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  • timothyhampson 1:20 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Teaching Ideas   

    The whys and hows of cooking in class 


    Cooking as a part of an EFL class might not be something you’ve thought of before. I certainly hadn’t before I got asked to do one last week. I did the class on Monday and Tuesday this week and immediately knew this was something I had to write a blog about to encourage others to get cooking in class.

    Why cook in class?

    1. Everyone loves food.
    2. You can use lots of Task Based Learning. I’m not really enough of an expert on ELT theory to say I have a really informed opinion on TBL, but lots of people who are experts do recommend it.
    3. All the language usage will be authentic. The students will really care about getting their recipe right, so when they’re asking you questions or listening to instructions they’ll be very engaged.
    4. It’s not as hard as you think. Even if your school has no ovens or anything you could probably do a lesson on different countries’ favourite sandwiches, right? People who teach adults might think ‘oh I couldn’t do that’, but I’m pretty sure that lots of adult students would also enjoy something like this. There are probably lots of ‘write up your favourite recipe in English’ follow ups that adults could do that children would find hard.
    5. You can teach other life skills. Learning to cook is an important thing to know. If you can teach it at the same time as English, that’s great!
    6. It’s a lesson that you get to eat food at the end of, obviously it’s a good idea.

    What we did

    I decided to make pizzas for the first class. We’re going to do nachos next time around. I followed this recipe to make the pizzas. We cheated and used tomato ketchup for the sauce (not my idea!) which I was worried about but turned out fine. The class took an hour and a half but it would have taken about 50 minutes with a bigger oven.

    There are a huge range of options that it would be possible to make. If you decide to do a cooking class make sure you think about what equipment, time, and space you have. I’d recommend pre-teaching some of the vocabulary, especially weird cooking verbs (no one knew ‘sprinkle’ or ‘spread’).

    Happy cooking, here are some pizza photos from class.


    What it looked like before we cooked it.


    Pizzas in the oven, we really needed to be able to fit more pizzas in there. 

    • Adi Rajan 1:47 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Did you do a language analysis towards the end? I’m curious about what sort of language items you may have discussed with your students.


    • timothyhampson 1:53 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Mostly the point was that the students could understand the instructions in English and ask questions in English. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by language analysis but probably not. 🙂


  • timothyhampson 1:00 am on October 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Teaching Ideas   

    Conversation classes that don’t suck 

    At my school they’re called ‘free talking’ classes, but I’m sure some schools call them ‘conversation class’ or something similar. I really dreaded these when I started teaching and I sometimes still do. There’s something difficult about having too much freedom in the classroom, however it’s also very freeing. Some of my best and worst lessons have happened in free talking class, because I’ve tried out new things and they’ve either worked or gone terribly. I wanted to share a few thoughts from these classes in case anyone else teaches a similar class. This post is mostly about my middle school students but some of it will apply to other ages too.

    Have a focus

    I’m a big Dogme fan and I try to incorporate Dogme moments as often as possible. I still find it really useful to go with a really clear list of interesting questions centred around a grammar point or theme. Middle schoolers can be masters of the one word answer when they feel like it (I can’t say I was much different in my day), and so going in with an expectation that you’ll just elicit an interesting topic might be naive. The thing about having a plan is that you can abandon it at any moment if you have a better idea. A lot of the time you’ll still be able to pick up where you left off some other time. Personally having a plan makes me more comfortable following up something interesting: I know I can follow anything interesting and I’ve still got a safety net there.

    Be human


    Anywhere in the world pupils might feel a little awkward about talking to their teacher, but this is maybe more the case in Korea than many other places (Mike Griffin writes here more about this). It seems like the expectation is that the teacher will make most of the contributions and the students will absorb them. This might be fine for lots of subjects but for conversation to happen the students need to be making contributions. It took me time to overcome these preconceptions of what should be happening in the classroom; a big part of that was letting my pupils get to know me. A few glances at my mistake ridden Korean diary and some mildly embarrassing stories managed to persuade them I’m not just not a fount of knowledge. This has broken down the teacher-student barrier a bit and made them more happy to be forthcoming with their conversation.

    Be interested

    “What did you do last weekend?”

    “I told you on Friday I will visit my grandmother’s house”

    This conversation happened a few weeks ago and made me feel really bad, I’d completely forgotten. ‘What did you do last weekend?’ is one of my go-to questions for the start of class, but I asking a question a lot doesn’t excuse not paying lots of attention. Why would students tell me things if they think I’ll forget the answer?

    The flip side is that remembering little things about pupils makes them feel like their contributions are valuable. A new dog cafe opened in town recently. When I told one of my girls, who loves dogs, about it we had a really good conversation about the cafe, then dogs, then our town and then ways to spend pocket-money.

    Be interesting

    It’s really difficult to be interesting all of the time and some of this will be trial and error, but it’s much easier to talk about interesting things. If you’re using a list of questions, make sure the questions are interesting too. I’d recommend re-using topics that have worked before: it’s not too hard to put a different spin on things and it’s doubtful that you’ll have said everything that could be said. It’s hard to say what would work well in other classes but some topics that worked for me are:

    • Food (the mother lode of conversation topics)
    • Animals
    • Manners
    • Travel (remember your students might not be well-travelled and might be embarrassed about this, keep it local)
    • How would your life have been different if you lived ____ years ago? (especially interesting given Korea’s rapid development.)
    • Sport
    • Gaming
    • Music (dangerous because Korean kids are prone to be really mean about your favourite band if you play them something.)

