Archive | March 2013

“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.”

As I mentioned earlier in another of my posts, I am currently doing my first practicum. This week, my assigned teacher was really upset because the students had failed to study their vocabulary list for their weekly review. She was explaining me that she had put a lot of efforts for the students to learn them, giving them extra time to work in class and offering them to stay with her at recess for help. As she told me this, I looked outside and it was sunny, a perfect arrival-of-Spring day! Then, I thought that no matter how much these kids liked English, it would be hard to convince them to stay in when they could go out and play with their friends after dinner. That’s when Vocabulary Spelling City comes in.

This website was created exactly for that purpose: to make vocabulary learning easy and fun! Basically, us, teachers, can go on the website, choose from existing lists of vocabulary, save the ones we want and let the kids choose the online game they want to help them learn the words! Seems too good to be true, right? In fact, this website was designed for first language teaching, but it is also useful for second language teaching. If you can’t find a list from the ones offered, there is also the possibility for you to create your own and save it. Students can then go directly on the website to get yours from school or from home!

The free version of the website offers 12 different games like HangMouse, Sentence Unscramble  and Word Search. The “premium version”, offers 14 more games and some other interesting features such as student progress tracking and vocabulary development activities. Teachers can register to the website really easily. Another interesting thing about it is that parents can also have access to it (especially useful in the premium version) and can follow along to see the progress of their kids.

Not so long ago, I attended a conference where one of the speakers talked about the inevitable spreading of the iPads and similar technologies into the classrooms. When I heard that, I started to realize that eventually, the school material will have to be completely rethought! Keeping that in mind, I think it’s really important for me to think wisely when I choose the tools I’m going to use in my classroom for the future. This brings me to look into tools like Vocabulary Spelling City, which, in addition to being really helpful and interactive, have the big advantage of being available for iPads and iPhones (and apparently soon for Androids as well).

On another note, since I believe that home school is going to become increasingly popular in the years to come, I often find myself navigating on some blogs related to it and I found one where the author is completely addicted to this tool! She also provides an interesting list of pros and cons which gave me a valuable opinion of someone who is actually using it on a weekly basis.

Also, as mentioned on Teaching Blog Addict, the fact that the website provides different levels of difficulty is interesting because the students could learn with the same tool every year through their whole elementary school! That is, of course, if the teachers of the school communicate with each other and decide to use the tool cooperatively.

To leave you on a good note, I couldn’t resist the temptation to post this poem, found on a website where you can find useful vocabulary lists already prepared:

“Spelling tests got you down?

You must’ve gone to Misspelling Town.

Your spelling test can make you giddy,

If you take a trip to Spelling City!”

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What is your story?

This week, I chose a topic which I’ve seen on Richard Byrne’s blog.

As a future English teacher, I think it’s really important to get my students to learn about English culture, not only its grammar rules. I think the Myths and Legends website could help me do that.

This website has mainly been designed for students and teachers. It provides a list of myths and legends which come from different regions of England and some other parts of the world. There is a function allowing you to see the text of the story. You can also choose to play the audio part, where a voice reads the story aloud to your students. They can follow along with the text and you can even print it to distribute it to the students so that they can work on it afterwards. At the end of each story, there is a gallery where you can see pictures associated with it. There is another function where you can find out the origins of the story that the students have read. Finally (and most importantly), there is a section dedicated to teachers with a list of ideas for lessons.

In addition to providing a list of myths and legends, the website has another really amazing tool that is called StoryCreator2. It allows your students to create their own story using various tools to make it look like a real storybook. For example, you can get your students to record their own voice as they narrate their story. You can even make them record different voices for their characters.

The teachers who want to use it need to register their school first. Although there is a small subscription fee, it is definitely worth it because you can accomplish so much with this tool. To give you a few ideas, I recommend you consult this blog.

My personal favorites are “Create a legend about the city where you live”, “Rewrite the story from a different perspective” and “write a biography of one of the characters that most interests you”.

The website provides directives to use the website but you could also look at some tutorials on YouTube to help you get started.

Basically, I would use this tool so that students can have an overview of some of the beliefs that exist around the world. I would probably make them do an activity on the similarities between both their culture and that of people from England or another country. It is important that my students realize that they are not only learning a language to please their parents or because it’s part of their school curriculum. I want them to understand that by learning a language, they open a door to a really larger world. Creating their own myth or legend is also a good opportunity to make them realize what they would have to share to others about their own culture.

Where would you like to go today?

This week’s blog is about a tool that I already knew which is called Google Earth. Basically, it is a tool created by Google which allows its users to have pretty precise images of places all around the world. You only have to enter an address (similar process to the one with Google Maps) and it gets you there in a few seconds. The images are so clear that you could believe you are actually there. Even if I knew what Google Earth was about, the idea of using it in the classroom honestly never really occurred to me. When my university teacher mentioned the idea in one of our classes, I thought it was really interesting and I decided to investigate a little more on that tool.

I started by reading over an amazing blog on the matter. It showed how I could motivate my students when it comes to literature. In fact, you start by choosing a story or a book for your students to read. You then create a storyboard for your story in which you identify the main places discussed in it. In addition to the important places, you can include some academic knowledge that you would like your students to focus on as they read the story. Then, you use Google Earth to create a Google Lit Trip. This trip basically takes your students to all the different places you’ve identified earlier. For example, they could get to see where the main character was born, where the story takes place, where it ends, etc. I think this idea is amazing because it really gets the students involved in the story. Some students are more visual and this could be a good tool to motivate them to read the story. I would also make it as a kind of treasure hunt, where the students would have to go to the different places and answer questions related to what they would have read. This would motivate them to read and would force them to reflect on their reading as well. I could even choose my course literature according to previous examples of Google Lit Trips.

The other thing I could do is ask the students to go on Google Earth and choose different places they like. The application allows them to visit famous places and important cities, view historical images, discover the mysteries of the oceans and explore the universe. They could start by identifying their favorite places and create a story based on these. For higher-level students, I could even ask them to create their own Google Lit Trip related to their story. They could then show it to the rest of the class. It would be a great way to engage the students in their creative writing.

In addition to its usefulness with literature, Google Earth has a lot more to offer. I could show my students the places we would go on our field trip, ask them to do an autobiographical project in which they would explain their future journey around the world, make them talk about a country of their choice, etc.

Thinking about Google Earth and the way I could use it in a classroom made me realise that you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. If a simple tool exists and can be used, why not simply use it? One of the advantages of using it is that my students will probably be already familiar with the tool so I won’t have to spend a lot of time explaining my project. Unfortunately, I think that students’ interest towards literature is decreasing and I would be a fool not to try anything in order to keep it from disappearing completely.