The Wizard of Wikipedia

Often we, as teachers, make lessons about famous people. We focus on celebrities, entrepreneurs, people who inspire us to do better.

Today, I wanted to focus on a person who may not be saving lives or making tools that we rely on, but who has left an impact on many of us without us even knowing it. So let’s focus on a man who has edited over 30% of all the Wikipedia articles that we can find: Steven Pruitt!

Self-portrait by Steven Pruitt. License: CC BY-SA 4.0
Self-portrait by Steven Pruitt. License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Here’s what I’ve done and what you can do with your students:

1) Start the lesson by asking where they find out the latest news and any information that’s interesting for them. Write down their answers on the board. Ask them which of the sources they’ve given they trust the most and why. Then, ask them how this has changed over the years.

2) Give your students the following questions to discuss:

1) Which websites do you visit to read about different things?
2) What kind of random things do you like finding out more about?
3) What do you think about Wikipedia?
4) How often do you read articles on Wikipedia?
5) Do you trust the information you find there?
6) Who do you think contribute information to Wikipedia? Why?

3) After getting feedback from your students, tell them that they’re going to watch an interview with a person who contributes to Wikipedia. But before watching the video, print out these questions for your students to discuss. Ask them to make notes about their partner’s ideas.

1) What kind of people do you think contribute to Wikipedia?
2) What motivates these people to contribute to Wikipedia?
3) What do you think people earn when they add information to Wikipedia?
4) How many articles do you think the top contributor to Wikipedia could have written?
5) How much time in a day do you think people devote to editing Wikipedia?
6) If you’ve met a person who constantly edits Wikipedia, what would you think about this person?

4) Get feedback from your students by asking what they disagreed about and why.

Note: I would suggest cutting out the following parts of the video and my plan follows these edits:
00:00 – 00:31
01:31 – 01:58

04:14 – 04:20
04:29 – 04:42

5) Before playing the video, have your students look at the man pictured on the TV in it (Not the host) and ask them what they think about this person. Then, have them watch Steven’s interview with CBS and ask them to compare their answers to the 6 questions above to what they will hear.

5) After watching the video for the first time, get feedback on what the answers to the questions were and ask your students what surprised them the most about Steven. Ask them if their opinion of Steven has changed after watching his interview.

6) Give your students the 8 questions below to check their understanding of the video. Ask them to complete as many of the questions as they can. Then, have them watch the video for the second time to check their answers.

7) After completing the questions and watching the video twice, ask your students if they’d want to find out more about Steven. Give them the extract below and ask them to find facts which they haven’t seen or heard in the video.

During the workday, Pruitt is part of the records and information governance team at U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C. One thing his team does is help the agency’s offices transfer records to the National Archives. And while he does his Wikipedia work for free on a volunteer basis, Pruitt believes it helped get him the job three years ago.
Alla Pruitt says that her son would spend a lot of time around grownups when he was a child. “For some reason that I still don’t understand, wherever we lived, there were no kids of his age,” she says. “As I keep telling him, we ruined his life because we would always take him to museums and concerts and operas and different countries. Since the age of 1 or so, he’s been traveling all over the world.”
What does his mother think of his Wikipedia work?
“I have to confess, I’m wrong. At first we didn’t want the computer because I knew it’s addictive and time-consuming. Then his teacher said the child needs a computer.”
Steven was in third grade at the time. “I think I was the last kid in my class to get a computer,” he says.
“He did a lot of Photoshops and pictures and silly things. And then he started on Wikipedia. I said, ‘What is Wikipedia?’. My attitude always was, ‘Why do you waste all the time? Why don’t you read a book instead?’ But then, I realized he’s doing something valuable and important.”
Was she surprised when the Time magazine article came out?
“It was kind of unexpected. But it makes me very proud as a parent.”
Despite spending countless hours in front of a computer screen, Pruitt is far from antisocial. His friends describe him as outgoing, likeable and adventurous.

8) After getting answers from your students, ask them to discuss the questions below with their partners:

1) If you could ask Steven any question, what would you ask him and why?
2) Do you think what he is doing is changing the world? How so?
3) Which Wikipedia articles are your most favorite ones? Why?
4) Do you think the people who contribute over a million edits to Wikipedia are crazy?
5) Would you ever consider doing any free volunteer work? Why/Why not?
6) Wikipedia is considered as a bad source for any academic work. What are the reasons for that? Do you think this could change in the future?

9) While they’re discussing the questions. Write down 2 sentences from the article on the board:

Alla Pruitt says that her son would spend a lot of time around grownups when he was a child.
We would always take him to museums and concerts and operas and different countries.

If you don’t have the time to get feedback for each question you’ve given them. Focus on the first one and get ideas from each pair.

10) Tell your students to look at the sentences and ask them which sentence talks about a finished habit and which sentence describes typical past behavior. Ask CCQs about the topic, such as:
Are we talking about the past, present or future?
Does Steven often travel now?

11) Ask your students what they can use instead of would. Check what they know about used to and would by giving them these 3 questions.

12) Check their answers and focus on the fact that changing used to to would when you have a finished state gives the sentence a different meaning. You can give them an example, such as I used to like chocolate and ask them if we can change used to to would and what the second sentence would mean.

13) Give your students these facts about Steven Pruitt and ask them to rewrite these facts using would if it’s possible.

14) After they’re done and you’ve finished checking the answers, ask your students to make 6 sentences true for them about their past habits and typical behavior using used to and would. Ask them to share their sentences with their partners and ask extra questions about each fact. To get feedback from your students, ask them which fact about their partner surprised them the most and why?

15) Give your students a sheet of paper with the following task:
Think of how Wikipedia has changed our lives and our education using used to and would.
Write about how and where we looked for information, which sources we used, how accurate they were.
Do you think these changes are good or bad? Why?

You can ask your students to write an essay on the topic and collect them after the lesson or, alternatively, ask them to make notes to help them talk and then get feedback from each student.

I hope your students will love this lesson!

If you have any ideas on how to make it even better, leave a comment and have a good weekend! 🙂

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Let’s stop confusing these words

Today, let’s take a look at some words my students often confuse.

Affect / Effect

While both words have a similar meaning, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.
Their meaning becomes the same when you add Have an before and on after effect.

Meeting her affected me = Meeting her had an effect on me

Advice / Advise

This is another example of a noun and a verb.

We give people advice, but we advise people to do something.

Bare / Bear

Bare means naked or uncovered.
For example, if I’m walking barefoot, this means I’m not wearing any shoes (and socks)

Bear can be the animal, as well as be used as a verb meaning accept and tolerate unpleasant things and difficulties. (We must bear the responsibility for our choices)

Cereal / Serial

Often, when the topic of movies and TV series comes up, students tend to say that they watch serials, which wouldn’t be wrong if they had given more information. However, all three words have a different meaning

CerealCereal is something we don’t need to cook and usually eat for breakfast.

Let’s look at a few of the meanings of Serial:

1) Part of a series (This book is a serial novel. The whole story is divided into 3 books)
2) Someone who commits a crime more than once. (The police caught a serial killer this week)
3) Something that appears at regular periods of time. (I read serial publications (magazines, newspapers, e.t.c.) to know all the latest trends)

When you want to talk about Prison Break, The Game of Thrones or any other TV programs, it’s better to say TV series.

Complement / Compliment

The first word is often used when talking about food or fashion. For example, you want to tell your friend that the shoes he’s wearing complement his suit or the cheese complements the pasta you’re eating. When you say that, it can sometimes sound like a compliment.

To the person reading this and doing the exercises, you are amazing and you’re doing a great job working on your English! How’s that for a compliment? 🙂

Emigrate / Immigrate

Both words have a very similar meaning, but Emigrate is used to talk about leaving one country and moving to another while immigrate is used to say that you came to live in this country.

My friend wants to emigrate from Ukraine to the USA
(He wants to move to the USA from his own country)
The Vallejo family immigrated to the USA in 2012
(They came to the USA and they’re living there now)

Quiet / Quite

Quiet means that there’s no noise. You can ask people to be quiet if they talk too loudly.
Quite, on the other hand, is used for emphasis and can also mean a little or a lot but not completely

There were quite a lot of people I haven’t seen for years at the party. (I want you to hear that there were a lot of people I forgot all about)
I’m quite tired after our trip. (But not completely tired, I can still walk)

Than / Then

Sometimes people can confuse the two words, but it’s quite simple, actually. Than is used when we want to compare something (He’s older than me) while Then is used for talking about the time or when you talk about what happened or will happen next:

I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll have an answer for you by then.
I’ll ask her if she wants to join us and then we’ll go.

I advise you to practice these words in context by doing a few short exercises below:

I hope this post will have a good effect on you, I hope you got quite a good result and that your second try was better than the first one. 😉

See you next Saturday! 🙂

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Lessful

Today, let’s take a quick look at 2 suffixes: -less and -ful.

We use both suffixes to turn nouns into adjectives and talk about a quality. The difference is that when you use -less, you want to say that something or someone is without this quality and when you use -ful you mean it’s full of this quality.

Homeless guyHe’s homeless – he doesn’t have a home.

Beautiful girl.She’s beautiful – she looks very good.

Some nouns can have both suffixes, while others can use only one or none of them.

Let’s look at some examples:

Noun-less-ful
Beauty Beautiful
CareCarelessCareful
CheerCheerlessCheerful
DoubtDoubtlessDoubtful
HelpHelplessHelpful
PennyPenniless 
RestRestlessRestful
ThoughtThoughtlessThoughtful

Let’s look at these and a few other examples in practice:

I hope this was helpful to you and I’d like to ask you:
When you’re feeling down, what can quickly make you cheerful again?

Let us know in the comments section and see you next Saturday! 🙂

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Let Me Help You Do This

Let’s look at a few verbs that are followed by other verbs in the bare infinitive (withoutto“)

ModalsSensual verbsVerbs with objects
Will, would, can, could, may, might, must, shouldSee, hear, feel, watch, noticeHave, help, let, make

The first group of verbs will always be followed by a bare infinitive regardless of the tense:

I will talk to him tomorrow.
He
must have known this would happen.
He could be working from home right now.

The second group of verbs can be followed by infinitives or gerunds (-ing)
That can sometimes change the meaning:

I heard her talking to the man. (At that exact moment)
I heard her talk about her experience. (e.g. a TED talk by Monica Lewinsky)

When verbs like make, let, have or help are followed by an object (Me, him, her, Mr. Smith) we don’t use to before the verb

I’ll have her send you the e-mail right away!
Let me help you carry those bags!
My best friend helped me move to a better flat.
I’ll make Dan regret making her cry!

The same rule applies for Let’s which is used to make suggestions.

Let’s go to the cinema.
Let’s play that new EA game.

Enough theory, let’s jump from theory to practice 🙂

This week was a tough week for me. I spent the whole weekend moving my website to a new host and then suddenly fell ill.

The people who worked for my new host helped me move all my posts and lessons so it wasn’t too hard.

I’d like to ask you, when was the last time that someone helped you with something?
What did they help you with?

Let us know by leaving a comment and have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

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YOUNGBLOOD

Recently, I was looking for a music video by a band called 5 Seconds of Summer when I stumbled upon a short video with the same name as the song I was looking for. I figured I could use it in my private practice and I would like to share my idea with you.

Here’s what you need to do:

1) Start the lesson by asking your students some simple questions
1. What do you think is the best age to be?
2. What age do you want to live to?
3. What things were you taught by your older family members? How have they been useful to you in your life?
4. Are there many things that the old can teach the young or are they out of touch by the time they reach a certain age?

Ask your students to give reasons for their opinions about age.

2) Ask your students to work in pairs and share a few things they liked before but don’t like now, as well as things they disliked before but now enjoy.
Get feedback by asking if they’ve had any common things that they like or dislike now.
As a conclusion, ask your students if they think that as the years go by, they’ve changed a lot and whether they see these changes as positive or negative ones.

3) To set your students up for the video, you should introduce them to the subtopic of it, which is chess. You can do that by asking them some questions like:
1. Do you like playing chess?
2. How often do you play it?
3. Do you consider yourself good at it?
4. What kind of benefits can playing chess give to people

4) After the discussion, print out pictures of the chess pieces and their names and have students match the names to the pictures. Get feedback from them.

5) To give them extra practice, have them write down the name of the chess piece next to the descriptions about them.

As an extension, you can ask your students which chess piece they like playing with the most and why.

6) Tell your students that they’re going to watch a video about chess and different generations. Pause the video at 0:17 and 3:00 and ask your students what they think is going to happen next. Pause the video at 3:11 and ask your students why they think the man asked Youngblood for money.

7) Once your students have finished watching the video, ask them what they think of both players’ behavior and how they would act if they were in Youngblood’s shoes.

8) Give your students statements based on what they’ve just seen and ask them to correct the ones that are false.

9) Once your students are done with the statements, you can have them discuss the following questions in groups:

1. What does a person’s age tell us?
2. Do you respect the elderly? How do you show your respect?
3. Are people from the older generation always wiser and right in their ways of thinking and choices? Why/Why not?
4. Are young people less polite than they used to be? Why/Why not?
5. Do you ever give advice to people who are younger than you? If so, what advice do you usually give them?
6. Do you think the difference in age allows the older generation to have more authority in their relationships with younger people?
7. Oscar Wilde said, “I’m not young enough to know everything”. What do you think he meant?

Get feedback from your students if you have enough time or, alternatively, ask them which questions they disagreed about and why.

10) After this activity I decided to elicit what students had already known about modals of deduction so I turned on the video again and paused it at specific times to ask them to choose the right verb. Print out the sentences below. Tell your students to watch the video and choose the right answers each time you pause the video. Ask them why they chose their answers.

0:23 – This man could / can’t be an experienced player.
0:32 – Youngblood must / can’t be good at chess.
1:07 – The man should / must have lost his confidence.
1:22 – The man can’t / may not want to admit that he lost.
1:34 – The man must / can’t be serious. That’s not how people play chess!
1:45 – The man can’t / must really hate losing.
2:00 – The man can’t / must know the rules of the game.
2:17 – Youngblood might / must be showing respect for the man.
2:42 – Everybody may / must be sure by now that the man doesn’t know how to play.
3:04 – Youngblood must / might be surprised that the man asked him for money.

11) Write down must, might, could, may and can’t on the board and tell your students that they can use these verbs to make deductions about what’s happening. Ask your students which modal verbs are used to:
• talk about something they believe is true.
• talk about something they think is possible.
• talk about something that they believe is not true.
Ask your students if they can make deductions with can or mustn’t.
Tell your students that when making deductions about states they need to use the modal verb with the bare infinitive, while when making deductions about something that’s happening at the moment they should use the modal verb with the verb “be” and a gerund. Write down the form on the board.

12) Give them a handout of the notes I’ve taken from the video. Ask them to choose which modal verb they’d use and explain why.

13) Give your students the situations below. Ask them to make deductions about the people in them and the reasons why they acted in a particular manner. Ask them to work in groups of 3, discuss the situations and tell their partners how they could make things better.

1) Your colleague listens to music popular in his youth and keeps complaining about the modern music that you listen to.
2) Your father just bought a new computer and you can tell from the specs that he paid too much for it.
3) You want to go to the cinema with your friends to watch a new movie but they ask you why you can’t just download it and watch it from home.
4) Your friend is telling his son to find a government job but his son wants to chase his dreams and make a job out of his hobby.
5) Your grandparents live far away from you. You want them to use an app to have video chats with them but they prefer talking on the phone.
6) You ordered a pizza and it was delivered to you 2 hours later. You left a negative review online and the owner of the pizzeria called you to apologize and sent you a free pizza. You tell your parents about the situation and they’re disappointed in you.

You can give them some examples of how to do the activity, e.g.

He must have special feelings about the music he listens to.
He
might ignore modern music and not even give it a chance.
We
may need to talk about the music we listen to.
We
might like the same songs.

Once your students have gone through all the situations, ask them which deductions they made for each situation and which solution for each situation they thought was the best one in their group and why.
You can have your class vote on the best solutions among all the groups.

And there you have it. A natural way for your students to learn the names of the chess pieces and practice using modal verbs for making deductions.

I hope you’ll find this lesson useful in your practice and feel free to share your ideas on how to make it even better. See you next Saturday! 🙂

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Happy Birthday! Now let’s talk facts.

On February 6, 2018 I started working on this website and made a long list of things that I had to work on. Let’s talk about some of these today.

Backstory

Before I found out about Moodle and H5P, all the lessons I’d made were simple Google Documents. While it worked for my students, I felt like something was missing, something like interactivity, the opportunity for students to go through a lesson once more in their free time to revise what they’ve learned. I started wondering if there was any value in what I offered to my students. With these thoughts in mind, I began researching what could be done to improve what I already had. That’s when I found out about Learning Management Systems and started working on transferring the lessons I had to a system.

It was not an easy start, I spent a whole month adding my existing lessons into the system, often having to adapt, rewrite or scrap some parts of them as the software I was using had its limits (And finding out a way around them was interesting). Not to mention that I had no previous experience in maintaining a website.

All I wanted was to add more value to the students and that was what I hoped I was doing. I lost track of how many times my website would stop working but I was curious to see it through and, one month later, most of my students welcomed the changes so I felt like I was doing the right thing.

Blogging

I originally intended for the blog to give my students extra practice with the things that we’ve covered during our lessons. Think of it as a free gift apart from the time we’ve spent together. That’s when I realized that I should add exercises to my blog so that they could not only read about these things, but also practice them if they wanted to.

I also figured that by making weekly updates that would make me more disciplined and help me develop as a teacher (I’m the kind of person who’s lazy but responsible and that’s a terrible combo for teaching English).

Sharing some of my lesson plans was my way of helping other teachers, as well as getting some useful feedback to improve what I’ve already made.

Videos

In Summer, I decided to experiment and try making videos to attract more attention to the site and the courses. I made a small list of rules my videos should follow in regards to length, content, how I should talk about different things, e.t.c.

Surprisingly, the only video that was able to be somewhat popular was my first video that got 1956 views. Maybe it’s because I tried to push it through different Facebook groups or someone was looking for tips for IELTS and stumbled upon it by chance.

Either way, I spent countless hours shooting and editing each video and I decided to stop doing that for now because I felt it was a better idea to spend these extra hours doing something more useful for my students.

The numbers

Over the year, I can share the following numbers:

Unique visitors: 4761 (I think no more than 2500 of them were human)
Top 10 Countries by visits: Ukraine, Great Britain, Russian Federation, the USA, Poland, France, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, Belarus, Turkey.
Operating systems: Windows (56.2%), Android (35.6%), Linux (6%), Macintosh (1.1%), iOS (0.8%)
Downloads: 294. The Pearl lesson plan proved to be the most popular one, being downloaded 49 times. I hope it was as useful to my colleagues as it was to me! 🙂
Spam: Over the year, I’ve received 110 spam comments and around 12 marketing offers through the form in the Contact Me page.

Questions?

Let me walk you through a few myths and assumptions about online teaching.

Will teaching online make me spend less time on planning lessons?

Yes and no. If you’re planning to work for an online language center, perhaps you’ll get lucky and have all the necessary materials at your disposal. If you really want to create your own course, that’s a whole different thing.

One of the reasons why I opted to use an LMS such as Moodle was the assumption that it would save time on preparing for the lessons and automate testing. I can say that if you’ve already created a lesson and plan to use it for another student then it does save your time, but you need to factor in all the time you spend planning and then adding the lesson into the system in the first place and that can take quite a while. And creating tests requires you to use a special syntaxis for the software to accept and grade answers.

Is it difficult to create new lessons from scratch?

Let me put it this way: it’s not that difficult to create a lesson around a video or an article you found online. But creating a course which is progressive, balanced, dynamic and doesn’t just jump from one topic to another is not as easy as it seems.

Whenever I add a new lesson for my General English course, I consult with The Core Inventory for General English to make sure that I’m not teaching rocket science to a student of a lower level. It’s not always perfect, but the more I get to know the students, the easier it becomes for me to work with them because I listen to them. I know that I share the responsibility for their result so I must give it my best or look for other career options.

I also have to analyze the language or vocabulary an article or video has and think of how I would teach and practice it during the lesson, as well as how it would fit into the tests I make after clearing each topic. What kind of useful language or discussion can the video generate from the students?

That’s why it’s very important for me that the video I use should be engaging and relevant to the students. Another thing I have to think of is how the homework would reflect on what we’ve been doing during the lesson and doing all of that isn’t something one could realistically do in an hour.

Why can’t you just use a textbook, like everybody else does?

Because that’s illegal.

Sure, I can look at the books I’ve used in class for some inspiration, but copy/pasting things is not an option. Not to mention that coursebooks are specifically made to use in classrooms with groups of learners and you can’t just take what’s available and expect it to work with an individual student (or online). The same applies for those cute photocopiables in the book which make use of each and every student in a group. Apart from that, using authentic materials which reflect real-life situations gives your students a really natural exposure to the language. Your students are also free to interpret the materials in whichever way they want. Coursebook authors acknowledge that and tend to mix authentic materials with pseudo-authentic, adapted ones.

What’s better? Authentic materials or coursebooks?

A few years ago I would argue that authentic materials are always better, but now, having more experience making them, I can say that coursebooks offer a structure which any teacher can use and if the teacher lacks experience, a coursebook will offer lots of activities and a sense of security (If I don’t know what to do, I’ll just use the stuff in the book). It was also created by a group of professionals which can be seen in its presentation, the images it offers, as well as in the total package you’re getting (Students Book, Workbook, Teacher’s Book).

Another point why coursebooks might be better is, based on my experience, if you tell your students that you’re using books published by Cambridge English, OUP, Pearson or Macmillan, they’ll tend to take their learning more seriously while talking about a course that you developed from scratch makes a lot of students doubt your professionalism (And no, having ELT certifications is not as convincing as you may think it is). You need to show your students why the lessons developed by one man could be more useful to them than materials that a group of people spent days, months and years developing.

If you’re aiming to develop a complete, organized and effective course that uses authentic materials exclusively then, once you finish making it, you’ll still end up with a… coursebook. Your coursebook. 🙂

Will being self-employed make me earn more money?

Well… Teaching online hasn’t made me rich yet. 🙂

When creating Enska, I didn’t emphasize making money. I wanted to take what I’ve been doing to the next level. If I was aiming to make more money, I wouldn’t have bothered blogging, I wouldn’t change the system that worked for me, I would just take a lot of students and do the same things we’ve done in a regular class. I preferred focusing on the value as the more value you give to your students, the more likely they are to recommend you to their friends and that’s what’s important to me.

For those of you who are interested in teaching English (or any other subject) online, before you set out to create your own website, try to answer these questions:

1. Am I ready to take complete responsibility for all of my actions?

Back when I was working at language centers, I didn’t have to worry much about student attendance, about students complaining or about the curriculum because someone else was doing it for me.
If the students had any concerns, they would voice them to the manager.
If the students were unhappy with how you work, they would talk to the Director of Studies or, in the worst case scenario, to the owner of the school.
If your students suddenly decided to stop studying English, they would leave and the managers would give you a different group.
It wasn’t your responsibility and you were protected from all the negative consequences that such actions could cause.

All of that will change once you start working for yourself and you should be ready for that.

If your students end up leaving, you’ll be the one looking for a new student or group.

I don’t mean to scare you. I personally think that these conditions give teachers the best motivation to work harder for their students but you may or may not share my point of view.

2. Do I understand that teaching online using my course requires a lot of different skills which aren’t necessarily related to ELT.

Do you know what Error 524 or MySQL mean? What would you do if you got an error like:

Fatal error: $CFG->dataroot is not configured properly, directory does not exist or is not accessible! Exiting. 

If you haven’t started looking those up on Google then maybe this is not the perfect job for you. You should expect to run into different errors, issues, bugs, crashes and data loss when you first start working on your site, but your students don’t have to know about this, find a solution so that they wouldn’t have to deal with it. And if you haven’t found one yet, think of an alternative, joke about the imperfections, use them as a way of starting a conversation to show your students that you can work in any conditions.

You also need a range of soft skills to attract students and keep working with them, as well as a basic understanding of how graphics editors work (I use GIMP) to name a few.

3. If I start doing something, do I have what it takes to keep working on it for years?

After spending 6 months on the website, I started thinking that a 9 to 5 job is actually great because when you go home from work, you stop thinking about all the things you need to do and relax. That never applies to your own thing though.

Sometimes I worked on a problem until 2-3 AM because I had a lesson coming up and I didn’t feel prepared for it or the website wasn’t responsive enough. I’m trying to maintain a better work-life balance, but there’s so much more I need to do before I can find some extra time for myself.

