Online CPD (IH Torun Teacher Training Day 2019)

Probably the topic I’ve presented on the most, but this version of the presentation was with a twist: I had no voice! That means the slides are more detailed than usual as they had to do the speaking for me. Thanks to those who attended and read along ūüôā¬†Since the last version (already 5 years old!) I’ve added a little bit about podcasting and about ELT Playbook.

The slides include clickable links, but for ease of blog readers, I’ve also included a summary with links below as well. Feel free to ask me any questions or add other resources you think are useful for those starting out with online professional development.


Twitter and #ELTchat are where my online professional development started, and as I’ve written before, they changed my life. The #ELTchat hashtag is one of the most active English-teaching-related hashtags on Twitter. The peak of activity is from 19:00-20:00 UK time every Wednesday, when a single topic is discussed. This continues for the next 24 hours in a slow burn on that same topic. The whole discussion is then summarised by one person in a blog post. All of the summaries are available in the #ELTchat summaries index, a one-stop shop for a huge amount of professional development. The hashtag is active throughout the week as people share ideas, resources and questions on all manner of ELT topics.

To find ELT people to follow, look at who’s posting in #ELTchat and who they follow. I’m @sandymillin on Twitter if you want to see who I follow.


If you have a facebook account already, this is probably the easiest way to start your online professional development. Some people have two separate profiles, or a profile and a page: one for personal use and the other for professional use. I don’t, but only because I’ve been using facebook for so long it would take me hours to separate them now – I do only accept requests from people I’ve interacted with though.

There are hundreds of ELT-related facebook pages covering all aspects of the profession. The biggest is probably Teaching English British Council, which has nearly 4 million followers at the time of writing. The IATEFL facebook group, and those of the Special Interest Groups are another way to get an international perspective, as is the #ELTchat page. For those based in Poland, IATEFL Poland has an active page. Ela Wassell compiled a more comprehensive list of Facebook groups and pages back in 2013, the large majority of which are still active.


Webinars are online seminars which you can follow live or watch as recordings whenever and wherever you like. Access to some recordings are restricted to members of particular organisations. There are a huge range of ELT webinars available now, covering pretty much every topic you can think of.

The easiest way to find webinars is to put “______ webinars” into your favourite search engine, substituting _____ for a particular topic e.g. “teaching English pronunciation”, or any of the following providers:

  • Macmillan Education
  • National Geographic Learning
  • International House
  • Oxford University Press
  • Cambridge University Press
  • British Council
  • EFL Talks
  • Pearson

If you’re looking for something bite-sized, the IH Teachers Online Conferences include lots of 10-minute webinars. You could also look at my webinar bookmarks, or the regular lists of upcoming webinars posted by Adi Rajan on his blog, like this one for February and March 2019. Adi lists webinars both inside and outside ELT which he considers relevant.


As with facebook, if you already listen to podcasts this is a very easy way to add a bit of CPD to your life. My three favourite TEFL podcasts are:

  • TEFL Training Institute podcast: 15 minutes, 3 questions answered on a given topic
  • The TEFL Commute podcast: 35-45 minutes, magazine style, ‚ÄúThe podcast that‚Äôs not about teaching, but the subject always seems to come up.‚ÄĚ
  • The TEFLology Podcast: Two formats:
    • 45 minutes with three areas: TEFL news, TEFL pioneers, TEFL cultures
    • 30-45-minute interviews with people from across the TEFL profession

The guys from TEFLology have also written a book called Podcasting and professional development [affiliate link] which tells you how you can start creating your own podcasts, as well as providing a longer list of podcasts related to teaching.

Podcasting and professional development book cover

Polish bloggers

Here are four blogs which are written by English teachers in Poland:

Thanks to Hanna Zieba for sharing these links.

I didn’t share any more information about blogs and blogging, because Making the most of blogs was my IH Torun TTD presentation in 2018.

Online bookmarks

I couldn’t possibly keep track of all of these links without the use of diigo, an online bookmarking tool. Here’s my beginner’s guide to diigo in the IH Journal. I’m constantly adding to my professional development links on diigo, and you can also see all of my diigo links ever. They are tagged with different topics to help you find your way around (if you can understand my thinking process of course!)

ELT Playbook

Of course, no presentation I do nowadays is complete without mentioning ELT Playbook, my series of books containing tasks to help teachers improve their ability to reflect on their careers. Each task is accompanied by reflection questions and ideas for ways to summarise your reflections in a blogpost, video or audio recording, Instagram-style post, or a private teaching journal.

ELT Playbook 1 was launched just over a year ago, aimed particularly at new teachers, but also at managers and trainers who work with them, or more experienced teachers who want to go back to basics.

ELT Playbook 1 cover and topic areas: back to basics, examining language, upgrading skills, being creative, exploring your context, teacher health and wellbeing

ELT Playbook Teacher Training¬†is in the final stages of preparation, and will hopefully be ready to buy in the next 2-3 weeks – watch this space! It’s aimed at those new to teacher training, either in training or management positions, and also has tasks which could help those creating workshops or conference presentations for the first time.

ELT Playbook Teacher Training cover and topic areas: what is training, planning training, observation: written feedback, observation: spoken feedback, workshops and input, other aspects

This should give you a good starting point for your own online professional development. What other resources would you suggest? And what questions do you have?

Happy 5th Birthday #ELTchat!

#ELTchat changed my life.

It introduced me to an amazing group of educators around the world.

It opened my eyes to the range of classrooms and contexts in which English is taught.

It gave me ideas for my classes.

It inspired me.

It led me to start this blog and to many of the posts on it.

It took me to conferences.

It gave me opportunities.

And most importantly, it brought me many, many friends.

ELTchat birthday collage - showing images of many of the friends I've met through the Twitter chats

Thank you so much to everyone who keeps it going, and I hope I can join you a little more often now!

Read more comments from #ELTchatters on the treasure trove that is the ELTchat blog and join in with the celebratory chat tomorrow night, Wednesday 16th September at 21:00 BST. See you there!

What is the best way to exploit authentic materials? (#ELTchat summary)

It’s a very long time since I wrote one of these (nearly 3 years to be exact)! On Wednesday 14th January 2015 I took part in my first ELTchat for about a year, and since my topic was chosen, it’s only fair that I did the summary too ūüôā

If you’ve never come across ELTchat before, it’s a weekly hour-long conversation which takes place on Twitter (almost) every Wednesday, alternating between 12pm and 9pm UK time. At the end of the chat, one lucky person takes the transcript and summarises the discussion. All of the summaries are then added to the amazing summaries index, which goes back to October 2010. These are the people who took part in this chat (no underscores, so check the transcript for their proper Twitter handles!)

Word cloud of participants

What are authentic materials?

There were many aspects to the definition of authentic materials. There’s a bit of repetition, but you can pick and choose the parts that make up the best definition for you:

  • Anything written for any purpose other than language instruction;
  • Not designed for linguistic purposes (no input flood/specific language point);
  • Anything from the real world;
  • Might have been designed with non-natives in mind (just not for language teaching);
  • Can be audio or visual;
  • Need to contain some text (either written or spoken);
  • Provided by the students (? – perhaps more real/relevant to them);
  • Could be material for other school subjects, e.g. history.

Examples of authentic materials

This list is by no means exhaustive, but is designed to inspire you!

  • Packaging
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Menus
  • Literature
  • Conversations
  • Webpages
  • Blogs
  • Leaflets
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Text messages
  • Posters
  • Billboards
  • Stickers
  • T-shirts
  • Slogans
  • Logos
  • Tweets
  • Facebook statuses
  • DVD cases
  • Maps
  • Logic puzzles
  • Emails
  • Leaflets/pamphlets, maybe collected during a walk with your students
  • The Internet (yep, all of it)
  • Signs (ELTpics/Map of Linguistic Urban Landscape are good sources)
  • Voice mails (you can find apps to download them, such as this paid one)
  • Reviews (e.g. from TripAdvisor or Rotten Tomatoes)
  • Children’s books (although you should consider the language carefully, as well as whether the content is suitable for adult classes)
  • And if that’s not enough for you, try this list from Michael Griffin.

Things to consider when choosing authentic materials

  • The function/purpose of the text, not just the language included in it.
  • Is it interesting/motivational for your students?
  • What will they learn from it?
  • What do the learners need to be able to produce themselves? Can you find real examples of it?
  • Can the learners provide them for you?
  • With ESP (English for Specific Purposes) materials, do you need to know the jargon/terminology, or can your learners explain it to you?
  • Will the students’ knowledge of the content make it easier for them to access the text?
  • They don’t have to be perfect. Materials with mistakes can be just as useful for students as ‘perfect’ ones, particularly if they’re documents that the students may encounter, e.g. in-company documentation.
  • It’s not a magic bullet – the text and tasks still need to have relevant content and be at an appropriate level.

Ways of using authentic materials

  • Exploit¬†language to develop vocabulary, raise awareness of grammatical patterns/collocations/connected speech etc.
  • Encourage students to personalise chunks of language taken from the text.
  • Correct the mistakes/improve the text.
  • Analyse the text structure and/or style (text/genre analysis).
  • Develop skills in the same way as you would with non-authentic materials (e.g. coursebook texts).
  • To promote discussion about the content of the text.
  • As warmers for writing lessons (videos from¬†BBC Breaking¬†were particularly recommended)
  • Top-down: start from the context and move towards the language.
  • Bottom-up: start from the language and move towards the wider topic.
  • For enjoyment! Extensive reading/listening practice.

You can even use authentic materials with exam classes: Laura Plotnek uses real news with her IELTS classes. Podcasts are also an excellent resource for IELTS students, as are articles from magazines like BBC Focus magazine.


Show examples, then let students create their own.


Match pictures of food to items on the menu.

‘In a restaurant’ role play.

Text messages

Focus on the connections between the messages and the development of the conversation.

Review websites

After working with the examples, students post their own reviews on the websites.


Choose the most suitable candidate for a job.

Write a story based on the characters whose CVs you have.


Email your students with a problem you have. Get them to reply, then screenshot/print the replies and work on the language in them. They’re responding to a real text you’ve written. [Note from Sandy: I did something similar by asking friends on Twitter/facebook to tell my pre-intermediate students their problems so they could solve them – SS loved it!]

Points of debate

Should you pre-teach vocabulary?

It may be easier for students to access the text if you do, and some ‘blocking vocabulary’ (things which are vital to understanding the text) may be important so that students have an idea what’s going on in the text and don’t get too depressed.

If you don’t pre-teach, it reflects real-life conditions more and may help them to develop coping strategies. Giving students the chance to look up vocabulary might be more useful to them than pre-teaching it, as would priming them for the content/ideas in the text rather than specific vocabulary (activating schemata – alerting the students to prior knowledge they may have of the topic).

Consider your aim: are you using it primarily for the content, or as training in how to approach authentic materials?

Should you choose materials to fit your aims or just things which take your fancy?

One idea was that it’s important for¬†the teacher to be interested in the materials, otherwise it might be difficult to put together a ‘super duper’ lesson! Although our training is there to help us make boring stuff more exciting ūüėČ

We need to consider what materials students need to access outside class and base our choices on this.

Should you adapt or simplify the materials?

Adapting or simplifying the text removes the authenticity of the language. It is also time consuming. Managing to understand a text without knowing all the words is a vital skill which students need to develop. You can train students to use paralinguistic features, such as images or layout, to help them understand the text. Being able to understand unadapted materials can be very motivating for students.

On the other hand, simplifying the text can help students to access it in the first place, and you can build up to exposure to the original once they are familiar with the content. This could help beginner/elementary students in particular. If students become frustrated with the material because it’s too difficult, they may just stop trying to understand it. Audacity is a useful tool for slowing down audio through changing the tempo.

You could also choose ‘usable excerpts’ from¬†a text, rather than using all of it. Examples might be a short section of a longer video, or a couple of paragraphs from a longer article.

Is authenticity important in the tasks too?

i.e. Should the texts be used in a way which is faithful to real life?

Authentic tasks can be more motivating for the students, perhaps because the purpose of the tasks is clearer to them. However, they may require extra tasks (scaffolding) before you get to the authentic tasks though to ensure students are prepared sufficiently. There is also the argument that language work is a necessary part of what we do in the classroom in order to aid¬†learning. On the other hand, authentic texts sometimes have a ‘magic’ of their own and help to motivate the students without language work.

Using¬†materials like menus¬†in atypical ways could add an interesting twist¬†for students. Examples of tasks include using the menu to practise reading prices, rather than just for ordering food, or an information gap with different information blanked out for each student. The intended use of the text in real life doesn’t need to be paramount.

Can you use authentic materials with lower-level learners?

Yes! Grade the task, not the text. Give them achievable targets, for example, identifying the names of the main characters in a short story could train learners to notice the use of capital letters for names. Another activity could be reading a DVD case to find the length of the film and whether the actors have won any awards.

Support can also be provided in the form of pictures, pre-teaching vocabulary and/or a summary of the text beforehand. With audio materials, you can repeat it as many times as necessary. Pausing helps learners to assimilate the text, and you can discuss what SS have heard and what they think will come next.

Bear in mind, though, that sometimes the text is just too difficult for the students. Widdowson suggests that authentic materials may be too challenging for lower-level students, but those living in English-speaking environments have to deal with them, so as teachers we need to help them.

Is it worth it?

The general consensus was that when used correctly students really enjoy authentic materials, even if they don’t understand it all. You’re exposing learners to real patterns of language which they can use. Those teaching in English-speaking environments thought it was particularly important to use authentic materials with their students as this is what they encounter as soon as they leave class.

Links and further reading

Pinterest or wikis were suggested as ways to collate authentic materials.

Robert O’Neill discusses the use of authentic materials in the final section of Dogmas and Delusions in current EFL methodology.

Shona Whyte discusses authenticity in the FL classroom.

A selection of lessons based on authentic materials, organised by level.

Marjorie Rosenberg wrote regular ‘Jargon Busters‘ for Cambridge. They started with vocabulary, then an article, and ended with discussion questions.

Speakout books use BBC videos and has video podcasts. Life uses National Geographic ones.

CEFR profilers or vocabulary profilers like the Oxford Text Checker can be useful to identify potentially difficult words and to decide whether to use a text.

ELTchat podcasts

If you’ve never heard of ELTchat, you’re missing out!

ELTchat logo

It started out as a Twitter chat on Wednesdays, with two one-hour sessions every week. There’s now only one chat a week, alternating between lunchtime and evening British time, but apart from reducing the number of chats, the ELTchat community has only got bigger and bigger, incorporating:

  • the original hashtag, which is active throughout the week, and is full of resources for English Language teachers;
  • the website, your one-stop shop for everything ELTchat, including:
  • the (amazing!) summaries index: after every chat, some lovely person offers to write a summary of what was discussed, and it’s then linked from this page. After nearly four years of weekly chats, there are a huge amount of summaries available.
  • the facebook group, especially useful if you find Twitter difficult (it’s worth persevering, I promise!);
  • and, last but not least, the podcasts…

The podcasts are put together by James Taylor, and bring together various topics from the ELTchats that have taken place between one podcast and the next. They also include interviews with the chat moderators and other ELTchat participants so you can get to know them a bit better.

You can find a list of all of the podcasts on the ELTchat site or download them through iTunes, among other places. There are currently 23 episodes available, covering a whole range of topics, including error correction, mindfulness, and teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students, among other things.

In the June 2014 podcast, you can find my interview with Hada Litim, one of the newest moderators. I’ve also contributed to a few other episodes.

I can honestly say that ELTchat changed my life – it introduced me to dozens (hundreds?) of passionate teachers from around the world, gave me ideas to take into the classroom, made me think, kick-started my blogging and contributed to my professional development in more ways than I can count. Take a look, and see what a difference it can make to your teaching too!

Starting the Delta

No, not time travel. Instead, a few questions for Chris Wilson, who’s about to start the Delta. He’ll be dedicating his blog, elt squared, almost exclusively to Delta for the duration of his course. Here are my questions and his answers:

  1. Why did you decide to do Delta?

    As soon as I heard there was a higher level teaching certificate than the Celta, I knew I wanted to get it at some point. I heard that I needed two years teaching experience, something that I am grateful for, but I knew I didn’t want to be a “base-level” teacher, although since then I’ve realised there are plenty of great teachers who haven’t done the Delta but still have learnt a lot over time.
    I wanted to really know why I should teach in a certain way and how to craft better lessons. I guess I also just love learning about language, teaching and how the brain works. Really I just want to know more about teaching and help people more.

  2. How are you going to do it? Why did you choose this method?

    I’m doing a modular distance Delta, which means I’m taking each module on it’s own when I want, fitting them in as I can. This was largely a practical decision tying in with the financial help that I could get from my school, but also because of difficulties in finding a local tutor for module two. I am probably going to have to do module two intensively at a local centre because of that.
    Also I’m interested in taking a closer look at how the distance delta does the distance learning aspect of the Delta so our school can hopefully steal some ideas too ūüôā

  3. How much do you feel you know about the course before you start?

    I feel I know quite a lot about the course thanks to ELTChat and the recent “How to survive the Delta” discussion (and the previous “what has the delta ever done for us” one). I’ve also spent the last few months just asking people who had done the course lots of questions. At the same time I don’t know anyone who has done it the way I am about to, so I’m still unsure how it will go!

