ICT tools and apps to record/promote spoken production and co-production/interaction

Teacher tools for written reception and mediation activities

These websites might be useful when selecting a text to use in class, or designing an activity:

  • Text analyzer: http://www.roadtogrammar.com/textanalysis/: to determine the CEFR language level of a text, and its readability. Copy the text to be used with students, and paste it onto the box. A really useful tool to reinforce the teacher’s perception about the level of a text, by providing Artificial Intelligence (AI)  data to prove it.
  • Text inspector– English Vocabulary Profile Online (englishprofile.org/wordlists/evp): provides information on the CEFR level of words in the text, which in turn provides further information as to the readability of the text. It can also suggest words related to a given topic at a chosen CEFR level.
  • Rewordify: http://rewordify.com/ Enter English text or a web page to simplify it. It can be useful, for instance, when preparing written mediation tasks, as it uses one of the mediating strategies- simplify- to give possible ideas of how the text could be simplified.
  • I Lazy to Read (https://ilazytoread.herokuapp.com) or Smmry (https://smmry.com/): These websites use AI to summarise the text, by selecting the most relevant sentences.

suggested reading for teenagers and young adults

This is a list of books for children, teenagers and young adults, by no means comprehensive, which could be used as reading material in the English classroom, or as recommendations for independent reading:

Further suggestions (year 4 secondary and upwards):

Roald Dahl’s short stories:

Novels:

 

Desert Island Discs as an ice-breaking/mediation activity

Desert Island Discs is a BBC Radio 4 show which has been on air since 1942. The premise behind the show is that the guest has been cast away on a desert island, and they are left with eight recordings, a luxury item and a book, all of their own choosing, together with the complete works of Shakespeare and a copy of the Bible or any other religious/philosophical book. During the show, the guest and host discuss the former’s life, while explaining the reasons why they decided on those particular tracks, book and item.

The guests tend to include world-class celebrities from the fields of culture, literature, Science, entertainment…You can access the archive on the BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs archive. You can find a selection of shows here (literature and music-related podcasts).

This same concept could also be used as a speaking activity for a unit on music/entertainment; to practise second conditionals; or as an ice-breaking activity on the first days of the school year, for students to get to know each other, or for teachers to get to know their students better.

  • What eight recordings would you take to a desert island? Why have you chosen every one of them? How relevant are they to your life? (If you are pressed for time, ask students to pick fewer recordings- it’s a rather time-consuming decision-making process).
  • What luxury item would you take and why?
  • What book would you take and why?

It could even be regarded as a mediation activity: in the Companion Volume to the CEFR, mediating a text includes descriptors for expressing a personal response to creative texts (including literature) [p. 116]. In a way, the student describing their choices (the ‘guest’) would actually be mediating those songs and their lyrics to their partner  (the ‘host’), as they…

  • may express his/her reactions to a work, reporting his/her feelings and ideas in simple language, and say in simple language which aspects of a work especially interested him/her  (A2)
  • might be relating emotions they have felt to those in the song, describe the emotions he/she experienced at a certain point in a story, or explain briefly the feelings and opinions that a work provoked in him/her (B1)
  • could describe his/her emotional response to a work and elaborate on the way in which it has evoked this response, or express in some detail his/her reactions to the form of expression, style and content of a work, explaining what he/she appreciated and why (B2)
  • could be asked to describe in detail his/her personal interpretation of a work, outlining his/her reactions to certain features and explaining their significance (C1/C2).

School refusers- listening comprehension

Listen to this clip from Woman’s Hour about children and teenagers who refuse to go to school. Then answer the questions on the google form below. You can listen to the clip twice:

 

 

Open form in a new tab

Pay attention to the feedback given to both right and wrong answers.

You can finally listen again and read the transcript:

Starting secondary school: icebreaker ideas

Starting secondary school can be a nerve-racking experience for students. These are some suggested activities you can use on the first day of your English/literacy classes with year 1 secondary students.

  • Shonny’s first day at secondary school: the day before (Newsround). This British girl describes her feelings when making the jump from primary to secondary school, something most of your students can relate to. You can download the worksheet with some questions based on the video, as well as the transcription.

As a follow-up, you can also use Shonny’s video describing her actual first day at school.

  • What to expect when you start high school (Newsround). Some year 7 students (11-12 year-olds) who have been in a secondary school in the UK for some weeks now are asked about how they feel now. Based on the questions the kids on the video are asked, you can ask these questions to your own students:

    • How do you feel on the first day of high school? (elicit adjectives from your students, and suggest synonyms using a thesaurus).
    • What is the hardest thing about starting school?

Further ideas: Secondary school struggles: captioned video and article

Screenshot 2019-09-04 at 16.18.16

  • Time-capsule: one of my favourite activities to start school. Ask students to answer these questions individually. Nobody else will read their answers unless they want to share anything with their classmates by reading them aloud. Then, a ‘digital time-capsule’ can be created, which can, in turn, become the first element in a digital portfolio. Their worksheets can be scanned and then uploaded, for example, to Seesaw. That way, they could also record their voice explaining some of their answers.

What I did back then was to scan all the answer sheets as pdf files that I have kept on my drive. The students I did this activity with are in their year 4 secondary this year: it would be a nice end-of-year giveaway to show them what their thoughts and hopes were on their first days at secondary school.

  • Finally, another possible nice activity is for students to write a letter to their future selves. The website https://www.futureme.org/ allows you to write text, and schedule it to be sent to your email inbox at a given point in the future. The letter can be scheduled, for example, for the last class of the year, and it can describe, for example, students’ expectations, hopes, fears, and/or resolutions. Then, by the end of the school year, they can check what they wrote in the letter against what actually happened.

Tips for listening comprehension tests

You can find below some tips on how to tackle listening comprehension tests:

Tips during the exam:

  1. Make good use of the time you’re given before listening to:
    • read and understand the questions and possible answers
    • highlight, circle…keywords
  2. Use the time you’re given between first and second listen (1 min):
    • re-read questions/answers
    • concentrate again on keywords
    • cross out wrong options/use brackets for headings you are not going to use

You may be faced with different types of tasks:

A. Match extracts to headings: you will listen to different short clips that you will have to match to a suitable heading. You are likely to be given more headings than needed. The headings might be either summarising the gist of the clip or rephrasing one specific part of the clip. 

B. Multiple choice questions: you will be asked to choose the best possible answer.

  • Choose the best answer- it may not necessarily be the only one: choose the most complete, the most accurate
  • Beware of distractors
  • Eliminate the options you know for sure are wrong- decide on the best
  • Take quick notes on the side to help you remember

C. Fill in the gaps:

  • Before you listen: try to anticipate the kind of information you’re going to need (noun, adjective, verb…)
  • By and large, you’re expected to give the exact word (s) you heard or a synonym. 
  • Sometimes, some word-building will be required. For example, if you hear  ‘I feel happy’, in your answer you will have to write:  The speaker talks about the happiness he’s experiencing.   
  • partial points may be awarded if the answer is not 100% correct, but somehow does provide some of the information. 

For most exams, the final tip would be to give an answer to every question, as no points are usually deduced for wrong answers. Check with your exam specifications, anyway. 

More resources for listening comprehension:

Last-minute resources for B2-C1 tests: