Monthly Archives: May 2014

Adapting Reading Materials – #eltchinwag Summary 12/05/2014

A #eltchinwag summary by Christine Mullaney of Kaplan International English, Dublin.

Christine Mullaney

Christine Mullaney is an IELTS and Business English teacher currently working in Kaplan International English in Dublin. She is currently a communications officer on the committee for the newly established ELT Ireland, building a PLN and learning about blogging, Twitter and anything else that can help her enhance.

She is @ChristineMulla on Twitter

Who doesn’t love a jolly good read? Well, in all honesty, our poor English language students sometimes. Daunting reams of what sometimes look like letters which have simply been jumbled together for fun and which have no apparent meaning, let alone context, face them on a seemingly never-ending language trudging basis.

Something akin to that previous sentence, don’t you think?

It is therefore more than necessary for their wonderful instructors to hype things up; ignite a flame, so to speak, under the piles of words and make them come to life. Engage and invigorate; the ELTers’ aim.

It was with this thought in mind that our first May #eltchinwag kicked off. @ELTIreland got the ball rolling by asking what types of texts tweeters enjoyed using. A unanimous ‘short texts,’ was the response. Allowing students to choose their own exercises or sources was suggested by @LahiffP in order to ‘get Ss engaged and give reason to communicate without too much effort.’ @JaneSeely seconded this using ‘anything which incites conversation.’

What followed was a stimulating variety of text types and exercises used by our chinwaggers:

  • ‘Creative writing across various topics – I’ve used them for extreme adjectives.’ @MaeBVee
  • ‘Adapted small texts into “txt” speak for younger students; they loved the decoding element.’ @GarethSears
  • ‘Follow this up with an auto tune my voice app for performance with groups.’ @GarethSears (looking forward to hearing more about that one in our speaking chat this summer)
  • ‘Business English tend to be email and technical specs – lighter stuff for listening.’ @eilymurphy
  • ‘Song lyrics as texts without listening to the song at all. Ss really enjoyed it.’ @JaneSeely
  • ‘Short stories (flash fiction).’ @Johnbyrne_ELT
  • ‘Ss get a kick out of correcting celebs’ tweets.’ @LahiffP
  • ‘Amateur psychology. Ss give each other Rorschach tests to interpret and detailed notes from a book/site.’ @JaneSeely
  • ‘Metro is great, and online newspapers. Modification sometimes necessary!’ @ainzyoshea
  • ‘Quirkies: Animal and strange crime are the best!’ @LahiffP (link below)
  • ‘Trip Advisor for scanning.’ @McLaughlinLou
  • ‘Catalogue e.g. Argos.’ @ChristineMulla

This one got a few of us nattering about giving students budgets, say of €100; they then have to come up with a shopping list for a friend, or furnish an apartment etc. @LahiffP suggested some sort of a vote on seeing who gets the best buy; in a sense like that show Bargain Hunting on TV, I’m now thinking. @HadaLitim threw in that she uses online catalogues often for ‘clothing, size, colour etc.’ So simple, yet engaging and effective; the name of the game.

Now, to adapting texts in the course book…

In a way that I’m quickly learning he has, @GarethSears opened this one up with a doozey:

 Is it adapting texts, or the manner of presentation/lead in that makes them interesting?

Ah, yes indeed; nail on proverbial head, the lead in must not be neglected. ‘I often find a related You Tube short video and show some of it to warm them. Helps loads. Watch video. Predict, read, bingo!’ @HadaLitim.

Following this, a deluge of adaptation alternatives, awarded no particular order of importance was unleashed upon #eltchinwag:

  • ‘Cut out questions on strips, students in groups come up and get 1 question; run back to find answer. 1st group finished wins.’ @HadaLitim
  • ‘Use more up to date CES texts for example. People love gadgets. (Consumer Electronics Show).’ @GarethSears
  • ‘Drawing charts/timelines from the text. Can do as jigsaw too.’ @JaneSeely
  • ‘Make jigsaw readings from course book texts, especially long ones.’ @LouiseGuyett
  • ‘Break long texts into manageable chunks. Create paragraph based questions to be answered  in staged blocks.’ @ChristineMulla
  • ‘Huge fan of running dictation / repeat after me for making semi-boring reading more engaging.’ @MaeBVee
  • ‘…charts from the back of the Economist and do presentations on them.’ @LahiffP
  • ‘Classic long text: GA reads Part1, GB reads P2 and then info exchange.’ @eilymurphy
  • ‘Give Ss text and ask them to prepare activities for other groups using the same text.’ @McLaughlinLou
  • ‘Prediction as they go, paragraph by paragraph.’ @JaneSeely
  • ‘Turning shorter texts into dictogloss for lower levels also works. Follow up conversation on characters, plot etc.’ @MihaelaOlariu
  • ‘Ss are the editorial meeting of a newspaper and have to suggest how to make text more interesting.’ @LahiffP
  • ‘…quick modify to revise tenses. Change e.g. present text to past etc.’ @GarethSears
  • ‘…cutting up paragraphs, sticking up around class, Ss walk around to look for answers, moving jigsaw reading.’ @LouiseGuyett
  • ‘Use interview transcripts, break into pieces, match question-answer, indirect speech, rephrase to follow-up.’ @MihaelaOlariu
  • ‘concordance lines to isolate features. Works well with collocations. @GarethSears

