Module 1| Background to Language Teaching| Presentation Techniques and Introductory Activities
The methods used by a teacher to introduce new language to students for the first time are called presentation techniques.
Have a look at the presentation stages in the descriptions of two lessons for elementary-level secondary-school students. What are the differences that you see between these stages?
Presentation, Practice and Production (PPP) lesson
Task-based Learning (TBL) lesson
Aim: students learn the difference between countable and uncountable nouns, and when to use a and some with them.
1. Ask students what food and drink they like at birthday parties.
2. Stick on the board magazine pictures of different party foods. (They should be a mixture of countable and uncountable nouns e.g. ice cream, sandwiches, cola, fruit, bananas, chicken legs, cake, a box of sweets.)
3. Ask students the names of the food items, write the names on the board under each picture and then do a quick choral drill on the pronunciation of these words.
4. Say to students: ‘I’m having a birthday party this weekend. I’d like a box of sweets and a cake for my party. And I’d like some ice cream, some cola and some fruit. I’d also like some sandwiches, some bananas and some chicken legs.’
5. Say ‘I’d like a box of sweets’, ‘I’d like a cake’, ‘I’d like some ice cream’, etc… and ask students to repeat each sentence chorally.
6. Point out to the students that you can count some nouns but you can’t count others. These are called countable and uncountable nouns. You use a with singular countable nouns and some with uncountable nouns or plural countable nouns.
7. Ask the students some concept questions, e.g. ‘Which of the food items on the board are countable/uncountable/singular/plural?
8. Students do a written gap-fill exercise, filling the gaps with a or some.
9. Students work in pairs with a worksheet of pictures of food and drink items. One student tells the other what they’d like for their party, e.g. ‘I’d like some/a…’, while the other student takes notes. Then they swap roles.
Aim: students choose food and drinks for a birthday party.
1. Hold a discussion with the students about when their birthdays are, what presents they would like, what good birthday parties they have been to and what they like to eat and drink at birthday parties.
2. Put students into small groups and give them a worksheet with the pictures, names and prices of lots of party food and drink on it.
3. Tell the students to do this task: choose the food and drink they would like for a birthday party for ten friends keeping within a price limit e.g. $10.
4. The students do the task while the teacher goes round the class listening and answering any questions.
5. Each group tells the other groups what decisions they have made.
6. The students ask the teacher questions about any language they needed for the task and/or the teacher tells the students about any language she noticed they didn’t know while they were doing the task, e.g. the pronunciation of some food words, the grammar of uncountable and countable nouns.
7. Students do a written exercise on the new language.
The purpose of the introductory stage of a lesson is for the students to settle down into the lesson and concentrate on what it is about. Two types of introductory activities are:
- Warmers– These are usually used to bring up the students’ energy levels and make them feel at ease. Warmers are not always connected to the lesson topic e.g. warmers could be a game, quiz or even an activity which involves pair work.
- Lead-ins – these concentrate on motivating students and making links between the lesson topic and the students’ own lives and experience (personalisation) e.g. if the students are going to read a text about the Internet in one lesson, instead of giving them the text to read at once, the teacher could do one or more lead-in activities like discussing with the students about how regularly they use Internet, their purpose for using it, what their favourite websites or blogs are, etc. Otherwise, if the students are going to listening to a dialogue about their favourite T.V programmes in another lesson, the lead-in activities might be for example, making a list of the favourite T.v. programmes and talking about them with another student. The rest of the lesson may be to teach vocabulary relevant to the topic for the texts and comprehension tasks which will be coming next.
PPP vs. TBL
The two teaching approaches (PPP and TBL) mentioned in the first section of this lesson show how two common and dissimilar approaches can be employed in presenting new language items. The lesson on the left side of the table is an example of a PPP lesson whereas the lesson on the right is an example of a TBL lessons. There are several dissimilarities between these two lessons.
In the PPP lesson (Presentation, Practice and Production):
- There is a language aim.
- The teacher puts the new language into a situation which conveys what it means. This is called contextualisation. This is the first step (step 1).
- Then, the teachers makes certain that the students can remember the language that they have studied in previous lessons which they need to practice the new language. The teacher does this by asking the students to say the language instead of giving the language to them. This is called eliciting. The teacher also does a choral drille. making the entire class repeat what he/she says. These are steps 2-3. (Steps 2-3).
- The new language is presented by the teacher to the students and the students are only required to listen and pay attention. (Step 4).
- Then, the students say the sentences that contain the new language in a controlled or restricted practice This means an activity in which they can use the new language that they have learnt only and they can do it without making mistakes. (Step 5).
- The teacher informs the students about how to use the new language grammatically. (Step 6).
- The teachers asks concept questions from the students. Concept questions are questions that are asked in order to check the student’s understanding of the use of the new language. (Step 7).
- Then the students do another controlled practice activity. (Step 8).
- The students do less controlled or freer practice using the new language. This is where they can make use of their own opinions and ideas. (Step 9)
As you can see, in a PPP lesson, the teacher does these three things:
- The teacher presents the new language to the students in a context.
