Monthly Archives: March 2014

Recycling Activities: Checking without testing – #eltchinwag Summary – 10/03/2014

A #eltchinwag summary written by Victoria Buckley of Kaplan International English, Dublin.

Victoria is a New Yorker currently teaching with Kaplan International English in Dublin. She did a Masters in Irish Writing at Trinity College and fell in love with Ireland. Victoria adores education, advocates the positive use of Edtech and is currently building her PLN through Twitter, Facebook and any other way she can.

Victoria Buckley

Victoria is a New Yorker currently teaching with Kaplan International English in Dublin. She did a Masters in Irish Writing at Trinity College and fell in love with Ireland. Victoria adores education, advocates the positive use of Edtech and is currently building her PLN through Twitter, Facebook and any other way she can.

Another hot topic has hit the feed of the #eltchinwag Twitter world! As we all know, reinventing the wheel is a great accomplishment, but a challenge nonetheless. Since it’s a challenge we don’t always have time for, what with all the planning and searching for secondary sources, it would behoove us all to recycle the fantastic ideas our amazing colleagues have used once upon a time.

I’m sure hearing the teacher say “Test!” or “Pop Quiz!” is not the fondest memory we have when reminiscing about the golden rule days, but that was their way of making sure we understood the material. However, throwing exams and pop quizzes at ESL students isn’t exactly the best form of assessment. Instead, we assess their knowledge through games and activities in the classroom to promote a more engaging environment.

But what types of activities do our chinwaggers use?


@ChristineMulla kick started the conversation stating that, “body words [are] great fun”. “Group Ss, they take a letter each and compete in guessing game. Obv Ss need to trust each other though,” elaborated ChristineMulla who could not be more correct as trust is a very important element in certain activities.

McLaughlinLou chimed in with a great idea:

“Good option is to get sts involved in the making of cards for revision…they always remember their own designs.”

When asked to clarify, McLaughlinLou tweeted that “one st is the designated vocab notetaker for the lesson and at the end provides list for all sts”. Such a creative idea, which includes and engages students to the fullest while reducing teacher-talking time!

F-U-N in the classroom:       

As teachers, it’s always great to bring some F-U-N to the classroom whilst assessing the students’ knowledge of previously learned vocabulary. Normann2 agrees with the idea of fun in the classrooms as he enthusiastically suggested that we “Get ss to come up with a list of words & it’s charades time!”

McLaughlinLou supports the same idea, revealing that a “ladder race on the board is a good one to get all ages up and moving”.

ELSTAireland continued, “Anagrams work well, countdown game”.

It’s important to remember that although fun and active games are exciting, some activities are not suitable for all learners. Having a variety of activities is essential when reviewing material.

Innov8rEduc8r offered a more intimate review of vocabulary:

“Have sts engage with words using all their senses – must see, hear, feel, touch the words”, suggesting that this activity will have a “deeper recall [as it] stimulates recall, builds connection and resonance to vocabulary”.

He had the last laugh while suggesting a great activity:

“Words that make us laugh just saying them”.

@ChristineMulla added ‘armpit’, making him smile.

Smart boards, Smartphones and Tablets, Oh my!

                        Though the topic at hand was not geared towards technology and whether it’s a friend or foe, tweeters still gave mention to the renowned IWB. MaeBVee, in favor of technology, states, “games such as Hot Seat, Hangman, or Multiple Choice Questions on the IWB are a great way to review vocabulary”. SwanDOS agrees, “Smartboards are great for collecting new vocab in mind-maps with pics attached.”

Of course, the IWB is not the only piece of technology used. @Eilymurphy wondered if anyone has experimented with flashcards on their mobiles, using applications such as “Anki”. @Innov8rEduc8r responded with an affirmative answer in experimentation with “vocab impt”, “tho need to know stages of ELT sts – some may need more contextual support”.

Normann2 continues with the apps topic, revealing that there are free Charades apps for both tablets and phones:

“Smart Baby Apps on iPad, can add own pictures, sounds and categories, memory games.” (@normann2)

It’s Healthy Competition, right?

It’s no surprise that competition brings out the best (and worst) in us. However, it’s still a time when we try our hardest! We focus on nothing other than the goal and the goal here is learning. Students love competition…though that may be an understatement, actually. CelticVegan agrees that you can put students into groups to compete with each other! It was also revealed that McLaughlinLou “[has] given vocab cards at start of lesson and team who uses all in lesson wins a prize!”

Keep It Natural!

It’s interesting to talk about spaceships and aliens, but it’s crucial to keep the topics as down to earth as possible. ELTIreland piggybacked off McLaughlinLou’s idea of handing out vocabulary cards to the students and whoever uses all cards by the end of the lesson wins:

“try to put revision words (5) on table that Ss must use during class – in natural way” (@eilymurphy)

A short conversation emerged between Innov8rEduc8r and LahiffP on the matter of keeping things natural:

Innov8rEduc8r  believes that it is vital to teach investigative skills around the vocabulary being used. LahiffP responded in agreement, suggesting “… students bring in examples of the word in use from the real world, signs, cuttings, leaflets or product packaging.” Innov8rEduc8r cheered on the idea, exclaiming “Real Life is Crucial for Learning. Meaning, Authenticity, Purpose!”

