STOP and reflect: A four-step action plan for lesson reflections

Last year, I did a guest blog post for the British CouncilVoices” website, after winning the Teaching English blog of the month award. I wrote about using reflection as a tool for developing your teaching. (You can read the post here.) I’ve recently revisited that post and have now created a visual that succinctly captures the (hopefully!) snappy little acronym I created for it.

The acronym is:

STOP!

Step back; Take stock; Open your resources; Plan for next time

Let me know what you think! 🙂 (And compare what the visuals make you think with what I actually wrote in the blogpost linked to above!)

Scloud

Step Back

Tcloud

Take Stock

Ocloud

Open your Resources

Pcloud

Plan for Next Time

Little thing, BIG difference! (A reflective challenge)

I had to complete an appraisal form recently, in which one of the questions asks about input from workshops and feedback from observed lessons, and whether you’ve implemented this or not. At IH Palermo we are lucky enough to have workshops timetabled in to our week on a regular basis (once every two weeks) as well as formal and informal observations, both of which are developmental. In addition to the two formal observations I’ve had as part of the in-school development programme, I’ve also had four further observations due to doing the IH Young Learners and Teenagers training certificate. A fairly predictable result of this is that as well as experimenting with all (not all, I’m working on it but there’s a heeeeuge amount to be going on with!!) the theory I was exposed to during my M.A. in ELT with integrated Delta at Leeds Met and what I’ve added since through my own reading and exploration, I’ve been systematically incorporating things picked up, both from workshops and all those many observations.

Following the reflections required by the above-mentioned form, I’m going to share one of those things with you now. Just one. One tiny one. And, as you can gather from the post title, it’s a tiny thing that has made a BIG difference! Once you have read mine, I invite you to share something of your own (as a post on your own blog – post a link to it in the comments section of this post so that everyone can have a look – or simply comment on this post) that you have tried out during the last year and which you have found makes a difference.

To stand or not to stand? That is the question! Teacher position in the classroom…

Adults

And it’s a question I didn’t ask myself until after my first formal observation here, when my DoS gave me the post-observation feedback. It had been an adult class of pre-intermediate learners. He told me I tended to tower a little over the students when monitoring. I was a bit confused. So my DoS stood up, came round to my side of the desk and demonstrated: first he stood next to me and spoke, then he squatted down next to me and spoke. That visual explanation made a powerful impact. He then suggested I also try sitting down more in general – for example when doing feedback or during discussions. I went away and duly tried this (both monitoring from lower down and sitting more), and other things that had come out of the observation feedback, and found this eeny weeny-seeming little thing of teacher position made a really big difference. It created a more intimate atmosphere in the classroom. The level of banter increased. And, I suspect, the learners left the room with less of a crick in their necks than previously! 😉

Teenagers

For some reason, though, I only tried it with my adult classes. Fast-forward some number of weeks and I was observed teaching teenagers, for my first observation on the YL course. It hadn’t occurred to me, for some reason, to transfer this particular feedback gained during my adult class observation to my teenager (13-15 year olds) classes. This came out in the feedback, and off I went to implement it. To sit down at suitable moments. Again, it led to a much more relaxed, comfortable atmosphere, with my teenagers being more willing to speak up.

Young Learners

Fast-forward a few more weeks (months?) to another YL observation, different observer, different age group. This time we’re talking 10-12 year olds. You don’t sit down for them, right? Well, I didn’t anyway. No. In fact, I made them all dizzy with the amount of time I spent moving around, including when I was giving instructions. Again, during the feedback, this observer also suggested I might like to sit down more in my lessons. I wasn’t convinced, but I was hellbent on implementing all the feedback and sorting out my YL teaching. And hey, guess what? It made a difference. With my 10-12 year olds, sitting down while I gave them instructions (in combination with having moved their desk-chairs closer together to make a smaller horseshoe) helped them to focus better while I was giving them instructions. Why? Their eyes weren’t moving around all over the place following me, and getting distracted by other more pretty things on the walls or on other students’s desks etc in the process. Spending more time at their eye level in general (both in terms of sitting and monitoring) has also decreased the distance between us, making, again, a more comfortable atmosphere in the classroom. I see less of the tops of their heads, they see less of my waist and chin – everyone’s a winner!! :-p

Over to you!

I challenge you to reflect on what is it, what little thing, has made a big difference to your teaching during the last year. And I look forward to hearing about it! 🙂

Helping pre-intermediate learners with listening: focus on weak forms

Introduction

My starting point for this activity was Sandy Millin’s Stepping into the real word: transitioning listening workshop at IATEFL 2014. In particular, it was this section of notes that I made during her workshop [my complete notes for the workshop here]:

Weak forms

“Pronunciation of a word changes when within a sentence. The schwas make a difference – the most important sound? With this sound, it’s difficult to draw the line between pron. and listening. “I wanna be a schwa – it’s never stressed!”

Give students some common grammar words which have strong and weak forms; ask learners to create a sentence using these words or a short story and discuss whether it’s a strong or a weak form as used in that context. Learners have to identify when the sounds will be weak or strong, then try to say them. Trying it out in sentences helps learners to be more confident when they hear it. Not expected to speak like this all the time, just a classroom game to build confidence and ability to recognise sounds.

Get students to race to say sentences as quickly as possible to win a point for their team. Weak forms come out as they try to get the sentences out as fast as they can.”

Counter-intuitively, I used a course book listening for my adaptation of this sequence. It was an interview with Jessica Ennis soon after she won the World Championships. (Of course, since then she has done rather well in London 2012!) There were a couple of reasons for this: Firstly, weak forms were in evidence. The TRB doesn’t say anything about the origins of the recording or how it was made, but it’s clearly at least trying to be authentic and challenge the learners’ listening skills (it’s a purely listening skills focused sequence the recording forms part of). Secondly, I felt that the book didn’t fully exploit the recording in the afore-mentioned sequence – it only had two fairly brief listening activities and a discussion activity attached.

 The sequence I devised, however, could be used with any listening recording –  basically, the sequence fits in after learners have listened to a recording for meaning.  I used a guided discovery approach with the goal of awareness-raising and metacognitive development, as well as the specific focus on weak forms.

Time:

45 minutes

Materials:

A listening recording – authentic or otherwise – where weak forms are in evidence; guided discovery handout (available here). [Handout optional – as long as you had some sample grammar words to display, you could do the whole sequence by feeding in the instructions/questions orally as you go along!]

Procedure:

  • Fold up the handout so that learners can only see the first question:

“What two things do all these words have in common?”

  • Let learners look at the words (a sample collection of grammar words that have weak and strong forms – I took a screen shot from Sandy’s slides, as she had prepared just such a sample using a word cloud creator like Wordle, to save me some time!) and discuss the question together. My learners found this challenging so I gave them some clues to help: “One of the two things is related to the type of word; the other is related to pronunciation“. One of my learners did then say “they are weak forms”, cleverly enough, so I expanded her answer to include that these words have both strong and weak forms, and they are all grammar words and grammar words are often weak unless we want to emphasise them for a specific meaning-related reason.
  • Unfold the handout and get learners to look at the sample collection of grammar words and work in pairs to assign each a strong and weak pronunciation. We did an example together first – also identifying that the strong pronunciation is the dictionary pronunciation but the weak pronunciation is often used when the word is used as part of a sentence, unless the word is being emphasised to express a particular meaning – then they worked in pairs for a few, then we went through some together to see what they had come up with, until one of the learners said “Is it my hearing or do they all change to the same sound?” – cue introduction of the schwa! and me acting a weak, frail, hunched over little person to visualise this friendly, neighbourhood weak sound! – and a bit more discussion, which culminated in them saying that they wanted to hear the weak sounds in conversation. – Which was exactly what I had planned…
  • [If it hasn’t already been discussed within the previous step, ask learners how they think this phenomenon – weak forms – could affect them when they listen to people speak]
  • Direct them to the transcript of whatever recording it is you are using for this sequence, in my case the interview with Jessica Ennis. Get them to work in pairs, look at the grammar words in the transcript and decide if they think those words are pronounced as strong or weak forms. [I let them do it for the first part of the transcript, to get them thinking about the role of those grammar words in the given sentences and the likely resultant pronunciation but then stopped them to move onto the next stage in the sequence, as time was limited. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to do the entire transcript anyway, as it could get a little arduous!]
  • Play the recording again. Get learners to check what they have already discussed and continue the process but as a listening exercise this time, underlining strong forms and/or circling weak forms. Let them compare afterwards and give them the opportunity to ask about any they aren’t sure about.
  • Let them experiment. Ask them to work in pairs (or whatever number suits your recording/class numbers) and read through the transcript aloud together, each taking one of the roles, and using the weak forms they have identified. Encourage them to say the sentences quickly as speed influences pronunciation of weak/strong forms, so by speaking quickly, the weak forms are more likely to occur!
  • Play the recording a final time. This time, learners should mutter along with the transcript, again giving them the opportunity to listen and also feel the pronunciation in their own mouths as they produce. I deliberately did the last two stages in this order, as I felt they’d be more successful with the muttering if they had had the chance to try it out previously and therefore had more familiarity on their side, having thought about the links between meaning and pronunciation of the grammar words. [This shadowing/muttering along with a recording is an activity I picked up during my Delta]

At one point during this sequence of activities the issue of ELF pronunciation was also raised – the learners were wondering about the necessity of speaking like this, as they felt it would be very difficult to [of course], so I said that this depended on their goals: that use of weak forms/stress can make it easier for native speakers to understand, but that if they are speaking to other non-native speakers, then understanding is much easier if you don’t use weak forms. And I also pointed out that whether or not they wanted to speak to native speakers, focusing on weak forms as we had done in this lesson would help with listening, which they fully agreed with.

At the end of the lesson, I asked if it had been useful and the answer was a very heartfelt “YES!” 🙂  Certainly a lot of interesting discussion was generated and the learners appreciated the extra time spent working with the recording and these words that give them so much difficulty in understanding.

I’m planning to adapt the sequence for use with my other pre-intermediate learners [who are lower in the pre-intermediate level] by using it with a notoriously challenging listening that’s coming up in their course book]. With either class, having done the sequence using a course book recording, I’d like to revisit it [not repeat the whole sequence obviously, but apply the concept] with them, using a more authentic recording. I’d also like to extend the concept by devising an activity that gets them to use syntactic and contextual clues to identify weak forms within utterances they have not seen a transcript for.

Thank you, Sandy, for the inspiration! 🙂 (As well as Vandergrift and Goh, 2012 and Field, 2009, of course! – They always influence what I do with teaching listening!)

References:

Field, J. (2009) Listening in the Language Classroom. Cambridge University Press.

Millin, S. (2014) Stepping into the real world: transitioning listening   ( http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/iatefl2014/ )

Vandergrift, L. and Goh, C. (2012) Teaching and learning second language listening: metacognition in action. Routledge

listen

image taken from google search for images licensed for commercial use with modification/ http://www.pixabay.com

 

Verb patterns, curiosity and pre-intermediate learners

This is an activity I did with my pre-intermediate learners today, to give them extra opportunity to use the verb patterns that we had looked at in their previous lesson, in a more personalised way. It doesn’t require much preparation, as it mostly draws on learner-generated content – as well as their natural curiosity! What it does require is lots of use of the verb patterns in question, including questions and, potentially, third-person structures.

Time:

+- 40 minutes (could have run for longer but 40 minutes was sufficient)

Materials:

One teacher-made model:

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.58.03

image of “me” taken from openclipart.org via Google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification; bubbles from powerpoint shapes!

One learner handout:

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.58.13

Here is the power point that I made with both (so that the teacher one can be adapted and projected/printed, while the learner one can be printed…)

 Language focus:

Verb patterns – specifically:

  • I want to – infinitive
  • I’d love to – infinitive
  • I enjoy – verb-ing
  • I’m fed up with – verb-ing
  • I hope to – infinitive
  • I’m thinking of – verb-ing
  • I’m looking forward to -verb-ing. 

[although adaptable to whichever verb patterns you’ve been looking at which can be personalised…]

 Procedure:

  • Elicit the target verb patterns (that you have looked at in the previous lesson) and board them (if using projection, then in an area of the the board that is not used by the projector screen!) in categories according to pattern.
  • Either project, or hand out printouts of, your teacher model.
  • Put the learners in pairs and get them to look at the model.
  • Tell them these are your answers to the sentence stems given by the verb patterns.
  • Get them to ask you questions in order to guess which stem/pattern each answer/thought cloud corresponds with. (The answers are bare infinitives so there are no linguistic clues and learners have to put the answers into the correct form according to the verb pattern).
  • Encourage them to find out more about the answer once they have guessed correctly:

E.g. :

Learners: Do you enjoy speaking Italian?

Teacher: Yes but there’s something I enjoy more! Guess again!

Learners: Do you enjoy going horse-riding?

Teacher: Yes, I do! Very much!

Learners: Do you do it here? Where do you go? etc

  • Once they have finished guessing and quizzing you, hand out the blank student handout for learners to complete with their own ideas.
  • Put them in pairs (get them to work with a new partner)
  • Ask them to take turns asking questions (and finding out more about their partner’s thought clouds once they have guessed correctly) until they have correctly guessed all of the clouds.
  • Monitor and collect feedback for a delayed feedback slot.

Optional extra:

  • Regroup the learners so that each new group consists of either person A or person B of each of the AB pairs from the previous activity.
  • Ask learners to tell their new group what they’ve learnt about their partner, using the verb patterns.

(I did this with one of my pre-int classes today – the one that had already had progress test feedback because they’d done their tests promptly, and therefore didn’t need class time allocating to that today – following the delayed feedback slot from part one of the activity, and it gave them a chance to act on the feedback I’d given.)

My IH Journal column no.2: learner autonomy and metacognition

My IH Journal (International House Journal) tagline is as follows:

“To celebrate my 30th birthday (18/06/2013), I made an attempt to identify 30 things that I’d incorporated into my professional practice over the preceding year. 30 is quite a large number, but having spent an academic year at Leeds Metropolitan University learning vast amounts while tackling the Delta integrated into an M.A. ELT, I thought I should be able to pinpoint any number of things and by doing so, it would reinforce them in my mind as well has creating a record to look back on. Despite the final length of that blog post, each of the 30 items was only briefly treated. In this column, I revisit that blog post, selecting items and expanding on them.”

For my second column, which recently appeared in issue 36 (Spring 2014), I focused on learner autonomy and metacognition. As I get lots of searches relating to metacognition leading to my blog, I thought I would post a link to this column for any who are interested in this area and that of learner autonomy.

The contents page shows the wide variety of articles and columns that IH Journal has to offer – something for everybody to read, so why not have a look?

Enjoy! 🙂

Review board-game for advanced level learners

I used this simple board game that I made, with my advanced level learners, to do some post-progress test review with them. It worked well, so I thought I would share it here for anybody else who might like to use it. It took an hour for three learners (my 50% attendance rate for today’s class!) to play the game together.

