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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Homework? Smile in the morning!

Grumpy-Cat-Purina

Have you heard that even if you fake a smile, you genuinely start feeling happier? At least that’s what American scientists say, but is it true?

Me and my B2 group have decided to give it a try, hence the homework, perfect for grey November:

Put a board with the word SMILE next to your bed and force yourself to smile as the first thing in the morning. Remember to make notes on your feeling! After a week we will check the notes and see whether we have felt happier or not really.

‘Teacher, does it include Monday?’ asked my student.

‘Monday, I believe, is absolutely crucial.’

Being a teacher = being a learner (HQBL: 1)

teach_learn

They say being a teacher is being a learner too, and I quite agree with that! So, when I saw a new course on coursera focused on Blended Learning I’ve decided to give it a go. Yay!

As the course is going to take 6 weeks, I’ve thought of sharing the ideas on the blog and give some examples of how they could be implemented in the EFL environment – I’m planning to experiment on my teenager groups who have already agreed and are surprisingly excited about it 🙂

So, let’s explore the idea of High Quality Blended Learning!

Blended Learning: Personalizing Education for Students by Brian Greenberg, Rob Schwartz, Michael Horn

First of all, let me remind you what blended learning is. Basically, it’s a program in which a student learns at least a bit through online learning with some element of control over the learning process (its time, place, path and/or time), but is supervised by a teacher. Both classroom and online learning complement each other.

Now, the lecturers define High Quality Blended Learning (HQBL) with the following aspects:

  1. personalization (a very learner-centered approach)
  2. mastery-based (focused on student’s achievement, not time)
  3. high expectations (student should have a clearly defined goal)
  4. student ownership (student is in control of their education)

The lecturers present three different HQBL models along with real-life examples:

Station Rotation Model

Here students rotate on a fixed schedule between different learning stations, and at least one of them is online. Other stations are usually small groups work, group project, individual tutoring, pencil-and-paper assignments etc. KIPP: LA is an example of this model.

Lab Rotation Model

Here students rotate on a fixed schedule between a classroom and a computer lab where they study online; the classroom is generally reserved for other activities. The example of this method is Navigator Schools.

Flex Model

Here online learning is the backbone of the course. Students have customized schedules, but the teacher still provides face-to-face support (small groups or individual, depending on a type of the model). Summit Public School is an example of this approach.

Now, you probably think what I’ve been thinking: if my students were to work on any of the programs above, they wouldn’t know what to do! People used to typical school education (learning for tests, not for real life) may have problems with HQBL simply because they don’t always have their goals defined (a typical educational system does not require that) and, well, not all of them know how to be in control of their own education.

So, before I jump with both feet into HQBL, I’ve decided to start with something smaller: Flipped Classroom. Here students rotate on a fixed schedule between a) face-to-face teacher-guided practice in class and b) online delivery of content after school. Seemed easier for my students to grasp the idea of HQBL and somehow try to control the way they acquire information.

In order to move on, I’ve used one of my previous posts – a homework for B2+ students. In the original homework, I wanted my students to write a composition, but to make it more interesting I want to change it a bit and adjust to something reminding Station Rotation.

The students are still to find information about the incident, but I divide them into groups: the official-government-statement followers, the conspiracy theory supporters and the reporters. When they collect information (online) and decide in their group (see, groupwork) on their line of belief, they are to take part in a panel discussion (this form of discussion is extremely popular in Poland at the moment due to political issues). The reporters ask questions to each group (and dig into their theory, looking for weak spots) and finally every group makes a report of the discussion (online or pencil-and-paper).

Huh, seems like a lot of work, eh? I think it can be easily done in a 1.5hr classes and since I have the opportunity to do it next week I’m definitely going for it. For homework they would have to read about the incident. The stations would be as follows: online (to check more complex issues), small groups discussion (line of presentation / making questions as reporters), face-to-face teacher consultation (to check linguistic correctness).

Will it work? Hopefully 🙂 I’m going to update this post next week and write another one about the HQBL course.

Wish me luck!

Digit-all-love

wifi

Have I mentioned I’m a big fan of blended learning? I have even signed up for a course on coursera.org! Hope I will manage to finish it 🙂

Anyways, I was thinking about a nice topic for my blog (I want to put up a post per week, arduous work indeed) and I’ve come up with quite a controversial issue – mobiles and smartphones in the classroom… and my amazement when I learnt that a lot of teachers actually forbid the students to use them. Now, I’m a teacher who does that only during the tests and I rather encourage my students to use their phones in the classroom on a regular basis. And teach them how to use their phones to help them learn.

You see, the generation of 14-16 year old people is called digital natives, as opposed to us, digital immigrants, people who lived without the Internet. They are claimed to feel as comfortable in the virtual world as in the real one – but I find it quite hard to agree. I think being born in a particular environment makes you a native – but doesn’t necessarily make you feel comfortable about it.

I’ve played computer games ever since I remember and find common background with some of my students – but a huge difference is, when I was their age I played far more games than they do, while now they have a far greater variety of choice! The girls usually play the Sims, boys – MMORPG, CS or Minecraft (and now GTA V, I believe), and what about many beautiful games they don’t pay attention to? See, they are played by the people of my generation (30+), by digital immigrants who are still playing new games. Ask people in the game industry – the best target in the game market are not children, not even young adults. It’s us, digital immigrants. Fancy that, children 🙂

It’s the same with a smartphone/mobile phone/anything with Internet access and the classroom. They’ve had those devices ever since they remember but it doesn’t mean they know how to use them efficiently. I believe we – the teachers – shouldn’t forbid but we should teach them how to use their devices in a classroom and in a learning process. Let me present a couple of ideas focused on using mobiles/smartphones in the classroom – I’m not going to advertise any apps, just give general ideas.

