ACEnglishteacher

All things EFL… A collection of practical ideas, resources for the classroom and thoughts on EFL today

What makes a good teacher word cloud


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Anyone who read my very first post Blogging and the art of procrastination will know that, among other things, it took me a while to find a name for this blog.

Why ACE?  What can I say, I’m an 80’s kid… Everything that’s “awesome” now, was “ace” in the 80’s (where I was growing up) and it’s one of my all-time favourite words. Synonyms are; excellent, outstanding, first-class, first-rate, brilliant, expert

So, am I an ace English teacher? Not always.  Do I aspire to be?  Of course, hence this blog…

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Empower students with flipped, cooperative learning

Here’s a link to my latest blog post Empower students with flipped, cooperative learning on www.teachingenglish.org.uk where I answer the following question:

More and more, we are told that our role as teachers is changing. We are told that the skills our students need for the future workplace in a globalised world are different from how they used to be. Creativity and imagination, collaboration, critical thinking, citizenship, student leadership and digital literacies are all things our students need to be competent in. How do you provide a focus on these skills in your classes? What activities do you do that help your students develop these?

I discuss how I integrate flipped learning and cooperative learning in my classes to help students develop these essential skills and prepare them for life beyond the classroom…

 


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Teaching and learning with a wiki: Part 2 Google Sites

I recently updated a post from 2016 Learning and teaching using a wiki following the closure of Wikispaces (the platform I was using to host my wiki.)  When I heard about the impending closure of Wikispaces my first reaction was to panic!  What was I going to do? I had spent hours learning how to use it and hours adding content and, whatsmore, so had my students.

After the initial panic, I started to consider my options rationally.  Without a doubt I wanted to carry on using a wiki with my students so the next step was to research the alternatives on offer.   Continue reading


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3 activities to promote storytelling in the language classroom

Stories are all around us, be it in oral or written form. Some entertain, some educate, some explain and many transmit our feelings, beliefs and values. Every day, every year, every meal, holiday, encounter, memory… tells a story.  We think in narratives all day long, making up stories in our heads for every action and conversation. It’s how we understand the world.

Telling stories is nothing new, we’ve been doing it since ancient times and the power of a story is undeniable, but what makes stories so engaging?

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Technology to reach more students, more often.

I am excited to have been accepted as a TeachingEnglish blogger on the British Council’s website www.teachingenglish.org.uk and to have published my first blog post there.  The topic I chose to write about this month is one that I feel passionate about, using technology to enhance the teaching and learning process.

What ICT tools or resources do you currently use in your classrooms and why? What are the pedagogical benefits of the tools you use and how do you evaluate their effectiveness as a learning resource?

Read about how I use Google Classroom and wikis to break down the classroom walls, making learning English more personal, relevant and engaging.

Technology to reach more students, more often.

 


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Flipped learning: A student’s perspective

Well, despite a few hiccups along the way, we made it! We flipped our EFL class all year and what started as an experiment has gradually become our way of learning English…
Those of you who have already read some of my other posts about flipping learning with my 2nd year students in ESO (secondary school in Spain) will know it hasn’t all been plain sailing. However, once we got set up with Google Classroom, this made organising and managing the flipped classroom much easier Flip learning with Google Classroom.
As always at the end of a school year, I sat down to reflect on teaching and learning; what went well, not so well and what was a complete disaster. This year flipped learning was one of my main considerations, had the outcomes been positive enough to continue with this model of learning with my 2nd year students and to introduce it to another class? My answer was yes, without a doubt, but what did my students think about it all?
It turns out that we all agreed 😉
We decided that a good idea would be to make a video about flipped learning for the students in the year below who will become novice flippers in September. In order to make the video, I first wanted my students to reflect on their experiences and write down and share their opinions about flipped learning, and so this became our last cooperative learning project of the school year.

Individual space:

Stage 1

Reflect individually on the experience of flipped learning
Students answer as many questions as there are teams, related to flipped learning and their experiences (in my case this was 6.)

  1. What is flipped learning?
  2. What are the good things about flipped learning?
  3. What kind of tasks/activities do you do at home?
  4. What kind of tasks/activities do you do in class?
  5. What should/shouldn’t, must/mustn’t you do in a flipped classroom? (This question because we had just studied these modal verbs ;-))
  6. Describe flipped learning using 3 adjectives…

Group space:

Stage 2

Share individual opinions/experiences of flipped learning
Using the cooperative learning discussion strategy Round Robin, students share their opinions (their answers to the questions) at different stations around the classroom.
Each question becomes a station. The question is written in the middle of an A3 piece of paper. Each team has a different coloured pen and they move through the stations adding their opinions to the piece of paper.
For example, at station 1 students share their answers to question 1 and student A collates their answers. They then move to station 2, read the previous teams answers (they cannot repeat any information) and then check their ideas and student B adds any information they have between them that isn’t already there. They then move to stations 3,4,5,6 repeating the above steps and changing the secretary each time.
*As each team uses a different colour pen you can check that they have read their classmates’ responses in order not to repeat any information.

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Stage 3

Prepare a script for the video
When teams have visited all 6 stations and recorded their responses to the questions they return to their original station. Using all the information collated on the sheet of A3 paper from their classmates, they discuss how they are going to present this information in the video and write a script.

Stage 4

Record the video
Each team presents the responses to their question in an original and creative way. Once all teams have recorded their part the teacher or students use an editing tool (I used iMovie) to put all the videos together and add titles, special effects etc…
And voilá, apart from reflecting on and sharing their flipped learning experiences in a collaborative and creative way, we have one video ready to teach the new flippers all about flipping next September…
If you missed my other posts about flipped learning…
Flipped learning meets cooperative learning #2: Student-generated materials
Flip learning with Google Classroom
Flipped learning. And we’re off…
Flipped learning meets cooperative learning: #1 the spider’s web
Making videos: Flipped learning
Flip writing in the EFL classroom
Why flipped learning has got me excited

penalty shootout cards


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Team revision, team correction and football fever…

The last week of May, that can only mean one thing, end of year tests and the World Cup are just around the corner…

Here are two penalty shootout activities to encourage team revision/correction and get into the World Cup spirit at the same time 😉

penaly shootout cards

Activity 1: Team revision

  1. Students get a set time to revise target language in class or they revise at home in preparation for class
  2. Students are organised into pairs or small groups. Each pair/group receives a set of penalty shootout cards (you don’t need to use the cards, students can simply mark their goals and misses in their notebooks)
  3. Students test each other on the target language (I have a set of example questions to help students formulate questions)
  4. If they are correct they score a goal if not they miss the penalty.

Putting students into pairs/teams encourages negotiation skills, collaboration and communication.  Weaker students also get support from peers. Students can change pairs/groups or opponents for a new penalty shootout depending on class dynamics/time.  After several penalty shootouts, students may feel confident enough to go it alone.

This activity provides plenty of opportunities for revisiting and recycling language.

To really get into the World Cup spirit students can choose a country out of the hat; the country that they will “play for” in the penalty shoot out.

penalty shoot out example

I also use this activity after a vocabulary or grammar test.  

Activity 2: Team correction

  1. First students look at the answers they have incorrect and do their corrections in teams while I monitor, guide and check. (To avoid students simply copying each other’s correct answers, they are not allowed to exchange tests and they must follow the protocol DDD (discuss, decide, do) for every question. In this way nobody can race ahead and students are either teaching or learning the correct forms.
  2.  Then the team divides into two smaller teams or pairs and exchange tests.
  3. Looking at the other team’s tests and using the example questions, they focus on the vocabulary/grammar structures the other team didn’t get right and have just corrected.
  4. If they remember the correction they score a goal, if not they miss the penalty.

I encourage students to provide explanations and repeat missed questions to encourage mastery.  This activity gets students to really focus on their corrections and not only their mark.

Revising/correcting in teams has lots of benefits for students and teachers.  It provides ample opportunities for peer teaching and learning and especially in larger classes allows the teacher to check that all students understand the target language as they are free to walk around class and monitor students.  It promotes teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, communication, negotiation, problem solving skills…

An important consideration when doing an activity like this, however, is student grouping.  Is it better that students are grouped homogeneously or heterogeneously for an activity like this?  Quite often this will depend on group dynamics. It is important that students feel comfortable with their teammates as they will be sharing their tests with each other in order to correct and “test.” My students usually do these activities in the cooperative learning groups that we establish each term, as, by the middle of term groups have usually established a good working rapport (but not always!)

For many, the summer holidays will soon be upon us and revision, tests and correcting will be but a distant memory (for a while anyway…)  However, until then, give your students all the opportunities they need to revise, revisit and recycle language until it truly becomes theirs.

And, if you’re a footy fan, enjoy the World Cup 😉

Penalty shootout cards

Revision questions

 


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Flipped learning meets cooperative learning #2: student-generated materials

One of the biggest considerations when you flip learning is how to best use class time. When I first started flipping classes, most of my attention was focused on the individual space (in my case the instructional videos my students watch and the accountability tasks they do)  Although it’s important that this side of FL is well thought out and presented, the group space is where all the magic happens…

It didn’t take me long to realise this and as soon as I did, I turned my attention to thinking about how best to make the most of it.

As a big fan of cooperative learning, I’ve been trying to incorporate some of the cooperative learning strategies my students are already familiar with to practise content delivered in the individual space.  Some of you will already know that one of my favourites involves nothing more than a ball of wool (no it’s not knitting, although I have been known to knit the odd thing) Flipped learning meets cooperative learning #1: the spider’s web  

I am also a fan of using student-generated material and when I heard Tatiana Golechkova’s talk on Using student-generated activities in class: problems and solutions at IATEFL 2018 I immediately thought “group space.”

Usually I post about tried and tested (by me) activities, but,  I have to admit I haven’t tried this one yet. However, I thought it was such a good idea for a group space activity that I’d share it anyway.

Task

Students create and share quizzes to practise target language.

Procedure

After checking understanding of content delivered in the individual space and clarifying any doubts in the group space, students work in teams to create a quiz based on the target content to test their peers’ understanding.

Students should be familiar with types of questions they can ask. You can provide models of questions depending on the content. You may want each team to prepare different kinds of quizzes e.g multiple choice, matching, closed test, true/false, fill in the blanks, open-ended questions…or all teams to prepare quizzes which include a variety of question types.

Your role will be to monitor, advise and guide students to create appropriate quiz questions.

When all teams are happy with their quiz, they can share with their peers.  I suggest setting up different stations for each quiz which teams move around, completing their classmates’ quizzes. You can set a time limit if time is limited or allow teams to work at their own pace.

For the answers, I suggest:

  • teams hand in their team answer sheet to the relevant station for correction at the end of the activity and each team member of that station can correct the other team’s answers

or

  • if you think it is more opportune that students receive immediate feedback, teams can prepare an answer sheet for their quiz which is made available when a team completes the quiz at that station.

Alternatives

One alternative is for students to create a digital quiz using a tool like Google Forms. Students can then create the quizzes in teams, pairs or individually and they can be easily shared with the class.  Think about how many different quizzes you will have for one content area!

Another alternative is for students to create quizzes on different content.  My idea is to use this activity to revise for the end of year exams.  One team, for example, creates a quiz on the present simple, one on the present continuous, one on the past simple etc… When teams have created the quizzes, they can move through the different stations revising content from the whole year.

Another option is to provide students with a rubric for creating the quizzes and to give them a mark for their quiz as part of their formative assessment. I think this is a good idea anyway even if you don’t grade their quizzes,  as clear guidelines (the rubric) help students to create high quality material.  Rubrics can also be used for peer evaluation of quizzes. Is the quiz too / very / quite easy/difficult? Are the instructions easy to understand? Are the examples clear?  etc…

I would also encourage students to leave their doubts/questions about the content at the station for their “expert” peers to resolve after the quizzes have been completed.

If you choose to set up this activity as a cooperative learning activity rather than a traditional group activity (as I intend to), students should be clear of their respective roles and responsibilities within the team and a rubric provided for self and peer evaluation not only of the final product (the quiz) but the effectiveness of their teamwork.  As a number of teachers at my school use cooperative learning strategies and activities in class, my students are already familiar with expectations regarding teamwork and the protocol for self and peer evaluation. Also the teams, and individual roles within teams are established at the beginning of every term.

If you choose to integrate  cooperative learning into your classes I highly recommend investing time in setting it up and preparing students for it in order to achieve optimal results. It is not something most students will do well without the appropriate “training.”

As I said, this activity is not tried and tested yet, but soon will be.  Stay posted for an update 😉 In the meantime I highly recommend Tatiana Golechkova’s talk which considers both the advantages and disadvantages of using student generated materials in class,  An evaluation of the use of student-generated materials by H Brown 2013 and Use of Student-Generated Questions in the Classroom teachingonpurpose.org 2016.