Thursday, April 18, 2013

Speaking With Confidence: Hot Seat

When I first started studying Spanish in Spain my friend went with me to a shop. I ordered my food and had the man ask, "What?" I immediately clammed up and turned to my friend, who repeated the order. She then gave me some of the best advice I have ever received:

"You know most of the time when they ask you to repeat yourself it isn't that you said it wrong, it is just you said it without confidence." She continued, "You spoke lower and were harder to hear. Just say it again a bit clearer and louder and you'll be fine" 
I tell a lot of my students to remember this when they are speaking to native speakers. When we speak a foreign language, we are often afraid of being wrong, or of making a fool of ourselves. Sometimes I start class by telling them about a time I was particularly foolish in my second language (Spanish).

Recently I went to the store trying to buy a light bulb, the problem was I didn't know the word.. 
Me: I am looking for light?
Worker: What?
Me: Light
Worker: I don't know what you want.
Me: I am looking for a ball of glass that gives light. 
Worker: Ummmm
Me: OK, do you sell lamps?
Worker: Yes
Me: Can you please take me to the lamps 
Worker: Here are lamps
Me: I want to buy the thing that goes here *point to spot a light bulb would go*
Worker: Oh! We don't have those.
Me: What are they called?
Worker: Light bulbs
Me: Thanks

This is a great example of using circumlocution when you don't know a word, and something I try to get my students to practice a lot.

Here are a few versions of the game Hot Seat, which helps your students to practice describing a word when they don't know the word and speaking loudly.


I am sure you've seen this one before. I like it a lot, but it requires some classroom management so be sure you have a good technique to settle classes down. 
The traditional version 
  1. Divide classes into groups of 3-5 students
  2. Put as many chairs facing away from the whiteboard as there are groups.  
  3. One person from each group sits in the chair. 
  4. Optional: I put blindfolds on my students to make sure no one peeks.
  5. Write the vocabulary word / simple word you want students to guess.
  6. Count to three and have them go at it!
  7. The first team whose person in the chair says the answer so the teacher can hear it wins a point for their team. 
  8. Then rotate another student in and continue.
RULES: No L1 may be used, and the word itself cannot be used. If L1 or the word are used that team is disqualified and loses a point.
Why it is awesome? Have you ever had your entire class start talking at the same time? It makes it kinda hard to hear, right? This means for the students to get the answer they have to shout their answer.
Don't Slip Up
  1. Divide classes into groups of 3-5 students
  2. Put as many chairs at the front of the class as there are groups.  
  3. One person from each group sits in the chair. 
  4. Give each group a slip of paper with a different word.
  5. Count to three and have them go at it!
  6. The first team whose person in the chair says the answer so the teacher can hear it wins a point for their team. 
  7. Then rotate another student in and continue.
Why it is awesome? This has the same noise level (meaning students really need to shout) but this time each group has a different word (meaning students can't overhear clues from nearby groups). There's also no need for a blindfold meaning nonverbal communication can be used.
Taboo it
  1. Divide classes into groups of 3-5 students
  2. Put as many chairs at the front of the class as there are groups.  
  3. One person from each group sits in the chair. 
  4. Give each group a slip of paper with a different word AND 5 related words they can't use e.g. if the word is Idiom you can't say: phrase, words, literal, figurative or English. Check out the game taboo for more examples. 
  5. Count to three and have them go at it!
  6. The first team whose person in the chair says the answer so the teacher can hear it wins a point for their team. 
  7. Then rotate another student in and continue.
Why it is awesome? Students really need to think of what they are saying since they have these no-nos. It is a lot like taboo except they have group members to help them.
Round, Round
  1. Have one student volunteer
  2. Sit the student in an office chair and spin him around 10 times (Why? Because its fun!)
  3. Put a blindfold on the student.
  4. Write a word on the board.
  5. Walk to the back of the classroom.
  6. Count to three and have the students start shouting clues!
  7. Once the word is guessed let another student try.
Why it is awesome? This has the same noise level (meaning students really need to shout) but this time students are working together. And the students all want to spin around in the chair so they'll be eager to volunteer. 
Do you have a twist on hot seat or another game you play to encourage students to practice Circumlocution? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Literally Incorrect Participial Phrases

I love teaching participial phrases! They are relatively easy, lend themselves to tons of fun hands on activities and native speakers mess them up all the time so you can give your students confidence by having them find incorrect sentences in a newspaper or magazine for extra credit.

One of my favorite assignments to give with participial phrases is the "Literally Incorrect Phrases"

First in class I show them dangling participials, such as, "Running to catch the bus Bob's wallet fell out of his pocket." As a class we find the participial phrase (running to catch the bus) and the noun it refers to ... but we can't! The sentence isn't clear and suggests that Bob's wallet is running to catch the bus. We discuss why the sentence is wrong and then I show them an example of what the sentence meant literally.

This example is from a student, but you can find examples online using your friendly local search engine.

Once I believe that my students understand why dangling participials are incorrect I hand out a list of ten sentences containing dangling participials and have students pick two. They have to 1. Illustrate why the sentence is wrong and 2. Re-write the sentence correctly. As an example:

INCORRECT: Riding along on my bike, the dog hit me.

CORRECT: Riding along on my bike, I was hit by a dog!

Now, some of my students are very artistically blessed, but others have my artistic skill. That's OK. This example below was very well done and not as artistic as others:

INCORRECT: Being flat, Kelly changed the tire.
CORRECT: The tire, being flat, was changed by Kelly.
Being flat, the tire was changed by Kelly.
Many other options, because unlike math English usually has more than one right answer.

I like to rotate this list with each class so I get a new bunch of pictures each time. Below is an example of some of more of my favorite work from past students.

Teaching Tip #1: Passing out Papers

The volume on the video below is not as loud as I'd like, so be sure to turn the volume on your computer up rather high to hear. Otherwise just reading and seeing should give you enough information.

One of the best tips I ever picked up as a teacher wasn’t a game, or a management technique. It was a new way of counting out papers I had to pass out. When I was in Korea my co-teacher had this way of passing out papers. Instead of holding the papers normally she would roll them first. By rolling the papers, they would naturally separate from each other making it faster to count out how many worksheets you need to pass out. Even though this isn't a really classroom management tip it does make my class run a lot smoother. Plus it was super easy to learn and by now it has become second nature for me.

Hopefully it helps you too! 

Do you have any quick tips that could help teachers?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

10+ Classroom Management Techniques

For those who prefer to see and listen rather than read check out the video above, but be sure to turn up your volume. Be sure to read the end of the blog though as there are 3 additional tips!

Technique #1 Keep students involved
Make sure you are changing activities enough to keep students' attention. Have activities that are level appropriate. Students usually act out when the lesson is too easy or difficult for them so differentiate the lesson so each students is working at a comfortable pace.
If technique number one fails try one of the following techniques. Though they are all great it is usually best if you pick one or two and use them consistently with your class.

