Monday, October 15, 2012

How to teach reading skills to children with the free online books

In my previous post I promised I would come back with a few ways of how you could use the free online books from OUP, originally available to help English children develop reading skills, in your EFL classes. I found that these stories are perfect for children learning the language for the reasons I had already listed and would be a shame not to make use of them, especially in a world where more and more schools have online access. Yes, in order to be able to use these in your lessons you will need online access, a computer and a projector. If you don't, I will discuss how it could be used by children on their own at their leisure in the second part of this post.
A great plus for using these stories, is that as long as you remember the generic staging, which you'll read about below, this lesson does not require any preparation allowing you to tune in with the children and the story they choose.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Free fun reading for the primary classroom

It all started with my obsession of Oxfam second-hand bookshops, especially the one in Oxford, where I've been twice - I mean both to Oxford and to this bookshop - and both ventures had brought some great successes.

Oxfam Bookshop, St Giles, Oxford

My first noteworthy acquisition was the book called Hey World, Here I Am! by Jean Little, OUP and this wonderful collection of poems has been a big hit with my (pre)-teen classes ever since. See here an example lesson plan I wrote around one of the poems.
This summer's visit to the same bookshop  led to further accomplishments. Books that may very well be in the "nothing special" or "so, what" category for my native-speaker colleagues, especially for those, who have kids, but new and exciting to me and my kids. These are books from the Oxford Reading Tree Series, stories that have everything a good story needs for this age-group, ie 4-10, offering 
  • value for the kids, they can relate to the content easily
  • fun
  • opportunities to interact with the story-line, the characters
  • repetition of some useful chunks
  • authentic language
  • visual support, enough to be able to work out meaning from visuals
  • avoidance of story-line led purely by language  - ie built around certain grammatical structures or vocabulary
  • somewhat graded language for them to be able to analyse language and work out the meaning of some of the sentences, chunks or words
  • freedom to read and listen at the same time, doing this as many times they want (they control the pace of listening too)
  • plenty of opportunity to notice pronunciation features
  • great stories to read in general 
and soooo really help kids in the process of appreciating reading in English, with this providing excellent opportunities for natural language acquisition.

Anyway, further proof for how great these stories are is the reaction of my kids, who keep reading the printed ones I had bought in Oxford again and again,
  • first just by going through the pictures and telling me all about it, how funny it was and some of the characters they thought could be drawn with a bit more care :-). 
  • Then next day they picked them up again, read them silently on their own, looking at the pages more carefully, possibly trying to make sense of the sentences together with the pictures. 
  • And then for the third time, they asked me if I wanted to listen to them read out-loud. Now that made me a proud parent-teacher :-).
Seeing their enthusiasm I went onto the website recommended at the end of these books to find an amazing collection of free eBooks for different age-groups. Oh my oh my! Not only there were zillions of great stories, but they also had interactive activities that accompanied them. True, with some of these I did need to turn into a teacher-mummy, but the thing is that they would not come off it. They just read and listened story after story and did the games, which they found a lot of fun.

So here's how you can access them easily:

I really wish these books were explicitly made available for EFL teachers and learners too and we could make full use of them, not only if someone happens to stumble upon them.

Anyhow, I did become extremely excited about it and decided to share it with you. There are so many things you can do with these free eBooks in the primary EFL classroom! I should certainly do a workshop on it soon :), though I'm pretty sure you would have loads of ideas too. Have fun using them!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Making the most out of technology

In May, 2012 I was lucky enough to be able to attend and do a workshop at the IATEFL Teacher Develpoment and Learning Technologies SIG conference. This was my first time in Istanbul and first time in Turkey and I had a phenomenal time. I've been to lots of inspiring talks and workshops, which gave me things to think about for another 6 months, I guess.
The additional personal adventures made this trip even more memorable. But these happenings would deserve a separate post, so I'm not going to go into details of it for now. Just as a prediction activity, I'll give you some key words to try and guess what might have happened: fire, no car, passport, mobile, taxi-driver, bird poop, pouring rain.

The aim of this post, however, is different. Lots of people approached me after my workshop asking me for its details, so I thought it would be easier  to share the slides and the handout  in downloadable format, and a screencast talk-through of the workshop slides, so that any of you could re-do it for the teachers/trainers in your own contexts. Feel free to tweak it as you feel it would suit your style and audience best. Another thing to remember is that doing the tasks on the slides as they are at the moment in detail would require a 90 minute workshop. If you have less time, you might want to shorten it by cutting out some of the tasks, but keeping the variety of focuses and aims. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Teaching Very Young Learners Course

I am very excited about the opportunity to be developing and then running a teacher training course on teaching Very Young Learners for International House Budapest from May, 2012.

I have taught little ones, including my own kids, for so many years and I've learnt so much from it. I know that a lot of people argue against the effectiveness of teaching foreign languages at this age. However, from my own experience of growing up in a bilingual environment - which I know is different from having classes in the foreign language once or maybe twice a week, but still presents similar traces of the type of skills being developed during this process - and my own teaching experience prove all the positive results that such a second language environment can have.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

8 ways of using Jing with your students

I have been inspired to write this post after I won the scholarship announced by Russell Stannard winning USD 600 to help me attend the IATEFL Glasgow conference. The task was to send in details of a lesson in which Jing is used.

When I saw the requirements of the scholarship I felt my hands tied as wasn't sure which idea to send in as I had been using Jing for so many different purposes. So in this post I will list some of the ways I have been using this wonderful tool, including the idea that I won the scholarship with.

The Jing-lesson that won the Teacher Training Videos scholarship

I was very happy to find out that one of my lesson ideas I have used with my pre-intermediate teen class has helped me win the Teacher Training Videos Scholarship to attend the IATEFL Glasgow conference. I'd like to share it with you hoping that Jing will inspire you just as much as it has inspired me.

So here's what I sent in:
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