Reflecting on Quotes in Class/Life

One of the posts in my Drafts said ‘Quotes’. I remembered about it when we had agreed on a topic for the coming Reflective Practice Group Global meeting this weekend, kindly suggested by one of the members: ‘reflecting on the sayings, quotes, aphorisms we love and use as a life/teaching philosophy’. We will bring 5-10 great quotes from the books we read or trainings we attended and share how they direct our thinking. (Burak, I love the idea!)

In my attempt to procrastinate do the homework and select some statements to share in the meeting, I was thinking if I have a set of statements that reflect my living/teaching philosophy. At first, I was sure I did not. I then started noticing my little notes around the working desk, in the room, in my journals, in various files, on some pieces of paper… well, it looks I have them, keep them, and from time to time, re-visit them in an attempt to reflect. 

In a stationery store, somewhere in Daegu, South Korea (I think!)

The listicle/bullet point-style post below is the old one with some classroom/training ideas for the quotations, but the examples I will use will be the ones that came to mind/sight now. Hopefully, will catch two birds with one stone. So…

Ideas to use with ONE specific quote:

What you seek is seeking you. – Rumi

  • creating ‘response questions‘ for students to discuss or asking students to come up with their own ‘response questions’ to a quote
  • listing (or drawing) associations with the quotes
  • researching interesting facts about the author
  • fact-checking (whether or not the author really said that)
  • tell a story of this quote (have never tried it in class, but it struck me today how some of the lines I wrote in my old notebooks years ago can remind me about the person who I heard it from, the circumstances, the context, and many more details)

Ideas to use with a SET of quotes on a topic

  • selecting which quote from the list ‘speaks’ to you right now
  • choosing a quote best describing you in the past (1? 3? 5?, etc. years ago)
  • who this quote could describe (a friend, family member, teacher, famous person, etc.)

5-10 minute activities

  • [Teacher or Students] choose/bring 1-2 quotes that work (best/worst) for today’s lesson topic, explain why.
  • Choose one quote from a list you disagree with the most, explain why.
  • Guess the lesson/unit topic from the quotes brought by the teacher 
  • Guessing/Predicting (when possible, do it offline, or ask not to do any search for 5 min or so): Who do you think said this? Why did s/he think so? (Similar examples: In your opinion, is/was the author male or female? What was the author’s job? Where did the author live? At what century?, etc.)

On my phone, kindly shared by

15-20-minute activities

  • ‘Quotes in your life’ Discussion: answering questions in pairs or trios, e.g. Do you (ever)…? (e.g., write quotes down in your journal? (Re-) Share them via Social Media? Put them up on you desk?)
  • DIY, or letting students create a task/question/prompt on the quote(s) for the others.
  • Quotes Journal is asking students to make notes for a couple of days or so, answering such questions as What quotes drew your attention today/this week? Why do you think the idea/thought was important for you at that moment? What or who did it remind you of? What lesson does it teach you? What does it tell you about your own values/beliefs/motivation?, etc.

Some of my examples I collected in the past few days:

  1. Personally, I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught. – Winston Churchill
  2. “Failure is a bruise, NOT a tattoo.” – Jon Sinclair.
  3. Your mind is your prison when you focus on your fear. – Tim Fargo.

In the old draft, my post ended with a question (to self?) whether I see it possible to create a whole lesson out of one specific quote, and although I did not have a chance to test that idea, I think it is, especially keeping the principles of Teaching Unplugged in mind: being conversation driven, materials light, and focused on emergent language

On my wall: ‘You are HERE’ and ‘Go and open the door’ – Miroslav Holub.

Over to you, dear readers:

  • Do You use various quotes in your classroom? If yes, how, when, why?
  • What are your ‘key quotations’ these days? In what way(s) do they help you in teaching, learning and living?

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
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4 Responses to Reflecting on Quotes in Class/Life

  1. Svetlana Gavrilovic says:

    Hi Zhenya! How are you?
    I don’t reply to your posts 😦 but I read them regularly :). Thank you for bringing this topic up and for sharing the lovely ideas on how to use quotes in the classroom. I use quotes a lot and in a variety of ways, some of which you’ve already mentioned here. They are great to introduce a topic (I sometimes find 3-4 quotes on a particular subject, e.g. chocolate and omit the word ‘chocolate’ from each of the quotes so that students first have to guess the word and then discuss the quotes) or sum up the topic (I give students a few quotes and ask them to choose the one that best describes the ideas from a story or something we’ve discussed in class). They are excellent for practising agreeing/disagreeing with others and justifying one’s opinion – I sometimes put these quotes on the walls around the classroom and ask students to stand next to the one they agree with and then share their arguments with other students who think the same. Cutting quotes in halves and matching them can also be interesting and involve a lot of language analysis and critical thinking. I sometimes organise mini debates – I divide the class in two groups and tell them that half of them support the quote and half of them are against it so when I say the quote they state their for and against arguments in turn up to 5 min max.
    Another activity I’ve tried a couple of times is to give students a list of quotes and a list of names of people who said them so they have to match them but also say what those people were talking about, what made them say that and who they were talking to.
    My all-time favourite is a quote by Samuel Beckett ‘Try. Fail. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ It always reminds me, personally and professionally, that no matter how hard the fall is it’s never the end but the beginning.
    Take care,
    Svetlana, Serbia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      ​Dear Svetlana

      Thank you very much for reading my blog, and leaving this amazing comment, which I see as a guest post. I am excited to learn that you use quotes in your classes, and love the ideas you shared, especially the one about guessing a missing word, or agreeing/disagreeing/justifying one’s opinion. I can see how taking a couple of controversial quotes can turn into a great debate activity (in addition to the mini debate you mentioned). That said, I don’t even think they need to be ‘quotes’ from the old sayings or classics and can well be from the current news, for example. A lot can be done to help students read more critically, search for evidence, analyze the information they receive, etc.

      Yes, cutting quotes in halves can be a great task! On the one hand, matching, and on the other hand (raising the bar), creating/predicting/guessing the beginning or ending, knowing the author of the quote, for example, for further discussion and analysis. ​Indeed, a lot of language analysis and critical thinking.

      Thank you for sharing Samuel Beckett’s words: like you, I believe that we can always start all over again, or even preserve the ability to see things from the eyes of a beginner. One of my favorite ​quotes ​comes ​from​ Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen teacher: “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.

      ​Grateful for this conversation!


  2. Pingback: 2022 – busy and productive! – The TEFL Zone

  3. Svetlana Gavrilovic says:

    Great quote, Zhenya! I’ll make sure I remember it!

    Liked by 1 person

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