Here I am, back from a short-term holiday and ready for my summer lessons! It is customary in Greece for the winter courses in private language institutions to end around May; towards the end of June schools resume preparations to welcome those students who are willing to finish one more English-language class by taking an accelarated course in the summer months. The point is that the Greek weather is rather an impediment to studying since it is invariably scorching hot and sunny, calling for some soothingly cool sea bathing rather than having language lessons! Therefore, the question that immediately troubled me was: what can a teacher do to help these students start learning on a positive note?
games, parties, activities, makeovers of traditional games
Branko M., Assistant Professor of American Literature of the English Department (Faculty of Humanities in Serbia), has been so kind as to give me the opportunity to present in a webinar some of the challenges teachers worldwide need to face if they wish their teaching to result in efficient learning on the students’ part. Although I feel fortunate to have been trusted with students of all ages and levels, the difficulties posed on the way have been numerous, also allowing me to take delight in their resolution. (more…)
Part of the series: EFL Makeovers
Have you ever been to an auction sale before? An auction is defined as a type of sale where the price of an item is negotiated through the process of competitive and open bidding. It is normally a public sale at which items are sold to the person offering to pay the highest price. (more…)
It’s easy these days to get carried away with all the talk about advances in educational technology and what the latest, coolest web-based resource is. The truth for many teachers and students around the world is that they are lucky to have one computer and a projector in class and even luckier to have internet access, which even then is highly likely to be filtered. This is the case in my school: each class has a “teacher’s” computer with projector and, at best, unreliable internet. Therefore, the most commonly used tool in class is PowerPoint. Even then, many teachers dislike it as they feel ‘chained to the computer’ so how can we make sure it’s used effectively?
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!
Two (2) or more (the more the merrier!)
a party hat (oversize) or blindfold
How to play
- Determine the order of play.
- In random, attach all the picture cards on the board.
- Instruct the players to remember the placement of each card.
- 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!”
- The first player puts on the over size hat (covering his or her face), and turns around three times.
- 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.
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”.
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.
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…)