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September Reflections

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There is something truly exciting about September…You are full of energy and enthusiasm after summer holiday. You are surrounded with some beautiful young people radiating joy while telling you their summery stories. September is the time of year when you reflect on the previous school year, and think about what went well, what could be improved this school year, and what you want to focus on in the coming year.

 

What went well last year

I learnt a lot from my students, colleagues and through my PLN. There were a lot of wonderful opportunities at the library to learn by listening to my students, collaborating with my colleagues, and sharing thoughts and ideas with my colleagues and friends from all over the world. Writing and blogging, reading books and listening to podcasts helped me to hone my English language skills.

Students were my constant source of inspiration. Students who loved spending their time at the library, reading, preparing tasks, and making video clips for their Aviation English classes… I enjoyed chatting with them, helping them with English, and recommending some useful books and sites for learning. They were particularly interested in: how to enrich their vocabulary in order to speak English fluently.

I truly enjoyed autonomy to plan my work and activities with students and teachers at the library. I had more time to read for pure pleasure, or to do what I found useful for my professional development. And I was so fulfilled.

 

What could be improved

I should not be sensitive to the general opinion that a profession of a teacher-librarian is uninteresting, or not as dynamic, challenging, or important as teaching.

Also, I should improve my time management skills. I usually work late and spend a lot of time online (I enjoy reading and writing at night). A lot of coffee (or green tea) usually helps in the morning, but I hope to change this habit soon. Also, I tend to do the stuff I enjoy doing first, and to put off till later something so dull and formulaic like cataloguing books, for example, and thus there are so many books waiting to be put into my computer programme b++.

 

What I want to focus on in the coming year

Collaborating with teachers on some CLIL/TBLT projects, writing articles for my two blogs: English language teaching & my Library blog, and also for our school e-journal Vazduhoplovac (Aviator).

I’ve been musing lately about starting an English club at the library for the students who are interested in improving English. There is a large smallish, but lovely group of students who read my blogs, and who have told me lately that they would like to spend more time at the library reading and speaking English with me. Some of them told me that their classes were boring and they were not willing to speak English for fear of making grammar mistakes.

I am currently thinking about how to provide the students with lots of structured opportunities to hear and read English. These are some of the tenets that came to my mind while thinking about this idea: 

  • students should be responsible for their own learning (we should explore the language and learn together)
  • we negotiate the syllabus, topics, time and the way the students want to learn, each month (process syllabus)
  • students enrich their vocabulary by doing a plenty of language activities and tasks (more time for student-generated language)
  • grammatical concepts are presented in context, students are encouraged to reflect on the form and purpose of the structure before giving a name to it (inductive approach)
  • students reflect on their learning (discussing, creating portfolio, learning log, an online journal or using Twitter)

 

Some materials and activities that could be interesting for students:

Graded readers – for practising extensive reading (e.g. Gerald Durrell: My Family and Other Animals, OUP)

ELT magazines for teenagers, Airport magazines and brochures (for TBLT/CLIL projects)

Love – in literature & music & art (project work/ or: Five Love(ly) Lesson Ideas activities)

Flash fiction (Students write six word stories/ short stories up to 100 words: about themselves, or they look through the window, or choose a photo in their mobile phone, etc. and write whatever comes first to their mind/ a tweet up to 140 characters on the book they have read or the film they have seen recently)

Spooky Science (Instruction for play: two decks of cards, one in Serbian and one in English. Each deck contains: 54 cards with questions and four multiple-choice answers, 4 Joker cards and 2 master cards for the Judges with all the right answers. Two players from the same team collect more cards than the opposing team and win the game.)

Logic and Conversation: What are Grice’s conversational maxims (reading on the Net, and discussing logical thinking & logical fallacies)

Podcast – Cultural differences (Luke’s English Podcast: 381. Discussing cultural differences (with Amber and Paul)

#FlashmobELT  (teachers’ resources bank: activities created by teachers for teachers)

Interesting blog ideas: Cool things that happened today/this week/this month (writing & speaking activity)

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This idea might sound pretty unrealistic for a Serbian public secondary school: motivating teenagers to learn English on their own, without grading them, just helping them to explore the language and see the importance of reflecting on how and what they have learnt! I promise to write about the English club, or some other similar learning adventure in the ensuing months.

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About ljiljana havran

English language teacher (General & Aviation English), passionate about learning and teaching. Curious, adventurous, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

9 responses »

  1. Hi Ljiljana,

    1. Interesting reflections: I particularly like your thoughts on how to provide your students with opportunities to hear and read English.

