Category Archives: English

Say goodbye to spelling worries! Find out how.

Sun

Spellings are rather troublesome for many of us to work with, more so for our children! This is mainly because we often say a word quite differently than we write it. So, here are a few tips that can help you equip your child to make spellings easier.

Tip 1: Write, re-write and remember

This is a lovely technique that can be excellent practice for your child because it is visual and relies on recalling.

  • You will need to make a chart with 3 columns labelled ‘Write, Re-write and Remember’.
  • Then fold over the “remember” part so that only the first two columns are visible
  • Say the word that you want to learn aloud.
  • Write it in the first column, saying the letters as you trace. Say the word again. You can even spell it aloud.
  • Go to the second column, say the word, and re-write the word in the same way.
  • While the rhythm and the sound and the feeling are fresh in your mind, flip the paper over and say the word and spell it out.
  • If it’s a hard word, put it on the list (the Write column) more than once. If you feel confident and would like to challenge yourself or your child, write and re-write TWO words, and try to remember them both before you flip the page over. However, if you can’t remember it, do it one at a time because you want to practice the words RIGHT, not make guesses!
  • After you’ve done all the words this way a few times, start doing them two or three at a time, and when you feel like you know them, do the list again!

Tip 2: Using memory tricks and Mnemonics

Memory tricks or mnemonics are really useful to remember tricky spellings. For eg. the words stationary can end with an -ary and -ery. So how to you ensure you are spelling it correctly?

One easy way to remember is to come up with memory tricks. For instance, the word stationery refers to pens, pencils, paper etc. As there is an ‘e’ in ‘pen’ and it is an item of stationery, we can try to remember that stationery has an ‘e’ just like the word ‘pen’ has an ‘e’. Whereas the other ‘stationary’ does not have an ‘e’ and refers to ‘not moving’.

Similarly, for the word principal, should we use -al or -le at the end? So here is a memory tip, remember you and your pal (or friend) have the same school Principal. You can also think of words within words for such memory tricks like believe has a lie in it, so you must never believe a lie – this way you can remember that believe has an -ie not -ei.

It is fun to create such memory tricks. And you can ask your children to share their tricks with friends, family and even teachers so that they remember it better. And of course, there are no rules for these, so you can make any that makes sense to you.

Tip 3: Use a recorder to test and practice the meanings of words and their spelling!

The next tip is children could use a tape recorder or a  phone recorder to test themselves and to practice using words.

Here’s how they can do it. Read the words — be sure you’re pronouncing them right — into the recorder. Record it like it’s a spelling test: word, example sentence, word, spelling. For example, you’d say

“Separate.

Put the papers in separate piles.

Separate.

Spelled s – e – p – a – r - a - t – e.”

Play it back — and try to say the spelling before the tape plays it. This tip will help children practice without anyone’s help. This is also something that can be done once and then the tape can be re-use over and over.

Tip 4: Highlight the hard parts.

Some words, like separate, are only hard in some parts. So highlighting the hard part is a good technique for learning rules and patterns.

Ask your child to get different colour pens or pencils or markers, and get small cards. Write the words vividly, boldly on the cards — and make the ‘hard part’ a different colour than the rest. Make a mental picture of that card, read the word aloud and spell it aloud, and change the way they say the “hard part,” maybe saying it louder, maybe putting on a different accent. So, they’d write:

sepArate    believe

 

When they write the whole word, they should think about the hard part, what it looks like or sounds like. So, while they’re writing “separate,” they might be visualizing that bold, red A.

These cards are also easy to carry and can be used almost anywhere. Turn it into a family game for even more fun.

Tip 5: Learning through reverse chaining letters.

Learning spelling through reverse chaining letters is another effective trick. Here’s how the children should do it:

  • Say the word. Then write it, saying each letter (be enthusiastic and expressive)
    • W – O – R – D
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last letter. Say the last letter, but don’t write it.
    • W – O – R – ____
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last two letters. Say them, but don’t write them.
    • W – O – ___ ____
  • Do that until you’re only writing one letter.
  • Go back to the top. Read the word, then spell it out loud.
  • Fold the page over so you can’t see the whole word. Say the word, spell it, and add that last letter.
  • Fold the page back again. Say the word, spell it, and add the last two letters.
  • Keep going until you spell the whole word.
  • GO BACK AND CHECK — make sure you didn’t leave out a letter.

