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The story of ‘Hamlet’ – in pictures

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We have been studying Shakespeare with a group of A2-B1 level students for some time and as it is the bard’s 400th anniversary this year there are really loads of materials to study the life and works of Shakespeare – basically at any level.

I wanted to make my students produce something of their own and having finished the discussion of ‘Hamlet’, I came across an excellent website for digital storytelling: StoryboardThat.

So, at the end of the project I put my students into groups of 3 and each group created their own storyboard of ‘Hamlet’. Here are some of the storyboards they created:

Hamlet 1

Hamlet 2

Hamlet 3

Hamlet 4

Hamlet 5

 

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Writing made buzzworthy: a magazine – written by students

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All right, this post still belongs to 2014, but I just didn’t find the time to blog about it.

The idea of a student-magazine came from earlier last year from a colleague of mine. We improved the idea with my students and they preapred an on-line magazine.

In Solutions Upper-Intermediate students learn about the rules of writing a magazine article and in the follow-up unit the topic is given for that article, too. Well, I would have never thought of making my students write about something absolutely indifferent for them – unenthusiastic work is the death of creativity. So I immediately decided to let my students write about anything they are interested in, but they had to stick to the rules of article-writing.

So here we have the result and I am simply proud of them! Good job, my dear students!

Nothing special, just a hint of history…

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There are great teaching materials on the history of England on-line, so you really don’t have to reinvent the wheel to run a history lesson in English. The big question is how to adapt the materials to my students’ language level.

This was the first one in a series and I’d like to express special thanks to www.engames.eu (Zdenek Rotrekl) and tes.co.uk where I could find most of the materials and what’s even more important inspiring teaching resources!

 

Lead-in: As we had done a lesson on the history of the English language, the students quickly recollected the nations and people that contributed to the formation of English, which was a great introduction to the main topic: The Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror.

 

1. I presented the vocabulary with a selection of cards. The sutdents were in groups of “Kingship, Fight and Other Words. All the cards were scattered along the desks and the students had to select the ones that belonged to their group. They had to explain the reason for their choices so new vocabulary was immediately explained.

2. To make sure everything is clear the students had to select the synonyms for their vocabulary set.

3. The groups were now given the most important events of the year 1066 on cards. The task was to put them in the correct order. From time to time a little help was provided with a simple animation of the events.

4. The students then listened to a short text on the Battle of Hastings. To make it easier for them the tapescript can also be watched on the video.

5. I asked some comprehension questions and then different games followed, the best being the On Target game.

6. A light-hearted follow-up can be a song about the English kings and queens.

 

A Taste of Culture

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I was wondering how I could bring the topic of ‘Art’ and ‘Culture’ closer to my students. I strongly believe that teenagers know what the best for them is – so having studied the topic and the vocabulary this is what the task was:

 

1. Look around and find out what’s on in Budapest these days.

2. Prepare a poster about the cultural events that you find the most interesting.

 

For this we used a website (glogster.com) where you can prepare on-line posters – one of them being this –  but cardboard posters are just as good.

 

3. Share your poster with your classmates.

 

Since our posters were all on-line we shared them in our digital classroom. However, I think paper posters blu-tacked on the classroom walls can also be a lovely idea.

 

4. Choose one cultural event that you find interesting and visit it.

 

I was strict here. As I have been blogging with my students I have read lots of film reviews. So here the cultural event had to be an exhibition or a festival or perhaps a theatre performance.

 

5. Present your experience to your classmates.

 

These presentations were the highlights of the week! Some of them were in the form of simple photos, some of them were slide shows or short videos and there were some without any visual aid: only the presentation. What the most important thing was: the students could find interesting cultural events, a wide variety, really! They presented them with nice vocabulary and fluency. I was so proud of them!

 

 

Follow-up lesson – one more connected to “Environment”

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In my previous post I described the project my B1 level students had done on the topic of “environment”. As they could choose the topic they were interested in and there were 4 groups but 5 topics, nobody had presented about “Invasive species”. So that was the topic of this follow-up lesson.

Before the lesson

The text about Invasive species had 5 parts. I didn’t want to change the grouping of the previous lesson, the homework was for everybody to read the introduction for “Invasive species” and the groups were assigned one part of the complete text. The parts were relatively short but because of the new vocabulary it gave them enough work.

During the lesson

Definition

Everything was done in groups. The introduction explained a lot about invasive species including a lengthy definition:

A species is regarded invasive if it has been introduced by human action to a location, area or region where it did not prevously occur naturally (i.e. is non-native),becomes capable of establishing a breeding population in the new location without further intervention by humans, and spreads widely throughout the new location.

I put the following on the board:

A species is regarded invasive if…

and divided the rest of the definition into 3 parts. The first part ended at “(i.e. is non-native)“. This first part was cut into words or phrases and put onto cards for each group that they had to rearrange to make it meaningful. The second part of the definition (until: without further intervention by humans) was written on slips without punctuation or spaces and the third part (and spreads widely throughout the new location) was written without vowels. The groups received the slips and the complete definition was finally solved.

