New group, new ideas, new reflections

This week I’ve started a new group, Upper-Intermediate. There are many students in our office with levels of higher than B1+, or B2. That’s why we decided to create a new group and include those who… Who what? That was probably the most interesting and challenging question for me. Before actual start I tried to talk to each of my potential students and ask them about their goals for learning English. I should say, some of them are completely busy working with customers on their projects, and it can influence their learning process, and I guess, the situation with attendance might be different, at least different from the first lesson. I was warned about it and nevertheless I decided to start. I was lucky to prepare for the lesson with lots of new activities, new for me as for a teacher, and also new for students, though I guess for them many activities will be new for some time, just because they hadn’t had much English at work, talking about English classes, in particular. I can’t say I managed to recognized their goals and ideas about accepting an invitation to come and study English, but all of them mentioned improving their skills and mastering the existing ones. I believe, in this case we will cooperate and work together to achieve results.

As for the first particular lesson I was in look out for an ice-breaker, a good ice-breaker for a starting point and just in order not to rush into materials of the textbook. Though, I should admit, a year or so ago I would do like this, without a game in the beginning or even without letting guys know each other. Thanks to our Curriculum Manager Olya I was completely sure about ice-breakers I was going to use, just because one of the them I tried myself, being a trainee at the Teacher’s Training back in 2014. It’s called “A Map of Me” with symbols helping others to know more about my life. So students did the same with their maps, they created their own maps and discussed in pairs.

Here’s my map. Not bad, I guess.

IMG_0613

Also thanks to Olya I found a nice board game from book ‘Speaking Games’. “Needs Analysis Challenge” is its name and now I can say it is the most interesting thing to start a new course. Its goal is to find out students’ knowledge about some methodological points, say, learning grammar or different ways of practicing vocabulary, and also their personal goals and ideas of how they could learn English. Instead of rushing into the material of the textbook they just spent about 20 minutes playing this board game, and I’d say it worked perfectly. Thank you, Olya!

My personal reflection is very simple. When you start a new group or a new course, spend some time letting your students know each other. And let yourself know their personal goals, why they study English. It will help you to plan future lessons, having in mind those things your students told you. And one more thing. There are lots of activities described in methodological books, but sometimes they just stay in books. You are free to try them out and create your own understanding of what works and what does not. Don’t be afraid of trying them out, just don’t be afraid. And after that you’ll see you’ll have a lot of things to reflect about in your blog.

Thanks for reading!

Recreating conversations using mind-maps

Today I would like to share the most successful teaching tip I have used so far. My colleague Olga Sergeeva wrote an amazing post about mind-mapping, and I have been using her ideas for several months, particularly when the aim of the lesson is to encourage students to use key expressions (for instance, for business communication skills or functional language).

My today’s lesson with Intermediates was devoted to using key expressions related to reporting back.

Students were supposed to listen to 2 conversations (guided discovery). After taking notes they were supposed to fill in the gaps with useful expressions (controlled practice). Upon completion of the task they started creating a mind-map. Firstly, I elicited possible categories for the mind-map. Secondly, they added phrases from the transcript to categories. When mind-maps were ready, I asked students to cover them with a sheet of paper and to memorize as many phrases as possible. (according to Olga, some students can only memorize 1/3 of all the expressions). Afterwards I was pretty sure that students could try to recreate the initial conversations just looking at the mind-map they had created.

I remember my first lesson when I used this idea. Honestly, I was afraid that the task would be a failure. But there were many attempts to improve the task and to give clearer instructions to students. After recreating conversations students were ready to personalized and freer practice stages of the lesson. Feedback from students was positive and inspiring.

I should admit it is now one of my favourite ways of drilling key expressions.
And this is the mind-map students created today.

Mind-Map

Olya, thank you so much for your contribution!

Have you ever used mind-maps in your classroom? Please, share in comments.

Thanks for reading!