Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Speakingpal - Guest post Elaine Hirsch

Elaine Hirsch is a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult for her to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites, including mine, and is writing about all these things instead.

Here she is writing about a mobile phone app called Speakingpal. Whilst I'm not particularly endorsing the product, the concept is the tip of the iceberg. This article demonstrates how mobile technology will, in the future, assist the autonomous language learner in their quest for self guided learning.

Tutor 2.0: Speakingpal Revolutionizes Interactive Online Education

For those in the education sector, the 21st century is an equally exciting and challenging
time to be alive. Communication and information technologies are simultaneously making
life easier for educators and threatening their livelihood in some ways. With so much free
information floating around the web, teachers in K-12 to master's degree programs can
feel somewhat superfluous at times. Mobile applications like Speakingpal in particular are
changing the face of education like never before.

What Is Speakingpal?

Available on both the iOS and Android OS platforms, Speakingpal is a virtual tutor that
teaches users the basics of English vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Knowledge
of the English language is considered a must for global commerce. As the lingua franca
of the Internet and a commonly-spoken tongue for over 2 billion people, being fluent
in English is a valuable skill. Speakingpal helps them to do that in fun, easy, 2 minute
increments. It gives users the ability to interact with a virtual training partner which
grades them on how well they complete specific phrases in quick conversation sessions.

Price and Features

Speakingpal is a polished, ground-breaking application which comes at an affordable
price. While the mobile application is free to download, you'll need to purchase a three-
month subscription for $14.99 to get access to sample conversations to practice with.
The biggest selling point for Speakingpal is its vibrant community, which encourages
sharing and collaboration.

Possible Applications

The success of Speakingpal means we'll be seeing more programs like it geared at
learning other languages in the near future. While Speakingpal is a fun and interactive
tool for learning English at your own pace, it's probably not going to replace actual
human tutors anytime soon. Software can be engineered to be quite good at replacing
people for certain tasks, but in this case it's still best to have a live instructor. However,
Speakingpal is the perfect compliment to language classes and can only serve to speed
up the learning process.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to the Internet, education at all levels is changing in ways that people still don't
fully appreciate. With online tools like Speakingpal as well as free tutorials for learning
a wide range of skills, the education sector is bound to become more competitive.
That's actually good news for tutors and educators who can leverage that technology
to their advantage. Software isn't inherently good or bad, regardless of its function.
For dedicated and forward-thinking teachers, it's just another tool that can be used to
enhance the learning experience for their students.

Here's some more of Elaine's work if you are interested in her informative writing.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Wordle of Mantras of a MadMan


I've just updated my Index page to show all my posts in reverse chronological order and then created a Wordle Word Cloud from the labels. The result is really quite satisfying. Please feel free to browse the list of posts here: http://mistermikelcc.blogspot.com/p/index.html

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Language Plant - singular / plurals

Here's my second attempt at making the language plant that I wrote about recently. After a few e-mails exchanged between David and myself we established the final version. I think it is beautiful and also feel that it demonstrates so much about the way we can say something in a number of different ways.

If you have any ideas about how to use this language plant with your learners why not leave a comment.
See below for how I used it.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Evolution with Language Plants

How can I make word categorisation and grammar points more interesting?

I work with teenagers, they find grammar tedious.

They love technology.

I love gardening.

When I met David Warr I knew I'd found my answer.

David has introduced me to language plants and you can find out all about them here - http://www.languagegarden.org/ 

Earlier this evening I visited David's blog - http://languagegarden.wordpress.com/ and read about his NEW plant maker. The two plants below are created using his Beta PLANT MAKER. The originals were drawn on a Promethean Whiteboard, covered over and revealed during the class.

Back to my original question;

I revealed it bit by bit. (I love ActivInspire software) I contextualised the language with some pens and a table. I asked the students to tell me what they could see. I asked them again and again. They were engaged; actively learning. They were constantly referring back to 'the plant'.

We explored other new plants instantly;

I then tested my students using a favourite worksheet, thanks to English Banana

We explored the answers together and made notes about mistakes.

