Practicing making questions with Past, Present, Future Simple using biographies of famous people

This is a simple activity if you want your students to practice making questions (or other activities that use the same tenses) in Past, Present, and Future tenses. There are 2 notions behind this activity:

  1. Tenses are usually taught separately and in isolation from each other. Inspired by Bloom’s Taxonomy, I was trying to apply an activity where students could make comparison between tenses. In this case because they have learned Present Simple, Past Simple, and Future Simple, thus this activity was created.
  2. After reading about Whole Language approach in language teaching and the importance of using authentic instead of artificial (read: textbook like) materials, I was intrigued to use more authentic materials in my class. The biography used here is an example.

Few notes before you do this activity:

  1. Make sure students have already learned about the 3 tenses and done some other necessary activities to practice them.
  2. Choose biography of a famous person who is still alive, because you need your students to also make predictions about the biographee’s life in the future to practice Future Simple Tense.
  3. You can choose to use biography in form of text, video, or the combination of the 2 where different types of skills are in practice.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. I used Bill Gates’ (mini) biography from Bio.com’s YouTube channel.
  2. Before viewing the video, students were divided into pairs.
  3. Students watched the biography, twice (more if you like).
  4. Each pair was instructed to make 3 questions using Past Simple, basically making questions about Bill Gates’ past.
  5. Before the next task, members of the group were swapped.
  6. Each pair was then instructed to make another 3 questions, this time using Present Simple, asking about Bill Gates’ current life.
  7. Members of the group were again swapped.
  8. Each pair for the last time was instructed to make 3 questions using Future Simple, making predictions about Bill Gates’ future.

At the end of the question making, you can ask students to either correct other groups’ questions or answer them. Here are some questions my students made, with few additions from me:

Past Simple Tense:

  1. Where was Bill Gates born?
  2. When did he found Microsoft?
  3. Did he drop out of school?

Present Simple Tense

  1. What does he do now?
  2. What is the name of his foundation?
  3. Is he a creative person?

Future Simple Tense

  1. What will Bill Gates do in 2014?
  2. Who will replace his position?
  3. Will he go bankrupt?

I hope this is useful for you. Don’t forget: like, share, comment. 🙂

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Practicing Past Simple Tense with Ladder Race (Game) and Story Writing

Just like my other blogposts under the tag teaching ideas, in this blogpost I am sharing activities that I used in my class for other English teachers to use and be inspired from. If you are reading this and interested in applying the activities described here, you are free to do so with customization and other changes based on your own needs.

There are two activities that I did described in this blogpost to practice Past Simple Tense. Please note that material presentation for Past Simple Tense had already been done before conducting these activities.

1. Ladder Race (game)

Perhaps you’ve heard about this game before, perhaps you haven’t. I tried to find a blog or website that gives description about the game but there was none. So let me explain it in case you don’t know.

Illustration of Ladder Race (game)

Illustration of Ladder Race (game)

  1. What you need: a board (white or black).
  2. Divide the class into 2 groups, let’s say Group A and Group B.
  3. Draw a ladder-like table like shown in the image above, together with numbers, 1 to 10, from bottom to top. The numbers represent the words each group has to race to write on the board.
  4. Start the game by writing the first word based on the category you play. In this case our focus was practicing Past Simple Tense, so the category was Verb 2 or Past Simple of the verb.
  5. Members from each group have to continue writing the second, third, fourth, etc. word by using the last letter from the previous word. For example, the first word is MET, so the next team member has to write a word that begins with the letter “T”. In the image, Group A wrote TOOK, Group B wrote TOLD.
  6. Both groups can’t use the same words. Group discussion is allowed. The first group to finish completing the ladder (1-10) wins.

2. Story Writing

The story writing is still done in groups. Each group, within a limited time frame, has to create a short story with all the 10 words that they have gathered in the first activity, the Ladder Race game. The story has to make sense and each group can decide the theme and topic to whatever they feel suitable with the vocabulary they have.

However, words that have been written by the groups are swapped before they begin the story writing. For example, words that are written by Group A will be given to Group B, vice versa. So each group must use words from the opponent team. Here’s a short story made by my students (Group B) using words from Group A. I found the story quite interesting and funny. They have surely done a good job.

Students' work in story writing using the Past Simple

Students’ work in story writing using the Past Simple

I hope this blogpost is useful. Leave your comment, like, or share. 🙂

Teaching “Will vs. Going to” with YouTube videos

It was only recently that I started making ‘contact’ with YouTube in terms of English Language Teaching (ELT). You can read my first experience in using YouTube here. Drawn by the successful attempt, I decided to give YouTube another try. This time with other grammar points: Will vs. Going to (Future Simple Tense). The activity consisted of 2 parts and used 4 videos: the first 3 videos were used as the explanatory videos for “Will vs. Going to” and the last video for writing (productive skill) practice using the 2 grammar points.

The steps are as below:

1. Students watch the first video about the use of ‘will’. The video contains some funny scenes so my students were quite entertained. You can choose to pause and play as the video contains several conversations and scenes. The video can also be used for other types of activities (listening, fill in the gaps, summary writing, etc.).

2. Worksheet is given to students and teacher explains a little bit about the use of ‘will’. Students are given time to do the worksheet while teacher guides, but only the ‘will’ part (the left-hand side). Download the worksheet that I made and used here Will vs. Going to Worksheet.

3. Students continue watching the second video about the use of ‘going to’. The form of this video is almost the same with the first one: it contains several conversations and scenes. It’s funny too.

4. After watching the second video, teacher explains about the use of ‘going to’ a little bit and students are asked to continue doing the second part of the worksheet (the ‘going to’ part). Again, teacher’s guide and assistance in students’ completing the worksheet is essential.

5. After finishing with ‘will’ and ‘going to’ in the worksheet, teacher prompts the question: “So what’s the difference between will and going to?” Students try to answer the question and teacher confirms it (explanation can be found in the worksheet). Third video is played.

6. After gaining understanding about the difference of ‘will’ and ‘going to’, students are asked to practice using the grammar units — again, with a YouTube video. I was trying to find a short video or movie about how the future will look like, but ended up with this video “What Will Clothes Look Like in the Future?” about the future of clothes. It is quite interesting and my students also found it quite amusing (so did I!).

7. So what’s the instruction for the practice? Students watch the very short documentary twice (or as many as you like depending on students’ level), then in pairs they have to write a summary about the documentary using ‘will’ and going to’. The aim of this practice is so students can make predictions about the future using ‘will’ and ‘going to’. Sentences should start with ‘will’ and ‘going to’ like these:

  1. There will …
  2. There is going to …
  3. The clothes will …
  4. The clothes are going to …

Here’s an example made by a group.

Students' work: Will vs. Going to

Students’ work: Will vs. Going to

Well, that’s all. I hope you find this blogpost useful. If you have comments or suggestions, or perhaps other brilliant ideas to teach grammar, feel free to drop me a comment. Thank you. 🙂

Practicing the imperative and modal auxiliaries with The White Stripes’ We’re Going to be Friends

Do you know this song?

I didn’t know this song until after I desperately asked for some suggestions on songs I could use to teach on my Twitter and a friend suggested me this. At the same time I was teaching the imperative and modal auxiliaries to my business English students. After watching the suggested video (the real music video from the band looks far more depressing than this one here) and reading the lyrics, I found the two grammar points were used a number of times.

Since the activity uses song as its media, the practice eventually incorporates listening as part of the grammar practice. Listening, just like reading, is considered to be an important input in the process of second language learning. Besides that, my other aim of using the song is to also show my students that grammar is not a separable unit or entity in a language. We can find it in speech and utterance, even songs. Hopefully this can motivate them to pay more attention to grammar.

The procedure of the practice involves listening, fill in the gaps activity, and followed by grammar and short writing practice. All of these activities are done individually but at the end of the listening activity they are allowed to discuss their findings. Because the topic of this song is about school, I believe school teachers can definitely use this song too. Here’s how I did the practice and other aspects about it.

Steps I applied during the practice

  1. Students watch the music video. This is done to entice students and let them grasp the context of the song.
  2. Worksheets are given to students. You can download the worksheet I made and used here We’re Going to be Friends Lyrics Worksheet.
  3. The music video is played 3 times while students are listening to the song and filling the gaps in the worksheet.
  4. Time to check students’ work! Students discuss and read (or sing) the lyrics aloud. There are many ways we can do to check students’ work. We can ask different students to read or sing the lyrics aloud one verse at a time, they read aloud or sing together, etc.
  5. By the fourth time they listened to the song, they could sing it. So we decided to sing together as the closing activity before we went to the next tasks: grammar and writing.
  6. Students do the grammar task in group or individually, then complete the activity by doing the writing task individually.

Why this activity is good

  1. According to Dr. Krashen, lowering stress means achieving more learning. Listening to songs can certainly make students feel more relaxed in classroom and help them enjoy the learning process.
  2. Choosing songs with the right tempo is also important. As their first listening activity, this song really suited my students well.
  3. Students can practice grammar from things that are familiar to them and their world — songs. It is hoped that they will be able to apply the practice on their own time.

Tips on using songs for grammar practice

  1. Choose songs that are appropriate to your students’ level, the tempo and difficulty level of the lyrics.
  2. Find songs in which the lyrics contain grammar points you are going to practice. It takes time but it’s worth it.
  3. Beware of lyrics and music videos that contain explicit content. Same concern I mentioned some time ago in my previous post.

So, what do you think about using songs to practice grammar? Are you interested in applying the same or similar activity in your class? Or do you have other ideas? Let me know by leaving your comments. 🙂

Pages you can use as additional handouts for pre-activity:

The imperative

Modal Verbs

Dear guru bahasa Inggris Indonesia: ini PR kita bersama

Tulisan ini sebenarnya hasil unek-unek yang saya tuangkan di akun Twitter saya, @NenoNeno, pada tanggal 22 Agustus 2013. Niatnya saya chirpify tapi karena lama tidak ngeblog, jadi lebih baik saya pindahkan ke sini saja.

Jika menurut Anda apa yang saya sampaikan di sini mengandung ketidakbenaran, silakan dikoreksi atau tinggalkan. Karena saya tidak ingin mengubah isinya, maka penulisan dan bahasa saya biarkan seperti sebagaimana yang saya tulis di Twitter.

Semoga bermanfaat. Syukur-syukur menjadi bahan renungan.

“Lama-lama risih jg memang lihat guru bahasa Inggris yg banyak salah grammar. Sayangnya bahasa Inggris memang bukan content subject.

@cath_mw: how come? mereka lokal atau native? kata temen yg di jkt, ada juga native yg ga menguasai grammar.

Bukan ‘menguasai’ grammar secara teori, mbak.
Tp menggunakannya dgn baik dan benar dlm speaking/writing. That’s why it’s a skill. @cath_mw

Content subject: mata pelajaran yg dipelajari utk dapat informasi (sejarah, biologi, dsb). Smtr bahasa Inggris = skill (ketrampilan).

Tp kalo misal syarat guru bahasa Inggris nilai TOEFL-nya harus minimal 600 mungkin ada banyak banget guru Indonesia yg bakal ‘terpangkas’.

Plus gosipnya kalo kuliah di jurusan pendidikan bahasa Inggris ga semua perkuliahan pake bahasa Inggris (kalo saya salah tolong dicerahkan).

@tionovita: saya kuliah Pendidkan Bahasa Inggris, dan emang ga semua perkuliahan pake Bahasa Inggris. Parahnya, ada mata kuliah yg ga penting.

Smtr bahasa itu didapat (acquired), bukan cuma dipelajari (learned). Utk mahir prosesnya bisa panjang, biar maksimal biasanya sejak kecil.

Bayangkan.. Calon guru bahasa Inggris masuk kuliah.. Sblmnya ga terekspos bahasa Inggris dan ketrampilan minim. Smtr kuliah cuma 4 tahun..

Jd.. Ini kyk ‘membentuk’ orang utk jd guru bahasa Inggris cuma dlm waktu 4 tahun & stlh itu mereka dilepas utk jd ‘panutan’ murid-muridnya.

@angelaamoy: iya betul mba, 4tahun itu ga cukup. Aku aja ngerasa masih kering ilmu, dan masih sering ikut course buat referensi mengajar. 🙂

Makanya ga heran akhirnya banyak cerita guru ngajar bahasa Inggris pake bahasa Indonesia sepanjang pelajaran atau ngajarin sesuatu yg salah.

Ditambah lagi perilaku guru (biasanya yg udah tua) yg merasa dia tau segalanya jd ga usah belajar lagi. Ilmu dan skill ga pernah ke-upgrade.

Di kurikulum 2013 jam pelajaran bahasa Inggris utk SMP/SMA dikurangi & utk SD ditiadakan (ga wajib). Ini jd kayak lingkaran setan.. Ngerii.

Anak-anak yg kurang terekspos bahasa Inggris ini nanti dewasa jd guru bahasa Inggris dan akhirnya ujung-ujungnya jd guru spt yg td. Ngerii..

Yg lebih ngeri lagi adalah keadaan ini (banyak guru bahasa Inggris dr Indonesia yg ga berkualitas) bikin celah utk guru-guru asing masuk.

Saya ga bilang guru penutur asli itu jelek atau ga perlu. Tp imbasnya ke persaingan tenaga kerja di dlm negeri — yg kadang ga masuk akal.

Gaji guru penutur asli (biasanya dr negara-negara asal bahasa Inggris) di lembaga kursus biasanya 3-4x lipat guru Indonesia utk entry level.

Yg bikin ga masuk akal bukan ketrampilan bahasa Inggrisnya (jelas ‘bule’ takdirnya dr lahir udah pake bahasa Inggris dong ya, pastinya fasih).

Tp kualifikasi mereka di luar ‘bisa bahasa Inggris’. Sama aja spt menjeneralisasi semua orang Indonesia pasti bisa ngajar bahasa Indonesia.

Kenyataannya mengajar itu perlu ketrampilan khusus. Saya banyak contoh kok ‘guru’ penutur asli yg ga suka ngajar, malah asal-asalan banget.

Tapi walo ‘asal-asalan’ gitu gaji mereka 4x di atas saya dong.. Bagi kalangan guru bahasa Inggris di Indonesia ini udah bukan rahasia lagi.

Saya masih respek sama guru penutur asli yg mengajar bahasa Inggris krn dia menikmati itu, punya gelar di bidang yg sesuai, dan kompeten.

Banyak kah guru penutur asli yg kompeten spt ini? Banyak.. Banyak kah guru penutur asli yg ga kompeten dan asal-asalan? Banyak juga..

Jd sama kayak guru Indonesia jg. Jd mentang-mentang ‘bule’ jangan langsung ‘takluk’ (baca: percaya 1.000%). Cari tau/tanya kualifikasinya, pengalamannya, dsb.

Jangan cuma orang dalam negeri, Indonesia, yg terus-terusan dipertanyakan/diragukan kualifikasinya. Kualat banget sama negeri sendiri..

Kalo cuma pengen temen ngobrol penutur asli, mending ke internet, cari temen chatting, jangan ke tempat kursus. Tempat kursus buat belajar.

Jadi apa nih intinya? Intinya apa? Pesan utk para calon & guru bahasa Inggris: PR-mu banyak. Belajar bahasa Inggris, pengajaran, pendidikan.

Bahasa Inggris skrg statusnya lingua franca. Cepat/lambat kualitas guru ga akan lagi dilihat dr warna kulitnya. Kita harus ambil momen itu.”

List of free webinars for English teachers (plus some tips!)

Today while I was chatting on Facebook (I do this a lot, don’t I? Well, isn’t that the whole idea of PLN?) with Qori, a member of Indonesian English Teachers’ Club (IETC), I remembered that I had this idea of putting a list of free webinars for English teachers on this blog. I have shared these links on the group’s Facebook and joined some of them. But before you ask, here’s a little bit on what a webinar is.

What is a webinar?

I believe by now all of you are already familiar with the term ‘webinar’. However, if you haven’t, as you might have guessed it, a webinar is basically a seminar that is held online, on a website.

Webinar = web + seminar.

Thanks to the advancement of technology, thus educational technology, people now can hold seminar, workshop, presentation, lecture online, using website or other forms of online technology as the platform. By making all of these activities available online, knowledge and skills can now be easily transferred or distributed across countries with minimum cost (at least from the point of view of the receiver).

As many economists consider this as a ‘weird’ economic behavior, nowadays more and more high-profile institutions provide and host online classes, including webinars. And why is this weird? Because they provide them for free. If you’re into free online courses, you should go check these websites (though courses are not limited to English teaching): Coursera, Khan Academy.

Why should I attend a webinar (at least once or twice)?

  1. The first thing I would consider is because it’s totally free. However though, you still need to provide yourself a decent computer and internet connection.
  2. It can help with your professional development. I guess one of the most important reasons to be in a webinar is that you can get all the latest trend, knowledge, and skills that you need to teach in your class. That’s surely something you and your institution can benefit from. Also, you can meet other teachers from all around the world (or other cities in your country) and start connecting (remember PLN?).
  3. Even though they are free, the speakers of these webinars are mostly experts in their field. So why waste this chance?
  4. Attending a webinar and basically following the latest trend in education and educational technology in specific will give you a sense on what’s going on in the world out there.

