My Reflection on using iPads for teaching EFL

When the iPad based instruction was first introduced at the institution I used to work, I first felt confused because I always thought of an iPad as an entertainment tool. It was hard to imagine how iPads could enhance student motivation and engagement in the learning process. The only use I could think of was the Dropbox App which is an app for storing and sharing material with others safely. I used it to share teaching material and home assignments with my students. It made material distribution easier. If a student missed a class, he/she had an easy access to the material.
Fortunately, the college administration organized and conducted a few Professional Development sessions to introduce some useful apps to the Faculty members. This experience provided me with a vast array of resources to deliver teaching in a meaningful way. I learned how to use Shaddow Puppet to encourage my students to create short videos and practice their speaking skills. Educreations proved to be fantastic for teaching both speaking and writing skills. Flashardlet is a great app to revise lexis. Another advantage of using iPads is that they reduce paper use in class tremendously. Moreover, students did not lose their assignments or worksheets anymore since they were all stored in cloud storage and accessible any time provided there was a wi-fi connection.
Honestly, using iPads did not change my teaching per se. I still believe that an iPad as well as any other educational technology is never the “solution” to the problems we face in an ELT classroom. However, the iPad helped me to foster a student-centered classroom, develop my students’ creativity, and promote student autonomy.

Developing a reading habit in Emirati student

I introduced silent reading to my students. At first they were pretty restless and it took them a while to start reading. Since I do not have a full access to the library resources, I offered them to read the same book: The Missing Coins (http://www.pearson.co.jp/en/catalog/product.php?item=401049). They loved it. One of the students said, “Miss, this is fun to read because it is easy and interesting.” Then we read “Rip Van Winkle” (http://www.pearson.co.jp/en/catalog/product.php?item=401032). They also loved it. Now we are starting “Robinson Crusoe”. What made me happy is that two of my students actually went to the library and checked out some other books on their own. They also are willing to discuss the stories with me and looked up unfamiliar words they have encountered during reading.

One day during teaching I noticed that one of my students appeared to be sleeping. So I called his name and joked: I am hurt. You are sleeping during my class. The other students laughed and said: Here, have some coffee. They poured him coffee. He took the cup and said something in Arabic. The whole class laughed. Then I said that I would like to laugh too and urged him to say it in English. I need to mention that last November when we just started this course this student was an absolute beginner. Not a word in English. Didn’t understand anything. So he said: today is my bad luck day.
I: Why is that?
He: I close my eyes for two seconds and Ms. Gulmira see it.
I was very pleased that he could say that in ENGLISH!

This post is not about how fabulous I am as a teacher (which is also true). It’s about my student. He has been working very hard and it started paying back. 12 years at school were a waste of time. However, now when he identified his goal: obtain a job at a national air company, he became a dedicated young man working towards his dream.

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Ten Ways to Warm up your Students.

Every English language teacher encounters the following situation at some point of their teaching career. The teacher has carefully prepared a lesson plan. He comes to the classroom to realize that the students are not ready to communicate in the target language, and they do not want to do anything he offers them. There may be a lot of reasons for that, but, sometimes, it happens because the teacher neglects a warm up stage.

Many EFL teachers start their lessons with the usual routine things: greetings, weather, date and day. Then they move straight to the point of the lesson. From my own experience the preliminaries are not enough to warm up students. First, EFL students have a chance to use the target language most likely only in the classroom and very seldom outside the classroom. Secondly, before they come to their English classroom, they may have some other subjects where they do not have to speak the target language. Therefore a teacher should have his students switch to interacting in the target language. A warm up activity is a short five to ten minute activity that aims at getting students emotionally ready to communicate in the target language or activating schemata before the main activity.

These are ten ideas which always help me to warm my students up.

  1. Bring a jazz-chant (See Appendix 1) or a nursery rhyme to class. Read it for them and ask them to repeat it after you. If it is in the form of a dialogue, you may ask your students to perform it. This activity will not only prepare your students for a lesson but also develop their memory skills. I usually ask my students to memorize, record it using either their smartphones or tablets, and then send it to me via email. This way I could listen to each student’s sample and address their individual pronunciation problems. Carolyn Graham is the writer who created numerous jazz-chants. Her books include Jazz chants and Let’s Sing published by Oxford University Press.
  2. While working with a group it is easy to figure out which sound your students have problems with. When it is done, choose and bring a tongue-twister which will help them to overcome this difficulty. For instance, Russian-speaking students struggle with interdental th, so the tongue –twister “I thought a thought, but the thought I thought wasn’t the thought I thought I thought. If the thought I thought was the thought I thought I thought I wouldn’t have thought so much” will be both helpful and entertaining. Arab students have a difficulty with b, and “Peter Piper” (Appendix 3) will be a great practice.
  3. This warm up activity is good for intermediate level students. I call it “Close your eyes” game. Ask them a question (for example, “What was the happiest day of your life?”), and ask them to keep their eyes closed while they are trying to find the answer to the question. When they are ready, they open their eyes letting you know about it. Invite to share their answers with the class.
  4. Sometimes at the end of the lesson I have some time left (usually about 5-7 minutes). Then I just tell them a funny short story. The next day I start a lesson asking my students questions about the story I told them at the previous lesson. This activity is good for developing listening comprehension. From my experience the stories from “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” by Jon Scieszka are always a hit. You can adapt the stories to the level of your students.
  5. Bring your problem to class and ask your students for a piece of advice. For example, “My neighbors are very noisy. I have asked them to be quiet many times, but it was for nothing. What would you do in this situation?”
  6. I always have a small bag among all my teaching materials. In class we play the game “What is there in the bag?” I put something into the bag (an apple, a small toy, etc.) and make your students ask yes-no questions “Is this a….?” or”Are these ..?” That student who guesses what it is will get the thing in the bag.
  7. Bring a picture to class and ask your students to describe it. You may want to break your group into two or more smaller groups or pairs so that they will compete with each other who will make up more relevant sentences.
  8. Give them a very simple sentence and ask them to add one more word to the sentence so that a new sentence will make sense. For example, if my students study the theme “House. Home”, I bring the sentence “This is a house.” Then they play with this sentence. “This is a new house. This is a new, beautiful house.” etc.
  9. Tell them that you are going to give them words throwing the ball at one student at a time and that student who has the ball must throw it back to you giving an opposite to the word you give him. For example: white-black; to give-to take; summer-winter, etc.
  10. “Find someone who” (see Appendix 2) is a great speaking activity to revise the grammar covered in class and put the vocabulary your students are studying at the moment in the context. It also helps to increase student talk time.

 

 

Appendices

 

Appendix 1

 

An example of a jazz-chant:

 

She loves him, but he doesn’t love her.

That’s too bad!

What a shame!

She gave him a book, but he didn’t read it.

That’s too bad!

What a shame!

She bought him a tie, but he didn’t wear it.

That’s too bad!

What a shame!

She loves him, but he loves Kim.

That’s too bad!

What a shame!

 

 

Appendix 2

 

Find someone who:

 

 

  1. is a doctor___________________________
  2. has a sister and a brother________________
  3. likes his sister very much________________
  4. is single_____________________________
  5. is from Kazakhstan_____________________
  6. has a short name______________________
  7. is 14 years old________________________
  8. has 2 children________________________
  9. is the only child in his family_____________
  10. has grandparents______________________
  11. is in the school________________________
  12. is a driver____________________________
  13. likes children_________________________
  14. has a cat_____________________________

 

 

 

Appendix 3

 

Tongue-twisters:

 

  1. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where is the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
  2. A black cat sat on a mat and ate a fat rat.
  3. If one doctor doctors another doctor, does the doctor who doctors the doctor doctor the doctor the way the doctor he is doctoring doctors? Or does he doctor the doctor the way the doctor who doctors doctors?
  4. “Night, night,” said the knight to the knight one night.
  5. Nine nice nurses nursing nicely.
  6. Fred’s friend Fran flips fine flapjacks fast.
  7. A proper copper coffeepot.
  8. Sue chews string cheese.
  9. Bruce bought bad brown bran bread.
  • I have a can opener that can open any can that any can opener that can open any can can open. If you will give me a can that any can opener that can open any can can open, I will open that can that any can opener that can open any can can open with my can opener that can open any can that any can opener that can open any can can open.

 

Appendix 4

 

Some examples of riddles:

 

  1. What has an arm but cannot write?
  2. When the rain comes down, what goes up?
  3. Where can you always find money?
  4. What is worse than finding a worm in an apple?
  5. What never asks questions but needs many answers?
  6. What never uses teeth for eating?
  7. What becomes a woman?
  8. What part of you is a tropical tree?

 

 

Answers: 1. A chair, 2. An umbrella, 3. In the dictionary, 4. Finding half a worm, 5. Doorbell, 6. A comb, 7. A little girl, 8. A palm.

 

Bibliography

 

What is a J-C. (n.d.). Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://jazzchants.net/what-is-a-jazz-chant

 

Motivating your students to continue learning English

Last week my students had their second benchmark IELTS exam. They took the first one about a month ago and showed a huge progress by gaining of a band or a band and a half. However, from my previous experience I know that once Emirati students obtain IELTS score of 4 or 4.5 they tend to slow their progress down or lose interest. I found this video and showed it to them following it with the questions:

1. Who do you think is mother duck in our class?

2. Who do you think are these ducklings?

3. What are they doing?

4. Did mother duck help her ducklings?

5. What is the message in this video?

I was amazed that almost immediately they figured out that the message is “Don’t give up even if you fail many times.” Keep going no matter what and one day you will reach your goal.

Absolutely love this quote:

If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job. ~Donald D. Quinn

Some thoughts about motivation

I often hear my colleagues complaining about low motivated students. At times I find myself being involved in this activity, but then I think, “Wait a minute, but anybody can teach a highly motivated class.” Even a mediocre teacher can do very well granted that his students are eager to learn, self motivated and show enthusiasm for learning. Looking back at my teaching experience I realize that I felt more successful when I started working with disinterested students and somehow managed to instill the burning desire to know. There is nothing more rewarding for me as a teacher than seeing the students’ eyes light up. That “aha” moment is the one that keeps me enjoying my job. While working with low motivated students I don’t probably get a lot of those but when it happens, it means the whole world to me. At the end of the last semester, I got an email from one of my students who was promising me the whole semester to leave the college because as she said, “Learning English is boring.” This young lady wrote that she would do her best to continue her education because she learned one lesson from me: not to quit. She said that watching me trying to make my lessons interesting and listening to my personal stories of failure and success made her think about her attitude to her study. She realized that only she can make it possible if she applies herself. Having read that email made me feel that my mission had been accomplished.