My Edublogs nominations

This time last year I was just starting to lurk on social media, and the flurry of Edublogs nominations gave me lots of ideas for the sites and people that I could follow in the footsteps of. I enjoyed looking through them, and many have since become firm favourites. A year on, I love blogging and social media, and I appreciate the fact that the Edublogs Awards support this.

Here are my nominations:

Best individual blog

This was a very difficult choice to make as there are so many great teaching blogs out there. I follow about 90 blogs, and Ceri Jones’ ‘Close Up’ blog, constantly makes me rethink how I approach my classes. She provides ideas to reflect on and great lesson plans which I’ve used again and again. I had the pleasure to meet Ceri at the TESOL France conference in Paris in November 2011, and know first-hand that she is such a friendly, helpful person too!

Best individual tweeter

Chiew Pang (@aClilToClimb) tweets about all kinds of things, from photos for #eltpics and video interviews he has done to useful links (many from his multiple blogs) and grammar tips. He is humorous and always happy to get involved in any challenge.

Best group blog

I think the #eltpics blog “Take a photo and…” blog is definitely shaping up to be a great group blog with lots of resources and ideas for using the #eltpics tweeted by teachers all over the world. Since I’m a co-curator of #eltpics, but Fiona Mauchline does most of the curating for the site, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to nominate it…

If not, then my nomination for best group blog would definitely go to Teaching Village, curated by Barbara Sakamoto. She has posts from teachers all over the world, covering a huge range of subjects. They are always interesting to read, and give many teachers an opportunity to blog which they might not otherwise have.

Best new blog

Dale Coulter’s Language Moments blog has loads of great lesson skeletons, and really makes me want to experiment more with dogme teaching. I met Dale at the TESOL France conference too, and was impressed by how passionate he is about using dogme, and how quickly he got over new-teacher syndrome to experiment in his classes. His posts on reflective teaching have also made me think about how much more I could reflect on my lessons and how to turn this into action research. Very influential!

Most influential blog post

Way back in May, Brad Patterson invited us to get to know Cecilia Lemos through this post. In it, he also challenged us to interview members of our PLN and post the interviews on our blog. This was probably the point at which the people I had been interacting with on Twitter and blogs went from being pictures and text to real people. It encouraged me to get in touch with Naomi Shema and Lizzie Pinard on Skype, and through the whole challenge I learnt so much about the people behind the profiles. It really got Twitter buzzing, and (for me anyway) formed so many connections.

Best Twitter hashtag

This was the easiest nomination for me to make. The #eltchat hashtag is what got me hooked on Twitter. It has provided me with hours of mental stimulation, loads of ideas for my lessons and access to a group of amazing educators from around the world, many of whom I had the great pleasure to meet at the TESOL France conference. Without the buzz that every #eltchat gives me, I don’t think I would have dived into social media in quite the way I have, nor would I have got anywhere near as much out of it. The accompanying website includes summaries from the weekly chats, and is an invaluable resource for ELT teachers.

Best free web tool

Triptico is a great resource, full of different activities to use with your classes, including spinners, timers, word magnets, games and more. It works best with an IWB or projector, but can be used with a laptop too. David constantly updates it with new kinds of activity and is always on hand to solve problems through Twitter and his website. It looks great too.

Best educational use of a social network

Ann Foreman works incredibly hard to keep the Teaching English | British Council facebook page full of teaching ideas from across the web. She’s also recently started question and answer sessions using comments on the page. It has become a thriving community, with over 37,000 likes at the time of writing this post.

Lifetime Achievement

Jason Renshaw’s English Raven blog was one of the first I became aware of on entering the world of social media. He produces an amazing volume of posts, and every last one of them is worth reading. He creates beautiful freely-downloadable materials, then gives us video tutorials on how to produce our own, each running to about half an hour. He has put a lot of his own money into self-publishing the Choose Your Own Adventure ‘World Adventure Kids’ book, then chosen to offer it for free on his blog. I have no idea how he finds the time to do all this, since he is also evidently a very active dad and works full time too, but however he manages it, he never lets up on the quality of what he produces.

So there you have it. I look forward to seeing what other gems are brought to my attention by other people’s nominations.

Jobs and Personality: my lesson today

Today we were going to talk about jobs, write job adverts for the students’ dream jobs and then short letters applying for them. Instead we generated a lot of vocabulary, and did a lot of discussion, like so:

Students brainstormed jobs in pairs (they are upper intermediate/B2). While they were doing this, I typed words which appeared on more then one list into Tagxedo. After a few minutes they called out anything which was missing, and we came up with the following wordcloud:

Jobs wordcloud

Generally I would get them to do this on the whiteboard, but we were in a small classroom, and I had to choose between the whiteboard or IWB – I couldn’t arrange the classroom to be able to use both!

Next, I asked them to decide which two jobs from the selection above are the most difficult and to think of good reasons. They gave their reasons to the class, and we ended up with a list of seven jobs: fireman, doctor, president, thief, lawyer, policeman and [company] director.

Starting from this list, the students came up with a list of characteristics which you need to be good at these/your job(s). During this stage the students were all asking me for specific vocabulary which they wanted for certain characteristics. Again, I entered them into tagxedo and came up with this list.

Characteristics for jobs

We pushed the tables against the walls and they mingled to try to persuade each other that the two jobs they added to our list of seven were the most difficult, using the adjectives where appropriate. A couple of students did change their minds, and in the final vote fireman and doctor were the clear winners.

To finish the lesson, students wrote short descriptions starting with:

  • The best fireman in the world (is)…
  • The best doctor in the world (is)…

Tomorrow we’re going to compare the descriptions which they came up with and use these to create adverts for these two jobs. Then we will move on to students writing their own adverts as I originally planned to do today.

What worked

Students were constantly asking me for the specific words they needed to describe things, particularly personality adjectives.

Students were motivated and engaged in the topic.

Things to improve

The stage where the students mingled and tried to change the minds of the other students didn’t work as well as I hoped it would. Does anyone have a good alternative here?

TESOL France 2011 a.k.a. meeting my PLN for the first time

From 4th-6th November 2011 I was lucky enough to be in Paris for the excellent TESOL France conference. I had attended one day conferences before, but had never been to an international one like this, and it was a great experience. Other people have already blogged in depth about the majority of the sessions I attended, so I won’t do that here. Instead, I want to share some of my favourite memories from the weekend, some of them accompanied by photographs. Apologies in advance for anyone or anything you think I might have missed out.

I had already met Sue Annan and Deniz Atesok as they were staying at the same hotel as me (in fact, Sue had recommended it to me on Twitter). Arriving at 4p.m. on Friday, I was greeted by a group of profile pictures come to life 🙂 in the form of Elizabeth Anne, Vicky Loras, James Taylor, Brad Patterson, Divya Brochier, Ania Musielak, Dale Coulter, Sue Lyon-Jones, Steve Muir and Madame la Presidente herself, Bethany Cagnol. It was slightly overwhelming, but they soon made me feel comfortable and even though I’d just met them in the flesh for the first time, it felt like I’d known everyone for ages thanks to Twitter.

After attending the opening plenary by Stephen Brewer and the first seminar by Eugene Schaefer, the drinks party was a chance to meet Ceri Jones and thank her in person for everything she’s helped me with over the last few months. Here too were Antonia Clare, Mike Harrison, Matt Ledding and Anna Loseva. The evening was spent at a karaoke bar. My favourite performance was by Petra Pointer singing ‘Smooth Operator’, though the huge group singing ‘Backstreet’s Back’ were pretty impressive too 🙂 Marisa Constantinides, Cecilia Lemos, Shelly Terrell, Isil Boy and Beyza Yilmaz complete the list for the day 😉

The next morning started with my first-ever PLN-presented seminar, by Mike Harrison, about using sounds and images to prompt students to speak or write.

Mike telling us who he is
Mike telling us who he is

Ania Musielak was hot on his heels, with a drama seminar which include a lot of audience participation.

Ania supervising while Vicky mimes making a sandwich to Dale
Ania supervising while Vicky mimes making a sandwich to Dale
James, Dale and Mike listening attentively to Ania's explanations
James, Dale and Mike listening attentively to Ania’s explanations
Matt 'picking up a girl in a bar'
Matt ‘picking up a girl in a bar’
Vicky waiting for her next set of instructions
Vicky waiting for her next set of instructions

Arjana Blazic gave me a beautiful red heart with Zagreb written on it, which now has pride of place in my hall. At lunch, Brad bought me a tasty millefeuille as my prize for winning a competition on his blogmany moons ago. (Thanks Brad!)


Ceci’s afternoon talk about writing was full of PLN members. Here are some of them:

Dale, Dave (who will soon be joining the PLN we hope!), James, Ania, Mike, Deniz and Petra
Dale, Dave (who will soon be joining the PLN we hope!), James, Ania, Mike, Deniz and Petra

As you would expect from a group of people who connected through Twitter, iPads and other portable devices were very evident during the weekend. Here are Mike and Vicky with theirs before Luke Meddings‘ plenary. Guess what Vicky’s doing!

Mike and Vicky

Luke’s plenary was a fascinating comparison between Dogme and finding your way around a city like Paris. I particularly enjoyed his improvised performance of the scene from the film which his iPad wouldn’t play, featuring an impression of Greta Garbo.

Luke Meddings

After Luke’s plenary, I finally had the chance to meet Fiona Mauchline, who I’ve been chatting with for ages as part of eltpics. She did a seminar about motivating teenagers to write.

Look at this!
Look at this!

The last seminar of the day was by Shelly, talking about how to use mobile devices with your students.

The evening was one of the highlights of the conference, an open mic night showcasing the talents of EFL teachers from around the world. Here is a selection, starting with Willy Cardoso:

Willy Cardoso being watched
Willy Cardoso being watched
Beth singing 'Love in the dictionary'
Beth singing ‘Love in the dictionary’
Shelly reading 'Brown Cinderella'
Shelly reading ‘Brown Cinderella’
Matt and Brad
Matt and Brad
Rakesh reading his funny poems
Rakesh reading his funny poems
Matt: too sexy for his shirt
Matt: too sexy for his shirt

Matt’s performance stole the show, and you can watch it too (or here)

Marisa and Sue dueting
Marisa and Sue dueting

Getting up on Sunday morning was a challenge but worth it. I started the morning at George Vassilakis’ seminar on preparing learners for speaking exams, followed by Kate Kleinworth talking about writing skills. After lunch, I went to Nesrin Eren‘s session on Multiple Intelligences with Milada Krajewska. The look on Nesrin’s face when she realised she recognised us was great, and how I imagine my face looked for much of the weekend! The conference ended on a high note with Geoff Tranter’s plenary about humour in the classroom.

Sunday was also the day when Marisa asked me to video as many PLN members as possible for the eltchat blog. You can see the results here.

Of course, I didn’t only get entertainment and fun out of the conference; there were so many ideas and I’m still processing them now. I’ve already used ideas from Eugene and Ania’s sessions in my lessons, and I’m looking forward to using others as soon as I can. The most difficult thing all weekend was choosing which session to go to, and I ended up missing out on talks by Marisa, Matt, Ceri, Antonia, Willy and Dale, though I have to say that’s a good problem to have!

Thanks to Beth and the whole TESOL France team for organising the conference, and to everyone in my PLN who was there for making me feel so welcome and inspiring me so much.

Useful links for Business English teaching

One of my colleagues, Katy Simpson-Davies, is moving to Dubai, where she will be teaching business English. She asked me for some links to give her some ideas about how to improve her teaching for business, and we decided it would make a good blog post too.

The list is by no means exhaustive, just what I could find in my bookmarks and on Twitter when I was emailing Katy. She added more links once she’d had time to investigate, so this post is a joint effort. It is not intended to be a list of materials (although some of the sites include them), but rather ways to find out how to teach business English. Feel free to add other ideas in the comments!

Methodology and Resources

For learners

  • Christine Burgmer’s blog for business learners is a great resource, full of short and sweet posts to keep students interested.
  • Business Spotlight is a German-based magazine which also has an online arm. The website includes a number of blogs for business learners.

All of these links are on my diigo (social bookmarking) tag for business English, to which I constantly add new links.

I found out about all of these links through Twitter, where there is a huge community of teachers from all over the world. They are supportive and always happy to help other teachers out. To find out how to join this community, click here.

So now, grab a drink and something to eat, and get surfing!

Coffee, a snack and the internet

Photo taken from eltpics by @aClilToClimb

P.S. Good luck Katy!