Monday, October 30, 2017

Problems that come across with listening comprehension.

Quoting Raphael Ahmed, teacher at the British Council Bangladesh, we must consider that listening occupies about 45 per cent of the time adults spend in communication, which is significantly more than the rest of skills, such as speaking (30%), reading (16%) and writing (9%).

Students can make different mistakes in English pronunciation, grammar, orthography and vocabulary usage. When students listen to English language, they face a lot of listening difficulties. 

Listening comprehension skills vary a lot from person to person and it may take years of painful and frustrating learning depending on the age, motivation, and aptitude.

According to Harmer's book, The Practice of English Language Teaching, there are two types of listening, external and internal. The external listening is that which students come across in situations outside the classroom, (listening to the radio/songs, TV, watching movies and with native speakers). Nonetheless, the internal listening problems take place within the classroom with the teachers and classmates (instructions and conversations).

The reasons why some people find listening in a foreign language difficult vary just as much, so here I list the possible reasons why it might be so based on personal experience when it comes to external listening:

1. They spend time to get used to the accent and pace of the activity. 
Unfamiliar accents both native and non-native can cause serious problems in listening comprehension.

2. They try to understand word by word.
When listening texts contain known words it would be very easy for students to understand them. If students know the meaning of words this can arouse their interest and motivation.

3. They find it difficult to read and listen at the same time.
We must understand the text as we listen to it, keep the information in memory, combine it with what follows and adjust our comprehension of what we hear through previous knowledge and next information.

4. They got lost in translation trying to guess the meaning of the previous word.
Teachers should encourage their students to develop listening strategies. Predicting, asking for clarification, and using non-verbal cues are some examples of these strategies that improve learners’ listening comprehension ability.

5. They can't tell the difference with how the words are pronounced.
Listening is related to good pronunciation; therefore, teachers should have good and acceptable pronunciation which can help learners to become better listeners.

6. People speak too fast for them to follow.
Teachers should ask their learners to always listen to music, documentaries, and news on the radio and television, talk to native speakers face to face or on the Internet so that they can create and reinforce a good habit of listening in themselves.

7. They get tired as they don't usually practice listening skills.
It is very difficult for lower level students to listen more than three minutes long and complete the listening tasks. Short listening passages make easy listening comprehension for learners and reduce their tiredness.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What are you up to?

Do you know what is the meaning of that expression? It is an informal conversational question which means "tell me what you are doing at the moment". And a very casual way of saying this expression would be "What's up?". Does it sound familiar to you??? EXACTLY! It recalls the renowned app called WHATSAPP. "What's up" is very common in English language; So Whatsapp is very similar like "what's going on", though what's up is a little different in spelling.

What are you up to? What are you doing? What's going on? What's up?... It sounds like a tongue-twister! Doesn't it? 😆

And remember, today is FRIDAY!!! And, we love Fridays!!! Have a wonderful weekend!! 😍

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Listening exercise: New rules (Dua Lipa)

Hi there!

Not only music is one of the most fun and effective strategies you can use to learn and improve your English pronunciation, but it also helps you to practice listening in a very relaxing way.

  • How are you learning? When you make an effort and you try to understand what you are listening to.
  • What are you learning? Due to the fact that we sing and listen to a song over and over again, once you learn the lyrics you will never forget them. That way, you can memorize vocabulary and expressions easily. Another advantage is that you practice your grammar and spelling by repetition.
  • Why listening to a song? Songs give you perfect pronunciation models, so try to mimic them. It will help you to speak more fluently.

Thus, for all the reasons above, here I share the listening activity we did at class last day. Remember to use the "lyrics video" first, and then, the "karaoke version".

Fill in the gaps activity:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fruity Day!

It's 11.15 and I'm at the playground. I see children playing something similar to basketball, football and many different games. Then, while waiting for the bell to be rung, I found out that my kids have a special ability... They can play and chew at the same time without dying in the process! After a while, I spot that every single student is carrying a sandwich as a snack, and the question came from out of the blue: What about fruit?

My school is in Guaro, which is located on the northern foot of the Sierra de Mijas, inland Málaga, overlooking the spectacular Guadalorce valley. That valley is one of the most fertile areas in southern Spain. During my first days in my new school I tried to get to know my students asking about their hobbies and what they do in their spare time. All my 7 graders answered the same: they have a country house and almost all my male-students go hunting with their families. They collect their own fruit, vegetables and wild animals, such as rabbits/hares or partridges. Thus, the next question was: Don't they like fruit?

I talked to my students and they just prefer a sandwich, sweets or chips instead of fruit and I couldn't believe it! I spent more than a week to find a solution for that as I consider that schools are a key to teach children healthy eating. I was asked by the school to participate putting on the wall of the class a "Fruitmeter", in which I should register the students who take a piece of fruit, and, what is more, one of my colleagues came once with a pear stuck to a headband! But I knew that wouldn't catch my pupils' attention. One day, I asked one of my students to bring my schoolbag from the teacher's room and she said very enthusiastic: "Miss Ellie, are we going to use the selfie stick today??". Whoopee!! (I thought). Luckily, I had brought melon as a snack and I said: "Yes, today is Wednesday and it means that it is the Fruity Day. The selfie stick was a surprise" and that was how I started to take pics of ourselves on Wednesdays.

Amazingly, six of my students are bringing a piece of fruit every Wednesday so far (I could have never imagined that could happen!) and that is the way I'm trying to increase daily consumption of fresh fruit at school.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The consequences of having a blast.

- Did you have trouble to wake up this morning?
- Yes, Miss Ellie.
- I supposed so...

Getting back to routine can become a big problem when it comes to secondary students, specially after enjoying a bank holiday. According to The Mirror, renowned sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley, when you are out of your normal routine, the body isn't expecting to wake up at the time the alarm goes off, so it's still in deep sleep and just isn't ready, that is why you feel so exhausted.

While theoretically the more students there are in a class, the more possibilities for interaction there should be, this is not the case when it comes to a bank holiday or Mondays; let me say that the more learners there are, the more difficult developing interaction can be since there are more people to monitor and, therefore, more chances of problems. Thus, when I notice my students are dragging, I try to add energy (without completely abandoning the lesson) playing a quick "wake up, you sleepy students!" game:

- With my youngest graders I sometimes make the kids stand up and jump up and down and then, after doing it a couple of times, I call for silence clapping my hands and I order them to get into groups of a certain number of students and the left over students have to do a challenge in the middle of the class. It is funny and it entertains them. It usually takes 4-5 minutes.

- With my 5 or 6 graders I use cards. They play a cooperative game called "pick-a-card". The focus of this strategy can be to review a concept, discuss an issue, demonstrate understanding of content, or share information about a topic. In pairs, student 1 holds question cards, reads the question out loud and allows thinking time; then, student 2 answers the question. If the answer is right, student 2 picks the card, but if it is wrong, student 1 keeps the card. Then, they change roles. The aim of the activity is to collect as many cards as possible.

- With the oldest ones, I tend to use the computers. I found out that they adore flipped classroom so I schedule activities in order to avoid boredom in these tough classes. If students watch lectures or correct their own homework the day before, you can spend time focusing on revision activities, such as crosswords, jigsaws or fill in the gaps exercises. Everyone appreciates games instead of reading the traditional book early in the morning.