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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Great Blog on Teaching English to Young Learners of English

This blog belongs to a colleague of mine. Her name is Nina Kisin.
She is a private school teacher.
Regarding the blog, I must say the posts are extremely useful and interesting. The blog offers ready-to-use materials.
Nina, if only I had known about the posts back at the time I was substitute teaching first- to fourth-graders...
Still, at least I now have some great ideas and tips for future reference.
If you are working with young learners and you have been running out of ideas, I suggest you take a look at the blog:

Dear followers,
Have a successful week at work (or whatever that is you are occupied with at the moment) and please feel free to post comments on the blog, and especially to share useful ideas, links, personal experiences, etc.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to deal with challenging learners?

Hello everyone.
I'd like to direct you to something very useful my good friend and colleague, Vesna Dejić, recently posted on her blog (her blog is also related to teaching English).
Recently she attended a webinar on dealing with challenging learners and she summed it up in a blog post.
Personally, I find the post really helpful, and will try and incorporate the tips from it in my teaching as soon as I start teaching once again.

As you all know, there is an ever growing number of challenging learners. We, as public school teachers, have a duty of finding a way to deal with such learners. It is our job to provoke and boost their interest for learning English.

Here's the link to the post:

I am sure you'll find this blog post (and the entire blog) useful and interesting in many ways.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Never is too late, I guess?

Wow, it's Sunday already!
This has been the final week of my substitute teaching at this school.
It's such a shame I managed to dig out a few amazing articles, along with some useful pieces of advice just this week.
Still, never is too late. Right?

Actually, now that I have the experience and have read something on the topic, I'm ready to move on. I've just realized that I'm no longer a complete novice at this profession. I have gained some incredibly invaluable experience through hard work and practice. At the same time, I've come to realize how we have so much to more to learn and work toward after we graduate. The moment we get the degree, it's only the beginning of the whole thing...
And when it comes to the experience I've gained here, I know there have been many great classes, and not so great classes here and there. There were days when I was brilliant, and others when I would simply wait for the classes to end and go home, and sleep... There were some sleepless nights, dilemmas, worries. But most days I truly felt great about what I do.
From what I've been through, I now see that being a public school teacher is extremely demanding and highly rewarding profession. A dream job most days, and a living torture sometimes.
When it comes to the age group I've been teaching (first- to fourth-graders), I've come to realize that it's not that hard to teach this age group (in terms of knowledge and curricula), but it's hard to keep them interested, concentrated and focused, amused and engaged. They have hard time staying focused, and get easily distracted. Sometimes you feel like a clown or an entertainer, and it's a part of the job description, no doubt.
For me, it is a bit tricky that I have had very little contact with young children. Only now have I actually got to know how they think and what they are like, and I'm truly thankful for that.
I must say most of the children are not that difficult to work with. Some are quite specific and at times even annoying, but the majority of them are simply adorable.
I know I'm going to miss the children, and think about them from time to time. I guess that's normal.
I hope I've contributed at least a bit to the children's love for English and that they have more will to learn it.
You know how people usually say, children get to love the school subject if they like the teacher.
By the way, do you think this is true?

Instead of going on about my teaching practice and how I feel right now, I'm sharing these great links I've been recommended in a Facebook group, by a university professor (and a methodologists of teaching English to young learners) at the Faculty of Teachers' Education in Jagodina.
Have a lovely Sunday; and enjoy the lovely spring weather.
Oh, and don't forget to set your clocks and watches forward one hour ahead!

And one more thing, did you happen to read something on the topic, and what do you think about these links?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Substitute teaching -- something new, something old, something borrowed

I've accidentally found this Top 25 Substitute Teaching Blogs list and some of the blogs I like very much.

For instance, there is a very interesting blog called Substitutes, FTW! Teaching Tips, Classroom Experiences and Lesson Plan Ideas with a few especially useful posts, such as

Classroom Management: Kids Asking Too Many Questions?
Here I like this suggestion:
"As the book describes, "sweeping" should go like this:  when you assign seatwork, let them know exactly what you want to see as soon as they get started.  For instance,  "I am passing out your worksheet now.  I need to see three things as I come around:  a sharpened pencil, your history book opened to page 74, and you silently reading."  For some classrooms, it may be a good idea to write the "initial sweep tasks" on the board so they can see it, or have them repeat them."

And there is this incredibly interesting post on Mystery Motivators for Classroom Management.

Oh, and the same substitute teacher-blogger offers an interesting sollution for the seating arrangement, as well.
I must say I've solved this problem by making nametags for my students. I've printed the tags and distributed them as soon as I started working at this school. But, the problem with the tags is that quite often a number of students forget their tags, and then I have to improvise on the go. Anyway, by now, I somehow managed to memorize most of the names.

In the meantime, I'll try to find this book: Every Teacher's Guide to Classroom Management, because it would really be highly helpful to me, a novice substitute teacher.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What a week, and a few other things...

I must say I have had a busy week both at work, and at home. But, I'm back.

Like I said, it's not always easy to be a teacher (especially a novice); but most times it feels like the dream profession.

As I'm getting prepared for the final week of my substitute teaching at this school, I go through my thoughts and experiences flashing through my head, and am very grateful for being given this wonderful opportunity.
Definitely, there must have been some beginner's mistakes. But there have been so many useful lessons on the go.
I now know that to teach young learners, one needs to be meticulously prepared for each and every class. Such a teacher also needs to have either a natural gift to entertain and amuse the children, or to acquire it throughout the years of practice, and by attending seminars.
Unfortunately for me, there was a seminar in Novi Sad, and I wanted to attend it, but then came the snow, and it ruined my plans. I simply couldn't come to Novi Sad, because at that time, I was just getting better after acute bronchitis I got earlier that month...

However, I've recently been informed about two incredibly useful events, and I'll try hard to attend both of them.
One is a conference at the Faculty of Pedagogy in Jagodina (Teaching English to Young Learners:Integrating Culture and Language Teaching), and the other is 10 th ELTA IATEFL conference -- this year taking place in Belgrade.

So, are you planning to go to a conference, or a seminar sometimes soon? Do you happen to know about some other, equally useful events, taking place in the near future?

Oh, and once again, if you happen to have some useful links, book titles, articles, etc. to share with me on the topic of teaching English to young learners, please do. I'd really appreciate it. 

Thanks a million, and have a great week at work (or whatever that is you'll be doing this week)!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It ain't easy being a novice
So far, this has been a really busy week. So many obligations at work, and with the exam period at my Masters studies approaching, it's starting to be extremely demanding.
Not to mention that as a complete novice, it takes quite a lot time to prepare for each and every class.
Oh, and there is also a problem with a mild epidemic of cold, or flu: each day a number of children misses a class, and it's really hard to catch up with this. (Or it's just me?)
I don't know how things are at your school, but I've noticed that children are much easier to work with when we are in the morning shift. That's what I've been told. My colleagues at work, their teachers, told me that right at the beginning. And when we're in the afternoon shift, children tend to be much more lively, and sometimes almost unbearable.
Tell me, how do you cope with such problems at work?
Is it just me, a fairly inexperienced novice, or is teaching really a highly demanding profession?

Still, most of the time I enjoy working as an elementary school teacher, while a few times it feels like the worst job on the planet.

However, for me, things are going to change soon. Namely, I'm working at this school until March 23, because the teacher I have been substituting is about to end her maternity leave.
And one thing is certain: that's going to be a huge change. I'm going to miss the children.
When I think about it, I'm already a bit sad....

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Challenge accepted: Individualized teaching

I'm not well familiar with the concept of Individualized teaching and learning. However, I do know it should be about customizing the teaching process, in order for it to meet the needs of all the students in the classroom.

In the school I work in, there is quite a number of such students who require an individualized approach. Some need more help, whereas other need less.
For instance, in the first grade, there is a Roma boy and a few others, who barely write in  Serbian and speak extremely poor English. With such students, the progress is minor, but there is some.
Then again, there is a class of second-graders with five such students (and that class soon came to be my worst nightmare), who not only require special approach in terms of learning English, but also with the discipline and behaviour in class.
When it comes to third- and fourth-graders, I must say it is much easier to work with and there are by far better chances that they will learn some proper English.

The materials I prepare for the students who require an individualized approach are mostly colouring pages I adapt from Google image search, empty sheets of paper for drawing or writing I cut and distribute, some flash cards I make myself, and chunks of text for the students to copy.

What do you think, is this a good way to individualize the teaching process? What else could I do?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Classroom management - discipline

I know my weak points. The way I see it, for me, one of them is classroom discipline.
I am not a strict person. I smile a lot, and am very mild, friendly and relaxed most of the time.
However, is it really a good thing to be like that in classroom?
Maybe I should be more strict?
Do you have some useful suggestions regarding teacher's classroom behavior?
I'm open for a discussion and taking advice.

Post: Classsroom management
Re: Classsroom management

7 Best Classroom Management Tips by Ian Leahy

So far I have found these interesting link. I hope it will be useful both to me and to all of you out there.
In the meantime, I'm going to try to be more strict and find more real-life tips and pieces of advice on the Internet...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meeting the school counselor

During my second week of teacher, the school counselor (she's a pedagogue by profession) asked me to meet her at her office for a short briefing. She wanted to meet me and check how I manage my paperwork.
We were both pleased to meet each other.
We went through my pedagogical documentation.
I was a bit nervous before the meeting, because I feared I didn't write my class preparations and plans well.
But when she saw it and said I'm doing just fine, I felt a great relief.
I had all the monthly plans and class preparations prepared and I try very hard to keep everything just like that all the time.

The school counselor at the school I work in is very professional. She goes to all seminars, reads a lot and educates herself constantly and permanently. She has been helping me a lot from the first day I began working up until now.

Please fell free to share your experiences in collaborating with the school counselor. I would really love to hear about it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

How to make classes fun and creative?

Here's a list of thing I do to make my classes interesting.
  • I move around the classroom and try to get the whole class involved.
  • I use TPR warm-up activities with first- and second-graders.
  • My students are ecstatic when I bring my sister's laptop and play some YouTube clips or songs.
  • They love games like word bingo or day-night (or stand up-sit down).
  • I print flashcards and coloring pages to first- and second-graders a lot.
  • I prepare short handouts, from time to time, providing links with useful dictionaries (single words translation, single word pronunciation, pronunciation of whole texts, etc.).

Dobri online rečnici englesko-srpski/srpsko-engleski:

Nije uvek tačan i pouzdan:

npr. This is a doorOvo je vrata, već Ovo SU vrata.
        It’s hot vruće, već Vruće JE.
        It’s cold hladno, već Hladno JE.
Mother is cooking Majka je kuvanje, već Majka KUVA.
              is cooking – kuva
                  cooking – kuvanje

Rečnici za pravilan engleski izgovor (Izgovara po jednu reč):
Kada upišete željenu reč na engleskom, kliknete na search. Nakon toga, ispod reči ispisane crvenom bojom kliknite na dugme sa zvučnikom na kome piše Pronunciation.
Izgovara više reči, rečenice, čak i tekstove:
U belo polje upišete željenu rečenicu ili tekst na engleskom, iznad belog polja odaberete speak SLOW, ukoliko vam je NORMAL jako brzo, i kliknete na Translate & Speak english (male)

At the end of the class, whenever I do something different, I ask for feedback. 

Sometimes my students ask me something I happen to don't know, but I don't fear to say I don't know something. I always check it at home and tell the students in the following class.

As a busy novice teacher, I'm 100% open to all kinds of suggestions about making classes more interesting and creative. If you have some ideas to share, please do so.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting advice and help

I really don't know how I'd survive through all these dilemmas and small problem every novice teacher goes through if I didn't have someone nice and friendly to help me out.
It was and still is my colleague, who could no longer work there, as she didn't have the right qualifications for the job. She is an IT teacher who knows some English and who had been substituting (the same teacher I'm substituting now) for a year.
I'm not shy to admit I don't know something and that I need help. I always ask for help and usually get it.
The week before I started teaching I was asked to come to the school to meet her and other teachers who teach first- to fourth-graders. She was also there and she was willing to answer all of my questions.
She even gave me her email address and cell phone number and told me to ask her anything I need.
At first I had to ask her more often, but later on, I have been asking for help less and less. Now I'm working on my own more and more.

What is your experience? Have you had someone nice and friendly to ask for help?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My first day at work

It's been five weeks since I've started working. My first day at work was January 15.
I feel a need to tell you about it. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I still remember being very nervous and a bit scared. I barely slept the night before (among other reasons, because I don't sleep well on Sunday nights). I believe that sleeping not so well made me feel a bit nauseous during the bus ride, but it was no big deal.

My fears were somewhat justified, because I've never had close contacts with young children before. I'm the youngest child in my family.
However, as soon as I've reached  the school building and entered the teacher's room, I felt a million times better. All the teachers I work with greeted me with smiles and it helped a lot. I felt so good, full of enthusiasm and eager to start teaching.

I still remember the first four class I held (three classes with second-graders and one with fourth-graders). The children were great, and I felt so relieved. They seemed to like from the very beginning. I immediately began making a close connection with them, too. If nothing else, they liked the fact that they have a new English teacher.
They made drawings for me, asked me about my name, where I live and how I arrive to school.
I patiently answered each and every question. I listen to their small-talks and thanked for the drawings they made me. They always notice my clothes, my accessories, they walk across the street to say hi, wave to me when I enter the bus and always greet me on the school hall with a 'Hello teacher!'.

So, like I said, during the first day and up until now, I came to realize that my fears are completely irrational.
To me, it feels so great to be an elementary school teacher! Especially to teach such young students.
Teaching English is such a rewarding profession... :)

Taking Psychological Tests at the National Employment Agency

Before I got this job, I had to take several psychological test and go through an interview with a psychologist. I had to go to Zrenjanin (my school belongs to the Municipality of Zrenjanin).
I was a bit scared of it, but as soon as I entered the building of National Employment Agency I realized there is no need to be worry.
There were several candidates who came for the same job I did. I talked to them about where they studied and if they had been through a similar testing... It turned out that the tests are no big deal.
Some people had told me that I would be given tests of general knowledge and that those tests are very demanding. However, I am glad I didn't get such test. They said that common knowledge is tested only in Novi Sad and Belgrade.