Apps for learning English. Keep improving with your gadgets.

learnenglish-elementary_270x270British Council has plenty of apps for learning English. Check them out!


Conditional Sentences and tools for creating visuals.

Conditional sentences are one of the most difficult topics for English learners. They start learning conditional sentences at Pre-Intermediate/Intermediate levels when they’ve learnt the fundamental concepts of English grammar. By the time learners achieve Upper-Intermediate/Advanced level, they are supposed to know three types of conditional sentences. However, most of my learners still get confused when it comes to unreal conditional sentences, such as Second conditional, Third Conditional, and Mixed Conditional sentences. For some learners it is very difficult to visualize or imagine an unreal situation. For example, my German or Russian speaking learners tend to struggle with Second and Third conditionals, which are used when talking about an unreal situation in the present or future (Second Conditional) or an unreal situation in the past  (Third Conditional) that can’t be changed.

Learners also get confused by the form, as it consists of two clauses: independent and dependent. The dependent clause always starts with “If”,A typical mistake that my students tend to make is using “will” in a dependent clause in First Conditional, or using First Conditional instead of Second Conditional. Moreover, students get frustrated when they see all types of conditional sentences at once. The following image was created with the help of LucidChart and can be used to review forms and functions of using conditional sentences.screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-2-46-37-pm It will also introduce Mixed conditionals, where students will be able to practice in a controlled and freer way in class . The handout was designed that way so that students can see the difference in form and meaning of the Conditional sentences. I intentionally used the same sentence (If I get some money tomorrow, I’ll get a ticket to LA), but in different settings and situations. Outlining and Color coding of all 4 Conditional sentences in a diagram will help English learners visualize the situation better and come up with the right form. In addition, the handout might work as a graphic organizer or reference, which students can use when they do controlled practice activities.

If you want to create your own handouts with LucidChart, watch my videos on how to set up an account and create diagrams. 

Don’t get something? Break it down with mindmaps.

“I don’t get it” is a phrase that my teen students tend to use when they get stuck or don’t understand something.  Mind maps could be a way of helping a student visualize presented material. It will work for various types of learners and help them understand a topic better.

Mind maps also help my students organize their thoughts when they work on a writing task, so that when they start putting their ideas on paper, their writing becomes more developed. This way helps students broaden their way of thinking as well as become more independent learners.

Students can create their mind map with pen and paper or they can use various digital tools for it. For example, MindMups application would be great for a learning environment. MindMups would definitely help educators and learners organize their ideas, share them with their partners, and have a digital copy of their notes. In addition, mind maps are visual and more memorable. What I like MindMups is that it is possible to download my notes from there  and add them to a presentation or upload them into a word document. mindmap

If you’d like to learn more about MindMups, watch this video.

Share your experience with MindMups in the comments below.

Technologies and 21st century classroom

The world of teaching and learning is rapidly changing. As the Internet and technologies have become an even more significant part of our lives, there has been a paradigm shift from “traditional” classrooms to “21st century digital classroom”, where both teachers and learners need to have “21st century skills” (p. 224).

As an ESL instructor, I always create my lessons based on my students’ needs, their personalities, and interests. I do my best to make my lesson plans relevant to their lives and experiences by implementing technologies in my classroom to make the process of teaching and learning more interactive, appealing, and engaging for my students. It is true that integrating technologies should be done thoughtfully, depending on students’ needs and aims of the lesson. Otherwise, it would be just “… putting a piece of software in the classroom”, and students will not notice any positive outcomes of using new educational tools.

Seven years ago, when I started my teaching career, I did not use as many technological resources in my classroom as I do now. As the world of technologies keeps on developing and my learners are using more of them, I try to be on the same page with them and integrate their favorite applications in my ESL classroom. For example, my students create videos in the iMovie application, or use WhatsApp for interviewing their peers. Also, my students write summaries, essays, emails and post them on Facebook or WordPress, where their peers can read them, collaborate if needed, give feedback, and share their work with their instructor in a low-pressure environment.

In addition, technologies are not only very useful for learners, but for educators, as well. I have taken various courses and webinars for ESL teachers online. Developing my knowledge base and collaborating with other instructors has been an extremely rewarding experience. I have learned so much from other ESL professionals around the world by taking part in several Massive Open Online Courses. With the help of these technologies, I would love to collaborate and share my teaching experience with other professionals in the same field.shutterstock_268710521

Robin, B. (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory into Practice, themed issue on New Media and Education in the 21st Century. 47(3) (pp. 220-228). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.