The London 2012 Olympics

22 07 2012

This week sees the beginning of the Olympic Games in London.  Why not get your students into the mood by doing some Olympics related activities in the classroom?  The idea of this blog is to provide a space for us to share ideas and resources we create around IHWO so that we can motivate and inspire our students to learn English as well as enjoy the way London hosts the Olympic Games.

Please do add your ideas and resources to the platform both as files and here as comments.  I’ve been brainstorming a few ideas to get you underway.  Hope you like them:

Olympic Activities

Present an Olympic sport:

            Rules

Students explain to classmates how one of the Olympic sports / disciplines works.  Great for developing vocabulary and research and speaking skills.  When giving their presentations, the classmates can be making notes, filling in a chart (to later compare sports) or thinking of follow up questions to ask. 

            Olympic history

Students present the Olympic history of a sport or discipline.  How long has it featured in the games for?  When was it first included?  Who were its most famous winners?  What Olympic stories are most connected to this sport.  Listeners can fill in a chart or ask questions or decide on the most Olympic sport / best presentation. 

            Olympic timetable

Students present the where and when and how to watch this Olympic sport, aiming to make it as attractive an event to the other students as possible.  Listeners can choose one event to watch, fill in an info chart or decide which presentation was most successful.  

 

Present the athlete

            Biography

Students choose a favorite athlete to present to the class, giving a summary of their careers to date and previewing their possible participation in the games to come.  Listeners can rank athletes in order of interest of decide on the best presentations.  or ask follow up questions on each athlete.  

            Career in pictures

SS can post a blog about an athlete, describing their career highlights and accompanying it with pictures from the web.  Students then comment on each others’ posts, asking follow up questions about their careers or making simple comments on the pictures posted. 

            Daily Olympic journal

 Students choose an athlete to follow throughout the games and each day / class/ week write a journal entry as if they were that athlete.

 

Present the country

            Top three athletes

Students research a country’s Olympic team and choose three athletes to focus on.  These can be presented as an article, a blog post, a picture presentation or a short speech.  

            Top three teams

As above, but focusing on teams rather than individuals (e.g. the women’s football team, the cycling team, the yachting team). 

            Gold medal possibilities

Students write a summary of a country’s best medal prospects.  The class can keep a log of each student’s recommendations as the games progress – did they win the medals predicted? 

            Country background /  Country history

 Students choose a country to write or speak about and can summarize their background or history, either sporting or entire, perhaps focusing more on lesser known or smaller countries. 

 

The host country

There are myriad articles available on the internet about all of the topics below and many more.

Students can each choose an article to read from the internet on the given theme and then in class they discuss the information in their articles, comparing and contrasting their research or giving each other tasks to do based on their texts (e.g. use of Englsi closes or reading comprehension tasks).

            Games preparation

            The bidding process

            The Olympic village

            Security arrangements

            The Olympic torch

            The Opening Ceremony

 

The Olympics

History

Each group can present a summary of a previous Olympic games 

Ideals

Students discuss what the Olympics mean to them and debate their value to society in the modern world.  

Future

How will the Olympic movement continue beyond 2012?

Students could prepare a pitch for their countries/cities to host the Olympic games.  

 

I’m sure there are millions of other activities that can be done using the Olympics theme and making the most of all the written and spoken materials that there is out there on the web.  but I hope some of these ideas help you to incorporate the excitement of the games into your lessons and help your students learn some English in a fun way.  

Happy Olympics everyone!

Neil 





Surviving Through Song – The Sixties: It’s My Party by Lesley Gore / Part One for Students

5 06 2012

This is the first of a series of blogposts focusing on some of the best songs of the last fifty years and looking at how we can use them in the classroom and how they can help us as teachers to remember how we can survive in the classroom and reflect on our practice.

You can read the introduction to this series here.

One of my fave songs of the sixties (just as International House Teacher Training was getting in to the swing of things) was ‘It’s My Party’ by Leslie Gore.

First of all, let’s have a look at how we can use this song with students.

It’s My Party by Lesley Gore

I suggest a straightforward Text-Based Guided Discovery lesson in order to compare and contrast real and unreal conditionals, which both come up in the chorus.  This means you can use the song as a straightforward listening lesson and then come back and do the language lesson another time (or not at all) if you want to.

So the lesson starts with a lead-in about parties you can find some suggested speaking tasks here in the first handout:

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 1

Then we have a gist listening about why the singer is crying and then more detailed listening about the facts of the party and the situation the singer finds herself in.   You could just follow this up with a speaking task about when people cry, the last time they cried or perhaps write a letter from the singer to Johnny breaking up with him or form Johnny to the singer asking for forgiveness.  However, both of these writing tasks might also include conditions and results, so why not have a look at the language of the song first?

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 2

Our guided discovery focuses on the meaning of the two structures in the chorus which are made up of conditions and results:

‘I’ll cry if I want to’

and

‘You would cry too if it happened to you’.

What I really like about this song is the context gives us a clear difference between real conditions and results in the present and unreal conditions and results in the present.

The singer is clearly singing about now (rather than the past) when she imposes her condition ‘if I want to’ and her result is also clearly

It’s My Party by Lesley Gore

in the present ‘I’ll cry’.  The context also makes it crystal clear that it is very likely that the singer is in the crying mood and tears are on the way.

Which contrasts really nicely with the second condition she puts when she addresses her listener ‘…if it happened to you’.  This is clearly again based in the now but this time is an unreal (imaginary or hypothetical) event.  And once more, the same clarity goes for the result of this condition and the fact that it is unlikely to happen.

All of this clarity can be used to let the students discover for themselves the different forms used to express the conditions and results by asking them the questions in the guided discovery handout.  There’s no overt pronunciation discovery here though, so don’t forget to drill the structures and other similar ones before you feedback on the form-focused questions (which begin with In real present conditions we use…).  And then of course it’s time to practice!

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 3

These two practice activities are fun, challenging and involve lots of personalisation.  They also challenge the students to use the correct conditions and the correct results in the correct contexts.  The learners always have a choice between real and unreal and that’s where the success of a practice activity and its focus on meaning and use as well as form really lies.  I particularly like the freer practice since it’s simply a little different to what students are used to and at the same time clearly shows then how and when they might use conditions and results in their own lives.  It also isn;t so free that they can avoid the structures all together.   Just beware that the students might need lots of examples to understand how to arrive at conditions they are under (hence my multiple examples!).

I really hope your students enjoy the song, the guided discovery and the practice activities.  If you do use the song with your classes, please do let us know how it went down and whether you added anything or your students had any trouble with anything.  And if you have any questions about how I’ve presented the language and created the guided discovery do let me know and I’ll get straight back to you.

Next time out we’ll look at the message Lesley has for us as teachers and how we can look at our teaching through the message of the song.  See you there!





Weaving the magic of literature circles

1 06 2012

Last Wednesday evening I was standing in for my Director, who has a Post-Proficiency literature class once a week here at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training.

He asked me to do so last Thursday and low and behold on Friday morning I was moderating Ratna Ragunathan from IH Malaysia’s Live Online Workshop ‘Weaving the magic of literature circles’ and I quickly found my standby lesson staring me in the face.

The idea of literature circles is that each learner takes a different angle towards the book / story they are reading and leads a discussion of that angle when the circle meets in class.

The different roles:

DiscussionLeader_IH

Illustrator_IH

RealLifeConnector_IH

Summarizer_IH

StoryConnector_IH

WordWizard_IH

The story we read:

The Story of An Hour – Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin

Since I didn’t know the learners it was difficult for me to assign them roles I thought they would get into, so I asked who would like to be the Illustrators and then gave out the other roles at random.  In the end there were eight students, so I ended up giving out the first four roles to pairs, who then helped each other prepare the role in relation to the story and then the class split up into two circles to discuss the story.