It covers the following areas:

  • Compound nouns from phrasal verbs
  • Language for adding emphasis
  • Inversion
  • Passive distancing
  • Responding to news

It is based on Units 5 + 6 of New Headway Advanced 

Instructions:

  • Put learners in groups of three.
  • Each learner needs a coin/counter and one coin is needed for use by all – to determine the number of squares a player should move forward.
  • All learners should put their coins on square 1 – “Go!
  • Tell learners to take it in turns to toss the central coin. If it lands with the “heads” side facing up, then they should move forward one space. If it lands with the “tails” side facing up, then they should move forward two spaces. If a square has already been landed on and the question answered correctly, that square becomes a “dead” square. Exceptions to this are those squares which require creativity! 🙂 In the case of a “dead” square, the learner would move to the next “live square” beyond it.
  • Each time they land on a square, they must follow the instructions in that square. If they answer incorrectly, they must go back to the square they were in prior to tossing the coin.
  • For the squares that require learners to take a longer speaking turn, to discuss a topic/tell a story, monitor and collect feedback to do a delayed feedback phase with the class at the end of the game.
  • For the other squares, monitor and settle any disputes that may arise!

Have fun! 🙂

Innovation in education: looking for learning (British Council Associate blog post 3)

For my third blog post as a British Council Associate, I chose the topic of innovation in education.

This was the brief:

As learning technologies become more and more ubiquitous in our teaching, how can we ensure that pedagogy is at the centre of what we do to increase learning? What tools do you incorporate into your teaching and how do you ensure they help learning?

I shared the approach I use to ensure that the tools I use help learning, and to ensure that pedagogy remains central, using Edmodo and Wordandphrase.info as examples.

To read my blog post, please follow this link.

To see other blog posts I’ve written for the British Council, please follow this link. (Topics so far are: “Course books in the classroom: friend or foe?” and “How does blogging help you to be a better teacher?”)

Thank you, British Council Teaching English, for letting me post alongside some really great bloggers.

Edmodo Workshop: 28/3/2014 (A how-to for teachers…)

Today I did a workshop on using Edmodo, for my colleagues here at IH Palermo. It was a very practical workshop, with the goal of sending teachers away with the technical know-how necessary for using Edmodo and some ideas for integrating it into their classes. I thought I’d share what I did and the materials I made/used here, in case it’s of interest to anyone else who wants to run a similar workshop at their school – or anyone who wants to learn how to use Edmodo, themselves! (The handout with step-by-step instructions for teachers and students, and my power point slides with step-by-step screen shots, are at the end of this post.)

Edmodo home

Welcome to Edmodo! – A screenshot of Edmodo’s homepage!

This was the outline of my workshop:

  • What is Edmodo?
  • Edmodo as a teacher (“How do I…?”)
  • Edmodo as a learner (“How do they…?”)
  • Integrating Edmodo (Homework; autonomous use)
  • Potential issues (“But what about…?”)

What is Edmodo?

For the “what”,  I used Edmodo‘s own description of itself:

“a free and safe way for students and teachers to connect and collaborate”

– in combination with the way I explain it to  my learners:

“a space for this class to use English together at any time, to discuss, to share links, to share pictures, to share files. And sometimes, a space for homework!”

It isn’t a millstone, it’s not compulsory, it’s an opportunity. I think it’s important to put it like that, so that students feel they are getting something extra rather than being forced into doing something.

 “Edmodo as a teacher” 

This involved getting all the teachers registered and attached to our school, as well as exploring the Edmodo platform from a teacher’s point of view. I had prepared powerpoint slides with screen shots, which I used to take the teachers through these steps. Registering is a one-off process, so getting it done in the workshop meant that teachers didn’t have to fiddle about with it on their own later on, which might have been off-putting during an already busy day.

Edmodo as a learner” 

For this part, I gave the teachers a group code, which was for a group I had set up in advance, getting them them to register as students in this group. This was to give them a flavour of Edmodo from the students’ perspective. As well as the powerpoint as a guide, I had my own Edmodo account open on the group page, so that they could see what happens on the teacher’s page, when a student joins a group and uses the page. I had set up a little poll and a quiz for them to do as students too. Hopefully having used Edmodo as a student will help them be better able to help their students, if it is needed.

