Thursday, 5 September 2013

Writing the date in a copybook

Young learners often forget how to write the date in their copybooks when doing homework. Here's a reminder for them. They can stick it into their copybooks or vocabulary.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Choosing the best songs for your lessons

This week on Primary ELT course we're discussing the use of songs, rhymes and games as teaching tools. 
Here's my opinion on using songs:
I believe that songs are one of the best learning tools, especially at the early stage. With songs, we can successfully teach new words, grammar structures, language functions, pronunciation, etc. 
Unfortunately, the role of songs at the lesson is sometimes underestimated and they are seen as mere 'entertainment' by some teachers, quite many parents and school administration. Under this pressure, teachers might reduce the number of songs sung at their lessons to minimum and it would be a terrible mistake smile
I think that every good teacher should have a collection of songs to cover as many  vocabulary and grammar topics as possible. With wide variety of coursebooks and Internet resources available nowadays, it's not a problem. Why not collaborate with your colleagues at school and create a 'song library' that any teacher can use?! 
It's important to choose the best song of a kind, though. If you search, for example, a 'months of the year' song on Youtube, you'll find more than 10 different songs. Not all of them will work well with your students. Here are some criterias I use when choosing a song:
1. Catchy melody (or good rythm and rhyme). There are so many songs with 'vague' melody which you will never be able to repeat once it stops playing. Some songs are difficult even to sing along, because you can never guess on which music bit the next word falls and students keep singing words in the 'wrong time', even if it's the 2nd or 3rd rehearsal.
2. If it's a video, appropriate pictures. Pictures in the video clip should be appropriate for the age of your pupils (not too childish and not too boring / adult) and they shouldn't be distracting! Sometimes they are just too much. Children start watching it as a cartoon instead of a singing prompt smile It's great when pictures  'back up' the lyrics, helping pupils to understand the song without distracting them from the words too much.
3. Subtitles. It's really convenient when children can see the lyrics on the screen.
4. General difficulty of the song lyrics. Except your 'target vocabulary' in the song, there are other words which shouldn't be too difficult for your students to comprehend. If, along with 5 basic vocabulary words that you're going to teach your pupils with this song, there are 25 more words that they don't know, - maybe this isn't exactly what you need.
On the pages of Primary ELT Ukraine wiki (this wiki was started by Sasha Shalenko and last year's participants of this online course) I've started a collection of nice songs from Youtube. Another colleague from the wiki added some of her favourite songs, too. You can have a look and recommend more songs for these pages! There you will also find an explanation how you can save Youtube videos on your computer to use them without Internet connection.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

My ideas on effective reinforcement and recycling

Different needs discussion
by Svitlana Orlova - Saturday, 3 November 2012, 09:29 AM
Dear friends,
I decided to share my problem with you. It concerns necessity of constant reinforcement and recycling. I consider it to be so important , that I spend too much time on it and then I do not have enough time to present new material. It always seems to me that my pupils need more time to practise and then I lack behind the calendar plan. Any ideas?

Dear Svitlana, 
Reinforcement and recycling are definitely important and I'm also trying to figure out how to make them work :) And my plan is .. to use technology.
You can create Power Point presentations with new words for each text / topic / unit etc. They are great for presenting and learning new vocabulary, as well as revision. It will take 1-2 minutes to go through the slides and revise target vocabulary as a class.

Here you can download and have a look at two recent presentations that I've created for my daughter.
Power Point presentations for grammar topics work well, too.
You can create all presentations in advance, save them on CDs and distribute among parents so that children can revise the words at home  throughout the school year and on holidays. 
Surely creating so many presentations will take you loads of time but think of engaging your colleagues. Together, you can create PP presentations to support every unit of your coursebook!
Another idea that I've tried is to keep a kind of 'class reference folders' with all grammar and/or conversational topics that they've learned. I created one folder for each desk, kept them on the shelf and distributed among students at the beginning of each lesson. With these folders, I didn't have to waste time explaining the rules again and again. I just asked my students to open their reference folders on a certain page and complete some revision exercise with the help of it.
Usually we ask our students to write down some rules at the back of their vocabularies or copybooks but students are sometimes absent so they don't have all the rules, some students aren't neat writers so their rules are a mess. They also tend to forget or lose their vocabularies. That's why I thought that classroom reference folders would be a good idea. A copy of such reference folders can be saved on CDs and distributed among parents as well. They can print them out for their children to use at home.
Finally, I sometimes hold myself back from trying to have my students remember everything we've learned. At the early stage, I think we should estimate the result not only by the number of words / topics / rules that our students have learned. What's really important is their motivation, their improving memory, their confidence, their skills that have been developing during the process of learning. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

On the importance of watching a video clip to the end before sharing it with students :)

Yesterday while browsing some online videos I had two situations that reminded me of the importance of carefully choosing video clips for our students.

At first, I decided to watch a video clip recommended by EFL Classroom 2.0 on my Facebook news feed page. I intentionally don't include the video into this post because I don't want my readers to experience what I did. During the first 10-15 seconds of the clip we're watching a person cycling peacefully among those lamp posts. It looks really relaxing, just like the title of the video suggests. But in the next moment, out of nowhere, a disgusting terrifying creature pops up right in front of the cam. The end. Of course I jumped up on my chair and felt disgusted. I know some kids like such kind of videos, but this is something I would never show to my pupils at the lesson. Ever.
The conclusion is: even if a video is recommended by a world-wide known site for educators, you should double-check it anyway. Different teachers have a different understanding of what is appropriate for students and what is not.

The next mischievous video that I almost shared with my students was the Galaxy Song by Monty Python. 
At first I watched the following video clip to this song and I loved it.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

After that I decided to search for the original video clip of this song on Youtube and it turned out to be a nice retro movie song. It seemed that nothing could be wrong about showing it to my students and I kept watching the clip only because I was enjoying the song. And in the middle of it, there turned to be a piece which I wouldn't want my students to comment during the lesson :)
The conclusion: inappropriate content can be hiding in the places where you least expect to see it :)
Enjoy the song! :)