IT @ IH – Improving our practice, having fun & reaching out to our students by Shawn Severson

Teachers with practice and experience have so much background knowledge and so much insight into the language learning process. They know the language, inside and out. They know the demands of school curricula, metas and language acquisition. But when it comes to certain aspects of their language teaching, can we say they have “an accent”? As a matter of fact, we can. Paper, textbooks, notebooks and the lot are all fundamental, but not being able to add in some of the digital content that is out there, means that a teacher has a bit of an accent as far as speaking the language of “21st Century Skills”. That’s why we’ve been working on our IT@IH course, first starting with our own teachers, looking at ways to further their practice, in an IT @ IH 1.2 course (to use the language of the Internet).

And let the IT @ IH 1.1 course begin! [pronunciation: eye tea at eye aitch one point one] Two of the most fundamental aspects of using technology is overcoming fear of technology and seeing need for what technology has to offer. That’s why after just reviewing some of the more basic skills we went into visually appealing and language-rich materials using video, image and text. Before our eyes, we could see how we could turn a short videoclip into a resource to lead students in predicting the story. Not only that, we also downloaded the video and saved it for future use. By the end, we could download a video, take images from our screens, and put this image in a document along with text. We could take a picture of an unchangeable .pdf document and get it into a worksheet. That frustrating thing of images pictures jumping around in our Word document, we learned how to stop. In short, we had made some great resources to reach out to our students. Our “accent” was already getting better.

From there, we imagined ourselves in “assessment time”, working with Excel to calculate test grades. Not such a captivating module, but one necessary nonetheless. We laid out the marking scheme and created formulas. When we put in the information of our fake students’ scores, we could see their grades developing in percentage, the class average and also the number of times correct. To finish it off, we made some idiom flashcards in Word to make a resource we could use for teaching and also as a pelmanism/memory game.

To round it off, we worked with PowerPoint to make our own presentations. Using the skills we had acquired working with image from the Word module, we put video, audio, pictures and text into PowerPoint. For the final test, we saved the file in the way we had discussed so that we could open up all of that catchy media on someone else’s computer. (Have you ever had that bad experience of having a PowerPoint with a video and opening it up on another computer and received the message “cannot find video file”? Well, we learned how to avoid that.) Mission accomplished! Sound, image and customized materials for student interaction made and ready to go.

The last module of IT @ IH 1.1 is about exploring and having fun – online tools for ELT teachers. To make a list of the tools here without showing how they work would simply not do those tools justice. So, let’s just say we had a lot of collaboration, a bit of competition, culture galore, communication unfolding, a fair amount of critical thinking and creavity?—yes, you guessed it, we were creative and certainly working on getting rid of our “digital accents”!

Beyond Words – A Video Project for your Students by Shawn Severson

Beyond Words – A video project

Are you skeptical about using the New York Times with your students? Well, regardless of their level, here is a project they are sure to enjoy. It’s called “Beyond Words”. In it, students explore their acting, drawing, writing and speaking skills. For our purposes, we will modify the outcomes and the procedures slightly, but this is a project that could be done at any level, A2 level and above.

To quote the New York Times there is a magic equation, which we can apply to our learners of all ages: “Tenacity + a desire to edify + an enterprising nature – sloth = a beguiling result.”
In other words, if we, as teachers stick to it (tenacity), and encourage our students to build up their skills while having fun (a desire to edify) and they are creative (an enterprising nature) but not lazy (no sloth), then the outcome can be really beyond words (a beguiling result)!

So here is the challenge: make a 15-second video in which a word is clearly pronounced, the part of speech is given, the definition is read and then the word is used in examples or clearly exemplified through acting or pictures. The NY Times started publishing a Word of the Day in 2009, a practice on which this is based, and then in 2013 (by which time some 1,000 words had appeared) the NY Times Learning Network launched a Vocabulary Video Contest. At this point, the vocabulary list has 1,827 words and that number is growing every school day! When students are looking up the word, they can either use a paper dictionary or go to Vocabulary.com or Merriam-Webster.com. Warning: advise Ss that they must not use the examples that appear in these dictionaries. Also, videos should really be no shorter than 10 and no longer than 20 seconds!

Students can take the lead in production: encourage Ss to work in pairs or groups of 3 although each student must submit their own video. Using their mobiles or a tablet, they have sufficient technological tools to make a good video. Then, as Ss are “digital natives”, as Marc Prensky started calling youth in 2001, they will use a video editing program to piece the different “takes” together, their definition and a screen with the definition written out. As you can see in the screenshot below, one student used VivaVideo, but I usually suggest Moviemaker and iMovie. What is important is to let students choose the software and be empowered to produce the final version. One student of mine, who had been absent for the class when we did the bulk of the project, recorded her definition, downloaded images from the internet because she didn’t want to star in the film and then did a voice over, editing it all on my iPad using iMovie.