- She/he makes the students practice the new language in controlled practice activities.
- She/he requests the students to use the new language in less controlled activities, in a communicative way.
In the Task-based Learning (TBL) lesson:
- The aim of the lesson is so that the students will complete a task which is an activity in which they try to accomplish something that is real, and have to communicate in order to do it.
- The teacher begins the lesson by holding a discussion on the lesson topic. (Step 1)
- Then, the teacher gives the students some tasks to complete. (Steps 2,3,4,5)
- Afterwards, the teacher and the students have a discussion on any new language or problematic language which they needed to use for the task. (Step 6)
- Finally, the students are given an exercise to complete by the teacher on the new language. (Step 7)
As you can see, in a TBL lesson the teacher gives the students tasks to complete and presents the new language to the students after they have found it necessary for use. The teacher only presents language which he/she or the students have distinguished as necessary.
If a teacher takes the PPP approach to presenting new language to the students, it gives the students a chance to practice the language in an environment which is safe to learn and in where it is not easy to make errors. Therefore, it can be an approach that builds confidence for the students. However, it makes the students learn language items in which they might be uninterested or unready to learn. It also gives them few opportunities to really make use of the language in communication.
On the other hand, the TBL approach gives the students opportunities to discover new language when needed or wanted and to experiment with using the language in a creative way for actual communication. Hence, it puts second language learners into a situation which is like the one in which kids learn their first language. To some students, this approach to language learning may not be exciting and challenging. Other students might want more guidance and structure to aid them.
There are different ways of presenting new language other than PPP and TBL. For example, a teacher can present new language to his/her students after they have come cross it in a reading or listening text which they first use for comprehension. Another way is by holding a discussion on a certain topic and then introducing new language in the context of the discussion. Yet another way is by giving students a task that in which they have to use new language, and after the task is completed, the teacher should present the new language to them and then give them another task to practice what they have just learnt (Test-teach-test).
The nerd baby says ...
In order to present new language, the teacher has to make a few different choices such as:
- When the new language should be presented to the students. Whether it should be presented before (as in PPP) or after (as in TBL) the students try to use the new language.
- What language items and how many of them should be presented (new grammatical structures, new vocabulary, new lexical phrases, new functional exponents, new topics). In PPP the teacher has to make the choice. In TBL the teacher and the students make the choice. Sometimes only the students are allowed to make the choice in TBL.
- What context the new language should be presented in. Both TBL and PPP new language items are presented to students in a context which is meaningful. This means it is a context that shows the meaning of the new lnaguage, and it is
- What materials are to be used to aid in creating the context. For example, pictures, videos, cassettes, worksheets.
- How the meaning or the use of the new language should be shown. For example, explanation, translation, presenting through a situation.
- Which aspects of the new language should be presented? One, some or all of the following: meaning/use, pronunciation, grammar, spelling?
When doing introductory activities, the teacher has to select interesting and relevant warmers and lead-ins. The warmers are used in order to make the students feel comfortable and prepared for the lesson whereas the lead-ins introduce the topic of the lesson to the students and the main language points that they need to complete the main tasks of the lesson. Warmers may not always be needed since students may arrive at the lesson already prepared to learn.
How you must present new language or introduce your lessons depends on your students. It depends on their level, interests, age, weaknesses and strengths in English, learning styles and what language they already have learnt and know. Also, they depend on the resources which you can find in your school and approach to the presentation which is used in your coursebook.
Test your knowledge
Go through the following and decide which of them are presentation activities.
- The students read an article taken from a newspaper and do a comprehension task on the article.
- The students ask the teacher how to say certain phrases in English and the teacher tells them.
- The teacher says two new functional exponents to the students and the students are asked to repeat them.
- The teacher makes the students notice that in the task many of them pronounced the word station They are asked to repeat it after the teacher.
- The students have a discussion.
- The teacher creates a context for introducing he and she by using a picture story.
Here are some comments from teachers about TBL. Do you agree with them? If so, which do you agree with and why?
- Students prefer a PPP approach to a TBL approach.
- TBL is similar to the methods we use to learn a new language in our first language.
- I make sure that I always present new language to the students in the exact same way as it was taught to me when I was in school.
Questions 1-6 given below are parts of a presentation stage. Match these with the names on the right side of the table listed A-G. You will find that there is an extra one which does not need to be used.
Parts of a presentation stage
1. Went, came, chose, swam, ate, thought, ran
2. The teacher talks to the students about a great holiday which she went on last summer.
3. Photos of last summer’s holiday.
4. The teacher asks the students: ‘when am I talking about? Am I talking about the past, the present or the future?’
5. The teacher drills the pronunciation of the new words.
6. The teacher says: ‘we use the past tense to talk about actions in the past that have completely finished.’
A. Concept question
B. Aids in presentation
C. Context for presentation
D. Freer practice activity
E. Language selected for presentation
F. Controlled practice activity
G. Explanation of use