Six things teachers always say

Insert what you always say here.

This is a post I have been meaning to do for some time. What words and phrases do we always use as teachers?

1. OK

Perhaps not so unusual as it is supposed to be the most frequent discourse marker in the English language (for a humorous take on the various uses of OK, see here)

2. Right

Again, this is a typical teacher “signalling” device. I use this all the time, I must confess.

3. Very good

A common and useful form of praise from the teacher, or is it? According to research by Jean Wong and Hansun Zhang Waring in the United States, the highly frequent use of ‘very good’ by teachers may not always be indicative of positive feedback and in fact may inhibit learning opportunitites (see ELTJ volume 63/3 July 2009)

4. Today we’re going to…

Many English classes around the world begin very much with these words I think. Not much of a problem unless it ends up being a rather long tedious ramble that takes up the first quarter of the class.

5. Quiet please!

Well, teachers of business executives perhaps not but I’d be willing to bet that this phrase gets a lot of usage in young learner classrooms (or a close equivalent)

6. (open your books to) Page … please

I’ve given whole workshops devoted to finding alternatives to saying this in class. This common phrase can be quite a killjoy, especially if they are the first words out of a teacher’s mouth at the beginning of class.

There are two good ways to find out if you are overusing a certain word or phrase. One is to record yourself over a series of classes and watch. The second is to ask your cheekiest student to do an imitation of you. I am not sure which is more painful!

What word or words do you overuse? Post a comment.

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 8:56 am  Comments (48)  
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Six ways for teachers to address the Haitian crisis

When a crisis the scale of what is happening in Haiti hits the headlines and gets “blanket coverage” from news outlets like CNN, it’s tempting to bring it up with students. But does this sort of thing have a place in the language classroom? One the one hand it feels negligent not to mention it at all, but on the other hand one wants to avoid descending into a sort of gruesome spectacle (using youtube clips or the like) which may not be that productive at all.  Here are six suggestions on ways you could address the Haitian crisis in a language classroom.

1 Use an existing lesson plan – e.g. Breaking News English

Sean Banville at Breaking News English has already made a general lesson plan about Haiti and the disaster.  You could use that on its own or in conjunction with any of these ideas.

2 Understand the Richter scale and earthquakes

I’m very fortunate not to live in an earthquake zone, so those of you who do may already be very aware of how the Richter scale works.But if you or your students aren’t, it makes for a useful and timely read. Or you could use as your text any of the many websites giving advice on what to do during an earthquake. Here’s one from FEMA in the US.

3 Analyse how the media is portraying the crisis

Ask students to pay attention to the news and make a list of the keywords being used. Ask them to bring these to class and translate them into English. Then, depending on the level of your students you could ask questions such as the following: What elements of the disaster are focused on most? What is attracting the attention of the news stations? Do different stations focus more on one kind of story? How are average Haitians being portrayed?

4 Use something Haitian other than the disaster

It might make for a welcome change from death and looting stories to raise awareness about other aspects of Haiti. One possibility would be to use a folktale or Haitian proverbs as a text. You can find examples of both here. Alternatively, and especially if you are working with younger learners, you could make a poster project about Haiti, its geography and culture.

5 Encourage a critical eye

One way to look at events in Haiti is also through the prism of “who benefits” from such disasters? With all the money flowing in from around the world there is ample incentive for many different players to get involved: from all kinds of aid organisations (some perhaps with political or religious agendas), to corrupt government officials to multinational building companies wanting to get rebuilding contracts. And then there are the fraudsters (see warning from the FBI here). These questions could be a starting point for a higher level class discussion on how, why and who to donate money to in the name of solidarity. Or ask students to do a webquest on this topic and bring in articles or viewpoints themselves.

6 Ask students what they think they can do to help

Of course, any of the above might lead to a feeling of urgency to “do something” for the victims of the earthquake.  This could form the basis of a class project: either to organise a fundraising event, create a poster project for the school to educate others about Haiti or generally raise awareness among students who can then choose themselves what they should/are able to do.

I currently don’t have a class (my last one finished just before Christmas and I won’t have a group until April) but I’d personally be tempted to do a combination of two or more of the above if I did. I know some teachers who believe this kind of stuff is best avoided in the classroom. So I’m curious, would any of my readers address this issue? And if so, how to do it sensitively? Post a comment if you have time.

Published in: on January 25, 2010 at 10:10 am  Comments (5)  
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Six anagrams of well-known ELT bloggers

Awhile I ago someone sent me this link to an anagram generator. I’ve been thinking of ways to use it in class, barring simply making interesting anagrams from words or phrases for my learners to solve. Recently I found a whole new fun thing to do, which was put names into the generator and see what I get.

So, here’s a test on six things for you! The following are anagrams of other ELT bloggers out there (they are on my blogroll). I’ve included a little description next to each. Can you identify them?

1 Seller, Hell Try – I met Seller, Hell Try at a conference last year. She’s a great networker, very active on twitter and #edchat and her blog currently features a set of goals. Would I recommend Seller, Hell Try? Hell yes!

2 Obstruct Thorny – Obstruct Thorny does tend to ask questions worthy of his anagram last name, especially about coursebooks and grammar syllabi. However, the quality of his blog entries makes up for the thorniness of some of those questions!

3 A Giddy Uneven -Taking a trip to A Giddy Uneven’s blog about technology matters is not a dizzying experience, it’s a solidly written one. Some of his blog posts are very “even”, as long as you agree with him! 🙂

4 Transversely Keen – Her blog transverses many topics, supposedly about technology and speaking but in reality covers a lot more. Transversely Keen lives up to her last name very well, she’s one of the keenest bloggers out there – I mean that in a good sense.

5 Noel Winks – Noel Winks is a splendid chap and recent addition to the blogosphere  who is making quite an impact despite his modest claims to the contrary. Mr Winks alternately shares stories from his life in the profession with provocative posts about culture, or the things he knows about teaching English.

6 Cease Lax – The Godfather of the ELT (blog) world, Cease Lax has been blogging since before many of the others on this list. Cease Lax has a wry sense of humour, produces far too many free worksheets for his own good and probably had a post like this around 8 months ago. Many of my favourite post ideas were probably done by Cease Lax in the past.

Finally, my name is Clay Landside Find. Creator of what one reader called “a bit of a hodge podge” of this blog, which is also – according to Onestopblogs – probably too wordy. Hopefully there are some good finds in this clay landslide of text though!

Ok, let’s hear it from all the other great bloggers and readers I’ve missed. What does your name give in the anagram generator?

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 8:58 am  Comments (55)  
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Six Canadian English words or expressions, eh?

The Canadian Beaver beer commercial, a favourite of mine

As many readers of this blog know, I am an expat Canadian living in Spain. This past Christmas I was back in Canada for a couple of weeks with my family and friends. I found myself smiling at words or expressions that I had always thought were just “English” but I realise now are particularly Canadian. I thought I’d share six of my favourites with you. I’m sure there is a potential exercise here for students, somehow. But it doesn’t have to be practical, you can simply read this and consider yourselves better educated. 😉

1. Canuck – The Canadian informal word for a Canadian, as in “He’s okay, he’s a fellow Canuck.”. There is also a hockey team called The Vancouver Canucks.

2. goal suck – Another hockey term (you can tell I was back in Canada in winter time). I heard my nephew use this expression. A goal suck is a player who hovers around the opposing team’s net in hockey, waiting for the puck to come close so he or she can score. You can’t really have a goal suck in football (European football) because offside rules prohibit it. What a great expression though: goal suck.

3. homo milk – Now this probably would raise eyebrows if you asked for it at a British supermarket, but homo milk is short for homogenized milk, which contains 3.25% milk fat. It is called whole milk in the USA, I am not sure if there is an English equivalent.

