Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher

Pre-teens aren’t stupid

A slightly depressing thought.

I spoke to my students yesterday about why we talk about a reading passage after reading it, and don’t just move on. There are 3 of them, aged 12-13, in that class.

Their comments, and the order they came out with them, were quite telling:

  • because we’re going to study future continuous (the grammar point on the facing page)
  • because we need it later (i.e. as adults)
  • just because
  • because it’s about the environment and we need to know about that

When I suggested it might be to help me see how much of the text and the ideas in it they understood, they seemed quite surprised. They certainly weren’t particularly engaged in the topic itself (changes a boy and his family were making to their life to be more environmentally friendly).

[And yes, I know I shouldn't necessarily have just done the next page in the book, but I'd been at home all morning because there'd been a small fire in my flat!]

Challenges 4

The book in question, and by no means the only one at fault…

One month on

One month ago today, on the 16th March 2014, there was a referendum in Crimea to decide whether it would remain part of Ukraine or ask to part of the Russian Federation. I’ve blogged extensively about the whole process of what has been happening in Sevastopol, and will continue to do so for as long as there seems to be something to say.

Today in Ukraine

As I write this, Ukraine has launched ‘anti-terrorist’ action against protestors in the Donetsk region. In the last couple of hours, Putin has warned that Ukraine is ‘on the brink of civil war‘. Some suggest that Russia have forced Ukraine’s hand by sending people into the area to incite violence and will use this as an excuse to send in their own troops. I have no idea if this is true or not, or how comparable this is to what happened in Crimea (as has been discussed), but I don’t believe the Ukrainian government is entirely blameless either. As I’ve said before, their unwillingness to accept Russian as an official language or to seek closer relationships with those in the east has inevitably alienated people. There have been attempts in the last week or so to remedy this, but I feel it’s too little, too late.

The Guardian has set out five possible scenarios for what might happen next. As with the whole process, the problem is that nobody really knows how this will all unfold. And that uncertainty is the overriding problem with life in Sevastopol now…

Travel

My worries about getting back to Sevastopol were completely unfounded. My train journey from Kiev to Sevastopol was uneventful. The only difference between the journey out and the journey in was one extra passport check: on the way out only the Ukrainian border guards checked, on the way in both Ukrainians and Russians checked, about an hour apart. No comment was made about my Ukrainian visa, and I was asked no questions at all, unlike when I flew into Simferopol at Christmas.

The train was as busy as one might expect for a mid-week one, and the BBC video about people leaving Crimea on the train did not reflect the fact that people are still travelling in both directions. The man I shared my compartment with was from Kiev, but works in Dzhankoy in Crimea. The train still seems to be a viable travel option, for now at least.

People boarding the Kiev to Sevastopol train, Tuesday 8th April 2014

People boarding the Kiev to Sevastopol train, Kiev station, Tuesday 8th April 2014

Soldiers and sailors

In the week before I went to the UK, and the week since I came back, I’ve seen more military in Sevastopol than I had done for the previous six weeks. Yesterday seven or eight military trucks drove past me, a sight which was fairly common until the start of February when they all disappeared. On Monday I saw 17 buses (helpfully numbered) drive past in convoy, all full of military personnel – I guess there must have been over 400 of them. I assume that means they’ve all come back to their bases. It feels like things are largely back to normal here in terms of military presence.

Time zones

I’m a big fan of the new GMT +4 time zone, although I was assured it’s not actually new and is what Crimea (and all of Ukraine?) used to be on until 1998. Now I’m being woken by the sun at 07:00 instead of 05:00, and it’s still light when I finish work at 20:00, and for about an hour afterwards, instead of being dark at 18:00. It seems to make a lot more sense, although whether that will be true all year round with no change for winter remains to be seen.

Post

For two weeks, no post arrived at the school. I was told that the Ukrainian postal services were no longer operating, and when I got something yesterday I don’t know who it was delivered by. I want to go to the post office, but I’ll be waiting for a while until it’s clearer whether the postal system is still functioning or not. It’s not clear what will happen to any backlog of post that might build up in the meantime.

