Teaching GRAMMAR, while virtually traveling the world: a fun teaching and learning experience, during the covid19 quarantine.

Our senses allow us to enjoy our food, the sound of music, the beauty of a sunny day, the softness of a child’s hair – in short, our lives! With the aid of the Internet, I realised that I can teach my students about the special gift of the senses and how they work, even during the lockdown!!

How it all started

It was during the second covid19 quarantine 2020, when I had to teach remotely, both synchronously and asynchronously ,when I just happened to have accidentally stumbled upon two great hidden internet apps ,that teachers and students definitely have to check out- not to mention everybody experiencing a lockdown.

Presentation of the two apps

Window Swap is an application born of people like us, who were trapped in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and had to find a way out (in technology) so as not to lose their sanity.To me, it’s the perfect app so you can travel without moving;)

We go to window-swap.com, and click to see pictures or videos uploaded by other inmates, like us, from around the world! What you see is not live, they are shots uploaded by users, since the page was created, last spring.

Window Swap is the brainchild of Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam, a couple living in Singapore who were quarantined there. They locked themselves in a house, and when they got bored of the view from their own window, they thought of seeing something else. And they started building a site to travel to other worlds, through windows !

Like Drive & Listen, an app that lets you travel to different parts of the world listening to local radio stations, Window Swap fills that gap by giving you a sneak peak in the window of a complete stranger, into a complete unknown country.

It has shots of places you may have dreamed of visiting, such as Australia, Chile, Japan. And invalid sites, from other worlds, like Albany in the USA. A meadow, with its pond, its labrados and everything, from a terrace that, logically, you will never see in your life, but now that you see it, you like it!

At the same time, a Facebook page was created, “View from my window”, for everyone to share the view from their windows, until travel restrictions end, wherever they are. Until today, dozens of posts are uploaded every day and descriptions, reactions, comments, etc. play from everywhere!

Without further ado, I decided to let it be comforting for my students,as well!

I loved the main idea: exactly in the phase that you are, that you do not fit in the place, that you are tired of seeing the same walls and the same view, whatever it is,a complete stranger, in Scotland, India, Canada is sharing the same view with you.

The second app, the Drive and Listen app was created during the quarantine,last Spring.

All you need is a desktop. You open the app and scroll to choose which city you want to drive. Tel Aviv; Mumbai; Havana;

Play! Suddenly you are in the exotic, long-suffering capital of Cuba, driving a ’55 Plymouth and listening to Toto’s “Africa”. You can change station and catch another frequency! Either you let it see where it will take you or if you want, you change city.

You can also choose how fast you want your vehicle to move, even if you want to hear the noise of the street, like a window opening or closing, the wind, the rain, people talking etc

Of course the shots you see from the streets are not live broadcasts, they are videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and have been connected to the app. But radio is real-time! And most of the shots are from car dashcams, so it’s like living in that moment and being at the wheel or in the driver’s seat, as you prefer.

It’s basically like a game. Tired of hearing the same things? You have a list of 50 cities around the world to choose from, where you want to travel. What should our friends in Moscow be hearing now? What are they chatting about, in Los Angeles? What do you get from a radio show in Buenos Aires other than the name Diegito?

And if you want a real break, from all and sundry,the list also includes a small town in Switzerland, the enchanting Lauterbrunnen, with about 2,000 inhabitants, in the canton of Bern -a very nice destination if you want to take the mountains, as soon as the border opens and get rid of COVID-19!

The creator of the app is Erkam Seker, a student from Istanbul who is studying in Munich – Computing, what else? When travel restrictions began in Germany, he began building this app on the Heroku platform, mainly because he felt nostalgic for his own city, that is, for personal use. As we started doing puzzles,renovations (or the rearrangement of furniture in the space, ok) to kill time and forget about the lockdown restrictions, this young man wrote code!

When he saw how relaxing it was for him to fool around with pictures from the driver’s seat and change radio stations around the world, he continued, hoping to give courage and inspiration to travelers who could not travel or to expatriates who could not return home! He started to connect his app with city streets, and at some point the Thessaloniki, GR radio stations went up ,last Spring …

You want music when you read, when you work, when you cook, and of course when you drive. But especially in the car, you have the feeling that you can enjoy music in a different way. So much so, that if your favorite song is playing, you will wait for it to end even if you have parked – yes, you are not alone: ​​7 out of 10 drivers will not get out of the car until one of their favorite songs is finished.

Just like the creators of these apps, when I saw how relaxing it was for me to fool around with pictures from open windows or the driver’s seat and change radio stations around the world, I decided to introduce the apps to my students and use them in my online lessons, hoping to give courage and inspiration to the ones who could not travel or leave their homes!

Here’s the padlet wall I created for my students to help them share their window or street descriptions, after they have used the two apps.

AN EXAMPLE

MIAMI, USA –

AARON AND JESSICA’S WINDOW

The rain sounds loud

The grass smells nice

The sky looks cloudy

The garden looks beautiful.

