Thursday, 9 August 2012

Music- English 1

I teach English Foundations 1 and every year we study vocabulary on sports/recreation and entertainment. We study the different types of music, tv programs, and movies in our entertainment unit. I have used 3 tech tools to design some activities to help the students understand the differences between the 6 different types of music that are listed in Word by Word Picture Dictionary by Bill Bliss and Steven Molinsky. After listening to some samples of music in class, the students could listen to the screencast independently and try to identify the various types of music. The quizlet flashcards are an excellent visual for second language learners, and the students would have a chance to share their preferences when they answer the questions in the google form. In addition, we would do some role-plays where students could engage in some conversation practice with the different types of movies, tv programs, and music. They could practice asking and answering some information questions in the simple present tense. These activities would also lead to some writing practice too.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Reading #10: BYOD by Susan Bearden

I really like the idea of bringing your own device to school since a majority of students have a smart phone today. In our last staff meeting of the year in June, a helping teacher from Surrey showed us how he uses BYOD. Occasionally, he will put a quiz up on a site and have the students try to answer the questions. He uses it as a tool for review rather than to collect marks. If kids don't have a phone, they work with a partner or they use a laptop.

A few of my students took pictures of notes on the board or of a vocab list posted on the wall, so they didn't have to copy it down. Students can also look up images online or use a great website like to look up the meaning of an unfamiliar word.

The other issue is that technology is changing all of the time, and schools don't have the money to buy 30 or 60 new Ipads every couple of years. Even then, 60 Ipads are only available for 1 or 2 classes to use. If students bring their own devices, schools don't have to purchase as many computers, and the money can be spent elsewhere.

My only real concerns are that some students don't have the money to buy the latest gadgets, so they may feel left out, but in that case, they could probably share with a classmate. My other concern is that students may use their cell phones inappropriately at times although I don't think that would be much of an issue at my school because I work with adults.


This past year in my Reading 3/4 class, we read a short article on whether schools should sell junk food.  This slideshow could be used as an example for the students. The students could then do a slideshow to illustrate the disadvantages of selling junk food in our schools. Sliderocket is simple enough that I don't think that it would take too much class time to do the slideshows and the presentation is excellent.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Reading #9: Powerpointless by Ben Brown

I agree with Brown's thoughts that powerpoint can become a problem when there are too many distractions or too many words on the slides. Teachers obviously need to model how to use powerpoint with their students and give them clear directions and rubrics around any presentations that the students do with powerpoint.

For me personally, I haven't used powerpoint in my teaching, but I am open to it or another presentation tool. My biggest concern with students using it is the language barrier and the time commitment. Because my students are English language learners, they would need to be guided through the use of powerpoint quite slowly and carefully. That could take up a lot of valuable time in our short and intensive semesters. We only have 32 classes in a term, so that is about 6 1/2 weeks.

Secondly, my students don't do a lot of research projects, but I could see how it could be a useful tool for a 5W-H summary of a newspaper article in a local newspaper like the Surrey Leader in my Reading 3/4 class.

Doing more presentations would definitely help the students to gain confidence and to improve their public speaking ability. As Brown correctly points out, it would be essential to teach the students not to read from the powerpoint but to use it to organize and summarize information.

LLED 480D slideshow

In English 1 we read a simplified story on Terry Fox. We could use this activity for students to learn vocabulary. They get to translate the word, find an image, and use it in a sentence.

LLED 480D google document

To look at the full document, click here.

 Sometimes we study some banking vocabulary in English 1, so this fill in the blanks activity could serve as a review for that. We also do some role-play, reading, and written activities in this unit. 

LLED 480D form

  I could use this form in my Reading 3/4 class. We studied the Penguin Readers simplified version of Cinderella Man this past year. This form could be used as a pre-writing activity or even before a discussion to stimulate the students thinking. Many of my students are parents, so they could make some connections, and they would likely have strong opinions.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Reading #8: Collaborative Projects by Peter Skillen

I agree with Skillen's comments that "teams do not always function well." I have certainly been a part of groups before where I felt like I was doing more work than others, and I have also been a part of groups where 1 or 2 people take charge and do not accept input from the other members of the group. As Skillen points out, the teacher has to carefully plan out the lessons and group activities to try to make the groups work.

I also completely agree with his thought that students need to have conversations about their projects to determine their roles and to share knowledge. Groups can develop new insights through discussion that they may not otherwise have found. Other group members can also have a different perspective on an issue which can bring insight to all of its members.

I am also intrigued by his suggestion to encourage students to blog about their learning, their frustrations, and their questions. They can also interact with their group members through the blog.

Lastly, many of my students prefer to work independently because they sat in rows and didn't work in groups when they went to school in their home countries, so that's always a challenge when doing group work. Last year, we did some literature circles and role-plays, and the students seemed to enjoy that for the most part, so I am interested in exploring more about collaborative projects.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Reading #7: Understanding Content Curation by Nancy White

After reading this article, I still don't have a clear understanding of content curation. It is obviously different from collecting/classifying information, but it is not clear how it can be used in a classroom. Is it a new way of doing research or is it a way for teachers to evaluate and collect teaching resources or maybe something else? When I read the "audience" part of the reading about publishing your resources, it reminded me of the social bookmarking site "diigo" that I discovered in my previous class. I bookmarked some of my favorite links on there, and teachers from all over have shared some of their favorite bookmarks too. I agree with White's comment that learning is "social", and social bookmarking is one way that teachers can learn from each other.

Westcoast Reader Podcast

westcoast reader.egg on Aviary.

This podcast could be used for my ELL students to practice their listening skills. The students would have to be taught some of the vocabulary such as mourning and tragedy. I could put up some questions on my blog and give the students a chance to repeatedly listen to the podcast while listening for the answers to the questions.

For example, the questions could be:

a) What happened in Burns Lake?

b) When did it happen?

c) How much money will it cost to rebuild the mill?
It will cost _____________________to rebuild the mill.

The reading is from The Westcoast Reader.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Reading #6: Listening to Themselves: Podcasting Takes Lessons Beyond the Classroom by Maya Payne Smart

Smart introduces us to the idea of using podcasts in the classroom. She believes that student created podcasts gives students a chance to practice their oral presentation skills. My ELL students often come to class with poor speaking skills because they struggle with pronunciation or just being able to form grammatically correct sentences. Podcasting would give my students a chance to record their voices and to listen to themselves. Then they could make corrections and try to improve their speech. Of course, the teacher would need to provide some guidance and feedback, so the students could recognize their weaknesses and then work to improve them.

After reading this article, I am thinking that I may use one of the audio recording systems that we have studied in class to record conversations between students or between a student and myself. It would be useful for assessment to be able to listen to the conversation again. At this point I don't understand the difference between a program like audioboo and podcasting, but I am sure I will learn about that tomorrow.

I also like Smart's idea that students can create podcasts to summarize what they have learned in class. I think that this could be very useful for them to use these summaries as a review before a test. Students could also listen to podcasts of other students if they are absent from class. I am very intrigued and I am looking forward to learning more about podcasting tomorrow.

Individual Sports: bookr

In Foundations English 1, we do a unit on sports and recreation. We use the Word by Word Picture Dictionary by Bill Bliss and Steven J. Molinsky. This online activity on bookr can provide the students with some visuals to help them learn the English words. The students can also write some sentences and even create their own bookr using other images online. For example, they could have a photo of a family on a bike ride. The student's sentence could be, "They often go cycling in the evenings."

Monday, 30 July 2012

Reading #5: Making the Most of Online Translators in Foreign Language Classrooms by Charlene Polio

Polio's article is somewhat relevant to my experiences with ESL students. She is correct when she states that students who try to translate directly from one language to another can change the meaning of the statement. Often times it doesn't make sense when one of my students tries to translate a sentence from Korean to English for example. The meaning is lost in the translation and it becomes pretty clear for me as a teacher.

The other thought that stuck out to me was that students need strong language skills to use translators appropriately. If their English vocabulary is so limited that they aren't aware when the sentence doesn't make sense in English, then maybe the translator isn't all that useful. In my classes, I am okay with students using translators, but they need to develop other word attack skills such as using context clues.

I am not sure if we can practice translating from one language to another in my class because the students have varied backgrounds. I have students who come from various parts of Asia and even Africa or South America, so they don't all speak the same L1. I see how the translating lessons could work if I was teaching FSL to English speaking students though.

Prepositions of Place

Prepositions of Place In English 1 the students learn the prepositions of place, and they learn to write sentences and questions with these words. This handout provides students with some visuals to help them understand the meaning of these words. In class it would be important to engage in conversation and to physically move around the classroom, so the students develop a clear understanding of how and when to use these words in sentences and questions.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Reading #4: Reading Matters by Adrian Tennant

Tennant wisely points out one of the differences between reading in the L1 and reading in your L2. In our L1 we naturally use strategies to comprehend the reading, but we may not be aware of what strategies we use and at what time. Consequently, it is very important for L2 teacher to teach reading strategies to students. For example, my adult students need to learn to access their background knowledge before and while reading because they have a lot of life experience and general knowledge in their L1, but they need to transfer that to their L2. A KWL is a great activity for that.

 One of the most common errors that L2 students make is to try to understand every word. Many of my students translate every word in a reading in order to try to understand the reading. However, that takes a long time and the reader misses out on the whole meaning of the sentence by looking at every word. Students need to learn to use context clues. I have used some reading books such as Reading Power by Linda Jeffries to teach students to use context clues, but I really like Tennant's suggestion of blanking out some of the words in a text, and having students predict the words that go in the blanks.

Thirdly, he informs teachers to be aware of the writer's point of view in the text because the writer had a reason for composing the piece. Being aware of the writer's point of view is important because students need to learn critical thinking skills even in their L2. They need to be aware of bias, and various points of view. For example, many people opposed slavery and all of its injustices, but I think that students should learn how slavery was beneficial for some Americans too. They need to be able to question the writer's point of view and come to their own conclusions.

