A new year, a new beginning ... a new post.

I tried to decide on 'the one' topic, and yet, as it happens, interconnected thoughts kept coming to me ... I do wonder why.

So ... main aim here is to share my hands-on experience (mind you, I started as a EFL/ESL teacher on 13 January 1988) Many winters have surely gone by, but the excitement to face learners in a classroom remains. This turns into reflection (I've got two diaries) which becomes needed foundation and lessons for a teaching book I am currently writing for English teachers: to be more specific, in terms of the British Council CPD framework for teachers of English: Stages 1 and 2.

Let's start with one activity I am very keen on and that works more than well ... Getting to properly know your learners interests on the very first lesson might be your very best ally in time with immediate effect.

The easiest ice-breaker you can think of (depending on learners' level of course), for instance, a classic 'FSW': your learners write down their findings and you receive much needed information about their likes and dislikes plus expectations for the course ahead that is vital information for you, dear teacher.

In this way your examples shall be relevant to your audience. Be a good listener. And that is what I have been doing during the last year: listening to my target audience and as a result I have been focusing on ELT Research, Consultancy and Coaching ... Have loved every minute of it indeed. I have found it fulfils me in a way I was not able to predict. I am reading as much as I can and sharing my findings, I believe that is what matters the most ... "the giving back bit". So I feel very eager to continue following this path.

The most recent research I have done was with B1/B2 teens, during 8 sessions, including interviews, focus groups and surveys as we were working on a successful special project about WW1 for the '1918' organization. So, this was a unique opportunity to "compare ideas", to listen to what they wished to say in a semi-controlled environment, and the results showed they mainly are looking for an enjoyable learning experience with a facilitator that may connect with them, being friendly.

What works then?

1) Apps, music and games seem to be a must-have in class. (And they work just fine)

2) Active participation is essential to them: group work, dynamics and CLIL projects as well.

3) Interesting topics that are relevant to your specific group and they ask to be taught things 'about real life'

4) An interesting topic was raised: how to correct errors/mistakes ie on the spot? gentle correction on the board as a group? One to one? Actually it is going to depend on your lesson objective, but always remember dear reader ... you are working with teens.

5) Last but not least, to acknowledge that "we are all learners somehow", teaching teens is not only good fun, extremely rewarding but a learning experience as well, ie. Listen to what they need to say to you, their opinions certainly matter dear reader.

A final reflection, looking back and forward seems to be the way to go ... and blogging has definitely proved it works perfectly for me. Here I am saying, yes, give it a try. It does help you become a better professional so as CPD ... There is no excuse and I am going for a quote I love. Paraphrasing Plato (from The Republic)

“You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken....Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up? We cannot....Anything received into the mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts....”

This is Patty Alarco-Vizcarra signing off for now, wishing to hear & read from you and your ELT experiences.

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