Tuesday, 16 May 2017

#ELTchat Summary for May 10th 2017 How do we integrate new students into a Rolling Programme

How do we integrate new students into a rolling programme?

This was the question we discussed on Wednesday. The group was a lively one, with teachers joining from many parts of the world. We also welcomed some new #eltchatters.
One would think that new blood in a class would be appreciated, but often the students from  previous weeks find it difficult to be presented with new students, especially if they are long-termers. It must feel like they've just got used to one group - and then they have to start all over again!

As this happens often in my context, I wanted to find out if any of the #eltchatters had solutions or ideas to share. We quickly determined that it was predominantly a problem for those of us working in  language schools or summer schools. @GlenysHanson had experience with students joining her classes 1/2 days late. Some of us had students who study in ever-changing mixes, or who change levels at the start of a new week. Others worried about short-term new students being added to exam classes.
For our colleagues who worked in the mainstream teaching establishments, this didn't appear to be a problem. 
The rationale for this type of programme seemed to be a question of money for both agents and schools.

So what can a teacher do, on day one, to avoid the 'rolling eyes, not again,' scenario?

@fionaljp   thought that heading off the problem by making students aware at enrolment might work.
@Marisa thought it could be sold as a wonderful networking experience.
@GlenysHanson always warns her students in order to prepare them to be welcoming to late arrivals. @BrunwinLaura suggested that if pair work and collaboration is standard in our classes the 'newcomer effect' should be minimal.
@fionaljp agreed that it would help establish an environment conducive to learning.

The problem is that they are told to negotiate with their teacher, at enrolment, and this can lead to difficulties when they ask for the same things that the class did the previous week! As @Marisa_C mentioned, a large bank of material is necessary, organised by theme, level etc.
@sandymillin had a resource library which offered freedom of choice but which she found overwhelming.
@Marisa mentioned that Longman published a flexi-course for such occasions but it died an untimely death!

@fionaljp suggested that it would make a useful review and reflection lesson.
@Marisa_C thought that the existing students could mentor the new ones, which could be a standard idea for the first day of each week.  Or that the teacher could run 'Grammar Clinics'. By this, she meant allowing the class to choose self access material while the teacher did mini tutorials for individual students.
@seburnt liked the idea of a weekly student-led 'Teach-a-new-student hour'.

@angelos_bollas suggested that students complete a journal with profiles of as many students as possible, and continue to update it each new week.
@sandymillin found that writing in a journal was a great way to get to know new students, particularly shy ones.

@Marisa_C agreed that newcomers can be resented after a group has 'gelled', particularly if it is a class of teens,- so maybe some group bonding activities would work.
@fionaljp agreed that some disruption is inevitable.
@TheodoreLalos suggested that students could be unpredictable because of their previous learning environment or their immediate social environment.

@sandymillin always writes the names of class members, including her own, on the board. She said that she was always amazed by the number of students who had no idea of the teacher's name, even after several weeks. It is true that knowing names helps the bonding process.

@seburnt thought that learners could be modularly added to an existing group project.
 @marisa liked the idea and thought that each student could teach the others something they knew how to do really well.

Everyone agreed that Getting To Know You activities were boring if  trivialised and suggested not labelling them as such, but thought that mingling activities were more accepted. @TheoNavarroTEFL likes to start with a discussion about their motivation for learning and then helps everyone buddy-up for homework etc.

Another problem is that this type of class needs experienced handling, but often it is the less experienced teacher who may have to deal with it, due to the fact that, until the placement test has been completed, no-one knows where the new students will end up. And in summer schools there will be a high percentage of staff who are newly qualified teachers.

So, are there any benefits?

@TheoNavarroTEFL jumped in quickly with the fact that rolling classes can mean multinational, multi-ethnic and multi-generational groups which can be lots of fun.
@sandymillin agreed that there will be  potential for increased understanding and international friendships. And also, it can be easier to adapt to the needs of students if you are not tied in to using a particular coursebook.

Some great links to materials from Sandy's blog posts of her work with rolling classes:

There was also mention of Jill Hadfield's excellent book Classroom Dynamics.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Can a Cert TESOL make a difference?