4. loonie and toonie – Two informal words for Canadian coins. The loonie is the one dollar coin, which earns its name from the image of the loon on it (a loon is a kind of bird). A toonie is the more recent two dollar coin, named that way because it sounds like loonie. Yes, Canada is full of loonies and toonies.

5. T dot, Hogtown, Big Smoke, TO – Three names for my hometown of Toronto, the biggest city in Canada. I always called it TO (Tee-Oh) and sometimes the Big Smoke. Hogtown is more derogative I believe. T Dot is a newer version, which I think sounds a bit like a corporate slogan to appeal to youth but that could just be me.

6. twofer, two-four – Ah, this word kind of defines my university days. A twofer is short for twenty-four, the number of cans of beer in a case which was a staple of parties. Pick up a twofour and a two big pizzas and you’re set for the evening. I didn’t see one twofour (also called a flat in Western Canada) this last visit, maybe because all my university friends have grown up and we don’t guzzle so much beer (ahem these friends are NOT English teachers, which also explains it). Plus Canada has discovered wine and organic, small brewery beer in the past twenty years which does not sell in the big cases and feels more refined. There is nothing refined about bringing a twofour to a dinner party.

So there you have it. If you are not Canadian, consider yourself educated. If you are Canadian, maybe this was boring. Either way, if you know other Canadian English phrases or expressions, why not add them below as a comment?

*note: I include eh? at the end of the title of this post as it is another common Canadian expression, a bit like a Canadian question tag. Like the Canadian version of ‘innit’.

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 9:54 am  Comments (33)  

Six books to look out for in 2010

I made a similar post to this one last year so I am repeating the same idea. Here are six books relating to English language teaching that I have heard about already and are worth looking out for over the next 12 months. Just wave your mouse over the book titles to find out more information about them/the publisher.

Teaching English Grammar – Hurrah! Finally another new book by one of my favourite methodology writers Jim Scrivener. This is the latest in the Macmillan books for teachers series and is due out later this year. Expect a guide that combines grammar explanations as well as lots of creative and very practical ideas. I’m sure this won’t disappoint.

Culture in our Classrooms and Being Creative – OK, again I am cheating a bit by combining but these are the next books in the new popular Delta Development series and will both be released for the IATEFL conference this year (in April). Mario Rinvolucri returns with a new co-author Gill Johnson to examine the issue of culture in language classrooms. Expect lots and lots of nice activities as well as a great overview of culture and language teaching. Being Creative is by new author Chaz Pugliese and contains a great essay about the history and development of creativity in teaching and then more than a hundred very creative, quick and easy little activities for language classrooms.

Intercultural language activities – I have it on very good authority that this is a really good book to look out for. It is the new one in the Cambridge Handbooks for teachers. Intercultural awareness in language classroom is a big issue, especially now as so many classrooms around the world are multicultural. It’s by John Corbett from the University of Glasgow. I will be buying a copy of this at IATEFL this year.

Lifestyle – Vicki Hollett’s new coursebook for business English light. I enjoy Vicki’s blogposts a lot and have also taught with her materials back in the day when I had business English students. This will be one of Longman Pearson’s big titles this year; expect to see presentations and talks about Lifestyle at conferences.

Global – I can’t really NOT mention Global, as this is my big project and it is finally out now. A new adult general English course with a focus on global voices and global English, as well as being the first major coursebook to go 100% celebrity-free. You can find out more about Global here.

Teaching Online – This is going to be a must-have title, especially as the main author is none other than Nicky Hockly of the Consultants-E. Nicky has been teaching online for longer than I care to remember, and she trained me as an online moderator for courses (she has an excellent blog about this here). Expect lots and lots of activities which should prove extremely useful to anyone using a VLE or thinking of teaching online. This book is also from Delta, and in fact I am contributing some activities to it myself!

There are probably more coming out that I have not heard of – it’s entirely possible! If you know of another eagerly anticipated title please post a comment.

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm  Comments (20)  
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