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Why teach values in the Primary classroom?

shutterstock_408187930Susan Banman Sileci is an American ELT author. She has written materials for pre-primary, primary, secondary, and adult levels, including textbooks, activity books, graded readers, resource packs, and digital practice materials and is the author of Everybody Up, Super Stars, and Shine On.

I’m an American living in Brazil and I’ll be honest: it’s been a rough year. Brazil is going through a corruption scandal that included the impeachment of a president and, of course, there was this month’s presidential election in the United States. The world has seen just how much Americans don’t agree and how ugly the discussions can become.

It’s been hard and the adults have been fighting. But guess what? Now more than ever we need to teach values to the little ones. That doesn’t mean that we impose our political views on our students, much as we might want to. School is about lots of things including learning to read and write, learning subject matter, learning to get organized, and learning to listen to and respect one another.

In the past six months, through all of this, I’ve been struggling to listen and be respectful. I’m learning too! Home is often a place where we all believe the same thing, and school is where we gather up the beginnings of life in a larger community. Certainly, most primary students aren’t talking about impeachment in Brasília and the American elections (and I rather hope they’re not!), but English classrooms can easily be places where we help our little ones learn to listen and respect one another.

How? I have a few ideas.

Set a good example

First, we need to look at ourselves and realize that we’re models to our students. They’re watching us closely and whatever we’re asking of them, we need to be sure to do ourselves. It’s not always big things… have we taught “please” and “thank you” to our students? Do we use those words ourselves at every opportunity? Have we finished a lesson about being on time but they see us racing into class, not quite prepared and a little frazzled? I know my students have.

And to me this one is a big thing. We need to say “I’m sorry.” We teach the language for this – it’s common functional language in many primary books. Do we require them to apologize to one another for mistakes and impolite things they’ve done, yet they never hear us apologize?

Share our values

We can share more about our lives. We teach simple language and basic values to primary kids: be polite, be fair, share your things, work together, be helpful, respect nature, among others. I suggest we look for opportunities of good values, or failed values, in our lives and spend a few minutes once in a while talking about them in class. In fourth grade, our teacher told us about a racist incident she’d seen on a city bus. It wasn’t in the lesson plan but my teacher needed to share something she’d seen. Why do I remember it 45 years later?

Provide opportunities for good citizenship

Finally, we can look for opportunities for our students to do good. They’re young, yes, but they’re still critical to one another and to our community. More than anything else, showing them how to do good and then doing it teaches them values. There are so many ways even our youngest English students can make a difference. They can work in the school garden (or start one!) and talk about what they’re harvesting in English. They can make holiday cards or write letters to be delivered to older people or others in need. They can listen, and offer solutions, when a classmate is struggling.

It feels like the world is upside-down sometimes, but our classrooms can be places where we teach, discuss, and then live out the best we can be.

In my webinar, I’ll be examining some of the ways we can introduce values into our classrooms. We’ll talk about where we can find examples of values and how we can make the most of values opportunities in our textbooks. We’ll also discuss a few concrete ways to help students practice what they’ve learned and be important members of their larger communities. I hope you will join me!


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Making books look like candy

shutterstock_280154789Patrick Jackson, author of the popular Potato Pals series, Shine On! and Everybody Up!, explores the importance of design and ‘eye candy’ in materials for young learners.

In the natural world, colour and pattern are keys to reproduction and survival. The attention of bees is guided by precisely marked, competing flowers. Camouflaged moths hug tree trunks, invisible to their predators. Birds and animals show off their plumage and markings to attract a partner. Phosphorescent creatures in the warmer oceans mirror the night sky, filled with the stars that guide our journeys across its expanses.

The same is true with the learning journey we embark on with pre-elementary and elementary students. The learning materials we use must guide, motivate and excite, firstly and above all through the eyes of our young students. The characteristics and effectiveness of materials are largely determined by the visual impression they make and the deeper design decisions that undergird their development. As teachers and publishers we rightly should embrace the extent to which design decisions influence the whole learning process.

An Oxford University Press designer once said, “I like to make books look like candy.” Children, more than any other age group, are visual learners. The younger the learners, the more important the visuals are. That is not to say that they are not important with older age groups, but in the absence of a lot of printed text, children depend on what they can see on the pages (or increasingly, the screens) in front of them. The classroom can be very cut off from the outside world and exciting images from beyond the classroom bring the experience of learning a new language alive.

Young learners benefit deeply from interacting with different illustration styles and different media. These inspire creativity as well as maintain students’ attention. Good illustrations convey emotion and that in turn motivates young learners. The aesthetic experience should be pleasurable and the content memorable. No doubt we all remember our favourite illustrations from the books of our childhood. Furthermore, language itself is not linear and the visual presentation of language in context is a powerful tool that mimics the state of language in the real world. It has been proven that language is more memorable when presented with images, particularly images that children can identify emotionally with. Again, this replicates their experience of learning their first language.

The layout of activities on the page gives a book its feel and determines how we will respond. The lesson should flow smoothly from well signposted activity to the next. Icons and titles are part of this rhythm. The font and size of rubrics are also very important, as is the amount of blank space on the page. This informs how we perceive the level of difficulty of the material. The feel and finish of a course book are also vital to our experience of a book. Who hasn’t stroked the cover of a book or run their hands down its spine? Who hasn’t been frustrated as a child by trying to write or colour on the wrong quality of paper? All of these decisions, taken by the editorial and design teams, contribute to the soul of the materials and the ‘user experience’.

We call something superficially attractive but lacking deep meaning ‘eye candy’. They also say that ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’. On the contrary, we can and do tell a great deal about course books by looking at their covers, and a bit of eye candy on their pages for young learners is just what they like and need. Their first impression of the path ahead is partly determined by the design of their very first English book.

So let’s not underestimate the work of the design department as we choose the materials we use. Let’s celebrate those beautiful illustrations and gorgeous double spreads. Let’s obsess about clear, well-set rubrics. Let’s appreciate delicious paper quality. Let’s delight at a bit of bling on a cover. As a great scholar may or may not have once said, “Per pulchra ad astra.” Through beauty to the stars!


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Beyond the classroom… Involving parents in learning

While it is true that as teachers our main mission is to teach the students in our classrooms lots of exciting new language and skills, it’s also true that as professional educators we often invest a lot of our precious time in speaking to and dealing with students’ parents. For example, we may just say a friendly hello, offer a friendly reminder, provide a word of warning or perhaps simply give a student’s family and loved ones some feedback about their child’s progress. Whilst this may suffice for some parents, some teachers assert that this is just the tip of the teacher parent relationship. I would argue that there is so much more that could be done to encourage both parties to join efforts to guarantee that each student reaches their personal learning goals successfully.

This webinar* looked at how we as teachers can actively involve our students’ parents in their children’s school learning process. Generally speaking, by nature, most parents are interested in their children’s academic life and progress, and want to help their children be successful at school. It is also true that more often than not they are true specialists when it comes to knowing their children’s strengths and weaknesses. Yet, in many cases this natural interest turns out to be a source of frustration as it is not always channeled correctly, and rather than feeling useful and engaged, parents end up feeling lost and frustrated. They know that there is so much more that could be done to help their children, but don’t know exactly how to go about doing it.

In order to revert this, we began the webinar by discussing and analyzing how parent involvement outside school can be set up in a practical manner. This is what the webinar covered:

  1. Setting up a clear and open channel of communication between teachers and parents.
  2. Suggesting and exploring various ideas and activities to get parents started on the right track and gently guide and encourage them to become active participants in their children’s learning process.
  3. Suggesting and considering ideas like how to plan and set up a revision schedule for their children, how to choose appropriate learning resources, and how to use the Oxford parents’ website to find appropriate tasks and activities.

By the end of the webinar, you will have a fair idea of how to go about creating a game plan to apply in your school. You’ll be able to involve and engage parents to help maximize their students’ learning.

Watch the webinar button


Vanessa has been teaching English as a Foreign language in Portugal for the past 20 years. She is currently teaching at Escola Superior de Educação.  Her areas of interest are teaching Young learners, Teens and Pre-Teens. Vanessa ran a webinar on the above topic in 2016, click here to watch the webinar recording.

*Webinar recordings are available to all members of the Oxford Teacher’s Club. Not yet a member? It’s free, quick, and easy to sign up!


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Classroom resources for Christmas

Christmas ESL resourcesChristmas is nearly upon us, so we thought we’d share some classroom resources to help you and your class get in the festive mood.

Teacher trainers Stacey Hughes and Verissimo Toste from our Professional Development team have prepared some multi-level activities for you to use in your classroom.

 

 

 

Christmas Activities

Christmas Activities 2014, including:

  • Jigsaw Reading – pre-intermediate and above
  • Christmas Word Search – pre-intermediate and above

Christmas Cards Activities

Christmas Cards Activities, including:

  • Christmas Cards Activity – any level
  • Christmas Cards Worksheet – any level
  • Delivering the Christmas Cards – any level
  • The 12 Days of Christmas – pre-intermediate and above
  • A Christmas Wreath – young learners

Extensive Reading Activities

 

Happy Holidays!


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EFL classroom activities and resources for Halloween

As Halloween is nearly upon us, teacher trainer Stacey Hughes has been busy creating a collection of ghostly classroom activities for you to use with your class. 

It seems that everyone likes a scary story. As autumn days grow shorter and darker, forcing us indoors, this is the perfect time to tell ghost stories.

Ghost stories and tales of the supernatural have been around for centuries and are a feature of nearly every culture.  Though many people may not believe in ghosts today, stories about haunted castles, enchanted ruins and spooky spectres are still very popular.

Why do we like to be scared so much? One theory is that frightening stories cause a release of adrenaline which makes us feel a ‘rush’. Adrenaline is the same hormone that is released in a fight or flight situation, and, because there is no real danger, we enjoy this ‘thrill’. So we tell ghost stories around the campfire, go to frightening movies, read chilling novels – all in search of a spine-tingling sensation.

As Halloween approaches…

Why not use this opportunity to incorporate some ghostly language and tasks into your lessons? We have put together a variety of activities that can be used at various levels and with different age groups. We start off with our intermediate instructions and activities, including:

  • Scary Collocations
  • Ghoulish Word Forms
  • Frightful Idioms
  • Shadowy Web Quest
  • Write your own Ghost Story!


halloween instructions

How to use these resources with your class, whether in the classroom or remotely.

The below instructions correspond to the activities listed in the Halloween activity pack above. You can use these ideas to structure your lessons.

1. Introduce the topic of Halloween and find out what students know about it by asking them to respond in the chatbox or turn on their microphones one at a time. Put them into breakout rooms to brainstorm 10 words related to the topic of Halloween. Feed back in plenary.

Ask students why they think stories about ghosts and other scary stories are so popular. Put students back into breakout rooms to discuss, then feed back in plenary.

Choose one or more of the vocabulary activities from the handout to send to the students (via email or uploaded into a shared document folder – Google Classroom, MS Teams, OneDrive, etc). Ask them to use a dictionary to look up the words and complete the exercises. In the next videoconferencing lesson, check answers and follow up with one of the reading or writing activities in the handout.

Video option

Record a video to introduce the topic of Halloween, using pictures and introducing related vocabulary. Look directly at the camera as if you are speaking to the students to increase engagement. Give tasks and invite students to pause the video to complete them; for example: Pause the video for 30 seconds and write down all the words you can think of that are related to Halloween. Introduce words in the video, and ask students to post their words in a class forum.

2. Read a Ghost Story Show the cover of a graded reader that is the right level for your students. (see suggestions below). Follow the suggestions in the handout for reading a ghost story. Use breakout rooms or the chat box for student responses. If the story is a long one, do this over several lessons, or ask students to read a chapter or two before the next lesson for discussion. Pair students up and ask them to collaborate (e.g. via Teams, Google Classroom, WhatsApp, or other social channels) to write and record a dialogue between two main characters in the story. Students can then write a news article individually, and ‘publish’ to a class forum (e.g. on Google Classroom, Padlet, etc.)

Here are some readers we suggest you use for this activity, for more ideas check out our catalogue.

Lower levels:

  • Vampire Killer
  • Zombie Attack
  • Frankenstein
  • The Real McCoy and Other Ghost Stories

Intermediate levels:

  • V is for Vampire
  • The Turn of the Screw

Higher levels:

  • Dracula
  • The Pit and the Pendulum and Other Stories
  • Voodoo Island

3. Write a Ghost Story

Use one of the Cloze activities as pre-work for the writing activity and follow suggestions for laying the foundations from the handout. Students can start to plan in small breakout groups either in a zoom lesson or a forum or ask them to collaborate in a WhatsApp call to brainstorm ideas for the setting, characters, the scene, and action. Students write the story on their own. For peer review of their first draft give instructions in a video or live videoconference – ask them to comment on the setting, characters, scene, action and climax. Ask students to illustrate and publish their finished stories in a class forum or other shared online space (e.g. Padlet). Some students might like to read their stories or create a video.

4. Webquest

Prepare students for the topic on ghosts and introduce them to the idea of a Webquest. A Webquest is an online search to find out information, and you can set one up on webquest.org. Alternatively, send the handout to students. Put them into groups of 3-4. Each person in the group can research different questions within the webquest and feed into a shared document (e.g. on Google Drive, OneDrive or MS Teams), or upload answers into a shared forum or space such as Padlet. After the webquest, use a videoconferencing platform to hold an online discussion about the information they discovered and their reactions to it: Would you stay in a haunted house? Do you believe in ghosts? Why do people like to go on ghost walks?


Pre-Primary/Beginner Activities

We also have a variety of activities perfect for beginners and younger learners, including activities such as:

  • Finger puppets
  • Loot bag
  • Make a Halloween Mobile!


Need help planning your digital lessons, or looking for more ideas and fun activities you can do with your class, face-to-face or remotely? Take a look at the tips and resources on this page to help you along the way.

  • teaching online focus paper
  • guides to teaching young learners online
  • guides to teaching teenagers and adults online

 


*These resources are available on the Oxford Teacher’s Club. Not a member? Registering is quick and easy to do, and it gives you access to a wealth of teaching resources.

Found these resources useful? How did they work for you? Share your experiences with the teaching community by leaving a comment below, or by Tweeting us using the handle @OUPELTGlobal.