The food in the barbeque tastes delicious.

Teaching the Verbs of Senses, online

A summary

 Start by writing the five senses across the top of your virtual white board (hearing, touch, smell, sight, taste) and ask your students to explain what each one is. 

Now that they know the vocabulary for the senses themselves, list under each one ADJECTIVES that relate to that sense.

Ask your students to volunteer adjectives that they already know to go with the verbs. For example, under smell you might write nice, yummy, disgusting or other related words. Under sight, your students might volunteer the words beautiful, stunning, interesting, tiny.

Write down whatever words your students offer, and then add some more of your own.

Finally, ask your students to describe what they can see, hear,smell,touch, taste ,in the places they “visit” while you are using those two apps ,by sharing your screen. To me, this is the perfect speaking activity!

The teaching steps, in detail

1.The five senses (5 mins)
• Introduce the five senses
• Put students in groups in webex breakout rooms (WebEx breakout rooms is a video conferencing features that allows the host to separate larger video meetings and webinars into several smaller groups of a set number of participants.) and ask them to match the body parts with the correct sense
• Check the answers as a whole class

2.Adjectives matching (10 mins)
• This task introduces students to adjectives which can be used to talk about the five senses
• Ask them to read the words in the diagram and decide what sense
each adjective can be used with. There may be more than one possible answer.
• When they have finished ask them to write one more adjective for each sense in the chat box, or have them use the webex annotate feature.
• Check answers as a whole class and drill the words if necessary.
Differentiation
Stronger students can write more than one adjective for each sense

3. Listening (5 mins)
• In this task, students watch the video and tick the senses they hear in their notebooks or write them in the chat.
• Tell the students to check their answers in breakout rooms , first, if you wish.
• Check the answers.

4.Discussion (5-10 mins)
• In this activity, students have the chance to use some of the vocabulary they have learnt ,in a
discussion about their own senses.
• Put students in pairs or small groups-in breakout rooms- and ask them to discuss the questions.
• Monitor and provide content-based feedback if students require it.
• Share brief whole class feedback of interesting answers.

5.Writing (5-10 mins)

Now is the time for the students to write their descriptions . I ask my students to do this as homework.

Encourage them to use as much detail as possible . They can use the word “object” whenever they need to refer to what they are describing in their writing. Also, challenge them to use some of the vocabulary that you listed on the virtual board earlier. They should try to use variety in their word choice as well as give thorough descriptions, if possible. For young learners, a paragraph such as the one in the example above, is more than enough.

TEACHING Comparisons USING VIRTUAL TOURS

WE LOVE VIRTUAL TOURS, DON’T WE? GRAMMAR VIA TRAVELING SOUNDS LIKE FUN!

When I first run into this amazing app, I thought “Here’s a new virtual adventure for my students“!

THE TASK

First, I decided to ask them to visit a few amazing museums and special places, VIRTUALLY!

Then, I asked the students to write which museum or special place they liked visiting the most and why, using COMPARISONS.

ie My favourite museum is the LOUVRE Museum. The Louvre is not only one of the world’s largest art museums, but it’s also one of Paris’s most iconic historic monuments.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BRITISH MUSEUM VIRTUAL TOUR.

CLICK HERE FOR THE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

FOR THE DALI THEATRE MUSEUM in Catalonia, Spain, CLICK HERE.

FOR THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM, IN ATHENS, CLICK HERE.

FOR A TOUR AROUND THE WHITE HOUSE IN WASHINGTON DC, CLICK HERE.

TO VISIT THE EIFFEL TOWER IN PARIS, FRANCE, CLICK HERE.

TO BE ABLE TO VISIT AUSTRALIA AND WALK AROUND THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE, CLICK HERE.

FOR THE GLOBE THEATRE, IN LONDON, CLICK HERE. Everyone, no matter where they are in the world, can now walk around Shakespeare’s Globe!

FOR THE LIST OF ALL THE MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS IN THE WORLD YOU CAN VISIT VIRTUALLY, CLICK HERE!

FORMING ADVERBS and COMPARISON OF ADVERBS

Another amazing web app which helped us virtually travel the World during the lockdown, while practicing our Grammar,is an app to fall in love with!

My favorite Facebook page “Geography is very cool” has shared an incredible site created, in fact, by a Greek, “Fly & listen”.

George Bakiris is a DJ and radio producer and was inspired to make something that will take us on a journey while listening to great music.

"Fly & listen" is exactly that you "fly" over a country of your choice, watching the sights through drone videos while you can select local radio stations.

All you have to do is select the country you want to enjoy on the right and then the radio station you want to listen to.
So you fly over Paris, Rome or Athens and listen to local music!

After my 6th graders had finished working on Comparisons in class, I asked them to visit our asynchronous class , click on the suggested link, travel virtually all over the world and then share their impressions and thoughts, using their Grammar on Comparisons-adjectives and Adverbs, in the classroom.

