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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Famous about Teaching

"Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three."

"Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions."
~Author Unknown

"A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary."
~Thomas Carruthers

"Good teachers are costly, but bad teachers cost more."
~Bob Talbert

"Teachers who inspire know that teaching is like cultivating a garden, and those who would have nothing to do with thorns must never attempt to gather flowers."
~Author Unknown

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wall wisher

Wall Wisher is an online notice board maker. It gives you a virtual space where you can post short text notes in the same way that you could put post-it notes onto a notice board in your classroom. But this noticeboard can be shared between people all over the world. As well as text notes you can add images, video and links to other websites.

It’s a neat way of getting a shared space to collect ideas from people for a brainstorm. Or to post resources for a topic. Students could ask questions about a topic which you (or each other) can then answer:)

Obviously with any open online space there is a risk of abuse. Wall Wisher only has two mode – one where only you can add stuff to the wall, and one where anyone can add stuff. Obviously it would be nice to have a more controlled protection where you can set people up to access the wall, or need a password to get onto it. You can lock the wall to protect it once you have enough ideas on it.

Wall Wisher is an interesting idea – and I am sure there are lots of ways it could be used in the classroom. I’d be interested to see how it develops, and whether there will be future modifications that allow more control over the space.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Teaching writing

This year I've finally encountered Writing in ELT. I used to think that this skill depends only on personal talents - you either can do that or cannot, of course you might try but what's the reason for?

What for do we need to improve our writing skill? - This is the concept question.

For teachers the answer is obvious - to be able to teach writing - the skill which is essential for those students who are planning to take international exams.

Actually teaching writing doesn't mean that we just check students' papers, we are supposed to give feedback on register, style, structure, vocabulary, plenty of things which make any writing reader-friendly and successful in the long run.

Last yearI tutored a few students preparing for EGE (Russian State Exam )

Writing section in EGE includes 2 parts:

1. Informal letter to a friend. 100-140 words (maximum 6 points)

2. Essay of two kinds - either an opinion essay or "for and against" essay. 200-250 words (maximum 14 points) (In 2010 it'll be only an opinion essay - Hurrah!)

Compared to IELTS it's quite easy to teach. By "easy" I mean you have to focus only on two structures and drill them. Practice makes perfect, you know.

Let's get back to informal letters.

Grammar and spelling are not assessed here, and what is evaluated is task achievement, register and structure.

What is task achievement?

Let's have a look at a sample task from Macmillan's Practice tests.


You have 20 min to do this task. This is a part of a letter from Susie, your English pen friend.

...Guess what? My parents say I can have a pet for my birthday. Isn't that fantastic? I'm not sure what kind of pet to get, though. Have you got a pet? What do you think I should get? Do you think dogs are too much trouble to look after? Maybe I should get a cat? Let me know what you think!

The first thing I ask my student to do is to underline all the questions in the friend's letter.

How many questions? -5

What answer do they require?

1. Isn't that fantastic? - opinion

2. Have you got a pet? - some information

3. What do you think I should get?- advice

4. Do yo think dogs are too much trouble to look after?

- opinion about dogs

5. Maybe I should get a cat? -opinion + advice

Then I ask the students to think of ways of expressing opinion and giving advice and remind them of informal style necessary for this type of writing and write their answers on the whiteboard.


I think...

I guess..

As for me...

I reckon...


If I was you..

You should...

It'd be a good idea if...

How about...

And then I ask the students to answer the questions from the letter orally using functional phrases I mentioned above.

Are they ready to write the letter? Not yet:)

You need to ask them a few more questions just to make sure that they know about the structure of an informal letter, opening and concluding phrases, 'cos all these things affect scoring.

Finally, I remind my student to allot a couple of minutes for proofreading, which appears to be an effective writing technique.

P.S. If you use Macmillan Practice Test, remember that in Informal Letter they don't have the task : Write 3 questions asking about ..... Which is obligatory in real EGE:)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Never put off till tomorrow the smile you can give today

This is how identical twins are made... ;-)

Talk to yourself in English

It's so amasing when you come across something on the net which appears to be a kind of summary of your recent thinkings......
I've been puzzling my brains lately over how to help my students boost their speaking, of course I've got a kit of certain tips based on my experience which are intuitive for the most part...
And voila! I hope you like this article as well.

Marc Helgesen is professor at Miyagi Gakuin Women's University, Sendai and adjunct at Teachers College Columbia University MA TESOL Program - Tokyo. He is an author of over 100 articles, books, and textbooks including the English Firsthand series and has lead teacher development workshops on five continents. Marc also maintains the ELT and the Science of Happiness website to distribute ELT/Positive Psychology downloads and a website for various presentation handouts.

"Talk to yourself - in English

There's a very simple technique. Everyone does it in their native language. It's easy. It's free. You can do it anywhere. And when students do it in English, it gives them extra practice. The technique: Talk to yourself- in English.

By "talk to yourself", I don't mean like the crazies we sometimes see mumbling and seemingly arguing with themselves and losing the argument. I'm talking about silently practicing English. It is really a kind of mental rehearsal. But, unlike rehearsal for a speech or a drama, you may or may not ever actually say these sentences out loud. It doesn't matter. Just spending time "mentally speaking" gives practice and a review of vocabulary and other part of language.

This isn't, of course, anything like a full "self-study course" which, (as Peter points out) are rarely actually used, anyway. It is a simple and easy technique that students can use to practice on their own.
The beauty of Talk to yourself in English is that students can do it at anywhere and any level.
The beauty of Talk to yourself in English is that students can do it anywhere and at any level of proficiency. Beginners might just name things they know how to say in English. Thats vocabulary review. At higher proficiency levels, they start to describe things and actions. Learners with more speaking ability can invent conversations, make up stories, etc. Many students spend a lot of time on trains and bus[s]es, and here is a great way to make use of that time - all they have to do is look out the window and narrate (to themselves, silently) what they want to say. Or the can look at the other people, describe them or imagine a conversation with them (still without vocalizing, doing it silently).

I usually introduce this in class with a video that has a lot of action. Any film with action and variety will work. I often use the opening sequence to Hitchcocks Rear Window, simply because there are lots of verbs and nouns, and they come at an easy to follow pace. And it is on which makes it easy to bring into my classroom. I model the activity once (narrate the action while we watch), then have the student try it on their own.

Once students understand the idea, I give them a list of practice ideas and examples. The ideas follow the syllabus of their textbook so it is a way to recycle and reinforce what they are doing in class. Here are some of those ideas. If you want to copy or email this list for your students, click here for a photocopyable version.

Talk to yourself in English

- practice ideas
Many students spend time on trains or busses every day. Here are some easy ways to practice English. Use these ideas. Talk to yourself silently in English.
Introductions Look around. Notice people in the bus/train or on the street. If you were meeting them, what would you ask? What would you say about yourself? ("Hi, I'm (name). I'm a student at (schools name)./ What do you do? …").
Describing people Look around. Notice the people in the bus/train or on the street. In your mind, describe their clothing, hair, etc. ("He's wearing a purple shirt, jeans and sunglasses. He has medium-length hair. He's cute! …").
Schedules and routines On the bus/train on the way home, think about your schedule today. Was it typical? ("I got up at 7:00. Thats what I usually do. Today I had a new partner in English class. I hardly every talk to her. ….").
Desscribing places Look out the window. In your mind, describe the buildings/places you see. ("That building is green. Actually, it is kind of ugly green. There's an old house with a blue roof. …").
Giving directions Imagine the bus is a taxi. In your mind, you are giving the taxi driver directions in English ("Turn right at the next corner. See that signal? Turn left there.").
The past On the bus/train on the way home, think about every thing you did today. How many different verbs can you use? ("I ate toast and drank coffee for breakfast. I took a shower and washed my hair….").
Jobs, abilities and interests Look at people in the train/bus or on the street. Or look at stores and businesses. What jobs do you imagine the people do? What abilities do they need? ("She's beautiful. She could be a model. A model has to be able to look good all the time. There is a doctors office. A doctor has to have a license…").
Invitations In your mind, think of all the ways you know to invite people. Then look around the bus/train. Imagine all the people are your friends. What would you like to invite each person to do? Think of what you would say in English. ("Hi. Would you like to play tennis this afternoon? How about going to a movie?").
The future Think about next weekend (or your next school vacation. What do you want to do? Use as many verbs as you can. ("I'm going to meet my friends Saturday night? Maybe well go to (place)..…").


Think about your life in 5, 10, 20 years into the future. What is your dream? Describe it in English. What little things can you do TODAY to help make that dream come true? ("Someday, I'll travel around the world. Having good English will help me. Today I am practicing by thinking of English sentences right now!…").
Shopping Look out the window. What kinds of stores do you see? When you see a store, how many things can you think of that they sell? ("There's a stationery store. They sell notebooks, pens, mechanical pencils, erasers,…").
Process (how to do things) Think of things you know how to do or foods you can make. In your mind, give the directions in English. ("This is how to make cup noodle. First, boil water. Then…").
Likes and dislikes Look out the window. What do you see that you like? What don't you like? ("That couple is holding hands. I like the feeling of love. Some guy is smoking. I dislike cigarette smoke. …")
Feelings/emotions Look at people in the bus/train or on the street. How do you think they feel? What are their emotions? Imagine the reasons. ("That man looks really bored. I'll be he had a hard day at work. That couple looks really happy. They are holding hands. I think they are in love. …").
Giving reasons Look around the bus/train. Notice things people have. Imagine the reasons they have them. ("She's wearing glasses. Maybe she needs them to read. He's using his mobile phone for texting (emailing). Maybe hes using it to write to his girlfriend. She's got a designer bag. Maybe…")
Instructions (imperatives) Look at people in the bus/train or on the street. What are they doing? Imagine they are robots. You are the robot master. What did you tell them to get them to do things? ("Stand up!. Hold on to that pole. Walk down the street. Push the "open" button. … ")
Music If you carry an iPod or other mp3 player, try listening to English songs. Really pay attention to the words. If you need extra help, you can usually find the words on the internet. Search for: (song title) lyrics. ("lyrics = songs words"). If you don't carry an iPod, think of a song in your first language. How would you explain it in English?
Happiness On the bus/train on the way home, think about your life. How many good things can you think of? ("The weather is nice today. My family loves me. I ate chocolate today. It was delicious. ….").
© 2010 Marc Helgesen
May be copied. (Download as PDF file)