When you want to give up… read this instead

Photo Credit: Astra Takes Photos

Anyone who knows me will know that for the last 9 months, I have been learning how to code. I love learning and I love editing my website, so I wanted to know more about Web Development and what it could teach me.

I started with a HTML course on Codecademy. After a week, I was totally passionate about it. I loved the logic, and the magic of typing something and then watching the screen change. I hopped my way though HTML, jumped into CSS and asked lots of enthusiastic questions at events.

Then I decided to make my leap of faith and spring into JavaScript. I made similar progress on freeCodeCamp until one day… my brain could not understand the lines of code in the exercises.

I cheated as much as Google would allow (yes, I cheated), but the solutions did not become any clearer to me.

I had a code crisis. My fear of JavaScript grew, and at the same time, I refused to go back to HTML and CSS because it was “too easy.”

So I stopped completely.

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you had a similar experience with learning English? When the beginning is easy, you try something harder, you find that too difficult so you stop?

The crazy thing about this is that I see this in students all the time and, for a while, I didn’t see that I was experiencing the same thing.

Now I’m back on track. I use slightly different methods, I’m happy with where I am and proud that I broke through my first challenge.

What I would like to share with you is three ways how I did that.

©MoreThanGrammar 2019

One: Realise you’ve hit an obstacle.

“Awareness is half the battle” so they say. This means when you see that you have a “problem”, you have already solved 50% of it.

There are three things you can be aware of here.

Firstly, you need to be aware that you are finding it too hard, and you need to find another way forward. You could be stubborn and continue in the same way (which I did at first), and the frustration will stay. You may even end up hating the topic… Or you could find another, easier, kinder way.

Secondly, you have to realise that you are not stupid. We all hit obstacles when we learn and you don’t need to give up completely because something is too big. Learning is easy if you take a big thing and break it into smaller parts.

Thirdly, you need to know that difficult is where learning starts. Difficult is a good sign. It means you’ve reached the border of your knowledge and now it’s time to go further. Be friends with difficult and this journey will be a lot easier.

Because it’s true © MoreThanGrammar 2019

Two: Go back to your “why?”

Now we’ve become aware of the challenge, the next step is to remember our motivation for learning in the first place.

When something is important or exciting to you, you will be more motivated to continue learning. It gives you the energy to continue even when it drives you a bit crazy. I write more about this here.

For me, it was simple: one day I want to work as a web developer and as a teacher. That dream still stayed the same.

And in order to be a web developer… I have to know how to code!

Plus, although it’s hard, I enjoy coding, I enjoy learning and I was still curious about how it worked.

So why do you want to learn English? Why did you start? Is it for work? Is it because you want to travel? Fix this goal very clearly in your mind and watch the excitement come back.

Note 1: If you can’t think of a good why… well, maybe it’s time for another hobby…

Note 2: If you have to learn English, I really recommend reading this post.

Three: Go back… but slowly!

So now you’ve realised you’ve hit a wall and you know you want to continue anyway, how do you get back to your studies?

The key here is to go gently on yourself. Do it slowly and do something that you enjoy.

Instead of springing headfirst back into JavaScript, I decided to forget my ego and go back to HTML and CSS. Instead of learning something that was too hard, I saw that it was better to make what I already know really strong first before moving forward.

Secondly, I watched more videos instead of doing exercises I found too hard. I trusted that the more I hear and read, the more things I will understand later (see below about “trust”)

Thirdly, I spoke to other programmers and learned that everyone hits this wall. It is a totally normal part of the learning process and, in fact, it would be strange if it didn’t happen to me. I would say the same to you about learning English.

I also finally signed up to a course. If this wall has taught me anything, it is the importance of having a teacher and a community of people doing the same thing. Self-study is always challenging and there always comes a point when it doesn’t work anymore. At this point, it is vital that you surround yourself with other people…. or you may go mad.

So you can see there are four clear steps here, which you can also use in your own learning:

  1. Revise what you already know and strengthen your knowledge there.
  2. Do an activity which is more relaxed and fun, e.g. play games, watch videos, read funny books.
  3. Speak to other people about your problems. You will see you are not alone.
  4. Find a course/teacher/community. This could be a meet up, or a study group or an English course.

A final note:

I mentioned trust. Trust is so so so important in the learning process. Maybe it’s hard now, so you need to trust yourself, your teacher and maybe the universe that, in the long term, it will get easier.

(Because it will.)

So to sum up, there are three clear steps here:

  1. Realise you have a problem.
  2. Remember why you are doing it.
  3. Go back slowly.

Easy peasy! Aren’t you so happy that you’re learning English again?

Of course, if you need some help, I can be there as your support. Contact me via email or phone and we can work out the best plan for your English learning!

Why I teach in cafes

I teach in all kinds of locations: offices, homes, parks, libraries, even shopping malls. However, mostly my lessons take place in cafes.

This may seem strange. Colleagues ask why I don’t teach at home, and students wonder if it’s too distracting.

Nevertheless, I enjoy teaching in cafes. Let me explain why…

1.Cafes are realistic

There is always going to be a certain amount of background noise in cafes. Some of my students are concerned that this is too distracting and that people around them will “hear how bad their English is.”

For this reason, I argue: if you can talk in a cafe, you can talk anywhere.

Life is full of noise, so it’s a good idea to train in situations where noise happens. This way it becomes normal for you.

Then if you’re in a situation where there are lots of chaos around you (like an open-plan office or a networking event or even a busy market place), it will be a fantastic experience because you will already have strong concentration skills because of your English lessons in a cafe.

What’s more, you are surrounded by a realistic environment. English learning doesn’t happen in the classroom, English learning happens in day-to-day life. This can be simulated through a day-to-day setting, like a cafe.

Finally, the fear of being overheard is an important fear to overcome. In fact, after some time, you’ll realise that people aren’t listening to our conversation at all. They’re more interested in what they are doing. So really there’s nothing to be afraid of at all. When you know there’s nothing to be afraid of, you can rule your world

©MoreThanGrammar 2019

2. Cafes are stimulating

Rather than being distracting, it has been scientifically proven that the background noise in cafes can act as a stimulus.

This is something that I find interesting. Personally, I am someone who has always preferred to study in complete science, so I understand when my students ask for the same.

At the same time, since coming to Berlin, I increasingly enjoy working and teaching in cafes.  So what’s that about??

From my research for this post, it seems this comes from two main factors:

  1. You are surrounded by people in deep conversation and this encourages you to do the same.
  2. Cafes help you to think and work creatively.

How do cafes help with creativity?

Research says that background noise makes our brain work harder which means we are more likely to find more creative solutions.

Why is creativity important for language learning?

Simple. Because learning a language is creative! You have to think outside of your normal way of thinking, you have to find another route, you might have to make words up, or use your body to express yourself. Of course, language is also mechanics and logic, but in order to make a language really work you have to be creative with it!

One last point about creativity:

I recently went to talk run by The Family, one of the speakers pointed out that “the same visual input everyday kills creativity.”

What does that mean?

It means that if you see the same things and the same places every day, you aren’t going to get any new ideas.

So the ideal thing to do in this situation is to leave the office and meet your English teacher for coffee and conversation. The new sights and sounds will refresh your mind, and you will leave relaxed and happy (and with some English practice behind you too).

©MoreThanGrammar 2019

3. Cafes are a neutral space

Cafes are not your home. Cafes are not my home. Cafes are not your office. Cafes are not my office. It’s a “blank space” which we can fill with whatever you like.

It’s a space to relax a little and enjoy a tasty drink. You could almost be talking to a friend or an old colleague. This is the atmosphere I aim for in my lessons because the more relaxed you are, the better you learn.

What’s more, there is no risk of being interrupted by family or colleagues.  So although cafes can be noisy, they are also a space where you and I can focus what you need without someone needing something from you.

Yay, it’s English time! ©MoreThanGrammar 2019

A final note about cafes

As a teacher, I want people to feel comfortable and challenged at the same time. Cafes tick both of these boxes.

The challenge comes from what I have described in this post (and the content of the lesson, of course!).

The comfort comes from a teacher’s research and experience.

I know my cafes. I choose them well. The staff know me, what I drink and what I do. They leave us to get on with the lesson. I choose each cafe according to the needs and convenience of each of my students.

Personally, I find Berlin cafes particularly geared towards meetings. The people are respectful and the music volume is low. The coffee is good, the tea selection is wide and the cakes are delicious!

So next time a teacher suggests meeting in a cafe, give it a chance. There’s a reason why good lessons take place in good cafes, and that good lesson is available to you as soon as you step inside.

If you are interested in a lesson in a cafe with me, send me an email and we can arrange a trial lesson.

4 reasons why reading builds confidence

This could be you… ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

 

I’m going to be honest with you.

Although I’m a dedicated reader, I was never a big supporter of reading books to train English.

It was more important for me to encourage students to speak or write or do a grammar exercise in between classes. I might send an interesting article or bring a short text to class. Yet I never asked my students to create a long-term, consistent reading practice.

What changed for me

Recently, more and more students have been asking me advice about what book they should read outside class. Inspired by their actions, I am putting a lot of thought into what advice I can give to each individual student.

In addition to that, I started to read in German again. I wanted to see what impacts it would have on my own language skills.

What did I learn?

What follows is not advice on how to choose the right book for you. This topic has been written about many times and very well.

Instead I would like to offer you reasons why reading can help you to build confidence in all areas.

1. Reading brings another language to you

A book (especially a nice long one) is something that is always there. You can take it where you want, and you can dive in and out whenever you like.
This is especially useful if you are not living in an English speaking environment.

Because of my job, I don’t always get a chance to have long German conversations every day. So it feels wonderful to spend 10-30 minutes reading, because it feels like I’m continuing a conversation with a friend. It gives me the chance to jump into “another language world” without swopping to my native tongue.

This is helping me to think in German, which also helps my fluency when I’m speaking. Plus, it gives me conversations in context, so if these conversations happen in ‘real life,’ I know what to reply. This gives me an ‘anchor’ to hold on to which helps me to feel more secure while speaking.

Finally, sometimes I see words I wouldn’t normally see and this is important to grow vocabulary, which means I can speak about and understand more and more topics easily.

My current reading pile ©MoreThanGrammar

2.Reading motivates you

Reading can be a great source of motivation for many people.

If you get a really good book, you will want to develop your skills so you can understand exactly what’s happening and so you can get to the end. In fact, I know many people who started reading in English because they were too impatient to wait for the translation.

You also see how well you are learning, as your reading becomes easier and faster with time. When you feel progress, you see the benefits and this gives you the energy to learn longer.

Also, let’s face facts: Reading another language is so cool! I love telling people that I read in German. Not to say “oooo-look-at-me”, more “this-is-a-cool-thing-that-I-do.” When we feel like we’re doing something exciting, of course we’re going to feel better about ourselves.

 

3. Reading in combination with lessons

I’m also beginning to see the benefits of reading a book in combination with lessons. For example, you can:

  • summarise the story so far to classmates
  • read it aloud to your teacher who can correct your pronunciation
  • underline words and sentences and ask your teacher to explain the grammar
  • discuss the themes of the book

It also builds on what you are already learning. As your skills develop, you might see certain grammatical structures jump out at you. Moreover, you will see the words you’ve learned in a past lesson.

All of this helps strengthen your knowledge, which help you feel great!

 

Last but not least…

Sometimes it’s OK when you don’t understand ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

 

4. Reading stops the fear of falling

We all know this feeling: you’re in a conversation with a native speaker or you’re watching a film, and you have no idea what they are talking about.

Sure, you understand one or two words, but the whole sentence? Forget it!

Believe it or not, this is a perfect situation to be in because this is exactly when we learn something new.

You can reduce panic in this situation by practicing the fear while reading.

When you are reading book, you probably won’t understand every single word. At the same time, I believe you will understand more or less what is going on. The more you read and the more you realise that this is a safe situation to be in, the less nervous you will be in conversations where you don’t understand everything.

Once you have faced this fear, conversations will become exciting learning opportunities.

Plus, if you really don’t have anything to say… at least you can start talking about the book you are reading!

To summarise:

  • Books bring real English to you all the time
  • Reading motivates you and is exciting
  • You can use reading to strengthen what you already know
  • You can also use it to practice not knowing

So no more excuses: Dust off that copy of Harry Potter, run to your next bookstore or put an English book on your Christmas wish list…it’s reading time!

How does reading help you? Is there a book you would recommend to other learners? Comment below!

Do you need help choosing a book, or do you want someone to talk about books with? Send me a message and we can arrange a trial lesson.

 

PS here’s another great post on how reading can build your confidence.

 

Show up

Ahhhhh phrasal verbs…

If you find phrasal verbs hard, you are not alone. They are hard and sometimes weird. At the same time, they are a key part of conversational English and they are also quite beautiful.

‘To show up’ is one of these.

Like a lot of phrasal verbs, this has a lot of meanings. One meaning of ‘show up’ is to arrive, often unexpectedly.

Here’s an example from the Cambridge Dictionary:

“I invited him for eight o’clock, but he didn’t show up until 9.30.”

There’s also another meaning which I love. ‘To show up’ can simply mean to be there… even when you don’t want to be there.

For example, you have some work to do in English, like a project or a meeting, and there is this voice in your head that says ‘don’t go! You can’t do it! It’s better to stay at home – it will be so embarrassing. You can do it another time.’

‘To show up’ is when you go anyway.

I'm here show up english teacher Berlin

Be there in bright colours 

Here’s some things I want to say about showing up:

Showing up is a daily practice. It’s something we do today, and the next day, and the next day.

Sometimes it just means going to English class when we’d much rather be at home in our pyjamas.

The winter is coming in Germany. The rain can make us wish we’d rather NOT go to class today. The dark can lower our energy. We don’t even have time to attend company courses because of our high work load. I can completely understand that, and I completely support the need to rest, make space and self-care, but sometimes…

Showing up IS self-care. It shows yourself that you…

  • respect yourself so much that you want to get better at something.
  • trust that you are strong enough to do it.
  • care about your goals and becoming a better person.
  • make space for other parts of life.

Showing up is a habit we build. The first few times we do something it’s always hard. Currently I’m learning how to code. I promised myself that I would learn for at least 15 minutes every time I have a free evening. For the first week, I really had to motivate to sit down and start.

Now I’m in my second week and I don’t really think about it: I just sit down and I start. I show up because now it’s normal for me to do it. And if I can do it, so can you.

Showing up is hard. Because it means we will continue working when every part of us wants to give up.

It means we make mistakes and maybe embarrass ourselves. Sometimes you just have to forget your ego and continue working. You make a mistake, you learn from it, you start the next exercise or join the next conversation.

Yes, this is hard. I know this as a teacher and as a student, but you show up anyway. That’s why…

Showing up gets easier with time. You build that strength inside which helps you continue. You build a trust that you can do it. Finally, you learn to ignore the voices in your head which tell you to postpone your goals.

 

daily practice show up english teacher berlin

Showing up is a daily practice ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

Last but not least…

Showing up is necessary to leaning something new. This includes English. Here’s a hard truth: you don’t get better at something if you don’t practice it. To practice something, you have to show up. Show up to class, show up to Meet Ups, or even show up to your desk and write some short sentences.

The fact is: you do something, you get better at it. It’s always this way.

So next time you’re thinking about NOT going to English class, think about showing up instead. Think about all those reasons that help you to move forward, think about how life will be 6 months from now if you keep showing up.

Think about that. And show up.

The end.

 

Are you finding it hard to show up? Do you need someone to motivate you? Then give me a call and organise a trail lesson with me.

“I can’t do it” is only a concept

yoga retreat english teacher berlin
©MoreThanGrammar 2018

In August, I went on a yoga retreat. I learned many things there and in this post, I’d like to share with you the top top TOP lesson that I took back with me.

Whenever we (the participants) came up with a reason why we couldn’t do something, our teacher would say one simple line: Das ist nur ein Konzept or That is only a concept in English.

For example:

“I can’t do handstands because I’m a woman” – That is only a concept

“Meditation is really hard” – That is only a concept

“That’s just how I am” – That is only a concept

Why these words are so powerful

Since the retreat, I’ve had a lot of fun bringing these five words into my everyday life.

“I’m too tired” – That is only a concept

“I don’t have time today” – That is only a concept

“I have so much to do!” – That is only a concept

Sometimes it even makes me laugh because it helps me to take my thoughts less seriously.

That is one part of the power of these words. Humour is very important when learning something new.

Another great thing is that they bring us out of our normal ways of thinking.

For example, let’s look at my personal favourite: “I have so much to do!”

When I add “That is only a concept” to this sentence, I start to think: “Hmmm good point. Do I really have too much to do? Or have I given myself too much to do? Is there a way I can do less things today? Is there someone or something that can wait for tomorrow or next week? OR maybe I can do all of these things. Maybe I’ll get them done really quickly… I don’t know, let’s see…”

After that, I feel a lot more relaxed about the whole situation.

So, in short, these words are powerful because 1) they help us question our situation and be less serious, 2) they help us think differently and 3) they help us to relax.

hooray that is only a concept i can't do it english teacher berlin.jpg
Yes… this is often how I teach… ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

Concepts in English learning

Now I’m starting to think about how I could use it as a teacher.

In fact, I’ve noticed myself thinking it in conversations with students.

I hear a lot of concepts on a daily basis. In other words, I hear a lot of reasons why students can’t learn English.

Let’s take a common concept as an example: “I can’t do it”

This is by far the top favourite concept that I have heard during my many years of teaching.

I want to say right now that when I use the word ‘concept,’ I don’t want to say that what you think isn’t important. Of course, it’s important.

What I mean when I use the word ‘concept’ is that this is only an idea that you have. It’s a thought. As I learned in therapy “thoughts are thoughts, not facts.”

This means you don’t have to believe everything you think, which is a very freeing thing. It means you can think again. It means you have a chance to think differently about yourself. It means you have a chance to find a new, and positive, way of thinking.

“But Victoria, this is not a thought, it’s a FACT, I can’t do it”

OK, fine… I still don’t believe you. So let’s look at…

…The way out

For this exercise, I want you to think about something you want to do, but “can’t.” It could be writing an email or giving a presentation or speak fluently.

Put this activity in front of you. Maybe you could make a picture of it in your head. For example, a picture of a PowerPoint slide.

Now say “I can’t do this.” Do it with feeling, maybe even shout it, and jump up and down. “I CAN’T DOOOO THIIIISSS.”

And after that say quietly: “But that is only a concept I have.”

You might need to do this exercise a few times. At first, the conversation will probably continue. “No it’s not, I can’t do this.” Just keep answering: “That is only a concept.”

Then slowly slowly, you might get different thoughts in your head.

“Well no, I can’t do this right now, but I can learn. I can definitely use PowerPoint. And I can definitely type. Maybe I could write a version in German first and then start to translate it. Or I can…”

Do you see what I mean? You start to talk yourself into a different way of thinking. You start to see what you can do instead of what you can’t. When you see what you can do, how you feel about the task changes completely.

Very cool.

you are my hero
You are my hero because you can do this! ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

In summary

  • Whatever you believe is only a concept
  • Concepts can change
  • You have the power to change them
  • How cool is that?

Now go out and there and change your world!

Sometimes we need help to change our concepts. I often feel that it is my job as a teacher: to help my students think differently about what they can do in English. So if you need help to find and change your concepts, give me a call and we can arrange a trial lesson.

Design Thinking in English Learning

I’m always interested in new ideas because it keeps my teaching fresh. One of the great things about working with fantastic students is that new ideas come very often.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to one student about a session she organised at her workplace and she mentioned Design Thinking. I had never heard of it, and after she described it a little, I decided to do my research and how I could use this as a teacher.

Here’s what I found

Design Thinking is a solution-based way of thinking.

It uses five steps (empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test), which you can use again and again. It is not a strict linear process. This means you can do steps 1-5 in a line, or in a circle, or backwards, or forwards. Whatever you need.

As I did more and more research, I became very excited. From my point of view, Design Thinking gives us an opportunity to make creative, people-centred solutions to problems.

