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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Personalized Feedback with Automated Tools

Feedback, feedback, feedback.... So important yet so time consuming! I've been trying to find ways of giving personalized feedback to students while trying not to spend a long time on it. Here are a few of my tips at the IHTOCMay214. Hope you find it useful!

Teacher Report Assistant
Conference Handout
Conference PowerPoint

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Slang & Swear words in ESL

Attention! - The following post contains language that some people might consider offensive. If you are sensitive to the topic or if you're underage, please stop reading as this post is not suitable for you.

Swear words are sometimes one of the first things people find out when learning a new language. When it comes to English, I think most people (even if they don't know "a word in English") will have heard words like "fuck"; "shit"; "bitch" and so on, and so on. Sometimes the student's own native language has equivalent swear words, some the learner might actually use. Sometimes learners believe that by using slang and swear words they are showing command of the language. Well, yes... and no... You see, on TV, music, etc. swear words have become so common that one might think "This is the natural way to speak." or "I'm sure every one talks like this, so I should, too." When what happens is that some people use swear words more often than others, it's usually considered offensive and rude, and what is OK for one culture/person might be completely wrong for another.

So, when it comes to swear language and to what you listen to on the telly, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I use swear language in my own native language? Who am I trying to imitate? Do I, in any way relate to this person? Does s/he have a lifestyle/expectations/job that is/are similar to mine?
  2. When I watch films, in which situations do people use swear language? Is it in a formal or informal context?
  3. You've used it. How did it go? What were you able to achieve? Could you have used other (normal) words for the same purpose.
And always remind yourself that even if it is natural for you to use 4 letter words, other people may not like it, so watch out for signs that the person you're talking to may be feeling uncomfortable.

The following link will take you to a page full of short videos about slang. My favourites are the ones with Ronnie, a teacher that makes me look like a saint! Don't believe me? Watch "SEX with Ronnie" :)

engVid - Slang videos

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Learning Tip 1 - Guessing the meaning of new words

When you read a text you will see many words you don't know. Try to guess the meaning of the word or phrase first before running to Google translate every 5 minutes. It is sometimes possible to do this by reading and imagining what the text is describing. If you can work out the meaning for yourself, you will probably remember the word or phrase better.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Checkers for basically anything

Checkers is one of the easiest games to learn. Most children like it and adults never forget how to play it. Many years ago I started to use it to teach grammar. It started with the Simple Present and the 3rd person -s. However, I've used it with so many different things I think you can teach virtually anything using it :-) .

Here's a list of topics I've worked on with this: phrasal verbs, prepositions (at, in, on) Simple Present, phonemes, stress patterns and word formation. I'm sure you can come up with other ideas for how to use this, wouldn't you like to share?

The pictures describe how I build my pieces and I've uploaded the image I use for the board. If you laminate these (like I do) they'll last and you can reuse your pieces if you make them in card. I have a box of different sets according to what I want to work on. 

The rules are the normal checkers' rules with a twist, you can only take your opponents piece if they're a match. For example: if black has "in" and white has "June". Sometimes the game will come to a dead end, which can also happen when playing the regular game. Just tell your students that the player who has taken more pieces wins the match and that they can have another turn. Hope you like it. 

Board for checkers
Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3 Picture 4 Picture 5 Picture 6 Picture 7 Picture 8 Picture 9 Picture 10
Picture 11

Friday, 25 April 2014

KET for Schools (KEY)

Some students will have to take the KET exam at school next week. Here are the links to 2 online practice tests that can help you feel a bit more confident about the exam structure. I'm also posting two videos of the Speaking exam and further practice exercises. If you need some help, just leave a comment bellow. On the day before the test remember to go to bed early and eat a bit of chocolate (always helps me to relax). On the day read instructions, be careful about time - don't spend too much time on one task or you won't have time to do everything. And remember to have some time at the end to go over your answers. Don't leave anything blank - a blank will give you no marks and maybe you'll get the right answer if you try. Best of luck!

Practice Test 1
Practice Test 2

Speaking test video 1
Speaking test video 2

Grammar exercises (try the highlighted topics in A1 and A2)
KET practice (on this link you'll find exercises for different exams, try the KET ones only, these are the ones that come first on the list)

Personality Adjectives

The following exercises are meant to help upper-intermediate students improve and expand their vocabulary on personality. There are lots of lists online that you can use, but remember that just looking at a list won't help. You need to use the words and preferably you should have a vocabulary notebook where you can write any new words down. Don't just write the word, people learn better when language is meaningful. So try to think of a sentence where you would use this new word and write that as an example.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Classroom Games

I am a huge fan of games in the classroom. I really don't agree with people who say there's no room for them in learning or that they should be used seldom and carefully. There are a lot of ways in which games can be used: grammar, vocabulary, fluency, pronunciation... I have a section just of games here on the blog, but those are more to be used by students when working alone and looking for a different way of learning. 

The following games are PowerPoints. They are meant to be used by teachers in the classroom. These are just a few of my favourite. I did not make any of them, just adapted, the same way you can adapt them to your (and your students') specific needs. I found these online and some have been shared with me. I post them here hoping they will be of use. If you need help understanding how they work, just a leave a comment.

If you happen to be the author, please let me know and I'll give you credit for it or even remove the link if that's your wish. Thank you for your hard work which has helped teachers from across the world.