Monday, 30 May 2011

Video Quiz - Asylum Myths

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Man lying on the floor - Part 2

May 26th 2011

Another full class today with 9 students attending. Continuing from our last lesson we reviewed the target language and vocabulary. We discussed the 'man lying on the floor' scene, focusing on the differing moods/attitudes and corresponding intonation. After some practice we recorded ourselves, listened, corrected and discussed appropriate delivery of sentences. The students did very well to understand the subtleties and produced some great lines. The video compilation of their work below 'speaks' for itself  ;-)

Our Students' Version of  "The Man Lying on the floor"
Thanks so much to our students for their keen participation - Well Done!!

Lesson Plan - Part 2

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Man lying on the floor - Part 1

May 24th 2011

Today was our first Tuesday class and I am very flattered to see that our students are keen to study more - very encouraging, many thanks. I was very lucky to find an excellent lesson on the internet called 'Man Lying on the Pavement'. In this lesson quite a few language points are covered without the students being unduly bothered with grammatical terms, the group are encouraged to use the target language in an activity that is interesting and seems to focus on speech. The lesson itself has a psychological and behavioural theme to it with lots of focus on feelings, moods and how these are communicated, an ideal area of focus for our group I thought. The students are able to sense the raising tension in the dialogue and identify the changes in tone etc. They now have a copy of the script to practise with ahead of Thursday's lesson where we will be re-enacting the scene with real emotional delivery - I will attempt to record some of these - stay tuned!

This video demonstrates how I used Smart Notebook software on an 
interactive whiteboard to support my lesson - best viewed in 'full-screen' mode

Radiohead - Just

Lying on the Pavement

Handout - Picture + Vocab Match

Handout - What Would You Ask?

Handout - Script Preparation Task

Handout - Script

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Preposition & Verb +ing

May 19th 2011

Today's mixed group lesson focussed on verbs in their 'ing' form following a preposition (test yourself). Students started off by thinking of things they are and are not good at and we were all tickled to remember how good Ali was 'at skiing' when we all did the superman dance. Students were then presented with the grammatical form and some other examples of prepositions before completing a reading activity where they identified target language in a thank you letter. The following task allowed students to analyse some sentences in order to find and correct any mistakes, this was done very well indeed as the target language had obviously been firmly learnt. This led on to what has developed to be a favourite activity/game with the group, students sorted prepositions and verbs into groups whilst being timed - once again the target language was well absorbed with the only issue being how fast they could complete the task, this led to an exciting finale where Allana beat Sam by only 1 second. We then had a warm-up activity where the students as a group made sentences with prepositions randomly generated by the smartboard. Then finally in a productive written activity everyone wrote as many sentences as they could in 10 minutes using the target language and then fed these back to the class. The aims of this lesson were met with all the students understanding the form and usage of prepositions followed by verb + ing.

At the end of the lesson we wished our friend and fellow student Allana the best of luck as she is travelling back to China for the summer, we look forward to her return.

Handout - Make Your Own Sentences

Prepositions & verb+ing - Handout - Find Prepositions and Verbs

Prepositions & verb+ing - Mixed Group Lesson Plan

Two nights a week - Woohoo!

May 19th 2011

Another wonderful evening at the group was had with all the children (and some adults, including myself) enjoying energetic 'Adventure' games on the Xbox Kinect, an activity that is enjoyed greatly by the participants and also very amusing for everyone else watching, thanks once again to Graham and Allana for providing and facilitating this activity. Also thanks again to Jeff who provided some creative activities for the children once they'd spent lots of energy and eaten, these activities are vital, allowing the parents at the group to relax and get involved with the English classes, help cooking and generally socialise. We were very happy to have so many people enjoying the atmosphere at the group.

Due to some additional funding we are very happy to announce that we can now run the group for two evenings a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays!!! This news was greatly welcomed and we look forward to seeing everyone next Tuesday.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Happy Kids = Happy Everyone

We have for some time understood the need for the children of visitors to be involved in something structured and enjoyable - this in turn 'frees-up' our clients so they can participate socially and possibly in one of our classes. Last Thursday was a great success, Graham our volunteer teacher and his wife kindly brought along their Xbox and Kinect for the children to play with. The result of this was awesome with the children happily taking turns to play some very enjoyable and physical games, not only did the children enjoy this, it also provided much amusement for the adults watching - maybe get them to join in next time. So the children were very happy indeed and engrossed in the activity, giving the parents the opportunity to relax more. The children played the games for an hour or so until we all had food, following the meal Jeff, a regular helper in our group provided colouring pens and paper for the kids to use, this was a great success as they had spent a lot of energy and then eaten, allowing for them to calm down and get stuck into something creative - an excellent evening all round with virtually everyone visiting the centre involved in something constructive.

