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Friday, 31 October 2014

Spooky Halloween!!!

As most of my friends know, I absolutely love Halloween. I like carving pumpkins, welcoming the (very few kids) who come trick-or-treating, making cards and painting monsters with my boys. I think it's better than Carnival, actually I think it can't be compared to Carnival. However, Halloween isn't that popular in Portugal, really. It's still seem as a "foreign", "modern" activity so there's not a lot of attention going around it. Just that teachers, English teachers, that is, love it. Time to have fun and let the mean, (not that) nasty vampire come out, come out, wherever it is....

So, what do I have to share? Probably nothing new. If you go online there will be thousands of resources available. However, if you need a quick guide and you don't have time to scroll down Dr. Google's list, here are a few resources and ready-made worksheets that can help save the day.

Videos

The History of Halloween (a short documentary by the History channel, quite good for an activity with adults)
Halloween Songs for Kids! (half an hour of wonderful Halloween songs for VYL by Super Simple Songs)
Short Story – Halloween is Grinch's night (looking for a short film? This could be it. Dr. Seuss story for children about the Grinch)
Halloween Cartoons (a playlist with 65 videos related to the theme. Great for VYL if you're looking for a different way in which to finish/start your lesson)

Crosswords, Puzzles & Word searches

Word search (good for YL and teenagers)
Halloween Scramble (a simple worksheet related to safety on Halloween, good for YL)
Crossword (a sort of a Halloween trivia that is sure to keep  your students busy for a while)
Word search builder (make your own word search with this on line program, you will only have to print it)

Worksheets

Halloween worksheets (@ education.com you'll find lots of printable worksheets you'll be able to use with your students)
Halloween worksheets and activities (you have everything here, from Reading comprehension, to vocabulary practice. @ http://bogglesworldesl.com/ you'll find resources from several sorts)
The teachers corner (you'll find recipes, puzzles, wordsearch, etc.)
Super Simple Learning (this website will provide you with lesson plans, recipes, party ideas and so on)

Songs

Dream English Halloween (focuses on songs that can be used, mainly, with children)
Halloween songs (over 8 pages of different songs that can be used with other levels)

And of course, if all else fails...
The busyteacher.org (you know why, don't you ;)
Printables, crafts, poems (not many people still remember this site, but it's one of the oldest around)



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Happy World Teacher's Day

I don't remember when it was that I decided I wanted to become a teacher. I remember the teacher who made me want to become an English language teacher, though. I remember the teachers who, somehow, shaped me into the teacher I am today. Charlie and Mr Pywell were undoubtebly the most important in my life. Charlie made me passionate about owls and Mr Pywell always wore such beautiful ties... Unless you've ever heard him speak, you won't understand why the ties were important in his teaching, but I'm not going to talk about that. It's been 20 years now. Charlie more than that. "Oh captain, my captain" and Mona Lisa also played their part and I mustn't forget about all those Dangerous Minds that I so often meet every day now.

Why have I become a teacher? I have no idea. I just know that teaching is more in me than anything else. It runs in my veins. It comes so natural that I wouldn't know how to do anything else. And that's scary. To know that something is so powerful in my life, that I wouldn't know how not to be it.

It makes me what I am. And I am what I am: an imperfect being in search of answers, whose questions I'm still trying to ask.

 


Friday, 3 October 2014

The "Unteachable" - part 2

A while ago I wrote a post about difficult students. I have to confess that when I did so, I had one particular class in mind. Almost 8 months have gone by and they are now one of my favourite classes. How did the change come about? Did a miracle happen? Did they all of a sudden become interested? Well, a few months in the lives of teenagers do mean a lot, and they have grown a lot too. What changed then? I'm not really sure, I don't have a magic key or a magic wand that makes it all right... I try again and again until it gets easier. They are used to the rules by now, they know how far they can push me and I know how to recognize the signs that they're getting restless. So I decided to change (again), too. I hardly ever have them sitting down in class. I make the lesson more student centred, I bring in lots of games and lots of stickers. Yes, stickers and chocolates work pretty well, you know? And before some of you start yelling and screaming about it, let me tell you the difference between a bribe and a reward and why rewards should be encouraged in learning. 

A reward is given after the task you've told them to do has been done. A bribe is something you give to them, in hopes they'll do what you want. End of story? They'll work to get what they want, they won't work to make you happy. (They might eventually, but that's a whole different story for a whole different post).

If you're a teacher you've most likely heard about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If you haven't, it's time you do a little research, especially if you're working with challenging teens. The basics is that intrinsic motivation happens when the learner does something and his reward comes from the activity itself, just by doing it, it's fun. Like when you have children playing a game in class. The fact that it's a game is enough to make them interested in what you're about to do. Extrinsic motivation happens most frequently with adults and teenagers. They take an English course because they want to move abroad, or they've got their eyes on a promotion that requires them to be more fluent in English. 

I know a lot of  people don't believe in games for adults, and this comes from a cultural background where adults who play aren't seem as serious or professional, but that's also not true, is it? And here's another topic I'll need to write a post about soon :D! But moving back to my teens. I've noticed, over time, that teens need a mix of things. So, they need the game (intrinsic), but they also need the reward (extrinsic). I've also realized that they have to sit in their chairs for seven hours, and have teachers expecting them to be as fresh and well behaved at 2pm as they were at 9am. We all know it's not possible, we are all tired after a couple of hours aren't we? But recently I had to walk in their shoes, meaning I had to spend a whole week attending classes from 9am - 5.30pm, and I was exhausted and restless by the end of the day. Does this mean we have to turn a blind eye on bad behaviour? No, it just means we have to come up with strategies and activities that will keep them busy throughout the class. For example, lets say you have a worksheet on "places in a city" that you want to do. Could you cut the exercises from the photocopy, post them on the walls and have teams/pairs walking around the class to solve them? Maybe then you could get the students to check with other groups if they got the same answers. Can you see how lively an exercise becomes? I've started taking pictures of what goes on in my classes and I share them with my classes on Facebook. I have a closed group for each class. Later I can post the file containing all exercises. I'm saving on paper, too, of course... Kids like to watch themselves, and when I told them we were building a portfolio, they got really excited about it. It works pretty well with some classes, and not so well with others. However, I tried it with all, and the more challenging were actually the ones who enjoyed it most. I didn't just think "Oh no, this can't possibly work with this class." and moved on. You see, I don't believe in miracles, but I do have a lot of faith in people and on how often they can prove me wrong.


Teaching Material Review 2

And I've been surfing so many good sites lately that it's hard to choose which ones to talk about.

Quizlet

This is a great website for teachers trying to find different ways of presenting vocabulary. Here you'll find sets of flashcards which can be printed, worksheets, online exercises and more. A lot more, you can even build your own flashcards. Try different combinations: English word and its translation, English word and its picture, English word and definition, word and collocations, word building, etc. You can create your set, send the link to your students and then they can practice at home.

Tiny TEFL Teacher
Has lots of resources for both teachers and students, I particularly like the Powerpoint games that can be used in class, even if you don't have an internet connection.

Anglomacy
For younger children but with lots f practice for younger students. Attractive layout.

Cambridge English
Resources for teachers, focusing on exam classes.

Tools for Educators
Again, you can chose one of the many topics you'd like to work with and there are lots of resources to be explored. I really like the Dice Makers and the Printable Board Games sections.

English for Taxi Drivers

I often teach groups of taxi drivers. Unfortunately, English is just one (a 15 hour one) subjects in the course they need to attend to get their license. I usually only have 15 hours with them, which is not enough. So here are a few things specifically for them. Hope it helps.

Taking a taxi - language presentation
Taxi Ride - listening exercise
Travelling by taxi - language presentation
Mobile App - this is NOT free, but looks very interesting, let me have some feedback on it, please
English for Taxi Drivers - in English as of page 6

If you're a teacher take a look at these suggestions.
Strategies for teaching English to Taxi drivers

Videos:



Friday, 19 September 2014

Prepositions of Place & Movement - Games

And here are some games on prepositions that are fun and educational. Here you'll find pictures illustrating the prepositions. Leave a comment and share what it was like using these games, either by yourself or if you are a teacher, how it went when you used them in class.

Game 1
Game 2
Game 3 (but there are more links after you finish the first one)
Game 4 (for young learners)
Game 5 (you can play against a friend)



Prepositions of Place & Movement

Prepositions are an important part in any language and they are often confused. It's not that students don't know the importance of prepositions, it's just that often different prepositions translate into the same preposition in their own language.

Prepositions of Place and Movement are quite useful when you need to give directions or to indicate where something is. In, at and on are often confusing, at least for Portuguese students, and the fact that they are used both as place and time prepositions doesn't help. But I'll write more about these three some time soon.

In the meantime here are some images illustrating the use of place & movement prepositions. Then you'll find some exercises to help you. As usual, if you have any questions just leave a comment and I'll do my best to help.



Exercises: