Category Archives: #flashmobELT

Sake, sushi and a kiss

The title of the post can make you think I will be writing about a recent visit to a Japanese restaurant. Or a poem. Or a movie script.
Well, I might. Bear with me and read on.


A week ago I started to learn Japanese. There’s nothing to feel extremely proud of yet, I haven’t learnt even half of Hiragana syllabary. But I can read something, I can draw some symbols, and I remember these three words very well.
I learnt German at the university – and gave it up. I started to learn Italian, twice – and gave it up. It’s not much of statistics but could probably lead to a thought that I still have chances to fail. Indeed, perseverance without a distinct, articulate, Big Thing purpose is not my story. That is why I like to hope that this time I’ll do better, and not only because I’ve got the Purpose and I’ve exposed my baby-learner status. I am not alone, and I am aware.
More findings of this last week below:

(1) Having the Purpose is helpful but in the long run it can be a little intimidating. When I started to study German my aim sounded something like “I want to read Remarque in original”. This is a bit of a delusion for a beginner in any language. Aspiration, yes, but not too good a goal. At the moment my micro-goals in Japanese include having a decent 15-minute daily lesson and being focused on what I’m learning. That means sitting down at the desk and writing. During the day I try to liven up my long metro commute and study more with the help of two or three apps.

Moral I’m taking out of this for my students: little aim is a useful aim. Be realistic about what you can do, then do it and stay pleased with yourself, not frustrated at your inability to come up to your own expectations.

(2) During this week I have come to see very clearly one truth about learning a language that I have always known (and it’s nothing revolutionary, you all know it, it’s just nice to think of it from another angle). Language learning does not happen in a linear way. Getting pieces of a language system together comes as a gradual consequence of a chain of tiny discoveries of every single learning moment, of every given (and taken) learning opportunity. My examples:
– I downloaded several apps both for iPhone and iPad and try to use them occasionally, on both devices. One of the apps constitutes my basic “syllabus” of learning to write, pronounce and read hiragana syllables. A couple of others work on different levels (a basic grammar guide, busuu, dictionary, study cards from that hiragana app).
– There is a notebook to practise writing kana (symbols) and simple examples, all coming from the app.
– There is a notebook to record vocabulary I come across (which for now is all mostly passive). In the same notebook I started a Week Recap section, where I basically sum up all I’ve learnt about Japanese from different sources during the week of study.
– I printed out Hiragana syllabary and look at it. (Very useful, give it a try, looking at something)
– I created a photo album in my iPhone for all pics and screenshots connected with studying Japanese. Look at them)
– I downloaded an app which enables me to “sketch” on the phone. So I practise writing on my way. Then I may post a screenshot of some word I like in my Instagram account as my #wordoftheday. I am sure followers, especially the majority of my Russian friends, think I’m nuts.)
– I visited my sister at the weekend and stayed with my 7-year old niece. We practiced learning together. For example, I drew a symbol (like き) and pronounced it (ki), she had to write it in Russian. That was fun.
– There is this good friend (thank you!), who can sometimes be seen online wearing a hat, following newly-born movements (see P.S.) and writing excellent posts, who is not bothered (or is bothered but too kind to say so) to throw in some really tough but real life examples, that is words for me to read. Or I’d say lines of symbols to decipher. These are then supplied with comments of how/ why/ what for that happens in the language. This is all terribly exciting and challenging, too. (Tip for the students – have somebody teach you, who is not formally your teacher, and who will supply you with bits of information about the language in a (yes! Again) non-linear way.)

Moral I’m taking out of this for my students: think 360 degrees, 24 hours and other dimensions. Use your imagination.

(3) First time in the two years of my geeky teacher life I’ve started to use Quizlet. I don’t know most vocabulary items I’ve put there. Words out of context and out of a bigger scheme of understanding of how the language works don’t sink in. Obviously except for those, which are either beautiful, or short, or are sake, sushi and kiss.

Moral I’m taking out of this for my students: before suggesting to your students some method or tool for learning a language, try it out for yourself. It’s interesting that last week I showed Quizlet to three of my students. One of them got off it immediately, the other two are still holding to it. The teenage girl went crazy about it, needed no explanation at all how to manage the sets, how to add words and study and play games. Fun!

Whether I fail or make a little progress is not a question. At the moment I perceive these studies as a process I enjoy. Every day I rush home imagining how I will take the pen and start writing these beautiful kana, line after line, like my niece is doing with the Russian letters and syllables. How I’ll combine them, try to give them their sound. Try again.
And there’s more to come.

Here’s a picture with the only aim to be shown as a thumbnail image of this post.


P.S. The Glorious #FlashmobELT Movement.

P.P.S. Here are links to the three blogs of teachers/ teacher trainers learning a language, writing about their journeys. Their journeys have been much more exciting (and longer) than mine, they’re definitely worth a read.

Vicky Loras on opening her eyes and starting to study German.
Ken Wilson and his series “Diary of a language learner”
Scott Thornbury’s “(De-)Fossilization Diaries

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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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