Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do you have any TOEIC?

I know I should really try to post these the day of the class, but yesterday and even today were spent pretty much formatting my computer, so I did not have the time. Fortunately, the computer is back to to normal and completely refreshed for a new start!

Today we focused on listening strategies, mainly predicting context from key words skimmed from the question and answers for parts 3 and 4 of the TOEIC. However, before we started, we did unit 2's mini-test, which focused on part 2 of the test, and then looked at their vocabulary homework – vocabulary quizzes found at the back of the book. Once we had worked through this we started unit 3. I introduced the main focus of the chapter and then had a student read aloud the test tip. I then had them do question 2 which asked them to look for keywords in the questions and answers. I gave them about a minute to do this, then asked for their answers and followed that up with a short listening. We then did exercise 3, but we did not go through the key words, I just told them to skim the questions and answers for a minute before I played the CD; the mini-test was done in much the same fashion. Interestingly, I noticed that students had more trouble with the first two questions than with the mini-test. Considering that we only practiced twice before the mini-test, I don't think I can associate their improvement with that, but rather I think they were more comfortable with the vocabulary; also, one of the conversations used British English, and for many students this can be difficult to understand since many schools, maybe even most, focus on North American English. I did recommend that they listen to the BBC, but it may be a good idea to look for some simple British English listening sites to give them in the future. I also told them that vocabulary is extremely important and that the more they review and study vocabulary, the easier the listening will become. Of course, it is also important to listen to English as much as possible, but even if you can catch the word, if you don't know it or its related word ie synonym/antonym, you are really back to square one.

I will not really write out in detail what I did for unit 4 because Parts 3 and 4 are very similar and thus so are their chapters in this book. However, unlike chapter 3 I had them do the first question of chapter 4 which focused on paraphrasing, another common feature of the TOEIC. I also had students read the test tips aloud, but I skipped question 2 and went on with question 3. Again one conversation seemed easier for them than the other, which could be attributed to things such as lack of vocabulary and unfamiliarity with the situation in question. For example, the first announcement was clearer in my opinion than the second, which was someone, probably a chief or manager talking at a meeting about deadlines and a project.

Like last week, we did not have enough time to finish unit 4, so we will do that next class. Maybe it might be a good idea to continue in this way because it does give them some extra review each consecutive week.

One thing I am also noticing is that perhaps I am going to fast in this class; I am doing two lessons a class and that is possibly a lot of vocabulary for some. It may also be a good idea to give students the listening scripts afterward, so that they can see where they went wrong because despite the fact that I am explaining the answers orally, this may not be understood by all, so giving them the scripts may be a surefire way of helping them understand, while at the same time, giving them some new vocabulary.

Another thing that I cannot stress enough and I'll probably say this each week is that vocabulary is important and needs to be studied. This is only my third time if you count the advanced classes, but it is something that I have noticed each time – vocabulary is probably the biggest part, followed by the strategies. Some of you may disagree with me on that, but that is what I believe. Therefore, it may be a good idea to reconsider my classes and slow down a little more and focus on the scripts and vocabulary. Of course, that will mean that I will probably, no I will definitely have to reduce the amount of the textbook, which although something I would prefer not to do, since the students have bought the book and so there is a big part of me that would like to finish the majority of it, I will have to compromise and focus on each chapter more deeply, and see if that helps my students.

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