Christmas activities

Here is the collection of Christmas activities which I presented at the International House Sevastopol seminar on Saturday December 21st 2013.

Some of the activities are available on the web, some I have created, and some are versions of time-honoured none-Christmas EFL activities adapted to the festive season. If there’s no link, click on the picture within the presentation and it should take you to the activity. Hopefully the slides are self-explanatory, but if not, feel free to leave me a comment.

In addition, here are some photos from Christmas 2010 which my family gave me permission to take and share. I talked about one of them using fotobabble.

Lights on a garden tree Snow on Christmas Day! Barrel organ as part of Christmas fundraising Christmas fundraising Christmas fundraising Red phone boxes in the snow Stuffing the turkey Pigs in blankets Part-cooked turkey Table set with crackers Table set with crackers Turkey in the oven Fully-cooked turkey Ready to pull crackers Eating Christmas dinner, wearing cracker hats Christmas pudding in the microwave Pouring brandy on the Christmas pudding The Christmas pudding on fire (honest!) The Christmas pudding on fire (honest!) Evening meal of Christmas cake and leftovers... Christmas cake IMG_4106

I realise that this is a bit late for many of you, but you can save it for next year 🙂

The chain of 11s

Two blog posts today, because I’ve seen this challenge going round for the last week, and don’t know when I’ll next have time to write for it! I love finding out more about the people I connect with online 🙂 Apologies in advance for the verbosity…I don’t know when to stop! I was tagged by Rachael Roberts and Adam Simpson, both of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet, and whose blogs are full of excellent ideas and resources.

My task is to…

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 random facts about me

  1. I lived in the jungle for four months during my gap year. It was my first big adventure, and it definitely gave me the travel bug. It’s very nearly the 10th anniversary of the expedition, and I can’t believe how quickly time has gone past!
  2. I’ve done a parachute jump. It was part of my fundraising for the trip to the jungle.
  3. My dad used to have a pet shop, but before he opened it we already had over 100 animals at home…rabbits (he bred them for show), 2 dogs, a cat, a chinchilla, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, budgies, cockatiels, canaries, finches, chickens, pigeons (for a very brief period, thank God!)…
  4. I love dancing, although I don’t have any particular skill at it! I took tango classes for a while in Paraguay, and did belly dancing in Czech Republic, something I was very resistant to at first, and ended up really enjoying.
  5. My whole family is English, as far back as we’ve managed to find out. Not British, English. No Welsh, Scottish, Irish, or anything else. Despite that, when I tan, I’m always very dark. This has led people to ask me, variously, if I’m Spanish, Argentinian, Brazilian, Indian… After I came back from the jungle, I lived in my aunt’s village in rural England for a month, and one of her friends asked who the foreigner was who was staying with her! 🙂
  6. Everywhere I go, I seem to meet, and normally become good friends with, someone with a name which is a variant on Katherine. My mum, my best friend, one of my best friends from uni and at least one person from most of the jobs I’ve done, generally the one I’ve stayed in contact with, all fit into this pattern.
  7. I think I was always meant to be a teacher, although it took me a long time to realise it. I’ve stayed in touch with one of my primary school teachers, and a few years ago she told me that when she was very busy my classmates would come and ask me for help. I don’t remember this.
  8. My original life plan was to work in business for about 20 years, then become a teacher when I was about 40 and had money. I came up with this plan when I was about 15, because I was worried I didn’t know what I would do with my life. I’m a forward planner!
  9. During my gap year, I did door-to-door sales, which I hated. It did, however, give me a lot of thinking time. It was at this point that I realised that TEFL was the way to go. “What, you mean people will pay for me to go and live in their countries? And I get to teach? Duh!”
  10. I really enjoy writing letters.
  11. Poor formatting frustrates me, and I will spend hours trying to sort it out.
Our chinchilla
Our chinchilla

11 questions from Rachael

  1. Why did you start blogging and how has differed from your expectations?
    I started blogging because I’d seen that lots of people on Twitter had blogs (I was still lurking at this point) and I thought it would be a good way of raising my professional profile. It’s ended up being something I HAVE to do – I wake up with ideas in my head I have to write about. When something goes well or badly, mostly in class but sometimes not, I write about it on my blog to get the thoughts out of my head. I love sharing materials too. It’s also been amazing that people come up to me at conferences or during courses and say “You’re Sandy Millin. I read your blog.” It’s very flattering, and has led to some very good friendships, but I also find it a bit freaky!
  2. What’s your earliest childhood memory?
    That’s a hard one. I think most of my childhood memories are connected to photos, so I don’t know if any of them are real or not. I can’t think of one particular thing.
  3. Tell us about someone you admire, and say why.
    Another hard one. I think it would have to be my mum and both of my grandmas. All of them had difficult times for various reasons and are very strong women. I don’t think I would be anywhere near as confident as I am without having the three of them as role models.
  4. What was the last book you read and what did you think of it?
    This morning I decided to give up reading The Brothers Karamazov after 200 pages (and about 6 weeks!). It’s a shame because I loved Crime and Punishment, but it’s just not motivating me. The last book I finished was Adventures of a Language Traveller by John Haycraft, one of the founders of IH. I wrote about it here. I’ve been reading A Dance with Dragons on my iPad for about a year now, and am a third of the way through. I’m trying to read it as slowly as possible in the vain hope that George R. R. Martin might finish the next Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones) book before I’m done. I realise this is highly unlikely.
  5. Do you prefer walking or running? Why?
    Walking. I tried running for a couple of weeks a few years ago, and really didn’t like it. I have a dodgy knee, which doesn’t help. I love taking the time to enjoy the scenery (or people watching in a city). I’ve also been using a pedometer app on my phone for about a year, and when I realised how little exercise I was doing every day it really motivated me to try harder. Did you know that 10,000 steps is the recommended daily amount for a healthy lifestyle? It’s helped me to lose weight and to feel a lot healthier.
  6. What was your first paid job?
    I worked as a librarian doing cover work, which then morphed into three hours a week every Sunday for a year. My mum was a librarian, so I’d often gone there in the holidays and always enjoyed helping. It was nice to be paid for it 🙂
  7. What five famous people would you invite to a dinner party, and why?
    Stephen Fry – I could listen to him for hours.
    Terry Pratchett – I’ve read all of his books, and his documentaries about orangutans and Alzheimer’s are fascinating. I cried when I found out he’d been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. (On a side note, my first poster was an illustration of the Discworld)
    Dame Judi Dench – one of my favourite programmes as a child was As Time Goes Byand I always enjoy her films. She’s also a very funny woman.
    Bill Bailey – another fascinating man – he’s interested in so many things. I was lucky enough to see him perform last year, and it was brilliant.
    Douglas Adams – I’ve written before about how much he’s influenced me.
    It strikes me that these are all pretty similar people… 😉
  8. What’s the first website you check/go on each day? Why?
    Facebook. I can’t imagine having this lifestyle without the internet, and facebook has made it a lot easier to feel like I’m still part of people’s lives, even when my friends live all over the world.
  9. What can you remember about the first class you ever taught?
    I can’t remember a specific class, but the first time I was responsible for my own groups was in Malaysia, during my trip to the jungle (see fact number 1). I think the first group I had was two girls (I had three classes there – only 8 hours a week, and I was very bored in between!). I’d observed their class before teaching them, and their teacher would hit them behind the ear with his knuckle whenever they didn’t know anything. Unsurprisingly, they could never answer his questions, and they were petrified. We got into a routine of using a word monster. The final lesson I taught with that group was the first time I ever realised I’d taught someone something, and that what they’d produced was my doing. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.
  10. Flowers or chocolates?
    I would always have said chocolates before, but over the last year or so I’ve come to prefer flowers. They last for longer, and I’ve even started buying them myself.
  11. How do you feel about reality TV shows?
    I can’t stand them. I watched the eviction shows for the second series of Big Brother because it was between Friends and Will and Grace, and meant I could join in with conversations at school the next day. That was more than enough naval-gazing for my whole life. I don’t see the point in people putting themselves in situations where they are likely to be humiliated and mocked – I think it shows the mean side of humanity.

11 questions from Adam

  1. I am aware of the phenomenon called ‘twerking’ but I don’t really know what it is. Do you? Would you explain it to me in one sentence?
    Any kind of word which spreads like this and I don’t understand frustrates me, so wikipedia is my friend here. 🙂 Twerking is sexually provocative, completely unnecessary dancing, generally designed to annoy other women.
  2. The Soviet Union still exists. Why does this make you happy / sad?
    Since I’m living in the Russian-speaking remnants of it in Ukraine, echoes of it are very much still around me. I don’t particularly feel one way or the other for it though, since I don’t feel I know enough about it. The main thing that living in Paraguay, Czech Republic and Ukraine has taught me is just how many opinions there are about oppressive regimes.
  3. What did you eat for dinner last night?
    I’m currently on a dietary regime that requires me to eat every 3 hours, and I have to have 200-300g every time. This does not combine well with teaching. So dinner was either chicken, vegetables and rice from the canteen next to school at 4pm, or Tuc biscuits, cheese and a couple of cocktail sausages at 9pm. Neither of these meals was ideal.
  4. I’m new to this planet. Tell me what a dog looks like.
    About 80cm tall, about 1m from nose to the tip of its tail. If a cat can take it in a fight, it’s not a dog.
  5. Go to YouTube and basically surf around until you find a song that you’ve never heard before. Share that song with us here.
    Katy Perry – Unconditionally
    I first really listened to her music thanks to Mark Andrews, and think her lyrics are generally pretty clever, although this one seems to have dropped the ball.
  6. The 60s or the 70s? Why?
    Neither. I was born in the mid-80s, and am pretty happy with life right now 😉
  7. Invent a word for something that doesn’t have a word to describe it. Share your word and description here.
    Ermm…no idea!
  8. Would you prefer to be that guy from Memento who wakes up and can’t remember the previous day, or that guy from Groundhog Day who wakes up to exactly the same day over and over again?
    Groundhog Day, mostly because I’m a romantic!
  9. Go to this YouTube video. Be honest, how long did you last?
    About 10 seconds. The music was already annoying me 😉
  10. What are your thoughts on becoming one of the first Mars colonists?
    That would be amazing! I’ve always loved space. My second poster (after the Discworld) was the lifecycle of a star, and one of my dreams is to see the Earth from space one day.
  11. Based on the way things are going, which language should we learn to be a good world citizen by the year 2030?
    English and Chinese, but generally you should just learn any other language to make sure you don’t have an insular view of the world. One of my favourite sayings is the Czech proverb:

Learn a new language and get a new soul.

And the nominees are…

A lot of the people I wanted to nominate have already been tagged and written their posts, so I thought I would spread this challenge to a wider community, not just EFL people. You don’t have to respond to the challenge if you don’t have time. I’d just like to find out more 🙂

  1. Lizzie Pinard
  2. Fiona Mauchline
  3. Anthony Gaughan
  4. Mike Harrison
  5. Phil Bird
  6. Chia Suan Chong
  7. Mike Griffin
  8. Ceri Jones
  9. Kevin Stein
  10. Kate Millin (my mum!)
  11. Liz Broomfield (a great proofreader and editor)

My questions to the nominees…

  1. What advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?
  2. Are you a tidy person or a clean person, or both, or neither?
  3. How often do you go to the cinema?
  4. Do you have a favourite word (in any language)?
  5. What’s your favourite meal? Can you cook it?
  6. What’s the phrase you constantly hear yourself saying?
  7. What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
  8. What’s your favourite method of procrastination?
  9. Do you like classical music?
  10. I don’t know much about poetry. Is there a particular poem you think I should read?
  11. And, a little bit of advertising. 🙂 What’s your favourite eltpic? (You don’t have to justify it!)

Update: answers to questions posed by Sharon Hartle

  1. Have you ever wanted to have another name?
    My name is actually Sandra, and I was called that until I was 18. I used ‘Sandy’ in my first email address, and to this day I have no idea why. When I went to Malaysia, I met the people I was going with by email first, so naturally they called me Sandy, and I found I preferred it. Now I get confused when people call me Sandra!
  2. What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you when travelling?
    Having the same conversation again and again with taxi drivers in Patagonia after I fractured my leg, sprained my ankle, and ended up on crutches for two months:
    – What happened? (I was walking down a mountain in Ushuaia and tripped over.)
    – Why are you in Patagonia? (I’m working in Paraguay and have two months off)
    – Why would anyone go to Paraguay? (Because I’d never been to South America and wanted to go somewhere unusual)
    – Do you have a Paraguayan/Chilean/Argentinian boyfriend? (No)
    – Do you want one? (No!)
    This conversation was very good for my Spanish…Sandy with a fractured leg
  3. If you could change one thing about your house, what would it be?
    I don’t have my own house or flat, so that would be the main thing I would change! One day…
  4. What is your ideal holiday?
    One where I go somewhere new, with lots of interesting things to see and do, with people I can spend hours chatting to (either who I take with me or meet there!)
    On the other hand, a week of lying about by a pool reading now seems to hold an appeal it never did a year ago…
  5. What is your favourite moment of the day?
    I love being up early in the morning before anyone else is, especially in cities. One of the best times I ever did this was on New Year’s Day 2007, when I wandered around the deserted streets of Buenos Aires at about 9a.m. – it was like a different city. Something similar happened to me in London in 2012, walking through the city for three hours on a Sunday morning, starting at 7a.m. It’s quite magical, and I really should do it more.
  6. Where do you listen to music?
    Wherever and whenever I can, although I probably listen to more podcasts. When I’m doing mindless things like cleaning or washing up, I always have music on.
  7. What is your favourite classroom activity?
    I don’t really have one favourite, more a whole bank of them.
  8. What would the five things be that you’d take with you to a desert island?
    Ermmm…too difficult!
  9. Are you a lark or an owl?
    Definitely a lark, as number 5 will attest!
  10. What is one adventure that you’re planning for 2014?
    A trip to Kiev with my best friend and her fiancé, and learning to be a CELTA tutor (I hope!)
  11. What is the one thing you know you shouldn’t do, but… you do it anyway?
    Spend hours and hours and hours on the computer 😉

(And thanks to Ceri Jones for including me in her post)

Please Mrs Butler

I can’t imagine my childhood without Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Two of my favourite books were Please Mrs Butler and Heard it in the Playground (affiliate links), both collections of poems based around being at school.

I created a worksheet based on the title poem from Please Mrs Butler and the recording Allan Ahlberg made of it on The Children’s Poetry Archive.

I used it with pre-intermediate students as part of our ongoing thread of listening and pronunciation practice. We listened to the numbers in the introduction four or five times, and they managed to get them all. We finished the 90-minute lesson with the students repeating the poem after me, then performing it together. This was the final result:

The poem has since served as a warmer in later lessons. For homework, I asked them to watch a group of children performing the title poem from the other book, Heard it in the Playground.

What poems do you like using in class?