February 19

What’s up with WhatsApp? – an #ELTchat summary

Slightly belated #ELTchat summary here – it was a really interesting chat back at the end of January and I offered to write the summary in full knowledge that I wouldn’t get around to it for a couple of weeks.

cecilianobreelt is a huge fan of using WhatsApp with her learners and she kicked off the chat sharing this thought and an image which she had shared with her learners to spark discussion:

I find it crucial that students immerse in the language outside lesson’s times. Due to that, I have created ( with their authorization) a Whatsapp group to share tips, interact, ask questions and challenge them. I have chosen Whatsapp because all my students use it often and we usually communicate through it.

In order to build good rapport and encourage them to use English, I try to use humour to get them motivated and willing to participate in the group. In this activity, I sang a few seconds of a song I was listening to on the radio and challenged them to tell me the name of the song. It was fun and interactive, they took part and mocked me, which was my original idea.

There were mixed experiences among the chatters of using WhatsApp – some had no experience, others had used it to varying degrees, for example to send messages or share information.  I’ve found it to be a useful tool for practising Cambridge Main Suite picture descriptions – learners google images and then send you the one-minute recording.  You can then respond with audio feedback which gives them good listening practice too.   Another option for using images is “phrasal verb photos” – nominate a learner to send an image and sentence to the group showing a phrasal verb.  Marisa_C said she liked the idea of “selfie” tasks – something which a learner could do individually and send for feedback (taking a photo – either a selfie or of something else and commenting on it, reciting a poem, etc).  Sue_Annan added that they could take photos of logos to kick off a debate about  business design – great for a business English class; cecilianobreelt suggested a caption-writing competition for a crazy photo and naomishema said that she’s sending learners superlatives and they need to respond with a picture for each.

Also, it’s great for sharing audio files – learners can listen at their own pace either during the class or at home; or for sharing tasks and/or audio with those who were absent.  And, on the topic of audio, it’s great for learners to send you snippets so you can correct their pronunciation, which is one thing DavinnaArtibey does.  teachingright shared an idea for learners to construct sentences from emojis – one person send four emojis and the others try to write a sentence with them.  You can also read about eltjam‘s Amé app via which learners can ask questions about English.

We talked about the ease of BYOD – learners can easily use their own devices for webquests and you can easily share links on WhatsApp which means you cut out the awkward moment of trying to copy a URL from the board or other source.  jorgeguillen also said that it can be useful for promoting learner autonomy if we send them answer keys and encourage self- or peer-correction and error analysis.  Furthermore, any platform like WhatsApp has the benefit of encouraging learning outside the classroom and it can be used to send daily tips for further development.

There were questions raised as to whether WhatsApp was any better than alternatives such as email, edmodo, padlet, Google Hangouts, GoogleKeep or facebook and we discussed how in some countires WhatsApp may be used more frequently and so it’s seen as less of a bother for learners to use a platform they are already familiar with, rather than asking them to sign up to another learning platform.  There were also queries over privacy and boundaries, with some teachers sharing stories of the platform being abused or the dangers a teacher could face having 1:1 contact with a learner.  naomishema said that some learners may protest if they are already members of various other groups.  We also talked about how many schools have strict no-phone policies and EdLaur added that WhatsApp is officially only for over-16s.  An option to combat misuse would be to agree the terms of use as a class when setting up the group, as we might do with a classroom contract to encourage good behaviour.

Some great quotes to end on:

I often feel that 21st c teaching is 20th c teaching with bells & whistles.  Little added pedagogical value. – GlenysHanson

Tuition on any platform is only as good as the thought, prep, delivery & relevance to Ss’ needs – tom_flaherty


You can read the full transcript here.

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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September 30

#ELTchat – Building rapport

This week’s #ELTchat focussed on how we can build rapport with new groups.  Here are a number of the directions the chat took, some ideas for activities and links at the end to some articles which chatters shared.

Showing genuine interest was a key point which @SueAnnan raised, with @angelos_bollas adding that it was important to see each learner as a whole person – not just a student in your class.  @Marisa_C also pointed out that many coursebooks start with an introductory section with getting-to-know-you activities, but that it was important to find out what topics really interest YOUR learners. @AlexanderLDiaz said that after his learners have shared things about themselves, he also shares and that in order to help him learn names, he asks his students to suggest funny ways to help him, such as gestures.  I remember @nutrich doing an activity whereby each student thought of a meaningful word beginning with the same letter as their name – so I might be T-Rex Teresa because I love dinosaurs.

Learning students’ names, as well as pronouncing them correctly was also considered important and @MConca16 added that we should try to use their names as much as possible when nominating or addressing them – this helps both teacher and classmates to become familiar with each other’s names.  @GlenysHanson usually tosses a ball around when learning names as it’s more physical and laughter-producing.

There was some discussion around whether it was more difficult to build rapport with larger groups.  @angelos_bollas works with large groups and said he found it easier to build rapport, through lots of getting-to-know-you activities, mingles and group work.  @SueAnnan works with smaller groups and said she finds it easier to get to grips with them as individuals.

@GlenysHanson queried whether anyone actually had a problem creating rapport.  She said that for her it wasn’t a problem, but she had to work on controlling loudmouths who weren’t listening to others.  @Marisa_C said that if a teacher has good communication skills, building relationships isn’t difficult.  We talked about whether it was more difficult to build rapport with adult learners – @jonjoTESOL said that his adult learners often don’t want to participate in rapport-building games because they don’t see the educational value of them.  However, even icebreakers can be a learning experience and @Marisa_C suggested choosing games with a clear and shareable language aim.  @jonjoTESOL added that another problem for adults is that they are more likely to remember the previous course’s introductory lesson and so become familiar and bored with the same activities.  @GlenysHanson said that she used more games with teen groups, but that for adult learners, she found that they became more talkative the less involved she was – to which @jonjoTESOL tweeted, A classic language learning technique – “teach yourself students whilst I pretend not to listen!”  @SueAnnan said communication from the outset was important with adult learners, as well as personalising the learning so it feels beneficial.

@MConca16 asked whether anybody did pre-course chats and there was some talk around needs analysis – why have they chosen to study English and what are their objectives are for the future.  She also takes notes on both the individuals and the group – which can be time-consuming but very valuable.

Some activities

I used Venn diagrams with my teens at the start of the year – it’s interesting for them to see what they have in common as well as their differences as it’s equally important for the learners to build rapport with each other

 @SueAnnan uses interviews for learners to then feedback to the class on each other and @Marisa_C suggested using questionnaires or surveys.  She also plays The Name Game in which learners interview each other and have to guess their partners’ name, thinking about the associated attributes of the name, e.g. a Jane might seen as very different to a Georgia.  In terms of building class relationships, she gets learners to form groups/tribes which they name, e.g The Clever Six

@GlenysHanson said that after trying various activities, she tends to use the same three or four icebreakers, mixing the groups between each activity – Find someone who…, Find three things in common, 20 questions or True name, false profession.  And on the theme of true/false, @SueAnnan mentioned 4 truths and a lie.

@rapple18 suggested that in the second lesson, learners could sit in alphabetical order (to mix up seating) and remember one thing from the previous lesson’s getting-to-know-you activity about their partner to tell the class

Some interesting links

How we pronounce student names and why it matters – from the blog of @cultofpedagogy

What’s in a name in an ESL class? – from the blog of @cioccas

Building rapport and confidence with students in ELT classes – another #ELTchat summary, originally written by Tim Crangle

Five ways to create a happy form group – shared by @carolread

@Marisa_C recommends Classroom Dynamics by Jill Hadfield which has activities for lots of different language aims and posted a link to her article Storming out or norming in?

Icebreakers. Do we really need them? – shared by @GlenysHanson

Warmers, fillers, what on earth? – written by @chiasuan and shared by @fionaljp

Lesson plan: the first lesson with a new class – by @ELTideas and shared by @cioccas

50 Activities for the first day of school – book review – by @ELTexperiences

Just to finish off, I love this tweet from @Liam_ELT: