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 11

Telling the Time

ClockWow, an incredibly uninspiring title for what is a fab little resource that I’ve just discovered to introduce and review the time.  You can drag the minute and hour hands to the time you want – quick tip, if you’re adjusting both the hour and minutes, move the hour hand first.    You can remove the digital clock by clicking off on the right-hand side or set the clock to show real time.  If the second hand is getting in your way, you can remove it by clicking on the drop-down Mode menu, then Style, selecting the box second hand and then clicking on the cross at the bottom of the colour palette.Great as an introduction to telling the time or for a quick review activity at the start of the lesson.

September 24

Routines

I’m killing two birds with one stone with this post!  Firstly as it allows me to throw out another piece of paper with thoughts from last year written on and also it’s good for one of my new year resolutions!

At some point last year, probably during my quest to make use of more routines, I started a list of some activities I could do in class to revise language.  So here’s my list…

  • Question word O+X
  • Where’s the ghost? (good for prepositions)
  • Character Builds (great for any age and level)
  • Star Word
  • Bingo
  • Banangrams
  • Freeze! (What were you doing when…?)
  • Hangman
  • Alphabet Race
  • Guess the Question
  • The Boss Says…
  • Disappearing Sentence
  • Sit down if…
  • Different types of Dictation
  • Vocab boxes
September 21

Make no Mistake

I watched an OUP webinar by Robin Walker a while ago on errors and as I’ve been sorting through last year’s bits and bobs I came across my notes.

He divided the talk into three sections – Cause, Class and Classroom.

CAUSE

He identified six main causes of error: carelessness, L1 interference, teaching materials or method, overgeneralization, general order of difficulty and risk-taking and creativity.  Interestingly, during this section he also suggested that items which are similar and easily confused (such as past simple and present perfect) should be taught separately with a significant space between them and then compared at a later date.

CLASS

One of the key points I picked up from this section was classifying the errors as local or global: a local error is confined to an individual word or is an error which doesn’t impede understanding, whereas a global error makes the meaning unclear.  There’s quite a good flowchart on prioritising errors on the presentation which accompanied the talk.

CLASSROOM

In the final section, Robin suggested some easy activities which we can use in class to work on errors – a couple of my favourites are the 4-colour dictation and flavour of the month.

In the 4-colour dictation, they do the dictation first in one colour, then are allowed to check their work (using dictionaries or other resources) in a second colour.  Then their partner checks their work in a third colour and finally the teacher corects in a fourth colour.

In Flavour of the Month, you choose a specific error which you want everyone to pay special attention to that month.

April 10

Heads down = “real” work

We had a wonderful professional development session yesterday  by Ceri Jones on coursebooks.  It was a wonderful moment of querying the role of coursebooks in our classes and really thinking about how we use them.

We discussed what the coursebook means to us individually and the content of an ideal coursebook, looking at how our ideals compare to what the majority currently offer.  Then we went on to look at a specific two-page spread and talked about how we would teach that lesson – how we would Select, Adapt and Supplement the material (a healthy dose of SAS is important for every page of the coursebook!).

At this point, Ceri introduced us to Lindsay Clandfield‘s idea of “Heads Up, Heads Down and Heads Together” as a way of categorising the interaction patterns and activity types.  After the session, I was thinking further about this: about the variety within the class and, more importantly, what learners respond to.  We said during the session that as EFL teachers using a communicative methodology, we instinctively aim for more “heads together” activities as these encourage STT and really get the learners using the target language.  However, something that we’ve found, certainly in the extra-curricular classes we give in a local state school, is that learners respond particularly well to “heads down” activities.  Younger learners who are taught in a fairly strict, structured, “heads down” environment often struggle to recognise the boundaries of a more communicative “heads together” class, leading to classroom management issues because of noise, high energy levels and over-use of L1.  I wonder whether as well, because of their learning experience, they see more benefit in “heads down” activities or whether it’s simply a case of habit and expectations.

As always, it’s essential to have a balance of activities in every lesson.  But also, it’s important to keep those “heads down” moments to appeal to all our learners – those intrapersonal learners probably appreciate the chance to do an activity quietly and it may perhaps be their moment to shine as well.