A New School Year and New Beginnings

Dear friends,

I haven’t written for a long time but I was a bit busy. This post is a letter actually. When I look back , I think 2010-2011 was a very successful school year both for me and my students.

With students we did many interesting things apart from the curriculum.

  • The CelebrateUandMeDigitally wiki project was one of them. I’m sorry it looks a bit sleepy nowadays but with your help we can wake it up. Please do join us.
  • My grade 10 students prepared many presentations, small projects and ı shared most of them with you. They are all familiar with web 2.0 tools, internet safety, netiquette and so on. They even use web 2.0 for their other lessons.
  • maybe some of you will remember, I had assigned my students to write 20-page stories. They did it. They handed me their stories. some were very poor but they were all acceptable as they all wrote a 20 page story. Next time I’ll guide them better and I’d ask them to write shorter stories. I published 3 of them only. I thought about editing and correcting then I gave up the idea and left them as they were. This year I’ll be more careful about drafting and organising. I’m really proud of these kids and their products.


Our Stories, 10 FLD Writing Project









  • I strted etwinning projects but I must confess they didn’t work well. If I do it again, I’ll choose less partners.
  • I applied for a Comenius project for my school and it is accepted and on November 6th I’ll be in Romania for a week for the project’s 1st meeting. the project is called ‘The Magic of Reading’ and I’m hoping to share the details with you later.
  • Last year was also a great year for me as a teacher because for the first time I presented at an international ELT conference, TesolFrance. I met my PLN there face to face, joined a blog marathon, became 2nd and had the chance to attend IATEFL Brighton and came back home with very bright memories and how I wish I could attend all IATEFLs now.
  • 2011-2012 Academic Year looks also promising. I have loads of plans one of which is an other collaborative project with my PLN. I started the wiki and now I need your assistance to start the new project The Olympic Games, London 2012. Will you join me?

And before I go, my blog turned 2 on September 12 and that day was the same day I signed up for twitter and for two years I’ve changed a lot for the better. Now I really enjoy sharing, collaborating and helping.

Thank you:)



My Wonderful PLN – An Interview

When I read Brad Patterson’s blog challenge PLN interviews… who’s next ?, I thought it would be difficult for me to choose a member from my PLN as all of them were so important for me and after meeting most of them they’ve become real life friends whom I can rely on as much as my friends in my circle.

 Instead of taking the challenge immediately I waited for a while not only because it was too difficult to choose who to interview but it also meant many things about your personality would be revealed and I know that most of us are very careful about our private lives so eventually I realised I really wanted to be part of this challenge. I asked Berni Wall because she is a very important member of my PLN and I’m so glad that I had the chance to meet her and her wonderful family.

Berni is a very experienced educator. I’m sure you know her via twitter, #edchat and #eltchat and she is the person who runs  teacher workshops at her home in the beautiful countryside of Britain.

I’m so happy that Berni accepted to be interviewed.  I added two more questions and one is a yummy bonus for you as I personally tasted it while watching ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ 🙂











Brad’s 5 standard questions:

1)    If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

(I hope) supportive, empathetic and creative

2)   What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

Not much actually! I need to go shopping but there is a little cheese, some humus, salsa, various types of sambal (chilli sauces – I love these!), pesto, some jam/jelly, beer, cassis, Pimms, (important stuff) and some salad ingredients (tomatoes, lettuce cucumber), yogurts, olives, mustard, (I have a larder so don’t keep everything in the fridge)

3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

My two great loves were languages and music and it was a tough choice – I always wanted to be a classical singer so maybe this.

4)   What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

I can’t think of a particularly difficult class some have been a challenge but I quite relish that as it keeps me learning and honing my skills. I think the most difficult thing about our profession is the relative lack of status vis-à-vis other professions with a similar length of training. I don’t mean money (although that might also be connected) I mean standing. I think we sometimes attract this ourselves as we are a profession with a tendency to moan and complain rather than do something about it. I think we need to believe more in ourselves and embrace the importance of the job we do and then shout this loud and clear. There are some gender issues also which irritate me (as in all aspects of teaching) again we need to address this as a profession (especially we women) and become more equitable.

5)   What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

I’ve been reading Seth Godin and some other similar books recently – I usually have 2 or 3 on the go at once. I am currently reading Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling which is a short book but a very interesting look at English history and have just started The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson not sure what to make of this yet. I read quite slowly as I’m always flicking back to check things and compare things. I’ve re-read, as you know, the Brontes novels recently as these have formed a part of my teacher workshops – I find these books quite amazing for their modern themes and vivid depiction of cruelty and evil. Heathcliffe was voted the best romantic hero in a radio poll a couple of years ago. I can only think that those who voted had not read the book. There is nothing romantic or heroic about him whatsoever! If you want a picture of what sheer self-possession and egotism can do to those around you read Wuthering Heights.

Extra questions

6. I know that you are training teachers. What will your first advice be to a newby who thinks to make TEFL his/her career?

I did just this in my first ELTMentor session today. Don’t worry about feeling afraid and apprehensive about your lessons because that way you know that you are learning and good learners make better teachers. You can handle everything if you’re well prepared, flexible and have the learners at your centre and if you think you might lose it – simply hand over to them and take a breath!

7. I really enjoyed the meals at Kirkby Fleetham and I know you enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Can you share one of your favourite recipes?

Here’s a classic – Apple and blackberry crumble.


Peel & chop the apples mix with the blackberries, add sugar to taste and a little water and cook until soft but still whole

Take 8 ozs flour, add a pinch of salt and 4 ozs butter. Rub the butter into the flour to make fine breadcrumbs, add 4 ozs of dark brown or muscovado sugar to this and mix in. (any amounts will do depending on the amount of fruit, size of bowl etc.. so long as it’s half butter and sugar to flour)

Place the softened fruit into an oven-proof dish put the flour mixture on top so it covers everything. Run a fork over the surface so it isn’t too smooth, sprinkle with cinnamon and then bake in the oven ( medium heat) for about 30 minutes. It should be light brown on top.

Serve with cream, ice-cream or custard. Scrummy 🙂

(sorry for the imperial measurements – in my blood!)

Thank you Berni for accepting to be interviewed 🙂

You can reach all the interviews from Brad’s blog.

 apple blackberry image is from flickr

Final Countdown – Istek ELT 2011



And only 2 days to go to Istek Schools International ELT Conference2011. I remember last year. It was such a big excitement to wait for the event. I met most of my PLN there and had the chance to chat and enjoy every break. It was not just a conference. I had great fun out of it.

I used to love conferences because they provided an opportunity to brush up my teaching or retrieve the things I had forgotten. Still I love conferences because of the same reasons and plus I also enjoy them for the fun I have with my global PLN.

My workshop will be on Saturday at 13:30 and I do feel so sorry because I won’t be able to attend some of the workshops I really want to attend. However, it is a relief to know that they will also be at IATEFL where I will just listen and learn from them.

I don’t want to be a teacher by Vladimira Michalkova

Part of the series From my PLN


I wanted to be an archeologist or work with animals. Well, definitely anything really dynamic, changing and what would include my constant learning and development – I do love learning! I studied Teaching English as a Foreign Language but during the last year of my studies I came to conclusion that, actually, I don’t want to be a teacher. I couldn’t imagine not learning anymore and rigorously (and willingly, as I see in many cases) follow given teaching materials no matter who is in your class or what is going on behind the walls of your school . Well, now, five years later, I still don’t want to be a teacher!

Yes, I don’t want to be a teacher!

Not, if that means a person coming in the classroom, sitting down and starting a lesson with words like “open your book…”.

Not if that means a person always complaining about the students and using red pen to correct their works just to show them how much they still need to learn.

Not if that means a person who thinks that teaching is a job where no further development or learning is actually needed.

Nevertheless, I have a job I would never change!

“By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn”

Latin Proverb

I have found the joy and happiness in the work where I can (hopefully) inspire, motivate and support the learning and exploration of the opportunities that are offered around us. You may call it a moderator, facilitator, mentor or just a teacher if you still insist. And besides that, I have discovered that this job involves constant learning, developing and creativity. I guess, I couldn’t wish for moreJ.

On my way, I have met many fellows with similar beliefs and opinions and as I go I try to influence and inspire (again hopefully) those (teachers as well as students) who find it difficult to look for the inspiration on their own.

So, I do not think of myself as a teacher (at least not the generally accepted connotation described above). And what does it mean for my students?

Well, I guess, they would describe it as “expect unexpected”. In my experience, they are usually shocked at the beginning of term but eventually get used to that and welcome any kind of “experiment” in learning a new language. I admit that I often fail or come across obstacles on my way but after all it teaches me something new (again and again).

One of the most fascinating aspects in all this experimenting is that I gain really a lot from it all, more than I could hope for. There are times when I have to look for and reveal the skills I didn’t actually know I possess (singing and acting in my case J – still working on storytelling, especially telling the jokes which I am terrible at).

Another one of the amazing things is that using all those styles, variations, techniques and possibilities I can help my students see what is around them and what they can actually use for their benefit but also help them find their own way on the path of learning (which neither starts nor finishes in the classroom).

Yes, I don’t feel like a teacher and the people in my classroom are certainly not the only ones to be called learners.

If you would like to get a notion of what is going on in my classroom these days, see the following links – my RECENT experiments with adult classes.

technology related activities easy to use in various situations

 “I never teach my students. I simply provide the situations in which they can learn.” Einstein


I want to thank Vladka who kindly accepted to write a blog post for my blog. I’m so happy that I had the chance to meet her and I’m so happy that I have wonderful people in my PLN to accompany me during my journey.

vladkaI am an English language teacher in Kosice, Slovakia. I have MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Ecology from University of Presov in Slovakia and certificate in Teaching Business English from English Language Centre in Brighton. I am trying to motivate and inspire my students so that their learning do not finish with the bell in the school. My favourite areas are Learner Autonomy, Homework in the 21st century and Teacher Development. I blog about my teaching experience http://vladimiramichalkova.edublogs.org/ and you can also follow me on Twitter @vladkaslniecko.

