Monday, 28 November 2011

UG2BK - Hinglish, Chinglish & Singlish?

This is so hilarious I've just got to share it here, too. Shame it's so fast that learners may have a hard time following it. Anyway, just sit back and try to enjoy it: The History of English in 10 minutes!


Sunday, 27 November 2011

#ELTBITES Challenge: We like to move it, move it

Once in a while I read something and I find myself thinking, "Now, why didn't I think of that?". Well, Richard Gresswell had such an idea. He started a blog, called it ELTBITES, and challenged us:

"Describe an activity that requires no more than the teacher, students, and possibly making use of the board, pens, and paper. Describe the activity aims and procedure concisely in no more than 200 words."

Here is my contribution, which may not be all that original.

Image from ELTPics by @yearinthelifeof
Level: any
Time: as long as interest prevails
Material: your tongue, and students who obey instructions
Aims: vocabulary, warmer, filler, exercise, fun, ...

This is a simple activity to get the students moving, but, be warned, it can be addictive. I had students wanting to do it again and again, but, perhaps, it was just an excuse for them not to do any 'school work'! ;-)

Think of the language you want your students to work with. Say, you want to revise colours and clothes:

Those of you whose bedroom is white, stand up. (Notice use of relative pronoun, imperative.)
Remain standing.
What about blue?
And black? (I once had a student who has a black bedroom! Of course, we started a mini-conversation.)

Now, if you're wearing white trainers, sit down.
If you're wearing blue jeans, stand up.

You can vary the movements:

If you don't have a belt on, take one step to the left.
If you're wearing black underwear, take two steps back. (This will raise a lot of sniggers!)

Keep it dynamic. Think of unusual stuff (if you can touch your nose with your tongue...). Get them to observe each other (those who have short curly hair...). With higher levels, think of more challenging questions (those who believe in... those who would like to...).

Basically, the limit is your imagination. Hand the activity over to your students. Get them to ask the questions, and use their own commands. Encourage them to be creative.

If you do use this activity, tell us about it!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Stand By Me, Japan

This is a good an excuse as any to listen to a good song, and, at the same time, be reminded of the suffering the great nation had to endure earlier this year.

Why not use this video as a springboard for a class discussion on natural disasters, for example?

You might like to read this post on activities using songs.


Monday, 21 November 2011

How much is... or how much are...?

Words shaped by David Warr's PlantMaker

How much is a cheese sandwich and a coffee?
How much are a cheese sandwich and a coffee?

Which is correct?

This is a bit like my post on There is... or there are... Instinctively, I'd say the first sentence is the right one, but aren't we talking about more than one thing? A cheese sandwich AND a coffee?

Well, yes, but it boils down to what you are actually asking. Think about it. You are asking for the price of the two things together.

What is the price of a cheese sandwich, and what is the price of a coffee?
What is the price of a cheese sandwich and a coffee together?

Which do you mean? It's obvious now, isn't it? :-)

But then, would you say...

How much is the cds?
How much are the cds?

You'd say ask the second question, right? So, just as in there is/are, we use the verb that coincides with the nearest noun:

How much is a sandwich and two coffees?
How much are two coffees and a sandwich?

Comments are invited and appreciated. Bad Hair Day Smiley (Funny)


Saturday, 12 November 2011

How to navigate around this blog?

As part of the prize package for winning's Grammar Blog of the Year 2011, they have designed an infographic for me - thank you, team! Since I no longer have the dynamic tree menu, I thought it a good idea to have an infographic showing how to navigate around this blog.

There is also a bigger size available for download, should any school wish to print it for their classroom or computer lab.

This infographic will also be available from the page "Finding your way around this blog".

Do you like it?
The Best Grammar blog of 2011

Infographics - How to navigate around this blog

To see the full-sized version, click here
You can also see  the full-sized version here, if the above link doesn't work well for you.
If you would like to download a poster-sized (4725 x 12072 px) version for your classroom, click here.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Top Tools for Learning 2011

C4LPT (Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies), run by Jane Hart, is taking votes for their annual Top 100 Tools for Learning. This is the fifth time they'll be compiling the list, and voting closes on Sunday 13th Nov. To be honest, I've never participated in their previous compilations, nor, for that matter, in any other such lists run by others. There are so many so-called tech tools for learning, that one just becomes overwhelmed, and, furthermore, it's an area that doesn't remain static. Free sites may start to charge, software disappears, but for each that dies, 5 more are born, so if you don't keep abreast of the situation, you will simply lag too far behind.

I decided to participate in this year's compilation, but I had to think long and hard for my list. My criteria may be different to that of others, though. I thought to myself, which tools are imperative to my needs? Which would cause me the worst hardship were they to be removed? Which tools do I use, day in, day out? I'm sure some of these on my list would not appear on the list of others because they're simply so taken for granted that they're no longer considered a tech tool as such!

