Monthly Archives: November 2013

I would love to hate.

I’m happy you’ve found the title intriguing enough to check this post. It’s going to be about love, hate and #FlashMobELT Movement.

First, think about an activity you can use (or have already been using, maybe) in your classroom, which:

  • requires the use of students’ English skills to speak about things which they probably don’t know very well
  • imitates real life (in certain ways)
  • allows students to learn what their mates think about something
  • asks them to come up with ideas on the spur of the moment
  • challenges them to speak about something without preparation
  • has them speak for a limited amount of time (30 sec-1 min) without a stop
  • makes them retrieve a huge/ small amount of words they’ve rarely/ never used before
  • lets them think about the pluses and minuses of something
  • brings them to think about something they haven’t given a thought before
  • leads them to argument the stated position
  • offers them a chance to think of alternatives to their ordinary opinions
  • is stressful
  • is not stressful

Well, this is how my students reflected on and described the LOVE/HATE activity we did last week. I picked the activity from the #FlashmobELT lino wall and you can still find it there, on a blue sticky note, signed by @michaelegriffin. That’s what it tells a teacher to do:

… have students in pairs and have one student talk for a certain amount of time (30 seconds or a minute) about why they LOVE or HATE a certain thing. This certain thing is written on the board by the teacher. The tricky thing is that the students have to decide if they will be saying they love or hate the thing before they hear what it is. When the word appears students have to speak immediately and hopefully this is a nice challenge…

lovehatePhoto of a student’s notebook

I had to clarify though that it has to be a monologue, as students kept interrupting their speaking partners to ask questions or express their opinion. then, after each minute they had to report very briefly what reasons for hating/ loving had been mentioned. That part was exceptionally good as everybody got to hear all of the reasons and in the end we had a pool of pros&cons about this Something. Or Somebody. By the way, I’m still not sure if it is a reasonable idea to include people in the list of possible words to write (like I did with Bolt and Messi). In one of the students’ feedback sheets I found a line saying it was not a good idea to talk about people, because not everybody knows much about these people. To be honest, I can’t agree this is a sufficient reason as I am very demanding towards students’ basic scope. On the other hand, I wouldn’t like my students to criticize people. When I put myself in their shoes, I don’t even want to think of possible arguments to hate Messi, not because I’m his fan but simply because it doesn’t seem right to me. However, it was fun, in practice 🙂

It seems to be worth giving students time to tell their truth after doing Love/ Hate. I didn’t really listen to my students’ real opinions about any of the words, but the funniest thing is that nobody even felt eager to share them. So maybe as long as you follow the flow of the activity and watch as it’s developing, notice students’ reactions, you can make your own decisions on what else can be done.

It’s my strong conviction that there’s always something that you try to do in a class and it sticks to your teaching, and there’s always something that you try and it’s good and seems efficient but just doesn’t feel “yours”. Well, Love/ Hate surely feels mine! I actually did it with four groups during last week, their levels varying from Low Pre-Intermediate to Upper-Intermediate. We used it as a lead-in activity into new vocabulary topics as well as a pre-reading task for the text. And every time it went down a storm.

This post marks the week anniversary of our baby #FlashMobELT Movement. It’s still fun and simple – go to the Lino wall, pick an activity that suits your objective, your class, your mood for the day. Take it into your classroom. Enjoy it and then share how it went. Join in!


You can also read reports about #FlashmobELT used at the lessons here:

Kevin Stein on how he joined his first movement in Joining My First Movement (#FlashMobELT, go go go)

The #FlashmobELT Movement post announcing the birth of it and offering you a brief summary of the first activity I used.


Here’s also the video that scientifically proves why you can’t possibly hate Usain Bolt. He’s wicked fast.

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The #flashmobELT Movement

What makes an ELT movement launch?
Two teachers in different time zones and a Facebook chat.


This was my random idea during our chat ten minutes before the lessons began this Thursday morning. It took Michael Griffin literally no time to pick up on this – and in a minute I had an activity description ready in hand. It went something like this (it’s an edited quote, not quite a quote then):

Students are in pairs. One student chooses 10 words from the text (the other person cannot look at this point) to NOT say and then reads the text aloud. The other student that is listening has to try to guess the word based on the context. The speaker has to give hints and examples, say the rest of the sentence, paraphrase. After the listener gets all the words students change roles and do the same thing again. They can choose whatever words they want – hard, easy, interesting, fun. They key is the thinking and talking about language.”

I had planned to work on a certain, very simple coursebook text with one of my lower level groups that day anyway and it was an attractive opportunity to try out something new. Due to my poor time management and the fun we were having discussing the videos my students had watched at home as part of their home task, we only got a chance to do this activity with me modelling it, that is being the reader and them being the listeners. It actually was very good! The students, who are normally incredibly energetic and difficult to manage, were all ears and very active in asking questions and trying to guess the words. After they put the 10 words down I asked them to reconstruct the chunks in which these words were used in the original text. And they nailed it! That was a really positive note to finish our class both for me and for the students. #mikemob was a smooth success!

In his message Mike also asked me to blog about it, which I’m doing now 🙂

And THAT was how the #flashmobELT movement was born.

So, what Mike and I suggest doing is this:

STEP 1. Once a day/ a week/ period of time you like one teacher shares a description of an activity to be done at a lesson. It’s probably convenient to keep all activities in one place and we suggest an easy way to do so – a Lino wall. This is the link for now. Don’t forget to share it then on Twitter, Facebook, blog or a personal mail to a teacher friend. Tag it #flashmobELT and if you wish create your own hashtag (e.g. #mikemob, #achanmob, etc) to make sure your activity is given enough credit while going incredibly viral.
STEP 2. Willing teachers try this activity in class.
STEP 3. Blogging teachers write a blog post about their experience.
STEP 4. Enthusiastic teachers catch the bug and keep the ball of the #flashmobELT Movement rolling.

The rules are subject to change as we still have not entirely agreed on whether there should be any rules except these or not. Watch the space 🙂

This is our thinking. We genuinely hope you support the movement by joining in!

The LINO WALL to post your activity is HERE.

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Feedback. My turn.

I feel a little bit guilty trashing my friends’ news feeds on Facebook and Instagram with more and more and yet more exultant updates about Japan and the impact it has left for me. This could hopefully be one of the posts to make up for the inconvenience.

On Sunday October 27th at JALT2013 Mike Griffin, Kevin Stein and I gave a workshoppy kind of a long paper presentation on student feedback. The Ideal Team have been way better at  letting you know all about it than me, so  I really encourage you to do the following reading on the topic:

Giving/ Getting Good Feedback Takes ______ (fill in the blank) by Kevin, with a sufficient list of posts for further reading and some juicy comments in the thread

Why I (often) prefer non-anonymous feedback and 8 Stories about feedback by Mike, and whether you know how Mike writes or don’t know, you must check these

Since everything has been said and done, I should be finishing my post now.

But you know, it’s the beginning of November. It’s mid-term feedback time!=)

I felt itchy to try out some new mechanism of collecting feedback out of the numerous mechanisms we discussed before, during and after our presentation.  But I remain true to myself, almost (which fact is very characteristic of how slow I am at processing information I get at conferences… I might be hopeful to try feedback another way in a month or so). It’s a more or less standard set of questions for me, but this time I’m saving class time and a tree and use

There’s my attitude to collecting feedback: I like to make students see they can help shape their learning, and at the same time be more aware of the whole process, not just passively consume knowledge. Feedback goes both ways (I second Rose Bard on that). It so does, in my perception of what a classroom is. So I have thought about sharing my mid-term feedback. My turn, I’ve been learning too.
* Which tasks/ activities were useful? Useless? Why?

I”ve found really useful to do follow-up writing activities after speaking ones. On the whole, being more consistent with writing is a good tendency for me.
* Which task/ activity would you like to do again? (or try something new?)
I’d like to keep experimenting with videos. To save time they watch videos of their choice at home, post links in our shared Google Doc (so that we can all then access them and check what sparked interest or conversation during the lesson) and then come to class ready to talk about the videos. By further experimenting I mean various ways to work on the material in class.

I’d like to use images more constructively.

