reviews

Review: Ready to Run

This review was first published in the Winter 2019 edition of the ETAS Journal. Many thanks to ETAS for allowing the review to appear on this blog.

Ready to Run, from Digital Learning Associates (DLA), is a platform providing video-based lesson resources for ELT classrooms. Its resources are marketed as ‘engaging and authentic video experiences’ which cover a range of real-world topics. Ready to Run is a subscription-based service – each video lesson includes printable materials for students, teacher notes and video transcripts. The platform recently won a British Council ELTon for Innovation in Learner Resources.

The resource catalogue for Ready to Run is generally easy to navigate, although better tagging might make searching for relevant resources more efficient. There are currently about 10 videos available at each CEFR-aligned level (A1-B2). The digital content itself is certainly varied, and likely to be engaging for a wide range of learners. Videos are high quality, a suitable length (most around three minutes) and have been well-edited. The videos are initially sourced from vlogs, TV programmes, and other authentic broadcasts, and then are adapted for classroom use. The selection of topics is inclusive and relevant – it is good to see that the platform offers resources that address issues such as immigration, refugee crises, climate change, and minority groups. Topics are dealt with sensitively, and follow-up project-based tasks on the video content encourage learners to explore these topics in greater detail. The willingness of Ready to Run to deal with some topics that tend to be avoided in global coursebooks is certainly a strength. (more…)

Game review: Play for the Planet (ELi Publishing)

Here’s another resource from the giant box I was sent from ELi publishing. I saved reviewing this one until I actually had a good reason to try it out. My teens are studying the natural world / the environment at the moment, so it’s perfect timing…

Play for the Planet is a ‘culture and CLIL’-focused board game. The language goal for the resource is to review and practice environment related vocabulary.

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Wordwall for ELT vocabulary games

Wordwall is a recent find for me. I heard about it during this webinar on gamifying learning, which was quite interesting. I’ve since mentioned it to various colleagues, and the typical response has been ‘oh yeah, Wordwall, that’s pretty good’. So I guess I’m behind the times!

Basically, Wordwall allows you to create interactive resources online for use in class or at home. Activities are often games, but you can use it to bring more standard coursebook activities to life such as matching tasks. It’s very straightforward to create a resource – there are a variety of templates available, most of which are intuitive and require no more than 10 minutes to set up.  You can create five activities with the free membership, then unlimited activities (including a multiplayer quiz) when you sign up (costs me 120 baht per month which isn’t bad). (more…)

Review: A-Z of ESOL (Emily Bryson)

This short review first appeared in IATEFL Voices magazine last month. Sharing here for general interest. This is a good resource: 4 stars from me.

A-Z of ESOL is a useful set of classroom-ready resources for TESOL contexts. Activities in the book are primarily aimed at equipping learners with the language (and life) skills they need to function communicatively in an English-speaking country. There are 26 activities in total, one for each letter of the alphabet (A = A school report, B = Building repairs, C = Covering letters, etc).

Activities in ‘A-Z…’ are based around social practices (related to education, employment, health, community, and so on), and expose learners to the functional language required in such real-life situations. The author states in a brief introduction that the resources follow a task-based approach. This is true in part. However, a weaker task-supported approach is used in some activities for lower-level learners (A1-A2), with more language input or structures introduced prior to students attempting the task. (more…)

Spoken Grammar: a Guide for English Language Teachers

I got offered free access to this course on Udemy. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while. Finally got around to it and… wow! It’s very impressive.

Course overview

Spoken Grammar is a teacher training course. It provides teachers with techniques and materials for teaching conversational grammar – typically to learners at intermediate level or above. There are about three hours of lectures on the course which highlight a wide range of spoken grammar, and give an insight into how these features could be taught in the classroom.

There are 6 sections on the course:

Section 1 Introduction.
Section 2 Word order and ellipsis: heads and tails; declarative questions; ellipsis.
Section 3 Emphasis: hyperbole; interjections; cleft structure and binominals.
Section 4 Vague language: vague categories; vague placeholders; lexical bundles.
Section 5 Marking spoken discourse: adverbials; discourse markers; using direct speech.
Section 6 Response language: tokens and questions; so and do; synonymous language; dependent clauses.

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Course review: Evaluating Digital Materials (iTDi)

I recently took the iTDi course on Evaluating Digital Materials, delivered by Pete Sharma.

If you can’t be bothered with the whole review – here’s a summary in, er… wait… 17 words:

Excellent input, great delivery, very active forum, useful take-home resources, real value for money, well worth it!

Overview

The course lasts four weeks. Each week there is a weekend webinar with Pete, and then various follow-up activities such as reading and exploratory tasks related to digital tools. Most tasks involve sharing reflections in the course forum which, I have to say, was really active and thoughts were interesting to read.

In Week 1, Pete orientated us to the topic of Computer Assisted Language Learning with an informative webinar and follow-up resources. The main task after input was for us to choose the tool we were interested in evaluating. With so many participants on the course it meant that the tools selected were extremely varied, and some very topical for my context (such as Kahoot). I chose to evaluate Genially after coming across this on Owain Llewelyn’s blog (ELT Sustainable). (more…)

Book review: Teaching English as a Lingua Franca

I’ve finally got my hands on a copy of this book! Woohoo!

What can I say? I’ve a keen interest in the topic of English as a Lingua Franca. ELF was a buzzword during my BA, well before I entered teaching, as my tutors included Jennifer Jenkins and Martin Dewey. This topic also relates to my recent MA dissertation, so I’ve been very eager to see how the authors puts a practical spin on the topic.

As far as I’m concerned, a comprehensive resource that deals with the practical application on ELF is long overdue. The authors, Marek Kiczkowiak and Robert Lowe, mention that “ELF researchers have either been very cautious, or perhaps even neglectful, of the practical applications of their studies” (pg 13). I agree, hence I instantly recognise the value of this resource and what it sets out to achieve. (more…)