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.

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 speaking tests (EEOOII Aragón) (B2-C1)

If you’re going to take the speaking test at any of the Official Schools of Languages in Aragón, you can watch this video with tips for the exam. Good luck!

Last-minute resources and tips for B2-C1 English tests

Are you only days away from taking a B2/C1 English test? These links, tips and resources might help you make the most of your last-minute revision time:

General tips:

Speaking:

Writing:

Mediation:

Listening:

Cross-linguistic mediation: Easter-related idioms in Spanish explained in English

During the Easter break, I came across this post on Twitter:

Click on the picture to visit the authors’ blog.

So I thought that could be used as the input for a cross-linguistic mediation activity, to mediate communication, as well as the cultural and historical background involved in those Spanish idioms.

I started this padlet with those ten Spanish idioms. Then, I asked my students to give a short explanation of what they mean, intended for foreign students of Spanish. I asked them to record themselves using the Chrome extension/Android app Talk and Comment, which allows you to record short audio comments, and immediately creates a link. That way, their audio recording could be pasted as a link straight to the padlet, without having to upload their recording anywhere else and then create a link. They could also record it using any recording app, and then upload it to padlet.

Alternatively, students were also allowed to simply type a comment with their explanation.

(Open the padlet in a new window to see all the idioms)

Made with Padlet

Since the main reasons to mediate are to help the other speaker understand, to be helpful to them, and to be mindful of their needs (not those of the mediator), what I am asking from you now is: once my students have explained these idioms, can you give them feedback on how useful their mediation was? Was their explanation clear enough? Relevant enough? Please rate their mediation skills by giving them 1-5 stars. You can also type a comment providing constructive feedback under each explanation. Ideally, they should be rated by ELE students (Spanish as a Foreign Language) or non-native speakers of Spanish, but all contributions are welcome.

As you can imagine, there is no need for you to listen to every single comment on every idiom: just listen to the ones that catch your eye, or any you might see which has not received much feedback yet.

Thank you!

At a loss for words- tips for English speaking tests

Are you going to take a speaking test in English in a few weeks? Are you suffering from ‘stage fright’ in the face of such an exam? Here are some tips that might help you overcome your performance anxiety, or simply, help you feel more confident.

BEFORE THE EXAM:

  1. Train for the exam. Know its structure, and be prepared for what examiners expect from you. 

Get acquainted with the structure of the exam. That way you can prepare specifically for the different tasks you will be required to carry out. Most institutions make sample papers or past papers available on their websites for prospective candidates to see.

Speaking tests are designed to resemble real communication as closely as possible, but unfortunately, they are not: they are always going to be artificial situations. The upside is that their structure tends to be predictable. I tend to compare them to driving tests: you need to practise to pass your driving test, where the examiner will ask you to carry out different processes to make sure you can drive. When you’re driving in a real road, though, nobody is guiding you, or telling you what you are supposed to do- that will be real driving.

Likewise, at different CEFR levels, you’re required to perform at different levels: up to A2-B1 levels, you’re expected to ‘drive’ (=communicate in a basic manner): be able to understand and make yourself understood. At B2 level, you’re supposed to ‘drive confidently’: the degree of precision you’re required to show is higher. At C1, and of course, C2 levels, you’re supposed to be a ‘professional driver’: you’re required to use the language both academically and professionally.

2. Listen to lots of English

To be able to produce, you need to have received input before. That is the way babies learn to speak, by listening to their parents and adults around them. Listen to any rich input you might find either attractive and/or useful for the level you’re at. Here are some suggestions:

Listen to the radio:

TV shows:

Films:

Songs:

YouTube videos: you can use YouGlish to find videos related to a specific subject, or containing specific words.

3. pronunciation: 

When you’re in class, pay attention to the way your teacher pronounces new words (or words you thought were pronounced differently). Make a note of it.

You can also check with online dictionaries or online pronunciation dictionaries such as Forvo or YouGlish (more information here).

4. practise your speaking: 

It’s always a good idea to participate actively in class, and, if you carry out speaking activities, pay attention to your teacher’s feedback.

If you’re preparing at home, you can think of one of the topics you’re discussing in class. What would you say about it? What ideas can you come up with? What relevant language and keywords would you use? Then, record yourself and listen to it. Do I sound fluent enough? Are my answers too short / too long? Have I used relevant language?

You can also speak English with friends/classmates/members of your family. Alternatively, you can also join a speaking group in your city. Here are some cafés and pubs in Zaragoza.

RIGHT BEFORE THE EXAM: 

Warm-up

Athletes don’t start running in a race without warming up first. Similarly, professional musicians tune their instruments and play for a while before a concert. Why should you start speaking English out of the blue when you start your exam then? Try thinking in English (and if possible, speaking English) while waiting for your turn.

If you are alone, listen to something in English (podcast, song…) on the way to the exam, and while you are waiting at the door.

If you happen to have the other candidate waiting beside you, start having a conversation with them in English. That way, both of you will get used to your English speaking voice.

Try to avoid the kind of candidates that are so nervous that will make you nervous as well. Give them a polite but wide berth.

DURING THE EXAM: 

  1. Make effective use of your think time

If you are given some thinking time for your task, think of

a) what you want to say- the ideas you want to communicate, and how you are going to glue them together (linking words). Think of enough ideas for all the length of time you are supposed to be speaking.

b) what relevant keywords and grammar you are going to use to show that your English is of the level you’re being tested on. Impress the examiners.

2. Be coherent and cohesive

Even if you are given questions as bullet points to help you come up with ideas, try and make your speech cohesive: relate your ideas by signposting them, by using linking words, and by making your speech coherent (don’t contradict yourself).

3. Use the language of your level

The questions you may be given are intentionally easy: they have probably been written at a lower level than you are being tested on to make sure you really understand them. It is your job now not to give very easy or short answers (especially, the higher the test you’re taking), but rather to show that you can communicate at that level of language, however simple your questions may apparently be. Don’t just answer the question: elaborate a bit further; use interesting adjectives, keywords, nice structures

4. Use natural, intelligible pronunciation and intonation

If your pronunciation and/or intonation make it hard for the examiner to understand what you are saying, communication is not being achieved. It’s not a question of sounding ‘native’, but at the very least, of making yourself understood. Again, this can be helped by having listened to lots of English and having paid attention to the pronunciation of tricky keywords.

5. Self-correct

If you realise that you have made a mistake, it’s OK to self-correct (if it is immediate). That will show the examiners you know the right way of saying it, and that it was not a mistake or error, but rather a slip of the tongue.

6. Use fillers (but don’t overuse them). 

Fillers are words/expressions that may not mean much, actually. However, they will allow you time to think about what you’re going to say next. In this post you can find some examples of fillers used by native speakers of English. Just bear in mind that their overuse is discouraged.

7. Interaction/ collaborative tasks- You need to interact!

If you are asked to hold a conversation with another candidate or the examiner, you may have to reach an agreement, make a decision together…you need to interact: both of you need to speak, agree, disagree, suggest…You need to be able to give the floor and hold the floor (=the right to speak). Think of it as a table tennis match: both players keep passing the ball to each other. So, it is NOT one monologue after another. In most exams, you will already have your turn to speak individually. Now it’s your turn to show you can have a conversation with somebody else.

8. Use expressions that encourage interaction: 

You can use some of the expressions on this post:

Expressions to use in a speaking test (monologue/interaction)

 

 

Further resources: