Website Review: voxopop.com
In short: Voxopop is a message board website. You don’t type your thoughts and read stuff that others write. Instead, you record your voice and listen to stuff that others record. It’s pretty cool. And it’s great speaking and listening practice.
For teachers: You can start a private Talkgroup just for your class. You can use it for homework or for extensions on stuff you did in class.
P.S. Jason Renshaw (a.k.a. English Raven) made a great video review of Voxopop a while back. You can check it out here.
Website Review: Teaching English www.teachingenglish.org.uk/
In short: The best site for English teachers on the internet. If you only have time to visit one site a day, this should be it. What do you need? Activities for you classroom? They got ‘em. Training to make you a better teacher? Oh heck yeah. A worldwide community to bounce ideas off of, get help from, and have fun with. Si. Da. Nae. Hai. Tak. Yes. Yes. Yes.
For students: This site is mainly for teachers, but if your teacher isn’t using it, you might tell them about it. Also, check out their sister site for students: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en
For teachers: If you can’t find what you’re looking for, they also have links to tons of other sites. Oh, and make sure to like them on Facebook…
Website Review: bbclearningenglish.com
In short: Wow, what a great site. Some of the best things are:
For students: “The Flatmates” are fantastic short episodes about a group of young Londoners. Listen every morning. It’ll only take a few minutes. It’s a great way to start your day.
For teachers: Be sure to click on the for teachers tab to find tons of great stuff (like lesson plans) that practically turns the site into a full-on curriculum.
Website Review: iteslj.org
In short: One of the five best ESL sites on the internet. They have everything. They’ve been putting out great material for 15 years and let’s hope they never stop. Their own menu bar says it all: Articles, Lessons, Techniques, Questions, Games, Jokes, Things for Teachers, Links, and Activities for Students.
The site is organized perfectly. There’s no distracting advertising. If you have a slow connection, this site will still load quickly. What more could you want?
For students: The “Activities for Students” button will take you to this site a4esl.org, There, you’ll find many fun things you can do to improve your English.
For teachers: You can learn from the articles and use the lessons, techniques, etc. Why not contribute as well? See if you can get an article published. You’ll learn a lot while preparing it and give a little back to the community of teachers and students around the world.
Thinking about Essays
For teachers of writing, correcting essays presents problems. First, there are so many. Second, how can you get students to remember those corrections?
Jason Renshaw argues on English Raven that students expect too many corrections. More than that, they don’t get much out of the corrections. He does an experiment where he asks students a week later to remember any of the corrections he’d made. The students do a terrible job. Jason’s test might be a little unfair, but the idea is that if a student sees a paper full of red marks, they don’t look at anything. On the other hand, if they have just a few red marks, they examine them more closely.
Is this true? Maybe. A good study would be useful, but here are some important variables:
Anyway, from a serious student’s perspective, all their mistakes are at least interesting. And the important mistakes might surprise teachers. Sometimes a student has struggled over a sentence, but the teacher doesn’t realize it. If you don’t let them know where their mistakes are, they may never know if they were successful with a particular sentence.
On the other hand, students need to understand the time constraints teachers have. If you don’t have the time to give each essay detailed corrections, then you don’t have the time. There’s no changing it.
The Stuart Mill English business corrects all the mistakes and then we note key mistakes. For the busy teacher, maybe a better strategy would be to simply underline all the mistakes (so that your students know that you know) and then to add three key mistakes at the end of the essay. You could explain those errors—why they are wrong, the grammar principle behind them, and suggestions for practice. If the student wants more work, suggest that they rewrite the essay and try to find a way to rewrite anything that was underlined.
One last point: one of the keys to learning is repetition. If a student spends two minutes with their essay, one correction or fifty won’t matter. Follow-up exercises are more important than anything else.