Here are some examples

The desert in Sudan Africais notasbig asthe desert in Egypt
The drivers in New York, USA drive more quickly than the drivers in London, UK.
Actually, I think they drive the most quickly of all.
I saw a few kids in London, UK dancing on rollerblades happily.
I’ve heard that people in Japan work harder than people in Mexico .
I think that, the lorry driver I saw in France, Europe drive  more carefully than the taxi driver I saw in Afghanistan ,Asia.
The drone flies faster than most birds. Airplanes fly the fastest of all.

I also asked them to complete sentences using adjectives, in exercises like the ones below:

Complete the sentences with the comparative form of the adjectives in brackets.
Begin with the first words given:
a. The Amazon River / the Mississippi River. (long)
The Amazon river _________________________________________________________________ .
b. India / Saudi Arabia (populated)
India ______________________________________________________________________________ .
c. New York / Los Angeles (large)
New York _________________________________________________________________________ .
d. Canada / Antarctica (cold)
Antarctica ________________________________________________________________________ .
e. Mount Everest / Mount Kilimanjaro (high)
Mount Everest ____________________________________________________________________ .
f. The Lake Baikal / Caspian Sea (deep)
Lake Baikal ____________________

Complete with the superlative of the adjectives. Did you know that?
a. Asia is the ___________ continent in the world? (large) (44,579,000 sq km)
b. Africa is the continent with the _________________ counties? (many) (53)
c. The Pacific Ocean is the _____________ ocean on Earth? (deep) (10,924 m)
d. The Vatican is the ____________ country in the world? (small) (0.44 sq km)
e. Luxembourg is the __________ country in the world? (rich) (GNP $45,360)
f. Mozambique is the _____________ country in the world? (poor) (GNP $80)
g. The Nile is the _______________________ river on Earth? (long) (6,825 km)

They were also asked to refer to the cities they had managed to visit virtually ,by sharing with the rest of the class sentences, like these ones:

In …………… city:
There are (wide) streets in the world.
Buses and cars are
(fast) in the world.
Shops in this town are___________ (interesting) in the world.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

STAY TUNED FOR FRESH INSPIRATIO,N COMING FROM MY MOST FAVORITE QUARANTINE WEB TOOL OF ALL:

http://radio.garden/

Explore live radio by rotating the globe.

All in all

OBSERVATION IS KEY TO PRODUCING STRONG WRITING AND SPEAKING.

IF OUR STUDENTS ARE ABLE TO OBSERVE THE WORLD AROUND THEM THEY WILL BE ABLE TO BETTER ELABORATE THEIR WRITING AND SPEAK ,EFFORTESSLY. IF THEY CAN BETTER ELABORATE THEIR WRITING AND SPEAK EFFORTESSLY , THEY WILL KEEP OUR ATTENTION AND MAKE THEIR AUDIENCE WANT TO READ MORE.

“10 ways to use puppets in the ELT classroom”-reposting my favourite Oxford UP article

Today, I am reposting Kathryn Harpers article on the OUP link below, which I have found highly interesting! Hope, you will find it as motivating, as I have.

I have actually used, almost all of the suggested activities below, in class, all these years…!

For those of you following my blog, it’s obvious that, I  love using Puppets, in my classes!

Actually, I believe that, Puppets change the entire classroom, by creating more possibilities for creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and curiosity. They give students a (sometimes silly) voice and put them in the role of creator. They can also be a co-teacher, a physical avatar, a learning partner, and even facilitate learning by subverting the ego.

Puppets are a great way to encourage and motivate your pre-primary learners when learning a new language.

Here, Kathryn Harper, gives her top ten tips for using a puppet in the classroom.

1) Greetings and routines: “Hello. How are you?”

Establishing predictable routines is extremely important in the pre-primary classroom to help with classroom management. With routines, children quickly get to understand what’s expected of them, giving them the confidence to learn and achieve more.

A great way to use the class puppet is for routines. The puppet can greet and say goodbye to the children when they come in or leave the class, and elicit information from them, for example, “How are you today?”

The children will be comfortable and interested in replying to the puppet, and even the shyest child will want to interact with it in this way.

By using the puppet regularly for specific activities such as ‘Reading time’ or ‘Goodbye time’, you can move from one activity to the next seamlessly, keeping your students motivated and engaged.

2) Creating affective conditions

One of the pre-conditions for learning is for children to feel comfortable, secure, and in a nurturing environment. The presence of a class puppet can help reinforce this ‘safe’, affectionate space.

Here’s how to create this space using your puppet:

  • Puppets, particularly a soft one, can give cuddles to the children. This creates an instant warm reaction with the children.
  • Children can express affection towards the puppet by stroking it, patting its head etc. This contact can be extremely important in breaking down barriers, relaxing the children, and enabling physical expression.
  • The puppet can comfort children if they are sad, for example, they can sit with the puppet. The puppet keeps children comforted and includes them in the class.
  • The puppet can be emotional when you can’t, for example, show anger or cry. This is a great way for children to learn about different emotions.

3) Using humour to animate the classroom

As a teacher, you know that getting and keeping the attention of a class full of little ones can be a challenge when it’s just you up at the front of the class. Having a class puppet can suddenly make everything more interesting for your students, and is a great way to animate your class.  Used in the right doses, the puppet can keep the attention of your students in many ways:

  • By doing funny or unusual things.
  • By showing reactions or emotions that might not be acceptable.
  • By creating a focus to an otherwise boring event.
  • By interacting with you.

4) Being allowed to get things wrong

Learning from mistakes and helping children see the good side of getting things wrong is key for their development. The puppet can be a huge confidence booster to your students, by showing them that it’s perfectly normal to get things wrong. It can do this by:

  • Showing the children that it doesn’t understand everything – and that’s alright!
  • Making fun of itself when it doesn’t understand –taking the pressure off children to get things perfect first time.
  • Letting the children play at being the teacher.

Orangito, the Spanish flat puppet in our class!

5) Modelling activities

When it comes to new activities and role plays, puppets can make the best partners. The puppet can attempt the role play and make a few mistakes. This shows students that it’s fine if they don’t get things right first time. Eventually, the puppet will complete the role play correctly and provide the perfect model for the children.

6) Acting out

One of the most effective and involving activities for children is acting out stories or situations. Of course the children could be the actors themselves, but if they use puppets, it liberates them and gives them greater creative licence. In particular, shy children can come alive using puppets as it takes the focus off them. What’s more, children with lower linguistic levels can be just as engaged with puppets because they can react visually through actions when they don’t have words.

7) Helping create stories or storytelling

Following on from number six, the next step is for children to create their own stories or follow on from an existing one. For this, you will need more than one puppet but you can easily get kids to bring in some of their cuddly toys, or make your own! When children tell their own stories, you really know they are engaged, their brains are working, and they have something to say.

This is a great activity to get the whole class participating. It can be very casual and short, or more involved and set up with props depending on your class size, the confidence of your students, or the learning outcomes you have set.

8) Being a target for activities

Activities are a lot more fun when a puppet is playing along. For example, if you are working on furniture vocabulary, you could play games such as ‘Where’s the puppet?’ – “He’s on the chair!” Or for classroom objects, you could play ‘What’s in the puppet’s bag?’ You can play games in which you pass the puppet around the class until someone says a particular word, and you could even play ‘Puppet says’ (instead of ‘Simon says’). The variations are endless. Have fun including the puppet in class games, and see your students’ participation soar!

9) The puppet as a a ‘prize’

The puppet is a tool for helping students learn how to behave in class, and as such, it can be used as a reward or a prize to incentivise good behaviour or hard work. Some ways you could use the puppet as a reward include:

  • holding the puppet for the rest of the class
  • leading the class in a song as ‘the puppet’
  • saying ‘Goodbye’ to everyone as ‘the puppet’

Children will be proud to take responsibility for the puppet during the class, and know they must look after it carefully.

10) Making puppets and creating a persona

Making puppets can become a great cross-curricular activity in itself and develop students’ fine motor skills. Get the children to create puppets reflecting characters from their English coursebook or their favourite stories, reflecting themselves or their chosen imaginary characters. By investing with the actual making of these puppets, role play or storytelling will become a lot more personal to the students.

Puppet making can be very simple or more complex.  You can make puppets out of socks or paper bags. Finger puppets can be made out of felt, wool, paper or other materials, or even stick puppets made from lollypop sticks. There a lots of other ways to make great puppets so have fun getting crafty with your students! Looking for some templates to help you get started? Here are some finger puppets featuring some of the much loved characters from OUP’s Show and Tell series!


Kathryn Harper has a background in ELT teaching in both France and Canada. She worked in publishing for 10 years as a grammar and reference editor (OUP), developing-world schools and ELT publisher (OUP and Macmillan), and ELT publisher for Latin America (Macmillan). She has written educational materials for the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, and is one of the authors of the pre-primary course Show and Tell (OUP).

Here’s the OUP link:

https://oupeltglobalblog.com/2018/06/08/10-ways-use-puppets-elt/

 

 

The benefits of using drama, in the EFL- YL class

William Shakespeare claimed that

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143

We all realize that,teaching in the primary classroom, is very different from teaching teens or adults, because of the amount of energy children have! Knowing how to channel this energy, will help us achieve balanced lessons without children becoming over-excited on the one hand or bored on the other.

One tool to manage this is, Drama/acting out.

As an English teacher, I have often been amazed at how effective drama is to capture the attention of the students in the EFL classroom.   We cannot only teach grammar and phonetics with drama ,but also it has the power to transform the student-actors ,as well as the audience.  Therefore, we shouldn’t underestimate this powerful teaching tool, to reach our students.

I personally love the use of masks and puppets, in my YL classes!
Puppets or masks can really bring alive a dialogue, role-play or story.

My suggestions?

Make simple masks out of paper plates for main characters. Bring in realia and props for children to use for acting out e.g. some real money and a bag for shopping. Have a dressing up box of simple props such as hats, glasses etc. Puppets or finger puppets can be used to liven up even the most boring dialogue, especially when accompanied by funny voices!

 

In my classes, puppetry works like this: using various odds and ends (paper, glue, cotton, wool etc), each child makes a simple puppet and describes its character to the rest of the class. When several puppets have been described in this way, the children work together in groups to produce a scene using the characters. They could alternatively make puppets of characters in their (course book) -one word-and enact dialogues from the book. (Hand puppets can be made using old socks, stick puppets with ice-cream  sticks.)

 

Generally taking, I firmly believe that, we need to use drama more in the schools.   The language can be used in context and makes it come to life.  Drama has the potential of making the learning experience fun for the students and even memorable because it is interactive and visual.

The personal nature of improvisation, provides many outlets for self-expression. We all know that, children need to play as an important developmental process.

What is more, drama puts the teacher in the role of supporter in the learning process and the students can take more responsibility for their own learning.

The play acting can help to relieve the tension of learning in a second language.

The shyness and fear of using English, very often blocks learning. When the students are having fun, they tend to relax and stop blocking out the new language.

Role-playing is a powerful tool,too.  It teaches cooperation, empathy for others, decision making skills and encourages an exchange of knowledge between the students.  These aspects alone make role-playing beneficial because the students are learning from each other.   Apart from the obvious development of communication skills, it encourages leadership, team work, compromise, authentic listening skills .

The benefits of drama to develop the imagination should not be undervalued.  In our rote school routines of memorization and compulsory subject matter, we sometimes do not spend enough time on encouraging our students to use their imagination.

We need imagination to make a better world. In order to accomplish anything worthwhile, we first need to imagine and dream it.  I always emphasize my students that fact!

I also tell them that, in life, we are all playing many roles, therefore, we are wearing many masks.Older students,easily  understand this.

Few tested methods for incorporating Drama in the EFL class , summarised

Act out the Dialogue

One of the easiest ways to incorporate drama in the classroom is to have students act out the dialogue from their textbooks. Simply pair them up, have them choose roles, then work together to act out the dialogue, figuring out for themselves the “blocking,” or stage movements.

Perform Reader’s Theater

Another good beginning exercise is to do Reader’s Theater. Hand out copies of a short or one-act play, have students choose roles, and then read the play from their seats without acting it out. However, do encourage them to read dramatically, modeling as necessary.It’s an alternative and fun way of practicing reading aloud, as well!

Act out the Story

This is particularly effective with “short-shorts”: brief, one-scene stories with limited characters.

Write the Dialogue for a Scene

Watch a brief clip of a cartoon movie without the sound on. Have older students write a simple dialogue for it and act it out.

Act out and Put Words to an Emotion

Give students an emotion, such as “anger” or “fear”. Have students, either singly or in groups, first act out that emotion then put words to the emotion.

Give “Voice” to an Inanimate Object

 

What would a stapler say if it could talk? Or an apple? Have students write monologues with inanimate objects as the character. Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy might also be termed a monologue, for example.

After writing them, students can read the monologues aloud.

Create a Character

Have students develop a character, writing a one-page profile on the character’s background, appearance, personality, etc. Have them introduce the character to the class, explaining what interests them about their character.

Write a Monologue

Using the character they’ve already developed, have students write a monologue for that character then perform it.

Mime 

Have students act out short scenes without dialogue. The rest of the class then supplies the dialogue, developing the “script.”

In role playing, the participants are assigned roles which they act out in a given scenario.

Improvise

Put students in groups of two or three, and assign the characters and the situation to the groups.Students create the dialogue and movement themselves.

With careful planning, use of drama enhances our English classroom curriculum and adds fun in our teaching!

Drama encourages adaptability, fluency, and communicative competence .

“The Wizard of Oz”:School musicals offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions

” Alice in Wonderland”:School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

” Interviewing….Barbie”: ‘Pretend games’ are a central part of a child’seducation.
When they dress up as a princess,they become a princess.

I always encourage my students to use short plays, skits or other drama activities to present their projects in class.  Here,….. Hurem, Sultan Suleiman’s wife is being interviewed about her life in the harem !! Improvisation works miracles! Kids, decide about their costumes and they write their own lines…..

Note:Ideas, first found and later tried out in class, on  https://busyteacher.org 

Back-to-school fluency enhancing activities

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Fluency refers to how well a learner communicates meaning rather than how many mistakes they make in grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. Fluency is often compared with accuracy, which is concerned with the type, amount and seriousness of mistakes made.

I personally, don’t believe that  fluency is a goal worth striving towards only with students who are at a fairly advanced level. I firmly believe  that the learning of a language is about communication, and I  feel that fluency should be the main goal in our teaching and that it should be practiced right from the start.

More traditional teachers may tend to give accuracy greater importance;In my classes, I tend towards fluency.

