Saturday 26 September 2009

Jumbled Sentences: The States of Matter (Science, Secondary 1, Year 7)

This is an activity where what you see is a set or words in random order. What you have to do is to arrange them in the correct order. When you have done that, email me with your answers, and I'll correct them.

The activity is in a PowerPoint presentation hosted in Scribd. You can move from slide to slide interactively by just clicking on the 'next page' and 'previous page' arrows. If the image is too small, you can watch it in full screen mode by clicking on the 'toggle full screen' icon at the top right of the PowerPoint image below. If you prefer, you can download the file, but you'd need to be a registered member of Scribd.

Jumbled Sentence: Elementary Science - The States of Matter

Thursday 24 September 2009

Elementary Science: States of Matter - Arcade Game (Year 7, Secondary 1)

This easy arcade game tests your knowledge on the three states of matter: solid, liquid or gas. It's a little more challenging than the previous game. The quicker you are the better your score!

Have fun!

Click here for full screen version

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (click anywhere inside the box, click ctrl+A, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:
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Elementary Science: States of Matter - Dustbin Game (Year 7, Secondary 1)

This game requires you to classify each item according to their states: solid, liquid or gas. Drag each item to the correct bin as fast as you can. If your answer is wrong, you'll have to drag again. The lower the score, the better you are!

Have fun!

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (click anywhere inside the box, click ctrl+A, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:

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Wednesday 23 September 2009

Physical Education (PE) and CLIL

My heart's still beating fast and I'm sweating like a pig. Strange, that, isn't it? Sweating like a pig? But, pigs don't sweat, do they? Well, maybe it's more to do with our BO when we sweat a lot, since pigs supposedly smell bad, rather than the sweating itself. There are other animal idioms, such as 'eating like a horse' and 'drinking like a fish', which also do make you wonder if they make much sense.

Anyway, I digress. Why is my heart beating fast and why am I sweating like a pig, you're probably asking. Is it that I've just struck the Euromillions, or have I been hit by the 'thunderbolt', as in when Michael Corleone met Apollonia?

From a cLiL to cLiMB
CLIL blogs Physical Education free online dictionaryWell, not quite so. I've just given my first PE lesson as a CLIL subject, that's all.

PE is probably one of the best subjects to be taught in L2. As most teachers and students know, listening skill is primordial to fluency in a language. Babies spend their early years merely listening before they utter their first word, and on a personal level, I spent my first two years in Las Palmas hardly understanding what people were saying, but when my ears began to interpret the input correctly, my tongue started feeling grateful.

In PE, if the students don't understand what I say, I simply repeat the words with a physical demonstration. They follow. After repeating a few times, they will soon be able to do the exercise without the need for my demonstration. Obviously, we try to do this in the other subjects, too, but it isn't always possible or easy to achieve. Imagine demonstrating the conquest of the Barbarians of the Roman Empire, or the structure of cells, and you'll catch my drift. Doing it in PE comes naturally.

What's more, I started recalling words which have long been buried in the cobwebs of my mind... such as duck walk and piggyback!

And, not to mention it's a fun way of shedding the extra kilos!

Sunday 20 September 2009

Ideas for using videos in the classroom

As teachers, we have to be innovative,  to keep up with the times, so to speak. The days of teaching with a book, chalk and blackboard are long gone now. Every year, more and more schools are installing digital boards, more classes are having projectors and white boards, if not a screen, and it won't be long before every class will be equipped with a complete audiovisual system, computer included; and, we might even get to see, in the not too distant future, a computer on every desk.

Those who know me are aware that I am an advocate for the use of IT in the classroom, as I strongly believe that most children love the dynamism of sound and image and it's a far more effective way of capturing their attention than the traditional board; and those who have been following this blog would have seen many activities which have been designed to be used interactively, and would have read about the different ideas for practising the skills involved in learning a language. Hopefully, they have been of some use.

In this post, I'll try to put across some ideas on how to make the most of using videos in the class. Students, both young and old, love watching images fluttering on the screen, but we'd need to tap into that. Showing a movie for the duration of the class, or even two classes, while you sit and mark your exams, or prepare for the next lesson, is not taking advantage of the potential of video teaching.