Other Activities and Ideas:

This topic brought forth numerous ideas from our tweeters on reviewing vocabulary in the ESL classroom. As we know, the ideas are endless as many activities piggyback others. Here are some more ideas that were acknowledged in this weeks chat:

  • Get students to form a letter with their body, and then put the students together to create a word, resulting in the other teams guessing the word that was just created. (@ChristineMulla)
  • Pictogram: Get words, cut them up, then have students build the item using the words. (@normann2)
  • All vocabulary terms from the unit are cut up and placed into a bag or hat. Students must pick 4-5 words from the bag/hat and create a story with their partner using their words. (@MaeBVee)
  • Charades / Pictionary (@ESLTAireland)
  • Jeopardy (@normann2)
  • Remove all labels from your classroom and have students replace them. (@Innov8rEduc8r)
  • Labelling the city with photographs (@ChristineMulla)
  • Having a normal conversation, asking casual questions where the students must answer using new vocabulary words. (SwanDOS)
  • Matching: One half of the class are verbs, the other half are prepositions. The object is that the students must find their correct half! (ELTireland)
  • Communicative crosswords (CelticVegan)
  • Odd One Out: Put students in groups of 4 and assign each student a word. As a group, they must decide which word doesn’t fit and why. (MaeBVee)
  • Constant assessment: Try to use vocabulary in the class. When you ask students a question, have them reply by giving examples; spot a synonym in use which allows them to refer back to previously learned word. (ChristineMulla)
  • Simple Ball Games: Synonyms, antonyms, collocations – example sentences. (normann2)
  • Word of the Week: Students pick a word from the previous week and use it as much as possible in conversation. (CelticVegan)
  • Photo Scavenger Hunt (Innov8rEduc8r)

All things EdTech – #eltchinwag – 24/02/2014

Well here we are. After a slightly arduous journey through our first round of hashtags, we have arrived at our summary.

Our aims for this chat: To discuss the use of technology in the classroom, its benefits and drawbacks, teacher fears, training and investment.

#eltchinwag’s first chat got off to a good start with ELT Ireland posting a few questions in the days leading up to the event to get thoughts flowing…

  • Do you use classroom video tools? How useful do you find them?
  • Should we use and teach students how to use Facebook?
  • IWBs: friend or foe?
  • How do you use technology in the classroom?

6:45 came and fingers started twitching with @cellointensive eager to begin. @AoifeCondit opened with a comment on when tech goes wrong:

“Ss end up teaching teachers what to do.”

McLauglinLou queried whether the experience had resulted in any good language acquisition while ELTIreland questioned how much time was wasted and how learners felt and reacted to the situation. Everyone agreed that, although awkward, situations like this often foster a sense of comradery.

Next up came an interesting to-and-fro on BYOD;

“…distraction or not…,” asked CelticVegan.

As teachers, we are none too aware of social networking, the constant barrage of ‘WhatsApps’ and ‘Facebooks’ coming our students’ way and the 21st Century need to answer immediately.

When it came to Facebook, AoifeCondit voiced issues with monitoring, “learning use vs personal use”.

“Facebook happens anyway,” aptly put by @EdLaur.

If we plan extra activities for fast finishers, as we would under normal circumstances, it helps keep the focus. @AoifeCondit does this, but still finds monitoring tricky. Perhaps “having Ss working in pairs or small groups off one device would cut distraction down,” offered LahiffP.

On tech investment without good broadband…

…there were a number of opinions. At some stage or other, I’m sure you’ll agree, every one of us has experienced the dreaded wifi malfunction and cursed the very platform the Internet was ever built on. It was no different for our #eltchinwag participants.

It all kicked off with a topical link to The Guardian’s strong views on investment in technology, posted by CelticVegan. The writer was of the opinion that many schools these days are over-investing in tech and under-investing in reliable broadband connections. This prompted some heated responses…

  • “these days tech without good broadband is useless.” (AoifeCondit)
  • “fear of bad tech/wifi failure can limit its use. A good back up plan is necessary.” (shellfish1234)
  • “have experienced schools with IWB but no stable net – making investment in technology a waste in these cases.” (shaycoyne)

On the other side of the coin:

  • “makes me angry – it’s not a waste if students already use it in their life. tech must be seen as another way to communicate with Ss” (@eilymurphy)
  • “Tech is part of language just like writing is.” (@whippler)

No one would disagree, I think, that investment in good wifi is a must. On the edtech grapevine where I am though, a lot of schools still seem to be struggling with providing what is increasingly seen as a fundamental need.

On technology in the classroom…

It was a fast moving chat interlacing a number of thoughts, many of which centred around, as @MaeBVee perfectly put it,

“tech is an amazing tool in the classroom as long as you don’t use it as a crutch.”

