Jigsaw pursuit

Although I wasn’t at the last get-together, I wanted to share a jigsaw-method activity I thought up after being inspired by the article and post ‘Jigsaw tasks‘) and tested it out yesterday and the day before, with three different groups of low-level learners. It was a success because I used it as a follow-up, merging two lessons (vocabulary on animals, and pronouncing the alphabet) and expanding it into what turned out to be a Jigsaw-like activity.

Using magnets of alphabet letters (10.- for a set of 33 letters) I had the group, in plenum, sort them into two categories according to sounds, with those letters (stuck onto a metal flip-chart board) which go with the indefinite article A (to the left) and, to the right, those which go with AN, like so:


TIP: You can use a hat or other container for them each pick a few letters out at random, to make sure all participate in sticking those letters up.

Strategy: Don’t correct or interfere right away, let them work as a team first. When they’re done, ask them: “a E, or an E?”  “a O, or an O?”, etc. Then, when it’s sorted correctly, select one to read the left column and a second to read the right column. (Correct pronunciation –  ‘ex’, not ‘ix’, etc.)

Developing from there, they compile a list of words which they recall from a previous lesson.  (As I had too few participants, we did this in plenum):

IMG_5716(NB: ipex should read ‘ibex’)

For the Jigsaw method, each group would use an A3-size sheet to list their words.  They get into groups or three or four and I assign each a different task:

One group is to compile animals (wild/livestock/pets—doesn’t matter, since we already looked at these). For uncanny letters, help them (i.e. with ibex, numbat, unicorn*, x-ray tetra—and don’t forget ‘yaks‘).  *one participant actually got ‘unicorn’ without my help, so don’t jump in too quick.

A second group has to compile adjectives they can remember, and a third group is to find verbs which they have already used and then to search a dictionary to complete the set of 26. (They probably will get ‘x-ray’; help them with ‘zero in’ ‘zigzag’)

Monitor each group and when they’re done you can post their work, for them to go round taking snapshots with their phones.  (Or if you’ve set up your groups for WhatsApp, why not take the shot yourself and post it to the group!)

As a post-activity you can have them try and combine sets to form funny, bizarre sentences. This can be set as homework.

I welcome any comments below (if you should point out a blind spot for me).   ThankS!


Which songs in the classroom

Since 2005 I’ve been making worksheets for English based on song lyrics, and I now have quite a collection. Many of these I call polished worksheets because I:
  1. verify their accuracy (so that they are not just copied off the Net, where you often find mistakes) ;
  2. improve the layout, and add an image or two;
  3. have taken the liberty of including punctuation so that one gets a clearer (visual and textual) understanding of a line or verse and highlighting idiomatic language;
  4. include simplified definitions of words, additional clues and hyperlinks to support clarity, to help put things into (historical) perspective or to draw attention to poetic license, etc.
  5. use gapped text (sometimes incl. the first letter) and often using two different versions, so that pairs of teams may help each other find the missing words.
Carefully chosen ones
As I often accompany myself on the guitar and sing them to students, I want to take those that are doable for my ‘limited’ voice skills. But more importantly, I choose music that doesn’t drown out the singer (who must articulate clearly) so that it not be strenuous for ‘learner’ ears. The songs should serve to illustrate either an interesting and useful grammatical aspect and/or should provide idiomatic language. The songs, furthermore, should spark motivation for speaking so that we may discuss themes—but not limit students, as they may wish to branch out into loosely related topics instead.
The latest song I’ve prepared is by Mark Knopfler, called “Sailing to Philadelphia”.
I’ve chosen it for several reasons (besides it being a beautiful song):
  1. While it might contain a few challenging words which you might not come across in everyday English, the syntax is simple enough for intermediate levels.
  2. The theme is an interesting one; it addresses American history and this makes for good (post-activity) conversation (e.g. can be extended to current issues of migration).
  3. It was inspired by a good book from the 90s, which means that it should entice participants, especially those with a passion for reading, to look into it further.
  4. Students can be encouraged to research more into something like the Fellowship of the Royal Society and their role today. From there, you may assign a short presentation.
Finally, I always encourage participants to take time to go and listen to the original song. Care to give it a listening to? Go right ahead! One finds virtually everything on YouTube. https://youtu.be/tnCK2LgeIvM
 (I might even take my guitar with me next time to the get-together, if you like).
Plus, you’ll find a copy of my worksheet on my shared Evernote folder:
Other site for song lyrics for ELT: (but not mine)

Links of Interest for linking students and teacher

Hi there. It’s Alex here. Over the years I’ve been collecting bookmarks of useful sites which I plan to share with fellow teachers on this blog. This first set are those sites which not only aim to help you connect with your students beyond the classroom, but to help save you (in-class) time as well as extra (often unpaid) correction-work. Here’s how:
Clouds can be time-savers and encourage students to go and check up for extras which you can leave there as resources. There you can post things like answer-keys. One’s I use are:
They allow you to deposit content in a folder that you share (I suggest using viewable-only option, but they are also printable). It is “useful” for absentees and basically saves you having to make sure they receive those hard-copies of your hand-outs (and answer-keys) which you already brought into class, [and won’t need to lug in a second time].
Text correction for your students to put by this site before they send it to you for further correction, minimising your (often unpaid) correction-work time.
and http://www.phraseup.com/ to help them find collocations and to complete sentences they need to produce for written assignments. (Students will find a way to cheat, so why not give them good resources—and discourage them from using Google translate!)
More than just a dictionary: https://www.wordnik.com/
This new page will analyse up to 500 words of text students paste into the field and produces useful stats by ALTE level, which let’s them know if their text is up to the level they are expected to write at. (Try it out for yourselves first). One can also register for more options. Support link: http://textinspector.com/help
Share notes simply:
Colloborative writing?
http://typewith.me – work on the same document with multiple people.
Looking for photo images for sparking conversation?  http://flickriver.com/
Not sure which is the better word?  http://phras.in/
(I will be adding to this in the coming weeks, so stay tuned–or post your own in the comments below).