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.

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!

 

Present Perfect vs Past Simple. An activity.

Hello everyone!

It´s a pleasure to be back, and I´m about to be bombing you with new blog-posts. Here comes one more. And it’s going to be practical with description of an activity for finding out (and analyzing) the difference between Present Perfect and Past Simple.

My Intermediate students are currently studying topic “Leisure Time’, which obviously goes hand in hand with hobbies and interests. Moreover, from the grammar point of you, the coursebook suggests doing some exercise to find the difference between the above mentioned tenses. I did not find them engaging, so I accidentally came across a nice activity in the net (here), changed it a bit, then gave it to my students.

Here comes the outline.
First up, I wrote “Our Favourites” on the board after a short warmer (discussing interests and hobbies). Then I elicited a couple of things people consider their favourite ones (food, music, movies, countries / cities, holidays, sports, etc). In doing so I put ‘Food’ as a first favourite thing into the first column of the chart (which was about to consist of 3 columns). Then I elicited verbs which are likely to be used to help to talk about favourite food. Have, try, eat, enjoy – my students came up with quite a few, and we added buy and taste. I put all of them into the second column. Having elicited verbs, I asked to think about two forms of irregular verbs ‘eat – ate – eaten’. I wrote them down here, in the second column. The next step was to ask a question and put it into the third column.

Have you ever eaten really spicy food?

I wasn’t lucky the first time, the student answered ‘No’. I asked another student, he answered ‘Yes’ and then I asked

What did you eat? – I ate sushi. – When did you eat it? – Two days ago.

I tried out a couple of questions from ‘Food’ with different students (everyone had a chance to answer; if the answer was no, then I moved on the another student) and then we moved on to ‘Country’.

Have you ever visited Italy? – Yes, I have.
When did you go there? – I went there last summer.

Next I asked a couple of questions from ‘Country’. I put all my questions into the chart.
Later on I asked to analyze why Present Perfect was used the first time and why Past Simple with the second question. They were analyzing it in pairs and then we were discussing with the whole group.

The follow-up task was to come up with two more categories (Favourites), among which were Sports, Movie, Holiday. And the students were supposed to make up their own questions in Present Perfect with a follow-up one with Past Simple.

Here comes the snapshot of my whiteboard.

IMG_20160803_131922
My overall impression is as follows. Everyone was involved; we were having a lot of fun. It’s a nice idea to come up with something new apart from a boring coursebook.

Thanks for stopping by!

Have a wonderful day!

Four-square method (reflection of the previous English class)

Source: Four-square method (reflection of the previous English class)

I´m very happy, because once started my own reflective blog, I encouraged my students to write reflections in their own blogs and share with me and their partners. My student Jane is a very talented girl, she´s willing to learn every single day and absorb as much information as possible. So she sometimes reflects on our lessons and that´s really a kind of thing I really appreciate.

Thanks Jane! You´re awesome!!!

Also, I´d like to thank Svetlana for providing this material and sharing.

Thanks for stopping by!

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!

What motivates me in my job?

    motivation

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

metacognitive

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!

Why is adequate timing important?

image

Source: http://www.idestaqe.com/IDESTAQE/assets/Image/clock.jpg

     I should admit that the most challenging situations often bring me food for thought and lots of insights. That’s why I was feeling a bit nervous when I started a new Upper-Intermediate group, but I told my manager Olya about that exact feeling of an insight coming right after a couple of lessons. No doubt, it came uninvited and is waiting for me to share it with others. The thing is that I was always sure about my feeling of time during the lessons. With my experience and lots of varied lessons taken care of, I have never thought that I will lose this feeling without any explanation. Well, probably I was too arrogant and perky. Having a lesson with Upper-Intermediates I found out that time was flying by and we were creeping with the tasks, students were getting a bit bored (too self-confident again, they were deadly bored), and at the end of the lesson I was murmuring something like ‘Next time it would be better, I ‘m sure’. Why that happened? Maybe I’m a little bit slow and don’t provide students with an appropriate pace of moving on with the materials, maybe warm-up and lead-in stages are too long for the first part of the lesson, maybe it is my own style of teaching being changed from day to day. Whatever the reason is, I guess, I know the solution. Adequate timing while lesson preparation stage. With approximate minutes and seconds stated in your lesson plan you can be confident and responsible for the timing you’ve planned, at least planned, of course.

Why am I so nervous about lesson plan timing? I am sure the lesson is like a play and a teacher is a director. You can’t start a lesson with the second act, you can’t start it with the final scene. You need to work step by step, letting students discover the material with your help and with your understanding of what is happening and what is going to be next. I believe, adequate timing is exactly about this, at least about a way of helping a teacher to set realistic goals and reflect afterwards if something went wrong. My idea of today’s lessons is about paying a bit more attention to that insignificant part of the lesson planning as timing. Practically it does not appear to be insignificant.

That’s it.

Thanks for stopping by!