What’s the highlight of your teaching career?

highlight

I was asked the other day,

What’s the highlight of your teaching career, Joanna?

and that question was quite difficult to answer because it made me wonder

what is the highlight?

Highlight

the best or most exciting, entertaining, or interesting part of something

                                                                                            Cambridge online ddictionary

Exciting? Entertaining? Interesting? Hmmmm.

So, for a teacher, what is considered a highlight?

Is it getting a promotion? Yes? No? I ask….what’s a promotion? Is the best case scenario becoming a principal at a school? Maybe becoming the Prime Minister of Canada? Is it becoming teacher of the year? How many steps does the career ladder of a teacher have?

Is it gaining degrees and diplomas? Becoming the best you can become because of your education?

Being acknowledged, respected by your peers?

Going to conferences? Presenting at conferences? Being invited to conferences?

Owning your own ELT business?

Is it writing articles? Getting published? Writing a book that people actually read? Seeing your book quoted somewhere?

Maybe it has nothing to do with the career. Maybe it’s a feeling.

Can a highlight just simply be getting out of your rut, avoiding burnout, and feeling like a super hero every time you walk into the classroom? Having the ‘energy’ to keep going on. Having the strength to keep trying even though you are underpaid and not appreciated.

Is it feeling like you had a very productive day with a very challenging class?

Is it being creative? Making something? Sharing something? Having a zillion

Ah hah

moments?

Is it inspiring learners? Making a kid say,

I want to become a teacher because of you.

Is it seeing your work… ‘work’? I mean, witnessing a child or adult acquiring knowledge? Using a language? Having the chance to experience things in another language? Opening doors to a whole new world?

Is it when your kids make you a card or stay in touch even though you haven’t seen them for 10 years?!

What exactly is a highlight for a teacher?

Probably all the above.

My answer

That’s a very difficult question to answer because I cannot put my finger on just one thing. I  felt extremely happy when I realised that one of my kids ‘got it’ or when I saw another kid be able to express himself in English and thought to myself, “Hey! I helped make that happen”. I also felt very good about myself when I got to teach academic English at a university in the UK. I have managed to educate myself quite a bit. So, as I said,  I don’t really think I can mention just one thing. It’s not just one thing…………………

I also think that there are many more ‘highlights’ ahead.

So, how do you measure success?

Till next time…

J.

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An Ietls Speaking Session turned into a needs analysis session

Hi everyone,

I had an Ielts class with a new learner and I decided to start with a speaking session. I thought this would give me a better picture of my learner’s level and a first idea of what I needed to focus on when choosing material.

What I already knew about my learner

Adult, engineer, post graduate level learner who wants to do an MA in the UK. He already had a B2 level language proficeincy certificate and used his English occasionally.

The day of the lesson came.

After a bit of small talk,

How are you? (that’s the end of the small talk)

I then took out the Ielts Practice Tests book and went to a speaking test. Of course, my first lesson was not going to be a mock test, but I did want to use ‘authentic’ exam questions.

 

Why?

I wanted:

to give the learner an idea of the speaking questions (topics, level and activities).This is going to be a crash course (intensive course?). We started this week and the learner will be taking the test in March. I needed to know the weaknesses asap, and I thought a speaking sessions would allow me to do that. This was going to be my productive skill needs analysis session.

I also wanted:

to have a communicative lesson (because they are more fun) + a lesson that focused on a productive skill..

to focus on a skill that is a bit more relaxed compared to the others.

The lesson: some thoughts and reflections.

I found a speaking test about being famous. In my mind, talking about being famous yourself, and other people who are famous, is probably a topic everyone can talk about because famous can be defined in so many ways. We also live in a day and age where being famous is not that hard.

Task 1: Ice Breaker/ Intro Questions

I started off with the first part of the Ielts test which is the ice breaker. Talk about your self, your friends, neighbourhood, life / work.

This actually was a good task cause I got to know my learner much better.

I did not stop him or time his answers, I went with the flow. I did not make error correction either. unless it was something major that impeded communication. Instead I lifted up my notebook and took notes. I said to my learner that I would jot down good points and corrections.

I noticed my student was making pronunciation mistakes and grammar mistakes, so I made that the focus of my notes. My needs analysis speaking lesson was in progress.

After we finished the 1st part, we talked a bit about his mistakes. He took notes, and wherever possible he corrected the mistakes he made. If he couldn’t find the correct answer, I told him.

Part 2 The Card

I then gave him a card with questions (this is the 2nd part of the Ielts oral exam). I told my learner he could think as long as he wanted to, take notes and then tell me the answer to these questions.

Again, I took notes, then at the end, we corrected mistakes, discussed issues.

Part 3: Open ended questions

This part was tricky because it required:

Longer turns/ monologues.

Critical thinking.

Digging deeper into the question and elaborating.

My learner had difficulty answering longer/ open ended questions, so I gave him an example and told him how I would answer a question like that. He then did answer the questions. This part showed me that when asked more complex questions my learner struggled, so now I had info about pronunciation, grammar and expressing opinions/ holding monologues/ longer turns.

Ielts.jpg

On the downside

My learner did look at me while I was writing, so while I did tell him that I was taking notes of good/ things and weaknesses, he wasn’t really convinced and there were times when he asked,

What are you writing now?

There were others where he felt a bit discouraged by the questions, so I did stray off the original exam type questions.I do not think that is a downside though (just to be clear). There was a lot of brainstorming and scaffolding in the last part.

In fact, the last part of my lesson allowed me to see how easy it is for my learner to come up with ideas and organise thoughts.

So, by the end of my one hour course, I had a first impression of what my learner needs help with. I have already made a list of some of the grammar points that need to be addressed in future classes as well as ‘sounds’ my student needs help with. By the end of this first lesson, my learner was also aware of what the Ielts speaking part is about.

All in all, I was happy with this type of ‘needs analysis’ speaking session. It was very hands on, dealt with ‘real language problems’. As this is a crash course, I really need to be very focused and have clear objectives. I always think that my 1st lessons are flops, a lot of let’s meet and become friends vibe and this was

Let’s meet, become friends and get down to business.

That’s all folks.

Don’t forget to follow my blog. Give my Facebook page a ‘like’ so you don’t miss out on my super duper posts.

Have a nice day/ evening.

Joanna

 

Monthly Favourites: September

Hi everyone!

I haven’t written one of these posts for a while now, so I am back with a #monthlyfavourites post. You will find websites, videos and blogs in today’s post. So, keep reading.

septmber-favourites-elt

Fun English: Advanced Pronunciation Exercise—Test Your Skills: My higher level learner wanted to do some pronunciation practice and I did a bit of research and found this poem that focuses a lot on sounds. You can check it out here.

If you like lists of words (not to give them to your learners but to use in order to make exercises , feel inspired etc.), you may want to check this site out. I focused on Business English but you can check it out and see what else you can find.There are videos where your learners can read and listen to texts. Lots of ESP stuff. One more thing, the pages take ages to load. Don’t give up.

Drawing in the classroom: story telling.You can find the post here.

EAP blog: Teaching EAP: Polemical. Questioning, debating and exploring issues in EAP.

TED talk I enjoyed and will be using in class as part of a conversational lesson: The optimism Bias (this was recommended to me by a friend after I said that I always have low expectations).

Or a shorter version and slightly different video about the same topic.

I also talked about gender pay gap with my learners and used two things as stimuli. I usually prompt my learners by asking them if there is a gender pay gap in their country. Why they think there is one. What can be done to do change this. I also ask them what they think the gender pay gap is in the US, what in the EU. Which countries have the biggest gender pay gap and which the smallest (they also guess incorrectly here!!) This Video from the Harvard Business Review Website

//players.brightcove.net/2071817190001/BkesRPIZ_default/index.html?videoId=4644365717001

this article that has a very long text, graphs (some are bad graphs!!) and extra info about the situation in Europe.

Some random stuff

I started modern calligraphy. It’s fun and relaxing. You can print out pages and practice in your free time by clicking here (uppercase version. You can also practice lower case as well).

Snipping tool: You know when you have a pdf file and want to cut something out but cannot? You can use the snipping tool. It can be found at the little windows button (the one you go to when you want to shut down your pc or search for files. You search snipping tool and you start snipping). See I snipped my own blog post 🙂

capture

So, there you have some of my favourites. I have been gathering and saving stuff for a while now, but as you know, I have really been into my girlie blogging and haven’t been sharing that much here (sorry). You can read my makeup, beauty and other favourites here.Don’t forget to follow my blog or give my Facebook page a ‘like’ so you do not miss notifications of when I publish a super duper post :).

Do you have anything to share? Any favourites? leave a comment in the section below.

Till next time….

 

 

A few thoughts about Pre-sessional EAP courses

I have been teaching English as a foreign language for about 20 years now and English for academic purposes for the past six summers. My EAP teaching experience amounts to 56 weeks of approximately 20 contact hours per week. I enjoy spending my summers in the UK and teaching EAP. My learners are mostly Asian post graduate students who have conditional offers from their departments.

