Monday, June 9, 2014

Starting up again!

It has really been a while since I consistently posted, but I plan to have some more content up very soon! You know how teaching can be! :)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Google Presentations in the Language Classroom

Last quarter, I taught a Pronunciation and Fluency course in a traditional classroom. It was fun. We played games, sang songs, and did a lot of your standard, traditional classroom activities. 

THIS quarter, I have the same class again, but with a twist. This quarter's class is in a Smart Lab (operating on the Sony Virtuoso Software) - which ends up being a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because the computer system is SO COOL. There are so many fun things to do, and so many great ways to use it for helping the students. The curse is that now that everyone is in front of a computer, none of my activities really seem to work the same way.

For this reason, I have been experimenting with ways to actually use the computers...and one of my first successes has been using the Google Presentation tool for a collaborative presentation. 

Here's what I did:

First, we had a lesson on voiced and voiceless consonants, practiced hearing the difference, and practiced saying them differently. As the expansion activity, I projected this slide on to the board:

Why Wal*Mart? Because they have everything!

I've used this activity before in a traditional setting, and the students made a list on paper together. This time, however, the students (randomly partnered up with the Virtuoso computer software, and communicating on their headphones and microphones), clicked a link and were transported to a new, open Google Presentation. They collaborated to find pictures on Google of the things that they wanted to bring, and put them on the slide for their group. The beauty of this was that each student could work on his or her own computer on the same slide at the same time. The collaboration aspect of the Google Office Suite tools is incredible. 

So, the groups worked together to get what they needed. At the end of the first 15 minutes, their slides looked something like this:

My favorite slide: They said they were bringing "Rambo" and "Terminator,"
and that they were going to put everything inside the tanks.
So, at this point I changed the background on all of the slides, and the students had to arrange their pictures by the voicing of the first sound (voiced on the left, voiceless on the right). Later, we changed it so that they arranged the pictures by the last sound. 

I thought that the horse was a clever solution to the "No Wheels" issue
(which most of the other groups ignored!)

At the end, I projected the slides on the screen, and the groups came up one at a time to describe who was holding what (since being able to carry it was a requirement), and they had to pronounce the word correctly (as far a voiced/voiceless initial and final consonants). 

The students had a blast, and it was really fun listening to them talk to each other while trying to pay attention to how they pronounce the consonant sounds.

Has anyone else found a fun way to use Google Presentations in the classroom? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dear Readers

Hey Everyone! Thanks for hanging on so long without a post! Tim and I have been navigating an international move and trying to get adjusted in California again, and unfortunately, our posting frequency has suffered. We'll be back to posting again soon! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Teaching Unplugged - Reflection


On Wednesday nights, I have a class with two students (around a CEF level B1, I would estimate). The course they are taking is designed to be communicative, but text/material driven, and at the end of the course, both students will be tested on vocabulary, grammar, and ideas directly from the text. Normally, I incorporate a lot of discussion and vocabulary building activities into the lessons, but last week, I tried to to be purposefully more “Unplugged.”

I walked into class, and like every week, asked the students how they were, etc. One student said that she went to the dentist last week and that her face was sore. Instead of saying, “Oh, I'm sorry to hear that,” though, this time, I tried to run with it. I had her tell me what happened (she had had her wisdom teeth removed). I asked the other student if she had had her wisdom teeth pulled also, and she had.

We ended up having a wonderful 20 minute conversation about wisdom teeth, dentists, oral surgery, and recovery, and we filled up the whole board with new vocabulary. Both students were able to tell their stories, compare experiences, and talk about funny situations related to dentists offices. They wrote down the 10-15 words (out of 50?) that were most relevant to them (for example, some teeth vocabulary and the difference between 'to miss' and 'to avoid').

This lesson, and the other lessons I've been trying to unplug lately, have made me wonder how many other situations students have brought to the classroom in the past that I haven't noticed or exploited, and it made me more aware of the teaching possibilities present in daily life.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Teaching Unplugged Activity - “Textplosion”


My Monday morning course is a “technical” English course that is actually very free. As long as the students are happy and learning English, there is no text or material requirement and no test at the end of the course.

Usually, in the class, we read target-language articles about new technology in the students' field and then have a variety of activities for discussion. The problem with this set up is that we usually have to read two pages of text before we can get to the fun, communicative activities (instead of the summarizing and predicting). With this is mind, I have been looking for a way to make the process of going through the text more interesting and making the language more accessible.

I used an activity based on the “Textplosion” activity on page 66 of Teaching Unplugged, along with a modified dictation activity. I printed the first sentence of an article we were going to start on to individual word-cards, and then I mixed them all up. I gave them to the students and asked them to tell me, based on the words they saw, what the article would be about. One student pointed out that it was a little difficult because there were so many “small words,” and not so many “important” words. So, from there, I had them separate the word cards into “small words” (or “grammar words”) and “important words” (or “content words”). Once they had done that, I read the original sentence out loud and had them put the content words in order. After, I read it again, and they filled in the grammar words.

This activity worked really well on the day I tried it, because the two students who showed up were the least advanced, and usually, they have a little trouble keeping up. This activity made the text very accessible, and helped them feel successful about their language. Since it didn't require as much instant comprehension, and because we worked with the same text for the entire class period, they were able to process it and understand it by the time they left.