Tag Archives: listening

My latest Tech Crush: Fluentkey. An Interactive Listening Competitive Game

If you have been following me for a while, you must know that I am deeply into technology. I don’t know how it happened. I am not a digital native. Far from it. I don’t know. I think it was love at first sight. We have been together for almost 14 years and I don’t think we are going to split up anytime soon.

Technology is so integrated into my lessons that I no longer realize how often or how many different activities I have created with a certain tool. Technology is just part of the lesson and using it feels like having a break. Like  having a shower after a long day. Students are beginning to tune out? Time to introduce an activity created with a digital tool. Carefully planned, of course. With methodology, of course.

Anyway, the hardest question I’ve been asked lately has been, “What’s your favourite digital tool to use in class?” Well, this is hard for me to answer. I have so many. The question I  automatically asked was: What for? There are some tools that are more versatile than others but if I had to answer, I’d wince( I love so many) and say the ones where students can take an active role and that add an element of healthy competition. And the tool I am going to share with you today offers that.

Can you imagine a tool, just like Kahoot, but for Listening Comprehension activities? That’s what FluentKey.com/live is.

There are lots of different ways we can exploit video or audio in class. Some more engaging than others. Well, let me tell you that Fluent key is totally engaging. It is just the tool I was waiting for. It makes listening fun by turning real-life videos into an interactive game student can play using their mobiles.
Created by two language teachers, Hollin Wakefiled and Hugo Xiong and a software engineer Tajddin Maghni, it is bound to revolutionize the way we do listenings.

What is Fluentkey?

FluentKey Live is an interactive classroom listening game. The teacher displays a video on a projector while students race to answer comprehension questions on their own devices and compete for the highest score.

How does it work?

o Register for free
o Find the right video
o Choose Play Fluentkey/live
o Share the code with your students and ready to go!

Why do I like it?
The teachers:

o Are you up to your eyes and don’t have the time to look for a video and create the comprehension questions? No problem. Fluentkey has a library of ready-made videos with quizzes. You can find the right video for your class by using the different filters (level, category, theme). Choose the video, have a look at the questions in the quiz and if you like them, just share the code with your students and get ready to play.
o Do you like the video but need to modify some questions or/and add new ones?? No problem! Duplicate the video and edit it.
o Can’t you find the right video for you? No problem! 😆 Upload a video from YouTube or Facebook (Yes!!. Facebook.) or copy/paste the link,  click on Create a quiz and add your own questions. You can add multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, matching… among others.
o Playing Fluentkey/live is completely free.
o You can adjust the speed of the audio

The students

o The students do not need to download any app. You just instruct them to go to fluentkey.com/live , type the code you give them and play.
o Students can use their computers, tablets or mobile phones.
o They can play individually or in groups
o The faster they answer, the more points they get

The game:

Once you press Play, the video will automatically play until it reaches a question. Students on their devices can preview the question and the kind of question (multiple choice, matching…) but the answers are not yet visible. At this point, the teacher can choose Watch again or Ready to answer. If you press Ready to answer, the answers show up on the students’ devices and a 30-second countdown begins. The faster they answer, the more points they get. Press Next to show the score and then again Next to keep playing the video

What I don’t like

o You cannot change the time students are given to answer a question. It’s always 30 seconds.

TIP: FluentKey was released only this year and they are still growing so not everything is perfect right now. I strongly recommend turning off the subtitles on YouTube before pasting the link on Fluentkey.

I’ll be presenting this tool for the first time in Menorca this weekend. Can’t wait to hear what teachers think about it!

Have a look at my face-to-face workshops: here and here.: the perfect combination of the latest technology and traditional teaching.

When in Rome do as the Romans Do: a Lesson about Manners, Habits, Customs and Traditions

Say hello to one of my favourite activities.

Here’s what makes this activity perfect for me and my style of teaching

  • Enhancing their listening skills by listening to authentic audio. Giving students authentic audio they can understand is a real boost to their confidence. Another plus, if there are no comprehension questions, as is the case, students feel more relaxed. Did you know that reducing stress enhances learning? (D Krashen 1981).
  • Gallery walks using posters which gives students the chance to stretch their legs, and practise their speaking abilities.
  • A small writing activity related to the posters
  • Giving students the possibility to work with different students in the class

The lesson
Lead-in

On the board, write the proverb below and ask students, in pairs, to comment on its meaning. Encourage students to share their anecdotes.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Listening Comprehension: British manners. A note-taking listening exercise

This authentic material is great for B2 learners. It poses just the right challenge. Not too hard, not too easy!

Tell students they are going to hear a man called Elliot talking about 5 British manners. The task is simple. Play each example of good manners individually and…

  • First time: ask students to write what manners he is talking about
  • Second time: play the video again and ask students to take down notes
  • Pair up students and ask one of them to retell the information offered in the video. The other student listens and /or helps. This role will be changed for the second example of manners
  • Ask someone to retell the information for the whole class.
  • Write any relevant vocabulary on the board.
  • Ask: what about in your country? 
  • Repeat procedure for the second example of manners. Remember, there are 5 of them.

 

Gallery Walks: a speaking and writing activity using posters

Can you see any benefits to always working with the same person/student? I cannot. That’s why I always encourage my students to change partners regularly. However, some of them are quite reluctant and need a gentle push.

Forming groups: I have used small popsicle sticks to form groups of three.  The sticks were coloured as in the picture and they just needed to find the other two students with the same colour.

Before the activity: I cut small pieces of paper of different colours and I assigned each poster a different colour

  • On the walls – I put up simple posters – I had to use the space outside my classroom as my class is tiny. I had six posters: Greetings, table manners, punctuality, gender roles, tipping and taboos.
  • Students in their groups choose a poster and they are instructed to do the following:

  1. Discuss the manners on the poster in their country and in other countries they might have been to. Is it the same or different?
  2. Before moving to the next poster, students are instructed to take a piece of paper with the colour corresponding to the poster they have been working with and write a piece of advice for someone visiting their country, in this case, Spain.  ( if they were talking about Tipping, they should write a piece of advice on tipping).They were instructed to leave their written piece of advice on the table, choose a new poster and repeat procedure.
  3. Allow 25-30 minutes for this part
  4. Quickly correct spelling and grammar mistakes. Using blue-tack, put all the pieces of advice around the posters the advice has been written for.
  5. Ask students to do a second gallery walk commenting on all the tips and having a look at their mistakes.

Posters here

Writing an article about an unusual custom in the world

Lead-in:

Ask students: Have you ever experienced culture shock? Where were you? What happened?

Unit 1 in our textbooks explains how to to write an article. Using this format, I have asked students to do a bit of research on the internet and write about an unusual custom. To spice things a tiny bit, I have assigned students different countries using a random wheel.

 

Teaching from Afar: an Online Project Using Technology

"I am not telling you it's going to be easy. I am telling you it's going to be worth it" Art Williams

I’m going to scream this from the rooftops. Social media is more than meets the eye.

I love the possibilities social media offers for both students and teachers alike. Today, I want to share with you a project I did with my B2 students using technology and my professional social media network. But, before we dive in, let me ramble for a little bit here.

Social media is more than meets the eye. True that most people use it just for fun, to catch up with friends old and new and read the occasional news, hardly ever bothering to check the source of the news, but there are also lots of people who are using social media for other purposes.

Right now, social media provides teachers with lots of opportunities to learn and see what other teachers are doing all around the world. Instantly. For free.  You do not have to wait to read in a journal about the latest methodologies, about what teachers are doing on the other side of the world. You just follow people or communities, open your Facebook or your Twitter and there it is, opening doors and pulling down borders.

I grew up watching the news in black and white and using a landline phone to ask the operator to dial a number for me to be able to make a phone call so when in my 30’s there was talk of the possibility of making videoconferences, I thought it was science fiction. I couldn’t be more mistaken as we all know nowadays.

Today I would like to share with you a successful project I recently carried out with my B2 students using my professional social media and a free video/audio conference platform.

You are not one of my followers yet? Don’t worry! It is never too late!

Topic: education

Motivation:

  • to offer my students the opportunity to interact with native speakers from different countries ( something that is not easy in the north of Spain)
  • To ask them questions about their education system
  • To offer my students the opportunity to do a meaningful activity using the vocabulary learned during the lesson.
  • To make them realize they can understand and be understood by native speakers.

Tools:

  • Twitter/Facebook
  • Zoom
  • Slips of paper

Project: to interact with British/American native speakers and ask them questions about their education system using Zoom, a reliable  free video platform

Thanks to

My most heartfelt thanks to Tamara Parson, who is an English teacher living on the south coast of England; Trudi Rogers, also an English teacher living in France, and Hollin Wakefield,  a French teacher form Berkeley (California) and creator of the awesome app Fluentkey. Thank you very much for your generosity and patience. I couldn’t have done it without you.

One week  before the activity
  1. We worked with the topic of education and learned and practised vocabulary related to it.
  2. It was my first time using Zoom. I had to make sure I knew how to use it so I needed to persuade someone with enough computing skills to help me set a fake conference. (Thanks MªJosé)
  3. Using my professional social network Facebook and Twitter (bait, click to follow) I asked for collaboration of teachers from the UK and the USA.
The day before the activity
  1. I explained the activity and told my students we were going to have a video conference with experts on education from the UK and the USA. The conference was going to last about 30 minutes
  2. I asked my students to write interesting questions about things they wanted to know about the education system in the Uk and the USA. I instructed them to ask open questions.

This way we practised writing questions, which is something students always struggle with.

  1. Once they had their questions, I gave them a slip of paper and asked them to write their question there and at the back of it, their name.
  2. Using blue-tack, I displayed their questions on the walls of the class.
  3. I asked students to stand up and read all of them and then do a second reading choosing the ten questions they liked best. To indicate they liked a particular question, they just had to put a tick.

  1. I also read the questions, correcting grammar and spelling mistakes.
  2. The 10 questions which got more ticks were the ones students had to ask. However, if we had any spare time, any student could volunteer to ask any of their questions. In fact, in one of the groups, two or three extra questions were asked.
  3. I gave back each and every question to their owners and we worked on pronunciation.
  4. I told all my students to practise their questions at home as homework.
  5. I went home, set up the meeting on Zoom and emailed the collaborating teachers the invitation to the Zoom conference.
The day of the activity.
  1. We practised asking the questions again so that students felt more confident about their pronunciation.
  2. We moved chairs in front of the screen and at the appointed time, the videoconference began.
My personal experience

It is with immense satisfaction that I can say that it was a tremendous success.  Trudi, Tamara and Hollin were just awesome and even though I had never seen them before and could have easily pulled back, they didn’t and they were really generous with their time.

From an academic point of view, my students were really motivated and it was really a boost to their confidence as not even once did they have to repeat their questions and they could easily follow the answers and sometimes lengthy explanations.

What is more, in the answers given by the native teachers, they could recognize most of the vocabulary they have worked with in class and this made studying this vocabulary more meaningful to them.

As for me, I was delighted. I am not going to say, it did not take time to set it up because I would be lying but it was really worthwhile.

Besides, the press caught wind of the activity and we made it to the local news as you can see in the photo below.

Thanks to Illán García from La Nueva España and to José Alesson for the photographs.

"I am not telling you it's going to be easy. I am telling you it's going to be worth it" Art Williams

Learn with News: a Real Time-Saver for Teachers and Students

Do you regularly read or watch the news? I don’t

Look, I know I’m supposed to act all adult-like and be like, “yeah! Every day… can’t live without knowing what’s happening in my country? Honestly? I don’t need the news- I want to be happy. Don’t you feel that nothing good ever happens in this world when you are watching the news?

But my role as an English teacher is to encourage exposure to examples of language in different contexts, from different sources and from different speakers. And this is precisely the reason why I am posting about this helpful site.

Learn with News is an English news website and you are gonna love it ’cause it’s free. In 3 levels. With exercises. Bonus points: with answers.

If you are a student

  • you get to choose the level of the news. There are three levels: level 1 for beginners, level 2 for intermediate students and level 3 for advanced students.
  • They provide materials for reading, vocabulary, speaking and listening
  • They provide the answers.

If you are a teacher

  • What is there not to love? They have prepared your class for free. Yay!

 

Don’t Just Ask them to Listen. Strategies for Better Understanding

Let’s talk about listening!

Do you or your students struggle with listening? If we are going to come clean here, I have to confess that I do not like listening comprehension tests. I think that most of the times, they are so tricky that even though the student understands pretty well what is being said, very often they cannot guess the right answer, and this happens especially in Multiple Choice listening tests.  So, dear students, listening comprehension questions can be hard to answer but know that you are not the only ones suffering. I have heard native speakers teaching their own native language confess to being unable to guess the right answer.

 

On the bright side, there are some things that we, as teachers, can do to help students understand better, but one that is essential is to encourage the correct pronunciation of words in every lesson and to do exercises on connected speech often. Isn’t it true that you cannot expect a student to understand a word if they are mispronouncing it?

On the other hand, I  firmly believe that in order to get better at listening you need to become an active listener and there are a number of things that we can do to encourage this active listening.

These last weeks, I have been teaching about Education and obviously the listening comprehension exercises are all about education. The listening I am going to give them today is in their course books and the instructions read like this

You are going to hear five people talking about how they study for exams.

Nice topic, isn’t it?

Well, the idea is to not just play the listening and ask them to do the task but to introduce the topic and do some short activities that will prepare them for what they are going to hear.

IDEA 1. Focusing on the title

Ask a student to read aloud the introduction to the listening task in their course books and on the board write

 Studying  for an exam

Ask students to brainstorm in pairs vocabulary that might be said by the speakers in the listening activity. Write the words they come up with on the board. Don’t clean the board yet.

Tip: Before the class, read the transcript for the audio and select a few words you want your students to focus on. In case these words you have chosen are not offered by the students in the brainstorming activity, subtly write them on the board.

IDEA 2. Speaking

Using visuals is always a great idea and it never fails to spark a discussion. Ask the question: How do you revise for exams? and show them the two gifs below. Hopefully, you will, at least, get a smile from them.  Ask them to identify themselves with a gif and in pairs talk about the question. Get feedback.

IDEA  3. Play the listening the first time.

Remember the words on the board? Play the listening once and ask students to stand up every time they hear one of the words on the board. I guarantee they will be completely focused.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy! 🙂