Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What can you do with clothes?

Today I like to share with you all some activities I use when I am introducing and practicing the topic “Clothes” to my elementary ESL students.

They come from a wonderful article found in, written by the experienced ESL teacher Claudia Pesce: What can you do with clothes? 8 great ESL activities
A pile of clothes for children to play!

I have put them into practice and... They have been a complete success! (I just have added 3 more that I’m currently working!)

Let me illustrate  some of them!

“When you have to teach clothes vocabulary, do you always use flashcards and illustrations? Why not give your students the real deal? Clothing items supply plenty of opportunities for kinesthetic activities with young learners. Real items and props allow students to use several of their senses at once.

Try to have a bag with an assortment of clothes ready for lessons in which you’ll talk about clothes. For little ones, a trunk full of clothes in the corner of the classroom guarantees instant fun.

Fashion Show
This is the perfect way to practice, “I’m wearing…. He/she is wearing...”. Students choose three items to wear from your trunk or bag and take turns modeling them.

Clearance Sale!
Why practice clothes shopping role plays with imaginary clothes, when it’s so much better to use real ones? First, prepare the items by giving each a price tag – you can have this ready beforehand, or ask your students to help you. Students take turns buying and selling items. For extended practice, expand the role play to include the fitting room conversation: The jacket fits/doesn’t fit. It’s too long/short. Could I have a smaller/bigger size?

Seasonal Items
Place a suitcase full of clothes in front of your students. You can do two things. You can either have them sort them into what is more appropriate for each season, or you may also describe some weather conditions and have students choose what they should wear: “It’s cloudy and windy. It’s about 9 degrees.” Students should choose items that are appropriate for rainy weather.

Fashion Sense
Lay several items of clothing and accessories on a table. Give your students commands like, “Put on the red scarf”. Make it more challenging and test their listening skills by having similar items of different colors: “Put on the scarf with green and blue stripes”. Ask one student to put on several items at the same time for a fun, ridiculous look that will make your students laugh.

There’s Been a Robbery
Practice prepositions of place. Arrange several clothing items around the classroom which will be your “shop”. Drape a sweater over a chair. Put a scarf under a desk, and so on. Ask your students, your “shop clerks” to take a long hard look at the classroom and try to remember where everything is. Ask a student to step out of the classroom. Take two or three items and hide them. Ask the student to come back and say there has been a robbery. They must report what was stolen from the “shop”: There was a green sweater on the chair and a red scarf under the desk.

Whose Shirt Is This?
This is a fun way to practice possessive pronouns. Ask each student to bring an item of clothing to the class. It can be anything they want to bring. Before class they must give you their items without showing them to any of their classmates. Place all items in a bag or box and have each student take one. Each student has to guess whose it is. The student has three chances to say whose it is, and if they can’t guess correctly they get to ask, “Whose belt is this?”

Story Time
Young learners can be very dramatic, and they love to dress up! Have your own little class play and provide them with the clothes to wear. You can put on a play or show for another class or your students’ parents.

I pack my bag (or suitcase) for Mallorca and I put in  ...
One person says "I packed my bag for Mallorca and I put in...", followed by any clothe they like. The next person then says "I packed my bag for Mallorca and I put in...", followed by the original suggestion, and adding their own. A player is disqualified if they forget one of the previously occurring items or can not think of a new item to add to the bag. The game continues until all but the winner has been disqualified.

Paper Dolls
Paper dolls are figures cut out of paper or thin card, with separate clothes, also made of paper, that are usually held onto the dolls by folding tabs. Paper dolls are inexpensive children's toys and you can find them even in “One Euro” shops.

Fashion Catalogues
Feel free to imagine how many different activities you can do with them!

Have you got new ideas? Please share! They will be welcomed!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Saint George Day!

Saint George's Day in Catalonia

Gaspar Homer i Mesquida

Gaspar Homar i Mesquida (1870-1953) Modernist bed headboard. Photo: AISA

Hard to understand for those who have never experienced it, Saint George's Day is a popular festive day when book and rose stalls, and, above all, floods of people, take over the streets of all Catalan towns and villages. The celebration could not be simpler: the ritual consists of going for a walk and buying a rose, a book or both to give to loved ones, family members and friends. Although it is not a public holiday, the day and the essential walk fill the streets and squares, making it a unique national festival celebrated on a working day.

Beautiful drawings!

The origin of this unusual festival can be found in a mixture of traditions and customs from different periods. The fact that Saint George (Sant Jordi) is the patron saint of Catalonia (officially since 1456, although he was being venerated as early as the 8th century) coincides with another medieval custom of celebrating a Rose Fair or "Lovers' Fair" at the Palau de la Generalitat.
Celebrating Saint George's day in my school

To these more traditional celebrations was added Book Day, established throughout Spain in 1926. The literary celebration ended up mixing with the Catalan traditions to create a special day which has won widespread public support.

As Saint George is also the Saint Patron of England we benefit of this in the ESL class by talking about castles, legends, knights, kings and princesses, reading books or just listening for fun and enjoyment.

Worth to take a look to my post    A puppet show as an oral resource to exploit stories

Monday, April 15, 2013

Do you Understand the Size of the Universe?

Several weeks ago, I was surfing the net looking for some resources to explain the size of the Universe. My 10 year old students wanted to know about the size of the universe and how things look like compared with other bigger or smaller things.

This is a really tough topic, specially when the learners are above 10 and you need some "interactive help" to answer this difficult question in English as a Second language!!

Here you are some resources that can help children understand the scale of things in the universe. You can use them for planning your CLIL or CBLT units or just for extra information or support for displaying your universe projects

The Scale of the Universe 2 features a huge selection of objects in the universe that are arranged according to size and scale. You can zoom-in on the image to objects as small as neutrinos and quarks or as large as planets, constellations, and galaxies. When you click on an object in The Scale of the Universe 2 a small window of information about that object pops up.

3D Solar System Web features a narrated tour of the solar system beginning at the sun and working out through all of the planets. The tour explains the classifications of each planet, how long it takes each planet to orbit the sun, and each planet's unique features.

Magnifying the Universe is an interactive infographic that allows you to see the size of atoms, animals, buildings, mountains, planets, stars, and galaxies in relation to other objects in the universe.

Copyright 2012. Magnifying the Universe by Number Sleuth

100,000 Stars is a Google Chrome Web GL Experiment that does a good job of helping viewers understand the scale of the universe. 100,000 Stars is a visualization of the 100,000 stars closest to Earth. You can view the stars on your own or take an automated tour of the stars.

The Known Universe is a six minute video tour of the known universe that starts with Earth's biggest mountains in the Himalaya and zooms out from there. Watch the video below.

Hope you like them!

Reference: Free Technology for Teachers. Posted on Friday, March 15, 2013. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Film English: innovative and creative use of moving images in language learning

Today I want to suggest an essential resource for English classes: Film English, the website of the English teacher Kieran Donaghy.

On his website, professor Donaghy uploads his own designed units that promotes the innovative and creative use of moving images in language learning. The most remarkable thing is that all his projects are planned using video in the classroom.

Each unit has a classification by level, time, type of students and others. It also specifies the topic of the unit and includes materials that can be downloaded for our class. The units are “ready to use” and we can use them immediately.

The lessons promote critical thinking in the language classroom, and encourage learners to reflect on values while learning a  language.

Film English has become a very popular resource bank and is visited by thousands of teachers every week. It has also received critical acclaim and won various awards, including winner of Best Individual Blog and Runner-up in The Best Use of Video in the 2011 Edublog Awards; the 2011  Site of the Year; and British Council Teaching English Featured Blog of the Month.

I suggest you to visit the web and have a look to the units he already made. You will find a very high quality material and it is very easy to use if you follow his instructions.

This is just a beautiful example of one of his last units called Be Happy. It is designed around a short video which was inspired by Be Happy: A Little Book to Help You Live a Happy Life by Monica Sheehan. Students speak and write about happiness, and watch a short video. Language level: Pre-intermediate (A2) – Intermediate (B1)

Do not miss it!!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Children Speaking English Spontaneously? Are you serious?

Trying to encourage children to speak English spontaneously in the ESL class is a "tough cookie".

Some time ago I posted about different activities and proposals to do so. May you remember: How to facilitate speaking in the ESL classroom or Get the most of the videos in the ESL class... or Effective Spontaneous English Speaking Activities.

Today I want to show you one of my “Speaking more freely” sessions with some of my students of grade 6.

A rewarding overtime!
I often try to do it in small groups, after the class, in a more relaxed atmosphere (sometimes a class with 25 pupils can be stressing!) and without the pressure of being observed by others. This is one of those “overtimes” you give for free to the school, because there is no other way to organize it, but it is very rewarding both for students and for the teacher!

First of all, let me make some considerations about this.

  1. The topic. It is very important to choose a familiar topic to talk about and different types of activities in order to encourage children cognitive development. In primary talking about pets, leisure activities, sports, travelling or future jobs are always good topics to improve the speaking skills.
  2. It is also very important to choose a real context and let the children think of the meaning, not just repeating words or chunks of grammar structures to practise pronunciation.
  3. Communication. Interaction must be controlled because of the limitations of the language, but you can allow some spontaneous interaction and give some directions to follow
  4. Some tips:
Interaction is paramount.
  • Recasting. Repeat what children say in their mother tongue in English. It is a very important step in children’s language development because they know they are understood, they hear what they wanted to say repeated in English and they strength the idea that they can communicate in English as they do in their mother tongue.
  • Rephrasing. It is very supportive if you change what the child say in English into better English without any negative comments. By rephrasing children realize that their communication is valuable, that they can communicate successfully, they can improve as they hear a better version of what they were trying to say
  • Correcting. It is important to distinguish between errors of form and errors that affect meaning and comprehension. You may use the correction as a learning tool, and having clear in mind that you are not changing what a child is trying to say.
  • Support children’s early efforts by waiting for their responses (don’t be afraid of silences) and frequently summarizing what different pupils say.
  • Give children opportunities to speak.
  • Don’t put pressure on children to speak if they are not ready.
  • Pronunciation. I do not correct pronunciation unless it affects understanding or it is so evident! (common words)
  • Interaction in these sessions is paramount. I always invite to dialogue, to give reasons, apologies or to interrupt each other. 

The following materials (script, rubric and observation grid.) were used for one of my "Spontaneous speech session". This one was about “Travelling to another country”.

First, I gave to the students the script and I ask them to prepare a little bit the ideas. This is only the frame of what will the session be and what we are going to talk about. They can prepare and practice in advance, but they know that the script is not allowed during the session.

Before the session I have to prepare all the materials I will need: the rubrics and the observation grid, in order to note down important issues like recasting, rephrasing, corrections errors of pronunciation or interaction. In the session I must act as a facilitator eliciting, inviting and engaging children to speak...

Sometimes I ask someone to record a video of the session, so children can see themselves speaking, interacting and talking in a spontaneous ways. It is a great fun, but also a wonderful time to correct mistakes!

SLATTERY, M and WILLIS, J (2009). English for Primary Teachers. OUP: Oxford.