Adding variety in the way children learn spellings is a key factor in keeping them at it. A single strategy becomes boring too soon and children tend to lose interest. So, get them to try different techniques. However, don’t introduce all of them at once, as this can be overwhelming and not quite effective.

 

All of these are tried and tested methods so do try out these tips for yourself and let us know which one worked for your child in the comments.

Keep watching this space for more such tips and suggestions on improving your child’s English language and skills.

-Melisha Robinson and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council

 

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Say goodbye to spelling worries! Find out how.

Sun

Spellings are rather troublesome for many of us to work with, more so for our children! This is mainly because we often say a word quite differently than we write it. So, here are a few tips that can help you equip your child to make spellings easier.

Tip 1: Write, re-write and remember

This is a lovely technique that can be excellent practice for your child because it is visual and relies on recalling.

  • You will need to make a chart with 3 columns labelled ‘Write, Re-write and Remember’.
  • Then fold over the “remember” part so that only the first two columns are visible
  • Say the word that you want to learn aloud.
  • Write it in the first column, saying the letters as you trace. Say the word again. You can even spell it aloud.
  • Go to the second column, say the word, and re-write the word in the same way.
  • While the rhythm and the sound and the feeling are fresh in your mind, flip the paper over and say the word and spell it out.
  • If it’s a hard word, put it on the list (the Write column) more than once. If you feel confident and would like to challenge yourself or your child, write and re-write TWO words, and try to remember them both before you flip the page over. However, if you can’t remember it, do it one at a time because you want to practice the words RIGHT, not make guesses!
  • After you’ve done all the words this way a few times, start doing them two or three at a time, and when you feel like you know them, do the list again!

Tip 2: Using memory tricks and Mnemonics

Memory tricks or mnemonics are really useful to remember tricky spellings. For eg. the words stationary can end with an -ary and -ery. So how to you ensure you are spelling it correctly?

One easy way to remember is to come up with memory tricks. For instance, the word stationery refers to pens, pencils, paper etc. As there is an ‘e’ in ‘pen’ and it is an item of stationery, we can try to remember that stationery has an ‘e’ just like the word ‘pen’ has an ‘e’. Whereas the other ‘stationary’ does not have an ‘e’ and refers to ‘not moving’.

Similarly, for the word principal, should we use -al or -le at the end? So here is a memory tip, remember you and your pal (or friend) have the same school Principal. You can also think of words within words for such memory tricks like believe has a lie in it, so you must never believe a lie – this way you can remember that believe has an -ie not -ei.

It is fun to create such memory tricks. And you can ask your children to share their tricks with friends, family and even teachers so that they remember it better. And of course, there are no rules for these, so you can make any that makes sense to you.

Tip 3: Use a recorder to test and practice the meanings of words and their spelling!

The next tip is children could use a tape recorder or a  phone recorder to test themselves and to practice using words.

Here’s how they can do it. Read the words — be sure you’re pronouncing them right — into the recorder. Record it like it’s a spelling test: word, example sentence, word, spelling. For example, you’d say

“Separate.

Put the papers in separate piles.

Separate.

Spelled s – e – p – a – r - a - t – e.”

Play it back — and try to say the spelling before the tape plays it. This tip will help children practice without anyone’s help. This is also something that can be done once and then the tape can be re-use over and over.

Tip 4: Highlight the hard parts.

Some words, like separate, are only hard in some parts. So highlighting the hard part is a good technique for learning rules and patterns.

Ask your child to get different colour pens or pencils or markers, and get small cards. Write the words vividly, boldly on the cards — and make the ‘hard part’ a different colour than the rest. Make a mental picture of that card, read the word aloud and spell it aloud, and change the way they say the “hard part,” maybe saying it louder, maybe putting on a different accent. So, they’d write:

sepArate    believe

 

When they write the whole word, they should think about the hard part, what it looks like or sounds like. So, while they’re writing “separate,” they might be visualizing that bold, red A.

These cards are also easy to carry and can be used almost anywhere. Turn it into a family game for even more fun.

Tip 5: Learning through reverse chaining letters.

