18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 10. Personalize

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This is part ten of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip number 54: Personalize

I didn’t expect this particular tip to include anything new  for me as I have written personalized worksheets for individual students many times over the years. Sometimes it’s the only way to reach a student and get him / her involved and moving.

But I have never tried personalizing the grammar exercises in the students’ books! I love ideas that are fun and don’t require advance planning. Though me being me, I’ve already decided to tweak it…

The author suggests having students replace names in the grammar exercises with names of people they know or even names of students in class.

Since students in special Ed classes are particularly sensitive and I have to ensure no student insults another ( even completely unintentionally!) I think I’ll create a “name box”. I’ll ask students to write down names of their favorite celebrities from any field on  pieces of paper and place them in the box. It will be good for the students to check how the names are actually written as my students (with their hearing and speech difficulties) often distort names. Then, when working on grammar, they can draw from the box to see who the sentence they must work on relates to.

I’m going to try this. I’m sure I have a small empty box in class. If not, I’ll send out the message to everyone to keep a gift chocolate box for me ( minus the chocolate…)

Have you tried it?






4 thoughts on “18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 10. Personalize”

  1. That’s a great idea, Naomi and thank you so much for sharing it! Grammar is an area I’ve always found fascinating precisely because most students can’t stand it 🙂 What you can also do with the name box is ask your students to expand on the sentences in the exercises by choosing a name and adding to the sentence they’re currently working on, for e.g. if the sentence reads “Sam wants to travel around the world”, Student A chooses a name from the box (eg. Bob) and adds a new sentence to the previous one eg. “Sam wants to travel around the world, but Bob hates the idea of travelling.”
    Also, the name box is a wonderful way to turn grammar exercises into writing ones. If you work on modals for example and you’ve just finished an exercise on the uses of should/ought to, your students can choose names and then write letters to each other about the things they should/shouldn’t do in order to become better students, enjoy life more, be less stressed-out etc. Finally, using a name box can inspire a “365 days of kindness” project where students can choose random names and do something kind for each other. I’ve also shared lots of ideas about ways to make grammar instruction more creative on my TeachingEnglish blog about (you can find it here: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/maria-theologidou/shaking-grammar-class) as well as on my blog: https://mariatheologidou.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/twists-to-old-grammar-traditions/

  2. Brilliant and easy idea to use in class.
    Let them do the personalizing!
    I think the box can also be applied to ID card creation, or letters to…
    Love this series.
    Thanks, Naomi!

    1. Thank you Judih – great ideas! When teachers share ideas, those good ideas keep coming!
      Glad you like my relfective journey!

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