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

Posts tagged ‘student-driven’

Writing journals with students

When I was working at IH Newcastle, I taught the same group for 20 hours a week, four hours a day, divided into two two-hour lessons. That’s quite a lot of time with the same group, and yet I sometimes found it difficult to get to know the students with any kind of consistency or depth, especially because there was so much coming and going: new students could arrive Monday morning, Monday afternoon and/or Tuesday morning, and every Friday some students left.

I decided to try an idea I’d first heard about at TESOL France in November 2011: journal writing. By the time I left Newcastle I’d done it successfully with groups at three different levels, with slightly different approaches in each case.

For all three levels, students wrote in small A6 notebooks from the school. I think this is the perfect size, as they’re not too daunting and it’s relatively easy to fill a page. When I introduced the journals for the first time, I asked the students to tell me anything they thought I should know about them. They could also ask me questions, about life in the UK, about English, or about me. I think it’s only fair to give them the chance to ask about me, if I want them to talk about themselves in this way. They had time in class to write their response. I then collected the journals and spent about an hour each day responding to all of them, with some correction (depending on whether I wanted that particular student to focus on accuracy or fluency when writing). As far as possible, my response consisted of answering any questions they’d asked me, then asking further questions as a prompt for the next day’s journal writing. The questions could be linked to things the students had told me, or on a completely new topic. The topics we covered in the journals were incredibly wide-ranging, and differed from student to student. They also informed some of the lessons I taught, by showing me what my students were interested in. Here are some of the things I remember talking about:

  • why the English drink so much
  • why Tesco is so popular
  • the North Korea/South Korea divide
  • the riots in Turkey
  • how to become a state school teacher in Spain
  • films and TV series (a lot!)
  • books
  • places to visit in Newcastle/the UK/the students’ own countries/cities
  • language learning (including advice on how to practise outside class)
  • family
  • homesickness
  • computer games
  • card games/tricks
  • …and much, much more…

When the students left my class and/or the school, I gave them their journals to take away with them.

Pre-Intermediate

This was a group with a lot of Arabic students who were very reluctant to write generally, but who were very willing to write in the journals. I think this is because it was writing with a real purpose, and they could see that I was correcting them. It was also important for them that I was showing an interest in them as individuals, by responding to what they wrote on a personal level. There were non-Arabic students too, and the journals gave me a chance to see everyone’s writing regularly.

With this group, I did the journals at the end of the lesson, which meant we didn’t always do them if an activity ran over. I tried to leave about 20 minutes, with the first 10 being for a regular spelling test, as this was a real problem area. All of the spellings in the test were collected from the journals – I recorded the mistakes in a list in my notebook, which I then put onto Quizlet. Each time we did the journals, I would dictate five spellings for the students to put in the back of their notebook. After the spelling test, they had writing time to respond to my comments and questions and/or continue the conversation in any way they chose. Sometimes I would ask them all to write on a specific topic. Here are some examples of writing they did after my mum visited the class, in which you can see the kind of feedback I gave.

Pre-intermediate student journal sample Pre-intermediate student journal sample Pre-intermediate student journal sample Pre-intermediate student journal sample Pre-intermediate student journal sample

Intermediate

Despite the success of the journals with the pre-intermediate class, I didn’t start using them for a while with the intermediate group – I’m not sure why! When I did, I did a lot less correction with them. We also didn’t do a spelling test as part of the journal writing, although I did collect the spellings and do occasional tests and games with them in class instead. As soon as I started using the journals, the dynamic in the class changed and my rapport with the students really improved as we all got to know each other better. The quiet writing time at the end of most classes was also good for the more introverted students.

Advanced

Again, I didn’t start using the journals straight away, but I did use them for over two months. For the students who wrote them for that whole time, there was a marked improvement in the quality of their writing and in the length of their responses. What was quite noticeable with this group was that they really tried to incorporate new vocabulary and grammatical structures into their journals. Their written comments and questions were also sometimes language-related. For example, after a lesson on collocations with ‘get’, one student told me about all the phrases with ‘get’ he’d heard his host family use the night before.

I finally learnt from my pre-int/int experience and moved journal time to the beginning of the lesson. As students came in I gave them their journals and they started writing straight away. This was a great way to cater for latecomers, and gave the students the chance to write for as long as they needed to (normally 15-20 minutes) instead of being rushed by the end of the lesson approaching/arriving. While the students were writing, I would normally have a conversation with one or two of the students in a kind of mini tutorial. At this level I underlined problems/mistakes but didn’t correct them, so they had to ask me if they didn’t understand what the problem was. I could also use this time to talk about other areas to work on, unrelated to the journals, and to provide some intensive, targeted practice.

This was the class I was teaching when I left Newcastle, and in my final lesson with them I asked for some feedback on the journal writing process. I asked them:

  1. What did you think about writing the journals?
  2. Do you think writing the journals helped you?
  3. How could I improve this activity?

