Exercise: Using the articles, “a,” “an,” and “the”

If I Ruled the World – A Listening Activity for Learning Conditionals

My high-intermediate/advanced students have told me how much they enjoy learning grammar and vocabulary with music, so I decided to develop another fill-in-the-blank listening activity for them, this time stressing the conditional tense verbs in the song, “If I Ruled the World” sung by Tony Bennett and Celine Dion, and written by Leslie Bricusse and Cyril Ornadel.   I believe that this song will become a favorite of many of my students who have come from war zones since it offers such calm and peace-loving ideas.  This activity is another activity using Google Doc Forms.  I hope you like it!

Due to limited space on this blog, there are scroll bars for you to use as read through and complete the lyrics. You may prefer to go directly to the form by clicking on this link:   If I Ruled The World.

Keeping Attendance in the Cloud

Living in Wisconsin, we have our share of cloudy days.  We wait all winter for those clear blue sunny skies.  But, this summer I have become a strong advocate for the clouds–rather for cloud computing.  I’ve already written an article this summer about teaching my face-to-face ESL Research & Study Skills course paperlessly on Blackboard.  But, also this summer I used Google Docs for maintaining my attendance records.

Now, maintaining attendance records is one of those mundane chores that is undoubtedly one of my least favorite tasks yet is an incredibly important one required for our state reports, i.e. program funding.  So why the excitement about using Google Docs for the daily attendance?

I teach in multiple classrooms throughout the campus each and every day.  With Docs,  I don’t have to carry an attendance book with me and risk forgetting it in my office or leaving it behind  in one of my many classrooms.  I don’t have to worry about misplacing the book or someone else carrying it off.  (Yes, it has been known to happen!)   Additionally, while Microsoft Excel works equally well, the advantage of using Docs is that I don’t have to take/waste the extra class time to log in and log off of each computer each hour in order to use my desktop Excel, and I don’t have to use (and lose) a flash drive.  I just sign into the website, and there are all my attendance records for all of my classes.   At the end of the day, I can just as easily call my information out of the clouds and work on my record keeping at home.  All without worrying about having my information accessible at whichever of the multiple computers I use each day.

One more good thing about using Docs for keeping attendance, if I’m absent, all I have to do is give my team teacher or substitute the link to my attendance list without that person needing a password or a special account.  They only need to click on the link.  My records are saved in the clouds, delivered to them in an instant,  returned to me in a snap, and stored safe and sound in my favorite clouds.  And what’s more–it’s all free!  No cost to me, no cost to the students, no cost to the school.   What could be better?!!!

 

A Happy New Year with Sites to Share!

After somewhat of a hiatus from blogging, I’ll begin this year by recommending a few good sites to get us off to a good start this semester with some new and proven ideas. On the ESL Resources page of this blog, you’ll find listed 2010 Year in Review from CNN. What a great way to start off our some conversation with our intermediate/advanced ELLs this semester. Before watching the video, ask the students to brainstorm what they remember as newsworthy events from the past year. (You may need to help them get started…)  Then, after watching the video, get their reactions to what they had not mentioned and why they think those events were or were not critical to our country or world.  (This could also be done online using a Google Doc Form!)  

The Year in Rap: 2010 is another site to review the year with your high intermediate/advanced students.  Reviewing some critical vocabulary before watching the videos will be helpful with their understanding of the rap.  The first viewing is usually a blur, the second one, less foggy, the third is amazingly intelligible!

50 Brain Facts Every Educator Should Know by Pamela Brown will give you a lot of brain trivia, but it also offers you ideas for teaching to different parts of your students’ brains.  I’m sure you’ll say, “hmm…I didn’t know that,” several times, and, “well, I thought so” a few times as well.

You say you want to add more technology to your teaching?  These next few sites will help you with that.

44 Interesting Ways to Use Your Pocket Video Camera in the Classroom by @tombarrett (no, not our current mayor) was a great find for me because I just recently purchased a flip cam and have already started having fun using it and my students.  This site offers great suggestions for use with all levels of ELL students such as producing a video of a school tour with language appropriate explanations to beginning students.  Field trips can be video taped and narrated or captioned by intermediate students.   I like the idea of Digital Chicken Soup for absent students which could include classmates simply saying “We miss you.”  These student videos could go so far as to having students present explanations of missed lessons.  Of course, speech presentations can be videotaped.   I particularly like the idea of videotaping students’ demonstration speeches and posting the videos to a class blog.   What fun!

Our college is really pinching pennies these days as are most schools, so one way we’re trying to economize is by thinking green (ecology and economy) and minimizing our use of paper.  57 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom also put together by Tom Barrett  doesn’t only help us cut our spending, it gives us creative ideas for working with our students, working within our faculty, working on bookkeeping and record keeping chores.   It even includes sample forms and blog articles with expanded explanations on how ideas are carried out, and more!   I plan to try to incorporate the Exit Ticket into my classes.  This was just a thought I had prior to finding this link, but seeing how another teacher has set it up already online will be very helpful to me in expediting this task.  The ideas presented here also give us plenty of reasons for continuing to blog and/or set up a class blog for our students.

The Best Reference Websites for English Language Learners compiled by @Larryferlazzo will help your students learn to develop their English language skills through the use of free online tools to improve their pronunciation, spelling, and understanding of meaning. There are sites that will help them discover and learn world facts, facts about our 50 states and about our cities and states.  Some ELL appropriate online encyclopedias and encyclopedia-like website are listed as well to satisfy and pique your students’ curiosity for learning.

Have a happy 2011 and a happy and productive year exploring new ideas and resources for your students.  If you like these resources,

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How has the way you work changed over the last ten years?

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker asked today how the way we’ve worked has changed over the last ten years.  My answer is with regards to teaching is… in almost every single way.

1.  Ten years ago, I was making audio cassettes for my students to purchase through the bookstore.  Now I give them links to free sites on the Internet.

2. Ten years ago, I collaborated with very few faculty in my department because our schedules didn’t mesh.  Now we collaborate via the Internet in a variety of ways, email, instant messenger, Facebook, Skype, and a new favorite, Google Docs, as needed or desired.

3.  Ten years ago, if I collaborated at all, it was with teachers in my own school primarily in our shared office.  Now, with all these new technologies, I  collaborate with people all over the world 24/7 .

4.  Ten years ago, two-way video conferences needed to be scheduled well in advance in order to get the equipment.  Now many of us have the equipment at home.  I’m videoconferencing on Skype almost daily.

5.  Ten years ago, people weren’t very willing to share their work.  Now we put our projects, both big and small, on sites such as YouTube, TeacherTube, Facebook, Twitter, SlideShare and on blogs and wikis to share with the world.

6.  Ten years ago, our work used to be saved on our hard drives and always backed up on a floppy.  Now our work is primarily saved in the clouds and backed up on a flash drive.

7.  Ten years ago, teachers got nervous if there were no overhead projectors in their classrooms or transparencies to use (colored ones had to be purchased by us since they were too expensive for the schools to purchase).  Now we have multimedia systems in our classrooms that project right from the computers.

8.  Ten years ago, nearly everything was printed on paper.  Now we are endeavoring not to use paper in order to save our natural resources, not to mention our budgets. Now we are encouraging our students as well as ourselves to design and create using technology rather than paper and pencil.

9.  Ten years ago, I had to carry extra handouts with me for students who had been absent, or the students had to go to my office for them.  Now these handouts are posted online for the students.  Likewise, students submit their work online so there is less chance of conflicts regarding if and when the work has been handed in.  It is also less likely to be lost by either the student or the teacher.