To be honest I was expecting more discussion to come out of the roles, I felt students at this level (post-proficiency) should have been able to mine the text for more ideas and have more interesting responses to it.  Perhaps a combination of things played against my expectations for the activity being fulfilled:

  • the students not knowing me and therefore being a little hesitant as we got to know each other
  • the students not finding the story so inspiring – I’m sure there are many better stories out there that could be used with the literature circle roles
  • it being the end of a long day for most of them and they simply weren’t fully-focused on English
  • my expectations were simply too high in the first place after Ratna’s fantastic workshop

Actually, by the time they had got through the four roles about an hour of the lesson had passed, so the circles had taken a good 30minutes, which is actually an excellent amount of continuous speaking in a normal kind of class – it just didn’t seem that fluent and engaging as they were doing it.

Then I gave out the last two roles and each circle discussed one role in preparation fro swapping over and, in pairs, leading the discussion of their new role with a new pair of partners.  This lead to more good conversation, and as before I had trouble finding anything to give them constructive feedback on language-wise, so I didn’t.

And then finally I gave each of them a part of Kate Chopin’s biography and they had to discuss the story in light of her life, thus sharing with each other more details about the author and the time she lived in.  It would have been good to have more time for this stage of the lesson, since it ended up being the most interesting discussion for them.

So, all in all, a successful first attempt at using literature classes and I will definitely go back and use them again, although perhaps with more concrete texts, particularly at lower levels.





Surviving Through Song – Words of Wisdom for NQTs

31 05 2012

At #IHTOC50 (International House Teachers Online Conference) on Friday May 25th, up to 500 IH teachers from around the world came together to share their experience, knowledge and love of teaching, as well as to celebrate fifty years of teacher training at International House.

I was lucky enough to be heavily involved in organising the whole conference, in my role as Academic Coordinator for Resources and DoS Support, but I also gave one of the plenary sessions on the day.

I then gave a slightly different face to face version of the session at the Anglo conference in Montevideo on Sunday 19th August, with the kind support of Macmillan Uruguay.  This session included the observation tasks you’ll find below, but I left out Ask by The Smiths as the song of The Eighties and left that up to Just Like Heaven by The Cure.

Surviving Through Song – Words of wisdom for EFL teachers

The idea behind my session was to give some sound advice to Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) about how to survive in their early years of teaching, based on my experience as an NQT myself back in Prague in the late nineties, and then as a senior teacher and DoS helping new teachers settle into their new careers, and most recently as a CELTA trainer sending new teachers off out into the wide world of ELT, and also as a DELTA trainer, welcoming not-so-new teachers back into the fold for further teacher development.

Since we were celebrating 50 years of International House teacher training (the first teacher training course took place at IH London in June 1962 and would later develop into what we today know and love as the CELTA), I thought it would be fun to look back over the best music of the last fifty years to find some inspiration.  Then it occurred to me that using song was a great way of ingratiating yourself with your students in your early years of teaching, so why not pass on a few ideas about how to use my chosen songs in the classroom at the same time?

And then during the planning stage and with some great input from people (mainly my former IHCAM and DELTA trainees) commenting on my previous blog post  ‘Turning CELTees into successful NQTs’, I realised teachers may also appreciate some help with reflecting on their own teaching, both through self-observation and peer / DoS observation.

So I ended up with a song from each decade of the last fifty years and one for luck.  And for each of these fab songs, I had advice for new (and not so new!) teachers, a lesson for using the song as listening practice and as a springboard for speaking or language activities, and also an observation task that can be used to help teachers improve in the area inspired by the songs.

To go through each of them here would make for one incredibly long blog post, so instead I’m going to try and post about one song/decade/idea on a regular basis over the coming weeks.  And as I do so I’ll add links to each of the posts here below so you have an index to all of them in one place.

