With all of the demands on us as teachers to help our students improve their English we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that language is not the only thing going on in our classrooms. As important as improving students’ linguistic competences is, we know we are also getting them ready for using that language in the real world. And take a look around – the world is a pretty chaotic place (VUCA if you will) which can put a strain on the most resilient of us. Though no one is asking us to be professional psychologists, taking into account some of the principles of the Emotional Intelligence movement is a good idea if we want to help our students become happy, productive and resilient in addition to linguistically proficient members of society.
Everyone loves to play, and any teacher knows that games and quizzes are a great way to engage the language learner. For the student who wants to improve their English at home online – or even on the move with their smartphone – there are lots of great sites with free games for practising English. We’ve picked out ten to get you going. Enjoy!
Free games for practising English:
Last week I had the privilege of delivering a session in the TESOL- 38th Annual National Convention held in the Universidad of this incredible place called Salamanca, Continue reading
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of collaborating with La Rioja region.
The Department of Educational Innovation has included a blended course of CLIL methodology addressed to all the teachers interested in implementing bilingualism in their classes (or already implementing it!). Continue reading
Try it! You can download it to your IOS or Android device from here:
A month ago I had the chance to attend to a great training session delivered by Jude Edwards at Alloha College, in Marbella. Everything she explained was so interesting that I really wanted her to share it with as many teachers as possible. So, it’s a pleasure for me to introduce Jude and all her experience to you. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
My name is Jude Edwards. I teach children and teachers. I’ve spent a lot of years in the primary classroom teaching all ages from 4 to 12. I’ve also had a number of years in school management and leadership.
More recently I’ve been providing continual professional development to primary teachers in Maths, Literacy and Special Needs.
Learning Journeys: Why did you start to use phonics in your class?
Jude Edwards: British teachers were advised by the government to use a programme called ‘Letters and Sounds’. The government listed all the phonemes (sounds) that children should start to learn when they come into reception class at the age of four or five. Some teachers teach directly from this list and improvise ways to help make it interesting and relevant for children. Other teachers use phonics teaching schemes such as Phonics Bug – so that the hard work is done for them!
LJ: When do you think it’s the best age to start with phonics and why? (in Spain people start very early, since they use phonics more for pronunciation than for reading)
JE: I think it makes sense for children to learn phonics from their first days in school. Letter sounds are going to be more useful for them in the beginning than letter names.
LJ: Have you got non-native speakers in your classes? and if so, how can phonics help them?
JE: Phonics is an enormous help to those with English as a second language. What teachers are really doing in phonics sessions is teaching pupils how to turn symbols into sounds and sounds into symbols (i.e. graphemes to phonemes and phonemes to graphemes). In a recent lesson with seven year olds, I had pupils explore how the sound /ai/ can be spelt; they came up with ‘ai’ ‘a’ ‘ay’ ‘a-e’ ‘eigh’ ‘aigh’ ‘ey’ and ‘ei’ …. And of course they were correct!
LJ: Why synthetic phonics?
JE: The word synthetic comes from the word to ‘synthesize’ – meaning to blend different parts together. That’s exactly what we want children to be able to do; to blend phonemes together when reading and to separate or segment them to spell.
LJ: What other methods do you use in class to complement the reading and literacy skills?
JE: The obvious strategies, such as contextual and syntactical, plus of course reading for meaning and enjoyment. When teaching early readers I also anticipate which ‘tricky words’ they are going to come across before they start reading the pages. We do a little bit of work on these words first so that it doesn’t put them off when they’re in the flow of the text or story.
LJ: How do you work on phonics awareness in your classes?
JE: Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. Therefore it’s important to spend time segmenting words – taking a word apart by listening to the individual phonemes that it’s made up of. And then it’s important to do the opposite, to spend time blending – hearing different phonemes and combining them into a word. In the early weeks of school this involves lots of aural and oral work, tapping and clapping sounds and using memory aids such as those found in Jolly Phonics and the more modern video clips found in Phonics Bug.
Later on in their phonemic development, children are introduced to graphemes, which is just a way of writing sounds down. I like to let my pupils experiment with graphemes, perhaps using magnetic letters or on an IWB so that they are ‘spelling sounds’. Sometimes those graphemes are one letter, and sometimes they are digraphs, tri-graphs or even quad-graphs! I like children to be as confident turning sounds into symbols (phonemes into graphemes) as they are turning symbols into sounds (graphemes to phonemes). This is what we call letter sound correspondence.
LJ: Do you think technology helps when learning phonics?
JE: Yes definitely. Even children as young as four can appreciate quality visuals and sound clips. Technology really helps to embed learning and to ensure that what is taught stays taught!
LJ: Tell us about the results that you have noticed in your class.
JE: When phonics is taught well and pupils are engaged with the learning, their new knowledge becomes an extremely effective springboard for future literacy tasks. We must remember that good phonetic knowledge equips us to spell as well as to read. Children who miss out on quality phonics teaching will not achieve to the same extent in literacy as children who do receive it.
