Friday, 29 July 2011

Twitter mania: why join the craze!

When I talk to other teachers and teacher trainees about how I think they should get a Twitter account, I can see that most of them have more or less the same ideas about it:

It’s difficult!
Actually it isn’t! Once you get the basics, you realize it all comes down to choosing whose ideas you’d like to read and which things you find interesting enough to share with your followers! Of course there are a couple of Twitter-specific tools and it has its own language (follow, RT, # and other terms), but they are actually quite simple once you get used to them. Here’s a very good  introduction (which I got from TW, of course =)

It’s overwhelming!
I have to agree here. It’s overwhelming, especially at the beginning. There’s so much going on on Twitter! So many interesting people, so many resources shared, so many webinars and chats offered. You have to choose! There’s no way you can profit from it all. So choose!

I can’t see how it helps profession-wise!
It depends on who you follow really. We are dealing with social media here, so the social part is really important. But the treasure of Twitter lies in the fact that you get to interact, share ideas, help and being helped by like-minded professionals around the world, people you would never have access to otherwise!

I’ve only been on Twitter for some months now and, I must admit, I’m more of a lurker for the time being, although I’m gradually starting to take part in conversations, discussions and the like. However, I feel Twitter has started to change my career! I learnt so many new things, tried so many new tools, read so many thought-provoking discussions and reflections! Here are some examples of the things I learnt in the last couple of weeks only:

@edutopia compiled this great list of online tools and resources that kept me busy for some days.

@Onestopenglish provided a link to an archive of free online games and activities for different levels.

@SimpleK12 offered several webinar sessions on great tools to integrate technology to the classroom.

@TeachingEnglish provided a link to a range of free ELT publications by the British Council.

@The ConsultantsE tweeted an amazing list of TED talks categorized by speaker, title and summary.

I read a fabulous presentation posted by @tombarrett: "37 ways to use Search Engines in the Classroom"

Thanks to @harrisonmike I got to know that many of the IATEFL BESIG presentations had been uploaded here

And the list goes on!
Twitter can totally transform your professional life!

Comments on your Twitter experience most welcome!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The magic power of sounds

I thought of two different titles for this post: "The magic power of sounds" was one of them; the other was "Too bad we teach our kids to write in a foreign language too soon". I decided to go with the optimistic one.

My five-year-old daughter has been exposed to some English at kindergarten for a couple of years (she’s at “preescolar” now, her last year before primary school first grade). She’s starting to learn how to read and write in Spanish, so my house is full of sticky notes of different colours here and there with words and numbers on them. In her English lessons, they speak and sing songs and recite short poems. They don’t read or write any English yet.

Yesterday, she gave me a present: a small paper with the names of an English family (which they had mentioned at school). The names she had written were MAM, TAT, TOM and LITTU BABY. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that TAT was actually DAD and LITTU meant LITTLE. I thought "wow, this is interesting!"

Our /d/ sound in Spanish is not plosive. In fact, it’s much more similar to the sound in they than to the sound in day in most contexts. So what seemed obvious was that she was perceiving an extra force in the sound in dad, different from Spanish d, which she could only accomodate as a t. Along the same lines, she quite evidently hears some kind of dark l in little, which she interprets as a u. This is great! She’s acquiring sounds!

Trust me: next year, when she starts writing in English, she will say thad (for dad) and litel (for little).

A pity, isn’t it?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Comics are fun! But are they a useful resource in the EFL class?

I was talking to a colleague some days ago about the fact that most of my adult students don’t seem to be interested in writing (I must say secretaries are the exception!) and how they keep saying that “they only want to speak”. The ideal class includes as little grammar as possible and writing is confined to homework (which many times they don’t do). My friend then said: “Have you tried comic strips?” “Well no, I’ve never been the comics type (as a learner or reader). And... for adults?” But she was pretty convinced that they are an effective way of working on visual storytelling, so I set out to test her hypothesis (rather skeptically I must say =). These are my results!

The first step was to learn how to create a comic strip myself, so I needed to become familiar with a couple of sites offering easy and quick ways of making your own cartoons. I started my tour at Toonlet. My 9-year-old daughter was with me and she wanted to try. The result was amazing! In minutes she came up with this beautiful strip in English (she is a Spanish speaker, she learns English at school).

I felt like trying with my adult students now! We'd been working on the language of meetings and one of the topics we'd dealt with was interrupting, so I thought the topic was appropriate and making a comic might be a fun way of practising it. And it was! They had a good laugh and revised the relevant vocabulary and phrases while doing some writing as well. This is one of the cartoons they created:

Loved it!
So my conclusion so far seems to be that comic strips are a very interesting resource to:

  • Use language when the linguistic resources are limited (even beginner students can write a comic, as language displayed can be very simple).
  • Work on dialogues and reflect on the specific properties of oral speech while writing at the same time.
  • Reflect on values such as responsibility, politeness, etc.

Other sites to visit:

This tool is intended for students from kindergarten to high school. It is very easy to use, and you get access to a printable PDF to draft and revise your work before creating and printing the final strip.

Students can create a comic strip or book using Marvel's super heroes and villains.

Students can build a comic using their own webcam pictures. There's also a tool to turn the contents of any webpage into a comic.

Create a comic with famous characters and lots of different scenes and text bubbles.

Great fun for fans of Garfield!


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Fun with words Part II

I came across some fab sites since I wrote my post on word clouds a couple of months ago and, as I'm both a vocabulary fan and a compulsive sharer ;) here they are! Definetely worth a look!

Just copy or paste text and you'll get great clouds.

Make your clouds and then change them by changing the visualization criteria.

Very easy to make clouds with gorgeous forms.

Very easy to use, you just copy and paste to visualize in different fonts and colours.

You introduce a term and get definition, usage and related words.

This is a search engine that shows results in the form of a cloud. Also check out Quintura kids

Have fun!