Jigsaw Reading with Students' Preferable Topic - A Fun and Engaging Technique in a Test Prep Class to Improve the Four English Skills
S : Hoaamm... (His eyes were glazing over the long, dull, and difficult reading text as he tried to answer the questions).
T : Jack, are you sleepy?
S : (He simpered.) No, Ma’am, just lack of oxygen. (He said to himself, “We’ve been doing this reading and its exercise over and over again and she thinks I’m sleepy? Well, let’s just simply say that.” He smirked as he saw the teacher’s face.)
T : I see. (While showing a fake smile on her face, she said to herself “Oh, man, I can’t help it. I don’t even know what to do with this reading lesson for the test prep class. I am well-aware that it is boring and hard, but this kind of text is there. Baby, I’m sorry I’m not sorry.”)
Been there or still there? If yes, then you and I have been, or at least are, on the same boat. We are somehow clueless of what to do in reading lesson for a test prep class whose reading texts are mostly long and hard to digest and are even using technical terms. What makes it a lot worse is that the students themselves detest reading even in their own language, let alone English. What are we supposed to do, then? Here, I’ll share a technique called Jigsaw reading, some of you might be familiar with, which I find quite successful when I taught reading lesson and which I think could also help students improve the other three English skills. Its how to use in class would also be covered.
What is Jigsaw?
Jigsaw refers to a cooperative learning technique in which students work together in a small group and they help each other to accomplish a goal (Aronson, Blaney, Stephan, Sikes, & Snapp, 1978). This technique allows the interaction among the group members in which each student would be an “expert” on one particular section of the given material and would then share it to the other members. For the task to be completed successfully, everyone in the group should work together and exchange the information they have. If you want to help your students learn about cooperation and responsibility, this technique would do. The other good news is that this jigsaw allows students to better their listening and speaking skills, not to mention their writing. Couldn’t picture it? Let’s see how it works, but I’m going to zoom in on the use of reading text for the English test preparation class.
Here are the steps!
First, look for a text that has some segments for students to share later on. It would be better if the length of the passage is similar to that of the TOEFL passage. Find the topic of the text which would likely be of the students’ interest and you'd better use authentic texts, such as newspaper articles, for this activity. Second, prepare the activities and also the comprehension questions for the passage. After that, divide the students into groups of five. Cut the text based on the segments and hand each segment to each member of the group. A person in each group might have similar part as another person in another group. Let each person first read their piece of text and then ask him/her to find a person from another group who has a similar reading part. Then ask them to discuss what the text is about. Hand each student a table to fill in the information. Once done, let each person get back to his/her original group to share the information of his/her own text to the rest of the group and fill the other missing information in the table. Through this activity, it is like they are having a real conversation and they will work on their listening, speaking, and writing skill as well. Once finished, hand each person the comprehension questions. Then, ask each group to compare the individual's answers and discuss together. You could even create some other activities, such as arranging the texts into a good order, etc to provide more reading skill activities. How’s that?
To sum up, jigsaw reading is an interactive technique to be used in class. It could also help students improve the other four skills provided they are included in the activity. You could try jigsaw to vary your teaching technique so that the students would not get bored of having the same activities throughout, like reading the text and answering the questions. It is hard for your students to even get the required score to pass the college, and it is even harder to do something they do not favor. So, make your class engaging so that the students would feel happy being in the class and get something to write home about.
You can refer to the following link http://bit.ly/JigsawGens to see an example of Jigsaw reading activities I tried to make. Hope you find it useful.
START FROM WHAT YOU LIKE!
A friend of mine kept saying that he would never ever like English. Everything about English was a closed book to him. Do you ever feel so?
To me, the very beginning does matter in terms of preference. One might not like spinach because he or she had a terrible experience involving vegetable in their meals. This is what happened to him. At school, his teacher always gave tasks on tenses and had all students memorize a list of vocabularies from the dictionary on a daily basis. If you think this works, then that’s for you. But he already lost interest in English just before he even liked it.
I have a different story. Everything about English always successfully drew my curiosity. I buried myself in the countless pages of a dictionary (the conventional dictionary, of course) to find the meaning of words like it meant a lot to my life. Words in magazines, newspapers, TV advertisements, and billboards never missed my attention. My classmates even made numerous jokes on me just because I always noticed some grammatical mistakes on magazine covers or billboards. Maybe this was the reason why I chose English as my major.
There is always a beginning
My interest in English did not come without a bad start though. Living in a rural area did not give me a lot of choices to learn English--no English magazines or newspapers to read, movies to watch, or music cassettes to listen to. I found this one book with a washed up cover entitled “Literature on Psychology”--if I remember correctly. I tried to make sense every sentence that I read in the first few pages, translate every word in a sentence, but no luck.
However, I did not stop there. There was this very famous boy band at that time. Their songs turned on my fascination in music. I bought the cassettes, playing the songs over and over everyday. Trying to sing along, I also had to know how to pronounce the words in the lyrics. Moreover, learning pronunciation is one thing, knowing the meaning is a different thing. I tried to figure out words that I was not familiar with, using the dictionary. This time, it took less effort than it did last time.
Learning English from a hobby--in my case it is music--has its own merits. First, you can increase vocabularies and learn new expressions from the lyrics. Countless songs contain different expressions. Love songs, sad songs, or satire songs provide a lot of different vocabulary that are perhaps new to you. Second, you do not have to look up in the dictionary on how to pronounce each word in the songs. Listen carefully, follow the lyrics, and sing along. It has never been so simple. Third, you do not have to make notes to memorize new words. Singing is a better way to memorize words. Your vocabulary bank will increase before you know it.
Watching movies works the same. You can learn new expressions and understand them better since the dialogues are supported by the context. On the other hand, if you are a fan of sport and movies are not your thing, you can begin reading an English article or watching news on your favorite player.
Nowadays, there are unlimited sources on the internet that you can use at no cost, really. Thus, there is no more excuses for not finding the right one for you. Happy browsing!
SPEAKING ENGLISH CONFIDENTLY
At the very beginning, many English learners have problems with their English when expressing exact thoughts spontaneously or even worried about the mistakes when speaking English. They use words that sound unnatural in conversations and think about grammar rules before speaking.
“A butterfly in one’s stomach” might be the phrase for the learners when they are getting stuck while speaking English to natives even to locals. There might be a lot of ideas on their head, yet they cannot come up natural English words to speak up. To overcome these issues, many tips and tricks have already been published either online or offline. Here are some small things I have experienced, and hopefully can make a big impact for you as a learner to speak English naturally without hesitation as if you were English natives.
Keep it simple, but not simpler
First and foremost, I started an English conversation with a simple sentence by the words and expressions that I am familiar with. To me, it has been an enthusiastic thumbs-up to start speaking naturally without producing many pauses. I did have an experience to speak up with a complex sentence, but I can not keep my conversation going. The more complex sentences I produce, the more nervousness and anxiety I would feel. Thus, speaking up with a simple conversational English might be the proper way for the initial practice of spoken English.
One time, I have had an English conversation with my cousin’s husband from the US. I began talking with simple expressions and vocabularies to make sure that he understood what I was talking about. Surprisingly, it did work for me as I could keep the conversations going on. I could create this easiest sentence in only one clause with a single subject and predicate.
Another way I have initiated to talk naturally in English is to get used to the spoken English expressions. I would prefer using the same expressions that native English use in their daily conversation than translating my own language to the English word by word. To get to know more common expressions, I used to watch English movies, listen to English songs and read English articles as well as join the round table discussions where I could be involved in conversing with native English.
To be honest, these two ways helped me improve my spoken English and even raised my confidence to talk in front of the audiences. I could confidently produce my spoken English and in my opinion, I was just expecting that the audiences, locals or natives, understood what I was talking about and be enthusiastic to the conversations so that two ways communications would feel more natural.
How confident are you in speaking English?
Improving English Skills by Engaging Instagram Posts
Who doesn’t know Instagram, these days? What about you? How many times do you check or post on your Instagram account in a day? Only once? Or more than three times?
Instagram is currently becoming one of the most popular applications. This social media app was launched in October 2010 and owned by Facebook. The app is not only for sharing personal life experience, but also for spreading information, marketing a business, and getting involved in a charity fundraising. Thus, why not using it for learning English?
Why using application to improve English skills nowadays can be more effective is because people can simply access it anytime and anywhere. Spontaneously reading someone’s post in English may practice reading skills, English text comprehension, and at the same time drill vocabulary.
Here’s how to do it!
The followings are some points to upgrade English ability through Instagram:
1. Follow Celebgrams (Celebrity on Instagram) or English Speakers Stars you like
Almost all famous celebrities are active on Instagram. They hire someone to manage their Instagram account. If you like watching Hollywood movies, you can follow the actress and the actors who post in English. You may also follow someone who talks about topics you’re interested in. By following their accounts, you would possibly see their picture posts and story about their activities, read the captions, and even the comments. These activities provide you English in small chunks. A common expression that usually used on Instagram, for example, is “Swipe up for new video”.
2. Write a caption, post comment and send messages in English
Once you acquire new vocabularies, write them on a caption. If you want to improve English vocabularies and easily remember the words, you must use them frequently. For writing practice, you can post a comment on your favorite celebrity post. Create a challenge that you must write at least one sentence. Beforehand, make sure your comment is grammatically correct. Another option for the writing exercise is ‘send message’ in English on your friends’ stories or through DM. Doing this, you will be able to check whether your English is understandable or not by reading your friend’s response.
3. Enjoy English Contents
The more English speakers you follow, the more English feed you see on your Instagram account. Let the English words or expressions you read on the Instagram posts naturally become your massive input. This activity helps you to enhance vocabularies.
Two Great Websites for Improving Your Listening Skill
My very first English task in college was to find English native speakers to talk to. I was so excited to finally be able to use my English to speak with a native and I was confident as it was my 7th year since I learned English from the elementary school. My friend and I went to places where we got to see some native speakers. I smiled with great anticipation as I approached, I believe, an American guy. We shook hands and introduced ourselves and it was fine until he asked me questions. There it came when I could not make sense of any single word he said. I kept asking him to repeat what he just said, but I got confused. I started to sweat and get totally nervous. I ignored some of his questions and instead, I kept asking him the list of questions I got with me. He looked a bit surprised, but probably noticed that I could not understand him so he stopped asking me questions and only gave his answers. Thank God I brought a recorder with me so I planned to listen to it again at home because I could not even get what he said. Once it finished, I thanked him and he patted me on my back while probably saying “You should listen a lot.” I felt guilty because I could not respond to that and just smiled grimly.
That supposedly good day turned into a bad one. I kept wondering why I could not catch what the native just said since I learned English from elementary school and I should at least get 50% of what he said. But it didn’t. Later I realized that the English I used was only the classroom English, not the real one.
Real daily English
For those years I spent learning English, it was only for classroom use whose materials were made up for the class only. From that day on, I kept looking for English materials/websites that offered English in the real daily situation. Because the native speaker I met just told me to listen a lot, I tried to find websites that offered me a range of daily topics and common expressions to use in daily conversations. Fortunately, I came across two recommended websites, which I would share here, that helped me improve my listening skills, as well as my vocabulary, and I hope they would do you the same.
Here are the two websites you could surf to help better your listening skills and vocabulary.
This English website is considerably recommended for you because it is easy to use and gives many choices to increase your listening skill with a variety of topics given. It starts from the easiest topics to the most difficult ones. What makes this website great is the usage of learning guidance to help you know what to do. You will know how to begin the learning process and test your comprehension in every topic you do by following the guidance.
This is the second website I recommend you to surf. You could get a variety of daily topics, along with the audio and the script to improve your vocabulary, vocabulary quiz to test the vocabulary, questions to discuss, and role plays to perform. The daily topics will make you familiar with common vocabulary and expressions you can use in many situations.
There are of course countless websites out there to help you to learn English better. For starters, you can use the above websites and see for yourself.
From Paper to Digital: Using WhatsApp Chat as an Answer Sheet for Quizzes!
Have you spent your splendid night time only for checking your students’ quiz result? If yes, then we were on the same boat until I found this method. The idea just crossed my mind when I was about to check my students’ quiz result. At that time, I had given the students a quiz about grammar using video presentation for TOEFL preparation class. The students were asked to answer thirty questions in a specific time given for each question based on the video. The students had to answer one question in ten seconds. Since the video showed the answer and explanation at the end of each question, the students had to answer the question quickly before the explanation appeared. If we gave a piece of paper as an answer sheet to the students, we had to go around the class to check their answer. Therefore, to make the class more efficient, I used WhatsApp chat as an answer sheet. Here, I am going to briefly describe some benefits you got by using this method.
First, it will reduce the use of paper in the class. By using WhatsApp chat, you do not have to hand over papers to your students. It will save your energy as well. You just need to ask students to open their WhatsApp account and create one-on-one chat with you as the replacement of the answer sheet. You can use one-on-one chat instead of group chat to reduce the chance of cheating among the students. You may want to avoid using group chat to prevent the students from duplicating their friends’ answer.
Second, you can have a real time checking. When the students send their answer, you can automatically check and count their correct answer. At the end of the quiz, you can directly tell their scores. As a result, you will save more time in the class. Moreover, you can show a transparent process of checking answers to your students.
By using this method you can be a technology-friendly teacher. You can create a different atmosphere by involving the use of technology in the class and saying goodbye to paper.
My Best Experience in Learning English
English has been one of the international languages used by almost 20 percent of the global population communicate, especially when the speakers are from different countries. This is the fact why people want to speak and interact in English, and it has been an issue that learning English is not as easy as it looks.
To overcome the issue, many English courses have been established due to the need and demand. However, learning a language takes time, and learning it in the class in only less than 2 hours each session is not enough. Here I want to share my experience when learning English.
People have different ways in learning English. For instance, I improved my English by listening and watching, while others prefer to read and write. Well, I understand that people have their own preference in learning English. My experience also took the kinds of learning methods, which vary and are unlimited.
Many references can be used to learn and improve our english. One of them is YouTube, which is very popular, helpful, and easy to access. On YouTube I prefer watching movies, talkshow, and other English practices. This will help you stimulate your brain and think in English. For speaking, watching also help you much rather than reading books. Besides, learning English through direct sources, which are authentic, can be more effective. To apply this, there are many things to do such as pausing, repeating, memorizing, etc.
Another way to learn English can be by practising with partners and using many different topics or ideas. However, the problem with learners is that they do not have a partner to speak with. Here what I will say, “Don’t worry about that!” We can practice speaking English by ourselves. One of the things that are very important is listening--listening from natives. This way, we can directly hear and listen to the way the natives pronounce the words correctly.
AUTHOR: CUT APRILLIA
My Experience in Improving my Grammar Score
How to improve your English skill, especially grammar? Most students will think that grammar is the most difficult part to tackle, especially in TOEFL and EPrT. There are two main components that are essential to make your English better. They are Vocabulary and Grammar. If you can master both of these components, you will be able to master all skills in English, such as: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.
My experience in improving vocabulary has been fun and I made it a habit. I like to learn from movies and songs. Everytime I watched western movies, I trained myself by listening to the sentences and quickly reading the meaning in the text. I think this is the easiest way to learn vocabulary. As time goes by, I learned another fun way to increase my vocab. I learn so much through songs too.
The question is “how curious are you about the meaning of the song?”. I myself had so much curiosity about the lyrics and the meaning behind the words. That’s why I can learn much from the songs, especially in improving my vocab. So, if you want to learn more vocabulary, you can start from your hobby and bring out the curiosity of what you hear and read.
What about the grammar skill? Is learning grammar as easy as the you do vocabulary? It is not simple, I realize, but it is also not as difficult as you think. Learning grammar is almost the same as when you learn physics at your school. There are so many formulas that you can find. But before you know about the formulas, you should fully understand about the components of its own formulas. Initially, I was struggling to find the best way to learn grammar, especially when I found a lot of grammar questions in the TOEFL test. Grammar test has two parts. Part A and B. Part A is filling the gap and part B is finding the errors.
Actually, there are only 3 (three) things that you need to identify before you answer the grammar questions. First of all, you need to identify the subject, if it is singular/plural or human/things/animal? Identifying the Subject is really important to know, especially if it's singular/plural. Singular subject or plural subject will change the verb in present tense depending on the time. Second, the thing that you have to identify next is the time. What is the time? Is it present/past/future (modal) or perfect? You can easily identify the time through Verb. Third, you have to identify the kind of question if the question is part A. Then, after identifying the subject and time, you have to identify the word before and after the gap. It is really important to identify the word, especially the word after the gap. If the question is part B, the third thing you have to identify is the error words by matching them based on the Subject and time.
Overall, knowing English grammar and mastering lots of vocabulary play very important role in learning English. Correct grammar won’t just demonstrate your English skill – it’ll also show that you are diligent and have an eye for detail. This is equally important if you are aiming to study abroad.
Being Language Savvy is not Enough
BIPA (Bahasa Indonesia bagi Penutur Asing), for me, among others, is a challenging class to teach. Never have I imagined that I am capable of teaching BIPA. Remembering the first time teaching BIPA, I felt anxious, yet overwhelmed with interest.
Teaching BIPA is not only about teaching language. You, as a teacher, are required to be knowledgeable about social and culture of Indonesia. The participants of BIPA may vary from their educational backgrounds, daily habits, and understandings based on where they come from. Those factors might influence their interest about everything related to Indonesian cultures.
Be a Knowledgeable Teacher!
Based on my experience, teaching BIPA is quite challenging because as BIPA teachers, we teach numerous international students with various backgrounds. When teaching BIPA, some of them may have hundreds of questions about the culture and social life of Indonesian people. For that reason, it is necessary that BIPA teachers be knowledgeable about culture and the social life of Indonesian.
Some questions that I often encountered were: “Why do Indonesian people use their hands when they eat?” or “Why is it necessary to use our right hand when giving things?” The fact that Indonesia is a country with the biggest Moslem population also grab their curiosity about religion. Once a South Korean student asked me why Indonesia has so many religions. Those questions might sound simple for us Indonesian to respond. However, explaining and giving the proper answer to make the international students understand are not that simple.
For that reason, BIPA teacher should know about Indonesian social life and culture as well. Moreover, if you live in an area with strong local cultures, such as Sundanese environment, at least you should know a bit about the Sundanese culture and how Sundanese people live. Thus, being language savvy is not enough for being a BIPA teacher.