  4. How have you prepared for the Delta?

    I’ve been asking a lot of questions, blogging for professional development and getting my note-taking system in order. At the same time we’ve been really busy here at work recently (and I’ve been finishing off a few projects that I want to get done before the start of the Delta) so perhaps erratically would be the best adverb ūüôā

  5. What do you think will be the most useful part of the course?

    I am really looking forward to all of it, to be honest, and I am sure it will all be useful. I can’t wait to up my game in both knowledge of terminology and methodology, conducting a research project and lesson observations. In all honesty the lesson observations and classroom practice probably scares me the most and so is probably the part that will be most useful for me.

  6. What will be the most difficult part?

    I think it’s connected to the point above, class observations. I am quite clumsy and forgetful at the best of times but with stress I know I can slip up more and take longer to recover.

  7. Anything else?

    I guess thanks to everyone who has helped with their advice and recommendation in relation to the DELTA. I hope you don’t mind me asking a few more questions over the coming months!

I’m looking forward to following Chris’ blog over the next few months, and even more, to the end of my own Delta on June 5th! This post is, in fact, procrastination, as I’m supposed to be getting ready for the third of my four observed lessons. Hope you found it interesting!

Chris' new friend?
Photo taken from by @senicko, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

Web tool recommendations (#eltchat summary)

This is the summary of the second #eltchat on Wednesday 29th February. To find out exactly what #eltchat is, click here.

(Since this post is full of links which may change/move at a later date, please let me know if any of them are broken. Thanks!)

“If you could recommend one particular webtool for the classroom, what would it be, and why?”

The Tools (over 40 of them!)

The famous ones

  • Skype¬†– phone calls through the internet, including video. Simple, effective, reliable, and it works all over the world. It can be used to bring experts or other teachers into your classrooms. You can use the ‘chat’ feature to share files and write in vocabulary. You could use Skype instead of traditional listening tracks to Skype friends in the UK/US (or other countries!)¬†For example: “With my [Shelly Terrell’s] 4 to 6 yr-old German students they learned how to do origami from¬†@EHerrod‘s son in the UK via Skype”.
  • YouTube¬†– even those who hate tech will still try it! It’s easy to forget how helpful thousands of the clips can be, although some schools block it.
  • Facebook¬†– the groups function is useful for educators
  • TED¬†– hundreds of inspiring videos by thinkers and leaders in every field imaginable
Voice recording
  • Vocaroo – voice recorder. Easy to use (single click), no need for registration.
  • Soundcloud – voice recorder with the added facility of voice commenting. SImple to upload to the internet and share. James Taylor wrote a¬†post about it. Audioboo is useful for this too.
  • Fotobabble – upload a photo and record yourself talking about it for one minute. Some fotobabbles on this old blog¬†¬†(see November/December archives)
  • Voicethread – comment collaboratively on slides/pictures/whatever you want
  • Voxopop¬†– create talk groups to get your students discussing things together
  • Voki – create avatars to do your speaking for you. Shelly Terrell created this guide¬†to using vokis
  • Audacity – downloadable software which can be used to record students and put together podcasts
  • You can also record voices on a smart phone
  • Videoant¬†– video annotation which is easy to email to students/observed teachers
  • Jing¬†– create video annotation to provide feedback to students or show them how to do something. Students can also create their own files. You can make screenshots with it too. Great for essay feedback, and useful extra listening practice.¬†Teacher Training Videos guide to Jing
Bookmarking / link collection / organisation
  • Evernote¬†– online notetaking and bookmarking
  • Dropbox¬†– cloud-based file storage, useful for sharing files with students
  • Pinterest¬†– an online noticeboard to organise and share things you like.¬†Shelly Terrell¬†has¬†Pinterest boards¬†on various ELT topics. There have been¬†recent worries about copyright issues¬†related to the site¬†though.
  •¬†– a way of bookmarking links in a magazine-type layout
  • Lino-it¬†/¬†Wallwisher¬†– online noticeboards where you can post notes, videos, pictures and more.¬†Here¬†is an example of a lino-it created by¬†@clivesir¬†about bringing fun into the classroom. He likes to use lino-it for feedback. Both are great for letting students weigh in on a topic, no matter their location.
Ready-made materials
  • Movie segments to assess grammar goals¬†– activities based on films, through which teachers can present grammar points
  • EFL smart blog¬†– a blog for students with complete mini lessons, including authentic listening and accompanying activities
  • Knoword¬†– a vocabulary guessing game based on randomly generated dictionary definitions
  • Speakout video podcasts¬†– the link takes to the pre-intermediate video podcasts. Each unit of the book is accompanied by one podcast.
  • Film-English – an award-winning site by Kieran Donaghy with complete lesson plans based on short films
Tools for teachers to create activities / materials
  • Triptico¬†– a single software download providing loads of free tools; especially good for classrooms with interactive whiteboards (IWBs). Word magnets are good for colour-coding grammar explanations. The card game is good for randomly choosing speaking topics. It’s really easy to use and¬†@David_Triptico¬†is constantly adding new resources to it.
  • Quizlet¬†– a great tool for vocabulary where students (and teachers) can create flashcards and immediately play games with them. Students really enjoy using it.
  • Hot Potatoes¬†– freeware including “six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web”
  • Socrative¬†– “a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets” and it’s free [this was my personal favourite discovery of the chat]
  • Puzzle Maker¬†– a site which allows you to create printable wordsearches, crosswords and other puzzles.¬†Crossword Maker¬†just lets you create crosswords.¬†Wordsearch Maker¬†creates wordsearches.¬†Nik Peachey¬†describes how to use the latter¬†here.
  • Wordle¬†/¬†Tagxedo¬†– word cloud generators. Could be used for simple ‘word find’ activities such as ‘Spot the word with a prefix’
  • Language Garden¬†– language plants make sentences, poems and grammar look beautiful, as well as providing visual prompts for students.
Creative tools for students
  • SP-studio¬†– create cartoon characters based on the style of South Park cartoons. Kids can then create profiles for their cartoon characters.
  • Survey monkey¬†– helps students to practise question forms by creating online questionnaires, as well as finding out more about their fellow students. Very easy to use.
  • GoAnimate¬†– online video creator
  • iMovie¬†– kids can create “movie trailers” about books they like
  • Google Docs¬†– word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software available online for collaboration, sharing or private use. Can be used for essay writing and other writing assignments as well as for individual vocabulary banks for students.
Tools which you can integrate other things into
  • Edmodo¬†– a closed social network for education (my post about Edmodo) – I use it to share resources with my students.
  • Wikis – but you need lots of tools to put in them. Some wiki providers include¬†pbworks¬†and¬†wikispaces. They¬†allow embedding of other tools.
  • Blogs – spaces to provide information, links and create online texts. Some providers include¬†wordpress,¬†edublogs¬†and Posterous (see below).¬†They¬†allow embedding of other tools.
  • Posterous¬†– it focuses on all four skills; it’s easy to use; there are free apps on various platforms. Intuitive, and great for introducing blogging to students.
  • Moodle¬†– a tool for creating complete virtual learning environments (VLEs). It allows embedding of other tools. Safe for kids too.
  • Glogster¬†– good for project work. It allows embedding of other tools too.
For independent learners
  • English Central¬†– students can use this outside the classroom to practise listening, reading and pronunciation as well as improve their vocabulary.
  • Lyrics training¬†– students can listen to songs and complete the lyrics
When you implement a web tool in the classroom, what is the criteria for using it with learners? What do you look for in a web tool?
  • Accessible for free on many platforms
  • No (or at least very easy) registration
  • User-friendly for both teachers and students
  • Supports various skills
  • Fun!
  • A way to make English a tool, rather than concentrating on the language aspect
  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Offer various activities
  • Practical
  • Allow students to practise their English in a meaningful way
  • Justified from a pedagogical point of view, not just because it’s a cool new toy
  • Ease of integration with other tools
How do we get non-tech-savvy teachers excited about web tools?
  • Show the real pedagogical value
  • Through their students¬†– if you get the students enthused, they will tell their other teachers
  • Start with showing them examples of why they can get excited, not how to use web tools
  • Show them how much time it can save them, although at the beginning it feels like they take more time
  • Lead by example
  • Introduce things in small doses
  • Give them a task that must use a web tool / taster sessions
  • Present them with simple, quick and practical classroom uses of these tools
  • Go back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and help them see why they need a tool
  • Encourage them to play with tools for personal use first, for example by making birthday greetings
  • Visit their lessons and suggest alternatives
  • Do workshops which teachers bring their own laptops to –¬†doing IT is better than watching
  • BUT: We shouldn’t feel we have to. Some teachers don’t have this option, and others are really not interested. Gareth Davies wrote a blog post expanding on this after the chat.
Tips for teachers
  • Be consistent – don’t flit from one tool to another.
  • Don’t get swept away with new tools.
  • Don’t try to do too much too soon.
  • Play around with tools to help you become more confident.
  • Test things out throughly before you introduce them. OR Experiment together with the students. (a language learning task in itself)
  • Introduce them in small doses
  • Make sure you have a plan B, just in case the tech fails. Don’t freak out! You could teach the 3rd conditional – If they program had worked you would have seen… ūüėČ
  • Ask students to share their favourites too – they might know about tools you don’t
  • If students know that the tech exists, they can decide whether to use it or not.
  • Prepare for excitement from kids! Never be afraid to learn with them.
  • Some tools may seem too childish for adults.
  • If something doesn’t work the first time, try to analyse why and work out what you could do differently. Don’t just assume the tech was wrong. It might work with one group of students but not with another.
  • Make sure that the pedagogy comes first – don’t just use tech for the sake of it.
  • Remember that you can often do the same things without tech – do you really need it?¬†If you can’t justify why the tech version is better, there’s no reason to use it.
Make the most of your old computer
Make the most of your old computer Рimage by @mscro1 on eltpics

Some of these tools are not available in every country or at every school. Technology is still far off for a lot of teachers. You also need to make sure all of the students have access to the technology outside the classroom.

Remember that some teachers are limited to time Рthey have to finish a coursebook and tools take time and have to be appropriate. Ideally, you need to use a tool that will allow students to USE what they studied in the coursebook.

Other links
A small plug

On Wednesday 21st March 2012 I will be doing a presentation at the IATEFL Conference about ways teachers can encourage students to use online tools, based on action research done in my classes. Subscribe to my blog to find out the results if you can’t be there!

Update: here is my IATEFL 2012 talk.

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā Marisa Constantinides, Cecilia Lemos, Shelly Terrell, Isil Boy and Beyza Yilmaz complete the list for the day ūüėČ

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.

A Twitter activity

When I did my Twitter seminar on Friday last week (blog post here) I started with a new activity, and it seemed to work really well. It was something I’d heard about before, but couldn’t find an appropriate time to use.

We started off with a big pile of scrap paper (A4 divided into four were the perfect size), plus a writing implement each. I took a piece of paper and wrote:


As a teacher, one of my biggest problems is giving instructions. What should I do?

To prove this (!) I then told the group that they could either offer me advice or add their own problems. There were a few rules though:

  • no talking throughout the activity – the only communication could be on paper
  • write your name at the top of each piece of paper so that we can see who the message is on
  • one piece of paper per message, and don’t write too small (this is to simulate the ‘soundbite’ nature of Twitter)
  • you must place your paper at the end of the line (we had them all arranged on a row of tables), regardless of whether the previous piece of paper was what you were replying to (to simulate the Twitter stream)

The resulting ‘discussion’ was about ten minutes long and went really well. Here are a selection of our ‘tweets’ in no particular order to give you a taste of what we were talking about:

Tweets 1Tweet 2Tweet 3

After we’d finished the chat I asked the DELTees how they felt during the chat. This is what they came up with:

Twitter adjectives

The ‘chat’ was stimulating and made the rest of the seminar more interesting (at least, that’s how it felt) as they could really feel how Twitter works. I compared the amount of ‘tweets’ nine of us produced in ten minutes to the amount fifty or sixty of us produce in an hour on #eltchat and that got them really interested.

Two of them have already told me that they’ve signed up, and one more said she would sign up next weekend. This is much higher than my normal 1/12-15 hit rate! I really think this activity made all the difference, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone doing a Twitter for PD seminar, or to try out in class.


Homework (an #eltchat summary)

This is a summary from the 9p.m. BST #eltchat from Wednesday 31st August 2011. To find out more about what #eltchat is and how to join in please go to the bottom of the post.

homework wordcloud

What can we call an effective piece of homework?

Do you believe homework is important for English language learners?

  • Homework is essential, but I think of it as pre-class preparation or follow-on work. (@hartle)
  • SS need a lot of exposure to the language and practice but effective homework should be short and to the point! (@naomishema)
  • Yes, students need to practise constantly, but depends on what the HW is as to how effective it is! (@sandymillin)
  • I provide various options for homework & do think its important to motivate learners to practice English outside the classroom (@shellterrell)
  • Homework provides more time for students to learn! (@katekidney) It gives them thinking time. (@sandymillin)
  • Homework is important to reinforce what’s been learnt in class (@herreraveronica)
  • Homework is important for consolidation and further development. (@lu_bodeman)
  • I like to provide homework if sts request it. If they do, I usually ask how much homework they want. (@ELTExperiences)
  • For language learners, hmwk provides the opportunity to apply the language learned within a real context . (@shellterrell)
  • Homework should work differently for kids at school and adults ‘only’ doing English classes – kids should have sth ‘fun’ like colouring / drawing. Adults perhaps have more motivation. (@sandymillin)
  • At IH Buenos Aires we have a saying “The lesson’s not over till the homework is done” but amount & type open to individuals to decide (@ljp2010)
  • I believe homework is an opportunity for more exposure to English and I tend to favour authentic skills work. Also a chance to process things, studies, and experiment. (@chiasuan)
  • I believe homework is an opportunity for students remember and practice everything they saw in the class! (@vaniaccastro)
  • Action research at Toyo Gakuen Uni in Japan has shown that if we don’t force students to use English outside the classroom – they don’t! (@mickstout)

How much homework should you give?

  • There is research suggesting homework is beneficial but there is also research suggesting TOO much or rote homework has the opposite effect (@Marisa_C)
  • I think the amount is variable and should in a way be up to the student. They should all do some but choose how long. (@sandymillin)
  • I’ve begun giving short homework once a week, online, something highlighting one particular element, and that is it! The funny thing I’ve discovered is that at least some of the SS take the lessons more seriously since I’ve started homework online (@naomishema)
  • It was said that if the homework is half done at school students are more likely finish it at home. True? (@katekidney)
    I think that’s true only with elementary school kids. But kids do need an example! (@naomishema)
  • I think it is crucial to know our students’ routine and plan achievable pieces of HW. (@raquel_EFL)
  • Don’t think VYLs should really have HW – they need time to play. (@sandymillin)
  • Homework can be a project of weeks/months so there is no pressure: “do this by tomorrow” attitude (@ELTExperiences)
  • I was able to run my genetics class last spring with NO homework without decrease in “rigor” (@smacclintic)
  • Age is an important factor and schedules too (@hartle)
  • Homework is effective if SS can see the point of it, rather than homework for the sake of homework (@sandymillin)
  • The Homework Dilemma: How Much Is Too Much? another interesting article RE 10-min rule (@annapires)

What homework should you give? – general

  • Don’t just tell the students to do page 43 of the workbook. (@ljp2010)
  • As a student, I won’t do it if it’s boring or I think it’s irrelevant to me. Teacher’s worst nightmare! (@ljp2010)
  • I try to make homework fun & relevant to their experiences! They have choices! (@shellterrell)
  • Like Khan academy idea of flipping classroom: homework theory and classwork experimentation (@hartle)
  • Sometimes it is not a bad idea to let the students decide what they would do themselves for the next lesson – and ask them about it! (@katekidney)
  • Individual learning styles should also be taken into account (@adricarv) There’s no reason for everyone to do the same thing (@little_miss_glo)
    I always find kinaesthetic learners hardest to cater for. What kind of things can you do for them? (@sandymillin)
    It might be to learn and act out a sketch with movement (for YLs) (@Marisa_C)
    Videotape a sketch whose lines were written in class by groups/teams (@Marisa_C)
    Make a board game in English (@Marisa_C)
  • For kids I provide games to reinforce what we learned in class! Here’s how its listed in our wiki (@shellterrell)
  • These are homework tasks I have given to my adult English language learners in their wiki (@shellterrell)
  • For young learners I like to offer in my wiki activities parents can do with their children to practice the grammar/vocabulary in context. (@shellterrell)
  • I’ve been trying to post sites SS can use on Edmodo and show in class rather than set homework. I find students are motivated by sites like English Central, English Attack or quizlet where they can see that they’re getting points (@sandymillin) A word of caution about englishattack – its roll over translations into Hebrew are atrocious! Can’t check the other languages… (@naomishema) I tell SS not to use the translations when I show it to them. (@sandymillin)
  • Offer options so learners work on skills they feel they need to improve. Not all students have the same level so homework should reflect that. (@shellterrell) Choice is not only about which exercises to do for homework but which skills one needs or wants to work on (@Marisa_C)
  • I find knowing their goals at the beginning of the year helps my students determine their outside of class activities (@shellterrell)
  • There should be a balance between online work and print work which students can use for display purposes, e.g. in a portfolio (@Marisa_C)
  • We need to be smart about what we are giving for homework…for me all writing assignments are done in class (@shellterrell, @vickysaumell)
  • Reading makes great homework if you can convince the Ss. (@theteacherjames) Adults can benefit a lot from this (@Marisa_C)
  • For teens I just ask what they like to do: listen to English music, read graphic novels, etc. & tailor to that (@shellterrell) Try to find ways to integrate homework into students real lives: things they enjoy, are interested in & choose themselves. (@theteacherjames)
  • Homework is about giving students choices to work on problematic areas too. Provide a series of links then they choose (@hartle)
  • Homework should be connected to the syllabus (@Marisa_C)
  • Teaching ESP? Then you might want to assign stuff that they can do while at work. I did that with my aircraft mechanics (@little_miss_glo)
  • Set them things related to the work place. I did a class based on emails which SS brought to class. The homework was to collect them. (@sandymillin)
  • Show them what is available (often for free) online through facebook, publisher sites etc (@antoniaclare)
  • Written production as homework e.g. letters, diaries, can really help process what was studied. (@chiasuan)

