Tuesday, 31 January 2012

the classroom as film set: encouraging student self-reflection

Filming students roleplaying restaurant scenes tonight demonstrated to me forcefully the power of the medium in getting students to give self-feedback and reflect on their own performance.

Students had named their own restaurant, designed menus, come up with dialogues, and then went on to adlib new restaurant scenes, playing the customers in each other's restaurants.

Once this was finished, we sat down to watch all the short movies I'd taped on my ordinary little digital camera. The sound could have done with some improving; unfortunately there was quite a lot of background noise to contend with. In the future I'll have to stand a lot closer to be sure to pick up the softer spoken students.

But even with the at times difficult to hear soundtrack,  the replaying of the films turned out to be the highlight and the pivotal moment of a fun, dynamic class.

I didn't even have to open my mouth; on watching each skit, students instantly started correcting their own errors, noticing where they could have and perhaps should have spoken more politely, correcting pronunciation and requesting clarifications for where they had doubts.

Interestingly, each student seemed to be critical only of him- or herself; indeed, I would say, seemed to have only eyes and ears for him and her-self; I suppose they have all had ample opportunity to observe their classmates in action, but the opportunity to observe *themselves* is relatively scarce and fascinating, deeply useful, albeit also a little horrifying.

We all enjoyed a very valueable and enthusiastic student-led feedback and error correction session, perhaps one of the best I've ever 'hosted'.

I'm going to have to invest in a better camera!

Monday, 23 January 2012


Here is an example of a very simple warm-up, which also revises vocabulary items worked with in a previous class.

In this case, the vocabulary was from a TOEIC preparation class. 

Toeic Wordlist Startup Questions
Students individually or in pairs complete the sentences. You need to explain they may need to adjust the tense any verbs are in to fit the context.

They then stand and circulate and ask and answer questions of each other.

Finally you can have them report on the most interesting answer. 

(5 per sheet to save paper!)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

My Top Three Listening Practice Sites for English Learners

#3 Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab excellent listening exercises of many different types, at different levels of difficulty. Pre-listening and Post-listening exercises are included. pronunciation and vocabulary lessons also provided.

#2 Voice of America Learning English a bonanza of listening resources!

#1 English Listening Lesson Library Online : Learn English Naturally!
It offers a HUGE range of interesting listening exercises. You can turn on and off text as you listen, you can do multimedia slide quizes, play games, listen to songs and news reports, one on one discussions of an variety of interesting topics, video lessons, and in my favourite - the MIXER section -you can hear the same topic discussed by 6 different people from different nationalities with different accents, and then follow up with vocabulary and comprehension exercises.

I rate this number 1 not only for the huge variety of resources available and constantly being extended,   but also because the site is interesting enough even a native English speaker engaged and entertained.