Oxford's teachhing methods of english language

|Level: |Elementary (or as a review at higher levels) |

|Time: |45 minutes |

|Materials:|One dictionary per two students |


On the board write the following:


Its got more letters than

Its got fewer letters than

Its the same length as.

Its earlier in the dictionary than

Its later in the dictionary than

Its further on

Back a bit.

The first letters right

The first two/three/four letters are right

(or you could dictate this to the students if you want a quiet settling in

period at the start of the class)

In class

1. Explain to the students that youre going out of the room for a short

time and theyre to select one word for you to guess when you come back.

They find the word in their dictionaries.

2. Go back in and have a first wild guess at the classs word. The students

should tell you whether their word is longer, shorter or the same length

as your guess and whether its earlier or later in the dictionary. Here

is an example (teachers can correct pronunciation as they go along ):

|teacher: |Middle |

|students: |Its shorter. And its later in the dictionary. |

|teacher: |Train. |

|students: |Its Earlier. Its Got The Same Number Of Letters. |

|teacher: |Plane. |

|students: |Its Later. |

|teacher: |Rains. |

|students: |Its Later. Its Got The Same Number Of Letters. |

|teacher: |Seat. |

|students: |Its Longer.The First Letter Is Right. Its Later In |

| |The Dictionary. |

|teacher: |Stops. |

|students: |Its Earlier. |

|teacher: |Skirt. |

|students: |Its Later |

|teacher: |Spend. |

|students: |The First Two Letters Are Right. Its Later. |

|teacher: |Spine. |

|students: |Its Later. |

|teacher: |Spore. |

|students: |The First Four Letters Are Right. Youre Really Warm |

| |Now. Its A Bit Further On. |

|teacher: |Sport. |

|students: |Yes. |

3. You can write the words you guess and notes of the students answers on

the board as you go along, to help you to remember where you are. At the

beginning, you can prompt the students by asking questions such as Is it

shorter, longer or the same length as my word? Is it earlier or later in

the dictionary? etc.

4. When the students have got the idea of the game, reverse the process;

you think of a word (one from a recent lesson works well) and students

guess. You give them information as to length, place in dictionary and

any letters theyve guessed right.

5. Now hand over the exercise to the students. They should scan their

notes, textbooks and /or minds (but not dictionaries) and create a short

wordlist. Then in pairs or small groups they can repeat the activity.


This is a good game for teaching scan reading and alphabetical order when

using dictionaries. The revision or introduction of the grammatical

structures in a meaningful context is disguised since the students usually

see this is vocabulary game. Because it has a pretty tight structure and

build-up, its a good exercise for establishing the principle of

group/pairwork with a class that does not take readily to working in

different formats.


With some classes we have asked the students to analyze their own guessing

processes. Some students have written interesting short compositions on the

best guessing strategies.


|Grammar: |Second conditional |

|Level: |Lower to upper intermediate |

|Time: |30-45 minutes |

|Materials:|None |

In class

1. Ask a student to draw a head in profile on the board. Ask the student to

add eyes in the back of his head.

2. Give the students this sentence beginning on the board and ask them to

complete it using a grammar suggested:

If people had eyes in the back of their heads, then they

would/might/could/would have to (+ infinitive)

For example:

If people had eyes on the back of their heads they could read two

books at once (so two pairs of eyes).

3. Tell the students to write the above sentence stem at the top of their

paper and then complete it with fifteen separate ideas. Encourage the use

of dictionaries. Help students all you can with vocabulary and go round

checking and correcting.

4. Once students have all written a good number of sentences (at least ten)

ask them to form teams of four. In the fours they read each others

sentences and pick the four most interesting ones.

5. Each team puts their four best sentences on the board.

6. The students come up to the board and tick the two sentences they find

the most interesting. The team that gets the most ticks wins.


Students come up with a good range of social, medical and other hypotheses.

Here are some examples:

then they would not need driving mirrors.

they would make really good traffic wardens.

then you could kiss someone while looking away!


|Grammar: |Modals and present simple |

|Level: |Elementary to intermediate |

|Time: |30-40 minutes |

|Materials:|One large sheet of paper per student |

In class

1. Ask a student to draw a picture on the board of a person holding an

umbrella. The umbrella looks like this.

2. Explain to the class that this tulip-like umbrella design is a new,

experimental one.

