Coursebooklessness

During a talk with Anna Loseva she told me about the way she organizes education process without course books. I have heard so many times about the idea but dreaded imagining myself being lost without knowing which of the numerous directions to take or how not to miss out a significant part of syllabus. But listening to Anna I got so gripped by the kind of structure she used that I calmed down enough to try it out.
After a couple of months on the low course book diet there emerged some questions that disturb me the most. I would like to answer them myself first and if you have any experience in teaching coursebooklessly or have some information about it let’s spread the information exchange.
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Error Diary Vol 3 Q&A

This is the third post on error diaries. The general idea is outlined in the first post while the second one answers a set of questions. Here is the next part of questions to be dealt with.

The next comment I would like to respond to was made by Hana Tícha. Thank you, Hana, for expressing your concerns and ideas (they are in bold here). Responding to them, I’ll try to scrutinise how to improve error diary to make it more acceptable and beneficial for students.

Teaching business not Business English

I must say that the idea of this experiment was inspired by Michael Griffin and his wonderful post.

I thought about my Business English students who actually are far from being interested in business. I teach them Business English because their company thinks it’s more useful for them than a general course. So I’ve decided to try teaching business not Business English instead of teaching Business English adapting it to more familiar situations.

Firstly, it is really difficult to get rid of the usual CELTA-way templates as they seem to be not completely suitable for my aims.

What are my aims?

I want to inspire and make my students interested in Business and teach them/ elicit/ help to find out/encourage to look for… business ideas/phenomena/ laws. I want them to understand business world better and be able to talk about it in English.

Isn’t it something natural what we really need Business English for?

Till the moment I read the post I used to think that my goal was to teach students some business language and they will find an opportunity in their business life to really use this language. I mean, not in classroom conditions. But having reflected about it I understood that my students hardly ever use Business English at work, they just need General English to talk to their German colleagues. That is the reason why they are not interested in the situations offered by the authors of the book. Moreover, Business English coursebooks try to provide varied topics so that students from totally different departments could discuss something together, but, actually, they can’t, because they hardly have an idea even in their mother tongue what the hell this outsourcing (or anything else) is necessary for and why they need to know it.

Another thought is that if we imagine some native speakers discussing something at their workplace or in any business situation we will get the right picture of what we want our students to be able to speak about or understand. So we might try to aim at creating such conditions in our classrooms which are similar to it not only in case studies and activities.

I am not saying that Business English coursebooks are useless. Far from that! The authors usually do their best to make the tasks as close to real life as possible and they succeed in it. I like the tasks, but I would just shift the accent from teaching language to trying to understand concepts using the language (they need the language to be able to express themselves correctly).

That’s how I came to the idea that I can provide my students with some information on different topics including necessary language to enable them to speak about that. Am I not too unexperienced in business to ‘teach’ them business? I think it doesn’t matter. I think authors of many course books are not considerably much experienced in running a business. What’s more, I doubt it that they write all the articles themselves. I have the Internet with unmeasurable amount of relevant and just thought-provoking information to find necessary material. I came to an idea that even material given in a coursebook may be used differently so that it teaches Business, not only Business language.

As you can see, I don’t have a clear idea of what everything should look like, but I feel that the way it goes isn’t the best way for my students. Or maybe they just don’t need this Business English and people who choose such a course themselves (not their HR) are more motivated to learn Business vocab and don’t get bored with it? Am I just making a mess because my students didn’t have a choice?

I just feel that for this very group something could be changed to make them interested, motivated and more knowledgeable in Business English. It’s kind of strange that I have to fit business language in everyday situations to practice it because my students don’t know what to say in a business situation and brainstorming sounds like silence.

As you can see I haven’t devised a win-plan yet. I actually don’t even have a clear idea what it all should look like. I just want to try going the way of trial and error to see what outcomes I may get. I’ll write a kind of report with my observations and conclusions in some time.

Saying goodbye to your students. Is it better for students to have a new teacher?

Some days ago I said goodbye to one of my groups. We agreed to have tea during the last lesson. I planned some relaxed speaking activities and students brought a cake. Before the lesson I had been thinking about some kind of present for my students since I wanted to leave them with something pleasant. In my view, some material things are not appropriate in such a situation, so I came up with an idea to write some wishes and motivating words for them and made it look more or less presentable.

 

My motivating words for my students

My motivating words for my students

This is what my 'presents' looked like.

This is what my ‘presents’ looked like.

What do you leave your students with? What do you prepare for last lessons?

There is also a profound question of carrying on with the same group. I have recently been convinced that students should be taught by different teachers since they have different styles of teaching and their pronunciation varies that leads to improving students’ ability do understand. I have never thought of that before my DoS pointed it out to me. After that I became interested to look deeper into the topic.

