At Manc English we think that if we are in a relaxed, supportive environment, we learn better. Therefore we are not afraid of experimenting or making mistakes. The rapport between the student and the teacher is very important, as is the rapport between the learners. If both of these things exist in the classroom, then students will be engaged and hungry to learn. Then learning will take place.
How do we go about creating it?
Starting a new course, in a new place with new classmates and a new teacher is bound to be a little nerve wracking. This applies to both the students and the teacher. Let’s face it, the teacher wants the students to like them and the teacher wants to like their students. The feeling of mutual respect will lead to positive outcomes. You may have just arrived in a new city and are tired and jet-lagged. You may have got lost on your way to the school. You might have to adapt to a different educational system and way of learning. You may be a student, taking an online course for the first time and aren’t so savvy with the tech. You may be a teacher, teaching online and aren’t so savvy with the tech. These things can be daunting at first. The teacher needs to make the students feel at ease and welcome them. The students need to be open-minded. The first class is really important for setting-up the whole course of study, getting to know each other, setting the class goals and getting everyone settled and relaxed so they can give their best and produce their best English. Students who think that they will do an IELTS practice test on day one, lesson one will be a little surprised.
A relaxed atmosphere
With this in mind, it is vital to create a relaxed atmosphere in the class. The teachers and the students need to get to know each other. We at Manc English, take the approach that we are all human beings with different strengths and weaknesses. In addition, we all have different likes and dislikes, different personalities and learning styles. When you come to learn English in our classes, either on an IELTS course or in General English lessons, you will discover our human and communicative approach.
In a typical IELTS or general English class, a group mingle never fails. The whole class is up and moving around the room talking to each other. The objective is communication and getting to know each other. It is fun to learn more about the people who you will spend hours of class time with. I love to hear the buzz of everyone chatting and laughing, sharing information and communicating in English.
Self-reflection in the classroom
A teacher should work hard to ensure a good classroom rapport right at the beginning of a course. Students should feel that the classroom is a safe environment to ask questions, make mistakes, reflect on their own learning, help their peers, and learn from each other. They should grow together as both a unit and individuals. In our IELTS and General English Course in Manchester, we are committed to this approach. We work together to help you feel welcome in your class.
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Good question. You can have four seasons in one day in Manchester. English weather is very changeable so it’s a good idea to wear layers as one minute you are cold but then when you go indoors you can get too hot when the heating is on. In the winter you’ll need a nice warm, waterproof coat and whatever you do don’t forget your umbrella, brolly for short. As Manchester is an easy city to explore on foot comfortable, comfy (for short) shoes are a must. There’s nothing worse than your feet killing you!
Apart from English, are there any other official languages?
English is the official language of England. Mancunian is the official language of Manchester. Manchester is a very diverse city so don’t be surprised to hear a wide variety of languages being spoken when you are out and about. This diversity is what makes Manchester such an interesting place to live, work and study in.
Are there embassies in Manchester?
You should check this before departure. Most embassies are in London but a number of countries have them in Manchester too.
What’s the best way to get to the city centre from the airport?
There are a number of public transport options, buses, trains, trams, and of course taxis.
Once in Manchester is there a market where I can buy international food?
There are many large supermarkets in Manchester selling international food as well as The Arndale Market, you can buy Chinese ingredients in Chinatown. Halal products in Rusholme, Turkish ingredients in Longsight, Japanese ingredients and local products at Bury Market outside the city. The diverse population means that you can probably find almost any type of food without going too far. In addition, if you have any food allergies or intolerances you can find vegan products and gluten free products in many outlets.
What’s the best way to get around the city?
The centre of Manchester is quite compact which means that walking is a great option. You can get your daily steps in and appreciate the things around you, you may discover a park or shop that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. There are a number of free buses that ferry people around the city centre, regular buses, trams & private taxis. Cycling is another option. Many university students cycle to their lectures and around the campus. There are now special cycle lanes on Oxford Road and places where you can rent and buy bikes. Cycling is another great way to exercise and is more sustainable.
Should I be aware of robbers?
We should all take responsibility for our belongings and personal safety. Sometimes when we are in another country we are not as vigilant as we would be in our own surroundings. Don’t leave your personal belongings unattended, for example, don’t leave your phone or laptop on a table in a cafe and then go to the toilet. It may not be there when you return. Do not carry large amounts of cash, it is not really necessary as most places accept contactless payments now. Be aware of your surroundings, do not stand at a bus stop on your phone with headphones on not paying attention to what is going on around you. Do not leave your bicycle unlocked, try and find a bike shed or secure place to leave it locked up. Make sure you know how to contact the police and the emergency services Manchester. In an emergency ring 999.
How many universities are there?
There are 3, The University of Manchester, which includes the Alliance Business School, and UMIST, Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Salford.
Are the Mancunian people nice to international students/visitors?
Of course, Mancunians are a friendly welcoming bunch and we love to chat and meet people from all over the world and different backgrounds. The people are what makes Manchester great and who worked together to make Manchester the Northern Powerhouse.
Apart from English, are there any other language schools?
Are you at the point in your teaching career where you would like to move into a different area but not necessarily a management role? Teachers don’t necessarily make great managers. Not everyone wants to be in an office poring over admin. Have you already got your diploma but don’t know what do next? Do you enjoy working with teachers? If the answer is yes, then maybe teaching training is for you. This is something that I have been toying with recently. However, I found it difficult to find any information about how to embark on this. Therefore, I decided to do my own research. Where did I start? Well, I started talking to the best sources of information, teachers themselves. This is what I learned.
1. To become a CELTA trainer you have to firstly find a centre/language school which is willing to train you up basically. The first step is to observe an entire CELTA course and produce a portfolio. It seems that you choose a centre/language school with a view to working with them in the future as you need to stay there for at least 3 courses according to Cambridge regulations.
2. In terms of the requirements to become a CELTA trainer or a teacher trainer in the future, it seems it can sometimes be a case of being in the right place at the right time. It may also be a case of whether or not your place of work is a Cambridge test centre for language students.
3. In order to prepare for this a teacher needs one of the higher level qualifications such as Cambridge DELTA or Trinity Dip TESOL and proven experience of teacher training. For example, you could mentor less experienced teachers, lead one-off seminars, present at a conference, conduct teacher observations, do peer observations or volunteer to train teachers in developing countries. Such evidence may be required to demonstrate your previous training experience in order to be accepted to observe a CELTA course.
4. You should also work on your own CPD by attending various training courses for teachers. There does not always have to be a financial cost involved. Inform yourself by reading teaching methodology books journals and blogs, attend online webinars, online or face to face conferences and actively reflect on your own teaching. Keep a reflective journal. These are all great developmental tools.
5. Given the massive changes in the ELT classroom driven by technology and the Covid 19 pandemic, it is essential that teacher trainers and teachers radically upskill themselves in terms of digital skills and literacy. Many more teacher training course may be online in the future so this needs to be considered.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an exam that measures the English language proficiency of candidates who wish to study or work in countries or organisations where English is used as the means of communication. It tests the four language skills, listening, reading, writing and speaking. Please see my previous blogs about writing task 1 and 2 Academic IELTS. This blog will focus on the speaking test.
Firstly, familiarise yourself with the content and format of the speaking exam. You should know the exam inside and out so nothing comes as a surprise. This is good exam technique. The IELTS speaking exam is a face-to-face conversation with a qualified examiner in a designated official IELTS test centre. The test lasts between 11 and 14 minutes and is divided into three sections. Let’s look at each section.
Speaking – part 1
In part 1 of the speaking test the examiner will introduce themself and ask general questions on familiar topics. These will be questions you have answered many times before but obviously as this is an exam, you may be a little nervous and not used to the examiner. Therefore, this part of the exam is used to check your details and to put you at ease. They will ask you your name and maybe about your likes and dislikes. This part of the exam lasts for 4-5 minutes.
Speaking – part 2
In part 2 of the speaking test the examiner will give you a task card on a particular topic which will include key points that you should talk about. This is known as the long turn and lasts about 2 minutes. You have 1 minute to prepare to talk about the topic on the task card. You will obviously lose marks if you don’t talk about the topic on the task card or address the key points on the card. The topics will be quite personal in nature, for example, talk about your favourite book or tell a story about …….. You will be asked follow up questions. This part of the exam takes 3-4 minutes in total.
Speaking – part 3
In part 3 of the speaking test the examiner will open up the discussion in a more abstract and critical way. The questions will be connected to the topics discussed in part 2. This part of the test is more linguistically challenging and complex, it sorts the wheat from the chaff, meaning higher level students from lower level students. Lower level students usually struggle with their fluency in this part of the exam. They just don’t know the grammatical structures and vocabulary to excel in this part of the exam. Take note, this cannot be rehearsed or memorised. It must be natural and mirror real life communication. Seasoned examiners are very savvy to this. This part of the exam takes 4-5 minutes.
Speaking exam tips
Talk as much as you can, don’t give one word answers. Minimalism doesn’t work in a speaking exam.
Talk as fluently and naturally as possible. This is what real life speaking is like. It isn’t perfect. Native speakers lose their thread and sometimes refer back to something they said previously. Don’t get preoccupied with using perfect grammar. Focus on communication.
Do not learn pre prepared answers or memorise monologues. The examiners will see straight through this.
Speak loudly and clearly. Don’t be concerned about your accent. Your focus is to sound intelligible and understood by the examiner not to sound like the Queen. Work on word and sentence stress.
Don’t panic! If you are asked about a topic that you have no idea about be honest. The examiner’s questions are usually quite predictable but if for some reason they throw you a curveball then ask for clarification. It’s a test of your English ability not your general knowledge.
Before the exam practice speaking with a native/proficient speaker/teacher. Ask them for some feedback on your responses
Record yourself speaking and self-assess yourself. Did you answer the question? How was your fluency and pronunciation?
Here at Manc English we want you to improve all areas of English. How can you improve your vocabulary? Firstly, let’s consider the lexical approach.
What is the lexical approach to language teaching and learning? Firstly, let’s look at the word lexis which according to the Oxford Learners’ Dictionary is a noun which means “all the words and phrases of a particular language” and is Greek in origin. Synonyms for lexis are words and vocabulary. The adjective is lexical and the adverb lexically. A person who studies words and is an expert about them is a lexicographer and they write dictionaries. I have already demonstrated 3 ways to improve your vocabulary, namely finding synonyms for the word, finding the word family it is part of and using a high-quality reliable dictionary. I would recommend The Cambridge Advanced Learners’ Dictionary Cambridge English Dictionary: Meanings & Definitions and The Oxford Learners’ Dictionary https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ 1993 saw the publication of Michael Lewis’ “The Lexical Approach”, which questioned the decades of dominance of grammar over vocabulary in the ELT classroom. Vocabulary had until then been regarded as secondary and merely a vehicle to illustrate the grammar. The key tenet of a lexical approach is that “language consists of grammaticalized lexis, not lexicalized grammar.” This means that lexis is pivotal in creating meaning, whereas grammar plays a secondary part in managing meaning. The implications are that the teacher should spend more time helping learners to develop their vocabulary both inside and outside the classroom. The lexical approach argues that language consists of meaningful chunks not solitary words. There is therefore an emphasis on collocations, set phrases and authentic English. Here are 10 suggestions to improve your vocabulary.
Read, read, read and read some more. Don’t just read your course book. Read a book or a graded reader dependent on your level. Read a newspaper or magazine. Read blogs, recipes, reviews about things that you are interested in. Make a note of any new words you come across as you are reading. Could you understand the general gist or did your lack of vocabulary hinder your understanding? We don’t need to know the exact meaning of every word as usually we can guess from the context so we can read the article or book. However, after reading we should check all the words that we didn’t know in a dictionary. Then we should look for synonyms and antonyms and other words in the family. We should record these details in a vocabulary book. I would advise checking how the word is pronounced too. This is something else you can find in a dictionary and you can listen to the pronunciation too. A good dictionary is a staple for a language learner.
Keep a Vocabulary Book
Record everything you can find out about the word, e.g. word class, origin, register, translation in your own language, synonyms, antonyms and frequency. Be committed to doing this effectively and understand how time consuming it can be. It is worth putting in the hard work. Many exam tasks such as IELTS speaking and writing require a demonstration of a range of vocabulary that is appropriate to the task.
Flashcards are a great way to record and test yourself on vocabulary you have learned. Carry them with you and when you have 5 minutes spare whisk them out and test yourself. Use online flashcards on Quizlet Learning tools & flashcards, for free | Quizlet you could make a set as a class or you could share yours with classmates.
If you are low-level this is a great way to learn nouns in particular. Use stickers or post-it notes and label things around you. Why not start in your room and label all the furniture that you can see? If you don’t know the word look it up in a picture dictionary. When you are cooking do you know all the names of the food and utensils in English? If not, find out! Picture dictionaries are great for visual learners.
Test, test, test
We spend a great deal of time being exposed to new words that we then never remember or use actively. You must review vocabulary often, that’s why your vocabulary book is important! Look at the words again after 24 hours, after one week and after one month. Keep revisiting them so they become part of your active vocabulary.
Upgrade your language
If your aim is to improve your IELTS score you will be awarded higher marks in both speaking and writing for your vocabulary range. You show the examiners how much vocabulary you know. In the IELTS writing tasks grammar only accounts for 25% of the overall mark. Avoid using basic words all the time. Think of synonyms and higher-level vocabulary. Also avoid words like get, have, do and make which are more a feature of spoken language.
If you hear a new word in class don’t be afraid to ask what it means. If a classmate uses a word you don’t know ask them to explain it or give you an example of how the word is used. This is good practice for them too as technical words or jargon should be explained to non-specialists. The ability to explain things in English is a great skill to have and means that we can all learn from each other and not just the teacher.
Set SMART objectives
Many students say I want to improve my vocabulary but this is a very vague statement. Commit to learning 10 new words a day that’s 50 in a working week and then for self-study after completing your vocabulary book write 50 sentences using the new words. Think of it like going to the gym. Be disciplined.
Play vocabulary games
There are lots of great vocabulary games you can play with your classmates or online. For example, Hangman, Pictionary, Taboo or Scrabble. What better way to learn than by having fun? You could even start doing crosswords.
Become a Logophile
Learn to love words, a logophile is a lover of words and it is Greek in origin. Start writing poetry or reading Shakespeare as a way to enjoy and appreciate the wealth of words in the English language. Think about what words from your own language are borrowed by the English language. You may be surprised.
Lewis, M. (1993). The lexical approach: The state of ELT and the way forward. Hove, England: Language Teaching Publications.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an exam that measures the English language proficiency of candidates who wish to study or work in countries or organisations where English is used as the means of communication. It tests the four language skills, listening, reading, writing and speaking. This blog will focus on the writing test, task 2.
Firstly, yourself with the task and the time limit. Time management and planning are key factors when taking any kind of exam. As is thinking time especially for this writing task. What are the examiners looking for? How is writing task 2 different from writing task 1? If somebody asked you this question would you be able to explain it to them? If the answer is No, then your first task is to do some research. Hopefully reading this blog will help to inform you and give you some tips to improve your writing for academic IELTS writing task 2.
What is task 2 writing in Academic IELTS and how is it different from task 1 writing in Academic IELTS?