Learning spelling through reverse chaining letters is another effective trick. Here’s how the children should do it:

  • Say the word. Then write it, saying each letter (be enthusiastic and expressive)
    • W – O – R – D
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last letter. Say the last letter, but don’t write it.
    • W – O – R – ____
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last two letters. Say them, but don’t write them.
    • W – O – ___ ____
  • Do that until you’re only writing one letter.
  • Go back to the top. Read the word, then spell it out loud.
  • Fold the page over so you can’t see the whole word. Say the word, spell it, and add that last letter.
  • Fold the page back again. Say the word, spell it, and add the last two letters.
  • Keep going until you spell the whole word.
  • GO BACK AND CHECK — make sure you didn’t leave out a letter.

Adding variety in the way children learn spellings is a key factor in keeping them at it. A single strategy becomes boring too soon and children tend to lose interest. So, get them to try different techniques. However, don’t introduce all of them at once, as this can be overwhelming and not quite effective.

 

All of these are tried and tested methods so do try out these tips for yourself and let us know which one worked for your child in the comments.

Keep watching this space for more such tips and suggestions on improving your child’s English language and skills.

-Melisha Robinson and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council

 

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7 Easy Tips For Improving Your Child’s Study Skills

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Parents do not like to compromise on their child’s academics! However, making your child study, remains to be the most frustrating part of their day. Even though there is no magic formula to make your child study better, these strategies will go a long way in building their study skills.

Study skills are the skills you need to enable you to study and learn efficiently – an often neglected, but an absolutely necessary skill. Here are 7 ways that you can help your child to study more efficiently:

  1. Short study sessions: Research proves that we learn better in shorter, regular sessions rather than setting aside a whole day or week trying to master a challenging math problem or a grammar point! Keep each session as long as 20-30 minutes. Use the Pomodoro method to help you. All you need is a kitchen timer or a phone which has a timer. Such short study sessions are motivating, less daunting and less tiresome.
  2. Maintain a routine: Negotiate with your child and set a study routine. To help your child settle into the routine, check which time they are most attentive- put the difficult subjects/ study areas in that study block. A routine killer is procrastination- saying to yourself “I’ll do this later” don’t fall in that trap. Remember to reward your child for not being lazy and sticking to the routine.
  3. Organise your study space: Set aside a place to study every day. Keep all you need ready before you start studying – pens, pencils, markers, notebooks etc. Watch this video to see “Tidy Up” queen Marie Kondo give some useful tips.
  4. Use flashcards: Rather than highlighting or underlining texts, use flashcards, these are perfect for short study sessions and will help you identify and note down the most important information. What’s more, you can carry them around and learn on the go- in a bus, in the car. And don’t forget to have fun with your flashcards- draw diagrams or even cartoons on them, write questions on them, use different colours. Having fun motivates you to study and helps aid memory. When the exam time comes closer, all you need to do is pull out the pack of flashcards and your last-minute revision notes are ready.
  5. Plan a study session with reachable goals: Decide with your child exactly what they’re going to study and focus on a single topic, concept or subject area. If children cram too many subjects or topics in one day, they get overwhelmed and start panicking. If they don’t achieve even one of those goals, they decide that they have failed and stop studying. When thinking of goals make it as specific as you can instead of saying “Today I will study Math” say that “Today I will complete this topic; XX number of sums/ 5 difficult sums in this topic from XXX book/website”. At the end of your study session, tick off the goals you have achieved
  6. Study actively: Just reading a text is not enough.  To help your child process, understand and remember information, try activities like sorting, mapping, sequencing, summarizing, self-quizzing etc. For example, if you’re studying a long history chapter with multiple dates, draw a timeline that will help you sort the events and remember them. Or in case of English, if you’re reading a difficult chapter or poem- try to summarize it in a few words or if you’re reading a story write the most important events of the story and sequence them to remember the story well.
  7. Listen to classical music: Ever wondered why it’s easier to memorize the lyrics of a song than the periodic table of elements? That’s because our brain looks for patterns to better understand, recall, and process information. Research suggests that THE ONLY genre of music that aids to learning and memory is classical music. So definitely go for Bach over Britney. Music not only betters your focus; it relieves stress and it is a performance booster. Here is a playlist you can listen to.

Try out these easy ways of improving your child’s skills and let us know how it goes. All the best!

-Ridhima Somaiya and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council

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Do you want your child to write stories? Find out how easy it is here.

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We all enjoy stories, whether it’s from a book or through real-life experiences that we narrate later to people. Stories aren’t just for entertainment or teaching morals but have a deeper function especially for children. It helps them develop their language in terms of their sentence structure, vocabulary used and introduces them to a whole world of new ideas.