    2. Where’s your library blog?

    3. Great recording of Brandenburg 1: lovely to look at, round, sumptuous, full of swing, but just a tad fast, don’t you think?

    Reply
    • Hi Geoff,

      Thanks very much for your comments and your kind words.

      I enjoyed writing my post while listening to Bach’s Brandenburg concertos. I liked the recording, too, and I think that the performance is really great. It is a tad fast, but it succeeded in conveying Bach’s ingenious composition and a sense of sheer delight.

      My school library blog is here: https://vabiblioteka.wordpress.com/ I launched it a few years ago in order to motivate my colleagues and students to collaborate and share their thoughts and ideas. It is mostly in Serbian Cyrillic and Latin script, but there are some articles in English, too. I hope you like it. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Looking forward to seeing your TBLT and CLIL reflections. Also, your extensive reading programme sounds great. Where do you get the time?

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment and your support, Marc.

      I’ve written several posts together with my students, and the last one with a few of my colleagues, on my school library blog so far. I am glad you liked my extensive reading programme. When/if I realise my English club idea, I’ll write about my reflections.

      Thanks also for #TBLTChat on Twitter, it is really interesting and useful. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Hi Ljiljana,

    I was just re-reading your podcast post, because I first read it while I was still on Vis and couldn’t follow up on all the links. Thanks for the recommendations and I see there are more in the comments, so thanks to everyone who contributed there too!
    Re your plans for this year – I remember you did a post on how some of your students acted out a scene from Harry Potter. I thought if they enjoyed that, they might like to do a scene or two from the Cursed Child?
    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be up to lots of interesting stuff at the library. Looking forward to reading all about it!

    Reply
    • Hi Vedrana,

      I hope you had a wonderful time on Vis, your photos of the island were stunning, especially that one with a lighthouse. I’m glad you liked the podcast recommendations, and that you found the post useful.

      I didn’t manage to upload the video clip (Hogwarts news) to Youtube, as I promised a month ago on Twitter. My colleague (their English teacher) didn’t think it was a good idea because of the poor sound quality, and because of privacy matters. I was not so happy about that project as the students were not willing to do the reflection part of the lesson. I hope to write reflections on some new CLIL/TBLT project(s) this school year.

      Re my plans for this year, I’m curious to see what the syllabus will look like when I discuss it with my students. I’ll suggest doing a scene from the Cursed Child; I think this is a great idea. Thanks. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hi Ljiljana,
    It sounds like you have lots of interesting plans for the year ahead, and I look forward to reading about them as they pan out. And never let anybody tell you that the job of a teacher-librarian is uninteresting – it sounds fascinating! You might like this cartoon strip for librarians http://www.unshelved.com/ – it makes me laugh as I recognise a lot of the situations from my brief time as a librarian. It was my first job, and my mum is a trained librarian too.
    For time management, you might find this presentation I did at IATEFL useful: https://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/iatefl16/ I find the easiest thing to do with those boring tasks like cataloguing is break it down to ten minutes every day, but it has to be on your to-do list, otherwise it’ll never happen. I had to check all of the books in our school library over the summer so that teachers can put genres and approximate levels on them to guide our students. The only way I could face it was to do a shelf every day, and that way I’d managed it by the end of the summer 🙂
    Good luck with everything!
    Sandy

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy,

      Thanks a lot for your lovely comments and your very helpful tips. I enjoyed your IATEFL presentation about the strategies to organise your time. Your blog posts are always very informative and useful.

      The job of a teacher-librarian really is fascinating. It is almost always lively and dynamic at the library of a secondary school with about 1000 teenage students (and more than 12,000 books). A few days ago a fourth year student asked me to listen to her while practising her presentation on Shakespeare. I helped her with some English names, and we enjoyed talking about the Globe theatre. I explained to her that it was forbidden for a woman to set foot on an Elizabethan stage. However, because of wigs, neck-to-toe dresses and makeup artistry, it was easy for a young male to pass for a female. Then we agreed that it must have been interesting/funny when a male actor, who played Rosalind (an independent minded, good-hearted, and terribly clever heroine) in As you like it, had to play a girl who disguised herself as a young man for the majority of the play…
      Thanks for the library comic strip UNSHELVED, I enjoyed it, too! 🙂

      I’m sure you’re a wonderful Dos to all the teachers at IH Bydgoszcz. Enjoy your time in Poland!

      Ljiljana

      Reply

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