The Sixties – For Students

The Sixties – For Teachers

The Sixties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Errors & Correction

The Seventies – For Students

The Seventies – For Teachers

The Seventies – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Critical Moments

The Eighties – For Students

The Eighties – For Teachers

The Eighties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO On The Podium

The Nineties – For Students

The Nineties – For Teachers

The Nineties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Successful Stages

The Noughties – For Students

The Noughties – For Teachers

The Noughties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Going Round In Circles

The session seemed to go down very well and people said they found all three aspects of it useful, so I hope you find something useful in there too.  If you do, please let us know with a comment.

And then if you have other songs you’d like me to dish out the same treatment on, do let me know about them too!  Enjoy!





A Short Guide to Guided Discovery

26 04 2012

The other week I was reading Adam Beale’s fab blog ‘Five against one‘ rather than doing what I was supposed to be doing and yet again I found myself chastising myself for not going to #eltchat anymore (it’s actually the fault of doing CELTA at the times that the chat is held rather than of my own choosing), since Adam had blogged a summary of the latest chat, that just happened to be on one of my pet topics and favourite ways of teaching – guided discovery.

And so I was rather surprised with Adam’s concluding paragraph and this post is my own humble attempt at helping Adam address the balance.  Here’s what he had to say:

ELTchat may not have answered my question or provided me with the plethora of examples I was hoping for, but it certainly highlighted the need for some further hands on research and investigation. Now, I may be looking in the wrong places or typing the wrong words into my search engine. So please tell me if you know of any great resources. I know that there must be research papers out there, but for teachers what we really need is examples and people writing or talking about their experiences with it. So if you do use Guided Discovery and have some ideas get them out there, blog them or put it out on twitter. 

And so my response is to share my latest foray into Guided Discovery world on Wednesday morning.  I was teaching the CELTA TP students and being watched by my CELTA candidates – having to put my money where my mouth was since we’d had a session on conditionals the afternoon before where I had espoused Guided Discovery worksheets – time to show them the power of student-centred text-based step-by-step language clarification (i.e. Guided Discovery).

K had taken the students above-standardly through the text (Global Intermediate Page 95), so I simply started with the worksheet, which you can download here:

Unreal Past Conditions Guided Discovery Worksheet

The students anwered the questions about meaning alone, checked them with a partner and then we fed back on them.  The main sticking point was the question ‘Is this staement real or unreal’, since they mostly saw it as real.  I think I need to rephrase this question to something like ‘Is the speaker describing a situation in the real world or imagining an unreal situation in their head?’, although that seems too wordy to me.

A little bit of elicitation and refining the context by asking this question helped me convince them the statement was unreal.  And this elicitation of the fact that we’re talking about the past and we¡re talking about an unreal situation made eliciting the name of the structure to the top of the handout easy peasy – Unreal Past Conditions.

Then we drilled the statement aplenty.  First lots of choral drilling of each clause, backchaining the phrases ‘If he hadn’t noticed’ and ‘this wouldn’t have been’, and they had quite a bit of trouble at first reproducing /w@d@n@bIn/ (the @ are supposed to be schwas but I can’t get them to come out) but they got there after lots of laughs and backchains:

/bIn/

/n@bIn/

/d@n@bIn/

/w@d@n@bIn/

Then they completed the pronunciation section by themselves, in pairs and we fed back to the whiteboard.

Unreal past conditions pronunciation

Unreal Past Result Pronunciation

I did a bit more drilling to consolidate it with the written phonemes, which seemed to help them a bit and then they headed on to completing the form section by themselves which they found pretty straightforward.

Unreal Past Condition Form

Unreal Past Result Form

What really pleased me is they were able to come up with different possible modals for the result clause, they weren’t limited by the ‘third conditional’ misnomer to would, they quickly proferred could and might and may and must and should as well, although lots of credit must also go to K here who had brought out this point when guided discovering Unreal Present conditions on Monday.