What homework should you give? – specific

  • Some favourite homework I’ve done from my spanish class – photo stories, Spanish-Spanish dictionary, making a newspaper, project stuff… (@ljp2010)
    Project work is motivating too. Students take responsibility for learning. (@hartle) Projects like going to a website to get info in English. (@chiasuan)
  • How can we make the homework/self study more personal? My idea: get students to bring in a photo and talk about it. (@ELTExperiences)
  • SS put a photo on and talk about it: (@sandymillin)
  • Real life homework task – read or listen to something outside class and come in with a question you’d like answered (@ljp2010)
  • Get students to post on noticeboard and build work together. good for this. (@hartle)
  • The funniest HW that I was involved with was phoning YLs at home and trying to chat with them to improve speaking skills in Korea. They were young (10 to 15 years) and the time the parents wanted me to phone was late evening when they were all eating. It took a while to speak to the parents in Korean and then ask to speak to the child and the child would not talk at all. I was also asked to do the same activity for businessmen for a school and I prepared topics, etc but they were too busy. (@ELTExperiences)
    I set up phoning homework with a class once and they LOVED it! (@ljp2010)
    Did something like that. Called them at a given time, gave some info that they needed to collect, and in class SS reported. (@lu_bodeman)
  • SS writing to teachers – personal emails – this is not seen as homework (@Marisa_C)
  • Kids love working online. I make them exchange e-mails or postcards with other kids around the globe. I have found a great platform at e-Pals. (@analuisalozano) Try for one-off postcards (@sandymillin)
  • Get them to write the subtitles for Bollywood films (@ljp2010)
  • I often set TV programmes or films as homework for students. Sometimes I give them a selection of about 3-4 things they can choose to watch, and we do a jigsaw sharing of what they have seen. My students are in London, so I could use the daily TV guide & get them to watch documentaries, fashion programmes or drama- their choice. (@chiasuan)
  • I get students to collect new words or signs for class. Or interview their host families (@SueAnnan)
  • I would like to get sts to write blogs or contribute to an online school newspaper but haven’t done so yet. (@ELTExperiences)
  • Did @englishraven‘s live reading in class about Edinburgh. HW was for SS to write about their own city/country – everyone did it! (@sandymillin)
  • A book club where they choose the book they want & have discussions? (@shellterrell) Extensive reading (reading for pleasure). Assign projects (book reviews, sts create worksheets, etc) (@theteacherjames) I bring a book box to class when I teach our adults and they pick a book (@Marisa_C) Doing an extensive reading project with Google Reader … Blog post about it (@hartle)
  • Film club is great too. Watch the first part of film in class – finish for homework (@antoniaclare)
  • Adults enjoy finding an interesting article in the local paper and summarising it for class the next day. (@SueAnnan)
  • Take photos on way home, then do lesson based on it, like so: (@sandymillin)
  • They could be asked to recite something while walking to school (@Marisa_C) For low levels I tell them to read all numbers they say in English / name everything they can when walking down street (@sandymillin)
  • The Baby Egg project with my teens. They enjoyed journaling about their children, etc (@shellterrell) Sounds like ‘flour babies’ by anne fine (one of my fave childhood books!) (@sandymillin)
  • Redoing commercials & advertisements with their friends (@shellterrell)
  • Get your students to bring in a computer game & talk about it (@ELTexperiences)
  • If your students like listening to music is excellent (@sandymillin)
  • I have recorded video read alouds to model fluency and posted them on Edmodo. (@MrMatthewRay)
  • Get students to watch videos, do tasks, then tweet responses (@antoniaclare / @inglishteacher)
  • With young learners make placemats in class with vocab items and pictures. Then they eat on the placemats and memorize ’em! (@naomishema)
  • SS downloaded four adverts, then chose the most touching, funniest, horrible, and amazing (@analuisalozano)
  • Encourage students to read anything they can in English if it’s available. Cereal boxes, signs, anything. (@MrMatthewRay)

How do you share homework with students / parents?

  • Edmodo ( is a useful tool to share homework/selfstudy amongst students. Provides a platform to share ideas, etc. (@ELTExperiences) How I’ve used Edmodo in class with SS over the last year (including for HW) (@sandymillin)
  • We use wikis too for our adult Ss to upload their homework which also includes presentations prezis etc (@Marisa_C) I’ve taught 2-year-olds to 80-year-olds :-). I find a wiki full of outside exploration activities motivates them a lot. (@shellterrell)
  • What we need is a website for sts like (a maths website) for English language learners to assist homework. Are there any out there? (@ELTExperiences)
  • Have used class blog and discussion forum for homework using blogger and wikispaces (@inglishteacher)
  • The primary school that my son used to attend provided a newsletter for parents with projects at the back. (@ELTExperiences)
  • Once had a class blog on ning & we all continued discussions we had in class on the blog. It was brilliant…until ning decided to charge. (@chiasuan)

Grading Homework

  • My homework is optional & I tell my SS it’s for their benefit! Majority complete it each time. (@shellterrell)
  • Don’t grade homework! (@naomishema)
  • I grade homework in class … I do not like sending homework to Ss except that related to researching. (@analuisalozano)
  • I like to get sts to mark each other’s HW. Promotes learner correction, education and autonomy. (@ELTExperiences)
  • I use Markin to work on written work with a correction code then students can correct own work. Software costs about ‚ā¨20 but worth it (@hartle)
    Activity one lesson one on this page of our class blog shows marked student work with Markin. Stds then correct & we discuss in class.
  • If students resist any kind of homework, it should be included in their final mark or the course evaluation! (@katekidney)

Tracking homework

  • I give homework online but keep track on paper so that I always have it in class with me! (@naomishema)
  • I give pre class prep work on blog and follow up on linoit etc. Also copies. My students are young adults so I don’t track pre-class work but homework posted online and corrections too on blog. (@hartle)
  • I use Edmodo. It allows you to input grades etc even if HW not handed in that way & you can see overview of which students have done what (@sandymillin)
  • For children: Learning Log Brain Builders homework: (@DeputyMitchell)

Problems with homework

  • What do you do with students who don’t complete pre-class homework? (@naomishema)
    I don’t force homework, if the learner doesn’t do it then I will ask why & figure out a way to motivate. Usually that’s the problem (@shellterrell)
  • I like to refer to homework as self-study. Homework has too many negative connotations. I attempt to promote student autonomy when they are motivated not the other way round. I like to reduce the affective filter and as such no pressure on homework whether it’s presentations, grammar exercises, writing. (@ELTExperiences)
    I like to call it “activities to improve their English” not homework. I think when I deem it as “activities to further improve ur English” it gives them a why as to completing the tasks (@shellterrell)
  • I give limits on how long can be delayed. I’ve had bad experience – “ma√Īana” turns into “never” (@naomishema)
  • A lot of adolescents think its not cool to do something optional (@naomishema)
  • I still have a problem with pupils with problematic home life – they don’t organize their time and do the little work I give (@naomishema)
  • As a SS, I leave HW to the last minute. (@sandymillin) Human nature, I think. But I think the key is making it not feel like HW! (@little_miss_glo)
  • What about if your institution has a homework policy based on student/teacher/parent expectation? (@ljp2010)
    If you have to give HW then negotiating what to do with SS is important, though I guess it depends on their age (@sandymillin)

What guidelines make homework effective?

  • Varied
  • With no (or negotiated) deadlines
  • Challenging
  • Motivating
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Clear aims – known to both the teacher and student
  • Choice (topic / level of difficulty / skills)
  • Like real life tasks (not just busywork)

A couple of videos to reward you for getting this far ūüôā

What is #eltchat?

If you have never participated in an #ELTchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Wednesday on Twitter at 12pm GMT and 9pm GMT. Over 400 ELT educators participate in this discussion by just adding #eltchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please take a look at this video, Using Tweetdeck for Hashtag Discussions.

The international nature of #eltchat

Marisa’s first question on Wednesday’s chat was “What time is where you are?” The answers came in from all over the world:

It’s 11:03 P.M. in Athens Greece (@Marisa_C)

Same time in Israel! except we say 23:03! (@naomishema)

It’s 5:03 PM here in Buenos Aires, Argentina (@herreraVeronica)

It’s 3:04pm in Texas (@shellterrell)

In Italy it’s 10 pm (@hartle)

I’m in the UK, so it’s 21:03 (@sandymillin)

It’s 10pm in Brussels. (@theteacherjames)

It’s 3:08 pm in Ecuador. (@analuisalozano)

10:02 PM Brno, the Czech Republic (@katekidney)

Same time as @Raquel_EFL … 5pm in Recife. (@lu_bodeman)

It is 8.10am here in Dunedin, New Zealand (@mrkempnz)

It’s 6:20am Sydney, Australia (@LiamDunphy)

We look forward to seeing you there next time!

Literature in EFL (an #eltchat summary)

On Wednesday 8th June at 21.00 BST teachers from around the world met on Twitter for #eltchat to discuss “Creative and effective ways of bringing literature into the EFL/ESL classroom”. I wasn’t able to join in, but I did get to write the summary [and add my own ideas]!

If you want to read the whole conversation, click here.

Literature eltchat word cloud


  • A language is its literature too – a very important part of its culture (@Marisa_C)
  • I think lit is one of the most powerful tools to increase a student’s language ability, & I’m amazed it isn’t used more often. (@theteacherjames)
  • The fun aspect is absolutely crucial. I want to build a reading habit that will lead to a love of the language. (@theteacherjames)
  • The great thing about literature is the way language is used so well. It’s very satisfying to read well turned phrases for students too (@hartle)
  • Using literature in class positively encourages active reading – sometimes reading is passive (@pjgallantry)
  • I like to believe students can become “better ” people if they read. Opens their world + learn English at the same time. (@mkofab)
  • Literature is a real key to higher level language skills… playing with language seems to help (@pysproblem91)


  • Use it to build critical skills (@theteacherjames)
  • “Change endings” of well known pieces by substitution followed by guessing games (@Englodysiac)
  • We have also used local folk tales and stories translated into English with our refugee classes – better than Johns and Marys (@Marisa_C)
  • Use it as a springboard: reviews, role-plays, change endings, etc. (@rliberni)
  • Use cartoon makers to predict the end of a story (@helen100463)
  • Sometimes students could read aloud, especially younger learners taking turns (@smaragdav) Most of mine enjoy doing that,they hear their own voices,know when they’re not stressing properly (@vickyloras) They could also read aloud in pairs (@fuertesun) You could pretend it’s for the radio / a podcast (@Marisa_C) It did wonders for @helen100463’s teens.
  • Show videos (example) of a person’s book choices and ask students what these choices say about the owner (@hartle) [you could also do this with photos of bookshelves]


  • Encourage students to read outside class.
  • Look at some comprehension, some vocab but also theme motif and literary devices too (@Marisa_C)
  • Ceri Jones’ activity on translating an Isabel Allende text
  • Use exam set texts: “I think the strongest groups of C2 level Ss I have taught are those who took the set text option for the CPE exams” (@Marisa_C) Should ss watch the film based on the book they read or be encouraged to read parts of it again ? (@smaragdav) – many chatters answered they should watch it
  • Use clips of the film as part of the pre-reading and prediction for reading (@Marisa_C). You could also use the blurb from the book/DVD jackets for this (@hartle) Show comprehension by discussing what’s not in the film (@Shaunwilden)
  • Students can/would never read the same number of pages in just “texts”. It is great confidence boost that they can read novel. (@mkofab) I’ve seen sts beaming because they’ve finished their first ever novel in Eng. I was proud of them too! (@theteacherjames)
  • Send the characters to be interview for specific jobs (@Marisa_C) or create fakebook profiles for them (@hartle)
  • Have groups summarise, present and order a story (@Marisa_C)
  • Making a front page of a newspaper from a book or short story is also a great idea for a class project (@Marisa_C)
  • Give students the titles of books and they have to guess the plot (@fuertesun)
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse (@hartle did an extensive reading project with this)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan: “One year we experimented and did all our FCE exam prep through 39 steps – Wild success!” (@Marisa_C)
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (If anyone wants to use Peter Pan, I’m recording it for my kids. First 3 audio chapters on my website. – @tarabenwell)
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

Short stories

  • Cut up the stories, students rearrange it, play with the structure and create new links (@divyabrochier): playing with words and structures is how language is learned and enlivened (@pjgallantry)
  • Use them for ‘double’ translation. Take a piece of text, get stds to translate it into L1, then translate it back to English. In trying to recollect the original piece while translating back sts learn chunks (@englodysiac) – could be seen as to much of a specialized skill though (@Marisa_C)
  • Use a timeline and a feelings line together to help students enter a short story. (@12mandown)
  • Animate the story (@Marisa_C) – some classes might not like comics, so give them a choice (@naomishema)
  • Students work together to tell stories they know from their own culture, with the teacher listening (@nutrich)
  • Mixed texts: 2 versions of one extract with mixed up parts of text . Students sort out the original (@hartle)
  • Use a story with a moral for discussion. Then students write a modern version themselves (@nutrich)
  • Reveal a story line by line and make SS think of the rest of the story (@toulasklavou)
  • Thank you Ma’m‘ by Langston Hughes
  • Frederic Brown – very short sci-fi stories, tales with a twist, e.g. ‘The Weapon’
  • Katherine Mansfield – ‘The Singing Lesson’, ‘Bliss’
  • Kate Chopin – ‘The Story of An Hour’
  • Brothers Grimm
  • Aesop’s Fables (including podcast versions) – over-familiarity could be a problem, but could help too – start with the ending and predict the story (@hartle). Also useful with weaker students. Or try ones that aren’t as popular as the well-known ones. Or get them to guess the moral. (@tarabenwell) Examples of Tara’s online learners reciting Aesop
  • Greek/Roman myths
  • Bible stories
  • Nasruddin stories


  • Use powerpoint to make slideshows illustrating lines of a poem. (@naomishema)
  • Show students limericks, then get them to write their own (@helen100463/@Marisa_C) – although can be frustrating when trying to think of a rhyme for someone’s name (@pjgallantry)
  • Use haikus to raise syllable/pronunciation awareness (@Marisa_C). A Haiku is a Japanese poem of 3 lines, with a set number of syllables in each (5-7-5)
  • Use the web to find rhymes (@helen100463), for example @flocabulary’s “What rhymes with orange?” or Rhymezone
  • Saw a lesson once where T gave ss only the final (rhyming) words of each line of poem – ss had to complete it – worked brilliantly! (@pjgallantry)
  • Expression through poetry is very satisfying for learners too, it’s real and can be done at low levels. Grammar poems reinforce too. (@hartle)
  • Poetry is expression and can be sparked by all kinds of things: music, images, words… the brain just needs something to set it off (@hartle)
  • Use a poem as a dictogloss, then discuss it. I read the poem, they had to listen and write then get into pairs and re-construct and listen again and then again (@fuertesun) I’ve also used mixed up texts , 1 group with nouns, another with verbs etc. They reconstruct text & read (@hartle) More on dictogloss
  • I use a lot of poetry: short, we can stop every now and then and comment; even those who “don’t like it” love it in the end & learn! (@vickyloras)
  • Use rhymes to teach vocabulary – ‘Word Up‘ from @flocabulary
  • Poems are great for seeing word relationships and collocations (@rliberni)
  • You can come back to a poem or story later and see what the students remember (@divyabrochier)
  • Encourage students to learn a poem by heart (@fuertesun) – espeically good for stress and intonation (@nutrich) @divyabrochier’s Arabic teacher makes them learn something by heart every week ” I am learning a lot of words and remembering them!”
  • Practise rhythm /stress by making them do them as a kind of modern rap (@mkofab)


