Most EFL teachers do not enjoy teaching grammar but conditionals is probably one of the very few grammar points that is super easy to make fun to teach.
I personally love songs and drama and I try to use it in my teaching as much as possible so I was looking for an audio or a video that included all four conditionals to use with my FCE class as a revision.
I couldn’t find any so I put together one myself using a web app. It didn’t take that long actually, what it took the longest was choosing songs as there are a LOT of great songs with conditionals in their lyrics.
I thought I’d share in case you are in a similar position and you find this in any way useful. Below are the audio and the lyrics for each song snippet I used (you can turn it into a gap fill or listening activity or just as a warm up).
As a newly qualified EFL teacher in my first year I’ve been struggling immensely with information overload. There are hundreds of books, online resources, websites etc and what I ended up doing is to gradually, every couple of lessons learn something new, something practical that doesn’t take up a lot of time to adapt (no much free time I’m afraid, especially for new teachers!) and incorporate it into my teaching, I can’t possibly spend all of my time checking every single piece of information sent to me or even worse available online.
I don’t know about you, but ever since I switched to online teaching due to the Coronavirus nightmare, I’ve been bombarded with webinar links, lesson ideas, resources, almost every day, way more than I used to.
I found it extremely overwhelming and frankly I have no time to go through all of it, so again I read one thing or two, I focus on practical ideas, rather than activities that need a lot of time to prep (no time for that) and add it to every couple of lessons so I still enhance my teaching but I don’t fall into the trap of clicking on each link that comes my way.
I’ve been reading Interaction Online by Clandfield and Hadfield (2018) which is full of practical ideas, some of which I adapted as warm ups for my online lessons, mainly with my older teens and adults.
So if you’d like a few practical ideas, I put together a PPT with 5-6 of Clandfield and Hadfield excellent book and I thought I’d share so everyone can use. PS I highly recommend the book!
Hope you find it useful. Let me know if you try any of these.
About two and a half years ago I went to a talk on recognising signs of mental health problems, by Hugh Clarke, the Former Head of Counselling services at London Met University and counselling Psychologist.
It was a brilliant talk (you can read about it here), informative, thought-provoking, we chatted about it for a while afterwards. I still remember how it started, a 5 minute mindfulness activity guided by Mr Clarke. I absolutely loved it and everyone in the room seemed to have enjoyed it too. No surprise there of course. Mindfulness (focusing in the present moment, whilst accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and body sensations, in a nutshell) has been scientifically proven to alleviate anxiety, reduce rumination, improve attention, manage chronic pain amongst many many other benefits .
A lot of people are sceptical, I was initially too. I had tried to practise mindfulness myself before that day but I found it incredibly hard to focus (my overthinking brain struggles to concentrate on just one thing at a time) and ‘aids’ I discovered (e.g. apps), made me giggle, perhaps too cheesy for me. But Hugh’s 5 minute guided exercise completely changed my mind. It wasn’t cheesy, funny, or superficial. It worked fine and by the time we were done I forgot about everything else and my whole attention was turned to the session. It was just perfect.
Fast forward to about a month ago, Nour and I were thinking of ideas on how to start our presentation for our ‘Survival Guide for New EFL teachers’ session and then I had an epiphany. Hugh’s mindfulness opening activity was so effective I still remembered it after all this time, and we all, especially newly qualified teachers desperately need to be able to focus in the moment, do one thing at a time instead of trying to multitask and failing miserably, so why not start our session by giving our audience 5 minutes to relax and forget about anything else?
So, I found a 5 minute mindfulness activity online, similar to Hugh’s but the language used was too ‘formal’ and frankly tacky, so I created my own using my personal experience and a mixture of Hugh’s activity and the ones I found online (I may have borrowed some beloved expressions from Yoga with Adriene). I thought I’d share it in case others would like to use it. A colleague suggested I made a video (for those that may want to try it on themselves) and I would love to but that takes time so for now here’s the instructions (remember to take your time with each step, check your participants’ reactions and act accordingly):
First, sit comfortably on your chair. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders. Place your feet on the floor, if comfortable, your entire soles touching the ground. If you want to giggle, then feel free to do so!
