drilling means listening to a model, provided by the teacher, or a tape or another student, and repeating what is heard
Drilling is something that I first encountered during my teacher training, which is quite surprising in retrospect, as I have been learning languages since I was a kid. Since then, I have become an enthustiastic language-driller, finding the most useful language that a student needs on a particular topic, and having them learn and retain the correct intonation and pronunciation of the utterance.
A lesson that I recently taught centred on exchanging contact details. This was for business English students, at a pre-intermediate level.
Stage 1 – Email symbols, alphabet
- Ensure student(s) are familiar with @, . , – and _ , and that they don’t have any problems with the alphabet (often French students have problems with ‘i’ and ‘e’, and ‘j’ and ‘g’).
If you find that students are having real difficulties understanding/saying letters, it can be a good idea to teach them the spelling alphabet.
Stage 2 – Elicit vocabulary
- Tell students that they would like the email address of a colleague, that you are that colleague and that they will need to ask you some questions in order to get this information.
- Elicit ‘Can I please have your email address?’
- Now give them an example email address (without spelling any words)
- Elicit ‘Can you please repeat that?’
- Now, ask them how you could help them to understand.
- Elicit ‘Can you please spell that?’
- Spell the address to the student(s) very quickly.
- Elicit ‘Can you please say that again more slowly?’
- Repeat more slowly.
- Now tell the students that they will have to check the information, as the email address is incorrect the email won’t go through.
- Elicit ‘So, that’s……’
Stage 3 – Drill the questions that you’ve elicited
Stage 4 – Put the students in pairs, and have them exchange email addresses using the above questions (or if you have one student, give them another email address and then have them give you theirs).
So why is drilling great for skills like exchanging details?
- Drilling focusses on accuracy, which is very important for the exchange of specific information.
- This drilling will get the students used to hearing these particular phrases, which are routinely used in this particular context.
- Students are given ample opportunity to practise their pronunciation and intonation of the utterances, to prepare themselves for the following activity and the real-life situation.
- It gives the teacher the opportunity to correct any errors before they can be learned.
- Students seem to remember things better when they have been drilled.
- My students (especially lower level learners) love drilling. When they are speaking spontaneously, they often have to search for their vocabulary, and are unsure about their grammar and pronunciation. Drilling gives them an opportunity to follow a speaking model and develop their confidence speaking.