Friday, May 18, 2012

Selected lesson ideas from my posts during Cert IBET

For the past 7 weeks, I have been participating in the Cert IBET course from The Consultants E moderated by Carl Dowse.  I cannot express how incredible the experience has been.  As I look back over the past weeks in our conferences and course discussions, I realized how much I had written.

So, I am posting a selection of lesson ideas I have contributed to the course.  I hope you find them useful.


#1 Another way to do 10 Questions

Warmer idea based on the 10 Questions activity.  These questions come from Inside the Actor’s Studio a television show in the US.  Celebrity answers to these might add another element of fun to the lesson.  YouTube has an entire collection… simply search a celebrity.  For example:

·         What is your favorite word?

·         What is your least favorite word?

·         What turns you on?

·         What turns you off?

·         What sound or noise do you love?

·         What sound or noise do you hate?

·         What is your favorite curse word?

·         What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

·         What profession would you not like to do?

·         If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

The “Works every time” - Experts

I typically use an activity where the learners talk about something they know well. It brings up some great talents and experience and for my adult learner (not to mention they are colleagues) it helps get the course off on the right foot.
I pass out note cards and I tell them to write 5-6 things they can teach the class on the cards.

I put my 'card' on the board.
Here are some of the things I have used for me in the past:

  • How to speak English. (okay, maybe this is a bit too much)
  • How to make killer BBQ spare ribs with little effort.
  • How to make awesome guacamole.
  • How to diffuse a bomb. (yes, sometimes I use this)
  • How to build set a table for a formal dinner.
  • How to throw a curveball.
  • The French Revolution.

Here are some recent ones I have seen in my classes.

  • The names of all the Alps over 4000m (we tested her with Google images, she could really do it)
  • How to dance flamenco.
  • The best bike tour across northern Bavaria.
  • How to break a board with your fist.
  • How to raise children. (this was an interesting one)

As you can imagine, when partners change cards, the first question is "How do you know this?" It leads to all kinds of great conversations about personal history, hobbies, families, etc. The best part is, it causes lots of questions. Others I have used tend not to create as many.
As far as language goes, I am able to help them find some of the words they really want to have because they are so interested in these topics. I like this one.

Authentic Materials

Here is an example of how I build authentic resources into recent lessons. The two classes took the lesson in different directions so we used two different websites.

Aim: To familiarize learners with vocabulary for budgeting, including various types of revenues and expenses

Level: B1-B2

Context: Discussing the business of football (soccer) then equating this to the learner's business. It is budgeting time at the company and Bayern Munich also just reached the CL final.

1. General discussion about football.
Do you like it? If not, why not?
What is your favorite team? Why?
(cover some football vocabulary, e.g. tie, penalties, bandwagon, etc.)
Bayern Munich just reached the Champions League final... how much money will they get if they win?

2. Guide discussion into the business side of football.
Typically we start getting into more general business vocab (be in debt, licenses, etc.)

3. Authentic content
in one class, the discussion focused on player salaries and transfer fees. It was a lower level group so we looked at sites showing the payroll of Bundesliga clubs, practiced saying the numbers, talked about contract terms, etc.
In another class, the discussion went on to Spanish club debts and we read an article on how the authorities are handling the high debt figures. Standard structure... prediction, reading, comprehension questions, mine for key language (in this case I wanted to ignore football specific words and focus on things like be obliged to pay, and could be forced to.

4. Make a football club income statement
the students work in groups to list all the income and expenses. They can typically describe them, but lack the specific terms. I add the term to the explanation. We compile our lists.

Here is a sample of the board work/slide work.

Ticket sales
Salaries and wages
Transfer fees
Travel expenses
Media rights
Transfer fees

5. Change the football club income statement to the company's income statement

Now that we have talked about all the inflows and outflows, the pairs 'change' the income statement to reflect the revenues and expenses for their company. Some things are the same, but some are much different. We typically start talking about the various components of overhead. For transfer fees, we changed the words to divestitures and acquisitions. And so on...

6. Learners rank the largest expenses in their company. Now that we have a nice complete list, the pairs much rank the expenses (largest to smallest) and say why they think so. This is a very difficult task because they do not have the figures. The final group discussion results in much agreeing/disagreeing and defending opinions. By the end of the lesson, I counted that the participants had used the target budget vocabulary about 5-6 times in the discussions.

There are many ways to go with a football lesson and there are plenty of authentic materials. In this case, the material was not the primary aim of the lesson, just support.

A Technology Wow Moment in the Classroom (Wordle)

In-company training, on site…
Level: B1
Class size on paper 14
Class size in reality 6
Never know who is going to show up, no materials, no syllabus... but training objectives.
Approach: Dogme or Just In Time Coaching whichever applies at the time
Lesson Aim: Take conversation into a language/skill direction (lexis, grammar, function, emails, presentations, etc.)

We started with a conversation about how they are doing... Is work stressful? How is everyone feeling? The company has seen drops in revenue and morale has been low. I know that they are entering budgeting time and must create forecasts for the next fiscal year. They are busy.

I asked them about their budgeting forecasts. Are they finished? Are they still working on it? I am fishing for tenses (present pref. and cont., past, will future) we have seen in past lessons.

A woman says that she is having a really hard time creating forecasts because they have cancelled an agreement with a customer. All question why the company would stop selling to a customer. I thought of an example with a mobile provider in the US (Sprint) which fired over 1000 customers because they were unprofitable. I took the devil's advocate role and I said, "I don't know the whole situation, but I think it is okay to fire customers." (Note: I have fired BE customers because they demanded more than they were worth.) I asked them to brainstorm why a company would fire a customer while I found an article online about the mobile provider.

They came up with nothing.

Now came my moment of technical glory.

My computer was connected to the projector and they watched me copy the article into Wordle and create a word cloud. Ohhh! came from the crowd. I was thinking, "Yeah, that's right, this is cool." I changed the cloud so it appeared better on the screen. I set them the task of working in groups to define the words... starting largest first. I helped. The cloud was huge, but I was just trying to pre-teach vocab. I told them that we are going to read an article and the larger the word, the more often it appeared in the text.

Then we did a prediction exercise from the word cloud and I asked them to say what the company sells and why it fired customers. This was good.

Then we read the text... discussed and then talked about which of their customers monopolize resources (a collocation we identified). If I had had more time a great idea would be for them to write the email firing the customers... polite + bad news (I love this topic). Sadly the same group won't be back next week and we will have to find something else.

But for that wordle moment... It was amazing. They were in awe and I thought applause was coming.

Inter-cultural communication

I've only recently started dealing with culture in the classroom. Most of my learners have trouble with it in emails because fewer and fewer are travelling.

My approach is this... I teach the Germans German culture. It is unrealistic to try to teach all of them the dos and don'ts of all the countries they are dealing with. And I find the categories of high context and low context a bit unwieldy. We start getting into too many maybes and mights.

Here is my outline of German culture of German workers:

1.    Myths and Facts of German Culture

1.    Beer and Bratwurst (in reality, significant regional variety; stronger regional than national identity)

2.    Punctuality (true; skeptical of spontaneity)

3.    Order and Discipline (rules ensure equitable enjoyment of societies benefits; example jaywalking, subway tickets, autobahn; misconception about German humor, it is very sarcastic and satirical)

4.    A Nation of Engineers (what quality means in German; misconception about value of creative thinking, "You can't make a Porsche and not be creative!")

2.    Public vs. Private

1.    Highly organized public sphere (clubs, groups)

2.    Hobbies taken to a professional level

3.    Low internal migration

4.    The difference between friend and acquaintance in German

5.    Privacy as mutual respect

3.    Communication Styles

1.    Prefer to see the fact and draw their own conclusions (nations of experts; example 35 y.o. worker in Germany has 20 years job experience, often much less in US)

2.    Foreigner may experience information overload

3.    Direct vs. impolite (the power of the truth; examples, how customer service is evaluated; the value of complaints)

4.    Professional disagreement (separating the opinion from the person)

5.    Making a decision (plan first, decide, follow plan; when problems arise, try to change the situation, not the plan)

This outline is just a summary, but my participants love it! They comment afterwards that they can see why emails and presentations haven't worked in the past.


For example, most people see negotiations as two sides trying to hash out a multi-million dollar merger or similar situation. But people bargain all the time. So in the bargaining section, I just make the task relevant to their situation.

It could be:

  • Buying knock-offs in the Czech Republic.
  • Getting their teenager to clean their room.
  • "Your goal is to take Friday off... get your colleagues to do enough of your work to accomplish this."
  • Sell a product no one would want (I think this comes from The Business from MacMillan) e.g. a 1985 Chevy with 200,000 km, an apartment next to a chemical plant, a broken remote control, etc.

In this case, I also like to teach the skill of convincing. This is usually in three steps.

1.    When someone objects or states an opinion you don't like, ask questions until you find a weak point. (question forms)

2.    Convert opinions into negative question forms. (simple to teach, often feel unnatural of learners at the beginning)

3.    Use hand-off questions to bring allies into the dialog. (lexical chunks)

All three have language elements, and when they are put together make a nearly unstoppable force.

Useful Language and ‘Phrasebook’ Training

I'm not sure if I am the first to use the term. It basically applies to those situations in which the trainer is given a set of materials for specific skills to teach useful phrases.  My thinking is, "Why don't we just send them a business English phrasebook and come back and test them in 6 months?" Hence the term.

Okay, I like models because I feel like they give the learner an idea of what right looks like. But I try to make the PPP model more interesting and personal. Today I taught a group of pre-int learners opening a presentation.

I used the content from BBC's Talking Business. I played the two presentations without any vocab prep and asked them to note the main subject of the presentations and two to three topics the presenter would be covering. They checked in pairs.

Then I played again and their task was to listen for discourse markers. They noted as many as they could find and again checked each other.

Next I pulled up the transcript on the projector in a word document. I gave them time to read and check. I noted the discourse markers and the use of "I'd like to" in the transcript. We talked a bit about why we would use discourse markers and the "would like" form.

Next, I had the marketing manager to come up, sit at the computer, and highlight (using the highlighter tool) any language from the text they would find useful for opening a presentation. His job was to elicit ideas from the group. I left the room.

Finally, I asked them to prepare an opening for a presentation. It could be a real scenario or simply a presentation about what they did last week. It was up to them. At this point, I purposely did not give them print outs of the text because the language transfer would take more effort from screen to paper. After 10 minutes of prep, they gave their openings in pairs and received peer/trainer feedback on clarity and organization. Most had written quite a bit and were using extensive notes to give their opening. So I had them switch partners and do it again without their notes.

So, this was a fairly straight forward lesson, but I like to allow them to choose the useful language they want. In the end, the presentations were very good, but the learners were not locked into a certain set of phrases. There's nothing crazy here, but it is an effective lesson with zero prep, a nice challenge, and clear takeaway for the participants.

1 comment:

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