So they had been guided and they had discovered.  Time to practice.  Turn over the worksheet and consider the other inventions mentioned in the global text and discovered by accident.  What would have happened if their accidents hadn’t happened.  Off the students went to try and complete their own conditional sentences.  It was a very challenging exercise since they had to go back to the text to remind themselves of the accidents that had led to the discoveries.  But they were able to have a good go at it, although there were plenty of forms errors in their work.  Have was being missed out regularly, one or two weren’t using past participles and one was using the past simple and so talking about the present.  But with a few points back at my boardwork and the odd return to my CCQs – are we in the past? – they were able to self correct or at least peer correct when they got together to confirm answers.  By the time they got to the group feedback they had the correct structures between them and I elicited them to the board (after some more focused drilling) to consolidate the structure for these very visual learners.

Unreal Past Conditions Controlled Practice

Unreal Past Results Controlled Practice

Unfortunately the 40minute lesson was drawing to a close, so there was just time for a quick discussion of the inventions in Practice 2 and how things would have changed if they hadn’t been invented.  Not surprisingly, some of them had unreal present results rather than past ones, but this was a good thing as they were able to form them correctly on the back of K’s Monday lesson and they were all happy to accept these as correct answers.  No time for discussing the difference or for personalisation, but the practice activities will live to fight another day.

If I’d had more time, I’d’ve done more personalisation. 

We’d’ve discussed real and unreal results of unreal past conditions, if the lesson had been longer.  

They’d’ve practised more freely and probably have made even more mistakes if we’d gone any further. 

But they wouldn’t have felt such a sense of achievement if they hadn’t discovered the rules for themselves. 

There was no accident about their discoveries.

Hope that helps Adam and any other Guided Discovery newbies out there.  Let us know how you get on if you try using the worksheet yourself or adapting it to another piece of language.  Go discover!





B2 Lesson Plan – Writing an album review (Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?)

31 03 2012

B2 Lesson – Oasis Album Review

This is a lesson I taught on an FCE prep course last week, which supplements (replaces) the review writing in Unit One of Premium.

First the students do an FCE speaking task comparing and contrasting the album covers of Abbey Road and What’s The Story?

Then they read the text and summarise each paragraph, followed by a focus on the vocab used to describe the band, the album and the music / individual songs.

It leads nicely into the learners bringing in their own reviews to share with each other and then using all of this input, writing their own reviews of one of their fave CDs.

Enjoy!





A Sporting Chance – The sticky wicket of sports-inspired idioms

23 03 2012

A Sporting Chance is a workshop I’m presenting on Sunday 25th March 2012 at the ABS conference ‘Challenge Your English’ – a conference for non-native teachers of English to boost the level of their own English.

Handout A Sporting Chance

ABS Challenge Your English

ABS Challenge Your English

Slides A Sporting Chance

The workshop focuses on English idioms from the world of sports, starting with sailing, then baseball, cricket, cards and finally a free-for-all called guess the sport.

As they are introduced to the idioms, the teachers play sports themselves which can be used in the classroom.

Abstract:

Do you find yourself behind the eight ball when idioms come out of left field?  Are you out of your depth when idiom-loving friends call the shots? Give yourself a sporting chance to cover all the bases as we dive headfirst into the world of sport-inspired idioms, exploring their meaning and background to give ourselves the inside track in the idiom race, allowing us to paddle our own idiom canoes and put a new vocabulary arrow in our language quivers.





Realising Reading

4 03 2012

Realising Reading - Macmillan Montevideo 2012

Realising Reading – Handout from Macmillan Montevideo 2012

Here are the slides from my talk ‘Realising Reading’ which I gave for the first time at the Macmillan Conference in Montevideo on February 29th 2012.  The talk is about how we can keep reading real for our students at the same time as getting them to realise what they’re reading, thinking about it critically and noticing the language in the texts.

Look forward to hearing what you think about it.  Enjoy!