3. Ask the students to work in small groups and brainstorm all the

advantages and disadvantages of a new design. Ask them to use these

sentence stems:

It/you can/cant

It/you + present simple

It/you will/wont

It/you may/may not

4. For example: It is easy to control in a high wind, You can see where

youre going with this umbrella

5. Give the students large sheets of paper and ask them to list the

advantages and disadvantages in two columns.

6. Ask the students to move around the room and read each others papers.

Individually they mark each idea as good, bad or intriguing.

7. Ask the student how many advantages they came up with and how many

disadvantages. Ask the students to divide up into three groups according

to which statement applies to them:

I thought mainly of advantages.

I thought of some of both.

I thought mainly of disadvantages.

8. Ask the three groups to come up with five to ten adjectives to describe

their group state of mind and put these up n the board.

9. Round off the exercise by telling the class that when de Bono asked

different groups of people to do this kind of exercise, it turned out

that primary school children mostly saw advantages, business people had

plenty of both while groups of teachers were the most negative.


Advantages the students offered:

In a hot country you can collect rain water.

It wont drip round the edges.

You can use it for carrying shopping.

Its not dangerous in a crowd.

Its an optimistic umbrella.

Its easy to hold if two people are walking together.

With this umbrella youll look special.

Itll take less floor space to dry.

This umbrella makes people communicate. They can see each other.

You can paint this umbrella to look like a flower.

Youll get a free supply of ice if it hails.


Listening to time

|Grammar: |Time phrases |

|Level: |Upper intermediate to very advanced |

|Time: |40-50 minutes |

|Materials |None |


Invite a native speaker to your class, preferably not a language teacher as

they sometimes distort their speech. Ask the person to speak about a topic

that has them move through time. This could be his country history. The

talk should last around twenty minutes. Explain to the speaker that the

students will be paying close attention not only to the content but to the

language form, too.

In class

1. Before the speaker arrives, explain to the students that they are to jot

down all the words and phrases they hear that express time. They don't

need to note all the words!

2. Welcome the speaker and introduce the topic.

3. The speaker takes the floor for fifteen to twenty minutes and you join

the students in taking language notes. If there are questions from the

students, make sure people continue to take notes during the questioning.

4. Put the students in threes to compare their time-phrase notes. Suggest

the speaker joins one of the groups. Some natives are delighted to look

in a speech mirror.

5. Share your own notes with the class. Round off the lesson by picking out

other useful and normal bits of language the speaker used that are not

yet part of your students idiolects.


One speaker mentioned above produced these time words: only about ten

years/there was a gap of nine years/ at roughly the same time/over the

next few hundred years/from 1910 until the present day/its been way back/

within eighteen month there will be/until three years ago/when I was back

in September


Choose the speaker who is about to go off on an important trip. In speaking

about this, some of the verbs used will be in a variety of forms used to

talk about the future.

Invite someone to speak about the life and habits of someone significant to

them, but two lives separately from them, say a grandparent. This topic is

likely to evoke a rich mixture of present simple, present continuos, will

used to describe habitual events, ll be ing etc.


To invite the learners to pick specific grammar features out of a stream of

live speech is a powerful form of grammar presentation. In this technique

the students present the grammar to themselves. They go through a process

of realization which is lot stronger than what often happens in their minds

during the type of grammar presentation required of trainees on many

teacher training courses. During the realization process, they are usually

not asleep.

Guess my grammar

|Grammar: |Varied+question form |

|Level: |Elementary to intermediate |

|Time: |55 minutes |

|Materials |None |

In class

1. Choose a grammar area the students need to review. In the example below

there are adjectives, adverbs and relative pronouns.

2. Ask each student to work alone and write a sentence of 12-16 words (the

exact length is not too important). Each sentence should contain an

adjective, and adverb and a relative pronoun, or whatever grammar youve

chosen to practise. For example: She sat quietly by the golden river

that stretched to the sea.

3. Now ask the students to rewrite their sentences on a separate piece of

paper, leaving in the target grammar and any punctuation, but leaving the

rest as blanks, one dash for each letter. The sentence above would look

like this:

--- --- quietly -- --- golden ----- that --------- -- --- ---.

While they are doing this ask any students who are not sure of the

correctness of their sentence to check with you.

4. Now ask the students to draw a picture or pictures which illustrate as

much of the meaning of the sentence as possible.

