How to make up a syllabus, where to start from??

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How to make up a syllabus, where to start from??

Unread postby mzl14000 » 10 Oct 2008, 10:10

Hello Lucy,
I've just begun a new year teaching adults English.This is the beginning of my third year teaching French students English.
I finished a forty hour TEFL course, and am currently working on some specialist certificates (Business English). I finished a Young learners certificate, and I'll have three other certificates to finish afterwards. I have learned so much. Yet, I feel as though I'm not as well equipped as I should be.
For instance, I have two classes to teach. One called 3 level English and another called 4 level Conversation.The problem I'm having with both classes is that (I've done both classes twice so far) they are two hour classes, from 6-8pm, one on Monday evening, and they other on Friday evening, there are 30 lessons in the year. I better understand what kind of weaknesses these students have, but I don't know where to start correcting from. Some of the mistakes I keep hearing are pronunciation of course, word order, grammatical structure, confused words (faux amis),misuse of prepositions, he:she instead of it, vocabulary, they don't use any kind of idiomatic vocabulary, or expressions ( I don't even feel like a professional in all of this!) I don't have any kind of syllabus, neither do I have any kind of higher ups. I'm free to do as I please... I really want to do a good job and help my students to progress in a pleasant and especially logical manner. I'm at a loss though as to where to start.
Is there some kind of logical order to begin in??? How do I plan out my year in order to avoid jumping around in a useless manner? Which would mean waisting their time and mine.
As for my conversation class, they're a great group (the other class is too!) they hit it off at the start of class. They're a bunch of chatter boxes. I was so happy to feel their genuine excitement. The room was literally buzzing with energy. I was amazed at how happy they were just to converse. There was a real exchange going on in class.
This class is called English conversation. There are 6 students all men. Four of them are very strong students, the other two are much weaker. They're vocabularies aren't as wide, but they are ready to speak about anything and everything.
I made up a questionnaire and all of them feel it's better to speak even if it's with a lot of mistakes. They're not interested in spending much time on grammar in class. They wouldn't mind doing a bit at home. They're really interested in using their class time to speak.
My thoughts are that if I can get them to brainstorm in class on a topic or structure, I could then come back at them with the correct structure and vocabulary. Next put them into practice with appropriate activities. But I can't do the same thing all year because then boredom sets in... Yet there needs to be continuity. I hope this is making sense.
It seems to me that a syllabus is really important in order to deal with a wide range of areas. Though I have no idea as to how to make one up. What do I need to take into account...
Any help, ideas, insight into something I have overlooked... anything, would be much appreciated.
Thank you for making this kind of site available. MZ14000
mzl14000
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Re: How to make up a syllabus, where to start from??

Unread postby Lucy » 19 Oct 2008, 19:21

Hello,

I’ll answer your question in two separate posts as they concern 2 different situations.

Firstly, the errors that you mention are very common amongst French students; I’m afraid that even at high levels, they continue to make these mistakes. Below, I’ll describe some things you can do to help them improve:

Pronunciation: work on this regularly, for example ten minutes every lesson. You can use some phonemic symbols to help illustrate pronunciation. Show students the symbol, say it and ask them to repeat after you. Try to get hold of Pronunciation Games and use that for some activities in class. In later lessons, insist on correct pronunciation.

Faux amis: create some sentences using faux amis, have some correct and some incorrect. Show students the sentences and give them time to discuss in pairs which sentences are right and which are wrong.

Word order: give students jumbled sentences and ask them to re-order. Do a similar exercise to above: a sheet of sentences where some sentences are correct and others wrong (focusing on word order) students decide which are right.

Prepositions and grammatical structure: focus on presentation, practice, revision and more revision.

You could decide during one lesson (or one activity) to focus only on one error; e.g. word order. Whenever students make an error in word order, point it out immediately and invite them to correct. Associate your error correction with a gesture, with time, the gesture will be enough to elicit the correct version.

As for idiomatic vocabulary, I’m not sure what level your students are at. I’m guessing they’re intermediate (level 3, 4). I think it’s too early for students to be using idiomatic language freely and fluently. You can expect them to understand idioms at this level and to use the occasional phrase, but don’t expect it to happen regularly.

Finally, I suggest you use a book for your classes. This will give you structure and guidance. Go into a reputable EFL bookshop and ask for their advice if nobody can help you at the school. This will be far easier than designing a syllabus. With a book, the outline of the course is prepared for you; then you can supplement, replace and omit according to your students’ needs.

Please feel free to write in again, if you would like more ideas.

Lucy
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Re: How to make up a syllabus, where to start from??

Unread postby Lucy » 21 Oct 2008, 17:20

It sounds like you’re doing a great job and keeping the students needs in mind.

Here are my ideas for your conversation classes: I think your idea about brainstorming, correcting and using the language can work. You can use this for occasional lessons. As you say, it won’t be interesting if you do that every lesson.

You should do a fair amount of work on vocabulary, as you say their vocabulary is limited. I suggest you choose a theme for your conversation lesson and start by doing work on the vocabulary. Try to keep this light-hearted and have the students practise the new language orally. You can then move onto more extended speaking work. I suggest you spend 20 minutes at the beginning of a lesson doing vocabulary work (if your lesson lasts less than one hour, make the vocab work shorter).

Try to choose a book you can follow rather than inventing your own syllabus. This will make it much easier for you. If you really want to design your own syllabus, try to go from easy to difficult and from concrete subjects towards abstract. Remember to incorporate plenty of revision in your syllabus.

Lucy
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