Saturday, March 31, 2012

Recording students describing photos

Hello again!  Sorry I've been 'missing' for a few days but life has been even more hectic than usual this week!  And it hasn't been for a lack of ideas to share with you on this blog, believe me!  I have a file full of materials and lots of links saved in my 'For later' file on my computer.

So, let's make a start on one of them!

As I told you recently, I gave a talk at the TESOL Spain 2012 Convention.

As well as giving my talk, I was able to attend a few sessions.  The first one I went to a Keynote presentation given by Russell Stannard.  Here he is in action:

(Thanks Donna Koniholm for the great photos you took at the Convention!) 

I've been reading articles and tips from Russell Stannard for a long long time.  Quite deservedly, his website  has won lots of awards.

For a quick (3 minute) presentation of the site by Russell himself, I recommend watching this video.

During Russell's TESOL presentation, the tool that really caught my eye was MailVU:

This allows you to record video clips on a computer using the microphone and webcam and then send them to an email contact.

Here is Russell's description of the potential use of this site for language teachers:

… you can get the students to do recordings of themselves speaking in English at home … and then sending those recordings to you, you can then listen to them and obviously give them some feedback on their oral performance…

Watch Russell explaining this site here.

So, of course, me being a Cambridge ESOL teacher and teacher trainer, I thought:  What a fantastic tool to practise the 1 minute talking about photos tasks in the Cambridge English: Preliminary, First, Advanced and Proficiency Speaking Tests!!!

Let's consider how you could go about this:
For homework, tell students which photo(s) you want them to talk about and the question you want them to answer in relation to the photo(s)

For example,

Here are your photographs.  They show people spending their free time in different ways.  I'd like you to compare the photographs and say what are the advantages and disadvantages for the people of spending their free time in these different ways.  

Source:  First for Schools Handbook

You send students a link to MailVU by email.  They open the link, record themselves doing the task, and send you the clip by email.  You watch it and can give them feedback (by return of email/record a video of yourself talking about their performance/discuss the clip with them in class (maybe while you both watch the video).

I believe it has fantastic potential for working on this part of the Cambridge ESOL speaking tests!

If you try it out, please let us know about it!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Blog for students and teachers

Today I thought I'd write about another blog that I'm involved in.
Self-Access materials for ESL teachers and students
For the past 4 years, I, along with a group of local teachers, have been preparing materials for teachers and instituto students.  We meet once a fortnight and develop materials to upload to the blog.  This year, we have been trying to expand the range of materials available on the blog and have prepared several videos for use in class.


Animals (3) Cinema (4) Communication (7) Crime (2)Culture (36) Curiosities (40) Dates (12)Education (13) Environment (4) Fashion (3) Festivals (2)Food (6) Funny stories (3) Grammar (4) Health (8) Holidays(5) Internet (14) Keys for PAU texts (71)Language (8) LINKS to ESL Activities (1) Listening (4) Money (4)Music (12) Nature (5) News (2) Numbers (2) PAU Texts (72) People (13) Pronunciation (1) Quotations(5) Reading (70) Science (5) Sports (6)Technology (25) Transport (3) Travel (22) Videos(28) Vocabulary (27) Work (2) Writing (6)

As you can see, the biggest section focuses on PAU texts.  (This is the exam that Spanish students have to take on various subjects in order to get into university).

The ones on our blog are specifically written taking the format of the PAU exam here in Cantabria (where I live) into account.  We have been delighted with the number of visits from both teachers and students to this and other sections.

Recently, we have been updating the links we have on the blog. Currently, we have 19 different categories of links.  I've rediscovered old gems and also some new sites worth sharing - future posts will cover some of these.

I hope you will visit the blog and that you appreciate the hard work behind it.  Please feel free to use the material and send us your comments and suggestions!

And if you write or know of any blogs you think should be recommended on the Teaching Together Blog, please send me the details!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Writing and Speaking Assessment Scales and Handbooks

I'd been waiting for the new Handbooks for the Cambridge ESOL exams to appear on the website.  I'd heard they were coming out.

So when I received my ezine from Teacher Support yesterday with the links to the handbooks, I thought I'd write about them on this blog.

Handbooks for TeachersThis month we have published the new Handbooks for Teachers. These handbooks contain an overview of the exam and its place within Cambridge ESOL. This is followed by a focus on each paper and includes: content, advice on preparation, example papers and speaking and writing assessment scales where appropriate.

Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) Handbook 
Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) Handbook
Cambridge English: First (FCE) Handbook
Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET) Handbook
Cambridge English: Key (KET) Handbook
Cambridge English: Business Certificates (BEC) Handbook
Cambridge English: Young Learners (YLE) Handbook

The sample materials for the different papers in each exam is the same.

So, what's different about the new handbooks?

The new Speaking and Writing Scales!

Here is some information on the new Writing Scales, taken from the Preliminary Handbook:

Assessment scales
Examiners mark tasks using assessment scales that were developed with explicit reference to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The scales, which are used across the spectrum of Cambridge ESOL’s General and Business English Writing tests, consist of four subscales: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation, and Language:
Content focuses on how well the candidate has fulfilled the task, in other words if they have done what they were asked to do.
Communicative Achievement focuses on how appropriate the writing is for the task and whether the candidate has used the appropriate register.
Organisation focuses on the way the candidate puts together the piece of writing, in other words if it is logical and ordered.
Language focuses on vocabulary and grammar. This includes the range of language as well as how accurate it is.

Responses are marked on each subscale from 0 to 5.

And the great news is that the same areas are assessed from Cambridge English: Key up to Cambridge English: Proficiency.  A 5 at Key would be awarded a 3 at Preliminary and a 1 at First.

Check out the remarked sample writing scripts in the handbooks.  The examples really make the different areas of assessment clear I feel.

The same thing happens with the Speaking Scales.

I for one approve!

Friday, March 16, 2012

#CambExpBcn Rosie Burke: Songs and Games in the YL classroom

And today, I am delighted to have the chance to chat to Rosie Burke, another member of the Cambridge ESOL Presenters Team, who will be delivering the talk Songs and Games in the YL classroom – Spicing up your classes - without losing control! at The Cambridge Experience Barcelona , on Saturday 17th  March at CasaConvalescència UAB Campus.

Hello Rosie, why did you decide to go into English language Teaching? 

I went into English Language teaching just after training to be a secondary school teacher in 1977. 

I worked on an international summer camp near London and met a lot of students from all over Europe. Some of the teachers I worked with there were moving to Spain and I came with them, thinking that a year abroad would do me good.  And here I am, 35 years later. I started EFL with reel to reel tapes and a banda machine. I used to end every day with broken tapes and hands covered with ink.J  I have seen many changes over the years but I still love my job!!

Now I get the opportunity to travel and compare EFL in different countries and have recently visited Jordan and Brazil for work – methods can be very different but children are children wherever I go.

What is your talk about? 

Using games and songs in the young learner classroom and integrating them into every class as part of skills work while at the same time preparing the children to take a formal exam with ease.

Why do you think teachers should see your talk?

Teachers who come to this talk should go away with the idea that routines are important for primary school children – but there should still be a fun element in the class.  It is important that children use their target language in all aspects of the classroom as well as when  they are on task.  We will be looking at ideas to promote this among teachers as well as young learners.

What's your all-time top tip for English language teachers? 

Use lots of humour and positive motivation at all levels! Smile! :-) and keep up the enthusiasm.

Thanks Rosie! A pleasure... as usual!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Steve Hasler at #CambExpBcn - Cambridge English First for Schools: Speaking

Today I have the pleasure (and the time!)  to chat with my colleague Steve Hasler, member of the Cambridge ESOL Presenters Team, who will be delivering the talk Cambridge First for Schools: Speaking at the The Cambridge Experience Barcelona , next Saturday 17th of March at CasaConvalescència UAB Campus.

Steve Hasler at the Cambridge Experience Madrid 2011

* Steve, why did you decide to go into English language Teaching? 

