"Digital Video – A Manual for Language Teachers": Book Review

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 09.55.15

I jumped at the chance, having been asked to review a new series of eBooks by Nik Peachey, as I have followed his blog (Nik’s Learning Technology Blog) for a while now. Nik’s award winning eBook, Digital Video – A Manual for Language Teachers“, is such an invaluable publication for those teachers who wish to develop their technical skills related to video with their language lessons. It has recently won the ELTons 2016 for Innovation in Teacher Resources, so you know you can’t go wrong with this book. Nevertheless, let’s look at the publication in more detail and see what you get for purchasing this eBook.

The first chapter is a short introduction and history to digital video within the language classroom. Within the introduction, Nik highlights the reasons for authoring and the aims of the eBook. After this initial short chapter, there is short contents list of what is included within the following ten chapters as well as a navigation towards particular chapters. For example, if you want to learn a bit more about editing videos the reader is guided towards chapter 3. However, should you want to learn more about getting students to creating video with their mobile phones then the reader is recommended to read chapter 7 to learn more about student created videos and chapter 8 for activity ideas. The second chapter, ‘Video & Task Design’, is focused on selecting video clips to supplement lessons. There are three parts connected to this chapter: Choosing a Task, Task Design and Culture in Video. The first part, Choosing a Task, recommends useful criteria to consider when choosing a video clip such as selecting interesting content, keeping clips short, cultural references or overall quality to name just a few with some reasoning behind this. The second part, Task Design, looks in great detail at in creating some highly engaging tasks related to the video clip. It is incredibly useful for teachers wishing to incorporate and create their own personal lessons with online video clips. The third part, Culture in Video, obviously focuses on video clips and how they can make students more aware of culture.

The next chapter, ‘Video Tutorials‘, focuses on basic tutorials for the reader with seven key parts included. These seven parts include Hosting Video OnlineDownloading VideoEmbedding VideoMuting AudioSubtitles and AnnotationsCreating QR Codes as well as Video Slideshows. Each tutorial includes a link or QR code – which can be scanned – to a video tutorial. Each of the seven tutorials include a rationale and things to consider. This chapter supports the reader every step of the way and by watching each video tutorial, the reader would feel more confident while dealing with video clips. Chapter 4, ‘Approaches to Learning’, focuses on the integration between technology and video clips and online learning. There are four parts to this chapter and these include Video & Blended LearningVideo & Flipped LearningVideo in Task Based Learning as well as Video in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). There is a substantial focus on Blended Learning with much information for readers to consider. However, with each section, the reader is provided with additional background detail.

The next chapter, ‘Comprehension Activities’, is broken down into 20 different lesson activities which aims to focus on developing listening and viewing comprehension. As with previous chapters, each lesson activity includes a step-by-step procedure which explains to the reader how to stage a selected lesson. Chapter 6, which is called ‘Video as Communication‘, focuses on the use of online video and developing communication with an audience. The chapter looks at the various benefits of online communication, possible challenges faced with online video communication, advice on a good internet connection as well as tips on using a webcam for recording video. These two chapters naturally lends itself to Chapter 7, ‘Creating Video‘. This chapter assists the reader by looking at the stages required to create a video. Nik covers a lot of ground in this chapter to assist in the stage of recording a video such as different camera angles, the use of storyboards, editing the video or getting people (such as the students) to collaborate. At the end of this chapter, Nik offers a selection of topics which could be incorporated into video with students.

With Chapter 8, ‘Creation Activities‘, Nik provides the reader with additional activities to assist teachers getting students to create a video with over twenty lesson ideas. There are so many wonderful ideas for readers to exploit for use in class and each suggested lesson includes the key objectives and rationale, the language focus as well as the stages and procedures of the activity. There are also included with all these lessons, additional links to websites and other resources for the reader to view. The last three chapters, Chapter 9, ‘Cool Tools & Tips‘, Chapter 10, ‘Application Reviews‘ and Chapter 11, ‘Resource Reviews‘ focuses more on websites, tablet or smartphone applications and graded readers for use in the classroom. There is such a wealth of information provided in the final few chapters, almost 250 pages dedicated, that it would take a reader a great deal of time to go through each application and try them out for use in class.