Discussion

There was a short discussion about how these species “travel” and why they are dangerous.

Global divers, Impacts, Local Story, Success Story

Those are the titles of the short texts the 4 groups had been assigned to as homework. Now each group had 5 minutes to sit at a computer, revise quickly their bit and come up with one comprehension question about it. When they were ready, they were re-groupped so that in every “new” group there was one student from each “old” group. Now they gave a very short mini-presentation about their bit of the topic.The students were encouraged to take notes while listening to each other – which they did as they were aware of the fact that their would be a question about each sub-topic.

Finally the students went back to their original groups and answered the questions set by the others.

Conclusion:

Students are usually afraid of the topic of “environment”. The project and the follow-up lesson were only part of the whole picture as discussing that topic could take weeks or even months with all the vocabulary and skills development tasks that come naturally with it. But as they were working on the different aspects of biodiversity, endangered species, coral reefs etc. so many things came up that in the end they felt a lot more comfortable than before.

One approach to presentations

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It is an evergreen question: when a student or group of students presents a topic, what do the other students do? How can I make the rest of the class listen – really listen, i.e. listen actively to that presentation?

Obviously they have to be given a task connected to the presentation they are listening to. But should I prepare the task, or can that also be the responsibility of the students?

Step one: Choose a topic

We were discussing ‘environment’ which topic offers a wide variety of problems to look at. Having watched and analysed the issue of biodiversity with the help of a funny but at the same time thought provoking video the students had to form groups. There are 16 students in this class, so they formed 4 groups of 4.

First we listened to and discussed the introduction then when it arrived at the world map the students could sit down at a computer, check what information each sub-topic offers and choose the one they think they can prepare a good presentation about.

Step two: Setting deadlines

First deadline: When the groups had chosen their topics they had to work on the key words first. I expected my students to send me (in our digital classroom) the most important words connected to their presentation topic. These were not only key words but also new words, so the vocabulary the rest of the class needed to be able to understand the what they were going to lecture about. I prepared a set of quizlet cards about hte new vocabulary with quizlet.com which students love so much!

Second deadline: The next task was to prepare five comprehension questions about their topic that they also had to send me in a prvate message. It was important that they ask something they intended to mention in their presentation, so that the others would be able to answer the questions.

Third deadline: It was the date when the presentations had to be prepared. Each students had to participate in the end-product, they had to work together and present together.

Step three: Present, take notes and finally answer the questions

That’s exactly what happened. The students presented their chosen topic. Some with pictures, some with notes on the whiteboard – as they wished. The audience had to take notes. As they had all sent me questions, they knew that they would have to answer the questions the other groups had prepared for them, so they were really busy taking notes!

When all the groups were ready they had to sit in front of a computer and go to the fantastic Sorcrative website. I love this site as you can check students’ knowledge or get feedback in many different ways with very little preparation on your side! I have got a registration there, so I logged in with Teacher log in, I was given a room number that I gave my students who then were able to enter that virtual classroom with ‘Student log in’.

This time I used the ‘Short answer’ task type where I only asked the questions and waited for students responses that they typed in, and submitted – it appeared on my screen and we could immediately discuss if the answer was correct or not.

Conclusion: Students knew from the very beginning that they have to pay attention in order to be able to answer the questions. They were involved in the preparation of the task as well as the feed-back and not only in  the presentation phase.

This is just one approach to presentations in the classroom, there must be lots of other ideas that I’d be happy to experinent with!

Will zero correction lead to better writing?

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I have already written about my project of Blogging with my students.

I keep thinking about the different ways of giving feedback to them.  I have been asked by some colleagues: „Do you correct what they write?” or more directly: „How do you correct them?”

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Well, correcting written pieces is an ever-green topic for every teacher – tiring, time consuming and very often having no use. Students look at the corrections, nod, put away the essay, letter or whatever it was and never think about it again. When they write the next piece they will probably make the same mistakes. Not very encouraging for me as a teacher! Why do I correct anything then?

I myself prefer using a technique that I learned a couple of years ago from a colleague: just marking the fact of a mistake and letting my students figure out the right version of what I underline. I strongly believe that self-correction through self-discovery will eventually lead to good essays, letters or even blog posts.

On the other hand one might question what the purpose of written communication is. If the message goes through, what’s the use of dealing with every grammar mistake?

One more point: doesn’t correction simply destroy the joy of communication? It certainly does – and it is true about written and oral communication as well.

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So, I have decided not to correct my students’ mistakes in the blogposts. Yes, I have to admit: it is sometimes painful… Then I just cannot resist and send a private message to them asking them to at least re-read the post or requesting peer-correction. It happened twice in 8 weeks. But I do not want to destroy that joy of communicating and self-expression.

And I am happy to announce: it works! One of the groups: the Four Illegal Immigrants have started posting for fun! The compulsory number of posts was one per week – but this last weekend produced 3 posts for them together with comments, because they just could not wait! J And the language level is quite all right I think!

What more can a teacher expect?

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