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 liked it very much. They wanted to try it out again. They wanted to make a difference the following day and suggesting producing sentences without revealing the names of people in order to let their partners guess them.

What I personally liked about the activity is that they 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!

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Warm up your Elementaries

Hello everyone!

Today I want to share a last-minute activity which came to my mind just several seconds before my lesson with Elementaries started. I was on vacation last week, and the students had around 10 days without classes, so it was no use rushing into coursebook materials right away. I wanted to give them some time to talk to their partners instead of answering my questions about their last working week and challenging projects they all are involved in. In ‘Speaking Games’ by Jason Anderson there’s a nice game called ‘A thing about cleft sentences’, where students speculate about the diversity of topics using phrases like ‘The most surprising thing about (Facebook) is that…. ‘ or ‘What annoys me most about (credit cards) is… ‘. With a bunch of topics and a tremendous lot of sentence beginnings it was quite a challenging task for my Upper-Intermediates (I used to have it as a warmer for a while).

Moving on to the task itself, I asked my students to choose from a set of topic cards the one they are most interested in (shopping, the Internet, Hollywood movies, restaurants, fashion, the environment, pop music, children and others). The task was to create 5 questions (including 4 special, or wh-questions, i.e. one of them should obviously be a general question). The idea was tempting and they started with encouragement. After the questions was ready, I asked the students to work with a partner and ask those questions. I loved the activity and so did my students for many reasons. The topics were interesting to discuss, the questions were different and they had a chance to talk to each other in the beginning of the class, so it could be considered a classical warmer.

That’s why I had enough courage to give my blog-post a name ‘Warm up your Elementaries’, because I do believe, this task works best for this purpose. I also believe, this warmer could be adapted for stronger levels. Let your students give you a hint.

Share if you want to try it out and please, share with me.

Thank you for reading!

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

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.