Using stories in English classes
- Tips & Strategies
Everyone who traveled to a foreign country where people speak an unfamiliar language knows that first and foremost we need to be able to use practical language in everyday situations.
For example, we need to be able to ask for directions, order food in a café or a restaurant or explain to a doctor where we have pain.
I remember when I was in France and my level of French was between A1 and A2, I was struggling with asking simple questions. The course books that we’re using for teaching English might not be very helpful. I thought of the unit at the beginning of one of the English course books where the authors were teaching elementary students different types of whales and dolphins, such as a bottle nose dolphin, for example.
In the context of language learning, "functions" refer to the communicative purposes or goals that language learners use language to achieve, such as asking for directions, ordering food, expressing opinions, or making requests. Functional language teaching focuses on teaching learners the specific language structures, vocabulary, and strategies needed to accomplish these communicative goals in real-life situations.
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Do our students really need to know what to call those exotic dolphins or do they want to feel confident in real everyday situations in an English-speaking environment? I think I know your answer.
I’d like to suggest the approach which is called Task-Teach-Task. The approach is student-centred and suitable for teaching functional language.
The skeleton of the lesson looks like that:
• Task 1
• Clarification of the meaning, pronunciation and form of the target language
• Controlled practice
• Task 2
• Feedback on content
• Feedback on accuracy
Let’s say you want to teach your students the functional language of politeness. Show your students the following picture.
Ask them to work in groups and discuss what they would tell their friend if she was wearing such jeans. Walk around and listen to the functional language the students are using. Elicit the expressions on the board and give feedback on content.
Show one more picture and ask students to match the sentences to the pictures.
Ask the following questions about the sentences:
Model, highlight and drill pronunciation. Clarify the form.
As the controlled practice it is possible to use the following exercise:
Make these sentences more polite.
Students should be able to produce correct answers.
For the freer practice give students some real life situations and ask them to come up with the possible polite comments.
Give the students feedback on content paying attention to politeness of their expressions. Then give feedback on accuracy.
The advantages of this approach are:
In conclusion, teaching functional language is essential for language learners to confidently communicate in everyday situations. The Task-Teach-Task approach is a student-centered and effective way to teach functional language.
This approach balances Teacher Talking Time and Student Talking Time and is adaptable for different levels. However, it does require experience and flexibility from the teacher and may not meet some students' expectations.
Overall, using real-life situations and peer teaching, the Task-Teach-Task approach is an effective way to teach functional language to language learners of different levels.
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