My lessons this week

I don’t write about my lesson content very often, but this one was really interesting and the students loved the video.

I always use realia in my classes rather than exercises from grammar books, so we read and discuss articles about current affairs relating to the work done by the student/s. Each student reads a paragraph aloud, which means they internalise syntax, train pronunciation and use new words without having the pressure of actively producing them in sentences. While reading we discuss words that come up, and after the article there is a discussion where students try to actively use the new vocabulary they have learned. This gives them a safe environment in which to test their new words.

These particular students work with the The Temporary Agency Work Directive 2008/104/EC, an EU Directive which seeks to guarantee those working through employment agencies equal pay and conditions with employees in the same business who do the same work.

So this article from The Guardian worked really well to enhance their vocabulary and produce discussion. [This week we are doing a similar article from the point of view of the employer and analysing how the vocabulary is similar or different].

A very interesting discussion arose from the Guardian article about Sweden and Brexit, so we did another article on Swedish snus, oral tobacco legal in Sweden but illegal elsewhere in the EU. Sweden received an opt out from this legislation in order to be allowed to sell it locally [if they had not received this derogation from the EU Sweden would, in all likelihood, not have joined the EU], and many people in the UK want it to be legal there as well. Perhaps after Brexit… An advantage for the class and myself was that both articles had similar vocabulary so they could then see how the same words can be used it different ways.

The discussion then went on to whether tobacco/coffee/alcohol would be legal if they were discovered today. Discussions like this then train the vocabulary used in the articles, even though the students don’t realise it, because they become so interested in the topic that the words just flow.

We had ten minutes left at the end so I showed them this Bob Newhart clip, one of my favourites from many years ago, about the discovery of tobacco and coffee.

Other teachers I work with tend to use the more traditional methods of doing exercises from grammar textbooks, but I find you engage a class more with authentic materials because they can connect with it in a more real-life way. And it is easy to adapt topics and vocabulary to the student’s specific needs. It sounds like a lot of work but it actually isn’t.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. This is really interesting. I recently got into teaching (French as a foreign language) and I’m always interested to see other teachers ways of teaching. I teach a conversation class and I obviously cannot rely on textbooks so I try to gauge my students’s interests and see what they might be passionate about. Very often I print out current news articles and we discuss them in class and I generally let my students dictate the flow of the class. I find that when students are interested in a subject, they will learn so much more quickly than if faced with ‘dry’ material. Keep posting about teaching! I really enjoyed this article!

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