    Follow up questions

    Finally, if pupils get good at asking follow-up questions, they’ll naturally extend conversations they have. If you get them to a place where they’re confident doing this*, they’ll need less and less in terms of lists of input for the teacher and will naturally steer the conversation onto topics they really care about.

  • timothyhampson 3:14 pm on October 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Teaching Ideas,   

    KOTSESOL (part 3) Herbert Putcha on thinking and young learners 

    N.b. I’m going to make these write-ups slightly shorter than my last one as I realised just how long it would take to do otherwise. If I did a full write-up I’d forget what people said by the time I got to the end of Sundays talks. If you want more detail about anything drop a comment in the box below and I’ll try and help.

    Herbert Puchta – teaching young learners to think

    The next talk after Mike Long’s was Herbert Puchta on teaching young learners to think. I think I lucked out finding it because I wasn’t really sure what to see but it turned out to be very relevant to me  It was a really good presentation. He opened by saying that students are so bombarded by information that it can be very tempting to do the same to them in the classroom with all singing all dancing lessons. His perspective was that if young learners are engaged emotionally engaged they’ll enjoy classes. (He proved this by citing some studies that show that emotional engagement in class causes dopamine to be released. I’m pretty sure that you don’t need neuroscience to show that though.)

    To make lessons emotionally engaging you should make them meaningful. Lots of lessons aren’t meaningful, for example in the dialogues they use. If you ask ‘What colour is my tie? What colour is my suit?’ and so on, you’re not really having a meaningful conversation. He pointed out if you asked these questions on the street people would think you were really weird. Instead of asking about tie colours he suggested giving students blank CDs and ask them what colours they can see reflected (refracted?) when it’s held up to the light.

    Colours in a CD

    By engaging learners different thinking skills we also emotionally engage them, and so they can learn more in our classes.  He gave a list of all of the thinking skills he’d identified, but the one he spoke about most was imagination. We should, for example, set gap fills with lots of possible answers where they can be imaginative. He did give some more examples and you can have a look at them here.

    The talk was really good, even though the conclusion was make lessons emotionally engaging and let kids use their imagination which isn’t that controversial. It was nice to see it delivered from a neuroscience point of view. Afterwards I bought his Teaching Young Learners to Think book. I’ve used it a few times in the last week and it seems pretty good so far. I’m sure I’ll do a full review in the future.

    Questions to think about

    The talk wasn’t that contentious to be honest, although I’m not that sure how much of a ‘real thing’ neuroscience actually is. So, what was one time you really emotionally engaged learners in your class? How did you do it? What was the result?

  • timothyhampson 3:46 am on September 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Teaching Ideas, Word of the week   

    Word of the week 

    One of the things I really want to do with this blog is put classroom ideas out there. They might be good ideas so you can steal them, or they might be bad ideas so you can learn from my mistakes. Either way any feedback is appreciated so that, good or bad, my classroom ideas can be better.

    I noticed recently that lots of my pupils don’t know certain pieces of vocabulary. Weirdly they all seem to not know the same things. They already do a lot of vocabulary work with a list of maybe 100 words to memorise each month, but I thought that adding a really useful extra word each week might be a good thing. I made some posters with ‘Word of the week’ written on, laminated them. The plan is to scribble a word and it’s Korean translation on with a blackboard marker each week.

    The first word of the week was ‘rude 무례하다*’ because I was fed up of blank looks whenever I said ‘Don’t be rude!’ The first week of trying this out has gone pretty well, sort of. My pupils (especially 6th graders) think it’s hilarious to shout ‘Don’t be rude’ at each other (and me *sigh*) for no reason. My classes might not be that much more polite but at least they probably won’t forget how to say ‘rude’ now.

    *Just for the record’례’ is some tough Hangul to get your mouth round.

    The next word of the week is going to be ‘least favourite’ because everyone knows ‘favourite’ but is confused if I add a ‘least’ in front of it. I’ll update soon and let you know how it goes. Before I do, has anyone tried anything similar to this before? Do you have any ideas for words that might work as word of the week? Do you have an idea about how this could work better? Let me know in the comments.

    • David Harbinson 5:18 am on October 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I think what you’re doing sounds good. I like that you’re introducing it in a phrase/in context, and I would imagine that this will help the students retain it more easily and possibly in the future use the pattern and adapt it. And it’s great that the students are already shouting it out freely. I’m sure I read another post quite recently where the teacher talked about the students shouting things out in class, at first for fun, but it eventually turned in to something more meaningful. I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it though, but if I find the post, I’ll let you know.


      • timothyhampson 12:32 am on October 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks David, I think it’s better to present it in context too. Maybe a phrase of the week would be better. If something is funny it seems easier to remember so hopefully I can inject some humour into it in the future.


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