‘Pin it’: Using Pinterest in the Language Classroom



In today’s culture, the rise in social networking has become an integral and for most people, an important part of daily life. For many, waking up and scrolling through sites such as Facebook and Twitter is like reading the morning newspaper! It’s true to say that we have come a long way since the development of web 2.0. Many internet websites asking us to perform actions such as ‘like it’, ‘tweet it’ and now ‘pin it’, as a way of sharing and spreading information. If like me you love taking pictures or browsing for pictures of interest on the web, you will love Pinterest. Pinterest is a ‘visual discovery tool’, people create ‘boards’ and share collections of visual bookmarks referred to as ‘pins’, which can be used to plan trips and projects, organize events or save articles and recipes. This visual and virtual ‘mood board’ is growing in popularity among education specialists partly because it can be used easily both inside and outside the classroom.

The benefits of using Pinterest is that not only is it a visually stimulating learning platform, it is constructed in topics and themes which makes it easier for users to navigate and quickly process visual cues. This unique piece of technology can be useful to both language teachers and language learners, continue reading to find out how.

Through the use of Pinterest, language teachers can:

  • Stay up-to-date with social media and incorporate technology in the classroom – this may motivate learners as it delves away from traditional teaching methods such as drills or grammar exercises.
  • Post, share lesson plans and learning resources – this increases accessibility and allows teachers to interact with others in the same profession.
  • Use the search bar to find topical content for the classroom – this may motivate learners and help maintain their engagement.
  • Promote student online learning and learning autonomy- teachers can set homework and encourage self-study thus making learners more independent.

Through the use of Pinterest, language learners can:

  • Create boards when working on a group projects – this is a good way of promoting collaborative learning and building class bonds.
  • Interact with other learners from different institutions all across the world – this is a great way of meeting new people and practicing English.
  • Get feedback from not only teachers but also from peers by posting comments – students can learn from each other to improve different language skills.
  • Search for topical content in the form of pictures, videos, articles etc – this may motivate learners as they can choose something of their personal interest.

Although Pinterest is resourceful, one disadvantage of using it in language learning and teaching is that, sometimes learners may get overwhelmed and find it difficult to search for specific ideas as there is so much information. Users also need to becareful when sharing work and information online. To overcome this, teachers can actively monitor students’ work and posts. Nevertheless, I feel that the benefits of Pinterest outway the drawbacks. Personally, I think this piece of technology is a great way of developing not only language skills but also researching, computer literacy and collaborative learning skills.

Feel free to take a look at specific EFL Pinterests such as TEFL ideas and ABC Cambridge UK. So what are you waiting for, press the big red P button now and start pining!


Teaching Pronunciation the Adrian Underhill Way

“Take pronunciation out of the head and into the body” – Adrian Underhill

For me, the best thing about teaching is that we as teachers can spend all our professional careers improving and getting better at what we do. The advance of technology has made this even more exciting as now more than ever before, there are so many ways of teaching English creatively. Pronunciation is an important aspect in verbal communication, because of this, learners of English may struggle to grasp English pronunciation due to fear of speaking with a ‘foreign accent’. Many teachers also find it difficult to teach pronunciation in engaging ways that will motivate learners. I for one, find it hard to make pronunciation interesting for students. One of the ways to teach pronunciation differently is to teach it practically – that is to adopt Adrian Underhill’s approach of making pronunciation physical, audible and visible!

I first came across Underhill’s ‘Introduction to Teaching Pronunciation’ workshop whilst studying on my CELTA course and found it really useful. In this workshop Underhill uses the English phonemic chart to show 44 different English sounds and how they relate to each other. He gets teachers to produce various sounds using their lips, teeth, tongue and voice. This workshop can be used in the classroom to aid language learning, students can produce the sounds whilst watching the video – this is a great way for students to discover how different and new sounds are produced. Another potentially great resource in the classroom is the Interactive Phonemic Chart which can be used as part of a phonemic game (see below).

OneStopEnglish Phonemic Chart

To create some competitiveness in the classroom, get students to work in teams and write down which English phoneme set is being repeated – the team with the most correct phonemes wins! Depending on the level of students, teachers can also use the Interactive Phonemic Chart to produce single sounds, words and sentences. However, some learners may find connected speech difficult to identify in sentences, so be sure to teach at a steady pace and answer any confusing questions along the way to maximise student understanding. In my opinion, both resources are creative ways of bringing pronunciation to life. Be prepared to see some silly faces and make some funny sounds (and I don’t just mean the students!). Below are some useful links for teaching pronunciation:

Using Antconc to Teach English Collocations

When using Antconc for the first time during my Principles of Language and Linguistics assignment, I thought the software was more my foe than my friend! I am sure my fellow first time Antconc user, Salwa will agree with me on that! This was due partly to the lack of experience in using the software and unfamiliarity with the software’s features. Nevertheless, this FREE Corpus Analysis software allowed me to investigate the most common collocations and semantic associations found in different Business English course books. If you have never heard of Antconc before, this may be a little confusing at first! Where do I start? Well, Antconc was first created by Laurence Anthony and released in 2002. As Laurence defines, ‘Antconc is a freeware, multi-platform, multi-purpose corpus analysis toolkit, designed specifically for use in the classroom. It hosts a comprehensive set of tools including a powerful concordancer, word and keyword frequency generators, tools for cluster and lexical bundle analysis, and a word distribution plot’. For these reasons, Antconc can potentially be very useful in language teaching and learning.

antconc_win_7_1  t_antconc006

I used Antconc’s concordance and word frequency feature to focus on the most common lexical relationships in a given text. This can be really exciting in the classroom as teachers can build their own corpus and get students to focus on the words that are most likely to appear together. Antconc is also useful in the realms of Business English as students can adopt a lexical approach to learn ‘language chunks’ rather than single word units. For Ellis (in Nation, 2001:318), ‘language knowledge is collocational knowledge’. Here, he refers to how students store language chunks in their long-term memory on the basis of how likely particular chunks will occur (Ellis, 2001 in Nation, 2001). Language fluency is likely to increase when students recall these learnt collocations and apply them productively in their speaking and writing.

Antconc can also be used to teach vocabulary and idioms. Teachers can upload single text files on Antconc relevant to the lesson topic. As a class, students can focus on specialised vocabulary in different text types and genres such as law, story books, greetings etc. This is a good platform for teaching common vocabulary and pronunciation. An interesting gap-fill activity using Antconc is created by using the concordance feature. Teachers can choose to replace specific words using asterisks and students have to read the context to figure out the missing word.

Another activity using Antconc is to divide students in small groups, instruct groups to focus on different sets of concordance lines to see if they notice any patterns in the concordance sets. This is a great approach to communicative language teaching as students can exchange ideas, opinions and views and thus negotiate language meaningfully. If you are interested in using Antconc, simply click here to download. There are also useful step-by-step guides to using Antconc on YouTube. What are you waiting for? Get started now! I would love to know if you have ever used Antconc before and if you found it useful.

Reference: Nation, P. 2001. Language Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. This is a great and easy to read book on how to teach vocabulary and collocations. Take some ideas from the book and create your own corpus.

Teach Through TED

What image comes into your mind when you think of TED? I bet most of you envisioned a small, fluffy, cuddly toy bear but what I wanted you all to think of was TED. TED ‘is […] devoted to ideas worth spreading, [it aims to] bring people together from three different worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design’. For me, TED is one of the best ways to stimulate students’ interests.


Although I am some what biased, I love using TED as I think it is an excellent platform for language teaching and learning. This is because, students can listen to others talk about their experiences and think of ways they can relate to such situations. I first used and heard about TED whilst studying for my CELTA qualification in Manchester. I remember that day so clearly as the story told was so moving and emotional. It began with my CELTA trainer selecting a talk titled ‘Stacey Kramer: The best I ever survived’From the moment Stacey started talking, I was captivated by her story, she spoke about a gift – a gift so special and life changing, a gift that she was given but ‘would not give to anyone else’. As I continued to listen and watch the talk, I saw confused faces around me, I knew that like me, my friends were also trying to predict what the gift might be. I remember the point when Stacey began to get emotional as a tear rolled down her face, she revealed that the gift given to her was in fact a brain tumour – a gift she bravely survived. After class, I remember thinking how captivating and eye-opening different TED talks could be. 

There are many benefits of using TED in the language classroom:

  • Talks are short so students are less likely to get distracted or de-motivated easily.
  • There are so many topics on the site from different talented speakers which makes it easier for teachers to relate the talks to current lesson content.
  • One of most amazing features of TED is that students can access it anywhere and at anytime.
  • The site also allows you to select subtitles in many different languages so students of all levels can understand.

For me, this makes TED a powerful and motivating learning tool for any language learner. The subtitle transcripts can act as a good gap-fill activity or as a basis for comprehension questions. By using TED talks, students are also able to practice their language skills when listening to various talks and reading subtitles. Another way of incorporating and personalising TED talks in language lessons, is to set students a self-study project where they select a talk on TED that they like or find particularly interesting. Students can relate the talk topic to a ‘real-life’ event or experience and present it in front of the class (guidance will be needed depending on student level). Better yet, why not set up a class blog where students can post their views about particular TED talks to stimulate class discussion and communication. One disadvantage may be that because the TED talks are relatively short, they may not provide enough comprehensive information. Therefore, points of arguments could be left unsaid or unjustified which may effect the ethos of the speaker. As you can tell, I am in favour of TED and so is my friend Dunia who has also blogged about the usefulness of TED. I am curious to find out in what ways have other EFL teachers used TED in their lessons and has it been beneficial for their learners?

References: About TED Talk

Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL)

New Picture (2)

If you would have asked me a couple of months ago to define the acronym CALL or better yet give examples of different types of CALL, I would have stupidly thought you were talking about some kind of specialist film or genre of music! I now know the meaning of this well known acronym and in class last week, learnt how useful computer assisted language learning can be in second language acquisition!

As Chapelle and Jamieson (2008:1) suggest, ‘CALL is the area of applied linguistics concerned with the use of computers for teaching and learning a second language’. As technology continues to proliferate in our culture and society, the developments of CALL has presented many advantages of using technology in the language classroom. Chapelle and Jamieson (2008) mention, that there are three parts in English language pedagogy: teacher, learner and English. The computer in this case does not play a central role in pedagogy, but instead is used as a tool to aid learning. If you thought computers were amazing before, read the advantages and disadvantages about using CALL in EFL below and make up your own mind!  

Advantages of using CALL in EFL:

  • Personalisation and Individualisation – CALL enables learners to have a non-sequential learning habit. Learners can choose which skills or systems they want to learn and determine the pace and level of their learning.
  • Interest and Motivation – CALL can be a great way to engage students and motivate them whilst learning English. Students can learn more interactively with the use of games and films – it may also help to make drills more fun!
  • Immediate Feedback – students can receive instant feedback in CALL compared to delayed feedback by the teacher. The use of the computer may also help prevent students making the same language errors and understand the solution to language problems.

Disadvantages of using CALL in EFL:

  • Lack of Trained Teachers – if teachers are not trained in using CALL, this can de-motivate learners. Therefore, it is necessary that teachers are familiar and comfortable with using CALL before implementing in the classroom.
  • Inability to Handle Unexpected Problems – As computers merely have artificial intelligence, they are not designed to tackle various learning problems or situations immediately unlike the teacher.
  • CALL Software – some CALL programmes may be expensive especially if students need to purchase them too. Although CALL is useful in EFL, low budget schools or low income students may not be able to afford a computer thus making CALL less accessible.

The history of CALL is really interesting and its uses in language teaching all the more valuable. In the 1950s – 1970s, behaviourist CALL saw computers take on the role of the ‘tutor’. Here, the phrase ‘take on’ is no exaggeration as in this approach, the computer would literally mimic the teacher. Although this is ideal for giving drills and continuous feedback, behaviourist CALL is not communicative so students may easily get de-motivated or uninterested using this repetitive style of teaching. Due to this, communicative CALL was introduced in the 1970s – 1980s. Here, the computer was used as a ‘stimulus’ to encourage students to interact, negotiate meaning, share and offer opinions with each other. This is a great way of getting students to use the target language meaningfully in their conversations and for me, it is something I will implement in my teaching to improve language fluency and accuracy. In the 1980s, integrative CALL saw computers used as a ‘tool’ for reference. This made way for the inclusion of multimedia and hypertexts where students could combine language skills such as reading and listening when watching a film with subtitles. In the past, I have used behaviourist CALL to teach the pronunciation of different English vowel sounds to elementary language learners. I used the computer to model different phonetic sounds and students would repeat what they heard. I felt this was an engaging task where the teacher could closely monitor students for mispronunciations.

If you are interested in incorporating CALL in your teaching, an excellent and worth while read which I highly recommend is: Chapelle, C, A., and Jamieson, J. 2008. Tips for Teaching with CALL Practical Approaches to Computer Assisted Language Learning. New York: Pearson Education. Feel free to share your thoughts on any CALL activities you like or dislike. Have you ever used CALL in your language teaching before and was it successful? All the different types of CALL have their own advantages and disadvantages but which type do you think is most useful in the language classroom? Take a vote and find out what others think!

The Power of Technology

“Technology always changes a language” – David Crystal

As David Crystal rightly suggested, technological advancements such as the internet, wifi, computers, smart phones, IPads, social networking sites (to name but a few) has changed not only our language but also the world we live in. Technology has become such an integral part of our lives and has brought the rest of the world together by allowing users to connect and build relationships with others anywhere and at anytime. If you’re anything like me, a whole day without internet or use of your mobile phone seems like you’re suddenly detached from the world! The use of modern technology has been widely debated in EFL. Teachers may be reluctant to use different varieties of technology in the classroom, due to fear that it will replace the teacher as a central source of input. I am not the most tech savvy person, but I for one believe that with the right application, appropriate technology can facilitate language learning in many ways.

The use of the Internet in Language Learning

I don’t know about you, but I myself have constant contact with the internet whether it be reading the news, researching online or accessing the virtual learning space at university. As you can imagine, the internet is a powerful tool for just almost anything. I mean, not only can you gather or search for information right at your finger tips from the comfort of your own home, but the internet is also changing our language rapidly! Listen to David Crystal talk about how this phenomenon has happened. I would love to know if you agree or disagree with his views.

The internet can be beneficial for both language learner and teacher (below are some reasons why): 

  • Technology allows learners to can gain participation – with their own colleagues and others around the world.
  • Technology also increases learner creativity – learners can select or access a wealth of resources from journal articles, newspapers, images etc (the list is endless) to help improve their language learning or work. 
  • Learners may learn better by forming online identities – this may build their confidence as they can integrate into learning communities.
  • Students can also communicate with others via social networks and forums – this allows learners to discover how language use can vary in different social contexts.
  • Teachers can also communicate with students synchronously and asynchronously using virtual learning spaces, emails and more interestingly, through class blogs and social networks. This can be set up for students to share their ideas, opinions and views on particular lesson topics.

As a student and researcher myself, I believe that using the internet has great potential in second language learning, it is an interesting way of including world culture in the classroom and can be a contributing factor to the rate of second language acquisition as students can study beyond the classroom. What are your views on technology and internet use in language teaching? Do you have any successful or unsuccessful experiences in using technology in your teaching practice?

If you want more information, please take a look at the books below. They are all easy to read and include some ideas for using technology in the classroom:

  • Stanley, G. 2013. Language Learning With Technology Ideas for Integrating Technology in the Classroom.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dudeney, G., and Hockly, N. 2007.How to Teach English with Technology.Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
  • Cameron, K. 2001. CALL and the Challenge of Change: Elm Bank Publications.