Take a long deep breath (take a deep breath yourself). Now let’s focus on your toes. Wiggle them, feel them, then curl them really tight. Keep curling…. and release. Take another deep breath.
Now move up to your ankles. Again, notice how they feel (pause) and now move on to your knees. Do they feel tense? If so, relax.
Any thoughts that may come up in your mind e.g. what you are doing after this, what you are having for dinner, imagine they are in a bubble and let them float away. Take a deep breath.
Now relax your bottom (pause), your pelvis (pause) and then begin to notice any tension you may have on your back. Take another deep breath.
Now focus on your shoulders. How do they feel? Now lift them up, lift, lift, lift and…. release. Wonderful. Take another breath.
Now relax your neck, gently twist your head left to right and let any tension go.
Now focus on your jaw. Is it tense? Are you clenching? If so, relax your jaw muscles and take a deep breath.
Finally focus on the top your head. Notice if you are frowning, we often do without realising, and relax your eye brows.
Now lift your shoulders once more, lift, lift, lift…. and release. Let any remaining tension go.
Now focus your attention on what’s happening in the room. Notice any sounds you can hear, any smells…
Take one last deep breath… and open your eyes. How are you feeling now?
I desperately needed a haircut. I couldn’t even look at my hair. Everything happened so fast I didn’t get the chance to have my hair cut before I moved to Italy and the last one I had was early in the summer in Southampton (I miss the UK so much more I dare to admit sometimes).
Of course it wasn’t about the hair. It was all about self care and I’d started neglecting myself, pretty dangerous for me, it lets the depression and severe anxiety demons creep in and slowly take over without me realising until is too late, so I had to get my hair cut. Urgently.
I’m not sure if you remember where I live now, it’s a small city where very few people you come across speak English, so even the thought of attempting to book an appointment I found intimidating.
But self-preservation prevailed and I wouldn’t let my very poor Italian get in the way. (My Italian hasn’t improved much since, in case you are wondering.)
If you asked me what the most common expression I’ve used so far during my first three months in Italy was, it’s not ‘scusi’, or ‘per favore’ but..
‘Non parlo Italiano’.
It’s my opening line most of the time. Oh no, I actually first speak in English, as I often forget they won’t understand me, then I notice the baffled expression on their face and I explain.
So here’s how I managed to get a (decent) haircut with minimal communication but plenty of awkwardness.
Eleni- ‘Hi, I’d like too…, oh sh**. Non parlo Italiano, parle Inglese?
Hairdresser- Mmmm, no… (waves at one of the other hairdressers who knows a bit of English apparently).
El- Taglio (cut). Pointing at my hair. ‘Un po’ (How the hell do you say ‘trim’ in Italian?)
H-Si. Quando? (Yes! Finally a word I know!)
El-Sabato, matina (morning)?
H– (After checking their appointment book). Mm, tredici? (1pm, Italians tend to follow the 24hr format).
E– Si, si, grazie!
Pheew. First step done. I managed to book an appointment!
Saturday (haircut day)
I couldn’t remember if the appointment was at 11am or 1pm. In my head numbers were mixed up the minute I left the hairdressers two day ago. Full time teaching does that to you, messing up your brain. So I went at 11am, just to check. The hairdressers burst into laughing. I thought I’d attempt to go food shopping since I got up anyway, but the supermarket was way too busy for my liking (Damn, I could have stayed in bed a little longer).
I walked in. I had no idea what to say or do. The place was full of customers chatting away. I felt paralysed, mute. I couldn’t let any words out. I didn’t know how to. I could understand some of the conversations but I couldn’t take part. A horrible feeling.
That’s how my students must feel… I kept thinking.
After about half an hour wait (which I was ‘lucky’ as quite often you wait way longer, I was told), I was summoned on the chair.
