These are a few of my favourite things (2022)

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to my first post of 2023! Wrapping up and reflecting on the past year is a thing, so I can’t stay behind. I’d like to kick off this year by looking at some of the people and things that made my life easier and pushed me forward. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them.

As I’m looking at my last year’s post,¬†These are a few of my favourite things (2021), I can’t help but smile at how much has changed over the last 12 months. I closed 2021 with 2,301 visitors and 6,673 views in total. In 2022, I had 19,189 and 45,060 views! How crazy is that?! I can’t imagine what this year is going to look like.

JoannaESL stats

I think that this year I would like to focus on my small achievements first and share with you some of my most viewed posts. My top three posts were:

I must admit that changing the layout of the website and making it easier for everyone to access any of my older lesson plans has increased the views. Who would have thought?ūü§ĮAt the moment, all my lesson plans are available based on levels. In the future, I’m planning to divide them based on topics.

I’m a big fan of maps, so here is the view of all the countries I reached in the last 365 days. The top countries are Spain (10,684 views), Italy (3,680 views) and Vietnam (1988 views).

I think it is important to mention everyone who featured my blog posts this year. It’s always so exciting to see that people enjoy my lesson plans and share them with their followers. Thank you, everyone! I hope that I didn’t miss anyone!

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Books for teachers

This year, the book that I looked at the most was English Grammar in Use 5th Edition by Raymond Murphy (Cambridge University Press). It helped me prepare much better and more in-depth explanations. It also provided me with many engaging and comprehensive tasks that I implemented in class and also often assigned as extra homework. It has never failed, and many of my students appreciated this extra work as it made them feel a bit more confident with the structure and use of English.

Coursebook

I used to focus primarily on Cambridge exam preparation. I still do it occasionally, but now most of my students look for conversational and general English classes. For this reason, I was looking for a perfect general English coursebook. I love all¬†English File 4th edition¬†books, but to keep myself sane, I decided to use some other coursebooks. Since last year I loved all the coursebooks published by Oxford University Press, I had a go at their¬†Headway 5th edition. It’s got a bit different approach to grammar, but the reading and listening materials are topical and interesting, which makes for a great learning experience.

Teacher influencer

I wouldn’t have made it this far without Martin Sketchley (@ELTExperiences). I had been following Martin for quite some time before I really started paying attention to his incredible content. In February of last year, I was preparing for my first Preply trial lesson and his video¬†A Real Preply Trial Class / 55 minutes / Unedited Lesson on Preply¬†was exactly what I needed. It’s needless to say that he saved me a lot of time. Even though my Preply trial lesson style has changed, I still use his class as a scaffold.

Martin has quickly become one of the online teachers who I follow religiously now. His walk-and-talk series was one of my favourites this year. He was also the person who gave me a space to talk about my online teaching experience. It was a nerve-racking experience as it was the first time for me to speak online, but he put so much effort into making this video as informational and enjoyable as possible.

Another teacher influencer who put me on an online EFL map is Miguel Míguez (@onthesamepagelt). Whenever I need to find some good lesson plans, I end up on his website On the same page. His website is an endless source of classroom ideas. I think Miguel is best known for his Facebook page, though. I believe so far, two of my blog posts were on his radar and got promoted on his page. Thanks to him, many people found out about my blog and became regulars.

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Teachers on WordPress

It’s almost impossible to find one or two EFL teachers who blew my mind this year. Everyone is great and unique. Unfortunately, due to my schedule, I tend to miss a blog post or two every now and then. If I have to pick from the posts that I saw this year, there is a certain post that comes to my mind.

Pete from ELT Planning (@eltplanning) posted Where do my materials writing opportunities come from? in which he talked about, you guessed it, his writing opportunities! I read it and started dreaming that maybe one day, I will reach the same level and receive some opportunities to write a short lesson plan. Besides this post, there are many other posts and lesson plans, so click and check it out for yourselves.

Another person who never ceases to amaze me is Svetlana (@ELT_CATION) from¬†ELT-cation. I always look for new activities to use in my classroom. That’s why when I saw her¬†12 5-minute vocabulary revision activities, I knew she would be on my list. I used this post to implement quick vocabulary revisions at the beginning of my lessons. However, she’s more known for teaching tutors how to create their courses and build their websites. If you are at the beginning of your online teaching/presence journey, give her a follow -you won’t regret it.

Tools

Ever since I joined an online teaching platform, I ditched a¬†Microsoft Calendar¬†and switched to a¬†Google Calendar, as it is just easier to use. It synchronizes to all my accounts and books any open spots for me. I have a widget calendar on my phone, so I can quickly check my next class, and so far I haven’t missed even one lesson, so I guess it’s been my little success this year.

I also moved away from my Instagram account and focused on¬†Twitter. I find it a much better tool to socialise with EFL teachers all over the world. Unfortunately, despite a good following on Instagram, I felt like I was interacting with bots. The number of followers didn’t reflect under my posts. This was quite discouraging and ultimately lead to my account being permanently closed.

In February, I also started teaching on an online platform called¬†Preply¬†and quickly got students over there. Despite its flaws, I wouldn’t have made it this far without it. It gave me a chance to become a group tutor, which I talked about in¬†Group lessons on Preply. The format of teaching has changed, but I remained the group tutor in a new format. I think that one of my resolutions for this year is to put a bit more energy and effort into creating group courses, as it also brings me a lot of content to the blog.

Here are my stats and favourite things about 2022. This year has been revolutionary for me and showed me that if I put my mind to something, anything is possible. I think I should keep the ball rolling, and aim for four blog posts a month (I’m sure I will regret those words later!). Thank you for another year with me, and let’s see what will happen in 2023!

Happy New Year and hope to see you around!

2022 – The year of the Tiger

I’m not one to obsess over zodiac signs and how accurately they can define our personalities. However, I enjoy reading my horoscope from time to time and seeing how accurate it is. I think that everyone is quite familiar with the Western zodiac, and believe it or not, zodiac signs tend to come up in conversations every now and then! What about the Chinese zodiac, though? The Chinese New Year is approaching, so why not take this opportunity and learn something about this beautiful culture?

Last year I had a chance to prepare a class on the Chinese New Year – the year of the Ox. In that A2+ class, we watched a TED-Ed video The myth behind the Chinese zodiac, learnt the origin of the zodiac signs and based on our personality traits, we tried to predict which sign best suits us. The class was a success! It brought a lot of laughter as we found out what animal best defines each one of us. We also referred to each other by the animal until the end of the class!

You can download the lesson plan, the presentation and the worksheet at the end of the post!

Start the class by writing – Happy New Year! Since it’s already late January / early February, your students will be confused and have questions about it. Say that you know of celebrations happening on the 31st December and the year starting on the 1st January. You can talk about different celebratory traditions that you have in your country and how your students celebrated this year. Proceed by saying that the new year is celebrated differently in other parts of the world. If your students haven’t guessed that you’re referring to the Chinese New Year, you may give some clues. Write that the Chinese New Year is celebrated in February. Write _____ February 2022 and elicit the correct date (answer: 1st February 2022).

Ask about students’ dates of birth and elicit their Western zodiacs. Say that in the Asian culture, the zodiacs are a bit different. Show pictures of the Chinese zodiac (out of order) and ask to write the English names of the animals. Check the answers. Say that, unlike in the Western culture, the zodiac signs change once a year. This year we are celebrating The year of the ______. Students guess the animal (answer: Tiger).

Zodiac signs appear in a specific order that was decided based on the race. Put students into pairs/small groups and ask them to predict the order in which the animals came in. Check the answers and ask to justify their orders. Watch the video The myth behind the Chinese zodiac (0:00 – 2:15) and see if their predictions were correct (answer: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig).

Before watching the video again, this time in its entirety, go over the multiple-choice questions from the TED-Ed website – The myth behind the Chinese zodiac by Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen. Explain any new words if necessary. Students watch the video and answer the questions. Check and explain the answers.

Look at the animals one more time and ask students to think about the personality traits that come to mind. Do students believe zodiac signs define our personalities? Show vocabulary describing character traits and ask students to choose two that best describe them. Reveal the signs associated with each trait. Check students dates of birth and together discover their Chinese zodiac. Look at the personality traits one more time, this time looking at the ones associated with their zodiacs. Do they agree with these descriptions? Why (not)?

Finish the class by doing the craft. Students draw their Chinese zodiac and write a maximum of five sentences talking about their actual personality traits with explanations.

Happy New Year! I hope that your students will enjoy this class as much as mine did!

Your year in preview

Let’s forget about the past and start looking into the future! In my time teaching, I’ve taught the New Year’s resolutions class one too many times! That’s why I decided to switch it up just a notch. This year I dove into 2022 predictions about the world. I mean, the world is so unstable right now that it’s so interesting seeing what your students think may happen in 2022.

My last post was a short B1 lesson plan on happiness vs months fluctuation – Your year in review. This post is about the world predictions for 2022. Due to the difficult nature of this topic, this class is designed for older C1+ students.

Since most of my classes are done online, I decided to prepare lessons in this format. At the end of the blog post, you can download the lesson plan, the presentation (with the answers) and the jigsaw reading (divided into Student A, Student B, Student C and Student D).

In a true ESL teacher fashion, I scoured the internet to find the perfect and, of course, reputable article on 2022 predictions. That’s when I found The ideas and arguments that will define the next 12 months by the Washington Post. What drew my attention was that the article is divided into a bunch of shorter extracts, each centred around a different topic. Out of so many of them, I picked out four:

  • Climate change will keep getting worse. Our response won’t cut it.
  • The art world will learn to love the blockchain.
  • Fancy restaurants and casual chains will thrive. The places in between won’t.
  • The economy will see uncomfortable – but not crisis-level – inflation.

I decided to go with those because they had one thing in common – a title in Future Simple. I don’t think it’s necessary to revise Future Simple with a group of advanced students, but there are times when it may be useful to briefly go over the tense for uncertain future and predictions.

The class starts by discussing our 2021 predictions (personal or global) and checking if they came true. Since the lesson deals with rather impersonal topics, I wanted to allow the students to talk about themselves first. It’s also a good way of checking their mental state at the end of this tough year and whether they think that 2022 will be better (or worse!) in any way.

After the initial discussion, look at the four pictures associated with the four reading topics and predict their themes or headlines! Once you finish this part, show the actual headlines and quickly match them with the pictures. If you notice that students had some problems using Future Simple in the initial discussion, now would be a good time to analyse the titles and go over the uses and structure of this tense. However, since it is a class for advanced learners, this most likely will be optional.

That is when the fun starts! The texts are quite complex, long and with many complicated words that it is essential to divide the students into smaller groups or pairs. In this way, students can read texts together, analyse any vocabulary and answer eight questions. Don’t forget to mention that all students need to write their short answers as they will be needed in the next part! Mix the students, so that Students A are with Students B, and Students C are with Students D. Students use their notes to tell each other about their texts. Make sure that they don’t just read the answers and actually try to tell a story.

Here’s the twist. It has always bothered me that learners want to do their tasks as quickly as possible and then get into hibernation mode (= look at each other and stop listening). That’s why once everyone is done telling each other about their texts, put them one more time in their original pairs. Give each pair a set of questions about the texts they were just told about and ask them to answer them from memory! I guarantee that students will feel immediately awake, but will have fun by inventing the answers.

The last part of this reading and listening task is to retell other students the story they were told about by going over the answers. The students who originally read the predictions, correct any misunderstandings and errors. Finish with a general discussion on said topics and elicit their opinions. Do they agree or disagree with the headlines? What will happen in 2022? Do they have any predictions for their countries?

As always, click the links below to download the files!