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July, 2010:

PALAYOK: Reinvention of a Traditional Game for EFL Classrooms (by Marco Brazil)

Cultural Background

Ask any Filipinos about Pukpuk Palayok or Hampas Palayok, and chances are they played it or saw it played at least once during their childhoods. The game is so immensely popular that any celebration or town fiesta is not complete without children (oh yes, sometimes adults) playing it. Having been colonized by the Spaniards for three hundred and thirty three years, Pukpuk Palayok is the Filipino version of Piñata, and just like the fiesta, Spaniards used the game to attract natives to their ceremonies and convert them to their religion. The Filipinos, known for reinventing things to suit their needs out of limited resources, adapted it by using a clay pot instead of the Mexican painted paper Piñata. In those times paper and paints were scarce and expensive, whereas clay pots were plentiful and cheap.

In the Philippines, pupok means to hit, and palayok is a clay pot, so the game literally means to hit a pot. Traditionally, the game is played with the decorated clay pot filled with goodies (candies, sweets, coins, and sometimes peso bills), suspended by string in the air, high enough for players to reach it. A long bamboo stick is used to hit and break the pot, so that players as well as by-standers can grab as many goodies as they can. The player who breaks the pot wins a prize, usually in currency.

Pukpok Palayok: Reinvented for EFL classrooms

For EFL classrooms, Pukpok Palayok uses no clay pot, nor a bamboo stick. Instead, the game makes use of the white board, picture cards (with magnets attached at the back), and an oversize hat (my children hate to be blindfolded with a handkerchief). In this adaptation, hitting is not permitted; children make use of their sense of directions, understanding of the commands given, and using their hands to feel for the targets. In my experience, the game works wonderfully for preschoolers, for teaching the alphabet, colors, shapes, fruits and vegetables. While, for elementary graders, it works very well for foods, practicing specific target language (“I’m hungry! What do you want? I want a hamburger. Go find it!” or “Where are you going? I’m going to the supermarket. Go find it”).  In addition to the target language, this is a great way to reinforce language for giving directions like; go straight, to your left, to your right, stop, that’s it, etc.

Target Language Examples

S1: I’m hungry!

Class : What do you want?

S1 : I want (hamburgers).

Class: Go find it!

***

Class: What’s for (lunch)?

S2: (Spaghetti) is for lunch.

***

Class : Where are you going?

S3 : I’m going to the (park).

***

Class: How are you going there?

S3 : I’m (riding a bicycle).

Class: Have fun!

Players

Two (2) or more (the more the merrier!)

Materials

picture cards

board

some magnets

a party hat (oversize) or blindfold

How to play

  1. Determine the order of play.
  2. In random, attach all the picture cards on the board.
  3. Instruct the players to remember the placement of each card.
  4. The first player takes his turn. He stands 12 steps (more is better) away from the board. The other players ask the question; for example, “What do you want? The first player answers “I want (a hamburger).” The other players answer back “Go, find it!”
  5. The first player puts on the over size hat (covering his or her face), and turns around three times.
  6. The other players give directions, starting with “Go straight!” “To your right!” “To your left!” etc. The aim is for the player to find the target by following directions given by other players.

Note : For large number of players, for example twenty (20) , it is best to group them into four (4) teams of five members each. One player will have to be blindfolded, while the other four members give the directions to find the target picture card.

Marco Brazil has been training teachers and teaching children English for over fifteen years. He maintains strong a strong commitment to making English fun and easy for both teachers and learners. He occasionally writes articles and gives teaching presentations for Oxford Kid’s Club Teaching Tour mostly, on games (You can see handouts from his workshops here and here).  Marco is the director/owner of SmartKids Circle. You can find Marco on Facebook or follow him on his blog, Mabuhay Classroom.

What You Can Learn From My PLN Quiz #6 (ELTAS Tech Tools Day Edition)

I had planned on taking a bit of a break from creating quizzes based on blogs by members of my Personal Learning Network. Then Anne Hodgson (one of the members of said PLN) sent me a message on Twitter, telling me about an upcoming event in Germany—ELTAS Tech Tools Day.

Now, I would do just about anything for Anne, so here’s a special edition of my PLN Quizzes, especially for Tech Tools Day participants. (Of course, you can take the quiz whether or not you are at Tech Tools Day!)

The quiz has five questions, based on five blog posts. Each has something useful to teach about technology and education.

Read the posts before you take the quiz. The main point here is to direct you to some excellent reading. You’ll also do better on the quiz. If you don’t like your initial score, you can take the quiz again. Again, the main point is learning, not grading. However, you will get a lovely certificate at the end of the quiz to display proudly on your own blog or web page :-)

If you want to read about the motivation behind these PLN quizzes, go here. (If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym PLN–Personal Learning Network–read “What is a PLN, anyway?”)

This quiz is based on the following five blog posts:

The Best Kept Secrets of Highly Successful Edu-Bloggers Part 1 by Karenne Sylvester

Microblogging for EFL with Plurk by Nik Peachey

Wikis by Lucy Mellarsh

Creating your Digital Self Part 1 by Ozge Karaoglu

Commercials in the EFL Classroom by David Deubelbeiss

Click here to take the quiz –> What you can learn from my PLN quiz #6

“Special” tricks Part 2 — repetition (by David Deubelbeiss)


If you missed the first part of this article, start here

Previously, I outlined how much I’d been changed as a teacher by the realization that language students would benefit from a lot of the instructional practices of “special” needs teachers. Accommodations and modifications of content, behavior, use of models, explicit teaching of learning strategies, small class size, differentiation and what I’d like to talk about today – “repetition”.

To begin, see an example HERE. I’ve been cheerleading Gary Bishop’s amazing Tarheel Reader for a long time. Developed for students with learning disabilities, it is outstanding for ELLs. Why? Because of the intense use of repetition.

Repetition is needed to learn a language and it is a basic remedial technique. Language is NOT a knowledge laden subject but is performance based. We have to do things over and over, listen over and over to achieve mastery. Just like driving a car or learning to pack a parachute. As a child, that’s how we learn too. Here’s a photo of the math notebook of the amazing mathematician, Kurt Godel. Look familiar? Even Godel had to master the basics and we should be doing this with our students. [as an aside, I really do hope one day to write about the implications of his incompleteness theorem to language – it is fascinating ] I’m sure you remember lots of this in your younger days, lots of copying and “mastering”. Godel

But I’m not advocating that teachers set up classrooms like this infamous Chinese way…. full of parroting and useless repetition. No. There are better ways to do this and here are a few of my ideas on how you can best make “repetition” part of your instructional toolkit.

On the Lesson Level

1. Chants and Drills. Yes, don’t do them a lot but do them! The key is to make them so the students have some freedom and personal input. Always allow for students to change the words or omit words (substitution).

2. Controlled Practice. This is a standard lesson component and should allow students to repeat basic grammatical structures yet “push in” new content. Make sure the structure is always on the board for reference and get students used to repeating it (by rewarding them, ringing a bell etc..). Example. “Yesterday, I went to the ………. and ……….. ” – that’s the target language for use with a set of flashcards of places and things.

3. Repeat student’s phrases often in class. We call this echoing. It allows other students to hear the language again but also gives students a chance to process the language and repeat inside their own heads.

Teacher: “What did you do yesterday Mirka?”
Students: “I went to the mall”.
Teacher: “Oh, you went to the mall!”

Even better if the teacher doesn’t repeat but another student does. Recycle the language during the lesson. For example, in the above exchange, the teacher could ask other students – “What did Mirka do?”
Disappearing dialogs are also a great way to repeat language!

4. Review! Every lesson should at least end with the question – “What did we learn today?” Then, list the vocabulary, structures, ideas covered. Even better if you have time to end in a game, quiz. Even better if the students make the review questions! You could also make it standard to review the previous lesson at the beginning of the next.

5. Lesson Sequencing. Students really, really need to know what will happen each class. Make an agenda and stick to it! Meaning, every class, the students know what will happen the first 5 min. / the next 10 min. etc…. You do the same things EVERY class but with different content. I really, truly think there is too much variety and too much “different” coming at students in our English language classrooms. A predictable lesson sequence is vital and students need this kind of “repetition”. An example lesson sequencing might go like this.

0-5 min: Chit – chat, check student attendance, problems…
5-15 min. Review of the previous lesson.
15-25 min. Elicit background knowledge: Song and brainstorm
25-40 min. Controlled practice activity: Flashcards
40-60 min. Performance, presentation using target language.

On the Curriculum Level.

1. Recycling. Recycling of content or “spiraling”  is done by textbook writers but it isn’t always done well. Teachers need to be aware of the need to recycle into new units, the grammar, vocabulary and functions previously covered. Students need to encounter them in new situations, in order to master them.  Jerome Bruner first outlined these curriculum and constructivist principles and his thoughts are very pertinent to ELT.

So for example if the previous unit was about “Telling the time”. In the next unit, “Shopping”, the teacher should make sure to use a lot of “time” references and prepare lessons which insert this. Thus, the dialogue from the textbook could be changed to include times about meeting/opening/closing of shops.
____________________________________

I know I’ve just touched on a few of the ways you can “repeat” and get your students learning more effectively. I think it an important thing for every teacher to think about and this summer might just be the time for such reflection.

