Job Interviews: A Student’s Guide (Part 2)

Earlier this week, I was teaching about work and interviews, which was posted previously.  For lesson material and ideas, please view “Job Interviews: A Student’s Guide (Part 1)“.  The previous lesson, looked at interviews and provided a good sample of a job interview.  We also looked possible questions and developed answers for this.  I also uploaded (with the learners’ permission) a spontaneous role-play dialogue between learners with the use of SoundCloud yesterday.  It was a good opportunity for learners to access their speaking and re-listen to this again.

Anyhow, today we looked CVs and the art of writing a good CV.  We started the lesson by reviewing which sections were included in a CV.  Some sections included: Personal Details, Qualifications, Experience as well as Interests and Hobbies.  These were elicited and boarded up, with language scaffolded such as reference letter, a referee, supporting an application, etc.  We also explored briefly language associated with describing qualifications: MA, undergraduate degree, college (or high school), etc.  The learners were making notes and writing down all the language, which was about to be put to good use.

The next part of the lesson, learners were handed out the CV Template (see below) and they were advised that they were going to ask each other questions associated with the CV and then write their partner’s answer.  Thereby learners in essence were writing their partners CV.  Overall, I found the learners were able to develop invaluable skills in the classroom as well as practice question and answer forms.  I always find it useful to highlight language appropriate for reiterating and checking spelling: “How do you spell …?” and wrote this on the whiteboard.

ELT Experiences – Curriculum Vitae Template

I never got round to showing a video related to job interviews but I was thinking about how not to do a job interview and the great Monty Python sketch was something that I was really considering but perhaps this would be developed for future business related classes.

As always, please leave a comment below and share your ideas or experiences of teaching CV related lessons.

Using Dictionaries During Classes: Lesson Ideas

Statue Reading © ELT Pics

As a continuation of the “Using Series” with my previous focus with the use of smartphones in the classroom in September, I am writing an update with the use of dictionaries during lessons.  Last week, I was teaching a group of Intermediate level learners and I walked in the classroom with Post-It notes and two dictionaries and had a successful lesson.  With this in mind, I would like to share classroom activities for developing dictionary use in the classroom (either monolingual or bilingual dictionaries).  Please find below ten dictionary activities that could be incorporated at various times during lessons.  These have been developed from classroom experience and learner interest in the various activities.

  1. Vocabulary Review Quiz
    • It is the end of the week and you have to review vocabulary with the learners that has either emerged or been explicitly introduced during classroom interaction or other parts during a lesson.  So how can you use the dictionary to review vocabulary at the end of the week?  Well, one activity that I developed last week was by getting individual learners to write out ten new words that they encountered during the previous lessons.  Once learners completed this, I split the class into two groups and get them to share their words with their team. The next stage was to choose a final list of ten words and then find their corresponding definitions in their dictionary which was provided earlier.  Next learners had to try to make five true and five false definitions either by choosing the in/correct definition or creating their own definition.  They then wrote one word on each provided Post-It note and then handed their Post-It note to the other team.  The team then chose a word and then the other team had to read out their either true or false definition and then word-choosing team had to decide whether the definition was true to false (in a similar way that Grammar Auction is held).  I was keeping a score of the results on the board and continued this until the vocabulary was complete and the winning team were those that predicted the most correct true or false definitions.  It was a great one hour activity and requires minimal preparation and is completely student centred.
  2. Dictionary Speed Reading
    • If you have a reading from an article, report, etc and you are always getting learners asking “What does    x    mean?”, then you probably resort to demonstrating this or eliciting from other learners in the classroom.  However, have you considered keeping a dictionary in the corner of the classroom?  You could get learners to run to it if they have a question about particular words or phrases, read the definition and then run back to their desk and then they have to say the definition as best as they can remember.  It will improve student-to-student support and autonomy and create an environment conducive for self-guided/directed learning.
  3. What’s The Sound?
    • Imagine you are planning a typical PPP style lesson and you would like to introduce vocabulary in a new and creative manner.  It would add a little difference to the usual matching the word to the definition style of activity.  With this, you have the phonemic spelling of words either written up on the whiteboard or handed out to groups of learners.  Students have to try to decode the phonemic spelling and try to write out the actual word and then find the definition in the dictionary.  It would give learners the opportunity to check their predictions with the dictionary whilst also finding out the definition.  It is a different way of doing the same thing but again with the use of dictionaries in the classroom.  You could either make it more competitive by adding a timer to the activity or splitting learners into groups and the first one to write out the actual word and corresponding definition is the winner.
  4. What’s The Word?
    • This activity is a combination of two activities above.  If you are at the end of the week or are presenting new vocabulary, then you could give learners a group of words or get learners to select a number of words in two groups.  Next learners have to find the definition and write it out in their vocabulary.  Make sure each group has different sets of words or this won’t work.  Next learners read out their definition and the other group will have to write out their predicted answer.  Give a point to each team for every correct answer.  The team with the most points is the winner.  At the end of the activity any words suggested which are incorrect could be reviewed or written on the whiteboard.
  5. Family Words
    • One thing to consider about the use of vocabulary is the use of collocations, prefixes or suffixes.  If you have a good Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, then you will be able to find some examples of collocations and suffixes.  If you are introducing vocabulary to learners but you feel they could find some use with regards to creating a word-tree, get students to find collocations or examples of suffixes.  Learners record these in their vocabulary notebook or worksheet.
  6. Dictionary Matching Race
    • This is an activity which is loosely related to the first as well as the fourth above.  In this activity, you split learners into two teams.  One group of learners have a word each, while one group of learners have a definition each.  The learners then keep their words or definitions secret but they are allowed to use the dictionary to find out which student they match with (word -> definition and vice versa).  Learners can consult the dictionary whenever necessary and again it will prompt learners to try to describe their vocabulary/phrase.
  7. What’s That In Your Language?
    • There are some learners that have a bilingual dictionary and they are very popular.  Even today when I was teaching an FCE class, one of the students whipped out an electronic dictionary to help with the writing.  However, as with any activity: there is a time and place for bilingual dictionaries.  One popular activity (if you are teaching closed groups: only one nationality in a school) is to get learners to translate vocabulary or phrases into their L1 and then translate it back.  First you could get learners to write out the vocabulary in their L1 on to Post-It notes which could be stuck up on the board or on a wall.  After a few days have passed, get the Post-It notes back and get learners to translate the L1 vocabulary back into English.  They could either use a dictionary or you could check their memory.  If they have difficulties, put learners into groups to help each other more autonomously.
  8. How Many Are There?
    • If you are teaching learners new vocabulary they need to be aware of the various word groups such as verbs, adjectives, nouns, adverbs, etc.  You could create a small template worksheet along with the key vocabulary with various questions about this.  For example, there could be questions such as “How many verbs are there?”, “How many adjectives?”, etc.  It is the aim for learners to find the answer to this (as well as write the definitions on the worksheet) with the use of the dictionary to help.
  9. Passing The Time
    • If you are dealing with irregular verbs, learners will need to know the Present, Past and Past Participle forms.  Learners will need a verb table for this activity with gaps between Present, Past and Past Participle verb forms with gaps in between.  Next, you handout the worksheet and learners have to (within groups) try to find out the remaining verb forms which are missing on each row.  For example, if you have three columns for all verb forms but only the Past Participle verb form, then learners will need to find the remaining verbs from the dictionary (as well as the definition which could be translated).  Students complete the activity and then compare their answers with the other learners in the classroom and then the teacher will elicit answers from the rest of the class.
  10. Opposites Attract
    • As above, the students will need a worksheet with one list of adjectives or verbs on one side and groups of learners need to find the corresponding antonym.  Students use the dictionary and then use it to try to find the antonym and then check within the dictionary with the definition for this suggestion and it encourages learners to use the dictionary more creatively.  It will also encourage learner awareness of dictionary use inside the classroom and hopefully provide learners with the foundation of dictionary usage outside the classroom.  Again, this type of activity could also be used for synonyms with a table completion exercise.
The ten activities suggested above are provided to encourage learner confidence with the use of a dictionary and hopefully provide the foundation for more dictionary usage outside the classroom.  If you have any favourite dictionary activities, as ever please share these in the comments below.
Some dictionaries that I recommend learners or teachers to get hold of include the following:
     

Halloween: Lesson Ideas and Activities

Jack-o’-Lanterns at WSI Korea © 2007

At the end of October, people around the world celebrate halloween in one way or another.  It is a strange cultural annual celebration which people dress up in various spooky attire and go trick or treating.  I remember last year when I was teaching a group of Russian young learners (around Halloween time) and learners completed various activities related to this spooky celebration.  Nevertheless, I am writing up some tried and tested lesson ideas, school activities and ideas to decorate the school which you could incorporate inside and outside the classroom (from personal experience) that would work quite well with various age ranges (young learners or adults).

Decorating the School

One of the main events about halloween (as with other festivals during the year) is decorating the immediate environment such as the school and the classroom.  You could get the learners to help you decorate the classroom and school to set the scene.  Have a think about iconic images that are connected to halloween which could be used as props for classes: skeletons, witches, black cats, etc.  You could get learners to create these iconic images of which could then be stuck up on walls or the ceiling.  When I was working at WSI Korea, all the staff and teachers prepared the Centre for halloween (see the picture on the right) with images of skeletons, orange balloons and a black background with stars and moons.  When the adult learners entered the Centre, they were greeted with skeletons and other paraphernalia related to halloween.  The decoration of the school prompted student interest in the various activities organised and were keen to participate with these activities.
Reception at WSI Korea during halloween

Activities and Materials 

Once you have got your learners to decorate their classroom, or the rest of the school for that matter, you need additional lesson ideas to develop learner interest, authentic conversation and motivation.  Some of the activities or material can be sourced from other places such as the British Council LearnEnglish website whereby there are various activities which could be developed for adult classes.  Some example lesson materials are below (please note that the material embedded below is copyrighted by LearnEnglish).
The first lesson activity below, aimed for young learners, introduces learners to halloween and the material prompt learners to complete a true or false activity and then compare answers.  A sort of guided discovery activity.  I can see the potential in the class for the teacher to either dictate the true or false sentences as well as rewriting the material for adult learners.  Again, all reference are with LearnEnglish © 2012 and some of the resources available on their website are great.
If you are teaching Young Learners you could get some songs playing in the background related to halloween and a great song is Thriller by Michael Jackson.  You could either get learners to practice dancing to Thriller or get them to listen to it in the background whilst students are completing various lesson activities.
Another video song that you could incorporate in the classroom for Young Learners is from Genki English and it is quite catchy.  I came across Genki English when I was working at the British Council Bucharest.
One activity to review and compare cultural differences between the celebration of halloween could involve learners writing about this before comparing their writing with their peers.  You could also stick up their contribution on a wall which other learners to read and you could then create a reading relay using the student writing (the embodiment of a learner-centred classroom).  Hopefully, the reading/writing activity will prompt authentic conversation and discussion between learners with the potential to review emergent language.
Apple bobbing competition
There are also some other materials that could be imported such as the use of flashcards.  Halloween flashcards are available from LearnEnglish, Bogglesworld as well as a range of other sources.  Please check out these websites for lesson ideas and materials.  For example, LearnEnglish offer a range of lessons aimed for young learners for various festivals in the form of songs, stories, etc.  Nonetheless, the flashcards aimed at Young Learners could be used for various games: pelmanism, memorisation games, etc.  There is the potential for schools to organise a fancy dress event for halloween.  This was incredibly popular with the adult students at WSI Korea and can also be suitable for young learners.  Give students time to prepare for the event and offer a prize for the best dressed ghoul, monster, zombie, etc.  The prize doesn’t have to contain any monetary value but could also be a good marketing event for the school such as publicity on the school’s website, free classes for the winner, etc.

Fancy dress competition during halloween at WSI Korea
Finally, teachers could organise a range of events such as “apple bobbing” or creating a “Jack-o’-Lantern’ (as seen in the picture at the start of the blog post).  You do need to monitor children if you are getting them involved with any form of cutting or creative activity as there is a danger with children using a knife, so perhaps this is something that is best aimed for adult learners.  The activities suggested, such as “apple bobbing”, is incredibly motivational as long as you get students into two teams and set a time limit to get as many apples out as possible.  Also be careful with the water and make sure you get a towel ready so students can mop their faces as they are bound to get wet.

Do you have any favourite lesson activities when you cover subjects such as halloween in the classroom?  Have you tried some of these activities in class before?  Please comment any answers or other suggestions you may have for lesson activities.

There is a wonderful blog post by Carissa about the use of stories for halloween for young learners (as mentioned in the comments below).  I definitely recommend reading this to get more ideas, thank you Carissa: http://eslcarissa.blogspot.mx/2012/09/halloween-readings.html

If you would like to add your contribution please comment below and perhaps we can create a wonderful resource for all you teachers around the world.

Using Smartphones During Classes: Lesson Ideas

ELT Pics – Technology © 2011

I don’t know about you but a lot of my learners have a smartphone with a camera attached to it.  More often than not, they have their heads down in their laps looking at their phones or updating their Facebook status instead of focusing during the lesson and completing various tasks.  This got me thinking about how us teachers could incorporate smartphones into lessons and I prepared some lesson ideas.  Anyhow, I suppose we are constantly fighting to engage learners in the lesson and getting them to complete tasks.  One tenet of Dogme ELT is to include the resources that learners bring into the lesson and if learners (both young or adult) have a smartphone on their possession, how can we exploit this piece of technology.  Here are some of the ideas that I have used in class before:

  1. Picture Hunt – get learners to complete various tasks by using the camera (if one is attached to the smartphone) to take photos of different things.  I have included some material below for those that are interested in this activity.  Basically, students have to take a photo of something circular, something that is red, etc.  It develops the learner’s attention to detail and improves focusing during activities.
  2. Role Scene Pictures – another activity for learners to exploit the use of the camera.  Learners take photos of particular scenes (once they have completed a story brainstorming session in class) and then have to produce the story using a set number of images.  Students could then email you the pictures for you to print out and then they can produce a storyboard which can then be presented in class.  A variation of this activity is to get learners to create the same storyboard by using a listening/reading activity from a coursebook as the basis of the story.  It provides some structure if learners have difficulty to creatively produce a story.
  3. Mini WebQuest – the most popular form of researching is through the use of an internet quest.  Learners traditionally use computers or laptops to find answers to particular questions or support their writing.  Obviously, learners that have a connection to a wifi (if one is available in your school) could use the internet to find answers to particular quizzes (such as the cultural quizzes that I posted last week – British Culture & About the Queen).  A variation of this activity is whereby learners take photos of the QR Codes spread around the classroom to find out the answers of particular questions.
  4. Creating and Writing a Blog – smartphone technology these days offer people to write blogposts on the go.  If you school has a blog, you could get learners to write up a blog post.  It could supplement some form of speaking, listening or reading (What do you do in your free time?, Describe your family, etc).  Learners then work in pairs to type up their blog post and then you could (if you have an IWB or projector) show each of the blog posts to elicit feedback or error correction.  A variation of this activity could include using Google Docs as this is now available for iPads or iPhones.  You could create a Google Docs account for learners to logon, complete their writing so that it is then available for printing and error correction the following lesson.
  5. My Music – you could get learners to describe what music they listen to on their smartphone to partners and compare different styles of music.  It should generate a lot of discussion and a lot of language for scaffolding.  Learners are keen to play music on their smartphones to the class.  You could exploit this by creating a music quiz (learners have to write down the name of the artist, the song and the year it was released (bonus points for this one)).
  6. My Pictures – as with the above activity, you could get learners to share their pictures either on their mobile phone or from a social networking site such as Facebook.  If learners are willing, they could show pictures of family, their hometown, friends, etc should these be available on their phone or their social networking site.
  7. Classroom Text Messages – this activity could introduce learners to text message language in English. I know in Korean that there are a lot of characters used to express emotion.  In English we use acronyms so this could be introduced at the beginning of the lesson.  The next activity learners complete is for students to share their mobile phone numbers with each other and send each other a text message.  Put the students’ phone numbers on the board and they can create a message to share with each other.  Give the learners space and this will develop naturally.  It will provide learners the opportunity to practice writing short messages in English and responding to them.
There is a template lesson activity for the Picture Hunt activity below.  I hope it is useful.
What do you think about the use of smartphones in the classroom?  How have you used smartphones in lessons before?  Do you have another activity that has worked well in the past which you would like to share?

As ever, please share your ideas, experiences or opinions below in the comments.

Some links as suggested in the comments:

www.voicethread.com
Google QR Reader

Puns and Riddles in the Classroom: Lesson Ideas

Yesterday, I blogged about using some quizzes in the classroom to raise learner awareness about British Culture.  In fact, quizzes and questionnaires could be used for a variety of different roles.  Today I would like to focus on the use of humour and riddles in the classroom to improve learner perspective whilst learning a foreign language.  Humour can play an important role in the classroom, particularly when interacting with learners.  It maintains and improves rapport, develops motivation as well as lowers the learner’s affective filter.

The first activity today includes getting learners to guess the answers to the following questions in the embedded document.  These questions were inspired by the Internet TESL Journal and their emphasis on jokes and riddles.  Anyhow, the learners are handed the following handout and they then have to think of suitable answers to the questions.  Get learners into pairs and working together.  Once learners have finished, you could get them to compare their answers to the rest of the class and then they have to work together to complete a comprehensive answer list.

The next part of the lesson involves handing out the answers in the form of a Wordle (look at the wordle image above), and getting the learners to link questions with answers, as well as check their own answers.  When I tried this lesson out with my learners, they were very receptive and they worked together and came up with pretty good answers (some correct and some worthy).

One final activity that you could include in the classroom could include dictating the following puns, students write out each joke and get raise learner awareness of double meanings.  The following jokes are some suggestions, with some more available in “Memory Activities in Language Learning” by Bilbrough (p.175):

  1. Two aerials got married.  The wedding was pretty bad, but the reception was great.
  2. One thousand pairs of underpants have been stolen.  The police are making a brief enquiry.
  3. Did you hear about the man who lost the whole left side of his body?  He’s all right now.
  4. What is the prisoner’s favourite punctuation mark?  The full stop – it marks the end of his sentence.
  5. The police have caught two men drinking battery acid.  They will soon be charged.
  6. Why did the man give up tap dancing?  Because he kept falling in the sink.
  7. Did you hear about the fire on the campsite?  The heat was in tents.
  8. Why is it a problem if you get sick at the airport?  It could be a terminal illness.
With my experience of teaching South Koreans, jokes seem to be rather a selective subject and some of the puns or jokes might not work with each class.  Nevertheless, how do you use jokes in the classroom?  Do you try to get learners to create their own jokes?  Are jokes an important part of English culture?  Can jokes be told across cultures?

Culture in the Classroom: Lesson Ideas

This is another blog post which is essentially an extension from the “A In The Life Of The Queen Lesson Plan“, which I posted up on ELT Experiences a number of days ago.  Personally, it is quite challenging to develop cultural awareness in the language classroom and anyway to improve learners’ knowledge of the UK it always a positive.  Some activities could include using a range of authentic British Newspapers (it is always better to have a selection of newspapers, rather than just one so learners are exposed to a range of lexis for the same story), incorporating music, videos or quizzes.  Personally, I enjoy the use of quizzes in the classroom and it is a wonderful activity if used as a web quest.

During the last week with my Young Adults at the British Council Bucharest, I decided to get learners more aware of British Culture through the use of a quiz, whereby they could search for answers on the iPads (lucky if your institution has them for use in class).  The quiz that I used included the following:

British Culture – Quiz

Students were keen to complete this activity and were happy to look on their iPhones or the iPads to find out the answers.  It really exposed the learners to British Culture.  The next part of the lesson focused on the learners trying to find out about their own culture and whilst working in pairs, would have to write up their own questions (practices question forms) and make a note of the answers on a separate piece of paper.  So I used the following template:

British Culture Student Questions

The final activity, once learners created their own questions, was that learners handed their own worksheet to another group and would then have to search for the answers.  This type of lesson developed learner autonomy and was incredibly engaging.  I hope you have a chance to develop this idea in your classroom and please let me know how it went.

For further ideas about developing culture in the classroom, I would recommend the following book:

How do you incorporate culture in the classroom?  What is the most difficult aspect of teaching culture?  What books do you recommend for teaching culture in the classroom?  What sort of activities do you encourage for learners to share about their culture?

The Value of Money: Post Lesson Review

The material used in the classroom.

I was teaching a group of Upper Intermediate adult learners on Tuesday and for some reason we looked at the value of numbers briefly (million, billion, etc).  The learners mentioned that they wanted to review the value of billion as it was different between the UK and the USA.  Here is what Oxford Dictionary mentioned about the value of a billion:

In British English, a billion used to be equivalent to a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000), while in American English it has always equated to a thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000). British English has now adopted the American figure, though, so that a billion equals a thousand million in both varieties of English.

The same sort of change has taken place with the meaning of trillion. In British English, a trillion used to mean a million million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000). Nowadays, it’s generally held to be equivalent to a million million (1,000,000,000,000), as it is in American English.

US Debt Visualized website

I was left on Wednesday wondering how to introduce this topic of a million, billion and trillion.  I remember looking at an Infographic about the size of a ten thousand dollars to around 114 trillion dollars.  The Daily Infographic is a wonderful website that reviews statistics, finance and consumption using images and it has some wonderful prospects for Upper Intermediate or Advanced learners.  I looked online for the dollar Infographic and found it eventually on the US debt visualized website.  There was a lot of information so I decided that I would print out the raw images and cut these up.  The accompanying text would also be copied and pasted into Word and will also be cut up.  What I ended up doing was handing out the images in groups of three to four students first and getting groups to guess the value of the ever increasing size of money.  Next, I decided to handout the accompanying text and learners had to match the text with the images (a sort of jigsaw activity).  Before checking answers, I got each group to compare their answers with another group and then elicited the correct answers.  It was a wonderful activity and it really brought on a new opportunity to review large numbers and it was also more visual.

When reviewing the lesson, quite a boring subject (introducing numbers) was brought alive by the use of an Infographic image and the accompanying text.  After the main activity, there was a discussion about US Public Debt and whether the USA will face a total credit meltdown, as those are experiencing in Greece currently.  Nevertheless, I have found that some of the Infographic websites have some wonderful illustrations and hope to use these in the future with various other classes.

Nevertheless, have you used Infographics in your class?  How did you use them?  Would you consider using them in IELTS preparation classes?