jueves, 31 de marzo de 2011

Always on my mind...

This mini-tutorial is in honour of the great visual thinkers on my PLN - Naomi Epstein, David Dodgson, Jason Renshaw, Jamie Keddie and of course David Warr . It's about making digital mind-maps using Freemind. Part One is about viewing maps, and part Two about creating and modifying them.

Viewing mind maps:

 Modifying and creating mind maps:

Freemind is available here.

A summary of basic commands in Freemind:

1. To move the map, drag the background, not the map itself.
2. To zoom in or out, Ctrl + mouse wheel.
3. Hover over an element to highlight it.
4. Hold Alt to freeze the highlighting so you can move the mouse elsewhere.
5. Highlight, then Insert to add a child node.
6. Highlight, then Enter to add a sibling node.
7. To move a branch, drag and drop to the tail of its new parent.

What you can do with them:

a) Having made a map in class on the board, make a digital version after.
b) With a little familiarity and a decent screen, you can make them live in class.

Having made a digital map you can:

c) Keep in your own archive for future classes.
d) Send to students for their records, or to modify themselves for homework.

By the way, if you want a copy of the Phrasal Verbs map, here's the link in Google Docs.

Edit: I don't think Blogger lets me post files so that viewers can download them directly from here. If somebody knows to the contrary, do let me know.

martes, 29 de marzo de 2011

Veni , vidi, wordli

I get the photos, the students, write, paper, and Ask  but who the hell is David Green? Thanks to the other Dave for the idea.

martes, 22 de marzo de 2011

I can explain everything...

David Deubelbeiss at EFL Classroom 2.0  posted this morning about photographs - "the fundamental intermediary for context in language teaching" as he writes. While I found myself agreeing totally, I also realised that my main use of photos is entirely different, and the photos I tend to use are also different. Which is one of the joys of a humanistic job, don't you think? No wrong solutions, and lots of right ones.

My own photo library - built slowly from magazine cutouts - has a selection of the lexical sets David mentions and includes in his post. However the ones I come back to again and again are all very similar: all cryptic or incomplete, and almost all captured rather than posed. Here are a couple of my favourites. (I also take the time to cut them out and mount them on decent card to protect them, by the way.)

NB These were cut from magazines, so are not in the public domain. I'll let you know if the Copyright Gestapo kick my door down in the middle of the night.

Here's one activity you can use with teens upwards and lower-int upwards.

I Can Explain Everything

1. Choose one cryptic or strange photo for each student. Don't give them out yet!

2. Ask the students to sit as far apart as your classroom will allow - this is an individual exercise, so give them space to think.

3. Explain that they will each get a photo and a blank sheet of paper. They will have to look at the photo and write a few sentences explaining or interpreting the picture at the top of the paper. Make it very clear you want an explanation, not a description. Ask them to write legibly.

4. Give out the photos and leave them to think and write in peace - usually 2-4 minutes is enough, but play it by ear. Be on hand if they call you, and monitor unobtrusively near the end of the time limit. (I usually do the same as them, BTW.)

5. Ask them to draw a line under their paragraph. Tell them that they are going to get a new photo and paper, which will already have an explanation. They will have to look at the new photo, read the existing interpretation, and write an alternative one, which must be totally different.

6. Ask them to pass the photo and paper to the student on their left, then look, read and write.

7. Repeat this until each photo has been round the class once. You will have several different interpretations of the same photo written on the same sheet.

8. Pin up each photo on the wall, with its paper, allowing students to mill and read. They can each vote for their favourite interpretation - but of course, can't vote for their own.

9. Round up vocabulary.

This lesson has the great boon that it allows your students to appear smart and imaginative to each other, which is vital with adolescents. I haven't tried it with younger learners - as always I'd love your feedback.

PS In a lovely moment of synchronicity, I found this glorious collection online.

jueves, 17 de marzo de 2011

Hand me that microphone, Begoña.

James has recently posted perceptively about getting intermediate students off the plateau and moving on. Among other things he suggests making audio recordings in class, which is something I also do regularly.

I've made a very brief screencast for beginners to audio recording:

Just to recap that:

1. Get hold of Audacity or another audio app.
2. Plug in your mic and hit record.
3. After recording, don't forget to normalize the audio [effect > normalize].
4. Edit out untidiness or silence if necessary [highlight > delete key]
5. Export to mp3 (or similar).

martes, 15 de marzo de 2011

Initial impressions

Just this morning Kalinago (whose session I had the pleasure of catching at TESOL Spain last weekend) blogged here and earlier here about dealing with errors and emergent language. How can we catch it before it flies away into oblivion?

The blogs and comments reminded me of this simple technique - initial writing.

You simply turn this...

into this:

The text in this case was my recasting of a student's tale, but it can come from anywhere. I often use initial-notation as a kind of shorthand to capture my own monologues as I speak to the class - without ever writing the full version.

jueves, 10 de marzo de 2011

Before Your Very Eyes...

Here is a wee tiny update to my previous post, From Thin Air. I had the same students  yesterday and we came up with this after an hour's work: -

Stephen Jackson's Heart
He woke up; while he was making breakfast he lit his first cigarette. He fried three eggs and 200g of bacon in butter, and ate it with lots of fried bread. While enjoying his second cigarette, he made a pot of strong coffee, and drank three cups with another cigarette. He thought “If that Dr. Green could see me now, he’d have a heart attack.”

He had always enjoyed smoking. The taste in his mouth, the cheerful glow of the paper, the lovely blue spiral of smoke. Of course the doctor had told him to cut down, and his ex-wife used to complain. He had been referred to a cardiologist called Green a few years ago after his first heart scare. Naturally Green had repeated the usual platitudes: No smoking or alcohol before breakfast, no deep-fried cheese, no more than three packets a day of Mariner’s Filterless Black and so on. But he felt fine. He could still get up the stairs at home, although he had to stop a for couple of minutes to cough and gasp in the middle.

He went out of his house and found a lot of snow and ice in the street. He needed to get to the hospital by 10 o’clock, but there weren’t any taxis to be seen in the city. He decided to go there by his brand-new red scooter. It was extremely cold and he'd lost his gloves - he couldn’t feel his fingers. He was wearing his helmet but the visor was broken and the snow kept covering up his glasses. In the Gran Via a cat suddenly crossed, and he ran over it. He lost control of the scooter and slipped on the ice. He tipped over and one of his mirrors smashed.

He carried on through the snow without mirrors.

(The authors will remain anonymous until I've asked their permission) 
I'm extremely pleased with how it turned out, and again it was a lot of fun. If you'd like to try it, here's the procedure:

1. Recap the original long sentence (see link above)

2. Identify details in it that might be interesting to expand on. One detail for each student ideally.

3. Fill in a couple of key details - in this case, just the character's name, approximate age and that he lives alone. Other details will arise later.

4. Ask each student to sit on their own and try to write a paragraph or so.

5. As each of them finish, read their piece with them. Feel free to ask them to expand a little more on nice details, add a little dialogue, fill out a description as well as correct the English.

6. Draw it all together - either post the papers on the wall, pass them round or ask the authors to read out loud.

Let me know how it goes.

lunes, 7 de marzo de 2011

From Thin Air

Anna of Magpie Moments has been blogging recently about student-generated material. I too am in love with the idea of no-teacher's-materials - the portablility, the minimalism, the concentration, the lack of faffing and distraction. Recently with several classes I've been trying out in-class fiction writing various ways.

Today just before my class with a small group of adult lower intermediates, I remembered an activity from a Rinvolucri book - the Expanding Sentence - or some similar name. I started by putting a very short but complete sentence on the board - in this case "He went to hospital." For this exercise you have to space out the words using the whole board:

Each player then has to add a short phrase (1-3 words) to the sentence, at any place, and leave the sentence still making sense. A nice touch was to give each player a different colour of marker. We had something like this halfway through:

What we finished up with 20 minutes later was:

After eating a breakfast - the usual eggs and bacon, against medical advice - HE didn't go to work in Asturias, but instead WENT quickly and nervously by his new, red scooter through the snow and the ice TO the University HOSPITAL in Madrid to have a coronary checkup on the 4th floor, east side, with Doctor Green, not the best expert in the country, and his incompetent team of hungover students.

Now that, to my mind, is practically a chapter's worth of information. And there was a good sense of involvement and giggling, which is always a bonus.

What I intend to do next lesson is to recap the sentence approximately, and then ask the students each to write a couple of paragraphs more on one subject like this:

His coronary problem; his journey to hospital through the bad weather; some background about the incompetent Dr Green, and so on.

I might see if they can write a little about the consultation with the doctor in another lesson.

I'd love to hear from you, especially if you try writing fiction in class.

viernes, 4 de marzo de 2011

Building an improvisation

This morning I had my first individual with Rubén, a thirty-ish lower-int, who is also in one of my groups. He's preparing for a job interview in IT. This is what we did:

I got him to tell me as much as possible about the interview, the company and the position. He actually didn't know that much himself, and I don't know anything about the IT industry's interview techniques. What to do?

We decided to try a standard interview question - Tell us about one project you're particularly proud of.

I asked R to mentally rehearse an answer to this, taking the absolute minimum of notes, and gave him a couple of minutes of silence in which to do so - I went off to get a microphone. He had a couple of vocab questions to clear up, then he told me version 1. What he said was largely correct, but definitely needed tidying and fluency.

I then recorded myself, giving my (improvised) version, speaking as HIM. We then played it back, and sorted out his queries.

We repeated this cycle twice more:

- His version unrecorded*; mine recorded; listen and queries.

By the time we'd got to version 3, he was fairly confident and accurate in his  version, but still genuinely improvising. I uploaded the audio files to Google docs and shared with him.

Have you tried anything like this? How did it go?

*I've discovered that hearing your own voice speaking a foreign language can be a horrible shock. And that's not what you need 4 days before a job interview!