Get your students writing: Tips and ideas

If you neeed some tips, it’s a wonderful source ::) I hope you like it.


Get your students writing: Tips and ideas.


L1 use in English classes

I don’t know why but English teachers in state schools feel like they need to use Turkish in their classes instead of lecturing in English. However, English classes are their only chance to exposure to use of English, if they are not interested in movies, games, books, English. By lecturing in Turkish, they take their only chance of getting meaningful input in the target language. It’s language, not a math class, so you can’t teach it in the same way you teach formulas. It needs to be heard, spoken, written and read by the students.

AsPW-english-speaking-zone I am observing in a state middle school, the case is the same. The teacher is using Grammar Translation Method all the time. There is almost no usage of English except tasks, especially reading passages, on their course books. Teacher is speaking Turkish all the time. Sometimes she greets the class in English or translates and paraphrase students’ utterances. I can say that the percentage of using L1 in the class is 97%. Even classroom routines are in Turkish. She asks students that ” justla already arasındaki fark neydi çocuklar? açın kitaplarınızı, hangi alıştırmayı yapıyorduk?”, etc are some of the examples.

Since they are going to have an exam on Friday, the teacher tried to do some exercise related to exam. The topic was the usage of present perfect tense, but almost none of the students were able to form a meaningful and grammatical sentence. They have difficulty in finding the appropriate word for appropriate pronoun. They also confused about the word order in a sentence. If their teacher used English in the classroom, they would be familiar with the structure. They could get used to hearing those utterances, which would help them construct meaningful and grammatically correct sentences without thinking so much.

I think she supposes that if she spoke English the class wouldn’t understand her, so the students could be lost during lecture. There is a saying “you’ll never know, if you never even try”. How is she so sure that they don’t understand? When I was doing my practice last semester in a state high school, the teacher was also using GTM all the time. Even in exams she was asking for sentence translation. Since we were obliged to speak English during our lectures, we were worried that the class wouldn’t understand a word what we were saying. However, we tried. The result was amazing. Let alone understanding English, they even formed such complicated advanced sentenced that we were shocked. They watch American TV dramas and listen to English and American singers. They all use social media and most of them have been to abroad at least once. They were exposed to a lot of input. They were just waiting for to be explored. They just need a sparkle to turn it on and the rest will come by itself. In my case I think when I use English in the lectures they will enjoy it. They could be younger, but they are Gen Y. Come on! It’s the Milennials. They play video games, listen to American singers. They use technology and social media more efficient than any of us. Since the virtual world is full of English stuff, they can’t be so empty. I believe that they have the potential waiting for to be triggered. All you need to do is to start.

If I were the teacher of that class I would definitely be nicer towards the students. Sometimes she has been very harsh to them. Anyway, it’s not the question. When it comes to using L1, I would follow a different route. From the very moment that I met them, I would start speaking in English. As I am an English teacher, I should speak English to make the students feel like that they also need to speak English in order to communicate with me. I remember my Russian course. The teacher spoke Russian all the time that we thought she is Russian, too. Even though we don’t know a single word of Russian, she used it in class, which helped us learn some basic instructions unconsciously. I would follow the same strategy. Maybe I can offer them L1 hour, but even in that case I would speak in English.

After all, my stand is “doesn’t matter whenever, L2 forever.”

Back in School


As it was my first experience in a secondary school, I was so excited about meeting my new students and school environment.  I felt valued when I enter teachers’ room. Actually, the thing is that practice teaching students were not allowed to share the same room with the teacher in my previous practice school. We had to mingle with students, which made hard to introduce yourself as a teacher rather than a senior student in a university. After meeting with my mentor teacher, we entered the class together. I was expecting more, as my mentor was a young nice woman. Unfortunately, I was painfully wrong. The attitudes of the teacher towards the students weren’t nice at all. She was rude and cruel to them. I think she was just thinking that it’s the only way to be able to control such a crowded and dynamic class. Anyway, I tried to ease myself by thinking that there might be a strong argument behind this attitude. I introduced myself and started observing the class.

Since it was assigned beforehand, I focused on figurative classroom language used during two observed classes. She was using the expressions to take attendance, control and discipline, deal with students and the problems, start and/or class, etc. Her main emphasis was on controlling the class so that the lesson would continue in a disciplined way.  She was so strict that no one in the class, including me, was comfortable in the class. The lesson was like “terror in the air”. Students were not allowed to do anything without permission. The teacher was the only authority in the class. If you want to observe a class where interaction and student centeredness are almost none, I can recommend you to go that very class. She used expressions like “nerde kalmıştık”, “açın kitabınızı sayfa 72″,”şimdi Sindirella’yı okuyoruz”, etc. I don’t know whether she did it on purpose or not but she used almost no praising after student responses. Those kinds of praises are important to courage students to participate and learn more. However, she did the opposite. For example, after a student read his piece of writing, she said ” olmuş mu sence? “, ” senden daha iyisini beklerdim”, ” çocuklar ne olmuş sizin hayal gücünüze”, ” o nasıl bir telaffuz yaaa”, etc. As far as I observed students’ responses after these words, they felt bad. They rarely attempted to participate again. If she had given more positive and constructive feedback, the students would have felt eager to take part in classroom activities. If I were in the mentor’s shoes, I would be more careful when choosing my words. I would use a neutral language targeting no one in the class. I could use expressions that the students may need to use in their daily life and learn the classroom language easily. In order not to criticize her completely in a negative way, I want to talk about her good behaviors as a teacher. She asked the students at back rows whether they could see the board clearly. Later she made the students having problem with seeing sit in the front. She warned the students to listen their friends: ” çocuklar listen please, dinler misiniz arkadaşınızı?” I would do the same things in her situation. However, for the bad examples, I would use milder and more appropriate versions of them. For example, instead of saying “olmuş mu sence? Senden daha iyisini beklerdim.”, I would say” it’s ok, but we can work on it more.” Rather than saying ” sen okuma yaa, sen okuyunca hepsini düzeltmek zorunda kalıyorum.”, I would offer ” what about reading after some of your friends read it .I think I am good enough to use FCL. However, it requires experience and a bit practice, so I am not so efficient. I believe that by setting classroom rules and routines and using daily expressions that students need to use in class activities, I can improve myself in my own class. Besides, I am aware of how and when to use those sentences. That’s why we have a course like practice teaching and observing the classes of some experienced teachers by combining our previous knowledge that we obtained from our own classes.

This week was a little bit challenging for me in terms of getting know the school environment and student profile. I hope upcoming weeks will be better than this.

Hidden Curriculum


Before I read some articles, I thought hidden curriculum is something always bad. It was like 25th frame of the education. However, when I went into detail, I realize that it can be something good, as well.  I don’t know why, but for me if a course book doesn’t have any colored person in its visuals that means it gives a hidden message by putting only white people there. That was all my knowledge about hidden curriculum, which is sending subliminal messages through instructional materials. After reading all those articles, I figured out that hidden curriculum is like manners and customs.  Everybody knows them, even though they are not written anywhere. The society teaches them naturally. The difference is the school does it intentionally. As the article says through hidden curriculum, schools teach students some values and norms and expose students to the ruling ideology implicitly.  As İnal examples Turkish education system’s rituals such as getting into lines in the school garden to go into the school building and the seating arrangements in rows in classrooms simulate the military hierarchy in the education system (İnal, 2004). Students having to stand up when the teacher comes in and boys buttoning their jackets in front of teachers and school principals are examples of the hierarchical relationships being imposed on students (İnal, 2004) till now it’s okay, but İnal argues that the hidden curriculum vary depending on the type of the school. For example, in a state school students are imposed to be obedient labors in the society while private school students are taught to be competitive, knowledgeable, active, and versatile. Here comes the injustice again. While I think that imported materials may mislead our students by sending intentionally wrong messages, our system uses it as a means of reproduction of stratification. When the hidden curriculum of two different schools is compared, it can be claimed that the administrators chose a political view or an idea to make students internalize it. I can still say that they impose some social norms consciously and the students accept them unconsciously and it’s also something subliminal. As you see, we are where we have started. To be honest, after having known all of these it can be interpreted that depending on the user hidden curriculum is something either good or bad.  It’s good because it helps maintain the present social order, prevent unwanted social chaos etc. It’s bad if it reproduces social stratification in the society. It steals the right of being in higher positions of lower class students.

Teaching Gen Y


Net Gen,  the Millennials, tech natives or something else… It doesn’t matter how you name it, but there is a reality that they are very different from any other generations. To be honest, as I read the characteristics of generation Y in the article, I realized that I am also a member of Gen Y. I have always thought that me and my students are from different generations. Thanks God, I am not that old. However, I still believe that there are also differences between Gen Yers. For example, according to the dates in the article, I am also a gen Y, but our students and me behave differently. As if we were from different planets. They behave as if they couldn’t live a second without technology, But I can survive for a couple of days 🙂 In addition to this, I don’t agree with what the article claims. I like reading a lot. I can read anything, including explanations on the care products like creams, toothpaste and perfumes. I don’t think that gen Y doesn’t read. They read, but in a different way. They prefer online books on smart phones, PCs and tablet PCs. As Prensky referred they are “digital natives or people born into technology” (2001). They just don’t use books the way we define them.

I agree that “Sage on the stage” motto is dead for those students, I mean Gen Y. However, as long as traditional teachers adapt themselves according to their current needs by following the technology; keeping up with technological developments, they can be still efficient teachers. Our mentor teacher is trying to use as many technological devices as she can. Nevertheless, she feels as if she had to catch up with other teachers and finished the course book in time. That’s why she mainly uses the traditional way of teaching. Thanks to the design of the course book, students sometimes have a chance to watch a video or do an exercise on the smart board.  During the lesson they feel bored most of the time, because they are used to touching tablets, phones, etc.  They find pencil, paper types of things uninteresting.

The other article was about understanding teenagers and meeting their needs. I find it very helpful in terms of telling the logic behind teenager behaviors and offering a couple of activities for teachers. As we learn that generation Y teenagers are dynamic and wants to be active all the time, we should choose exercises requiring physical activities. They like being mobile in the class. I can see it while observing my classroom. Almost everybody tends to move from one place to another. They walk around, change their seats very often, etc.  The article also claims that teenagers like social interaction. I think it’s obvious that they are so fond of being a member of a social network. They share almost every moment of their life via online platforms. By taking this into consideration, we, teachers should increase the number of group activities in the classroom. If they like being social, let them be during the lesson too. Another point is creating a stress free learning environment. I couldn’t agree more. Even adults have hard times in dealing with strict deadlines, so how can teenagers do it? I believe being a flexible teacher will make them more creative and enthusiastic in the class. However, flexibility shouldn’t be turned into irresponsibility or laxity. There should be a balance in tolerance.

Lastly, I have seen the short movie “The Crush”, and I found that something is wrong  between  the teacher’s and the student’s relationship. Although I am not sure, I think the teacher’s attitude towards the kid is not appropriate. She is aware of the fact that the kid feels something for her. It’s quite normal in those years for the kids. They may feel admired for  anybody older than them and they may think that they are in love with him/her. However, the point is the situation should be explained to the kid in a plain language. The teacher shouldn’t continue his/her play and pretend that s/he loves him/her back. Teachers should know how to deal with it, instead of ignoring the student and saying it’s just a kid and s/he will realize what s/he feels when s/he gets older. If you are interested in the video, here is the link:

One More Step

Being a teacher requires not only knowing and teaching a specific area, but also beeing somebody else in the class. No matter how upset you are, you should take your sullen face off in the very moment when you enter the class. You are supposed to be enthusiastic and witty most of the time. As it is stated in the Miller’s article students feel more comfortable when the teacher is humorous and joky.

When we were students, we have always cared what the teacher says and wears. However, I didn’t realize that  the way s/he dresses or his/ her  posture  affects the students that much. As Hamp-Lyons stated teacher is a source of visual and audio aid himself. His/her posture, appearance, tone of voice, movements in the class mean a lot for students. That means the teacher is also part of teaching with all his/her being. I liked the title ” your most essential audiovisual aid -yourself!”. In that your position in the class, the distance between you and the students, your look your facial expression etc. have an impact on your students’ learning and teaching atmosphere. Teaching and learning is a reciprocal process. Not only you teach something to the students, they also teach you another thing. The most important point is students like a mirror, they reflect what you give them. If you send them negative energy, they will also reply in the same way.

I like  the idea of enriching the classroom with tiny attractive tools. sand clocks, stickers, play cards, dice, colored sticks, call bell, and colorful markers are some of those mentioned in McCaughey’s article. I think as long as you adapt it properly everything that seems useless or trivial can be a good material for your class. Recently, I realized that when I see a different thing, I think how can I use it as a tool in my class. I believe, I am used to being a teacher, which makes me very happy. I admit that in today’s world, it’s hard to draw students’ attention to something other than technological ones. “The new generation ” is used to living with technology in every moment of life. I couldn’t imagine myself teaching with dogme. Especially in the west, it is almost impossible to teach without using any technological material. That’s why I appreciate Emre aydın’s effort in the east to teach in a very bad situation. I like starting over, but when it comes to real life I am not sure if I can manage it. I don’t know how long I can stay in a place where I am not able to communicate with my students. Especially in the first years of my profession when I am dying to teach all I know.

The last but not least thing is my observations about my mentor teacher. I think she is doing good, but she needs some enthusiasm and improvement. The classroom is well equipped in contrast to a dogme lesson. However, she uses only a small part of this material. Maybe it’s not a big problem, but her sitting on the teacher’s chair cuts her connection with the students. It would be great if she changed her position in the class. She is a good source for the students, but she doesn’t use her full potential. Nevertheless, she is good at having eye contact with the students. Sometimes she uses her tone of voice very effectively. She is very professional in terms of not reflecting her personal problems to the students. I appreciate her effort and I think I can learn some useful tips from her.