Out with the old, in with the new

Happy New Year! (By @eltpics)

This will be short and sweet I hope, with the aim that writing down my aims for 2012 is more likely to make them happen!

2011 has been a busy year for me. I spent the first six months living in Brno in the Czech Republic, and the second six in Newcastle, UK. I’ve been to Krakow and Paris. I’ve become part of a huge community of teachers on Twitter, kept two blogs, become a curator for ELTpics on Flickr and completed the IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology and Certificate in Online Tutoring. I have presented training seminars for the first time and won a scholarship to go to IATEFL Glasgow 2012. I have also spent far too long in front of computers and not done anywhere near enough exercise! (I do walk to work every day though)

So, in 2012 I would like to:

  • go swimming at least once a week.
  • do 10 minutes of non-walking exercise at least three times a week, in addition to swimming.
  • present an online seminar for the first time.
  • start and maintain a blog aimed at English learners (watch this space).
  • start my DELTA.

There are only five aims here, as I feel that should make them more achievable.

Happy New Year to all of you!

11 from 11

A month or so ago Adam Simpson posted an 11 from 11 challenge, inviting bloggers to choose their favourite 11 posts from 2011. I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s selections (there is a list of everyone who has taken part at the bottom of his original post), and have finally got around to choosing my own.

10 + 1
1+10= : Photo by @cgoodey from #eltpics


What I learnt on #eltchat today (Materials / Online Professional Development)

This was a summary of two of the first eltchats I took part in. I was in the middle of a week at home off sick, and therefore I had lots of time on my hands. Taking part in eltchat, looking at Twitter and writing on my blog kept me sane. It was also the start of a long line of eltchat summaries.


Videoing my students

This video has great memories of a great lesson. I really enjoyed helping my students to film the parts for this video, which as then excellently put together by Matej, one of the members of the class. It was our entry for the ‘Learn a language with International House’ competition. The video which won is now on the IH World homepage, and ours was highly commended 🙂


Authentic Listening with British Accents

The videos collected here were an ongoing list with my students. It was fun to collect the videos with them, and it’s turned into one of my most-visited posts.

Cuisenaire Rods

Ceri Jones and I wrote this post together. It was the first attempt at cross-posting for both of us, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Since there, Ceri has helped me out with many things on Twitter, and I met her in November in Paris (see below). She was the first person from Twitter who I collaborated with, and it was a great way to start!

Diary of a Beginner: First Lesson

I used my blog to write post-lesson plans for this series of lessons with an adult complete beginner. It was really useful to reflect on the lessons, and the posts also allowed me to keep track of the materials I made and shared with my student.


Tools for the 21st-Century Teacher

One of my most-read posts, based on a plenary session I saw at a conference which didn’t go as well as it could have done. Most of the tools were ones I was already using, and it gave me the chance to share them with others. In the process of putting the post together, I also discovered how useful Quizlet is for learning vocabulary.


How to join in with #eltpics

One of the first things I did when I joined Twitter was start to contribute photos to eltpics, a collection of images by teachers for teachers, shared under a Creative Commons license so that copyright infringement is not a problem. In March I became one of the curators for the site. I wrote this post to help people work out how to join in if they just stumbled across the site. I’m really proud to be part of the team, and to see how the hashtag and collection have developed over the year. We even have our own blog now, Take a photo and…, where you can find lots of ideas for how to use the nearly 6000 pictures we have in the Flickr collection now.



I discovered Edmodo back in September 2010 when I was still lurking on Twitter. I found it the day before I started teaching for the year, and it completely revolutionised my relationship with my students and the way that I gave homework. At the end of the year I asked the students to fill in a questionnaire about their use of Edmodo, and this post was the result.


Brno and the Czech Republic

In July I moved to Newcastle, UK after three years spent teaching in Brno in the Czech Republic. This post contained a video including many of my photos and memories from my time there, which makes me cry every time I watch it.


Twitter for Professional Development

Over the last calendar year writing a blog and participating in the teaching community on Twitter has completely changed the way I approach my teaching. It has also given me my first topic for seminars and helped me to get into presenting. This post was the result of the third seminar I did, and was the one I am happiest with. The previous posts I did contained the presentations I showed the attendees (1,2), whereas this one is (hopefully!) a step-by-step guide for anyone wanting to take advantage of the amazing world of continuous professional development, whether or not they are standing in the room with me 🙂


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

My final favourite post was the appropriate culmination of a year on Twitter, since it covers meeting a lot of the people from there in real life. I will never forget the first time I walked into the conference venue and saw all of these avatars come to life 🙂 It was an amazing weekend, and I’m looking forward to repeating it at IATEFL Glasgow in March 2012.


Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me out during my first year of blogging, and to Adam for posting this challenge inviting us to reflect on the posts we’ve written this year. 2011 seems to have flown by. Here’s to 2012!

IH Certificate in Online Tutoring (COLT)

Followers of my blog may have noticed that November was a bit quiet. Then again, they may not 🙂 Either way: here’s an explanation of why.

For the four weeks between October 22nd and November 20th 2011, every free hour I had when I was not in Paris or marking my FCE students’ work, I spent doing the International House Certificate in Online Tutoring (COLT). These are the objectives of the course, according to the IH Online Teacher Training Institute (OTTI) website:

To train experienced English Language / Modern Language teachers and trainers in techniques and approaches to online tutoring for language education and to provide them with the skills required to become tutors for student-oriented and teacher-oriented courses on the IH VLE (Platform).

To raise awareness of opportunities for skills transfer and the need to acquire new skills in online tutoring as opposed to face to face tutoring.

This was quite a new area for me, though I had participated in a few webinars, including one run by IH OTTI, and a short introduction to dogme moderated by Ania Rolinska, one of my tutors on the COLT course.

There were nine course participants (CPs), including myself, and Paula de Nagy was the other tutor with Ania. Together they guided us through a series of modules, beginning with a week of ‘getting to know you’, designed to help us develop a group dynamic and get used to the online environment. This was very successful, and really helped to make us a cohesive group, despite the fact that we were living in 11 different countries and all logged on at different times. We also attempted to use a virtual classroom at the end of the week, although there were connection issues which meant it wasn’t as successful as it could have been. At the end of the course, we managed a very successful session in the same virtual classroom.

Week one eased us in to the course, ‘eased’ being the operative word, as the course seemed to increase in intensity as we went through. In the other four weeks, we covered areas like:

  • creating a group dynamic;
  • encouraging reluctant CPs to participate (more) in online courses;
  • using text effectively to communicate, without the support of body language and intonation;
  • transferring face-to-face teaching skills to the online environment;
  • planning effective activities for the online environment;
  • creating and moderating wikis;
  • choosing the right tools for online courses;
  • creating an outline for an online course.

One tip: Don’t go on holiday while you’re doing the course, and if you do, make sure you have wifi. I was lucky enough to have an hour or more a day on the hotel wifi and understanding travel companions to keep up! (This may be obvious to some people, but I completely forgot the dates of the course when booking my trip to Paris)

On that note, it’s better to log in as often as you can, if only for a few minutes, as it can be very easy to feel like you’re losing track of all of the threads if you don’t.

Overall, there was a lot of information to take in, and I’m still digesting it now, but the support from the tutors and the other group members meant that I learnt a lot, and online tutoring is definitely something I would like to experiment more with in the future. The course was well worth the investment of money and time, and even though I am not currently teaching online, it was very useful.

I would definitely recommend it to others.

English students and their use of online materials

I’m currently in the process of preparing for my IATEFL presentation in March 2012. Here is the title and abstract:

Go online: getting your students to use internet resources

What factors help or hinder students’ uptake and continued use of online materials to aid their English learning outside the classroom?

What can teachers do in class to encourage students to take advantage of available materials and help them to overcome any obstacles?

This talk will detail the results of action research done in my classes.

It’s supposed to be based on classroom research, and I have been collecting information from my students, but I would really like to widen the research to make it a little more valid, since most of my learners come from similar backgrounds, and one of the things I am aiming to create is a list of characteristics of students who do and don’t take advantage of online materials. If it’s only based on my 20-40 year old students at a private language school in the UK, it’s not going to be relevant to many 🙂

I would be very grateful if you could ask your students to complete the questionnaire below. Could you also forward it to other teachers you know who may not be on Twitter/blogs for their students?

If they cannot access it through this blog post, the link is http://bit.ly/EnglishOnlineResearch (case sensitive) and the QR code is here:

Research QR code

It is completely anonymous, unless the email address field is completed at the end of the survey.

If you have any questions about the survey, what it will be used for or my research, please let me know. All of the results will be published on this blog after the conference.

Thank you in advance.


Forms of the infinitive: FCE Key Word Transformations

Here’s a short worksheet I made for my FCE students to practise different forms of the infinitive ready for the Use of English Key Word Transformations.

We worked through it together and talked about the different forms – it does need a little more explanation than is given on the sheet. I used this webpage as inspiration for the sentences. It was one of the only ones I could find explaining more than just the base and perfect forms of the infinitive. If anyone has any other links or online exercises, please let me know.

Feel free to download the sheet and use it with your own students:

[To download, click ‘view on slideshare’. You may have to log in (not sure), but it’s completely free. You should then be able to click on ‘download’ above the document.]