Racing to English programme
Racing to English is used in school to help children practise their use of spoken English. Children work in small groups: using photos, games and stories to develop speaking and listening skills.
Racing to English contains more than 350 language teaching activities that have been developed by Gordon Ward who has 40 years of experience teaching English as an additional language and worked for the Ethnic Minority services. The program continues to add and develop additional resources to provide ongoing and relevant support for EAL teachers and students. The activities encourage interactive group work with focused language aims and are suitable for any age.
Stage 1: beginning
100+ activities for learners in the earliest stages of learning English, including 36 photo sets and 35 language games.
Stage 2: starting stories
100+ activities using the simple past and simple present tenses including 40 mini-stories, 11 photo sets & 37 language games.
Stage 3: talking and reading
100+ activities at intermediate level including more demanding stories and work on 4 or 5 more tenses.
- Oral Interaction – the activities are designed to encourage interaction and purposeful, focused talk between learners. Many can be used by pupils/students at different levels and by mixed groups, for example, groups that include both EAL/EFL learners and native speakers.
- Repetition – many of the activities are game-like so it is easy to ensure that the same activity and therefore the same language items are used many times.
- Comprehensible input – in order to ensure understanding, the activities are based either on photo/picture input or on stories that create a meaningful context for the language items.
- Clear language learning objectives – the activities all have clear language learning objectives and focus on particular functions and sentence structures.
Implications of the principles
The principle of oral interaction has particular relevance to two different situations:
- The silent classroom – teachers often expect learners to get on with work in silence. The Racing to English activities challenge teachers to involve their pupils/students in talk and interaction which are the basis of all good language work.
- One-to-one/withdrawal – in the UK, support staff often withdraw beginners from the mainstream classroom in order to undertake one-to-one work with them. This ignores the fact that pupils/students learn more quickly and more effectively from their peers than they do from staff. The Racing to English activities are most effective when they are used with groups of pupils/students rather than in a one-to-one situation.
The principle of clear language learning objectives relates not only to individual activities but also to the steps. Each step has a number of different activities related to a particular tense, for example:
Step 6 focuses on actions and has activities that teach and practice the present continuous tense – ‘She is walking’, ‘He is reading’, ‘They are talking’, etc.
Steps 9–11 focus on narrating and have activities that teach and practice the simple past – ‘She walked’, ‘They shouted’, ‘I ran away’, etc.
Steps 12–14 focus on repeated actions and have activities that teach and practice the simple present – ‘He smokes’, ‘Postmen deliver’, ‘Birds build nests’, etc.
Steps 17/18 focus on talking about the past as it relates to the present. They have activities that teach and practice the present perfect – ‘He has taken’, ‘She’s found’, ‘Have you ever seen a shark?’ etc.
Step 19 focuses on the future with going to – ‘He’s going to run away’, ‘I’m going to swim’, ‘It’s going to rain’, etc.
The activities are flexible and can be used in a variety of ways with a wide range of learners. This means that each activity can be adapted for individual learners as needed.