Recently I did a guest post on Alan Tait’s excellent blog about various favourite websites of mine. This has started something much bigger – I’m still going through my unsorted bookmarks!* As I go through and sort out my many bookmarks, I try to post the really good stuff on this blog so keep coming back for more great links!
Anyway this all got me thinking about websites for students. We talk about learner autonomy all the time and one area where students can quickly enjoy autonomy is the Internet. So here are a few suggestions about websites to introduce to your students as quickly as possible. Websites that will challenge, engage and entertain them.
One important thing – all of these websites have one thing in common. What they offer is bitesize and doesn’t take any more than 10 minutes. I’ve made 6 suggestions here so I’d suggest that introducing these would make for a very rewarding first hour of class with a new group of students – their homework: go and do two of them at home and report back tomorrow.
As Catherine Walker has mentioned in a couple of her seminars (British Council, London, 2010; IATEFL, Brighton, 2011), coming up with explanations of grammar rules and examples for the various uses of specific words on the spot is very difficult, nigh on impossible for even an experienced teacher. I’m a great proponent of inductive grammar learning and to this end I’m trying to introduce the British National Corpus to as many of my students as possible.
As with all things, this won’t be embraced by all students but a simple little exercise like “Look up “if” and “whether” and let’s discuss the patterns of use in the next class”, will give you a little more time to check up on your grammar and, more importantly, may also empower one or two students to figure it out for themselves and feel the satisfaction of teaching their peers. Often the students will also have other ways of explaining it that might be more effective than the teacher’s. Many hands make light work!
Again, this is another site I mentioned on Alan’s blog. Get the students on to this site as quickly as possible and this may give you an interesting discussion topic as a warmer for each and every class you have with them.
A BBC gem with a glossary of specific words and an active listening question. Simplicity and autonomy wrapped up in one little bundle. Brilliant.
This doesn’t have much communicative value (unless you use it in class) but at the very least it can challenge your learners and get them to focus on words they should be seeing and using in their every-day English.
It’s strangely addictive and while the learning might be very passive, it is certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. I remember showing this at the beginning of a class once; I caught one of the students playing it on his iPhone a couple of times over the next hour! There are much worse distractions if you ask me.
Can anybody help? As far as I know, there isn’t yet an unobtrusive program or application for me to store and neatly arrange everything I’ve bookmarked over the months and years. I’m sorry but I just don’t like the look/interface of del.icio.us. I’m using Xmarks Synchronizer to keep all my bookmarks together over my various browsers but if anyone knows of a better way to do this, please comment below!