This weekend I was lucky enough to give a talk to a wonderful audience at the 1st Doğuş University / Beykent University ELT Conference (more details here). This was a really inspiring event with some great talks and, most importantly, a really passionate and motivated group of teachers in the audience.
I gave a talk based on some research I’d conducted at my university with one of my colleagues, Eylem Mengi, entitled ‘What does it mean to be an exemplary language teacher in the 21st Century’. Unfortunately, I’d underestimated how many people would be interested in this topic and so ran out of handouts. For this reason, I’m sharing what I did in the talk here on my blog.
First off, I’ll start with the presentation itself, which you can scroll through here…
Now, I fully realize that it might not make sense without yours truly to explain what’s going on, so I’m also linking to the published write-up of our research, which is freely available from the Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic Purposes (download here).
Here are a couple of images from my talk…
My audience starts to gather before my talk, with a certain Mr. Harmer in attendance!
Here I am in full flow. Thanks to Güldeniz Tabak for taking this pic!
Many thanks to the 70-80 people who showed up; it was my pleasure to spend my Saturday afternoon sharing the results of our research with you.
Things are never simple with teenage learners. Whilst young learners are so full of energy that most activities will be met with enthusiasm… and adult learners tend to be naturally focused on meeting language goals, as well as having a wealth of skills and knowledge to contribute to classes, getting it right with teenagers is a whole different story.
Although teens can be as knowledgeable and perceptive as their adult counterparts, they are not usually the most talkative of age groups. Naturally, this can leave us as teachers feeling frustrated and discouraged by their perceived lack of interest. Nevertheless, teens aren’t that different and by no means unreachable in terms of motivation. As with any other age group, it’s simply a case of finding ways to pique interest. With this in mind, here are eight simple strategies that anyone can use to increase teenage student motivation in the language classroom.
1. To develop listening comprehension, play songs
When it comes to the kinds of listening materials that typically accompany course materials, your teenage learners will most likely lose interest quickly, or, worse still, not hear a word. The easiest way to motivate such learners to listen is by playing songs. But you should also choose songs they like, or can relate to.
The best strategy: Why are you the one choosing? Set up a class rota so that each learner has the opportunity to play one of their favorite songs to the class. Get them to prepare a lyric sheet and work with them to develop a language activity from the words.
2. Have video-based lessons
Videos have huge potential in the language class. Back in the old days this would mean dragging a TV and DVD player in the classroom to teach a video lesson. A laptop will do for a small class, and a speedy Internet connection is great, but not entirely necessary, as you can have video files already downloaded to your computer. To keep teenage learners focused on the task, my advice is to choose movie trailers, music videos, short interviews, or ‘how to’ videos on YouTube. Three minutes seems to be the optimum length with teenage learners.
The best strategy: Again, why are you the one choosing? Look ahead in the course materials for upcoming subjects and assign the class with the task of finding
3. Exploit technology to get learners searching for their own answers
You can integrate technology in so many ways that it makes sense to utilize the kind of tech-based activities that your teenage learners engage in on a daily basis. Most teenage learners have excellent Web surfing skills, so why not assign them a Web Quest? Basically, Web Quests are online, inquiry-based activities in which learners are required to search for specific information within links provided by the teacher, and then produce a report or a PowerPoint / Prezi presentation.
The best strategy: Give some training in the effective use of search engines, and any software you plan to use in class. Discuss key words and how to use them when searching for sources.
4. Occasionally play games
I’ve written so much on my blog about games that I ended up collating all my posts into a e-book. You can download it for free here.
The best strategy: With teenage learners, it’s vital to choose games that will challenge them, give them the right amount of competitive feel, and help them effectively practice language. Also, make sure they understand the reason you’re playing.
Allowing teenage learners to choose their own reading texts can be very motivating. ‘Students2’ by @yearinthelifeof from #ELTPics
5. Use ‘real’ realia in the classroom
It’s easy to forget how effective the use of real life objects can be in motivating learners of all ages. This is a particularly effective strategy with teenage learners who are already lacking in enthusiasm. Don’t just bring in random things related to the course materials, though. Make sure whatever you use has real emotional meaning.
