IATEFL Glasgow 2017: In sum

These are all of the posts I’ve written about IATEFL Glasgow 2017:

If you’d like to watch other talks and interviews from the conference, there are a few recordings available:

My first IATEFL conference was Glasgow 2012, and it’s interesting to reflect on how much I’ve grown and changed as both a teacher and a person since then.

The IATEFL conference is the best week of my year every year, partly because my IATEFL family just keeps growing.

These are still two of my favourite photos of my PLN, both from Glasgow 2012:

The PLN after my talk
The PLN after my talk
Lunch with some of the PLN (photo by Chia Suan Chong)

It’s wonderful to be able to keep bumping into so many people who I know online in the rest of the year as the conference continues, and to meet a whole lot of new people, all of whom are passionate about the job they are doing and learning about how to get better at it.

Generally I find the conference a much more relaxed affair than when I first attended, as I’ve taken a lot of pressure off myself to try and attend absolutely everything, instead going with the flow and listening to how my body feels: there’s a limit to how long you want to sit in a stream of windowless rooms lit by fluorescent strip lighting before you need to go outside! I’ve also learnt to book accommodation as early as possible, and as close to the conference site as possible, making it much easier to pop back and get rid of heavy books and things before the evenings.

The kind of talks I’ve chosen to attend have changed gradually, as there are now more materials writing, management and training talks, reflecting the development in my career, but I still enjoy learning practical ideas for the classroom too, especially since these are the easiest to pass on to my colleagues when I return to school. I’ve also found myself more and more interested in corpora, listening and task-based learning, partly as a result of going to previous sessions on all of these topics at IATEFL.

The International Quiz night and the Pecha Kucha are my two favourite evening events at each IATEFL, and I’ve now been lucky enough to take part in the PK twice, first at Harrogate in 2014, and this year at Glasgow as part of the debate team. Phil Longwell talks about the 2017 PK evening in his post, including a recording of Marisa Constantinides. Shay Coyne was kind enough to record this year’s first ever IATEFL PK debate for your viewing pleasure:

Since last year, I’ve been on the IATEFL Membership and Marketing Committee, as part of which I curate the IATEFL blog. Here’s an interview from the conference where I talk about the blog and how you can write for it.

I’m also (I hope!) better at summarising my experience of the IATEFL conference each year. The first time round, there was an emotional and a functional post, and I don’t think I really processed what I’d tweeted. This time, it’s taken me about two days/at least sixteen hours to go through all of my tweets and go down a lot of rabbit holes (!) to put together my summaries of the week, but I feel I’ve gained a lot more from the process than I did the first time round, and I hope readers of my blog have too!

Roll on Brighton 2018!

Featured blog at Lang LTC

Featured blog banner for Lang

Thanks a lot to Lang LTC in Warsaw for featuring my blog as part of the Edu Blog Fest on their facebook page this week. They’ll share a selection of my posts, with different ones each day, along with some ideas by their teachers inspired by those posts. Here’s the link to the first post and to their facebook page, which has a different featured blog every week, and is full of great ideas for teachers of all languages, not just English.

11 things (again)

1. Acknowledge the nominating bloggers/2. Share 11 facts about yourself

Clare Fielder recently nominated me to take part in the ’11 things’ blog challenge which she wants to revive. I originally shared my facts in December 2013 but I liked Clare’s questions so have decided to answer them here. I’ve also nominated a few more people to answer the questions who weren’t blogging last time I did this. I hope they’ll join in!

3. Answer the 11 random questions the nominating blogger has created for you

1. How are you feeling today?

Happy, for many different reasons 🙂

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m sitting on the train to Warsaw for my penultimate weekend of working on a part-time CELTA. It’s the fourth time I’ve been, and (I hope!) the first time I’ll actually get to see some of the city, due to a combination of (what is supposed to be) good weather and light evenings.

It’s the last week of the school year for most of the teachers at IH Bydgoszcz and we had a great swapshop of summer school activities this afternoon. Everyone is very positive as we finish off the year, and there’s a real buzz in the staffroom.

I also had the best night’s sleep I’ve had for a long time last night, which I suspect was because I managed to walk both to and from school for the first time in over a month. I sprained my ankle for the third time on 4th May, and I managed to ditch the crutches yesterday. Roll on complete recovery!

Life is good, with lots of great plans lined up for the summer (watch this space), and the fact that I’m taking the first steps to a long-held dream of buying my own flat. 🙂

2. What book is closest to you as you write this? And would you recommend it to others? Why (not)?

Because I’ve only got a small rucksack with me for the weekend, I couldn’t fit in my real book, and as I write this I’ve just realised that I left my iPad behind so I don’t have my ebook either. Oops! That means I have no idea what the nearest book to me is right now…something one of the other passengers is reading! If I was at home, this would be my answer…

I’ve read the first few pages of The Pickwick Papers on a free books app on my iPad which I’m using to catch up with classics I’ve never got round to reading before. I love Charles Dickens, so I’m pretty sure I’ll like this.

I’m also reading two paper books, The Song of Homana, the second in a fantasy series, which is fine, and The Rose of Sebastopol. I noticed it in our school library a couple of weeks ago, and obviously needed to read it because of my connections with Sevastopol and Crimea. It’s set in the Crimean War, which I know more about than I used to, but still not much. I’ve only read a few pages of it so far, so am not sure if I can recommend it or not yet, although they were very easy to read, so I probably would.

3. What’s your top tip for de-stressing after a hard day at work?


Being outside really clears my head and gives me time to think. As somebody who used to be allergic to exercise, I’ve noticed a massive difference since I started tracking my steps about four years ago, and I’ve drastically increased the amount of exercise I do. It’s gone from 1,500-2,000 steps on some days, up to over 10,000 most days. I feel so much better for it, and I now always try to live or stay in places which mean I can walk to and from work. It’s also helped me to lose weight.

4. Have you ever learnt any foreign languages? How has this helped you be a better language teacher?

Erm, just the odd one or two. I’m a bit of an addict!

I did French and German at school, and added Spanish at university, reaching C1 level in all of them, although they’re a bit rusty now, especially my French.

I’ve learnt Czech, Russian and (currently) Polish because of living in the countries. I’m about pre-int in the first two, and my Polish is improving all the time, especially since I started actually speaking!

I’ve also dabbled in Malay, Greek, Mandarin, Thai and braille, and am trying to learn some Italian ready for a CELTA in Milan this summer.

Being a language learner myself has made a massive difference to my teaching, because although it’s impossible for me to truly understand what it’s like to learn English as a foreign language, I do know what it’s like to feel like an idiot or a very small child, to be mostly or completely illiterate, to feel frustrated because you know you know that word…and on the flip side, I have hundreds of tried and tested language learning techniques I can share, and I completely get the feeling of achievement you feel when you manage to understand or communicate successfully, so I keep trying to push my students past the pain so that they can get to that point!

5. Describe your teaching style by comparison to an animal, and explain the similarities!

Sorry. Going to skip this one, as I find this kind of thing really difficult! Anyone who wants to attempt an answer in the comments is welcome to try… 😉

6. What are your areas of specialism & expertise within ELT / teaching, and your strengths as a teacher?

My main area of expertise is in knowing where to find the answers to questions I have, mostly through the amazing network of teachers I’m connected to both online and offline. I’m also very organised, which makes my life a lot easier as a manager, and means I’m often asked about how I manage to get so much done.

In the classroom, I think my strengths lie in my ability to empathise with the students due to my own language learning experience, as I said in question four. I’m also very reflective, and I’m always trying to improve my teaching.

7. Which are the most recently used smiley/emojis on your mobile phone/whatsapp or instant messenger programme?

The ones I use the most are :), 😉 and :p I don’t really know that many other emojis and I don’t have a smartphone, so it’ll be a while before I get round to learning any, I suspect.

8. What was the most recent photo you took?

Not quite the most recent photo (I suspect nobody really wants to see the progress of my sprained ankle healing, but if you do, I’ll be adding them to ELTpics ‘Health’ set when I’ve got the full set…)

This is the room in the hotel I stayed in in Warsaw three weekends ago, the last time I was there. For some reason I got into the habit of taking photos of all of the bedrooms I live/stay in, probably because there have been so many with the amount of moving around I’ve done, and now I can’t stop doing it…

Hotel Reytan, Warsaw

9. Where are you based, and would you recommend working there to others?

Answered that question recently as a whole blogpost, before I read this question 🙂 Here’s a nicer photo that I hope social media will pick over the hotel one when deciding what to highlight from this post! It’s my mum in the botanic garden across the road from my flat during her first visit to the city a few weeks ago:

Mum in the botanic garden under a tree covered in red blossom

10. What’s your best memory of a lesson you’ve taught?

When I was working at IH Newcastle, I had a group of B1 intermediate students who stayed together for about six weeks, and who I taught for twenty hours a week, two every morning, and two every afternoon. Having the same group of students for so long was very unusual there, as new ones normally joined the group every Monday, and left on Friday, either to go home or to move to a different level. We got to know each other really well, and we often talked about food. One week we decided to dedicate our afternoon lessons to cookery and food, with the final lesson of the week in the school flats to cook together.

