An #ELTChat Summary – What do we do when a lesson goes horribly wrong? How do you cope and recover?

What if the students are not so concentrated – what if the lesson is not going well? (Image from #eltpics – taken by Laura Phelps @pterolaur)
Today’s lunchtime ELTChat was about yet another very interesting topic. It has happened to all of us – a lesson goes wrong, the opposite of what we expected. How do we handle it?

We started off with what kind of bad lessons there are:
– Losing the students; when they do not co-operate or understand
– A tech glitch that throws the planned lesson completely off track
– The lesson not meeting our expectations, leaving the students and ourselves confused
– When something exciting has happened before the lesson and the students find it difficult to concentrate
– In general, our lesson plan going completely awry

How do we know?
– The students have a confused / glazed over look
– The student in one case informed the teacher, quite rudely, that she did not want to do the task designated
– In another case, a student ran out of the class crying

And here came some really great replies:
What do we do in these cases?
– We reached a general consensus that it is better to switch activities and after the lesson, sit down and reflect on what went wrong. It is not advisable to do away with the said lesson plan, but it is even better to adjust/change it, in order to use it more effectively in the future.
– It was mentioned that it is a great idea to have fillers up our sleeves to manage in such situations, when something does not work.
– It is generally better to sometimes admit in class that something did not work / was not suitable and perhaps even discuss with the students what went wrong / what could be done better next time.
– Having the confidence to stop is a great thing; acknowledge an idea is not working and just move on. Keeping yourself calm is also important, as it can be a difficult moment.
– Leave space to customise for each student / group of stiudents. It is essential to be flexible with our lesson plans.

Lessons that do not work can leave inexperienced teachers lacking in confidence. What would we advise them?
– That it is okay when a lesson fails – it can prove to be a learning experience. What happened? What was the lesson plan like? Which group were you teaching on the given day?
– There was a very nice quote: “Making mistakes shows you are trying!”
– A bad day can happen to anyone.

Useful links that came up during the talk:
Jane and Dave Willis’ ELT Website.
Cybraryman’s Lesson Plans page.

Today’s super moderators were:
– Shaun Wilden (@ShaunWilden)
– James Taylor (@theteacherjames)

Today’s contributors were:
– Sue Lyon-Jones (@esolcourses)
– Naomi Epstein (@naomishema)
– Mike Griffin (@michaelegriffin)
– Evidence-Based EFL (@EBEFL)
– TtMadrid TEFL Course (@TtMadridTEFL)
– Amelie Silvert (@TeacherSilvert)
– Gisele Santos (@feedtheteacher)
– Julie Moore (@lexicojules)
– Leo Selivan (@leoselivan)and also introducing wonderful teachers in Azerbaijan to Twitter! @Samiratey, @FatimaFatima28, @Sevinc8996, @taira_akhundova, @OfeliyaG
– Stephanie McIntosh (@purple_steph)
– Tamas Lorincz (@tamaslorincz)
– M. Lincoln (@arrudamatos)
– Oksan Yagar (@OksanYagar)

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Picking Up From Where We Left Off or How Skype Eliminated Distance

Skype proved a great tool for our learning (Image taken from http://www.skype.com)

Before I get to the point of this post, I need to say two things:

– A great number of posts and articles have been written about teaching with Skype, but this experience was so helpful and eye-opening for me that I feel the need to share it : )

– For some who might not know, I used to have a school in Greece and had to leave my wonderful students behind when I moved to Switzerland.

So here goes…

Vassilis is a wonderful person and student that my sister first and (a little bit later) I have taught ever since he was eight. (He is now…gulp – twenty-three!) He is a graduate student of the Business and Economics University of Athens, Greece, in the Department of Informatics. We have kept in touch even after I left (as with a great number of our students) and one day he was telling me that he wants to do a post-graduate abroad so he needed IELTS and that he missed our lessons together. We talked about it and in the midst of nostalgia for our lessons with him in the past I blurted out, “I can teach you if you like.” “How?” he asked. I had to think fast. “Via Skype.” “Do you think it’s gonna work?” “We can try and see!” I answered.

So, that’s how we started : )

How can you use Skype?

– The video feature is great, but not that necessary. It is wonderful to see your student’s face, expressions and feel like you are in the same room with them, but with Vassilis we rarely used it. Perhaps at the beginning of the lesson it makes the lesson more personal – it is great to see each other!

– It was mainly useful for us for the audio, and you can practise speaking extensively with the student – with Vassilis, I listened to him, corrected him on the spot when needed and used the chat box on the bottom right of the Skype screen to write notes for him, or synonyms to vocabulary he used.

The chat box: It can be used as a virtual blackboard to write simple notes, which you can hand over to the student simply by pressing Enter. Using the Send File feature (which you can find on the button with the plus sign) you can share PDF or other files, pictures if you are doing picture description with your students – they open the files and the conversation goes on while various things are done in the meantime. Sometimes I immediately shared files with Vassilis if I felt I had to give him more material on something. Emoticons can also be used for reinforcement!

– Sure, there can be tech glitches (choppy sound or video, connection cuts out and so on) but investing in a good internet connection is one of the things I have never looked back on for all it has to offer. Or simply enough, you can just hang up and call again! It usually works.

Classrooms can Skype into each other! (Image taken from http://www.skype.com)

Skype can be used in so many more ways in education and I am looking forward to using it even more! I have also included some fantastic posts on using Skype below.

If any of you have written a post on teaching with Skype, I will be very happy to include a link to your blog here. If you have used any more features of Skype I do not have here (and I am sure there are lots more!) please let me know. I’d love to learn, as I am sure I can use more features in the future and make use of its full potential!

#iTDi and #TeachMeet – Professional Development At Its Very Best

Yesterday was a super day – professional development at its best, educators’ paradise!

In the morning, the International Teachers Development Institute, known as iTDi, had organised a great set of webinars, co-ordinated by presenters none other than the super Shelly Terrell and Steven Herder. Speakers included Chuck Sandy, Luke Meddings, Scott Thornbury, Jonh Fanselow and Marcos Benevides. Great speakers, fantastic educators and people we could all listen to, free of charge, from the comfort of our own homes or workplaces. It is amazing and I still wonder at what technology has helped us all do!

After the iTDi webinar, followed TeachMeet International, another webinar organised and co-ordinated by a fantastic educator in Croatia, Arjana Blazic and a super one in Belgium I hope to meet in the future, Bart Verswijvel. Sonja Lusic-Radosevic, a colleague of Arjana’s (the two of them have created a fantastic website for Croatian students, Moja Matura) was the tech sepcialist and took great screenshots of all the speakers!

The great and original thing about TeachMeet was that each speaker had just three minutes to speak. We heard some fantastic people speaking and learned a lot. It was great for me, as I realised I can speak in three minutes (as I can be a big chatterbox! Ha ha!).

Both were fantastic experiences, full of energy and inspiration. It is great and all of us as educators are so fortunate to have these events going on.

Screenshot from TeachMeet (taken by Elinda Gjondedaj, English teacher from Greece)

So whenever you find out about something like this, be sure to let your colleagues know as well! Not all of them may join, but some have taken the plunge into social media, never looking back.

TESOL France 30th Colloquium – Day Three (#TESOLFr)

And after two fantastic days of learning and connecting, the third day arrived which was equally super! There was only one difference though…we were all feeling sad at the end of it, because we would have to end a great conference and say goodbye to very good friends.

Willy Cardoso

The third day started off with a session by Willy Cardoso, Classroom Management – Who’s (Really) in Charge? It was the first time I had attended a talk by Willy. I am a big fan of his blog, Authentic Teaching – if you have not read his posts, I would highly recommend them!

I absolutely loved Willy’s talk. He shared his personal experiences in class with his students in London – Willy told us of how he gave his students ownership of the lessons. They felt comfortable enough to ask him to do something particular they liked in the next lesson and it worked – Willy had the greatest of lessons with them! They were still learning. He also spoke of seating arrangements that he changes all the time according to what he wants to do with students in class. I wish I could have seen one of Willy’s lessons!

Simon Greenall

After that, I had the privilege of attending the talk of a person I have admired for years for his work, and have had the good luck of meeting personally – and is a fantastic person as well – Simon Greenall! Simon talked about a subject very close to my heart, that of culture and diversity, which I have mentioned many times in the past as an integral part of my teaching. In his talk Mind the Gap: Designing Materials and Activities for Intercultural Training, Simon spoke to us about how he has integrated culture in his books and materials – the sensitivity we should have towards people of various cultures in our teaching, in order to pass this on to our students and show them that these cultural differences are important, in order to bring tolerance in our classes.

Arjana Blazič

Another one of my favourite people on Twitter was up next – Arjana Blazič and her workshop Testing, testing, 1 , 2, 3! Arjana is a multi-awarded educator from Croatia with two blogs: her own and one she has organised with her IT specialist at school to help students in their Matura exams.

Arjana, who integrates technology extensively in her classes, introduced us to a multitude of web tools in order to help our students with quizzes and online testing. The great thing was that on these websites teachers and students can be very flexible and create quizzes of their own. Arjana did a great job of pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of these web tools, which ones we could use free of charge and which we have paid versions of. You can see her presentation and all the slides including all the web tools on her blog.

Geoff Tranter

The conference closed with a fantastic plenary by Geoff Tranter, called That’s a Funny way to Learn a Language! Geoff has an amazing sense of humour (which he also showed us during the Open Mic night the evening before) and demonstrated how we can use it in class effectively – he showed us funny acronyms, riddles, funny signs and newspaper headlines we can use in our classes! I liked what Geoff said at one point: If your students are making humorous remarks in a foreign language, you have come a long way with them. I really enjoyed this closing plenary, as it was full of tips and also quite different.

After the conference, the BESIG weekly workshop, with Helen Strong this time, was broadcast in the amphitheatre – some watched it, some of us had to leave Paris unfortunately, and a great conference and very good friends behind.

As a closing treat to these three posts about the respective days of the TESOL France conference, I have some photos for you! I hope you enjoy them.

The Thevenin Amphitheatre filling up
With Sue Lyon-Jones and Sue Annan
With Ania Musielak
With Brad Patterson
With James Taylor
With Arjana Blazic
With Anna Loseva, in front of her poster presentation
With Elizabeth Anne
With Isil Boy
Mike Harrison, James Taylor, Sandy Millin and Sue Lyon-Jones before Ania Musielak’s presentation
A restaurant full of tweeters!

TESOL France 30th Colloquium – Day Two (#TESOLFr)

And after the excitement of Day One…Day Two came along for all of us to learn, connect and have fun!

Mike Harrison

I started my day with Mike Harrison’s super session Before Words: Ideas for Using Images and Sound in the Classroom. It was the first time I had attended Mike’s session and I loved it! I got so many ideas about what you can do with pictures and sound effects in class. We even did a visual poem. I teamed up with Deniz Atesok, a great educator from Turkey in the activities that Mike showed us and we came up with some great ideas! I will definitely be using his ideas with my students – and I will definitely be attending more of his sessions in the future. You can find a plethora of ideas on his great blog! A big thank you to Mike!

Anna Musielak

Right after Mike – the drama specialist and enthusiastic presenter (and very good friend – I am so happy to know her!) Anna Musielak! Ania’s presentation was called Break the Ice with Drama. I had seen Ania last year as well and I could not wait to attend her session this year either!

Ania presented so many ideas, you definitely have to catch her at a conference – her enthusiasm is amazing and so are her ideas, which work with all ages. We took part in many activities and could see in practice how great these ideas are. I loved how Ania’s ideas made everyone so enthusiastic, lots of people volunteered to take part in the activities. Lots and lots of ideas. Ania is also star guest blogger on many blogs, including mine. Her posts are definitely worth reading! Thanks so much, Ania!

Cecilia Lemos

After our lunch break, it was time to see Cecilia Lemos in action in her session, Ideas for Improving Studentsʼ Writing Skills: My Experience. Ceci gave us amazing ideas of how to integrate writing actively in our classes – a skill that has been often disliked by students for the reason that (we have all heard it and Ceci pointed it out as well) they have nothing to write. She introduced us to some nice tips for writing, such as motivating the students into writing the essay paragraph by paragraph wothout even realising it, and then putting them all together to make their very own writing piece – and prove to themselves that they can write! I also like how Ceci told us how she motivates her kids to read – they all read the same book, which she has chosen carefully to be apporopriate for all tastes and for both genders. She has also done a webinar on the same topic which you can see, along with other super posts, on her blog.

Luke Meddings

Right after, it was time for the one and only Luke Meddings and his plenary Dogme and the City.

I really liked how Luke paralleled language learning and teaching and exploring the city of Paris. It was a really great pleasure to listen to Luke and talk to him afterwards – we also enjoyed his Greta Garbo impersonation!

Thanks for a great plenary, Luke! Truly enlightening and I look forward to attending more talks from Luke in the future.

 

Marisa Constantinidis

Then it was time for Marisa Constantinidis – her session was The Reading Challenge: Motivation & creativity in reading lessons. Lots of educators heistate to use reading texts in their classes because they think the students may get bored. Marisa showed us so many ways to utilise texts in class successfuly, and get lots of things from them! She weaved reading texts into so many activities and extended them to speaking as well. I loved Marisa’s ways of motivating students to read – it counts to a great extent on how teachers present a reading text for the students to approach it! A great presentation form a wonderful person and educator! Read Marisa’s excellent blog  for more great ideas – I am giving a link to her very imimportant challenge for people with disabilities, which she pointed out in Paris as well and I believe is a very important issue for all educators to keep in mind.

Ceri Jones

Right after Marisa, the last session of the day I attended was Ceri Jones’s, You’ve Got Mail. She gave us very interesting ideas on how to use e-mail in class, as a means of communication with our students (letting them know what has happened in case of absence, for instance, but also as an exchange of language between the teacher and students). Ceri and her students did an excellent job in extending their linguistic abiltites and improving significantly in writing – something I found very interesting, as I communicate a lot with my students via e-mail, almost on a daily basis. I am definitely taking a lot of ideas from Ceri’s session! Read her super blog Close Up – great work there!

Then we had the Open Mic Night, which was a huge success and so much fun! Lots of singing, juggling, poetry reading – you name it : )

Classroom Activities for Young Learners – Guest Post by Christina Markoulaki (@christina_mark)

I have the great honour to present my new guest blogger to you – a wonderful educator from Crete, Greece: Christina Markoulaki! I have connected with Christina on Twitter and hope one day to meet her face-to-face. She is an enthusiastic teacher and blogger and also an iTDi Associate.

Thank you so much for your fantastic post, Christina!

1) Alphabet cards

Proudly showing our carefully arranged cards!

The students who start their journey in the English language are always very happy to make their very own alphabet cards. All they need is some cardboard paper (or any colored paper) cut in small square pieces and their crayons. On one side of the card, they can write the letter in uppercase and lowercase, while on the other they can write the word that begins with that letter and draw a picture of the word. This activity does not take considerable classroom time and is always welcome by the children.

Mickey can join in the fun, too!

As soon as the cards are prepared, the games that can be played with them are endless! The ones that never fail to excite my students are ‘Find the letter/ word’, ‘Form the word’, You are the Teacher’ and, of course, ‘Letter Bingo’. Judging by the names, it can easily be understood that the first games are a product of my inspiration during a cheerful lesson with the juniors, while the last one is well-known worldwide.

 Students can be divided in groups before they have a go at these games and learn how to collaborate from an early age. Each group can win points for each correct answer it gives, which makes things even more suspenseful! 

‘Form the word’ game

In the first game I mentioned before, the teacher pronounces a word or a letter and the learners have to pick up the correct card as quickly as possible. In the second one, they need to form the word they hear using the cards in front of them and in the third case they are allocated the teacher’s role, now having the opportunity to test their classmates’ knowledge of the alphabet by asking them to raise the card of the letter or word they utter.

The final activity is exactly the same as the popular Bingo game, but involves the use of letters, not numbers. Based on that, the students have to choose their favorite six (that is the usual number of cards allowed in my classes) letters/ words and have the cards depicting them laid on the desk. While the teacher (or another student) pronounces random letters or words, the players remove the letter they hear in case this is depicted in one of the cards they decided to keep in front of them. The first player (pair/ team) that has no cards left can happily exclaim ‘Bingo’! Admittedly, this is everyone’s favorite part of the game and can be heard from time to time even from passionate players who have not won!   

2) Grammar train

Past Continuous: Affirmative

Are your students bored with grammar rules and formulas? Turn everything into a train and they will love it! The inspiration for such a venture came after attending a seminar, where a quite similar idea was presented, but I decided to develop it a bit further and design my own wagons on my computer. This allowed me to visualize any grammar rule I wanted as well as include some funny figures in each wagon (famous people, cartoons or colorful pictures) to give the learners something more to be excited about!

Past Simple vs Present Perfect Simple

The idea is rather straightforward: you can design a wagon on your screen on a Word or Pages document by placing a rectangular shape on top of several circles which serve as the ‘wheels’ of the train. Needless to say, you could simply use a readily made picture of a train and paste the grammar parts on it, as I have done in order to create the first, and most impressive, wagon; that which contains the subject of the clause! 

The whole activity can be extremely amusing, apart from educational, since the students need to change positions to rearrange the parts of each tense if they want to form the affirmative, interrogative and negative versions of it.  Once again, the students can be divided into groups which should coordinate to quickly form the tense the teacher dictates. 

 Imagination poses no limits! Feel free to apply these ideas in your classroom and let me know how the experience was.  

Christina Markoulaki

Christina Markoulaki is an EFL teacher in Greece, where she was also born.

She is fortunate enough to have been trusted with students of all ages and levels within her 5 working years, their ages ranging from 5 to 50 years old!

Using modern technology in the classroom to create new learning experiences is what fascinates her. All links concerning the school she works in can be found on this colourful glog!

Blog: Teaching and Learning English

Twitter: @christina_mark

 


@DavidWarr’s Blog Challenge – Vicky’s Language Plant

As I have mentioned many times, on my blog,  in my talks and conversations, Twitter has been an amazing opportunity for me to learn and meet wonderful educators from all over the world. In this post, I have managed to combine learning and meeting – I have met David Warr on Twitter, a great educator from England, who has created a great tool – the Language Plant Maker. This is one of the great things I have learned from David! He has invited us to make our own language plants – and post them on our blogs as part of his blog challenge! Join in the fun : )

My language plant is quite simple compared to the great ones David has created, but it pretty much sums up what I believe about education – teacher and student complement each other and learn from each other. I feel fortunate  because almost in every lesson there is something new to learn from my students, regardless of how young or old they are. Here is my plant:

Looking at my plant now, teacher and student look like parts of links in a chain, which are connected with another link, learn together.

You can use David’s Language Plant Maker for your lessons too, as he mentions on his blog. David, I hope you like my plant!