Hi all,

I’ve written a quick 3-page guide to using YouTube and TubeQuizard to help learners understand real-life pronunciation in videos.

Topics covered in the guide:
• how to find subtitled videos on YouTubes on any topic
• how to use YouTube functionality to create listening decoding activities
• how to use TubeQuizard.com to generate quizzes for subtitled YouTube videos, edit the quizzes if necessary, and look for videos that contain lots of examples of a certain grammar feature.
A printable pdf version is available here.
Hope you find this useful. All this functionality is freely available, so enjoy and spread the word. 🙂
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Hi everyone,

Earlier this year I gave a webinar for Macmillan Russia on using technology to promote good study habits. This was part of their Digital Technology for Exams webinar series.

I really enjoyed doing this webinar, and I’m very happy that they allowed me to share the recording.
P.S. Hat tip to Lizzie Pinard, whose IATEFL 2015 talk on learner autonomy first introduced me to some of the key ideas and sources on developing learner autonomy. After attending that talk, I shared Lizzie’s ideas with my colleagues at EPAM systems and we started experimenting on encouraging learner autonomy in a systematic way. This webinar sums some of that experience.

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Back in January, I came across a post by Shaun Sweeney, in which he was inviting all fellow teachers to a new Facebook group he’d created, called TD Lab Staffroom.

The group is meant for English teachers who’d like to use authentic listening but don’t want to spend ages trying to find a recording suitable for their class. The idea is that you post a topic and fellow English teachers record very short monologues about these topics. Alternatively, post an article or a short YouTube video and fellow teachers record their responses.

All recordings made so far are being collected in a dedicated Google drive folder, along with the transcripts. The topics so far have included ‘tell about your commute’ (with elementary learners in mind), your take on New Year resolutions (and an update on those resolutions in June), Would you delete Facebook?, your take on news and media, and more than a dozen more.

I’ve been meaning to use this material, but the chance aroze only last week. The topic was What frustrates you? (posted by Daniel Christopher), and here’s a lesson plan that I wrote based on two recordings. When I listened to the two recordings, what struck me was how similarly they were structured: both contained plenty of hedging devices to avoid sounding too negative – things like ‘I should sort of relax about this I suppose, but…‘ and ‘This is just a little thing people do, but I just think..’, so I included a focus on that in the materials.

The (editable) materials are available in this Dropbox folder (the .pdf can also be downloaded from the SlideShare below) – but this is really just an example of what could be done using the recording shared in the group, so do join if you like the idea of the group. 🙂

In the past, whenever I did a workshop on decoding authentic recordings with learners, I’d invariably hear this from someone in the room: ‘But surely this is only for advanced learners??’

In my experience, you can certainly do decoding with Pre-Intermediate learners and higher, so I thought I’d record a snippet with my new group, which is B1. We’re doing listening decoding for the first time with this group in this lesson.

Before this part of the lesson, we watched four 30-second authentic videos for gist (these were videos showing small talk, and the task was to identify the topic discussed). The learners are now working with a gapped transcript, transcribing questions and responses from the video.

All in all, we spent 19 minutes doing listening decoding in that lesson: 14 minutes transcribing and then 3 minutes summarizing the features we’d heard. We then moved on to categorize the questions and have a bit of practice making small talk.

I generally try to incorporate listening decoding in this way every 2-3 lessons, and I also set TubeQuizard quizzes based on the same video for homework. And I normally start noticing progress in my learner’s ability to cope with ‘standard’ AmE accents after about 5-6 lessons that have a listening decoding element.

I thought I need to organize all EVO-related links – I’ll be adding links to this post.

The session syllabus.
A summary of three articles that heavily influenced the design of the session.

