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

Posts tagged ‘questions’

Mentimeter and word clouds

On Thursday 7th May I did a 60-minute Zoom training session on how to use Zoom…meta! I worked with about 20 teachers from Urban School and other language schools in Barcelona, showing them how to use Mentimeter and word clouds in their online lessons, and in the process answering questions on a few other aspects of using Zoom. Thanks to Urien Shaw for organising it.

Mentimeter

We started by playing with Mentimeter, which is interactive presentation software.

I used an open-ended question displaying a flowing grid so we could get to know each other a little:

What's your name? What's one interesting thing about you?

To answer a question, participants go to http://www.menti.com and type the code from your presentation.

Here is a full list of all of the Mentimeter question types and how to make them. The Mentimeter blog has lots of ideas for how to use the different types of questions which are available, including lots of examples.

Multiple choice, word cloud, open-ended, scales, ranking, image choice, quiz, select answer, type answer

Here are some ways you can use Mentimeter in class:

  • Multiple choice
    Which (form of this) activity do you want to do? Gist reading/listening questions. How much time should I give you?
  • Word cloud
    Vocab revision, what vocab do you already know, word association as a lead in (i.e. what do you associate with this topic), produce examples of a grammar structure, what do you know about this person/thing/place, what do you remember from last lesson
  • Open-ended
    Brainstorming ideas, get feedback on your lessons, getting to know you, lead in to a topic, what do you remember about…, create example sentences using this grammar structure/word, correct the mistake
  • Scales
    Do you prefer X or Y? To what extent do you agree with this statement? How much do you like/enjoy…? For feedback on your lessons/particular activities…
  • Ranking (participants can only choose one option)
    Class survey of most/least popular anything (food, book, animal…)
  • Image choice
    Which holiday type/item of clothing/animal/celebrity/computer game… do you prefer?
  • Q & A
    Brainstorm questions for a guest speaker/the teacher/other students, what questions do you expect this reading text/audio/video will answer, what questions do you still have after watching/listening, what would you ask the person in the video…
  • Select answer – scores appear after these slides
    Any closed multiple choice quiz questions
  • Type answer – scores appear after these slides
    Open quiz questions where any answer is possible

The free account allows you to include an unlimited number of PowerPoint-style presentation slides, two ‘questions’ and five ‘quiz slides’. You can have an unlimited number of presentations, so if you need more of these slides in a single lesson you can just make more than one presentation.

Students can make their own questions, though they need to open an account to do this.

Word clouds

Next we used a word cloud to discuss ideas for doing feedback or error correction in online lessons. The ideas in this word cloud were taken from a workshop at IH Bydgoszcz a few weeks ago (thanks again to our great staff there!). I then showed how you can produce very different word clouds using the same input data with the simple insertion of ~ between words to keep them together. So these two things appear differently in a word cloud:

  • highlight problems and they rewrite
  • highlight~problems~and~they~rewrite

Words which appear more frequently in the source text appear larger in a word cloud, as can be clearly seen in the second word cloud above. www.wordclouds.com is my current favourite tool to produce word clouds.

Here are some ways you can use word clouds in the EFL classroom (the links take you to lessons on my blog using this idea):

  • As a lead in to a reading/listening, put the text/transcript into a word cloud and students predict what they’re going to see/hear.
  • Use the same word cloud afterwards for them to remember what they saw/heard.
  • Challenge students to find all the phrases in a word cloud.
  • As a prompt for students to remember particular grammar forms, e.g. comparatives and superlatives, or irregular verbs.
  • Use as a prompt for debates.
  • Ask students to create a story using the words in the cloud.
  • Students can ask you about vocabulary they don’t understand.
  • To show possible answers for a controlled task, once students have had a go at it themselves first.
  • Students can test each other by defining a word for others to guess.
  • To summarise ideas generated during the lesson.
  • Students make their own about a particular topic/place/person/thing.

Tips:

  • Make sure the words are spaced out as much as necessary for them to be clearly visible.
  • Use a legible font.
  • Ensure the contrast between text and background is clear.
  • Use a theme with various colours in it, rather than just one or two.
  • Check that words don’t run into each other if you need students to write them out in some form (for example, with the word cloud below one student wrote: crowdedsunny, more crowdedsunny, the most crowdedsunny, highlighting the mechanical nature of this task beautifully!)

I have lots of bookmarks connected to using word clouds: https://bit.ly/sandywordclouds and it’s one of the first things I ever presented about and wrote up on my blog, way back in February 2011. Writing this post was a trip down memory lane!

Questions (paragraph blogging)

Inspired by Matthew (again), as well as the lessons I’ve been teaching this week…

My current favourite getting-to-know-you activity to do with new students, especially 121s, is simply to get them to write a list of questions they want to ask me. With 121s I’ll write a list of things to ask them at the same time, so it doesn’t feel so awkward watching them write, and we take it in turns to ask them. 10 questions seems to work well in 121; in groups it’s about 5 each with students then selecting the ‘best’ from their lists. Questions are inevitably an area that students need to practise, regardless of their level. Students rarely form questions themselves, and are much more likely to answer other people’s/the teacher’s questions in the average lesson [I know I’ve read blog posts about this before, but can’t remember where – all links gratefully accepted].

The lists of questions students produce in this activity tend to show up the same kind of problem areas: present simple v. continuous, present perfect (or the lack thereof), word order, common mistakes (like Where are/did you born?), articles, etc, giving you a starting point for grammar areas to focus on. They may also throw up slightly more unusual problems: one of the ones I’ve noticed this week is capitalisation of ‘you’, following the Polish pattern of politeness, e.g. Where are You from? In addition, student-generated questions demonstrate which topics students are most interested in, as they tend to ask at least one or two questions about those areas. To push higher-level students to show off their grammar, especially if they’ve picked very simple questions to ask, you can encourage them to reframe one or two things from their list as indirect questions, and talk about politeness, especially if you’ve never met the students before.

Of all the things this activity makes me consider though, I have to say the oddest thing is how often the question How old are you? comes up in a typical student list. It’s one of those things students often ask at the start of lessons without thinking twice, though I’m pretty sure they would be unlikely to ask it that quickly if they were meeting people at a party or a conference!

Have you tried this kind of activity? Do you have a similar experience of it?

Stop asking me questions!

Based on an ELTpic by @ij64 (I believe!)

Family names

A very quick question which has been annoying me for a while: why do we (or our coursebooks) teach our students to say ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘grandmother’, ‘grandfather’ as the main way of discussing these members of our families? This was a conversation I had with a 10-year-old a couple of days ago:

Me: What’s your mum’s name?

Student 1: What?

Me: What’s your mum’s name?

Student 2: Mum? Mother?

Me: Yes, what’s your mother’s name?

Student 1: My mother is Alena.

I know there are lots of different variations on the names for these people, but surely it’s more useful for students to know that ‘mum/mom/mam’ are more common in informal speech than ‘mother’ for example. I only use ‘mother’ when I’m talking to a student who didn’t understand ‘mum’ or when I’m being sarcastic 😉 And I don’t think I’ve ever referred to ‘my grandfather’ or ‘my grandmother’ in a normal conversation.

What do you think? (By the way, I’m prepared to be proved wrong…)

A gratuitous photo of me and my mum :)

A gratuitous photo of me and my mum 🙂

Questions for micro-dictations

I’m putting together some activities to help students understand more fluent English speech, ready for a seminar on listening skills I’m running next weekend.  One of the activities is micro-dictations of common questions spoken at as normal a speed as possible. It can be difficult to find things like this ready-prepared, so I’ve recorded some and embedded them here:

What’s your name?
Where are you from?
What do you do?
What are you going to have?
What are you going to do tomorrow?
Did you have a good holiday?


Listening attentivelyI’d be interested to hear how you use them.

A map of me

With continuous enrolment, we get new students joining our classes every Monday morning, if they change from another class, on a Monday afternoon, when they’re new to the school, and sometimes on a Tuesday morning too, if they only have morning classes! This means that we’re constantly trying to make sure our students get on well together, and I’m always trying to find new getting to know you activities that still motivate and interest the students who’ve been in the class for weeks.

This is what I used a couple of weeks ago:

Mind map

 

  • Ask students in pairs/small groups to decide what the connections are between the items on your own mind map.
  • Each pair/group writes three questions to find out more about the connections.
  • They then create their own mind maps – give them about 10 minutes, as it takes a while to get a good mind map.
  • Finally, they mingle and ask and answer questions about each other’s mind maps.

My students spent about 90 minutes on the whole process. I copied their mind maps and learnt a lot about my students in the process, something which isn’t always easy in a most of the getting to know you exercises I use. I even found out which of my students were great artists!

Starting the Delta

No, not time travel. Instead, a few questions for Chris Wilson, who’s about to start the Delta. He’ll be dedicating his blog, elt squared, almost exclusively to Delta for the duration of his course. Here are my questions and his answers:

  1. Why did you decide to do Delta?

    As soon as I heard there was a higher level teaching certificate than the Celta, I knew I wanted to get it at some point. I heard that I needed two years teaching experience, something that I am grateful for, but I knew I didn’t want to be a “base-level” teacher, although since then I’ve realised there are plenty of great teachers who haven’t done the Delta but still have learnt a lot over time.
    I wanted to really know why I should teach in a certain way and how to craft better lessons. I guess I also just love learning about language, teaching and how the brain works. Really I just want to know more about teaching and help people more.

  2. How are you going to do it? Why did you choose this method?

    I’m doing a modular distance Delta, which means I’m taking each module on it’s own when I want, fitting them in as I can. This was largely a practical decision tying in with the financial help that I could get from my school, but also because of difficulties in finding a local tutor for module two. I am probably going to have to do module two intensively at a local centre because of that.
    Also I’m interested in taking a closer look at how the distance delta does the distance learning aspect of the Delta so our school can hopefully steal some ideas too 🙂

  3. How much do you feel you know about the course before you start?

    I feel I know quite a lot about the course thanks to ELTChat and the recent “How to survive the Delta” discussion (and the previous “what has the delta ever done for us” one). I’ve also spent the last few months just asking people who had done the course lots of questions. At the same time I don’t know anyone who has done it the way I am about to, so I’m still unsure how it will go!

  4. How have you prepared for the Delta?

    I’ve been asking a lot of questions, blogging for professional development and getting my note-taking system in order. At the same time we’ve been really busy here at work recently (and I’ve been finishing off a few projects that I want to get done before the start of the Delta) so perhaps erratically would be the best adverb 🙂

  5. What do you think will be the most useful part of the course?

    I am really looking forward to all of it, to be honest, and I am sure it will all be useful. I can’t wait to up my game in both knowledge of terminology and methodology, conducting a research project and lesson observations. In all honesty the lesson observations and classroom practice probably scares me the most and so is probably the part that will be most useful for me.

  6. What will be the most difficult part?

    I think it’s connected to the point above, class observations. I am quite clumsy and forgetful at the best of times but with stress I know I can slip up more and take longer to recover.

  7. Anything else?

    I guess thanks to everyone who has helped with their advice and recommendation in relation to the DELTA. I hope you don’t mind me asking a few more questions over the coming months!

I’m looking forward to following Chris’ blog over the next few months, and even more, to the end of my own Delta on June 5th! This post is, in fact, procrastination, as I’m supposed to be getting ready for the third of my four observed lessons. Hope you found it interesting!

Chris' new friend?

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

Immigration: Belongings

Last week I stumbled across an excellent photo article from the New York Times about immigrants to New York City and the objects they choose to bring with them. This is the lesson I created based on the article, but it is full of other possibilities too. I hope you find it useful, and I look forward to hearing what you decide to do with it.

Immigration belongings screenshot

I started off with the powerpoint presentation below. I displayed it on the interactive whiteboard, but you could print off the pictures and put them around the room instead. First, students were asked to speculate on what is in the pictures, and naturally they focus on the objects. Next, I asked them what links the pictures together, accepting any suggestions. I then told them that these were objects which immigrants to New York City brought with them. I then asked them to make notes about their thoughts on the gender, nationality, age, job and family of the owners of each object.

[To download, click ‘view on slideshare’. You may have to log in (not sure), but it’s completely free. You should then be able to click on ‘download’ above the document.]

I then gave the students the texts and asked them to read quickly to match each text to the photos. Some of them needed quite a lot of persuading to skim read and not try to understand everything!

You can find the correct answers by looking at the original article online. The students then had to check their predictions about the people by reading the text in a bit more detail. When a colleague reused the materials, she added a worksheet with a table with spaces for each item of information, which worked better than the notes which my students made.

In the penultimate step of the two-hour lesson, I divided the ‘stories’ up around the class, so that each pair of students had two people to read about. They had to create three to five questions about each person, not including the information we had already talked about (nationality, job etc) and write them down.

Finally, they mingled and asked the other students their questions.

For homework, I asked them to choose a story from the comments board, take notes on it and bring them to class the next day to tell the other students about.

A couple of days later I was working on relative clauses with the same class, and created the following gapfill to help them practise which relative pronoun to use:

The texts could also be used to practise narrative tenses, reported speech, time phrases and much more. You could also use it to lead into a discussion on immigration.

Enjoy!

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