Even though I write with teaching English in mind, the same ideas can be used for teaching other subjects. Don't show the whole film, unless it's a very short one. Generally, showing 5-15 min segments are more useful.

You can use films, trailers, extras found in dvds, youtube or teachertube videos, music clips, etc. By all means, show subtitles, but only English, never with their native language subtitles because they will be reading and not listening, while with English subtitles, they will be both listening and reading.

Encourage students and parents to watch films in the original language, preferably with English subtitles rather than with their native language. In fact, every few months, you can assign a film to be watched at home, or you can have a selection, and let the students swap them among each other.

They then talk about it in class, and can also be requested to submit a written report such as a review or a discussion question set by you, for example.

For class viewing, choose a segment which is appropriate to the level of your students.

Here is a selection of activities you can use:

Turn volume and subtitles off. Show a short segment. Ask students to imagine what the actors are saying. Ask them to imagine the situation before and after. Even if they have seen the video before, it doesn't matter. The main objective is for them to speak. You can also do this activity in groups or have different groups where some work on the situation before the scene while others work on what happens after the scene. Then they get together and each group tells the class its version.

Alternatively, don't show the video, but instead, let them listen first. Based on this, they imagine the setting, the characters (maybe they can guess the actors), etc. Depending on the segment you have chosen, you may be able to get them to do the previous exercise, too (imagining the situations before and after the scene). Tell them to listen not only to the dialogue, but also to the noises (crashes, gunshots, howling wind, etc) and the soundtrack. Listen to the silence, too, if any, as silence can work wonders on the imagination. All these may give important clues to the nature of the scene.

Have activities for different stages. For example, before watching: discussion questions and vocabulary activities; while watching: listening exercises such as gap filling; after watching: discussion questions.

Discussions need not be restricted to the film's content only. For example, the wedding scene in The Godfather can be used as a springboard for a discussion on wedding celebrations of different cultures; or any film can be used to start a conversation on cinema etiquettes, introducing or revising language such as 'Do you mind...' 'Could you please...', 'fancy', 'care for', and 'Would you like...' See also my post on Invitation to the cinema.

Next time you watch a film, program your chip to teacher mode. Watch out for scenes you could make the most of in listening activities. Examples are dialogue situations we often use in class such as airport announcements, checking into a hotel, restaurant scenes, etc.

As for vocabulary, don't restrict yourself to the same techniques. Vary them. There are many ways of learning vocabulary such as scrabble, crosswords, jumbled characters, mind maps, gapfill, etc. I'll do an 'Ideas for vocabulary activity' article some time in the future, so make sure you've subscribed here!

If the film has been adapted from a book, you can ask students to read the book first (or the part which you will be showing). Then, show the segment. Discuss the differences (in dialogue, settings, characters, etc) between the book and the film.

Alternatively, have them read the film script (or role-play it). Ask if they know the title of the film, the cast, the scene, etc.

If you like Wordle as I do, create one with part of the script and see if they can guess where it comes from. Discuss as above.

From a cLiL to cLiMB
Google the Internet for websites specialising in film scripts. Here are a few links:

Recipes are very useful for teaching imperatives, sequence words, and food & kitchen vocabulary. Videojug has a wonderful collection of recipes from all over the world, explained clearly and concisely.

If you have the dvd of Kung Fu Panda, you may have the special feature on the art of noodle making. I've used this with my students and they loved it.

Another fun movie activity is Watch and Tell. Form the students in pairs. They sit with their backs facing each other. The one facing the screen watches the film, and while watching it, he relates all he can to his partner, who, in turn, tries to write down everything his partner is telling him. After a few minutes, they swap their positions, and repeat the process. When you stop the screening, they try to piece the story together, and relate it to the class.

Try to choose a film with little or no dialogue. Something like Mr Bean or Wallace & Gromit work well. Alternatively, turn the volume off - the disadvantage here is that they can't hear the music and other noises, which are what make films exciting. If you like, you can always choose a certain grammatical aspect to concentrate on. You can ask them to write in present simple or present continuous or relate in the simple past, for example.

Special thanks go to Claudio, who has a wonderful site with grammar activities for a wide range of films. Check it out here.

For video clips, apart from dvds obviously, have a look at TeacherTube.

For lesson plans based on video clips, you light like TEFLclips.

If you have any more ideas to add to these, please share them in the comments section below.


Google Fast Flip - for fast browsers

Google has just introduced its latest tool, the Google Fast Flip. It allows you to flip through pages quickly, much in the style of flipping through magazines, to find items you would like to read more  about in detail. My initial reaction to it was 'Fantastic!' It's especially useful for my searches for vocabulary items which I think are appropriate for the words/phrasal verbs/idioms of the day sections in this blog. For most of us who have little time to keep ourselves informed of what's happening in the world, it is indeed an online blessing. You can search for items, and you can choose contents, subjects or sources. Tell me what you think of it!

Monday 14 September 2009

Odd One Out with a difference (Vocabulary & Speaking activity for all levels)

In the posts, 'Ideas for the First Lesson' and 'Ideas for Practising Dialogues', I covered some activities which can be used to elicit students to speak. Here's another one, suitable for all levels, which is both a speaking and a vocabulary activity.

I'm sure all of you must have heard of the odd one out game. The difference with this one is to have more than one 'odd one out'. It would be even better if all answers are acceptable! It works well with groups or individually.

Write down four or five words on the board, or say them out aloud. The students must choose the one they consider the odd one and give their reason for it. Award points to the student or the group who comes out with the unique reason. To avoid cheating, you can ask them to write their reason down first (this way, they practise writing, too).

Here is an example:

cat, dog, turtle, elephant

Possible answers:

You can't have an elephant as a pet.
Elephants can't jump.
Turtles can't run.
Cats have whiskers.

Here are more words. Choose the odd one and give your reasons and post them as comments below. Also, if you have more interesting groups of words, put them as comments or email them to me.

lion, cat, tiger, bear
cat, dog, dragon, donkey
eagle, owl, bat, penguin
angry, happy, violence, jealous
greed, anger, fear, love
helicopter, aeroplane, bus, bird
Singapore, Tokyo, England, Vietnam
London, Tokyo, Paris, Barcelona
aeroplane, train, lorry, bus
whale, wolf, walrus, orangutan
kitchen, lounge, hall, conservatory, living room
wood, water, paper, brick

The beauty of this game is that you can use all kinds of words and you are likely to find something that is unique about it in relation to the others. You can use words with no significant connection between them, or you can use them to revise a topic, e.g. animals, planets, places in a town, tenses, phrasal verbs, etc.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Cockney Rhyming Slang, Game for a Steffi? Time for a Bubble? (Includes Arcade Game)

This was first published on 7th Aug.
I remember how, as a little boy, I used to devour all the books I could get my hands on, so it was hardly suprising that I developed a love for words. As a young lad, I succumbed to youth arrogance and thought myself as a better-than-average poet. Then, much later on, when I had the fortune to be hanging around with some Cockneys, I became fascinated with their rhyming slang. I didn't have a clue as to what they were saying most of the time, but it didn't matter - it sounded great! LoL

So, who or what are Cockneys and rhyming slang?

Cockneys, traditionally, refer to people born and raised in the East End of London, especially if they are of the working class, but these days you'll probably find more Cockneys out of London than you do within!

Rhyming slang refers to the way the Cockneys speak whereby they replace a normal word with another word or phrase which rhymes with it, e.g. they may say plates of meat to refer to their feet.

Sometimes, there's some kind of connection, however remote or bizarre, between the word and the slang. In the above example, I don't really see the connection (unless they were thinking of plates of bad meat and sweaty feet), but 'Spanish waiter' which is the slang for 'see 'ya later' might have stemmed from the frequency with which the Spanish waiters say 'Hasta luego!'

The other complication is, just like how we so often use only part of common idioms in our daily speech instead of the full expression (e.g. Well, I did warn you about a stitch in time...), so the Cockneys often drop part of the slang, and what's worse, they tend to drop the part that rhymes!

'Cor! Don't my plates 'alf hurt!' Imagine trying to decipher that!
Or 'All right then, I'll have just a couple of Holies with a little talk'. What??? Right. Hint: Holy ghost: toast; Talk and mutter: butter

A lot of rhyming slang is very traditional, but just as the English language evolves, so does the Cockney slang. This, of course, makes it extremely difficult to learn it if you aren't embedded in their culture.

Examples of new slang:
Barack Obama: charmer (I tell you, mate, all them girls think he's a right ol' Barack.)
Jenson Button: mutton as in mutton dressed as lamb (Yikes, she's such a Jenson!)

Of course, just like new English words, some may survive while others simply fade away. Whether it makes it easier is debatable, but most of the new slang tend to rhyme with names of famous personalities with a few exceptions, such as wind and kite (web site).

So, are you all ready now to learn some rhyming slang and have some bubbles (bubble bath: laugh)? It's easy - all you need to do is to look for the word that rhymes! Have fun learning!

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (click anywhere inside the box, click ctrl+A, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:

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Thursday 10 September 2009

Unscramble these jumbled sentences: Idioms (Advanced)

As promised, here's an activity of reordering jumbled sentences based on common idioms. All the sentences (from recent press reports) have appeared as idioms of the day in this blog. If you've been religiously following the blog, you'll recognise most of the sentences; and if you haven't, well, shame on you!
Answers are available in a separate post - you'll just have to look for it!
Have fun learning!
PS: I'm often guilty of writing for readers of reasonable knowledge of IT, but I've come to realise that what is natural to some of us may not be so obvious to others. So, for those of you who haven't figured it out, you can download this PowerPoint slide show by clicking on 'More'. In the pop up menu which appears, select 'Save document'. You may be required to join Scribd first. All that is required to join is a valid email account.
Jumbled Sentence - Idioms (Advanced)

Unscramble these jumbled sentences: Past Simple 2 (Intermediate)

I thought I'd posted this, but I didn't, so here it is. They're all sentences in the simple past, taken from recent newspaper reports.
Answers are available in a separate post - you'll just have to look for it!
Next jumbled sentences activity will be on idioms, so watch out for it!
Have fun learning!
PS: I'm often guilty of writing for readers of reasonable knowledge of IT, but I've come to realise that what is natural to some of us may not be so obvious to others. So, for those of you who haven't figured it out, you can download this PowerPoint slide show by clicking on 'More'. In the pop up menu which appears, select 'Save document'. You may be required to join Scribd first. All that is required to join is a valid email account.
Jumbled Sentence Simple Past-2 (Intermediate Plus)

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Unscramble these jumbled sentences: Present Perfect (Advanced)

Another batch of jumbled sentences for you to have fun with! They're all taken from recent newspaper reports.
Answers are available in a separate post - you'll just have to look for it!
Next jumbled sentences activity will be on idioms, so watch out for it!
Have fun learning!
PS: I'm often guilty of writing for readers of reasonable knowledge of IT, but I've come to realise that what is natural to some of us may not be so obvious to others. So, for those of you who haven't figured it out, you can download this PowerPoint slide show by clicking on 'More'. In the pop up menu which appears, select 'Save document'. You may be required to join Scribd first. All that is required to join is a valid email account.

Jumbled Sentence Present Perfect (Advanced)

Wednesday 2 September 2009

How to post an entry to a blog as a contributor

This post is especially for Marlon, who claims to be an IT novice.

To be able to blog here, you first need to be a legitimate 'contributor'. Scroll further down this page, and on the left column check if your name appears under Contributors. If it doesn't, you haven't accepted my invitation sent a couple of months back. Check your mail, but if you can't find it, let me know and I'll reissue one.

Once you're a contributor, you're allowed to post at any time. On the top right of this blog, you should see your email, followed by 'New Post'. Click on this.
Choose an appropriate title. The title (and the content, for that matter) should not only be eye-catching, but also SEO friendly.

