Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher

On Thursday 21st May 2015 I was honoured to present as part of the British Council webinar series.

Since blogging is such a central part of my teaching and my life, I’m often asked about it. In this webinar, I tell you:

  • where to find blogs connected to teaching;
  • what to do with the posts you read;
  • how to keep up with the blogs;
  • how to start your own blog.

Here is a recording of the webinar [will be added when available] and here are my slides:

All of the links in the presentation should be clickable. If any of them don’t work, please let me know.

If you have a favourite blog to read, feel free to share it in the comments so that others can follow it too. And if you start a teaching blog, I’d love to hear about it. Good luck!

I’ve recently been sorting out some of the files on my computer and came across a worksheet I created for low-level students to help them practise punctuation within a basic conversation. I thought I’d share it with you as I’m sure there’s somebody who’ll find it useful.

The sheet uses ELTpics by Kevin Stein and Laura Phelps. Kevin, I just realised that I said you lived in South Korea – obviously I wasn’t quite so aware then, and was just keen to use one of my all-time favourite ELTpics! Sorry :)

There are no contractions in there, but you might want to encourage the students to add them, maybe as a second stage after they done the un-jumbling task. There are also no exclamation marks, as I originally designed it for beginner Arabic and Chinese speakers and I thought that would be a bit too much for them to deal with. I’ve included them in brackets in the answers below.

[I believe you need a free SlideShare account to be able to download the worksheet]

Here are the answers:

A: Good morning. (!)

B: Hello. What is your name? (!) (What’s)

A: My name is Kevin. And you? (name’s)

B: I am Laura. Where are you from? (I’m)

A: I am from America. I live in South Korea. What about you? (I’m)

B: I am from the UK. What do you do? (I’m)

A: I am a teacher. What do you do? (I’m)

B: I am a teacher too. I love my job. (I’m) (!)

A: Me too. (!)


If you’ve created materials using ELTpics, why not share them with us (I’m one of the curators)? If you need inspiration, take a look at the ELTpics blog and start exploring the collection, which now has over 25,000 images!

This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter @sandymillin.

Joanna Malefaki has been teaching English for approximately 18 years. In the mornings, she is an online Business English tutor and in the afternoons, she teaches mostly exam classes as a freelance teacher. She has been teaching pre-sessional EAP for five summers now, and will be working at Sheffield University this summer. She holds a M.Ed in TESOL and the Cambridge Delta. She blogs regularly at You can also find her on Twitter: @joannacre

Joanna Malefaki

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

Well, I did the Delta slow and steady. I took lots of breaks. I did module one on my own. I didn’t do a course. I already had an M. Ed in TESOL, so when I looked at the reading list, I saw that a lot of the material overlapped. Also, some of my friends who had already done the Delta suggested I try to prepare for it by myself. That’s what I did. I read whatever I could get my hands on. I did lots of Module One past papers and read examiner reports very carefully. I then found a center willing to take me on as an external candidate (CELT Athens). I took the exam and passed. After that I took a little break. I then did a blended course at CELT Athens with Marisa Constantinides and George Vassilakis. I had weekend sessions (online) and I had to go to Athens for my observed lessons (I live on a Greek island, so I needed to travel quite a bit for Module 2). I passed Module 2 and then took another break. I then did Module 3 online with Bell. My tutor there was Chris Scriberras. I passed Module 3 last December.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I work full time. I did not take any time off in order to do the Delta. I was working about 40 hours a week and then there was also the extra-curricular teaching related stuff. That means I was really busy. I couldn’t commit to an intensive Delta nor go somewhere and do the course. This was the only option. The breaks were a way to help me avoid burnout. I don’t think that I would have finished if I had done the Delta full time and have a full-time job at the same time. I probably would have dropped out.

How much time per week would you estimate you needed to spend working on the Delta in the format you chose?

I studied whenever I had time. I studied late at night and on Sundays. I cannot put it in numbers though. I feel I studied a lot, but not enough. I should have cut down on my working hours.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Where do I begin? On a personal level, I learnt that if you set your mind to something, you can probably do it! I learnt that I complain a lot when I feel overwhelmed and that I really like comfort food! ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat’ was my motto those days!

I also met lots of lovely people who were doing the course with me. I met people from around the world and I now consider them my friends, my study buddies. I learnt that I love writing and particularly, blogging. I actually started blogging because of the Delta. My tutor, Marisa, said it will help me reflect. I wrote a post about what the Delta means to me for her Delta blog. After that, I started my own blog. Getting more connected and growing my PLN was another result of the Delta, and another recommendation of Marisa’s. I learnt so much while I was doing the course, and I am still learning as a result of the course.

On a professional level, I became more aware of some of my teaching ‘weaknesses’, moved away from bad habits and experimented a lot. I started paying more attention to the links between lessons and tasks. I looked more carefully at my students’ needs. I moved a bit further away from course books. I became better at lesson planning and learnt more about aims and objectives. I also tried out new tasks, approaches and techniques I had never tried before. I learnt a lot from the feedback I got regarding my teaching. I think I liked feedback sessions the most. They are really helpful and informative.

Finally, during the Delta I became once more, a learner. The assignment writing was an eye opener for me. You see, I had been teaching EAP, for a few months. I had been going on about academic writing, integrating sources, paraphrasing and plagiarism. I spoke to my learners a lot about supporting their arguments and so on. Only when I did the Delta, did I realise that all I had been preaching was actually very hard!! I walked in my learners’ shoes. Now, I know better. I also have more study tips to share with my students!

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Doing the Delta slowly is like a knife with two blades. You have time to breathe but you may lose the momentum. Getting in and out of Delta mode is quite hard.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I did not have to take time off work and I did the Delta at my own pace. Doing the Delta online allows you to be at home and save money and time.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

I would say that it’s a good idea to do the Delta when you have extra time. Don’t do it if you are too busy. The workload is very heavy and demanding, and if you really want to enjoy it, you need to have time. Take some time off. It is very hard to do the Delta if you are teaching 24/7.

I also think it is necessary to stay focused and be selective. When you are doing the Delta, you want to know/ learn everything. You have a plethora of information coming your way. This can be overwhelming, so you need to be able to identify what you need and what needs to go (information-wise). Trust me. If you do not ‘filter’ the information, you will end with loads of photocopies scattered around your study space.

Finally, allow yourself some time for everything to sink in, again because there is a lot of information. You teaching changes gradually and what you learn takes time to become part of your teaching.

On Monday, I was lucky enough to cross paths with Katherine Bilsborough, one of my fellow TeachingEnglish Associates. She was in Palma (where I’m working this month) doing a seminar on behalf of OUP. The other presenter was Jessica Toro, who I know from going to IH Director of Studies conferences. It’s a small world!

Their sessions were very useful, and since I didn’t have wifi access, I decided to take my cue from Christina Rebuffet-Broadus and have a go at my first ever sketch-notes. Looking at Christina’s notes now, I probably tried to pack a bit too much into mine, but I’m quite pleased with them for a first attempt. You’ll notice the notes from Jessica’s talk are a lot more adventurous as I got more confident :) Let me know if you want text explanations of anything I put on there.

Katherine’s talk was about how to make the most of your coursebook, particularly if you’re working with primary-age children.

My first ever sketchnotes - from Katherine Bilsborough's talk

Jessica told us how to help students get ready for young learner exams.

Sketchnotes from Jessica Toro's talk

Both sessions had lots of activities in them which makes me a tiny bit more confident about offering advice to teachers about young learner classes next year!

Thanks for inviting me Katherine :)

After meeting up with Sandy at IATEFL Manchester 2015 (having not seen each other face-to-face since finishing our university studies in 2008 – one of the reasons social media is great!) and chatting about the fact that I do most of my teaching on Skype, she asked me to write a guest post on her blog, and here it is!

I’ve been working as a freelance English teacher since the beginning of 2013, when I set up my business, Get Ahead in English. I’d just moved to Barcelona, and after teaching at SGI in London for a couple of years, was keen to see if I could strike out on my own! I built up to a full timetable of private students, almost all 1-1 with the exception of two students I taught together, and a group of three students in-company. I also started my first Skype lessons whilst in Barcelona. This was a 45-minute lesson with a student I’d taught face-to-face in London. We met once a week and mostly practised speaking, as well as email English. In this case, he didn’t have a webcam, which worked well as it gave him the chance to practise telephone English – in his job, he has to speak English to people without seeing their faces almost every day.
My husband and I moved back to the UK in December 2014 and I offered all my students in Barcelona the chance of continuing their lessons on Skype. Some were immediately keen, others said they’d prefer face-to-face (for example, those taking lessons in-company who felt they needed the motivation of a physical person appearing in their office every week) and some said they’d think about it (most of those have now started Skype lessons too!)


Most of the activities I do are not that different to those I did in face-to-face lessons. Instead of arriving at the lesson with printed handouts, I email them in advance, or send documents via Skype (there’s a paperclip symbol next to the chat box where you can attach files), and they arrive almost instantly. I also use this to send homework. To review students’ writing, I sometimes use the screen share function on Skype so we can look at their work together. I think some Skype teachers use Teamviewer, but I haven’t found it necessary.

It’s also very easy to look at websites together online – a student can send me something they’ve seen that they have questions about, I can send an article, or we can look at exercises together. Google images is also great when one of us is trying to describe something!

How different is teaching on Skype to teaching face-to-face?

As long as you both have a good internet connection and webcam, not that different at all! I have actually met the majority of my Skype students face-to-face as well, because I was teaching them in Barcelona, but I now have a few who I’ve never met in person. People ask if this is awkward, but I don’t think it is. One of the reasons I offer a free 30-minute consultation before students have to pay is to make sure the student feels comfortable with the format, as well as to check their internet is good enough and to conduct a needs analysis, of course!

One difference I have noticed is timing. When going to a student’s house or office, you arrive a couple of minutes early and by the time you’ve come in, sat down, they’ve offered you a drink and you’ve chatted about a new picture on the wall or something else you’ve seen, you’re at least 5 minutes into the lesson. With Skype, the lesson starts as soon as you press the “call” button! This also means that there are generally fewer distractions, which is nice.

Of course, there are sometimes technical problems. Touch wood, I’ve had fewer problems with my internet connection than I did with late trains/buses when teaching face-to-face! It’s important to have a strategy in place for these types of things though – do you still charge a student if their internet is broken? I ask students to give me 24 hours’ notice of any changes or cancellations, but treat those with less notice on a case-by-case basis. If my internet broke and we couldn’t do our lesson, I wouldn’t charge the student and we’d arrange another time to make up for it. This is yet to happen! We did have a power cut last week but luckily not while I had any lessons scheduled. Occasionally mine or my student’s internet connection will cut out for a minute or two during the lesson, but that’s rare and only for a short time.

How do I find students?

I’m lucky in that the majority of my students are ones I already knew. However, I’ve found a few new students through TutorFair and others through Blabmate. Be warned that with the latter, you’ll receive a lot more enquiries than paying students! There seem to be a lot of people looking for free lessons. However, for the £1.40/month fee, you don’t need many paying students to make it up. I would also say it’s important to have your own website so students can find out more about you.

Other advantages

I asked my Skype students to tell me what they most like about learning on Skype for a blogpost I wrote on my website, and the main thing they mentioned was convenience. They can take their lessons anywhere (even on a beach or in their pyjamas!) as long as they have an internet connection.

This is also an advantage for me, as my travelling time and cost is now zero. It also means that I have students all over the world, which is great to increase my client base, but also to learn about new cultures.

Last but by no means least, there’s the environmental factor. I print so much less now that I’m teaching online. A recent ELT chat highlighted the desire for teachers to reduce the amount of paper they use, and this is one way to do it!


I used to enjoy teaching face-to-face in Barcelona as it gave me the chance to walk around the city a lot and get to know it. This is slightly less appealing in rainy Manchester, but I do miss the exercise and variety!

Sometimes you can’t beat being in the same room as a student – they may have a book they’d like you to look at, and it’s easier to pick up on body language etc.

I haven’t taught any small groups on Skype but imagine that would be more difficult. Having had three-way conversations with friends on Skype, we’ve tended to end up with lots of people starting to speak at the same time as it’s harder to see visual clues. However, I’m sure you’d get used to it and would be good practice for meetings etc.

Overall, I really enjoy teaching on Skype. It’s comfortable for me and the student, it’s more environmentally friendly and it means I can teach students all over the world!

Julia Phang

Thanks a lot to Julia Phang for writing this post. It was great to catch up with her after so long, and the fact that she could write a guest post on a topic I often get asked about was an added bonus! If you’d like to find out more, you can follow Julia on Twitter and read her shiny new blog too.

On Thursday 21st May 2015 I’ll be giving a webinar on behalf of Teaching English British Council, all about blogging for professional development. It’s 13:00-14:00 CET – find out what time that is in your time zone.

You can register for the webinar and find out more information.

See you there!

What do you gain from using blogs for professional development?

I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for May 2015, and anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? All you need to do is register on the Teaching English site and then you can start your blog through your profile there. To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.

My contribution for May is about reclaiming attention and exploiting smartphones.

Colouful speech bubbles

If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?

I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for April 2015, and anyone is welcome to join in. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.

My contribution for April is about exploring cultures in the classroom, based on a particularly memorable class I taught in Newcastle.

Group of students with speech bubbles.

If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?

One of the things which most annoys me when talking to people about International House (IH) is the assumption that it is a franchise. A franchise is an organisation where every branch is pretty much the same regardless of where you are in the world (think McDonald’s or Starbucks). IH is actually an affiliate network: schools have to fulfil certain criteria to be allowed to use the IH brand and to get the benefits of being part of the network, as well as paying an affiliation fee, but they are free to do this in any way they choose, resulting in an incredibly diverse group of schools.

Where are we? IH

Click on the map to find out all the places which have IH schools

I’ve worked for IH since 2008, and in that time I’ve been privileged to see many of the schools in the network, particularly over the last year. I decided to share a little of the diversity of the schools I’ve visited in my presentation for the May 2015 IH Teachers’ Online Conference (IH TOC 7).

You can see my slides below, and here’s a link to the recording.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be adding IH Barcelona to my list of schools in July 2015, and I hope that I’ll get the chance to visit or work at many more IH schools in my career.

IH TOC 7 banner

The dates: Friday 8th and Saturday 9th May 2015.

The place: the internet.

The event: the 7th IH Teachers’ Online Conference.

On Friday, a series of 10-minute presentations, including one by yours truly taking you on a tour of IH schools

On Saturday, sessions dedicated to teaching languages other than English, including French, Spanish, Russian and German.

Here’s the full programme, including information on how to join the sessions, and the timetable (with a tab at the bottom to change from Friday to Saturday’s session).

There will be recordings of all of the sessions available after the event.

And if you can’t wait, why not watch a few of the presentations from previous incarnations of the conference: IHTOC60 (for the 60th anniversary of IH) and IH TOC6.

Tag Cloud


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,171 other followers