Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Compare and contrast: #photoblog challenge

Spot 12 differences in pictures No.1 and No.2 - a task for primary level but anyone can try :-)
Inspired by my PLN.

Picture No.1

Picture No.2

The question: What was being built in pictures No.1 and No.2?
The answer is here:

Picture No.3

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Creating online vocabulary activities

I have prepared this post with regard to the teacher training session when I am going to consult the teachers on creating online vocabulary activities for students to be used either in class or independently, at home.

There was time when only Hot Potatoes was available for creating interactive quizzes and it was a really cool program back then. Now we can choose from a vast variety of intelligent and user-friendly online tools and applications without the necessity of downloading the program.

One of my all-time favourite sites is Kubbu which lets the teacher create attractive interactive quizzes though you have to spend some time on it. There are different formats you can choose from, like Crossword, Match, Divide, Slider, Composer. Take a look at the samples (on the main page) to see what they look like.

Check out the activities I have created and used with my students.

Newspaper vocabulary for advanced students - multiple choice exercise to match the word with its synonym

Food vocabulary for elementary students - drag and drop exercise to sort the food nouns

Another website I have used for creating vocabulary lists is Wordstash which is a great site for learning vocabulary and in addition it makes some easy online activities from your word lists.

Teachers can choose from the ready-made lists or create their own which I did here. I prepared a short list of travel words (synonyms) which my intermediate students had problems to distinguish and made them practice until they knew the difference. Students can either first study the words in Learning Mode or go straight to Practice Mode and then play some easy online games with the words from the list.

My latest discovery is Word Dynamo website which is the youngest child of the parent site, still in Beta.

I took to it at once because it looks cool and it does everything itself, you only have to provide a list of words. The presence of the dictionary ensures you have a choice of definitions at hand, you just have to pick the one that suits your needs. The choice of activities include Match, Crossword, Listen, Write and Flashcards for learning the word definition and pronunciation.

Have a look at the word list Travel synonyms which I made for the same class as above to check out how this site works.

The next website I plan to explore is Educaplay which lets you create various multimedia activities which can be placed on e-learning platforms, eg. Moodle. A pity its blog is in Spanish, so for me there are two options - either I don't read it or learn Spanish :-)

Updated on 02.10.2011.
I tried creating activities on the site but most things on it are in Spanish including the instructions for students, so I have to drop the idea of using it. I also found the instructions for making activities confusing even though they were in English. Bad luck!

I also suggest you to visit Random Idea English website which publishes great grammar and vocabulary online and printable exercises to use with your students of upper-intermediate or advanced level.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Back to School Ice Breakers

This is a great moment in the life of my blog because I am having my first guest writer!
Natalie Hunter grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. As a result she is grateful for the invention of the internet because it allows her to spend some time outside, rather than just poring through books in a library. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today, and particularly by the advent of online education. She also loves to travel and learn via interaction with other people and cultures.

September has started, and if the school year hasn't begun already for you it soon will. Teachers and students everywhere can dread coming into a new class and meeting new people, whether they are in a real classroom or in online school. Some worry that they don't have the kind of skills they need to stay on par with the class, which can be quite daunting. Acclimating to new surroundings can be difficult for everyone, but with the right kind of introductory exercises, it can be easy to relax students and teachers alike and get the school year off to a good start.

Ice breakers can be as simple as the teacher wants them to be. Almost everyone has experienced the one where everyone introduces themselves by telling everyone their names, where they are from, and an interesting fact about themselves. If the class is large or if you think it may be easier on some students to not speak in front of everyone, the class can be broken up into small groups. The important thing about ice breakers is to not only situate students in a class but also help them to relax so that the class might be fun for everyone.

A more elaborate ice breaker that can be used for any age group would be to have each student write down a given number of questions. They should be questions that anyone can answer, and that can't be answered with a yes or a no. Students learning English should be monitored during this process to see how their formation is doing, and students at higher levels can be asked to form more complex questions. When everyone is done, introduce the activity by asking the students to put enough blank spaces to fill in with every other student's name. Then everyone could stand up and wander around the room, making sure to ask everyone one question, writing down their names as well as their answers. At the end, hand out sheets of paper for everyone in the classroom with one student's name on it to pass around, and the class can collectively fill out little biographies about each student that can be shared or posted on the wall. You can also ask students to volunteer what interesting things they learned about one another, and talk about some fun questions that may have been asked.

Another fun ice breaker is to hand out notecards to everyone and ask them to write a few things about themselves, like what they hope to learn over the school year, their favorite ice cream flavor is, or what is the one thing that everyone should know about them. Put them in a hat and then shake them around, and then draw them out to read to the class one by one. Have everyone guess who the person is if they can, explain why they guessed so, and when the name is found write that name on the back of the card and save it. At the end of the year, you can pass the cards out to each student and they may be excited to see what has changed in the intervening year.

These are just a couple of examples of what can be done to help students get to know each other and to start verbalizing during the first few days of school, and to help the teacher begin to get used to their new students and their needs. Just remember, it's a new experience for everyone, and in the end the object is to help everyone feel at ease and comfortable with one another as learning begins.

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We both would appreciate a comment or a question from the readers of this blog.