Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cool website I found...

Have you ever heard of Stackoverflow? It's a community for programmers to ask questions about programming, or even practice their programming skills as they answer other people's questions. My husband uses it all the time, he thinks it's pretty great.
Amazingly the other day I was searching for an explanation for the difference between that vs. who for people (Yes, English speakers do use 'that' for people, but not often. If you stick to 'who' for people you will almost always be correct. Use 'that' for things or job titles. Hopefully I can get a post up about that today!), and I found this webpage Stackexchange. It is a community of people talking about English word history, and English grammar explanations. I think it's amazing! Well, right now, we shall see how long my interest lasts!

My user name is Istable, so far I have asked two questions. This one about 'decline' vs. 'decrease' and one about 'have you ever been' vs. 'have you ever gone'.

I think this website will be helpful for me to improve my English grammar (i.e. get practice answering grammar questions) and also be a useful resource for my own study of English grammar. : )

Monday, June 20, 2011

If I want to eat my 'after-table', I will have to practercise...

On Friday I taught my first set of Business English at an office!
It actually went fairly well, the office seems pretty laid back. Which I was not expecting. Today, I went in for my second lesson with them, and the one lady got me a coffee and another student brought me some cookies! So I am taking that as an 'we don't mind you as our English teacher" sign. : )
On Friday in the lower level we did conversing on the telephone!
In order to get all of the vocabulary for taking a phone call or making a phone call, I tried to elicit the phrases from the students, the one is a secretary so she didn't have too many problems with that. I had handy little cue cards ready with the different phrases you need for answering and making phone calls. Each was colour coded to the type of speaker and the action. I thought it was pretty neat! The participants liked it, they said it was a very intensive lesson, which I was worried meant that they didn't like it. However, they all came back today and said they want to keep the pace that I have set (we will see how long that lasts!!!).
To sum up:
Taught polite telephone English/business telephone English, with cue cards. After we had the cue cards all laid out in the correct order, we practiced dialogues until they could do the dialogues without the cards : ).
P.S for those of you wondering about the title: In German dessert is Nachtisch and a direct translation is after table, my German friend who knows some English asked my husband if he was ready for his after table. I think it was a joke, but I am not sure. Either way we liked it! And the practercise, is a new favourite of mine. One of my business English students wanted to say that she needed to practice her English and that she needed to do exercises in order to do that. And she said "I need to practercise...", and the damnedest (excuse my french!) thing was I almost let it go! I almost didn't catch it. Then I thought wait a minute, you want to what?! Ah, so excellent :) We both had a good laugh...

Here are the cards I made for the telephone conversation, I hope you can see it, you might have to zoom in on your browsers!
I will figure out how to turn it soon promise!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Minor Freakout...

So I 'm going to go teach at my first business today....can you say no sleep?!?!
And I forgot to do my photo copies yesterday so I have to leave an extra hour early....*deep breath* Calm blue ocean....calm blue ocean.....

Monday, June 13, 2011

Background Design

So I found my background design on this photoblog.
Thanks again Nils! 

English Idioms

I think learning idioms is a very important step for the advanced second language learner. They have already learned all the grammar, they have learned a lot of vocabulary, and now they should be on the quest to sound like a native speaker (depending on why they learned their second language!). For me personally, as I study speak German almost everyday now, I know that need to do something to improve it. Although most Germans I meet say my German is good and that I don't need to go to classes for it. I can understand that, all right...I have taken four years of German university lessons, I've lived in Germany for almost two years....I suppose I make myself understood by almost everyone I talk to, even on the phone! But I still feel when I go to shop or a laundry mat and then have long conversations invariable the question will arise "Woher kommst du?" (annnd what country are you from?).
Me: *sigh* ....Canada....
Person: *smile* In Kanada spricht man dann Deutsch??? (Do they speak German in Canada?)
Me: No, I took it at university....
And so on...

So yes, I get frustrated by this, why would all of the Germans that I know well enough to ask the question tell me my German is fine, and then random ones still notice that I am not German!?
Clearly, I haven't learned enough German yet...but after all my education...what is left to learn!?
I bought two different grammar books....I know the grammar....check...
What else?!
At the highschool I work at I walk down the hallways listening to the kids speak....and they speak really fast!... Or do they? Are they just saying words I can't get from a text book!? *revelation!*
My new plan of action is to learn German slang and German idioms, it's surprising how often people use idioms! Or parts of  idioms in normal speech (let's not even get into written language on this one!). In order for a second language learner to really understand and go deeper into the language I think they have to do more than review grammar and talk to native speakers. They should also actively seek out slang words and idioms! Then they will have a better chance of understanding a lot of careless phrases that native speakers toss around!
Well, at least that is what I am going to do for my German...
Since I thought this was such a great idea I decided to make a short list of idioms for one of my English students...she is quite advanced, good accent, can chit chat almost as well as if she were English...the perfect candidate to start learning idioms and using them too!
So I got all of these idioms from this website. I am always surprised by how many idioms there are...I only did ten of the ones that I have head myself saying or have heard others saying. I also chose ten eleven* because our lessons are only 45mins long and she has other things that she likes to chat about!
To start off this discussion we started talking about bad days, and how in English you can "get up on the wrong side of the bed". (Meaning that everything has gone badly since the morning).
Then I showed her this sheet, and after that we discussed if there were any similar idioms in German (of course she had to translate as well as she could into English...we have a strict only English policy!).
 Here is the hand out:

English Idioms

Instructions: Here are some common English idioms! The left hand column has idioms and the right hand column has meanings match up each idiom to it's correct meaning!


1. A chip on the shoulder.
8. To study, especially for a test or exam.
2.Beating around the bush.
4. To irritate and/or annoy very much.
3. Cross your fingers.
6. To become more comfortable in whatever you are doing.

4. Drive someone up the wall.

2. Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue.
5. Please excuse my french.
7. To gamble everything you have.

6. Finding your feet.
11. To not agree. To not accept a proposition.
7. Go for broke.
2.Being upset for something that happened in the past.
8. Hit the books.
3. To hope that something happens the way you want it to.
9. If it's not one thing, then it's another.
10. Knuckle tapping on wood in order to avoid some bad luck.

10. Knock on wood.

5. Please forgive me for cussing.

11. No dice.

9. When one thing goes wrong, then another, and another...

Idioms found on
P.S I am beginning to think if I want to actually use this blog I need to learn a bit of html.....oh husband dearest..... *sigh*
P.P.S  Yeah! He fixed the frustrating html :D!!! well...more or less...he fixed the chart lines...then got frustrated with the spacing...maybe one day he will come back....
P.P.P.S After thinking about it, I decided to put the answers just in case! Although these idioms aren't hard most native speakers should be able to guess the correct meanings... 
so I teach English not's ok to make mistakes!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Canada Project

 As the only Canadian at this highschool I am expected to teach my students not only my Canadian accent (ooo ahh, or as one teacher put it "the accent that doesn't sound like an accent", I guess compared to all those U.K. accents I do sound pretty accent-less! :P), but also a little about Canadian culture and history.
When my senior teacher asked me to create a Canadian project for a bunch of gr. 7s (around 11-12 years of age, with 2 years of good, solid English instruction, and another 4 years of "hi, my name is, how are you, I am fine thank you etc etc), I immediately thought about a project my old TESL instructor had made. Click here to look at what she made! For those of you who don't want to read it a quick summary: The project was made for intermediate level students of the George Brown College ESL program in Toronto. It deals with Canadian holidays, the students are expected to research Canadian holidays, and famous Canadians in order to create their own Canadian holiday. The students are given websites to do their research, tables to fill out, and instructions on how to give a presentation to their class.
The project seemed ideal for the German students as it would allow them to learn some new things about Canada, and allow them to use a new learning platform....the internet! Or so I thought in the beginning...more on that later.
Now, I had been in a few different gr. 7 classes, and they are all different, as you probably know you can't just say "Oh, gr. 7 they can do this, this, and this", although many administrative policies/language companies like to say all their students at such a level can do all these skills perfectly (ha!). After looking at the project I thought that perhaps the websites provided would be above the level of the gr. 7s, so I decided to create my own Canadian Holiday website.
First, I had to decide which Canadian Holidays to include and which ones not to, I finally decided on one a month. Then I got some pictures (from google) to make the students think it was a real website. Click here to visit the website!
All right so once this was all in place I went into the classroom!!!
The timing worked out quite well, as it was March 31st. To lead up to our discussion about Canadian holidays we got to talk about what tomorrow was, first I got answers like: 
'Friday', or 'Friday April 1st'.
So then I had to try to get the students to think more about it, what kind of a day is April 1st? Do you do anything special on April 1st? Finally they got it!
"April 1st is April Fool's Day! You can play jokes on people!" (which from what I can tell is not actually as big in Germany as it is in Canada, but the kids knew what I was talking about!)
Then was the big question so April Fool's day is a special day, are there any other special days coming up?
Then finally: "Easter!"
And from Easter we went to holidays, and then once we described some German holidays I asked if they remembered where I was from.
phew. After that it was almost smooth sailing, I explained what I wanted them to do: Get into groups of 3-4, each member of the group would get one hand out (see below), and they had to fill it in using this website (designed by me, made by my lovely husband!).
The kids then got to work...more or less. The class periods are only 45 mins here and we only had so many computers (i.e. not enough functioning ones :S), eventually I told the slower groups to start splitting up the holidays (one person did Easter, one does Labour day etc...) just to make sure they got all the holidays down! The groups that were unable to use the computers had to do the normal classwork of the day reading a story and answering comprehension questions...

