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Supercuts

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Supercuts are videos that include a lot of clips along a theme, usually with little or no other editing. They can be as simple as Spock saying “Fascinating”/the Ninth Doctor Who saying “Fantastic” or as complex as things crashing through glass from countless films and TV shows/a compilation of anime opening credit visual cliches. It occurred to me, though, that ones focused on dialogue might be useful–or at least fun–for practicing pronunciation features (targeted sounds, intonation, and stress), sarcasm and other tone issues, idioms/slang/other vocabulary, and so on. The language is in short bites (mostly) and repetitive, which may be useful for learning. And of course, the videos have the appeal of being either pop culture artifacts or featuring real people–authentic and attractive to students. It can be hard to find these videos; there are a few lists here and there, but they may be a bit out of date.

This is a pretty fun look at the surprisingly common quote “(Toto,) we’re not in Kansas anymore.”:

It’s pretty current, with lots of things that adult students may have seen (like Sex and the City 2 and Avatar). It has a couple of possibly objectionable scenes, though (mild swearing and what may be a sex scene–it’s a little hard to tell, as it’s waist-up and there’s no nudity). But you can always show just part of a video. It really shows the breadth of the situations in which this phrase is used, and how phrases get turned around and changed. (Notes and sources are here.)

“What are you doing here?” and endless variations, always popping up on Doctor Who (skip if you haven’t watched through the end of 2008 and plan to):

I probably wouldn’t actually use this video unless my students had watched Doctor Who (I know some schools have it in their libraries, though!). It does give an idea of the many ways you can stress the different words in “What are you doing here?” for different meanings, though!

Not very useful, but entertaining–”I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you”:

For those of you who don’t hesitate to teach taboo words, this and its variants really are common:

How many ways can you say “What?” How often is it actually a rising sound? When is it a question, a request for repetition, an expression of disbelief? Let Lost tell you:

“Get out of there!” is a phrase that we use in real life occasionally, not just in movies:

The second half or so has some swearing.

“Sorry I haven’t updated” features ordinary vloggers (video bloggers) of various ages, starting off their vlogs with an apology:

It’s really interesting how different they appear to be, and yet how similar their phrasing is!

There are more out there, and you could probably make some yourself to focus on issues your students have. What other uses might there be, or is this a totally crazy idea…?

Post-Holiday Link Roundup

I wasn’t able to post here during the holidays, but I was somewhat active on Twitter. Here are a few links that I shared that may be of interest to you, rewritten a bit for context and easier clicking.

Halloween Clip Art

If you’re looking to spruce up your Halloween or autumn lesson plans, OpenClipArt.org has you covered. Check out their fall and Halloween clip art packages. As always, the images are completely free to use, and most of the images at the site are large (great for printing), easily resized, and unique to the site (because they were uploaded by the original artists). There’s more if you search for relevant keywords, too.

Check out my previous post, A Visual Feast, for more information about using the site.

Learners’ Dictionaries

Gartus_Man_with_book from openclipart.org

I recommend a good learner’s dictionary (or two), not just for your students but also for you, the instructor. Naturally, you already know the meanings of almost all words that students are likely to ask you about, but the problem is that on-the-spot definitions (and even written ones) sometimes come out in the vein of “Well, it’s a sensation that…uh, a feeling that you get–well, most people get they’re frightened –oh, do you know frightened? I mean scared…and…”

Yeah.

There’s a reason for the profession of lexicography and the existence of special dictionaries! When I use the definitions in learners’ dictionaries to define words that are a little hard to explain, I find that students often understand the words much faster–I neither spend a lot of time confusing them nor do they have to resort to their L1 dictionaries (and they don’t get confused by the circular explanations, academic vocabulary, and obsolete historical definitions in regular English dictionaries).

I make a point of introducing learners’ dictionaries to my students and owning multiple levels of them. I tell my students that sometimes I use them myself to give definitions, because the dictionaries’ explanations are shorter, simpler, and focus on the useful/common meanings of a word. (I also spend time demonstrating how a good learner’s dictionary can save students from other dictionaries’ pitfalls, as the entries should include connotations like “disapproving”, and other features like collocations.) Anyway, I think they understand why I sometimes use these definitions with them. It would certainly be less than ideal if they thought I had to look up English words in the dictionary, but I don’t think any of them have wound up with that impression.

I think it’s useful to look at the different varieties out there to see which ones you prefer. They all have different features and different styles of defining words. Cobuild started out strong (as it was corpus-based) but has fallen behind the others in features and usability; I prefer Longman and Oxford. There’s also a recent Merriam-Webster dictionary, in “essential” and advanced, which I haven’t looked at. They produced the excellent guide to English usage that was recommended by Language Log, though, so it might be excellent. There’s a Cambridge set, as well.

Anyway, you can make use of these definitions online, too, if you’re chatting with students, blogging, or just testing out the dictionaries.

One word I had to define recently was “trawl” (the verb), because I linked some learners to “Japanese Power Blogger Trawls Seoul for Hidden Gems”. Interestingly, at least one of the dictionaries’ definitions precluded the usage in that headline–so it’s good to try several tricky or multifaceted words to find a dictionary that makes sense to you.

(P. S. I think there are some other learners’ dictionaries that I’m not familiar with. If you know of any that you particularly like, please recommend them in the comments!)

12 Days of Christmas: EFL Classroom 2.0

Well, I’ve made it to Twelfth Night without missing any days. I wasn’t sure that would happen. If you’ve been reading all along, thanks for sticking with me! I hope today’s resource will help everyone who’s trying to force their brains back into lesson-planning mode after the holidays. It’s not easy, searching for inspiration when your head’s still full of punch and eggnog (or fever and bronchitis, in my case)…

j4p4n_Thinking_Woman_-_1905 from openclipart.org

Today’s resource is one that I’ve just recently discovered, EFL Classroom 2.0. It has over 11,000 registered users, so maybe you already know about it. I thought it was worth a mention, though, because it’s the only English-teaching megasite that I’ve found to be worth signing up for so far. You probably know what I mean–when you look for ELT resources online, many sites look promising but require registration to really view anything. You hand over your personal information and jump through the hoops, only to find out that the site has been abandoned since 2001, has nothing of interest to you, has only materials that are free on other sites, has only materials that were stolen from other sites, or has only a few things that are really free and actually requires you to pay to see the good stuff. EFL Classroom 2.0 is different–they have good content in a wide variety of formats, and it’s aimed at various age levels. They don’t just have ideas, either; they have actual stuff that you can download and use. There’s also an active user community and forum, and I get the impression that it’s growing rather than stagnating–though since I’m new there, it’s hard to say for sure.

Here are some of the highlights of the site that I think make it worth your time spent registering (note: I can’t link to each page since you won’t be able to see them till you’ve registered):

  • “Lessons in a Can”: 100+ fairly fleshed-out ideas, including necessary materials such as videos, slideshows, or handouts.
  • Karaoke and lots of it–I’ve known several excellent teachers who used karaoke for pronunciation, energy, and and motivation.
  • Games for the classroom, from paper to Powerpoint–original ideas from site staff and users as well as a directory of online games
  • Community, including forums, an “Answers” section, “Classrooms” that serve as interest groups, a place for teachers to find classrooms for keypal and penpal exchanges, and even photos of other users’ classrooms (could result in new ideas for your classroom, and interesting if you haven’t started teaching yet!)
  • Categorized resources on everything from using comics in the classroom (yay!) to testing and evaluation (I can’t wait to look at their placement tests).
  • Videos, but unlike the videos mentioned in my TeacherTube and Vimeo post, many of these have discussion in the comments from other teachers, which is nice. Videos include both things you might want to show the students and teacher-training videos with ideas and methods for you. Quality (and legality, ala YouTube) varies.

There’s a lot more at the site. I have to admit, I find it a little confusing to navigate, but stick with it–patience will be rewarded. (This is one of those times when being a Delicious user will come in handy, since I think I’ll want to bookmark and tag a number specific sub-pages.) The “Rate Your Job” section has potential, but it seems that although the site isn’t easily searched (since you have to register to get in), people are still hesitant to discuss their experiences. I wish people would start using it!

There are lots of other things and new things popping up, including a just-started thread on games and lesson plans that will work well with Korean classrooms (the first idea is a “Korean Celebrity – Guess Who” game, and includes two files to get you started). The Korea-based teaching community seems to be particularly strong here, with at least three Korea-related interest groups, so if you’re teaching in Asia and you’ve been unhappy that so much of the free lesson material online is ESL-oriented, you’ll really want to check this out. However, there’s plenty that can be used in non-EFL contexts, despite the site’s name.

If you know of another great free site, please let me know about it!

And with that, the 12 Days of Christmas series concludes! Thanks very much for reading. I’d still love feedback–readership went up during this time, but I’m still looking (like any writer, second-language or first!) for a response from my audience. :) I’ll take a break for a couple of days and then start trying to post more regularly than in the past. Oh, and you can follow me on Twitter at talkclouds.

Twelve Days of Christmas: Free E-Books

Only a couple more posts left after this one! Grab a mug or cup of cocoa, green tea, barley tea, or your other beverage of choice, particularly if it’s snowing where you are right now–not too close to the computer, mind you–and let’s settle in with a stack of entertaining and educational free reading material.

hairymnstr_Coffee_Mug

The International Children’s Digital Library lets you view children’s books online (legally). Many of these books are beautiful and interesting enough that a class may be willing to view them even if they’re older than the original target age group. (I’ve had success using children’s books with students who are forty-something, as long as the art and stories are sincere enough.) These can make a nice diversion around holidays or form the focus of other activities. I don’t think they can be downloaded, but the ICDL people have thoughtfully provided a teacher training manual with information and suggestions about how to use the site.

The British Council at the BBC presents Teaching English: Transform – Books. These twelve e-books range from Global Citizenship in the English Language Classroom to Intercultural Resources Pack for Latin America . They’re PDFs, so you can view them on your computer and many mobile devices including iPhones and Kindles, and you can always see about printing them (try two-sided printing or see if there’s any scrap with clean backs–I really don’t love reading e-books on my computer, but I hate wasting paper!).

Teacher’s guides for the Azar grammar books can be downloaded from the official Azar website. Yeah, I had no idea until I’d bought a couple, either. You can also download a grammar book called Fun with Grammar here.

Stephen Krashen has put two of his books online, although they’re very old, as well as several articles. If you’ve never read any Krashen but you keep hearing about him, you could start here. David Crystal doesn’t have any entire books online, but does have a great number of articles, dating back to the 60s. If you know of any other language luminaries who’ve kindly put their writings online in bulk like this, please leave a comment!

The Online Books Page from the University of Pennsylvania is a huge collection of links to online books. You can browse it or search it. When I looked in the official Library of Congress-style subject heading “English Language — Study and Teaching — Foreign speakers” (sigh), I got things ranging from potentially useful for the right person (Writing Program Administration, 2007) to useless but potentially hilarious (books from 1914 and 1916 that would only be useful to people writing histories of change in teaching). But it’s worth poking around; I actually found a novella written for Japanese students of English, Many Roads to Japan, and we all know that material for extensive reading can be hard to come by. I don’t know if it’s any good, but I definitely plan to explore UPenn’s site more. Hat-tip to my husband the math teacher, who has read a variety of books, from Algernon Blackwood to natural history, via this site. (Oh my, he’s just pointed out they have links to a number of free Harlequin romances–well, I’ve heard those can be very popular with students!) Because the site uses this awkward library-style subject categorization, this is definitely a time to put in various topics like “linguistics,” “communication,” and so on if you’re looking for work-related topics.

For relaxation and personal enrichment purposes (and possibly really advanced students), here’s some legitimate free fiction and nonfiction online:


For short fiction links and other free fiction, check out my free+fiction tags at Delicious (which I’ll talk about using one of these days–maybe tomorrow if I’m desperate!).

By the way, you can find PDFs on many topics by going to Google’s advanced search page and choosing File Type: pdf.

Twelve Days of Christmas: TeacherTube, Vimeo, and more

Everyone knows about Youtube and quite a few teachers use it, but there are a few more resources that are slightly less well-known and can liven up lesson points or bring more English input to an EFL teaching situation.


Many teachers already know about TeacherTube, but not everyone does. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already seen it! Unfortunately, their search and tagging system is lacking and their categories are not very useful–there’s no ESL/EFL/etc. category, so it’s difficult to find good material here. I suspect it exists, but it’s difficult to find. If you have any hints on how to find it, let me know. Videos can be downloaded once you find something you like, which isn’t easy to do at YouTube. Apparently it plays ads before videos, but I haven’t seen any because the version of Adblock Pro that I’m running on Firefox keeps them from showing. A free membership will also allow you to skip the ads.

Vimeo.com is an original video-oriented site, and it was high-quality-oriented before Youtube allowed HD uploads. I think it allows longer videos, as well. Many Vimeo videos can be downloaded as Flash or .avi files without going to the special lengths required to download Youtube videos. There’s no particular orientation toward educational videos here, but there is TESOL content to be found, including the ESL Channel. In addition, among the serious videographers’ work you may find something inspiring for your class anyway, or something to watch to relax. (Check out this Japanese festival video, or this time-lapse video.) The above video of my part of the world (which I advise clicking through and watching in HD if you have the bandwidth) is beautiful and relaxing, but could also be a fun change-of-pace exercise, prompting students to write down as many adjectives as possible (fast! wet! furry! lonely!), etc. As a bonus, the comments at Vimeo are often less of a Wild West than the comments at Youtube. There are limitations on free uploads if you want to make videos and put them online, but I don’t know much about that, I’m afraid.

Veoh.com is another general Youtube-like site, but it’s even more of a free-for-all than Youtube, if that’s possible, and I only recommend it if you are looking for a clip that you absolutely must have. (For example, bilingual Begin Japanology clips can be found there–English in one audio channel, Japanese in the other audio channel.) I don’t think an original teaching video is likely to be found solely on Veoh and not on Youtube, TeacherTube, or Vimeo, but if that’s not the case, please correct me!

Manythings.org’s video section collects English-teaching videos from Youtube. These are mostly instructional videos on specific points, aimed at independent learners, but some are more useful for classrooms. These include singalongs, videos with transcripts and subtitles, and so on. ESLVideo.com may give you some ideas on how to use Youtube in your classroom–they have Youtube videos (music, interviews, etc.) posted with quizzes. The quizzes are mostly simplistic, good for either checking word-by-word listening comprehension or surface-level grammar features, but they could give you ideas about how to use non-TESOL-focused videos in an ELL classroom.

If you’re looking for lesson material on these sites, don’t forget to a) play the “alphabet game” and search for ESL, EFL, ELT, and TESOL, and also b) try some things that aren’t in the TESOL genre, like how-tos, very simple food or drink preparation videos, travel videos, music videos, film clips, etc. I created a pretty good lesson out of some footage aimed at pharmacy school students once, too, for a student who was going back to Japan to be a pharmacist. Don’t hesitate to search for very specific themes such as “pharmacy” or “fast food.”

As mentioned in this thread on using videos in the classroom, it’s best to turn off “related videos” and preview the videos before putting them up on a projector, just to make sure you don’t have any unpleasant surprises!

Twelve Days of Christmas: Printable Goodies

Oh, it’s the seventh day, and that means I’m past the halfway point! Woohoo! Well, on New Year’s Eve, traditionally a time for confetti and streamers, we’ll be focusing on paper. Many of us have been asked recently by higher-ups to reduce our use of paper for economic reasons, and while it’s a good thing for the environment anyway, there are some activities for which there’s just no substitute for the paper-in-hand approach. Games, stickers, brainstorming, outlines–usually we’d rather print it out (okay, on recycled paper!). But if you’re like me and will spend hours fussing with a word processor that’s not really meant to create such materials, read on for a little help.

Simon_Printer_on_fire from openclipart.org
(best clip-art ever, or what?!)

Tools for Educators has a lot of printable material and does not require registration. They’ve provided not just pre-made items you can download and print, but generators that you can modify a little or a lot. The graphics are a little kitschy and clip-art-tastic, but hey! You didn’t have to draw it yourself nor waste hours looking through clip art sources. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • Dice! As an RPG geek, I love it. You can print and fold actual six-sided paper dice to really liven up your class activities. The page includes a link with some suggestions for language games you can play using dice, too.
  • Boardgames–simple, but lots of possibilities for various age levels and topics. Add your own or use the built-in options.
  • Two different bingo board generator pages (one image-oriented, one word-oriented and more customizable), which can be used for all sorts of things, not just standard bingo games–have students watch for certain phrases or interactions during a movie, for example.
  • Stickers and charts are available at a different URL but from the same people; you’ll be wanting to print in color and use adhesive-backed paper for these. Another site they run will get you a certificate generator with lots of nice-looking certificates you can present to your students.

There’s more at the main link, so give it a try. By the way, they mention that the generator pages should work on both 8.5×11-inch and A4 paper, which is very thoughtful since most North America-based teachers are using the former and nearly everyone else in the world uses the latter. (Confusingly, the United States and Canada do not conform to international standards on paper sizes.)

Another source (8.5″x11″-oriented) is Freeology.com’s Graphic Organizers. There are 56 items here, including Venn diagrams, a pros and cons scale, character description forms, storyboards, vocabulary cards, story charts, and many, many more. These could be used for reading and writing classes most easily, but also for conversation classes and other uses–just flipping through them may give you some ideas. One caveat: These are all PDFs, and for some reason, the text doesn’t display when I view them in Preview on my Mac (the shapes appear, and I can view the files correctly in Adobe).

Finally, the simplest “printables” site I’ve found, but still possibly useful, is PrintablePaper.net, which simply has many different forms of graphs and lines, including handwriting, octagonal grids, calligraphy, Battleship, and more (also 8.5″x11″, sorry).

If you have any suggestions for other A4-friendly sites, let me know, although I think most of these will print OK if you preview before you print.

By the way, I still have Google Wave invitations available! If you are an English/ESL/EFL or other second/foreign language educator or educator-in-training who would like a Google Wave invitation, please go to the Contact Me form and tell me what kind of school/other teaching situation you work in and what level you teach at (or where you’re studying and for what degree). Make sure to give me your Gmail address or another e-mail address to which you’d like the invitation sent. (Do not comment here to get the invitation–you don’t want your e-mail address posted for the whole internet to see!) You must be a language educator to get an invitation.

Twelve Days of Christmas: The Internet TESL Journal

On the fourth day of Christmas, I’ll be introducing to you something I’ve mentioned a couple of times, but have never fully introduced. I hope that you won’t mind if I count this as a full entry, because if you don’t already know about it, or if you’ve forgotten about it, it’s worth discovering. If your binders full of lesson plans are letting you down–or if you haven’t yet built up binders full of lesson plans–and you’re interested in free activities and lesson plans, keep reading!

nicubunu_Box_with_folders from openclipart.org

The Internet TESL Journal (ITESLJ) is a free online journal that is different from other online journals because of its focus on short, practical, useful articles. I mentioned its existence very briefly when I posted a roundup of free online journals last year, and also when I noticed that you can download computer-generated mp3s of their articles. I never said why it was great, though, and the reason is that ITESLJ offers lesson ideas, games, and activities, as well as teaching techniques and reports on teachers’ own research projects, in an easy-to-access format that’s free to everyone.

As you know if you’ve tried to use a search engine to find lesson plans, the internet is cluttered with ESL and EFL sites that are only partially free, sites for which you need to register–only to find out they have almost no resources, sites for which you have to register–only to find out they’ve copied all of their materials from another site, and sites with low-quality materials that are unsuitable for your students.

ITESLJ has a good range of materials and ideas, and no registration is required. Many of the suggestions are aimed at EFL learning situations, although they can be adapted to various classrooms. If you don’t see something you like right away, just keep searching back: they’ve been around since 1995. There are specific lesson plans for every possible language skill, lessons focused on specific films, unusual lesson plans involving the use of cell phones, craft-based lesson plans, games with songs and physical movement, and lessons focusing on specific L1s. Here are some examples:

There are lots more, including ideas for working with children.

By the way, if the above is old hat to you, then may I encourage you to write something short and submit it to them? It looks like they need more submissions. Even a single activity that you’ve had work well would be an excellent thing to submit so your fellow teachers can benefit, and although I don’t think they qualify as a “peer-reviewed journal,” it’ll still look great on your CV.

Next? Well, I have no idea! Anybody out there? Let me know, especially if you like something!

Free Illustrations

No need to pirate!
No need to pirate!

Illustrations can really liven up activities or serve as the focal point of an entire lesson. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to find sources for these online, particularly for non-commercial usage. A recent Lifehacker post pointed out this About.com article on 30 legitimate free image sources, but I’m going to to just feature a selected handful from there and from my own Delicious bookmarks. I think these will save you time, because the list of 30 sites includes a lot that don’t seem very useful to me.

  • Open Clip Art Library has a wide variety of digital art, from 3-D to black and white. Some is original; others were scanned and cleaned up from Victorian graphics, etc. The quality ranges from incredibly professional to so-so. I got the Korean flag image and several other images used previously from here. Some are high-res enough to be printable. There are no limitations on how you use the images. (If search doesn’t work well, try navigating to the image you need using tags.)
  • Flickr’s Advanced Search feature + Creative Commons box checked lets you look for Creative Commons-licensed photos and videos (which you can read about here). Not all users who have put CC licenses on their work really understand it, so you may wish to comment and ask permission to be nice. Make sure to follow the rules of the license, such as giving attribution (name and a link back) if requested and not modifying unless the license grants that permission.
  • morgueFile is a site where photographers submit images for others to use (the name evokes the “photo morgues” that newspapers keep). You can search and download in the “free photos” section. Nice and easy to use, but be sure to check licenses.
  • Stock.XCHNG is a very popular free “stock photo” site with some great images. Unlike the above sites, you need to join (free) to download images. Be sure to read the license information for the images you want to use.