Thursday, 25 December 2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014

'Tis the season!

My classroom is all about holidays these days. And not only because nobody feels like doing anything anymore and we're all day-dreaming about school-free days! The activities that we do are all connected to Christmas and New Year's and winter and whatnot. Yesterday I shared my YL Christmas playlist (HERE) and today I'm sharing some activities I'm about to do with my older students.

We're watching a film.

Yes, I said it. But wait! It's A Christmas Carol. So it's a classic, it's in English and in my classroom, it comes with worksheets which I'm also sharing with you. I found them on and you can download them HERE. We're also going to practise verb tenses which fits well in the whole "spirit of the past, spirit of the present, spirit of the future" concept. In the past, I used to watch the whole movie with my students but I guess that does take too much time, so this year we're watching a shorter version:

Since I'm writing about Christmas topics, let me show you some fresh photos from my classroom!

My classroom walls 

Do students still bring presents???

Some of them do :)

Teachers get hungry, too.

Speaking of gifts, I got this one a few years ago and it's still my favourite student gift. EXCELLENT TEACHER pen!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

YL Christmas videos

I've made a playlist of Youtube videos appropriate for young learners (ages 6 - 11). It's already been used in class and most of my students loved it. Hope you enjoy it, too!


Friday, 12 December 2014

OUP Conference Ljubljana 2014

This year's UOP conference in Ljubljana was held on December 5 and I've been meaning to post a review since but I've been super busy. All in all, the conference was OK and there were some useful classroom activities presented which I've since managed to try out in my classroom so I'm now able to write about them from personal experience. 

This was this year's schedule:

Below is a list of activities presented in the conference that I found useful.

Building blocks for successful lessons

1. Activities with vocabulary songs
  • Choose a vocabulary song such as Head and Shoulders.
  • Prepare flashcards for vocabulary items from the song and add two extra on the same topic
    (i. e. head, shoulders, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouth, nose,
    hands, fingers)
  • Choose as many students as there are flashcards. Call the students in front of the board and hand one flashcard to each student. 
  • Play the song. The students must find out which of the flashcards were not mentioned in the song and the students holding those flashcards may return the flashcards and go back to their desks.
  • Play the song again. The students holding flashcards must now form a line in the same order in which the words from the flashcards appeared in the song.
  • Play the song again. This time, when students hear the word from their flashcards, they should quickly raise and drop their flashcard.

2. Drawing with shapes

Using basic geometric shapes (ovals, triangles) to draw a penguin. The photos below are a prime example of my drawing skills.

My students liked this activity so I found other examples of such drawings.

Activities that work

1. Funny interviews

Ask your students to write down the answers to the following questions:

  • What's your favourite fruit?*
  • What's your favourite vegetable?*
  • How many colouring pencils have you got?
  • Are you a student?
  • Who is your favourite celebrity?**
  • What's your favourite number (1 - 10)?

Once the students have answered all the questions, show them the true questions they were answering.

  • What's your name?
  • What's your surname?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you married?
  • Who's your spouse?
  • How many children have you got?

My students loved this one. Expect some loud laughter and protests! After they see the real questions, they can interview each other. Braver students can also introduce themselves with their "new" information in front of the class.

*You can use any topic, e. g. clothes or colours.
** You may want to tell girls to choose male celebrities and vice versa. Not to appear judgemental, but you might avoid some unnecesarry conflicts this way.

2. Toilet paper ice breaker
I actually heard this one before. I think it was on last year's Rokus Klett conference. I've since forgotten about it and it was nice hearing about it again because it's a really fun idea. Here's how you do it:

bring a roll of toilet paper to your class. Pass it around and ask your students to tear off the amount they normally use.  Once everyone has done this, you then announce that for each sheet they have torn off, they must tell the group one thing about themselves.

3. Guess the question
Prepare a list of questions suitable for your students. Choose a student or ask for a volunteer to come in front of the board. The student then chooses a question from the list, writes the answer on a sheet of paper and shows it to the rest of the class. The other students must try to guess the question.

Challenging thinking on challenging behaviour
The truth is, even though I expected much from this workshop I can't really remember much of it. I found it too general and vague.

Last but not least - freebies and raffle prizes!

This year's freebies: a bag, a reader (Eat, Pray, Love), a notebook, a pen, classroom posters and a USB car charger! And lunch - if you were lucky enough to reach the buffet while there was still any food left.

And I've actually won something in the raffle this year. Thank you, Mint International House Ljubljana! :)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Sharing is caring #2: MG+

I don't know whether you're subscribed to Mary Glasgow magazines, but they have some useful articles and activities for language learning in there. If you have a subscription, you've probably also recieved a password for their website with additional activities such as video clips, listening tasks and more. For those of you who don't have that supscription for whatever reason, you can still register on their website and you'll have access to some of their activities. However, there are also activities you need an extra password for - and I'm sharing it with you in case you'd like a sneak peek! ;) Use f6regk for teacher pages or haggis5 for student pages. I hope it comes in handy!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Macmillan Online Conference 2014

This year's Macmillan Online Conference was held from Monday 10th to Friday 14th November. It hosted 12 speakers and offered interactive Google Hangouts. If you missed it, don't worry. Due to my busy schedule, I missed a great deal of it myself, and to be honest, I'm not a huge webinar fan. I realise webinars are economical but traditional conferences get me much more engaged. However, it's the content that's valuable, and Macmillan is now offering it on their web page. Over the next few days they'll be updating their page with webinar recordings from all of the talks and the speakers' presentations. You can find them HERE.

Wait, there's more. MEOC participant got a certificate of attendance and a code to claim a free eBook after completing an online survey after the conference. The eBook was a Sherlock Holmes Graded Reader, The Norwood Builder by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since sharing is caring and since I know you had the best intentions to attend the conference but just couldn't find the time, I'm sharing the code with you. Go HERE and enter 
'MEOC2014' in the red discount code box. You'll also have to create your account on their eBook store. After that, complete your purchase and go to 'My Account', where you will be able to download your new eBook. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Facebook page

This blog now has a Facebook page! CLICK

Pop lyrics and language teaching

I've always been a great fan of pop and rock music. Since a great deal of it is in English, this also means that I've had a lot of language input. I still remember searching for my favourite lyrics as a teenager - back then that meant you had to put a tape in your cassette recorder and wait patiently for your radio station to play November Rain. AND THEN you had to listen to it over and over and transcribe the lyrics, pressing that pause button till your finger bled. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Not only did I learn the lyrics by heart, I was also developing my listening skills and paying attention to language in general.

Now, of course, the Internet has changed everything. But it shouldn't have to be for the worse. Teenagers still love music and even though all of their favourite songs and lyrics are a click away, you can still use this to your advantage in the classroom. Since they don't have to go to great lengths to get their favourite lyrics, they probably pay less attention to them, but that's what you're here for! You can make them pay attention by preparing pre-, while- and/or post-listening activities of different kinds, and since they have to do all kinds of handouts anyway, I'm sure they'd much rather do it if all of it is somehow connected to their favourite music.

Here are some of the activities you could do with pop lyrics:

  • Pre-listening activities: predicting the lyrics based on the title; guessing the song title after listening to karaoke version; guessing the song title after you dictate a list of words that appear in the song (in random order); your own ideas.
  • While-listening activities: gap fills (the gaps could be random or focusing on a specific area of grammar or vocabulary); drawing; writing down new vocabulary items; singing along; your own ideas.
  • Post-listening activities: paraphrasing bits of lyrics; writing summaries; writing their own similar lyrics with the same song title; adding verses; doing mind maps; singing; your own ideas.
As for the songs you choose to play in your classroom, make them school and age appropriate. Even if you're the biggest fan of death metal there is, I would advise against using it. We get it, you love it, but your students may not. It also goes the other way around: you may not like Beyoncé, but your students probably do and if you find lyrics that would fit into your lesson, use them. Just don't use any booty shaking videos. :)

Here are some lyrics that I've used in the past - I love lyrics for teaching/revising grammar:

Lenka - Everything at Once: great for teaching similes

Beyoncé - If I Were A Boy: packed with conditionals

Caro Emerald - Stuck: indefinite pronouns
Adele - Someone Like You: indefinite pronouns
Gotye & Kimbra - Somebody That I Used To Know: indefinite pronouns and modal verbs

Mr Probz - Waves: I prefer the slower version since it's easier to use for listening activities; I use it for the Present Continuous Tense

Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway: Will Future

And in honour of my childhood memories: GNR - November Rain

I hope this comes in handy. If you have any more useful suggestions for the classroom, I'd be very grateful! Till then - in then words of Jerry Springer - take care of yourselves and each other. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

School newspapers - why not make them in English?

A school newspaper is a great way for students to get involved and be creative. If you launch an issue in English, they can get creative and develop their English writing skills at the same time. However, as exciting as this may sound to you, your students might find it as tad less so. So, how to get them involved? The good news is, you're the teacher and they pretty much have to do whatever you tell them. But since one of the goals is to get them excited about it, here are some suggestions:

  • Extracurricular activity or  journalism classes. If you have the option to offer journalism classes and you have students, willing to participate, then you shouldn't have any major problems getting the content for your newspaper.
  • If the above isn't an option for you, you could always use the assignments/essays that your students have to hand in as homework. Just choose the best ones and ask for permission. Most of them will be happy to have something published in the student newspaper.
  • Extra credit. It does wonders. Also, it motivates the students that would usually be beyond your reach - the ones that don't seek attention, that aren't all that ambitious or even the ones that usually settle for a pass. But come the end of the year, they suddenly realise they wouldn't mind a chance for a higher grade at all.
And what to include in the newspaper? Apart from the essays the students have to write for their homework assignments, you could ask them to do interviews (or even make them up), field trip reports, write poems, draw comics, design riddles and crossword puzzles from different vocabulary fields, write book reviews, run an advice column (which is great for practising modal verbs and "if I were you" structures, by the way!) and so on. Basically the same things you would ask them to do for your regular school newspaper, only in English. 

The first student newspaper in English I edited was not at all impressive. It was actually just a supplement to our regular student newspaper. I only got the idea for it in June, so I quickly found those few students willing to bring some of their old assignments and put those together. This is what I got:

But the next year I prepared in advanced - which basically means I chose titles for homework assignments wisely. :) We only made one issue in that school year and it was still published only as a supplement, but it had 11 pages. You can see them HERE.

What's your experience with school/student newspapers? Also, what's your attitude towards error correction? Given that you still want the contributions to be original and not your own work. Do comment on that! :)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

My first teacher blog

Remembering my first experience in blogging as a teacher:


The blog was created to document the Popestrimo šolo project, a primary school project I was coordinating in 2012. The aim of the project was to expand the scope of extracurricular activities in primary schools. Unfortunately, the blog is in Slovenian only.

This blog was published on my former primary school website. All participating children handed in parental consents for publishing student photographs.

Hi guys!

I'm a young and enthusiastic English teacher from Slovenia. I've been following teacher blogs for a while now and I've finally decided to give it a go myself. There are tons of useful teaching materials that I stumble upon in books or on the Internet, so why not share and comment on the ones I find useful? And - most importantly - add some of my own :)
Anyhow, welcome and enjoy!