I’d like to find a comfortable way and good reasons to record them speak.

I’d like to make a better+more frequent use of some activities from Teaching Grammar Creatively book I bought this summer.

* Which task/ activity would you not like to repeat in our classes again?
Maybe I should cut down time we spend on the warmers.

My inefficient, inexperienced way to do dogme style should not be repeated too, but rather improved.

I respect my students for being honest. After the Q-A session about Japan last Thursday I asked them to write sort of a summary of what they learnt at that lesson and their impression in general. One of the students wrote it was good, interesting and informative BUT it’s boring to speak about one and the same topic for 90 minutes!! Look, he’s right. It’s solid feedback.
* What do you remember best from these 2 months of studying English? What have you learnt?
I was amazed by my students’ choice of presentation topics. With them being future scientists but still very much teens, I expected talks about technology, computer games, rock/pop bands  and travel. Can you imagine my astonishment when a good forth of them all presented on classical music and literature?! Out of their own interest, because they listen to classical music in their dorm rooms when they study. So they spoke with zest and enthusiasm, doing their best. Sharing some of the music pieces later on in our study group in social network. They were excellent,even if their language or presentation skills not always were (but that’s what I’m in the room for). I was actually inspired to write this post when I opened the group this morning and played this track from one of the presentations, and it’s been on repeat for a good hour and a half.

Another very memorable moment also happened during one of the presentations. V. was speaking about social networks. Sorry, he wasn’t too ready and the last slide about Facebook was plain text. After he finished actually reading it, another student (another V.) raised a hand and asked: “Did you actually use Google Translate to get this text?” Silence. Laughter. He did.

What did it mean for me?

1) V. the presenter didn’t copy&paste a bunch of text from Wikipedia. He actually typed a paragraph of his own (probably) text in Russian into Google Translate.

2) V. the listener noticed how differently the language functioned in a paragraph from Google Translate. That is pretty amazing, if you ask me.
* Any other comments.

I felt rather insecure several times dealing with casual student remarks about our classes (I wrote about some of the most recent ones here). It meant a perfect chance to see myself through *some of* their eyes, which is painful but beneficial in the end.

I didn’t feel trapped by the syllabus even though this term I stick to it more than I normally do.

I’m trying to get better at teaching grammar, tiny steps, small change.

That’s my feedback, and it feels important to do it for the first time. Feedback goes both ways.

Here’s the lino wall my students will be leaving their feedback on. Same questions as I just answered myself.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy your days.

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Remembering JALT2013. Part 1, not too practical.

A week after the conference began I’m in a different place with a different view outside my window. It’s also a different me inside my room. She’s kinder but sadder than she used to be before she left for Japan. She’s more determined but oddly less happy in certain ways. She’s had the unique time that no other time can beat.

can’t repeat the past
but can try to catch the subsiding notes of excitement
capture the scenes and faces
shape thoughts and moments into broken sentences
and move on

And here’s a small part of what I’m taking with me

– I challenged myself a big deal and as a result proved I’m tougher than I’d imagined; comfort zone is elastic; you have no idea what you are really capable of;
– I learnt there are people who happen to be your kind of people and you don’t even need to take any time to realize that; it’s obvious, non-negotiable truth which you’ll know as soon as you get lucky to meet your own kind of people; it’s instant, deep and difficult to handle, so better step back and watch it happen;
– I saw selfless, helpful, grateful, sensitive people who fill the room with goodness so that even tough ones like me give in; made me become a little bit better myself, even if for a short while;
– I experienced insights; think, talk, write;
– I had a clear understanding of things; every minute spent in the workshop was a minute spent with awareness;
– I know how belonging feels and how much it means;
– I know now your way to live your life is not the only possible option and quite likely not the best one either; change is not just a word, it can actually happen; you make things happen, not the other way around;
– I didn’t judge, for a change, and it feels liberating;
– I know there’s bento with no rice.

I started with Jay Gatsby, I’d like to finish quoting somebody else:
“I didn’t like myself. Now I like myself a little bit.”
My point exactly.

See you in my next post, which I promise will be less bizarre, more relevant and interesting on the whole.

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