Stories help children learn simple ideas like the concept of shapes, colours, nature, numbers etc as well as complex ideas like the importance of sharing, turn-taking, compassion for others and so on. It helps them enhance their real-world knowledge and critical thinking skills. Here are some quick tips on how you can get your child started on this fun journey.

Step 1Brainstorm Ideas for your story.

All good things start with good ideas. So first you need to come up with an idea for your story. Reading a book together is a good place to start here. Your child can make predictions about the endings of stories and this can be a great place to launch off into a new story.

You could also write stories based on real life experiences – for example, your child’s first day to school, an adventure to the beach or park, and read that to them.

Step 2The important W’s – Who, what, where, why

Brainstorm with your child and elicit details from them about the character and setting. Think about things like – will the character be an animal, a child or an adult? Will it be set in the wild, on the beach, in a park, in a town or maybe a magical forest? What’s important here is to let your child’s imagination run wild.

Step 3Have a strong story beginning

First impressions count, even when it comes to stories, so set the opening scene and expand on their character and the original idea. Possible things to think about could be what’s special about the character? Maybe it’s a boy who pretends to fight crime and save the world or a cat that fears mice?

Step 4Conflict is key

This is important to any story because, what’s a story without some drama? It keeps it from being dull and drab and creates the narrative thread for it. Revisit some conflicts in already existing stories and help your child understand it. You can then work with your child and come up with a conflict in their story.

Step 5A twist in the tale or let it fizzle out

The climax or turning point is another important point in the story. Create a bizarre twist to the story that nobody would see coming or end it with something predictable. The choice is yours. Let your child’s imagination loose here. There isn’t a right or wrong way of doing this.

Step 6The final resolution

A good story doesn’t finish without a final resolution. Think about how the conflict in their story turns out. You can make it more interesting by linking the conflict with the turning point to create a sensible resolution.

Finally, appreciation at every stage is important to feel motivated and supported throughout. Remember to not curb your child’s enthusiasm or imagination throughout the process as the more enthusiastic or imaginative they are, the more they will gravitate towards writing and reading. Time to get cracking with those stories!

-Ian Vaz, Teacher British Council

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Top tips for improving your child’s pronunciation skills!

Like it is in any language, pronunciation is an integral part of English too. A problem in pronunciation could lead to a complete communication break down at worst and a misunderstanding at best. Read on to know how you can help your child ace their pronunciation game. 

Did you know that the number of non-native English speakers in the world outweigh native speakers by 3:1? This has started a trend of an international accent to facilitate mutual understanding. The key is intelligibility – or the ability to be understood clearly. Therefore, it’s not important to imitate the native speaker accent but simply to apply certain strategies while communicating. Here are some ideas to get a head start:

1. Mimicking model language: We speak what we hear. If children grow up listening to bad models of English, then they imitate that. To improve pronunciation, ensure that your child listens to good models of pronunciation through videos, listening to songs, YouTube etc. Make the most of these age-appropriate videos for children and teens on the British Council website. You can also watch some of these exciting movies and make it a family movie night. Don’t forget the bucket of popcorn!

2. Sound it out:  Does this clip from the very popular sitcom I Love Lucy strike a chord? The English alphabet has 26 letters but 44 sounds, five vowels which can be pronounced in 12 different ways! Children are bound to get confused just like Lucy’s Cuban husband. In English, different letter combinations make the same sound. The trick is to ‘find’ these sounds in your mouth by being aware of the position of the tongue, teeth, jaw and lips.  Use this video series by BBC which demonstrates how to make these sounds. Feel free to pause, rewind and replay the video till you think you’ve got it right.

3. Spell it right: Has it ever happened with you that you have taught your child to phonetically spell C-A-T  and then you move on to spelling the word T-H-E but you are stuck! Some words in English are sight words – what we see is what we spell but the pronunciation is different. Here are some very useful sight word flashcards you can use. When reading together, ask your child to point to the sight words he knows. You can even ask him to count how many times a sight word appears in the book.

4. Use a dictionary: If you think physical dictionaries are passe, online dictionaries are perfect for you. Not only do they fit in your phones and pocket, but they also serve multiple purposes like breaking down of words, providing their phonetic transcription and an audio option to listen to their pronunciation.

Keep this British Council app handy to check the pronunciation of words whenever in doubt.

5. Pronunciation and play:  it’s never too early to start working on pronunciation. Younger children are very receptive to sounds since they learn how to listen before they speak. Repeating rhymes and singing songs develop the muscles of the mouth and makes children used to the rhythm of English. Plus, it’s a lot of fun when accompanied with actions. For older kids – tongue twisters are very popular. Organize a tongue twister challenge and involve everyone in the family for an evening full of fun.

There are some lovely pronunciation activities on our learnenglish britishcouncil kids website as well.

Want to play some games with phonics, PhonicsPlay has some great resources.

6. Reading aloud: Reading bedtime stories to your child every night is a great way not just to lull them to sleep but also to hone their pronunciation while they listen to their favourite tales. Here are some great stories to choose from for your daily night routine. You can watch the stories come to life by playing the video or print the story and read out to your child. Don’t forget to add your own versions of character voices for that extra effect!

Children feel confident to speak as soon as they realize that they can pronounce words just like grown-ups. With these easy strategies and fun games, you can give your child the tools to independently work on their own pronunciation so they won’t need an accent coach like Clouseau in Pink Panther.

                                                                                      - Ridhima Somaiya, Teacher British Council

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How to improve your pronunciation?

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One of the most important aspects of language learning is pronunciation. Learning to pronounce words in English is made more challenging by the fact that words are often spelt one way and pronounced another. For instance, how would you pronounce these words—enough, thorough, bought, though, cough?

To be a successful English speaker, one should also focus on other important features of pronunciation, such as intonation, stress, rhythm, and connected speech. Here are some tips to perfect your pronunciation.

1. Look up in a dictionary: Online dictionaries make your life easy by giving you an audio clip of the pronunciation. Forvo is a wonderful website that let’s you find the pronunciation of words in over 400 languages! While listening to the pronunciation, make a note of where the stress is and practice saying the word as often as you can.

 2. Imitation: Listening to English in real-life contexts and in a variety of accents are two wonderful ways in which you can master pronunciation. Choose interesting words, phrases, or short bits of the video you are watching. Imitate the speaker in the video by repeating the words or sentences exactly the way they are spoken. Pay attention to the stress and the tone of these phrases. Check out these podcasts and videos to practice pronunciation:

 3. Record yourself: Recording yourself speaking in English can help you notice your errors and work on self-correction. You could use it while you are learning new words or to practise longer conversations. Most phones these days have a voice recorder in them. You could also use https://vocaroo.com/ to record yourself as often as you like.

4. Befriend a mirror: The position of your tongue and the way you move your mouth affect the sound you make. For example, the difference in the pronunciation of the words ‘late’ and ‘rate’ comes from the position of your tongue. Watch pronunciation videos that explain these differences. BBC has a great playlist of videos showing different sounds in English and their pronunciation. Watch them here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/pronunciation

You could also use our app ‘Sounds Right’ to practise these sounds: https://www.britishcouncil.org/english/business/apps/sounds-right

5. Tongue twisters: If everything else we said here feels like too much work, try tongue twisters! They are great for pronunciation training and most of all, they are fun to do! Try these tongue twisters:

Lastly, be kind to yourself. It is okay to make mistakes. You will get better with practice!

-Reshmi V M, English Teacher 

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Keep calm and carry on learning!

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As home schooling continues to be the norm for thousands of families across the globe, many parents are slowly losing the steam they had at the beginning of the lockdown. Here are five ways to get you back on track.

WFH meetings, household chores and keeping the kids busy can be quite the task even for the most efficient multitaskers!  We often have parents asking how they can ensure their child is learning English even when their online lesson is over.

It’s important to remember that learning need not be restricted to books and online lessons alone. English can be seamlessly incorporated into everyday life to make learning a more hands-on experience. Here are some tried and tested ways in which you can blend English with routine tasks at home while also having fun with your child.

Everyday English: Mundane chores can turn into mini-language sessions especially while vocalizing the tasks. Expressions like ‘make the bed’, ‘do the dishes’, ‘set the table’ when used appropriately and frequently get ingrained in children’s minds as language chunks. While seemingly simple, these phrases are often used inaccurately and therefore learning it in context becomes important in order to learn them correctly. Similarly, activities like gardening and cooking are great ways of picking up vocabulary.  Here’s a delicious pasta recipe for you to try out with the kids.

And when things get a tad slow, here’s a poem to pep you up!

Be a virtual tourist: So what if all our travel plans are on hold for the near foreseeable future? We can still travel virtually! Museums around the world have thrown open their virtual doors for the world and all you really need is a screen. The Louvre has some fascinating tours like this one of the Egyptian Antiquities . And then there is The Vatican Museum offering a 360 degree tour of the Sistine Chapel. No better time than now to be an armchair tourist.

Getting crafty: Art and crafts have manifold benefits as learning techniques and even to build personality. They create a sense of calmness, foster creativity, and help to develop higher order thinking. Activities could be as basic as cut and paste posters to the more complex ones such as papier mache and origami crafts. Allow your child and their creativity to take the lead while you only assist them in the process. Don’t let the lack of access to craft stores dampen your artistic drive—find materials around the house like newspaper, old wrapping paper, buttons, card paper, fabric, pasta shells, leaves to help your child with their masterpiece.  Try to read/say the instructions out loud and if possible have the children repeat them so that they can associate the language with the actions.

Here are a ton of craft activities to help bring out the artist in your child.

Gamify learning – That saying about all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Completely true! Gamification is a technique used in several classrooms to create a buzz and it can easily be adapted for the home too. Classics like Scrabble, charades, Pictionary, and taboo work across age groups and make for great family games. You could also invite friends and family online and make it one grand game night.

To up the challenge, get the children to create their own board game. Here’s a basic template which they can further add to and design their own challenges. Make sure they also jot down the rules so that everyone plays by the book!

Lyrical learning: There is considerable research that shows that music can be used as a tool for language acquisition.  Repeating refrains in songs, predicting the story around a song or just good old sing-alongs have found to help children with becoming fluent speakers.

Hip-hop artist Akala’s TED talk on connections between Shakespeare and hip-hop is wildly popular among teens. Here are members of GMCBeats with their incredible rap song on internet safety.

Remember that children are very intuitive and can easily pick up on their parents’ emotions. So make sure you enjoy the process of learning and they’re sure to follow suit. Do try out the activities we’ve listed for you and let us know how they worked for you. Happy learning!  

Ananya Banerjee, Teacher British Council

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Netflix and films for language acquisition

Sunday

We are always on the lookout to find resources and books to improve our language skills. But did you know that you could easily pick up a new language by watching films or television shows? Have you ever wondered if your Netflix or Prime subscription can go beyond entertaining and informing you and benefit you in learning a new language or enhancing your skills in a second language?

In this article, we will look at why films are a great way to learn English or any other language and how you can exploit them to improve your skills.

Let’s look at some of the merits of using films to pick up a new language. The benefits of watching films are plenty. Most importantly, it is entertaining. You enjoy watching films, especially if they are of your choice. This not only makes your experience of language learning more enjoyable, but also helps you remain motivated and engaged throughout the learning process. You’d be eager to do it regularly and consistently.

Another advantage of watching films is that they provide a visual input to language learning. The visual context helps you interpret the language you hear and offers a better understanding. You will also be able to catch-up quickly even if you miss out on a few words or phrases.

Finally, films are a great source of authentic contexts in which language is used naturally. You gain exposure to real-life situations and conversations which gives you an immersive experience. You no longer need to pack a bag and move to a new country to learn a language; you can get the same experience in your living room.

How can you use films or TV series to learn English?

While there are many resources online to supplement your language learning through films and television shows, it is best to start small and be consistent in your approach.

1. Choose a short film or an episode of a TV series. When you start out learning English or any other language, it is best to go for a short film or an episode of a TV series as they are short enough to sustain your interest and you can finish watching them in one sitting. You can find an interesting range of short films in English here:

2. Note down words and phrases that you liked or found useful. It’s okay if you don’t understand every word, try to guess the meaning of the words from the context. Make a note of them and look them up in a dictionary after finishing the film.

3. You could also try saying out loud the new words or short phrases that you hear. Repeating the words help in improving your pronunciation, consolidating your learning, and remembering them.

4. Watch with subtitles. If you are a beginner, watching with English subtitles should help you pick up the spellings, sounds and rhythm of the new language. It also gives you a chance to get used to the accents that you hear. If you are an advanced learner, the subtitles will offer new vocabulary, colloquialisms, and the differences between formal and informal modes of address.

