Category Archives: handies

Guest teaching, everyone learning (in Hue, Vietnam)

My first trip with Teachers Helping Teachers SIG to Vietnam is over now. It was a whirlwind – and a blur. There is a lot and too much to reflect on as a result, there are projects to work on, decisions to make, new friends to keep in touch with, professional and life goals to set and work towards. You’d never think so much can happen to a person in a week’s time! But this is all material for some other posts that I will or will not write here. This one, however, is about a class I taught as part of our program and that many of YOU, readers, Twitter and Facebook friends, made possible. Here’s how it happened.

***** Planning *****

As I mentioned earlier, the program involves some of us, volunteers with the THT SIG, guest teaching a class in the university where the seminars for teachers are later held (Hue University of Foreign Languages which has apparently been the partner and platform provider for the seminars for about 12 years). Anyway, I had never before been faced with a task to teach a class of students in a country I hadn’t even been to before and frankly, know very little about in terms of education or English education. So the first thing I did was write an email to my partner teacher.. and ask a million questions. I thought I could come across as a little over-anxious, but I needed to know certain things before thinking of a lesson plan. Things I needed to know were the following:  What time exactly does the lesson start and finish? Is there any break between two periods? Who are the students? What is their major? What is their level of English? How many students can we expect in the classroom? The class is scheduled to be a listening class – does that mean that same group of students has a variety of classes throughout the week that focus on different skills? Should our lesson be a listening lesson as planned – or any other focus is possible? Would you like to team teach or would you prefer me to teach the whole time? What do you think will be best for students? Is it necessary to use the topic shown in the syllabus, including the textbook and materials that you and students have – or are you allowed to diverge from the syllabus in this guest teaching class? If it’s necessary to follow the syllabus, could you please fill me in on the important details (textbook pages, what students will have done by then, etc). And if you are allowed to have some freedom in our guest teaching time, would you have any preferences as for the topic? 

Luckily, the teacher, Ms. Phuong aka Kathy was very positive in her response and seemed happy to communicate on these and other points I had for her later. She gave very useful feedback to my lesson idea, too!

And my idea was to have students explain things related to what they know best – their culture. Using Twitter and Facebook, I asked a simple “What would you like to know about Vietnamese culture?” – and got a list of 15 or so questions. Thank you! 🙂 Again, I so easily got the proof of how social media (AND personal) connections can empower our teaching, something I’d almost forgot about teaching in my current job.

Fast forward to March 21st. I’m in the classrom and students slowly trickle in – and I know we won’t be starting on time (which is fine! I remember how to be flexible.) I was feeling nervous, but then I saw maybe students were kind of uneasy, too, and that’s only natural. We chatted about it a little, we smiled. I tried to use the marker on the whiteboard and it didn’t work. Ms. Phuong took a marker out of her own bag and gave it to me. Somehow, I wasn’t even surprised that would be the case – both in Russia and in Japan I carry my own markers to the classroom.

Anyway, back to class. In the first 45-minute period we did an activity where students speculated about what my life as a Russian living and teaching English in Japan might be, on certain topics that I gave them, such as my house, my daily routine, my free time, etc (I modified one of the activities from Culture in Our Classrooms book).  Time-related and other reasons prevented us from working on ALL of the questions you asked in the second period, I hope you understand. I had to make a choice and picked, together with Ms. Phuong, ten questions that would be most suitable for the level of the students and their ability. I dictated the questions, then students had to choose at least 3 questions that were interesting for them to respond to and work on those individually. I was surprised and happy to find that most students answered almost all of the questions! After talking about their answers in pairs, they were to put their name and a smiley face on their paper IF they agreed to let me use their ideas for this blog post. 🙂 Now, this is what it’s all about. Here’s what you wanted to know about the Vietnamese culture – and we bring it to you.


1. How often and what do college students drink in Vietnam?

College students often drink milk tea and beer when they hang out with their friends.

College students in VN hardly drink alcohol like beer but they drink milk tea and canned drink like Coke. We sometimes drink beer on special occasions like birthday or reunion party.

They often drink milk tea and coffee 5 times a week.

In VN, they often drink milk tea, coffee, fruit drink, cane juice with friends after school, in free time or on weekend.

Quite often. Especially among young college students and young people who are so corrupted (playboys/girls). They drink on most occasions, like random parties, birthday parties, relative parties, etc.

Coconut, sugarcane juice…

Students in Vietnam often drink some fruit water, milk tea, coffee, etc…

Vietnamese college students often drink beer, local beer, and some kind of soft drink.

Twice a month, beer or sweet canner.

Sometimes, when we meet highschool classmates or have some parties. We usually drink beer. Some girls drink coke or something not alcohol.

College students often drink milk tea and smoothies. They drink when they go out with friends or sometimes order from home.

They often drink milk tea, soft drinks, beer.

2. How do Vietnamese people celebrate Lunar New Year?

Vietnamese people celebrate Lunar New Year by cooking “Chung” cake, decorating their houses by blossom trees, and giving lucky money.

VNese people shop for new things for celebrating in their house, buy new clothes to prepare for Lunar New Year called “Tet.” During Tet they visit each other and hang out with their friends or relatives.

Vietnamese people usually cook delicious kinds of food and put them on altar for commemorating ancestors. In addition, they decorate their house and go shopping before Tet. On the first day of the year, they often visit their relatives and children receive lucky money from adults.

The Vietnamese often decorate and clean their houses in Lunar New Year. They decorate their house with lamps, flowers, papers, etc. They also paint again the walls in their house. They prepare a lot of materials to make “banh chung, banh tet,” such as pork, banana leaf, green bean. Members of the family come back and celebrate Lunar New Year together.

The Vietnamese often offer the five-fruits tray that symbolizes the good luck to expect good things in life. It is considered the tradition of Vietnamese culture. Besides, they often buy some flowers, apricot blossom, kumquat tree, etc…

Vietnamese people try to be tactful and careful when they celebrate Lunar New Year.

We clean the house before the new year. Three first days of the year we visit relatives, children receive lucky money, they go to pagoda for wishes.

Before Lunar New Year, everybody in family stay together to cook rice cake and vegetable pickles. The older give the children lucky money.

3. What do Vietnamese students like to do with their families and friends? Is it true that Vietnamese students care more about their families (than friends)?

Yes, it’s true that Vietnamese people care more about their family. Students like to hang out, travel with their friends, and stay at home and cook with their families.

VNese people like travelling with their family and spend their free time after school wth their friends. It’s true that we care more about our family. Family is always the most important and priority.

That’s true. In their thinking, family is all.

They want to go out, travel with their own families. Especially when there are family reunions, they gather family members and have parties to celebrate. It’s also true that most of the young VNese people care about their families, especially after marriage, young people now have their own family to care about, but they still help and send money to their elderly parents.

Vietnamese students like to have meals or travel with family and like to go shopping or watching movies with friends. It’s true that VN people care more about family. They spend more time with family and share happiness and sadness together.

With family, I like all members sit together chatting after meal. With friends,  I like walking and eating out in a place for students. It’s true that we care about family, because often the majority of the Vietnamese live three generations together and people care for each other, especially the elderly.

I don’t know about other students but I like to have a meal with my family, I want to be with them as much as possible. I have been far from them for 6 years. And I want to travel with my friends, we will have a great time together.

4. What countries are attractive for travelling and for studying abroad?

Vietnamese students really want to travel to Australia, Korea, Finland and America.

For the VNese, Thailand or some Asian countries are the most frequent places for travelling. For studying, they choose America, Singapore, Australia or Canada mostly.

Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, becacuse they have delicious street foods and nice view places.

I think Australia, Canada, America… Because their education system is very developed and modern. There are many famous and beautiful places… There are a lot of lecturers who are so friendly, helpful, well-educated… We can exchange culture and languages with other students because they are from many countries in the world.

I think China is attractive because I also learn Chinese language.

The most attractive country for travelling and study abroad is America.

England, USA, Singapore, Japan.

5. Do Vietnamese students make up English-sounding nicknames for classroom use and for daily life?

Not very many Vietnamese students create their own English-sounding nicknames in class or daily life.

We rarely create English-sounding nicknames. We usually make nicknames by animals’ names or someone’s specific character.

Yes, they do. There are some reasons why students want to give their friends or themselves a nickname. Some people think it’s cool to have a foreign nickname or it simply sounds funny compared to what VNese think about names and such. For example, people call me “Tomorrow” because my last name is “Mai” and it means “the next day” or “tomorrow” in VNese.

VN students don’t create English-sounding nicknames for English class but for daily life most students use the nickname that their family usually call them.

I have a nickname for my English class but I don’t use it for daily life. I think everyone is the same with me.

6. Which is more cool, Japan or Korea?

Korea is cooler!

Korea is more cool for Vietnamese students. They love K-pop.

I think it depends on what culture and language people are interested in. Like, part of the young people love Japanese culture, anime culture, J-pop, etc… They will choose Japan. And the opposite part for Korea if they like Korean fashion and K-pop.

I think Korea Japan is more cooler than Japan Korea.

I think Korea.

Korea 🙂

I think Japan.

7. What are key necessary ingredients for a Vietnamese meal?

The necessary ingredient for a Vietnamese meal is sauce, for example fish sauce, soy sauce.

The important ingredient is fish sauce.

I think this is fish sauce. Because my mom says that most of the dishes taste best with fish sauce.

Fish, rice, and pho.

Rice. Of course.

Rice, vegetables.

8. In Vietnam, what is a polite way to greet someone?

The polite way to greet someone is to shake hands.

Say “Hi” and wave hand.

The polite way is shaking hand and hugging each other.

You wave one of the hands and say “Chao,” “Xin chao,” or “Hey”… Something like that, at the same time.

Shake hands and say hello, or wave hello, call name…

Greeting and a friendly smile 🙂

Say “Hello” and make friends with somebody and smile at someone.

Look at her eyes and smile.

Say “xin chao”

9. What clothing is appropriate in Vietnam?

Vietnamese people can wear any clothes, but not to show a lot of cleavage.

Jeans and shirts or T-shirt, shorts are acceptable.

To the oriental thoughts: men can wear any clothes they want but women should wear full-covered clothing or people will consider you are a naughty or a play girl. But in modern days people are more open-minded and wear Western-style clothing more.

Ao dai, T-shirt and trousers, dress…

Ao dai is the clothing suitable in Vietnam.

Skirt or jeans or T-shirt.

You can wear everything you want but not too short or small.

Jeans, skirt, shorts.

10. Do Vietnamese people travel around Vietnam? What are some popular destinations?

Yes, they travel around Vietnam. The popular places are Hue, Da Nang, Da Lat, Nha Trang, Sapa.

We do travel around VN. Some famous destinations are: Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, etc.

Some people do, some don’t. If they have good financial condition, they will. But still, some people just want to work more and more, and save money for the living purpose, not to enjoy life…

Sapa, Hoi An old town, Nha Trang beach…

Yes, they do. Here are several destinations in Vietnam: Hoi An ancient city, Hue city, Phong Nha-ke Bang cave.

VN people travel around VN very much. There are many beautiful caves in VN that attract tourists to go there.

Vietnamese people travel around Vietnam. The places where Vietnamese always travel are Da Lat, Da Nang, and Son Doong (Quang Binh, DMZ).

Da Lat is the most interesting place for travelling because it has many beautiful views, fresh air and flowers.

Yes, I do. Some popular places are Thien Mu, Dai Noi, Nguyen Dinh Chieu street and so on…

I think that is Danang and Hoi An. There are a mix of modern and traditional. I have never been there.

Yes, they do. They often travel in the summer or spring. Some popular places are Da Lat, Da Nang, Sapa…

***** Final thoughts and comments *****

I would very much like to thank this group of students, who didn’t know what kind of class they were walking into on March 21st, but were all so engaged and responsive and active. I had been nervous imagining what it was going to be like, teaching a class of students I don’t know (and who don’t know me!), in a country I’d never been to before. In the end, it was so much fun – and I hope the information they shared can be useful for anyone who wants to know more about Vietnam. Ms. Phuong, Doan Van Vu, Pham Thi Thuy Linh, Nhat Minh, Lien Thi, Thanh Nhat, Thuy Dung, Hoang Anh Mai Thi, Tien, Linh Thy, Nguyen Phuong Thanh, Vo Thi Van Tham, Hong Diem, Minh Trang, Phuong, Nhu Quynh… Thank you so much – and I’m sorry if I made any mistakes in spelling out your names!!..I did my best 🙂 And I truly hope I’ll see you again.



P.S. Random notes:

  • their handwriting is a beautiful cursive!! Very impressive penmanship.
  • after class a few girls came up to me and wanted to become Facebook friends. Each of them later sent me a private greeting and thank-you message! I was touched and again impressed by their social media manners 😉
  • it was already in Vietnam that I learnt that every word in Vietnamese is one syllable (right?…). So they spell their country as Viet Nam. Hence the abbreviations you might have noticed in their writing – VN and VNese people.
  • maybe I remember how to plan a class that is not a discussion class that follows a similar structure each time. Maybe I remember how to be a little creative and flexible in-action. I was relieved to feel how I felt teaching what I myself chose to, and being comfortable and confident doing so. I think maybe I’ll be OK in my next job.  🙂


Thank you for reading, as ever. I hope this post can be useful in some ways, to some.


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More about 30 questions

So I blog sporadically here and there (and there) but this particular emerging space is my comfort hub. There’s no, or little if ever, sense of a critical eye frowning over what I post on these pages, which fact makes me feel free to blabber my way from month to month, all through the year into the next. Namely, into Orthodox Christmas day 2015, right into this post about how I asked myself and my students 30 questions.


***** Taking personal (and a personal journal) into class *****


As much as I’d like to fantasize about myself being special, I really am no different. Every end of the year I look both back and ahead to come up with reflections and resolutions that are then shaped into something on paper. These have been lists, mindmaps, structured passages, incoherent passages, questions and answers. Well, frankly speaking, this is the first time the year analysis came round as answers to 30 questions. You can find the questions themselves in this post I just wrote for TeachingEnglish Blog, and to make your life even simpler here’s an extract from that post to shed some light:


In the end of December I decided to do a certain exercise that I’d found on the Psychologies mag webpage (here’s the link, but I feel the need to warn you that the page is in Russian). The idea of this exercise is to help you shape your reflections of the year by asking yourself 30 questions. These questions were picked by the author of the article from the book “My 5 years. 365 questions, 1825 answers.”


Unimportant note with a possibly more useful link: after 2 minutes of googling and finding this page for the English (original?) version of the diary book, I realized I’d seen it before. Josette LeBlanc would know where =)


As I was thinking, smoothly and effortlessly retrieving the highlights of my year, and methodically writing my way through the questions, I saw this as a perfect task for my class. The following day the following class happened:

* Students (2 girls in their twenties) and I worked together on translating the 30 questions from Russian into English. The task was good for their level, but more importantly, it was a useful time to collect their thoughts for the future answers.

* The task assigned was to pick any 3 questions to talk about; any other 2 questions to write about; 1 more question to ask their partner and ensure some dialogue happens. As I’d brought my journal into class, they could see I’d already answered a few questions myself and kept writing as they were writing. Initially, I had not planned to actually share my answers or participate in the 3-2-1 task but I had no problem doing so when they invited me to.


Then we ate gingerbread cookies that I’d cooked and brought, drank cherry tea and were off for holidays, more deserved for the students than for this idle travelling teacher this term. The class was as pleasant and smooth as I’d seen it to be, but the most exciting thing was to find the impact of it in my Instagram feed right on New Year’s Eve. One of these students tagged me in a long post she’d written there (in Russian)), which summed up her reflections of this, important for her, year. It was the first long Instagram caption (post, I insist!) for her, and of this sort, and she mentioned that our class had inspired this. It was undoubtedly the best present and, in plain honest words, – just made me feel happy and even somewhat special for a fleeting second.


That’s all that happened. It took me 2 more days to finish my 30 questions which, in fact, did not cover most significant points and shifts in my own year 2014. It was a truly special year and parts of it I have been sharing in this space throughout the year. I will continue to do so with no promise of my posts to be solely about teaching. In the meantime and to finish the first post 2015, here are three of my *23* resolutions for this new promising year, accompanied by 1 image:

1. I will try to write one blog post or an article once a week (“What a lame resolution it is”, I thought to myself as I found this new blog project by David Harbinson!).

2. I will try to look for a chance to write freelance for some online magazine. NON-ELT. Challenge of all types – to create more opportunities for writing with deadlines; to see what I can write about if not about English language teaching. It’s a resolution with roots all the way back to my teenage years, you gotta start some time.

3. I will be this (see the picture). In my class and out of it.

FullSizeRender (1)

My current personal journal, thanks to Cecilia Lemos, still true 3 years after.

Thanks for reading.

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A Guide That Will Teach You How You Must Live (in Russia)

I’ve been doing travel tips for visitors to Russia with students in my course for 2 years, and it was just last week that I felt satisfied with how it went. As my annoying habit goes, I feel like analysing why. There is, I suppose, a mix of external factors, my general easy-going happy feeling these days, and attitude to class this term.

Anyway, the “analysis” comes at the end of the post. Enjoy the The Guide now, written by my students. Or, rather, the guideS, as you should probably know that Moscow is not what Russia is. So we had two groups of students writing up lists of tips either about their native Moscow, or notes based on their knowledge of life in their native small towns of Russia (or cities other than Moscow).

tipsmediumPhoto of my student’s paper, with reference to Dr. Strangelove

In Moscow

Subway is better than trams, buses, etc. but it is most crowded. Don’t use private taxis! Be careful while crossing the road, drivers are not very polite (if we compare us with Europe). Use bicycles, many bike lanes are made now. There are usually a lot of traffic jams. Some buses which have an index number may have shortened their route, so be careful. In the centre of a platform of metro stations there’s a red and blue post marked INFO with a metro map on it.

You should stand up if you see a pensioner standing and looking where to sit. People seem to be very unfriendly and angry because they do not smile, but our people are actually very hospitable and outgoing if you need help or advice. Russians become very very friendly after some minutes of conversation. Be ready to understand irony and sarcasm. Giving gifts and presents is traditional, it means that people show their emotions. Talk about the beauty of Russia if you want to break the ice in conversation. Russians like to complain and to criticize something (but not themselves).
Russian art, literature and classical music are nice to be talked about.

You can find food of any cuisine in Moscow. Be sure to try the taste of Russian honey and caviar. Russian people like to eat soup. Don’t drink water from the tap. It should be boiled before drinking.

What to visit?
Visit Vorobyevy Gory (and make a choice what to visit looking at the city from the observation deck on the hill). Don’t visit the outskirts. 1/3 of the city is green – go to the parks!

Language and communication
If you speak English (slowly) people will understand. Learn Cyrillic alphabet before you come.

Schedule and times
There is no fixed timetable in the underground but in the rush hour trains come every 50 seconds.  You cannot buy alcohol after 10 pm.

Have passport with you (in the city)!!! You need to ‘register’ in Moscow! Police are allowed to stop anyone in the street and ask for documents. There are a lot of different nationalities, you shall be acquainted with these cultures.

Prices are high. There are a lot of malls. Check the receipt and change on the spot.

High prices. Be careful if you live near a football stadium, it might be dangerous in time of a match. Our electricity standard is 220V, 50Hz.

Hot dogs
Avoid stray dogs!!! People don’t clean after their dogs – be careful!

Don’t wear very expensive shoes in the winter (chemicals in the streets). Weather is totally unpredictable. Summer in Moscow is very stuffy.

Do not drink alcohol or smoke in the streets, it is illegal. There’s free wifi in most cafes in Moscow.

Have a pleasant stay in Moscow!


Out of Moscow (in a small town of Russia)

Try to communicate with people using simple and basic phrases because people in small towns don’t know English well. Talk to young people. Try to learn and understand Russian phrases and greetings (da, nyet, dobri vecher, privet). You can have an eye contact in conversation but remember: touch contact is preferable only with close friends in an informal atmosphere.

You should avoid shopping in underground crossings, there are poor quality goods there. You should look at the date of manufacture of a product.

Food and drinks
You can knock spoon when you mix sugar (in your cup). Stick to restaurants or cafes that you know (for example, McDonalds or KFC). You should try specific dairy products, like kefir or ryazhenka. There’s a stereotype about Russian love for vodka. Many people in Russia can’t stand it. Drinking age is 18 y.o. for beer and 21 y.o. for spirits.

Be prepared to extremely noisy subway, buses and trolley-buses. In many Russian towns you have to pay fare to a bus driver. Try to stay close to the bus doors at rush hours. Otherwise, you should push your way to the exit.

Technology and communication

Some Russians like to show off their gadgets. Russians have many outdated things. Many Russians use headphones or earphones. In most towns you have access to 3G Internet.

Mentality/ culture

Keep in mind that Russians are people of extremities. Russians are straight-forward, direct and speak openly. So they like to comment on what they see and discuss people’s behaviour. Some Russians like to teach you what you must do and how you should live. Tolerance… almost no tolerance. Everything looks better outside than inside. Hot discussions are a normal thing. Dark tones prevail in clothing. Avoid contact with people wearing sport suits. You can see wild animals in towns (for example, bears and wolves in Nizhnevartovsk).

Police in Russia aren’t police in your country. Avoid contact with them. If you lose your gadget, put up with it. You will never find it. It’s better to have an insurance. There might be no toilet paper in public toilets.



One big reason for me thinking it’s gone better this time than at previous times is the introduction of categories, for which I thank this post. We’d read and discussed these tips written by Korean students first, and I believe the style they are presented in, as well as the type of information, got their reflection in what my students came up with. Another thing is stereotypes. Every year I have to remind students to keep away from promoting a bear, matreshka, vodka, valenki and ushanka kind of image. This culture trolling is ultimately their first choice, always. Somehow this year we managed to mostly avoid it, well at least in writing and the follow-up discussion. Of course, the jokes in the process of working on the tips were in abundance.

Talking about culture you live in and being neutral about it is very difficult. Still, I think maybe this year the overall picture is more realistic and complete than before. Also, it’s always been a flawed idea from me to ask them write only 10 tips. This is, on reflection, my final big reason.


*** A personal note on a small town in Russia ***

Yesterday I went to Ryazan, a small town with a very long rich history 200km from Moscow. I spent half the day walking around seeing the sights and also paying attention to every little detail around me (about place and people). My guide was a most kind, open and naive girl I’ve seen in a long time, or ever, here. Or it’s just as likely that I never gave it a thought or a close look. I might write more about the day some time later because it was a whirlwind of emotions and a week’s worth of impressions (although I believe a lot and quite enough has already been written about the dramatic disparity I’m just now redefining for myself). I’ve seen Russia and I’ve talked to a Russian. It’s all very vague for me now, but in a very simplified version my personal note is about being impressed and uplifted. And I’ve been impressed enough to get back to the roots and pick a collection of Yesenin’s poems as my reading choice, for today or more.

Feel free to use these tips in your class or life, and have a pleasant stay in Russia.


P.S. And just if you think you have some information to add, whatever it is, or you want to contradict, or argue, please do so in a comment. I’d be very happy to see this as start of such a discussion. Thank you.

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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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“What does it feel like to be…” The Ultimate Comment Mashup #2.

“What does it feel like to be British?”

I asked a year ago in my Posterous blog and received the following comments. I’m now securing their safety here in this post.

Read, discuss with your students (like I’ve been doing), enjoy the insider views.


In the first place I feel like George Mikes: you can be British but you can never be an English! Perhaps your question isn’t directed at people like me who aren’t British by birth, but yes, I am British, and, what’s more, a British passport is the only one I have!
So, what does it feel to be British? In my case, well, I feel more like a global citizen rather then British, to be honest. Right now, I feel more at home in Las Palmas than anywhere else, but put me in London, and in no time, it feels like home, too. Strangely enough, I feel more British when in Britain; here, I just feel…well…foreign!
So, how else do I feel? I don’t really know. Do I have any so-called British habits? I have tea in the morning and I rarely have it again during the day. I almost never have English breakfast nor Sunday roast here. Language and music wise, I feel more British than anything else, but I’m talking about 60s and 70s music and not what comes out today. I follow more Spanish sports than British and I’d sooner cheer Nadal and Alonso than Hamilton or Button. So, I guess I’m not so loyal now.
I’m probably an atypical British, but I’d like to hear from other British who have been abroad for a long time. Are they like me? Do they adapt to the local environment? Chiew


For me, Britishness can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it gives me a sense of history and culture stretching back well over 2000 years, and further back if you count pre-Romans. This richness in the environment around me is fascinating, and I’m constantly discovering new parts of my culture and country. As a country with a lot of immigrants, Britishness is also being challenged (in a good way) and our culture is becoming much more receptive to other races and cultures, up to a point. Having the passport I have has also given me an extraordinary amount of opportunities, for which I am very grateful.
On the other hand, being British abroad can be very embarrassing, because the reputation of Brits as alcoholics and/or hooligans seems to be spreading rapidly. It has already spoiled some places, although hopefully not beyond repair. Many Brits also seems to have the ‘insular’ mentality that takes it’s name from living on an island. Despite having a diverse culture at home, many Brits still think everyone should speak English and adapt everything they do to the Brits around them, whether at home or abroad. For me, this can make me feel embarrassed about being British at times.
Having said that, I will always tell people my nationality without shame, although I may end up apologising for some of my compatriots! Sandy Millin
I’ve been thinking about this more since I wrote my initial post, and what came to me is this:
The only British people may well be politically correct English people. People from other parts of the British Isles will probably tell you that they are, for example, Scottish, before they are British. Other parts of the British Isles seem to have much stronger regional identities than those of us from England. For example, Scottish flags greet you at the border, as do large ‘Welcome to Wales/Croeso y Cymru’ signs on entering Wales, while the English signs are small and don’t seem to feature any national symbols (at least, not that I remember). his lack of a strong unifying identity is something that I’ve often thought about. Sandy Millin


The first thing that popped into my head was sense of humour and self-deprecation. I have been living in France for about 6 years and this aspect always stands out to me. 
But as the first response mentioned I do feel more of a world citizen than British. Maybe that is to do with my background – Sri-Lankan Tamil family, born in Ghana, grew up in Wales, married to a French! I wonder what our soon to arrive baby will feel like when he gets asked a question about culture and nationality?
Cheers. Mura


My personal top 10 of British-feeling things would be:
1. Humour – it’s in every conversation, whether silly, sarcastic, satirical or surreal. Wordplay is a national sport and we’ve produced some truly amazing comedy series (imho). One of the few things that makes me really proud to be British.
2. Reservedness – we’re an excessively private people. We don’t like people standing too close, making too much noise, asking personal questions or coming to our house unannounced. I can see why others often think we’re cold!
3. Embarrassment – we’re chronically embarrassed by everything, from talking about sex / our emotions to unfamiliar social situations. Until we’ve had a few beers – then it’s a different story altogether. It’s why the British drink so much 🙂
4. Supporting the underdog – as soon as someone becomes successful, we try to knock them down (especially if we think they’re not modest enough about their success). We always support the little-known team, the person who’s come from a poor background, etc…until they too become successful, and the cycle starts again…
5. Tea – tea solves EVERYTHING. I’m a pretty bad Brit because I take mine black – the commonest way is with milk and sugar (also known as ‘builder’s tea’).
6. Multiculturalism – this is the double-edged sword that Sandy mentioned above! – our cities, especially London, are amazing because of the diversity of people in them. But a big part of the reason for that was probably colonialism, which is something most British feel still feel uncomfortable about (see no 3 above).
7. Eccentricity – we’re not comformists. We collect weird stuff, celebrate weird stuff and wear weird stuff. It means we produce interesting artists, musicians etc though, and I love that.
8. Freedom – having lived in other parts of the world, I now value how free I actually am when I’m at home. I can marry (or not) whoever I like, I can live where I want, say what I want in public, practice any religion or none…these are all things to be thankful for.
9. Passive aggression – linked to no 2, maybe, we hate direct conflict and hardly ever say what we really mean. Debates in the House of Commons are a brilliant example of this!
10. Pessimism – we just can’t achieve the perkiness of our American cousins. We think every new project is doomed to fail and we love to have our pessimistic predictions proven correct (‘Typical!’ is a particularly British refrain).

Other things which didn’t quite make the list: talking about the weather (we really do!); fairness; bizarre double standards regarding animals (OK to kill and eat but not to harm in any other way…) Laura Phelps


It means feeling like an island but always longing for the land beyond the horizon
It means craving sunshine but knowing one’s spiritual home is a rainy sky
It feels like early dark and Gothic civic architecture covered in soot 
It feels like a land crowded with football towns and lost canals
It means reaching for the salt as soon as food is served

Luke Meddings


This is really interesting question Ann, although I’m not sure you realise just how political it is, especially at the moment!
As an English person, I consider myself both English and British. However, that is because I consider nationality to be a large part down to geography. Simply, I was born and lived most of my life in England, which is part of Britain. That’s the land mass where I was born and I can’t claim to be anything else. Some people might claim to be only English, but I would dispute that based on my opinion that they don’t have a choice. They were born there, and that’s it.
This might sound obvious, but there are people in Scotland (and Wales to a lesser extent) who wouldn’t consider themselves British because they see Britain as a political entity. Of course, I can’t deny that, it is by definition a “United Kingdom” of nations under one government. However, I don’t feel that this kind of excessive patriotism is particular useful.
I understand why people want to define themselves culturally in relation to the place where they were born, it’s a useful way of creating a shared identity. My problem is when patriotism slips over into jingoism (from “my country is great” into “my country is better than yours”). This, for me, is dangerous and lies behind so many pointless conflicts around the world.
I should point out that I’m not classifying all patriotism in these terms. Personally, I don’t get much out of it, but if other people want to be that way, it doesn’t bother me.
So the point of this is (yes, there is one 🙂 ) is that as an English person I’m proud of our culture and the things we have given the world courtesy of Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, the Beatles, Tim Berners Lee & Emmeline Pankhurst and so on, but I don’t feel I can take any credit for that and I’m aware that most countries and cultures can also point to their own equivalents of equal stature.
So do feel I British? Yes, but it doesn’t mean much to me, but then neither does being English. The more I travel and live abroad, the less useful it becomes as I see it as fairly restrictive group of stereotypes, some true, some not, that don’t really serve me any purpose.
I hope this ramble answers your question. Now I’m off to have a cup of tea. James Taylor


Hi Anna,
Coming from Scotland I would say that my attitude towards Britishness is a rather distant one. Even though I no longer live there, I don’t think that changes all that much. My experience is that many Scots feel something similar. I can’t myself remember the last time hearing a Scot say “I’m British” unless they were publically expected to do so. I think we shouldn’t generalise but at least some of the English community feel more comfortable with their Britishness. 
Yes, connections run deep after the last 300 years together and we do seem to drink a lot of tea. But Burns did write that Scotland was a “parcel of rogues” and some down South find us up North well a bit ‘savage’. Perhaps it’s closer to the truth to say that we share many values but the UK is a patchwork of very different identities. Is that a good or bad thing? Who’s to say. So, I’ll just bloody-mindedly and Scottishly end with the Irish poet W.B. Yeats who wrote “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”. Roy Bicknell


Many thanks to the wonderful Brits who took the time to leave a comment and, well, educate me and my students in the sense of giving very genuine explanations to their feelings of belonging or non-belonging. One won’t read that in culture studies course books. I’m grateful.


If you think you have something to say to the question I posed – please do!

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“What does it feel like to be…” The Ultimate Comment Mashup #1.

A year ago I was working on the country studies course book which is now successfully published at my department and can be found on some library shelves. It’s quite probable that nobody is going to teach with it except for me and a couple of my colleagues, yet this experience was invaluable to me.

First of all, I got a taste of materials writing and I loved it. Secondly, I “tested” the power of crowdsourcing… and was overwhelmed by the results! In my two posts, “What does it feel like to be American” and “What does it feel like to be British” I challenged my PLN by asking them, British and American natives, to share their views on this. The flow of comments, Facebook shares and retweets that followed was breathtaking! Through this immediate connection and genuine open-hearted response I learnt a lot about the mentality of these two cultures. This little research  (?) triggered a snowball of exciting ideas and activities which I introduced to my students a year ago. I am going to work on bringing more out of them this coming month, so I’ll actually turn to you for assistance again very soon. =)

In the meantime, I simply cannot put up with the fact that with the official death of Posterous I’m going to lose all those precious replies for good…So I’m reposting them here in this post. For my own sake, for the sake of my students, for anybody who’d pop over here and find it exciting. Here we go.


Hi Ann,
I’ll plunge in first, and feel free to shoot me an email with any further questions/ideas/thoughts.
To be American, in these modern days, to me, means to be an individualist. To have positive relations with many friends, but to be most concerned with what is your current project, or your current relationship. While we have community, our ties are less so than other countries I’ve visited. This is visible both in our social customs as it is in our governmental policy.
To be American, for me, also means to be confused at times about a pop culture that exports itself all over the world, sometimes through its art, sometimes through its business, and sometimes through its national acts of agression. Yep, I said it and no I’m not proud of it, though nor do I identify with it that much as I see myself as a global citizen these days more than an American.
I haven’t lived in the states for more than a year or two in the past decade, and I might be a little out-of-touch with what’s going on there now, however, the more I travel and the farther I go away, the more I realize that we can talk about particularities here and there, but really when it boils down to it, we’re all pretty much the same, at least to me, in these modern times. 😉
Oh… and we like hamburgers too. 😉 Brad Patterson

To be an American is to stick out like a sore thumb, some may say this is individualism at its height. I see it in a different light-selfishness. For most, being an American means being a monolingual English speaker with little knowledge of our history. Values and beliefs vary much throughout the country some are godless, most are god-fearing and some are apathetic or agnostic. Some politically motivated, others financially driven yet all of us have a unique quality that makes us American….Here is my answer… we are independent thinkers longing to belong to a group…any group. Our greatness though comes from being in one group….A pool of people from every other place on Earth. We have small spats of violence within our borders but we all live together as one tribe. Here in the US, the only place on Earth where there is no ethnic cleansing and we are moving further and further away from our racist imperialist past. My 5 y.o daughter says to be American means to be happy, and my naturalized US citizen of a spouse says being American means being free to do whatever she wants…Which leads me to ponder why does she restrict my ability to eat a burger whenever I want? My short answer is that most of us walk around…We are passed tolerance. In the modern era we are all about accepting and respecting every individual….this is my humble view.@eslconsult


After living in Germany and for a stint in Greece and traveling to 22 countries, I have really thought about this question. It feels strange in a way because I feel as if we have the most freedom in the world and so many opportunities to accomplish great things but we rarely take hold of those opportunities. I think we are so blessed to be born in a place where we do have the ability to accomplish so much despite our economic situations in the US.
What does it mean to be American? It means to appreciate our ability and freedom to choose our paths and take hold of these opportunities to make a real impact in our world. Esther Lyre

Being American means being free to think and create. It means being proud of the red, white, and blue, and everything that is and was sacrificed to have earned those freedoms. A bit of arrogance and keeping up with the Jones’ (pardon the idiom) is a piece of our culture, but it is not what being American is all about. Melissa Emler


What does it feel like to be an American? Hated by most Nations and we don’t care that we are hated. We laugh about it, because Americans invented Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft and nearly most of the social media. PLN would not exist! Not all, but many of your PLN colleagues are hypocrites and haters too! You wanted honesty, there you go; take it or leave it. Ken Samac

(I”ll start with a quick story if I might)
It was spring 1999 and I was one of many Americans studying abroad in Spain. A bunch of my fellow American classmates and I went to a small town on the beach in Portugal for the weekend. I was the last of my friends to go to bed and I found myself partying with a group of Portuguese students. In the midst of the revelry one of them asked me where I was from. I said “America” as was my common practice at the time. He nodded and said that he knew America. Brazil, Mexico, Argentina. Yes, America. He didn’t seem to know the America that I was talking about. At some point I think I said something about Coca-Cola, McDonalds and General Motors (to my shame) in order to jog his memory. We continued talking and in a mix of English, Spanish and Portuguese it became clear to me that he was putting me on. It was an interesting and memorable experience for me. To that point in my life I had never had the experience of someone (pretending or not) say that they had never heard of my country. In some ways I think that part of being American is that no matter where you go someone has heard of your country. For better or worse there are already built in perceptions of what it is to be American. Land of the free. Land of guns. Hollywood. Drugs. Democracy. Friendly people. Conservative zealots without passports. Sports enthusiasts. Manicured lawns. Race issues. It seems that people across the world have an image of what Americans are like. To me, being an American is often about dealing with these stereotypes whether they are true for me or not. Mike Griffin


 I’m sorry, I’m a little late in responding. To me, being an American is an awesome responsibility. Without question America has been blessed, economically, technologically, culturally and spiritually. Americans today are in a difficult position. Due to an ever-shrinking planet, we must find a way to maintain our independent spirit and innovation while cooperating with many other global players. I have found through my own exposure to other cultures, that what generally sets Americans apart from other people is a sense of optimism about the future. Kevin @toeflzone

What does it feel like to be an American? What a difficult question! I can tell you what it feels like to be an American for me. I should preface this with some background information, as America is so diverse that how I feel about it is very different from other people’s views. Obviously, I am a white female. I grew up in an affluent area on the east coast. I am educated (currently working on my graduate studies), and I am employed. I am a wife, mother, and teacher. What does America feel like for me?
Competitive. I feel an intense need to compete, and I believe it is, at least in part, cultural. America is very competitive. We place a strong value on innovation and success. Part of the reason we have such disparity between our rich and poor is our ideology that people should “pull themselves up by their boot straps,” meaning, make your own success. Take care of yourself. Be strong, be creative, be the best. Never show your weakness and always win.
Curious. I am genuinely interested in other cultures. I love to read novels about various cultures, and I love participating in global collaboration. America, though we have such diversity, is somewhat isolated. Consider that in Europe, one can visit ten countries in the time it takes one to cross from our east to west coast. And each country has it’s own history, culture, and language. Yes, we have many immigrants, but America has traditionally asked them to lose their ethnic identity and become part of the “great melting pot.” I believe that has changed significantly in recent years, but that is the America I grew up in.
Compassionate. Americans want to save the world. We are generous and compassionate. The problem is, we don’t always realize that not everyone wants to be saved, nor do we always know how to do it the right way. Often, though well intentioned, we make a big mess of things. Not all countries are interested in capitalism or equal rights. We should learn a little from our neighbors to the north and stay neutral.
Proud. Americans are very proud, often ethnocentric. In my youth, I thought our way was the only way. It took me a long time to appreciate the fact that other cultures, though different, are equally good. I love my country, but I also see the value in a rich variety of cultures. I see that there is much for our young country to learn. We need to step back a bit and reflect on our overbearing presence in the world and embrace the variety of lessons offered to us by others around the globe.
These are the dominant things that come to mind when asked what it feels like to be an American. If you would like, I can ask each of my students to answer this blog post as well. They could give you an idea of what it feels like to be a teenager in America. @danielle6849


Below are the comments left by Danielle’s high school students. Unedited.

