Literature Summer 2015

What is self-development? Does this only mean attending conferences, participating in seminars, reading professional books on teaching? Absolutely not! Thanks to British Council in Moscow there are more opportunities for that, for sure. And one of them I was lucky to attend: Literature Summer Festival in Moscow.

The program was astonishing and the event itself as well, and it was obviously worth visiting: English novelists and poets along with Russian writers were presenting their talks on various topics: literature tricks, literature and theatre, modern and contempropary literature in Russian and in Britain, the art of book publishing and advice for those who write and dream about their books to be published someday…

The weather was awful. It was pouring hard all day long. Organizers were mentioning the weather quite a lot of time during the talks: it was really London-like and time was worth spending with a good book and a cup of tea. Nothing could spoil the atmosphere of the event. One of the sponsors was a famous tea-company and that’s why there was nothing to do with catching cold if you were having a cup of hot tea in your hands. “There’s no summer without a good book”, as organizers say, was one of the leitmotivs of the event.

One of the lectures I attended was a talk of British poet and novelist Adam Foulds. This talk was aimed very much to those writing books themselves: he was describing ways of creating weird characters, for instance, a genious or a man from the mental asylum. With his examples of characters from his numerous books, author’s feelings towards his characters were obvious. No matter how positive your characters are, the author in any case feels sympathy for them, they are the product of his imagination. Like people who surround you, characters must be complicated and open. I found the talk very informative and useful. Someday I´ll be creating my characters, who knows.

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Along with English writers, participants could listen to Russian writers, publishers and film-makers, whose talks were gathering thos interested in Russian literature and theatre performances. I was happy to listen to Kirill Serebryanikov and was lucky to ask a question during Q/A session. Personally, I believe, his films and theatre performances are quite provocative for modern Russian society, but as he said, everything new one day could be provocative, like many years ago, for instance, paintings of Salvador Dahli or Kazimir Malevich. One of the positive reasons of attending such events is an ability to meet a famous person, who, as it can turn out, is a sublte artist, sentient and intelligent.

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One of the most brilliant talks of the festival was a talk given by John Mullan. He is a professor at Univercity College London, a specialist in the eighteenth-century literature, the best of the Booker Judge in 2008. He’s currently writing a 1709-1784 volume of the Oxford English Literary History. His presentation was about tricks in contemprorary English literature, how authors attract readears. The idea of the presentation was to give the listeners lots of quotations from English books, letting them to analyze, to reflect and to be sure to want to read this or that book as soon as possible. That was John’s talk! After the session some of the highly excited participants, including yours truly, were really lucky to ask John questions in private. He spent more that 40 (!) minutes talking to us, answering our questions about our favourite books and discussing our literature interests in Russia. Of course, he could not avoid talking about “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. By they way, we could know one interesting fact. John Mullan is the author of What Matters in Jane Austen? which is very popular among those who are interested in English classical literature. John agreed to send me some of his articles and notes on literature, so I’m really looking forward to hearing from him soon…

There were lots of other attractive things to do: taking a picture with Mad Hatter, or in Alice’s costume, also there were interesting performances for children. And evidently, there were lots of opportunities to make friends or get useful contacts. I made some, I´m happy about it.

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Also I´m ready to share a list of books, to be read soon (they were mentioned by John Mullan):

1. Ian McEwan “Atonement”, “Sweet Tooth”.

2. Jane Austen “The Northanger Abbey”.

3. David Mitchell “Cloud Atlas”.

Despite the bad weather, this event lifted my spirits up. I love reading and I was happy to be surrounded by people who also find it exciting to become utterly absorbed by a new book. And summer is nice time for doing it. I’ll no longer be waiting and I’m going to start right now.

Thanks for reading!

Question Warmer

With my Pre-Intermediate students we are having now Grammar Section, where they can focus on answering questions. No doubt, it deals with using question words, or wh- words.

Today I’ve been lucky to create a warmer with interactive activity and a communicative task following it.

I elicited 5 question words, as we were having 5 people in the group. I wrote them on post-it notes and gave to students. I asked them to make up a question using their question words and it took them just a minute to complete this task. After that each student was supposed to come up to the board, stick a note onto it, write a question with it and read it aloud to partners.  After all questions were written on the board, students were having a communicative task with each other: they took turns to ask and answer those questions.

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My students have already had such tasks when they were supposed to come up to the board and write something on it, or ask their partner a question standing in front of it, and they loved it, for sure.

It was a nice lesson with a nice warmer. I wish I always had such an inspiration to create new activities and use them as well. How do you usually come up with new ideas for warmers? Where do you find them and how? Do you find my idea useful?

Thanks for reading.

News activity as a lesson starter

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Source: http://www.spotlight-online.de/language/vocabulary/good-news

Hi there!

Today I´m going to share an idea my students find challenging but attractive enough to be realized. It is an idea of a lesson starter when you meet with your students after a weekend or it’s just your first class after the weekend, when students are open to a new series of classes and they need to be warmed up and made to speak.

Preparation: before the weekend ask your students to use any news portal known to them to prepare a short 1-minute informative exchange including news they had a chance to face during the weekend. It can be news from everywhere and about any of aspects of life: culture, science, work, politics, ecology, traveling, etc. Just things they are personally excited about. I suggest doing it at the weekend to provide students with enough time for observing news portals.

How it works: break students into pairs and let them talk about news they want to share. Each talk should not be more than 1 minute. Then change partners or let them choose new partners again and repeat the activity. If possible it would be better to let each student to talk once to every member of the class. Also it’s possible to work in groups of three and four.

As a follow-up students can classify all news in accordance with its aspects given above. As a feedback they can answer the question whose news are more surprising (interesting, boring, memorable, etc).

I always do this activity with my Intermediates and Upper-Intermediates, on Monday morning it is vitally important to begin classes with something making you speak at once.

How do you find this idea? Would you like to try it with your students? Why? Why not?

Thanks for stopping by!

Real stories of real people represent an idea of an internal project

Several weeks ago I was having a successful series of classes with Pre-Intermediate students. At that time they were studying how to talk about their job and current working issues; no doubt that was achieved by revising Present Simple and Present Continuous as well as learning new ways of using Present Continuous in terms of speaking not only about a moment of speaking but also about changing situations.

The coursebook offered 3 texts about people presenting their jobs. It can be seen on a picture below: Present Simple and Continuous are used along with some necessary vocabulary to talk about their jobs.

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After the whole unit was finished it was high time to revise the material. As for vocabulary revision, I decided to ask stronger students from Intermediate group write their own short texts about their work using the proposed vocabulary and grammar. For having them as better visuals all necessary grammar and vocabulary was given in bold type. My story came along with theirs. The result you can see below.

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Anna Z. English Teacher.

I work for Epam Systems in Sergiev Posad office. My job involves organizing and conducting English classes for EPAM employees. I also take part in different conferences, webinars, trainings for teachers and special projects. For example, now I’m working on my blog where I write posts and articles about my teaching practice and tips for other teachers worldwide.

antonAnton A. Business Analyst.

My position in EPAM as a Business Analyst. A lot of my job consists of communicating with customers. Also I’m involved in organizing meetings for all Business Analysts of SP office and I’m a chairman of these meetings. Currently I’m working on a project with energetic Company ‘CHEVRON’. I’m planning future releases and I’m clarifying all the requirements.

Vitaliy

Vitaliy A. Software Developer.

I’m a Software Engineer in Epam Systems. I’m involved in implementing new functionality. I also write emails and test my work to ensure that my code works correctly. Currently, I’m working on a foreign project for a Canadian customer. Here I’m implementing tasks, related to service integration processes. These tasks are hard, so I’m reading a lot of documentation to get the idea of how it should work.

The idea was quite simple: I asked students to use those texts to talk about their jobs and current changing situations. Moreover, in the working kitchen where people get together during lunchtime we placed those stories and asked everybody to pay attention, saying that those were examples of “About myself”. The idea was welcome by other employees and we succeeded in motivating others to participate in other projects, as we called them. I was inspired too, as I could see students’ interest in doing this unusual thing.

In conclusion I want to say that if you like this idea to be used with your students, ask stronger students to help you. It will definitely generate their interest, too. Along with this, your target students will be really excited about reading stories about real people they know. Also, I’d say they liked idea about reading my story: they come a lot more familiar with what I do and what my responsibilities are.

Now I’m open to new internal projects. They are inviting and definitely worth trying.

Thanks for stopping by!

What motivates me in my job?

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Source: http://bodiesthatwork.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/motivation.jpg

Having classes with my Upper-Intermediate students, I can be sure each lesson turns out to be thought-provoking and demanding. The same with topics. Our next unit is called ‘Motivation’ and it is strictly important for them. First of all, as you may know, I’m a Business English Teacher, so my students are highly interested in an appropriate English level because many things depend on their skills. Secondly, as they told me during our analysis stage, topic ‘Motivation’ is definitely necessary for them to talk about it during their annual Assessments. These Assessments are supposed to provide employees with the opportunity to get promoted, to increase their salary and to achieve their personal goals.

