Q&A: What do you do with those students that are fast-finishers?

From Santiago, Chile I got the following question:

What do you do with those students that are fast-finishers? I always make them help the rest of the class but I think I need a new strategy. Greetings from Santiago, Chile!

ANSWER:

This a big concern to many teachers, because if not handled correctly it could definitely bring difficulties in classroom management and at the same time it would lead to the students that haven’t finished their work to feel unmotivated and maybe even rush through just to finish quickly. To avoid this, there are a few strategies you could implement:

  • Keep a folder:

One way to keep them busy is to keep a folder with extra worksheets. I try to make them fun activities, that don’t feel like more work. The objective of these worksheets is to give them extra practice, but to allow them to have a little fun. You could get great worksheets from these pages: Busy Teacher and iSL Collective.

  • Get them reading:

Try to have with you different reading material. I like bringing comic books, fun short stories, magazines, or links to resources they can check online (depending on the tech you have available to students during class). Again, the idea is to have fun reading material, so try to make it things your students are in to.

  • What now? strategy:

Be prepared by having a list of activities they can do when they finish. Here you can get tons of ideas as to how to set it up and what to include. I usually like to include topics that I know my students are struggling with and need extra practice on, or having them find an activity they can share with the class to reinforce a topic in the next class.

  • Write a six-word story:

This is a fun one! Have your students write a story using only six words. You can even put them up on a billboard so that they can be motivated to write really good ones.

  • Newspaper blackout:

I thought this one in particular was really cool. Again the end result can be put up somewhere in the room. Keep pages of old newspaper cutouts and have students black out all of the words until the only ones showing make a sentence saying something about themselves or maybe even a particular topic, and you could change the topic monthly depending on what you’re seeing in class.

I found those last two on this page, in case you want to read some more ideas.

Hope these help you out!

 

If you have a question that you want answered, just reach out to me here

 

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Using interactive flashcards for vocabulary practice

I love using Cram.com to practice vocabulary with my students.

First of all, I’m a big fan of teaching vocabulary chunks so when I’m teaching a course, I make it a point to teach certain groups of vocabulary together and to explore how to teach them to my students so they actually stick. For me recycling is the key so lately I’ve been using Cram.com in class and for out-of-class practice for my students. You can create digital flashcards in groups and on the page you can even share your flashcards so others can use them. Once you have designed them you can either view the flashcards, play a memorize game, take a test or even play some of the games the page has available. All of these can be used at different moments of your class to motivate students to learn new words. One more thing I love is that it’s available on iPhone and Android, so you can easily include it as individual practice in class.

EXTRA: You can even get your students to create their own and share with the class.

Stumped? Trying to find the best way to teach a grammar topic? Figuring out how to handle the multi-level group?

E-mail me at tatygoraelt@gmail.com and ask away. I’ll write a post answering one question a week and help out as much as I can. Now, of course I’ll be waiting for others to comment on each post and that way we can all reach the best possible solution to your question!

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Clip your videos to make them more engaging and meaningful

Using TubeChop you can edit YouTube videos and cut just the bits and pieces you need. I have wanted to do this for soooo long and today I stumbled on this tool and just had to share. I’ve just tried it out and it’s really easy to use. Definitely opens up so many possibilities to planning classes around video segments, instead of full videos. I usually don’t use any segment longer than 5 minutes (and even 5 minutes seems long sometimes). There are so many linguistic take aways from a short video segment that are so much more meaningful than full movies or videos clips.

How to get the most out of Socrative in the ELT classroom?

We are constantly looking for new ways to engage our students. I have found that Socrative, which is an online platform, has really helped me create amazing activities that allow my students to participate in real time. It offers me so many options that I can tailor-make activities based on what I want and need my students to practice, giving them the amount of control and access to the results or progress as I want. Besides this it also works across devices, be it their laptop, tablets or smartphones, so everyone can log on easily. Now, let’s get started with how you can get the most out of this platform for your ELT classroom!

Get started and learn the basics

The first step is to open a free account. When your account is available they automatically assign a room name, so first go and change it to something your students can feel engaged with. Once you’ve got that all set up you can get started. Here are some of the features Socrative has that you can use in the ELT classroom.

Quiz question to get quick answers

You can generate a quick question type activity. It gives you the option of jotting something down on the board or simply asking out loud and having student answer in three types of answers: multiple choice, true or false and short answer. Choose the one that best fits what you want to ask, and be sure to give them all the information they may need. This is great instead of passing around pieces of paper where they write down what they want, and you can even look back on the saved results whenever you want. I’ve used it for just random things that I’ve needed to find out from the students like: to verify previous knowledge on a topic or to check who has doubts about a particular topic before moving on. You can make the quiz anonymous if you like, so that opens the door to many possibilities. Only the teacher can see the results in this type of quiz.

Make a Question Race

If you want to make a game interesting, Socrative can definitely help you out. By creating a Space Race quiz you can make teams, change the theme and project the scoreboard as they answer the questions. This is a great interactive way to practice language in class and still make it fun! You can configure the test to either give feedback to students and/or give them results, you can disable these if you like. I’ve used this game a lot in class to review grammar topics and students love it. Keep in mind you have to have the quiz created previously. Since the quiz is created and stored in the quiz bank, you can later use the same quiz individually as a graded activity through Socrative as well.

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Create a Test or graded activity

Want to go green, get rid of all that paper on your desk and save time grading? Well, you can do all of that by creating all your quizzes and graded activities in Socrative. Here you can set it up in three ways, depending on the activity: Student paced – immediate feedback (each student can move forward as they answer, but not skip back and forth, and they get immediate feedback), Student paced – navigation mode (Students can skip and go back to questions as they please and they also get immediate feedback), and finally Teacher paced (students answer one question at a time at the teacher’s pace, who can view all of the answers in real time). This quiz activity can be very flexible and depending on if it’s an individual activity, roundtable review or interactive individual game it can be adjusted to whatever you need.

Fun ideas for using Socrative

Surveys: Create fun surveys for your students, where you can easily verify what your students think or want. Choosing the next song to use in class, or simply knowing who they vote to be the next class monitor can be a piece of cake.

Quick knowledge review: Want to make sure they understood before they leave? Ask them a quick question before they leave and that’s their ticket out the door. I usually don’t grade this, it’s more for me to gauge how to start off my next lesson. Sometimes, I also do it in the beginning of a class, to see how I can set up the groups for an activity based on their current knowledge and grasp of the topic.

Have students make their own: I’ve had my students make their own quizzes and share them with the class. It’s always fun, because to make it they first have to understand the topic, so it’s great practice and lots of fun.

Mix and Match – with board game or tic-tac-toe: I use Socrative as my flashcards for almost any board game out there that involves questions. When students land in a square, you can get them to answer the question in Socrative.

Anonymous class feedback: Sometimes you want to the get feedback or simply know something about your students, but don’t want to pressure them into giving their name. This is a way for them to tell you what they really think.

EXTRA:

All of the results you get from Socrative can be downloaded to Excel or PDF in an individual or group format. So no worries about being able to use the grades, or the extra hassle to copy them into your grade book.

 

Take some time and explore Socrative…  Let me know how else you could use it in class!

 

 

 

 

 

5 Amazing DIY Teaching Websites

As teachers we sometimes want to tweak a little (or a lot) our course book’s ready-made activities or simply want to make our own to really adapt it to our students’ needs. Now, let’s face it, this can be quite time consuming and if we’re not that tech friendly it may be nearly impossible other than brining out the markers. I think we’ve all tried at least once to make our own crossword puzzle, or Bingo from scratch on Word and found ourselves quickly giving up or just finding one that was already made and adjusting our lesson plan around it. In light of this, I’ve put together some sites that I’ve found really helped me to save time and easily make my own fun activities in just minutes. Hopefully they will also help you.

Crossword Puzzle Maker

This website actually offers a few tools to generate games along with fun and easy worksheets and printables, so I definitely suggest you check out their complete website. What I especially like about their crossword maker over other similar sites, is that you can adjust it after it’s been created. My favorite part is that it give you the option of printing out an answer sheet. You can adjust font, titles, size of the crossword, or the font, and instead of printing you can also save it as an image. You can go crazy with this one and give your students personalized crossword puzzles or even get them to make their own as homework!

Word search Maker

This one I’ve found is just very simple to use. Although it doesn’t allow to adjust after creating it, you can also just copy paste it into your own Word file and be creative with it. Since it’s a word search you can put these into sheet protectors and have your students find the words with an erasable marker and then reuse with all of your other groups. For more ideas on how to use sheet protectors in class take a look at 3 ways to use sheet protectors for easy reusable ESL activities.

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Bingo Maker

This one in particular is one of my favorite. I love making Bingo cards for many different types of games,even with songs. If you want to know how I use it with songs, check out my previous blog “No more song fill-in-the-blanks. Part 1”. Anyway, this site gives you some ready-made bingo word lists or topics that can really come in handy, which you can also personalize, or if you’re in the mood (and have the time) simply make one from scratch. You can even put a serial number on each Bingo card to keep track of them and again you can put these in the sheet protectors and have fun with them in all your classes.

Boardgames

On this site you can find tons of options to adjust to your ELT board-gaming needs. You can either use one on their list, where you’ll find a lot of great topics to review with your students, or again make your own. You can also adapt it so it has pictures, or words, or a combination of both. I also found one of the templates to be really cool, because it has a loop racetrack theme, so you can adapt the rules depending on how much practice you want your students to have by changing the number of laps to win. For boardgames, you can also simply make a blank one, put numbers, categories or colors on them and print out task cards for each category (if you put colors, print them out on rainbow-colored paper). This is sure to add lots more fun to the game. By doing this you can also reuse the board in any class, simply by printing out new task cards.

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Flashcards

We all like using flashcards in class and here you can make your own. It has a lot of different adjustments that will be sure to help you make the perfect ones for your activity. You can even make the task cards for the board games here. A great feature for those teachers that like using phonetic alphabet with your students, it has a special phonemic keyboard that lets you put it on the cards. If you want to print out two-sided flashcards, just make two sets: one for the front and the other for the back. Be sure to put print it out correctly so they end up behind the right one.

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Well, these are just some of the ones I’ve used. I hope they come in handy for your future lesson plans! Think of all the time you’ll save and how cool it’ll be to give your students a worksheet that is made especially for them.

 

Happy teaching this week!

 

 

FINAL IDEA: As a final tip, get your students to use these for homework. For example, if they are reading a book, have them identify the new vocabulary words and make a crossword puzzle. When in class, exchange the crossword puzzles and when they are done you can do one comprehensive list for the whole class. Always take a few of your own, just in case a student didn’t do their homework.

Bringing RPG to the classroom

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We may not always know exactly how to keep our younger students engaged in our classes and may even face discipline and classroom management issues. I’ve found this interesting proposal that some students and teachers may find can be the solution to their issues. It turns your classroom into a role-playing game, where your students can create a player, earn points or lose them, gain new powers, work in teams and be able to transfer all of this into real life results.

I’m still just exploring everything you could do with this, but applying it to English Language Teaching, it may even help us to get our students to participate actively in an all-English platform that will actually help their language learning process along as well.

Their objective is not to change what you’re teaching. The content and lesson planning can remain the same, it’s how you teach that will get a boost. They state that it won’t affect or disrupt your class because it runs int he background, while you dedicate at most 5 minutes of your lesson to the game management. What I found especially interesting was that they gain real rewards as well, such as being able to eat in class or have more time on a task, or being able to ask a question during a test. At the end of the day, students to stay alive in the game have to participate actively, which means that in theory this will translate into engaged students.

Classcraft is worth taking a look at!

 

Using ELT links in and out of class to engage students

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Courtesy of miniyo73 at flickr.com

All teaching is moving towards digital aids to help our students (especially those newer generations) get on board and motivated to learn English by alternative exercises than fill-in-the-blank and workbook activities. While preparing classes and trying to find websites that could do just that, I found these three that always come in very handy for either in class fun or homework.

1. Voscreen

Voscreen can be used in many different ways, as well as in different languages. First off, it’s a completely free platform, but it does require you to sign up. So, your students will have to sign up, or you can create one account which they can all use. I’ve used this one for out-of-class practice and students seem to really enjoy themselves and learn a lot. To give it a try log in as a guest. First, they will ask is for you to choose a language. Some considerations: whatever language you choose is the one that the phrases will be translated to. So, if you’d like to practice this as a translation exercise choose your student’s mother tongue. If they are a bit more advanced, than try out English. In this mode it’s perfect for paraphrasing practice.

