ACEnglishteacher

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

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The Question Box: Recycle vocabulary and grammar

– “Teacher, we haven’t done this”

– “Yes we have, cast your mind back to last term, last month, last week…” (in some cases!)

Sound familiar?

Aware that we are covering a large amount of content (defined by the curriculum) and that a lot of my students cram for exams then promptly forget everything they studied until they cram for the next one,  I’ve been looking for ways to revisit and recycle vocabulary and grammar.  And thus The Question Box came into being…

question box

The Question Box lives in the classroom of its owners (the students) waiting to be called upon at any opportune moment… The Question Box belongs to the class, it is the students who determine what goes in and what comes out.

Similar to the Word Bag concept, students write a question on a slip of paper to ask their classmates using vocabulary and/or grammar structures we are studying or have studied. Questions are checked by peers and/or the teacher before posting in the box.  Questions can be formulated individually, in pairs or in groups.  

Revising and recycling vocabulary and grammar with The Question Box helps students develop oral and written accuracy and fluency.

These are some of the ways we’ve been using ours…

Activity 1

  • Warm up/cool down…

At the beginning of class to get in the “English” zone. A 5 minute question/answer session to warm up as a whole class/in pairs or in groups.

The question box can also be used at the end of a class if you have 5 minutes to fill.

Tip

Some of you will know I’m a fan of Wheel Decide for, amongst other things, choosing students at random to answer questions. I also have an envelope with all the students’ names in for the days when we have no internet.

This can also be done as a Think-Pair-Share activity.  Students are given time to think about their answer to the question, discuss it with their partner and then share with the group.  Alternatively it could be done as a Three-step interview.  Students form pairs and interview each other then from a new pair and report their findings from the original interview to their new partner.

Activity 2

  • Round Robin

Using the cooperative learning strategy Round Robin all team members answer the question from the box. When all team members have answered the question, they prepare a one sentence summary for their group

e.g:

Do you like going to the beach?

Summary:

We all like going to the beach / Three of us like going to the beach but one of us doesn’t / None of us like going to the beach

How often do you study?

Summary:

We all study everyday / Three of us study everyday but one of us only studies the day before an exam.

Variations:

Using the same strategy, students write a (10) word answer practising complex sentence structures and linkers to develop written fluency.  Teammates revise and edit each other’s answers.

This can be done in pairs within the team if some students need support.

This activity can even be extended to writing a short paragraph in response to the question.

Each team can choose a different question from the box to discuss.  When teams have finished discussing their question using the Round Robin technique, they can move to the other teams’ stations to answer their questions.  The recorded answers for each team can them be read out by the designated speaker for each team when all questions have been answered by all teams.

Activity 3

  • Speed interview

Pick (5) sentences from the box and prepare the answers for a speed interview. Students make 2 concentric circles and discuss their questions with the person facing them.  When time’s up one circle moves one space to the left or right and students repeat the activity with their new partner (instead of concentric circles you can put students in two lines and they move down the line)

Students can write up their findings depending on time and objectives.

Activity 4

  • Guess the questions.

Individually, in pairs or in groups students answer the questions (spoken or written) and their partner/team/classmates guess what the question was.

Activity 5

  • Who am I?

Students adopt the persona of a famous person or even a classmate and answer questions from the box as that person.  Their classmates guess who they are.

Activity 6

  • Truth or lie?  

Students choose a question for a classmate to answer.  They can tell the truth or tell a white lie. Their classmates try to determine if they are telling the truth.  They can ask more questions to help them decide.

Tip

Prepare “tell the truth” and “tell a white lie” cards so students can’t change their mind about whether they were telling the truth or lying!

Any of the above activities can be used with fast finishers who can pair up or work in groups.

The Question Box encourages students to take some ownership of their learning. The box belongs to them.  It is kept in their classroom.  They are responsible for the content. Students could even design their own activities to do which involve using the question box.

As we know, learning a language is not linear, students will learn, forget and relearn vocabulary and forms.  They need multiple opportunities to encounter and engage with the language to be able to retrieve it and use it effectively.  The Question Box provides endless opportunities for revisiting and recycling language 😉

 

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Look what you missed in 2017!

The end of a year/beginning of a new one is often a time for reflection when we look back at our triumphs and failures…

A common post I see around now is “My most popular posts in “insert year” “My top 10 posts of “insert year”
I thought about doing the same but then felt kind of sorry for the not-so-fortunate ones. So I’ve dragged my least popular posts of 2017 out of hibernation to give them another chance in 2018.

Here’s what you might have missed …

Word Art 23

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Increase productivity at school (and at home) with Google Keep…

It’s that time of year when we are busy making and breaking New Year’s resolutions.  I have to say that I have never been one for making resolutions only at the start of a new year,  I am constantly making (and breaking) them! However, there is one resolution I made a while ago that I try never to break… be productive and manage my time efficiently!

As a keen advocate of anything that can make life that bit easier and help me with my resolution, I added a page called Bright Ideas to my blog; a place to share these ideas and discoveries…

I found out about the latest Bright Idea whilst training to earn the Google Certified Educatator level 1 certificate. I learnt to use some Google tools that have made both my personal and working life more productive and helped me save lots of time. One of these is Google Keep, an online note-taking tool. Continue reading

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Save time planning lessons with Google Docs

It’s that time of year again…almost but not quite there! In some respects these are the most difficult days to plan for.  There’s no new content to be taught, exams are over and students are waiting for their reports, daydreaming about the summer holidays…  Unfortunately whilst students are in mode “relax,”  teachers are definitely not! There’s still class and you’re running around like a headless chicken: correcting exams, writing reports, preparing resits and planning lessons!

Over the years, teachers build up a large bank of resources. My problem is that over these years as my memory has suffered the effects of ageing, remembering and retrieving this information has become increasingly difficult.  Around this time last year while juggling everything else and desperately trying to remember “that great activity” I had done at the end of the summer term the year before (yes my memory is that short) I had a bright idea.  Once again my old friend Google had a hand to play (I make no apologies for being a Google enthusiast, I know it knows everything about me, but it makes my life a whole lot easier…)

Anyone already familiar with my blog may know that I am a huge fan of maximising time. I want to do my job well, however, I also want enough free time to re-energise and avoid burn out! I believe by making small changes we can save huge amounts of time (minimising frustration and stress) without compromising the quality of our classes. This is one of the reasons I created the page Bright ideas to share some of these small changes which have made a difference. Continue reading

Google search tipc


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Google like a pro: 12 top tips

Although my digital natives are a dab hand at whatsapping, instagramming, snapchatting… (not facebooking however, that’s just for oldies like me apparently!) some of their other digital skills are pretty basic.

In my blog post Developing digital competence , I looked at The European Framework for digital competence which identifies 5 key areas considered necessary to be a successful digital citizen.  The first one is informationIdentify, locate, retrieve, store and analyse digital information, judging its relevance and purpose.  This is definitely one skill area that my students need to improve in. 

Whilst they are able to eventually locate the information they are looking for, they are not efficient “searchers” and often end up wading through tonnes of irrelevant information and taking far too long. This can be frustrating enough in your own language, but identifying and locating information in a language which isn’t your mother tongue, can be even more so (especially if you have a low level of proficiency.)

Tweaking search terms however, can narrow down the search; saving time and making the task that little bit easier. Introduce students to these simple tweaks to encourage them to become more efficient “searchers” and more competent digital citizens.

Google like a pro (PDF)

 

Calendar


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Using celebrations to engage students

Add dates of “International days” to your calendar and set a notification for a week before.

Using official celebrations are a great way to engage students and discuss topics which might not be covered in your textbook/curriculum. There are plenty of them, from serious topics and recognised International Days to semi serious and downright bizarre worldwide events, festivals and celebrations …

The problem I had, was finding out about them (usually on the day), leaving no time to prepare something for class.  Then, I had the bright idea of adding them as new events to my google calendar and setting a repeat notification for every year one week before the event.  Now I never miss Grammar Day (!?), No selfies Day or Cheese Doodle Day (today!)

For officially recognised International Days check out the United nations International Days page and if you fancy something a bit more light-hearted go to www.daysoftheyear.com (serious stuff too)

Thanks to the notification I received this week (thanks google calendar), I’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day on the 8th of March with my students.  

I’ve created a Padlet wall (a great easy to use tool for giving students a voice, see my blog post for more ideas how to use Padlet) for students to post a description of the achievements of a woman they would like to celebrate… (see below)

Looking forward to Chocolate Mousse Day, World Wish Day and No Housework Day next month…;-)

Made with Padlet