No Man’s Land – Finding the Middle Ground in the Dogme Debate

16 02 2012

No Man’s Land - Slides from Montevideo 29/2/12

Macmillan Montevideo

On Wednesday 29/2/12 I had another go at No Man’s Land at the Macmillan Montevideo Conference 2011 held at the Anglo.  It was interesting to see how the talk changed as a result of  having a different dialogue with a different audience – Montevideo was much less impressed with Dogme than Buenos Aires was and quite a few members of the audience were brave enough to call themselves Textbook Traditionalists at the beginning of the talk, although we all ended up as Dog-maurauders at the end.  The talk was also shorter, so I focused more on the ten key principles and had also summarised 10 key Dogme-rauder principles which the audience were happy to accept and take away to consider.  Let us know how you get on!

Many thanks to Nicolas from Macmillan for organising the day, my impressive fellow speakers Aldo Rodriguez, Phil Hanham and Gustavo Gonzalez and, of course, the anglo for hosting the event – although it was the great audience that made the day such a success.

Pro-T Buenos Aires

Here are the slides from the talk at Pro-T 2012 on Thursday 16th February 2012.

No Man’s Land

Many thanks to everyone who came to the talk on Thursday and to @lcamio and the Pro-T team for inviting me and organising everything so smoothly.  I really enjoyed the talk and discovering much more about the principles of Dogme ELT through the process of researching, planning and writing the talk and sharing it with you on Thursday.  It was exciting (and empowering) to put the decision about whether or not to ‘convert’ myself into a Dogme-gician in your hands, and participating in that Dialogic Co-construction of knowledge to see what emerged was an enlightening process.  I hope the talk has helped some of you to look at your classrooms from a slightly different angle and gives you some ideas about how to ensure our students are at the centre of everything we do.

If you feel you are a Dogme-gician, it would be great to hear how you have managed to incorporate your Dogme teaching style into the confines of the educational context where you work.

Dogme-gician's believe in all the magic of Dogme.

If you’re a Dogme-rauder, it would be great to hear which principles of Dogme you have particularly pillaged and which ‘emergent’ tasks and activities you have used successfully or are going to try out.

Dogme-rauders have a soft spot for the 10 key Dogme principles, but prefer to loot and pillage the best of all methods

And if you’re a Textbook Traditionalist, then it would be great to hear the reasons why.

Textbook traditionalists start their planning from the next page of the course book and feed their students grammar mcnuggets

The ones that came up during the talk were pressure from above (Principals getting in the way of principles?) and the necessity to prepare students for exams.

The first problem is going to take time and persistence in order to convince principals, parents and even ministries of education, that the syllabus can be covered and students can learn English and prepare themselves for exams without having to faithfully follow a course book step by step.

And exam classes can easily prepare through a less materials dominated approach.  Students choose the texts they want to work with (be they authentic, course book, test book or whatever).  Students can construct test activities for each other from these texts, empowering them to discover much more about the tests and the strategies needed to complete them successfully.   Students can decide which tasks to work on when, depending on mood, trending current affairs topics, previous classes, perceived weaknesses.   Students can design the course syllabus, selecting the test materials to use, the balance of test types to focus on, writing proposals at the beginning of the course, progress summaries during the course, reviews of the course as it progresses and reports on their progress towards the end of the course.  Obviously, the students will choose to use Practice Test materials during the course (I imagine), but this is all part of being a good Dogme-rauder – letting students choose, allowing the syllabus (as well as the langauge) emerge through a dialogue involving the whole class.

Al, Vicky and Susan enjoying the talk – laughing in the face of Dogme?

I seem to have burst into song – lyrics a-merging!

Looking forward to hearing where you stand and I was relieved to find out I can continue to be a Dogme-rauder at the end of the talk!





Game on! Football Feedback

12 02 2012

Having been asked to share the football game that I refer to in my Feedback Fiesta talk and that I wrote for the IHWO Games Bank, here it is:

IHWO Games Bank Football

It can be used for feedback on any controlled practice activity or for livening up feedback on progress tests or revision tasks.  I didn’t invent the game, but have no idea where I first saw it (apart from the fact I’m pretty sure it was at International House in Prague) or who thought it up originally – it’s just one of those EFL classics, I guess.

If you do download and use the game, please do leave a comment letting us know how you used it, so we can share and spread the word about this ‘beautiful game’.








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