Yes, Drill Sergeant! How To Use EFL Practice Drills

By Bridge
July 5, 2011

Oral drills are a technique that we teach during the IDELT™ TEFL training course. Since oral drills can be difficult to set up and facilitate, we usually suggest teachers-in-training try to implement them later in the course after they become comfortable with the foundational classroom management techniques. Nevertheless, it is an important skill to develop.

What is a drill? A drill is a very controlled speaking activity that requires the English student to demonstrate understanding of meaning and accuracy of pronunciation and form. It is a good idea to verify this understanding before moving on to less-controlled or free-speaking activities since your aim is to set them up for success in those fluency activities.

How are drills implemented in the EFL classroom? Here are a few quick suggestions.

  • Drills typically come before fluency tasks but can also be used for error correction.
  • Unless your students are familiar with drills, they may require some modeling.
  • Graphic organizers help students see the pattern of your questions.
  • Try to keep the pace up during the drill, especially for more advanced students.

Here’s an example. This week in my ESL class I taught the first conditional to beginners. I was concerned because the structure is complex for lower level students, i.e. they contain two tenses (simple present and simple future) and two clauses (condition and result). I put the following table on the board.

If it’s… we’ll/we won’t
sunny, have a picnic
rainy, watch a movie
hot, go swimming
warm, go for a job
cool, go for a walk
cold, go skiing

This structure allows for a lot of drills. Here are some we did:

Teacher:           If it’s sunny…

Student:            If it’s sunny, we’ll have a picnic.

T:                     If it’s rainy…

S:                     If it’s rainy, we’ll watch a movie.

T:                     Go swimming…

S:                     If it’s hot, we’ll go swimming.

T:                     Go for a jog…

S:                     If it’s warm, we’ll go for a jog.

T:                     Will you go for a jog if it’s cold?

S:                     If it’s cold, we won’t go for a jog.

T:                     If it’s rainy…

S:                     If it’s rainy, we won’t go for a jog.

T:                     What will you do if it’s cool? If it’s sunny? If it’s rainy?

This post was written by Matthew Clark.