Category Archives: General

Three Activities to Do on a Spooky Gloomy Halloween Day

You see, Halloween and me, we are not on friendly terms. I don’t really get good vibes off this holiday.  Gory and scary … just scares me. But, that’s ok. I don’t have to like every single holiday. However, I have students and teaching a language is not only about words, it’s also about the culture and traditions of the country you are trying to teach. Halloween is important in Anglo-Saxon countries so this year I have made a point of trying to give it some real attention. I’ll even attend a small Halloween party, where I’ll be wearing a knife-through-head prop and some Halloween skeleton tights. Organising the party? Let’s start small! This year, the party will be hosted by my enthusiastic colleague Marta Dominguez, who has also provided me with some of the activities you’ll see below.

Activity 1.  Video Activity. The Ten Steps (2004)

This activity aims at

  • learning vocabulary: adjectives to describe houses
  • improving their listening skills

This is a great short film (less than 9 minutes and worth every second) that sets the right atmosphere. Draw the curtains and turn off the lights.

I would like to just for one day forget I’m an English teacher and just play the film, but I can’t.  So, we are going to work a bit on vocabulary before the film starts and we are going to focus on some questions to answer in pairs after watching the film.

Before playing the video, show them the picture below or alternatively pause the video. Do the vocabulary exercise with them ( handout)

PDF here

The Ten Steps

 

Activity 2. Writing and Story-Telling

This activity aims at

  • developing creative writing
  • using their stories to develop oral fluency

Remember the lights should be off and the curtains drawn. Lighting a candle might be a good idea for two reasons: it helps create a mysterious atmosphere and prevents students from reading from their essays.

The New York Times has a site where, every day, they publish a picture prompt to inspire students writing. Days prior to the great Halloween Day, I have shown my students this picture and asked them to write a scary story about this house. They should bring their stories on the day of the party.

The idea is to put students in groups of four and tell (not read) their stories. Each group will decide on the best and the whole class will listen to the best stories from each group and then vote on the best one.

It’s also a good idea if you share a story of your own and yes, in case you’re wondering, I’ll still need to correct their stories.

Activity 3.  A bit of fun with Kahoot.

This activity aims at:

  • teaching about traditions
  • developing digital abilities
  • having fun 🙂

I would just not feel fine if, after all the spooky storytelling, my students went home and couldn’t sleep that night, so a Kahoot is in order.

Again, I have not created it. My colleague Marta has just chosen one from the enormous bank of Halloween quizzes Kahoot has and we have adapted it to our needs.

Happy Halloween! Let’s enjoy the holiday break!

A Game of Cards to Revise Vocabulary in a Speaking Activity. Effective, Engaging and No-Prep.

I have always liked playing cards.  Like about 20 years ago, I used to meet with some friends at the weekend to play cards. We usually met at a cosy old cafe where most of the elderly in my village met to play cards and domino with their buddies. They were old, we were in our twenties. They wanted peace and quiet. We wanted fun and noise and laughs.

It didn’t last. Somehow, we realized we were not welcomed and eventually stopped going. But, I still like playing cards and whenever I can talk some of my friends into playing, I immensely enjoy it. Let’s play cards, then!

  • Aim: to revise vocabulary in a speaking exercise
  • Level: B1 upwards
  • Topic: any

THE  GAME OF CARDS

The game is SO simple. The only prep is to make sure you have enough pieces of paper cut up in advance. By the way, a good opportunity to reuse photocopy paper that has been used only on one side.

Preparation:

Take a regular A4 sheet of paper. You want to obtain 8 pieces of paper. Fold it in half and cut it along the crease. Fold the two pieces again and repeat procedure. Do it a third time and there you have your 8 pieces of paper resembling the size of an average size of a card in a deck of cards.

