Cómo mejorar el speaking rápido

Mi consejo número 1 para mejorar speaking

Aparte de decirte que tienes que hablar o que te pongas en situaciones incómodas para que tengas que hablar en inglés (o cualquier idioma), mi consejo número 1 es LEER EN VOZ ALTA. 

Parece una tontería. ¿Y si lo pronunció “mal”? Da igual. ¿Y si no entiendo todas las palabras? Da igual. 

Una y otra vez veo alumnos que mejoran su speaking (por no hablar ya de reading o de gramática) dedicando un ratito (10 minutos sería suficiente) casi todos los días (nadie es perfecto 😉) a leer en voz alta. 

Pronto os traigo otro post acerca de dónde encontrarás recursos para leer (y más interesantes de lo que piensas 😂)

Probadlo y contadme ❤️

¿Tenéis algún otro consejo para mejorar speaking?

Quiero el C1

¿Tu objetivo es el C1 de Cambridge? Pues, aquí estoy para ayudarte.

En esta página encontrarás muchos recursos para prepararte el C1 y algunos consejos míos. Si necesitas más ayuda o tienes una duda específica que pueda resolver, ponte en contacto conmigo a través de mi correo electrónico: nicola@apruebacambridge.com

Juegos de Flying Tiger para mejorar el inglés

¿Cómo usar estos juegos molones (de @flyingtigeres) para mejorar el inglés (o cualquier otro idioma)?

Estudiantes:

Story telling dice: ¡practica speaking o writing! Tira los dados y con los temas que salgan, escribe o cuenta una historia

Guess what: utilízalos como flash cards y escribe detrás las palabras. Ponlos con la imagen hacia ti y intenta decirlos (o deletrearlos) todos.

Profes:

Story telling dice: Separa el alumnado en grupos de 4-6. Dales un juego de dados (vienen 6 en la caja). A cada alumno se le da un dado que tiene que tirar, y tiene que hacer una historia con lo que salga. Se puede hacer oral o escrito. Para hacerlo más interesante, que los estudiantes que tiran los dados tienen que continuar la historia del compañero anterior. 

Memory game: Reparte las cartas entre los alumnos. Di nombres de animales y quien lo tenga tiene que decir “Got it!”. Si un alumno lo tiene y no dice nada, está fuera del juego.

Guess what: Aparte de usarlos para un juego de charades, también se pueden usar para juegos como Pictionary o como los componentes de una historia o como imágenes para reforzar vocabulario.

Padres:

Story telling dice: Anímalos a decir el vocabulario contigo y contar una historia juntos. 

Memory game: Las cartas vienen en juegos de dos. Dale una de las cartas y esconde la otra por la casa. Utiliza instrucciones básicas como “Hot” o “Cold” o sus extremos “Scorching” o “Freezing” para ayudarles a encontrar la otra carta. 

¿Y vosotros? ¿Cómo jugaríais con estos juegos? 

Si quieres más consejos como este en tu correo, suscríbete a mi newsletter aquí:

Quiero el B2

¿Tu objetivo es el B2 de Cambridge? Pues, aquí estoy para ayudarte.

En esta página encontrarás muchos recursos para prepararte el B2 y algunos consejos míos. Si necesitas más ayuda o tienes una duda específica que pueda resolver, ponte en contacto conmigo a través de mi correo electrónico: nicola@apruebacambridge.com

Quiero el B1

¿Tu objetivo es el B1 de Cambridge? Pues, aquí estoy para ayudarte.

En esta página encontrarás muchos recursos para prepararte el B1 y algunos consejos míos. Si necesitas más ayuda o tienes una duda específica que pueda resolver, ponte en contacto conmigo a través de mi correo electrónico: nicola@apruebacambridge.com

Cambios a los exámenes KEY y Preliminary (A2 y B1) de Cambridge

El comienzo del nuevo año académico nos ha traído una gran noticia por parte de Cambridge Assessment English: los exámenes de KEY (A2) y Preliminary (B1) cambiarán a partir de enero de 2020. Aquí, he creado un resumen de los cambios, dónde hay recursos para profesores, y tus opciones si eres un estudiante.

