Friday, November 30, 2012

Week 48; the last week of teaching before Christmas

Like it's indicated in the heading, this week was the last week of teaching before our Christmas break. On Monday we talked about Christmassy things. First of all, we went through vocabulary concerning Christmas as a holiday, different foods, plants, decorations, baked goods etc. Secondly, we talked about different Christmas traditions in our country and abroad. We also compared different Christmas customs inside Finland, and it turned out that there are differences for instance between Christmas foods in western and eastern parts of the country! I am from eastern Finland, and for us it has always been obvious that we have Karelian stew/hot pot at Christmas, whereas in the western part of the country it is apparently never included in the Christmas menu! The same applies also to liver casserole and some other dishes. Also it is interesting to find out about other traditions concerning Christmas, like when it is the right time to bring in the Christmas tree. I learnt on Monday that some people agree with my husband thinking that the right time to decorate the Christmas tree is on the morning of Christmas Eve! I have always thought that this is inevitably too late; in my opinion everything should be ready for Christmas before Christmas Eve! You can only guess how infuriating it is when my husband sets off to buy Christmas presents on Christmas Eve! He says it's the best time; things are already on sale and there are no queues anywhere. Yeah yeah, but like I said; it is too late, things should be ready before Christmas Eve...!!

On Tuesday we also talked a bit about Christmassy things, but actually we spent most of our lesson watching a theatrical performance and discussing it. We all went to see the new play of our black light theatre group Lumo, and we liked it immensely. The performance mixed black light theatre techniques, puppet theatre and 'regular' theatre. Also different effects like music, songs, different sounds, and the use of darkness, lights and shadows give a special atmosphere to the show. It was really worth seeing; we strongly recommend it!

On Thursday I actually had a substitute teacher since my cold got worse and I also got an ear infection on top of everything else! I have been feeling under the weather for a few weeks now, and in addition to a sore throat, a cough and a cold I also started having a bit of a temperature and an ear infection. That is why my boss and I agreed that it would probably be best if I stayed at home for the rest of the week and tried to get myself well again. I got some antibiotics for the ear, and I hope they'll start working soon. Me left ear is pretty sore and it is also deaf at the moment, so I feel pretty uncomfortable altogether.

All in all, it's been a nice term, and I have enjoyed working with my students. All of the groups are different from each other, and that is one of the things that makes my work interesting and versatile. Thank you all; have a Very Merry Christmas, and I'll see you again in January! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Week 47

This week started with music; we had a juke box jury on Monday. Those people who were present were really able to make themselves heard because of the scarcity of the participants! We really had only a few people there; others had all kinds of hindrances (sickness, work etc.) that explained why they couldn't join us. But anyhow, we had a good time and listened to some beautiful music with our small group. The selection of music ranged from choir music to Mozart, and we had a nice chat about the songs. On Tuesday and Thursday we talked about some important events that have occurred in 2012 both in Finland and abroad. We also had discussions about some significant people who have passed away during this year.

Next week we're going to talk about Christmassy things, since it'll be our last meetings before the Christmas break. On Tuesday and Thursday we will also discuss our impressions on the new performance of our black light theatre -group Lumo. We agreed that we will go and see the performance together with the Tuesday group, and since almost all of the people in the Thursday group are going to see the play anyhow, we will also discuss it with them on Thursday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Week 46

This week we continued with the topic of the American presidential elections on Monday and Tuesday, so now we've dealt with this issue in all of the discussion groups. It was actually very interesting to compare the electoral systems in the USA and Finland. We quite unanimously came to the conclusion that the Finnish system is simpler. On Thursday we had a juke box jury, and again the people in the group brought extremely beautiful music with them. There were some singers that were unfamiliar to the rest of us, and certain names of singers and records were written down for further use! Next week we will have a juke box jury also with the Monday group, so then we've had it once in each group. On Tuesday and Thursday we will sum up the most important events that took place in 2012, both in our country and also elsewhere.

In addition to different English courses I also run a film course, which means that each time we have a specific film to deal with and talk about. I have been trying to choose different kind of films from different directors, and so far we've had Billy Wilder, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock and  Martin Scorsese on the 'menu'. I have actually had problems with these directors; the abundance of their work is so extensive that it is difficult to choose just one film from each director. Naturally, there are films that just have to have their turn in this course; for instance, you just cannot have a proper film course without the film Citizen Kane! Actually I'm going to collect some material on that very film today, and maybe I'll watch it during the weekend once more. The film has so many layers and so many references to other things that it would be impossible to analyze it well straight after you've seen it. It takes time for this film to really sink in, just like all good films.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Week 45

This week we actually had different topics for all of my conversation groups. On Monday we talked about appearances, and like I promised, not just about the appearances of people. The majority of people on the Monday discussion group are men, so I thought it might be interesting for them to talk about cars as well as people! I suppose I was right; there seemed to be a lot of discussion about different makes and models, and pros and cons of different kind of cars. Quite interestingly, the men also all agreed that their first choice for a beautiful and elegant car would be an Aston Martin, not for instance an Audi, a BMW or even a Jaguar. Maybe Aston Martins possess such subtle elegance that it is just impossible to resist..? Although it has to be said that personally I also think Jaguars (for instance the S-type) or Rovers are also extremely beautiful cars, but there is no accounting for tastes! And of course, an old Aston Martin DB5 is just simply a dish, isn't she?

