Catalyst Review from the Alps

Book Review: ETAS Newsletter – English Teachers Association Switzerland

A deep review from ETAS. The reviewer offers some suggestions for using Catalyst in classes where students may not be universally equipped with iPads.
“…what I saw here was technology that did not aim to bedazzle but to engage and truly help learners complete their tasks. It is a well-thought-out taskbook for teachers to use in class…”
Click to read the review online at the web hub of ETAS English Teachers Association Switzerland in the ETAS Newsletter. More on Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners.

Catalyst: Rave Review at HLT Mag

Book Preview Humanising Language Teaching Magazine

Catalyst was selected by the gang at HLT Mag because of the strong ‘humanising’ element embodied in the student-centred approach at the heart of the conversation taskbook.
Catalyst is a collection of firsts. Catalyst ESL Taskbook is the first and only, “multi-touch” ELT textbook made expressly for the iPad platform. Moreover, Catalyst is the first coursebook that integrates the acquisition of communication tactics into the syllabus. Catalyst is also the first oral English resource to employ a failsafe topic-creation mechanism. On top of all that, relevance, review and assessment are all built-in. Taken together, these features virtually eliminate teacher prep.

Something for Zoomers

I just finished making a web app called Talk It Up! that should be useful in dedicated conversation classes, especially as Zoom-based remote teaching seems likely to dominate for the foreseeable future. Of course it works in face2face group contexts as well.

I may turn it into a Progressive Web App [works offline] if it starts to get a lot of use. That’s a lot of additional work so for the time being it will be simply deployed on the web.
Keep an eye out for bugs. It is designed with responsiveness in mind but, since I can’t test it on every device, there just might be a few that are liable to break the layout. Let me know if any gibberish or mangled code appears on the screen as well. I’ve done my best to clean that up but, with over 300 topics, it’s pretty easy for some anomalies to sneak by.

Happy Hollandaise, it’s Wholly Festivus!

Festivus Double Deal

Speekeezy celebrates Festivus this year with a special Festivus offer. For one day only, single-unit purchasers of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners will double their fortune, receiving two for the price of one. In an outpouring of holiday-inspired generosity, we’ll even cover the difference in shipping. All single-unit orders processed on [or about] December 23rd, the traditional observance day of the Festivus celebration, will be doubled regardless of whether the purchaser was aware of the holiday special or not. Remember, in the run-up to the Holiday Hullabaloo, it’s “Festivus for the rest of us!”

Woulda Shoulda Coulda™ Game

Finding authentic opportunities to practice the Third Conditional can be difficult. Since this particular set of targets is often used to express regrets, students may be reminded of personal trauma if asked to share language-appropriate personal experiences in the social setting of the classroom. Yet being able to articulate such things beyond the learning environment remains essential.

The woulda • shoulda • coulda™ game provides a mechanism for non-threatening, meaningful practice. In the spirit of competition, gameplay provides an incentive for students to accurately use and assess the target forms while peer-correcting for additional points. In the interest of depriving rivals of scoring opportunities, gameplay further encourages players to dig deep, exhausting any given topic. As a result, output becomes more extensive than might otherwise be expected. Click to download woulda-coulda-shoulda-game.

Seconds Come in First

Game box ripped open

We’re starting to accumulate a few damaged goods and we want them out of the inventory. Though eminently usable, these “seconds” are deeply discounted to make that happen. Singles can be had for just $10 each [regular $29.95].

We personally inspect every game that goes out and some components fail to pass muster. Some of the flaws include:

  • Scuffed or slightly dented game box
  • Scuffed [just one or two per box]or torn cards
  • Scuffed or slightly dented spinner board

Available only while stock lasts. Other than these slight cosmetic imperfections, the game is fully functional in every way. Visit the Ordering Page to grab a few while you can!

Summer Sale: 50% Off

The Heat is On! Truth or Dare for English Language Learners is be being deeply discounted for a short time only. Use coupon code $ummer $ale and receive 50% Off the normal purchase price. This special discounted price is applicable to both single units and 5-Paks, making this an ideal opportunity for institutional buyers:
The Heat is On!

  • Stock up the resource library with conversational fun. ToD makes a delightful activity for term end, filling the sub [supply teacher] gap and for lighthearted, conversation practice both in class and after school.
  • ToD makes an ideal gift for teachers on birthdays or during the holiday season: It lightens the workload while adding mirth to the mood. Like, who needs another lame coffee mug, anyway?
  • Award high-achieving students with their very own Truth or Dare game.
  • Equip TESL Program graduates with a unique teaching resource.

Get your orders in before the discount ends.

Japan Gets Catalyzed

Japanese Paper Umbrella Great news for Japan-based EFL Instructors. Apple has decreed that you and your students will finally have access to a wider range of ebooks including the first-ever interactive, multi-touch ESL/EFL textbook built specifically for the iPad platform: Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners. In announcing the long-awaited changes to iBookstore, Apple promised “titles from major and independent publishers” such as yours truly here at Speekeezy Publication Workshop. Starting today you can view or download Catalyst here at iBookstore Japan.

The change comes with minor strings attached, however. Users in Japan will have to upgrade to iBooks 3.1 for expanded access.

In spite of having the world’s highest literacy rates, Japan has had to wait three long and restless years for access to Apple’s signature e-bookstore. The delay, confounded by technological challenges related to the display of double-bit fonts, has been ascribed in part by an unwillingness on the part of major Japanese publishers to kowtow to Apple’s draconian boilerplate terms and conditions.

Japan is a critical market where ELT publishing is concerned. Other key markets throughout the rest of Asia, the Middle East and Africa remain locked out.

Instructors Stretch ToD Gameplay

Stretching the Truth English teachers are a creative lot, ever molding, shaping, adapting canned content to their unique teaching situations. Of course, it’s always great to hear back from teachers about their experiences using Truth or Dare for English Language Learners whether via e-mail or in-person at conferences and other PD events. Usually we hear how much their students enjoy gameplay but sometimes educators also share a tweak or two. Below are a few of the “off-label” adaptations that customers have shared. If you have a unique take on ToD do let us know by leaving a comment below or sending us an e-mail via the contact form.

Fantasy ToD: While ToD is designed as a platform for adult learners to share anecdote, a number of teachers have adapted it for use with children by simply having their kids, who as you might expect can be short on life’s experiences, concoct a complete fantasy derived from the prompt cards. Such an approach of course is eminently usable for adult learners as well and in fact could be quite effective as a technique for encouraging imaginative stretching as well as exploring vocabulary realms somewhat beyond their own experiences. To prod students to think in a certain direction, the mini-whiteboard could be used to establish a context for the fantasy to occur in. For example, you could write “space” or “business” or “travel,” something like that on the mini-whiteboard so student responses would be narrowed and directed towards those contextual goals and the need for appropriate vocabulary [rocket, planet, alien, etc.] would bubble up spontaneously. Need, afterall, is the mother of retention.

The Brutal Truth: This one came to me from a customer in the Middle East. The premise is simple, based on the prompt the student who is “it” must come up with 3 to 5 facts, one of which must be a lie. The idea is for the other players to use questions to uncover that falsehood.

Do or Die: the customer who sent me this variation noted that it “makes it more interesting and closer in spirit to the original game.” This one revolves around questions as well. Starting out like the classic version in which the person in the spotlight shares an anecdote, other players are tasked to be more probing, to continue to ask follow-up questions until the person who is “it” finally opts out by choosing a Dare Card and performing it. Try timing the output and awarding points accordingly to provide an incentive for extensive output.

Word Associations: I’m not too crazy about this personally since it doesn’t really encourage extensive speaking but I can see the utility, especially for groups that are struggling with the apparent lack of structure and direction of the classic mode. In this little variation the student who is “it” simply chooses the first two cards from the deck and attempts to link the prompts in a few sentences. Once comfortable with this scenario the ante can be upped by adding a third, then a fourth card and so on depending on the skills of the group. This can be a little mechanical but I’ve found it to be effective as a warm-up to get reticent, lower-level students to stretch into full-blown gameplay.

Comment: #1 PeterW 2013-01-14 11:08

Some good ideas there. I had an interesting spin off. When we went to play the game the first time most students were already familiar with it from childhood. The class is multi-lingual so there were many subtle differences between cultures. We were able to exploit those diffs by by comparing and contrasting. What I liked about it is the precision required in the language. It was a good little side activity if you have a number of different cultures represented in class.

Catalyst Global Availability

Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners The release last month of Catalyst ESL Taskbook seems to have struck a chord in our initial four English-speaking markets. Emboldened by the reception of this one-of-a-kind resource, we’re currently adding Catalyst to iTunes outlets in nearly 50 countries, primarily in Europe and Latin America.

First-Ever: Created specifically for the iPad platform, Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners is the first-ever “multi-touch” textbook for second language acquisition.

Not is all is right with the iTunes distribution network, however. North American textbook author-publishers, for instance, remain locked out of critical markets in Asia and the Middle East. For the most part, iTunes infrastructure exists; non-Asian publishers simply cannot access it. Bizarrely, though we’ve had inquiries from schools and colleges in Thailand and Korea and now a university in Japan, those ELTs are likewise locked out of iTunes in their home countries.

Breaking NEWS: Apple has finally added Japan to its complicated, convoluted and utterly ridiculous iTunes stable. Two questions Apple: What took you so long? What happened to the rest of Asia?

Do Different: While a Canadian, Australian, British or American instructor teaching in Asia might be able to finesse the system and successfully download a sample from an iTunes store back home, assigning it to a class of iPad-equipped students is out of the question. Supply and demand are separated by more than an ocean. Apple’s control-freak tendencies lie at the root of this conundrum. For an example of a system that actually works one needs to look no further than eBay or Amazon, Apple’s chief competitor. With this superior distribution model anyone anywhere can buy or sell anything anyhow. Software and technology erases the borders, dealing with details like currency exchange on-the-fly. Oh yeah, but then again, it’s a credo: Apple has to Think — and apparently Do — Different.

A Twist of Paper: Catalyst is also available in traditional analogue, with a twist.

ToD Theft: A Moral Lesson

A customer in Japan had to reorder a 5-Pak. It seems he left the games in the classroom for easy access and someone walked off with all five. That’s great for sales at our end but — Ouch! — that’s gotta hurt: in more ways than one. He’s not sure whether students or a colleague had the itchy fingers. Or even whether the cleaning staff inadvertently tossed them.

As a precaution, mark the games up to reduce the allure as soon as they arrive. At a minimum use an indelible felt marker to put your name on the bottom and, if you have one, rubber stamp both box top and bottom on the inside. For added security, mark the inside cover of the Instruction Guide and the back of the spinner as well.

Avoid the use of peelable stickers for obvious reasons.

Here’s what the victim had to say: “Yes someone took the whole set from a classroom when I left them there after a class. Hence the new order. Thanks for the info and sending them so quickly. I had only just started to use them and they worked really well.”

It’s a shame that distrust extends even into the inner circle.

This reminds me of an incident that happened while I was working at the now-defunct YMCA ELI in Vancouver. I was queuing up for the photocopying machine and noticed the resource that the woman in front of me was plagiarizing happened to be from a different school. Just making idle chat I said, “Oh, Mary, I didn’t realize you worked at such and such a school as well.” She was a little bit confused, said that she used to and then asked how did I know. Then she got it. The stolen book was clearly marked with the other school’s name. At least she had the decency to blush.

This is the same woman who put her foot in it at a PD session in front of the entire faculty. An author from another school was showcasing her just-published textbook. Ever supportive, Mary put up her hand and commented that she has been copying the entire book, lesson by lesson, for her class and that the students just love it! Graciously, the speaker thanked her for the edifying remarks and continued with her presentation.

Comment: #1 Truth Or Dare 2015-12-18 11:12
Thanks again Brian. Awesome game. It arrived yesterday and the class just loved it!

Where in the World is Truth or Dare?

There in the World is Truth or Dare!

Napoleon came up short. Hitler? Debunked in a bunker! Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Donald Trump and even nastier despots were each deposed in turn. Amateurs all! Here at Speekeezy we’ll stop at nothing but total world domination. Mwa-Ha-Ha! [Maniacal laughter.] With Truth or Dare for English Language Learners, we’re taking over the world one country at a time. The map above shows an effective onslaught already, with deep incursions into every continent except Antarctica. Penguins, you’re next. ToD is lighting up classrooms, delighting students in 30 countries that we know about and probably a few that we don’t. Using ToD but your country is not depicted? Let us know and we’ll pin you to the map as well.

Britannia Rules

A dynamic duo of British-based ELT publications featured Truth or Dare for English Language Learners in materials reviews this autumn. While both are web-based with a strong bias towards teachers in training one is free and the other is available by subscription.

Humanising Language Teaching Magazine

October 2012 - Humanising Language Teaching Magazine

Hanna Kryszewska reviewed Truth or Dare for English Language Learners for Humanising Language Teaching Magazine, noting the topical breadth and the collaborative approach while cautioning that teachers “in some cultures, countries or working with less mature learners… may have to remove some of the topic cards from the pack.” We should mention that potentially risqué cards are already discretely marked to facilitate the moderation of topical choice on-the-fly. Kryszewska, editor, teacher trainer and senior lecturer at the University of Gdañsk, concludes: “Overall the game is fun, useful in class as preparation for a speaking test or as a fun lesson.”

Click to read the review in its entirety as it appeared in Humanising Language Teaching Magazine [256 KB].


Volume 229 - IATEFL Voices

Mark Graff starts his review in IATEFL Voices with a rhetorical question: “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if a game had different levels to accommodate [false] beginner to advanced students?” In the next breath Graff, Professor of English at Qassim University in Saudia Arabia, enthusiastically provides the answer: “Truth or Dare for English Language Learners is that game!” Acknowleging the importance of process in gameplay, Graff notes: “There is no right or wrong answer, and there is no winner. Lovely! Maintaining conversation is the objective.” For the review, Graff tested the game with a group with homogenous ethnicity but very diverse English abilities. On reflection he concludes “that players [should] have an equivalent English ability to provide a level playing field. This ensures everyone is able to participate to their full capacity.” Lesson learned.

Click to read the review in its entirety as it appeared in IATEFL Voices [142 KB].

Wow! That Was Quick

iTunes Logo

It seems Catalyst is already in the classroom and generating reviews on iTunes. Oddly, the review below only appears on the American iTunes gateway, not the Canadian, Australian or UK sites.

Here’s what one ESL professional from the States had to say:

Customer Reviews

A Valuable Resource for ESL/EFL Teachers

by Bagdon

In Catalyst, an experienced ESL/EFL teacher shares a wealth of useful, practical, and, most of all, exceedingly helpful activities to engage students in learning English. As an experienced ESL/EFL teacher myself (20 years experience in Japan and the US) with a graduate degree in TESOL, I have personally used this material in my own classes and know that it not only works, but that students enjoy the tasks and activities immensely. It makes my job a lot easier when I can turn to a resource for creative and workable solutions to any classroom or instructional dilemma. Vastly better than the garbage produced by the major publishers at a fraction of the cost. I highly recommend Catalyst.

Catalyst Approved

Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners
Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners is now available for download on Apple’s iTunes iBookstore. Read about Catalyst, download a sample preview or purchase the real deal at any of these regional repositories. More to come in short order.
An analogue version of Catalyst is also available for schools seeking out materials that set them apart. Brandable and customizable, this very non-traditional paper book is available for bulk purchase only. Contact us for details.

Upcoming TESL Canada Conference

Be sure to drop by the Speekeezy publisher’s booth for a demo of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners at the upcoming TESL Canada conference in Kamloops. This is the annual nation-wide conference for ESL teaching professionals.

I’ll also be presenting on my soon-to-be-released iBook, Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners. A little over a year ago the title made it’s debut at the BC TEAL provincial conference. Then it was very much a work in progress. At the nationals Catalyst will be the first of its kind: a fully interactive eBook designed for output-intensive group work in the classroom and available for download at the Apple iBooks Bookstore.

The presentation will take place on Friday, 9:00 am – 10:30 am in room number IB Panorama B.

Download the Catalyst Presentation Handout with Notes

Here’s the conference blurb:

Experience as a Catalyst for Student-Centered, Conversation-Enabled Learning

Linguistic associations are frequently shaped by underlying events, experiences, attitudes and values and can be useful in instantaneously accessing a rich source of topics in conversation-enabled classrooms. Such experiential elements are the ideal fodder for communication. As memories are recoded into the linguistic symbols of L2 this new experience of sharing and retelling lends a certain “stickiness” to lexical, grammatical and structural components of language, resulting in stronger bonds of retention. In this session we’ll learn to harness word associations to create a truly student-centred classroom.

Starting from a few quick exercises designed to acclimatize students to making associations, we’ll move step-by-step towards expanding those associations to produce communicative output directly in L2. Associations are then leveraged to practice and acquire communication strategies and self- and peer-assessment techniques. Initially, students simply listen and write. Next, listen and speak. Then they’ll be developing chains of associations and working onwards towards extending those single word chains to full sentences, exposition and, finally, full-on oral communication. Within a few lessons, extensive, student-generated conversation becomes the rule, not the exception. Students come up with their own topics freeing the instructor to focus on enhancing the Krashen Monitor instead.

The TESL Canada 2012 conference takes place at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC Thursday, October 11 – Saturday October 13.

London Sojourn

I attended the ELTon Award Ceremony in London recently and, though we didn’t manage to bring home the big banana, we are still enjoying the prestige and spinoffs that a nomination brings. Here’s the official Judge’s Commentary on Truth or Dare for English Language Learners:

I like this, it is good quality. I can imagine it being popular, if used every so often, as they suggest. I like how the authors have written the booklet, and the varied collection of activities.

I must add, London was brilliant. I now wonder now why I didn’t visit sooner. I had motive and opportunity as Sherlock might say. Certainly glad I went. I enjoyed exploring along the canal tow-paths by bicycle most of all. That Barclay’s Cycle Hire is top notch.

Japanese Distribution Deal

English Books DOT JP.

We’ve inked an agreement with a well-connected distributor in Japan. Those in Japan with a yen for lively classroom banter can now order Truth or Dare for English Language Learners directly from englishbooks.jp. Doing so will ensure faster delivery, significant savings on shipping and even a reduction in the carbon footprint associated with your purchase. Smiles all around!

Look for ToD in retail outlets throughout Japan that specialize in English language books and educational materials as well.

ToD Take Away

Recently I heard back from a customer in the land of Oz. Among other things, she said students often request to take Truth or Dare for English Language Learners home on the weekend to build a party around. The Beer and Banter Combi: What a brilliant adaptation! That’s one way to get students motivated to learn beyond the classroom walls.


Sub Substitute

I love hearing back from users of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners. There are so many creative ideas out there.

At the last conference [BC TEAL 2012] I heard that one local Vancouver school has found a novel use for ToD. When a teacher has phoned in sick and a substitute is en route, the receptionist will often deploy ToD to quell the rioting masses. Apparently, if students are already familiar with gameplay they are more than happy to take it from there. I’m sure more than a few substitute teachers will go with the flow upon arrival. I’d hate to see subs replaced altogether, however.

While there’s no substitute for a sub it sounds like ToD can help fill the gap.

Shopping Cart Issues Resolved

A number of visitors have reported problems using the shopping cart and we apologize for that. More to the point, we ditched the old cart software and have now deployed a newer, more streamlined cart to handle online orders.

We never did figure out what was up with the old cart. Though it usually worked fine — certainly whenever I tested it — the workflow seemed to get stuck in some kind of logical loop on occasion. Distance seemed to be a factor as we had reports from purchasers in Australia, Columbia, Brazil, Russia and Cambodia but never from those located in the US or Canada or western Europe.

If you have any issues with the purchasing experience here at Speekeezy Publication Workshop please let us know so we can jump all over it.

Free Downtown Shipping

Free Shipping

For a limited time only, we’re offering free GREEN shipping for local schools or teachers purchasing a 5-Pak. This offer is only open to those located in downtown Vancouver [or within pedalling distance.]

To take advantage of the free shipping offer send me an e-mail through this site to arrange for direct purchase at the time of delivery.

Contact me also if you’d like me to demo the game as part of a professional development workshop.

ToD Nominated for ELTon Award

2012 ELTon Award Nominee
Visit the ELTon Award Online

Hey, guess what! Truth or Dare for English Language Learners has been nominated for an ELTon. Now I’m sure you’re wondering what that is. Think Oscars for English-language materials/program design. The ELTon Awards is a program of the British Council designed to “recognise and celebrate innovation in the field of English language teaching,” hence the ELT. And we made the short list for 2012. That means a panel of some of the world’s foremost authorities in educational materials design took a close look at Truth or Dare for English Language Learners, giving it the thumbs-up and a nod towards the short list. Pretty cool, huh?

Truth or Dare for English Language Learners was nominated in the Innovation in Learner Resources category.

Nominated learning resources are assessed on the basis of three criteria: innovation, practicality and effectiveness. The 2012 ELTons will be awarded at a ceremony in London, England on May 23, 2012. Keep your fingers crossed!

From the British Council website: “The ELTons, sponsored by Cambridge ESOL, are the only international awards that recognise and celebrate innovation in English language teaching (ELT). They reward educational resources that help English language learners and teachers to achieve their goals.”

ToD “Inspires Real Communication”

February 2012 - MITESOL Messages

Michigan Pros Play Outside the Box

The folks in Michigan gave Truth or Dare for English Language Learners a real workout for their review in MITESOL Messages, playtesting the game both on- and off-label. Reviewer Leze Djokaj initially played by the rules, testing ToD with college-aged students of English in an academic setting. Then, going maverick, Djokaj put it to the test, tasking ToD to engage a mash up of native and non-native speakers, professionals and non-pros in a variety of educational and social settings. When the smoke cleared, here’s what the reviewer and a few of the players had to say:

  • “The group I played this with could not have felt more satisfied during and after the game, and every time we played, the excitement was greater than the first! It was very engaging and reinforcing.”
  • “The games generated a routine and in a couple of days you were able to notice the fluency of the speakers.”
  • “This game was so much fun! I enjoyed it and so did my friends!.”
  • “Learning a foreign language needs games like this to reinforce spoken language skills.”
  • “This game gave my cousins a chance to not be overwhelmed with learning the language; they were relaxed, stress free, and enjoyed the game, while not knowing they were supplementing their language learning.”
  • “Adult ESL teachers, BUY this game!.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself ☺

Click to read the review in its entirety as it appeared in February 2012 – MITESOL Messages [202 KB].

Spotlight in Language Magazine

Dec 2011 Language Magazine

Shining the spotlight on learning games and other fun-stuff, Language Magazine, the big glossy out of California, illuminated Truth or Dare for English Language Learners in its December 2011 edition. ToD was the only offering designed expressly for adults. No surprise there: ToD is the only analogue English language learning game designed for adults in existence, anywhere in the world. Click to read the excerpt in Language Magazine [130 KB].

Assessment for Fun and Games

Gameplay isn’t all just fun and games. As Mario Rinvolucri points out in his seminal work “Grammar Games” [1987; Cambridge University Press] “Serious work is taking place in the context of a game.” In addition to the serious work of creating and consolidating oral output that takes place in a typical game of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners, gameplay can be leveraged to the task of student assessment as well.

Download, fill out, print, cut and hand out to begin building a body of marks.

Assessing both participation and performance can be especially challenging in a dedicated conversational English class. By assigning learning targets in the course of a round of Truth or Dare through the use of the “mini-whiteboard” you are already halfway there. Use a scrap of paper or a more presentable form such as the downloadable at the end of this blog entry to tally achievement of the assigned task.

The form below, in Microsoft Word format, features a drop-down list with a variety of common learning targets from the grammar-specific to extensive speaking tasks. Alternatively, fill-in the second line of the form with customized tasks. This cell can also be used to list secondary tasks such as directing listeners to ask a certain number of questions during each turn or to utilize specific question types when questioning.

Save roll call until the end of the session, with students calling out their tally instead of the usual responses. Gradually, students will accumulate marks that can be used to assess both performance and participation over the course of the term.

Click the link below to download the easily customizable form.

Download: Peer/Self Assessment Form

Award Performance

Click Image to Zoom

The 5-Pak price of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners is so low that it makes a great — and affordable — gift for those teachers and administrators wishing to reward students who excel or for those schools which have a formalized teacher recognition program. And of course, if Truth or Dare isn’t already in your school’s resource room, make sure it gets into the next round of budget allotments.

Conference Notes: Draw Winners

We donated three copies of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners to each of the organizing committees for the BC TEAL Interior Conference as well as Tri-TESOL in Washington State to be given away as door prizes. We’re not sure who won but we’d love to hear about your experiences using Truth or Dare in the classroom.

For those who entered the “business card” draw at our publishers booth or the “scrap of paper” draw at the close of my presentation [Experience as a Catalyst for Student-Centered, Conversation-Enabled Learning], the winners are listed below. Each will receive a complimentary copy of Truth or Dare:

  1. Eva Engelhard, Academic Manager at Kaplan on campus at Highline Community College, host venue for the conference
  2. Tyler Ballam, Instructor at Okanagan College

Conference Notes: Tri-TESOL

While flogging my wares at the Tri-TESOL conference — a co-operative venture between the provincial and state ESL teaching associations of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon — a young volunteer from Egypt dropped by and, among other things, mentioned that they have a game very similar to Truth or Dare back in her homeland. There it’s called Leebet El-Hayat or “The Game of Life”. She also wrote it out for me in Arabic script but I can’t imagine how I could reproduce it here in the blog.

She also conveyed a great deal of worry about the political situation in Egypt following the events of the so-called “Arab Spring”. While democracy came about with a minimum of effort here in Canada, it would be hard to say the same thing about the struggle for freedom south of the border or in France, the other crucible of modern democracy. For her sake, I hope the transition is relatively painless though history would seem to indicate otherwise with a few exceptions. If achieved, however, it will have been worth it.

Conference Notes: BC TEAL Interior Conference

Click Image to Zoom

On the way to the BC TEAL Interior Conference [October 15, 2011] I realized that I hadn’t been in Kelowna since I pedalled through some time in the late ’70s. Then I was on a circle tour, pushing a heavy old Sekine from Nanaimo, through Lillooet, Kamloops, Kelowna, Manning Park then back to Vancouver Island while visiting friends along the way. This time attending the conference was more of an excuse for a chance to shuffle along the Myra Canyon segment of the Kettle Valley Railway as well as explore a few of the gold-dappled hillsides in the Merritt area. You can check out the success of that part of the trip at my online gallery.

Noteworthy from the point of view of the conference was the sheer number of student volunteers. They were available, highly visible and helpful in many ways. One, volunteer photographer Charles Chan, went way beyond the call of duty, e-mailing photos of the Truth or Dare info booth to me after the conference. Thanks Charles. Let’s hope future conferences will also involve students in such a significant way.

A highlight of the conference for me was when two teachers, separately, dropped by the table with nearly identical comments on Truth or Dare for English Language Learners. Both mentioned that they had picked the game up at the provincial conference in May and that it was a hit with their respective students even though, in both cases, classes were relatively low level. One said “It went over really well. I read [the Instruction Guide] completely and prepared so I think that helped a lot.” The second teacher, who also mentioned taking extra time to prepare her class for gameplay, parted with an affirming: “Good game!”

Deja Vu

I’ll be reprising my presentation on experiential content at two conferences this Fall. The workshop, on leveraging word associations as a source of student-centred content in the language learning classroom, was first presented to a standing room only crowd at the TEAL provincial conference in the spring. Upcoming venues include:

  1. BC TEAL Interior Conference in Kelowna, Sat., Oct. 15, 11 AM – 12 Noon Rm 139
  2. Tri-TESOL Conference in Des Moines, Washington Fri., Oct. 21, 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM Rm 203

Workshop participants will have a chance to enter a draw for the learning game Truth or Dare for English Language Learners.

Here’s the official write-up:

Experience as a Catalyst
for Student-Centered,
Conversation-Enabled Learning

Simple word associations can be harnessed as a rich source of student-centered content in the conversation classroom. Workshop participants will explore techniques designed to leverage linguistic associations towards generating limitless experience-based conversational topics, reducing or eliminating references to L1, developing critical communication strategies and contributing to self- and peer- assessment.

Click to download the Catalyst Presentation Handout with Notes [1.78 MB].

A Hunka Hunka What?

Most teachers use music for the literal content, to shine the light on vocabulary or to elucidate particular grammar targets, often overlooking what music does best: rhythm. Learning to recognize word boundaries from within a stream of sound is an important skill that can be challenging, daunting even, to any level of learner. What particularly gives students problems are those unstressed syllables that get rendered down into schwa in fast speech. Music is perfect for rehearsing this as most of the little words glom together, disappear or get distorted in the performance.

Take a snippet like this from Elvis Presley’s up tempo “Burning Love,” for instance:

Girl girl girl girl
You’re going to set me on fire
My brain is flaming
I do not know which way to go

Remove some of the more malleable syllables:

Girl girl girl girl
You’re going set me on fire
My brain flaming
I don’t know which way go

Students listen and mark where the missing word is as below. Skip the semantics: There is no need to identify the word at this point; location is everything. Such an approach works even with the lowest post-literate levels.

Girl girl girl girl
You’re going ^ set me on fire
My brain ^ flaming
I don’t know which way ^ go

For false beginner and up, follow up by directing students to write in WHAT THEY HEAR, not what they think the missing word is.

Girl girl girl girl
You’re go-/na/ set me on fire
My brain /niz/ flaming
I don’t know which way /da/ go

Next have students identify the words that these odd syllables represent. This can be done cooperatively or solo depending on time constraints. This can also lead naturally into a discussion of stress timing, contractions and linking at some point depending on the level. By incorporating this approach into a regular lesson plan discussion becomes moot as music has the power to make the point at an unconscious level. Students pick up on the /roolz/ right away.

Another approach is take the targets out of context and have students first predict then put them back by marking location as they listen.

Girl girl girl girl
to | You’re going set me on fire
is | My brain flaming
to | I don’t know which way go

One more approach: Mix up the word order in each line >>> Cooperatively descramble >>> Listen and check >>> Debrief.

This kind of thing can be rolled out at the beginning of the lesson to transition audio focus from L1 to L2. That is, as a warm up. One other advantage is that the perennially tardy will suddenly start showing up on time. The real pay-off, however, is that you get to hear the King proclaim over and over that he’s a hunka hunka burnin’ love. And who can argue with that?

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