En mi opinión, los cambios, especialmente los que hay en el nivel de KEY, hacen que los exámenes sean más coherentes a nivel global y así los estudiantes pueden usar y fortalecer destrezas que aprenden en cada nivel, en vez de tener que aprender a hacer algo totalmente nuevo.

Un resumen de los cambios

Aquí tienes un breve resumen de los cambios a los exámenes de Preliminary (B1) de Cambridge English:

Habrá 4 exámenes. El examen de Reading y Writing se ha dividido en 2 exámenes diferentes. Tendrás 45 minutos para el examen de Reading y otros 45 minutos para el examen de Writing.

Reading: Se ha eliminado la antigua parte 3 (frases verdaderas o falsas) y hay 2 tareas nuevas. En la nueva parte 4 tendrás que elegir la frase correcta para cada hueco. En la nueva parte 6 tendrás que decidir cuál palabra va en cada hueco (open gap fill).

Writing: El examen de writing tendrá solo 2 partes. En la primera parte tendrás que escribir un correo electrónico de aproximadamente 100 palabras y en la segunda puedes elegir o bien escribir un artículo o una historia (de nuevo, 100 palabras).

Listening: Se ha eliminado la antigua parte 4 (frases verdaderas o falsas) y hay una tarea nueva donde tendrás que escuchar a 6 textos cortos, intentando entender las opiniones.

Speaking: Aquí el tema de la parte 4 se enlazará con el tema de la tarea colaborativa en vez de a la parte individual (describir la foto).

Y referente a KEY (A1), estos son los cambios:

Reading y writing: La nueva parte 1 incluye textos cortos que tendrás que entender. En la parte 2 tendrás que leer tres textos cortos y elegir una respuesta de las opciones dadas. Ya no habrá límite de palabras en el mensaje corto (“25 palabras o más”) y hay una nueva tarea de escribir dónde hay que escribir una historia basándote en tres fotos (“35 palabras o más”).

Listening: En la nueva parte 4 tendrás que escuchar 5 textos cortos para entender la idea principal.

Speaking: En la nueva parte 2 tendrás que hablar con tu compañero basándose en fotos de un tema. El examinador os ayudará a continuar la conversación.

Profesores

Si buscas nuevos recursos, el sitio web especial de Cambridge (aquí) está muy bien. Nos promete muchos recursos en el futuro además de nuevos handbooks.

Changes to KEY and Preliminary (A2 and B1) Cambridge English exams

A fresh start to the academic year has brought with it a big announcement from Cambridge Assessment English: the KEY (A2) and Preliminary (B1) exams are changing as of January 2020. Here, I’ve created an overview of the changes, where teachers can find resources, and your options if you’re a student who is currently studying towards the Cambridge KEY or Preliminary exams.

Personally, I welcome these changes, especially at the KEY level, as they make the whole exams system much more coherent and learners will be building on skills that they have previously learnt, rather than having to learn something totally new.

An overview of the changes

Here’s a brief rundown of the changes to the Preliminary (B1) Cambridge English exams:

There are now 4 exams. The Reading and Writing paper has been separated into 2 separate exams. You will have 45 minutes to do the Reading paper and another 45 minutes to do the Writing paper.

Reading: The old part 3 (true or false statements) has been removed and there are 2 new tasks. In the new part 4 you will have to choose the correct sentence to fit in the gaps. In the new part 6 you will have to decide which word needs to go in the gap (open gap fill).

Writing: The Writing paper now has only 2 parts. In the first part you must write an email in approximately 100 words and in the second part you can choose to write an article or a story (again, 100 words).

Listening: The old part 4 (deciding if statements were true or false) has been removed and there is a new task where you will have to listen to 6 short texts for opinions.

Speaking: The only major change here is that the discussion topic in part 4 will be linked to the topic of the collaborative task (previously it was linked to the individual long turn).

And for KEY (A1), here are the elements that are going to change:

Reading and writing: The new part 1 includes short texts that students need to understand. In part 2 you will have to read three short texts and pick answers from multiple choice options. There is now no word limit on the short message writing (“25 words or more”) and there is an extra writing task where you have to write a story based on three photos (“35 words or more”).

Listening: In the new part 4, you have to listen to 5 short texts to get the main idea.

Speaking: In the new part 2, you have to talk together with your partner based on pictures about a topic given to you by the examiner. The examiner will then prompt further discussion.

Teachers

If you’re looking for tonnes of resources, the dedicated Cambridge website (accessible here) is perfect, promising us lots of resources in the future in addition to new handbooks.

Students: Are you currently studying A2 or B1? What should you do?

This is the most frequent question I’m getting from my students at the moment. The way I see it, you’ve got two options: a) Use the changes as motivation to get your B1 before January 2020 or b) Start studying the new B1 format and take the exam from January 2020.

If you’re working hard and want to get your B1 before January 2020 and are looking for some help, send me an email for information about my online writing and speaking courses.

If you’re looking to get your B1 after January 2020, sign up to email updates from this blog to keep up to date with changes and study resources.

Most Useful TEFL Resources

This last academic year has been quite a rollercoaster and just like any other teacher, I’ve done my fair share of hunting down ideas on the internet to make my classes more entertaining, enjoyable and above all, truer to real life.

So, I thought I’d put together a list of the TEFL resources I’ve found the most useful this year.

  1. Earth Cam (free app) – this displays live feed videos from webcams in locations around the world. There are videos of Times Square, Niagara Falls and many other places. Personally, I really enjoyed this app (which I put on my iPad) and used it to switch things up a bit from the photographs provided in course books. It was especially useful to get students practising describing and comparing/contrasting images and videos. I also used it in weather vocabulary lessons.
  2. Lesson Plans Digger (website) – Gosia’s website is full of fantastic ideas for B2 and C1 activities to make learning advanced techniques a little bit more interesting. I’ve spoken in a previous post about how well her word formation games worked for my B2 classes.
  3. Film English (website) – Though I don’t often have time during most classes to use one of Kieran’s fantastic videos and lesson plans, when I have the chance, the kids really enjoy it. With interesting and relevant topics, the videos give way to great discussions at all levels.
  4. Cambridge graded readers (books) – having started B1 and C1 book clubs this year, these graded readers provided thought-provoking content and simple storylines to follow, which was essential, especially at B1 level.
  5. Padlet (platform) – though I’m still getting to grips with using this in the classroom, during this last academic year, Padlet has allowed me to provide extra practice in a non-intrusive way. I post extra practice on the wall of our class and those who want to, do it, either electronically or on paper. It’s been a great way to give more to those who are really motivated. An added bonus is that they can’t lose the assignment, unlike a piece of paper!

 

But this is just my humble opinion. What about you? What resources do you love? Feel free to comment and share your ideas.

From theory to classroom practice #researchbites

About a month ago, and as I’ve written about here, I got the chance to go to the Innovate ELT conference in Barcelona. There’s one phrase that’s stuck with me for the last month: the graveyard of great conference ideas.

This concept that we all generate tonnes of fantastic ideas through connecting with our peers and listening and participating in great sessions but that once we get back to real life, it’s as if it had never happened. Those fab ideas that could help our learners so much, go to a place in our minds where we remember them only occasionally and think: oh yeah, I really should do something about that. Only to be left there, in our minds, for weeks, months (even years?) to come.

And that’s when I stumbled across an article by Iclal Sahin and Ali Yildirim discussing exactly how EFL teachers take what they learn at training events and courses and implement it in the classroom.

Their study looked at 10 English teachers in Turkey from varying schools and who had varying levels of experience. Using an INSET day as the training base, they conducted interviews and observations with the teachers just after the training day and then after observing them in the classroom.

They found out that:

  • Teachers initially adopted the training content quite quickly
  • Where student motivation was high and the resulting English grades were strong, the training content continued to be used in class
  • However, where student motivation was low and resulting English grades were weak, teachers went back to their old methods.

It’s quite interesting to note how quickly the teachers implemented the course training. I’d be interested to know whether this was due to the fact that they knew they were going to be observed and interviewed on it, as with all the pressures and things on our to-do list anyway, incorporating new ways of working and methodologies can sometimes end up at the bottom of the list, regardless of our good intentions.

So how can this help us in our classrooms? Well, the main conclusion was that self-reflection and teacher motivation are key but that also this relationship may not be as straightforward as we once thought as some teachers returned to traditional methods after having tried the new ones for a while. The authors put this down to a lack of self-confidence on the part of the teachers and to lower class performances after trying to implement the new strategies.

Three takeaways for our classrooms:

  • Teacher self-reflection
  • Teacher self-confidence
  • Knowing your students (and their limits)

Let’s take a look at each one in depth:

Teacher self-reflection

Self-reflection is hugely important in all areas of our lives. I believe most teachers reflect on each day or each week of what was achieved (or not achieved) in their classes and personally, at the end of the academic year, I always try and look back on the year as a whole. Some of the key questions I ask myself are: What went well? Where can I improve? What have I learnt during the academic year which I haven’t been able to implement yet? How can I serve my students better next year?

Teacher self-confidence

Don’t you always find it’s the groups or classes where you feel like you’re being most yourself where the kids interact and engage more? I had two very stark differences highlighted to me this year. Both classes were at the same academic level, both the same ages (teenagers) and both had the same amount of class hours and yet in one of the classes, I was able to connect with them well and do things which we all enjoyed (adapting the text book), in the other class, no matter how I tried to switch things up, gamify or approach teaching from different angles, I was still unable to connect with them. No guesses as to which ones have just aced their exams and which ones haven’t, which makes me terribly sad. I’m still trying to work out what I could have done better (self-reflection).

Or maybe, for you, it’s nothing to do with being yourself and more confidence in your use of English. I remember in my first year of teaching I was highly aware that when using my normal day-to-day speech mode, not everything I said was grammatically correct nor pronounced exactly right (debateable: me and my Yorkshire accent). I don’t let it stop me. You’re human, kids and adults will have no problem if you make mistakes. So chill! And also, importantly, no one accent (native or non-native) is more important than another. The students, in my opinion, need to be exposed to a wide variety of accents. (On a side note, it’s good for them to see you make mistakes every so often as it can enhance their confidence in not being worried about having to say absolutely everything correctly. Fear of failure and all that.)

Or there might be something else: the centre, personal feelings and so on. Whatever it is, this study makes it clear that our own confidence affects our students and their willingness to engage in L2.

Know your students

Nothing new here. Know your students and you can teach them better. Know your students and you can adapt texts to their interests. Know your students and you can just be there for them when they need it.

I always try on the first day of the academic year to do ice breakers and get to know you activities so that they mingle and I can understand their likes and dislikes, too. I finally completed a fantastic activity this week. On the first day of the academic year, I got each student to write a letter to themselves to be dated 1st June 2017 and then I put the letters away (I told them I would not read them, which I did not) and forgot about them. This week I took them out and distributed them around the classes. The kids’ faces (even the older ones) lit up when they remembered what we had done, they were even more thrilled when some of their predictions came true (Real Madrid winning The Champions League, for example) and even happier to realise how much progress they had made in writing this year. And I felt the trust between us improved as they hadn’t expected me to fulfil the promise to not read their letters.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this small summary and comment on ‘Transforming professional learning into practice’. If you’d like to read the full article, take a look at the link in the reference section. And let’s all make a commitment to not make the graveyard of great conference ideas any bigger.

Reference:

Sahin, I & Yildirim, A, Transforming professional learning into practice, ELT Journal (2016) 70 (3): 241-252, Oxford University Press. (Link: https://academic.oup.com/eltj/article/70/3/241/1748709/Transforming-professional-learning-into-practice )

What I learnt at iELT17

Two days of learner-focused, teacher-led talks in sunny Barcelona with craft beer and tapas, not to mention lots and lots of learning!

Innovate ELT 2017 has sadly been and gone. It was a fantastic experience where I got to meet fantastic teachers, editors and trainers from around the world and I learnt so much. So, I thought I’d better organise my takeaways into a blog post to share with you all and also to hold myself accountable for the actions I said I’d do.

