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Topics - jrchia2

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Harry Potter Lessons! / Paper Telephone (descriptive writing game)
« on: May 08, 2018, 04:19:13 PM »
Paper telephone is a fun variation of the game "telephone." It involves a group of 6-10 taking turns passing around a piece of paper and either writing a sentence or illustrating the sentence. Here are specific instructions on how to play the game:

This game could be adapted for descriptive writing in a Harry Potter lesson. For example, the given sentence could be: Harry Potter happily danced around the scary Whomping Willow.

This sentence would be passed to the next player, who would illustrate it, then pass to the next player. The next player does not see the original sentence, but only the illustration. So that player would have to rely on descriptive writing skills to describe the illustration. Then he/she passes on the drawing to the next player, who draws a picture based on the sentence. And so on.

This is a fun and interactive way for students to practice descriptive writing skills. The teacher can also introduce certain requirements or parameters, such as each sentence needs to use a certain number of verbs and adjectives, or even a simile/metaphor.

Sometimes reading and memorizing vocabulary lists can get pretty dry and boring. has a blog post with some cool ideas on how to motivate and engage ESL students when learning vocabulary. One idea is to use the game Taboo. Below I have included the description, after which I explain the modifications and additions I would make to this activity:

[/size]4. Taboo Words[/color]

[/size]Taboo Words helps students practice with synonyms and descriptions. Separate the class in half and have the two teams sit on opposite sides of the room, facing each other. Each team will choose a person to sit in front of their team, facing them in the ďhot seat.Ē You will stand behind the students and hold up a piece of paper with a word on it. The students in the hot seats will not be able to see these papers. Teams have three minutes (or any amount of time you want to set) to get their hot seat member to say the word on the paper. The catch is, they canít say the word under any circumstances. Tips for playing in a large class. If you have more than 12 students in a class, things can get a little chaotic with this game. In this case, itís usually simpler to divide everyone into teams of 5-6 people and have only one team go at a time.
While I think that is a good idea, it will be more efficient if this activity is done AFTER students have had time to learn a specific vocabulary list. It's too broad to use this game for a vocabulary list that includes words some students might not have learned.

I would create a vocabulary list that includes synonyms and descriptions, have students learn that first. After that the Taboo Words game could be done as a way to review and evaluate student uptake.


iMovie is a great software for amateur, easy-to-use video editing. This software program is a great resources when using movie making and script writing in teaching ESL.

Hazzard (2006) wrote about a script-writing and movie making project helped her Korean students in communicative language learning and was a very positive experience for the students. She put her students in groups of 3-5. They had 7 weeks to write, film, and edit an original movie. The movies were 4 minutes long. The groups then brainstormed ideas, wrote up a movie proposal, and the instructor looked over the proposal and gave suggestions.

Once the proposals were approved, students wrote up their scripts. The instructor also scanned the scripts for originality, grammar mistakes, and length. After that students read aloud their scripts, memorized lines, came up with ideas (e.g. special effects, costumes, background music), filmed their movies, and edited them. The overall experience exceeded expectations. Students reported being very motivated to study English while making the movie and found it very enjoyable.

This is a great idea on how film can be used in TESL. For video editing, iMovie would be a great resource for that, especially since it's so user-friendly but can yield professional-looking results. For reading/writing: I would add a peer review Reading Activity, where students read each other's scripts and respond to it via giving comments and responding to structured discussion questions. In addition to the aforementioned script writing activity, I would also add another Writing Activity, where students journal about their filmmaking experience, what they learned and how it's applicable to other contexts.

JK Rowling uses a great deal of symbolism for characters' Patronuses and Wands.

READING ACTIVITY = She explains in great detail in two Pottermore articles. Students could start by reading these articles and annotating symbolism explanations and any unfamiliar vocabulary.



After that, students could do a fun REFLECTIVE WRITING activity. They could journal on the following topics:

1. What would be your Patronus and why? Use and explain the symbolism behind your choices.

2. What would be the components of your wand and why? (e.g. unicorn hair, wood type). Use and explain the symbolism behind your choices.


Toon Doo is a cool website where students can create their own comic strips and books. They can create characters and drag and drop objects/speech bubbles into the comic strip. This can be applied in several ways to teaching reading and writing.

One way is to teach summarizing and test reading comprehension. Have students read a passage and then summarize it in a comic strip. This would also test what they understood and took away from the passage.

Another way is creative writing through the comic strip. Students can create their own stories based on specific prompts. For example, if the lesson is on symbolism, similes, and metaphors, students would have to include those in their comic strip and its dialogue and descriptions.

