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Witches, Ninjas, Fairies, Princesses, and Super Heroes

Part of the series: Stuff All EFL Teachers Should Know

It’s Halloween, and time for another class party!

These were my students’ costumes for our Halloween party this year. Considering that dressing up wasn’t mentioned, I was impressed that they made such an effort to come in character! (more…)

To champion the picturebook (by Sandie Mourão)

 


In May this year I launched my blog, Picturebooks in ELT. The motivation came from the work I’m doing with picturebooks for my PhD.  When I began my research programme, I had no idea it would lead me down this route… (more…)

The Auction (by Marco Brazil)

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…)

Getting the most out of Power Point (by David Dodgson)

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?

(more…)

What I did on my summer vacation…

Ohisashiburi!

That’s a Japanese greeting for when greeting friends after a long absence, and I certainly have been gone a long time!

Where I’ve been….

I actually planned on unplugging for a little while this summer. My daughter was home from college and I wanted time with her.

Then, we went to Maui, and most days I was in the water,

hanging out with the fish . . . .

. . . . and the turtles.

(If you can’t get enough of other people’s vacation photos, more of mine are here.)

Then, we returned to Japan. After helping friends buy furniture and move into their new apartment, I was inspired. After over a year and a half living here, I figured it was about time to unpack our books. (with a professor and a teacher who both write, books are an occupational hazard!) From there, events unfolded rather like one of my favorite picture books–

If you want to unpack the books, you’re going to have to buy some shelves.

Then, if you buy (relatively) inexpensive shelves, you’re going to have to put them together.

Before you can put up the shelves, you’re going to have to move all the boxes and clean the floor.

Then, you might as well wash the drapes.

And, while the drapes are off, you might as well wash the windows, too.

And the screens.

Finally, you can put the books on the shelves.

But, because you have way more books that you thought you had, you’re going to have to buy some more shelves :-)


And suddenly, it was September!

Where I’m going to be. . .

On Sunday, September 26th I’ll be at The Chubu Junior and Senior High School Teachers’ Seminar in Nagoya. The theme is “Collaborate to Motivate.” If you’re in the area, there’s a great line up of speakers (Chuck Sandy, Darren Elliott, Mark Kulek, Mike Stockton, and more!). It’s free, but you’ll need to pre-register.

I’ll be doing an online presentation/workshop sometime during the weekend of October 8th and 9th for the 3rd Virtual Round Table Conference. The theme for the conference is “Language Learning with Technology.” This will be my first online workshop, so fingers crossed! The conference schedule has not yet been finalized, but I’ll link to it as soon as it is.

November will be a busy month. First, there’s JALT 2010, the biggest gathering of language professionals in Japan. This year, JALT will be in Nagoya from November 19th through the 21st. The theme is “Creativity: Think Outside the Box” , and I’ll be doing two workshops. The first, High Tech Ideas for Low Tech Classrooms, will explore ways that teachers with limited technology access in the classroom can exploit the benefits of Web 2.0 technology and the social Internet. The second, Making phonics work for your student: from sounds to reading, will take a lighthearted journey through the history of phonics and the many ways we’ve taught children to read since the 16th century. Rather than adhering to any particular “brand” of phonics, teachers can pick and choose from among an array of approaches and techniques–some familiar, some not–in order to create a phonics programs as unique as their students. I’ll also be part of the OUP Experts forum, with Michael Swan and others (Sunday afternoon, sometime). If you are going to be in Nagoya for JALT, I hope you’ll let me know–I love meeting my online friends!

I’ll finish up this year with two workshops at ETJ Expos. On Sunday, November 28th, I’ll be in Osaka, for the Kansai Expo and on Sunday, December 5th I’ll be in Fukuoka for the Kyushu Expo.

What else I’ll be doing…

Blogging. I have several great guest posts for Teaching Village in the pipeline—great ideas on exploiting Power Point in the classroom from David Dodgson, more ideas for using mind mapping for writing from Hobie Swan, and another game makeover from Marco Brazil. Then, of course, there are my own posts, waiting in draft form. And, several interviews and guest posts that I’ve promised to others (and won’t jinx by mentioning specifics!).

Other writing projects. I write a monthly editorial for ELT News (sharing the duties with David Paul, Steven Herder and Theron Muller). I had an interesting, if unexpected experience trying to access my facebook account from a new computer in a different country—what happens when you can’t identify your friends from their pictures—and I’ll be sharing that experience in my next editorial.

I also write a column for the Teachers Learning with Children (from the JALT Teaching Children Special Interest Group). The next two issues will be online, so they’ll be easy to share. Or, you can join the TCSIG and get all of the issues :-)

I’m also going to start working on a series of easy, digital English readers to get some more mileage out of the photos I got on vacation–can anyone recommend a program to create online books that allows me to embed narration?

I had a great time offline, but it’s good to be back! See you around!

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.

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…)

Tips for Teaching Teens (by Michelle Worgan)

Part of the series: Stuff All EFL Teachers Should Know

While trying to have a quick nap on a hot Friday afternoon in Southern Spain, I started thinking of what to write about for this guest post. Two ideas came to me – the first being the use of puppets in the early learner classroom, and the other being how to successfully teach teenagers. I’ve decided to leave the puppet post for my own blog sometime soon, and to write here about teaching teenagers.

In most ELT situations, a teacher will more often than not end up having to teach teenagers at some point. In private institutions, children are the most lucrative students, starting when they are young and hopefully (from the teacher’s and owner’s point of view – even if their reasons are different) continuing at least until they go to university.

However, for many teachers this age group is the bane of their career. It can be incredibly difficult to create a positive learning environment in which adolescents feel happy, secure, valued and motivated to learn. The reasons for this are many: teenagers are going through many physical and emotional changes, including changes in their brains (see Naomi Moir’s post on the OUP blog; they would normally prefer to be somewhere else on a sunny afternoon; if they do want to come to class it may be because it is where the rest of their friends are, as a kind of social club; peer pressure is at its highest and this can have a very negative effect during a lesson; and they may even be suffering from stress and exhaustion due to their demanding school and after school commitments.  These are just a few of the reasons why it can be extremely difficult to provide successful lessons and courses with this age group.

I have taught a fantastic group of teenagers over the past two years, and I think it will be useful to look at aspects of our teacher-student relationship to see why in this particular case, the course has been successful.

The First Day

The first few days are crucial to the way the course will run.  The students will make unconscious decisions during this time about what kind of teacher you are and it is essential to let them know that while you may be relaxed and friendly, you will not accept any nonsense. With an exam course like the one I have been teaching, I spend a large part of the first lesson explaining what will be expected of them during the next two years. I make sure they are conscious of the amount of work they will be doing both in and out of class and how important the pace of the course is, if they want to reach their objectives (in this case, passing the exam).

You may hear lots of moans when you make it clear that they are going to have to work hard, but generally I find that most teenagers expect to have to put in a bit of effort, and this usually motivates them. It is really important that they are motivated, especially if it is a two year course.

Good Cop Vs Bad Cop

I consider myself to be quite strict with teenage exam prep groups, and contrary to popular belief, research has shown that firm but fair teachers are preferred by this age group. Although you may be tempted to treat a group of sixteen year olds as adults, the fact is that emotionally they are not. Even though they may look like adults and demand to be treated like one, they don’t usually have the emotional balance and reason that an adult usually has. This means that if you do talk to them as if they were your friends or peers, they will often use this as an excuse not to study or do as you ask. At the end of the day, most teenagers don’t have the maturity to choose progress over fun and games, and you will find it much more difficult to get them to put in the required effort.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to bear the stick constantly – give them a carrot when they have been working hard! The idea is you are seen to be in control of the class – something that teenagers consider a quality of a good teacher. Rewards such as games and other fun activities can be a great incentive to get the work done. Do make sure though, that you do give them the rewards you promise, otherwise they will just think that there is no point in doing the work.

Short-Term Goals

For you the school year may fly by and as soon as you know it, June is here again. For the average fifteen year old though, a year can be a very long time. In a two-year course such as the one I’ve been teaching, you need to provide students with plenty of goals to work towards during the course. Trying to get students to study for an exam that they will sit in two year’s time is almost impossible. Even if you constantly remind them of the exam, they will not see it as something realistic until about three months before. This means that you must set them regular goals that they can achieve in order to keep motivation as high as possible. You can discuss and negotiate these goals with your students, keeping them involved.

Motivation

One of the questions constantly posed by teachers of teenagers is “How can I motivate them? They aren’t interested in anything!” If you ask a group of teenagers what topics they would like to cover in class, they will come up with very few. Even if you do bring in some materials you have found about their interests, you will inevitably find that they show the same amount of enthusiasm as if they were the typical course book unit about the environment. The problem, I find is not the actual topic of the lesson, but the type of activities involved. Most course book pre-reading tasks for example, do not make you want to read! Trying to get a learner to read through a gapped text before attempting to fill in the gaps is a nightmare, usually because the text is about something not at all interesting and the student has no incentive to read. Imagine you have a text about someone who survived a shark bite. Instead of just asking your students to read, tell them the story from the survivor’s point of view from the beginning, but stopping before the end. Now ask what happened next, encouraging all kinds of funny or even gory answers, and then get them reading! The main thing is, unless you want to spend hours before every lesson trying to find interesting teenage material and planning lessons, to find fun ways to exploit the materials they already have in their course books.

Humour

One of the reasons why I have enjoyed teaching this particular group of teens is that we have had some brilliant moments of laughter. Sometimes I have been the instigator and sometimes they have. Although I have made the students work really hard and cover as much as possible every lesson, a good laugh now and again can motivate teenagers to want to come to class. I started this by making up stories, usually to introduce some grammar point, that they actually believed (like having sprained my ankle – lots of limping around the classroom), and then got a bit of a reputation as a fibber! However, this gave me and the students an opportunity to relax. When they saw that I was prepared to joke with them, they were much happier about working. They would themselves decide to work hard so that later they could have a bit of a laugh. I had the odd trick played on me (in a nice way) that had me crying with laughter.

I do believe that teenage groups can be the most rewarding. When you see how much progress they have made, when they have become more responsible for their own learning, how they have grown up and when you and they both feel sad on the last day of the year because you won’t see each other for three months, then it is really worth it.

I have been teaching English for over ten years, mostly in Spain. For the past eight years I have been living and teaching in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz. I love teaching children and I have a blog mostly devoted to Young Learner related issues and activities called So This Is English and you can find me on Twitter as @michelleworgan.

Animal Magic with Young Learners (by Leahn Stanhope)

Part of the series: Stuff All EFL Teachers Should Know

I was initially very flattered when Barbara asked me to write a guest post, then my happy feeling turned to mild panic. Finally I just decided to write so here we are. This post is dedicated to one of my favourite ‘props’ for the young learner classroom which are SMALL PLASTIC ANIMALS. I like using a range of props which I keep in brightly coloured bags and clothes hampers. (more…)

Digital Digits: Creative Ideas for Finger Plays (by Shelly Sanchez Terrell)

I teach students between the ages of two- and six-years-old. When you teach young learners you discover how much they love finger plays. The children memorize the English quickly and are able to repeat the words and actions on their own.

Introducing the Finger Play

Finger plays are best used in the classroom with the children watching you and modeling your actions. Try having the children sit in front of you or in a circle. We like to sit on pillows on the floor. You may also want to use a felt board to begin introducing the vocabulary. Put up the characters in the order they will appear in the finger play. Place the name above each character. For example, for the Incy Wincy Spider I put a spider, a water spout, the sun, and the rain. I have the children repeat the words. When possible I also vary the voices for each character. I want the children to visualize the characters in order for them to remember the words that go with that character. (more…)