Despite my personal confidence with technology, much of which is self-taught, I have very little confidence with digital video and it is an area which I am currently focusing on developing, with further focus on my YouTube Channel. However, this eBook lends itself very well for both the technological adept as well as those that need just a little bit of support. I have gained so many ideas from this eBook and I cannot wait to incorporate some of them into my future lessons. “Digital Video” is worth that digital space on your digital library and is really suitable for teachers who really want to try out video in their class.

5 Top Grammar Books for the CELTA Course

In this video, I look at my favourite 5 grammar books for the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course.

What are your favourite CELTA grammar books? Would you recommend any other grammar books? What grammar books do you refer to when preparing a lesson?

My Top 5 Grammar Books for the CELTA Course:
» Teaching English Grammar: http://amzn.to/1thGm56
» Grammar for English Language Teachers: http://amzn.to/25Sj2th
» Practical English Usage: http://amzn.to/1PkxZL4
» English Grammar Today: http://amzn.to/1YijxdI
» 700 Classroom Activities: http://amzn.to/1PkxIYt

How to Become an English Language Teacher

So you have probably been guided to this website as you are interested in becoming an English language teacher or involved in English education. Rather than write a huge post for those wishing to become an English language teacher, I thought I would share a short video.

In future videos, what would you like me to cover? I am seeking some suggestions for another video. Please leave a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel: ELT Experiences. I am hoping to get a video uploaded once a week based on your suggestions. Thanks for watching and I hope it is useful for those that are thinking about becoming an English language teacher.

10 Websites for English Language Students

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about 10 Websites for English Language Teachers. At the time it seemed to be quite popular with readers but it suddenly dawned that I did not write about any websites which would be best suited for learners of English. So read on to find out the 10 websites which I recommend for learners of English.

1. ESOL Courses

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 11.53.21

This wonderful self-study website, ESOL Courses, is great for students as all lessons are available online, there is no registration so lessons are free and they cover a range of areas as well as levels. I was first introduced to this website when I met Sue Lyon-Jones and she was referring to this website. I would definitely recommend students to look at this website and do some of the lessons in their spare time.

2. BBC Learning English

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 12.05.07

I have been using the BBC Learning English website since I first started English language teaching in South Korea. I always used to refer my students to it so that they could develop their own listening and vocabulary skills in their own time. The website has obviously developed and improved over time and there are now videos and activities.

3. Five Minute English

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 12.11.45.png

This website, Five Minute English, was one that I came across by accident and it contains quite a number of lessons which focus on listening, grammar, vocabulary as well as a range of other skills. It is fantastic and students can look at this website in their free time. The website is basic but content is good for students to study a little bit more after lessons and is invaluable for those students who have very little time for self-study.

4. ESL Podcast

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 12.55.03

This website, ESL Podcast, has small listening lessons for students to learn vocabulary and idiomatic expressions related to a particular theme. When students look at the lesson, there is a script. There are not any activities but it is just an additional opportunity for learners to improve their listening skills in their own time.

5. English Page

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 13.18.05

English Page is an engaging learner focused website which offers areas of study with grammar, vocabulary as well as weekly lessons. It is a useful website with exercises within the website so students do not have to download or print activities. This can reinforce what is being studied during lessons.

6. Flo-Joe

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 13.24.26.png

Flo-Joe has been around for years and I was introduced to it when I was working in Korea as it was the go-to website as lessons were associated with Cambridge ESOL Examinations and it still is. It is still an invaluable website for those learners that are preparing for examinations such as the PET, KET, FCE or any other Cambridge ESOL focused examination. Students will develop a lot of exam skills and they will be able to use this in their free time.

7. English at Home

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 15.46.43

English at Home is a great website for students as there is a focus on spoken English, vocabulary and grammar. There are lessons available but most of the activities are basic ‘choose the correct answer’. However, it is a useful website that students could use to refer to during their selfstudy.