Writing task 2 is essentially about task response whereas writing task 1 is about task achievement. What does that mean? Quite simply writing task 1 is about how well you describe and summarise the information in the diagram whereas writing task 2 is about how well you respond to the question set. In addition, how well do you develop an opinion or argument. There is more scope to show off your language ability & knowledge of the English language and to communicate your ideas & opinions. Change your mindset, do not think of it as an awful exam question you have to answer. Think of it as an amazing form of written communication & a chance to share your thoughts and ideas about a topic. Think of writing as a form of personal expression.
What do international students find difficult about academic IELTS writing task 2?
There are a number of things that students of all levels find challenging. Firstly, writing in the English language may follow different conventions to that of your own language. There are different ideas of how to organise your writing in different languages and cultures. It is more than knowing grammar and vocabulary. Remember grammar accounts for 25% of the total mark. Secondly, in English writing there is a prescribed way of writing paragraphs. It is a good idea to start at the paragraph level. Thirdly, do not run before you can walk. By this I mean be aware of your own level and what you need to work on. Manage your own expectations, improving an aspect of your language ability takes time and effort. Writing is one of the more challenging skills. However, there are simple improvements you can make that can improve your score whatever your level.
How can I write a good paragraph?
Think of a paragraph as a mini essay. That means it must have an introduction, a body and a conclusion. The sentences must flow and be linked. A paragraph usually contains one idea and starts with a topic sentence. The topic sentence tells the reader what the paragraph is about clearly. A paragraph is usually 5 sentences but this of course depends on the length of the writing.
What are the question types for academic IELTS writing task 2?
They are discursive questions in various formats for example, problem/solution, cause/effect, advantages/disadvantages and agree/disagree. Learners often make the mistake of not reading the question and therefore not answering the question. They may merely describe the topic in the question but not answer the question posed. Doing this means that you will score low on task fullfilment /response. Good preparation for academic IELTS writing task 2 is to brainstorm topics and have discussions in class to generate ideas and opinions that learners can write about in their essays. They sometimes find it hard to see both sides of the argument. This is a key skill not only for IELTS but for EAP too, if the student’s goal is to advance to higher education in the UK then this skill will be invaluable.
What register should students use?
Students should aim for a formal register or style not necessarily an academic style which is another genre of writing. They should constantly upgrade their language. When you are writing, can you think of a better higher level word. If you do this you will score higher on lexical resource. Remember avoid phrasal verbs and simple verbs like make, do, have and get. This is where a good dictionary and thesaurus are invaluable.
Should students plan their essays?
The simple answer to this is yes. Remember, preparation is key. A teacher can see that an essay has been planned very easily. A well-planned essay avoids rambling and going off topic and not answering the question. It contains paragraphs and ideas are linked and developed. Students should plan each paragraph too. That way they will not forget the topic sentences and the concluding sentences. Students should also factor in some thinking time.
How long is the academic IELTS writing task 2?
Students have 40 minutes to write 250 words. Within this time they need to think, plan and write their answer not forgetting to respond to the question. Avoid the mistake of purely being descriptive. Even if you have perfect grammar and brilliant vocabulary you will be marked down in this area. Do not play it safe either, do not be too basic. Play around with your ability and knowledge of the English language. You will be awarded marks for attempting more complex structures even if you make a slight mistake.
Good luck and happy writing. Try and incorporate some kind of writing into your daily routine. You may love it so much that you start writing a blog. Who knows?
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an exam that measures the English language proficiency of candidates who wish to study or work in countries or organisations where English is used as the means of communication. It tests the four language skills, listening, reading, writing and speaking. This blog will focus on the writing test, task 1.
Firstly, familiarise yourself with the content and format of the exam. Time management is very important when taking any kind of exam. What are the examiners looking for? Find examples of model answers or read examples of this genre of writing in authentic sources. How can you apply this to your own writing?
What is task 1 writing in Academic IELTS?
Task 1 writing in Academic IELTS is essentially writing a description or a report of the main trends in a diagram, usually a line graph, a bar graph, a map, a process, a chart or a table. The requirements of the task are slightly different depending on what the diagram is so you need to know what is required for each question type. To succeed and get a good score you should have practised all the possible task 1 questions. This may not always be possible in class time so you must take responsibility for your own learning and actively seek out questions and model answers on the internet.
Change your mindset instead of thinking of the task as an awful exam question you have to do, think of it as a practical skill which you may have already completed in your own language. For example, have you ever had to write a summary or a report at work or in your studies? Well, task 1 is very similar, imagine you are writing it for someone who is very busy and needs to know the main points. Don’t forget to give a good overview too.
What are the examiners looking for and how can I improve my score?
The task is marked in 4 areas, task achievement, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource and grammatical range and accuracy. Ok, what does that mean? Put simply, did you answer the question and how well, does your writing flow, did you use a range of vocabulary and did you make a lot of basic grammar and spelling mistakes. Take note, grammar accounts for 25% of the overall mark. To improve in the first 2 areas, you need to practice a lot. This does not always mean doing lots of IELTS practice tests. Get into the writing habit, keep a journal, write summaries of articles you read, write summaries of diagrams and graphs you see in newspapers or magazines or write your thoughts for the day. Make writing part of your daily routine.
Take an IELTS preparation course
Here at Manc English Teacher we offer bespoke IELTS preparation classes catering to individual student needs. Classes can help in 2 ways, firstly teacher feedback on your writing is essential to improve. We improve when we are given feedback on something, we apply the feedback given and then produce something better. We also feel more motivated studying as a class or a group with a common goal (a good IELTS score), which is known as extrinsic motivation. Additionally, of course your peers can give you feedback too. At Manc English Teacher in our IELTS classes we use the Cambridge coursebook Mindset for IELTS. These books break down the tasks into manageable chunks so that students will not feel overwhelmed. There is also supplementary online material which you can access which means you can tailor your learning to your individual needs and focus on your weak areas.
Read a quality newspaper or monthly magazine
The financial newspaper, the Financial Times is a good source of quality writing and usually provides tables and diagrams to accompany texts on the stock exchange and currency markets which may serve as a model for Academic IELTS writing task 1. The Economist or the New Scientist are a good source of authentic, short articles on topical subjects. Reading these will not only improve your reading and writing but it may also give you some potential conversation topics to further improve your speaking skills. While you are reading it may be useful to do the following, underline and highlight grammar structures and underline linkers between sentences and paragraphs.
Remember you should spend 20 minutes on task 1 and write 250 words, it is worth 1/3rd of the marks. Do not be tempted to spend longer on this task as that is not a good exam technique. Task 2 is worth 2/3rds of the mark so the correct amount of time needs to be devoted to this task. Plan your time and answer and then be ready to move on to task 2 writing. Good luck!
At Manc English we use the Cambridge Empower books with added online access and content for our General English Classes. The Quiz your English app is a language practice app allowing you to practice English with your friends all over the world. It is the ideal add-on to the Cambridge Empower books. Produced by Cambridge University Press it is synonymous with quality.
This is an app that I recommend to all my students who are at an intermediate level, including pre and upper. It has it all, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation authentic content, and listening practice all in manageable chunks. 6-minute English is amazing. Listen to this daily and marvel at your improvement.
The British Council has a number of apps to choose from, all highly recommended. I would like to highlight their Great Videos app where you can download various videos to watch about an aspect of British Culture. Not only can you improve your English, but you can further your knowledge of the cultural make-up of Great Britain.
If you want to listen to some really inspiring speakers from all over the world. then Ted Talks are for you. Each talk is usually about 15 minutes though some are longer, around 45 minutes. This is an opportunity to listen to English for longer and is great preparation if your goal is to attend university in the U.K. On average university lectures are around 45 minutes to an hour so you need to be able to focus for longer. Don’t worry if you can’t understand all the Ted Talk you can listen to it as many times as needed. You could even listen to sections. Apart from listening, you can assess the speaker’s presentation skills and aim to mirror these when speaking in public in English yourself.
Music and songs are another great resource for studying English and analysing the structure of the language. You can also appreciate the rhythm and musicality of the English language. You will also work on your listening skills. This app is such good fun. You watch the video for a song and then you have to type in the missing lyrics. It’s quite difficult for native speakers too.
This is an app for making flashcards and widening your vocabulary and testing the vocabulary you have already been exposed to. The human memory cannot always remember words so it needs reminding. Quizlet is ideal for this.
This is an award-winning app in the category of digital innovation for the studying of languages at the annual ELTons 2020. Revise everything you’ve learned. Find all the vocabulary and grammar you’ve learned so far and put it to the test with adaptive quizzes.
This is a great app for writing. Most students do not check their writing before submission to their teacher and it contains many basic errors and spelling mistakes. Avoid this by using Grammarly then your teacher can spend more time assessing things like coherence and cohesion and the style and genre of your writing as opposed to correcting simple and careless mistakes.
This app offers a wealth of content. Radio stations, podcasts, economics, current affairs, lifestyle programmes, sports, music, cookery, documentaries, gardening and entertainment. There is also specific content for English learners. Choose what you are interested in and expose yourself to authentic content that native speakers listen to. You’ll be spoiled for choice. Podcasts are a great way to practice listening skills and can be listened to more than once or you can listen to a section you found difficult again.
A successful language learner is a good reader I think. Reading a quality broadsheet newspaper is a must. Extensive reading is the key to language improvement not only in English but in your own language too. If you plan to go on to higher education reading will be part of your daily routine. This newspaper is divided into different sections so you can be selective and read about things that you are interested in. As you read focus not only on the content but also on the grammatical structures and vocabulary used. What do you notice? Are you going to add some of the vocabulary to your vocabulary notebook? Are there any chunks of language you could use in your own writing? Is the topic of the article interesting and something that could be discussed in class? Would you recommend your classmates to read it? Can you give an oral summary of the article? Can you write a summary of the article in 5 sentences? Try doing these things. These are things that active learners do. Are you an active learner?
There can be no denying that the year 2020 has been a totally unprecedented one for the world over. We have all made changes and sacrifices in our daily lives. Coping with changes in both our working and private lives is extremely challenging. Just google managing change and see how many entries there are. I am very comfortable with my own teaching style which is authentic and vulnerable at the same time. I always try to tap into students’ likes and needs and adapt lessons and approaches to meet those likes and needs. I know how to build great rapport with learners, how to monitor and circulate in the face to face classroom seeking to engage learners and striving to get the best from them and ultimately watching them reach their potential and goals. This is both rewarding and relatively stress free for me. It is what I do. The classroom is my stage and I am the director in the vein of Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, favouring improvisation and not being afraid of letting the students take centre stage. The horseshoe layout is my scenery, the whiteboard, P.C. and projector my props, and the students, my players. It all makes perfect sense.
Suddenly, the immortal words, “ we are moving the course online, there won’t be any face-to-face classes.” Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! The phrase, adapt or die springs to mind. Talk about stressful. Yes, stressful for all concerned. There is constant talk of student wellbeing and student mental health but little or no mention of teacher wellbeing. In many cases a teacher’s role is both pastoral and educational but who is looking out for teachers? Who has got teachers’ backs? Well, it would seem that you have to take responsibility for your own wellbeing. I could hear my own words ringing in my ears when I say to students, “ You must take responsibility for your own learning.” Therefore, I decided to do just that. My wellbeing is in my hands.
Tip number 1 Digitally Upskill
In order to cope in this Brave New World of online teaching and not to feel all at sea I knew that my first port of call so to speak, was to digitally upskill myself rapido! I like to think of myself as quite tech savvy, I mean I use Kahoot and Mentimeter in my classes. However, when the mention of Zoom, Padlet, Slack, Edmodo and Google Docs bring you out in a cold sweat you know that you need to make the leap into the future, which is for sure going to be digital. I, immediately, enrolled on a Future Learn course for teaching English online and attended webinars organised by Trinity and Cambridge. This trio, was a brilliant grounding and I subsequently set up Zoom calls with friends who were quite surprised when I started sharing powerpoints and putting them into break out rooms to have discussions and asking them to share their ideas in the chat. They thought it was time for a catch-up but these calls were invaluable practice. My advice get down with the tech. It really boosts confidence and let’s you get on with the teaching. Watch your stress levels drop. And breathe………. you just shared a pdf file in the chat. Result!
Tip number 2 Stick to a Routine
In a way this is easier for teachers as we are always working to a timetable anyway. What I mean is, make sure that you have a break as you would in a school and make a brew, phone a colleague for a quick chat/rant. Move away from the screen, go for a quick walk, get outside, meditate or do some stretching. I would also advocate making a planning/marking timetable too. One of the difficulties of working from home is making the differentiation between work and leisure time. A friend of mine renamed working from home, living from work. Let’s face it. It’s confusing.
Tip number 3 Do Exercise
Make an exercise timetable or routine and stick to it. This is something I have done myself and I have to say that I am quite proud of my achievement. I started running in the mornings 3 days a week. Prior to this I think I once ran for a bus in sandals and duly tripped, grazed my knee and missed the bus and I thought to myself, mmm, I won’t be doing that again. Fast forward to 2020 and I went from zero to hero and completed the Couch to 5k challenge and now run 3km three times a week. Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can. If running’s not your bag set aside 10 minutes a day to do some yoga stretching before you fire up the P.C., it really is a great way to start the day. If yoga doesn’t appeal go for a brisk walk first thing, it really clears the cobwebs and gets you ready to start your online day.
Tip number 4 Communicate with People
Phone a friend or colleague. It’s good to talk. Communication is key. A good old chinwag does wonders for the soul. I’m a big fan of venting to colleagues. It makes me feel so much better and less stressed. If you combine walking with talking you’ll be surprised at how many steps you have completed too. It’s win-win. Humans are social beings so we need this interaction for the sake of our wellbeing.
Tip number 5 Read a Real Book
Set aside thirty minutes to read a book everyday. I mean a real book not on a kindle or a tablet. Find somewhere quiet, sit back and read for pure pleasure and relaxation. It’s nice to turn the pages and feel the paper and look at the cover. I’m no Luddite, but there’s something really comforting in reading a real book especially with a steaming cuppa tea and it gives your eyes a break from the screen too.
Tip number 6 Learn a Complementary Therapy
Learn about massage, aromatherapy, Indian head massage or reflexology. This could be another transferable skill you could use when back in the office or school as a stressbuster for yourself and others. I am talking about massage, aromatherapy, yoga and deep breathing. Who doesn’t love a good neck rub or shoulder massage? What better way to combat stress than to have a quick yoga session in the school during the lunch break or after classes?
Tip number 7 Drink Plenty of Water
This may seem obvious but drink plenty of water. As teachers our voice is our main tool for teaching and if we lose it, this could be a problem. We have to speak more loudly in a classroom obviously as compared to online but we still need to make sure that our vocal chords are lubricated. I drank more water in the classroom than I do working from home so this is something that I should think about.
Tip number 8 Be Kind to Yourself and Others
Finally, be kind to yourself and others. If you are a whizz with Google Docs give a colleague a quick tutorial. This whole situation has been challenging on so many levels and we all get stressed and anxious. To be honest, sometimes we need to have a time out. That’s the ideal time to go for a walk. I like to put my headphones on and head out to the park and do a couple of circuits, it always clears my head and then I feel refreshed to carry on with my work.