  • To be an Americans means nothing to me. I just live here and I am here in this world alone. American is not helping me do anything in life, I have to do it myself. (Rahkeya Mack)
  • What it feels like to be a teenager in America? Well to me i feel as if its hard because in order to have a stable life you have to go through a very long process. Starting with Education, than from there its like everyone is trying to compete with each other for positions in a job and when you get the position theres always someone who’s trying to take your place. What I can say is very good about America is that there is a lot of opportunities and you can be whatever you want as long as you put your mind into it and work hard to be successful. We love to see people with talent and theres many programs and associates that can help people with talent get to where they need to be. Whether their good at sports, singing, dancing or ,playing an instrument etc.
    Another good thing would be theres a lot of rights that us Americans have, which isn’t based on whether your poor, rich, black or white. Which other countries I see discriminate on rich and poor and even race. We all have equal rights here in America. Such as freedom of speech, right to bear arms ( which is the right to carry a legal weapon for protection), the right to remain silence and many others.
    One thing I don’t like about America is how they treat people with criminal records or just any kind of records period. It’s like once they have this record it follows them for life and people don’t want to hire them, knowing that they may have a family to take care of and living without a job in America is very hard, because theres nothing free specially today in this economy everyone trying to save & earn instead of giving.
    This is how I feel as a teenager living in America. (Kwesie)
  • To be a American is hard because there is so many different cultures. Also nobody is the same but everyone is equal. Everyone chooses there own paths in life from being successful to just being average. America is like all cultures put into one country. The mixing pot of the world there are product from all over the world. From different foods to clothes and music. Many people come to America to be free and to have a better life for them and there family. If there is so many positive things in America it is blind to the people that lived here all there lives. They do not see what it is like to live anywhere else in the world. (kb)
  • ” There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right in America”. I think that means the good in America outways the bad. But i think freedom means alot but we dont appreciate it because we dont know anything different so we take it for granted . I feel like if we didnt have the freedom & rights we have now or someone took them away from us we would be lost completly. Another one is Education, i feel like americans take that for granted too, especially our generations teenagers because education just isnt important to most of us & we would rather be doing something else that consumes our time.  I think the culture in America is so diverse .Theres so many different cultures here. Theres no one really here alike if you think about it . & The music is so different here, you can tell what music people listen to buy the way the dress & act most of the time. Music has such a impact on us. (anneliese)
  • Being an American to me means being able to be yourself. You can do anything in this country. People have started from nothing and ended up millionaires. I can’t think of another country that has the “American dream”. But it also feels bad sometimes being an American. things that you had no hand in, that you’re getting judged by. Everyone around the world thinks we’re all a bunch of fast food eating idiots, where only some of us are. If I go to any country around the world and tell them I’m American, then I’m going to be harassed with questions about food, or I’m going to get a lot of hatred towards me. People act like we shouldn’t care about what other countries think, those people are idiots. (Ray)
  • Being an American.This is how i feel. I feel patriotism, being able to have rights that allow me to do so many different things, i feel compassionate for every other American whose following in my footsteps to become the better of the best. I also feel very well educated, that if i were given a task. Lastly i feel pride, a feeling of deep pleasure and satisfaction derived from my own achievements that i have made throughout my childhood, but I’m sure every American can have a different perspective of the country they live in.
    I am grateful to be in a country with so many open opportunities. I feel granted that I’ve been able to live my life free of many of the worries that people face everyday such as illness, job loss, or even loosing their house. I feel i am responsible for my two foot prints on the world.
    But I’m sure others in other countries have similar feelings of pride, patriotism, and responsibility and how they feel they should have equal opportunity like everybody else. I hope my future is just as bright as my past was. In conclusion i also agree that knowing I’m American and was born in this country is usually an amazing feeling. (Nina Scardetto)
  • What does it feel like to be an American? Many people have their different views and characteristics that identifies what it means to be an American. To be an American you have to be proud of your country. When you hear the national anthem you stand up, face the flag, if you know the words say them, and as respect you take off your hat. In America we have our Bill of Rights, laws and the Constitution. As a country we follow those laws and rights and those who don’t get punished. Like any other country, America has their flaws but tend to have better problem solving skills. To be an American for me means that I value my rights and accept the consequences if I were to break the law. I also appreciate the school system and that there are trade schools. Lastly, I like the right to pick my career. (Tierra)
  • What I feel it means to be an american is pride we are a very vain country feeling that we need to help everyone before we help ourselves. We decide for ourselves whether or not someone needs help and if they want it or not we but in sometimes we help but sometimes we make the situation worse. Even though our country is in a economic recession and still there we are focusing on the middle east instead of our home.
    Corruption is also a problem here the reason we can’t get out of the recession is because our people our so greedy. To our people there is nothing more important then getting the most money possible the easiest and fastest way the banks loaning is the perfect example they gave people loans for houses they could never afford to buy even with the loan and it caused the housing market to fall apart and many people lost their home. This also caused the stock to fall again putting us close to a new economic depression but into a recession.
    Unemployment is also a problem here many people have no job. No way support their family these are all of the dark things america is facing at the moment but there are many good things coming. (Patrick M)
  • I believe that I take being an American for granted. I have a warm bed, food in my stomach, and parents who care about me. I wake up every morning and take for granted the running water I have. I always have food in my house. And I have plenty of clothes. So every once and a while I have to stop and be thankful for my life and my freedom.
    Being an American means that we have rights. We have the right to speak freely, vote, and practice whatever religion we want to. Other countries have never had those freedom. Most Americans don’t even know how fortunate we really are. But America is far from perfect.
    There is still poverty in this country, and people are homeless and Hungry. Rich people are at the top of the food chain and poor people are at the bottom. Lower income places don’t have good education and crime is very popular. Then there is unemployment, so many people in this country don’t have jobs. The Government says that they are trying to fix the problems but a lot of problems seem like they will never change.
    I am greatful to be an American. I’m greatful for my freedom, my rights, and other things that i take for granted everyday. There are a lot of things that this country has to offer. No country is perfect but i’m glad I was born here. And i’m proud to call myself an American. (Nicole G)
  • To me America is something different to me then most. Most Americans would only speak of our good sides and not the bad. I’m not one of those. Forgive me, if I offend anyone, but I speak my mind. America is tail spinning into a crisis it might not come out of, undamaged. Where there is great freedom here there is also great corruption that wants to suppres that freedom. Where the rights exist, some through their greed wish to abolish these rights. The political structure is cracking, the econic circle has broken, and the social ladder distorded.
    I’ll start off with the corruption, while Russia might have managed to escape the global econimc crisis, America hasn’t. The banking industry, who threiv off of this type of time. Has sought bail-out after bail-out from Washington. Inspite the fact that whe their representives arrived in private jets and Limozine. They got several trillion dollars, which most is just collection dust. The politicans will do just about anything in their power to stay in office.
    The rights that have been secured since the founding of this nation as stated in the Bill of Rights, while they serpass the rights of many other nations, and under threat. Unlike in China or Taiwan, we can speak out against the goverment and not be killed, the CIA and FBI will just moniter you as a “Possible threat.” Our right to bear arms, have been resritced due to anti-gun laws being rushed through. Activists have kept these mostly intact.
    As I said greed is a major player here. The rich have all the money while the midle class and the poor lose it. Our econics cricle has broken. There are few jobs left here in industry, most has been sent to China for lower pay, and no qeustions asked. The taxes increase, on the midle and poor and the rich get tax cuts. Also many simple hide their money in offshore banks to afovid taxes. Also with the basics of loans and interest here, many have loans people can simply never repay.
    Our Freedom, the most redeming trait of this nation. We are free to do as we please, just don’t break the laws. Most countries lack this, but we are losing it. With traitorous actions like the Paitriot Act, SOPA, PIPA, NDAA of 2012, which severly supress our freedoms as ganented by the US Constituion and Bill of Rights. While the world sees us as free, we are losing our freedoms. As someone said “A velvet glove covering an iron fist.” Mostly people don’t even know of these actions that are clearly treason. Created in secret and kept that way until the vote in the Senate, no questions, the President braking all his promises. Our goverment is broken, America is not as great as you may have thought. (AK)
  • Its feels good to be an American teenager. Though many others look at us and stereo type us in many ways. Americans have a great education. We like to work hard and be better then everyone else. But doesn’t everyone want the best ? In many other countries kids don’t have the same freedom or education as Americans. Americans have many ways to succeed in life. You can go back to school at all ages. Even with our health care we have many ways to stay healthy. We also have freedom of speech which a lot of other countries don’t have. Some countries kids cant even look adults in the eyes. (Bryan)
  • In my opinion what it feels like to be an American is that as Americans we need to be brave. The reason why America is so brave is because we have a lot of things that have happened in America is that we have wars and fighting for America. America has done so much of everything and that we need to have volunteering, education, and music. Volunteering is the most important thing in America because we need to have volunteers doing things for America like Firefighting, EMT, and Police Officers. Without volunteers nothing would get done. Education would be harder if we didnt have schools because schools are very important because we have to have a strong education and not a crappy one because everyone needs to learn something and we need to be strong (courtney)
  • In america, we have one of the best educations. We have many children who go above and beyond to further their education in attempt to gain a reasonable career. The education in america is one to be proud of. I learn so many things everyday from the teachers here in New jersey. Like mrs Hartman said, the compassion of every teacher to help us gain an education is phenomenal.
    In america, we have freedom. Many countries do not have the freedom that we have. I feel that a lot of us take that for granted.Our freedom is something to be proud of. Although, we cannot do anything we feel, our country does give us a lot of leighway such as be able to peacefully protest, and to make many decisions as a democracy. One of our best freedoms is freedom of religion. I myself am Jewish. I believe something other than the average american. I appreciate the fat that I can practice my religion in peace.