Many thanks to Graham, Allana and Jeff for making the kids very happy indeed (and everyone else as a result).

Friday, 13 May 2011

Nice Ways to Say Bad Things - 12th May 2011

In this lesson I decided to focus on something that we, as native English speakers, often take for granted. When confronted with a painful image or disturbing thought, we often describe it using 'politically correct' terms or 'Euphemisms.' It is only through correct command and understanding of these can a learner, of ESOL, become fluent in the language. I chose this subject for a far more prominent reason. Our clients, wherever they come from and by definition of their status in the UK, find themselves in a vulnerable position when dealing with people they meet on a daily basis. It only takes one misunderstanding and they could find themselves in a much more difficult situation than they find themselves already. It is this potential 'alienation' of our clients that worries me a little, and it is often through no fault of their own. I have therefore decided that my lessons, although directed at a higher level, primarily facilitate the 'Unity in Diversity' ethos of inclusion, and prevent 'alienation' of our clients through their language use.
The lesson on the 12/05/2011 was the first in this series of lessons aimed at creating a more native user awareness of the language that our clients use on a daily basis.
As always, the subject matter generated a lot of discussion and interaction within the group, with comparisons of various cultures attitudes towards 'Euphemisms' playing a key role in the atmosphere of the lesson. Being in the higher group, my own knowledge and command of English was put to the test when I was asked to explain certain points of a sentence or why we use terms that were found in the Powerpoint presentation.
Overall however, another successful lesson, with many words of encouragement that showed how the lessons we commit ourselves to providing and the work that we do as a group, directly benefits the lives of our clients here at 'UiD'.Whether they be individual members or those with families, the comments made about the dedication we all put in to this relatively small group of people, I for one, found particularly humbling and rewarding.

Euphemisms - PPT
Student Handout (Click full screen for better view)

Euphemisms - Student Handout

Lip & Leap

My lesson today was for the mixed elementary/pre intermediate group and focused on reviewing the long 'ee' sound and getting to grips with the short 'i' sound ( /iː/ & /i/) . Now that we have the provision of an interactive whiteboard I set myself the task of making parts of this lesson using smart-board software. Students had a number of fun and interesting hands-on activities that they seemed to enjoy very much and in turn helped them internalise the target language/sounds from the lesson. All the students competed in a timed task where they had to put certain words in their 'sound groups', a game easy to devise in this software with a big flashy timer that dwells on the board,  the students did so well with this that the target language was firmly understood and the only 'issue' remaining was shaving seconds off their time within the game. After further focus and activities we returned to the game where the students were very keen to 'beat the record'. Allana, our Chinese student is our gold medallist with a fantastic 19 seconds. A friend of mine, a fellow English teacher that visits us occasionally could only manage 22 seconds; the students absolutely loved this encouraging outcome - nice try Phil ;-) So overall it was a cheerful and productive lesson with the students enjoying the new interactive style of tasks and games.


Friday, 6 May 2011

High Tech @ Low Cost

Our teaching team strive to devise lessons and strategies to help our clients improve their English and in turn their opportunities for a more 'inclusive' experience in our society. Alongside this Graham and I are always looking at technology being developed for use in our lessons, whether it be interactive software for students to use in the classroom or simply to present how they can get free help in their studies with the immeasurable on-line resources that exist today. One important development in recent years has been the use of 'smart-boards', these allow you to use computer software on an electronic whiteboard with countless applications for the classroom.

The interactive whiteboard combines the power of your computer and projector into a powerful tool for teaching, collaborating and presenting.

Key Features
  • Interact by touching the board to control any computer application.
  • Using the pens, write notes, draw diagrams and illustrate ideas.
  • Highlight key information with 'electronic ink'.
  • Save, print or e-mail notes.
  • Drag and drop, resize and delete handwritten or
    typed notes with your finger
The cost of a 'Smartboard' can be around £2500!!!

