Strolling round the Gallery

October 23, 2011 § 13 Comments

Welcome to this collection!
Talented, up and coming language gardeners have kindly lent us their works of art. The original masterpieces can be found in their own galleries.
If you want to join in, click here: Can I have a go, please?! Of course you can.

Magpie Moments‘s Anna was first to fly the nest, and this is what she brought back from her class of adult learners about their city, Bradford. Notice the lovely green and blue adjective – noun collocations.

At Reflections of…, Dave created this plant with his group of young learners. The unplugged lesson, comparing two different drinks, uncovered this language, which they then used in an active, get-up-and-move-around activity.

During working hours, Mike focused on “there is/are”. Here we get a glimpse into his hippy record collection, a folk song that hit the charts numerous times in the 1960s, “If I had a hammer”. This does sound like the Mantras of a Madman.

In romantic Verona, at English Learning in Our World, Sharon brought to life her poem about collocations with “held”. We can’t hold a candle to her work here.

Over in Abruzzo, look at how, in this collection, Janet shows the evolution of her thinking, She wanted to express some of the things she loves about this beautiful region in central Italy.

This second design has the same words, but a totally different feel. Free-flowing waves have been replaced by a tighter structure. “Which do you prefer?” she may ask you.

“It’s all about tones”, Oli from An Experiment in Dogme explains. “Cantonese is a tonal language, and I’ve used word shape to show this. “The little “ah” at the end of the sentences makes it a question”, he helpfully adds about this work from his private collection.

Plugging the Unplugged is one of Chiew’s blogs. Here he combined two challenges, celebrating ELTpics‘s birthday by creatively overlaying the picture his learners discussed onto the language plant. We love this technique, and I’m sure others will try it out too.

An Escocesa in Madrid, Cat Bethune took language from one of her recent lessons. She loves being on holiday! Don’t we all, Cat. It has a classic language plant shape, with words branching off neatly at different nodes. It really does look like a little tree (on its side ;-)).

Way over in the Philippines, Joy has started making plants for her young learners. Here’s one on her innermost thoughts. We love these sentiments, Joy, and the way you have expressed them!

Stepping back, Vicky Loras declared: “Looking at my plant now, “teacher” and “student” look like parts of links in a chain, which are connected with another link, “learn together”.” Beautiful.

Thank you, artists, for your generosity of time and spirit. It’s been inspirational putting your work in one gallery. I think I’ve displayed everyone; have a quiet word with the curator if not. And just to remind any members of the viewing public who would like to try their hand, just click here: Yep, I want to get my hands dirty too!!
I, and I’m sure many others, would love to see your work.

ELTchat Teaching Online Summary

May 14, 2011 § 12 Comments

“When I skype a student or ELT team,
I put on a nice top, lipstick
and put plants behind me.”
Bethany Cagnol

The ELTChat was about teaching online. It proved to be a popular and exciting discussion, not least because it really got me thinking of the next step I need to take in my career (Fuertesun). This is true. We have already entered an age where we can teach in our pyjama bottoms, even if when I skype a student or ELT team, I put on a nice top, lipstick and put plants behind me. Nutty? (BethCagnol). This is a great topic and one that will become more and more of a feature in ELT, I think (rliberni).

Right from the off, we should highlight the distinction between two types of online teaching: “Asynchronous” describes blogs, wikis and forums, not teaching face to face in real time. “Synchronous” teaching is in real time, online. Integrating the two is good. I really enjoy having a wiki to supplement my synchronous teaching! Students enjoy a reference (ShellTerrell). I would use a ning or an alternative – like grouply – but blogs and wikis are also a good idea (Marisa_C). I do a Monday surgery every week using Adobe connect so my students can see me and ask questions. I love these sessions (boyledsweetie). Here is a comparison of the two types:

There was a wide variety of online experience amongst the participants. I’m interested in becoming an online teacher, but don’t really know how to get started. Any advice? (theteacherjames) whereas after 4 years of E-learning I’m really changing my view a lot and doing things very different to how I started out (rliberni).