Here, students work in groups. They are researchers on a collocation to present to others. The aim is to look for how common the chunk is in speech, education, news etc. Students are also prompted to look at where it’s used in a sentence, punctuation, common contexts etc. The link for a concordance site is listed below.

Our aim during this #eltchinwag was to hash out ways to make reading more engaging for our students. Hopefully, teachers old and new will have found something here which will inspire a new approach or task. Please tell us about it in the comments section below if it has. We’d be happy to read. For now, dear readers, I shall leave you with this, applicable to more than just children, no doubt you’ll agree:

 “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” – Kate DiCamillo


Links: Quirkies:


Adapting Reading:

IELTS Reading Activities:




Evening ELT Entertainment

Got your week booked out yet? Hopefully you’re shaking your head and thinking, ‘How can ELT Ireland help me to fill a couple of my evenings this week?’

How dear reader? Here’s how:

  • Join us on Twitter at 8pm Irish time on Monday for #eltchinwag; a good ‘oul natter on Adapting Reading Materials to your learners’ needs is promised. This is the first in a monthly series of talks on adapting materials to different skills. Link here
  • Or how about some face to face contact? Join our Article Writing Forum on Wednesday evening at 6:30 pm. Free for members. Tickets here
  • Feel like a video or two to kill 15 minutes? Watch our ELTed talks here.

Adapting materials is something we all do in some way, shape or form. It is essential to the spirit of a classroom to have activities which have been tailored to enhance and extend the learning process. Not only that, but our learners’ varying styles demand diversification. How many of us want to sit looking at 800 words of straight text day in, day out?

Often though, as you are no doubt aware, time does not allow the busy ELT teacher to create adapted materials. So how can we speed up the process? In tomorrow’s chat I will be posing a number of questions to our tweeters, this one included. Fingers crossed that by the time our hour is up, we will have identified a few nifty little tricks for adapting materials in time-rich and time-poor environments.

Something to chew on:

  • What different types of reading materials do you use in the classroom?
  • What stops you from using certain materials?
  • Why do reading materials need to be adapted?
  • How can materials be adapted for reading tasks?
  • With ideal preparation time, how do you adapt materials?
  • Given little time, how do you adapt materials for reading tasks?
  • What’s your favourite way to enhance a text?
  • What pitfalls have you encountered when adapting materials for reading?

Well ELTers, get those thinking caps on and gear up for what promises to be a riveting #eltchinwag. Maybe you could do some adapting tomorrow and tell us how it went.

See you at 8!

Facing my demons – ELTed

Thank you for the mention Anna. It’s funny how sometimes we say things and really don’t realise at all the impact that they have. You were great. Ooo and I second Louise…IATEFL next up??

Anna's ELT reflection space

On April 12th, 2014, I’ve given the first ever talk about effective out of classroom activities at an ELT Ireland event, which was also filmed and can be watched here. I’ve always been scared of public speaking which might sound peculiar to some as at the end of the day I am a teacher. Public speaking to pears and teaching are two very different things. In the classroom you are in a way an expert, you know more about the language than your students. When addressing a group of peers you’re talking to people who might have way more experience than you and could potentially find your talk uninteresting. This makes me incredibly self-conscious but at the same time I believe that conferences and other teacher development events are there to provide us with opportunities to share and learn from each other. The key is to choose the topic…

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Teaching Pronunciation – #eltchinwag Summary 31/03/2014

A #eltchinwag summary written by Jane Seely of ECM, Dublin.


Jane Seely

Jane has been working in ELT for over three years and currently teaches IELTS preparation as well as holding the role of Academic Coordinator and pursuing her DELTA. When she’s not writing her vegan baking blog she is specifically interested in studying learner errors and first language interference in L2 pronunciation. She is @Jane_Seely on Twitter.