This was swiftly followed by accordance from all.

  • “need to be able to find the right balance keeping lessons learner not tech centred.” (@annamalikmorris)
  • “a tool for enhancement, not replacement.” (@McLaughlinLou)
  • “tech is a tool. It should promote language learning, not be an end in itself.” (@LahiffP)
  • “learner focus and autonomy are key when using tech.” (@SwanDos)

Our tweeters also voiced experiences and concerns over tech being used to mask bad teaching, and in some cases, no teaching at all.

Many of #eltchinwag’s Monday night tweeters were all for using technology in the classroom and fed each other great insights into some of the things they do. Take @cellointensive for instance:

“I use my computer/speakers to do student audio. More realiable than CD players… Also use YouTube for songs/film scenes…You can use a film scene to set up a good grammar point: ‘what’s going to happen, what would you do if you were them…’ endless, instant engagement. Same set up time and rate of engagement as list/read.”

MartinB832 and AoifeCondit interacted about the use of tablets with one querying the potential loss of handwriting skills, the other, quite rightly for me, proffering that they are

“A brilliant alternative to colourless photocopies where visual impact is needed.”

Moving on to sites which allow Ss to interact both in and outside the classroom, chinwaggers were mostly between Facebook and Edmodo.

  • “decided on FB as Ss already used the site – more likely to engage.” (@EdLaur)
  • “Ss are posting class realted content, fostering relationships on FB group” (@CelticVegan)
  • “Edmodo great to encourage out of class learning. e.g. photo competitions.” (@ShayCoyne)
  • “Edmodo a great alternative when working with levels which block FB.” (@ELSTA)

@eilymurphy mentioned using or for simple presentations next.

“20 pic slides – 3 mins a slide, Ss keep talking as slides change. Ss pic own slides.”

As a relative newbie to this whole Twitter gig, I hadn’t ever thought about its potential for use in the classroom. How naive I was when I heard this:

  • “Heard about a class where Ss dissected celebs’ badly spelled tweets” (@AoifeCondit)
  • “Tweeting would be great for revision/consolidation esp speaking or writing activities – different tasks for different groups of Ss.” (@MihaelaOlariu)

This prompted a little search by yours truly, which uncovered a little ‘getting started’ nugget from OUP. Further sites mentioned were:

On IWBs: ‘Friend or Foe?’

#eltchinwag’s final major discussion point centred around IWBs, the relationships schools and teachers have with them and the role of training and development.

@McLaughlinLou has had:

“very positive experience of using IWBs in c/room especially with young learners” and after having had training.

@CelticVegan wanted more here, asking what the specific benefits were for yls. Areas such as ‘movement, new activities, Ss in charge of learning, visual and engaging were returned.

@MaeBVee loves the reaction she gets from students old and young when using IWBs and believes engagement is evident when it comes to yls.

To this LahiffP queried the ‘novelty wearing off’ and whether engagement remained. McLaughlinLou was quick to offer that it’s the,

“same as other tools. Have a variety no matter what’s involved and engagement doesn’t wane.”

The conversation move seamlessly into a query about the length of time it can take to become comfortable using tech and IWBs in the classroom. Across the chatting board it was decided that baby steps and good training were key. A mentor / buddy system was mentioned:

“find a mentor who loves tech, loves to share, explain and convert. (Worked for me)!” (@EdLaur)

A worthy comment came from @shellfish1234,

“it can be intimidating, esp when everyone is expected to be tech savvy.”

@SwanDos returned that Ts often feel they need extra support.

“Make it clear to ‘start small’ then build with step by step training.”

@McLaughlinLou rightly added that this can often depend on Tt relationships and how open they are.

@shaycoyne offered an overall view to round up the tweeters saying,

“the key is in the training – optimise learning potential for tech.”

Coming from a school of IWBs, this summary writer couldn’t agree more. Ongoing tech PD, a strong, open support system and the immediate understanding that building a relationship with tech in small doses really lightens the often strong obligation a teacher can feel, works wonders on encouraging its use in the classroom.

Well ELTers, that about brings us to the end of our oh so topical and stimulating ideas bounce on education technology and the joys, wonders and worries it brings. I’ve added a few more links below that didn’t get into the summary above. Enjoy over a nice cup of tea on whatever piece of technology you use to get your kicks.

Before I sign off, I am obliged to comment on the irony of our ‘Tt, yls, Ss, ELT’ abbreviations. With my being a self-confessed opponent of all things ‘text talk,’ my mother finds it highly amusing that I have filled my blog post with such shortened terms of phrase. I do hope you forgive me colleagues and understand the need to stick to the 140 character rule!

We’ll be back on Monday March 10th at 8 p.m. Irish time with another #eltchinwag. Until then, slán go fóill!

Christine Mullaney, ELTIreland

Tips for teachers who struggle with tech here

Technology use in Ireland here

Teachers as presenters here