The stylist asked me how I wanted my hair. I managed to explain (thanks to Antonella, Elena and Google translate) that I just wanted a trim and layers but not too short.
I was terrified. What if she gives me a horrible haircut, what if I end up looking like a pencil?
We didn’t speak much after that. She couldn’t speak English, I couldn’t speak Italian. She made an effort, which I appreciated, she asked me if I was a student, thankfully I knew how to say ‘I’m an English teacher’. My second most used expression (‘insegnante di Inglese’).
An hour later and after a lot of miming and gesturing (and a few word exhanges partially thanks to similarities between Greek and Italian), I left the hairdressers relieved I didn’t look like a pencil, it was actually a decent haircut and cheap compared to UK prices (12 euros).
But it was the most awkward hairdresser’s experience I ever had. And kind of funny at the same time. I had a little giggle afterwards. It’s fascinating how we humans manage to communicate even when we don’t speak the same language, although sometimes we can’t communicate even if we do speak the same language. The irony.
A month later and I’m none the wiser when it comes to Italian. My timetable doesn’t allow me to attend Italian lessons anymore, though I’m still learning from my students, who feel incredibly proud judging by the huge smile on their face every time they teach me an Italian word.
I’m not sure I’d like to stay in (Southern) Italy after my contract ends, but one thing I discovered is that I love living somewhere I’ve never lived before, being thrown into the deep, learning how to… well how to adopt and survive in another country, another culture, another life. That’s something I definitely want more of.
For now, I’ll enjoy the rest of my stay at this little, odd town that is Reggio Calabria.
Four months ago I had no idea what or where Reggio Calabria was. I’d never heard of it before and also until four months ago, I’d never taught anything to anyone.
Fast forward to now and I’ve been living at Reggio for just over two months. I haven’t seen much yet and what I think of it so far it’s not an accurate representation (more on that another time). I’ve been mainly working, teaching a wide range of ages and levels, from large classes of 9, 11, 13 and 16 year old school children to one-to-one with a 50 something old doctor and a 14 year old teenager.
But I haven’t just been teaching. I marked and invigilated tests, I had the chance to organise and be part of different events, I filmed and edited a couple of promos for the school, I am now presenting at a conference next month and organising an event as well for February.
It’s been a crazy two months as you can probably guess. Rewarding, challenging, stimulating.
oh my God.
It’s exhausting. I feel mentally and physically drained. And I honestly wouldn’t have survived these two months without my fellow teachers.
Teasing Nour on a daily basis, having a laugh with Katie (my favourite face) and Hannah (creative genious), exceptional A-class sarky humour with Vince and Bry, chats outside with my Italian spirit twin, Antonella, giggles and random convos with Shannon, talking TV series and films with Matt, reminding Alexei his Greek, reminiscing life before teaching with Kate on our way to Telesio, travelling chats with Maria, singing along with Mariah and Nuno, giggles with Fanni, making a serious effort to tease Lisa with Beatles and Christmas songs, talking Christmas filims with Jen, stealing precious little moments to chat to Lucie when I see her, all sorts of random convos with Suzanne, Italian lessons with Anna, brainstorming ideas with Helena and comforting each other, making James laugh (I love making James laugh), chats with Cesca on our way back from externals, having a laugh with my favourite reception team, Carlo, Elena, Domi, Franci and little catch ups with the bosses Marco and Patrizia when they pop in every now and then.
So thank you EVERY ONE!
Thank you Patrizia, James and Lucie for offering me the position and making me feel welcome from day one and most of all a huge thank you to this beautifully weird, fun, unique bunch of people. I would have genuinely quit by now if it weren’t for you.
I had just finished my last assessed teaching practice. The feeling of relief was indescribable. I did it, I couldn’t believe I actually managed to finish my CELTA. And I couldn’t believe that two my sweetest friends, Syed and Priya, took the day off to visit Cambridge and see me before I was to fly back to Cyprus.
As soon as I left college I headed into the town centre to meet them and I was so happy I nearly cried.
You may not realised it but that was exactly what I needed that day. After a month long, sleep and fun deprivation, away from all my friends, worrying they may forget me now that I’m leaving the country, it meant the world to me that two of them were there with me, celebrating my success.
So thank you Priya and Syed. Thank you for being such sweet, caring friends and for making the trip to Cambridge. It meant the world to me. I miss you!
Today’s Thankmas is dedicated to my cousin Sophie (though technically she is my aunt, but she is way too young to call her aunt!) not only because she is fun, awesome and one of the few people in Cyprus I can talk in English with, but I wouldn’t have coped that well (or at all) on my CELTA and more importantly, I wouldn’t have been where I am today, as in teaching full time in another country, without her advice, help and encouragement.
A day after my grandpa died I had to teach my second assessed lesson, on Mongolian horse racing (of all things!). I woke up that morning with bright red eyes, I’d cried my eyes out the night before trying to come in terms with the cruel reality that I wasn’t going to see my beloved pappou Costa alive again (I’m tearing up now just thinking about it). Every time I thought of him I couldn’t stop sobbing (more on that here).
How was I going to actually stand in front of people and manage not to cry, let alone teach them?? Sophie’s advice was what got me through not only that lesson but the rest of the month.
‘Remember, teachers are really actors’.
To be able to control my emotions and not burst into tears every time I thought of my grandpa or someone asked me if I was OK I convinced myself I was a great actress. That’s exactly what I did each and every single time until the very end. I still do this today when I’m about to walk into a classroom and I’m exhausted or sad but I don’t want my students to be affected by my mood.
When I moved back to Cyprus (for what it was going to be for a few months but I got itchy feet so I only stayed a month) Sophie recommended me to a great local language school, who offered me a part-time job almost straight away. Working there was what made me realise I wanted to give it a proper go and try my luck somewhere I could get a varied experience, away from ‘home’, whatever that is. I’m so confused now that I moved away from the UK, I don’t know where home’s anymore but that’s another story!
So thank you dear, thank you for everything. Without realising, you probably played the most pivotal role in what is turning to be one of my life’s greatest adventures!
“Doing and actually getting an A on my CELTA (relevant post here) was undoubtedly one of my most memorable and probably the biggest highlight of the year and I wouldn’t have managed to finish it, let alone achieve the highest grade without my classmates”, I wrote yesterday.
But there are two so very important people I would certainly not have done the CELTA (let alone get an A) without, my CELTA tutors, Jonny and Fiona.
I posted about it before and from conversations I had with fellow teachers, I feel I was lucky to have such great tutors.
They were not just incredible teachers themselves (I observed them both delivering interesting, interactive, informative lessons so naturally they made it look easy, but trust me, it is not!) but amazing teacher trainers too. Our input sessions with them were always fun and varied, they managed to grab our attention every single time and we learned a lot from them (with some exceptions towards the end of the course when we were all exhausted and our attention span shrank significantly). Two superb professionals, who though quite different in their teaching methods and personalities, they are a match made in heaven.
What made a huge difference for me was their understanding, kindness and above all, empathy, a rare trait nowadays.
I cried in front of both of them on week one after I informed them my grandpa had died and they not only offered me a break if I had felt I needed it, but they checked up on me making sure I was OK.
They also helped me manage my anxiety which reached ridiculous levels during my CELTA- I haven’t felt that stressed teaching as a professional and I’ve been working with a large number of students, nothing beats CELTA-induced stress I guess-, especially Fiona. She had a way of bringing me back to the moment and somehow making me forget about stress even for a while.
I shared a special moment with each I won’t share, they are both quite personal , but I’ll never forget.
I’ll never forget as well that they believed in me enough to push me for that A grade. They didn’t have to do it, they took a risk and I’m over the moon I didn’t disappoint them.
So thank you Jonny and Fiona. Thank you for your advice and nurturing, your empathy and kindness, your love for that you do, your honesty (God I miss a no bull***t Fiona chat!), for believing in me and for all your hard work.
I wish I’d have spent more time with you, there’s so much more I could have learned!