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

Posts tagged ‘poetry’

Please Mrs Butler

I can’t imagine my childhood without Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Two of my favourite books were Please Mrs Butler and Heard it in the Playground (affiliate links), both collections of poems based around being at school.

I created a worksheet based on the title poem from Please Mrs Butler and the recording Allan Ahlberg made of it on The Children’s Poetry Archive.

I used it with pre-intermediate students as part of our ongoing thread of listening and pronunciation practice. We listened to the numbers in the introduction four or five times, and they managed to get them all. We finished the 90-minute lesson with the students repeating the poem after me, then performing it together. This was the final result:

The poem has since served as a warmer in later lessons. For homework, I asked them to watch a group of children performing the title poem from the other book, Heard it in the Playground.

What poems do you like using in class?

Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy – a lesson

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and although I don’t normally do anything for it, I thought that this year I would take the opportunity to share one of my favourite poems with my students. Here’s the plan in case you want to do it too.

A heart for you

Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @vale360, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Ask your students what day it is, and whether anything special happens on this day in their country. What do they know about Valentine’s Day in the UK?

What kind of gifts do people normally give for Valentine’s Day? Brainstorm them on the board.

Give each group the word cloud. They decide what links the words in the cloud and what she is sending her Valentine. They can also look up any words they don’t understand, so they are ready to appreciate the poem as a whole later.

Show them an onion. What connection could this have to Valentine’s Day and the poem?

Ask the students to close their eyes and put their heads on the desk (but try not to fall asleep!). Read them the poem – take your time and savour the words.

Ask them to discuss how similar the poem was to their ideas. They can then read it and decide whether they would like to receive an onion as a Valentine.

You can then do some pronunciation/speaking work. Read the poem again. This time students mark where you pause using slashes.

They talk about why you pause in those places – it’s because of line/stanza breaks, and also phrases within the lines.

They can chose whether to read Valentine, or an anti-Valentine poem. You can find lots of them on the net. This is the one I chose:

In groups with other students who have chosen the same poem, they practise reading it. They decide where the pauses should be, how fast to read it, how to space the phrases…and then some of the braver students perform it to the class, or the whole group performs the poem together (providing their patterns aren’t too different).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jazz Chants

Last week I was chatting to my colleague, Katy Simpson-Davies, about experiments she’s doing in her class. She told me she was about to try out jazz chants for the first time, and wanted to film them. Since she’s just joined Twitter and been introduced to the world of blogs, I invited her to write a guest post for me about how she did it. Here’s the result. I think you’ll agree it’s a great start!

I first heard about Jazz Chants from a colleague who is particularly enthusiastic about using them with Young Learners. I don’t have any YLs, but I have an elementary class who really need practice just getting their tongue around some English sounds, so I decided to try out my first ever Jazz Chant with them.

We have a copy of the fantastic ‘Jazz Chants’ book by Carolyn Graham. I looked for one that helped the student practice a grammar point we’d been studying that week – ‘whose is this?’ There’s an index at the front of the book saying which chant is relevant to which grammar point. There are also notes before each chant with tips on how to present it.

Before doing the chant, I read through the useful advice at the beginning of the book about the different steps to follow in presenting a chant, and basically did it the way that was suggested. My students are from Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Check out the video below to see snippets of the various stages, from me reading it out for the first time, to their final full production of their own version. Here are the steps I went through:

  • I wrote the title of the chant (‘Taking Credit’) on the board first, and we went over the meaning of this.
  • I read the whole chant to them while they followed it on the handout. I drummed the beat lightly on the table (for their benefit and mine!)
  • We read the whole chant together, all the way through. I read it with them, to help them keep to the rhythm.
  • Next, I read one line and they repeated each line.
  • I divided them into two groups, and I said one line; the first group repeated it; then I said the response line; the second group repeated it, etc.
  • I drilled some of the phrases they had more difficulty with (for example, ‘it’s certainly not mine’.)
  • Then the two groups read it without me. I just drummed the beat on the table and listened. The first group read the first line, e.g ‘Whose book is this?’, and the second group responded, e.g ‘It’s mine.’.
  • I encouraged them to do it as a competition to see who could be the loudest, as some of my students speak very quietly. This wasn’t hugely successful, as I really was trying to get them to shout it, and you can hear it’s not that loud on the video!

The next day we did it again (and I recorded it this time with Sandy’s camera, which is much better quality!). I wrote the jazz chant on the board before the beginning of the class so they wouldn’t need their papers, as I wanted them to do it with gestures. We used props, i.e a book and some work, to illustrate what they were saying, and they pointed at people to give meaning to saying ‘mine’, ‘yours’, ‘hers’ etc (although we also talked about the fact that it’s not always polite to point!) Next, they went up to the board and changed some of the words. So instead of ‘book’ we had ‘glasses’, which was a good choice because it meant making everything plural, and we had ‘delicious water’ instead of ‘beautiful work’, and ‘professional camera’, instead of ‘awful work’.

I moved them further apart in a bid to make them talk louder, as they were supposed to be talking to each other. Unfortunately this isn’t great for the video, as I couldn’t fit all the students in the shot with them being on two different sides of the classroom! When we did the new version for the second time, I encouraged them to do it with more actions, and I sort of conducted by doing them myself as well. I really felt that doing the actions allowed them to have more fun, and ‘lose themselves’ in it more.

All in all, I thought it was a great way to get their mouths moving, and to make the grammar point really memorable. Some of the students have since been using ‘Whose is this?’ to enquire about folders, papers, pens etc, around the classroom, which seems to me to be a sign of success! I’ve already earmarked some more jazz chants I want to do next week, and I can definitely see why people rave about them.

If you want to know more about jazz chants, check out Jane-Maria Harding da Rosa’s TEYL blog (the colleague who first mentioned jazz chants to me.

Jazz Chants by Caroyln Graham is published by OUP, and the link for it on Amazon is here.

Happy chanting!

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:

Video poetry

Karlstejn Castle, near Prague

Karlstejn Castle

For the last couple of days I have been ‘stuck’ in Prague as my flight to Bristol was cancelled. I use inverted commas deliberately as I’ve been making full use of my time here to explore places I’ve not been to on my previous two visits to the city. To that end, yesterday I visited Karlstejn castle, built to house the Czech crown jewels in the 14th century.

“What does that have to do with ELT?”, I hear you cry.

Well, once I’d left the castle, I decided to walk up the road away from the town to see if I could see anything. There was nothing much except for snow and forest, but this inspired me to create what I have dubbed a ‘video poem’.

As a slightly obsessed EFL teacher, I thought about how I could use this with my students, while I was walking back down the hill, and decided to create another ‘poem’ in Czech. When I want my students to do something which I think they might be reluctant to do (I know a lot of them hate listening to themselves speak), I often try to do it myself in Czech to show them that I’m happy to put myself in their position.

So, how does this relate to my teaching? I’ve decided to set a Christmas challenge for my students through Edmodo. It goes like this:

“Find something which inspires you to think in English during the holidays. It could be a place, a person, a picture, anything. Film it and say a few sentences about what you can see. If you don’t have a video function on your camera, take a picture and write a few lines. I’ve made an example in both English and Czech when I was inspired by the snow near Karlstejn castle. I’ll collect them and we can all share our Christmas experiences…and practise your English at home!”

I hope it inspires my students to use their English outside class, and I’m looking forward to the results. As this is not based on lesson, but purely on Edmodo, it’ll be interesting to see how many (if any!) of my students respond. If you have any ideas of the best way to collate / publish their work, please let me know in the comments.

Enjoy!

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