Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Liking Language (English)

I really like this video from Stephen Fry.

I agree with everything he says. He speaks very clearly, I feel I could maybe use this in an advanced English class...ohhhh :)

Anyways enjoy, also if you are a teacher, have you used this video? Or do you have an idea for how to use it? I'm thinking some kind of reading activity, and then watching it after....hmm hmmm

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Getting an ESL (EFL) job in Germany

Sorry for how long this post took!
Partially I am lazy, and I forgot, and today after deciding I wanted to write this post I couldn't find the new button that blogger had to make posts...anyways here we go.

How I got to Germany:
I took German at university and there is a lovely little program put on by the DAAD where Canadian students who have graduate with a German degree can go to Germany and assistant teach at different high schools in Germany. Other nationalities can also apply, but there are different restrictions (for example the English girls I met on this program did not have to have a finished degree to go to Germany. It all has something to do with the Visas). The program lasts for eight months, you get paid a stipend (read no taxes!), and you only HAVE to work 12 hrs a week. It's pretty sweet, and if you like it, and your school likes you, you can always stay a second year (as I did!). After the second year though, you are on your own!

Other places to look for jobs:

I also worked at a company called inlingua  which was good. They have schools all over Germany ( and Europe!), and it's a really easy job. All you really need is to be an English native speaker. Now depending on where you go the school will be more willing to help you get your visa. If you go to a bigger city where there are more English speakers, they could be less inclined to help you, but you never know! There is a German visa for people between 18 and 30 (work and travel), which is pretty easy to get as long as you have a job. A big help at many inlinguas is to have a basic knowledge of German or at least a willingness to learn, a drivers license (they have lessons outside of the school and you get paid more for those!), and some knowledge of business English. Some downsides of inlingua are that you will probably only get hired as a free lancer, and sometimes that can be tricky at the visa office. For some reason if you say you want to work as a free lancer many cities in Germany then want a company that you are working for....which seems strange...Also as a free lancer you won't be guaranteed hours (though this was never a problem I usually had to turn hours down!) and you won't get any health insurance. Health insurance in Germany is pretty pricey, but it depends on how often you feel you will need a doctor... inlingua will also help train you if you have no experience, they have all the books and tests and example lesson plans for every unit you have to teach. So it's definitely good if you have never taught, and no one comes and watches your lessons so if you are more experiences you get a chance to use your own stuff :) Just keep your students happy and no problems will be had!

There is also Berlitz and Wall Street English. Berlitz is supposed to be similar to inlingua.  Wall Street only hires full time contract, so for visas they are waay easier. But Wall Street likes it if you already have a visa...tricky!

If you want to work in a German high school as a teacher you have to have two subjects (I'm pretty sure speak German). But every state is different in Germany in NRW they have this program , which a friend of mine used to get into the system. She had History and German, but taught History and English, she also had to do 2 years of half teaching half university courses before she could become a full teacher. But once there she was a gov't employee and it's a pretty good job then!

So yes that's a bit to consider about living in Germany and teaching, pretty much I would recommend going for an inlingua job and then working through the system into a high school or even university level teaching position it's much easier from within Germany.

Hope that was helpful! And thanks for reading!

Here is another blog post about teaching in Germany, and it gives a clearer picture of what it is like to teach at inlingua.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More for the book club with gr 9s

We wrote a test today to see if the class actually read the book (Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac).

Here is a copy of the test, I just thought up a couple questions trying to see if they had read AND understood the story...ha!

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac Test

  1. Why was Naomi at school during summer (when she fell down the stairs)?
    a) She was attending summer school.
    b) She was doing work for the year book
    c) She was working on her photography project.
    d) She was just walking around with her best friend, Will.

  1. How many years did Naomi forget?
    a) 1
    b) 10
    c) 5
    d) 4

  1. Naomi was adopted by her parents Grant and Rosa Porter. TRUE/FALSE

  1. Who was James Larkin?

a) Naomi's tennis playing boyfriend who she forgets after falling down a flight of stairs.
b) Naomi's best friend and co-editor on the year book.
c) Some guy who rode in the ambulance with her after the accident.
d) Becomes Naomi's boyfriend; he is depressed about his brother dying; makes videos.

5. Naomi doesn't like Chloe at the end of the book. TRUE/FALSE

6. Which school subject(s) helps Naomi remember?

a) French
b) Math and Physics
c) Photography
d) Gym

7. Naomi becomes a bridesmaid for her dad and his new wife. TRUE/FALSE

8. Name one example of Naomi changing. Explain how she changes.

9. For a moment, I would not even realize who I was looking at, and, instinctively,
I would turn away.“ Who says this? Why? What are they talking about?

  1. How did Naomi lose her memory?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Song Ideas for Beginner to Intermediate English Learner's

Songs are a great way to learn a language. I don't think that they should be the only method, but every once and while they are good change :). 

I've used a song from the Barenaked Ladies (woot Canadian content!) called 7,8,9. It has a bunch of fun word plays (when you joke about something using words; clever use of words), for example seven ate nine. These are great for your intermediate students and even with beginner students working out what these mean as a group is great. 

Some ideas for how to use songs:

1) Cut up the lyrics and let the students listen to the song while putting the lyrics in the right order. Helpful tip: Make sure to mix up your lyrics before cutting them up. I've had students just try and line up to my cuts, totally not the point of our exercise!

2) Standard fill in the blanks. An oldie, but a goodie. 

3) For intermediate to advanced learner's you can switch some of the words in the song with rhyming words. Depending on their level you can tell them how many switched words there are, or underline the words that have been switched or let them have a go at it in partners. If you are having difficulty finding rhymes I like to use this website

4) Let them watch the music video of the song and have them guess the story (this only works when there is a music video, unless you a exceptionally skilled in youtube videos). Then read the lyrics together and see who was closest to the real story. Another version of this is to have a set of pictures that relates to the text in the song and let the students listen to the song while they put the pictures in order.

5) Listen to the song and try to sing along with it. This works especially well with young, beginner learners. I haven't tried this with adults yet, but depending on the song I could see it working!

6) I used the BNL song with a group of intermediate students and we just looked at the words and phrases that were unknown to my students and discussed the German equivalents. You could then move the discussion into English idioms (see my post here for some examples). We also talked about cultural differences for example in German cats only have 7 lives while in English they have 9.

Anyways that was a very short list of what you can do with songs in an ESL or EFL classroom.
Here is the video for BNL 7,8,9. You google the lyrics.

Another good song from BNL is If I had a Million Dollars, great for teaching the 2nd Conditional. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Club with gr. 9's part 3

Here  are the links to the Venn Diagram Sheet and Sequence Sheet mentioned in the first blog post about the Book Club activities for my gr. 9 German class with the book Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zeville.

Venn Diagram

Sequence Chart

And these are the quotes that I wanted my students to comment on. Unfortunately I don't yet have a copy of the book, I just read it on my Kindle so there are no page numbers yet. When I get my book i will update this...promise!

Quotes to Comment on

  • “I have always been required to fill in the blanks.” (pg...)
  • “He felt comfortable and broken-in like favorite jeans.” (pg...)
  • “I didn't need to remember him to know exactly how to tease him.” (pg...)
  • “But I understood what Dad was like because I was like that, too. This was why I couldn't look at him.” (pg...)
  • “I'll never leave you, kid.” (pg...)
  • “For a moment, I would not even realize who I was looking at, and, instinctively I would turn away. It is rude to stare at strangers...” (pg...)
  • “I hung up the phone and felt lonelier than ever.” (pg...)
  • “ 'I give everything away. I believe Naomi, that your possessions possess you, do you know?' I wasn't sure.” (pg...)
  • “We both really believe that [yearbook] can define the school and the way people see the school. A good high school yearbook can make a better school. And better kids. And a better planet. And a better universe. We write the story of the year. If you think about it, it's a huge responsibility” (pg...)
  • “When I saw myself in the bathroom mirror, I felt sort of elated. It seems strange to say even now, but I finally recognized the person in the mirror as the person inside my head.” (pg...)
  • “...I can't stop thinking about your hair. It intrigues me. It's like you have nothing to hide behind anymore.” (pg...)
  • “He made me feel transparent when I was still opaque to myself.” (pg...)
  • “A good nickname tells you something about the person it belongs to, and it was so with [Will's]” (pg...)
  • “ 'There are all sorts of things I could tell you,' he said, 'if you ever wanted to know them'.” (pg...)
  • “Screw the past. It made me so happy to hear someone say that.” (pg...)
  • “I interrupted, 'I don't care about any of that. It's in the past.' It was my new philosophy. It had to be.” (pg...)
  • “These things tend to take on a momentum of their own.” (pg...)
  • “Once he'd translated, I replied without really thinking, 'Ni l'un ni l'autre. L'appareil-photo,' meaning 'Neither, I blame the camera.' ” (pg...)
  • “It's when you don't need something that you tend to lose it.” (pg...)
  • “And I was crying for gravity. It had sent me down the stairs, and I'd thought that meant something, but maybe it was just the direction that all things tend to flow.” (pg...)
  • “I had thought the way I felt about Will was just a room, but it had turned out to be a mansion. He had turned out to be a mansion.” (pg...)
  • “You forget all of it anyway...You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They're the last to go. And then once you've forgotten enough, you love someone else.” (pg...)
  • “...'I will' is nicer. It has the future in it. 'I do' just has the present.” (pg...)
  • “...all that made our quiet a kind of song. The kind that you hum without even knowing what it is or why you're humming it. The kind you've always known.” (pg...) 

*** so we changed what had to be done for the quotes, the students had to look up where the quotes were and tell us who said it and why it was important, hence I have not added the pages. If you want the pages though you can message me and I will send them out! ***

Reading Tips and Tricks for German Students

This is a copy of the sheet I gave my gr. 9 students before they started reading. Most of it is transferable to any English-learners, but I do give examples of German-English dictionaries.

Some Tips and Tricks for Reading in English!

1. Skip: if you don't understand a word or section, keep reading ahead. Come back to the section or word again and try to figure out the meaning. Use a dictionary only if necessary.

2.When you find a new word while reading, finish the sentence (better: the paragraph). If you haven’t guessed the meaning and it still seems important, then you can look it up. Try not to look up the words in Google translate or any other translating device. These translations are usually wrong! Try to look the words up in an English-English dictionary (for example the Cambridge Online  English Learner's dictionary is very good!
However, if you are really having a tough time understanding a word, you can find its meaning in your own language using a bilingual dictionary (I suggest or .

3. Read out loud: children read out loud when they first start reading. You can too. Get comfortable hearing your English voice.

4. Keep a vocabulary journal. (It's one of your tasks!)

5. Before reading make sure to have your vocabulary journal, your dictionary, and a pen and/or highlighter ready!

6. Choose the right place to read - You can’t really expect to understand a difficult book if you are trying to read in the same room with the television on and your little brother distracting you. The same goes for reading on the bus on the way to school. You also can’t expect to read and listen to music at the same time. Try to find a quiet and comfortable place with good light, and your dictionaries and other materials nearby.

7.Choose the right time to read - If you have a difficult text to read, it’s probably best to do this first. If you leave it until last when you are tired, you will find it even more difficult.

8.Talk with your classmates about the book!

9. If you are stuck on a word or don't understand something, ask your teacher!

                                                                                Good Luck :)

Some tips and tricks taken from and

Book Club with gr. 9's part two

As promised here are the activities. ***I also just want to say that I would recommend reading this book with high level gr. 9's (so about 4 or 5 years of English instruction) or any grades above 9. I think you can get some really good discussions, about life and philosophy going! So enjoy!***

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Reading Activities 

Before Reading

Look at You:

  • do you have any prejudices (an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling usually formed without thinking)
  • who do you hang out with and why
  • what are your interests/hobbies
  • what clothes do you wear(style)/how do you look/why is this important
  • what are your music choices and why
  • if the above points were gone (music, clothes, your interests, etc) how would you change (who would you be?)

Write a small report about yourself. Introduce and describe yourself, include all of the above points. Then write a short paragraph about who you would be if all of this was gone, what would be left?

During Reading

  • Keep a word journal for each chapter:
        • find and define (in English!)e at least seven new words per chapter
  • The book is split into three parts I am, I was, and I will:
        • make a short outline of each section of Naomi's life
  • Find at least five examples of Naomi changing:
        • make sure to list the page number and why you think it's important (1-2 sentences)
  • Choose a comment from the list (see attached list)and write a one paragraph response 
        • What does this comment mean?
        • What does it say about the character?
        • What does it say about the story?

After Reading

Look at the Novel

  • Choose one character  James Larkin, Will Landsman, Cass Porter, Grant Porter, Rosa Rivera, and Chloe
        • describe how their relationship with Naomi changes throughout the novel
  • Make a mind map of the old Naomi (her characteristics) and a mind map of the new Naomi include quotes to support your claims
        • now create a Venn Diagram (see attached example) to show the overlap of the two Naomis' characteristics
  • How does Naomi change in relation to being an orphan throughout the novel 
        • include quotes to support your claims
        • create a sequence chart (see attached example) to show the changes 
  • Book Review Points:
      1. Rating (for example good, bad, okay, number rating, etc)
      2. Basic Info: Title, Author, Publisher, Year Published and Number of Pages
      3. Summary: Where the story takes place (setting),When the story takes place (time),Who tells the story (narrator), Main character(s) (protagonist/antagonist[define!]),Sequence of important events (plot, but no spoilers!)
      4. Reader Reaction: Was the book well-written? Have you read any other books by the author, how do the other books compare? Would you recommend this book(Why or why not?)

Choose one task from the list

  1. Explore two of the following themes in the novel and how they are presented in the novel (Hint: Read the author's notes at the end of the novel to help you get started!): memory (amnesia and Alzheimer's), identity, predestination, chance, other people's expectations
  2. Look up the songs mentioned in the novel: 
        • choose one and describe why it was a good choice
        • make a playlist for the last four years of your life:
        • include 'footnotes/liner' notes about what each song means to you
    3. Create a short story describing yourself. Use the same structure as Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac ( I     was, I am, and I will) (get creative add pictures or drawings that represent something to you!)

   4. Choose two motifs or symbols from the list and describe how they are relevant to the story or what they add to the story (include quotes):

  • typewriters
  • books
  • orphan
  • yearbook
  • photography
  • tennis

These are just some of the ideas I came up with. If I have time later I might post the other ones. I will also have to post the comments I chose later. And the reading tips. The weather is just too nice outside to stay on the computer!

P.S The book report steps I did not make. I got them last year from some ESL reading website...I think...actually I have lost the name of the website...if you are reading this and it's from your website let me know and I will gladly put your name on it! 

Book Club with the gr. 9's

So my teacher and I thought we should start a book club with our class. For various reasons this has now turned into a class adventure, which is fine...a little strange as the kids now don't understand why there was such a contest to get into the book club.

Anyways to start I gave the ''book club'' kids a list of ten books (young adult books, that I believe are at their level, some are a bit higher level than others.

Here is the list they had to choose from:

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Uglies series is set in the future, after current civilization has been destroyed by a type of bacteria,
causing chaos. The survivors of this disaster established small cities, each of which is independently
governed, with limited traveling. At the age of sixteen, everyone undergoes an operation which turns
them into "pretties". Later operations follow to show signs of increasing age while maintaining this
beauty. Uglies tells the story of teenager Tally Youngblood who rebels against society's enforced
conformity, after her new found friends Shay and David show her the downsides to becoming a
"Pretty".They show Tally how being a "Pretty" can change not only your look but your personality.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Elsewhere tells of a girl, Liz, who dies from a bicycle accident and wakes up to find herself traveling
on a boat. There, she meets a girl who had gotten shot and a famous person who died. After watching
her own funeral, Liz eventually realizes that she is dead, later she arriving in what is known as
"Elsewhere". She meets her grandmother, who died before she was born, and begins to live with her.
Liz has been told that everyone in Elsewhere age backwards from the day they died to the day of their
birth, and are then sent back to Earth to be reincarnated as a baby.
Liz misses her life on Earth, and becomes obsessed with watching her family and friends through
Observation Decks. She is depressed, and sees no reason to do anything because she is dead. In time,
she makes new friends in Elsewhere who help her to overcome the fact that she has died.
Soon, she learns that a life lived backwards is not much different to a life lived forwards.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
Just a luck of the draw. Just a flip of the coin. And now Naomi can't remember anything. A fall down
the stairs as she went to get the yearbook camera has left her with no memory of her life after 6th
grade. No memory of her boyfriend. No memory of her parents' split. No memory of a half sister.
What would you do? Naomi searches for her past as she tries to come to terms with her present. What
would you do if you had a chance to totally reinvent yourself?

Zombies vs. Unicorns A collection of short stories
Unicorns and zombies battle for supremacy in this ultra cool collection of short stories edited by YA
rock stars Black and Larbalestier. The rival authors engage in a fervent back-and-forth argument
before every story, each claiming that her supernatural creature is the more badass of the two. But the
spectacular stories the two editors have assembled make it very hard to choose between Team Zombie
and Team Unicorn.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Katniss Everdeen, the story's narrator, tells the tale of a dominating Capitol and the mistreated twelve
districts of Panem. Yearly, each district is forced to send a boy and a girl, called tributes, to fight to the death in their annual Hunger Games. Katniss' little sister Prim is selected for the Games, but Katniss takes her place, and finds herself thrusted into a whirlwind of violence, confusion, and domination as she struggles to survive.

Stranger with my Face by Lois Duncan
Have you ever been haunted by the feeling that someone is spying on you, lurking around your house
and yard, even entering your bedroom? Are your friends plotting against you when they say they've
seen you do things you know you haven't done? What's going on -- and does Laurie really want to find

Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan
Role-playing takes on a terrifying cast when 17-year-old Sarah, who is posing as a fortune-teller for a
school fair, begins to see actual visions that can predict the future. Frightened, the other students brand her a witch, setting off a chain of events that mirror the centuries-old Salem witch trials in more ways than one.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia is the story of fifth grader Jess Aarons, who becomes friends with his new
neighbor Leslie Burke after he loses a footrace to her at school. Leslie is a smart, talented, outgoing
tomboy, and Jess thinks highly of her. He himself is an artistic boy who, in the beginning of the novel,
is fearful, angry, and depressed. After meeting Leslie, Jess is transformed. He becomes courageous and learns to let go of his frustration.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no
choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to
receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and
pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

The Hunter's Moon by O.R Melling
Idealistic Findabhair and her cautious cousin Gwen have always shared a love of fantasy and hunted for a door into other worlds. The teens plan to spend their summer hitchhiking through Ireland, but when Findabhair is abducted from a barrow by the King of the Faeries himself, Gwen has to become selfreliant and overcome her fears in order to rescue her cousin. When she finds a gateway into the Faeries' world, she is unprepared for the beauty of their land, and for her cousin's decision to stay. Complicating the matter is Gwen's memory of the words from a dream: "I, too, was the Hunted and the Sacrificed." Fearing for her cousin's life, Gwen must take help in whatever form it comes to see Findabhair safely delivered from the Faerie lands.

As you can probably guess The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was one of the top three books. However, after a class vote Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin won out (a better choice I think, this way the kids won't just go watch the movie in German!).

So this past week I have been making a list of activities for the kids to do. Frustratingly they have two weeks of Easter Break coming up, plus two weeks of ''Career Week''...which basically means they have four weeks of no English and no school! After that I only have about 4-5 weeks left at the school! (Time flies!!)

In an effort to make this post a bit smaller I will upload the activities into my next post.

Here is the website for the book... Although I only really recommend it for people who have read the book. Or as a help for teachers wanting to do this book in class.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

To eavesdrop or not to eavesdrop that is the question

What is "eavesdropping"?

According to Cambridge Learner's  Online Dictionary to eavesdrop: is to secretly listen to a conversation. (E.g. "He stood outside the door eavesdropping on their conversation")

In most societies this is a considered impolite ( to behave in a way that is not socially acceptable) and many people will get angry if they find someone else doing it. 

However, as a second language learner it is vital to eavesdrop on others in order to increase your listening ability, comprehension, and even to learn more words. 

When you are living in a country where your target language (the language you are learning) is spoken don't listen to your mp3 player on the streets or on the train. Turn it off. Listen to the conversations around you,but try not to make it too obvious (easy to see or understand)! 

Eavesdropping is bad manners, but as a second-language learner I think it is an essential skill. Just don't use your powers for evil, ok?