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Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:

Below is how I would have taught using this presentation - it won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially of you are not big on choral repetition and PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production), but I'll justify my choice in the plan at each stage. For some readers this will be standard practice.

1. Explain in English that you are going to teach the class how to talk about and understand people talking about sport. By the end of the lesson they will be able to say and understand 20 different sports. (A simple objective clearly laid out with success criteria.)

2. Show the first 10-20 slides, depending on the class, and speak each sentence. Let the class just listen. (On balance I would still favour letting students hear before seeing the words. They have the images to hold interest and establish meaning. This also allows you to do a second pass in a moment with the words visible - providing a twist and sense of progression in the lesson.)

3. Show the same slides with the caption, but with no repetition. (This gives more time for the students to get to grips with sounds and meanings without putting pressure on to perform. Sound spelling links are getting established and you could emphasise certain sounds, e.g. the "ou" of joue.)

4. Do step (3) but adding individual repetition (hands up or no hands up). (This is another recycling opportunity allowing students to gain confidence and familiarity.)

5. Using slide 43 (the grid with all the images), point at images and elicit individual responses, followed by choral repetition. Insist on accuracy. (This synthesises the earlier work.)

6. Ask if any students can out together at least two, then three, then four etc responses to produce longer utterances. (This offers a challenge to rise to and allows some to shine.)

7. Use slide 44 for oral translation, either teacher-led or in pairs, depending on the mood and the class. (How well the class handles this gives you good feedback about their understanding at this point.)

8. Play "guess the sport". tell the class you are thinking of a sentence and they have to say the sentence. (Classes enjoy such guessing games.)

9. You can then try some simple transcription/dictation. With weaker classes this could be with gapped sentences. You could use mini-whiteboards for this. (This provides a quiet, settled time for reflection and to focus on sound-spelling links.)

10. That may be enough for the first pass at this topic, but there is a slide at the end if you think the class is ready to see a whole verb paradigm. You could offer a little grammar explanation at this point, what the researchers call "focus on form".

I was not one for plenaries, to be honest, but you could get every pupil to say at least one sentence as they leave the room.

To sum up, the above sequence is very much in keeping with the direct method or oral approach where the focus is on TL use. To make this kind of sequence work I found you had to work at pace and with some humour, then follow up the work in the next lesson or two (even using part of the same sequence - let pupils show off what they have remembered).

Is this approach open to criticism? Well, some readers may be less than keen by all the "forced output" and artificial nature of the exchanges. There is little communication going on. Others may find it too teacher-centred and regimental. My response would be that this is just one lesson among many, others of which would feature listening and reading input and other forms of communication. My experience was that if you don't put in the disciplined choral, individual, reading and writing work, including the phonics, you are less likely to produce competent linguists in the end.

But that cat can be skinned in many a way.

PS I am a cat-lover and have a sweet 18 year-old called Cosmo.


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