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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Peer-to-Peer Encouragement and Support

My First Certificate Level Students are sitting their Cambridge FCE in the next two weeks and they are studying harder.

When the course started back in March I did my best to make them
aware of the fact that their success depended on them and on their
commitment. I created a wiki space where I've been uploading lots
of material for them to practise in class and at home. from

It proved really helpful as a kind of "virtual library" and also as a means of communication. My students have made comments, solved doubts and kept in touch with me throughout the whole year.

Yesterday I felt a sense of achievement when a student of mine sent me a list of queries and he told me that it would be a great idea if I uploaded those queries with the replies for his classmates to have the opportunity to read. I thought it was highly thoughtful of him and I felt that was peer-to-peer collaboration. This student was concerned his classmates would have the same doubts he had. I felt proud of him and totally rewarded as to one of my aims was to encourage collaboration and support in the classroom.

After I uploaded this material, that same student wrote a very considerate message for his classmates. It was in Spanish but it made me feel a higher sense of satisfaction. His message was:

"Chicos: tengan en cuenta que las dudas que le envié a Marisa y ella completó son sólo una parte de todo el vocabulario para el speaking, si se fijan al comienzo del libro hay una tabla donde en una columna llamada speaking justamente están todas las pags. y temas del libro para no andar buscando, yo hice una fotocopia de eso y subraye vocabulario en la fotocopia, seran unas 20 pags. de speaking."

The translation of the message is: "Boys and girls: please consider that the doubts I sent to Marisa and which she replied are only a part of all the vocabulary for the speaking paper. If you check at the beginning of the book, you'll find a table which includes a column called speaking and you'll find all the pages and topics of the book. So as not to look up those topics, I made a copy of those pages and underlined the key vocabulary. They must be around 20 pages of speaking."

I'm not sure my students will pass Cambridge First Certificate Exam but I have managed to foster a sense of collaboration and support within the classroom. And that is highly rewarding.

How do you encourage collaboration and support within the classroom? I'd like to know about it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Meet My PLN (Personal Learning Network) Series: Part 3

As part of this series I've interviewed Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, a teacher of English currently living in Kitakyushu, Japan. She´s taught English as a second language for a little more than 20 years and she´s a valuable member of my PLN. The following are her replies:

  • Why have you decided to start the teaching career?
Barbara: I never actually wanted to be anything except a teacher. Even as a child, when we played school I was ALWAYS the teacher--I'm sure it was quite annoying for my sister and friends. To be perfectly honest, there was a two week period in junior high school when I wanted to be a flight attendant. We'd gone on a field trip to the airport and I thought it would be lovely to have a job where I was paid to travel. Unfortunately, I realized that I'd never reach the minimum height requirement, so I happily returned to wanting to be a teacher.

  • In your opinion, what are the advantages of using technology in the classroom?
Barbara: There are times when technology can improve on what you are already doing. For example, having my students write their own alphabet book helps them "own" their learning. Typically, they would make a page for each letter, and add words that begin with that sound. In the past, I would make a copy of the book for each student, and that was the end of the project. This past year, however, I added a technology twist to the project by using Voicethread for their book. Each page was uploaded as a separate slide, and the children recorded their words as comments on that "page". The advantage of using technology was that it allowed other people to collaborate on the project by adding their own words to the letter pages. The volunteers included native and non-native speakers of English from around the world, so that my students understood from a young age that English has many varieties, and that all speakers don't sound like me. A first grade class in the US adopted my students' alphabet book as their project too, and added words. My students were surprised to learn that children in the US were learning the same thing that they were, and impressed with how many words those children knew!

I could download copies of the book for my students, so they could watch and listen at home, and students were able to share the link with friends and grandparents. Since the book is online, other classes can use the alphabet book or continue to add words--it's an ongoing, global collaboration.

In this case, adding technology improved on what I'd be able to do in class without the technology. That made it worth the additional time it took for me to learn how to use the tool, and for my students to use it. Everything has a learning curve, and I have to weigh that cost against the benefits. I only have a finite amount of time with my students, and I want to make the best use of it that I can.

  • As you see it, what factors determine that a class has been successfully taught?

