Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Storytelling tips for the occasional Christmas storyteller

1:28 AM



There are few times in a year when breaking out the books and doing some storytelling with your students feels like the most appropriate thing to do. But Christmas is definitely one of them. I was one of those lucky kids who got to be told countless stories using countless voices and some pretty nifty face mimics by various family member starting with my mom.

I need to clarify that my native Romania might well be the place that storytelling got invented or was born. If you've ever met a Romanian, you'll know what I mean since he or she has told you at least one fantabulous story complete with mimics, body movement, several voices and at least 3 jokes. That's what I love about my genetic pool.

I'm a storyteller. It must have rubbed off my family. I enjoy telling and listening to stories and I've brought that into my classes more times than I remember. I do the voices, I do the face mimics, I run around the class, I go on chairs and I have cool sound effect, literally at my fingertips (thank you Keynote).

Here are some tips and tricks of the trade. The storytelling trade that is.

1. Start small. Plan for a short session where you will introduce the students to the story. This will give the opportunity to create a bit of anticipation, give students a chance to practice their predicting skills and introduce any illustrations.

2. Depending on where you're storytelling and who your audience is, have them sit around you. On the floor is better cause it puts you above them and hence it's easier to hold their attention. Of course, if you're doing it with adults (and I have), mind the knees. Us, adults, have crazy knees that tend to ache.

3. Make sure everyone can see you and the illustrations and can hear you clearly. Cue Keynote. Or PPT. Or any other presenting app, device or program. Just make sure everyone can see.

4. Read slowly and clearly. Not too slow to bore them but slow enough to allow the students to see the illustrations, see the connection between them and the text, get the emphasis in your tone. This will also allow your students (especially the tiny people) to think, ask questions, make comments.

5. If no one does, make comments about the illustrations and point to them to focus your students attention on them. Also encourage your students to dive in the storytelling through those comments.

6. Assigns students chunks from the story that they can repeat while you tell the story. If that's too difficult, give them an emotion. An "Aww!" or and "Ooh". It will make them part of the story. I remember I used to be in charge of providing the Oohs and Awws when I was a kid and I loved it!

7. Do I need to say this? Use gestures, mime and facial expressions to help convey the meaning of feelings and actions. Run, jump, duck, yell, stretch, fly and all other actions one might find necessary to show your students what's happening in the book. So yes, take your self-confessed dignity and throw it out the window if you will be doing storytelling. You can get it back later.

8. 
Pause for dramatic effect. Pause in order to allow what you have just said to sink in.

9. Do voices as much as possible. I know it's not easy and you feel silly but it will give your story a whole new feeling.

10. The same goes for sound effects. If sound effect are not your thing. Go to findsounds.com or nosili.com (great background noises that are meant to improve productivity and help you relax) or finally go to soundsnap.com (if you're feeling splurgy since everything needs to be paid for, but hey, you could recycle the story over and over and cut your costs and the quality of their audio is ah-mazing).

11. My last tip is quite simple. Choose a book you like. You need to feel involved and enjoy yourself or else it will show and nobody likes to feel like having fun should be a job.


Come back on Thursday for my top 5 Christmas books to use in the classroom!

The Sound Eater












Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Top ten songs for kids at Christmas

1:04 AM
Sitting here at my computer, typing away for a Christmas workshop I'm going to do later today, I found myself diving head first in my Christmas song list. I don't know what kind of person you are, but I'm the kind that has a serious, unchanging Christmas song list that basically plays on repeat for the whole of December.

Being the Christmas freak I am, I love everything about it, the tree, the baking, the gift giving, and I used to be a caroller in the strictest of senses. So now, being a teacher, I get to project all my excitement on my poor, unsuspecting students (both young and old) and try to make them as excited about Christmas as I am.

Cue Michael Buble, cinnamon cookies, endless Christmas lessons and the teaching of the futures with the only purpose of allowing me to inspect my students' plan for the holidays. Don't forget the endless vocabulary lists useless throughout the year but fundamental for the month of December in all English-speaking countries (this is obviously not true, but hey, I'm the teacher, I decide what gets taught, right?)