Week 1 (main focus: autonomous listening)

TED talks for autonomous listening: ten activities shared by the participants

Week 2 (main focus: traditional lesson framework and its application to authentic materials)

Authentic listening with lower levels: possible and highly recommended – experiences shared by the participants

Week 4 (main focus: listening decoding; features of connected speech)

Features of connected speech -for each feature, there’s a short description, a video and a TubeQuizard quiz that gives some examples of the feature in unscripted speech

Using Aegisub to work on listening decoding skills: a video tutorial

Week 5 (main focus: practical activities for teaching listening decoding skills)

Webinar recording – in this live session we looked at a range of listening decoding activities and software tools that allow the teacher to create such activities ‘on the fly’, and discussed how to incorporate this work into a traditional listening lesson and into the syllabus.

An annotated list of activities, lesson snippets and resources targeting listening decoding

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This blog post was 18 months in the making.

Last year I did a webinar on Practical activities for teaching listening decoding skills for the Electronic Village Online session on Teaching Listening. The recording created by the webinar platform was in .exe format so I couldn’t share it, but I really enjoyed the webinar and have been meaning to create a screencast. Today I finally got round to making one, so here goes! The recording is divided into several parts because during the session I gave the participants links to some YouTube videos that I don’t own the copyright to. Would be very happy to hear your feedback if you watch it.

Best wishes,
Olya

TitlePractical activities for teaching listening decoding skills

Abstract: During the session we will:
(1) discuss how to incorporate working on listening decoding activities into your lessons and syllabus;
(2) try out a variety of listening decoding activities;
(3) watch and discuss videos of teachers demonstrating work on listening decoding skills;
(4) look at some software tools that you could use to create listening decoding activities.

Recording:

Part 1: an overview of the webinar:

 

 

Watch this video and think what levels you could use it with:

 

Part 2: analysis of Leo’s speech + an overview of two types of listening decoding activities
(link: http://ytcropper.com/cropped/fN5a80538fefba6)

 

Watch and analyze an extract from a lesson by Mark Rooney. What support does he give the learners when diagnosing their problem? How does he help them to train to distinguish between the sounds?
(link: http://ytcropper.com/cropped/do5a805cb335913)

 

Part 3: analysis of the extract with Mark Rooney:

 

Watch this extract from a lesson by Rachael Roberts, one of the authors of Navigate, and guess which feature of connected speech she’s focusing on:
(link: http://ytcropper.com/cropped/J05a805f9d6af3e)

Part 4: 

Watch another extract from Rachael Roberts’s lesson and analyze what kind of support she gives (link: http://ytcropper.com/crop.php?ytURL=J0ti4cziL-M)

Part 5: the rest of the session (in this part I mention Aegisub, a handy tool that allows users to create some activity types ‘on the fly’. At the end of this post there’s an 8-minute tutorial that explains how to work with Aegisub.)


Aegisub tutorial:

Ever since I started giving CELTA Technology input sessions about two years ago, I’ve  invariably mentioned to the trainees how to look for videos with high-quality subtitles on YouTube (answer: add ‘, cc’ to the search, e.g. ‘unboxing & comparison, cc‘) and how to check if the video you want to use contains good subs or auto-generated subs (answer: open the transcript by clicking on the sign under the video and check if it says ‘English auto-generated’ – if it doesn’t, it was uploaded by a human being. Sometimes the video has both auto-generated subs and good subs, in which case you’ll be able to switch to the good transcript. After that you can copy it by dragging your mouse over it while holding the left button – the way you’d do that with any text on the internet).

subsHowever, what I didn’t realize was that, even if the video only had auto-generated subs, I’d still be able to use the transcripts with my learners. I’ve always assumed that auto-generated transcripts were so inaccurate that it would take ages to edit them – too much hassle! But then a couple of months ago I was looking for a perfect phone comparison video to explore expressions for comparison with my group. I found a great video that contained lots of very useful language and, although it was quite long (nine minutes), I wanted the transcript so badly that I was prepared to spend hours weeding mistakes out of the auto-generated subs.

Only it didn’t take me an hour – it actually took me about 10 minutes. 

Let me walk through what I did:

First, I copied the auto-generated transcript and pasted it into oTranscribe.com, a nifty free web-service for transcribing audios and videos:

oTranscribe

Then I clicked on the ‘Choose YouTube video’ button and provided the link to my video. After that the service goes into the editing mode, allowing you to control the video using the keybord, which makes editing extremely easy: press F1 to rewind the last few seconds, F2 to skip a few seconds, ESC to pause the video/start it again (and when you start it, it automatically rewinds a couple of seconds, which is extremely handy).

oTranscribe1

When I started correcting the transcript, I was amazed to find that the transcript was actually pretty accurate. The fact that oTranscribe is so easy to use and that the automatically generated subs were quite accurate, I was able to edit the transcripts in one listen, occasionally stopping/rewinding here and there, and the whole process took me only a few minutes longer than the actual video duration. Amazing!

Let me know if you try this!

Best wishes,
Olya

In the school where I work, apart from the usual CPD options (workshops, lesson observations etc) there’s a mentoring scheme – I mentor half of our team, meeting with my colleagues regularly and discussing the issues they’d like to talk about and the steps they could take to explore techniques and issues relevant to them. At the moment I’m going on an extended leave and we’re planning to replace part of that scheme for some time with peer coaching, which is why I’ve been looking for resources on options for effective peer collaboration. There’s already a write-up on this blog of a very interesting IATEFL talk on peer coaching from three years ago (by Dita Phillips and Ela Wassell), and this post is a write-up of another talk, by Ana Garcia-Stone, from this year’s IATEFL (the video is available here).

Talk title: Teacher agency: empowering teachers through self-directed peer observations

Presenter: Ana Garcia-Stone, @AMGS1958

Contact details

Description: This talk describes a peer observation project carried out by two colleagues, done over a year, experimenting with three different types of observation. This process empowered both teachers and the observations revealed different dimensions of agency.

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Ana Garcia-Stone, a teacher and teacher trainer with over 25 years’ experience, felt stuck in a rut with her development and she didn’t know how to go forward. At one point, at an IATEFL conference, she was talking about that with Tessa Woodward, who suggested working with a less experienced colleague. Ana Garcia-Stone thought it was a good idea and she approached Kat Scuba, a colleague who’d been with her centre for about a year – someone who didn’t know much about her and her teacher training reputation, and who reminded her of her younger less experienced self.

Before starting the project:

They carried out the project without any ‘agenda’  – they just wanted to see what would emerge out of observations.

Before they started the project, they agreed that what they discussed would be confidential, so that they would be able to expose their weaknesses and grow:

Quote (trust)

The project. What they did: 

Here are the peer observation ideas that they tried out:

Unseen observation

In this ‘observation’ type you meet, discuss your class and what you’re going to do, go off and teach your class on your own, and then we get together afterwards and discuss how you feel that class went.

Reflection:

The two teachers had very different goals here. Ana Garcia-Stone’s partner, Kat Scuba, decided to use this opportunity to support her with teaching a group of young (four year old) learners, as this was the first time she was teaching a group of that age. She arrived at the meetings with pages after pages of notes and ideas, and the upshot of the experience was that she developed a framework for teaching that age group in the coming year.

Ana chose a different focus: a strong task-based approach, and she found that this experiment encouraged her to break out of the routine you fall into when you’ve got a lot of experience, and get back into lesson planning – her lesson plans got longer and longer and longer and she was thoroughly enjoying it.

In terms of the observation itself, a positive aspect was that, this being an ‘unseen’ observation, they only had to please themselves – thus avoiding the situation when you feel you have to ‘plan for the observer’. In the post-lesson observations, there again was no stakes – as there was trust between the participants and they felt free to discuss what had or hadn’t gone well.

Outcome: both participants found this experience extremely rewarding and they learnt a surprising amount from this type of observation.

