Make your own cookbook – project

cupcakes

Everybody likes food, even if not everyone is keen on cooking. Every EFL book contains a chapter about food and it’s one of the most popular topics – favourite food, dishes we hate, weird meals people enjoy around the world etc.

Food is also quite a nice topic for class projects, because there are so many ideas you can use: design a restaurant + its menu; plan a family meal for 12 people; make role plays focused on buying food/eating out etc.

You can prepare a “mini Master Chef” project, where students prepare simple things (like sandwiches) and then describe them using nice and elaborate vocabulary (lots of fun, even with adults!).

The idea of a common cookbook sprung to my mind when I was reading “Language Learning with Technology” by Graham Stanley and I saw one of the ideas. Then I thought about my lower secondary school students and a wild idea they came up with. It was a small group of friends and we’re all quite fond of one another, so let’s say I wasn’t overly surprised when they proposed a challenge – one cake per fortnight, homemade and delicious.

The first cake was made by Gustaw (a spinach cake and believe me, it was scrumptious) and then each of us brought something to share. It was a really nice idea, it was fun, delicious, and enjoyable – we had a normal lesson, but somehow it was different because, well, everyone’s happier after a slice of cake (and raspberries, mmm…).

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Gustaw, a cake and a knife

Anyhoo, after reading Mr Stanley’s book and his idea of creating a proper, albeit virtual cookbook, I’ve thought I might actually give it a go with the aforementioned group – adding some educational aspects to making delicious food. Simply – make a common website where everyone can publish their recipes, in English, naturally!

You can create a website for free on Wix or Weebly  and I’m planning to do it in October. I believe this project may be valuable not only educationally, but it may be a perfect portfolio my students may use even after they finish their course.

I hope you like my idea and enjoy implementing it in your course.

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Guess what I’m talking about – a nice way to welcome new students

In the book I’ve mentioned before, Mr Graham Stanley writes about an activity I want to use to familiarise my new students with our school – it’s a really nice activity for both old and new students and it brings some nice ideas for similar tasks and homework.

The whole task is based on listening for gist, but preparation is key: you ask a a few people from school’s staff to talk briefly about something (something I enjoy doing, a birthday present I really liked, my favourite food etc.) without mentioning what they are talking about. You may also take photos/videos of those people if they agree.

In class, play the recordings and ask students to guess what the person is talking about. Once they guess, play the recording once more and ask them to note down the words that made them think they know the answer.

The reason I find this activity useful is not only its purely educational aspect, but also the social potential. I’m planning to record short speeches by the people my new students have already met, so they’ll get a sense of familiarity (very important, especially for those individuals who join a group of students that already know each other).

To continue the activity, I want to make my students record themselves in pairs in a similar way and then listen to the recordings as a whole class activity (a very nice idea for getting to know one another). I also plan to give them homework of recording one person (a friend/a family member) and themselves – it’s a very good way to encourage students to record their own speech and work on their pronunciation.

I hope my students will find this activity as enjoyable as I do🙂

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“Language Learning with Technology” by Graham Stanley

Summer, chillout and sun – it means I finally have time to stay in and read! When my school bought a bunch of nice CPD books I snatched the one by Mr Stanley who’s one of the people I truly respect (I even wrote about his IATEFL plenary three years ago) and would love to read everything he’s written. I was sure I’d love the book…

…and since I’ve just finished it I’m happy to confirm my presumption.

The subtitle is quite promising – “Ideas for integrating technology in the classroom” and I’m delighted to confirm that this is exactly what the book consists of: ideas, examples, useful links and everything I love about a good “how to teach” book.

We have 11 chapters here, from integrating technology and building a learning community through particular skills, project work, finishing with assessment and evaluation. Each part includes several activities with examples and useful links. I’ll just mention the few of them I’m really eager to try:

Digital camera scavenger hunt (vocabulary):

Prepare a list of items to be found and photographed around school, divide the class into teams and give them 10 minutes to find and take photos of the items. Lovely warm-up for classroom vocabulary.

Learner-generated quizzes (vocabulary):

Ask your students to create quizzes for one another, looks like great fun and it may be even better when you make it a pairwork activity. The sites you may use are Quia, Quizzlet or Vocabtest.

Memory posters (vocabulary):

Pretty much like mind-maps, only your students may work in groups to create their posters which is way cooler and more interactive – just have a look at Glogster or Mixbook. It may be a great idea for a project work as well!

Authentic word clouds (grammar):

Paste an authentic text into a word-cloud creator (e.g. Wordle) and give the word-clouds to students before reading, so that they have to connect the words into a coherent idea. After some time you may help them by writing a title of the text.

Coded message trail (reading):

It’s like treasure hunt, only you create clues and use a QR code generator to code them. Next, you place the codes near the places you’ve chosen for a trail, make sure your students have their mobiles with a barcode-scanning app (at least one per group) – and enjoy one of the best activities, especially in the summer (in the city). You can find all instructions at QR Code Treasure Hunt.

Story Starters (writing):

I’m not going to describe the activity here, I’m simply going to leave a link to this magnificent activity and let you enjoy its endless possibilities (groupwork, homework, maybe a written composition for a test?).