 

  • Ask students to sit in groups of three in a circle around a table.
  • Write the topic you want to revise on the board. For example, Education.
  • Give each student in the group 8 blank cards and tell them they will need to write on each card a word or expression related to the topic on the board. Explain that it does not matter if the words are repeated in the same deck of cards, in fact, if they get the same words twice, it will only help consolidate meaning and use. Challenge students to write newly-acquired vocabulary. Allow them to have a look at their notes.
The game:
  1. Ask a student in the group to take all the cards, shuffle them and deal 3 cards one at a time, face down, starting with the student to the dealer’s left.
  2. Place the rest of the cards face down on a pile in the centre of the table.
  3. Write on the board or call out a question for discussion. For example,                                            Are exams necessary or are they a waste of time? 
  4.  Tell students they will all need to talk about the question in their groups trying to use the words on their cards.  As they use them, they place them face up on the table and pick up another one from the pile. They always need to have three to choose from.
  5. Allow 5-6 minutes per question. Once the time is up, ask students to count how many words they have used.
  6. Repeat all the steps and write another question for discussion on the board.

Note:

  • Every two or three questions, you can ask groups to swap cards and repeat steps 1-5. By swapping cards students get a new batch of cards with hopefully some new words to use.

Back in October! + Most Popular Posts This School Year (2017-2018)

Dear all, hi! I feel like I’ve been gone for forever but exams have kept me mad busy and I haven’t had time a single moment to post something worthy.

And again, it is this time of the year when I take a break from classes and the blog. To be honest, most of the times when it’s June I begin to experience telltale signs of burnout. Not this year. I am full of energy and my brain is busy with ideas to try in the next school year. However, it wouldn’t be fair and it’s not my style to blog about things I haven’t tried first, so let’s take our usual break.

Since I wasn’t able to post while I was marking exams, all these ideas have found their place in a draft folder in my hard drive. I’ve got like a ton of ideas that are going to come at you very quickly after the summer break. Keep tuned!

Please, do come back at the end of the summer. Your comments and feedback are essential to me.

Meanwhile, I will still be active on Twitter @blogdecristina where I’ll be reposting ideas and activities and retweeting interesting stuff. So, if you have a Twitter account, do follow me. I will also be leading some workshops here and there, so if you are a reader of this blog,  don’t be shy and come and say hello. I will be happy to meet you.

See you very soon! I’ll miss you!

Below you’ll find some of my favourite posts this year.

A QR Code Coursebook Quest Using Flipgrid: Using Technology in the Classes

Ohh this activity. I love it.

It combines a bit of everything and adds the touch of innovation students require in 21st-century classes.

  • it helps students revise content in an engaging way
  • it helps boost their speaking skills
  • it improves their writing abilities
  • it gives them confidence using new technologies
  • it promotes teamwork.

Now, this is an end-of-the-course activity and before you continue reading you need to know a couple of things.

  1. My students have already used Flipgrid in class. (if you have never used Flipgrid, you are missing out! I highly recommend it to make even the shyest students talk)
  2. My students have already used a QR Code reader and have the app on their mobiles.
  3.  Finally, you’ll have some prep work to do, but it is an end-of-the-course activity, so let’s do it! I promise it’s worth it. Then, we can rest and sunbathe a bit.

The activity is divided into two stages

STAGE ONE. Day 1.

Before the class:

  • On Flipgrid, create a topic outlining the activity and asking students to record themselves asking a question about the vocabulary studied during the course. It can be anything that has been studied during the course. In my case,  I have asked them to make their question about phrasal verbs or idioms. The only rule is that the answer to their question must be found in the course book.  Remind them that this is a competition, so they do not want to ask easy questions. Ask them to record themselves asking their question using Flipgrid and tell them they have 15-seconds recording time.

Example: Can you find a phrasal verb with the meaning of “to cancel”?

  • Once you have created a topic on Flipgrid for Team A, as in the example below, duplicate the topic and just change the Topic Title by writing Team B instead of Team A. You might also want to modify the image accompanying the Topic. (not necessary, of course)

 

In class:

  • Divide the class into two teams; three if you have a lot of students. Ideally, a team would have 6-8 students and the same number of students in each team. If you don’t, just ask a student to record himself twice, asking two different questions so that both teams have the same number of questions.
  • Share the Flip Code to their respective topics and ask them to record their questions for the other team. Each student in the team has to record a different question. So, if you have 6 students per team, you’ll have 6 questions. This can easily be done in class or set as homework.
  • Explain the rules:
  • They can ask a question about … (whatever you have specified).
  • The answer to their question must be found in the course book.
  • They have to speak slowly and clearly.
  • They have 15-seconds recording time.
  • When they finish, they will need to send you an email with the answer to their question.
Stage 2. Day 2

Before the class:

  • Once all the students in the team have recorded their questions for the other team, print the QR Code for each of their questions and hang them up on one of the walls of the class. Give each QR code a number, ie, if there are 6 QR Codes containing 6 questions, give numbers from 1 to 6.  On your response sheet, write down the answers matching the different  QR codes. For example 1. take off 2. put up 3…  Do the same for the other team, but hang up their  QR Codes on the wall opposite.

 

In class:

  • Ask students to sit with their teams.
  • Explain how to play:
  • Show both teams their respective walls. Assign Team A the wall where the QR Codes with Team B’s questions are displayed. Do the same for Team B.
  • Only one mobile phone per team is necessary and only one can be used. Teams name a runner who scans the QR code and gets back to his team who try to find the answer in the course book to the question posed. The first QR Code to be scanned must be number 1.
  • Once they have found the answer in the book, the runner must go to the teacher and show it to him. If it is incorrect, he must go back to his team and try again. If it’s correct, the runner goes back to his team and, using the target vocabulary, write a  sentence. Again, the runner runs to the teacher and shows him the sentence. If there are no mistakes, he can scan the second QR Code. If there are mistakes, the teacher will underline the mistake(s) and then, the runner will return to his team, correct the sentence and show it again to the teacher. Only when everything is Ok, can the runner scan the second QR code.
  • The winner is the team who first answers all the questions and uses the target vocabulary in sentences of their own.

If you want to know more about how to integrate free digital tools in the classroom, you might want to have a look at my workshops. Here and here. 

Thanks for reading!

8 Google Chrome Extensions you “Add”solutely Need to Use if you are a Teacher

I have been struggling with the title of this post. I wanted to write it in capital letters and tried different angles, all with the same purpose, trying to entice you into reading it as I know for certain that, for some teachers out there, add-ons ( also known as extensions) are still unknown.

 

 

 

Introduction

Working as a “free app” teacher trainer has taught me quite a lot of things. I have seen that, contrary to my initial belief, most teachers are not afraid of introducing technology in their classes, they just don’t know how to do it or where to get started. Once they realize how easy it is to create their own activities, how little effort it takes to create meaningful activities for their classes using the feared apps, there is no ending to their requests to learn more and more, which is just awesome! On this post, I am going to comply with a request from one of the teachers attending the workshops at CPR Cuencas. Carlota, this post is for you.

During these workshops, over the course of a conversation I mentioned, and probably showed, the add-ons I use on Google Chrome to make my work more productive.  Surprisingly, most of the teachers attending didn’t even know what I was talking about. I promised I would show them the ones I used. But, with so many things to teach, we didn’t have time. I’m sorry. It took me a while to write this post, but here it is.

First of all, the basics

What is an add-on or extension?

These little icons you see next to the address bar are called add-ons or extensions. They are small apps that add extra features to Chrome and can improve your productivity, for example by correcting your spelling or grammar mistakes.  Awesome, isn’t it?

How do I install an extension?

Just click here and write the name of the extension you want to install.

How do I manage my extensions?

(it has background music)

 

My favourite Google Chrome Extensions

The ones I cannot live without, and in no particular order, are the following:

1. Send from Gmail by Google

The easiest and quickest way to share links

Let’s imagine this scenario. You are on a website you very much would like to share with a colleague or just send to yourself to explore later.  There are many things you can do with this link. For me, the easiest is using the add-on above, which will open my Gmail account. To do it, just click on the extension, enter the recipient’s address and click Send.


2. Tab Resize- split screen layouts

The easiest way to split your screen into separate tabs

Very often, we need to see the content of two or even three windows in the same screen. For example, when doing a grammar exercise online we often need to refer to the grammar or when correcting a listening comprehension we might also want to display the transcript.  This is easy with Tab Resize. You just need to click on the icon and choose how to split your screen.


3. Grammarly for Chrome

To make sure you don’t send an important document or an email with spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes.
Isn’t it helpful? I don’ t know about you, but I am not perfect.

Look at the picture below. Writing this blog, I have made a spelling mistake. Immediately, my mistake is highlighted and an alternative suggested which, of course, you can choose to ignore. Wow!


4. Bit.ly

To shorten the links you want to share

Isn’t it true that very often we need to provide students with a URL that is impossible to write because of its length? When this happens, what do you? I use bit.ly, which is a URL shortener. Surely, you can go to their website and copy-paste the URL to obtain the shortened URL, but wouldn’t it be more productive to just click on the icon, copy the shortened URL and share with your students or colleagues? That’s what I do!

Once you get the shortened link, just write on the board for your students to copy. A piece of cake!

(it has background music)

 

5. Google Dictionary

With this extension installed, finding the meaning of a word and how to pronounce it couldn’t be easier. There are two ways to do it:

  1. Double click the word and you’ll see a little pop-up bubble showing a brief definition.
  2. Select the word and click on the add-on icon on the toolbar to get the complete definition of any word.

Note:  after installing the add-on, either reload your open tabs or restart Chrome.


6. Pinterest Save Button

To curate the web

I have been using Pinterest since it was first launched. I don’t think I could live without it. That’s the place where I store every inspiring idea that I see on the web, every activity I want to use in class, every blog that I want to read or every video I want to play in class.  Over the years I have tried other tools to organize and collect content but I have yet to find one that is as simple and as widely used as Pinterest to curate content. Suffice to say, I have about 150 boards and growing. See them here.

So, how does it work? Let’s say you see an interesting activity you want to use in your classes, but will you be able to remember where you read it?  I don’t know about you, but I read so many blogs that it’s impossible to remember who wrote what and where.

The extension Pinterest save Button has really saved my life. I see something I like, I click the Pin button and store it in one of my boards. See the video below. Obviously,  first you need to create an account on Pinterest.

(it has background music)

 


7. Google Drive New Tab

This is just a shortcut to opening my Google Drive.  If you don’t use Google Drive, then it’s not very useful to you but if you do,  it saves lots of time.

So, just click on the icon on the toolbar and a new tab will open on your Google Drive. Simple but effective.

 


8. Awesome Screenshot

An add-on that lives up to its name. It allows you to easily capture all or parts of any webpage. You can add comments and annotations and also blur some parts. It also allows you to record your screen in an easy way.

Thanks for reading! I know it is a long post, but hasn’t it been worth it?

6 Steps to Getting a Job: How to write a Cover Letter Applying for a Job and a Résumé

When applying for a job, there are some things you might have to do:

  • Send a résumé or a CV ( Curriculum Vitae)
  • Fill in an application form
  • Write a letter applying for a job

 

In this post, I’ll guide you step by step to help you write a good cover letter and a résumé

  • Step 1. The difference between a résumé and a CV
  • Step 2. Writing a CV or a résumé. Templates
  • Step 3. Writing a cover letter. Some tips. 
  • Step 4. Layout of a cover letter.
  • Step 5. Sending your cover letter via email.
  • Step 6. Some tips on how to answer a job interview.

Let’s start.

Step 1. What’s the difference between a résumé and a CV?

It’s more or less the same. The CV is longer than the résumé. The résumé includes a summary of your education, experience, and skills and it’s usually one page long whereas the CV is two or three pages long and includes more details like research, awards, presentations, publications …etc. It’s ideal for academics.

Some tips:

  • Keep it simple. It shouldn’t be longer than two pages.
  • The content should be  easy to read
  • Use reverse chronological order. You should put your most recent job first and then write the other jobs going back in time.
  • You don’t have to write full sentences. Ex: “Developed a social media strategy…”
  • Skip personal information such “Divorced and with 2 kids”.

 

Step 2. Writing a CV or résumé. Templates.

 

Here are two links to templates to write your CV or résumé. (Please note that this is not a sponsored post)

  • Canva: you will need to register. Find the templates in the Documents section. Make sure you use a free template
  • Uptowork: provides guided free templates to build your résumé or CV.

 

Step 3: Writing a cover letter. Some tips

A job application letter, also known as cover letter normally accompanies a résumé or CV. Nowadays, unless you are specifically required to send a letter by snail mail, cover letters are normally sent by email or attached as a file in online application systems.

Sending an email instead of a letter makes little difference. It’s only the layout that varies slightly.

Now here are some tips:

  • Use formal language.
  • Don’t use contractions and punctuation such as dashes and exclamation marks.
  • Don’t use personal or emotional language.
  • If you are replying to an advertisement, relate to all the points asked for and give additional information.
  • Mention your skills and experience and give supporting details.
  • Have spaces between paragraphs
  • Keep it short and to the point.
  • Use a professional email address; kittylou@gmail.com might not be appropriate or very professional.
  • Remember to check that you have used the appropriate style for the person you are writing to.
  • Check your email carefully for spelling, grammar mistakes, and punctuation
  • Make sure you sign your cover letter.
  • If you are sending your CV or résumé, put “Enclosed: CV/résumé” at the end of
    your cover letter

 

Step 4. Layout of a cover letter.

Presentation

 

On the Right

  • Your address: on the right-hand side of the page (without your name)
  • Date: below your address. Leave a blank line in between.

On the left

  • Position/name of the person you are writing to. Start one line below the date.
  • Address of the person or company you are writing to.

Greeting:

Use an appropriate formal greeting. Use a comma after the greeting or nothing.

If you know the name of the person you are writing to:

  •  Dear Mrs/Miss/ Ms + surname if you are writing to a woman
  • Dear  Mr+ surname if you are writing to a man.

If you don’t know their names, use

  • Dear Sir or Madam or Dear Hiring Manager or Dear Human Resource Manager
  • Alternatively, you can use To whom it may concern

Note that all the salutations start with Dear.

Follow the salutation with a comma.

Opening Paragraph:  Always start by stating what the purpose of your letter is. Here you should mention the position you are applying for and where you learn of the vacancy. This section should be short and to the point. It’s the most important part of your letter. Here, either you grab the reader’s attention or you can bore him and decide not to continue reading.

Some useful expressions:

  • I am writing in response to your advertisement for…
  • I am writing to express my interest in the …. position listed on …(name of the website)
  • I am writing with reference to your advertisement…
  • I would like to apply for the …. position advertised in /on……

Main Body:  It can be divided into several paragraphs. Organise your content into the different paragraphs.

Here you need to expand on your experience and qualifications showing how you are relevant to this job.  Give clear details and examples. You don’t need to repeat all the information on your résumé but highlight what is relevant to this position. Emphasize your strengths.

Emphasize also your interest in the job and why you think you are suitable for the job. Remember that your goal is to get a job interview.

If you have attached a copy of your résumé or completed an application form, mention it.

Useful expressions:

  • I think I am the right person for the job because…
  • I feel I am well qualified for the position
  • I think I have the knowledge and experience that is needed for…
  • I have some/ a lot of experience working with…
  • With regard to your requirements, I believe that I am a suitable candidate for this post as
  • I believe I would be good at…
  • I believe I would make a good …. because I am…
  • I am very reliable and I get on well with people…
  • I have always had an interest in…
  • I think I would be suitable for the job / a good choice ( to be a/ an…) because...

Closing Paragraph: 

Explain why you think your application should be taken into consideration. If relevant, mention that you enclose a CV/ reference. State that you are willing to attend an interview and thank the reader.

Useful expressions:

  • A résumé/CV giving details of my qualifications and experience is attached
  • As requested, I am enclosing my CV and two references and my completed job application
  • I hope you will consider me for the position.
  • I would be able to start immediately
  • I would be happy to attend an interview any time convenient to you.

Signing  off

  • Using  I look forward to hearing from you   or Thank you for your time and consideration  are good ways to end a formal letter
  • End with Yours faithfully if you begin with Dear Sir/Madam
  • End with Yours sincerely if you begin with Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms + surname

In American English, Yours truly and Yours sincerely are commonly used in both cases.

If in the greeting you have followed the salutation with a comma, write a comma also after Yours faithfully/sincerely.


