Archive | November 2014

Covering an unexpected class?

Being called to cover a class for an absent colleague is something every EFL teacher experiences, I would say, on a fairly regular basis.  If you’re clever, and organised, you will have a special folder of activities up your sleeve ready to run off photocopies and march into the classroom unperturbed! I would highly recommend you try to be this organised.

However, we all have bad days, weeks or just times when our colleagues have one too many hangovers, and we run out of things to do, or are simply unprepared.  An activity which I have fallen back on often, and which I consider one of my emergency activities is poetry writing.

Every single class I have done this with enjoyed it immensely and it can be adapted to suit any level.  How you approach it is also flexible.

One way is to ask students to look out of the classroom window and then to write down two or three words to describe what they see.  Next, ask them to close their eyes: what can they hear? Again, two or three words to describe it. Open the classroom window: what can they smell? Then, how do you feel? You can have as many or as few prompts as you like. The idea is to get key words from the students; words which come from them and their experiences. Then, you ask the students to make sentences using the words and to  put them together in a poem:

I see skyscrapers tall and unyielding

I hear traffic loud and intrusive

I smell fumes and pollution

I long for tranquility

You could also transport your students to an imaginary place: ‘Imagine you’re lying on a beach; what can you see/hear/smell etc.’

When you tell students they’re going to write a poem, they often get stressed and say they can’t do it. But, if you tell them that they can write whatever they want, that it doesn’t have to rhyme, you will find they become very creative.  Maybe what they come up with isn’t technically a poem, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are using the language, being creative and enjoying themselves.

Another way I have done this was by brainstorming the names of flowers. Then, each student picked a flower from the selection and thought of five adjectives to describe it. They used those adjectives as the basis for their poem about the flower. After writing the poem, they either found pictures or drew pictures of the flower and put it all together in a poster. We then displayed the posters on the classroom walls for all to see. This approach could work with any object or person: five words to describe your mum, five words to describe your car, etc.

You don’t need any special resources for this activity. Just writing materials and imagination. So it’s perfect for that unexpected class!

I didn’t come up with this idea originally. I think I read it somewhere early on in my teaching career. But I have adapted it to suit different students and situations. And I highly recommend it! Give it a go and let us know how you get on.

If you were the original ‘inventor’ of this activity – all credit to you! And let us know in the comments!

©Natalie Murray, 2014. Copying strictly prohibited. Extracts and links may be used only with full and clear credit given to Natalie Murray/English in Andalucia with appropriate links to the source material.

Are you using multimedia in the classroom?

I consider myself to have a fair amount of experience using multimedia in the ELT classroom. In previous teaching posts, I have been lucky enough to have an interactive whiteboard, and laptops and iPads for student use.  See one of my previous posts on iPads and teaching here.  As a result, in class my students could view movies, make movies, do research, record audio, complete online quizzes and exams, make interactive flashcards, use ebook versions of course books, and a whole load of other great stuff!  But we all need a refresher or an injection of new ideas from time to time, so yesterday I attended one of the talks at the Macmillan Education online conference.

The talk was entitled ‘Using Multimedia in the classroom’ and was presented by Robert Campbell, an ELT author. It was an interesting and informative talk, especially for those new to using multimedia and mobile technology in the classroom.  As well as discussing different ways of using multimedia, Robert also considered issues such as students knowing more about the technology than their teachers, and the misuse of smartphones and other such devices in class.

I was particularly pleased with some of the non-teaching trivia which I picked up.  For example, the term ‘tech-savvy’ was only included in the Oxford dictionary this summer! I was surprised; seems to have been around awhile. If you want to know how tech-savvy you are in comparison to a 14/15 year old, who, apparently are the most tech-savvy age group, visit ofcom.org.uk to take the test.

And, before yesterday, I’d never heard of Raspberry Pi.  Have you? Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer which can be connected to a monitor or TV, keyboard and mouse, and away you go. Apparently, the idea is to help educate children in the use of technology and programming skills. Read more about it here.

I also learnt a new acronym: BYOD.

 

Can you guess?

 

Bring Your Own Device!

BYOD

BYOD

 

Are you using multimedia in the classroom? As with anything it has its benefits and drawbacks, but I think the benefits win out.

If you’re thinking about it, I believe all the webinars on the Macmillan conference have been recorded and will be made available to view, so I suggest you have a listen to Robert’s talk.  It might help you make that first step.  It’s worth it!

 

 

 

©Natalie Murray, 2014. Copying strictly prohibited. Extracts and links may be used only with full and clear credit given to Natalie Murray/English in Andalucia with appropriate links to the source material.

A trip to Mojacar anyone?

The other day, we had to venture out. Something we try not to do too often! However, our destination was Mojacar: which consists of a typical Andalucian sugar cube mountain village and Mojacar Playa, which is the beach front resort at the bottom of the mountain, so we were quite looking forward to it.  Mojacar has long been a favourite place of mine. It was the first place I ever visited in Spain back in 1991.  Like anywhere, it’s changed quite a bit since then in that it has been built up a lot.  There are not so many ‘wild’ areas as there used to be. And while there used to be an open stretch between Mojacar and Garrucha, a fishing village to the north, now there are buildings all the way along. But, there are no skyscrapers.  It doesn’t look like the skyline of Benidorm, for example.  Generally, buildings along Mojacar Playa are in keeping with the village itself on top of the mountain.

When we visit we don’t like to stay too long. We’re always happy to get back to our mountain. But, Mojacar, in my opinion, is a lovely place for a holiday.  You can find out more here.

The road to Mojacar…

Turre

Turre

The road to Turre

The road to Turre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Turre to Mojacar

 

 

First glimpse of Mojacar village…

Sugar cube village

Sugar cube village

 

Mountain top village

Mountain top village

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Left to the playa, right to the village – we went left.

Village roundabout

Village roundabout

 

Can you see the sea yet?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

One thing you’ll see a lot of in Mojacar is the Indalo Man.  The Indalo Man is the lucky symbol of Mojacar, and now more widely of Almeria.  You’ll mostly see him on the outside of houses to keep away evil spirits, and he comes in all forms and colours in the souvenir shops! He looks like a man standing with his feet apart and his arms stretched out holding an arc above his head.

Something like this…

The Indalo Man

The Indalo Man

Yes, we have one in our house!

 

When we have a trip to the seaside, we like to indulge and have fish and chips or something else typically English.  This time we went to a place called Mojo’s Cafe Bar. It’s on the top floor of the commercial centre on Mojacar Playa, so has great views!  Having a commercial centre on a beach front sounds awful, doesn’t it? But, as with most of the other local buildings, it’s done tastefully – rather like a whitewashed Moorish fort. And it’s a great place to spend a few hours wandering through the many arts and crafts gift shops and fashion shops, or to sit and have coffee or beer and a tapa.

The view from Mojo’s

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I recommend the beer-battered cod goujons!

Mojacar Playa

©Natalie Murray, 2014. Copying strictly prohibited. Extracts and links may be used only with full and clear credit given to Natalie Murray/English in Andalucia with appropriate links to the source material.