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

Posts tagged ‘video’

Setting up video observations

Over the last 18 months, we have accidentally made video observations a ‘thing’ at our school. There was no grand plan – it just kind of happened, and I’m very glad it did!

As far as I remember, it started with the senior staff recording some of their lessons and making them available to the teachers to watch in a video bank on the school server. If we think particular teachers need help with something specific, we might recommend they watch a specific video or clip.

Then we had some teachers in satellite schools who needed to be observed, but we were not able to send an observer out for the 45 minutes they needed. Video was logistically much easier to set up, and had the added bonus that the teacher could see themselves too. Some teachers have also chosen to record themselves to look for specific things in their lessons, without having it formally observed.

Another technique is when a senior teacher and an inexperienced teacher would film themselves teaching the same lesson plan (we plan collaboratively) with their respective groups, then watch both videos and compare how the lesson plan manifested itself with two different groups. This is particularly useful for demonstrating differences in pace and in running feedback.

The final way in which we use videos is to back up in-person observations, with the observer recording clips of the lesson to show the teacher during feedback.

Logistics

Although it is now possible to easily record lessons on a smartphone, most of the teachers use my Canon IXUS camera and GorillaPod tripod.

Blue Canon IXUS camera

Mine looks a bit more beaten up than this one!

Gorillapod tripod

It’s magic! You can attach it to all kinds of things 🙂

They can set it up anywhere in the room and it will record non-stop for 60 minutes (if I’ve remembered to charge the battery and empty the memory card!) I then put the video into their individual space on the server for them to watch when they are ready.

If it’s for a more formal observation, we do it in two different ways. Sometimes the observer watches the video first, then does the post-observation feedback in the same way as they would for a standard observation, but showing any relevant clips from the observation. Alternatively, the observer and teacher watch it together at the same time, having already decided what they’re looking for. They pause and discuss the video at relevant points, and decide together what the action points are coming out of the observation, and what positive things were spotted.

Permissions

On joining the school, all students sign a list of terms and conditions. One of the items is that they are happy to be filmed or audio recorded. Teachers also sign permission slips in our induction week professional development sessions. Videos are for internal use only, and they are entirely within the control of the teacher. It is up to the teacher who sees them and whether they choose to put it into the school video bank for other teachers to see.

Results

Video observations are a shortcut in a lot of ways. They enable teachers to see and hear:

  • the reactions of students to what they are doing, including who is not paying attention (and why?)
  • their activity set-up and how effective it is
  • how well students work with each other
  • pacing
  • which activities do and don’t work with a particular group
  • how other teachers do things, particularly managing young learner and teen groups (it’s not always possible for us to organise peer observations)
  • and much, much more.

Overall, video observations have enabled us to provide richer professional development to our teachers, enabling them to see into a variety of classrooms, including their own. If you haven’t tried it with your own teaching yet, I would highly recommend it. If you want to introduce it at your school, start with your own teaching – if you lead by example, it’s easier for other teachers to want to join in as it can feel less threatening. Good luck!

Lessons you can watch online

For a lot of teachers, it can be hard to find the time or the opportunity to observe and learn from other teachers’ lessons. If that’s you, hopefully you’ll find these videos useful.

I’ve divided them into loose categories, with a sentence or two to help you decide which are the most relevant to you. Within the categories, they’re just in the order I found them! I’d like to thank the many people who’ve sent me links to these videos over the years (though unfortunately I can’t remember exactly who sent me what!)

Please feel free to tell me about other videos I may have missed in the comments, as well as any broken links. I’d particularly appreciate any VYL, YL or teen videos that may be out there, though I know they may be hard to find.

P.S. I’ll admit that I haven’t watched all of these from start to finish, just bits and pieces, so please proceed with caution…

Very young learners

Hubert Puchta introducing vocabulary and using Total Physical Response (TPR) and telling an action story (7 minutes)

 

An American kindergarten teacher working in a French-language immersion school (27 minutes) (via David Deubelbeiss)

 

Teacher Allen singing a song and teaching a demo lesson with Chinese kindergarteners (10 minutes)

 

Another kindergarten lesson in China, this time with 33 children (30 minutes)

 

Michael Roxas working on adjectives, using TPR and introducing clothes with a kindergarten group, working with a Chinese teacher (27 minutes) Michael has other videos of him teaching kindergarten on his YouTube channel.

 

 

 

 

Mark Kulek has lots and lots of videos of him teaching. This one shows him working with 25 Japanese 3- and 4- year olds (15 minutes) They are mostly in two playlists: Live Children’s English Classes EFL and How to teach kindergarten English class EFL. A lot of the clips are less than 5 minutes long.

 

 

This one shows Mark working with puppets (3 minutes)

 

Paul Pemberton teaching kindergarteners in China (30 minutes), including a really nice routine for getting kids to put their hands up

 

Shaun teaching 3 year olds in China for a parents’ open day (15 minutes)

 

Hannah Sophia Elliot teaching kindergarten in China (41 minutes)

 

Ann teaching children using a story bag (9 minutes)

 

Watts English have a series of videos showing children in Prague kindergarten. Here’s the first (20 minutes) Look at the Czech playlist for more, as well as the games bank.

 

Here’s an example of a teacher using a puppet as part of their WOW! method (5 minutes)

 

Savannah building rapport with a brand new group of students (4 minutes)

 

Tony using role plays as part of a demo lesson (23 minutes)

 

Najmul Hasan (a.k.a. Peter) also has a range of videos of him teaching kindergarten. Here’s one (25 minutes)

 

Rebecca Eddy teaching shapes to a kindergarten class in China (13 minutes)

 

This video is designed to show teachers how to run a demo lesson, but there are also lots of useful tips in there and examples of how to set up activities (9 minutes)

 

Tanner Applegate teaching 3 year olds in China (6 minutes)

 

Marco Brazil teaching colours to very young learners (4 minutes)

 

Teaching weather to kindergarten children, with a Chinese teacher also in the room (15 minutes)

 

Introducing body parts (4 minutes)

 

Thanks very much to Lucy, who suggested in the comments that I look up kindergarten ESL teacher on YouTube, which led to most of the above videos!

Young learners

Adi Rajan suggested the Teacher Development films available on the British Council website, accompanied by workbooks. Here’s one example (52 minutes):

 

Marisa Constantinides playing the ‘please’ game, and thereby demonstrating total physical response (TPR) (8 minutes) She wrote about this activity, plus two more with accompanying videos (Thanks for letting me know, Marisa!)

 

Ashley Haseley teaching sensory reactions in China (12 minutes)

 

Kaila Smith talking about teaching children in China, with lots of clips from her classes (4 minutes)

 

Pass the bag, a video of a game shared by Ian Leahy (90 seconds)

 

Sam playing a days of the week game with Thai children (2 minutes)

 

This video shows you how to do guided reading with elementary learners – it’s mostly describing the technique, but there are various clips of the teacher at work (11 minutes)

 

A counting game for kids (2 minutes)

 

This is a video describing various classroom management techniques shared by Ian Leahy. Although there is a voiceover throughout the entire video, there are lots of clips of exactly what’s happening. (16 minutes)

 

Gunter Gerngross demonstrating TPR with young learners (3 minutes)

 

Karlee Demierre using a body parts song (3 minutes)

 

Introducing animal vocabulary in a demo lesson, with lots of flashcard games (32 minutes)

 

Teens

A shopping lesson with pre-intermediate students using Solutions Pre-Intermediate (17 minutes)

 

Ross Thorburn introducing the rooms in a school (6 minutes)…

 

…and showing how unmonitored group work ran (35 seconds)

 

Ross Thorburn using flashcards with beginner young learners (1:10)…

 

…and with elementary young learners (1:30)

 

Ross also has tips for behaviour management, including live examples from class (5 minutes)…

 

…and demonstrating routines (7 minutes)

 

In this video, Ross introduces vocabulary, then takes his class into a shopping mall (8 minutes)

 

Adults (coursebook-based)

Sarah Troughear teaching a group using Life Pre-Intermediate, based on the topic of transport (60-minutes, including post-lesson analysis)

 

Clive Brown teaching a group using Life Upper Intermediate, based on the topic of documentary film-makers (37 minutes, including post-lesson analysis)

 

Andrew Walkley using an image to get students interested in a coursebook topic and lead in to a discussion (6 minutes)

 

Hugh Dellar teaching listening lexically – part 1 (13 minutes)

 

and part 2…

 

Stacey Hughes teaching using an e-book – find out more (10 minutes)

 

Me 🙂 teaching upper intermediate students – working with gerunds and infinitives (8 minutes) – find out more

 

Me clarifying the difference between ‘borrow’ and ‘lend’ with upper intermediate (9 minutes)

 

Me teaching money vocab to intermediate students (15 minutes)

 

Adults (non-coursebook-based)

Billy Hasirci teaching a demo lesson for a CELTA course (he’s the tutor!) He’s working with intermediate students, listening to a song (41 minutes)

 

Lindsay Warwick teaching second conditional (1 hour)

Hugh Dellar demonstrating the lexical approach, including lots of whiteboard work (18 minutes)

 

Elizabeth Kuizenga Romijn teaching high-level beginners (I would say elementary) cooking vocabulary using realia (38 minutes)

 

John Bartik teaching beginners the phrase ‘I like ______’ (13 minutes)

 

Chris Westergaard teaching animal vocabulary to a group of intermediate students (14 minutes)…

 

…and movie vocabulary to another intermediate group (10 minutes)

 

Functional language to help students debate, I’d guess at intermediate or upper intermediate level. I don’t know the teacher’s name, but it was shared on the ELT Experiences blog (17 minutes)

 

You can watch Luke Meddings teaching a dogme [What is dogme?] lesson by going to the British Council website. (40 minutes) There is a video of him using dogme with another group (26 minutes) and reflecting on it (24 minutes) available on the English Agenda website.

Martin Sketchley experimenting with dogme (9 minutes)…

 

…and doing a dictogloss (14 minutes)

 

Dr. Frances A. Boyd demonstrating lots of error correction techniques (14 minutes) (via Matt Noble)

 

Laura Patsko demonstrating how to do a pronunciation needs analysis with a multilingual class – find out more (16 minutes)

 

You can watch a process writing lesson by going to the British Council website. (37 minutes)

Fergus Fadden working on reading with an elementary group as a demo lesson (23 minutes) (Thanks Lucy)

 

Ross Thorburn teaching an IELTS speaking class, working on describing a city you’ve visited (15 minutes)…

 

…and teaching an intermediate class to give advice (20 minutes)

 

Andrew Drummond demonstrating a present-practice-produce (PPP) lesson structure using jobs (a demo lesson for trainees)… (21 minutes)

 

…and using PPP to teach the functional language of interrupting, followed by an analysis of the lesson stages (28 minutes)

 

Paullo Abreu (?) teaching second conditional (1 hour)

 

Olha Madylus teaching vocabulary and grammar to elementary students as a demo on a CELTA course (15 minutes)

 

Very small groups

Lavender teaching vocabulary (5 minutes)

 

Short clips

4 clips of Hugh Dellar (I think with upper intermediate students)

  1. Monitoring a discussion

 

2. Upgrading and clarifying language (3:30)

 

3. Setting up a speaking activity (1:20)

 

4. Clarifying language (3:30)

 

Martin Sketchley doing an activity with Arabic students to help them with spelling (6 minutes)

 

Katy Simpson-Davies using jazz chants (3:30)

 

Ian Leahy demonstrating 3 games, 1 each with adults, young learners and teens (3 minutes)

 

Ross Thorburn teaching adults to accept and reject invitations (3 minutes)

 

Conveying grammatical meaning, focussing on ‘used to’ and ‘would’ on Ross Thorburn’s channel (3 minutes)

 

Ross Thorburn giving instructions (3 minutes)

 

Olya Sergeeva demonstrating how to teach decoding skills to help students understand connected speech (5 minutes 30 seconds). This blog post explaining a little more accompanies the video.

 

Online teaching

Fergus Fadden teaching a lesson on Google + (13 minutes)

 

Mark McKinnon working on connected speech – the clip is part of a full blog post explaining what’s going on in the lesson.

Hugh Dellar teaching a one-hour Skype lesson based on Outcomes Advanced with three students from Krasnodar, Russia. It includes examples of Hugh works with lexis, as an advocate of the lexical approach.

 

Angelos Bollas teaching a CELTA demo grammar lesson to upper intermediate students on Zoom, showing you what it’s like from the teacher’s perspective:

Trainee teachers

CELTA TP7, as uploaded by English with Stephanie, intermediate students, restaurants (45 minutes)

 

And TP8, focussing on functional language, again with intermediate students (35 minutes)

 

David teaching during CELTA uploaded by Insearch LearningCentre (60 minutes) – I’m guessing it’s elementary or pre-intermediate students, talking about a trip to Japan

 

Anastasia, a Russian trainee who did her CELTA in 2012 (47 minutes)

 

 

Please feel free to suggest any extra videos or to tell me if there are any broken links.

Travelling back in time

Having recently recorded a lesson, I thought it would be interesting, if excruciating, to go back and re-watch myself teaching from mid-Delta. You can watch too if you want to join in the fun 😉

These are my impressions:

  • I’ve lost a lot of weight, and I’m so much happier and healthier for it! (Yep, that’s the first thing that struck me!)
  • My lessons flow much more now, with better pacing. There’s a dramatic reduction in the amount of time I spend at the board/doing open-class work.
  • I’m more confident when dealing with language now. Much less looking at a piece of paper to check things.
  • My God I was talking slowly! Although that may reflect the level of the students – I can’t remember if it was intermediate or upper intermediate, but I think I could have spoken at a more natural speed.
  • Everything was at the board here and open class. I’d be much less likely to do that now, unless I’m mopping up. I also appear to be telling the students lots of things, rather than checking if they already know it by getting them to discuss it in pairs.
  • My board work was already fairly well-organised, and I was using different colours to differentiate information. I can’t remember what happened in the rest of the lesson, but it looks like I’ve written everything on the board. That must have taken quite some time – time when I wasn’t paying attention to the students…
  • There wasn’t much thinking time for the students after some of my questions. The language appears to be appropriately graded.
  • The staging of the questions appears to be logical and the questions are all clear.

I wrote the above list while watching the video saved on my computer. I’ve just found the original blog post, and noticed some of my opinions/beliefs have changed too. For example “I think I was speaking at a manageable speed, using appropriate language, with some repetition, as you would get in normal language. I do speak faster to these students at times, but I feel in a grammar lesson it’s better to take your time.” which is not what I thought when watching it this time, especially when I realised they were upper intermediate!

Sandy at the board clarifying borrow and lend from a 2013 lesson

I also realised there’s actually another post about an intermediate class, this time with two videos. Here’s what I thought on watching those:

  • My instructions were fine, not as bad as I remembered, but not as good as they could have been. Some chesting of the handout, some instruction checking, instructions before handouts… I think the main problem with them seems to have been a lack of demos/examples.
  • The first time I was drilling without visuals, so students were saying, not reading. This is good! I also made everybody join in. Later in the lesson they were reading from the board though – no memorisation here. There were some supporting gestures and a bit of connected speech (‘to’/’from’) too, plus one example of drilling from phonemes. Now I suspect I’d put structures like “lend sth to sb” into a ‘real’ sentence, like “He lent the pen to her.”
  • I reminded students that “There’s never idle time in classes. That’s your remembering time.” Didn’t realise I was already doing that before – I thought that was a relatively new thing. There are also other bits of learner training: highlight the things you had problems with, use two colours to copy information and a reminder to use Quizlet, which was obviously a routine with this group as I didn’t have to tell them any more about it. I also must have used Edmodo with them, which I’m out of the habit of using with my students now (just some of my trainees).
  • Clear board work again 🙂
  • There was an opportunity for some dictionary work with the prepositions and the money words potentially.
  • I emphasised that the preposition should be learnt with the word: a bit of lexical chunking (though prompted by the book, and not sure I realised I was doing it)
  • Giving students the opportunity to work out the language themselves, although again in open class. Now I’d get students to discuss it in pairs first, then feedback in open class.
  • The borrow/lend focus included students’ names, making it a tiny bit more personal.
  • I made sure I had their attention during the clarification, and gave them separate writing time afterwards.
  • Wait time was better in this clarification than in the first video.
  • Nice bit of comparative linguistics about ‘borrow’ and ‘lend’ 🙂

So it turns out another benefit to recording yourself – you can come back to it later and see how much you’ve improved/developed/changed, just as you might by recording a student and saving it for the end of the year 🙂 Oh, and it wasn’t quite as excruciating as I thought it might be!

Watching myself teach (again)

A few days ago my students agreed to let me record their lesson. Thanks very much to Mike for doing the honours! Unfortunately we didn’t get the whole lesson, because the camera ran out of space, but 50 minutes was plenty. I was working with a group of upper intermediate students from English File Upper Intermediate 3rd edition, and this was my tenth lesson with them.

Four images of Sandy in class - two giving instructions, one with a hand up for silence, and one writing on the board

The last time I watched myself was during the Delta, about four years ago. You can see the videos here. I enjoyed the experience much more this time round, partly because I have a great group of students, and partly because I can see just how much I’ve progressed.

My instructions are now almost always clear and concise, and I’m much better at waiting for students to listen to me. I indicate changes in pairs or groupings and wait for students to move before the rest of my instructions, show the materials as I speak, and check instructions so the whole set-up is much more efficient. Monitoring is more consistent, for understanding of the task, task completion and language. I’ve recently started using the board more consistently for emergent language, and am developing the information I include there. I was pleased that I gave students time to write down this language as I don’t always remember it.

There is still the occasional lack of wait time for students to answer my question, I should have introduced the phonemic chart before students looked at the sounds on the board, and I need to incorporate more of the language that I write in my notebook into future lessons, though at least I’m normally getting it into the lesson which I write it down in. In fact, it’s important to get a lot more recycling and revision into all of my lessons.

The part of the lesson which wasn’t recorded consisted of finishing the pronunciation practice, including differentiating between /u:/ and /ʊ/, which the group particularly struggled with, and then giving them some speaking practice about clothes and fashion. For the first time in a while they had a chunk of time to do this, which was long enough for me to conduct a speaking assessment, one of the regular assessments we do. It also gave them freer practice, something which I often struggle to get to, and am trying to work on at the moment.

All in all, I think this was probably my most successful lesson with this group, mostly because for the first time this year I didn’t try to cram too much in. The students were engaged throughout, and I believe we only focussed on the language that caused them problems after we’d completed the initial test.

Categorising writing mistakes

I’ve just got access to a short video made for the Teaching English British Council facebook page at IATEFL Manchester 2015 which I’d completely forgotten about! In it, I describe a method you can use to encourage students to notice mistakes they make in writing and try to reduce them. Unfortunately I can’t embed the video here, but I can give you the link to watch it. I’m not sure if you need to be logged in to facebook to see it, and I don’t know how to get around it if you don’t have a facebook account – sorry!

You can see examples of how I used this kind of error categorisation in my own Russian learning in the ‘Writing’ section of the post How I’m learning Russian (part 2).

Russian journal

Russian journal

Have you tried anything similar?

What makes a successful blog?

Adam Simpson and I were interviewed by Paul Braddock and Ann Foreman from the British Council, as part of the IATEFL Harrogate online coverage. It was a great privilege to be asked to do this.

We were asked about what makes a successful blog and how we go about blogging. The interview is just under 8 minutes, and I hope there are some useful tips in there.

Adam’s blog is www.teachthemenglish.com, and if you’re not already following it, you should be.

Shortly afterwards James Taylor, Katherine Bilsborough and Willy Cardoso were asked about ‘the benefits of blogging, growing the confidence to blog, and how it enables a different level of communication with peers around the world.’

Paul and Ann run the highly successful TeachingEnglish facebook page, which is a treasure trove of resources. All five of us have benefitted from it, and it’s great to be able to give something back.

IATEFL Harrogate 2014 banner

Follow the conference and watch recordings of sessions and interviews by clicking the image!

Questions students have

About two months ago, my intermediate class put together a video to help students coming to International House Newcastle, by answering some of the questions they thought new students might have. This was the result:

To get to the final product, this is what happened:

  • The students talked to each other about what questions they had before they came to the school and in the first couple of weeks, as well as how they tried to find out the answers.
  • They wrote their questions on small pieces of paper – one question per piece of paper – and stuck them to two whiteboards.
  • I divided the class in half. Each group had one whiteboard. They had to divide the questions into categories of their own choosing.
  • They then compared the categories they had with the other group, merged any which were the same, and moved round any which were different.
  • This resulted, quite conveniently, in 5 categories, which was exactly how many pairs there were.
  • With their partner, students selected the most important/interesting questions from their category, so that they had 3-4 questions per pair.
  • They came up with possible answers themselves, supplemented with information from the internet and from me. They decided how they would turn their questions/answers into video form.
  • The pairs took turns going into an empty classroom with my digital camera and mini tripod to make their section of the video. After each, we transferred it to my computer so I could start editing while the next pair filmed.
  • By the end of a two-hour lesson every pair had finished filming. As each pair finished, they came and told me what they wanted me to do in terms of the editing. They also found any pictures that they wanted to add to the video.
  • At home, I spent quite a few hours editing the video, then sent it to my students for approval and to see if there was anything else that needed changing. I made the necessary changes and then reuploaded it to vimeo, which I think is a lot better than YouTube for things like this because it feels more intuitive, and the advertising is more subtle.
  • Hopefully it will appear on the school website somewhere soon 😉

Watching myself teach – the encore

I have just submitted my Reflection and Action (RA) Stage 4 for my Delta, and it feels like a weight off my shoulders! The four stages are, briefly:

  1. Teach an experimental practice lesson, where you try something you have never done before.
  2. State your teaching beliefs, highlight your main weaknesses, create an action plan to deal with them and describe how you will collect data connected to your plan.
  3. Show how you have progressed with your action plan and what data collection methods have helped you. Create another action plan, highlighting different weaknesses if necessary.
  4. Describe your teaching beliefs now, and whether they have changed. Show what was most useful from the RA process and create a plan for the future (watch this space to find out how my blog will be incorporated into this).

I’ve already shared a video from a class I taught in January, and I learnt so much from it, I decided to do it again. The quality is a bit better this time, helped in large part to being in a bigger classroom! I have put up two excerpts here, which I would be interested to hear what you think of.

The group were B1 intermediate, mostly from Brazil, with one German and one Saudi. We were working on the money vocabulary from unit 2a of New English File Intermediate (pages 20 and 147), including listening to the song Ka-Ching. The lesson was 1h45.

The first video shows all of the times I gave instructions during the lesson, including a couple of remedial instructions when students didn’t understand. One student got very stressed because they really didn’t understand the first two exercises – I haven’t included this in the video, obviously, but I think it’s important to know that before you watch. Instructions are one of the areas I highlighted in my Stage 3 action plan, and I still need a lot of work on this. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I’ve tried writing instructions down, and have also audio recorded myself, but neither of these seem to have helped particularly. The only thing that seems to have changed is that I now use a few more instruction-checking questions, but clearly not enough! The same video also shows examples of me feeding back from exercises and drilling pronunciation.

The second video shows a focus on ‘borrow’ and ‘lend’, which were causing students some problems. There is a black-screen transition in the first video to show you the point at which this was covered in the lesson. (I divided them so you don’t have to watch 25 minutes if you don’t want to!)

Apart from looking for instructions suggestions, I’m not going to ask specific questions as I don’t want you to miss the gorilla 😉

Thanks in advance!

20130323-231436.jpg
Photo by me, shared on eltpics

Watching myself teach

I’m constantly telling students to record themselves to improve their speaking. I finally took my own advice and recorded myself to improve my teaching. I procrastinated a lot before watching the video, despite knowing it would be useful, and the initial shock at my accent at the start (even though I’ve heard recordings of my voice many times before!) almost put me off, but it was worth it in the end.

It was a two hour grammar lesson with a (very friendly and supportive) upper intermediate group. I recorded it as part of my Delta Reflection and Action. The main thing I realised was that it was a bit of an uninspired PPP lesson (present-practice-produce), and I probably could have used something a bit more exciting and Delta-y, but the students learnt the language (or at least, remembered it the next day), so it wasn’t a waste of time. We were looking at uses of the gerund and infinitive based on New Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate Student’s Book page 88.

I was looking at my methods of language clarification, and the main thing I noticed was that I used a whole range of methods:

  • definitions;
  • explanations;
  • examples – both on the board and spoken;
  • concept check questions (CCQs) – where you ask questions to lead students towards the meaning of a piece of language;
  • giving students a dictionary;
  • gestures

Apart from the structure of the lesson and the language clarification, the main thing that I noticed was that I never seem to be still. I’m always moving around the room, looking at my materials, putting my hair behind my ear (!)…not sure if that’s a good thing, showing energy, or a bad thing, making the watcher nervous! I also don’t know if that’s normal, or only because I was filming the lesson. I forgot it was there most of the time, but you never know what your sub-consciousness is doing!

On the plus side, I think I was speaking at a manageable speed, using appropriate language, with some repetition, as you would get in normal language. I do speak faster to these students at times, but I feel in a grammar lesson it’s better to take your time. There is also a lot of laughter in my classroom, which I think is incredibly important. If the students aren’t comfortable enough to laugh, to ask me questions and to work together, then I’m not doing my job properly.

Unfortunately, I did the recording in a small room, and it was quite difficult to find a good position where the camera could film what I was doing at the board and when I was monitoring/moving around the room to listen to the students. A lot of the video is the back of one of my student’s heads! Here’s a little clip though, focussing on my time at the board (and the back of said student’s head), just to whet your appetite:

Enjoy!

Reading a short story

This week, my colleague Lesley and I decided to work on a short story with our (two classes of) pre-intermediate students. We chose the Sherlock Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia. We have four hours a day with them, divided into two two-hour lessons, so we dedicated the afternoon lessons to the story.

This post is intended as a list of ideas for using a short story, rather than a series of lessons you could necessarily follow yourself. If you want to follow it exactly, you need to find an abridged version of the story – I can’t find a suitable one to link to, unfortunately.

Monday

We showed the students pictures of Irene Adler (x3), Dr. Watson (x4) and Sherlock Holmes (x4), in that order, taken from various TV and film adaptations of the story. The students had to describe the people and decide what they had in common. Until they got to the final group of pictures, they didn’t know it was connected to Sherlock Holmes. After each group, we wrote a set of sentences on the board about the characters (the names were added later).

Character sentences

We then brainstormed everything the students already knew about Sherlock Holmes. Of my seven students, one had read a short story and two had seen the film. This is what we came up with:

Sherlock Holmes mind mapAfter this preparation, it was time to start reading the story. I read aloud while the students followed. I stopped on the second page of our abridged copy, so that the students had seen the description of Adler, Holmes and Watson, giving them enough information to add attach the names to the pictures.

To stop the students from trying to understand every last word of the story, I asked them to highlight every word they understood in their copies. This idea was inspired by Kevin Stein and really motivated the students. I put % on the board, and asked them to estimate how much they had understood so far, getting answers from 70-99%. They then worked together to fill in some of the gaps, highlighting any extra words they understood. Estimating the percentage again after this exercise, all of the students raised it. I pointed out that they didn’t need to understand every word to understand the story, but that it’s a good idea to focus on a couple of new words, and this is where we left lesson one.

Turn into and outsmart

Lesley had decided to start from the title, discussing what a scandal was. I never ended up doing this explicitly, but should have done at some point.

Tuesday

On day two we started by recapping what the students remembered from the first two pages of the story. I showed them the Watson/Holmes pictures again, and asked them to decide which Watson assisted which Holmes, based purely on the images. For example, Jude Law with Robert Downey Jr. and Martin Freeman with Benedict Cumberbatch. We talked about how they decided, using clues like the age of the photo and the kind of clothes they were wearing, as well as prior knowledge of the film. This introduced the idea of observation, and linked to a quote I had on the board: “You see, but you do not observe.”

In the next page of the story, Holmes lists four things about Watson which he has observed:

  • Watson is enjoying married life.
  • He has put on weight.
  • He was caught in the rain recently.
  • He has returned to his career as a doctor.

The students had to identify the paragraph where Watson confirmed each observation by writing a key word next to it, which the students decided would be married, fat, rain, job. They were very motivated when they realised this was easy to do, as they had initially said they couldn’t understand.

For the next sections of the story, Lesley and I had prepared pictures taken from screenshots of a YouTube video. I haven’t uploaded these, as I think they are probably covered by copyright. The students had to read the part of the story where the King describes his problem, and match what he said to the pictures. They then worked together to complete a gapped summary of his problem:

Sherlock Holmes gapfillSherlock Holmes completed gapfillFor the last ten minutes, they divided a piece of paper into four and wrote sentences describing everything they knew about the four main characters. For example:

  • Sherlock Holmes: He is observant. He lives at 221B Baker Street.
  • Doctor Watson: He is married. He works with Sherlock Holmes.
  • Irene Adler: She is very clever. She has a photo of the King and her.
  • The King: He wants to get married. He needs Sherlock’s help.

Wednesday

We started by recapping the summary from the end of Tuesday’s lesson. The students were amazed at how much they could remember! They also added to their sentences as we’d run out of time on Tuesday.

The next part was picture-based again, this time with the students predicting what they were about to read about. They  had pictures of Sherlock Holmes in disguise as a tramp, Godfrey Norton arriving at Irene Adler’s house, then leaving, and Adler leaving. There was another summarising gapfill for them to complete at this point.

Once they had checked their answers, they had to guess what would happen next. They were right in suspecting that Norton and Adler would get married, but were surprised when they read and discovered that Sherlock Holmes was the witness!

To finish the lesson, we read about Holmes’ plan to get the King’s photo back from Adler.

By this point, the students were flagging a little, but I told them we would finish the story the next day and they perked up a bit!

Thursday

The students read about how Holmes and Watson put the plan into action. They then watched three short clips from the TV episode, showing:

To finish the story, the students had to say what they thought would happen in the final four pages, then read to check whether they were right or not.

They then started to work on an 8-10 sentence summary of the main events of the whole story, which they had to finish for homework.

Friday

All of the students did their homework 🙂 They worked together to decide which sentences were necessary in the summaries, as some students had written a lot more than eight to ten.

I divided the class into two groups of three/four students each. Each group had to choose any scene from the story and reenact it. They had about 25 minutes to plan what they would say and do (luckily there was a spare classroom next door). They then performed their scene, to much raucous laughter – one student played the King visiting Sherlock Holmes. In the story he is wearing a mask, but she made do with her sunglasses and headscarf, which none of us expected! It was probably much funnier being in the room, but affective filters were definitely lowered! While watching the scenes, the other group had to decide who was playing who, and which part of the story it was. The task wasn’t very difficult, but they had used a lot of English to prepare for it, and they really enjoyed it, as they told me afterwards.

For the final half hour of the week, we played Hot Seat/Backs to the Board, using words taken from the story. We hadn’t really focussed on anything in particular, but words and phrases the students had picked up and started using during the week included: witness, framed photograph, panel (which Adler hid the photo behind), tube (which the smoke bomb was made of), false alarm, observe, Your Majesty…

When I asked them to think back to the first lesson and how they felt when they first looked at the story, the students all said it looked hard, but that now they could understand. There was a great sense of achievement on looking around the room.

Doing it again

I definitely would! And I wouldn’t change much at all – the students were engaged, motivated, and picked up a lot of new language along the way. Hopefully it will inspire them to read a little more in English, and remind them that it’s not necessary to understand every word of something to get the main points. One student did go home and look up all of the unknown words on Monday evening, but that was the only time she did it.

The final lesson was one of the most entertaining I’ve had for a long time. The students were very motivated by the role play, and put a lot more energy into it than I expected. (The role play was included as part of my Delta Professional Development Assignment.)

What other ideas do you have for using short stories in class?

