Bringing out the inner voice

19 05 2014

Saturday May 1th 2014 saw me presenting a spanking new talk at MAC2014 – the annual Macmillan conference in Montevideo, hosted by the Anglo institute.  It’s the third time I’ve talked at the Macmillan Montevideo conference and it was great to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

#2014mac

#2014mac

The talk has been a long time in the making since it was inspired by Jeremy Harmer’s talk at the 2010 International House DoS Conference – ‘Speak the speech, I pray thee’, which discussed improving students’ fluency by helping them to think and prepare inside their heads first.  It was an inspiring talk, but a little short on practical ways to get the students actually doing this in the classroom.  So I set about trying to motivate and inspire my students to think much more in the class, alongside their development of the other four skills. It’s taken me a few years to put what I’ve done into a talk, since it’s very much a case of small steps and slowly, slowly catchy thinking student.  As the Macmillan conference was focused on developing Life Skills, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to make myself write the talk and bring together my ideas on the topic.

#2014MAC Life Skills tree

#2014MAC Life Skills tree

The results are here, in the form of the slides for the talk in PDF:

Bringing Out The Inner Voice

and a video of them too:

as well as the video I used at the end as a way of having the students reflect on the ideas we discussed during the talk and think about how they could create more thinking space, structure and sensitivity into a lesson using this video.  Unfortunately during the talk the sound was dodgy, so the great lyrics couldn’t be heard beyond the front row (and apologies to the audience that I had to resort to singing some of them myself!

I also hope to put a lesson together myself using this text as a launching ad, so look out for that here too!

Next up is the example text-based guided discovery lesson I used.  You can read more about Guided Discovery and this lesson here if you’re interested.

global-int-unreal-past

And then here are some lesson ideas to use at the beginning of your efforts to inspire your students to think in English:

Thinking in English

A reading based on a text about why to try and think in English when learning the language, with a worksheet that has built in space and structure for thinking.

The Week in English

Encourage your students to do some thinking for homework and then discuss what they’ve done in class – the flipped classroom turns your students flipping (if they talk to themselves 🙂 ).

Anecdote feedback sheet An example of how the students can reflect on each others’ work and tech each other a little more about anecdoting.

Image

In full flow at #2014MAC

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IH60 at IATEFL

14 04 2013

So IATEFL  2013 has come to an end and all of the delegates have left Liverpool.

IH colleague Shaun Wilden says Goodbye Liverpool on Facebook

IH colleague Shaun Wilden says Goodbye Liverpool on Facebook

But in many ways the conference is only just beginning.  Now there’s more time to read and reflect, to revisit and review, to draw conclusions and put into practice.  I hope to continue doing this throughout the rest of April.  But for today I’d like to show you the best bit of the conference for me, in case you didn’t have the chance to visit it – the International House World stand!

60_Gifts_image

The reason being this year International House celebrates its diamond jubilee – 60 years since John and Brita Haycraft set up the first school in Cordoba, Spain.  We’ve come a long way since then and to celebrate we’re giving away lots of fabulous presents to teachers, as well as giving you lots of fabulous opportunities to contribute yourselves and get your students participating in the celebration, participating in a range of competitions we’ll be having throughout the year.

60 years of International House

60 years of International House

Hopefully those 2585 of you who were lucky enough to attend the conference yourselves are proudly clutching your IH world gift on your way home and have already signed up to our gifts list to receive all the fab freebies we’ll be sending your way throughout the year.  And those of you who couldn’t make it can do so right here:

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 1.22.26 PM

The free gifts already available on the website include a sample 6 lessons / activities / games from our various resource banks – General English Activities, CEF Activity packs, the IH Writing Portfolio and the IH Games Bank.  I’m very proud to say that I edited the first three of these and wrote the Games Bank in its entirety.  Of course, if you want to have the complete resources you’ll have to become an IH teacher!

We are also running a Lesson Plan competition for all teachers around the world.  The lesson simply has to have a link to the word 60 somehow.  I have created an example lesson to give you an idea of what we’re looking for and to provide a template for you to use for your entries.  You can enter as many times as you like and could win a free IH training course – take your pick:

Win a free IH online course - many to choose from, something for everyone!

Win a free IH online course – many to choose from, something for everyone!

Full details of the competition are available in our special IH60 section of the website:

IH60 Lesson Plan competition details

IH60 Lesson Plan competition details

You can also access all of the videos from the IH DoS conference in January (just in case you’ve already watched all of the IATEFL videos):

IH DoS conference 2013 videos

IH DoS conference 2013 videos

and my favourite section of the IH60 gifts page at the moment is the ‘I wish I’d known’ section, where 60 IH teachers from around the world share what they wish they’d known all those years ago when they started out in the world of English teaching:

I wish I'd known...

I wish I’d known…

So many exciting gifts to start off with and many more to come during the rest of the year.  Get thinking about some of your favourite lessons and think how you can get the word 60 into them so you can enter them in the competition.  Visit the IH experience page so that you can see how to get your learners involved and keep up to date with our various competitions as they come online.

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 1.45.30 PM

And make sure you sign up to the IH60 gifts list so that you keep getting lovely presents throughout the year, as well as news of our various conferences and workshops and competitions celebrating 60 years of International House.  Happy birthday IH World!

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The Game’s Up!

7 12 2012

The Game’s Up! was my plenary session on Saturday morning at IHTOC3. The aim of the session is to review the use of games in the classroom over the last 50 years or so and discuss whether games are still relevant in the language learning classroom today. 

Along the way we played a few games from the past and the present and looked forward to the future of games as well (with a little help from my private student, Sergio).

On the link you will find a recording of the session, the session slides and all of the handouts of the games used in the session – enjoy! 

The next step is to create a handout for teachers to use while watching the video to make watching it a more hands-on exercise – watch this space. 

What are your favourite games to play with your students?  Do please share them with us.  Do you stick to old faves or are you at the forefront of gaming technology use with your students.  As always, I’d love to hear from you, both about the session and your ideas too. Game on!





Participles in boxes

26 09 2012

Yesterday I was standing in for a colleague who’s gone to Disney with her kids, and so I was teaching an Upper Intermediate 2 class (they’re preparing for FCE in december).  The previous class they’d read a text about Pompeii and the other teacher had left me with the remit of continuing on into the language focus that followed on from the reading – participle clauses!

While I can imagine some of you might think participle clauses aren’t for the faint hearted, I was actually quite excited at the prospect, since it gave me the opportunity to try out a game I designed for the IHWO Games Bank, which I’ve never actually had the chance to use in a class before.  And since the class was a group of teens from 13 to 16, a game of boxes was just what I needed to keep their attention on the target language and get some intense practice in.

We quickly looked at the example sentences form the text and explored together what participle clauses actually were.  Normally I’d do this as a guided discovery, but the downside to GD is the prep needed and when substituting I like to keep that to a minimum.  So old fashioned teacher-at-the-board presentation it was, although I elicited all of the info from the students, of course!

Then it was straight into the game.  Hopefully you all know how to play boxes?  It’s basically joining up dots to complete the four sides of a square.  The strategy comes in because it’s the team that completes the fourth side of the square that wins the box for their team – and the team with the most boxes wins the game.  In our class version of the game, the teams have to correctly add a participle clause into short sentences in order to win the opportunity to draw a line and start building up squares.  Here’s the game and rules for you to try with your students:

Level 7 Lower Advanced Participles in Boxes

I knew the success of the game would hinge on keeping the pace high, so I set the game up very carefully.  They had to use a new verb in their clause each time.  They had ten seconds to answer, once I’d said the initial participle-clause-less sentence.  I simply counted down the ten seconds on my fingers, ensuring I didn’t distract them from thinking up their clauses, but also keeping the pressure on and the pace high.  Indeed, if they could think of both an active and passive participle clause for the same sentence they got two goes at box-making.

The game actually worked even better than I thought it would.  The students were motivated to be playing a game they play anyway amongst themselves and they were motivated to try and solve the challenge of creating sentences that would win points but also try and entertain me at the same time.  I think the topics of the original sentences also helped here.  The momentum of the game and the ten second rule also helped to keep the game flowing and the two point rule also allowed us to actually make some boxes in the time we played for (about twenty minutes).

The game also helped the students to see how participle clauses can make their sentences more interesting and informative and they also were challenged to make logical sense with their clauses – there were quite a few non-sequiturs to start with which I didn’t allow, leading to some interesting arguments about the logic of what they were coming up with.

In the end the game was so successful that I’m very tempted to continue playing it at the beginning of the next lesson to revise the use of participle clauses, but only if everyone’s done their homework of course!  I hope you and your students enjoy playing Participles in a box too – let us know how you get on!

 





Materials for Surviving Through Song – IHWO LOW September 2012

8 09 2012

Here are all the materials you need to enjoy ‘Surviving through Song – words of wisdom for EFL teachers’ which I’m presenting as an IHWO Live Online Workshop this September – Enjoy!

I’m hoping to post blogs about each of the songs used in the workshop, but having done a couple of them, I can see it might take me a while to do them all, but hopefully we’ll get there eventually.  

Here are the first few:

It’s my party – for students

It’s my party – for teachers

The slides:

The Songs:

Lesley Gore – It’s my party

The Boomtown Rats – I don’t like Mondays

The Smiths – Ask

Oasis – Wonderwall

Dead or Alive – You spin me round

The Cure – Just like heaven

The Handouts

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

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

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

IHTOC50 NM HO The Boomtown Rats – Tell me why I don’t like Mondays

IHTOC50 NM HO The Smiths – Ask

IHTOC50 NM HO Oasis – Wonderwall

IHTOC50 NM HO Dead or alive – you spin me round

IHTOC50 NM HO The Cure – Just Like Heaven

The Observation Tasks

The Sixties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Errors & Correction

The Seventies – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Critical Moments

The Eighties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO On The Podium

The Nineties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Successful Stages

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

I hope you enjoy the workshop – if so, please do leave a comment and tell a colleague about it!





Olympics Use of English

5 08 2012

Olympics Proficiency Use of English

Here are an Open Cloze and a Word Formation exercise based on texts from the BBC about Bradley Wiggins winning gold in the Cycling Time Trial and the Royal Mail issuing stamps for each British Gold Medal winner.  I love the way they’re painting the post boxes gold in the towns of the winners!

Bradley Wiggins Gold Medal Winner Stamp

These exercises were extremely challenging for my prof students this week, but they’re designed to really get them thinking about how to train themselves to guess the right expression.  They need some very clear and supportive feedback on the tasks.

There are also a couple of speaking tasks thrown in for good measure – a class discussion and a couple of two minute speeches.  You could also get them to roleplay interviewing Bradley and trying to use the expressions that are tested in the exercises at the same time.

As always, I hope you and your students enjoy and do let us know how you get on.  I’m sure there are many other fab texts out there to use this week too!





Reading Lesson about Olympics Opening Ceremony

31 07 2012

Wasn’t the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games brilliant?  Danny Boyle and those thousands of volunteers did a fabulous job keeping us entertained for over three hours on Friday night, revelling in the best of British music, history and culture. 

Why not share the brilliance with your students through this reading lesson, based on the BBC  review of the event. 

 

Download:

Olympics Opening Ceremony Reading Students

Olympics Opening Ceremony Reading Teachers

and

Olympics Opening Ceremony Reading Lesson Plan

and your off!

Hope your students and you enjoy it.  Let us know what you think.

P.S. I originally posted this on ih-buenosairesblog.com





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.