Showing posts with label classtip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label classtip. Show all posts

Friday, September 30, 2011

No homework today!!!

It is not that difficult to play the role of a nice teacher. Everybody knows that the word “homework” does not go with “thank you very much.” Students, however, think that homework is directly related to workbooks and that anything apart from that can cause them no harm. Here follows something that happened to me last week. My students, who had been talking about rules for two weeks, asked for “no homework.” They were really surprised and happy when I gave them a positive answer. There was just a little condition: they had to go to and post one of the rules they had at home and make a comment about it. Take a look at the result. Isn’t it homework? They don’t think so! =D
By Fábio Ferreira

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saying the Unsaid - Silent Movies and Reported Speech

Teaching reported speech is certainly not that difficult. When I teach it, I always explain to students that it is used to retell stories, translate conversations between a foreigner and someone who does not speak his or her language, or even engage in a conversation with three or more people in a noisy environment such as night club or a rock concert. I also try to recreate communicative situations that make it as authentic and genuine as possible. If I could take them to a rock concert or a night club, it would be great. Despite my efforts, my students cooperation, and the wonderful ideas teachers always have when planning classes , I am not always happy with the size of dialogues or the quality of language produced by students in follow up activities. You know, we teachers always think that there is room for improvement.
This semester while I was planning one more class to teach reported speech, I thought that silent movies would just be the perfect means to create a situation for having students reporting a third party utterances and actions to each other. How did I do it? I did it in two phases and two places.
In Class
I first showed them a short silent movie (I used a silent version of Star Wars available in You Tube- It lasts only a little more than a minute). Next I paired students and asked them to take turns reporting what was being said right after I paused the movie. So I played a bit of the movie and paused for reporting. It was quick and fun and they really enjoyed doing it.
In the Computer Lab
While we were still in class, I gave them instructions. I told them to go to Youtube and type the search term silent movies. I also told them to choose movies that lasted three minutes or less. Besides that, I instructed them to do as we had done in class: they should first play the entire movie and then play, pause, report. They did it in 25 minutes and posted their reported versions along with the movie straight to our posterous class blog. We later corrected and the posts.The first drafts, however, were amazingly quite accurate to my surprise.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Teacher, *MALL today?

Teacher, *MALL today?
How to overcome Internet connection problems and control fast paced students.
By Fábio Ferreira
Taking students to the Computer Lab is a good way to change your classroom environment and go over the content presented by textbooks. Besides breaking the classroom routine, the lab is a very useful tool to foster students’ independent learning behavior.
There are many options available for teachers to explore and practice the content being taught, as, for example, online exercises (from the e-folder), internet websites, videos from youtube, just to mention the most used ones. Let me talk a little bit about the exercises from the e-folder, since they seem to be the first option for many teachers. The strongest point about them is that they were designed exactly based on the content students have to master and is going to be assessed. However, as everything else in this world, there are pros and cons. In my view the negative point here is that we depend on the internet connection to use the exercises. If the internet is OK, teachers still have to be attentive because students’ paces are different and sooner or later you are going to hear “Teacher, I finish! Everything!” while some students are still struggling to open the page. You will find yourself in times of trouble and there will be no mother Mary to come to you**.
Based on that experience I came up with an alternative to use the Computer Lab, having all students do the activity proposed at the same time and what is better, being very careful about the accuracy of their production. The solution I found was to use Net Operator, installed on the teacher’s computer. Besides the possibility of monitoring all the computers in the room, there is also a chat option there. Here follows the strategy that I would like to share with you. Let’s use Helpful Helen (Teens 4 – Unit 5 L1) as an example. The context of that lesson is that somebody has a problem and the other person has to offer help. (I’m hungry. I’ll give you sth to eat.) With all the chat windows open, T gives Sts a problem. Sts have to offer help using the structure studied in class. The key here is that they are not supposed to press enter and send their lines until T says GO! After everybody finishes, T says Go and Sts press enter. The first (correct) line displayed gets one point***. As the lines will be sent only after T’s command, Sts will be together. All the computers are identified, so Sts are always careful about their mistakes, since they don’t want to be exposed. Considering that they have to be quick after they hear GO!, adrenaline has an important role making Sts forget they are “studying”. No one has ever complained about that activity and now, instead of hearing Teacher, MALL today?, I sometimes hear Teacher, let’s play that game on the computer!?
The purpose of this article was not to say that the other options are not good, but that there is always room for improvement when you let your creativity flow. Think outside the box!
Fábio Ferreira
Ed Tech Monitor - FAN
*M.A.L.L. stands for Multimedia Access to Language Learning (our Computer Lab)
**Let it Be – The Beatles
***The activity can be adapted!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No cell phones in class!

Since the invention of mobile phones, they have become more and more popular among us; actually, a lot of incredible features have been developed and cell phones have become user-friendly. Among thousands of models, no one can deny the iPhone and other smartphones have been part of our daily lives. Nowadays, even 11 year-olds have been popping up in our classrooms with a cell phone in their hands, pockets or school bags. There are lots of reasons to celebrate this fact, but rather, teachers in many schools have blamed electronic gadgets (and cell phones, of course) for being class distractors. In addition, some states in Brazil, like Rio de Janeiro, for instance, have approved law acts against the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in schools, unless teachers are given official permit to use them for educational purposes.

It is not my objective to discuss the pros and cons of this kind of law, but rather to bring up the incredible and powerful potential cell phones may have in an EFL class. Just to give you a very simple example, in a class of teens aged 11 - 14, I asked them who had a cell phone; to my surprise, half of them raised their hands affirmatively. Some of them had powerful smartphones (a blackberry, an iPhone, a Nokia N95 etc) and some of them had ordinary ones. It goes without saying that all of them were able to send a simple SMS. The grammar topic was GOING TO + VERB and the lesson theme was "resolutions". In general, what most teachers do is, in a way or another, exercise the structure in meaningful contexts by having them write sentences. Well, any teenager can do it, but they get bored. So I wrote my number on the board and challenged them to think of a problem (anything they felt like sharing) and their resolutions. After that, I turned my mobile on so that everyone would be able to listen to the message beep. It was amazing to see how engaged in texting they were. No single student was disruptive. All of them, even those who didn't have a cell phone available, were either typing or helping a friend to send the SMS.

In a matter of seconds I got the first SMS and I quickly read to the class: "My brothers sometimes piece me off. I'm going to trap them into a role". Funny? Morally appropriate? Correctly written? It does NOT matter! The main point here is they produced authentic sentences, based on their previous knowledge and used the structure which had just been taught. By not being judgmental (although I would refuse to read swear language and could also manipulate to pronounce the words correctly) students could feel free to participate actively. In some cases, especially when the structure used was not the one we had been working on, I read it aloud so that all the class could highlight any problems, increasing their awareness of form and appropriateness of language and grammar use, such as the following example: "My problem is my shape. I will try to stop eating so much!".

Nevertheless, there might be drawbacks too:

  1. students who do not have a cell phone or cannot send messages may feel left out. To minimize this problem, I reinforced the students' participation positively, making sure they would have their identities kept in secret as well; this way they could have their sentences read aloud too as if they had sent an SMS and no one would know they didn't have a cell phone to send it.
  2. Some students may feel free to use their phones the way they wish instead of taking part in the group activity. Fortunately, this group of students got so involved they didn't cause any trouble.
  3. This kind of activity costs money, no matter if they spend just a few cents, some parents may complain their kids have spent too much in the English class. This is the most difficult issue in my opinion, because it is pretty hard to control the way they use their cell phones and even more difficult to prove the teacher is not responsible for any extra expenses he or she has been blamed on.

To sum up, regardless of these and other drawbacks I haven't thought, it was such a nice experience. Using their own cell phones to promote language learning and increase motivation was worth the risk and I am pretty sure come up with many other ideas. For instance, two groups of students in different rooms could exchange messages with questions, problems, puzzling situations, etc and receive replies prior to their meeting face-to-face (F2F). This activity could also be followed by another F2F activity with food and drinks or just music for students to live it up. I hope you all have inspiring moments after this reading and, please, do share your ideas, I'm looking forward to trying something different again!