Teacher: Talk in pairs. Student: Why? – A Guest post by Willy Cardoso

Willy and I enjoying a bit of sunshine in Brighton, during IATEFL

 

It is a great pleasure and honor to introduce my new guest blogger. I first met Willy on Twitter. Amazingly enough we had been in the same conference in São Paulo (12th Braz-Tesol National Convention) a couple of months before, and because I hadn’t joined the world of a PLN and the blogosphere, we may have passed each other there and never met. Our first face to face meeting was in December, 2010, at a great tweet-up/happy hour he helped organize while I was in London. Willy is a unique guy. He’s a thinker and a great teacher. Not to mention an amazing person, fun to be with. I can’t wait to meet him at Tesol France in a couple of weeks!

He puts some of what goes through his mind in his blog, Authentic Teaching – I highly recommend it, if you don’t know it yet.

Here Willy approaches something that has been in my mind recently, especially after reading a few blog posts and lurking at some exchanges on Twitter… So, with you: Willy Cardoso!

This is a short series of blogposts on what I understand to be classroom management issue (although I don’t like that the two words collocate). I’m doing this as the usual warm-up before presenting at a conference, in this case the TESOL France Colloquium. Cecilia is going to be there too and since I greatly admire her this seemed like a good opportunity for my first ever guest post.
…….

Last week, I had the pleasure to teach one of the most bright-eyed students I’ve ever had. She was incredibly, and constantly, in a very good mood; interested and interesting – a natural match for a conversation-driven course, which is what we did.

In one of our lessons the conversation unintentionally moved to the topic of classroom interaction and how she saw that in her morning lessons with other teachers (she was taking three hours in a group and 1,5 with me after lunch). So, at some point in this conversation she says:

I don’t know why, every time, the teachers want us to speak in pairs. There’s only one person in my group that has a similar level of English to mine, all others are below, and I don’t learn from them. There’s one boy that never says anything, he’s like furniture and it’s horrible when the teacher asks me to discuss something with him because he never has anything to say, I don’t know what he’s doing there.

Earlier this month, in a different course with different students, there was something like this:

Teacher, I think it is better when we talk to you and not when we have to talk with each other.

Really? Why is that?

All the students speak wrong and I don’t want to speak wrong, I prefer to listen you, is good English, I don’t think I improve with the others.

And I’ve heard similar reports in the staff room as well. What I can think about this is:

  • Aren’t they partially right? If you want to learn a language won’t you prefer to speak to those who speak it well?
  • Aren’t the teachers missing something there? For instance, to make clear to students why they do so many ‘talk-in-pairs’ moments – whatever reason it is.

So, for you reading this, if you’re a teacher:

What do you say to the student who sees no point in talking to classmates? And more, what is the effect of what you say or do?

Thank you,
Willy Cardoso
http://authenticteaching.wordpress.com

Vladmira, the Peaceful Ruler – A Guest post by Ania Musielak

My new guest author for the blog is a fantastic teacher I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person during the last IATEFL annual Conference in Brighton. I started interacting with Ania through Ken Wilson’s blog, when we were both guest bloggers around the same time (thank you Ken!!!). Our interaction only increased through twitter and the blogosphere, and I’ve learned much from her. She’s a very passionate teacher, with a knack for using drama in the classroom – something I’ve always been a bit skeptical about using and that I’ve been learning new ways to do it in an effective way.

We were talking about Brad Patterson’s PLN Blog Challenge and she said she wanted to take part in it, but she didn’t have a blog to post on. What??? just my luck, because it gave me a fabulous new guest blogger and the chance of knowing another teacher/friend I admire a little better – not to mention giving the rest of the PLN following this challenge the opportunity to know a bit more about our IATEFL roving reporter. Here’s Ania’s post:

The idea of ELT  INTERVIEWS is simple – you choose one member of your PLN and ask 5 standard questions so that we can learn something more about our favourite people on twitter:)

Vladka the Ruler

Vladka  comes from Michalovce, a beautiful little town by Zemplinska Sirava dam – the biggest dam in Slovakia. She is an English teacher and works in a State Language School in Kosice, where she teaches general business English to adults and teenagers. She has an MA in Teaching English Language and Literature and Ecology from Presov University in Slovakia and a certificate in Teaching Business English from English Language Centre in Brighton. Vladka is full of surprises and prepares a lot of extra activities and materials for her students. They never know what to expect:) She is also obsessed with colours and crayons (her favourite ones are “tickle me pink” and “spring green” ).  Her students are really lucky to have such an enthusiastic and devoted teacher and we can learn about Vladka’s teaching adventures thanks to her blog http://vladimiramichalkova.edublogs.org which she started last year in March.


I have known Vladka for some time – we met in Paris TESOL conference last year – and I have to say – her kindness and friendliness enchanted me. We had a lot of fun in Brighton at IATEFL so I decided to make her „the victim“ of my quick fire questions:)

First I wanted to learn something more about Vladka’s unusual name (Brad’s etymology bug got to me;)) and I came across some information that says her name means A Great, Peaceful Ruler“.  Wow, that is some powerful stuff:) So what did the Ruler herself had to say? Here are Vladimira’s answers:

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

Vladka hesitated a bit but finally decided on patient, creative and unpredictable because „they never know if I bring a ball, board game to the classroom or ask them to sing nursery rhymes”. (And bear in mind the fact that Vladka teaches adults:))

Well I would like to add something to that picture  – I asked some of our PLN members to describe Vladka (with one word only but some of us decided to use more – us teachers, always wanting to elaborate;)) And now a challenge for you – can you guess who said what?

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

This is what Vladka had to say:
„Well, I am not a very good cook and I don’t eat meat when I can choose so now there are broccoli, cheese – two kinds, cherry and apricot jam, apple juice, yoghurt (I don’t like yoghurt in fact) and nothing cooked because I am going to cook tonight after teaching.”


3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
Here the biggest surprise – Vladka would love to be an archeologist, zoologist or a mythologist.  Wow, that’s quite a range! I think I would have guessed a zoologist but the other two – never!

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

Here Vladka wanted to concentrate on the most challenging thing when it comes to teaching:

“It certainly is motivation. If you motivate your students, inspire them, then it’s something amazing and it gets back to you.  I love it when I am on my way back home after the whole day of teaching (last lesson usually finish at 7:30pm) and I feel energized and encouraged. And then I sing in my car. But to be honest, I sometimes have problems with young children! I just don’t know what to do with them (so please, feel free to give me any advice on how to deal with them :P).”


To be honest I can’t imagine Vladimira having problems with teaching children – she’s so lively, approachable and always full of ideas! And besides – teaching adults is just like teaching (really big) kids:).

And finally the last question:

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

And here again I learned something new and unexpected

“Hm, last book? I usually read two or three at the same time. I fell in love with Sookie Stackhouse novels and I love everything supernatural or ethereal. I also enjoyed Angelology and now I am reading Smart Swarm. And I am a huge movie fan! Last time I saw Woody Allen’s movie You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger…and I wish I had time to watch again Inception > fantastic movie! The movie I have seen too many times is probably The Matrix. I watched it with friends again and again during one night on astronomy course trip when the night sky was cloudy and we couldn’t watch the meteorites.  You can try to count how many times it’s possible to see this film in one night”.


I was curious so I asked Vladka how many times she actually saw it:  “Hmm, how many times? Together I must have seen the movie like 20 times, but on that night maybe 4-5 times?? The last time I just woke up in the middle LOL!”


I’m ashamed to admit but… I fell asleep in the cinema when watching The Matrix for the first and only time;) Well, the film was shown at night and I was really tired…Vladka I hope you can forgive me;)

 There’s one more thing that I learned about Vladka – she is VERY sporty, she loves Latin dances and swimming and  … she represented Slovakia in a lot of running competitions for about 5 years!

She used to run long distance – 1500 to 5 km. Now she still runs for pleasure.

Vladka, Weronika and me in Brighton – Slavic Power Girls ;)

Anna Musielak is a Polish teacher and teacher trainer holding a Ph.D. from Silesian University. She has worked at the military unit, at college, teaching British Literature and Culture and as methodology director in a private language school. She has also published articles on literature, culture and language teaching. At the moment she is working on workshops and teaching English to young learners and adults. She is interested in using drama, music and literature in ELT. You can find her on twitter and get to know (and learn more from her!): @AnnaMusielak

About Mountains, Challenges and Teaching – My guest post for Teaching Village

 

I was very humbled and deeply honored to be invited by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto (@Barbsaka) to write a guest post for her blog, Teaching Village. Not only I admire Barb as a teacher and educator, but her blog is one I really enjoy following and is a constant source of reflection and ideas for me. Besides her own posts Barb has had a list of great guest authors, most of whom I am lucky to have in my PLN. When I was thinking what I could write about, the first thing that came to mind was sharing about a very special student I have this semester, something that is very close to my heart right now. I wanted (still want) to see what other teachers thought of the way I’m handling the situation, see if anyone has any suggestions.

 

And that’s how About Mountains, Challenges and Teaching came to be. I’d love if you stopped by Teaching Village to read it and give me your view on my story. And while you’re there, I recommend you read one of the other great posts you can find there :-)

 

 

My guest post at Teaching Village

Taking a Walk in the Learners’ Shoes – A Guest Post by David Dodgson

 It is my greatest pleasure to introduce the first guest blogger of Box of Chocolates  in 2011. David Dodgson is a British English teacher who lives and teaches young learners in Ankara, Turkey. I was very fortunate to get to know Dave through Twitter (his handle is @davedodgson) and the blogosphere and immediately liked his views on teaching and enjoyed sharing and interacting with him. We had a great “time working on a “joint post” for one of the Dogme Challenges, where we shared our voices in a real conversation online, discussing the topic. I follow his blog Reflections of a Teacher and Learner and always enjoy his posts, be they activities / lessons he’s done or reflections on teaching and life. He is very active in online PD with his blog, twitter, #ELTChat, presenting, etc. A great educator and person who I’m proud to call a friend. 

