ELT Traveller box

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


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Reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: a visual approach

After “unpacking” the introduction of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I needed to find the right approach to make the book easily readable to students. I didn’t want it to become a boring reading lesson, so I thought about a visual approach to literature.

I believe there is a strong connection between the use of visuals and language learning. It is also true that everybody, from children to adults, can see the world in a different way. It means that perception plays a key role in learning.

Some students have a strong ability to recognize a structure  or a situation from a picture, others need time to understand the input. In any case the advantages of using visuals in the language teenage classroom are many:

  • Skills – Visuals help students to predict, infer, deduce and analyze a text.
  • Production – they serve as stimulus for language production (speaking or writing)
  • Testing – Visuals can be used for examination purposes: checking of understanding, mapping what has been read, organize a text visually. Remember and reinforce vocabulary.
  • Follow up – Pictures can be developed into a text and a text can be developed into illustrations or graphic visuals.

The approach I took to analyze the book goes in three different directions. I used pictures and illustrations to:

  1. Predict the story, elicit vocabulary – Students work on pictures, no text provided.
  2. Support the text – Students read the text and have some pictures and illustrations to support understanding, they infer the meaning.
  3. Check understanding – follow up activities. Only text provided to students, they draw a picture or a graphic to reproduce the text.

The lesson

Chapter 1 – Lucy looks into the wardrobe

Chapter 2 – What Lucy found there

Step 1 – I provided students with a set of random pictures that could help them to predict as much information as they can on the setting, the time, the main characters of the story. This could be done as GW (group work) or PW (pair work).

At the end of the activity they filled a table with key information and vocabulary. Then we listened and read part of the chapter.

Step 2 – We read the second part of the chapter, a second set of pictures was provided to students. They had to put them in the correct order, only after reading.

Step 3 – Chapter 2. Once setting, time and characters were clear,  I moved to the next chapter. This time we read the text with no visual support, only at the end students were asked to draw a storyboard or a mind map of the chapter.

Follow up – As a follow up activity they had to retell the story supported by the visuals provided. They could record it, or create a video story.

Useful tools

There are a series of free web tools that can help and support the activities described above

  • For the pictures – (I used creative commons)

Photoree (search pictures by license)

#Eltpics on Flickr

Wylio

  • For storyboards, mind maps, info-graphics

Animoto – Create video stories

Glogster EDU – Create your glogster with video, images, text, music etc.

Bubbl – brainstorm and mind map online

Piktochart – nice app for info-graphics

  • Audio tools for speaking activities

Vocaroo – simple audio recorder, can email, download or embed the file.

Voicethread – create a slideshow with audio comments.

Further reading

Very interesting article on the role of visuals in language learning.

Elt newsletter – Visuals and Language Learning: Is there a Connection? by Christine Canning-Wilson


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Storytelling tools for ESL students #1 Storybird

I believe storytelling is a very powerful teaching resource for young learners. They feel comfortable with it, and when they read or listen to a story they stop caring about “understanding every single word” of it. Very often they let the story flow, and enjoy themselves.

Teachers are used to work on storytelling activities to engage their learners. This is definitely true also for me, but what is the balance among different skills activities?

I used to focus more on receptive skills – listening and reading tasks usually followed by comprehension activities or semi-controlled practice (complete the sentence, re-write it etc.). To be honest, I was quite afraid of using free-production writing task with young elementary learners. Then I thought it was time to change, and I started using Storybird with my classes.

Storybird is an amazing creative writing tool. Students can create their own art-inspired stories, collaborate and give feedback on other’s stories.

It is free, and it gives teachers the chance to sign up for a teacher account and manage students without emails. You can create assignments, and even build your class library.

How to use it in class –   Younger teens

  • Start reading a classic book, or part of it, in class. I use graded readers (A1/A2) of famous stories like The Wizard of Oz, Alice adventures in Wonderland etc. This will take around 6-8 lessons, and it will give students a model story. At this point it is useful to focus on character’s descriptions, setting, time, organisation of events.
  •       When the book is over, ask students to write/tell/present a summary of the story based only on pictures. Find pictures on the web, mix them and then distribute them to the class, each group can work on a different part of the   story.
  • It’s time for a Storybird! Put students in pairs, set up a class on your teacher profile and give them an assignment. You can specify the number of pages, grammar tenses, specific functions you want students to use etc. At the end they can publish their stories on the site and/or buy them.

You can even have a Book Club Ceremony 🙂

Enjoy!


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Teaching listening to teenage learners #3

Approaches and activities

Black and White by @sandymillin (from #eltpics)

As outlined in the previous post, the context where prediction activities take place plays a key role. To address this issue, I would first introduce a classroom listening habit  in order to create a friendly atmosphere.Then I would gradually introduce different activities to enhance the students’ consciousness of prediction in order to form a natural and effective listening routine.

I would recommend approaching listening tasks using a direct approach. Thornbury and Slide (2006) states that the direct approach ‘involves understanding and planning a conversation programme around the specific microskills, strategies, and processes that are involved in fluent conversation’. This approach stresses the importance of listening to and ‘having conversations’, but it also presupposes the need of a ‘form-focused, instructional stage at some point in the lesson cycle’ (2006: 275). On the other hand, the indirect approach involves acquiring conversational competence through simply doing conversation. I believe listening and speaking skills are strictly related and the approach to teaching them should be linked.

From my experience, learners need to be trained on ‘having conversations’, which means they should be able to identify key strategies and forms that could help them while listening to and performing conversations. Continue reading


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Comics in ELT: Have fun!

When I was younger I used to read detective comics called Julia, it was a quite popular monthly publication in Italy so many of my friends were also reading it, and we were having fun sharing ideas and comments on the character, sequence of events etc.  In January I attended a brilliant EVO session on Storytelling for young learners. Surprisingly, one of our tasks was to explore and use some tools to create comics. What a great task! I immediately got the inspiration to use it class, it was a success.

Why comics?

Comics have always been a lot of fun for young learners and teenagers, the use of pictures and the clear context help them to practically visualise a situation. Creating a comic they develop the ability to plan a sequence of events, and to set a suitable context.

What tools?

There are many interesting comic creation tools. Here is a short list of the once I have used so far, but there are many more to try!

 Stripgenerator: It’s easy to use and doesn’t require a registration for students.

Bubblr: you can create comic strips with Flickr pictures and add bubbles!

ToonDoo: you can create your comic book and even upload and modify pictures for your comics.

Make beliefs comix: create your comic, easily select emotions, objects, baloons and panel prompts.

Classroom ideas!

Participating in the EVO session and following Janet Bianchini’s Scoop, I got many practical classroom ideas. Here are the most popular among my teenage students.

Practising new grammar structures > I have used comic strips to practice and improve the ability to ask questions.

I first gave students the structure of the strip (example: 4 pictures, 2 characters in each picture). Then I asked them to write at least 4 questions and answers at the Present Simple.

Imaginary interview > I asked students to write an imaginary interview to an imaginary character. We had an initial brainstorming on the character (age, appearance, skills, job, personality). Once students got the idea they planned and then wrote their interviews.

Practising vocabulary > Students were asked to create a comic strip using the words given or a specific context.

Storytelling > Students write comic strips based on personal anecdotes.

Comic strips are also very good for teachers to create interesting handouts for boring grammar rules 🙂

Further reading: Doing some research on this field, I found this very interesting presentation by S. Hendy.

Tap into the world of comics

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