Literature

When learning a foreign language we, first of all, want to communicate effectively. Why then should we care about teaching literature?

In my view, literature is a great starting point for giving opinions and further discussions – both oral and written ones. It is probably our, teachers’ role to show students how to read, what might be worth reading and how to interpret a text – without killing their creativity and individual, critical thinking skills. Students then can get more knowledge, which is important, but also reading influences attitudes and way of perceiving the world. A good book provides a great source of social and moral values. Of course, when reading in a foreign language we provide a huge input and our language may become better and better.

How to do it, then, to encourage our students to read? Showing them an intriguing video is definitely a good starting point! Personally, I would like to try doing a less popular form of literature in English language classroom – a poem. Why not to try with already prepared plans and activities? I would recommend

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/stories-poems

where you can find a great variety of poems with pre-tasks, comprehension practice and discussion topics. I believe that some students could also appreciate a possibility of expressing themselves through writing own poems and sharing them with colleagues. It can be done by Google Docs or Padlet. By adding technology to the creative process of writing, students maybe discover their hidden talents?

When talking about poems, I also would like to recommend Grammar Rhymes by Joanna Zarańska – an excellent source of interesting and rhyming poems or stories to learn new grammar structures in a context. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to get the book, but maybe you will somehow manage. Here is the cover of the book:

https://www.gandalf.com.pl/b/grammar-rhymes/

But of course – don’t judge a book by its cover! 😀

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CLIL

Content Language Integrated Learning is definitely a topic worth mentioning and discussing. There are different forms ofCLIL depending on how much context do we want to teach – with the strongest variation in bilingual schools, middle one when teaching language for specific purposes or subject-specific technical language and the weakest one when incorporating only some elements of other subjects. I like the idea very much and I have the opportunity to teach English to IT workers. I know how demanding it can be for English teacher when you need to study certain topic first to be able to pass along the content and language at once.

I experienced learning through CLIL as well, while studying finances and accountancy at the University of Economics. We started learning English for the financial sector during our first semester when most of us did not know almost anything about it even in our first language. Reading definitions of new words (we were not supposed to use Polish!) was also challenging, because they usually also included unknown terms. I remember so many moments when I did not have any idea what could I say (eg. types of banks, loans, credits, derivatives or interpreting balance sheet). With time, it was easier and easier to discuss all the issues and I became really grateful because the knowledge from my English classes gave me the basics to learn in my first language.

It is much easier for the teacher to prepare CLIL classes with younger and lower-level students. I remember a few classes with elements of geography, history and culture. I could notice straightaway how engaged and motivated my students were. Thye participated eagerly and enjoyed answering questions because language became just a tool to express their general knowledge and ideas.

Stress? Burn(out)? Teaching & cooking :)

Yes. It happens among teachers quite frequently. I think that most of us have met or was taught by a person who should not have contact with students anymore. Young people become for a person suffering from burnout like objects  – coming to the school and quickly leaving. No matter who they are and want to be, what do they think and feel. It is so sad when I think of those students, but it is even more damaging for the poor teacher, who does the harm to his/her students and himself/herself.

Stress is a factor that is present in teachers’ life probably always – no matter how experienced you are. I have begun my adventure with teaching not a long time ago, so I feel I still learn how to teach, what kind of teacher do I want to be. It is demanding to do my best, to prepare the classes, read relevant literature, provide constructive feedback to my students. Fortunately, I love the place I work in, my workmates who are an inspiration for me, I love my fantastic students and for now, I’m quite satisfied with the salary. The most stressful factor for me is time – both when preparing my lesson plans and also during the lessons, to aim the goals I set. It often happens that I need to devote my spare time I should spend with relatives or friends and “work after work”, until late.

Recently, I had a thought that I could compare teaching to cooking 🙂 Both are a kind of art. It is not enough to have ingredients only – and not enough to have materials for classes. You need to think carefully how to combine them to create something great! To include your heart, character and believes in it. But combining only what is sweet, fat and tasty might be harmful for your health. Same with teaching! Choosing only what’s  easy, pleasant, not requiring deeper thinking may be ineffective. Another thing in common is… stress. Also this connected with time – doing your best not to burn(out) it and yourself 🙂

woman-flowers-holidays-girl-6270.jpg

TBLT

How is it possible that for such long time I haven’t come across on Task-Based Language Teaching? Or, most probably, I was using this approach but unaware.

TBLT is an alternative to the traditional PPP (presentation, practice, production) method of teaching based on communicative activities. A task-based lesson language is not selected by the teacher, but it is taken from students’ output.

These tasks should be related to the daily life that may happen to all students so as to draw students’ attention to the lesson and to the task. It causes that students are busy with the use of the language for communicational purposes rather than acquiring the minimal grammatical details or rules of the language. There is little control on part of the teacher which gives students freedom to express their thoughts. Students listen to each other and they learn from what they produce. This, of course, is demanding as a teacher needs to think on their feet and be always prepared for the unexpected. At some point, learners start “noticing the gap” – and that is the magic moment we, as teachers, should aim. When a student asks us about something specific he/she lacks in this particular situation, it is more probable that it will be remembered much better.

Encouraged and motivated by the classes connected with TBLT, I decided to prepare a lesson plan devoted to revision of grammar tenses and structures but with the strong focus on meaning. Students need to draw answers to certain questions and then in pairs guess the meaning of the drawings and compare them. The lesson is based on the Task Cycle: pre-task, task and post-task. Feel free to use it with your students as well!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jrh5s12KYpm_zo7p_k8bHc0YRIB1SkE1OLBBIXUWuoI/edit?usp=sharing

Project Based Learning

Vector pop art illustration of a man and a woman sitting at a negotiation table top view

When talking about projects, I would love to share my experience with them. It’s a pity I cannot remind any projects done by myself and my classmates neither in my primary or secondary school. However, I can tell you about my experience from last summer, from a camp for teenagers combined with learning English, where I was one of the teachers responsible for planning and conducting activities.

Each day in our camp was devoted to one, broad topic such as food, fashion, travelling, games etc. Very often as a part of our English classes students were to work in groups in order to prepare a project such as a poster, advertisement, own game or a magazine. Although they did not work for grades they were extremely engaged and motivated, and some groups would even ask for permission to spend their free time on finishing their projects. The process of creating something original was a real joy for them. (they were usually just given a topic e.g “Chose a picture of a ready-made dish and try to guess and write an instruction how to do that”). They were really proud when finally they were able to present their projects to other colleagues, however, the process itself was much more important. Our favourite project was when students in their small groups made their own, short videos on given topics: advertisement, elbow games, hotel recommendation.

Last weekend, when discussing the topic “Project Based Learning” I realised how important it is to prepare the instructions for the project in such a way that it starts with a real-life question, a challenge or a problem to be solved. As a result, both knowledge, skills and attitudes should develop. I will definitely remember about it next time.

The photo taken from: <a href=”https://pl.freepik.com/darmowe-zdjecie-wektory/broszura”>Broszura wektory designed by Vectorpocket – Freepik.com</a>

Culture

What does it mean to teach Culture? As foreign language teachers we are privileged to teach communication with foreigners. But would it be possible and enough to know only the language? Definitely, the knowledge of language structures should go together with awareness and understanding the differences in many cultural contexts.

First, when I started incorporating cultural differences into my classroom students would react with surprise, laugh and often treated habits that differ from theirs are worse and wrong. It might be understandable because these were kids who had never before come into different ways of celebrating, eating or everyday habbits. It is great that we have the opportunity and even obligation from the curriculum to teach Culture and language differences. From my experience students love lessons devoted to holiday around the world. They feel as if they don’t have to study! They love learning new vocabulary, reading or watching videos. And the best part are of course games, which I try to include (not only when talking about culture).

It was really surprising for me when my elementary, adults learners (all aged 50+) were outraged by the number of different races and nationalities presented in their coursebooks!

Why don’t they show us ‘normal’, white people? Why must I read about others, not about ‘us’?- one of the women said before our holiday break. Imagine, for holiday she went to Tanzania, Africa, to work with kids. After one month spent there, in the new school year she was so excited about their life, how different it was from ours! The whole group agreed to devote some part of our classes and talk about cultural differences in different parts of the world (it turned out that other students also had many interesting holiday experiences). We discussed different ways of greetings, small talks, everyday routines and surprising facts and… we were tasting sweets from Ghana, Ukraine, Spain and England and drinking original African coffee and tea! All as if we were in a café, asking a waiter for what was needed.

Teaching grammar

I am a grammar lover and I like maths, too. It has always been pleasant for me to learn new grammar structures, even in the most boring way (I did not even know that grammar can be funny and engaging!). I would treat it just as a kind of logical exercise.

Currently, as I’ve started working with students, I notice how much time, energy and creativity is needed to prepare a lesson plan which will be suitable for all learners, which will allow my students to know both the form, meaning and use of a target grammar structure.

From my observation, most students do not have problems with the form, which is basically using patterns – especially when it is a written task and they have enough time to think about a problem. What seems to be much more complicated is understanding when and why in real life is the structure used.

Preparing a lesson in a way that most of the time is spent on the form seems to be useless. Why not to change the pattern? A flipped classroom seems to be a great idea! Our students are usually given a homework, so teachers could ask them for preparing for the next classes rather than only practice at home. Thanks to that we could save time for practice and production together with other students. If the main goal of education should be communication, it seems to be impossible to aim it alone, at home, doing only written exercises. What could be done in practice? The theory seems to be great, but where to find inspiration for homework being an introduction to the next classes?

Storytelling, which was suggested during our didactics classes, seems to be amazing! It is both engaging, interesting, motivating and the message is clear. Personally, I would ask my students to watch a video and do few tasks checking understanding. What I’ve already been using are short grammar videos published by British Council. As an example of homework before the classes with B1 students about future forms (the astonishing lesson plan presented by dr Pitura), I would suggest the video and tasks below – they may be done either online or in print.

https://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/grammar-vocabulary/grammar-videos/future-forms

Another important aspect to be considered when teaching grammar is correcting mistakes and providing feedback. I try hard to plan my lesson in such a way that include both accuracy and fluency oriented tasks, as well as discussing the most common mistakes. When teaching grammar, teachers (including me) tend to be too sensitive about grammar mistakes – but in real life situations – who cares?! As long as the message is clear, understandable and enables to communicate effectively, using foreign language should be a joy!

I’d like to sum up the topic of teaching grammar, storytelling and correcting mistakes with the video by College Humor – I believe each teacher will enjoy it!