When students have one and the same teacher

Thinking positively we may suppose that students feel less stressed with a person they are used to and therefore they are more eager to take risks and use some difficult language without being afraid of producing bad impression.

The teacher knows students’ strengths and weaknesses and may effectively make assumptions and anticipate problems.

The teacher knows which techniques work better with the students and which of them students dislike. Therefore lessons may be planned more effectively and students may achieve higher results.

At the same time the teacher has to come up with new ideas and activities which have never been used with the group because students might get bored with one and the same usual tasks.

When teachers are covered by others and change after each course

As it was already said, students don’t get used to one and the same accent and may have less difficulties in understanding other people. This issue alone seems to be able to outweigh some others.

Students see different styles of teaching and maybe even polar personality types. In some time students may figure out what kind of teaching style and what kind of teacher is better for them, so they may be able to give feedback to their teacher saying what works best for them, I mean, kind of moulding a teacher to their learning needs. Does this idea sound stupid to you? I am not sure that it may happen like this, but my gut feeling says that diverse ways of teaching (I’m not speaking about frameworks and approaches here, but teacher’s behavior) do students good.

There might be a point of motivation to produce a good impression on a new teacher, but I’d rather say it may influence more accuracy than fluency and risk-taking (that doesn’t mean that students’ striving to sound more accurate isn’t important!).

Some students may tend to do more homework with a new teacher. Or just do it)

A new teacher also wants to produce a better impression and get on with students, so they might want to find some outstanding activities. Also a new teacher won’t think that students may excuse something like being badly prepared, not knowing a word, being boring, being late or other things a teacher may allow themselves relying on their good image.

I have some other ideas as well, but I don’t want this post be very long. I’m also more interested in reading your point of view? Which side would you take?

Let me know the reasons of your answer. May be you have some other crucial issues in mind which I have missed.

 

 

My attempt to do reflective practice challenge

Inspired by Zhenya Polosatova and John Pfordresher I’ve decided to challenge myself to improve my teaching by doing ELC (Experiential Learning Cycle) and I plan to do it the following way.

I will take into consideration one aspect of teaching which I’m concerned about and during some period of time (let’s say one month) I will describe, analyse and work on it in order to make my teaching more effective and also to create a habit of conscious teaching.

Starting from this week I’m going to work on setting tasks which is one of my weakest points in teaching.

Yesterday I had a grammar focused lesson on countability and expressing quantity in my Business English Upper-Intermediate group. There were only 2 students yesterday.

I am going to analyse a freer practice task setting.

Continue reading

The first CELTA-day

Despite the fact that I’ve read a lot about CELTA beforehand, the information received during the first day is kind of mess in my head. Nevertheless, I am in high spirits due to the fact that our tutors are really funny and positive and we laughed a lot today. So, let me tell you how it was step by step.

Firstly, we arrived to the school and waited in the hall. There are about 18 trainees on the course which is not much, while as I was told it’s usually around 30. At 9 sharp we were led to our room where we had ice-breaking games and I managed to learn all the names! Usually it’s my weak point(

Next section of the day was dedicated to observing lessons which was really thought-provoking as the teacher appeared to have constructed the lessons out of nothing. What’s more, we got acquainted with our students and I managed to learn their names too. Well done, me!

After a break we were told all general information about the course and the requirements, we also got instructions on paperwork we are to do during the course and filled in some forms.

Then we had so-called Assisted Lesson Preparation when we were given topics and short lesson plans for our first lessons. Our tutor helped us to develop them so that we just need to put it in the form of plan for ourselves and add some questions which are not given in our course book. I must admit that it’s not that awful as I imagined and teaching the very next day is OK after such preparation together with your group and the tutor.

Finally, we had a foreign language lesson aimed at putting us in learners’ shoes so that we feel the way they feel and to tune us in for the next day which appears to start with me teaching.

A bit about fellow-trainees:

The people on the course came from different countries and all of us have totally different background, but still all of us are very kind and helpful.  I’m really happy to be here with these people.

A bit about tutors:

We have 3 tutors who make the learning process engaging and interesting. They also provide us with all the necessary information (several times if necessary) so you won’t forget or miss anything.

A bit about students:

A group of guys we are supposed to work with for a couple of weeks made me feel more confident. They are so active and positive. You will never face a problem when a student refuses to participate or any other tricky situation.

Grammar Tenses Revision Activity (Intermediate and higher)

Hi there!

I’m here to introduce you an activity I’ve recently tried on my students. Due to the task you will be able to revise main tenses such as Present Simple, Continuous and Perfect, Past Simple, Continuous and Perfect, to be going to and Present Continuous with future meaning.

The task is created in the form of cards with different actions written in different tenses.

Here is the example:

фото

Stage 1: Ask your students to work in pairs and put the cards in the groups in the right chronological order. Then check it as a whole class. Usually students come up with something like this:

фото1

You might need to revise the rules of using the tenses, it depends on how well they’ve accomplished Stage 1.