“Integrating Edmodo”

Now that my colleagues had played with Edmodo, both as a teacher and as a learner, I got them to brainstorm ideas for using it with their learners. I also gave them links to my two blog posts, on using Edmodo to make homework more interesting and on using Edmodo for fostering learner autonomywhich each contain a series of ready-to-use ideas to experiment with. The goal of this part of the workshop was to arm them with ideas so that they could easily start to use Edmodo with their own learners. 

“But what about…?”

This section was to give teachers the opportunity voice their concerns about using Edmodo and hopefully to address these. I started with the slide of potential issues (though some had cropped up as the workshop progressed, of course):

  • But what if my students don’t like social media?
  • But what if my students don’t use Edmodo?
  • But what if my students think this is a stupid idea?
  • But I don’t have *time* for this!!
  • But how do I give feedback?
  • But I’m rubbish with technology!
  • …any more?

These listed I could address:

  • I’ve had students who hate Facebook but love Edmodo. The trick is avoid selling it as Facebook the second. It’s not. It’s a tool to support their language learning and to enable them to communicate in English more than they otherwise could.  They may not be too sure about it as first, but just give them time and don’t force it down their throats. It’s an opportunity not a millstone.
  • That’s ok. It’s not compulsory to use it. Also, hopefully, as they see course mates using it, and finding it useful, they will want in on the action too! Again, don’t force it. But allow a bit of class time for discussion about it (within discussion about activities using English outside the classroom), so that those who don’t use it are exposed to the experiences of those who have, which will be potentially motivating.
  • I haven’t had a student yet who’s thought it’s a stupid idea. Students tend to like things that have been made specially for them – it makes them feel special!
  • With regards to time, once you are registered, it’s quick and easy to use. If you use it for homework, then you are only using what time you would be using for marking.
  • Feedback can be done in a variety of ways: you can reply to posts with both response to content and corrections, if it’s a case of homework – I usually copy the sentence with the error, put it in quotation marks, then paste it again and correct it, with the corrections capitalised so that they are easier to spot. Alternatively, you could use it for delayed feedback in the classroom – it’s easy to copy and paste to a slide and project it in the classroom.
  • With regards to technological prowess,  very little is needed in order to use Edmodo. As long as you can type a message in a box where it says “Type your note here”, type in a group or student name where it says “Type the name of a group, student or teacher here” and click send, and as long as you can type a message under student’s note, where it says “type your reply here” and click send, you’re away! Anything else (polls, quizzes etc) is an optional extra. You also don’t need a Facebook account or an email address, or anything else, in order to use it.

The teachers then had time to voice any more, for discussion of how to deal with them.

Finally, I showed them some of my own class pages, so they could see it in action. I had even got some of my students to write a post for me to show the teachers, saying why they like Edmodo (and therefore why it’s good for teachers to use it with students!)

Here is the handout I made for extra reference (made for use in conjunction with the powerpoint, hence lack of screen-shots!)

Here is a copy of my slides (which are mostly step-by-step for how to use Edmodo)

To conclude this post, I’d like to say a big thank you to Sandy Millin, who introduced me to Edmodo, by essentially doing a mini-version of this workshop with me, when I visited her last year! (And also, when I mentioned this workshop to her, for reminding me of the value of an opportunity to play about with it, if you are a teacher coming to it for the first time!)

And thank you, of course, to my DoS, for giving me the opportunity to deliver a workshop to my colleagues, which was a rewarding learning experience.

 

Holidays, a song (“Brighton in the Rain”) and the good ol’ present perfect!

I first learnt about “Brighton in the Rain”, by Robert Campbell and Jonathan Dykes, from my CELTA tutor at Sheffield University, many moons ago.

When I first used this song, I struggled to find a recording – lots of googling led me to a discussion thread/feed where it had been mentioned and emailing the person who mentioned it finally scored me a copy. (Thank you, whoever you are! I can’t remember your name or where I found that obscure thread, but it was good to get my hands on the song at last!) Of course, nowadays it’s freely available on youtube.com and various other websites – like so much else.

Anyway, faced with a grammar-heavy few pages of course book (present perfect central!), I dug it out – the first time in a while! – and used it with my pre-intermediate students to lighten it up for them a little. Topic-wise, it feeds nicely in to what comes next in the book, which is travelling-related (and a heap more present perfect information!).

Here is what I did with it:

Time: 

1hr 20 minutes

Materials: 

a recording of the song (now available here); cut-up lyrics; a handout of the complete song lyrics; this powerpoint (shared here minus the photos I used, as those were copyrighted – but all you need to do is a Google images search for pictures of Brighton in the rain and a picture of Brighton on a map !); this handout (based on the powerpoint – for the learners to have a take-away record); this empty rubric, which is based on the song.

Focus: 

Review of the present perfect for life experiences, use with “ever“/”never“/”always“/”only“, asking and answering questions using the form, using the form to discuss their own experiences; listening, speaking, writing.

Procedure:

Listening

  • Put learners in pairs/small groups and give them these questions to discuss:
  1. Tell your partner about some of the places where you have been on holiday.

  2. Do you usually go somewhere different or do you go back to the same place every year?

  3. What are the pros and cons of going to the same place every year and going to a different place every year?

  • Do a quick whole class feedback phase.
  • Show learners the pictures of Brighton, in the rain, ask if they can guess where it is (Brighton) and then what the pictures have in common (it’s raining!).
  • Ask learners if they have ever been to/heard of Brighton before. (If they haven’t, would they like to go?)
  • Play the recording of the song (if using the version I linked to, don’t show the learners the video; hide it and get them to listen only) and have learners listen for the answers to these two questions:
  1. Does the singer visit different places every year? (No!)

  2. Where has he been? (Only Brighton and the Isle of Mann! – but of course the learners will hear lots of places that he hasn’t been to…)

  • Give learners the cut-up lyrics (I like to make the lyrics a large font size and get learners to work together, using the floor space, to do this activity – but I’ve only done it with small classes!) and have them listen and put them in the correct order. (This worked really nicely today, the learners were very in to it. I paused the recording periodically to give them time to catch up and fed in some prompting questions to get them using linguistic and logical skills.)
  • Play the song again and get learners to sing along! (Mine were silly-dancing too!)
  • Put learners in pairs or small groups to discuss the following questions: (This we did briefly as a whole class, because we were a small group anyway, while still stood up around the lyrics – it was more of a quick chat!)
  1. Do you think the singer is happy? (No!)
  2. How do his travel experiences compare with yours?
  3. Have you ever done any of the things that he hasn’t done? Which?
  4. Would you like to do any of the things he hasn’t done? Which? Why?
Brighton_Pier,_East_Sussex_-_geograph.org.uk_-_707356

Brighton in the rain! (image taken from advanced Google images search, licensed for commercial reuse with modification, from commons.wikimedia.org)

Language focus

  • Keep learners in pairs/smalls groups (you could change groupings if you want to), give them each a copy of the full song, and get them to look at and discuss the present perfect form and meaning focus questions:
  1. What tense do we use to talk about life experiences?

  2. How do we form it? (positive sentence, negative sentence, question, short answers)

  3. Do we know when the experience happened?

  4. Does it matter when the experience happened?

  • Do a whole class feedback phase and then move onto the next questions:
  1. Look at these lines from the song. What do the words in bold mean? How would you translate them into your language?

– I’ve never been to Athens and I’ve never been to Rome.

– I’ve only seen the pyramids in picture books at home.

– I’ve always spent my holidays in Brighton, in the rain!

  1. Look at these questions based on the song. What do the words in bold mean? (This should be “2” but WordPress won’t let it be!)

– Have you ever been to Athens?

– Have you ever been to Rome?

  • Check their answers in a whole class phase, and give them time/space to ask any questions, and then let them move on to the next activity: in their pairs, they should make, ask and answer some more questions like the above examples, based on ideas from the song.

