Wednesday, 28 July 2010
I will be presenting on Sunday 1st August! It's a huge honour to share the same platform as a host of leading ELT illuminaries. I am very excited about taking part for the first time as a presenter. My talk is entitled "The Power of Images for Effective Communication". I have temporarily come back from my family holiday in a different part of Abruzzo, especially to prepare my talk today and tomorrow. I have had a training session with Shelly Terrell and Kelly Tenkely, two of the organisers of the e-conference. Shelly is responsible for looking after me, so I will be in very safe hands!
The following posts have been written about the Reform Symposium e-conference:
Shelly Terrell - "Six Reasons to attend the RSCON10 Free E-Conference"
Kelly Tenkely - "Reform Symposium Virtual Conference Call for Moderators".
I am sure you will have a great time at the conference and it will be excellent for your professional development.
Have you signed up yet? If not, below is a Youtube video which explains all about how you can attend the conference. Have fun!
Friday, 23 July 2010
I had had an urgent message from K. Kelly, our stray dog, had been involved in an accident in the fields surrounding our home in Abruzzo. A tractor had run him over and had partially severed his foot. Poor Kelly had lost a lot of blood and with the help of the farmer, K had to cut off what was left of Kelly's foot. There was no other help at hand as it happened in open countryside and there was no other option. Kelly was transported back home in a wheelbarrow acting as a stretcher. By the time K had phoned for a vet, Kelly had somehow or other, vanished into thin air. No amount of calling or searching, found him. As it got later, and the sky grew darker and darker, it was assumed that Kelly had gone somewhere to lick his wounds and die with dignity. Thoughts were that at that stage, Kelly was beyond saving, even if he did come back, as he had suffered such a horrendous injury. The notion of having to put him down to spare him agony, saddened us immensely.
A life-saving Decision
Imagine my great surprise, when I phoned K the next day, to say that I and my parents had arrived at Abruzzo airport, to hear that Kelly had crawled back to our home and was in a very bad state indeed. The fact that Kelly had somehow or other, willed himself home was astonishing and uplifting. However, the thought of the vet spelling out a negative prognosis, made me feel edgy and very worried for him.
The local vet arrived and spent several hours tending to Kelly, giving him a drip, cleaning him up, giving him injections and generally saving his life. Kelly had lost a lot of blood, but luckily the injury had been just millimetres away from touching a main artery. The vet said Kelly would have died within 15 minutes of the impact if the main artery had been touched.
Most importantly of all, he stated that Kelly's life could be saved only if we could dedicate ourselves to 15 days of intensive TLC, involving twice daily injections, bathing the severed part of Kelly's foot three times a day, and punctual and exact administering of antibiotics and medication. Without hesitation and without the need to confer, we both agreed that of course, that was what we wanted to do. The thought of putting Kelly down there and then was simply not an option we wanted to consider if there was the slightest hope that he could live a fairly reasonable life.
I must say in all truth that the heavy burden of the work rests on K's shoulders. My family are here in Abruzzo for the first time in 2 years. My mother's serious accident last year resulted in all our lives and plans being put on hold while we waited anxiously for news of recovery. The fact that my mother has defied all the medical odds stacked against her, is indeed cause for celebration this year, and this two-week family holiday has been greatly anticipated. My mother will be celebrating her birthday here as well. So, a moral dilemma has ensued. Kelly is very important. My family are very imprtant. I can't be in 2 places at once, clear and simple. So I will be with my family, and Karl will stay here, to look after Kelly while I am away, yet again.
How ironic that just a few weeks ago on my blog, I featured the Newsy.com story of "Oscar, the Bionic Cat", who had had his legs severed in a similar accident to Kelly's. Even more of a coincidence, just a few days ago, I had taught my students some expressions such as "to pass away", "to kick the bucket", and "to put an animal down". It makes me think. Would all this have happened if I hadn't somehow tempted fate? It's a question that I have asked myself. The chance of one of our menagerie being involved in an accident is minimal as there is no heavy traffic around here, apart from the odd tractor or combine harvester.
