Today I was working with two of my students on routines and I asked them to simulate they were writing an entry on a blog about them. It looked like a good idea to make them express themselves freely about the things they do during the week, and when I saw the results I couldn’t have been prouder! And… As I couldn’t help thinking how wonderful the idea was, I decided to come back here to share my days with you.

As you may know, I’ve been working as an in-company language trainer for four years now, with some extra job done at schools lately. At the same time, I’m finishing my course of studies (four subjects to go!) and I’m married. You may be already thinking how I organize myself to do everything… Well, I think neither I know…

Weekdays are pretty busy for me. I start my day at 5:30 am and after a quick breakfast, I dash to the bus stop (except those days my husband goes to the office, he works from home frequently).

My lessons are scheduled weekly, so I know well in advance who I am going to be teaching and what to work with each student. Lessons are organized in such a way that sometimes I have several lessons in the same company, and sometimes I run from one company to another.
Lunch time varies, so I can eat some sandwiches or a full meal, but until it’s time for lunch I don’t know what I will do.

As I work as a coordinator at the institute I give lessons for, sometimes I go for some time to work there, preparing exams, updating the institute’s blog or getting materials ready to share with teachers.

When I arrive home, usually after 5 pm, I relax by watching some series with my husband, surfing the net, or reading. If I have classes at college, I may be getting home around 11 pm, what leaves almost no time for (home) life during the week.

I’m a strong believer that weekends are for relaxing, so except on those strange occasions where I have to correct exams, study for college or prepare very specific lessons, I try to do some housework and spend time with my husband and pets (I have a cat and a kitten). I love going to bed early so going out is an unknown activity lately, though I really enjoy inviting friends over for dinner and game nights.

I try to organize myself to spend my free time as quality time that I can profit from, and even my working hours I try to enjoy through the design of activities that are appealing not only to the students but to myself too. Some of my students require specific skills work in English, for example, speaking for presentations, so I try to provide interesting materials for them to learn and enjoy the lessons. I rarely have to design grammar lessons per sei, but when I do I really like them!

Note: I’m going over all that I wrote above and I still don’t know how I do it. The worst thing is, I don’t think my daily life looks as busy as I wrote, but those are all the things I do! (Wow)

Note 2: I believe this is one of the longest things I’ve ever written here, so it looks like I’m back!

{November 3, 2009}   Poems and games

Today the headmistress paid us a visit in 4th form, and she suggested playing a game I loved! After suggesting the “general topic” (ours was friendship), the teacher writes a sentence and folds the poaper lightly over it. She passes the sheet of paper to a student, who writes another sentence and folds the paper over it. After all students write their own sentences, the teacher gathers all students in a circle and unfolds the paper: a very nice poem – student made – is written on the paper.

That game triggered a google search, and I came across this site, with very nice ideas to work with poems.

More info and materials:

Teacher Tips Training

Creative writing and storytelling ideas

{December 16, 2008}   What’s happening to our language?

After reading this, I was stuck with the thought I’m old.

Why is it that new generations break language conventions to create their own language?

It’s normal to see language change but not in such enormous ways! Every single language is getting akwardly abbreviated to avoid doing the effort of writing extra letters.  There are abreviations adapted from other languages. Numbers replace letters. Acronyms are overused.

What is happening today is a big thread to communication. Why? Languages are being  modified by children and teens in such ways that older people can’t really interact with them, unless they are kind of taught “the new language.”

And this reminds me of an old language joke I received by mail some years ago. The saddest part is that this is coming true.

Changes to the English Language

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would be known as “Euro-English”.

In the first year, ‘s’ will replace the soft ‘c’. Sertainly,this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard ‘c’ will be dropped in favor of the ‘k’. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome ‘ph’ will be replased with the ‘f’. This will make words like ‘fotograf’ 20% shorter!

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expected to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double leters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent ‘e’ in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing ‘th’ with ‘z’ and ‘w’ wiz ‘v’. During ze fifz year ze unesesary ‘o’ kan be dropd from vords kontaining ‘ou’ and similar changes vud of kurs be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After ze fifz yer ve vil hav a rali sensibl ritn styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evriun vil find it ezi tu undrstand ech ozer.

Zen Z Drem Vil Finali Kum Tru!

Even though most of us either flunked out or fell asleep during English grammar class in school, it is an integral part of writing whether you are a professional writer or just want to write a note to your son’s teacher. Using good grammar helps get your point across effectively and focuses the attention on what you have to say instead of how you choose to say it. While there are hundreds of rules of grammar that are laid out in several style guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style and The Elements of Style, there are some that are absolute essentials to good writing that everyone should master.

1. Agreement – Agreement in a sentence refers to all of the parts of the sentence corroborating with each other. For example, you wouldn’t say “John have two pieces of toast and I has three.” You would instead say, “John has two pieces of toast and I have three.” The subjects and verbs need to be in agreement. Without sentence agreement you have all-out civil war in your sentence and no one knows what is going on. If your sentence parts don’t agree with each other you will have to jump in and mediate, causing hard feelings all around.

2. Tense – Tense refers to time. What time is it in your sentence? Whatever time it is it should remain consistent throughout your whole piece of writing. If it was last week you are talking about, stay there. There are three tenses in writing, past tense, present tense and future tense. Here is an example of writing with mixed tenses: “Carrie wondered how she is going to finish in time, but Joe will help her.” This sentence contains all three tenses, past in “wondered”, present in “is” and future in “will”. Pick a tense and stick to it! The sentence could read “Carry wonders how she will finish in time, but Joe will help.”

3. Spelling – One of the most important things, and without it, you can kiss your credibility goodbye. Spell checkers are poor substitutes for knowing how to spell and can leave behind more errors than you realize. There are many different forms of words and your spell checker does not know which form you wanted to use. For example, “When Mark washed they’re care, he forgot too putt on the wax.”

4. Run-On Sentences – A run-on sentence is one that is just too darned long! Not only is it too long, it is incorrect. Usually, a run-on sentence can be made into two or more sentences with a little punctuation and style. An example of a run-on sentence might be: “We walked over to the commissary to get something to eat but it was closed so we didn’t know what to do so we kept walking until we saw a restaurant and decided to go in and get something to eat but Andrew didn’t want to eat there so we kept going for another mile.” This sentence could have gone on for another mile too! Break up the sentence into smaller, more coherent parts.

5. Punctuation – It is very important to know your punctuation, even if you never plan on using a semicolon for the rest of your life. The most important thing to learn is where to put your commas, a common mistake among writers. Commas are used to separate parts of sentences that stand alone, such as those that are parenthetical. For example “There were too many flowers, not that I minded, but they took up most of the room.” Avoid using commas after conjunctions like “but” and “and.” Semi-colons and colons take up an entire chapter, read about them in your style book!

6. Usage – If you are going to use a word, you really ought to know how to use it. Some writers think big words look impressive but actually the reverse is true if the word is used incorrectly. Words don’t have to be big to be misused, consider its vs. it’s.

7. Capitalization – Words at the beginning of sentences aren’t the only ones worthy of capital letters. Always capitalize proper names such as people and places. Titles of all kinds deserve capital letters and so do acronyms.

8. Point of View – The point of view refers to whoever is telling the story or “speaking.” When you write a letter you are writing in “first person” which includes I, me, my, we and our. Second person writing occurs when we talk about you and yours and third person includes he, she, they and theirs. In third person writing, the author does not interject himself into the story.

9. Sentence Fragments – A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence that does not include both noun and verb. An example of a sentence fragment might be, “Really dumb.” Make sure your sentences reflect a complete thought unless you are writing dialog.

10. Wasted Words – A big no-no. Sometimes we throw in words just to round out our sentences, or we over-describe something, like, “The really ugly puke-green dress was hanging on the wall.” Do we really need to point out that a puke-green dress was really ugly? Economize your words and you will have fewer chances for grammatical errors.


Much More

{September 4, 2008}   Useful Material on the Web

I always try to provide my students with resources for their own work at home. This is the selection of websites I’ve made for a group of adult learners of English. Hope you can profit from this! —> a basic dictionary in several language. Language is accompanied by a drawing or picture that represents its meaning –> an excellent online dictionary —> online translator (multilanguage). –> same as the previous one, a great online translator —> a great dictionary for intermediate and advanced students. It provides not only definitions but also whole language practice! —> jokes and texts to read in the language your students are learning! —> In the “Resourses” section there are great grammatical summaries and lots of vocabulary lists. –> Activities and games for beginers. There is some help for hispanic students in some activities. —> slang dictionary (great for teens!) —> Here your students can find lots of reading activities with reading comprehension exercises. The best of this site? Readings come from best sellers! —> More on reading comprehension –> Reading comprehension y actividades de vocabulario –> English Grammar Online for you is a very complete website where you will find everything you are looking for: grammar, vocabulary, readings and writings. —> A very exhaustive irregular verbs list.

Podcast Section:
Here, you will find links to sites where you can download audio or video podcasts in English. These are semi authentic and authentic material (that is, material adapted for students and material from daily life). To download the different podcasts, follow instructions on each site. Generally, you have to right click on the links and then choose “save target as” (this one provides audio material and the transcriptions too!)

As I always say, “Provide your students with tools to improve their own language alone. Then, you will see how far they can go in a really short time”

et cetera