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!

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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 





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.





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!





Comment on @ChrisOzog blog post ‘If You Were a Dogme, Would You Regret Barking?’

16 10 2011

http://eltreflection.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/if-you-were-a-dogme-would-you-regret-barking/#comment-56

Hi Chris, Ben et al,

Thanks a lot for the post, Chris, I love reading accounts of classes and find it really helpful to compare with my own classes and use this as a way of reflecting on them. Reading your post brought back fond memories of observing you during my visit and as I read the main thought that kept recurring (and then you mention yourself in response to Dale) is the personality factor.

Having enjoyed seeing you teach I know you have a lot of qualities that I see essential in a teacher if they are to use Dogme successfully – ability to think on your feet, ability to steer a conversation, extend it and take it where you want to go, an openness with the students etc. etc. – that enhances my impression that to teach in a Dogme manner successfully you need to be a ‘natural’.

However, reading about your class also makes me wonder if you need to have a certain type of student in order to create a successful Dogme learning environment, or if there are things you can do and ways to develop the class dynamic in order to create a successful atmosphere for using Dogme techniques with all and any types, level or number of students? Would love to hear what you think…





B2 Listening & Vocab Lesson Plan – The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion

11 08 2011

B2 Listening lesson – The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion

This is a lesson I’m teaching Monday morning as an observed lesson on the CELTA.  It’s based on Unit 3A of Straightforward Upper Intermediate (Kerr & Jones, Macmillan 2006) – an excellent course book, as course books go.  

The worksheet provides a lead-in and a test-teach-test vocab pre-teach stage. 

The second page is a word grab which can serve as both the freer practice for the vocab and the gist task for the listening.  If you don’t have the Straighforward book for the detailed listening, I’m sure you’ll find the links online.  

Enjoy, and as always if you do use the materials please let us know how you get on.

Post-Lesson Update

The lesson went well this morning and the students did lots of talking, learnt some new idiomatic (and I think quite useful) vocab and did some intensive listening practice.  They said they enjoyed the song and their continued exploration of British tribal culture (I wonder if the Celtees will mention the riots at any point?)

The level was actually more challenging than I’d thought it would be, for quite a strong Upper Intermediate (B2) class.  The vocab was mostly new, as expected, and they were motivated to learn it and try to use it.  In the teach stage we looked at flatter and flattered as well as flattery – all useful stuff.  Some fun drilling ensued, with me giving them compliments or criticisms and them replying I’m flattered or reacting angrily to criticism.  

The listening was challenging.  The vocab grab was fun,. but there was a lot of misgrabs (probably because of all the f-words), so it needs careful monitoring.  They were able to decide on the correct part of speech successfully most of the time but had quite a bit of trouble deciding which words went in which gaps – this needs plenty of time and careful monitoring to be successful, but it’s a more worthy exercise than just listening and filling – it really gets them to think about the meaning of the vocab and how to decide what goes where through context.

Just wish I’d got through the warmer quicker and left more time for feedback after the detailed listening, but at least I know now this will be a whole 90 minute lesson with my Advanced Ones tomorrow.  

Post Advanced One Lesson Update

As suspected, this material easily filled up an hour and a half at Advanced One level (C1).  They had a lot to say about the best brands and why they liked them and we corrected their pronunciation of a few labels and clothes words.  I was surprised to find they didn’t know any of the pre-teach vocab words except one student who knew flatter, so the test stage was a tad demotivating for them.  But they enjoyed learning the new vocab and we had lots of personalised examples of flattery and flitting and fads (apparently fur-lined boots are the fad of the moment?). They were able to do the part of speech exercise very well and that helped them a lot to predict which words went in which gaps, but it took them time and they didn’t get them all, but once they listened most of them were able to fill the gaps correctly.  Definitely a challenging listening, motivating vocab and it fitted in nicely with a word formation exercise in their course book (Advanced Expert – Page 61) about fashion and buying trends.  All in all a fun and useful lesson – I recommend it!





C2 Lesson Plan – London Riots

10 08 2011

C2 Reading London Riots Independent article

Read this great article after a twitter recommendation from @harrisonmike and immediately thought it would make for a better lesson for my Prof Twos this evening than what Proficiency Gold had in store for them.

It’s a reading lesson, that leads into further reading, summary writing and then full-blown article writing.  It’s in first draft mode at the moment, will update it after the lesson and following on from your comments.

Just a worksheet for now, reflective lesson plan to follow tomorrow hopefully after the lesson.  I realise there’s no vocab focus in a lexically rich text, but I only taught this class twice so not got much of a grip on what they’ll know or not, so will let them lead me on that – opening that can of worms I always tell my Celtees to leave on the shelf.

Wish me luck with the lesson and I hope it’s helpful to some of you too.

Post Lesson Update

A stimulating lesson – the students hadn’t heard much about the riots and were surprised such things were happening in the land of five o’clock tea.  They have much more experience of this type of thing happening much closer to home.  

In the lesson we did Task 4 before Task 3 – when creating the worksheet I was thinking the paragraph exercise was more gisty than the detailed task, but before class I decided they needed to understand the text in detail to be able to do this task justice and that was borne out in the lesson.

They were surprisingly critical of the article and the paragraph summary led to the realisation that the author was narrowing down the argument to promote her charity (paragraph three got particular criticism – mentioning social media just to sound trendy and cool?).  Having said that, it was interesting to see the students tended to summarise the paragraphs rather than discuss what their purpose was.  This will definitely lead in to a writing lesson where they try and emulate the paragraph model.

My worries about the vocab challenge of the text ended up being unfounded, they didn’t have problems with it all.  There were a couple of phrases (e.g. insidious flourishing) they didn’t quite get but nothing that detracted from their understanding of the article.

Am looking forward to their summaries – getting into the mind of the mob mentality was the follow up article they chose.  What about your students? Which article did they chose?





A call for help after Facebook frenzy

5 08 2011

Something very strange happened in my Advanced One class this evening.  We’d discussed last class how they knew they needed to practice writing (I managed to stop myself correcting them to develop) but that they didn’t like the writing tasks in the next unit of the book.  So I’d decided to be cool and trendy teacher (they’re 14/15 year olds) and suggest setting up a blog.

However, I also decided to be a student-centred, Dogme-style teacher (I know, I know, we went to the computer room) and let them actually set up the blog during the class.  The plan was to choose a name and what categories we’d aim for and then head to the computer room, set it up, discuss which theme to use and I’d set them a homework task of writing their profiles for the About page.

But when I mentioned this option to them, something strange happened.  They nigh on demanded that instead of a blog we open a Facebook group.   My immediate reaction was to say no, but I couldn’t think of any particualr reason why not (apart from a rather worrying nagging voice in the back of my head singing ‘security, security, security’ at me while I tried to dissuade them from continuing).  What followed was a coherent and cohseive debate on their part of the advantages of Facebook groups over blogs, I meekly conceded, but insisted they sat back down and we planned the launch properly (they had stood up as if by instinct as soon as I mentioned the words ‘computer room’).

They came up with the most boring name in the world, insisted the group was closed so none of their friends could laugh at their English (I doubt they have any friends whose English is better than theirs) and then positively begged me to post homework tasks so that they could complete them as notes on Facebook.

And off we went to the computer room…what followed was half an hour of incredible interaction, 95% of which was in English and about 40/60 split between writing and speaking.  The interaction between the four of us (I know, very small class, not empirically acceptable) while we sat at the computers was some of the best conversation I’ve witnessed in one of my classes.

One of the girls was overgrouped and so couldn’t join our group and noone could find her groups to ungroup her to allow her to join us in our group – there was language of suggestion, demonstrations of frustration, explanations, demonstrations, justifications for various odd groups she’d joined, all carefully monitored by yours truly.  Chucking in the odd technical Facebook / computer word and reformulating some of their functional language, they quickly took on new phrases and made them their own.

The other girl set up the group, named the group and invited us all and the absent ones to the group, when something really cool happened.  One of the boys who hadn’t turned up to class accepted her invitation to the group.  He even then did the task I set them – to write a quick intro to themselves.  And I merrily reacted to the content of their posts and included correct versions of their language in my responses.  And was even able to get the lad who’d not come to do the homework for next class.   I found out about their favourite music, the sports they play and that they’re all addicted to Facebook, all useful info to use to tailor texts and tasks to their likes.

Having used up my homework task in the class, I even managed to come up with another one on the spot for them to do at home, simply recommend a website in English and give three reasons why we as a class would like it.  Hopefully that will stoke their enthusiasm til next time.  My problem, and where you come in is, what do I do next time?  I mean, what do we do next time?  I can’t let them spend all their classes on Facebook, but have I lost them from the classroom?  Maybe I can use it as a reward at the end of classes if they’ve worked well and kept it in English?  Or just use it as a homework tool from now on?  They seemed so enthusiastic about the group ‘this is cool’, ‘I’m having fun’ (even the lad who was absent seemed to feel he was missing out) that I really don’t want to poor cold water on their fires by going the wrong way next time out.  Help!

What I need is advice, suggestions, ideas and help, any help, please.  Does anyone tend a Facebook group with their classes?  How do you use it?  What do you get the students to do on it?  How often do you use it?  What’s the balance between class and home time?  How do you go about improving their language while they use it?  Today has engendered such feelings of success (where’s @Harmerj and his flip when you need him) but also a plethora of questions.  Can you help me with the answers?





Comment on Willy Cardoso’s post on Silence and control (Part II)

25 07 2011
mcneilmahon says:

July 25, 2011 at 2:44 am

Fascinating reading Willy, many thanks for sharing. With regards the films non-conversation, I think perhaps your expectations are possibly unrealistic, since as Scott points out, this often happens in conversations in L1 as well. In fact, I’d say it happens in A LOT of conversations in L1, and this is probably much more likely to be the reason for the students wanting to tell you rather than interact with their peers rather than any flaw in your activity.

‘What’s the point? I thought to myself. They chose the topic, but all they wanted was to tell ME about it and know if they made any mistakes?’

Point is, not only did the students choose what to talk about, but they chose how to talk about it – in a way that reflects their behaviour in L1 conversations. One way to respond to this is to impose a more interactive task, or you could just accept it as their way of conversing and move on – it’s still a worthwhile task if you’ve listened and given them language feedback as they wish.

Or perhaps you could involve the students in designing a listening task which develops their listening skills and gives them an intrinsic reason to listen (something to do with thinking about which films they may want to watch seems the obvious way to go here). Perhaps this could be done next lesson, using your initial intriguing format – ‘In one minute write down what you remember of your classmates films…’ as a way of leading in to listening more to each other and conversing rather than presenting.

Looking forward to hearing more about your classes.

Thanks, Neil!
You’re right, in fact, I should be happy they chose the topic and chose how to talk about it, and they did talk a lot, even if without too much interaction. I think that part of my frustration comes from the fact that I don’t enjoy seeing students just waiting for their turn and not listening to others, in this type of activity one can easily be quiet for 25 minutes until their turn.

Today, I included some more interactive elements like having students stand in the front for speedy presentations and it worked well, the level of attention was generally very high, I’ll even write about the whole activity in a later blogpost because it did work really well.