Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Stay hungry. Stay foolish. T&L is 3 years old!

Teaching & Learning was born three years ago on a rainy Saturday afternoon! It feels like it was yesterday.
Our main targets were: giving suggestions of ELT resources and Web 2.0 tools applied to English language teaching, gathering some practical examples of students' work and discussing their relevance/success in class context, creating an interaction tool with Students/ other Teachers and, above all,  keeping close to Steve Jobs motto: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” as we believe work can be done with pleasure and it can be much better if we don’t forget about laughing, enjoying and adding a pinch of foolishness!
More than 90000 hits later, I believe those objectives were positively achieved. Let's hope T&L audience continues to grow every day, Thank you for reading Teaching & Learning, for supporting it and above all for being here!
Three years and counting… HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TEACHING & LEARNING!!! Let's celebrate...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Some Back-to-School Magic!

image credits: New Class/ Ice Breakers
Everyone loves a good icebreaker—it’s a great way to get to know other people and help people feel relaxed in stressful situations, such as the first day of a new school year.
Here are a few icebreakers and some variations to the icebreakers to try during the first week of school to build a good sense of community in your classroom that will last throughout the year!

1 - Name Chain Games

By far and away the best way to learn and retain student names is to do a name chain game to start off the class. You can vary the specifics to fit the needs of your particular class, for example: the first student says 1) his or her name, 2) his or her home country, 3) one interesting fact about himself or herself, and 4) his or her favorite English word. The next student must then repeat all of the information about himself or herself and then say the name and favorite English word of the preceding student. The third student introduces himself or herself and then says the names and favorite English words of the preceding two students, and so on until the last student.

2 - New Year’s Resolutions

Your students may be familiar with this popular tradition in January, but a new school year should bring about new resolutions for students and teachers alike. Have students partner up with each other and discuss what goals they have for themselves for the school year. Encourage them to be specific with the things they would like to accomplish and what they want to be different. Make sure that you as the teacher make some resolutions too!

3 - Name That Person

Another great activity to get to your students to know each other a little better is a guessing game. Pass out small pieces of paper or notecards to each student and tell them to write down two facts about themselves on the card without writing their name on them. Collect the cards in a basket and mix them up before redistributing them to the students. Students take turn reading out the facts from the note card and the other students guess which person wrote the card.

4 - Find Objects to Describe Me...

A classic get to know you activity is to have students go through their backpacks, folders, pockets, etc... and find 3 or 4 things that they feel describe them very well. Students then need to describe their objects and why they chose them as their defining objects. Put students into pairs to share their objects or share as a whole class so that way everyone can hear about their new classmates!

5 – I am cool because…

If students are getting sluggish and you need them to move around the first day, do this activity. Have all of the students seated in a circle and you as a teacher stand in the middle. To start off the activity, you will say “I’m cool because...” and then finish that sentence with something that’s true about you, for example, you’re wearing blue jeans, you speak 3 languages, etc... Then, every student who shares that fact in common with you must stand up and find a new seat. You also will need to find a seat meaning that one student will be stranded in the middle. This game is great for finding commonalities and getting in some good laughs!

Variation: Play “I have never....” instead. When students are in the middle, have them call out things they’ve never done and have the students move who have done those activities.

6 - 3 Common, 1 Unique

This activity is good for small groups. Randomly group students into three or four and give them a time limit to discover three things that all members of the group have in common and one thing that is unique for all of them. When the time is up, have each group report to the class. Then, change up the groups and have them do it again with their new class members. If it starts to get too easy, start ruling out common answers like “We’re all from different countries” or “We all breathe oxygen.”

Variation: Try this with the whole class after doing it in small groups. If they’ve been good listeners, they should be able to recall many things that all students had in common. It may take awhile, but there are surely at least 3 things the whole class has in common!

Source: Busy Teacher (slightly abridged)

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Reading online

image credits: Royalty Free Stock Images
Research suggests that online reading requires a different set of skills and strategies than offline reading.  These different skills and strategies are required because online reading is frequently information seeking, guided by the reader (rather than the teacher) and non-linear (readers follow a series of hyperlinks and navigate through multiple windows rather than reading something from beginning to end).  The skills required for successful online reading are: the ability to formulate appropriate questions, locate reliable information, and evaluate, synthesize and communicate that information.
Additionally, because online reading occurs within rapidly changing technology that may or may not be familiar to teachers, and students are frequently engaged with outside of school, lessons that build on students’ prior knowledge of these technologies can and should be employed.
Finally, research tells us that proficient offline readers are not always proficient online readers and vice versa.


There are a number of ways that you can help students formulate good questions:

- For younger students, teach them to use appropriate search terms and quotations marks rather than full questions when using a search engine.

- For older students, teach them Boolean Operators (and, or, not, near, ( ), *) to better refine their searches.  Ask students to perform a search before introducing Boolean Operators and then to perform the same search after. Ask them to reflect on the different types of information these searches find.

By asking students to reflect on their already established online behavior, you can engage in metacognitive reflection about their information seeking behavior and what skills they need to develop:

- Have students draw a map of their online reading behavior.  Start with a general research question and have them draw or take screen shots of the various steps and detours they take to find the answer. Students can share their maps or screen shots in class and reflect on the decisions they made at each point in their reading.

- As a class you can use this as an opportunity to discuss how students assess the reliability of websites, interact with their peers for advice during online reading, and what problems they encountered and how they solved those problems.

In order to help students learn to analyze and evaluate the information they encounter online you can:

- Teach a mini-lessons on the differences between .com, .gov, .org, and .edu domains.

- Design a lesson that asks students to examine websites you select (be sure to provide both reliable and unreliable sources). Elements for students to check for: can the information presented be corroborated elsewhere? Is the writer of the information reliable? Is the information current? Is the information documented? Is the website advocating for something and therefore potentially challenged as a neutral source? Is there a conflict of interest present?

- Have students examine a famous website hoax (like the Yes Men spoof of a Dow Chemical site that landed them interviews with the BBC and search for clues that suggest it is a hoax.

- Teach a mini-lesson on propaganda techniques and have students identify the use of the same techniques in online advertising.  Reflect with students on how the interactive medium of online reading can increase or decrease the power of a particular propaganda technique.