Halloween Extra

Hello everyone!

It’s been a long time since I posted something useful. Today here comes my new post about extracurricular activity with my students involved.

You know, I’m fond of having fun and that’s why extras are my favourite activities considering all of my students to be very fond of them too and since they are very creative and talented. I´ve already written blog-posts about some extras in the office where I work as a Business English Teacher, including Skype Status Activity, English Day and Poetry Day. This time it was Halloween as one of the ideas of an extracurricular activity, so I just gave it a shot. And my blog-post today is how I managed to prepare it, discuss it with my fellow teachers and conduct it.

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At the preparation stage I had been looking for some activities which the participants could use to speak out, to discuss. So I had chosen mingling activity with coloured slips of paper to form pairs. I projected a question:

Do you think it is okay to celebrate Halloween in such institutions as kindergartens, schools and universities in Russia?

Coloured slips of paper helped to form pairs and I let the participants to discuss the question above in pairs.

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Then the participants who answered ‘yes’ formed a team, and those who said ‘no’ formed another team. So we had 2 teams ready for the further activities. There were about 20 people involved.

Halloween is a very popular celebration, but I had not been sure that my students knew its traditions, so I asked the teams to recall all associations with Halloween celebration. After 3 minutes the lists were ready and we could compare them and then I projected Halloween vocabulary slide so that the teams could add some words to their lists and ask questions. There were not many questions, but this activity helped some of them to be more confident. For the majority of them such extras in English happened for the first time. I would like to thank Olya Sergeeva, my colleague from St.Pete for her advice during our chat at the preparation stage.

I also would like to thank Tekhnologik for an awesome idea of ‘Trick or Treat‘ quiz. My colleague from St.Pete Liudmila Vasileva created a wonderful Halloween quiz using ideas posted at Tekhnologik. So I just had to use it and be grateful to her! This activity turned out to be the most stimulating and appealing with an educational twist.

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Though it was the last activity of the Party, now I want to share some materials that I did not manage to use because of time restrictions.

  1. Spooky Idioms. Olya suggested playing ‘Call My Bluff‘ using those idioms and I absolutely liked the idea. I’m fond of idioms and this time it might have been a nice opportunity to introduce some of them. I’ll definitely try them out with my students in a form of a warm-up.
  2. Halloween Tongue Twisters. They always involve a lot of fun, but this time due to time restrictions I did not manage to use them. It’s one of the ideas I want to realize later.

The tastiest moment of the Party was prepared and created by our HR manager Natalya and I would like to thank her for making this idea real and tasty.

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On the whole, it was my first experience of such an activity in the office and I liked it.
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I’d like to thank my students and my colleagues for making this Party incredible and memorable.

Thanks for stopping by!
Have a wonderful working week!

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Poetry Day

I am happy to be surrounded by creative and talented people, who have lots of interests and ideas for spending their free time. That’s why I was not at all surprised when during lunchtime in the working kitchen some of my colleagues asked me about the possibility of organizing a day of Poetry in the office. I was not surprised, that’s true, but I was not quite aware of how to organize it, in what way to do it and who can assist me. We came up with decision in September 2013, but were ready to realize the idea only a year ago, in April 2014. As I have promised my today’s post is about Poetry Day.

From the very beginning, when we came across the idea, I decided not just give an opportunity to recite favourite poems, but make up a story out of this idea and write a worthwhile scenario. (It was written in Russian, so there’s no use in posting it here, but just in case you are interested, let me know). My number one idea was to let people choose poems themselves, whether in Russian or in English. We had too many volunteers to contribute to Poetry Day, and I made up my mind to let all of them participate. In this case we found partners who were willing to recite the same poem, but in different languages.

The first part was devoted to ancient English poetry. It is a wonderful thing, that so many well-known poems for children are originally English. We all remember ‘Three Little Kittens’ or ‘The House that Jack Built’, translated by Soviet poet S.Y. Marshak and other outstanding poets. Some of the poems came from one more famous book ‘Mother Goose Rhymes’, the thing I love very much, personally. Participants recited poems in English, then with their Russian translations.

As for the second part, we decided to include William Shakespeare. No doubt, this poet is somehow the symbol of English poetry. We also included some biography data about him and one of the participants read it aloud to the audience. Moreover, we used a projector and a simply media player, so we were well-equipped enough to show the portraits of poets accompanied by musical plays. After biography note the participant recited Sonnet with English translation.

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Taking into consideration the English Poetry as it is, we could not forget about Robert Burns and William Wordsworth as famous poets, too. The third part was devoted to their poems with Russian and English translations.

Talking about poetry in the framework of the Russian language we could not help mentioning great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. With his bio data presented by the participants, we tried to concentrate on his outstanding poem ‘Eugine Onegin’ and the history of its translations into the English language. During the preparation stage we succeeded to find out an interesting fact: there are more than 15 famous translations of ‘Eugine Onegin’. This part of the Day was presented perfectly.

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I believe, if an English teacher once decides to organize Poetry Day with his students, he might organize it in a different way, and he will be blessed with it. I remember a sense of creativity during preparation stages and during the Day itself, though they were not difficult to achieve. I would be delighted to know what you think about the idea of Poetry Day. Have you ever organized anything like that? Would you love to?

Thanks for reading! Hope to hear from you soon!

Three ideas for extracurricular events

English teachers from different locations working for EPAM Russia including me are soon  going to take part in the webinar organized by curriculum managers. The point is to collect ideas and activities for English clubs, English days, cinema clubs, etc. My today’s post is about activities I have tried with my students so far. For the upcoming webinar I am going to be writing about three most successful events that worked for our students: English Day, Skype Status Activity (I wrote about it here) and Poetry day.
So, English Day… Some background information. I’ve been working for EPAM for more than two years; my responsibilities include organizing Business English classes for employees who are mostly programmers and business analysts. Of course, as all students, they are not strangers to something new. Thus, with the help of our HR manager Natalya Syvorotkina we worked out the idea of the day and announced it just the week before so that students could get prepared. Also we announced the program of the day. So, English Day, July 2013.

1.    The main idea was to create the atmosphere where everybody could speak only English. It was not so simple for some of employees, because at that time they just started having English classes at work, but there were students with higher levels who created this atmosphere and helped others. By the way, those who did not want to speak English that day were supposed to bring sweets and to ‘pay’ for the possibility to speak Russian. (One employee brought neither more that less a kilo of sweets and gave to me, though I should admit it was a joke, and everybody wanted to speak English, of course. Although we got kilos of sweets and biscuits that day… ). What I would have done differently: I would have probably asked weaker employees to prepare cards with functional phrases. In this case it would have been a lot more easier for them.

2.    There was no dress-code that day simply just because we had not thought about it and had not included it in the announcement. But one employee was wearing a real Scottish kilt, and that was a very astonishing idea for each of us! What I would have done differently: No doubt, a kilt is so difficult to get in Russia, and it is not obligatory to wear it, of course. I would have asked employees to think about dress-code. What would you advise?

3.    The day began with watching funny videos. The room with the screen installed was not so big and some people were standing, not sitting. Nevertheless, we spent about 30 minutes watching. I chose several viral videos related to the English language, funny advertisements, some videos from Jimmy Kimmel’s TV show, videos with funny accents. They were not shown with an educational aim, they were meant to start the day in a relaxing way. What I would have done differently: some videos were difficult for weaker students. I would have separated them into groups and chose videos suitable for their level. Also I did not include discussion session. But still I am not sure whether it is necessary to discuss funny videos or not.

4.    The bigger part of the day was called ‘The English Quiz Party’. I had prepared different entertaining and engaging tasks. They were divided into 2 teams. They played grammar ‘Noughts and Crosses’, matched English proverbs with their Russian equivalents and matched cards with names of famous people with their inventions or ideas they were related to. What I would have done differently: I would have been more aware of teams and their leaders, I would have chosen them myself. I would have asked teams to create the name for it, or even names for every teammate. Here I still need some ideas of what to do with teams, how to engage them as much as possible.

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5.    The next part of the day was ‘Five O’Clock tea’. First of all, I showed a presentation about English Sandwiches, and later on I held a culinary workshop for preparing these sandwiches with cucumbers and ham. I had prepared a pile of disordered cards with recipe steps. I asked students to put them in order and then, in accordance with the steps, to begin cutting, peeling, spreading bread with butter, etc. Of course, all sandwiches were then eaten by participants. What I would have done differently: perhaps, it was the only part of the day I was happy with. All students felt confident during that workshop and while cooking.

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6.    The final part was English songs session. I am fond of playing the guitar and brought it from home to play some English songs. We chose different songs, like ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles (very popular song among English teachers from Russia), ‘Let it Be’, also by the Beatles, ‘Living Next Door to Alice’ by Smokie, ‘We Are the Champions’ by Queen and others. We had printed lyrics and gave to students to sing together with me. It was amazing! Of course, not everybody was engaged, but seems that those who liked singing were enjoying that part very much! What I would have done differently: I would have prepared karaoke, or firstly, I would have asked students to fill in the gaps in lyrics. Nevertheless, it was the part I was enjoying too.

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At the end all employees were given lollipops. What I would have done differently: I would have thought about more valuable presents for students. It is a matter of discussion.

My aim is to have English Week with students with lots of different activities, including quizzes, cinema club, speaking club, perhaps, acting some plays with students, that is why I am looking forward to getting some ideas from other teachers and sharing mine. It has been already agreed upon with the Director and HR manager, in summer at the latest we’re going to hold English Week.

Thanks for reading! If you have any ideas and things to share, please share in comments. I am really looking to reading them.

P.S. One of the following posts will be devoted to Poetry Day. Stay tuned!

‘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.