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Practising school subject vocab

Let's suppose you've taught the L2 words for school subjects (maths, English, history etc). Perhaps you used PowerPoint slides, held up flashcards, gave a simple bilingual list, used a simple Quizlet list, showed a simplified school timetable etc. Let's then suppose you personalised the topic by combining them with "I like" and "I don't like" or other variations. What next?

A common activity which you may not have come across is to carry out a class survey. This is simple example of task-based language teaching where having a specific purpose adds motivation for the exercise. First, teach the question "What subjects do you like?" Make sure it is well established with choral repetition and some whole class QA. Then tell students they will carry out a popularity survey. They must stand up, walk about the class, and in 10 minutes ask as many friends as possible what their THREE favourite subjects are. As the students are walking round and conversing, just monitor that no English is being used.

After the 10 minutes are up, tell the students to sit down and tally the total number of mentions for each subject. Each student will end up with somewhat different tallies depending on who they asked.

Then go to the board. Ask about 5-10 individual students to read out how many "votes" they got for each subject. Keep a tally on the board, giving a running commentary. At this stage students are hearing many repetitions of each subject as well as simple numbers. Don't ask too many students as the others will be inactive for too long.

After you have recorded your data on the board, add up the totals and make a few simple statements along the lines "The most popular subject is..."; " The second most popular..." etc. Students should find this to be of general interest. Just be aware that some results may need sensitive handling if you come across a subject most of the class hate (particularly your own!)

For homework students could use the information to do a simple cross-curricular task, namely produce a bar chart or pie chart using Excel. To add a little spice ask them to ask their parent(s) what subjects they liked or disliked most at school. Tell them that next time they will need to say "My mum liked.." " My dad hated..." etc. ( You can plant how the past tense works at this point.)

You could also show an authentic text on this subject and do an instant translation into English for the class. Here is one for French:

http://www.vousnousils.fr/2015/03/05/lhistoire-geo-matiere-preferee-des-francais-quand-ils-etaient-a-lecole-564296

I found that this task worked successfully on many occasions and helped embed knowledge if school subjects. Not rocket science, but engaging and effective.





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