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Teaching Tips 57

Healthy Teaching
European Day of Languages

Healthy Teaching

Happy teacher

stress noun [C or U]
great worry caused by a difficult situation, or something which causes this condition:
People under a lot of stress may experience headaches, minor pains and sleeping difficulties.
Yoga is a very effective technique for combating stress.
the stresses and strains of the job
stress-related illness

stressed (out) adjective [after verb]
worried and anxious:
She's been feeling very stressed since she started her new job.
I was really stressed out before the exam.

(From the Cambridge Advanced Learners' Dictionary)

Next week, on the 10th October, World Mental Health Day is celebrated & to acknowledge this, on a very different level, here is a brief look at combating stress. Teachers have some unique challenges to deal with & often find themselves under great stress. Usually these stressful situations are resolved but when they are not, stress becomes a serious danger. Here are a few reasons why we might sometimes find it difficult to cope:

- class sizes
- unruly younger learners
- difficult individual students & groups
- difficult timetable
- insufficient financial reward
- excessive number of teaching hours
- job insecurity
- no sense of control over own job - no participation in decision-making
- conflict with management
- conflict amongst staff
- below standard working conditions
- lack of experience
- a class observation by a supervisor
- lack of resources
- insufficient knowledge on how to use technology
- insufficient training for a particular teaching environment

People react to stress differently, some people being better than others at dealing with it. Here are some straightforward primary actions to take:

• Talk, talk & talk more with colleagues & supervisors.

• Prepare - timetable lessons well in advance so that on day all you have to do is think through the lesson & get your materials together.

• Prioritise what you have to do each day, take one thing at a time, you can't do everything.

• Recognise the successes in your classes & give yourself a pat on the back, & tell colleagues about them, the students & the things you do with them.

• Develop - each day do something new or differently & in the longer-term take teacher development courses.

• Forget the classroom when you go home, do completely different things.

• Eat healthily & do regular exercise.

A thread has been set up at the Teaching Forum:

There is a lot more to dealing with stress than this so do get along to the Forums & let us know how you deal with the stresses of a teaching life.

World Mental Health Day
'The theme for World Mental Health Day 2003, the World Federation for Mental Health’s global mental health education project, will focus worldwide attention and concern on the identification, treatment, and prevention of emotional and behavioural disorders in children and adolescents.' There is a very complete pdf download at the site.

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In our teaching it is sometimes the case that we can be our own worst enemy by getting in the way of the students in the classroom. For example, while they are doing an oral fluency activity, we go up close to listen & correct. When they have finished copying down a language point, we get on to the practice activity. Just a couple of activities that have alternatives that might provide more 'space' for the students. Here are some different kinds of space that you can provide in the classroom.

1. Space to move around & feel comfortable - try to make the learning environment as comfortable as possible. Get rid of all the books & things you don't need from the desks. If you can move the desks, try out different organisations with different activities - vary it. Encourage the students to move to different parts of the room, or even outside the room, when they are doing a lengthy activity such as a reading task. Plan into the lesson an activity which requires the students to stand up, move about & mingle - a break in itself.

2. Space to think - give the students time to respond when you ask a question. See the Tip on 'Wait time'. If they are completing a task sheet, give them sufficient time to think things through.

3. Space to work at their own pace - within a group it can be frustrating for slower writers or weaker students to keep up with the others in the group. Slow the pace of the class & take everyone along with you together.

4. Space to reflect - give the students time to sit & reflect on the language you have just presented. Give them two minutes to look at their notes. At the end of a skills activity, let the students reflect on how they carried out the activity & the language of skills they used, sharing their ideas with each other.

5. Space to be themselves - if they have had a bad day then allow them to get it off their chests. Try not to call on students who have just arrived late to class - let them take their time to sink into the class.

6. Space to follow up interests - be flexible with your plan & allow students to take you off on tangents. Now & again this is a good thing & can provide welcome changes of scenery.

7. Space to express themselves - let them talk about the topic of the text you have just been looking at. Let them say what they want to say without constantly correcting them - there's a time & a place for correction.

By no means an exhaustive list but a few areas to think about.

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European Day of Languages
26th September
European Day of Languages logo
Celebrating linguistic diversity, plurilingualism, lifelong language learning

The European Day of Languages is celebrated this week on the 26th September. The Council of Europe designates this day to 'celebrating linguistic diversity, plurilingualism, lifelong language learning' - too good an opportunity to miss. If you are not in Europe there's no reason why you shouldn't adopt the day & carry out some of the activities below.

Here are some ideas to use on the Day or in lessons leading up to the Day:

There are two texts below taken from the Day of Languages web site . The first shorter text is a general introduction to the Day & could be simply read out or used as the basis of a running dictation or a dictogloss/high speed dictation

The second text is a question & answer matching task which takes the students further into the Day's celebrations. Use as it stands, cut up the parts & give one to each student to find their partner, predict the questions from the answers before matching, predict the answers from the questions before matching, give out a chart & in groups of seven each has an answer & a chart with the questions & they mingle & get a summary of each answer which they write in their charts etc...

One of the resources offered on the site is a guide on how to learn languages. It is a pdf download in several European languages & basically looks at how to become a successful learner. Why not give this out to your students as part of the Day?

There is another quite long text about the celebration of linguistic diversity . You might choose to use parts of this for a further reading & discussion.

For the younger learner, posters about the day or the same words in a variety of languages offer ways of playing around with the day & the different languages.

If you have a multilingual class, get them to teach each other something in their native languages. An ideal way of celebrating the Day.

A discussion on linguistic variety could begin with the paragraph from the variety article on the site; 'Our planet has over six billion people who speak between 6000 and 7000 different languages. A few languages are spoken by hundreds of millions of speakers, such as English or Chinese, but most are spoken by only a few thousand, or just a handful of speakers. In fact, 96% of the world's languages are spoken by just 4% of the people.' This could lead on to discussion points about the dominance of English, the need to keep alive the lesser spoken languages etc...

Material taken from the Council of Europe's European Day of Languages web site.

Text used to introduce the theme - through, for example, a running dictation or a dictogloss activity.

Languages for life

The European Year of Languages involves millions of people across 45 countries in activities to celebrate linguistic diversity and the benefits of being able to speak another language.
Many people young and old are encouraged to take up a language, or take special pride in their existing language skills.
Those responsible for providing access to language learning are encouraged to make it easier for people to learn a range of languages, and to support policy initiatives to promote languages.
The Council of Europe has declared 26 September an annual European Day of Languages.

The text for the matching task

The European Day of Languages: frequently asked questions - match up the questions & the answers.
The questions:
1. How can we celebrate `lifelong language learning'?
2. Why do we need a European Day of Languages?
3. What are the aims of the European Day of Languages?
4. How can we celebrate the European Day of Languages?
5. Who is responsible for organising the European Day of Languages?

6. Will the Day have its own logo?

7. What support is available?
The answers:
a. It has been recommended that the Day should be celebrated in a decentralised and flexible way. There are no organisational guidelines at international level, though there are national "relays" / contact persons in most countries. The details of the "relays" are available on the website.
b. To alert the public to the importance of language learning
To increase awareness and appreciation of ALL the languages spoken in Europe
To encourage lifelong language learning
c. The Council of Europe web site offers examples, suggestions and a data base to which you can add your events. A poster was produced and made available in electronic form to national authorities and possible partners for adaptation to national, regional or local needs downloadable from this website. Support at national level will vary according to the priorities and resources of each country but financial support will no longer be available in 2003.
d. While many people agree that everyone should be able to speak another language, in many countries only about half can do so.
There have never been more opportunities to work or study in a different European country - but lack of language competence prevents many people from taking advantage of them.
Globalisation and patterns of business ownership mean that citizens increasingly need foreign language skills to work effectively within their own countries.
Europe is rich in languages - there are over 200 European languages and many more spoken by citizens whose family origin is from other continents. This is an important resource to be recognised, used and cherished.
Language learning brings benefits to young and old - you are never too old to learn a language and to enjoy the opportunities it opens up.
Learning other peoples' languages is a way of helping us to understand each other better and overcome our cultural differences.
e. The logo for the Day is the same as that used for the European Year of Languages. It can be obtained from the address below and is downloadable from the website. Organisers of events can use the image alone, or add the words `European Day of Languages', as they wish, provided the objectives are in keeping with those of the Day.
f. Lifelong language learning means language learning at all stages of life both within and outside of the education system. We can always improve our skills or take up a new language.
g. It could be celebrated in schools, in workplaces or in any public place, with activities involving old and young; this can involve ALL languages, whether learnt in childhood or taken up at a later age.

The answers:

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