teacher development

Highlighting success criteria to young learners

This post explains simple coding you could use to help learners notice key features of a model text. I know this type of stuff is common in primary schools, so I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s just not something I’ve come across much in an EFL context, so thought I’d share what I tried last week.

A few months ago I set my YLs the task of writing a film review. In building up to the task we’d highlighted key features of film reviews, looked at text layout, covered useful language to include, etc. Post-task, the learners completed a self- and peer-assessment sheet like this:

assessment

It’s fine. I mean, it did the job. However, using a tick sheet was limited as it wasn’t clear that learners really understood each category! I should have got them to note down examples of each category from their partner’s text, that would prove they understood.

Last week’s task was to create a poster for a fundraising concert. During the prep students consolidated their knowledge of some key features to include in their own poster by annotating the model in their workbooks:

assessment1

This is not everything that they needed to include, but it’s a start…

They ended up with a model text looking like this:

assessment2

text copyright British Council

When the students completed their own posters I got them to do a similar process – annotate their own work. I still used a checklist, but this time they highlighted where these features appear in their own text – or their classmates did so as peer correction.

This doesn’t have to be done as colour coding – it could be as symbols, numbers, etc. If learners are really precious about their work you could just use post-its or something.

In an EFL context, this makes it really clear to me that learners know what to include in a text and that they understand new terms that we’ve covered. I only see my classes once a week, but I think they’ll remember this task and it can be used effectively in future lessons. Well, I hope so!

Do you use any techniques like this? Please comment and share your own ideas.

Feature image by Alina Oleynik from the Noun Project

Experimenting with ‘the Inner Workbench’

Great post this – think I’ll try out some activities related to the ‘inner voice’…

Jamie Clayton's ELT blog

In Meaningful Action, Underhill explains his concept of the Inner Workbench: the place in our mind where we hear and manipulate inner speech. Putting learners in touch with this place as they convert thoughts to speech, getting them to feel and describe what happens there, may create a memorable experience of speaking for them and a deeper understanding of what learners do in order to speak.

I wrote the instructions on the board:img20161103210552

It’s a simple little activity as you can see. We went through the steps with 5 phrases for agreeing / disagreeing in conversation, I tried to listen for changes in their pronunciation – not easy. I recorded it,listened back and had some questions:

  1. How much time should pass in between each stage? I think it’s easy to move on too quickly.
  2. What can we do after step 4? I wasn’t really sure what to do in class…

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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.

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.

1709b

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…)

Teaching for Success online conference

Oh look, Se at TalkTEFL has been taking the Mickey out of our ‘Quality Circle’…

Sarah Smith and I will be chatting about our teacher-led development group (‘The Quircle’) at the British Council Teaching for Success online conference. We’re on the action research discussion panel on Wednesday 5th Oct. Come and share your ideas with us!

If you want to know about our group but can’t attend the webinar, check out the latest issue (106) of English Teaching Professional.

Word stress – footballs and sticky balls

I like teaching word stress. I have various ‘go to’ activities for noticing and practising word stress – stuff like this:

  • Using Cuisenaire rods

vocab4

  • Humming the stress pattern
  • Fist pumping when you say the stressed syllable
  • Building vocab based on stress and word formation – tasks like these activities from Book of Pronunciation:

stress1

 

and…      stress2

Copyright Marks and Bowen (2012)

  • A ‘stand up/sit down’ game… Students in a group of 3 or so. Say a word. If stress is on the first syllable, student 1 stands up, second syllable, student 2 stands up, etc.

What have I been trying recently?

I’m trying to make things more fun for young learners…

  • I got bored of the stand up game and the rods for a bit, so I brought in footballs and tennis balls. Put students in a group of 3. One person holds the football (main stress), the others have the tennis balls. You say a word and they pass the balls between them to show the stress pattern.

The other fun thing is this…

  • Get hold of some sticky balls that will easily stick to the whiteboard. Like these:

stress3

Pic from dhgate.com

Board the stress patterns, e.g. like this:

stress4

 

Say a word. The students discuss which stress pattern it has with their team. They throw their sticky balls at the correct pattern. Work out some kind of points system. They seem to love this game, or perhaps they just love ‘accidentally’ throwing the balls at me…!

You could also make them throw their ball at a particular stress pattern. They must then think of a word they know with that pattern.

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

Grammar review using drawings

This was a good idea I came across Bucksmore summer school. A review for various tenses/structures.

Give students a piece of paper. Get them to split it into 4 squares.

In each of the squares they draw one of the following:

  • Something you’ve done
  • Something you were doing this time last year
  • Something you will have done by the year 2050
  • What you will be doing in the year 2050

They choose the squares for each drawing at random.

Go over the structures if you need to…

You’ve + V3

This time last year you were  + Ving

By 2050 you will have + V3

In 2050 you’ll be + Ving

Students look at each other’s pictures and use the phrases to guess what each drawing shows.

Tweak the above examples to include structures you want to review.

Good fun. The drawing bit doesn’t have to take too long, I mean look how bad mine are!

Level? This activity was used at Upper-Int level. It was actually a warmer just to review these structures. Copyright Bucksmore I guess!

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