29 Nov 2008

Tools for Teaching English

It's no wonder the growing interest of teachers in using tools like Youtube, Blogs, Podcasts, Wikis or other web 2.0 tools in the language classes since NTIC are having a huge impact in education in the last recent years. But what benefits can NTIC provide to our language classes? You will find the answer in the following video:

In my opinion, using Youtube in class can be very effective since students are exposed to real English, I mean, to English in real situations; or they can also use this videos to reinforce some English points they have not understood in class (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation...). They can watch, listen, and even take ideas to make their own videos for the ESL class. For example, the teacher can organize a TV News programme, a play... with his/her students, record them and after that create a blog or website to upload the videos made by the students. This can be a way to motivate your students since they feel part of the learning process and can express their own ideas. 

However, if you want your students learn English at home by their own, some useful videos I have found on the net are Jennifer ESL ones. The explanations are really clear and they also include exercises with explanations. Besides there are many topics on it (grammar, vocabulary, intonation, pronunciation, typical mistakes...). This is an example about 'Prepositions in the context of meals' :

Youtube is not a useful tool in itself but with the teacher guidance can be very effective. I also posted an entry about how to use ESL videos in class and PhD Cristóbal Suárez Guerrero has also an interesting post about Educative Youtube (in Spanish). Another example is Teachertube full of videos for education and lesson plans although they are not just for English but also for other subjects.

28 Nov 2008

Having Fun with Writing

Writing has never been easy, particularly in a foreign language. They find it difficult and boring. Therefore, why not to ask students to share their own stories through comics and make a class books with their comics, instead of asking them to write boring summaries? Getting students to write personal stories, anecdotes, creative stories or adapt fairy tales to modern times motivates them to make an effort to use English. Writing stories and comics is a great way to reinforce grammar and vocabulary.

Some appealing tools to enrich your writing classes are:

FODEY which allows to create your own newspaper, or a comic with talking tomatoes, squirrels, flowers, cats or owls. You can add your own text like this:

Create your own Animation
It is very easy, you only need to write your text in the box provided in the site and your students can use it for expressing their opinions, creating a short story or posting the images in the blogs they have created.

One of my ESL printables colleages , Kriszti, has shared another new useful tool to create comic strips called Strip Generator which is also very easy to use. There are some characters, beings, objects, shapes and bubbles you can choose.

I also recommend you Make Beliefs Comix. However, my favourite one is Comeeko because it allows you to be more creative, to upload your own pictures and add effects. You have to register but it worths doing it!!

The last one I have discovered is Toondoo , a social networking comic strip, which lets you create your own 1, 2, 3 panel cartoons, choose backgrounds, characters, add text bubbles, read comics made by people from all over the world or even create a "book" to make a bigger comic. Besides, your students can share their strips or just to keep them private. In the following slideshare you will learn how it works:

Other great sites for creating comics are Gardfield's Comic Creator or if your students are fans of the famous science fiction TV programme Doctor Who, they can also create their own comics with this comic maker. Pikikids is another site to create comic strips which allows to embed the comics you create into a blog or website.

14 Nov 2008


What is a webquest?

The word webquest is really two words "web" and "quest" (search), that is, "searching on the net". It is a learning activity in which students have to learn to cooperate to solve different kinds of tasks. In this way they learn in an autonomous and funnier way. What is more, it is also a way to integrate technology and problem based learning.
Bernie Dodge, the webquest developer defined the webquest in 1995 as "an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet . . ."

Therefore, students have to use the acquired information to create something new (a blog, a newspaper, an advertisement, etc). In this process, the teacher is just a guider who has to set the frame, a webpage, in order to design the whole project. The following step is to create the webquest.

How to create the webquest?

  1. The teacher introduces the topic in an interesting way to motivate their students. This topic should be based on a curriculum area.
  2. Then, students read that introduction. Depending on the webquest you can assign them different roles as well.
  3. The teacher decides how he wants the students to complete the webquest, I mean, the tasks. To help them to complete the task, the teacher has to include website links with a short description about the information they will find in those sites. It is very important that the teacher sets clearly the steps the students have to follow in order to complete the tasks.
  4. After that, the students read and collect the data from the links, videos, online resources the teacher have carefully chosen.
  5. The teacher should also specify how the students are going to be evaluated. There will be as well an evaluation of the group itself, I mean, the students will think carefully on their own working process, on what they have learnt and on the outcome.
  6. Finally, the students make the tasks and submit them to the teacher for approval.
What are the advantages of using webquests in class?
In my opinion, using webquests in class has many advantages:
1. They are exposed to a more interactive way of working in class and with materials, ideas that they will not find in the curriculum.
2. They can learn and think by themselves, the teacher is just a guide. Therefore, it is a model centered in the student's proccess of learning.
3. WebQuests are a great way to foster collaboration and critical thinking.
4. Webquests are an organizational tool which offers an organized approach for using the web. Therefore, students do not waste time searching on website which can be really useless or offer faked information.
5. Students learn to work in groups.

You will find many examples of webquests on the net. One I love is Mystery in the Middle Ages from a Catalonian teacher. But there are many examples such as A Family Trip to London or Shakespeare from Isabel Perez website, Dear Agony Aunt designed by Anna Morales or Recycling by Cristina Arnau or Miguel's ones.
An interesting directory which contains a lot of Webquests made for the ESL/EFL classroom is the following one WebQuestcat

For those of you who are not familiarized with Webquests and want to know more about what they are, how to create them and the beneficts these activities bring for our students, I provide some interesting references:

Please, let me know your webquests experiences in class or leave a comment. I would like you make this blog with your comments. Thanks a lot in advance.

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