 5. Watch without subtitles. Beginners may find this a very challenging experience, however, if you have seen the film already, watching it again without subtitles will help you improve your listening skills and vocabulary recall.

This chrome extension allows you to enable subtitles in two different languages at the same time on Netflix. There’s also a pop-up dictionary, and the extension suggests the most important words for you to learn.

6Describe a scene or summarise a short film to a friend. Summarising forces you to use new words and stick to the essentials of a scene or a story while also giving you an opportunity to use the new words or phrases you learned from the film on your own.

We hope that you found these tips and resources useful. What are you waiting for? Choose a short film and embark on your language learning journey!

For more collections, visit https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/

-Reshmi V M, English Teacher 

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Five easy ways to encourage your child to read

sunday postThe unprecedented effects of COVID-19 are felt around the world today, perhaps most acutely by our children, who have now shifted from a face-to-face education system to a new online realm. This has not only affected their academic pursuits, but also their reading habits.  

Are you as a parent concerned your child is not reading enough with limited access to the school or local library?  Children who are already reluctant to read now seem to have very few opportunities to pick up the habit.

Reading aids accelerate a child’s ability to pick up language skills. Not only does it stimulate curiosity in a child, but it also increases concentration, improves the attention span and aids in memory retention. Here are our top five tips to take your child on a journey from ‘Learning to Read’ to ‘Reading to Learn’ and to help them grow as an engaged reader.

1. Provide easy access to a wide variety of books

Although we may not be able to go to our favourite neighbourhood physical libraries anymore, we can still access a wealth of books on the internet. Some digital libraries which are free to use include East of the Web, which has interesting short stories and vocabulary games, and Storyline Online, where your child can listen to books being read out by famous actors. Storyline Online also has activity guides with ideas for parents to engage their child further using the theme of the book and extend their learning.

Do visit the reading section of British Council’s LearnEnglish Kids websites to access free age-appropriate reading materials.  Our digital library has a wide collection of books that are appropriate for quality and reading readiness, so, you as a parent can monitor your child’s reading choices and ensure their safety online.

2. Choose books wisely

It is important to allow your child to choose what they read, because each child has different interests. One child might like science fiction, whereas another may like fantasy. The best thing we can do is expose them to different genres, different authors and let them choose the book they like. Also, giving them the liberty to give up reading a book mid-way is okay too, because they might not enjoy it after reading a bit.

If your child is reluctant to read, you could select a humorous book or one with illustrations and diagrams. Comic books, graphic novels and audiobooks are also popular choices. Books by authors like A. A. Milne, David Walliams, Louie Stowell, Robert J Harris, Eric Carle, Julian Clary, Elli Woollard, to name a few, have proven to click with kids of all ages

3. Involve yourself in their reading experiences

Modelling a love of reading has an excellent influence on children. It sometimes seems unfair that we ask them to read when we don’t read ourselves! So modelling is essential. Reading books aloud is also a wonderful way for you to bond with your child while improving their language skills and showing them the joys of reading. If your child interrupts you when you are reading to them, engage them in conversation about the book. You can ask questions, use pictures or make up fun voices for different characters to pique their interest.

If you have older children, you could invite them to read to you or involve yourself in their reading experience by discussing the themes in the book with them.

4Understand your child’s circumstances

It is important to understand difficulties your child experiences while reading and, provide them books appropriate to their reading abilities.   Graded readers, especially of classic storybooks, are an excellent way of providing level-appropriate language as well as letting your child understand and enjoy a timeless classic.

Magazines, comics and graphic novels are good for children who are weak at reading or have learning disabilities.  Being able to complete a page gives them a sense of accomplishment and a huge self-esteem booster which in turn leads to kids naturally wanting to read more.

Lastly, remember reading for pleasure is a leisurely activity! Sometimes, the reason your child seems to dislike reading is simply because it is a timetabled chore rather than something they choose to do in their free time to relax.

5. Extend the reading experience

Reading doesn’t have to stop at the last page of the book. Parents can exploit the reading text to improve their child’s language proficiency and increase their interest in reading.  Get your child to do a task around what they have read, such as drawing characters from the story and describing them, recording new words they have picked up or video recording them narrating the story perhaps with an alternate ending to the story. You could also simply have a conversation around what they have read.  If you have older children, you could also write letters back and forth about ideas and concepts in the books.

With these steps, you can help your child to start developing a love of reading. Try them out and let us know how they worked for you!

- Priyanka Vijayraghavan, Full Time Teacher and  Shonali Khanna, Academic Manager

                                                                                                                                                      

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WhatsApp for teacher development – the what and how

Authors: Ashwini Shenoy, Danish Abdullah and Ashlesha Rodrigues Dsouza

How often do we hear (and mostly likely also say) ‘Please WhatsApp it to me.’ or ‘I’ll WhatsApp it to you’? When a brand name is used as a verb, it is truly a measure of its success! And in terms of must-have apps, WhatsApp clearly makes the cut. So why not use it for teacher development? It’s easy to access, bite-sized, and relevant. It can give you your ‘10-minute dose’ of CPD each day!

This blog is especially written for teacher educators who mentor or support teachers. We hope you find the ideas and techniques as useful as we have!

1.    Getting started

WhatsApp groups are useful communities of practice and a place to share, learn and grow. As a mentor, you can facilitate discussions, encourage peer learning and promote healthy debates on issues related to teacher practice and development.

Once you have your WhatsApp group in place, it’s useful to look at strategies to help you manage your group effectively – here are three ideas from our Technology for Teachers series.

WhatsApp for teacher development – the what and how

2.    Making the most of the group

We’ve found three areas which are key to successful and thriving WhatsApp groups:

  • Moderation: Irrelevant posts and forwards, or posts at odd times are inevitable! Mutually agreeing on group rules, as mentioned above, is a great way to combat this. You’ll be surprised at how participants remind each other about the rules! Your intervention might not even be required. The mantra, however, is to be patient.
  • Engagement: Haven’t we all at some point taken on the role of passive readers in WhatsApp groups? A slight nudge can help get the quiet ones talking. Knowing your participants’ backgrounds and professional development needs helps. Look for opportunities to nominate passive participants, link posts to their experiences, and contextualize content to make it relevant to them. And if your efforts do not yield results, do not be discouraged! Focus on the enthusiastic ones; in time, the others will follow suit. Not all participants may be tech-savvy too, so they might need a ‘silent period’ before warming up to discussions. Don’t forget to appreciate and reward participation. Discuss highlights and share your own learning.
  • Information: Too many posts may drive some away. Remember to agree about the day and time of posting; this will also give you that precious time off for yourself! Having a plan prepared on Excel or Word beforehand can help get you started

3.    Posting and managing content

What you post is extremely important and can influence the level of engagement. Here are some ideas on how you can add variety without over-simplifying content.

  • Theme-based resources: Sharing content such as articles, teaching resources, and audio-video resources is relatively easy. However, streamlining this content based on a theme makes it relevant. Consider posting resources that link to what the teachers are doing, perhaps a topic covered during a recent training, or introducing them to a new topic that they will find useful and exciting.
  • Quizzes: Bridge knowledge gaps or practice language points by posting a series of questions on the group. These could be on topics from a recent workshop or areas that need attention, based on common errors. You can also create quizzes online on websites like Poll Everywhere and share the poll link on WhatsApp.
  • Authentic audios and videos: Do you work with teachers who like to share stories from their classrooms? Think about getting them to record audio and video clips! If they try a new activity or methodology, or perhaps attempt a lesson stage differently from before, they can record it and share it with the group. Don’t forget to tell them about child protection and the importance of getting consent before recording and sharing media.

If a teacher posts a clip, get them to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Other participants could also give peer feedback. And if the teacher does make these recommended changes, sharing the learning on the group is a great idea. This helps build and strengthen the community of practice.

4.    What’s worked for us

  • Share one article/video a day. Posting too many times can lead to confusing trails. Remember not everyone knows how to reply to a specific image or link.
  • Don’t expect an immediate response. The idea of sharing on WhatsApp is that group members engage with the content at their own convenience.
  • Don’t just send a link. Engage with the teachers too. Encourage participants to think and share their thoughts. Ask them if they agree with the ideas in the article/video. Elicit how they could use those ideas in their context.
  • Ask your participants to select quiz topics and encourage all to participate. Remember to post the poll results and discuss. Get the group to reflect on them too.

Useful resources:

How do you use WhatsApp for professional development? Have you used any of the techniques from this blog? Share your answers in the comments section below.

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