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Interview with Marija Jović, a Project Competition finalist

This interview with Marija Jović, a teacher in Serbia and a runner-up in the recent Project Competition, was originally conducted by Anica Đokić of the Elementary School “Sonja Marinkovic” Novi Sad and posted on the “Sveti Sava” school’s English blog, Svetisavabadnjevac.

Marija's project

Over 700 hundred projects were submitted to the International Project Competition organised by Oxford University Press. The topic was “Communication” and the participating teachers and their students had to create a paper project about this phenomenon. We will hear more about the competition from our colleague, Marija Jović, whose work was chosen among the six best of all 700!

Q: How did you learn about the competition and how did you decide to participate?

The magic word is surfing. I often use the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. I also google because I am curious and always willing to learn. I don’t even remember how I came across this competition but I do remember I was determined to give it a try. Except being curious, I am also very competitive. However, I am often not motivated by the prizes, but by the process of reaching the goal, by participating with other colleagues from all over the world and most important by including my students into something new and challenging.

Q: What was your students’ opinion about it and how motivated were all of you to create and submit a project?

I am very proud of my students, especially of those who are willing to participate in different projects. They write, draw, act and even dance if that is necessary for our English lessons. So when I asked them to pose for this project, they were more than interested – they were flattered. Of course, they liked the prizes too and I promised to grant some extra marks for their effort only, regardless of the competition result.

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Classroom dynamics in a changing world

Students and teacher at the boardFreelance teacher trainer and materials writer, Martyn Clarke, explores the difficulties in finding a neat solution to classroom dynamics, given the changing nature of classrooms and the world as a whole.

If you’re looking for a series of articles listing ‘How To Achieve Better Classroom Dynamics’, then stop reading. I have no idea what the perfect classroom looks like. In fact, my opinion on what makes a good class changes frequently. My views on classroom dynamics are, themselves, dynamic.

This is because it’s a complex world. What works in one context, might not work in another. What is successful at one time, may well fail the next. I imagine we’ve all come across this in our careers.

The key question in looking at classroom dynamics is how do we respond to this?

It seems to me there are three basic approaches we could adopt:

1. Methodology is king

We could decide that theories of language learning are universally applicable to all classrooms. There are good and bad classroom dynamics. We can observe behaviour, judge it according to one set of criteria, and ‘improve’ it accordingly. When things don’t work, it’s because students don’t understanding or lack the ability to engage with the approach. I’m the first to admit that this is highly seductive. The certainty of belief provides a sense of security in this uncertain world.

But it’s not quite as simple as that. Every classroom is made up of unique individuals, each bringing their own expectations, values, and attitudes, to create a one-off community. This community is also influenced by the culture of the society it belongs to, and the institution of which it is a part. It is itself constantly evolving, as do its individual members. It really is quite a messy place when you come to think about it, so one-size-fits-all answers won’t, in fact, fit.

Should we, therefore, leave theory outside the classroom door?

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Voting begins for the Lexiophiles Top 100 Language Lovers 2011

Vote for OUP ELT in the Top 100 Language Lovers 2011

For the fourth year running, Lexiophiles (in association with bab.la) is on the hunt for the Top 100 Language Lovers 2011. In 2010, Oxford was proud to have been awarded 27th place in the Top 100 Language Blogs competition for this blog, and 11th place in the Language Teaching Blogs category.

This year, Lexiophiles and bab.la are extending the competition beyond language blogs to include Facebook pages and Twitter feeds that focus on language learning and provide a range of information and resources for language learners and professionals. Of the 747 providers nominated, 500 have been selected for voting, of which the top 25 in each category will form the Top 100 Language Lovers 2011.

The OUP ELT Global team is delighted to have been shortlisted in not one, but three categories this year:

So… time for another shameless plug! We’d love to feature in the Top 100 again, so here’s our appeal for help…

If you like our blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed, please vote for them! To vote, simply click on the button at the top of this post and choose the relevant category, or select one of the categories above, and find us in the list. Select the checkbox next to our name and then click on ‘Vote’ at the bottom of the list. Please note, you can vote only once in each category.

We also acknoweldge the fact that there are many great providers of language content in these categories and that you may already have your favourites. So we thought we’d share ours with you. Even if you can’t vote for all of your favourites, it’s worth subscribing to or following them anyway.

Here’s a breakdown of our favourites by category:

Language Learning Blogs

Language Facebook Pages

Language Twitterers

So get voting! Remember, we’re in the Language Learning Blogs, Language Facebook Pages and Language Twitterers categories. Voting closes on 29th May, so be quick!!

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4 ways to help hesitant students to speak in the classroom

Teen girl looking shy and quietSpeaking is one of the hardest skills for a language learner to master. In this post, Verissimo Toste, an Oxford teacher trainer, shares four simple tips to help get even the most hesitant students speaking in class.

Getting students to speak in class may be the most difficult task many teachers face. I remember a group of adult pre-intermediate students, all of whom had previously studied at least 6 years of English. They had little difficulty with the grammar exercises or the vocabulary. Reading texts were easy and although they were nervous about listening, it presented little difficulty.

But, when I asked them to say a sentence from the grammar exercise we had just completed, without reading it, the whole class went into panic. I was shocked. Then I remembered that for these students a simple slip of the tongue and you can have the whole class laughing at you.

So, how can we help these students to overcome the difficulties of speaking in class?

1. Talk to them

Ask them how they feel about speaking. Is it important to them? What are their difficulties? This will let them know that you are aware that you are asking them to do something that is not necessarily easy. Maybe the class can share some ideas on how to deal with this. Mention to them that actors study their lines before they perform in a film or a play. Emphasize that they have to do a scene many times until they get it right. This should re-enforce the need to practise before speaking in class. This conversation will usually relax them and give them the confidence to try.

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The changing immigration laws in the UK

UK Border signLaura Austin, an ELT Consultant for Oxford University Press, looks at how the changing immigration laws in the UK will affect foreign students hoping to live and work in the UK.

What’s happening?

Immigration laws are changing in the UK, making it more difficult for foreign students to get general student visas (GSVs). The government are aiming to cut visa numbers by 80,000.

Certain schools have ‘highly trusted sponsorship status’ (HTS) which means that they comply with tough criteria based on absences, drop outs etc. Having HTS gives schools a quota of places to fill in the school and the ability to issue a CAS. (A CAS is a unique reference number given to students on successfully signing up for a course – it allows students to apply for GSVs).

Previously schools could issue a CAS for a GSV without having HTS. This is no longer the case.

The system is toughening up and students are now required to hold a B2 level of English proficiency across all four skills.

This is a huge threat to the ELT industry in the UK. It is estimated that 40% of the ELT admissions in the UK come from GSVs.

Is it important?

Well, yes. Britain’s international and higher education sector is worth £10bn a year. If overseas agents can’t offer students the right package (i.e. combination of study and work options for all language levels) then we will become less competitive in the market and lose business to other countries.

Who will be affected?

Students, teachers, accommodation providers, shop keepers, the whole infrastructure of places like Brighton and Bournemouth which house large numbers of students. Private language schools who don’t achieve their HTS and also universities where students aren’t at a B2 level for all four skills.

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