Being organised at work is an important part of teaching. With the amount of papers involved among the book pages, lesson plans, worksheets, flashcards, and everything in between, having some kind of organisation system is imperative.

Staying organised at the university in Malaysia was easy. I had one notebook for all my lesson plans, I taught one level (from a possible eight) for five weeks, one textbook (from a possible four), one lesson per day — sometimes two. It was easy to have everything carefully filed, labeled, and put away into a massive binder for future reference or recycling purposes. It was a good system and it worked beautifully.

Currently, I’m working with eighteen different textbooks, over fifty possible levels, and as many as three different lessons per day. I have yet to figure out an effective system.

My first mistake was not being organised from day one. I was overwhelmed with everything else so organisation took a back seat. Now, two months in, I’m picking up the pieces and sorting everything out. Unfortunately, the stationery section at the book store is hardly impressive, but at least it offers the basics — binders, sleeves (when they’re not sold out), envelopes, and sticky flags (albeit a small selection).

As previously mentioned, a lot of paper is involved in being a teacher. Too much paper. I’ve accumulated a significant amount after ten weeks, so I hate to imagine what level it will be at after a whole year if I’m to persist with my current lesson planning practices — copy the lesson pages, bring them home, plan, file.

I’m quite old-fashioned in many aspects and I often seem to forget that I live in the digital age where going paperless is encouraged and even convenient. I forget that I have gadgets at my disposal that would easily eliminate the need to use paper. So from next week, I’m doing exactly that. Wherever it’s possible to go paperless, I will.

At the end of a year, my previous binder was much too heavy for me to transport and it got left behind. I put a lot of work and effort into it and I’d rather have it here with me. I don’t want the same thing to happen to the current binder. At the end of my contract, I want it to travel with me to my next teaching job because it shows my work — all my lesson plans, materials I made, ideas I had. These things can be reused and doing so cuts down a lot of lesson planning time in the future.

The key word this (contract) year is organisation. I’ve always been pretty organised, but this calls for a new level of organisation because of the range of books and levels. It should be a pretty good challenge. I’ll keep you updated.


Using Music in the Classroom

I’ve wanted to try using music in the classroom for some time now. Most listening lessons using the audio from the course books can be dull and far from engaging, so I wanted to try and turn a current song into a listening exercise to make it a bit more interesting for the students while helping them to develop a skill.

It’s not a new idea — it’s been done in many ELT classrooms — but I’d never tried it myself and didn’t really know how to go about it. Planning for the activity was about one week in the making and it started with finding the right song.

I decided to use “Cool Kids” by Echosmith for two reasons. One, it has a good tempo where my pre-intermediate students would be able to follow the lyrics without too much difficulty. Two, the lyrics included tenses that we had been learning in class — simple and continuous — so it was perfect, really.

I constructed three simple tasks for the activity. The first task was to choose the overall message of the chorus to check comprehension. The second task had a list of similar sounding words in continuous tenses, and the students had to circle the words that they heard while listening to the song. The third and final task had the simple tenses blanked out on a worksheet with the lyrics, and the students had to write down the missing words while listening to the song for the second time. Each task concluded with pair check and whole class feedback.

Overall, I think it went quite well. The students enjoyed the music and it was refreshing to do something a little different in class. I’ll try it again with my afternoon class some time this week — it will be interesting to see if they will have the same response to the activity. Looking forward to the results. 🙂



Image from Google Images

Image from Google Images

This is the phonemic chart. Each symbol corresponds to a particular sound in spoken language and is very helpful when it comes to pronunciation. If you’ve ever used a dictionary, then you have been exposed to these symbols, or something similar to them, to inform you how to pronounce a word correctly. I’ve been using a dictionary since I was really young–we had a pretty massive dictionary at home when I was growing up, probably around a foot tall and half a foot thick, normally found not too far away from the encyclopedias. Unfortunately, I never paid attention to any of the silly symbols, because I probably never knew what they were for, so I was basically pronouncing words like anxiety wrong for a very long time and even fought my English teacher about it in the sixth grade. Embarrassing. Now that I’m an English teacher myself, I need to be intimately familiar with this chart because pronunciation is a pivotal part of speaking English successfully, and these symbols are used in lessons to help learners with their pronunciation.

Going into CELTA, I was completely clueless when it came to this chart. Most of the learners that I was teaching during my practice sessions knew more about this chart than I did, and that’s most likely because they spent a lot of time studying it in school–even their grammar knowledge was better than mine, if I’m being honest. Thankfully, CELTA gave a sort of foundation for using the chart and becoming familiar with the symbols, and it was a really big part of language analysis for lesson preparation, especially for lexis. It was a struggle, so when the course was done, I told myself that I would study this chart and become fluent in phonemic script–something that is currently still a work in progress, but I am determined, and one day, I will be able to write any word using these symbols correctly. I’ll even write an entire blog post using phonemic script (Just kidding–no, I won’t).

If you have any plans of becoming an English language teacher or doing the CELTA, I suggest that you become friends with this chart the soonest chance you get.