‘Do you or don’t you drill?’ – An #eltchat summary

A PLN for ELT Professionals

‘Do you or don’t you drill?’ – An #eltchat summary

ELTCHAT SUMMARY: ‘Do you or don’t you drill?’ (27th June 2012) first published on Shaun Wilden’s blog and reposted here with his kind permission.


This is a summary of the eltchat held on 27th June 2012 the full topic was “What is, or should be, the role of drilling in the classroom?”


Do you drill?  Let’s canvass some opinions….


“I think I used drilling on my CELTA but rarely used it since – not sure I know why”
“I think drilling is a good idea, but in practice I don’t use it nearly enough!”
“I tend to drill more with individual sts or small groups rather than choral drilling in a big class.”
“In recent observations of ESOL teachers over three years NEVER saw drilling…why?”
“I worry sts will hate it- but I KNOW as a learner I love it.”“I loathe & detest but recognise it has a place.”


Hmm so not an overly used technique then could this be why? 


“not a respected strategy”
“drilling still heavily associated with behaviourism and so looked down on as not communicative”
“bad rep? No – thought of as not cutting edge? Yes. In the world of tech, many see it as no use I guess”
and during in the chat drilling was referred to as ‘ugly’ and ‘bad’.


Why should we drill?


  • “I think drilling can really help with confidence, particularly at low levels.”
  • Drilling essential for pronunciation practice, it can be a great way to help students to notice features such as stress timing, lost sounds, nuance, etc
  • Drilling helps with the automatisation of chunks, repetition helps memory and memorizing is sth we do so we should try and foster this in sts.
  • It can be great way to get sts attention
  • Drilling is something we do naturally and in real life. For example the mental rehearsal before speaking in a foreign lang especially if not a fluent speaker. People repeat words in their head when they discover a new one.
  • Drilling can be seen as a step towards fluency.
  • Rather than frightening introverted sts it gives them a chance to hide in a group and gives everyone confidence letting them repeat things.


How should we go about drilling?


Done well, drilling can be fun and help with good group feeling. However, if done badly, has the opposite effect. The teacher needs to embrace it fully for it to work well, they need to believe in it not do it half halfheartedly. They must also be prepared to make a bit of a fool of themselves! When done heeding this advice, drilling has the ability to engage and energize a class. Remember, drill the language not the students and don’t over do it, be selective in what you drill. Keep it challenging to keep sts interest and they should feel they need it. Drills can be seen as a game, can be challenging to students and seen as useful.

What about correction?


Teachers have to actually listen to sts while drilling to try and diagnose problems and provide corrective feedback – not just drill for the sake of it. Make a mental note of that phoneme/word/etc. and do further work on it


Drilling and 1:1


It’s harder to use drills in 1:1 classes, they can stop and ask a question, however I find 1:1s less embarrassed about drilling especially for pronunciation because they can really concentrate on and practice the sound.


Types of drill  – Variety is key to keeping sts engaged


[Note links added by summariser]

  • Substitutions drills
  • Transformation drills
  • intonation banana drilling  – only word you can say is banana to express idea about a given topic. For more info on how this works, tweet  @ bcnpaul1
  • Tongue twisters
  • Shouting Drills
  • Dialogue builds – tweet @ teflerinha
  • Mumble drills – Silent (mumble) drilling and changing emotions can also be engaging, useful and good practice. Silent drilling also be useful to get students to focus on facial shapes for pronunciation details? (tongue position, lips)
  • Games like “I went to the market & bought….”
  • Backchaining
  • Human computer is a good one too, let’s students hear the difference and then try it for themselves. How about ‘human computer’?  St says something, and T repeats (correcting) – so a reverse drill, in a way
  • For grammar (change tenses ) , word order (w/ word prompts), questions forms (answer prompts) lots of stuff
  • Think we can do a lot by getting sts to listen (+repeat silently, subvocalise) rather than repeat
  • Say the stressed words and leave space (silence) for unstressed. Or simply say stressed words in time.
  • Rather than just repeat change the phrase/sentence slightly, give lots of prompts/signals – then more than just repeat.
  • A fun activity is humming short dialogues “hello how’re you?”
  • Drills in more advanced classes with native accents (pretend to be queen, yorkshire man, etc) can be fun way  retaining chunk
  • Apps like Talking tom and things like sock puppets can ‘force’ sts to repeat.


Some Reading 

http://t.co/tYYofQHC http://t.co/THCbzWbt
This is a nice vid on drilling for stress timing http://t.co/cU7Y9ml0 #eltchat
Jamie Keddie does a great jazz chant using this video – fun http://t.co/ZvZW0XvR #eltchat
http://t.co/TOs2LBar #ELTChat
Lee Shutler on drilling : http://t.co/9Bo6pGqq



The cast list for this #eltchat included:

Antoniaclare, bcnpaul1, BrunoELT, BobK99, ChrisOzog, Eltnotebook, ElkySmith, englishraven, Feedtheteacher, fit_star, esolcourses, harrisonmike, hpratt01, ingramanna , KariDalane, Jobethsteel, JoHart, louisealix68, mark_arthur, MrChrisJWilson, Michaelegriffin, MissLadyCaz, OUPELTGlobal, oyajimbo, Rliberni, Shaunwilden, teflerinha, theteacherjames, Worldteacher, YeldaEryilmaz

One Response

  1. […] Do you or don’t you drill? – Drilling can get a bit of a bad rap and this is a well written summary of an insightful chat. […]

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