Word of the Week and Other Ideas for Business English Classes – My Workshop for the ETAS SIG Day, September 17, 2011

My name is Vicky Loras and I am an English teacher, born in Toronto, Canada but of Greek descent. I have been living here in Switzerland for two years and I absolutely love my work and life here. What I like the most about my teaching here is that I have a lot of business people that I teach, be it in banks, companies, and so on. I find it very interesting to learn new terms and things about the business world – you see, I learn alongside them as well.

  • I find it great that I can do numerous activities with them to help them in their learning process. One of our favourite activities which will start off my talk is Word of the Week. I came up with this idea coincidentally, as one day we were talking about unusual words in English with the bankers that I teach. Words that are relatively new to the English dictionary, compound words that we have heard and sound newish and suddenly at that moment, it hit me: find a way, that I can incorporate them into the lessons, because I saw how interested they were and the great conversation they got out of it. Thinking about it, I decided to make it the start of the lesson. I would present it as Word of the Week (since I see them only once a week) and see how it goes. I explained to them in the next lesson what the purpose of that activity would be – they did not have to remember all these words, we would simply use them as a foundation for developing conversation. They were very open to it and I can tell you, ever since we started it, they absolutely love it! I see that even when they leave the lesson, they go and tell their colleagues about these words in English, and they even continue their conversations in their offices!

Let me show you with a simple word how I do it – and then you can up the ante and use more complex words, depending on the students´ level. The one I am about to show you is for pre-intermediate classes or intermediate – I have used it with all levels, however!

This is what I always put up on the board before the students come in - it builds up suspense!
Then I try to give them hints – for this one I would say: “What do you usually do in the summer or when you have time off? ” “We go on holiday”, would most probably be their answer. So then I tell them to look for another word that means the same. If they do come up with the word vacation, then I write it underneath the Word of the Week as a clue to help them.
When they find the hint, I add it underneath the Word of the Week
Then I ask them to put their thinking caps on and think of a word that means a holiday for only one day. After some playing with words, they usually come up with the correct answer – daycation!
Ta-dam! The Word of the Week has been found and will lead to great discussions in class - and outside!
As I mentioned earlier, the point is not for them to remember all of these words – and you will see that they remember the vast majority, because they are playful and catchy words, because they try to use them in sentences in the next lessons and there has been so much conversation going on about them that the words just stay with them. Coincidentally, the day before my presentation I had my last lesson with a group of IT experts form a bank. They had prepared the most beautiful card – including some words of the week they had learned! I absolutely love what they did and the fact that they sat down and thought up of the whole text, makes me think that they took a lot out of our lessons and Word of the Week! Here is the card (which I have asked for permission to publish as part of my presentation): The point is that one single word can spark such a big conversation, can unlock the students and their potentials – they just start talking, and the language we get out of it is unbelievable! This is our absolute favourite.

  • Another activity we do is called difficult situations or Crisis! I have taken thi idea form Paul Emmerson and Nick Hamilton’s book Five-Minute Business English Activities. I present them with potential problems in their work and have them discuss a course of action in twos or threes – when they have it ready and planned, then they discuss the way they would solve the problem and come up with potential solutions. Through this activity they learn how to use language to negotiate (as they might not always agree on a common course of action) and use expressions like I think, I believe that the best course of action would be… and of course practice their Conditionals (I have a great love for Conditionals and try to get them in there any way I can!) – If we did this, this would happen….If we had done this, this would not have happened… The only thing we should be cautious with in this activity is not to touch any sensitive issues that might stress them, or any topics we know they might have a problem with. It can be for instance something like this: informing my IT students that the new system they installed is having a few problems, so they have been told by their line manager that they have to work over the weekend to fix it and what they would do in this case. Sometimes I go out of the room and pretend to be a partner or colleague of theirs who comes into the room and shouts Crisis! This and this happened. So it kind of prepares the atmosphere and the ground, let´s say, for this activity. It also depends on the culture of the students. Perhaps their culture is not so expressive so actually coming into a classroom shouting Crisis! is not the best idea.
  • If you have Business English students who make presentations, then you might find it useful for them to give you an actual presentation as part of the lesson. It can be something they have done for their work (but there you have to vouch for confidentiality – some teachers even sign an agreement of confidentiality that no information will leave the room) or a presentation on anything. Some of my bankers use vaious ideas to present – a few of them presented their countries, along with Powerpoint slides, or bike races – it can be even something as simple as that and the language you get out of it is absolutely amazing. What I do there is I sit with the rest of the students while one of them is presenting and keep notes, of great things they have said or of mistakes they have made. I then present the mistakes altogether if I know they will feel uncomfortable. It all depends on the learners.
  • I also practice telephone conversations with them – but because our classroom does not connect via intercom with another, what we do is we turn our chairs and backs to one another and pretend we are phoning each other – turning our backs, so that the other person cannot see facial expressions and so cannot anticipate what the call is about.

Here is my slideshow for the presentation:

My Contribution to Eva Büyüksimkeşyan’s Blog Carnival #24 – Warmers and Fillers

Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, English teacher and good friend!

I am delighted to be asked to take part in the 24th Blog Carnival on Warmers and Fillers for the first days back at school, hosted by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, an English teacher based in Istanbul, and since last November, a dear friend! Eva teaches at Esayan High School and does a lot of great projects with her students. She also collaborates internationally with other teachers around the world. Eva writes the most amazing posts on her blog, A Journey in TEFL. Thanks so much for this opportunity, Eva!

I am very happy to teach English as a Foreign Language both to children and adults. I enjoy working with both age groups and in this post I will share my ideas, which I hope you will find useful and like! I try to come up with new activities every year, but these are our favourites and as an educator, I see that they help both children and adults make a great start to their lessons.

Young Learners:

  • As I like to incorporate culture in my classes and I am fortunate to have multicultural classes, I begin by asking them where they are from and if they can tell us a greeting in their language, sing a small song or tell us a small poem or rhyme. For the reason that on first days young learners can be very shy, I start by demonstrating the task myself! That can help the kids a lot and keep the activity going.
  • We make posters on A3 paper. They can write their name, if they are able to, and around it make little drawings of things they like, their families, their hobbies and so on. When they are finished, they can make a small presentation to the whole class so we can all get to know them!
  • My name is Vicky and I like basketball! We can all sit down in a circle and take turns, rolling a ball or giving each other a stuffed toy and introduce ourselves – our names and our favourite thing or activity. That way they can hear each other and learn names – perhaps even find out common things they like!

Adult Learners:

  • Incorporating culture again, I make a little introduction of myself (My name is Vicky Loras, I was born in Canada of Greek parents and I am an English teacher) – it welcomes them to the first lesson and they can feel more comfortable. They can even start asking me or even better each other questions. Plus, they like this small talk for the first lesson – we can start talking stock markets and hedge funds in the following lessons!
  • Then taking some questions from a book I absolutely adore, Cambridge Business English Activities, we start talking (culture is in here too and the questions can lead to some interesting and sometimes funny discussions!). This kind of discussion loosens them up in the first lesson, because they can be nervous as well and serves as a great introduction to fantastic lessons to follow. The questions are of the kind: If you were at a reception, would you take the last piece of cake? or Do you work on a problem by analysing it or using your instinct? or How would you react if a colleague got the job you wanted? and so on.
  • What I have noticed is that they love talking about their work and working environment, their position in the company and perhaps what they did before, so I just let them talk to us about it. If they are from the same company, they can fill in for each other when they remember something, so everyone gets a chance to talk – or if they have not see each other before, they can learn more about the people in their class.

I hope these tips have helped you. Stay tuned to Eva’s blog to read great ideas form other educators who are also taking part in the Blog Carnival. Thank you for reading!

#More than 140 – Get To Know Your PLN

A few days ago, I was very happy to be contacted by Matthew Ray, in order to start a great project we are calling “More than 140.” We hope you will follow the hashtag #MoreThan140, as well as our blogs and youtube channels (links are provided after the video).

Watch the video to find out more about our project:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

***Update: We are working on figuring out how to upload wetoku/vodpod videos to youtube. In the meantime, the videos will be hosted on vodpod, which you can access by clicking here.

Vicky Loras
http://www.twitter.com/vickyloras
vickyloras.wordpress.com
http://www.youtube.com/vickyloras

1st collector for More than 140 – Welcome
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The Day Coldplay Came To Our Classroom – A Lesson Plan on “Clocks”

Little do they know we have built entire lessons on their songs…! (Image taken from http://www.hollywoodgrind.com)

I love using different kinds of texts in my lessons, I have mentioned poetry and literature before – so now I will share with you a lesson plan I made about five years ago, using the song Clocks by British band Coldplay (which is also one of my favourite songs by them).

People who know me, know that they are one of my favourite bands – I love their music and the lyrics are great! (As a devoted fan I have all their CDs, but have not been to one of their concerts…yet!)

The students I have used this song with so far have really enjoyed it. (Depending on the group of students I may or may not use all of the activities. I usually use it for upper-intermediate or advanced students.)

Here are the lyrics:

Clocks by Coldplay

(from their CD A Rush of Blood to the Head)

The lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead singing

Come out of things unsaid
Shoot an apple off my head
And a trouble that can’t be named
A tiger’s waiting to be tamed singing

You are
You are

Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know singing

Come out upon my seas
Cursed missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure,
Or am I part of the disease? Singing

You are (x6)

And nothing else compares (x3)

You are
You are

Home, home where I wanted to go (x4)

These are the tasks I used with them and usually one thing leads to another and might not even be on the lesson plan, which makes things even more interesting! It is fantastic to see what the students come up with every time. As with poetry, each person perceives things differently – it gives rise to amazing discussions and excellent language circulates in the classroom!

1. What is the general feeling of the song, when you look at the lyrics? Does anything change when you listen to the music? (This can be a pre- and post- listening task.)

2. Why do you think the lights go out and he is swimming against tides? What do these symbolise?

3. Who do you think the you is when the singer says you are? Use your imagination to think what that person is and why the singer does not complete the sentence.

4. Explain these words and phrases from their context and/or find synonyms. (As a teacher, I love it when we play with vocabulary!)

a. to bring somebody down

b. to plead

c. to tame

5. What do these words symbolise in your opinion, and what feelings do they render?

a. the tiger

b. the apple

c. closing walls

d. ticking clocks

e. my seas

f. home

6. What do you think the singer means with …Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease? (Here they can point out things like word contrast, allegory and so on.)

The things you can do in class with songs are countless. If you have any other ideas to add, please feel free to do so!

Here are the lesson ideas in a Word document: Clocks by Coldplay. Let me know how they worked, should you use them!

Enjoy the song!

My post for Marisa Constantinides’s Blog Challenge-A Disabled-Access Friendly world: Lessons for the ELT classroom

Many thanks to Marisa Constantinides for suggesting this blog challenge – and for reminding both teachers and students all that disabilities do belong in the classroom and we should always keep in mind people who have some kind of impairment.

(Image taken from cyborgbeetle.deviantart.com)

The lesson I have prepared especially for this blog challenge is a poem, one of my favourite kinds of literature to teach with. I like using poems for various topics and I believe that this poem by A.C.Leming called Dreams, which is about physical impairment, would be suitable to include in such a lesson.

In my opinion, poetry is an excellent medium of language which conveys messages, thoughts and feelings in a special way and gives students great food for thought. Plus, it can give the students a lot of inspiration and a new way to examine a topic!

I would use the specific poem with upper-intermediate or advanced students.

  • A pre-reading activity could be to make a word cloud out of all the words of the poem and have the students write their own poem, using all the words.
  • They can then look at their own work and the poem itself, compare and discuss why they wrote their own the way they did and why the poet chose to write hers in another.
My word cloud – I chose the shape of a moon, to go with the title of the poem (dreams – night)

Some questions as they are reading/looking at the poem could be:

● Look at the poem. What does the shape remind you of? What does it look like? (A staircase. Why?)

● Why do you think the title is Dreams? (Any idea can be accepted, as it is poetry)

 

A.C. Leming

DREAMS

My

dreams

consist of

climbing stairs,

one by one, feeling

muscles clench and relax

at the direction of the nerves driven

by my will to ascend up and up, away

from the darkness of waking, immobile, in

my hospital bed.

After you have read the poem:

● What feelings has the shape and the poem itself generated?

● Why is she separating my and dreams, in your opinion?

● Now that you have read the poem, what is she dreaming of?

● What kind of words is she using to show direction (up, up, away, ascend – why does she use words that all show upward motion?)

● Why is the last line at the far right end of the rest of the poem?

● Ask them if they can draw any images that come from their reflection on the poem. The images can depict their feelings or any images evoked after reading the poem.

After analysing the poem, the conversation can take a more general direction:

● How are people with impairments treated in your country? (Are there facilities for them, like special rehabilitation centres, special entrances, ramps and special restrooms in buildings)?

● This question can be a bit sensitive, so you can ask them generally if they know of someone with an impairment. They do not have to tell you who it is, but they can explain to the class what kind of impairment the person has, how s/he handles it in everyday life and anything else they can think of.

● Throughout the lesson you can focus on vocabulary pertinent to the subject, such as visually -, physically- or mentally impaired and so on.

● As an after-class assignment, they can write a letter to the Minister of Education of their country on a topic such as: What solutions can be found for disabled people to be integrated into society?

December 3rd is International Disability Day. The lessons on disabilities can be used then, but I suggest choosing any day to remind everyone of people with disabilities.

