giovedì 21 agosto 2014

Back to teach - Ready for a new adventure

After a long time here I am back again. My dream about having a larger studio where my students and I could feel more comfortable has just come true.

In a couple of weeks I am going to take up my lessons again and I'm ready to share my ideas and experiences with you, my dear followers.

During the summer I went on picking up new strategies, approaches and methods.
I read some interesting (e)books such as The Practice of English Teaching from which I learnt more and more about how to teach the four linguistics skills and Learning to Go by Shelly Sanchez. If you like me love teaching by using mobile device you must read it, you will get fantastic ideas.

Plus, I attended most of the excellent webinars hosted by the  iTDi Summer School MOOC for English Teachers.
I was impressed by Shelly and Sylvia Guinan who inspired me a lot in their session about being an EduHero. I totally agree with them when they say we are model heroes our students must follow to get better and better results not only in learning English but also in all the other aspects of their lives.

In Shelly's words,

"It is important as EduHeroes that we inspire our students to also go on heroic journeys. We need our learners to feel like heroes, that it is their duty to care about the world. We need to inspire them to learn math, science, languages, writing, and literacy not to take tests, but because by obtaining these skills along their hero journeys they will be able to find cures, get closer to living in a peaceful world, lead meaningful lives, and solve world issues like hunger, poverty, and illiteracy. The only way that we will raise heroes is if we, their teachers, impart to them this mission and let them know we believe that each one of them has the ability and strength to be a hero if they just choose to endure the journey and learn the skills". 

We share our mission/adventure with our students because teaching and learning can't exist without each other. Our human touch is crucial because students are individuals and we have to treat them with care and respect. We need to support them in their learning adventure with patience without getting angry or upset with them if they cannot achieve their goals immediately. 
Learning means loving, getting involved, trying, making mistakes, falling down and getting back up again. 
For this reason I'd like to dedicate this song to my past, present and future students. Are you ready for a new adventure? I am ;-)
 





domenica 1 giugno 2014

Teaching for Exams? Have Fun (Part 3)

UPDATE: This blog post has been shortlisted for the 'Blog Award for Innovative Teaching Ideas' by Teaching English British Council.


Here we are with another post about having fun while training your students for their English language exams.

Last month I attended an excellent webinar by the amazing Sylvia Guinan about interactive storytelling for English language exams. She fully explained how storytelling comics could be used to present/revise phrasal verbs as well as for showing English transformation structures before students ever even realise that these are official parts of the exam. You can find her presentation here.

I found her ideas so interesting and stimulating that I started using www.bitstrips.com to create personalized materials in order to train my students for the Cambridge KET, PET, FCE for Schools.


Below you will find some examples about how I used comics to prepare my students for their exams. 

1. KET for Schools
Reading&Writing part 4
Right/Wrong/Doesn't say OR 3-option multiple choice - In this part of the test students have to read for the detailed understanding and main ideas.

(I adapted the following exercise from the book KET for Schools Trainer


(If you are interested in the questions, please contact me.)


2 PET for Schools
Writing Part 1
Sentence transformation - In this part of the test students are given sentences and then asked to complete similar sentences using a different structural pattern so that the sentence still has the same meaning. Candidates should use no more than three words.

(In this example my students and I were revising the reported speech.)


3 FCE for Schools
Use of English Part 4
Key word transformations - In this part of the paper students are tested about lexical and grammatical structures. This exercise focuses on the students' ability to express a message in different ways.

(In this example my students and I were revising the use of comparatives and superlatives.)
If you have more ideas about how to use comics to teach for language exams, please share them with me!

martedì 27 maggio 2014

Fed up with end-of-year tests? A Digital Scavenger Hunt is the solution!

It's time to close books and go on holiday in most parts of the world, isn't it? Well, if you are teacher and in your school an end-of-year test is not compulsory, you can have some fun with your students!

Digital Scavenger Hunt

In my town it's warm these days so I thought there was nothing better than going out and having a digital scavenger hunt on the street with my pre-teen learners.

MATERIALS:
1) a smartphone/ a mobile phone with a camera per pair.
2) This handout

PROCEDURE & REACTIONS  (6 students):
Last week I told my students we were going to do a special scavenger hunt outdoors so they were excited about the idea of stepping out the classroom. However, when they read the rules and they realized they were supposed to ask questions to unknown people they felt ashamed. I didn't worry because I knew that a prize was going to be the right "medicine" for shyness. And so it was.
We went out all together and we walked along a pedestrian street (where my studio is situated) and on the pavement of a nearby street. Students worked in their pairs but not far from each other. I tried to keep myself behind and I helped them when they tried to talk to the people. (Well, I helped more the strangers than my own students :-) ) I had a whistle with me which I used when some of them were walking too far from the rest of the group.
About 1 hour later we went back to the classroom and the feedback was surprising! The three pairs got 16/18 on average ;-)

WHY DO I LIKE THIS ACTIVITY?
1) You can personalise it according to the programme you carried out with your class.
2) You can monitor your students without looking a "slave driver".
3) It helps students be more autonomous.

Remember to ask parents to sign an authorisation form if you want to take your students outside the classroom.
Some of my students ;-)

If you try this activity, please let me know!


mercoledì 9 aprile 2014

Harrogate Online - The 48th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition (part 3)

Harrogate Online 2014On March 23rd Adam Simpson started a chain reaction blog challenge. He chose three of this year's registered bloggers and introduced them in his blog. These bloggers in turn chose other registered bloggers and interviewed them... That was why Sylvia Guinan interviewed me (you can see my interview by following this link http://www.sylviasenglishonline.org/harrogate-online-interview-with-larissas-languages/)
After my interview I did not want to stop the chain reaction even though it was the last day of the conference so I decided to Facebook Adam and ask him if he was available to answer a few questions about his experience in Harrogate.  Well, he was so kind to reply and here you are some food for thought.


1 - Please introduce yourself

Hi. My name’s Adam and I’m an English teacher in Istanbul. I’ve lived here for nearly fifteen years and I work in the preparatory English program at Sabanci University. Also, I blog about my teaching experiences quite regularly, as well as being an avid believer in the importance of classroom research.

2 - Could you tell us why you were interested in blogging for IATEFL Harrogate?

I tried to do it last year and failed miserably. Anyone who has ever been to IATEFL will tell you what a fantastic social experience it is. Once you’ve attended, it’s not see easy to watch and report from afar. I’m trying to make amends this year.

What areas of the conference were you interested in?

This event is huge… seriously, it’s unbelievably big. Prioritizing is a must, although attending friends’ sessions is also important to me, but getting more and more difficult with each passing year!

3 - What are you going to bring back from the conference?

Physically, I will be bringing back lots of my favourite goodies. I’m originally from the Harrogate area, so this is a great opportunity to stock up on the food I miss from home. Mentally, I know I have experienced some fantastic knowledge sharing from people who I respect greatly in our profession. It will be great to reflect on what I’ve learned and nurture professional contacts around these experiences.


4 - Could you tell us three adjectives to describe your experience at IATEFL Harrogate?

Rewarding
Exhilarating
Fun

5 - You were interviewed about your blog by Ann Foreman and Paul Braddock, is there anything else you would like to add?

It was a pleasure to have the chance to discuss blogging with Ann and Paul, as I’m a huge fan of what they do online with the BC TeachingEnglish site. Working indirectly with them has been hugely beneficial and they’re doing a great job of building an online community of language teachers. If you’ve listened to Sandy and I talk about blogging, I’d also recommend a couple of other interviews: there’s this interview with Paul and Ann http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2014/sessions/2014-04-02/interview-paul-braddock-and-ann-foreman in which they discuss their work, and there’s this one with Willy Cardoso, James Taylor and Katherine Bilsborough http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2014/sessions/2014-04-03/interview-james-taylor-willy-cardoso-and-katherine-bilsborough in which they talk about the role of blogging in ELT. I’m a strong believer in the importance of blogging and if it’s something that also interests you, these interviews are essential viewing.

