Feedback

Happy Thursday everyone! Let’s talk about feedback today.

First, let’s define the word. Feedback is a noun that refers to the response one receives from a task or performance. It is usually analyzed to improve performance in the future. If you want to see feedback’s other meanings, check them out here.

When learning a language, feedback is essential for improving. You need to know what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and most importantly, WHY.

So today I thought I’d take you through my process for providing feedback from the lessons I teach on italki.

First of all, I take notes from the moment class begins until the moment it ends, so if you see me looking down and being quiet, that’s why. I am paying attention to your every word. In my language learning experience, I have always found interruption to be more negative than positive. When people interrupt me to correct my pronunciation or grammar, I usually lose my train of thought, or I feel self-conscious and not eager to continue speaking. That’s why I prefer to write it down during class, and then I’ll update your personal Google Document afterward.

As you can see in the image below, there is a lot of personalized information in your feedback document. I evaluate your level based on our first lesson, and then I want to know what your goal is and how you are currently practicing to achieve that goal. Also, I like to include the ‘Interests/Hobbies’ section so that I can tailor material to what matters to you. In the ‘Content Covered’ section, I will keep notes on what we cover in each lesson. Anytime I share an article or website with you, I’ll include the link here. That way, you can refer back to it later.

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Then, there’s a list of my favorite podcasts. Hearing your target language spoken in regular conversation is essential to improving your listening skills, that’s why I LOVE podcasts. You can listen to them on your computer, phone, or any other mobile device. You can oftentimes read along with the episode’s transcript, or if you just want to have it as background noise while you wash the dishes, you are still consuming the language. And if you don’t like one podcast, there are plenty to choose from. Find something that’s interesting and isn’t a chore to listen to regularly.

Now let’s move on to the ‘Suggestions/Tips’ section. As I mentioned before, I take notes during the entire lesson. So if you say something like, “I call sister’s girlfriend,” I write it down and then correct it as shown in the image below. Then I’ll write a note in the Google Document explaining why. 

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Below the corrections table, there is a list of words you mispronounced during the class. Maybe you were telling me a story or were reading an article. I’ll make note of that and add it to the list. In the next class, we’ll review to make sure you’ve got it.

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The very last list is the new vocabulary we cover. Maybe you can’t think of the word for ‘apple’ in English. If I tell you the word, it goes on the list. Also, we do a lot of reading in my classes, which is an excellent way to broaden your vocabulary. Usually, I instruct you to read the text out loud, paragraph by paragraph. At the end of each paragraph, I’ll provide you with the meaning of any new words or phrases. All of these go onto the list! This way, you can review everything you’ve learned.

If you’d like to see me in action while I update your feedback, check out my Instagram stories. Thanks for reading, and have a lovely Thursday.

A Language Learning Tip

Happy Tuesday everyone. I’ve already gotten 1 lesson under my belt this morning, and in the down time, I thought I’d share some language learning wisdom.

Find an interesting article online that has an audio version of the written text. For example, this article “A Lesson in How to Overcome Implicit Bias” from NPR‘s Code Switch.  

LISTEN to the audio first without reading anything. See how much you can understand. Then read the article, looking up any new words or phrases.

Now that you’ve listened to the audio and read the article, you should have a better understanding of the content.

Finally, listen to the audio portion again, but this time, read the transcript as you listen. Reading is a great way to improve your vocabulary, but it is difficult to know how to pronounce new words you come across. That’s why it’s a great exercise to do both.

Many of NPR’s articles have this audio and transcript feature, which is why I often use this site with my students. Also, Code Switch is one of the many podcasts I recommend to my students.

Hopefully this quick tip will help you in your language learning goal. Stay tuned for more tips, or follow me on Instagram for daily updates.

 

Okay Monday, I see you.

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Good morning world! How was your weekend? Mine was busy, though still refreshing and enjoyable. We took Camomila to be spayed, or sterilized, on Saturday. While I can’t say she is feral, she has never let me pick her up and hold her before. The first time she ever let me pet her was when she was well into her pregnancy in March! So I was nervous about how I was going to get her into the carrier and to the vet. Fortunately, the whole process was very smooth.

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While Camomila was at the vet, I picked fruit to keep myself busy and not worry. Ticri is the beautiful cat in the picture. She always comes to supervise when I work outside.
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The apricots are almost ready!

Camomila didn’t wake up from the anesthesia as quickly as the vet had hoped, which really worried me. I took her home and played relaxing music for her. We slept in the same room that night, and the next morning, she was just fine.

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Camomila woke up with an appetite!

Because Camomila is still nursing her kittens that were born on April 1st, I had to return her to the kittens within 24 hours. As of this morning, she is doing very well. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on her progress.

To cap off the weekend, last night we went to a nearby town called Scopello for dinner with friends. The drive to Scopello from Calatafimi is absolutely gorgeous. Below is a picture of Castellammare del Golfo.

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Castellammare del Golfo

This morning started off well. I’ve taught one of six lessons today. Now I’m working on updating feedback from Friday’s lessons. Hopefully your week starts off as well as mine has.

Update

 

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Fico d’india in bloom. If you know me, you know I HATE this plant because I battled with it all last summer, but it is undeniably beautiful when in bloom!

Happy Friday everyone! I know people don’t like to read long blog posts. Heck, I’m sure some people don’t even bother to read a blog post. So I’ve decided to make myself accessible in many forms.

For the younger folks, my Instagram is @mallory_echols. Or you can just click here to follow: https://www.instagram.com/mallory_echols/. I’ll be updating here daily with tips and information.

I’m also trying to bring my Youtube channel back to life….. but it’s such a pain, and there are some embarassing videos on there that I just can’t delete. For those of you interested, check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5kbi_w5OizqvGpKFsdensQ?view_as=subscriber

If you’d like to schedule a class with me on italki, find me here: https://www.italki.com/teacher/4950378

And finally, if you’d like to email me: mallory.c.echols@gmail.com

 

 

Podcasts

Greetings dear students. I’ve created this blog to help organize all the information that I recommend to you during our classes. One really awesome way to hear the language while learning about interesting new topics is by listening to podcasts. You can listen to them on your computer or phone while you’re doing other activities like driving to work or cleaning.

Here’s a compilation of my current favorite podcasts. The great thing about listening to one podcast is that it usually leads to you learning about another one, so if you discover a great show that is not on the list, let me know about it in the comments. Enjoy!

Hidden Brain: https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510308/hidden-brain

Invisibilia: https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia

99% Invisible: https://99percentinvisible.org/

Criminal: http://www.thisiscriminal.com/

This is Love: https://www.thisislovepodcast.com/

Radiolab: http://www.radiolab.org/series/podcasts/

All Things Considered: https://www.npr.org/programs/all-things-considered/2011/10/27/141760630/

Great News!

After a week of feeling all the emotions, I’m up early this Monday morning feeling thankful and motivated.

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Last Sunday, the kittens pictured above disappeared without a trace. There was no sign of struggle and no real explanation as to where they had gone. I had been watching the mama cat all through her pregnancy, but she was very skittish and never let either of us touch her before she was heavily pregnant. As soon as I knew she was pregnant, I prepared a safe and warm place for her to give birth and raise the babies, hoping to be able to socialize the kittens and sterilize them ASAP. Needless to say, I had grown pretty fond of them and was devastated to discover they were gone.

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Camomila (center) grooming herself in the sun with the other kitties, Ticri and Toto
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Camomila 2 days before giving birth. This was taken the day she let me touch her for the first time EVER!
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Mama kitty, Camomila, nesting in her box. I added an old sweater for warmth and comfort.

These kittens disappeared on Sunday, then on Wednesday night, another cat who hangs around the house and won’t allow anyone to touch her went into labor. I missed the arrival of the first kitten, but I went to sit with her for the following 3. She went into labor out in the open on the balcony. It was a chilly night, so I brought her some towels, which she seemed to appreciate. Then I offered her some milk, and she drank it greedily. I maintained my distance because I didn’t want to upset her. After the 3rd kitten emerged, she started purring, so I thought I’d get near and try to pet her, and she let me!!!! So then I moved the towels closer around her to keep her warm.

By around 3am, she had finished giving birth to all 4 kittens. She war purring, and the kittens were nursing, so I went to bed. But the next morning around 8am, she had left the kittens. They were cold and crying. So I tried to save them, but all 4 had died by Friday night. It was absolutely devastating. I had gone from the high of being witness to their arrival into the world to the low of seeing them depart.

So on Saturday afternoon, my feeble heart was overwhelmed with joy to see the beloved kittens born in April return! But not only that, the other mama let me pet her again!

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Camomila is still nursing the kittens, so I suspect she took them away to make room for the other cat’s kittens.

So on this lovely Monday morning, I am thankful and motivated. Both mama kitties have now let me touch them, and they will be sterilized on Saturday. Then, as soon as the kittens are able, I will sterilize them too!

During the abandoned kitten fiasco, I contacted an organization that I found on Facebook called AnimalSicilia (https://www.facebook.com/Animalsicilia/). Gabriella, the woman who runs the group, offered me advice and support, even while going through a medical emergency. One of the resources she directed me to was this website (http://www.catsnip.org.uk/) dedicated to protecting feral cats in Sicily. I definitely want to invest more time into helping all the cats on the island be sterilized.

Sorry for the delay….