 

With you... David Dodgson! (aka @davedodgson)

 

 

One of the blogging highlights of last year for me was sharing my voice with Cecilia for a collaborative post so what better way to start the new year than with a guest post? Now, I’d like to say this is done in the spirit of sharing ideas and cross-continental collaboration but the truth is, I foolishly entered a bet with our Brazilian friend and promptly lost so here I am. :p

 

 Anyway, onto the post: the last ELTchat of 2010 focused on the importance and benefits for English teachers of learning another language and I’d like to expand on some of the points raised in that session here. The discussion mainly focused on two strands – how being the student of a language can assist us in seeing things from the learner’s point of view and whether or not learning and knowing their L1 can be of help.

 

At first glance, it would seem my experience of learning Turkish wouldn’t help me much as a teacher. Apart from a 4 week course some 10 years ago, I’ve never had any classroom instruction. I’ve also never worked with a coursebook, done any written or oral assignments or prepared for any tests. I basically learned everything I know from a total immersion situation and it was a long process. I didn’t actually learn much in the first two years as I was surrounded by other imported teachers and all the Turks I knew were students who wanted to practice English whether meeting in or out of school. It was only after I got married and settled here that I really statred to go beyond basic functional language. In a sense I was lucky that my wife’s family didn’t know much English – I was forced to develop my Turkish to communicate better with them (and free my wife from translation duty!). Now, while not fully fluent, I’m able to understand 99% of what I hear and communicate 99% of what I want to say.

 

So, how has this learning process helped me as a teacher in the classroom? Although I wasn’t‘formally’ taught, I believe the experience has been beneficial. I appreciate the feelings of doubt, confusion and panic that can arise when faced with lots of new language. Conversely, I also know how far you can get with just a little language (as well as lots of scaffolding and gesturing!) and this helps in encouraging my students to open up and give them the belief that they can communicate whatever thier level. There are also some personal learning strategies that I can highlight for my students. For example, upon learning (or ‘noticing’) a new word, I always look out for further examples of it in use, try to use it myself, and ask questions if I see it used in a different or unexpected way. And so, I always encourage my students to be on the look out for new words, find examples of their use and run their self-formed hypotheses by me.

 

While I fully agree that learning a language has generic benefits in this way, I found myself very much disagreeing with the notion that knowing your students’ L1 helps during the chat session. Before I explain why I should clear something up: I’m not saying that a teacher working and living in a foreign country doesn’t need to learn the local language. Far from it, I believe that anyone who stays in a foriegn country should make an effort to learn the language. I just find the claim that knowing their L1 makes the teaching and learning process easier debatable. After all, as I mentioned above, in the first two years I was here, I didn’t know much Turkish, certainly not at the level my students were learning English at. I never in anyway felt disadvantaged by not knowing their language.

 

Some people argue it’s useful to know where the L1 transfer issues come from, especially for vocabulary and pronunciation. However, I find such issues to be minor and easily highlighted. For instance, Turkish people often confuse open/switch on and close/switch off when speaking English as there is only one word for each in their own language. I’ve always found with time and repeated exposure, this kind of problem sorts itself out. Another often quoted example is “there are no perfect tenses in my students’ L1 so they find present perfect difficult”.While that may be true, it is also true that many learners of English around the world find perfect tenses difficult, even those who have an equivalent in their L1. (This discussion reminds me of natural order hypothesis, a theory which posits that language learners acquire and automise grammatical structures in more or less the same order regardless of their linguistic background).

 

So, when a language teacher is also a language learner, it helps in the sense that we can empathise with our students more. We can understand better their struggles, needs and feelings and give them the benefit of our experience. While knowing our learners’ L1 may offer some immediate benefits for quick translation or clarification, I don’t think it makes a huge difference. As long as you are a dedicated teacher with your students’ best interest at heart, you’ll be fine. ;)

Guest Post #1 – Luciana Podschun’s Response to the Wandrous IWB Challenge

 

When I first entered the world of twitter and blogs I was very fortunate to find some wonderful people who were very supporting and motivated me to have my own blog and discover what a great tool for professional development it can be. The final “push” I got towards the final decision of starting my Box of Chocolates here came from Ceri Jones, who invited me to write a guest post on her Close Up, telling my experience with one of Jason Renshaw’s challenges (Trying Upside Down and Inside Out). I have Ceri (and Jason) to thank for that final push :-)

So I find it really interesting that the first guest post on my blog is also the result of another of Jason’s challenges. I’m pleased to have as my first guest writer Luciana Podschun, an English teacher from São Paulo, who decided to take up Jason’s Wandrous Whiteboard Challenge on one of her groups and wrote about her experience here. May it also be the final push Luciana needs to start her own blog!  Help me give her the final push people :-)! Thanks for sharing your experience with us Lu, and for being a wonderful first guest post writer!

 

 

 I am really pleased to write for the first time as a guest on the Box of Chocolate Blog.  I want to thank Cecilia for giving me this opportunity to write about an experience I had with my students.  I want to address the question if the “Wandrous Whiteboard Challenge” technique suggested by Jason is worth utilizing.

 

Unfortunately the school where I currently work is not very progressive with its teaching methods.  Teachers must give classes following a strict methodology, step by step and without deviation.  We don’t feel like teachers and at times we feel like robots. Most of my students learn the steps or at least the procedures after each step of the lesson.  I’ve recently written on Ken Wilson’s blog that I am a teacher who likes to break the rules and yesterday I decided to do something different with my pre-intermediate students who range in age from 13 to 17 years old.  I knew I couldn’t spend more than 40 minutes on a new activity as I would fall behind the set schedule even further.  Anyway, I decided to go ahead and as soon as my students started arriving in the classroom we just greeted each other as normal and I didn’t say anything until the bell rang.  I then closed the door and said, “today will be slightly different”.  I then gave the marker to my student who arrived first, she is not shy, so I decided to start with her.  Her first reaction was just to stare at me; she didn’t know exactly what to do, so I told her to write anything she wanted on the board.  She asked me if it really could be anything she wanted, so I just nodded…..after hesitating a bit she wrote: 1)“Deliver us from Evil”, which is the name of a song by Bullet from my Valentine, a rock metal band.

 

An up-close look at what the board looked like

 

And then the following students wrote:

2) I studied English yesterday

3) Bob went to a party yesterday

4) I will go school tomorrow

5) I went to Pernambuco last year

 
   

My sixth, seventh and eight students arrived while the activity was already taking place so I gave them the marker and asked them one by one to write something on the board.

6) I will probably go to the country next year

7) I love you teacher

8 ) My name is Nicolas

So, as everybody wrote I started to ask questions.  For example, with line 1, I asked my student who sang that song.  She said it is sung by Bullet from my Valentine.  As this metal rock band is not popular amongst my students we had many questions related to this band but also to music in general.  As they had not hear about this group, and neither had I, I am sure most of them went to look for more information about it after class.  After exploring the first subject we moved on to the second line.

As you can see there is a mistake so I asked them to find it.  I then followed with many questions using the simple past as well as the simple past continuous (the last grammar topic they learned) Since the third and fifth subjects were also related to the past tense, I decided to discuss both sentences together third student wrote the name Bob, who is Bob?  He replied that this name was inspired by his dog’s name.  This answer made all my students laugh until they cried.  So in total we spent about 15 min in past tense subjects.

When my fifth student wrote “Pernambuco”, I mentioned that I got a new twitter friend from Recife, PE who is also an English teacher. :)

  
Subjects fourth and fifth were related to the future tense so we could explore more about what they will probably do on their holidays  as well as their next vacation…..many plans, many hopes.  These discussions lead to the 1st conditional that we will study during the next lesson.  Subject 7, “I love you teacher”, I wanted to know why.!!  The student said, “you’re the best teacher in the school, you’re out of this world”.  Needless to say I blushed, so I turned the subject to talk about the beloved person in each student’s family.  We also talked about the importance of love in the world. Subject 8, the student wrote his name, he said that this was the first thing that came to his mind as he was the last student that arrived in the classroom.

 

    

My Conclusion:  Fantastic activity, it gave my students the chance to see their potential in developing a conversation and they concluded that English conversation is not the nightmare that some of them expected.  It also gave me the opportunity to establish more interaction with each student.

They learned new words and most importantly they learned from each other.  When one of them wrote something wrong the other students would spot the mistake and even explained the error – this was great to see.  In my case, having a pre-intermediate group, the session also worked as a review of the tenses, specially past and future.  The students saw that they can go beyond the current boundaries if they want, they just need to be willing – as Cecilia mentioned on her post

After spending more than 40 min, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the lesson but to my surprise I was able to do complete the set lesson for the day because my students were much more “alive” than ever.  They were motivated to carry on the previous lesson.  So, answering the question about the usefulness of this technique, it was not only worth doing but also rewarding for the students.  I think that every teacher who likes challenging their students should try this activity as well as other new things to keep the students motivated – yes, even if he or she is breaking the rules of their school.
 

Luciana Podschun
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