Barbara: If my students leave knowing something they didn't know when they arrived at class, if they leave feeling more confident in their skills as language users, if they are happy and excited to return to class the following week--these are my signs that things went well.

  • Is there a teaching method you favour? If so, which one?

Barbara: I don't really favor one method over another. I'm more of a "whatever works" kind of teacher. I believe in learning as much as I can about many different methods so that I can pick from among them depending on the needs and personality of each class.

  • What technique do you use to correct your students' mistakes?

Barbara: I use a variety of techniques, depending on the age, skill level, and personality of my students. I'll often shadow my students, repeating what they were trying to say (correctly) or I'll do a quick mini-lesson focusing on a mistake that several students have been making. I try to focus on errors that interfere with understanding rather than correcting every mistake. If I focus on a few important corrections each class students stand a better chance of remembering (and changing) than if I try to correct too many things. I also try to use humor in error correction, partly because it makes students laugh and reduces their feeling of being criticized and partly because it makes the correction easier to remember.

  • Should technology be present in the students' assessment? In what way?

Barbara: I think it depends on the class, of course. If technology is used throughout the course, then it makes sense to assess students the way they've been taught. However, I think there's a risk that you might end up testing their ability to use the technology more than their understanding of the language. I think it's important to be sure that you're actually testing what you intend to test.

  • What is an effective way of assessing students?

Barbara: The most effective way I've found is informal--I keep notes about student progress, problems, areas to strengthen, and preferences. I'm not currently teaching in a formal school setting, so my assessments are simply a way for me to improve my own instruction or to give suggestions to parents who want to include additional enrichment at home. Several of my students have recently decided that they'd like to take a standardized English test that's popular here in Japan (Step Eiken) so we've been including practice for test-taking skills in class. What's interesting is that the test is not really serving as an assessment as much as it is providing another topic for our lessons. I'm looking forward to hearing their feedback about the test after they've taken it.

a final question, What is your recommendation for new teachers?

Connect. Join a teacher's group in your country, go to conferences and attend workshops. Join Twitter and/or online groups for teachers. There are so many fabulous, experienced teachers around that there's no reason to try and figure everything out on your own. Ask questions and ask for help--I can guarantee that there is some teacher somewhere who has been in a situation similar to yours, and you'll discover more support and experienced advice than you could ever imagine! Even after you've finished your formal training, continue to learn as much as you can about methods, philosophies, techniques, and materials so that you can choose what will work best for your students. And finally, (my personal motto!) always try new things :-)

Thank you very much for your time, Barbara! And thanks for sharing your expertise with all us.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Meet My PLN (Personal Learning Network) Series: Part 2

As part of this series I've interviewed another member of my PLN, Vicky Loras (@vickyloras), who's a Greek Canadian teacher of English. Vicky is really supportive and open-minded. Here are her replies:

  • Why have you decided to start the teaching career?
Vicky: The truth is that ever since I remember myself, I wanted to become an attorney. I was in love with Law School. In our final entrance exams for university, for half a grade I did not make Law School, but succeeded in getting into what was my second choice - English Language and Literature. When I began to study that, I realised how wrong I had been all those years for not giving the thought of teaching a chance. I love it and I am so happy I teach!

  • In your opinion, what are the advantages of using technology in the classroom?
Vicky: Nowadays, we have access to so many technological developments. The best thing we can do is put them into practice in the language classroom, as students can both learn how to use the respective technological tools and learn the language in the process. I believe technology increases the interest in learning and gives it a whole new dimension. For instance, I teach some students through Skype and it is amazing what we can do with this fantastic tool. Student and teacher are literally face-to-face, we can use the chat feature as a board when we want to make notes of something, share files and send files...the potentials there are so many!

  • As you see it, what factors determine that a class has been successfully taught?
Vicky: I believe that it shows throughout the lesson. If the teacher is interested and enthusiastic, then the students are as well. If the lesson comes to an end and the students are motivated and excited, that means that they have also learned and then go home to study with a different approach to lessons. In addition, if the students apply what they have learned in the subsequent lessons as well at their own initiative, then that means that the teacher has succeeded in pressing that magic button that has turned on learning.

  • Is there a teaching method you favour? If so, which one?
Vicky: I absolutely love role-playing. Here in Switzerland I use it a lot in my adult classes (I mainly teach adults) and it is so impressive to see the responses and how their English comes out so beautifully and spontaneously. I even take part in them and we always have a lot of fun, laughs and it is amazing how much they can learn. My adults love it so much, they keep asking for role-playing! They are so eager to do it, as it puts them in realistic situations.

  • What technique do you use to correct your students' mistakes?
Vicky: Reformulation is my favourite technique. I believe it is important that students can hear the correct answer or sentence right after their own, so they can realise the mistakes that have been made. It also does not demotivate them and is a softer way of correcting.

  • Should technology be present in the students' assessment? In what way?
Vicky: Well, perhaps it would be useful to see how students use the technology they have utilised in the language classroom to their own benefit, that is to the benefit of learning. It should not be the sole purpose of assessment though, I believe. It should be a combination of various aspects of their presence and performance in the classroom.

  • What is an effective way of assessing students?
Vicky: As I mentioned earlier, for me, assessment comes when I notice a student using a particular aspect of the language that we have learned in previous lessons. When they do this on their own, for example they use some new terminology we have learned or a grammar structure which is quite complex, then that tells me all I need to know about the students. How eager they are, whether studying at home and my assistance in the classroom has really helped them and how much the language is starting to settle down in them. When students apply what they have learned, all on their own and without teacher intervention, then that for me is an automatic assessment of their presence as students.

  • A final question, what is your recommendation for new teachers?
Vicky: I would recommend that they get all the professional development they can. Fortunately, we are in a very creative profession in which we are lucky to be constantly learning. Twitter is an amazing tool that can assist them in this, as they can come into contact with excellent educators around the world from whom they can learn a great deal. Conferences and workshops are also extremely useful and helpful. They should follow these, as we have the opportunity of having lots of them organised for our profession. There is also a great number of fantastic books which can help them improve their teaching or learn about new practices and methods. In other words, teachers should be the best students themselves!

  • Thank you very much for your time, Vicky! And thanks for sharing your expertise with all of us.

Vicky: I thank you very much as well, it has been a pleasure and I truly appreciate this opportunity you have given me. Many thanks, Marisa and I hope to meet you in person one day!
I have enjoyed this very much and it is the first time I have ever given an interview, thank you so very much!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Teaching Approach: FlexiMoti

I must admit I don't believe in coincidences. I'm into the principle that states that everything happens for a reason and I feel amazed when I come across a post that catches my attention and I find out that that information is what I needed in that very moment.

That is what happened to me when I read Jason Renshaw's post about his approach to teaching, which encouraged me to reflect on my own teaching practice. In my comment to Jason's post I explained that my approach boasted flexibility in my attempt to motivate my students and Jason suggested calling it "FlexMoti", which I find suitable and I'm thankful to Jason for.

The main feature of my approach is flexibility as I adapt my teaching practice to my students in one-to-one classes or in group classes with the aim of meeting their individual needs and of motivating them to learn the English language in a way that suits their likes and dislikes. To make use of a flexible way of teaching I rely on my experience as a teacher and look for inspiration in my PLN members' educational posts, which provide a valuable possibility of improving my teaching career and of renewing my approach. I feel as if I were attending teaching lectures all the time from the comfort of my home and when I can spare time to do so.

I invite you to make comments as to your source of inspiration for your teaching practice.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meet My PLN (Personal Learning Network) Series

As part of this series, I have decided to interview some of the
members of my PLN. I have started by interviewing one of the
most supportive and encouraging educator I have met: Shelly
Terrell (@shellterrell). Shelly is a freelance technology trainer
and social media consultant for language institutes, schools and
educational organizations worldwide. She's the creator, moderator
and coordinator of #Edchat, a weekly discussion on Twitter involving nearly 1000 educators all around the world.

These are the questions I asked Shelly:

  • Why have you decided to start the teaching career?
  • What are the advantages of using technology in the classroom?
  • What elements determine that a class has been successfully taught?
  • Is there a teaching method you favour? If so, why?
  • How do you correct your students' mistakes?
  • Should technology be present in the students' assessment? In what way?
  • What is an effective way of assessing students?
  • What is your recommendation for new teachers?

Shelly has recorded her replies: Shelly's Recording.

