Business and self-development tools for setting goals

fridays 6_30pm - 10pm

Hello everyone! In December 2018 and on the first days of 2019 I was having goal-setting sessions with some of my students. Some of them were about to complete their courses, some just wanted to refresh their ideas on how to improve English next year.

Today I am going to be sharing some methods that I used to help my students set goals. These methods aren’t brand-new, they come from business world and they are quite popular.

The first one is ‘SWOT’ analysis. 

My students drew a table with 4 squares, S stands for STRENGTHS, W stands for WEAKNESSES, O is for OPPORTUNITIES, T is for THREATS.

The procedure is pretty simple. I assigned SWOT analysis as homework, so that my students could reflect and contemplate and spend as much time as they needed to analyse their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The following lesson, firstly, they discussed it in pairs, then we discussed it as a class and I elicited ideas on how to turn weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities. Moreover, there were some ideas on how to improve S and O.

I got positive feedback and my students who were far from business world said they would steal this idea to set goals in private life.

The second one is ‘SMART’.

Again, in SMART each letter stands for a definite word: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound. When setting goals a lot of students just say ‘I want to improve my English’. They sometimes don’t understand which improvements they want.

– Reading? Yes, please. I’ll read more next year.

As for SMART method, my students discussed it in pairs and brainstormed ideas, or in other words, what they consider ‘specific,’ ‘measurable’, etc. Is a goal to have B2 level of English specific? Is it measurable? Or, for instance, is reading achievable? Yes, but is it measurable? Yes, if you read 60 English books next year and reflect on your results….

This task was a bit complicated, but I believe my instructions weren’t clear enough. Anyway, I got positive feedback, too. And I’m happy it worked.

The third one is ‘WHEEL OF LIFE’. 

You can read about ‘Wheel of life’ here. I now call it ‘Wheel of English’.

I asked my students to reflect on how much reading, speaking, listening and reading they have in their everyday life. They assessed those aspects and created a graphic like the one here to see how balanced their English life is.

wheel of english

As far as I can see, the student isn’t satisfied with speaking and writing.

We discussed it as a class and I elicited ideas on how to stuff their lives with reading, writing, etc. As much as possible. We got some nice ideas and created a Google document where everybody could share their own idea and continue contributing new ideas. I got positive feedback. And overall impression on this method was great!

Upon using all three methods in the classroom, we discussed how to be more autonomous.

When you ask me, I’d say these methods helped me to understand my students’ needs and then contemplate on how I could meet their needs and requirements and make their lessons more effective and beneficial.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Performance feedback for B1+ students and higher

feedback

Giving an appraisal to my students have always been one of the most painful and demanding points. Fortunately, I’ve recently stumbled into some pretty nice activities with my Business English students which from now on are making this process less stressful and more considerate.

Today I’m posting about my idea on how to make this procedure beneficial for both parties.

The procedure is pretty simple. It consists of 4 main stages.

First. You ask your students to complete the form with their answers. Answers can be detailed or brief, but be sure that you can make most of them.

– Have the last 6 months (9 months – depending on the course) been good / bad / satisfactory for you?  Why?

– What do you consider are the most important achievements in the last six months?

– Which parts of language training interest you the most? The least? Why?

– How could your performance be improved from now on?

Completing this form might be assigned as homework and in this case I insist on giving students enough freedom to write more detailed answers.

Second. Arrange an interview with a student, it can be a face-to-face meeting, though I know for some teachers this meetings turn out to be too time-consuming. On the other hand, I also know that the game’s worth candles. Ask you student to comment on each point, prepare follow-up questions and make sure you listen attentively. Take notes if necessary.

Third. Once you’ve listened to your student’s answers, you’re ready to comment on his / her performance. Start with good points. For example, he or she has significantly improved his / her writing skills, or her homework assignment have been always completed in time. Encourage your students as much as possible. Having mentioned positive moments, you’re ready to proceed with some negative points if any. Be positive even at this stage. I believe, we need to be diplomatic and caring.

Fourth. Essentially, this stage can be called ‘Setting objectives’ for the next 6 or 9 months. Having obtained all the answers and student’s comments, you’re ready to set objectives and look at things that the student can improve. Ask if you’re both happy with the decisions and things you’ve agreed upon.

Finally, you have just killed two birds with one stone. Discussing performance and setting objectives for the next few months. The idea works okay for B1+ students and higher. You can also change a form and make it more specific, relevant to your students and the course you’re involved in for the time being.

Personally, I’ve worked with the form 3 times so far and I’m satisfied with the results. I got some precious feedback and incredibly beneficial insight into how to speak about the past and the future. In terms of teaching, of course.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thought-provoking statements

Hello everyone!

As far as discussion questions concerned, I hardly ever lack ideas for creating them, however, it does happen that the procedure of discussion often turns into an ordinary ‘question me’ task which might make my students bored, not to mention tired… Today I’m going to be sharing an activity I’ve tried out recently. It might be used as a lesson starter or a follow-up activity when you are in the process of revising vocabulary. With respect to my students, it worked well as a lead-in.

  1. Write on the board 5-6 phrases: laconic and short enough.
    Monday is the best day of the week.
    Brad Pitt is handsome.
    The Internet is more harm than good.
    Watching series is a complete waste of time.
    Pizza is delicious.

2. Break students into pairs or small groups.

3. Demonstrate the following table:

I agree 100 percent. I totally disagree. I’m not quite sure.

4. Students take notes if necessary (allocate 1-2 minutes) and later on they discuss the statements in pairs or groups. Tell them they need to explain their answer.

5. Change some words in the statements: write Friday instead of Monday, write TV instead of the Internet… Then let them discuss once again.

6. Reflect on the activity with the whole class (in other words, give feedback by asking some of the opinions of groups or pairs).

The activity doesn’t take more than 20 minutes and as I’ve already mentioned, it can be adapted to any stage of the lesson where discussion is involved. I’ve been using it with my pre-intermediate and intermediate students with variety of topics. I do believe, it’ll work best with thought-provoking quotes as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

My ex, my neighbour and my friend

Hi everyone!

Today I’m going to be sharing an activity which I have designed this week. Right now I’m up to some private classes with Elementary students and their English leaves much to be desired (bearing in mind the language barrier that does exist and a real shyness which prevents from breaking the ice). My collaboration with one of my students have just started and her knowledge is limited to verb “to be” and simple constructions of Present Tenses. Consequently, in order to provide her with more communicative tasks, I’ve designed this activity. The description is as follows.

Aim: during this activity students talk about people they know (acquaintances, friends, neighbours, etc.) This is achieved by using a range of words and expressions, forms of Present Simple and verb to be.

Time: around 1o minutes (it’s my firm conviction, the best way to have this activity is to have it in the beginning of the lesson as a warmer).

Level: Elementary. Can be adapted to stronger levels.

Outline: Handout small slips of paper where there’s a table with 6 squares, see below. Students write names of people (you might need to preteach ‘acquaintance’, ‘neighbour’ or ‘classmate’. Then they speak about one of them they like, or they might roll a dice to find out who to talk about. My student Darya who’s from Italy agreed to present her own table with names.

It’s my acquaintance

_________________

It’s my friend

Diego

It’s my neighbour 

Irina

It’s my classmate

Veronica

It’s my boyfriend 

Dario

It’s my ex

Sasha

It’s an activity which can be held perfectly at one-to-one classes when you don’t ask only about a friend (to drill verbs and form of the third person). As a result, students have more opportunities to talk about different people and drill grammar. If it is a class with more than one person, students can ask follow-up questions and make it more natural.

It’s all up to now.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

Giving feedback using voice recording service

Hello everyone!

Today I’m going to be blogging about a trick which one of my fellow-teachers Viacheslav Kushnir from St. Pete has recently recommended to me, and this compelling and heartfelt ‘thank you’ goes to him, he really deserves it. I do believe, his tip is worth sharing.

I’ve been away for some not very convincing reasons, however one of them still remains the best escape from explaining the real state of things which is obviously lack of quality time for anything. Let alone blogging or reading something for continuing professional development. And a quick chit-chat about my groups with Slava has changed everything.

In order to boost my students’ fluency and accuracy both in writing and speaking I’m bombing them with a lot of tasks. Writing emails, reports and ‘making-up questions for follow-up discussions’, letting them record themselves in order to give them more opportunities for speaking, and so on and so forth. Since I’ve got three groups, it should not be a problem for me, should it? But it is a big problem. So I was wondering if there’s anything that can be considered as a way to get out of all of this.

Slava recommended that I recorded my feedback for my students. I know, I know, a lot of teachers recommend peer correction first and then teacher’s correction. However, when you need to give ‘short and sweet’ feedback, that’s the way to do it. I usually use www.vocaroo.com for it. It’s pretty straightforward and does not need any registration. My students use the site for recording themselves (there’s an option to save a link to the recording and then to share); I use the site for recording feedback for my students, then I save the link and send to them.

What’s my take on that? First and foremost, it’s a really time-saving activity. Given it’s related to using technology which is really valuable for my IT students and can’t be overestimated. Secondly, the feedback from my students is surprisingly positive, they find it useful and helpful. And, what’s more, it gives them one more listening activity. What I always do is I never forget to thank my students for the piece of work they’ve done, be it writing or speaking. Whatever.

That’s all what I wanted to blog about today.

Thanks for stopping by!

What are you doing right now?

Imagine a picture. My Pre-Intermediate students are entering the classroom at 09-30 in the morning for a 1,5-hour lesson and in just 5 minutes they all are leaving the classroom with only a pen and a small sheet of paper in their hands. The whole office is surprised, let alone, even shocked, but no one is trying to predict what is happening. The whole office is silent watching my pre-intermediate students walk around the office and write something in their small sheets of paper. They are walking slowly and watching other people do something in the office. In 3 minutes they’re coming back to the classroom. It’s time to put the cards on the table. My Pre-Intermediate students are focusing on Present Continuous. Today I asked them to leave the room, watch and take notes on what other people were doing at the very moment. They came up with something like that:

Marianna is checking email; Alice and Dima are playing ping-pong. The small fish in the aquarium are swimming and enjoying themselves.

At first sight, it might seem a bit strange, let alone, vague and uninteresting, however, they shared their feelings with me just after the activity. They took liking to it very much. They wanted to try it out again. They wanted to make it different the following day and suggesting producing sentences without revealing the names of people in order to let their partners guess them.

What I personally found involving about the activity is that the students left the classroom. Yep, exactly, this point. They left classroom to know how it feels to work (to speak) outside the classroom. I always tell my students they their English is not limited by the size of the room. Leave it and feel it.

That’s what I wanted to share today.

Thank you for stopping by!

Guess the topic

Today I´m sharing an idea which I came up with last week.

If you asked your humble servant to describe herself during my first teaching years, I´d probably say ´spidergram addict’. Or ‘associagram addict’. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? 🙂 Hand on heart, my favourite activity to brainstorm students’ associations with a topic was a so called ‘spidergram’: a topic in a circle and words or phrases framing the circle. Frankly, my students used to take a liking to the activity, however, I believe, they always wanted me to introduce something more involving and engaging one day.

Last week I did not start one of the lessons with Intermediate students with a spidergram. Instead I had prepared a set of cards and asked them to play a guessing game in pairs. Take a card, don’t show it to you partner, explain the meaning, take turns.

The words were the following: Skype for business, social networks, message, post office, conference call, wireless connection, misunderstanding.

After each pair finished, I put all the cards on the table in front of my students’ eyes. Obviously, I asked them to guess the topic. Can you guess the topic?

Communications.

My students did it quite quickly. In the end of the lesson they mentioned that the activity was probably the most involving they had ever had in their studying-english lives. I believe, the activity gave them an opportunity to interact with each other and increase their fluency. Indisputably, they also got interested in the topic and this brought them a lot of fun and new impressions.

Thanks for stopping by!