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An accelerated 20-day English course in the school of future-predavanje održano u Sofiji, Bugarska na godišnjoj konferenciji BETA Bulgaria

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SOFIJA, maj  2007- godišnja konferencija udruženja profesora engleskog jezika u Bugarskoj- BETA  Bulgaria

          “An accelerated 20-day English course
                     in the school of future”
                     
                              
                                   INTRODUCTION

Good afternoon and welcome to this tickling little talk about the wonders of  an accelerated 20-day English course.  My name is Danijela Bojanic, and thank you  all  for coming here today!
 
The very first thing  I must admit, before we start, is that I am not exactly what you consider a normal person! 

A normal person usually has one father. Well I had four fathers and they are guilty for what I am and what I do today, by that I don`t mean that they overfed me, so that I grew this big. I had four fathers who helped me become a better person and a better teacher!
The first father, my real father taught me to do everything honestly and with devotion, and he allowed me to start my first job. Since I went to all school, city and state competitions in English my path was decided already. I taught English to my cousins, school-mates, neighbors. My primary teacher Lily Markovic suggested I should take some extra classes. So I did.
That is how I met my  second father, when I enrolled  “Speak 72” private school to improve my English. At the interview, I got an offer to teach, and pay for my classes that way!  My teacher became my employer. The first time I taught somebody English in the real classroom, I myself was 15 years old, and I taught weekend courses for adult students. I was given my chance. The school was 20 years ahead of those times, with the method of children-students as teachers. The owner and founder of that school Mr Svetozar Popovic, PhD in English, MA in German, BA in French- was my Maecenas.
My third father was my first one-to-one student, and he helped me go further in my  research- a PhD in Serbian language and literature Radomir Baturan- my high-school professor,  who asked me to compare Serbian and English all the time, as he was an academic and  his mind needed explanations- why, why, why? His Serbian was perfect-so he taught me my native too, and I lead him through English, as much as I knew then. As he went deep into academic English, I had to prepare well for my classes, and at night I read all this complex university grammar and simplified it for professor Baturan.
My fourth spiritual father is actually my husband - who encouraged and supported me to start up our own private school, my “Summerhill”project and finally create the method on the basis of my experience. GSD method tends to suit the needs of adult students shaped as an accelerated 20-day English course in the school of future.


 
                                 URGES TO ACCELERATE

All the students in my first group course were three times older then  me, usually frustrated, nervous and time-limited by their employers.
         They needed more than two classes a week and they had no time to take the regular Starter, Beginner, and Elementary course-  each taking 6 months time. At weekends they were tired and often I saw them gaze through the windows and wander away, carried by their thoughts.
        The transition and new rules for the employees were cruel. They had to catch up fast, efficiently enough and become competent users of a completely new language.
They had families too, beside the job which often demanded more than 8-hour working time.
The books were 100 % in English and sometimes they couldn`t understand the tasks.
They lacked strategies of quick learning, adopting new vocabulary, explanations in phonetics…
 I  gave them home works for every day between the classes and that was the first accelerated course I designed.
On my own I introduced a notebook and every class I included introduction to new grammar comparing Serbian and English, explaining IPA, showing them how to use dictionary, how to practice verbs and tenses, I drew pictures, spider grams, time lines…Teaching my students I started to study English before I set my foot on the stairway of faculty. 
They had families too, beside the job which often demanded more than 8-hour working time. The books were 100 % in English and sometimes they couldn`t understand the tasks. They lacked strategies of quick learning, adopting new vocabulary, explanations in phonetics… I  gave them home works for every day between the classes and that was the first accelerated course I designed.On my own I introduced a notebook and every class I included introduction to new grammar comparing Serbian and English, explaining IPA, showing them how to use dictionary, how to practice verbs and tenses, I drew pictures, spider grams, time lines…Teaching my students I started to study English before I set my foot on the stairway of faculty. 
They had families too, beside the job which often demanded more than 8-hour working time. The books were 100 % in English and sometimes they couldn`t understand the tasks. They lacked strategies of quick learning, adopting new vocabulary, explanations in phonetics… I  gave them home works for every day between the classes and that was the first accelerated course I designed.On my own I introduced a notebook and every class I included introduction to new grammar comparing Serbian and English, explaining IPA, showing them how to use dictionary, how to practice verbs and tenses, I drew pictures, spider grams, time lines…Teaching my students I started to study English before I set my foot on the stairway of faculty. 