  • Dictionary

The easiest thing is – they have access to their own dictionaries. That’s pretty good, especially that more and more children have problems with traditional dictionaries due to their lack of knowledge of the alphabet (it’s not funny, it’s the ugly truth). The more advanced the group, however, the more I recommend using English-English dictionaries (my favourite is thefreedictionary.com) and since from a +intermediate group I require explaining vocabulary in English, the students simply have to use them 🙂

My absolutely favourite tool. Sometimes I happen to make a quite well-known cultural reference and some students don’t get it. ‘Ohh, just google it, please‘ – is all I say. Or when we have a nice debate but we get puzzled over a fact-or-hoax issue. Let’s google the answer instead of stopping the discussion 🙂

  • Camera

Now, that’s a great tool! Making and recording roleplays, creating commercials and weather forecasts, etc. and any interview is better when recorded! Not to mention a delightful homework: ask a stranger how to get somewhere + record it.

  • Music

Sometimes a nice award for a good student is to let him play a song he loves most so that we can all listen to it (and then say what’s the song about). Sometimes it’s just a nice idea for a break – to listen to a song. Or sing something, especially around Christmas (just not Last Christmas…).

  • Films/Presentations

The role of films – and youtube in general – may be a blessing in a classroom without an interactive whiteboard/ projector. It’s quite easy to tell the students to watch a short film focusing on a lesson’s topic. But we may also show them some lovely presentations on slideshare or some inspiring videos on TED.

  • Pictures

Apart from ‘you’ve got a new pet? show me, show me!‘ – we can use pictures students take in a classroom, especially in the exam-preparation courses, where the students will have to describe a picture on their oral part. A nice idea is also to take a picture of an everyday object but in such a weird way the rest of the class would have to guess what object it is.

Well, you don’t need a smashing new iWhatever to have fun in the classroom. This a nice step to bring the language to their everyday life and have both extreme fun (will never forget some films my students made!) and real learning – because when using their devices it’s THEM who do the job. And that’s the proper way of teaching, isn’t it? 🙂

Scaredy Cat: roleplay and/or creative writing

Scaredy Cat is a project by Heather Franzen and I must say I fell in love with it the moment I saw it – in fact I’m going to buy this tiny book because it’s cute, adorable and I simply want to have it on my own 🙂 Now – it’s a lovely story and let me share its sweetness with you:

sc1sc2sc3sc4sc5sc6sc7sc8

I’ve come up with some activities for my students but as I don’t know them (students, not activities) yet, I have to be prepared for different attitudes. So, maybe they like…

Creative writing:

I divide students in three groups. One group describes the story from the kitten’s point of view, second group – from the cat’s viewpoint and the third group writes a narrative.

Then, together, we make a nice story, with narratives and dialogues, mixing all three compositions.

Roleplay:

I divide students in the groups of three and ask them to make their own scenes (with spoken dialogues, of course) based on the story and record it with their phones. The groups of three – where the third person is a director and helps to make up dialogues – are comforting for those students who hate public acting.

For homework, students may be asked to come up with the ideas for the story development: were the cats still friends or maybe the fluffy kitten became a witch’s cat itself?

So, that’s a small idea for a pretty funny activity 🙂

Mystery story writing (homework for intermediate+)

Dear students of groups H1 and H2S, you are to write a mystery story for your homework. I have decided to make you work on one of the most mysterious events of the 20th century – the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Since it is to be a mystery story, please, put aside your common sense and let’s dive into the ocean of conspiracy theories. Yes, prepare to be investigative, creative and ready to meet many creatures lurking in the shadows (mwahahaha). Ready?

First of all I want to you look up on the Net some info regarding Dyatlov Pass incident. The links I recommend as those which use nice conspiracy theories, are as follow:

Wikipedia on the incident

The Dyatlov Pass Incident, Scarier than Fiction by CloudedIntentions – 10 min video , but with a couple of drastic photos of the bodies found, if you don’t feel like watching – listening is OK

The St.Petersburg Times article 19th Feb, 2008

Naturally, feel free to use some other sources if you find these unsatisfactory, but try to use the English ones.

Now, here’s your task:

Imagine you are a person who saw what happened at the pass (an anonymous member of the ski-group/ member of the Mansi tribe etc.). You finally want to share your story. Write ca. 300 words

Deadline: 21/04/2013, stories are either to be handed in personally or published below this post, I don’t accept emails this time as they mysteriously disappear somewhere in the Net 🙂

To help you with this task, I will give you a couple of clues:

  1. Order the events (beginning, middle and end is usual, but if you want to experiment, go ahead ;P)
  2. Think about tenses (I recommend Past Simple & Continuous as well as both Past Perfects)
  3. Grammar structures (reported speech is unavoidable, you might also find relative clauses pretty useful)
  4. Vocabulary (remember: that is the story by a witness, some expressions concerning feelings are necessary, e.g. I felt a chill down my back/ My heart sank/ My body froze/ My stomach turned)
  5. Questions: you will have to answer some in your story –
  • Who are you and how did you happen to be near the incident?
  • What happened?
  • What happened after the bodies were found? Why didn’t you share the story until now?
  • How did the incident affect your life?

I hope you will find this task enjoyable and write amusing compositions. Have fun!

Homework for H1 students

I was looking for a nice video I promised you and I thought about Kuba and his coffee-drinking. Obviously, I had to go with this stuff 🙂

Now, that’s your hw: I want you to watch the video, understand what the girl says (shouldn’t be THAT difficult, but hey, that’s how real people speak) and write a short summary. Check the additional questions, please and be careful while doing science 😛

Caffeine!! – Bite Sci-zed

Have a nice Easter and see you on Wednesday 🙂

Oh, feel free to use relative clauses in your summary 😉