Popping the bubble

I have recently discovered a nice little app called Headspace, which offers guided meditation sessions. This is the first time I’ve ever tried meditation and so far I am really enjoying it. I do a 10 minute session every morning, before I do anything else, and it really seems to help me focus and mentally prepare for the day ahead. It gives you a little feeling of calm and centredness that you take with you through the day (if my 20 year old self could read this she would die laughing). The first 10 sessions of this particular app are free and are aimed at beginners, so the creator talks you through the process, gently telling you what to focus on through the session. And then, while in the car on the way to a lesson in a middle school, I started wondering about the value of meditation in class. Continue reading

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how long is a piece of string?

I recently read a TED piece about a young man learning to speak 20 languages. It is a good article which raises some interesting points for both the student and teacher, and I was struck by this sentence: “saying you “speak” a language can mean a lot of different things: it can mean memorizing verb charts, knowing the slang, even passing for a native”. I have come across so many different types of English over the years: from the students who have been forced to memorise complex structures but who cannot hold even a basic conversation, to those who can hold complex discussions despite never having studied any grammar, via some who have vast vocabulary but so little confidence in their pronunciation they would spell words out instead of saying them. How do you measure a language? What is fluency? What is “knowing a language”? Continue reading

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drop it like it’s hot

We’ve all had one. That one student who insists on asking endless questions, who queries every tiny thing that passes your lips, who needs an explanation for everything ever said in the English language EVER. Who seems to like putting you on the spot and is just trying to catch you out and show you up for the raving incompetent they clearly think you are.

Well hold on just a minute and I’ll tell you the one single change you can make that will turn your teaching around and keep those irritating students at bay. Continue reading

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mardy bum

Listening to the Arctic Monkeys song Mardy Bum this morning got me thinking about the language I use and how it has changed over the years of living abroad and teaching. The song suddenly reminded me that “mardy” was a word frequently heard in my house when I was growing up, and used by all, including me. It’s a word used a lot in the Midlands and the North in general. But I realised at the same time that I couldn’t remember the last time I had used it myself and I wondered why this was. Continue reading

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