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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?