Friday, June 27, 2014

Scribblish! (or What do you get when you cross telephone with pictionary?)

Today is my last working day in Mexico, so I'm making a super fast board game suggestion.

I've actually written about this game before in a post two years ago called, "Write, fold, pass, draw, fold, pass, repeat" (that's a mouthful!)

Basically the premise is explained in the previous post but again, it is basically like Pictionary and Telephone combined to make a different game.

You can play this game on your own, but there are some advantages to purchasing the board game.

First off, in Scribblish each of the players gets their own tubey-thing that allows them to easily roll (instead of fold) the previous clue so the next person can't see it.

Secondly, the papers are already provided as well as the starting sentences. That means that if you use this board game in class you'll have virtually no preparation.

Thirdly, there's a clock included to make sure students have a set amount of time.

 Finally, I feel that when students use a "real board game," in class instead of a "teacher game," they feel that their English level is higher and that confidence boost can be helpful.

You can alter the game to focus on paraphrasing. Instead of drawing students will paraphrase the previous sentence. Then the next students paraphrases the paraphrase. etc. etc. At the end you can compare the starting sentence to the final sentence and see why it is so important to choose words carefully in paraphrasing (otherwise meaning can change)

This game can be played quietly making it a good activity to have students who have completed today's task work on while you focus on those still working.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

ABC Books in Guatemala!

As most readers of this blog know, I like to have students send their work OUTSIDE of the classroom. This can be correcting English errors on an international menu, sending Dream Flags across borders, or  making alphabet books.
The great part of this is that students really get to see that English is more than something we do in class. It exists in the real world. Therefore, I am TRULY thankful to teachers like Steven in Guatemala who not only use my students' alphabet books, but who take the time to take a few pictures and send them back to me. This way my students really do see that their work has made an impact.

Here's the students reading The Fruity Letters By:Luisa Marié Arriaga, José Francisco Parra, and José Miguel Colín.
I was a bad teacher with Steven, and I sent the books a week later than I meant to send them :( To make up for this mistake I also sent him an alphabet book about nature (one of my favorite themes this time around): Nature Book by Dana Berrelleza Shinagawa and Elizabeth Felix Salazar.
 In addition to the pictures of his students with their favorite letters.

Thanks again Steven for taking the time to send these, and a SPECIAL thanks to my students for making these amazing learning tools that are now traveling the globe :-)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Finnish Infographic

If you don't have time to check out On Top of the World you can also check out this infographic on Finland's school system.

Note that one of the things discussed by Maria Kouta is the, "No Homework in Finland,"myth. She states that homework is given, just not on the scale seen in other countries.

Book Review: On Top of the World: How the Finns Educate Their Children

The Finnish flag
That orange section in Finalnd
If you teach anywhere in the world you have surely heard about how, Finland has, “the best education,” in the world.
Many of the educational forums or Facebook pages I am a member of will often reference Finland’s educational system in research, news articles or memes.
In addition, when I did my Masters in Spain we studied how the education in Finland was unique. We mainly focused on the attitude people have towards teachers as well as the training that teachers have.
Even with this background, I found the book really interesting. Part of what I really liked about it is it was written by the mother of three children (aged 7, 9, and 12). I really like that it is written by a mother, not an educational expert or a curriculum designer. 

Basically, with the fame of the Finnish educational system, Maria is often asked about what makes their system so much better than everywhere else. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but in how in a quick 14 chapters she answers the question: what are the Finns doing in their school?
I found On Top of the World: How the Finns Educate Their Children a nice overall summary of how the educational system works. Some of it was new to me, and some of it was review, but none of it was pretentious or useless.
She ends the book with several key takeaways I feel I can implement as an educator:
·         Communicate with the parents!
o   My colleagues and I have discussed how this can be different with different schools. Some schools don’t encourage communication with parents. Other schools foster it! I think the key is to remember that parents are your allies, not enemies.
·         Encourage students to learn another language.
o   As a language teacher…I may be biased
·         Don’t be afraid to add a physical nature to your lessons
o   Not every lesson can be a soccer game, but getting students to move around can be helpful.
·         Use “playing” as a learning tool.
o   We all learn better when we aren’t trying to learn! Maybe try a vocabulary game!
·         Respect students as individuals
o   Understand that not all students will succeed at the same things.
If you want to read a concise compilation of how the Finnish education system works, this is a fast, easy and simple read I encourage you to look into. Plus, it LESS than a dollar!
No time for the book? Check out this infographic on Finlands.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mad Gab (A perfect game for pronunciation practice)

Have you ever seen a game and thought, "This was MADE for my classroom." If you teach pronunciation in your classroom this game is PERFECT for you!

What's the premise of the game?

1. The game is basically a collection of 1,200 "puzzles" that you try to get your teammates to guess.
2. One person will read the puzzle. For example, "Bail heed ant sir."
3. Their teammates will try to figure out what is really being said.

This is a GREAT game for all the different types of blended speech. When we say, "Bail heed ant sir" we usually end up saying something like, "Bellee dants ir" which sounds an awful lot like, "Belly Dancer!"

Here's a commercial with another example:

The goal is to solve three puzzles before time runs out! With my students we normally play a simpler version where they get 1 minute. In that minute they have to try to guess as many as they can. Then it is the next team's turn.

Now, there is a website  where you can access similar puzzles for free; however, I think buying the game is worth it because it comes with this handy card holdy flippy thing (I know that's an awful description), and I think that students realizing they are playing a real game (not just one designed for English language learners) is helpful to their self esteem.

If you read the actual directions (and I always do) they include the role of the coach. I encourage this! The coach knows the answer and tries to guide the guessers by giving them pronunciation advice such as, "Put more emphasis on the first syllable," or "Speak faster!" The coach needs to be at a high-ish English level, so the teacher is an easy fit. However, many students can do it as well.

Now, I think buying the full size game is worth it; however, if the price is too high (normally over $20), you have other options. They also have a travel version for UNDER $5! It is only 240 puzzles, but a great start for your class.

I'll end with this older Tweet from Mattel
What do you think, "Nosed Ring Sat Hatched" is really trying to say? Post in the comments and I'll let you know if you are right!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spy Gadgets and Passive Voice

 I like using movies in class, especially when I teach the same students daily for a month. Since we are such a small class (I only have three students) it is hard to do group work or pair work, and many of our activities finish much faster than if I had a bigger class. As such every day we watch a bit of a film.

This session I have a spy theme, so we are watching Operation Stormbreaker. I like it because it stars a teenager and is easier for my students to understand than James Bond. Plus, it was under $7.00 online :) If you don't have the movie, you can use the clip below. If you don't have technological capabilities in your classroom, you can omit the movie part completely.

Today we worked on the Passive Voice and this is the clip we used to help practice.

Essentially, students were given a Gap Fill with a word bank. They were asked basic comprehension questions like:
1. The backpack has a ______________.
2. The zit cream ____________ anything metallic.
3. The fountain pen’s nib fires from ______ meters.

We watched the film twice, they shared their answers with one another, and then we shared them as a class.

Then we answered questions about the devices: 
Most of these questions were followed by a sentence starter and a sentence ending to be sure the students stayed in passive voice.
3. What ought you pack if you are going to jump out of a plane? The ... if you are going to jump out of a plane.
Answer: The backpack ought to be packed if you are going to jump out of a plane. make sure they understand that gadgets are awesome we read about the technology the police are using in Brazil during The World Cup (not the reading they use). The students find the passive voice used in the text and then comes my FAVORITE PART. They create their own gadget.

Students have a lot of fun with this. They (usually) like showing off what they created, and their classmates ask pretty silly questions. After we vote on the most interesting etc.

You can download the two pages of worksheets I use with my class at Teachers Pay Teachers. I am giving the worksheet away for free for the next seven days! If you do download it (and enjoy it) please leave a review!

Now that I've told you one of my favorite passive activities, I am wondering what is your favorite way to teach passive?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Camels Reading Activity

Do your students know that Wednesday is often called hump day (or humpday)? Mine never seem to know and I think it is a fun thing to teach. Everyone laughs, they'll remember the word hump, and in the future if someone in their office or their classes wishes them a, "happy hump day," they won't accuse them of sexual harassment.

When I was in the Netherlands I figured out they had a camel farm and was very eager to visit. The picture on the left is courtesy of that visit. While I was looking for this picture I found an old lesson plan I made during my CELTA course! It doesn't include everything, I no longer have the flashcards and I am not including the grammar lesson, but any of you looking for a fun reading topic may find this useful!

I used an article from Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The relevant link is here: BONUS: Since it is a radio site, there is also an audio portion you could use in your class if you wanted. You could listen before or after reading if you want your students to practice both receptive skills.

To start, I had to provide my the rationale for my text selection
This is for the pre-intermediate group. Features newspaper articles are normally written at a 7th-8thgrade reading level. Since all students are currently in the Netherlands picked an article with local relevance. I wanted to pick something light that would gain students interest without the possibility of provoking them (as with political) or using complex jargon (as with economic). As such I choose an article with an interesting topic to gain students interest.
I realize that this is a longer article, but feel that the class has excellent receptive skills and with the proper set up could do this article. I would however remove the last two paragraphs as I feel it makes the text more manageable.
Task Design 
(I wrote A LOT! I've whittled it down into simpler steps)
  1. Tel the students you enjoy eating a strange food that is good for you. I used cactus in the Netherlands, but I would probably pick a different food here in Mexico. When I tell the story I get students to try and say the words. If they can't I give them clues (like hangman). If that didn't work I tell them the word.
    • Cactus story (The words in bold are in the article later)
      I love cactus (picture). I’ve liked cactus for a long time. It is fantastic for your… (put picture of intestines up and elicit intestines) and because it sucks the sugar out of your system it is great for people on diets or who can’t handle sugar. What’s the word for people who can’t usually have sugar in their diet? (use hangman to elicit diabetic). My friends thought it was weird at first but once they looked into it (oh gosh what’s that word, like what a detective does in a case,…) oh yeah! They investigated the health benefits and thought they should give it a try. It took me a lot of tries, and I made a lot of mistakes but through (what do we call it when you make lots of mistakes, but because you keep trying you finally find the right way? The first word is like where a judge or a lawyer work... trial and error) I found some recipes that my friends actually liked! Cooking the cactus can take a long time. Some people also find it too slimy to eat. And of course, collecting the cactus can be difficult because of its spikes. But because it is so healthy (and I think tasty) all of my friends have tried cactus. Mainly because I (seriously, strongly, firmly) tell them that if they don’t try cactus they will be my…past friends…friends that I don’t have anymore, friends that used to be…what’s that word? Former!
  2. If you are their only class in English, I suggest a quick activity to get them used to speaking English again. You could hand out pictures (with captions) of other odd but healthy foods (whale meat, crickets, live baby octopus, swallows nest, thistle cheese). In pairs have students guess / explain what might be difficult about the food. Then the teacher should tell them what the good thing about the food is (this would also prepare them for the productive skills task at the end). 
    • Example: Whale meat has less calories and more protein and iron than pork or beef.
      • Students could respond that whales are hard to hunt. Many of them are endangered. Too many people think of Shamu. Etc.
    • Be sure to write down any new words on the board. This will be important later.
  3. Using pictures and trying to have students come up with the words that will be used from the text. on their own. These words (as well as the words from opening the schemata) would be written on the board (with additional relevant words that one would not find in the text). 
    • Cash Cow: When something makes a LOT of money what can we call it? (put a picture of a cow with dollar signs on it).  
      Leased When we don’t own something, but we rent it we can also say that we are “leasing”
      In Tow: Show picture of a tow truck, elicit the word “tow” then show picture of mother with three kids behind her, ask if they look the same. Show that “tow” means the same thing. “in tow” means things that follow.
    • I selected: cash cow, former, investigated, leased, trial and error, in tow, firmly, diabetics, and intestinal as my vocabulary words. 
  4. Read the headline, "Camels new cash cows for Dutch farmers?" and see if students can guess what the article is about. It is OK if they don't guess correctly, we just want them speculating.
  5.  Students scan  the text underlining the words on the board. Since not all of the words are on the board they will have to carefully scan the text. This will help students understand the basic premise of the text without focusing on each individual word in the text. This would be followed with a peer check and open class feedback.
  6. Students will answer questions about the text where the answers are explicitly in the text (see attached sheet). Students may skim the text to find these answers.
    • Here are the questions I used (with their answers)
      1. How many camel farms are there in the Netherlands? 1
      2. With how many camels did he start his farm? 3
      3. How much is camel milk per litre? 6 Euros or (about) $8.79
      4. What percent fat is camel milk? Less than 2%
      5. Why do you have to be friendly with a camel? So she won’t get stressed/ So she will give milk.

  • Finally, students will find the pros and cons of having a camel farm in the text.

  • Productive Skills Task Design
    1. Divide students into into two groups. One of the groups is the pro and the other group is the con. As a group they both separately discuss the pros and cons that they found in the article as well as brainstorming anything else. 
    2. Then “pros” group is the camel farmers and the “cons” group is the “cows farmers.” The students will be divided into pairs (one from the pro and one from the con).  The students will use the information from their brainstorming to try and convince their partner that camel farming is the way of the future, or silly. To give the students a reason for listening to their partner the camel farmers will try to pick the cow farmer who made the best argument and the cow farmers will pick the camel farmer with the best argument.
    Feedback  After they have heard each persons opinion the camel farmers and cow farmers will go back in their groups and try to pick the best person from the opposite team.

    Feedback: Write the mistakes students made on the board. Have students (individually) try to identify mistakes and then as a class correct the sentences.

    OTHER ACTIVITIES: Have students make a brochure for the camel farm, or design a campaign for camel milk! 

    It is funny to look back at this activity, but I recall my students enjoying it then... in fact I am pretty sure I'll give it a try next week...maybe on hump day!
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