Drilling is a teaching technique, which is focused on repeating structural patterns through oral practice. Back in the past, according to Behaviorist approach, language learning was thought to be merely a matter of habit formation. Hence, people used to believe that due to repetition of phrases one could learn a foreign language. However, nowadays it has already been proven that language learning is far more sophisticated and creative than it was thought to be. Though drilling cannot cover all aspects of learning a language, it still continues to be a useful technique, if it is conducted properly. As far as teaching kids is concerned, we all know that they are masters of imitating and repeating whatever they see or hear. In fact, a drill can really turn out to be efficient for kids.
Why drills can be useful?
- It gives learners an opportunity to hear and say words and phrases, improving their pronunciation and intonation.
- If your kids have difficulty in pronouncing some particular sounds, drilling activities can help them to move their tongues in the right way to produce the sounds. In this regard, tongue twisters may come in handy as well.
- With the help of drills children can concentrate on accuracy.
- For learners who are not confident, drilling activities may provide a secure atmosphere to practise producing the language. Besides, drilling activities can turn out to meet kids’ expectations, as many of them believe that drilling is a crucial stage of learning a language.
- It helps learners to memorise some particular language patterns and language chunks.
- Teachers are provided with a chance to check whether kids have any difficulty in pronouncing new words or not.
Drilling activities with kids
In the first stage of getting acquainted with the English sounds, it is highly recommended to the learners not to see the words in a written form, but to listen to them. Consequently, while introducing a new word in terms of pronunciation, first ask your students to listen to the word and then to repeat it.
- For carrying out this activity you can either use audio recordings or pronounce the words yourself. Just pronounce them in a clear and natural way, giving proper models.
- Use gestures, hand movements and face expressions to indicate intonation. It can be useful especially for visual learners, as due to it they can visualize the foreign language they are learning.
- Back-chaining makes learners concentrate not only on accurate pronunciation and intonation, but also on attention-grabbing. For example, when you are trying to make up a phrase, begin from the end of the structure, asking your kids to repeat after each chunk you give them. Then gradually work back. For example: school / go to school / usually go to school / do you usually go to school /When do you usually go to school?
- You can also spice up drills with saying them in different ways and intonation, sounding sad, happy, asleep, tired or bored. It will make the language patterns more memorable for your kids.Mingle activities
Mingling works perfectly especially in primary school. It gives your learners the chance to repeat English words, phrases and structures lots of times. For beginner and elementary kids a nice example of a mingling activity is “Say and swap”.
- Hand out flashcards with a target vocabulary to your students.
- Ask them to mingle and swap their flashcards. While children swap them, they have to say the words or phrases from their cards.
For more ideas on mingling activities in primary school, check our previous article.
Have you ever thought that a guessing game is a perfect type of a drilling activity? In fact, it is, as it requires much repetition of words or phrases of a foreign language.
- After you introduce the new words to your students with the help of flashcards, stick them on the board back to front. Ask your students to guess the word. You can also find some online guessing games which focus on pronunciation, as well as spelling.
- For practising you can also use “Is it…?” questions, e.g. “Is it a dog?”, “Is it a ball?”. Make sure your students give full answers: “Yes, it is a dog”, “No, it is not a ball. It is a book”.Substitution
Set up the drill and then change one word every time. For example:
- Bob is clever.
- Tom is clever.
- Ann is clever.
- My father is kind.
- Your father is kind.
- Her mother is kind.
- His sister is kind.
Transformation drills are really good for practising grammar. You can give your students the drill and ask them to change tense, first person – third person, affirmative – negative, etc.
- I go to school.
- He goes to school.
- I don’t go to school.
- He doesn’t go to school.
- I didn’t go to school.
- He didn’t go to school.
- I am not going to school.
- He is not going to school.
- Splitting drilling
Divide the target structure among your students, give one word to each of them, and get them to say the word out loud. Challenge them to say with a perfect intonation, timing, pronunciation, etc.
- Tom, gets, up, at, 3, o’clock.
- My, sister, does not, speak, French.
- There, are, nice, flowers, on, the, table.
How do you drill your class? Please, share your ideas in the comments!