 ACCELERATED STYLE OF LIVING  ACCELERATES  WAY OF LEARNING

Desperate situations bring  up the genius solutions!
Again, at the end of  my third year of studies, my room-mate Radica Radojevic  suddenly had to prepare her English exam, since she failed one of her main subjects in chemistry. We had not more than 15 days, and she was 0 level in English. If she failed, she would have to return home and give up studies for good. She also worked to support herself. I myself had four exams to recapitulate before the exams.
Radica was so desperate that she was willing to try any method, including hypnosis. As a student I read a little about Georgi Lozanov. I searched the internet, but my Pentium 1 had a dial-up connection, so  slow you could eat a sandwich and have a nap, until you download the documents you need.  I found out that we need especially designed books of Colin Rose (45 days delivery time) and it said nothing about grammar, only that you can learn many words. So I took Radica`s exam materials, I analyzed grammar and mainly hi-tech chemistry vocabulary, and made a plan.
I  had put the grammar in order from simple to complex, then made a daily input of 50 words in spider grams. I drew all the tenses in  charts and time-lines by aspects. Luckily, my friend Radica was a student of the generation, a brilliant mind and a great thinker. Since she learned everything better if given in the shape of formulae, I  used mathematical signs and created language formulae.
I compared Serbian to English, I read the texts, I showed her how to translate. We mostly learned by night- by day I studied for my exams, and Radica had to work. I could endanger my success in exams, and get into the same position but…
When the day came Radica went to the exam so nervous and exhausted, that she asked the professor to go first. I waited in front of her faculty like a husband waiting for his wife to deliver a baby…
She came out so quickly, and I thought she failed on the spot. Instead, she said she was going to be my slave for the next month until I pass my exams. Graded from 5 to 10, she got a mark 9! The professor was amazed. We were too. Anyway, I gave no further attention to that lonesome success case, until I returned to my home town and started teaching more and more people.  
Accidentally or not, soon I became known as the “magic” teacher among school children, and had a reputation of saving the children from  failing the grade.
Some years later I met my husband who urged me to open a private school and put to practice accelerated courses. For my 27th  birthday, he brought  me  a book “The learning revolution”  by Gordon Dryden and  Jeanette Voss.  I  had read it  in one breath and soon afterwards I  decided to take a plunge! 
I  swore to practice what I preach,  to test my assumptions, open a new  school and prove that all my  separate cases were not just  accidental success.  I accepted every student, no matter how desperate or difficult the case was.
Hopeless students, migrants, adult and senior students, children and grannies, businessman, housewives, commuters and workers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Up to now more than 3700 students took accelerated courses in our school, at all levels and different courses,  and I  have trained many young teachers, among which 23 teaching  in 5 branches of our school.

                   WHAT DO WE GAIN IN JUST 20 DAYS?

• BASIC PHONETICS, MORPHOLOGY, SYNTAX AND TENSE SYSTEM
• ELEMENTARY COURSE BOOK PROGRAMME 
        (according to CEFR standards)
• BASIC READING, WRITING, LISTENING AND SPEAKING SKILLS
• A  FEAR-FREE STUDENT WITH SOUND AND LOGICAL  PERCEPTION OF LANGUAGE

         THE REAL INPUT

• 1.100 WORDS
• 6 TENSES
• SIMPLIFIED SYNTAX
• IPA  BASICS
• READING,  WRITING,LISTENING, TRANSLATING
• SPEAKING EXERCISES
• BASIC EVERYDAY  LIFE TERMS &PHRASES
 
        THE OUTPUT

• On the average 500-800 words- individuals  learn 1000 words
• Sentence structure awareness
• Simple tense aspect adopted 100 %
• Basic skills: reading,writing,listening and speaking reaching CEFR scale description for A2 level
• Free and spontaneous speech
• Excellent phrasal competence

GOLDEN RULES OF ACCELERATED LEARNING

     A COURSE BOOK IS NOT A BYBLE
•  Be selective if you can choose the course book, but don`t be strict to keep to it at any cost- it may be an excellent book, but the students will not always accept it the same way.
• Revive it the way it pleases students, bring it close to their needs, add some materials from the internet, but still insist on the curriculum

FIND OR MAKE MOTIVATION

• An excellent teacher is an excellent motivator: be a psychologist, be an advisor – become  the best friend to your students, be proud of their success, comfort them when they feel sad, have problems, make mistakes…
• Find your student`s motives to learn English and use it to surf on it with fun and joy, listen through the classes what they feel, think, how they act, GET INVOLVED!
• If a student has no motivation - create it, make him/her understand the language, bring your students books to read, comics, jokes in English, music, borrow them your favorite films
•  Tell them stories about other students you had and how they made it, tell them anecdotes, funny mistakes- KEEP IT INTERSTING!
• Be sure that you don`t create  a shock-wave by repeating the counter-productive attitudes of student’s parents, employers, school teachers

   SO WHO CAN TAKE AN ACCELERATED COURSE?

• Amazingly, but  even children fit into groups with adult, if their mother tongue knowledge of grammar is close to elementary level.
• Young adult- teenagers and young academic are perfect to work with if you tune up to their modern interests.
• Adult- employed, unemployed, all professions backgrounds, styles of learning-  just beware of their stress and frustrations!
• Even senior adults- good, old-fashioned generations,
   disciplined to work, grateful for any kind of your attention

A TEACHER IS NOT A SURGEON: three anecdotes from my practice

                   Practice what you preach
 
Once I was persuading a college student that he has that time he wines for, and that with  15 minutes a day at least–he would perform a miracle.
He answered openly that if I took as much exercise as he would learn,  I could become the best looking “chick” in town and that he would take me for a drink then.
Spontaneously I laughed, and admitted that he was right, but added  that I would take him for a drink anyway. The class was in hysterics, and he later became an excellent student.


                   My teacher is weird

I had a huge class of eleven women. I taught an elementary level, and an older lady who lived in Germany for years had a total blockade in speaking.
Three times in a row she couldn`t read a word. We begged her, persuaded her to read even mistaking every word… at one moment I asked her once more to do it with my palms  put like in a prayer, and somehow, as I  often play with children and dogs, I squealed like a dog when it waves its tale and begs you!
She burst into laughter and read her part perfectly, saying that if  I can squeal for her - she could read for me!
Later in an anonymous poll, I recognized  only her comment: my teacher is the best, creative, dedicated but a little weird sometimes!

                 Suicidal tendencies

This one was not so funny for me. I had a small business English class, and a very confused young man, always being late, mixed up, sad and worried… He travelled quite a distance from another town to Belgrade.  He got my permission to keep his mobile by his side because he said he had to be in touch all the time.
 One day, he was looking at his mobile often, and suddenly, he got up, all pale and said:” I can`t take it anymore!” and left the classroom leaving his book, glasses, bag and jacket! I  was left in a shock. We had a psychologist in the group,  Tamara who said that she watched him for a long time, and that he probably went to kill himself  or who knows what…
  I left the classroom two minutes after him and a colleague came to take over the class. When I got on the top of the building the door was locked, so I got down on the street and looked for him. I got right at the moment when he got into his car and rushed off in high speed. I remembered I had my mobile in  the pocket, so I called him.
 As soon as he answered I asked him not to do anything foolish, and that he is too young to die. He paused for a second and said: “ My wife is having a baby. I have to go. “ and he laughed hilariously!
 He got a son and  we bought him a present as a class, but  soon half the city knew about  this  funny teacher chasing him into the street to save his life…

*This abstract is taken from the original presentation given in Exeter at the Annual IATEFL International Conference, and the same speech was given in Sofia at the annual BETA Bulgaria conference, both in 2007
*“Britanicca School” and the author, prof.Danijela Bojanic withold the full copyright of all featured parts of the presentation
*Every unauthorised usage or public display by third persons will be legally prosecuted in the Serbian court of law as well as in front of the international legal bodies