Tag Archives: grammar

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.

Online Teaching Resource: Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus

12 May

The visual thesaurus was pointed out to me some time ago as a great alternative to the standard online dictionary search, and also as a great way to help learners broaden their vocabulary, particularly with higher level students who have a tendency to rely on a more limited than necessary lexical resource.

But….  I’ve tended not to use it because of their policy of only giving users a limited set of “tries” on the online version before shutting you down.  There is of course a way round that, which involves deleting all the cookies on your computer and clearing down your browser’s history and such like (check out this nifty and free download, if you want to know more about how to do that), but the hassle is a little too much to bother with….

However, the other day I went back and discovered the visual thesaurus has evolved into something more…

There is a growing collection of lesson plans related to use of the visual thesaurus, 53 and counting thus far, and while many seem more intended for native speaker language lessons, there are those that are aimed and EFL / ESL, and those that are adaptable to it (like the one on prefixes – word formation anyone?).

Other things on the site that I think are worth a mention include:

  • Michele Dunaway’s “Teachers at Work” blog, whose most recent post encourages us to think differently about the way we teach creative writing to our students.
  • the “wordshop” collection of vocabulary activities (same caveat about target market applies…)
  • and finally, the vocabgrabber, which you paste text into and which generates word lists of “the most useful vocabulary words” from the text.  I’m not so sure about this one, but it might be useful in deciding which items you want to pre-teach to allow learners to access a text more effectively.  Though that would require you to type the target text into the website….  like I said, not quite sure about how best t0 use this tool.

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FCE CAE CPE: Open Cloze Battleships

20 Apr

An alternative to the work through it together option…

Basically, you need two different open cloze tasks from a test book (or you can use the examples given in the exam handbooks available from Cambridge ESOL’s teacher support site).

You then need to make two different sets of handouts.  Handouts should contain both tasks, but different answer sets.  So for example – handout #01 would contain Open Cloze A and Open Cloze B and answer set B.  handout #02 would contain Open Cloze A and Open Cloze B and answer set A.  Alternatives – you could just write the answers in to one of the gapfills (but NOT on your master copy!).  or you could leave both cloze tasks blank (see variations on the task as below).

Split the class into two groups and give Group A one of the sample tasks and give Group B the other.   If possible seat them facing each other but on other sides of the room (to make sure they can’t see / show each other their tasks).  If not, try to seat them back to back, again so that they can’t see each others’ papers.

Each learner then circles five gaps on the task they have the answers for.

Learners are then paired with a compatriot from the opposing team.  Learner A nominates a gap and an answer (i.e. (3) “unless”) and learner B responds either with “wrong answer / Right answer but a miss / right answer and a hit”.  Then it’s Learner B’s turn…  and so on, until someone “sinks” their partners’ battleships.

Variations:

(1) Don’t give out any of the answers.  Teams can then work collaboratively to figure out what the answers to their task are, before playing the battleship component of the activity.  in that scenario, I’d maybe not give out both tasks until learners have figured out the answers to their own, or a certain amount of cheating might ensue!

(2)  Not so much with an open cloze…  But I’ve done this with two short texts set into large grids with one word in each square.  Learners shouted words at each other, were given grid references for any correct guesses, filled in the words on a blank copy of the template and attempted to sink battleships.  It took ages…  but the aim was more to raise awareness that function words (like those generally tested in FCE CAE Open cloze tasks) are the easiest ones to guess, and also to develop awareness of text and sentence structure.

I think all that makes sense….  any questions?  Let me know!

Online Teaching Resource: Primary Pad

10 Apr

Thanks to Tommy Holt for spotting this and mentioning it on facebook!

Primary pad is an online synchronous editing tool – learners can access and edit the same document at the same time. This is the first tool I’ve come across that allows synchronous editing and as such is quite an exciting development!  It’s free and requires no registration, though “public pads” only last for 30 days, so longer term projects would require a sign up to the “professional” paid for version.

Take a look at it here:  http://www.primarypad.com/

There is a google docs presentation on the site by Simon Haughton, which lists five ways that you can use the tool – synonyms generation / sentence correction & development / online interviewing / task achievement identification / collaborative writing tasks.

I really like the idea of the collaborative writing task as it puts the learners in the positions of writer and reader at the same time, thus hopefully allowing for a peer teaching mode where good ideas are justified and bad ones discarded.  It could also work well with text organisation and structure as ideas would need to be grouped effectively and paragraphed.  I can see this being used with exam preparation classes a lot!

It would also be perfect for use with Grammar Dictation / Dictagloss tasks – if you’re not familiar with these, the basic premise is that the teacher has a short text (which can be littered with examples of the target language structure) that they read to the learners initially for a content reaction, then read again.  On the second reading the learners take notes on what was said.  They then try to recreate the text exactly as it was read out.  A common problem I find with this, is that the learners’ notetaking ability varies, and so different reconstruction pairs achieve the task with differing accuracy.  Bringing all the learners together to recreate the text using primary pad would solve this issue and might lead to a more effective collaboration and reconstruction of the target text!

Also, I like the idea of error correction tasks.  As it is a synchronous tool, learners could work together to correct a set of teacher generated sentences, before challenging each other by adding additional error strewn sentences to challenge each other with.  I really like asking learners to deliberately make errors – after all they have to know what the correct form is before they can make a deliberate error, and it can raise their awareness of incidental errors that creep in!

One further idea is in identifying the main ideas in a reading text.  Useful, again, for exam preparation classes, but with a target text uploaded onto the primary pad, learners can reach a mutual understanding of the text by discussing their ideas below it.

As far as I can work out, the system works with the teacher creating an initial “primary pad” and then simply sharing the URL.  So you just send all the other computers to the same web address and they should be able to simply get on with it!  And if they don’t finish in class, they can still access the primary pad from the comfort of their own home!  (for 30 days!).

Only one word of caution – it’s called “primary pad” – but personally, I think the “primary” is a bit misleading.  I can see chaos ensuing if this was used with a class of 24 six-year-olds…  and I’m not sure whether it’s bright and shiny enough for the younger end of the teaching spectrum!  But teenagers and adults could happily get into it and get a lot out of it.

It’s currently the Easter break with me, so no opportunity to use this with a class at the moment – any feedback from those of you who have tried it, and suggestions on what you did with it are gratefully received!

 

Other sites that do much the same thing:

A quick look through Larry Ferlazzo’s archive reveals The best online tools for real-time collaboration”:  where he lists primary pad alongside http://sync.in/ and http://piratepad.net/front-page/ and http://typewith.me/.  Though pirate pad appears to be exactly the same as primary pad and typewithme.

Not used any of them – so again, any feedback appreciated!

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