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Controlling time

本文作者: Jim Scrivener
期号:119  阅读数:5782
  An important lesson management skill is to make your material perfectly fit the lesson time. Here are some strategies for extending an activity and shortening over-long stages.


  General hints on timing

  1.Don’t start on a new activity with less than 5 or 6 minutes left in the lesson (unless it really is a super-fast stage). Better to use an extending technique (see below).

  2.Most teachers allocate their time forwards starting from the beginning of the lesson (e.g. “Activity one will take 10 minutes and then I’ll do activity two which will take 15 minutes …”). A more fruitful strategy is to plan time backwards from the end of the lesson, especially as the most important work tends to be in the key final stages rather than the lead-ins and warm-ups. Start calculating what you want learners to do in the final activity, and decide how long that might take to do. Then calculate back to the stage preceding that and work out that stage’s time. This allows you to think more realistically about how long you have for the early stages.

  Extension strategies

  1.To extend a discussion activity, towards the end, ask each pair or group to prepare a brief report back to the rest of the class on the most important or interesting things that have been said. After preparation time (1-4 minutes), students will listen to (and perhaps comment on) each other’s reports (another 5 minutes).

  2.Towards the end of a grammar exercise, ask students to write one (or more) new grammar questions in the style of the ones they have been answering (3-5 minutes). They can then swap these with other students and try to answer their questions (3 minutes).

  3.When you are reaching the end of a listening activity, pick one suitable sentence (more than 10 words, spoken quickly, if possible) and ask students to listen and write down every word they hear completely correctly. Check together at the end.

  4.If you have studied a reading text to death, but still have a few minutes left, ask students to put away the text and then tell them you will read it aloud — but with ten differences. They should listen carefully and spot what has changed. With weaker classes, just change key facts. Stronger classes can notice exact words and expressions changed.

  Shortening over-long stages

  1.Be pre-emptive.

  Try to spot timing problems early on. This allows you to make realistic decisions early on in a task rather than suddenly being forced to make drastic alterations at the last minute.

  2.Extend old tasks rather than start new ones.

  Think very carefully before starting a new activity, especially if it is late in the lesson. Isn’t it better to extend the previous activity till the end of the lesson rather than doing a rushed version of the next activity?

  3.Speed up early stages rather than cut off the end.

  If an activity does start late or looks like overrunning, don’t wait until the end and then suddenly cut it short. Decide early on how to alter the activity so that it still achieves what you want it to do. It’s often better to speed up an earlier part rather than to abruptly stop things when the bell rings.

  4.Offer choices.

  If you only have enough time to do one out of two possible activities, ask the class what they think. As with any ELT democracy, make sure that you hear (and take notice of) more than just the loud one or two that shout out first — and take care that you really do go along with class wishes, not just what you intended to do all along.

  5.Bend the laws of time.

  Remember that lesson time follows the laws of relativity! It is entirely flexible and seems different to different people. When you start an activity you can state how long students have to do it. (e.g. “You have 10 minutes.”) But just because you said a time limit — it doesn’t mean that you have to measure and keep it exactly! If you are running short of time simply announce “one minute left” even if students have had much less time than you previously announced! (No-one is likely to notice!)

  6.Pause mid-task.

  Although we are often trained to finish things off neatly within lesson time — maybe don’t worry about pausing tasks right in the middle (even mid speaking activity!) and picking them up again tomorrow or next time. This gives you a way of neatly linking lessons, as you can continue things from precisely where you left off — and students can take some time to re-tune themselves to where they were.



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