Storytelling with IELTS Writing Task 1

Last year I read a book called "Storytelling with data: a data visualization guide for business professionals,” which might seem like a bizarre choice for an English teacher. Seduced by the word storytelling, I ended up reading a book for people whose job is to visualize information in the form of line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, and tables, so basically IELTS Writing Task 1 tasks but for real life situations.

In IELTS preparation we always describe data. But this book gave me an opportunity to change sides and look at those charts from the perspective of those who create them. In this post, I want to share one important insight I got that can make a huge difference to the way you approach IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

The author of the book emphasizes that to visualize data effectively you need to think about two key questions - who you are describing the data to and what you want them to know or do.

Even though these questions are technically not part of the exam, this …

An interview with a teacher-turned-translator

This post is an interview with my friend Olga Kolesnikova. Olga and I went to university together, where we were both trained to be teachers of English. I am now a teacher, as trained. However, Olga decided to pursue a career as a translator and an interpreter. I’ve always been curious to pick Olga's brain about her career path as it is very different from mine despite the same background. In this post, I am asking her my burning questions about her choice and her experience.

1 Tell my readers a bit about yourself. Just like you, I graduated from Pskov Pedagogical University. I worked as a teacher of English there for three years, and I always had a nagging idea that I didn’t have enough life experience to broadcast my ideas and my personality to students. So, I took a step to change it all and leave Pskov for St. Petersburg to become something different.
2 We went to the university together, where we were both trained to become teachers. But you decided to pursue a career as a …

My C2 Proficiency book review: "The Elements of Eloquence"

My colleague Lyudmila Snezhanova asked me to share a book review I wrote when I was preparing for C2 Proficiency (fka CPE). And I thought, “Why don’t I share it with everyone then?”

I wrote this review about a year ago about “The Elements of Eloquence” by Mark Forsyth, which I was reading at the time. There is no task for it. I wrote it to practise.

When I was preparing for CPE, I practised writing in two modes: exam mode and growth mode. In exam mode, my goal was to answer the question meeting the time limit. In growth mode, my goal was to work on my language. In this mode, I prepared a list of phrases and/or structures I wanted to use and tried to use as many of them as possible in my writing. This review is the second version of the original review written in growth mode.

Given that the title of the book is “The elements of eloquence,” it is no surprise that I bought it and read it from cover to cover, scrutinizing every single line. What self-respecting language teacher woul…

Confessions of self-employed English teachers

My fellow Fulbrighter and a wonderful English teacher Maria Merziapova, when she moved to Moscow was so appalled by the mess that is going on in language schools that she is thinking of going freelance. I’ve been self-employed for several years now, so Maria kept interrogating me about this career path. I decided to take it two steps further: to address her questions and fears in a public post and to invite my amazing colleague Sandra Slivinskaya to join me. Sandra and I wrote our answers completely independently to provide two perspectives.

Part 1. My questions.1. How did you make the decision to leave a steady job and work on your own? Irina
I didn't really make this decision. It was a series of small decisions. It always made more sense financially to have my own students rather than work for someone else. At one point I had a full schedule as a self-employed teacher and didn’t need a school.

Well, first of all, after my graduation as a linguist-interpreter, I have nev…

How to ace your Fulbright interview

Aspiring Fulbrighters have recently received good tidings that they have made it to the second round, the most important and stressful part of which is the interview. So I've decided to put together a list of the most helpful interview tips and asked my fellow Fulbrighter Maria Merziapova to join me. We wrote our top tips completely independently so that you could have two different perspectives.

Top tips by Irina Lutsenko(Fulbright FLTA, 2015-2016, University of New Haven, Connecticut) #1 Be ready to talk about your application, job/studies, program participation, and plans for the future.
To be able to do that:
- Read your application again. Chances are you wrote it 3-5 months ago. Trying to remember what you wrote during the interview is a bad idea.
- Talk to Fulbright alumni or watch/read about their experience. You will get a better understanding of what the interviewers might be looking for.
- Google typical university or even job application questions. These bog standard, …

Don't judge Abook

I am itching to share a story written by Lyudmila Snezhanova in my Creative Writing Club, which is a project for people who share my passion for writing. Lyudmila wrote an incredible piece based on a highly challenging prompt:

✦ Choose one of the following idioms and include it in a story that also includes a literal use of one of the figurative words in the idiom. For example, if I were to choose the phrase “at the drop of a hat,” I would also include a hat or someone dropping something.
- at the drop of a hat
- hit the sack
- judge a book by its cover
- beat around the bush
- steal [someone’s] thunder
- the last straw. ✦
Below is her wonderfully-crafted story with all of these idioms in their literal and figurative meaning! Enjoy! 
✽✽✽ Don't judge Abook“Yes,” said Perry Stalker, gripping his new suspenders, slipping from his stomach, and regretting he had feasted on smoked bream and a six pack of beer last weekend. "With our stainless reputation of the best private bo…

Text. Lexically.

This is a guest post by Alisa Chernikova, my student and an English teacher. The post is about working with text and is the third in a series Reflections on "Lexical Grammar" (a book by Leo Selivan). Follow the links to read the previous two: 1. Chunks and collocations; 2. Grammar acquisition.

The post contains lots of practical activities we did in class. Alisa dug out some activities I had created long ago and had totally forgotten about. But it turns out I've been following the lexical grammar approach for years without even realizing it. You can give these activities a shot too, btw. The key is at the end of the post.   

So we’ve been talking about the lexical approach and lexical grammar in particular. By now we know that chunks and collocations are important both in terms of boosting grammar and vocabulary acquisition. Today let’s have a look at how we can work with text.

According to the author, texts are most usually used for the purposes of reading comprehensio…