Resources for teaching children

The excellent TeachingEnglish.org.uk has a small collection of resources for teaching children, including articles on using stories (the latest addition), songs and flashcards.

It also points you to another British Council's website, LearnEnglishKids, which has lots more resources.

See also

Making animations with young(-ish) learners

Here are two sites which enable your learners to make fun animations.

Dfilm MovieMaker allows you to select your character (eight can be seen, left above), add what they're saying, etc, etc.

Dfilm.com
Using Dfilm's MovieMaker you pick from a choice of preset backgrounds, skyscapes, scenarios (rendez-vous, chase…) and characters, write their lines, add music and — in a series of straight-forward clicks, create your animation.

Once you've finished, you can send it to a friend — or yourself — which will then give you the URL (address), so that you can see it again.

ZimmerTwins (above) gives you just three characters to play with but some crazy additional features…

ZimmerTwins.com
At ZimmerTwins you can create similar animations, though you've only (currrently) got three characters to play with. You can save your movies, watch other people's and comment on them, among other features.

Like Dfilm, it's very intuitive to work with — and kids will love exploring what you can do with it. The "How to make a movie" section explains all, if you are in any doubt (and makes good listening comprehension practice too!)

Note that you have to register (and provide an email address). You could get round your students doing that by registering yourself, and having them use your username.

Which is better?
Of the two, besides not requiring registration, Dfilm also has the advantage that your learners can input more text (important if you want them to be able to write some English).

On the other hand, ZimmerTwins seems to offer more "fun" features. If you've got really young learners, who don't know much English, it might be a better choice.

What would you do with these sites?
Make animations, of course… But what you really want is for your learners to get some language learning and practice out of it — and it's all too easy for the class to go silent (or real noisy!) while they fiddle with the animations but learn and practise zero English…

Providing them with a list of characters and features first and — in pairs — getting them to storyboard their animation first, before logging on, might be the best way to go about it.

When they do then get on-site, they will probably then have to discuss how they are going to adapt their storyboard to what the site can actually do — but that can only be a good thing!

What's the point?
For your learners, it's a fun, motivating activity. For the teacher, it must produce that language learning and practice.

If it doesn't, should you be using this technology…?

Technical note
Note that you might need to upgrade your Flash Player (an easy download, provided you have "administrator permissions" on your PC/s, which you might not if you are in a school).

Halloween project

Halloween in IH… and probably celebrated in some way in many language classrooms

I came across this list of 100 scariest movies the other day and thought, "That might make a good blogging project".

A rough outline of a project

  • In class, brainstorm, talk about "scariest movies", to see if we can produce a list of, say, 10 to 20
  • See if we can agree on a rough ranking for them
  • Turn on the PCs, and use a collaborative process writing approach to produce a plot summary plus what makes them really, really scary
  • Go through various drafts, getting the other learners to commit on each others' work, and saving as Word documents
  • Post the final version on a blog
  • Get students to read the finished products, and use the "comments" feature to "vote" which they now think are most scary

Time sitting facing the PC screen…? I'd estimate it at under 30% of the total — as it should be, I would suggest.

More resources
More Halloween lesson plans on the BBC, and on DevelopingTeacher.com.

More lesson plans for other days of the year.

What can you do with a blog (4)?

Example 4 is not in fact a blog — it's an idea for a blog.

Someone on our trainee support group, teaching "a group of Brazilian teenagers here in the U.S. on a sort of pseudo educational vacation", asked the following question:

"This group is driving me insane! I've never come across a group of less behaved, unmotivated and basically spoiled brats in my life. (… ) most of these kids come from very wealthy families (…) and are generally accustomed to having everything done for them (…) How do you teach someone who not only hasn't a desire to learn but seems to refuse to?!"

My suggestion was:

"Being a total geek, I think I'd go for a geeky technological answer. I'd put them into smallish groups (3s?) and say they have 48 hours to produce the first issue of an online paper (I'm assuming their pseudo educational vacation in NY includes decent Internet access). They'd have to decide on sections, content, headlines, images — the lot. And then produce it as a blog. Then they've got to produce the next issue 48 hours after that."

Questions as before: would you want to do such a project with your learners, why (not)? And would it work in this particular case, do you think?