What should I prepare for a webinar?

  1. First and foremost: a computer (or laptop). Some webinars can be accessed through tablet or mobile device, but computer is always the best choice. Some platforms (e.g. Adobe Connect) have limited support on mobile device functionalities, although some might not (e.g. Blackboard).
  2. The second most important thing: a stable internet access. I have followed some webinars and noticed that Adobe Connect has the heaviest load of all other platforms (again, this is based on Indonesian standard modem-based internet connection). I believe this is due to its many features that run at the same time: video, voice, online chat, slides. Before you attend a webinar, you are usually informed on what platform the host will use (but you can read about it in this blogpost), so you can at least prepare yourself with better internet connection.
  3. The third most important thing: your time. Even though it is conducted online and you can sometimes attend a webinar while doing other stuff offline, I am sure you don’t want to miss valuable information delivered in the webinar. And because of its online nature, a webinar can only be held for around a maximum of 2 hours, so things can really go fast while you’re at it.

Other tips on attending a webinar

  1. Because there are lots of webinars out there, sometimes we are confused on which to attend. One thing for sure, you do not have to attend them all. What I usually do is register for webinars on topics that I need and specialize. For example: I’m teaching mostly adults and ESP, that is why attending a webinar on teaching young learners is a second priority for me.
  2. Be active in finding information on where to find webinars, Google them, join clubs for English teachers that give information about them, and connect with other teachers who are following the trend and can give you the information.
  3. Always bookmark sites that provide webinars so you will not lose them in the future. If you’re using Diigo, that’s even better, because other teachers will be able to look at your list too.
  4. Note down the schedule of webinars you have registered so you will not miss them. Some automatically send iCal reminder via email. If you miss a webinar, you usually can watch the recording later. However, you will not be able to ask questions directly to the speakers or interact with other participants. Also, since the hosts of these webinars are not in Indonesia, you will need a time converter to convert the time into WIB, WITA, or WIT.

And… Here’s the list of free webinars for English teachers

  1. American TESOL Webinars. You do not have to register to the website if you want to join a webinar. Webinars are presented every Friday at 4 PM EST or New York time with Shelly Terrell. Simply visit the site at the time given and login. Platform: Adobe Connect.
  2. English Language Teaching Webinars by Oxford University Press. You need to register for a webinar before attending it although you do not need to register to the website. Registration is closed one day before the webinar. Certificates of attendance and presentation slides are available after the webinar. Platform: Blackboard.
  3. Teacher Training Webinars by Macmillan English. You need to register for a webinar before attending it. Seats are limited (up to 2,000?) but they are free. Recordings and presentations of previous webinars are available with no registration. Platform: Blackboard.
  4. International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi). iTDi occasionally conducts free webinars for members of the website. You have to register to the website to register for it. The website also provides an online community for English teachers from all over the world. So while you’re not attending webinars, you can still connect with other teachers, experts, and mentors. Platform: Adobe Connect.
  5. IATEFL Webinars. Webinars are free but the recordings are only available for paid members. Make sure you do not miss the date and time to make the most of the webinars provided. Presentation slides are available after the webinar but only for a short while before they are moved to members’ area. Registration is not needed. Platform: Adobe Connect.
  6. Shaping The Way We Teach English Webinars by American English. Here you can find recordings of previous webinars, including the presentations and resources that came with them. No information on upcoming webinars so far. Platform: Adobe Connect.
  7. Webinars for English Teachers by US Embassy in Lima, Peru. You have to visit their Facebook Page or subscribe to their newsletter to get information about upcoming webinars. Meanwhile you can watch the recorded webinars on their YouTube channel. No registration is needed. By far this webinar is the most bandwidth-friendly, most probably because it only provides audio and chat.
  8. TeachingEnglish Webinars by British Council. Recorded webinars are available on the website and no registration is needed. However, too bad there are no new updates on the webinar or other activities on the page. Platform: Adobe Connect.
  9. Cambridge English Teacher. You have to register to the website if you want to register for a webinar. Most of the webinars are provided for paid members. There are only few webinars available for free for non-members.

Last but not least, I hope this blogpost is useful for you and your professional development. Feel free to drop your comment(s). 🙂