Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Using students' drawings to develop their language skills

Comparatives and superlatives through pictures - a Dogmatic approach?

I've finally got a chance to come up for air. The end of term has been very busy what with Trinity ESOL exams and planning the end of term party. (More to follow on the party.) Mike Harrison who's blog and tweets are always interesting to read has recently made a request for teacher's to share ideas for using drawing in the classroom. I've already told him about my Domino Story to practise the past simple

A short but fun way to revise comparatives and superlatives is to give students a blank piece of A3 paper and ask them to draw a number of easy to draw objects, such as a star, a tree, a flower, a happy face, a cresent moon, a heart or a house. You can even quickly sketch it on the white board and then wipe it off and encourage students to try and replicate it.

·         Once students have finished drawing their pictures ask the students either as a class, or in small groups if the class is very large, to line up according to the size of the object that they drew. If you think this is too childish for the group you can encourage them to compare their pictures in smaller groups. The interest generated is key to the activity working. (I think this could be dogme in action?)

·         The student with the biggest star stands on the right and the student with the smallest star stands on the left. Once the students are lined up according to the size of their picture you can then ask them questions such as:
o    Who has got the biggest star?
o    Who has got the smallest star?
o    Is student X's star bigger or smaller than student Y's star?
o    etc. This works on smaller tables too. Encourage students to make notes of questions and positive and negative answers.

Variations on the same activity
If you get the students to line up in small groups, you can then get them to regroup, with all the students with the smallest stars on one side of the classroom and all the students with the biggest stars on another side of the classroom and all the students with the second smallest stars on another side of the classroom etc.
If you ask students to draw a house you can ask them to draw a house with a front door, two windows, a roof, a chimney etc, and after students have lined up according to who has the biggest / smallest house, you can then get students to work in pairs and compare their pictures to see who has the biggest or smallest front doors etc.
With young learners you can get them to colour their stars and then pin them on the wall according to the size of the stars and then get students to write sentences on a piece of paper about their stars which they will pin on the wall under their picture.
·         My star is the biggest star.
·         My star is bigger than John's star but smaller than Mary's star
·     Complex sentences can be elicited.

This creates a nice display for all the class to read.
A nice activity to follow up with is some broken sentences formed from the students notes. I did this in a consecutive lesson. I printed the sentences out colour coding different words. The students then matched the parts of the sentences together to make correct sentences. I could then analyse the word order of the sentences with them.
I've used this activity with 16-18 year olds and even with a mixed class where the oldest student is 74 and most students have found it to be very useful. Once the structures for expressing the comparative and superlative forms are establish you can turn to other subjects like transport, housing, weather etc.
From the recent discussions on Twitter about Dogme I think this class would fit into those theories. One of the things I love about teaching theory is the way that you discover someone has written books and theories about something you've been doing in the classroom for years. 
It's comforting to know that Dogme is there to back up student centred approaches. 
I'm sure that when I'm working with my 27 students from 14 countries using student centred approaches saves large quantities of paper and allows students to discover and explore rather than receive learning. The fact that they create the materials gives ownership, interest and ultimately a memorable session!!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The importance of Sangha - 365 days of Blogging

In my first ever post I put my fingers to the keyboard with a feeling that I was entering into a new world. I knew that blogging was going to change the way I work, teach, think, share and reflect on my work. I was intimidated by the void of the internet.

Was anyone going to read my writing?

Did it matter?

I've found the comments and the network I have joined to be the most nuturing and supportive group of people. Inspiring and willingly to share their jewels of wisdom.

I'm my own worst critic - yes the Sergeant Major is still inspecting - and I have found that there are many teachers who are like me in that respect. I've taken comfort from that.

My role within my ESOL team is evolving: the 16-18 age group has grown over the last 5 years and I have specialised in this area. This has brought a need to develop every aspect of my classes; from disciplinary policies to making bridges out of newspaper.

As a result my blog is evolving.

Even as I write this post I find my mind reflecting upon the previous posts I've made. Are they too diverse? Should I be more focussed on specific areas? How does this mirror my job and the many roles that I have?

I compared teaching to  Buddhism, in my first post. Meditation and self awareness are keys to realising one's own potential. This is very hard to achieve. Even more so when you are alone in your mission,. Buddhists talk about belonging to a Sangha and how that will give support to a novice in their quest for enlightenment.

I've found my Sangha and I'm enjoying my journey!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

GlobalEyes - Open Your Eyes

Here is the video that was produced by some ESOL students at Leeds City College and Future Arts.

The video gives a really strong message about immigration and immigrants and demonstrates that ESOL students can be assisted to find a VOICE and deliver their message through the medium of the internet.

Read about the project in these posts

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Preparing for Trinity ESOL Speaking and Listening Exams

My students are taking their Entry 2 ESOL exams in mid December so I'm starting to introduce the exam structure to them. The exam board has a very good website where you can watch the videos for all the levels. (click on ESOL Skills for Life / Sample Videos)
I've also uploaded a number of videos to YouTube to make it easier for my students to find them. It also means I can embed them into my blog :)

These videos really help students to prepare for the exam and they also help them to measure their own skills with real students.

Students will be given at least one mock exam.

The role-plays and discussions are available on the Trinity website too...

Entry 2 Spec Role-plays & Grp Discus

I will use these to develop sessions where students take part in group work to predict language that would be useful in the role-plays and discussions. Making this preparation period for the exam interesting is always tricky but I've got a few ideas. More soon.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Teaching the Past Simple

This is a PowerPoint that I used recently to revise the Past Simple with an Entry 2 ESOL group.

Each branch has a worksheet to consolidate the learning.

I found that students really responded well to this way of mapping out the grammar point.

Each student was given an A3 copy to put on the ceiling above their bed so that when they can't sleep... :)

I hope you find it useful.

Mind Map for the Past Simple
The PowerPoint, which you can download, is animated to introduce each part of the mind-map. Please watch the animation through before you use it.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Evaluation of digital workshops with Future Arts

I was introduced to Future Arts by Global Youth Action. Future Arts first visited Leeds City College, Enfield Centre in November 2009. When I met Gemma Povey I was totally convinced that we could work together to create some great opportunities for my students. Emma’s passion for her work was obvious.

Future Arts provided my students with the technology and skills they needed and helped them to find their voice. This manifested through Emma’s delivery, her creative approach to workshop design and her team who supported her to teach the students how to make digital music using Apple Mac computers.

The first course in November was a single session delivered to two groups. It was a great success. 16 students created short mp3's which they Bluetoothed to their mobile phones to use as ringtones.

After the session a number of students showed a genuine interest in exploring the skills and knowledge needed to compose and produce digital music.

I met a few more times with Gemma and over the following months we planned We were able to access some funding that made the course completely free for the students involved thanks to Global Youth Action, Leeds City College enrichment budgets and funding found by Future Arts. This collaborative approach to getting the funding showed the determination of all the parties concerned to make the course happen.

The course ran over 5 months during term time. The chosen genre was Hip Hop. The young people learnt how to use Ableton to write their own personal versus in a collaborative piece of music. Students also learnt how to write lyrics, how to rap and how to perform in front of green screen.

I was given the opportunity to develop my own skills using final cut pro and editing video from the green screen. This was a great opportunity and I learnt a lot of new skills and techniques that can be seen in the final cut of the Video.

Gemma worked tirelessly during her summer holiday on the final cut of the audio and  then we met to blend the two together. My initial convictions that we would make something special were affirmed and ‘Global Eyes’ had their first single – “Open your eyes”.  

The final DVD is a wonderful piece of work and brought together the weeks of hard work that the young people put into the project. The track has a really strong message thanks to the work of Steve Richards who delivered inspirational lyrics workshops.

I’m incredibly proud of what the young people have produced and hope that we can continue to explore more opportunities in the future.

I found the whole process to be inspiring and fascinating. Seeing young people that I have worked with over a number of years producing a professional DVD was a fantastic experience. Time constraints and other work pressures were overcome and this developed trust between the partners involved in the planning and delivery of the workshops. I am sure the that professionalism of all parties was a huge factor in the success of the project.

I thoroughly support Future Arts work and believe that the young people who have experienced a real learning journey have gained confidence, new skills and most of all, their Voice.

Mike Richmond is a Tutor working with young ESOL students at Leeds City College, Thomas Danby Campus.  

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Videos for the past simple

How could I make my classes more interactive and interesting for the students and any would be observer?

I wanted to engage the learners in a way that had relevance and meaning in their lives.

After watching the TV for about 15 minutes I saw this advert for a well-known, high street branch. There are others, this isn't an endorsement :)

The visual messages are really strong. A question about the theme or the gist at the end of the first viewing would produce plenty of target language.

Next there are plenty of opportunities to freeze it and ask questions. What is happening? Where are they?

The students could then write up a comic strip made from freeze frame made by using PowerPoint, Screen Print (a button on your keyboard) and produce a nice document.

I should watch TV more often.

Here's a few other ideas:

I thought this one would be great posted on Moodle and students can access it if they want.

In fact you'll find a lot more of Lloyds TSB's videos on YouTube.

I loved this one for use of the future tenses

Don't forget, if you have vlc media player ( you can play the video in slow motion.
Open your VLC Player, play file.
Press key from keyboard containing symbol of opening squire bracket i-e "[" then your track speed will slow down. Press "]" to speed up.
Note: These Hot key only work on active window of of VLC Player.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Thought Tree

How can you get students to consider the attributes of a successful student?
I was inspired by a website that promotes Reflecting through the use of graphics.

What do you need? - A big piece of paper, some coloured pens and pencils, red and green card, post-it notes, drawing pins and students.

1 Draw a picture of a tree on your whiteboard. 

Elicit the parts of the tree. Make sure you elicit the trunk as this is an important part of the tree.

You can expand the Thought Tree by exploring things you can see above and below the tree. Then transfer this to people. e.g. You can see if a person is a man or woman, you can't see if they are vegetarian or a meat eater. Put post-it notes on the tree to capture the class' ideas.

4 Elicit the functions of the different parts of the tree. Roots bring in water. Leaves and fruit grow if the tree is healthy.

5 Introduce the lexis INPUT and OUTPUT. The inputs must pass through the classroom in the same way the roots draw water in and to the branches via the trunk. The outputs eventually leave the tree (leaves, flowers and fruit).

Watch the video to see what my students produced.

This was done with a group of Beginner ESOL students.

I repeated it with an Entry 2 group, they came up with inputs like; USB pen, good personality, watch, a good nights' sleep and energy.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Induction - Fire Vocabulary

Induction is a time for giving students essential information and also observing and assessing their skills.

Today I used the 2 videos below to assess my students knowledge of some keywords that I will be using next week to complete a few tasks related to the fire drill and health and safety. I also used it as a way to assess their abilities of looking at a whiteboard and also write on a piece of paper at the same time. This is such an essential skill that is often not taught or assessed.

In this first video I asked students to tell me the names of the images as they appeared.

I then gave them this handout -

Fire Vocab

The students wrote a number next to each picture, respectively, as they appeared.

After checking, orally to see if students could pronounce the words correctly...

"What was picture number 1?"

...I then showed them the next video with the words on it and told them to write them down next to the images.

I observed the class as they took part and made notes on their abilities regarding their speed, accuracy and hand writing.

If you use this with your class please let me know how it goes.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Evaluative Language

Here are some words that are used during Assessment to describe Evaluative Language. I've used Wordle to create the word clouds which may be useful when undertaking Self Assessment Reports in FE colleges.

Grade 1 - Evaluative Language

Wordle: Grade 1 Evaluative language
Grade 2 - Evaluative Language
Wordle: Grade 2 - Evaluative Language
Grade 3 - Evaluative Language
Wordle: Grade 3 - Evaluative Language
Grade 4 - Evaluative Language
Wordle: Grade 4 - Evaluative Language

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Videos with classroom material

I just saw a post on asking about teaching and learning in the movies.

I've got a number of favourites on my YouTube page -

Here are the best ones related to classroom interactions

The first is a classic from "Teacher Education Series" (1947)
How To Maintain Classroom Discipline - Good And Bad Methods Training Educational Video

The second is from a British comedian called Catherine Tate
Catherine Tate Show: Lauren - French exam - The Catherine Tate Show - BBC comedy

The third is from an American TV series that was very popular in the UK - Beware strong language and drug references!
THE WIRE - Mr. Prezbo teaches Michael & Kareem how to gamble

I've also consulted WikiAnswers and got this list -

school of rock and it's old, but kindergarten cop
Here is a list of ones that I know off the top of my head (including school related scenes and topics)...
"Stand and Deliver", "Lean on Me", "Finding Forrester", "Patch Adams", "The Man Without a Face", "The Great Debaters", "Mona Lisa Smile", "Dead Poets Society", "School of Life", "The Trouble With Angels", "Anne Frank", "Making the Grade", "Pay It Forward", "Freedom Writers", "All I Want", "School Ties", "Mr. Holland's Opus", "A Beautiful Mind", "Simon Birch"
All of them very good movies too!
Oh yeah here are a bunch of others...after looking through my DVD collection...These ones have scenes with school or may be based on school...
"American Beauty", "Andre", "Bridge to Terabithia", "Bring It On", "Casper", "A Cinderella Story", "Clueless", "The Day After Tomorrow", "Dazed and Confused", "Disturbia", "Freaky Friday", "Harry Potter", "Ice Princess", "John Tucker Must Die", "Legally Blonde", "Man of the House", "Mean Girls", "Matilda", "My Girl", "Napoleon Dynamite", "Never Been Kissed", "October Sky", "Remember the Titans", "Scream", "She's the Man", "Sydney White", "10 Things I Hate About You", "The Virgin Suicides", "A Walk to Remember" And I'm sure countless others...

This would have been really hard to put into 140 characters!!

Would be good to get some others so please leave a comment and I can add it to the Wiki later :o)


Monday, 17 May 2010

Online activities for ESOL students

Here's a few of my favourite sites that I direct my ESOL students to when I'm having tutorials or needing to preprare smaller numbers for resit exams. I am fortunate enough to have access to an open access area where I can book computers. I also published this list on the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) at work.
Please feel free to copy and paste this list if you think it will be useful for your students.

Item ESOLUK website - learning English online
Use this website to watch videos, access worksheets and online activities, chat and blog.
Item - website
Use this website to access games and activities to practice your English online.
Fantastic website with free interactive games and worksheets for all levels.
Item BBC website - learn English
Use this website to read about grammar and spelling rules. You can also find fun activities and games to play in your free time!
Item English Grammar Lessons
Learn Grammar rules and do online activities to practice what you learn in class.
Another website for practicing your English grammar, spelling and vocabulary
Item University of Victoria, Canada - Study Zone
Follow this link for more online exercises
Item Interactive quizzes and games for practicing your English
Lots of low level activities here!
Item Online grammar quizzes from
Another good website for grammar quizzes.
Item English Learner website
More activities for practicing your language skills

Let me know which sites you think are best and also if you know any other great sites!
The only problem I have with some sites is the inappropriate advertising - please view before you share with your students!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

My first day at school - Roger McGough - Lesson evaluation

This lesson was a definite success! Thanks again to Mike Harrison for the initial idea and the lesson plan.
I used it with a High Entry 2 ESOL class who are mostly 16-18 year olds. They were able to remember their first days at school because they are so young! There were also some interesting anecdotes about corporal punishment and the lack of respect that young people show to teachers in British schools.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

10 Blogs worth keeping an eye on

I've been feeling rather good about the world of Blogging today. The picture above is part of the reason why; I knew nothing about this until this morning.

Monday, 10 May 2010

No more heavy bags and autonomous homework

Sometime last academic year I got really fed up with carrying around a bag full of surplus paper that I seemed to have accumulated. I thought for a moment about why this was happening. It certainly wasn't doing my back any good.

Sunday, 9 May 2010 - don't delay, visit today

Inspiration - ESOLUK This is an educational website for those wanting to develop their English language and learn about different subject specific topics. For tutors by tutors is the aim of ESOL UK, to bring you language learning mediated by video, audio and the internet; the internet for independent learner access but with conventional worksheets for classroom use as well. These materials are suitable for both language and literacy learners.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

What time is it, please?

Teaching how to tell the time is always interesting as it always highlights how, for some students, time is a phenomenon outside of their experience!

I find it incredible that some of my students have got to the age of 17 or 18 and they have never learnt how to read an analogue watch face. However when I consider that they were born in the early 1990's I realise that digital clock faces were well established internationally by this time. As a child of the 70's I remember digital watches (first seen in the late 1960's) being highly desirable.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Functional Skills, Portfolios and teaching to exams

The word ROLA (Record of Learning Achievement) sends shudders down my spine but if this concept were transferred to a digital format it could become a very powerful tool. A student's progression could be measured by both traditional and digital assessments including VLE's and task based learning using the internet.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

8 Things British people like to complain about

PowerPoint about common things British people like to complain about that I used with my Entry 2 ESOL class to help prepare them for the discussion part of their Trinity Speaking and Listening Exam.

View or download the document here

Please leave a comment

8 Things I like about living in Great Britain

PowerPoint about living in Great Britain and what I like about it. Includes - Free Education, Restaurants, Free health care, The architecture, Countryside, Utilities, Good Manners

View or download the document here

Please leave a comment

Access to education for refugee and asylum seeking children - Leeds

I wrote this piece of research whilst working at the Children's Society LEAP Project in Leeds -
The work involved house visits, liaising with schools and Social Workers, interviewing EAL tutors, organising group work and recording the work to present to the Regional Strategic Safeguarding Board.
I am now working as an ESOL Tutor in Leeds teaching English to the diverse community of Harehills.

View or download the document here

Please leave a comment

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Domino story - Practising the past simple

Use a domino story to get Entry 2 ESOL students ready for their writing exam. A domino story is one which require little planning and is very student centred. In this post I explain where I found the original idea and how I adapted it to suit my learners.

I found this great idea on in their English as a 2nd language area. The post - by John Baker MAed TESL - describes how to deliver a collaborative writing activity followed by a domino story. You can read the original article here.

I did the collaborative writing activity and I will write about it in another post if I find the time but I was really inspired by the domino story and want to share that with you...

I found the activity to be very easy to prepare as most of the content comes from the students - the gist of it is that you get appoximately 16 students into 3 groups (a,b and c).

Within those groups you can put them in pairs and get them to complete the gap-fill activity / read their part of the story. You can find the gap-fill and pictures drawn by the different groups at

The groups then make pictures that they will use to retell the story to the other groups.

A pair from group a then goes with a pair from group b and group c.

One student from another group writes as the pair from group a tell the first part of the story, another student (from   group b) tells the middle part of the story and so on. Eventually the a,b,c group has the full story. 

The interactive nature of the activity promotes speaking in the past and collaboration between students with different skills - I found it to embrace different learning styles, to pronote the artistic and academic skills of students and to give the tutor the opportunity to observe and make notes.


Please leave a comment if you find this post useful or interesting!!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Wordle - a summary of current postings on my blog

Wordle: mistermikelcc.blogspot.com gives students a random picture with a word list (divided into categories) that, do a certain degree forces the creative writing process.

Here's my first creation:

PicLit from
See the full PicLit at is a digital music and multimedia project with a group of 16-26 year olds who study ESOL.

The aim of the course is to build on the skills gained during a workshop held in November 2009. You can view a short video here:

Monday, 15 February 2010

Pancake day

The 16th of February is Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday. This is the day that Christian families use up eggs, milk and sugar before the beginning of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days when Christians fast. This type of fasting is different to Ramadan when Muslim don't eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. During Lent people eat simple meals and don't eat dairy products and meat.

It seems like a good opportunity to lose some of the weight gained during the Christmas period of indulgence! Most British people I know don't fast during Lent but some 'give up' something; e.g. chocolate, smoking, sugar in tea.

This evening I'm going to make pancakes for my class which I can microwave tomorrow.

Here are some links to sites with materials that I will use in the class tomorrow -

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


We did a matching exercise with broken imperative sentences and the students had try to match them together. Click here to see and download the matching activity. I made it in PowerPoint  by drawing a table (6x5) the same size as a slide.
Then I made sure that each row and column were the same size so the students would have to read the cards to know which part was the imperative form. You can see the results below:
I underlined the verbs to help my students but you could choose not to, you could also remove the capital letter at the start. If you download the file in Scribd you can also adapt this to suit your classes vocabulary or topic.
I printed this out on green, A4 card (5 times) and then cut it up using a guillotine.

I gave these cards to mymEntry 2 ESOL class - I had a class of 16 so I split then 5 groups.

They matched the pairs in about 10 minutes. I then decided to get them to play pelmanism with the cards.

The students placed all the cards face down and then, taking turns tried to identify a pair by relying on their memories. If a student identified the correct pair the student kept the pair and scored 1 point. They also got another turn. This introduced an element of competitiveness. I overheard students discussing with each other what the missing part of the pair might be, students recalling the initial matching activity. I also noticed that it was an opportunity for the quiet, able, reserved students were able to shine.

The students really enjoyed the activity.

I think the main reason they enjoyed it is because of the fact that I had introduced the class to pelmanism through a number of PowerPoint activities that I have developed where the teacher has control of the cards via a projector and keyboard. (click here to view an example)

First download the document by clicking at the top left of this document.
Split your class into 2.
Open the file.
Ask a student for 2 numbers
Click on the first, then press Ctrl and X simultaneously (cut) A picture will appear, under the number.
Cut the second number and another picture will appear.
If they match the students team gets one point and the student get another turn.
If they get it wrong, press Ctrl + Z simultaneously. (undo)
If you make a mistake you can press Ctrl + Y (redo)

Please leave a comment if you like this post.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Vowel sounds presentation, student worksheet and quiz/spelling test

Follow the link to see a PowerPoint presentation on the 20 vowel sounds in the English language. You can download, edit and use for your own classes or watch it online if you are a student!
Here is a screen shot:

I asked individual students to tell me names of the pictures and then to tell me the number of syllables, the vowel sounds (I explained how these are often linked) and if they knew any other words with a similar sound. I also checked that they realised which vowel the phonetic sound was related to. After the presentation I went through the student worksheet with the class. I got the students to write the word using a black and a red pen - writing the vowel sound with the red pen - e.g. tray
You can see the student worksheet here -

and you can download it for free by clicking this link Student-Sheet-Vowels.

The next class we had a spelling test based on the words on the left hand page. I made it a bit more interesting by creating some questions that you can see below...

and again you can download it for free by click this link -

Please leave a comment if you find this useful or have any ideas on how to make the activities better.

Practice your pronunciation online

I've been looking on the internet for a good website that helps students with their pronunciation of vowel sounds, diphthongs and consonants for about two years and I have finally found an excellent page on the Oxford University Press website This site is so good because it uses the phonetic alphabet along with common words and simple pictures to represent each word. The site also allows the viewer to hear the words pronounced in clear, British English.Here is a screenshot from the vowel section:

Here is a screen shot from the consonant section:

Monday, 18 January 2010

Another Excel activity to practice using the sum function

Introduce the class with the PowerPoint that you can download here. Elicit from the students what the map shows. Students should be able to deduce that the colour coded areas are related to the spellings of nationalities.

Elicit different nationalities from the class as each arrow appears on the PowerPoint. Write the nationalities on a whiteboard or flipchart and underline the endings or if using a SmartBoard you can underline them on that.

Open a blank Excel file or pre prepare one with your students names in, in column A. Elicit the nationalities from the class and add them into row A. Enter a '1' for each student in the correct cell. Autosum each column to find the total number of students for each nationality. Click here to view an example.

Now this is the tricky bit... You can download screenshots here

  1. Select the row of totals at the bottom of the file
  2. Click on Insert / Bar / Select the first option
  3. Right click on the graph and click on select data
  4. 'Select Data Source' box will open, click on edit in the right hand box - these are the horizontal axis labels
  5. Select B1 to H1 (the nationalities that you have chosen) and click OK
  6. Click OK on the 'Select Data Source' box

You should now have a lovely graph showing the numbers and nationalities of your students.

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