lunedì 12 gennaio 2015

The power of free mobile apps - No 1 PicCollage

Dear followers,

Happy New Year! 

I am so glad to be back! I'd like to start this new year with a new series of posts. If you have been following my blog for a while you will certainly know I love teaching by using both tech and daily life objects, that's why I am going to share with you my classroom experiences and ideas about a free mobile apps every month. 

Free mobile app No 1

Description from Itunes

"PicCollage is THE coolest collage-maker in town! Join 80 million people who use PicCollage to combine photos, Youtube videos, funky fonts, sassy stickers and cute cutouts to create the prettiest collages you'll ever see on a mobile device. We have stickers from Maroon 5, Beats Music, Universal Pictures, and LA-based independent designer, Sara M. Lyons. Check out our Contests section and create a visual response instead of just a plain text response. Share with your friends and followers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and iMessage. You can also PRINT your collages into greeting cards or postcards to send to your loved ones anywhere in the world!"
Activity 1
Warm-up/Ice-breaker activity - level beginner
Ask learners to take pictures of the things around the classroom or the school they already know and then label them.

Activity 2 
Free practice (homework) - level elementary
After teaching countable & uncountable food nouns I asked my learners to take pictures of food items they had in their house. I asked them to create two different collages: one for countable nouns and the other for uncountable nouns.
This activity gave me the chance to check whether my learners had really understood the difference between countable & uncountable nouns since in their native language the distinction is not the same.
In this example one of my learners took pictures of countable nouns but as you can see there are three items which have uncountable nouns. 
How to give my learner effective feedback?
I shared this picture with all the other students without saying who had taken it. I told them that the collage was about countable nouns but there were three odd ones and they had 3 minutes to find them out. They worked in pairs and then we had collective feedback.

Activity 3 
Exam-oriented activity - Cambridge First for Schools (B2 level) Speaking part 2
From the Cambridge website - "The examiner gives you two photographs and asks you to talk about them. You have to speak for 1 minute without interruption and the interlocutor then asks the other candidate to comment on your photographs for about 30 seconds. The other candidate receives a different set of photographs and you have to listen and comment when they have finished speaking. The question you have to answer about your photographs is written at the top of the page to remind you what you should talk about."

As homework I asked my learners to take two pictures of people who were learning and put them together with PicCollage. When they came to the lesson I printed the pictures out and they swop the photos they had taken and they answered the following question:

What are the advantages of learning in these different ways?

If you have other ideas I will be pleased to add them here!

lunedì 24 novembre 2014

My first workshop and webinar - Experiences I want to make again and again

In the last few weeks I was really busy with my lessons but I made time for my first workshop and webinar.

1) Workshop - Teaching Teenagers: 4 Skills + 1 at the TESOL Italy's 39th National Convention

In this workshop I talked about how we can engage teen learners and how to create fun lesson plans which integrate the four linguistic skills, and at the same time, allow the students to learn job skills. I shared with the audience my series of lessons called "If I were a... JOB". The example I used was If I were a... mayor
However, before handing out my own lesson plan I showed them this slide and I asked to create their own lesson plan. While they were working in small groups I supervised and I noticed that the most difficult part was to integrate the skills with the aims. So I told them, "Be creative, don't be afraid of trying something new and you'll see that you and your students will have a lot of fun"!

Over the last few lessons my teen students and I have also tried out to be TV reporters and real estate agents and I hope to share my lesson plans soon with you. 

2) Webinar - Games in the English classroom hosted by Jason R Lavine (Fluency MC) and WizIQ.

I'd never been fond of teaching online because I'd always thought it was not my cup of tea but yesterday I completely changed my mind. I'd always believed I couldn't have enough interaction with the audience in a webinar but I was terribly wrong! Yesterday I had the chance to meet teachers from any part of the world and I was able to share my ideas with them. Moreover, at the end of webinar some of them even contacted me on social networks and we continued our conversation about teaching issues. 

I loved having this webinar also because I could talk about something I usually do with my students in my language studio. Playing games is so important to me because they add variety to the lesson, they make students feel relaxed and less worried about mistakes and finally we have a lot of fun!

If you wish to see the slides and the webinar recording please enroll here ;-)

I'd like to thank once again Jason for giving me this fantastic chance and introducing me to the world of online teaching!

sabato 18 ottobre 2014

Teaching for Exams? Have fun! - Gift bags

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

A couple of days ago my mother and I were doing some spring cleaning in the basement when she told me to throw away a bunch of gift bags. I was walking to the bins when I stopped at once. "Why don't take these gift bags into the classroom?", I wondered. I had already heard about vocabulary bag activities in oder to revise words from the website  Teaching English British Council so I decided I could try to introduce these Realia objects in my classes. 

This is the activity I did with my students.

Aimed at learners who are training for the FCE/FCE for schools

Background: Use of English part 3/ Reading and Use of English part 3 (from 2015)
This task is called word formation and it focuses on candidates' knowledge of how prefixes, suffixes, internal changes and compounds are used in forming words. 

Number of students: 4
Number of gift bags: 4
(You can pair or group up students depending on your class)

1) Give each student (pair/group of students) a bag. Each bag corresponds to a grammar category:
a. nouns, 
b. verbs, 
c. adjectives, 
d. adverbs. 

2) Put in the centre of the desk  mixed-up sets of words which have the same root. 

A set of the cards I used in my lesson.

3) According to the number of words, tell students they have ___ minutes to pick up the words which belong to the grammar category they have been assigned and put them into their own bags.

4) When time is up call the students to come to the board with their bag. One category at time. 

5) Students call out the words while you copy them to the board so as everyone can take notes.  
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG: If a student has put the word SURELY in the ADJECTIVE's bag, don't write it immediately in the right column but stick it on the board. 

6) At the end, when all the chart is filled up go back to the words which haven't been categorized yet and with the whole class classify them. The students will then take the words and put them into the right bag.

My students enjoyed a lot this activity above all when they had to choose which category the words belonged to. This activity also gave them the chance to do some peer-teaching. 

You can also use this activity if you want to teach vocabulary according to the grammar categories or with just two bags you can teach opposite words. 

Do you have more ideas to use gift bags in exam preparation classes? Please share them with me!

sabato 13 settembre 2014

#100happylearningenglishdays - a challenge to improve English through social media

If you like me teach adults you are certainly used to hearing something like, "I need to learn English, but I don't have enough time".

A few days ago I ran into this website whose slogan is 
and I immediately thought about my adult students who are always in a hurry when it comes to learning English. Why not challenge them to learn English for 100 days in a row? 

In order to take part to the #100happydays challenge people must take pictures of what makes them happy day by day and share it via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

As far as learning English is concerned there might be several types of challenges according to the level and the needs of the students.
I came up with the following ideas.

#1 Vocabulary - Students can take pictures of daily life items in order to learn their names.

#2 Grammar - Students can write the paradigms of irregular verbs. (E.g. TAKE-TOOK-TAKEN)

#3 Phrasal verbs - Students can write a new phrasal verb together with its meaning and an example. (They might add a picture if they want to.)
#4Idioms - Students can write a new idiom together with its meaning and an example. (They might add a funny picture.)
#5 Functional language - Students can write a question or a sentence that is useful for their communication with other people such as inviting someone to do something, suggesting something, apologizing, etc. E.g. DO YOU FANCY GOING TO THE CINEMA TONIGHT? (Maybe someone will reply and you will spend a great night out :) )

Why do I think it can work with a huge number of students?
People aged between 18 and 44 use social media more and more. They love to catch up with family and friends, share their experiences and feelings. In this way, learning English can be something that will make them feel cool.

What are the drawbacks of this challenge?
In my opinion students might be fed up with it after a week. Also the 100happydays website states that 71% of people failed to complete the challenge.

I hope my students and your students will love this challenge and will be able to win it!

If you can think of any other idea for the challenge, please share it with me! 


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 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.

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 ;-)

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!