Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Busy Hands

We had another great day working with the kids! The kids made a variety of products and I did hear that many of them knew that dreamcatchers were not really Navajo and they knew the reason for some of the games they made - which specific skills they trained. I was really impressed with the boys who made the game where they rolled the big dreamcatchers and tried to catch them with the stick. Great idea!

Students: Our students are super - I would be very proud if they were to teach my children! They are honest, communicative, trustworthy and pleasant. Don't be afraid to ask for a job recommendation.

Assessment rubrics: Due to the mass of planning and organization of having all these kids at the PH, we have not been able to get the depth that would have been nice. Of course that was to be expected. And at the same time, I believe by simply having developed an observation rubric, having had to take notes and think about what they WOULD write, they have learned a lot about how to think like a teacher.

Positive effects of this project

  • Kids - they are so very happy to be at the PH, in a new setting. The whole trip together, the being in mixed groups is great.  This fit in nicely with Zukunftstag.
  • Parents - actually know what we do at the PH, have some insight into teacher training.
  • Teachers - get to see their kids in action in a different setting
  • Students - Get to take notes in a systematic way and think about how it would be when they are teaching; get to make an impression on kids - who knows, a few years down the road a few of them will be teachers.
Things to improve
  • Spend more time in the module actually planning the project. This project probably belongs more to didactics than Lernfelder.
  • Spend more time planning the project so that the assessment forms are at the forefront and not a side-thought after all the planning.
  • Communicate about parents and teachers dropping in and out better - that said, provide clearer rules and imply prepare students better for this.
  • ...
There are more things to improve, I know, but it's time for bed....zzzzzzzzzz

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

AFL projects with students

Today we had our first day of the project "Navajos don't live in tipis" at the PH! Kudos to you, students, for doing such an excellent job!!! Here are my initial thoughts:

AFL: Well, you will get to try out a few things, but the entire process cannot be observed in 2-4 days at the PH. I am fully aware of the fact, but still, I think you perhaps learn how to take notes about children and what systems/strategies you need, especially with a larger group! And here you get practice in observation - the whole situation of having a new teacher for a while is a chance and a challenge on both sides, and how you document what you observed can be very important in forming an opinion and also not losing thoughts that you have at the time. I saw some good techniques that can fit into formative attitude towards teaching and these little experiences you have not will perhaps be remembered and used later.

The topic: Well, I am not sure if we are breaking down cliches, but at least everyone is in the process of learning! So at times I think the topic was poorly chosen, on the other hand I think that it's a topic we see in Swiss schools, so here is a chance to deepen knowledge.
Zoe Buechel (she's mine, so I can publish her:))

The kids or the students? I had this discussion with Kathleen and I have to hope that what we are doing is beneficial to both!! I know for the kids it is exciting to be somewhere else, with new people, new places, new ideas, new chances and friends, but I am not sure that I have met the balance for the students. We will see in a few weeks!

So thank you for the work well done!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mixing Pegasus and Stress - perfect language lessons!

Pegasus rocks!!

Last week we talked about how to deal with English and French teaching. We discussed things like assigning homework on a strategy rather than language level, on contrastive linguistics, on the advantages of being qualified to teach both subjexts, on using music. And tonight, sitting here, Alison informs me that one of her classmates is related to Noah Veraguth! So we said, being really uncool parents, "Huh, who's that?". Upon further inspection we find out he's the lead singer of Pegasus and that he has a song with Stress (who we mentioned because he sings in French and English and German)!!

So here is an example:

See Noel's Room

for many other songs in both languages!
Of course, there are other artists like Patricia Kaas, Raffi, Etienne, who sing in both languages, but here are some more modern ones.

And next semester perhaps we'll develop some worksheets or some activities to teach the language of one of their songs!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Praxis Grundschule Potential Article

I got asked to write an article for Praxis Grundschule in German but then they changed their minds about the whole edition!! So I will simply paste it here for anyone looking for some useful ideas!! PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS IS UNEDITED!!

Fuzzy, was he? Clear as mud.

“What’s this supposed to be? The picture is not clear!” Is there any value in poor-quality or misleading pictures in young-learners’ classroom? A slight mistake in teaching has now turned into a principle: the worse the picture is, the more language learners produce – children talk and think about it. The following article will provide you with a concrete example of how as well as some other ideas for communicative activities based on images.

