Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Watching and Learning...

Many thanks to all the people who responded so enthusiastically to news of the 2013 ES(O)L film festival. I'm absolutely delighted by the amount of interest generated by the project so far! Work will shortly begin on a dedicated  film festival website so you can easily access more information and read helpful  hints for film making with your learners. 

In the meantime, here are some suggestions for easing yourself and your learners into what will (I hope) prove to be a most enjoyable and rewarding experience.

 Explore the wide variety of short films online. 

You can learn so much about film making from watching films (this is  also a great excuse for taking a night off marking and putting your feet up.) As you watch each film, take notes under the following headings:
  • What kind of film is it?
  • Is there a soundtrack? 
  • Is there dialogue?  How much?
  • Which shorts do you find the most gripping/moving/effective? 
  • Why do you think this is? 
  • What are the ingredients of a great short film?

Select a few different films and show them to your learners. After each film, learners can discuss the questions above. Encourage your class to talk about the type of films they like too.

Listening to your learners express their likes and dislikes will inform your next steps, and give you all a better idea of the short film form.

Ones To Watch

The Black Hole, Dir Phil and Olly, UK, 2008

For a beautifully crafted short film, look no further than The Black Hole. This film was shot in under a day on borrowed equipment, and grips the viewer from start to finish. Simple, yet effective. The film has no dialogue, and so also lends itself very well to follow up writing and speaking activities.

Peter and Ben, Pinny Grylls, UK, 2007

Peter and Ben is a documentary film which focuses on the friendship between Peter (a reclusive man who lives in the Welsh mountains) and a sheep called Ben. If your learners are interested in filming a documentary this ten minute film proves that much can be said in little time.

Stallion Head, Dir Maddrim Medaia, UK, 2010

A homegrown example of what fun comedy can be to watch and to make. Maddrim Media's Stallion Head is packed with zany humour and...well, a lot of horsing around!

ESOL Fest, South London, 2011, Dir Adrian Cousins, UK, 2011

An inspirational film about ESOL learners protesting against cuts to English lessons for speakers of other languages.

Finally, you can see a wonderful example of a film produced by an English learner at http://vimeo.com/channels/fallas. Susana Ferrer Renovell made a series of four short films about the Fallas Festival in Valencia, Spain. The series is called Fallas Voices and you can see all four of these insightful pieces at vimeo on the link above.

Food for thought? In my next post I will be examining some different approaches to starting a film project.  In the meantime, happy viewing!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

ES(O)L Film Festival 2013

The 2013 ES(O)L Film Festival Needs You!

This spring my learners and I are planning to start work on a new film project.  We would very much like other ES(O)L classes to join us!

Our plan is to start an international ES(O)L festival of short films which will be available online from September 2013. Learners will be able to watch and comment on each others' films.

I have written before on the benefits of film work with ES(O)L learners. Here's a quick recap:

  • Film projects provide a tangible end product which learners can enjoy sharing with their friends.
  • Film work in the classroom caters to a range of learner intelligences, abilities and personality types. 
  • It provides the learners and teachers with a record of language spoken, making it easier to pin point areas for improvement in language and features of pronunciation. 
  • Film making opens up numerous opportunities to involve the local community, and raises the profile of learners in a positive way. 
Finally, making films is lots of fun! Still not convinced?  Watch our last film here http://vimeo.com/46025864 or better still, come to the IATEFL ES(O)L Special Interest Group pre-conference day on April the 8th, where I will be reflecting on my recent experiences of working on film projects with my class of ESOL learners, and providing some practical tips on film project work. Find more information about the PCE programme at: http://esolsig.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/upcoming-esol-sig-event-iatefl-annual-conference/

Interested in taking part in the first international ES(O)L film festival?  Please get in touch by email. Alternatively, you can reach me on Twitter where I go by the name of  @ShetlandEsol.

Over the coming months I will document our current film project in Shetland, setting out some ideas for film project work and sharing links to useful websites and film maker blogs.

 photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanmolin/5531608804/">Sean Molin Photography</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Lessons from My Handbag

Sometimes we all have to wing it!
This morning, a series of unfortunate events meant that I was running slightly late for my first lesson of the day at local Chinese restaurant, The Great Wall, with my pre-intermediate class. As I slid my way down the unevenly gritted street I realised that I had forgotten to pack my planned lesson. Not having time to turn back, I spent the next five minutes composing a mental inventory of what I knew to be in my handbag and planning some resource lite activities. Here they are...

Mobile Phone

The possibilities here are endless, and your learners can join in the fun with their own phones!

Today I asked my learners to talk about a typical day in their lives. We brainstormed lexis for a few moments, and then a volunteer spoke on this subject for a few moments. This was recorded onto her (and my) phone using the voice recorder facility. We listened to the recording together, pausing it at intervals to reformulate some utterances, and asking other learners for their feedback and suggestions. Then the learner spoke again on the same subject, having taken this advice on board.

I think that asking learners to listen critically to themselves can be an extremely beneficial way of developing learners' lexical and phonological awareness, although it is important to set up an encouraging and positive atmosphere to neutralise any nerves.

Pack of playing cards

I am never without my pack of playing cards.  They are an excellent addition to any teacher's portable tool kit. One of my all time favourite activities is Lindsay Clandfield's The Deck of Conversations. http://www.onestopenglish.com/skills/speaking/lesson-plans/pdf-content/speaking-skills-lesson-plans-the-deck-of-conversations-worksheet/teachers-notes-pre-in

This excellent lesson can be moderated and adapted on the spot to suit most contexts and levels.

I remove cards two to eight from each suit of the deck. With a lower intermediate class I might write the following, depending on what language areas we've covered recently. It  works best with small groups!

Hearts = Ask someone in your group a question.
Spades=  Tell the class a fact about your country.
Clubs = Tell the class about something you like doing.
Diamonds= Tell the class about somewhere interesting you have been.

 Learners then take turns to pick cards from the deck, talking about whatever subject matches the card they have selected. This makes for a really nice speaking activity and can be as long or as short as you wish it to be.

Post it notes

Mm, dontcha just love the post-it note?  Great for:

  • Practising question forms (the post it note on the forehead is possibly one of the first EFL games I ever played...)
  • Conducting spontaneous and secret ballots. For example, check understanding of a recently covered language points by asking questions and getting learners to display their answers on post it notes on the count of three.
  • Testing learners' lexcial knowledge of their environment by asking them to label as many objects as they can around them in a set time limit.

Assorted handbag/pocket lint

How rich a resource this is will really depend on how disorganised and untidy you are. I am incredibly messy and therefore my handbag is usually a veritable treasure trove of crumpled receipts, snacks, sea shells and partially decomposing fruit.

If you have enough handbag/pocket lint to share around there is a fun and challenging activity you can do with upper intermediate levels which practises lexis related to describing size and textures.

  • Ask a volunteer to put their hands behind their back and give them an item. Do not let them or the rest of the class see the item.

  • Learners must describe the feel of the item they are holding. However, if the learner has guessed the identity of the object they still must only describe the feel of it. They are not allowed to say what they know about the item. Therefore someone describing a banana might say "This feels soft and flexible and is pointed at the ends" but they would not be allowed to say "This is a fruit which grows in hot countries. " The rest of the class listens and guess at the identity of the mystery object.

 Contents of purse/wallet

You can use photographs in your wallet to teach appearance and family vocabulary. If learners don't have photos in their wallets, they are likely to have some on their phones: perfect for generating discussion. 

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/3616617104/">AlicePopkorn</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Last year...

we made a film. Due to popular demand, here it is...


Making Predictions....

Will 2013 be a good year?

Tuesday saw the return of my ESOL night class after the Christmas break.Our course book grammar focus at the moment is future forms which lends itself perfectly to thinking ahead at the beginning of a new year.

  • I began the lesson by asking learners: Will 2013 be a good year? and gave each learner a post it note on which they had to write a simple "Yes" or "No." On the count of three we revealed our answers and amazingly we all replied with a resounding YES! (With the current economic climate and the dreich January weather I had been expecting a few more negatives...)
  • Delighted to find my learners in such a positive frame of mind, I wrote the following headings on the board: weather, Shetland life, the world economy, new inventions, politics and  celebrities.  I asked my learners to work in groups of three and to write five cheerful predictions about any of the afore mentioned headings.  (Had they replied NO at the post it note stage, they would have been required to write pessimistic predictions.)
  • Learners had five minutes to discuss and write their predictions. I let them know that we would record these (to revisit later in the lesson and also, perhaps, at the end of 2013).  Groups had the chance to practise reading sentences, but I did not correct language at this stage.
  • We enjoyed listening to each others' ideas about 2013. You can listen to some of our predictions at: http://audioboo.fm/boos/1147824-2013-predictions. My learners used future forms inconsistently or not at all, e.g.: We think a lot of rain, but summer time a lot of sunshine or hopefully somebody invent a water powered car.
  • We then brainstormed future forms my learners already knew. They were familiar with quite a few, as I had suspected, but we needed to generate a number of examples, focusing on meaning, form and pronunciation.
  • Finally we listened to the recording again, and spoke about whether the predictions needed to be altered in any way. Learners were able to successfully "fix" the instances in which future forms had  been used inaccurately. 

After all this language input, we revisited 2012 with @leoselivan's fun and fantastic New Year quiz, which Leo has tailored to suit a range of levels.   This went down really well -  you can find it on:  http://leoxicon.blogspot.co.uk/

Happy New Year everyone!