5. As students finish drawing, put them into groups of three. One person

shows the blanked sentence and the drawing, reserving their original

sentence for their own reference. The other should guess: Is the first

word the? or ask questions Is the second word a verb? etc. The student

should only answer yes or no. As they guess the words, they fill in

the blanks.

6. They continue until all the blanks are filled and then they do the other

two persons sentences.


Groups tend to finish this activity at widely different speeds. If a couple

of groups finish early, pair them across the groups, ask them to rub out

the completed blanked out sentences and try them on a new partner.


Ian Jasper originated this exercise. Hes a co-author of Teacher

Development: One groups experience, edited by Janie Rees Miller.

Puzzle stories

|Grammar: |Simple present and simple past interrogative forms |

|Level: |Beginners |

|Time: |30 minutes |

|Materials:|Puzzle story (to be written on the board) |


Ask a couple of students from an advanced class to come to your beginners

group. Explain that they will have some interesting interpreting to do.

In class

1. Introduce the interpreters to your class and welcome them.

2. Write this puzzle story on the board in English. Leave good spaces

between the lines :

There were three people in the room.

A man spoke.

There was a short pause.

The second man spoke.

The woman jumped up and slapped the first man in the face.

3. Ask one of the beginners to come to the board and underline the words

they know. Ask others to come and underline the ones they know. Tell the

group the words none of them know. Ask one of the interpreters to write a

translation into mother tongue. The translation should come under the

respective line of English.

4. Tell the students their task is to find out why the woman slapped the

first man. They are to ask questions that you can answer yes or no.

Tell them they can try and make questions directly in English, or they

can call the interpreter and ask the questions in their mother tongue.

The interpreter will whisper the English in their ear and they then ask

you in English.

5. Erase the mother tongue translation of the story from the board.

6. One of the interpreters moves round the room interpreting questions

while the other stays at the board and writes up the questions in both

English and mother tongue.

7. You should aim to let the class ask about 15-25 questions, more will

overload them linguistically. To speed the process up you should give

them clues.

8. Finally, have the students copy all the questions written on the board

into their books. You now have a presentation of the main interrogative

forms of the simple present and past.

9. After the lesson go through any problems the interpreters had-offer them

plenty of parallel translation.

The solution

The second man was an interpreter.

Further material

Do you know the one about the seven-year-old who went to the bakers? His

Mum had told him to get three loaves. He went in, bought two and came home.

He put them on the kitchen table. He ran back to the backers and bought a

third. He rushed in and put the third one on the kitchen table. The

question: Why? Solution: he had a speech defect and couldnt say th.

Word order dictation

|Grammar: |Word order at sentence level |

| |The grammar you decide to input in this example: |

| |reflexive phrases, e.g. to myself/by myself/in myself |

|Level: |Intermediate |

|Time: |20-30 minutes |

|Materials|Jumbled extracts (for dictation) One copy of Extract |

|: |from Sarahs letter per pair of students |

In class

1. Pair the students and ask one person in each pair to prepare to write on

a loose sheet of paper.

2. Dictate the first sentence from the Jumbled extracts. One person in each

pair takes it down.

3. Ask the pairs to rewrite the jumbled words into a meaningful sentence,

using all the words and putting in necessary punctuation.

4. Tell the pairs to pass their papers to the right. The pairs receiving

their neighbours sentences check out grammar and spelling, correcting

where necessary.

5. Dictate the second jumbled sentence.

6. Repeat steps 3 and 4.

7. When youve dictated all the sentences this way give out the original,

unjumbled Extract from Sarahs letter and ask the students to compare

with the sentences theyve got in front of them. They may sometimes have

created excellent, viable alternative sentences.

Jumbled extracts

1. Myself in absorbed more and more becoming am I find I

2. When mix I do other people me inside a confusion have I I find

3. David John and Nick as though I am me I do not feel when I walk through

the park with

4. Strange seems it and a role acting am I like feel I

5. Walk park myself talk aloud myself to I by the through I when

6. Completely feel content I

Extract from Sarahs letter

I find I am becoming more and more absorbed in myself.

When I do mix with other people I find I have a confusion inside me.

When I walk through the park with David, John and Nick, I do not feel as

though I am me.

I feel like I am acting a role and it seems strange.

When I walk through the park by myself I talk aloud to myself.

I feel completely content.