Teaching Pronunciation

This Chinwag opened up the conversation on the wide topic of teaching pronunciation, with emphasis on practice inside and outside the classroom.

What challenges come with teaching pronunciation for the teacher?

A lot of the discussion was focussed on the IPA and its potential pitfalls for teachers and students. @MaeBVee pointed out the challenge of teaching pronunciation different to your own as ‘An America teaching UK and vice versa’ @ChristineMulla agreed, describing how she ends up teaching a different pronunciation to her own accent, and how students notice the difference, ‘My Ss laugh at me when I get some vowel words wrong or it looks like it’s unnatural for me to say them’ @LahiffP raised the of issue the difficulty in dealing with the range of needs of students in a multinational class.

Do you teach with the IPA?

@HadaLitim always use the IPA, even with beginner students, as it gives the students a visual reference, and is ‘useful to compare sounds for e.g. SH vs CH’. @Louiseguyett described the IPA as a great place to start, but to @ChristineMulla the pressure to use it correctly in class and write words on the board in IPA is ‘daunting’. @MaeBVee agreed; ‘the chart intimidates me. I find it difficult to use it when I say a word comp. diff than someone else’. @Louiseguyett suggesting using the IPA to teach your own pronunciation, but said it’s also good to make students aware of different pronunciation. @eilymurphy shared ‘I’m not sure my Ss (French) want/need standard PR (UK or US) as long as their Globish is understandable’. Underhill’s physical approach to pronunciation proved popular, with one or two chinwaggers referring to it as their pronunciation crush, although @LahiffP  disagreed ‘with his insistence that the IPA can be used no matter what your accent. Brit-centric?’

What are the biggest pronunciation challenges facing ELT teachers?

Intonation became the central topic surrounding this question, with @LahiffP commenting on his difficulty with “the teachability of intonation. The rules about rising and falling just don’t ring true for me.” @HadaLitim agreed: ‘Intonation is so variable. Hardly teachable!’ and @MaeBVee found that ‘intonation  is on an individual basis sometimes’, especially in the case of regional differences, as mentioned by @LahiffP. @Louiseguyett pointed out that there are some basic intonation generalisations that learners can be made aware of. @LahiffP agreed, recommending ‘using word stress as a tangible way in’. The importance of conveying meaning through intonation was mentioned by several chinwaggers, with @LahiffP sharing a tip of doing dialogues with feeling; with 3 different meanings for the same phrase. @Louiseguyett addressed the issue of connected speech in pronunciation, emphasising the need for teachers to ‘start with connected speech from very beginning! Our learners need to understand when people speak’. The ubiquitous ‘wanna’ was mentioned as a helpful example for lower level learners, with early exposure to aid identification suggested by @McLaughlinLou. @Louiseguyett pointed out that we have to think receptively, and encourage students to focus on developing their receptive skills.

@McLaughlinLou asked how often learners are exposed to accents that are non-native; using songs, clips and films were suggested by the chinwaggers.

@Hadalitim uses BBC World News with students, despite the unreality of RP for many students. @shellfish1234 used The Gladiator speech with students, while @Christine Mulla described showing a scene from Veronica Guerin to a class and taking phrases, eliciting and showing connections and omitted sounds, then drilling and practising. @LahiffP suggested ‘learning off a short piece of verse, or song lyrics, and giving it meaning in order to be able to perform it’. @eilymurphy agreed, finding it especially helpful when students do this with a text they know really well, as they can play with it. @HadaLitim recommends using Monty python sketches, specifically the dead Parrot Sketch…

‘You mean this parrot wot I bought not arf an hour ago …’

With a few minutes to go @ChristineMulla asked what the most important thing about pronunciation is – ‘sound/stress/connections/being understood?’ with the latter being mentioned as the most important for students, who often feel like they aren’t getting enough help with their pronunciation in class, and get frustrated by small errors which change meaning.

This Chinwag produced a lot of hints and tips for pronunciation inside and outside the classroom. Useful apps for both students and teachers were recommended, such as Vocaroo, Croakit, Voki and Sounds Pron. Enjoy using them with your students!


@ChristineMulla got the inspiration flowing before the chinwag with a link to useful pronunciation apps and sites for students

@HadaLitim responded with a useful link to an Adrian Underhill workshop practicing the IPA.

@Louiseguyett just in case u hadn’t already come across them, Amy Walker vids handy for this

@ChristineMulla shared a link recommended by @Louiseguyett

@ChristineMulla this self-study unit from EnglishCentral for Ss who want to work on something specific

@HadaLitim Stress! Judy Gilbert’s New School workshop’s a must watch, and Shaun Wilden’s lesson on euphemisms using the Parrot vid