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After the holidays

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Well, the Cabalgata is over. The Three Kings have come. I've had my traditional roscón de reyes, and we'll soon be back in the classroom. Actually, to be truthful, I was in the classroom during the holidays. I stayed here in Madrid and told my private students that I'd be available if they were interested, and some of them were! Actually if you're just staying home, it's not bad to get out and teach a class.

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And I have been in the house much more than I like. Normally whenever I have any free time I'm out pedaling one of my bikes, but the weather has not been cooperating. Actually some people are prepared for wet riding, especially those from the British Isles where rain is not so unusual, but I have a straight road bike, a minimalist contraption with nothing but the bare essentials to keep weight down, no frills like fenders (mudguards if you're Brit). And I tend to stay away from the mud on my mountain bike to avoid the massive clean-up afterwards.

Actually I'm so into two-wheeled self-propulsion that when I'm not actually riding a bike (or doing bike maintenance), I'm talking about it on a Spanish bike forum. And I must say my writing in Spanish has noticeable improved. So I was thinking that our students could easily improve their English in the same way, I mean by taking part in an English-language forum on some topic to their liking.

You obviously don't have the advantage of a teacher standing over your shoulder correcting you, but you still learn. This is because writing in this kind of context forces you to “notice”. As you're writing a comment you think, “How do you say this in Spanish?” This makes you pay more attention to how things are said when you're reading their comments. So you learn!

Anyway, with such an uneventful Winter Solstice Season my favorite after-holiday game, Truth or Lie?, may be less exciting than usual. This is a fun, chatty way to start up a class after
holidays. What you do is tell the students about your holiday, everything you say is true, except for one lie. The challenging part is to think of a good lie; it should be something surprising yet plausible.

For example, I rode my bike four or five days a week in spite of all this rain. This is true by the way. The problem is that I've had to stay local and go for short rides. I really miss my four- or five-hour rides. So my lie could be that I rode my bike to Segovia one day. Or I could say I went skiing. The students can ask you questions to try and catch you out. For example, if a student knows a lot about skiing, he or she could probably figure out pretty quickly that I'm lying. After the students guess your lie, then you give them three to five minutes to think of their holiday and to think of their lie, then they play. It's fun!

Well, happy New Year everyone! Enjoy your teaching in 2011!

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