Category Archives: In the Computer Room

15 Ways a Screen Recorder can Help you in your English Classes

Today I want to share with you an amazing screen recording tool Screencast-o-matic, which has a lot of potential to teach and learn English.

Hey! Wait! I know, you are not tech-savvy. You don’t need to be. Trust me. When you finish reading this post, I’m sure you will be willing to give it a go . The reasons?

  • It’s super easy to use! Do you know how to press a button? Then, you know how to use this tool.
  • You don’t even need to register.
  • It has a lot of potential to teach/learn English.

Let’s start:

What is Screen-o-matic?

Screencast-o-matic is a free (you don’t even need to register) easy-to-use screen recording. You can use your webcam or both. Screen-o-matic will capture everything on your screen and then, if you wish, share it.

How can I use it in the classroom?

As a teacher

1. For correcting your students’ written assignments. We all have been in this situation: a student is ill or away on a business trip, but he still needs to have some feedback on his written assignment. With this tool, it’s very easy to offer visual constructive feedback by giving audio and visual cues.

Have your students send you their essays by email. Record yourself correcting and explaining their mistakes. Then, send them the video. Thanks to Russell Stannard for this awesome idea. Here’s an example uploaded to screen-o-matic. Sorry, I don’t sound very energetic. It was very late and I was dead tired!

 2.  For assessing students’ speaking skill, especially when describing pictures or talking about slides. Ask them to choose one or several pictures and ask them to record themselves. Here’s an example of one of my students uploaded to youtube. Thank you Elsa! 🙂

3. For a variety of speaking activities:

  • To explain a recipe
  • To talk about your favourite group, hobby, family…etc
  • To describe, for example,  traditional games, unusual customs…etc.
  • For first-day presentations
  • For book/film reviews

The only limit is your imagination.

4. For recorded contests:

  • It’s St Valentine’s day, ask them to invent a romantic story
  • It’s Halloween, time for a horror story!
  • Give them a set of pictures and ask them to create a story
  • Give them some words and expressions and ask them to create a story
  • For recorded minisagas (maximum of 50 words)

5. For asessing students’ reading fluency and pronunciation. Ask students to read a given text online and ask them to send their recording.

6. For flipping your classroom. Not every student learns in the same way so it would be a good idea to record some of the most difficult grammar points for weak students to revise at home.

7.  Doing exams at home. You can even make things easier for students who, for personal reasons, cannot sit exams in the classroom. Send them the test and ask them to record themselves answering the questions either in written or oral form. It might be a good idea to give them a time limit to send back the video with the answers. You can ask them to use the webcam, too (for obvious reasons).

8.  To make tutorial videos to explain a task they need to do online or how an online tool works, for example this one. The yellow pointer makes it easy for students to follow your explanations. Example here

9. Help your substitute teacher. You can even make a video to help your substitute teacher if you’re going to miss class.

As a student

10. Using your webcam, for collaborative projects.

11. As an alternative to a Power Point presentation individually or in groups.

12. To do any oral assignment with one or several slides.

13. To state your opinion on any given topic.

14. To record yourself when practising for oral tests.

Why do I like it?

  • You don’t have to register or give your email address unless you want to upload it to their server.
  • You can record up to 15 minutes
  • You can create different folders for your different classes. If you create an account and share the email address and password with your students they can upload their own assignments and have everything neatly organised in folders.
  • You can choose to record only your computer screen, you can use your webcam or both
  • You can resize your recording window.
  • You can choose the microphone you want to use and adjust the volume. For laptops you can use the built-in microphone.

Is it easy to use? Very easy.

  • Go to screen-o-matic .
  • Click the “Start Recording” button and the recording button will be launched.

  • Click the red button Rec and everything inside the frame will be recorded.
  • You can pause or restart or click Done when you finish.
  • Now, a new window will open offering you the possibilities of downloading your video, or uploading it to youtube or to Screen-o-matic.com (to use this last option you will need to register). Uploading to Screen-o-matic.com is free and it has some advantages:

  1. It gives you a unique url or an embed code to use on your website or blog
  2.  You can create different channels and upload your recordings in an organised way. This is particularly interesting if you want to create a channel for your students to upload their recordings.

There is an online version, which works pretty well with Windows but not so well with Mac, and a downloadable version which works with both PC and Mac.There is a free and a pro version, but I should say that the free version works just fine.

Thanks for reading!

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Four Excellent Sites for Online Dictations

Oh boy. Does it bring back memories!
Dictations! To be completely honest with you, I have mixed feeling as regards dictations. I remember back in primary school when the language teacher gave us lots of dictations like a well- deserved break after a tough grammar lesson; and then, this feeling of “I don’t want to ever hear the word dictation again” that I got from my classes at university where the teacher gave us one-page-long dictations so quickly that when he finished, he was panting for breath and we were seeing red.

Although doing dictations is somewhat regarded as an old-fashioned technique, it is undeniable that a lot of benefits can be derived from doing this exercise. In fact, it is an integrative activity requiring the use of various skills like listening, writing and reading -when you read the passage you have written, looking for grammar or spelling mistakes. You might even add speaking if the dictation is used as a prompt to encourage discussion of the passage.

In case you are not fully convinced that dictations also have their place in the twenty-first century classroom, here are some more benefits you might want to consider:
• It improves spelling.
• It improves recognition of grammatically correct sentences.
• It helps students distinguish sounds in continuous speech.
• It improves students’ awareness of punctuation.
• It gives students practice in comprehending and helps them gain fluency in writing.

If I have managed to convince you, here are some links to online dictations you might want to try or if you are a teacher, heartily recommend to your students.

Dictations  Online.

This site specializes in dictations and although it is free, you can sign in to do more dictations or keep track of your score  and view your score history. They are graded from elementary to advanced.

The students hear the dictation four times

  • The first time, the whole passage is read at normal speed to listen for gist.
  • The  second time, each phrase is read slowly twice, with punctuation.
  • Then the whole passage is read again to check your work.
  • And finally, the written text is shown  for you to see  your mistakes.

Englishclub.

I like the site. It is very user-friendly. The dictations are graded going from Elementary, with short recordings of one or two phrases, to Advanced with recordings of one or two paragraphs.

Learn English free

This site features two levels: elementary and intermediate. It has a very clean interface where you’ll see two recording of the same dictation. One recorded at a normal speed and the other one at a slow speed with pauses to give you time to write down what you hear. You only need to follow the instructions.

ESL: English as a Second Language

Aimed at Intermediate and Upper-intermediate students, this site offers an amazing numbers of dictations

Do you like these sites or would you rather create your own dictations? Here are two online free tools to convert text to speech.

VOKI

SLIDETALK

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Conversation Starters: An Interesting Site to Help you with the Speaking Test.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” Art Williams

Of all the parts in  the English exam  my students, without a single doubt, fear the speaking test  the most.

Oral exams require lots of study and preparation. Don’t dream for a minute of taking this exam without  putting  some real elbow grease into it. It’s only the very skilled ones who feel at ease while facing a board of two or three teachers asking questions and taking notes.

Very often my students feel frustrated by their inabilty to react to questions; they mention things such as their mind going blank, panicking, having absolutely nothing to say on the issue, words not coming  etc. While it is true that in an oral test you have to think on your feet  and some students don’t have this ability, it is also true  that, very often,  you know  or can guess what  topics you can expect  in the exam (  they are quite a few, yes, I know 🙂 ) so before the test, why don’t you  practise  how you would  answer some questions and see what vocabulary you need to study ?. If you do it,  you’ll be absolutely fine!

So, my nothing-to-write-home-about  tips

♥ Write  a list of all the topics in the exam

♥Think of some questions you might be asked for each topic

♥ Study relevant vocabulary to talk about these  topics. If you are talking about Technology, you might want to use the expression” keep in touch” or the word “gadget”

♥ Practise how you would answer these questions

♥ Record yourself

♥ Concentration during the speaking test is essential.

♥ Be positive. “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there”

To help you prepare for this part of the exam, I am going to share with you a nice site to practise your responses to questions you might be asked in the test. The site is called Conversationstarters .com  and it generates random questions for different topics. So, click the button and start practising!!

 

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Using a Song to Revise Vocab Related to Fashion

This song will fit like a glove if you are learning/teaching a Fashion- and- Clothes related semantic field.
This song You Look Good on Me is performed by Natasha Bedingfield, one of my favourite singers, and though I don’t think she had English teachers on her mind when she wrote it, the thing is that it is just perfect for teaching fashion and clothes related vocabulary. So, this is how I am planning to use it with my intermediate students- nothing to write home about, really. I intend to play the song as a revision exercise, so my students will already be familiar with most of the words/expressions in the song.

First and Second Time– they listen to the song twice without seeing the lyrics and in pairs they will have to write down as many words as they identify, related to the above- mentioned semantic field. Students, in turns, say the words or expressions they’ve jotted down and explain them to the rest of the class while I write them on the board for everybody to see.

Once this is done, I’ll write on the board the words/expressions they‘ve missed and ask students to explain the meaning of them.

♥Finally I’ll give them the lyrics or display them with OHP ( we need to save the planet, don’t we? – even though it is a small drop in the ocean, it is still something)

Here’s the song

 

Here are the lyrics

Da da da da da da
Oo oo oo
Da da da da da da

Goin’ on a shopping spree
Pick something out to look good on me
I want quality
Not quantity
Want a classic
Not a trend
Casual yet still high end
I know what I want
and I’m not afraid to spend

So if you
Fit me tight but let me breathe
Let me wear your heart on my sleeve
Be the thread that winds the seams
You could look so good on me
Fit me like a second skin
My favourite jeans that I could live in
Wouldn’t need accessories
You would look so good on me

I’m checking out
Goods on display
Don’t play it safe or too risque
I’m done window shopping
I’m ready to pay
I’m going up
Fifth floor
The best stuff’s in store
Cos that’s where they keep
What every girl would die for

So if you
Fit me tight but let me breathe
Let me wear your heart on my sleeve
Be the thread that winds the seams
You could look so good on me
Fit me like a second skin
My favourite jeans that I could live in
Wouldn’t need accessories
You would look so good on me

ahh ahh ahhh
da da da da da da

ahh ahh ooo

Everything’s perfect
When you’re looking through the glass
The colours can fade as seasons pass
This time I wanna, wanna nail them to the mast

Fit me tight but let me breathe
Let me wear your heart on my sleeve
Be the thread that winds the seams
You could look so good on me
Fit me like a second skin
My favourite jeans that I could live in
Wouldn’t need accessories
You would look so good on me

Fit me tight but let me breathe
Let me wear your heart on my sleeve
Be the thread that winds the seams
You could look so good on me
Fit me like a second skin
My favourite jeans that I could live in
Wouldn’t need accessories
You would look so good on me

VOA Learning English: Interesting Site to Read and Listen to American English

Voa Learning English really needs some serious exploring. Though I have to say that, in my opinion, the site is a bit of a mess, it could be a great help to some autonomous learners.

What does it offer? The site provides interesting articles based on news and information. The stories are read slowly, or at least at a slower speed and it allows you the possibility of reading the story and listening to the audio at the same time. The mp3 audio can be downloaded, which is also very helpful.

What about the level? Difficult to say  because although the stories are read quite slowly, the vocabulary is quite advanced. You’ll just have to try and see.

Stories are divided into Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 and very often there are exercises following the audio.

if you further explore the site, you will find a section “Learning English TV” with captioned videos that will allow you to watch a story while reading the rolling script.

But there are two sections that I absolutely adore that deal with idioms and expressions:

Words and their Stories and English in a Minute where each week idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand are explained. Don’t miss them!

Another interesting feature in this site is that it has a built-in dictionary. You just have to click on any word to get its meaning. You really need to give a go to this interesting site, especially if you like reading the news and are interested in American English.

The Flipped Classroom: Two Interesting Tools

I couldn’t just wrap up the school year and kick off the summer holidays without mentioning these two interesting tools I’ll be trying this summer to add to the list of useful tools I have been trying on and off in the flipped classroom setting. The Flipped Classroom Concept is the new trend in education. Classes are flipping all over the world. Well, maybe in Spain, it is not so popular yet but I think it has a great potential in classes where the students are motivated to learn.
The Flipped Classroom is a reversed teaching concept. Basically the teacher, through about 5 minute -created videos, teaches the students at home and then “homework” is moved to the classroom. One of the advantages of this method is that students learn at their pace and while some students might need to watch the video just once to understand the content, weaker students will not feel left behind as they will be able to replay the video as often as they like without feeling they are interfering with the normal pace of the classroom. The student, then, comes to the classroom to work on what was explained in the video and time in the classroom is spent on practising, something the students cannot do at home on their own. There is,obviously, more time for student-teacher interaction. In this flipped classroom setting there are two tools I’m willing to give a try this summer and which I thought I would share with you, in case you want to give the Flipped Classroom a go next year.

The first tool is similar to MyBrainshark and VoiceThread, which I have been using for two years. It’s called Narrable and it allows you to upload photographs and record yourself or upload an audio file narrating your photo. When you sign up you only get 5 free narrables but you can get more free narrables if you don’t mind sharing them in facebook.

The other one is a bit more complicated and demanding on the teacher’s side and if you are camera shy, like me, maybe not so appealing but, anyway I’m willing to try it.
It’s called Movenote and it helps you record a video of yourself teaching accompanied by slides. First of all, you have to upload your images or presentations ( it supports pdfs, excel,.. and many more) and then you record yourself using your webcam while you explain your images. There is also the possibility of uploading a previously recorded video and synchronising it with the slides. It’s free , you only need to sign up to an account . The only thing I don’t like is that you share via an url but it doesn’t seem to offer the possibility of embedding it in a blog or website.

Useful Posts to Revise for Finals

I have been meaning to give MentorMob a try for some time and I never got around to doing it but when my students asked me where to revise for finals, MentorMob flashed in my mind and I saw the light. ;).

This little tool  allows you to organise your favourite posts or websites into a playlist  in a very easy way  and then you can always share it and embed it in a blog or website. In this way you can easily organise videos, pdfs, documents, websites, articles….. into playlists and then  assign them to your students in the computer room, as homework or  in a flipped classroom setting .

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Acapela.tv: converting text to speech in a funny way

This site is plain fun ! Acapela .tv is a new site that has a lot of potential for the language class.
Choose a real character or a cute cartoon and make him speak. Choose from a range of voices that interpret and read content with meaning and emotion. This text to speech tool is great to do dictations or revise vocabulary among other things.

HOW I’M PLANNING TO USE IT

♥I think it might be funny to divide the class into two groups -the class I have in mind, right now, is a small class of nine students; with larger classes I might need to divide it into three or four groups.

My aim with this activity will be to make sure students revise some vocabulary related to money for their next test. So, the class is divided into two groups. They need to listen to their cartoon speaking, write down the words the character asks them to revise and be able to explain them to the other group. Each character will say the same number of words and you know the rest… don’t you?? A competition, as usual, something that I, a very competitive person, just love.

TEAM A

TEAM B

♥My next step will be asking selected students from different courses to do the job. The volunteers will need to go home, register and create a character to revise vocabulary. Obviously, they’ll need to copy the link provided and send it to me so that I can display it when playing the game in class.

What do you think? Will they like it?

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The World of Games : ESL Games

Yeahhh! Ok ! Sometimes students deserve a treat! It’s the end of the course and most of them have studied pretty hard for their exams and it’s only fair that you reward them with a class in the computer room playing games!

GAMES??? before you start thinking I’ve gone mad  allowing  teenegers to play games, iiiin the computer room and iiiiiiin the English class, let me tell you that the games are reasonably inside the scope of what even parents would agree with being academic stuff.

The site is called eslgamesworld.com and, even I, would be returning from time to time to play the games and have fun.

You can choose Grammar Games, Games for ESL Classroon Teaching ( you can play here The Wheel of Fortune, Who wants to be a  Millionaire …etc), Vocabulary Games and Pronunciation Games. Take your pick!

Aren’t you dying to try these games?

English Media Lab

I’m sorry I haven’t posted for some days now but I’m up to my eyes. Preparing and marking exams takes up most of my free time. June is chaos!

I imagine you have plenty of ideas  when half the class is taking an exam and the others ,sort of have already passed all the tests, but here’s another one in case you’re running short of them.

I have taken my students to the computer room and let them roam a bit about this website. English Media Lab offers Grammar, Vocabulary , Pronunciation  , Videos and Games for different levels, though I have only used the  Elementary Level. They have all loved the Memory Games revising Vocabulary and they’ve made me promise to take them to the computer room once again before the course ends.

The website is a bit confusing because it has a lot of things and it might sometime take you outside their own website. I don’t really mind as long as the new website has what I’m looking for. Anyway , have a look at it and tell me what you think!

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