It is my deep honour to post this interview. I admire Adam because of his continuous research about the classroom settings and dynamics. Adam's ideas are brilliant and you can easily adapt them to your  students' needs.

giovedì 3 aprile 2014

Harrogate Online - The 48th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition (part 2)

My first report is about the session Teaching with mobile devices: choices and challenges by Nicky Hockly.
http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2014/sessions/2014-04-02/teaching-mobile-devices-choices-and-challenges
The presenter:
Nicky is Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E and has worked in the field of face-to-face and distance education since 1987, as a teacher, teacher trainer and consultant. She is involved in materials development, for both EFL course books and online learning. She is currently joint Co-ordinator of the IATEFL Learning Technologies Special Interest Group. Nicky has written many articles on education, technology and online learning, and she is a plenary speaker at conferences all over the world. She is a well-known author of methodology books on the application of technology to language teaching.

The session:
Teaching with mobile devices: choices and challenges

The content in 40 words
The workshop dealt about the choices and challenges involved in teaching with mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) in the classroom. There were also examples which showed practically how to implement mobile-based activities with beginner, lower-intermediate, and intermediate students.

Nicky started her workshop by showing the meaning of Mobile Learning. She considered three aspects:
1. when devices are mobile (smartphones and tablets, not laptops)
2. when learners are mobile (students move around the classroom/school with their devices or they use their devices at home)
3. when learning experience is mobile (how mobile devices can be used in language learning tasks)
In order to better explain the third point Nicky showed examples of activies she did during her teaching experience in Cambridge last year. I was particularly interested in the following task activities.
The first activity was one she integrated to the course book with lower-intermediate students. The
topic was water and students were asked to go around the school and take pictures of things which were connected with water but not water itself. They shared the pictures on the group of Whatsapp. Then they justified their choices. The pictures raised a lot of discussion among students.

The second activity was aimed at beginner students and it involved the use of QR codes and it was a
sort of treasure hunt. Students were supposed to go around the school, take pictures and ask questions to the staff. This activity allowed the students to recycle the language learnt, practicing speaking (they asked questions), reading and reviewing grammar.

The third activity is based on geotagging and was done by mid-intermediate students  They used a free app called Woices (it can be used both on Android and Apple devices). They created an audio guide of a place they liked in Cambridge. This activity was carried out both in the classroom and at home over the weekend.




Nicky also took into account the practical aspects of bringing mobile devices into the classroom such as the age of students, using students' belongings or school's, the mobile integration to the course books or assessment.

Finally, she considered the learning aims, the logistic and legal (especially the role of parents when students are young learners) aspects of using mobile devices.

My consideration in 40 words:
I am especially interested in the combination of technology and daily life and this session gave me food for thought. I can’t wait to adapt the activities carried out by Nicky’s students in my classes to meet my students’ needs.


Studying for exams? Have fun (Part 2)

Two weeks ago I started a new series of blog posts about teaching and studying for English language exams. I posted http://larissaslanguages.blogspot.it/2014/03/teaching-for-exams-have-fun-part-1.html which was about a technique I used in the classroom to help my students improve their results in FCE Reading part 2.
Today I'm posting two pictures which come in handy for FCE Writing part 2. In this part of the exam you are asked to write a piece of writing. The task types are articles, stories, reviews, letters, essays and reports. In the two pictures below you will find some useful tips about the structure of the text and suitable phrases&expressions for each piece of writing.




mercoledì 2 aprile 2014

Harrogate Online - The 48th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition (part 1)

Harrogate Online 2014Today 2nd April 2014 the Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition kicks off. I wish I were in Harrogate to meet excellent teachers, professors and teacher trainers!
But, no problem! If you, like me, are not in Harrogate you can watch all conference plenaries live on the Harrogate Online website. Plus, you can watch some interviews with great conference presenters and delegates such as those which were held yesterday.
One of the new features of this year's conference which impressed me is the Open Space event. In Adrian Underhill's words an Open Space Conference is "essentially a way of organizing a conference when you haven't got anything. There is no a programme,people just come with what is important to them". (This is the link to his interview).
Do you want to know more about this special type of conference? Read this article: http://developingteachersdevelopingschools.wordpress.com/background/open-space-technology-in-theory-adrian-underhill/

Bye for now,
Larissa