Plus, I like systems where you are given a series of steps because this helps me to break down what I want.

Finally, as an ESL teacher, I can see that it provides a neat framework that you can use to create your own personal learning plan.

Can I use Design Thinking to learn English?

Yes.

What I’d like to do in this post is look at each of the steps in the Design Thinking process, explain them a little and then give you questions which you can ask yourself. At the end, you can use your answers to find a learning system that works best for you.

Is design thinking really for me?

Of course, you will only know if you try 😉

I found it amazing because I love lists. I love the idea of writing down a load of ideas and choosing the ones that are best for me.

Plus, it is great if you are a visual learner because you can get your ideas on paper. You can use colours and Post-Its, and turn your goal into a piece of art.

It can also be good if you like to move when you learn. For example, you could put step 1 in one part of your room, step 2 in another corner and so on. Then you could follow the process by walking around the space. Some speakers actively encourage you to move around when you are thinking because movement helps your brain work better.

take a walk movement is good design thinking english teacher berlin

Take a walk – it’s good for you! ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

For learners who like listening to things, you could change it a bit. For example, you do invite a friend and do it together, or you could record your ideas on your phone and listen to them.

Or you could do a mixture of all of these. Or you could do it while hanging upside down. Or you could do it in the bath. The main thing is: give it a go! It’s good for your brain to introduce yourself to different ways of doing things.

The Five Steps

Step 1: Empathy:

The first stage is to “empathise” with your problem.

This means you need to understand what you want exactly. For this you need to ask two questions:

  • what do I want to learn?
  • what problems do I have? (time, confidence, opportunity etc)

This helps you to become clearer about what you want and also what could stop you from getting to this goal.

For example: I want to improve my grammar, but I usually become demotivated quickly when I make lots of mistakes.

Or: I want to learn more words, but I don’t have enough time.

It’s important to know what could stop you because then you will be aware of the problem. When you know what your problem is, then it’s much easier to think of ways around this.

Step 2: Define:

So now you know what you want and what problems you could face, you need to define your goal as a positive statement or a question.

For example

  • What would it take for me to increase my vocabulary?
  • How might I improve my pronunciation?
  • I want to improve my grammar to get IELTS band 7 so that I can get into university

You could also combine this stage with a SMART goal as this will also help you to think about the time you need to finish this goal by.

Make it clear, make it positive and make it right for you.

someone shouting I want design thinking english teacher berlin

©MoreThanGrammar 2018

Step 3: Ideate:

For me, this is the fun part. Now you’ve got your goal (your why) we need to find your how.

Ways of brainstorming:

  • List 50 of the worst ways you could learn vocabulary
  • List 100 ways you could practice pronunciation
  • List 20 ways you could continue to avoid learning

If you have no more ideas, move around or work in a different location. Remember, movement is good for the brain!

I recently tried to do this. In fact, I did an exercise where I had to list 100 ways of earning more money. That was hard, man. It took me a week! So don’t stress about getting all the ideas in one sitting. Sometimes we need time.

Quick question: Why think of the worst idea?

Have you ever noticed that, when you are thinking of new ideas, you sometimes say ‘oh no, that’s a terrible idea!’ and then you stop the activity?

This is where thinking of the WORST POSSIBLE IDEAS can help. You can relax, have fun and actually sometimes allows really great ideas to come up. So give it a go! You never know what might happen.

worst possible idea ideation english teacher berlin

Don’t try this at home… ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

Step 4: Prototype:

This is where you use these ideas to create a system that works for you.

Choose ONE method from your ideas. JUST ONE. We need to make learning realistic and if you choose too many, it can become too much and you won’t do anything. Plus, first we need to check if this idea is good for you.

Possible methods are:

I’m going to read 10 pages from a book every day

Or: I’m going to write 50 words a day in my new diary

Or: I’m going to learn 40 new words a week using this app on my phone

Now ask yourself:

  • When am I going to do this? (Morning, evening, lunchtime?)
  • Where am I going to do this? (at home, at work, in a park, on the train?)
  • How am I going to do this? (on a computer, in a notebook, on my phone?)

Now the important thing: save some time in your calendar for this. Make it just as important as your work meetings. This is your goal and it’s worth giving time for it. Plus, when we get a reminder in our calendars we are more likely to remember. It makes you more aware, more responsible and more motivated.

Step 5: Test:

Finally, do it!

Then after 3 weeks, review your method. Ask yourself: is this working?

If yes, great! Keep going.

If not, that’s OK. YOU HAVEN’T WASTED TIME! You needed to see this method didn’t work so you can find the right one.

So if it’s not working for you, ask yourself:

  • How could I change it?
  • Do I need to add something extra?
  • Have my goals changed?
  • Could I use one of my other ideas instead?

Language learning is a process. Design thinking is a process. Maybe that’s why they work so well together…

someone looking at post its ideation design thinking english teacher berlin.jpg

This is me on a daily basis ©MoreThanGrammar 2018

In summary:

  • Design Thinking works for different learning styles
  • There are five stages, and you can do them again and again
  • The five stages are: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test
  • Review your method and change it if it doesn’t work
  • You are awesome and you can do this!

Remember: The best way to see if it works is to do it. If you need any help, give me a call and we can arrange a lesson to find the best way for you.

The challenges of studying at home

work from home

August has been a quiet month for me. This means a lot less running around and a lot more time at home to work on my own projects, including studying some more German.

This always brings up a lot of challenges for me. The truth is: I find it difficult to study from home. I get distracted easily. I get nervous staying in the same place for too long. And I feel guilty for wasting time when I ‘should’ be doing more.

So by the end of the day, I feel exhausted and also like I’ve done nothing.

It’s also very difficult to create variety for yourself when you are in the same place all day.

By ‘variety’ I mean doing different things at different times. I know students who are studying for an exam and they only focus on one part of the exam for a whole day or even for a whole week. I understand this if you are nervous about one part of the exam. You want to focus on it so you get better.

The problem with this is …

…it can become too much because you are over thinking and ‘over studying.’ This can sometimes become demotivating and you actually get worse at this part of the exam. It’s true. I’ve seen this and experienced it myself.

… there is no variety. You are doing one thing for a long period of time. This can make it difficult to concentrate and you get BORED. Which is also demotivating.

So how can we create balance when we study at home? How can we find a balance between free time and study? And how can we find a balance between different topics?

Here are a few methods which I have found useful in the past:

timetable today

… Create a timetable: When I studied for my A levels (a English college certificate), I drew a timetable at the beginning of everyday. One hour for science, one hour for maths, one hour for English etc. The time you spend on a topic is your choice. I find one hour worked for me. For some people it’s 2 hours, for other people it’s 25 minutes. It doesn’t matter how long it is – find the time period that works for you.

… Change between difficult and easy / interesting and boring: There are always parts of studying (and life!) which we find boring. The trick is to NOT spend TOO long on something you find boring. So do something you like or something you find easy, then do something more difficult/boring. Then do something fun/easy. Then do something difficult/boring… and so on. This way you have variety and also stay motivated AND get things done.

… Remember it’s OK to have distractions: Maybe you can see this as a sign that your brain needs a break. Breaks are so so important. In fact there is a method (the ‘pomodoro’ method) which gives you time to have distractions. We are all human and our brain needs time to breathe, so give yourself the chance to have distractions, then come back to your studies fresher than before.

let's go

… Make a list of everything you have done in that day: Sometimes we get to the end of the day and think ‘oh I’m so useless I haven’t done anything today!’… But ask yourself: how can that be true when you have been working all day?

Get some perspective and make a list. Or call a friend and tell them about your day. This does two things: 1) you can see yourself all the things you have done and be PROUD about them and 2) this is excellent memory training for the brain and helps you to review the things you have done one more time.

Oh and 3) it’s also a chance to see what you want to do tomorrow: where you can study more or where you can study less. This is a great way to make progress.

checking in with a study partner

… Find a study partner: Whether it’s someone you study next to, or just someone you call at the end of the day, it’s great to have a study partner or a guide or a teacher when you are studying for a long time. Someone you can talk with about things you find difficult, someone you can share your achievements with, someone who can check on your progress, someone who can help you and someone YOU can help.

