Author pick from Steve Taylore-Knowles

Steve Taylore-Knowles introduces his favourite sections from Open Mind, as well as providing some tips on how to teach them in the classroom.

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Steve Taylore-Knowles Open Mind pick - Pre-intermediate Unit 9 - Life Skills

I love this lesson because it’s a perfect example of how a well-designed sequence of classroom tasks can both consolidate language that students have been working with and develop life skills that are useful beyond the confines of the classroom. This is from a unit from the Pre-intermediate level where students have been working on modals of future possibility (may, might, will) and using will and going to (apart, of course, from all the great language skills work they’ve been doing!).

Teaching takeaway

One transferable life skill that students need to develop is the ability to make good decisions. Decision-making is important in your academic life, in your professional life and in your social life, and the more understanding of decision-making processes you have and the more decision-making techniques you are aware of, the better. One powerful decision-making technique is the decision matrix, and this section shows students how to use a decision matrix by working through an example related to the topic area they’ve been studying.

Of course, one way of making decisions is through negotiation and persuasion. I choose the option that appeals to me, you choose the option that appeals to you, and each of us tries to persuade the other to accept our point of view. That’s an important life skill in itself. However, our students also need to think about other ways of making decisions, which is where the decision matrix comes in.

In this particular lesson, set around an urban development scenario, students start by selecting the key criteria, in this case, the things that they believe local people care about (jobs, schools, clean air, etc). They then look at three urban development plans and complete a decision matrix by giving each plan a score, depending on what kind of effect they think the plan will have on each factor. A score of +2 means a strong positive effect and a score of -2 means a strong negative effect. In the end, the plan with the highest score is the one chosen.

One thing to notice about this is that the input students receive in the form of the description of each plan contains language they have been working with in the unit (will, going to). Then, as they work through the tasks, they will naturally use both this and other language we want to consolidate. The tasks encourage– in fact, practically force – the use of questions and statements such as “How do you think this plan might affect jobs?” “It may create jobs, although I think it will also have other effects, such as …,” etc.

This is language work and life skills work that is very closely integrated and is a great example of what I and the other authors aim to achieve through the Life Skills sections in Open Mind.

Steve Taylore-Knowles, Open Mind co-author

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You can also download the Teacher’s Book sample pages and find out more about Open Mind here or download this article as a pdf.

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