I plan for my class, you teach my class, I observe

Ana and Kat met before and after the class to discuss that lesson.

Reflection: This mode may make you more aware of your planning – although Ana Garcia-Stone found that she only saw the weaknesses and strengths that she was aware of anyway. One interesting thing that happened was that this highlighted how you need to ‘start planning from your students’, as your know your students, but this is not always explicit in the plan. When she was observing, Ana Garcia-Stone saw things that were absent from the plan (e.g. you need to check this thing with Z. as he tends to get these things wrong or it might be better to separate these two students as they tend to distract each other). Her partner, Kat, found it difficult to teach her plan, because she didn’t understand the transitions and found them awkward/didn’t quite understand the logic of the lesson, even though they’d discussed this before the class. This highlighted the fact that transitions are things that are very automated and we tend not to write them out in the plan.

Ana taught Kat’s class – a C2 class of learners preparing for CPE. Kat’s approach to teaching this level was very different from what Ana normally does at C2 level. Ana normally introduces loads and loads of vocabulary, whereas Kat’s class was planned around a series of flipcharts, without heavy lexical input, and Ana felt that the learners were learning equally as effectively. So for Ana, the experience of teaching with those materials raised questions about her belief about the importance of teaching vocabulary at higher levels and whether what she was doing was useful. As a result, Ana went on to do some research about teaching vocabulary to higher level learners, she ran a community of practice around it, and she learnt a lot and changed the way she presented vocabulary to higher level learners. For her, this experience was very valuable.

I video your class, you watch on your own, you choose what to discuss, we discuss it

Reflection: The participants felt that, although they were both comfortable with one another and with one another’s classes, videotaping the classes was intrusive for both the teacher and the students, (the teachers felt nervous, the learners, who were twelve year old played up).

Neither of them felt they got anything particularly useful out of the experience – they felt they needed a task focusing on something visible, e.g. teacher-student interaction, the way the furniture is organized, transitions, etc.

The only outcome was that Kat felt that her classroom was ‘two-dimensional’ and she wanted to investigate making it ‘three-dimensional’.

Evaluation

Did the experiment foster agency?

The definitions of agency that Ana Garcia-Stone focused on at the beginning of the talk:

Agency.png

They were able to act (as in their centre they don’t have to ask for permission to carry out a project like that), and they were able to affect change in their classroom, but not beyond their classroom. The result of engaging in this kind of project is that the responsibility for one’s professional development shifts from ‘others’ to the teacher.

Also, in the words of Simon Borg, teachers will only change if their teaching beliefs are brought to the surface and their teaching beliefs change – this is what development is, and Ana felt that this was what happened with one of her teaching beliefs.

Evaluation quotes

Considerations:

  • What teachers want to focus on might be at odds with the aims of the institution (e.g. what if the institution wants the teachers to use more IT but the teachers don’t want to explore that?)
  • In the institution there might be some systems of accountability, e.g. a performance management system – so how do you account for this learning to someone who wasn’t there? I feel that I learnt and I can write a report on what I learnt, but that might not be enough for my manager at my institution.
  • Time constraints – e.g. does the timetable allow to observe each other’s classes?

References:

References

All in all, the experiment was definitely worth doing for a year, and both the participants miss it – maybe not the peer observations per se but the communication.

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I’ve been thinking of engaging in a peer coaching scheme ever since attending the talk by Dita Phillips and Ela Wassell that I mentioned at the beginning of the post – haven’t been able to do this, mostly because I’ve been finding it difficult to find time for things, what with being a new parent, juggling family and a heavy workload for the past two years. 

However, I really hope to get the chance to do that in the next academic year, and what I found especially valuable about Ana Garcia-Stone’s talk was specific ideas for things to try out and examples of specific takeaways, which gave me a better insight into what kind of things might emerge out of a project like this one. 

I hope that my team, who I’ve written the talk up for, will also find this talk inspiring and useful.