How to Drill: Drilling Activities for Your English Classroom
After introducing new vocabulary words, grammar points, or sentence structures, you have to drill them with your class.
There are many ways to drill new material. Using a variety of drilling methods in your classes will help make this portion of the lesson more interesting and keep students focused.
How To Proceed
Choral Repetition Choral repetition is a commonly used method of drilling. Students simply have to repeat words or phrases after you. This is a good method because it means that students are given excellent model pronunciation immediately before they are asked to respond. Going through vocabulary this way many times in a single lesson will be boring for your students and they will be less inclined to perform well. Break up the monotony by changing the speed or volume you use and have students change their responses accordingly. Using this method, students are not called on individually to pronounce words therefore you will need to check individual pronunciation and comprehension separately. Integrating these checks into your drill activities will keep students alert because they will never know when you may call on them.
Drilling with Flashcards Drilling using flashcards can be useful as well. In the introduction, show students both the image and word sides of each flashcard. When you start drilling words for the first time, show students the word side of the flashcard so they can practice reading and pronouncing it. Later on, rather than show students the word you want them to pronounce, show them the image. This will help check their comprehension of the material. With flashcards, you can also challenge your students when they become more familiar with certain vocabulary by flipping through the cards at a faster rate.
Comprehension Asking for volunteers or calling on students to give you a synonym, antonym, or translation of a new vocabulary word will check individual comprehension. It is always nice to ask for volunteers as opposed to calling on students individually but generally a volunteer will be more confident in his answer so this will not properly show whether or not the class understands the material. When you find it necessary to single out particular students who are not participating in drill activities, calling on them for answers is an easy method of focusing their attention on the lesson. Doing comprehension checks is also a good way to break up the drill activities a bit.
Drilling in Pairs As material becomes more familiar, you may want to conduct short pair activities where a student’s comprehension is tested by his partner. To do this with a vocabulary list for instance, have student A read the translation of each word in random order while the student B says the word in English. Student A can then place a checkmark next to all the words student B got correct and then the students can switch roles. With this method students can check each other and have visual proof of how well they performed afterwards which they can refer to when practicing material on their own or preparing for exams. Conducting an activity such as this on a regular basis will help students review vocabulary often and should not take more than five minutes even with fifteen to twenty vocabulary words. It may still be necessary to practice using choral repetition before performing pair activities so that students are reminded of the proper pronunciation of the vocabulary.
Games Breaking your classroom up into sections where each section says one portion of a new structure is another way of drilling material. In small classes you can conduct some drilling activities in a circle. The more variation there is to an activity, the more students have to pay attention but it is best to start off with the simplest, easiest variation of a game and build on it as opposed to trying to explain a complex activity from the very beginning. Challenging students but not overwhelming them is important in maintaining their attention and participation.
Drilling is generally not the most fun part of teaching or learning English but it is an essential step when learning new material. Varying your approach can make it more enjoyable and encourage students to participate more fully.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.