Monthly Archives: September 2012

Grammar: C-

In the spirit of today’s conversations among teachers of English that I witness on twitter and facebook and in blog posts, it would seem such a weird topic to write a post about. Well yes, we surely promote a balanced approach , but communicative side definitely takes the lead (which I by no means want to defy).

My point is very personal. It’s that I am terrible at teaching grammar. I want you to get me right, I know different methods to present or deal with a grammar point. I just don’t feel confident when I have to give a grammar class (and with the syllabus offered by my department I sometimes HAVE to). To me, like to many/most of you, teaching grammar out of context makes little to no sense. In contrast, that’s common practice at my chair. Well I don’t ever teach it this way anyway. Yet even when there’s a somewhat more flexible and balanced course I still think I will put my foot in it. Many times preparing a lesson with grammar points involved the very anticipation of the work we’re going to do leaves me with frustration. I am never sure if it’s the right time to teach this or that, the right activity, etc.

Every year 1 or 2 students write in their end-of-term questionnaires that grammar probably should require more attention in our classes. A point which I totally relate to – indeed, it should. I don’t think I’m giving my students enough knowledge in this aspect. I cover some points and structures that as we come across them cause problems during the course. But to be honest, teaching grammar..is not my cup of tea (which of course a good teacher should not feel like!..).

Here’s the downside of my teaching.

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image from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/

And so I turn to you – have you ever felt the same way? What would you recommend? I have been reading teachers’ guides on how to teach grammar, now I’d use some hands-on tips..

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First after-summer post. Plans.

I’ll keep it short and simple. In this post I’d like to remember some of the teaching ideas I used with my students last term, those that were sort of successful and ‘popular’ and which I am planning to do again. Also, I want to list some activities new to me, maybe unusual for my teaching style, those that I am planning to try out this term.

ACTIVITIES I find WORTH REPEATING.

1. TAGGING.

What used to be called ‘key words’ I now like to call ‘tags’. So we TAG whatever possible whenever it’s appropriate in our class. E.g.: a text; your own presentation, a groupmate’s presentation, a picture, a day(like April 12th), a topic, etc. We like tagging.

2. REPORTING on a video of own choice.

One of the 2 classes a week starts with their short (1-2 min) reports/summaries of a video they’ve watched in English. Links to these videos are shared in our group Google Doc. Pluses – autonomous learning (which they don’t even associate with learning very often as they spend hours watching videos on YouTube by themselves anyway), a profound source of links to be seen by everybody, diversity of interests presented, raises responsibility for choices they make, very engaging.

3. PASSWORDS.

Once in a while they have to say a password to enter our classroom, the topic/task set by me on the spot. Usually connected with what we did the previous time, or with the breaking news of the day (positive, of course). Gets students into the English mood from the doorstep)

4. MINDMAPS.

Simply the most convenient way of visual presentation of data + great for brainstorming activities.

5. BRAINSTORMING.

Nothing new, but loved by all. The more brains, the better, and I like that it gets the atmosphere in the class into the energetic, active path, which is very much how I feel about lessons.

6. USING APPS.

There will be coming a post on this. I can’t wait to be trying out more applications, in various ways, to practice different skills.

 7. ASK THESE EXPERTS.

I’ve only tried this one out once and it seemed to be worth it. I had this idea from some of my PLN, unfortunately don’t remember exactly who..

Three students are chosen to be “experts” – and they leave the room. The rest of the class decide on several topics of interest and pre-prepare questions to ask the experts. It’s good if the questions are open, lead to an expanded answer and can cause diversity of opinions (for example: “What qualities should a modern human superhero possess?”).

Experts then enter the room, take their seats in front of the class, draw cards with topics written on them. Students ask their corresponding questions. Experts start replying, a sentence each, logically continuing the idea of the previous expert. At some point during this activity (when students already feel confident and at ease) it’s also possible to start interrupting an expert for another one to go on (adds up a healthy bit of positive stress=)))

And others, will be updating the list as I remember them)

ACTIVITIES I’d like to TRY OUT.

1. DRAMA.

Whatever this could bring) as I don’t feel safe or at ease offering role-play, I thought I should try introducing some bits of drama into my lessons. Its potential is obviously grand and my own shyness and lack of confidence must not stand in the way.

2. HANGOUTS or other of the same sort.

Could dream about using videoconferencing during a lesson in the university, but realize that’s one big thing never going to happen, so – needs to be arranged in a different manner. Could be tough, so that’s a challenge!

3. ONLINE DISCUSSION GROUP or E-PALS project.

Not sure how many of my students would be interested in that, which will be presented as an extra-curricular activity. Just want to give it a try and find the most suitable and effective way to get my students in touch with other learners of English or even native speakers of the same age.

And others, hope to see some suggestions in the comments!

As for my development, I plan to videotape my lesson, ask some of my colleagues to sit in, and do more reflective practice in some ways I will find fit for myself. Bit by bit out of my warm and cosy comfort zone, that’s the plan)

Would actually be very interesting to know your lists of the same kind!