Crazy tales (writing):

One of my most favourite activities – at least for my students – which I used to do myself. What you do is simply write random words in specific categories and then put them in a story creating a completely crazy, but usually hilarious, tale. I’m really happy I don’t have to come up with them by myself anymore, now I can use MadTakes or Crazy Tales. Yay!

Translates to SMS (writing):

My students crave for natural English and translating “normal” English into a text message is not only educational, but also highly enjoyable. I used to bring handouts, but now I can use Transl8it.

Phonetics apps (pronunciation):

I’ve always found it most problematic to help my students with pronunciation development, I usually recommended Spelling Bee you can find at thefreedictionary.com, but there are some useful apps my students can use: Phonetics Focus by Cambridge, Sounds Right by British Council and my favourite Sounds by Macmillan.

 

But wait, there’s more! No, seriously, there are loads of useful activities and if you’re into technology I’m sure by now you’re fairly convinced to get the book. But I guess the book is also for those teachers who don’t feel comfortable with technology, aren’t really sure what to do. I’m sure you’ll find here something you like – like I have.

Enjoy reading and implementing Mr Stanley’s ideas and if you liked this post, please, follow my fanpage on facebook for more useful stuff!

Cultural awareness in the classroom

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If I got a penny each time I hear I’ll understand English culture when I go there for holidays I’d be the richest teacher ever. If I got a penny each time I bite my tongue and do not engage in a lengthy discussion every time I hear this phrase, I’d be surprisingly wealthy as well.

Because it doesn’t work this way, now, does it?

Cultural awareness is defined as the understanding of the differences between oneself and people from other countries or backgrounds, especially the differences in attitudes.

Now, when an unsuspecting foreigner begins his quest he’s like a child, focused on himself, not on the outside world – he’s more concerned about his well-being, work. school, daily routine etc. With time, he begins to open up to the surroundings and that’s where the first problems occur, since it’s virtually impossible to find the differences between two different worlds when you don’t even know where to look for them. As helpful as they usually are, local people won’t be much of the help because they don’t know where to look for comparison – they need to know which one of the perfectly understandable issues (like the national hobby of queuing in England) seems strange to a foreigner.

Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge may grow into resentment, fear, sometimes even hate – especially now, when we’re being told we’re living in a global village and it seems the world is not much of a village with all the varying customs, traditions and beliefs; when there are people who claim multiculturalism leads to terrorism and for all of us, who professionally deal with foreign languages, it’s an obvious lie. It is the lack of cultural awareness that makes people scared, and it is fear that leads to hatred.

Our role, as language teachers, as people who try to overcome cultural barriers, who deal with a foreign culture even more often than their native one. Our role, I believe, is to show cultural differences, to explain them, to broaden our students’ horizons in a real world, not only in a virtual classroom of grammar and vocabulary.

The key to understanding people is their language, naturally – but there are so many sources on British, American etc. culture, comparative works – even classic comparison of the most common BrE and AmE counterparts may be a beginning to a lengthy discussion about cultural differences. We are the ones who may give our students the knowledge about the world they are trying to travel to, we may give them something to make their life in new conditions easier, more comfortable.

We may – and I firmly believe we should.

Nowadays, more than ever, our role is important. People who wouldn’t listen to friends will listen to us, even if it’s only to have an argument. It is our task to make people, especially the young ones – they seem cynical, aware of differences, but the truth is I’ve often been surprised by the maturity they can show. I remember when a transgender politician became quite famous in my country and my students found it quite funny, we talked about things we don’t like about our bodies (teenagers are really sensitive about it) – and then I told them: think about it, there’s only one thing you dislike when you look in the mirror, now, think about a person who looks in a mirror and everything is wrong, the whole body is wrong, it’s not really you – how terrible it must be…

They’ve never found the topic funny anymore.

Don’t like saying goodbye? Create a board game!

And so, we’re here at the end of the school year, our courses are ending, we’re moving on, time to say goodbye and so on and so forth. We’re handing out the certificates and then we have to do something to kill the time.

Some teachers go with the road so far activities, but I’m not really a fan of those. Who are we trying to fool, both me and my students are thinking about holidays and chilling out – I’m not really the most sentimental teacher ever, yeah, I know😉 I mean, I don’t mind most of my students, I even like some of them, but you won’t see me cry while saying goodbye. So, to avoid embarrassing moments and awkward silence, I go with a game.

Now, during the course all of my students had more than one opportunity to play a board game, so they’re more or less familiar with the topic, they know what they like (or dislike), so I spend a lesson (90 minutes is optional for a simple game) sometime before the end of the course on making their own board games (a nice group activity by the way) and after handing out the certificate I let them test one another’s ideas.