On Tuedsay we had a juke box jury, which was nice. The people in the group brought extremely beautiful music with them, and the time seemed to fly by really fast! We also had versatile opinions and fruitful discussions about the songs, and we agreed that this will be done again some time during the spring term!

On Thursday the topic was the presidential elections in the USA, and we had texts and discussion about this topic. The outcome of the election was evident already on Thursday, so we were also able to talk about the things we assume Obama will concentrate on during his second term. Next week we will talk about this topic with the Monday and Tuesday groups as well.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Week 44

It's been quite a week! On Monday I had to be off work because my daughter was ill. On Tuesday and Wednesday I was at work ('business as usual'), but on Wednesday evening I hopped on a train and went to Helsinki. The reason for that was that I went to a two-day seminar that had to do with Suomenlinna both as a tourist site and as a World Heritage Site. Our adult education centre is a so-called 'UNESCO-school', which means that we have for instance lectures on different Finnish UNESCO-sites and arrange visits to them. Next April we will have lectures on Suomenlinna in all of the four municipalities in our adult education centre (Suonenjoki, Rautalampi, Vesanto and Tervo), and some time in the late spring/early summer we are going to have a cultural trip to Helsinki. The planning of this visit has only just begun, but the idea is that there will be a visit to Suomenlinna and also to some other cultural events or places (museums etc.). I think I got some very good ideas for the upcoming trip from this seminar!

The topics for the discussion groups will vary a bit between different groups next week. With the Monday group we will continue to talk about appearances, and like I wrote before; we will not be talking only about the appearances of different people. On Tuesday we will be having a juke box jury (=levyraati). The presidential elections will be held on Tuesday the 6th November, and that is the topic we will be discussing with the Thursday group. The Monday and Tuesday groups will have this same discussion topic in the following week.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week 43

This week we talked about physical appearance(s) and did excercises concerning that topic. I have a feeling that the women in the discussion groups found the topic interesting and had a lot to say about it, whereas the men had pretty brief discussions on the matter. Some useful exercises were left unused, and that is why I decided to continue with this topic also in our next sessions. However, I extended the topic a bit further in the sense that next time we will not be talking only about the appearance of different people but also something that men hopefully find a bit more interesting...

I usually update this blog on Fridays. Now I'm writing this on Sunday evening, because my weekend has been a bit different from what it usually is. First of all, on Friday I didn't have time to write anything on my blog because we had special programme at work concerning well-being at work ("tyhy"), and now my little daughter has fallen ill. That is why I, unfortunately, won't be able to go to work tomorrow; I'll stay at home to take care of our daughter. On Tuesday I will probably be back to work; then it's my husband's turn to stay at home and nurse our little girl. It would be great if she was healthy on Wednesday because they will be having a costume party in her kindergarten, and we already have a dress for her. She wants to dress up as a fairy. Hopefully some TLC (tender loving care) will do the trick, and she'll be able to join the party!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Week 41

This week the main discussion topic in our 'Coffee mornings/afternoons/coffee and conversation' -groups was tv, but we had different types of exercises compared to the sessions last week. This week we played the word explanation game Alias using different tv-programmes as the words to explain. I got the impression that people were pretty well able to explain the words to each other, and also got a pretty good grasp of what their partner was trying to explain.

I also made role play -cards, where there was a certain situation or a problem between two characters. Then the idea was that people would pretend to be that character described in their card and talk about the situation or problem given to them. Some people in the groups said that this exercise was nice and a lot of fun, but some said that it was too difficult for them. Luckily, I had prepared a few different sets of cards using different characters, and I was able to change the cards for some pairs to easier ones. That helped the situation a bit!

One of the challenges of being a teacher is trying to find or make exercises that are challenging enough but not too challenging for people. It is a tricky thing trying to figure out what people already know or don't know and act accordingly. Naturally, the skills of different people can vary tremendously, and you still have to try to give something new for everyone. The reality is that you win some and lose some also in this case, but I think all you can do really is to try your best and hope for the best!

Next week (week 42) there won't be lessons because of the autumn break, so we'll meet again for some coffee and conversation the week after that (week 43)!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Week 40; the beginning of October

This week the topic in my conversation groups was tv. I thought it would be a straightforward topic; something that everyone knows and has opinions about.

I was right. It was exciting to hear how people use tv, and what kind of programmes they usually like to watch on tv. Some people watch tv only a little (just certain programmes and not much else), whereas others have loads of different programmes they are more or less addicted to.

People in my starter courses are also starting to have grammar in their lessons, and during these past few weeks we have been practicing questions like 'where is'.. and  'what is'.. It seems to me that people in these groups are enjoying themselves and are not afraid to try. I think it's great! They bravely use new grammatical features I try to teach them, and also good pronunciation appears to be important for them. It is true that the English pronunciation is a tricky thing for a Finn because of the differences in the sound systems in these two languages. But quite honestly, pronunciation is not always easy for a native speaker either; just thing of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady when she tries to say the sentences like "In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire hurricanes hardly ever happen" or "the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain"...

Next week we will be continuing with the same topic (tv) in the discussion groups, but the exercises will be quite different from those we did this week...

Monday, October 01, 2012

The third week of teaching; week 39

During this week's lessons with the discussion groups we continued to talk about travelling. This time we dealt with something that is important when travelling abroad: accommodation. We had exercises where we compared different hotels, and discussed the pros and cons of each of them. We learnt that certain people appreciate a central location of the hotel, whereas others don't mind staying a bit further away from the centre. Also different services within the hotel are important to some people but not to everyone. A lift is essential for some, and some people definitely need a shower - a bath just won't do!

We had interesting discussions, and people said that they learnt new, useful vocabulary as well.

Next time we will talk about tv-programmes and the different habits of watching tv.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The second week of teaching; week 38

I had a busy week, I can honestly say that! First of all, it takes a certain amount of time and effort to plan my own lessons for different groups, but also other aspects of my work have kept me busy this week. I was busy organizing new groups for courses that were overcrowded or full, and also had to cancel some groups or courses. It is Friday now, and I feel a bit more restful since a lot of the issues have been settled during this week.
The people in my starter -groups are so wonderfully enthusiastic! We have been practising words, numbers and pronunciation in general. Mouths, lips and tongues have been twisted in different positions as we have been trying to pronounce voiced and voiceless th-, s- and other sounds correctly. I admire the people for their passion for practising new things.
Also the discussion groups met for the second time during this week. It seems that people in the groups are starting to get to know each other, and also me, and the discussions this week already started to be more natural and people were able to relax and talk more freely. It is nice, and we have been able to have interesting conversations during our lessons.

The topic in our discussions this week was just simply travelling, and we talked about the places people have already been to, or places they would like to visit in the future. We also did some excercises that had to do with asking and giving directions, and we also had an exercise about asking and telling about the weather in different places. Next time we will continue with this topic a bit more before moving on to other areas of interest.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Conversation groups; first meetings

Our autumn semester began, and I met my new English groups for the first time. All in all, last week was exciting and interesting. I met a lot of new people and I'm trying to learn loads of new names and faces! The people in my groups seem nice, and I think we are going to have nice semesters together!

The main topic in our first sessions was, quite logically, introductions. The main focus was to get the students to talk in English again, because some people have had a long pause since they've used the English language. Another aim was to to get to know and learn new things about each other. That was done with the help of picture cards. There were different activities with the cards, such as picking a card that reminded the students of themselves, or picking a card of something they liked or disliked. We had interesting conversations, and really did learn a lot about each other. Someone is afraid of cats and somebody else loves them, somebody hates football, someone thinks he or she is like Donald Duck or a rhino, and there are some of us who just cannot stand winter and slippery roads!

The topic in our next lessons will be travelling.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Enrollment began; excited!

This is my first full year working in the Sisä-Savo Adult Education Services, and my first autumn term. I was very excited about the opening of the enrollment in the courses on Monday and Tuesday. It is interesting to see what kind of courses people are interested in and sign up for. I have been responsible for many types of courses, like languages, ADP (= automatic data processing, ATK), home economics (=kotitalous), gardening courses and I also plan and organize some events.

When I came to work on Tuesday, I went straight to see what the enrollment situation looked like. Would anyone want to come to my courses? Would people be interested in the gardening courses I planned? How about the new ADP courses? Are there enough places for people in the most popular courses? Am I able to help people who want to enroll in the courses over the phone? Those were the thoughts in my head on Tuesday morning.

Well, how was it?

I was relieved to see that mostly everything was fine. Some courses were filled already on Tuesday, but fortunately we were able to offer alternative courses for most people. There are people also in my courses (yippee!), and there seem to be people who are interested in coming to different kinds of new courses. Of course, there are courses with no or just a few people in them, but luckily the enrollment has just begun. We'll still have almost a few weeks before we can tell which courses will have to be cancelled. Cancelling is never nice, but it is a fact that every term a certain amount of courses just won't start. It happens in every adult education centre.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What is this blog about?

This is a blog written by Minna Rönkkö, who works as an English teacher in the Sisä-Savo Adult Education Services. The texts in this blog are in English, so the students can practise their English skills while reading them.

Here's a link to our web-page: