Ideas I have recently used

At work I usually write my teaching reflections in Reflective Diary, where I try to put all the new ideas and tips from other teachers that I used in my classroom. With this post I would like to share ideas which I have recently used.
1.    Lesson starter “So you said…”. Students are divided into pairs, and they are indicated student A and student B. I often try this starter on Monday to let students talk about their week-end. The task is the following. Student A takes about a minute or a bit more to talk about his weekend. Student B is supposed to listen attentively, but he is not allowed to take notes, he is to listen and to memorize. When student A finishes his speech, student B says: so you said… and he tries to recall student A’s story. Then they change roles. Feedback: ask students to share how this activity went for them. I usually ask which words they used, their own or words of their partners.
2.    Regrouping students. I remember my teaching practice days when I was sure that something new is always better than repeating and recalling the same things. I have changed my philosophy and now from time to time I regroup students (in general, they  talk in pairs) and make them do the same activity, but with another partner. Feedback: today I asked my B1 students about this practice of regrouping, they told me that it was a good practice to talk again, and to watch their words floating and make not so many mistakes as during the first time.
3.    Idioms and proverbs as a lesson starter. I love idioms very much! Students and colleagues who I work with and members of my family as well know how I like to introduce my feelings and thoughts using set-expressions in Russian. As for idioms in the ESL classroom, I believe we need to create helpful and appropriate materials to drill them and to make students use them in their everyday speech. Last week I used proverbs: a) Time is money. b) Love is blind. c) Ignorance is bliss. d) Better late than never. e) Easy come, easy go. f) Haste makes waste. I wrote these proverbs with gaps and elicited possible endings from students. After that I asked to explain each proverb into ‘understandable English’. Then students worked on their own and created a short story to explain and to introduce a proverb they liked most. Feedback: students’ feedback turned out to be positive, though I believe that using proverbs in everyday English is a matter of scientific exploration, and not every student is eager to use idioms, just because there is sometimes no appropriate atmosphere for that.
4.    Evaluation worksheets. In particular, upon completion of the unit, I create evaluation worksheet and use it with students to help them to reflect on new vocabulary, grammar structures and key expressions for communication skills. This time I created my own evaluation worksheet with A1-A2 students on topic “Schedule” (Business Result, Oxford). What do I usually include in these worksheets? In general, the worksheets consist of tasks from the unit, I simply can change them a little. The idea is the following. You handout them to students, it takes them from 7 to 10 minutes to fulfill all the tasks, then students work in pairs and check their answers in pairs. After that I usually give them feedback and correct mistakes if necessary. This task helps them to be ready for a progress test or for a revision game. Feedback: students are always positive about this worksheet just because it is helpful and useful. I ask them to collect these worksheets, because they become nice visuals.

When and how do you usually reflect on new ideas and tips? Please, share in comments.

Thank you for reading!

Scribbles… or a successful blog?

I remember myself in a rather early age and I always wanted to write. It was not important for me what to write and how, be it a poem or a story about relationship, I always wanted them to be puslished some day. And once I was invited to a local newspaper to write some articles as a part-time journalist. Or it is better to say a newsperson, for I do not want to offend journalists, because my literary trash could not be considered as something outstanding. To be honest, my articles were appraised by the chief editor as something obtaining a personal style of writing, but still they needed to be improved. How? Only by means of writing, exploring specific books, getting in touch with professional journalists, asking them for help. My writing practice almost came to naught when I gave a birth to my son. Writing became unimportant and really impossbile those days.

