Using Advertising in the Business English Classroom

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The Ideal Classroom – My Post for Tyson Seburn’s (@seburnt) Blog Challenge

A snap of the chalkboard I used last week

A couple of days ago, Tyson Seburn wrote about his experiences in his teaching environment in his post What classroom is perfect?

I decided to take up his blog challenge – here it is!

When we had our school in Greece, we had 11 classrooms – not to blow our own horn, but in each classroom the teachers had all the equipment they needed. The school also had a computer lab and a room with an interactive whiteboard. Therefore, the equipment could be moved easily if needed, or the teachers and their students could easily be moved to the room they wanted to use, easily. We did this out of respect to our teachers and students, to make everyone feel comfortable and content to teach and learn.

When I moved here in Switzerland, I started teaching at various places until I could get enough work – in schools, companies, banks – you name it. Some places, had the works as far as equipment was concerned, some were okay in some I had to teach in my coat and gloves (yes, you read correctly). Thankfully, only a couple of places match the last description.

An example of an excellent teaching environment is the public college I started teaching at here last year, the Kaufmännisches Bildungszentrum Zug – the admin people, secretaries and teachers are amazing to work with and the classrooms…wow, the classrooms!

Whiteboards (three or four of them that you can shift on the walls)

Chalkboards

Poster paper (huge rolls of them!)

Sinks

Computers

….wait till you hear this…

3D projectors!!! I LOVE THEM!

A great place to teach – a place that respects its educators and students. Shouldn’t all schools be like this? Some aren’t, understandably due to their restricted budgets, some because the people who own them do not care.

Let’s hope we see lots of great working environments in this blog challenge set by Tyson!

Our Poster Post with Maggie!

During the holidays, I spend a lot of time with my sister and her two children, Maggie (seven years old) and Nicholas (three).

Maggie’s vegetable poster

Maggie and I love doing activities together: writing, sticking, cutting, creating…so one day, during our Christmas holidays, we were talking about healthy eating and we decided to put our learning into pictures, make our learning visible – so we made posters, one with vegetables and one with fruit! Just using simple things, old newspapers and magazines from where we could cut out pictures, scissors and big pieces of cardboard for the background – we had so much fun learning and creating. Maggie was so excited about it!

Maggie’s Poster with Fruit

We looked through magazines and newspapers to find pictures, cut them out and paste them onto coloured paper. Maggie also wrote the names of the fruit and vegetables, learning some that she had not heard of, like starfruit which we also saw at the supermarket a few days later.

We also had two great people cheering us on throughout the way: Mieke Kenis from Belgium and Ann Loseva from Moscow to whom we tweeted pictures of our posters! Ann made beautiful posters with her two sweet nieces, Olya and Polina!

The poster with animals we started after fruit and vegetables – Maggie wants to be a vet when she grows up!

Problem Solving in Business English

Problem solving helps the students with their language learning and to find solutions as well! (Image taken from http://www.biomethica.it)

As I have mentioned before, this year I teach mainly adults in a number of contexts: some work in banks or various companies (software, packaging). Very often they have meetings to attend, where they are asked by their colleagues and managers to help resolve problems or conflicts. And they have to do it…in English! What I do with them (not something ground-breaking, a very simple idea) is that I try to think of potential problems they may have at work, such as:

1. What do you do if a colleague of yours is constantly late?

2. What happens if your boss asks you to work with your team at the weekend to finish off a project (and you are not that keen on working weekends)?

3. You have been working for months on installing a new computer program for the company / bank and they call you from the US in the middle of the night, asking you to resolve a glitch then and there! And other issues like that.

Of course, because I am learning their line of work from them (there are so many terms especially in IT and as I have recently learned, in packaging too!) I ask my students what kind of problem they would expect to face at some point. I make a list of all these and prepare role-plays and use them with them (some can be used with many groups!). This idea is also in the amazing book Five-Minute Business English Activities by Paul Emmerson and Nick Hamilton, under the title of Crisis! – the idea is to present the students with a crisis they need to solve. Most of the times I come into the room, putting on a dramatic face in order to set the crisis atmosphere and announce: People, we have a problem. I was fired! or Our new system is down! or something like that. It is unbelievable how they play into the drama and participate! Depending on the culture you are teaching in though, care must be taken not to scare the students or create unnecessary panic. For example, in some cultural contexts I cannot imagine the teacher going into the classroom dramatically yelling that there is a crisis. It would make the students uncomfortable. This activity has helped my students a lot, as they are pulled into it by the nature of it. They do not even realise when they start speaking and we get lots out of it. Sometimes we get lots of laughs too!

#ELTChat – The Loss of ELTChat – Plan B

Reposted from Marisa Constantinides‘ blog TEFL Matters.

For the last – well, almost two years now, since September 15 2010, #ELTchat has kept us on our toes and forged hundreds of professional and personal relationships amongst its followers who turn up on Twitter every Wednesday to talk about topics they have suggested and voted on – a community of peers which was created by a small group of colleagues – which grew and grew some more and became something that counts as an important part of our continuous professional development.

Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several.

And that is how #ELTchat was created.    

The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later.

Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy eltchat.com and announced the good news to us after the fact.

A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011,  he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health.

We never found out for sure.

We never received a single word of response to our emails.

eltchat.com was and still is registered in his name.

And yesterday we lost it.

On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.

The news is really upsetting.

The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment

We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.

But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased – eltchat.org

It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet.

And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations.

We will be back with a vengeance.

We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!

We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!
 
See you all in September!!!

Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden

Vicky Loras

P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers,  teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers,  reposted this on your blog.

If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.

Interviewing Icha Sarwono (@yitzha_sarwono), Indonesia

Icha, whose aza-aza mantra gives us all motivation! (photo by Icha Sarwono)

It is with great pleasure and honour that I feature a wonderful educator on my blog, Icha Sarwono who is based in Indonesia. Icha teaches at a Kindergarten and Preschool and is active on social media. She is also an iTDi Associate and has a blog. Here is Icha!

1. Icha, how did you become an educator?

I suppose it’s in my blood, as I come from family who works either in education or a health institution. I don’t think I know any other thing to do, as even my first part-time job during my junior high was tutoring my classmates in English. Then during my college year up till now I coach the school’s drumband (that is kind of a teaching activity too right?) . I suppose I became a teacher because I remember how my teachers used to have an impact on me, personally and of course educationally. So, though teaching has never been on my list of goals growing up, I chose this line of work because I want to influence and help people in a little way.

2. What would you like to have known back then, that you know now? What would you advise Icha the beginning teacher?

Well I would love to have known that teaching doesn’t always equal educating. I used to think that it was easy easy to transfer knowledge but it hasn’t always been the case as I found out. The first thing you need to do is to inspire them, so they will be excited in learning themselves. I would advise the young 24-year-old Icha (that’s the age I started teaching full-time) to take it easy, don’t get frustrated when the class doesn’t go as you plan, because the unexpected is much more fun for it opens up a new adventure! Oh, and remember that you cannot judge a student simply by his grades, because as Einstein said:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

3. You teach at Kidea Daycare. What are the things one needs to keep in mind when teaching little ones? What are the pros and what are the challenges of teaching such young ages?

Actually it’s Kidea Preschool and Kindergarten and I am now teaching a K2 class, a bunch of 5-year-old students 🙂 . I think what we should have in mind when teaching young learners is that you cannot force them in accepting all you have to give at a certain time. They need time to bloom. We should know also that it is better for the kids if they can experience themselves rather than asking them to visualize. I mean, I know people say that kids are full of great imagination, but if we don’t lead them then how would we know we have pressed the right button? I believe in concrete to abstract concept in Montessori teaching because once my kids have got the concrete concept, it is easy for them to grasp the next lesson for they have it imprinted on their mind. The thing I love most about young learners is that they have always been enthusiastic in knowing new things, they cannot wait to be able to master something. The problems are a lot too, but mostly come from the outside, like from the parents. The biggest thing for me would be parents who are questioning our approach and skeptical about it, because I believe in teaching young learners, we need trust from them as we must have their support and sometimes it is not an easy case. I am very lucky that the parents of my class now back me and it has made it easier to give my all for their children.

4. What is the ELT scene like in Indonesia?

I must say I don’t know much as I haven’t been in touch with TEFLIN (the ELT organization I belong to) for quite some time as I am now teaching kindergarten rather than English – but I would say that it is still kind of divided in groups for we haven’t got a strong foundation. It is merely a political thing as each year there has always been some sort of new change in the school curriculum that can lead up to changes in English lesson too. Teachers here are trying hard to cope with the latest in ELT world, and I think we’re doing pretty well though we have lots to conquer still.

5. When you are not teaching, what do you do in your free time?

Oh, I love reading! And watching TV channels like NatGeo or NatGeo adventure , Animal planet and the Food channel. I love cooking, I cook a lot for my class and involve them in my cooking activity. I also love playing around with my 4 (soon to be more) cats!

6. What are your plans for your career in the future?

Simply being a better teacher. As I was introduced to Montessori teaching 2 years ago, I’d love to learn more about it, if possible attend a class on it. I would also love to engage in more discussion like #ELTChat or #ASIAElt to improve myself and my teaching. Hopefully I can contribute more to the education in Indonesia.

Icha, thank you so much! ELT and education are very lucky to have you.

Number Four – Reveal Their Strengths – The #30GoalsEdu Challenge

I read a really great blog post today that made me think once again about the potentials kids have and how we should encourage them to externalise them and applaud them when they do. George Couros, a great educator from Canada (and my very first guest blogger!) wrote In Spite of Schools – definitely worth reading.

This post pointed me to Shelly Terrell‘s 30 Goals Challenge for 2012 and specifically to Goal Number Four.

As educators, apart from the actual teaching we are there for our students, to show them what they can do and highlight their abilities. Sometimes, educators tend to tell their students what they can’t do, where they are not so strong and focus mainly on the problems they may face in their learning. I think it is equally, if not more important, to show them what they are great in and how they can become even greater! When they can do something, they gain confidence and build on their abilities even further.

An example that comes to my mind is a student of mine in Greece who wrote poetry – her poetry was beautiful and at the same time she practised her English, as she was learning it as a foreign language! She was developing two talents at the same time, her writing and her language skills. We recognised it early on and she developed it a lot on her own – her autonomy as a learner simply grew from there, as she could find where and how she could learn.

Chuck Sandy and Vladimira Michalkova, two amazing educators and the co-founder and associate of iTDi respectively, have developed the idea of Surpr@ise, through which you find a student or teacher who is doing a great job and surprise them with praise! Watch Chuck describing it in this YouTube Video:

You can also see Chuck and Vladka’s Surpr@ise presentation for the Virtual Round Table.

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)

My Last Lesson – Guest Post by Phil Wade (@phil3wade)

Phil Wade, EFL educator and blogger (Image by Phil Wade)
It is a great honour to introduce my new guest blogger, Phil Wade, a great educator and very prolific blogger. You can see all his posts and work on his blog, EFL Thoughts and Reflections.

Thank you so much, Phil!

I seem to be stuck in an endless circle with full courses in that the first few lessons/weeks involve getting to grips with the course and the students. Then it’s mid-term and there’s often some kind of test and just a few weeks later everyone is stressed about the final one and then…it’s the last class. Job done, time for a holiday and to think about next term.
 
I only really feel like I’ve got to grips half way or even towards the end of the course. There is the usual ‘trial and error’ phase or classes where I tried different approaches, some work some fail. I’ve always been one for adapting lessons to individual classes, I don’t believe in ‘one size fits all’, never have and, well, probably never will. Yes, I hear you say, it does mean more work and effort, stress too but that’s me and many of my PLN are the same. I know countless teachers who just ‘do the course’ with no differentiation at all and every year is the same. Not for me.
 
However, after teaching the same courses, age groups and with the same materials, in theory I can hit the ground running in the first week. Many years ago I had this situation and I had the courses down to an art form and was super slick, I even knew every page of the books. Yet, it was dull and pointless as I was just delivering something to people, not students. They could have been mannequins actually.
 
Now that I’ve finished another term I’m in the war room developing a new plan of attack for the next battle. Ideally, I need to think about what worked well and figure out why so I can emulate it but it also must allow space for adaptation.
 
The other things that I’m prepared for are all the ‘last minute surprises’ from the admin people. Next time the “you need to mark 50 reports in 3 days” won’t give me a heart attack like last time. I’m also aware that deadlines are not real deadlines and I’m prepared to say “I don’t have time”. This is how it seems to be done so I’ll just do as the locals.
 
As my students recently got their grades though there may yet be trouble in store. There is always at least one student who questions their grade and support from your boss varies from place to place. What I don’t like is when you get no guidelines or comments about your grades but then if someone complains suddenly you’ve done something wrong. This period is perhaps the calm before the storm and there may be one or they might not. Perhaps it’s a good time to go abroad for a long holiday. ‘Til next term I bid you adieu!
 
 

My First Lesson – A Post for the #ELTChat blog challenge

The Faculty of Philosophy, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki where I spent four years (Image taken from http://www.auth.gr)

First lessons, first lessons…. do I remember my first one ever? I sure do! I have not kept my lesson plan, or have any photos or any other things from that day – I just remember that I was 19 years old and a student at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.

As a part of a course called Teaching in Secondary Education, we went several times to observe a high school class before we were actually asked to (gulp!) teach the kids. Imagine that our age difference was so small, I was 19 and the kids were 17. Thoughts that went through our heads? (We were a group of four who were going to teach individually on four consecutive days.) Will the kids like us? Will they think that we are too young to teach them? Of course, the students knew why we were there, but still… In addition, the school was in one of the most underprivileged areas of Thessaloniki and some of the kids were in gangs, some were taking drugs, which made it even harder.

I do not remember which coursebook we were using (perhaps I have all this material in Greece, I have to check next time I am there) but I do remember it was a lesson on graffiti. I was to do a listening task with them, which I thought I could expand into a speaking task as well. I have no recollection of anything else. The night before I did not sleep a wink – I was constantly getting up and looking at the book, practising what I would say and thinking the worst scenarios, that they would laugh at me. My clothes were hanging on a chair. I was going to wear a bright blue cardigan and jeans (it is so strange what our brain manages to keep as a memory!).

I went in the following morning to a group of twenty or so very chatty and hyper-energetic 17-year-olds and I was thinking “How will I ever get their attention?” so I suddenly blurted out “OK, who likes soccer?” They suddenly stopped talking and started shouting out only the names of their favourite teams and commenting later…in English! (Thessaloniki has three very popoular soccer teams, PAOK, Aris and Heracles). I was thinking, oh no, their teacher (who was sitting at the back) is going to be so disappointed I did not start immediately with the book (little did I know back then!). I slowly pulled them into the lesson with graffiti (I connected it to soccer, as the walls in Thessaloniki were covered with sometimes really beautiful graffiti related to soccer among others).

I cannot remember too many details and it is a shame I have not found my notes or plans of the day. The teacher liked how I managed to get their attention and the kids said they liked it at the end! I was a happy 19-year-old (and I learned successful teaching does not mean open the book to page 34 at the beginning of a lesson!) – I was so encouraged by this experience, that I started teaching as a private teacher after that.