Some words commonly used in job applications

Nouns such as preference, qualifications, company, reference, information, opportunity, experience, position, vacancy, ability, advertisement, employment, résumé, details, interview…etc

Verbs such as  apply, reply, advertise…etc

Adjectives such as  convenient, excellent, qualified, enthusiastic, necessary, energetic, suitable, available, attached, experienced, interested, responsible, possible, friendly…etc

Adverbs such as immediately, recently, extremely, sincerely…etc


Get some practice writing cover letters here

Step 5.  Sending your cover letter via email
  •  In the subject line of the message, write your name and the job you are applying for.
  • Don’t write the date or the employer’s contact information. Start your email with the salutation
  • Don’t forget to write all your contact details after you sign off.

Practice:

Write a cover letter/email applying for one of these two jobs.

Step 6: Some tips on how to answer a job interview
  • When they ask you to describe yourself in three words, they are asking you about your professional persona and how you would fit in the company. Talk about what makes you stand out. Talk about accomplishments and skills that you know are relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • Do some research on the company and show it in your answers.
  • Don’t give them personal details. They are not really interested in your life or your problems.
  • It’s Ok to ask the interviewer questions about the job. You also want to make sure this is the right job for you and at the same time show the interviewer you are interested in the job. Prepare them beforehand  and try not to ask yes/no questions:
  • Can you tell me about the responsibilities of this job?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the company/department right now?
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?
  • Avoid questions about salary, holidays, etc

Hope this post helps you get the best job 🙂

PDF for this lesson here

Special thanks to Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat from English with a Twist for answering some of my questions.

Here’s a funny sketch where former President Obama tries to sharpen his skills to pass a job interview. Don’t miss it!

Let’s Talk about Crime: is it Rob, Steal or Burgle?

Do you know the difference between steal, rob and burgleHow do we use these three verbs?

TO STEAL

You steal when you take (unlawfully) what belongs to someone else. The object of this verb is generally what you have stolen.Generally, you steal things. The person who steals is a thief.

  • Someone’s stolen my watch
  • He stole all my money
  • They wanted me to steal your ring

You can also  steal something from someone

  • He stole from me and from my friends
TO ROB

You rob when you unlawfully take something from its owner.You rob someone or you rob a place (bank, shop, house…etc. The person who robs is a robber.

  • I have been robbed
  • Robin Hood robbed the rich
  • He robbed a bank

 

A person or institution is robbed of something by someone or an entity

  • She robbed me of all my money
TO BURGLE

It means to steal from a building, a home…etc.   The person who breaks into houses, shops … etc to steal things is a burglar.

  • My house was burgled last night
  • She has been burgled

Test your knowledge with this exercise.

Click at the top right-hand corner to enlarge the window (red arrows)

 

Top Website to Help you with Writing

I’m not a native speaker. I work in English, write, read and watch TV in English. In short, I breathe English. But I’m not a native and I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes, especially when correcting written work, I have this feeling that a collocation is just not right but I cannot I come up with the correct one straight away.

Has it ever happened to you?

I could rely on my instinct, I could certainly do it, but sometimes I just can’t without making sure I’m doing the right thing. Problem is that a dictionary would be no help here as we are dealing with more complex issues. We are not talking about grammar or vocabulary meanings, we are dealing with how words collocate with some words, but not with others and this is just something that if you are not a native, you will have a hard time deciding whether it is correct or a bad translation from your native language. The problem, of course, is that to your non-native ears it might sound perfect.

For example, let’s take this simple sentence

Global warming is produced by…

Does it sound Ok to you?

For a Spanish speaker, this sounds just right.  But is it a natural collocation in English?

Doesn’t Global warming is caused by… sounds better?

When I am in doubt, I  have a bunch of useful websites I use, but my favourite for this kind of problem is Netspeak. Please check my post Six amazing Websites that Make your Writing Stronger to read about this “bunch”  I was referring to.

So, when I am not sure if “xxxx ” is correct, this is what I do.

What else can you do on Netspeak?Among other things:

  1. If you have forgotten a specific word, type ?   Ex:  ? for granted
  2. If you need to find many words, type   Ex …granted
  3. If you are not sure about two words or want to compare them [] Ex It sounds [good well.

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