Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Archive for the ‘eltchat’ Category

Happy 5th Birthday #ELTchat!

#ELTchat changed my life.

It introduced me to an amazing group of educators around the world.

It opened my eyes to the range of classrooms and contexts in which English is taught.

It gave me ideas for my classes.

It inspired me.

It led me to start this blog and to many of the posts on it.

It took me to conferences.

It gave me opportunities.

And most importantly, it brought me many, many friends.

ELTchat birthday collage - showing images of many of the friends I've met through the Twitter chats

Thank you so much to everyone who keeps it going, and I hope I can join you a little more often now!

Read more comments from #ELTchatters on the treasure trove that is the ELTchat blog and join in with the celebratory chat tomorrow night, Wednesday 16th September at 21:00 BST. See you there!

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What is the best way to exploit authentic materials? (#ELTchat summary)

It’s a very long time since I wrote one of these (nearly 3 years to be exact)! On Wednesday 14th January 2015 I took part in my first ELTchat for about a year, and since my topic was chosen, it’s only fair that I did the summary too 🙂

If you’ve never come across ELTchat before, it’s a weekly hour-long conversation which takes place on Twitter (almost) every Wednesday, alternating between 12pm and 9pm UK time. At the end of the chat, one lucky person takes the transcript and summarises the discussion. All of the summaries are then added to the amazing summaries index, which goes back to October 2010. These are the people who took part in this chat (no underscores, so check the transcript for their proper Twitter handles!)

Word cloud of participants

What are authentic materials?

There were many aspects to the definition of authentic materials. There’s a bit of repetition, but you can pick and choose the parts that make up the best definition for you:

  • Anything written for any purpose other than language instruction;
  • Not designed for linguistic purposes (no input flood/specific language point);
  • Anything from the real world;
  • Might have been designed with non-natives in mind (just not for language teaching);
  • Can be audio or visual;
  • Need to contain some text (either written or spoken);
  • Provided by the students (? – perhaps more real/relevant to them);
  • Could be material for other school subjects, e.g. history.

Examples of authentic materials

This list is by no means exhaustive, but is designed to inspire you!

  • Packaging
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Menus
  • Literature
  • Conversations
  • Webpages
  • Blogs
  • Leaflets
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Text messages
  • Posters
  • Billboards
  • Stickers
  • T-shirts
  • Slogans
  • Logos
  • Tweets
  • Facebook statuses
  • DVD cases
  • Maps
  • Logic puzzles
  • Emails
  • Leaflets/pamphlets, maybe collected during a walk with your students
  • The Internet (yep, all of it)
  • Signs (ELTpics/Map of Linguistic Urban Landscape are good sources)
  • Voice mails (you can find apps to download them, such as this paid one)
  • Reviews (e.g. from TripAdvisor or Rotten Tomatoes)
  • Children’s books (although you should consider the language carefully, as well as whether the content is suitable for adult classes)
  • And if that’s not enough for you, try this list from Michael Griffin.

Things to consider when choosing authentic materials

  • The function/purpose of the text, not just the language included in it.
  • Is it interesting/motivational for your students?
  • What will they learn from it?
  • What do the learners need to be able to produce themselves? Can you find real examples of it?
  • Can the learners provide them for you?
  • With ESP (English for Specific Purposes) materials, do you need to know the jargon/terminology, or can your learners explain it to you?
  • Will the students’ knowledge of the content make it easier for them to access the text?
  • They don’t have to be perfect. Materials with mistakes can be just as useful for students as ‘perfect’ ones, particularly if they’re documents that the students may encounter, e.g. in-company documentation.
  • It’s not a magic bullet – the text and tasks still need to have relevant content and be at an appropriate level.

Ways of using authentic materials

  • Exploit language to develop vocabulary, raise awareness of grammatical patterns/collocations/connected speech etc.
  • Encourage students to personalise chunks of language taken from the text.
  • Correct the mistakes/improve the text.
  • Analyse the text structure and/or style (text/genre analysis).
  • Develop skills in the same way as you would with non-authentic materials (e.g. coursebook texts).
  • To promote discussion about the content of the text.
  • As warmers for writing lessons (videos from BBC Breaking were particularly recommended)
  • Top-down: start from the context and move towards the language.
  • Bottom-up: start from the language and move towards the wider topic.
  • For enjoyment! Extensive reading/listening practice.

You can even use authentic materials with exam classes: Laura Plotnek uses real news with her IELTS classes. Podcasts are also an excellent resource for IELTS students, as are articles from magazines like BBC Focus magazine.

Packaging

Show examples, then let students create their own.

Menus

Match pictures of food to items on the menu.

‘In a restaurant’ role play.

Text messages

Focus on the connections between the messages and the development of the conversation.

Review websites

After working with the examples, students post their own reviews on the websites.

Resumés/CVs

Choose the most suitable candidate for a job.

Write a story based on the characters whose CVs you have.

Emails

Email your students with a problem you have. Get them to reply, then screenshot/print the replies and work on the language in them. They’re responding to a real text you’ve written. [Note from Sandy: I did something similar by asking friends on Twitter/facebook to tell my pre-intermediate students their problems so they could solve them – SS loved it!]

Points of debate

Should you pre-teach vocabulary?

It may be easier for students to access the text if you do, and some ‘blocking vocabulary’ (things which are vital to understanding the text) may be important so that students have an idea what’s going on in the text and don’t get too depressed.

If you don’t pre-teach, it reflects real-life conditions more and may help them to develop coping strategies. Giving students the chance to look up vocabulary might be more useful to them than pre-teaching it, as would priming them for the content/ideas in the text rather than specific vocabulary (activating schemata – alerting the students to prior knowledge they may have of the topic).

Consider your aim: are you using it primarily for the content, or as training in how to approach authentic materials?

Should you choose materials to fit your aims or just things which take your fancy?

One idea was that it’s important for the teacher to be interested in the materials, otherwise it might be difficult to put together a ‘super duper’ lesson! Although our training is there to help us make boring stuff more exciting 😉

We need to consider what materials students need to access outside class and base our choices on this.

Should you adapt or simplify the materials?

Adapting or simplifying the text removes the authenticity of the language. It is also time consuming. Managing to understand a text without knowing all the words is a vital skill which students need to develop. You can train students to use paralinguistic features, such as images or layout, to help them understand the text. Being able to understand unadapted materials can be very motivating for students.

On the other hand, simplifying the text can help students to access it in the first place, and you can build up to exposure to the original once they are familiar with the content. This could help beginner/elementary students in particular. If students become frustrated with the material because it’s too difficult, they may just stop trying to understand it. Audacity is a useful tool for slowing down audio through changing the tempo.

You could also choose ‘usable excerpts’ from a text, rather than using all of it. Examples might be a short section of a longer video, or a couple of paragraphs from a longer article.

Is authenticity important in the tasks too?

i.e. Should the texts be used in a way which is faithful to real life?

Authentic tasks can be more motivating for the students, perhaps because the purpose of the tasks is clearer to them. However, they may require extra tasks (scaffolding) before you get to the authentic tasks though to ensure students are prepared sufficiently. There is also the argument that language work is a necessary part of what we do in the classroom in order to aid learning. On the other hand, authentic texts sometimes have a ‘magic’ of their own and help to motivate the students without language work.

Using materials like menus in atypical ways could add an interesting twist for students. Examples of tasks include using the menu to practise reading prices, rather than just for ordering food, or an information gap with different information blanked out for each student. The intended use of the text in real life doesn’t need to be paramount.

Can you use authentic materials with lower-level learners?

Yes! Grade the task, not the text. Give them achievable targets, for example, identifying the names of the main characters in a short story could train learners to notice the use of capital letters for names. Another activity could be reading a DVD case to find the length of the film and whether the actors have won any awards.

Support can also be provided in the form of pictures, pre-teaching vocabulary and/or a summary of the text beforehand. With audio materials, you can repeat it as many times as necessary. Pausing helps learners to assimilate the text, and you can discuss what SS have heard and what they think will come next.

Bear in mind, though, that sometimes the text is just too difficult for the students. Widdowson suggests that authentic materials may be too challenging for lower-level students, but those living in English-speaking environments have to deal with them, so as teachers we need to help them.

Is it worth it?

The general consensus was that when used correctly students really enjoy authentic materials, even if they don’t understand it all. You’re exposing learners to real patterns of language which they can use. Those teaching in English-speaking environments thought it was particularly important to use authentic materials with their students as this is what they encounter as soon as they leave class.

Links and further reading

Pinterest or wikis were suggested as ways to collate authentic materials.

Robert O’Neill discusses the use of authentic materials in the final section of Dogmas and Delusions in current EFL methodology.

Shona Whyte discusses authenticity in the FL classroom.

A selection of lessons based on authentic materials, organised by level.

Marjorie Rosenberg wrote regular ‘Jargon Busters‘ for Cambridge. They started with vocabulary, then an article, and ended with discussion questions.

Speakout books use BBC videos and has video podcasts. Life uses National Geographic ones.

CEFR profilers or vocabulary profilers like the Oxford Text Checker can be useful to identify potentially difficult words and to decide whether to use a text.

ELTchat podcasts

If you’ve never heard of ELTchat, you’re missing out!

ELTchat logo

It started out as a Twitter chat on Wednesdays, with two one-hour sessions every week. There’s now only one chat a week, alternating between lunchtime and evening British time, but apart from reducing the number of chats, the ELTchat community has only got bigger and bigger, incorporating:

  • the original hashtag, which is active throughout the week, and is full of resources for English Language teachers;
  • the website, your one-stop shop for everything ELTchat, including:
  • the (amazing!) summaries index: after every chat, some lovely person offers to write a summary of what was discussed, and it’s then linked from this page. After nearly four years of weekly chats, there are a huge amount of summaries available.
  • the facebook group, especially useful if you find Twitter difficult (it’s worth persevering, I promise!);
  • and, last but not least, the podcasts…

The podcasts are put together by James Taylor, and bring together various topics from the ELTchats that have taken place between one podcast and the next. They also include interviews with the chat moderators and other ELTchat participants so you can get to know them a bit better.

You can find a list of all of the podcasts on the ELTchat site or download them through iTunes, among other places. There are currently 23 episodes available, covering a whole range of topics, including error correction, mindfulness, and teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students, among other things.

In the June 2014 podcast, you can find my interview with Hada Litim, one of the newest moderators. I’ve also contributed to a few other episodes.

I can honestly say that ELTchat changed my life – it introduced me to dozens (hundreds?) of passionate teachers from around the world, gave me ideas to take into the classroom, made me think, kick-started my blogging and contributed to my professional development in more ways than I can count. Take a look, and see what a difference it can make to your teaching too!

Web tool recommendations (#eltchat summary)

This is the summary of the second #eltchat on Wednesday 29th February. To find out exactly what #eltchat is, click here.

(Since this post is full of links which may change/move at a later date, please let me know if any of them are broken. Thanks!)

“If you could recommend one particular webtool for the classroom, what would it be, and why?”

The Tools (over 40 of them!)

The famous ones

  • Skype – phone calls through the internet, including video. Simple, effective, reliable, and it works all over the world. It can be used to bring experts or other teachers into your classrooms. You can use the ‘chat’ feature to share files and write in vocabulary. You could use Skype instead of traditional listening tracks to Skype friends in the UK/US (or other countries!) For example: “With my [Shelly Terrell’s] 4 to 6 yr-old German students they learned how to do origami from @EHerrod‘s son in the UK via Skype”.
  • YouTube – even those who hate tech will still try it! It’s easy to forget how helpful thousands of the clips can be, although some schools block it.
  • Facebook – the groups function is useful for educators
  • TED – hundreds of inspiring videos by thinkers and leaders in every field imaginable
Voice recording
  • Vocaroo – voice recorder. Easy to use (single click), no need for registration.
  • Soundcloud – voice recorder with the added facility of voice commenting. SImple to upload to the internet and share. James Taylor wrote a post about it. Audioboo is useful for this too.
  • Fotobabble – upload a photo and record yourself talking about it for one minute. Some fotobabbles on this old blog  (see November/December archives)
  • Voicethread – comment collaboratively on slides/pictures/whatever you want
  • Voxopop – create talk groups to get your students discussing things together
  • Voki – create avatars to do your speaking for you. Shelly Terrell created this guide to using vokis
  • Audacity – downloadable software which can be used to record students and put together podcasts
  • You can also record voices on a smart phone
  • Videoant – video annotation which is easy to email to students/observed teachers
  • Jing – create video annotation to provide feedback to students or show them how to do something. Students can also create their own files. You can make screenshots with it too. Great for essay feedback, and useful extra listening practice. Teacher Training Videos guide to Jing
Bookmarking / link collection / organisation
Ready-made materials
  • Movie segments to assess grammar goals – activities based on films, through which teachers can present grammar points
  • EFL smart blog – a blog for students with complete mini lessons, including authentic listening and accompanying activities
  • Knoword – a vocabulary guessing game based on randomly generated dictionary definitions
  • Speakout video podcasts – the link takes to the pre-intermediate video podcasts. Each unit of the book is accompanied by one podcast.
  • Film-English – an award-winning site by Kieran Donaghy with complete lesson plans based on short films
Tools for teachers to create activities / materials
  • Triptico – a single software download providing loads of free tools; especially good for classrooms with interactive whiteboards (IWBs). Word magnets are good for colour-coding grammar explanations. The card game is good for randomly choosing speaking topics. It’s really easy to use and @David_Triptico is constantly adding new resources to it.
  • Quizlet – a great tool for vocabulary where students (and teachers) can create flashcards and immediately play games with them. Students really enjoy using it.
  • Hot Potatoes – freeware including “six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web”
  • Socrative – “a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets” and it’s free [this was my personal favourite discovery of the chat]
  • Puzzle Maker – a site which allows you to create printable wordsearches, crosswords and other puzzles. Crossword Maker just lets you create crosswords. Wordsearch Maker creates wordsearches. Nik Peachey describes how to use the latter here.
  • Wordle / Tagxedo – word cloud generators. Could be used for simple ‘word find’ activities such as ‘Spot the word with a prefix’
  • Language Garden – language plants make sentences, poems and grammar look beautiful, as well as providing visual prompts for students.
Creative tools for students
  • SP-studio – create cartoon characters based on the style of South Park cartoons. Kids can then create profiles for their cartoon characters.
  • Survey monkey – helps students to practise question forms by creating online questionnaires, as well as finding out more about their fellow students. Very easy to use.
  • GoAnimate – online video creator
  • iMovie – kids can create “movie trailers” about books they like
  • Google Docs – word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software available online for collaboration, sharing or private use. Can be used for essay writing and other writing assignments as well as for individual vocabulary banks for students.
Tools which you can integrate other things into
  • Edmodo – a closed social network for education (my post about Edmodo) – I use it to share resources with my students.
  • Wikis – but you need lots of tools to put in them. Some wiki providers include pbworks and wikispaces. They allow embedding of other tools.
  • Blogs – spaces to provide information, links and create online texts. Some providers include wordpressedublogs and Posterous (see below). They allow embedding of other tools.
  • Posterous – it focuses on all four skills; it’s easy to use; there are free apps on various platforms. Intuitive, and great for introducing blogging to students.
  • Moodle – a tool for creating complete virtual learning environments (VLEs). It allows embedding of other tools. Safe for kids too.
  • Glogster – good for project work. It allows embedding of other tools too.
For independent learners
  • English Central – students can use this outside the classroom to practise listening, reading and pronunciation as well as improve their vocabulary.
  • Lyrics training – students can listen to songs and complete the lyrics
When you implement a web tool in the classroom, what is the criteria for using it with learners? What do you look for in a web tool?
  • Accessible for free on many platforms
  • No (or at least very easy) registration
  • User-friendly for both teachers and students
  • Supports various skills
  • Fun!
  • A way to make English a tool, rather than concentrating on the language aspect
  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Offer various activities
  • Practical
  • Allow students to practise their English in a meaningful way
  • Justified from a pedagogical point of view, not just because it’s a cool new toy
  • Ease of integration with other tools
How do we get non-tech-savvy teachers excited about web tools?
  • Show the real pedagogical value
  • Through their students – if you get the students enthused, they will tell their other teachers
  • Start with showing them examples of why they can get excited, not how to use web tools
  • Show them how much time it can save them, although at the beginning it feels like they take more time
  • Lead by example
  • Introduce things in small doses
  • Give them a task that must use a web tool / taster sessions
  • Present them with simple, quick and practical classroom uses of these tools
  • Go back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and help them see why they need a tool
  • Encourage them to play with tools for personal use first, for example by making birthday greetings
  • Visit their lessons and suggest alternatives
  • Do workshops which teachers bring their own laptops to – doing IT is better than watching
  • BUT: We shouldn’t feel we have to. Some teachers don’t have this option, and others are really not interested. Gareth Davies wrote a blog post expanding on this after the chat.
Tips for teachers
  • Be consistent – don’t flit from one tool to another.
  • Don’t get swept away with new tools.
  • Don’t try to do too much too soon.
  • Play around with tools to help you become more confident.
  • Test things out throughly before you introduce them. OR Experiment together with the students. (a language learning task in itself)
  • Introduce them in small doses
  • Make sure you have a plan B, just in case the tech fails. Don’t freak out! You could teach the 3rd conditional – If they program had worked you would have seen… 😉
  • Ask students to share their favourites too – they might know about tools you don’t
  • If students know that the tech exists, they can decide whether to use it or not.
  • Prepare for excitement from kids! Never be afraid to learn with them.
  • Some tools may seem too childish for adults.
  • If something doesn’t work the first time, try to analyse why and work out what you could do differently. Don’t just assume the tech was wrong. It might work with one group of students but not with another.
  • Make sure that the pedagogy comes first – don’t just use tech for the sake of it.
  • Remember that you can often do the same things without tech – do you really need it? If you can’t justify why the tech version is better, there’s no reason to use it.
Make the most of your old computer

Make the most of your old computer – image by @mscro1 on eltpics

Provisos

Some of these tools are not available in every country or at every school. Technology is still far off for a lot of teachers. You also need to make sure all of the students have access to the technology outside the classroom.

Remember that some teachers are limited to time – they have to finish a coursebook and tools take time and have to be appropriate. Ideally, you need to use a tool that will allow students to USE what they studied in the coursebook.

Other links
A small plug

On Wednesday 21st March 2012 I will be doing a presentation at the IATEFL Conference about ways teachers can encourage students to use online tools, based on action research done in my classes. Subscribe to my blog to find out the results if you can’t be there!

Update: here is my IATEFL 2012 talk.

11 from 11

A month or so ago Adam Simpson posted an 11 from 11 challenge, inviting bloggers to choose their favourite 11 posts from 2011. I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s selections (there is a list of everyone who has taken part at the bottom of his original post), and have finally got around to choosing my own.

10 + 1

1+10= : Photo by @cgoodey from #eltpics

January

What I learnt on #eltchat today (Materials / Online Professional Development)

This was a summary of two of the first eltchats I took part in. I was in the middle of a week at home off sick, and therefore I had lots of time on my hands. Taking part in eltchat, looking at Twitter and writing on my blog kept me sane. It was also the start of a long line of eltchat summaries.

February

Videoing my students

This video has great memories of a great lesson. I really enjoyed helping my students to film the parts for this video, which as then excellently put together by Matej, one of the members of the class. It was our entry for the ‘Learn a language with International House’ competition. The video which won is now on the IH World homepage, and ours was highly commended 🙂

March

Authentic Listening with British Accents

The videos collected here were an ongoing list with my students. It was fun to collect the videos with them, and it’s turned into one of my most-visited posts.

Cuisenaire Rods

Ceri Jones and I wrote this post together. It was the first attempt at cross-posting for both of us, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Since there, Ceri has helped me out with many things on Twitter, and I met her in November in Paris (see below). She was the first person from Twitter who I collaborated with, and it was a great way to start!

Diary of a Beginner: First Lesson

I used my blog to write post-lesson plans for this series of lessons with an adult complete beginner. It was really useful to reflect on the lessons, and the posts also allowed me to keep track of the materials I made and shared with my student.

April

Tools for the 21st-Century Teacher

One of my most-read posts, based on a plenary session I saw at a conference which didn’t go as well as it could have done. Most of the tools were ones I was already using, and it gave me the chance to share them with others. In the process of putting the post together, I also discovered how useful Quizlet is for learning vocabulary.

May

How to join in with #eltpics

One of the first things I did when I joined Twitter was start to contribute photos to eltpics, a collection of images by teachers for teachers, shared under a Creative Commons license so that copyright infringement is not a problem. In March I became one of the curators for the site. I wrote this post to help people work out how to join in if they just stumbled across the site. I’m really proud to be part of the team, and to see how the hashtag and collection have developed over the year. We even have our own blog now, Take a photo and…, where you can find lots of ideas for how to use the nearly 6000 pictures we have in the Flickr collection now.

June

Edmodo

I discovered Edmodo back in September 2010 when I was still lurking on Twitter. I found it the day before I started teaching for the year, and it completely revolutionised my relationship with my students and the way that I gave homework. At the end of the year I asked the students to fill in a questionnaire about their use of Edmodo, and this post was the result.

July

Brno and the Czech Republic

In July I moved to Newcastle, UK after three years spent teaching in Brno in the Czech Republic. This post contained a video including many of my photos and memories from my time there, which makes me cry every time I watch it.

September

Twitter for Professional Development

Over the last calendar year writing a blog and participating in the teaching community on Twitter has completely changed the way I approach my teaching. It has also given me my first topic for seminars and helped me to get into presenting. This post was the result of the third seminar I did, and was the one I am happiest with. The previous posts I did contained the presentations I showed the attendees (1,2), whereas this one is (hopefully!) a step-by-step guide for anyone wanting to take advantage of the amazing world of continuous professional development, whether or not they are standing in the room with me 🙂

November

TESOL France a.k.a. meeting my PLN for the first time

My final favourite post was the appropriate culmination of a year on Twitter, since it covers meeting a lot of the people from there in real life. I will never forget the first time I walked into the conference venue and saw all of these avatars come to life 🙂 It was an amazing weekend, and I’m looking forward to repeating it at IATEFL Glasgow in March 2012.

Thanks

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me out during my first year of blogging, and to Adam for posting this challenge inviting us to reflect on the posts we’ve written this year. 2011 seems to have flown by. Here’s to 2012!

A Twitter activity

When I did my Twitter seminar on Friday last week (blog post here) I started with a new activity, and it seemed to work really well. It was something I’d heard about before, but couldn’t find an appropriate time to use.

We started off with a big pile of scrap paper (A4 divided into four were the perfect size), plus a writing implement each. I took a piece of paper and wrote:

Sandy

As a teacher, one of my biggest problems is giving instructions. What should I do?

To prove this (!) I then told the group that they could either offer me advice or add their own problems. There were a few rules though:

  • no talking throughout the activity – the only communication could be on paper
  • write your name at the top of each piece of paper so that we can see who the message is on
  • one piece of paper per message, and don’t write too small (this is to simulate the ‘soundbite’ nature of Twitter)
  • you must place your paper at the end of the line (we had them all arranged on a row of tables), regardless of whether the previous piece of paper was what you were replying to (to simulate the Twitter stream)

The resulting ‘discussion’ was about ten minutes long and went really well. Here are a selection of our ‘tweets’ in no particular order to give you a taste of what we were talking about:

Tweets 1Tweet 2Tweet 3

After we’d finished the chat I asked the DELTees how they felt during the chat. This is what they came up with:

Twitter adjectives

The ‘chat’ was stimulating and made the rest of the seminar more interesting (at least, that’s how it felt) as they could really feel how Twitter works. I compared the amount of ‘tweets’ nine of us produced in ten minutes to the amount fifty or sixty of us produce in an hour on #eltchat and that got them really interested.

Two of them have already told me that they’ve signed up, and one more said she would sign up next weekend. This is much higher than my normal 1/12-15 hit rate! I really think this activity made all the difference, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone doing a Twitter for PD seminar, or to try out in class.

Enjoy!

Homework (an #eltchat summary)

This is a summary from the 9p.m. BST #eltchat from Wednesday 31st August 2011. To find out more about what #eltchat is and how to join in please go to the bottom of the post.

homework wordcloud

What can we call an effective piece of homework?

Do you believe homework is important for English language learners?

  • Homework is essential, but I think of it as pre-class preparation or follow-on work. (@hartle)
  • SS need a lot of exposure to the language and practice but effective homework should be short and to the point! (@naomishema)
  • Yes, students need to practise constantly, but depends on what the HW is as to how effective it is! (@sandymillin)
  • I provide various options for homework & do think its important to motivate learners to practice English outside the classroom (@shellterrell)
  • Homework provides more time for students to learn! (@katekidney) It gives them thinking time. (@sandymillin)
  • Homework is important to reinforce what’s been learnt in class (@herreraveronica)
  • Homework is important for consolidation and further development. (@lu_bodeman)
  • I like to provide homework if sts request it. If they do, I usually ask how much homework they want. (@ELTExperiences)
  • For language learners, hmwk provides the opportunity to apply the language learned within a real context . (@shellterrell)
  • Homework should work differently for kids at school and adults ‘only’ doing English classes – kids should have sth ‘fun’ like colouring / drawing. Adults perhaps have more motivation. (@sandymillin)
  • At IH Buenos Aires we have a saying “The lesson’s not over till the homework is done” but amount & type open to individuals to decide (@ljp2010)
  • I believe homework is an opportunity for more exposure to English and I tend to favour authentic skills work. Also a chance to process things, studies, and experiment. (@chiasuan)
  • I believe homework is an opportunity for students remember and practice everything they saw in the class! (@vaniaccastro)
  • Action research at Toyo Gakuen Uni in Japan has shown that if we don’t force students to use English outside the classroom – they don’t! (@mickstout)

How much homework should you give?

  • There is research suggesting homework is beneficial but there is also research suggesting TOO much or rote homework has the opposite effect (@Marisa_C)
  • I think the amount is variable and should in a way be up to the student. They should all do some but choose how long. (@sandymillin)
  • I’ve begun giving short homework once a week, online, something highlighting one particular element, and that is it! The funny thing I’ve discovered is that at least some of the SS take the lessons more seriously since I’ve started homework online (@naomishema)
  • It was said that if the homework is half done at school students are more likely finish it at home. True? (@katekidney)
    I think that’s true only with elementary school kids. But kids do need an example! (@naomishema)
  • I think it is crucial to know our students’ routine and plan achievable pieces of HW. (@raquel_EFL)
  • Don’t think VYLs should really have HW – they need time to play. (@sandymillin)
  • Homework can be a project of weeks/months so there is no pressure: “do this by tomorrow” attitude (@ELTExperiences)
  • I was able to run my genetics class last spring with NO homework without decrease in “rigor” (@smacclintic)
  • Age is an important factor and schedules too (@hartle)
  • Homework is effective if SS can see the point of it, rather than homework for the sake of homework (@sandymillin)
  • The Homework Dilemma: How Much Is Too Much? http://www.takepart.com/article/2011/01/18/homework-dilemma-how-much-too-much another interesting article RE 10-min rule (@annapires)

What homework should you give? – general

  • Don’t just tell the students to do page 43 of the workbook. (@ljp2010)
  • As a student, I won’t do it if it’s boring or I think it’s irrelevant to me. Teacher’s worst nightmare! (@ljp2010)
  • I try to make homework fun & relevant to their experiences! They have choices! (@shellterrell)
  • Like Khan academy idea of flipping classroom: homework theory and classwork experimentation http://ow.ly/1wtdr0 (@hartle)
  • Sometimes it is not a bad idea to let the students decide what they would do themselves for the next lesson – and ask them about it! (@katekidney)
  • Individual learning styles should also be taken into account (@adricarv) There’s no reason for everyone to do the same thing (@little_miss_glo)
    I always find kinaesthetic learners hardest to cater for. What kind of things can you do for them? (@sandymillin)
    It might be to learn and act out a sketch with movement (for YLs) (@Marisa_C)
    Videotape a sketch whose lines were written in class by groups/teams (@Marisa_C)
    Make a board game in English (@Marisa_C)
  • For kids I provide games to reinforce what we learned in class! Here’s how its listed in our wiki http://bit.ly/qAQCmc (@shellterrell)
  • These are homework tasks I have given to my adult English language learners in their wiki http://bit.ly/d1RhoD (@shellterrell)
  • For young learners I like to offer in my wiki activities parents can do with their children to practice the grammar/vocabulary in context. (@shellterrell)
  • I’ve been trying to post sites SS can use on Edmodo and show in class rather than set homework. I find students are motivated by sites like English Central, English Attack or quizlet where they can see that they’re getting points (@sandymillin) A word of caution about englishattack – its roll over translations into Hebrew are atrocious! Can’t check the other languages… (@naomishema) I tell SS not to use the translations when I show it to them. (@sandymillin)
  • Offer options so learners work on skills they feel they need to improve. Not all students have the same level so homework should reflect that. (@shellterrell) Choice is not only about which exercises to do for homework but which skills one needs or wants to work on (@Marisa_C)
  • I find knowing their goals at the beginning of the year helps my students determine their outside of class activities http://bit.ly/dzgSCs (@shellterrell)
  • There should be a balance between online work and print work which students can use for display purposes, e.g. in a portfolio (@Marisa_C)
  • We need to be smart about what we are giving for homework…for me all writing assignments are done in class (@shellterrell, @vickysaumell)
  • Reading makes great homework if you can convince the Ss. (@theteacherjames) Adults can benefit a lot from this (@Marisa_C)
  • For teens I just ask what they like to do: listen to English music, read graphic novels, etc. & tailor to that (@shellterrell) Try to find ways to integrate homework into students real lives: things they enjoy, are interested in & choose themselves. (@theteacherjames)
  • Homework is about giving students choices to work on problematic areas too. Provide a series of links then they choose (@hartle)
  • Homework should be connected to the syllabus (@Marisa_C)
  • Teaching ESP? Then you might want to assign stuff that they can do while at work. I did that with my aircraft mechanics (@little_miss_glo)
  • Set them things related to the work place. I did a class based on emails which SS brought to class. The homework was to collect them. (@sandymillin)
  • Show them what is available (often for free) online through facebook, publisher sites etc (@antoniaclare)
  • Written production as homework e.g. letters, diaries, can really help process what was studied. (@chiasuan)

What homework should you give? – specific

  • Some favourite homework I’ve done from my spanish class – photo stories, Spanish-Spanish dictionary, making a newspaper, project stuff… (@ljp2010)
    Project work is motivating too. Students take responsibility for learning. (@hartle) Projects like going to a website to get info in English. (@chiasuan)
  • How can we make the homework/self study more personal? My idea: get students to bring in a photo and talk about it. (@ELTExperiences)
  • SS put a photo on fotobabble.com and talk about it: http://bit.ly/nID10h (@sandymillin)
  • Real life homework task – read or listen to something outside class and come in with a question you’d like answered (@ljp2010)
  • Get students to post on noticeboard and build work together. Www.linoit.com good for this. (@hartle)
  • The funniest HW that I was involved with was phoning YLs at home and trying to chat with them to improve speaking skills in Korea. They were young (10 to 15 years) and the time the parents wanted me to phone was late evening when they were all eating. It took a while to speak to the parents in Korean and then ask to speak to the child and the child would not talk at all. I was also asked to do the same activity for businessmen for a school and I prepared topics, etc but they were too busy. (@ELTExperiences)
    I set up phoning homework with a class once and they LOVED it! (@ljp2010)
    Did something like that. Called them at a given time, gave some info that they needed to collect, and in class SS reported. (@lu_bodeman)
  • SS writing to teachers – personal emails – this is not seen as homework (@Marisa_C)
  • Kids love working online. I make them exchange e-mails or postcards with other kids around the globe. I have found a great platform at e-Pals. (@analuisalozano) Try postcrossing.com for one-off postcards (@sandymillin)
  • Get them to write the subtitles for Bollywood films (@ljp2010)
  • I often set TV programmes or films as homework for students. Sometimes I give them a selection of about 3-4 things they can choose to watch, and we do a jigsaw sharing of what they have seen. My students are in London, so I could use the daily TV guide & get them to watch documentaries, fashion programmes or drama- their choice. (@chiasuan)
  • I get students to collect new words or signs for class. Or interview their host families (@SueAnnan)
  • I would like to get sts to write blogs or contribute to an online school newspaper but haven’t done so yet. (@ELTExperiences)
  • Did @englishraven‘s live reading in class http://bit.ly/r1Gl1h about Edinburgh. HW was for SS to write about their own city/country – everyone did it! (@sandymillin)
  • A book club where they choose the book they want & have discussions? (@shellterrell) Extensive reading (reading for pleasure). Assign projects (book reviews, sts create worksheets, etc) (@theteacherjames) I bring a book box to class when I teach our adults and they pick a book (@Marisa_C) Doing an extensive reading project with Google Reader … Blog post about ithttp://ow.ly/1wthvj (@hartle)
  • Film club is great too. Watch the first part of film in class – finish for homework (@antoniaclare)
  • Adults enjoy finding an interesting article in the local paper and summarising it for class the next day. (@SueAnnan)
  • Take photos on way home, then do lesson based on it, like so: http://wp.me/p18yiK-dS (@sandymillin)
  • They could be asked to recite something while walking to school (@Marisa_C) For low levels I tell them to read all numbers they say in English / name everything they can when walking down street (@sandymillin)
  • The Baby Egg project with my teens. They enjoyed journaling about their children, etc http://bit.ly/pPpbGg (@shellterrell) Sounds like ‘flour babies’ by anne fine (one of my fave childhood books!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour_Babies (@sandymillin)
  • Redoing commercials & advertisements with their friends http://bit.ly/qcrl90 (@shellterrell)
  • Get your students to bring in a computer game & talk about it (@ELTexperiences)
  • If your students like listening to music lyricstraining.com is excellent (@sandymillin)
  • I have recorded video read alouds to model fluency and posted them on Edmodo. (@MrMatthewRay)
  • Get students to watch videos, do tasks, then tweet responses http://englishtweets.com/ (@antoniaclare / @inglishteacher)
  • With young learners make placemats in class with vocab items and pictures. Then they eat on the placemats and memorize ’em! (@naomishema)
  • SS downloaded four adverts, then chose the most touching, funniest, horrible, and amazing (@analuisalozano)
  • Encourage students to read anything they can in English if it’s available. Cereal boxes, signs, anything. (@MrMatthewRay)

How do you share homework with students / parents?

  • Edmodo (http://j.mp/ZkQ5F) is a useful tool to share homework/selfstudy amongst students. Provides a platform to share ideas, etc. (@ELTExperiences) How I’ve used Edmodo in class with SS over the last year (including for HW) http://wp.me/s18yiK-edmodo (@sandymillin)
  • We use wikis too for our adult Ss to upload their homework which also includes presentations prezis etc (@Marisa_C) I’ve taught 2-year-olds to 80-year-olds :-). I find a wiki full of outside exploration activities motivates them a lot. (@shellterrell)
  • What we need is a website for sts like http://j.mp/5eT5mw (a maths website) for English language learners to assist homework. Are there any out there? (@ELTExperiences)
  • Have used class blog and discussion forum for homework using blogger and wikispaces (@inglishteacher)
  • The primary school that my son used to attend provided a newsletter for parents with projects at the back. (@ELTExperiences)
  • Once had a class blog on ning & we all continued discussions we had in class on the blog. It was brilliant…until ning decided to charge. (@chiasuan)

Grading Homework

  • My homework is optional & I tell my SS it’s for their benefit! Majority complete it each time. (@shellterrell)
  • Don’t grade homework! (@naomishema)
  • I grade homework in class … I do not like sending homework to Ss except that related to researching. (@analuisalozano)
  • I like to get sts to mark each other’s HW. Promotes learner correction, education and autonomy. (@ELTExperiences)
  • I use Markin to work on written work with a correction code then students can correct own work. Software http://ow.ly/1wteqp costs about €20 but worth it (@hartle)
    Activity one lesson one on this page of our class blog shows marked student work with Markin. Stds then correct & we discuss in class. http://ow.ly/1wtfol
  • If students resist any kind of homework, it should be included in their final mark or the course evaluation! (@katekidney)

Tracking homework

  • I give homework online but keep track on paper so that I always have it in class with me! (@naomishema)
  • I give pre class prep work on blog and follow up on linoit etc. Also copies. My students are young adults so I don’t track pre-class work but homework posted online and corrections too on blog. (@hartle)
  • I use Edmodo. It allows you to input grades etc even if HW not handed in that way & you can see overview of which students have done what (@sandymillin)
  • For children: Learning Log Brain Builders homework: http://bit.ly/dsC1TE (@DeputyMitchell)

Problems with homework

  • What do you do with students who don’t complete pre-class homework? (@naomishema)
    I don’t force homework, if the learner doesn’t do it then I will ask why & figure out a way to motivate. Usually that’s the problem (@shellterrell)
  • I like to refer to homework as self-study. Homework has too many negative connotations. I attempt to promote student autonomy when they are motivated not the other way round. I like to reduce the affective filter and as such no pressure on homework whether it’s presentations, grammar exercises, writing. (@ELTExperiences)
    I like to call it “activities to improve their English” not homework. I think when I deem it as “activities to further improve ur English” it gives them a why as to completing the tasks (@shellterrell)
  • I give limits on how long can be delayed. I’ve had bad experience – “mañana” turns into “never” (@naomishema)
  • A lot of adolescents think its not cool to do something optional (@naomishema)
  • I still have a problem with pupils with problematic home life – they don’t organize their time and do the little work I give (@naomishema)
  • As a SS, I leave HW to the last minute. (@sandymillin) Human nature, I think. But I think the key is making it not feel like HW! (@little_miss_glo)
  • What about if your institution has a homework policy based on student/teacher/parent expectation? (@ljp2010)
    If you have to give HW then negotiating what to do with SS is important, though I guess it depends on their age (@sandymillin)

What guidelines make homework effective?

  • Varied
  • With no (or negotiated) deadlines
  • Challenging
  • Motivating
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Clear aims – known to both the teacher and student
  • Choice (topic / level of difficulty / skills)
  • Like real life tasks (not just busywork)

A couple of videos to reward you for getting this far 🙂


What is #eltchat?

If you have never participated in an #ELTchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Wednesday on Twitter at 12pm GMT and 9pm GMT. Over 400 ELT educators participate in this discussion by just adding #eltchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please take a look at this video, Using Tweetdeck for Hashtag Discussions.

The international nature of #eltchat

Marisa’s first question on Wednesday’s chat was “What time is where you are?” The answers came in from all over the world:

It’s 11:03 P.M. in Athens Greece (@Marisa_C)

Same time in Israel! except we say 23:03! (@naomishema)

It’s 5:03 PM here in Buenos Aires, Argentina (@herreraVeronica)

It’s 3:04pm in Texas (@shellterrell)

In Italy it’s 10 pm (@hartle)

I’m in the UK, so it’s 21:03 (@sandymillin)

It’s 10pm in Brussels. (@theteacherjames)

It’s 3:08 pm in Ecuador. (@analuisalozano)

10:02 PM Brno, the Czech Republic (@katekidney)

Same time as @Raquel_EFL … 5pm in Recife. (@lu_bodeman)

It is 8.10am here in Dunedin, New Zealand (@mrkempnz)

It’s 6:20am Sydney, Australia (@LiamDunphy)

We look forward to seeing you there next time!

Literature in EFL (an #eltchat summary)

On Wednesday 8th June at 21.00 BST teachers from around the world met on Twitter for #eltchat to discuss “Creative and effective ways of bringing literature into the EFL/ESL classroom”. I wasn’t able to join in, but I did get to write the summary [and add my own ideas]!

If you want to read the whole conversation, click here.

Literature eltchat word cloud

Why?

  • A language is its literature too – a very important part of its culture (@Marisa_C)
  • I think lit is one of the most powerful tools to increase a student’s language ability, & I’m amazed it isn’t used more often. (@theteacherjames)
  • The fun aspect is absolutely crucial. I want to build a reading habit that will lead to a love of the language. (@theteacherjames)
  • The great thing about literature is the way language is used so well. It’s very satisfying to read well turned phrases for students too (@hartle)
  • Using literature in class positively encourages active reading – sometimes reading is passive (@pjgallantry)
  • I like to believe students can become “better ” people if they read. Opens their world + learn English at the same time. (@mkofab)
  • Literature is a real key to higher level language skills… playing with language seems to help (@pysproblem91)

General

  • Use it to build critical skills (@theteacherjames)
  • “Change endings” of well known pieces by substitution followed by guessing games (@Englodysiac)
  • We have also used local folk tales and stories translated into English with our refugee classes – better than Johns and Marys (@Marisa_C)
  • Use it as a springboard: reviews, role-plays, change endings, etc. (@rliberni)
  • Use cartoon makers to predict the end of a story (@helen100463)
  • Sometimes students could read aloud, especially younger learners taking turns (@smaragdav) Most of mine enjoy doing that,they hear their own voices,know when they’re not stressing properly (@vickyloras) They could also read aloud in pairs (@fuertesun) You could pretend it’s for the radio / a podcast (@Marisa_C) It did wonders for @helen100463’s teens.
  • Show videos (example) of a person’s book choices and ask students what these choices say about the owner (@hartle) [you could also do this with photos of bookshelves]

Novels

  • Encourage students to read outside class.
  • Look at some comprehension, some vocab but also theme motif and literary devices too (@Marisa_C)
  • Ceri Jones’ activity on translating an Isabel Allende text
  • Use exam set texts: “I think the strongest groups of C2 level Ss I have taught are those who took the set text option for the CPE exams” (@Marisa_C) Should ss watch the film based on the book they read or be encouraged to read parts of it again ? (@smaragdav) – many chatters answered they should watch it
  • Use clips of the film as part of the pre-reading and prediction for reading (@Marisa_C). You could also use the blurb from the book/DVD jackets for this (@hartle) Show comprehension by discussing what’s not in the film (@Shaunwilden)
  • Students can/would never read the same number of pages in just “texts”. It is great confidence boost that they can read novel. (@mkofab) I’ve seen sts beaming because they’ve finished their first ever novel in Eng. I was proud of them too! (@theteacherjames)
  • Send the characters to be interview for specific jobs (@Marisa_C) or create fakebook profiles for them (@hartle)
  • Have groups summarise, present and order a story (@Marisa_C)
  • Making a front page of a newspaper from a book or short story is also a great idea for a class project (@Marisa_C)
  • Give students the titles of books and they have to guess the plot (@fuertesun)
Examples
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse (@hartle did an extensive reading project with this)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan: “One year we experimented and did all our FCE exam prep through 39 steps – Wild success!” (@Marisa_C)
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (If anyone wants to use Peter Pan, I’m recording it for my kids. First 3 audio chapters on my website. http://tinyurl.com/4k5rcpv – @tarabenwell)
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

Short stories

  • Cut up the stories, students rearrange it, play with the structure and create new links (@divyabrochier): playing with words and structures is how language is learned and enlivened (@pjgallantry)
  • Use them for ‘double’ translation. Take a piece of text, get stds to translate it into L1, then translate it back to English. In trying to recollect the original piece while translating back sts learn chunks (@englodysiac) – could be seen as to much of a specialized skill though (@Marisa_C)
  • Use a timeline and a feelings line together to help students enter a short story. (@12mandown)
  • Animate the story (@Marisa_C) – some classes might not like comics, so give them a choice (@naomishema)
  • Students work together to tell stories they know from their own culture, with the teacher listening (@nutrich)
  • Mixed texts: 2 versions of one extract with mixed up parts of text . Students sort out the original (@hartle)
  • Use a story with a moral for discussion. Then students write a modern version themselves (@nutrich)
  • Reveal a story line by line and make SS think of the rest of the story (@toulasklavou)
Examples
  • Thank you Ma’m‘ by Langston Hughes
  • Frederic Brown – very short sci-fi stories, tales with a twist, e.g. ‘The Weapon’
  • Katherine Mansfield – ‘The Singing Lesson’, ‘Bliss’
  • Kate Chopin – ‘The Story of An Hour’
  • Brothers Grimm
  • Aesop’s Fables (including podcast versions) – over-familiarity could be a problem, but could help too – start with the ending and predict the story (@hartle). Also useful with weaker students. Or try ones that aren’t as popular as the well-known ones. Or get them to guess the moral. (@tarabenwell) Examples of Tara’s online learners reciting Aesop
  • Greek/Roman myths
  • Bible stories
  • Nasruddin stories

Poetry

  • Use powerpoint to make slideshows illustrating lines of a poem. (@naomishema)
  • Show students limericks, then get them to write their own (@helen100463/@Marisa_C) – although can be frustrating when trying to think of a rhyme for someone’s name (@pjgallantry)
  • Use haikus to raise syllable/pronunciation awareness (@Marisa_C). A Haiku is a Japanese poem of 3 lines, with a set number of syllables in each (5-7-5)
  • Use the web to find rhymes (@helen100463), for example @flocabulary’s “What rhymes with orange?” or Rhymezone
  • Saw a lesson once where T gave ss only the final (rhyming) words of each line of poem – ss had to complete it – worked brilliantly! (@pjgallantry)
  • Expression through poetry is very satisfying for learners too, it’s real and can be done at low levels. Grammar poems reinforce too. (@hartle)
  • Poetry is expression and can be sparked by all kinds of things: music, images, words… the brain just needs something to set it off (@hartle)
  • Use a poem as a dictogloss, then discuss it. I read the poem, they had to listen and write then get into pairs and re-construct and listen again and then again (@fuertesun) I’ve also used mixed up texts , 1 group with nouns, another with verbs etc. They reconstruct text & read (@hartle) More on dictogloss
  • I use a lot of poetry: short, we can stop every now and then and comment; even those who “don’t like it” love it in the end & learn! (@vickyloras)
  • Use rhymes to teach vocabulary – ‘Word Up‘ from @flocabulary
  • Poems are great for seeing word relationships and collocations (@rliberni)
  • You can come back to a poem or story later and see what the students remember (@divyabrochier)
  • Encourage students to learn a poem by heart (@fuertesun) – espeically good for stress and intonation (@nutrich) @divyabrochier’s Arabic teacher makes them learn something by heart every week ” I am learning a lot of words and remembering them!”
  • Practise rhythm /stress by making them do them as a kind of modern rap (@mkofab)
Examples

Plays

  • Did an exercise with Romeo & Juliet which looked at using the two families in the play. Students had to spread rumours about the other group. (@rliberni)
  • Carry a story forward into our times and change the setting (@Marisa_C)
  • Modernize the text (@flocabulary)
  • Enact roles, then debate and write from the characters’ viewpoints (@pjgallantry)
  • Get them to create own keyword cues for dialogues (@divyabrochier)
Examples
  • Shakespeare – including Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet
  • Oscar Wilde – quite a few on youtube too

Readers

  • Build a reader into each term of your classes (@pjgallantry)
  • Turn a short reader into a comic book (@smaragdav)

Other sources #eltchatters have used

  • Graphic novels
  • Cartoons
  • Translated poems/stories from different cultures (not only English poets/writers) – ind English language writers from India, Singapore, Africa, Malaysia etc.. there are many (@rliberni) – for example the OUP reader Land of my Childhood has stories from South-East Asia
  • Sometimes they like buying the audiobook too and listen to it on their way to work,works wonders for their language (@vickyloras)
  • Such Tweet Sorrow on Twitter

Getting literature to your students

  • Share your novels/books with them. Start a private library
  • Use a book box.
  • Use poetry and short story excerpts if longer sources are not available.
  • Use e-books
  • Encourage students to exchange books among themselves
  • Use Google reader to select reading and listening and then do a project presenting and swapping links on class wiki (@hartle)

Problems

  • We have to teach literary concept and thinking skills with the literature. (@naomishema)
  • Be age appropriate – “I had an early put-off experience with literature in EFL class: tried teaching some 14-yr-olds some William Blake!” (@pjgallantry)
  • It’s important to set the tasks right for literature: just an overview can be enough or select bits (@rliberni)
  • What level should extensive literature reading by introduced?
  • Do students already read literature in their L1? Even if they don’t, you should still teach them reading skills. (@Marisa_C)
  • Be careful of the ‘cultural imperialism’ thingy – some lit can be controversial! (@pjgallantry) But can be avoided by presenting a range of global literature which the sts can choose from. (@theteacherjames)
  • Some topics can be controversial: “My teaching Richard Cory sparked a huge eng. teachers debate about if it is o.k to teach a poem that has suicide in it. Scared me” (@naomishema) – “Taught Richard Cory to 10th-12graders. They actually related to seemingly perfect guy on the outside is unhappy inside”
  • I worry that it is hard to ‘justify’ using literature in Further Education’s utilitarian view of education as skills training (@pysproblem81): Is being able to appreciate literature, theatre, film etc.. not also a life-skill? (@rliberni)
  • Mistakes (used deliberately) in the source text: you can use them to show non-standard use (depending on level of students): noticing this type of thing can reinforce the normal rules (@hartle) I used “Of Mice & Men” which is full of mistakes. Great practice for reading skills & they could check with peers & me. (@theteacherjames)
  • Students have trouble with higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) if they’re not taught them in L1 (@naomishema): personally think literature is a real key to higher level language skills… playing with language seems to help (@pysproblem81)
  • A lot of teachers have come to ELT from other disciplines and not familiar with literary tradition (@Marisa_C). The teacher must feel enthusiastic and communicate that feeling for any literature work to be really effective (@pjgallantry)
  • Very few coursebooks promote literary text – it’s all journalese (@Marisa_C)

Links shared

Resource Books

  • Literature in the Language Classroom by Joanne Collie (on Amazon)
  • The Inward Ear: Poetry in the Language Classroom by Alan Maley (on Amazon)

And to end with, here’s one of my favourite poets of all time, performing one of my favourite kid’s books:

Teaching Metaphors

During the #eltchat about coursebooks on Wednesday 11th May 2011 a few metaphors for teaching were mentioned. Lizzie Pinard quoted them in her excellent summary of the chat:

@Chucksandy summed this up beautifully: “Good cooks know what can be left out of or put into a recipe, or added as a side dish. Good teachers using course books know the same thing.” Or, as @OUPELTglobal put it, the course book should be used like a map with the route and pace being set by the students and the teacher.

This is not the first time metaphors like this have been used in the chats, but this time it got me thinking about how we describe the processes of teaching and learning languages to our students.

I’ve already posted about the ‘high’ I get when I can successfully communicate in a foreign language. I created my other favourite language-related metaphor when responding to students complaints about learning grammar, although I think it can be used to describe the process of learning languages in general too. Please note, it’s only meant to give an image to my students, without being completely factually accurate! It goes a little something like this:

  • Everybody wants grammar to look like New York. Nice straight lines, turn left here, turn right there…
  • In fact, it looks a lot more like London, with random twists and turns, a few bits that might resemble where you’re from, but many others which are completely unfamiliar.
  • And although London might seem scary at first, especially if you’re dumped in the middle of it with no map, you CAN get to know it. All you need to do is spend time there. And the more time you spend there, the easier it is to find your way around. You’ll even get to the stage where you can go places automatically, without thinking about which way to go.
  • In exactly the same way, the more time you spend with grammar / a language, the easier it is to use. You can find your way around, make educated guesses, and eventually use it without thinking about it. But you’ll never know how to do all of the this unless you make an effort and ‘wander round’.

This way of thinking about language seems to have really helped some of my students, and has even meant that a couple of them have started putting in slightly more work!

So what metaphors do you use with your students? Or when thinking about your teaching?

Conferences: Spreading the Love (an #eltchat summary)

This is a summary of the 9pm BST #eltchat on Twitter from Wednesday 6th April 2011. The topic was:

How can participants at conferences best ensure that what they learn lives on and spreads?

The chat involved people with a large variety of experience regarding conferences, ranging from none at all to serial presenters, as well as conference organisers. It fell nicely into various categories, making summary writing nice and easy!

Why go to conferences?

  • @cerirhiannon: “I find really motivating talks usually lead to experimenting, blogging and eventually presenting”
  • @TyKendall: “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn” John Cotton Dana.
  • @naomishema “I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to last year’s TESOL and it was an eye opening experience which led to blogging and twitter.”
  • @cioccas: “I always feel reenergised after a conference & buzzing with new ideas I want to share with colleagues. Also after every #ELTchat !”
  • @lauraesol: “After a session last year at IATEFL, I found I got so excited about the content I had to repeat it all to friends!”
  • @bcnpaul1: “Last year was my first IATEFL & changed my outlook hugely. Maybe people just need to get the development bug”
  • @ELTmethods: “Conferences are not only about collecting ideas. The social element is vital, too: meeting people with the PD bug”
  • @sandymillin: “Definitely worth it! Motivating, great for networking and fun too (mostly!)”
  • @theteacherjames: “If you benefit, your students benefit, & that makes it worth it. Anything else is a bonus.”
  • @Marisa_C: “Going to a face-to-face conference is very important – recharges human batteries”
  • @springrose12: “If nothing else happens, educators get to meet with each other and share good practice as well as socialize. It’s good to know that you’re not alone and others can help you with difficulties.”
  • Meeting the ‘stars’: @lauraesol “Won’t ever forget John Wells and feeling so much more confident about pronunciation after talking to him.” “Biggest moment was getting Jim Scrivener’s autograph!” / @marekandrews: “@lauraesol I got Jeremy Harmer to sign his book, asked him to write advice for my trainees+showed it to them next time”

How to decide which sessions to attend

  • Think about what is most useful for you and your colleagues
  • Try to find articles, blog entries, videos of talks or tweets from speakers you’re interested in seeing
  • Coordinate with your colleagues to attend different sessions, then share experiences, insights, handouts etc afterwards.
  • Decide whether you want to go to practical sessions, theoretical ones or a mix of both.
  • Take a chance on some less well-known presenters – that’s how they become well-known. Also, they are often in the classroom more regularly so can be more relevant.
  • Prioritise! Try not to get overwhelmed.

What presenters can do to make their presentations memorable

  • Keep it as simple as possible.
  • Get to the point.
  • Include a variety of activities in workshops: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic…
  • Try alternative visual aids: flipcharts are still in!
  • Let participants talk so they don’t get restless.
  • Don’t be afraid of using technology.
  • Be genuine
  • Have something to say
  • Try to make a connection with the audience: engage.
  • Get ‘personal’.
  • Upbeat, but not too up!
  • Listen to your audience.
  • Don’t read aloud from your Powerpoint.
  • Provide handouts (laminated if possible for reading in the bath!), or a link to a blogpost – or one handout, with everything else online so your session can be discussed at lunch
  • If the audience fall asleep, start being controversial
  • Inject a bit of humour and originality
  • Think about what your audience wants and needs to know
  • Chat to some of your audience after you’ve finished to get feedback and learn from them too. Good for shy people too.

What participants can do during a conference

  • Give a workshop at the conferences you attend.
  • Try to go to the conference with other teachers and chat about what you have seen.
  • Try to talk to the presenter and other participants to keep it in your memory.
  • Use Twitter to share your thoughts – those who cannot normally attend conferences are especially grateful for this. You can also use it as a form of note-taking. Consider asking the speaker beforehand and / or only tweeting during Tweeter’s talks. Take a look at the debate on Jeremy Harmer’s blog about whether or not you should tweet.
  • Follow Twitter hashtags during a conference: you might notice something you’ve missed / OR Don’t follow them, you might miss something!

What participants can do after a conference

Find out what works for you: old school or new school. Take a look at some of the ideas below:

  • Tell your colleagues about what you saw. “When I was at…I met… and he/she…”
  • Blog about what you saw, thus prompting further discussion of topics. Conferences even prompted some to start blogging for the first time.
  • Even if you don’t want to blog about the conference, you can make comments on other people’s posts.
  • Type the notes you take, then categorise them into files on your computer, making them easy to retrieve when needed. This also makes it easier to email them to people if you want to share them.
  • Go back to your notes a while later and remind yourself of what you’ve read.
  • Try things out in class as soon as possible so that you don’t forget them.
  • Keep a teaching diary (which could be a blog) to use for post-conference reflections.
  • Watch any post-conference videos and share them with colleagues.
  • Correspond with speakers at conferences to inspire you to make the transition between listening and doing (@naomishema: “Even famous David Crystal answered me!”)
  • Share your knowledge in small groups / during department meetings
  • Follow up on any recommended reading.
  • Follow up on contacts to consolidate connections made. This may lead to forms of cooperation in the future.
  • Set aside a quiet hour to go through what documentaton you have and think through what you got out of the conference.
  • Look at your notes on the way home and decide which ideas to apply next.
  • Keep the conference booklet.
  • Not all ideas may be practical for your classes – be selective.
  • Introduce Twitter and other sharing tools to your colleagues to help them become more digitally aware and to be able to participate in the post-conference sharing.
  • Rely on your memory!

What presenters / conference organisers can do during/after a conference

  • Make a list of seminar participants and their contact details and email them to each other.
  • Ask speakers if they mind being filmed / recorded.
  • Stream sessions online, as ISTEK did. Alternatively, release them online for people to watch (months) later.
  • Provide wifi for attendees to share their impressions.
  • Share materials online. For example, the IH Brno Conference (a one-day one at my school) created a group on Edmodo and gave attendees the code so that they could get any handouts they wanted. Alternatively, put slides online using a tool like Slideshare, a wiki or a blog.
  • Put out a newsletter after the conference with summaries of lectures a couple of months later.
  • Create an informal ‘buddy’ system with your PLN to give feedback on each other’s talks at a conference.

What schools can do after a conference

  • Encourage teachers to give a workshop / CPD session to share what they learnt. Small groups could prepare a demonstration about a topic if a few of them saw the same talks.
  • Ask colleagues to choose ONE topic which deeply affected them each time: demanding to share everything could be too overwhelming.
  • Keep a collective training blog for teachers.
  • Create a wiki with colleagues and link powerpoints or videos plus start a discussion.
  • Record speakers, then create worksheets based on the sessions – have a bank of talks and tasks.
  • Have a staff email list dedicated to post conference sharing.
  • Sponsoring teachers to go to conferences could really boost staff morale.
  • Encourage a culture of sharing in general – this makes it easier for teachers to share after conferences.

Possible problems and solutions

  • Other people in the staffroom are not interested in the conferences you attend.
    Keep sharing – your enthusiasm will hopefully get through to your colleagues eventually! You could also try to spend more time with people who ARE responsive. Teacher development is a mindset.
  • Some conferences are very expensive to attend.
    Try to access the materials in other ways, through videos, Twitter, blogs etc. Sometimes it’s better to bite the bullet – conferences offer you many benefits. If you’re paying for it, go for what you’re interested in. Your teacher development comes first.
  • Speakers often have to pay to present.
    Some people were annoyed about this, but others said that they are presenting for 45 minutes and watching 1-3 days of sessions, so are happy to pay. Dave Dodgson blogged about speakers paying to attend conferences too.
  • Tweeting during conferences (Jeremy Harmer’s blog discussion) could be bad for the presenter. Also, some people complained about the lack of context.
    Many people would still go to see a talk even if they had seen it tweeted.
  • Online conferences don’t match up to a face-to-face environment
    Use Twitter to get some of the socialising / networking side. It’s also better to watch online than not take part at all! Online conferences can also make people more willing to participate.
  • The number of ideas can be overwhelming
    Be selective: just a handful of ideas can make a big difference .

Conferences to look out for

Other links shared

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