Stage 2: Students work in pairs creating a success story about any person’s career.

Stage 3: Students tell their stories to the whole class. Then they might choose the most interesting story.

Don’t forget to give feedback to their performance.

Hope it could help you somehow.

Cheers

Not more than 40% new info at a lesson?

I’ve recently read somewhere that it’s necessary to give not more than 40% of new information with 60% of revision each lesson. Or it might even be 30%-70% or even 20%-80%.

I can hardly estimate the percentage at my lessons. I’ve never thought about it.

Do you know that?

Do you follow it at your lessons?

I’m interested in the explanation of this percentage. Might be quite reasonable. I’m going to google it when I have a spare moment, but I’m also interested in your personal opinion and experience.

My teaching failure

Hi!

I had a lesson this Monday which made me think a lot. The previous lesson I explained a grammar topic and we did exercises and activities, but on Monday I brought a couple of tasks for revision and it turned out to be very difficult for them (though there was nothing new) and they ended up with most of answers wrong. That’s not the worst thing still. It is that I found them extremely discouraged to study.

What might have gone wrong? What should I do next?

It occured to me that you need sometimes to get used to the logic of the English grammar which is quite different from ours. The problem was that the students struggled with understanding a situation in a right way.

What do you think?

Lesson Plan: vocabulary on investment and finance (Market Leader Int 3rd eddition)

Hi there! I wanted to post here two lesson plans which go together on financial vocabulary.

We have Market Leader 3rd edition and, frankly speaking, I dislike the book and the way material is organized there, so I have to create and find a lot of activities to make it more interesting and effective.

Lesson 1.i

Aim: at the end of the lesson the students will be able to use the target vocabulary to speak about financial situation in different companies.

1. To introduce the topic in a simple and relaxed way I decided to play hangman with the word INVESTMENT. Then we discussed several questions on the topic like the following:

a) Would you like to invest money if you had enough?

b) What would you invest in?

c) What do you need to know to invest successfully?

d) What qualities should an investor have?

2. I chose the vocab book which is called “Words at work”. Unit 14 is dedicated to the investment and finance.  We did exercises  1a (individually and as a whole class), 1b (in pairs and as a whole class) and 2a (individually, then in pairs, then as a whole class).

After that I asked students in pairs to give each other definitions and words for the definitions to memorize the vocab.

3. Unfortunately, I can’t possibly find the story I created for “fill in the gaps” task. It was a success story of a company with most of the words and phrases. We did it in pairs and then checked as a whole class.

4. For the final task I wanted them to change the partners so I wrote some phrases on cards with the beginning on one card and the ending on another, so that they could find a new partner by matching them. As I had only three students that day I was somebody’s partner.

The task was to make up a news report on financial situation in a company after some events. I offered some ideas to the students but they were free to invent their own. The ideas were: “Nokia after the merger with Microsoft” and “Apple after launching of iPhone 5”. One of the students in one pair was a news anchor and another was an expert, in my pair I just helped a student to create the text and he performed as a news anchor alone.

5. We performed the reports and gave each other feedback.

Lesson 2.

Aim: to revise previously taught vocabulary and get acquainted with new phrases in order to use them to describe financial events.

1. To revise the previously taught vocab I created a word cloud with all the words plus some extra words on finance already familiar to the students. You can do it here http://worditout.com/word-cloud/make-a-new-one.

фотография

I read the definitions of the words and they numbered the words. After that I gave them the definitions and they checked the answers in pairs. Then we checked it as a whole class (usual checking stuff, you know)

2. Market Leader p 53. We did the vocab tasks as they are given, checked in pairs and together.

3. The next task can be described as a dictation of a graph. It can be modified depending on the number of students. If you have an even number of them they can dictate to each other, if the number of students is odd, as I had three students you can give a graph to one of the students sitting their face to the board and one student would draw on the board and one more student would sit with their back to the board and draw the same on a sheet of paper.

As you put your students in the necessary positions do your best to explain the task as easy as possible.

a) the person who has a graph dictates everything to their partner

b) he/she has to replace the underlined words with definitions

c) the person drawing the graph on the board or on the sheet of paper should guess the words from definitions and write original words

When everything is dictated the both graphs should look the same.

Here are the examples of the graphs:

Doc - 10.10.13, 22-53 - p1 Doc - 10.10.13, 22-53 - p4

4. The last task is taken from the book “Words at work”, exercise 9. It is a game where when getting on a cell with a situation you should decide whether it’s good or bad for your company and move 2 cells forward or back accordingly. It’s relaxing after such a challenging activity as the previous one.

After these two lessons I was sure that the students learnt the vocab quite well as they could freely use it without looking at their notes.

I would appreciate it if you leave your comments or ideas on the lessons I described.

Cheers