November 2010 archive

My Reflections of TESOL France, Part 1



image taken from here

Well, when I sat down to write my reflections on TESOL France which was a huge success, I focused on faces rather than the sessions I attended.

I saw the faces of teachers who arrived from the different corners of the world to update their skills, to learn more or to share what they’ve already known.

I saw the faces of teachers…

Those were the ones who crave for making a difference in their schools, classes…

Those were the ones experienced or unexperienced, young or old, with a guarantee of a contract  or the worry of where they will end up next year.

Those were the ones who didn’t care about the cold weather or the distance…

Those were the ones most probably who won’t be praised because they have spent their weekend talking about their classes or techniques they have been using.

This is a post to pay tribute to them.

I know there are loads of teachers who complain about their classes, students.They complain about the unmotivated but they never try to motivate. 

 There are teachers who just do what their coursebook tell them to do. Nothing less, nothing more…

Yet there are those faces I saw at the conference with great enthusiasm still in search for a better way to reach their students.

I am glad that they exist.

BTW, soon I’ll write about my reflections of the sessions I attended and give a brief summary of what I did there 🙂

Drilling with bookr

Using drills or drill like activities will sometimes save us. However it is up to the teacher to turn it into something more enjoyable.

We revised Past Simple Tense and past Continuous Tense last week and while doing this I felt hopless and then I decided to make them write as many sentences as they can using when and while.

After a lot of repetition they are much better now.

Some ideas which worked well with them:

I wrote half sentences on the board and asked them to complete the gaps.

  1. My brother …………………………….. when my father arrived home.
  2. My sister ………………………………..when my sister arrived home.

Then in the computer room I asked them to create their photo-books using bookr.

The next lesson I asked them to come to the board and write some verbs then put them in groups and asked them to write a story using at least 10 of the words and when/while. They worked hard and wrote great stories which needed less correction then they exchanged the stories and marked them out of 10 giving their reasons.

I’m thinking to do this one later. I will ask them to write a poem.

Here is what I think if you have an idea for a poem, I’ll be glad to know.

While my mum was cleaning the house

I was dreaming

While my father was writing his reports

I wasdreaming

While my sister was doing her homework

I was dreaming

And while I was dreaming

They were all working hard.

Then as a follow up, I can ask them to create glogs, animations, slides for their poems and they can even turn it into a song, any kind they prefer.

Old techniques die hard

Wordle: Approaches 4 teaching FL

I think most of you will agree with me that drilling can be boring and it is very old-fashioned. It is mechanical and it doesn’t promote any critical and creative thinking.

However, don’t you ever think  they work with certain classes, students. I couldn’t catch yesterday’s eltchat but as I followed from the tweets, it was  about whether to use the traditional methods or not.

Through years we’ve had many methods, some were the improved versions of the formers, some were completely new and some others, given brand new names, were similar to the ones that we discussed they became old-fashioned.

Do you throw the old books from your bookshelves to the dusbin when you buy the new ones? or do you always want to get rid of the old clothes when you do your spring cleaning? I still keep some although they won’t fit me anymore (but I have a daughter and fashion is something that repeats itself and vintage is always popular)

Personally I don’t want to be a teacher who encourages memorizing, drilling and mechanical work. Yet I belive there are times that we need them.

I have a group of year 10 students. Most of them have been learning English since kindergarten but they still can not write a proper paragraph. They have problems with the English structures. They think in the language they know and try to say the thing they want to say as in Turkish. Some of them solved their problems but others because of many other reasons still have problems. And these some of them are sometimes lazy to revise at home so we only have the class to make them learn.

When you try the new approaches and try to neglect the classic grammar teaching methods some students will complain that they don’t learn anything. Last week while I was trying to make my year 7 students to speak, one of them asked me ‘What are we going to learn today, teacher?. I said ‘we will just talk’. I recalled similar conversations. I believe PPP can still be used with teenagers and up to pre-intermediate level. Students will understand how the structure can be used when the teacher sets the scene, drills and lead them to guided production. However, it may be boring and useless for adults and higher levels. Whereas the other old techniques and approaches will work well with higher levels.

Unfortunately our students are used to learning things in analytic ways. Because still for some teachers the best student is the one who keeps a neat notebook, does homework regularly, sits at the desk and responds to the tasks the teacher has assigned. These students are trained to learn this way. We have to change the methods the other teachers use in order to have more flexible approaches in our efl classrooms. But I think this is another discussion topic.

Anyway,I also believe Dogme is  a great challenge. I can’t call myself a dogmeist but there are times I do things which will lead me to dogme in near future. Yet, I have some questions in my mind. Can every teacher become a dogme teacher? I think it is not a question of being NEST or NNEST.

Don’t you think being ecclectic is a good way and will allow the teacher to be more flexible?

This post has just been editted for Marisa’s  Blog Challenge: Tradition Revisited & Revamped

What I’ve done recently

I have a group of students who are studying for the university entrance exam. These students will also take the language test too because they want to study TEFL or literature. Mostly we do more serious work in order to be ready for the vital test. However, there are times we need to take a deep breath and do something lighter.

ImageChef Sketchpad -

Last week we revised the conjunctions. They solved tests and did lots of paraphrasing exercises but we were all bored. I felt they needed a challenge and told them to write poems using
neither ….. nor
both …… and
not only ……. but also
either …… or
Some chose to write paragraphs instead of poems and some wrote great poems.
They loved the activity and we continued writing poems with another activity.
ImageChef Sketchpad -

Using songs in other languages was an idea I learned from Ken Wilson last year at a conference in Istanbul.
I adapted an activity from this idea.

We listened to a song in French and I told them while listening to the song they would write either a poem or a paragraph.

The song was ‘il faut savoir’ by Aznavour from Duos where he sang the songs both in French and in English.

After listening to the song in French I asked them to listen to the English version carefully and catch what the singer advised them to learn.