10.  Ten years ago, I worked equally hard, but had access to much less information.  Ten years ago I had to wait to get answers to my questions until I could get to the library or at least to a computer.  Now the answers to most of our questions are at our fingertips wherever we are via our cell phones.

What can you add to this list?  It’s fun to ponder.  It’s even more fun to ponder how our work will change over the next ten years.

A great movie trailer for Halloween, “The Others,” with comprehension quiz on Google Doc Forms!

Enjoy the trailer of  “The Others,” starring Nicole Kidman in this eerie film just perfect for the Halloween season!  When you finish, answer the questions by clicking on the Comprehension Quiz link below the video.  Now, sit back comfortably, and let’s begin!

To check your understanding of the video, click on the Comprehension Quiz.  Good luck and happy Halloween!

A Note to Teachers about Google Forms:
When a student takes the quiz, the answers are put automatically on
a spreadsheet in the teacher's Google Docs file.  Students can be
provided with a link to that spreadsheet to see how his/her answers
compare to other participants' instead of receiving feedback in the
form of graphs.  If necessary, the quiz can be edited through Google
Docs.  By asking for a student's email address on the quiz, the
teacher can also give personal, individual feedback which is
preferable for responses to essay questions if/when a student's
language development is an issue.

Google Forms cannot yet be embedded in WordPress.com which is why
a link to the quiz is provided.

For more information:
Google Docs Forms in WordPress.mp4

Google Docs Forms Tutorial

Getting Students on Google Docs

This past week I had two of my groups use Google Docs.  My advanced ESL Research & Study Skills students used a spreadsheet in Google Docs to document their research question, their primary and secondary topics as well as a bit of personal information.  I chose a Google Doc spreadsheet  for this task:  1) to help them finalize, document, and share their writing topics; 2) to enable them to see who else in the class was interested in their topic or one similar enough in order to collaborate or at least share information with;   3) to be able to project the information on a screen so my colleague in the psychology department, Dr. Marco O’Brien,  who is volunteering his time to help the students develop their scientific research paper, would be able to quickly look over the students’ ideas while working with them; and 4) so the students could easily edit their work at school, at home, in the library,  or wherever they had the opportunity.

My second group, a combined high beginning/low intermediate,  Talk ‘n’ Tech class, also used a spreadsheet in Google Docs to write down information about themselves and then to use that information as a basis for “getting to know you” conversation in small groups.  The document also helps me know them better in order to use their backgrounds and interests in future conversation and technology activities.  I intend to also build on the document and have the students update it as the class continues.

I was happy to know that our students gmatc.matc.edu email accounts were acceptable as Google accounts, so the students did not need to open new ones.  A problem we encountered, however, was that our MATC computers were set for medium level privacy and we needed to remember to enable cookies by lowering the privacy level in Internet Explorer prior to opening up the Google Docs.  If we enabled them once we were in the “Doc,” when we refreshed the page, we were taken back to Blackboard and had to start over again.  So, it became a long route to get to a short distance.

The more advanced computer users were impressed with the ability of the entire class to be concurrently working on the same document.  (Up to 50 people can be editing  the document at the same time.)  The beginning computer users had nothing to compare it to, but enjoyed the process of  writing and being able to see what others were simultaneously writing.

A continued issue I have with my 8:30 fifty-five minute technology class is latecomers wanting me to stop everything to integrate them into the task.  This causes me to lose time.  If I don’t stop and help them,  they ask a neighbor to catch them up causing the neighbor to get behind or lost.  I have had to close the door to late arrivals which has angered those who are late, yet those who make the effort to arrive on time are appreciative of my new policy.  I hope that those who have been consistently late will realize what they are missing and set their alarm clocks a little earlier rather than drop the class.

One bright side note is that we are two weeks into our six-week summer session, and I am still teaching paperlessly!  Technology allows me to do that, and I am grateful to be able to save trees this way.  When I explained this to my classes, they ceased asking me for handouts and were happy to know that any information they needed for my classes could be found electronically in Blackboard.