I think this way of exploring language in a creative, expressive and functional way is incredibly engaging. I look forward to reporting back more on how the new PLANT MAKER is received by my students.

If you haven't tried it out yet, what are you waiting for?

And finally in David's own words;

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Making Logical Progression Videos on YouTube - Guest post by Natalie Hunter

I've been making videos for quite a while; see my YouTube site http://www.youtube.com/user/mikeinleeds for some examples.

I recently heard about making logical progression videos from a visitor to my Blog. Her name is Natalie Hunter and she offered to share some of her thoughts with my readership as she doesn't have a blog of her own. Here's what she has to say about the making of Logical Progression Videos and their use in education;

Making Logical Progression Videos on YouTube

The goal of every high school educator is to teach children critical thinking skills and provide them with other tools that will be useful to them throughout their lifetimes. Prior to current developments in computer technology, students were often asked to create logical progression essays or “create your own adventure” types of written assignments to help with the tasks associated with problem solving. Additionally, these exercises were designed to stimulate creativity and to illustrate how one event progresses to another.

There are multiple ways in which to teach high school students critical thinking skills. However with the current push toward online education, more teachers are creating assignments that embrace technology and allow students to interact with the media to learn in new ways. One way to incorporate new media into the classroom is through logical progression videos. This approach allows students to learn critical thinking skills while exploring a wide variety of subjects in a manner that is more enjoyable and engaging than text or still images.

Through logical progression videos, students are empowered by being able to exercise control over the outcomes of the stories. For instance, teachers can present videos that allow students to vote on the outcomes. Not only does this teach students there are multiple sides to a story, but it also provides them with an opportunity to interact with their peers. Gomez, Andersson and Chipperfield noted in a study that teaching with using video technology, ”...gives opportunities for peer learning and exchange in a ‘safe’ environment managed by the tutor.”  This has the potential to cause students to become more comfortable when interacting with each other in class, since  they will be more interested in working with their peers to determine the best outcome for the characters in the story than focusing on the mistakes made by others.

Better yet, the flexible nature of these videos means they can be catered to meet the learning styles of a variety of students. Even with the freedom of expression provided by logical progression videos, some high school students may still feel inhibited about speaking out when they are confused. In most cases it is likely the teacher will continue the lesson without knowing that a student is having problems. However this issue is avoided through the use of the logical progression videos, as students can learn at their own pace and thoroughly contemplate the material prior to progressing to the next level or step in the story. This is extremely beneficial for language students, since simply having the ability to repeat or stop the video if confounded (which is often not possible in an actual conversation) provides the student the opportunity to fully absorb the knowledge being imparted.

In order to most effectively utilize the logical progression video assignment, The Harvard Learning Objects Lab has suggested that the needs of the specific audience can be met by the customization of the video. Luckily, logical progression videos are inexpensive and simple to make. Either independently, in groups or with the help of their teachers, students can design stories that are shot with video cameras, then uploaded them to the Internet through YouTube. Depending on the format and direction of the video, students can create different outcomes and help determine the characters’ actions that can be illustrated in subsequent videos.

Ultimately, logical progression videos are engaging, entertaining and require very little expense to make. These benefits, coupled with the current genesis of computer-savvy learners, are good reasons to take advantage of today's technological breakthroughs in education. Through this use of modern technology, teachers are now able to foster a new generation of critical thinkers and impart knowledge that can last a lifetime. 


After searching on YouTube I've only found one example of how logical progression style videos could be used with embedded links to create stories. The content of that video is inappropriate for my learners. I'm very keen to hear from anyone who has experimented with this idea. I intend to work with students at some point this year to create simple "create your own adventure" videos along the lines of the 1980's adventure books.

When I think of Logical Progression I'm taken back to memories of well thumbed books with simple scenarios that you had to decide your destiny by turning to a corresponding page number. 

Watch this space.

Thanks for Natalie for her inspiration

Monday, 4 July 2011

Afghan refugee travelled 7,150 miles, through 10 countries in a year - alone, aged 12

This story has really touched me. As many of you know I work with a lot of young Afghans. This video will open the eyes of anyone who may think the journey to the UK is easy...

Amazing story of 12 year old Afghan

TEENAGER Gulwali Passarlay has told of his astonishing journey as he fled from war-torn Afghanistan to safety in the UK—travelling alone 7,150 miles, through 10 countries, aged just 12.

Gulwali risked his life and left his family on the harrowing year-long ordeal, which saw him hiding in an engine compartment of a lorry, and crammed into a dangerously overcrowded boat.

He is now 16-years-old and settled in Lostockwith his foster family, whom he was placed with just before Christmas.

Gulwali has produced a short DVD of his incredible journey entitled Journey of Life which he is showing at schools and colleges in Bolton.

He said: "I took a risk to be safe, and am lucky. I am in Bolton, which I love. I have completed 10 GCSEs, even though when I came here I could only speak very little English.

"I made this DVD to explain why people leave their country and their families.

"I want to explain to them about refugees and asylum seekers. They are human beings."

Gulwali's journey began in 2006 when he was persuaded by his mother Razbibi and father Dr Shakrah Ahmed, who lived in Jalalbad, two hours away from Kabul, to leave Afghanistan.

Members of his family had been killed in the war.
His parents paid an agent to help him escape. His brother Hazrat Khan, aged 21, had left earlier.

The youngster travelled by airplane, on foot — including a 25 hour walk from Brussels to France — lorry, coach, train and boat.

Gulwali was put into the care of an agent who was paid to arrange for him to leave Afghanistan by airplane and coach, travelling into Iran where his journey continued in the back of lorry, on horseback, then by train into Bulgaria, where he was found by immigration officials and sent back to Turkey. From Turkey he embarked on the most frightening part of the journey, which at one point he did not think he would survive.

"The boat was for 20 people and there so many of us in there for 50 hours, I could not breathe. There was no food or water. That was hard. I thought many times I was going to die."

Once in Greece, Gulwali sneaked into the engine compartment of a lorry which carried him into Italy.

He said: " I had a bag between me and the engine and that was it. It was so hot. The lorry was going very fast that I thought I was going to fall under the wheels. I knew I was in Italy and I thought I have to get off now. I banged to get attention because I could not hold on any longer and thought I would fall.

"The lorry driver did not hear me at first and when he stopped to check, he looked shocked and confused. I managed to ask for water, even though I could not speak the language.

"In Italy I was arrested by police, which I was happy with, because the first thing they did was take me to a shop to get me food. They were kind and told me I was safe.

"I was put into a children's home, but I knew I had to leave and jumped out of a window to get to Rome."

From Italy he travelled on a lorry to Germany and walked back to France, where he took a coach to Belgium before embarking on a 25 hour trek to Calais.
Gulwali said: "There were times when I thought I was going to die. I felt so alone and thought what am I doing, I should be with my family.

"I missed my mum so much, I cried and thought what was I doing.

In Calais, Gulwali joined the hundreds at the United Nations Camp where he stayed for three months, but he was still determined to make it to the UK.

"One day a person came up to a group of us, holding bananas and said who is coming. I put my hand up and then others followed."

Gulwali arrived in Dover in November 2007, where he filed his asylum claim and was moved to Kent by the Home Office. He lived there for a year before being moved in to a hostel in Manchester. He was resettled in Bolton in 2009.

His brother Hazrat managed to track him down and the two lived together until Hazrat left for Afghanistan in October to help his family.

The teenager was once again left to fend for himself and keep up with his school work at Essa Academy in Great Lever.

Now, he lives with his foster family, Sean and Karen Corless, and speaks to his family in Afghanistan once a week.

Despite a few setbacks, Gulwali has managed to adapt to life well in his adopted country. He said: "I faced racism and people were rude to me.

But people were also kind very kind to me. There were so many positives as well as negatives and I now want to give back for everything I have been given."

Bolton Council's executive member for children's services, Cllr Nick Peel said: "Gulwali's story is so inspiring, and it goes to show the strength of character he has. His journey puts into perspective the quality of childhood that many children take for granted.

