Archive | September, 2011

Online Teaching Resource: Idioms Videos

29 Sep

I just came across, during a further exploration of the Pearson ELT Community site, their idioms discussions space.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of discussion, but they have posted a set of mini-videos which purport to explain English idioms and expressions.  The videos are very short (about a minute) and are followed with a dictionary definition.  One of the tasks they give is “Can you guess the idiom before the definition comes up?”  If you had learners in teams with different coloured board pens, and they raced to write the expression on the board before it came up, it could work….

The videos are also available via the Pearson You Tube channel (I’ve tried to embed one of them below, but don’t think it’s worked – so click the link instead).

Here’s the original page again: Space: Idioms Discussions.


Not everybody has smart boards…

27 Sep

A fact that was brought home the other day when a training seminar got rescheduled because half the projected attendees didn’t have Interactive Whiteboard technology available to them…..

So here’s a nice post from Vicky Saumell’s Educational Technology in ELT blog on 40 Things you can do with a Data Projector in an EFL/ESL lesson.

Some of the ideas will need a little adaptation in order to integrate them seamlessly into your lessons.  Plus, I’m afraid I have to take issue with the first one “Watch a film”.  If learners want to watch a film, they can do it on their own time!  Class time is way too valuable!


Are Flashcards an Effective Learning Tool? (Voxy Blog)

25 Sep

The Voxy Blog has an interesting infographic for teaching and teacher development, examining the question: Are Flashcards an Effective Learning Tool?” .  I suspect most YL teachers (especially those at Primary level) are thinking “well duh” at this point.

The infographic was developed at least partially in promotion of one of Voxy’s i-phone apps, which should probably be borne in mind.  While I think there are great arguments in favour of flashcard use in teaching (most of which are neatly summarised in the infographic), I’m not so sure about digital flashcards on i-phones.  I can see how it might benefit an individual learner working with concrete nouns, but possibly not a busy teacher dealing with a class of 30 or so six-year-olds!  I suspect it depends on how you can use the i-phone app and what it lets you do, but this isn’t clear from the information.  Can you link it to your interactive whiteboard?  Printing?

I also take issue with the uncited assertion that “high frequency words” are mostly “content words” – in fact this pdf of the top 300 high frequency words gives the top 25 words as articles, prepositions, pronouns and auxiliary verbs.  As does this list of the top 1200.  In both lists the first “content” word appears at number 43 – “said”.

The counter arguments given in the graphic are also worth thinking about – simply showing learners an image once may not lead to learning.  Little and often seems to be the general consensus:  Remember to Recycle and Revise!

Right at the bottom of their post, they include links to an additional eleven related posts from around the EFL blogosphere.

Overall?  Interesting points, but not so sure about the tactics and doubts about the product!

Online Teaching Resource: Pearson Longman Exams Place

23 Sep

An email from my friendly local publishers’ rep dropped into my inbox this morning, which I thought I’d pass on.  Not because I have eagerly signed up – I haven’t had time to fully get to grips with what’s on offer yet, but just because there is a dearth of decent exam material available for teachers and students to access online and this site looks like it could broaden that range a bit!

A quick glance shows that all of the interesting looking resources require registration and provision of an email address.  But the resources do look interesting!

I’m also encouraged by the range of exams seemingly covered, as they not only cover the upper main suite (FCE, CAE, CPE), but KET, PET, IELTS, TOEFL, BEC, ILEC, and of course, the PTE series.

Definitely worth a look, but final judgement to be reserved!

Pearson Longman Exams Place: Find all the information you need about leading international English language exams plus teaching tips and downloadable resources.

More than one way to catch a fish – The great schools revolution?

21 Sep


A colleague of great experience in both TEFL and the UK education system, and whose opinion I greatly respect, once asserted that TEFL was at the forefront of educational experimentation and research, formenting new pedagogical techniques and ideas and pushing the boundaries of what is meant and expected by the terms “teaching” and “learning”.  State educational systems, by and large, are forever caught up in the bureaucracy that attempts to administer, manage, measure and standardise them.  Reaction times are correspondingly slower.  Whether this is a fair comparison or not, I’m not sure.

The characterisation of state education systems as monolithic and unwieldy is perhaps a cliche.  I’ve met some incredibly innovative, energetic and creative teachers working within their national state education systems.  Possibly the difference is highlighted better in the following video – taken from the excellent BBC series “The Blue Planet”:

In this metaphor, the state is represented by the Sei Whale and the rest of us by the tuna.  We have broadly the same goals and generally get there in the end – we just approach things in a slightly different way.  This does unfortunately leave the learners cast in the role of the sardines, desperately trying to escape and be left to get on with their lives without too much further education taking place….

The internet has allowed teachers to connect with like minded individuals in ways not previously possible.  In simple terms we don’t have to suffer in silence in a corner of the staffroom just waiting to have the eagerness extracted from you in the drudgery of daily routine.  You can find and share ideas with people who think like you do.  We can and have created these “Communities of Practice“.

That’s why I think one vital factor in The Economist’s Reforming education: The great schools revolution article has been overlooked.  Governments might be learning from each other and “drawing on examples of good practice from around the world”, but governments don’t educate people.  Teachers do.

I can see there is a role for governments in setting standards and goals to be attained.  After all, if you take your car to the mechanic and he messes about for three weeks before handing you back you still un-fixed car, you aren’t going to be best pleased and I see no reason why the same principle shouldn’t be true in education.

I just can’t help but feel that the majority of good teaching in the world takes place despite the management systems set up in oversight – not because of it.



First Lesson Aims: Dave Tucker Guest Post!

15 Sep

If you’ve had time to look at recent posts on this blog, you’ll have noticed a series of “first lesson” ideas and activities…  after all,  it’s September, we’ve all got “back-to-school-itis”!

Stepping back from the plethora of great teaching ideas to fill the class time, today our guest blogger, Dave Tucker, looks at some broader learning and teaching goals that we might want to think about before we start planning!

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Vocabulary Revision Game: Pointless

13 Sep

While visiting the UK over the summer, I was introduced to a relatively new BBC Game show – “Pointless“, in which contestants try to score as few points as possible.  Or as the BBC phrase it:  “Quiz in which contestants try to score as few points as possible by plumbing the depths of their general knowledge to come up with the answers no-one else can think of.”

Obviously, this game has great teaching possibilities….!

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September 11th Teaching Resources

11 Sep

Inspired by a recent feature on The Guardian website, which invites readers to share their memories of where they were and what they were doing (click here for more detail), I was thinking about collating teaching resources on the topic and presenting them here.

Turns out Larry Ferlazzo‘s beaten me to it…

His latest post:  “Even more 9/11 resources” has materials from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times – as well as from the US Department of Education.

But honestly, his post “The Best Sites to Help Teach About 9/11”  has links to just about every 9/11 related teaching resource that’s out there.  If you’re planning to use this topic area with your classes – make it your starting point.

There’s also a really interesting piece on the OUP blog by Mary Dudziak on the impact September 11th has made on the classroom – read more at “How 9/11 made history“.  Thanks for @OUPAcademic for tweeting the link.


First Lesson or First Week Ideas

9 Sep

Back in July I posted a selections of 20 ideas and activities that might be worth trying out as you get to know your new classes this school year – and since then there’ve been a couple of additional ideas to throw into the mix:

Recently, the 24th Edition of EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival : A Journey in TEFL got posted on Eva Buyuksimkesyan’s “A Journey in TEFL” blog.  I strongly recommend taking a look here if you’re in need of inspiration – Eva’s collated over 40 (I lost count) posts from different contributors.
The Lesson Plans Page also has a wide range of back to school resources and materials, though these are aimed more at native speaker young learner classes than a language learner class – and I’ve not tried any of them, so can’t vouch for them personally!

Wired for Mobile learning?

7 Sep

I spotted this one on a post on the TeachingEnglish | British Council facebook page – who in turn spotted it on the Voxy Blog.

The infographic below comes out of the work of Mark Prensky and his concepts of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants – and looks how digital natives might fit into existing education systems (or not as the case may be!).

The original post “Are we Wired for Mobile Learning?” also comes with some ideas for exploiting and using the infographic in class, so if you visit them, make sure you scroll down to below the image!