Welcome everyone !!

I see from my site stats that I have been getting some traffic on here from Senegal and Ivory Coast. That is fabulous as it means I am not forgotten in this part of the world, so dear to my heart. I led training workshops in Dakar and Abidjian for 9 years running and so met a huge number of people and worked with some great colleagues. If you recognize yourselves in this, please be assured that I have not forgotten you and what I learned from my time spent with you – the warmth, the laughs and the same desire to do our best for our kids, to help to bring out the best in them. If you were one of the participants who learned all the verses of The Court of King Caractacus, I hope you can still remember them (!!) and you might enjoy a sing-along to this video.

If you had the ultimate pleasure of singing “I am the Music Man” and learning to dance to the bagpipe music of “Scotland the Brave”, I am sure just the mere mention of it will bring a smile to your faces. As we always did a Friday special on the final day of the course, there you were, in all your Friday finery, boogie-ing your way down along with this :

I no longer work in West Africa – sadly, as I loved those yearly trips – but I continue the teacher training and still maintain that desire to bring fun and enjoyment to the world of language learning. Please feel free to “Like” this post, if you are one of my West Africa friends …

Image result for cars rapide dakar


Streamlining and Downsizing

Over the course of summer 2016, I am going to be streamlining my Big English Blog with a view to downsizing a little. It has become too big to handle.


You may have noticed that a large number of the tabs have disappeared. The information is still here – it has just been tidied up a bit. If you can’t locate what you are looking for, try the SEARCH box.

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I am also going to be relocating all training resources and information onto the sister blog : http://www.jennylegertraining.wordpress.com

You can find where to go by visiting the FORMATION tab and you will be pointed on your merry way to the correct place.

Any comments or questions always welcome via the CONTACT page.

Enjoy your visit and thanks for dropping by !!

Holiday clean-up

As lessons will be coming to an end in the coming fortnight, I shall be starting my big clean-up on this blog. It will be three years old soon and needs a bit of a tidy-up. If you find it is off-line, do not worry. it is only because it is being given a make-over and it will be back, sparkly and new in September.

Almost there !!!

As I open up the front page of my blog today, I see the number of hits is 44,982. That means that in just 18 more hits, I will have reached 45,000 hits on my humble little blog. I am truly gobsmacked (and anyone who knows me will know that it takes a lot to render me speechless !!!). This blog venture began about seven years ago, when I created my first googlesite to be able to share mp3 files with my students to prolong their listening work out of the classroom and to stop me from having to copy onto USB flashdrives countless times. How things have moved on !! In that time, I have moved over to wordpress and I have even become a “dotcom” in my own right !! It was reported back to me recently that some teachers think I am mad to have created this blog. “Elle est folle” were the exact words. I believe they were referring to the sheer size of the blog today and the quantity of resources that are contained herein. I like to tell myself they weren’t referring to my mental state !!! This blog has actually existed in its current form since July 4th 2012, so it is fast approaching its 3rd birthday. Of course, over the course of those three years, it has grown and grown and will continue to grow. It didn’t start immediately in its current form, of course. It was a much smaller and less ambitious proposition then.

To everyone who visits me here, I thank you wholeheartedly for your support. I hope you continue to find useful stuff here and also on my sister blogs, on Funology, on British pronunciation and on general musings about teaching and teacher training.

So, hold on your hats for when we reach 45,000 !!!


Another goal to reach

As I am writing, the number of hits on this blog is 18,374. With three and a half weeks until the Easter holidays, my goal is to reach 20,000 hits before Easter. Can we do it ? Yes, we can !! I know we can. How do I know this ? Because I am confident in the knowledge that my pupils are working hard and using this blog to do so. I can see it on the stats as I follow who is doing what. I see it in their work in the classroom as they re-invest what they have been doing at home.

I know we can do it because I see also the countries that are following my blog too. I check my stats page every day to see which countries are there and I smile to myself as I realize that people around the world are checking out what I have to offer. It is very exciting being part of the blogosphere and to know I am being read around the world.

So, we’re on the road to 20,000 before April 19th. Let’s see how quickly we can get there, everyone.


The big switch off

One of the aspects of the job of being a teacher that I am finding harder and harder to manage is the “switch off”. I seem to have one of these notices attached to me :

do not switch offI am finding it more difficult to deal with the never-ending nature of the job. You have never finished because there is always more forward-thinking that you can do. My lessons for the coming week are ready, noted down, on my USB drive (which is safely stored in my bag – as I have a terrible habit of forgetting it), papers are marked and Bob’s your uncle. But there are then the dratted reports to write – no, done those for this week). And of course, I also run training courses – but Friday’s is more or less ready and can be tweaked during the week – so, have I finished ? Well, I guess technically, I could say yes, but there is another lesson that I want to give some thought to, and my blog pages could do with tidying up a bit, and my office and my desk, well, how many piles of stuff can I accumulate in such a small space ? It all needs sorting and filing. And I have this new training course that will be in May … and for next year, I ought to add some new stuff to the training I will be doing on October …


I entitled this blogpost “The Big Switch-off” because that is what I am about to do. My desk light actually conked out on me last night, flickered a bit, fizzed and then died. So I took it as a sign. It is Friday and I have a whole weekend ahead of me. In approximately five minutes, I am going to switch off my computer, not just standby, but actual switch off, and close the door on this corner of my life.

switch off pc I will not return until Sunday evening, not even to spy on my statistics to see who has read this blogpost in which countries. I will not fiddle, twiddle, tweak or even peak at any of it. I have the in-laws coming for the weekend and I will relax !! I have selected three novels to read – proper paper books and not e-books – and I am going to get halfway through at least one of them. I think it will be the juicy scandal about Henry VIII – the sort of novel I love but don’t take time to read. I will light a roaring fire in the fireplace, make an apple cake and enjoy a nice cup of tea, watching the blue tits on the feeder in the garden, hoping they will find the nesting box that my dad made me for Christmas.

Do you believe me ?

keep calm and switch off

I am determined to do it. How difficult should it be to decide not to work over the weekend ? It is, in my view, one of the big issues that faces teachers (and I am sure, other professions, but I don’t know about them). Surely anyone who works from home will empathize. I am not going to feel guilty about it. I am going to enjoy the downtime. If you are a teacher reading this, and you fancy joining me on the “Downtime Cruisade”, well, welcome aboard but don’t message me here about it, as I won’t be looking. This computer is now officially out of bounds. Do not enter. Go away and relax – yes, Frankie says Relax, so now go and do it. The Big Switch Off offically starts HERE …

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Why don’t I like Maths ?

This is a question that has long troubled me. I disliked Maths intensely at school. I just didn’t get the point of it. Why did I have to imagine what x or y values were ? Problem-solving always just gave me a head-ache – and to be totally honest, it still does today. Thank heavens for computers to take the hassle out of calculating average marks !

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So, I don’t like Maths, and I could probably live with this quite happily, except for the fact that I live in a society that seems to revere Maths and one who is useless at the M game, (i.e. me) is considered a bit useless overall !

I read this on a Facebook post this evening :

“Mathematicians are discovering that to help children fully understand and truly enjoy math, drastic changes to the way standard schooling approaches the subject must be made. This is not because math is the most important part of the curriculum, but because it is one that can cause large amounts of anxiety and stress, even into adulthood.”

– and I felt I could really relate to that. I can’t say that maths causes me much stress or anxiety on a day to day basis – far from it. Do not worry – I am generally speaking a happy and well-grounded person, I think. My stress comes from the pressure put on our youngsters to be good at maths, as if your life will be a complete failure if you don’t get to grips with the M game.

When I was a young teacher in France, over fifteen years ago, this was made crystal-clear to me by a Physics teacher during a “Conseil de Classe” for a Scientific class. One of the students in particular, Guilluame, was really good at English, motivated and talented. He really came to life in class and produced some great work. Sadly, he was far from the same in Maths and Physics. During the Conseil, we had to give each student a grade (A-E) based on, well, I’m not too what it was based on, actually. Judging on my views of Guillaume, I wanted to opt for a B at least, if not an A. I was shot down in verbal flames by the snotty Maths teacher who said to me and I quote “Nous n’allons pas tenir compte de l’avis d’un professeur d’anglais en section scientifique” … translation “We’re not going to listen to the English teacher’s opinion in a Science-based class.”

At the time, I was too shy, inexperienced, naive and maybe too polite to hit back. Never fear, I have regretted it ever since and I would certainly react now, if it were to arise again. I am glad to say, however, that I think things have evolved and people are now starting to appreciate the impact of English in all areas of study, and especially perhaps, science. Maybe today, I would have been able to get that A for Guillaume ? In any case, the grading system has gone too, thank goodness.

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But none of this helped to reconcile me with Maths. I am certain that if things had been presented to me in a more playful way, I might have “got it” more. One of my dear maths colleagues and friends (this is sincere and not sarcastic) has a really fun way to approach things and I followed completely his lesson based on the price of a baguette last year. If I had had the chance of lessons like that , I would perhaps not be the maths dummy that I feel I am today, but I strongly believe this, also found on facebook tonight :

“We want to have hands-on, grounded, metaphoric play. At the free play level, you are learning in a very fundamental way—you really own your concept, mentally, physically, emotionally, culturally.” This approach “gives you deep roots, so the canopy of the high abstraction does not wither. What is learned without play is qualitatively different. It helps with test taking and mundane exercises, but it does nothing for logical thinking and problem solving. These things are separate, and you can’t get here from there.”

The source is actually a page for the Montessori method – maybe I would have liked that method of learning for myself ? I certainly try to apply it in my own classroom. Seeing my 16 and 17 year olds getting out the dice and counters to play a board game to practice the past tense is pure pleasure. I will be trying that game out with adults next week and I am certain they will get as much fun out of it.

I think the real reason I didn’t like Maths was because I found lessons boring and irrelevant to me. I always preferred languages because, as a terrible chatterbox, I always had lots to say and wanted to learn how to say it all. I don’t think I have done too badly, as one who has not done Maths since the age of 15. I can still manage to survive in the world. Calculators and computers are wonderful things – as are sons, husbands and Maths friends. But I am convinced that the power of play might have worked for me – and who knows, maybe one day I will set myself the challenge of trying to sit through some maths lessons ? It would be a challenge and a half, that would !!

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