"I'm sure it will be quite eye opening for his peers.

His DVD is a brilliant example of how the Youth Opportunities Fund can be used in a really positive way to inspire young people across the borough."


I have been a member of Refed for about 5 years now. This post and the previous post are both directly sourced from the Refed message board. See the end of the post to find out how you can become a member and keep up to date with lots of news, training events and discussions about Refugees and Education (related to asylum seekers and refugees) - huge thanks to Bill Bolloten and Tim Spafford at www.refugeeeducation.co.uk for so many interesting and informative posts

To join refed - the refugee education email discussion list - please go to 

http://www.refugeeeducation.co.uk/mailing.htm or send an email to: refed-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Yahoo! Groups



Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Some good news for young Afghans - Contract for reception centre in Kabul scrapped

I received this information in an e-mail today;

Just wanted to let you know that following lobbying by The Children's Society and partners in the sector, the government has decided to scrap the contract for the reception centre in Kabul. The reception centre (plans for which were revealed last summer) was to have space for 16 to 17 year olds alongside adult reception facilities. We raised concerns with Ministers on the basis of the quality and appropriateness of plans in the context of UK's child welfare and safeguarding duties under domestic and international law, and called on Ministers to recognise that all Afghan children in the UK are children in need of international protection from armed conflict and their best interests are not met by being returned to that country whilst these conditions persist. We called on government to cancel its contracting plans and to provide a durable status for Afghan children instead of temporary discretionary leave based solely on the age of the child and lack of adequate reception arrangements. Obviously the latter point will require some more persuading but still a positive development for the time being.

We now understand that they will re-tender for a new centre for adults and will not include facilities for 16 and 17 year olds. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed of any new developments and how this is likely to affect the young people you work with.

If you have read my previous posts, "What did you do for your 18th birthday" and "I felt like I was on the set of Babylon 5" , about the potential deportation of Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers from Afghanistan, you will know that I will be very happy to have read this today. This is one small victory for those who have been campaigning against the plans to deport young 16 and 17 year olds to Afghanistan.

Small victories like this are what keep me campaigning and promoting the voices of those who aren't always heard!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

#Vidstory is a Channel on Vimeo

The #vidstory project is coming to a close as we reach the end of term.

I am sure that the ripples that drift across the 'cloud' will continue for some time.

Students can share their videos with their peers.

Comments will be left and hopefully positive relationships will develop.

Confidence, identity and self expression will all be nurtured and not stifled.

There are questions about Copyright, I prefer copyleft and Creative Commons who provide free licenses for creative types who want to keep some form of Copyright.

If there are any discrepancies in the videos publish I will rectify them however as I am not making any commercial gain and using the media for educational purposes I find it difficult to position myself with current legislation. Please read this http://bit.ly/iDbgV0 a very useful do's and don'ts list of Copyright.

I have been away from Blogger and Twitter for some time, enjoying life with my 2 beautiful daughters and my wife. When I watch the videos my students make I realise my good fortune to be who I am and where I am in this world. Work-Life balance is always a tricky game to play.

Any comments would be welcome and would also encourage me in my exploration of this topic. It would also be great to get feedback on the #vidstory project or any other aspect of the blog =)

I must thank @web2Literacy for his support and invite you to join myLIFE - migrant young Learners In Formal Education , if you are making videos with young migrants and wish to promote their work to a wider, supportive online community.

Friday, 18 March 2011

My interests and dreams #vidstory

The #vidstory project is building momentum with about 10 finished videos and still more to come. The message and themes speak for themselves. 

The students have found ways to communicate on a level that I've found truly inspiring and informative. 

I've seen their homelands - buildings, countryside and people. I've seen their beliefs, their faith, their respect of their culture. I've also seen the UK through their eyes. My ears are filled with sounds from around the globe.

They make media rich resources and will provoke a lot of discussion.

Here is a video by Mustafe. I think it is truly outstanding.

