Inside my classroom: Hello, Goodbye – a Beatles song lesson

This super catchy song is perfect for beginner ESL classes; it’s simple, fun and I warn you now it will get stuck in your head – apologies in advance…

Play the song to the class and go over the key vocabulary on the board;

  • hello, goodbye, high, low, yes, no, stop, go, I don’t know…

Then use this fill in the blanks lyrics worksheet and go through the song again a few times until the students are happy with their work.  You can keep the key words on the board to help them.

Finally go over the answers and have a good old sing song!  Students particularly like the video and often ask for it to be played as a reward at the end of a lesson – a sure sign of success for this activity.

You can also use this song to introduce simple rhymes and opposites, or just as a bit of fun.  Enjoy!

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Teacher Tuesday: ReBeats NEW online learning resource

rebeats 4

ReBeats is an online game that aims to improve English language learning through listening to music.  Using a simple fill in the gaps format, users watch a music video and select the correct word from two options to complete the lyrics of the song.

Scores are awarded for choosing correctly, speed and streaks of correct answers.  Users can then enter a leader board or send a challenge to a friend’s email address.

At the moment the website is still in its early stages of development and they are asking for feedback.  I decided to give the website a test run, looking at its potential as a fun resource to be used in the classroom with students.

rebeats screen shot
Screenshot from ReBeats.tv

The website is very simple with minimal instructions but it all becomes self explanatory very quickly.  You have the choice of using the mouse of the left/right buttons on the keyboard to choose the correct word.  The latter is a lot quicker.  I would like to try it out on an interactive whiteboard, with students taking it in turn to be in control of the ‘magic’ pen (watch this space).  Students left to watch can shout out suggestions or sing along, karaoke style.  I would be singing regardless.

One missing feature that I immediately picked up on is that you are unable to select the song.  They are currently randomly generated, meaning that you don’t know if Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball video might pop up next to your class of 9 year old girls, or if the vocabulary in the next song might be too easy/hard for the group.  A representative from ReBeats has assured me that this is all due to the site still being in development and hinted at song choice and making your own playlists as developments in the near future.  An even bigger improvement could be to rank songs from easy through to hard, based on the language used.

The word choices offered give a good range of easily confused words, homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings/spellings), context specific choices and basic grammar rules.  Sometimes either word could be correct, requiring students to use their listening skills.  There is only one word missing for every few lines of the song and if a song is particularly high tempo or the class are struggling to choose the correct word there is the option to pause the video and go through the sentence with the students.

At the end of each game, points, accuracy percentage and reaction times are displayed, with the option to add this to a leader board or challenge a friend via email.  My students love competition so the fact that there are points and rankings is very important when trying to keep them engaged.

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End of game points review.

Also, once a song is completed you have the option to review all of the lyrics with the correct answers revealed.  This could be a great time to discuss why certain words wouldn’t work in certain sentences and to review any incorrect answers made.

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You can review incorrect answers at the end of each game.

During the time that I played, I had songs from artists ranging from Kings of Leon, Queen and Avril Lavigne to Olly Murs, Adele and Lana Del Rey.  Most of the songs are current and ‘cool’ enough to keep my students happy.

Overall I think it’s a good resource to use in the classroom as a bit of fun at the end of the lesson.  Personally I don’t think this is a tool for serious language learning, although the team at ReBeats are promoting it as a potential resource for making real improvements in English language learning.  The site has a slick, app-like appearance and is  ad free.  As it’s currently in the beta stages of development, expect further feature and game play developments to appear in the not too distant future.  I will definitely be checking back to see what improvements are made as they receive feedback.

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All reviews on this blog are my personal and honest review.  ReBeats is a product from Tonguesten, an education technology start-up based in London and currently incubated by Wayra UK and UnLtd.  I did not receive any payment, monetary or otherwise, to write this review.  If you have a product you would like me to review please get in touch – info@cornishkylie.com .

Teacher Tuesday: Picture dictation listening activity

Teaching English typically falls into one of four categories; reading, writing, speaking and listening.  Often, the listening aspect can be overlooked or be reduced to the poor effort of pressing play on the cassette that came with the twenty year old workbook your school provides you with, (if you are lucky enough to be provided with anything, decades old or not!).

Listening doesn’t have to mean a silent class listening to an unnatural conversation carried out by actors with questionable pronunciation, it can be interactive and fun if you look outside of the realm of role play and rote Q & As.

Here is an incredibly simple listening activity that can be carried out with very little preparation – the good old dictation.

