February 17

Motivating the Masses

You know how sometimes when you go to tidy up, things end up messier than they were before?  Well, my office is a little like that at the moment as I decided to rearrange my desk and in the process realised that two weeks ago I gave a talk at ACEIA Málaga and I still hadn’t got around to posting the slides on here…ooops!  Unfortunately, it might not make a whole lot of sense if you weren’t in the session…hopefully at some point in the future when I have some free time (!!!), I’ll get around to writing up the different activities in more detail.

Motivating the masses from verybouncyperson
February 11

Fortnightly Focus #11 – that group again

Busy week here, so my Wednesday post has turned into a Saturday post!

I’ve been trying a new behaviourial (points) system with this group which is having a positive effect on a number of them.  I found I was constantly juggling giving points for participation with rewarding the weaker learners when they did something well and trying not to unfair to the strong learners who would be streaks ahead in points at the end of the lesson.  Each time I needed to award points, my focus was away from the learners and I was feeling a lack of control.  Now, everyone starts the lesson on maximum points and the idea is not to lose any points during the lesson – they’re divided into sections for things so that as well I can see why people are losing points – not sitting properly, annoying classmates, chatting in Spanish and so on.  As I say, this means it’s now clearer for the class why an individual is losing points, although it does mean there’s perhaps less incentive to participate as points aren’t awarded for taking part or getting answers correct.

The fabulous Jill also re-introduced me to a fun activity which she does with YLs to keep them engaged and listening – each day there’s a magic word and if the teacher says the word, the learners have to stand up, turn around and sit down.  I’ve tried it a few times and I’ve found it works well with high-frequency, easy-to-spot content words.

I used “what” the other day which was highly amusing as I was asking lots of questions during the lesson…which leads me on nicely to my next Fortnightly Focus – I’m going to be thinking about questions: questions I ask my learners, questions I ask myself, questions learners ask me…

January 25

Fortnightly Focus #10 – assessing writing

Although it is Wednesday and two weeks’ after my previous fortnightly focus post, there is definitely a large amount of procrastination going on as I write it!  We’re in exam week at Active Language and as well as a pile of marking to do, I also have three sets of reports to write…so I’ll try to make this brief and then undoubtedly look for something else to do, like the dusting!

Here are my thoughts of three different approaches we can take to marking learners’ writing and some advantages and disadvantages of each.  These are very general comments, as in each case the response of the learners to the different style of assessment will depend on many factors, such as their level, age, interest in learning English and motivation to improve.

Old-school – learner hands in text, teacher grabs a pen and marks it

Advantages

  • You can do it anywhere – on your commute, in the staffroom, on the sofa
  • It’s a quick and effective way to highlight either errors (to encourage self-correction) or language used well
  • As you will probably give it back in a subsequent class, learners can immediately ask for clarification if corrections or comments are unclear
  • It’s a tangible record of progress and learners can easily refer back to previous work to improve the next time round

Disadvantages

  • It could be a lot of work for the teacher depending on how many classes you have and how often you set written tasks
  • Less motivated learners need to be trained in appreciating the work which goes into marking – perhaps some sort of follow-up activity when the corrected text is received?

Totally techy – Learner emails word document to teacher, who replies with feedback in the form of a jing video plus returns a corrected or annotated version of the text

Advantages

  • Paper-free…gotta love those trees 🙂
  • In Word, it’s easy to annotate the text using the track changes option
  • Responding using jing allows the teacher to comment on the text and point out strong or weak points whilst speaking

Disadvantages

  • How aware will learners be of the corrections made?
  • It is perhaps less likely that they will refer to this text when working on a subsequent one

Peer assessment – learners are given a guided task to correct a classmate’s text

Advantages

  • If learners are well prepared for this task, it means less marking for the teacher
  • It makes learners more aware of how texts are marked and, especially important for exam preparation classes, allows them to get inside the mind of the marker and gain a deeper understanding of what he is looking for in a good text
  • It makes learners aware of more language – a teacher would be unlikely to rephrase a correct sentence in  learner’s text but through peer assessment they will read the language their peers are using

Disadvantages

  • The learners may still want the teacher to look at their texts as the ‘voice of authority’ on corrections
  • Learners need to be trained to be critically constructive – they may feel less comfortable receiving a low mark from a classmate
  • It needs to be seen as a valuable task for learners to take time to do it well

I’m going to leave it there for now as I would like to get some reports written before #ELTchat tonight!  So, a bit of a repeat for this fortnight’s focus as I’m going back to basics with classroom management with my tricky 10-year-olds – baby steps in each activity, with copious amounts of points…let’s see how it goes!  There are only ten of them in the class, but the range in level, motivation to participate and ability to control themselves is incredible.

 

 

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January 20

Interviewing Trump

OK, I couldn’t resist a lesson about Donald Trump – he does have a way of making reported speech great again 😉

With my FCE group, we were doing a review of reported speech, reporting questions and reporting verbs.  Having elicited in the previous lesson the changes which take place when using indirect speech, the first activity of the lesson looked at reporting verbs – namely categorising them into their patterns, such as RV+object+infinitive, and so on.  As I said, this was a review session and learners had already seen reporting verbs previously and done more controlled practice exercises with them.  After feedback on the reporting verbs, I told the learners that we’d come back to them later and put a wordle on the board:

To be honest, they didn’t really even need time to confer with a partner as the lexis was familiar and it was fairly obvious who the words related to!  I then set up a listening task using Sean Banville’s famouspeoplelessons.com and gave the learners the following numbers to listen out for: 1946, 45th, 324th, 70/7/6.  After listening they had a couple of minutes to share with a partner what they had understood the numbers related to – again, not too tricky, though it did throw out the word ‘wealthiest’ which they were unfamiliar with, but understood in the context.

I could have done more with the listening – and indeed, Sean prepares a wide variety of tasks to do for each of the biographies he presents – but I got the sense that nobody was particularly interested in learning more about the 45th President of the United States…there were some stony faces around the classroom just at the mention of his name!

So, we moved onto the next stage and I asked the learners to write three questions they would like to ask Donald Trump, any three questions.  They were quite creative and I was surprised that some of them were using more emphatic language in their questions, like:

“Does your wife actually love you?”

“Do you really think the USA can survive without immigrants?”

Whilst they were writing their questions, I’d written up a quick review on reporting questions on the board, with a couple of examples which we went through together.  I then put them in different pairs and set up the freer practice activity.  I explained that they were journalists who had interviewed Trump and were going to report back on how the interview had gone.  They had to work together to re-phrase their questions into indirect speech and then write Trump’s answers, including at least three of the reporting verbs we’d seen at the start of the class.  Although this is an activity they could have done individually, I found that they were able to support each other more working together – correcting each other as necessary when writing indirect questions and chatting about what his answers would be.

All in all, that took about 60 minutes and a similar activity could be done for any famous person – I found that using someone who the learners were less keen on meant that they wrote more creative questions, but the plan could work equally well with another celebrity.  You could also adapt the plan for lower levels by just focussing on reporting questions and indirect speech (He said…) rather than using reporting verbs.

January 15

#ELTChat summary – making reading more engaging

For the first #ELTChat of 2017, we discussed the topic: “How to deal with reading tasks in an active and entertaining way”.

Some ideas:

fionaljp suggested doing webquests and shared the link to one stop English’s page which has topic-based webquests for teens including Shakespeare, Chinese New Year and La Tomatina.  MConca16 added that Macmillan’s Inspiration site also has some.  You could also design our own webquest which could be catered to your learners’ interests. Marisa_C shared a link to her wequest on using twitter and teachingright shared one on the solar system.

bellinguist mentioned that now we can do jigsaw readings making use of learners’ devices, giving them a QR code so they could navigate quickly and easily to their text.

Marisa_C said that she enjoys giving learners different parts of the text which they have to summarise and share, working together as a group to put the text into the correct order.  This idea of ordering the text is also useful for getting learners to think about linking and reference words.  Also, give learners more information ‘hot off the press’ – they decide where they would insert the information so the text is still coherent.  And, if you want to really challenge learners working with a short text, she suggested cutting up all the text into individual words for them to order 🙂 seburnt also suggested making a wordle from the text and showing it to learners as a pre-reading activity to predict content.

To add in a competitive element, you could do a reading race or ‘grass skirt’ activity.  Another option to get learners out of their seats and moving around is to do a running dictation with the comprehension questions.

SueAnnan suggested getting learners to write the next paragraph, which you could then compare with the original text.

jorgeguillen talked about doing information gap activities in which learners then use the information they have to complete a task. MConca16 suggested this could be reading about festivals in the UK, then roleplaying the parts of a tourist and tour guide.

DamiBeneyto and Marisa_C are both fans of giving learners the same news article taken from different sources so learners can compare how the information is given.  Newspaper quizzes were also mentioned – give learners copies of free newspapers and ask them to write questions for another team.  sophie_cy added that developing quizzes and other activities for classmates is fun and engaging and GioLic1976 said that he does the same as then learners, rather than the teacher, choose what to focus on.  Another idea for using newspapers and magazines from GemmaELT was to match headlines to articles.  And when working with headlines, fionaljp said we can elicit content, keywords and work on prediction too.

teachingright mentioned as well using appropriate strategies when working on reading tasks and Marisa_C as well talked about working with microskills to support our learners when reading.

Marisa_C suggested an activity for narrative texts – before reading, find two images which learners compare, finding the differences and then read the text and identify which picture matches with it.  Here’s a link to Marisa_C’s blog with some other ideas for working with images.  naomishema uses video as an introduction to reading and you can read her series of blogposts on her experiment here.  SueAnnan also mentioned the idea of combining reading with a video/audio task in which learners first work with the video/audio, then fact check through the reading.

We talked as well about a strong lead-in to the text will make it more engaging for learners and naomishema reminded us about Penny Ur saying how the choice of topic is less important than what you do with it.  ITLegge said that whilst learners are reading, they can add emojis to the text and share with a partner after reading how the text made them feel.  And I added as well that a post-reading discussion of the content will also make learners value the text as more than just another reading activity. tesolmatthew said that he finds himself doing increasingly more pre-reading activities, working on prediction amongst other things – this means learners have much more of an impetus to read the text when asked to do so.  He shared a link to cecilianobreelt‘s lesson on Humans of New York.

GemmaELT talked about the struggles of getting learners to do the reading task well – she was specifically talking about during online courses, but I think this can be a challenge which we face with any learners who aren’t engaged in the text or interested in doing the task well.  Marisa_C suggested working with short texts and focussing on one sub-skill to ease them into reading.

A couple of people also shared links to SeanBanville‘s pages: freeeslmaterials and famouspeoplelessons.  There are some ideas as well on this British Council page which MConc16 shared.  ETProfessional shared this link to Cristina Cabal’s blog with ideas on bringing reading texts to life. Also, here’s a link to SueAnnan’s summary from an #ELTChat back in 2013 on the topic of exploting reading texts which has more ideas.  Gemma ELT shared the image on the right from Alex_Corbitt.

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