Integrating Technology for Active Learning: An Activity Using Google Slides and Padlet.

There is no denying I use a lot of technology in my classes. It gives me great pleasure to discover a new tool and design an activity around it. I really think this is what keeps me motivated after so many years teaching. The challenge that mastering a tool brings and the possibility to use it in my classes to boost students’ motivation and spark their interest is certainly something that keeps my own motivation alive and kicking

Today, I would like to share with you an activity that I did with my intermediate students. I loved designing the activity and the way my students got involved activating their communicative and writing skills during the whole process.

Tools used:

Aims:

  • to develop students’ communicative skills
  • to develop students’ writing skills
  • to revise vocabulary related to “work”
  • to integrate technology in the classroom
  • to encourage collaborative work

Before the class.

I created a Google presentation using Google Slides and wrote the content for the first two slides. I also added three extra blank slides (see below)

I created three Padlets and called them: Work 1, Work 2, and Work 3

In each of these 3 blank slides I inserted a link to one of these Padlets.

 

During the class.

 One. I asked students to form groups of 4. I have 12 students in this class, so I had three groups, one for each blank slide. If you have more students, you can easily add another slide to accommodate two more questions. I asked each group to write three or four questions related to “work”. I certainly encouraged them to come up with some juicy questions and avoid simple ones such as “Where do you work?”

Two. Once they have written their questions, the groups read them aloud and the class decides on the best two from each group to keep.

Three. At this point, there are two things you can do

  1. Assign each group one of the three slides and ask them to write their two questions, being careful not to delete the link to Padlet. Share the link for your Google Drive presentation making sure you share the link with editing permissions (read and write).  I have shortened the link using Google shortener.
  1. If you think this step might be complicated for your students, you can always write them yourself. Have the groups dictate their two questions and move on to the next stage.

Four: Speaking. Ask students in their groups to discuss the questions in the three slides encouraging them to use work-related vocabulary. Get feedback.

Five: Set homework.

Show the presentation from the very beginning where they will see the instructions for their homework.

Explain that at home they will need to answer one of the two questions in each slide. They can do it by writing their answers or by recording them.

Remind them it is the same shortened link you shared with them in Three.

See one of the Padlet below

 

Hecho con Padlet

You Have an Email! An Interactive Writing Activity

It’s true that although I’m a technology enthusiast there are still some things that I want to see written in paper. Especially when I’m studying I want to be able to underline, highlight, mark as irrelevant or write side comments in the margins.

So, for this activity, and despite finding lots of beautiful online presentations explaining the art of writing informal emails or letters (does anyone write letters anymore?), I have decided to stick to the traditional handout.


Level: B1 and above

Materials: checklist and handout (I have slightly modified it to adjust to my students’ needs)

Aims:

  • To teach students how to write informal emails with different purposes
  • To give students practice in writing some of these emails
  • To help students self-correct their own writings

THE THEORY

As explained above, I gave my students this excellent handout and we went through it. To make this process a bit more interactive, before each section we did a bit of brainstorming on the board tapping into the students’ prior knowledge. It is amazing to see how much they already know when you just take the time to ask them. After these brainstorming sessions, I always tell my students “Now, a bit more”. This “Now, a bit more” is based on the idea that new knowledge is constructed from old knowledge and I firmly believe this approach really makes it easier for students to learn and improve.


THE PRACTICE.

In this part the students will have to write two emails: a short one (50-60 words) and a longer one (140-160 words) in reply to a short one.

ONE. On the board write the following

  • Giving news
  • Apologizing
  • Inviting
  • Requesting
  • Thanking
  • Congratulating

 

TWO. Ask students to choose one. Make sure there is variety. They will find useful expressions for the email they have chosen to write in the handout provided.

THREE. Explain that they will need to write, on a clean sheet of paper, a short email to someone in the class. Tell them to follow the “salutation/body/closing structure. They will need to refer to the purpose of their email and then ask 2 or 3 further questions, related or not to the reason for writing their email. Remind them to keep this email short. Allow 10 minutes for this part.

FOUR. Once they have finished, ask students to swap emails with the person sitting behind them making sure they have not written the same kind of email. In that case, help them find someone else to swap emails with.

FIVE. Students will have to write an email in response to the email received, answering any questions asked. Ask them to refer to the handout and use a variety of expressions and a good range of vocabulary and structures. Allow 25 minutes for this part. They should aim to write between 140-160 words.

SIX. Students swap emails again and read the reply to their email.

SEVEN. Ask students to use this checklist to correct their partner’s email and give it a mark taking into account the following:

  • Content: Has he fulfilled the task? Has he answered all the questions?
  • Communicative Achievement: Has he used the right register or is it too formal? Does it sound natural?
  • Organisation: Is it well-structured? Is it logical and ordered? Has he used the right punctuation?
  • Language: Has he used a wide variety of vocabulary and structures? Is it adequate to the level? Are there spelling mistakes?

Correcting each other’s emails is not something the students feel confident about, but if before they start correcting, you write some repetitive mistakes on the board they’ll feel more confident correcting them. Ask them to underline anything that sounds incorrect to them and offer help.

EIGHT. The final step would be pairing up senders and recipients to comment on mistakes and marks awarded.

Guardar

Guardar

Irregular Verbs? Yes,Please!

My son Lucas was complaining he was going to have a permanent crick in his neck from spending hourrrrrs (or words to that effect) trying to learn irregular verbs in English when it occurred to me  there might be plenty of sites on the Internet to help students, and my own son in this case, with this seemingly daunting task.

And just as I predicted there are some cool sites that offer a nice alternative to the traditional pen-and-paper method of learning irregular verbs.

Hard to believe me? Then, try these games and I bet you’ll be delighted next time you are asked to study them. Dear Lucas, this post is for you!!!

Jeopardy Quiz Game

Fun activity to teach action verbs in the irregular past simple tense. It can be played in teams (up to 4). It is especially useful for teaching ESL intermediate learning and teaching.

Irregular Verb Wheel Game

An enjoyable game where irregular verbs are chosen at random from a spinning wheel. In this game you have 2 minutes to answer questions related to the verb forms of the irregular verbs displayed in the wheel. You get 1 point for every correct answer plus a bonus 10 points for every verb you get 100% correct.

Hangman Game

From eslgamesplus.com, the always entertaining hangman game; in this case, with irregular verbs. A great timed activity to review irregular verbs while reinforcing their spelling.

Irregular Verbs Walk the Plank

A fun activity where the teacher is presented as an animated character on a pirate ship about to be eaten by sharks. You’ll need to answer correctly all the questions to see the teacher being eaten by the sharks (don’t worry, there’s no blood!). A game for kids that I enjoyed a lot and played more than once 🙂

Create your own.

If you’re not happy with any of the games above, you can always create your own. Superteachertools gives you the possibility of creating your own jeorpardy quiz in a very easy way.

Who said learning English is boring?

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Lesson Plan: Do you Speak English?

This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B1  (intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to learning languages through a variety of engaging activities.

In this lesson students will get listening and speaking practice, learn new vocabulary, and have the opportunity to improve their writing skills.

Topic: Learning languages

Level:  Intermediate and above

Time:  60/90 minutes

Materials: PDF vocabulary, teacher’s notes

Online tools used: Spark adobe and Playbuzz


Warm up:

Guessing the topic.This funny sketch below works like magic to introduce the topic. The idea is to play this short funny video (2:48) and let students guess what we will be talking about.

Now, ask students to discuss these 2 questions:

  1. What’s the most spoken language in the world?
  2. What’s the most widely spoken language in the world?

Revising, introducing and using vocabulary

The idea is to elicit vocabulary by posing some questions and showing some pictures meant to stimulate spontaneous speech and class discussion. New vocabulary will be written on the board. See PDF with targeted vocabulary here

Tell students that of a total of 1, 5 billion speakers only 375 million are native speakers, so this means that over 1 billion people speak English as a second language. Ask them:

  • How do you think your country ranks in terms of English language proficiency?

Show them the picture below. If their country is not there, click here to see how it ranks. Elicit any reactions to the picture.

  • Does the ranking surprise them? Why (not)?

Get students in pairs to discuss the question below:

  • What do you find most difficult about learning English? Why do you think is that?

 

 


Listening and speaking

In this section there are 3 videos. Below you’ll find instructions to work with them. You can watch all of the snaps in a row or freely jump around from snap to snap.

Part 1: Speaking. English borrowings.

Follow the instructions in the video.

Part 2. Listening Comprehension. Note taking exercise.

Alex Rawlings, who speaks 11 languages, says that the way to start speaking a language more fluently and more proficiently is to practise speaking. In the video, he gives us four tips to get more practice speaking the language we’re learning.

      1. Get a conversation partner
      2. Talk to yourself.
      3. Learn vocabulary in phrases
      4. Imagine how you’ll use the language.

Watch the video and summarise what he says about each of these tips.

Part 3. Speaking. Reasons for learning a foreign language.

After watching the video, in groups of 3 share the reason why you’re learning English

Answer the following questions

      • Do you know anybody who has emigrated from your country?
      • Do you know any immigrants? Can they speak your language?
      • Before entering your country, should immigrants be required to speak the local language?

Speaking

Do you Speak English?


Writing

Write an article on one of the following:

  • “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” Zig Ziglar
  • “There is no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs”.Zig Ziglar

Post on how to write an article here

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Vocabulary Competition: a Nice Simple Activity to Revise

A nice simple idea to start a lesson.

I always like to start my lessons doing some quick revision of what I taught the previous day. I do it using different techniques, but they always have something in common: they help get students into the mood and start using English from minute one.

The idea in this activity is to combine two things:

  • Revision of targeted vocabulary
  • Consolidation of relative sentences

PROCEDURE

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask them to choose a person to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will be facing their teams and with their backs to the whiteboard.(see picture above)
  2. Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game.
  3. Display the first word cloud on the board.
  4. Team A will choose a word or expression from the word cloud and define it for its player. Once the player has guessed the word, the teacher will cross it off and the team will define another one. For every word they guess, they will get 1 point. If the player for Team A doesn’t know the word, then Team B gets the chance to define the word for its player. If he guesses, the team gets 2 points for this word and this same team continues defining words and scoring points.
  5. Continue until all the words have been defined.
  6. Procedure is repeated again with word cloud 2. The teams choose other players to take the “hot seats”. Team B starts playing now.

As stated above, the idea is to revise relative sentences, but obviously in the heat of the game I’d allow any paraphrasing students can come up with.

Online Word Cloud used: ABCya. A word of warning: this tool is so easy to use that you’ll soon get addicted to it! See tutorial below.

Word Cloud 1

Word Cloud 2

Lesson Plan: the 44th and 45th USA Presidents

As I was browsing the Teaching English- British Council facebook page (posts from visitors) I came across a lesson by Sean Banville, the owner of some popular sites like Breakingnewsenglish.com and Famous People lessons.com.

Mr Banville has put together a very timely lesson about Donald Trump and it got me thinking how I could best use it with my students. Fortunately, this prolific writer had also published a lesson about Barack Obama. So, I had everything I needed to tweak his lessons and adjust it to the way I teach. I just needed to ask for his permission, which he kindly gave me.


Level: Upper-Intermediate

Aim: This timely lesson aims at offering students the opportunity to discuss a current event and therefore boost their motivation to learn English. Students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary and improve their communicative skills.

Materials:

 


STEP 1.Warm up.

Predicting. Write the following words on the board and ask students to guess what the activity is going to be about.

politician, businessman, wealthy, Republican, Democratic, controversial

Speaking

  • Show the picture of Donald Trump and ask students in pairs to share any information they have about the new president of the USA.
  • Slide the juxtapose, (that’s how the sliding picture below is called) and show the image of Barack Obama. Again, ask students to share what they know about the former president of the USA.

 


STEP 2. Listening

Divide the class into As and Bs. Tell As they are going to listen to some information about Barack Obama. Tell Bs  they are going to listen to some information about Donald Trump.

Give student A a photocopy containing Obama’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match  and give student B a photocopy containing Trump’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match. (see links above)

Procedure: Play Obama once and ask student A to fill in the gaps with the words they hear. Play Trump once and ask students to do the same. Play each part one or twice more, depending on the level of your students. Correct both exercises, teach any vocabulary they don’t know and drill pronunciation.


STEP 3.Working on Vocabulary

Ask students to do the Synonym Match exercise in their photocopies. Point out that this exercise is very important as they will need to use some of this vocabulary in the next exercise.


STEP 4. Building a word cloud with students’ suggestions.

Tell students that they will now have to read their part several times as the next step will be retelling their text in as much detail as possible. As they read, ask them to underline any key words that might help them retell their biography.

Open Wordle (it works better on Firefox) and ask students A to help you feed the word cloud with the words they have underlined. Open a new tab and do the same with student B.

Alternatively you can use mine 😉

OBAMA

 

TRUMP


Step 5. Retelling

Pair up student A and student B. Display the word cloud for Obama and ask student A to retell Obama’s biography in as much detail as possible and using the prompts in the cloud. Repeat procedure for student B.


Step 6. Homework

Check out the creative suggestions Sean gives for homework.


Hope you have enjoyed the lesson!

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Spicing up my Lessons: Talking about Holidays in a more Visual Way.

Spark Adobe is my new addiction. I’m hooked on it and I am not ashamed to admit it.

