Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Funny Sketch About Different English Learners' Problems

This is a fun sketch that goes over the different problems a student may have in a class.

One student struggles with grammar! This is the students I would be most like. With a student weak in grammar I suggest lots of reading, movies, fun drills, and maybe some grammar comics

There's another student who is pretty bad at spelling (and thus pronunciation!). There are a few great sites out there if your students can't spell, but I usually know a few good spelling tricks to help out students.

The next student struggles with idioms and proverbs. If you can find these in songs or movies it may help your students remember them.

The final girl has large problems with her vocabulary. There's an entire MOOC going on right now on how to teach vocabulary. I have an older blog post that covers some basic suggestions for activities, games, and quizzes.

And the last student struggles with emphasizing words (and vowel sounds). I am pretty bad with pronunciation other than using minimal pairs and jokes. but the 34th ELT Blog Carnival has given me many more ideas to work with.

The Carnival will be published on September 1st, so all submissions must be received before August 31st.

See for more information.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The 34th ELT Blog Carnival- Pronunciation

Can having perfect pronunciation be problematic?
Thank you so much for all of your contributions. The blog carnival has been published here so no more submissions are being accepted.

Since the 33rd ELT Blog Carnival will be published on August 1st, I thought I would announce the 34th ELT (English Language Teaching) Blog Carnival!

Are you unsure what a blog carnival is? The ELT Blog Carnival home page has examples from all of the past 33 carnivals. 

The 34th ELT Blog Carnival is available here. The theme is pronunciation!

I feel that pronunciation has always been one of my weakest points as a teacher. I hope that by hosting this blog I'll get some great ideas from other teachers so I can improve my own teaching.

How to participate?
There are three big ways you can participate!
  1.  Submit your post The Carnival has been posted, so submissions are no longer being accepted.
    • If we can understand it, should we still correct it?
    • If you have an amazing older post that you have written on pronunciation in the ELT field (EFL; ESL, ESP, EAP, etc.) send it my way.
    • Alternatively, if you feel inspired, you can write up a new post. There are SO MANY different aspects of pronunciation you can touch on. If you are stuck, look at these questions for inspiration: 
      • How do you teach a specific sound (like th)?
      • What pronunciation should teachers teach? (Accents, Formal, etc.)
      • How picky should teachers be when assessing a students pronunciation? 
      • Should pronunciation have more time in the class than it currently has? 
      • What technological tools can we use to help us teach pronunciation?
      • What games are best used to help student practice? 
      • What homework can we give for pronunciation? 
      • How do you teach pronunciation to a deaf student (or a student with a speech impediment in their L1?)? 
      • What is the best way to grade pronunciation?
      • Do tongue twisters actually help in class?
      • etc.
    • If you feel inspired to write but you don't have a blog contact me! I am happy to host you as a guest blogger.
    • When you write a new post it would be nice to include a link to here
      so your readers can learn more and participate if they want.
  2. Share this post so others can get involved!  (You can share this via Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, family board game night, your wedding vows, or wherever else you feel you could reach people who are interested).
  3. Come back September 2nd to read all the lovely blogs! You can keep track of everything via #eltBlogCarnival on twitter! Or just go to the Blog Carnival.
What pronunciation should we teach?
To submit your blog you have three options: 

1. Fill out this form.
2. Tweet it to Carissa Peck (@eslcarissa)
3. Use the general ELT Blog Carnival submission form.

Please try to get all submissions in by August 31st!

For those of you who don't have a blog, but are eager to see the results check back on Monday September 2nd! You can also leave a comment here and I'll be sure to remind you when September rolls around.

If you have any questions or have a request for a specific blog leave it as a comment!

Thank you so much for all of your contributions. The blog carnival has been published here so no more submissions are being accepted.

The importance of research in writing

When studying research in essay writing, a lot of time is spent on how to paraphrase, summarize, quote, and cite. These are all essential skills, but pretty useless if not accompanied by proper research.

Laugh all you want, but the truth is many of our students tend to take everything they find on the Internet as a "fact," even though on some level they know better.

Here's one of my favorite examples to use in class. There is a quote going around the Internet that Stephen King said, "Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend." Now, it is true that Stephen King is not a fan of Twilight; however, he never said this quote. This is not what the Internet would let you believe though! Check out some of these graphics circulating the Internet:

Some of the graphics seen giving King credit for the quote.

At the end of a class where we are talking about different ways of integrating quotations I like to bring up this quote in class. We talk about whether or not it is a good quote and if they would use it. Then I show my students a quick google of the quote:

The first 3 responses suggest that this isn't his quote!

What's the lesson? The Internet is a chaotic, chaotic place. Roger Ebert once said, "Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly."

I'd say that this is pretty accurate. The Internet is a fantastic tool and one which can give you and your students  a seemingly endless supply of information, but they need to put the effort into making sure that it is reliable information. We have to make sure that they are aware of this as well.

Well...what does make a good source?

Seriously, ask your students what do they think makes a good source.

I often get incorrect answers such as: It has a lot of quotes. or It is long.

So, what do you do you think makes a source great? I suggest you come up with a list as a class that makes sense for your level. For my class we usually come up with a list of:
  • The information is verifiable
  • They refer to their own sources
  • There is an author / company putting its reputation behind what is said.
  • The author / company is known for good information and not a satire or rumor based publication.
  • Normally no blogs (exceptions for official blogs or blogs which show their sources: e.g. The White House Blog)
  • No Wikipedia. Now, they will argue on this one. It is true that Wikipedia is becoming better every year, but even Wikipedia states it should not be used as a credible source. You can teach them to use Wikipedia as a jumping point for finding sources.
What search engines to use? There are many for specific subjects (e.g. JSTOR) but some charge. For freebies that cover most topics try:
  1. SweetSearch - This search engine does NOT check all of the Internet. It only checks the about 35,000 sites that have been evaluated and approved by research experts, librarians and teachers. 
  2. Google News- Most students know about Google, but they don't check the news which gives them blogs, fan pages etc.
Do you have a different reliable search engine or a method for reinforcing how important research is? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Get MOVING in EFL (aka YAY for TPR)

Throughout this blog I discuss different ways to use TPR in the your English class. Essentially TPR (Total physical response) is a technique which is often used with EFL students. Students are taught to associate an action with a word or phrase.

Asher's book
HISTORY 1965 James Asher basically said, "Hey! I am sure that we can get students to actually move around and have less stress in class." What he came up with was having students move to show comprehension. You can check out more TPR World or language impact for more background information.

Even though the basis for TPR in EFL started over 30 years ago there is still a bounty of current research being done to support using actions with language teaching. One of my favorites to direct people to is an article published by New Scientist in January of 2012 which discusses a study where 20 students enrolled in a 6 day course to learn a fake language. Half of the content was taught using traditional (spoken and written) techniques and the other half was taught with each word having a body movement. The students did better at learning the information that was taught with motions! Keep in mind that this worked for all words, not just words with a clear motion. That is to say, this technique worked as well for actions like run as it did for words like however or rather. The study goes onto cite functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans as well which seem to show that the actions help by creating a more "complex representation of the word that makes it more easily retrieved." You can read the actual study via the onine library if that interests you.

Now that you know a bit of what it is, let's check out how to use it:

Poor Joe, he has no....
  • Simon Says- Usually body parts and actions but you could get specific with adjectives. "Simon says jump up and down quickly."
  • Charades- Usually this is done when a student is given a word and they have to act it out. Great with verbs, but don't be afraid to do this with nouns or adjectives. You can make it more complicated by giving them an entire sentence!
  • Oh No Poor Joe- If you play with students covering the part that's missing this is great TPR for body parts.
Make a fortune teller!
  • Make a box with your students! Directions (Top, Bottom, Left, Right, Middle), Actions (Kick, Throw, Fold, Unfold, Meet) Nouns (Invitation, Door) Adjectives (Locked, Unlocked)
  • Make a fortune teller. Locations (Center, Corner, Left, Right) Actions (Cur, Flip, Fold, Unfold) 
  • Tell a story while they draw or act it out Draw and Tell story.

Find a song (or make one for your EFL class)
  • Traditional Kids Somgs (Great for younger EFL students)
    • Teddy Bear Teddy Bear- Directions (Turn Around) Actions (Touch, Jump) 
    • Hokey Pokey- Body Parts (All!) Actions (Put your)
    • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes- Body Parts (Head, Shoulders, Knees, Toes, Eyes, Ears, Mouth, Nose)
  • Songs I've adjusted to use with my EFL students:
  • Songs which I use, "as is" to practice the words they use.

The video has 15 songs you can use (but probably not at once)! 
    • Bounce, Rock, Roll, Skate- Actions (Bounce, Rock, Roll, Skate)
    • Cha Cha Slide Directions (Left, Right, Back, On, Low, Top), Verbs (Turn, Slide, Criss-Cross, Clap, Stomp, Reverse, Freeze, Hop), Numbers (One, Two, Five), Body Parts (Hands, Knees, Foot), Adverbs (Again)
    • Cupid Shuffle Directions (Right, Left) Verbs (Kick)
    • Da Dip- Actions (Dip) Possessive Pronoun (My, Your)
    • Dancing in Heaven- Adjectives (Slow, Quick)
    • Do the BartMan- Actions (Move, Shake, Sitting) Directions (Front to back, To the side) Body Parts (Hips) 
    • Harlem Shake- Actions (Move) Directions (Left, Right) Adjectives (Fast)
    • Hoedown Throwdown- Actions (Glide, Jump, Pop, Lean, Lock, Shake, Shuffle, Stick )  Adjectives (Polka Dot, Zig zag) Nouns (Hawk, Sky) Body Parts (Hands, Head, Hips, One Footed, Toe) Directions (180 twist, Diagonal, In, Left, On, Side to side)
    • Locomotion Directions (Up, Back), Body Parts (Hips), Actions (Swing, Jump)
    • Mambo #5-Actions (Jump, Move, Put, Clap) Body Parts (Hands)
    • Men in Black- Actions (Bounce, Freeze, Slide, Walk) Body Parts (Neck)
    • Peppermint Twist Directions: (Round, Up, Down) Actions (Jump, Kick)
    • Stanky Leg- Actions (Bounce,Drop, Lean, Shake, Show, Slide, Snap, Stick, Stop, Switch, Wipe) Body Parts (Feet, Fingers, Leg, Shoulders) Adjectives (Low,  Right ) Clothing (Socks)
    • The Bunny Hop Directions (Left, Right, Forward, Out) Body Parts (Foot), Actions (Put, Hop) I add a "Backwards and a forwards hop hop hop" to get a bit more vocab. 
    • The Time Warp  Directions (Left, Right), Body Parts (Hands, Hips, Knees, Pelvis), Verbs- (Jump, Step, Thrust)
    • The Superman Tons of verbs / commands (Sleep, Wave, Hitch a ride, Sneeze, Walk, Swim, Ski, Spray, Blow your Horn, Ring the Bell, Kiss, Comb your Hair, Give a wave, Bend your Knees, Faster, Louder)
    • Usher's UTurn Directions (Put your hands up, Circle) Verbs (Bend, Bounce, Get down) Body Parts (Hands, Knees) 
    • YMCA- Letters (Y, M, C, A)


This list already seems a bit long so for now I am stopping, but if you have any other songs, games, or activities you think embrace the spirit of TPR be sure to leave it in the comments!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wonderful Works CIted Websites (for free)

Creating a Works Cited page from scratch is not a skill I think my students need when there are many available and free sites to help them. Here are the five sites my students use the most. I put plus signs (+) next to things I appreciated about them and minus signs (-) next to some faults.

Easybib is probably my students' favorite.
+I like it mainly because they have an app which allows students to simply scan a bar code, pull up the information, and put it in MLA format!  Great for students actually using paper sources.
-NOTE: EasyBib does MLA for free. If you teach APA or Chicago style it costs students money so another site may be better.

CitationMachine was one of my colleagues favorites.
+She swore it was more reliable than EasyBib. I have seen no difference worth mentioning, but it does have a slightly different layout so some students may prefer this site.
+I do like that it creates in text citations for students to use.
+It has MLA, APA, Turbian and Chicago and easily lets you export the finished product.
+It also has clear step by step directions.

BibMe is another useful freebie.
+It has MLA, APA, Turbian and Chicago.
+It also easily allows you to export your finished product.
+You can register for a free account and save your progress online.
+It also has a nifty citation guide.

KnightCite is through the Calvin University.
+It offers MLA, APA, and Chicago.
+You can create reference pages for free without registering.
+If you register, for free, you can save your work, export it, alphabetize your sources, and do a few other things.
-Of the sites this is probably my least favorite, but it does get the job done.

NoodleTools is the site I used way back when I learned how to cite in high school.
-It is subscription only, however many many schools  have subscriptions.
+If your school already pays for this, then I'd suggest you use this.

With ALL of these please remember that machines are not perfect! When your students generate a works cited page they should still review it to make sure it conforms to the rules they know (or at least the sample you gave them).

Overall using these sites makes citing in a Works Cited page easy which means students are more likely to do it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Teaching the Importance of Citing

Students often get bored when studying MLA style. They find it boring and really don't see this point. This blog isn't intended to be a lesson, but it should give you enough information you can use in class to show your students why it is ESSENTIAL to attribute by bringing up famous people who have gotten zinged for it.

There are a lot of examples we can find. I call it, "Pop Plagiarism" I know you'll find more once you keep an eye out for them.

The album used as inspiration
 For example. The Verve got into big problems with their hit song, "Bittersweet Symphony." Your students may think they don't know it but play the music video and I am confident it will sound familiar. The let them know The Verve created the lyrics and most of the melody and gets none of the profits. In the end it was decided that even though they had requested (and received) permission to use some of the orchestra version of the Rolling Stones song, "The Last Time." In the end the Rolling Stones decided too much was used and sued. The Verve gave ALL royalties and ownership of the song over to the Rolling Stones. You can read more here.
The song of The Verve

Avril's song

 OK Carissa, fine. But that's about melody. My students don't work with melodies; they work with text. Fair enough, I am sure your students know the pop singer Avril Lavigne. Some of them may even remember her song about wanting to be someone's girlfriend. The lyrics from the Rubinoos song are  "Hey hey you you, I wanna be your boyfriend." Avril's song isn't exactly the same, but the style is and the lyrics, "Hey hey you you, I want to be your girlfriend" are close. This is sort of an example of why even paraphrasing needs to be cited! She was sued but the case never was determined as they settled out of court. This usually either means she bought The Rubinoos silence, or the Rubinoos realized they couldn't take her down and gave up. If you want to discuss this more with your class read this.
The alleged "original"

Barack Obama
OK, let's step out of the music world for a bit. Maybe your students have heard of a man called Obama? Now Obama, to my knowledge, never actually plagiarized, but he did get busted for it. In 2008 Clinton accused Obama of being, "just words," he responded in a speech saying  “Don’t tell me words don’t matter, ‘I have a dream.’ Just words? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ Just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words? Just speeches?”

This was a great response. An amazing speech, but it was not an Obama original. He had talked to Governor Deval Patrick who had received similar critiques. The Governor encouraged him to use his words to defend himself. He did, but he did not give Deval credit in the speech. That was a bad move. Months after people were still accusing Obama of stealing words even though he had permission. Another reminder, when it doubt...give credit! If you want more information this article is useful.


So there you are three examples of real life plagiarism you can use with your students. There are many more out there if you don't think these would appeal to your students. If your students like the Beatles then try George Harrison vs The Chiffons. and The Black Eyed Peas have been in the media a LOT for plagiarism; as an example, check out, "My Humps.

If you have an example you use in class, or you have a different way of showing your students the importance of citing I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Participle Phrases Alphabet Book

Every year my Advanced I students learn participle phrases.

Part of them practicing is to create a children's alphabet book using participle phrases (e.g. A is for Alligator: Looking beautiful in her tutu and ballet slippers, the alligator danced across the floor..)

In an effort to get my students to see that their work is about more than just a grade, I had hoped to send copies of the book to other teachers who could read it in their class. No cost would be present for teacher other than promising to send back pictures, letters, drawings or videos from their class so my students could see that their assignment did affect others.

This would not happen until the fall (probably November, but maybe October).

The book would NOT be anything professionally made. If I can get school approval for some budget, it will be bound with wire binding. If not, it will be stapled. Illustrations will probably be drawn by the students.

If you are interested please let me know by filling out the following form:

If you have any questions please leave a comment below.

Thank you so much for your time!

Monday, July 8, 2013

British Council Blog for June

The British Council's facebook page has shortlisted one of my Jone Blogs for their TeachingEnglish blog award for June.

In this blog I linked to a few places that give suggestions for teaching proverbs in the classroom (and why you may want to consider doing it). There's also a link to a free packet on TPT which includes essay writing and more!

If you like it too, give it a "like" here (or click on the picture). Voting has now closed

If you haven't checked out the post yet you can find it
 Voting has now closed 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cheating in your class (WRITING)

Even SpongeBob struggles with starting
Why do students plagiarize? Maybe I’m na├»ve, but I believe it is because many times they don’t know how to use sources properly. Another common reason is they don’t know where to start. Moreover, when students don’t manage their time well and leave the entire essay for the night before, plagiarism is an easy answer.

Some teachers don't worry about their students plagiarizing because they use a plagiarism checker. However, these only punish plagiarism; they don’t prevent it. As an analogy, they’re like seat belts; they don’t prevent accidents, but they do help if an accident occurs.

Plagiarism checkers are also pretty useless against bought essays. If these are well written, they don’t show up as plagiarized. Lucky for teachers, often these aren’t well written and are sold to more than one student. Those do show up as plagiarized via plagiarism checkers.

How do we keep students honest? If a student really wants to cheat, they will find a way to cheat. However, you can scaffold your class so that in the end writing the essay is easier than cheating!

This schedule is made up of ten days, but you can combine days.

In my classes we practice grammar, literature and essay writing, so these days aren’t back to back.

Before you start, tell students they should save EVERY assignment as each assignment is due with the draft and final copy.

DAY ONE- The assignment. We go over the requirements, multiple deadlines, and write a few sample theses as a class. HOMEWORK Come up with a good thesis statement and a few prospective topic sentences. 

DAY TWO-Finding a good source.  This lesson focuses on good sources versus bad sources. We cover the basics as well as the exceptions. By now, you should have looked over their thesis statements and said whose was a good start and whose needed work. If some need work offer them the chance to change it now. Homework: Find a good source that is about your topic. It doesn’t need to completely support your opinion, but it should be a GOOD source in English. Bring in a photocopy of the cover page and a random page if it is a hardcopy or online in PDF. Print one page of the article if it is an electronic source (include the URL and author). LAST CHANCE to change theses.

DAY THREE- Citation. I take this lesson to discuss why plagiarism is bad. We look at current pop culture examples of plagiarism and the punishments. How to prevent this? Attribute your sources. Show parenthetical citation, in text citation and a Works Cited page. Homework: Have them find another source in English and make a Works Cited page with their two sources.

DAY FOUR- Quoting. Teach your students WHEN to quote and more importantly when NOT to quote. Show them how to integrate a quote into a paragraph. Advise them AGAINST translating something from another language into English and then quoting it. Homework: Find another good source in English. Find something to quote from two of the three sources. Write sample sentences integrating them into a real sentence AND using parenthetical and in text citation (one each). Add the new source to your Works Cited page.

DAY FIVE- Paraphrasing- MAKE SURE they know that paraphrasing needs to be attributed. Often they feel since the words are theirs now they don’t need to give credit. Point out It is AWESOME to use when they find something useful in their L1 (mother tongue).  Homework: Find another good source in any language and paraphrase it (make sure to use in text or parenthetical citations). Add the new source to your Works Cited page.

DAY SIX- Summarizing. Again, MAKE SURE they attribute when summarizing. It also a GREAT option to use if they find something useful in their L1. Homework: Find another good source in any language and summarize it (make sure to use in text or parenthetical citations). Add the new source to your Works Cited page.

DAY SEVEN- Outline. I like doing this in class, but you can assign it as homework. I discourage using full sentences for the main ideas and details unless it is one of the quotes, summaries or paraphrases they’ve already submitted.

DAY EIGHT- Peer Review. I also like to do these in class, but sometimes there’s no time. In that case it becomes extra credit. I put up worksheets for peer reviews that walk them through a series of questions (Is every quote integrated? Is the thesis specific? Is the Works Cited page on a separate page? Etc.) If they swap papers with a classmate and review the other person’s essay, I give then some extra credit. I find these are more effective than self-reviews.

DAY NINE- Draft. Some teachers don’t collect drafts; I do. Be sure to collect EVERYTHING with the draft. This way you can see the progression of your students’ thoughts. Run anything that looks iffy through a plagiarism checker. Otherwise be sure to pay close attention to attributions as well as essay structure and grammar.

DAY TEN- Final. I make final essays optional. If a student is happy with their grade on the draft, I transfer the draft grade to their final essay grade. This saves me the hassle of writing, “You didn’t change ANYTHING” on a final essay and getting cranky. If a student wants to fix their essay and improve their grade, they turn in a final copy (again with EVERYTHING).

Grading: How do I give a grade? I usually put everything towards the essay grade. For example: Each good source, paraphrase, summary, quote goes into “Essay Preparation”
Essay Preparation- 5%
Peer Review- 5%
Outline- 15%
Draft- 25%
Final- 50%
The scale is designed so passing is easily achieved and students have to do the work along the way if they want a great grade.

Regardless of how you break down the grade, be sure students have this on DAY 1 when you give the assignment.

Each of these topics will be covered with an in depth idea of how to teach each of these days during the month of July.

How do you prevent plagiarism on assignments?
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