ELT Traveller box

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


Leave a comment

Technology: what am I expecting from learners?

This is a short post about what we are expecting students to do with technology. I have been thinking about it quite often in the last few weeks. Starting the school year with the iPad, forgetting blackboard and chalk had an impact on me as a teacher, but it was also a significant change for learners. What are they expecting to learn with technology? Why am I using the latest tech tools and apps for? I found some interesting answers a couple of days ago on this picture shared by EdTechReview (@etr_in) on Twitter.

fotoblog

I think sometimes technology can make teachers and learners confused about objectives, outcomes, tools and aims. It would be worth making a clear list before starting to use tech tools  and apps in the classroom.


2 Comments

iPad teaching: the day I should get started

Image

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.


3 Comments

Using Wordle to teach phrasal verbs (my guest post on itslearning)

I recently had the pleasure to write a guest post for the itslearning website. I shared a few ideas about why teaching phrasal verbs is crucial also for elementary learners and how this can be fun and motivating by using Wordle.

You can read the complete post here.

Phrasals2_question

 


Leave a comment

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.


2 Comments

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


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!