Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Macmillan Online Conference 2014

This year's Macmillan Online Conference was held from Monday 10th to Friday 14th November. It hosted 12 speakers and offered interactive Google Hangouts. If you missed it, don't worry. Due to my busy schedule, I missed a great deal of it myself, and to be honest, I'm not a huge webinar fan. I realise webinars are economical but traditional conferences get me much more engaged. However, it's the content that's valuable, and Macmillan is now offering it on their web page. Over the next few days they'll be updating their page with webinar recordings from all of the talks and the speakers' presentations. You can find them HERE.

Wait, there's more. MEOC participant got a certificate of attendance and a code to claim a free eBook after completing an online survey after the conference. The eBook was a Sherlock Holmes Graded Reader, The Norwood Builder by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since sharing is caring and since I know you had the best intentions to attend the conference but just couldn't find the time, I'm sharing the code with you. Go HERE and enter 
'MEOC2014' in the red discount code box. You'll also have to create your account on their eBook store. After that, complete your purchase and go to 'My Account', where you will be able to download your new eBook. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Facebook page

This blog now has a Facebook page! CLICK

Pop lyrics and language teaching

I've always been a great fan of pop and rock music. Since a great deal of it is in English, this also means that I've had a lot of language input. I still remember searching for my favourite lyrics as a teenager - back then that meant you had to put a tape in your cassette recorder and wait patiently for your radio station to play November Rain. AND THEN you had to listen to it over and over and transcribe the lyrics, pressing that pause button till your finger bled. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Not only did I learn the lyrics by heart, I was also developing my listening skills and paying attention to language in general.

Now, of course, the Internet has changed everything. But it shouldn't have to be for the worse. Teenagers still love music and even though all of their favourite songs and lyrics are a click away, you can still use this to your advantage in the classroom. Since they don't have to go to great lengths to get their favourite lyrics, they probably pay less attention to them, but that's what you're here for! You can make them pay attention by preparing pre-, while- and/or post-listening activities of different kinds, and since they have to do all kinds of handouts anyway, I'm sure they'd much rather do it if all of it is somehow connected to their favourite music.

Here are some of the activities you could do with pop lyrics:

  • Pre-listening activities: predicting the lyrics based on the title; guessing the song title after listening to karaoke version; guessing the song title after you dictate a list of words that appear in the song (in random order); your own ideas.
  • While-listening activities: gap fills (the gaps could be random or focusing on a specific area of grammar or vocabulary); drawing; writing down new vocabulary items; singing along; your own ideas.
  • Post-listening activities: paraphrasing bits of lyrics; writing summaries; writing their own similar lyrics with the same song title; adding verses; doing mind maps; singing; your own ideas.
As for the songs you choose to play in your classroom, make them school and age appropriate. Even if you're the biggest fan of death metal there is, I would advise against using it. We get it, you love it, but your students may not. It also goes the other way around: you may not like Beyoncé, but your students probably do and if you find lyrics that would fit into your lesson, use them. Just don't use any booty shaking videos. :)

Here are some lyrics that I've used in the past - I love lyrics for teaching/revising grammar:

Lenka - Everything at Once: great for teaching similes

Beyoncé - If I Were A Boy: packed with conditionals

Caro Emerald - Stuck: indefinite pronouns
Adele - Someone Like You: indefinite pronouns
Gotye & Kimbra - Somebody That I Used To Know: indefinite pronouns and modal verbs

Mr Probz - Waves: I prefer the slower version since it's easier to use for listening activities; I use it for the Present Continuous Tense

Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway: Will Future

And in honour of my childhood memories: GNR - November Rain

I hope this comes in handy. If you have any more useful suggestions for the classroom, I'd be very grateful! Till then - in then words of Jerry Springer - take care of yourselves and each other. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

School newspapers - why not make them in English?

A school newspaper is a great way for students to get involved and be creative. If you launch an issue in English, they can get creative and develop their English writing skills at the same time. However, as exciting as this may sound to you, your students might find it as tad less so. So, how to get them involved? The good news is, you're the teacher and they pretty much have to do whatever you tell them. But since one of the goals is to get them excited about it, here are some suggestions:

  • Extracurricular activity or  journalism classes. If you have the option to offer journalism classes and you have students, willing to participate, then you shouldn't have any major problems getting the content for your newspaper.
  • If the above isn't an option for you, you could always use the assignments/essays that your students have to hand in as homework. Just choose the best ones and ask for permission. Most of them will be happy to have something published in the student newspaper.
  • Extra credit. It does wonders. Also, it motivates the students that would usually be beyond your reach - the ones that don't seek attention, that aren't all that ambitious or even the ones that usually settle for a pass. But come the end of the year, they suddenly realise they wouldn't mind a chance for a higher grade at all.
And what to include in the newspaper? Apart from the essays the students have to write for their homework assignments, you could ask them to do interviews (or even make them up), field trip reports, write poems, draw comics, design riddles and crossword puzzles from different vocabulary fields, write book reviews, run an advice column (which is great for practising modal verbs and "if I were you" structures, by the way!) and so on. Basically the same things you would ask them to do for your regular school newspaper, only in English. 

The first student newspaper in English I edited was not at all impressive. It was actually just a supplement to our regular student newspaper. I only got the idea for it in June, so I quickly found those few students willing to bring some of their old assignments and put those together. This is what I got:

But the next year I prepared in advanced - which basically means I chose titles for homework assignments wisely. :) We only made one issue in that school year and it was still published only as a supplement, but it had 11 pages. You can see them HERE.

What's your experience with school/student newspapers? Also, what's your attitude towards error correction? Given that you still want the contributions to be original and not your own work. Do comment on that! :)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

My first teacher blog

Remembering my first experience in blogging as a teacher:


The blog was created to document the Popestrimo šolo project, a primary school project I was coordinating in 2012. The aim of the project was to expand the scope of extracurricular activities in primary schools. Unfortunately, the blog is in Slovenian only.

This blog was published on my former primary school website. All participating children handed in parental consents for publishing student photographs.

Hi guys!

I'm a young and enthusiastic English teacher from Slovenia. I've been following teacher blogs for a while now and I've finally decided to give it a go myself. There are tons of useful teaching materials that I stumble upon in books or on the Internet, so why not share and comment on the ones I find useful? And - most importantly - add some of my own :)
Anyhow, welcome and enjoy!