan 5

Prepare to tell the students some of your own stories about neighbours you have had.

In lesson 1 tell your "neighbours" stories. Elicit one or two from them. Ask them to tell their own stories of this sort to the host family. Their tellings are likely to elicit host family memories of neighbours they have known. In lesson 2 ask the students to pool the neighbour stories they have elicited.

Homework plan 6:

In lesson 1 give out an A3, blank outline map of the country where you are working. They ask the family to teach them the main features of the country, marking them in on the map ( motorways, trainlines, rivers, mountains, deserts, cities etc…) Ask the host family to tell any personal stories they associate with a given road, town or landscape.

Make clear to the students that the object of the exercise is not accurate information but to find out what the natives actually know and feel about their own country.

In lesson 2 you ask the students to put their maps up on the walls so people can go round and look at them before listening to the reports.

Homework plan 7

In lesson 1 ask students to go to large newsagents and buy any magazine they would never dream of buying back home. ( in this activity male engineers can end up with crochet magazines and technophobes with computer mags ) They prepare to report on the whole magazine and on one article in particular. They also show the magazine to the host family to get their reaction.

In lesson 2 they work in threes, reporting on the magazines and the host family reactions.

Homework plan 8:

In lesson 1 give the students a 5 minute autobiography of yourself as a car-user/ owner. Ask them to work in 3's or 4's doing the same ( if teenagers they will talk about their family's car ). Ask them to get similar car autobiographies from the host family.

In the second lesson they share native car autobiographies.

Homework plan l0

In lesson 1 briefly describe to the students someone you admire ( from public or private life ) and then someone you hate and despise. Group the students in 3's and ask them to do the same. As homework they ask the host family for their heroes a hate figures.

In lesson 2 they cover the board with the names of the heroes and otherwise.

You call on 6 people to report on what they were told about their 2 people.

Rationale: Setting "host family" homework is simply a way of getting more language juice out of what, for many students, is a language gold mine. The above exercises also encourage the students to look at the host family as wondrous examples of the society they are part of.

Homework plan 11.

In lesson 1 ask the students which dialects of their language they can imitate. Get one or two to say a couple of sentences in their standard language and the same sentences in dialect. Ask them which dialects of the English speaking country they are in they can recognise. If you are able to do a couple of dialects for them and ask for their reaction. The homework task is to find out how the host families feel about different dialects and accents..

In lesson 2 they report on host family attitudes to dialects and accents.

Homework plan 12

In lesson 1 give your students a ten minute lecturette on the educational system in the country ( nursery/ primary/secondary/ tertiary, public and private, recent debates etc….) Ask them to find out from the host families what they feel about the educational system.

In lesson 2 they report back

Homework plan 13

In lesson 1ask the students to spend 5 minutes noting the down the normal steps for buying a house in their country. Get them to work in fours explaining these procedures to each other- it is best if the fours are as nationality-mixed as possible. The home work task is to get the host family to explain house buying -procedure in this country. Ask them to take notes on technical terms used.

In lesson 2, get them to fill the board with house-purchasing technical terms and then to work in fours, comparing what they were told in the host-famiulies.

Homework plan 14

In lesson 1 give the students copies of some short document that is intriguing in terms of cultural values.

In UK we have used
- the brochure of an artist who paints family groups, family pets etc….
- an advertisement from a newspaper that offers natives a course in English
- to help them "speak better" and so get better jobs.

RSPCA literature

Ask them for their reactions. Ask them to show it to the host family and get their reactions.

In lesson 2 they report back.

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LESSON 4 - Speaking Circle (4)

By Ana Robles

Level: Beginnner+
Time: 5 minutes

to foster good group dynamics and learning to listen and to relate to each other with respect

Materials: none
Preparation: none

At the beginning of the lesson, ask your students to form a circle (they can do that quickly by standing up and circling the tables). The first time you do a 'speaking circle' you would need to explain them the rules, from them on it would be enough to say 'circle time'.

The rules are:

The teacher will say one sentence, for instance, I like this group because there is lots of energy in it. Then it is the turn of the student on the teacher's right to produce his/her own sentence using the same beginning (I like this group because...). Each student can choose to pass, or, if they want to speak they can choose whether to speak in English or in their mother tongue. If the student passes or speaks in English then it is the next student turn, if the student speaks in mother tongue the teacher translates into English. There is no need for the student to repeat the sentence in English but because it is their own words they pay high quality attention. In fact, it is the sort of exercise which keeps the group really listening. Also, because there is no fear of failure, many more speak in English that I would have thought. Although it is a good language exercise the main purpose of the activity is not language learning but practising relational skills, so Speaking Circles work when used on regular basis and not only once in a while.

Circle time is an activity created by Murray White. I have adapted the rules slightly to make them fit EFL lessons.

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