A week ago I wrote about how frustrated I got every time I went outside my flat. After a relaxing weekend, a chance to talk over my feelings with friends and family (thank you!), and a chance comment on Tuesday about case numbers in our region being pretty low (10 cases in the last 7 days as I write this), I started to feel a lot better.
I’ve been for three walks in the last week, and while I still got frustrated with people, I was able to calm myself down much faster. This was easier when I closed my eyes and waited until they had gone past, in the manner of a small child: if I can’t see them, they’re not there 😉
After those small steps, there were two huge ones.
Our flamenco teacher is allowed to have classes with up to 5 people, so that’s how many of us were in the room on Thursday night. I live by myself and have been getting shopping delivered, so being in a room with actual human beings for an hour was an adjustment. It felt normal quickly, but I wanted to notice it and remember that feeling. The lift home which my friend gave me was also strange: the first time I’ve been in a vehicle of any kind for about 10 weeks.
The other step is something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time: I finally got around to buying myself a bike. That means I now have the freedom to go further afield if I want to without having to rely on public transport. I just need to motivate myself to carry it down and up three flights of stairs every time I want to use it!
So as you can see, I’m in a much better place this week. Thank you to everyone who sent me a message after last week’s post!
My Zoom lessons
Our teen elementary lessons this week were extra practice of ‘have to’ and a break from all grammar!
Do we have to do this all again?
The concepts of ‘have to’ and ‘don’t have to’ really challenged our students last week, so Jude and I decided it was worth dedicating another lesson to it.
We also wanted to do a bit more work on adverbs, so for the warmer students worked in teams in breakout rooms to add sentences to Google Docs to describe pictures. For example, She acted badly. He shouted loudly. This activity showed that about 80% of the students have got the idea of adverbs, and none of them remembered ‘suddenly’ from last week.
The homework check showed that both groups continued struggled with the form of ‘have to’ or avoided it completely.
With group 1 the rest of the lesson went:
- Dictation (see below).
- Rewrite the text in groups in breakout rooms, replacing ‘I’ with ‘she’ and making other necessary changes so the grammar agreed.
- I highlighted the question and negative forms again and they copied them into their notebooks.
- Go back to your homework, try to correct it, then we’ll confirm if the answers are right or not.
- 5 minutes left: in the chat answer the question: What jobs does your mum/dad have to do in the house?
With group 2, they’d got enough of the homework right to check it then, and I’d prompted them while they were comparing answers in breakout rooms to deal with the remaining problems. Their lesson went:
- Rewrite text.
- Question and negative forms again.
- Write sentences about a mystery job for other students to guess (they only had 10 minutes for this, so the guessing happened next lesson).
For the dictation, they all wrote this text in their notebooks.
To help them manage the process, I said I’d read each sentence three times and held my fingers up to show which repetition it was. They could then ask me to repeat it again if they wanted me to.
In hindsight, we should have done some kind of pre-listening gist task, raised interest a little more first, had some elements they could change…but hindsight is 20/20.
In general, the lessons seemed fine when we were planning them, but when we taught them they felt uninspired and only partially engaging. The students seemed to enjoy the challenge of the transformation and they concentrated during the dictation, but I’m not sure how much they’ll remember this in future. On the other hand, they needed this focus on the grammar to fully understand (yes, I know that’s not ideal).
Look, it’s a penguin!
After lots of consecutive grammar lessons, it was time to take a break. We had a tiny bit of grammar at the start, with group one playing a wheel from wordwall. They read the prompt, then wrote the sentence in the chat box. They really enjoyed it and asked for more.
Group 2 read their sentences from the end of the last lesson in groups in breakout rooms. The other students guessed which job it was.
We used a story page for the basis of the lesson. We started with a couple of screenshots from the story, with students writing ‘I see…’, then ‘I think…’ sentences in the chatbox – a routine they’re familiar with. I encouraged them to use adjectives and adverbs, make predictions using ‘going to’ and say what the people ‘have to’ do. A couple of students got very into this.
I played the video for them to check their predictions.
In breakout rooms, they completed a gapfill comprehension task in groups where they had to finish the sentences by reading the story.
With group 1, I did a memory challenge. They saw frames from the story with words blanked out which they had to remember. Then I played the video, paused it, and they told me what’s next. They then went into breakout rooms to practise acting out the story in groups of 3, came back and performed it. However, they weren’t listening to each other as they were all telling the same story.
With group 2, I skipped the memory challenge. Instead I walked them through the story and got them to change details. For example, instead of a lost penguin, they chose another animal. Instead of going to the park, they went to the zoo/beach/mountains. In breakout rooms they chose their favourite idea for each bit of the story, then rehearsed it. When they acted it out, the others were a bit more engaged because every story was different.
Friday 22nd May was the 12th IH Teachers Online Conference, 10 hours featuring 30 talks from teachers across the International House network. You can watch all of the talks on YouTube. My favourites were by Chloe Pakeman-Schiavone, Shannon Thwaites and Danny Coleman. Here’s the full programme. My talk was on making and using paper fortune tellers. I got so many ideas from the talks, and only have a couple more lessons to try them out in before the end of the year! Thank you to everyone who gave talks, and to Shaun Wilden for putting it all together.
On Sunday 24th May I took part in an event organised by IH Moscow (thanks for inviting me Anka Zapart!). I really like the format, which is manageable :
- 10 minutes of house rules
- three 20-minute presentations
- 10-minute break
- three 20-minute presentations
- 10-minute general Q&A session
Each presentation featured activities teachers had tried out in class, and there were a few bonus activities in between. There’ll be a recording which I’ll also share. Lots of the teachers use Miro.com in their lessons, which I hadn’t seen before. It looks like a very versatile tool. You can have three virtual whiteboards with the free account. Vita Khitruk has compiled an example board with different ideas for games – I love the idea of ‘climbing’ a mountain with little challenges.
Some of the other things I learnt about/was reminded of were:
- Playing noughts and crosses with an image behind the grid. To win the square, students have to describe that section of the picture. (Anka Zapart)
- Duckiedeck.com/play has lots of games for young learner classes, for example this costumes game which you can use to get kids to describe what she’s wearing and practise words like put on/take off, or room decorating. You need Flash. (Tatiana Fanshtein)
- Sesame Street has a restaurant game that kids enjoy too. (Tatiana Fanshtein)
- WheelDecide can be used for lots of different ideas – here’s an example for present simple questions. (Tatiana Fanshtein)
- WaterAid has some topical games which you can adapt to the classroom, including Germ Zapper, which you can use to practise objects in a room and prepositions. (Tatiana Fanshtein)
- SentenceDict allows you to get good example sentences for any word, including being able to search for simple sentences only. (Vita Khitruk)
- A reminder that Tekhnologic templates are very versatile and easy to adapt. (Irina Chan-Fedorova)
- Kids can be very motivated by habit trackers, such as ticking a box for each of four challenges every time they do them: do homework, use Quizlet, watch a video in English (Masha Andrievich)
- Use a ‘discourse clock‘ to help very young students say a lot more when doing mini presentations. (Anka Zapart)
You can watch the full recording here:
James Egerton has a lesson plan for upper intermediate and above learners based on an article about Zoom fatigue. James Taylor has one on working from home, with an entertaining video showing different ‘types’ of home-workers. He also wrote an article for the IATEFL Views blog on the resilience and creativity of English language teachers. Jill Hadfield’s IATEFL Views post shows snapshots of lockdown life in New Zealand, and a few activity ideas too.
Nik Peachey has a one-page interactive summary of six areas teachers need training and support in to successfully teach online.
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Each week I’ve summarised what our teachers and I have learnt during the transition to online teaching. Every post includes some tips about using Zoom, activities we’ve tried out (many adapted from the face-to-face classroom), and reflections on how my teaching and management have been affected by working from home. Here are all of the posts so far:
You may also find some other posts on my blog/which I’ve written useful:
Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay kind. And stay at home (if you still have to!)