Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why teaching for free doesn't always help

I know a lot of people want to volunteer their time abroad, and I full encourage it. However, keep in mind why you are doing it and how it will actually help. Here's an easy way to look at a way a lot of people view teaching for a year...


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I am thinking of a word that rhymes with....

Looking for an easy filler?

The fast and the dirty rules:

To start the teacher thinks of a word and writes it on a piece of paper (to prevent cheating later) and says says, “I am thinking of a word that rhymes with frog”

Then students try to guess the word, but instead of saying their guess they give a hint, “Is it an animal cats fear?”

Now the teacher has to figure out what animal they are guessing and respond “No it is not a dog”

“Is it another word for a pig?”

“No it's not a hog.”

“Is it something people use to write online?”

“No it's not a blog”

“Is it what happens when the sky is really thick and you can't see through it?”

“I don't know” (The teacher doesn't know! So the person has to tell the word they meant.)

“Is it fog?” (This person gets a participation token/point for stumping the “teacher”)

“No it's not”

“Is it a slow run?”

“Yes it's a jog!”

If they guess correctly then they get to be the teacher and think of a word for the class to guess (and get a token).

This is even better than the teacher thinking since students have to try and guess what the students are thinking when they propose a rhyme.

  • I normally let them guess until they get it but sometimes I'll cap it at 20 guesses. It's usually my end of class filler, so I try to get students to beat their score (can you guess in less than 5 this time?). If it takes more than 20 guesses then the person who thought of the unknown word “wins.”
  • You can give more clues according to the class, so if you are practicing syllables (teaching superlative perhaps?): “I am thinking of a two syllable word that rhymes with _______”
  • Use it to practice parts of speech, “I am thinking of a verb that rhymes with frog” (clog, flog, jog, snog, etc.) This can be hard so consider omitting the rhyming.
  • Another way to make the game easier is to get change the rhyming aspect. “I'm thinking of an animal that starts with a D” (Dragon, Dinosaur, Dog, Duck, Deer, Dolphin, Donkey, Dove, Dragonfly, etc.)
  • If you are giving out participation tokens you can give it to students if they guess correctly (a good way to get students involved) or if they posit a guess that the thinker can't guess.
  • With upper level students I tend to exclude words with suffixes, otherwise trying to guess all the words that rhyme with nation is rather hard and time consuming.
  • Play it like Alternative Hangman where students have to answer review questions and only if they get a review question right are they allowed to guess.
  • You can also play it as a team game where correct guesses or stumping the “teacher” gets your team points. To keep it going fast you can cap it at 10 guesses.

Why is this game good?

It helps them practice rhymes
It helps them practice interrogative statements (making questions).
It helps them practice basic vocabulary and defining words in English.
Most importantly it helps them practice thinking and forming sentences in English.
Students like it!

Much thanks to Lauren, one of the awesome ladies I studied with in Spain, for introducing me to this game. She got us all hooked on it when we were waiting in line or on long public transportation rides.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Twitter 101

A lot of teachers are using Twitter in a lot of different ways. This is a good way for Twitter virgins to start using twitter with their class. In my opinion the EASIEST way (especially for technophobes) is to use it as an alternative to a class website.

You can use it to tweet homework assignments to keep students up to date.

Since I teach two different subjects I have two different hashtags. That means if I am making a tweet about an assignment for my high school students I include #Eng6ITESM. If the students have twitter they can easily keep track of the information I share.

If they don't have twitter, it is still pretty easy for them to go to my twitter feed ( or their class hashtag  (e.g. #LengExtranITESM or #Eng6ITESM)  for all the relevant tweets.

It also tends to be a much faster way to contact students and get immediate feedback than using their e-mail.

What kind of things should you share?

If you take one more step forward (using dropbox), you can place documents like the class rules, syllabus, due dates, assignment weights etc. as part of your profile (or when you tweet assignments include a direct link to it).

I usually tweet homework and assignments reminders, test score averages, and any random relevant information that I care to share and they know that if it has their hashtag, it is about their class.

I also like to put links to pictures of students work, or videos that they have done for my class. Sharing it with my other students makes them feel a bit of pride and then other students can learn from what they did.

Once you get more comfortable you can link it to a facebook to allow students another way to follow the information.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dropbox...another way to go green

So, my school is part of dropbox's "Space Race" in an effort to promote their site, help schools, and get people addicted to their pretty awesome product drop box is giving free space to students, teachers and anyone else with a school e-mail address who signs up. In addition, you get more space when others from your school join. As of November 8th 2012 ITESM, the University/High School I teach at in Mexico had 2,641 people with accounts making us the school with the most accounts in Mexico!

So I signed up in an effort to support my school and decided to do some research on how I could rock this site to the fullest as an educator.

My lovely dropbox folder where the students' assignments would show up
First off, I found a site called You make a site there and it gives you a link (in my case) Now, if I wanted to, I can give this site to my students as well as a password. Then they can go to the site enter the password and upload their assignments to my dropbox (which I can access anywhere that has Internet).  I can even get an e-mail which tells me when I get an e-mail.

Are there any downfalls? Well, you can get about 5MG storage for free by taking the tutorial and doing a few other things, otherwise it does cost to have a larger storage. If you just use it as a place for students to drop off assignments and you can pick them up (and move them elsewhere) then the limited storage should be fine.

Why use this instead of engrade, blackboard, edmodo, or all the other sites? Well this doesn't require students to have an account. All they need is to remember the password and link! Easy, peasy!
 It also lets me share files by making a public link (that I can tweet to my students) and they can use to download assignments.

If you don't have a drop box and are looking for some ways to go green you may want to consider it, you can sign up here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

British Council's Blog for October


The British Council's facebook page has shortlisted a recent Blog for their TeachingEnglish blog award for October.

"Here’s another of the English language teaching blog posts that we’ve shortlisted for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award: 
– Comma Commotion! a presentation Carissa Peck’s students made about the four main uses of commas
Click “like” if you think it should be the winner of this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award!"

If you like it, give it a "like" here (or click on the picture).

If you haven't checked out the post yet you can find it


Friday, November 2, 2012

Teachers in Pop Culture!

When you think of a teacher who is the first person that pops into your head? Is it someone you actually know? Or is it something a bit more iconic? The good the bad and ugly, but we can learn from all of them!

1. OK, you probably shouldn't grade your essays like this, but there is something to be said about not writing too much on students essays. For one, they get overwhelmed, and it is more work for you! Make a good solid rubric and correct and comment only as needed.

Use songs in class! Yes, yes yes!!! However, try to make it a song with applicable vocabulary and grammar they can use again later. Not just random sounds (unless of course you are dealing with minimal pairs or doing a listening activity).

3. Again! Use movies!!! Movies are GREAT, but don't just put a movie on not give the students any instruction and tune out.

 I fully encourage teaching people how to swear (or how not to)! I usually do a lesson with my students on how to "fake" swear (shoot, cheese and crackers, fudge!). We all learn curse words in other languages pretty fast, but we don't learn those fake swear words. So go ahead and teach them, but you should probably avoid making it the focus of your class.

 DO teach your students different ways to say things! Tell them about different accents and words, but be sure to only do so when appropriate (not the first day of class)Penny Ur talked about this at a convention I went to in Spain. More here

 Mind Your Language has so much fun stuff it is hard to pick! For the sake of simplicity here's a good on that reminds you to teach pronunciation in the classroom, but perhaps do it with a bit more pizazz (think dictoglosses or minimal pairs).

 Know when to use the book and when to look past it. The book doesn't always have all of the answers :)

 DO share things about yourself with your students. DO make it clear that you are knowledgeable. DO NOT scream that your knowledge will bite their face off.

DO try to make class interesting. Get people from outside the class to stop or or skype: authors, and directors and good ones. On the other hand, just use yourself; dress up, bring in music or use anything you can to connect with your students.

DO be honest! I often tell my TOEFL students that the TOEFL is not my favorite test, however they still need to get a good score on it. So, no matter how much they, and I, may dislike the test, we all have to put our full effort into the class and learning our idioms, inferences and more!

I really had a hard time lowering this down to 10!
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