And now, it’s time for the news

This post has been a very long time coming. Back in July, my students spend a week on a news project. Every afternoon they worked in groups with the aim of producing a news bulletin to ‘broadcast’ on Friday afternoon. We did some brainstorming based on what was in the news on Monday, and after that they went their own ways. These were the results, and I think you’ll agree, they’re excellent!


I particularly like the weather at the end of this one.


I don’t know how they kept a straight face!


After a five minute tutorial on how to use iMovie, this was the result.

Well done guys, and sorry it took me so long to publish them!

The Vicar of Dibley meets Johnny Depp

The Vicar of Dibley is one of my all-time favourite comedies. I prepared this vocabulary worksheet for a short episode made for Red Nose Day featuring Johnny Depp. I’m just using it as a bit of Friday afternoon fun, since the students have been working hard all week. If anyone wants to write comprehension questions, I’m happy to add them to the post 🙂

Warning: do not watch/read if you are easily offended. There are some rude words included in the sheet as the double entendres they create are the key to many of the jokes.

[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.]

The answers are here (click to enlarge):

Enjoy!

Here’s a page of notes I made after the lesson. At the top are some extra idioms to teach the students. At the bottom are some possible discussion questions.

VIcar of Dibley extension

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!

Brno and the Czech Republic

From 2008 to 2011 I spent three brilliant years living and working in Brno in the Czech Republic. It’s difficult to put into words everything I love about the town and the country, so I decided to make a video instead. It’s about 20 minutes and shows my pictures and videos from the time I was there. I also tried to include as many people as possible. I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you to visit this fascinating, little-known city in the east of the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic: A Love Story from Sandy Millin on Vimeo.

Enjoy!

Introducing British (and Irish) accents

On my first teaching day at IH Newcastle, at least three different students said this to me:

My friend told me that if I can understand Geordie, I will be able to understand any English.

While I don’t know if this is necessarily true, it started an interesting discussion about accents, and the students observed that my accent was not a local one* (many of them are staying with host families). I decided to put together a set of materials to raise their awareness of the variety of accents in the UK. While it’s not comprehensive, it should provide a jumping off point for students to find out more.

In Class

  • Discuss the questions in small groups. (Almost all of my students wanted to speak English without other people knowing where they were from, prompting a quick side discussion on accent and identity)
  • Place the towns and cities on the map (sorry, no answer key, but Google will tell you if you don’t already know) 😉
  • Look at the paragraphs written in different accents/dialects. Compare them to the Standard English and find one feature of pronunciation plus one words which is particular to that accent (this was meant as a way to play with the accents, and show how different they can be.)
  • Watch and listen to the videos/sound clips (posted below, with links in the document too) and grade them according to the criteria in the table.
  • Mingle and compare your opinions to those of other students in the group.
  • For the final reading, divide the class in half. Half read the first two articles, the other half read the last article. The question is ‘How are these findings similar/different to your own opinions?’

The Videos

These were the best examples I could find, but feel free to add other suggestions to the comments.

Geordie: Gary Hogg – Funny Geordie Monologue

Brummie / Black Country: Allan Ahlberg – Talk Us Through It, Charlotte
External Link: http://www.poetryarchive.org/childrensarchive/ singlePoem.do?poemId=86

West Country: The Wurzels – I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester

Scouse: Craig Charles interview

Tom Stalker is a boxer from Liverpool. In this link you can hear him talking about his preparations for London 2012.

Glaswegian: Regional Dialects Meme – Glasgow

Cockney: Michael Caine (being interviewed by Michael Parkinson)

Yorkshire: Michael Parkinson (interviewing Michael Caine)

Scottish (non-Glasgow): Scottish Voice-Operated Lift

Welsh: Tom Jones

Irish: Dara O’Briain – Controlling Children

Homework

The students went to the excellent British Library Sounds Familiar map, chose a person to listen to and made notes about their accent or dialect to discuss in class the following day.

Extension

Other links I shared on Edmodo were:

I used these materials with an Advanced group, but I think they should be OK for Upper Intermediate upwards, and you could even adapt them for Intermediate.

Enjoy!

*In case you’re interested, I grew up in Wolverhampton, but don’t have a Black Country accent. My family are from all over England, including Gloucester, Essex and the Wirral (near Liverpool). On my gap year I started to lose features of my Black Country accent, and this was consolidated when I went to Durham University. The last step was teaching in Paraguay, where I was teased (lightly!) for my pronunciation of words like ‘bus’ and ‘much’ – the only conscious change I’ve ever made to my accent. Now the Black Country features come and go. You can hear me talk here 😉

Videoing my students

Late last year International House launched a competition for member schools to create a 3-minute video showing what it’s like to study at an IH school. This was the contribution from my class:

It was great fun to make, and really encapsulates why I love being an IH teacher 🙂

Enjoy!

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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