And the songs. Ah, the songs. Christmas carols and songs are to be played, included in lessons, potentially pushed upon students in order to make them carol, analysed and then neatly shelved for another year.

So here is a list of said songs that you can use with your tiny and not so tiny students to your heart's content!



1. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

This classic Christmas carol is loved by everyone, young and old. It talks about Santa’s special reindeer, Rudolph, who made a name for himself by using his glowing red nose to lead Santa’s sleigh through a dark, foggy night.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say,
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!"


2. Jingle Bells
This particular song has a catchy tune and the chorus is easy to learn. This is one of the first songs taught to children at a very early age.

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And we, we got upsot

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh yeah

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh


3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

This song gets children thinking about being good and obeying their parents. Most little ones tend to consciously think about their behavior more around Christmas so Santa will bring them gifts instead of a lump of coal.

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list
And checking it twice;
He's gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Oh! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town


4. Frosty the Snowman

The song tells the story of a snowman who comes to life and plays with the children who built him, all because of a magic top hat. Sadly, their fun comes to an end as the day begins to get warmer and the sun melts the snow.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
and two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children
know how he came to life one day.
There must have been some magic in that
old silk hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
he began to dance around.
O, Frosty the snowman
was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh
and play just the same as you and me.
Thumpetty thump thump,
thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

Frosty the snowman knew
the sun was hot that day,
So he said, "Let's run and
we'll have some fun
now before I melt away."
Down to the village,
with a broomstick in his hand,
Running here and there all
around the square saying,
Catch me if you can.
He led them down the streets of town
right to the traffic cop.
And he only paused a moment when
he heard him holler "Stop!"
For Frosty the snow man
had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
"Don't you cry,
I'll be back again some day."
Thumpetty thump thump,
thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.


5. Silent Night

This is a classic Christmas carol. It depicts the more spiritual side of Christmas and refers to the birth of Jesus Christ, the reason Christians celebrate the Christmas holiday.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the savior is born
Christ the savior is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord, at thy birth
Jesus Lord, at thy birth


6. The 12-day of Christmas

This fun little song describes 12 gifts given on the 12 days leading up to Christmas. It is a fun song for children to sing, and might even help younger children with their counting skills.

On the first day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree

On the second day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

On the third day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Four calling birds, etc.
And a partridge in a pear tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Five golden rings!
Four calling birds
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

On the [sixth - twelfth] day of Christmas
My true love sent to me

Six geese a laying

Seven swans a-swimming

Eight maids a-milking

Nine ladies dancing

10 lords a-leaping

11 pipers piping

12 drummers drumming

Five golden rings!
Four calling birds
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree


7. Deck the Hall


This perennial favorite dates all the way back to the 16th century, with some help from Mozart in the 18th century.

Deck the hall with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
'Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Troll the ancient yuletide carol
Fa la la la la, la la la la


See the blazing yule before us
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Strike the harp and join the chorus
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Follow me in merry measure
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
While I tell of yuletide treasure
Fa la la la la, la la la la


Fast away the old year passes
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Sing we joyous, all together
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Heedless of the wind and weather
Fa la la la la, la la la la


8. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

To get kids in the holiday spirit, there's nothing like wishing everyone a Merry Christmas with this easy to learn tune and lyrics.We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year

Chorus:
Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
Good tidings for Christmas
And a happy new year

Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
And a cup of good cheer

(chorus)

We won't go until we get some
We won't go until we get some
We won't go until we get some
So bring some out here

(chorus)



9. Winter Wonderland

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland

Gone away is the bluebird
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song, as we go along
Walking in a winter wonderland
In the meadow we can build a snowman
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say, "Are you married?"
We'll say, "No man"
But you can do the job, when you're in town

Later on, we'll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid, the plans that we've made
Walking in a winter wonderland

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland

Gone away is the bluebird
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song, as we go along
Walking in a winter wonderland

In the meadow we can build a snowman
And pretend that he's a circus clown
We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman
Yes, until the all the kids knock him down
And later on, we'll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid, the plans that we've made
Walking in a winter wonderland
Walking in a winter wonderland

10. I'll be home for Christmas

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

The Sound Eater

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Sound Eater does video

2:02 PM


Despite going through a very difficult November, I managed to put this together for all of you. And for myself. Definitely for myself as well. Going into video has been something that I've meant to do for the longest of time. While I'm not new to blogging in general, I am new to blogging about ELT and it all feels like a constant struggle to better my content and create meaningful material to share with you guys. 
That's why I think going into short videos will be a welcome change and maybe the future. A series of videos will focus on talking about aspects of sound production, trying to explain it as clearly as I can. Or even better yet, as clearly as I wished I had had someone explain to me when I was doing my Delta and started to get really interested in sounds.

Here is the second video that focuses on sounds. I'll be looking at voicing, something that will be explored further in Part 2.

Please hit that LIKE button if you enjoyed it and don't forget to SUBSCRIBE!



The Sound Eater

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Teaching and networking - why should we?

12:58 AM

As teachers, we know our job is mostly a solo gig and I think most of us chose it for that reason. It's nice to be in charge of what you do and how you do it. That being said, for all my teaching career, there have been all sorts of events, workshops, seminars, conferences, team building events; all meant to foster comradeship and present ample opportunities to network. Ah, that word, network, networking, networked. Why should we?

A quick search on Google will get you several million hits on the use of networking. Not all of them are about teaching, but the principle of bettering oneself though connecting with others is a valid point for all professions. Maybe not if you're an international, Bond-like spy. But for the rest of us, it's safe to say networking is not a bad idea.

So why should we? Here's my list of reasons:

1. Support
You will rarely feel as much part of a professional category or tribe as you do during an event, conference, workshop. There is something intrinsically good about getting like-minded people together so they can meet each other, be impressed with each other, like each other, and ultimately provide support to each other. That is if they are not hell bent on world domination. In that case, bad, very bad.
That feeling of belonging might get you through a bad day, might make you reach out for help, might make you help someone, might  mean a new friend and in a job where you’ll be flying solo most times, I sure do appreciate moments when I can cheer on fellow teachers and get cheered on.

2. Growth
This connects to support. When I started teaching, most of my growth came from teachers I worked with that graciously passed on their knowledge and patiently held my hand. But as your career grows, so do your needs for personal growth and if are a senior teacher, the chances you’ll be on the receiving end are slimmer. 
That doesn’t mean you don’t grow. You will learn about new technology, about new topics and trends, you’ll get a rush of energy from the new people. But you might want more.
Great. Go to a conference, event, workshop. Connect to people you don’t see everyday and you are bound to learn a trick or two. I credit my Delta classmates and the conferences I’ve gone to in the past two years with helping me grow as a teacher and as a person.

3. Change
Unless you live in a big city (or even if you do), you probably have a chartered course that you run though in a week. I’m a work, farmers market, dinner in a couple of places, shopping, walk the dog kind of person. My favourite thing about networking is that it’s usually somewhere I’ve never been. I get to change my course for a few days, see a new city, be around different people, try my hand at the local language (should I say try my tongue?) and enjoy the temporary change.

4. Fun
Most events have dinners, snacks, drinks preplanned. It’s in the schedule. It’s the epitome of networking. So have fun with it. Drink and eat, both until you can still entertain an adult, mumble-free conversation while managing to stay upright. Don't hog people, but rather mingle. If don't know anyone, chances are there are at least 5 other people with the same problem so now, go out there and find them. Most importantly, don't forget your business cards at home. 


So at the end of it all, should we network? Should we go that extra mile?
The answer is absolutely yes.



The Sound Eater


Friday, July 28, 2017

Why do we hear with our eyes?

2:41 AM


Do we really separate our senses? Do we really hear with our ears solely? I don't think that is true and this is why.

"Speech is multimodal and is produced with the mouth, the vocal tract, the hands and the entire body and perceived not only with our ears but also with our eyes"
Marion Dohen
Speech through the Ear, the Eye, the Mouth and the Hand
(Multimodal Signals: Cognitive and Algorithmic Issues, Springer, pp 24-39)

The auditory-visual (AV) speech integration has been steadily growing in importance and has most certainly benefited from recent advances in neurosciences and multisensory research. AV speech integration has started to raise questions regarding the computational rules we need in order to put together  information though one sense or across all senses. It has also made scientist wonder about the shape in which speech information is encoded in the brain (auditory vs. articulatory), or how AV speech interacts with the linguistic system as a whole.
After correcting the umpteenth student pronouncing words wrong because he was reading the word, Ihad a sort of a revelation. After spending a few months reading about AV speech integration and becoming fascinated with it I feel confident enough to say: we hear with our eyes, we listen with our eyes, we make our mouth produce sounds based on what our eyes see. Or at least on the quota our eyes share with our ears in AV speech integration. 

Think about it. Basically every single error correction I have provided regarding pronunciation in the last couple of years was, with very few exceptions, an error resulting from focusing on the visual cues. Learners were basing their expectations and performances of sound on the visual representation of the word. Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to use your eyes and prior knowledge to anticipate pronunciation, this is actually something you should be doing according to how our brains already function. But what did happen was not integration but rather superseding. What did happen was that the eyes and the expectations coupled with L1 interference and filtered through my learners mother tongue trained sound producing apparatus into English.

Any correction given to learners while they are still visually stimulated usually resulted in short-lived results, and sometimes not even those. 
Why? Because neurolinguistic research has shown that the brain learns to process different linguistic stimuli at different levels, depending on what your L1 is, how your senses developed as child, is you had any brain injury or not, etc. So what that means for learners is that something has to give sometimes. Their ears give out to their eyes and they listen with their eyes. This is why learners are so comfortable with listening with the transcript. Our job is to break that pattern and help them develop an (hopefully somewhat) equal AV speech integration that can help their brains decode and encode correctly the English language.

So what can we do about it? I've started experimenting with taking away the visual stimulation or introducing a positive visual stimulation. 
I alternate having learners say the words with their eyes closed, counting sounds and syllables, deciding stress, thinking about and focusing on sound production inside their mouths.

We record words with their IPA transcription, I teach them how to read a dictionary entry, we analyze graphic differences between letter and sound transcriptions, we look at how letters combine to create predictable patterns of sounds.
All small steps that could go a very long way.

What suggestions do you have about improving your students AV speech integration capacity?

The Sound Eater

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Mia Sound Pronunciation Boardgame

12:00 AM


Do you ever feel you could so much more with pronunciation in class but you're missing the right tools? Ever thought of a game to teach some basic aspects regarding pronunciation? You haven't?

Well, I have. Here is a simple boardgame to help your students become more aware of pronunciation. Of course Mia couldn't have missed this and so you'll probably want to download this set of flashcards first.

Th rules are simple. You need some coins. Heads is 1 space, tails is 2 spaces. If the students can answer the question, yay! If he or she can't, they can pass it to someone else. If that person can't answer either, the original player misses the next turn. 

The aim of the game is to get the students thinking about several tricky aspects of pronunciation such as stress patterns and syllable count, silent consonants, cognates and how their pronunciation might differ, sound production mechanics. I did design the board thinking of my own Italian students, but tried to make it as internationally relevant as possible. Undeniably, it will work better with Latin-based languages.

You can download the Mia Sound Pronunciation Boardgames HERE.

If you have any suggestions or special requests feel free to drop me a tweet, insta message (@thesoundeater) or a message/comment on my Facebook page The Sound Eater (while you're there, don't forget to hit that like button)
Hope you enjoy it!

Let me know how it goes!


The Sound Eater


Monday, May 29, 2017

How to rock you next pronunciation lesson Part 2

1:10 AM


Here I am with round two of Miss Mia Sound printables. Simple, easy to print and use worksheets that use simple visuals to explore sound production, educate your learners and raise their awareness of the importance of sound when learning a new language.

This time we'll be focusing on the two types of u sounds and two types of o sounds.
You get three flashcards, one presentation handout and one worksheet.
The presentation handout can be used as a visual (pinned to a whiteboard with a magnetic pin) and all  of the work can be finished with a game of Sounds Bingo (click on the link too visit the page where you can download it).






You can get them here.
For any suggestions, leave a comment!

Hope you enjoy it

The Sound Eater