Today Kelly wagged his tail, limped around his pen and ate some food. This is very positive. Alessio, our brilliant vet, has stressed that the only thing which stands in the way of Kelly's recovery, is the onset of gangrene in his foot. I hope and pray that this will not happen. Kelly is a fighter. He deserves another chance.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
The 2 week intensive Teachers' Refresher course has sadly come to an end. The blistering heat of the wilds of Abruzzo now beckons, and today I have been busy preparing for my homeward journey tomorrow morning. It's been a very exciting and productive time and I have had the most wonderful and amazing students at the Lake School of English, Oxford. I can't believe how fast it has all gone!
I would like to share 5 fun end of course activities that went down well.
The Gifts Game
I handed out some cutouts of a gift with a space for writing on and asked the participants in groups of 3 - 4, to write down a word or phrase that they especially liked to present to the members of their group. For example, one teacher wrote the word "brolly" in the space and then presented it to her clasmate by saying "I'd like to give you this brolly as a gift, because you will need one when it rains." Another wrote "A pint of lager", and gave it to a classmate saying "Here's a pint of lage, as I know you appreciate English beer". The students milled around and it was a great fun activity, recycling expressions learned, but at the same time it was a very positive way to end the classes.
My Front Door
Blue door to O'Connell House via Flickr
This idea from Mario Rinvolucri, seen in Arena Issue 24, is one which always works a treat. The transition from here to there is made in a positive fashion. I asked the students to visualise how they felt approaching their house in their country. They then had to visualise their front door. What was it like? What colour was it? Who would open the door? Describe the feeling. What would be the first thing they would do as soon as they arrived home? They were then asked to describe everything to their partner.
I know the first thing I am going to do once I have greeted the menagerie is to check on how K has managed with all the watering of my vegetable plot and flowers. Will my flowers be flourishing or wilting in the excessive heat of the last few weeks? I know I will notice every little change that has occured while I've been away. There will be sooo much catching up to do!
The Five-step Strategy to Implementing New Ideas
This is an idea I have picked up over the years on teacher training courses.
Stage 1: you ask the participants to think of a couple of new ideas they will definitely want to put into practice as soon as they get back to school. Usually they say that it's impossible to only choose a couple as there are so many new ones they have learned.
Stage 2: Ask them to choose only ONE idea they are keen to embrace as soon as they get back to their working environment. Get the teachers to concretise the actual moment they will put the new idea into place. Who will they use it with? Ask them to imagine the specific class and level of students. Who will support them in implementing this concrete example? Their Director of Studies? Someone from school, maybe a mentor? A colleague?
Stage 4: The participants are asked the following questions: How will you know if the idea worked? How will you get feedback on it?
Stage 5: They find a partner and tell them the answers to their thoughts. The partner must listen very carefully and pay attention. Reverse roles and listen to the partner's thoughts on ways of implementing one concrete idea.
I like this 5-stage activity because it is nice to focus on a concrete idea with a specific class. The motivation to try it out is thus greatly heightened.
Pyramid Reflection on the Qualities of Survivor Teachers
I asked the teachers in pairs to brainstorm 10 qualities of a "Survivor Teacher". All the words had to begin with the letter "c". As a whole class they managed to come up with 20 qualities within a set time limit and they are listed below in the Wordle. We voted that to be a "survivor" teacher, probably one of the most essential qualities was to be competent. It was nice to take part in the discussion as peers. I enjoyed the act of sharing our views as educators.
Wallwisher Good Luck Messages
This is a great activity. Hopefully the participants will add their messages over the coming weeks when they can. It will be a lovely memory of the happy times spent together as a group.
Goodbye Lovely Teachers via Youtube
A first for me! My co-teacher on the Secondary Teachers' Refresher course, Jane, kindly suggested videoing each other saying goodbye to our students and then uploading the film onto Youtube and then in the Wallwisher above. It's really strange watching myself in action! I didn't realise that I gesticulate so much. One day, I'll look back on this short piece of film and it will bring back wonderful memories of a fab time.
Thank you to all the participants for making it such a special two weeks, and thanks to my lovely colleagues Jane and Catherine, and everybody at the Lake School.
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
But here's the thing, you're honing a craft.
A very special, emerging craft.
you can always edit, it's yours, you know - it's online - it doesn't matter if that that i wasn't dotted or that t wasn't crossed, most people don't mind, and if they do...
You must arrive at the page as often as you can make the time to do so.
In fact, ask yourself:
- How can I make the time to provide content consistently?
- What commitments do I currently have that I can get rid of?
- What television programs do I really not need to watch?
- Can I wake up an hour earlier? (I did that for a year)
- Can I go to bed an hour later? (I do that still).
4. The best edu-bloggers understand that
In fact, never,
ever, ever, ever
to someone else
who you think
is getting more attention
than you are.
Abandon those thoughts.
Google in the afternoon, after Gari Melchers by Mike Licht, Notions.com
This post is part of a new series: Thoughts on Edu-blogging. For part 3 of this particular article, please visit Berni Wall's blog (coming soon). For glossaries related to some of the jargon mentioned in this article, see Mike Harrison's blog and Sue Lyon Jones on words related to the word blog. Please view Nick Jaworski's blog for "The Dogma of Blogging".
(c) KarenneJoySylvester, 2010
Karenne is an ELT-edu-blogger, a ESP:IT teacher, EdTech teacher-trainer and materials writer, originally from Grenada in the Caribbean. She currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany and blogs at Kalinago English (Bab.la/Lexiophile's #2 Global Language Teaching Blogs) and BusinessEnglish~5mins.
Find her on Twitter as @kalinagoenglish.
I am very honoured to have Karenne do this amazing guest post on my blog. She is my inspirational mentor. I owe a lot to her generosity of spirit. Her continuing quest to help fellow edubloggers is awesome. My heartfelt thanks, dear Karenne.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
I just couldn't resist this inspiring Newsy.com video clip of Oscar, the world's first bionic cat. He had his back feet severed by a combine harvester. Read the incredible story here.
As you may know, I have two English cats living a very happy and comfortable life in Abruzzo. They have adapted very well to being amongst Italian chickens and dogs. Here is Victoria below, chilling out on the balcony. She is a real madam!
Then I found out about ClustrMaps. The idea of knowing where any potential readers were from, intrigued me, and so I installed it in December 2008. Here is an excellent guide on Adding ClustrMaps to Your Blog Sidebar Using a Text Widget by Sue Waters from the Edublogger. It was so exciting to see that I was not in fact writing to myself. As the red dots increased showing countries from all around the world, it made me feel very happy. The idea that someone in Fiji or Malaysia, Kenya, Panama, Uruguay, Jamaica or Lithuania, to name some of the 100+ countries currently represented by the dots, has taken the time to view my blog, even if for only a second, is a wonderful feeling.
I would like to say a big thank you to all my readers. The counter has just passed the 10,000 mark!! I am absolutely amazed. It is lovely to share my thoughts with you all. I hope I will continue to be inspired to write my blog, and at the same time, I hope you will also be inspired. The biggest lesson I have discovered about writing a blog is that it is all about learning and sharing. This involves being connected to fellow educators from around the globe. This in turn has helped me to develop both personally and professionally. It's also about doing something I love with passion. Blogging has been a life-changing experience.
Saturday, 10 July 2010
My wish has come true! I will be presenting a talk in Rome in November at TESOL-Italy's 35th National Convention. The theme for the conference will be "Language Flows". I was very happy to receive the news yesterday. I vowed last year when I attended TESOL-Italy's 34th National Convention that I wanted to return as a presenter in 2010. I had an amazing time in Rome last November and I wrote a summary of it called "TESOL-Italy 2009."
I am looking forward to preparing for my talk very much. Hopefully I will meet some of the members of my PLN and also make more friends. I see this opportunity as a great challenge for my professional development. It will be very exciting.
Dresden Kolloquium: 1982
The last time I presented at a big conference was in 1982 in Dresden, in the former German Democratic Republic. I was a very young teacher back in those days! I vividly remember the occasion and it was a fantastic experience. There were about 200 delegates from all over the GDR and I was the second presenter on the first day. I had my 15 minutes of fame talking about "The Role Of Visual Aids at Elementary Level". 28 years later, I would still say the same things about the use of visuals and realia, but of course, with the age of digital technology, the format and mode of instruction has changed considerably.
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Part of school duties is to go to the pub with students on a Thursday evening. This is one of the perks of the job! The evening is a chance for students to practise their English and also to sample one of the greatest of British traditions with teachers. Tonight we are going to The Head of the River, which as the name suggests, is on the river!
