Category Archives: General

Gone on Holiday! Back in October! + Most Popular Posts This School Year

The course is finished. That’s it! Another year has gone by. Times flies. I’m almost scared. One minute you’re greeting your new students and the next you are saying your goodbyes. OMG, life seems to be speeding up and before I know it, I’ll be greeting another batch of students.

Anyway, it’s June and, as usual I won’t be around until I resume classes, which will be at the end of September.

In between? More written and oral exams, some holidays, some brush up courses , the Camino de Santiago (St James’s way) and a long-awaited overseas trip. I’m also very excited to share with you that this summer I will be working creating content for Cambridge University Press, which I hope will share with you once I begin posting again. So, a busy summer for me!!

I hope to “see” you all next September. I’ll be calling the roll!!

 

A little Experiment: Hitting the Intermediate Plateau? No, you’re not.

Do your students sometimes feel as if they are not making enough progress? Do they sometimes have the impression their language learning has slowed? Do they feel they are stuck in the intermediate plateau?

While this feeling is completely normal, it can sometimes be very frustrating for our students. You might try to explain to them that this is just part of the natural process of learning a language, but the truth is that in their eyes, they are just not progressing as fast as they think they should, no matter how hard they try. It’s true that this perception is not real, but it never hurts to show them how unreal it is.

Today I want to share with you a little experiment I did with my students. Very simple, but very effective too. I did with my intermediate students, but you can easily try it with students of any level.

What’s the aim of the experiment?

to make students aware of how much they have learned at the end of a topic-based lesson. The idea is to brainstorm vocabulary related to the topic twice: at the very beginning and at the very end of the lesson(s) to make them realize how much they learn in the course of a single lesson. Making students aware of how much they are learning can dramatically improve teaching effectiveness as it is a powerful way to boost their motivation.

How long does it take?

5 minutes at the very beginning of the lesson and five more at the end of it. If you dedicate two or more sessions, 5 minutes at the beginning of the first session and 5 minutes at the end  of the last one.

Do you need to use technology?

I am afraid you do. For this experiment, students need to use their mobile phones with internet connection or any other device with internet connection. The good news is that you just need one device every three or four students. I have also used  Answergarden, which is a very simple free tool used for getting real time feedback from a group. It’s really very easy to use, but if you think you need extra help, you can watch a video tutorial in Teachertrainingvideos.com or read a brief tutorial here.


THE EXPERIMENT


  • Go to Answergarden and create a New Answergarden (it literally takes less than one minute). In my case, I created an Answergarden with the title City Life vs Country Life as this was the topic we were about to study in class.
  • Ask students to work in pairs or in groups of three and use just one mobile phone.
  • Share the link with your students and ask them to type the url in their devices (as I have mentioned, my students used their mobile phones) You can use Google shortener to shorten the link.
  • Ask students to brainstorm vocabulary related to “living in the city and living in the countryside”, enter the  vocabulary in the box and carefully check the spelling before submitting their answers. Allow 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Display on the overhead projector the answergarden. As students submit answers, click the Refresh tab on the bottom menu to update the answer display.

(below you can see the first wordcloud)

  • Go through the vocabulary they have submitted and make sure you save this first word cloud.
  • Teach vocabulary as any other ordinary day
  • Repeat procedure at the end of the lesson or the sessions dedicated to this topic.

  • Display both clouds and ask students to compare them and reflect on how much they have learned on the course of a single lesson. Contrasting both word clouds will undoubtedly not only motivate your students, but also will reinforce the idea of progress that is sometimes lost especially at the intermediate level.

Another idea with the same aim would be to ask students, at the end of a unit, to write everything they have learned in this unir. They’ll be just amazed at how much progres they have made.

 

 

2 Superb Activities with Posters to Review Topics before Oral Exams

I love working with posters and these two activities combine some of the elements that guarantee a successful lesson: movement, interaction, visuals and fun.

It is great if you need to revise a number of topics before an oral exam.

 

ACTIVITY ONE: 

Aim:  to revise several conversation topics integrating grammar, speaking and writing.

Level: B1 (intermediate and above)

Time: 50 minutes or more

Materials: post-it notes (alternatively, you can use pieces of paper+ Sellotape/blu-tack). I have used the free website Canva to create my posters. You can see them here. I have used the free website wheeldecide to create a wheel for the wh-words. (short video tutorial here)

Task. In this engaging activity students will need to work in pairs or small groups and provide the questions which will be later answered in groups about a certain topic.

Preparation:

  • Create as many posters as topics you want to revise and display them on the walls on the class. See mine above. You can also do this activity without posters by writing the different topics on pieces of paper, although obviously this is less appealing. Ideally, the topics should be written big enough to be seen from the back of the class.
  • Create a wheel containing wh- words and a yes/no question option. See mine below. If you don’t want to use a wheel, you can write the wh- words on pieces of paper and put them in a box.

In class

This activity is divided into two stages

Stage 1.

  • Direct students’ attention to the walls of the class and read the different topics to be revised.
  • Ask students to work in pairs or small groups.
  • Spin the wheel. Students in their groups choose a topic  from the ones displayed on the walls and write a question about it beginning with the wh- displayed on the wheel. Give students sticky notes and ask them to write their question there, and then stick it next to the poster it refers to.

For example: the wheel displays How?. Group A decides to write a question about City life and Country Life. They might write something like: How are city people and country people different?

  • Spin the wheel again and repeat procedure as many times as you want. Each time students will need to choose a different topic.

Stage 2

  • Ask the groups to stand up and stand next to a topic. Students read the questions on the sticky notes and discuss them. Encourage the use of specific vocabulary.
  • After five minutes, ask the groups to rotate to the next topic.

 


ACTIVITY TWO: 

Aim:  to revise several conversation topics .

Level: B1 (intermediate and above)

Time: 30 minutes or more

Materials:  I have used the free website Canva to create my posters. You can see them here

Task. In this fun activity students will alternate playing the roles of interviewer and interviewee while reviewing different topics before taking an oral exam.

Preparation:

For this review activity you’ll need to create posters on different topics and write two or three topic-related questions to be used in the interview.

In class

Ask as many students as posters you have displayed on the walls of the class to stand up and stand next to a poster. One student, one poster. Let’s call them Student A. They are now the interviewees. There should be, at least, the same number of students sitting down. Let’s call them Student B. They are the interviewers.

Ask Student B to stand up and choose a student A to interview using the questions on the poster. Encourage Student A to elaborate on the answers. Allow 3-4 minutes.

Ask student B, i.e. the interviewer, to exchange places with Student A and become the interviewee and ask student A to rotate to the next topic and become the interviewer.

In this way, students alternate being the interviewer and interviewee while revising a variety of topics in a dynamic way.

Repeat procedure until all the topics have been covered.

(Note: this activity can also be done if you need to have two Students B in one station. They’ll just have to take the role of interviewer twice before becoming an interviewee.

Hope you enjoy the activities!

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HiNative: Ask Questions, Get Answers

Wouldn’t it be just awesome to have native speakers almost at your beck and call to answer any of your questions and for free?

That’s HiNative, a free question/answer platform where you can ask questions and get answers about language and culture from native speakers all around the world.

I came across this extremely useful website by chance and decided to check it out. It was Saturday, 9.30 in the evening and thought it was probably not the best time to post a question and get an answer. I was wrong. Within 5 minutes of posting my question, I had 4 answers from native speakers so imagine how fast it would be any other day of the week.  Hinative is a give-and-take platform and though you don’t necessarily have to do it, the thing is that I also liked the idea of helping others with questions about my own native language and so the site got me entertained for a long while.

 

You can also download their free app on your mobile phone.

How does it work?

  1. Sign up. You’ll be sent an email to confirm your account.
  2. The interface is very simple and easy to use.

  • Home: Here you can find questions other users ask about your own native language. Remember that it’s a give-and-take platform and you’re also expected to help other users
  • Notifications:  this is where you’ll be notified about new answers to your questions.
  • Profile: Here you can modify your profile and your settings
  • Ask: where you can pose your questions. Below you’ll see some of the templates you can use to make it easier for you to ask.