What I like about these courses

They are in the UK which means it’s a working holiday for me. The money is good and you meet teachers and students from all around the world.

The induction weeks/ days are very informative and you have a chance to share/ exchange views about the best practices.

The material used, the classrooms and teaching resources are up to date. Really good stuff. Wouldn’t expect less as I do teach in a university  building.

The lessons challenge me.. I learn and I think that is very important.If you have been teaching for 100 years like me, you do need something new and EAP is that for me.

What I don’t like

Some courses are over ambitious and a lot of EAP stuff is crammed in ten/ six weeks. I understand this, but it doesn’t mean I like it. Pre-sessional EAP courses give the term intense/intensive a whole new meaning.

When I go home, I am beat. No energy for nada. It’s like my brain is on snooze. There have actually been cases where I felt my brain hurt. Literally. So much that I needed paracetamol and coffee to keep going, especially during tutorials.

EAP course designers design courses assuming that students know basic English sentence structures, which they do…. and don’t. We expect students to be able to write an academic essay/ research paper/ long essay and some of them don’t even know how to write a simple Subject Verb Object sentence. I have read loads of gibberish over the years as students attempt to write complex sentences. They ain’t complex folks. They do make my life complicated though. That’s a fact. Again.  I understand that my students probably have a 5.5-6.5 writing score in Ielts

but that means nothing cause every coin has two sides and the whole Ielts as part of a uni entrance requirement is a hot topic (do the words in bold remind you of anything?)

I really really struggle with the stripping of anything EFL during EAP courses. I definitely think that going back to basics for a few sessions will benefit and not harm students even if this is an EAP course and we gotta be EAP-ish.Luckily, I do have opportunities during sessions to go back to basics (but not as much as I’d like to).

aa0a3-dsc01572

Picture credits to Marina D.

 

Having said that though, I love seeing the progress students make, especially when you go from the first draft of something to the final draft. How students do this blows my mind!! Hard workers these EAP kids.

No teaching context is perfect and there is always something that needs improving. Sixth EAP course done, moving on to course number seven.

What do you think? What do you love and what do you dislike about these courses? Feel free to share your thoughts in the section below.

Talk soon.

Jo

Using Google docs for pronunciation practice

 Hi everyone,
I am back. Kinda. I started writing this post but never managed to finish it. Today I did. So………….
Once again, good ideas shared in the staff room. This time the ideas had to do with pronunciation. The other day, Vicky was talking about pronunciation and Steve mentioned a few ideas on activities that would help our learners (99% Asian) improve their pronunciation. So, that’s what we are going to talk abouttoday. This post is probably going to be short and sweet.
Music Department

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

Using Google Docs

Yeap. You read correctly. Why not use the microphone feature on Google dos to get your learners to become aware of any problems they have with pronunciation. How? Tell them to read a sentence in front of their pc and use the microphone feature. The feature will type what they are saying and if they are not saying something correctly, it will not show the word.
My Asian students had difficulty with the sounds (v) and (w), so I wrote words on the white board and told them to practice saying them and use the moicrophone feature. They did and my students told me that they realised that what they were saying was not recognised by the Google doc thingy, which made them want to practice more!
Do you use Google docs to teach/ practice pronunciation? What else do you use it for? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below. That’s all for now and don’t forget to connect with me somehow, somewhere.

Speed Citations

The great thing about staff rooms is that they are excellent place to hear about a task and then use it in your class, so that’s what I am going to share with you today. A cool task on citations/ referencing.You can do this with your learners if you teach EAP or writing classes that require research and referencing. My colleague John, who works at the ELTC at Sheffield University, told me about this one, so shout out to him. I did change it a bit though.

Speed citations

I had already introduced citations and students were familiar with what they need to do when citing a source in their texts, but there was still a bit of uncertainty.  How does this task work? Students need to find the author and date of a publication as quickly as possible and write it down as they would do in in-text citations.

Procedure

  • Give your students one publication/source each. If you have 12 students, you need 12 sources. I used books, journal articles, and a newspaper (I told them that one of the sources could not be used in their academic writing projects and that’s why the newspaper was in it. My students are not journalists and the newspaper was the Metro paper which is a free paper).
  • Put students in a circle and tell them that they only need a piece of paper and a pen.
  • Each student has about 30 seconds to find the author and the date of the source and write it down as they would as part of their in-text citation.
  • After the 30 seconds, students give their source to the person next to them and move on to the next source. This is done clockwise.
  • At the end, give them a couple of minutes to check what they have written on their paper and make necessary corrections.
  • In order to check their answers, each student comes to the board and writes what they have written. One source per student.
Music Department

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

My thoughts

Why is this a good task?
This was a follow up task, something like a revision which brought the element of ‘fun’ into my ‘dry’ academic writing classes. Students, especially Asian learners, struggle when it comes to identifying the difference between a first name and a family name. They also don’t know where to look for the date or which date they should put in their texts. Learners had a bit more fun cause this was like a game.
eecc3-delta2bbooks
So, there you have it folks. Speed citations. If you are looking for more fun ideas, you may want to have a look at the calling all EAP tutors post and specifically the comments section.

Getting adult learners involved in peer- feedback for writing

So, today’s post is about using peer- feedback in the classroom. This post was originally written for the TESOL Greece Newsletter (issue 127) and since I will be doing peer feedback with my learners on Monday as part of my academic writing class, I thought it would be a  good idea to share that article here as well. So, let’s talk about peer feedback.

Feedback is a way for teachers to make suggestions on students’ written work and help their learners improve (Harmer, 2013). An alternative way to give feedback for writing is to get the students to peer-review and offer feedback. Peer-assessment does not replace traditional assessment but it does enhance the learning process (Topping 1998, cited in Peng).  But before moving on, what exactly is peer-assessment? It is:

an arrangement in which individuals consider the amount, level, value, worth, quality, or success of the products or outcomes of learning of peers of similar status.

                                          (Topping, 1998, cited in Peng 2010)

This feedback method works well with all learners, but especially adults. Therefore, getting learners to provide peer-feedback in an EAP, Business or any other type of English lesson aimed at adults is very beneficial. This article discusses why peer-feedback for writing can play an integral part in the everyday classroom routine and makes suggestions regarding different tasks a teacher ca use in class in order to encourage peer-feedback.

Why Peer-feedback?

There are many reasons why a teacher should encourage adult learners to give peer-feedback. Firstly, it promotes active learning as learners have to think about another student’s work. It helps build trust among students and is also a way to get students to co-operate and collaborate.

Why not peer-feedback?

It may affect the ‘balance’ between the teacher and the learner                                    (Gardner, 2000) as traditionally it is the teacher who provides the feedback and not the learner. The learners may not feel comfortable or may even feel unwilling to mark other students’ work. They might also be too generous and do ‘friendly marking’ which means that they are more interested in the fact that they are marking their friends’ work and not so much in the actual feedback.

While all these are quite ‘valid’ reasons why a teacher might avoid peer-feedback in the classroom, surely with lots of training, good monitoring on behalf of the teacher, and a constant reminder of why peer-feedback is necessary and how helpful it can be, both the learners and the teacher can benefit a lot from using the alternative feedback method.

Tasks that promote peer-feedback

There are lots of tasks that can be used in the language classroom in order to get the students to peer-assess. As the purpose of the article is to promote peer-feedback among adults, the activities chosen, are more appropriate for mature learners.

Using rubrics/checklists

When a teacher first introduces the idea of peer-feedback, it is essential that this is done in a more controlled manner. The teacher can make a checklist or provide rubrics according to which the student gives feedback to his/her classmate’s work. If the group is quite weak, instead of providing feedback on grammar, learners could be asked to check if their classmate has a thesis statement or if there is a main idea in each paragraph and so on. Another good idea is to get learners in groups of four and form a feedback reading circle where each student gets feedback from the three other members of the group.

Reformulation

Reformulation is when the student hands in a piece of writing and the teacher reformulates the original with a better version. Instead of the teacher providing a better version, it can be the learners who are providing the improved version of their classmate’s work.

To conclude….

Peer-feedback involves ‘’students in their own destiny’’ and encourages autonomy as well as motivates them even more (Brown 2004, cited in Peng 2010). It can be a very useful feedback method for every teacher as long as it is monitored and planned well. It will probably never replace teacher feedback but it is a method that can be used to get adult learners more involved in their work.

How often do you use peer feedback in your adult classes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

References

Gardner, D. (2000). ‘’Self–assessment for autonomous learners.’’ Links and letters: Hong Kong p.40-60.

Harmer, J. (2013). The Practice of English Language Teaching. China: Pearson.

Peng, J (2010). Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Second Language Research Forum, ed. Matthew T. Prior et al., 89-107. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.