  • Did an exercise with Romeo & Juliet which looked at using the two families in the play. Students had to spread rumours about the other group. (@rliberni)
  • Carry a story forward into our times and change the setting (@Marisa_C)
  • Modernize the text (@flocabulary)
  • Enact roles, then debate and write from the characters’ viewpoints (@pjgallantry)
  • Get them to create own keyword cues for dialogues (@divyabrochier)
  • Shakespeare – including Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet
  • Oscar Wilde – quite a few on youtube too


  • Build a reader into each term of your classes (@pjgallantry)
  • Turn a short reader into a comic book (@smaragdav)

Other sources #eltchatters have used

  • Graphic novels
  • Cartoons
  • Translated poems/stories from different cultures (not only English poets/writers) – ind English language writers from India, Singapore, Africa, Malaysia etc.. there are many (@rliberni) – for example the OUP reader Land of my Childhood has stories from South-East Asia
  • Sometimes they like buying the audiobook too and listen to it on their way to work,works wonders for their language (@vickyloras)
  • Such Tweet Sorrow on Twitter

Getting literature to your students

  • Share your novels/books with them. Start a private library
  • Use a book box.
  • Use poetry and short story excerpts if longer sources are not available.
  • Use e-books
  • Encourage students to exchange books among themselves
  • Use Google reader to select reading and listening and then do a project presenting and swapping links on class wiki (@hartle)


  • We have to teach literary concept and thinking skills with the literature. (@naomishema)
  • Be age appropriate – “I had an early put-off experience with literature in EFL class: tried teaching some 14-yr-olds some William Blake!” (@pjgallantry)
  • It’s important to set the tasks right for literature: just an overview can be enough or select bits (@rliberni)
  • What level should extensive literature reading by introduced?
  • Do students already read literature in their L1? Even if they don’t, you should still teach them reading skills. (@Marisa_C)
  • Be careful of the ‘cultural imperialism’ thingy – some lit can be controversial! (@pjgallantry) But can be avoided by presenting a range of global literature which the sts can choose from. (@theteacherjames)
  • Some topics can be controversial: “My teaching Richard Cory sparked a huge eng. teachers debate about if it is o.k to teach a poem that has suicide in it. Scared me” (@naomishema) – “Taught Richard Cory to 10th-12graders. They actually related to seemingly perfect guy on the outside is unhappy inside”
  • I worry that it is hard to ‘justify’ using literature in Further Education’s utilitarian view of education as skills training (@pysproblem81): Is being able to appreciate literature, theatre, film etc.. not also a life-skill? (@rliberni)
  • Mistakes (used deliberately) in the source text: you can use them to show non-standard use (depending on level of students): noticing this type of thing can reinforce the normal rules (@hartle) I used “Of Mice & Men” which is full of mistakes. Great practice for reading skills & they could check with peers & me. (@theteacherjames)
  • Students have trouble with higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) if they’re not taught them in L1 (@naomishema): personally think literature is a real key to higher level language skills… playing with language seems to help (@pysproblem81)
  • A lot of teachers have come to ELT from other disciplines and not familiar with literary tradition (@Marisa_C). The teacher must feel enthusiastic and communicate that feeling for any literature work to be really effective (@pjgallantry)
  • Very few coursebooks promote literary text – it’s all journalese (@Marisa_C)

Links shared

Resource Books

  • Literature in the Language Classroom by Joanne Collie (on Amazon)
  • The Inward Ear: Poetry in the Language Classroom by Alan Maley (on Amazon)

And to end with, here’s one of my favourite poets of all time, performing one of my favourite kid’s books:

When Sandy met Lizzie

Yesterday, @Lizziepinard and I were having one of our many chats on Twitter, and I proposed collaring her as my second interview victim (after Naomi) for Brad Patterson’s excellent PLN interview challenge. We originally planned to do the interview in June, but after chatting for more than an hour, it was clear that neither of us had anything more exciting to do on a Friday afternoon (me)/evening (Lizzie)…so off to Skype we went.

What I already knew

I first became aware of Lizzie as a contributor to #eltchat, the weekly meetings of ELT teachers from around the world which take place every Wednesday. Unfortunately, as she is teaching in Indonesia at the moment, Lizzie can only make the first chat, but she’ll be in England over the summer, so hopefully she’ll be joining us for both soon! Lizzie’s participation in #eltchat has also taken the pressure off me a little ūüôā as she’s now the number one summary writer, having done three summaries in the last month, all of which are easy to read and very entertaining:

Lizzie’s history

In her own words:

Lizzie Pinardborn in Chichester (and got family in East Sussex), grew up from age 2-16 in Botswana, A-levels East Sussex, degree Warwick Uni w/a yr in France, a few months in Durham when among other things I worked at Northumbrian Water in Pity Me [that’s a real place if you were wondering!], then landed in Sheffield for a few years, then Indonesia!

Read on to find out more!

The Big Five

  1. If your students were to label you with three adjectives, what might they be?
    By @VictoriaB52 on #eltpics on Flickr

    This is one of those questions that is pretty difficult to answer, but after much um-ing and er-ing, Lizzie eventually said enthusiastic, creative and…unpredictable (this was the best word we could come up with!). She later qualified it in a great way:

    “Just to clarify on the “unpredictable” point… it’s not in a scary, kids don’t know where they stand with me kind of way, more in a surprising instead of boring kind of way. But maybe energetic would be a better word! In ELT speak (well, in Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching book anyway!), I like to go the parabola way instead of the direct way :-p”

  2. What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
    By @dfogarty on #eltpics on Flickr

    Next week Lizzie is leaving Indonesia for the summer, so her fridge is pretty empty right now: just some biscuits, a quarter of a papaya and some milk (we decided this was very English!).

    Normally it would be much fuller, ideally with:

    “lots of salady things, fruit, hummus, cheese, yoghurt, decent milk (the long-life milk you get in Indonesia isn’t the same)…”

  3. If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
    By @ceciELT on #eltpics on Flickr

    Before becoming a teacher, Lizzie did disability support work at Sheffield Hallam University, working with people with a whole range of disabilities. She was employed to go to lectures and take notes for the students. It was a great job, but paid by the hour, so that when the students went home there was no money coming in. Biology lectures were fun, but anything involving a lot of numbers, like Economics, Physics or Applied Mathematics where difficult when she didn’t understand what the lecturers were talking about. If you find yourself in the same situation, her advice is “Let the words go in at your ear and out at your hand – if you try to process them, they will melt your brain!”

    If not doing that, Lizzie would like to be a writer or work in a library – anything with books really.

  4. What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession or what has been your most difficult class as a teacher?
    By @mk_elt on #eltpics on Flickr

    Any of you who have read Lizzie’s summary and comments about the #eltchat on using coursebooks will already know that she has been having to teach under very strict constraints for the past year, with “a hefty coursebook, too-short courses and zero freedom to stray from the coursebook”. The students and my colleagues have been great though! She’s leaving next week, so hopefully this situation will change soon and she’ll be able to experiment with all of the things she’s learnt from her PLN over the last few months.

  5. What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read too many times?
    Not quite the right kind of leopard (by me!)

    The last book Lizzie read was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was OK, but not earth-shattering, and the section set in Indonesia was interesting. At the moment she’s reading Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry, which is a series of short stories about the inhabitants of an apartment block in Bombay [which I now want to read!]

    The last film she saw was National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor, which was being played on the plane as part of an Elizabeth Taylor tribute. Her comment: “a pleasant watch, good if you like horses”

The DVD extras

After I’d asked Lizzie the five questions for the challenge (with a blip in the middle when we lost the connection, and another as I accidently hung up!), we then carried on chatting for about half an hour. Two questions I really wanted to ask her were:

How did you end up in Indonesia?

I wanted to go there, saw that English First had lots of schools there, and decided it seemed like a safe bet, especially because you get a contract before you arrive in Indonesia, rather than having to do a demo lesson once you arrive with no guarantee of getting a job. I’ve got a new job at a different school for September, this time based in Jakarta. I’m in South Sumatra at the moment, so it’s going to be like going to a whole other world.

What was Botswana like when you were growing up?

Completely different to now! When we first arrived in the mid 1980s the capital city was not much bigger than a village. There was only a ridiculously small number of paved roads in the country! Botswana is the size of France and currently has around 2.4 million people living there, even fewer, much fewer, when we first went there! Now it’s more like a mini-Joburg. (Unfortunately with a crime rate to match! Well, not quite that bad, but heading in the wrong direction!)
We lived in a government house (which we nick named the matchbox) and memories of childhood include running around outside barefoot and climbing over the fence to play with the neighbours.
One Christmas when we were going to the UK, when I was still very young, we got to the airport and THEN my parents noticed my bare feet! Them: “Where are your shoes????!!!!” Me: “Er, in my bedroom…” (Where else would they be?! …did I mention I used to go barefoot a lot? :-p)

Lizzie climbing

Eventually I had to go as there was a parade of masks in Brno that night, but I’m sure if I hadn’t we would still be talking now! We’re going to try and meet at some point in the summer when we’re both in the UK, and Lizzie is also trying to get a scholarship to take her to IATEFL next April, so we should meet there too (good luck!)

Thanks again Brad for challenging us to these interviews!

On top of a mountain
On top of the world...
In the pub
...and in an ELT teacher's natural element!

Teaching Metaphors

During the #eltchat about coursebooks on Wednesday 11th May 2011 a few metaphors for teaching were mentioned. Lizzie Pinard quoted them in her excellent summary of the chat:

@Chucksandy summed this up beautifully: ‚ÄúGood cooks know what can be left out of or put into a recipe, or added as a side dish. Good teachers using course books know the same thing.‚ÄĚ Or, as @OUPELTglobal put it, the course book should be used like a map with the route and pace being set by the students and the teacher.

This is not the first time metaphors like this have been used in the chats, but this time it got me thinking about how we describe the processes of teaching and learning languages to our students.

I’ve already posted about the ‘high’ I get when I can successfully communicate in a foreign language. I created my other favourite language-related metaphor when responding to students complaints about learning grammar, although I think it can be used to describe the process of learning languages in general too. Please note, it’s only meant to give an image to my students, without being completely factually accurate! It goes a little something like this:

  • Everybody wants grammar to look like New York. Nice straight lines, turn left here, turn right there…
  • In fact, it looks a lot more like London, with random twists and turns, a few bits that might resemble where you’re from, but many others which are completely unfamiliar.
  • And although London might seem scary at first, especially if you’re dumped in the middle of it with no map, you CAN get to know it. All you need to do is spend time there. And the more time you spend there, the easier it is to find your way around. You’ll even get to the stage where you can go places automatically, without thinking about which way to go.
  • In exactly the same way, the more time you spend with grammar / a language, the easier it is to use. You can find your way around, make educated guesses, and eventually use it without thinking about it. But you’ll never know how to do all of the this unless you make an effort and ‘wander round’.

This way of thinking about language seems to have really helped some of my students, and has even meant that a couple of them have started putting in slightly more work!

So what metaphors do you use with your students? Or when thinking about your teaching?

Conferences: Spreading the Love (an #eltchat summary)

This is a summary of the 9pm BST #eltchat on Twitter from Wednesday 6th April 2011. The topic was:

How can participants at conferences best ensure that what they learn lives on and spreads?

The chat involved people with a large variety of experience regarding conferences, ranging from none at all to serial presenters, as well as conference organisers. It fell nicely into various categories, making summary writing nice and easy!

Why go to conferences?

  • @cerirhiannon: “I find really motivating talks usually lead to experimenting, blogging and eventually presenting”
  • @TyKendall: “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn” John Cotton Dana.
  • @naomishema “I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to last year’s TESOL and it was an eye opening experience which led to blogging and twitter.”
  • @cioccas: “I always feel reenergised after a conference & buzzing with new ideas I want to share with colleagues. Also after every #ELTchat !”
  • @lauraesol: “After a session last year at IATEFL, I found I got so excited about the content I had to repeat it all to friends!”
  • @bcnpaul1: “Last year was my first IATEFL & changed my outlook hugely. Maybe people just need to get the development bug”
  • @ELTmethods: “Conferences¬†are not only about collecting ideas. The social element is vital, too: meeting people with the PD bug”
  • @sandymillin: “Definitely worth it! Motivating, great for networking and fun too (mostly!)”
  • @theteacherjames: “If you benefit, your students benefit, & that makes it worth it. Anything else is a bonus.”
  • @Marisa_C: “Going to a face-to-face conference is very important – recharges human batteries”
  • @springrose12: “If nothing else happens, educators get to meet with each other and share good practice as well as socialize. It’s good to know that you’re not alone and others can help you with difficulties.”
  • Meeting the ‘stars’: @lauraesol “Won’t ever forget John Wells and feeling so much more confident about pronunciation after talking to him.” “Biggest moment was getting Jim Scrivener’s autograph!” / @marekandrews: “@lauraesol I got Jeremy Harmer to sign his book, asked him to write advice for my trainees+showed it to them next time”

How to decide which sessions to attend

  • Think about what is most useful for you and your colleagues
  • Try to find articles, blog entries, videos of talks or tweets from speakers you’re interested in seeing
  • Coordinate with your colleagues to attend different sessions, then share experiences, insights, handouts etc afterwards.
  • Decide whether you want to go to practical sessions, theoretical ones or a mix of both.
  • Take a chance on some less well-known presenters – that’s how they become well-known. Also, they are often in the classroom more regularly so can be more relevant.
  • Prioritise! Try not to get overwhelmed.

What presenters can do to make their presentations memorable

  • Keep it as simple as possible.
  • Get to the point.
  • Include a variety of activities in workshops: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic…
  • Try alternative visual aids: flipcharts are still in!
  • Let participants talk so they don’t get restless.
  • Don’t be afraid of using technology.
  • Be genuine
  • Have something to say
  • Try to make a connection with the audience: engage.
  • Get ‘personal’.
  • Upbeat, but not too up!
  • Listen to your audience.
  • Don’t read aloud from your Powerpoint.
  • Provide handouts (laminated if possible for reading in the bath!), or a link to a blogpost – or one handout, with everything else online so your session can be discussed at lunch
  • If the audience fall asleep, start being controversial
  • Inject a bit of humour and originality
  • Think about what your audience wants and needs to know
  • Chat to some of your audience after you’ve finished to get feedback and learn from them too. Good for shy people too.

What participants can do during a conference

  • Give a workshop at the conferences you attend.
  • Try to go to the conference with other teachers and chat about what you have seen.
  • Try to talk to the presenter and other participants to keep it in your memory.
  • Use Twitter to share your thoughts – those who cannot normally attend conferences are especially grateful for this. You can also use it as a form of note-taking. Consider asking the speaker beforehand and / or only tweeting during Tweeter’s talks. Take a look at the¬†debate on Jeremy Harmer’s blog about whether or not you should tweet.
  • Follow Twitter hashtags during a conference: you might notice something you’ve missed / OR Don’t follow them, you might miss something!

What participants can do after a conference

Find out what works for you: old school or new school. Take a look at some of the ideas below:

  • Tell your colleagues about what you saw. “When I was at…I met… and he/she…”
  • Blog about what you saw, thus prompting further discussion of topics. Conferences even prompted some to start blogging for the first time.
  • Even if you don’t want to blog about the conference, you can make comments on other people’s posts.
  • Type the notes you take, then categorise them into files on your computer, making them easy to retrieve when needed. This also makes it easier to email them to people if you want to share them.
  • Go back to your notes a while later and remind yourself of what you’ve read.
  • Try things out in class as soon as possible so that you don’t forget them.
  • Keep a teaching diary (which could be a blog) to use for post-conference reflections.
  • Watch any post-conference videos and share them with colleagues.
  • Correspond with speakers at conferences to inspire you to make the transition between listening and doing (@naomishema: “Even famous David Crystal answered me!”)
  • Share your knowledge in small groups / during department meetings
  • Follow up on any recommended reading.
  • Follow up on contacts to consolidate connections made. This may lead to forms of cooperation in the future.
  • Set aside a quiet hour to go through what documentaton you have and think through what you got out of the conference.
  • Look at your notes on the way home and decide which ideas to apply next.
  • Keep the conference booklet.
  • Not all ideas may be practical for your classes – be selective.
  • Introduce Twitter and other sharing tools to your colleagues to help them become more digitally aware and to be able to participate in the post-conference sharing.
  • Rely on your memory!

What presenters / conference organisers can do during/after a conference

  • Make a list of seminar participants and their contact details and email them to each other.
  • Ask speakers if they mind being filmed / recorded.
  • Stream sessions online, as ISTEK did. Alternatively, release them online for people to watch (months) later.
  • Provide wifi for attendees to share their impressions.
  • Share materials online. For example, the IH Brno Conference (a one-day one at my school) created a group on Edmodo and gave attendees the code so that they could get any handouts they wanted. Alternatively, put slides online using a tool like Slideshare, a wiki or a blog.
  • Put out a newsletter after the conference with summaries of lectures a couple of months later.
  • Create an informal ‘buddy’ system with your PLN to give feedback on each other’s talks at a conference.

What schools can do after a conference

  • Encourage teachers to give a workshop / CPD session to share what they learnt. Small groups could prepare a demonstration about a topic if a few of them saw the same talks.
  • Ask colleagues to choose ONE topic which deeply affected them each time: demanding to share everything could be too overwhelming.
  • Keep a collective training blog for teachers.
  • Create a wiki with colleagues and link powerpoints or videos plus start a discussion.
  • Record speakers, then create worksheets based on the sessions – have a bank of talks and tasks.
  • Have a staff email list dedicated to post conference sharing.
  • Sponsoring teachers to go to conferences could really boost staff morale.
  • Encourage a culture of sharing in general – this makes it easier for teachers to share after conferences.

Possible problems and solutions

  • Other people in the staffroom are not interested in the conferences you attend.
    Keep sharing – your enthusiasm will hopefully get through to your colleagues eventually! You could also try to spend more time with people who ARE responsive. Teacher development is a mindset.
  • Some conferences are very expensive to attend.
    Try to access the materials in other ways, through videos, Twitter, blogs etc. Sometimes it’s better to bite the bullet – conferences offer you many benefits. If you’re paying for it, go for what you’re interested in. Your teacher development comes first.
  • Speakers often have to pay to present.
    Some people were annoyed about this, but others said that they are presenting for 45 minutes and watching 1-3 days of sessions, so are happy to pay. Dave Dodgson blogged about speakers paying to attend conferences too.
  • Tweeting during conferences (Jeremy Harmer’s blog discussion) could be bad for the presenter. Also, some people complained about the lack of context.
    Many people would still go to see a talk even if they had seen it tweeted.
  • Online conferences don’t match up to a face-to-face environment
    Use Twitter to get some of the socialising / networking side. It’s also better to watch online than not take part at all! Online conferences can also make people more willing to participate.
  • The number of ideas can be overwhelming
    Be selective: just a handful of ideas can make a big difference .

Conferences to look out for

Other links shared

How to write an #eltchat summary

eltchat summary wordcloud

#eltchat takes place at 12pm and 9pm GMT every Wednesday. It’s a Twitter discussion for teachers all over the world. To find out more, read Marisa Constantinides’ excellent post.

If you’ve never followed the chat, they are fascinating, stimulating and full of ideas. If you’ve tried to follow the transcript after the discussion is over, you may have found it a little confusing. For that reason various contributors to #eltchat now write summaries of the discussions to create a reference after they are over. If you’re one of the lucky summary writers, here is a quick guide:

  1. Follow the chat as it’s happening (I think this makes it easier to write the summary)
  2. Wait for the transcript to be published / Go on to Twitter and scroll back to the beginning of the chat
  3. In a blogpost / a Word document write a short introduction to the chat, generally including when it took place and the fact that it’s an #eltchat
  4. Then work your way through the transcript (it’s easier to start from the earliest tweets), putting the main points under headings to divide them up a bit. It’s completely up to you how you do this. I also generally find it’s easier to put all of the links in one section, but it depends on the topic of the chat.
  5. Publish the summary on your blog / send it to one of the moderators – you’ll find their names in the transcript.
  6. Tweet a link to the summary so that everyone can read it. To see previous examples, click here. Your summary will end up here too, if you give your permission. Please do!

Depending on the chat, it could take a couple of hours to do a summary, but it’s great for your blog traffic! And it’s a good way to fix the ideas in your head – revision and all that.

Good luck!

Write on!

This ¬†week has been all about writing for myself and my students. On Wednesday, I took part in the #eltchat on Writing and Marking (transcript here, summary here) and on Friday we had a CAM (IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology) session on Writing. In the course of both I was thinking about the writing my students have done recently, and realised that we’ve done many different things. Here is a selection of them in no particular order.

Email Workshop

  • SS sent me examples of real emails written in English.
  • I printed them, along with a couple of real emails I have sent to other native speakers, and cut them up to take into class.
  • SS sorted them on a scale (roughly) from formal to informal.
  • SS read the emails in more detail, attaching post-it notes to them with examples of good language from them. There was also a bit of scrap paper next to each where they could write any questions.
  • We took the emails one by one and went through the post-it notes and scrap paper, adding extra notes as they came up.
An example of an email we had looked at
  • At home, I scanned the emails with the post-it notes still stuck on them and emailed them to the SS.
  • For homework, SS added to a GoogleDoc to serve as a final reference which they can access at any time after the class. This is the original template, which you’re welcome to use (please ask me if you need access).

With five students and nine emails, this has already taken one 90-minute class, and could easily take another. The students are really enthusiastic about it and told me it was very useful at the end of the session.

Email conversations

One of the first things I did in my classes at the beginning of the year was to gather the SS’ email addresses. We are constantly in contact with each other, mainly about homework but with other emails related to holidays and issues the students have.

Short summaries

After a discussion in class, I encouraged SS to write a very short summary (3-4 sentences) of what they learnt. I then collected it, marked it quickly while they were doing some listening, and returned it asking them to email it to me for homework. This could have been done without marking, but as these students are training to take the CAE exam and are generally reluctant to write, every little helps!

Discussion questions and answers

The same group did some speaking in class based on a wordle of money questions from New English File Advanced. I gave them the original teacher’s book page for homework, then asked them to choose two questions. For one, they had to record an answer through audioboo or on their mobile phones; for the other, they needed to send me short paragraph by email. I posted the results on my student blog here. Half of the class did their homework, which is a pretty good hit rate for them!

Essay writing

In the CAE exam class, I introduced the group to essay writing. We followed a task-based approach, with the students writing essays in pairs, followed by an examination of linking phrases they could use to improve cohesion. They then had a chance to redraft their essay using the language and tips from the coursebook. I gave them online feedback for the first time (example) using Jing for the recording, along with OmniDazzle to do the mark-up. One student has already replied:

Thank you very much for this feedback. I think it very useful and I really like it. I believe that it will help all of us.

Thanks to all those on #eltchat who suggested feedback like this – it’s a great tool to add my toolbox.

EnglishRaven’s materials

Jason Renshaw is one of my favourite bloggers to follow. He constantly inspires me with all of the materials he posts on his excellent blog. This week I finally got to experiment with two of them – the Wizard English Grid (WEG) for emergent language, based on this post, and the reading and questions template from this post. The former is still a work in progress with the various groups I’ve introduced it into, but the latter was very successful. Having covered advanced family vocabulary with one group last week, I wanted to revise while pushing the students further. I found an article about demographics in the Czech Republic to paste into the empty space in Jason’s template, then gave the students time to create their own questions. We only had half an hour in class, but the way the discussion was going we could easily have continued for an hour. And where was the writing, I hear you cry? Well, the questions the discussion was based on were all written by the students themselves – something which they don’t often practise.


With two 1-2-1 students I recorded speaking, which they then typed a transcript of for us to work on the language. Neither of them noticed that they were writing, and they commented afterwards that they had never of thought of doing this before.

YLs and Teens

Even my younger learners didn’t escape! In the YL class of pre-intermediate nine- to ten-year-olds we’ve been watching a few minutes of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the end of each lesson as a reward for all of their hard work. This week, there was a space in the syllabus which was the perfect time to teach them some of the vocabulary they’d been struggling with. As a follow-up they wrote a couple of sentences about the film and draw a picture on this sheet:

The intermediate-level teens started writing a script for a presentation we’re going to make next week on their technology use.

The End

I think that pretty much covers it, and I hope it’s useful to someone! When I started thinking about it, I was very surprised at just how much writing there was in one week’s worth of lessons. What I’m concentrating on at the moment is trying to make all writing I do relevant and to give the students as much of a sense of purpose as possible. I know I was definitely guilty of ‘the next page is writing, so we’ll do it on Monday’ and ‘do the writing for homework’ before, and I hope the things featured in this post are the first steps to changing this!

How to train students to use technology appropriately (an #eltchat summary)

Can I just send you a link to my blog?

This is a summary of the 12pm GMT #eltchat on Twitter from Wednesday 9th February 2011. Find the complete transcript here.

Why bother?

  • It empowers students.
  • It allows them to learn beyond the classroom – blogs, wikis, skype, global projects…find out more
  • SS bring their own technology to class anyway. For example “Students arrive first day with a very expensive electronic dictionary. We have integrated a class on use into the curriculum”
  • Older kids learn by using tools and making mistakes.
  • Tech can make language learning more exciting, even if SS can’t access it at home. It can also absorb SS in using the language so much that they forget they are studying.
  • “Resource, communication, and automated feedback (might include motivation as well)”
  • Language learning is a tool to learn other things, including technology.
  • It fits in with many SS lifestyles, adding purpose, engagement and usefulness to the lesson.
  • “When did Ss have access to so much natural lang in the past 24/7? – A self access at their fingertips”
  • By showing SS how to deal with tech by themselves, you’re fostering learner autonomy.
  • Your SS can be immersed in L2 culture. It’s an accessible way to meet and interact with L2 natives.
  • It’s a great motivator.
  • Online practice between lessons makes up for a possible lack of face-to-face time – SS progress faster.
  • SS who are shy in class can be much more willing to participate online.
  • Tech can do things you can’t, like “a student-created book students can access at home and share”

How to do it

  • Train learners by demonstration. e.g. with YLs use Triptico word magnets for grammar structures. They want to try it too!
  • Offer old computers for young learners to play on. With very young learners, show them how to use the mouse and keys to make things happen on screen.
  • Assign computer-related homework, e.g. making a short powerpoint. SS then talk about it in class.
  • Use an iPad for audio and video content. Also has a good dictionary app.
  • Encourage SS to set their phone / PC to English – they know the functions and can learn a lot of language.
  • Use your iPod / mp3 player for listening in class. Great way for SS to see podcasts in use.
  • Ask SS to bring in something funny, e.g. a YouTube video, and share it at the end of class.
  • Encourage SS to use smartphones to look up words / images.
  • Ask SS to use bluetooth to send short recordings.
  • Connect to your SS on facebook and ask them to comment on your statuses in English.
  • On the first day of class, ask all of your SS to get their phones out and send you a text. Make a class list.
  • Teach Pecha Kucha with young adults – prepare a “half” PK with 10 slides only. / Offline, try it¬†with a series of A3 cards.
  • Ask SS to record themselves inside and outside class – on computers or mobiles. Example
  • SS can email you in English.
  • Use articles, infographics, video listening activities etc to teach learners about tech.
  • With YLs, ask parents to play online games in English, e.g. Playhouse Disney
  • Ask SS to take photos of the board with their mobiles.
  • Encourage SS to listen to podcasts when commuting. Don’t forget to teach SS what podcasts are, as many of them don’t know! Do a listening lesson in class, then send them home with a list of links.
  • “A great Design For Change project in Taiwan: YLs teach senior citizens to use mobiles & PCs to message & game in English.”
  • Use class time for training, so that SS can continue their learning at home e.g. how to record voice messages.
  • Ask SS to take pictures of things they want to learn the words for on their phones, then bring them to class.
  • Let SS have a go at using something before you train them how to. Get everyone to try a task – the first one to work it out shows all the others.
  • Let them train each other. Encourage peer discussion.
  • Show them tutorials and let them play with tech themselves (especially for younger / more tech-savvy SS)
  • Ask the SS to read a text aloud and record it, then send it to you in class via bluetooth.
  • Talk about tech with your SS – they’re often very enthusiastic.
  • Train your SS on how to appropriately convey Internet research through oral presentations.
  • Teaching tech is like giving instructions – the simpler, the better.
  • Remove unnecessary obstacles – e.g. create a class sign-in.
  • Choose the one application needed and explore it together. / Choose a handful of tools and use them regularly and purposefully.
  • “My best tech moments are when SS create stuff/tell their stories/become stars/cooperate with each other.”
  • Teach each student something different, and they can pass it on. (Jigsaw reading approach)
  • With young learners, use tech adapted to them: big buttons, pictures, and no ‘dangerous’ links if they click around randomly
  • Get more advanced SS to create tutorials for earlier levels.
  • PaperTwitter:¬†hand out a paper with a space for username and message to each student. They then have a short time to write a¬†message and pass it to whoever they want. It gets silly and fun.
  • Ask SS to find stimulating texts online and bring them to class.
  • Show SS how to use Twitter for English self-study, through hashtags such as #twinglish, #eltstudentchat (latter has not yet started) – read about it here
  • Use Twitter to work on concise writing – the 140 character limit really helps them!
  • Use Twitter to make school / class announcements.
  • Even if there is space for every SS to have a computer, consider small groups for collaboration.
  • Use webquests for homework. / Do collaborative webquests with a time limit – groups present what they have found after this time.
  • Ask SS to interview each other using mobiles / cameras.

Challenges and suggested solutions

  • Classes with mixed technology skill levels
    Ascertain their ¬†tech capabilities as soon as you can, for example by doing a survey of what they know and if they have any expertise. Include a section on tech skills in your needs analysis. Don’t forget you can probably learn a lot from them too.
  • Availability of technology / resources
    Think about what tech you DO have access to.
    Your own laptop (if you have one) can go a long way – even one computer offers many opportunities. You can also ask SS to bring in their laptops. Even if you have no net access in the classroom, you can often download things to your computer. Help SS to find alternative places to access technology outside class, such as the local library, friends, family.
    Mobile phones are all-pervading – most students have them, and there is lot you can do with them – text, recording, video, photos…
    You can also teach technology without it: use ‘paper models’ of things like chat, forums/commenting, even twitter in class before going online.
  • Training yourself and your colleagues.
    If you don’t feel confident, it is difficult to train your students. Play with tools before you use them in class. Share knowledge you have with your colleagues. Encourage them to come to your classroom to see it in action. Blog about your tech use and share. Thread technology suggestions into observation feedback.
  • SS resist using technology in class.
    Teach SS language¬†through Edtech. Go to the tech SS are already using, including local language sites. Start simple –¬†once they see the usefulness, they may not resist as much. Use the knowledge SS have, for example with their mobile phones. Give them links to online dictionaries and exercises to take home. You may be teaching them how not to be afraid of it!
  • Parents / SS expect printed handouts and coursebooks, not computer-related assignments.
    Teach SS language¬†through Edtech. Show them how much more writing they do when it’s online “My parents are thrilled when they see how much WRITING in English their kids do when it’s online.”
  • SS don’t have email addresses.
    Don’t forget that not every student has email! Help them to see the use for it, and try to find ways around it.
  • Complicated language (slang, abbreviations) on social networking sites.

Don’t forget!

  • Think about how technology fits in with your overall goals / content. No tech for tech’s sake.
  • Think about how to insert it into your practice, rather than teaching it as a completely separate skill. Introduce it in small doses so it doesn’t overwhelm language learning. Make it feel like a natural extension of an already existing task.
  • Are you teaching technology or using it as a tool?
  • Speak to your SS – they might not be interested in “hyper-connected language learning”, especially if they’re using tech all day outside class. Allow them to choose to avoid alienation.
  • “Don’t try to use tech to ‘fix’ things that aren’t broke!”
  • Have ¬†a back-up plan just in case!
  • Be ruthless – don’t drown yourself in technology!

Links shared

I’ll leave you with a quote from the chat:

My strongest English students are often techies.

Pronunciation: what, why, when and how? (an #eltchat summary)

Pronunciation wordcloud (eltchat 2nd Feb 2011)

The Wednesday 2nd February 9pm GMT #eltchat was fast and furious. Here is a summary of the main points:

Why teach pronunciation?

‘If you’re not teaching pronunciation, you’re not teaching English’

  • It can help with punctuation.
  • Learners are keen to work on pronunciation so that they can be understood.
  • It helps with listening skills, particularly features of connected speech.
  • Pronunciation, rather than grammar / vocab, is the main barrier to understanding. If learners have bad pronunciation, listeners think their English is incomprehensible even if it’s not. Can undermine SS confidence.
  • Raises awareness of sounds – learners better able to distinguish between them.
  • It’s fun!

What to teach

  • Individual sounds (perhaps using the IPA – see below)
  • Sound linking
  • Connected speech (perhaps through songs)
  • Weak forms (schwa)
  • Voice – get them to imitate English speakers mispronouncing their L1 – gives them a feel for sounds / rhythm
  • Syllable stress –¬†highlight length, pitch, loudness, & vowel clarity
  • Intonation
  • Minimal pairs
  • Chunking
  • Pausing
  • Rhythm
  • Awareness of varieties of English.
  • Awareness and recognition – production will come later

How to teach pronunciation

  • Integrate it into your lessons as much as possible OR Have courses which are entirely pronunciation focussed.
  • Start with little steps, and build from there.
  • Keep a corner of the board for pronunciation issues which emerge during the lesson.
  • Model the shape of the mouth, and ask them to think about their tongues and lips! Even works with elementary SS.
  • Combine it with listening.
  • Use coursebook tapescripts to integrate pronunciation: mark schwas, intonation…
  • Work on pronunciation with all new lexis.
  • Record vocab covered in class and upload it for SS to listen to between classes (example here:¬†
  • Record your students and use it to focus on pronunciation issues.
  • Get SS to record themselves on their mobile phones. (they can do this for homework too)
  • Transcribe.
  • Use chants, clapping and songs. SS often have better pronunciation when singing, so it gives them hope when speaking. (Could reflect a question of attitude – do they resist sounding English when speaking?)
  • Use games.
  • Intonation: using only the word ‘banana’, role play this situation: husband arrives home, small talk with wife, wife confronts husband about recently-discovered affair, husband denies it, husband admits it, argue, make up.
  • How many different ways can you say ‘no’ / ‘thank you’?
  • Use graded readers with small groups to focus on pronunciation and see where SS need to develop.
  • Use shadow reading with graded readers or with recorded versions of short texts e.g.¬† (also jokes, ads, movie trailers)
  • Exaggerate sounds – it’s fun, and SS can feel the difference between them.
  • Encourage SS to mouth words silently when reading / listening (works well with YLs)
  • SS put a wrapped chocolate bar (Tatranky if you’re in the Czech Republic) in their mouth. Drill vowel sounds. The chocolate should fall out of their mouth if they’re doing it properly (open mouth)
  • Take chunks of text and look at the connected speech, including lots of drilling
  • Listen to the radio and imitate the accent
  • Cuisenaire rods fabulous for teaching word/sentence stress, intonation etc
  • Mouth exercises – SS think it’s fun to laugh at the teacher
  • Get SS to stand up and sit down to mirror the intonation as you drill.
  • Exaggerate pronunciation by putting on a ‘posh’ accent – “Hello. How are you? Haven’t seen you in aaaages.”
  • Use drama: mini scripted sketches good for practising exagerrated voice range and intonation
  • Make it fun: stress can inhibit production.
  • Use tongue twisters¬† and limericks
  • Work on sound and spelling associations
  • Use¬†different coloured pens, dots,¬†connections, arrows…
  • Experiment with the Silent Way¬†
  • Decode text messages
  • Give SS a passage to mumble on their way home

The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)

  • Opinions: Scares a lot of teachers – puts them off teaching pronunciation; can confuse things, but OK if students are comfortable with it; can make a dictionary more useful; introduce it ASAP and it becomes integral; learners may be resistant if they don’t see the point; levels the playing field in a mixed group if no-one knows it
  • Students often use their own notation, so don’t feel the need to learn IPA.
  • Can be hard to use if SS are from very different educational / language backgrounds
  • Make flashcards for the sounds from the IPA (you could use the English File sound pictures or Adrian Underhill’s chart¬†
  • Use it to highlight differences that SS may not hear e.g. cat v. cut
  • Also to highlight differences between the variety of English you speak and other varieties SS need to be aware of
  • Highlight sounds which don’t appear in L1.
  • Use the schwa symbol – very useful – the one bit of IPA that every teacher should know.
  • Have fun with it! SS more likely to accept it this way.
  • Use games to teach the script¬†

Issues with teaching pronunciation

  • It is very overlooked by teachers, often as coursebook syllabi are so dense, and teachers don’t think grammar / vocabulary include pronunciation.
  • It is overlooked in a lot of coursebooks – included in very small chunks, so teachers don’t see it as important.
  • Can be difficult to teach in multilingual classes unless suprasegmental.
  • If it’s not tested, it’s not important.
  • Some teachers think it will come by osmosis, but it actually needs a lot of work.
  • It’s often left until later, meaning a lot of SS have very little exposure to pronunciation work.
  • Realism is required: perfection is unnecessary and largely unobtainable.
  • Students may believe there’s no system to English pronunciation.
  • Which English? (see below)
  • Do we do our students a disservice by speaking slowly and clearly in class?
  • Teachers often aren’t trained to teach pronunciation, or training only happens later (Dip, MA) [solution: refer them to #eltchat ;)]
  • Fossilised errors take a long time correct.
  • Teens may fear being mocked by peers.
  • Intonation can be difficult to teach as the rules are hard to pin down.
  • SS attitudes to and perception of pronunciation might block them, although talking about this helps.
  • Is it important for teachers to have a working knowledge of phonology? (The answers generally were that this is something you develop as you go along)
  • HOWEVER, if you think pronunciation is important, your students will too.

Which English should we teach?

  • Accent doesn’t matter, but clear pronunciation does. Accent ‚Ȇ pronunciation. And changing your accent can mean changing your identity.
  • The English we know
  • The English our learners need! If they’re going to be exposed to non-natives more than natives, then they need to hear them more!
  • Expose SS to as many different accents as possible e.g. UK / US English is stress-timed, but Indian English is syllable-timed (Global coursebooks were recommended as providing a lot of exposure)
  • A study showed that L2 is easier to understand when spoken in the accent of the listener, not the target language.¬†
  • The days of RP are long past.
  • Be yourself (not like this¬†!)

Online tools

Resource books

  • English Pronunciation in Use by CUP (especially for spelling/pronunciation connectionsm, stress, emphasis)
  • Ship or Sheep and Tree or Three by Ann Baker
  • Jazz Chants by Carolyn Graham
  • English Pronunciation Illustrated by John Trim (complete with funny cartoons)
  • Global coursebooks (range of accents in listening activities)
  • Team Up coursebooks (great pronunciation activities and funny tongue twisters)

Methodology and Further Reading

  • Webinar by Adrian Underhill
  • Teaching Pronunciation using the Prosody Pyramid, a free booklet from CUP
  • Teaching Pronunciation to Adults (Australian English)
  • Adrian Underhill on an embodied approach to pronunciation teaching
  • An introduction to using the pronunciation chart by Adrian Underhill
  • Teaching Pronunciation by Keith Kelly
  • Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Ref Guide by¬†Celce-Murcia, Brinton, Goodwin (CUP 2010 2nd ed)
  • Learner English by Swan and Smith

A bit of fun

This video, shared by @harrisonmike during the chat, epitomises why we should work on pronunciation ūüôā

Scottish voice recognition elevator (shared by @esolcourses) (April 2013 update: the link may not always work, because it is sometimes removed. Google ‘Scottish voice recognition elevator’ and you should find it!)

The Two Ronnies (shared by @ShaunWilden)

Update: On the 29th June 2011, we had another chat about pronunciation, including lots of new links. The summary is here.

Encouraging English in teen classrooms (an #eltchat summary)

Picture the situation.

A hard-working English teacher walks into a teen classroom. They are confronted by 15 (or more, or less!) faces with whom they will spend the next ninety minutes. Ninety minutes later they have heard ten sentences in English, along with torrents of L1, despite spending the whole class trying to encourage their learners to use as much English as possible.

What to do? Have no fear, #eltchat have the answers! This is a summary of the 9p.m. GMT discussion which took place on Wednesday 19th January, 2011.

The discussion followed various strands which I have tried to group loosely together. There are lots of ideas for you to try, but don’t forget that some might have negative effects on certain learners (this was a point raised a few times). Feel free to add further suggestions in the comments.

Throughout the year

  • Spend time to give them tools for communicating in English.
  • Teach set phrases “How do you spell…?” Also, ways to interrupt, appropriate ways to answer yes / no questions…
  • Have an English-only policy (there was some debate as to whether this is necessary / desirable / possible to maintain)
  • Treat them like adults. Make them aware of why they are learning a language.
  • Create an atmosphere where students are happy to talk together and listen to each other.
  • Teenagers have strong views and ideas. Meet them on an equal footing and they will respond.
  • Listen to what they have to say. Maintain eye contact and encourage them to speak.
  • At the beginning of the year set up a contract / list of rules generated by the students, including about L1 / L2 usage. Make sure you stick to it! It gives the students ownership and a sense of responsibility.
  • Negotiate the balance of L1 / L2, rather than dictating it.
  • At the beginning of term, hand out ten L1 vouchers with their names on them to each student. Every time they speak L1 to the teacher, they hand over a voucher. When they’ve used all of their vouchers, no more L1!
  • At the beginning of the year, do a survey of your students to find out why they’re there, what their hobbies and interests are…
  • Create ‘England / the USA / Scotland / Australia…’ in your classroom. Tell your students that when they walk through the door, they’re in Country X, so they have to speak the language! (Inspired by a teacher who ‘created’ Italy in her classroom – music, objects, etc)
  • Discuss why it’s a good idea to speak English in class.
  • Work hard at building a relationship with the class – this will make a big difference.
  • Encourage them to support each other, as well as seeking support from the teacher.

Throughout the class

  • Use a timer such as or the one included in the downloadable Triptico suite ( Set the timer for 5 minutes. For every 5 minutes students speak only English they can leave class 30 seconds earlier. Every time they speak L1, the timer is reset. You can choose a different reward if this wouldn’t work at your school.
  • Alternatively, 5 minutes in English, 5 minutes in any language – they use English when they don’t have to.
  • Alternatively (part 2!), for every 5 minutes in English they get 19 minute in L1.
  • Divide the class into two groups. Half can only use L1, half can only use L2. Then swap.
  • Each student pretends they are a different nationality and they each have their own interpreter.
  • Set students up in “triads” – 1 spokesperson, the other 2 SS just help them out.
  • Designate certain activities “English-only”, giving them time to prepare beforehand and reflection time afterwards.
  • Have a stuffed toy which is passed around the class as L1 is spoken. The person who has it at the end of class has to help tidy up.
  • Tape an adult class using English only (if you have one!) and play it in the teen class as a discussion starter.
  • Have a basket of sweets. Every time L1 is spoken take away a sweet. At the end of the class there are less sweets for everyone.
  • ‘Fine’ the students when they use L1 (there was a debate about whether this might have a negative effect).
  • Threaten to put teens in with adults if they speak L1!
  • Ask your students to stand up for a minute.
  • Try introducing an element of competition, for example a football-style league table.
  • Give them the option to take on a different identity. Or ask them to choose roles in a speaking task and take part with the appropriate stance / voice etc.
  • See who can go the longest without using L1 or who can have the longest turn in English – like holding your breath for the longest.
  • Joke with them: “If you can’t say it in English, don’t say it at all!”
  • At the end of the class ask them to guess what percentage of the lessons was L1 / L2 – remind them of the figures the following week and see if they can increase L2. You could also get them to think about what each language was used for.
  • For older teens: Give each student 10 beans. Teachers and other students can take away beans when they hear L1. The person with the most beans at the end of class can go home slightly early (1-2 minutes). All SS with fewer beans have to do one ‘forfeit’ for each missing bean – I normally get them to define one word from our vocabulary box for each bean.
  • Ask lower level students to imagine they are explaining things to a younger brother / sister – it gives a purpose for the simpler style of their language.

For individual tasks

  • Give sufficient preparation time, model the task, do a “test run”, then repeat the same topic a second time.
  • ‘Thinking time’ is very important. You could give them 5 minutes to come up with ideas and ask for any words they need.
  • Set up tasks very clearly, ensuring you provide all of the language they will need.
  • Before a discussion get them to list the kinds of words they think will be useful.
  • Make the students use specific vocab in their discussion. Other SS should guess which words they were.
  • Play bingo. Each student chooses 5 words. They should cross them off when they hear / use them during the class / during a specific task.
  • Walk around during pair / groupwork – although there’s an art to not stopping discussion completely.
  • Wait to correct until after the speaking has finished – allow it to be open discussion time.

Discussion topics that have worked (a.k.a. Make them forget they’re speaking English!)

  • Ask the students! The topics they are interested in tend to work best.¬†“It is only when you use language to say things which are true about you do you start to ‚Äėown‚Äô the new language” J. Harmer. Allow spontaneous discussion to happen.
  • What methods of cheating do you use? When? Why?
  • Which ‘group’ do you belong to? Or do you? e.g. chavs, emos, goths
  • Wedding planning (with an all-girls’ group!)
  • Travel: plan a trip, ‘meet’ people…
  • Read reviews of books / films /music etc and discuss whether they agree with them or not (especially with 14+)
  • Gossip. SS chat to each other, then switch partners to pass the gossip on.

Tech tools

Ideas for specific activities

  • Get students involved in global collaboration projects which give them a reason to speak English (if you need help with this the best person to ask seems to be @shellterrell!)
  • Use project tasks to make them feel involved.
  • Blog. Gives them a real-world purpose.
  • They love doing multimedia projects in English, such as making a film /advertisement in English.
  • Teach them how to do ‘cool’ things through English, such as making mashups.
  • Get the students to record themselves doing a task on their phones. Then they make a transcript and look at where they could have used more English.
  • Don’t stop them from gossiping, as long as it’s in English.
  • They love exploring English music and the cultures behind it, e.g. hip-hop, rap…
  • Ask SS to write their own songs.
  • Do karaoke with them.
  • Ask the SS to think of ideas – their solutions will quite likely be more imaginative than ours!
  • Bring ‘real’ English into class – travel brochures, job ads, lyrics, magazines – and try to convince them that they WANT to speak English!
  • Record the SS doing tasks (with their agreement) and watch it with them – they’ll (hopefully!) be surprised at how much English they can use.
  • Play word definition and miming games, then encourage students to use them for peer teaching.
  • Live listening. Retell the story with pictures. Listen again. Retell again. Works very well as lots of exposure to L2.
  • Start with a picture and elicit what they can see / who the people are etc. Then tell them that is the middle of the story. Half of the group will come up with the beginning, half will come up with the end (in secret). Then they have to work together to make one coherent story without really changing the parts that they came up with.
  • If possible, take them on field trips.
  • Get them moving – physical activities help them forget the pressure of speaking English.
  • Play games in class – they love their PS3’s and wii’s! But board / card games work just as well.
  • Timed conversations – give them a place to start and a place to finish and 2 minutes to get from A to B. After 2 minutes, change the people.
  • Play ‘Just a Minute’ – give them a topic to speak for a minute about. It’s based on a British radio show. Wikipedia:¬†; an example by Paul Merton:¬†
  • Break down a PC into pieces – SS want more information about hardware names etc.
  • Negotiate things in English that they wouldn’t normally do in L1 e.g. sell greeting cards by phone (in a language lab), enquire about an English course, take part in an interview for a flatmate.
  • Any kind of “How to…” – download films, use online games…
  • Have a teacher’s press conference. They interview you, then use the same questions in pairwork.
  • Have a speed-dating session!
  • ‘Onion ring’: students¬†stand face-to-face in two concentric circles and get opinions on something.Clap your hands; the outer circle students move two steps right two change partners. The teacher can take part too.

Use of L1

  • Not always a problem, providing clear boundaries are set.
  • Research suggests that discussing writing in L1 first can lead to better results.
  • Write some classroom phrases on the board in L1. Ask them to translate. (e.g. “How do you spell…?” “What do have for…?”
  • SS discuss something they are very interested in in L1, then other SS summarise it in English.
  • Let students chat in L1 at the beginning of class. Then ask them to summarise it in English.
  • Help the students to express what they said in L1 in English.
  • When you hear things in L1, ask them “How do you say…in English?”
  • Decide what percentage of L1 is acceptable for each level – more for lower levels?

Possible contributing factors to overuse of L1

  • Too much emphasis on using English might put students off – they are under too much pressure.

Some issues

  • What should do with lower-level classes? Is it possible to ‘discuss’ things with them in the same way as you would with higher levels. Also, many lower-level students are concerned about sounding childlike due to non-complex grammar / vocabulary.
  • What should you do when you want students to use specific vocabulary?
  • What do you do if students were forced to enrol by their parents and they don’t really care?

Further reading

Hopefully this will be the result:

Teens speaking

A translation hypocrite?

Would these learners have benefitted from a translation class? (Sandy Millin, creative commons sharing allowed)

It’s been a very stimulating afternoon. First I took part in #eltchat, which today had the topic “Can translation (and translation tools) facilitate language learning and how can it be used to best effect?” (the transcript is here). I then watched Guy Cook’s talk “Coming in from the cold: translation in language teaching” from this year’s International House DOS Conference (watch it here). With both of these offering fascinating explorations of translation, I couldn’t help but consider my own experiences as both a learner and a teacher, and what role translation has had in them.

As a learner

So far, I have studied five languages, achieving a greater or lesser degree of proficiency in each of them. I am a native-English-from-England speaker. I think it would be useful (for me at least) to think about how I learnt each language, and how much translation was used by myself and the teacher (bear with me on this, it’s long-winded!). Taking them in chronological order:


I first tried to teach myself French at the age of 8 or 9 from a book called “Essential French” which I had been given as a birthday present. My first memory of trying to produce any word in a foreign language is sitting on my parents’ bed reading numbers from the page and failing miserably – my attempt at 8 was ‘who-it’. The book is essentially a phrase book with pictures showing phrases being used in context. On every page there are lists of words with translations into English.

I was given my next French book at Christmas. It was called “First French”, although the closest I can now found being sold is “First French at Home“. This was a revelation for me, as together with the French and English, there were also ‘phonetic’ translations, so that I could try to pronounce the French possibly. I also saw my first French joke, which relies on translation to be funny. Unfortunately I can’t remember the first line, but the punchline relied on the fact that “Un deux trois quatre cinq” sounds similar to “Un deux trois cats sank” (if anyone can suggest the joke, please do!). I loved this joke, and I think it’s one of the reasons I was fascinated with the book – so it could be said that translation was one of the sparks that made me want to learn languages.