Naturally, I can’t just give the students pens&papers and tell them “now, make me a game”. There always have to be some rules and some issues covered:

  1. Brainstorm – a crucial stage, coming up with the ideas, plot, zombies, rainbows, puppies, tanks and whatever springs to the students’ minds
  2. Goals – some basic questions need to be answered, like – how many players can participate, how long does the game last, is it based on luck (rolling dice) or skill (answering questions etc.) or a mix of both and the most important thing: how do we win?
  3. Basic rules – it’s important to write them down and read them aloud to make sure they’re really simple, we don’t have time for overly complicated sets
  4. Sketch of a board – obviously, not many board games require no board🙂

Now, it may take some time, sometimes 90 minutes is not enough, so make sure you’ll have some spare time to finish the projects, I usually do the design part 2-3 lessons before the final classes, just to make sure everything’s ready. I want to share the simple Snakes and Ladders pattern a group of my pre-int+ girls played today. They had fun, so did I – and it was good to say goodbye after an hour of good fun.

Enjoy!

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Teacher Training Essentials by Craig Thaine

Photo Collage Maker_duTNaO

And so, for a while I’ve been a DoS at my language school (hence my erratic posting, let’s say I’ll try to stick to a post per fortnight, that’s more realistic, I hope). Now, I did expect working with teachers to be pretty much like cat herding – been a teacher for so many years I’m absolutely aware of some aspects of the job, but actually my fellow teachers are kind and patient and let me experiment with them a little bit. Apparently they are far less recalcitrant than I am.

I’m considering the idea of taking my DELTA exam this winter, but I’ll have to organise my reading list etc. as I simply can’t afford the course. So I’m self-studying and I’d like to review the books I’m reading. The book I’ve just finished is “Teacher Training Essentials” by Craig Thaine – a sensible position for all teachers, from pre-service to experienced ones. The book consists of three main parts, and each workshop includes trainer’s notes and worksheets (which automatically gives the book +20 to the general impression):

Classroom methodology

This chapter focuses mostly on teacher’s language (giving feedback, error correction, very useful), lesson planning, teaching particular skills, teaching exam classes (this is focused on FCE exam, though), exploiting authentic materials, promoting learner’s autonomy etc. While those issues may sound as if they’re good for a fresh teacher, there are some nuances appropriate for the more experienced ones.

Developing language awareness

This part focuses on, well, explaining grammar in such a way that students believe you actually know what you’re talking about. So, not only explaining tenses, but also making them aware of the context, functional language etc. I’d say this part is perfect for fresh teachers or, for that matter, native speakers (it must be really hard to explain grammar aspects you live with to students who have never come across e.g. Present Perfect before).

Background to teaching

I find this chapter most interesting, and indeed, all the workshops here are addressed for all types of teachers. Here we can find an overview of concepts connected with SLA, sociolinguistic perspectives, procedures associated with course design and – last but not least –  clarifying the role of test validity and reliability.

To sum up, I find this book really useful for EFL teachers at various stages of experience, you can find here not only ideas, but also help to conduct your own workshops, discussions and meetings.

And if you liked my post – feel free to “like” my facebook page and share your ideas with me.

Enjoy!

Facebook in the classroom?

Have you ever felt tired with your students checking their mobiles and Facebook updates in the classroom? Maybe you’re annoyed with their “I was just checking the word in the dictionary” when you perfectly well know they’re simply messaging their Facebook friends? Well, what can I say: if you can’t fight’em, join’em!

Naturally, I don’t encourage any teacher to ignore the students and focus on their own mobile during the lesson (though, sometimes, it may be a good tool, pretty much like pretending to be bored or annoyed with their whining). I’ve been using Facebook in my teaching style and here are some ideas I’d like to share.

Teaching sites

I love Facebook reminding me of new stuff the British Council publish on their wall (they have so many sweet profiles – for teachers, young adults, teenagers and people into English Premier League). There’s something new and inspiring every day, well, but since most of you found me via BC’s Facebook page, you probably know this. There are many sites you can use to get an easy access to materials, ideas, new friends and tutors.

IATEFL – a group for EFL teachers focused mostly on conferences, meetings and basically CPD. Highly recommended if you’re into this kind of thing (there’s going to be the big conference soon, with most presentations streamed for everyone to see, lovely thing).

Messenger

I find this communicator the best way to get to my students and vice versa: I often receive messages like “I’m sorry, I’ll be late”, “Forgot my books,  which pages should I copy?” or “Could you give me some additional exercises on…”. The key is to set your profile so that everyone can message you without adding you as a Facebook friend.

Groups

I’m pretty much into blended learning, so I usually experiment on my groups. With the group I share a flex model course at my language school I decided to try using a closed group on Facebook. At first I was sharing materials, presentations etc., but now my students share their ideas, photos, experiences not always connected with English, but always in English. I do realise such activities depend on the group, but I recommend giving it a go.

Own page

Having your own blog or website is a nice idea anyway, but linking them with your Facebook profile makes more people notice you and opens more possibility for discussions and cooperation. I’m planning to make my blog’s fanpage soon enough because on your page you can share things difficult to put up as a blog post – popculture news, posts of fellow teachers, some song, TED presentations and, last but not least, cats🙂

Truth be told, once you get into using Facebook in your teaching/learning process it is difficult to leave it – there are so many options, ideas and possibilities you could literally spend days browsing, learning, discussing and chatting. So my advice is: give it a go, but watch out as it’s a real time-consuming monster – our students know something about it!

Enjoy🙂