LJ: How do you guide families on how they can support their children if they are not aware of phonics
JE: I would suggest they talk to their children about sounds and have some fun ‘spelling sounds’. For example, the phoneme /ur/ can be found in ‘church’ ‘bird’ ‘work’ and ‘sister’ but in all of these words the /ur/ sound is spelt differently! They could then extend older or more able children with the /ur/sound found in ‘learn’ ‘journey’ and ‘were’! Families could even have little charts up on their walls showing ways to spell different phonemes. Of course, parents can also invest in educational materials but the most important thing is to talk about letter sound correspondences and have fun exploring them.
LJ: I loved the beans and sausages idea, could you explain it a bit?
JE: First of all you have to open a tin of Heinz Beans & Sausages if this is going to make any sense!
When phonemes are written down as graphemes and combined into a word, it is sometimes helpful to identify the sounds within that spelling. For example; ‘brown’ is made up of b + r + ow + n. That’s 4 phonemes and 4 graphemes. If I were to draw marks under the letters to identify the phonemes, I would have a bean (or dot) for b, a bean for r, a sausage (or dash) for ow, because it’s a digraph, and a bean for n!
Therefore: ‘ mat ’ would be bean, bean, bean for (m+a+t)
‘stick’ would be bean, bean, bean, sausage for (s+t+i+ck)
‘chip’ would be sausage, bean, bean for (ch+i+p)
LJ: Thanks a lot Jude!
Have you heard about badges and gamification? You like the idea but you are not sure how to implement it with your younger learners?
We have a freebie for you!
Here is our proposal. It uses the familiar idea of stickers as badges to complete a collection of skills.
We hope you enjoy it and if you do…share it!
And here are some more stickers for day-to-day use.
Carnival is here and we have a present for you and your students.
Your students can dress up their favourite characters (we published them here), and play with them.
Here you have the cut-outs for the costumes.
Carnival gives us the perfect context to discover new vocabulary about clothing. Here you have some resources.
Are you still looking for the perfect costume? What about dressing-up as a tablet or as your favourite artist self-portrait?
During the last seven years , I have trained English teachers in ICT in the public, semi-private and private schools from different regions.
Almost always I start the session by asking: ” In the classroom, your pupils use ICT primarily to develop which of the following skills … writing ? Reading? Speaking? Listening? The answer is almost always the same: ICT is mainly used to develop receiving skills, (reading and listening), then writing, and… least of all, speaking.
This is not to say that reading and listening are not important skills , but there should be a better balance between receptive (more passive) and productive skills (more active) Productive skills should be at the end of any task where the student expresses through written, oral or multimedia forms their outcome learning to their peers and the world.
In addition, all the international reports show that our students can read or understand much better than speak, a result that is not surprising , since the foreign language classes are still more focused on a grammatical model than on a communicative model .
We learn to talk by talking, and we can’t expect that the student suddenly is able to communicate verbally only after a few intensive sessions of comprehension and written exercises, unless we give them the opportunity to use and practice the language.
Therefore in the classroom we have to think … what reasons will I give my students so they feel the need to communicate in English? What and who should they communicate it to ?
My students have been using microphones , blogs , videos , talking cards , avatars, audio books , animation , … all the tools that can facilitate production at the end of any learning story .
And augmented reality is the perfect tool to increase language in the classroom because it can combine all of the tools mentioned above .
We all know that students learn a lot from the materials posted on the walls … but these materials are silent , they let you read, but not hear , unless we increase your content with audiovisual materials created by themselves, would create an augmented class.
Imagine a school where flashcards, displays, drawings or research offer augmented audiovisual information created by the students themselves, in which everyday objects such as tables, chairs or blackboards are brought to life explaining who they are or present hidden secret oral messages with challenges that arouse the curiosity of the students.
Learning corners can be explained by an audio or a video tutorial QR facilitating independent work of students who do not yet possess sufficient reading skills and might need oral and visual aids to understand the task presented in each corner .
On the other hand the increasing number of bilingual schools presents new challenges when teaching science, physical education or Arts and crafts in a foreign language . Hence it is also in these areas that AR can make a significant difference.
All this opens up a world of possibilities in which the student has a real and significant reason to communicate in a foreign language with the addition of that touch of magic.
But to put this into practice here you can find some resources and ideas that can help to increase the use of language in the classroom.
Each presentation is a different and “augmented” learning story. Hope you like it!
We have reached the end of the first term! It´s time to take break and to take a breath.
But before we go. These days, families use to ask teachers for nice sites or activities to do with their children during the holidays, so…here you have our proposal.
Design and create some digital toys online with your children, print them, cut and paste and…that´s it! you are ready to play offline with your creations for a truly significant learning activity.
Here is how you can do it.
Enjoy it and have a Happy Holidays!