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Of course, we learn a language for communication, so I think that if a student is fluent but not accurate, it is still important to check whether the mistakes or errors can not block communication. Otherwise we need to correct any mistake that can be an obstacle to communication. I just want to stress out that being fluent without being accurate is not the issue we should focus on if communication is taking place effectively.

Let’s be honest: in terms of preparation for the world outside the classroom, fluency is sometimes even more important than accuracy.

Why I am more interested in fluency than accuracy in the early stages of language acquisition? Because,  I think back to my own elementary school days… I disliked teachers who singled out students for correction. I think correcting speech is counter-productive to learning. I think some students are initially going to have a difficult time learning English due to not comprehending what is being said and also due to vocalizing new words. So, if I correct everything said, students might feel that English is too difficult. They may perhaps tune out and/or become embarrassed and may develop a negative attitude to English.

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The most important thing for me has been to recall the wonderful teachers I have had in the past with a view to modeling them as much as possible in my own classrooms. And I have found reflecting on the outcome of my lessons brought me closer to the ideal. This I found was a positive way for me to improve my teaching and create an ever more joyful atmosphere for the learning of English as a foreign language for my young students.

Actually, I have realized that, it’s usually easier to become more accurate in a language!  Fluency is harder to master, so that’s what we should focus on at first, even  in the beginning of the school year! Especially, then!

An example I can give, comes from a close friend of mine, who loves learning languages. This is what she has told me…:”A long time ago when I learned French in a “Frontisterio” (  private Language Institutions in Greece) , the language teachers believed that the most important thing was grammar. So I learned French grammar very well—even to this day I am proficient. But I can hardly speak a sentence of French because no one cared about my fluency—only my accuracy.”

All in all, quite an important factor in education towards  cooperation, is the teacher’s attitude. If she favors a cooperative style of teaching generally and does not shy away from the greater workload connected with group work or projects, if she uses activities to increase fluency, then the conditions for learning to cooperate and develop fluency,  are good. The atmosphere within a class  can largely be determined by the teacher, who – quite often without being aware of it – sets the tone by choosing certain teaching methodology and practices.

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Activities that help to develop fluency focus on communication- for example discussions, speaking games, presentations…..

Here are just few ideas for icebreaker and fluency activities, suitable for a wide rage of students, which have worked in my classes.

a) Start with a ball of yarn.Say your name and an interesting fact about yourself.Then, holding an end, toss the ball to a student.The student will say his/her name and an interesting fact , then holding on to part of the yarn,toss the ball to another student.By the time everyone has spoken, there will be a large web of yarn that can be displayed on the bulletin board with thumb tacks, if you want!

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(This activity is excellent as a review tool, too.Each student says something about the subject, , then tosses the yarn)

b) Split the students in pairs. Each pair will have 30 seconds to find 5 things they have in common.At the end of the 30 seconds, put two pairs together and give the four a minute or so to find something all four students have in common.

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Finally, each group can present the list of things they have in common.(You can use this activity, to form student groups, too)

c)Pass around, a bag of M&Ms.Tell the students to take as many as they want.Once all the students have M&Ms, tell them that for each M&M, they took, they have to say/write one thing about themselves. For instance, if a student took 10 M&Ms , they would have to say/write 10 things about themselves, different for each color.

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Examples:

Green: something about school

Red: something about my family

Blue: something about my hobbies

Yellow: something about my future plans

Brown: something about my friends

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(Variation-use a roll of toilet paper, instead of M&Ms)

 

d)Me in a bag, has been one of my most favorite activities, for many years now…

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I put a few items that represent me in a large paper sack.I put a paintbrush because I love drawing, my favorite book , my favorite CD, a cookbook etc

The students, guess the significance of each item as I pull it out of the bag.This discussion helps the kids to know me as a person.

Each student then, has a turn to bring in his/her own ” Me in a Bag”, giving everyone in the class the chance to shine!

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e)Another fluency activity that I love, is “My timeline” or ” My numbers”.

I start the lesson by drawing a line on the board and and write important dates of my life on it.

Students ask me questions about my life to get them as answers.

For homework, students draw their own timelines.and they talk in pairs about them. I walk around listening…

Brainstorming!

Students playing and having fun, while learning new languages!

f) Music mingle , is also one of my favorite fluency activities.

Move with the music, stop when it stops, grab a partner and talk about a happy memory ( or anything else, eg holidays, favorites etc) until music starts again….

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g)True or False activities ,have always been my favorite ones!

I write 4 facts about myself and read them to my students. 3 facts are true but 1 is false.

Students take my little true-false test.Then, I survey students to learn the results. We go back over each question to see what they  thought about each statement.

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That gives a chance to tell them a little about me.

Then, on a sheet of paper, students write 3 interesting facts about themselves that are true and 1 that is false. A class discussion starts.

h)Open questions session: Sometimes, just a simple opportunity to ask questions, can benefit our class. When I have a few minutes, I open the floor for my older students to ask me questions.,They can be about anything! They just love it!

Learning a foreign language is not just a matter of memorizing a different set of names for the things around us… it is also an educational experience.

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Whatever the activity, think through the language they will need to complete it and include some kind of post-activity focus on form slot. Variety is important as anything can become dull if it’s done too often and is thus predictable. Vary the task, the seating arrangements, group size and materials used.

Good luck!

9 All about me: this is another favourite project of mine! We spend at least two lessons on it.First , I start by asking them to play the guessing game "Me in a bag": I take out of a bag several objects which have to do with my life and interests and ask the class to guess how they are related to me! I ask them to do the same during our next lesson for themselves and challenge their classmates to guess about them! Finally, they are assigned to write everything they consider important about themselves on this paper figure which is displayed on the classroom walls!

Favourite activities to promote speaking

Super Mario in our english class!

Super Mario in our english class!

Speaking is a crucial part of second language learning and teaching. Despite its importance, I believe that  for many years, teaching speaking has been undervalued and English language teachers have continued to teach speaking just as a repetition of drills or memorization of dialogues. However, today’s world requires that the goal of teaching speaking should improve students’ communicative skills, because, only in that way, students can express themselves.  Communicative language teaching and collaborative learning serve best for this aim.  Communicative language teaching is based on real-life situations that require communication. By using this method in ESL classes, students will have the opportunity of communicating with each other in the target language.  In brief, we should create a classroom environment where students have real-life communication, authentic activities, and meaningful tasks that promote oral language. This can occur when students collaborate in groups to achieve a goal or to complete a task.

Interviewing ...the Minnions!!

Interviewing …the Minnions!!

I love both role-plays and simulations in my class!

Simulations are very similar to role-plays but what makes simulations different than role plays is that they are more elaborate. In simulations, students can bring items to the class to create a realistic environment. For instance, if a student is acting as a singer, she brings a microphone to sing and so on. Role plays and simulations have many advantages. First, since they are entertaining, they motivate the students. Second, they increase the self-confidence of hesitant students, because in role play and simulation activities, they will have a different role and do not have to speak for themselves, which means they do not have to take the same responsibility.

Interviewing ...an alien!!

Interviewing …an alien!!

There are two ways a role play can go: scripted and non-scripted. With a scripted role play, the teacher might use an example in a text book. This is a good idea for a warm up exercise, by getting everyone to split up into pairs and allow them to speak to their partner, taking on different roles. Non-scripted ones are when students are given a role each and must use whatever knowledge they have in order to speak with that partner or to the class! Non-scripted ones, are my favourite!

Interviewing a famous athlete.

Interviewing a famous athlete.

When it comes to role-plays , it is all about the creative use of language. The student must put what they know to the test. This doesn’t mean they have to list off a boring dialogue. I allow them to be as creative as they can. I put them into challenging situations, and this will allow them to think of new ways of saying things.

A class survey...moving and talking around...

A class survey…moving and talking around…

Body language is just as important as spoken language, so in their role plays I try and let the students get into the role.

A simulation activity: at the mini market

A simulation activity: at the mini market

I also have my students conduct interviews on selected topics with various people. It is a good idea that we provide a rubric to students so that they know what type of questions they can ask or what path to follow, but students should prepare their own interview questions. Conducting interviews with people gives students a chance to practice their speaking ability not only in class but also outside and helps them becoming socialized.

 

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Presenting their project work in class….

 

What I  regularly do is ,to  have my students report to the class about their group project work! They report to their friends what they find as the most interesting thing in their project research. Students can also talk about whether they have experienced anything worth telling their friends while working on their projects.

Interviewing Messi!

Interviewing Messi!

I also love debates! I often have groups of students work  on their topic for a given time period, and present their opinions to the class. It is essential that the speaking should be equally divided among group members. At the end, the class decides on the winning group who defended the idea in the best way.This year, we have been working on a British Council project called “LIfe Skills”. This activity fosters critical thinking and quick decision making, and students learn how to express and justify themselves in polite ways while disagreeing with the others.

The winners of the " Life Skills " priorities pyramid " competition   holding their...lollipop awards!

The winners of the ” Life Skills ” priorities pyramid ” competition holding their…lollipop awards!

Rather than leading students to pure memorization, providing a rich environment where meaningful communication takes place is desired. With this aim, various speaking activities such as those listed above can contribute a great deal to students in developing basic interactive skills necessary for life. These activities make students more active in the learning process and at the same time make their learning more meaningful and fun for them.

 

A class debate on life priorities!

A class debate on life priorities!

Once the students are having fun and speaking English, there are no limits to their own learning!

Teaching their classmates their favourite sports!

Teaching their classmates their favourite sports!

Back to school:Me in a bag and a…portrait!

 

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My bag this year

It’s finally  time to start building the classroom community. As I write my lesson plans, I include getting-to-know-you activities. These activities provide opportunities for the students to interact positively with one another. The children are eager to make new friends, learn about the classroom environment, and become part of a school family. After all, the classroom will become a home away from home for the next ten months.

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Few of the items in my bag

ME IN A BAG:

I know that there are many people who already do this activity but I hope that someone will find this helpful for the beginning of the year!

Yes, this is my night buddy!! We always sleep together!

Yes, this is my night buddy!! We always sleep together!

I bring a sack with a running shoe, a bread pan, a piece of stained glass, something of my daughter’s etc .I group students and dump a few things on each table.Then, I give them a few minutes to say what they think each item says about me !I invite them to bring their own sack on the following day and I am  always surprised of how many kids  actually, bring one!  It is fun to see how excited the kids get when they discover that a classmate has something in common with them.

 

During the next lesson, students bring their own bags and let their classmates guess about the items in it!

During the next lesson, students bring their own bags and let their classmates guess about the items in it!

Note: The Me in a bag  idea is adapted from a classroom banner example. The professional book is from a Scholastic book club order. I do not think it is available from the online store at this time. You could include a simple note to families requesting three or four small objects for each child to share.

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Students spend some time trying to guess about each item in my bag…

 

Well, when it is my kids’ turn to let their classmates guess about the items in their bags, they share so many personal stories, too! A precious moment was  yesterday ,when a girl showed the class an old DVD…and finally revealed that it was her late grandmother’s birthday present when she was much younger!

What is my favourite sport? I am going to tell you why, as soon as you make the right guess!

What is my favourite sport? I am going to tell you why, as soon as you make the right guess!

 

They used to watch it together, laugh and share unforgetable moments ! Then , she broke down in tears!! ” I really miss my grandma, miss” she said! I gave her a hug and thanked her for sharing such a precious moment with the rest of the class!

Guess about my talents!

Guess about my talents!

 

MY PARTNER’S  PORTRAIT

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After the portraits are ready, they are handed to the kids who use the frames to write words which talk about them.

I have students draw and color their partner’s portrait on the first day of school. These portraits make perfect keepsakes to pull out at the end of the year. Students are later , asked to brainstorm descriptive phrases and adjectives to write on the frame of their portrait , which talk about their special interests personality and talents! They are also free to comment on their partner’s portrait. Finally, all portraits are displayed in class. Rapport matters!

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Their partner, can’t see his/her portrait until it’s done!They may comment on it later…

Rapport activity: make your partner's portrait the way you see him/her , add adjectives which you think describe their character and personality !

Rapport activity: make your partner’s portrait the way you see him/her , add adjectives which you think describe their character and personality !

Rapport matters!

Rapport matters!

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking and storytelling

Lizzie Pinard

In a recent post, I outlined a collaborative writing activity for consolidating past simple and past continuous tense use. In that post, I briefly mentioned a possible follow up activity, using learner generated content and focusing on selected elements of spoken narrative. Since then, I’ve done just that with my pre-intermediate learners, and found it worked well, so I thought I’d share what I did with it here…

Time: 45 minutes (depending on class size/group size)

Materials: Cut up structural elements of spoken narrative and their linguistic realisations. (See example here ) (With higher levels, previously, I’ve cut up all the chunks individually but with my pre-ints I cut the chunks up in groups, so they had to match groups of chunks with the function rather than individual chunks, to provide more scaffolding)

Focus: Chunks of language used to structure stories when told orally (rather than…

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A Christmas Quotes tree ( and 2 more ideas)

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Well, it was my idea a couple of years ago, to have my 6th graders decorate a DIFFERENT Christmas tree , practicing their english at the same time!

I  therefore, made two Christmas Trees ( one, for each of my  classes) using card and put them up on the classroom walls!

I browsed the net and came up with hundreds of famous people’s quotes about Christmas . Later, I  prepared  handouts with them on, and asked my students to go home, read them all, decide about their favourite ones and justify their choices in class during our next  lesson!

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A class discussion followed about what’s really important in life, what Christmas is or should be about, about  life priorities, life values, family, consumerism….and many more topics!

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They just loved it  !

I ask them  to do about the same, every year…..I always provide them with the templates where they write their favourite quotes. I ask them to decorate them and make them look unique  before  we all together , decorate our Christmas trees with them!I’d like to share a couple of my favourite quotes with you all….

” I stopped believing in Santa when I was six.Mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph!” Shirley Temple

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under the christmas tree” Roy L. Smith

“At Christmas play and make good cheer, For Christmas comes but once a year” Thomas Tusser

“Christmas ….is  a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart” Freya Stark

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Another idea, I used a few years ago for some time was a Students Photos Christmas tree, outside our classroom: I stick all the students  photos on paper ornaments and asked them to write their wishes or New Year Resolutions on them, before I put them up on our Christmas tree…

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Last year, I decided to use a smaller Christmas tree in the classroom decorated with flags from all the different countries my students or  members of their families come from!  Our International Class Christmas Tree!

I plan to do this again, some year soon…brings the class together!

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