Ahead of his webinar on 30th January on the same topic, Gareth Davies asks: How can we as teachers adapt to the changing needs of learners in the 21st Century?
Next time you are on public transport have a look at the range of technology on show. People will be playing computer games, reading from e-books, checking the internet, messaging their friends, listening to music, watching video, or if we are lucky, actually doing some English homework. The world has changed; our students have become digital.
How does this digitalisation of life affect our students when they come into our classrooms? Have their expectations changed or their behaviour patterns? Should we be looking to adapt our methodology to meet the modern challenges of 21st Century teaching?
I am not suggesting that we should completely revolutionise our teaching, it is not realistic to go completely digital; there is not the equipment available for a start. But what I am suggesting is that we can observe our students’ behaviour patterns to see how we can tinker with our methodology to allow the students to get the most out of our teaching.
Let’s take Social Media / texting as an example. Teachers who claim their students don’t even read or write in their own language are wrong. Students might not read long novels or write descriptive prose but they communicate frequently through this medium, making reading and writing an essential part of our syllabus. But students are used to dealing with messages of around 140 characters, so we need to adapt what we do in class so the reading and writing texts don’t seem too daunting for them.
In my webinar I will be looking at this and other examples of students’ digital behaviour to see what we can learn as teachers and how we can harness their new learning styles to bring success to their English learning. Remember: changing with the times does not mean throwing the baby out with the bath water and completely changing our teaching, it just means learning from our students and responding to them to help prepare them for the 21st Century.
How is the ‘Can Do’ ethos of Headway linked to the aims of our students and the CEFR bands? Stacey Hughes will be exploring this question in the webinar: “Six Levels, Six Stages – in Sixty Minutes” on 28th November 2013 at 9:30 and 15:00 (GMT).
In the past, learning a language involved learning more about language than learning to do things with the language. What pedagogical issues does this shift in focus raise? How does it link to student expectations in the kinds of tasks we set for them?
The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) focuses on what students are able to do at different levels; in other words, what they are able to talk and write about and what they are able to understand from reading or listening. It is this focus on what learners can do with language – how they can effectively use language for communication – that Headway brings into its activities.
When aiming to help students achieve their learning goals, we also need to consider who our learners are and what are they learning English for. What kinds of activities and topics can course books utilize that will improve students’ ability to communicate effectively in a language? How can we extend this learning outside of the classroom?
These are some of the issues we will explore in the webinar. Using some of the CEFR level descriptors, we will identify language skills from six different level bands. We will also look at Headway’s approach to learning and see how it links to the practical application principles in these descriptors.
As teachers, we know that students gradually build up proficiency. However, students need frequent, reachable goals to see their progress. They also need to see the connection between what they are doing in a course and how it is useful for them in using the language. This webinar will show teachers how they can join the dots between activities in Headway with ‘Can Do’ objectives.
In many ways I am not an ideal choice to do a webinar on video in the ELT classroom. It’s true I was born in Hastings on the south coast of England where, in 1924, John Logie Baird made the first demonstration of something called ‘television’. However, the funny thing is that I don’t and indeed never have owned a TV. The main benefit of this is that I have more time on my hands than most people I know; the only negative thing is that I often feel left out of social conversations.
“Did you see … last night?”
“No, I don’t have a TV.”
End of conversation.
I mention this because I think many people use TV as just a time-filler, something to switch on simply because they have one or because they can’t think of anything else to do. I worry that this is also how video is sometimes used in the ELT classroom. I hope my webinar will nurture some creativity as to how we can use video with our students.
Let’s define what we mean by video. For me, it is either a short clip or a longer piece or storyline divided into short clips to be used over a period of time. Remember that video is real time and to use it effectively takes a long time, so short is good. Do also bear in mind that video is not just from a DVD, think about YouTube, Vine and now Instagram as well. If your students are under 25 you can be sure that’s what they are thinking about!
So why use video in the ELT classroom? Here is a quick list:
It’s motivating – yes of course, but please do remember the platforms listed above as they are where your students will find their clips.
It can be made relevant – there is so much out there that it will be easy to find something that interests your students.
One clip can be used with different levels within your institution or within a class. Adjust the task, not the clip.
It’s low tech. Yes, video is educational technology (and students love technology) but, unless you get into editing clips, it is so easy to use.
A well-made clip covers a lot of ground in a short space of time. In other words, a short clip will give you a lot of material.
If your students have access to tablets or smartphones, you have huge flexibility to generate real inter-student communication. Different students can watch different parts of one clip, some with the sound on, some without, and so on.
It’s great for homework. Watching YouTube is what students do at home anyway.
So how can we use video in class? Well, that is the main theme of my webinar on 22nd October. I hope you can join us. If you have time, make a short list of how you have used video; shared ideas are always the best.
Anyway, I have to go now to watch the news on someone else’s TV!
To find out more about using video in the classroom, join Christopher for his webinar on 22nd October.
Verissimo Toste, an Oxford teacher trainer, looks at how technology can enhance a student’s ability to learn a language.
I’m interested in how technology enhances a student’s ability to learn a language. Resources are plentiful, but incorporating them into the classroom is not always easy. So when I saw the “Headway Phrase-a-day” app by Oxford University Press, I became curious as to how it would help students enhance their learning.
Students get a phrase a day, such as “You’re pulling my leg”. To help them understand the phrase there is a picture, a sample sentence, and a similar expression that is easier, in this case, “You’re teasing me”. Students can search for a phrase, add certain phrases to their list of favourites, and play some games based on the phrases they have already learned.
All very well so far, but, how could a teacher use this to help their students learn more effectively? Here are a few ideas:
Students come to each lesson with a new phrase. They must be able to use the phrase to communicate something about themselves. This should lead them to personalise their learning rather than simply memorising the phrases. The teacher can quickly go around the room with each student saying their sentence. Alternatively, students can write their sentence on a piece of paper and display it in class for everyone to see. By sharing their sentences with their classmates, students further strengthen their ability to use them meaningfully.
Of course, some phrases will be easier than others. In order to focus on the phrases they find more difficult, students can move these into their “Favourites” folder. This will give them a list of those phrases they need to focus on.
To provide more work on these phrases, the teacher can provide some class time in which students discuss the phrases they have found difficult. The discussion alone may help many students overcome their difficulties. The discussion will also give students a chance to share their successful learning strategies with each other, giving students having difficulties alternative ways to improve.
As a phrase becomes easier, they can remove it from their favourites. In this way they can assess how well they are progressing. Their “Favourites” folder should never have more than 10 words.
Every 15 phrases, a student will be able to open up one of the games. These games will help the student assess more closely how well they have learned the phrases.
Ask students to bring their digital devices to class. Tell them they are going to play the game at the “easy” level. This level gives them 3 minutes to match all the answers. Before they begin, ask them to establish a time they would consider successful. This gives them a personal goal to strive for.
Once they have played a game, ask them to register their times in a notebook. Get these times from them, and display the average in class. In this way, each student will then be able to compare their time with the class, increasing their confidence as they do well, or motivating them to do better.
The games can also be played at “medium” level, with 2 minutes to match all the answers, and at “hard” level, with 6 seconds for each phrase. Tell your students that their goal should be to do the “hard” level and match all the phrases. Any phrases they don’t match they should put into “Favourites” folder.
Using the phrase app as part of lessons gives students a structure to use it more effectively. It provides them with a space in which they can help each other. It provides the teacher with the opportunity to help them use it better.
The app enhances students’ ability to learn by giving them more contact with English outside the classroom. It allows each student to tailor their learning to their individual needs, taking a phrase and using it to communicate their own experiences and opinions.
The app also provides students with immediate feedback. They can quickly use this feedback to adjust their learning in order to make it more effective. Equally important, the app allows students to see their progress as they work through the different phrases, giving them a sense of achievement as they reach their goals.
Tamás Lőrincz, a teacher and teacher trainer, shares his tips for tackling English phrases in and out of the classroom.
Do you know what Scotch Mist is? Honour bright? Before I started writing this post, I didn’t have a clue. I was off my head with joy to find a book on my bookshelf with 420 idiomatic, colloquial, and proverbial expressions, published in 1939. Have you ever entertained an angel unawares? Do you even know what it means? Before writing this post, I certainly didn’t.
A Textbook of English W. O. Vincent
The chief purpose of W. O. Vincent’s A Textbook of English for Foreign Students was “to provide material for practice with words and combinations of words, so that the student is able to build up an extensive vocabulary, and to become familiar with their uses and shades of meaning.” (From the jacket blurb)
In the 74 years since this book was published, English teachers are still trying to achieve the same aim. Our job, of course, has become more complex. Coursebook authors and editors are very selective as to which turns of phrase to include in their books, while teachers are also careful to make sure that the idiomatic expressions they teach their students are relevant to their lives.
Of course, corpora are very useful in making such decisions, but they are ultimately time-bound. Some of them have been based on databases that are hundreds of years old and the frequency of appearance of certain phrases are not always an accurate representation of how language is currently used.
As teachers, we like checklists. So, let’s make a list of five things we can all do to make sure that the phrases we use and teach are not outdated.
I know – obvious. Search engines like Google are one of the best ways of checking current usage. Just check the number of hits and it will tell you immediately whether you should bother teaching it or not.
Yes, I’m going to be even more obvious now. Tabloids, regardless of your personal opinion of them, do feature a lot of language grounded in the colourful and flexible use of English. Handled correctly, they are an interesting classroom resource that can generate discussion about how and why specific phrases and expressions are used.
Check out the lyrics of some of the top 20 songs. Popular music is an inexhaustible supply. Just look at this week’s top single in the UK(Katy Perry’s ROAR at the time of writing). Katy Perry starts with two beautiful phrases your students will gobble up in no time:
“I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath…“
If you don’t want to hear Katy Perry ROAR (which I find absolutely understandable), you can watch a movie with your class as well. Even the worst movies are potentially valuable sources of current usage, interesting twists and turns of the language.
If you want something ready-made and reliable. Kieran Donaghy’s ELTon award winningFilm English website gives you some fantastic opportunities to teach, practice and learn new phrases and expressions.
Provided your students are digitally literate and know how to safely manage themselves online, you can help them find friends on Facebook and Twitter. Interacting with online friends can cause an explosion of new vocabulary, packed with up-to-date and intriguing phrases and expressions.
Google Hangouts and Skype chats are also fantastic tools for enabling your class to talk to new people, no matter where in the world they might be. Many teachers use Skype and Google Hangouts to connect with other classrooms around the world, giving their students valuable exposure to informal English.
You may have heard these suggestions before, and they are tried, tested, and produce positive results. (And there’s no point in re-inventing the wheel, as they say). We live in an age of global connectivity and lightning-quick access to information, yet it’s sometimes difficult to remember that English surrounds us, no matter where in the world we may be. With a bit of effort and willingness, we can enable our students to interact with others in English more easily, and give them the tools they need to understand and use idiomatic English more confidently.
And if you were hoping for a bonus suggestion, here it is: keep a lookout for a pretty good-looking smartphone application coming your way from Oxford University Press. From what I have seen – yes, I had a sneak peek; the perks of guest posting 😉 – it will be great fun for teachers and students alike.
Now over to you. What are your preferred ways of teaching phrases and expressions? Please share your tips with us in the comments to this post.