Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Creative Character Quizzes

These aren't the quizzes that your students have to study for! These quizzes make your students use their critical thinking skills, inference skills, grammar skills and technology skills...what more could you want?

If your students like taking Buzzfeed quizzes or any quiz online then they will appreciate this assignment.

My students were reading the Crucible, but it can be easily adapted to any book (or even classmates, teachers, local politicians, etc.). For classes that don't read literature I've also used quizzes to review vocabulary.

As a class we discussed what types of questions we could ask. There were two types we discussed:

1. The literal question.
    • These questions asked about things we could literally see. 
      • For example: Would you cheat on your significant other?
        • Never! I am a good honest person.
        • Yes, but I would feel awful later!
        • If they were cute and I liked them.
        • I am very religious so of course not!
    • In this questions we can tell who the answers refer to based on actions or words stated.
        • Elizabeth is a good and honest woman who never cheated.
        • John cheated, but he felt bad.
        • Abigail had an affair with John,so she would be OK with cheating.
        • Hale is a reverend, so he is religious.
2. The symbolic question
    • These questions require more interpretation.
      • For example: What is your favorite color?
        • Black
        • White
        • Red
        • Grey
      • In these question the answer may depend based on who is writing the quiz
        • John Proctor is depressed so he is black.
        • Elizabeth is very innocent so she is white
        • Abigail is passionate so she is read.
        • Hale is grey because he is confused by what is happening in the town and getting more and more depressed.
Once the students understand the differences I gave their requirements.They had to create a 10 question quiz involving four characters. In addition tot he quiz they needed to give me a paper that explained their answers.

Once they completed their quizzes they put them online ( is a great site for this) and take at least two other quizzes.

It is a fun project that makes students cite evidence from the text and shows how well they understand the characters.

You can buy the directions and worksheets that go with this for The Crucible on Teachers Pay Teachers at this link

Otherwise be inspired and make your own! Here are two examples from my students

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Using iPads for typing

I think I am a very interesting age. I grew up with a lot of the technology students today had. I was a little girl when my family got our first computer, but I also remember card catalogs in the library. I can't imagaine having to hand write a whole essay (have you seen my handwriting?!?), but I am still not quite comfortable having students use their smart phones to take notes.It is an interesting middle ground and I really enjoy the unique perspectives that it gives me.

One of the adaptations I have been making is to iPads and other tablets. Don't get me wrong, I like iPads. I think making videos on them and using other multimedia or study based apps is amazing. However, many of my students use an iPad and pretty much ONLY an iPad in class.

I quickly realized that while for me creating things in an iPad was a struggle (I am typing this blog on my laptop), for students it came much more easily. What they were missing was software. They didn't have anything they could use to create their documents.

This is where Document Writer comes in handy. I don't know if you have noticed, but even though most of my students are tech "natives" they are REALLY bad with new technology, "Teacher what now?" "Teacher what do I do?" "Teacher what now?" They expect to know automatically how to use something without spending much time learning.

Here is a manual annotation
This was a typed annotation
Different brush strokes students may select
The good news is that is exactly what this app is. Students can link it to their Google Drive or their Dropbox to easily access files. They can also annotate any PDF on their iPad.

Basically, they can complete any handout you give them access to without using a sheet of paper. YAY for going green. Here's an example with one of my handouts about proverbs (that ties into an essay) You can see that one of the photos is landscape and one is portrait. Since this is an iPad students can pick the view that works best for them That includes zooming to stay focused.

From there they can add their answers by writing them in (with a stylus or in some cases their finger), or using the text tool to type their answers.

Students can also use the document writer to write a basic text document: short responses, journals, etc.

This is also available for iPhones, though that's another generation gap! I have no idea how they manage to type so much on those tiny keyboards nor how they manage to see everything on such tiny screens. Nonetheless, if you have a student who is limited to their phone, you may want to have them look into this.

Would you be comfortable with your students completing a handout or other work on their iPhone/iPad? Do you think this app may help? I would love to hear more in the comments!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Organization Apps for Teachers (and others!)

"Oh good, you brought me papers to play on top of!"
My life lately has been SWAMPED! I am teaching, planning, and having absolutely no social life....unless you count hanging out with my cat as a social life...

As a result, I am trying to find a few ways to stay organized and get things done more efficiently.

I have an iPad through my school, but I still use the Android tablet I used in Mexico.Here are a few apps I find really helpful.

Want to stay productive? Does grading nonstop make your mind wander? Check out any of the pomodoro timers that are out there to let yourself take programmed and beneficial breaks. Here's one of my favorites!

My friends all seem to love Remember the Milk, but I am a bigger fan of Whatever your preference, I encourage you to look into a "to do list" app. It really does help me stay on track and become less likely to forget things.

With all of these apps your tablet or phone is probably getting a little cluttered. Well, you're in luck because I know of an AWESOME free app that helps streamline your screen! The EverythingMe launcher is PERFECT for fellow app addicts. It acts like your personal administrative assistant. There are a few different features of this app. My favorite is the Prediction Bar. If I am at school then it knows I am probably going to be clicking on the timer app! However, if I am at home at 11pm, it instead makes Netflix easy to select. It also managed to put everything in nice folders making my home screen seem much more manageable and making everything easier to find.