Thanks a lot, Shelly, for sharing your expertise!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Touching Surprise

As part the the series My Personal Learning Network/What you
can Learn from my PLN in her blog Teaching Village, Barbara Hoskins
Sakamoto (@barbsaka) had a brilliant idea to recommend posts from
blog archives and to encourage colleagues to read "hidden gems".
Barbara created quizzes based on those posts and offered prizes
as a reward.

I took quiz #3 and I was drawn among the winners! Solving the quiz was an enriching experience and I had fun doing it. Barbara asked me for my address and yesterday I received the prize: Japanese chocolates, a fan (as a touch of Japanese culture) and a lovely card handwritten by Barbara herself. I was moved when I opened the package and thought it was coming from far away. I felt I was receiving Barbara´s warmth in that package, which had travelled such a long distance. I shared the chocolates with my nieces, who were amazed by the exotic boxes and the delicious taste of bear cookies filled with chocolate.

I would like to thank Barbara for sending me the presents and for expressing kind and friendly feelings, which are an encouragement to go on interacting in this virtual world and meeting such lovely people.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Song to Motivate Students to Speak

Songs are helpful to introduce talking points in class. They are highly motivating and
great sources of vocabulary for students to widen their scope.

To introduce the topic "What's your favourite day of the week? Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Why?", I've chosen the song "Friday I'm in Love" by the band
The Cure.

As a warm-up I'm going to ask students the question: "What's your favourite day of the week? Why?". After some exchange of ideas, the students will receive a list of words and phrases from the song and while listening will write the day of the week connected to that word or phrase in the song. As a next step, they'll have to fill in the blanks in one part of the song.

As a follow up, students can either write a poem about their favourite day of the week, make a picture and describe it to the class or show a photo to the class that shows the activity they enjoy doing on their favourite day.

Here's the link to the tasks I've created: Friday I'm in Love by The Cure

Do you have other suggestions? I'd like to hear....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Students' Studying Strategies

Have your students ever asked you how they should study?
I teach English to intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students
and it is when they reach these levels that they realise they need to study as
what we do in class is not enough. Then, they ask me to recommend how
they should do so.

My recommendations are:

  • Reading as much as they can since it helps students widen their vocabulary scope and strengthens their use of the language;
  • Doing exercises as extra practice;
  • Keeping records of their corrections so as not to repeat mistakes;
  • Taking down notes and reading new words and phrases in context;
  • Making pictures since they are great memory aids;
  • Meeting peers to practise conversation skills;
  • Singing songs to practise pronunciation;
  • Listening to podcasts.
I am convinced we, in our capacity as teachers, should help our students develop life-long skills and become independent learners no matter how much they resist changing habits.

To collect other teachers' tips and hints I've created a wallwisher: Students' Studying Strategies
Some educators have included their suggestions via Twitter. Feel free to include yours.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Extensive Reading In The Classroom

My teenage students often admit to not enjoying reading in their native language or in English. For that reason, I decided not to
assign reading a book or a chapter for homework long ago after
finding out it was useless as only four or five out of 15 students
read them and were ready for the class tasks I had planned to strengthen, reinforce, confirm and deepen their knowledge of the
English language. Image courtesy of Free Foto.Com

In my attempt to adapt the use of extensive reading, I've decided to make use of adapted readers that include a CD recording, which is highly motivating as it includes sound effects.

For my upper intermediate students I chose The Phantom of the Opera and to introduce the reader I made my students watch the movie trailer of the latest film based on the book. After that, we found out data about the author: Gaston Leroux.

On different classes throughout the learning year, we listened to chapter after chapter and used it as a talking point in class while highlighting on the board significant data like names of the characters, relevant events, settings and so on.

So as to systematise the tasks I've prepared some material to upload in the blogs/wikis I share with my students: The Phantom of the Opera

How do you implement extensive reading your classes? I'd like to hear about it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The 2010 Soccer World Championship in my Classes

My PLN members have shared lots of material about the soccer championship via Twitter and I've been selecting what I thought my students would find interesting. I've been uploading the material I've chosen in the classroom blogs and wikis for my students to go on practising the language at home. Unfortunately, I haven't written down the name of the Tweetterer who has shared or recommended the material but I have thanked the sharer and made comments as to the significance of the recommendation.

So far, I've uploaded:

1) The game calendar: Calendar Useful for my students to check dates and places where the games are played.

2) An insightful article: Follow your Football Team You can read information, look at pictures and see videos.

3) Articles for my students to read: News Item To encourage students to read about the latest news.

4) Vocabulary Tasks: Useful Vocabulary (by @esolcourses)

5) The World Cup Map: Map For students to be informed as to the countries that participate in the championship.

6) Quizzes: The World Cup Helpful to practise vocabulary and grammar.

7) A Game: Fling the Teacher Highly motivating for students to learn and have fun. (by @eflclassroom)

8) Pictures: Big Pictures For students to enjoy creativity and art.

9) Songs: Wavin' Flag (by K´NAAN)
Waka Waka by Shakira
Videos of songs are great resources for the introduction of talking points in the classroom, for learning vocabulary and for developing listening skills. Singing songs is a good way of practising pronunciation.

10) A video about the star of the champiosnhip "The Vuvuzela Horn": Should vuvuzela horns be banned from the World Cup? The idea is to introduce the talking point about the use of this type of horn and then students can watch the video and write any idea that comes to their heads while watching it (task suggested by Anne hodgdon, @annehodg, in her comment to one of my posts). After that, students can share ideas in pairs and whith the whole group. As a follow-up task students can suggest a different device for cheering teams.

11) A site for students to create a football character: SP Studio (shared by @annapires)

Have you used any other task in your classes connected to the World Cup?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Students' Foreign Language Assessment: A Challenge for Teachers

This week I've been busy writing my teenage students' reports for their parents to read about their children's performance and progress in their learning of the English language. It's still a challenge for me to create mental parameters as to the areas I teach: oral language, reading comprehension and grammar. Without doubt the most complicated area is oral expression as I deal with teenagers who feel reluctanct to speak English in front of their peers for fear of looking ridiculous, who instinctively speak their native language and I need to react quickly and insist in their using English in the English class. I've found out that I can break a Guinness Record in the number of times I say "in English, please!" in the classes any time free conversation is developed.

I've shared my experience with a colleague and friend of mine who told me that after assessing her students the school where she works organised a parents' meeting to exchange ideas and solve queries parents may have as to their children's progress in learning English. During the meeting, that friend of mine, who had taken tests to her students to measure their performance, felt that some parents were using the test results to assess her performance as a teacher.

I'd like to know about other teachers´experience so I've created a WallWisher I'd like to share with you so as to exchange views on this issue:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Reading comprehension involves complex processes and it is a fact
that teenagers do not like reading very much, specially if what they
should read is a long article. As teachers of foreign languages, we should
assist our students in the process of developing reading strategies such

Some time ago, I came across Joe Bower's blog and I read his insightful post about the way he makes his students practise reading comprehension. I decided to put his strategy into practice with a group of students who are learning the necessary strategies to sit for Cambridge First Certificate Exam. In this exam candidates are supposed to show understanding of specific information, text organization features, tone and text structure. In Part 3 of the Reading Paper, candidates are supposed to read a text or several short texts preceded by 15 multiple-matching questions. To do this, they need to understand detail, attitude and detail, attitude and opinion in the question and locate a section of text where that idea is expressed. Some of the options may be correct for more than one question and there may be one correct answer to some questions.
To develop reading strategies, students should read a wide range of texts in the classroom and at home. Certain times it is difficult to help students work their way through the text and interpret the meaning of more complex passages. It is useful to encourage students to be aware of alternative ways of dealing with texts so they can decide which ones suit them best.

After making comments on the picture that accompanied the text my students were supposed to read and reading its heading so as to speculate what the text was about, I explained to my students that they were going to read the text with pencil in hand. I told them that they were supposed to write what came to their mind while reading. It could be a question, an idea, a comment, a connection with something they knew, etc.
The strategy was successful to help them concentrate more and interact with the text. They managed to remember more information after finishing. Their notes included questions about the meaning of words, comments, views and memories.

In this way, my students found out that reading a one-page text is not such a tedious task
I would like to thank Joe Bower for sharing such a useful strategy.