These are their exact responses:

J

In my opinion, it’s a very good idea to get them pupils to write.

It’s more interesting than other writing exercises, because it implies a conversation (between teacher and student).

In all my other classes I barely wrote. That’s not very good because it’s one of my sticking points in English and therefore it was the perfect exercise for me.

This student had been a bit frustrating for me, as I couldn’t seem to get through to him. Writing the journal improved my rapport with him, and gave us things to talk about. It also really focussed on his weak point, which was writing as he said. I was pleasantly surprised by his feedback.

K

The journals are a good way to test student’s writing and get to know them, so I think it is very useful.

R

What did you think about writing the journals?

It was a good experience. We tried to use the vocabulary we learned before so it was a good way to practise. It’s also interesting because we wrote about thing we like.

How could I improve it?

I have no idea.

L

1. I really liked writing the journal because it’s a way of knowing each other better and practicing my writing. It’s an interesting thing and I enjoyed doing it. The good thing is that now I’ve something to remember you!

2. As I said before I honestly think that it really helped me, because you corrected my mistakes and I hope I won’t make them again.

3. I’d say that you don’t need to improve it. It’s great the way it is!! It doesn’t need an improvement.

(As you see, I’ve used different ways of expressing my opinion) (something we’d practised in class that week!)

N

I’ve never done it before. For starters I was surprised, but got used to it.

– make language problems obvious. Sometimes I haven’t been aware of this à good to know so that I can work on it.

– Go ahead with these journals, a piece of individual teaching in a large group!!

– Definitely!

– Nothing to complain about J

T

1. Very positive. Please go on with it. I think it’s positive to learn about your students. You can immediately evaluate them for their writing skill. For the students is good to write about their daily life.

2. For me it was helpful. Actually I know my weak point and I will try to improve it.

3. The booklet should be bigger. Nothing else to add.

Your turn

As you can see, the journals made a real difference with these groups, and as one of the students said, allowed me to provide ‘a piece of individual teaching in a large group’. Although they probably took an hour or so of my time each day to check, the pay-off in terms of the improved rapport and needs analysis were worth it. When you’re teaching the same group all the time, you don’t necessarily need to do the journals every day, but it’s a good routine to get into (and provides 20 minutes of ready-planned lesson each time!)

I haven’t tried this with my groups in Sevastopol yet, but now that I’ve written this post, maybe I will. I could introduce it, with them making the first entry in class, then give the students the chance to write their journals at home if they want to continue with it. Hmm…

Another post you might be interested in: Writing and Marking

My Words – the new IH app

At the IH Online Conference 3 this morning a brand new app was launched. I’ve downloaded it, and have already started recommending it to my students.

It’s called ‘My Words’ and allows students to create their own personalised dictionaries in any of about 20 languages. For each word students can add the following:

  • translations in one or two languages;
  • a definition/example sentence;
  • a category (self-defined, so it could be e.g. furniture/food or week one/two or…);
  • the part of speech;
  • the pronunciation, recorded from anywhere, for example their teacher or an online dictionary, or even a film;
  • a photo, taken themselves.

Later, they can search for the words in a variety of ways, including by definition. This means that if they remember the definition but not the word, they can still find the word.

To delete a word, you need to click ‘list’ at the bottom, then swipe the word and a ‘delete’ button will appear.

The only drawback at the moment is that there is no way to rate the words so that only the most important words for you appear in the app. IH are looking for feedback on the app, so why not download it and let Sophie know what you think? sophie.montagne@ihworld.com

As soon as I restart my Chinese studies, I’ll be using it in earnest!

My new blog: Independent English

As if two blogs weren’t enough 😉

I set up ‘Independent English‘ for students, with the aim of giving them ideas to help them practise English at home. I plan to post roughly once a week, with each post being a step-by-step guide which they can work through alone or with a teacher. If I have time, I will also record myself reading the post so that students can listen to it if they are not confident readers. It is probably best for B1/Intermediate and higher at the moment, although some posts may be suitable for lower levels later.

The first entry is about podcasts, including a list of links to (in my opinion) good podcasts for learners and native speakers to listen to.

There is also a facebook page for you to ‘like’.

Please feel free to pass the link on to your students, and/or to give me feedback on how to improve the site. Hope you find it useful!

The consequences of me

This activity came to me when I was trying to think of something for a stand-alone lesson on a Monday morning before new students joined our B1 Intermediate class. For a sudden idea, it worked surprisingly well, so I thought I would share it with you.

It’s based on the game ‘Consequences’. Each person writes one or two sentences, folds the paper and passes it to the next person. Nobody can see what has been written before.

Each student needs a piece of paper and a pen, and the teacher needs a list of questions. This was my list:

  • What’s your name and where are you from?
  • What do you like doing in your free time?
  • Why are you learning English?
  • What is your family like? (you could also say ‘Describe your family’ if the ‘is…like’ structure is too difficult)
  • When was your last holiday? What did you do?
  • What are you going to do this evening?
  • What are your future plans? Is English important for your future?
  • What is one thing you love and one thing you hate?

Students answered the questions one at a time, folded the paper and passed it on, then answered the next question. In the end, we had over one page of writing for each student, something which they are often reluctant to produce otherwise.

Here are some examples (click to enlarge):

Consequences of me Consequences of me

Consequences of me

Students then worked in small groups to read the texts and correct them. Because each piece of paper had writing from all of them, it didn’t feel like they were being targeted. They could also see that everyone in the class makes mistakes, not just them. I monitored and helped them with any questions, but generally they managed to correct most things without my help.

Once they had all looked at every piece of paper, I highlighted the remaining few problems (there were never more than six on any piece of paper) and they looked at them together. You can see these in pink on the examples above.

The whole activity prompted a lot of discussion about the grammar, spellings and meanings, and students were really motivated.

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!

Edmodo

I love Edmodo! I discovered it via Twitter the day before my first class of the 2010-2011 academic year, and I can honestly say it has revolutionised the way that I interact with my students both inside and outside class.

If you’ve never heard of it, here’s a quick intro. I describe it as ‘facebook for education’. Here’s a screenshot of my homepage at the moment:

 

For anyone who has used facebook, the interface should be instantly familiar, and for anyone who hasn’t it is very easy to pick up. Here’s a video to show you how it works:

Their user guide is very comprehensive, but if you get stuck, feel free to ask for help!

As a teacher, it has meant I can easily:

  • share materials
  • make sure absent students know what they’ve missed
  • offer students help
  • collect and mark assignments
  • provide a varied diet of homework (not just workbook pages)
  • share links and videos to make English more fun
  • motivate students to find out more about various aspects of English-speaking culture
  • chat with my students outside class
  • and much much more…

I’ve received a lot more homework from my students, including returned second drafts of writing (almost unheard of before!), felt a difference in rapport with my students, had great fun discussing various youtube clips, and generally seen a much higher level of engagement and motivation both inside and outside the classroom.

But don’t just take my word for it’s usefulness. 27 of the 45 students I used Edmodo with last year responded to a survey I created to find out what they thought of it, and this is what they had to say:

So as you can see, Edmodo has made a real difference to the English-teaching and -learning experience in my classes over the past year, and it’s definitely something I will use again.

I hope this has persuaded you to try it out (and no, I’m not being paid for this!) 🙂

Enjoy!

Diary of a beginner: seventh lesson

To see the previous lessons, click here.

In today’s lesson we started off with a quick revision of the long vowel sounds covered at the end of the last lesson because H said he hadn’t listened to them at all. He remembered almost all of them, but struggles with the /3:/ sound in bird.

I then used Cuisenaire rods to elicit the forms that we did last time. This was the result for ‘I’ (without the words!):

Cuisenaire rods grammarI then held up the ‘I’ white rod and said ‘you’ and we repeated the pattern, then did the same for he/she/it. He needed to use his piece of paper to remember the forms the first time round, so we ended up doing it twice: once with the paper, once without.

Before the lesson I had laid out a set of pictures cut from magazines:

Pictures on deskI pointed at people/things in the pictures and asked a set of simple questions, along the lines of:

Is he a teacher?

Is it a dog?

designed to elicit Yes/No short answers, referring to the Cuisenaire rods if necessary. We then switched roles so that H was asking the questions. He started to experiment more with the language, adding a few colours, this/that and my/your. I haven’t done colours with him, so I checked quickly and he knows most of the basic ones except for brown, purple and grey.

I decided to build on the possessive pronouns my/your for the rest of the lesson. He wrote another table similar to last week’s one:

Possessive pronounsI know the sentence ‘It is its cup’ is a little odd, but he was happy with the pattern, so I don’t think it matters too much.

I made a quick list of all of the things we’ve covered, plus some of the extra language he brought up in the picture activity above. It looks like this at the moment:

Vocabulary

Numbers

1-20

Time

Monday-Sunday, January-December

The Alphabet

A-Z

Colours

Knows: red, blue, black, white, green, yellow, orange, pink

Added 19/6: purple, gray, brown

Jobs

Teacher, student, fireman/firewoman, actor/actress, shop assistant, singer, sportsman/sportswoman, secretary

Pronunciation 19/6: hairdresser, waiter, journalist, nurse

Added 19/6: policeman/policewoman

Things

cup, table, chair, armchair

Animals

dog, cat, mouse

Transport

bike, car, train

 

Grammar

To be

I am, You are, He/She/It is (+ – ? yes no)

Possessives

my, your, his, her, its

I’ll try to keep the list up-to-date. H was very motivated to see all of the things we’ve managed to cover so far.

His homework is to listen to recordings of the three colours he had trouble with (he asked for them with Czech too), the jobs he had trouble pronouncing and the sentences from his grid for my/your/etc.

This could be our last face-to-face lesson as I’m leaving Brno a week today. We’re planning to try out teaching via Skype, so watch this space!

Hiding ‘have’

A couple of weeks ago I was due to revise the grammar of ‘have’ with Advanced students, covered a couple of months previously. Wanting to make it more student-centred but being short of inspiration, I put a call out on Twitter for help. @fionamau came to the rescue with this suggestion:

Give the students five minutes to write as many sentences as they can using the word ‘have’ in any tense.

With this as my starting point, I then created a whole lesson:

  • SS did a very quick controlled practice exercise to remind them of different uses of ‘have’.
  • They had five minutes to write their sentences.
  • With a partner, they checked their sentences. I also quickly went round and offered advice.
  • With the same partner, SS wrote a text in any format they wanted to (story, review, letter…) which had to include one sentence from their list.
  • They switched texts with another group and had to find the hidden sentence.
  • They then got their original text back and with the help of a monolingual dictionary, a collocations dictionary, a thesaurus and the Internet (in the form of my laptop) they then had to make the text more advanced. By this, I meant moving away from short S + V + O sentences (if appropriate to the text type) and trying to incorporate some of the grammar and vocabulary we have looked at throughout the year. I also challenged them to include more description / emotion etc depending on the text type they had chosen. The final thing for them to look at was punctuation – in Czech, the longer a sentence is, the better.

With their permission, here is an example of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ transformation of one of the texts:

Before (sorry about the format – it’s easier to read if you click on the image)


After

New Irish restaurant is big disappointment

A new Irish restaurant was  opened in the city centre two weeks ago so I decided to visit it and look  the menu over. I had a delicious lunch in the afternoon, so  I was expecting a tasty  meal in the evening as well. I was excited to have a kind of traditional Irishfeast , but it turned out this  wasn´t such a good idea.  It took the  waiter 15 minutes to come with the carte du jour and finally, when I chose my meal, I was told that they didn´t have it that day . I started to be really annoyed. However, I picked something else.

I really didn´t know what my meal was going to be because the name was written in Irish, so it was quite surprising when I got undercooked potatoes with a bloody steak. It made me feel sick so I had to go home. I must say it was disgusting.

I taught the same basic lesson with two different groups and both of them really enjoyed it. They also found it useful to analyse the grammar using their own sentences, as it highlighted the problems THEY had, and not the ones which I ‘guessed’ at.

It would be great to hear your suggestions for variations / improvements on this.

Enjoy!

CAM Session 1: Thoughts and Action Plan

The first session of the IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology (CAM) was as inspiring and stimulating as I expected it to be. My school, IH Brno, is offering CAM for the first time this year, so I’m studying in a group of 12 teachers as we’re all trying hard to develop professionally as much as possible. I’m by far the least experienced, as I’m only just entering my third professional year of teaching (I taught for a year pre-CELTA in Paraguay too). Everyone else in the group has at least 7 or 8 years! On the plus side, this means I’ve got plenty of other people’s experiences to draw on.

In the session, we looked at the overall structure of the course and at one specific issue from each teacher in the group. We did this through a mingle to gather ideas and get an idea of what each of us was concerned about. I can already see lots of opportunities for my own development, and that was after only one session!

Our homework was to great a personal action plan focussing on the areas we would like to improve in. As part of the course we will be doing research and experimenting with new things in class. The four areas I’m planning to look into are listed below, along with my rationale and the way I plan to follow up on them. I’ve tried to be as exhaustive as possible when listing the sources I’m planning to use. If you have any extra ideas, please put them in the comments.

Don’t forget to come back to the blog to find out how I’m getting on.

Integrating technology into my courses

  • To make my teaching more dynamic.
  • To be more relevant to my students’ 21st-century lifestyles.
  • To provide variety – no everything is based on the coursebook.
  • To provide opportunities for students to study in a personalised way.

How?

Making homework an integral part of my courses

  • To encourage students to study outside class.
  • To expose students to native-speaker culture (British or otherwise).

How?

Presenting and grading writing

  • Focus on Advanced students, especially those preparing for CAE.
  • Motivating students to write, as this is something they are often unwilling to do, even when preparing for an exam.
  • Being consistent and constructive in my marking and comments.

How?

Provide student-driven lessons

  • Increasing motivation by studying what students need / want to study.
  • Empowering students – allowing them to direct the course.

How?

  • Peer observations
  • Follow up on other teachers’ suggestions from CAM Session 1
  • Reading:
    • ‘Learner-based Teaching’ by Colin Campbell and Hanna Kryszewska
    • ‘Learner-Centredness as Language Education’ by Ian Tudor

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