How it works: 

Your students watch a fragment of a video (very short phrase or dialog) and then they must choose the phrase that best matches or translates the phrase (depending on the language you chose). They can choose two options before doing this. The one on the left is without subtitles and the one on the right is with subtitles. Choosing this will start the timer and they must choose the correct answer before it runs out. If they need to listen again they can press the red play button on the screen. In either case, with or without translations, it will show them the correct answer once the time has run out or they’ve chosen their response.

How and when to use it:

I’ve used this site as extra listening practice for exam preparation students, or as an in-class bonus exercise for my students. I’ve felt it’s perfect for paraphrasing practice. Now, I’m not a huge fan of translations, so I tend to use it more for my advanced students in English mode, but you’re free to give the Spanish version a try.

2. Lyrics Training

This one has been around for a while now and most teachers are using it in class with students, but they’ve added some features that can help out with our more basic students. First of all, for those of you who maybe haven’t used it some initial thoughts. This is a website to practice English, as well as other languages, through a fill-in-the-blank automated system, not just for English.

How it works: 

For starters, you can choose the songs based on level of difficulty (green=easy, orange=intermediate, red=advanced), country (the flag on the right hand corner) and genre (by clicking on the button on the top). Once you’ve chosen the right song, you have the option of choosing four levels: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert. Each one relates to the percentage of words of the song that are randomly blanked out each time that you play, including the Expert, or as they say it “Are you crazy?” level which blanks out the complete song. It’s important to note that since it is random, students can play the game with the same song as many times as they like. This is where they’ve added a new feature; you can either choose a Write Mode or Choice Mode. For lower levels choose the Choice Mode and for higher levels the Write Mode. When your students begin to play, they must either write the word or choose the correct option when the song gets to the blank. If they make a mistake or take too long, the timer on the top starts the countdown. When that timer has run out you lose the game.

How and when to use it:

This website is great and motivates students a lot to practice outside of the classroom. As teachers, it’s a great task when you want to practice listening, vocabulary or spelling. It is a game, so you can even have some fun with it and make a tournament out of it. You’ll see students practicing in their free time to come out on front!

3. English Central

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Courtesy of Jinho Jung at flickr.com

English Central also makes you to create a user to use its website, but it is free. If you’re interested later on, you could even explore the possibility of using it at your school, since they offer excellent options for integrating it into your curriculum. This website has two formats: videos and courses. In the videos part, you can do quick exercises with videos, commercials or songs; in the courses part you will find different courses created through short videos. Some nice features on this one is that the lessons include four parts: Watch, Learn, Speak and Evaluate, so students really get the opportunity to learn the vocabulary.

How it works: 

As a tip, if you prefer an all-English platform, you can change this in your settings so that the instructions, tips and answers are given in English, instead of translated to your student’s L1. It has some really interesting features that can make learning very interactive for your students. The first stage is to simply Watch the video, although your students can also begin to interact by clicking on words they don’t know. Every word that is clicked on will show the definition, pronunciation and an example sentence (if the platform is in another language the translation will also appear). The second stage is Learn, and here they will blank out some words that the students have to type in. Again they have help if they need it. Then in stage three students can practice their Speaking by recording their voice and comparing it with the original audio. It even grades them (although I haven’t been completely sold on that component yet). Finally, in stage four the students are Evaluated on the words they learned.

How and when to use it: 

Most of the videos are very short, so I like doing this exercise to warm up when I have my students in a lab. Another option is to give all of your students the same link, have them do it at home and take a screenshot of their final result. When you’re registered as a school, the teacher can even keep track of their students’ results and progress through the platform. All in all, I love the fact that students can practice, independent of their level, with authentic English.

 

Using corpora in the ELT classroom

Ever get stuck in trying to find example sentences for a word? Ever want to create your own worksheet, but ran out of examples? Ever want to see how a word is used in context (spoken or written)? Ever try using a Corpus for your class planning or language acquisition?

If you have and have any ideas share them here! If you haven’t and want ideas as to how to use a corpus, stay tuned for my next article coming up next weekend.

What is a Corpus?
A corpus is a collection of written texts, especially the entire works of a particular author or a body of writing on a particular subject. And as ELT professional we should start using it more often for class preparation, research and content creation!

“The freely searchable 450-million-word Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) is the largest corpus of American English currently available, and the only publicly available corpus of American English to contain a wide array of texts from a number of genres.” – Wikipedia

Give it a test drive and let us know your ideas!