The rawness of the misspelling, the diversity of his message and the informative nature of the video engaged me throughout and was well received by his peers. 

The next video is made by an Italian / Chinese collaboration. It reminded me that I live in a beautiful Great Britain.

The final video in this post is a really powerful video that shows another side of the lives of some students who are studying English in the UK.

The quality of the movies is steadily improving. There are some very strong voices expressed through those images. I hope to get voices or text added to videos to enhance the learning process and combine it with language.

My hope is to begin sharing this project with other young people studying at other colleges and help them build a Social Network. That network will provide them with solidarity and support. 

Please visit www.youngpeopleseekingsafety.co.uk to find out more about other events and activities that are being organised throughout the country to raise awareness of young migrants and the complex lives they live. 

Sunday, 13 March 2011

3 students' Story Videos

Latif's Video Valdis's Video Shaban's Video

These videos were made in a 3 hour tutorial session.

Lots of students are also finishing their work and I hope to share their videos here too. 

I believe giving students an opportunity to find ways to communicate and educate other people is a first step in helping them develop their own social networks. 

These networks may, in turn, help them build their identities and develop meaningful, supportive relationships with new people.

Please see the following posts for more information on this project, also search for #vidstory on Twitter  

If you want to contribute a video please post a tweet with the #vidstory hashtag and send me a message.

Alternatively post a link via the comments box.

Happy VidStory making.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Video Stories - MisterMike

This video has been made to encourage my students to consider making their own videos using WindowsMovieMaker.

The idea is that students can use photos or images from the web.

The images should say something about them.

There will be options to add text, animations and transition effects.

Students can choose to cover their experiences, identity, neighbourhood, home etc.

If you like the idea, why not make a video too and post a link here (via comments box).

The collaboration?

It would be great to have a bank of videos that students could try and guess who the authors were.

Match a photo of the author to the anonymous video :o)

Why are we doing this?

I am currently supporting a group of 16-18 year old ESOL students.

I want to give them a voice. With that voice they can express their views about different topics.

I want them to reflect upon their identities.

For some, they may be facing an uncertain future. Check out this post that tells you more - http://mistermikelcc.blogspot.com/2011/03/what-did-you-do-for-your-18th-birthday.html

These videos may help them to connect with other young people in the country who are in a similar position.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Pancake Day

The 8th of March is Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday

This is the day that Christian families, traditionally, 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 traditionally 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.

On Monday 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 -
Project Britain (Woodlands Primary)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

What did you do for your 18th birthday?

Thirteen years ago I celebrated my 18th birthday. I didn't celebrate it in May as I was preparing for my A-levels.  I had saved some money so in the summer I went to Crete with some friends from school. Each night we went out to the bars and clubs. Each day we recovered by the swimming pool. It was a typical summer break for someone who had just left high school in 1998.

Maybe that's why I am particularly affected by what's happening at my workplace.

A number of my students will be turning 18 this year.

I think it will be an enjoyable milestone for the Pole and the Latvian and their families.

The three Afghan boys are in a very different place.

Although they are supported by Social Services they are essentially alone here in the UK.

As these Afghans turn seventeen and a half they are prepared for "leaving care".

The Government plans to return 400 young Afghans to Kabul this year.

Deportations have begun because the Government deems Kabul to be safe, despite the two suicide bombs which have killed 17 people since the beginning of this year.     

The government is opening a reception centre for returnees where, supposedly, they will be given support.  I believe this was put out to tender for a three year contract in March 2010.  The centre will house 76 returnees (link). This does not fill me with confidence. 

It is well documented that the most extreme of the Taliban linked insurgency groups is stepping up its activity in Kabul.
            Spate of Kabul Suicide Bombs Blamed on Nearby Valley, The National, 17 February 2011
EXCERPT: "Two suicide bomb attacks in as many months on shoppers in Kabul, after a seven-month lull in serious violence in the city, have raised fears that insurgents are bolstering their strongholds on the outskirts of the capital.”

My students could be included in the 400 returned to Kabul this year. What can I do to stop this? What guidance and support is available? I'm not sure the college guidance and welfare team are experienced in supporting students in deportation cases.

