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Super Simple Summer Activities Series: Pt 1

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Super Simple Summer Activities Series: Pt 1

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3 activities to whet your appetite – more to come!

It’s that time of year again when many of us TEFLers are off at a summer camp or summer school. Our goals tend to be more communicative, the atmosphere more relaxed, our learners more energised. We may also have additional activities like sports afternoons and drama clubs etc.

Are you teaching YL this summer?

Do you have…

  • Large classes?
  • Mixed Ability?
  • High spirited kids on “holiday” with energy to burn?
  • No time or energy for anything that isn’t super simple and super easy to prepare?

I’ve got you covered with these no-fuss, low(to no)-prep, faithful old favourites.

Port – Starboard 

starboard_port_1_large_320wide

Picture source: https://www1.toronto.ca

 

What: Listen and do game

Who: Great for 7-11, but any age really

Resources needed: None, just space

As a kid this was one of my favourite games at summer camps. The basic premise is that a teacher/leader calls out prompts. The students do the appropriate action. E.g. leader calls out “port!” and the students run to the left of the room. Leader calls out “Starboard” and the students run to the right of the room etc. Last one to do the action is out. Last person standing is the winner. Simple. Adaptable. Fun. Super!

Upon googling this fabulous game I stumbled across this amazing resource , a list of different actions and extra ideas for the basic game.

I love the original game, but I love how the basic premise is so adaptable. Last week my 8 year old learners were doing animals and habitats but had so much energy to burn they could have run a marathon. We played our own version of port-starboard with connected animal and habitat vocabulary. It was a real hit!

Zombie

zombie

What: Vocabulary drilling with a difference

Who: 3-8 love it, but no reason you can’t go older.

Resources needed: Flashcards*

*Don’t have flashcards? No problem. Students could draw the pictures. Students could write the words on a slip of paper. No paper no pens? Also no problem. Students could choose an action and act out the word they are allocated (or choose).

The first time I did this with my pre-schoolers (as they were zombie obsessed) I had no idea it would become such a hit.

  • All students stand in a circle facing other (but could equally be scattered around a room or garden). Each student has a flashcard.
  • One student in the middle is the Zombie.
  • The student in the middle holds their arms up like a zombie and walks toward any other student. But, they must chant the word for the card that student has over and over in a zombie like voice. e.g. “appppplleee….apppllleee…apppllleee”
  • The child holding the apple card needs to say the name of another item being held up by another student.
  • If the student says another word before the zombie reaches and touches them, the zombie must change directions and head for the new word, again, chanting the new word. If the zombie touches the student before they say one of the words another student is holding, they become the zombie.

Super easy. Super adaptable. Super fun.

Enjoy!

Fruit Salad

fresh-fruit-salad-11284477825iWun

What: Vocabulary or grammar game

Who: All ages depending on how it’s adapted

Resources needed: Chairs

I think everyone knows this game, right? But maybe by a different name? It’s an oldie but a goody. and SO so easy to set up, play, adapt.

Students sit on chairs in a circle. There should be one fewer chairs than students and the student without a chair stands in the centre of the circle.

In the simplest version of the game the teacher would allocate different fruits to the children. e.g. walk around saying pear, banana, apple, orange, pear, banana, apple, orange until everyone is given a fruit. The child in the middle then calls out a fruit. e.g. “banana” and all the bananas must stand up and change seats. Meanwhile the child in the middle runs to an empty chair. The child left without a seat is the next to call out a fruit. for added fun, if the centre child calls out “fruit salad!“, EVERYONE must stand up and run.

I like to use this at the beginning of summer programmes to work out what learners can and can’t do. I get them to say anything at all about themselves and students, for whom the information is also true, get up and change. e.g. “I have a brother” “I like chocolate”. 

It’s so easy to adapt. Anything from “Stand up if you’re wearing blue”, “I’ve never been to Paris”, to “This time next week I’ll be on holiday”. Vocabulary and structures practices are only limited by the teacher’s imagination.

Enjoy!

Extra

If you do have time for a bit more prep, here is a summer school/camp idea from last year. Especially good for dog lovers!

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Panic in the UK! Easter lesson plan

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Panic in the UK! Easter lesson plan

It’s been about, I dunno, 300 hundred years since I wrote a blog post? I just haven’t had time. But…I’ve been meaning to for a looooong time, so when yesterday my learners told me they loved the lesson, I thought it might be the perfect opportunity to finally post something here.

An Easter lesson plan (and materials). Enjoy!

Easter News Lesson Plan

This lesson was originally planned for high level 8-10 yr olds

 

  • Warmer – set up

Write on the board: Noun, Verb, Adjective and elicit examples from the learners

Option 1: Board Race (learners are put in teams and take it in turns to write as many words as they can)

Option 2: Like the board race but the teams write on paper at their tables

Option 3: ‘Scattergories/ Stop the bus’. Learners divide a piece of paper into columns with a category at the top of each column. They are then given a letter and a time limit to write as many words as they can in each column starting with that letter

Categories for the above options are; noun, verb, adjective, Easter, wild card (any word in English).

 

  • Page 1

DO NOT tell learners what is coming next. Given them page 1 and ask them to fill in the words quickly – the first words that come to mind. Monitor and help as necessary e.g. they might ask what a ‘type of home’ means. But do not tell them which words to write. Fast finishers can help their classmates think of words, but otherwise the activity should be done individually

You can find page 1, here Easter News Page 1

Page 1

  • Page 2

Tell the learners to stop what they are doing (making sure they are finished) and come to the front of the class and to gather around as you have some news to tell them. Whisper to them that you have just heard that the Easter Bunny is missing and the police don’t know what has happened to him. Hold up Page 2 and give instructions for them to complete it (they should write their words in the gaps – exactly e.g. if it says the Easter Donkey delivers Easter tables, great 😀 Fast finishers can draw a picture in the box.

You can find page 2, here Easter News page 2

Page 2

 

To create page 2, I used https://www.presentationmagazine.com/editable-powerpoint-newspapers-407.htm

 

  • Share

The learners will no doubt want to share their funny stories. This can be done with their partner, in groups, or one by one with the whole class if the group is small enough and time permits.

 

  • Follow up

Elicit from the learners what might have happened to the Easter bunny. At this stage you might want to board ideas or start a concept map. Set up a writing activity in your preferred way (concept maps, building blocks etc). Learners either individually or in groups/pairs write either a follow up news report.

Alternatives: a story/narrative of what happened, a note/letter found at the scene written by the Easter bunny or kidnapper/someone with more information, the Easter bunny’s diary leading up to the disappearance, predictions about what will happen Easter weekend if the Easter bunny isn’t found, a police line-up of possible suspects (e.g. Jealous Santa, an anti-sugar Mummy, ETA, a mad scientist), a play or puppet show acting out what happened, an interview (e.g. a news reporter and witnesses, a news reporter and the Easter bunny after being found, a news reporter and police), a comic portraying the events……

 

Until next time…..

 

Číst či nečíst?

I’ve enjoyed my trip down memory lane this October with a month full of reading and graded readers.

My latest collumn in the IH Journal is 5 ways to use Graded Readers in the Primary Classroom and I’m travelling around the Czech Republic with the Oxford Primary Days professional development project talking about using Graded Readers.

This post serves as a reference point for attendees in my sessions. Below are hyperlinks to sites and documents I mention:

Stephen Krashen: The power of Reading

The OUP/ELT website

Big Read Junior – Useful videos to watch

Oxford Primary Days Teacher Development Session Handout

Using Mad Libs with Graded Readers

Steps for Teachers: Preparation
Step 1.
You could choose anything from the reader, or write your own summary. For the below I have used the blurb from the back of OUPs Read and Imagine 4 ‘Swimming with Dolphins’.
Step 2.
Type out the text and choose some words that might be fun to replace.

Dan the Scientist works with dolphins. Ludo the dolphin is under the water and can’t breath, so Rosie dives in to help him. But what happens? The sea can be dangerous – there might be sharks!

Step 3.
Work out what part of speech these words are and create a list of instructions for your students.

1 Your name
2 An exciting job/ occupation
3 Your favourite animal
4 The name of someone in this room
5 A noun/ thing
6 A verb
7 The name of your favourite person e.g. your grandmother/ bestie/ celebrity etc
8 A verb
9 A place
10 An adjective
11 Something scary

Step 4
Copy and paste the text to a document which will become a worksheet for the learners. Remove the words from the text. Number the spaces. You might like to use your creativity and make it look like the back of the book (it could also be made to look like a newspaper/ magazine article about the book, email to a friend about the book, page of the book etc)

(1___________) the (2__________) works with (3_________s). (4__________) the (3__________) is under the (5__________) and can’t (6_________), so (7_________) (8__________s) in to help him. But what happens? (9____________) can be (10____________) – there might be (11___________)!

Step 5
Create an example so that you can show your students that it’s ok for it to not make sense and be funny.

1 Kylie the 2 firefighter works with 3 monkey s. 4 Jitka the 3 monkey is under the 5 table and can’t 6 sing, so 7 Grace 8 dance s in to help him. But what happens? The 9 supermarket can be 10 fabulous – there might be 11 Spiders!


Steps for teachers: Executing the activity in class
The more this activity is broken down into steps, the better.
Step 1
As the students to write the required numbers on a piece of scrap paper (or you could give them pre-written questions. Just don’t let them see the text yet or even tell them there will be a text to follow. Keep it a surprise.)
Step 2
Learners fill in their words
Step 3
Give the learners the text. Ask them to fill in their words.
Step 4
Hopefully the texts are funny, so allow the learners to share them, if not with the whole class, at least with a partner.
Step 5
Elicit where is it is from e.g. a magazine article, blurb, email, newspaper etc.
Step 6
Point out that it is ok if things don’t make sense and are funny. Ask the learners, with their partner or a group to try and guess what the ‘real’ words should be
Step 7
If using the blurb, give the cover of the book to help after they have spent some time already trying to guess the words.
Step 8
Other reading activities……

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Using songs and chants in the YL classroom

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wpid-fb_img_1426189219067.jpgBoom Chicka Boom!

Thank you to those of you who attended my session at the IH Torun Teacher Training Day, April 18 2015. You will find a link to the handout at the bottom of this post.

Literature is full of references to the efficacy of music as a tool for both first and second language acquisition, but are songs and chants utilized as much as they could be in the second language learning classroom? I’ve loved singing and music for as long as I can remember, and been interested in using them in the classroom since I stepped foot in one.

How do you feel about using songs in the YL Classroom?

YL coursebooks are full of songs and chants. And why not? Using songs and chants as a pedagogical tool to teach children language is a natural and logical choice. Singing is a natural and popular medium for both parent and child and by the time children come to us in the second language learning classroom, they are often already equipped with a catalogue of songs, chants, and rhymes. Children live in musical worlds. In fact, according to research, babies as early as in the womb pay more attention to singing than speaking and it’s suggested that from very early ages there is little distinction between singing and speech.

Are you happy to sing? Why? Why not?

According to Trinick (2012), Lee believes songs are not being used as much as they should be in the classroom and suggests the root may be that they are viewed purely as entertainment, or that teachers lack understanding into the theoretical underpinnings or application and methodology. Could it be as Carless and Douglas (2011) surmise that the significance of the ubiquity of songs goes unnoticed? Trinick (2012) concurs and cites Tracey, ‘there is a tendency to overlook familiar, everyday materials and resources’. As Rogers (no date) attests, literature ‘abounds with positive statements regarding the efficacy of music as a vehicle for first and second language acquisition’. Indeed countless resource books for teachers, coursebooks, TESOL websites and blogs proffer advice, activities and encouragement*. *See handout link for resource list

Are you ruling the TEFL world Beyonce style in your classroom? Or are you pressing play on the CD and hoping for the best?

Maybe you do want to sing in class, and it’s not that you’re afraid to, but you just:

• can’t be bothered • don’t have time (you do one at the end of the lesson if you need to fill in time)

• aren’t sure what songs to sing

• aren’t sure how to sing the songs

• aren’t sure how to teach the songs

• have never done it before

• hate the songs in the coursebooks

• would rather teach grammar and other important things

• are actually a T-rex and therefore can’t sing. Or clap.

I urge you to think about using songs and chants in the YL classroom.

Why?

‘Children love rhythm, music and movement, and it is widely recognised that the use of rhymes, chants and songs contribute to young children’s overall social, linguistic, physical, cognitive and emotional development. When starting to learn a foreign language, rhymes, chants and songs play a special role in drawing children into producing language in ways which are natural, spontaneous and enjoyable. As well as enhancing children’s learning and acquisition of language, the use of rhymes chants and songs promotes the development of positive attitudes and motivation towards learning a foreign language in both immediate and longer term. Give their many potential benefits for learning, there is a strong case for making rhymes, chants and songs a fully integrated component of any programme to learn English.’

(Read 2007)

How?

It’s all about confidence, enthusiasm and having fun. Songs and chants are perfect for the YL classroom as they present language in a fun and memorable way and allow our students to experiment with the sounds of English. Many teachers, however, despite being fully aware of the potential of songs and chants fall a little short because they lack the confidence to pull it off in the classroom. Confidence and enthusiasm is key. Students need to know the teacher feels good about the song in order for them to. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a little off key and no Mariah Carey. Chances are your students won’t notice or will feel more comfortable knowing you are normal just like them. What will stop your students joining in is if they see you aren’t 100% comfortable. It’s fine to have a CD player for back up. But don’t rely on it, and whatever you do don’t stand at the front of the class lip syncing and conducting (but not actually singing) expecting them to do all the work. If you are enthusiastic and singing along you are more likely to get them to join in.

Want to know more?

You can read my 5 tips for using songs in my YL Column in the next issue of the IH Journal here ihjournal.com

You can get a handout on Using Songs and Chants in the YL Classroom here Boomchickaboom_handout_April2015

I’d love to know how you feel about using songs and chants in the YL classroom.

Until next time!

CARLESS, David and DOUGLAS, Kitrina (2011). What’s in a song? how songs contribute to the communication of social science research. British journal of guidance & counselling, 39 (5), 439-454.

READ, Carol (2007). 500 activities for the primary classroom. Oxford, Macmillan. Macmillan Books for Teachers.

TRINICK, Robyn Margaret (2012). Sound and sight: The use of song to promote language learning. General music today, 25 (2), 5-10.

Ziga Ziga ah!

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Ziga Ziga ah!

This year seems to be year of the project work presentation for me. In January 2014 I gave a short mini-presentation called ‘Bringing Language to Life’ at the IHWO DOS Conference in London. I wrote a ridiculously long blog post about it. Anyway, I was overwhelmed by the positive response so I wrote about project work for my column in the IH Journal and went on to give a full presentation on spicing up project work for YL’s at the 2014 YL Conference in Bristol. As luck (or bad luck in this case) would have it, we were running over, technology failed me, I was full up with a head cold and couldn’t hear myself speak let alone think or put clear sentences together etc etc, yes please do play tiny violins, I was really disappointed in myself. It ended up being a rushed mush of a few potentially good points hidden in the gabble. Well, that’s how I felt about it anyway, so I decided that instead of moping around thinking ‘Ohhh if only blah blah’…I would revamp it and give myself a second shot ready for the Akcent IH Prague Teacher’s Conference.


The Akcent Confernece has now been and gone, and a number of people from both conferences have requested the presentation. So below are the slides (for the IH Prague version) and here are my ‘notes’.ziga ziga ah IHP notes I must point out that when writing my notes I was flicking through the books listed at the end of my slides. I never intended to publish or share my notes. They were intended for my eyes only to read through before I stood up and did my thing, so there is no referencing or citation through the text, or paragraphing, proofreading, full sentences, any of that normal stuff. But you asked for it and I’m feeling generous. Just not generous enough with my time to change them in anyway.

 

Until next time…

 

Bringing Lasagne to Life: A ridiculously long blog post

One of the best things about working for IHWO is their conferences. I have to tell you, be jealous folk, be very jealous, as the IHWO 2014 DOS conference certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s right up there with my favourite conferences of all time. Did I mention Patsy M. Lightbown sat at my lunch table. Twice!! Yes, THE Patsy M. Lightbown! This TEFL geek was in teflygeek heaven, I tell you. Bravo Shaun Wilden and OUP, Bravo!

As promised, (thanks for all your interest), I’ve logged on to the ghost town that is my blog (I promise to make more of an effort in 2014) and here I am, sharing my ‘speed dating’ presentation with you. Enjoy!

What was it?

The title of my mini presentation was ‘Bringing Language to Life’, or as those who’d spent the evening before at the hotel bar called it, ‘Bringing Lasagne to Life’. Either way, I took 3 age groups and 3 problems and presented 3 super easy media projects (so easy that even the biggest of technophobes can manage them, promise!).

