A Little ESL Humor: What the…

There I was, minding my own business, when one of my grade fivers came up and asked me if I knew what a fox says.

Um…well…you see…a fox…” I mumbled, not having the faintest clue.

“No, no, no… The video!!!” he said insistently, and by which he of course meant this:

I guess I was a little late to the game with this one, but you can’t tell me that the potential English lessons aren’t just spectacular.

Upcoming Webinar: Teaching Young Learners with Special Needs

Karen Frazier is a teacher I greatly respect, both for her wealth of experience, and for her co-authorship of the Let’s Go series. So when I found that she will be hosting a webinar called Teaching young learners with special needs – tips from a fellow teacher, my ears perked up. Anyone who has spent a few years in the classroom will be able to relate to the opening of her piece by the same title on the OUP ELT blog:

Every ELT teacher has experienced a moment when he or she wonders what else can be done to help a student who seems to be struggling in class. Trying new activities and methods may work, but sometimes the student continues to have problems. This may suggest the student has some underlying disability. It could also mean that the student is struggling primarily because the language is different from the student’s first language or because of issues related to acculturation.

In either case, what can a teacher do in class to help this student?

Indeed, I had a child or two in mind as I was reading this. The webinar takes place on the 12th of December and you can sign up by visiting the registration page. Even if you are not sure you can make the time, sign up anyway and get a recording of the event sent to you by OUP. No excuses for a topic of this importance and a speaker of this stature.

For a taste of Karen Frazier, check out her speaking on the use of puppets and flashcards in the classroom:

Upcoming Webinar: Helping Your Students to Become Effective Writers

I just finished reading a thought-provoking piece on the OUP ELT blog by Julie Moore (not to be confused with the actress), a freelance lexicographer and materials writer, on whether we ELTs really do enough to teach writing.

In ELT, we often talk about teaching the four skills; reading, writing, listening, and speaking. But how much class time do we actually devote to teaching writing skills? I know that for many years in my own teaching career, my ‘teaching’ of writing skills amounted to little more than five minutes (emphasis mine) going through a homework task at the end of the lesson. The task might be linked to the topic of the lesson and there might be a bit of useful vocabulary, a few key words or phrases in a nice shaded box, but otherwise, I think my students were pretty much left to their own devices.

If this sounds familiar, then sign up for her upcoming webinar, Helping your students to become effective writers, and gain access to her decades of experience and wisdom. It takes place on November 26th and 27th, so hurry on over to the registration page to sign up.

For a sample of the Julie Moore experience, I’ve dug up some videos, including:

Too busy to attend? As I’ve mentioned before, shortly after the webinar OUP sends out an email to everyone who signed up (whether they watched it live or not) with a link to a recording of the event which you can watch at your leisure.

Make Your Own Crossword Puzzles for Free

Word puzzles can make great tools for learning new vocabulary, and most students I’ve taught love doing them. Word searches and crossword puzzles are the most popular, but since these only occasionally show up in course and workbooks, I end up making a lot of them myself. I’ve written elsewhere about some of the high quality worksheet generators available online, but today I want to focus on how to make your own crossword puzzles using the Discovery Puzzlemaker which was introduced to me by a coworker about a decade ago.

Crossword Puzzle 001. Choose the title of your puzzle, be it shapes, sports, occupations, vegetables, or winners of American Idol.

Crossword Puzzle 012. Choose the dimensions of your puzzle. Mind you, the default settings are just fine.

Crossword Puzzle 023. Enter each word you want to appear in your puzzle followed by a space and the clue.

Crossword Puzzle 03Words like “office worker”, which ordinarily have a space between them, should be joined when inputted into the puzzle generator. And although in the above image there are only four entries, you can just scroll down to write as many as you like.

4. Press Create My Puzzle, and voilà! Now just print as many copies as you need.

Crossword Puzzle 04The trouble is I don’t like how this looks, and you can’t save it easily either, so I have developed my own better way. It’s not rocket science, and I’m sure those who work in graphic design or publishing might turn their noses up at it, but it is totally fit for purpose.

5. After you have created the puzzle, right click on it. The puzzle is an image like any other on the Internet so you can copy and paste it into a word document like so:

Crossword Puzzle 05Now you can adjust the size and location to whatever you like.

6. You will have to copy and paste the clues separately. Depending on your browser and version of Word the output could look like this:

Crossword Puzzle 06

It’s not bad, but it could be a little better.

Crossword Puzzle 07As you can see I’ve used a two-column table to put the clues into, spaced them out a bit, and have changed the font to comic sans.

7. If your puzzle uses vocabulary from a course book, label the puzzle so that both you and your students know where it’s from. Don’t forget to make a place for students to write their name.

Crossword Puzzle 08Here’s what the finished product looks like:

Crossword Puzzle 11Now just save the puzzle and use it again when you teach the same vocabulary to another class.

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Top 5 Video List: Counting from 1 to 5

Here is this week’s video list from ESL Review, featuring online videos of counting from 1 to 5. 

Just a note, all videos that appear here have been uploaded to YouTube by their creators (so they are unlikely to be deleted). And if you know of any better ones, please link to them in the comments section. I’d love to know what other teachers like to use. 

ESL Review’s Top 5 Video List: Counting from 1 to 5

5. 5 Dogs, 5 Bones by Sesame Street

This is a very charming animation that just draws you in and gets children and adults alike counting along. One little girl I teach thought the last dog (spoiler alert!) was very clever to have dug up the bone out of the ground.

4. Counting 1 to 5 Song by Dream English Kids

Matt of Dream English Kids has made the list again with his very soothing voice and hand actions. Truth be told, though, it was the Dad dance mid-way through that really clinched it.

3. LET’S COUNT 1 2 3 by Pancake Manor

The first time I watched this I remember thinking that Reggie (the purple fellow in the video) reminded me of this retired air force colonel I knew. He was a great guy but he had this glass eye that creeped me out (since it was fixed and never moved). Anyway, a great counting song for kids with cute characters.

2. Seven Steps from Super Simple Songs

I’ve written elsewhere about this great song from the good people at Super Simple Learning, but I just had to include it on this list (even though it goes to 7). My four-year-old students can NEVER get enough of it, and must have either heard the CD or watched the video a hundred thousand times. This one set of twin girls constantly beg me to play the “one two three song” whenever I step into class.

1. Feist sings 1,2,3,4 by Sesame Street

I am a huge fan of using Sesame Street selectively in the classroom, and I must confess to having had watched this video at least a dozen times on my own time (much to my wife’s annoyance). But hey, it’s not just me. One of my four-year-old boys applauded loudly after we finished watching this in class for the first time the other day. He and the other children were utterly entranced by Feist and counted along with her. You can never go wrong with a couple dozen Muppets singing about the number four.

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The Hokey Pokey Shake by Super Simple Learning

The hokey pokey is the kind of song that every teacher remembers learning as a kid. Truth be told, though, it used to give me the shudders at the very thought of teaching it. Sure, teaching the difference between left and right seems like a good idea at first, but just remember how hard it is not to get them mixed up if you’re a preschooler. Then there are the difficult lyrics, I mean just look at them… was it even worth the effort? Weren’t there songs that got you more bang for your buck?

But Super Simple Learning, the award winning creator of children songs, naturally forced me to rethink this. In their awesome The Hokey Pokey Shake (found on Super Simple Songs 2), they’ve cleaned out the left and rights, the turn yourself arounds, and those dreaded that’s what it’s all abouts. What you’re left with is a cleaner song that teaches kids (in a simple way) about the parts of the body, the difference between singular and plural, and some simple actions that make for a great TPR song with no confusing lyrics.

Like their The Wheels on the Bus, there are two versions of the song subtitled Let’s Learn and Let’s Sing. The first version goes at a pretty slow pace but is ideal to introduce the song and vocabulary to really young kids for the first time. The latter one is a little more energetic, with more sound effects, and is great for use as review in the following class since it has a little extra punch.

[Oops, an earlier version of this post had the wrong videos uploaded, although they are pretty awesome too!]

My kids really liked both songs. Truth be told, they thought the words “hokey pokey” were so funny they ended up in stitches just saying them. As always there are free flashcards you can download from the song pages (Let’s Learn version & Let’s Sing version) as well as some great tips for teaching the song. The flash cards come in handy for pre-teaching the vocabulary, and I also recycled them later in the camera game for review.

Check out these videos to get some great tips from Super Simple Learning on how to teach the songs:

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