ELT Traveller box

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


2 Comments

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?


2 Comments

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!


Leave a comment

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


2 Comments

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

&nbsp