Some have also taken online courses, so have experience from a learner’s perspective. I did my M.A online. It was a painful and enjoyable experience at the same time (lolonagi) and here’s a post I wrote about being an online student on an IH Online Teacher Training course (sandymillin) and my whole course is delivered by modules within a virtual learning environment (VLE) (boyledsweetie). Here’s a student’s perspective: Benefits of Online learning (Guest post on Teaching Village): (tarabenwell).

Is this useful for being an online teacher? Definitely!  Getting experience first as an online student will really help make you aware of what is involved with it (janetbianchini).

Teaching online is a new skill, and needs to be learned. Good online teachers have to be masters of the technology being used (LARC_SDSU). If not, you can forget all about good teaching practice: I just starting talking too much, forgot to talk to the student, the unfamiliar made me nervous (dreadnought001). So prepare yourself: A great book is “Teaching Online” by Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clandfield (janetbianchini). Online, I’ve come across this article that lists Top 8 traits of a Good Online Teacher (cintiastella). Another way is to take a course – LANCELOT, IH COLT, the Consultants-E to name a few – all are slightly different (hollysuel). I’m planning to do IH Certificate in Online Tutoring later this year to get some more ideas (sandymillin).

Or you can take the plunge and try tutoring a student you already have on a one-to-one basis first so you can get used to it (Marisa_C).

If you want to be an online teacher, you can work for an online company. Here’s a blog post on companies that hire/help you find students: and a few others include Myngle, Edufire are free markets–Tutor ABC, TalkBean & ESOL Nexus are direct hires (hollysuel). Or you can go it alone, in which case, you need to market yourself. Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin are good to follow and a must read free ebook about marketing is Seth Godin’s The Idea Virus (ShellTerrell). Also create a PLN and use twitter.

So, what synchronous teaching tools are there? It seems there are lots, and changing all the time. It’s a full-time job just keeping up! Jing seems to be a favourite with everyone! (Marisa_C). I learned to use Jing by watching Russell Stannard’s Training Videos, they are great! (cintiastella). scribblar is a really good online collaborative whiteboard which is developing all the time (HelpMyEnglish). I have a bamboo board that I can use in virtual classrooms – no need to type (hollysuel), whereas I have definitely found Elluminate the easiest synchronous platform (Englishonthenet). I use Skype only to interview people (Marisa_C).

But can we trust technology? There’s the obvious: different time zones, bad connection. However, it’s much better, more stable and getting better all the time (rliberni). Even so, with technology, it’s not enough to have plan B – you need a plan C, D and E (Englishonthenet), and so many teachers resist online teaching for fear of the technology going wrong (Marisa_C). I don’t often use webcam as students haven’t got them, problems with bandwidth etc. (rliberni).

So what do students actually think? Surely that’s the most important question! They begin by resisting but then only want to be taught online (Marisa_C). It’s not easy to help people over their initial resistance but once they get hooked they’re fine (Englishonthenet). I worked with older and younger students some hi-tech and some low-tech who couldn’t figure out chatting (ShellTerrell). It’s not plain sailing.

But let’s imagine we’ve got the students there. Are all out problems solved? Don’t you believe it! Another problem is getting students to commit regularly to attending courses and finishing assignments (ShellTerrell). Online students seem to cancel more easily – you need to be flexible as a trainer (Englishonthenet). So, to combat this, lots of email nudging, reminders, blogs, webinars etc, keep your learners lives in mind and help them not fail (Boyledsweetie). It’s hard work to prepare, a lot of time checking messages, attendance etc and the students got demotivated unless they join chats (fionamau). And what about money? Another problem is getting students to pay – some think everything on the internet should be free (hollysuel).

Anyway, we’re off and running. What should we be aiming to do to make it a successful course? Having students get to know each other is great for building a community! What’s your favorite intro online activity? (ShellTerrell). You can make use of your location. A fabulous intro – View from my window – show a picture of your view, and invite students to do the same (janetbianchini). It naturally follows to get your students to create a photopeach slideshow of their country.  First show them yours and then they do one. It’s great (janetbianchini). A similar activity is to have the students upload a favorite picture and talk about it (hollysuel). And then there’s the dogme activity “Story of my name” (tarabenwell). And another getting-to-know-you activity, the 30 song challenge:

In fact, everyone being in different locations can have its own advantages: a bird flew in through my window the other night whilst I was on camera. A chat box of hilarious comments kept us all laughing for 10 minutes (boyledsweetie).

So, an ocean of opportunities, it seems. And thanks to this wonderful PLN and forums like ELTchat, the friendship and support to help us navigate.

“Never before in history has innovation offered promise
of so much to so many in so short a time.”
Bill Gates

Guest Post by Magpie Moments

March 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here is my first guest post, by Anna of Magpie Moments, a wonderful new blog full of classroom experiences. She came across Language Garden, and then a day or so later in class, when writing on the board, the concept – removing redundancy – just clicked with her, and she started making language plants on the board. Well, you can imagine how impressed I was, and just last Monday, she used Language Garden interactive materials, which you can try yourself, by clicking on the links in the text. Here is how it went…

Well what a great addition to my collection. My first Language Garden lesson also happens to be the first session I’ve ever delivered 100% with ICT and nothing else. So… I was a little nervous on Monday morning as I’d deliberately not planned anything else so as not to have a get out clause!

However, I didn’t need to worry… the students loved the session. I chose to do a poem from the Language Garden called The Village Elders.

Lots of my learners are Pakistani and many of them come from villages so I thought this session would interest them.  The great thing about the site is that there are loads of different activities, lead ins and ideas for how to approach the material  and you can just pick and choose how much or little you want to use it.
We started with a chat about bravery and what that means… some difference of opinion here but ended up with a definition that incorporated warriors as well as ESOL learners choosing to join a class for the first time!

We then did Branches, listening to the text while they watched the language plant unfold. They were slightly confused at first but soon got into it! We listened a few times per verse. The other lovely thing about this is that you can click on the leaves for key vocab and a picture appears.

So it was great to elicit meanings from them but also be able to show them the image at the end. A big sigh of relief especially from the lower level learners to have it so clearly displayed.

It was also really nice for my Eastern European learners as they have been struggling with some of the listening tasks we’ve done previously. Being able to watch the text literally grow before their eyes really helped them I think.
Once we’d done all three verses I split them into groups and they tried to remember as much about the three different men as they could. Kind of like a dictogloss but I didn’t follow it through to the stage of them reproducing the text themselves.  What was interesting was how much they could remember of the text and how distinct in their minds the three different characters were.

We then had a go at Puzzle which totally freaked them out at first… but I asked them to think about it quietly for a few minutes and gradually they started to make (accurate) suggestions of where the words should go. They were coming up to the board and showing me where to place the words. (Made me think how nice it would be to have a smartboard in there) 15 minutes later and between them they had done it! They were so pleased with themselves it was great 🙂

Another activity we had a go at was Paint Words, painting parts of speech. They don’t actually need to know adjs and nouns this level but they caught on really quite quickly. So quickly in fact that I’m going to do a follow up session on adjectives next session. It’s amazing (and quite scary) how my conception of level puts a limit on the language I allow them to explore.

Finally they produced some descriptions of their own using the “New Topic” as a guide. I think I could have done more with this. However, for this session it was more than enough!

Their feedback on the session was that it was “hard but good”…'”challenging” another said…”like life is a challenge” said another. My feedback is it was nice as a change to have a whole lesson there and ready. I felt like there was a lot more I could have done with it myself in terms of adaptation but haven’t quite managed to come up with what yet.

What’s really exciting is that apparently there will soon be a plant maker available free for teachers to use to create their own online plants. I think it might well become the new Wordle.  I’m very much looking forward to playing with it and have loved playing around with the already existing, extensive and exciting lessons on this website.

Thanks again to David for letting me explore the site 🙂 … and thank you Anna, for writing so passionately.

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