I was chosen as a winner of Diana Eastment Commemorative Award 2011 for a lesson plan using technology in the classroom.

Using Songs by Anna Musielak

Part of the series From my PLN

Music is everywhere, it surrounds us from the moment we are born – well even before that;) My father is a music lover so my earliest childhood memories revolve around singing, dancing and „making” my own music. I loved to record songs or my covers of rhymes;) I never had a  great voice but I was very passionate about singing (and listening to music). I was a very lively child and my mum said that when I listened to music those where the few moments I was”calmer” and let her work a bit;)


I started learning English when I was quite young – my parents were my first teachers. And how did they do it? Through songs of course. Old Macdonald, Hokey Pokey, ABC and many more…When I was a teenager my father played The Beatles or The Rolling Stones to me, asking whether I can pick up and understand some words (he does it till this day, sometimes with very complicated lyrics;)). That is why, as a person who cannot imagine life without music and never leaves home without an Ipod, I think it is important to use songs in the ELT classroom. If we are passionate about something  – we should share it with our learners. I try to pass my love to music onto my daughter as well – she is four and loves singing:) And that is how I teach her English – through songs and chants:)

On my lessons I like to use songs that are not very well known because then the response seems to be „fresher” somehow . I mix the less common songs with the classic ones and I think that lessons with more than one song work best. Here is a lesson plan for young adults using three songs.


Level: FCE/CAE

The aim of this lesson was to talk about various types of love and relationship, as well as to focus on grammatical expressions talking about regrets and the past (wish/regret/modals in the past/would)

Apart from listening, grammar and vocabulary skills were also practised and the lesson continued with a writing project.

On this lesson I used three songs – each about a different kind of love such as motherly love, unrequited love or lost love. We started the lesson by looking at the word cloud made up of keywords from those three songs. Students were supposed to predict the content and discuss the themes in pairs or groups.


At that point students were presented with the lyrics of the first song – and here I decided to gap the text. They skimmed it and asked about words that were new. They tried to predict what music genre it was and who was singing this song. Later on, they listened and filled the gaps. After completing the task in groups, they checked their predictions and discussed the type of relationship/love presented. They decided what keywords conveyed the meaning and discussed the grammatical structures talking about the past and regrets.


The be good Tanyas  


You said to yourself that we did not love you
All of the years didn’t mean nothing
You told yourself we would not forgive you
Mistakes that you made would keep us separated

Comin’ home hard day done
Comin’ home hard day done

Don’t you know it’s your laugh we laugh that
pulls us through
And the strength and the love that we carry
We got it from you


With the second song the task was similar but the lyrics were jumbled.  Again the students familiarized themselves with the text and tried to predict the music genre and main theme.

Lee DeWyze

 “A Song About Love”

I used to make you cry,
but I haven’t smiled since you left.
Can you undo ‘Goodbye’,
its a word I wish I cud forget.
U told me you love me and to try to move on.
But its hard to get up when you fall,
so I wrote a song about love but its nothing at all.

It was you who took the blame,
even though we both knew who was wrong.
Yeah I’m calling out your name,
every time I’m singing this song.
Coz its over, yeah its over
U told me you love me but its time to move on.
its hard to get up when you fall,
so I wrote a song about love but its nothing at all.

Coz its over, yeah its over
U told me you love me and to try to move on.
its hard to get up when you fall,
so I wrote a song about love
and its sad cuz it won’t be enough.
so I wrote a song about love but its nothing at all.

And last but not least,  it was time for the third song, this time in full version. Students read the text to get the main idea. The vocabulary was checked and students were asked to search for keywords presenting the main idea. After that they listened to the song.


 Eric Clapton


What’ll you do when you get lonely
And nobody’s waiting by your side?
You’ve been running and hiding much too long.
You know it’s just your foolish pride.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

I tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down.
Like a fool, I fell in love with you,
Turned my whole world upside down.

Let’s make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.
Please don’t say we’ll never find a way
And tell me all my love’s in vain.

 After listening students were presented with two images and had to decide which one suited best to the last song. They had to justify and defend their opinion, of course.



After listening to all three songs it was time for comparison and contrast. We started with the themes and various types of love moving on to more analytical tasks, such as vocabulary and grammar comparison (how many different tenses were used, how did the author express regrets and wishes etc).

We decided together how the songs could be made shorter – which words could be reduced without changing the meaning and how to expand them by adding more nouns, adjectives or verbs.

As homework students were asked to change the format of chosen texts e.g. turn them into a newspaper article or a screenplay.

The lesson continued with lots of follow up projects and students themselves found songs dealing with chosen topics they wanted to discuss and analyze:)

The reduction/expansion and media transferred ideas are inspired by Alan Maley’s procedures


Anna Musielak is a a teacher and teacher trainer from Poland. She is  also a drama  and literature enthusiast. If you want to follow her on twitter,  she is @AnnaMusielak

I’d like to thank Ania for this wonderful contribution to the song lessons and this blog. I’m glad I had the chance to attend her workshop at TESOL France and admired her enthusiasm for teaching.

Thanks Ania, being part of my PLN…