Guess the topic

Today I´m sharing an idea which I came up with last week.

If you asked me to describe myself during my first teaching years, I´d probably say ´spidergram addicted’. Or ‘associagram addicted’. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? 🙂 Hand on heart, my favourite activity to brainstorm students’ associations with a topic was a so called ‘spidergram’: a topic in a circle and words or phrases framing the circle. Frankly, my students took a shine in the activity, however, I believe, they always wanted me to introduce something more involving and engaging one day.

Last week I did not start one of the lessons with Intermediate students with a spidergram. Instead I had prepared a set of cards and asked them to play a guessing game in pairs. Take a card, don’t show it to you partner, explain the meaning, take turns.

The words were the following: Skype for business, social networks, message, post office, conference call, wireless connection, misunderstanding.

After each pair finished, I put all the cards on the table in front of my students’ eyes. Obviously, I asked them to guess the topic. Can you guess a topic?

Communications.

My students did it quite quickly. In the end of the lesson they mentioned that the activity was probably the most involving they had ever had in their lives. I believe, the activity gave them an opportunity to interact with each other and increase their fluency. Indisputably, they also became interested in the topic and this brought them a lot of fun and new impressions.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Yummy Revision

    I love ideas that simply come out of nowhere. My colleagues sometimes share their ideas and teaching tips that are extremely handy and appealing. That’s why I try to find a chance to use them as soon as possible. Today I was thrilled to have massive revision with my Intermediate students, following the idea of one of my colleagues Darya. I would call it Yummy Revision, and soon you’ll find out why it is so.

The idea is fairly simple. You should get a pack of M&M’s or any other brand of coloured candy. They serve like teaching aids for creating tasks for end-of-course revision.

Outline:

Step 1. Check the colours of M&Ms you have and cut out paper circles (one for each colour).
Assign each colour a category/topic for revision (e.g. Green: Decision­ making, Yellow: time-
management etc.) Stick  the circles on the whiteboard.

Step 2.  Divide your group into mini­groups. Pour M&Ms or any other multicolour candy into
3 bowls (I had 3 mini groups). Make sure the number of candies is equal in each, say, 9.

Step 3. And here we go­ Explain students that each group should come up with as many
tasks/exercises on a topic as they have candies of the same colour.

E.g. There are 3 green candies in their bowl (Green: Decision­making), so they think of 3
different exercises/tasks/activities on the topic. ( Make sure you elicit types of possible  tasks before –explanation, correcting mistakes, using the right preposition, gap­filling, providing synonymous phrases etc.)

As a result ­all your students are engaged, they revise target vocabulary, collaborate. After the class ask each group to send what they come up with to you by email, so that you
could check if everything in their tasks is fine.

Next class? It’s up to you­ have a competition using those activities, or pick the best ones, or
have them exchange their tasks etc.

And, of course, let them eat the candies at the end of the class­ they’re really well­ deserved.

I’m posting this large quote,  it’s how my colleague explained the activity.
So, today I was having the funniest class ever. It was fantastic to help students to create their tasks, to support lower ones and to ask the stronger to support the lower too. And yep, we ate those candies just after the lesson, sitting together on the sofa in the middle of the office and sharing our smiles and laughs.
And here comes a photo:

IMG_20160329_111425

I would love to thank Darya for this amazing experience!
This really made my day and I’m happy to share with you.

Thanks for reading!

‘Word of the day’ (Part 2)

[See the first part here]

To tell the truth, I’m not really into subscribing to such websites as “Idiom of the day” or “Oneliners-and-proverbs”. Yep, on the one hand, they are fabulous in terms of new vocabulary being revealed and learnt or, at least, noticed, and you can find out something really appealing. But on the other hand, having a huge workload and being extremely busy, you just skip those emails with a new idiom every day and it so happens you never read them again. Or you do, in case you’re inspired, but sometimes your motivation just fades away… My today’s post is about trying “word of the day” with students in the classroom, which turned out to be fairly engaging. Without being subscribed to one of those sites.

Otline: Teacher chooses a word, or a multi-word chunk, a proverb or an idiom and writes it somewhere in a corner of the whiteboard and introduces it to students in the beginning of the lesson. She asks her students to explain the meaning, and if they don’t know, she explains it. Later on students should come up with examples where the word is found (in other words, to make up sentences). Students can share in pairs, also they can make up questions to turn this activity into a communicative task. During the lesson the teacher can pay attention to the word again, and in the end to ask again about the meaning and examples.

The first time I tried it out with my Upper-Intermediate students, I completely went crazy about it. Firstly, this is something new your students will probably never find themselves. With a communicative task or a straightforward make-up-sentences activity the teacher can be sure her students will memorize the word. Secondly, it’s a new vocabulary unit that comes every lesson just in the very beginning, and it can become a nice starter every time, and you never need to come up with a starter idea. And without a doubt, it’s what your students will definitely love about the lesson.

With my upper-intermediates I made up my mind to assign students with a task to find word of the day for the next lesson and to share with the partners. We already had 3 lessons afterwards, and I should admit, this is probably the part of the lesson my students were looking forward to. At least, they were inspired to find out something completely new.