At the age of 11, I had the choice between two different secondary schools. One was a traditional girls’ school with a long history and the other was a mixed school which was technologically advanced and had only been opened 6 years previously. One of the main reasons I chose the latter was that on the Open Day we were told that all French and German lessons would be taught only in L2. Even at that age, this greatly appealed to me and you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that this was not, in fact, the case. However, the language teachers I had there were excellent (how lucky I was!) and my motivation was not unduly affected in the long term. As is the case in most state schools, I expect, our lessons were taught through L1, with all grammar presented in English. We were encouraged to speak L2, but only really did so to the teacher or when doing activities. All conversation which was not related to the lesson was done in English. Translation was not an explicit part of my secondary school study, but was used implicitly in comparing grammatical structures between L1 and L2, as well as learning vocabulary with translations.

In my first two years at university the method in grammar classes was similar, although there was more French. Being with a group of motivated learners helped, as we had all chosen to be there. We were slightly more likely to speak L2 in class, but it was still far from an L2-only environment. In both years we were expected to take French-English translation as part of our core language module. They differed slightly, as the first year was only French>English and the second was in both directions. This was the first time I had ever translated officially, and it was always thought-provoking. The texts we used were almost always newspaper articles. I noticed patterns which existed in one language, but not the other. I learnt many false friends, because I needed to avoid them in my exam. I also learnt a lot about French cultural mores and the idea that translation is not just about language, but also about culture.

During this 10-year period I did two one-week French exchanges, a school trip to Paris (don’t think I spoke any French except to waiters that week), three months working on a campsite for English holidaymakers in Brittany (I was the only French speaker, so was required to translate for guests in many situations including at a hospital, at the police station and at a garage) and two months working as a receptionist at a youth hostel (I think I translated almost every day in various combinations: English-French, Spanish-French and German-French). Experiencing the culture first hand really improved my acquisition, but the experience was never completely isolated from translation.

Back at university in my final year, we were expected to speak only French in the classroom. This was extremely difficult, as I had never had any pressure to do this from previous teachers. Now, I wish I had as I really believe that the extra practice would have improved my French. This time, there was no translation and everything was done purely in L2. Although my French was up to it, I lost a lot of the feeling of security I had had previously. I still chatted to friends in English, but this time it was whispered and immediately changed to French when the teacher was within earshot.

Since leaving university my French usage has been very limited. I taught a beginner’s French class to two English-speaking Czech colleagues last year which was almost entirely in French, although I had to use English occasionally when I didn’t have the language to explain a concept to them, or when my explanation would have been too difficult. We occasionally had discussions about how all three languages expressed the same concept, which was fascinating for all of us, as it showed the differing attitudes each language conveys. Unfortunately I can’t remember any specific examples. Apart from that, I have had the occasional conversation in French and been asked to translate emails / messages into English a few times.

Overall, translation has been an integral part of both my French studies and my real-life usage of the language. Of all of my languages, it is the one in which I feel I have the most solid grammatical foundation and although I don’t attribute this entirely to translation, I do think it has had a role in my confidence in the language. However, it has also had a few drawbacks, as in a classroom situation I never feel able to communicate entirely in French, even though I’m sure it should be possible, and I always fall back on English when things become too difficult.


(don’t worry – this won’t be quite as long!)

Much of my experience of learning German mirrors that of French. I started German at seconday school and continued on to university, in much the same manner as described above. The main difference between my experience of the two languages lies in my exposure to German in natural contexts and the modules I had to study at university.

Translation was not an integral part of my first year university studies. Instead we had grammar lessons and an ‘Oral and Essay’ strand in which we discussed topics in class and then wrote essays on them at home. Each class was one hour per week and was taught entirely in German, although again, we had whispered conversations in English when we thought the teacher couldn’t hear us.

In second year we all got a shock. 25% of our core module was based on interpreting. All of it was done into English, but it was still a very difficult skill to master. We had to interpret simultaneously (listening and speaking at the same time) and consecutively (taking notes while listening, then speaking in English based on what we had written). To help us, the texts we interpreted were based on topics we were studying in the grammar and oral/essay components of the module, so we had vocabulary from those lessons, but I still remember desperately trying to learn as much vocabulary as humanly possible. How did I do this? Largely with German-English lists of words. It was stressful at times, but I enjoyed the feeling of achievement I got when I could interpret something successfully “I know this word and I can do it!”

I enjoyed interpreting so much, I continued it into the fourth year where it was a module in it’s own right – although this may have had something to do with the fact that all of the other modules I could choose from were literature-based, and while I love reading, I hate ‘pulling books apart’. This time we were interpreting debates from the European Parliament. We had the transcripts of the discussions in both German and English, which we ‘prepared’ at home. Cue more long lists of vocabulary, this time learnt with the help of my technological discovery of the year, a dictaphone. I recorded lists of 20 or so words every few days and listened to them while walking to and from the university. Each entry was the German word, a sentence using it in context and an English translation of the word. To this day, I still see certain words and remember what I said in my own ear about them!

In second year I also did a translation module, with the same benefits as those described above for French.

In terms of real experiences of speaking the language, my exposure to German has been much more limited than that of French. I did a one-week exchange two years after my first one in French; I went on a trip to Berlin corresponding to my Paris trip (in fact it was the weekend before) :); I spent six weeks working at a factory where I listened to music in English all day, then watched German TV all evening as I had nothing else to do; I lived with a third-generation German-speaking family in Paraguay (we spoke a mixture of both German and Spanish as I quite often forgot the German words I needed); I’ve taken various day / overnight trips there while living in France and the Czech Republic.

Again, I’ve taught classes in German since I left university, but this time the learners did not speak English. I always felt uncomfortable, as if I didn’t really know how to express myself properly, and missed the fact that I couldn’t translate from English at times. I also never liked the textbooks / material I was working from, and as a new teacher didn’t really feel comfortable presenting the lessons differently. However, this probably says more about my confidence in German and my early teaching ability (hopefully that’s changed now!), than anything explicit about translation.

Overall, I’ve always felt that my German is on much shakier ground than my French. This is probably due to a lack of real exposure to the language, but the one area which always made me feel that I had achieved was interpreting. It never mattered if my cases were not completely accurate (my main German bugbear), as long as my speaking style was confident and the language I was producing was a good reflection of the original. Thankfully, I didn’t pursue it as a career though, as I’m sure this feeling wouldn’t have lasted!


I started Spanish as a complete beginner at university. My lessons were almost exclusively in L2 only, and I really felt like I’d been thrown in at the deep end. The textbook we used (Claro que si) had English rubrics in the first few chapters, then changed to being exclusively in Spanish. I didn’t study translation or interpreting at any point. However, when discussing anything with my fellow students outside class, we always spoke English. We regularly compared grammar we had learnt in Spanish with that of other languages we spoke (to study as a beginner at university, you generally have to have proven ability in another language) and we often translated as a ‘fun’ activity, because we felt it had benefitted us in our other languages. We also learnt some words through translation: I will never forget that ’embarazado’ means pregnant and not embarrassed! (This refers to Guy Cook’s point about ‘faux amis’ in his talk).

Despite formally studying for three years at university, I actually attribute almost all of my Spanish learning to the year I spent in Paraguay (July 2006-June 2007, the third year of my degree), including two months of travelling (Jan / Feb). During my travels I sprained and fractured my ankle, which was the point at which my Spanish really took off, as every taxi driver I met asked me the same three questions: “What did you do to your leg?” “Why did you go to Paraguay and not Chile / Argentina?” (where I was travelling) “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” (!) This repetition really improved my confidence when speaking Spanish and meant that when I returned to university my fluency was great, although my accuracy left a lot to be desired. While in Paraguay I went to a translation study group run by the owner of the langauge school I was working at. It often frustrated me, as he insisted on translating everything word for word. We did all of the translations orally and they never really made much sense, but I always felt too guilty to stop going to the class.

As with French and German, my exposure to Spanish since leaving university has been limited. I have done some informal translation between Spanish and English / German. I meet a Spanish woman once a week for a language exchange, often involving one or the other of us asking for translations of words which we can’t remember. I taught Spanish to an English-speaking Czech colleague for a year. Again, although I tried to use only L2 in the classroom, we often ended up discussing both the language and the culture in English, as well as comparing it to Greek, which she was teaching me.

I sometimes feel that a formal translation course would have benefitted my Spanish, as although I can speak fluently I feel my accuracy really needs to be improved. I often find myself thinking “How would I say that in Spanish?” when there are holes in my language, although I then try to get around it. This reflects Guy Cook’s point about “avoidance avoidance”. With only a few hours of lessons in Spanish each week and a large class to teach, I don’t think my university teachers ever noticed or had time to deal with these holes in my language, but as a teacher myself I am acutely conscious of them whenever I speak Spanish. Of course, a teacher who picks apart my grammar could also have them same effect – being a very confident person and unafraid to speak I don’t think this would stop me!


This is the first language I have learnt ‘in-country’. I’m now in my third year of living in the Czech Republic, and I’ve been informed my language is at approximately A2 level on the CEF framework (compared to C1 in French / German / Spanish). I tried to teach myself from a coursebook which is written largely in Czech, with the occasional list of words in both Czech and English, and only got through two chapters before giving up, mainly because I didn’t understand the instructions for any of the activities. I had lessons in my second year, when the foundations of my Czech were really laid. They were entirely in Czech, despite me occasionally attempting to get a translation from the teacher.

Apart from those few lessons, all of my Czech has come from necessity and exposure: I listen to Czech radio, I try to communicate in shops, I attempt to join in with conversations around me, I watch films with Czech subtitles.

The only really active way I have studied on my own has been to take articles in the free newspaper and translate them into English. Until writing this, I had never thought about that! I then get them checked informally by native Czech speakers at school. Again, I have noticed that through translation I have been forced to notice many structures in Czech and to think about their equivalents in English. This has been quite a useful skill when I then attempt to speak Czech – although I can say simple things, there are still huge holes in my language when I want to communicate anything more complicated than “I want to buy that, please.”


For just over a year I had one one-hour Greek lesson approximately every two weeks. As you might expect, my Greek hasn’t come on much, and I’ve forgotten most of it since the lessons stopped six months ago. However, I can read the alphabet and say a (very small) handful of basic sentences.

My lessons were in a mixture of Greek and English. I understood instructions, but could very rarely express myself or understand written instructions in Greek. I relied on my teacher to translate a lot of what was going on in the textbook, as the alphabet was (and still is) a huge barrier to understanding. I still try to read everything I see now though, and am excited every time there is a word I understand, almost always an English cognate.

Conclusions as a learner

Analysing my own learning, it turns out that most of it has been supplemented by translation. This does not, however, mean that when speaking the languages, especially the three stronger ones, I think in English. This only really happens when there is a ‘hole’, and if I’m speaking to a native speaker of the language, and especially one who I know does not speak English, I tend to have the motivation to get around this. So what has this meant for my teaching?

As a teacher

In my English classes I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time saying “Speak English”, so much so that some of my students joke about it with me when we are outside class – at a school party it was the first thing my FCE class said when I sat down at their table! I encourage my students to speak English and try to discourage them as much as possible from speaking Czech. I do, however, allow quick translations of words if a learner is really struggling with a concept and have even been known to allow an explanation of a grammar point if one student in the class really doesn’t get it. I feel slightly more confident about this now than I did when I arrived in the Czech Republic, since I now have a level of Czech which enables me to at least roughly understand most of what is said in my class, but I still worry about things not being translated ‘correctly’.

This year, all of my classes are intermediate level or above, and most of them are advanced. In every class I have at least who relies on Czech for their English. In feedback which I recently did on an experimental (for me) lesson, one student wrote “Lesson reminded me, when writing review in English, that I have to start think in English, not just translate Czech sentences, even though it’s hard for me.” [sic.] This was from an advanced student who has been studying English for years.

In a 1-2-1 class, I have a student who always tries to understand an explanation in English, but has a tendency to give up quite quickly and go to his computer dictionary to check meanings. I always look over his shoulder and try to help him to choose the correct meaning for the English word he is trying to translate. This has become a regular feature of our lessons, and I have learnt a lot of Czech from him!

I have done one or two activities involving translation during the past couple of months, again because my own confidence in Czech has increased. In my Intermediate-level teen class, the students spoke almost no English during 45 minutes of a lesson. I became so frustrated that I wrote a few of the classroom phrases they were saying on the board and asked them to translate them, for example “What do you have?” “How do you spell…?” Through this exercise I discovered that they didn’t have the basic classroom language needed to interact with each other. In combination with introducing one or two of these phrases each week since that lesson, I have also begun to put on a 5-minute timer. Every time they manage to speak English for five minutes without a break I put a mark on the board. For each mark they can go home 30-seconds earlier. Since doing this, they have really started to try to speak English in class (generally they can leave a 90-minute lesson 5 minutes early) – in most lessons they speak at least 60 minutes of English. What is particularly telling though is that the Czech they do speak is almost always asking for a translation of a word or grammar point to confirm that they have understood.

With two advanced classes I did an exercise prompted by a text in the coursebook about literary translations. They had to bring in a book written in Czech and translate the first or last paragraph into English. All but one of the books they brought in were translations from another language into Czech. Their translations prompted a lot of discussion about comparisons between English and Czech, as well as the original language of the book (German / Japanese). We also looked at a couple of grammar issues which came up.

One very common Czech mistake is the substitution of ‘it’ for ‘that’ in short phrases such as “That’s all” and “That’s a shame”. Every time students make this mistake, I now tell them that the equivalent of “To je…” in Czech almost always translates as “That is…” and not “It is…” in English, even though “To” is normally translated as “It”. Since I noticed this a few months ago, my students have become much more aware of this.

Outside class, a lot of the writing my students do contains elements of Czenglish. Maybe if we did more translation with them, this might go down? They also occasionally ask me to check English versions of texts they have translated, for example, abstracts for their degrees which must be submitted in both Czech and English.


(at last – well done if you’ve made it this far!)

  • Translation has been an integral part of my own language learning, and yet it is a very isolated part of my teaching.
  • I only introduced translation into my own classes once I felt confident that my level of Czech was high enough to understand what the students were saying.
  • My own and my students’ real life uses of foreign languages often involve translation.
  • My students have benefitted from the translation activities we have done in class.

So, bearing that in mind, does that make me a translation hypocrite? Should I be more relaxed about the use of L1 in my classroom and not pounce on Czech every time I hear it? After the discussions today and my own reflections in that post, I’m inclined to answer “Yes” to both questions.

The Online Professional Development Survey

I’ve spent this afternoon putting together the responses to the Online Professional Development Survey I sent out on Twitter this week. 43 very helpful people responded – thank you very much!

I have also included all of the comments as there were so many they didn’t make it onto the final slideshow! I thought they should be included somewhere though, so here goes:

What do you think you’ve gained from using Twitter for professional development?

What have you gained from using Twitter for professional development? (a wordle)

A great PLN
Loads of new ideas
An invigorating community
– sharing links and ideas
– being motivated to look for new things to share
– being in touch with what`s going on in the ELT world
– following conference updates if I can`t attend in person
– supporting fellow teachers with great ideas by retweeting or spreading the word
– inspiration for developing my own materials
– slowly plucking up courage to join in discussions and voice my own opinions
Motivation; new ideas; reflection on current practices; free training for online tools; connecting with like-minded professionals
A great deal of professional support and advice, lots of amazing ideas and resources as well as help when I need it.
A lot more than one would think. The information that is tweeted out, e.g. on free webinars, ideas, views on edreform, etc. provided me with more opportunities for self-development than in the previous 10 years. It also gave me the opportunity to connect with like-minded people in the profession. As a now freelance ELT teacher and teacher trainer, this gave me a lot of reassurance and further fueled my passion for my profession. Thank you my PLN!
Access to a network of incredibly dedicated and committed ELT professionals, sharing links to innovative resources and creative ideas for teaching, training…Motivates me, and hope to use it to motivate others.
A network of valuable professionals with interesting views and links, which give me something to mull over. Also enthusiasm for my job and new skills.
a whole new range of ideas and materials that I wouldn’t have found on my own
I’ve connected and shared/learned from educators I would never have met otherwise. I’ve learned many different tools and sites. I discovered blogs written by teachers and the millions of activities shared through those, the reflections they incite.
lots of teaching ideas & motivation to continue developing
resources, ideas, follow great colleagues, become a part of the global educational community, share projects, ideas, feel connected.
Access to the latest in ELT and EdTech from the people at the cutting edge.
Networking and friendship with important educators.
Knowledge of the latest in Web 2.0
Almost too much to mention! In brief:
– connections with great educators from around the world.
– discussions on lesson ideas/general ideas about education & ELT
– links to ELT blogs
– links to web 2.0 resources and (perhaps more importantly) discussion, reflection and advice on how to utilise them in class
– the opportunity to attend and present at conferences, both face to face ones and online events.
I’ve learnt a great deal, and met some wonderful educators from around the world.
links to other amazing TESOL blogs through retweets
Much greater awareness of discussions and people in ELT. New ideas & ways to work with learners.
I have gained contact with fellow teachers from all over the world thus expanding my pd network
A chance to meet like-minded professionals
LOTS of new ideas and resources, and can see a constant stream of new ones to come. Am planning on setting up a hashtag to use to stream things to my work colleagues in a new virtual space I’m setting up right now.
Incredible ed resources, a professional network, and an increased blog readership
the abundance of resources sharing which is not possible if I do it alone
I have gained lots of human connections to whatever information I am seeking at the time.
– Gained a really large community of learners/supporters/teachers
– Able to reflect more often
– Great resource for finding useful sites/information/tools/sessions
The latest in education from around the world. Sharing ideas with teachers in a virtual “staffroom”. Often not the time to do this on the job.
PLN, friendships, helping/advising others, getting help/advice, staff (I’m a sub and don’t have a staff, home school)
Lots of new learning tools and links. Following inspiring educators. Lots of contemporary ideas.
I have gained access to a group of really motivated educators who have great classroom ideas and great insight into the current ed policy debates.
A global network of educators who tweet interesting and useful links.
meeting other great educators; sharing ideas, information and expertise; participating in webinars, courses etc..; collaborating on projects; learning
I discovered very interesting web tools and resources to use them effectively
“1. Network of new colleagues
2. So many new resources
3. Ideas about teaching, ideas for classroom activities, ideas about grading
4. Daily professional development
5. A place to bounce ideas around (chats)
6. A community”
The confidence that I am not crazy in thinking that education is changing and has to change. Even though I am passionate about technology in education and have been working with it for over 20 years ( was involved in the ACOT program), I still need a support group!
Differentiated and personalized professional development

What do you think you’ve gained from using blogs for professional development?

