22.11.20

Quick Video Activities for engaging online lessons: Part 2











Do classrooms need to be isolated from the real world? Real life incidents and current affairs  often lend themselves for heated debate in the classroom and can stimulate interest in classes that have long given up trying.

This set of activities aims to help learners (B1-C2 CEFR levels) develop :
1. speaking and writing skills
2. reading and listening skills 
3. critical and creative thinking skills
4. environmental awareness

"Should this ad be banned?"

Watch the video with your learner. Explain that " Rang-tan" is short for orangutan.  Pause to elicit  how the girl feels. Ask students why they think the orangutan is in the girl's bedroom and where they normally live.  





Disclaimer: The resources on this post are mentioned for educational purposes only. The author of the post does not own or claim the copyright. 

Explain that department stores and super markets in the U.K. usually choose to convey a message that raises social awareness in their Christmas commercials. This advertisement was adopted by a chain of super markets ("Iceland") in the U.K. but it was not allowed to be broadcast on the mass media. This raised controversy and became widely known as "Iceland's banned ad". Ask learners to think of the reasons why this happened. 

Follow up tasks

1. Read the article on the TV advert below and voice your opinion on a FlipGrid board (B2-C2 CEFR levels)
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/nov/09/iceland-christmas-tv-ad-banned-political-greenpeace-orangutan
  • Defend Iceland's decision 
  • Defend the decision not to broadcast it
2. Watch one or more of the following videos, take notes and present the main points in class. 

3.(B1 CEFR level) Write down the poem and find the rhyme.  Invite them to write their own poem about wildlife and why we should protect it. 
4. Create an ad or commercial to raise public awareness on an environmental issue. 

In a Flipped classroom context, you can open a class OneNote (online notebook), post the video there and invite learners to watch it before joining the online class. 
You can ask them to:
1. Reflect on their personal page, writing their reaction and thoughts on the issue. 
2. Find information on the issue and prepare a short presentation for next lesson.
3. Create a poster with facts about palm plantations to raise awareness. 
4. Divide them into two groups: Environmentalists and palm farmers. Ask them to write short articles on the issue from their point of view. 
5. Invite a group of learners to take part in a live debate during the online lesson. The rest of the class can complete a survey on Forms  voting in facour of  the most persuasive speakers. 

Hope you enjoy the activities with your online classes!
Dimitris Primalis


15.11.20

Quick video activities for engaging online lessons

 



Online lessons can be challenging for teachers and students alike. Fatigue caused by extended exposure on the screen, and social distancing can make even the most efficiently designed lesson plan fail. Short activities that engage learners can offer an opportunity to spark interest and promote interaction in an online class. 

This blog post, the first in a series,  aims to offer  activities and ideas to the teacher of English as a Foreign Language  who is often overwhelmed by the workload of teaching online.


A millenial job interview


Disclaimer: The resources on this post are mentioned for educational purposes only. The author of the post does not own or claim the copyright. 

The following  set of  activities is based on the above video. They aim to help learners (B1-C1 CEFR level):

- Recycle or enrich vocabulary-related to personality and employment

- Practice speaking, listening and writing (through follow-up activities)

- Develop critical thinking skills

- Practice looking up word in online dictionaries

You can select which one(s) you should focus on, depending on the needs of your classes.

Pre-watching   

1.Ask learners to think of the necessary qualities for an applicant in the 21st century. Ask them to write up to 5 words on www.menti.com (www.mentimeter.com is a webtool that allows learners to form a word cloud with their input).

2. Share on screen the video and point to the title. Elicit the meaning of the word “millennial”. If they do not know it, ask learners to search the meaning in an online dictionary and write it in the chat box. Make it sound like a competition.

Tip 1: Praise the student who has found it first.  

Tip 2 :  Give them a tight  time limit. In this way, they will not have time to browse aimlessly on the internet.)

Tip 3: You may need to explain the word HR (Human Resources) and its function in a company.

2. Divide the online class into two or three groups (depending on the number of students). Ask group A to watch the video and observe the body language of the candidate. Group B to observe the register and degree of formality the candidate uses. Group C to write down the qualifications and the skills of the candidate.

While watching

Pause the video frequently and elicit from each group their views on body language, register and qualification. Ask the class prediction on whether, the candidate will be hired or not with a brief justification. With my students it worked well with the following pauses: 0:10, 0:24, 0:35, 01:25, 01:51.

Post watching

Invite learners to discuss one or some of the topics below:

- the reasons why the candidate was not hired

- what message the director of the video intended to convey

- how is technology involved in recruitment (see reading follow-up below)

- skills and qualifications required by firms

- what makes a successful job interview

- are employers biased when it comes to hiring millennials?