Thanks for reading!

Ways of conducting metacognitive feedback

metacognitive

Source: http://www.uc.rnu.tn/formdev/formulaire/pers.jpg

It is very important to wrap up a lesson in a right and effective way. I should admit, many moons ago I was a teacher who in the end of the lesson just waved good-bye and was happy to end up a lesson with it. I had never been thinking about anything special and much more interesting for my students¸ though I’d always understood its importance and value.

Metacognitive feedback stage is a stage when the lesson is actually finished and a teacher asks his students about the results of the lesson. Was it interesting for them to participate? Was the material interesting or boring? Was there something they would like to change or improve? There are lots of questions, and my very first post on this blog was about using post-it ® notes for Metacognitive Feedback. It happened because my experience allowed me to write and to share with others, and that means that I’d been trying many ways of doing it before. Today I’m going to collect all thoughts and ideas on this topic in one post. I hope it will be useful somehow. All tips are supposed to be used at the end of the lesson. All the information the teacher takes from students he can use to reflect on his practice and a lesson itself, also he can plan his future lessons and have a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses of his students.

The following ideas reflect my own practice and also practical ideas of my Spanish colleagues and authors of Spanish textbooks where self-evaluation is an important part of the lesson and should never be underestimated.

  1. Teacher asks students to write down 5-10 new words and combinations they learnt at the lesson.
  1. Teacher asks students to complete a small questionnaire with only one question:

This lesson was:

a) very rapid

b) boring

c) interesting

d) easy

e) difficult

  1. Teacher asks students to classify different types of exercises they did at the lesson and say which of them they found interesting / boring / favourite / difficult / thought-provoking. Exercises could be classified, for instance, as filling the gaps, answering questions, talking in pairs, looking out for some specific information in the text, listening, reading, etc. Teacher helps students to classify them.
  1. After classifying all exercises students can label them with one-two descriptions: the most interesting, the most confusing, the most productive, the most boring.
  1. Also as one of the alternatives of revision, students are asked to write 3-5 new words (verbs, collocations) from previous unit, or units.
  1. T asks students to analyze their further English practice. They can answer the question: what sort of things are you going to use for better learning? Students are offered some answers, like in a questionnaire, for instance: I have to write much more; I have to do much more grammar; I have to listen to TV programs, podcasts, radio, etc.; I have to read more and others.
  1. A nice idea for revision. Students are given worksheets with a table and complete it:
I’ve revised… I’ve understood…. I have to pay much more attention to…. Other comments
  1. Also there are several ways of self-evaluation for students. They are given a questionnaire and tick answers closer to them:
I have to improve… a)   My speech

b)  My written speech

c)   My listening comprehension

d)  My reading comprehension

I’m evaluating my process of studying… a)    I’m satisfied

b)   I’m content

c)    I have to improve my skills

d)   There are lots of things that I don’t understand

  1. Teacher asks students to write answers to these questions: a) What have we done at the lesson? ; b) I’ve had difficulties with___________; c) I’ve improved my skills ____________.
  2. Teacher asks students to answer the questions: which difficulties have you faced whereas studying this unit? (the answers possible are: difficulties with grammar, with reading, with listening and others.
  3. Teacher asks students to answer about new words or word combinations. What was the most difficult word to memorize? The easiest?
  4. In modern coursebooks there are a great amount of really informative texts. Teacher is supposed to ask his students about the text: what interesting information have you found out? What surprised you most? Which facts do you find most interesting?
  5. It is a nice idea for students to reflect, what kind of tasks they did on their own and which in groups of with a partner. Teacher can ask students about it. After that students can answer the question: was in easier for you to work on your own or in a group? Also as an alternative, Teacher can ask students to categorize exercises that are easier to do with a partner and that are easier to do alone.
  6. Teacher asks students to track the difference between two languages when they study grammar. Students try to find similarities and differences in two tenses, in ways of forming new words and in other grammar phenomena.
  7. When a class encounters with a text, after reading Teacher can ask his students: what kind of text do you like read most? The answers possible are: literary, newspaper article, letters, official documents, scientific texts and others. By gathering feedback from students Teacher can prepare more interesting texts for them.

Personally I’ve tried only quite a few of these activities with my students. The point is that there are lots of ways and while lesson planning I look at my notes and try to pick something that possibly will be helpful for my students after the lesson. And try it. My personal tip for teachers is to pick one every new lesson. Firstly, it’ll help you to have more feedback from your students, and secondly, it’ll help to reflect, to analyze your lesson, to prepare for the new one.

A teacher is free in his choice of conducting this stage both with using notes or just letting students discuss lesson outcome in pairs. The thing is that after that stage students become more aware of why they attend lessons and more confident as well, they learn to analyze and the teacher is a person who helps them.

Thanks for stopping by!