20 Questions Game
As an introduction to the theme of "pubs", I put a coaster (like the one at the top of the page) in an envelope and then ask my students to guess the traditional British "thing" which is inside the envelope. They can only ask me 20 questions and I will only answer yes or no. Once they have guessed the object, I write up the words PUBLIC HOUSE on the board. I ask them to brainstorm vocabulary connected to pubs, eg drinks, food, items that are found in a pub, by using the letters in the words eg.
Half a pint
A Pub Quiz
I hand out a sheet which contains 20 questions relating to pubs. The quiz can be played open class or in small groups/pairs of students. You set a time limit. This quiz tests general knowledge about pubs. Here are a few questions:
- What do you call a tour of pubs in one area where you have a drink in each one?
- How old do you have to be to buy alcohol in Britain?
- What is shandy?
- What is draught beer?
- What does "stright or on the rocks" mean?
- What do you say when you are going to buy drinks for everyone?
- When do you hear "last orders"
- What is the difference between bitter and Lager?
- What time do pubs close in England?
- What is the female equivalent of barman?
Monday, 5 July 2010
How did I feel before I walked into class? Can you guess which is correct from the following answers?
- absolutely terrified
- a bit anxious
- very eager to begin
- slightly apprehensive
I don't really like change much, but I have accepted that in this modern day and age, "shift happens" and so one has to adapt to new circumstances. My abiding fear which still can't be controlled completely, is that a lesson on the Internet lets me down in some way.
Well, today, due to my inexperience with the computer I was using, somehow parts of my introductory lesson did not show up on the screen just when I was proudly saying, "I'm now going to show you an example of an interactive poster, called a Glogster. Here it is".
Instead, a blank appeared ominously on the screen where my Glogster should have been. I hastily apologised and said I would investigate and show the students later. The same happened with my blixy.com activity. The reason could have been that I should have used Internet Explorer rather than Mozilla, or that I simply had to click something special to allow the "Adobe plug ins" necessary to see these particular tools.
Tomorrow I will ask for the help of the very helpful computer technician, so hopefully, I will be able to show the teachers both Glogster and Blixy.com. Maybe if you think too much about your worst fears, they sometimes happen? Anyway, in the past I would have been mortified and dreadfully embarrassed. Today, I just took it all in my stride and moved swiftly on to other activities on the computer, which were all there. The newspaper article in particular, I think was well received. We did the collaborative story building and this is the result in the Wordle below. Each student had a word and then had to create a sentence which fitted in with the story that was evolving off the top of their heads.
Can you work out what the story was about from the wordle below? This will be my warmer tomorrow morning. I will ask my students to reconstruct the story they made up today. The title is "A Collaborative Story".
Tomorrow's lessons will focus on "absolutely" + adjectives, with lots of communicative practice, language of opinions/reactions to opinions and discussion. I will also try out 2 activities from Scott Thornbury's excellent F is for First Lessons post, which also includes comments with lots of very nice ideas. I can't wait!
Watch this very detailed guided tutorial by Russell Stannard on how to create a Glogster.
Saturday, 3 July 2010
What is this "innit" I hear everywhere?
Somebody stopped me in the street and asked me for a "ciggie".
Why do people say "Cheers, mate" all the time?
Why do young people say "I'm not bothered".
I heard someone say they were having bangers and mash for their dinner.
I often hear "Are you gonna watch the footie tonight?" What is" footie"?
The "Y" Factor
I would like to share one lesson I will be doing next week. The focus will be on groups of words which end in -y or -ie. These tend to crop up a lot in everyday conversation.
I introduce the topic by reading out the dialogue below at normal speed, without showing the words. It is a dialogue, which I actually heard a few years ago. I then ask my students to tell me what the dialogue was about. I am usually met with some bemused looks!
A Bickie, Polly?
B Cheers, mate!
A Choccy bickie?
B Oooh! Fab!
A Here you go.
B Cheers, mate.
A No probs!
I ask my students to "translate" this brief dialogue into more formal English:
A Would you like a biscuit, Polly?
B Thanks, my friend.
A Would you like a chocolate biscuit?
B Ooooh! Fabulous!
A Here you are.
B Thank you!
A My pleasure.
The next stage is to get students in groups to brainstorm words that the students may have come across, which feature these 2 particular endings. Groups then feedback to the whole class and words are written up on the board.
Using Authentic Materials
Next I ask students to stand up and look around the classroom walls, where I have stuck some articles from newspapers/magazines/the Internet, which show concrete examples of words or phrases ending in -y or -ie. In pairs, students jot them down in their noteboooks and they try to work out the meaning from the context. General open class feedback follows with definitions and explanations of the 20 or so words from the authentic materials.
I have copied some examples below, taken from the Internet:
David Cameron egged by a hoodie
Heatwave to end today with thunderstorms
Bring in the barbecue and get out the brolly - the heatwave will end today with thunderstorms. And temperatures will plummet to a chilly 13C (55F) in the North next week.
Gourmet tour of Britain: Nicholas Roe enjoys a foodie safari through the UK countryside.
One of the most enjoyable ways of exploring the highways and byways of Britain is to follow a regional food trail - of which there is an ever increasing number. These involve touring restaurants, farm shops, delis, vineyards and cider producers in some of the most scenic areas of the country. Here's a selection to whet the appetite this summer.
Via the Telegraph
Taxman demands share of Oscars goodies
Those who hold a rose-tinted view of the entertainment industry may wish to look away now. It turns out that the eye-poppingly expensive gifts showered upon the film stars who present the Oscars are not given purely out of a spirit of generosity.
America's tax authorities are cracking down on the "goodie bags" handed out to awards presenters, which now frequently include luxury holidays, expensive hi-tech gadgets, designer clothing and even free laser eye surgery, and are valued at up to $100,000 (£53,000) each. The free items are a marketing tool and a de-facto payment for the stars' services, the internal revenue service insists, so do not count as gifts and are liable for tax.
I then have a few more activities to practise the new words. For example, a wordsearch created on www.puzzlemaker.com. Students have to find the 17 words in the puzzle. The answers are directly below.
H U T R T R K W G J X W Z H HBROLLY
R U H C S Y C C O H C G I C Y
J W Z C R A T J H S X H U E G
R I B D Y B B J K W D I B W C
E P I B U E I N R A S E P B U
S E B B O M E P V H H C J I W
B U L A I R Y L L K M B Z E S
E U O F L L P E E K W G L M Q
Y I S D T E G Z K E P C O M L
C F T Y I C T J E Q B B R U U
L O H O I E F O Y R K I B Y U
Y F M G O O V L L L K C E N N
B W G F O F B O S I C K I E W
H T Y L V J F F C D Z Z Y C J
U O F L P K G R J V X L L Y Y
17 of 17 words were placed into the puzzle.
H + Y + + + F + + + + + Y + +
+ O + L + + + R + + + + L Y +
E + O + L + + + E + + + L M +
+ I + D + E + + + E + + O M +
C + T + I C T + + + B B R U +
+ O + O I E F + Y + + I B Y +
+ + M G O O + L + + + C E N +
+ + G F O F B + S I C K I E +
+ I + D Y B + + + + + I + W +
E + I B U E I N R A S E + B +
+ E B B + + + + + + + + + I +
+ U L A I R Y + + + + + + E +
H + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + Y C C O H C + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
TELLY = TELEVISION
BROLLY = UMBRELLA
COMFY = COMFORTABLE etc
I hold up the informal words and students shout out the formal words. I then hold up the formal words and students shout out the informal words. I do this slowly the first time round, but much quicker the second time.
Memory games can be played by placing all the cards face down on the floor. In teams, students have to pick up 2 cards to make pairs. The team with the most pairs, is the winner.
Write each new word on a small bit of paper. Put them in a hat. Go round the class inviting a student to pick a card from the hat. The student has to begin a story using the word. A second student picks out a word and has to continue the same story incorporating their word and so on, until all the students have taken part in the group story building activity. Depending on the number of students, I sometimes get them to repeat the same story several times verbally and then ask them to write it up using the words as a visual prompt. For this activity, you may like the students to create their stories as a newspaper article. The Newspaper Generator from fodey.com is excellent for this purpose. See an example below:
Students could also create short dialogues to practise the new phrases and read them out to the class.