Follow-up tasks

Writing

Write a letter applying for the position

Write a blog post advising Amy (the unsuccessful candidate) how to do well at an interview

Speaking

Students can use  Flipgrid to create a video to apply for a position and explain why they are the ideal candidates. 

Reading

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201102-asynchronous-video-interviews-the-tools-you-need-to-succeed  Asynchronous video interviews

Closing Thoughts

All the above are mere suggestions on how you can exploit a video as a lead-in with your classes.  You know better the needs of your classes and how you  can adapt these activities to cater for the needs of your learners.

Enjoy the brilliant acting of the actors, the sense of humour, and the interaction this video will spark with your students. 

Dimitris Primalis







16.8.20

Insights and thoughts on the new academic year..

 

2020-21 Annus horribilis or mirabilis?

Insights and thoughts on the new academic year...

The new academic year is about to start and millions of educators around the globe wonder whether this is going to be a horrible (horribilis) or a miraculous (mirabilis) year for education. Noone can guarantee even the basics: whether lessons will be  online, hybrid or face to face. Yet, as educators, we need to ensure that learning takes places despite hindrances and unfavourable conditions. Can we turn these challenges to opportunities for our learners though, by making the most of what we learned from last years emergency teaching, and the current conditions and trends? 


"The changes which occurred in the educational process during the lockdown, no matter how unwillingly applied in lessons, may give a boost to education to move into the 21st century in terms of approach, methodology and tools."


First, let’s summarize some valuable insights we gained last year and we can apply this year:

·         Pedagogy precedes technology

Students were quick to praise the teachers whose online lessons had clear learning goals and scaffolded learning with the aid of technology. They were equally quick to dismiss teachers whose lessons used technology without a clear aim.

·         Plan sensibly and give feedback

On the first days of the lockdown, there was excessive homework and relatively little feedback. Now, we know that the amount of homework needs to be sensible and constructive feedback can help learners and motivate them.

·         Trust and support learners

During the lockdown, I was pleasantly surprised by  the progress and high levels of engagement of learners who previously were too timid or unwilling to participate in class activities. From the feedback that I later received from parents and learners, it turns out that students appreciate being trusted and given support by their teacher, especially under challenging circumstances.

·         Explore and exploit

 Teachers realized that they can adopt technology and master new techniques by introducing them  gradually into the class.They also discovered that taking a step at a time may be more successful than trying to immerse themselves into a new approach overnight.

·         Seek and provide peer support

Switching to new  practices like online teaching can be overwhelming. However, wherever educators shared ideas, experience and knowledge, the burden was lighter and support groups were d formed ad hoc that absorbed most of the pressure and anxiety. This can set an example for how future changes can be introduced successfully.

·         Maintain communication with all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers)

Direct communication helped to deal with problems on the spot. It also offered the opportunity to make learning goals more clear to parents and learners. In addition, it fought the stereotype that educators are aloof creatures living in their own ivory tower.

 

Here are some thoughts on how we can make the most of the existing opportunities.

·         Learners are familiar with technology

Our students are more than capable of coping with learning technology tools. What we need to clearly signpost is the rules of the game and define the lines that should not be crossed.

·         Parents have finally realized

The vast majority of the parents have realized that technology can be educational and can contribute to learning. This year they are highly unlikely to resist the use of educational technology. On the contrary, most of them expect to see a seamless integration of technology into the curriculum to the benefit of the learners. 

·         Customization to meet school and learner needs

Established IT companies as well as start-ups worked hard to customize products and services and meet the needs of education under lockdown conditions, based on the feedback they received from the educational community. Now, more than ever before, there is a wide range of affordable tools and apps to accommodate any need or learning goal!

·         Schools are more open to innovation and change

The recent crisis has made school leaders more aware of the need to embrace 21st century pedagogy and support it with tools and teacher training. Thus, they are more likely to listen carefully to fresh ideas and problem solving suggestions recommended by frontline teachers. 

  

Some final thoughts

Undoubtedly, this year is not going to be a rose garden with uncertainty hovering over the heads of educators and making planning a daunting task. Last year,those who hesitated or were not flexible enough to adapt their teaching practice and use new tools to reach their students were left aside and their image was tarnished.  On the contrary, the educators who dared managed to help their learners.Thanks to them the prestige of the educators in the community was reinstated and teachers are now seen as the ones who strive to facilitate learning.

 The changes which occurred in the educational process during the lockdown, no matter how unwillingly applied in lessons, may give a boost to education to move into the 21st century in terms of approach, methodology and tools. To a certain extent, we are the ones who will define this year as horribilis or mirabilis.  Let’s make the most of the positive aspects of the current trends, to the benefit of our learners!


22.3.20

Online Teaching: How to make your lesson more interactive

Online Teaching
How to make your lesson  more interactive



The “day after” is here and you have already started going online. It may not be as scary and fraught with technical problems as you thought it would be but still there is something missing… INTERACTION!

How can you overcome the feeling that you are glued in front of a monitor and you cannot mingle in class, you cannot hover or get a feeling of the class mood. Nothing can replace human contact but there are ways you can liven up your lesson  and keep attention span and interaction at high levels.

In this post, I will suggest three ways: web 2.0 tools, polls, and the chat box.

1.     Polls
Most platforms incorporate polls in their paid version. If you use a free version, create a poll using MS Forms or any other survey tool and share the link on the chat box. The poll could be on something related to the lesson e.g. "what kind of food do you prefer ?"(healthy/junk) for 4th graders who are being taught comparisons or current affairs issues that could spark discussion such as “Should a curfew be imposed in our city?” for advanced classes. Invite them to complete it and then share the result or even better, send the graphs to a couple of students and ask them to present the results in class next time.

2.     Use the chat box
You can easily invite students to share their reactions on the chat box (thumbs up or any other emoji, short replies). This will give them the feeling that they are actively involved and you will have a good picture of whether your virtual class is with you or they are simply surfing the social media with their mobile phones placed in front of the computer monitor. In addition, you can make the most of the one-to-one (private) chat to give personal feedback to your students, encourage them, or receive feedback on the quality of sound and video or even better asking for clarifications or asking questions that would hesitate to ask in plenary.

3.     Use Web 2.0 tools that require interaction with students
    There are many tools, most of them free. In this post I will give an example with two tools that most teachers are familiar with, Kahoot and Mentimeter. The first one allows you to do exercises with your students in an environment that resembles a quiz show and students can use their mobile phones as joy sticks to choose the correct answer. The second one allows students to form a word cloud or share their views online and in real time. Both tools have more features but for a start, you can try the ones I mentioned above and gradually incorporate the others (for teacher who have not used them before, you will find useful tips further below in the post).  How can you do it?
      
             With Mentimeter
-          Create a presentation before the lesson. Choose word cloud. Write the question you want your students to answer e.g. What are the benefits of online learning? Set the number of words you want your students to enter.
-          During the lesson, open the presentation and share your screen with your students. Every online platform has this function but you need to make sure you have found it before  the lesson.
-          Tell your students to follow the instructions on the mentimeter slide (it reads: “Go to www.menti.com “ and then it gives them the code to access it. )
-          Keep sharing your screen with your learners while they  enter their answers on their mobile phones. A word cloud is constantly changing shape while they enter their answers
-          When they have finished, use the input they have provided to make comments and spark discussion. Take into consideration that the bigger a word appears the more students have entered it onto the word cloud. So you can find which views are more common that others.

From my experience, students are thrilled with the outcome and they feel they have ownership of the word cloud which means that they are motivated to participate and contribute.

With Kahoot
-          Follow the same procedure as above. Create a game based on what you have      taught.
-          Share your screen and sound and invite them to use their mobile phones.
-      Praise the winners and all the contestants.

Tips
The teacher uses a different site to the one that students use. With Kahoot, it is www.create.kahoot .it  while students enter the pin on www.kahoot.it . With mentimeter, you create the presentation on www.mentimeter.com while the students enter their code and answers on www.menti.com. Both tools provide a new pin/code every time you use them. I have often made the mistake of giving my student an old pin/code on a slide. It works better if you project directly the tool on your screen and share it with your students.

More tips
If you avoid excessive use and you alternate them, they will spice up your lesson and give learners a sense of participation and engagement.  When you try them for the first time, don’t hesitate help from a student that is tech savvy and can be relied on. Make them co-hosts so that they can help if something goes wrong.

Enjoy the lesson!
Dimitris Primalis



12.3.20

Teaching online for the first time: 7 tips for those about to sail into uncharted waters


Teaching online for the first time

7 Tips for those about to sail into uncharted waters




Whether you regarded learning technology a blessing or anathema makes little or no difference now. Your students are at home and your mission is to help them keep learning at a turning point of the academic year. The following tips come from my experience using electronic platforms to train trainers and for webinars for EFL teachers who can be a demanding audience. I'd say as demanding as your class. Here are some tips that you may find helpful:

1. Explore, well in advance,  the potential of the platform. 
Find out how you can upload material, have camera and mic on and off, how you can switch slides and mute participants. These may sound easy or trivial but it can be quite hard to find out how to do it when you are on line and teaching.

2. Practice
Rehearse with peers or the school I.T. team. If something is to go wrong, it’d better go when rehearsing. It will also give you more confidence when you teach with real students.

3. Keep the audience involved
During the session, most students are likely to be in their pyjamas on the couch or chatting with their friends on the social media. Ask questions, incorporate polls and keep your Teacher Talking Time to the minimum. You may ask them from time to time to share emojis on the chat box to indicate reactions e.g. smiles or sad faces. I know it sounds challenging but you don’t want to end up lecturing to a virtual audience that simply is... not listening.

4. Keep an eye on the chat box
Some students may be tempted to use it like they do on the social media. Assign a task and while students are doing it, have a look at the long exchanges. If the platform accommodates chat rooms between learners, check them as well.

5.  Compatibility of material
Check the compatibility of your device with the platform. I have often found that my powerpoint slide can look distorted to such an extent that learners can not read them. If you are planning to show a video, make sure that you can upload it or that switching to a website to watch it can be seamless without glitches.

6. Give yourself space and avoid being “glued” in front of the camera.
Make sure that your chair is comfortable and that you have enough space to move naturally and gesture when you talk. It is also advisable to find a quiet room without distractions such as pets or members of the family walking behind you. Cats love walking on keyboards and mine once decided to be actively involved in a webinar...

7. Have a plan B
Technology can help you do wonderful activities with your learners but anything can go wrong. Have a back-up plan or activity in case something does not work.

Keep calm and confident. At the end of the session, you may discover that you actually enjoyed it.

Dimitris Primalis

5.11.19

CLIL reading texts are too long and difficult to deal with… What should I do?



My students complain that CLIL reading texts are too long and difficult to deal with… What should I do?

Unlike traditional EFL (English as a Foreign Language) texts, which are graded and fairly simple for lower level class, texts in CLIL books are usually long and more demanding in terms of vocabulary, structure and are usually different in terms of task types (e.g. students may have to complete a Venn diagram). These features may bring to surface complaints by students and parents and add further pressure to the educator.  How can you deal with it?

Make the most of the title and photos
Ask learners to anticipate the content from the title, subtitle, headings, photos, drawings or diagrams. Anything in linguistic or paralinguistic form that can help them form hypotheses and stimulate their curiosity. They can also act as a lead in for brainstorming and vocabulary recycling.

Activate their schematic knowledge (their knowledge of their world)
Make the most of their existing knowledge. If the text refers to music, play pieces of music and elicit vocabulary relevant to the topic. There are thousands of animated videos on YouTube that offer a simplified version of various topics ranging from global warming and environmental issues to purely technical issues such as wedges and bolts.

Set clear reading tasks
Be very clear about what you expect from learners. For instance, “read the text and find the main idea”. It is also worth pointing out that they do not need to know all the words

 Break down the text
Younger generations are used to shorter texts, thanks to the social media. A long text often seems to be a daunting task for kids or teenagers who usually deal with texts at sentence or paragraph levels.

Revisit the text the following day and assign different tasks
This will help learners build confidence as the text is already familiar and seems more manageable.

Create information gap activities
Some texts are written in such a way that allow for jigsaw reading. You can divide the class into two groups. Ask them to read different parts of the text and then work in pairs to bridge the information gap. This will motivate learners to find out more about the text and will also facilitate the development of speaking skills.

Spend time in class
Try to resist the temptation to assign reading for homework and work on other skills in class. Reading is a skill that requires you to invest time but there the return of investment is worth the effort and time.


Dimitris Primalis

18.10.19

I have no time in class for 21st Century skills… What should I do?






I have no time in class for 21st Century skills… What should I do?


A common misconception when it comes to helping learners develop the so called 21st Century skills – including creative and critical thinking, communication and collaboration- is that this puts strain on the syllabus and takes valuable class time from language activities. In fact, it is not a matter of finding extra time but how the lesson is planned and how some activities are designed. Here’s an example below:

The traditional way
Most coursebooks have stories. Usually students read the story and then discuss it with the teacher.

How can I tweak it?

Choose a secondary character or an inanimate object from the story. Invite students to discuss in pairs/groups how this character or object would narrate the story. Would it be the same or different? Then ask them to write a version of the story based on the point of view they discussed earlier.
Share the stories on the school blog and ask learners to write reviews on them, comparing them to the original story and highlighting strengths and weaknesses.

This will help learners develop not only their language skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) but also creative and critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills without devoting extra time for 21st Century skills.

How can I facilitate 21st Century skills development in class?
 From my experience, you can do it seamlessly by introducing and applying:

  • Pair and group work
  •  Wh- questions (what, why, how)
  •  Information gap activities
  •  Encouraging evaluation and feedback
  •  Challenging established ideas or routines
  • Personalizing content

I am sure you will discover more ways that work with your class. Looking forward to reading your experience and ideas.
Dimitris Primalis

Originally published on 17th October 2019 on Linkedin