In this age of the smartphone we can use mobile phones to enhance language learning in many ways. One of these ways is to record your students in class. We no longer have to plan & get some cumbersome equipment together as we can simply switch on the recording facility on a phone.
The data that you collect can be very useful. You probably take lots of notes as your students speak & give feedback on good & not so good things they said. Along the way a lot can be missed. The recording catches most of it. At first the students will be self-conscious about being recorded but the more you do it the less they will notice.
The recording can be used to show a before & after progress record e.g. this is you at the beginning of the course/the month/the week/the lesson & this is you now - assuming that there is actually a discernible difference!
You can use a section of the tapescript to work on in class, showing the students what they said & asking them to analyse it, using & developing their noticing skills, &, if they can, improve on it. Your job is to show them that they are capable of making it better or, if this is difficult, teaching them the bits that they need. You might want to look at specific language or concentrate on strategies for developing the sub-skills of speaking & listening.
The tapescript of them speaking is evidence for the students in front of them & your reaction to their needs is plain for all to see. Everybody wins.
Recordings are especially useful for showing the students how boring they might sound as they are usually concentrating on what to say rather than how to say it. This awareness can help them consider the importance of intonation.
The recordings are obviously useful to provide a record for you to refer to. You might well be surprised at what you discover. Take notes from the recordings you collect on a group & feed your observations on their needs back into the lessons.
And then there is encouraging the students to record themselves at home, listening to themselves & seeing if they can improve. Speaking homework can be set, the student recording themselves on their phone & then emailing it to you for appraisal.
Clearly this can still take our time if we transcribe parts of the recordings but using this now & then is very much appreciated by the students.
So YouTube was a competition all along. Google have just announced that it has been a 8-year-long contest and that they are finally starting the process of choosing a winner, which should take a decade to trawl through all the videos. The site will shut down imminently & the winner will be the only video on the site when it relaunches again on 1st April in 2023. So if you want to see any videos on YouTube, you'd better get a move on before they're gone.
Here's a summary of this year's stories to use - students read - don't tell them they are jokes initially - & discuss, then rank them in order of imaginativeness, believability etc:
Some stories in the news on Monday 1st April, 2013 - what do you think?
- Google have announced that YouTube has been a 8-year-long contest and that they are finally starting the process of choosing a winner, which should take a decade to trawl through all the videos. The site will shut down imminently & the winner will be the only video on the site when it relaunches again on 1st April in 2023.
- the Times newspaper reported that Nasa is planning a $2.6 billion robotic mission to catch an asteroid in a giant bag and tow it to the Moon as part of a long-term programme that could one day lead to the permanent settlement of humans in space.
- Twitter announced that if you want to use vowels in your tweets you'll have to pay, otherwise it remains free to use.
- Google also announced 'Google Nose', which provides smells for whatever you type into the search engine – just "bring your nose as close as you can to the screen and press Enter".
- hotels.com claims to be offering the Belgian Suite of Buckingham Palace (an "iconic palace in the heart of London") from 1 April for £10,000 a night.
- Pirate Bay, says that "we hereby announce that we have moved our servers from the evil North Korea to the greatest ...nation in the entire world … The United States of America, ..... yeah!."
- Boden, the clothes shop, introduced the Marylebone Man-Skirt - "Trousers made sense when men rode horses, ploughed fields and trawled for fish. But now that so many of us are sat in front of a computer monitor all day the man-skirt is a smart choice."
- the BBC ran a report on the growing trend of keeping penguins as pets in an area of London.
- Virgin announced that it is introducing a "glass-bottomed plane" for its new route to Scotland.
- the Guardian newspaper announced Guardian Goggles, augmented-reality glasses that allow readers to surround themselves constantly and in real time with the approved Guardian view of your local fishmongers, cinemas and restaurants – and will even censor objectionable opinions in rival newspapers.
- Barclaycard issued a video explaining PayWag, a credit card put into a dog's collar so that they can pay for things in shops.
- Battersea Dogs & Cats Home announced that it has started training its dogs in more unusual "life skills" such as hoovering, gardening and washing up, in a bid to help them find new homes.
- Radio 4's Today programme this morning, reporter Nicola Stanbridge announced that barcodes would replace numbers on the sides of trains, so trainspotters can simply photograph it with a barcode reader on their smartphone.
- the Daily Mail newspaper showed photographic proof of the first mobile phone in 1938.
So it's April Fool's Day on 1st April, a time for practical jokes in
quite a few Western countries. Nobody really knows where or when
the tradition began, the first time it was mentioned was in
Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales'. On Wikipedia they say 'Many writers
suggest that the restoration of the 1st of January as New Year's
Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the
holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day
On the same page there is a list of well known public practical
jokes,that includes the Guardian's spaghetti harvest supplement.
Here are a couple of our own from past Tips - we've stopped them as we do get credible questions about them!
The origins of April Fool's Day are unknown, although various theories have been proposed. It is considered to be related to the festival of the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 21. Prior to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, it was observed as New Year's Day by cultures as far apart as ancient Rome and India. New Year was originally celebrated from March 25 to April 1, before the Gregorian reforms moved it back to January 1. The English first celebrated the day on a widespread basis only as late as the 18th century, though it appears to have reached England probably from Germany in the mid-17th century. Its first known description in English originates with John Aubrey, who noted in 1686: "Fooles holy day. We observe it on ye first of April. And so it is kept in Germany everywhere."
The custom of playing practical jokes on April Fool's Day is also very widespread and of uncertain origins. The victim of a joke is known in English as an April Fool; in Scots as a gowk (cuckoo or fool); and in French as a poisson d'avril (April fish). It has been suggested the custom may have had something to do with the move of the New Year's date, when people who forgot or didn't accept the new date system were given invitations to nonexistent parties, funny gifts, etc. Originally, April Fool's Day jokes concentrated on individuals (sending someone on an absurd errand such as seeking pigeon's milk) but in the 20th century it became common for the media to perpetrate hoaxes on the general population.
Here are some ideas on using the above text:
present it as a cloze - take out every nth word & the students fill in the gaps from the contextual clues. Cloze tests were first designed to check the readability of texts & they can be quite hard, so have a go at completing it yourself first. Also there might be more than one right answer. After the task, you could pick up on one or two of the answers & give further practice.
for free software so that you can create cloze tests on your computer, ready to print off:
This is a very small download that doesn't need installing - just click on it. You need to create a text file with the text you want to use in it eg. text.txt. Then create an empty file eg. text1.txt . Double click on the programme & first enter the interval number - every nth word you want omitting eg. 9, then press 'enter', then write text.txt, then 'enter', then write text1.txt , then 'enter'. Finally go to your text1.txt open it & see the cloze text you have just created, together with the answers - very easy! Keep it all in one folder for ease of use. See below for a cloze I created of the History text. If your students find it difficult, have the answers at hand - jumbled up! - to give out while they are completing the task.
present it as a selective cloze - take out all of the verbs or all vocab connected to a certain field. Nice for reviewing an area.
after dealing with the text, the students could think of tricks they could play, the most imaginative being the 'winner'.
The origins of April Fool's Day are (1)____________, although various theories have been proposed. It (2)____________ considered to be related to the festival (3)____________ the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 21. (4)____________ to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar (5)____________ 1582, it was observed as New Year's Day (6)____________ cultures as far apart as ancient Rome (7)____________ India. New Year was originally celebrated from (8)____________ 25 to April 1, before the Gregorian reforms moved (9)____________ back to January 1. The English first celebrated (10)____________ day on a widespread basis only as (11)____________ as the 18th century, though it appears (12)____________ have reached England probably from Germany in (13)____________ mid-17th century. Its first known description (14)____________ English originates with John Aubrey, who noted (15)____________ 1686: "Fooles holy day. We observe it on (16)____________ first of April. And so it is (17)____________ in Germany everywhere."
The custom of playing (18)____________ jokes on April Fool's Day is also (19)____________ widespread and of uncertain origins. The victim (20)____________ a joke is known in English as (21)____________ April Fool; in Scots as a gowk ((22)____________ or fool); and in French as a (23)____________ d'avril (April fish). It has been suggested (24)____________ custom may have had something to do (25)____________ the move of the New Year's date, (26)____________ people who forgot or didn't accept the (27)____________ date system were given invitations to nonexistent (28)____________, funny gifts, etc. Originally, April Fool's Day (29)____________ concentrated on individuals (sending someone on an (30)____________ errand such as seeking pigeon's milk) but (31)____________ the 20th century it became common for (32)____________ media to perpetrate hoaxes on the general (33)____________.
On the same page as the History text there is mention of some notable April Fool's jokes, for example:
Television licence: In another year the Dutch television news reported that the government had introduced a new way to detect hidden televisions (in many countries in Europe, one must pay a television licence to fund public broadcasting) by simply driving through the streets with a new detector, and that the only way to keep your television from being detected was to wrap it in aluminium foil. Within a few hours all aluminium foil was sold out throughout the country.
A couple of ideas for using this:
Give out or dictate the first part up until '...broadcasting) ' & the students work together & complete the text, reading them out & deciding on the most interesting, & then reading the remainder of the original.
Use the text as a dictation & then focus on the tenses - past perfect, past simple - & past passive.
To give intensive reading practice
To give freer speaking practice
To give freer writing practice
See the texts for possible language aims
Assumptions: That the stds will be interested in the topic of April
That the language will not be too difficult to get the overall
meaning of the texts.
Anticipated Problems and
Solutions: Some of the vocabulary may be challenging >> dictionaries
on hand/ meaning from context tasks.
Structures - depending on level - have a good look at the
texts you want to use. You may want to provide tasks focusing
on the vocab & language with each text.
Stage 1 - Intro to the
theme of April Fool's Day through the 'fool' quotations 15 mins tch<>stds, std<>std
1. Elicit the vocab: a fool,
foolish, to act the fool.
2. Handout the quotes & in pairs
read & discuss the ones they like.
3. Feedback - class - elicit their faves & discuss why.
Ask if they know any in their own language?
4. Introduce/elicit April Fool's Day - maybe through the
day they celebrate in their country to play pranks on each
other. Elicit what kind of things are done on a day like
this. During this introduce vocab connected to the lexical
set: to play a joke on, a prank, to be taken in, gullible,
Stage 2 - Reading 15 mins tch<>stds, std<>std
1. Explain the activity -
the stds read one of the past pranks, work on the text, & then get together with other stds to explain their
prank & rank them in order of imaginativeness, effectiveness,
fun etc..- a jigsaw activity.
2. Handout texts - stds in pairs read & help each other with comprehension - poss. have dictionaries
on hand. You could add comprehension & vocab tasks at
the end of each text. Be on hand to help out when all else
Stage 3 - Jigsaw speaking
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std
1. Put stds into two or three different groups - each having
read a different text, depending how many you have in the
group. The stds explain their stories & then together
they rank them. Also encourage them to write down new vocab
they learned from each other.
2. When they have an order either get one std to go to the
other group to explain the order & justifications or
go back to the original pairs & they compare what they
have heard & their group's orderings.
3. Feedback - on both the task achievement & the language,
both difficulties & good things that came up.
Stage 4 - Stds design their
own April Fool's joke
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds
1. Set up the activity, explaining that they are going to
design their own & write a report of it for all to read
& then put them on the walls to vote on most imaginative.
2. In small groups/pairs stds discuss & write - be on
hand if needed.
3. Stick up reports on walls - stds wander round reading
4. Vote on best - could be done informally in a class discussion.
A few quotes about fools & foolish things
However big the fool, there is always a bigger fool
to admire him. (Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux)
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects
of folly, is to fill the world with fools. (Herbert
Looking foolish does the spirit good. (John Updike)
Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the
rest of us could not succeed. (Mark Twain)
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn
at no other. (Benjamin Franklin)
A fool must now and then be right by chance. (Cowper)
It is better to be a fool than to be dead. (Stevenson)
A common mistake that people make when trying to
design something completely foolproof is to underestimate
the ingenuity of complete fools. (Douglas Adams)
The first of April is the day we remember what we
are the other 364 days of the year. (Mark Twain)
The surprising thing about young fools is how many
survive to become old fools. (Doug Larson)
Some April Fool's Day Hoaxes of
1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
In 1957 the respected BBC news show Panorama announced
that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual
elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss
farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It
accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss
peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees.
Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called
up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti
trees. To this question, the BBC diplomatically replied
that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti
in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."
2. San Serriffe
In 1977 the British newspaper The Guardian published
a special seven-page supplement in honor of the tenth
anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic located
in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped
islands. A series of articles affectionately described
the geography and culture of this obscure nation.
Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower
Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was
General Pica. The Guardian's phones rang all day as
readers sought more information about the idyllic
holiday spot. Few noticed that everything about the
island was named after printer's terminology. The
success of this hoax is widely credited with launching
the enthusiasm for April Foolery that then gripped
the British tabloids in the following decades.
3. Sidd Finch
In its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published
a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to
play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch and he
could reportedly throw a baseball with startling,
pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph (65 mph faster than anyone
else has ever been able to throw a ball). Surprisingly,
Sidd Finch had never even played the game before.
Instead, he had mastered the "art of the pitch"
in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great
poet-saint Lama Milaraspa." Mets fans everywhere
celebrated at their team's amazing luck at having
found such a gifted player, and Sports Illustrated
was flooded with requests for more information. But
in reality this legendary player only existed in the
imagination of the writer of the article, George Plimpton.
4. Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers
In its April 1985 issue Discover Magazine announced
that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile
Pazzo had discovered a new species in Antarctica:
the hotheaded naked ice borer. These fascinating creatures
had bony plates on their heads that, fed by numerous
blood vessels, could become burning hot, allowing
the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They
used this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice
beneath the penguins and causing them to sink downwards
into the resulting slush where the hotheads consumed
them. After much research, Dr. Pazzo theorized that
the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious
disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe
Poisson in 1837. "To the ice borers, he would
have looked like a penguin," the article quoted
her as saying. Discover received more mail in response
to this article than they had received for any other
article in their history.
5. Alabama Changes the Value of Pi
The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science
and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming
that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change
the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159
to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Before long the article
had made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly
made its way around the world, forwarded by people
in their e-mail. It only became apparent how far the
article had spread when the Alabama legislature began
receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting
the legislation. The original article, which was intended
as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe
the teaching of evolution, was written by a physicist
named Mark Boslough.
6. The Sydney Iceberg
On April 1, 1978 a barge appeared in Sydney Harbor
towing a giant iceberg. Sydneysiders were expecting
it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire
businessman (owner of Dick Smith's Foods), had been
loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from
Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently
succeeded. He said that he was going to carve the
berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to
the public for ten cents each. These well-traveled
cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were
promised to improve the flavor of any drink they cooled.
Slowly the iceberg made its way into the harbor. Local
radio stations provided excited blow-by-blow coverage
of the scene. Only when the berg was well into the
harbor was its secret revealed. It started to rain,
and the firefighting foam and shaving cream that the
berg was really made of washed away, uncovering the
white plastic sheets beneath.
7. The 26-Day Marathon
In 1981 the Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate
Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who
had entered the London Marathon but, on account of
a translation error, thought that he had to run for
26 days, not 26 miles. The Daily Mail reported that
Nakajimi was now somewhere out on the roads of England,
still running, determined to finish the race. Supposedly
various people had spotted him, though they were unable
to flag him down. The translation error was attributed
to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I
translated the rules and sent them off to him. But
I have only been learning Japanese for two years,
and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking
this marathon to be something like the very long races
they have over there."
8. Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
In 1976 the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced
on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime
astronomical event was going to occur that listeners
could experience in their very own homes. The planet
Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing
a gravitational alignment that would counteract and
lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners
that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment
that this planetary alignment occurred, they would
experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47
AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone
calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation.
One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends
had risen from their chairs and floated around the
9. The Left-Handed Whopper
In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement
in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new
item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper"
specially designed for the 32 million left-handed
Americans. According to the advertisement, the new
whopper included the same ingredients as the original
Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.),
but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for
the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following
day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing
that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax,
thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to
request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according
to the press release, "many others requested
their own 'right handed' version."
10. Whistling Carrots
In 2002 the British supermarket chain Tesco published
an advertisement in The Sun announcing the successful
development of a genetically modified 'whistling carrot.'
The ad explained that the carrots had been specially
engineered to grow with tapered airholes in their
side. When fully cooked, these airholes caused the
vegetable to whistle.
11. Guinness Mean Time
In 1998 Guinness issued a press release announcing
that it had reached an agreement with the Old Royal
Observatory in Greenwich, England to be the official
beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebration.
According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would
be renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999.
In addition, where the Observatory traditionally counted
seconds in "pips," it would now count them
in "pint drips." The Financial Times, not
realizing that the release was a joke, declared that
Guinness was setting a "brash tone for the millennium."
When the Financial Times learned that it had fallen
for a joke, it printed a curt retraction, stating
that the news it had disclosed "was apparently
intended as part of an April 1 spoof."
12. Drunk Driving on the Internet
An article by John Dvorak in the April 1994 issue
of PC Computing magazine described a bill going through
Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet
while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters over a public
network. The bill was supposedly numbered 040194 (i.e.
04/01/94), and the contact person was listed as Lirpa
Sloof (April Fools backwards). The article said that
the FBI was going to use the bill to tap the phone
line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol"
while accessing the internet. Passage of the bill
was felt to be certain because "Who wants to
come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?"
The article offered this explanation for the origin
of the bill: "The moniker 'Information Highway'
itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194... I
know how silly this sounds, but Congress apparently
thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what
kind of highway it is." The article generated
so many outraged phone calls to Congress that Senator
Edward Kennedy's office had to release an official
denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the bill.
Are you getting enough? Teacher development, that is. Do you feel that you are developing your teaching? Is your school providing enough ideas & directions?
Or is it your job to provide ways for the teachers in the school to develop? Do you have enough ideas, & provide enough avenues?
More often than not the answer to the above is 'not enough'. This may be due to a lack of time, finances or interest. In the more serious language schools, teacher development is rightly seen as key to successful teaching, happy teachers & happy clients. Here are a few ideas to follow up:
- regular seminars on practical areas - developing listening skills, language practice activities. This is the usual way of dealing with staff development. It is also a useful way to encourage teachers to become involved in teacher development/training by inviting a teacher to give a session.
- seminars of interesting teaching/learning-related areas eg. neuro-linguistic programming - visit http://www.useyouredge.com/. Invite specialists in to give talks on areas that may be peripherally related to teaching.
- invite publisher reps in to talk about how to use the coursebooks they sell. It's the least the publishers can do with the exorbitant cost of coursebooks & the extras in the coursebook packages, plus the regular updating & re-issuing of the coursebooks that mean extra investment.
- invite reps from the exam boards to give a talk on how best to go about training for the particular exam. Again, with the rising fees to sit the exams, the exam boards need to get into schools more & give more direction to the teachers that promote their exams.
- same level idea swap groups - for example, all teachers with pre-intermediate groups get together to share ideas, materials & options.
- lesson ideas, plans & materials swap - a variation on the above but a bit more free-for-all with all interested teachers getting together to learn from each other & share interesting stuff about their lessons.
- co-timetabling - this is especially important with the newer teacher. A senior teacher or the DOS sits down & goes through the two or three-week timetable with the teacher. Timetable is a difficult skill as it needs experience of materials & approaches to provide a balanced diet for the students. Without this experience, the teacher understandably relies heavily on the coursebook. The helper can provide direction & cut a lot of corners for the new teacher. A very useful task for all.
- troubleshooting sessions. This is a chance for teachers to get solutions to pressing problems they might have. Careful it doesn't degenerate into a moaning session so maybe not a regular focus for meetings. Once in a while it can be very refreshing & liberating as you realise that others are going through the same as you.
- observations - the observer could be a peer of a senior teacher. Whoever observes, it is essential that the reasons for the observation are clear, that it is developmental & not evaluative. I personally have the privilege of watching lots of lessons & there is always something to be gained from every one of them.
- do some 'action research' - pinpoint an area of interest in your classes & do some experimenting & reflecting.
- teacher buddies - teachers pair up for co-development through a term or academic year. The activities could include meeting twice a month, an observation of each other each month & general interchange. You could encourage the pairing up of new & experienced teachers or similarly experienced teachers.
- find other areas of teaching to become involved with, for example becoming a Cambridge oral examiner, take on a new level or type of class you haven't taught before or helping to organise a local conference.
- development group - a regular get together for a discussion of general development from own lesson observations, taped excerpts of own lessons & excerpts from teaching diaries, discussing the results of action research projects etc. You might set tasks for members to complete before each session & then use the data they bring along as the focus of the session eg. for a focus on teacher talk, members could be asked to tape three sections of three of their lessons & type up short transcripts, look at them & discuss them together.
BTW, if you have written anything about setting up, carrying out & evaluating classroom research, we would be very interested in publishing it in the articles section of the site. Please do send it in.
- online development group - using a forum board or a content management system such as Moodle it is easy to stay in touch & use the medium as a vehicle for teacher development.
Developing Teachers.com, through our sister site Developing The Web.com, offers teachers their own web space with these programmes set up & ready to go. For more information: http://www.developingtheweb.com/
The thing that most of the above ideas have in common is that they are all collaborative activities. Teaching can be a solitary experience if there isn't this sharing & helping out, & sometimes we just expect it to be happening in the staffroom. Maybe it is for some, but then again, maybe it isn't for others. Formally organising development can solve this problem, making it inclusive for all.