Thursday, 6 December 2012

Santa Claus

Santa Claus is coming to town Christmas in different languages. • Nadolig • Crăciun • Božić • Natal • Karácsony • Jul • Kerstmis And the languages are… • Welsh • Romanian • Serbian • Portuguese • Hungarian • Norwegian • Dutch It is fun to do this with different topics that you are studying in class. Christmas Questions. When I start teaching a class I quite often put answers about me on the board and ask students to work out the questions. This is the same but with Chistmas. Of course you could do the different culture thing about anything, birthdays, special holidays, school systems etc. Some of the answers Romanian • What __________________________? A whole pig • When __________________________? 25th December • Who ___________________________? Mos Craciun • Where _________________________? Under the tree • Three weeks before Christmas Romanians slaughter a pig, they then use all of the pig to make delicacies for the Christmas feast, including fried skin called Shorlic. Portuguese • What __________________________? Cod • When __________________________? 25th December • Who ___________________________? Baby Jesus • Where _________________________? In a shoe • During a Christmas feast in Portugal some families have an extra place reserved at the table for dead family members. But this tradition is slowly dying out. British • What __________________________? Turkey • When __________________________? 25th December • Who ___________________________? Father Christmas • Where _________________________? In a stocking • What • In Britain People put money in the Christmas pudding, it is thought to be lucky to find the coin. But not if it breaks your teeth or you swallow it. Zombie • What __________________________? Brains • When __________________________? at Easter • Who ___________________________? Zombie Father Christmas • Where _________________________? under a weeping willow • What? Zombies celebrate the rebirth – the coming back to life, so their Christmas is at Easter time. Serbian • What __________________________? Pork • When __________________________? 1st January • Who ___________________________? Deda Mraz • Where _________________________? Under the tree • In Serbia the first male person to visit someone’s house on Christmas day is called the ‘polaznik.’ That person is meant to bring good luck and is given lots of food and wine. Vampire • What __________________________? Blood • When __________________________? 24th December • Who ___________________________? Santa Drac • Where _________________________? Christmas stocking • What _________________________ ? Santa Drac has a sleigh pulled by tiny bats. To enter the houses he turns into a bat and swoops down the chimney. Using Songs Matching Collocations Students try to match words that go together first and then list to see if they were right. • ho ho ho • reindeers • red • white • long • laugh • suit • cap • sleigh • nose • beard Flashcards Students listen and hold up their flashcards when they hear the words on it. Singing in Rounds put them in 4 groups group one starts singing when they reach way group 2 join in at the beginning when they reach way group 3 start singing . etc. Singing in rounds is a traditional way to sing. London’s burning is the classic rounds song. It is fun in the classroom and creates a friendly competitive outcome. True or False Questions Correct the Words. These ideas can be used ofr any suitable song. An idea is for life not just for Chirstmas. A little song to the tune of heads shoulders knees and toes for the little ones. • Cap, beard, belt and gloves (belt and gloves) • Cap, beard, belt and gloves (belt and gloves) • Look at Santa in his suit • Cap, beard, belt and gloves (belt and gloves) If you like this then check out this website. Santa hats. Guess the Santa, Who has been good enough to deserve a visit? What presents would you give them? The songs used in this were Must be Santa Bob Dylan Tommy Steele Santa Claus is coming to town Bruce Springsteen / Frank Sinatra etc.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Hello - Webtools

this was the blog we set up and to view it you need the password hello1 To go back and edit it you will need the email and password which i will give you individually if you need it. Gareth

Hello Ostrava - Receptive Skills

Receptive Skills are not naturally transferred from one language to another. Students often read or listen one word at a time, without really thinking about the overall meaning. Therefore we really are teaching receptive skills. Lesson Plan Outline Create interest - general and then specific Pre-teach vocabulary Set task and time limit for a gist task. (They need a reason to read.) Pairwork and feedback Set task and time limit for a more detailed reading. Pairwork and feedback Discussion Language work. These are the problems that my colleagues came up with from around the globe. Feel free to write solutions in the comment section below. Students often try to understand every single word, or try to translate the text into their own language Students don't always read the instructions carefully and so don't understand what they are listening for They get lost so easily, try to understand every word or complain the speakers are going to quickly. Students equate reading with misery, school and tests, they don’t even read in their own language In tests the wording of each item can cause problems: weaker students tend to focus on the exact words they see in the question, and are confused when they don't find them. This sound bite generation… anything longer than a couple of paragraphs and they lose interest I don’t have a lot of time in class, so I skip the listening or find it easier to read the text to the students They don't get it when there is cultural info in the text...because they generally focus on form and literal meaning. It’s so difficult to pay attention to a voice coming out of a box in the corner of the room, you can see them looking out of the window. Students fail to register discourse markers. so rely on keywords which can skew meaning Who is the author / speaker? Out pictures of people on the board, ask students to read quickly or listen once and decide which person is the author / speaker. Alternative gist Questions Who is the author? What was their motivation to write this? Do you feel the facts are accurate? Why or why not? Is the author or reporter giving equal attention to all sides of the issue? How does this piece make you feel personally? Do you agree or disagree with the author? Do you believe the ‘facts’ in this article? How would others (from other countries, cultures, political groups, etc.) feel about it? Question Predictions Give the students the questions and ask them to predict the answers before they listen. This encourages the students to read the questions then they will know what they are listening for. Facebook status Ask students to read the text and create a status update as if they were sharing the text with their friends. Then ask them to comment on each others' statuses. Using or similar. Useful tips Don't be afraid to break listening and reading texts down into shorter segments. Students do have a short attention span - don't fight it... accept it and adapt. :-) Show you are interested in the text as well, even if you have heard the tape 100 times still oooh and ahh in all the right places. Use pairwork after reading and listening exercises before class feedback. Give students a chance to check with their friends if they have the same answers. This will make them more confident when giving you the answers. It is what we do in real life; when we read or listen to something we often chat about it to our nearest and dearest. Can you find a way to get your students up and active either before or during a reading activity?A little bit of movement helps to get oxygen to the brain and that increases attention span. Or can you open a window and have a blast of fresh air?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Exam Smiles

Finding links 
Put 5 random pictures on the board ask students to find links between the pictures.
Put words and 2 pictures on the board ask students to think which words match 1 picture match both pictures or match neither picture.
Put a list of words on the board and ask students to put them into categories.
 Put a list of words on the board, ask students to choose 1, then find a link to a second one. Then they take the second one and find a link to a third one, then they try to link the third to a fourth and so on until they have all the words. (Each time a different word, they can't go back.)

Do a part 2 type exam task but with a twist. Ask students to look at picture 1 for 30 seconds, then replace it with picture 2. Ask them to compare and contrast the pictures. 
Do a part 3 type exam task. Show all 5 pictures for about a minute then take away the pictures and ask students to the task without looking at the pictures.
 At the end of a lesson ask students to remember all the pictures used in a lesson.

Alphabet game. Ask the students to come up with 5 items that begin with the same letter. Verb, adjective, girl’s name, place and sport. Ask them to write a sentence using the grammar structure you are working on.

Manipulating texts. 
Reuse a text by asking students to make a gapfill exercise for other groups in the class.
Reuse a text by putting it on the board and asking students to take words out but the text should still make sense. (Roughly the saem sense.)

Using Questions Tell students you are going to do a listening or reading but you are not going to tell the students what it is about. Ask them to read the questions and get them to tell you what they know about the text just by reading the questions. Then ask them to answer the questions before looking at or hearing the text. This is a great way to encourage students to see how reading the questions gives them som much information.

Writing One word at a time... as students to work in group, give them a piece of paper, tell them they are going to write a story or letter one word at a time. Ask person 1 in the group to write the first word, then pass the paper to the second person who writes the next word then to the 3rd person and so on. 

140 Characters. That is the length of a tweet or a text message. Ask the students to write a answer to an exam question using only 140 characters, letters, punctuation, spaces. When they have done ask them to give their text to a different students who writes a reply also in 140 characters. Getting Feedback Ask students to read out the answers in the manner of the adverbs on the board.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Gareth's Grammar Session

Making grammar fun
Gareth session. This is the handout if you came to Gareth’s version of the session.

Whatever type of grammar teacher you are, grammar needs to be made fun so that it is memorable for students.
Below are the five ideas I showed in the session. Let me know if they work for you.

Change Places if…
Ask students to stand in a circle. Say a sentence using the grammar point you want to practice. Students respond if it is true for them. Ask students to then come up with their own statements.
Change places if you like Twilight
Change places if you are wearing green.
Change places if you have been to Wales. etc etc.

Human Pexeso
Ask your students to stand up  and stand in  a circle. Give each one a pexeso card.
In the session I used simple words but you could use pictures.
Start by doing a demonstration.
Ask one student randomly ‘ What can you do?’
the student looks at their card and says I can …
then you ask a second student ‘What can you do?’
the students say what is on their card. If it is a match the question wins a point.
Now ask the student on your left to ask a question to any student randomly  wait for the answer then the student asks another student if it is a match then the student  who questions wins a point and the ones with the cards put their cards down. But stay in the circle because it will be their turn to ask soon.
If the student picks someone with a match to themselves they win 2 points.
Now move on to the next student in the circle who can ask the question.
this could be done with a range of other language points.
what have you got – cards with bike football doll etc
what do you look like – cards with picutres of people
where are you going  - cards with words or pictures of places   railway station etc etc
This activity is fun but it is a drill of a language form .  what can you do I can play tennis etc.

Controlled Practice Runaround
After a multiple choice controlled practice ask your students to stand up. Tell them that the back of the classroom is option A, the left is option B and the right is option C  Read out the question and ask them to move to the part of the room they think is the correct answer. Then confirm the answers for them.
This gets some movement into the lesson and brings some fun to a gap fill.
If you feel this would be too disruptive ask students to point to the correct answer.

Substitution Tables
Create a substitution table like the one below. Ask students to create true sentences for themselves using the table. see how many they can make. See who can make the most. This personalizes the language but provides safe controlled practice.

Alphabet game.
Ask the students to come up with 5 items that begin with the same letter.
Verb, adjective, girl’s name, place and sport. Ask them to write a sentence using the grammar structure you are working on.

Timelines and concept check questions

See my video blog on these. You’ll find it here.

managing for success

Managing for Success

What is classroom management? For me classroom management are all the considerations about a lesson that aren’t the methodology and the content.
The picture below is a mind map of some of the things that people suggested make up classroom management in the first few sessions. Have I missed anything? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

The session looked at two areas of classroom management, instructions and movement but it also touched on feedback and seating arrangements too.


Here is a video of me giving terrible instructions. What is wrong with them?

Here are the instructions for instructions that you came up with in the session.

  • stand in one place
  • wait till you have attention.
  • slow down
  • repeat key facts
  • check students have understood.
  • only say what needs saying
  • don’t over complicate
  • do an example
  • know what you want to say

Movement and pair work.

Sitting in a different seat every lesson helps students to concentrate.
Research suggests that seeing a room from a different angle can improve attention levels in the classroom. That suggests that sitting in the some seat every lesson can have a negative effect on students.
Students like working with the same people so why bother move them.
This is true, so one has to make the decision do the negatives outweigh the positives.
Pair work reduces pressure on the students.
Pair work helps students to feel more comfortable. They are not performing in front of the whole class. it means they have time to rehearse before having to tell the class.
Movement in a lesson helps students to improve concentration.
It is said that even minimal movement can help to get oxygen into the brain and that in turn helps to prolong the concentration span. So ask students to put their hands on their heads or point to something can be beneficial.
Pair work or group work means I lose control of the classroom.
This is an understandable concern, what are the students doing in pairs and groups are they doing what I have asked them to? Bit even when the class works as a whole there might be people not paying attention, day dreaming etc. Again do the positives outweigh the negatives.
Working with different students improves the classroom dynamics.
We want to foster cooperation in our classes. The best way to do that is to encourage students to work and learn from everyone in the room. But that is in a perfect world and I know reality is different.
Changing classroom positions is good for discipline.
This could be true, moving students around can help the break up disruptive pairs. If you do this randomly then students don’t feel like they are being picked on.
Changes in groups should be temporary so students can go back to their comfort zones.
I think this is true, I often sit with my friends in lessons because I like them, I don’t mind working with other people but I want to go back to my friends.
Collaboration (working together) helps to improve learning.
As Sir Ken Robinson said in this video
collaboration is important for education. Pair work and group work can become important learning tools. What we think of as copying could be thought of as peer teaching and collaborative development. Allowing students to steal ideas from each other is fun and can help them grow. During the mind map or poster activity in some locations I let 1 member of each group go off and spy on the others.
Also reflect on what you learnt in this seminar. Who did you learn it from. All I really did in the session was manage the room and set up the activities. It was you who shared, reflected and learnt with and from each other.

In the session I showed you 5 ways to change the groups around, they were
  • numbers
  • musical chairs
  • dots
  • spokesperson
  • ladders
Which ways do you move your students? Leave a comment in the section below.

I also showed you 5 activities for classroom use, they were
  • mind maps
  • stop game
  • making posters
  • turn over discussions
  • draw and describe
Have you used any of them? Where they successful? Tell us using the comments below.

Finally I used a range of ways to do feedback, did you spot them? Again let me know using the comments section below. 

here is the ken Robinson video in full

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

In Praise of Workbooks

4 reasons to take another look at your workbook

It seems to me in the modern age workbooks have become a little old fashioned and unpopular amongst teachers. Seen as ‘only controlled practice or homework books’ they are not seen to be communicative enough and are often forgotten about or underused. But actually the workbook is a useful tool for the teacher and student and now that we have online workbooks they can be a key part of the language learning process helping to create a blended learning package for our students.
In this short blog, I will suggest four reasons why workbooks are useful tools and look at how the electronic versions enhances this further.

The first reason that workbooks are useful is that students tend to like them. It is true that many of the exercises in the workbook are controlled practice but a good controlled practice helps students to feel more comfortable with the language.  Controlled practice helps students to remember the language and have more confidence when using it freely. Controlled practice allows students to analyse and manipulate the language they are studying.  Success in controlled practice can be measured and gives students a sense of achievement that freer practice activities don’t always provide and this might be why a study done by Peters, Weinberg, and Sarma (2009) suggested that students preferred doing mechanical workbook type activities online than more creative tasks like making wikis etc.

The second reason is that a good workbook can act as a substitute teacher. The grammar reference, study tips, functions banks etc can answer the students questions and help them become independent learners. With a little bit of learner training the students can take responsibility for their own learning. The online workbook helps this even more. The smart key helps students to see why they have got answers wrong, the dictionary look up helps them to deal with unknown vocabulary, the chance to do activities again helps them to measure their own progress. This instant feedback allows for immediacy. If students do homework and wait three days for their next English lesson then the impact is lost but with the online workbook they can see their success straight away.

Thirdly workbooks provide variety. I said in the previous section that workbook exercise are mostly controlled practice but a good workbook would have a range of activities to focus on different language points and in different ways for example gap fills, readings, matching, crosswords, word searches etc. Online workbooks can include listening and speaking activities too. With a paper workbook I often allowed my students a choice of homework; I allowed them to do any two activities from the page. This meant that the students could choose their homework depending on their own taste and learning styles. This was of course difficult in terms of marking but the online version has instant marking for teachers. This means I can see who has done what and how they have done. This of course is very helpful with mixed ability classes too. It means I can set different tasks for different groups. The stronger ones will not be demotivated by it being too easy while the weaker ones will not be demotivated because it is too difficult.

Finally a workbook provides consolidation of what is done in class. Students need to realise that coming to English lessons two or three times a week is not enough. They need extra practice and exposure to English outside the classroom. Because the workbook is closely linked to the student’s book, students don’t have to look far to get useful and relevant practice using similar topics and vocabulary. With online workbooks you as a teacher can design a blended course, covering what you feel is important in class and leaving the rest for students to do online. And what’s more students don’t even have to carry around their books; all they need is their login details and a Wi-Fi signal and they can practice on the go.

So pick up your workbook and have another look at it. Ask yourself how it can help your students improve their English and then consider how an online version could bring real possibilities to your teaching.


And thanks to





Friday, 15 June 2012

Jeremy's handout

Learning to remember:
Some ideas on encountering new vocabulary

‘It has been estimated that, when reading, words stand a good chance of being remembered if they have been met at least seven times over spaced intervals.’ (Scott Thornbury)
It’s important that we make sure students understand new vocabulary and give them time to do so. It’s worth bearing in mind that students will be more likely to remember what happens at the beginning and end of the lesson, rather than what happens in the middle.
Using a variety of different situations and contexts to review vocabulary is the key to keeping students interested and engaged.

Classroom activity: Learning a text by heart
Give the students a text. It can be from the student’s book.
Ask them to work in pairs.
Student A: writes down the text, but only the odd words, leaving big enough spaces for the other words.
Student B: does the same with the even words.
In pairs, they exchange what they have written verbally, and then complete their texts.
The whole class together, from memory, students come to the board and re-write the text.

Our memories love the absurd, the unusual, the vivid and exciting. As a teacher, one of the most important skills is the ability to transform the abstract into something that is attention-grabbing and unforgettable.
Mnemonics can help students remember and retrieve new words more easily. To make a word such as beorn (the old English word for man) more memorable, we should try and connect the sound of the word with an image that is linked to the word’s meaning. For example we could imagine ‘a man being born’ or the famous Swedish tennis player, Bjorn Borg.
Classroom activity: Cross associations
As students read a text, ask them to note down any new words and then find out their meanings, uses, etc. in a dictionary. Then build up a separate list of famous people the students suggest.
Ask students to write down any associations they can make between the words and the people. The more ridiculous and sillier, the more memorable these will be.

Jeremy Bowell, Oxford University Press
The psychologist, Herman Ebbinghaus discovered that our memories grow continuously weaker, and that we will forget 50% of something within an hour of
seeing it. However, he also found that the rate at which our memories fade lessens each time we review information, and furthermore, that our memories get stronger with each
review. This is crucial to how we teach vocabulary. Reviewing new vocabulary after a few minutes, an hour, a day, a few days, a week, and so on will enable our students to effectively commit vocabulary to their long term memories.
Actively retrieving words (rather than passively reading them) will help strengthen our memories and improve our ability to recall.

Maturita Solutions VocApp is a great tool that your students can download on to their phones that will help them to revise vocabulary and prepare for tests whenever and wherever they are.
There are wordlists with translations, context sentences and audio, and quizzes to encourage active retrieval of key vocabulary.

Use it or lose it. The more variety of ways that we use the vocabulary with our students, the more likely it is that they will remember and use the words themselves.
Personalising and making new vocabulary meaningful for the students is crucial to success. Storytelling and drama are memorable, fun and imaginative ways we can get our students to use new words in context.

Classroom activity: Wordbag
An old favourite, but a great way to get students to take responsibility for their own vocabulary learning. Fill a bag with blank slips of paper and at the start of each lesson appoint two students to write down any new words that they encounter. Ensure they write the word on one side and a translation/definition/context sentence on the other. Then place all the words in the bag.
Over time you have a great resource to use for quick revision at the start and end of each lesson.

Resource Books for Teachers: Vocabulary, John Morgan, Mario Rinvolucri, OUP Memory Games, The Guardian
Keeping words on the tip of your ...., Scott Thornbury, The Guardian.
Jeremy Bowell, Oxford University Press