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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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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