The running and success of our ESOL program depends largely on our very kind volunteer teachers who devote their efforts and time for no financial reward whatsoever, luckily for our group as we have very limited funding. Delivering a media-rich environment in the classroom helps students enjoy an interactive, productive and more interesting experience, in the words of a former trainer of mine "when you go to the effort of making a lesson dynamic and enjoyable, it in turn makes the students feel like they are worth it". So Graham and I got our nerdy tech hats on and trawled the Internet for a possible low cost solution - and we found it!

So using a Wiimote (a Nintendo Wii game controller) an old marker pen, some wires, an infra-red LED light from an old TV remote control, a small battery and some cool open source (free) software we now have our own 'Interactive Whiteboard' which can be used on any surface that we project onto. All for a massive £20!! We are now practising using different applications with it. I was able to use it last night to highlight and annotate important information on a presentation I'd prepared for the lesson. We now look forward to devising cool activities with it for our students. Graham and I particularly like this as it uses existing tech in a new way and reminds us of the cool display effect in the film 'Minority report'. Many thanks to Johnny Chung Lee for developing this idea, which has enabled schools with low budgets to have 'smart-boards'.


Johnny Chung Lee > Projects > Wii

Thursday, 5 May 2011

More than we'd hoped for!!

I'm very happy to report that today, for the first time we were able to provide three separate lessons for our service users. Dawn had two ladies studying at the beginner level, Graham had several students in the 'higher level' class and I had four students in a 'mid-level' group. An absolute success for the teaching team (and the UID group) with almost every visitor to the centre tonight involved in a learning activity.

My lesson focused on capitalisation, punctuation and basic writing skills. Although  the students had studied this before they were happy and keen to practice it further. Once again the lesson started with a task that dealt with new vocabulary that could have blocked later activities in the lesson, the students connected images to their definitions on a handout, checked with each other then fed back their answers to the class. I then presented the rules of basic sentence writing and students contributed with what they already knew. The following task had the group focusing on correct and incorrect sentences, they identified the correct examples and discussed/fixed the others. Further focus on sentence structure and punctuation followed, leading into a final productive written activity where students used their own ideas to make sentences. The pace of this lesson was a little slower and quieter than what they are used to but they seemed to enjoy it with some very productive work as a result. I also provided some worksheets for students to practise improving their visual writing style.


We are so lucky to have such dedicated volunteer teachers - again many thanks to Dawn and Graham.

Writing Sentences - Blocking

Vocab Match Handout

Writing Sentences

Writing Sentences - Combined

Student Handout

Writing Sentences - Mixed Group Lesson


Conjunctions.... What's their Function?

Well it's Graham here.... I have taken the leap into actually teaching my own classes with my first one being on the 5th of May 2011. The class I run is designed to compliment both Dawn and Wayne's classes at adding another level to the group and better providing for the members' individual needs.
For argument's sake we shall call it the 'Advanced Group' as the language and grammar points that these lessons are designed to focus on are of a higher level than those which we have previously taught in the centre.
My main aim for this lesson was to take an already familiar concept (in this case Conjunctions) and expand on the knowledge that the students already possess from various other establishments. After starting out reading Aesop's Fable 'The Ant and the Dove' and identifying the conjunctions used in the story, the group quickly moved on to understand what a conjunction is used for and also where they are used in both speaking and writing.
Following this discussion we then focussed on the three main kinds of conjunctions 'Co-ordinating, Correlative and Sub-ordinating' conjunctions.
Each time a new concept was introduced to the students I allow them to
  • Tell me what they knew of the subject matter (Free discussion)
  • Explain the grammatical concepts when using those conjunctions ( Teacher Talk Time)
  • Provide and elicit examples from the the students (Student-Teacher Interaction)
  • Provide a short 'pop' quiz so they could test their knowledge of the material and apply it to a particular situation (Practical Task Based Usage of Material)

Although my first lesson at the Unity in Diversity Group, I have sat with Wayne in most of the lessons he has taught. His guidance, enthusiasm, dedication and inspiration have really been a key role in my development as a teacher. For that reason, along with the work I put in to the class tasks, I believe that not only did the students find the class useful and enjoyable, but the standard of teaching can only improve from this point onwards.

May I take the chance, as this is my first blog post, thank all of the members of 'Unity in Diversity' for giving me the chance to volunteer in my prospective profession and take a 'hands on approach' to teaching but also a personal thank you to Wayne who has encouraged me more times than I can count to get on and create an 'advanced group' to help provide a better service for our clients.
All I have left to say is how much I look forward to next weeks class!!


Conjunction Junction Lyrics

The Ant and the Dove