Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog


12 Comments

Using Twitter with your Students

Twitter birds on a wire

Image via Flickr under Creative Commons license

Sean Dowling, an Educational Technology Coordinator, looks at how teachers can continue to support their students’ learning outside of the classroom through the use of Twitter.

Twitter is an online social network website and microblogging platform that allows users to post and read text-based messages (often with attached images), called tweets, up to 140 characters long. According to Statistic Brain (2013, May 7), there are over 554 million active registered Twitter users who tweet 58 million times per day, and projected revenue for 2013 is almost $400 million. In this post, I will make some suggestions as to how to use Twitter with your students.

Getting Started

To use Twitter, both you and your students will need to set up Twitter accounts. Once set up, get your students to start following you and their classmates’ Twitter accounts. Figure 1 below shows a typical Twitter home page. There are areas for composing new tweets, keeping track of who follows you and who you are following, viewing trending tweets, and viewing a stream of your tweets and the tweets of people you are following.

Sample Twitter home page

Figure 1: Sample Twitter home page

Using tweets for teaching and learning

Starting conversations: Ask a question. Get students to reply.

A sample conversation initiated by teacher

Figure 2: A sample conversation initiated by teacher

Encourage your students to start conservations. These could be about their learning, but could also be about their daily lives and fun things. One of the advantages of using a tool like Twitter is that it introduces an element of fun into learning, so use this to motivate students. Another advantage of using Twitter conversations rather than open classroom discussions is to give all students, particularly those who are perhaps shy about speaking in English, more opportunities to participate.

A sample conversation initiated by a student

Figure 3: A sample conversation initiated by a student

Posting links to learning materials: Long links will soon use up most of the available 140 characters, so use a service like bitly to create much shorter links. These posts could also be the starting point for more conversations.

A post with two shortened bitly links

Figure 4: A post with two shortened bitly links

This use of Twitter is an effective way to blend the longer, more static posts in traditional blogs with the shorter, more dynamic posts of a microblog. A traditional blog could be used to set up and deliver the learning content of an actual lesson, but Twitter could be used for real-time interaction during the lesson.

Continue reading


9 Comments

10 (mostly) free apps for creative language learning

Girl in park with tablet computerHaving shown us 10 free apps for teachers to use for planning and classroom management, Shaun Wilden returns with 10 more apps to aid language learning in creative ways.

More and more teachers and schools are using mobile devices and tablets as a tool in and out of the classroom.  While the use of mobile assisted language learning is not just about using apps, it would be remiss to ignore the wealth of resources that are available.

Apps, if chosen wisely, can provide not only engagement and language practice but also create new ways of doing tasks. Utilising either the teacher or school’s tablet or employed as part of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, apps provide an excellent addition to a teacher’s toolbox. Actually, like any tool, it is not the app that matters but what you do with it. If chosen for clear educational purposes, apps can be motivational, lead to creativity and enhance student collaboration.

With thousands to choose from, coming up with a list of ten is quite challenging. We’ve tried to choose a range from those that give a new spin on an old activity, e.g. Bill Atkinson’s photocard that allows you to create postcards, through to those such as Aurasma which brings augmented reality to the classroom.  While some of you might complain not all the apps are free, those that do have a price are chosen because of their versatility and ability to be used time and time again.

Aurasma app iconAurasma

Free. Available on iOS and Android.

Augmented reality is tipped to be “the next big thing”. This app is an easy introduction to augmented reality providing a unique way to bring students work life. The easy-to-use app works by overlaying video on a chosen image. By doing this students can bring written work to life. This can be used for example, to create video book reviews of school readers, give audio commentary to a piece of written work and even be used to develop student created information guides for school.

PhotoCard app iconPhotoCard by Bill Atkinson

Free. Available on iOS.

Many course books include postcard writing in them though in reality it is likely that our students haven’t sent a postcard in a long while. This app is an engaging way for students to send a digital postcard. Though there are many postcard apps for both iOS and android, they often involve a cost for printing and sending of the postcard. In this app you can simply email your postcard. Being able to use your own photographs and also include voice recording make this a versatile app for creative students.

Bitsboard app iconBitsboard

Free. Available on iOS.

Bitsboard is an example of a flashcard app. It is a very easy way for you and/ or the students to create flashcards of the vocabulary topics in a course book. Either by using images in the app library or by adding your own, you can create flashcards on any topic. As well as using images, the app allows you to record the word so the flash card is both visual and aural. Having created the flashcards the app provides nine mini games for the students to practice the vocabulary.

Camera app iconCamera apps

Available on iOS (as default) and Android.

Creativity is not all about the apps. All tablets have at least one camera in them and the power of images and video should not be overlooked. Using the camera makes for a simple but effective piece of homework. For example, taking a photo of your free time, turning vocabulary lists into visual dictionaries or taking a photo to contextualise a language point. The video camera can be used to bring role plays to life.

Comic Life app iconComic Life

£2.99. Available on iOS and desktop.

This app is an excellent way to get students creatively writing. Using photographs the students have taken on their phones or digital cameras, they can create comics. The students simply drag and drop the photos they wish to use into a template and then use speech bubbles and captioning to create the text for the story. Once finished, the comic can be read on the tablet or saved as a PDF.

Pic Collage app iconPic Collage

Free. Available on iOS and Android.

Pic collage is an example of a collage maker, of which there are many in both stores. A collage maker allows you and the students to gather photos together into one image. .  A student can use their mobile device to take photos on a topic for example, ‘English words in their town’.  The photos are then put into a collage to make a poster.  Students can be tasked to make tasks similar to those that appear in oral exams by again taking photos then combining them into a collage. Handing task creation over to the students is an excellent way to increase motivation and engagement.

Puppet Pals 2 app iconPuppetpals 2

£2.99 (though you can download the original for free). Available on iOS.

This is a very popular app with teachers who teach children though its charm will spark creativity in anyone. Basically the app allows you to make an animated movie. You can choose from a wide variety of characters, locations, vehicles and music. You can also take a photograph of yourself and animate that. Using the characters in the app, students can tell and record their stories. These can be saved and shared.

Rory's Story Cubes app iconRory’s Story Cubes

£1.49. Available on iOS and Android.

This is the app of the long established cube story game.  By shaking your devise you get a random selection of 9 cubes.  These can be used for a number of classroom activities.  The cubes provide prompts for language practice e.g. linking two of the cubes together using a grammatical structure. The 9 cubes can be used as prompts for story writing or collaborative story telling.

Socrative app iconSocrative

Free. Available on iOS and Android.
NB: there are two apps you need for Socrative – student and teacher.

Socrative describes itself as a smart student response system. In real terms socrative is a way to set quizzes for your class. The quizzes can be answered on the students’ mobile devices or if a student doesn’t have a device, via the website. The quizzes can be multiple choice, written responses and also be image-based. The app can be used to review revise vocabulary and language points. The app aids differentiation as each student is responding through their own device and at their own pace. The teacher app provides you with a report of how each student did and allows you to get feedback from each student.

Spreaker app iconSpreaker

Free. Available on iOS and Android.

Spreaker is an app that turns your mobile device into a simple recording studio. It allows you to create an off-line recording for a podcast or even broadcast live online. Each recording can be up to 30 minutes in length. This is an excellent app for making podcasts. It can be used in many activities from creating audio dictionaries through to a weekly class radio podcast.


6 Comments

The pitfalls of exam preparation

Girl sat at desk writingAhead of his talk at IATEFL Liverpool, Zoltan Rezmuves looks at some of the tough choices that must be made when preparing students for exams.

What’s your main goal in teaching English? You’ll probably say something along the lines of “enabling students to communicate well in English” and perhaps also “developing students to be better people“. But have you ever had a group of students preparing for an examination? Then you know that your success or failure will be measured not by how well they can express themselves in real life, and not even by how well they fit into society. Where there is an important exam at the end of the process, you can only succeed if your students pass the exam. It’s that simple. But what does this mean in terms of classroom practice?

EXAM PREPARATION TO-DO LIST

1. You will have to cover the exam syllabus (the topics, the grammar and vocabulary, the skills and sub-skills), and make sure you don’t miss out anything.

2. You will have to familiarise your students with all the exam task types, and provide them with strategies to complete each type of task with maximum efficiency.

3. You will have to familiarise your students with the assessment criteria – so they know how to maximise their point scores, and how to avoid losing valuable points.

4. You will have to provide students with practice and rehearsal opportunities, so when they get to the real exam, it’s not their first time completing it.

The above is just a rough shortlist of tasks for you. Can you think of other things students will expect of you?

To continue with the same train of thought, what does this mean in terms of what you’re NOT going to do in the classroom?

EXAM PREPARATION NOT-GOING-TO-DO LIST

1. You are not going to cover language points that aren’t required in the exam. Students probably won’t mind. But don’t forget that often we only teach language points because we know they’re going to be tested. Throughout my career as a learner, there has always been a massive emphasis on irregular verbs. They are certainly useful, but the reason we spent so much time memorising long lists of them was merely because they were going to feature in our exams. Think about this – is there any language you’d skip or spend less time on if it wasn’t in the exam?

2. You are going to prioritise the task types that do occur in the exam over those that don’t – which means you’re probably going to reduce task type variety. You feel responsible for your students’ success, so you make sure their exposure to exam expectations is maximised. When it comes down to a choice between, say, an open personalised speaking task and another multiple-choice gap fill, perhaps you’re going to go for the gap fill… again.

3. In order to prepare your students well and to make sure you’re not leaving even your weakest student behind, you’re going to spend a lot of time focusing on what’s needed for the exam. When pressed for time, you are not going to do too many activities which have no connection to the exam. This includes games, drama, discussion of controversial / intriguing (depending on your viewpoint) subjects, jokes and humour in general… can you continue this list? Exams are neutral, non-controversial, and let’s face it, pretty bland. Which is fine because tests are measurement tools, and it’s important to reduce unwanted extra factors, like emotional responses. But bear in mind that “pretty bland” is exactly the opposite of what language classes should be! How are you going to motivate students if you’re spending so much time doing stuff that isn’t motivating?

What I’m saying is that our general aims in language teaching and the aims of exam preparation are linked, but sometimes their priorities clash, and it will be up to you to strike the right balance and to blend learning for real life and exam preparation.

Zoltan Rezmuves will be talking about Speaking and Writing in Exam Training: Blended Solutions at IATEFL Liverpool on Wednesday 10th April in Hall 4b at 11:40am.


1 Comment

Meeting the needs of Business Studies students

Business meetingLouis Rogers is co-author of Skills for Business Studies Intermediate and Upper-intermediate. Ahead of his talk at BESIG on 19th November, he discusses the challenges of meeting the needs of Business Studies students.

At a recent conference, ‘Engaging and Motivating Students in the EAP Classroom‘, a number of the presenters reached the conclusion that the more a specific course is tailored to student needs, the greater the level of motivation and engagement. To a Business English tutor who has conducted numerous needs analyses, and consequently chosen a book or written materials on this basis, this is perhaps hardly surprising. However, when teaching English to Business Studies students, what are the needs of these learners? How can we best use the Business English materials that are already on the market, and what gaps need to be filled?

Although Business English course books do not necessarily address all of the needs of a Business Studies student, they are certainly valuable. Presentations are to a large extent the same whether in an academic or professional situation. The language required to successfully participate in meetings and seminars is also similar. Both of these genres can quite clearly occur in both settings.

There are also similarities in vocabulary, especially in terms of subject-specific vocabulary. So if there are so many similarities between the two, can we not simply walk in with our favourite Business English course book and get on with it? Whilst there are clearly similarities between the two areas, and a normal Business English course book is still of great value, there is a need to supplement in order to meet the slightly differing needs of academic students.

Firstly, there is a need for a shift in balance between lexical aims and grammatical aims of a course. In spoken discourse a much wider range of grammatical tenses are used than in written academic English. According to Biber et al (1999) 90% of an academic text is written using just two tenses: the past simple and the present simple. So the teaching of tenses takes on a lesser role in this setting.

Continue reading


12 Comments

Activities to get students speaking

Teenage boy giving presentation in classDiana Corcos, a teacher and teacher trainer, gives us a few tips on how to get students speaking in class.

Recently, I was in the staff room looking at the timetables for the next term. I was worried because I’d been given one of the larger classes…about 30 students. I am not keen on big classes so I decided to spend some time thinking about how I could get them all involved in some speaking activities.

I know from experience that it’s really important for pronunciation and memory, as well as providing a change of activity to keep students interested; but it’s a challenge!

So I thought I’d share with you some of the ideas I’ve used successfully in the past.

■ Get your classroom layout right

Have students’ desks and chairs arranged so they can see each other and you can move around easily. The students need to know that you’re listening and commenting on their progress as well as keeping an eye on them!

■ Keep control – without raising your voice

We all worry about losing control of speaking activities in large classes but they can work if you don’t have to shout. Try this way to get your students to listen

Tell your class that when your hand is held up you expect everyone to be quiet and listen. At first, only a few students will see your hand go up, but they’ll tell others and in a few seconds everyone will be quiet and you can speak. It’s really just the same as them putting up their hand to speak to you, so they’ll soon get used to it.

■ Grab their attention right from the start

Behaviour problems, especially with large groups, can happen when students drift into the lesson and it takes a while before everyone’s ready to start.  So have something they can get on with immediately.  Always have a task ready on the board when they come in – but keep it short. I use a kitchen timer which rings after a set time. My students always work in pairs.

Activities might be as simple as open-ended questions e.g.

  • Why do people live in cities?
  • Is school uniform a good or a bad thing?
  • Does money bring happiness?

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,330 other followers