    In america, we have freedom of creativity. We can express our fashion sense or personality in any way that fits us. It makes every one of us unique. we have the right to express ourselves and show everyone who we are without being harmed. Many countries do not have the right to wear what they want or anything at all I feel that we should appreciate the many freedoms we have including one as little as this.
    In america, I am proud. I am proud to say that i live in america. I feel that just as Mrs.Hartman said, appreciating cultures and how they do things. Many of us do not appreciate the freedom and rights that we have. We should be proud and appreciative of the things we do have and think of those who do not get those same rights. Many people in others countries do not have the freedoms that we do.
    These are my reasons for loving America. And living her makes me feel so proud and appreciative of the things that i do have and make me have respect for those who struggle everyday to gain those rights themselves. (Brittany B)
  • Being an American means being free, educated, strong, and equal. It is a great honor to be called an American. Here, we have the freedom of speech, religion, the right to bare arms, and to be whoever you want to be. Yes there are a lot of laws and rules and regulations but over all we are a pretty individual country. We don’t have arranged marriages, we don’t have slavery, we don’t have to work at the age if five. I know all of these things seem ridiculous but some other countries have to encounter these harsh and unfair issues. There are so many things that other countries are not aloud to do and so many things that they are FORCED to do. Here, we always have a choice.
    Over all, America has some really educated people. We may not be the smartest people but we are intelligent. America does everything in its power to insure that everyone has the opportunity to have a good education. Whether its college, a trade school, a tech school, or a GED, a majority of American have some type of education. Im not going to lie, a lot of people don’t graduate from there high school, even more people choose not to expand their education after high school. That, however, is 100% their choice. America gave them the first push, if they continue on the path that is up to them.
    When you here America you think of strength. Many people say we are strong because of the Army. I agree that our Army is a main factor in America’s strength but the overall reason is because as a people we come together and form a strong nation. We, the Americans, are the reason why America is seen as a strong country. We have been through a lot. More than a lot. We have come encounter with wars, natural disasters, depressions, recessions, riots, and so much more. At any given time we could have given up. But no, we stood strong and stuck together so that we could overcome all of the obstacles put in our way. Separated we fail, but together we prevail.
    Equality is the best part of being an American. Especially for someone like me. A female who is African American and Native American. I am in the minority all around. If we didn’t have equality i would have no rights. I am not going to lie, it took a lot if fights and time to form a equal America. But in the end all the fighting, waiting, and time payed off. Now women have the same rights as men. African Americans and every other minority have the same rights as Caucasians. There are still people who believe that some people are still beneath them but you can’t change everyone.
    Overall, America is a great place to live. Being granted the right to be called an American is also a great opportunity. There are still many flaws but no one and nothing is perfect. Anywhere you go will have flaws. I am just proud to be an American. (Raiya J)
  • I will not lie but it feels good to be an American. To me its the land of Freedom. The fact that us as Americans can fail and get back up and do it again without anybody talking down on us. I love that we can all be classified as equal school wise. I know in other countries kids do not have the same education as we do.
    I feel that we have fresh food prepared everyday. For me to be an American means a lot because we all have the same rights no matter what class,race,age,gender. For example if i want a job oppertunity at this big CEO company and someone much older is going for the same job choice. Me and the person have to same EQUAL chance of getting that job. I know some countries would have took the older person because that person is older and i know that some other places would have pick me because im younger.
    Which will bring me to my next point that America is an competitive place to live. If you want a job choice like in my 1st example you have to show the owner/person who is hiring you that you deserve that spot only because there is a lot of people fighting for that same spot. That might be a down fall but it just shows that America does not just give out any job to any random person.
    If you were to just come to our country you will find out that our country is so divided up into a lot of things. Like our cultures and music. The way we dress would shock a lot of people by surprise just because we dress so differently. Sagging pants,Holes in pants,the shoes we wear,Hairstyles. That type of culture down here is normal because were accustom to it. Food is really different down here too.
    We have a lot of rights that make our country different from other countries. Freedom of speech we can talk and say what ever we want to and i know some countries if someone tells you something you cannot say nothing back but down here in our country we can say something back. (Alberto W)
  • America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Yes it feels good to be an American because I could be living in a communist country controlled by a dictator, but America still has many challenges to over come. The quote,”there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right in America” is an understatement. We have many problems in our country and we do have programs to fix them, but not enough is being done to fix them. In the year 2012 America is dealing with rising proverty rates, high unemployment, debt, job requirements are rising, it’s a buyers and employers market, the cost of a college education is increasing, enormous inflation.
    But despite all of the problems America has it is one of the best places to live on earth. Yes, there is still lots of prejudice and a lot of barriers have been broken but The United States as a whole has a long way to go. Even though our systems designed to help people don’t do enough at least we have systems involved to help people. Because in communist and undevoleped countries there is no welfare or unemployent, or disability. In those countries if your poor your poor, if you are unable to work to bad, if you are unemployed well that’s just to dam bad because it’s like that and that’s the way it is
    To be honest I am very scared about the future and the direction of America. But a great man once said ,” we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Although in our country it is very difficult to make a living and advance in social status at least you can. (Josh M)
  • Being an american to me is the freedom to be able to express what you feel without being punished afterwards. This country gives the opportunity for nationalities worldwide to come together as one and begin to build a new life. I get to vote for who I want to be my president at the legal age. Some countries people don’t have a say so as to whom they want to be elected. I am heard whether anyone wants to hear it or not. Being an american brings freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom to present various cultures to others around you. America practices the rights of the law. The judicial system makes sure that justice is served and gives fair trials rather than taking a citizens word as other countries do. Compared to other countries we have an amazing amount of privacy. Our space is not invaded without the proper actions taking place ahead of time. We have tons of brave soldiers that fight for our country and have a ton of pride for what they do. Being an American means standing up for your rights. It means standing up for what you believe in and making sure in as many ways as you can to take action in expressing yourself as an individual even as a whole on behalf of your surroundings. Being an American paves the way for many opportunities to come your way. You grow up with public schooling being able to have the freedom to educate yourself. You grow up with the rights of being able to read billions of documented texts and are able to embrace various amounts of knowledge. Being an american means having pride in who you are. I love being an American. (Tiphani)
  • Well being an American means many things. Like for example it means that you have more opportunities, freedom, and a better education and rights. For example i was born in south America Chile until i was 4 years old. When i was 4, my family decided to move to the U.S. to find a better future. My dad came 6 months before us to get settled in. Then we can by plane and i cant remember a lot since i was so young. I do remember how everything outside the window looked so tiny and beautiful. When we arrived to the U.S, everything looked and felt different. Like when i left Chile, it was winter time and when i got the U.S. it was summer. As months went by, things changed. Their were many laws and right here that in Chile u wouldn’t even hear about. Everything was different but way better than it was in South America.
    After i lived here for a year, a tragedy happened in New York. Four planes were taken over by terrorist. Many people died on this day since they crashed them into the towers and the pentagon. Many things happened after that but not as crazy. Living here is harder but yet easier than living in Chile. So we left everything in South America, Chile and my parents had a lot of bravery to start from scratch.
    Living in America takes bravery, honor, and responsibility. Many people thinks it easy to just live here but its not. Its hard because it involves hard work. Like you need to find jobs and be able to support yourself. Other things to think about is how are you going to live here without responsibilities. You need to keep America clean so that it becomes a better environment to live in. It is a true honor to live in America because we have a lot of freedom. In other places, you cant speak your mind because you could get in trouble. So Living in America, gives you a better and more efficient life style. (Alma)
  • To be an American has its privileges and its consequences and these are my reasons how i feel about living in America. I feel that Living in America has a purpose because we all need an education to accomplish our goals and dreams when we are much older. There is always a reason for living somewhere and when living in America its to become successful in life. We all have rights and freedom and thats what makes us choose our dreams and the goals that we would like to accomplish when we are older. America has a large variety of culture and fashion that makes us living in America very unique and original. Our country is very diverse and I feel like everyone comes to America to start a new life and maybe get an education. The united states gives the opportunity to help other from different countries to come and have a fresh start. I am proud to be living in America and to have the chance to make something good of myself and become successful as i can be. (Vans)
  • In my opinion, its a pleasure to be an American. I feel America has an advantage over so many countries in many ways. Many countries don’t have good education, good food and water supply, and some don’t have a stable government like America. Even though America has problem’s, we strive to come together as one to solve the problem we may face.
    One of the most important things about living in America is you have Great responsibility. You have to work to be able to maintain some type of property and be able to afford everyday life needs. Also, having a career in some type of field of work. And in order to achieve that goal, you have to attend school such as, High School, or College.
    Second, by living in America, most American show great Bravery and Determination. America has faced many problem’s such as Wars, Debt, recession, pollution, but as a country, we are trying to overcome most of the problem’s. Also, we are mostly caring for other countries in the world. If a Disaster had occurred somewhere, America would be one of the First to try and help that country in any way as possible. Such as earthquake in Haiti, tsunami in Japan.   (Jose)
 Wow, looks like this post is going to be #1 in the mashup series. It’s an impressive bulk of culture insights first-hand, isn’t it?..
If you are British or American and have something to say on it – please do! It’ll be much appreciated.
Tagged , , ,

On today.

Hope this post, which is basically a recap of activities I did today during my two lessons at university and is totally aimed at myself, gets through and gets published on Posterous no matter what you all say. As I’m a believer.:)

So here’s what I can reflect upon as ‘a go’ today:

>>> it’s typical for students even of higher levels to keep describing things/events as either ‘beautiful’ or ‘very good’ or ‘nice’. We had our weekly series of 1-minute reports on the videos watched, and after that it was clear that our ‘beautifuls’ and ‘goods’ had to be given some company. Here’s what we brainstormed altogether (turns out everybody knows all the words already:)):

Nice/ fine/ super/ great/ awesome/ amazing/ marvellous/ wonderful/ fascinating/ gorgeous/ stunning/ exciting/ excellent/ cool/ brilliant/ perfect/ lovely/ fascinating/ fantastic

I think it’s a helpful list and devoting time to this is an investment to the future (hopefully). Besides, it’s easy to keep recycling this vocab from lesson to lesson.

<<< a typical dogme-style activity which I initially borrowed from Luke Meddings (he used this type in a lesson for the British Council as far as I remember, the recording is available online). I planned for us to speak about STRESS today, with a nice listening to do from Talk About podcast from British Council Learn English (no this is not a sponsored post!)) – which in the end we didn’t have time for anyway, like it often happens with me (time-management being my weakest point after teaching grammar I reckon..). 
So, first – my favorite mindmapping – brainstorming verbs to go with the word stress (beat/ cope with/ suffer/ reduce/ cause/ etc). Then orally a round of sentences to practice. Then post-its are given out for each to put down some ideas on: what/ doing what CAUSES them stress + what/ doing what helps them REDUCE/ BEAT/ COPE WITH this stress. I collected their responses and wrote down reasons for stress on board. Got an interesting list in the end!

– bad marks
– quizzes
– bad weather
– strange tasks (?!)
– stupid people – stupid questions
– homework which they forget to finish
– people not picking up the phone
– something they don’t understand
– not enough time for sleep

Quite a list, I thought! Naturally, it brought about a lot of discussion. They were asking each other questions, I shared my own views on this and found I am so easily stressed!))

On the whole, nice impressions from today’s classes.
Yet, to quote Limp Bizkit which I’m listening to now as a strange lullaby – ” the grass could be greener, and it’ll always be greener on the other side”. Which I now oddly apply and explain as “I can like my classes, but there could always have been given better ones instead”.

Happy, stress-free teaching to all!:)

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.



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.


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)


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


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.


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.


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)



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!


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!

The greens and fruit of ELT

What have you heard of? Parsnip? You should know, it’s outdated!



Well the caption to this picture Luke Meddings took the other day in Glasgow got me laughing and instantly gave me an idea for a lesson to try out with a group of students I teach at university.

Conveniently enough, two weeks ago we had 3 hours of heated debate sparked by PARSNIP subversive activity from 52 aka my treasure book (if by some odd chance you still haven’t, check The Round now and learn more about it, download the sample and buy the whole of it, this is a must, frankly speaking). I hope to publish one outstanding piece of student’s writing, one day, now you just have to believe me the classes were awesome and caused some productive verbal fight (nobody injured, I”m not a bad referee), a couple of subverted minds, and all in all made a lot of difference.

Today the task for them was to think ANTI-PARSNIP – create an acronym for themes they would LOVE to discuss in an English classroom. Sure it had to be either a veg or a fruit, to stick to the eco trend. I didn’t expect it could become so exciting for them – we spent 1.5h (brainstorming/creating/sharing). 

Sorry for the quality, I”ll comment on each of the posters below.







This poster expresses environmental concerns. Mostly agreed these are pressing problems. Did not agree whether e-cars are the future or not (voted for hybrid models in the end). Agreed Russia should think forward and not rely too much on the export of its resources.





Olympic Games



This poster represents cultural aspects of interest, and rather funnily (but unintentionally) puts MONEY in the very centre)) Unanimously agreed all of these themes are exciting for all. Came up with an idea for a project to be done in May – reporting with photos and video on the exhibition/event visited. Agreed that coins and banknotes tell the histories of the countries. Looking forward to discuss London and Sochi Olympics, as well as the previous games, records and athletes. Will be interesting to see if the Chinese sportsmen will prove their dominance.

 Now comes the one poster which could be the two posters as each student feels very defensive of his own ideas, and of course the compromise is including both variants in some cases.



Unabled/disabled people

Creativity (especially in science)

UK best TV show (Top Gear)

Modernisation/mobile phones

Big Ben (stands for symbols of cities and countries around the world)


Relativity (!)



As it turned out, relativity is the cause of worries of many of my students, which is of course explained by the fact they have an introductory course into General Theory of Relativity first year of university and some find it really bizarre and ambiguous and fear credit time=).

I”m so happy to see young people are educated, creative, concerned. They have diverse interests, they are active and ready to think critically, arguement their viewpoints, or take opponents’ side.

This is very inspiring. THEY are very inspiring!


Image from


Go fresh with your class!



British, American and the follow-up.

I was PLN-sourcing to find answers (or rather to gather authentic response) on the essence of Americanness and Britishness a couple of posts before, and not only did I recieve comprehensive commentaries from you lovely friends here on the blog, but also incredible resources on the topics related keep coming my way through your tweets, FB posts, and other ways. I”ve been favouriting them and marking and bookmarking but it’s clear I should publish these in a separate space open 24/7 and for everybody to use – I believe some of these may come in handy and spark lots of ideas and conversation.



Vicki Hollett’s blog “Learning to speak ‘merican” is in itself an inexhaustible source of views on Americanness (there is not such a word, right?…hm)


Measuring the U.S. Melting Pot is an interactive US map showing distribution of nationalities across the country county by county. Astounding to learn that Germans seems to occupy like most of the US=)


Two infographics illustrating American Dream: Catching Up with the American Dream and Not Your Parents’ American Dream (the changing face of it). Expect me soon to come up with some activities on these. 


America For Beginners is the blog I”ve recently found a link to in my mailbox. Its main idea is to bring American culture closer to new immigrants, and what’s intriguing – the blogger is a Russian girl Anna who’s currently a resident of Boston. Unusual stuff. 




“Make Bradford British” – a very timely TV show on Channel 4 (not to be broadcast here anyway). Check the home page for the main idea of the project, and the Union Jack composed of characteristics of Britishness tweeted under the hashtag #MakesYouBritish (flag updates every 30 sec).


An interesting article on BBC News page from Mark Easton “Define Britishness? It’s like painting wind.”


“What does it mean to be British” podcast. More debates.


A whole lot of various activities on UK Culture for learners of English from LearnEnglish brought by British Council. The vitals of contemporary culture, audio&video embedded and ready for use, recommended for Intermediate level and higher. 


My blog posts with the precious comments coming first-hand – to be checked here for American (the initial idea) and here for British (the follower to cover for another unit, and the one which got me considering Scottish/Welsh/Irish as very separate -nesses indeed).



I hope this post can be helpful not only for me but for some of you as well! Would be grateful if you leave any other relevant links in the comments, I will update the post that instant!