Grammar lessons Taking notes

Passive voice

During the lecture ask the students to note cases when we use passive:

1. In more formal contexts than active sentences.

For example: Your attention is drawn to Paragraph 6. (But note that

using got, usually makes the sentence less formal, for example: We got

beaten.They got married.)

2. when the agent is not clear.

For example: Their office was burgled.

3. or not important

For example: This cake was made from carrots.

4. or obvious

For example: They were all arrested.

5. to give emphasis to the passive subject and add weight to the message.

For example: A state of emergency has been declared.

6. to make our message more impersonal.

For example, as in a letter saying: No police action will be taken.

Read the following newspaper article and ask the students to:

. note down the six verbs that are in the passive

. suggest a possible reason for the use of the passive in this article.


|Schools and community groups will be the winners if the |

|world famous Philharmonia comes to town. |

|Negotiations are still under way to make Bedford the |

|orchestra's first British residency outside London |

|beginning in 1995, it has been confirmed. |

|What is being talked about is a strong educational |

|emphasis on the deal, which would see members of the |

|orchestra travelling into the community doing workshops |

|with school and other local groups in the borough. School|

|children will be invited in to the Corn Exchange for |

|afternoon rehearsals of the main concerts to be staged. |

|Massive alterations to the Corn Exchange are being |

|planned in tandem so that the orchestra, which was formed|

|in 1945, and the audiences watching them, will enjoy |

|superior back and frontstage facilities including new |

|sloped seating going from the stage to the present |

|balcony and a new auditorium. |


1. The six verbs in the passive are:

1. it has been confirmed

2. What is being talked about

3. School children will be invited

4. the main concerts to be staged

5. Massive alterations to the Corn Exchange are being planned

6. which was formed.

(Notice that there are five different forms of the verb be in these


2. The reason for so much use of the passive here could be that the events

which have occurred and those which are planned are more important than the

people behind them. It is also an informative article in a newspaper so

that some formality is more appropriate than it would be in a friendly

letter or in conversation.

Context and meaning

Lecture We'll turn now from context and grammar to the importance of

context for meaning. One aspect of meaning is the extent of meaning that a

word has. Imagine you are asked the meaning of the word chair. What do you

say? 'It's something you sit on', perhaps.What we need to know are the

boundaries of its use. Can you say chair for what you sit on in a train? In

a car? When milking? On a bike? In church? Suddenly all sorts of judgements

have to be made about whether you are going to introduce related words like

bench, stool, pew, seat, armchair.

So a simple question about a simple object leads into questions about its

use, and also what it must look like. Must a chair have a back? Legs? Arms?

This is important because although you may be able to translate chair, its

full range of meaning will never overlap 100% with its equivalent in

another language.

Now close your eyes and think white. If that's all I say, you are likely to

think of the colour white, perhaps on a wall or a shirt or paper. But if I

say white wine, you'll think of a yellow colour, or white people, a pinkish

colour, or a white lie, no colour at all. Clearly then, the meaning of

words often depends on the context.

| |

|In what different contexts could the speaker encountere |

|these words? See if you can find at least two different |

|contexts for each. |

|wings right-winger |

|term rate |

|bar |


Some of the possible contexts for these words are:

wings: theatre, bird or car

right-winger: football or politics

term: language, school or maths

rate: currency exchange, tax on housing, or speed of increase/decrease

bar: law, music or drinking.

You have just been thinking about different areas of meaning for the same

word. Sometimes these different areas depend on shared cultural assumptions

and usage. An example of this is a British Rail poster advertising their

Family Railcard, depicting a jungle with some monkeys playing in the trees.

The text under this poster reads:

|Grown-ups get 25% off rail fares. Your |

|little monkeys go for only 1.00. |

|Don't drag your feet (or your knuckles). A|

|family Railcard only costs 20 for a year |

|swing by and pick up a leaflet from any |

|main British Rail Station. |

Note different meanings of the words used here and their sense.


You would first need to establish that the usual meaning of all the words

was understood and then explain that monkeys can be used to refer to

children in English, that it carries the idea of naughtiness but that it's

used affectionately. To explain knuckles, you would have to refer to (or

demonstrate) how monkeys move, using their knuckles, and explain that

knuckles is substituting for the word feet in the phrase 'drag your feet'.

