Here’s an article from the BPS Research digest which describes how researchers explored the testing effect in learning.
“Answering prequestions may be a simple and effective way to boost your learning from videos and perhaps short lectures too” – and from reading texts, I bet! I know, it all seems a bit obvious to us ELT teachers, but it’s still nice to have scientific evidence for what we were assuming all along. Also, it might help deal with those doubting Thomases in the classroom…
Now this activity is very much about workplace skills or even life skills, and can be transferred to the ELT context to bring an extra dimension into your grammar practice. The idea is to demonstrate the difference between fact checking and information gathering. In short, the participants have to guess each other’s secret words by asking only closed, and then only open, questions – and hopefully they will see that open questions let them guess faster. (Check the original post for a complete description of the activity.) I’d say it’s more suitable for the Intermediate level and upwards: lower levels would not have enough language to answer questions at length, which defeats the purpose of the activity. And of course, doing it online is even easier: use the private chat function to give out the ‘secret’ words, put the learners into breakout rooms in pairs or threes, and have them return to the main room as soon as they are done (and possibly get another set of words).
P.S. Check out one of my earlier posts about questions, which refers to the QFT technique – another idea from an non-ELT context that we can borrow.
Here is a very interesting article from Moodle about best practice for test writing, not necessarily on Moodle and not just for languages. Whatever you are testing, it seems that the key is to consider how the students are going to do the test and what you can improve to get more reliable results. There’s practical advice about introducing quick low-stakes checks, using mock tests, preventing cheating – a riveting read!
If your students don’t mind personality quizzes, how about giving them this amazing test by Adobe to determine their creative type? It reminds me of Meyers-Briggs and Belbin, only it’s visually much cooler. The questions are easy enough for B1+ (better if they are adults), and the results warrant loads of fun and discussions. There’s even an article about the test was made – really great stuff for those who’d like to question the results or simply find out more. And the best thing about this test is that it brings home a very important message: we can all be creative in our own special ways, even if we don’t dance or paint.
Have you tested yourselves yet? Apparently, I’m a cactus.
If you enjoy Mario Rinvolucri’s activities like I do (and I’ve typed up one of his books into my Evernote page by page!), do check out this post by him with the EFL Magazine. He describes a wonderful minimal-resource activity, which on the surface is simply repeating the same question over and over, but if timed right can be a great source of learning. You can focus on grammar, comprehension, the meaning of life… One more for my database of all-time favourites!
Here is an interesting post by a teacher trainer and author Erika Osváth at the Oxford University Press blog about her favourite activity to engage her teenage learners’ natural curiosity: she recommends using posters through a cycle of lessons where students would first brainstorm their questions about the unit, and then add more and more questions and discuss possible answers in subsequent lessons (or lesson stages). It looks simple, but I like the continuity it offers, and the open-ended nature of the task. Something to try next week, perhaps?
Here is a collection of lesson plans related to TED talks from MENSA for kids. Now who would have thought they are so good? There are more than 20 different talks to explore, and the extension activities are absolutely to die for. There are also simple but entertaining questions that can be adapted to different ages and levels. Most are aimed at developing more or less abstract thinking or even critical thinking (core skills – check).
Plus, the choice of topics is great. I can imagine my lower secondaries enjoying some of these! And, to be honest, ‘Shape-shifting dinosaurs’ or ‘How are books a secret door’ are something I would like to do in the classroom.
P.S. If you’d rather do another talk, don’t forget about the great timesaver of a TED worksheet by Svetlana Kandybovich – I wrote about it here.
I was researching criteria for evaluating training providers the other day and stumbled upon this little gem: a list of questions to ask a training organisation (compiled by a training organisation – take it with a grain of salt). It’s an incredibly comprehensive booklet covering such areas as quality management, learning pathways, previous experience and price policies. How can it help English language teachers? Well, if you have a new corporate client or a very discerning private tutee, you might want to imagine them asking you these questions and prepare good answers – or think what else you might need to develop. It’s certainly made me think!
Now, here is a nice idea to keep the students focused on the learning objective! Connie Hamilton is writing about typical lessons when we have dozens of ‘teachable moments’ and it’s very tempting to go off on a tangent – but if we plan a series of questions to direct the students toward the learning objective, the learning becomes more effective. How do we do it? Turn the objective into a question, keep it consistent and keep it precisely worded. And ask this question again and again during the lesson.
P.S. I suppose it would be good to give students more time to think when you ask them a question like this (Hold that question); we can also encourage them to formulate the questions for themselves or their peers (The QFT Technique).
Here is a great selection of materials from Microsoft (in fact, it is a small online course in its own right) about an interesting feature they added to Skype to help education. You can find other teachers around the world and connect your classrooms so that the learners can play a guessing game (guess where in the world they are, or play ‘Mystery animal’ or something similar if the location is too obvious). There are a lot of useful materials and tips: for example, you can download a pdf with students’ roles. Even better, there is a template for the teacher’s professional development bingo – I’m definitely going to use this one!
I think this feature is just asking to be used in ELT: let me know if you decide to experiment!