If you want the title to link to another website, write the full url in LINK, otherwise leave it blank.

On the top right of the posting form, there is a choice of 'Edit Html' or 'Compose'. For basic editing, choose the latter.

Start typing in the main body of the posting form. I'd recommend writing in Notepad (not WORD) first, then copy & paste after you've proofread your article a couple of times. Once you've done that, you can fine-tune it.

It's very much like writing a simple document. You can put words in bold (clicking on the 'b' at the form header or CTRL B) or in italic (i or CTRL i). You can also change the text colour, justify your post, or insert numbered and bulleted lists.

To insert a link, highlight the word or phrase you want the link to work on, then click on the hyperlink icon. Write the url in the pop up menu which appears.

You can also add images or videos to your posts by clicking on the appropriate icons.
When you've completed all the editing, it's time to tag some labels to your post. Labels help visitors (and search engines) find posts within the blog. Near the bottom right of the form, click on 'show all' to see the list of all currently used labels. Click on those which best describe your post. You can add more labels if none of the current ones are appropriate. Multi labels are separated by commas.

If you want to publish you post at a future time rather than right away, use the 'post options' at the bottom left to change the date or time. If the post needs more editing, you can select 'save now'; otherwise, click on 'publish post' and the post will be available immediately.
If you still have problems after reading this, email me or post a comment, and I'll try to help.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Ideas for the First Lesson

Soon, it’ll be the start of the new academic year; don’t wait until the very last minute to think about ideas for the first lesson. To help you, here are a few tried and tested activities. Some of your students are possibly known to you from previous years, so you’ll probably have an idea as to what will or won’t work with them. If you have a new class, you’ll have to be flexible. Be aware that their level may not be as high as you expect, so have a few plans ready in your mind.

A. Learning names

1. Ask them to imagine they are at a party. Play cheerful music, and while the music is playing, have them walk around the class, gesturing with their hands and body, miming some dialogue, etc. with another student. Make sure they change their partners every 5-10 seconds. When you stop the music, they introduce themselves to each other, e.g. “My name’s Lara, What’s yours?” When the music is resumed, they change partners again, and when it is stopped, they ask their new partner the same question.

At the end of the activity, ask them how many names they have remembered, pointing out the student as they mentioned their names, e.g. he’s Pablo, she’s Carolina.

If you like, you can have them extend the conversation to include things about themselves. Write key words/expressions on the board: family, hobbies, pets, favourite things (football team, food, music, etc.), dislikes, and so on. At the end of the activity, check what they remember.

2. Instead of freely moving around the class, you can arrange them in two concentric circles, or in two lines, facing each other (see Ideas for practising dialogue).

3. Test their memory: the first student says, ‘My name’s María.’ The next say, ‘Her name’s María and mine’s Pablo.’ The following student says, ‘Her name’s Maria, his is Pablo and my name’s Samuel.’ This carries on until the chain’s too long for them to remember!

4. If you see they enjoyed that, you can add another piece of information, e.g. ‘My name’s María and I have two sisters.’

In these activities, it’d be best if you include yourself. Apart from learning their names firsthand you’ll be demonstrating to them that you intend to create a communicative atmosphere in your classroom.

B. Chain Whisper

You can combine learning names with another activity, such as Chinese Whispers. Ask them to form a line, but with a particular criteria which you choose. For example, you can tell them you want them in alphabetical order of their first names. Explain how the conversation should go. Write them on the board, if necessary:

What’s your name?
Erm..., I’m before you – my name’s Javier.

The Chinese Whispers activity can be used to incorporate English sounds into the first lesson, too. Use the line formed as above, or form a circle. Whisper either a phoneme or a word or phrase which include the sound you’d like to demonstrate, to one student. She or he whispers what you said to the next student, and so it carries on until the last student. The last student announces the sounds or words to the whole class. You correct, if necessary.

C. Questions

From my experience, I have found that learners have tremendous problems constructing questions correctly. You could plan a questions activity to gauge their knowledge on this aspect and, if necessary, write down examples on the board for them to follow. You can always explain them in subsequent lessons.

1. Ask them to write between 3 to 5 questions on a piece of paper. While they are preparing their questions, monitor their mistakes, and help them if they have difficulties. Write examples on the board. Get them into one of the formations explained in the ‘ideas for practising dialogues’ post. They ask their partners the questions. At the end of the activity, they report their findings to the class. Example:

• Pedro, Tania, Sonia and Paula don’t like animals, but Carlota has a dog and two birds.
• Susanna has three sisters. Pablo has four brothers.
• Javier likes rock music, but Raquel can’t stand it.

2. Instead of asking the questions, they predict the answers first. Later, they report it to the class: I guessed that Paul likes salsa music, but he doesn’t. I thought that María has one sister, but she has none.

3. You could also have them asking you the questions instead of their classmates. Add some variance to this by telling them they can only ask questions which require a yes or no answer, or give them three different answers and they have to guess the right one. This may get rather noisy, so allow the questioner the first guess.

D Ask someone who

Write a few instructions on the board:

• Find someone who hates cats
• Find someone who lives near you
• Find someone who loves Japanese food
• Find someone who likes the same type of music as you

Make sure they know how to structure the questions. At the end of the activity, they tell the class what they have discovered.

E Vocabulary test

Choose a criterion and brainstorm all the words that fit it. If it’s a complete beginner’s class, ask for any English words they know. Examples of criteria you could use are words beginning with a certain alphabet, words of a certain length, or a combination of both, e.g. all 3-letter words beginning with K. The choice is limitless. Increase the challenge by further restricting the selection to nouns, proper nouns, adjectives, or verbs.

F End of Lesson

You may like to experiment this with your class – decide if there is enough rapport between the students and you for this to work. It is basically a relaxation exercise, an extension of meditation techniques, but is now gaining popularity in pedagogical circles under the guise of names such as stilling, visualization, scripted fantasy and guided imagery. Leave yourself about 10-15 minutes before the end of the lesson. The activity consists of first relaxing the students, then transporting their mind through a fantastical journey. For the latter, use your imagination, or an appropriate text from somewhere such as text books or stories.

Soft soothing music is optional.

Explain words they might have difficulty with before you start. You don't want any interruptions once you begin.

Speak to them in your most relaxed and calming voice, soft but loud enough for everyone to hear. It is best if they’re seated in a circle, but if this is not possible, decide if it is better for you to be seated somewhere in the middle or in the front (or at the back) of the classroom.

Close your eyes... Straighten your back... Sit deep in your chair, your back against the back of the chair...Put your hands on your lap...Both of your feet are flat on the floor.

Clench your fist... now relax them and feel them open.

Curl your relax them slowly.

Take a deep breath...let it out slowly...take another breath, slowly and deeply...feel your stomach expand outwards as you breathe in...breathe out slowly.

Do this a couple of times until you find them sufficiently relaxed.

Now, listen to the sounds in this room...listen to your own breath...feel it entering and leaving your body...feel your blood flowing from your heart down your left arm and up...down your left side of your body...down your left leg and up it moves down your right leg...and up...down your right arm...and up...up your head...moves round, then down back to your heart.

Keep your eyes closed, but feel your third eye opening, this is your mind’s eye...look at the opens...we’re leaving the classroom...we’re walking down the corridor...there isn’t anyone; they’re all in their classes...through the windows, you see that it’s a sunny day...we walk down the stairs...we walk through the door, into the open...

Feel the wind blowing into your face...feel the sun shining...feel its heat on your skin...hear the sounds of the cars...hear the birds singing...Breathe in the fresh air...

Ok, now we turn back...we walk back indoors...feel the sunlight behind you...we walk up the stairs...through the corridor....the classroom door opens...

Walk slowly to your chair...sit down gently...feel your, slowly open your eyes...move your fingers and your toes...look around you slowly...

If there is time, you might like to ask them if they had enjoyed the experience. Make sure they get up slowly and not rush out of their seats like they usually do! The body (and the mind) needs to get back to the ‘normal’ world gradually: If they stand up abruptly they might feel dizzy.