Using correct language when you get tired of having a positive attitude…
No matter the circumstances, I always try to find the bright side of any situation I find myself in. Everyone knows that once the curtain falls and annoying things are unveiled, it’s impossible to ignore them … from the extremely irritating habit most passengers have of sticking so close to the luggage belt that you can hardly see your luggage coming or even worse, making it very hard to retrieve your bag without hurting anyone, to cinema goers adding unwanted rustling chip bag special effects to a film set way before this consumerist society started creating so much crackling waste.
As you may have noticed by the two examples above, I do not always win the battle in overcoming irritating circumstances around me. And I dare say that neither do our students? So, helping them acquire the language they need to express those not so light-hearted moments is, indeed, a basic necessity. That is one of the reasons why I quite like this lesson from Identities 1, by Paul Seligson and Luiz Otávio Barros, in which upper intermediate students get to learn useful expressions they would probably find hard to start using on their own.
(expressions/ answers underlined in pink)
The short text is part of a language lesson with a clear focus on uses of which in non-restrictive clauses and, in which the expressions to convey annoyance are a secondary goal.
Notice how students have the opportunity to practice the expressions right after reading the text just by stating their opinion about the three annoying situations. At this stage, students recognise the expressions and are given the opportunity to use them, but they are not necessarily asked to do so. Still, they have to play with the expressions on their minds while reading it one more time in order to talk about it.
After this activity, students work out the rules of the main grammar topic of the lesson and practice it in a very personalised way. You can see the whole lesson here if you prefer the whole picture.
As a last activity, students are asked to classify things that drive them mad by using the same expressions from the activity mentioned above. After pre-arranging their ideas, students are invited to share and contrast things that annoy them:
The lesson was gradually built in order to create opportunities for these new chunks to become active language in a meaningful, personalised and well-structured way. Not an easy task when attempting to refine upper intermediate and advanced student’s vocabulary.
Another reason this lesson, and the whole book, as a matter of fact, can be used as an example of good vocabulary practice and in this case specifically, chunks, is that it goes in line with some generally accepted concepts in ELT. Lindstromberg and Boers (2008) stated that:
- Learners should meet new vocabulary in doses that are manageable for them (in this case, 6 expressions only)
- Putting target items in context makes them easier to remember (they are first seen in a text and explored orally)
- Using new vocabulary meaningfully and creatively (personalised practice activities)
- Items in batches of new vocabulary should not be too similar to one another in sound or spelling.
Let’s keep in mind that regardless of how much vocabulary a student knows, it only matters if it is incorporated into speaking. According to Diaz, speaking is the skill generally taken as synonymous to achieving mastery in a language (2016). So, may we always find the best ways to help them master it!
DIAZ, Gabriel Maggioli; PAINTER-FARREL, Lesley. Lessons learned: first steps towards reflective teaching in ELT. Londres: Richmond, 2016.
LINDSTROMBERG, Seth; BOERS, Frank. Teaching Chunks of Language: from noticing to remembering. Helbling Languages, 2008.
SELIGSON, Paul; BARROS, Luiz Otávio. Identities: Student’s Book 1. Oxford: Richmond, 2016.
Nina Loback is Richmond Brazil’s Academic Coordinator for Language Schools. She has a degree in Languages (UEPG/PR/BR), holds a CPE, TKT and is an ICELT holder. She has taught adults, teenagers and children for 10 years and is a frequent speaker at conferences. She is an advisory council member of BRAZ-TESOL Curitiba Regional Chapter and co-founder of Voices Sig for Women.