“Storyboard”: a tool for an ESL classroom.

Story…boarding? – I hear you say. Is it something like couch surfing? In the world of fancy terms of iFingers and password fatigue, it is easy to get lost in translation.

Storyboarding is a great way of telling a story or describing a step by step process, which makes it a great tool for presentations in ESL classroom. Tired of PowerPoint? Try StoryBoarding! this storyboard was created by using www.storyboardthat.com. And it’s free! All you need to do is create your storyboard and show the slides in class or share the link with your students!

You can choose any background to fit the purpose of your presentation:

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Any characters:

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And have fun with it! Makes a great group activity!!!

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I can imagine storyboarding as an amazing tool for kids classes and beginner-elementary level classrooms, as well as student presentations. What is your favourite presentation tool?

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Unplugged Teaching… sorry, what? (Part 1)

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As defined by Teaching English (a website for teachers by the British Council), unplugged teaching is: “Teaching Unplugged is the term used for a teaching method and philosophy which has three primary aims: teaching through conversation, taking out external input such as course book and technology and letting the lesson content be driven by the students rather than being pre-planned by the teacher. Based on the ‘Dogme ELT’ approach to teaching, its origins lie in an article written in 2001 by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings called ‘The roaring in the chimney’. They later wrote ‘Teaching Unplugged’, a comprehensive guide to this type of teaching and winner of the British Council ELTons award for Innovation in 2010.” (by swiffin on 26 March, 2014)

What that really means is that learners are truly at the center of the lesson and they take control over what sort of language is being taught to them. A simple example would be when talking about travelling ask your students to bring whatever realia they wish (connected with travelling, of course!) to class and build your lesson around it.

Have you tried it before? If not, why? Would you like to? Please share your experiences!

Digital natives, Learners 2.0, a.k.a. Students. So who are we teaching?

I recently read an amazing article by Steve Wheeler on modern learners, or as he calls them – “Learners 2.0”.

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Another term that seems to have become popular is digital natives (as opposed to digital immigrants, haha). No matter what you call them, there is no denying the fact that our students learn, interact and work differently. They are the first generation of people born after the Internet, computers and technology has taken over each and every aspect of our lives. Some scholars describe them as the generation that was born after 1980. That means I am one of them, YAY! But being brought up in post-Soviet Russia, I would say that the generation straight after me, or those born after 1990 can be more accurately described as digital natives. I am more of a digital imposter myself. Yes, I feel comfortable using it all, but still get constantly embarrassed by younger students/family members who seem to need no effort whatsoever to use technology. And yes, I never ever played a computer game.

They say by 2040 the technology will completely take over all the aspects of our life… Do you feel like your lessons and resources may look out-dated in your learners eyes? What shall we, as teachers, do to make our lessons more … interactive? tech-y? accessible? all of the above? How has the use of technology affected our learners? Is their attention span getting shorter? Can they multitask effectively? Do they remember things or just remember where they store them? Is the future looking bright for textbooks? Who are we teaching, and how should we adapt?

First of all, modern learners have “the means” to learn and discover things on their own. The technology certainly empowers them, and puts the teacher in the position of a facilitator, rather than the source of information and right answers.

Secondly, the use of technology certainly changed the way we record and store information. The good old notepad and a pen may soon become the thing of the past.

How do these affect teacher – learner interaction?

More questions then answers this time, I am afraid)))

Please share your thoughts!

ESL Reading: Motivation, motivation, motivation. Part 2

Now, let’s talk about motivating your learners to read.

Move away from the content, plan some warmers, introduce context, try to raise their interest in the subject. These make wonderful pre-tasks.

While your learners are reading, you can experiment a little, and integrate Reading with Grammar.

As a post-task activity, you could integrate Reading and Writing (remember, all good writers are good readers) and ask your learners to write a report on what they just read. Or a comment, as if they were reading a blog! There is no end to this, really, have a discussion, “book club” meeting over coffee, or a role play! You’ll be amazed how much fun an actual Reading class could be.

As an example lets take this newspaper article and see what can be done here.

Level: Elementary or Pre-Intermediate

Time: 20 – 60 minutes

Preparation: worksheets, stopwatch. You can prepare some sample text messages for competition yourself or ask your students to do so at home for your next class.

I think this would make a great lesson that could even extend to an extra-curriculum activity that would be both easy and enjoyable. Can be used both before or after the actual reading task.

Introduce the context by asking your learners how often they use their mobile (haha) and what for. Elicit texting. Ask extra questions where appropriate. Ask your learners how fast can they text and whether or not this affects their spelling (L1 and L2). Have a go at writing shorter text messages and carry on writing some more complicated ones. This can be a group pr individual activity.

Once you have them in their “comfort zone”, just have fun with it, and create lots of interest in the subject.

Let us know if you tried this or similar activities in your ESL Reading class!

Six ways to boost classroom participation: Part 1 – Using peer observation

All eyes on me…
Peer observation really works!

Oxford University Press

Peer reviewZarina Subhan is an experienced teacher and teacher trainer. Since 2000, she has been involved in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) materials writing, training trainers and teachers in facilitation techniques and teaching methodology. Zarina now spends her time divided between teacher training, materials writing, trainer training and presenting at conferences.

 “When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was on the moon, we weren’t thinking about looking back at the earth. But now we’ve done it, that may have been the most important reason we went.” – reported by David Beaver, co-founder of Overview Institute.

Similarly, when we go into the classroom, as teachers, our total focus is to help our students to learn. But unlike the astronaut, who was quoted, many of us fail to look back. We can become so focused on the job of teaching that we don’t reflect often enough on how we…

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Six ways to boost classroom participation: Part Two – How to reduce anxiety

Something to think about this summer…
Super-useful tips, thank you, Oxford University Press!

Oxford University Press


Close-up of frightened man with dramatic lightingThis is the second article of a six-part series on boosting classroom participation. Last week, Zarina took us through using peer observation to reflect on your teaching style. In this article, she considers a different challenge: what do you do about the nerves that can interfere with your students’ performance? This article aims to look at the presence of anxiety in our classrooms and what we can do to reduce it.

When a student gives an answer in a foreign language in front of their peers, anxiety is a reality that cannot be ignored. It directly interferes with the task in hand. It appears, almost gremlin-like; to want to disrupt the very activity or question the student has been asked to deal with. So what can be done? Here are some ideas.

Minimise the threat of direct questions

Be very careful about directing questions at specific students in front of…

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Biteslides: a perfect ESL tool for teachers and younger students.

Biteslides [http://www.biteslide.com/] is a great tool I recently discovered on the Internet. I think ESL teachers of younger students will particularly like this:

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It is not free, but you can get a free 30 day trial

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It is perfect for use in classroom as well as assigning homework. It takes about a minute to register (you need to provide your email address) and you can start sceating your first Biteslides class straight away!

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It can be just plain text:

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Or a collage of your own images and stickers:

aaaaaaBiteslides sounds like a great tool for younger ESL learners of Beginner/Elementary adult class. It probably makes more sense to do it in class a a small group activity when working on a small project or presentation. Biteslides isn’t very different from a PowerPoint, but it has lovely stickers and backgrounds. Biteslides allows you to search and add images from Google and videos from YouTube.

Sounds fun! Have you tried Biteslides? Any other presentation/project tools for younger ESL learners you know about? Please share!

Teaching ESL – the Cambridge Way

One of my favourite websites for resources, latest publishing news and webinars – http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/teaching-english/

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I especially recommend to subscribe to their webinar alerts and get updates into your email account. Needless to say that the topics are varied and the speakers are excellent.

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Another great thing is the free resources on all levels, ages and areas of interest – these include lesson plans, video materials, sample exam papers, etc., etc. Excellent IELTS resources, and straight from the horse’s mouth!

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What are your favourite ESL websites?