Hitting the books again

Having finished Basis for Business C1, and soon to hand over ELTABB events coordination, my workload is relatively light.  Next to my compact teaching sessions I’m writing teaching files:

But overall I now have a little extra time on my hands to finally, finally finish my Diploma TESOL.

I was in Barcelona in August 2011 to complete Unit 1, the written exam, and Unit 3, the assessed lessons and the oral phonology exam. I blogged about that here. I’ve also completed most of Unit 2, including my Observation Instrument – though I need to rewrite the argument thoroughly, since scaffolding means something different to me now.  My Developmental Record on teaching pronunciation is all done.

What remains is my Independent Research Project. It will most probably be either

  • a questionnaire on Learner Inventory – an issue that is much debated and misunderstood, but was a revelation to me in Barcelona. I’m looking forward to welcoming Rebecca Oxford to ELTABB on 1 June.  We had Marjorie Rosenberg speaking here recently on Learning Styles, and her book for Delta Publishing is very useful. I think there is more to both Learner Inventory and Learning Styles than meets the eye. Specifically, I’m interested in how awareness of learner-style diversity can increase skill in handling cross-cultural diversity. This is a minefield I’ve wanted to get a handle on for some time. It’ll require a bit of deep thought.
  • a questionnaire on using technology to extend a coursebook – this is an old chestnut of a topic, but one I’m rather a specialist in. Oxford University Press have very kindly invited me to provide a VHS teacher training workshop on combining the new Headway with online tools, a workshop due on 21 June.

As I work out how to set up those questionnaires and the arguments to go with them, I’ll be rereading Theresa’s and Paul’s related posts on their great (discontinued) blog, http://passthediploma.edublogs.org/

Tag: 11 facts, questions, answers among ELT bloggers

I’ve been  tagged in a Twitter-cum-teacher-blog game, and am happy to play by the rules:

  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.

1. Thank you, dear  Eva Buyuksimkesyan (on Twitter: ‏@evab2001) and Janet Bianchini (Twitter ‏@janetbianchini for tagging me. Season’s greetings to you ladies! May your fondest wishes for 2014 come true. Continue reading Tag: 11 facts, questions, answers among ELT bloggers

Grammar Guru: Nice meeting you/ Nice to meet you

Which of these two is correct? We say

  • “Nice to meet you” when we meet someone for the first time, and “Nice meeting you” when we then say goodbye.
  • “Nice meeting you” when we meet someone for the first time, and “Nice to meet you” when we then say goodbye.

˙noʎ ʇǝǝɯ oʇ ǝɔıu (s,ʇı) :ǝuoǝɯos ʇǝǝɯ
˙noʎ ƃuıʇǝǝɯ ǝɔıu (sɐʍ ʇı) :ǝʎqpooƃ ʎɐs

The difference is very subtle, and perhaps not everyone will agree with me, but it really sounds wrong to me when someone mixes up the two. I think it’s because we also say “(I’m) pleased to meet you” (which doesn’t work grammatically with the -ing) and “It was nice meeting you” (which seems to refer more to the whole event rather than just the act of meeting).

Socializing is my own main topic this week! I’m very honored to be a guest blogger on Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto’s blog, Teaching Village. She’s the co-author of a children’s English textbook series called Let’s Go, teaches children and adults in Japan, and you can “meet” her here in Darren Elliott’s video interview:

Barbara Hoskins-Sakamoto Interview from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Her blog subtitle says it all: “We’re better when we work together”. The blog has been gaining momentum as more and more people from our PLN (professional learning network) join as guest authors. Her latest venture is a series of quizzes on blogposts written by different members of the network, a great way to zone in on what these people are “all about”.

My contribution is on a socializing game I did recently and will repeat this coming week. It’s a variation on one I learned from Jo Westcombe, who is just full of great teaching ideas.

Celebrating language blogs

It’s been a rather self-referential month in the “teaching English as a foreign language” blogosphere. I’m extremely honored to be listed by Babla and Lexiofiles among the top 100 language blogs. They put in an enormous and much appreciated amount of work. Frankly, being in that list comes as a huge surprise, considering the players involved and the quality of writing going on at this Bring Your Own Blog Party. The list is impressive. I mean, it includes Word Routes by the luminary Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, “On Language” columnist for the New York Times Magazine, former editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press, consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary, and blogger at Language Log. Now, that’s a language blog.

Markus, Karenne, Barbara and Shelly did really well, which is splendid, and a huge number of bloggers in Karenne’s BELTfree are in that list, teacher colleagues who have become friends even if we’ve never met… which once again proves the power of social networking.

“Language blogs” are clearly a Good Thing. But what are they, and what are they for? It’s all a bit of an experiment. The kind person who nominated this blog wrote that this was a blog by a teacher who has some good grammar tips. That made me grin. As far as I’m concerned, we’re simply carrying on a conversation here, and that attracts people with similar interests.

Blogging is like hanging out at the bar, or at your local market. A blogger follows her natural inclinations. I happen to like my students, and Germans, so I write that grammar guru bit and pick up on what’s going on in the world mainly for them.

