Valentine’s Day – Resources for class

Once more, St. Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, which means it’s time to break out the hearts and flowers as our thoughts – and lesson plans – turn to love. Here are a few ideas for class activities which bring St. Valentine’s Day into the classroom.

Information gap: The origins of St. Valentine

This is a simple activity which can be adapted to any theme quite easily. Take a reading text of an appropriate level for your students and select perhaps ten pieces of information which can be changed. Create two versions of the text with five changes in each one, labelling one Text A and the other Text B (click here for a ready prepared set on The Origins of St. Valentine). Give out Text A to half the class, and Text B to the other half.

First, the students need to think what information may have been changed, and to prepare questions to ask a partner with the other text using appropriate interrogative pronouns. Then get the class to stand up and mingle, pairing up with someone who has the other text. Once everyone has a partner, they should sit together and take turns to ask their questions, continuing until they have identified the ten differences between the texts. Once they have done that, they should decide which is the correct version for each of the differences, and prepare a justification for their answers.

You can round off the activity by correcting the text as a class, or you can have them join up in groups of four to compare their answers before correcting, depending on how much disagreement you notice as you are monitoring.

A nice way to finish off the lesson is to show them this video from You Tube of a flash mob marriage proposal:

Love poetry

One of the most popular themes in poetry is love, in all its many different forms, so why not have a look at the topic of love poetry for St. Valentine’s Day. This activity would be suitable for a C1 class.

Before the class, have half the class watch the video ‘Carpe Diem’ from Dead Poets’ Society and read the poem, while the other half watch ‘Stop all the clocks’ from Four Weddings and a Funeral and read the poem. (You can give the students the link directly, or you can simply give them a copy of the poem.) Ask them to think what aspects of love are expressed in their poem. Once in class, group the students who watched the same video in pairs or in fours and have them compare their ideas. As they work, check if they had any comprehension problems.

Once the students have shared their ideas, put two students who watched the Carpe Diem video with two students who watched ‘Stop all the clocks’. Ask them to explain what aspects of love are shown in each video, and then to decide which poem better expresses true love. They should be prepared to defend their definition of ‘true love’ in the class discussion afterwards.

After they have debated, have each group report their conclusions to the class. Allow them to compare their definitions of true love.

To round up, show the two videos, so that all the students have seen both.

Carpe diem (‘Come gather ye rosebuds while ye may’ – Dead Poets’ Society)

Stop all the clocks… (‘Funeral Blues’- Four Weddings and a Funeral)

 Related posts:

It was a dark and stormy night …

Gunpowder, treason and plot

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Texts and tweets – David Crystal discusses myths and realities

English: David Crystal signing a book at the H...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came across this on You Tube this afternoon, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you all. It is always a pleasure to listen to David Crystal discussing language, and his views on what is happening in English are sharp and refreshing. Enjoy!

Time to rethink our approach to education?

Earlier this week I was working as an interpreter at a conference about new approaches to education which was being held at my school. The main theme of the conference was the development of critical thinking skills in our students, shifting the focus of the class from simply acquiring knowledge to learning how to process the vast quantity of knowledge which our students are exposed to today. This shift requires us as teachers to move away from the idea that we are the primary knowedge bearer in the classroom, and although this may seem difficult for many of us, in reality it frees us up to work on higher level thinking skills as our students learn to process, filter and apply the information which they acquire outside the classroom.

It also gives us the opportunity to  focus on developing the social skills our students will need in their future professional lives. The fact is that with the ever increasing pace of change today, the best way to prepare our students for their futures is not by giving them specific knowledge, since many will probably work in professions which have not yet been developed. Faced with change, it is better to equip our students with the skills they need to be adaptable enough to take full advantage of what the future has in store for them. This is the chalenge for educators in the 21st Century.

As part of the conference, we were shown a version of this extremely thought-provoking video, which I decided I would share here.

What’s Trending? – Using popular internet videos | ETp

In this article from the English Teaching professional blog by Chia Suan Chong we can find various ideas for exploiting viral videos from YouTube in the language classroom. She begins by giving examples of videos which have gone viral recently, then explains the phenomenon in more detail before giving some excellent ideas for things to do with these videos in class. A great way of engaging particularly teenage students.

Español: Logo Vectorial de YouTube

http://ht.ly/leGps

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Blended Learning (I)

Image

Over the last few days I have been looking into the topic of blended learning, and I thought I would share some of the sources which I have found useful in my research.

To begin with, we should have some definition of what blended learning is. Here is a video from Education Elements on You Tube which explains what blended learning is:

In a previous post we looked at an infographic of the flipped classroom. And here is a more detailed definition from Terry Heick, on www.teachthought.com . Blended learning has many names: the flipped classroom, hybrid learning, blended education… Basically it is the combination of traditional classroom instruction with online elements designed to enhance the learning experience for the students (and hopefully for the teacher). This goes beyond uploading a video for the students to watch at home; the integration of online material into the learning environment should be carefully planned and ‘pedagogically valuable’ (Heick).

Obviously, wth such a definition, there is a wide range of interpretations of what blended learning should look like. Here is an infographic, again from Teach Thought, which explores six different types of blended learning:

In the next post, Blended Learning (II), we will examine some sources which explain the advantages of blended learning as opposed to traditional face-to-face instruction.

 

Armstrong and Miller, RAF Pilots

This activity is one of those I described in my post ‘How to … exploit video in class’.

The objective is to get the students to produce a possible alternative script for this video clip. Play the video with the sound turned off, and ask the students to describe the situation which they see. If necessary play the video twice. Ask them where the men are, what their job is, and why the film is in black and white. Fill in cultural details as you consider necessary.

In pairs, the students should discuss what the men might be talking about, and what they have just heard on the radio. After sharing this in class, the students work in their pairs to write a possible dialogue which fits in with the changes of speaker on the video as closely as possible. Be prepared to play the video several times while they work so that they can check how well their script synchronises with the film.

Once the students have prepared and rehearsed their scripts, they perform them in time with the film in turn. I usually give them two attempts at this. It can be a nice touch to record them as they speak, then play back the recording in time with the film, so they can see how their words fit more clearly.

When all of the pairs have performed their scripts, the class watches the original version of the video with sound.

How to … exploit video in class

Copyright, Vimeo

Copyright, Vimeo

It should be a motivating experience, indeed you may even have conceived the activity as a prize, or an end of term treat, but too often the use of video in the classroom has the opposite effect. In this post we will look at some different ways to incorporate video in the classroom, in a fun and, hopefully, motivating way.

The first consideration when using video in class is what you want to achieve with the video. It can be very easy simply to put on a film for your students to watch and expect them to be motivated by it, but unless the students have a very high level of English, they will have difficulty following the dialogue, and so will become easily lost and unable to enjoy the film as entertainment. For this reason, always have a concrete activity to do while watching, which will give your students something to focus on during the film, and allow you to measure their success at the end of the session.

A second thing to bear in mind is the level of concentration necessary to do the activity on the part of your students, which is far more than a native speaker would need to watch the same clip. Because of this, I would suggest keeping the video itself short. If you want to watch a longer video, break it down into more manageable chunks, with a different activity for each part, checking comprehension before moving on to the next part. It can also be useful to watch the same part more than once, just as we would with a listening comprehension exercise, with a listening / watching for gist exercise the first time to lead the students into the scene, then a more detailed exercise the second time round.

Lead-ins

Any video activity needs a lead-in before you put on the video itself. This can be an exercise to pre-teach new vocabulary, or an introduction to the topic. One possible lead-in is a technique known as ‘vision off’, where the students attempt to predict things about what they are going to see by listening to the sound of the beginning of the video without the pictures. They can be asked to predict where the action is taking place, how many people are in the scene, or for higher level groups, the relationship between the characters or their attitudes. Play the video twice, then allow the students to compare their answers in pairs before sharing with the class. Then play the video with the pictures to allow the students to ‘check’ their own ideas.

Another possible lead-in is the pre-teaching of key vocabulary, as in the activity ‘Pigeon Impossible’, which you can read about here. In this case, key vocabulary is taken from the film and presented to the class. The students are asked to write a story in pairs which contains all of the vocabulary given. Higher level groups could be asked to present their story orally. The video is then played and the students compare their stories to the story in the film.

Silent films

For many types of activities, including the ‘Pigeon Impossible’ activity mentioned above, it is not necessary for the video to have intelligible dialogue. Indeed, there are activities which require a video without words. A useful speaking activity, which I learnt from Tom Spain, is to seat the students face-to-face, one half looking at the screen, the others with their backs to it. When you play the video, those watching describe the action to their partners. After about a minute, pause the video and ask the students who were listening to the description to describe what happened. Then change over, and play another minute or so of video. This activity can be followed by a prediction exercise, where the students work in groups to decide what happens next and report to the class before watching the rest of the film.

Copyright, BBC

Copyright, BBC

Another way to exploit film without sound is to get the students to dub the video, preparing the dialogues themselves and trying to sync their words as much as possible to the faces on screen. This can be done using a film which does have dialogue but with the sound turned down. This way, once the students have performed their versions, the real dialogue can be played. I have done this exercise using Armstrong and Miller’s RAF pilot sketches, where wartime fighter pilots speak like modern teenagers. In this way, I guarantee a surprise for the students when they listen to the authentic version, although it is only for higher level groups.

Listening exercises

Obviously a video activity lends itself particularly well to listening comprehension exercises. However, as I pointed out above, it is important to bear in mind the difficulty of listening to authentic language, even with visual support. One way of getting round this is to get students to listen for specific things in the video. Choose a film which has plenty of visual humour, such as one of the Wallace and Gromit films, and pre-teach items of vocabulary or set expressions which appear frequently in the dialogue.

Wallace and Gromit

Wallace and Gromit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the students watch the film, they are instructed to stand when they hear the pre-taught words and expressions. Different students can be responsible for different items of vocabulary, which allows them to focus on fewer words and phrases. If the students are reluctant to stand up, have them hold up cards with the correct item of vocabulary on it when they hear the word. It is useful to repeat this exercise after a few days to revise the vocabulary. Once again, the period of concentration required from the students should not be too long. If the film lasts more or less the whole class, take two or three breaks at least to discuss what is happening and possibly to find out if the students can remember any words which were said with the items of vocabulary they were listening for – in this way they start to build an idea of how the words collocate in natural language.

Discussion topics

A video can be a useful way of introducing a topic for a class discussion or for presenting a point of view. The BBC news website is a great source for short video news reports which present topics for debate. Ideally, the class would begin with one or more of the activities described above, moving on to a class discussion on the topic presented. I had a very interesting discussion in class based on a news report about a woman who had asked to have her disabled arm amputated and replaced by a ‘bionic’ one. This video was followed by another showing a person using one of the new generation of bionic arms to do things like tie his shoe laces, or open a bottle and pour a drink. I’m afraid I couldn’t resist starting the class with the intro to ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, before showing the video news report itself – this led to a useful initial discussion about how science fiction has become fact in some cases. A good example of a lesson plan for this type of activity can be found here, on Jamie Keddie’s website.