The speakers were wide and varied, from learner to teacher to trainer to publishers but I’m going to try and pick out the key themes from the talks I visited.

Student Feedback

Why aren’t we getting more feedback from our students? Are we scared we’ll find out we’re no more than tennis coaches without the suntan? (fantastic line from Duncan Foord) These were key questions at this iELT and let’s be honest, how often do you ask your students for feedback? For me, I know it’s not hardly as much as I should.

It was great to hear feedback from learners’ perspectives in the plenaries, noting that each student needs a different kind of teacher and that it’s the ones who inspire and really help and, above all, observe who really make lasting impressions on their students. The stories of their wonderful and not-so-wonderful teachers were inspiring. So let’s not be afraid of what students will say, and ask them for feedback on what we’ve done during the year.

Mentoring

A big part of the conference was explaining the concept of mentoring applied to English language learning. Talks by the inspiring polyglot Lydia Machová and the equally inspiring Claire Venables were truly inspiring and led to me deeply questioning how I could teach my students better and show them how to learn a language through massive input and enjoyable activities, not only teach them what they need to know about grammar and vocabulary and exam tips.

Seeing case studies of students who had stepped up, brought together a group of like-minded individuals to keep them on track and accountable in their language learning was a thought-provoking experience. We all know peer learning is helpful to students but this was at another level and achieving results in faster time frames.

Whiteboards (not smartboards)

Non-digital whiteboards feature heavily in my current classroom environment and as such I jumped at the chance to catch Amy Blanchard’s talk on how to better utilise them. I put the vocabulary column into action straight away in my classes and not only do the kids find it useful but also I’ve found it gives us an extra round-up/cooler activity to do at the end of class by reviewing what’s come up during the lesson. Many other ideas like lesson menus and different coloured whiteboard pens to highlight word stress and divisible phrasal verbs will be put into action at the start of the next academic year.

Another big takeaway from this session was the #ELTwhiteboard for Twitter. If you have Twitter, and even if you don’t, go to the site and search for the hashtag #ELTwhiteboard. You get to see loads of ELT whiteboards from around the world  which is highly inspiring. Just the other day, I used an idea I’d seen to present “I wish/If only” to my B2 students which the kids loved!

Gamification

There was a fab session by Elena Peresada on gamification and its use within the classroom to generate intrinsic motivation and learning. I’m a strong believer in mixing up standard lesson features with games and I’ve seen the benefit myself in my first year B2 class (going from 1-2/8 to 6-7/8 in their word formation scores). Elena’s talk was fascinating, showing me new ways to up my game (pardon the pun) in my classes on a daily basis.

Digital tools for Cambridge exams

There were several sessions on digital tools for Cambridge exams (with a rather large focus on Write & Improve) but the session I attend, run by Kat Robb, was highly informative even though I have a non-digital classroom. Finding out about apps my students could use in their free time to play their way to better English was fab as hopefully it will make studying more appealing to them. I especially loved the sound of Quiz Your English and Cambridge English F.C. and I’m going to check them out before the next academic year starts so that I can let my students know about the best way to use them.

And last but by no means least: reading!

I’m a huge advocate of reading and I’ve seen the transformative effects for myself from starting and running the book club at my current workplace, so Ben Nazer‘s reading session was a must-see for me. And I was not let down. The chance to observe a reading lesson from a pro was a fantastic opportunity to improve my own techniques.

Seeing the students have a range of choice and reading material while still staying on-topic was amazing. Ben gave students a choice of 2 or 3 pre-reading activities and 2 or 3 post-reading activities, a selection of reading pieces (all on the topic of UN Days) and let them get on with it, shaping their own learning, choosing what they felt most comfortable with, in small groups. The students enjoyed it, were engaged the whole time and most of all, Ben spoke very little. I reckon my biggest lesson from there was that I need to shut up more.

Learning, networking, a fantastic location and inspiring chats, I’ll be heading to next year’s Innovate ELT conference – will I see you there?

Don’t want to miss out on next year’s conference? Favourite innovateelt.com or sign up to their email list to not miss out – believe me, you really don’t want to.

Note: I had the opportunity to attend this conference thanks to a scholarship from Cambridge English.