As for my blogging experience, I want to say I also have some, but in Russian. After my son was born, I was taking notes on about my not very intriguing life. I was writing posts about rare travels, about my very challenging marriage and about how it came to an end one day, about my son, about my charity activities with several guys from Moscow and about our ways of doing charity things with the old. So to tell the truth, I did not have anything attractive to share. A couple of friends were following my blog and that was really it. This March I have made an attempt to start my own blog on and I wanted to devote it to my teaching practice and some reflections. But as it turns out, it is more challenging than I have ever thought…

First of all, I shoud thank those who I had a chance to follow and my associate Olga who supported me in the idea of starting to write my reflections on teaching. I have so much to read and to comment in each blog I came across. Secondly, writing is still a dream for me, though it appears to be very challenging and demanding, and time-consuming as well, and I do not want to share ‘scribbles’ that are competely unwholesome. I do not expect people to comment my every post, and I am honest here, at least with myself. So I will start writing and reflecting on things that happen in my teaching practice. I really want to learn how to write (or to blog) and improve my vocabulary and writing skills.

Thanks for stopping by!

How to start a lesson

I have been teaching English for about 12 years. Talking about my experience, there has never been anything more important than to be prepared for the very beginning of the lesson. Teachers and instructors which I had a chance to know and to work with, never underestimated this part of the lesson and tried to make it more interesting, more effective and more fruitful. But it depends, of course. Let me speak about my experience and the ways I always start my lessons. My ideas are in no way related to any textbook and also it does not matter which level you teach, because these ideas are quite adaptable to any level.

  1. Greetings. For so much time so far I have been using simple ‘How are you?’ to begin the lesson. Can you guess, what I could hear? When I heard “There’s nothing to boast of” I was delighted, but usually I could hear only “I’m fine”. I found a way of drilling asking and answering the first questions in the classroom. I prepared a set of cards for students, the first was called “How To Greet” and the second was “How To Respond”. I put these two piles of cards in front of the students and asked them to practice each word with a partner. Then I usually regroupped my students and they could try to use as many word expressions as possible and to respond as well.
  2. News. On Mondays I usually have classes in the very morning. Sometimes it is difficult for my students to begin speaking English straight away after entering the classroom. So every week I ask my students to prepare a couple of news they read or watched on TV the day before and to be ready to share with their partners. It usually takes them 3-5 minutes, and that is enough for the quick start and after this activity I am pretty sure they are willing to speak and read English.
  3. Quotation. It is a nice idea to start a lesson with a quotation. It can be related to the topic in the textbook you are currently teaching, or if your students are of a stronger level, you can provide them with a quotation related to politics or current situation in the world. The thing is that you do not reveal the whole phrase to students at the very beginning. I usually use a projector or a board to write a quotation with gaps and I usually write words to fill in the gaps randomly to allow students to think for a while, and in doing so, they will read a quotation they were supposed to guess. As a follow-up activity students are free to discuss it in pairs or in groups.

Currently I am still on the look-out for ideas and activities to start a lesson. Please, share yours in comments!

Pajamas Library



Modern students do not like to read. They are too busy liking photos in Facebook and instagramming. Some of them don’t read at all, not in their mother language, not in English. At least in my teaching practice I encountered such students, to tell the truth. But every teacher knows and realizes that reading is one of the most important parts of the language from the point of view of knowing new vocabulary, new ways of saying different things and express new ideas. How to make students read more?

This idea seems to me very amazing for using it with your students. I have recently heard one story about Israeli children, living in Tel-Aviv having so called Pajamas Library Program at schools. What is the essence of the program? Government-paid, this program turns out to be the most popular among pupils and their children. How to make children read more books? The same questions I am always asking when I am giving classes to adults. I guess, this idea was created for such teachers as me to help them to encourage students to read more. Now I would like to tell you how it works.

  1. The first thing you should decide as a teacher is what book you are going to read with students. My tip is to read classical English literature: short stories, humor stories by famous authors. Sometimes there are books for students with exercises, or you can create exercises yourself. In my English classroom I usually use “Select Readings”. It is a series of books meant for different levels. They are stuffed with lots of practice: pre-reading and post-reading tasks, ideas for communication, written tasks (essays, letters, presentations, etc.) and more tasks created for development of English skills. As soon as you personally choose the book, move on to the next step.
  2. You tell your students about a special program called “Pajamas Library”, and now you are going to realize this program in your classroom.
  3. Make sure your students understand ideas of this program. It depends on your specific needs and purposes of your group. If they do not read at all, except what is provided for them in the regular textbook, I would recommend to start reading once a week. If you have classes twice a week, in the framework of this program you should spend the whole lesson discussing the short story you have chosen.
  4. Imagine, tomorrow you are having a regular class. You give your students a story and tell them to read it just before going to bed the day before the class. That’s Pajamas Library! Also tell your students you are going to discuss their story the next day.
  5. During the lesson you come with materials and exercises and you do them together.
  6. Make sure your students give you feedback about the story and about the program itself. It can be conducted in a written form, you can make it with the help of using post-it notes, you can simply ask them to share in pairs and write down their ideas and suggestions.