The value of good pictures and their use in scaffolding learners’ understanding of words and concepts is clearly mentioned in many a textbook and through basic searches on the topic. However, adding the word “fuzzy” or “unclear” to the word “picture” or “image” does not turn up anything of use. Here in Switzerland, teachers complain that the pre-made pictures on flashcards accompanying certain textbook are useless as the pictures do not provide a clear example of the lexical item at hand. Yet fuzzy pictures have a great value that will now be revealed to you!

Graphic 1

What if the goal of the lesson was not to name the objects in the pictures, but to speculate? The following lesson description is based on the teaching of Jim Gill’s song “All Filled Up” from the album Jim Gill Makes It Noisy In Boise Idaho. On Jim Gill's website you can find a song clip and much more.

In advance, select the key words from a song you want to introduce. Use the clipart function on Microsoft Word or the Google images option with the clipart filter on to find a picture that represents these words. Choose pictures that are purposefully not clear or that could be one of many things. Graphic 1 shows an example of the words selected from this song. Try it yourself – what could these things be?

To start the lesson, first of all, put the following sentence starters on the board:
I think this is a…
  • Maybe it’s a… 
  • Perhaps this is a… 
  • This could be a …. 
For beginners, the first two are appropriate and as learners develop their skills, other language of speculation is possible such as “This could very well be a…”. Practice these structures with the children by, for example, having them touch certain known objects (like classroom objects) under a blanket and guessing what they are or doing a simple drill with the entire class. Though perhaps not completely natural, have them use the language support to get used to these structures or have them pay attention to their intonation – “an apple?” or “an apple.” or “an apple!”.

Now, present the pictures to the learners. Have children work in pairs or small groups. With the help of a dictionary, have them speculate as to what the pictures could be. If the learners ask if they are right or wrong, then do not respond, just say “keep guessing”! Again, encourage them to use the sentence starters.

Have the pictures on the blackboard. Point to a picture and have all the learners say what they came up with. Either the teacher or the learners can write the words up on the blackboard. Graphic 2 is a list of possibilities learners have come up with in classroom setting.

Graphic 2

Do not worry if the learners do not find one of the correct words – they’ll learn that through the song. The author’s own experience with this activity has shown that children become curious about vocabulary and ask about the difference between jam and marmalade or how to pronounce ‘pear’ or ‘crumbs’.

Once these words are on the board, a fun game to play is the hot seat. Have two teams. Place two chairs in front of the board. Have one person from each team sit on a chair with his or her back to the board. Point to a word (or a word for each team using a magnet). The team must then describe the word until the person in the seat has guessed the word. Play this until the learners are tired of it.

Now hand out the song worksheet (below). Have the learners read through the text, see if they can find the missing word and match the picture to the gap. Play the song once or twice to find the answers. Play the song again so everyone can sing along.

The purpose of this activity was clearly to exploit fuzzy pictures for vocabulary development and for the guessing what something could be – which is useful in many a real-life context. Other options on unclear flash cards are for the learners to take ownership by adding on to pictures, emphasizing or re-drawing what is not clear. When working with self-made flash cards, what one learner draws may not be clear to someone else in the class, so swapping cards sets and guessing words can be useful in this context.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pronunciation sites workshop!

 I am too lazy to update my website, so I will put my workshop for January 14 and 18 here! 
Speaking Activities – Computer Resources

  1. --> spend time getting ideas for teaching and have fun practicing your own English.
  2. Go to and search for “Pron Pal”. Install the ‘app’ and play around with it.
  3. Go to Play the Trace Effects game. How might your learners use this?
  4. ABC Teach (;; Password: cook90. Search for words such as word walls, bingo (sounds bingo), …. a topic you’ll teach in the near future
  5. Bogglesworldesl ( (CAREFUL!! No WWW!!)
  6. Look around everywhere (also in the adults section). Also use the site search to search for things like ‘pronunciation’ or a topic.
  7. Check out - what sorts of things make sense here?
  8. Go to Search for “pronunciation” or “speaking”. What do you find?
  9. Go to - there are 3 pages of pronunciation activities – have fun!
  10. Go to and play some of the pronunciation games. Check out the other things on the site.
  11. Go through this guy’s great sites: 
  1. If you want more sites for ELT in Swiss schools, go here to Laura's site: 
  2. ELF Project in Swiss schools
  3. Used in class:
  4. Cool new cell phone app for learners: Kaplan English train
  5. Study Blue flash card maker for cell phones
  6. Fun tip: