ELT Traveller box

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


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One iPad in the classroom: essential toolkit

If you have only one iPad connected to an Apple TV in the classroom (like me), here is a list of 5 apps I use everyday and I found essential for teaching.

Planning

Evernote

It is a great app that helps keep all your notes organised. I have made specific notebooks for each class I teach, or lessons I am working on (grammar, reading, listening etc.). You can then organise them into Notebook Stacks. You can also create shared notebooks to share with students or colleagues, but remember you need the PRO version if you want them to modify the files.

I have Evernote on all my devices, it is easy to use, and it is really versatile. It allows you to attach images, video files, web links, pdf etc to all your notes.

> I often use Skitch connected to Evernote to quickly annotate pictures or notes (e.g. to focus on vocabulary)

> The Evernote Web Clipper app is an extension for your browser, it allows you to “clip” any content from a webpage you are visiting and attach it to your note.

> The latest iOS 7 version has introduced the presentation function, it means you can present content to your class directly from Evernote.

Storage

Google Drive

It is a safe place to store all your files. You can get access to it everywhere, it gives you 15 GB for free, and it also allows you to share and collaborate easily on files. You need a Google account to sign up.

Presenting

Explain everything

It works as an interactive whiteboard, it records drawing and annotations on the screen, you can also record your voice via the iPad microphone. You can create a lesson by uploading all sorts of files (pdf, keynote, powerpoint, word, photos, MP4 video files) from your Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, iPad photo roll, iTunes. You can record and insert a new video while presenting, or simply take a picture that helps you explain something. At the end you can export your project as pdf to share with your class.

Keynote 

I think it is the best app to create presentations. It offers a lot of different layouts. iCloud helps to keep all presentations synchronised on all my devices.

 

 

Classroom management

wpid-photo-2013-04-17-320-pm

TeacherKit

It is the best classroom management app I have used so far. The essential layout helps to have a quick look to the class. TeacherKit allows teachers to keep record of students’ behaviour, attendance and performance. All in one place, all with only a few ‘taps’ on your screen. You can also email students or parents directly from the app, and connect it to your Dropbox account.

 


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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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Digital storytelling tools for young learners #2: Google Search Stories

One of my students’ favourite storytelling tools of the year is Google Search Stories. This is a very simple free tool that allows you to create stories based on your google search. The video lasts about 30 seconds, and you can also add background music.
You need to have a google account to create one, and this can be an issue for some students who do not have one. I’ve created a private class channel on youtube so to use it without asking students to sign up for a new account.

There are many ways to use google search stories.

Introduce yourself: it is an easy way to give a very short presentation about yourself. The video below is my 3-2-1 introduction for EVO Digital Storytelling course.

Biography: it can be interesting to get students present a short biography of a famous character. Here is an example on Gandhi.

Interesting classroom uses of the tool can be:
– documenting a part of a research on a particular kind of music
– creating a story using famous quotes
– writing a short poem
– presenting an event (ex. The Academy awards)

The tool is very easy to use, but here is a tutorial you can show to students.


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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!


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Teaching listening to teenage learners #2

Possible issues

Image

Thinking hard by @kevchanwow (from @eltpics)

In the previous post I described top down processing (TDP) to listening and, predicting content in particular. This analysis raises several possible issues for learners. Lack of knowledge of the language makes TDP based on knowledge of the world even more important as a compensation strategy. Therefore skills like identifying topic from key words, and inferring the meaning of unknown words become even more important than they are for native speakers. Learners often feel frustrated when listening to spoken interaction. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Predicting the grammar structure of spoken discourse raises many issues for learners. In my experience pre-intermediate and elementary learners have difficulty with moment-to-moment lexical grammatical encoding at clause level. This tends to interfere with the discourse level (McCarthy, 1991). Learners may resist using TDP strategies even when those are available to them. As Field (2008) suggests, less skilled listeners should often rely on context to understand meaning because they find it easier than decoding language word by word. Continue reading


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Using webquests in teenage classes

There are two motivations behind my choice of presenting for the first time a WebQuest to one of my school classes.

> I sometimes feel frustrated about how fast teens change and how fast their approach to learning English can change. I strongly believe that the proper use of technology in the language classroom could be a great help to keep learners motivated and focused on the topic.
> In addition to this, the school where I work has just implemented a new linguistic lab with Internet access and a new teaching software (NetSupport School) able to manage students’ computers and works.

