Friday, 30 November 2012

Qwerty in the English Language Classroom - why practise writing skills online?

In my earlier post on writing, which looked at the reasons for and against using class time for writing assignments, I focused almost entirely on traditional pen-and-paper writing.  I'd like in this post to look more at reasons for using ICT-based activities for writing skills, and suggest some activities that could work on a VLE such as Nfomedia (which is free!).

So, why are ICT tools and online writing good for students?

1.  ICT-based reasons.

  • Students need to be familiar with basic internet tasks in English – logging in and out, completing web forms, reading and replying to short messages, and using web etiquette.  (OK, so most students will already be extremely familiar with this, but by no means all!)
  • The configuration of UK keyboards is different – for example the @ key is in a different place from European keyboards.  And of course, many students will also be used to keyboard configurations for completely different alphabets.
  • If students aim to use their English in a professional environment, they are likely to be using a computer; hunt-and-peck typing is rarely going to be acceptable.
  • Many exams are now computer based, and this will become even more common in future.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Tired Lesson Topics - Part 3

So, we've jazzed up Family, Food, Daily Routines, Sport and Education with lesson ideas that are just a bit different, now it's the turn of Hobbies and Work - both yawn-inducingly familiar textbook topics, I'm sure you'll agree. So how can you teach them again without falling asleep? Read on for ideas.

1. Hobbies

  • Students use Etsy or Folksy to search for real examples of unusual craft items or hobbies.  It could be a competition to find the most unusual / beautiful / overpriced / pointless item possible, or they could try to 'sell' the item to another student using persuasive and descriptive language.  
  • Story-telling - students choose a hobby and tell a story where the hobby led to a disastrous result (such as loss of a relationship or home, illness, or even death) or to unexpected success (a scientific discovery, a successful career, a new relationship or your home becoming a tourist attraction, for example).  You could use dice as described in my first post to randomise some of the story elements.  Alternatively, Googling "my hobby led to" could provide some useful ideas for students to start with.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Writing in Class - a Waste of Time?

The class sits in silence, apart from the rustling of paper and the scratch of pens.  Meanwhile, the teacher stares off into space, completes her marking, surreptitiously checks her texts or reads the newspaper.  Through the walls drift the sounds of another class apparently having a lot more fun - they are watching a video, playing a raucous game, talking and laughing loudly...  Sound familiar?

Writing in class is a tricky area: some teachers swear by it, while others consider it to be a total waste of time  for all concerned.  Here are some of the most common arguments: