Vocabulary revision games: Part 1

Revision is unquestionably of utmost importance when learning a language, so how do we go about it effectively? What are pedagogically sound criteria for selecting vocabulary revision activities? What’s more, how do we ensure these activities don’t generate a lot of extra work for teachers? In this two-part series of blog posts, we are going to look into what makes vocabulary revision effective and look at lots of ideas for games.

There is a lot of research behind retention and if you want to look into it, I highly recommend reading Paul Nation and Scott Thornbury on this topic to understand the rationale behind the following tasks (in this blog post and in part 2). 

What are the criteria for a good vocabulary revision activity? Let’s begin…

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Rising to the Challenge Part 2: sign up now!

We’re living through a time of great challenges. We’re being challenged personally and professionally and are having to regularly change and adapt and find new reserves of resilience. Teachers for example, have had to incorporate distance learning, social distancing and have had to deal with the emotional upheaval many students are facing.

But as well as a time of great challenges, it’s also been a time of great learning. And we’d like to celebrate this learning in our new series of upcoming webinars: Rising to the Challenge, Part 2. Across a variety of topics we’ll identify new ways of working which are useful for our present and for the future too.

What are the topics and who are the presenters? When are the webinars? Read on

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Squeezing the most out of songs: 10 ideas

This month we launch Pearson Music to learn to, our new Spotify account for teachers and students alike and its first playlist, Songs for St Valentine’s. To celebrate comes a blog post on using songs in the ELT classroom. Many and varied are the reasons for using songs in class and, equally, many and varied are the ways in which they can be used. Why might we use a song?

  • Songs contextualise grammar structures and vocabulary and include repetition and therefore repeated exposure to the same vocabulary and grammar structures…which can  mean remembering language!
  • Particularly If it’s a song they like, songs can be memorable for students…which can mean even more remembering of language!
  • As well as listening to songs, our students can sing them, even better if we go first (and even better with a guitar!). I think I have sung Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire to every class I’ve ever taught and can still picture a student by the name of Juan Cruz doing a cowboy lassoo gesture singing along. Another song I’ve had success singing with a class is Lemon Tree by Fool’s Garden. It inspired the name and picture of this post! And singing songs can help our students…you guessed it, remember language.
  • Many songs have a story behind them that invites interpretation and gets our students talking. A song therefore can be a springboard for discussion.

Next up, how can we squeeze the most out of songs in class? Read on for ten ideas

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Greatest Hits 2020: our five most-viewed posts from last year

This week, we take a look back at our five most-viewed posts of 2020: most-viewed as they’ve been shared a lot, and shared a lot because teachers found them useful (I hope!). And just as we use spaced-repetition to help our learners retain vocabulary they’re learning, a quick reminder of ideas we’ve already seen can help them become a permanent piece of our teaching repertoire!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the unexpected events of 2020 – which are spilling into 2021 – influence our list, as two posts on online lessons and one post on classroom activities with masks made the cut. Teachers are still on the lookout for games to use in class, with a post on guessing games finding its way into the top five too. Our list is rounded out with a post on ways to get your students to keep up their learning in the holidays. Here we go!

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EFL Compass: Reflection and planning in difficult times

I’m a huge fan of reflection and planning. Every year I sit down with my partner or a friend (or sometimes even alone) and go through the YearCompass questions. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a little booklet designed by a group of Hungarian university students, which went viral in 2012. You can download it in 61 languages (to print out or fill in in the digital version) and only last year around 1,500,000 people downloaded it. 

On January 2nd 2021, I sat down to do it again, and frankly, just couldn’t. 2020 was such a difficult year for everyone and it really has turned our whole world upside down. What’s the point in reflecting on such a year? So I put it aside but for some reason couldn’t let go of the idea completely. What’s there to reflect on? Until I realised: my professional life! I’m sure many of you working in ELT can say that although 2020 was an extremely challenging year, it was a year in which we learnt A LOT about teaching (whether it was socially distanced, online, hybrid or a combination of these), and since I keep telling my students that revision and reflection are key to learning, that’s what I should do, too!

So in this blog post I’m going to select a few of the YearCompass questions and answer them about my professional life in 2020/2021. My hope is that it will motivate you to reflect, too!

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Breaking the Boredom with Properly Planned Projects

Teachers and students are living through trying times. With the constant change in regulations resulting in students going online, then back into class, then into a hybrid class and back online, it’s no wonder teachers and students alike don’t know if they’re coming or going and motivation can wane. All I know is we teachers are doing the best we can.

The Spark

One thing I have found to be a huge help has been the use of projects in class. Using projects is  is a great way to help students make real-life connections with the material, as well as increase motivation, participation and collaboration – all while working on all four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking), having fun and learning at the same time. There are clear learning outcomes. The students have a tangible end product which they can be proud of. And can we keep using projects if our lessons are moved online? You bet we can!

In this blog post we’ll look at how to get the most out of projects with our teens.

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Shortcut to Success. Eight hotkeys making Zoom classes a breeze

Are you a victim of cumbersome cutting and slow screen switches in your online lessons? Perhaps you’re doing lots more clicking than you need to. And I’ve got some simple solutions to mute the madness.

There are a vast number of hotkeys in Zoom, each with its own very particular function. I’ve picked out the eight hotkeys that have made my online lessons a great deal smoother and more efficient, enabling me to move seamlessly around an activity and from one part of the lesson to another.

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Speaking and collaboration activities in a socially distanced primary classroom

Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema 

The year 2020 has brought with it new challenges in our primary classrooms regarding communicating well with masks on and working with partners while maintaining social distances. This blog will give you some ideas for how to overcome these challenges with your students and to keep on enjoying learning English together.

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How to Hybrid. Part 2: Hybrid Hacks and Activities

 

What’s been the biggest hurdle for you since switching to hybrid teaching? In my experience the big four are tech issues, dividing your time and attention between two sets of students, students not interacting properly and lesson planning.

Now, there is no quick fix for all of these issues; much like when we went online back in March there is a period of adaptation having some students face-to-face and others online, but once you and your students have fully adapted to hybrid classes you could have the best of both worlds. In this blog post, I’m going to explain ways to achieve this.

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Teamwork is dreamwork: pushing the boundaries in breakout rooms

When I teach online lessons to groups of students from around the world on the Pearson & BBC Live Classes project, the breakout rooms are always my favourite bit. It’s wonderful to see the students working to make themselves understood, getting to know one another and learning about one another’s countries and cultures.

But if you’re teaching regular online lessons to the same group of students week in, week out you can really push the boundaries with breakout rooms, moving from simple speaking tasks to increasingly ambitious collaborative tasks. In this blog post, we’re going to consider setting up and managing tasks like these in breakout rooms. I’ve referenced the platform Zoom, but it’s not the only one with breakout rooms (BigBlueButton, Webex).

Let’s begin!

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