Pensions

Another thing that Ukraine have stopped providing is support to pensioners. The money now all comes from Russia. Because the exchange rate that pensioners are paid in is different to the one on the street, they apparently get the money in roubles, then change the money into hryvnia and end up with more to spend!

Registration plates

Car art and Russian registration plate sticker - Version 2

A sticker to make your car Russian? (and some bonus Sevastopol car art – very popular here)

The picture above shows a fairly typical sight now – stickers are on sale all over the city so people can change the country on their registration plates. I estimate about 15-20% of cars in Sevastopol have some form of Russian flag on the number plate now, and over 50% of them have Russian flags in or on them somewhere, like the one on the dashboard here. A lot of the buses have small flags attached to their wing mirrors.

Documents

Queuing for Russian passports

Queuing for Russian passports

I don’t know how many different places people can go to get a Russian passport, but these people were queuing at one in the centre, and I know this is not unusual. The people on the left-hand side of the street are reading information about what they need to do to get their passport. Apparently while I was in the UK there were big queues at photo studios for people to get their new passport photos, although those seem to have disappeared now.

One teen student came to class a bit late because she’d just spent three hours in the queue to submit her documents, but was really excited because that meant she was going to get her Russian passport. The same 16-year-old has the Russian national anthem as her ring tone.

Another student has just turned 16, and a couple of weeks ago wasn’t sure what to do about getting her ID, which here is also confusingly called a passport. As far as I know you have two passports – an ID document and one for international travel, although I may be wrong! In Russia you get official ID from the age of 14, but in Ukraine it’s 16. Now she’ll definitely get Russian ID, and her grandma said they would have a special dinner and champagne to celebrate because it proved she was officially an adult. I love this idea!

Others are waiting until the rush dies down to get their new passports. Ukrainian passports will still be valid for a while, although as with everything else I have no idea how long for.

Roubles and hryvnia

I’ve seen roubles now, but they’re still not particularly common. I’ve had a couple of coins given to me as examples, but haven’t used them in transactions yet. Some of the coins have the coats of arms of cities across Russia on them, and a friend was excited that Sevastopol would soon be on the coins too.

I managed to get money out of the bank again the other day, and was given the option of having it in roubles of hryvnia, but decided on the latter as I think it’s still more useful. However, the exchange rate is going up against the pound/euro/dollar in both currencies, and I’ve exchanged some of my pay into pounds to try and protect my money a bit. I know this is the kind of thing that doesn’t help, but I need to make sure the money doesn’t all disappear.

Tablets which I currently have to buy every 25 days have gone up drastically in price, from 642UAH last time I bought them to 802UAH a few days ago. I’m lucky because I have a comfortable salary, and I don’t know how people manage who aren’t – they must have to go without, which will ultimately add more strain to the system.

The money that Russia has promised to spend on Crimea and Sevastopol is already worrying them, and could be adversely affecting the GDP. I wonder whether it will ever come through?

Banks

Queues outside the bank

Queues outside the bank

Queues are still quite normal outside banks. I think this one was caused because there were rumours that roubles had arrived there, although I’m not really sure.

Banks are not doing international transfers, and some Ukrainian banks have stopped working here completely. Large Russian banks don’t seem to want to open branches here in case they are hit by sanctions, which paves the way for smaller banks. However, the smaller banks are also having trouble making international transfers which is causing the school some problems. This is the area where uncertainty seems to be greatest: the banks don’t know if they will be there from one day to the next, making it very difficult to plan for the future. The problems with the banks also don’t help with paying taxes – it’s not clear how these transactions can be made.

Feelings

I know people who are still thinking about leaving Crimea, and I know others who were going to leave but have now decided to stay. Those who are staying are still pretty positive about the whole change to being Russian, although the uncertainty, particularly about money, can be wearing. People are moving around a lot more, and I feel safe enough to hopefully start exploring Crimea a bit more from this weekend.

On a final note, the signs below were all along one of the main streets in the centre of the city by the weekend, and today have appeared all along my street. I’ve been told they are quite rude, although Google Translate isn’t very helpful with this. No idea who’s paying for them all, but on the plus side a lot of the referendum ones seem to have disappeared, although unfortunately not the one I can see from my window. I wonder how long these ones will last for?

Sevastopol/Nato

Sevastopol/Nato

CELTA at IH Sevastopol

What is CELTA?

CELTA stands for ‘Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults’. It is a four-week full-time initial teacher training course, designed to introduce you to the basics of teaching English as a foreign language.

It is suitable for native English speakers, and non-natives who have achieved an English level of at least C1 on the CEFR.

Why do CELTA?

CELTA is internationally recognised as an introductory qualification for English teachers, and opens the door to good quality schools around the world.

For those who have already been teaching for a while, it is a good introduction to Communicative Language Teaching.

What does CELTA involve?

During the four-week course, you will do a total of six hours of observed teaching practice, where you try out what you are learning in a real classroom situation.

From theory to practice

From theory to practice

To help you do this successfully, you will receive 120 hours of input covering a wide range of topics. including how to teach grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and the four language skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking), as well as how to plan your lessons, use materials effectively and manage the classroom, among many other things. You will be introduced to a wide range of activties which you can take straight into the classroom.

Before and after each observed lesson you will work with tutors and your peers to ensure that you improve as much as possible over the course of your CELTA.
There are also four short written assignments during the course, one per week. There is no exam: assessment is based on your written assignments and your observed teaching practice.

How much is it?

Anyone who registers for our courses before 1st June will get a 15% discount, meaning the whole four-week CELTA will only cost you £850, including Cambridge registration fees, considerably cheaper than it is in most places, where it can cost up to £1300! Even with travel costs and accommodation, you will pay considerably less than at many other centres.

If you register after 1st June, it will still only cost £1000.

IH Sevastopol can help you to arrange travel and accommodation, and anything else you may require during your stay.

Why do CELTA at IH Sevastopol?

Every summer International House Sevastopol runs two CELTA courses: one in July and one in August. In 2014 the dates are:

  • June 30th-July 25th
  • July 28th-August 23rd

The course is run by two experienced trainers, Olga Stolbova, the Director of IH Sevastopol, and a guest trainer from Kharkiv, Ukraine. In July 2014, I will be training as a CELTA tutor, so I will be there as a third trainer if you decide to join the first course.

You will be teaching students in a private language school in a classroom setting much like you might expect to go into once you have finished your CELTA course.

International House has affiliates all over the world, and while we cannot guarantee you a job, we can offer advice on where to apply for work once your course has finished.

Sevastopol itself is a fascinating city, and at the weekends when you have finished planning and writing assignments, you can explore its history or go out into beautiful Crimea. Sevastopol and Crimea have been in the news a lot recently, and this is your chance to discover what it’s like here first-hand! You can read a lot more about Sevastopol on our site, and see pictures and videos of the city, including BBC Top Gear‘s visit in November 2013.

You can read more about the CELTA course on our website, and download an application form.

Happy students and trainees at the end of the July 2013 course

Happy students and trainees at the end of the July 2013 course

So what are you waiting for? Contact us and find out how you can take the first step of an exciting new stage in your life!

Drawing challenge

At IATEFL Harrogate 2014, many of us were very impressed by the artistic endeavours of Christina Rebuffet-Broadus, who introduced us to the idea of sketchnoting.

I have to admit that her beautiful, and beautifully-organised, notebook made me a bit jealous, since my artistic skills are somewhat lacking. Carol Goodey and James Taylor seconded this, and I thought it would be fun to make us all feel a bit better by setting a drawing challenge, and proving we can all make our artwork understandable! Maybe it will be the first step towards out own sketchnoting at future webinars and conferences ;)

The rules

1. Choose four things you often have to draw in the classroom, or that you’ve had bad experiences drawing in the past (!). I suggest a person doing a particular action or job, an animal, a vehicle, and a miscellanous object, but you can draw whatever you like.
2. Draw them in any way you see fit (on a board, on paper, on a tablet…) but don’t spend any more time on it than you would in a lesson.
3. Share the results for us to guess what they are. :)

My offerings

 

My drawings

After that, I think you’ll agree, it’s a good job I’m a teacher, not an artist, as I often tell my students!

I look forward to seeing your artwork. :)

Challenge accepted!

David Harbinson was the first to take up the challenge, and has also shared his version of sketchnotes from a recent webinar.

Martin Sketchley shared his version of a skeleton from his YL classroom, and added four drawings for you to guess.

On Friday 4th April, I did my first ever Pecha Kucha (and no, I don’t know how to pronounce it either – PK!). If you’ve never heard of a PK, it’s 20 slides, each on screen for 20 seconds, giving a total of six minutes and forty seconds. The speaker has no control over the slides, and just has to keep up!

There were eight presenters, all of whom were very entertaining:

  • Valeria Benevolo Franca (the host): Keep Calm and Pecha Kucha
  • James Taylor: Just say yes!
  • Bita Rezaei: A manifesto for teachers
  • Damian Williams: Linguistic Landscapes
  • me
  • Thom Jones:
  • Cecilia Lemos: The Ten Commandments of ELT
  • Lindsay Clandfield: memes

The whole event was recorded, and you can watch it below. I’d highly recommend watching the whole thing (it’s an hour), but if you just want to see mine, it starts at 33:15.

Harrogate International Centre auditorium (photo by James Taylor)

As well as being my first PK, it was my first presentation on a stage, or with a microphone.  It was a great experience, and something I hope I can do again in the future!

This is the recorded version of a presentation which originally took place on Friday 4th April 2014 at IATEFL Harrogate 2014.

The abstract

“I’ve studied English for years, but I can’t understand anyone!” This was a common complaint from my students on arrival in the UK. This workshop aims to introduce you to practical activities and materials you can use to help students transition from understanding scripted listening materials to feeling comfortable with real-world English.

The summary

Listening is the skill we use most in a second language. We have to understand speakers in many different contexts, of different ages, genders, levels of education, and with a range of accents, both native and non-native. However, this is rarely reflected in the classroom, where listening tends to be focussed on other students in class or on scripted coursebook recordings in ‘standard’ forms of English, mostly spoken by young to middle-aged adults (or overly excited children in the case of young learner materials!). Teachers also tend to focus on testing comprehension, rather than on teaching better listening skills. This results in students lacking confidence in their listening abilities and/or lacking knowledge of how to approach listening in the real world.

The aim of this workshop is to introduce and try out a range of activities and materials which you can use in your classroom to teach listening, rather than testing it. Some of the principles discussed will be based on John Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom (Cambridge 2008), as well as my own experience in the classroom and as a second language learner. The workshop will also look at how you can make the listening you use in the classroom reflect the real world as much as possible. Finally, participants will be given the chance to share activities and materials which have worked for them, as well as discussing how to apply the activities from the workshop to their own contexts.

The presentation

To watch the presentation, click the picture below:

Stepping into the real world - transitioning listening - recorded presentation (click to listen)

The books I recommended are:

(These are affiliate links, so if you buy them or anything else after clicking on these links I will get a little money. Thank you!)

I also recommend showing your students how to make the most of podcasts. I wrote a post on my Independent English blog which you can use as an introduction or to find links to some podcasts I recommend.

I’ve previously shared resources related to weak forms, including more word clouds like the one in the presentation.

The audio tracks are not included in the presentation, so I’ve uploaded them to audioboo so you can listen to them and/or use them in class. No copyright infringement is intended.

Slide 6, audio 1

Slide 6, audio 2

Slide 12

Slide 13, audio 1

Slide 13, audio 2

Slide 16

Adam Simpson and I were interviewed by Paul Braddock and Ann Foreman from the British Council, as part of the IATEFL Harrogate online coverage. It was a great privilege to be asked to do this.

We were asked about what makes a successful blog and how we go about blogging. The interview is just under 8 minutes, and I hope there are some useful tips in there.

Adam’s blog is www.teachthemenglish.com, and if you’re not already following it, you should be.

Shortly afterwards James Taylor, Katherine Bilsborough and Willy Cardoso were asked about ‘the benefits of blogging, growing the confidence to blog, and how it enables a different level of communication with peers around the world.’

Paul and Ann run the highly successful TeachingEnglish facebook page, which is a treasure trove of resources. All five of us have benefitted from it, and it’s great to be able to give something back.

IATEFL Harrogate 2014 banner

Follow the conference and watch recordings of sessions and interviews by clicking the image!

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