Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ruya's Blog: Non-native English Speaking Language Teachers' Challenges and Strengths

For those of you who followed our webside reflection series on the use of L1 in the classroom, you may find Ruya's Blog: Non-native English Speaking Language Teachers' Challenges and Strengths worth a read.  Readers who commented tend to focus on the issue of accent as a challenge for Non-native English Speaking Language Teachers (NNESTs).  One reader suggested that all NNESTs  should speak with either an American or British accent (why no Australian or Canadian accent, I wonder???)

Do you think that using an 'appropriate' accent is an issue in the language classroom?  What about the role of text-to-speech programs for NNESTs to exploit, which usually offer the output in a variety of accents?  For example, you can use the demo version here to replicate the voice of Queen Elizabeth: http://www.acapela-group.com/text-to-speech-interactive-demo.html

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Using FREERICE in the language classroom


During a workshop on teaching vocabulary on 18 December, the technique of having a 'vocabulary box' in the classroom was mentioned as one way to help students recycle and build vocabulary knowledge.  

This prompted me to ponder if there was a way to combine this idea with using the English vocabulary game at http://freerice.com in the classroom -- here is one idea (which I haven't yet tried!):
  1. Before the lesson, log in to FREERICE http://freerice.com and PLAY for the METU NCC 2012 NORTH CYPRUS UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE.  
    • Keep the browser window open, but minimized.
  2. When there is a suitable time in the lesson for a five minute break, have students work in teams.
  3. Start playing the English vocabulary game
  4. One student from a team can come to the computer and try to guess the word associated with the key word shown.
    • Their team can help them, but they have only 5 or 10 seconds to guess a word.
    • If the student guesses correctly, their team gets a point and the student can continue to the next word.
    • If they guess incorrectly, the student loses their turn and is responsible to create a 'vocabulary card' for the 'vocabulary box' of the target word and the associated word.
  5. A student from the next time then takes the next turn, and so on.
    • You can keep a running total of team points until 31 December to see which team contributes the most rice.
In this way the vocabulary box will grow over time, and you can then exploit these 'paper-based' resources in other ways.  Or, if your students are so inclined, they can use one of the flashcard sites we looked at in the workshop to create an 'electronic vocabulary box' of flashcard stacks.  See http://www.studystack.com/users/Stindy  You could even generate a ready-to-wear quiz of the FREERICE words as motivation for the students at the end of the year.

One issue mentioned in the workshop was the difficulty of the words presented by FREERICE as the levels increase.  The FREERICE English vocabulary game has 60 levels.  Personally, I have never got past level 47.  It is likely that your students will be able to cope up to level 13 or so.  If the students guess incorrectly, the correct word is shown so they can remember it for next time.  Each time they make a mistake, the level of difficulty is reduced, so in theory the level of difficulty will be matched to their proficiency.  However, you can reset the level back to level 1 at any time -- say each time a team starts their turn to encourage the recycling of known words in the lower levels.

Here is an illustration of the power of 'crowd sourcing':  if every Prep School group were to spend five minutes a day on FreeRice, each group would earn between 700 and 1,000 grains of rice.  For the entire SFL, that would be about 50,000 grains of rice in one day.  There are eight working days left, so that would be a sum total of 400,000 grains of rice towards the METU NCC NORTH CYPRUS FREERICE 2012 CHALLENGE.  That would more than double the amount of rice donated so far, and put METU NCC in a commanding lead over EMU. :) And, the students would be exposed to some new vocabulary and the group would build up their vocabulary boxes for recycling vocabulary.  A win-win scenario. 

If anyone has any other ideas, please feel free to share them here or on our teacher development blog.