Sunday, December 18, 2016

Teaching about technology

Hello! Today’s post is about how to teach the vocabulary related to technology. Since we are on the topic of the future, it’s important that they know this vocabulary.

I would start by asking them if they use social networks like Facebook or Twitter and which ones they use and which electronic devices they use the most and what they use them for. After this ice breaker, you can practice some vocabulary related to technology in Quizlet. Then they can do exercises two and three in assessment. Exercise two is a matching exercise and exercise three is a crossword.

Once they do these activities, you can show them this video on YouTube. After the video, you can have a debate on the benefits and dangers of using technology. You can divide the class in two, those in favor of using technology and those against and ask them to write some notes down before the debate.




If there is time you can ask them to design their own app in small groups (in a piece of paper, not a real application). I would ask them to design the logo, give it a name, explain what it would be used for and design the interface. If there is no time, it can be assigned as homework.

I hope you found this useful. If you have any suggestions/ideas on how to teach about technology, leave them in the comments. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Let's play some music

Do you know that listening to music can be a great tool to improve your listening skills and learn English? And, on top of these benefits, it’s fun. Today I’m bringing you a great website to practice English by listening to music: http://es.lyricstraining.com/en. Since we’re on the topic of the future, you can listen to Bon Jovi’s I’ll be there for you or Whitney Houston’s I will always love you.


This website is very easy to use. You just type the title of the song in the search bar. If they have it, it will look something like this:




Once the video of the song appears, you will have to choose the level (beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert):



And that’s it. You click on play and the video will start. While the song is playing you will need to fill in the gaps with the missing word that you are hearing in the song. You will have some time to do so.



Don’t worry if you don’t understand it at the beginning. You can always play it again. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Relax and have fun!

As a final activity you can look up information on these two singers. Let me know what you think of this activity and these singers in the comments. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Jeopardy!

Hello! Are you familiar with Jeopardy? Because today’s post is about an interactive and fun game I have found on ESL games plus . It can be accessed on this link. It's about past, present and future tenses (present simple, present continuous, past simple, past continuous, present perfect and the future). I would use it as a review once I’ve covered all the different tenses or at the beginning of the school year to see what they remember and what needs reviewing. You can make up to four teams, so you can divide your students depending on your class size.

Image from Flickr by Joseph Hunkins

There are four categories in the game and inside each category there is a question worth 100 points, another worth 200, a third worth 300, a fourth worth 400, and the last one worth 500. The questions are multiple choice and if they choose the right option their group wins the points. At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins.

I like it because it can make a review session a lot more interactive and motivating. From a pedagogical standpoint, it’s good for the students because they get immediate feedback. The teacher can explain the answer when the students get the question wrong or if they have a question. On top of that, it allows both the teacher and the students to know where they stand in the learning process, what they know and what they have to review.

Have you ever played Jeopardy in class, either as a student or as a teacher? What did you think? Let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Will

Hello! Today’s post is about this video about the future with “will”.

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 It uses illustrations and it’s very short and fun, so it can be a very motivating way of presenting the future to our students. It starts with the main functions of the future with “will”, which are:

1) Promises (I will love you forever)

2) Offers (I’ll help you eat it)

3) Spontaneous or quick decisions (I’ll get help) or spontaneous threats (I’ll make you sorry!)

4) Predictions about the future (In the future you will die)

Then it talks about the positive and negative forms and their contractions:

· Positive: will

· Contraction: I’ll, you’ll, we’ll…

· Negative: will not

· Contraction: won’t

And it ends will a summary of the functions that I’ve mentioned above.

I think this is a nice video to show our students that can help them remember when to use “will” in English. It’s quite eye-catching and the illustrations make it really easy to understand.

What do you think of the video? Now that you know more about the future you can do the first activity in assessment, which is a fill-in-the-blank activity about the future. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Talking about the future

Hello! Today’s post is about how we express the future in English. The main ways in which we talk about the future are present continuous, “going to” and “will”. They are not used interchangeably, however. In this post I am going to explain how we use each of them.

Present continuous
As you probably know, we form it with the verb “to be” in the present and the main verb ending in –ing. We use it for things that we have decided and arranged to do, set plans. For example, if we have tickets or reservations. An example would be “I am having dinner with my friends this evening”. In this case I have dinner plans and I might even have a reservation at the restaurant.

Going to
We form sentences with “going to” with the verb “to be” in the present + going to + the main verb in infinitive. We use it for things that we have decided to do but perhaps have not arranged. For example, if I say “I am going to talk to the professor after class”, it means that I have decided to talk to him/her when class is over but probably I haven’t set up a meeting with the professor.

We also use it when we know something from the current situation. For example, if I go outside and I see that it’s really cloudy and dark I might say “it’s going to rain”. I know that it’s going to rain because I have signs in front of me that tell me so.

Will
We form sentences with “will” with will and the main verb in infinitive. Very often we shorten it to “’ll” in speech and informal texts. In negative sentences we use “will not” or “won’t”. We use it when we have just decided to do something, spontaneous decisions. For example, if I say “I will close the door”, I hadn’t previously planned to close it. I just decided it.

We also use it for predictions about the future. For example, “in five years everyone will have a self-driving car”. Unlike with “going to” there is no indication in the present that tells me that this is what is going to happen. It is just what I think the future will look like.


In conclusion, we use present continuous for things that we have arranged, fixed plans. We use “going to” for things that we have decided to do but not arranged, for plans. Finally, we use “will” for spontaneous decisions and predictions.

I hope you found this post useful. If you’d like more information you can watch my tutorial in the video section or directly on YouTube. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Apps for language learning

Today’s post is about apps that we can use to learn English. The most important ones are Duolingo and Memrise.

What are they? 

Memrise is an online memorization tool presented in a gamified way, with a leaderboard and badges. It’s set like a garden. You plant seeds (learn new words) and water the plants (review them). It uses flashcards, mnemonics and repetition. Anyone can create a course and it isn’t only used for language learning. There are courses on vocabulary for the SATs or the GRE, and even on Geography, to help memorize the world capitals or the states of the USA. 

Duolingo is exclusively for language learning. Much like Memrise, it is also presented as a game, with a leaderboard, badges and unlocking levels. It can be used to practice both vocabulary and grammar. You can take a level test or start the language track from the beginning until you complete it. There is also an immersion section where you can practice translating real documents from the language you are learning into your own language. 

How are they similar/different? 

Both are similar in the gamification aspect and in that they incorporate both audio and text in the input. The activities are also similar. There are activities in which you have to write what you just heard, others in which you have to put the words in order to form a sentence, and others in which you have to select the right option. 

They are different in their approach. Memrise is a memorization tool while Duolingo’s approach is more complete. I would use Memrise to memorize vocabulary and Duolingo for the grammar. You should be warned, though, that Duolingo’s sentences can be quite random. I have used both to practice Portuguese and one of the sentences that I got is “a borboleta escreve um livro” (the butterfly writes a book). But then again, maybe such random sentences help with memorization. Case in point, I still remember it. 

My opinion 

Personally, I find both useful if you are starting with a language or want to practice it in order not to forget it but what I find lacking is the chance to actually speak the language. If you can combine them with some kind of language exchange or conversation table, then they are great tools which are also fun and motivating. It's hard not to practice a language when you only need a few minutes using an app in your phone and you get a notification reminding you to water the plants (in Memrise) or telling you that you are in a three/four/whatever-day streak.


Have you tried Duolingo or Memrise? How was your experience? Did you find them useful. Let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kahoot!

Hello! Today’s post is about a resource that we can use to gamify our class: Kahoot.

Screenshot from Kahoot.it by Benjamin Wlacil. Taken from Wikimedia Commons

But, what is Kahoot? The website defines it as a gamified student-response system. I have used it when I was teaching Spanish as a Second Language to review before exams and it has worked very well. It helped me and my students see what they knew and what they didn’t understand well or had to study more and it gave me a chance to focus more on explaining what they didn’t know. My students loved it and found it much more engaging and fun than a regular review session. In my experience it works better in bigger groups (at least 15 students) than in smaller classes.

As teachers, we can create a Kahoot on https://getkahoot.com/ or use an already created one. We can write multiple choice questions to which we can add an image, a video or an audio. Once we have all the questions we can decide if we want to randomize them or use them in a set order. We can also choose how much time we want to give them per question to answer.

In class we need a computer and a projector. We need to pull it up so that our students can see the questions. They can use their cell phone, tablet, laptop or any device that can connect to the Internet to participate. They have to go to https://kahoot.it/ They enter the pin that appears on our screen and choose a nickname. On our screen the entire class can see the nicknames of all the participants in the game. Once they have all logged in, we click on “Start” and that takes us to the first question. The students get points based on the correct answer but also on speed (i.e. the first person to select the right option gets more points). Once they have all chosen an option or the time runs out, it shows us the ranking, the correct option and how many people chose each option. That way we know if they know the material we are testing with the question. If almost everyone chose the right option, it means they know it. If there are a lot of people that chose other options, then we need to review the concept.

Below you can watch a five-minute guide to Kahoot.


Have you used Kahoot in your classes? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments.

I hope you found this post useful. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Let's play

Hello! In today’s post, we are going to learn about gamification in the classroom, specifically in the ESL classroom, thanks to this article from Busy Teacher http://busyteacher.org/20574-gamify-esl-classroom.html

First of all, what is gamification? Is it just playing games in class? Actually, no. According to this article, “Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts”. In other words, it’s the use of game elements, like points, badges, levels and avatars, in a context that is not game-related, like a classroom.

But, why should I do it? Because it’s engaging and motivating. Your students will learn but they’ll feel like they are playing a game. Also, chances are they will remember the information better than if you were just lecturing and doing activities.