Age Group 1photo3 ihdos14

Very Young Learners

Problem

This age group struggle a bit with CAE and FCE given they generally can’t read or write. Parents, however, want some kind of evidence that their child is learning and that their money has been well spent. And so was born the ‘end of year performance’ <sigh>. In my experience end year performance teachers fall somewhere on a scale between SDT and OST. Allow me to elaborate….

Behold, Exhibit A: The super-duper-make-the-rest-of-us-feel-bad teacher. AKA as the SDT. The SDT is an amazing teacher who works hard all year long to get the most language and learning they can happening in their fun filled classroom. The SDT’s students are equally amazing, how could they not be? The SDT spends months meticulously planning a spectacular end of year performance with hours and hours of rehearsals, quite possibly with props and costumes.

And at the other end of the end of year performance spectrum we have the debatably more common, Exhibit B: The oh-shit-is-that-today teacher. AKA as the OST. The OST really doesn’t give a hoot about the end of year performance. They followed the coursebook. Most of the time. Kept the kids alive. What more do you want? Besides, their class love singing ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’. Again. And, if you, their DOS, will be there, what the hell, they may even push out the boat and throw in some actions too.

Many a great YL teacher started an SDT. Slowly though, teyl-land eats away at them and even the most passionate and dedicated will likely have at least one OST experience. Why? Because they know what we all know in the TEYL world: regardless of whether they had an SDT or OST, 90% of the time, (possibly higher) the little darlings stand there staring at the floor. Or, at best, sing ‘heads, shoulders, knees and poo’. Because, let’s face it, that’s hilarious! It’s at that point some of us realise, it wasn’t just for the parents, we could have done with some sort of feedback on our hard work throughout the year too. <insert virtual hugs for all>

A few years back I had a super amazing class of 5 year olds. It was their first year learning English and they were fab. Naturally then, leading up to open door week, I couldn’t wait to see the look of pride on each parent’s face whilst observing their child’s brilliance. I think you can guess where this is going. Did they shine and glow and woo us with their very presence? Of course they didn’t. They mucked about, ignored me, threw things or stood silently and even said loudly and clearly to me in Czech (on more than one occasion throughout the lesson) ‘Nemluvim Anglicky’, I don’t speak English. The parents actually didn’t mind. They gave me a sympathetic look. The kind you might give to Brad Pitt’s character in 12 monkeys. I couldn’t quite believe my 8 little monkeys had let me down. Where did I go wrong?

Solution

An end of year film premiere!

For the final month of the school year, I spent one of the two 45-minute weekly lessons working together with the class on our ‘movie project’.

1. They voted for their favourite book. Hungry Caterpillar! (woohoo! My favourite too).

2. We spent every lesson leading up to the premiere on language work. It was both explicit and integrated. We worked on obvious language points from the book (colours, days of the week, food etc), language for project work and language that came up and was requested by the students. I was pleasantly surprised at just how much language they asked for and used because they really wanted to communicate with me and be involved. In my eyes it was a successful project even without the end product.

3. The kids drew and cut out pictures for the story. I gave them all some blue tack and they decided where the pictures would go on a back drop, as I read out the story.

4. The kids took it in turns to take photos of the backdrops with the pictures tacked on. Between you and me, I had to retake quite a lot of the pictures, but they think they took them, and that’s the main thing. They decided, on their own, that they would say the words ‘ready, picture, go!’ just before taking each picture (which was a cue for the other students to move out the way). How super cute is that?

5. I showed them all the pictures on a slide show and informed them we needed sound. I’d found 5 different ‘garden’ sounds on the internet the night before the lesson which I let them listen to and choose which one they liked. They talked to each other in Czech about what they could hear and asked me how to say different things in English e.g. ‘Cricket’ ‘frog’ ‘wind’ (I always pretend I can’t speak any Czech. Not at all difficult given my current…ermm..abilities) .

6. Using an MP3 player I recorded the students telling the story. The first recording was mayhem as the kids fighting over what was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and who said what better, so in the end, we agreed that each student would take it in turns. I wanted motivation to remain super high, so I didn’t do any correction. Plus, I think it’s cute on the final video when you hear one little girl repeatedly say caterpilly and a little boy in the background explain to another little boy (in Czech) that the caterpillar is very hungry.

7. I put the pictures together into a slideshow using picassa (a free photo editing program). I then added the MP3 file of the kids reading the story and changed the speed of the slide transitions so that they matched the recording. I also chose different kinds of transitions e.g. zooming in and out, so that it looked more movie like. Once I was happy with this I added some subtitles, for the parents. This part of the project was done by me, obviously. Trust me though, it was all very easy. Matching the slide transitions to the voice over was time consuming but easy. Probably even easier for someone who actually knows what they are doing 😀

I really wanted to include the kids as much as possible and feel proud of everything they’d had a hand in, and no movie is complete without credits, so I took the kids to the computer room, showed the draft of our movie/slideshow on a big screen using a data projector, and let them choose the fonts for credits. They LOVED seeing their names on the big screen.

Finally, I added photos of the kids actually doing the project at the end of the ‘movie’. I did this in the computer room with the kids watching on the big screen and we discussed what they were doing and the project in general. I asked them what song they wanted for these final photos and they replied ‘apples’. No idea what they wanted. I had the Andrews Sisters ‘Don’t sit under the apple tree’ on my laptop, so I added that. They liked it because it had the word apple in it. Youtube on the other hand didn’t like that bit :/ So I’m not going to breech copyright and include a link to the video here. You’ll have to use your imagination 😀

8. Now that the kids had seen the draft, they were super excited, so we made event posters, invitations and tickets.

9. On the day of the premiere, we set the computer room up with rows of seats and red carpet and of course a big screen. We had ‘paparazzi’ and I invited everyone who was in the staffroom and offices etc at the time. One by one I invited each child to walk in on the red carpet. The crowd clapped and cheered. The paparazzi snapped. I couldn’t stop smiling watching their little faces beam. During the movie the kids couldn’t keep quiet ‘Mum, I took that photo’ ‘Mum, I drew that egg, I wanted to use an Easter egg by Teacher Kylie told me it should be a caterpillar egg’, ‘Mum, it turns into a caterpillar at the end’, ‘shsssshhh, don’t tell her the end, it’s only hungry now’ etc etc. The room was buzzing and it was the cutest thing ever. The kids were talking to their parents in Czech, but, it was obvious to the parents that in English lessons, a LOT happens in English.

Age Groupphoto4 ihdos14

8-12

Problem

‘What do we use English for?’ They haven’t quite turned ‘sour’ just yet. They are potential teacher pleasers, but they don’t really know why they should bother learning this weird language with funny spelling.

Solution

I did what many YL teachers, including myself, have done before: A class comic.

The example I gave at the conference was my favourite of all time titled ‘Magic Planet’. The main characters, Matej the Wizzard and his pet lion Mr Sock aka The Strongest Lion in The World  lived together, as best friends, in Bradavice castle (google translate it J) on ‘Magic Planet’. Matej and Mr Sock both love aliens, pizza, trains and dinosaurs, naturally, and so like to pass the time by travelling to earth in their spaceship to see different time periods.

The first part of the project involved creating the characters, adjectives to describe them etc and deciding where they live and what they like to do. Then, after each unit in the coursebook we added a new chapter to our comics. The successfully used past simple to talk about dinosaurs and made interesting predictions about the students of the future. The most interesting chapter was when their assistant, Mrs Kylie, got stuck in a train toilet and had to be rescued by Mr Sock…..you’ll see in a moment where I’m going with this…..

We didn’t use any fancy apps or programmes. Students designed their own costumes which they brought to class with them on project days. We drew up some story boards, then went out into the garden and took photos of the students acting out the scenes. (Yes, I did. Yes, I was). These were then posted into a word document and the students then added speech bubbles to each photo. Students were allowed to ask me for vocab (which they did) and encouraged to use spell check and ask each other for proof reading etc. At the end of the year, chapters were collated into a book, leaving students with not only something to take home and be proud of, but a record of the language points and new vocab they’d covered throughout the year.

Age Groupphoto5 ihdos14

Teens

Problem

Err, where do I start? No, seriously. ‘Bored’ doesn’t even cut it, right? How many times can the present perfect be covered, anyway? Anyone who teaches teens know that they know everything, right? so why are we wasting our time revising all this stuff?

Teens always seem to want to escape whatever it is they think you’ve got planned for them. My teens always wanted to do Aussie slang. It’s flattering the first time they ask, and I think they really do enjoy it (more so than other ‘escaping from the coursebook’ activities anyway), but what for? Will they ever need to know or use the expression ‘Fair dinkum, mate. She’ll be right!’?

Solution

An Aussie soap opera. I’ve done this many times and most teens love the idea of learning some Aussie slang and then using it to write an Aussie Soap Opera (I’m looking at you Alf Stewart). What they probably don’t realise is that for me, it’s all about the process. I couldn’t care less what they come up with. I once cried with laughter when  an aptly named protagonist , Bruce, told the guy working at the Bottlo to ‘pash my ass ya flaming galah’. For this particular group, I did explain that a ‘pash’ wasn’t quite the same as a kiss, but largely I let them write whatever they want. My objective is always to get them working collaboratively and speaking in English throughout the project. I do this two ways. I have designated ‘English only’ parts of the project, which of course means a little preparatory language work, and we practice a kind of cooperative learning (correct me if it’s called something else). Within each ‘Production Team’, students have specific jobs e.g. the screenwriter, the manager, the PR person etc. Each student is responsible for making sure their part of the project runs smoothly. Managers make sure each person speaks English, screenwriters make sure everything is recorded in written down, PR people feedback to the teacher etc. It’s fabulous for mixed ability classes. Each student can shine as not only a language learner, but as a person. What I often find is that in the end, the teens really don’t care about recording the soap, they just enjoy the process.

 

What’s in a word?

One concept – many ways…

I recently attended IHTOC3. The International House Teachers’ Online Conference. A biannual event and the third of its kind since it’s inception – organised by IHWO superstars Neil McMahon and Shaun Wilden. This time around it was available and free for all (not just IH staff) and we were treated to two full days of fantastic sessions including a closing plenary from the fabulous Jeremy Harmer.Image

As well as thoroughly enjoying being a participant, on the Saturday I moderated one of the sessions, and on the Friday I gave my own session on Social Media and YL.

Something interesting happened during a number of sessions. Something almost as interesting as the (very exciting) launch of ‘MY Words’, the new IHWO App for students (check it out, seriously, check it out, it’s very cool). Participants picked up on certain words, got quite excited about them, and just ran with it. For example, during Shaun Wilden‘s (great) session, we all loved and got carried away over the word chimping (who doesn’t love a word that is new and sounds silly?) and during my session many commented on my use of the word ubiquitous when describing social media. At first I was taken aback as I thought the word itself was ubiquitous and didn’t get why it was singled out. After all, it’s not new or funny like ‘chimping’? But then I remembered the concept of ‘favourite words’.

We all have favourite words don’t we? Words that sound funny, sound nice, mean something nice, or just look good on paper. I’ve always like the words ‘fabulous’ and ‘splendid’, as to me, the word fabulous sounds fabulous when you say it and the word splendid sounds splendid when you say it. I also have words I hate. Crisps. Eww! I hate saying it. I hate hearing it. I hate the way it looks on paper. I much prefer the Aussie ‘chips’.

Every year I do a Vocabulary workshop for new teachers at IH Prague. At the beginning of the workshop I ask the teachers to write down their favourite word on a slip of paper (an idea I got from Shaun Wilden many years ago). I then use those words to demonstrate a whole range of vocabulary activities and games to use in class. Every year it’s fun. But 2 years ago was the best. 2 years ago the favourite word belonging to one of the teachers was new to many of us. It sounded funny, it had an explanation that made many of us blush, and it was promptly followed by an array of interesting uses, conjugations and jokes etc.  Participants couldn’t get enough of using this ‘funny & new’ word. In fact, many of the teachers still joke and laugh about it. (The word was clunge – thank you, your awesomess, aka Perran).

Since words are so ubiquitous and so much fun, I’ve decided to write a post for you to chimp around, with some basic ideas for every age group to help us take advantage of our fascination with words.

Favourite word (4-8)

ImageThe lower end of this age group won’t necessarily understand the concept of ‘favourite word’ in the same way we do, but they appreciate things that sound funny.

Get each learner to choose their favourite English word.

Choose a simple nursery Rhyme e.g. Baa Baa Black Sheep or London Bridge

Children sing the song repeating the ‘favourite word’ throughout. I once had a 7 yr old who loved the word ‘hat’ he loved saying it over and over and loved drawing hats on everything. Any team games he wanted the team name ‘hat’ or ‘Mr hat’.