3. Ask your question. What kind of questions can you ask?

You can ask questions such as “what’s the difference between “scholarship” and “grant”? or How do you say “___” in English? or Please show me examples with the expression ” take it for granted”

So, I decided to use one of the templates and ask  Please show me examples with the expression ” take it for granted”. This is what I got.

So, quite easy really, just register, ask your question and sit back while waiting for someone to get back to you. You won’t have to wait long.

10 Best Free Listening Websites with Quizzes to Practise for Listening Exams

So what do you do to practise listening for exams?

Growing up, I never had the opportunity to do any extra practice to improve my listening skills. We didn’t have the Internet and the thousand possibilities it offers to learners of any language nowadays. The teachers had an old tape player that sometimes stopped and started on its own and old tapes that ended up sounding distorted and most of the times unlistenable so if you wanted to get better at listening, you just listened to the radio and struggled to understand the lyrics and sing along. Not that I ever complained. That was the perfect excuse to listen to music while claiming to be working hard. I have to say that my father never bought it!

So, exams are just around the corner and I know you’re beginning to freak out. Don’t worry! Here I am, coming to the rescue!

These are, in my opinion, the best sites with quizzes to practise listening comprehension. In no particular order.


TALK ENGLISH


  • url: http://www.talkenglish.com/listening/real.aspx
  • Levels: three main levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: no
  • What I like best: it has some other listening activities like dictations or listening based on pictures for lower levels. It also has a section dedicated to advanced students with a story and some comprehension questions. See here
  • What I don’t like: In my opinion, the “listening” categorised under “advanced level” is far too easy.

 ELLLO


  • url: http://www.elllo.org/
  • Levels: six levels (beginners-advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: grammar or vocabulary activities
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: only audio for vocabulary
  • What I like best: there are seven activity types (see them here) and a variety of accents.
  • What I don’t like: a bit disorganised.

ESL LOUNGE


  • url: http://www.esl-lounge.com/student/listening.php
  • Levels: four  (elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate and advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: it offers different kinds of comprehension exercises (multiple choice, cloze, true/false…etc)

BRITISH COUNCIL


  • url: http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice
  • Levels: five levels ( A1, A2, B1, B2, C1)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: very user-friendly for both students and teachers. PDF available for exercises, answers and transcript.
  • Extra: The British Council also runs some other sections to improve and practise your listening skills and learn about Britain, its culture, its language and its people. See here

 EDTED LESSONS WORTH SHARING


  • url: http://ed.ted.com/lessons
  • Levels: advanced
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: all the lessons have three parts : watch, think (where you can do the comprehension exercise) and discuss (post-listening questions)
  • Transcript: no, although most lessons are on youtube, and you can watch them with subtitles
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I don’t like: the audio is not sorted by level and although most of videos are for advanced students, some of them are much easier than others so I would say that they are suitable for B2 students and higher. You need to register although it’s free.
  • Extra: you can also create your own lessons

ESOL COURSES


  • url: http://www.esolcourses.com/content/topicsmenu/listening.html
  • Levels: four main levels (upper elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper-intermediate)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: most of the times
  • Transcript: no
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I like best: carefully designed  user-friendly lessons plans

ESL VIDEO


  • url: http://www.eslvideo.com/index.php
  • Levels: five ( from beginner to advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: not always
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I don’t like: anybody can create a listening quiz so it might contain mistakes
  • Extra: You can create your own quiz

 


BREAKING NEWS ENGLISH


  • url: http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/index.html
  • Levels: seven levels
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: you can listen to the same piece of news at different levels and the news can be read at different speeds.
  • Extra: Sean Banville’s also runs eight other sites, check them out here

 


RANDALL’S ESL CYBER LISTENING LAB


  • url : http://www.esl-lab.com/
  • Levels: three levels ( easy, medium and difficult)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: Both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: No
  • What I like best: the post-listening activities and the vocabulary section ( see here) where you can learn how to pronounce words associated to different topics.

LYRICS TRAINING


  • url: https://lyricstraining.com/
  • Levels: four ( from beginner to expert)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: any lyrics site will have the lyrics for the song
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I like: it’s fun and a different way to approach listening exercises.
  • Extra: You can create your own exercises (beta).

Check also:

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Write your CV or Resume with Free Editable Templates

Do you dread having to write your résumé or CV?

I’m dropping in right quick to show you something that could be really interesting if you need to write a résumé or a CV.

A few days ago, one of my students asked me a favour. She was considering applying for a job outside Spain and wanted me to “have a look” at her résumé.

The truth is that it’s never easy to write this kind of document and even less if it needs to be written in a language that is not your own. So, a bit of help, guidance and a model to copy is always welcome.

Canva is a free graphic-design tool website I have been using for about two years to create beautiful engaging posters for my class, but Canva collection of content types is continually growing and among other content types, they have recently introduced templates for résumés which are fully editable. Make sure you choose the free templates unless, of course, you don’t mind paying a small fee. And remember you can change colours, fonts, insert text, images…etc. Below you can see a small tutorial I have created to help you get started.

2 Fresh & Fun Activities to Practise Both, Neither and Either

If you think that teaching both, neither and either is a bit boring, I have good news for you. In fact, I dare say great news!  It can also be fun!

It’s no secret on here that I love having fun in my classes but what people may not know is that although flexible when necessary, my classes are carefully planned and  games are not played just  to keep my students entertained; on the contrary, they are carefully designed and used to improve certain abilities and with a clear goal in mind. If at the same time we can have a nice time, that’s the icing on the cake.


1.SOULMATES

This is a team game and it aims at practising the structures

  • Both/Neither of them
  • Both… and / neither…nor

Materials:

  • 2 white cards with YES written on one side and NO on the other
  • Teacher’s here

PROCEDURE

  1. Divide the class into two or three teams.
  2. Ask the teams to select two people to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will sit facing their team.
  3. Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game.
  4. Explain you’re going to give each of the two members of the team a white card withYES written on one side and NO on the other. Tell them you’re going to ask them 10 yes/no questions.
  5. Their team will score a point every time these two students show the same answer to the questions asked, and the team provides a correct sentence containing the target structure.
  6. Repeat procedure for Teams B and C and give a big applause to the winners.

Example 1.

  • Teacher asks: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: YES     Student B: YES
  • TeamBoth of them have scored 10 out of 10 in an exam / Both Mary and Peter have  scored 10 out of 10 in an exam (1 point)

Example 2.

  • Teacher asks: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: NO    Student B: NO
  • Team: Neither of themhave/has scored 10 out of 10 in an exam / Neither Mary nor Peter has scored 10 out of 10 in an exam (1point)

Example 3

  • Teacher: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: YES     Student B: YES (0 points)

2. CHANGING SCHOOLS

This communicative activity has two parts.

In part 1, students will have a conversation where the aim is to agree with their partner using the structures:

  • So do I- to agree with a positive statement
  •  Neither do I or  I don’t either- to agree with a negative statement

In part 2, students will report back to the class using:

  • Both/Neither of us…
  • We both…
  • Both … and … / Neither … nor…

PROCEDURE. 

PDF teacher’s here

  1. Ask students to work in pairs and give them Handout A and B.
  2. Ask them to complete the answers.
  3. Explain the context. You have just changed schools and you don’t know anybody in the class. You want to make new friends quickly and the best way, if not the most honest one, would be to agree with whatever the student sharing your desks says. So, five minutes before the next class starts you decide to strike a conversation with the student sitting next to you.
  • Start by introducing yourself and then ask your classmate some questions.
  • Your classmate will introduce himself and also ask some questions. Make sure you agree with everything he/she says using the structures.

So do I- to agree with a positive statement

Neither do I or I don’t either- to agree with a negative statement

  1. Ask students to report back to the class using:
  • Both/Neither of us..
  • We both…
  • Both … and … / Neither … nor…

Ex. Both of us have one brother/We both have one brother/ Both Peter and me have one brother

Neither of us can speak Norwegian/ Neither Peter nor me can speak Norwegian

Example Handout Student A


You might also be interested in the following

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

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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