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I’m sitting down right now to update all your feedback. Thank you for your patience!!!!

Hi language students. Please accept my sincerest apologies for the major delay in updating your feedback. I usually like to complete it within 1 business day, but as you may have noticed, I haven’t updated feedback since Wednesday.

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Keeping the kittens warm with jars of hot water under the bedding.

I’ve been through an emotional roller coaster this week because of some kittens that I was trying to save. Unfortunately, they all died last night. The moral of the story is: sterilize your cats and dogs!

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I was even teaching with them in the room with me.

 

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On the way to the vet yesterday…

One positive thing that has come of this is that I found a group on Facebook that is dedicated to rescuing animals (https://www.facebook.com/Animalsicilia/). Though I wasn’t able to save these kittens, I will be volunteering with this organization in the future. If you are interested, read more here:  here https://www.facebook.com/notes/animalsicilia/want-to-help-volunteer-barter-skills-or-donate/1594195147360885/ 

Lost

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Okay, so there may be the occasional sign, but there are never enough to really help you get where you’re going.

If you know me, you know I have an uncanny ability to get lost. In a house, a store, my hometown. It’s embarrassing. All my friends know not to ask me for directions or follow me to a new place.

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One of my favorite alleys in Calatafimi, but also a prime example of why I prefer to walk. These tiny roads are unforgiving.

Calatafimi, really Sicily in general, presents another level of difficulty in learning my way around. First and foremost, my boyfriend, who was born and raised here, does most of the driving, and I tend to daydream or people-watch instead of paying attention to the roads. Secondly, there are no rules to driving here. I still cannot grasp who has the right of way, where one is allowed to park, or which streets are too narrow to traverse. Stopping in the middle of a busy street in the center of town seems to be completely acceptable. Really, you can stop, park, or turn around just about anywhere, as long as it’s convenient for you. And a left turn here is an act of faith, or maybe a declaration of force. This summer I endeavored to drive to the neighboring town, Castellamare del Golfo, alone with a friend who had come to visit, and if she hadn’t encouraged me to make that left turn, I’d probably still be sitting at the intersection! Thirdly, the roads and buildings in this medieval town were simply not built for motorized traffic. Calatafimi is full of tight curves, steep inclines, and 2-way streets that are barely wide enough for one car. You may have to back up the length of the street to allow a car to pass. Considering all this, everyone still drives incredibly fast. It’s a nightmare for a novice or timid driver like myself.

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A beautiful view of Castellammare del Golfo from above… you don’t want to see the nitty gritty of the traffic, I promise.

When I went to college, one of the ways I learned the streets and layout of the town was on foot while training for my first marathon. It was a low-pressure way to get my bearings. Now I’ve begun to do likewise here. My first and most frequently traveled path into town is the 1 kilometer walk to my boyfriend’s parents’ house. I’ve also endeavored to drive into town a time or two, though always relatively stressed. Yesterday, though, was a new feat for me. I not only managed to make it on foot to the castle, town hall, and the main plaza, but I was also able to recognize a friend’s house on the way, and I stopped for a coffee.

This may seem like no special accomplishment for some, but I am quite pleased.

Calatafimi Segesta

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View of Calatafimi Segesta from Eufemio Castle

First, a bit of background about this cute little town where I ended up in Western Sicily: Calatafimi Segesta, formerly known simply as Calatafimi, is a small town in western Sicily. The addition of Segesta to the name was a decision to draw attention to the nearby ancient Greek Segesta Temple. Just up the hill from the temple, there are also archaeological excavations and an outdoor theater where they organize different performances at sunset and sometimes also at sunrise during the summer.

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You’ll find these cute signs all around
town. This one was at Eufemio Castle.
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My first visit to Segesta Temple
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A summer evening performance of The Trojan Women at the theater on the mountain overlooking the Segesta Temple

Sicily is divided into nine provinces; Calatafimi belongs to the the western-most province on the island: Trapani. Trapani is also the name of the province’s capital city, whose historic port is used for both fishing and transportation. Other points of interest in the area include Calatafimi’s own Eufemio Castle, the nearby obelisk Pianto Romano, the Segesta hot springs, the beach town Castellamare del Golfo, the Zingaro Nature Reserve, Trapani’s salt pools, the famous wine-producing town Marsala, just to name a few…

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Salt pools in Trapani
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I took this picture near Marsala and promise it is not photo-shopped!

I happened upon Calatafimi at the beginning of last year while on a break from work. It wasn’t really in my plans to end up here, but luckily for me, the original agenda was a complete disaster, and I had to search quickly for an alternative. Three buses and 6 hours later, I found myself on the west side of the island, and much like my many other travel mishaps, this turned out to be just what I was looking for: a place to be quiet, work in nature, and reflect on life.