Here are my choices, in no particular order.
  1. Gmail: I've been using this since their beta days, and it's just revolutionised the way I manage my emails. Without Gmail, I don't think I'd have subscribed to so many sites, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to archive so much mail.
  2. Twitter: At first, I didn't understand what the fuss was about. Who wants to know about who you're having coffee with or how many miles you've run? Who has time to read a constant barrage of 140-character snippets? This was until I decided to take a look at...
  3. Tweetdeck, and when I found out that there are so many people who are using it not so much for social but for professional purposes, and when I learn about hashtags and such, I became hooked. Incidentally, Tweetdeck has been bought by Twitter a few months ago.
  4. Blogger: I've seen the other platforms, and I even have two wordpress blogs, but blogger makes it to my list because of its user-friendliness and versatility. Handling widgets is a piece of cake, and even if your knowledge of HTML is null, you'll be able to get a blog up and running in no time. Wordpress, on the other hand, gets to be such a pain, sometimes. It doesn't accept iframe code, and even putting line spaces in your post becomes an art form.
  5. Google Docs: I'm using this more and more, especially for written work. I hardly use paper if I can avoid it, and how many students do you know file their compositions systematically and refer back to them? Using Google Docs, they can access their past work much more easily, they can quick search for words or expressions, and if teachers use the comments feature to provide feedback, they are there for the students to refer to as and when required.
  6. Scoop It: This is my latest 'toy'. I use it as a sort of bookmarking tool. With so much information available, it's hard to keep track of it. You know how it is - you come across something that is interesting, but you either have no time to study it or it isn't something that is of use now, but might be for later, so you want to save it. Bookmark it? Only to forget, months later, that you had it bookmarked? I was never fond of Diigo, and although I have stuff in Livebinders, I find I hardly refer to them. ScoopIt is fast and its layout makes it easier to find what I'm looking for, and, if you share your scoops, you'll help others find what they're looking for, too. The Internet is all about give and take! Have a look at some of my ScoopIts: Why Twitter for Teachers, or Grammar Exercises.
  7. PowerPoint: Relatively easy to manage, and it's improved a lot since its inception. I don't like Prezi, to be honest. Sorry!
  8. Google Search: How did we find information before Google? Can you imagine life without Google Search? A lifesaver in many occasions. The world at our fingertips, literally.
  9. Wikipedia: Encyclopaedia for the masses. Fundamental.
  10. Audacity: A basic (and, importantly, free) sound editing tool which I use quite a bit.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Modal verbs: must, have to, or have got to?

Many students have trouble understanding the difference between must and have to, and it's really hardly surprising.

Before we get into that, I'd like to say, first, that we can use have to and have got to without any difference in meaning. The difference is the same as that between have and have got: the former is more formal, the latter is more colloquial. Have is more common in US English, and have got is more common in UK speech.

Most of the time, the difference between must and have to (when they are used in the positive) is so subtle as to make it rather pedantic.

Consider this:

I've got to go to the supermarket tomorrow.
I must go to the supermarket tomorrow.

The general explanation is that have (got) to implies a third party obligation and must implies a personal obligation.

Therefore the first sentence suggests that someone else wants me to go to the supermarket while the second sentence suggests that I personally want to. Regardless of which is used, it doesn't prevent the listener from understanding the essence of what is being communicated: the action of going to the supermarket.

What is important to note, however, is that when an adverb of frequecy is present, we generally prefer to use have (got) to.

I always have to eat breakfast.
I've always got to eat breakfast.
I must always eat breakfast.

On the other hand, in negative usage, the difference is significant.

When we want to say that something is not allowed, we use mustn't, but to say that it is not necessary, we use don't have to or haven't got to.

You mustn't smoke in here. (Smoking is prohibited)
You don't have to come in early tomorrow. (You can if you want, but it isn't necessary)

Rather than spending too much time trying to explain the subtle differences between must and have to when used positively it is far more important to help them understand the frequent errors they make with must. Here are two very common examples.

You must to wait here.
He doesn't must come tomorrow. (He mustn't/doesn't have to come tomorrow)

Remember that the modal verbs must, can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, and should are never followed by 'to' nor are they preceded by an auxiliary such as 'do'.

Note that these verbs do require a 'to':

have (got) to
ought to
need to (need functions as a normal verb in this case, although need also exists as a modal verb)

I've got to publish this article before the end of this week.
They ought to give you the contract - you're the best person for the job!
I need to have my hair cut.
Note the difference: You needn't come and get me; I'll make my own way.

For some practice, you can try Grammar Secrets.

Fertilised by Plant Maker


Sunday, 6 November 2011

SpiderScribe mindmapper now allows embedding and exporting

Followers of this blog would have seen me using a few websites to produce mind maps for various purposes. For a list of free mind mappers I've used, see the useful resources page.

To see examples of the mind maps in action, see Cokey Monkey, Ideas on a silver platter, and How to create an interactive mind map.

Lately, my favourite has been Spiderscribe in spite its having certain weaknesses; however, I'm pleased to announce that they have now allowed embedding, and exporting to either jpg or png format.

Below are examples of a png image, and an embedded map. These maps were used to demonstrate collocations of the word 'holiday', first seen on The Dogme Diaries, my reflective blog.

Mind maps for ELT CLIL Collocations

To navigate around the mind map, simply click on it and drag as you wish.