So as a starting point for you as a teacher, take a look at what the New York Times gives as food for thought, just to get the creative juices flowing and to give your students some ideas:

“Use your imagination. You can act the word out, animate it, use puppets, draw, sing a song, create a dance, incorporate photographs, create a Claymation, or anything else that will help viewers understand and learn your word.”

To spur students and to give them good examples, one should also show several winning videos from 2018. The first 3 featured are good examples, as they show how acting, examples using the word and drawn images can bring a word to life.

My students touched on several different themes with these words: potion (n.), rave (v.), contraband (n.), anvil (n.), fugitive (n.), venom (n.), among others. Can you guess which word was illustrated in this screenshot from one student video? Talk to your colleagues, this project is easy and will be sure to get other classes also engaged.

For the original challenge, please go to https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/learning/student-contest-our-fifth-annual-15-second-vocabulary-video-challenge.html

 

What’s the Story? Commercials for “Digital Storytelling” by Shawn Severson

Here’s a proposition from a teacher who used to believe that materials brought into the classroom should be aimed solely at providing input:  use commercials that have no words or that are in another language to promote thought as well as opportunities for storytelling and language production.  Inspiration for using images like commercial in the ESL classroom has reached me from various sources, but I always focussed on discrete short films and occasionally commercials that were cleverly disguised as not selling anything.  However, why not use a commercial that openly sells, provided it tells a story or relates to a topic at hand?

 Commercials can naturally entertain and set a mood for a class, but they can also:

·       inspire curiosity

·       engage students

·       motivate

·       give context for classroom interaction

·       promote critical thinking

·       help students relate personal experiences and viewpoints

 Before my final selection for recent conference talks, an exceedingly long list of commercials were suitable for developing activities.  In fact, critically paring the list down still brought a solid 20, even when narrowed to the last few years.  Thus, rather than giving a long list, it seems better to give a few examples and then explain how to find your own, impactful specimens.

 Japan – Ocedel Lighting “Firefly Man”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJXbC1ewiRA

Writing intertitles or subtitles for this film is an engaging exercise.  The surprise ending also can lead to multiple explanations.

Canada – Snack Time Mystery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EadXh9V6ySA

The disappearance of “Chip” is answered in three scenarios, so students can choose their own adventure. Students can predict the endings using the titles of the different versions.  They can also write their own ending.

 Romania – Rom Milk Chocolate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuw0I8Il8uE

Here you can talk about the different “tricks” the Romanian farmer had.  What could you do in your community to get tourists to do your work?

 India – Ariel Share the Load  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJukf4ifuKs

Commercials can be also much more than just funny. At times, important social issues are also covered like in this one.  Students can write their own letter talking about things they are sorry for doing/not doing around the house.  Similarly, many interesting commercials are to be found for the “Touch the Pickle” campaign in India. These focus on breaking down some Indian taboos related to young woman.

 China – Breathe Again  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e1qGc66W9k

This last example, touches on the environment, just the tip of the iceberg in this area and others. What other facts can your students find about air pollution? What does air pollution affect?

 Finding good videos can be easily achieved in four steps.  First, open up both Vimeo and YouTube.  Second, brainstorm what kind of product you could associate with topics in your class. Consider using brand names, but also just talking about the product (for example, Ice Cream rather than Ben and Jerry’s).  Add a country you could find interesting and the word “commercial”.  Third, enter these searches in both Vimeo and YouTube.  Add also descriptors such as “funny” “sad” “surprising”.   Fourth, look for commercial awards lists such as this one: Cannes Lions Archives.  This database has names of projects that are innovative and will engage your students.  You can get names of new projects and then search for them on YouTube or Vimeo.   Sometimes you will find commercials like those above or you may also find descriptions of campaign projects likes this one promoting literacy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyU3Gmf3Kio

 Additionally, you can also look for lists like the one below, which are more user-friendly but less complete:

http://www.adweek.com/creativity/see-all-23-grand-prix-winners-from-the-2017-cannes-lions-festival/

 To find simple lists, Google keywords such as “commercials awards winners + year”.  In the link above, you have a description of projects explaining the commercials, which gives added dimension to activities.  These will be sure to please, while the quality stands out.  Putting this into perspective, consider that media producers aim to engage the modern day public increasingly bombarded by sensational claims and images.  Through the art these gurus wield, teachers can certainly find engaging stories to promote discussion and to lead to further language activities. By using commercials, you can set the mood for your class and set a stage for your students to perform, whatever the language.

Coffee@IH Porto – Mindfulness in the classroom

What is Mindfulness? What is not Mindfulness? A lot has been said about Mindfulness and its implications for both teachers and students. In this session our Academic Manager, Edite Abrantes, approaches the topic and shares her experience and ideas with the teachers who attended the session.

If you didn’t watch the session live on Facebook, here’s the link. After you watch the session, please leave your opinion on our feedback form. Your honest opinion will help us improve.

Coffee@IH Porto – All alike but all different

As you might know, IH Porto has two sorts of events taking place at the school regarding Teacher Training. There are the You@IH Porto and the Coffee@IH Porto.

Our Coffee@IH sessions are meant to be about sharing experiences, opinions and ideas. You can join the session at the school (it’s free but limited to 10 seats) or, for some of them, you can join live on Facebook.

Today we went live on Facebook with “All alike but all different” which aimed at raising awareness to the “different” students we have in our class regardless of whether they are “special needs” or not. It also meant to share tips and ideas that teachers can use in their own classes.

If didn’t watch the session, don’t worry. Something great about Facebook live is that you can catch up later. All you need to do is visit our Facebook page. Or… you can watch here 🙂

Don’t forget to follow our social media accounts to find out when our next session is taking place.

If you watch the session, please give us your feedback by clicking here.

See you in the Teachers’ Room!

That new pen, that cool stamp or that new video or app by Shawn Severson

Each and every one of us has our own special little “treat” for sitting down to write, correcting papers or planning for a particularly difficult topic.  Some teachers love to buy a new stamp or stickers to add a special touch to student papers. Mine happens to be having a new pen when I sit down to correct a stack of essays because then it’s all the more fun to share my feedback.  And when it comes to a difficult class topic—apps and videos rank highly on my list.

 Selecting a pen or stamp really depends on availability and, of course, individual taste.  My favorite is a burgundy Jelly Roll pen (hard to find because it’s made in Japan).  As this article is not about how to choose a pen, let’s look at the other promise in the opening paragraph—choosing new apps and videos.

 When turning to YouTube, there is always the problem of being overwhelmed, so I am going to give you a couple of tips for finding great videos on your topic.  For the subject eating habits, for example, let’s start off with a German TV commercial—in fact commercials offer a wealth of information and have three positive attributes: Continue reading That new pen, that cool stamp or that new video or app by Shawn Severson

Conference in Viana do Castelo – Centro Britânico

Centro Britânico in Viana do Castelo is holding a conference day on the 25th November. This is a great opportunity for teachers to attend some sessions especially created for them. The conference is also credited, so you can get credit for your professional development. here’s the description from their website:

“To commemorate our 20th anniversary of “Teaching with Passion”, Centro Britânco do Alto Minho (CBAM) is proud to organize a one-day conference for all English teachers, whether you teach at the primary level, teach middle school or teach teenagers in secondary school. Come join us and a team of professionals from the world of ELT who will be in Viana do Castelo to share their ideas and resources. Ideas to foster creative engagement in your English classroom.”

To sign up visit their website here.

Programa Conference

How do students learn? – live on Facebook

Tomorrow’s Coffee@IH session will be streamed live on Facebook (see event here).

Ever wondered about how your students learn? Ever thought about how to get them to learn what you’re teaching them? We all have, so in this informal session we’ll be sharing experiences and looking at some ways to help you and your students.

After the session, we’ll be sharing the video here, in case you don’t get a chance to join us here at the school or online through Facebook!

Hope you enjoy it!

Back to school – Teachers’ edition

Although September is half way through, and most of us have already started teaching or planning the year ahead, it’s always important to take some time and reflect on our goals for the coming year. What is it that we aim to achieve in terms of our Professional Development and what are we going to do to get there.

Did you know IHWO runs online courses for teachers? In the video below, you can watch Monica Green, IH Torres Vedras’ Director talking about how the teachers at her school and the school itself has benefited with these courses.

In the meantime, I’m happy to announce that our TT Programme for the coming year is already available. We’ve got a few surprises in store, with new sessions, an IT for ELT teachers’ course, among other. Make sure you visit our website to find out more and remember to download our IH Porto TT magazine with our programme and interesting articles written by our teachers.

See you in the Teachers’ Room and have a wonderful year!

IH Porto Teacher Training

IHWO Online Teacher Training Courses

The new academic year is beginning, and many language schools might be thinking about how to help their teachers develop themselves this year… Monica Green, the director of IH Torres Vedras in Portugal, tells us about her school's experience with the IH online teacher training courses, and explains why CPD is so important for teachers.

Publicado por International House World Organisation em Quinta-feira, 17 de Setembro de 2015