I’m looking for teachers who will be kind enough to let me observe them as a part of my diploma course. What I am supposed to do is design an observation tool, use it in class to observe teachers, and then inprove it. So the focus is not on evaluating your teaching, it’s on practicing my conceptual and writing skills in developing such an instrument in the first place. I’d be most willing to share the learning process, of course!

My focus is going to be on how giving students tasks to do actually works in class. This interests me because I’ve only recently rediscovered task-based teaching as my preferred approach. I think it gives learners structure, yet is very focussed on their needs. Task-based teaching is pretty standard practice, I’d say, in Business English, but perhaps not quite as typical in regular English teaching. I’m trying to use this approach in the coursebook I’m writing the “Campus Life” sections for, so I hope that observing other teachers – especially those at university! – will make the tasks I develop for the book better. So this is research.

I also want to use the occasion to sort out my own teaching, specifically how I lead up to and formulate tasks. How am I checking that learners have the necessary skills at their disposal to do that task? Am I checking things off a to-do list or really seeing what needs to be done? So I’m going to use the tool to assess my own teaching, as well, and would love colleagues to help me. So if you’re a teacher in Berlin or Potsdam or Munich or Hamburg or thereabouts and are willing to let me come into your class, please get in touch! The restrictions are: Your class needs to have over 6 participants, and you need to have a teaching qualification like a CELTA and at least 3 years’ experience. I’d be thrilled!

I have to observe 10 hours @60 minutes. That’s a lot of observation, friends.

Proverbs by first-graders

First-graders were asked to complete well-known proverbs. This is what they came up with. (Thank you, Joan, for the giggles.)

  • Don’t change horses… until they stop running.
  • Strike while the… bug is close.
  • It’s always darkest before… Daylight Saving Time.
  • Never underestimate the power of… termites.
  • You can lead a horse to water but… how?
  • Don’t bite the hand that… looks dirty.
  • No news is… impossible
  • A miss is as good as a… Mr.
  • You can’t teach an old dog new… math
  • If you lie down with dogs, you’ll… stink in the morning.
  • Love all, trust… me.
  • The pen is mightier than the… pigs.
  • An idle mind is… the best way to relax.
  • Where there’s smoke there’s… pollution.
  • Happy the bride who… gets all the presents.
  • A penny saved is… not much.
  • Two’s company, three’s… the Musketeers.
  • Don’t put off till tomorrow what… you put on to go to bed.
  • Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and… you have to blow your nose.
  • There are none so blind as… Stevie Wonder.
  • Children should be seen and not… spanked or grounded.
  • If at first you don’t succeed… get new batteries.
  • You get out of something only what you… see in the picture on the box.
  • When the blind lead the blind… get out of the way.
  • A bird in the hand… is going to poop on you.
  • Better late than… pregnant.

The above were sent to alphaDictionary, which is a treasure trove, by Susan Lister. She also contributed the beautiful definitions below:

The Sciences

  • “Water is composed of two gins, Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water.”
  • When you breathe, you inspire. When you do not breathe, you expire.”
  • “H20 is hot water, and CO2 is cold water.”
  • “The body consists of three parts—the brainium, the borax and the abominable cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abominable cavity contains the bowels, of which there are five: a, e, i, o and u.”
  • “The pistol of a flower is its only protection against insects.”
  • “The alimentary canal is located in the northern part of Indiana.”
  • “Equator: A menagerie lion running around the Earth through Africa.”
  • “Germinate: To become a naturalized German.”
  • A myth is a female moth.

Cure: Close to me

On and on about stress and anxiety and dealing with it: This is still an unbelievable video, the Cure falling off a cliff  in a wardrobe. Chris mentioned it on his blog in a comment on how having limited resources increases creativity.

Can you use this to teach English? Of course. But teaching in the sense of having a short time out together in English, before launching into a new bit that might well evolve out of the topic of expressing anxiety – this could work well with a group preparing for an exam – and we might use some of the grammar (yes) in the song to get some of it out of everyone’s system. (“I never thought! I’ve waited! If only! If I had!”). Nice: the absurd bits here, the laughing under water, those puppets.

OK, back to work.

The Cure – Close To Me

V | Myspace Video

I’ve waited hours for this
I’ve made myself so sick
I wish I’d stayed
asleep today

I never thought this day would end
I never thought tonight could ever be
this close to me

just try to see in the dark
just try to make it work
to feel the fear before you’re here
I make the shapes come much too close
I pull my eyes out
hold my breath
and wait until I shake…

but if I had your faith
then I could make it safe and clean
if only I was sure
that my head on the door was a dream

I’ve waited hours for this
I’ve made myself so sick
I wish I’d stayed asleep today
I never thought this day would end
I never thought tonight could ever be
this close to me

but if I had your face
then I could make it safe and clean
if only I was sure that my head on the door was a dream too

englisch lernen mit liedern 🙂 learning english with songs


The books for the diploma course have arrived, and what am I doing? After flipping through them, I go online to find lectures the authors have given. For example, I watched Stephen Pinker on Authors@Google talk about why we use swearwords. (This was to promote his book, The Stuff of Thought.)

I’m procrastinating the inevitable, actually reading The Language Instinct by Pinker, which by all accounts and first impressions is a great book. But it’s over 500 pages! It’s been a while since I’ve had to get intimate with research to the point of being able to reproduce it when cornered in an exam. I generally read non-fiction for pleasure, and take my time, enjoying the reading process, rather than taking an instrumental approach to reading. Generally there’s nobody telling me I have to actually finish the book, or who is going to test me on it.

For work, it’s dipping in and carving out the filet pieces in a book and then serving them up on a neat little platter. But that takes the joy out of reading, tunneling through books, searching for the beef. On this course I’m going to take things more lightly and just read and enjoy the stray thoughts that come and go, rather than worry too much.