Marisa Constantinides

Marisa, thank you so much!

(Many thanks to Marisa for recommended the drawing activities, the word cloud and the last writing assignment – I had come up with something different, but I liked Marisa’s idea much better!)

Vicky’s Blog as a Word Cloud – Dave Dodgson’s Challenge

A person I have really enjoyed connecting with on Twitter is Dave Dodgson, an educator who lives and teaches in Turkey. I like Dave’s enthusiasm and teaching and he is on my educators I definitely want to meet list!

During the Virtual Round Table 2011 Conference, Dave made a presentation about making a blog into a word cloud, in order to reflect on it – which I found a super idea (and so did many others!). Here is a screenshot of my blog as word cloud:

Vicky's blog as a word cloud

 I was very happy to see the word students as the central one – I believe it is all for them and I am happy for them when they try, when I try hard for them and we have great results. One of my mottos is It is all for the students!

I was also glad to see words like learn, classroom standing out : learning not only for the students, but learning for the educators as well. That is the beauty of our profession – we learn daily and that is so beneficial, both for us and for our students. Classroom – the place where all the good stuff happens!

A big big thank you to Dave for this challenge, which he calls mini, but I call huge and super! You can read about Dave’s and other word clouds on Dave’s blog, if you click on this link: http://david-dodgson.blogspot.com/2011/03/every-blog-has-silver-lining-mini.html

How Can We Activate Vocabulary and Get Our Students to Use It? – ELTChat Summary

Today’s ELTChat session at noon was all about vocabulary and how to activate it with students, in order for them to assimilate it and make use of it. Several interesting ideas circulated the Twitterstream, as always!

So how do we activate vocabulary and get our students to use it? The ideas move among Young Learners and Older or Adult Learners, but you will find that sometimes an idea can very well cross over a category!

  • The idea of using songs is a plus in assimilating vocabulary. For Young Learners they can be songs with repetition in them, such as Old MacDonald,The Colours Song and so on. TPR with songs such as finger chants is so effective with children, as is attaching new vocabulary with gestures. With older students you can use songs with fill-in-the-gaps, or sing a song with a particular word and stop at that word for them to recognise it.
  • Repetition and recycling of the vocabulary is necessary.  The vocabulary found in coursebooks once, needs to be interacted with – more than once.
  • Connecting the words or collocations to something meaningful, something that can help them retain, is the key. Establishing a meaningful and relevant context is paramount.
  • Try to connect the vocabulary students learn to their immediate needs, if possible.
  • When they do use a word or collocation spontaneously, give them praise and write it on the board. The visual effect helps as well.
  • Passing a box with words can help – each student picks a word, describes it to the rest of the class and has them guess which word it is. This is a very effective activity, in particular when you are covering previously taught vocabulary. Guessing can be a very crucial first ingredient in vocabulary acquisition.
  • Games such as Boggle can help students form words and remember them. In addition teachers can use Taboo, Pictionary or miming.
  • Activities such as wordsearches, gap-fills, wordsnakes and crosswords are great ideas in class.
  • The use of post-it notes helps, putting the words on them and placing them all over the classroom. Incidental vocabulary can also be written on notes.
  • Visual representation of vocabulary is helpful, especially with low-level learners. Teachers can use picture vocabulary quizzes, rebus exercises and so on. For younger students, creating their own picture dictionary of new words assists in their learning.
  • Flashcards are essential to helping them learn vocabulary and use it. A very nice game with young learners is to place flashcards in a pile, for the teacher to blow a whistle, yell out the word and the children have to find the card that represents the word.
  • In the same context of visuals, students can bring to class pictures of things they would like to learn and that way attach the word to the image. All these visual representations can prove effective with dyslexic students as well.
  • Have a vocabulary bank for your students.  From this bank, you can assign them a determined number of words which they have to use in any activity.
  • The use of spider diagrams helps students in learning lexical sets and then translation can follow.
  • Extending vocabulary is also useful. Collocations, antonyms, concordances give them more time to study the word.
  • Some students may find keeping a vocabulary journal effective. They write there all the new words as they learn and repeat them frequently.
  • The use of a dictionary, picture or word kind, can help at specific moments.

 

Words, words, words! (Image taken from http://www.good.is)

Do learners choose the words to learn, or do teachers choose them for them?

 

  • Perhaps a combination of both is useful. Students, especially if they are older can see where they need more help and teachers can orientate them to the vocabulary the students need.

Online Resources:

There is a multitude of ideas on helping activate vocabulary in class – have a great time with words!