Okay, so I want to gamify my class. How do I do it? Well, these are the steps that the article states:

1. We need to choose a goal for the year, not just a short term goal like “learning Simple Past”

2. We have to divide that goal into milestones. In other words, we have to divide that goal into steps.

3. The next step would be to design our game board with those milestones and the overarching goal.

4. Then we design the avatars, or let our students design their own.

5. After that, we create badges for the milestones completed.

6. We also need a leaderboard because our students will want to know where they stand.

7. Finally, we can also consider making teams instead of having them participate individually. That might help with behavior/participation because of pair pressure.

What do you think about gamification in the classroom? Have you used it in your classes? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments and I hope you enjoyed the post and found it useful. Thank you for reading! :)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

One for the teachers

Here is an article for the new teachers with some Do’s and Don’ts for teaching ESL: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/esl-ell-tips-ferlazzo-sypnieski

According to Ferlazzo, we should model for students what they are supposed to do but we shouldn’t just tell them what to do.

We should speak slowly and clearly. I agree for the lower levels but as their proficiency increases I think we should speak at a normal speed since that is what they are going to encounter outside of the classroom.

We should use visuals, gestures and non-verbal cues. I completely agree. I personally use a lot of images and gestures in my class. I think they help my students understand what I’m saying and they make class more entertaining.


We should give verbal and written instructions to our students. I agree, especially for the lower levels.

We should check for understanding. I completely agree. I think the worst thing we can do is wait until the end to class to ask if there are questions and discover that they didn’t understand anything. We should encourage our students to ask questions and check if they understood after an explanation or activity.

We should encourage development of their L1. It is true that research shows that development of literacy in their L1 shows in their L2. However, as the author points out, that does not mean that we shouldn't encourage the use of the L2.



Sunday, November 6, 2016

Ready, camera, action

Hello everyone,

Today's entry is about TV shows. They are a great resource for language learning; they can help us improve our listening skills and even our pronunciation.Besides that, they are, plain and simply, a really fun way to learn. Nowadays, with Internet it's easier than ever to access shows and movies in their original language for very little money and we should take advantage of that opportunity. If you have Netflix it's literally at your fingertips.

But what shows are the best? That's mostly up to your preferences. You should find a show that you enjoy. It shouldn't feel like you're doing homework or like it's a chore that has to be done.

To start I would suggest How I Met Your Mother or Modern Family. They are short (about 20 minutes) so watching an episode doesn't feel overwhelming even if you don't have a really high level. Furthermore, they are sitcoms, which means that they are about everyday live and familiar situations.



Image by SAndrex333 from Wikimedia Commons

If you are into science you might also like The Big Bang Theory. They use a lot of science-related vocabulary, specially Physics, so it's a little bit harder to understand but doable if you're up to the challenge.

Another amazing show whose episodes are also about 20 minutes is Black Mirror. This one is about how technology affects our lives. This show, unlike the other three, is not a comedy but a drama. It is, however, quite easy to understand.


If you have a more advanced level and you prefer longer shows, the world (or Netflix xD) is your oyster. If you like detective/mystery shows, you'd probably like Sherlock, or Elementary if you prefer an American accent. The episodes are about 90 minutes, so they're actually like watching a movie.

Image by RanZag from Wikimedia Commons

If you like history and period dramas, Downton Abbey is the show for you. It will also help you to see the difference between how people speak depending on whether they are upper class (the nobles) or working class (the servants). A new show that also looks really good if you like history is The Crown, about Queen Elizabeth II's life when she was young and became queen.

Image by Richard Munckton from Wikimedia Commons

Subtitles: yes or no? It's better if you don't use subtitles but if you really need to have them, use them in English. My advice is to use subtitles at the beginning if you really need them but stop using them as you improve and start understanding more. One thing to remember is that you don't need to understand every word to understand what is going on in the show.

Well, this is all for today. Let me know what you think or if you have more suggestions for shows. Thank you for reading :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hello!

Hello everyone. My name is Lorena. I have taught both Spanish and English as second languages. I have a Masters in Applied Spanish Linguistics from Michigan State University and I am currently working on my Masters of Education (Máster de Formación del Profesorado) with a focus on foreign languages at Universidad Miguel Hernández while I work teaching ESL to both children and adults.

I am passionate about language learning/teaching. During my first Masters I focused on Second Language Acquisition. My mother tongue is Spanish but I also speak Valencian/Catalan. I started learning English when I was five and loved it so much that I majored in it at University of Alicante as an undergraduate. I also speak some French and a little bit of Portuguese.

This blog is about the future, both the future of teaching via using technology and gamification, and about teaching how to express the future in English. If you want me to talk about anything in particular, please comment and let me know and I'll do my best. You can also follow me on YouTube and Twitter for updates on my blog and more ESL articles/resources. Once I begin student-teaching next semester the blog will become a diary of my activities in the center.

Thank you for being with me in this new adventure and I hope you find my blog useful :)

Image by WikiTAU9 from https://commons.wikimedia.org