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PHRAS.IN – Say this or say that?

22 Apr

This is a quite a neat tool for learners who are trying to find the right way to express something – PHRAS.IN – Say this or say that?.

You type in two choices and it comes back and tells you which of the two is more common:

I wouldn’t recommend it as a grammar checker as it would just take far too long – but it might be useful for learners struggling with phrasal verbs or idiomatic expressions.

Also – it could be a fun research tool to use in class as a way of raising learners awareness of common errors – give the learners a list of pairs of expressions, some of which could be unfortunate utterances taken from past classes or written work, and the learners discuss and choose which they think is more common / correct, before checking on the website.

The zombie apocalypse and its role in the ELT classroom

6 Jan

From the always interesting yearinthelifeofanenglishteacher comes what is clearly the best blog post title of 2011:  “The zombie apocalypse and its role in the ELT classroom“.

I missed the original post in June, only picking up on it via Tyson Seburn’s 11 posts I wish I’d written  in December, but it is a truly inspired way of teaching speculative language – mainly focusing on conditional forms – through the medium of you tube “choose your own adventure” style videos.

The original post features the Zombie Apocalypse (courtesy of a New Zealand pizza company ad campaign);  the time travelling adventures of office-bound Chad, Matt and Rob; and a UK anti-knife crime campaign.  This last features incredibly authentic North London dialect – while making the choices will be accessible to all levels – the language from the participants will not!  Also worth watching it all the way through (as with all the videos) to check for suitability!

That last point is also worth making of all these type adventures, it’s not always necessary for learners to understand everything the characters in the videos say – unless you specifically want to work on listening skills – the choices, as you see from the picture above, are quite clear and these should prompt the discussion, which will in turn probably clarify any areas of confusion relating to the events on screen.

Finally – it’s also worth reading through the comments section below the post – some great ideas and further links from the commenters.

 

 

The World in 2012: Predict this!

3 Jan

It’s that time of year when the media maelstrom coalesces around a single topic – the future!  What’s going to happen in the next twelve months?  What can we all expect from the next year?  Will we face triumph or disaster?  And when we look back on it all in December, what will we have achieved?  And just how many “future forms” can you cram into a short paragraph anyway?

Rather than just asking your learners to “predict” the future, which let’s face it is difficult enough at the best of times, let alone in another language…  it’s probably best just to discuss the future for two reasons:  (1)  you immediately broaden out the number of possible “future forms” that you can focus on  (2)  you open things up to discussing the implications of events – so not only “what will happen?”  but also “and what does it all mean for us?”

Over at Slideshare, they’ve collated “12 presentations with predictions” which could form the basis of useful discussions (or comparisons with learner predictions?).  Their 12 presentations are aimed more at the business / tech crowd.  Probably not so good with younger learners

Here’s their top pick – Ross Dawson’s “What to expect in 2012″:

The Economist publishes an annual magazine “The World in … ” which is divided up by topic area and by geographic location.  This year’s copy has a lot of online content here: http://www.economist.com/theworldin/2012 – though some of it may be premium paid for content – check before using!

The biggest / oldest prediction concerning 2012 is of course the Mayan calendar:  for more info check out this wikipedia article.  Two further websites that focus specifically on the forthcoming end of the world that might be of interest (though I don’t vouch for their accuracy) are :  http://www.december2012endofworld.com/  and http://www.2012predictions.net/.

The BBC has a nice review of the best of the British Press predictions for 2012 here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16381278, while they include the thoughts of their top correspondents on the likely big stories of 2012 here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16071986

The First day of Geekmas: A short talk on using Poetry…

20 Dec

On the first day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me:  a short talk on using poetry…..

It’s the last / first day of the teflgeek Christmas countdown and it’s been a fun, somewhat introspective, quite stressful on occasion but ultimately I hope, useful, Christmas countdown.  I’m not sure I’ll be repeating the experience again next year – at least not in this form!  So a reminder of what we’ve had so far:

I thought that, in a twist and given how I’ve massacred the poetic form in creating spurious rhymes in attempting the twelve days of geekmas, I’d end with a short talk on poetry.  I’ve put this together as a you tube video – it’s the first video cast I’ve attempted, so any feedback on technique etc gratefully appreciated!

Any and all links referred to in the presentation, plus a load more besides, are given below.  Enjoy!

References and further ideas:

 poetryclass – “taking the fear out of poetry” – http://www.poetryclass.net/

A wealth of teaching resources, articles and ideas on how and why to use poetry with classes.  Designed more for students within the UK education system, but resources are graded by year group, so you’ll be able to find some suitable resources for most ages and levels.

The Poetry Express – poetry writing for 7-11year olds – http://www.thepoetryexpress.com/

Again, aimed more at the UK education system.  Poetry Express has a lot of stuff that’s aimed directly at the kids developing their abilities to write poetry as well as teaching resources that approach poetry from a cross-curricular viewpoint.

http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~tpl/workshops/exercises.html

This is a just a simple list of poetry workshop ideas – more ideas to stimulate poetry creation than developing ability per se.

http://connected.waldenu.edu/language-and-literacy/english-language-learners/item/1482-how-to-teach-english-through-poetry

This is a useful and interesting, but more theoretical, article on how and why to use poetry in the classroom.

The Poetry Zone: http://poetryzone.woodshed.co.uk/index2.htm

Another kids based site – with competitions, poetry theme ideas, a place for kids to upload their poems to and usefully, a teacher zone with further links and ideas to help you use poetry in the classroom.  Look at classroom resources and “Poetry Kit” by Jan Dean for some great ideas! ( I really liked the “mismatch” idea!)

Forms of Poetry:  http://www.tooter4kids.com/forms_of_poetry.htm

This is an excellent resource for different types of poetry and poetry ideas – from limericks to haiku, language based  (e.g. used to), shape poems, parts of speech poems – the list goes on and one.  Just scroll down to see what there is to see.  Strongly recommended!

Teaching Grammar Creatively.  Gerngross, Puchta & Thornbury, 2006 Helbling Languages.

A great grammar teaching ideas source, many of the outcomes are based around the idea of poems or poetry creation.  Repetition of a grammatical form, so it seems, can lead to some great poetry!

Poem into Poem, Maley & Moulding, 1985, Cambridge University Press.

Possibly a little dated in terms of content, but the ideas included are still very definitely worth taking a look at.  “We ignore the poetic function of language at our peril.  It is the cutting edge of linguistic creativity and innovation, and the key to a feel for the soul of a language.”  Page 134.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/text-language-classrooms-talo-tavi-tasp

Lindsay Clandfield has an excellent in-depth article on using texts in the classroom, looking at TAVI / TALO / TASP in more detail.

The Vortex Game

29 Jul

The Vortex Game.  This is a game I’ve created that can be used with any age or level – for pretty much any purpose.  It came out of a conversation with a colleague (thanks Sarah!) who was looking for an idea to help learners with minimal pronunciation pairs, but it can be used with pretty much anything!

I can’t claim complete originality here though – this game was inspired by a very old BBC tv show called “The Adventure Game“.  Now this is going back almost thirty years to a time when special effects were….  well a bit shoddy really.  But truly amazing by the standards of the time!  If anyone wants to look at the amount of progress the human race has made in the last quarter century, you only have to look at clips of the adventure game – of which more later…

Anyway – for game board, rules and different ways to play it (there’s a TPR style method) etc – read on!

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Tea, Coffee and Comparisons

14 Jul

Just a quick lesson overview rather than a full plan etc today:  this is an idea for helping learners with comparisons / comparatives.

Basically it starts out with the activity “Tea or Coffee”, follows up with the language input stage, invites comparisons between learners’ home country and the UK / USA etc and finishes off with an oppostion debate based around the initial “Tea or Coffee” activity.  It’s materials light – in fact there aren’t any!

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First Lesson Ideas / Warmers

10 Jul

For many teachers, though the school year might have just ended – the joy of summer school classes is about to start.  Or may have already, but I think lessons at my habitual summer haunt are due to begin on Monday morning – I’m not there this year, so not sure.

In any event this post contains a collection of getting to know you type activities / ice-breakers or first lesson warmers for you to choose from.  If you started teaching summer school last week – sorry about the delay – but you can probably use these or adapt these as warmer or lead in type activities – so it might still be useful!

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Postie Postie / Agony Aunt

7 Jul

This is a great activity that you can use as a warmer or as a fun practice task in a number of situations.

I should acknowledge that I originally saw my Dip tutor Peter Moran do this during a lesson in Wroclaw in 2006 – in various forms it’s been one of my staple activities ever since!

I can’t remember why Peter did this – though as I recall he was stepping in to cover an absent colleague – and I can’t even remember what the lesson was about…  In fact now that I think about it, it might have been an input seminar and not a lesson.  But there we go – the important things matter….

In it’s basic form, “Postie Postie” needs only a lot of scrap A4 paper chopped into quarters (or not – depending on how you want to adapt it).  As I recall Peter running the activity you give every learner or pair or small group a large amount of chopped up bits of paper.  The bits of paper then play the role of the message medium – in other words, the learners write short notes to each other.  When they finish writing the note, they shout “Postie Postie” and the teacher delivery system swings into operation – you collect and deliver the messages.  From that point of view, it’s probably a good idea to ask the class to address and acknowledge their messages in a “to” and “from” format.  The recipients then write their reply and send it back – and thus the conversation continues.

Adaptations:

As a warmer – if you brainstorm topic areas / conversations issues to the board (i.e. what everyone did at the weekend – or for summer schools -what the trip was like yesterday / how hot are the teachers / what’s different between my country and yours).  Then learners simply write brief notes to each other in question and reply.

As a “freer” practice task – I have a suspicion that originally I saw this done in the context of “emailing” each other.  It could of course also work in the context of a text messageathon – if text english is a lesson focus.

 

I used it that other day as an “agony aunt” style task.  The learners were paired and had a bunch of scrap A4 paper.  They were encouraged to think Jerry Springer style (e.g.   My husband is in love with a tree  /  My daughter wants to marry our goldfish) but it was basically all their own work.  They addressed their “problem” to another  pair/group in the room and wrote their letter.  As a grammatically correct postman – I refused to deliver letters with mistakes in them – but that was my choice, you could be more lenient!  The agony aunts then wrote their advice by return and so on.

At the end of the task we decided which problems and which solutions were worthy of awards…..

The general idea is a nice variation on a mingle style task.  The learners can stay where they are and can work collaboratively in a way they can’t so easily in a mingle.  Plus, as teacher, you get to vet the messages (essential with any class under the age of 16…) for content appropriacy and grammatical accuracy.  As a really pedantic postman….. this task can run and run….!

Multiple Choice Cloze

23 May

A relatively simple way of dealing with multiple choice cloze tasks in the classroom:

Take one multiple choice cloze task, possibly one like this FCE style task found via a google image search, or just one from your coursebook.

Before the class, you’ll need to type out the multiple choice possible answers onto A4, print a single copy and then chop them up so that each word is on a separate bit of paper.  These can then be stuck up around the classroom, under the learners’ chairs, or even one the backs of learners.  Maybe even all three?

In class:  Tell learners you’ll read them a text with (12?) gaps in it and when you get to a gap, you’ll say the word banana.  They should write down the word they think should be in the gap.  (See also “Activity Reference” – Banana Dictation).  For stronger classes, read it once only.  For classes that need more support, read it twice.  You might also want to read it through beforehand so that you can identify and if necessary underline key content words that will require additional emphasis in order to signpost key information.

Learners can then check their ideas with each other in pairs or small groups.

Once they’ve decided on the words they think should go into the gaps, they can wander round the room writing down all the possibilities that have similar meanings / might also fit the gaps, from the words you previously distributed.

As a consolidation stage, you can refer learners to the relevant page of the coursebook / test book / copy of the handout to check and confirm their ideas against the options given.

State of the World’s Mothers 2011 Statistics and Facts – Save the Children

11 May

State of the World’s Mothers 2011 Statistics and Facts – Save the Children – thanks to Greg Fuller for posting this on facebook…..

There’s a lot of information here and obviously the most interesting thing for any class to do would be to pull out all the statistics that relate to their country and decide whether or not they agree with them, why, and what could be done to change the situation….

Who knows – we could start a social revolution right here?

But information transfer tasks are good ways of processing information and creating a meaningful context for language learning to occur in, so designing tasks around the huge pile of data that Save the Children provide would all give a good reasons for learners to develop their linguistic resource.  Poster tasks, presentations (with or without powerpoint), charts and graphs all spring to mind.  Of course for IELTS candidates, there are a lot of graphs and charts just waiting to be described in the data!

There’s also a documentary available on the website which could provide the basis for both listening tasks and discussion afterwards (though maybe not a good idea to watch if you’re expecting, or have just had, a recent addition to the family).

These are all just some initial ideas – if you have any plans, materials or ideas you’d like to share to develop this topic, please let me know!

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