Adult Literacy / Teaching Adults With Lower Literacy in Their L1
« on: May 08, 2018, 02:56:52 PM »
I have taught ESL courses in China to migrant factory workers, and one of the challenges was teaching adults of very different literacy levels. Some of my students had university degrees while others only had 2nd or 3rd grade education. At first, as a new teacher, I wasn't aware that there was such a wide range of literacy levels among my students. I foolishly assumed most were at least high school graduates, and I taught the class as though students were able to listen to a lecture while taking notes in their L1. Of course, this wasn't a good fit for students of lower literacy. Andrews (2005) describes this well in her article in the Internet TESL Journal:
[/size]This tip is regarding teaching technique.  When teaching pre-literate students itís best not to write a lot of information on the white board and have students copy it down while you continue to explain concepts. We can easily forget that pre-literate students cannot multi-task with their current language proficiency level and it is important to break down tasks into smaller components.  If students are busily copying down information from the board, they will not focus on what you are telling them because there are just too many things for them to focus their attention on. 
[/size]Andrews (2005) goes on to share her tips for teaching pre-literate adults, among which are to use other methods like role play and developing a sense of community in the classroom. I would definitely agree that for pre-literate adults, a sense of acceptance and safe community is very important. My students with lower literacy rates were much more hesitant to join the ESL class and it took more courage for them to consider tackling an L2. The teacher should prioritize building a sense of community (as Andrews also recommends), perhaps by encouraging activities like sharing snacks together as a class.
[/size]Another one of my specific teaching methods tips for adults with lower literacy in their L1 is to use audio and video resources and visual features. For example, instead of giving students a vocabulary list to take home and study, I would create a collection of images accompanied with an audio recording. Then the student could go home to study as such: see the images in sequential order and listen to the audio (e.g. "1. Hotdog .... 2. Hamburger ... 3. Fries ..." This was an option for my students because most of them had cell phones that could play audio files. For the few who didn't, they would share with a classmate. I could adapt this method for other features, such as learning the alphabet and phonics (e.g. "1. A ... 2. B ... or 1. "ta ..." 2. "te"...).
[/size]There are many other techniques, but they do depend on the specific group of students and what resources they have and what topic is being taught. The main point of this post is to discuss what might be helpful teaching methods for adults of lower literacy in their L1, to explore techniques that are tailored to their strengths and background.

Creative Writing / Songs and Storytelling
« on: May 08, 2018, 01:46:08 PM »
For those who are interested in using songs and storytelling in TESL, I found a cool idea from BBC's Teaching English (link below). This activity combines group work and speaking skills. However, it can be adapted for building reading and writing skills.

The modified procedure is as such, which I have further adapted for reading and writing:

1. Select 4 genres of music (e.g. rock, country, pop, alternative)
2. Divide students into groups of 4.
3. Ask them to make a cross on it diving the paper into 4 equal parts. Number each part from 1 to 4.
4. Have each student take one number and one music genre. For example, John takes section of paper labeled "1" and the genre "Rock Music"
5. Play the song for the first genre (e.g. rock)
6. Distribute lyrics.
7. Students read through the lyrics and underline any vocabulary words they are unfamiliar with. Give them time to look up the words and ask questions. = READING
8. Play the song again, this time letting the student listen to song and read lyrics at same time.
9. On the sheet of paper, the student draws something on it according to what he/she feels or is inspired by the song and its lyrics.
10. Repeat Steps 5-9 for all other students and music genres.
11. Students should now have a sheet of paper with 4 drawings, each drawing by a different student. Now ask students work together to make up a story following the sequence of their drawings. Have them write it up. = WRITING and GROUP WORK

12. Have them present their story to the class = SPEAKING

I like this activity because it is versatile and can be adapted for students of different levels. It also has a number of objectives, the most important which are developing reading, writing, and speaking skills.


During my time teaching in mainland China, I encountered many students who were barely able to hold a conversation in English (beyond the usual greeting pleasantries, introducing oneself, talking about the weather, etc.), but who stated that they'd learned English for over ten years. They could sometimes read quite well, but became very stressed when it came to writing business communication or letters. They'd studied English through all their years of schooling, sometimes even in university, passed all their tests/exams. However, they were not at all confident in communicating well in English, whether oral or written.

How can we motivate our students to learn English and really be able to use it to communicate, versus just "teaching to the test?"

I think one way would be to integrate more communicative English lessons into the writing curriculum. For example, teaching students to write for specific situations, such as a letter to a landlord or filing a police report. Another option would be using online platforms like Second Life to communicate with others in English through writing online messages. Introducing even a small portion of such curriculum could help students see beyond the exam and give them a new perspective and motivation to master English.

What do you think? How can we motivate students to learn English for more than just passing an exam?

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