8. DuoLingo

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 15.55.47.png

You cannot write a blog post for learners of any language who wishes to study in their own time without mentioning the great DuoLingo website/application. I have this on my phone whenever I feel inspired to study French or German. However, there are courses for students whose first language is not English but wish to selfstudy English. For example, a South Korean student can access DuoLingo and learn English with the ease of using their L1. You should definitely recommend your learners to access this website on their smartphones or on their laptop.

9. Breaking News English

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.20.35

This is a wonderful website for students who wish to learn more about what is happening around the world, with regular updates to Breaking News English by Sean Banville. Students have free access to all lessons and activities as well as the audio. Students may need some support and introduction to the website but you could always get learners to complete a listening activity as part of their homework and then share their experiences of learning through this website.

10. University of Victoria Study Zone

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.27.22

The University of Victoria has free access to a Study Zone and learners may benefit from the numerous online lessons. It is primarily aimed for students from the University of Victoria. This website has a lot of resources available for students with a focus on grammar, vocabulary and reading. It does require a bit of learner training but once students have developed confidence with the website, it could supplement lessons quite nicely. Lessons are organised into levels and there is also a grammar index.


As an idea for getting students to become more aware of online content to complement their studies, I try to show the websites in class with a class set of laptops or Chromebooks, students then choose a lesson, from one of the websites, to complete during the lesson. After they have completed a lesson, they then chat to their partner about the website and for homework I organise students to write about their thoughts of the self-study content and a review with a Google Drive document, which can then be shared to all other learners when they return to class another day.

What are your favourite websites to get students to learn English outside of the classroom? Do you recommend any that have not been mentioned here? Do you have any activities that you incorporate in class to supplement learner autonomy and training?

*An update to this post and to all my readers. I was nominated and successfully won the delightful Teaching English Blog of the Month Award. A huge thanks to everyone at the British Council for their support and massive thanks to all my readers, colleagues and friends for their help. To receive recognition for the work that I do and the blog that I maintain is fantastic, so a big thank you to everyone.

"When Vowels Get Together": Book Review

41EWbDRPBRL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_When I first started teaching all those years ago, I was not so keen on the teaching of pronunciation or phonics. It was after I returned to the UK, that I decided to learn more about the teaching of pronunciation. I also attended a training session by Adrian Underhill on the use of the Phonemic Chart and discovered that the area of phonics and pronunciation is not so difficult after all. Fast forward a few years later, having read up on many pronunciation books, I found the use of vowel sounds and their spelling still quite unpredictable. It was quite a relief to receive a book, written by Bob Knowles, dedicated to the sounds of vowels.

This book is called, as one would expect, “When Vowels Get Together” and focuses on “the different ways that vowels pairs can be pronounced” (Knowles, p.1). I was unaware how unpredictable and ambiguous the English language can be, especially when it comes down to vowel pairs. In fact, the other day I came across a video on YouTube which demonstrated this perfectly.

For the First Chapter, Bob Knowles introduces the paperback version of “When Vowels Get Together” very well and introduces the reader to the considerations included within this publication. These include why the book was written, why readers should use the book, how readers could use the book as well as the differences between a paperback and electronic version – it is invaluable that this book is available in different formats.

 

Throughout the book, the author introduces the vowel sounds in a logical fashion, with readers being guided through vowel sounds beginning from ‘A’ all the way to ‘U’. With each vowel sound, there is an associated vowel pair in alphabetical order. For example, with the vowel sounds beginning with ‘A’, Knowles has incorporated spelling with all different variations of vowel pairs such as ‘aa’, ‘ae’, ‘ai’, ‘ao’ and ‘au’. With each dedicated chapter or sub-chapter, Knowles has created a wonderful table for the pronunciation variables with each vowel pair and their corresponding percentile for the respective pronunciation variables. Therefore, you may refer to page 20 and note that the vowel sound represented by the spelling of ‘ai’ will have a 68% chance of being pronounced with the sound of /eɪ/. There is a table also included with a variety of different spellings.

Each chapter focuses on the sounds from various different vowel pairs and Bob Knowles provides the information in an easy and logical format. You soon realise that almost all words are underlined in the tables throughout the chapters. Initially, I was unsure why these words were underlined but then you discover that in the eBook versions, there are links to the Macmillan Dictionary Online where a reader could tap on a word, they are then transported to the definition to the word as well as the pronunciation of the word. You also notice that this book has real potential as an eBook but unfortunately that is lost with the paperback version.

“When Vowels Get Together” is a fantastic book which helps the reader learn more about the relationship between varying vowel sounds and their respective vowel pairs. It can be usefully exploited by teachers for classroom use, and if teachers are keen to develop learner awareness of vowel sounds and spelling then this book is absolutely brilliant. I would recommend any teacher to have the chance to refer to this publication so that they learn more about the reason how particular words could be pronounced and for learners to make an educated choice when faced with a new word.

 

"Penny Ur's 100 Teaching Tips": EFL Magazine

Source: Originally published in EFL Magazine (Book Review: Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips)

I received a small package from Cambridge University Press last week and was eager to open it up and see what I had received. Sure enough, as I was expecting, my new copy of “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips” had swiftly been delivered. My first reaction was, “wow such a small book” and then I started to look at it in more detail. I instantly realised that this book is not meant to focus extensively on English language teaching, but is solely a practical source of information for teachers in various areas of teaching. We already, for example, have books which focus on Classroom Management Techniques or lesson planning, and it is refreshing to read a book which cuts down on the waffle and offers readers practical and clear ideas to incorporate in class. Penny Ur has authored or co-authored many practical books before such as “Vocabulary Activities”, “Five Minute Activities”, “Teaching Listening Comprehension” as well as “Discussions that Work”. Incidentally, my favourite book in my early years of teaching was “Five Minute Activities” and there were so many practical ideas which I incorporated into my teaching. Nonetheless, let’s have a look at her latest publication.

The book is split between 21 chapters – these including the Introduction and Index – and cover a range of areas of teaching. Penny Ur’s introduction explains why she wrote the book, covers a little of her teaching career and inspires the reader to continue on. There are a lot of sub-chapters from the remaining 19 chapters and the Index allows the reader to easily find an area of teaching, such as error correction, picture dictation or speaking, easily accessible. These chapters are organised into the following:

Beginning and ending the lessonThe Coursebook

Discipline

Error correction

Games

Grammar

Group work

Heterogeneous classes

Homework

Interest

Listening

Pronunciation

Reading comprehension

Speaking activities

Teacher talk

Testing and assessment

Vocabulary teaching

Writing

P.S.

Each of the chapters, which offers the reader the opportunity to make an educated guess on the topic to read, has between four to seven teaching tips apart from the final chapter, ‘P.S.’. The author has written the book in such a way that teachers do not have to read it from cover-to-cover. Readers can decide on a topic and then get some inspiration from a particular area of teaching. For example, if you are interested in the area of teacher talking time, you could look at the contents list and refer to the 6 sub-chapters related to the chapter on ‘Teacher Talk’. These topics sub-chapters include:

  • Talk a lot
  • Keep eye contact
  • Tell stories
  • Teach common classroom language
  • Use mother tongue occasionally
  • Invite short responses

Should you decide to read more about telling stories, you can go to the relevant page. Each sub-chapter has a page worth of teaching tips, therefore there are 100 pages of teaching tips within this book. Each teaching tip is easy to digest as there is not too much information on the page with a suitable sub-heading which encapsulates the topic effectively. For example on the subchapter on ‘Tell stories’, there is inspiring piece of sub-heading:

“One excellent way of exposing students to spoken English through teacher talk is storytelling – not only for young learners.” (p.94)

Further down the page there is additional teaching tips and techniques which the reader could easily incorporate into their own classes, such as using a picture-book with young learners to tell a story, using online video versions to support your story, as well as using jokes or other strange events to support the telling of stories and also keep students’ attention. This is one example from the many practical ideas within “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips”. All tips are broken down into an easy-to-read format and inspires the reader an opportunity to incorporate these invaluable ideas.

The major advantage to this book is that it is also downloadable as well as being available in paperback. The digital formats available include Apple iBook, Google ebook, Kindle ebook and an eBooks.com ebook. So if you wish to purchase this but are unable to purchase a paperback copy, you can purchase it in a digital format. It is not going to be a thorough book on all aspects of English language teaching as this is not what it is focused on. It is a book on the areas of teaching which are more pertinent to teachers and offers a number of ideas which readers could use or tweak if they should wish. As Penny Ur mentioned in her introduction, readers should not “regard [the teaching tips] as directives from an authority, but as suggestions from a colleague” (p.viii). The reader is encouraged to use the tips and techniques selectively.

Actually, this book reminds me of the teaching tips nearer the back of Jim Scrivener’s “Learning Teaching” where there were a number of recommendations for teachers to consider on all aspects of language teaching. I was so inspired by some of these statements by Scrivener that I typed them up on a computer, printed them out, cut these up and laminated them. These self-made flashcards are with me to remind about teaching which can so easily be forgotten. But I am also pleased to say that the book will also be with me so that I am able to get ideas for teaching.

I recommend “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips” for any English teacher as this book is a wonderful reference book for those seeking a quick technique with regards to an area of teaching. I can see teachers referring to this book if there class observation highlights a few areas to focus on for next time.

There are more resources available for those wishing to learn more about Penny Ur’s latest publication here:

"The Ultimate Guide to CELTA": Book Review

12814185_10156582604460573_2501749804454640951_n

Last week, I was contacted by Amanda Momeni about receiving a book about the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course. For those that are unaware, the CELTA is a recognisable four week full-time (as well as nine week part-time) course for those that wish to pursue a career in English language teaching, either in their home country or abroad. It is recognised as an intensive course and puts all trainees through their paces. When I took the CELTA course nearly ten years ago, the Director of the British Council in Seoul mentioned it was the equivalent of a boot camp for English language teachers and I agree to a point. It is incredibly tough.

Anyhow, I received “The Ultimate Guide to CELTA”, written by Amanda Momeni and Emma Jones, and I was naturally curious about how someone would attempt to encapsulate the course within 113 pages. It was first published in 2013,  is available in paperback as well as in Kindle format and is a wonderful example of two English language teaching professionals, Amanda Momeni and Emma Jones, authoring and publishing their own work. The fantastic drawings are by Kate Hoffmann and are plentiful throughout the book. I was immediately curious about the Glossary (p.107-112) as there is an alphabetical list of acronyms written down which trainees are introduced to during the CELTA course. For example, if you wish to know what TTT means, flick through to page 112. Want to know what ICQ means, go to page 110 to find out. It is a useful index of acronyms for trainees undertaking the CELTA. Looking at the Contents, there are 19 chapters throughout the book – including Glossary. Each chapter follows a methodical and logical pattern with readers being guided through each area of the CELTA course. The chapters are as follows:

  • Meet the Trainees
  • Course Content
  • Getting Accepted
  • Preparing for the Course
  • Trainee Diary Entries Day 1
  • Organising Your Time
  • Input Sessions
  • Lesson Planning
  • Teaching Practice
  • Feedback
  • Self Evaluation
  • Tutorials
  • Peer Observation
  • Written Assignments
  • Observations of Experienced Teachers
  • The Final Day
  • Trainee Diary Entries Day 21
  • Five Years Later
  • Glossary

In the first chapter, ‘Meet the Trainees’, the reader is introduced to four fictitious characters named Harassed Henry (a gentleman who has been made redundant and has decided to undertake the course), Fastidious Felicity (a lady who has followed her husband on his career and is now deciding to do the CELTA), Chilled-out Charlie (a chap who happened by chance to do the CELTA course after a gap year before university) and Anxious Annie (a lady who has just graduated from university and is seeking employment yet appears worried about the exposure that she will face during the CELTA). All names include an imaginative adjective preceding their name and you can start to imagine the different type of people that CELTA trainers may encounter during the course.

Chapters two, ‘Course Content’, is quite short having a fictitious conversation between Harassed Henry and his wife, Pleasant Pat about the content of the CELTA, the criteria for passing as well as what the course includes. The fourth chapter, ‘Getting Accepted’, guides the reader through basic questions for potential CELTA candidates to consider, such as “Am I fully committed, and able to dedicate 100% of my time to a full-time course?” or “Have I got the PC skills to manage basic programmes, such as Word?”. It offers possible trainees the chance to reflect on whether the CELTA is suitable for them. Other parts of this chapter include the application procedure, the language awareness test and the interview. It offers invaluable advice for those that are considering the CELTA and areas to consider during the application process.

