Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A Novel Spain: Noisy Spain, Bewildered in Bilbao, Best Spain blogs, and more

Here's my monthly post of links to my other blog A Novel Spain.

Some great views in Bilbao!
Photo by Paolo Margari
Are Spanish people noisy?
I think so, and I have evidence to prove it. Check out this blog titled Is Spain the noisiest country on Earth? where there are several anecdotes about how I've suffered from noise here over the years.

Thinking of travelling to Bilbao?
Then have a look at the next post in my series In Search of a Better Spain on my travel section. The latest post is about what happened to me in Bilbao, which leads on to how I almost got arrested there.

Expat Parent
Here's an expat based blog about what I have learnt while being an expat parent. It's one of my monthly column posts I write for Expat Focus.

Best blogs about Spain and Expat life
These blogs are a compilation of the best blogs I've read about Spain and Expat life. The last two are about Tips, Flamenco, and Bilbao and Hong Kong and Housemates from Hell.

That's all for this month. Cheers.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Songs with Phonetics: Calvin Harris, Summer

My teenage students begged me to do Summer by Calvin Harris. Be warned though, the lyrics are a tad on the easy side. Below is an activity for your students once they know the phonetic alphabet. If you haven't taught your students phonetics yet, then have a look at ways to teach phonetics.

There are a couple ways you can do this lesson.

1- Students listen to the song first and try to fill the gaps. Then put the words in the correct columns and listen again.
2- Students look at the missing words first and put them in the correct columns. Then listen to the song and complete the gaps.

I've prepared the song with numbered gaps, an activity to put the words in the correct column, plus the full lyrics and answers. I plan to get my students to learn the chorus and sing it a few times. Everything is on this word document: Calvin Harris: Summer

Have fun!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

This month's Top TEFL blogs!

It's that time of month again. Here's this month's top TEFL blogs.

TEFL in Cambodia
Photo by sachman75
Thinking of TEFLing in Cambodia?
Then have a look at CJ's latest blog on Love Tefl where she talks about the Monsoon Season and handling illness overseas.

Degree, or no degree?
That is the million dollar question,and Alex Case has the answer. Check out his latest blog titled Do you really need a degree to TEFL? Personally I think it's a bit harsh that most places demand a degree, surely it's not the be all and end all, but I suppose it does show a certain level of intelligence?

How do you say potato?
This is an interesting way of showing your students the variety of accents in the UK and Ireland. Have a look at David Crystal's latest blog on saying potato. You can leave your own version as well.

Are Americans strange?
No comment, but you have to admit that some of their idioms are. Check out this article on Matador Network titled The 7 strangest American Idioms, it will knock your socks off.

What makes an effective English teacher?
Apart from the ability to clown around and play pictionary in the last 5 minutes of class? Well, have a look at this article on Education Week  about finding the best English teacher.

That's all for this month.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

DELTA: Module 1 Breakdown

After doing a webinar for Cambridge English Teacher about How Delta changed my life, I’ve realised there are still a few areas to write about for each of the three modules. This blog is about Module 1 and gives a breakdown of what is involved, how long it takes and costs, and also some tips and advice.

Photo by College of William and Mary
What’s involved?

The module prepares you for two exams, which you can take in either December or June. They are 90 minutes each and you have a short 30 minute break in between, so it’s a long morning. The whole idea of the module is to get you to read a shed load of books, memorise lots of jargon (which most of it you will never use once your Delta is finished), and become an expert on the following areas:

·      Language – grammar, discourse, lexis.
·     Testing – how to do it and fairly.
·     Phonology – learn how to read and write phonetics, and analyse spoken errors.
·         Methodology – history, weird and interesting approaches.
·         Skills work – the four main skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
·     Course book design – analyse text books and say why authors did what they did and the reasoning behind it.

I did module 1 online, which was lonely, but interesting and useful, at times. I enjoyed the banter with other teachers and the tutors, and as the course went on I felt more prepared for the examsI did a load of bloody reading, probably too much. I actually started the April before the course started in September to do some 'light' background reading.

The tasks were individual and group based. You go through the exam twice and do example questions and also set your colleagues questions. It was very exam focussed but I did enjoy that aspect.

Mock exams were key. We did one half-way through the course and just before the main exam. The mocks were great as it gave you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, timing, which I’ll chat about in tips.

Length and cost

·         Over 3 months for the module.
·         3 months reading before.
·         Between 10-15 hours a week task based projects or studying.
·         €550 for course, plus €130 for exam fee.

Tips and advice

·         Do a ton of pre-reading if you can to make your life easier during the course. I picked one book on each main area to start with just to get a feel. I made notes on some areas, but you have to look at the books again anyway when you meet a question that needs a more detailed answer, but every little helps.
·      Terminology cards are key. They emphasis this on the course, and give you plenty of examples so you can make your own, but it’s a vital part of preparing for the exam. Not only because the first couple of questions are about definitions in ELT, but also because once you have really learnt the terminology you can apply it to all the remaining questions. I looked like a right weirdo, memorising cards while on my way to work on the metro, but it paid off.
·       Try to get ahead. Firstly for yourself so you don’t have to hand in anything in a panic, but also for your colleagues. At times it got frustrating waiting for others to finish their contributions.
·      The mock exams are really important. As I said above mainly for timing. Everyone you talk to who has done the exam says about how tricky it is to do all the questions in the allocated time. The mocks also give you an idea of what areas you need to work on. Do past papers as well, and check out the examiners notes on each of the questions so you know how to pick up most points.
·      Study – not only the terminology cards, but also phonology, answers to some of the longer essay style questions in the 2nd exam, and the past papers.
·     Try some of the techniques in class. From the start I began to use phonetics in class, I also changed how I marked students writing to mirror the exam, and also did more work on grammar in class to test myself, and the student of course.

So those are my tips for success in Delta module 1. I managed to get a distinction, which I think was because I was really motivated at that point, not so much by the time I got to module 3. Next month I’ll be looking more into module 2, which is the lesson focussed module. 

Have you done module 1? Got any more tips and advice? Leave a comment below. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Songs with Phonetics: Coldplay A Sky Full of Stars

This is my favourite song of summer 2014: Coldplay, A Sky Full of Stars. Below is an activity for your students once they know the phonetic alphabet. If you haven't taught your students phonetics yet, then have a look at ways to teach phonetics.

There are a couple ways you can do this lesson. The main focus is on connected speech and how words join together and sounds disappear.

1- Students listen to the song first and try to fill the gaps. Hopefully they don't get them all.
2- Students match together the possible combinations and write down their answers. Play the song again and make sure they have the correct answers.
3. Then do the questions which follow about connected speech. The answers are after the full lyrics.
4. After some drilling you can play the song again and get them to sing. Good luck with that one though.

Everything is on this word document: Coldplay A Sky full of Stars.

Have Fun!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

This month's Top TEFL blogs!

It's that time of month again. Here are the top TEFL blog posts I've read over the last month.

Are you burnt out as a TEFL teacher?
Photo by Somedriftwood
Are you burnt out?
Life as a teacher is hard at times; always at the front of the class, on show, keeping people entertained while teaching them a valuable skill. Have you reached the burnt out stage? Check out this article on the Guardian in response to someone who has taught in Taiwan for 17 years, enough to drive anyone barmy.

ESL made easy
ESL made easy is an excellent website for TEFL teachers with ideas for the classroom, tips on 1 to 1 teaching, news, and lots of useful websites.

Improve your students narrative skills with Tin Tin
Another excellent lesson plan on Movie Segments. This one is based on Tin Tin and concentrates on using cohesive language and linkers to improve students narrative writing skills.

List of useful TEFL websites
There's a great list of excellent websites and tools for ESL learners on My Journey in TEFL by Eva. Some of my favourite sites on there, including Lyrics Training.

Using fillers in conversation
Whenever I first teach new students the use of fillers they tend to think I'm a bit of a nutter. Especially as I model a conversation with a volunteer student. But over time they see the benefits. Check out these activities on My That's English titled Madrid Teacher: Wacky Workouts with a real life useful video using fillers.

That's all for this month. Leave me a comment below if you want your website featured next month.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What to expect over the next TEFL term!

So, it's back to work. Whenever I start a new term I always try to remember how much I hated my jobs before I began teaching. I did IT recruitment and Sales for about three years in London before I made that jump to leave England and become a TEFL teacher. 12 years later I still have no regrets. Sure, no one likes coming back to work after a holiday, no matter what job you're in, but it could be a whole lot worse.

Reminds me of my P.E. teacher.
Photo by Michael Karshis
I'm surprised how many people have been following this blog considering how little I've been posting (first year of fatherhood has proved tricky in terms of free time for writing). It's great that Teaching English in a Foreign Land has almost had 300,000 page views and my book has sold over 3,000 copies (as well as over 5,000 free downloads). I guess I must be doing something right. I'd like to thank all my followers, people who leave comments, and those who have read my book. 

The aim of this post is to let you know what I plan to write about over the next term. These are the main areas:

TEFL tips: This will include both quick snappy tips and longer lists to help new or less experienced TEFL teachers. Tips will be on lessons, finding work, keeping your job, getting the most out of your students, and general advice.

DELTA: This has become one of the most popular sections, so I'll definitely be writing more blogs about my DELTA experience. I plan to write detailed posts with tips and advice on each of the modules, as well as uploading my LSA's for Module 2. 

Top TEFL Blogs: This is a compilation of the best TEFL blogs that I've read each month. If you want me to include any of your posts then just leave a comment below.

Phonetics Project : I'm a bit of a phonetics freak in my classes, and at home come to think of it. This project is ongoing and gives tips and advice on how to teach phonetics in class as well as activities, including using songs to practise phonetics.

Those are the main areas I'm going to focus on. For Expat issues and Travel then check out my other blog A Novel Spain, which is about life abroad in Spain.

Thanks again for following and reading. Looking forward to some more blogging.