So his song would be…

(To the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep)

Hat Hat Hat Hat hat-hat-hat-hat HAT! Hat-Hat Hat-Hat Hat Hat HAT!

Mine might be…

Fabulous Fabulous Fabu fabu fabulous, fabulous fabulous fab fab fabulous!

The whole class sings each song, then the next child’s song and the next until each child’s word song has been sung.

WHY? The children will like the repetition, they’ll like to hear their own song, it’s a nice way to experiment with the sounds of English, it’s fun and most of all it’s silly! and who doesn’t love silly?

Favourite word (6-10)

This age group is more likely to understand the concept of having a favourite word, but might be lacking the linguistic knowledge and skills to use it. This age group generally love drawing and being creative, so why not utilize that.

GetImage the students to ‘draw’ their favourite word. They can make big posters using decorative lettering or pictures (e.g. use drawings of snakes to letter the word snakes) or they can draw pictures around the word. They could even write their favourite word over and over again to make a picture.

Students can give presentations about their favourite word. They can ‘teach’ the class their word – pronunciation, spelling etc. You could have a spelling bee with all the favourite words?

Put all the posters on the wall.Image

Encourage other students to use the ‘favourite words’ when giving examples of language in other lessons. e.g. ‘I like snakes’ ‘I saw a snake’ ‘Snakes can’t run’ etc

Why not use a program like wordle and put all the students favourite words into a poster.

‘Favourite words can be updated each week, month, unit of the class book, semester… Whatever suits.

WHY? It gets the learners interested in words. The shape of words, the way they look and sound and that they can be fun.

Favourite word (8-12)

8 to 12 yr olds are more likely to be able to use favourite words and have some fun with them, but why not use their ‘favourite word’ to teach other words?

Students write (their own) sentences using new vocabulary learnt in a lesson.

They then replace the new vocabulary with their ‘favourte word’.

Students read out their sentences (or write them on the board) for the rest of the class to get the ‘hidden word’. e.g. if my favourite word is ‘monkey’, can you guess the ‘hidden words’ below?

A tiger can monkey fast, but it can’t monkey

Yesterday I went monkeying at the beach.

I like to monkey TV

She monkeys a book every night.

You can chose not to conjugate the favourite word as it often doesn’t make sense – see above. But I find the students like it more when it doesn’t make sense and like to play around with the endings.

WHY? It’s a fun way to practice using words.

Favourite word (12-18 and beyond)

Get the students to write their favourite word down on a small square of paper and there you have it. A million and one potential vocabulary activities. The ideas are only limited to your imagination.

1. Get the students to write 3 words they associate with that word and play taboo

2. Get students to mingle and describe their word and other students must guess it.

3. Get students to tell each other why it’s their favourite word.

4. Students write description for a class crossword to exchange with another class.

5. Students are given a topic to talk about for one minute (randomly) then either their own favourite word or another students. While they speak they must include the ‘favourite word’ (which should be unknown at this point). The rest of the class tries to guess what the word is.

6. Get students to teach the class their word including all aspects of it e.g. meaning, use, pronunciation, spelling, part of speech, C vs U word families, synonyms,antonyms, idioms using the word…the list goes on

7. Pexeso (Pelmanism). My favourite. All cards (words on paper) are face down and shuffled around.  Students choose two pieces and turn them over. To win the pair students must use both words in a sentence.

If you have teen favourite words (or new teachers’) you’re likely to get some funny and interesting ones and this activity can be challenging and good for a laugh. During my ‘clunge’ workshop, one poor teacher turned over ‘scarlet’ (the colour of my face at this point) and ‘sphincter’ (and the new teachers seemed like such a nice lot). The poor teacher who’d turned these words over was Czech and had never heard either of these words.I don’t think she’ll forget them in a hurry.

WHY? Personalising a lesson with favourite words creates interest, prompts discussions, and paves the way for memorable moments. It facilitates learning and it’s fun.

There is (almost) nothing better than having students interested in words. Learning new words. Remembering new words. Using new words. Right?

So why not start using favourite words in class? and don’t forget to get your students to download the new IHWO My Words APP to record all these new words.

Until next time….

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