What am I missing? Are there any apps essential to your sanity?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: The English Tenses

Tenses can be tricky!
This review is late. I read this book about a month ago and had a review written up to auto publish about two weeks ago. Unfortunately, due to the magic elves that live in my computer. I have no idea where the original review went, and I've been very busy with school lately and unable to write a new one. Apologies again to author Phil Williams for this delay.

The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide is not a book I would suggest students or teachers read from start to finish (though you certainly could). I would suggest that teachers keep this on hand to review before teaching a specific tense (or to brush up if they are teaching a new level). I would also encourage advanced students who learn well independently to consult this book to help them grapple with English tenses.

Basically, this would be a great addition for any English teacher's bookcase.

This book goes into a detailed description of the differences between all the different tenses of past, present and future. Seriously, all of them. Go to the link I gave above (or click on the book cover below) and check out the, "look inside" function Amazon gives. You'll be able to peruse the very detailed table of contents to get an idea of exactly what is in the book.

To the left you'll see a quick example of the table of contents with all of the different information is has on past tense! This repeats for the future and present tense as well.

Each section includes an explanation and the basic rules of the specific form in question. Then, Phil goes over the affirmative, interrogative, negative and negative question forms using multiple different examples and charts to make it clear what part of the sentence correlates to previous examples.

As a paperback, this book is under $25. If you read books on your tablet, kindle or online, then you can download the Kindle version for less than $7.00! It has AT LEAST 100 pages of solid information on tenses sure to clarify this topic to anyone who reads it.

Overall I'd encourage you to add this book to your wishlist. If you do get a chance to read it, or have a different text you'd recommend let me know in the comments.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Illustrating a Summer Song

I am sorry for the sporadic posts! I've had some internet problems and my new job is sapping a lot of my time.

I wanted to quickly share this video my friend's students made over the summer! is the link since this YouTube video can only be played from the main YouTube site in some countries.

I know I've discussed making videos with students before, and I've also discussed illustrating them. This is an easy way to have student visualize vocabulary, get used to syntax, and really make them understand a song that they probably have had in their head for ages (instead of using Google translate)!

Plus, the pride they get from knowing that they've made something real that people around the world watch is incredible!

If you have a moment PLEASE check it out and leave a comment. I know students appreciate feedback so much.

If you have a video your students made that you'd like me to comment on just leave a link in the comments and I'll get to it as soon as I can!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Have Students Write Letters

The picture is from Danny's FaceBook page DannysWarriors
One morning I was skimming my Facebook newsfeed before I went to work when I a picture of a smiling little boy! Danny Nickerson looks just like so many five year olds I know. He has sarge twinkling eyes and a goofy smiling grin. Unfortunately, Danny isn't just any five year old. He has an inoperable brain tumor.

Like so many other children, his family is trying to due all they can do to keep him happy He doesn't want to go to an amusement park, pet a lion, or be a super hero. He wants to get birthday mail. When someone wants something this small, it seems ridiculous not to help out!

At the start of my class on Wednesday I told the students about Danny and asked if they wanted to take a few minutes to make him some cards. If you have a stricter schedule, and need to keep this relevant to a grammar point you could easily do relative clauses, "I hope that you enjoy dogs. They're the only animal that I can draw." modal verbs, "You should have fun," or superlatives, "You are the strongest person I know!" etc. I let my students write whatever they wanted, and some of them folded origami. 

Now, Danny's birthday was July 25th. I am sure belated cards will also be accepted, but there are other alternatives as well!

You can always contact a local hospital and try to find an address that would work best, but here are some addresses I have collected for you:

Write a Letter of Gratitude to a Veteran thanking them for all they did for our country.Thank a Veteran
c/o Penny Alfonso
1970 Rangeview Drive
Glendale, CA 91201

If you would like to send letters specifically for our Wounded Heroes, please send them in a separate envelope marked: Wounded Warriors.
Operation Gratitude
17330 Victory Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91406

Girls Love Mail sends letters to women going through breast cancer treatment. All letters must fit in the Girls Love Mail envelope (4.75" x 6.5").They also have a kit for teachers

They ask that you include your full name and return address on the mailing envelope. They send thank you emails to acknowledge that they received letters.
Girls Love Mail
2330 E. Bidwell Street, Suite 200
Folsom, California 95630

St Judes Hopsital is a research hospital where you can send cards to the children. You may send them to: 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105

Find Pals has you sort through many patients to find a specific one to send letters.

Send Kids the World works well and they have lesson plans

Depending on whom you choose to write to and how old your students are, you may want to go over brief etiquette.  For example, "Get better soon!," while a nice sentiment, is not the best thing to say to a child suffering from  cancer. Have your students brainstorm phrases that they can use and should avoid before hand.

These aren't always penpal services... in fact usually you won't get messages back. However, that's  a good lesson too! After all, only doing something when you expect something in return isn't the best lesson to teach our students.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

41st ELT Blog Carnival: Teaching with Humor

Humor is more than just a funny face!
Welcome to the 41st ELT Blog Carnival! For quite some time I have had an obsession with using humor in the class. I find the more my students laugh, the more they learn! It seems I am not alone as this carnival has ten other teachers eager to share how they use humor in the classroom.

My hope is that you go through these blog posts and the descriptions intrigue you enough to click on the blog posts and get inspiration on how to get your students to laugh a little and relax enough to really learn.

Enjoy :-)

 1. Nick has an amazing collection of comedic sketches on YouTube. His contribution to the blog carnival is a list of DOs and DON'Ts when using these clips in the classroom. He uses several examples on different occasions these clips fit well in class and I am sure you'll be excited about using some of them in your classroom. Read more: Using "COMEDY FOR ELT" clips

2. David has a great blog to get you laughing that comes from his lessons in a can series of blog posts. It contains several links with jokes you can use including a slide with 22 jokes! You can have your students listen to these be read, or you can use them as reading activities. As David says, "it can be very funny and it is a good way to lighten up the day/lesson!"  Read more of the jokes for yourself at his blog post with: Funny Jokes

3. Alina has created a super cute blog filled with comics. Each of these comics contains a joke that uses the grammar form her students are learning. What a great way to use visuals to help students really comprehend jokes! I love how she was able to find so many jokes that fit her grammar needs perfectly. Interested? You can read it for yourself at her blog: Grammar With Comix

4. Here is a great oldie by Ivan Sokolov! It was originally published by the Bulgarian English Teachers' Association IAFTEL in 2001! It is a really well researched article on how and why humor is effective in the class. Be sure to read it to get a better idea of how and more importantly why to use Humor in the EFL Classroom

5. Vicki Hollet has created some lovely and informative videos for English Language Learners. This video is a short and humorous example of how to handle a phone call if you are busy. If you are looking for an example to use in class this is perfect! The grammar is simple, the humor is obvious, and the pronunciation is clear. Be sure to watch the video How to Handle Calls When You're Busy

6. I am a huge fan of using short videos in class! The Alltac blog has a great lesson using a funny video about students taking a make-up exam. In addition to the video being funny there are two pages of teachers notes. One page gives you ideas of how to incorporate the lesson, and the other page gives you materials for an activity. See the video and read more at the Alltac Blog.

7. Emily Richardson 's blog covers a plethora of ways to get students laughing in class. From fake mustaches, jokes, stories or just general vocabulary Emily has plenty of ways you can get your students giggling. You can read the rest of her blog post titled "Laughter is the best medicine." (Be sure you check out the cheer-leading video at the bottom of her post! It makes me smile every time!)

8. Roberta wrote a great post for World Laughter day back in May. She goes through the reasons humor is great in class (I agree with every single one of them!), as well as some sites that you can use to find jokes. Finally she goes through a simple way to use jokes in the class that could be adapted to work with so many different levels. World Laughter Day 

9. Raquel has a FANTASTIC lesson that's funny and practical! She uses clips from Friends as a starting point for discussing stress and other medical symptoms. In addition to clips, she also has QR codes set up for infographics. Raquel assures me that this lesson went over really well with her students, and I can see why! See for yourself: Explaining Symptoms

10. How does summarizing a movie make students laugh? When they do it in 5 seconds! It wouldn't be a blog carnival without a contribution from Larry Ferlazzo. I get a lot of my English game ideas from Ellen; Larry seems to get a lot of his from Jimmy Fallon! This is a quick post where he points out that one of the more recent games Jimmy Fallon played with his guests could be used in class. Read his post (and see a video) and I am sure you'll find a way to get your students laughing over this game:  Jimmy Fallon's Game

11. Finally, originally I was going to make a post on some jokes I use for reading comprehension. However, my summer became much busier than I expected. Instead I offer a fantastic doodling activity to do with students. It is a great way to practice adjectives, relative clauses, complex sentences etc. The exciting part about this game is students are ALWAYS interested. They are usually laughing half the class! I love when they have fun and learn! See for yourself: Doodling for Complex Sentences

I hope you enjoyed reading this carnival as much as I enjoyed putting it together. As always I encourage you to share the carnival with other teachers you feel may interested. As a special incentive we have FOUR funny items that the carnival contributors have put up for raffle:
  • There are THREE Digital Prizes to be won
    • From Emily you have the chance to receive a copy of her Pirate Joke book! 
    • David's goodie is a PowerPoint with audio filled with Funny Stories, the printables that go with it, worksheets that go with the lesson and a Joke of The Day PowerPoint.
    • Vicki has offered the worksheets that go with the amusing video on how to handle phone calls when you're busy.
  • In addition to these great digital prizes, to show everyone you appreciate the humor found in English, I will send this, "You've cat to be kitten be right meow" iPhone 4 case you can proudly display. (Note as this will be mailed, only people with U.S. addresses can win. If the winner of the three digital prizes does NOT have a U.S. address, another winner for the phone case will be selected).
The contest will run for one week and then the winner will be announced. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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