November 30

Fortnightly Focus #7 – Kahoot and Quizlet

There’s been a lot of discussion in the British educational press recently about the benefits of gamification – I particularly enjoyed this blogpost from The Behaviour Guru, Tom Bennett.  That said, in my last fortnightly focus, I decided I wanted to create more interactive resources for my teen and adult learners.

My adolescent B1 group really enjoy both Kahoot and Quizlet – with Kahoot, they use their own devices, generally in pairs and like the competitive nature of the game.  I’ve created a couple of Kahoots with them – one focussed on question formation, whilst the other mimicked a PET writing part 1 task in which candidates have to paraphrase a sentence.  They were engaged, focussed and everyone participated – though in all fairness, they’re a wonderful group and a pleasure to teach and generally appear outwardly content whatever the task!

They also enjoy playing the Match game on Quizlet in teams – we divide the class into two teams and write up the score of the first team to see if the second group can beat it.  This is an effective activity if you have sets with quite a lot of language in them – too few words/phrases and the same words crop up in both games, putting the second team at an advantage.

So far, with the teen groups, we’ve only used the sites during class time and one of the problems which I have with many edutainment/eduresource sites is that they require learners to create an account.  Even if this is free, I dislike asking people to create accounts because I know that even if your information isn’t sold to a third party, you’re still likely to receive the odd annoying message from the site itself.  So, for my adult B2 groups, I’ve created a dummy account for Quizlet, meaning that they can go in and use the sets I’ve prepared, without needing to worry about receiving spam messages or remembering yet another log-in/password combination.  My adults seem quite taken with Quizlet – I explained that I felt it would be more engaging than me simply giving them a list of topic vocabulary and we looked in class together at how they can use the sets.

However, I’m as yet unconvinced of the educational value of Kahoot for my adults – though this could be because I’ve only used it once, it took a while for everyone to log in (which felt like wasted class time) and, again, with a very motivated and engaged group it felt a little unnecessary – yes, it was a fun activity, but it took as long (possibly even longer) than it would have done had it been done on paper and, at the end of the task, they didn’t immediately have any tangible result of it.  Though we then went through the language which had been included (collocations relating to money), I noticed that they seemed less able to recall the correct answers – probably because they had played the game at speed and so hadn’t had the time to assimilate the collocations.

I’ll give it another shot though – I think the last time I was probably a little more focussed on the edutainment factor and had created the Kahoot without really thinking about how and when I would use it in class – staging is essential when we consider any material and I lost sight of that in my eagerness to use something shiny and new.

OK, my next fortnightly focus is on phonology – I need to be more proactive in my teaching of it as I’m very able to work reactively – correcting mispronunciations and writing up the correct transcription on the board, working on intonation with my VYLs – but I know I need to become more aware of it in the planning stage.  Also, have you seen the recent lesson plan posts by Sandy Millin and Elly Setterfield?  Sandy’s image of her plan for a single lesson has shamed me into rethinking my own planning style…there might be a blogpost in there somewhere in the future!

November 23

Recycled Snowflakes

I set up quite a fun out-of-class with my YLs last year and I’m keen to do it again as it’s a beautiful way of decorating the classroom.  I showed the groups a couple of examples of snowflakes and asked what they could see in the pictures (mine both came from a supermarket catalogue so there was, quite fittingly, some Spanish ham and other cured meats!).  Most of my learners got involved last year and we had a variety of different materials: catalogues were popular as well as post-it notes and wrapping paper (not suer about the ‘recycled’ aspect of that one, but nevermind!).

November 17

10 years ago…

I had this wonderful idea(l) that when I gave up my role of academic coordinator and devoted my time and energy to being a full-time teacher, I would have ‘perfect’ classes – I’d be on top of everything, the learners would be engaged all the time, it would be fun, there’d be no classroom management issues…life would be a breeze.

Reality hits hard.

So, why is life different now?  What’s changed in my edu-sphere?

10 years ago…(in no particular order!)

I wasn’t a particularly good teacher.  I was less aware (read as ‘ignorant’) of the big questions in ELT.  I had lower expectations (mainly because I don’t think I really knew what my expectations were).  I didn’t blog or read blogs.  I didn’t use Twitter or Facebook.  I had only just started attending conferences and certainly wasn’t a speaker.  I wasn’t a teacher trainer.  I only had one job.  I worked a solid block of hours and didn’t have to commute.  I had less people to compare myself with.  I didn’t have the passion for ELT which I have now.

In conclusion, it’s on me to change – to become the teacher I want to be.  And I wanted to end with an inspiring quote, but I don’t really go in for soppy, sentimental cr*p, so here’s one I found on Pinterest:


November 16

Fortnightly Focus #6 – Struggling with a weaker group

I definitely have a lot of ‘works in progress’ this year!  I’m still finding my feet with this group of 10-year-olds who are are much weaker compared to groups of the same age I’ve previously taught, but I feel as though the last couple of lessons have been more productive and that I’ve supported their learning more.

A new activity I’ve introduced focuses on questions each week as I found that they could easily produce “What’s your favourite…?” but struggled to produce questions with other structures and needed more support in understanding the meaning of different question words (‘who’ causes particular problems).

I’m also trying to slot in an activity each week to review much more basic language – so this week we played Bingo with numbers 1-20.  I’m also going to review prepositions of place as this can be problematic for Spanish learners anyway (in/on is generally en in Spanish and in front of sounds like en frente but it’s a bit of a false friend).

Also, fortunately, I’m being observed with this group tomorrow so I’m sure in the post-observation chat my colleague will give me some constructive advice, helpful tips and an outsider’s opinion of the group.

My next Fortnightly Focus is going to be on bringing more tech into the classroom as I’m eager to build up some more resources with Quizlet, Kahoot and Triptico. And, speaking of Quizlet, Sandy Millin shared an excellent blogpost she’d written all about the site which goes into incredible detail about the resources available and give links to sets which she’s produced linked to the CEFR scale – incredibly useful!

November 13

Listening: teaching skills or testing students?

Huge thanks to everyone who came to my ACEIA talk yesterday – I hope you went away with a few practical ideas for how we can make our learners more effective listeners and support them in making the most of the one-way listening they do outside the classroom.


Here are some links from the presentation you may be interested in:
Learning to Listen, Marc Hegelson
Challenges and Issues in Second Language Listening, Tony Lynch
Teaching Listening and Speaking: From Theory to Practice, Jack C. Richards
Grab it! – How I see it now, Hana Tichá
Five Ways to Listen Better, Julian Treasure