Traditionally, a dictation would require the class to sit in silence listening to the teacher reading a passage and writing word for word what they hear.  Not fun.

In this activity, the teacher reads a passage but instead of writing what they hear, the students have to draw it.

Either in groups or individually, students have to engage their ears and utilise their listening skills without getting bogged down in worries about spelling or grammar – this is a listening activity after all, not writing.

There are some variations for how you can carry this out depending on the ability of the class and how challenging you want to make it;

  • teacher reads the passage and students can only listen
  • teacher reads the passage and students can make notes
  • teacher reads the passage multiple times including part way through the drawing process
  • teacher reads the passage once and students can come and ask questions to clarify specific details
  • teacher reads the passage and gives a copy to students
  • teacher reads the passage and shows it on the projector/writes it on the whiteboard

Below is an example passage that I have used in my classroom.  You can of course use your own words, taking into consideration the previous learning you have done with your class, or perhaps a descriptive piece of writing from a book.  The important factor is that there are specific details that can be checked off afterwards.

It is a hot summer day and the sun is high up in the sky.  A few white fluffy clouds sit in the bright blue sky and three birds are flying.  The sea is sparkling in the sunlight and the beach is looking beautiful.  A family is sitting on the beach; mum is sat in the shade of an umbrella reading a book, dad is making sandcastles with the daughter and the son is standing in the sea, feeling the cool water on his feet.  A crab is close to him and he can see fish in the sea.  Everyone is happy and having fun.  Two palm trees stand tall, one on the left, one on the right.  On the right, four monkeys play in the tree, throwing coconuts down below.

I’m a big fan of (healthy) competition in the classroom, so I always do this with small groups of students, each group with a  piece of A3 paper.  I encourage students to take different roles, with less artistically inclined students responsible for reading the passage or asking the teacher questions (depending on how you run the activity) and checking off particular details.  The artists in the group will go to town creating wonderful pictures that you can then keep to display around the classroom.

After a set amount of time, I like to get groups up one by one to show their work and as a class we go through the passage and check off each detail.  The group whose picture has the most correct details, wins!

Further variations and extensions of this activity include;

  • students write passages to read to each other
  • matching descriptive passages to pictures
  • students look at a picture and write a passage describing it

Even if you don’t specifically teach listening as a subject, it is an aspect of English teaching that is often overlooked.  Needing so little preparation other than having a piece of writing to hand (you could even write one on the spot if you were caught out) this activity is perfect to insert into any lesson as a warm up, filler or just a bit of creative fun.  Why not try it yourself and let me know how it goes?

This is part of a weekly feature – Teacher Tuesday – make sure you come back next week for another lesson idea.  If you have an idea to share as part of Teacher Tuesday feel free to get in touch.  

 

Teacher Tuesday: Food in Britain video lesson

There is a whole range of ‘… in Britain’ videos on YouTube that, although a little dated, are perfect for use in the ESL classroom.  I found that the level of language was perfect for my students, and the options for what you can do with the videos is endless.  Most of them are subtitled too which really helps the students to follow.

In this particular video, Food in Britain, we are taken on a culinary tour of traditional British food.  The students found it really interesting and it generated a lot of questions.

-Food in Britain-

What I have done with this video in particular is play it to the students and follow it up with a video comprehension.  This can be either written or oral.  Below is a list of questions that I have used alongside this particular video:

1)       What can be delivered to people’s houses in the morning?

2)       What is the morning meal called?

3)       What is in a traditional English breakfast?

4)       What do people eat for lunch?

5)       Where do most people buy their food from?

6)       How do you cook convenience food?

7)       What is the evening meal called?

8)       What other types of food can be eaten in restaurants?

9)       What don’t vegetarians eat?

10)       What traditional food is eaten with chips?

Other extension activities that could be done include;

  • looking at similarities and differences between British food and food from your students’ country
  • discussing how the food looks and tastes
  • creating a favourite foods survey
  • creating a video, piece of writing or presentation on local food
  • looking at recipes or even trying to cook!

This is part of a new weekly feature – Teacher Tuesday – make sure you come back next week for another lesson idea.  If you have an idea to share as part of Teacher Tuesday feel free to get in touch 

 

In my classroom: prepositions of place video

Last year I was teaching prepositions of place to my M1 (first year of high school) students and I was looking for something more interesting than the pictures of a rabbit and a box that feature heavily in the Google search results within the topic.

The students already had a good grasp of prepositions by this point so this video was just a little bit of fun that they were able to enjoy because of their newly found understanding – I was a proud teacher indeed when the students were laughing at the correct points!