Is there a reading strategy you have used which proved successful?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Different Presentation

I enjoy trying new tools that prove motivating for my
English classes.

One of the members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN),
Marisa Constantinides (@Marisa_C) has shared a helpful link for
language teachers via Twitter: 21st Century Teacher Tools. From these useful
tools I've selected issue as a creative way of uploading pdf files.

In my previous post I shared a song for the class and I've used this song to offer
a different way of presenting material to my students:

Have you tried a new tool this week? I'd like to hear about it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Classroom Web Conference

After three unsuccessful attempts due to technical reasons, one of my classes had their first Skype experience with a group of Fifthgraders from a school in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

We had arranged the video call with Shelly Zavon (@shellyzavon) in Around the World with 80 Schools, a project started by Silvia Tolisano (@Langwitches).

The video call was highly beneficial for my students because they were able to use the language they are learning, English, in a real situation. At the beginning they felt a little shy to speak but as time went on they felt more confident and interacted with the American students.

I believe these virtual meetings foster understanding between people from different nationalities and contribute to make young people more open-minded. At the same time, it prepares them for a new kind of communication that is becoming trendier and trendier.

Have you ever connected your class with a class from another country? What was your experience like?

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Song for the Class

After reading a post in Jason Renshaw´s Weblog, in which

Jason embedded the video of the song Enjoy the Silence, I thought it would be interesting to make use of the song as a way of introducing a talking point in my upper intermediate class.

As to the selection of tasks, I was inspired by a post I read in Janet Abruzzo's edublog and by another one I read in Eva Büyüksimkesyan's blog, A Journey in TEFL.

Here's a link to the tasks I prepared: A Song for the Class

I hope you find it helpful. Which songs have you found suitable to be used in your classes?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Creative Tool

I like finding out innovative ways of presenting material to my students as part of my self-improvement edtech skills. I'm far from being an expert but I do my best to make use of the free tools available.

Among Google docs I've chosen a format to devise charts so as to summarize a book module and help my students organise the topics they have to study in order to be prepared for the end-of-module written test.

These are the summaries I've created and I've been able to download them in pdf format too:

Which tool do you use to create summaries in order to help your students organise their material for studying?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Attempt to Motivate Students

Motivation is one of our main concerns as teachers, especially if we teach teenagers, whose motivation span deflates at lightning speed. In an attempt to encourage my teenage students to adopt English learning habits at home, I've created classroom blogs and wikis to upload material for my students to use after class. Thanks to my Twitter colleagues I'm able to receive creative ideas I do my best to put into practice so as to prevent my students' motivation from fading.

In this post, I'd like to share some of the links I've used to update my students' blogs and wikis:

1) Quizzes: Definitions

2) WallWisher: Students' Expectations

3) Games: Synonym Toast

5) Surveys: Free Time Survey

6) Articles connected to the topics introduced in class: Extreme Sports

7) Interactive Stories: Inanimate Alice

8) Grammar Tasks: Multiple Choice

9) Intonation Awareness Exercises: English Media Lab

10) Bakcground Knowledge: 2010 World Cup Map

11) Listening Practice: Accidents at Home

12) Speaking Practice: Questions Recorded with Vocaroo

This list is just an example of the kind of material I upload, for which I am thankful to my Twitter fellows for sharing it.

I'm interested in knowing how you encourage your students to practise outside the classroom.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's Worth Taking a Look at This blog.

It's Worth Taking a Look at This Blog!

I would like to thank Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell) for mentioning Linguistic Consultancy in her post about the ten blogs you should look at and for all her support and encouragement. Her blog Teacher Reboot Camp is absolutely resourceful and a great professional boost for educators.

It's difficult for me to select only 10 blogs among the set I always read and find highly insightful.

These are some of the blogs I follow but I always read insightful posts written by qualified educators I come across in Twitter.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Comprehensive Classes

Teaching a language implies the developing of reading, listening, speaking and writing skills, which should be integrated when dealing with a certain topic in class. The integration of skills contributes to effective learning and makes it easier for students to fully apprehend what is being taught.