The best strategy: Share aspects of your life that learners can relate to, i.e. things that are also an everyday part of their lives, but which were different when you were their age (I still have my first cell phone and it always raises interest when I use it as a prop in class, for instance).
6. Incorporate as many references to pop culture as you can
Consider your teenage learners’ interests. Imagine you want to discuss last week’s events to practice the past simple tense. Will they be more interested in what the character in their course book did in their fictional journal, or what their favorite pop stars did last week? If you’re not willing to discuss their favorite songs, or any of the Maze Runner books or films, then you’ll have a harder time connecting with your teen learners.
The best strategy: Ask them what they’re listening to or watching on TV. They will be quite forthcoming, especially if they think they can educate you in some way!
7. Give them a little friendly competition
Everyone likes to compete in some way or another; teenage learners are no different. Whether they are playing sports or games on their games console or phone, they always try to outdo each other. Why not introduce some friendly competition into your classroom? Games are easy ways to do this, but you can also have them compete in any activity.
The best strategy: Make sure that you are giving everyone a level playing field. Base your friendly competition on something you know they’ve all been exposed to, rather than something, such as a particular sport, that will favor those who play or watch it. Such completion can work well in the lead up to exams, especially if you know they’ve been studying something that you can turn into a game (such as a vocab list).
8. Make reading age appropriate
If you want to get learners excited about reading, you have to make sure you choose material that will pique their interest. The current teenage generation is concerned about the future, so texts about the environment are often a winner. Books or stories about teenage learners are sure to work, but you can also include celebrity biographies, anything sports-related, or any topic that may interest them, but is also up to their reading level.
The best strategy: As mentioned in many of the other strategies here, allowing learners the opportunity to choose their own material often works well. It can even be good to get them to choose their own material related to their course book, but from a perspective that interests them.
What else do you do to motivate teenage learners? I’m keen to hear your ideas and add them to this list.
Halloween is coming up again and I always find this is a really great time to work on descriptive writing. Using the theme of Halloween allows us to engage those learners who might normally lose enthusiasm when it comes to writing lessons.
Halloween naturally lends itself to descriptive writing: the sounds, sights and feelings of Halloween are emotive ways to engage learners. In today’s post we look at descriptive texts, story openers and writing games.
Halloween is a great time to practice descriptive writing ‘Halloween decorations‘ by @sandymillin from #ELTPics
1. Use descriptive texts
For this activity, find a Halloween-themed story appropriate for the level of your class. It’s important to use a story that incorporates plenty of descriptive language. Firstly, learners read the story. Then, they tell the story back to other members of the class, using as much descriptive language as they can. In fact, this is a great activity all year round, as regular exposure to such descriptive writing is a great way to enhance vocabulary.
A second way of using a descriptive text is to read a Halloween-themed story out loud to your class, getting them to focus as much as possible on the characters you describe. Then, ask your learners questions about details of the story. Here are a couple of examples:
“What did the main character look like?”
“Describe the haunted house that the people entered.”
This activity is great for getting your learners to focus on descriptive details and become aware of language they don’t know.
2. Use story openers
Basically, what I mean by a story opener is one sentence, sometimes in the form of a question – or a series of questions where necessary – which forms a natural framework for a story. Story openers are effective in assisting learners in developing full and colorful descriptions, which is a fundamental part of creative writing.
Halloween is a fertile and emotive subject as far as story openers are concerned. Here are some examples of story openers you can use:
“It was a dark and misty evening, so I decided to go to…”
“When you walked into the deserted car park, what strange sound did you hear?”
“A strange and worrying sound was coming from the basement. Despite the fact I was home alone, I decided to….”
Try and get your learners to use as much descriptive language as possible when writing their responses.
