Critical thinking irritation

Let’s think critically about critical thinking. 

I have always thought that the purpose of my work is to teach communicating in English with people from other countries as freely as possible. I’m not saying that such issues as critical thinking or unconformity don’t matter at all, but there seems to be a huge buzz around them. I love asking thought-provoking questions and discuss burning issues but I’m really reluctant to make it my major concern. If it’s such a crucial matter, why don’t they implement it as an independent subject in a school syllabus? I want to underline that I’m not against fostering critical thinking, actually, I’m quite in favour of it, but I’m starting to feel that too much importance is placed on this matter, so that it may well get you side-tracked. 

Teaching critical thinking is often opposed to ‘doing’ tests. But yes, some students really need tests for entering universities or just understanding where they are on the scale, whether they have moved a step forward. But to pass a test they don’t only need to know English well, but also to know how to approach one test or another and what is tested in each task. This also should be taught to facilitate the procedure and save time during a test. Unfamiliarity with a test format may lead to nervousness, time-consuming approaches to tasks and eventually to failing a test or doing it with a worse result than expected. Subsequently, it brings the feeling of disappointment and frustration which may be followed by discouragement to continue learning and improving.  Therefore I want to urge you to teach speaking and understanding English, to teach understanding the culture and mentality, to teach how to approach tests and to let critical thinking emerge in discussions created for practicing English.    

That’s all. Thank you. 

P.S. And, yes, I know that critical thinking is a 21st century skill and all that jazz. 

P.P.S. The picture portrays my view on cramming huge ideas into a framework of another huge idea that leads to a weird and eclectic phenomenon which doesn’t make sense.

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What is discouraging after CELTA?

It is a spontaneous post and the list is obviously not complete, but here are some issues that drive me crazy.

  • I don’t have time to plan properly therefore I encounter various problems due to insufficient planning and feel awful exiting a classroom. Since CELTA it has been a couple of times when I was more or less happy with my lesson.
  • I spend all my free time planning and feel overwhelmed by work. My acquaintance has recently asked me what I do for entertainment, I said “Work or read Tweeter (that is about work as well)”. Frankly speaking, I love my job, I enjoy teaching, but sometimes it’s too much.
  • Tons of information including non-CELTA-way of teaching shatter my unstable foundation, unstable – due to the lack of proper experience. By ‘proper experience’ I mean lessons which I am satisfied with. That leads to the feeling of trying to build a house on wholes. I am trying to say that it would be brilliant if I could become confident in CELTA-way teaching first to be able to move on, but I can’t due to the reason listed above.
  • There occur situations which I wasn’t prepared for during the course. One of the most frequent situations with Russian students (don’t know about others but my colleagues and I face it) is that they stubbornly resist trying to infer meaning through picture/example/text/situation/explanation/whatever. For instance, I need to explain the word ‘a pot’. I show a picture and say ‘This is a pot’. Believe me, I found a good picture! And some students still claim to say what the Russian translation is. It’s like trying to break a wall using your head – painful and unproductive. Some of them even get angry and I know why – they feel insecure and afraid of looking stupid, they are used to different teaching approach (grammar-translation I mean). So what shall I do?
  • Small groups is another problem. I have a very limited range (if it can be called so) of interaction patterns when I have a group of 2 or 3 people. I am collecting ideas and tricks on how to vary interaction in such groups. It’s one more ‘entertainment’.

What were you anxious of frustrated about shortly after CELTA? Or maybe what are you disappointed with now?

Lesson plan – In a cafe (NEF Elementary)

Now I want to share a lesson plan with you and I’m looking forward to your comments and opinions.lesson-plan

So, it’s New English File Elementary Practical English Unit 3 “In a coffee shop”.

I need to say that not everything went as I had expected and after some time spent reflecting on how I should have done it better I’m going to write the second version here. If you’re interested to know what my mistakes were just let me know in the comments.

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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.

Never underestimate CAE tasks

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Isn’t it a tricky test? I would like to create tasks for this kind of exams)
A-ha-ha!!!
But still it’s just me who made it difficult. Has it ever happened to you?

As you might know, while preparing for exams and doing a lot of practice tests you figure out which tasks are easier for you and which require the most of your concentration and attention, therefore approaching ‘easier’ tasks you subconsciously relax and lose kind of mind agility. And it’s the time when a failure comes. That’s what happened to me at the last task of CAE. I got used to considering Listening Part 4 the easiest possible task, while Part 2 always made me gather all my skills, concentration and apply multi-tasking. It actually turned out to be quite the opposite! Though I completed all the tasks, I’m really not sure about some answers. I just didn’t listen when I needed.
So, I think there is no need to describe my experience of taking the exam. Just a piece of advice: don’t lose your concentration till the end. It’s an insidious test.
But the examiners are usually really kind and positive. Entering the room, just smile and relax. Try to make it pleasant and interesting for you.
Personally, I enjoyed it a lot. And I hope (due to the result) it’ll be the next signpost in my career.

Have you ever taken CAE or FCE? What are your impressions? What advice can you give? Do you agree with mine?

How to keep cool words in your active vocab?

Hi everyone!
Anticipating CAE exam I am wondering how the hell to keep all the cool words in my active vocabulary. Are you familiar with that feeling when you find some stunning and sophisticated phrases which you just love pronouncing but you know due to your vast experience that you’ll inevitably forget them not later than the same day? What an awful and hopeless and desperate feeling! I just hate it.
I would really appreciate it if you gave me a piece of advice how you manage to do it or how you heard somebody does it. I just tend to think that my mind isn’t supposed for such an activity.

Love,
Me