Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate Meaningful Practice Meaningful Practice

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    • #8178


      If you are currently teaching, look in your material. If you are not yet teaching, look in a coursebook in use where you work or study. Find one or two examples of meaningful practice activities and one or two examples of activities which are not meaningful.

      Write a short description of the activities and your comments on them.

    • #8257

      Rhett Burton

      I like how this task starts with ‘ look in your materials’ because it allows us to use something other than course books as a source of content. To me, this is important because I don’t use a traditional course book for my classes. Instead, I aim for a compelling character and story that hooks students interested. I aim to incorporate materials (flashcards, games, and a variety of tools ) that help facilitate the skills required to achieve the goals.

      Source of materials: Uno
      UNO is a well-known game where students have to match the color and/or numbers. It is meaningful because students are invested in finishing the game first. Each round elicit an emotional reaction- can/can’t play. Students will also be compelled to play with/against the other players. They will naturally make suggestions, give orders, and show appreciation for each other’s gameplay. For me, this is a good example of meaningful practice.

      Source of Materials: Form Focused Gap Fills
      Many teachers are lead down the path of providing materials that are not age/skill/knowledge appropriate for their learners. Many teachers lack the time, knowledge, experiences to provide materials that build on what the students have already learned. Instead, they rely on examples of what they know. Example: Teachers generate 10 random phrases that focus on the form. These phrases may or may not incorporate the communicative functions that the course aims to meet. These phrases may also be out of context and/or don’t recycle vocabulary or linked patterns. Note: This type of word can be great at flooding comprehensive input depending on the age and skill of the students. 

      • #8287

        Barbara Bujtás

        Thanks for the Uno idea, I need to get a deck. Exactly what sort of language do they use when playing?

      • #8291

        Rhett Burton

        Playing UNO with A1 level Students

        I like to focus on grammar and vocabulary. Students must express language as they engage with the cards.

        Turn-Taking: My turn. Your turn. Not your turn. His/her turn. look 1,2,3. He is first. You are second. You are after him/her.

        Examining cards: I have a green card. I have two red cards. I have a green card and two red cards. I don’t have a blue card. I want a blue card because I don’t have a blue card. Let’s change.

        Playing the cards: I have a green card. I don’t have a green card. I don’t have green, but I have a 5. I can change the color. I have three cards. I have two cards. UNO. I have one card.

        Finishing: I am first. She is first. I am second. Etc.

        These are the general patterns that emerge naturally when playing UNO. Nothing is forced, and generally, you can see the students thoughts AS they are interacting with the cards in their hands.

      • #8294

        UNO is also great because it’s widely available and older kids may be familiar with the basic rules. My teenage and uni students in Japan used to enjoy it, too. However, by that age, of course, many of them need other types of language review and practice in order to further their development. As such, we used AGO which was really popular: https://www.agocardgame.com/index.html

        (I’m not in any way affiliated with them, but perhaps I should ask them for commission if you end up buying some, hehe!)

    • #8286

      Barbara Bujtás

      Sometimes we do pancake art in the lesson. This lends itself to drilling some and any.

      I usually prepare the ingredients on the kitchen table along with some extra things:
      black pepper

      T: let’s see what we need for the pancake batter. Do we need any milk? (showing up the milk) Yes, we do. or No, we don’t?
      S: Yes, we do.
      T: Do we need any black pepper?
      S: No, we don’t.
      T: Do we need any …

      After this stage they can practise statements, like We don’t need any …

      We organize the ingredients in a neat line on the table, each student goes along the line:
      We don’t need any mustard, we don’t need any black pepper, we need some sugar, …

      Then the order of the ingredient in the row is changed and it’s another student’s turn.

      In Minecraft-based lessons, we can ask our student(s) about a Minecraft world they have recently played in and ask what items there are in the world.
      T: Is there a long river in your world?
      S: No, there isn’t.
      T: Are there any endermen?
      S: Yes, there are.
      T: Are there any TNT blocks?
      S: No, there aren’t.

      Then the learners can ask the teacher or each other about their MC worlds.

      • #8295

        Great to have real-life, hands-on activities like cooking. I really like the ingredients in a line activity – like thinking aloud when we’re in a shop!

        Similarly, one of my private company classes in Japan a few years back also wanted to do a cooking lesson as well as ‘dinner party’ English conversation. The classes were opt-in by employees but paid for by the CEO. We had 4-12 students in any class, averaging 6-8 depending mostly on each person’s work commitments. Most students were ‘false’ beginners with 1-2 low intermediates and one high-level student who was shy to talk.

        A. In class, we did a lesson on exchanging recipes then to make it meaningful we followed up by cooking together and dinner at one of their homes, almost all in English. We didn’t have all the realia etc like you in our lesson, although with more planning, I realise we could/should have done!

        The materials were recipes the students knew themselves, had or found in books or online.

        To introduce/review vocabulary, I got students to complete a picture/word matching task (e.g. Peel … Cut … Chop … Pour … Mix … ).

        Then we also used other phrases for asking/giving instructions like and sequenced a recipe:
        What do we need? What should/do I do first? What’s next? etc

        We also did checking instructions,  e.g. So, first we … Then … After that?

        B. For the dinner party conversation, like most of their classes, I developed my own task-based materials/handouts, including tasks such as:

        • Brainstorm good/bad dinner party conversation topics (small groups).
        • Share answers with a partner from the other group
          It’s good to talk about _______
          It’s ok to ask about _______
          Its not so good to discuss ______
          *It’s better to avoid  __~ing _____

        The meaningful practice activities utilised some drills and mini-dialogues, suited especially to the majority beginner levels but with adaptations for the one higher-level student*.

        • Conversation starters
          (1) Asking simple questions at a partySo, how do you like ________? (the music/the wine, etc)
          (2) Giving compliments, for example:
          I love _______
          I really like ________

          The ________ is ________  (pasta/delicious, wine/excellent, sauce/*out of this world etc)
        • Accepting/Returning compliments
          Why thank you … (+ return compliment)
          Oh, that’s sweet of you …
          (+ return compliment)
          *Ah, that’s very kind of you to say … (+ return compliment)
        • Showing agreement and enthusiasm

          *I couldn’t agree more!
        • Asking simple follow-up questions (using past simple), for example:
          Where did you get it?
          Who made it?
          How did you make it?
    • #10085

      Masatoshi Shoji

      Meaningful practice
      Warm Up
      1.Would you like to eat the food in the photo?
      2.What is your favorite food?
      3. Which country’s food do you like most?
      (These questions are personalized.)

      practice which is not meaningful
      Combine the two sentences using appositives:
      Charlie is my brother. He is going to university in London.
      (This is just a practice of form.)

      • #10099

        Good example practice activities that are meaningful and not meaningful. How can we get students to make the second example meaningful?

    • #10086

      Masatoshi Shoji

      This is very practical and meaningful lesson which I have never experienced.

    • #10145

      Masatoshi Shoji

      Charlie is my brother. He is going to university in London.
      Replace the words with their family or famous people.
      Then, the sentence might be personalized a bit.
      Trump is the President of USA. He plays golf sometimes.
      Naoki is my brother. He is going to a grocery store.

      • #10151

        Right. So one more thing that is important to make explicit is the FUNCTION or USE of language so that students understand how to apply it.

        So, in what real situations would we say the above sentences and why?
        (If we can’t answer this then, of course, we cannot expect students to be able to and it will be meaningless and soon forgotten.)

    • #10150

      As you can appreciate, PERSONALIZATION is sometimes referred to as ‘the 4th, missing P’ in PPP

    • #10153

      Masatoshi Shoji

      When you really want to inform the name of someone or something, you want to add this.
      If you see a Chinese restaurant at the corner, Forbidden City, you can easily find my house.
      It’s just right next to the restaurant.

    • #10313

      Rhett Burton

      In my TDV2 video, I used a set of brown bear puzzles to reinforce the patterns that are covered in the textbook- “want”. I sometimes question whether the activities I choose to strengthen the activities are meaningful.

      Puzzles are meaningful.
      Children like puzzles. You will find puzzles in every child’s collection of toys. I use puzzles as an interactive flashcard that lets students interact as a reward. Note- I like puzzles of single images. Students have to use language that aligns with their wants. They will ‘want to do’ puzzles they can achieve. They ‘don’t want’ puzzles that they didn’t ask for. They will “want to do’ puzzles that they haven’t completed. They ‘don’t want’ puzzles that they have completed. All these interactions are authentic and personalized when presenting the task with language usage in mind.

      Puzzles aren’t meaningful.
      I accept that puzzles are not meaningful because putting together a puzzle doesn’t require any Target Language. If you put a puzzle in front of the student, they will do it, and they will not understand why they are doing it. Yes. They will enjoy it, but they won’t do meaningful practice and will often complete the task in their L1.

      An aside:
      In our private group discussing our TDV 2, Phil mentioned that I could grade the task by presenting different grammar structures while using other mechanics (I need ***. Do you have ***? Who has ***? ). I love these kinds of suggestions because they allow me to modify an activity for any level.

    • #10328

      It’s interesting to see how you appreciate that puzzles can be meaningful or meaningless in terms of L2 use.

      This also extends to games like Jenga, or even Uno, where students can play with very little L2 so we may need to (a) adapt them and/or (b) teach useful language for (i) general use (e.g. Who’s turn is it?) and (ii) specific game play (e.g. You can put down the same number or colour.), as you have done well with UNO.

    • #10373

      Jessica Sohn

      Meaningful practice:
      -Repetitive practice exercises.
      -I realized that if I put in some interesting, funny pictures into the exercise
      the students tend to get more engaged.(adding a piece of creativity)
      -For example, if I add the students’ name into the exercise, they tend to remember, get motivated and get the answer/concept easily.

      Meaningless practice:
      -Repetitive drills with no meanings.
      -Just going through the exercises in the textbook.

      Interesting to see how repetitive drills can be both meaningful and meaningless.
      I feel if the teacher can add creativity according to the level and class,
      I think it can turn into a meaningful practice.

      • #10375

        Yes, getting students involved creatively is one way to help them bring meaning to practice activities, and using interesting/funny and relevant pictures is good, too.

        The key is that the students understand the language that they are manipulating, otherwise they might only be doing mechanical practice with no meaning for them. This can often be true with listen and repeat or substitution drills, but it can also be true with transformation drills.

        Can you share concrete examples of activities that are meaningful and activities that are not?

    • #10379

      scott gray

      Textbooks the boon and bane of teaching. I find it really is all in how the teacher uses it. In my old little kids class I think a teacher once said in a seminar about his book I went to that in a kids class your textbooks should only be open less than 8 minutes in a class. So, even just the beginning vocabulary section if tweaked can be meaningful but if just repeated or read then it moves along the continuum to meaningless practice. As an example, take a Get Ahead series book, the teachers says put the book on your head. Now when I say go I want you to open you book turn to page 27 and touch the picture of a desk. Go! Then when done and everyone knows which picture and word it is. Close your book, now put it behind your back, when I say go turn to Unit 3 vocabulary and point to a bag, 1,2,3 goldfish, wait for it 1,2,3, go! So then the drilling can be fun and you can expand to now, touch X’s bag. Point to Y’s desk. So I think it is really in how they are used. If you just take the drills and exercises as they are, yeah fairly meaningless most of the time. If the teacher uses it as suggestions and tweaks it according to their student’s then I think it can be real meaningful. Again, here, if in the fluency strand then drilling can be really beneficial, too.

      • #10390

        Good example, Scott, of sequencing practice activities out of the textbook to be more meaningful for students.

        As you know with textbooks, and highlighted by Jack Richards (as I just posted for the previous lesson, too), quite often we see the progress from the presentation of meaning and focus on form (with mechanical drills) to more meaningful practice, typically with some room for personalisation, before hopefully giving students an opportunity to use language more freely and communicatively.

        Drills in Language Teaching

    • #10380

      scott gray

      If I can in my next TDV maybe I can sneak a version of Jenga I do as review for questioning each other that I made from a cheap plastic rip off and a die I got from a toy store who gave an awesome seminar on playing games for young kids. I still play a few of them with my boys that can be tweaked to make them educational in addition to being fun. No promises but I will try to fit it in my recording.

    • #13127

      Naoko Amano

      Stories can be meaningful or meaningless. It depends how you approach the activity.

      If it is only fun, it is not good enough. It should be useful as well.

      I did a Halloween story with two boys in grade two elementary school.

      Some key points to make it meaningful are:

      1. Make it interactive. For example, Ss say “Knock knock Trick or Treat” with each page. Another way is to give Ss a task. How many ________? What’s the boy’s name? How many candies did he get?

      2. Give Ss a challenge – Boy’s name, number of candies, number of Jack O’lanterns

      3. Post story activity – Find the differences between two versions of Bobby’s bedroom. Focus on “There is/are, There is/is not” … on the ______

      • #13169

        Great points, Naoko, and nice practical classroom ideas!

        One other activity that my young learners enjoy is ‘correcting’ my (deliberate) mistakes. For example, I might say, “There’s a ghost (in the room)!” when the picture has a skeleton, and see how they react. And it’s fun to introduce “Pantomine” expressions, “OH NO, THERE ISN’T!” (-> There’s a skeleton.)

    • #15552

      Rhett Burton

      I work with young learners. I like using contextualized exercises, activities, and tasks that allow for natural emergent language to occur. As a teacher, we can always watch and listen for moments that make grammar very visible and comprehensive for our students. I like to stay flexible and adaptable to help personalize the experience for each learner. A good teacher understands the most meaningful set of processes for their students at different stages of the lesson or course (syllabus). A good teacher knows when to provide higher and lower support to promote autonomy. These are judgments that a book or syllabus cannot make.

      I believe that meaning is applied when students and teachers see the value in it. A diamond has no value to a toddler yet has immense meaning for an adult. Using students’ language or work to generate improvements in their language/work seems like a good place.

      Is writing the alphabet every day meaningful?
      Maybe not for all. But it’s very meaningful for students who want to learn how to write all the letters by heart.

      Is UNO meaningful?
      Maybe not for a nurse who needs to learn about the human body in English.

      We need to understand our students to figure out how to make the content most meaningful.

      • #15713

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts and examples of relative meaningfulness, in addition to some of your teaching tenets.

        In addition to writing the alphabet, playing UNO, completing puzzles and gap drills, what are some of the other most meaningful practice activities for your students? And when some students don’t see the meaningfulness, what steps help you to ‘get them onboard’?

    • #17174

      David Booton

      What I am doing with my class this week, for the first two lessons the class will be divided into groups and they will look through a toy flyer and decide on things that they like and why.  The other members of the group must listen and write down what the other members like and why.  After a suitable amount of time, they switch groups and talk about what others want and why.

      The last two lessons we will be playing secret Santa where the students are given names of students and must go around the class and ask the other students what the person wants.

      eg “Do you know what …. wants?”

      “I think he/she wants…. because…”//”sorry, no I don’t”

      They will then use this information to fill in a worksheet and make a guess as to what the person wants.

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