My first #flashmobELT experience

      A thing I’ve tried today with Intermediates. In Ann Loseva’s blog I found a link to ELT flashmob. The idea is pretty simple: teachers from different places post their ideas for the lesson starters, warmers or games, or just some interesting things I tried in the classroom and you can see all of them. When you try something, you need to leave feedback about your experience, write a post with a hashtag #flashmobELT.

      My today #flashmobELT idea is ‘password’ for letting students in. The original idea comes from Ann Loseva.

It’s a very simple task which aims more at getting students into the mood for English right at the doorstep than at focusing on any particular skills. And it works for me with classes which are locked before I come with the key and we all come in.
Today in order to enter the classroom you should say a password.” Ideas for what the password of the day is depend on the topic you’re doing, grammar structure you want them to revise, your mood, some news, etc. Basically, on your imagination. Let them think on their feet. Let it be one word, a word combination, a sentence, a question”. Some examples from my class: “one object inside/ outside the house”, “what’s your opinion about being late?” (obviously I was late for class), “one word connected with this day” (that was April 12th).

    My Intermediate students have just learnt adjectives defining jobs and responsibilities, such as demanding, stressful, boring, depressing, rewarding, fun, etc. So the password of the day was one of these words and I gave them a definition and they were supposed to say a right word. It worked perfectly. Now I am full of ideas of how to introduce this task to every single lesson. As for lesson planning which I do regularly, I am about to include this idea in a lesson plan along with other useful and important things.

Thank you, Ann, for your idea! It is wonderful!

Recreating conversations using mind-maps

Today I would like to share the most successful teaching tip I have used so far. My colleague Olga Sergeeva wrote an amazing post about mind-mapping, and I have been using her ideas for several months, particularly when the aim of the lesson is to encourage students to use key expressions (for instance, for business communication skills or functional language).

My today’s lesson with Intermediates was devoted to using key expressions related to reporting back.

Students were supposed to listen to 2 conversations (guided discovery). After taking notes they were supposed to fill in the gaps with useful expressions (controlled practice). Upon completion of the task they started creating a mind-map. Firstly, I elicited possible categories for the mind-map. Secondly, they added phrases from the transcript to categories. When mind-maps were ready, I asked students to cover them with a sheet of paper and to memorize as many phrases as possible. (according to Olga, some students can only memorize 1/3 of all the expressions). Afterwards I was pretty sure that students could try to recreate the initial conversations just looking at the mind-map they had created.

I remember my first lesson when I used this idea. Honestly, I was afraid that the task would be a failure. But there were many attempts to improve the task and to give clearer instructions to students. After recreating conversations students were ready to personalized and freer practice stages of the lesson. Feedback from students was positive and inspiring.

I should admit it is now one of my favourite ways of drilling key expressions.
And this is the mind-map students created today.

Mind-Map

Olya, thank you so much for your contribution!

Have you ever used mind-maps in your classroom? Please, share in comments.

Thanks for reading!

My favourite ways to raise students’ interest

One of the most wonderful and desirable things in teaching students a foreign language is that while teaching you always have an opportunity to get to know something new as well. That is why it is a very worth-while skill to encourage your students to know more. I use the following ideas to raise students’ interest.

1.    Associagram (or ‘Spidergram’). It is one of the ways I usually call ‘cheap but good’. Whenever I am full of ideas of creating it with my students, or if I have no ideas at all, spidergram is always at service. Once it happened with me, when I was teaching topic ‘Travel’ for Business English students. It appeared that I was not quite aware of the target vocabulary myself, because I had not experienced a lot of air travel, just for example. And spidergram was a nice chance for me to elicit vocabulary and to pre-test students.

spidergram

2.    Quotation. With regards to my previous posts, you can guess it is the most popular way to do whatever I am supposed to. Quotations are authentic, they involve new words, they serve as a good way to start a lesson, or, to wrap up a lesson as well, and if I need to teach a topic I sometimes provide students with a quotation. It can be a whole one, or a part of it, and students need to guess about the remaining part. At any rate, it is one of the simplest ways of raising students’ interest.

Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.
Robert H. Schuller

I chose this quotation when teaching ‘Decision Making’ for Business English students. After showing the whole quotation I let students discuss it and then we were ready to move on.

3.    A picture or a set of pictures. There are many apps which help you to create a photo collage. I very often use them to create collages and to show students. In doing so I can ask them to predict the topic of our lesson (or the aim, for instance). This happened with topic “Entertainment”. I prepared a collage with 4 places of interest which could be nice to visit in our native town Sergiev Posad and showed it to students (1. Urban Museum. 2. Russian-style restaurant. 3. Museum of Toys. 4. Saint Sergius Trinity Monastery). I was asking questions like: what can you see on this pictures? How are these places related to each other? If you were a visitor, which place would you go to? Which place would you recommend?

collage

4.    Questions. Not so long ago I prepared a material about Easter in the UK and we discussed it with my General English students. To raise students’ interest I asked a few questions about Easter, about its symbols and traditions, about our country’s traditions of celebrating it. After that we moved on to reading and speaking about this holiday.

What are you favourite ways of raising interest? I would be happy to read yours.

Thank you for reading!