Technique #2 Use the Magic Word!
I am not talking about please! The magic word in this case is anything you want it to me. My 3rd grade teacher’s word was, “MAGIC.” At the start of the year she told us that she had a magical word that would make the entire class silent. Whenever we started to get to rowdy she’d turn and begin writing a HUGE capital M on the blackboard, then a capital A, then a capital G, we never actually saw her write the whole word because by the time she got to I we were usually all quiet. Part of the reason this works is the timing; don’t write it too quickly! You need the students to notice what you are doing and have time to react.
Technique # 3 Eyes on me
This one is a favorite of mine with elementary students and SOMETIMES with certain groups I have used it in high school.The teacher says something like, “One two three eyes on me” and the students respond back with, “One two eyes on you” By having to stop what they are doing to respond to you usually the class will be snapped out of what they are doing and go back to concentrating on you
Technique #4 Feel the rhythm
Many of the primary school homeroom teachers would have a clap or snap combination they would use to get students attention. Essentially they would snap and clap a certain beat and the students would have a certain response. Similar to technique number one and two this works by snapping students out of what they are doing to pay attention to you out of habit. This was NOT effective for me in Korea because I didn’t see the students enough to have them hear my beat and instinctually respond. However, if you have students you see all the time this should work well.
Technique #5 Monkey See Monkey Do
No, I am not suggesting you act like a monkey. With younger students if you are quiet and start making big actions (touch your nose, then your shoulders, then your ears, then mouth, then head, etc.) you’ll find they start copying you. Once you have the whole class copying you clap and get back into the lesson
Technique # 6 Dance
This is actually a specific version of Monkey See Monkey Do. Essentially you’ll use a TPR song that your students are familiar with (Opposite, Sweet Little Bunny, Head Shoulder Knees and Toes with clothes, etc.) Without singing the song, just act it out. If you like you can mouth the words, but normally just the actions will suffice. Once all of your students are doing the actions with you sing one line (as a reward) and then continue with class.
Technique #7 Whistle while you work
I have a whistle my mother gave me to stay safe in the street. It has a flashing light, and a whistle! So often I use these in conjunction. I first put the flashing light on as a visual warning, but if they need the auditory sense I’ll quickly blow the whistle. This is preferred to yelling because it shows less emotion and anger. It makes you appear as if you are still in control which is key with older students.
Technique #8 Lights out!
Another great way to get students to settle down is to flash the lights on and off. This works well because you aren’t yelling (what they expect) and trying to beat their noise Instead you are letting them know visually that they need to pay attention to you. Some teachers find turning the lights off completely works, but I prefer the flashing lights technique. An alternative is to have a flashing light you can turn on and use that in class.
Technique #9 Final Countdown
I use a lot. I project it to the whiteboard or the TV screen and let students know how much time they have left. At the start of class I give out Quick Quizzes. Pretty easy 5 question quizzes which take 5 minutes and are graded like homework. The intention is to see what students understood from the last lesson and make sure they show up on time. If they show up after a quick quiz is given they may NOT make it up. Often the hardest time to get students to settle is when class begins. I pass the quiz out to any row sitting quietly and then I put the stopwatch on the board for five minutes. Once students realize they are wasting their quiz time they quickly quiet down so I will give them a quiz and they can get started.
Technique #10 Participation Points
I’ve talked about one way to “grade” students’ participation (by giving participation points). You can use them to help in situations like this (and reward quieter students). Essentially when you have a rowdy class make note of the students who are acting appropriately and pass out the points to them. Once the other students see what they are missing out they’ll usually slowly settle down. With younger students you do not even need to use points just orally praise the students behaving, “I like how Jessica is sitting down and coloring. It is so nice to see Stephen quietly helping John. Johnny is doing very well reading.” Most students do want to be told they are doing well and others will seek this by mimicking them.
These are three techniques NOT mentioned in the video for the sake of time.
1 action. Instead of having students copy numerous actions, as most of the previous techniques do, this one just has one motion. For example the teacher puts her pointer finger to her closed lips. Students are expected to follow suit. Eventually you should have the whole class quietly sitting with a finger over their mouth. This can be any action. I’ve seen putting your hands on your head, touching your nose, putting both hands on your desk. As long as you are consistent it should work well.
2. Stop Teaching This is not my favorite and is used as a last resort. I sit down in a desk at the front of class, take out homework and start grading. The shock value of seeing that I am no longer trying to control them often snaps them out of whatever they were doing.
3. Let them leave Treat them like adults. “Hey guys I know you have a lot of exams this week so if you would rather leave and study for other classes please leave now. I won’t mark you absent. But this review is really important for your exam on Wednesday so if you are going to stay in the class I need you to be speaking English and staying on topic so as not to distract those who need to review.” I often make this announcement during finals week when classes are filled with stressed students.  Occasionally I have a student leave, but usually they all stay and their behavior is much better knowing that they elected to stay. Clearly this only works when it follows school rules and the students are old enough, but if possible it is an amazing solution for certain times.

What other ways do you have to keep your classes in control? Please let me know in the comments!

I have seen ClassDojo (I even signed up), but I am not sure it would work with older students. If anyone uses or has used it with high school or University students please let me know in the comments!
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