Posts Tagged activity

Exploring a more active and student-centered approach to vocabulary

Vocabulary is in general not fun. It mainly deals with rote memorization of words with little context or use in everyday conversation. For learners of English as a second or other language, many of the vocabulary words presented for study, especially as they reach intermediate and advanced stages of L2 acquisition, have little to no relevance to their language use. This is especially true for students who participate in courses designed for test preparation. In my case, I am responsible for TOEIC test preparation for high school students looking to enroll into universities that use the test as a proficiency check.

Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is especially popular in Japan and South Korea, and focuses on context derived from business encounters. I have been particularly interested in the effects the class (and in some ways the test) has on students’ motivation towards the L2 as they move through the year-long course, but I have also taken interest in how to best study vocabulary. Many publications print out vocabulary lists based on levels students want to achieve. What I have found is that none of these authors can really tell you which vocabulary will be used on the test. ETS has a published book of common vocabulary that I rely on for my lists. The challenge now is what to engage the students (or rather to get the students to engage themselves) into not only studying these vocabulary, but also how to use and manipulate them.

icon180x180Two years ago I began experimenting with Quizlet, an online service that digitizes study cards for not only you to see wherever you go with your smartphone or tablet, but also to share with others, either within a class or with the world. Prior to trying Quizlet, students were assigned sections of a vocabulary list and assigned to fill out a form for each word, then copies of these forms were made for other students in the class. A lot of paper and very time consuming. Though the pair forms still exist, students can now transfer their work to Quizlet for others to see. For, that solved one problem of peer-to-peer collaboration, and also reduced my time at the photo copier. But now, how to engage with it?

This year I experimented with group game/activity. I brought in iPads, 1 for every 4 students, and engaged in a gameshow-like activity. On the board were categories:

  • Example sentence
  • Word families (changing the word into different parts of speech)
  • synonyms
  • antonyms
  • similar sounding words

Students as a class decided the point value of each category based on what they felt which categories were easier or more difficult than the others (more difficult gave higher point value). The iPads were used as an answer board using one of the many Whiteboard apps available. Each group took turns deciding a category while the teacher decided on the word. Students could use Quizlet on their smartphones to review the word that was chosen. The feedback on the activity was positive and provided a ‘fun’ time for the class.

Though this activity is one to hold on to, I still ponder on its effectiveness in vocabulary intake. Surely it allows students to converse on the chosen words, creating valuable dialog, but it is difficult to understand if these dialogs support vocabulary intake or not. What I do know is that Quizlet itself is a game-changer, with one student, in an evaluation she wrote for the class, stated that Quizlet was useful for her, but would like to see it used in class more.

So the search is on. In the meantime, promoting to take full advantage of Quizlet and its many study activities is a priority, with the iPads coming out more often for group dialog on individual words is on the table.

 

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This day in Ed. Tech

In the late morning classes, one senior teacher was using an iPad as he wirelessly connected to a projector via AppleTV in order to demonstrate to students how to understand UNHCR country profiles as part of their Model United Nations training. As he gave a tour of the profiles, students used their smart phones to view the web pages being shown. On the other side of the room, an exchange student who does not have a smart phone was issued a school iPad connected to the room’s WiFi system for the activity.

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Students vote, prefer small groups to whole class in video-watching activities

I started off my 2015 listening workshop class using the traditional approach of a class watching a video on the big screen and completing appropriate work. Last week, I broke them into small groups to watch videos on a group iPad while completing appropriate work.

I then asked in an informal manner which setting they prefer, and all who replied voted for the small groups. I would agree. I find the larger class to be very passive when everyone is sharing a big screen. As is the manner, students face forward, mouths shut, while their teacher lectures. However, when they are broken into smaller groups, interaction occurs, and the work seems to become more enjoyable.

It also allows more teaching moments for individual students as I can walk around and answer questions.

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QuickVoice for voice recording

IMG_0637-1A simple, free app for iPad, QuickVoice, allowed our students to record a short mock-radio infomercial about the effects of Malaria and how to prevent infection. As student groups came up to record, the rest of the class closed their eyes to pretend they were listening to the radio.

The recording I felt pushed the students to perform at a higher level than what they might have done given a slight rise in anxiety, but still doing so in front of classmates made the experience enjoyable.

QuickVoice® Recorder By nFinity Inc.

We also used a rather inexpensive Monaural Microphone from audio-technica.

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Storytelling with iPad

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The means of presenting can be a challenge due to classroom setup. If you have a room that can be presented as a stage area and a projector, then creating a presentation atmosphere is not an issue. However, where such setups are not available, I have found bringing in a few iPads for small group presentations to be ideal. Instead of presenting to a class, students are in small groups, presenting in a more authentic story-telling setting. The story (or presentation) becomes more personal, and there is a greater opportunity for students to receive instant feedback and support for their efforts by their peers.

This is not to discredit class presentations, but rather the opportunity to present different presentation opportunities for the students to experience.

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Google Public Data Explorer

I have the duty of preparing students for a debate contest in March. One of the steps for this preparation is teaching students how to research. I came across Google Public Data Explorer I found it to be the perfect introduction to researching. The graphs displayed are interactive, and the connection to the World Bank’s facts and figures makes it extremely easy to find and compare figures and statistics of the world and individual countries.

As I am dealing with 10th Grade Japanese students, I treated this activity as an introduction.  Students worked in pairs and were given two tasks to fill:

  1. Choose any two countries and compare their population from any year.
  2. Compare Japan’s internet users from any two years.

Students were given five minutes for each task.  After time had elapsed, students had to present their findings, starting with the following phrase, “According to the World Bank…”

Such an activity I believe can give a brief introduction to research, give students a student-centered approach to learning how to read graphs, and how to state both the information researched and how to reference it in speech.

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