It is supposed that during the lesson your students have a nice opportunity to talk, to discuss, to find new ideas and skills for writing essays, for instance. What’s next? After you are given a feedback from students, you continue suggest new stories for students and conduct such lessons, and ask for a feedback each time. Try at least 5 classes in the framework of the program. After that you can analyze and reflect on the program and decide whether to continue realizing it or not. I would be very happy if you write your ideas and suggestion in comments.

Hope to hear from you soon!

‘Skype Status’ Activity

Regular classes with your students can be considered as a good start for them to become a self-confident English user. Along with them there are sometimes lots of extracurricular activities expressing an interest of further learning of the language. One of them I am going to share with you today.

At work where I conduct English classes with adults we all use skype for internal communication with colleagues. No doubt, some of them are my students. It is known, that there is a rather popular trend to post quotes from films, books or just your own clever thoughts into a skype status. Why not use this idea to make your students post something essential? The procedure is pretty simple.

  1. You announce 2 (or more) weeks of Skype Status Activity in your office or a classroom.
  2. You ask students to post a quote they prefer into a skype status, and tell them, that your status will hang there for 2 (or more weeks). They all can see and read statuses of their partners.
  3. You tell students that after 2 weeks you would like to award those ones whose status turns out to be the most interesting (thought-provoking, surprising, amazing, lovely….and so on).

The most interesting in this activity happens when these 2 weeks are over. How to award the winner and how to decide who the winner is? You ask everybody to vote for the status they like most or you can decide on your own. Before that think about gifts. It can be a book or a cinema ticket, depends on your fantasy.

I am looking forward to your comments.

Thank you.

Post-It Notes for Metacognitive Feedback

The idea of Metacognitive Feedback is pretty clear for those who strive for excellence in improving their teaching skills. From the point of view of some English teachers, it is probably the most important part of the lesson and its value should never be underestimated. The ways of conducting it are different. My way which has recently been used and approved goes along with using post-it notes. Now I am going to explain how it works.

In the end of the lesson the teacher generally asks his or her students about the lesson: how it worked, what was new and useful, what they liked and did not like about the lesson. Sometimes students express what they want to say orally, and again, the way they do it can vary from lesson to lesson. Say, on the one hand, you ask students to discuss all the questions in pairs or in small groups, on the other hand, each opinion is extremely useful for the teacher and he or she wants to listen to each student’s opinion and make notes. In this case each student takes some seconds to say what he wants. Taking into consideration the fact that it takes a long time for someone to formulate their ideas and express their thoughts, why not ask students to write them first and then to express? For those purposes I usually use post-it notes. They are very convenient to use, rather democratic and are easily accepted by students as a form of giving feedback to the teacher. The idea is simple: you ask students to write their thoughts about the lesson on small sheets of paper. They can categorize their thoughts making a table if they want, or simply using different colors for answering different questions. If a student answer the question what he liked about the lesson, let him use a green paper. If he wants to write about what he did not like, he generally uses a red sheet of paper.

What do I do with these notes after the lesson? With a small size, a post-it note can be stuck on the board or on the wall, reds to reds, greens to greens. It is a nice visual expression of students’ thoughts and opinions. I don’t finish my lesson until I look at all these sheets of paper and analyze my lesson. These notes help me to reflect on the lesson and be prepared for writing a plan for the further lessons.

I am looking forward to your comments.

Thank you.