The fourth chapter, named ‘Preparing for the Course’, suggests ideas for  the possible trainee to consider prior to commencing the CELTA course. There is a recommendation by the authors about what they suggest as a ‘sleep bank’ and filling up on your rest prior to the course. There is also a helpful checklist at the end of this short chapter for readers to consider. The following chapter focuses on Day 1 of the CELTA course and I can relate much of my own experience to this. All fictitious characters include a diary insert about  their first day of the course and their own opinions. It is an interesting idea and allows readers to reflect on their own first day – had they also graduated from the CELTA. The following chapter, ‘Organising Your Time’, provides readers with some highlights of those well-known characters from the book – if you have completed the CELTA course, you will start to recognise particular traits with other trainees who were present during your course – as well as invaluable tips to consider when organising your personal time, such as ensuring that one is aware of deadlines for written assignments, not leaving anything to the last minute or keeping your CELTA portfolio up-to-date. It is a useful chapter and one that readers of the CELTA course will quickly start to realise when managing their own time.

Unfortunately, for me when I undertook the CELTA course in Seoul, I had an hour and a half commute to the Training Centre. This meant that I had to wake up at 5am, catch the first bus to the train station, catch a train to Seoul and then get a tube to the Centre. Then I had another commute back home where I prepared my lessons till the late hours of the evening. It was one thing that I would not recommend anyone to consider and if I were in a different position, I would recommend anyone to be closer to the Training Centre. I had very little time to waste and much of it was dedicated to the course, so much of what is mentioned in the book is very different to my own personal experiences but I can relate them to those that were on the course with me. There were individuals who were working incredibly hard during the course, and were juggling their own time throughout their four weeks. The weekend is also a time to unwind and relax, as well as catch up on that much needed ‘sleep bank’.

The additional chapters throughout the book are wonderfully written, guiding the reader every step of the way with advice on the actual teaching practice, the input sessions, writing the lesson plans or the written assignments of the CELTA course with delightful illustrations supplementing each chapter. The chapter before last, ‘Trainee Diary Entries Day 21’, is a well written conclusion for those that have completed the CELTA. I can relate well to this chapter as I remember finishing the course with all my other trainees and being invited out for something to eat and drink with them. It was a wonderful chance to relax after such an intense and tough course. The final chapter, named ‘Five Years Later’, looks at predictably at all CELTA trainee characters from the book and where they are now. Each character has moved on from the initial course, each carving out fictitious careers paths in the whole world of English language teaching. I recommend readers to leave the final chapter until they have read the entire book as it would spoil the benefits that this chapter has to offer. In fact, I would recommend those that are doing a CELTA course to leave this chapter until they have written their five year plan. Ideally, readers should leave this chapter all together after five years and reflect back at their five year plan from the CELTA course. I remember from my course that I wrote that I wanted to focus on teaching Military English, become more involved in Examining and teach more adult language learners having taught primarily to young learners. How things have turned out.

The book is aimed at potential trainees for the CELTA and offers some incredibly valuable tips to consider while undertaking the course. One aspect would make the chapters more accessible were if they had been numbered. Each chapter, although not a problem, seems to seemingly cross to the next chapter but perhaps it would make sense for readers to have some signposting when introduced to a new chapter. If you have completed the CELTA and would like to reminisce about it, I would recommend this book as it would offer the reader a chance to think back about what they had undertook and what was included. It was a very memorable event and reading back on  all stages of the course, leaves me with fond memories. This book helped reflect on these. Finally, it is by no means a single book which helps the trainees throughout the course, they still need to do the hard work and there is  all the other recommended reading for CELTA trainees to consider purchasing as well. This is a supplementary book which is solely focused on the CELTA course and I wish it had been around when I took the CELTA all those years ago. I’d recommend the book for those that are considering doing the course and would like to discover what is involved in the CELTA. It is also a light-hearted look at the course and supports graduates from the CELTA to reminisce.