Sunday, 26 February 2012

What's in your bag?

A ball can be a useful tool in the classroom. It helps to randomise feedback and bring variety.

Feedback tennis
Put students into two teams with an imaginary net in between. Ask students to throw the ball across the room and whoever catches has to give an answer. (Give them a time limit). If they don't give an answer in that time limit, don't give a correct answer or duplicate an answer the other team wins the point.

The Ball's a Bomb
Play a game of pass the parcel with the ball. As the ball goes round each student needs to give an answer. Set a timer for 1 minute, the person who has the ball when the timer goes off is blown up.

Translation Ball
Throw the ball to students - say a word in English and the students say it in Czech, or say the word in Czech and the students say it in English. (great for struggling students. )

Newspapers can be useful even if they are in Czech. You can use the pictures in the newspapers to discuss, label etc.
Here is what I asked you to do.
Find an article on the subject you are discussing in class, read it, discuss it with their partners. Swap partners and discuss the articles they have found.
Rewrite the articles in their own words.

Even if this is in Czech it is useful. It can be a real life skill that students need to take information in one language and process it in another.

Pretty easy to find and keep, and loads to use in class.

Find your partners
Cut some pictures in half, give them out to the class. Tell them not to show their pictures.
Ask students to describe their pictures to each other and try to find their other half.

Create a persona
Give out a picture of a person (make sure it's anonymous) ask students to come up with a name, age, job, where they live etc etc for that person.

Find 3 things in common
Give out random pictures to the students, ask them to wrok in paris and describe their pictures, they need to try to find 3 things they have in common.

Write 3 words
Put students in pairs, give each pair a picture and 3 pieces of paper. Ask them to write 3 words on the pieces of paper. Collect the papers in but leave the pictures. Shuffle the papers, and redistribute them randomly around the class. Ask the students to walk around and decide what pictures match their words. They will put down the words on the pictures. Then once all the words have been put down, they can see if the words have been matched to their original pictures.

Who would listen to what?
Put three pictures of people on the board. Play 3 pieces of music ask students to listen to the music and decide who would listen to which track. Discuss with their partners.

Mobile Phones.
Has your mobile got a camera, a voice recorder, a music player, or access to the internet?
Can you use these in the classroom?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Speak up - Building confidence.

Please not this is not quite finished yet. I need to add your comments from the session.

Why do students lack confidence?

peer pressure
fear of mistakes
don’t see the point
don’t know what
don’t know how

So what can we do?

Listen to your students not your student’s mistakes.

4 reasons not to over-correct your students

· students will become demotivated and fear making a mistake

· communicative accuracy is as important as linguistic accuracy.

· being listened to and getting a message across is motivating

· errors can be learning steps, we don’t want to make students think making mistakes is wrong.

4 Reasons to correct your students.

  • if mistakes are learning steps then error correction and coaching is important to help students see the problem and improve.
  • students perceive the teacher’s job is to correct, they will feel like they are learning if they correct.
  • students are passed the natural age for learning language so coaching and correction are important to help the students develop.
  • it is a way to deal with language the students would like to be able to use but can’t. (emerging language)

Golden Rules of Error Correction

  • Don’t correct all the time.
  • Remember what is being said is as important as how.
  • Echo rather than overtly correct.
  • Don’t interrupt… go back to correct.
  • If error causes breakdown in communication negotiate meaning don’t correct.
  • Use errors to help you plan
  • Think about the needs of your students, are they confident, can they handle correction.

This will make the students more confident so they speak more. So they will make more mistakes.

Helping our students make better mistakes.

My tips for helping students make better mistakes

  • The more they speak … the more mistakes they make.
  • Give time to prepare and plan.
  • Encourage a friendly, supportive environment.
  • Allow for lots of variety.
  • Allow chance to repeat the activity.
  • Favour pair and group work rather than whole class.
  • Pick topics that will interest and won’t embarrass.
  • Don’t make them do what they don’t want to.

Making Speaking Fun

Some principles for making speaking fun

  • Make sure there is a task.
  • Make sure the students know what they are doing.
  • Give students freedom to express themselves.
  • Make sure there is a reason to speak and to listen.

The activities I demonstrated in the sessions were

Ask your students to write 3 sentences 2 true 1 false.
They then ask each other questions about the sentences and have to work out which one is the lie.
Remind them they have to keep lying in their responses.

None of us
The simplest way to add a task is to create a ‘me too or me neither’ feeling. So students have to find things in common or differences with colleagues. The example we saw in the session was getting students in groups of four and ask them to find things that was true only about 1 person in that group, true about 2 people, true about 3 or true about all of them.

Hot Seat
After a reading where there has been a main character ask students to write questions for the character from the reading.
Then nominate one student from each group to be the character.
The students interview them and they have to answer 'in character'.

Answer as
Give students some questions to talk about but tell them they, shouldn't answer as themselves but should answer as a famous person.
They shouldn't tell their partner(s) who the famous person is.
After they have completed the task ask them to guess who their partner(s) famous person was.

Hope these activities inspire your students and build their confidence and get them to speak up.

I finished with the Video of Jean Burcow Gleesen
This is a very brief summary of what she said.
Correcting and Coaching is irrelevant.
Exposure to Language
Listen to the Children (in our case students)

Making Grammar and vocabulary fun.

Let’s start with what students need to really understand a language point.

§ Contextualised language – language out of context can mean different things.

§ Focus on Meaning Use and Form – whether it is explained by the teacher or worked out by the students, the students need to know what language means, how to put it together and when to use it.

§ Focus on Pronunciation

§ Practice

§ Confidence – if we over-correct students they will never build the confidence to perform in the language.

There are different ways to present grammar, different orders to do things, we can work with the language in the book or the language the students produce themselves. No approach is wrong or right. It is what is right for you and your class.

Let’s reflect on some of the activities demonstrated in class.

Making Controlled Practice more engaging

Grammar joker

Award points for correct answers to a gap-fill type exercise. But ask students to nominate one sentence they are sure of. If they get that sentence correct they get 2 points instead of one, but if they get it wrong they lose a point.

The team or student with the most points at the end wins.

This adds a competitive element to the activity.


Good for multiple choice gap fills. Have different areas of the room assigned to different alternatives.

Read out the questions and ask the students to move to the right place in the room. Award a point to every student who gets a correct answer (it is often a good idea to give them a piece of paper or a ball or something) ask the ones who got it wrong to sit down. (they sit out just the next question).

Repeat for question 2 for question three invite those who got question 1 wrong to join in.

The idea is that controlled practice is often quite sedentary. This gets the students up and moving and that movement can increase concentration levels.

Make it correct

This is useful when students have two options to choose from in a controlled practice exercise. Ask the students to do the exercise and get feedback as usual. The ask them to look at the sentences to again and try to change them to make the incorrect alternative correct.

This makes the students think about what makes a sentence correct and incorrect and makes things more memorable.

Ways to practice grammar

Picasso grammar

We have probably all played Pictionary with our students with vocabulary but how about with grammar too. Give the students a sentence and they have to draw it. Their colleagues have to guess the sentence and try to get it word perfect.

None of us

In order for speaking tasks to be real communication their needs to be a reason to communicate, to not only speak but to listen too. When doing speaking tasks it often seems that students are taking it in terms to deliver little monologues.

The simplest way to add a task is to create a ‘me too or me neither’ feeling. So students have to find things in common or differences with colleagues. The example we saw in the session was getting students in groups of four and ask them to find things that was true only about 1 person in that group, true about 2 people, true about 3 or true about all of them.

Google it

Tell students to

§ Go to Google – other search engines are available

§ Put a phrase in the search engine use “ “

e.g “used to work”

§ Hit search and see what results you get.

§ Ask students to make a note of the sentences and bring them in to the next lesson

For the vocabulary ideas I demonstrated and more click here

Hope this is useful and thought-provoking.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Songs with Adults

Using music and songs doesn't just have to be with kids and doesn't just have to be filling in gaps. Here are some ideas to help you use music and songs in the classroom with your adult classes.

Using Songs for Classroom management

Songs can be a good way to help build confidence during speaking activities. Play some background music to help students 'hide' in the noise.
Songs can be a way of getting attention, play music when you want students to speak to each other stop it when you want them to stop.
Songs can be a way to time activities, you have the whole of this song... or half of this song to complete the activity.