One of the assignments for this topis is to write an essay (or just an answer to the question) ‘What motivates me in my job?’. I decided to write an answer myself, but not as an example of how to do it. It is rather for me to have one more chance to reflect about my job and occupation and about things that make me happy.

So… What really motives me in my job?

I’m ready to answer honestly: an opportunity to communicate. I believe, it is more than that, it is my own happiness and joy to speak to people in Russian, in English, in Spanish, whatever. I’m so lucky, because I have lots of chances to communicate at work. I speak during our classes, I speak in the morning with a cup of tea in my hands, I speak during ‘funny lunches’ as we call them, because so many people get together in the working kitchen and we chat, tell anecdotes and funny stories. I’m a chatter-box, that’s true, but people around me are happy to talk to me, too, and that’s the point.

A foreign language teacher must strive for excellence, and that’s why self-development is a thing that is really wholesome. I believe, at work I have lots of possibilities to develop as a teacher, as a successful teacher whose students increase their level from year to year and they master their English skills. It definitely motivates me! Also I should say something about my blogging experience, it is absolutely awesome in terms of self-development and it is like you kill two birds with one stone. “I write my teaching reflections” means I develop as a teacher. Writing is my thing!

Colleagues also motivate me. I have got plenty of people surrounding me who are talented and gifted and who inspire me. Talking about my students, they are also my colleagues, and taking my teaching into consideration, they are people who bring me opportunities to develop as a teacher. My blog’s name is Enséñame, I have written about the reasons here, and the main idea of that post is to tell my followers and readers that I´m also a learner and a person who is somehow “greedy” in the framework of learning. Teaching is learning, an everlasting process for me, I´m happy to have realized that.

What have I forgotten?

Work-life balance. I’m a part-time teacher, although I find time to read professional literature at home in the evening when I’m alone and no one is watching me. When you have a family and children, a part of your thoughts are devoted to them, but another part is with your students. Several years ago it was difficult for me to balance work and private life, even though at that time there were no people who I had to take care of. Now with my 5-year-old son it is possible to spend half a day at work and another half with him, sometimes providing him with the opportunity to watch an English video on youtube or recite an English nursery rhyme together. I guess, I’ve found an ideal balance, and I’m happy with that.

Many things can motivate. I’m really happy to be here as an English teacher who has got a great amount of things that makes her happy.

Looking back, I should admit this post has turned out to be very sincere and openhearted. I invite my followers to share their thoughts about motivation at work. What motivates you? What makes you happy?

I’m really looking forward to hearing from you!

And… thanks for reading!

Continue doing activities from #FlashMobELT…

flashmobSource: http://trinityaos.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/logo.gif

Hi there!

Today my short post is about Peter O’Connor’s activity suggested for #FlashMobELT (my first experience is posted here).

Start / stop reading.

 I like doing this activity as it kind of uses the ‘whole’ student. Reading, speaking, listening, and paying attention are the main elements applied. Break the students into pairs and have them sit facing each other. One student holds the text book so that the other student cannot see. When the teacher says ‘start’ the student holding the text starts reading. When the teacher says ‘stop’ the student stops reading and hands the book to the other student. No pointing or prompting. When the teacher says ‘start’ again, the other students pick up from where the last student finished. This continues until the text is finished.

 Peter O’Connor

I was looking for an activity to help my Intermediate students to revise the previous vocabulary taken from the small text. Seek and ye shall find! I broke students into pairs and let them read the text one by one according to the instruction. After the whole text was finished they easily could remember all necessary vocabulary for further lesson goals. It was a nice lesson starter, rather modest, non-striking and very logical.

I was lucky to have the most memorable feedback. Students noticed that it was the first time in our classroom, it was intriguing at first sight and as a result successful in the framework of revising of material.

Many thanks go to Peter O’Connor and Anna Loseva for such an attractive resource with entirely useful activities.

Thanks for reading! Hope to hear from you soon!

Ways of conducting metacognitive feedback

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Source: http://www.uc.rnu.tn/formdev/formulaire/pers.jpg

It is very important to wrap up a lesson in a right and effective way. I should admit, many moons ago I was a teacher who in the end of the lesson just waved good-bye and was happy to end up a lesson with it. I had never been thinking about anything special and much more interesting for my students¸ though I’d always understood its importance and value.

