The Easiest Video Conference Platform- Need to Connect with your Students to Practise Speaking?

Really, it cannot be easier!

 

Since half the world is in lockdown and we are confined to our houses, now more than ever, technology comes to the rescue.

We, dedicated teachers, are doing our best to keep in touch with our students and though some of us have been using learning platforms for some time now, this is not the case for many teachers.

For most of us, home teaching is something new and although it is fairly easy to give students grammar and vocabulary exercises or listening comprehension activities to do at home when it comes to practising speaking, things get a bit more complicated.

Today, I want to share with you a video conferencing platform  8X8.vc , which is really super simple. It takes just one click to start a meeting. Seriously. You don’t even have to create an account.

I learned this from the generous Ingrid Mosquera and it is with her consent that I am publishing this post.

Note: At the end of the post, you will find a step by step guide for both teachers and students. Keep on reading, please.

Why do I like it?
  • Neither you nor your students have to register.
  • It offers unlimited meetings and unlimited minutes.
  • You don’t have to download any program or plugin.
  • There is not a limited free trial.
  • Students simply start or join a meeting with the click of a button.
  • The maximum number of participants is 50 (enough in my case).
How to set up a room without signing up
  • Open your Google Chrome browser and go to 8×8.vc. This is the best browser for this platform.
  • Name your meeting and click Start Meeting. Note: you can name the room or you can choose to keep the weird random name the program gives you. If you are worried about being hacked, this is probably safer than calling a room Cristina.
  • You might be prompted to download the extension for Google Calendar and Office. I have not done it.
  • Share the URL of the meeting with your students and automatically they will be in the same room as you.
  • If you sign up, then you can record the meeting.
  • Among other features, you can:
  • Share your screen
  • Raise your hand
  • Chat
What I like less and what to take into account before setting up a meeting
  • On a mobile device, you will have to download their app  8×8 Video Meetings.
  • It works best on Chrome.
  • The current maximum number of participants in a single meeting is 50, however, for meetings requiring additional participants, hosts can select a live stream to YouTube option that will support unlimited viewers. See How to Live Stream 8×8.vc  on Ingrid’s Youtube Channel.  I also highly recommend visiting her blog here.
  • If there are too many students you can ask them to mute their mikes. There is an icon for that.

Link to a step by step for students

Link to a step by step for teachers

Hope it is helpful!

 

Is it advice or advise? Awesome Repository of Confusing Words in English

I always tell my students English is easy.  When they hear me say that, those who have been with me for two or three years just roll their eyes and say: “Teacher, you always say that!  For you, everything is easy!” But hey! What’s the point of saying ” Careful here!! This is very difficult!”

I am sure you see my point.

 

Anyway, the thing is that when learning a foreign language not everything is a breeze. Unfortunately.  There are hundreds of words that can be easily confused because they have a similar spelling or a related, but different, meaning.

Today, I want to share with you a website Writing Explained that is really helpful in clarifying differences or similarities in the meaning of hundreds of confusing words. For example, do you know when or how to use  Altogether and All together? Some day versus Someday? Elder and older?

Why do I like this site?

  • Though the list of confusing words is not exhaustive and new sets of words are added every day, it is just perfect for the average students.
  • The words are in alphabetical order so it is very easy to find what you are looking for
  • It is explained in clear everyday English
  • Differences are always explained in 5 steps and I love the Summary. This is the one I would read if I knew the difference and just wanted to double-check.
  • I also like the idioms dictionary on this website. Why?  Because it not only explains the meaning of the featured idiom but also gives its origin and uses the idiom in a clear context.

Check it out! You’ll love the site!

Note: Fromm my enthusiasm describing this website, you might think that this is a sponsored post.  It is not. 😉

The Secret List: A Non-Prep Vocabulary Revision Game to Kick Off the Lesson

I always start my classes revising what we learned in the previous lesson. I do it for many reasons: it allows students who have missed the previous lesson to catch up and not fall behind, it gives students the opportunity to clarify meanings or pronunciation they haven’t quite grasped, and also it encourages retrieval practice that, in my opinion, is the way to learn.

I really think that the first 5 minutes are really important as it sets the mood for the rest of the lesson. That’s why I  am always designing revision activities that add variety in my lessons and, if possible, fun.

This one I will call The List. It’s quick, fun and effective.

Context: I have been working with the topic Language Learning and my students have been learning some new vocabulary. Time to revise it!

Procedure: Ask your students to write a secret list of 10 words, collocations or expressions they learned during the previous lesson. Ask them to keep it secret.

Pair students up. Tell students they will have 1 minute to try to guess the words on their partner’s list. Say Student A starts trying to guess the words on Student B’s list. As B listens to the words, he crosses the ones Student A has guessed. Ask them to change roles. Let students compare lists and have a look at the ones they could not guess. You might want to write them on the board to revise and reinforce.

Award 1 point for each guess. Need a timer?  Here

Done! Easy peasy!

 

Learning Languages: my Fave Videos to Spark Discussion

Hello March!

Kicking off the month with one of my favourite topics of conversation: languages learning. This is a lesson I feel I could entirely teach based on videos from the internet and conversation questions.

I always like to introduce a new topic with some visual aid that either sparks discussion or puts a smile on my students’ faces. This time, I might have gone too far and used not one but four videos. Ohh, but they are so good!

These are the videos I have been using over the years and that have never failed me!

TO PUT A SMILE ON THEIR FACES

I normally play this video at the very beginning of the lesson and ask them to guess our next topic.  Believe it or not, although I have seen it a thousand times, I still laugh my head off.

Useful Vocabulary:

  • translator, interpreter, to translate from Spanish into English, native speaker,  to be fluent, to speak a language fluently, to be proficient in (English); to speak like a native speaker, to be bilingual, lingua franca.

Discussion Questions

  • How many languages do you speak?
  • What is the most difficult language to learn in your opinion?
  • Have you ever tried to learn a language and given up because it was very difficult?
  • Do you think that in the future there will be just one language in the world?
  • Nowadays English is the lingua franca; do you think this is going to change any time soon?
TO BOOST THEIR MOTIVATION

Before playing the video, ask students:

Why are you learning English?

Useful Vocabulary:

to do a course, have a chat, standard English, slang, take a message,  widely spoken, mother tongue, make mistakes, pronunciation issues, to make an effort, to sign up for a course, to learn a language online, a complete beginner.

Discussion Questions

  1. How old were you when you started learning English? Do you think it is a good age?
  2. What motivated you to start learning English?
  3. What are the advantages of learning a foreign language?
  4. Are there any similarities between English and Spanish? Does Spanish have many loan words from English?
  5. When you are speaking in English, do you try to be accurate or do you just talk and not worry about making mistakes? Which way do you think is better?
TO HELP THEM GET BETTER AT ENGLISH

 

Useful Vocabulary:  to switch between two languages, to put into practice, to feel frustrated,   a conversation partner, to memorize vocabulary, to improve your grammar, speaking skills, to have a good range of vocabulary.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think it is possible for a non-native speaker to speak the language like a native?
  • What do you find most difficult to learn in English?  Why do you think is that?
  • What is the best way to speak a language?
  • What do you do on your own to improve your English?
  • What techniques do you use to learn new vocabulary?
TO SPARK DISCUSSION

 

Useful Vocabulary:

translator, interpreter,  context, translation fails, to come in handy, accurate translation,  basic conversation, translation app, a translation device.

Controversial Statements

On the board, write these two statements and ask students to choose the one they agree with.  Form two groups depending on their choice. Allow them to discuss their reasons to support the statement and then pair up students from different groups to try to convince each other to change sides.

The statements:

  • There is no point in learning a foreign language when Google Translator can do it for you”
  • “Translation technology is good but should not replace learning languages”

You,  as a teacher,  want to agree with the second statement. Here are some reasons against the use of translation apps and in support of the second statement  I have found to convince my students to keep on learning English. Do you think I’ll manage to convince them? Translation apps:

  • They cannot understand context or  translate pronouns correctly
  • Cultural references are lost
  • They don’t produce high-quality translations
  • Accuracy depends on your accent  or on background noise
  • You cannot use it for long  and involved conversations
  • It is not good at recognising proper names and names of cities
  • Your data is not safe

Modern Taboo with a Twist

Is there anything students love more than a good game? The Taboo Game is an oldie but goodie and I have yet to find a student who does not like it.  Playing and learning? It’s always a win-win.

Playing games in class is something that I often do. Well, not this year. I have been on sick leave for 2 weeks and it is taking its toll on my lessons. I feel like I am always in a  hurry trying to make up for lost time. It might be working. I might be finally catching up with the syllabus but I am not having as much fun this year as in the previous ones. And this needs to stop. Right now.

So, to give my students a much-needed respite, we have revised the relative sentences using the Taboo game.

GUIDED PRACTICE: RELATIVE SENTENCES
  1. Before playing, I wrote the beginning of a sentence and asked students to provide the relative pronoun. This is the best time to correct potential mistakes.
  • It’s a person… WHO/THAT
  • It’s something … WHICH/THAT
  • It’s  a place … WHERE
  • It’s a time … WHEN

2. I wrote the word  DOG on the board and asked students to define it using the correct relative pronoun. (for ex, it is an animal that barks).

3. Then, I wrote TEACHER in capitals and under the word TEACHER, I wrote 4 taboo words they were not allowed to use in their description of the word. For example: teach, students, subjects, school. Their definition could be something like ” it is a person whose job involves using the board a lot and helping people learn  English or maths”.

Tip: if it’s a B1 class, I would use only 3 taboo words instead of the 4 you have in this game

SEMI-GUIDED PRACTICE: MODERN TABOO

Once again, to create this game I have used the flexible multipurpose Spark Adobe ( honestly, I cannot go without it).

Procedure:

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask a representative from each team to come to the front of the class and face away from the board. Decide which team is going to start.
  2.  Player A faces their team A.  Display the presentation below. Team A describes the word at the top of the slide, without using any of the words below it (taboo words). If they use any of the taboo words, they will lose 1 point for their team and a new slide will be displayed. When Player A guesses a word, the team gets 1 point and a new slide is displayed.
  3. Team A continues to describe words for Player A for 1 minute. The game continues with teams and players taking it in turns to describe and guess words. The team with the highest score at the end of the game are the winners.

NOTE: Make sure you don’t use all the words on the presentation below. You will need at least 4 for a variation od the Taboo Game you can do at the end of the game to practise questions.

Taboo

FREE PRACTICE

Once each team has had their turn, I have put them in groups of 4 and given them paper cards to continue playing. This time, Player A describes the word to their Team. One player from Team B is allowed to see the card to make sure none of the words on the card are used. You can get plenty of Taboo cards on IslCollective. Bear in mind, you will need to register to download content.

You can also download the traditional Taboo Cards here (B1-B2)  and here (A1-A2)

THE TWIST: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

To wrap up the activity, ask a representative from Team A and Team B to come to the front of the class. Ask them to face their team and away from the board.  Display a word. The team will have to ask questions so that Student A guesses the word; again, they cannot use any of the Taboo words in their questions.

Remember our example?TEACHER? This could go like this…

Team A to Student A

  • Who helps you learn English?  Who is standing right next to you? Who writes your school report?

I hope you have enjoyed the activity! Have fun teaching, have fun learning!