David Deubelbeiss is an EFL teacher and teacher trainer living in Seoul, Korea. He runs a social network for teachers called EFL Classroom 2.0 and a website of teacher-submitted teaching ideas called Teaching Recipes. You can also follow David on his blog, Teacher Talk and on Twitter.

An “old dog” and “special tricks” (by David Deubelbeiss)


hands Over the length of my teaching career, I’ve changed in many ways. I think my journey mimics that of a lot of other ELT teachers.

1. I have slowed down my delivery and instruction considerably. I used to just screech and scream through content. Now, I relax and pause a lot. I take time to enjoy the spaces together. I’ve realized students need things “a lot” slower and this leads to much more effective learning in the classroom.

2. I risk more, I try different things more. Yes, that would seem against the grain of time and tradition. Aren’t old teachers supposed to be “old dogs” without “new tricks”? Not teachers that have really kept developing and learning on the job. I now understand more deeply, how each student needs to learn in their own fashion and way. That’s why I have to deliver content in different ways and modify content much more thoroughly. In my beginning years, the whole class was a “glob” and I taught that “glob” in one way – my way. Now, I use a multi-modal approach and am much more conscious of hitting all the skills and allowing students to reach the objectives in their own way.

3. I repeat content more often. Even explicitly (there is usually a groan!). I’ve realized the value of this and where I used to just assume students had mastered something, now I assess and if they haven’t “learned”, we repeat, in a different manner.

If there are any “old dogs” out there – I’d like to know if your growth curve has been a long the same lines?

But my development as a teacher isn’t the only thing I’d like to write about today. Rather, it is the shadow cast by my own realization that my development is based upon some sound principles. Throughout my years, I’ve become very interested in special needs and how special educators teach. Mostly because I truly and deeply believe that other than with very young children, we are working with “disabled” students when we teach a language. And we can learn a lot by listening to special needs teachers and the instructional techniques and approaches they use.

One of the epiphanies for me came upon reading Kenneth Dinklage, who as a counselor at Harvard, was stunned how many high performing students were atrocious at learning language. He wondered why these brillant A+ students and “brains”, just squeezed by with Ds in their compulsory foreign language courses. So he set out to get to the root of the problem. It wasn’t anxiety or lack of motivation or even study skills. It was the instruction! The students had a deficit in their L1 which caused problems learning a second language. Once Dinklage applied some of the techniques used by special educators – their language learning blossomed.

Ganschow and Sparks extended Dinklage’s research and identified the Linguistic Coding Deficit Hypothesis (LCDH) stating “that difficulties with foreign language acquisition stem from deficiencies in one or more of these linguistic codes in the student’s native language system.” Brown has since labeled it the somewhat generic, SLAAP (Second Language Acquisition Associated Phenomena). I’ve written about this in detail with some practical advice,  HERE.

To me, what it all meant was that I began to see many of the difficulties my students (and I!) experienced in learning a language, as something that could be overcome if I borrowed many of the “ways”  of  special educators. In part II, I’ll be discussing one such technique – the use of repetition. Stay tuned!

References:

Dinklage, Kenneth T. “The Inability to Learn a Foreign Language.” Emotional Problems of the Student . Ed. G. Blaine and C. McArthur. New York: Appleton, 1971.

Ganschow, Lenore, and Richard Sparks. “Profile of the Learning-Disabled Student Who Experiences Foreign Language Learning Difficulties: Curricular Modifications and Alternatives.” (Revised title: “Impact of the Foreign Language Dilemma on College Bound Students with Specific Learning Disabilities.”) MLA Convention. Chicago, 28 Dec. 1985.

What You Can Learn from my PLN Quiz #5 (July 9th)

Part of the series: My Personal Learning Network

Congratulations!

Anne Hodgson

Janet Bianchini

Sue Lyon-Jones

Michelle Worgan

Catherine Dorgan

Sabrina (more…)

The Star Festival: Teaching Tanabata in English

Part of the series: EFL Makeovers

July 7th is Tanabata, or the Star Festival, in Japan. Legend says that Orihime (a weaver, represented by the  star Vega) and Hikoboshi (a cowherd, represented by the star Altair)  are allowed to cross the Milky Way to meet each year on the seventh evening of the seventh month each year. Children often decorate bamboo branches with colorful origami decorations, and their wishes. (more…)

What You Can Learn from My PLN Quiz #4 (July 4th)

Part of the series: My Personal Learning Network

This past week, some readers let know know that one of the links was broken in my post for PLN Quiz #4, and others let me know that they couldn’t access the quiz website. I appreciated the time they took to 1) try and take the quiz, and 2) tell me that there was a problem. (more…)