Saturday, May 27, 2017

Why teaching feels like Instagram yoga sometimes

1:29 AM

©Pinterest

Scrolling through my Instagram feed and watching all of my fav yoga idols effortlessly pull off insane standing poses, midair splits and perfect crows, my (not as flat or tight) stomach twisted. I'll be practicing yoga well into my 50s before I ever get into an aero-twist. 

But teaching isn't really all that different from Instagram yoga nowadays. 

Everywhere I go and everyone I meet has a new kickass method/approach/idea/activity/prop that they use in class that makes my classes feel like a yoga newbie trying up-dog for the first time all over again. We, teachers, talk about what we do and how we do it with ease because, hey, teaching is a personal thing.

So what happens when we make it look darn easy? Easy as standing on your arms and doing a split looks on Instagram or going into a class and rocking it Dogme style, with class selfies to show.
But when you (and me) try it you fall flat on your face 4 times, your face turns purple midway, and probably by the end of it you'd have pulled a muscle. And I'm not talking about yoga.
This is where the fun part comes in. While for yoga we accept that it's going to take practice, consistency and a whole lot of ouch, when it comes to teaching, I feel we tend to give up way too soon. We want to rock it on our first go and most often than not, we can't. For a whole lot of reasons that probably have nothing to do with our teaching capacity as of today, but rather with our teaching flexibility that needs to be gently stretched and transformed into something awesome tomorrow. 

But what do we do with peer-pressure? Watching pics on Instagram with star yogis effortlessly posing in painfully difficult poses is both inspiring and deeply intimidating. We know all about peer-pressure as teachers and we use it day in day out to talk about our students. 
I say we stop for a second and use that word to talk about ourselves. I've been in situations where peer-pressure has made me do things that felt deeply unnatural to me. It was as if I was trying Tuladandasana (standing stick pose - great for balance) wearing high-heels and a cocktail dress. It just won't work. What I need to do was either change into something more comfortable    (i.e. take the time to find out about it, try it out, adjust myself to it, put on a little knowledge, get to where I want one step at a time) or find a pose that suited the way I was dressed (i.e. see what I can do here and now, choose the best that I can for myself and my students, work on bettering myself starting from where I am, invent something new to fit me and possibly others like me). A pose like Utkatasana (awkward pose) would do the trick in high heels and a cocktail dress if you were wondering. 

It would do the trick with teaching as well. We should start being a bit more awkward, less intimidated. And we might just find a way to post a great Instagram standing yoga pic after all.



The Sound Eater

Friday, May 19, 2017

Miss Mia Sound Bundle N° 1 - /ɪ/ /iː/ /e/ /æ/

8:06 AM

Hey guys!

Here is my first bundle for teaching pronunciation with Miss Mia Sound. We will be dealing with the /ɪ/ /iː/ /e/ /æ/  and it contains one presentation handout, one worksheet, three flashcards.

You can download everything here!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Three ways to hand over pronunciation to your learners - Innovate ELT 2017 Conference

6:43 AM

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mia Sound - Mix'n'Match Pronunciation Game (visuals galore)

1:41 AM


It's finally HERE!!!! I am too excited.

I love using visuals in class but have had the hardest time finding visuals to teach pronunciation with. So what could I do?? Take a page out of Beyonce's book and do my own thing. 
Sorry for the pop culture reference but it just made sense cause the girl #slays.

So here is Mia Sound. The ultimate tribute to my tiny little grandma Mia who has the strongest possible voice. This little black and white character is my own personal version of my grandma teaching pronunciation. I've been working on this project for a little over 6 months and this is just the first download of many, many to come. So stay tuned for more.
I just introduced Mia to the world at the Barcelona #iELT17 conference and had some great feedback which I plan to incorporate in the project in the future.

Every bundle comes with printable worksheets, some instructions and ideas and a whole lot of love!
You can download the Mix'n'Match game HERE
If you have any suggestions or special requests feel free to drop me a tweet, insta message (@thesoundeater) or a message/comment on my Facebook page The Sound Eater (while you're there, don't forget to hit that like button)
Hope you enjoy it!

What do you normally use when you teach pronunciation?


The Sound Eater

















Sunday, May 7, 2017

Top 3 reasons for going to #ELT conferences

7:57 AM


I'm writing this on a very early flight from Barcelona to Rome, my eyes still slightly glazed and trying desperately to adjust to the way-to-bright light of airplane interiors. I've just had a wonderful time at a wonderfully organized conference that makes the inconveniences of economy, early, connection-necessary flying seem well worth it.

If you haven't heard of it yet, InnovateELT hosted by Oxford House Barcelona is a definite treat. You can check out their website or twitter hashtag #iELT17

With the experience fresh in mind, here are my top three reasons for going to #ELT conferences: (insert drumroll)

  1. You get out of your comfort zone.
Teaching for the same school for a number of years, dealing with monolingual classes, using the same coursebook or teaching the same classes; all of these put us in a proximal comfort zone. Realistically we might expand that comfort zone, more to the right or more to the left. That being said, unless you have the opportunity to drastically change all of the above mentioned situations every year or a couple of years, you're probably under stimulated. Conferences are wonderful opportunities for you to connect to your community, learn about new ideas, methods, approaches and tricks. It literally puts you in positive variation of the "fight or flight" mode.

  1. You get to meet inspiring people.
And those people are not just good because they're saying something enlightened that they've figured out, but rather they fuel your own enlightenment and help you see things from a different (and might I say, positive and usually completely mind-blowing) perspective. You might have great co-workers but I've rarely felt as supported as when I'm presenting at a conference and people tell me "I'll be there, you can count on me."

  1. It allows you to grow.
As teachers we tend to become stuck in our beliefs about what teaching is all about. Being in a conference can give you the opportunity to reflect on your own teaching assumptions and embrace change. The ever skeptical will say that conferences also present us with a myriad of talks and workshops that feel either like one big publicity stunt or immensely undoable, but most often than not, there is a silver teaching lining in all of them. You get to learn how to identify what you're not comfortable spending 30 or 60 minutes on, get up and leave. I hated being wrong in choosing the talks I would attend because I would feel stuck. Realistically you should never feel like that. If, for whatever reason, you're not enjoying yourself or it's not what you were expecting, get up and leave. The speaker will carry no lingering grudge and you would have made a significant step in self growth and particularly being assertive.

What would your advice be to conference-going people based on your experience?

The Sound Eater

Sunday, April 9, 2017

5 Easter Pins for your YL Students

1:53 AM


With Easter a week away, this next week will be filled with spring lexis and all sorts of crafts. I have an adorable group os pre-starters that have just learned animals, one of them being rabbit. Perfect timing to bring out some crafts and work on following instructions, developing cognitive skills, improving hand-eye coordination and just having some darn fun.
I've been going crazy on Pinterest, looking at adorable felt or yarn bunnies, paper-plate chicks, paper hyacinths and crazy Easter egg hunts.
I've picked 5 super-doable activities for you guys to try out this week. Or this spring for that matter, since, hey, who doesn't like a nice bunny party hat??


1. The Bunny Party Hat
The image is self-explanatory but I might add that you could use this activity with any age YL, given that you help the little ones with the cutting (prepare it beforehand) and ask the older ones to give their hat a name, invent a story, draw details, etc.


2. The Plastic Spoon Bunnies
This is by far the simplest activity with Easter bunnies I could find. It still involves some manual skills but overall it should be less than 20 minutes. So if you're short on time but still want to do something bunny-ish, give it a go. By the way, I saw another Pin where the bunny was inside a double sided paper egg that had been dutifully decorated, with the front side half the size of the back side, and the spoon's handle serving as a hold. Adorable!


3. Button Extravaganza
Now when I saw this, I instantly knew this was what I was going to do with my students this week. Here they've made birds, but can you already see it? Button bunnies!!! Again, a super simple activity where little preparation is necessary, perfect motor skills are irrelevant, creativity can run free, and the back of you wonderfully original card can be filled with English!


4. Fingerprint Art
Great little activity for YL where they get to get their hand dirty and maybe help each other create different characters (hey, we all have different fingers). Again wonderful little activity for following instructions (since most YL will need help with drawing faces) but I guess you would need to do this activity in 2 phases. Phase one, you make the cards with the fingerprints and put it somewhere safe to dry. Phase two, you draw the faces, extra detail and messages. If you have a long 2 hour lesson, you might be able to do both, but I doubt you will be able in 1 hour.


5. Eggstremely Surprising Card
A short little activity with minimal preparation and minimal drain on classroom time. I would use this with slightly older YL (from 9-10 onwards) that are a little bit more confident and able to draw. Why? Because my experience with little people has taught me that some are naturally better at drawing while others not. But all are acutely capable to discern between a great drawing and a not so great (albeit I think they are all absolutely adorable) drawing. So they mope or bicker or ask for my help more than I would like them to (hey, it's supposed to be their drawing, their moment). So if you plan on doing it with tiny people, show them a "how to" video about how to draw a chick, there are plenty on youtube and it can save you a lot of grief after. When they've mastered (this is highly relative as we all know) the chick drawing, then we go to the do a card on your own part. Mind you, you might need to ask them to draw it multiple time (hence you might need to prepare this project several lessons before). For everyone else, go ahead and do this 15-20 minutes craft.



The Sound Easter

Friday, April 7, 2017

To CLIL or not to CLIL?

12:00 AM


I've just finished my first teacher training course. I was extremely happy to get this opportunity since it is something I would like to do in the future. My school organised a TKT CLIL exam prep and my group consisted of 11 Italian state school teachers.

When I said yes to doing this class, I had to brush up on exactly what this TKT CLIL exam and CLIL itself was all about. As a bilingual child, I've basically gone through CLIL myself and can't speak highly enough of it but in reality, it all bubbles down to the teacher's own agenda, willingness and knowledge. Having had a very positive experience, I felt it was imperative to communicate my enthusiasm for this way of teaching to my "students".

Now, what is the TKT CLIL exam?
The TKT CLIL exam is a Cambridge provided exam, part of the TKT scheme which Cambridge describe as

"TKT is a flexible series of modular teaching qualifications, which test your knowledge in specific areas of English language teaching. You can take as many modules as you want, over any time period. You receive a Cambridge English certificate for each module you complete."

TKT CLIL is one of the offered specialist modules which should be taken after the original TKT Module 1,2 and 3, but can be taken on it's own as well. It all depends on the teacher's willingness and prior knowledge. It obviously contains a mountain of methodology terms and challenging practices that need to be assimilated and reasoned on.

The test in itself is not overly complicated, a multiple choice paper-based test with 80 questions that are worth 80 points and you have 80 minutes to do it. Your results place you within 4 bands(1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest), with an average of 45-50 points placing you in the 3rd band.

But, why take the TKT CLIL exam?
That was the first question I considered when I said yes to dong this course. Why are my students coming in for a 2 hour class packed with tongue-twisting methodology terms, laborious teaching practices and anglo-saxon new-age logic?
My answer was: to better oneself and hence to better prepare ones students. 
Highly idealistic you would say...but throughout the course I noticed my initial assumption was right. My students were there to learn new tricks, experiment new things, challenge themselves and ultimately get a certificate that proves this new acquired knowledge.
So why do it? Because it will make teaching fun and new and rewarding. It's a bit like experienced Celta without the assignments, deadlines, sleepless nights and overload of info.

Last but not least, why CLIL?
CLIL is a world. A magical, difficult, challenging, gratifying world. It means offering our highly globalized kids a real chance, a higher competence, more realistic expectations when deciding to study abroad, a wider cultural spectrum, a classroom that most times levels the playing field and yields surprising results. CLIL is all about giving non-native kids the chance to feel and employ the language, whatever language that is, while at the same time developing their cognitive, learning and coping skills through learning subjects. The focus is on the subject, not on the language. Great mathematicians will need help from great language speakers, and viceversa. You might be the best in History, but will it be the same once you have to use French or English to learn it? You might be a great player, but can you be a great team player? You might have an excellent memory, but can you analyse the information you are given and give your opinion on it? This is what CLIL aims to do.


At the end of my class, we all felt empowered, proud, positive. I was proud of my students for all they had achieved and they were proud of themselves. I felt like I had laid the cornerstone to something great for my future as an ELT teacher, and they felt more confident about their teaching. 
I can honestly say I can't wait for the next class.
In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for my students taking their exam mid April!




The Sound Eater