Archive for the “Teachniques” Category
|Ever since the invention of the Rosetta Stone software, teachers have been trying to adapt and create software to encourage language learners everywhere through PC technology. Vocaboly.com is one such vocabulary builder program that helps learners master the more tedious aspects of vocabulary practice. One of the things I have noticed amongst especially young learners is how words are quickly understood, absorbed and forgotten! Among older students retention is often better, but usage is still an issue as students struggle with many aspects of vocabulary: shades of meaning, similar words of different meanings, etc..
Can Vocaboly’s vocabulary software help reinforce this? Well, I decided to give it a try and download the trial software. It installed and removed easily enough, and the trial software worked well enough on install, not crashing the machine. Once setup and running (neither process was difficult), we entered the exercises and could choose between the different grades of vocabulary (TOEFL, GMAT, SAT, GRE) and away we went. There were a number of ways to learn, review and practice words that had made your hit list of words (in the flashcard section at the bottom of the screen). Take a look yourself:
There’s the word ticker which scrolls past each word you want to remember, recall mode allows you to practice remembering, and spelling mode that allows you to practice spelling some of your words. There are also numerous ways to tweak the settings, add words to lists, and a couple of test modes. So for the avid student who likes to acqiore and recall words in this fashion, this could be a valuable and effective way to combine learning and review. There are some additional books of words and tests available from the website, as well as additional support and software, including speech engines (did I say that the whole software is accompanied with Text-2-Voice capability giving students ample opportunity to hear words spoken clearly?).
There were two limitations that may give some teachers pause before recommending this software, especially if you’re teaching outside the US or in a non-US system.
1. a focus on US english at academic levels, there were no mentions of vocabulary focused towards any of the rest (and large population) of the English speaking academic system; so for students entering a US institution, these tests would be fine. If, though, you were teaching students headed to any of the other English speaking countries, you’d be out of luck. There is no mention of IELTS at all anywhere, nor indeed any other English proficiency exam common in those parts of the world. A word to the writers of this software: version 3 – make it deal with non-U.S. English (of which there at least one hundred million of us!).
2. there are actually no contexts for any of the vocabulary items. For example, if you look up ‘abdicate’, the meaning is clearly and concisely given, and a partial example is given. However, there is no complete sentence to highlight how the word would actually be used. It’s a pity: students learning a new word would love to see that. Providing a sample text and/or reading passage would be a good way to site these words in context and make retention easier. For a teacher using this software, you would need to supplement vocabulary practice with more traditional vocabulary books, lots of quality reading and a good dictionary, too. But then, that goes without saying.
If you have students who need additional supplementary vocabulary practice before heading to a US college for higher education, then this package seems affordable and good value. Combined with additional online support, it represents great value at $39.99 especially when you consider that there are more than 12,000 words, each with meaning, phonetic symbol and pronunciation included in the database, and email support and lifetime upgrades are all included! At the very least, it’s easy to try out by downloading the trial and installing it. Unlike most trialware, it’s not cripple-ware so teachers and students should find plenty to be able to evaluate it before buying!
No Comments »
A presentation by our students who wrote the script, directed the show, and made the set!
[flashvideo filename=http://www.nozkidz.com/wp-content/movies/BobandPig2.flv autostart="false" height="360" width="480" /]
This was based on an item in our course text book, New Parade, the City Mouse and Country Mouse is a very traditional story that was taught originally in book 2. However, in Book 4 of Parade, students come back to the theme of story telling and put together their own version.
The brainstorming, writing, editing and production of the work was all done by the students with occasional input from the teachers. It took them quite a few weeks of work to put the show together.
But it shows what can be done with the right instruction, a little space, and lots of time!
No Comments »
Word Searches are a popular form of entertainment in Britain for adults. It’s pretty easy to use more limited vocabulary sets and create searches for ESL and EFL students.
But there’s a quicker way. With PuzzleMaker online.
So create your wordlist. Then you can go to the Puzzlemaker Website and paste your list.
The instructions are pretty clear on the page itself. But what I typically do with the results is paste them into a table in Word and create a complete worksheet itself. Once you make up the standard block in Word, it’s pretty easy to copy and paste the results into it.
I’ve included a sample Word Search created with this tool as a PDF http://www.hkjtefl.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/wordsearchfoodsweeat.pdf .
No Comments »
Planning compositions can often lead to frustrations in students, as one commenter noted: Loretta wrote on Forumosa’s Teaching Board (can’t find the exact reference)…
Taking the ideas and organizing them into a list that becomes the outline of the composition is waaay too hard. It’s far easier to just start writing and then make a list later to show teacher. They’re just going through the motions without really recognizing the importance of it.
They seem to think that planning is a waste of time. The process of getting their ideas together takes so long that they don’t have time to write the composition, so they think it’s better just to start writing. Given say 40 minutes they’ll spend 30 struggling to decide what to say, and when they start writing they stop looking at the plan anyway.
The usual result is garbage.
We’ve done a lot of exercises to help them think of things to say about unfamiliar topics, and they’re better at that now. But the structured presentation of those ideas is another story.
I used to teach a lot of writing classes. Some observations….
1. break the process of writing into different stages (as you have done)…
2. increase the amount of peer review that the writers have to do…
3. encourage your ‘writers’ to evaluate each other’s writing…
4. don’t despair at their writing… they have to write the crap first before they have any chance of writing something decent…
5. try freewriting as an alternative writing task… I always made my students do this, hah!
6. increase students’ actual READING, not just MODELS. A good writer is always a good reader. Most students don’t read enough of the language to get to the subtleties. They need to read a variety of English to understand the textures of English, not just their own ESP variety. That usually leads to a lopsided English ability.
7. don’t forget to see writing as a holistic part of the activity of learning English, not just for passing an exam…
8. set criteria if you can’t find any… and be prepared to score toughly. Fail a few papers, too. Don’t be generous with your marking. They won’t get any favors from the examiners…
9. GEPT writing guidelines are available in Chinese of course! in the exam pack available from GEPT organization for about $200. This includes a model exam. What level are they?
10. most Chinese think good writing means flowery words/sentences with little or no organization, copied phrases/idioms/etc., lots of “Frankly speaking,/etc…” crap, and homily kind of treatments of topics. Yuck! The only answer is a big RED PEN to most of this.
11. We are teaching a VALUE system when it comes to the general Academic writing that is expected in TOEFL/GEPT. Our values are clarity, organization and content. A good turn of phrase helps a great deal! But it won’t get you past an exam.
12. Don’t forget to mold their expectations of how much they can achieve. It took my class 60 hours to grasp the basics over a year. But they usually improved. You might be able to do this in 40 hours or so. But there aren’t any ‘short cuts’.
13. You can offer lots of tips however. BUT students who don’t want to do the writing (that means Homework, too) won’t really make sufficient improvement to pass.
What other tips do readers having for teaching writing? Have you had any notable successes or failures?