The Ultimate Way to Get Students Debating

Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to observe one of my colleagues teach her Intermediate class with no material what so ever. She told me that she was going to get her students debating in class. I have always had difficulty getting my students to communicate and I thought it would be a great chance to see how another senior teacher encourages learners to communicate and debate naturally. It was the first time that I had been able to take away some ideas for teaching for next time. What made it even more valuable was that I recorded the lesson with my video camera – with her consent.

What I really found useful was the fact that the teacher did not use any worksheets or handouts and used all the students in class to elicit possible pros and cons for the debate. Here are the stages for preparing learners to debate and follow a similar lesson structure.

  1. Elicit possible statements for agreeing and disagreeing
  2. Board up these statements on one side of the whiteboard
  3. Choose a topic and divide the class in half
  4. One half of the class think of positives of the topic and the other half think of negatives
  5. Pair a student who focuses on positives with a student who focuses on negatives
  6. Get the learners to use the functional language on the whiteboard
  7. Monitor for feedback at the end of the lesson and prompt learners to use the functional language
  8. Stop the debate and then get students to decide who in their group won the debate and why
  9. Repeat the debate again but with a different topic and pair different students together
  10. Provide feedback and end the class

This is a great activity for Pre-Intermediate learners and above. Try it out next time and see whether you got your students speaking. A huge thank you to Lisa for allowing me to record her lesson.

 

How to Teach Dictogloss: Example Video

Earlier this week, I was teaching a wonderful afternoon class of elementary adult learners who were really enthusiastic and engaged. Their enthusiasm and commitment to communicate made up for their lack of language ability. I decided, for their second lesson, to tell them a story and made a dictogloss activity. The main focus for a dictogloss is for students to listen to the story a number of times and then, in a group, to rewrite the story using any of their notes. I was so pleased with their progress and the amount that they had written from my story.

If you are unsure what dictogloss is, then the video below will help how to incorporate into your future lessons.

Have you ever tried dictogloss before? Do you have any questions? If so, don’t hesitate.

Workshop Video: "Top Tips for Young Learner Teachers"

Last week, I gave a talk on teaching young learners. Finally, I have managed to upload the video of this workshop and it is available for all my followers. The slides for this workshop is available here and please ‘Like’ it and ‘Subscribe’ for more updates. If you have a question, feel free to leave a comment on the video. Thanks for all the support.

"Top Tips for Young Learner Teachers": Teacher Training

I gave a teacher training session in Brighton earlier today, named “Top Tips for Young Learner Teachers“. The training session was around an hour and a half but there were plenty of things to keep everyone occupied. The training session was aimed for teachers, both experienced or those fresh of a CELTA Course, with relatively limited experience teaching young learners. The slides for this training session can be viewed below.

What tips do you have for teaching young learners? Do you have a favourite game? How do you like to start your lessons? As ever, leave a comment below.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.