Long Live Exam Prep- Part Minus Two A: The First Lesson

As I explained in Part Minus One the first day of an exam prep class can be the stuff of TEFL nightmares. So here’s a suggestion for how to avoid unnecessary stress.

Before the lesson

Get there early. Move the furniture around. Groups of 3/4 desks together is usually best. Stick a post-it note on each desk with a marker pen for them to write their first name when they come in. Write your first name on the board (if appropriate- I know in some countries it wouldn’t be), and ‘Please try to speak in English’.

Starting the lesson

Introduce yourself (just your name) and ask the students in their groups to guess where you’re from, what you do in your free time, if you’re married/have children/have brothers and sisters, what languages you speak, etc etc. You then elicit their ideas and write them up on the board. This is what my FCE students came up with the other day (my IWB wasn’t working!).DSC_0007

I have to say that the life they invented for me was much more interesting than my real life! And they made me 5 years younger 🙂

You then tell them how many things they got right, but not which ones. In this case there were only three. Ask them to decide in pairs which ones they think are right and highlight these (I outlined them in blue in the picture). Then tell them how many they got right (green in the picture).

Now they write some questions to ask you to find out more information, but give them some restrictions in terms of grammatical forms so as to push them a bit. My students were B2, so I asked them to use:

  1. present perfect
  2. 2nd conditional
  3. a future form
  4. their choice

They came up with:

  1. Why have you chosen to teach at this school?
  2. If you could live in any country in the world, where would you go?
  3. What will you be doing in 5 years time?

When you’re eliciting the questions you can work on the pronunciation of connected speech and weak forms.

They then ask you the questions and you give your answers. After that, a B1 class would benefit from a spoken recap in pairs. That way you can check they’re following you and give them a little more practice.

Now it’s their turn to ask each other the questions, but they may need to change couple of things (like ‘teach’ in question 1). Give them time to do this, then get them up on their feet mingling and talking.

Use this as a diagnostic activity to see what they’re capable of. Monitor and collect examples of good and inaccurate language. Give some feedback and work on corrections.

After all that ask them: ‘So what does all this have to do with your exam?’

The answer is that they’ve just practised Speaking Part 1 without knowing it. They’ve also got to know their classmates, they’ve got to know you, and you’ve got a better idea of their ability.

————-

In Part Minus Two B I’ll outline a similar idea to Kyle’s carousel  to provide learner-centred instruction from day one.

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Author: Lindsey Clark

Currently following an MA programme in Applied Linguistics at Durham University, previously I was teaching in Italy (9 years) and the UK, next stop will be Greece. I'm a Cambridge speaking and writing examiner, a conference speaker, occasional teacher of Italian, aspiring author and always working hard at cultivating my own multilingualism. I'm particularly interested in student-centred approaches to preparing students for EFL exams. Other stuff I'm into: how English is really used by 'native' speakers (check out my Twitter account @ClarkLinz), using translation and L1, the Flipped Classroom, the Lexical Approach, and the usefulness and pitfalls of self-assessment.

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