A little bird told me …

It is an idiomatic expression that means “someone told me, but I’m not telling you who it is”. This phrase is often used more comically than seriously, especially when the source of the information is obvious to both parties but neither is willing to say.

Various authors over the centuries, including Shakespeare, have made reference to birds, feathered or otherwise, giving messages. I have found an earlier version of this phrase: “A little bird has whispered a secret to me,” from 1833 on www.phrases.org.uk

Idioms are fixed combinations of words whose meaning is difficult to guess from the meaning of each individual word. For instance, If two people are birds of a feather, they are very similar in many ways, so they naturally spend time together and join together. That is not the same as the separate meanings of their individual words.

“Do not complain about your friends. Remember, birds of a feather flock together. Your friends are just like you.”  These are examples of idioms, they cannot be taken literally.

Sometimes we use the features and cliches based on birds as a short way of expressing a more complicated idea. For example if “the student learned about the birds and the bees in his health education class at school” is a way of saying that he or she has learned the facts about sex and birth and life, the facts of life.

Also idioms help to make English a more colourful language: “An early bird” is someone who arrives someplace early or starts something early

“I am an early bird and I like to arrive early at work every morning.” If you wake up and get to work early, you will succeed, in this case we can say the proverb: “The early bird catches the worm”

Similes are expressions which compare two things, they always include the words as or like. You can use similes to make a description more emphatic or vivid, e.g. “as free as a bird” completely free, carefree. “Eat like a bird” to eat very little. The opposite would be “Eat like a horse”, and if he eats very unpleasantly and greedily with no table manners he “eats like a pig”.

Idioms are used to catch the reader’s eye, particularly those with strong images, e.g.: “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. This expression means that it is better to have an advantage or opportunity that is certain than having one that is worth more but is not so certain. The ‘bird’ we already possess is far more valuable than the ‘two’ we could possibly get. In essence, don’t be greedy and a “bird brain”, stick with what good things you already have, instead of going after something you’ll probably never get.

The Teacher, a very interesting and intelligent person, not a “birdbrain”, introduces us to three idioms connected with birds:

  • Birdbrain.
  • To have a bird’s eye view. (a general view from above)
  • A little bird told me.

The phrase “to kill two birds with one stoneIdiom 68 Kill two birds with one stone 2I do use it by habit, but I catch myself every time I say it. The expression is rarely used literally, no one really goes around throwing stones at birds these days. Again, because these examples are idioms, they cannot be taken literally. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the usage as a proverbial phrase meaning “to accomplish two different purposes by the same act or proceeding.” Or in other words: “to use only one action to complete two tasks”.

And this is what I hope I have done with this post, learn about idioms and expressions and about bird features.

Another video about birds idioms by  JamesESL English Lessons (engVid)

To learn more about Bird Idioms:

About idioms in general:

 

 

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Making Music Matters

The Chinese philosopher Confucius said long ago that “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”  Learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains. Playing a musical instrument has many benefits and can bring pleasure to those around them.

Quotefancy-28004-3840x2160.jpg

More qualitative benefits than only listening to music. Passively listening to Mozart, or indeed any other music you enjoy, does not make you smarter. The so-called “Mozart effect” is  now a debunked myth: just listening to certain types of music does not improve intelligence, like you’re not going to become physically fit just by watching sports. It’s important to engage with the music in order to reap the benefits and see changes in your learning. Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain.

Moreover, people with little or no musical training, who represent the vast majority of the listening audience, perceive music in a totally different way than the actual musicians who play or create the music. Each person who hears music is influenced by his or her own individual personality, knowledge, and life experiences that have molded their minds.

This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity.


Extract from the video:

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout

Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. As with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brains functions, allowing us to apply that strengh to other activities.

The most obvious difference between listening to music and playing it is that the latter requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision, in which the left hemisphere is more involved, with the novel and creative content that the right excels in.

– See more at: 

Benefits-playing-an-instrument MerceCardus

Anita Collins Music.com/films/

The Two Sides of Music

This Is How Music Can Change Your Brain – TIME

Mozart doesn’t make you clever – NATURE

The controversy about the value of Homework

There is controversy about the value of homework, with critics saying it is either ineffective or potentially harmful if the extra work is so dull that children switch off.

Few years ago, a group of French parents and teachers called for a two-week boycott of homework in schools, saying it is useless, tiring and reinforces inequalities between children. They say homework pushes the responsibility for learning on parents and causes rows between themselves and their children. And they conclude children would be better off reading a book.

This is a representative sample of what the detractors argue against having homework, but we can add others arguments opposed to homework: The school day should be long enough to allow the child to learn and write everything they need to” homework, whether good or bad, takes time and often cuts into each student’s sleep, family dinner, or freedom to follow passions outside of school”. “Not all families have the time or the necessary knowledge to help their offspring”. “Teachers don’t realise the unbelievable pressure they are putting children under”.  (should children have to do homework? comments)

And what the students have to add to this scenario against homework. For too many students, homework is too often about compliance and “not losing points” rather than about learning: “…it’s worksheets and problems at the end of the chapter. Just busywork”, “It doesn’t matter how I get the homework done, just as long as it is done before the teacher checks it. Right?” . “If I haven’t succeeded in doing the exercise at school, I don’t see how I’m going to succeed at home”.

From another standpoint, there’s pressure from external sources to set homework and a lot of teachers see that as if they must be setting homework all the time, even if it’s not necessary. There is also a parents’ common misconception that teachers and schools giving more homework are more challenging and therefore better teachers and schools. This is a false assumption. The amount of homework your son or daughter does each night should not be a source of pride for the quality of a school.

These are not good news for “homework”, but if so why it is so popular and widely applied. Maybe what we need is a new word instead of “homework”, how about “continued learning” or “ongoing growth activities”?

We want children to understand that they are always learners even outside school. So it makes no sense to even advertise a “no homework” policy in a school. It sends the wrong message. The policy should be, “No time-wasting, rote, repetitive tasks will be assigned that lack clear instructional or learning purposes.”

As a teacher, we know that by assigning homework, the teacher significantly extends the classroom learning time, that a teacher should never assign homework on a topic that has not been practiced first in the classroom. It should be difficult enough to challenge a student, but not so difficult that the student feels overwhelmed. Assignments should be graded and feedback should be provided.

Homework will be extended learning time if the students are inspired enough to want to practice the skills obtained class. Then make homework worth doing so they will want to do it.

What about Blended Learning? In Blended Learning teachers set up learning management accounts (LMS) on places like Moodle. They assigned students work and research projects through the LMS and students did the work at home. When they came to class, the teacher would either review what they had done individually, or step up the learning by providing further opportunities to apply their knowledge in group projects.

Children should be encouraged to read, write, perform arithmetic, better understand the world around them in terms of civics, science, and the arts, and, of course, develop their people skills: their emotional intelligence. This encouragement should be part of everyday family interactions outside of school, and the school should provide developmental guidance to all parents, in the appropriate languages, to help them do this. Experts agree on the value of parents taking an interest in their children’s intellectual and academic life.

Above all, schools should remind parents to never lose sight of modeling for their children the value of close relationships, support, caring, and fun. That is the most important “home work” of all.

Reference

Two hours’ homework a night linked to better school results

Homework guidelines scrapped to give headteachers greater freedom

EDUTOPIA BOOKMARKS

Learning to Think, Thinking to Learn.

Thirty years ago, some theories about teaching and learning were based on training exercises and drills. The idea was that if facts were repeated enough, then students would memorize them, and this was learning. Under this concept learning is shown by a change in behavior as a result of experience, but nothing is mentioned about what students believe, what process they use to solve problems, or their own awareness of their thinking.

This post is based on the idea that teaching means teaching students to think. It assumes that teaching is not just about communicating facts or mechanical skills like Math rules (of course, you must have facts in order to learn), but is a process of coming to understand how you think.

The idea that all students should learn how to think critically is a relatively new one (certainly since the turn of the 20th century) and one for which most schools are not well prepared. The point is how we teach thinking, and how to make students aware of their thinking.
vtVisible Thinking is a flexible approach to integrating the teaching and development of thinking with your content and curriculum. This is a project of Harvard University. The essence of this project is a series of routines for thinking. They are simple and to the point.

The idea of visible thinking helps to make concrete what a thoughtful classroom might look like. At any moment, we can ask, “Is thinking visible here? Are students explaining things to one another? Are students offering creative ideas? Are they, and I as their teacher, using the language of thinking? Is there a brainstorm about alternative interpretations on the wall? Are students debating a plan?”

The central idea of Visible Thinking is very simple: making thinking visibleWe learn best what we can see and hear, although thinking is pretty much invisible. Mostly, thinking happens under the hood, within the marvelous engine of our mind-brain.

Visible Thinking includes a number of ways of making students’ thinking visible to themselves, to their peers, and to the teacher, so they get more engaged by it and come to manage it better for learning and other purposes.

In DEEPdt, visible thinking is a game changer. Thankfully, Harvard's Project Zero has created some pretty awesome routines that can easily be utilized in the DEEPdt process. In trying to visualize ...

Here are some of its key goals (extract from his website www.visiblethinkingpz.org):

  • Deeper understanding of content
  • Greater motivation for learning
  • Development of learners’ thinking and learning abilities.
  • Development of learners’ attitudes toward thinking and learning and their alertness to opportunities for thinking and learning (the “dispositional” side of thinking).
  •  A shift in classroom culture toward a community of enthusiastically engaged thinkers and learners.
    Structure.

The routines are structured well and only take a single page for each. It covers:

• The thinking routines itself
• Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?
• Application: When and where can it be used?
• Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?

pageshot

Visible Thinking Routines: SEE THINK WONDER

If you go to the Visible Thinking website you can download these in zipped packages of PDF files. I have also upload these and you can get them from here. The Routine cover the following aspects of Thinking:

This visual features a number of key thinking routines together with examples of how to use them with learners:

visible-thinking

Resources:

Creat_pdfs.zipCreat_pdfs.zip 472 KB

Fairness_pdfs.zipFairness_pdfs.zip 544 KB

Truth_pdfs.zipTruth_pdfs.zip 357 KB

Understand_pdfs.zipUnderstand_pdfs.zip 701 KB

AERA06ThinkingRoutines.pdfAERA06ThinkingRoutines.pdf 238 KB

Why Blog? Blogging Suggestions for Teachers

As far as I am concerned, it is necessary for teachers to be writers and to share strategies, lessons, and resources with one another, as we are able to provide glimpses into our daily lives, while sharing effective ideas that are realistic and classroom-tested.

There are several reasons why teaching, writing, and blogging complement one another.  Following various teacher blogs, commenting on the entries, and interacting with other teachers is an excellent form of professional development.   What better way to improve your teaching than to have hundreds of teachers in your professional learning network?

If you are a teacher and are unsure about writing your own blog, here are some suggestions that you may find useful:

1.) There are so many excellent teacher blogs out there that you may find interesting.  A quick search would provide you with some great blogs that are related to your own teaching and are interesting to read.

2.) Every teacher is busy—between teaching, planning, marking, coaching, and our personal lives, we all have a lot on our plates.  How do we find time to write? We find writing to be a reflective practice that helps us become better teachers.  If you find a topic that you are passionate about, then writing will not seem like a chore, but more like a goal that you are inspired to reach.

3.) Be professional when writing! Never blog about anything that would compromise your integrity, that of your students, or your colleagues.  Respect and professionalism is of the utmost importance.

4.) Don’t think that your thoughts, reflections, and experiences shouldn’t be shared.  What you think is not that great, may be just what another teacher needs to read!

5.) Learn from others and reflect! Take what you see, make any necessary changes or additions and try it out! Once you have tried it for yourself, reflect! Then, share the experience again! As we pass it on, we continue to learn from others and others continue to learn from us!

Do you have any blogging tips? Share them in the comments section!

 

Ready for learning English ?

Are you ready for learning english? Here you are some resources for learning English from little learners to adults:

Infantil (de 0 a 6 años)

  • Lil’ Fingers: Historias mágicas para los más pequeños, ilustrado con imágenes con movimiento para hacer más entendedor el cuento.
  • Educa nave: Recopilación de recursos digitales clasificados por temas, ideal para aprender vocabulario con los más pequeños. El espacio web representa un mapa del tesoro ¿A quién no le gusta encontrar tesoros?
  • English for little children: Un nuevo sistema para aprender vocabulario básico, clasificado por temas y muy didáctico. La voz del personaje está interpretado por un niño por lo tanto los alumnos se sienten como en casa.
  • Sesame street: Recurso con una gran cantidad de canciones animadas, videosinfantiles y juegos divertidos para los más pequeños. Ideal para llamar su atención.
  • Learning english kids: Recurso educativo pensado para mejorar las habilidades lectoras, comunicativas y creativas mediante juegos interactivos, cuentos y actividades gramaticales. También es útil para Educación Primaria.
  • Appu SeriesVideos animados clasificados por: cuentos de hadas, canciones para que los más pequeños cojan el ritmo, videos para aprender lengua, matemáticas, arte y manualidades. Puedes usarlo tanto en Infantil como en Primaria.

Primaria (de 6 a 12 años)

  • Maya y Miguel: Juegos divertidos relacionados con recetas para aprender vocabulario, fichas para imprimir y videos educativos para aprender inglés.
  • Eduland: ¿Quieres que tus alumnos aprendan el vocabulario de las escuela? Ahora tienes la oportunidad de ofrecerles una actividad interactiva para que conozcan todos los elementos de la escuela en inglés.
  • Professor Garfield: Actividades interactivas con sonido sobre matemáticas, diálogos, ciencias, libros online y diccionario. ¡Hay mucho para escoger!
  • Uptoten: Un lugar seguro para niños menores de 10 años donde aprenden jugando,ideal para utilizarlo en casa.
  • The place for fun learning: Aprender y practicar la gramática de manera interactiva y divertida. Muchas actividades diferentes para adaptarse al niño.
  • Fun english games for kids: Multitud de juegos divertidos y recursos para los docentes, por ejemplo: fichas para imprimir, actividades de todos tipos desde pictionary a varias pruebas (Quizzes).
  • Starfall: El mejor espacio interactivo para aprender a leer en inglés. Gran cantidad de actividades y juegos para que los niños disfruten leyendo.

Secundaria (de 12 a 18 años)

  • Channel 4 learning: Recurso para practicar las habilidades de inglés, también ofrece la opción de conocer algunos autores y sus libros, y saber todo sobre literatura en la lengua inglesa.
  • English for everyone: Variedad de fichas para imprimir (edades de 11 a 14 años), donde podrás escoger lo más conveniente para tu clase.
  • English area: Practicar la gramática de forma interactiva con este recurso es posible. Los alumnos podrán practicar, comprobar su nivel a través de pruebas y jugar con las formas verbales.
  • BBC secondary ages: Listado de páginas interactivas para alumnos de 11 a 14 años donde encontrarás actividades de todas clases. Ideal para trabajar en casa y en clase.

Para todas las edades

  • ABC teach: Recurso para todas las edades donde podrás encontrar material para imprimir, generar tus propias fichas y de este modo organizar tu clase a tu manera.
  • Children’s storybooks onlineCuentos online para niños y adultos con increíbles ilustraciones y una gran variedad de historias para escoger.
  • Mes english: Un recurso que no puedes perderte ya que puedes crear tus propios juegos y fichas adecuándolos a tus alumnos. Puedes construir cosas increíbles, desde dados, memories, dóminos personalizados.

¿Preparado para transformar las clases en un espacio diferente? Con tanta variedad de recursos educativos no tienes excusa para no innovar y aprender con las nuevas tecnologias 😉

Digital Natives (part 2)

“Everyone talks about leaving a better planet for our children. Why doesn’t anyone try to leave better children for our planet?”

Many of us grew up in a pre-digital era – we made phone calls and wrote letters, while public information was distributed through broadcast media. But now there’s a whole generation at college that has never known a world without the web. They bring with them a new way of engaging with the world, with information, and with each other.

An excellent video to understand how Digital Natives fit technology and open up to a world where anything is possible.

From Google+, Facebook, and Twitter to SMS and corporate messaging, this generation is developing an instinctive set of behaviors and expectations around these tools. They are very savvy in understanding which medium is most appropriate for the message and for the recipient, whether it’s a dinner invitation or asking someone out on a date.  They know they have to find the appropriate interrupt signal, and that different channels send different signals, with numerous subtleties that we are only just starting to understand:  Following Generation Z

In Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, Allan Collins and Richard Halverson argue that the knowledge revolution has transformed our jobs, our homes, our lives, and therefore must also transform our schools. Much like after the school-reform movement of the industrial revolution, our society is again poised at the edge of radical change. To keep pace with a globalized technological culture, we must rethink how we educate the next generation or we (the Digital Immigrants) will be left behind. This groundbreaking book offers a vision for the future of American education that goes well beyond the walls of the classroom to include online social networks, distance learning with anytime, anywhere access, digital home schooling models, video-game learning environments, and more.

School leaders and teachers need to understand how learning technologies work and how they change the basic interactions of teachers and learners. Technology leaders need to work together with educators as collaborators in creating new opportunities to learn.

Technology is changing what is important to learn in a variety of ways. There are new literacies that are becoming important, such as creating videos, animations, and web sites. Computers can carry out all the algorithms taught through graduate school, and yet mathematical reasoning is more important than ever. Hence we should spend time teaching students to solve sophisticated problems using computers rather than executing algorithms that computers do well. Memorizing information is becoming less important with the web available, but people do need to learn how to find information, recognize when they need more information, and evaluate what they find. People will be changing careers often and transitions are difficult. They need help going back and forth between learning and work.

As technology continues to transform our society, those responsible for our current systems of learning and education are facing overwhelming pressure to adapt. Education technology, connected learning and the rise of the Networked Society is transforming the established concept of learning, teachers’ roles and even the nature of knowledge itself.

The revolution in education will alter not just the lives of students, but the entirety of modern society. As with any revolution, there are will be both gains and losses. Pessimists see people becoming subservient to their technologies and being left behind as technology comes to dominate our lives. Optimists see a golden age of learning opening before us, where people will be able to find resources to pursue any education they may want.

TAKING ACTION

Strategies:

1. RETHINK ASSESSMENT

With few exceptions, all the things our children are using to connect and learn outside the classroom — social media, cell phones, Internet connections — are banned inside classrooms. Move from a standardized testing teaching approach to a style that incorporates more creativity and adaptability.

Remaking assessment starts with this: stop asking questions on tests that can be answered by a Google search. Or, if you have to ask them, let kids use their technology to answer them. More often than not, we ask questions that can be easily answered by technology. That is unfortunate. Take a quick look at any of the state standardized tests for graduation, and you’ll see more of those than you can imagine.

Let’s scrap open-book tests, zoom past open-phone tests asking Googleable questions, and advance to open-network tests that measure not just how well kids answer a question, but also how literate they are at discerning good information from bad and tapping into the experts and networks that can inform those answers. This is how they’ll take the real-life information and knowledge tests that come their way, and it would tell us much more about our children’s preparedness for a world of data abundance.

This is an excerpt from Will Richardson’s new TED e-book, Why School?

2. CULTIVATE MENTORSHIPS

Encourage two-way intergenerational mentorships and interactions. This would create opportunities for youth adults to learn from each other. Gen Z comes to the workforce a wide set of new technology skills, determination and passion, among many other factors. Older employees can benefit from the connectivity, flexibility and creativity that are unique to this generation. These youth are still young, however, and have a lot to learn from their older mentors that will help better integrate them successfully in the formal working world. As these youth become a larger part of the emerging labor force, business must plan for Gen Z’s entry and the succession of the Baby Boomers as they retire. Mentorship programs not only get youth interested in and prepared for work in new fields, it introduces fresh skills and attitudes that help businesses flourish in a changing economic atmosphere.

Extract from GENERATION Z CHALLENGES 

3. EMPHASIZE PUBLIC SPEAKING AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT SKILLS.

These skills are increasingly valuable in the workplace and society more broadly. Greater emphasis should be placed on their development. The ability to manage conflict is probably one of the most important social skills an individual can possess.

5. ENTREPRENEURIAL EDUCATION

According to the Key Competence Framework, the entrepreneurship key competence refers to an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, innovation and risk taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. Include business and entrepreneurial skills in school curricula in order to equip students with a background in that area, making entrepreneurship less of an idea and more of a viable possibility for those students.

Entrepreneurship Education at School in Europe. [Eurydice]

7. PROMOTE SERVICE LEARNING

Civic engagement is instrumental in building community awareness, teaching tolerance and cultivating socially conscious young people. Service learning should be integrated into K-20 education.

8. TEACH RISK-TAKING

We must teach our youth to look for opportunities and that failure in pursuit of them is a learning opportunity and not a stigma to avoid at all costs. To help our students, we need to directly ask for academic risk-taking behavior (e.g. asking questions, dwelling in uncertainty, and advancing untried hypotheses) and identify it whenever we ask for it, so students know we perceive and value the challenges they face.

Teaching Risk-Taking in the College Classroom

SOURCES:

RETHINKING EDUCATION IN THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY:  THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION AND THE SCHOOLS. (PDF) By Allan Collins and Richard Halverson

http://www.scoop.it/t/digital-natives-by-frank-tudela

English is Fun with Sitcoms

English teachers have been using videos in the classroom for decades and, more recently online video clips from Youtube. A situation comedy, often shortened to sitcom, is a genre of comedy that features characters sharing the same common environment, such as a home or workplace, with often humorous dialogue. Such programs originated in radio, but today, sitcoms are found mostly on television. Sitcoms are an excellent classroom resource for a number of reasons:

  • Watching TV shows and films in English is a wonderful way of improving your listening skills and pronunciation.
  • Sitcoms provide us with authentic English in all its guises. The situations that the “sit” refers to are often situations that are universal.
  • Sitcoms are full of cultural references.
  • Students love watching videos that reflect Britishness. They like to see how British people live, what they eat, how they spend their free time. They love seeing typical British homes and institutions, British countryside and British weather. Our students like to confirm their perceptions of British stereotypes and they like to be surprised by aspects of British culture that they didn’t know about before.
  • Sitcoms are funny and everybody enjoys laughing. Watching a humorous video clip in class can be rewarding for students and helps to create a positive classroom atmosphere. After all, English is fun especially through films and TV shows.

One of my favourite TV Shows is Friends. I’m sure many of you have heard of and watched the American sitcom. It ran in the US from 1994 until 2004. My favourite characters was Joey Tribbiani played by Matt Le Blanc. He always played the slightly stupid guy, but he also had some fabulous sketches. Here is one of my favourites:

In this sketch, Joey (a native English speaker) follows a beautiful woman into a beginner’s ESL class (English as a Second Language), and tells the teacher he is in the right place. Trying to impress the girl, he competes with beginning English learners to prove that his English is the best. Enjoy!
Funny! Basil gives Manuel a language lesson – Fawlty Towers – BBC. Basil and Manuel have a conversation about how to dress the breakfast trays. 

Go to http://uktv.co.uk/gold/homepage/sid/5527 and click on a sitcom

For a comprehensive list of UK sitcoms go to http://www.sitcom.co.uk/list_top.shtml

What is “Fawlty Towers: The sitcom”?

Extract from: English is Fun Especially with Friends

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/sitcoms-a-tool-elt

 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Quizzes

Are online quizzes your best ESL allies or a complete waste of time? Let’s take a closer look.

There have been quizzes for ESL learners available online right from the start. But not everything that is available online is appropriate for your students.

The Advantages

Computer Literacy. Most ESL students know how to, at the very least, navigate the Internet and have basic computers skills. Most feel absolutely comfortable in an online environment and will not only enjoy completing quizzes online, they will work through them quickly and efficiently.

Timely FeedbackMost online quizzes either show the correct answer after each question or correct them all at the end. Most also give students a “result” usually as a percentage of correct answers. They get their feedback while their doubts are still fresh on their minds.

Self-PacingStudents are able to progress at their own pace. They may take as long as they need for particularly difficult questions; there’s no pressure from the teacher or peers to respond quickly, as there might be in an oral Q & A. This creates a very safe, non threatening environment that is ideal for classes where you have students who process information at different speeds.

Variety. The Internet probably has hundreds of online quizzes for us to choose from, in a wide range of topics from grammar to specific vocabularylistening to reading quizzes.

Individualized Learning. You may choose to give each student a different one to target specific needs, instead of making the entire class do the same quiz.

Availability & Autonomy. Online quizzes may be accessed by students any day, any time. They are also great for developing learner autonomy and helping them take control of their learning.

The Disadvantages

Technology. The one obvious disadvantage is that not every ESL classroom has a computer, let alone access to a computer lab with one computer for each student. 

Quality. The astounding variety of materials available in the Internet – not all of them are good quality. Some may have mistakes, others may not be challenging enough and in otehrs there are distracting ads or banners with content that is inappropriate.You must take the time to conduct a proper screening to make sure the quizzes and links work properly.
to make sure online quizzes are not a waste of time, you have to take the time to pick the right ones for your class.

Conclusion:

Like any online tool, it is not the tool itself that is either good or bad, it is the use you give it. Choose the right one, and you’ll have a trusty ally to help you in your English-teaching efforts.Choose online quizzes that are not only appropriate for your students’ level, but also challenging enough so that they may learn something from them. Don’t just look at the website and list of quizzes, try completing an entire quiz yourself. If possible, choose quizzes from well-known, established sites like:

Level Test of English:

Extracted from: http://busyteacher.org/

Do you blog?

Why use blogs?

Engage your students with an authentic medium that takes them out of the classroom (and away from the coursebook) into the real world using English as a medium to communicate.

Motivate your students to produce the best work they can.  Blogs are public and there is a wider audience than just the teacher who will see work.  This motivates everyone to do the best they can.

Collaborate outside the classroom by “connecting” your classroom and use your blog to prepare for and continue work done in the classroom.

Popular Edublog Platforms

There are lots of blogging platforms but here are a few that are popular with teachers:

http://www.blogger.com/ – free, simple and intuitive to use.  Users need a Google account.  See www.teachertrainingvideos.com for video tutorials on how to set up a blog in Blogger.

www.wordpress.com – the best blogging platform used by serious bloggers but some functions are pay for and it’s not as easy and intuitive to use as Blogger.

www.edublogs.org – based on WordPress, but adapted specifically for teachers.  There are free and pay for accounts and this is especially good if you want students to have individual student blogs.

www.kidblog.org – free, simple and basic created by teachers for teachers and suitable for kids, as its name suggests.

If you’re interested in starting a blog for yourself or your students but you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas and tips to help you get started:

Getting Started Checklist

Here’s a checklist to help you get started:

  • What type of blog do you want?  Teacher, student or class?  Investigate and choose an appropriate platform
  • Do you need/have you got parental permission?  There are specialist educational platforms where students don’t need and email address and will give comfort to parents.
  • Is your blog going to be private or public?  This depends on content.  Public is more authentic and encourages students to be more careful about their work.  Private is safer and may be more acceptable to parents of younger learners.
  • Is the name easy to remember?  If your students can’t find the blog, they won’t use it.
  • How are you going to organise it?  By topic?  By date?  By student?  Spending time planning “labels” or “tags” (the words you use to categorise each post) can save a lot of time later.
  • How are you going to assess student work?  Give clear instructions and use rubrics so students can self-assess before submitting any work.

Quick Start Blogging

Convert coursebook activities into digital activities by getting your students to comment, discuss and collaborate online instead of in the classroom using pen and paper.  And, you don’t need to limit your blogging activities to reading and writing tasks.  You can also free web tools you can get your students do interactive activities.

  • Post useful links to websites.
  • Post important course information (such as exam dates, homework instructions, etc.) on the blog for you and your students.
  • Introduce blogging rules.
  • Drill grammar and vocabulary on the blog – using course book exercises, students write multiple sentences using the target language on the blog instead of in their notebook.  Encourage collaboration.
  • Find and embed online games and quizzes for homework then students comment on them using language for expressing opinion, agreeing and disagreeing, etc.
  • Use other free web tools to create quizzes, flashcards, short animations, etc. that can be used over and again year after year.
  • Use authentic online materials as prompts for speaking and writing tasks.  A nice beginning activity is to get students to embed their favourite Youtube vídeo.
  • Students keep an online diary.  You can organise a class blog by student name to see individual student posts instead of having individual students create their own blogs.
  • Encourage learner autonomy and save your time by getting students to create or find materials they want to use in class and post it on the blog!

Whatever you do in class with pen and paper, can be converted to digital.

Things to Consider

  • Do not allow students to post personal information (such as address and photos, etc.) on the blog.
  • Instructions need to be clear, either on a handout or on the blog.  If students are not sure of what they are doing, they’ll quickly lose interest.
  • Set up “Blogging Rules”.
  • To help students know what is expected of them, and encourage learner autonomy, use rubrics so students can self-assess before “publishing”.  Include “participation” in your assessment rubrics to encourage everyone to complete tasks.
  • Copyright law.  It’s important you and your students have permission to use video, images and texts on the Internet.  See www.creativecommons.org for more information.
  • In class, be prepared for fast finishers.  Get them to help their peers, do an Internet quiz, etc.
  • Have a back up plan.  Technology sometimes fails!

15 Great Web Tools to liven up your blog

There are hundreds of free tools to use with your blog.  Here are some easy tools to get started.  Remember, you don’t have to all of this, get your students to do the work.

www.authorstream.org (convert Powerpoint to flash to embed in your blog)

www.slideshare.net (convert Powerpoint, Word and other documents to embed in your blog)

www.docs.google.com  (collaborative working and embed documents, powerpoints, etc. in blog)

www.livetyping.com (create moving reading texts)

www.wallwisher.com (create an online noticeboard)

www.goanimate.com (create animated cartoons)

www.voki.com (create a speaking avatar)

www.profprofs.com (create online quizzes and embed in your blog)

www.audioboo.com (students complete speaking tasks and post them on the blog)

www.storybird.com (create an online story book)

www.quizlet.com (create online flashcards and embed)

www.superteachertools.com (create online flash games and embed in your blog)

www.photopeach.com (create online movies using images)

www.pimpampum.net/bookr (create online book using Flickr images)

www.classtools.net (create educational games and embed)

 

Extract from Helen Collins

For more ideas and examples of some of the ideas and tools above see:

 http://www.helencollinselt.com/ – examples of other teachers blogs and class blogs

Class blogs – http://www.class.helensclassroomelt.com/

Many thanks to Helen for these excellent ideas and suggestions on blogging!

FrankTudela