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Teaching idea


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It's very early in the morning here in Guayaquil, and I am up at this hour because in an hour's time I'm going to get a bus to the terminal and then see about getting a ticket to Cuenca. I was advised to get there as early as possible because it's a holiday weekend. Tomorrow it's All Souls' Day (Day of the Dead) and on Sunday it's the Independence of Cuenca. In order to fill up the time until I leave, I've decided to write about a teaching activity I did recently.

We had a teacher training session yesterday where we were told about dictoglosses/text reconstruction and how to use them. After that we were all supposed to share an activity that we'd done in the last couple of weeks that we thought had gone particularly well, but as it happened there was only enough time for a couple of us to do it. I was asked to share mine, so here's what I did (originally I did this with my Intermediate 1 class). It was about question tags ("You know Dave, don't you? She likes chicken, doesn't she?")

1. Give the class a specified time in which they have to interview as many of their classmates as possible. Try to ensure they ask questions that result in neither very similar kinds of answers nor answers they are likely to know already (there are different ways of ensuring this). Emphasise to them that they have to try to memorise what their classmates tell them, but they must not write anything down!

(At first glance, this activity may not seem to have a connection with the rest of the lesson, unless you work it in as a kind of icebreaker... but all is revealed in time!)

2. Proceed with the rest of the lesson as normal. This could be from a coursebook, with its own context, or your own thing. I set the context as 'at a party' in my lesson, but any social situation where you come across acquaintances and new people would also be good. Then when you get to the freer practice stage at the end...

3. Give students three or four minutes to jot down quickly what information they think they remember their classmates giving them at the start of the lesson.

4. Students have to get up and mingle as if they are at a party/ other social situation, checking with their classmates if they remembered correctly. "You work for _____, don't you?" for example, or "Your brother's a sailor, isn't he?" Encourage students to continue the mini-conversations further, not just asking and answering the questions, in order to sound more natural.

5. Feedback - who remembered the most information correctly?

Just seen the time - I have to go and pack! I was advised to get to the terminal no later than 7am or there'd already be long queues, so I'd better get going!

Posted by 3Traveller 07:37 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecuador guayaquil english_teaching Comments (0)

Independence of Guayaquil (and other celebrations)


I went into town on Wednesday morning to see what I could of the 9th October Independence of Guayaquil procession. The bus journey took a very long time because of all the traffic, but even though I missed the military part of the procession, I caught the latter stages which consisted of schoolchildren twirling batons, waving Guayaquil flags and playing drums, trumpets and portable steel glockenspiels (though not all at the same time...) It was very colourful and musical - the sound of the glockenspiels reminded me of Caribbean steel pans.


I started off watching it on Avenida 9 Octubre, the main street in Guayaquil, but then walked along to the Malecon and saw some of it there before returning the way I'd come.


I could only stay for about an hour because I had to get back to work, but I was really glad I'd made the effort to come.

I did a bit of food shopping earlier today at the supermarket and noticed they had some (undressed) artificial Christmas trees on display - the first sign of Christmas I've seen here. I suppose in the UK there's Hallowe'en stuff everywhere. Here, apparently a couple of years ago the government banned Hallowe'en for being an US import and not a native Ecuadorian festival. They celebrate All Souls' Day, 2nd November, as The Day of the Dead, but officially at any rate they don't celebrate Hallowe'en.

I was told this by the students in the pre-advanced conversation class I had for the past four Monday mornings but has now finished. (The conversation classes come in blocks of four). I enjoyed that class a lot, despite it being between 7-9 am on Monday mornings, because there was a great atmosphere, everybody got on extremely well and there were some very interesting discusssions about such things as the high levels of corruption they feel is present in the government and Ecuadorian society in general; the problems with drugs which they think has only become a major issue since Correa came into power; the All Souls' Day, Christmas, New Year and Carnival celebrations in Ecuador and other countries; the popular meaning (in Ecuador) of different colours of flowers, which led on somehow to the importance of love and positivity; whether people's destinies are fixed from birth or fluid; and freedom of speech and where the line is.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:51 Archived in Ecuador Tagged buses ecuador procession guayaquil english_teaching malecon_2000 avenida_9_de_octubre traditional_customs Comments (0)

Hot air balloons, New Year customs, Ecuadorian Chinese food


I suddenly realised earlier that I hadn't posted for a couple of weeks, so here goes. Here are a few things that have happened.

Hot air balloons

One of my teen pre-intermediate students told me on Thursday that he'd seen something in a newspaper about how a lot of hot air balloons were going to start taking off from the Malecon from 5pm onwards the next day. I was overjoyed at the thought of seeing this spectacle, but also surprised, because I wasn't convinced that there was enough space there for hot air balloons to set up! I aimed to arrive at the Malecon at about 4.45pm anyway, with my camera, so that if it did turn out to be true about the hot air balloons, I'd be there to see it.

There was definitely a carnival atmosphere at the Malecon - it was absolutely heaving!


At first I couldn't see any hot air balloons anywhere, but once I'd walked along a bit I saw one being inflated further ahead. Amongst other things, on my walk to the balloon I passed by a children's puppet show with a large crowd surrounding it; further on Ronald McDonald entertained a crowd outside a McDonald's.


A couple of minutes later I passed by a large space cordoned off with a hot air balloon basket in it but no actual balloon (it hadn't been brought out yet), and only once I'd passed that did I get to where the balloon was being inflated.


Unfortunately it only looked halfway there, so my heart sank at the realisation that I wouldn't have enough time to wait for it (I knew hot air balloons take ages to inflate). I waited for about half an hour but was then forced back home by the need to plan for two one-to-one lessons with new students the next day. Otherwise, I could have stayed for however long it took for the balloons to inflate and set off. It was just starting to get dusky as I left, so considering how quickly it gets dark here, I think it would have been completely dark by the time the balloon finally set off. It must have been a wonderful sight.

Ecuadorian New Year customs

In the same lesson the students told me some interesting things about how they celebrate New Year in Ecuador. I have to admit that I had already seen something about it in my guidebooks, but they gave me a lot more details. Male dummies made from clothes variously stuffed with paper, sawdust, straw or papier maché (like the Guy at Bonfire Night in the UK, but more realistic looking) are burned on bonfires in the streets. They are called monigotes or año viejos - 'old year' - because that's what they represent. They wear masks, either bought plastic ones or homemade papier maché; these nearly always represent someone famous either internationally, nationally or locally. In Guayaquil and Quito the monigotes are nearly always bought, not made, and they are often extremely large; apparently even the smaller ones are taller than the tallest man, and the biggest are 20 to 30 metres (yes, metres not feet, if the students weren't exaggerating) tall! People often put fireworks inside the monigotes before they are put on the bonfires.

Lots of firecrackers are set off for a couple of hours before the proper fireworks go off at midnight. There are street parties everywhere. The monigotes are burned at midnight and after this their 'widows', men dressed as women in masks and black clothes, dance around and on top of cars at traffic lights in order to get money from the drivers and passers-by. (At this point I checked whether I'd heard them correctly by drawing a picture of a stick man on top of a car - they nodded and said that was correct.)

I told them about Guy Fawkes' Night and the similarity between a monigote and the Guy, but they hadn't heard of it. Not that I was expecting them to, of course. They did seem to find it interesting, though.


After classes finished for the day yesterday a group of us teachers went to a chifa (the Ecuadorian name for a Chinese restaurant) for lunch. It was the first time I'd had Chinese food since I arrived in Ecuador in May, and I was interested to see how it differs to British Chinese food. To be honest it wasn't that different, except that in the sweet & sour chicken dish (and indeed the three other dishes we shared) there weren't any beansprouts or bamboo shoots. The pieces of pineapple were bigger and obviously fresh, too, instead of tinned. The pieces of celery were bigger, greener and a bit more crunchy than the celery at home, as well. I was so stuffed when I left that I didn't have any dinner in the evening because I was still too full from earlier!

I was observed in class last Tuesday - by a prospective student! She wanted to observe a class first before paying for the course. I was informed of this after the class had already started. I secretly felt really pressurised for a couple of minutes after the receptionist went back to tell her it was OK, because after all, if she didn't like it then she wouldn't sign up for the course, and if that happened then how badly would that reflect on me? Once she'd come in and I'd welcomed her, however, I acted as though she was just another student and she joined in as if she were already part of the class. Thirty seconds after everyone had left at the end of the class, the receptionist came back in to tell me that the student definitely wanted to come back, and did I think she was the right standard for the course? The answer was yes, so I've had a new student in my Pre-Intermediate 3 class since Tuesday.

The 10th of August is a public holiday here. This year that falls on a Saturday, so since classes will be cancelled that day, Friday is my day off at the moment and I won't have to teach until the Monday evening, I've decided to go to Cuenca for a long weekend! I'll leave first thing on the Friday and come back first thing on Monday morning. I can't wait - numerous people have told me about how beautiful and historic Cuenca is. Some of the others might be coming with me as well.

Posted by 3Traveller 07:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hot_air_balloons ecuador guayaquil english_teaching malecon_2000 chifa traditional_customs Comments (0)

Guayaquil update


Apologies if this post seems disjointed or not very interesting; it's not about any one particular topic, but things I've thought about at different times since I arrived in Guayaquil.

Maybe it's because I’m surrounded by an atmosphere of language learning (I'm learning Spanish at the same time as teaching English), but I often find phrases of languages I learned at school popping into my head, or I get flashbacks to moments in the lessons themselves. For example, in the free taxi we get home if we finish teaching after dark I often have to stop myself saying 'gehe gerade aus, bitte' to the driver after we’ve been round the roundabout and I want him to go straight on for a bit before turning at my corner. Last week I was sitting on a bus when all of a sudden the phrase 'Was hast du lechte Wochenende gemacht?' came into my head – 'what did you do last weekend?’. I keep wanting to say 'aber' instead of 'pero', 'sehr' instead of 'muy', 'je suis' instead of 'yo soy' or 'yo estoy'.

Speaking of school, it feels strange to think that it's exactly ten years since I finished my A2 Levels. To think I had no idea then that in ten years' time I'd be doing what I am doing, and on the other side of the world at that... It also feels strange to picture myself in Year 7, choosing to start learning German in Year 8 instead of Spanish, unaware that in the future I would end up starting to learn Spanish anyway, albeit Ecuadorian Spanish rather than the Spanish from Spain.

Although I don’t get much time to read non work-related books, I have got through a couple. I'm trying not to zip through my collection too quickly though because there are not many places in Guayaquil that sell books in English, and I couldn't bring that many with me in the first place due to my luggage weight allowance. I've read/ reread a couple of Joseph Mitchell books – 'McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon', wonderful in itself, and 'My Ears Are Bent'- and Charles Darwin’s 'Journal of the Voyage of The Beagle', which is absolutely fascinating (apart from occasionally when he goes off into detailed descriptions of geological formations - I skip those). Now I’m onto 'Andes' by Michael Jacobs. I wholeheartedly recommend all four, although in the latter I've only got as far as the bit where the author crosses into Colombia from Venezuela (he travels the length of the Andes from Venuezela to Argentina, following in the footsteps of Simon Bolivár). Once I finish this then I think it'll be the turn of one of my favourite books of all time, Laurie Lee’s 'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning'.

Some teachers here have been following the whole Edward Snowden incident with interest, keeping up to date with his location and wondering if he will end up in Ecuador or not. I have to say that although I do wonder if he´ll make it to Ecuador or not, I have more interest in the situation of Nelson Mandela. I keep abreast of the big news stories here - I keep tabs on the BBC Sport and BBC News websites, I have a CNN news channel at the flat, and upstairs in the main part of the language school there's a flatscreen TV permanently showing the BBC World News Service. I sometimes hear the trademark beeps of the latter in the background when I'm in the room I teach in the most.

Anyway, I'd better be off now - this time tomorrow I'll be in the middle of my Saturday five-hour class, so I need to work out what I'm teaching in it!

Posted by 3Traveller 01:32 Archived in Ecuador Tagged spanish ecuador guayaquil english_teaching Comments (0)



So, about the teaching so far. I've had and am still having a positive time teaching - I've had a lot of rewarding moments, and I absolutely love the feeling you get when you hear students using English in exactly the way you wanted them to by the end of the lesson. I love it when I see students really engaged in an activity, and I love the 'lightbulb moment'. It's also interesting what the students tell me about themselves and Ecuador in general.

There are a couple of things I found a bit strange at first, having monolingual/monocultural classes rather than classes made up of students from different countries being one. Not having as much time to plan for lessons as I did on the CELTA course is another, as is having fewer classroom resources, and having to prepare classes for unit and final tests. I also now fully appreciate how much of a pain it is when students don’t hand in written assignments on time (she says, shifting guiltily in her seat...)!

I'm tired today. Ever since I first arrived in Guayaquil I have woken up between the times of 4.30 and 6 am every morning almost without fail, and I very rarely manage to drift off again. Some nights I wake up at 2-2.30 am as well, just for a touch of variety. This is kind of OK on teaching days, but on days off, when I would love a lie-in, I cannot help but feel robbed of precious sleep! I think the humidity has something to do with it, and the fact that I have no glass in my bedroom windows; even with earplugs in I can still hear noise of someone’s air conditioning unit above my window, the TV and the voices of the family below us underneath my window, and barking dogs. Quite often I hear an alarm clock go off below my window at 5.15am and then again five and then ten minutes later.

I taught my first Saturday class last weekend. On Saturdays the only classes on are for groups of Ecuadorian teachers who teach English at public schools in Guayaquil and a wide surrounding area. My group is pre-intermediate level. It’s the largest group yet I’ve had to teach, but they all seem keen. During the week no classes are longer than three hours, but the Saturday classes are five hours long; this seems like a huge amount of time to fill but it actually passed quickly for me. Time flies. There was a break as well, so it wasn’t five hours solid. One of the two main parts of the lesson was about how to describe where places are in relation to others, so I brought in my inflatable globe and also drew a quick map of South America on the whiteboard to use as teaching aids. I wished I had more than one globe to be honest!

Posted by 3Traveller 01:25 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecuador guayaquil english_teaching Comments (0)

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