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4 common teaching challenges and how to solve them with videos that extend learning

Solving four common teaching challenges with videos that extend learningTamara Jones, co-author of Q: Skills for Success Second Edition, joins us on the blog today to review her TESOL talk about flipping the classroom using content aligned videos.

I think we can all agree that while teaching is rewarding and most of us love what we do, it can also be challenging.  At least it is for me!  While I might be a Q: author, I am also a classroom teacher, and I know how difficult it can be to not only reach all of my students, but to also accomplish everything that the curriculum dictates. That’s why I love anything that provides a solution to some of the many challenges we instructors face on a given day. Content aligned video can be used to overcome many common class challenges while also helping you extend your students’ learning beyond the four walls of your classroom.

Challenge #1:  There is never enough time.

I remember thinking when I first started teaching, “Wait, so you are telling me that I’m supposed to teach a target structure, provide opportunities for controlled and free practice, offer correction, develop students’ higher order cognitive skills, AND assess progress in a few short hours a week?”  It never feels like there is enough time! Even though we know that students need time to practice the target language in class, it often seems that the time we spend teaching it far outweighs the time students actually spend using it.

One way of overcoming this challenge is to flip the classroom using skills or instructional videos, which present the learning points in easy-to-understand ways.  Students can watch a video at home and then come to class ready with questions about the skill, and, even more importantly, prepared to use it to interact.  With the instructional portion of the lesson completed before class, students will have more time to do meaningful practice and generate authentic language in the classroom.

You may be thinking, “This is a great idea, but what about those students who don’t watch the video at home?”  One of my colleagues ran into this very problem when she flipped her classroom, and she came up with an ingenious solution.  By assigning short quizzes that test the students not only on the content of the video but also on facts that only someone who watched the video would know (like what color the bird in the example was, or which mountain the video referred to), she holds her students accountable for doing the work before class.

Challenge #2:  My students are at different levels.

Even under the best circumstances— for example, a multi-level program that carefully pre-tests students to ensure accurate placement— teachers are faced with a range of abilities in a class.  Not all students will understand new concepts at the same pace, and some students will need more help than others.  If you’ve ever found yourself holding up a lesson to answer the questions of one or two students while the rest of the class yawns and looks out the window, you’re familiar with this problem.

So, how can videos help?  I have found it very useful to assign instructional videos to my struggling students as extra homework.  Videos are extra helpful for weaker learners because, unlike a classroom lecture in which the information is delivered according to the teacher’s pace, videos enable students to rewind and re-watch any parts they don’t understand.  They can also watch the material again and again at spaced intervals, which helps with retention.  This gives students control over the information, and how empowering is that?

Challenge #3:  My students aren’t autonomous learners.

You might find that, although your students memorize information really well, they haven’t necessarily become independent learners.  They still expect the instructor to be the conveyor of all new information while they sit and passively receive it.  While this is a very relaxing view of learning, it’s simply not the way language is acquired.  Students have to assume responsibility for their own linguistic development and seek out learning opportunities beyond the walls of the classroom.

This can be a difficult skill to develop in learners, especially if they went to school in cultures where this kind of autonomy is not typically fostered.  Giving students access to videos that align with the course content is one way of scaffolding this process for them.  With some encouragement, they may choose to watch the videos if they don’t understand a concept completely or if they do poorly on an assessment.  They might choose to watch the videos in preparation for upcoming lessons.  They might watch some of the videos, but not all of them.  All of these decisions help students to become more independent learners, and that benefits their linguistic development.

Challenge #4:  Finding the right video content is a headache.

If you’ve spent hours online searching for the perfect video, you know how difficult it can be to find appropriate material to enrich your class. YouTube contains a plethora of videos to comb through, but finding one that matches the content of your class and is also high-quality, easy-to-understand, and engaging can take hours and hours.

When making decisions about new course adoptions, it’s always a good idea to consider whether the supporting materials will enable you to extend your students learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Textbooks which are accompanied by videos that align with the course content can benefit your students, your lessons, AND save you time.

That’s why I was really excited when I heard that new, free Skills Videos for every unit of Q: Skills for Success were being added to the student and teacher resources available on iQ Online. These videos, as in the example here, were developed specifically to complement the curriculum of Q: Skills for Success and will be an invaluable resource for teachers and students who use Q: in and out of the classroom. Skills Videos save time. The work’s been done for me.  The only question left is to figure out how I am going to spend the extra free time!

 

Having access to high-quality videos won’t solve all of your teaching problems, but it will go a long way in addressing these four common challenges we all face in our classrooms.  Content aligned videos have been a great resource for me and my students.  Do you use videos in your lessons?  Do you find that they solve any other classroom problems? Please tell us about it in the comments below.

Get a sneak peek at the exciting free resources being made available for Q: Skills for Success from August, including new Skills Videos and a new Extensive Reading program.


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Video cameras in the hands of learners

Asian woman using video cameraJamie Keddie, author of Bringing Online Video into the Classroom, looks at the benefits of handing over control of the video camera to students. Jamie will be hosting a webinar on this topic on 15th and 16 April.

Filmed presentations

Anyone who is involved in rail transport will know that stopping trains at stations wastes time, energy and money. Unfortunately, it is also necessary to let passengers on and off! Today, your students are highly-creative problem solvers. Their task is to work in small groups to design a high-speed train which doesn’t have to stop at stations, but which still allows passengers to alight and disembark.

After sharing ideas and reaching a consensus, each group prepares to present their solution to the rest of the class. This involves creating diagrams to reinforce ideas. When they give their presentations, you sit at the back of the classroom and film their performances.

Later, you show students the following video which illustrates an idea for a train which doesn’t have to stop at stations:

From teacher’s to students’ hands

Filming presentations and other performances can be a great way to motivate students and document their work. However, in the activity described above, the technology stayed firmly in the teacher’s hands. The result of this could be missed opportunities for student creativity, interaction, and learning.

By giving control of the video cameras to students, the activity could have been completely different. Rather than the traditional speaking-at-the-front-of-the-class format, groups of students could find their own quiet corners (either in or out of the classroom) and work together to create a video in which individuals communicate their group’s idea to the camera. The resulting videos can then be delivered to the teacher and later played on the classroom projector for everyone to see and comment on.

Group of adults watching class presentation

Here are some thoughts about why this second option may be favourable:

1. Students’ own devices

In many situations, students will come to class with video cameras already in their hands! Smartphones and tablet computers both have video-recording functions which are perfectly adequate for the classroom.

2. An open learning space

If students make use of their own video devices, the filming process can extend to outside the classroom. Assignments in which students create videos for homework become possible.

3. Less stress for students

Speaking English in class can be stressful enough for many students. When the teacher points a video camera at such learners, the experience can be even more intimidating. The camera may be less daunting in the hands of a classmate.

4. Technological control means creative control

If students control the technology, they can get creative. For example, they may want to think carefully about the filming location or props to include in the frame. They may also want to edit their work, include close-ups of visuals, decide what to leave in, decide what to take out, add credits, etc. In addition, with control of the technology, students can go at their own pace. They can film as and when they are ready. They can also do more than one ‘take’ in order to get the result that they are looking for.

5. Content ownership

Digital content is notoriously ‘slippery’. It does not deteriorate with time and can easily fall into unintended hands. Understandably, students may be concerned about what happens to videos that you create in the classroom. When students make use of their own video devices, they automatically become owners of the content. This can make the process less intimidating. In addition, if you would like students to share their videos online, they can choose to do so on their preferred video-sharing site.

6. Parental permission

Permission to film younger learners and teens can be easier to obtain if we can demonstrate to parents that we want them to make use of their own video-recording devices in and out of the classroom. As well as the ownership issue mentioned above, we can ask parents to take an active role in the video production process. For example, if we want students to upload their work, parents could monitor video content first before giving the go-ahead.

7. Reduced workload for the teacher

Perhaps the most important point to make! Tablets and smartphones can be regarded as all-in-one devices. Students can use them to create, edit and share video. There is no need to transfer video files from one machine to another (camera to computer, for example), a potentially time-consuming step that many teachers will be familiar with.

8. Engaged viewing

For some inexplicable reason, most teenagers that I have worked with engage better with video presentations than with live classroom presentations (see image above). With students’ attention, we can make use of the pause and rewind buttons for language feedback. This can include drawing attention to good language and communication, and error correction.

To find out more about using video in the classroom, register for Jamie’s webinar on 15th and 16th April.


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Using outside materials in the classroom

Young adults in classMike Boyle has taught English to adult learners in Japan and the United States, and is now a materials writer in New York City. He is the co-author of the Starter level of American English File Second Edition. In this article, he shares his thoughts on using outside materials to make your lessons more relevant, effective, and memorable.

For the last two years, I’ve had the great privilege of working with Clive Oxenden and Christina Latham-Koenig on the second edition of American English File. One of the best parts of this experience has been seeing firsthand how these great authors find and adapt outside texts, topics, and stories for the course.

I think Christina and Clive’s approach to outside materials not only makes for a great coursebook, but can also be helpful for teachers who use outside articles, videos, songs, and other materials in their lessons. Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned.

The “train test” and the “wow factor”

Clive and Christina always say that the readings in a textbook must pass the “train test.” If you picked up the coursebook on a train, would you read the texts with interest?

We know that students are going to learn more, and retain more, if they are interested in what they’re studying. For the same reason, the best materials have memorable facts or characters which make your learners think, “Wow!” and which stay in their minds after the lesson has ended.

Very few texts truly pass this test, which is why so much of a writer’s time is spent reading newspapers, magazines, advertisements, news sites, social media, blogs – anything and everything – in search of the next great idea.

The “so what?” test

The best texts (or audio recordings, or videos) do more than grab your learners’ interest. They also lead to genuine speaking and communication. It’s vital to use texts that your learners would be stimulated to read and talk about in their own language. Because if they wouldn’t be, they certainly won’t be very motivated to do it in a foreign language.

The best topics are usually ones that you and your class have some experience of or an opinion about. A text about a totally unfamiliar topic (tornadoes in the American Midwest, for example) can be very interesting, but might go nowhere in class. It would be better to find a text that lets the class see something familiar in a fresh, new way.

For these reasons, when considering a text, a good test is whether you can think of three great discussion questions that would follow it. If you can’t, it might not work in class. Your learners might only shrug and think, “That’s interesting, but so what?”

Google-ability

We know how disappointing it can be when you Google the people in a text and discover the authors simply made them up. That’s why we’re very proud that the people, places, and stories in American English File are real. You can Google them and find out more about them – and maybe even find photos or videos of them to share with your students. In many cases, we’ve gone to great lengths to interview these people ourselves and get their stories firsthand.

Teachers can do the same to bring real, interesting people and their stories into the classroom. Blogs are a great place to look. Bloggers who are doing interesting things are often quite easy to reach and happy to be interviewed over email or even Skype. Knowing that they’re hearing from a “real” person will make your lessons much more motivating and rewarding for your learners.

Humor and suspense

Anything that makes your class laugh (or even smile) can be a huge benefit in the classroom. Laughter creates a relaxed, stress-free classroom, and this will make everyone more comfortable about speaking English and participating in the lesson. Humor can also be a great check of comprehension – if they didn’t understand, they won’t laugh.

Another great way to engage a class and keep their attention is to use texts and stories that have surprising endings or unexpected results. Give the class everything but the ending and have them guess before you reveal it to them.

The text comes first, and the target language follows

Some writers and teachers begin their search for a text by thinking: “This is the simple past unit, so let’s find a text with lots of regular -ed verbs.” The problem with this approach is that it often leads to texts that don’t get your learners’ attention and don’t get them talking.

It’s more effective to find something truly interesting and then dig into the text for the appropriate vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation points. When your learners are eager to discuss the text they will be much more motivated to master the new language that’s already in it.

To hear more from Mike on using outside materials in the classroom, sign up for one of the following webinars:

24 October 2013: 02:00 BST / 10:00 Japan / 23:00 Brazil / 21:00 New York (-1 day)
25 October 2013: 16:00 BST / 11:00 New York / 12:00 Brazil / 00:00 Japan (+1 day)

Register for the webinar now!


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Using Video and ICT to Present Grammar

video helps grammarIn this post, David Mearns, a teacher in Turkey, discusses the benefit of using video to show grammar in an authentic context and gives a few tips on how to teach grammar using video.

I have been working in Turkey as an ELT practitioner for seventeen years.  I became very interested in ICT-ELT two years ago, and began explicitly including it in my syllabus, as a way to further engage Turkish teenage students. At the tail-end of 2010, after having presented on the subject at many conferences, I realised that many of my colleagues were also very interested in the paradigm shift happening in ELT. So, I started to put the ICT-ELT message out to the Turkish provinces.  Now after a year of observing teachers, and receiving a great deal of feedback on ICT-ELT, I can see an extraordinary change in people’s attitudes to the exciting possibilities of using technology in (and out of) the classroom.

Since grammar is now having a much welcomed resurgence in popularity with teachers (oh how I despised those, for the most part, years of ‘language acquisition is the only way’ in ELT), I feel it only right to concur with the new focus on grammar, and share a great way for teachers to help make it much more affective for both teachers to present, and for students to enjoy learning the structures they generally find tedious to work at.

I propose that by using video to show how grammar is used in an authentic context, and by having it in the syllabus as both a scaffolding and consolidation stage of understanding structure, students will (and do) engage much more across each form being learned.

I appreciate that the use of video is not new, but I reckon that with it being included under the umbrella of ICT-ELT it has even more effective and affective outcomes.

ICT-ELT

Tildee logoThe website I started using last year, and have continued to do so, is www.tildee.com.  This amazing website is a free platform that allows you to upload tutorials with consummate ease.  It acts just like a Word document when you are typing and putting pictures, video or links to enhance your grammar point.  Here is a Tildee Video Feed-Forward that I made to show how easy it is to access and use.

Now that you have seen how easy it is to sign up and use (you don’t have to sign up, but it is better to do so, as you then have your own account where your video tutorials are stored), it is time to see which videos I have used to help students further engage with the process of learning grammar structures.

Note, although I condone video as a means of teaching grammar, I still believe there has to be a balanced mix of traditional and ICT methods if it is to be successful.  Yet, even so, it is the ICT-video springboard paradigm that makes it so appealing to students.  With this method of presentation and practice, students can re-watch or watch the whole experience at home, or even on their smart phone.  It has 24/7 accessibility; thus e-learning, m-learning and total-learning is what we can achieve with this marvellous tool.

Examples of My Tildee Tutorials for Teaching (TTT?) grammar through video:

An Ode to CAN      Used to/ Didn’t Use to         Star Wars: It’s Present & Simple

Now that you have seen examples of my Tildee tutorials, I’d like to share another video feed-forward to show you how easy it is to add grammar content and videos from YouTube (only YouTube btw for now) to the website:

Video Feed-Forward: How to add vids, text and pics on Tildee

I hope you find the tutorials useful for your students.  If you like the style, please contact me and ask for some more.  I will email you the links.  However, I reckon, once you get the hang of it, you will want to make your own from your own favourite films.

Read David’s own blog at www.davidmearns.blogspot.com.

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The Power of Business Video – Part 2: Key uses of video for Business English teaching

Business workers in phone conferenceFollowing his post on using graded video, John Hughes looks at how video can be used in the Business English classroom. John will be speaking on this subject at the BESIG conference on 19th November.

In my previous post about using video in business English lessons I focused on the reasons for using graded video materials with business English learners. In this article, I’ll focus on some of the key uses of video in the classroom and for self study. I’ll illustrate each point with reference to how certain types of video can be effectively used in these ways. The videos I refer to below are the ones we’ve developed to accompany the Business Result course series, available in February 2012. If you’d like to come along to my presentation at the BESIG conference on 19th November, I’ll be showing extracts from some of them and suggesting ways to use them.

Video as a stimulus

Video is a great way to start off a lesson and to get students talking about the topic of the lesson. For example, you can turn the sound off and let students watch the pictures. They can discuss what they think the video is going to be about or compare what they see to their own working lives. One way we’ve related the Business Result videos to the student’s own experience is by having ‘Vox Pops’ videos. In these, we take two or three questions the students might ask and answer about their own work and ask them to other real people who give their own authentic responses. This means that you can discuss the questions with your students and compare their experience to those in the video. This is especially useful with one-to-one or small group lessons where you don’t have the benefit of lots of students giving alternative viewpoints, so it’s helpful to bring in an outsider’s opinion.

Video to generate discussion

You can often use video for in-depth discussions. For example, Business Result includes case study style documentaries. In one case study, the owner of a company needs new premises. We see him visiting two locations and discussing the pros and cons of each office for his needs. Students watch and then discuss which location is best-suited for him. It’s an elementary level video but the language is all pitched so students at this level can have a meaningful discussion afterwards.

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