Making Connections – My presentation at the Arenas Teaching Symposium

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Here is the link to the presentation I gave at the II Arenas Teaching Symposium on Thursday. I hope that those of you who attended found it useful.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwvhQiYtN7sRUHprdVdLV19qRU0/edit?usp=sharing

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Tips for Speaking Tests (III)

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In most Cambridge exams, the candidates work together in pairs in at least some of the tasks. This allows the candidates to use a wider range of language than they could if they were just answering the questions they were asked by the examiner. As they work together, they use language to propose different ideasexpress agreement and disagreement and negotiate to a final decision. How successfully they work together is measured in a specific mark, Interactive Communication. Interactive Communication is not only judged when the candidates speak together, it is also observed when the candidates interact with the examiner, but it is most obvious when the candidates work together. In this section, we will look at strategies to improve this mark.

The first thing to say here may seem far to obvious to include – candidates should look at each other during this phase of the test. Too many candidates seem unsure where to look when the collaborative activity begins, and many begin to address their answer to the examiner rather than their partner, requiring further support from the examiner to get them back on track.

The candidate not speaking should also look at his / her partner as they speak, or at the prompt they are talking about, giving non-verbal feedback (nodding, making agreeing noises – ‘mm-hm’, etc.). Some candidates go as far as ‘duetting’, joining in with what the other candidate is saying so that they finish a sentence in unison, or reformulating what their partner has said. All of these strategies are part of ‘active listening’, which forms part of authentic spoken interaction.

English: The Active Listening Chart shows the ...

An extension of this is to make some reference to what the partner has said at the beginning of the following turn, ‘linking your contributions to those of your partner’. This comes in the marking criteria for FCE and above, but it is useful to train even PET level students to do this in a simple way. Perhaps the easiest way is a simple expression of agreement / disagreement – ‘Yes, I agree with you, but don’t you think…’, or ‘I see your point,, but…’.

Now watch this video of Part 3 of an FCE exam and observe how the candidates work together:

Finally, when interacting either with the examiner or the other candidate, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you are unsure what they have said. It is fine to ask ‘Can you repeat that, please’ if you are not sure about an instruction. The examiners are looking for contributions which are relevant, so it is important to know exactly what you are being asked to do. In parts 2 and 3, the key questions are printed at the top of the pages given to the candidates:

Please note that in the exam, the pictures are in colour (images from Cambridge University Press).

Can English native speakers adapt to a lingua franca world?

Here is an article which discusses the position of the native speaker in an ELF world. A very interesting perspective.

ELFA project

Academia is a world of its own. Linguistic controversies are fought among scholars with little interest from the outside world. There was outrage in response to early propositions that English used as a lingua franca (ELF) should be studied as a legitimate form of English in its own right, and not as perpetually deficient “learner language”. Yet, the ELF world outside kept communicating, and 15-or-so years since the pioneers of ELF research fought their early battles, academics are gradually recognising the uncontroversial and obvious linguistic reality around them.

While academia moves at the speed of, well, academia, I’ve always had more hope for business. English as a lingua franca of business (BELF) is nothing new, and as with academic ELF, there are English native speakers in the mix. How do they adjust to their ELF surroundings? People in business are motivated by money, which motivates efficiency, which motivates doing things…

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5 websites to spice up the end of term

(Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by Hideaki Hamada, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/)

The end of term is in sight, and now more than ever we need original ideas to counter the stress of exams and final assessments, and to engage students whose minds are already on the coming holidays. In this post we’ll visit five websites which offer something a bit different for our final classes of the school year, and, what is more important with all the admin which we have to do in the coming weeks, lesson plans which are ready to use.

1. www.film-english.com

wpid-Screenshot_2013-04-15-13-40-27.jpgThis excellent site run by Kieran Donaghy has recently won the ELTon award for Innovation in Teaching Resources. The site offers a wide choice of complete lesson plans and handouts in PDF format each based around one or more short videos. The lessons are graded according to the CEFR, and offer a variety of activities, both written and oral. The choice of videos is excellent, with thought-provoking topics stimulating rich discussions in class and engaging the students. I have used a few of these activities in class this year, and I think my favourite is probably ‘Real Beauty’, based on a promotional video for Dove Soap, designed for B2 and C1 students. A colleague has had a great time in her class with the activity ‘Make it count‘, which I featured here in April.

2. www.breakingnewsenglish.com

This site, written by Sean Banville, has featured on this blog before (his lesson plan covering the death of Margaret Thatcher). It offers a host of activities based on important stories in the news and covering different skills and levels. There is more than enough material to keep even the most demanding class going, including listening activities with Mp3 files provided. Sean offers a two-page ‘mini-lesson’ in addition to the complete 26-page version, thus increasing the choice available to the busy teacher.

Not content with this site, Sean has eight other sites which also offer high quality resources for teachers, notably ESL Holiday Lessons, which offers lessons focusing on special days in the calendar, some serious, some less so (World Sleep Day is a favourite of mine, and went down very well in class).There is a lesson plan for most days of the year, helpfully laid out month by month so you can plan ahead. His latest venture is Lessons on Movies, which promises to be very popular with those of us working with teenagers.

3. www.teachingenglish.org.uk

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The British Council and the BBC join forces to offer this website supporting teachers with a wide variety of downloadable lesson plans for all levels and skills. These are graded according to CEFR levels, from A2 to C1, and cover all the main skills. There is also an A – Z index of content so you can search for topics which fit in with your lessons.

This website also provides more general support for teachers in the form of Teacher Development, news and downloadable research articles.

4. busyteacher.org

Busy Teacher logoThis aptly-named website offers a vast selection of printable worksheets for free, which is great news for, well, busy teachers. On the homepage you will find links to the most recent and the most popular worksheets of the moment. You can also search for seasonal worksheets by month. The material is in American English.

This website also provides articles of interest to teachers, and I have provided links to articles there on this blog before, including earlier this week (‘5 Things You Should Say to Your Class Every Day‘).

5. elt-resourceful.com

And finally, Rachael Roberts brings us a selection of downloadable PDF ideas for our classes on her blog, ELT Resourceful. Her lesson plans are again based around short videos and provide excellent ideas for ways to exploit these videos in the classroom, and providing the opportunity for very interesting class debates. Some of the videos have lessons provided at two different levels.

On this blog I have referred to two of the activities available from ELT Resourceful – ‘The Chicken Nugget Experiment‘ and ‘To R.P. Salazar, with love‘ (great for St. Valentine’s Day).

Rachael’s blog also provides very interesting posts on aspects of teaching English, and helpful tips for preparing your own materials.

Other useful sites:

I chose the sites above because they offer a complete service, as it were, providing lessons plans that are ready to go. However, I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning some other sites which provide lots of great resources. Although they do not provide step-by-step instructions for how to use them, with a little bit of thought they can make for a very enjoyable, useful class.

www.lyricstraining.com

This website lets your students practise their listening comprehension while they listen to their favourite songs. al they have to do is search for the song they want to listen to, and they will find the lyrics with gaps for them to complete as they listen. There are different levels of difficulty and an option where a limited number of attempts is allowed before the song stops. This a great end of class activity for teenage students

www.eltpics.com

On this website, set up by a group of educators on http://www.flickr.com, you will find a vast and growing collection of photographs which have been made available for teachers to use for educational purposes. The rights to the pictures are retained by the person who took them, so they should be carefully attributed – for the correct format, click here. The collection can be searched by category, and you can upload your own pictures to the collection. All in all, this is a fantastic resource. It is not surprising that it was a finalist in this year’s ELTon for Innovation in Teaching Resources, the same category as Kieran Donaghy’s www.film-english.com (see above).

www.onestopenglish.com

I was originally going to include this site as one of my five, as it is very complete, offering downloadable lessons and a host of articles and resources for teachers. However, in the end I have included it here, firstly because it is a website which is offered by a publishing house (Macmillan) rather than an independent site, and also because you have to register and pay to access some of the resources. Once you have registered it is an excellent site, but I preferred to focus on what was available for free.

5 Things You Should Say to Your Class Every Day

5 things you should say to your class

The way you talk to your class is extremely important for the success of you as a teacher and your students’.

As young children they remember more about their surroundings; what was said or done by whom and in what way. Their environment is influential on their behaviour, attitude and development. The Graduate Recruitment Bureau suggest saying these six things to your class every day to make sure you give them the best education possible; not just academically but socially and developmentally too.

[Read more].