Category Archives: TESL

Computer Games and Language Learning

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Hi everyone,

Welcome to blogelt 🙂

Today’s post is about Computer Games and Language Teaching. Learning with computer games can be considered surreal and unconventional. However,  games can be quite instructive and innovative in language teaching. One critical question to start with is  “Can we promote language learning  by using computer games in class?” The answer is “sure.  Computer games not only entertain and engage users but also promote learning effectively. Then, “How” ?

In his article Materials Production: Theory and Practice, David R. Hall notes that Most people who learn to communicate fluently in a language which is not their L1 do so by spending a lot of time in situations where they have to use the language for some real communicative purpose.”  The conclusion I draw from this line is that the need to communicate is a challenging element of learning a language. While playing a computer game,  you may even forget that you use a different language when you try to solve a puzzle, or a mysterious event.

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If you are a detective who tries to find the murderer, or a hero who tries to save people or else a doctor, a captain etc., you really focus on what you are doing. Generally speaking, if something challenges you, then you definitely want to go for it. Therefore, when our students play computer games, they will not only be exposed to comprehensible input but also attempt to respond to that input and this will lead to interaction as well.

206040-shall_we_play_a_gameAs you can see, using computer games in class is able to make learning more effective and enjoyable. The important thing is choosing the right activities and the suitable games for our students and their levels. You can easily engage your digital native students in the lesson if you find the right ones.

Good News: There are many resources you can use!

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Digital Play is the most effective  e-book on teaching English with computer games I have ever seen. Digital Play was the winner in the Innovation in Teacher Resources category at the 2012 ELTons! You can check this site to have this e-book digital play

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It is amazing. You can find tons of activities and ideas in that book. It has a blog as well. You can check it here digital play blog

I would like to share my favourite one which you can find here

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Level: Pre-intermediate– Upper Intermediate

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Reading and Speaking/ writing  Language focus:

Preparation:  You can find a copy of the Vortex Point walkthrough here.  A walkthrough is a set of instructions that will walk you through the game from the beginning right through to the end telling you how to complete it. If you’ve got this in your hand while you are playing this with a class you can use it if you get stuck.

Game: here

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1) Before you click play the game dictate three questions as naturally as possible OR if you played the first part of Vortex Point recently then elicit elements about that story:  What is the story about?    OR    What was the last story about?  What are the names of the people in it?    OR    What were the names of the people in it?  What do they do?    OR    What happened in the story?  Play the opening sequence in the game and ask learners to write down three predictions about what will happen in the story.

Play  Start the game using the walkthrough.  If the walkthrough is talk to an in-game character take control of the game yourself.  If the the walkthrough is do something then ellicit suggestions from your learners as to what this might be. When text appeared  ask for a volunteer to read it out and focused on pronunciation elements and drilled with the class as a whole. Below is a screenshot of the first character that speaks and it’s the second thing she says:

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Ask learners about a number of language items as they came up that either . You can encourage them take turns reading out the speech and then asking questions about anything they aren’t sure about (whether it is language or story line). With a higher level that you can practice writing and the narrative tenses. You can stop the game at intervals and ask them to write what is happening in the story using prompts such as “what did they say?”, “What happened?” and “What does your character (the detective) think he should do?”

Post Play  It’s a good idea to get personal reactions from your learners on what they thought of the game.  If they liked it and which bits they thought were fun. Another activity is to get learners to recount what they saw of the game as a story to a partner. Brainstorming new vocabulary elements from the game onto the blackboard and getting learners to create or expand on their Vortex Point dictionary. Next class you could ask students to come to the board and play until they reach the point you stopped at in the last class and then continue.  Word of warning – some of your learners may have gone home and completed the game and so may reveal and spoil key story elements. Note There is a video walkthrough of the game you can watch and pause at for students to discuss, predict etc which is useful if you want to quickly fast forward or back to a section to discuss. The video can be found at the bottom of the page here: walkthrough

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In addition to Digital Play web site and book, there are some other sites you can make use of. They are listed below:

There is a really good guide here

There are awesome educative games here

You can watch this video on Game-Based Learning

Aslı May Aygün

13.01.2014

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A really difficult question to answer in ELT: When should L1 be used in class?

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The use of L1 when teaching EFL is one of the major issues that have dominated the area of EFL acquisition for the last few decades.

When should L1 be used in class?

One of the Q-Skills for Success authors Nigel Caplan responds:

 

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#EFLproblems – Learning English Beyond the Exams

Learning English Beyond the Exams

Oxford University Press

Disappointing exam resultsWe’re helping to solve your EFL teaching problems by answering your questions every two weeks. This week’s blog is in response to Raef Sobh Azab’s blog comment regarding the challenge of motivating students who are in an exam-focussed environment. Stacey Hughes from the Professional Development Team discusses how to take English beyond the focus of exams.

One major problem is that the educational system in my country is mainly exam-based. Most teachers, students, and even parents do not care at all about the quality of learning. They are mainly concerned with passing the exams. L1 is all the time used in class, real life English is not stressed, language skills are not practised at all, learning aims are not achieved, and private lessons given to students at home or in private centers are the norm. This is really frustrating for some teachers who are keen on improving their teaching skills…

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Free Voluntary Reading

images The studies have shown that EFL students who read a lot seem to acquire English better than those who do not. They “do not only improve in their reading abilities, but also improve in using and increasing their English abilities and knowledge. Without getting much exposure to reading materials in class, EFL students are unlikely to make much progress (Nation, 1997, p.7). Realizing the importance of reading for EFL students, it is then very crucial for EFL students to have good reading proficiency. Therefore, as well as the reading that is done in class, the kind of reading that is done outside of the class is of paramount significance. Extensive reading which is a kind of reading for pleasure is a great opportunity for students to be exposed to the target language. Free Voluntary Reading is the source of reading ability, learning new words, spelling and grammar structure. When you give students interesting things to read, they will definitely read them enthusiastically. I would like to share one of Stephen Krashen’s great seminers. This one is on The Power of Reading. I wish you could exploit the ideas as much as you can.

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Posters for ESL Clasrooms

Colour Your  Classroom

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As debate over education reform sizzles, and as teachers valiantly continue trying to do more with less, a new study suggests that it might be worth diverting at least a little attention from what’s going on in classrooms to how those spaces are being designed. The paper, published in the journalBuilding and the Environment, found that classroom design could be attributed to a 25% impact, positive or negative, on a student’s progress over the course of an academic year.  http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671627/study-shows-how-classroom-design-affects-student-learning

These days I have been searching for some colorful posters to use in language classrooms. There are some important details which you have to be careful about preparing them for your own classrooms. First of all, try to choose suitable ones for the right level and  the right student groups. Some of them are really cute and you may want to use them just to colour your classroom walls. Yet, some posters which include cartoons, fictional characters etc. are likely to seem much  childish to your sudents. Moreover, the words & phrases on these posters are supposed to have an educative value as well. Also, it is better if you are attentive about stimulating their creativity and imagination choosing these posters to use. Anyway, if you google them, there are loads of posters – some of them include really nice quotations which will be quite motivating for your students to see them everday over and over again- you can adapt for your own classroom. To sum up, using posters in ESL classrooms is a marvellous way to inspire your students.

These are some random posters to make your classroom walls samarter. You can just print out or adapt them for your own student groups.

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Mystery Preview Pic detective

Vocab Prior Knowledge

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Dr.SeussendingBlends

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Albert-Einstein-Picture-Quotes

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The Flipped Language Classroom

Flipped-Classroom-250x220  Flipped learning – or the flipped classroom – is one of the new trends which have influenced many educators more or less. The purpose of flipping the classroom is to shift from passive to active learning to focus on the higher order thinking skills such as   analysis, sytnthesis and evaluation.

The flipped classroom describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as problem-solving, discussion or debates. (Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching).

The journey begins with this:

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So, what exactly is the flipped classroom and what could it mean for ELT? How well would the concept even work for language teaching?

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In the flipped learning approach, students access course content on their own outside of class and then interact in class with their instructor and peers, as they engage in activities directly related to what they have viewed. There are many ways to implement flipped learning, but all include this basic principle: direct instruction takes place out of class while practice and application take place in class (Bergmann & Sams, 2012).

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A modified/expanded version of the basic flipped classroom is the Explore-Flip-Apply (Musallam, 2013). In this model, there is an initial in-class exploration phase. Once the students have built/developed/ background knowledge, they watch the pre-recorded lesson video at on their own time. Subsequently, class time is used to review and expand upon the original material presented in the exploration and continue on to other related content and skills.

IMG_0183It’s a nice setup because students listening to lesson materials at home can set whatever pace they are comfortable with. For example, lower level students can view materials multiple times and higher level students can breeze through everything more quickly. In a traditional classroom, students of various levels all have to follow the same pace set by the teacher and this is less than ideal for many students. In flipped classrooms, teachers are more involved in practice activities which are done in class, rather thanfor homework. This allows teachers to see exactly where students struggle and adjust their teaching accordingly. For ESL/EFL classes, the flipped classroom approach is wonderful because it maximizes the amount of time students speak English in class and minimizes the amount of teacher talk time. http://blog.tesol.org/the-flipped-classroom/

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img_01841.jpgFor struggling L2 learners, the Explore-Flip-Apply flipped classroom model is modified by incorporating Freire’s Problem Posing Approach (1970) adapted by Auerbach (1992) for second language learners. Teachers introduce the lesson with a situation presented through a document, a photo, a story, a scenario, artwork, or other accounts. These items, when used for problem posing, are known as “codes.” In the Explore-Flip-Apply model, students first examine the code for a given lesson, identify the problem posed by the code, consider how it relates to their lives and/or what they are studying, and then assess what knowledge they already have that can be brought to bear on the situation. Next, they work together to ascertain what they do not yet know that the teacher may be able to explain or teach them. Then the teacher flips the classroom by preparing the background information for the out-of-class presentation that will assist learners in responding to the code with ideas and solutions. A major benefit of Explore- Flip-Apply is that students have an explicit reason or reasons to view the video because they are looking for concepts, language, or tools that will help them to address the unresolved issues they faced during the guided inquiry phase.

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Videos to have a look:

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The Flipped Learning Approach in Adult ESL Classrooms
Helaine W. Marshall, 2013
 
 

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Teaching English through Blogs

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Nowadays, reading and writing online are core skills that students need to be competent in order to keep up with the times. Teaching with blogs gives the opportunity to engage students in real life situations. It enables students to publish their writing easily and to share their writing with an authentic audience.

If students write entries and comment on the entries of their peers, they will be interacted with a lively literacy world outside. Students can post on movies, journals, novels, fashion or they can keep a diary in English. Once a student posts an entry, others in the class can respond, provide supportive feedback, and offer additional suggestions or perspectives. By writing and commenting on blogs, students write for real readers (not just for their teachers). As a result, students focus on clear communication and get immediate feedback on their progress.

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Step by step teaching blogging to help students improve their English;

1. At the very first you have to choose a blog hosting. Some blog hostings like wordpress.com, or blogspot.com are the lead ones. I use wordpress with my own classes. I can suggest it, as it is more user friendly.

2.Demonstrate the blog hosting you have chosen for class.

3.  Choose a purpose. For their first few blog entries, provide several writing prompts that students can respond to. Choose writing activities that fit your goal for the blogs. For instance, if you want to use the blog entries to improve their writing, give some topics and they can do a free writing exercise. They can write about a life experience as well.

4. After students have posted entries, talk about the purpose of blog comments. Look at the comments on a popular blog or posted on a local newspaper in response to articles. Emphasize the importance of providing useful suggestinos and supportive feedback.

5- You, as their teacher, should follow their blogs and make some comments of their posts.

These two are the example blogs which belong to English Leaners:

http://englishdiary-ana.blogspot.com/

http://adid0es-learn-english.tumblr.com/

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Tips: Teaching ESL Writing

teacher with writing class

Writing, as one of the four language skills,  has plenty of profound strategies which help learners reach their goals in producing many written tasks. It is possibly, the most difficult skill for many students as it requires productivity. Yet, a teacher can make it success if she engages the students in lessons and sets the scene successfully.  Actually, I plan to keep this post short but there are many things I want to say about teaching writing to (ESL) students.. For the next post, I will write about teaching  writing thoroughly. For this one, I want to share you these videos which include miscellaneous writing practices.

This one is really good.

2. This one is precious as it shows how cooperative learning works!

As for the academic writing, there are some important steps.

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How Can We Help Students? 

  1. Use a problem-driven approach to writing projects, perhaps using informal and exploratory writing during one part of the course to help students set up questions or problems for longer, research projects.
  2. Use more non-graded, exploratory writing.
  3. Build talk-time into the writing process.
  4. Provide several interventions into the process so you can respond to project proposals, thesis statements, or abstracts.
  5. Try peer review of drafts.
  6. Hold writing conferences, perhaps in small groups or individually.
  7. Ask students to hand in drafts and notes. This also helps curb plagiarism.
  8. Allow rewrites.
  9. Hold to high standards for finished products.

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Motivation is the fuel necessary to keep human machine running! : How to motivate your students as a language teacher?

StayWell PHSS stock photography              

1- Explore more about teaching!

A teacher who uses a variety of teaching methods, customized to the

individual needs of the learners will be more successful in engaging them

towards achieving the L2 learning targets. This suggests that the more English

teachers explore teaching methods and strategies, the more successful they will be in engaging the students in learning activities or tasks.

2- Be student centered! Balance the tasks: If your students  are motivated then you are motivated

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Spaulding (in Wu, 2003) proposed a balance between challenging tasks

and easy tasks which is one effective way to improve learners’ selfconfidence.

This, later, boosts motivation in learning. The way it is theorized

by Vygotsky that learners feel they are developing new competencies

only when they can accomplish challenging tasks with some assistance

from a more skilled person. Tasks that fall within students’ comfort and

stretch zones tend to be more motivating than those that are too demanding.

Also, tasks that allow learners to experience more success rather than failure are a great boost to learner motivation.

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3- Integrate skills! : Use realia, visual aids

Both oral and written instructional texts or materials used as classroom
materials should be interesting and relevant to the learners. These texts
should build students’ interests in learning English, and make use of these
materials as a starting point for learning more materials. Also, the materials
should create real-life situations where the students engage in their daily
social encounters.

It is important to bear in mind that the texts should also
be pitched at or slightly above their current level of proficiency. In other
words, materials should spark students’ interests and fall within the remit.

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4-Be passionate about teaching!

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Some characteristics of motivated teachers are enthusiastic, resourceful,

creative, and strict. Wilson (2012) outlines some key motivational factors,

and the first one is teacher enthusiasm. The word, “enthusiasm,” itself refers to

a strong excitement of feeling. Dornyei (2001) defines enthusiastic teachers as

the ones who love their subject matter and who show their dedication and their

passion that there is nothing else on earth they would rather be doing. They are

very passionate about their profession.

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References

Hadfield, 1992,

Dörnyei, 2001

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