Category Archives: handies

What does it feel like to be… Part 2. British!

It’s only so natural that the more the people – the more the ideas! Isn’t it what brainstorming can be all about? And crowd-sourcing?

I’m going to do PLN-sourcing, then, and again!

Like I did once, here – and it got me incredibly inspired (and 3rd time published on an exctremely local scale))!


Fantastic shares, contributions from all over the world, thoughtful, sincere, differing, controversial – JUST like people themselves (diversity, huh?=))

Finally, the education can get personal. The pages of our course units can spring to life and speak different voices – authentic voices. YOUR voices!

Seriously, I have this feeling more and more often, I realize how lucky I am and most importantly – my students are. Since we have the chance, not so often offered in our context, to learn from PEOPLE, not from paper and ink. I feel it very acutely when I start sharing some phrases I”ve learnt thanks to you (caught smth here or there in a blog, lurking through my Twitter stream, etc). By learning myself all the time, I can literally feel it I”m giving them better quality teaching. And then we’re learning together, which is the key idea of my perspective on my own teaching style.

So much for contemplation)

I promoted the idea to use real native speakers’ response in our Country Studies Culture units, and luckily it was positively welcomed.

 So here I am, addressing you once again!


What does it feel like to be British? What does it mean to you?


Share your views, whatever they are, spread the word, and this can help Russian students (and maybe many others as well – since this is an open blog!)) get to know the sense of “Britishness” first-hand! What a good thing to do, isn’t it?!=)


Thank you!



Into the new term…avec plaisir!

Today saved me from the slow unproductive procrastination *bog* bordering burn-out which I”ve been recently experiencing in the downtime after winter holidays, with tiny bits of teaching, huge amounts of time spent asleep, all in all, being totally not the best of me)

Finally, here they come, helping hands to drag me out.


Three groups of first year students to teach this term, one of these I worked with last term.

I’m very well aware of course of the importance of the very first teacher-group meeting – producing impressions, setting the rules, meaningful ice-breakers, sparking interests, establishing firm/friendly teacher “status”. I’ve been giving first classes quite a lot of times already, yet each time I get nervous. When I get nervous I talk a lot=)

 I don’t think (at least I don’t feel) today’s first lessons were particularly successful. Maybe they were, from students’ viewpoint (looked like they enjoyed), but I keep getting this feeling I could’ve done way better! and I”m normally no perfectionist…What was it? The worst thing about first lessons is that they’ll never repeat. What’s done is done.

 What was done?


The activities that I can positively relate to:

* Describing groupmates (for the sake of introduction AND most importantly for me to remember them, on a more personal level than register’s name-surname style supposes)

Aim – to introduce a student to me, giving some special kind of information about him/her, something I could associate this person with and thus remember. Sitting in a circle facing each other (got to be this way only with one group because of unfortunate desks arrangement in a tiny room for the rest), the first student gives a description of the person sitting next but one. Continue this way until a certain point (basically when I get bored and feel we need a change). Then the system changes – now the task remains the same, but the form – now every student in the circle has to express one idea about the student of attention, points cannot repeat one another, ofc. I admit: it becomes much more difficult for a teacher to process and digest the info, BUT the winning side of it is that it gets really active. Everybody’s attentive, involved, corrects others’ points, supplies extra info or own examples of situations to illustrate the stated qualities, for example. This way a simple get-to-know-me activity has become (in my experience at least) a great collaboration story.

In the end I tried (and managed to) remember all names&connections (with their help and hints). I”ve got FULL picture of the class atmosphere, of relationships as well.

 Problem faced – in one of the groups the activity lasted hour I guess..?! Because it was a most heated discussion. Level of the group appeared to be high and enthusiasm didn’t have to be fuelled by anything more than my comments on their stories.

I’ve got the key – genuine interest of a teacher, as simple as that! Feedback, support. Sense of humour=)

We’ve come up with several vocabulary items as well during the activity – CRUCIAL, ASPIRE, DAYDREAMING, FAITHFUL and some others. All of these emergent language, as you may guess. Crucial turned out to become everybody’s favourite, it was many times suitably used in descriptions and comments.


* A personal star.

This one I should give credit for to Ania Musielak, whose wonderful workshop I attended during TESOL France in Paris last November and went out of it with 3 pages of ideas to try out (which I did))


One piece of info for each point of a star refers in this or that way to you. Work in groups (3-4), ask questions to find out connections. That worked well, we had some very creative and totally unguessable points (like 133 for Pentium133, the first computer of a st., and more amazing ones))

Speaking, interactivity, question forms practiced and peer-corrected.


Why do I feel a tiny bit frustrated? I sense I could pepper the lessons with more diversity, maybe more challenge.

Anyway those were the first lessons, and I’m planning lots and lots and LOADS more to do.

Online part of the course will include work in our group in (Russian Facebook), Moscow-Grenoble wiki, for showcase. And Google Docs probably.

 I hope for no indifference from their part.




What does it feel like to be..American?

No, I”m not going to answer this question in the post. Basically, because I have no practical idea)

The reason a title like this has arisen I will explain, though.

I’m entrusted with writing another unit for a Country Studies course, “Culture in the USA”. This is going to be a little brochure, just like the previous ones I did on Education, Science and Technology. These materials are published at Physics Faculty and are used with students of Physics exclusively. This is the way university publishing works here, teachers supplement  official courses with self-written extra material – grammar, lexis, topics for discussion, loads of ESP stuff like works on Optics, Astrophysics, Thermodynamics, etc. There are textbooks in the library which provide full courses of English for students of Physics..but they were written in the 60s..unbelievable!..Am I the only one who thinks that science well MIGHT have made a little jump forward since then?..Sure not. But it’s hard work to get a course SO specific written, and published here (I hope I”ll be among the ones who will get it done though!))


 Anyway, the problem we’re facing does not only concern ESP courses. First-year students study General English and the official book (recommended and present in the library) features the Clarks and Stepanov, a Russian scientist visiting the UK, and his “adventures” (he’s lectured on the history of the country, on the sights of London, on customs and traditions and the way the British consume their meals and garden their gardens). I have to admit, it’s almost the most boring book I”ve ever seen (the top one is the notorious BONK book). Luckily, the head of the chair is a great woman who understands that we can’t help our students meet the requirements of the world they’re going to live and work in using these Soviet time textbooks. So four teachers of the chair including me are writing and putting into a test a Country Studies course to use as a supplement for Int+ students. Hopefully, it could become a decent book one day (“decent” means hard cover, colour printing does not seem to function at our faculty, so not many chances to insert pictures IN the book, I”m preparing a separate Picture File).

That was all an intro, as you might’ve guessed=)) Sorry, I think I do get carried away in the prefaces to my posts)))

OK, in a nutshell now: there’s a certain structure I have to follow, it’s rather fixed but I”m allowed to try out different novelties, which will anyway will be looked through and edited. What I”ve thought of introducing in this Culture unit is real experiences of real people..I have to shape the idea into some more or less clear form which will look good in the format already existent..but i’d love to give it a try.

And I will need YOU (if you don’t mind)=)) your views, your stories, your authenticity! This is so simple and yet could be so exciting for our students!

If you feel interested here’s the first task I”ve got for you. Regardless of where you’re currently living, if you consider yourself American, can you please in a couple of sentences write

What does it feel like to be American to you? What does it mean to be American? 

I can’t wait to read some’ll be quoted in the beta-version of my brochure properly, and you can link to your blog or website if that looks appropriate!

Thanks a lot in advance, I hope my idea will get going, well if it doesn’t..I will think of something else 😉


Dream your Dream…and bookmark it, too!

Recent couple of weeks have been very insightful for me from the point of looking at the future. It used to be very vague for me, random ideas not supported by any plans, speculations with myself on how I can achieve lots and so on=) As the year has turned my path into a more or less visible and clear way to go ahead, I now can use this to contemplate my life on a more practical basis.

 And because I’ve been so lucky this year – I’ve been prompted with many forms to shape the content. Chuck Sandy created a Facebook page called “In Five Years” which is open and gives everyone a chance to share thoughts and expectations – and eventually, grow together. You are most welcome to join the group and post your personal five year SMART goals, New Year resolutions, or just lurk and see what is going on =)

I hope you’ve skipped the long reflective introduction noting the link and Five Years idea,  and are now here, where the real story begins)

This blog post yet gets us back to the exhilirating DECEMBER 17th, the day of days on our Continuous/Bumpy (c) ELT PD path.

During the 1st TeachMeet Int’l Vladimira Mikhalkova @vladkaslniecko gave an insiring – and as fantastically designed as ever – presentation called “Bookmark your dream”. The idea is simple – let your students create a personal bookmark. Give it the sense and meaning. Let it be a GOAL to be reached and an ACTiON PLAN to be followed. The idea appealed to me the very first moment I saw the title, actually=) I knew it had to be something surpr@ising (, and it proved to be just that!

In a nutshell, I’ve had only one opportunity so far to bring this idea to life (the term at the university being over, finals and other boring and bothersome routine things to do). But I’ve had a 1-2-1 lesson with a teenager, 16, with a lot of creative potential as I”ve always seen him.

Time for a pic – that’s what he came up with.


 A decent piece of handicraft I’d say) Another thing is, I was amazed when the boy told me that the way he had depicted the word GOAL is symbolic. I’ll reveal the truth now and i hope you can see the image clear enough to get the proof.

G’s image stands for giving FORCE/POWER and DIRECTION to him to fulfill the plan.

O’s image stands for FOOTBALL where you have to score a goal to win=)

A’s image stands for the all-seeing EYE watching the boy (Dr Eckleburg!!! – and he hasn’t read Fitzgerald)

L’s image stands for the MOUNTAIN of a goal he has to climb (you can actually see a little figure of an alpinist there).

Should I say, I was impressed! I”ve always believed in the power of creativity, and thanks to Vladimira for giving this great idea to explore its depths!


Frankly speaking, I love being part of my lessons and doing tasks with them. That was what I did. Anton helped me come up with a couple of points for my Action Plan!!! The essense of teacher-student collaboration in action!

Here’s my humble bookmark I’m carrying now inside Mantissa:


Thank you for reading my second blog post! This holiday time seems to be a great time to reflect, so I hope you check the FB “In Five Years” page (where quite some of the PLN have already posted, including Chuck and Vladka and Tyson and Ceci and me), Vladimira’s Surpr@ise Page and her presentation “Bookmark your dream” (ask for a link!).

Would be happy to read your comments and see your bookmarks!=))