3. Use writing games
A descriptive writing game is another fantastic method of feeding off the excitement of Halloween. For instance, ask learners to think of a typical Halloween outfit and get them to use descriptive words to describe it. After each learner has finished preparing their list, they can swap it with another person in class. Basically, the idea is then for each learner to guess the identity of the costume from the list of words they have been given.
Alternatively, put several images of typical Halloween scenes around the classroom walls (four or five should be enough). Get each learner to go round class and select the image they like the most, and then write a paragraph describing the scene. After they have all finished writing, each learner can read out their paragraph to the class. The other learners have the task of deciding which image the paragraph describes.
A good idea is to provide model texts to use as a model on which learners can organize their own writing.
Ideas and resources for Halloween teaching with young learners
Halloween offers an enormous opportunity for teachers and learners to use their creativity for ideas with a Halloween theme. Reading projects, fun Halloween alphabets, coloring pages and story writing activities all provide teachers with inspiring ways to teach while celebrating the holiday. Here are some Choose activities that are designed for your classroom’s age level and curriculum goals.
Halloween Reading Worksheets
Halloween reading worksheets are often freely available from teacher sharing websites. Look in particular for reading worksheets that offer editing skills, spelling crossword puzzles, word search puzzles and riddle solving tasks. Halloween editing worksheets often require learners to read a Halloween-themed story and then test comprehension on the story. Although this may be similar to what you do with reading normally, the special theme will provide extra motivation.
ABC Teach has a huge range of freely downloadable young learner worksheets, quizzes, colouring pages, word searches, etc.
Halloween coloring pages
With young learners Halloween-themed coloring pages can be a valuable way to reinforce letter recognition and word recognition. We can assign Halloween coloring pages as extra enjoyable activities after reading tasks or handwriting practice are complete. We can then use the pages to decorate your classroom or the hallway for the holiday. Halloween coloring pages are downloadable and free on many teacher websites.
You can use printable Halloween story pages and get learners to finish a silly Halloween story. Printable Halloween story pages come with fill-in-the-blank Halloween vocabulary or Halloween stories that aren’t finished. Learners can finish the stories for homework or as a class during the lessons. Learners can write the finished product on the board or on post-it notes that can then be posted somewhere in the classroom for each other to read and enjoy.
Scholastic offers a ‘Halloween Pack’ of ideas and resources and stories.
A selection of ideas from ‘Developing Teachers’
Developing teachers is a great site for contemporary classroom research, as well as other resources. It also has one of the best newsletters you can sign up for. I’ve summarized some of the best ideas the site suggests for Halloween:
This is a variation on the game consequences where you circulate papers in turn adding a bit of information, folding them over and then at the end opening out the paper and reading out the wacky result. Here you design a monster. All learners take a piece of paper and describe the monsters head at the top – this could be drawn. They then fold the paper and hand it to their neighbor to their left. Then all describe the body and do the same – fold and hand on. And on like this with a scary feature, the food it eats, something about its habits, a noise it makes and a name for the monster. At the end each learner opens the paper and reads aloud about their monster. Instead of folding the learners could see the previous things and have more of an idea of the monster and a description is being built.
Learners write a list of scary movies and explain what happens in their favorite one. Then, each group designs a new monster for a new scary movie. They decide on its name, eating habits, likes and dislikes, physical description, habits etc.
Start you own business – rent-a-ghost
People rent hosts from your company to scare others at Halloween. Design a brochure of available ghosts for hire, including a picture and description of haunting characteristics, special talents and hourly rates. Learners then role-play sellers/customers looking for an appropriate ghost. Give the customers a role card before with ideas.
You have a Rent-a-Ghost business which is going well and need to hire more ghosts. Interviewers prepare suitable questions to interview ghosts e.g. ways of scaring people, special talents, why they would be good for the job etc. Ghosts also prepare mini-CVs containing previous experience, special haunting skills, ghost courses completed. They need to ask about conditions and pay at the interview. The interviews take place and the best ghosts are chosen.
Like Ghost Busters, the film, these people get rid of ghosts. All learners draw a ghost and the teacher takes them in.
Learner A – has spotted a ghost in their house – one of the ghosts that has been drawn, and they must describe the ghost, what it does, when it arrived, conditions in the house when it arrived etc.
Learner B – works for ‘Ghost Hunters’ and will interview the house owner about the ghost. Also give advice on what to do to get rid of the ghost.
Radio Show – interview with a vampire
Learners write down everything they know about vampires – two groups.
Group A are the presenters on a radio show – they interview about the vampire’s daily routine, clothes, habits, likes etc.
Group B – are the vampires who prepare details about themselves. You could record the interviews.
Design a potion
Learners design a new potion and the advert that sells it. They need to decide on its magical properties, who it’s for, what it contains, the packaging, name and slogan. All mingle selling their potions to each other, persuading each other they need this new magical potion.
Horror story writing
Learners first plan the story deciding on the time, setting, characters, plot etc. (background-problem-solution-outcome) You could also look at specific vocab they might need – scared, terrified, scream, creaking, gloomy, chains, etc.
Act it out
Learners discuss their favorite scary movie and choose a sketch to act out. They write a dialogue and then could write it as a radio play with background scary effects.
Firstly, lots of quality material for lessons from the British Council here and here.
Earlier this week I shared a free e-book on using games in the language classroom. This was a collection of all the blog posts I’d written here on ‘Teach them English’ connected to the use of games. This proved so popular that I’m immediately sharing another free e-book with you!
This time round I’m bringing together another series of blog posts that I first published last year which investigate the emotional and physical aspects of the language classroom and how these issue relate to classroom management (hence the title). As with the previous titles, this book should be considered an introductory overview of the subject area and is therefore perhaps best suited to newly qualified language teachers.
Here’s the blurb…
What exactly do we mean by classroom management?
The way I see it, we have to split this particular subject right down the middle: we have the emotional side (the people) and we have the physical side (arranging furniture, placement of the whiteboard, seating plans, etc.).
Click here to download your free copy of this book.
The various theories I’ll be introducing and discussing over the course of several chapters in the first half of this book focus on the former, encompassing the methods of organization, administration, teaching and enforcing discipline in our classroom.
These ‘emotional’ chapters shall consider how particular theories provide models for explaining how students learn, thus suggesting techniques for enhancing learning and decreasing distraction in our learning environments.
I follow these with four chapters focusing on the physical nature of classroom management, looking at rooms I like, rooms I don’t, and discussing the nature of the perfect classroom.
I hope these chapters will collectively help show you how knowledge of classroom management can help you investigate how you function in a classroom, and how you might reflect on changes you’d like to make to how you manage things.
Chapter 1: Investigating the emotional side of the classroom: introducing classroom management
Chapter 2: Four major classroom management theories
Chapter 3: What can we learn from Skinner’s Behaviorism theory?
Chapter 4: What can we learn from the Jones model of positive discipline?
Chapter 5: What can we learn from Glasser’s Choice Theory of classroom management?
Chapter 6: What can we learn from Canter’s Assertive Classroom Management model?
Chapter 7: What is your personal classroom management profile?
Chapter 8: Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom
Chapter 9: The curious case of G062
Chapter 10: Is G045 a teaching paradise?
Chapter 11: Epilogue – The perfect classroom
If you like the sound of that, click here for your free download.
250-hour online TESOL Diploma recognized by TESL Canada on completion of a 20-hour Practicum. Study online, take the Practicum anywhere in the world!
During the summer I started looking back at all the blog posts I’d written and compiling free ‘best of’ e-books with you. This proved to be so popular that I’ve decided to do some reminder posts for all those of you who didn’t get them first time round. Over the years, I’ve written many posts on the subject of using games in the language classroom; it seemed only logical to bring these all together under one title.
Here’s the blurb…
The justification for using games in the classroom has been well demonstrated as benefiting students in a variety of ways. These benefits range from cognitive aspects of language learning to more co-operative group dynamics. The benefits are as follows:
– games lower the affective filter
– they encourage creative and spontaneous use of language
– they also promote communicative competence
– games are both motivating and fun
– games reinforce learning
– they both review and extend learning
– games focus on grammar in a communicative manner
Click on the image to download your free e-book.
– games are extremely student centered
– the teacher acts only as facilitator
– games build class cohesion
– they can foster whole class participation
– games promote healthy competition
– games can be easily adjusted for age, level, and interests
– they utilize all four skills
– games require minimum preparation after the initial development stage
You can successfully use games in many ways, such as for a quick review, after material has been covered or as a cool-down activity at the end of a lesson to practice what has been covered (as well as to inject an element of fun). You could also use a game to practice specific new language in groups or pairs for a limited time, as a short introduction to new vocabulary or a concept, as a prompt for writing work, even as a link into a new part of the lesson. Games may even be used merely to change the pace of a lesson.
Contents: 10 good reasons why we should use games in the language classroom; Are we really sure about using games in the language classroom?; The 9 golden rules of using games in the language classroom; 3 strategies for incorporating games into beginner level classes; Great kids games to use with adult language learners; 3 great games for verb tense review; Using games to teach vocabulary?
If you like the sound of that, click here for your free download.
This is a great way to really use the map that we see at the front of the learner’s course book.
Use the course units as a way of getting learners to engage with the subjects they’ll encounter on the first day of classes. This is a simple but effective way to get learners talking straight away and build motivation for the course ahead of them.
This is an activity I learned from Ken Wilson, so I’ll explain it in exactly the way he does it:
How Ken Wilson presented this activity at a conference in 2013.
He shows a list and then asks if anyone knows anything about these topics.
He promises that no one will have to talk at this stage, then gets learners to respond: they write a fact about one of the topics on a paper – only then do learners show their written fact to those around them.
New Zealand: It is in the southern hemisphere
Learners write this fact on a post-it note and post it on the first page of the corresponding unit in their book.
When the class eventually makes it to that unit, the post-it acts as a springboard for discussion.
This is a great way to get learners to interact with a coursebook and to have some personal input into discussing it as a whole.
Here’s a great activity that you can use with any level of language learner and to reinforce / and put to practical use any language point you happen to have been teaching. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to set up and requires very little preparation.
Are you ready? Let’s do it…
What you need
Scan through all those old teacher’s books you have kicking around your place of work. Find one of those activities where there are a load of pictures. I’ve made low-resolution scans of a couple to show you the kind of thing I mean (the first is from ‘English File 1’, the second from ‘Success Pre-intermediate’):
OK, I think you have the basic idea. Such activities will come with some kind of instructions, usually along the lines of ‘put these pictures in order.
Our only real requirement for making this a more creative task is to completely ignore any such instruction. You don’t believe me, do you? Well…
1. Teach some grammar or vocabulary; whatever the coursebook suggests is appropriate for the particular class.
2. Prepare a set of pictures, one for each group of three or four learners (I usually find this activity works best with that number in a group, although you should feel free to be a bit more flexible). If you can get your hands on enough pairs of scissors for one per group, let the groups cut out the pictures themselves.
3. Explain that each group is going to prepare a story. The images on each of the pictures tell the story; each group has the freedom to decide on the sequence of events according to whatever makes sense to them.
Stipulate that the story must be told using whatever input language has been taught before this. For example, you may require that every picture be accompanied by a sentence written in the simple past tense.
Alternatively, you might make it a ‘stream of consciousness’ narrative, written using the present continuous for each image.
If you’re wishing to focus on a lesser used tense, you could require that only one or two images be accompanied by the requisite verb tense, i.e. at one point in the story one of the pictures must have the explaining sentence ‘by the time ‘X’ arrived, ‘Y’ had already left.’
If vocabulary has been your classroom focus, why not state that each picture must be explained using one of the words you’d studied earlier.
4. You can make this a lovely writing activity, getting the learners to paste the pictures in their chosen order and write their narrative underneath.
5. Alternatively, each group can give an oral presentation of their story.
That’s it. This is a really simple and yet incredibly motivating task that gets the creative
juices flowing. It requires very little preparation and puts the emphasis on the learners
to explore the language in a truly creative way.
An engaging speaking activity for intermediate level learners
Get learners to select an interesting image from their course book, preferably one that has a few people doing something.
Arrange the class into groups to talk about it.
Tell them as a group to choose one person in the picture and to think in detail about them; they can decide any number of things: the person’s name; their age; their job; what they are saying or thinking; how they are feeling; where they are going; what they have in their bag; who they are visiting, and so on.
Get each learner in the group to help build up as big a story as possible using only the picture as a source of inspiration. Make sure they understand that every member of the group has to remember all the details, because they cannot make notes.
When your learners are ready, mix the groups and tell each person to explain who their group chose and then talk about the story they made up about them.
Images are a great source of inspiration.
While the image can be from anywhere in the course materials, it might be a good idea to get learners to focus on using a target structure you have recently covered in class. Nevertheless, this is an activity that works well when you’re looking to review a number of verb tenses, for instance:
Who was he?
Where was he going on this day?
Why was he in a rush?
Did he get onto the tram?
Where had he come from?
What was he holding in his hand?
Make it motivating:
By putting learners into groups of three or four you can easily adapt this into a game, getting one learner to ask a question (e.g. What is she doing? / Who is talking on the phone? etc.) while the one sitting next to them gives an appropriate answer. This learner then asks a question to the one sitting next to them, and so on.
Select an image that enables learners to recycle the vocabulary from the class. For example, choose a specific category of lexis such as clothes (What is he wearing? Why did he choose that item of clothing? Do you think she likes that color?), or adjectives appearance and character, etc. (Do you think he looks shy? Do you think she’s very intelligent?).
A great activity for practicing adjectives that works at all levels
Make sure each learner has a blank piece of paper of paper to write on.
Ask them to write answers to a series of prompts, the following are examples: ‘Give an adjective you would use to describe yourself‘; ‘Give an adjective other people might use to describe you‘; ‘What is one adjective that is totally opposite to what you are like?‘
Make sure they don’t tell anyone else in class what they are writing.
Collect in the pieces of paper.
Shuffle the papers well read out the adjectives from the pieces of paper at random; see if the learners can guess who is being described.
‘Students 12’ by @yearinthelifeof available from #ELTPics
As you can imagine, this activity works particularly well with adjectives. Another way you could use this is with comparative adjectives, but by making them the question instead of the answer: ‘Who is the happiest student in class?‘; ‘Which is the most incredible city in Turkey?‘
Make sure to ask questions that will illicit varying, personal responses, so that there is plenty of variety among answers and so that guessing is fun yet possible!
Make it motivating:
By putting the class into two big teams you can easily adapt this into a full-on game, getting one person from team A to listen to a set of responses and decide who from the other team it was that wrote those things. Keep going until each team has listened to all the responses from the other and see who guessed correctly the most.
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An engaging speaking activity for elementary level learners
First of all, select an attention-grabbing image from your course book (it doesn’t have to be related to any unit currently being studied).
Put learners into pairs and tell them to describe what they can see.
While the image can be from anywhere in the course materials, it might be a good idea to get learners to focus on using a target structure you have recently covered in class. As a case in point, you may have recently spent time looking at the present continuous; for this activity it would work by learners saying what each person in the picture is doing: ‘She is sitting climbing a tree’/’He is talking on the phone’, and so on.
Make it motivating:
By putting learners into groups of three or four you can easily adapt this into a game, getting one learner to ask a question (e.g. What is she doing? / Who is talking on the phone? etc.) while the other learners try to be the first to answer correctly.
Select an image that enables learners to recycle the vocabulary from the class. For example, choose a category of lexis such as clothes, or adjectives appearance and character, etc. He looks shy, I think she’s very intelligent.
Here are some images to help you think about how you could use this activity, taken from the fabulous ELT Pics collection:
For more great ideas on using images in the classroom, as well of details on how to access the ELT Pics library, visit the ‘Take a photo and…‘ blog.