I have been interested in Marek Kiczkowiak's position about the acceptance of teachers in our ELT profession for a few years, now, ( see Telf Equity Advocates) and felt sure that part of the problem was the fact that training courses did not offer a great deal of support for Non Native teachers post course. This is, of course, not the only problem needing to be addressed.

In my own little corner of the world I wanted to create change,  if possible, and I consider myself extremely lucky to work for Trinity College, London , who allow a degree of flexibility when  each  centre designs their course.

I started from a position of strength; my school is more than happy to employ anyone with the right qualifications, regardless of nationality. We also often find non-native trainees on our bi-annual certTESOL courses, and do our very best to help them find work afterwards- in fact, often they stay around for a while and work for us, giving them more experience when they do strike out later on their own.

This time in my programme I made room for the changes I wanted to initiate.
On day 1 we finished with a session called Different Englishes in the Classroom, which included a look at ELF. This was to open the trainees' eyes to the variety of standard and non-standard language which they would be exposed to, and to develop a tolerance for linguistic variety. Language doesn't remain static in a box, and there is little need for grammar/ phonology police who believe in their own variety at all costs ( I have come across trainees who think like this).

In a session in week 2, looking at Exploiting Authentic Material, I included the teacher as a resource. We discussed roles of teachers and the benefits of having a native/ non-native teacher in a classroom. Agreement was reached that many clients were brainwashed by companies into believing the NEST was the better option, but in reality, there was  no difference if both were qualified to teach.

By week 3 we had started to receive job offers online from a mix of sources. This often happens and in the past I shared them on a job wall without a great deal of thought. This time I analysed the language and was unhappy with the findings. Of the offers available, only 2 had no restriction according to nationality, passport, age or experience.

At the start of the fourth and final week, I set up a job forum. We discussed sensitivity to local conditions, the present roles of NEST / NNEST teachers and other information to help guide them in the world of work after the course. At this point I divided them into groups and gave them the job applications to read. They quickly found the same conditions that I had, so I asked them how they felt. The group had bonded extremely well, and, protective of Madgalena their resident Pole,  were incensed on her behalf. I also had two older ladies on the course who would also be disadvantaged by the criteria stated.

I asked them to draft replies to the emails we had received. They were very clear in their distaste for such advertisements and explained that they believed the companies were wrong to stipulate these conditions, in some cases acting illegally. 

Interestingly, they had a couple of replies. One company offered to remove the offending paragraph from their literature, and the other company said that they would henceforth accept each application on merit.
Others were not interested in replying, and one company suggested that we keep them in mind in the future, should WE change our mind!

As an experiment, this worked extremely well. It was easy to shoehorn the topic into other sessions, and to create an opportunity for discussion at all times. Having Magda there was an excellent way for the trainees to really think about the issues, and she was their go-to person for help with their own language awareness questions. 

I would be happy to suggest that the idea of incorporating these ideas into a CertTESOL or a CELTA should be given consideration. It didn't disrupt my course at all- in fact I feel that it added value. After all, we promise that our qualification will open the world for our particpants- not just for some of them!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

#ELTchat summary of 12th October 2016, How to help teachers become more comfortable with pronunciation

This was the latest #ELTChat summary on a topic which raised lots of interest.
Click on the right hand corner to open the slides in a fresh window.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Training the ears- how I help my students develop listening skills

Training the ears:

Some of you were asking how I prepare my listening lessons for my business students.

A wise friend of mine commented once that teachers tend to test listening in class, but rarely teach strategies for listening more effectively, and that got me thinking about how I handle this.

I always start with a nursery rhyme. These are designed to help small people develop the sounds and patterns of their L1.  I find that Jack and Jill, or Humpty Dumpty 
work well.

Jack and Jill, went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after                                                                                                                                                        
We begin with a discovery exercise where I ask the students to work out where the stressed syllables are. We usually end up with something that looks like the one below:                   

Jack and Jill, went up the hill to fetch a pail of water  
Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after    

We then turn it into a class chant, until everyone feels that the rhyme is sounding natural.

Next we analyse the types of words which are stressed: names, lexical verbs,nouns, numbers, negatives, contrasting prepostions etc...     

Now consider which ones are not stressed:  these are grammar words- on paper they are important, but when speaking we want to concentrate on the message, i.e. the content, not the accuracy of the complete sentence. This is liberating for the students as they begin to realise that the bits they can't hear, or complain about fast delivery, are actually not that important. BUT, anything that needs to be clear will be stressed by native English speakers. This is a good time to look at the function of the schwa and help them to minimise some of there vowel sounds. Sometimes I show this by using LEGO bricks to add or remove stress from words.    
I found a great chant by Hancock McDonald, called LOST, which works really well after this.

My next task is to have them listen to a French nursery rhyme, which one of my students recorded for me. We again listen to the rhythm and discover that the French is syllabic, rather than stress-timed like the English.
es car got de Bour gogne mon tre moi tes cor nes
After this we listen to the same French speaker, this time using English. Does the accent carry over into the L2? Is it a problem for communication?
 We can then look for distinctive features in their own accents.

Later I introduce an Indian into the mix ( or whatever accent they are finding hard). For the Indian, there is a YouTube clip called How to Speak like an Indian http://youtu.be/SY1vJTZgHRI 
My students often say-"yes, this is exactly what I mean" and again it is a great opportunity to analyse the features which might be causing problems in communication.

Business English Podcasts are great for other accents.

I have a favourite BE book, which I  use mostly for the listening tasks. It contains both male and female accents from South Americans, North Americans, British and Spanish speakers too. 

Business Listening and Speaking, by Maurice Jamall and Bruce Wade- for internationally-minded business people. It contains a wealth of listening types and tasks.

Sometimes I test the learners with some very advanced listening tasks- which they manage well after this training.

I hope this might give some of you ideas to do things differently with your students too.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

#ELTCHAT summary : Making Listening Tasks Interesting.

#ELTchat summary , Wednesday 4th May 2016

Eltchat is a great time of the week when teachers come together to share ideas and learn from each other. Last Wednesday was the second in the new time format of 7 pm BST. Check your time here http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html. It worked really well, as moderators Angelos Bollas, Hada Litim and I were able to connect with like-minded teachers from around the world. We welcomed several new members and hope they will be happy to join us again in the future.
The discussion this week centred around the need to make listening tasks useful and interesting for our students.

I kicked off the chat with a complaint about a listening I had done which didn't particularly excite my learners. I am an experienced teacher, had found an authentic listening which wasn't too long, had prepared my listeners with a quiz and discussion on the topic of the lesson, which itself interested my learners, yet still found it fell flat, .


  • Angelos suggested that many students find listening boring and ask why they can't just do it at home.
  • Sometimes the length of the track can be a stumbling block in a foreign language.
  • thebestticher said that she had often encountered the problem of students finding the listening difficult- and thus 'boring'. Angelos  said that he had found this with some of his exam students too.
  • Listening is a difficult skill in general, not just for EFL students.
  • manal3abas believes that time helps too. Eventually the ears become more comfortable with the target language. This is a good point. I always find that my students benefit from a couple of lessons before I expect them to do any listening other than to the teacher.
  • Hada suggested asking the students why, and how, they need to listen, to understand their needs.
  • SarhandiSuhail thought that students disengage when the topic has no relevance to them
  • Students only want to listen to native speakers- not others with accents.(I think we all agreed that this view has no place in today's classroom.)

Pre-listening ideas

Perhaps an integrated skills lesson works best, so that the listening is scaffolded by other activities.
NajafiMonireh uses pictures, or visuals of some form or another, to elicit interest.
manal3abas thought that the introductory task is as important as the listening task itself. He uses related questions to elicit any necessary vocabulary. 
sigardit suggested a reading text to start with, and a clear connection to the listening which follows.
She also suggested pre, while, and after, listening activities worked best. 
I suggested word clouds as a way of predicting the content.
SarhandiSuhail worried about prediction exercises with low level students, but others thought that there were important for all levels, and that, if carefully graded, there shouldn't be a problem.

Teach not Test

Hada suggested that we perhaps concentrate too much on testing our students listening skills, yet forget to teach them how to listen first. Her idea was to break listening down into utterances, which also helps with speaking. Angelos thought that students might find it a bit odd to listen too many times. As they are learning, rather than using the text for an exam, you could alternate the tasks.
Some ideas would be to listen for: general idea, specific facts, focus on language, listen for stressed words....
I like to use nursery rhymes, or rap, to work on stress, elision and assimilation at the beginning of any course. This helps students identify  the important parts of a message and think about content over form.
Unfortunately, according to thebestticher, many teachers don't teach listening well, so you could inherit students with poor listening skills.


JACKxELT asked about a course book with good listening resources but they seem to be few and far between. The tasks are often artificial and the songs are often out of date. Sometimes even the accents are faked :-) thebestticher likes to swap the songs in the book for more up-to-date material as she has had some truly horrid experiences, however, a word of warning-check the vocabulary first! TeresaBestwick  said that many books for teens no longer include songs as they date so fast.
TeresaBestwick mentioned the F2F series which labels pronunciation spots as 'Help with Listening'
Hada offered http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teaching-adults/resources/activities as a useful place to find material.

Finding material for exam classes means that mostly course book material  has to be used, to 'mimic' or practise for the exam. Also, depending on the exam, the numbers of times the students can listen is strictly controlled. How natural are the skills we ask of our  academic exam students anyway?
HancockMcDonald have some excellent help with pronunciation and listening  on their website http://hancockmcdonald.com/materials/9
ITLegge wondered about a creative approach: Listen and write a note, draw the scene etc. Jack had tried this out with his students and found that it was successful.

Authentic Material-is it better?

emilytesol wondered whether authentic listening materials could be more interesting for students, and asked for good examples. 
Podcasts, songs,videos and radio shows, documentaries, news and recipe videos were all mentioned.
DavinnaArtibey used a scifi trailer as a gapfill for her teens, which they enjoyed. Content is important for teens- and not just teens!
http://www.rong-chang.com/listen.htm from sigardit and an itunes app called learn English by Listening from teachingright
ITLegge is a great believer in using student-generated material with her teens, as is SarhandiSuhail, who  thinks that bringing their life into the classroom motivates them.
sophie_cy thought that creating their own podcasts would aid the integration of tech in the classroom too. Or give students texts (songs or excerpts from a video) and ask them to create the listening tasks.
TeresaBestwick suggested http://lyricstraining.com/
Word associations can come from songs, especially if chosen by the students. Students can also record themselves to listen back to for homework. I always record my business students doing their presentations, so that they can critique them as homework, for content and intelligibility.

Don't forget the TTT!

Teachers are, themselves, a surprisingly good source of listening for the class. Perhaps the students could summarise the TT for other students. They could then record their summary in WhatsApp or create a podcast for their classmates as suggested by sigardit. 

TeresaBestwick said that her colleague mixes TTT with kinasthetic listening - and has a keyword that when heard, makes students stand up-turn around-sit down.

How About Video?

Are videos better for listening?  NajafiMonireh thought so, as he found them more interesting. emilytesol thought that non-verbal clues could aid understanding- but could they really be considered listening material? Perhaps watching with a task and the sound turned down could aid confidence and show how much can be understood from the visual clues alone.
SarhandiSuhail liked the fact that videos are contextualised. 
https://edpuzzle.com/ is a great way to assign videos to students.
Jamie Keddie has ideas on how to allow students to make their own videos or work with YouTube videos made by other young people..
Students can  choose a short video and create a simple listening for the others with a few questions.

Towards the end of the chat, mattledding offered http://norvig.com/chomsky.html  a review of receptive skills- the listening section is at the end.
We were also offered the following in the closing minutes http://blog.tlnet-vle.com/

Thanks also to Huw for professor Lynch's keynote on the subject: https://youtu.be/ii76U06svbo

All in all- this was a very busy #ELTChat with more than 350 individual tweets. Looking forward to catching up with everyone-old and new members, next week at 7pm.BST
Remember you can check your time at the top.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

#ELTchat Summary 27th January 2016 Teaching C2 level grammar

#ELTchat is where English language Teachers hang out on twitter each Wednesday, to share ideas and discuss the topic of the week.

Last Wednesday, teachers from a variety of countries around the world met to discuss the teaching of grammar at C2 level. As usual, the discussion allowed teachers to share problems and suggest ideas and ways of dealing with them. 

Although the point was made several times about vocabulary being the main reason that students become advanced, there was an agreement that there is a high value in using correct grammar when it comes to EAP or ESP written work in particular. It was also thought that lots of grammar is related to fixed expressions for writing, so chunks are invaluable.

1. Always share your aims.

The expertise of the teacher is not always respected and students often have expectations of quantity  rather than quality or depth which need to be tempered.

Teaching should be focussed on consolidation at this level. 
 As much of the grammar in advanced coursebooks centres around very low-frequency exponents, it is a more efficient use of the teacher's time to make sure that students can use more high frequency items effectively.

The chat members felt that teaching grammar at this level might be part of the problem. Although there are advanced grammars available, part of the problem is the paucity of speaking practice available to the learners. Students actually need to use the language, in preference to learning about it.

2. What kind of errors do our high-level students produce?

So which errors have we heard, and why?
  • the mismatch of tense and time
  • the overuse or avoidance of the passive voice
  • the use of articles
  • modality
  • dependent prepositions 
  • expressing tentativeness
  • fossilised errors of pronunciation and intonation
  • discourse analysis in general
  • pragmatics 
  • subordination 
Some of these will have been overlooked by students who were concentrated on acquiring more structure, rather than a deeper understanding of already taught material.

Some of these may have been omitted owing to the lack of expertise of the teacher. NatiBrandi suggested that, in schools she was familiar with, discourse analysis was not always taught because the teachers found it difficult, or were themselves unaware of it. 

3. Isn't 90% of English used in the present or past simple, anyway?

As Marisa pointed out, Present Simple is not so simple. It is a high complex structure, both morphologically and semantically, with 13 different uses and meanings. The collocations alone make it a complex structure to handle.

4. So, how do we handle the students who request grammar?

Rachel Daw suggested using a dictogloss with a discussion at the end about any errors made. The error correction  phase would need an experienced teacher, though, according to Marisa.
Mike Harrison thought that challenging them to produce work with no errors would help them realise the importance of consolidation. He felt that cognitively-challenging material is very important. (see links below)
NatiBrandi related a problem she had had herself with pragmatics, and felt that it was a must to teach.
Marisa felt that work on comparing and contrasting structures would help develop a deeper understanding of the nuances of the language. She also mentioned the importance of discourse aspects. 
Both Glenys Hanson and I felt that work on adapting register to the situation was important.
Genre analysis, using authentic material was an idea from NatiBrandi.
Mike suggested transformations would help, or asking students to say X in 5 words.
Translation was suggested as a way to highlight sentence structure and help with complex forms.

James Taylor made the point that development is not easy to perceive at such high levels.
Glenys suggested testing at the beginning of the course and review at the end to show improvement.


Glenys Hanson: www.esl-exos.info

Index of grammar at advanced level, courtesy of Marisa,  


As always, the teacher will know their students and can negotiate course content with them. Challenging material, and good error analysis will go a long way- but don't forget to offer as many opportunities to speak and use the language as possible.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

#ELTchat summary of 4th November 2015

#ELTchat is the twitter home of English Language Teachers, who meet once a week to discuss topics of relevance to teaching. This is the summary of the chat from Wednesday 4th November 2015.

As I came in to the conversation late, it is my pleasure to revisit the comments to find out 
what I missed.

The topic was: how to use everyone's favourite building brick in the classroom for adult learning- and the ideas came pouring in! We discussed whether there was any cultural difficulty, and decided that even if people were unfamiliar with the bricks from their own childhood, they are culturally neutral and don't appear to upset anyone's sensibilities. In fact, it might even be easier to communicate some things via Lego, than by using language. They are also reusable, not very expensive, and FUN!!!

@ambartosik started the ball rolling by explaining that she uses Lego on the first day as an icebreaker.
She asks her students to build something which represents their interests, then use the creation to introduce themselves. She told us about a student of hers who talked about the barriers between him and fluent speakers of English https://twitter.com/ambartosik/status/661879084096561152/photo/1 , then he described how he would learn English, by removing the barriers so that he could cross over to the other side https://t.co/GGN5aakbBL

At this point the conversation veered in the direction of Cuisenaire Rods, helped by comments from @GlenysHanson, who uses them for story telling, initiating conversations and making 'grammar' visible  and @HadaLitim who found them useful for pronunciation and sentence work.
@Glenys gave us a link to a selection of articles on using the rods in class https://t.co/vOMuPPqlHG
 and https://t.co/xgCgBaZzoA, and a great selection of videos glenys-hanson.info/silent-way-videos/ 

So what can we do with Lego bricks and/or people, in the classroom?

When teaching YLs you could get them to build lexical items to test understanding

 Leave them on the table with no comment to see what happens

Could use to teach prepositions of place

Make stories with pieces representing parts of speech

Build a 3D text

They work well for teaching sequencers: ask a pair of students to build something and write a set of instructions. Demolish the creation and give the bricks and instructions to another group to test whether the directions are good enough to recreate the  model. ( My BE students love this)

A student could describe how to build a structure without allowing their partner to see the instructions

If everyone is asked to build same structure the language of compare/contrast could be oral or written or ability to follow instructions could be tested

Could be used to practise asking for clarification

Describing colours, shapes, size

Can be used to show how the schwa works

EAP reading/writing classwork

Students build a vehicle then crash it.
Taking the role of site technicians they can: write a letter to the manager explaining what happened,  Or write a police report.
Or describe the damage, costs, parts needed  to the insurance company (these last ideas thanks to @kamilaofprague )

And for training sessions? 

Personally, I love using them in my teacher training. They are a great way to show difference parts of speech in context. But above all they are an excellent visual representation of stress patterning, and my trainees love finding the words which might fit a particular pattern, or establishing the patterns for themselves.
@HadaLitim thought that they could be beneficial for assessment.

@Ven_VVE used Lego to make e-artifacts in a project. example:https://flickr.com/photos/amoresproject/22568153901/in/album

French= CHOC   O    LAT


German= SCHO   ko    LA   de

English= CHOC (o) late


Some links for more ideas:

Emma Herrod's blog https://t.co/0fDsdXEiDF

Not made for ESL but: https://t.co/BhpcqNRRAp

For YLs if you don't have any Lego: buildwithchrome.com

And the quote of the week?

This week my favourite quote comes from Anna, who said 

"The only limit is your imagination."

Thanks to my students for allowing me to use the pictures.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Reasons to count my blessings Number 34

Reason 34

John the Gardener

I really enjoy sitting out in my garden. I love the flowers, the scents, the colours and the bees. I am happy to grow a large, and healthy variety of culinary herbs and tomatoes etc. However I am a terrible gardener- I plant everything in the wrong place, and then forget to water or feed them.
The gardener at the college came round at the end of last year and shook his head in dismay. He told me my garden was a mess!

I challenged him to come and sort it out, so he did. He removed all of the plants, revitalised the soil and added topsoil. With plans he had drawn up, he replaced some of the plants, added new ones, built in a watering system - and wow!!

This year the garden has looked fantastic- and John has been keeping an eye on it too. He just pops in from time to time to add bits, or prune, or whatever. I am really lucky.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Reasons to count my blessings Number 33

Reason 33

My fit bit

What fun I had this last couple of weeks. My student from Ukraine, Alla, brought her fit bit (a bracelet which counts steps, distances, sleep patterns, exercise and heart rate) with her. I was wearing the one that M bought for my birthday a few weeks ago. We decided to synchronise them and go into competition with each other. This meant that I did more walking than usual, as I didn't want to be woefully trounced every day. It was good for me, and fun to check each day who was the most active.
Alla brought me a beautiful box for my collection too. It was hand crafted in a village next to where she lives.
Im sorry that she was only here for a short visit, but we have decided to stay in touch online. We have been facebook friends since her last visit a couple of years ago. Next time we will use Skype too.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Reasons to count my blessings Numbers 31 and 32

Reasons 31 and 32

People who give free time to help others

I spent this morning- and last week, with my musician friends. 
Today we were playing music for the end of a walk. Marc was a young islander who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 17 and who died 2 years later. His father set up a charity walk in his name, which helps the teenage cancer trust and others like them to raise awareness, and much needed money.
The walk has been running for 5 years and we got involved in the second year when we met Willy ( his father) in a bar we were playing. This is our fourth time of turning out to play for the walkers as they come in from their route.
The walk has 4 possibilities: 3, 7, 12 and 15 miles. This means that people wander in to the gardens on the St Helier seafront from around 11 a.m. to about 2 p.m. They then relax on the grass with their water or coffee and cupcakes which are provided by other helpers. 
After last night's ceilidh my blisters were growing blisters by the time we finished, but it is satisfying to feel useful, and to give up our time to play music, when others are walking, is humbling. Many of the people who walked were cancer suffers, or had family members who had had problems. The orange t-shirts are a nod towards the fact that Willy is a Dutchman

This little cutie has a tumour behind her eye. Wishing her all the best

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Reasons to count my blessings Number 30

Reason 30

Other people's special events

It is summer time, which means lots of weddings for the Ceilidh Band. At the moment we seem to have one every week, and always in quite diverse places. Yesterday we were in a Marquee on the edge of the west coast of the island, and last week was in the Castle on the East coast. Next week we will be in St Helier, the capital of the island.
It is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to help make people's day special. A ceilidh is ideal, because everyone can dance; old and young are not disadvantaged. Even drunk(!) people can manage when they have a caller explaining what to do throughout the dance. 
Last night was fun- the wedding guests were well up for dancing the night away. They started while we were doing our sound check!!
Some of them had already started on the silly juice though, and the band was almost reduced to tears of laughter on occasion as they tried to understand what to do- or muddled their rights and their lefts.
The evening was exactly what the Bride had asked for- and we left, quite late,  leaving them to disco with the hardcore while taxis arrived to pick them off in small groups.

I wonder what next week's will bring..... 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Reasons to count my blessings Number 29

Reason 29

My 1-2-1 students

I love my students. I enjoy all of my classes, but I have a sneaky preference for some of my 1-2-1 students.
They are so interesting.

At the moment I am working with an Italian Miller, a Swiss Neurological Musician and a Luxemburg Civil Engineer. They all bring soo much to the table- and I learn about their roles, just as much as they learn to use their English. 

It's a pity that some of their visits are really short, but in the main 2-3 weeks is a great time to get to know new people and share ideas.

Roll on Monday !


Monday, 13 July 2015

Reasons to count my blessings Number 28

Reason 28

The garden

I really love the days when you wake up knowing that the weather will be good; and not just for an odd day here and there, but for a long spell of warm sunny days. 
I don't mind if it rains during the night- it saves me from watering the garden too much. 

The garden is really welcoming at the moment. Everything is very colourful and the herb garden is growing like the weeds.

I enjoy eating breakfast outside before going to work.

  My garden is such a sun trap, it can even be too hot to sit in, until the day cools down a bit.

 I love watching the cats sleeping in the pots of catmint when I return in the afternoon. Look at these two drugged up kitties :-)

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Reasons to count my blessings 26 and 27

Reasons 26 and 27

The Island Games

 This was a two-weeker because the Island Games have been on. The Island version of the Olympics takes place every two years on one of the islands, and this year it was the turn of Jersey to shine.
Both my husband and daughter were officials for the Sailing and Sailboarding categories, and it was lucky that they were working down the road from the college as I got a chauffeur to work in the mornings.
The opening ceremony was last Saturday, and each of the 24 Islands taking part showed up, together with our version of the 'games-makers', who were assigned to either a sport or an island.
By the end of the week Jersey topped the medals table, with an amazing display of sport from all involved. 
 Many records were beaten, including that of the weather! 
 I felt sorry for the people from the Northern islands of Gotland, Aland, Hitra and Froya, as well as those from the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney, who had to put up with temperatures of over 33 degrees C. Even our athletes found it hard going at times.

The teams left yesterday or today, having had the time of their lives.
The games are known as the 'friendly' games, and that was clearly borne out by the friendships, both rekindled and newly started. 

Everyone is now looking forward to the 2017 games in Gotland, but I'm sure that the competitors will look back with pleasure on their time in Jersey, as will the islanders,who showed overwhelming generosity of spirit and patience while roads were closed and alternative routes sought.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

IATEFL Besig Summer Symposium

Thoughts on an excellent symposium.
I’m putting my thoughts down while the joint IATEFL Hungary and IATEFL BESIG symposium in Budapest is still fresh in my head.

We actually got together as a group BEFORE the conference itself. Mary Sousa and Rachel Appleby did sterling work organising a meal at Hemingway’s, a Hungarian restaurant, situated in a park- with excellent food and company being the order of the evening. This helped break the ice and introduced us to new colleagues who will, I’m sure, become valued members of our PLNs in years to come.

Vegetables-at last:-)

The symposium started with a plenary session given by Jeremy Day. In some ways it stated the bleeding obvious: there are good teachers, bad teachers and those in between- and they belong to both the Native and Non-Native groups. He also discussed and dismissed popular stereotypical arguments which were in favour of native speakers, and looked at the fact that everyone is qualified to teach standard International English. He left us feeling that we could, and should, do something about combatting these misconceptions which disadvantage many excellent professionals.

In the first session I attended, I was interested in Rachel Appleby’s take on the value of the ‘S’ in ESP. She talked us through the needs of three of her students and induced us to talk about whether they were specifically ‘Business’ needs or not- and at what point a teacher might need some specialist knowledge. I particularly enjoyed her recurring theme of the Chain bridge, showing that 1-2-1 teaching has to be a two-way traffic.  This was a very logical and helpful session which would have put many minds at ease, particularly any teachers who are new to the teaching of ESP.

MY favourite session of the day was that of Rob Szabo, entitled: Spoken business English, systemic functional linguistics and power games. We looked at transcripts of genuine conversations and analysed them according to the three metafunctions of Field (ideational), Tenor (interpersonal) and Mode (textual) contexts. This brought up some of the reasons for communication imbalance in companies and was illuminating to most of the people present. The room was divided into two groups, each with one side of the conversation to consider.

I later enjoyed Andrew Wright’s somewhat rambling look at storytelling. He is the epitome of a storyteller, putting stories and anecdotes inside other stories. He went for the voice and a flip chart as his tools, proving that it isn’t always necessary to look for high-tech solutions. I could listen to him for hours, but he did well to keep to the timetable, and has also offered us his handouts as a PDF by email, thus cutting down on paper.

An extremely useful day of workshops, certainly for me, finished with Jasmina Sazdovska’s session on Process versus Product driven presentations. My goodness, she really knows her stuff, and her handouts will help me deliver some enlightened lessons for my own students. Her explanations were clear, as befits the head of a language department who is usually to be found working with young adults.

I enjoyed the speed networking session. This allowed me to meet new people- some of whom have already contacted me online since the weekend.  We lined up on two sides: Besig members and non-members, and did a type of speed -dating session. I made some great contacts and found out more about people I'd seen around during the weekend.

Marjorie, IATEFL President, ended the day with a summing up of the process and the collaboration between the two organisations. This was her first official gig since becoming President.

The Spa hotel where the conference was being held, laid on a BBQ in the evening, allowing us the opportunity to chill and chat together while winding down from the day. I was happy to see my husband, completely at ease, as he joined in a wide-ranging discussion on everything and anything. He also enjoyed his visit to Budapest.

This was well worth the time taken to participate in the day. I have come home full of ideas to test out, handouts to reread, and new contacts to befriend. What’s not to like?