Friday, 17 June 2011

Who's that guy? - PLN Interview number 2 with @europeaantje (Guido)

This time I interviewed Guido (a.k.a @europeaantje). I met Guido on Twitter, and had the pleasure of tweeting him this year , at  the TESOL Spain Convention in Madrid in March. Guido is from Belgium but lives in Sevilla , you can find him on twitter and he has a toolshed somewhere too. Many thanks to Guido because he took the time to be interviewed, even though he's planning a big move! A big #FF to YOU!

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

 I asked my teenage students. This is what they said:

● “qualified”


● “strict”

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


the usual breakfast food, sandwich fillings, yoghurt, veggies and some left-over gazpacho;
the special homemade candy to make brigadeiro …. and lots of drinks (the local Cruzcampo beer, summer wine etc) for our Big Farewell Do in the park Sunday 19 June. Guido and his family are moving back to his native Belgium this summer in search of an even brighter future...

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

 A postman, a builder or a fruit farmer (nearly became one in New Zealand)

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

 The most difficult part of being an EFL teacher in Spain is getting to the end of the month with the money I make. Something´s that been grating me for a long time is the fact that a teacher who contributes to the education of children and adds value to society makes infinitely less than bankers who shift other people´s money and immerse the planet in an economic crisis that others need to try and pay their way out of.

I can´t remember ever having taught a really difficult class but that is probably saying more about my memory than about the classes I´ve had.

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

Last books: the Spanish translation of “O Homem Duplicado” by José Saramago and “The Stories of English” by David Crystal.
Last movie: I can´t watch movies til the end. I can´t help but see people pretending to be someone they are not.
 Seen too often: Here´s a real Belgian. After too many viewings my kids now think this is their grandfather.

Extra question.
We met online on twitter and you did a presentation at TESOL Spain in March about Twitter so, my extra question to you is, What are the top three reasons teachers should use Twitter?
to learn and develop professionally
● to connect, share and collaborate
● to have fun (and make conference going more fun)

There´s real people behind those funny names:
@bcnpaul1=Paul; @fuertesun=you!; @sallyswinfen=Sally; she who doesn´t tweet=Alison; @lingliziya=Kirsten; esolcourses=Sue; @michelleworgan=Michelle

The End!

Friday, 10 June 2011

New Blogs on my Block

Everyday it seems there's a new TEFL blog spring up from somewhere. It's quite hard to keep track of them all, I have enough trouble trying to post something here on my own blog, maintain some kind of presence on Twitter and keep up with all blogs I follow with my Google Reader. So, in an attempt to keep up with the flow of new blogs and to help others find their way to them, I thought I'd share a few new blogs with you. These blogs are new to me but maybe not new to all of you (my 60 readers!)

The first blog is from Lesley Cioccas. I met Lesley on Twitter through #ELTchat, although Lesley isn't  new to blogging, this is the first time her blog has come across my radar and I will certainly be going back there.

The next blog is from Chiew Pang many of you may be familiar with his old blog A ClilToClimb or recognise him from Twitter. Chiew has started two new blogs that have just passed my radar. One of them kicked off with an interview with Scott Thornburry! Beat that if you can!

Last but not least. I've just started following Sharon Hartle's Blog. On closer look it seems that Sharon's blog isn't new, but again it's new for me. 

If you have time why not have a look at these or recommend some other blogs.
I challenge you!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

As part of Brad's PLN Interview challenge, I interviewed Michelle Worgan. Michelle and I have known eachother for more than 10 years (I think), we knew eachother before blogging and Twitter, in the days of summer school and cassette recorders. 

Here are the five standard questions with two more thrown in for good measure!

Many thanks to Michelle for agreeing to do the interview.

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

Hmm I think I might ask my students this afternoon...I forgot so I'll have to make them up myself. I think each age group would describe me in a different way, so I'll give you one from each. I think the adults would describe me as HONEST. I am completely myself in the classroom and for that reason I always tell the truth (if it's negative I try to find a postitive way of expressing it though). The teenagers would say I was SERIOUS as I make them work hard and don't let them play enough games! And the younger ones would probably only come up with "nice" but I'll go one further on their behalf and say WARM. It is of course likely that they would all say something completely different! I want to say HARD-WORKING but students never think about the work or preparation you put in!
2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

There is always cheese in my fridge - a big block of medium-strength cheese, some Philadelphia or Laughing Cow triangles (I love the stuff), Feta. There is an open carton of UHT cream for making sauces to go with pasta. Salad, pitta bread, milk (nasty UHT stuff but it's ok in tea!), water, Aquarius (because I go running and need to replace liquids), some chicken, ham, smoked salmon, broccoli... there is also fruit but it's mostly eaten by my other half!

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

Difficult question. I've been teaching since I left university (too long ago to mention) but if I didn't have to make a living from it, I'd like to be a writer. Realistically though, I'd probably end up doing translation work and absolutely hating it! I'd like to carry on working with children.

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

For me the hardest part is successfully convincing learners that they need to use English or study outside the classroom. Our contact time is not enough and we don't have time to do much recycling, which is why it is so important that they try to find a few minutes each day to recap. I don't often set homework, but it seems that my students, even adults, won't do anything unless it has been specifically set :(
I have had many difficult classes over the years - my first year teaching children was a nightmare! It was only a small group but their ages ranged between six (non-readers) and nine, there were a couple of naughty boys in there too - mixed age, mixed ability - it was impossible to get them all sitting in their seats doing what they were supposed to. I would still find that class a handful now, but I would be much better prepared! Now I love kids' classes!

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

I'm currently reading Emile Zola's Germinale in French! I had a Kindle for Christmas and I haven't stopped reading since. I've probably read about 25 books in the last 5 months! I haven't seen any decent films for ages. The last film I enjoyed was The King's Speech. I've seen the film Hi-Fidelity quite a few times, as well as my boyfriend's favourite: Ocean's Eleven! Oh and, Dirty Dancing, of course...

Our connection is that we met at summer school years ago before we started blogging. Could you tell us what you think are the best and worst things about working at a summer school?

Good question! The best thing is that it can be so much fun! The sense of community and friendship you get from working with a team of people in such a short space of time. The fact that you are not only a teacher but can have fun with the kids by leading activities and excursions - it's one situation where the students actually see you as a human being! The worst thing is not being supported enough - so many demands are placed on the summer school team and you are not always in a position to be able to provide what has been promised. There is often a lack of co-ordination between the management, the sales team and the people who are actually running the course, who are the ones that have the difficult task of making sure everything runs smoothly. Note: I "retired" from the summer school scene two summers ago!

I know that you're a mad football fan. How did you get into football in the first place?

Well I wouldn't say I was a mad football fan! But I've always liked watching football really. At home we would watch the World Cup and that was about it, but I've always tried to follow Stoke City's progress. When they got promoted to the Premier League, I could then watch the matches on the internet! And two years ago I decided to become a season ticket holder of my local club, Xerez CD.

Thank you Michelle and Brad! 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime..............

I have to admit that although I love telling stories in class to young learners, I'm very reluctant to ask adult students to do creative story writing activities. Last week I tried a story writing activity in class with a group of mixed level (Al-C1) adult students (who are all teachers). Motivated by the #ELTchat on storytelling I gave it a go. I vaguely remember using different pieces of music to create a man meets woman story many moons ago when I first started teaching.

I guess I've been reluctant to do this kind of activity in class because I think it's an activity that has the potential to "bomb" really easily. In general, in my experience, adult students and teens are reluctant to write in class and maybe even less willing to write stories.This is because writing is somehow seen as boring or not valuable in class time and creative writing is not something everyone enjoys. I'm not sure why, but it's a definite feeling that I get. 

The groan is often audible when you say the magic words "Today we're going to do a writing activity". Perhaps for that reason I didn't utter them on Tuesday. It was a two hour class, and the last 35-40 minutes we did the writing activity. I used a combination of two ideas that were suggested in the #ELTchat on Storytelling .

First, I wrote the first and last lines of the story on the whiteboard. They were:

It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime.
If I had known what was going to happen, I would have stayed at home

I thought this would act as a very bare skeleton to guide their written work.

The next step was to show them the suitcase with random objects that I had run around the house collecting the night before class. I included:
  •  a pair of binoculars
  • a knife
  • a couple of syringes
  • a travel brochure for Asia
  • a guidebook for Costa Rica
  • a tin of tuna
  • an earring
  • a lipstick
  • a self help book
  • my passport
  • a pack of Nicotine patches
  • a plastic toy shark
  • a purse
  • a key
 The aim of giving them props was to try and help stimulate story lines for their writing and give them more support to create imaginative texts.

Here are their stories published with their permission:

Group 1

It was supposed to be a holiday of a lifetime. I did a cruise and during the cruise I fell off the ship while I was watching the dolphin with my binoculars.When I woke up I was in hospital, I didn't remember anything! The police told me that they found me inconscious at the beach. One man in the beach saw how the doplphin carried me to the beach. But I realized that I didn't have all my documents and passport. I didn't know who I was. So, I had to spend more time, 20 days until my husband found me. then we cameback to fuerteventura and I found my memory slowly, I suffered from depression and my husband gave me a book called "How to mend your broken heart". It was very useful for me. Nowadays, I feel happy but I couldn't travel anymore.

Group 2

It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime in the jungle in Costa Rica. She was walking hrough the jungle when she found a dolphin.  She realized the dophin was hungry, so she fed him with the tin of tuna. She had to make an important decision because she was also hungry but finally she decided to save the dolphin. Now, she was lost and alone on the jungle, she started to cry because she felt that she was going to die. Then, the dolphin showed her the way to get out of the jungle. Once she felt saved she came up with a small village. When she started to walk she saw the siluette of a handsome man running towards her, immediately their eyes met. She thought she was saved but she couldn't imagine that the man wanted to eat her. She then thought: if I'd know what was going to happen I would have stayed at home.

It was a group writing activity. I felt that there were definitely times when the students were not engaged in the activity. I think some students found it difficult to write a story in a group and would have been much happier wrtiting alone or at home. This is just the feeling that I got. Maybe the props I gave them were not quite right or perhaps it was the weather and the mix of students that turned up to class. Perhaps I didn't set it up right but there was definitely something missing. It worked with one group and not with the other. I'm glad I tried it but not sure if I'll be doing one again soon...........