In one of my latest classes with intermediate-level students, I had to introduce the topic "extreme sports". In the lead-in stage, I used the pictures that appeared in the coursebook to present and elicit the new vocabulary so the students were able to speak about these sports. For the students to remember the new vocabulary, we created a mind-map. Then the students were supposed to do a listening task in their coursebooks. They listened to a conversation about extreme sports and completed a chart. After that, they carried out surveys and interviewed their partners. When they finished, they had to express the results of their surveys to the whole group.
To encourage a freer application of the vocabulary, students participated in a problem-solving task through interaction. They exchanged views and ideas to solve a problem: the possible dangers of these activities. For this task, students had to use functional language to agree and disagree and they had to respect turn-taking.
As a follow-up, I´ve uploaded an article about extreme sports in their class blog, which they were supposed to read at home. I've also created a Wallwisher for them to express their views on the topic.

In brief, it was a multi-skill practice of the language: students talked to each other, in small groups and to the whole class; they listened to each other and to the recording; they read an article and they wrote about their opinion in the wallwisher.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Video Class: Spanglish

I) Read about the plot of the movie

This is a touching story of a strong woman with an idealistic vision for herself and her daughter, and a typical American family. The woman and daughter emigrate from Mexico seeking a better life in America. The woman starts working as a maid for the American family. The American mother is insensitive to the needs of her daughter and husband. The husband is a sensitive, caring, and thoughtful chef and father.
The contrast in cultures between the Mexican woman and the American family provides learning opportunities for all the characters. The daughters learn to appreciate each other's cultures. The husband and Mexican woman discover in each other a special connection which transcends language barriers and allows the husband to see what he is missing in his marital relationship. And the Mexican woman's daughter discovers that she appreciates her mother's values more than she ever thought possible.

II) Presentation of the Topic: Discuss in pairs

Have you ever acted as an interpreter between a foreigner and a Spanish-speaking person?
If you have, how did you feel?
What problems did you have?
How did you solve them?
Were you successful?
If you haven't, have you ever communicated with a foreigner?
What problems did you have?
Did you manage to understand and be understood?

III) Spanglish: What does the word mean?

Click the following link to read about it: Macmillan Dictionary

IV) Silent Watching

Watch this scene in which Cristina, the Mexican woman's daughter, has to act as her mother's interpreter. You won't listen, just watch. Discuss:
Where are the characters?
What do you imagine they're talking about? In which languages?
How do they feel? How do you know?

V) Watch and Listen: Check if you've been right after watching silently.
What's the source of the misunderstanding?
Is the girl successful as an interpreter?
How does she solve linguistic problems?
Do they manage to understand each other's point?

VI) Role-play
In groups of three act out the situation.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Marisa in Edtechland

My Intermediate and First Certificate classes have started this week and I have managed to encourage my students to start their learning year in a motivating way by putting into practice what I had learnt thanks to my PLN members.

Some of my students felt flabbergasted to see I had devised a blog for their class. In this class blog I included a link to a Wallwisher for my students to share their plans, expectations and wishes for this learning year. I have also introduced a link to a dictionary for my students to look up words and phrases at home. Besides, there is a link to a picture dictionary so that my students can develop visual and auditory skills as they can see the picture, read and hear the word. Apart from that, I have included a Website through which they can practise pronunciation in a motivating way.

As I enjoyed Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and found it interesting for teenagers, I decided to use it as an introductory conversation topic for the first class. I started the class by asking the whole group about the films they had seen during Summer holidays. Then, I asked them if they had seen Alice in Wonderland and made them work in pairs to create a chart with what they knew and what they would like to know about this movie (plot, characters, setting, ending). When my students had completed their charts, we talked about it with the whole group and I showed them the movie trailer for them to check if they were able to find replies to what they would like to know. Finally, we watched the video of the soundtrack, for which I use safeshare TV and my students were supposed to identify words and phrases from the lyrics. As all this material is linked in the blog they can continue watching and listening to it at home.

We are going to use this blog as a tool for communication with my students and they can make comments or solve their doubts. I have also invited them to share what they find helpful. I have designed one page for each of the students, where they can do homework and upload material.

In brief, I have managed to encourage my students to become independent learners and to do extra practice after class in a motivating way. I am extremelly grateful to my PLN members, with whom we have shared all these helpful links via Twitter, especially to the soul of my PLN: Shelly Terrell (@shellterrell), whose generosity is endless.