Teacher Tuesday: ReBeats NEW online learning resource

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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.

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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 .

I’m a hoarder.

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It’s great being a professional hoarder. I collect useful things and stash them in the depths of my desk. I never find myself lacking in resources or ideas for last minute activities. I have cut out and stick, matching, colouring, DIY board games galore! Anything is within easy reach and can be grabbed in an instant to save me from an emergency school situation.

But now as I approach my last day at this school I must prepare my things and get ready to hand over my desk, my office sanctuary, my stash place…

I’ve found multiple stamps – stars, smiley faces, Doraemon, Disney characters… and shiny stars too (oh how I love to give out a gold star!)

I came across an old guide book to Thailand that I haven’t looked at for at least a year judging by the amount of old exam papers that it was buried under.

I now have over 12 different colour, shape and size post it notes. I even dusted off a few Guess Who game sets that had been donated by a teacher who has already flown the nest.

I too have been donating, carefully selecting certain teachers for certain resources – these things are precious pieces of art to me, many of which were created by my own hand – one cannot simply cast them aside onto the recycling pile.

I could probably give everything away. I’m moving to a school that actually has resources – this will be a shock to the system. They might even let me print in colour!! Lets not get too carried away just yet.

And so I have condensed my hoard of treasures into one box and a carrier bag, to be carried home and moved to Phuket and stashed away in my new desk; because you never know when you might need something!

In my classroom: January monthly roundup

I’ve decided to do a monthly roundup each month (funnily enough…) of what I’ve been doing in the various classes I teach at school.  For those of you reading this thinking about making the move to teach abroad, this might give you a fair idea of an average teaching gig in a government school in Thailand.

January 2014

With a combination of protests, national holidays and school activities, I didn’t manage to teach a full 5-day week at school the entire month (hey, TIT – This is Thailand – what do we expect?!) so I didn’t manage to cover absolutely everything with every class.  My poor classes I teach on Friday probably won’t recognise me the next time I walk into class!

English Communication (M1)

Our first topic for the year is ‘Jobs and places of work’.  Luckily for me I’ve been at school for a full academic year now so I’ve taught this before.  In fact, it was the first topic I had to teach when I first started at school, which feels like an actual age ago.  With a solid year teaching at the same school/level and a new partner teacher (at my school, many subjects are split between two teachers who plan lessons together) I have scrapped much of what I did last year.  Last year we did what we were told (we were new!) and used the textbook – this year I’ve got the confidence (and common sense) to cast aside the text book and go with what I know in my own head instead.  Wow, confidence in one’s own head – I have come so far.

With my regular classes (AKA, not special, not paying, not receiving AC, clean classrooms or any classroom facilities beyond a whiteboard and maybe a board rubber) I have been looking at these questions;

What is his/her job?  What is your mother/father’s job?

Where does he/she work?

…. that’s it.

Doesn’t look like a lot, right?

Well, with a combination of all those days off I already mentioned PLUS having to carry out midterm re-tests in class time (again, TIT – we re-test until students pass) there really wasn’t much time for anything else.

We chose some simple jobs rather than those suggested by the helpful textbook as in my opinion it’s more relevant to know the words for say, chef or mechanic than astronomer, engineer or philosopher.  Let’s learn to crawl before we attempt any upright travel.

I used flashcards (printed in colour – a landmark moment in my time at this school) created using clip art from an artist whose images I seem to recognise from my time as a student – Philip Martin.  His website is full of royalty free images covering an endless amount of topics.  I think it’s always nice to have a set of flashcards that match rather than a mash up of images stolen from Google.

As I started teaching it transpired that the students had touched on this topic before with their Thai English language teacher, so they picked it up nice and quickly, and new some of the words already.  One day there will be communication between the Thai teachers and the farang teachers but until then it’s nice surprises like this that remind me that someone else actually does teach these kids English aside from myself (although it often feels like I am on a one-woman mission).

I printed out some time filler worksheets that can be found here for the quicker students, keeping them occupied and increasing their vocabulary knowledge in the topic, and avoiding them getting bored and disrupting the other students.  I have learnt to be prepared!

With the special classes (AKA pay a load of money, less students in the class, nice facilities, more lessons…) I also looked at combining different jobs with personal qualities e.g A fireman should be brave… A doctor should be caring… but apparently most of my students believe that you should be beautiful to be any job.  Maybe that’s the case in Thailand.  Hey, I’m employed so I’m not complaining.

English Writing (M1)

I also teach additional writing classes to some of my ‘special’ communication classes, so I decided to use some common sense and expand on the topic of ‘Jobs’ by looking at writing a short piece using the future tense – What I want to be when I am older.

The students should be giving in their completed final copies (beautifully illustrated of course) this week so watch this space for some pictures of their work.  One thing I can say is that the majority of Thai students love to create beautiful work especially if there is a chance that it may be included in this month’s display (I have commandeered two display boards in the corridor to display some of my student’s best work).

What were the most popular jobs for the next generation of Thailand’s workforce?  For girls – air hostess or tour guide, for boys – policeman or… policeman.  I also had an astronaut – perhaps she will settle for air hostess like her peers.  I don’t think Thailand have a space exploration programme just yet.  But who am I to crush the dreams of aspirational twelve year olds?

English Writing (IP2)

I also teach writing to the Matthayom 2 students on the International Programme; all three of them.  Actually, because of their high status as IP students, they are often caled on to represent the school at competitions and events, so there are often only two students in class, and twice this month only one – I guess it was like a free private lesson.

These students are a little bit older and a lot more advanced.  In fact, one of them is near-on fluent.

Throughout January I only saw them four times as a whole group (or trio – can three students really be called a group?) so we didn’t cover much.  We looked at first and third person narratives in preparation for their upcoming writing assignments which will be to write both a personal and fictional narrative.

I used this worksheet; English Writing – The Narrator that I created using different things I found on the interweb, feel free to use it too.  I actually found that once the students had figured out that there is a similar rule to narrative writing in the Thai language, they totally got this, so we were able to extend discussions away from which pronoun I should use where to the pro’s and con’s of each narrative and the difference changing perspectives can make.  Pretty deep for the Thai classroom.

English Reading and Writing (MEP 2)

Some students are taught reading and writing separately, some a taught it combined… who knows why.  I teach the combined subject to the Mini English Programme 2nd years who I have taught since day one.

I have a pretty good workbook (praise the resource gods) that I actually use for this subject and so the unit for this month was ‘Film reviews’ – an excuse to watch some of the best scenes from Jurassic Park and for me to hijack the lessons and basically teach media studies (my favourite subject as a student).

We looked at the different aspects of a film review, the difference between fact and opinion and some key words that were specific to the topic such as director, special effects, setting, characters, plot… it was really good fun and again, hopefully next week I should have some pictures of some film reviews created by the students.

And we watched this, the greatest movie scene from my childhood;

English Club

Every Wednesday afternoon we have to run a range of English clubs and I am on the team of the singing club which is basically an excuse for me to bang out some karaoke for an hour.

We only met properly once this month and our song was Katty Perry’s ‘Roar’ which has super easy lyrics and is really fun to sing (or, in most cases, SHOUT).

Plans for February

On Friday we were informed that again, we will be having classes cancelled throughout the month.  This time around they have arranges this in advance (hurrah!) and so we are at least aware that our time is limited – so much so that during the next month we will only have 15 days of actual teaching.  As February is the final month before exams and the end of the academic year, this means that there are only 15 actual teaching days left this academic year!  I had had plans of making a school newspaper (now on the back burner) alongside some other things that simply won’t be achievable in the time frame – some of my classes I am only going to teach another three times before their final exams.

Rather than cramming in a month’s worth of teaching into two weeks, I’m probably going to spend the month enabling the students to produce some work using the language that we’ve covered the entire year.  It will be nice to have the time to do it properly rather than tacking it on at the end of each unit.  Usually my school expect a unit per month so it’s nice that they have actually said we don’t have to squeeze one into a few weeks.

Apologies if this has been a bit long, and thanks if you perservered and made it this far!  At least next month’s round up will likely be very short!

As a reward for reading right through to the end, here is a funny cat picture, because we all love the cat lols.