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

Posts tagged ‘skills’

Write on!

This  week has been all about writing for myself and my students. On Wednesday, I took part in the #eltchat on Writing and Marking (transcript here, summary here) and on Friday we had a CAM (IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology) session on Writing. In the course of both I was thinking about the writing my students have done recently, and realised that we’ve done many different things. Here is a selection of them in no particular order.

Email Workshop

  • SS sent me examples of real emails written in English.
  • I printed them, along with a couple of real emails I have sent to other native speakers, and cut them up to take into class.
  • SS sorted them on a scale (roughly) from formal to informal.
  • SS read the emails in more detail, attaching post-it notes to them with examples of good language from them. There was also a bit of scrap paper next to each where they could write any questions.
  • We took the emails one by one and went through the post-it notes and scrap paper, adding extra notes as they came up.

An example of an email we had looked at

  • At home, I scanned the emails with the post-it notes still stuck on them and emailed them to the SS.
  • For homework, SS added to a GoogleDoc to serve as a final reference which they can access at any time after the class. This is the original template, which you’re welcome to use (please ask me if you need access).

With five students and nine emails, this has already taken one 90-minute class, and could easily take another. The students are really enthusiastic about it and told me it was very useful at the end of the session.

Email conversations

One of the first things I did in my classes at the beginning of the year was to gather the SS’ email addresses. We are constantly in contact with each other, mainly about homework but with other emails related to holidays and issues the students have.

Short summaries

After a discussion in class, I encouraged SS to write a very short summary (3-4 sentences) of what they learnt. I then collected it, marked it quickly while they were doing some listening, and returned it asking them to email it to me for homework. This could have been done without marking, but as these students are training to take the CAE exam and are generally reluctant to write, every little helps!

Discussion questions and answers

The same group did some speaking in class based on a wordle of money questions from New English File Advanced. I gave them the original teacher’s book page for homework, then asked them to choose two questions. For one, they had to record an answer through audioboo or on their mobile phones; for the other, they needed to send me short paragraph by email. I posted the results on my student blog here. Half of the class did their homework, which is a pretty good hit rate for them!

Essay writing

In the CAE exam class, I introduced the group to essay writing. We followed a task-based approach, with the students writing essays in pairs, followed by an examination of linking phrases they could use to improve cohesion. They then had a chance to redraft their essay using the language and tips from the coursebook. I gave them online feedback for the first time (example) using Jing for the recording, along with OmniDazzle to do the mark-up. One student has already replied:

Thank you very much for this feedback. I think it very useful and I really like it. I believe that it will help all of us.

Thanks to all those on #eltchat who suggested feedback like this – it’s a great tool to add my toolbox.

EnglishRaven’s materials

Jason Renshaw is one of my favourite bloggers to follow. He constantly inspires me with all of the materials he posts on his excellent blog. This week I finally got to experiment with two of them – the Wizard English Grid (WEG) for emergent language, based on this post, and the reading and questions template from this post. The former is still a work in progress with the various groups I’ve introduced it into, but the latter was very successful. Having covered advanced family vocabulary with one group last week, I wanted to revise while pushing the students further. I found an article about demographics in the Czech Republic to paste into the empty space in Jason’s template, then gave the students time to create their own questions. We only had half an hour in class, but the way the discussion was going we could easily have continued for an hour. And where was the writing, I hear you cry? Well, the questions the discussion was based on were all written by the students themselves – something which they don’t often practise.

Transcripts

With two 1-2-1 students I recorded speaking, which they then typed a transcript of for us to work on the language. Neither of them noticed that they were writing, and they commented afterwards that they had never of thought of doing this before.

YLs and Teens

Even my younger learners didn’t escape! In the YL class of pre-intermediate nine- to ten-year-olds we’ve been watching a few minutes of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the end of each lesson as a reward for all of their hard work. This week, there was a space in the syllabus which was the perfect time to teach them some of the vocabulary they’d been struggling with. As a follow-up they wrote a couple of sentences about the film and draw a picture on this sheet:

The intermediate-level teens started writing a script for a presentation we’re going to make next week on their technology use.

The End

I think that pretty much covers it, and I hope it’s useful to someone! When I started thinking about it, I was very surprised at just how much writing there was in one week’s worth of lessons. What I’m concentrating on at the moment is trying to make all writing I do relevant and to give the students as much of a sense of purpose as possible. I know I was definitely guilty of ‘the next page is writing, so we’ll do it on Monday’ and ‘do the writing for homework’ before, and I hope the things featured in this post are the first steps to changing this!

Twitter and Screencasts as texts

As a pre-session CAM task, we have been asked to choose one written and one spoken text-type and come up with a plan to develop a (theoretical) one-to-one student’s receptive skills relating to these text types. This is my attempt:

Written: Twitter conversations

  • Genre features: short messages. Between typical spoken and written style. Generally quite informal. Many abbreviations / codes. Use of ellipsis to shorten texts (only 140 characters are allowed)
  • Schemata: SS needs to access Twitter schema (i.e. Twitter-specific lexis), plus schema related to the type of conversations they follow (i.e. celebrity chat, teachers, businessmen)
  • Sub-skills:
    • Identifying the topic of the text and recognising topic changes.
    • Identifying text-type and the writer’s purpose. (i.e. giving information, asking for help, encouraging support for a cause)
    • Inferring the writer’s attitude. (helpful, humorous, sarcastic)
    • Understanding text organisation and following the development of the text.
  • Strategies needed:
    • Activating background knowledge of the topic before reading the text.
    • Guessing the meaning of unknown words from context.
    • Seeking clarification.
    • Indicating lack of comprehension.
  • How to develop these skills:
    • First, focus on Twitter lexis (RT, ff, via, blog, post, mention, hashtag, tweet, feed)
    • Find out from the student what kind of people they follow. Divide them into groups by the function of their tweeting e.g. Do they generally tweet ideas? links? information? Work with the student to show them how this can help them to understand the messages.
    • Choose some of the conversations which the student has tried to follow. Work with them to look at cohesive devices throughout the text.
    • Using the same conversations, examine how the writer has shortened the text to fit the 140-character limit.
    • Look at example tweets from their feed and examine the writer’s attitude in each. Identify keys to recognising this attitude, including words, knowledge of the writer (are they known to be e.g. left-wing), pragmatics.

Spoken: Screencast tutorials.

  • Genre features: Supported by visuals. May include some technical language. Imperatives and other instruction-giving structures (If you click here…) Computer lexis.
  • Schemata: Computing schema, schema related to specific tool (e.g. voice-recording software), instruction-giving schema
  • Sub-skills:
    • Perceiving and distinguishing between different sounds.
    • Dividing speech into recognisable words or phrases.
    • Distinguishing between given and new information.
    • Using discourse markers and context clues to predict what will come next.
    • Guessing the meaning of words and expressions.
    • Identifying key information and gist.
  • Strategies needed:
    • Activating background knowledge of the topic before starting to listen.
    • Using non-linguistic information (situation, context, etc.) to predict what will be heard.
    • Using non-linguistic visual clues to help infer meaning.
  • How to develop these skills:
    • Focus on computing lexis, especially related to navigating on-screen (click, hover, press, button, cursor, mouse, upload, download)
    • Watch screencasts with student highlighting instances of these words.
    • Study different methods of giving instructions (imperatives, first conditional…)
    • Watch screencasts focussing on the instruction language.
    • Watch screencasts without sound to predict the content.
    • Transcribe a screencast to work on sound distinctions / divisions.
    • Use the transcription to study discourse markers / cohesion.

Has anyone focussed on these as text-types in the classroom? I’d be interested to know if my strategy reflects your own.

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