Kahoot for practising superlative adjectives

Here’s an e-learning activity idea that I’ve just come up with, and which I’d like to share with you.

In this morning’s workshop on e-learning for grammar teaching, Ms Jenny Leung concluded her presentation with a Kahoot game that she played with the entire audience. You should have been there to witness how excited the teachers were. Jenny’s 10 questions were about general knowledge, and some of them asked about the longest river in the world; the fastest train on Earth; the tallest tower Man has ever built, etc. The audience was excited because the questions had realistic and meaningful subject-matter content. This converges on one methodology in second language teaching, which advocates integrating content with language teaching. (A strong form of this methodology is called CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning.)

After the workshop, I recalled that quite a few of Jenny’s questions made use of superlative adjectives, such as longest, fastest, tallest, etc. Then I was struck by the following activity idea, for students to practise using superlative adjectives meaningfully:

1. Put students into groups. Each group is responsible for creating a general knowledge quiz containing (5) questions. The quiz is to be played on Kahoot.
2. The (5) questions should make use of superlative adjectives: the longest, the slowest, the biggest, the most difficult, etc.
3. Stress that they must use the correct superlative form in the questions. If in doubt, they should consult a dictionary.
4. They may need to do a bit of research (online or in the library) to come up with their (5) questions. They then create a Kahoot game containing their questions.
5. A few days later when the students are ready, let each group administer their question set on Kahoot, as a game for the whole class to play.
6. For added excitement, the teacher, or the whole class will vote on the best set of questions afterwards.

Potential merits of this activity idea:
– Little work by the teacher; a lot of work by the students;
– The Ss will pay a lot of attention to the correct form of superlative adjectives;
– It involves realistic subject matter research, which secondary students will find interesting;
– They like to challenge their classmates;
– The teacher can easily get several Kahoot quizzes;
– It’s a lot of fun for the whole class when the Kahoot quizzes are administered.

Potential problem:
– The Ss get overly excited during the game, and start arguing with each other.


An e-learning workshop on grammar teaching

I had a most rewarding time this morning co-presenting an e-learning workshop with Miss Jenny Leung, a seasoned elearning teacher in English language teaching. In retrospect, we were trying to do too much, but overall the audience stayed focussed and motivated throughout the two hours. A bonus for me was of course catching up with a few former students. It was uplifting to see so many teachers who, despite their exhaustion after a long week of work, still came to the workshop as they cared about professional development. (Acknowledgment: Workshop organised by OUP.)




How translatable are terms related to English Language Teaching?





話得說回來,語言學 (linguistics)是很西方的學科,很多意念在中文中原來不存在,而且有其文化背景,故此翻譯成中文時始終有其局限,例如我找到的 turn-taking, Wh -question , spoken text, cohesive device, complex sentence, discourse marker等的中文翻譯,不算妥貼。

這亦令我覺得二零一一年中國政府教育部,頒佈全國中小學新的英語課程綱要,竟然只有中文版 沒有英文版;這真是匪夷所思。

Grammar as it is treated in coursebooks in Hong Kong

Grammar is an area which is dealt with rather poorly in coursebooks in Hong Kong. This directly affects the teaching and learning of grammar in schools.

Take ‘should’.

In a P4 coursebook, it is presented as:

‘We use ‘should’ to talk about the correct things to do. We do not change the verb after ‘should’.
(example sentence)
shouldn’t = should not’

In an S1 coursebook, it is presented as:
‘We use the modal ‘should’ to talk about things that are necessary or right to do. We use the same form of a verb after the modal ‘should’.
(example sentences)
We make negative statements with ‘should’ like this’:
(example sentence)

You will notice that:
(a) the depth of treatment is almost the same despite a grade level difference of 3 years;
(b) the approach to presenting grammar is equally ineffective in both examples: absence of a rich context; reliance on abstract explanation; and a focus mainly on language form, with scant attention to meaning and use.

The results:
(i) Boring – students not motivated to learn grammar;
(ii) Students see grammar as a set of tedious rules, rather than as a means for communicating ideas accurately;
(iii) As the grammar presentation is often simplistic, students fail to gain a sophisticated understanding of the form, meaning, and use of a grammar structure.

There is now a huge literature on grammar pedagogy. Yet these coursebooks fall back on the most uninspiring and ineffective method – abstract and over-simplified explanation. If we teachers rely on these coursebooks, we really can’t blame our students for not learning their grammar properly.

Using animals to spice up language drills

Animals have special appeal to young children. I recently observed 2 lower primary lessons in which the teachers skilfully used animals to spice up the activities. How did they do it?

In a P1 lesson, the teacher wanted the pupils to practise a question-structure. She put on the mask of a fox, and had the children ask Mr Fox questions. The children enthusiastically repeated, ‘Mr Fox, is it a …’ This make-believe format successfully livened up what could have been a monotonous drill.

In a P2 lesson, the teacher set up a group activity in the last part of the lesson. To arouse interest, the teacher appointed one boy to be Mr Wolf, and asked Mr Wolf to go to each group to pick a student to be his prey animal. There were 6 groups, so Mr Wolf collected a total of 6 preys, which he kept at the front of the classroom, ie, the den. The teacher then explained the language activity itself, which required each prey to go back to their own group to talk with their groupmates in order to complete a tasksheet. If they completed the task successfully, they could save their own member from Mr Wolf. Now, each group, led by the prey temporarily freed by Mr Wolf, worked on the task. When the prey animals had got the answers, they returned to the den with the completed worksheets.

Now, the teacher and Mr Wolf checked the completed worksheets together. If a completed worksheet was OK, the prey would be set free by Mr Wolf, and he/she could go back to his/her animal group. If not, the prey would be eaten up by Mr Wolf. Either way, the kids loved it.

In both cases, the language focus itself had nothing to do with animals. But packaging the language practice with something about animals turned out to be an effective way to captivate the children.

0518 Mr Fox

Having made a small mark in the history of ELT in Macao

I’m glad to have made a mark, albeit a small one, in the history of ELT in Macao. This was the first-ever study programme for the core teachers (骨幹教師) (primary English), organised by the DSEJ (Portuguese for the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau of the Macao SAR Govt) in support of the curriculum reform that is currently taking place in Macao. The programme has lasted for 15 months, consisting of several modules that were held on Saturday afternoons. Besides attending class, the participating teachers had to carry out post-module tryout teaching at their schools, and complete assignments. It was a highly intensive programme for the 30 teacher participants. I have been lucky to have taught on some modules of the programme, while Ms Gina Twellmann of Macao taught on some other modules of the programme.

The programme has allowed me to learn more about the culture and practice of ELT in Macao. This first-hand experience has also triggered my thinking on many issues related to curriculum reform, teacher development, and even the meaning and purpose of education. After this programme, I am even more convinced that teachers are the key to quality education, and that all parties concerned should do everything to make it possible for teachers to do a good job, if we are truly sincere about good education for our students.

On the ‘softer’ side, I have also learnt a few things about primary English teachers in Macao: they have good grammar knowledge and can tell you a lot of grammar terms; they have very beautiful handwriting; and they have strong 人情味. But they are like their counterparts in Hong Kong: overworked and overstressed with teaching and marking and endless school activities. So, when I wrapped up my sharing at yesterday’s closing ceremony for the study programme, and since their DSEJ Division Head responsible for curriculum reform was there, I took the opportunity to read aloud the following message from FB of two days ago, which has resonated with me:

‘A teacher somewhere in your neighbourhood tonight is grading and preparing lessons to teach your children while you are watching television. In the minute it takes you to read this, teachers all over the world are using their “free time”, and often investing their own money, for your child’s literacy, prosperity, and future. Repost if you are a teacher, love a teacher, or appreciate our teachers.’

Pictures from yesterday’s ceremony:



Using blurry pictures to challenge students

Here is another technique which I had learnt from a student teacher, and which I recently applied in my talks on English reading. The student teacher was teaching a P1 lesson, and she blurred some pictures of animals and had the children guess what they were. The children threw themselves into the game.

I applied the technique, and made a few blurry text types. During the talks, I showed them to the audience (secondary students) and invited them to guess what these text types were. They responded enthusiastically.

The underlying rationale is simple: students love being challenged (before they lose all interest in learning). And using a photo editor to blur a picture is as easy as ABC.

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