Metacognitive feedback stage is a stage when the lesson is actually finished and a teacher asks his students about the results of the lesson. Was it interesting for them to participate? Was the material interesting or boring? Was there something they would like to change or improve? There are lots of questions, and my very first post on this blog was about using post-it ® notes for Metacognitive Feedback. It happened because my experience allowed me to write and to share with others, and that means that I’d been trying many ways of doing it before. Today I’m going to collect all thoughts and ideas on this topic in one post. I hope it will be useful somehow. All tips are supposed to be used at the end of the lesson. All the information the teacher takes from students he can use to reflect on his practice and a lesson itself, also he can plan his future lessons and have a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses of his students.

The following ideas reflect my own practice and also practical ideas of my Spanish colleagues and authors of Spanish textbooks where self-evaluation is an important part of the lesson and should never be underestimated.

  1. Teacher asks students to write down 5-10 new words and combinations they learnt at the lesson.
  1. Teacher asks students to complete a small questionnaire with only one question:

This lesson was:

a) very rapid

b) boring

c) interesting

d) easy

e) difficult

  1. Teacher asks students to classify different types of exercises they did at the lesson and say which of them they found interesting / boring / favourite / difficult / thought-provoking. Exercises could be classified, for instance, as filling the gaps, answering questions, talking in pairs, looking out for some specific information in the text, listening, reading, etc. Teacher helps students to classify them.
  1. After classifying all exercises students can label them with one-two descriptions: the most interesting, the most confusing, the most productive, the most boring.
  1. Also as one of the alternatives of revision, students are asked to write 3-5 new words (verbs, collocations) from previous unit, or units.
  1. T asks students to analyze their further English practice. They can answer the question: what sort of things are you going to use for better learning? Students are offered some answers, like in a questionnaire, for instance: I have to write much more; I have to do much more grammar; I have to listen to TV programs, podcasts, radio, etc.; I have to read more and others.
  1. A nice idea for revision. Students are given worksheets with a table and complete it:
I’ve revised… I’ve understood…. I have to pay much more attention to…. Other comments
  1. Also there are several ways of self-evaluation for students. They are given a questionnaire and tick answers closer to them:
I have to improve… a)   My speech

b)  My written speech

c)   My listening comprehension

d)  My reading comprehension

I’m evaluating my process of studying… a)    I’m satisfied

b)   I’m content

c)    I have to improve my skills

d)   There are lots of things that I don’t understand

  1. Teacher asks students to write answers to these questions: a) What have we done at the lesson? ; b) I’ve had difficulties with___________; c) I’ve improved my skills ____________.
  2. Teacher asks students to answer the questions: which difficulties have you faced whereas studying this unit? (the answers possible are: difficulties with grammar, with reading, with listening and others.
  3. Teacher asks students to answer about new words or word combinations. What was the most difficult word to memorize? The easiest?
  4. In modern coursebooks there are a great amount of really informative texts. Teacher is supposed to ask his students about the text: what interesting information have you found out? What surprised you most? Which facts do you find most interesting?
  5. It is a nice idea for students to reflect, what kind of tasks they did on their own and which in groups of with a partner. Teacher can ask students about it. After that students can answer the question: was in easier for you to work on your own or in a group? Also as an alternative, Teacher can ask students to categorize exercises that are easier to do with a partner and that are easier to do alone.
  6. Teacher asks students to track the difference between two languages when they study grammar. Students try to find similarities and differences in two tenses, in ways of forming new words and in other grammar phenomena.
  7. When a class encounters with a text, after reading Teacher can ask his students: what kind of text do you like read most? The answers possible are: literary, newspaper article, letters, official documents, scientific texts and others. By gathering feedback from students Teacher can prepare more interesting texts for them.

Personally I’ve tried only quite a few of these activities with my students. The point is that there are lots of ways and while lesson planning I look at my notes and try to pick something that possibly will be helpful for my students after the lesson. And try it. My personal tip for teachers is to pick one every new lesson. Firstly, it’ll help you to have more feedback from your students, and secondly, it’ll help to reflect, to analyze your lesson, to prepare for the new one.

A teacher is free in his choice of conducting this stage both with using notes or just letting students discuss lesson outcome in pairs. The thing is that after that stage students become more aware of why they attend lessons and more confident as well, they learn to analyze and the teacher is a person who helps them.

Thanks for stopping by!