tefl

Insight into a synthetic syllabus

Views are my own in this post.

I teach from a synthetic syllabus at my school and the following attributes are true of it…

  • it’s a covert linguistic syllabus (notional-functional)
  • it’s task-supported (rather than task-based)
  • the tasks are built on structure-trapping rather than target tasks based on learner needs. However, learners can opt to follow a particular pathway (e.g. work, study) which helps ‘personalise their learning journey’ (to an extent)

You could level plenty of criticism towards the approach – I do love ranting about this myself sometimes. In a nutshell: it’s tblt with small letters, as Mike Long (2015) would put it, and with that his awesome book on TBLT (note the capitals) would pay it no further attention. The “tasks” are more like “situational language exercises” (Cunningham, in Ellis 2009), and would likely lead to “encoded usage” rather than “purposeful use” (Widdowson 2003). I’ve heard some teachers call it worse than that – “McDonaldsy” and “glorified PPP” being some of the softer terms.

I get the PPP thing. (more…)

20 great video sites for the EFL classroom

I was asked on my FB page where I find good videos for class. I stumble upon them now and then (like here, thanks Lana), but I also find these sources pretty useful. Hope this helps!

Joseph’s Machines

If you’re doing anything related to inventions, processes, technology, and so on, Joseph’s Machines is great inspiration. His videos are really engaging and there are tonnes of them so it’s good for follow up work outside class.

 

Business Insider

Tonnes of (fairly) short business/tech/economics related videos on this You Tube channel. Not all videos have presenters, they are sometimes just text/subtitles and images – good for speed reading/gist reading/completion tasks/ etc. I haven’t used the video below in class as not that relevant, but thought I’d share this one for your general interest!

(more…)

My tree octopus fake news fail

Here’s one of my favourite things to write about – things that didn’t work! This is a request for ideas from Teacher James and others.

James mentioned using the Pacific North-west Tree Octopus site as a good resource for talking about fake news. There are a lot of lesson plans online for using this site – James himself has a good one (click here). Anyhow, I love the site itself and can certainly see how it would benefit learners to explore it and think critically about its content. Alas, I got it wrong…

I loosely followed Tomlinson’s text-driven approach (which I seem to do a bit too often these days but hey ho!). I’m sure I got a lot of these ideas from an existing plan – maybe something by Jamie Keddie but I’m not entirely sure… Anyway, things started off like this…

…then this…

And onto this…

(more…)

Book review: Stories Without End

Alphabet Publishing recently sent me a copy of Stories Without End by Taylor Sapp. Here’s a review and a bit about how I used the book…

The book

Stories Without End is a collection of 24 open-ended stories for use in the classroom. The texts, usually no more than three A4 pages in length, come with reading and discussion activities and possible project work for extension.

General format

Each text usually includes…

  • ‘Before You Read’ – usually orientation questions, sometimes prediction
  • ‘Vocabulary’ – a matching task to pre-teach vocab. This appears before the text but I guess you don’t have to use it as a pre-teach. Up to you.
  • ‘After You Read’ – usually discussion questions encouraging personal response
  • ‘Projects’ – possible extension tasks

There are a few supplementary resources provided for these tasks at the back of the book.

The stories

There are two types of stories in the book. ‘Short Takes’ are texts under 500 words, and ‘Mid-Length Stories’ are between 500-2000 words.

Things I like about the stories

I like the fact that most texts in this book don’t seem to be graded. I spend a lot of my time as a materials writer grading texts, and at times this takes away the richness, perhaps authenticity too. I see why the writer has opted to provide pre-teaching tasks as the language can be challenging at times (milquetoast was a new word for me!). Sure, there can be benefits to simplifying a text, but it’s nice to be presented with a resource that provides texts as intended.

The text topics overall are interesting and useful. In my context, I’d say about half of them would ‘work’ – by that I mean engage my students, prompt discussion and have relevance. This book has arrived just at the right time for me, with our school promoting a ‘Reading Challenge’ this term. I know some of my students shy away from this initiative each year – the aim is to read 1-4 books across term. That’s ambitious for my students, and these short-stories will be more accessible. (more…)

Twist on a classic: Harry the Hippo

A nod to TESOLTOOLBOX here…

Harry the Hippo is a fun guessing game to use in the class. It can be adapted for practicing various grammar structures. I can’t remember where I first played the game or who taught it to me, but I’m sure it’s well-known by many TEFLers!

In its simplest form…

Practice language: love/like/dislike/hate

Find a good pic of a hippo. I used this one from a Google Image search. Explain to the learners:

Harry the Hippo likes a lot of things. Can you guess what they are? Ask me the question:

Does Harry like…?

Listen to the answers carefully. Make a note of anything Harry likes/dislikes. Do you notice any patterns?

(Answer: the clue is in the name ‘Harry the Hippo’. Harry likes any word that includes the same letter twice in a row, e.g. battery, butter, sheep, screen, apple, etc. Students guess items…)

Student: Does Harry like dogs?

Teacher: Not really

Student: Does Harry like fruit?

Teacher: (gives a sneaky clue) Well, he doesn’t like fruit, but he DOES like pineapples

Student: Huh?

Teacher: I know. Strange isn’t it?

Student: So, he doesn’t like bananas?

Teacher: No

Student: but he likes pineapples?

Teacher: Yes… and strawberries

Student: Huh? Does he like oranges?

Teacher: No

Students: Cherries?

Teacher: Yes, he likes cherries…

Etc (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.