ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

By - Martin Sketchley

In Response to Marisa Constantinides

In December, I was tagged to a blog post by Marisa Constantinides and have just got back to blogging after a busy Christmas and New Year in South Korea as well as a busy start to the year with LTC Eastbourne.  Nevertheless, the blog post by Marisa was to partake in a blog challenge and is the first time I have participated in a blog challenge.

So here is the task …

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger- in this case it would be me…
  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.

11 random facts about myself

  1. I once took an A-Level in Photography when I was 17 years old and after two years I achieved a grade of ‘E’.  Not something that I am particularly proud with.
  2. I got my first job when I was 16 years old and worked part-time as a cashier for a national home improvements chain for about 3 years.  It was a wonderful experience.
  3. I enlisted in the Royal Air Force when I was 20 years old and spent the next three years repainting and respraying military aircrafts, vehicles and equipment.  I was mainly based at RAF Odiham, the home to the Chinook.
  4. My wife made me promise to go to University if we got married.  After a few months of marriage, I went to University as a mature student. I suppose I am a late academic starter but it hasn’t stopped me achieving more than what others expected.
  5. I have never been very good learning languages in an academic environment, but I have made the decision to take a Korean Language Test (TOPIK) this year and am self-studying now in preparation for an April and October examination.
  6. I absolutely adore Korean food and drink.  I try to head over to H-Mart in London as often as is possible to get my fix of Korean food.  I even have a store card!
  7. My first ever computer was a BBC Microcomputer.  It had a tape to load up programs and I even tried to create my own games.  My parents always found me on this computer.
  8. I got to travel a lot when I was young and lived for a total of 5 years in Cyprus as both my parents were in the Army.  I suppose this was what inspired me to travel in my later years.
  9. I love to ski but don’t often get round to doing this.  I was able to go skiing a lot when I was young as my father was also a Ski Instructor.  As a family, we used to ski in different countries: France, Switzerland, Finland, etc.
  10. I can’t eat eggs if they are given to me due to an allergy or something related to post-traumatic stress.  When I was young, my mum would always make me egg sandwiches.  One day at school, I had enough of them and brought most of my lunch back up across the playground.  Since then, I can’t stomach any egg but am fine when egg is used as an ingredient.
  11. When I was about four or five years old, on Christmas Day, I woke up extra early to find all the presents for my family and myself under the tree.  I proceeded to open all presents, not just mine.  A few hours later, my parents awoke to see all their Christmas presents open under the tree and I was in the middle of what looked like a bomb site with wrapping paper surrounding me and all the toys and gifts in the centre.

The 11 questions Marisa asked me

  1. How long does it usually take you to draft and finalise a blog post? It takes me a few hours to draft a blog post.  Sometimes I hit on the publish button without rereading what I have written and then have to make edits post publication.  However, this blog post has taken me two days to complete.  I usually have difficulty finding the time to blog when juggling with so many other things.
  2. Which ICT tools do you actually use with your classes? Some of the tools that I use with my classes include using WordPress to create a PLE, Soundcloud to record and share speaking practice as well as Power Point.
  3. What is your absolute dream job? My dream job would involve learning more about culture and languages.  I suppose the closest to this is teaching English to language learners.
  4. Which classroom activity do you absolutely enjoy using with your students? I love to just have a conversation with my students and provide language necessary for learners to use the next time they need it: Dogme-esque style.
  5. How many of your current friendships were started through a social network? I have met many other like minded individuals through Twitter who are interested in language learning and perhaps one close friendship to a person who has assisted this blog since last year: Scott Worden.
  6. Which household chore do you hate the most and which one do you love the best? I absolutely hate clothes washing! I can’t stand it.  I know that I have to do it but all your clothes are damp and cold and you start to get quite cold yourself.  However, one thing that I really love is ironing.  It might seem contradictory as I hate clothes washing but I find ironing so relaxing.  Your clothes are a little damp but you soon warm up when you start ironing.
  7. Name your 10 Desert Island CD’s.
    1. Hell Freezes Over (The Eagles)
    2. Dreams Can Come True (Gabrielle)
    3. Best of British (Compilation CD)
    4. Back to Bedlam (James Blunt)
    5. 21 (Adele)
    6. Love Sensuality Devotion (Enigma)
    7. Vibesman (Roy Ayers)
    8. Sting / The Police (Compilation CD)
    9. Samba Pa Ti (Santana)
    10. Masters At Work: The Tenth Anniversary Collection (Compilation CD)
  8. Do you wish you had studied something other than what you did study? I have tried to study something different.  I tried to study photography and I didn’t really succeed, studied maths and soon realised I wasn’t very good at this either, as well as studied International Business and really enjoyed studying something that was quite natural and very stimulating.  Through my efforts, I now know what my strengths and weaknesses are.  I suppose I would really like to study Korean language in the future but I will stick with self-studying for the moment and see how I get on with my future exam.
  9. Describe the naughtiest thing you have ever done.  In the UK we have to separate our rubbish: plastics in one box, tins in another whilst normal household waste goes into a black bag.  I have found it quite time consuming to separate the rubbish and put it all together in the black bag and thrown it away.  Is that naughty?  I guess so.
  10. What artistic aspirations or skills do you have? Before I enlisted the RAF, I used to play the saxophone quite well.  I was involved in the local jazz circuit and used to play at a bar in Brighton with some other musicians.  We played at golf clubs, charity events as well as at the local halls.  I had played the saxophone for about 10 years before I joined the RAF – first at school and then afterwards.  This was the only artistic skill that I had.  I tried drawing and painting but soon realised that my sheep were more like white blobs.  It would be nice to play the saxophone again but there is always something new to try.
  11. Which TV series or film do you keep watching again and again? I love watching ‘Lost’.  I keep watching the series and love the whole timelines in the series.  I always recommend my friends to watch it but they soon reply that they find the timelines quite difficult to follow but the main focus are the characters and the development of their lives.  Absolutely love it!

11 bloggers tagged in this post … anyone else wishing to respond to this post

Unfortunately, as I am so late in responding to a tagged blog post that those that I wished to tag to this blog post have already been involved with this sort of tagged posting.  Nevertheless, if you wish to be involved in this blog post, please comment and/or send a link to your response and I will add you to a potential list below.  To come to think of it, there is a husband and wife blogger that I would like to tag to this post, and they are called:

  • The Conleys – They have have been writing about their experiences of teaching in South Korea and it would be great to see them answer some of the questions that I have asked below.

Again, if anyone would like to invite themselves to be involved with any of the questions below, please let me know and I will add you to list above.  Perhaps, I could reach a target of 11 bloggers!

My 11 Questions

  1. Tell me more about your favourite food you like to try or restaurant you like to visit.
  2. What achievements have you set yourself for 2014?
  3. What is the weirdest activity you have ever tried in your life?
  4. Who do you most admire in your life?  Why?
  5. What do you think is more important: happiness or money?  Why?
  6. Describe your favourite teacher from school.
  7. Are you learning any other languages at the moment?  Why/why not?
  8. Where would you like to go on your next holiday?
  9. What would you do if you suddenly won the lottery?
  10. When did you first learn to ride a bicycle and what was it like?
  11. What pet would you like to have?  Why?

Well, that’s it from me.  Best wishes for 2014.

By - Martin Sketchley

January Teacher Interview: Nik Peachey

Nik PeachyHappy New Year to all my readers and all the best for 2014.  It has been a very busy Christmas and New Year for me as I spent the time in South Korea for 2 weeks to visit and spend time with extended family (a post to added in the near future – I promise!!!) and I have finally managed to sit down to write a new blog post.  What better time to write the first post of 2014 than a monthly teacher interview which involves one teacher who is well known for his contribution to the TeachingEnglish website.  This interview is none other than Nik Peachey!  Now for a short biography about his experiences.

Nik Peachey has been involved in ELT since 1992. He has worked all over the world as a language teacher, teacher trainer and technology trainer. In 2003 he took over and managed the newly launched British Council | BBC TeachingEnglish website and developed it into one of the world’s best web based resources for English language teachers.  Since 2007 he has been working freelance as a technology writer trainer and consultant. He creates custom made face-to-face and online training courses for teachers and has been involved in a number of major training consultancies for ELT publishers, organisations and education ministries around the world. Among teachers he is best known for his free blogs, these include QuickShout and his Learning Technology blog.  In 2009 he published a free e-book ‘Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers‘ which has been read by more than 180 thousand teachers world-wide. In May 2012 he won a British Council Innovations award for Excellence in Course Innovation for the Blended Learning in ELT course he designed for Bell Educational Services. As well as being a qualified teacher and trainer he also holds a masters in educational technology and ELT and is a qualified PRINCE 2 project manager.

Now let’s start the much anticipated interview.

1. Could you tell our readers how you got into English teaching?

Well I guess like a lot of people I got into ELT because I wanted to travel. I had just finished a degree in music and had paid my way through by playing in jazz bands and teaching guitar to kids and in the local prison. My plan was to teach English in Japan and save up enough money to do an MA in composition. None of those three happened. I never made it to Japan, I never did an MA in composition and sadly I never saved any money either. I did a CELTA in Cairo at IH and it really blew my mind. I really enjoyed the teaching and the methods and thought the world was probably a better place with one less would be guitarist.

2. What advice would you give to newly qualified teachers who have just completed a CELTA or equivalent?

The most important thing is to get a job in a good school where there is plenty of support and development. If possible try to work in a school that runs teacher-training courses. You are much more likely to get support in that kind of environment. Also don’t take on too many hours. If you try to do too much it can really quickly burn out your enthusiasm and that soon starts to show with your students.

3. What do you consider are the most demanding differences between teaching monolingual and multilingual classes?

I taught multilingual classes for a couple of years in Singapore and it was great. The students were very mixed and English was their common language. Sometimes I felt they learned more during the breaks just trying to chat and communicate with each other than they did during the classes. Monolingual classes can be much harder work and the use of communicative activities to develop their speaking always feels a bit artificial. It can make it really difficult for them.

4. What would be the perfect teachers’ room?

Well I think I worked in it for a while. It had very little to do with the room and a lot to do with the people in it. Just after I finished my diploma I got some work at IH in Barcelona and was able to start training up as a CELTA trainer there. The staffroom at the time contained some amazing people. Scott Thornbury, Gavin Dudeney, Graham Stanley, to name but a few and the buzz of ideas in the staffroom was fantastic. There was always someone sitting around talking about teaching. Having the opportunity to train up there was fantastic too. I was so lucky and really it only happened by chance.

5. What is your opinion of roleplays in the classroom?  Are they really that authentic?

It really depends a lot on the students. Some students love them and really get into roleplaying. It can help them escape from being themselves and really give them a chance to experiment with language and feeling a range of expression that isn’t natural to the classroom. Some students aren’t so keen though. It has a lot to do with how well you build the rapport with the class and make them comfortable with each other. It also helps if your role-plays are well designed too and your students have the ability to produce the necessary language for them.

6. What is the secret when teaching young learners?

I would say that it’s probably understanding the right degree of control and discipline. I never found that balance. I had classes of kids that were really fantastic and others that were complete nightmares. I’m terrible at being the disciplinarian. Whenever I tried to tell them off I would start to smile and then they didn’t take me seriously. You have to be able to maintain an element of fear I think and I couldn’t do it. They knew I was a pushover.

7. What was your first lesson like?

I remember my first lesson on my CELTA course. It was in Cairo with a group of Arabic speakers. I told them they could call me Nik. They looked a bit confused and embarrassed, which I assumed was because they usually call their teachers Sir. I later discovered it was because Nik in Arabic means f__k! I can’t remember my first unobserved lesson. I think the fear blanked it out. I’m sure it was probably really awful. My poor students.

8. What advice would you give to language teachers keen to get involved with technology and language education?

Well my first piece of advice is to make a start. Lots of teachers ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ about it and are like children trying to get on a ‘merry-go-round’. They don’t know where to start and are worried about leaping on in the wrong place.  The easiest way to start is by setting things for students to do as homework. That reduces the pressure on the teacher and the worry that something will go wrong and they will be humiliated in front of their students. Try setting a video task for students such as something from http://lyricstraining.com/ or http://www.eslvideo.com/ . Students enjoy watching video and these have built in tasks for them. Get them to do the tasks for homework, then follow it up with some kind of in class work. It could be a discussion or looking more carefully at the script of the video.  The next step would be to start some sort of blog or online site where you can collect together links to activities and sites for them to work on at home.  All these things are pretty safe for the teacher and help build some learner autonomy.

9. How should the teacher keep learners motivated in the classroom?

This really is one of the most difficult things and really the key to success. The answer is probably different for everyone. I try to be understanding and keep things light in the classroom. Try to keep things fresh and change things around a lot and try to make learning fun. I’m really interested Dan Pink’s research into motivation. You can watch his TED talk here http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

10. Finally, what New Year resolutions or plans have you set for yourself during 2014?

Well this year I’ve set myself the goal of starting to write a series of books on technology. I’ve been writing about and training teachers to use technology in education for years now and I’ve always wanted to do a book for teachers. I’ve been approached by publishers a few times but I don’t want to do a book on technology that’s limited by black and white paper, so I’ve decided to try to raise the money to fund my own production of a series of eBooks. I want them to have video and colour images and links that go directly to the web. Most of all I want them to be cheaper than paper books and more portable. I have loads of books about teaching, but when I need them, they are always at home on the bookshelf, not where I need them. An eBook can be much more portable and accessible. So that’s my New Year resolution. I’ve started a fundraising campaign at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/digital-classrooms-online-video so you can go along there and find out more about the project and help me to keep my resolution. That would be great.

Thank you ever so much for your answers Nik!