We are heading into winter here in New Zealand, and as we approach the end of our first semester of the year, my class is getting ready for their final exams. It’s a difficult time because you want them to do as well as they can, but some will struggle with nerves or a lack of preparation or simply bad luck. You don’t want to teach towards the test, but you do want them to perform as well as they do in your classes.
Listening tests and assessments are particularly anxious times for students. The text is carefully chosen for level and pace. Some institutions opt for male voices because their pitch might be easier to pick up. Discussions take place as to how familiar the vocabulary is and where the learners are going to have issues. The tasks are carefully chosen and instructions written. On the day, the listening is played twice, the tasks are carried out and we wait for the student reaction. It can only be ‘easy’ or ‘too difficult’. It is usually a thin dividing line between the two. All you can do is encourage your students to practise listening at every opportunity in a systematic way. Have a look at the article on listening logs in this issue for more ideas.
Speaking tests can also be nerve-wracking. As students get nervous, delivery speed often increases and intelligibility declines. Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but it usually makes better. My intermediate class have to do a 6–8-minute presentation. They will rehearse three or four times with me as well as four or five more alone or with family and friends. We also encourage them to record themselves, listen and re-record a better version. We are not encouraging them to memorise the presentation, but they do have to know it well enough to deliver it pretty much word perfect. I have talked before about getting your learners to say certain key words perfectly in order to make themselves more easily understood. We have spent a lot of time drilling useful collocations connected to the theme of their presentation, such as global warming, traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
The theme of this issue is Teacher Development and it is interesting to note that this is the second time we have had an issue on this topic. It was chosen after a survey on Twitter and more than half of the issue is dedicated to it. I lead a lot of PD sessions myself and I am always amused by teachers who do not necessarily want to attend but end up being fully engaged and taking at least one new idea away. No matter how long we’ve been teaching, it is always good to revisit the basics or look at some new activities. Teachers who have the opportunity to get together with colleagues during the week are so much luckier than those who can’t. That’s my opinion anyway!
Speaking as someone who started out as a teacher, did various management roles and then returned to teaching, I cannot stress how important it is to reflect on your teaching and think about small changes. Have a look at the articles on reflection and looking after yourself. I hope this issue will encourage you to continue to develop, maybe even to the point of contributing an article yourself. I am always keen to hear from new authors. In the meantime, get inspired by this issue and make sure that you and your learners keep getting recharged.
Editor: Robert McLarty
Robert McLarty has been involved in Business English teaching since 1979. He is a teacher and teacher trainer, and has run a number of RSA Diploma and teacher-training courses. From 1986 to 1997, Robert was the Director of ILC Paris. In 1998 he moved to Oxford to run OISE Oxford and in 2004 he joined Oxford University Press' ELT Division as Publishing Manager, Business English.
Follow us on twitter: