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Crafty ways of learning English

Close-up of robot head made of paperGabby Pritchard, co-author of the new kindergarten series, Show and Tell, offers some practical tips for making the most of creative craft activities in the very young learner English classroom.

Craft activities are a fun and effective way of bringing a new language alive for young learners. They provide a great opportunity for children to use natural language in a real situation for a real purpose. They also help children develop a whole range of skills, including listening and speaking skills, visual literacy skills, social skills and motor skills, as well as encouraging them to think creatively and work cooperatively. Furthermore, children feel a real sense of achievement in completing and talking about the finished product.

Careful planning is key to ensuring your children are able to make the most effective use of new language while working on their craft activity.

Here are six easy ways to make sure your children are developing their language skills as well as enjoying their craft projects:

1. Put language at the center

When choosing a craft project, ensure it springs naturally from the topic your class is studying. Consider carefully how new and review language patterns, as well as vocabulary, can be used. For example, if the language is prepositions of place and the children are making a model of a house with furniture, focus initially on vocabulary. Use known question forms such as What’s this? Is it a…? to prompt answers. Then, as the children place the furniture in rooms, ask Where is the…? prompting the children to answer with full sentences: It’s next to the bed. Extend this by playing a language game with the class when the project is complete. In this case it could be a guessing game in which they take turns to describe where something is without naming it. Finally, the children can describe their finished work.

Young students modelling a project

2. Begin at the end

Always begin by showing and talking about finished examples of the crafts. They illustrate the purpose of the activity clearly, and provide models for the children to work from. If the initial task involves making items that contribute to a bigger project, such as making animals for a farm, discuss how the children will contribute individually and also work together to finish the project. At this point, teach any new words they might need.

3. Lead by example

Before the children begin their projects, demonstrate the process in simple stages. Include the children by asking them to name the materials you are using and discuss what the next stages should be. Invite children to come and act as helpers, modelling instructions and polite behavior with them.

4. Teach the language of instruction

Be consistent with the instructions you use and build upon this throughout the year. Teach and encourage the children to use some new instructions each time they work on a new project. The language of instruction is very useful in a wide range of situations and the children will soon use these new words and phrases quite naturally in class.

5. Work together

Organize some activities that require the children to work in pairs or small groups. For example, ask children to work in pairs to grow a plant. They can choose and plant seeds together and then track the development of the plant by taking photos or drawing pictures. The children can also present their finished project to the rest of the class together.

Two young students making growing pots

Arrange the classroom so that children work in small groups at tables so they share equipment. Encourage them to use polite language as they work. Prompt them to transfer this language to other situations during the day, such as when preparing for snack time or tidying up.

Two young students working together politely

6. Celebrate!

Arrange for the children to present their work at assemblies and to parents through class displays. Invite parents into school to admire their children’s work or have the children take craft projects home so they can talk to their families in English about their work.

Young student showing off his project to classmates

Take a look at the craft activities at the end of each unit of Show and Tell. You will find plenty of ideas to try, from ‘feely’ pictures and sunny day balloons to a class picnic display, or even a whole model neighborhood.

But most of all, have lots of fun and get messy!


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A selection of classroom resources for #Christmas

Christmas sceneChristmas is nearly upon us, so we thought we’d share some of our classroom resources for you to use with your students.

The below resources are primarily intended for Primary and Secondary levels.

All activities are photocopiable for you to use in your classroom.

Christmas Activity Booklet

Christmas Activities 2013, including:

  • Decorate your Christmas Tree
  • Christmas Decorations
  • Christmas Quiz
  • Christmas Word Search
  • Where is Santa’s Sack?
  • Teacher’s notes for the above

Christmas Worksheets

Christmas Poster and Worksheets, including:

  • Christmas Classroom Poster
  • Let’s Sing! Jingle Bells
  • Advent Wreath
  • Christmas Card
  • Christmas Crossword
  • Pin the Nose on Rudolph
  • Teacher’s notes for the above

Extensive Reading Activities

More Resources

There is a huge bank of free worksheets on the Christmas Corner area on Oxford University Press Spain’s website. Everything from Pre-Primary to Upper Secondary levels. All in English and all available for download.

Happy Holidays!


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#EFLproblems – Motivating Young Learners

Japanese girlWe’re helping to solve your EFL teaching problems by answering your questions every two weeks. In this week’s blog, Verissimo Toste responds to Sylwia’s blog comment about motivating young learners.

I’m interested in the idea of participation points for the class. How does it work? Is it a motivation for the whole class? Are there any awards? I’m asking because I mainly have a problem with involving students in the lesson, especially the weaker ones. They fell behind with grammar and vocabulary and they became discouraged. They are also very lazy.”

Sylwia brought up an interesting issue: involving young learners in the lesson, or more specifically “the weaker ones”. According to Sylwia, these weaker learners “fell behind with grammar and vocabulary and they became discouraged.”

The first point I would like to bring up here is that success motivates, and equally, failure demotivates. If a learners’s previous experience with English has been negative, it is natural that they will give up. So, an important objective for the teacher of young learners is to make everyone feel successful. This is not as difficult as it may seem. Here are some ideas:

1. Focus on what has been learned

Praise learners for their achievements. When teaching colours, for example, focus on the colours each child has learned, not on the ones they still don’t know. Don’t compare them to one another. Relate to each learner individually. Focus on what each learner has achieved and the improvements they have made.

2. Make your classroom safe and supportive

Strive to make your classroom a place your learners enjoy being in. Equally, make your lessons a time your learners look forward to. Encourage them to enjoy the songs they sing, the games they play, the projects they share with each other. Make your lessons fun and have fun with them. When an activity is on the verge of being too difficult or uninteresting, step back. Save it for another time. Children do not learn when they feel stressed or when they don’t like what they are meant to learn.

3.  Children like learning

This is an important point, so I will repeat it: children like learning. It is what they do all day, every day. Children learn what they need to learn. Your learners will enjoy learning a new song. If you ask them to teach that song to their parents, you create a need for them to learn the lyrics. You also create a situation in which they are motivated to learn the song in order to teach someone else. This may create a need for reading the lyrics, or to memorise the song well enough for when they arrive home. Notice how, in this situation, you have also created a need to play the song more than one time, as your learners will need to know it well in order to teach it.

4. Children are natural language learners

Everyone has learned a language. There is no language in the world that is too difficult for a child to learn as their mother tongue. So, children are natural language learners. They will make the effort to learn the new words you are teaching, or some new language structure. They simply need to feel safe, to enjoy it, and to believe they can do it.

Now, more specifically, what can a teacher do to involve all of their learners in the lesson?

5. Personalise the learning

Whatever language you are teaching, see how your learners can use it to talk about themselves and their world. When teaching words associated with the house, relate it to their houses. When teaching abilities with “can”, or possessions with “have got”, relate it to their abilities and their possessions. Young learners like to talk about themselves. When they see English as a way to talk about their interests, they will become more motivated and will make a greater effort.

6. Each according to their ability

As your learners are learning the language, relate to each according to their ability. Antonio may tell you a lot of things he has got and, in this way, use most of the language you have been teaching. Ana, however, may only tell you about a few things. In both cases, praise them for what they have done. This will encourage Ana to continue learning. She will notice how others communicate more and be encouraged to learn more. Remember, success leads to success. If Ana feels successful, she will continue to make an effort.

7. Praise them! Reward them!

Establish a system for rewarding your learners for their efforts. Rewards should be based on effort and not knowledge. Make sure that everyone is able to get the reward if they try. For example, in my classes I create an honour board called, “I Am Special”. Let’s imagine I am teaching likes and dislikes, with the vocabulary related to food. The first week anyone who can name 5 different food items without looking at the book gets their name on the board. Two weeks later it might be those who can tell me 3 food items they like and three they don’t like.

8. Give them the opportunity to succeed.

Give your learners a second and third opportunity to succeed. Maria may not be able to name 5 food items the first week, but during the second week she is able to. That’s when you put her name on the honour board. Eventually, you may see everyone’s name on the board. Great! Congratulate the class on how well they are doing – all of them!

9. Establish routines

Establish a routine in class. This will help communicate to your learners what is expected of them. How should they enter the classroom? What is the first thing they should do as they come in? What do you want to see on their desks? What do you not want to see? Do they put away their books? Establish some definitions for working together, raising hands, etc.

10. Use project work

Finally, since Sylwia mentioned weaker learners and the idea of mixed ability, I always recommend that teachers use project work for these situations. I mentioned that personalising learning helps motivate children to learn. Using project work can give learners a basis to use the English they are learning. For example, when learning “can” for abilities, learners can make a poster of what they can do. Using images will reinforce learning. The project gives everyone an opportunity to show what they have learned. Making it personal and sharing the information with others in the class will engage them in their learning and make the language real.

Invitation to share your ideas

We are interested in hearing your ideas about getting young learners involved, so please comment on this post.

Please keep your challenges coming. You can let us know by commenting on this post, on Twitter using the hashtag #EFLproblems, or on our Facebook page. Each blog will be followed by a live Facebook chat to discuss the challenge answered in the blog. Be sure to Like our Facebook page to be reminded about the upcoming live chats.

Here are the topics for the next two blogs:

04 December 2013: Learning English beyond the exams
18 December 2013: Written self-correction for younger learners


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A selection of classroom resources for #Halloween

Halloween decorationsHalloween is nearly upon us, so we thought we’d share some of our classroom resources for you to use with your students.

The below resources are primarily intended for Primary and Secondary levels.

All activities are photocopiable for you to use in your classroom.

Worksheets

Extensive Reading Activities

More Resources

There is a huge bank of free worksheets on the Halloween Corner area on Oxford University Press Spain’s website. Everything from Pre-Primarily to Upper Secondary levels. All in English and all available for download.

Happy Halloween!


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Using online posters to motivate teens

Glogster

Image credit: Glogster EDU

Usoa Sol, a materials writer, teacher trainer and the Head of the English Department at Sant Gregori School in Barcelona, offers some practical ideas for using online posters to motivate your Upper Primary students.

Would you like to see your students motivated to learn English and really looking forward to English class? Then Glogster is definitely the online poster tool you’re looking for! Let us take a look at the benefits of using Glogster in the classroom.

Why use online posters?

Nowadays, students take loads of pictures and make videos (of themselves, of their friends, of their everyday lives), so asking them to put them up on an online poster is a great way of using them to your advantage for learning purposes.

Glogster is visual, intuitive and very easy to use. What’s more, it caters for all students regardless of their level, it really appeals to them, and most importantly, it boosts their creativity and allows them to express their ideas in an artistic way.

Why is Glogster such a great educational tool? Because it gives students the chance to bring to the classroom what they do outside of it and to create something using the language they speak best: multimedia.

Also, most of our students are used to sharing things online with their friends, and Glogster is just perfect for that, because on a Glogster poster students can post images, video, music, hyperlinks, and add sound. Not only does this mean that their posters come to life, but also that they become really interactive; and what’s more, they can be seen by a lot more people.

Five simple activities to do with Glogster

Glogster can be used in many different ways, but here are a few ideas for you to try out in your classes:

1. For a quick collaborative activity that you could carry out in one single class, you could use Glogster to brainstorm vocabulary related to a topic, for example: food. Each student could contribute one word and its corresponding picture and paste it on the glog. Then, they could go in front of the class and tell their classmates why they have chosen that word and what it means to them or even give an example sentence with that word. For example: “This is a photo of fish and chips. It’s my favourite British dish. I first had it when I went to London three years ago”.

2. Another example of a brainstorming activity using Glogster that can be done at the beginning of the school year with low-level students is a poster where they can post words they already know in English. This is going to boost their confidence and make them feel good about what they know, so they are in the right mindset to learn new things!

3. A third version of this activity that could be done after Christmas is one where students could post a picture of what they’ve done over the holidays and write a sentence describing it. They could also put up a picture of a present they’ve received and write about what it’s for, who it’s from and why they like it.

4. Apart from being a great tool for brainstorming, Glogster can also be used for longer projects. One of the most successful projects I have carried out in an EFL class with my students is an activity where they had to design a Glogster poster to illustrate a text they’d written about themselves.

Students absolutely loved looking for the best pictures, videos and music to put up on their posters and they spent hours working on their “poster assignment” (which they didn’t really see as homework, but as a fun activity they actually enjoyed doing). What’s more, it was the students themselves who asked me if they could present their posters in front of the class, which was great oral practice in English, a highly enjoyable activity for my students and really useful for me to get to know them better.

After the students had presented their posters, we posted them onto our school wiki and it was amazing to see them giving each other feedback on their posters and asking each other questions that they had thought of in the days after the presentations.

5. Apart from asking your students to design a poster about themselves over a series of lessons, you could also adapt this idea to get them to illustrate what English means to them. For example, you could ask them to write their “English biography” (i.e., a short text about when they started learning English, what they like best and least about it, what they find the easiest and the hardest about English, why they think English is important, if they’ve ever been to an English-speaking country) and then get them to design a Glogster poster to capture the main ideas in their text.

Summary

Glogster holds great potential for EFL classes and will definitely motivate your students to learn English. So, what are you waiting for? Start using it and tell us about it! Which activities work well in your classroom with Glogster?

Project Competition logoWant to start creating online posters with your class? Why not enter the Project competition? Watch this short video from Project author Tom Hutchinson to find out more.

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