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.
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 team work.
Now, this is an end-of-the-course activity and before you continue reading you need to know a couple of things.
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)
My students have already used a QR Code reader and have the app on their mobiles.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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; email@example.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
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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?
It’s Monday. I swear it was Friday when I last blinked. Exam time is inching closer and closer and I figure it’s about time I share part 2 of how I prepare my students to take oral exams. Please, note that attending classes and piling up dozens of photocopies helps, but this alone does not guarantee you are going to pass the exam. Practice. Keyword here.
In Part 2, you are going to read about the two-corner technique and the websites I use to help my students gather ideas.
What I am going to relate here is one of the reasons why I try to offer my students not only vocabulary and structures but also ideas. Yes, I present them with different ideas, but I don’t ask them to study and use them as if they were theirs, I ask them to discuss them. Why? Mainly because by discussing ideas they can develop their own, acquire some others and also learn to challenge opinions they do not agree with.
You have probably heard students, or experience if you are one, talk about this fear of not knowing what to say.
Only last week I set a writing activity to be done in class. I asked students to write for about 20 minutes giving their opinion about a topic we had already discussed in class.
I observed one of my students was not writing but staring into space. After 5 minutes, I approached him and asked why he wasn’t writing. He said he could not come up with any ideas, said he wasn’t inspired and that he was afraid this would happen on the day of the exam.
And I worry. Even though my students study hard, sometimes they find it hard to think on their feet and start talking or writing.
It’s with this in mind that I try to provide my students not only with grammar and vocabulary but also with other people’s points of view on a given topic so that they can discuss these ideas and develop their own arguments. Speaking is not only talking about what you would do but also about what you wouldn’t do.
Topic: Ebooks versus paper Books
Level: B2 (upper-intermediate)
Time: about 30 minutes
Step 1. Brainstorming vocabulary. As usual, we brainstorm vocabulary on the board. This is a necessary step as you don’t want students to get stuck because they can’t come up with a term.
Step 2. Posing the question. I write on the board ht e big question. In this case: What do you prefer? Ebooks or paper books?
Step 3. Using the two-corner teaching technique. This technique is actually called the four- corner technique, but I find a two-corner approach suits my classes better. With this technique, you get your students out of their seats and thinking about the topic they are going to discuss. In one corner of the classroom, I put up a notice saying paper books and in another corner a notice with ebooks written on it.
I ask students, still in their seats, to think which corner of the room they would choose and think of the reasons why they prefer one choice to another. After a bit of thinking time, I ask them to stand up and go to their corner of the room. Once there, they talk to the members of their group sharing ideas and talking about why they favour one choice and not the other.
Step 4. Getting ideas from other sources.
Time to see how others express your same idea and maybe get some others. Give students in favour of ebooks handout A and give handout B to students who prefer paper books. Let them read it and comment it in their groups.
Step 5. Persuading and Convincing
This is the part I like best. Pair up students from both corners. Their aim will be to campaign on behalf of their choice and try to convince a student from the opposite corner to flip sides.
For this activity, I have used the website https://netivist.org/ , which is a platform where users can debate and engage in thoughtful discussion sharing different points of view.
I know this is the third time I’ve posted this week. It seems I’m full of energy after the Christmas break. I really needed that break, didn’t you? Anyway, happy to go back to teaching, but hanging ominously over my head like a black cloud about to burst is the pressing necessity to start training my students to take their standardized speaking exams which will allow them to promote to the C1 (advanced level).
For those of you who are not familiar with the exam, let me explain how it goes. You might find you can apply it to your own classes, even though it’s not exactly the same kind of exam.
There are two tasks in the speaking exam.
Part 1: examiner-led conversation. The examiner asks questions about a topic and the students give full answers.
Part 2: the monologue, where the students are given a set of pictures (normally two or three).
About Part 2
In this second part, the one this whole post is built upon, the student is offered two or three colour photographs. Normally, the photos are in contrast or represent different options of the same issue. Also, there is a title or a statement which suggests the topic of the monologue. After some thinking time, normally a couple of minutes, the student is given the opportunity to speak for about 4-5 minutes without interruption.
At this level, students are expected to talk about the topic using a wide range of vocabulary and grammar structures and they will have to compare and contrast the pictures talking about the most important issues related to the topic.
Students face different fears when preparing for the oral exams. Some of them are:
Do I know enough specific vocabulary?
Will I be able to use a variety of structures or will I stick to the simple subj+verb+complement structure?
Now, the topic is “food”? 3 or 4 minutes talking about food? Seriously? For heaven’s sake, I cannot even talk for one minute, let alone three or four!
Vocabulary and ideas. Keywords here.
How I train my students. Topic: Food
This is how I help them step by step. Bear in mind this is the first post of a series of posts dedicated to training students to pass the oral exam. As students gain confidence, guidance will be less necessary and some of these steps will be either unnecessary or done by students as part of their learning process.
1. Brainstorming vocabulary. Learning progresses through prior knowledge, so tapping into students’ prior knowledge is an essential part of learning.
On the board, we brainstorm the vocabulary they already know. This is an important step because it helps students reinforce and bring to life the vocabulary studied in previous courses.
Then, I ask them some very simple questions where they can activate this vocabulary: What’s your favourite food? What is the most expensive restaurant that you have ever been to? What did you eat there?
2.Acquiring new vocabulary. We work on new vocabulary using a number of written and oral exercises. (Any good course book provides enough vocabulary input, at least to get started). It’s important to emphasize here the importance of learning words in chunks. Surely, you can teach the word “ obesity” on its own, but there some other words you really want to teach in collocations like, for example, “eating disorders” or to “be obsessed with”. Also important, essential I should say, is pronunciation.
3. Getting Ideas. Reading and Speaking. More often than not students find it hard to think on their feet. They find it difficult to come up with ideas that will fill in the 3 or 4 minutes allowed for this part.
You might disagree with me here, but I always tell them that oral exams are like the rest of the exams they might take. They need to prepare. They need to study.
Lack of preparation might result in something I’ve seen very often when assessing oral exams; students might talk for one minute and then, suddenly, stop. Now, you might wait patiently for them to come up with something else but the truth is that very often, when prompted to continue, they just repeat the same ideas they have already used. Why? most of the times due to lack of preparation. They mistakenly think that they don’t need to study for oral exams. They do.
So, listen up dear students! You need to study for oral exams.
Reading about different issues related to the topic not only reinforces the vocabulary they have learnt and gives them a chance to see it used in context but also gives them ideas of what they can talk about when doing the real task.
We read the extracts in class or set the reading task as homework.
We underline relevant vocabulary.
Students discuss the questions in pairs, followed by class discussion.
4. The pictures. I am lucky to have a computer and an overhead projector in my class, so I normally display a collage with two or three related pictures on the board. You can see the ones I have used for this topic here and here.
Together we read the title and brainstorm ideas to fill in these 3 or 4 minutes. This step should be easy now as we have previously discussed some ideas in the previous task. Some ideas could be:
Together, we brainstorm vocabulary
To be obsessed with
Look at the pictures and the title if there is one. It will hint at what you need to talk about.
If you are given some thinking time, use it.
Remember that you are not asked to describe in detail what you can see in the pictures. You are asked to compare and contrast the pictures talking about the topic.
Focus on three or four ideas and develop them as much as you can without repeating yourself. Start with a short introduction about the topic, talk about the first idea, develop it; start with the second idea and repeat procedure.
Don’t forget to use specific vocabulary and a variety of structures.
Essential: practise a lot and record yourself taking the exam.
6. Homework. Further practice. Collaboratively writing on a Padlet.
This follow-up task has two main aims:
to reinforce acquired knowledge and strategies
to share ideas. By asking students to write on a collaborative Padlet, they benefit from each other and see other ideas which might help them improve their own performance.
All the Padlets created for this purpose will then be shared in a single one where students, at a glance, can decide what topic to revise.
In the next post, we will move from writing to speaking on a Padlet.