Using Kahoot! in a language classroom

How I found out about Kahoot! 

“I did not sign up for this! I am an English teacher, not a wildlife wrangler! And I am never playing competitive games in my classroom again!”, I was thinking to myself as I watched my 20-student class erupt into shouts, scattering answer cards around the classroom and stabbing the air with uncapped (oh horror!)  markers for emphasis.

 

It all started well enough. In order to review some of the material we covered in the last few weeks, I devised a PowerPoint-based quiz. Students were working in groups and had to answer a variety of questions, i.e. finding a spelling mistake in a sentence, choosing a word that matches the definition on the screen etc. The teams had to write their answers on large answer cards and lift them in the air. The first team who displayed a correct answer (including correct spelling) gets a point. And here lies the problem. Hard as I tried, I was never sure if I made the right call as to who was the first. The students didn’t help the matters, claiming that it was definitely their team who answered first, even as their teammates were still writing an answer down.

It was during one of these ‘WE WERE FIRST TEACHER’ shouting matches when a student asked me why I wasn’t using Kahoot! He had me at ‘you answer with your mobile phone and the game sees who was first’. I questioned the student about which of my colleagues used this amazing game and set to researching.

What is Kahoot! and how does it work?

As I found out, Kahoot! is a free online platform for creating and running learning games. It can be used to create multiple-choice questions with embedded pictures and videos. . Teachers can either create their own Kahoots or search for publicly available games. There are tons of Kahoots out there based on specific textbooks such as New English File or specific grammar points. You can also check out trending Kahoots as well as most popular ones, although bear in mind that not all of them will be related to language learning – Kahoot! is popular in all learning environments and subjects including regular school subjects like chemistry or math.

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DELTA Module 1 Tips

This post is part of a series of posts I wrote about my own experience of taking DELTA. The first post describing which DELTA preparation courses I took and how I did on my other Modules is here. As for Module 1, I took my Module 1 exam in December, 2014 and I got Pass with Distinction.

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This is what you are allowed to bring into the exam room – some water, an ID and pens. These fine-point pens became my obsession in the run up to the exam. I single-handedly depleted my university stationary store’s supply of these pens.

Here are my tips on doing the DELTA Module 1:

Tip #1. Do your background reading and study the Handbook before the course starts 

This is the most important tip and I can’t emphasize enough – if you are doing a course to prepare for the exam, do your background reading BEFORE the start of the course. I learned this from my own mistakes. In 2014, it had been over a year after I did my CELTA and I had been planning to enroll on a Module 1 preparation course. When shopping around for courses, I saw that a course for the June exam was about to start, so I panicked and applied. After I was accepted, I started looking at the course materials and realized that I have no idea what’s happening. I decided that there is no way I’d be ready for the exam in June. I deferred the course to the following fall (a very cool thing that ITI Istanbul where I did my course lets you do – you can do the online course more than once!). Then I did what I should have done before I started:

  1. Study the DELTA Handbook so that I knew exactly what the exam consists of. You should know the layout of papers, how many tasks there are and how many points each part is worth. There is also specific advice in the handbook on how to approach each task. Finally, there is a sample exam with answers. Once you read all that and do the sample exam, you`ll get an idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are and you can prioritize your reading.
  2. Start on my reading. If you are doing a course, you`ll be provided with a list of suggested reading but here are some things that helped me.

First of all, here are the books that I found useful. I know it’s a huge list but some of these books are fairly short (especially the How to Teach… series) and you don’t need to read them from the beginning to end. Also, you will need most of these for Modules 2 and 3.

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My DELTA Experience

Now that I come to the end of my own DELTA journey and I would like to share my experience with all you potential DELTA-ers out there in the hope that it helps you.

The order in which I did my DELTA was Module 1 – Module 3 – Module 2. There is no set order in which you need to do the modules, and I found that the way I did worked very well for me. While preparing for Module 1, I read a wide variety of books and as a result, developed a good understanding of a whole host of teaching issues. With Module 3, I got good at academic writing and the whole drafting/revising/re-drafting process. All of the above came useful during Module 2. It was by far the most intensive of the modules, mostly because in 1 and 3 you can pace yourself and space out the studying/writing but in Module 2 there is no time to pause – you are always writing assignments or planning lessons or panicking about how much you have to do and stress-eating cheese (true story).

Module 1

A very blurry photo right before the exam - I was vibrating with nerves!

A very blurry photo right before the exam – I was vibrating with nerves!

I took my Module 1 exam in December, 2014 and I got Pass with Distinction. To prepare for the exam, I took an online course with ITI Istanbul. It was conducted via Moodle and there were lots of useful links and how-to guides, including ‘What to do first’. Our exam practice papers were graded promptly and we received constructive feedback. One great thing about the course is that when the time comes to register for the exam, should you decide that you are not quite ready yet, you can enroll into the next online course free of charge. Another useful feature was the forum where you could post all your silly questions and concerns which were answered by your peers and tutors. I outlined some tips for Module one specifically in this post.

 

Module 2

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Using Whatsapp for Speaking and Listening Practice

This post expands on a presentation titled Extending the Classroom: Using Whatsapp for Listening and Speaking Practice which I made at the TESOL Greece 37th Annual Convention 2016 in Athens, Greece.

As I wrote in my conference presentation abstract, one of the biggest challenges EFL teachers face is providing students with opportunities and reasons to engage in meaningful interactions. Constraints imposed by curricula (e.g. not enough class hours for speaking) or classroom sizes often mean that the ways students interact in the classroom are limited and insufficient for achieving desired language proficiency. Introduction of mobile technologies into the classroom provides an additional platform for interaction and communication, as, according to Kukulska-Hulme et al (2015), “Mobile technologies expand and extend the territory where language may be rehearsed and practised.”

Mobile phones are everywhere, including the classroom, and they are here to stay.The multitude of articles and blog posts providing ideas on using mobile phones, WhatsApp or talking about mobile learning attest to that.

Finding practical and meaningful ways to utilize mobile technology in the classroom has become an important part of my teaching practice and I am very happy to have developed activities that use mobile phones to practice English in a very organic way.  I also found that having students do things with instant messaging apps like Whatsapp outside the classroom fosters learner autonomy and peer learning.

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My students doing a listening activity via WhatsApp

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CELTA Tips

I did my CELTA with the Campbell Institute in Wellington, New Zealand in 2013 and was awarded Pass A, the highest grade which was was awarded to only 5% of CELTA trainees that year.  Despite the fact that the course was every bit as intense as I thought it would img_4400be, it was an extremely positive experience.Our teaching practice groups (elementary and intermediate levels) have been patient with us and enthusiastic about learning. We had the most amazing tutors on this course: Mo Killip, Jo Leach and Annie Marenghi – collectively and individually -were everything a teacher trainer should be: patient, encouraging, extremely knowledgeable, inspiring and supportive. When I enrolled into the course, I had been teaching for about 5 years and I still learned loads and loads of things as well as made some great friends among my fellow trainees that I keep in touch with to this day.

Reflecting on my experience, I came up with some tips on doing the CELTA – and some lessons I learned from my own experience on the course. I suggest reading these tips prior to the course and then going over them again once you start on the course and learn about the things I mention here.

Tip #1. Make CELTA your one and only priority

If you are doing a full-time face-to-face CELTA course, forget about working and possibly socializing. You won’t be much fun to socialize with anyway because nobody will want to hear about how cool Cuisenaire rods turned out to be or how you learned to write awesome concept-checking questions for grammar and vocabulary which by then you will be referring to as CCQs, further confusing your friends and family.

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