The Ballad of the Underground Railroad

The Ballad of the Underground Railroad By Charles L. Blockson The Underground Train, Strange as it seems, Carried many passengers And never was seen It wasn’t made of wood, It wasn’t made of steel; A man-made train that Ran without wheels. The train was known By many a name. But the greatest of all Was “The Freedom Train” The Quakers, the Indians, Gentiles and Jews, Were some of the people Who made up the crews. Free Blacks and Christians And Atheists, too, Were the rest of the people Who made up the crews. Conductors and agents Led the way at night, Guiding the train By the North Star Light. The passengers were The fugitive slaves Running from slavery And its evil ways. Running from the whip And the overseer, From the slave block And the Auctioneer. They didn’t want their masters To catch them again, So men dressed as women And the women dressed as men.

The Ballad of the Underground Railroad

In my Foundations Reading 3/4 class (low intermediate-intermediate), we looked at immigration last year including how many slaves came to Canada via the Underground Railroad. The students were fascinated to learn about this part of North American history as we looked at a couple of wonderful picture books including Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. We also read a simplified reader on Harriet Tubman too. The students were able to compare and contrast their immigration experiences with some of the slaves. I wanted to put this video into a ted ed format, but there was a problem with the website today. This video and this song illustrate will give the ESL students an important visual and some more basic information about the Underground Railroad. It could also lead into some vocab activities with some of the new words in the song.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Reading #3: Making Culture Happen in the English Language Classroom by Barry Tomalin

Tomalin looks at the issue of culture and how it fits into English language teaching. I agree with him that culture shouldn't be a separate unit in a textbook or in a course, but it should be part of the activities that you do every day. I also think that teaching culture can begin even in a true beginners class. For example, my students are new immigrants in Canada, and they are interested in learning about Canadian culture because Canada is their new home. They want to know how to communicate with others and they want to learn about "current events" in Canadian culture. They want to know about the new impaired driving laws and why many Canadians are supportive of these new laws. Of course, students need to develop critical thinking skills as well. I wish that Tomalin had provided more answers about how to integrate culture into the textbooks and every day lessons though.

Clear Grammar 1 online activities

This is a video to show Foundations English 1 students an excellent website to practice their grammar skills at home.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Reading #2: Practical Aspects of Using Video in the Foreign Language Classroom by Christine Canning-Wilson

Using video in the 2nd language classroom can certainly be beneficial for students because video is often easier to understand than a sound only passage, especially for visual learners. Video can also be used to engage students, but Canning-Wilson pointed out that there needs to be an educational purpose for the use of video. We need to ask ourselves how the students will benefit from watching the video. We also need to think about showing the videos in short segments, so we don't overwhelm the students. When we play videos without stopping them, students can get distracted or just give up because they can't comprehend it. I am reminded that I need to continue to go over some vocab words in the video, activate the students background knowledge, and put some questions on the board before watching a video. Giving them questions beforehand will give them some things to look for and hopefully help them stay focused on the task at hand. This could lead into a think, pair, share activity after that.

Listening- Audioboo

This is a short recording of a conversation that the students could use as a model for their own conversations in or outside of class. I teach Foundations 1 English to students who are learning the basics of English. First, we would have to study new vocabulary for types of movies and the students would have to learn to write and respond to questions in the simple present tense. After some practice, they could listen to this conversation and use it to guide them in creating their own role-plays. I would want the students to focus on using proper sentence structure, but also on speaking clearly and expressively. The students could even record their conversations and listen to them, so that they could make changes and improve their speaking skills before they have a chance to present in front of the class. Recording and practicing would allow them to develop confidence and reduce anxiety.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Reading #1: Listening Strategies in the L2 Classroom: more practice, less testing by Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna

When I read this article, I began to reflect on my teaching practice. Since I work with adult ELL students, one of the major focuses is oral language. We study basic phonological rules and practice reading out loud. We also have time for conversation in class where students can ask each other questions in 1 on 1 conversations and in small group discussions. They get a chance to practice listening to other students and responding to their questions or comments. Sometimes they do a role-play activity with a partner as well. Occasionally we listen to a CD or a conversation online and answer some basic questions. Obviously they get a chance to listen to me as their teacher too.

After reading this article, I realized that I don't teach specific listening strategies like I do with reading or writing. Before we read a story or an article, I always do an activity like a KWL to access their background knowledge, but I haven't done a good enough job of doing that with listening exercises. As Aponte-de-Hanna points out, I need to teach students what is relevant and what is not when they are listening to a passage. I am also interested in trying to do the MALQ questionnaire to find out which listening strategies the students are using. My only concern with MALQ is the students may not be able to read and comprehend the statements in the questionnaire, but I imagine that they could be adapted for beginners. After the questionnaires, I could select a listening strategy, model it, and give the students lots of time to practice using it.

I completely agree with her thoughts on practice vs. testing. Students need loads of practice to develop confidence and to improve their skills before they are tested. My English 1 class is a general language class, so we don't focus specifically on listening and speaking, but I only do a formal assessment of their oral language skills once every six weeks. They have a chance to practice their conversational skills in most of the classes. I am also hoping that some of the tech. tools that we are going to learn will provide me with other ways to allow students to practice listening.