Travel, learn, make friends

Hi everyone!

Yesterday after reading a lovely post by Sandy Millin with wonderful pictures of the Crimea that I love soooo much I decided to post about my favourite place of visiting, but to add some self-development flavor and somehow things connected to language learning. And here goes. Today my post is not related to ELT, but who told I was going to post only about those things? 🙂

I love Saint Petersburg very much, or simply, I am crazy about that. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, let alone Russia and places I’ve ever visited. I’m not really into quoting phrases from guidebooks, but it is true that this place is incredibly awesome and just gorgeous. My love for it is very old, I visited this city for the first time when I was a schoolgirl. Then I worked for several years (or it’s better to say “summers” for a tour agency, so I travelled there almost every weekend as a part of my working project during summer holidays when I was a student). Now I travel to St.Pete every 2-3 months and this city deserves the prize for the most popular place of the year where I can just walk along Nevskiy avenue for about 3-5 hours on foot, enjoying the views, taking photos of cathedrals and palaces, eating ice-cream, visiting small and cozy coffee shops, sitting on benches in the embankments of the Neva river and feeling myself like a St.Pete citizen who enjoys walking there every single day.

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One more thing I found out in St.Pete a year ago is a speaking club of the company World Language Café. All meetings take place in a café where the organizers invite a native speaker. So every Sunday there’s a Spanish Breakfast meeting where a native speaker from Spain or Latin America comes to talk to those who want to improve their Spanish skills. In my case it is Spanish, I use it as my second foreign language and I’m quite fluent in it. And World Language Café organizes meetings with native speakers of other popular foreign languages: English, French, Italian, German and even Finnish.

I found my first experience very inviting to keep on attending those meetings and I do it regularly (when coming to the city) and what I really like about it is that I know that however busy I am during my visit, I am always free on Sunday for the Spanish meeting. I know I’ll have 2 hours of speaking and listening, and discussing and socializing, but also I’ll have a hometask (usually consisting of an article to be read or a survey to be completed). That really does not matter I won’t come the next weekend, the point is a follow-up task that needs to be done and I always enjoy doing it.

I love socializing and those Spanish meetings were very nice place to do it. When I’m going to visit, I usually write to 3-4 people I really want to see and they always come. Because they love to see me. It’s just amazing and almost unbelievable. They know I live far from them and they want to see me my every visit. There are quite a few people who are English teachers, so we always have common topics for discussion. Despite the fact that we live far from each other, we are very glad to meet again and share the news.

So to conclude… Looking back, I wanted to make this post informative and pleasant for reading and I wanted to focus on something important: things that make me happy and people who make me smile 🙂 I don’t know if anybody is going to like this post, but I’d say I enjoyed writing it and it turned to be very personal and… today I’m leaving for St.Pete and I’m attending my favourite Spanish Breakfast on Sunday with my friends.

Have a nice weekend and thanks for reading!

Me and my son Yaroslav on a very cold June day (2015). St. Petersburg 🙂IMG_0844

xxx

An activity for drilling irregular verbs

One of my favourite methods of drilling irregular verbs was shoring students cards with all three forms and asking them to repeat after me. Since my first English teacher showed this activity to me when I was a pupil I´ve never seen anybody did the same with her students or it´s just because I haven´t observed much of the lessons of my colleagues. So, to my mind, it was one of the effective ways of drilling those verbs: those who are visuals could visualize and memorize much better, those who have a good ear for music, like me, could use it for better memorizing.

When my students used to study irregular verbs, I always started my lessons with asking them to repeat after me. After a chat with my Curriculum Manager (we were discussing new games with irregular verbs among other things) and having told her about my idea to realize my favourite idea, I suddenly thought about trying something new and just watch how it would work?

Today I was having a lesson with Pre-Intermediate students and the first activity was repeating again. But not after me. But after them. I mean, everybody was a person who asked to repeat those verbs after him.

I distributed a stack of cards for everybody and first of all, asked to look through. Later on  the students one by one were showing their cards to partners and the whole class was repeating after the one. It took us about 5 minutes.

To conclude… I would recommend this activity to my colleagues, because it at least reveals one of my favourite learning-related Chinese proverb:

Tell me, I’ll forget.
Show me, I’ll remember.
Involve me, I’ll understand.

The students were involved in the process and took on a role of the teacher and I’m sure they learned much more today. To my mind, this is what the whole learning process is about.

Thanks for reading.

The next speaking game

little bird

Photo: http://40.media.tumblr.com/4a1731f197a50aad5d763feda88a2300/tumblr_mijhsfw5PR1qzya49o1_1280.jpg

Hi everyone!

I found a nice idea of asking my students for the feedback. Jane is the only student who I teach online (by skype) and she keeps on posting her ideas and reflections on many interesting topics. One of the them is reflection on our English classes. So, it’s great, I suppose! Jane, thanks for inspiration and God bless you in your striving for excellence in your learning process.

Here goes: The next speaking game.

Thanks for reading!

To run for running…

monks

I’d like to begin with a story.

