Whilst July 4 is remembered in the United States for independence and the fourteenth in France for the storming of the Bastille, I have greater affection for the third of this month seventy years ago when the “Mallard” broke the speed record for steam engines at 126mph. (Wikipedia link )
End-of-the-platform anoraks of yesteryear are your modern-day must-haves on the pub quiz team. As a former train spotter from the Midlands, my rail and bicycle trips to Rugby, Nuneaton and Grantham together with local observations in London have enriched my knowledge and curiosity on such diverse subjects as the states of Canada, famous admirals, classical gods, British warships, British regiments, famous racehorses, sundry names for antelope (as yet untapped!), famous stately homes and football clubs inter alia.
Snow Hill station in Birmingham and Margate on holiday added to my knowledge of kings and castles, public schools and the world of King Arthur respectively.
Making use of realia
What we dismiss as junk mail may be of value in the classroom; before you bin the next menu from the local pizza parlour or the flyer from the potential handyman which lands on your doormat, consider their potential as a change from the course book and an opportunity for students to develop real-life skills.
Visits to supermarkets can prove valuable educational shopping trips if you collect special offer leaflets and sales promotions.
The Post Office, banks and local tourist offices among others are a permanent source of take-away brochures and leaflets.
The information to be gleaned from all the above-mentioned can be phrased in language appropriate to the level of your class (es); the results will almost certainly boost the confidence of students as they realize they can understand something from outside in the safe environment of the class.
An aspect of pronunciation practice my students enjoy is a handout “quilt” of cut-out numerical expressions from the local newspaper – telephone numbers, prices, dates, websites, postcodes, percentages and fractions also test the use of the words “comma, point and dot”.
Check-in or check in?
“Is this the Manchester check-in?”
“Do you have luggage to check in?”
The first example includes a phrasal verb used as a noun; the word is hyphenated and stress is on the verb.
In the second example the phrasal verb is used and the stress is on the particle to differentiate it from other phrasal verb expressions using the word check such as check out or check up.
Not all such nouns are hyphenated, but the change of stress is consistent.
Consider standby and stand by, getaway and get away, outbreak and break out: can you write sentences to illustrate the difference and read them aloud with the correct stress?
Other than verb tenses, the point of grammar I am constantly asked to revise with all my classes is the use of prepositions. So here is my proposition.
To accommodate a wider range of learning styles I like to utilize the physical and human resources of the classroom to practise prepositions, especially of time and position.
The personal and visual aspects of the learning add extra dimensions and help to consolidate the knowledge.
Language that is not locked inside a textbook or fixed on a handout may be remembered with an extra frisson of personal involvement with the language-learning process.
Classrooms are full of ins, ats and ons in terms of layout, seating positions offer potential for opposites, behinds, in front ofs, facings and next tos, depending of course on furniture arrangements.
Try a dummy-run in your mind’s eye and in the actual classroom as preparation and realize for yourself the full potential of such an exercise.