Using technology: advantages and disadvantages

  • Motivation: The use of technology in language teaching offers a lot of opportunities both for teachers and learners. One of the main advantages is that it can be strongly motivating, especially for young learners. The benefit of using a language game, for example, is that while enjoying the task learners recycle vocabulary. Most learners simply use the computer for their everyday tasks so, using it as a tool for learning, it is just a way to perceive it as natural.

Moreover, using technology in the language classroom provides learners with interactive exercises that appeal them. A web-based grammar exercise is more immediate and interesting for them than a paper-based one. Learners usually get instant feedback on their work and this stimulates them to re-try. (Sharma and Barret, 2008)

  • Updated materials: I believe the most interesting advantage of using technology in the language classroom is the sense of up-to-date that authentic current materials can offer e.g. Using a listening activity with the latest news on Steve Jobs death. This can support and enrich the traditional paper based material. (Sharma and Barret, 2008)

However, there are some concerns on the use of technology in the classroom, most of them are related to the use of standard gap-fill, true-false, mix-and-match grammar activities. As Sharma and Barret argue “the traditional role of computers in grammar has been disparagingly called ‘drill and kill’” (Sharma and Barret, 2008:12). Because these activities are perceived as boring. In addition some teachers still do not trust technology and believe it is not completely reliable, particularly in terms of contents.

Clearly there are opportunities and concerns about using technology in the language classroom, but it seems to me that some learning environments (young learners, Business English) cannot avoid using it as long as the role of the teacher and the role of technology are well balanced.

What’s a WebQuest?

I have decided to focus on one of the various aspects of technology in the classroom: WebQuest. The reason behind it is strictly linked to the nature of WebQuest: they are motivating, and they increase various learners’ skills.
A WebQuest can be defined as an interactive learning exercise in which students have to use several Internet resources (Fernàndez, 2007)

Bernie Dodge, in the WebQuest Page, states that “WebQuests are designed to use learners’ time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it”.
According to March (1998), the use of WebQuests:
Increases student motivation.
Students face an authentic task and work with real resources.
Develops students ́ thinking skills.
Fosters cooperative learning (Fernàndez, 2007).

Dudeney & Hockey (2007) list a series of important reasons for using WebQuests in the language classroom, including:
They are an easy way for teachers to begin to incorporate the Internet into the language classroom, on both a short-term and long-term basis – no specialist technical knowledge is needed either to produce or use them.

Very often, they are group activities so they lead to communication and the sharing of knowledge – two principal goals of language teaching itself.

They can be used simply as a linguistic tool, but can also be interdisciplinary, they can be used in CLIL projects on various subjects.

They encourage critical thinking skills, including: comparing, classifying, inducing, deducing, analysing errors, constructing support, abstraction, analysing perspectives, etc. Learners are not able to simply regurgitate information they find, but are guided towards a transformation of that information to do a given task.

They can be both motivating and authentic tasks and encourage learners to view the activities they are doing as something ‘real’ or ‘useful’. This inevitably leads to more effort, greater concentration and a real interest in task achievement.

Dudeney (2000) also states the importance of planning and structuring an Internet class. This should be well-planned as any other class. Teachers have to read through the materials, check the links in advance and give learners the right level of challenge.

The lesson: New York City WebQuest

The lesson focused on New York City. I chose to talk about it because of the growing interest of the students towards the U.S.A.

All materials used were taken from Onestopenglish

I was happy with the students’ involvement, most of them were particularly engaged.

Group work: I think students particularly enjoyed working in groups and it was useful to have them focus on different questions or topics at the same time. They definitely improve their attitude to pair-working and group-working and this contributed to the outcome of the lesson.

Try it out!

Bibliography and Further Reading

Dudeney G. (2000). The Internet and the Language Classroom. 1st ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Dudeney G., Hockey, N. (2007) How to Teach with Technology. 1st ed. Pearson – Longman

Fernandez, M.V. (2007) ‘WebQuests: how do students approach their integration in the foreign language classroom?’. The Journal of Teaching English with Technology (TEwT), 2007. Retrieved 20th October 2011 from http://www.tewtjournal.org/VOL%207/ISSUE%202/WEBQUESTS.pdf

March,T. (1998) “Why WebQuests? An introduction.” seen on August 2011 http://tommarch.com/writings/intro_wq.php

Sharma P., Barrett B. (2007) Blended Learning. 1st ed. Oxford: Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Check also this presentation from Paul Maglione (co-founder of English Attack) on Learner Motivation in the Age of the Digital Native.