young learners

Lesson idea: Introducing inventions (2)

My Primary students (aged 11) are studying technology and inventions at the moment. I used this activity to introduce the topic – it worked well. This idea could be used for generating interest, sharing personal responses, developing schematic knowledge, revising comparatives, developing spoken fluency, and much more… It’s amazing what a few images can too – it’s fairly low-prep.

  1. Students work in pairs or groups. Give each group some images of inventions (like above). Do a ‘name the invention’ mini whiteboard challenge, or some variation. Use word scrambles for support (e.g. theelonep = telephone). Check and drill the invention names
  2. Instruct students to put the images in order – which was invented first?

Give them process language to help, e.g.

A: I think _______________ was invented before ____________

B: I agree / maybe / hmmm, I’m not sure. I think….

Etc. (more…)

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Book review: Classroom Community Builders

I’ve just received a copy of the latest book from Alphabet Publishing. Walton Burns is following up last year’s ’50 Activities for the First Day of School’ with a new cookbook of ideas for building a classroom community.

Burns states this book is a natural continuation to his previous offering, which was a compendium of icebreaking activities. Having considered the role of icebreakers more, he reflects that these types of activity aren’t always used effectively in lessons. Many icebreakers encourage teamwork, and are best used when they are a) relevant to the content of the class, and b) give learners the feeling of accomplishment. With this in mind, he offers a range of activities that go beyond simple rapport builders – aiming instead to build a culture of collaboration and community from day one.

The book is organised in four sections:

  • Set Your Expectations
  • Working Together
  • Getting To Know You
  • Getting to Know Your Teacher

(more…)

Supporting young learners

Young learner classes at our school are mostly organised by age. This means there can be quite a range of abilities, and differentiation* is an important part of planning.  I generally find that our materials can be a bit on the tough side for my class, so I’m used to providing more support rather than extension tasks.

Here’s an example of how I supported my young learners in class last week. We were studying celebrations. I produced lots of short reading texts about different festivals/events and displayed these around the room. I’d made a couple of words in each text bold. Students did a vocabulary matching task, here’s part of it…

support

Note the HELP box. If students felt they needed more help they could move the box. There was a clue underneath telling them which text the word appeared in (e.g. ‘Text A’). This meant their choice was narrowed down to two words. (more…)

Workstations for reviews (young learners)

I saw my boss use a simple workstation activity during a peer observation. It was a really good way to prepare students for their final task. I often include a quick 10-15 minute workstation activity in my YL classes now. Here’s an example from the other day.

The task was for my teens to produce a doctor/patient dialogue. During the lesson we reviewed vocabulary for illnesses, listened to a model conversation, identified important language (e.g. giving advice), and so on. As a pre-task students worked in groups of 4 and completed a short review task at various stations around the room:

workstation1

At station 1 students listed target language or other useful phrases that might help them when writing their dialogues.

workstation2

At station 2 students reviewed a dialogue from the lesson. They put the dialogue in the correct order and practiced reading it (text from Beyond A2+ published by Macmillan).

workstation3

Note: thanks to Rabia Ahmad who pointed out the spelling error in the above dialogue!

At station 3 students practised saying chunks of language, with a focus on how they sound in connected speech. During the activities this was the station I monitored as students required clear modelling of each phrase. On reflection, using a pronunciation task at one of the stations was problematic (classroom management-wise) but still useful.

At station 4 (the interactive whiteboard) students reviewed useful vocabulary by playing a game on Quizlet.

I could have used various different tasks during the workstations. The review game proved to be a bit of a distraction on a couple of occasions, but it was a fun feature to include. The activity at station 1 was probably the most useful as students had some good ideas to refer to while creating their dialogues.

Learning points

  • During the CELTA YL extension course we had an input session on workstations. Most of the workstation tasks seemed much longer or more substantial. However, there’s no reason why workstations can’t just be a short and snappy way to review learning and provide a change in classroom dynamic.

If you want to try something like this…

  • If you use the same set up then make sure each task is ‘stand-alone’. You can’t have one task as a prerequisite for another in the way I’ve arranged it here, but you could make some tweaks if you want that to happen.

Feature image: Puzzle by Davo Sime from the Noun Project

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

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.

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.