Using Songs to create interest
If you have a reading or listening about a subject ask students to brainstorm songs about that subject.
Songs with girls names in the title
Songs about crime

Using with songs.
Create a word cloud with the lyrics from a song, ask the student to guess the title of the song from the words, or guess what the song could be about. Play the song and see if they are correct.

Create a word cloud with lyrics from 2 songs, play the song you want to focus on and ask students to tick the words they hear. MAybe give one word cloud between two so they are ticking in pairs.

Ask students to make word clouds at home with the lyrics of their favourite songs, they bring them in and put them around the room, other students have to guess the songs.

Using songs in class.
Chop the lines of the song up, ask students to put the lines in the correct order - give them a few minutes before you play the song to try and work it out first.

Alternatively put the lines on the desk jumbled up, play the song and get the students to grab the lines when they here them. At the end of the song see who has the most lines.

Ask students to sing the song in rounds, out them into three groups, get group 1 to sing the first to lines and carry on with the rest of the song. Group 2 start at the beginning once group 1 has finished line 2, group three start at the beginning when group 2 reach the end of the second line.

Songs to provoke reactions and discussion.
Tune in, tune out, turn off.
Play some songs and ask students to think about how they would react to them if they were on the radio. Would they tune in - listen carefully, tune out - leave it as background music, turn off.
Get them to discuss their ideas and explain why.

Play a song and decide what it would advertise if the song was used in an advert. Ask the students to describe the product, the people in the advert etc.
Get them to discuss their ideas and explain why.

Who is singing.
Play a song and ask the students to either describe who they think the singer is or show some pictures of people and ask them to think who might be singing.

Match a song to a picture.
Show some pictures, play a song or songs and ask students to think which picture best matches with the song.
Get them to discuss their ideas and explain why.

News songs
Elicit some new stories from the day or week.
Ask students to think of some songs that would match with the news stories.
Get them to discuss their ideas and explain why.

Theme tune
Ask students to come up with theme tunes for different stages of their lives...every five years or 8 years etc.
Get them to discuss their ideas and explain why.

Case Studies

Three keys to unlocking your Case Studies

In a recent article on case studies a teacher claimed that setting up case studies was similar to establishing chaos in the classroom. I can empathise with that, I was always hesitant about doing role plays and case studies in my class. I felt they were childish, or difficult to control.But it doesn’t have to be like that. In my experience a well set up and well executed cases study can be a motivating and stimulating lesson for both students and teachers alike.

Why use case studies?

Students learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. Case Studies allow students to practice their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in a realistic setting. There is the satisfaction of achieving an outcome and having used English to achieve that outcome.

In addition to that case studies are now widely used on business management courses, therefore our business English students are familiar with their formats and will see them as an essential part of the learning process.

So how do we get the benefits and avoid the chaos, well I believe there are three keys to doing successful case studies.

Key 1 is don’t expect to be the expert. In a good case study there is no particular ‘correct’ answer. The students should be given the freedom to come up with their own solutions or conclusions. As with all business English teaching the teacher should be the ‘language expert’ not the ‘business guru’, so let your students be the experts. (Business Result helps you with this by providing an expert view from the Cranfield School of Management for the students to compare their findings with.)

Key 2 is good classroom management. Don’t leave classroom management to chance. Before the lesson starts plan the groups and the seating arrangements, be willing to move the furniture and the students so they have room to discuss freely without being influenced or intimidated by other groups. However, make sure your plans are flexible so the case study will work even if some students do not attend that lesson.

Think about preparation time, letting students with the same roles working together first son they can feel confident they understand the content before they need to use it with their new partners.

Key 3 is the teacher’s response. In Key 1 I mentioned the teacher does not have to be an expert but that does not mean that the teacher should not be interested in the outcome of the discussions. One of the main principles of correcting students is respond to the content of the message as well as the accuracy. Students like to believe that they have something interesting to say and that they are not just mistake making machines.

So we can see that setting up case studies does not have to cause chaos, they can become a really useful part of the learning experience.