So ask yourself: who could you study with? Who will motivate you? Who could help you to learn?

(It’s very important to find a study partner who will HELP you to study and not distract you – so think very carefully when you are choosing who you want to work with).

In conclusion:

Studying from home can be fun, easy and productive if we learn how to do it well. All we need to do is to find people and methods we work well with and create a balance in our home-studying life. So try something from the methods I’ve shared today and see what works for you. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Remember this is YOUR process which is magical and exciting, and gives you a chance to learn more about you PLUS the subject you are studying.

Exciting, right?

 

Are you looking for a teacher to guide you through an important exam? I can help! Just send me an email and let’s meet for a trial lesson 🙂

What teacher do you want?

someone-thinking-what-do-i-want

Every student is different and every teacher is different, so it important to think about what you want from a teacher so that you find the right teacher for you.

So I would like to share with you three things you can think about before you invest your time and money in a language course.

Tip 1: Find a teacher who specialises in what you want.

What do you need your lessons for? Do you need it for work? Or to have conversations on holiday? Or is it something even more specialised like presentation training or training for an exam? Or do you just want to focus on your pronunciation?

Whatever it is, really focus on exactly what you need, then look for a teacher who specialises in this. When you have a teacher who specialises with a lot of experience in the area you are looking for, your learning can become a lot deeper and you progress quicker towards your goals.

Tip 2: Ask for a trial lesson.

Most teachers will offer a free trail lesson. Of course, the teacher will come with lots of questions for you. I also encourage students in my trial lessons to ask me a lot of questions.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask:

  • Where do you come from?
  • Where did you learn how to become a teacher?
  • How long have you been a teacher?
  • What experience do you have with X? (“X” can be what you need e.g. presentations, pronunciation etc.)

Plus, you can use this time to see how you feel with this teacher. Do you feel comfortable or nervous? Is this someone who you want to meet every week? How you feel during the lessons is very important because the better you feel, the easier it will be for you to learn.

Of course, you can’t get everything from the first meeting, so you may need a few lessons to see how the lessons grow. At the same time, it is very important to have these questions in your head, so that you can see if this is the right teacher for you.

I am responsible for what I learn

Tip 3: Tell your teacher exactly what you want

I have wasted a lot of time (both my time and my students’ time) with students who don’t know what they want.

Yes, it is the teacher’s job to teach you. It is YOUR responsibility to a) know what you want to learn and b) actually learn it. We are your teachers, not your parents.

When you take this responsibility, the teacher’s job will be easier, you will have more motivation and your learning will be a lot more effective.

So ask yourself: What exactly do I want to learn? When do I want to learn it by?

And if you don’t know, that’s also fine. Just tell your teacher! It will make your lives much easier.

In summary, here are three things you can think of:

  • Find a teacher who specialises in what you want
  • Ask for a trial lesson and see how you feel
  • Tell you teacher what you want.

In my experience, if you think about these three things, it will be easier to find a teacher, you will save a lot of time and money and your learning will be more effective.

Am I the right teacher for you? Contact me for a free trial lesson and find out!

4 tips on how to concentrate

 

In this video I talk about: why concentration is important and 4 ways you can improve your concentration when you are studying a language.

Why is it important to build your concentration?

  • you will have more focus
  • you will have finish what you start
  • you will have less things on your ‘to do’ list
  • you can listen longer in class
  • you can sit down and think for a longer time
  • you can write for a longer time
  • you can learn more words

How can you build your concentration:

  1. Ask yourself: ‘What is my style of learning? How do I concentrate?’
  2. Turn off your notifications!
  3. Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break
  4. Be kind when you don’t concentrate.

What about you? How long can you concentrate? How are you going to build your concentration today?

Please subscribe to my channel to find out more learning and confidence tips

 

How to feel part of a group

 

In this video I talk about:
– feeling alone in a group
– how to connect with how you feel
– being aware and being responsible
– being kind to yourself

My 4 tips for feeling more confident in a group:
– take deep breaths
– connect with how you feel
– talk about something easy
– do nothing but stay aware!

How do you feel when you are part of a group? Comment below!

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