Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Even the books I do use have changed very little over the last decade. As much as I appreciate the Headway series (all except the advanced book, which is dire) they are way out of date methodologically and seem to have successfully ignored the electronic revolution that has been underway for the last 20 or so years. It's almost as if their world froze in 1986 and no one told them otherwise.
The situation becomes even more tragic when you reach advanced levels where simply revising grammar, syntax and vocabulary is unlikely to produce the kind of linguistic skills needed to pass exams or help those who want to be able to communicate in English at anything other than the most basic manner. It is hardly surprising then, that the Greek pass rate for C2 level exams such as CPE is 29%. Also as I read in Hyphenpedia;
"To the above equation you add the sad 77% (hyphen 2005 annual market research) of Greek professional FL certificate holders who cannot speak English, thus shaping a disappointing international profile for the average Greek professional. Then it is easier to swallow that maybe this whole Greek ELT system, that has successfully served Greek insecurity and the need for formal (but not necessarily substantial) accreditation, is coming to an end."
It is not enough that current methodologies are incredibly bad in helping students get the certificates they so dearly desire, They are also terrible at producing able second language speakers even amongst those who do manage to acquire some kind of qualification.
Yet every time I mention these facts and figures and try to introduce new ideas and approaches I'm told that they won't work, they'll negatively affect exam results or that that's not what students want from their lessons. After a while there comes a time when you just shut up, keep your opinions to yourself and tow the line.
Strangely though, the vast majority of the parents of students I do private lessons with are extremely happy with the fact their kids have become confident users of English and actually are happy to do lessons. But hell, what do I know? I'm just a teacher.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Afterwards it was to friend's for a Sunday lunch then later home to work on Lydia's latest blog entry and then to make chocolate biscuits.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
1 I've signed the Official Secrets Act. No, I'm not a member of MI5/6 but I did work for British Telecom and they required everyone to sign.
2 My favourite food is grilled octopus, something that I never would have dreamed possible before coming to Greece.
3 I can't drive a car. Even though I come from a family of professional drivers (they're all truckers).
4 My dream is to go to New York on holiday, preferably for an extended period of time in which I actually got got see something more than just the sights.
5 I once drove from Florence to Venice on a 200cc Vespa.
Friday, January 26, 2007
This is an exercise which I did with my student yesterday. We were working on some vocabulary connected with rooms from Chatterbox 2 and he was having a problem with this is/these are so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and record this. We then put the video on his PC and listened to the playback, which a great help when seeing the errors in pronunciation and grammar he'd made. Afterwards we recorded it again a couple of times until he was happy with his performance.
I'll post the video on his blog in a short while.
1)The preliminary test is being abolished as a prerequisite for taking the main examinations. Though this won't come into force until November 2007 as far as I can tell from their site.
2)From 2008 the ECPE will be held twice a year in November and June.
3)Administration of the exam will now be carried out by the Hellenic American Union instead of Anatolia college, Thessaloniki.
Click here for more details of the exam changes.
Thanks to Theodora P for putting me onto this.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Last year talked about how students could use their digital cameras to create a photo dictionary. The idea was that they could take pictures of everyday scenes such as a street, classroom, party etc. and label them using programs such as Word .
However, a nice, new shiny application by Flickr has made this even simpler. As many of you know, you can label different parts of your photos when you post them to Flickr. So, this is a great opportunity or students to learn and practice naming everyday objects.
When you click on your picture, look for the Add Note option which is above the image, on the left-hand side. Then just place the square where you want and add a description.
The potential for this technique doesn't just end with learning languages, it could be used in all kinds of learning situations where you need to know the different parts of an object. Imagine using it in biology lessons to name bones, in architecture to show different features etc. It is a great way to revise your knowledge using real life examples.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
The music is Help Yourself, off the Scorpio Rising album by Death In Vegas .
Thanks to Kassandra for the name.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
1 Students ask each other about their favourite dishes, what's in them and how you make them.
2 Student draw up a table with two columns: in one they write all the words connected with their favourite dish in English, in the other, all the words they know only in Greek.
3 Student work together in groups to find translations for the Greek words. If they can't find one they then ask you.
4 Now show students a recipe that you like. Explain the lay out, terms (e.g. tbs) and grammar used (for example, the use of the imperative.
5 Students the write up their recipes, or if some students don't know how to cook a group recipe is created.
6 For homework students use their video/digital camera or mobile phone camera to film themselves or somebody else making the recipe.
7 Then use Windows Movie Maker or the like to add the recipe to either the end or the beginning of the video. Also, if the students are not happy with what they said they can re-record it as a voice over.
8 The video can be posted via YouTube to their blog.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
These pictures were taken today in the military cemetery on Lagadas St. Here lay buried thousands of Italian, British, French and Serbian soldiers who died in the First World War.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Inspired by Ewan MacIntosh's post on blogging in Scottish infants school I decide to set up a blog for my daughter, Lydia aged seven as a way of helping her with her English (click here). Since she uses the internet regularly (Polly Pocket is her favourite site) I thought that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch. I want to make it is any rich as possible in terms of media so that it doesn't just become a write and read blog.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Alternatively, anyone who wants to practice their language skills can get themselves a "speaking buddy" and regularly practice.
So check out KanTalk and tell me what you think.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The whole enterprise depends upon easy access to broadband internet connections, Now this may sound like a utopian idea to those who live and work in poor countries, yet as I said yesterday, the massive growth of mobile phone usage in places like Africa means that setting up wifi networks over large areas is not just a crazy dream. In addition, the introduction of the $100 laptop means that many more people will have the tools to access the internet within the next five years.
How would it work?
Once problems of access have been overcome I envisage that the Electronic Peace Corp would be an internet space akin to Ebay. In the sense that "buyers" and "sellers" seek each other out rather than being directed by a central authority. The idea would be that those who want to volunteer their time and expertise would advertise or seek out those who most need it. And vice versa.So, for example, I, as an ESL/EFL teacher might decide to cooperate with a colleague in secondary school in Ghana or Laos.
You would sign up, giving details of your professional background, interests, preferences and level of commitment - which could be anything from volunteering to spend an hour a week at your PC to actually going there to help.
The Ebay model
However, there is the possibility that the system might be abused. For example I might say that I'm an experienced engineer or pretend to be a professor when in fact I'm nothing of the sort. Like Ebay each person or group would be subject a rating system. Everybody would have to "earn their stripes". Any bad behaviour would earn negative reviews. Similarly, those who work well and effectively garner better ratings in the same way sellers on Ebay do.
Using Voip/ Video
The other major plank of this service would be voip/video services such as Skype. This would allow real time communication in spoken form and so anyone who is not a fluent in say, written English, or even their mother tongue could participate. Pictures/video taken by cell phone cameras and sent via the web would also get round the need for lengthy or complicated descriptions.
Even the language barrier would not prove insurmountable as people could volunteer their services as interpreters/translators via skypecasts. For example, a America doctor could discuss a patient with a nurse in Cambodia while a Khmer speaking Cambodia-American translates via a skypecast.
What about this for a name? The Walking Wiki (WaKi)
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Whilst over at the BBC's website I came across this story about how mobile phones are transforming life in Kenya. Of all the interesting details that the article contains, the one that stood out was the a third of all Kenyans have a mobile. While I'm sure that most are not the state of the art phones with built - in camera and mp3 players that will change in the near future as these items become standard on all entry level models. This means that students have a means of watching video, listening to audio material and perhaps most importantly of all producing such things.
The other item I saw in the news was the imminent arrival in Greece of the first MIT 100 dollar laptops (though they are going to cost a bit more than that in the beginning). I finally got to see one of these things in detail on TV and I was most impressed both by the design and its potential. Although I don't think that it will have much impact here, the possibilities for countries which do not have the money to pay for PCs or Macs are enormous.
The idea that the laptop can replace existing textbooks is just the beginning as the potential for producing material and spreading ideas is simply endless. Suddenly, blogging, podcasting, vlogging, wikis and social networking cease to be the preserve of the well - off countries of the North and become a means to educate and be educated wherever you are.
Here's an idea: The Electronic Peace Corp. The idea is that people sign up to help a project in a developing country without having to leave their own living room, let alone country. This would allow doctors, teacher, business leaders, engineers and the like to contribute their time and expertise. The ability to communicate in real time via Skype video and the like would mean that people could be on hand to help when needed. A kind of walking, talking Wiki page.
Another possibility is that you make translating Wikipedia part of your national curriculum. In countries where instruction in English is common students translate Wiki pages into the local languages. Suddenly, within the space of a few years the vast repository of knowledge Wikipedia contains in English becomes available in hundreds of different languages and dialects.
Monday, January 08, 2007
e.g. march, stroll, stride, trudge, wander etc
The students then search on Flickr for photos that best show the meaning of the word. They then use Slide.com to make a slide show to put on their class/ personal blog. Afterwards they look at other students' blogs to comment on their choice of photos.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Check out her latest one which is an introduction to all these wonderful ways of using the internet in our teaching practice. If you're not using PowerGrade then I'd skip the first 18 minutes and go straight to her presentation on learning with podcasts, blogs and wikis.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
I got this idea from the BBC's Today programme. The aim is to record your journey home from work/school in pictures. The reporter published her photos (click here) did so as part of a project by a UK university;
"Today presenter Sarah Montague took these pictures of her walk home as part of a project being set up by academics at Northumbria University to increase our awareness of the environment around us.
To contribute contact firstname.lastname@example.org."
1 Tell students that they are going to find out how the others get to and from school. Elicit from them the kind of questions they would need to ask;
E.G. How do you get to school? How long does it take? Who drives you? Which bus do you take? Which route do you take?
2 Student then ask each other. The best thing is shuffle students around so they're not asking their regular partner(s).
3 Now explain to students that they are going to take 10 to 15 pictures of their journey home. They can use a digital camera or their mobile phone. Show them either your example or the one from the Today programme. If students don't have access to either then get them to borrow or share a friend's for a day or so.
4 In the next lesson get students to make a slide show of their pictures with suitable captions.
You can use BubbleShare or Slide.com for a simple version or Microsoft's Photo Story3, Windows Movie Maker or Jumpcut for a more sophisticated one.
If you do choose Jumpcut, Photo Story or Movie Maker then ask them to record a voice over and add some background music.
5 Now get students to post their slide shows on the class/personal blog.
6 For homework students write three questions about someone else's photos in the comments section. All questions must be answered by the following lesson.
Alternatively, you could simply ask them to post the photos on their Flickr page as a set with suitable captions for each. In this case the questions and answers are posted in the Flickr comment box.
You could even ask them to send it to the university project managers - click here for details.
Friday, January 05, 2007
1 I'm the first person in my family to be formally educated beyond 15 years of age. It came as much a surprise to me as anyone else that you could study beyond 18. Still, one Ba and an Ma later, I reckon I've just got started.
2 I taught myself to read and write Greek. Once I'd been here a few months I thought I'd better hit the books. By the way, I was an awful language learner at school and drove my French teacher crazy, poor soul.
3 I once drove a Vespa from Athens to Rome. Two people, one hell of a lot of luggage and 24 hours later we arrived in the Eternal City. Roman Holiday all over again, sigh.
4 I once had to sing "Grease is the Word" to A couple of hundred kids in Poland. An experience neither they nor I wish to relive.
5 I used to spend my summer holidays in Tipperary, Ireland when I was a kid as my grandmother had a small farm there.
I tag Theodora p, TooManyTribbles, FCE BLog, Lightning Rod Girl, Lingual Bee
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I thought I'd talk again about a teaching idea that has really been a major help to my students. It combines the two great traits of any good idea; it's easy and it's quick. As most language art teachers know one of best routes to proficiency in a language, be it a foreign one or your own is extensive reading.
The problem is that for many students the idea of reading literature, on top of all the other stuff they have to do sounds more like punishment than anything else. Over the years I've pleaded, begged, threatened, demanded and any number of other verbs my students to read outside the curriculum, often to no effect. However, last year I hit upon a method that gets my students to read more. Instead of asking them to read, say a chapter (WHATTTTT, ARE YOU KIDDING????) I simply say I want them to do 20 minutes per week extra work. Hardly, a huge sacrifice, even for my over stretched, time - famished teenage students.
Basically, the idea is that the students listen to an audio book whilst following it in printed form. In this way, even a chapter can be done in less than half an hour. Also, it can be done anywhere, if you have an mp3 player or mobile phone with mp3 capability the you can listen on the bus, in bed, lounged out in front of the TV etc. Also for foreign language students the ability to see what is being said as well as listen to it makes the whole task much easier.
The audio books can be downloaded from any number of sources. For those of you interested in the likes of Dickens, Austin, Wilde and the like, go to Librivox or Gutenberg.
For those of you with more modern tastes then a quick visit to TorrentSpy and the like via BitComet is more likely to get you what you want.
Just remember to make sure you are downloading the full, unabridged version.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
So here are a list of searches on Google which turn up Teacher Dude's Grill and BBQ on page one. They make for strange reading at times as they include not only teaching stuff but an odd array of other terms that brought people here.
"police brutality Greece"
"Thessaloniki at night"
"Web 2.0 and EFL"
"writing a blurb"
"Blade techno theme"
Weird but true, try it out for yourself.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Check out the photos at Flickr here.
The basic idea is for your students to create a video based on what they did in 2006. They can use the photos/video they took with their digital camera or mobile phones in order to give the rest of us a taste of what last year was like for them.
1 In the first week back ask your students to write down a list of the top 5/10 best moment in 2006. If necessary, work on any vocabulary items.
2 Students then ask each other about their highlights.
3 Now explain to students that they are going to make a video based on their 2006 and that they should use their photos/videos from last year to create a video.
4 Tell them that you are going to show your own video and that they should think of three questions to ask you about 2006.
5 Answer their questions.
6 Now tell students they have a week to make a 2-5 minute video something similar using Windows Movie Maker, Photo Story 3, imovie, Jumpcut.com etc . If you want, you could also get them to record a narrative explaining the images.
7 If, for some reason students don't have access to a digital camera/mobile phone then ask them to find images from Flickr that reflect their experience of 2006. For example, if they took part in some sports event, get some photos from Flickr that show something similar.
8 Students then post their work on the class/personal blogs.
9 For homework students choose three other blogs and post five questions about the video on each. All questions must be answered.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Mr Negroponte said.
"I consider that criminal, because children should be making things, communicating, exploring, sharing, not running office automation tools."
Click here for the rest of the article.
This is my sentiment exactly as I believe that the most students need is how to use a basic word processing package in order to put down their thoughts. All the really useful stuff that we can use to learn from the internet does not need Office. Blogging, vlogging, photo sharing, creating video, podcasting, wikis, and the like are the applications that will give our students the chance of getting a first class education. If, at some point they require a knowledge of Office tools then I'm sure they'll pick up the necessary skills in a matter of weeks.
But just teaching office automation tools, especially to younger learners is like teaching somebody to drive by letting them only learn the Highway Code and three-point turns.