Cheap Thrills

I love having fun while teaching and most of the time I try to find ways to make it more interesting.But why only making the teaching process interesting,why not the revising one as well.

One day, I was driving somewhere and heard a catchy tune on the radio. Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” with so many language and grammar points that I have done with my 7th graders. And I thought,why not using it to revise! Grammar and vocabulary and skills.

So one day, my students watched the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYh-n7EOtMA and,prior to watching, I told them to pay attention to every detail.I didn’t want them to answer questions only about the song,but the video as well. Questions like: Have you ever seen this video? Do you like Sia’s song? What kind of music do you listen to? What is the initial reaction of people watching? What’s the last? Can you guess the year? Is it the present time?etc. You can go on with the talk and check their skills and perception during the lesson,but I wanted to make a twist.

That’s when I divided them in groups of five.I made task slips and put them in four envelopes.An envelope per group with 16 tasks/ questions. Song lyrics were copy pasted on four pages and posted around the classroom (post them on four different sides). Each group gets the first slip with the task/ question.They have to find the information/ answer on one of those pages posted around the classroom.Each piece of paper has a number on it. Questions are all the same,but the order of them for each group is different. On the back of the question/task, I wrote the number before putting them in the envelope. They read the question as a group and spread to find the answer. When they find the answer,they gather and approach the teacher to say it.If they guess it,they get the next question.If not, they have to search again.

Here are the lyrics and the questions I used for the lesson cheap-thrills

It was fun watching them buzz around the classroom trying to find the correct answers and being the first to finish the tasks. But that wasn’t all.

A few of my students like music ( I have seen them rap a few times),so I asked them to lip sync and act out the moves. A boy and a girl.It turned out as a great TPR activity and what’s more important,they had fun revising.

One thing is certain, I will definitely use songs and lyrics again to revise.

Video: YouTube

Lyrics: https://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Sia-feat-Sean-Paul/Cheap-Thrills

Teach me the way it suits me!

9-Pencil-Crayons

The only path to happiness is soothing your needs.The only path to successful learning environment is soothing the needs of every learner.And the needs can be with both obstacles and challenges.

I have completed a SEN course (Special Educational Needs) and it has opened my eyes on variety of learners we have in our classrooms. We somehow immediately recognise the one less fortunate and with difficulties in acquiring knowledge that we forget the ones who seek more. I write this post to list the needs hoping to help my fellow colleagues in recognising who their learners actually are.But please take care not to jump to conclusion since it is possible that the child is having difficulties at that point.I just ask you to have in mind that every child is peculiar and that there are no two same abilities or needs.So let’s start…

Gifted and Talented

I am guilty for this one.I have often heard a student of mine saying that he is bored.At times I thought that he was just trying to attract my attention.And he was but I didn’t understand what he wanted.

Gifted children are considered those good at main curriculum subjects,while talented are those good at Art,Music and PE.These learners are highly intelligent and they usually need more  challenging tasks. And they get bored with things being done the same way.Their memory is amazing and they are good at things that interest them.They won’t be good at all subject,but in what they like they can be splendid.They need to be encouraged and helped.They are eager to learn new things and ask a lot of questions;if neglected they will shout out and wither.They do things in detail,have extensive vocabulary and what’s the best can concentrate for long periods.

Multicultural and multilingual

We all have multicultural learners,some multilingual and tend not to hurt the feelings of children or insult them; but do we pay attention to include them thoroughly in the mainstream classroom or consider it a need?! Children coming from different cultures and speaking another language need time to understand and assimilate to the new surrounding. Why not letting them do a project on their culture or the way they learnt a language and thus help them?It’s difficult for learners to adapt especially if at home they are expected to live under the rules and customs of the home country.Don’t let them shell in! There might be a beautiful pearl hiding within.Not only will they adapt but other learners will learn new things about another culture.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

I hear people say that some learners are just misbehaving and that they are not cut for school,but what if we are wrong?! Children diagnosed with ADHD have problems to concentrate,focus,sit still, follow instructions and they don’t have good working memory.Whatever might be the reason for ADHD,a teacher should bear in mind that he/she can do a lot to help learners.They need support, rules they can stick to, help in managing bad behaviour.They need to feel loved and accepted by both teacher and other learners.

Dyspraxia 

Don’t we all have children who at times seem clumsy?I had a few. These learners have difficulties with motor skills, coordination and concentration. Their handwriting is very difficult to read and they lack social skill and self-esteem. They will complain on headaches and migraine. Sounds familiar?We notice that learners have difficulties but we don’t know why or how to help them.Adjust the table,give them more time to finish tasks,avoid too much copying and have posters with clear instructions and rules.

Dyslexia

I am often surprised with the written tasks of learners who are amazingly good at speaking. Dyslexic learners tend to have difficulties when writing and reading,along with the low self-esteem issue. They flip letters, it’s hard for them to link sounds,have problems with memory (both short term and working),are disorganised etc.These are some of the indicators to help you realise that you might have a dyslexic learner in your classroom.Let them learn step by step, don’t give many instructions at the same time,use pictures,symbols,and other visual aids to help them learn.

Visual,Hearing and Physical Impairments

Visual Impairment covers learners who have problems with their sight,from low vision to completely blind children. Hearing impairment means that a child has difficulties with hearing other people and learners. Physical impairment refers to wide range of mobility problems. These are obvious difficulties but, though they may seem less problematic,it is essential to know that they influence one’s learning and that it’s up to a teacher to create learner friendly classroom and adapt teaching to it. Arrange tables so not to be obstacles, reinforce listening activities;when explaining something to children,stand still and face them so that they read lips,use videos,photos etc.But the most important part is to create a friendly classroom and  induce peer cooperation.It helps a great deal.

Social,Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

We all have good and bad days,and I know that it is very difficult to control ourselves. But can you at that point imagine how children with SEBD feel? Their behaviour is difficult to handle at times,they tend to have mood bursts,break the rules,do mischief to attract attention,sometimes even be aggressive. The reasons for such behaviour can vary,but adjusting teaching to them will help them for sure.For them,the most important thing is to feel safe.Only then they can acquire.Think and speak positive,train yourself to keep calm and tend to control what you can.

Speech and Language Difficulties 

A learners that has difficulties with speech and language is considered not to have skills sufficiently developed for his/her age. It usually goes along with some other need or it can be a result of abuse. Learners don’t commence conversation,have problems when using words (don’t end words,don’t understand questions),their coordination is poor etc. Work with the learner to find out the way he/she can learn and acquire.Give time to order pictures in his/her mind.Allow time off,use signs or symbols when a learner doesn’t understand something.Let them use technology if it’s easier for them.

Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Learners with ASD have difficulties in social communication,relationship and imagination;and they don’t necessarily go together.They can overlap but they are not the same.Social communication means that a learner has difficulties when communicating properly with other people.Social relationship means that he/she has difficulties when behaving and interacting. Social imagination refers to difficulties in understanding and accepting other people’s point of view,perspectives,rules and routines.Learners with ASD learn better when they visualise things.So use graphics, charts,colour codes to help them overcome their difficulties.Introduce pair and group work but with a safe haven.Let them use computer when working on their part of a group work. And the most important thing link what you mean to something easily understood and concrete.

As you can see,there is a number of needs hiding in our students and they vary from learner to learner. It can be a particular need,but it can also be a present state of mind and soul.Teachers should tend to differentiate the tasks so to help their students and have understanding for their growing minds. Though a learner can have a special need,that doesn’t mean that he/she is not intelligent.One should find a way to adapt and adjust to suit the need.Learners can develop a kind of passion for things of interest.

Hope it helps. 🙂

Just go with the flow

I have been thinking and rethinking about writing this post. Should I do it or not?Why?! Because I don’t know if it will have any sense to other teachers. But, it helped my students and it might help others.

Teaching English as L2, I always search for ways to make them speak. I mean induce. 😉 Depending on the level, I have some tricks, but it gets difficult with time. It’s difficult to find new ways to trick them into speaking. These are some tricks of my trade. 🙂

When dealing with young learners, it’s a must to use L1 at the beginning. Using flashcards is always helpful. Start with the basic words (colours, toys, fruit,numbers etc.) and then ask them to join words; that is join a colour with a toy or a number with a fruit etc. Though it seems impossible, it’s actually quite doable (talking about 5-year-olds).And ask them to absolutely always use the words they learnt in English. If they use a learnt word in L1,say that you don’t know what it means.With time, they acquire and use them easily.

Then you can teach them simple sentences using It’s a… and thus they start using the language without thinking much. You can also teach them the question form of the above mentioned and play a guessing game. They will love it.Especially, when they start leading the game.

As I said, step by step, they will be able to use simple sentences when identifying what they see. You can use a flashcard or a picture from the book.Ask them what they see.Of course they won’t know all the words, but they will cope with what they do.And not only do they speak and use the language, but they also develop their creativity and thinking.

Involve your students in making a dialogue. Start from the basics, presenting each other like:

A:Hello.

B:Hello.

A:I’m Nikola. 

B:I’m Andrea.  Then add age,their present mood etc. And trust me, they always say that they are happy.

Developing their vocabulary and grammar (now referring to 8/10-year-olds), soon they will be able to describe each other and feel at ease when speaking L2. Let them describe everything they want to. Their pet,family members,favourite food. If they make a mistake, I don’t correct it until I’m certain that they feel secure and won’t shell. And play as many games as possible. Games are a great way to make them speak and use L2. Already wrote about the games we play in the classroom so I won’t be talking about them again.

When they get older ( age range in our primary school is from 5 to 14), you can engage them in role plays. If you can’t think of the lines, use some from the units in their textbooks. They are quite adaptable. My students do it from time to time. At first they will feel shy but soon enough they will start acting and showing interest in making it excellent.

We all check their reading comprehension in classes.Some teachers tell their students to answer questions in their books.I don’t. Instead I found this poster (I call it a RETELL poster) https://www.pinterest.com/pin/417427459186005411/ and it was quite useful for my students. There are always those timid ones who aren’t sure what you are saying. Thus they see what you mean and they can answer. With time, you will have them speaking about pretty much everything: recycling, cooking, traditions etc. Adapt what works for your students; no matter how strange or funny it seems. Just go with the flow. 🙂

And I will stop here. I would like to hear from you about your ways of engaging them into speaking.

Post-conference reflections

I changed the world, I wanna change the world… just heard it on the radio. These lines can capture my feelings and point of view about the conference.Still under the influence of everything that happened and things I have learnt. I might need some time more to apply all the things I liked. Will for sure reinforce use of music (especially rhythm) and videos in my classroom (already talked to my students who have smart phones).

Playing with the older ones 🙂 

Today my students (remedial classes) played dominoes (picture dominoes) and they enjoyed it.Used it to practise both tenses and speaking. For all those fainthearted who think that games are only for primary classroom,I can say it out loud YOU ARE WRONG.Not only do they develop skills,but they learn to overcome differences and cooperate far better. Anything can be done if you adopt, adapt and improve it. 😉 🙂

        Your preferences in teaching

You may choose to use realia or introduce technology. Or perhaps you may choose an unplugged approach;but it basically doesn’t matter as long as you achieve your goals in teaching your students. What I learnt is that anything that gives results is quite OK. Always tried to make my classes new and different, but in the end some students understand it even if you teach without much fuss.But a person should be aware of  that he/she needs to develop and learn. I had a misconception about conferences,thought that they are not for elementary teachers. How wrong I was. So awake,arise…and I will stop there. 🙂 Though our paradise has not been lost,I find these words appropriate to end my today’s entry.

As time goes by…

One never likes good things to come to an end because they make us sad.Today was the last day of the conference. Though I like the comfort of my home ( already in MNE),I miss the guys and the positive atmosphere of the conference. Some workshops were cancelled today,but it didn’t diminish the impact it had on me. So happy to have met wonderful people who I hope to see in some of the forthcoming conferences. My dear colleagues, thank you for sharing your thoughts,ideas,advice,laughter and love. Since I could feel it in the air. We were there for the sake of love,the love of teaching. Thank you for everything! :*

The happiest conference day :)

So happy today.Over the moon.My birthday and I am spending it with great people.Well, I dare say the greatest since they share positive energy.They are teachers from all over the world,sharing and talking about this and that. The best birthday ever. Made so many friends,got to know so many amazing people.It’s grand. 🙂

Though it’s my birthday,I attended so many sessions and workshops. Started with Marjorie Rosenberg’s plenary session who advised us to get unstuck; to move out of our shells and risk and dare. To change our lives and our teaching methods in order to make a difference and to make ourselves better. It was an honour to listen to Marjorie,she is full of energy and enthusiasm though she has been teaching for more than 31 years.

Once again I simply had to attend session by Christine Coombe. I love listening to her lectures.This time it was about The Best Practice in ELT  and she hit the jackpot. Talked about ten traits of an English teacher and they were quite realistic. I could find myself in them.They include everything we come across almost every day, as teachers or people.As she said try always being reflective on your teaching.

I am waiting for an online video course for some time. When making PowerPoint, I usually make short animated films, not everyday situations. So I decided to attend Mike Harrison’s workshop on short digital videos. It made me see the potential of everyday situations for certain speaking tasks in ELT. You can provoke their (students) imagination by joining different parts of shots taken (as Mike explained cutting ) and make them think about the plausible ending, repeat the same shot several times (looping) or provoke the creativity (vine magic). Interesting and engaging.

And then I went to watch Chaz Pugliese. He told us to bend the rules in order to surprise our students by doing things out of the box. We did several exercises and saw what he meant. What I like best is the way he explained the meaning of fluency: Conversation is fluent,not the speaker.  When we practise speaking, conversation made between our students, provoke fluency. We can not expect the speaking skill bursting easily out of a person if there is no interaction.He spoke on motivation and what actually motivates anybody to do anything.  It was wonderful to listen to him.

And once again RELO participants gathered to set the next steps. Saw the necessity of re-joining ex-compatriots into new battles of language learning and teaching.And above all in CPD. Thanks to IATEFL Slovenia and their RELO project, I am here plunging into the universe of these splendid educators.

Conference day 2

This was a great day.I am very tired,I am barely typing,but full of enthusiasm to carry into the new victories. It’s an amazing feeling to attend these kinds of conferences because they boost our confidence and develop our perception.They show me where I stand and what I should improve. i gathered as much as we could. Improved knowledge about primary classroom and found out how to engage learners using some or no realia. Christine Coombe spoke about professionalizing our teaching and emphasized that we are not professionals if we have titles,but working skills. Dragana Stegic made us (participants) wonder how to provoke critical thinking in students and emphasized its significance. There were experiments done (CLIL workshop) and parts were taken into describing the car of the year. It was so fun and great and splendid and ….I don’t know what to say more. It is absolutely grand and I enjoy every second of it.  Getting to know other people, learning and teaching, laughing and having fun…a positive classroom.

Slovenia, Bosnia,Macedonia, Albania, the USA, the UAE and Montenegro-sending you great vibes from Terme Topolsica, hoping that YOU might come one day to a similar event.

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