Speaking and Writing

  • Put learners in pairs. Give each learner a copy of the blank rubric of the song.
  • Get them to interview their partner about his or her life experiences, and complete the blank rubric using their partner’s answers. (You could do an initial brainstorming stage for possible topic areas/questions to ask, to help get learners’ creative juices flowing! It also really helps to demonstrate this activity with one of the learners before setting them off.) Encourage learners to ask interesting questions.*
  • Put learners in groups so that the above-mentioned pairs are split up. Ask them to take it in turns to tell their group about their partner, using the rubric (they will need to convert the sentences into the third person for this). Their group should ask, say, five questions about each person, which the learner whose partner it is should note down.
  • Put learners back in their original pairs and let them find out the answers to their group’s questions.
  • Regroup them into the same groups as above, for them to give their group the answers to their questions.

*Variation

If you run out of time (cough cough!) around the stage I marked with an asterisk, I recommend getting the learners to finish completing the rubric as their partner (so, as they have begun via interview but by guessing the information about their partners rather than doing it through questioning). At the beginning of next lesson, I plan to get them back in the same pairs again to see how near or far they were with their guesses!

Possible homework/follow-up

(If you use Edmodo) Get learners to write a few sentences about their experiences (encourage them to use experiences they have not yet discussed…) and send them directly to you (using that function on Edmodo!) and then you post all of their experiences onto the class page. They should then read and guess which experiences go with which classmates!

Thoughts:

I think this lesson worked well, to give the learners a bit of extra time to get their mouths and minds around the present perfect. In the book, a lot of information comes at them in a short space of time – for, since, ever, never, contrasting with past simple and so on, so this broke it up a bit and gave them extra opportunities to hear it used and use it themselves – as well as being a bit of fun to break up a very grammar-heavy unit a bit! 🙂

 

CPD and a cup of tea in the sunshine: go on, give it a go!

On Friday, we had a really fantastic CPD session. It was such a very simple idea, yet worked so effectively – well done, our DoS!

I really think all schools should incorporate this idea, or variations on it, if they can, from time to time (perhaps once or twice a term, depending on term length), so I thought I’d write about it here, for others to try.

Materials:

Sets of questions relating to teaching, professional development and career paths (e.g. about recent good lessons, bad lessons, favourite activities, recently used activities, memorable students, courses you’ve done, courses you’d like to do, how you got into ELT etc etc – the possibilities are endless!)

Time: 

As long as you have! – Whatever time allocation you have for workshops.

Procedure:

  • Put the kettle on. Allow teachers to get their tea/coffee and biscuits.
  • Put your teachers into small groups.
  • Let everybody sit around little tables (sunshine optional but much preferred!).
  • Give each group a set of questions and encourage them to discuss these together.
  • Change sets of questions periodically, change groupings periodically.
  • Repeat until questions/time have run out!

Yes, it’s that simple. 🙂

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CPD in the garden! 🙂 Photo taken from en.wikipedia.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification.

Benefits:

  • Time to talk: never underestimate the value of time set aside for talking: though you could argue talking about classes etc happens in the staffroom, generally that is amidst lesson planning, admin and the usual 101 things to do. It was really nice to be able to just…talk! And learn from each other. The combined experience and knowledge in a team of staff is huge and varied, so time focused exclusively on tapping that was time well spent.
  • Increased motivation: we all felt rather up-lifted by the end! The atmosphere after the session was relaxed and happy, with us all feeling enthusiastic despite it being Friday and therefore the end of a long week – a real morale booster.
  • New ideas: talking to people about things they’ve done is a great way to collect some new things to try and to think about things you might not have thought about otherwise.
  • Reflection: Having to discuss your answers to the questions encourages you to reflect on them, and reflecting on your teaching/learning/development etc is always beneficial.

To all the DoS’s out there: It’s  well worth giving it a go! And a really good use of 1.5hrs of INSET training time.