What do you gain from using blogs for professional development?

“Reflection time; A sense of community – I’m not the only one doing these things”

“- great opportunity to look at teaching through someone else`s eyes- juxtaposing your ideas with those of others – that makes you reflect on the very basic concepts sometimes”

Reflection and clarifying my own ideas and thoughts; blog posts take longer to write and help me sort out my own thinking on various topics and areas.

Responding to useful/valuable blog posts engages me in interacting with colleagues further and at a deeper level.

Again, support, new ideas and being connected to like minded people

Got to know the people from my PLN a little better, especially on what their interest areas are, their thought on educational issues. It also gives me the opportunity to get more insight into where today’s EFL is going, what the trends are, general problems, issues that need to be solved.

New educational platforms, blended learning forms and tools, educational technology that haven’t reached us yet in Central and Eastern Europe (am based in HUngary)…. and a lot more.

I need/want to explore more myself, manage time to factor in reading blogs contacts and new ideas

More confidence in using technology in the classroom, a wide range of lesson ideas based around youtube etc

I’ve learned about new tools and how to use them, I’ve been pushed to reflect upon my practices and experiment in my classes.

lots of ideas

lifelong learning

A greater awareness of what’s happening today in ELT and EdTech

“My own blog has been great for reflecting on what I’ve done in the classroom, both for sharing lessons and activities that worked really well and evaluating activities that didn’t work so well. The feedback I receive from other teachers in the form of comments has been invaluable in shaping my thinking too.

From other people’s blogs, I have gained many ideas to adapt for my own classrooms and plenty of ‘food for thouńĪght’. Reading somebody else’s thoughts on teaching (no matter what thier context) and seeing things from their perspective is a great way to reflect.”

Again, I feel that I’ve learnt a great deal, and it has certainly kept me much more current with regards to developments in my field that I probably would have otherwise been.Beyond how I’m able to apply what I learn in my ESL classroom at an international school in Cambodia. Most of the students are ELLs so I’m able to forward suitable links to co-workers in various disciplines because of the blogs I follow.

Reassurance that I’m on the right track with what I’m currently doing. Deepening knowledge and understanding of language learning, people’s experiences, and language. Ideas to use in my own practice. I have read about current educational moves and it has improved my reflective practice

A wealth of resources and teacing tips for professional developmentreflectionLots of new ideas, resources, and things to reflect on and share.Blogging is an incredible tool for reflecting on my own teaching practice, and learning from other teachers around the world

“Through other people’s reflections I can feel more connected or like I am doing things on par with others. Finding tools, and getting new ideas to motivate my students with their blogs.

“New skills and tools. resources, networking (reading and commenting), validation (like minds, not alone or not only who thinks/questions that), opposing views, entirely new (to me) topic/method/tool/etc.Being able to look back at my development and changing ideas and practices. Getting ideas for using web tools in the classroom. Professional practice.

Many fantastic resources and ideas. For myself I love the idea of reflective practice. In order to learn, I have discovered, I need to write.

A chance to air my own thoughts and share my ideas, as well as reading about my colleagues’ own thoughts and ideas.

wider access to information and new ideas

Developed an insight into the way to use webtools appropriately

Daily professional development, enriching ideas, being part of a community of practice, a place for professional conversation

Too much to mention here

Reminded how important reflecting is for teachers.

I don’t do it yet. but it is on my 2011 to-do list

New colleagues’ ideas to follow and mimic.

What do you think you have gained from using YouTube for professional development?

What do you think you have gained from using YouTube for professional development?

Ideas! Seeing how other teachers use their classrooms is good for observations in your own time (especially if it’s difficult to fit them in where you work)
“- appreciating the powerful message of a short video clip in the classroom context- adapting non-ELT related materials to the needs of my sts- observing other teachers at work (recordings of Jamie Keddie`s lessons = a must for every teacher)- ‘attending’ conferences that I couldn`t participate in by watching talks online”

Very useful tutorials on almost everything – especially Web 2.0 tools

“Mostly motivational power, the great feeling of “”I’m not alone thinking that ….””

A lot of quick and handy training videos on e.g. using tech tools for teaching, my blogs, etc.”
more exposure to new theories / ideas – similar to attending a conference session.

I’ve listened to some great lectures discussing education, I’ve discovered/watched videos that can be used in class with the students.
visualization of the data, inspiration
“Mainly, I’ve come to videos from links/embeds in blogs and tweets so the gains have been the same.
I’ve also embedded some videos from YouTube onto my school’s wiki page for teachers so my colleagues can benefit from them as well.”

“I found a book of Ken Wilson’s I believe will take my teaching to new heights usingDRAMA!”

Being able to see other classrooms has been both informative and reassuring. Also, it’s great to be able to see talks and interviews from ELT people. Found interesting materials to use with my classes
“New ideas, new tools, equipment etc. Resources to use with my students (and reviews of these)”
I have found several examples of classroom activities being used in actual classrooms.

“Handy for uploading videos and sharing on blogs.Great for experiment demonstrations for the students.”
same as blogs and Twitter, visual PD, humor, etc.

“Great visual learning for ‘How to …’ videos. Easy to understand when you are confused with written instructions. Can recommend videos to others for easy viewing, high interest level for audiences”
“Resources for students – better than just reading for them.
Professional development for myself – almost as good as going to a conference in some cases.”
the way to use some tools appropriately Nothing like pictures to show you how to do something.

Too much to discuss here
Inspiration, and sharing it with others

What do you think you have gained from using the BBC / British Council Teaching English website for professional development?

This was my introduction to online professional development, although I didn’t take the next step until Shaun Wilden came to our school and talked me in to Twitter!
“- interesting ideas to reflect on (articles)- activity ideas to use in class- insight into great ELT authors` views on teaching (guest blogging)”
This is the one I spend the least time on. I don’t think I have spent enough looking through on what it has to offer to be able to comment here.
Lesson ideas / materials and some good theoretical knowledgeLearned new techniques, activities to be used in class with my students.ideas
Lots of new ideas and resources and information for reflection. I share heaps of this with my colleagues.
New to it, so still exploring it. BBC has some great science resources as awell I have used.

What do you think you’ve gained from using online conferences / webinars for professional development?

What do you think you have gained from using online conferences / webinars for professional development?

“- new challenging experience – gaining confidence to share ideas online- meeting fellow teachers from around the world and sharing ideas with them”

A lot of practical ideas, getting to know both speakers and participants a little better in terms of what their thoughts are on specific issus. How things are done in other countries, ….. long long list. Could repeat everything I said for twitter, basically. Though these are more focussed and give me the opp. to select and join in the ones I would like. It also allows me to stay silent and just listen and read if I choose to.

The chance to listen to leading ELT practitioners without leaving office/home contacts and knowledge about ELT developments

lots of ideas and ability to present online

Confidence to present.

The ability to ‘attend’ a conference from the comfort of your own home is amazing. There is also the convenience of archived sessions if you miss the live broadcast. The main gain has been hearing/seeing what other teachers around the world do in their classes.

Being able to listen to people live while interacting with those around you in the chat or on twitter makes the ideas and information much more memorable and enjoyable.

“As a trainee, I have been able to listen to experts who would have otherwise been impossible to have access to.As a trainer, I have improved my presentation skills and shared my experiences with teachers all over the world.”

Not much so far that I couldn’t find on Google

connection with teachers worldwide

Ideas, resources, connections

I have regained the time that I used to waste in bad real-life conferences!

“I love them. You can multi-task, sit on the couch and add when you like to the chats. Very useful, make twitter friends, find links and websites that are shared. You can share some of your own learnings, and such in the chats or even raise your hand and speak if you are willing. Great place to be involved and learn.”

global/non-local perspective, “staff” PD days, networking, Collaboration. Global ideas. Current/future practices. Building a PLN

They are an easy way to participate in PD without having to leave your school or house. I only attend when the topic interests me (unlike other PD sometimes). The ability to participate from my own home without the expense/time of going somewhere far away.

Live communication techniques , making new connections Immeasurable – new ideas, new techniques, new tools, new technology, expansion of PLN

Directed, specific PD that keeps me fresh and in the “challenge zone” of my own learning.

My first play with Overstream

I’ve seen Overstream being put to good use a few times, mainly with humorous results. Today I was on my second day of sick leave, so decided to have a go myself using the song ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin. This is the result. (Unfortunately I can’t embed it as WordPress doesn’t support Overstream yet).

Not completely frivolous though: I do plan to use the video to good effect in my upcoming IH Brno Seminar on (you guessed it) A Whole New World (of ELT).


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

@ayearinthelifeof in the classroom (taken from #eltpics)

Today marked my second attempt at joining in with #eltchat on Twitter. For those of you who don’t know what this is, a brief explanation. #eltchat is a conversation between English Language Teachers (ELT) around the world. The sessions take place every Wednesday at 3-4pm GMT and 9-10pm GMT on Twitter, the social networking site. It’s an invigorating way to explore issues in ELT. This week’s topics were:

  • What principles do you follow when you prepare your own teaching materials?
  • How can we convince colleagues that online professional development is as valuable as face-to-face?

From rereading the transcript (the discussion goes so quickly), these are the issues which came up, in no particular order. Feel free to comment on any I missed out!

Principles when preparing your own teaching materials

  • The learner should be central.
  • Materials should be professionally presented. Play with layouts, fonts, etc.
  • Materials don’t have to mean paper worksheets: they could also be online, videos, presentations, art, mindmaps, realia…
  • Materials can and should generate activities.
  • Never do something yourself when your SS can do it for / with you.
  • They should be fun, meaningful, practical and motivate SS.
  • Try to include visuals, rather than just words.
  • They should suit the skill / language point of the lesson, rather than just looking interesting to the teacher.
  • They should empower SS to use the language and make connections.
  • Materials should be sensitive to the nationalities / cultures you teach.
  • Materials should be as relevant to the SS as possible. You can ask SS which topics motivate them.
  • Space should be available for learners to take notes, perhaps with the back of the sheet completely blank. Avoid the temptation to do all thinking on paper.
  • Open-ended materials can fuel whole lessons.
  • Materials should be applicable to a real-life context.
  • Inspiration can come from anywhere.
  • They should be flexible.
  • You can use your own materials to escape the confines of a coursebook, while still covering the syllabus. Or approach it differently, maybe by teaching a unit backwards.
  • Use your materials to remind SS that they don’t have to be doing the same thing at the same time.
  • Don’t forget about interaction!
  • Design materials which make SS think, not just repeat.
  • Think about trying the same materials out with different students.
  • How much time do you spend planning v. using materials?
  • Keep your materials: organise them on your computer, blog them, share them with your students / colleagues…
  • Remember the level of your students: important for the tasks and the instructions.
  • Trigger laughter and / or curiosity whenever possible.
  • Consider SS who may have difficulty with your materials e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia. For example, use coloured paper for those with reading difficulties.
  • When using authentic materials, fit the task to the students, rather than worrying too much about fitting the text to them.
  • Reflect, edit, adapt, recycle – don’t give up!
  • Play!
  • Take a risk!

Convincing colleagues that online professional development (PD) is as effective as face-to-face

  • Tell them about all the amazing people you meet / blogs you read / ideas you get / fun you have. Highlight how much you can learn in how little time.
  • A big problem is where to start: blogs may be less overwhelming than Twitter.
  • Show them a sample of online PD, so they can see what is going on.
  • Time is a major issue: many teachers feel PD should take place during work hours, and find it hard to see the reasons for continuing it outside. This is also often connected to the fact that online PD is unpaid.
  • Be a stuck record: your colleagues may join in to shut you up!
  • People struggle with information overload: we need to find ways to deal with this.
  • You could deal with links by favouriting, bookmarking and coming back to them at a later date.
  • Not joining in with online PD could mean you don’t really enjoy teaching / joining in with online PD could reinvigorate your teaching when you feel close to burnout.
  • It empowers you. You are participating and engaging with ELT.
  • Lead by doing: show your colleagues how much your online PD has helped you.
  • Share with your colleagues. Send them links that they might find useful. Start a wiki. Use google bookmarks. Post to an Edmodo group. Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate!
  • Perception: Twitter is not just for geeks / socialising; You can control your own PD (when, where, how…)
  • It changes your practice and your expectations as a teacher.
  • Mentor: show someone round and help them take their first steps in Twitter / the blogosphere. Help them move from being digital visitors to digital residents.
  • Introduce online PD gradually to give others time to adjust.
  • Almost everyone ‘lurks’ for a while before they dive in to contributing on Twitter. This is a good time for adjustment, but many of us commented that people often give up before taking the plunge.
  • Recommend people / blogs for newbies to follow.
  • The school’s webmaster may block sites, making it harder to join in.
  • Access can also be an issue in terms of the availability of PCs, internet etc.
  • You end up doing things you never would have imagined doing before [like summarizing a discussion involving people from all over the world] ūüėČ
  • Technology v. pedagogy: emphasise the latter if people are reluctant. Don’t forget that technology is difficult for many people.
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway! If you keep talking, someone will start listening.


I would like to reiterate that this is my summary of the discussions which took place today. I have used the words of some of the participants directly, but in no way claim them as my own – I wanted to make it a little simpler to find out what was going on, so have avoided crediting everyone. To find out exactly who said what, and to experience the full joy of an #eltchat, read the transcripts here.


Plugging In and Tech-ing Off

Over the last week or so I’ve been one of the many travellers stuck at airports, first in Prague, then in Brno. Luckily I eventually got through to England, but not before quite a few hours taking advantage of free wi-fi to do all of the #edtech things I’ve been intending to do for ages but couldn’t because of my teaching load.
Here’s a summary of a week in the life of an #edtech (relative) newbie:

  • I’ve just participated in my first ever #eltchat on Twitter (@sandymillin). The topic was “How do we overcome / avoid teacher burnout?” and there were loads of great ideas from around the world. They inspired me to create this wordle, including the ideas which I think came up most often:
From #eltchat "How to avoid teacher burnout?", 22 Dec 2010 (created using
  • I’ve added three new posts to my blog:
  1. my first ever response to a blogging challenge – ‘Vocabulary Box-ing (with added monsters)‘: a description of how I recycle vocabulary in response to Emma Herrod’s post
  2. my own challenge for my students – ‘Video Poetry
  3. this post right here! ūüėČ
  • I’ve changed the look of my blog. I think the new theme reflects me more than the old one – I like to think of myself as colourful and energetic and hope that comes across from the blog!
  • I’ve posted a lot more on Twitter – currently at 138 tweets, of which about 40 were from the #eltchat and another 50 or so have come during the last week. I realised that I had only been watching and not participating. Speak up, or no-one will hear you!
  • I commented on other people’s blogs. Here is a couple of the posts I can remember responding to:
  1. Jason Renshaw’s “A Christmas confession from an ELT writer in therapy…
  2. Alex Case’s “Using your TEFL skills over Xmas
  • I subscribed to Google Reader, so I don’t have to remember the names of all of the blogs I want to follow. I can just click in one place and find all of the posts immediately and efficiently.
  • I’ve also joined vimeo and diigo to share my videos and bookmarks. Still have a lot of work to do to finish sorting the 238 bookmarks I uploaded to diigo though!
  • I contributed pictures to the #eltpics group on flickr. I even had the 1000th picture posted to the group ūüôā If you haven’t heard about it already, each week there is a theme. Anybody can post pictures using the #eltpics hashtag on twitter and they will then be shared through flickr. All images are under a Creative Commons license so that can be freely used by ELT teachers around the world.

Tweet with my picture: 1000th picture on #eltpics Flickr stream

So the first week of my Christmas holidays has been busy, busy, busy! I’ve really enjoyed finally being able to participate in so many things that I’ve just been watching and thinking about for the last two months. Hopefully, planning and classes will still leave me time to join in now that I’ve taken the plunge.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!