realia

Random realia and peculiar props

I think it hit home about five minutes before the lesson:

‘Am I really going to base a 30 minute activity around this bottle of murky water? Surely this can’t work…’

Most of the activities I’ve tried from ‘Teaching Grammar Creatively’ have worked quite well. This one though… I must admit, I had my doubts.

It was supposed to be an activity for practising the present perfect (for completion). There’s a poem in the book about a ‘cosmic cocktail’… something like this:

‘I’ve blended everything nicely,

two galaxies,

several stars,

I’ve added a sprinkle of meteor dust…’

Etc.

Sticking with the theme, I made the cocktail (mocktail) as a prop. It consisted of some cheap coffee, some raisins, bits of cut-up rubber… it looked awful.

Somehow, SOMEHOW most of the students bought into it. They enjoyed guessing the ingredients, reciting the poem, then making their own. It ended up a good review of a past lesson on cooking vocabulary, and was (as the book suggests) a fun, creative task.

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So, what’s the strangest/most interesting object you’ve ever used in class? And… did it help?!

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What I learnt from my first TESOL conference

Finally, some time to reflect on CamTESOL, which was held on 18-19 February. It was my first ever teaching conference (both attending and presenting), so thought I’d jot down a few reflections.

Presenting is tough but rewarding…

Teaching and presenting are not the same. I was really nervous about standing up and giving a short talk on using the internet for professional development. I’ve had a fear of public speaking for a long time, but I’m getting over it. I think. I co-presented with Kate Lloyd, and she was brilliant. She gave me training and tips beforehand, was very patient and supportive. Co-presenting was a really good stepping stone – I co-presented with Sarah Smith at Teaching for Success last year too and I definitely feel I’m gaining confidence.

As for the talk itself… Here are the slides

Personally, I was pleased with it. We pitched it at the right level for the conference and it seemed to go down well. There was a scramble for handouts at least…

I’m rubbish at networking…

I made some brilliant attempts to spark up conversation with other attendees, in classic Pete ‘socially awkward’ Pun fashion. These included…

  • A purposeful attempt at taking the last chocolate brownie from the tray at the same time as another participant which I thought might lead to an impromptu chat. It didn’t.
  • Sparking up a conversation with an attendee who was crocheting throughout the conference talks. We only spoke about crochet/knitting – I didn’t even find out which country she worked in
  • A weird moment when someone stared at my name badge, looked up at me, raised an eyebrow then walked off…

I managed to perfect a really good ‘gooseberry’ stance though. At one point I was chatting to a guy from a publishers (who I play football with back in BKK) and somebody rocked up, interrupted and said something that seemed to mean ‘I’m really important and you should speak to me’. I could tell that by the handshake. I wondered if I was supposed to be introduced but doubted it. I did a crab-shuffle towards the wine table, attempting to take the same glass as someone else hoping that it would spark up a conversation. It didn’t.

I should have planned ahead…

The conference programme for CamTESOL was pretty epic. Up to 25 talks happening at the same time, with 10 minute breaks in between. I should have worked out what I wanted to attend beforehand. I saw some good stuff, but missed some (possibly) interesting talks too. I also went the wrong room once, and ended up listening to a talk on teaching English humour to Japanese university students. It was interesting, it just wasn’t the most applicable for me.

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A guy explaining about Japanese jokes. It was a laugh.

The best talk I attended was ‘Models of professional development’ by Peter Wells. He explained observation types (self-appraisal, student evaluation, peer observation, external inspection) and which are most beneficial. I got a photo of one of his slides along with someone’s head.

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Peter Wells, interesting talk…

There are A LOT of coursebooks out there…

I forget this, just because I only use two different coursebooks. There were publisher’s stalls everywhere. Kate/Kris and I did a sweep to find the best book name. We came across a book for Young Learners called ‘Hats On Top’ – this led to a jovial five minutes imagining how the publishers arrived at this name.

I only flicked through a few books to be honest. But the Cengage range was certainly impressive, especially with the TED talk resources.

I should have made better notes…

I saw a dozen 30 minute talks during the weekend, but I don’t have many notes to show for it. I’ve got a few good handouts about grammar activities, and I jotted down some links. However, Kate clocked that when notetaking I tend to prioritise information that might appear in a pub quiz – as evidenced here…

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‘What does TED stand for, and what’s the TED slogan?’… A definite pub quiz question.

Conferences can be expensive…

The conference on the whole was great for my professional development. However, I had to take unpaid leave at work in order to attend. Once you add up the cost of hotels, flights, registration fees and extras, conferences aren’t something I can afford every year. I spoke to teachers from Australia and Japan who said they received some kind of funding to attend from their organisation, so that might be something to ask at my next job interview.

Overall, I had a really good time last weekend. It was a really well organised event and I enjoyed being involved in it. Did anyone else attend?

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Lesson ideas: football and conditionals

Looking for a way to teach/review conditionals? A former colleague at LTC Eastbourne (cheers Angel) told me that football was his ‘go to’ topic for conditional structures…

Show the students a league table (or part of it):

Use actual upcoming fixtures, or make them up to suit the part of the table you’ve chosen:

Chelsea v Man City (Saturday)

Arsenal v Tottenham (Sunday)

Etc…

Model some conditional sentences based on the information:

e.g.

1st conditional: If Man City beat Chelsea on Saturday they’ll move up to 2nd place.

 

You could provide scenarios for students to write about, or sentences for them to complete:

If Arsenal beat Spurs… (highly likely)

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Supporting young learners

Young learner classes at our school are mostly organised by age. This means there can be quite a range of abilities, and differentiation* is an important part of planning.  I generally find that our materials can be a bit on the tough side for my class, so I’m used to providing more support rather than extension tasks.

Here’s an example of how I supported my young learners in class last week. We were studying celebrations. I produced lots of short reading texts about different festivals/events and displayed these around the room. I’d made a couple of words in each text bold. Students did a vocabulary matching task, here’s part of it…

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Note the HELP box. If students felt they needed more help they could move the box. There was a clue underneath telling them which text the word appeared in (e.g. ‘Text A’). This meant their choice was narrowed down to two words. (more…)

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Present perfect game

I’m on good form! It’s been a fun weekend of classes.

Today I tried out a new task for practising the present perfect (life experiences). Well, it wasn’t exactly new, just a variation on a few well-known tasks. Still, it worked well – lots of practice and lots of smiles!

Preparation

  • Put a few topics on the board:

Travel, sport, studying English, animals, food

  • Elicit a few verbs (past participle form) related to each topic:

Travel: been, seen, travelled…

Studying English: studied, passed…

Animals: owned, fed…

Etc.

These will help students with ideas.

  • Give students 5 slips of card each. They write one sentence on each card (one for each of the topics). The sentence should be about their life experiences. Rules are…
  1. The sentences must be true (that narrows things down a bit!)
  2. They can’t be too easy to guess
  3. You must keep your sentences a secret

Easy to guess for Thai students: I’ve been to Chiang Mai (most of the students have)

Harder to guess: I’ve walked along the Great Wall of China (quite specific)

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Making it up as you go along…

I had a brief chat with TalkTEFL after class about how some activities we make up during class work better than the things we plan! Today was a prime example.

My teen class were really lacking a bit of get up and go. We were doing a few activities based on this vocabulary (Beyond A2+, page 80):

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They had to underline the words (in bold) related to study and circle those related to work. Then they listened to definitions and matched these to the words. We did a bit of group work (backs to the board-esque) to practise these words/meanings, but they just weren’t buying into it. Energy levels were really low. I needed a stirrer and FAST. Come on, Pete – think like a student! What might be fun? (more…)

My TEFL articles

I’ve just uploaded a few of my articles to Scribd. Hopefully I’ll have more to add in the future… Click here for advice on writing for ELT magazines.

Here’s an article I wrote in July 2015 for ETp on error correction. It’s based on a series of observations I undertook for a DipTESOL assignment.

ETp again, November 2015. This was based on my independent research project for the DipTESOL. I designed my own supplementary materials based around various Google products.

ETp, May 2016. An article about my blog. Might be useful if you’re thinking of setting up your own ELT blog.

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