You would need to take the same approach to 'swing by'. It might be wise to

point out that the use of this sort of language can change quite quickly

and could become unfashionable in, say, ten years' time.

| |

|2. AAn advertisement for Remy Martin Champagne Cognac uses|

|three sentences suggesting that the consumers of the |

|product are very special. I have changed one word in each |

|to produce unusual collocations. Identify the word and |

|replace it with a word that collocates better. Ask another|

|person and see if they agree with you. |






2. You should have suggested:

1. vision: sight (vision doesn't collocate with land)

2. barbecue: party (barbecue doesn't collocate with throw)

3. applause: a (standing) ovation (applause doesn't collocate with


(Note that we need to add the indefinite article a, because ovation is a

count noun whereas applause is not.)

Bottom of Form 1

Subject matter lessons Taking notes

V The learners are watching a recorded university lecture on acid rain.

They are taking notes and will write a summary of the content, using

dictionaries (bilingual and monolingual as appropriate). Earlier the

teacher had elicited from them some of the key words used in the

lecture, their meaning and usage, and listed them on the board.

V Small groups of learners are trying to match some cut-out newspaper

headlines with the relevant articles. The teacher is going round

monitoring each group. Earlier they listened to, discussed and noted

some news items on the radio which introduced some of the vocabulary

they are encountering.

V Individual learners are scattered about outside the classroom asking

people pre-prepared questions about their opinions on a new sports

centre that is proposed in the area. They are talking in the

interviewees' mother tongue, and will then report their findings to the

rest of the class in English with the rest of the students taking notes

on the matter they present.

V Half the class are reading about the early life of a writer they have

chosen to study. The other half are reading about the same writer's

later life. They make notes of what they had learnt about unknown part

of writers life.In pairs they'll tell each other what they have found

out and then they'll each write an obituary.

V In small groups, the learners are looking at examples of different types

of text. Their aim is to identify what they are and note any differences

in style, formality, length, print-size, comprehensibility, grammar

patterns, etc. The examples include: a recipe, a newspaper article,

computer instructions, diary entries, an extract from a novel, a letter

to some English friends.


Each of the two methods has its own advantages and disadvantages and their

aims are quite different, thats why I included them both in this single

work. Games help students to relax, entertain and encourage them and help

to develop their communicative competence, while note-taking is a very

serious work demanding an amount of concentration and developing and

writing practice. Both of them are to be used in a write time and in a

write place. For some students games are a bit unserious while the other

part of students may find note-taking too fatiguing so the teacher must

take into account all these points. All in all with all these spots to

think over I find them necessary in teachers work. While some of the

methods are let be omitted by the teacher (like silent way, synthetic or

analytic (every teacher choose his own way to work with students)) the two

of these in my opinion must be included in the learning process. They act

like general concepts giving you a full lenth of technics to apply within

one method. They dont give strict directions of how to apply them but a

wide space for creative work.


French Allen, V. 1983. Techniques in teaching vocabulary. Oxford: Oxford

University Press.

Gear, J. and R. Gear. 1988. Incongruous visuals for the EFL classroom.

English Teaching Forum, 26, 2. pp.43.

Vocabulary picture puzzle. English Teaching Forum, 23, 4, pp. 41-42.

Gulland, D. M. and D. Hinds-Howell. 1986. The penguin dictionary of English

idioms. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Haycraft, J. 1978. An introduction to English language teaching. Harlow:


Hubbard, P., H. Jones, B. Thornton, and R. Wheeler. 1983. A training course

for TEFL. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lee, W. R. 1979. Language teaching games and contests. Oxford: Oxford

University Press.

Rixon, S. 1981. How to use games in language teaching. London: Macmillan

Publishers Ltd.

Mario Rinvolucri and Paul Davis.1992. More grammar games. Cambridge

University Press.

Abbott, G., D. McKeating, J. Greenwood, and P. Wingard. 1981. The teaching

of English as an international language. A practical guide. London:


Raimes, A. 1983. Techniques in teaching writing. New York: Oxford

University Press.

Games, Games, Games ( a Woodcraft Folk handbook sold in Oxfam shops in UK)

Berer, Marge and Frank, Christine and Rinvolucri, Mario. Challenge to

think. Oxford University Press, 1982.

Internet Key





This activity is particularly suitable for young learners

You can adapt this by preparing your own question sets for different

interrogative structures

This activity also works well with: present perfect+yet, like doing, like

having done, and modals

This activity can be adapted for use with all levels

This activity provides good skills practice in scan reading a dictionary



Mommy, where did I come from?




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