Singapore TESOL

Over the last weekend, I presented at the Singapore TESOL conference. The topic was one that is near and dear to my curriculum and material-development heart, making lessons meaningful for students from the beginning of the class. I basically just planned to share a few ideas I have picked up a long the way. We only got through a couple of the activities, but the educators in the session did share some good ideas on how to implement the activities I showed them in their own classrooms.

I am not always a ‘conference’ person, but I do find that often my passion levels are replenished after talking with other attendees at conferences. I had a good time chatting with everyone at the conference. Have a good end of the year!

PPT from the conference

Another poem for young learners, Pandas!

Well, as the longest vacation of career comes to a close, I thought I would try to get back in the groove of things by sharing another poem. This one gives students a chance to have some fun with the language and the topic of animals. It gives teachers a fun way to introduce tons of adjectives and everyday activities. To be clear, I have never used this in an elementary classroom, but I have used in teacher training courses. Teachers seem to like it. We’ll see just how much they like after they try to use it. Anyway, it’s always fun to come up with these silly little things. And as always, drawings are done by my wife. Enjoy and have a good April!

pdf versions of below images 

PandasPandas follow-up

Fall 2014 Reflections, Part 2

As mentioned in the previous post on the good and the bad in the lessons I taught, I wanted to share some of the materials that teachers were interested in during the semester. Most teachers that come through our training program  are very keen on improving their material development skills. Below are the PowerPoint template that teachers were most interested in learning (or just getting from me) and a list of fonts that I used throughout the semester in different documents and classroom materials.

Most popular PowerPoint

Here is a quick YouTube video of the slideshow. The file is a bit too large to share here. So if anyone is interested in getting this, comment or find me on Twitter (@esltasks).

This specific slideshow was created to lead a discussion in using poems and chants in the classroom. There are also several examples of how to use poems and chants as well as activities for participants. But in the video, I just recorded a few slides so people could see the primary feature that made this template popular.


Most Asked About Fonts


Fall 2014 Classroom Reflections, Part 1

Well, hello there strangers. I took this semester (actually not over until next week for me) off from the blog to focus on a couple other things. To make up for lost time, I will share a few bits and pieces from the previous semester over a couple of weeks. I tried to be objective about these and look at everything from my own perspective and the students’ perspectives. Hopefully they will be fairly useful for the few people that still visit my blog. My students are public school teachers in Korea.

I will just kick this off with the typical semester-end reflection, the good and bad of lessons.

The Most Well-Received Lesson

This was a simple reflection activity that we did when talking about how public school teachers in Korea can adjust task-based teaching (TBT) to their own situations. We had covered the main points for the 3 general stages of task-based lessons along with examples, but I have found that teachers often are less familiar with TBT or have a preconceived notion, pessimistic or optimistic, of TBT. So here is the simple procedure we followed:

Class period #1

Reflection Question

  1. In groups of 6, teachers discuss aspects of TBT that they are still unsure of or want to know more about.
  2. Based on this discussion, each teacher chooses one question to write on their Reflection Question slip (above pic). They write only their name and question. They do not write the answers.
  3. 2 groups exchange their questions. They discuss the other group’s questions and try to jot down the best answers they can create to the questions.
  4. Groups return the questions to the group that wrote them. Groups read over the answers they received from the other group and discuss them..
  5. As a class discuss their answers and what is still unclear or unanswered.

Class period #2

This just takes lots of prep on the trainers part, especially if the classes are back-to-back days, but it is usually worth it. I simply read through the questions and answers. I sorted them by topic and then created a (Halloween-themed) PowerPoint (PPT) to review and add my own explanations where I thought it was necessary. I provided information from previous class periods that we had covered, information from sources we did not use in the past, and examples of concepts.

I conducted the class as a informal workshop encouraging teachers to interrupt and ask questions and discuss. At the end of the class, the class basically agreed that is was the most helpful class we had together in terms of teaching concepts and ideas.

* This PPT has more words in it than I typically would use, but I felt like it was needed for this day. 

The Couldn’t-have-ended-soon-enough Lesson

We all have these lessons from time to time. Hopefully they are far and few between. And sometimes it’s a case of a lesson that has worked really well in the past, but bombs in another class. And this is the case here. FYI, all the steps are written in the PowerPoint as well.

  1. Display the metaphors from the above video before watching them. Ask the students to guess their meanings. (PowerPoint)
  2. Watch the video. After watching the video, complete the word chart with different words. It is probably best to do this as a whole-class activity.
  3. Show the ‘equations’ for creating metaphors. Do one or two using words from the class-created chart as well.
  4. In groups, students chose words from each category and write them on the respective colored note card.
  5. Collect the cards keeping the colors separated. Make a stack for each color. Each group randomly selects a card or each color. They use those words to create a metaphor and explain the meaning. be sure to leave the ‘equations’ displayed while they are doing this.

What were the problems?

I attribute the lack of success to a few things. But the primary culprit was how I presented the task. It went so well the previous time I used it that I thought I could coast this time as the teachers worked through everything on their own. But that was not the case. I should have been more involved in the chart task in step 2 and providing sample metaphors to get them started with clear goals.


The I-wish-it-didn’t-have-to-end lesson plan

This one I got from a book called Grammar Games by Mario Rinvolucri. In the original activity, students write one sentence about an event from their lives on 10 different post-its or cards. They include the month and year on the card as well. In the following class, correct any errors in their sentences. Then put the students in groups of 3. They create a game board by placing their life events in chronological order. From there, it is just a regular roll-the-dice game. Students take turns rolling the dice and moving along the life-event path. For each event that a player game piece stops on, the student who wrote the sentence explains the event in a bit more detail. You can set a time limit of 1 minute for life-event descriptions. That way all the groups are moving along together.

I tried to squeeze all this into a 50-minute class. Mistake. I would have carried it over to the next class, but the next class was 3 days away. The steam would have gone out of the sails by that point and we were crunched for time due to other things going on with the program. So 2 class periods really is the best way to go with this. I would also spend a bit more time helping students design their game board, the layout and decorations. Nonetheless, it was fun for them and fun to listen to their stories.



Next blog:

  • Most Popular PowerPoint Template 
  • Most Asked About Fonts