whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards – some pros and cons

At my current school we have interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in every classroom. These are a luxury, but I do think they have their drawbacks.

In ‘400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards’, Sharma et al (2011:10-11) list these benefits of using an IWB:whiteboard3

  • Teachers and students can use a wide range of multimedia in the classroom
  • They can make lesson lead-ins memorable (using videos, photos, etc)
  • Reviewing language has never been easier’, especially as you can save the flipcharts you create
  • They help with creating personalised content
  • It encourages ‘heads-up’ learning. Teachers can keep learners working at a similar pace, and focused by controlling what’s on the whiteboard. Feedback can be instant too.
  • Audio transcripts can be displayed easily.

This is a fairly loose list of benefits – there are plenty more. However, they don’t mention many problems with using IWBs. They highlight that…

  • technology is never 100% reliable
  • there’s a temptation to use the IWB merely as a presentation tool (teacher-centred)
  • there’s a tendency to overuse IWBs at first

Perhaps most importantly, they stress that IWBs are just another classroom tool – they should enrich the learning experience, but not take over.

Their book is a useful resource for IWB users, but it lacks discussion. Here are a few more pros and cons with IWBs that I’ve been thinking about recently. (more…)

storycubes

Using story cubes

I bought these story cubes a few months ago, and I’ve tried them out a few times this term. They are basically dice with pictures onstorycubes1 them, so it’s really up to you how you use them. You can find a few ideas on the story cubes site, which include some demonstrations.

These are a pretty good tool to have in the classroom, and it wouldn’t be too hard to make your own (they can be a bit costly if you want a few sets). I find with my EFL classes that there’s rarely time for storytelling lessons, which is a shame as these cubes would be a great resource. However, I’ve tried to integrate these into lessons, with varied success. As you’d expect, the cubes mainly help students generate ideas for certain tasks. They’ve worked best with my teens.

Note: If you know about the specific sets of cubes then I’ve got ‘voyages’, ‘actions’ and the standard set.

Grammar tasks

A few weeks ago we did a review of using articles (a fairly common error for Thai learners) which was based on Jim Scrivener’s activities in Teaching English Grammar. The basis of this was creating a short story (about 5-8 lines). Student’s had to use articles correctly for new/known information. They then cut their story up line by line and gave this to another group to put in the correct order. The cubes helped with ideas and made the stories fun for other students to read. This also meant lots of emergent language. (more…)

distance study1

Distance learning for teachers – is it right for you?

It’s a pleasure to introduce this guest post from Phil Wade. He shares some useful advice for teachers thinking of undertaking distance study.

I did my first TEFL course with i-to-i about 18 years ago and as a follow-up, I took a distance course. At that time, it was by mail so they sent me some books and tasks and I sent them back in a rather heavy envelope.

10 years later I started hearing about MOOCs and the Khan academy and looked into online TEFL MAs. It was tough as the idea of ‘distance study’ seemed to vary a lot between universities. There were some with residentials and others with weekend attendance but bolstered by ‘online modules’. This started changing so I jumped at the chance of taking what came to be called a ‘fully online course’. After that, I took the DELTA module 3 online, some LearnDash MOOCs, participated in the EVO sessions, completed 2 online coaching courses and recently started a fully online postgrad. I also moved to the other side of the screen, teaching online for a bit and tutoring the Cert iBET course.

I have learned a lot from studying online, and for a teacher who cannot relocate for a month or a year just to study it provides me access to the best of PD from my laptop. However, it does not suit everyone. Many classmates have fallen for one reason or another. The ‘motivation’ issue is not to be underestimated and the workload too. I’d like to share some questions you can ask yourself to see if distance study is for you. (more…)

teachingenglishmaterials

Some thoughts on authentic listening materials

I’ve been a materials writer for 2 months now. It’s about time I started reflecting on it. I haven’t had time to do so as it’s a very busy role – hence the lack of blog activity.

I’m currently writing lessons for a functional, task-led syllabus. There’s a strong focus on speaking, listening and pronunciation. Each lesson has a listening text (well, bout 90% of them do) which is a model for the main task that students complete during a lesson. Target language and target pronunciation features (normally suprasegmental) all appear in the listening text. The text itself is commercially produced, by which I mean I write it, it’s kind of semi-authentic.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the nature of these listening materials since starting the job (and even since teaching the product). I’m trying to decide whether I’m pro- or anti- when it comes to these semi-authentic materials, or whether I need to have either stance. Here are a few of my thoughts. (more…)

emaze

Reflection on CELTA and Trinity TESOL Courses

In her latest guest post, Nicky Salmon talks about the importance of reflecting on your teaching practice.

A very important part of any pre- or in-service teacher training course, is REFLECTION.

On a CELTA or Trinity TESOL course this will mostly be reflecting ON your practice, which means you will look back at the lesson you have just taught to reflect on

-what went well or not so well,

-reasons for these,

-what you can use again or change for next time.

Your ability to reflect on your planning and teaching is an assessed part of the course but many people find the whole process very difficult.

It might be because you have never reflected formally before.

It might be because you just don’t know what to prioritise in your reflection.

It might be because you just don’t know what language to use as you reflect. (more…)

the teacher1

Writing for ELT magazines

I’ve been published in a few industry magazines over the past year. Some of you might like to do the same. If so, here are a few tips. I’m no expert, but you might find them useful.

What do you mean by ‘ELT magazines’?

I mean publications in the ELT industry. Specifically, I mean online and print magazines, newsletters, and journals that you could label as non-academic (as opposed to those based on formal, academic research). Some examples include…

English Teaching Professional, Modern English Teacher, International House Journal, IATEFL Voices, British Council Voices, etc.

I’ve suggested these are non-academic as they have a more general readership. That’s not to say they don’t cover or reference academic research, just that they differ from more academic publications like ELT Journal. (more…)

brainless tales

How to write CELTA lesson plans

In her latest guest post, Nicky Salmon talks about how to write effective lesson plans on the CELTA/Trinity TESOL course.

What is a lesson plan?

On a CELTA/Trinity TESOL course a plan is made up of:

1.The procedure. This is what I will be referring to in this post. (See the example below, kindly included here with permission of Action English Language Training in Leeds.)

2.An analysis of any language –grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation features- that may be included in the lesson.

3.The materials.

 

Why do I need to write one?

When you are doing a CELTA or Trinity TESOL course, you will need to write lesson plans. Actually, the lesson plans are an important part of your assessment and you will need to file them in a portfolio together with feedback from your tutors.

(more…)