Giving feedback using voice recording service

Hello everyone!

Today I’m going to be blogging about a trick which one of my fellow-teachers Viacheslav Kushnir from St. Pete has recently recommended to me, and this compelling and heartfelt ‘thank you’ goes to him, he really deserves it. I do believe, his tip is worth sharing.

I’ve been away for some not very convincing reasons, however one of them still remains the best escape from explaining the real state of things which is obviously lack of quality time for anything. Let alone blogging or reading something for continuing professional development. And one brief professional chat about my groups with Slava has changed everything.

In order to boost my students’ fluency and accuracy both in writing and speaking I’m bombing them with a lot of tasks. Writing emails, reports and ‘making-up questions for further discussion’, letting them record themselves in order to give them more opportunities for speaking activities, and, no doubt, so on and so forth. Since I’ve got three groups, it should not be a big problem for me, should it? But it is a big problem. So I was wondering if there’s anything that can be considered as a way to get out of all of this.

Slava recommended that I recorded my feedback for my students. I know, I know, a lot of teachers recommend peer correction first and then teacher’s correction. However, when you need to give ‘short and sweet’ feedback, that’s the way to do it. I usually use www.vocaroo.com for it. It’s pretty straightforward and does not need any registration. My students use the site for recording themselves (there’s an option to save a link to the recording and then to share); I use the site for recording feedback for my students, then I save the link and send to them.

What’s my take on that? First and foremost, it’s a really time-saving activity. Given it’s related to using technology which is really valuable for my IT students and can’t be overestimated. Secondly, the feedback from my students is surprisingly positive, they find it useful and helpful. And, what’s more, it gives them one more listening activity. What I always do is I never forget to thank my students for the piece of work they’ve done, be it writing or speaking. Whatever.

That’s all what I wanted to blog about today.

Thanks for stopping by!

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What are you doing right now?

Imagine a picture. My Pre-Intermediate students are entering the classroom at 09-30 in the morning for a 1,5-hour lesson and in just 5 minutes they all are leaving the classroom with only a pen and a small sheet of paper in their hands. The whole office is surprised, let alone, even shocked, but no one is trying to predict what is happening. The whole office is silent watching my pre-intermediate students walk around the office and write something in their small sheets of paper. They are walking slowly and watching other people do something in the office. In 3 minutes they’re coming back to the classroom. It’s time to put the cards on the table. My Pre-Intermediate students are focusing on Present Continuous. Today I asked them to leave the room, watch and take notes on what other people were doing at the very moment. They came up with something like that:

Marianna is checking email; Alice and Dima are playing ping-pong. The small fish in the aquarium are swimming and enjoying themselves.

At first sight, it might seem a bit strange, let alone, vague and uninteresting, however, they shared their feelings with me just after the activity. They liked it very much. They wanted to try it out again. They wanted to make a difference the following day and suggesting producing sentences without revealing the names of people in order to let their partners guess them.

What I personally liked about the activity is that they left the classroom. Yep, exactly, this point. They left classroom to know how it feels to work (to speak) outside the classroom. I always tell my students they their English is not limited by the size of the room. Leave it and feel it.

That’s what I wanted to share today.

Thank you for stopping by!

Real stories of real people represent an idea of an internal project

Several weeks ago I was having a successful series of classes with Pre-Intermediate students. At that time they were studying how to talk about their job and current working issues; no doubt that was achieved by revising Present Simple and Present Continuous as well as learning new ways of using Present Continuous in terms of speaking not only about a moment of speaking but also about changing situations.

The coursebook offered 3 texts about people presenting their jobs. It can be seen on a picture below: Present Simple and Continuous are used along with some necessary vocabulary to talk about their jobs.

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After the whole unit was finished it was high time to revise the material. As for vocabulary revision, I decided to ask stronger students from Intermediate group write their own short texts about their work using the proposed vocabulary and grammar. For having them as better visuals all necessary grammar and vocabulary was given in bold type. My story came along with theirs. The result you can see below.

 Picture of me 3

Anna Z. English Teacher.

I work for Epam Systems in Sergiev Posad office. My job involves organizing and conducting English classes for EPAM employees. I also take part in different conferences, webinars, trainings for teachers and special projects. For example, now I’m working on my blog where I write posts and articles about my teaching practice and tips for other teachers worldwide.

antonAnton A. Business Analyst.

My position in EPAM as a Business Analyst. A lot of my job consists of communicating with customers. Also I’m involved in organizing meetings for all Business Analysts of SP office and I’m a chairman of these meetings. Currently I’m working on a project with energetic Company ‘CHEVRON’. I’m planning future releases and I’m clarifying all the requirements.

Vitaliy

Vitaliy A. Software Developer.

I’m a Software Engineer in Epam Systems. I’m involved in implementing new functionality. I also write emails and test my work to ensure that my code works correctly. Currently, I’m working on a foreign project for a Canadian customer. Here I’m implementing tasks, related to service integration processes. These tasks are hard, so I’m reading a lot of documentation to get the idea of how it should work.

The idea was quite simple: I asked students to use those texts to talk about their jobs and current changing situations. Moreover, in the working kitchen where people get together during lunchtime we placed those stories and asked everybody to pay attention, saying that those were examples of “About myself”. The idea was welcome by other employees and we succeeded in motivating others to participate in other projects, as we called them. I was inspired too, as I could see students’ interest in doing this unusual thing.

In conclusion I want to say that if you like this idea to be used with your students, ask stronger students to help you. It will definitely generate their interest, too. Along with this, your target students will be really excited about reading stories about real people they know. Also, I’d say they liked idea about reading my story: they come a lot more familiar with what I do and what my responsibilities are.

Now I’m open to new internal projects. They are inviting and definitely worth trying.

Thanks for stopping by!

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!

Virtual Dice in the classroom

After Teachers’ Training for EPAM English instructors back in September 2014 I became aware of how to use dice and games with dice in the classroom. That was one of the most attractive ways of drilling vocabulary or grammar, or just use it for a lesson starter or for a warmer (along with a board game). Just because of people who showed how it had worked for them, I started using it in my classroom, both for Business and for General English. I guess, there’s no use in explaining how to make use of rolling dice. Moreover, I know that some teachers use it every single day. It turned out that I am no longer an exception to this fact.

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Yesterday with two Elementary students we were learning ‘Free Time and ways of spending it’. I elicited possible ideas, and after that we were having an enormous list of things to do. How to make students drill and how to encourage them to use as many phrases as possible? My favourite dice was at hand, as usual. Moreover, I found a nice site with virtual dice, including a possibility to roll up to 6 dices. The task was to roll the dice just by pushing the button, count numbers and use this or that phrase from the list.

Students were happy to play a game, it made our lesson funny and interesting.

Isn’t that a thing we, teachers, all are striving for?

And yes, a link to Virtual Dice, just in case you need it.

Thanks for stopping by!