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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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QR codes – using mobiles in the EFL classroom

Student scanning QR codeRaquel Gonzaga is a blog writer in the field of technology resources for ELT classrooms. In this post, she considers how QR codes can be used to involve and motivate students in the EFL classroom.

Smartphones during EFL classes? How can that be productive?

In this post I intend to share my experience with QR (Quick Response) codes and how they can be used to engage students in simple activities in the classroom.

I often come across students and fellow teachers who have not heard about QR codes at all. So this is an opportunity to get to know a tech resource that has a variety of uses for many purposes, including learning English.

Here’s a video that illustrates how QR codes work:

As a way of checking how familiar your groups are with this resource, the video below could be shown as a way of attracting students’ attention to one of the possible uses and how that relates to their experience of using mobile devices.

Sharing my experience

When I first came across the concept of QR codes for classroom use, the main idea was to use them to link to websites and have students work in small groups. Ok, but the majority of my students haven`t got 3G access, they rely on wi-fi connection, which is not yet available where I work, limiting the number of devices that could be used.

Researching a bit more, I realized that there are ways of using QR codes offline; among them is the option of TEXT. There are several services that offer this functionality, including the one I use, Kaywa. You can type up to 160 characters, enough space for a full sentence, a question or even clues.

Possible offline usages:

The option TEXT, which can be accessed offline is the first one I tried. Here are some of the different approaches I have tested:

  • Vocabulary revision – you type some clues as to the words/collocations you want the students to remember. Students have to work out the words based on the clues you provide
  • Warm up questions – type questions or statements and have students exchange their ideas on the topic
  • Vocabulary riddles – you name it; the possibilities are endless!

You can even supply different groups of students with different codes. Afterwards, students report their findings to their classmates.

How about getting started? If you have a smartphone, go to your app store/market and download a QR code scanner.

Now, hands on practice:

The QR codes below have a quick description of a problem. As students scan the code they have to come up with suitable pieces of advice for each case and share their thoughts.

Try scanning these codes (if you can’t, I’ve added the message that appears):

QR_friend

The message that appears is: “A friend has been feeling extremely tired and sleepy. His/ Her concentration ability has been very low.”

QR_cousin

The message that appears is: “Your cousin, who is 16 years old, has no idea what to study at college or what career to have. He/ She has been very confused.”

The uses suggested are starting points for student discussion, while engaging them by using their mobile phones in the classroom with a meaningful problem-solving purpose.

It goes without saying that this tech resource should be used as a way of adding variety in the classroom and promoting peer collaboration. One device can be shared by a group of students, or they can each use their own. The beauty of it is that no 3G or wi-fi connection is needed for students to participate.

Have in mind that regardless of the style of activity you choose, you should keep this part of the activity short in order to maintain focus on the language.

After their first experience in the classroom, students start noticing all the publicity and media which makes use of QR codes. Knowledge that goes from the classroom to their everyday lives.

Can you think of other possibilities for classroom use? Have you ever tried using QR codes with different age ranges?

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It’s a Digital World

Mother and son using digital tabletTo celebrate the launch of Project fourth edition, teacher trainer, Gareth Davies looks at three ways to make the digital world work for you in your upper primary classroom.

Over the past few years, technology has gradually become a valuable part of my teaching armoury. My essential teaching tool kit used to be a good course book, a ball, some pictures and coloured pens but now it includes a computer and a Wi-Fi connection as well. Using digital tools in the classroom was a logical progression for me. I had used cassette players and then CD players, video and then DVD so as soon as I got a laptop computer I started to think how it could work for me in the classroom.  Below I outline the three areas that technology has helped to enhance my teaching.

Digital Presentation Tools

The first area where I embraced digital in my teaching was using digital presentation tools. I started with a data projector and later started using an interactive whiteboard.

Using a data projector or an interactive whiteboard I can prepare some of my board work before the lesson, which is especially good for grammar or vocabulary presentations. My board work has became clearer and easier to follow, helping my students to make better notes. I can also save board work and revisit it later in the lesson or in a following lesson, this is really useful if the students haven’t understood a concept or need a reminder. On my computer I have all the listenings and videos I want to do in class as well as access to a range of pictures, this means I can appeal to a wide range of learning styles and bring variety to my lesson.

At first, I was worried that this pre-planning would make my lessons more structured, but I actually find having a computer and the internet in the classroom makes me more flexible. It means I can respond to students’ questions by looking things up on the internet or a dictionary CD-Rom as we go along. Also because part of my board work was ready prepared I find I have more time in my classes. This means I can be monitoring my students more and can help those in need. Also having the video on hand all the time means I can change the dynamic of the lesson quickly and easily if I feel the students need something different.

Getting students using technology

These presentation tools were really my toys but I soon found myself asking students to use technology for themselves in and out of the classroom.

I have found that my students are more than willing to look up definitions or translations using their smart phones. When doing pre-reading tasks they sometimes use their access to the Internet to find out information about the topic. This means students become more independent learners and realise that English is not just a school subject but it opens up the world of the web to them.

Computers also became tools for collaborative works such as projects. As well as doing paper projects, we use a range of web tools like blogs or fotobabble that students work on together. I think the fact that they can edit their work if they notice mistakes makes them more willing to take risks digitally and also more willing to comment on each other’s work.

Outside the class for homework or self-study I can use a range of digital tools.  For example I ask students to find music videos or clips from English language films that they like and that we discuss in class. Or ask them to record themselves speaking and email it to me. Students also seem to enjoy doing things on computers that they don’t like to do on paper. For example downloading and reading a graded reader on their phone seems more appealing than turning real pages. Similarly doing controlled practice activities digitally, on the OUP website or the course book CD Rom was more enjoyable for students because it allows them to have more immediacy, they get instant feedback which means they don’t have to wait for the teacher to check their answers. The ‘try again’ function also means they can do the activities again and again.

Professional Development

Finally the new digital world makes professional development so much easier. As you are reading this, I can assume that you have already discovered the power of blogs. Blogs are fantastic ways to learn about teaching methods and the ideas of people who we would never get a chance to meet.

As well as reading blogs I often attend webinars which gives me a chance to listen to teachers talk about what they are passionate about and discuss those ideas with other participants. I am also a member of a Facebook group that is like a virtual classroom, a place where I can share ideas with other teachers.

Finally, I can access the OUP website to access teaching ideas and resources that help me to change the dynamics in the classroom and supplement the course book I am teaching from.

I’ve come a long way since my early attempts at using PowerPoint to present grammar and I still wouldn’t say I have fully integrated technology into my teaching. But I have found that digital tools help to engage and motivate students and have helped me to make the time I spend with my students much more profitable. How is technology affecting your teaching? What benefits has it brought to your classrooms?

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Glue sniffing and classroom technology

Hands holding an iPadPaul Davies, co-author of Solutions second edition, takes a look back at when technology first appeared in the classroom and offers a warning about its use in today’s classrooms.

Visiting my children’s primary school the other day, I picked up a bottle of PVA glue from a table and gave it a little sniff. I’m not a habitual glue-sniffer, but I’d noticed that it was the same type of adhesive we used to have at my own primary school decades earlier and I knew the smell would be evocative. For a moment, I was reliving my schooldays.

I left secondary school in 1984, around the time when computers were beginning to have an impact in education. That year, the eminent British semiotician Daniel Chandler wrote: “The mirocomputer is a tool of awesome potency which is making it possible for educational practice to take a giant step backwards.”

What did he mean? Chandler was no Luddite: he embraced new technology and worked to develop early educational software in collaboration with the BBC. His fear, however, was that educators might be so beguiled by the novelty of the latest classroom technology (in those days, a PC the size of a fridge) that they failed to pay enough attention to the underlying pedagogy. He warned that computers should be viewed not as potential teaching machines but as aids to student expression because, put bluntly, computers can’t teach. They deal in information, not knowledge.

More than a quarter of a century later, Chandler’s warning still applies. Even today, many on-screen language games are basically stimulus and response, often with canned applause or some other audio/visual reward for a correct answer. Short of locking students in a box and dispensing food pellets through a chute if they pull the right lever, this is about as close to Skinnerian behaviourism as you can get. It is an approach to education that has been out of vogue for over half a century.

While Skinner deliberately excluded as irrelevant anything which goes on inside the mind so that he could focus solely on directly observable behaviour, subsequent theories of learning have taken the mind as a starting point: constructivism, brain-based learning, NLP, and so on.

Today, educationalists talk about how students construct knowledge through their interaction with information; they don’t talk about how best to condition students to respond in a certain way (except perhaps with certain aspects of classroom management). However, with the advent of new technology, unbounded behaviourism has re-emerged in the classroom – not because the pedagogy involved has been reconsidered but because, more often than not, it hasn’t been considered at all.

Leaving aside distinctions between the various platforms (PC, laptop, tablet, phone) which in any case appear to be converging, you can divide technology-based activities into two broad categories: A) things which simply couldn’t be done before the relevant technology was on offer, and B) things which have a more traditional equivalent. We shouldn’t assume that activities in either category are necessarily worthwhile, although they might well be.

In category A, a live chat with a class of children on another continent could prove a rich learning experience, while a video game in which you zap adjectives with a ray gun may do little more than keep students quiet for a while. In category B, the key question is whether the technology-based activity is a clear improvement on its precursor. Using an app to plan and monitor your revision timetable makes a lot of sense. But why should we always opt for PowerPoint projects over physical posters? ‘Because we’ve just bought a load of iPads’ is not a good enough reason.

And what about the children whose learning styles are better suited to physical, rather than on-screen, cutting and pasting? Shouldn’t they have the opportunity to put the electronic devices away for a while and get out the scissors and glue? After all, you can’t sniff an iPad.

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On the merits of bad TV in teaching Legal English

Anna Konieczna-Purchała takes a look at how she uses a TV show in her Legal English classes. If this is something that interests you, take a look at Express Series English for Legal Professionals.

I work with lawyers and translators of legal texts, helping them acquire the vocabulary and skills they need to be successful at their jobs. In principle, these students are willing and motivated. In practice, they usually come to class after a long hard day at work. They are tired, and – much as they try to shake off the fatigue – their thoughts go towards home, dinner, and rest.

Before any successful learning can occur, they need to wake up, re-focus, and become truly present in the classroom.

And that’s where bad TV comes in.

Why would you ever use TV drama in Legal English classes, when there is a massive amount of real-life information and resources to assist learning, especially at higher levels? The statutes, rulings and debates are all out there, just begging to be turned into authentic study materials. There is just one problem: after a whole day of dealing with authentic legal texts, more of the same is the last thing my students want to see. Sure enough, they will read and discuss whatever I offer to them, because they are dutiful, and hard-working, and really keen on learning.

But will my thoroughly authentic materials make their eyes light up and their tiredness disappear?

I doubt it.

It all changes dramatically if I let them watch TV, even just for a while. I set the scene by telling them that they are about to watch civil litigation unfold. I switch on an episode of The Defenders, playing it from the moment a trial begins. Opening speeches are presented, so the students learn the premise of the trial first-hand from the characters on the show. Now, real-life opening speeches can be boring. The Defenders on the other hand are entertainment TV. They cannot afford to be boring. The trial unfolds with drama running high, reaching a peak when Jim Belushi’s character asks his partner to give himself a severe allergic reaction, and then swoops in to save him with an epinephrine shot to his suit-clad butt, all in the courtroom. It is hilarious, it is most unlikely, and it is utterly engaging.

The clip is only about 6 minutes long. In these 6 minutes, I achieve three goals.


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