Moving to Online Teaching? The one about the Platform & Material

So coronavirus, huh?

I hope you are all healthy and you and your families are well.

Difficult times. A lot of us are looking at ways of moving from face to face to online. Whether it’s ELT or EAP, I am here to tell you that it can be done, but it will take time, planning and effort.

I have decided to write a few blog posts about how to transition from f2f to online. Before I start, a few rambley bits.

My Background & My Context

I have been teaching Business English online for about 7 years. I taught my last BE lesson this month. I thought that would be the end of an era…… but is it? I now work at a University and my main post is that of a pre sessional coordinator. So basically, I am working on this summer’s pre sessional EAP course (pre sessional courses are courses created usually for post grad students who need to improve their academic skills before progressing to their chosen MA). Some universities are already teaching online, others are starting to look at that. So, any thoughts/questions/advice? I have a few and will be sharing them with you.

Material and Your Platform

Myth: I can use what I created for my f2f lessons for my online ones. I already have them on my usb stick. Piece of cake.

Sorry to burst the bubble but maybe not…

You cannot use all the materials you created for your face to face class, for your online ones. Why? Well, for various reasons. One simple one, your material might be on a pdf file that is not what is compatible with the platform you are using. You may have linked a video on a PPT (which works when you use it in class), but the video does not work when you use your online platform. So, my first tip…. Know your platform. What are you using? Design for that. Just because it worked in Adobe, does not mean it will work in Zoom.

Make some slides/sheets and put them on your virtual classroom and check them. How visible/accessible is the material? How small is the writing? Do you have students who have dyslexia and need different colour in the background? Do you have colour blind students who will struggle if your slides/ material have contrasting colours. How much space do you have for students to write on your onlinr material? Can you highlight on your chosen platform or do you need to highlight on your material. Do you have an answer sheet? Will you need an answer sheet that will be shared with you students?

Oh! Also, where is your learner? Are there restrictions on the internet? If your students are in China, will they be able to access what you are sharing? Not just the videos you have or the grammar links, but also the unexpected ones. For example, when a student asks you “what does XYZ mean?” and when you are in Europe, you send a link to an image or something. Can you do the same with your students in China? What can you use? My advice here would be to make a list of everything that you may want to use, check and find alternatives (Google images will probably not work in China, so what can you use?)

Devil’s advocate

I know my platform and my materials are fine… Are they? Really? Questions to ask yourself:

Is this a one to one lesson or a group lesson? My focus in today’s post is on group lessons.

What type of group activities can I use?

In an EAP context (that is what my context is) can you ask your students to hold a seminar? Can they do a reading/listening circle? You could do if your platform has breakout rooms, but in that case you will need to think about the fact that you may not be able to monitor all groups, so you need to think about how you could address that. Another thing you need to consider is if your breakout room has the same tools as your main room. If not, how will you work around it? Think about what you need your students to do in the breakout room and tailor your task based on that. Also, does your breakout room have the option of someone being a chair/ leader/presenter? Someone who will be responsible for giving permission for use of tools, who speaks when etc.

Other things to consider when designing group activities

Can your students collaborate? This depends on the functionality of the breakout room or your main room. If students were using the main room, I would maybe draw lines as to where students would write. That way you avoid students writing on each others work. You would also need to time the collaborative writing. Say for example student A needs to write five sentences which student B will correct and then student B will write five sentences which student A will correct. Again, think of ways to avoid having people write on each other.

Can they peer assess? Can they self assess? Here the answer is yes. You need to create sheets for peer and self assessments that can be used be used by you students during their group work or as part of their independent study.

Back to the Platform

How strong is the platform? What is your and your students’ broadband like? Can you have multiple cameras on at the same time? How long does it take to get back into the platform if you are chucked out? What do you do if the platform crashed? What is your plan B and C? Does your platform allow recordings? How will you share them with your students? Any GDPR concerns? Is there a delay in the audio? Will you have loads of people speaking at the same time? Probably. So what do you do? Mute students or ask them to use the ‘raise hand’ feature. What happens when a student gets cut off and exits the classroom. How do you manage your time?

More…..

Time difference between your students. How will that work and how does it affect the dynamics of your group? When everyone is in the same time zone, it’s easy….. What if they are not? Have you given your students enough time to prepare for an activity based on their timezone (sorry folks, don’t have all the answers)?

Anything else?

Uploading material

If I were you, I would have everything uploaded on my platform and ready to go. Sometimes this can take ages and you don’t want to be sat there waiting for stuff to upload.

Time management, My Platform and My Material

Now that is a tough cookie and I am getting tired…. So my next post will be about time management and online teaching. I hope I have helped you think about stuff. Probably haven’t answered lots of questions, but asking them is a good starting point.

Thanks for stopping by….

Till next time…

The fish bowl and peer feedback

Hi everyone,

Today I am going to talk about a task I did in class and the follow up. The activity I am talking about is a fish bowl task. What is it actually? Well, I had a seminar class, so I put my students in groups of four. They were the students taking part in the seminar. Then I had four students observe them and give them feedback. These students sat next to or were standing behind the students who were taking part in the seminar. So, imagine an inner circle (seminar participants) and outer circle (seminar observers).

Now, time for some context. My students are international students (Asian) who are in their fifth week of an EAP course. They are all intermediate/ upper intermediate students. This is their first time studying in the UK. They have taken part a few seminars before and they have self assessed and given peer feedback a couple of times. They are not very experienced at giving feedback.

The fact that their English is a bit weak and they are not very experienced at giving feedback affected the activity. In what way you may ask? Well, instead of asking them to give a lot of feedback, I focused on two aspects of the seminar. I asked them to look at the course’s assessment criteria, but only focus on the column that was about interaction. I need to mention here  that I went through the criteria with them and made them more student friendly (simplified the language and used emoticons!).So, that was one thing.

The second thing I asked the assessors to comment on  was the use of set phrases for taking turns and interrupting. These were part of the lesson as well. I printed out some useful phrases and asked the assessors to tick the phrases their classmates used.

The Task

The seminar participants took part in the seminar. The assessors listened quietly and gave feedback. Then the students swapped roles.

After the seminar

Students sat next to each other and gave each other feedback. They told each other what they did well and what they needed to work on.

When the whole activity ended, I asked my students to tell me what they thought about this task (I used a Google classroom comment thread).

What they said

Most students enjoyed the activity. They felt that their classmates gave them good feedback. They enjoyed the role swap and that they were not asked to give a ton of feedback.

There were a few comments about feeling shy and embarrassed, but those students did say that this was not a big problem because in the end they did find the task helpful.

Practical stuff

I printed out the helpful phrases check list.

The student friendly rubric was on the board and students had to take notes.

As for timing, this whole activity took about 40 minutes. The feedback part was an extra 10 minutes. I asked them to spend 5 minutes on student A and then five minutes on student B. That meant that each member of the pair got 5 minutes worth of feedback. The whole activity lasted for 50 minutes.

aa0a3-dsc01572Will I try this again? Yes. My students really enjoyed it and I found it very helpful. have you done something similar? let me know in the comments below.

Till next time……

Working from home: Yes or No?

Hi everyone!!

As you may (or may not know). I have lost it completely, and have started making YouTube videos :p. Yup. I filmed this very short video a while back and I talked about what I do. I thought I’d share it here.

Oh! Yeah. I know my background sucks. Dunno why I thought hanging pearls (fake ones) on the cupboard would look good. It doesn’t!

Anyhow, this is me, talking briefly about working from home.

 

See ya soon!!

xx

J.

Websites, videos & random stuff I use in class

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Hi everyone!

Today’s post is all over da place… but goooooooooood (me thinks). I am sharing with you a few things I used in class, plan on using in class, and some things some of my Facebook friends shared with me!! So, let’s share folks!

I was teaching question tags and I came across My English Page website and it is pretty good. You can get the question tag lesson material (theory) here and exercises here. I would not use this for weak students or lower level learners. I’d say it is better for A2+. I usually go to the Grammar Bank website when I am looking for theory + exercises (online), but I thought I’d try this one a try as well.

My learner asked me to find videos/material that would help him familiarise himself with the Aussie accent. I grew up in Sydney but only have an Oz twang as I have been told and my accent is not as Aussie as it used to. So, anyway, I asked my Facebook teacher friends for help and many made suggestions, so I am sharing these suggestions here as well (thanks to everyone!!).

So, Aussie accent lesson plan from ELT stories.

Katherine suggested I checked out Elllo. I had never heard about this website. I just had a quick look and there are various videos with different accents (from all over the world) and listening questions (plus the transcript of whatever the person in the video says). There are even EAP videos (yup) Interesting!!! You should check it out.

I discovered ABC News Australia. Videos that last for 90 secs. You can find them here.

I used this article again in class and had forgotten how good it is to get students talking. I have two words for you. Language Police. You can read the article here and use it in class as you wish.

Harvard Business Review Podcasts: I am going to use this podcast in a lesson later on (if I make a lesson plan, I will share it here). The podcast about productivity is worth listening to though, especially with your Business English students/ higher level learners (lawyers/ CEOs etc.). I love the part about reading and the flashlight/ naps.

Quick fun game (saw this in a planner group).

Tell your students:

So,you have $10.000 but you can only buy things that start with the first letter of your name. What do you get???

My answer: I’d get  jumpers, jugs, jelly beans- jelly babies, juice, Jo Malone perfumes, a jigsaw puzzle (not sure about that one), Japanese beauty products (that’s cheating) : Dunno what else….

But, how can you make this part of a lesson? Well, you can do this when teaching nouns, or as a speaking task before teaching story telling. It could be part of a lesson where you teach reasons or the use of because.

Something random

(coz everything else mentioned so far is connected :p)

Lettering is a ‘thing’ and I am trying to improve my lettering skills. I found some pdf files on some websites and if you want to try lettering with your students or improve your own calligraphy skills, you should check out this website.

So, that’s all for now guys. If you have found anything worth sharing, do let me know in the comments section below. By the way, I often wonder what you think when you read my posts, I mean, I am so informal!! But I am me and I am talking to you guys like I would if we were in the office, sharing ideas. OK. I am off now!!

Till next time……

P.S. EAP pre- sessional tutor posts have  started to get advertised on Baleap and indeed.org.uk. You should check them out and you can also read my tips regarding pre-sessional EAP courses/ interviews and so on.

Hey, I missed you guys. Haven’t written a (kinda) proper post in ages!!!This is actually my 200th post!!! Thanks for being here xx ❤ ❤ ❤ 

My Polka dot Productivity/ Vision Board

Hi everyone!!

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have a  ‘thing’ for productivity and pretty things. I love planning and scrap booking. While I am not the most talented arts and crafts gal, I do like putting together things that help me feel like I am more productive. Key word feel. Since this post can fall under the gilrie side of ELT posts, I am sharing this post here as well. So, enjoy!!

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So, I watched a lot of videos about notice boards and vision boards,but I was not happy. I wanted to make a notice board that would help me remember things, make me more effective,  as far as getting things done is concerned, and I also wanted it to look pretty. That is what I am sharing with you guys today. I will give you a brief description of what I used to make my ‘productivity board’ and you can also watch my YouTube video if you want more details.

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What do you need?

Digital/ scrapbook paper

Glue

Post it notes

Quotes/ pictures/ photos/ prints of what you like

A jewelry bag

A photo frame

Washi tape

Deco flowers/ plastic flowers

A notice board

Procedure

I sat down with a big cup of coffee and wrote down what I want my notice board to do. I wanted mine to

Look Pretty and be part of the decor

I also wanted it to help me do stuff and remember stuff.

I then laid loads of crafty stuff and started playing around with everything, moving in on my board and trying to think of what matched in my eyes. Fun fact. I am colour blind and no one was at home to help me with the colours so I just went with what looked nice to me :).

I stuck my digital paper onto the notice board.On top of that I added stickers/ quotes of things I thought were cute. I used thumbnails to hang on my notice board a white frame (without the glass), a cotton jewelry bag and a board with my to Do list  Once everything was hanging where I wanted it to, I added post it notes in the frame. On the side of the notice board I stuck a flower.

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In the pictures you can see my final product. You can also watch the video for more info.

You can check out my video here 🙂

My picks from Amazon

(affiliate links)

Punch Studio Butterfly Script Sticky Notes Pad Portfolio

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Click here

Lilly Pulitzer Sticky Note Set, Pink Lemonade (154518)

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Click here

Don’t forget to follow my blog/ YouTube channel. Connect with me on social media. Click on the ones you use and connect with me 🙂  Pinterest / Twitter/Instagram/Google+. or give my Facebook page (sidebar) a ‘like’ so you do not miss out on my super duper posts!!

Thanks for stopping by.

xox

Joanna

Chucking the Lesson Plan Out of the Window

Hi everyone,

Today I had a lesson with a learner and I had planned to do a lesson on phrasal verbs. I had my lesson plan ready (not really a plan, just a few ideas on what I would do and when), my presentation uploaded (this was an online class) and everything was set. The phrasal verb lesson was quite challenging and my learner did want to be challenged, so I was really pleased with what I had prepared for today.

My lesson started and I did a bit of chit chat. My learner said,

I am working from home because I get distracted at work.

and bam…. my lesson plan went down the drain, and I just changed everything!! You see, this phrase got us talking about distractions and working from home.Penny dropping.

I then decided that THIS was the chance to change the lesson into something that was prompted by the learner and something that made her very chatty. So, scratch the grammar lesson, we are gonna do a speaking/ listening class.

What did I do?

I found the Jason Fried TED talk about ‘Why Work Doesn’t happen at Work’ and asked her questions that were actually answered in the TED talk.

I asked,

Where do you go to get important things done?

What is the connection between work & sleep? She actually got this right!! It is phase based.

What distractions do you have at work? Can you categorise them in real and not important distractions?

We spent about 10 minutes talking about those questions.

I then asked her to take notes of the answers Fried gave to those questions.

Because the TED talk was long (15 mins), I broke it down into 2 halves. Half way through, we discussed her answers to the questions and issues that came up from what she heard. We then heard the rest of the talk and did the same.

So,we talked about what the learner already knew,  what she learnt from the talk, and what she wanted to learn from what she heard. This talk actually inspired her to do some research on meetings, managers differences between  the USA and France, and Jason Fried!

Beach in Chania

Did I just have a learner driven lesson?

I think I did. Yes, I prompted her and gave her a provocative TED talk as stimulus. I have never had this learner be so chatty before! She loved it because she is a manager and she could relate to what was being discussed. She actually asked for the link to the TED talk cause she wanted to use it during a meeting.

Me, to myself.

YES!

Did I meet my learning objective?

Well, we did not do anything about phrasal verbs, and if my objectives were to

*familiarise learner with phrasal verbs of verbs XYZ and blah, blah, blah,

then, we didn’t, but this spontaneous 5 minute planned lesson was one of the best we have had and she loved it. I am glad the penny dropped when it did, and that I was actually ‘listening’ to my pre-lesson chit chat.

Joanna’s words of wisdom

Do not underestimate the power of chit chat.

Listen to the ‘chit chat’.

Use it to guide you in your choice of material.

It’s OK to chuck out the lesson plan and be spontaneous.

Oh! But do keep in mind that I do have a lesson plan for the Jason Fried TED talk (which I have shared here) and I have used it many times, so while the ‘chucking out’ was spontaneous, I did know what I was doing and talking about. I knew my material very well. I just hadn’t prepared it for today.

So, folks that was my lesson today.I am a Happy Teacher today!

Do you guys have similar experiences? Let me know when you chucked out your LP and did something completely different. How was it?

Till next time…..

 

 

 

Plan with me & Giveaway :)

Hi everyone!!

I made another plan with me video and I only used digital paper this time, since my teacher friends seem to enjoy these more crafty videos/ posts, I thought I’d share it here as well.

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You can watch my video and see my planning stages. You will also have a chance to win these goodies.Stickers.jpgWashi.jpg

Watch the video here (it’s a bit shaky….)

There will be 2 winners! Open internationally. Hope you enjoy my ‘planning’.

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xox

Joanna