My thoughts migrate towards the everyday grammar issues I stumble across in the course of my work, and how to deal with them so my students will get it. But as I ramble on, I find more teachers and fellow ramblers and bloggers leaving comments. This guides the direction I’m heading. When connected teachers start doing show and tell about their work, I join in.

I’m a method blogger, I depart from the script. That does make it difficult to say where we’re going.

Thank you for walking with me.

#hiddengems part 2

I’m doing this #hiddengems homework – digging for gold in the archives of teacher blogs – in parts. Here are two more:

Karenne Sylvester wrote about disappointment as a topic for an EFL lesson in “Life is no bed of roses“, building around student input. An excellent business English lesson for managers. I’d update the intro using Luis van Gaal bringing home the visibly dejected Bayern München after Saturday’s loss against Inter Milan, and being overwhelmed by the fans’ showering them with love, which the team hadn’t been expecting.

Shelly Terrell was writing about Alfie Kohn and competition vs. cooperation when we met online. The post we met over contains great tips on cooperative games. Very inspiring.


Darren Elliot gave us homework: Go to your favorite blogs and dig out #hiddengems for the world to see. Mike Harrison has passed this on to me – an honor, thank you very much – and to simplify things I limited myself to posts:

  • written by EFL teachers and related to teaching
  • but not among the 10 blogs I listed to look at recently
  • and all written over or about a year ago

Did you miss Nick Whitley’s lesson plan on the 2nd conditional using Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy” on Strictly 4 my Teacherz? Not sure this is actually a #hiddengem, must have been hugely popular. I don’t expressly teach grammar with songs, but with this one it pops out at you painlessly.

I loved Larry Ferlazzo’s inspirational  When A “Good” Class Goes “Bad” (And Back To “Good” Again!). It’s one of his own favorites, too.

We do poetry for pronunciation in many of my classes, and Nik Peachey introduced great resources for taking that activity online.

Jamie Keddie has written lots on using the Internet as a corpus. His ideas start bouncing around in my head and suddenly, bingo, a new lesson is born. Thank you, Jamie! Check out this post on using YouTube as a musical corpus.

My six jobs before becoming a teacher

Lindsay Clandfield on his lovely “Six Things” blog has invited us to think back to six jobs we held before becoming a teacher. Good question! None of the English teachers I know have had a straight career. Something drives us to do this crazy job, opening up to anyone and everyone as we support them on their often frustrating path to becoming proficient in a language forced upon them, often enough, and making sure they like it, too.

What were the six jobs you had before your current job that gave you your work/life skills?

So about me: I’ve always needed money, so there have been far more than six jobs. I’ll skip the IT company I worked at to earn money for college, and the other IT company I worked for when I was considering giving up teaching, and the bit jobs, to tell you about the ones most closely related to what I do today:

  1. Perhaps I was most successful at being a babysitter. I got an early start at 11 and basically owned the neighborhood. My grandfather had carved beautiful wooden puppets that my mother had sewn clothes for, and I’d put on puppet shows with the children. Or we’d go down to the Smithsonian to see the bees. We’d romp and go swimming and play games. No TV on my watch, but we acted out every cartoon character in the book. I told them stories that they’d have to help me finish. So I never really stopped being a babysitter.
  2. When I hit 16 and was able to move on to minimum wage jobs (to support my expensive record-buying habit), I went into catering. First an icecream parlor that served sundaes with a political theme, called The Ice Cream Lobby. Then a deli. I branched out and did weddings on my own. During college I waitressed, the most challenging place being a football clubhouse just south of the border in Switzerland. Excellent prep for teaching, keeping a cool head among fans speaking Swizzerdütsch!
  3. As a teen, I volunteered in France for two summers restoring monuments and sites with ICOMOS/ REMPART. I tell anyone who still has their life ahead of them: You haven’t lived if you haven’t volunteered abroad. I learned how to really learn a language. Obvious connection to teaching English there.
  4. At college I was a research assistant (political science). Very heady. I loved it, but in time became skeptical about the value of academic learning. That kept me from getting yet another degree when I parachuted into EFL. I keep toying with the idea, to open the door to a more established teaching position, but…
  5. After my MA, I became a coordinator/curator of exhibitions and educational programs at various museums. At the German Museum of Hygiene in Dresden I was involved in exhibitions devoted to Odol (a mouthwash) and Darwin and Darwinism, travelling to the US to research history and artifacts connected to genetics, immigration, racism, the Scopes Trial… Later I ran an exhibition project on the experience of migration at an archaeological museum, with an after-school program for teenagers from migrant families, along with community events, from a panel discussion to a street festival. Or: In Konstanz I worked with artist Rune Mields to develop a tour of her paintings depicting the myths of how the world came into being. Marvellous, life-changing years. Being interested in such a wide range of ideas, and learning to use artifacts to relate them, was probably the most valuable source of inspiration for what I do today.
  6. Being bilingual, I’ve worked as a translator and interpreter ever since I came to Germany in 1981. Once, in Berlin in the mid 80s when I was working for the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, I translated a talk Johan Galtung was giving in English into German and got it all wrong when I paraphrased in English “What he means is…”

Over to you! Now, please, don’t be shy!