Author: Peter Pun

Teacher at British Council Bangkok

Webinar notes: What about principles for materials development? (Brian Tomlinson)

Here is Brian Tomlinson’s recent webinar in written form: ‘What about principles for materials development?’ The session was delivered as part of the MaWSIG ‘What about…? Webinar series. It was full of take home points so this post is pretty long!

Tomlinson started by stressing that materials development of any kind (writing, editing, teacher-created resources, etc) should be principled. He defined ‘principled’ as the following:

‘they should match criteria related to second language acquisition research, classroom research, materials development research, and also from [teacher] experience of adapting and using materials’

He moved on to outline a series of key principles for materials development, based on SLA research findings. He didn’t make specific references to those research findings during the talk, but implies that these are general tenets of SLA backed up by research. He supported his ideas with brief example activities/tasks/procedures to help include these principles in ELT materials.

Learners must be exposed to language in use which is… (more…)

DipTESOL review quizzes on Sporcle

Apps like Quizlet are full of good study sets for the DipTESOL course. Check out what’s on offer by clicking here (including a list by Martin Cooke, who I know reads this blog).

Rather than add more to this, I thought I’d try a more (solely) game-based site. After all, there’s no harm in making revision fun! I’ve set about making some random Sporcle quizzes for DipTESOL trainees. Here are the links to what I’ve done so far – it’s a work in progress so I’ll keep adding if people find them useful.

Phonemic chart: where are the sounds?

Can you select the correct location for each phoneme in Underhill’s phonemic chart

Phonemic chart sound ID

Can you choose the one sound in the phonemic chart that appears in each word listed? (note: based on RP)

Where on the phonemic chart?

Can you pick the correct phoneme(s) on the chart based on the description?

Phonemic transcription ID BLITZ

Can you type the correct word based on its phonemic transcription? All transcriptions have been taken from phonemicchart.com and are based on words in isolation (UK English). A Blitz quiz on Sporcle is very quick – you only have 3 minutes to complete this one…

Clickable diphthong challenge

Can you select the words which include each diphthong? All answers based on RP

DipTESOL phonology terms MINEFIELD

Can you match the phonology term to the correct definition? BEWARE! Minefield quizzes mean one wrong answer and it’s game over!

Enjoy, and let me know if you want any more!

p.s.

Just for fun, here is the first Sporcle quiz I made…

English Language Teaching: books and their authors

Can you match the English language teaching books to the correct author(s)?

Dip Tip: Phonology review quiz on PlayBuzz

I’ve had a few emails from people studying the DipTESOL saying that my old review quizzes have disappeared! Turns out that Qzzr is now a ‘paid for’ site. Boooo!

I’ve been working on alternatives. Here is a phonology review quiz I’ve made using PlayBuzz. Actually, the questions are copyright Marks and Bowen (2012), I’ve just chucked them in a more interesting format 🙂

Click here to try the quiz!

(note: I only tried PlayBuzz after Svetlana at ELT-cation adapted one of my own posts into a PlayBuzz quiz… see here for that post.

Dip Tips: Phonology and you

I sometimes hear from DipTESOL trainees who are finding it hard to get to grips with phonology. Common problems include:

  • Arrgh! I just don’t know where to start with it? What should I learn about first?
  • It’s not the learning about phonology, it’s how to integrate it

A good way to approach either of these points is with a bit of reflection.

I did my Dip with TLI Europe, who were really good. Before we started the module(s) on phonology, our tutor sent us a few diagnostic/reflection questions. These helped us understand more about our current practice in this area, the needs of our learners, our attitudes to teaching pronunciation and our areas for development.

If you are mentoring a trainee I recommend going through some of these questions with them. These are mainly exploratory and designed to prompt discussion.

If you are a trainee then feel free to respond to any questions in the comments and I’ll offer some advice if needed/if I can! (more…)

Lesson idea: Kahoot! for word stress

Just a quick idea for using Kahoot! here. I found I was using it for the same purposes – grammar meaning/form checking, gap fills, consolidation at end of lesson, etc. I wanted to branch out. Turns out it works well for reviewing word stress too. Here are a couple of screen shots from our food-related word ‘stress check’ the other day…

The good things about using Kahoot! for this were…

  • the students repeat the word (sometimes a lot) to check the stress
  • it turns out that it was a good way to highlight the use of epenthesis among Thai learners (see my post last week). Adding the decoy of 3 syllables for ‘spicy’ was a good way to do this
  • about the above – students genuinely wanted to clarify why they were wrong – they actually cared about pronunciation! Cool…
  • it mixes things up for the students/for me as we were getting bored with these same old ideas
  • it took like under 5 minutes to make (12 words) and could be reused/tweaked and reused

That was it. Give it a go if you haven’t already 🙂

#ObserveMe

I really like the #ObserveMe movement (see Robert Kaplinsky’s post here or the hashtag). However, I’m going to have to tweak things to make it work.

Gone are the days of LTC Eastbourne. My two years at that school were highly collaborative and peer observation was commonplace. It wasn’t an open doors policy, but a fair few teachers were happy for me to drop in and observe at short notice, some extending the open invitation (like Sketch who blogs here). There was a time at LTC (admittedly when I had more time myself) when I’d observe another teacher at least once, often twice a week. Teachers welcomed feedback but, unlike much of the #ObserveMe tweets I’ve seen, I was rarely directed to focus on a specific feature or skill – ‘i.e. how do I vary interaction patterns?/How can I do a better job of keeping learners engaged?’ etc.

The ‘free-for-all’ approach had its perks for me – I could focus on whatever I wanted. I often focused on how teachers gave instructions and also on the correction techniques they used – that’s really interesting to observe in a language classroom. Whiteboard work was also a favourite! For the teachers I observed, I guess the feedback topic was a lottery. It’s not the most effective/focused way of doing things but hey, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity of observing experienced teachers. Post-observation feedback still led to some interesting discussions – it was sometimes just good to download about issues that emerged during the lesson!

Fast-forward three years and my experience of observations has changed a lot. My two observed lessons per year (one developmental, one evaluative) are thorough and quite stressful. They are fairly by the book (i.e. this book!) and my performance is now linked to my pay, so giving the observer what they want is the priority, rather than giving the learners what the need. Sniff. I’ve frequently been the observed teacher in my current job rather than the observer. In my first year I was observed either formally or through drop ins about 12 times (!) by line managers, trainers and sometimes sales staff getting to know the products. Most observations were top down, which is sad. The only teacher who asked to observe me (rather than a manager who told me they were observing) has moved on, and I’m really lacking someone to bounce ideas off and who I trust to offer objective and informative feedback.

I want to change this, and to do so I think I need to change our teachers’ perception of observations. Given the formality and rigidity of our current observations, my approach here is the opposite. Complete freedom – no guidance, no specific focus (which I would have liked for my own benefit), nothing but allowing other teachers to come in, observe and comment. Breaking the invisible barrier between colleagues and just getting the dialogue going. It doesn’t matter what about to begin with, just… tell me what you think of my teaching and we can take the discussion from there!

Here’s the poster I’ve put up on my door. I hope someone pops in. *Anyone but the boss, ANYONE BUT THE BOSS!*

Feature image: TonyCrabbe

Correcting pronunciation errors from Thai speakers of English

There are plenty of posts online explaining typical pronunciation errors from Thai speakers of English. Most seem accurate, and are a good starting point if you don’t have a copy of Swan’s Learner English to hand.

Knowing what the problems are and why learners might make them is very useful. However, I’ve found less info on how teachers actually address these errors in class. With this in mind, here are a few of my reflections on a handful of those errors – what I do that works ok, plus what I don’t do and why. I’m hoping that Mark over at TESOL Toolbox will write a follow-up post on this, and between us we’ll start getting a bit of an ideas bank together.

The missing S

Sammy the snake for correcting the missing /s/

Learners often omit the /s/ in plural forms or verbs in 3rd person, even when they know the grammar rules. I find myself eliciting things like ‘I work, you work, he/she….?’ on loop, although I reckon this is a fossilized error for a fair few of my learners…

Still, one thing has helped addressed this. I’ve found Herbert Puchta’s snake visual very useful in both adult and young learner classes. Board or display a visual somewhere of a colourful looking snake. Inform the learners that if you hear the ‘missing s’ error you’ll point to the snake. Do so as an on-the-spot correction as you monitor speaking activities. Make the snake a commonplace visual in lessons and learners will hopefully start to self-correct more.

Good for… YLs. Better once they start to point to the snake to peer-correct

Downside… Using the visual as a reference without reiterating the correct form can lead to exaggerated responses… ‘workssssssssssssssss’. Expect that!

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