After our day in the computer room came the new excitement: Design your own Canadian holiday!
Before this period the students were expected to come up with ideas for a holiday. They had to come to school with at least three ideas for a holiday, and some pictures.Almost every group did this, and we had some pretty interesting holidays: nature day (spend the day outside with your family bbqing), fun day (kids get in free to amusement parks), fish and chips day, döner day, and pet day to name a few. I should also mention that before we let them work on their holiday design the students were reminded that they would have to present their holiday to the class. To make sure they were ready for the presentation we did a quick chart of :) and :( presentation ideas.
:) presentation ideas were things like: memorize what you want to say, don't look at the ground, speak loudly, etc.
:( presentation ideas were: reading from your notes, (audience) making noises/not listening, etc.

In their groups the students decided what they wanted to do for their holidays and then made their posters. Then the actual teacher of the class gave me a great suggestion for how the kids could present their posters. We would make it like a museum or art gallery. Each group would have a station in the room where they would have their posters. Then one or two group members would stay with the poster and give their two min presentation to their classmates, while their other two group members were listening to another group. So each group member had to give their presentation at least ten times. It sounds complicated, but works surprisingly well. We also had the students write down one thing they liked or found interesting from each presentation.

Anyways, that was a pretty long post, but I hope it gives you some ideas for your own projects!

The handout the students got to go along with the website:

The Canadian Government is looking for a new Holiday!

The Canadian Government is having a contest! They want a holiday in June and they want suggestions about who or what to celebrate and also what day it should be celebrated on.

In groups work together to create a poster describing your holiday suggestion. The poster must contain the following information:what the name of the new holiday is, when it will be celebrated, and also how they will celebrate it.

Names of group members:

First go to the website, then fill out the table below. Remember to use full sentences!

Name of Holiday When is it? How do Canadians celebrate it?(3-4 sentences)

So I don't know what happened here with this chart...but I can always send you a copy if you would like....or feel free to make your own....

Something I learned today

So today in my training, for the new private school I am working for, my trainer gave me an interesting idea. He doesn't remember where he got it from, but it was still exciting. Now, I have heard of fill in the blank listening exercises, and I think they work very well to help students with their listening comprehension. The trainer had exercises where there were no blanks, just incorrect information! Students had to listen and hear what was different;for example, years might be changed, or names spelt incorrectly, etc. I had never heard of this, so it kinda blew my mind away. Then he went one step further, though I think I have seen these, in that after reading something students are again given sentences with wrong information and they have to write the correct version (e.g. The sun rises in the west. *change to* The sun rises in the east.).
I am now really excited to make some of these...and use them! I want to see if they work as well as he says they do!!! 

An interesting blog I stumbled across today...

Seems to be aimed at informing English speakers what strange things are going on with their language!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pictures on this blog

All pictures/images on this blog are from google image finder unless otherwise stated.
Message me if you want me to take anything down!