Once upon a time the Russian sportsmen found out that in Tibet there was a monastery where during one religious festival the monks used to run about 80 km. Sportsmen became interested in this achievement and sent their people to learn from the experience. The monks were asked to demonstrate their art. At first, Tibetans did not understand what the Russians wanted from them. Why run when there´s no festival? As a matter of fact, they used to run to the exact place where the holiday was held. But the guests were insisting. The monks had to agree to fulfill this useless deal. And they started running.

Here came one monk: he had not run a kilometer, but sat on the roadside, breathing hard, sweated, then another monk, then another… The Russians came up and asked: “Why are you sitting? You’ve not even run a kilometer…”. The monk replied: “I’m tired”. A typical oriental guy. A typical oriental reply. If you are tired – sit and have a rest. He does not understand that it´s fine for somebody to run aimlessly, just for counting time and distance, to run for running…

In other word, no one could run even a kilometer, everybody withdrew from a race. The Russians left the monastery empty-handed. And when there again was this Buddhist festival, the monks again ran to the festival place, and they easily ran those 80 km. The point is they did not count kilometers, they did not count time. They were thinking about other things. Running to the festival place for them was a part of a festival ritual, they did not think about running, they were thinking about the festival. Running for them was just only a method, and the festival was the aim.

To begin with, the idea of this blogpost came up to me tomorrow just after the lesson with Intermediate students. They are currently studying key expressions for getting information and managing appointments as well. After many communicative tasks the students admitted it was not at all easy to be imaginative and create artificial situations. I always thought I have already been aware of how to incorporate personalization into the tasks, but presumably I was mistaken. The tasks did not provide students with the opportunity to think about the real situation in which to try these expressions will be a pleasure.

Reflecting on the lesson just after it, I recalled this story in the beginning of the post. It was narrated by a very famous Russian linguist Ilya Frank, and the point was the talk about the lack of personalization. Or even better about the lack of teacher’s awareness of how to incorporate the personalization in the classroom. And what I heard from the students proves my guesses: sometimes tasks are methods of teaching, but they do no stand for the aim. Does the teacher show her students the beauty of the language by suggesting talking about the working day (using Present Simple) or about memorable events from their life (using Past Simple of Present Perfect), etc.? What about students? Do they only mechanically fulfill tasks without looking wider at what they are doing?

So, these questions are left without answers. And sometimes I feel like I’ve never been taught to be a teacher. But I try, I really try to be on a bright side, and my blogpost today is a kind of a personal insight into my teaching practice. Let’s admit that personalization is one of the key elements in the classroom and let’s admit that I sometimes struggle with personalization, especially when my students have very specific and relevant topics. So, in my case, what I do is I make them run for running. Aimlessly. Counting time and distance.

… Currently I’m working on a personal project which is supposed to reveal my teaching plans and insights by means of writing articles and assignments on particular topics. In one of them I admitted myself that it is a very necessary thing not to escape from – to find the inner courage to admit negative moments of the lesson (and of the practice itself, like in my case). And the idea of the blogpost was to reflect on this particular thing and be ready to do something to change it.

Thanks for reading!

My favourite metacognitive activity so far

Along with posts about practical ideas there are quite a lot of analytical posts, and now I should say I’m really into analyzing and reflecting and these posts play an important and integral part in my practice. And simply, I love writing and find it helpful for me in terms of professional development. So today my post is analytical again. It is about a thing which is now closely connected to what I usually at the lessons and what I am currently thinking about.

Nowadays me and metacognitive activities walk in couple. I wrote about them twice here – about using post-it notes and methods themselves. Since I’ve analyzed the importance of learner autonomy, I’ve started to gather all possible methods of conducting metacognitive feedback and I succeeded in it. During lesson planning I usually open my post with activities and pick 3-4 of them in order to introduce in class. It depends on a type of lesson (whether is is a revision lesson, or a vocabulary focused one, etc.), also it depends on my understanding of how students will or will not be ready to fulfill these tasks in the end, and it sometimes depends on what I personally think will be important for them to reflect on. Having tried a lot of these activities for the last 2 months, now I have my number one. Here goes:

Ask your students to write 3-5 new words or word combinations they’ve learned at the lesson and share in pairs.

I usually ask students to use post-it notes for this activity. Firstly, after the lesson I can have all of them stuck on one place, on the wall in the classroom or on my notebook (if they are supposed to be kind of take-away for me). Secondly, post-it notes deserve the best prize ever for being democratic and handy in terms of technology used it class.

What do I get by using this activity? To begin with, this activity allows me to use it twice, the second time – at the next lesson. I ask students to write 3-5 words they remember from the previous lesson. Sometimes they write the same words, sometimes not, but all the same after that I would show them their initial post-it note and they compare their answers. One more upside: I see how students are grateful for their memory and for the activity itself allowing them to raise their self-confidence in language learning.

Here’s the example of using post-it notes with a task to write 3 adjectives to describe customer service. This time I took it home to analyze and tomorrow I’m going to show them to students in the beginning of the lesson.

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So, today’s post is analytical, quite short and not very informative. As for me, it is one of the insights into teaching practice, and for me it’s incredibly relevant today.

Thanks for reading. Have a nice working week!