It may sound a bit crazy, but this is actually common for many people. Some people I know spent almost a decade working on their business before taking even one short vacation. I think Kevin O’Leary made a good summary of the sacrifices that people can make to become successful.

There are so many questions that need to be answered before making such a big step but I feel that this post is already too long so let’s stop here for now. If you’ve answered no to any of those questions then don’t be disappointed. Perhaps you just need more time or experience to make a big decision. Take your time, analyze your strengths and weaknesses, keep learning because if you teach people then you have to understand that your work is never done and people always learn something new regardless of their jobs.

So there you have it, a (not so) quick look at how teaching online works for me.

If you have any questions that you’d like to ask – feel free to leave a comment.

And I’ll conclude my longest post with a link to the Paradoxical Commandments. I would often read these commandments when I was feeling down or thought about giving up teaching altogether. I hope these commandments will help you as well.

See you next Saturday. 🙂

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All Expressions

Today, let’s take a look at some different words that we use together with the word “all”:

All of

Nowadays, we use all of with object pronouns (me, you, him, her, us, them, it). When we use all with nouns we don’t need to use of.

A pizzaThe pizza looks nice. I want to eat all of it.

All of me loves all of you

All of my friends are coming over today.

All the time

All the time has the same meaning as Always. The difference is where you need to use it in your sentences

Keys left at home.I always forget my keys.
I forget my keys all the time.

At all

We use at all mostly in negative sentences when we want to emphasize some things.

Hungry woman.I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten at all today.

At all times

At all times is a more formal way of saying always. I mostly hear it in instructions, rules or laws.

Airport.Dear passengers, please keep your tickets and your documents with you at all times!

Go all out

to go all out means to do your best to get something.

We’ll go all out to protect our families.

Of all time

Of all time is used with superlatives when we talk about the best, greatest, favourite people or things regardless of their age.

Sean Connery.I think Sean Connery is the best James Bond actor of all time.

Now that we’ve taken a quick look at these expressions, let’s practice them!

I’ve recently traveled to another country by plane. I am no fan of flying, I really get nervous before a flight and I forget something when going through customs all the time. This time, I almost forgot my passport, you can imagine how awkward it was for me. What about you? Let us know in the comments what you forget all the time and see you next week! 🙂

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Sitting on in at?

Today let’s look at an interesting question “Do I sit on a chair or in a chair?”

The answer is not so simple. Actually, it depends on the chair.

An armchair

If the chair you’re sitting on has arms in it (i.e. an armchair), you sit in it.

A chair

When the chair doesn’t have any arms then you sit on it. If you don’t know what chair you have, just use on.

In case someone is sitting where you should sit, you should tell them “Excuse me, but you’re in my seat.

You may be wondering, what about a couch or a sofa? Do we sit in them too?

A sofa

I believe that if what you’re sitting on is made for more than 1 person, then you should say that you’re sitting on it.

We’re sitting on the sofa. Come join us!

What about at? Should we say I’m sitting at the table or on the table?

This depends on the place.

A cat on a table

If you’re on top of the table like the cat in the picture, you should use on, but if you’re sitting on a chair next to the table (Which you most likely are) then you should use at.

Let’s practice using in, on and at with some short exercises. 🙂

I prefer sitting in armchairs. Seems like I made the right decision when I bought an executive office chair because my back would hurt after sitting wrong for hours. What about you? Would you prefer sitting on a chair or an armchair?

Let us know in the comments section and see you next week. Have a nice weekend! 🙂

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Contrasting with linkers

Today let’s look at some linkers that we use to show contrast in our speech and writing.

In spite of / Despite

We usually use these two with nouns or verbs with gerunds.

In spite of the rain, we decided to go to the park.

Despite leaving home early, they were still late for school.

You can use both in spite of and despite in your sentences but you can’t write despite of.

If you want to follow in spite of or despite with a that-clause, you need to add the fact that before your sentence.

Despite the fact that their jokes were funny, they didn’t get any prize for their jokes.

Although / Even Though

We use although and even though to connect two sentences together. They both need a main sentence to work though.

A car being stuck

Although we ran out of gas, we still got to the city thanks to the locals.

If you got rid of the main sentence, it wouldn’t make any sense:

Although we ran out of gas.

In spite of the rain.

Despite leaving home early.

That doesn’t tell us anything at all.

Even though is stronger than although and makes us sound more confident.

I'm gonna beat you up!

He won the boxing match even though he wasn’t fit.

How about we practice these in context? 🙂

Even though 2018 has been a challenging year for me, I remain optimistic and wish all of you to be better, smarter, stronger, more successful and I’d like to ask you:

Even though we can’t go back in time, if you could change one thing that happened last year, what would you change and why?

Let us know in the comments section and have a great weekend!

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The Origin Of Christmas

After a short holiday break, let’s look at this Christmas lesson I’ve had with my teens. 🙂

1) Start your lesson by asking them how they celebrated New Year and Christmas. Ask each student to share a fact about Christmas with the class.

2) Tell your students to take out their phones and download an app called Kahoot! In this app, students need to input a PIN code that the teacher will provide them with and will have to answer a series of questions about Christmas. The first one to answer each question correctly will get more points. You can use the quiz I’ve created or make your own one with the facts you consider interesting for your students. Once your students have answered all the questions, ask them which facts were surprising to them.

3) Tell your students that they’re going to watch a video about the origin of Christmas. Ask them to answer one question: was Christmas always a traditional holiday in the USA?

4) After getting feedback from your class, tell them that they’re going to watch the video once more and they’ll need to find the answer to the following questions in pairs

  1. What kind of activities did the Romans do on their holiday?
  2. What were Norse people celebrating?
  3. What did the families burn in this holiday?
  4. When was Jesus born?
  5. Why did Christians transform pagan holidays into Christmas?
  6. Which traditions did British people have for Christmas?
  7. Which holiday has a similar tradition of going to other people’s houses? Do you think it’s only a coincidence?
  8. What made Christmas popular again in the USA?

5) After getting feedback from your students, have them match the words from the video with their meanings. Elicit examples when you can (e.g. which pagan gods did people believe in before Christianity? Have you ever given money to a beggar? Could you part with your phone for a week? What if you were paid for that?)
You can have your students make up questions using the words in small groups and ask the other groups these questions. Then, you just have to ask your class which answers were the funniest ones they’ve heard.

HarvestWhat people collect from the fields in Autumn.
To ward offTry to keep someone or something away from you.
Mardi GrasThe last day of a Christian carnival when you can eat and drink anything.
BeggarA person who asks people for money.
To part withTo give up or let go of something.
PaganPeople who believe in gods other than the ones we believe in.
OriginThe beginning of something.
Civil compromiseMaking an agreement between people.

6. When they’re done, give them 6 questions to discuss in pairs. Ask them what they have in common with their partners and make notes of any errors if you’d like to do an error correction at the end of the lesson.

  1. Do you agree that people should celebrate Christmas the way they want to? Why?
  2. Do you celebrate Christmas? Do you have any special traditions that you follow?
  3. What do you think is the best thing about Christmas?
  4. Are there any Christmas traditions that are specific to Ukrainians?
  5. Do you get any presents at Christmas? What was the best present you’ve ever received in this holiday?
  6. Do you like Christmas songs? Which Christmas song do you find the most annoying?

7. As a final activity, I’ve held a debate. I wrote Christmas is too commercial on the board and asked the students to work in 2 teams: for and against this statement. You can give your students 5 minutes to brainstorm their arguments, give their opinion what the real value of Christmas is and ask the fast finishers to think of what the other team might say and what their counter-arguments could be.

It’s very important for a debate to be organized so when both teams are ready, tell them that they will have 3 minutes to present their arguments and the other team must not interrupt their speech. Instead, they should make notes about the arguments given and think of how they would counter them.

The next thing they should do is have an open debate where each team goes through the arguments given by the other teams while the other team defends their ideas.

Finally, ask each team to give a closing statement where they should note which arguments from the other team they agree with and if they changed their minds about Christmas.

8. As homework, ask your students to find 1 fact about how people celebrate Christmas in their country and prepare a short written report about it for the next lesson. You can then compile all the reports given, correct the students’ errors and print a newspaper with all their articles as a gift for them.

And there you have it! A fun way to find out more about the holiday and get your students talking.

On a side note, which Christmas tradition do you stick to with your family?

Let us know in the comments section and see you next week! 🙂

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