Archive for October, 2010

TGI Friday

October 22, 2010

My mum is coming over for a few days.  I can’t wait. I’m intending to plan my lessons in advance and take a day off on Thursday so I get one full day with my mum before she goes home.

I’m hoping to receive a few British goodies to keep me going ’til Christmas.  It has to be said, the one thing I’m missing about Britain is the TV.  The TV here is boring except for the Simpsons, House and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA, which I can watch in English (there’s the option to do that!).  It just wouldn’t be the same watching it in Spanish.  I know that my dad has taped Waterloo Road for me, but I don’t have a DVD-player to play it on.

I really don’t have much to say except it’s Friday, hurrah.  I love getting to the end of the week.


The Halloween Drawing Competition.

October 22, 2010

Me: “So is anyone going to do a drawing for the drawing competition?  The prize is fifty euros to spend in a shop” I think it’s El Corte Ingles they decided in the end…)

Ten year-old student: “The prize is…I don’t know how to say…muy poco.”

Me: “Well you can all enter your drawings and give the prize to me, then.”



A Couple of Things…

October 22, 2010

I thought I thought I’d add keep a record of some of the things Im doing as a TEFL.

Pairs games.

I have cards with the infinitive and the past simple and the idea is to lift the cards which are face down, two cards at a time, and make a pair. If the student doesn’t get a pair, they have to put the cards back face down and the next person has ago. This activity can take a while depending on the memories of the group members. Despite the time it takes, I havent found anyone getting bored. I use this to introduce the irregular forms. It’s surprising how many they can connect.

A couple of lessons later for some revision, I play Snap with the same cards. I’ve also created cards for present participles and I think you could do this for synonyms, antonyms and question tags etc, etc.


I came across the idea of Aliens in class when I found a sheet a teacher’s book where one person is an Alien asking “What’s this? What’s it for?” Yesterday, I had a lesson on places abroad and getting used to things, so I had an idea for activating this grammar. I asked them to split into two pairs, one person as a human and the other as an alien and to talk about things they thought strange about each others planet. The group did really well, taking it on themselves and making the stage into more than I had intended. They ended up having an interesting debate about the pizza planet and the strange earth planet.

I had another class today and we’ve been studying films in our unit. They acted out their own “film” the other week which was a detective story, and today I got them to draw a character each for a scary film and decide some information about their character, like his/her name, best friend, enemy and special powers. Then they had to do act out a scary film. It must have looked like Id lost all control to anyone looking in, but I felt I was giving liberty to the students to “play” in English, with a story that makes sense. They’re working together and communicating in English, and so even if it wasn’t the sharpest stage in the world, I felt this was doing what it set out to do, which was to activate their English.

I guess I’m still not feeling like a “real teacher” and sometimes it’s scary in front of the kids who expect me to know what I’m doing, even more so the parents of the kids. However, little by little I’m feeling like I can at least play the part a little better than before. I lack that teachery polish that so many have so things may appear a little slap dash. I’m happy with small improvements week by week so I’m officially refraining from putting myself under immense pressure to be the perfect teacher.

The above was written two days ago but have not had a chance to post it due to connexion problems and lack of time.  😦

Getting to know the other Brits

October 18, 2010

Spoke to my parents yesterday which was lovely.  It’d been nearly two weeks since we’d spoken.  My mum is visiting me on Monday so I’m really looking forward to next week.

I’m still acclimatising to living here in Cadiz until whenever.  I’ve always been one to focus on what I’m doing after this year and where will I go?  I’m learning to let go and forget the future and concentrate on this part of the adventure.

Last night we went out to a Bar owned by and Englishman which was welcome.  I always thought I’d be one to avoid any kind of ex-pat lairs but really, it was fun to have a pub quiz “student” style and meet a few other teachers.  There’s definitely a place for socialising with other Brits and maintaining a sense of belonging.  Although I know Cadiz reasonably well, it does have its moments where it feels distinctly foreign.  Knowing there are other people here just like me is a comfort.  I’m still to meet another Scouser, though! 😉

During the quiz, Mr A proved his worth.  He knew all his history questions and his geography ones.  The films round was miserable.  I didn’t do so bad on food, knowing that venison was indeed deer meat and that fois gras is goose liver paté.  Thanks for educating me, Mum!  Never eaten either of the above, however, and I don’t really intend to!  I was also made up (translation: pleased) to be able to recall all of the Spanish Prime Minister’s name.  Spanish people have two surnames each although they tend to use one, so trying to remember the extra one is crazy for someone who can’t even remember more than the first letter of anything.  If anyone can say the Spanish PM’s name without the aid of Google or wiki or any other form of cheating, they can have a virtual sticker.

I’ll have to stop writing now to get some rest for another day of work tomorrow.  Plus I miss me fella who is sitting on the sofa watching Spanish TV.

We’re boring!

October 18, 2010

Another evening at work has seen me implement a few new ideas into the classes with reasonable success.  The first time you try something is always a bit chaotic.

I think my teaching issues are not so much my ideas, but the state of internal panic I enter into when I’ve planned a lesson but I still just don’t feel sure of what I’m doing.  The instructions are blurted out shyly or pathetically when I need to be in control.

The above title represents my greatest fear during lessons.  “Teacher!  We’re boring!”  On the positive side, this line does make me chuckle to myself that the insult backfires on them, somehow! 🙂

Sharing ideas

October 17, 2010

Yesterday I attended a TEFL del Sur conference at Active Language in the centre of Cadiz.  I got some new ideas from Ceri for implementing vocab games which require minimal preparation time.  I can add this to my own small but vastly growing repertoire of games.  I use some of her ideas already, but her clear instructions and specific emphasis on meaning rather than just memorisation will help me to consolidate my own delivery.  I also have a firmer idea of what the focus should be when I use games in class.

The next TEFL del Sur conference will include everybody’s participation.  We have been told to bring an idea.  In this game, most ideas are borrowed and tweeked.  There is not a whole lot of brand new ideas.  Nevertheless, I’m confident that by January, I’ll have a few gems that I will have tried again and again and that will be worth sharing.  I look forward to this.

Being a new TEFL has been a very humbling experience in that I’m learning to realise that I can’t have all the ideas on my own.  I have always tried to have complete ownership over my work.  I’ve never wanted to take on board ideas, because it’s always seemed like admitting defeat.  This attitude, I now realise, is completely unhelpful.  Everybody has great ideas to share whether they are brand new CELTees or the experts  in the field.  As well as learning to accept ideas from others, it is recommended to offer your own ideas to others.

I said in my second post that I’d be willing to share ideas from my little toolkit, so here are a few:

1.  The Snail Race

You ask a question to three/four teams in the class.  Each team has a snail picture (or other animal) stuck on the white board.  This does not work with real animals!  For each vocab/grammar question answered correctly, the team’s snail moves forward a space.  Snails can move backwards if there is any shouting out of answers or incorrect answers.  After about five spaces, the snail has reached the finishing position and the winning team gets a point.  I wish I could take credit for this, but I learnt it on the CELTA course.

Variations:  Use different animal pictures.  I sometimes use butterflies for girl teams.  I use a flower prop to mark the finish as snails eat flowers, so it makes sense for them to race to a flower.  (Sorry, I’m starting to believe they are real!)  I also have a form of this game where two snails have a direct combat for the flower, facing each other.   There are two or three steps between each snail and the flower. Then you can have three teams, two matches each.  This makes the activity a little longer and perhaps more exciting.

2.  Bingo

When I was at school, my French teacher used this game to practise French numbers, especially the difficult ones like 72 (soixante douze = literally sixty-twelve) and 99 (quatre-vingt-dix-neuf = literally four twenty nineteen).  You can imagine how we needed the practice.  I think the Belgians have it right with their equivalents for ninety and seventy: nonante and septante.

My own way of using bingo is….anything.  Take as an example phoneme bingo if you’re teaching phonetics, or question tag bingo.  The teacher asks a question and the students cross out the appropriate question tag.


The students write down question tags like “doesn’t he?”, “isn’t it?”, “can’t we?” etc in a grid of nine.

The teacher asks “You’re brother’s a mechanic…”

The students cross out “isn’t he?” if he/she has written this particular tag.

Thanks again to Ceri for making me realise that one line crossed out is enough for a winner and not necessarily a full house.  That will save me tearing my hair out when I can’t think of anymore question tags and there’s still no winner.

A good piece of advice is to not ask the students to draw a grid of anymore than nine squares.  Can you imagine trying to get a full house of sixteen squares?

So there you are.  I humbly present two of my games.  They are not original, nor special in any way, but I have tried to use them to my advantage and maybe new teachers can benefit too.

The best things about Spain…

October 17, 2010

The people in Cadiz are kind.  There is light after 5 o’clock in the evening.  There is the sea.  There are tapas.  There is the Lacasitos chocolate which I’m eating now.  Not the best chocolate in the world, but the Smartie-type sweets take me back to Menorca 1990 when I was only five and I acquired a tube of Lacasitos.  I only eat this chocolate for nostalgia reasons.  It’s also good after a late breakfast of scrambled eggs with tomato, onion and mushroom mixed in.  Later we are going to watch Liverpool versus Everton.  I love Liverpool.  I hate Everton.  I do not want to be disappointed.  And then tonight there will hopefully be some pub quiz drama.  A nice bit of British culture for me.


A little about what I do…

October 16, 2010

My current preoccupation is my new job.  I love it and it’s great, although hard work.  There are never enough ideas for what to teach 8-13 year olds and adults and I wake up from time to time in the middle of the night in sheer fear and panic of the word “boring”.  This is what goes through my head:

Oh no, this lesson’s really boring (bearing in mind I am in bed trying to sleep!  Surely this is a time when it’s permissable to be boring?).  I’ll have to introduce a vocab game to liven it up.

The past few days few nights have had me dreaming about observations and all sorts.  I’ve been assured this is a very normal symptom of being a new teacher; it’s okay to not be able to switch off.

I was told that EFL teachers have a really fun job, and I know this is true.  I also now, however, that this means hard work at the beginning.  I’ve been a part-time teacher for about five months (1.5 hours a day only) and a full-time one for just over four weeks.  This is the first time I have taught kids and exams, so it’s a steep learning curve.  I welcome the challenge and also any advice from others who teach/have taught.  I’ll post my ideas on here, too, as everyday there some variation on a game that pops into my head.

Time for something new…

October 16, 2010

I’ve been blogging a while, but I’m moving her in order to mark a new chapter as a full-time EFL teacher in Cadiz, living with me fella (translation: my boyfriend/partner/significant other).  We’re near the beach, which is handy.  Also quite ironic, since I’ve never been a lover of sand, catching a tan or volleyball.  I prefer crisps to ice cream, coffee to lemonade and swimming in the sea to any other beach activity.  However, I’m happy to find myself here, at last, in a lovely apartment with a man who listens to my endless commentaries about nothing and doesn’t complain about the amount of time I sleep or the fact that I’m untidy.  Although that’s all changing as I develop the inner domestic goddess that I always was, really, but just in its cocoon stage (I can hear my parents laughing while reading this.  I mean it, honest!).