It’s soooo easy to use and the result is amazing. Only last week, I was running a workshop and I was behind schedule, but I just couldn’t leave without showing the bunch of dedicated teachers  attending a Saturday workshop, a glimpse of how  Spark Adobe could be used in the classroom. So, in five minutes, I briefly explained how to use it. After thanking the teachers for their attention, a Portuguese teacher came up to me and asked me to have a look at what he had created for his next class. Pity I can’t share it with you, but I can assure you that his students are going to be very pleased this Monday.

Embedded below you’ll see the speaking/listening  activity I have designed for my B2 students on the topic of Travelling, created with the Page feature.And make sure you don’t forget to try the Video option with lots of potential for language learners.

By the way, have I mentioned that it’s free?

Hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to visit the three sections on the blog dedicated to speaking activities

Off the Beaten Track

3 Activities for Bringing Reading Comprehension Texts to Life

I have to admit that my least favourite activity to do in class is Reading Comprehension. I have the feeling that doing reading activities, as suggested in textbooks, somehow disconnects students from the interactive aspect I struggle so hard to maintain and promote during the whole session So, I’m always balancing two options. Either I set the reading task as homework or I try to devise an engaging activity that brings a bit of creativity and engagement into the reading process.

The activities you’ll find below aim at improving the most basic level of reader response, which is the oral retelling of the texts. Oral retelling exercises demand that students recall as many details from the text as possible therefore encouraging communication, oral language development and reinforcing students’ vocabulary.

So, here are three activities to bring Reading Comprehension texts to life.

 


Activity 1. Using word clouds. No preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of word clouds to actively use vocabulary.

To create the word clouds I have used the cloud generator Wordle (it works better with Firefox), but you can also use Tagul or any other. Alternatively, you can just create your own word cloud on the board without using any technology.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can be easily split into two and divide the class into As and Bs.

Ask As to read the first part and Bs the second part once.

Tell students to underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that the aim of the exercise will be retelling their part  in as much detail as possible so they will have to read it several times. Give them some more minutes for this task

Display the word cloud text box and ask them to tell you what keywords will help them remember the text. Type the words they suggest and create the cloud ( to keep words together for phrases, use ~ between each word). The idea is to retell the text in as much detail as possible with the help of key words included in the cloud

Open a new tab and repeat the same procedure with Bs

Retelling. Display word cloud 1 and ask As to retell the text using as much vocabulary from the cloud as possible. Display word cloud 2 and repeat procedure with Bs.

(Wordcloud Student A)


Activity 2. Retelling Competition. No preparation required

Introduction: For this activity students will be competing in teams retelling the story in as much detail as possible and the teacher will guide the competition by monitoring the time each team speaks and by making sure the development of the story is as close to the original as possible.

Procedure:

 Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible. Ask them to read it slowly several times.

Divide the class into two teams and ask them to close their books. Explain that they’ll need to retell the story in as much detail as possible. The winner will be the team who ends the story.

Decide which team starts telling the story. Ask this team to choose one of their members to start.

Rules:

  • Each team can only speak one minute and only one person at a time. At the end of this minute, the other team will continue the retelling of the story.
  • The other team can interrupt the team doing the retelling if
  1. The information is not correct
  2. If they have missed something important

The winner is the team who manages to tell the end of the story.


Activity 3. Using pictures. Some preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs or in small groups retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of pictures and some selected vocabulary.

Before the class, you will need to find some pictures to illustrate each part and select some vocabulary you want your students to use. There will be as many students in the group as parts you have split the text into.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can easily be split into meaningful paragraphs (a story or a biography are excellent for this kind of activity)

Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible.

Put students in small groups and split the text into meaningful parts assigning each student a part. Their aim will be to retell the story using the pictures as prompts and incorporating the vocabulary shown next to the pictures. Ask them to read their part slowly several times.

Display the pictures for the first part and ask students to start the oral retelling. Encourage them to use the vocabulary accompanying the pictures. Repeat procedure.

Tools used : befunky and playbuzz

Below, example of the activity with a text from File Intermediate

The Article in English: Explanation, Exercises and a Challenging Quiz

Although the use of the article in English seems a priori an easy subject to teach, the truth is that some students struggle with the use and omission of it.

What can you find in this post?

  • Intermediate level:
  1. Animated video with some rules on the use and omission of the articles “the, a/an”
  2. Some links to exercises from around the web to consolidate knowledge.
  • Advanced Level:
  1. An engaging quiz with feedback notes featuring some difficult cases related to the use and omission of articles.

 

Grammar. Watch the presentation. Pause it as often as necessary to understand and assimilate the rules.

Exercises: Links to interactive exercises  from around the web to consolidate knowledge.

 


The quiz

 

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