Recent whiteboard work

I mentioned a few whiteboard tips this time last year. I should probably follow my own advice, because my recent whiteboard work has been a bit shoddy.

I’ve been taking some pictures of my recent boards. I won’t post them up in full – I’m embarrassed that I actually make quite a few spelling mistakes. I’m working on that.

Here’s a snippet of one though… this made me chuckle. It must have been an interesting gap year this student was having…

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Haha!

Among the abundance of scribbles and poor organisation, I have come across a few useful things. Obviously, if you’re taking pictures of your own board then you consciously try to make things neat or clear – some of these are recent things I’ve tried out so do let me know if you think they’re a bit rubbish!

Marking opposites

I’m surprised I didn’t mention this in my first post. I do this quite a lot though.

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I observed a teacher years ago who used that ‘not equal to’ sign to show opposites. I’m not sure it’s right but I’m now in the habit of doing it and students know what I mean!!!

Marking affixation

I normally do this to raise awareness of word building patterns. What do you think?

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Drawings

I’m getting better. Paul Millard would be pleased.

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Please share any tips you have, I’m always looking to improve my whiteboard work🙂

For more tips, check out this awesome board from Anthony Ash.

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

Classroom games – Dobble!

Dobble is a great card game for quick thinking and bit of new vocabulary. I trialled it during a ‘fun and games’ social club last week and it went down well. Actually, the students enjoyed it so much that they invented their own variation of the rules!

The game looks like this:

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It’s just a load of cards. However, each card always shares a matching symbol with any other card. Here’s one way to set the game up (for 4 players). See if you can notice the matching symbol on each card:

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There are plenty of ways to play the game, but all involve either trying to get the most cards or losing all of your cards. You must call out the matching symbol before you win (or give away) a card. Of course, a flaw in the game is that you could easily lie as it’s fast-paced, but who would do that…?!

Our social club is quite relaxed. The students just looked through the cards and identified symbols they couldn’t explain. I taught what was needed…

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We played 3 or 4 variations of the game which were lots of fun, although the students kept ganging up on me! Then the group decided that they could think of some more interesting rules. These slowed the game down, but led to plenty more language use as first they had to explain the rules to me, then we needed some process language rather than just the name of each object:

A: Have you got a clover?

B: No, I haven’t…

 

A: I think you’ve got….

Etc

(pronunciation of weak forms and contractions was a good point to come from this)

Overall this was a fun game for the classroom, the students definitely got something out of it. There are 55 cards so you could easily break things up into smaller games between teams in a young learner class. It would be a good reward or break time game (if your students aren’t still glued to Pokemon Go).

Link to Dobble on Amazon – no, I’m not on commission!

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

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Planning tasks for young learners

To an experienced YL teacher this post is just stating the obvious. To me it’s not, because I’m new to teaching primary aged learners.

I’ve got in the habit of tweaking almost every activity to try and make it fun. I enjoy getting my planning hat on and making things more engaging for YLs. Things like the spelling races and the travel quiz I spoke about last week are the recent additions to my toolkit.

Things to consider

A few general tips for tweaking tasks to make them more YL friendly:

  • How do things look? Changing fonts, adding images, colour… these can all make your activities look more engaging
  • Can I make my tasks more ‘multisensory’? Sorry, I’m not buying into the VAK neuromyth with this! I’m just suggesting that varying tasks in general can lead to more interest and engagement
  • How long are my activities? Short activities are better. I try and keep most stages under 10 minutes, but of course it depends what you’re doing!
  • Where does the activity fit in the lesson? What comes before and after it? It’s good to have a balance of ‘stirrers’ (get students up and active) and ‘settlers’ (calm down, focus, etc)
  • Can I add an element of competition? I guess this depends on whether you want to… My students respond well to competition. I like that a competition element often promotes teamwork and collaboration, but students do come to expect a game element a bit too much sometimes…
  • Do I need to differentiate the task? You probably will, so how can you make sure that you meet the individual needs of each learner?

Se at TalkTEFL is a brilliant teacher of young learners. I know he has tonnes of posts lined up on YLs, so I’ll leave this topic to the expert. However, I will share one example of a tweak I tried which has gone down well:

Hiding words for matching tasks. Instead of giving learners a set of words and meanings for a vocab matching tasks, I just hide the target words around the room. Everywhere – stuck on the projector, on the underside of skirting boards, in the middle of the dictionary… They have to find the words and write them (correctly) in their books before I give them the meanings to match. They go MAD for this for some reason!

Feature image: valeriabfranca.com

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

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Noticing contractions

Contractions often come up as a pronunciation point in our Elementary level lessons. My students don’t have much trouble with ‘I am’ becoming ‘I’m’, but contractions with ‘you are’, ‘we are’, etc seem a bit harder to produce. I feel that if learners are struggling to produce it that’s one thing, but struggling to notice a contraction might be more problematic with regards listening. Context would help a lot anyway (especially with present continuous given Ving would follow), but I’m (contraction) trying out a few things to get learners noticing contractions more, and noticing whether or not they are actually producing contractions themselves!

This was my attempt the other day. The class have already done quite a bit on contractions, so I thought I’d test where they were. I made a load of cards with sentence on like these:

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Etc. Nothing special. Students read a sentence to their partner and followed the instruction whether to use a contraction or not. Their partner guessed – ‘contraction’ or ‘no contraction’. To my surprise, genuinely as I thought they were pretty good at recognising these, they got a lot wrong!

We did a bit of drilling again, and students looked through the cards and tried to say each phrase in both forms (with/without contraction). Students tested each other again, but this time they chose whether or not to use a contraction themselves. Recognition improved – we eventually narrowed down the problem to the use of ‘You are/You’re’ which the students were really struggling with.

It’s nothing great, just some drilling and noticing. It was useful though. It was nice to hear students even at Elementary level trying to give reasons why they felt something wasn’t a contraction when there was ambiguity…

‘No, you still say two words. ‘You are’. Not one word. It’s more like one word. More like ‘YOUR’ – Y-O-U-R.’

Fair description I thought, especially for the level.

Feature image: imgur.com

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

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A fun way to drill

A bit of repetition never hurt anyone! It might not be the most riveting stuff, but sometimes I come across these ‘listen and repeat’ drills in our materials or in books. They’re ok. I used to like substitution drills myself. You know, teacher models sentence, students repeat, teacher changes a word or phrase, students repeat again, etc. The British Council explain it better than me.

Anyway, I’ve taken to adding flipchart slides like this into my lessons when a bit of drilling is needed:

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(image rights: credit.com, sweetpics.site, traceylind.wordpress.com, corrupteddevelopment.com)

I got the idea from JB, Senior Teacher at British Council Vietnam. The text at the top is a hint to the target language – in this case it was ‘Can you… Could you… Would you be able to…’, phrases for making requests. Then there are some pictures for things to request, then the YES/NO symbols.

Procedure:

Get yourself one of these

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(image from cleaningshop.com.au)

  • First, do a bit of practice. Say the name of a student. Quickly slap the phrase (e.g. CY) then the picture with the fly swatter. The student says the full phrase – ‘Can you pass me the salt?’
  • Repeat this a few times, quickly so students have to think fast. You could do it in pairs, groups if you want, up to you.
  • Bring in the ‘YES/NO’ button. Just say a student’s name and slap the tick or cross. The student says one of the target phrases you’ve taught for agreeing to undertake the request (e.g ‘sure, no problem’) or refusing (e.g. ‘sorry, I can’t’). Practise a bit.
  • Put these together. Say two students names, then slap the phrase, a picture then YES or NO. The first student you say must make the request, the second student must respond.

What’s good about it?

My adult classes find the fly swatter funny. They like the quick fire nature of this, and it leads to some lively collaboration and correction. Only giving clues for the phrases keeps them guessing. You can get students to take over the swatting if you want. It only takes a few minutes to make a few different flipchart slides like this. It’s a nice 5 minute activity leading in to more controlled practice and it livens up a sometimes boring activity.

The feature image for this post is another example (in the future, eventually, one day, at some point)

Give it a go. Let me know what you think. Any other tips for drilling new structures?

Encouraging autonomy in teen classes

You might not need to encourage your students to take control of their learning. I do. My teens aren’t used to working independently or undertaking tasks without the teacher directing proceedings.

Our current topic is health and fitness. I found this great information booklet online entitled ‘Take charge of your health’, which was aimed specifically at teens. It looks like this, and you can access it here.

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Booklet produced NIDDK

My teens had studied this type of stuff in their mainstream schools. I knew there would be a lot of transferable language, so I felt they were ready to try a different approach to the lesson… (more…)