ELT Traveller box

about teaching English to young learners, web tools and iPad teaching


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iPad teaching: the day I should get started

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Generally I feel quite comfortable writing about technology in the classroom. Generally, but not today. Today is the day when the iPad comes into my teaching.

The day I come to class, and the blackboard and the chalk are gone. I got an email that says: “Dear teacher you are kindly requested to go to the school information office and collect your iPad”. 

All of a sudden I’m a mobile learning teacher. “Cool!” It is the first thing I think. 

Then I come home with my new iPad, I feel relaxed, I know how to use it, I’ve got mine, I do it everyday. I turn it on and … stop. 

Suddenly, I do not know what to do, a thousand questions in my mind: what is truly mobile learning? In how many ways can a school use tablets? Apple TV in the classroom? Where do I start?

“Ok” I think, “let’s google some key words”. It ‘s the time to read posts like The 10 most useful apps in education, Top 20 apps for schools, Mobile learning in ELT etc. On twitter #mlearning becomes my favourite hashtag. 

My head is full of information, I begin to feel safe, I go to the app store – “Ok, I got Evernote, Youtube, iThoughts, Skitch, TeacherKit etc. I should be ready now” I think. But ready for what? Is it that simple?

I look at my iPad, I find it hard to admit that I do not know where to start, I’m no longer on my safe side, I’m moving forward, on a new path. I find myself thinking about failure, is this going to be the case when I do not give my students what they’re expecting from me?

It ‘s fascinating how the power and speed of technology could affect our self confidence, I should tell my students.

 Then I stop thinking about iPad teaching, it’s not the iPad, it’s me. It’s always about the teacher, no matter the iPad or the chalk. Let’s say I’m an empowered teacher now.

I start planning, I can make it.


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Exam classes: 5 tips for effective study skills

Image from The language clinic

Exam classes are often different from regular school classes. High school students usually follow a separate after-school course to get ready for the exam (PET, FCE, CAE). This means that sometimes they only attend some lessons with the teacher, but not enough to get them to the required level for the exam. So they will have to work a lot at home. There are many quite good self-preparation coursebooks around and a lot of free on-line resources – so students do not have problems with materials.

But how effective are their study skills?

Here is a list of five tips I give to my FCE students:

1. Understand the requirements of the course and the exam. Once this is done, try to plan and organise your tasks according to them.

2. Time management: try to figure out how much time you have to prepare for the exam, write down a timetable and stick to it. Try to be flexible and re-arrange it if necessary. Don’t get distracted or frustrated, start with smaller task. you don’t necessarily have to start from paper 1, task 1.

3. Be patient, learning takes time so review what you’ve learnt regularly (GW can help you on this, see point 5).

4. Discuss and understand the feedback you get from the teacher. Be receptive and use it to manage your study plan. Focus more on your weaknesses.

5. Work in a small group (3-4 people), compare, share, practice tasks and results.

Good luck!


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Teacher Development – 12 things I learned in 2012

It’s time to wrap up the year. This is only a short post about 12 precious things I got to know this year. They are useful for me, I hope they can be so for other teachers as well.

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1. Keep being a lifelong learner > I started the year with a great news, I passed Delta Module 2! Studying for the complete diploma is really changing the way I teach. More important it is an excellent way to reflect on what we teach. So keep studying!

2. Join free online courses for teachers > This year I experienced my first online course.  I joined a couple of EVO sessions in January. I took part in the Young learners and teenagers SIG course and the Digital storytelling for kids one. It was a great experience, I learned a lot about webtools, I had the chance to listen to and even chat with great ELT speakers, and I met a lot of nice teachers around the globe.

3. Integrate technology in the classroom > I started to use free webtools with my students regularly. We realized a series of cool projects from storytelling to interactive presentations and short class videos. I enjoy being an #edtech teacher! 🙂

4. Read ELT blogs > I discovered so many interesting ELT blogs about every aspect of teaching English. This year I started to be an avid reader of them. I regularly read interesting posts from famous ELT authors and publishers to a variety of ESL teachers. It’s a great help for everyday lessons, but also a rich methodology support.

5. Join online webinars > there are a series of free webinars for teachers held all around the web. I enjoy following the British Council Teaching English, or MacMillan Interactive series.

6. Write, and don’t be afraid! > The biggest challenge of the year was becoming a real ELT writer.  Early in March I had the chance to write a proposal and contribute to a couple of publications for the Italian market. I’ll soon be the author of three ELT books on skills! I can’t really say how I feel about this, but I learned to face challenges and never step back.

7. Love linguistics > I admit I have always been a linguistics lover, a kind of little nerd. Not so proud about this, but this year I realized how important some theoretical linguistics aspects can be in supporting everyday teaching. Knowing what’s behind, can be the key to understanding language acquisition.

8. Sharing is caring > Best lesson ever! In 2012 I have started sharing. Ideas, lesson plans, fears and successes. I analyzed how isolating and a bit selfish our job can be, and I realized the power of being part of a community of professionals that enjoy sharing just because they care.

9. Start blogging > I thought it was the time to start writing and sharing all the things I got in my “teacher box”. Blogging helps me reflecting on practices and experiences, it is a great chance to fix and share all the good (sometimes bad) things a teacher lives.

10. Start building a PLN > I joined Twitter more than a year ago. I think it is one of the most powerful tools for building your PLN (Personal Learning Network).

11. Participate in #eltchat  > Every Wednesday I enjoy following the chat on Twitter, often without really contributing to it, I’m still too shy! But it’s  a great way to learn and discuss key ELT topics.

12. Introduce literature to YLs > I would say this is one of the last things I learned in 2012. Literature to pre-teens has always scared me, but in the last part of the year I started integrated it in my lessons. Still testing different approaches. But authentic texts such as Lewis, Stevenson, Shakespeare are now part of my regular teaching.

I’ll take away these 12 gems with me in 2013.

Happy New Year!

holiday 2013


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Surprise in the ELT classroom: an inspiring #ELTChat

Last night I took part in #ELTChat . It’s always very motivating to read and contribute to each other’s reflections and teaching ideas. After all I first got the idea of blogging right from one #eltchat on twitter. I would definitely add it as “must have” in a teacher development plan :-).

The topic of this week was Bringing the surprise element into your lesson, you can read the transcript here.

You’ll get several ideas on how to surprise your students either you teach university students, BE, one-to-one or teenagers, like I do.

In the chat @SueAnnan mentioned the book 52 by The Round  (authors Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings). I love it. Today I was reflecting about it and I thought how helpful a book like this can be for teachers, especially teenager teachers.  They can surprise their audience in a very reflective way.

I start thinking I should give my students a “subversive” lesson once a week. 🙂 I’ve only tried (and sometimes adapted) only a few of the activities in the book so far.

There are many  ideas in the book, from poetry to justice. Lesson 8 Dress is part of the book sample (you can download it here) and one of my favourite. I’ve recently tried it.

The lesson – #8 Dress

I came to class dressed very elegant (as I was going to a wedding), quite unusual for me, and I tried not to laugh looking at my students’ faces. I started the lesson as usual and for the first 5 minutes nothing really happened. They were expecting me to work on past simple, and I was starting to do so when a shy student from the first raw asked about my skirt. “Why are you wearing such a nice and elegant skirt to come to school?” It was clear she didn’t approve that :-). Teenagers can be very straightforward sometimes! I wrote why on the board, and asked the student to repeat the question to the class. The conversation magically started. The very good thing was that I was playing the role of the moderator. I divided the class into groups and asked them to figure out how to dress in specific occasions and why. A lot of new vocabulary items came out.

When the bell rung, a girl said “But teacher, we didn’t even take a pen!”

That was the point…and they got it!

In the following lessons I focused on consolidation activities. It was easy, they remembered most of the things we discussed.

Teachers often complain about how difficult is to manage teenagers with no written support. Several questions keep rolling through my mind:

Do teenagers need minimal inputs to develop critical thinking? Should teachers start thinking out of the box and support them?


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My first Edublog Award nominations

Right a few days ago I was thinking I haven’t posted in a long while, mainly due to life and work projects. Too many things going around, I didn’t really have time to sit and write a post. Things are slowing down now, so I’ll soon share some great professional experiences and reflections from the last few months.

The reason I’m writing this post is quite simple: the Edublog Award nominations.

There is a large number of sites, people, blogs that have had an enormous value on my professional development, especially in the last year. I thought they deserve to be nominated…(too bad, I can only give one name for each category).

So, here are my first Edublog Award nominations:

Best Individual blog   chiasuanchong

Best Teacher Blog    Cool Cat Teacher

Best EdTech blog   Ozge Karaoglu’s blog

Best Individual Tweeter @AnaCristinaPrts            

Best Twitter Hashtag  #ELTchat

Best Free Web Tool Vocaroo

Best Social Network    Twitter

Best Mobile App     Dropbox

Good luck!