Friday, January 31, 2014

Confusing Words 2- Valentine's Day

Who said spelling wasn't important?

My students were doing an assignment the other day on interpreting lyrics. Many of them wrote something like, "Many people think the song is about heartbreak...." few of them wrote it correctly. I kept getting students who wrote, hard or hearth instead of heart. So, here's a quick visual I set up to help them remember

These are "hearth" hats
These are "hearth" hats

 A hearth is the floor of a fireplace.

The arrow in the picture to the right is pointing to the hearth.

It isn't a word we use a lot in English, but if you ever read Cinderella they talk about the hearth.

Hard has different meanings. It can mean difficult, or not soft.

This is a "hard" hat

This is a word we use a lot in English so you should be sure you can recognize it and pronounce it properly.

This is a "heart" hat
Finally we have the word they usually wanted to use: hearts. Hearts are part of our body that pump blood and are very important to living.

However, we also use hearts to mean love.

The easy way to remember this is the hEARTH has the earth (ashes) in it, harD is for diamonds, and there's lots of art with heARTS.

Hopefully that makes your students have a less confusing Valentine's day. After all, sending a note that says, "I love you with all my hard" just doesn't send the right message.
A dog massage
A dog message

Speaking of message, as another teacher pointed out be sure your students know the difference. There are two pictures of dogs here. One, is a dog with a massage. The other is a dog with a message. Mixing them up and promising to "massage" someone instead of message them could be a bit awkward!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Peer Learning- We're better together

One of the first things I learned when I started teaching English was the importance of pair work. This guest post makes some suggestion on when to embrace learners working together, and why it is best to not rely on it constantly.

Helping someone is a way to cement your own knowledge
Have you ever witnessed one student leaning over to lend some help another student better understand a problem or dilemma? 
If so, you have likely seen peer learning. When students get together to help one another learn a difficult subject or think critically about a problem, they take their education to a deeper level opening their minds to a new thought process. This new level of learning can help peers open up their minds and encourage them to work well with other students, regardless of which side of the learning curve they are on.
Yet there are some struggles that come along with peer to peer learning that can make this typically highly effective way of learning a challenge. The following are some of the do’s and don’ts for teachers to help encourage peer learning in the right way.

The Do’s of Peer Learning
Learning to work together is a lifelong skill!
  • Do encourage teamwork –
    Teamwork is something that people experience throughout their lives. In some cases they will be the leader in the group, or in the case of peer learning the person doing the teaching. In other cases, they will be the person sitting back taking instruction, or the student. In either case, knowing how to work well with one another is a crucial. When you allow peer learning in the classroom you not only help students learn the material but you set them up for an important inherent life lesson that they will need in a variety of situations.
  • Do allow students to work together on problems –
    Sometimes there will not be a clear leader in a peer learning. When students come together in peer groups to brainstorm solutions to problems, they can work together equally to come up with the best solution. This teamwork is another common occurrence in daily life even after students are finished with their schooling.
  • Do let peers assess each other’s achievements –
    Another form of peer learning is to grade each other’s work. This is beneficial because it allows students to see and learn from the mistakes other students made as well as how they were able to solve certain problems. By doing this, they learn what their peers are doing and can find new ways to conquer challenges that they may not have learned about before. When they learn from like-minded individuals on how they solve problems, then they are able to use these skills in other situations to advance their education even further.
The Don’ts of Peer Learning
Working together is great, but the teacher should still be a part of the class
  • Don’t allow bullying –
    In some cases peer learning can lead to one person bullying another. This typically happens when one student is struggling with a particular subject and is being tutored by a peer who is better able to grasp it. When one student becomes frustrated with the other, they can begin to bully the student which can have adverse effects. As a teacher, it is important to watch for these signs and stop the peer learning before it gets worse.
  • Don’t rely solely on peer learning –
    Teachers sometimes rely too heavily on peer learning and step back from their role as administrator of the classroom. This can also have adverse effects because students will not receive knowledge from the teacher that they need to get the most out of their education. A good balance is imperative with peer learning and classroom learning with a teacher.
As a teacher, finding a way to incorporate peer learning into the classroom is a good way to mix up the curriculum and teaching methods so students can work together more and enjoy their classroom time. To do this most effectively it is important to balance between lectures and one-on-one lessons with a teacher and work in peer groups. 

This guest post was written by Aileen Pablo who actively blogs about education. She uses research from:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Technology and Our Memories

Who was the 30th president??
I don't think students need to memorize everything. I distinctly recall numerous teachers telling me not to worry about memorizing dates and facts. It was much more important to them that I understood the basic ideas rather than exact facts. "If you ever need need to know how high Mount Everest is, or how many wives King Henry the VIII had" they explained, "you can look it up in an encyclopedia."

In this day of smart phones most of the time we don't even need to find an encyclopedia. We turn to Google or Wikipedia and find the information we need, and usually I am OK with this.

Many students take this one step further. They don't even feel the need to take notes. Instead they use their smart phones to take a picture of the board.

While I do encourage the use of Google or Wikipedia to help a student understand a basic grasp of something, is technology altering the way our memories work?

A recent study done by Fairfield University shows that when students take a picture of something they are LESS LIKELY to remember it later. This "photo taking impairment effect" is something I discuss with my students the first day.

If they take a picture, and then go home and re-write the notes they will likely remember the information. However, simply by taking the picture they are, in part, telling their brain the information is stored elsewhere and they do not need to remember it.

What about Google? Is Google making our memories weaker? It turns out there are good parts and bad parts to the ease of accessing information online. Since our memories are fallible, it is a way to double check things and be sure that we are using the correct data.

On the other hand, when students aren't taught to properly weed through information on the internet it is very probable that they will find false information and reinforce that. Also, the lack of a basic set of knowledge makes comprehension of the topic (and thus deeper level thinking) much harder to achieve. The infographic below is from and does a pretty good job at showing some of the affects.

Google and Your Memory

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Alphabet Books Year 2

This year will be the second year my students have the chance to send their books around the globe. Again, I am asking for teachers who would be willing to take a student made book and try to work it into their class. The books are simple alphabet books often including a rhyme, and always including pictures! Assuming we get the budget approved, we will try to send the books to 14 different schools (it may be less). In addition I get to send eBooks to schools! All I ask for in return is that you take a picture or video of your students with the books. If you are interested please fill out the following form. The books should be done and sent out by May, 2014!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Common Application Mistakes to Avoid

I have an earlier blog post where I discuss EFL resumes specifically. I still think that this has solid advice, but this infographic goes in further detail about ten common mistakes people make. Avoid these and you're that much closer to getting the job.

There are some mistakes that applicants commit causing them to never get a call back from an employer.

The biggest mistake an applicant can make is not following the instructions on an application. The instructions are there so employers can see if an applicant can follow directions and if they have an attention to detail.

Also, leaving fields on an application blank can result in not getting a call back. Leaving blank fields indicates a lack of attention to detail. Even if the information is included on a job resume, applicants need to rewrite that information into the proper fields on the application and never write “see resume” to forward the employer to a resume.

Lastly, turning an application in past a hiring deadline is never a positive way to influence an employer. Employers set deadlines to see how well an applicant manages his or her time and whether or not they can meet deadlines if they’re hired.

Created by the team at Recruiterbox.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Is your class addicted?

What do you think of when you hear about an addiction?

Have you ever been addicted to something?

What are the most common addictions?

Most of your students can relate to the concept of having an addiction, so I find this is always a nice topic to use with a conversation class, and since there are lots of related news articles you can find it is also nice for a reading or listening class.

You can start with some of the questions above. I normally give my students a blank chart. On the board we discuss different things people can be addicted to, be sure to include some "soft" addictions like shopping or working out.

Students pick ten and write them down in their chart. Then we try to figure out how many times a
week makes it an addiction.

For example, does being on the internet for 10 hours a week make you an addict? What about 20? What about 40? Are there exceptions? What if your work requires the internet?

How many alcoholic drinks can you have a week before you become addicted?

How many video games can you play before you become addicted?

etc. etc.

As a class have the students defend their answers and keep tally of the amounts (showing the class average at the end is always fun!)

I tend to pick one news article to read in class depending on their maturity level and interest. One my students normally like is about the boy who died playing video games.

After the reading we come up with solutions. How can we help people with addictions? Students answers tend to be very interesting!

In the end I have students pick an odd addiction (the TV show "My Strange Addiction" is available on YouTube and has some great examples). They then pretend to interview that person and write a news article.

You can learn more about Internet addiction and other process addictions by reading through the following infographic. Created by Valiant Recovery, treating the roots behind addiction not just the surface problems. For more ideas check out the infographic below.
You can also see some possible topics for mini-debates. Have students argue both sides of the topics that follow (be sure they know the vocabulary first!): 

I hope you enjoy these ideas in your class! My students usually find the concept that you can be addicted to something that isn't a drug really interesting and they enjoy talking about it.

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