No Damascus road experience and not even any real idea that I would make a career out of it. Back in the 1970s and early 80s Spain was a different place entirely. English Language Teaching chose you if you were “un nativo” and here for any length of time. Then came realization of how little I and almost everyone else at the time knew about the profession, so there was scope aplenty. 
Finally, a love of languages in general that ELT would let me pursue while I earned what was a surprisingly respectable salary for the time - all of 200 euro a month!
* What is your talk about? 

Cambridge First for Schools: Speaking and how to use the examination to encourage students to talk independently and to get more involved in their own learning process.

* Why do you think teachers will find your talk interesting/useful? 
I hope they’ll find it sets off a few ideas that are probably already waiting to be triggered. They should go away with a more positive idea of the examination and be more willing to embrace it not only as an assessment but also a teaching tool.
* What's your all-time top tip for English language teachers?

The more you learn about your students’ mother tongue and culture, they more they will want to learn about yours.

Thanks Steve! As usual, it has been great talking with you!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Camera Obscura Drop Locations and great photos of London

My previous post talked about the Camera Obscura Project.

10 cameras were left at various locations last Saturday.

You can see where they were left here.

What a great set of photos for using in class!
Precisely because some of the photos (3, 4, 6 and 10 especially) are not so easy to identify because they do not show famous monuments.

So, for example, at Preliminary level (PET) we can practise language of speculation:
(For picture 10)

The camera looks as if it's on top of a bin or something you find in the street.
It could be outside a park or garden, because I can see a fence in the background.  The camera is easy to see but it might fall off and break.

One of the photos showing where the cameras were left looks very like this one:

You can see St Paul's Cathedral on the other side of the river and the Millennium Bridge which crosses the River Thames between the Tate Museum and St Paul's.

You can read the story of this bridge here:

And for some really great photos of London (as well as other parts of the world), visit Shew, the photographer's photoblog.

One of her photos reminded me of my last trip to London.  We saw squirrels everywhere in Hyde Park.

And Shew also has some amazing photos on Flickr.

Hope you find them useful!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Take a disposable camera and......

I am always on the lookout for photos to use in class.

So when I read the other day about 'Camara Obscura', it caught my eye.

If you are in London on Saturday, 10th March (I won't - I'll be in the Universidad de Deusto giving a seminar at the TESOL Spain National Convention.  Hope some of you might come along to it!!!

Well, as I was saying, if you are in London on Saturday, 10th March, you might get the chance to take part in Camara Obscura 2012.  The organisers will be leaving 10 cameras around London, then they will give hints via Twitter regarding the location of each camera.

If you have Twitter, you can follow this event here:  Twitter: _camobscura

What will happen next?  Probably something similar to what happened in 2010:

On August 18th 2010 a disposable camera was left in the middle of Covent Garden. Labeled with instructions to take a photo, relocate and leave behind for the next person, Camera Obscura began its journey around the UK.
43 days later it returned. 
From Covent Garden the camera soon found its way across London towards Chipping Sodbury in South-West England then, nearing the end of its journey, it was taken on a boat tour of Beachy Head in Eastbourne.

And this is where I think the project and its outcomes could be useful for us teachers.

The 2010 photos have been posted on flickr here.

There are 24 photos.

Here is photo number 1:

Ways that you could use the photos from 2010 in class, maybe:

1  Give out all/ a selection of the photos.  Without showing them to each other, each student describes their photo.  They have to decide if any of the photos are of the same people/were taken in the same place, etc.
2  Divide students into groups of 4 or 5.  Give them one photo each.  They have to find similarities and differences between their photos.
3  Show students photos 18 - 24 (but without the numbers).  They have to decide on an order for the photos and say or write the story of their day (they are one of the people on the boat) and where they found the camera and what they did with the camera afterwards.

There have been similar projects in different parts of the world.  Here are two of them:  (Camera tied to a park bench in Georgia, Atlanta, USA)  /In Tokyo)

Would YOU volunteer to be on a photo like these?