Aside

Do you know what’s new with LyricsTraining?

So, I love using LyricsTraining. For those of you that aren’t using it yet, it’s an easy-to-use platform that automates our traditional fill-in-the-blank activity into a game. You’ll find tons of genres, not to mention other languages. All the songs are divided into categories and the game itself also have levels and two game options: write or choice. Besides excellent listening practice for students, it also does wonders for spelling, since the game is designed in a way that you can’t continue until the word is spelled correctly.

Ok, ok… I’m done talking this platform up, and will move on to the real reason for this post. I went in today to use it in class and found that it has uploaded some new videos, but to my surprise, they were not songs. I tried one out and absolutely loved it. Try this one out which is about Google Self-Driving Car Project. I ended up exploring the “OTHER” genre and found that they have uploaded a lot more. So, I hope you have fun exploring the new videos and using this new format of their site.

Now, if you’re new to Lyrics Training and want to know more about how you can use it in class, try reading this old post: Lyricstraining.com: Using music to learn English.

 

Other awesome sites:

English Central

BBC Learning English

Antimoon

LingQ

 

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.

 

5 ideas for no more song fill-in-the-blanks. Part 2.

In a previous post I explored a different way to use music in the classroom. To check it out, click here. Here’s a look at some more ideas to use songs and music in class with your students that let us step away from the traditional fill-in-the-blank activity. Here they are:

my-life_s-soundtrack

Soundtrack

Have students choose from 3-5 songs that they consider represent milestones or are important moments in their lives. The idea is to make a soundtrack for their lives, where they can not only investigate their songs, but also explain to the rest of the class why each song is important to them. I’ve found it helpful to make a step-by-step worksheet that will allow them to understand the project and complete it keeping in mind the language targets that I want to involve in it.

Round the world lyrics

For homework tell each student to bring a song they like, along with the lyrics. In class they should choose a line from the song and every student then goes up to the board and writes their line. If you have a small group (like I usually do) you can have them each bring in a few songs, or have them write two or three lines from their song. Then have the rest of the group guess the song by reading each line. Once the activity is done you can create a playlist and use these songs for your future activities.

Scratch that

Dictate 10 to 15 words from a song, then tell every student to choose 5 words. Once they have done this, play the song and have students scratch out the words from their list as they hear them. The first student to finish is the winner. This is a great warm-up activity before using a song in class. For even better use of the activity, make sure some of the words are related to the particular language target of the class.

Identify errors

Print out a version of the lyrics with some mistakes that are related to the language target. Have students identify the mistakes and write the correct phrase or word. When making the worksheet, make sure to leave spaces between each line so the students can write the corrections underneath the line.

Youtube videos

There are youtube videos that already have parts of songs with the grammar you need in class. These are great to either practice or introduce a topic. A good example is this one on gerund or infinitive I used recently in class.

There are many more ideas that I’ve used in class and will be posting later on. Stay tuned!

No more song fill-in-the-blanks. Part 1.

Yes, using music in class is an excellent tool, as I’ve gone over in my previous posts. Although there are so many ways to take advantage of this valuable tool, so many alternatives to the traditional filling in the blank. This is Part 1 of a few posts where I’ll explore short activities that you can use in your classes to practice language with music.

Musical Bingo.

  1. Choose the correct song based on the target language or vocabulary in your lesson plan. (Having difficulty finding just the right song, check out these links: TEFL Tunes and Musical English Lessons.)
  2. Choose the target words or phrases in the song and make a list.
  3. Once you have the list, make an alternate list of words that are not in the song, but are from the same group of words as the target language.
  4. Then include this list of words in a blank Bingo Word file or by hand in a blank printed Bingo Card. If you want to leave it up to chance then you can use an online Bingo Generator. When filling it out put the words that are in the song in the correct order to be able to get a Bingo, based on the rules you want to use. For example: Winner has to get an X or a line or an L. The rules are up to you and difficulty level you want to give the game.
  5. Make a few versions of the Bingo Card and then make copies if necessary. It doesn’t matter that you can have various winners, that makes it more competitive. Although if you want the winner to really be based on his or her listening skills all of the Bingo Cards could be winners! The student who wins is that one who heard all of the words.
  6. In class play the song or the fragment of the chosen song, again based on the level of your students. As your students hear the words they should cross it out. The first to complete Bingo wins.

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Additional tips:

  • To keep track of the winning card, if you decide to only make one, you can mark the Bingo Cards with a letter or number on top or something so that you know who should win.
  • If you want to use the Bingo Cards various times, put them into a sheet protectors  and have students write on them with erasable markers and you have reusable Bingo Cards!
  • As a follow-up activity you can go over all of the words, including those that were not in the song.

-TatyGoRa