I have decided to discuss my thoughts with my students and try and support them in setting up a support network for themselves and others who may be in similar positions. Giving this group a voice through media, the internet and direct actions may help.

Writing about it may help.

At a time of cuts in all sectors of society I doubt the plight of a few Afghan boys is of much concern to the general public.

A quick Google search, however, has produced this campaign -
http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/news/2011/launch-awareness-raising-campaign-unaccompanied-asylum-seeking-children-uk -  Young People Seeking Safety Week

Between 28 March - 3 April 2011, groups will be hosting events during a week of nation-wide awareness raising about this issue, YPSS Week 2011 will be showing films and art of young people made for the occasion. For more information visit the campaign website http://www.youngpeopleseekingsafety.co.uk.
I believe that these young people have suffered enough and that returning them to Afghanistan will endanger their lives.

I hope that supporting my students to find their voices will prevent what seems to be a dark and fearful destiny.

In Leeds, systems have been developed to quickly engage new arrivals, aged 16-18 and get them enrolled in  ESOL classes. A strong partnership, between Leeds Social Services and Leeds City College, has ensured that new arrivals are fast tracked into college. The systems were developed in response to a large number of migrant children missing enrolment due to their arrival date being after the start of an academic year. They then fell into the NEET category (Not in Employment, Education or Training). Good community links and a reputation for accommodating young people has created a dynamic solution to their needs. Please contact me if you would like to know more about my work.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Using films in the classroom - Happy Gilmore

There are so many things to consider when picking a film to watch with language learners.

  1. The first thing I thought about, as a language teacher, was the language in the film. 
  • Is it appropriate for analysis? 
  • Does it contain a lot of swearing or bad language?
  • Are there accents that would make comprehension difficult?
  • Is slang language used?
     2.  The second aspect of the film I considered was the story of the film.
  • Does the plot have a good story?
  • Are there messages to the film?
  • Are there deeper meanings?
  • Could you predict what was going to happen?
     3.  Next I considered the characters in the film. 
  • Are the characters strong individuals?
  • Would they be interesting to describe?
  • What clothes do they wear? Why?
  • What influenced their lives?
  • What do you think happened to the characters after the film?
      4.  Finally I considered if the film could be offensive or challenging for my students.
  • Does it contain nudity or violence?
  • Does it model bad behaviour?
  • Are there scenes that could upset some students? 

Last Friday we watched Happy Gilmore with a group of ESOL students.

Here's a summary of their comments about the film.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Preparing ESOL Students for their E2 Reading Exam

The exam is next week so I wanted to coach the students in some of the techniques needed to find answers in the text.

I decided to write an exam paper that would really challenge their ability to deduce words they didn't know.

I wasn't sure how students would take it.

Here's the document:

Emma likes Ati

Differentiation was used with fewer 'made-up words' for lower levels. I also made the words easier to guess by asking students questions about those words;

"Where would you find a KW?"
"Look at the verb in Line 1."
"What nouns can you use with that verb?"
I found that soon students understood the task and a great amount of learning took place as students analysed the lexis.

For homework I asked students to write about a process and then change some words for made-up words or words in their first language. The next lesson students tried to guess what the processes were.

Students have also accessed past papers via moodle. They have done this in their free time under 'honesty exam conditions'. I explained that the only people they were cheating were themselves.

I have had a lot of marking as a consequence but have been able to pinpoint students "weaker" skills, i.e. alphabetical order in Task 3 or finding keywords in a text in Task 1.

Forms and tables have their own challenges as cultural familiarity and general lexical knowledge needs to be pre-taught. An example of this is how British names are not instantly recognised as people's names because they are unfamiliar.

I think the reading exam presents a number of challenges to an ESOL learner but once given techniques to answer questions they can certainly achieve good marks.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Quiz Break - a Jeopardy generator and so much more from CLEAR

Just made a jeopardy game using QuizBreak - see the game here.

Quiz Break is the work of the Centre for Language Education and Research in Michigan USA. Visit their site
http://clear.msu.edu/login/account.php to find a great range of tools to place on your website, wiki or blog.

This screen print from the site gives you an idea of what is available...

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

New statistics for the Action for ESOL petition

I have updated the statistics. We are averaging between 400 and 500 signatures a day. We must keep this momentum to reach 10,000 by next weekend! Please ask family members, friends and colleagues. Can we take the petition global? As you can see on slide 3 there are a large number of signatories from abroad, should we build on this?

Updated statistics for Action for ESOL petition.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Student generated data from the Action for ESOL petition.

Just under a month ago a petition was started at gopetition.co.uk and you can follow the campaign on Twitter @ActionForESOL

I decided to engage my ESOL IT students by getting them to collect data from the petition and compile it into an Excel file.

Here are the results:

Graphical Representations of Petition

The first graph shows the range of signatures by location.

The second graph show the gradual increase of signatures over time. 

The total number needs an extra "0" on the end to get anyone's attention! I really hope that we can build momentum on this now...

Action for ESOL!!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Newspaper Bridges - One Year On

Last year I wrote one of my first posts about a team building activity where students made newspaper bridges out of selotape and, yes you've guessed it NEWSPAPERS!!!

I also posted a video on YouTube which you can see here. The video has been watched 482 times.

I did 2 workshops with small groups of 16-18 year olds (about 10 students in each group).

This year the ESOL provision for 16-18 year olds has grown to around 40 students from Beginner to Level 1. We held a larger activity in the exam hall at the centre where I teach. We had 6 members of staff (3 teachers and 3 support assistants).

I used this document to introduce the activity to the learners along with the video.

We set some basic rules.

  1. We negotiated and decided on the "SPAN" of the bridge.
  2. We agreed that it must be possible to roll a football under the bridge.
  3. We agreed to test the strength of the bridge by placing dictionaries on the bridge.
  4. The bridge couldn't be attached to the floor, furniture or held up by the students.
  5. The students had 10 minutes to plan their bridges.
  6. The students had 10 (extended to 15) minutes to make their bridges.

The students were split in to groups of 5 or 6 (mixed nationalities and ESOL levels).

Before they were allowed to get their hands on the newspapers they were encouraged to share ideas on how they would make their bridges for about 10 minutes.

The students were then supported in constructing their bridges. Questions were asked to help the students reflect on their designs.

Once the bridges were made we had a break of about 15 minutes.

After the break we gave feedback to the whole cohort. Students were invited to reflect upon different aspects of the group work.

  • Did they play their part? 
  • Who was the leader? 
  • Did your team listen well? 
  • What does this activity tell the tutors about the students?
  • What transferable skills did you learn?
  • How could you make a better bridge?
We then scored the bridges on the criteria given at the start of the activity.

Span, height and strength.

You can find the new video here. Any comments welcome :o)

Please note that the video has been edited to protect the identity of students.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Hints and Tips to practise an ESOL Entry 2 reading exam

It's that time of year again - Test Test TEST!

If I had my way language classes wouldn't be funded by students' achievements but that's a different post!

I thought to myself:
"How can I encourage students to inspect the techniques and approaches necessary for their reading exam?"
I decided to create a mock-exam which would be in the style of the exam papers that they will see.

I wanted to emphasise certain points. These included :

  • How to use a glossary and a diagram. 
  • The importance of reading instructions.
  • How to identify key words and find the answers to questions.
  • Key language e.g. action verbs, male / female, use of prefix re-.
  • Reading information from a table.
  • Looking for keywords in a document.
  • Placing words in a list that is in alphabetical order.
Here is the document that I made. I love using PowerPoint to design worksheets like this because you can pick up and move each part of the document. This makes editing the document fairly simple.

Which programmes do you use when you are making worksheets?

What are your tips and tricks for helping students to prepare for exams? 

Exams time is high pressure and stressful but does the process actually help students learn language?

P.S. I plan to use some screen capturing software to give feedback on this document and how to get 
full marks! Watch this space...

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