martedì 20 febbraio 2018

4 Ps to encourage teenagers to speak English in the classroom

What are the 4 Ps?
Presentation, planning, practice and participation.
Surely this acronym will remind you of the PPP paradigm which is a teaching approach describing the presentation of new language through  the 3 steps of Presentation (new language is presented to learners in order to make the form and meaning clear and memorable), Practice (the learners engage in concentrated controlled practice of the new language) and Production (the learners participate in simulated communication tasks). This form of language teaching has been fiercely criticized over the last few years. For instance, it is seen as a series of “products” that can be acquired as “accumulated entries”, but L2 acquisition is a “process” that is incompatible with teaching seen as the presentation and practice of a series of “products”. However, if the level of the students is low it is much better to introduce the target language in order to avoid the doom and gloom feeling in the classroom.

Why does it work well with teenager learners?
Teenagers, more than young children and adults, are afraid of being judged. According to the APA, American Psychological Association, ( a lot of teenage behaviour is about avoiding the anxiety of feeling left out. The four 'p's approach addresses that worry by the presence of the plan stage. Bear in mind, this stage does not correspond to the controlled practice of the PPP approach. By planning what they are going to say they have time to think and rehearse. This makes students feel more confident.
The activity I'm going to describe was successful because I divided it into four stages - present, plan, practice and participation.
Firstly, I acted as a student performing the task they were required to carry out, in this case a speaking activity. Secondly, students had some time think and take notes about what they were going to say. Thirdly, students started to speak in pairs in order to break the ice. Finally, we played a game so that everyone had the chance to revise the target language and have fun.

1) Presentation - model the target language
Although I am mindful of teacher talking time, learners need a model for inspiration. You are that model.
Just before Christmas holidays, I asked my class of teenager English learners:
'Guys, how do you usually spend Christmas Eve?'
Nobody answered. I smiled and I replied to the question myself. I said that I usually wake up late, I wrap presents for my family and friends, I watch Christmas movies on TV and I listen and sing Christmas carols, bake mince pies, etc.

While I was speaking I wrote some vocabulary on the board especially collocations such as wrap/unwrap presents, sing Christmas carols, bake cookies and asked the learners yes/no questions, for example, “Do you bake Christmas cookies?, Do you usually wrap presents?”.

2) Planning - give learners time to think about what they will say
Learners need time to plan before speaking, especially at a beginner/elementary level of proficiency.
I asked everyone to write notes about what they usually do on Christmas Eve. I checked their papers to see if their grammar and spelling were right and asked them to write their names on their papers. Then I stuck their papers on the classroom walls. I asked them to stand and walk around the classroom for five minutes to read about how their friends usually spend Christmas Eve.
Alternatively, teachers can ask learners to think about what they will say. Learners can also take notes. I suggest that they don’t write everything they want to say but only some words/phrases. This reduces the chances of learners reading - rather than saying - what they have written.

3) Practice - give learners a chance to say it and say it again
When the learners went back to their seats I paired them and I asked them to say to each other their Christmas Eve routines. After two minutes I asked them to change partner, and they repeated the activity until they talked to all the other students. When they showed more confidence and fluency while speaking, I thought they were ready to play a game.

4) Participation - RULES OF THE GAME
In turns one student seats on the “hot chair”
All the other students need to say a Christmas routine activity s/he does
If they are right they get one point.
Students cannot repeat routine that has already been mentioned.
If they repeat something which has already been said they lose one point.
Everyone had to speak about somebody’s else so no one was excluded from the speaking activity. They were all eager to speak and they had a lot of fun. In addition, they had to pay attention to what was being said. A game is, definitely, a good way to encourage teenage learners to participate. Games provide a task and a goal.

In a nutshell, tweaking a method which is not considered effective due to its lack of correspondence with the research findings and theories of second language acquisition gave me the chance to make my students learn and use effectively the target language. After all, as Machiavelli said, “ends justify the means”.

PS. You can use this game with daily routines, "what did you do yesterday?", likes & dislikes, etc.

martedì 23 gennaio 2018

Animal 🐠🐶🐴idioms out of the box 📦

GAME:Animal 🐴🐶🐷🐱🐠🐝idioms out of the box 📦

Target language: idioms which include animals
Level: B2-C1
What you need: a shoebox 
Pictures of animals
Words (which form the idiom) on paper strips

Rules of the game
1) Learners in teams (pairs/small groups) try to create idioms which include animals using the pictures and the words from the shoebox.

2) When they think they have one ready they shout out "miaow miaow". 

3) Teacher checks it out and if it is correct they win one point. If it is not they need to put the picture+words back into the box and try a new combination.

 4) When all the idioms have been created, the teacher will give the whole class feedback by writing the idioms on the board eliciting their meaning.

5) Learners change teams. One team calls out an idiom and the other teams have to come up with a sentence which includes that idiom. The fastest team wins a point and must call out the next idiom.

My students and I had a lot of fun and I hope this post might be useful with your students, too! 

domenica 26 novembre 2017

Teaching For Exams? Have fun! Word Formation... Bingo!

This blog post has been shortlisted for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award 💖🥇

Hi  again my fellow EFL teachers!
Are you in trouble with training your students for English language exams? Don't worry! Here I am with a new, fun game you can play with your students!

This time I'm focusing on:

Cambridge First Certificate
Reading and Use of English part 3
This task is called word formation and it focuses on candidates' knowledge of how prefixes, suffixes, internal changes and compounds are used in forming words.

So many affixes, which don't always follow a rule, drive my students nuts. Thus, I created this simple, but fun game!

What you need:
a 3x3 grid [students can make their own grids during the lesson]
What you have to do:

If you make copies beforehand, write a suffix (e.g. -ist) or prefix (e.g. ir-) on the top of each box and write a grammar category (e.g. person noun), whether the word is negative/plural at the bottom of each box. Otherwise, you can write the affixes and the other information about the word formation on the board and ask students to copy them on their papers.

Rules of the game:
1) Once all the students have their grids,

the teacher says a word
E.g. football
2) The teacher says a grammar category
E.g. noun person
3) The learner writes the noun person for football in the right box. --> Footballer 

4) When the learner has completed all the boxes, s/he shouts out BINGO!

The list of words for the grid above are:
- football (person noun)
- society (adjective)
- survey (person noun)
- polite (abstract noun)
- maintain (abstract noun)
- relevant (negative adjective)
- journal (person noun/plural)
- patience (negative adjective)
- happy (manner adverb)

5) To make it more challenging add a few more words to the list which don't fit in the grid. Students need to realise that they must not write anything when the teacher calls out that word + grammar category. Remember to tell them before you start playing!
- kindness (negative adjective --> UNKIND)
- politics (person noun --> POLITICIAN)


mercoledì 18 ottobre 2017

Egg-straordinary phrasal verbs

Hi everyone!

Here I am to introduce a new game I've been playing with my intermediate and upper-intermediate teen learners.

The focus is on phrasal verbs. What are phrasal verbs? Take a look at this blogpost! Phrasal Verbs at a glance

Activity: Egg-straordinary phrasal verbs

Aim: Practise phrasal verbs in context

Age group: Teenagers and adults

Materials: an egg carton, disk-shaped tokens, timer, paint, paper, pens (pencils)
*Students work in groups of 3-4 so you may need more egg cartons and copies of the disk-shaped tokens.

Before the class:

1) Paint four random sections of an egg carton any colour.
2) Print and cut out the tokens. There are two types of tokens, the blue ones are the particles (prepositions and adverbs) and the purple ones are the verbs.

During the class:
1) Put all the tokens in the top of the egg carton, close the lid, shake the carton, and flip it over. (You can ask a student to do this for you).
2) You can't shake the box after the flip is done!
3) Give students paper and pens (pencils)
4) Once the cover is lifted, players can remove the tokens that are in the painted sections and spread them out on the desk.
5) Set a timer (I had 5-minute sessions) and each player write as many sentences as possible using just the tokens on the desk. They decide how to match the verbs with the particles.

6) When the timer runs out, learners have to stop writing. Ask them to draw a line across the paper at the end of their sentences (so they can't add more while you get feedback).
7) Ask students to read out their sentences and board phrasal verbs which other students don't know or don't remember.
8) Give 1 point for each correct sentence and 2 points if learners use a two-particle phrasal verb (E.g. I was driving when I ran out of fuel.)

Why I like this game:
It helps students' autonomy and make them feel aware of what they know and what they don't know. Plus, taking into account the statement "If you don't use it, you lose it", you can have a five-minute session at the beginning or at the end of every class.

martedì 23 maggio 2017

Teaching for Exams? Have fun! - Key-word transformations with a twist

One of the most tricky and challenging parts of the Cambridge First Exam is Use of English part 4. Students always complain about how difficult it is and prefer to skip it rather than taking the bull by the horns.
If you don't know about this part of the exam, here you are the description from the Cambridge English website.

KEY WORD TRANSFORMATION: Each question consists of a sentence followed by a ‘key’ word and a second sentence with a gap in the middle. You have to use this key word to complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence.

I do think that students need to learn to face their weaknesses and practice makes perfect. On the other hand, in their shoes, I understand that training for an exam must be boring so I decided to match a fun game with this exercise.

What do you need? Worksheet(s) of Key word transformations 
A spinner board (optional)
A Finger Twister board

KEY OF THE COLOURS (for those who don't have a spinner board)

1) Students work in pairs
2) Students in turns rotate the spinner board. The arrow indicates a finger and colored circle. OR Students in turns call out a colour and number.

3) The teacher boards the corresponding transformation.

4) The student needs to answer the question.
4a If the student answers correctly, they don't put any fingers on the board.
4b If the student makes a mistake, they have to put their finger on the corresponding circle according to the spinner/ the number and color they have previously called out.
4c The teacher gives the chance to another student to answer correctly. If they can answer correctly, they take off one of their fingers from the finger twister board.

5) The winner is the student with fewer fingers on the board, that is, the one who has made fewer mistakes.

My students have never had such fun doing this exercise. :)

martedì 11 aprile 2017

The dice game: a fun, low-prep speaking game

UPDATE: This blog post has been awarded the 'Blog Award for Innovative Teaching Ideas' by Teaching English British Council for the month of April 2017.

A fun game to revise the question form of past simple and of course... to speak 🇬🇧!!!

Level: elementary

Age of students: Children, teenagers, adults

Aim of the game: Practising past simple forms

What you need: a dice each 3 students

*You can adapt easily this game to meet your students' needs. For example, it can also be used to practise present simple and frequency adverbs.

Rules of the game
1) Think of 6 actions you did yesterday.
2) Write them down.
3) Work in groups of 3.
4) In turn, roll the dice and read out the sentence that corresponds to the number you got.
E.g. I roll the dice and I get 1. I read out the sentence "I ate fish and chips".
5) The other two learners in the group need to make up a suitable question for my answer.
E.g. Question by Maria: " What did you eat for lunch yesterday?"
Question by Francesco: "What did you eat for dinner yesterday?"
6) The student who rolled the dice decides which question is the most suitable for their answer. 
7) The learner(s) who guessed the correct question get(s) as many points as the spots on the face of the dice)
E.g. In this case Maria got 1 point because I had fish and chips for lunch.

Some feedback
My students and I loved this game because:
- it was a good way to drill the question form of past simple;
- they practiced irregular verbs;
- and finally, they got some points to become the best student of the month 😜

lunedì 10 aprile 2017

The Best Blog Posts about IATEFL Glasgow 2017 Online

A very interesting talk about motivation based on new book Motivational Teaching by Nicholas Thorner

A Wonderful session by Rachael Harris, focusing on activities that enhance our students' and our own well-being.

A very interesting session, full of ideas on how to actually become a teacherpreneur by Marina Kladova

An excellent session and one that has really made me think about the discrepency between what learners believe they have learned from a lesson and what teachers believe they have thought by Mark Heffernan (Queen Mary University of London) and David Byrne (EC London)

Empathy may be one of the qualities which distinguishes an average teacher from an excellent teacher in the eyes of the student. In this session, Kieran Donaghy (Film English) examines the importance of empathy in language education and proposes practical activities to encourage teachers, teacher trainers and students to be more empathetic.

This post is based on the IATEFL opening plenary Connecting minds: language learner and teacher psychologies by Sarah Mercer (Day 2 of IATEFL 2017 in Glasgow).

Here is an infographic summary of Brian Tomlinson's presentation on Let's Listen to the Learners, some of the resources he referred to on how to involve the learners in their learning

The interviews with Andy Hockley 1 and Marek Kiczkowiak 2 discuss the issue of native speakerism