Sandy, an Arabic student and a Czech student chopping onions

We represented five different countries and ate traditional food from Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the UK, which we all worked together to prepare. Some of the students had never really cooked before so it was a whole new adventure for them. It was a fabulous afternoon full of laughter and delicious food, and is one of my all-time favourite lessons. It is proof of the positive effect that English lessons can have, as it really brought us all closer together.

The whole class, featuring students from four different countries, plus me

11. What would you like to say to me, now that I’ve nominated you for this challenge?!

Thank you for encouraging me to re-read my previous answers, and bringing back some happy memories! And thanks for inviting me to play again on my blog – it’s so nice to have the time to do that at the moment, as these are often the posts I most enjoy writing 🙂

4. List 11 bloggers

Seconding a few of Clare’s nominations:

Joanna – https://myeltrambles.com/

Zhenya – https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/

Anna – https://annazernova.wordpress.com/

Hana – https://hanatichaeltblog.wordpress.com/

And my extra ones:

Elly – https://thebestticher.wordpress.com

Tekhnologic – http://tekhnologic.wordpress.com

Rachel – https://publishingandpondering.wordpress.com

Matt – https://muddlesintomaxims.com

Pete – https://eltplanning.com

Svetlana – https://eltcation.wordpress.com/

Katherine Bilsborough – she doesn’t have a blog, but she can guest post here if she wants to join in 😉

5. Questions for nominated bloggers

Again, I’m going to steal some of Clare’s questions and add a few of my own:

  1. What’s your favourite thing you’ve written (ELT or otherwise)?
  2. Do you have a favourite recipe you want to share?
  3. What’s the last photo you took?
  4. What’s the last piece of music you listened to?
  5. What was the last film or TV show you watched? Would you recommend it?
  6. Do you ever listen to podcasts? Any favourites? If you don’t, can I persuade you? 🙂
  7. What tip would you offer to a new blogger?
  8. What’s your memory of the best lesson you’ve taught?
  9. Have you ever made a mistake or been in a bad situation which felt huge at the time, but now you’re really glad it happened?
  10. Where are you based and would you recommend it to others?
  11. What question do you wish I’d asked you, and what’s the answer?


Russie nominated me on her list – thanks! I chose a couple of questions to answer to add to the ones above:

What would you describe as quintessentially English?

I was back in the UK for 24 hours in between two CELTA course last year, and had one of the most English days of my life. My mum, grandma and I went to a little village in Northamptonshire called Lillingstone Lovell for an ‘Open Gardens’ day. The village was full of traditional cottages and had a beautiful parish church. You could go into different people’s gardens and see all the beautiful plants and sculptures they’d got in them. We finished the day with a cream tea at the village hall.

Lillingstone Lovell church on the open gardens day

What was the last experience that made you a stronger person?

Over the last couple of years there have been two main things which have changed me as a person. I’ve written about both of them on my blog. One was being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (warning: do not read if you’re squeamish) and the other was being in Sevastopol during the year when it became Russian. Both of them have made me even more determined to make the most out of everything which comes my way, because you never know when your life will change. They also made me appreciate just how little control you have over some things, and that it’s important to stay positive as much as possible.

Online Professional Development – 2014

This week we’re running a series of 90-minute teacher training seminars at IH Sevastopol. The first is about online professional development.

This is a topic I’ve covered many times before, but since I change the slides a little each time, I’ve uploaded the latest version below. To hear the most similar recorded version, go to my October 2013 Online CPD post. July 2014’s version is slightly different from slide 12 onwards.

The only other difference, not included in the slides, is that the Teaching English British Council facebook page now has over 2.5 million likes! What a great community to be part of!

I look forward to connecting to you online!

Yay! Teaching!
Photo taken from ELTpics by Ana Maria Menezes, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license

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!

Developing ‘Teaching English’ – Ann Foreman and Paul Braddock (IATEFL Harrogate 2014)

I love the TeachingEnglish facebook page because it has helped my blog a lot, so I really wanted to see Ann and Paul talk about how they do it. I’m also a TeachingEnglish associate blogger for the website, which is a great opportunity.

Paul and Ann are talking about how they are hoping to reshape the TeachingEnglish website to offer better resources for CPD.

Paul starts by sharing the CPD framework the British Council developed. On the site at the moment, you can click on your level of development and that will give resources specific to your stage in your career. They suggest what skills you should have at that level and give you ideas on how to develop them. For example, starter teachers have resources on pairwork or developing rapport, whereas higher-level teachers have resources on things like materials development.


Ann talks about their huge success on facebook. They have over 2.2million likes and a 1.5million weekly reach [which is phenomenal!] They started it with the idea that it is not just to promote British Council materials, but a place for people to see what is available in the teaching world in general. The facebook page has it’s biggest audience in India, then Egypt. A lot of people follow it from South-East Asia and Latin America. The people who share resources tend to be European-based, but the discussions are international.

They tried to learn from what is successful in CPD today. Here’s what they focussed on:

  • social media and blogs: it’s crowdsourced, and the validity is from how useful ideas are and how much they’re shared.
  • action research groups: people often go to a workshop given by an expert, but this is only effective up to a point. Paul’s teaching centre set up action research groups where teachers worked with others who were interested in the same areas. They found it was far more motivating for the teachers.
  • free and paid-for online training opportunities: for example MOOCs.
  • government-/institute-funded projects: for example in Malaysia, where there are teacher-led projects.

They compared this with what was offered on the TeachingEnglish website, and found it quite different.


The words in the image above show what people are looking for.
The notion of ‘experts’ is changing, and now there are many of them, in the form of bloggers sharing their experience in class, for example.
Voluntary participation allows teachers to decide to what extent they want to be involved, how much work they want to do, etc.

They decided that organising things into career paths might be a more useful way of organising the information. For example, you want to develop your ability to teach teenagers or to write materials. You use the site as a scaffold to work towards your goal, through a series of challenges and goals and expertise to get you there. There may also be an element of gamification to help make it more interesting.

They have come up with a system of four different rooms, with a series of challenges. Here’s a slightly blurry example of the ‘research’ room:


You start off with the ‘research’ room to develop your goals, followed by the ‘classroom’ room where you try them out. The ‘classroom’ is not just for teachers: for example, if you’re a manager it might be about how you observe lessons and experiment with this. As you complete the challenges, you collect badges which show how much you’ve done. Then you have the ‘training’ room and the ‘research’ room, which collates all the resources you might need for that topic, since it can be a bit difficult to find what you need on the TeachingEnglish website at the moment. You’re encouraged to reflect on and share what you’re doing.

The idea is that it will work like a good staffroom, but in a virtual context. It’s trying to make the best of what comes from social media, but draw it together in a way that social media might not do. It’s big challenge, but it’s worth us trying to do it as Ann and Paul said.

It’s not up yet, but will be started small and developed over time. They would like feedback on the idea so feel free to contact them.

I think this looks like a fascinating initiative, and I look forward to seeing how it develops.

Update: here’s an excellent illustrated post about an interview Ann and Paul did during the conference where they also talk about their ideas.

“Chain Reaction” interview with Laura Patsko and Katy Davies

In the lead up to the IATEFL 2014 Harrogate conference, Adam Simpson has started a ‘chain reaction‘ blog challenge:

“I choose two or three of this year’s registered bloggers and introduce them on my blog. These bloggers then in turn choose other registered bloggers and interview them
 and so it goes on until you all have a good idea of who will be blogging about this years event.”  

I decided to interview Laura Patsko and Katy Simpson. I first saw Laura present at the IH Prague conference a few years ago, although we didn’t meet until later. Katy and I worked together at IH Newcastle. We all spent a lot of time together at IATEFL Liverpool, and it’s great to see how their shared interest in ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) has developed into the blog they’ve described below. For this interview, I used the same set of questions that Lizzie gave me.

IATEFL Harrogate 2014 banner
Follow the conference and watch recordings of sessions by clicking the image!

Please introduce yourselves

We’re Katy and Laura, and we are particularly interested in the use of English around the world as a lingua franca (ELF). Katy is a full-time teacher at the British Council in Dubai, and Laura is a full-time teacher and teacher trainer at St George International in London. We both became increasingly interested in ELF as we studied for our master’s degrees and conducted research in this field.

Could you give us brief details about your session at IATEFL 2014?

Our session (30 minutes) is based on the fact that many speakers of English in the world today are using it as a means of communication when they do not share a first language. In other words, English is their ‘lingua franca’. They may rarely or never communicate with ‘native’ speakers of English, and are unlikely to need or want to sound like a ‘native’ speaker. Our session will outline some practical implications for this and explain a few basic classroom activities that teachers can use to help their students be more intelligible in an international (ELF) context.

Why are you interested in the area you’ll be presenting on?

When we were researching ELF for our MA courses—and simultaneously teaching full timetables to learners in multilingual classrooms—we began to realise that these students were using English together as their lingua franca, and many of them would use English in this way outside the classroom, too; but it was very difficult for us to help them do this better when no bespoke materials existed for developing this use of English.

Though they have produced many excellent guides on different pronunciation varieties and plenty of resource books full of useful practice activities, ELT publishers are still quite conservative; and very little material exists for teachers working in an ELF context. Most material is based on ‘native-speaker’ norms, but ‘native’ speakers are hugely outnumbered in the world today and many of our students were/are unlikely to use English with native speakers. If they don’t want/need to sound like a ‘native’ speaker, but need to be intelligible to other ELF users, how can we help them do this when knowledge of ELF is still quite minimal among practising teachers and no suitable material exists?

What should your audience expect to learn?

Our audience can expect to take away some simple activities for developing and practising listening and pronunciation in an ELF context. They will learn why this is relevant for so many English language students in the world today, and how it does not necessarily require teachers to dramatically alter their usual classroom practice, but simply reconsider their notions of ‘correctness’ and ‘intelligibility’.

Do you blog? Could you tell us about your blog(s)?

We blog at elfpron.wordpress.com. We aim to make the theory and practice of ELF more understandable and accessible to teachers who are working in ELF contexts, and/or whose students use English as a lingua franca. There are a lot of misconceptions about ELF, which are only perpetuated if people can’t access information about it or have an informed discussion about its principles and implications.

What other aspects of the conference are you looking forward to?

We are looking forward to the great number of other presentations taking place this year regarding the use of English as a lingua franca, the nature of ‘native-speakerism’ in ELT and the practice of teaching pronunciation. And Open Mic Night, of course!

Why did you sign up as IATEFL registered bloggers?

We always have such a great time at the IATEFL Conference and take away plenty of ideas to experiment with in our classrooms. This is the first IATEFL Conference taking place since we launched our ‘ELF Pron’ blog in November 2013, and there are many sessions in the programme that are relevant to this field. We hope to incorporate what we learn from those sessions into the wider discussion on our blog!

After the conference Katy and Laura posted a link to their slides and further resources on their blog.

A brief introduction to online professional development (IH DoS conference 2014)

I’ve just returned from my first International House Director of Studies conference, which I will hopefully write about later this week.

I did a ten-minute session as part of a ‘speed-dating’ format, where I presented the same idea five or six times – I lost count! Here are my slides, along with the associated links, with a commentary aimed at Directors of Studies, but which will hopefully be useful to anyone who reads it.

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Terrell

This is Shelly Terrell, one of the most prolific sharers of content online. Her blog is Teacher Reboot Camp, where she has a lot of information about using technology in class, along with other areas of teaching, as well as the 30 Goals Challenge. She also does webinars every Friday for the American TESOL institute. I chose this picture to start my presentation because it sums up why I love online CPD – great people, a caring community, and lots of ideas.


This is where my online professional development started. I like Twitter because it’s completely open – you can follow anyone, anyone can follow you. Although I use it less now than I used to, I still look at it briefly every day, and use it a lot during conferences.

A tweet is 140 characters, the same length as a text message. Here’s an example:


‘@’ introduces someone’s Twitter name (or ‘handle’). When it is blue, you can click on it and choose to follow that person or organisation, so that you can read what they are writing about. In this example @KatySDavies and @BCseminars are clickable.

‘#’ introduces a topic on Twitter (or ‘hashtag’). You can click on it to read everything people are saying about that topic. This example includes the hashtag #eltchat, which is one of the most popular hashtags for the English teaching community.

ELTchat tweet stream

ELTchat summaries index word cloud

Every Wednesday, at 12pm and 9pm UK time a one-hour conversation takes place using the #eltchat hashtag. The topic for each chat is announced beforehand, and anyone can join in simply by including the hashtag in their tweets. At the end of the chat, one participant summarises the conversation and turns it into a blogpost. The blogposts are collected in the #eltchat summaries index, one of the most useful resources on the web. #eltchat started in October 2010, and previous chats have covered an incredibly wide range of topics. Some chats that might be particularly relevant for Directors of Studies include:

For a more in-depth introduction to using Twitter, take a look at my beginner’s guide.


There are a lot of pages on facebook which are aimed at English teachers. Some are location-specific (e.g. Czech Republic, Turkey), some are by authors (e.g. Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley) and others are by publishers (e.g. Richmond ELT).

As far as I’m concerned, the most useful page is Teaching English – British Council, which has nearly 1.5 million likes as I write this. Ann Foreman, who runs it, posts a whole range of links, starts discussions, and shares ideas. It’s a thriving community.

Teaching English British Council

For many teachers, facebook is probably the easiest way of accessing online professional development, as if you already use facebook, it’s a simple matter of clicking ‘like’ on a couple of pages.


Since I started blogging about three years ago, I have changed dramatically as a teacher. While a lot of this is due to the fact I started using social media professionally at the same time and have now done my Delta, blogging has made me more reflective, and forced me to up my game in terms of the materials I produce, knowing they will be used by other people.

There are a huge range of English teaching blogs out there. You can find some of the ones I follow in my blogroll on the right of this page. I also have a Blog Starter List – if you think you should be on there, let me know!

Feedly blogs

To keep track of the blogs I follow I use a ‘reader’ called Feedly. It’s available online and as a free app. There are many readers out there, and this is just one example. You put the addresses of the blogs you follow into the reader, and it then becomes a one-stop shop, by automatically including all new posts from those blogs, meaning you don’t get a full email inbox, and you don’t have to remember to look at each blog individually on the off-chance there’s a new post. The image above shows you my list of posts to be read at the moment.

Two blogs which are particularly good for Directors of Studies are Be The DOS by Josh Round at St. George International, and The Secret DOS, which is incredibly funny, particularly his post about timetabling.


A webinar is an online seminar, normally videoed, which you watch from the comfort of your own home. A lot of organisations provide webinars, including OUP, Cambridge, Macmillan, Pearson and British Council. My favourite ones so far were the 10-minute webinars at the International House 60th anniversary online conference. Click on the picture below to see them all.

IH TOC 60 webinars


There are now webinars on an incredibly wide range of different topics, so if you have one or two teachers who need input on a particularly topic, but not enough to warrant a full CPD session, you could refer them to a webinar, which you can then discuss with them afterwards. If you want to find a webinar on a particular topic, use the #eltchat hashtag on Twitter or one of the facebook pages mentioned above to ask people to point you in the right direction.


The most important thing about social media is how supportive the ELT community is. If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post, please don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck!

The chain of 11s

Two blog posts today, because I’ve seen this challenge going round for the last week, and don’t know when I’ll next have time to write for it! I love finding out more about the people I connect with online 🙂 Apologies in advance for the verbosity…I don’t know when to stop! I was tagged by Rachael Roberts and Adam Simpson, both of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet, and whose blogs are full of excellent ideas and resources.

My task is to

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 random facts about me

  1. I lived in the jungle for four months during my gap year. It was my first big adventure, and it definitely gave me the travel bug. It’s very nearly the 10th anniversary of the expedition, and I can’t believe how quickly time has gone past!
  2. I’ve done a parachute jump. It was part of my fundraising for the trip to the jungle.
  3. My dad used to have a pet shop, but before he opened it we already had over 100 animals at home…rabbits (he bred them for show), 2 dogs, a cat, a chinchilla, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, budgies, cockatiels, canaries, finches, chickens, pigeons (for a very brief period, thank God!)…
  4. I love dancing, although I don’t have any particular skill at it! I took tango classes for a while in Paraguay, and did belly dancing in Czech Republic, something I was very resistant to at first, and ended up really enjoying.
  5. My whole family is English, as far back as we’ve managed to find out. Not British, English. No Welsh, Scottish, Irish, or anything else. Despite that, when I tan, I’m always very dark. This has led people to ask me, variously, if I’m Spanish, Argentinian, Brazilian, Indian… After I came back from the jungle, I lived in my aunt’s village in rural England for a month, and one of her friends asked who the foreigner was who was staying with her! 🙂
  6. Everywhere I go, I seem to meet, and normally become good friends with, someone with a name which is a variant on Katherine. My mum, my best friend, one of my best friends from uni and at least one person from most of the jobs I’ve done, generally the one I’ve stayed in contact with, all fit into this pattern.
  7. I think I was always meant to be a teacher, although it took me a long time to realise it. I’ve stayed in touch with one of my primary school teachers, and a few years ago she told me that when she was very busy my classmates would come and ask me for help. I don’t remember this.
  8. My original life plan was to work in business for about 20 years, then become a teacher when I was about 40 and had money. I came up with this plan when I was about 15, because I was worried I didn’t know what I would do with my life. I’m a forward planner!
  9. During my gap year, I did door-to-door sales, which I hated. It did, however, give me a lot of thinking time. It was at this point that I realised that TEFL was the way to go. “What, you mean people will pay for me to go and live in their countries? And I get to teach? Duh!”
  10. I really enjoy writing letters.
  11. Poor formatting frustrates me, and I will spend hours trying to sort it out.
Our chinchilla
Our chinchilla

11 questions from Rachael

  1. Why did you start blogging and how has differed from your expectations?
    I started blogging because I’d seen that lots of people on Twitter had blogs (I was still lurking at this point) and I thought it would be a good way of raising my professional profile. It’s ended up being something I HAVE to do – I wake up with ideas in my head I have to write about. When something goes well or badly, mostly in class but sometimes not, I write about it on my blog to get the thoughts out of my head. I love sharing materials too. It’s also been amazing that people come up to me at conferences or during courses and say “You’re Sandy Millin. I read your blog.” It’s very flattering, and has led to some very good friendships, but I also find it a bit freaky!
  2. What’s your earliest childhood memory?
    That’s a hard one. I think most of my childhood memories are connected to photos, so I don’t know if any of them are real or not. I can’t think of one particular thing.
  3. Tell us about someone you admire, and say why.
    Another hard one. I think it would have to be my mum and both of my grandmas. All of them had difficult times for various reasons and are very strong women. I don’t think I would be anywhere near as confident as I am without having the three of them as role models.
  4. What was the last book you read and what did you think of it?
    This morning I decided to give up reading The Brothers Karamazov after 200 pages (and about 6 weeks!). It’s a shame because I loved Crime and Punishment, but it’s just not motivating me. The last book I finished was Adventures of a Language Traveller by John Haycraft, one of the founders of IH. I wrote about it here. I’ve been reading A Dance with Dragons on my iPad for about a year now, and am a third of the way through. I’m trying to read it as slowly as possible in the vain hope that George R. R. Martin might finish the next Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones) book before I’m done. I realise this is highly unlikely.
  5. Do you prefer walking or running? Why?
    Walking. I tried running for a couple of weeks a few years ago, and really didn’t like it. I have a dodgy knee, which doesn’t help. I love taking the time to enjoy the scenery (or people watching in a city). I’ve also been using a pedometer app on my phone for about a year, and when I realised how little exercise I was doing every day it really motivated me to try harder. Did you know that 10,000 steps is the recommended daily amount for a healthy lifestyle? It’s helped me to lose weight and to feel a lot healthier.
  6. What was your first paid job?
    I worked as a librarian doing cover work, which then morphed into three hours a week every Sunday for a year. My mum was a librarian, so I’d often gone there in the holidays and always enjoyed helping. It was nice to be paid for it 🙂
  7. What five famous people would you invite to a dinner party, and why?
    Stephen Fry – I could listen to him for hours.
    Terry Pratchett – I’ve read all of his books, and his documentaries about orangutans and Alzheimer’s are fascinating. I cried when I found out he’d been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. (On a side note, my first poster was an illustration of the Discworld)
    Dame Judi Dench – one of my favourite programmes as a child was As Time Goes By, and I always enjoy her films. She’s also a very funny woman.
    Bill Bailey – another fascinating man – he’s interested in so many things. I was lucky enough to see him perform last year, and it was brilliant.
    Douglas Adams – I’ve written before about how much he’s influenced me.
    It strikes me that these are all pretty similar people… 😉
  8. What’s the first website you check/go on each day? Why?
    Facebook. I can’t imagine having this lifestyle without the internet, and facebook has made it a lot easier to feel like I’m still part of people’s lives, even when my friends live all over the world.
  9. What can you remember about the first class you ever taught?
    I can’t remember a specific class, but the first time I was responsible for my own groups was in Malaysia, during my trip to the jungle (see fact number 1). I think the first group I had was two girls (I had three classes there – only 8 hours a week, and I was very bored in between!). I’d observed their class before teaching them, and their teacher would hit them behind the ear with his knuckle whenever they didn’t know anything. Unsurprisingly, they could never answer his questions, and they were petrified. We got into a routine of using a word monster. The final lesson I taught with that group was the first time I ever realised I’d taught someone something, and that what they’d produced was my doing. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.
  10. Flowers or chocolates?
    I would always have said chocolates before, but over the last year or so I’ve come to prefer flowers. They last for longer, and I’ve even started buying them myself.
  11. How do you feel about reality TV shows?
    I can’t stand them. I watched the eviction shows for the second series of Big Brother because it was between Friends and Will and Grace, and meant I could join in with conversations at school the next day. That was more than enough naval-gazing for my whole life. I don’t see the point in people putting themselves in situations where they are likely to be humiliated and mocked – I think it shows the mean side of humanity.

11 questions from Adam

  1. I am aware of the phenomenon called ‘twerking’ but I don’t really know what it is. Do you? Would you explain it to me in one sentence?
    Any kind of word which spreads like this and I don’t understand frustrates me, so wikipedia is my friend here. 🙂 Twerking is sexually provocative, completely unnecessary dancing, generally designed to annoy other women.
  2. The Soviet Union still exists. Why does this make you happy / sad?
    Since I’m living in the Russian-speaking remnants of it in Ukraine, echoes of it are very much still around me. I don’t particularly feel one way or the other for it though, since I don’t feel I know enough about it. The main thing that living in Paraguay, Czech Republic and Ukraine has taught me is just how many opinions there are about oppressive regimes.
  3. What did you eat for dinner last night?
    I’m currently on a dietary regime that requires me to eat every 3 hours, and I have to have 200-300g every time. This does not combine well with teaching. So dinner was either chicken, vegetables and rice from the canteen next to school at 4pm, or Tuc biscuits, cheese and a couple of cocktail sausages at 9pm. Neither of these meals was ideal.
  4. I’m new to this planet. Tell me what a dog looks like.
    About 80cm tall, about 1m from nose to the tip of its tail. If a cat can take it in a fight, it’s not a dog.
  5. Go to YouTube and basically surf around until you find a song that you’ve never heard before. Share that song with us here.
    Katy Perry – Unconditionally
    I first really listened to her music thanks to Mark Andrews, and think her lyrics are generally pretty clever, although this one seems to have dropped the ball.
  6. The 60s or the 70s? Why?
    Neither. I was born in the mid-80s, and am pretty happy with life right now 😉
  7. Invent a word for something that doesn’t have a word to describe it. Share your word and description here.
    Ermm…no idea!
  8. Would you prefer to be that guy from Memento who wakes up and can’t remember the previous day, or that guy from Groundhog Day who wakes up to exactly the same day over and over again?
    Groundhog Day, mostly because I’m a romantic!
  9. Go to this YouTube video. Be honest, how long did you last?
    About 10 seconds. The music was already annoying me 😉
  10. What are your thoughts on becoming one of the first Mars colonists?
    That would be amazing! I’ve always loved space. My second poster (after the Discworld) was the lifecycle of a star, and one of my dreams is to see the Earth from space one day.
  11. Based on the way things are going, which language should we learn to be a good world citizen by the year 2030?
    English and Chinese, but generally you should just learn any other language to make sure you don’t have an insular view of the world. One of my favourite sayings is the Czech proverb:

Learn a new language and get a new soul.

And the nominees are…

A lot of the people I wanted to nominate have already been tagged and written their posts, so I thought I would spread this challenge to a wider community, not just EFL people. You don’t have to respond to the challenge if you don’t have time. I’d just like to find out more 🙂

  1. Lizzie Pinard
  2. Fiona Mauchline
  3. Anthony Gaughan
  4. Mike Harrison
  5. Phil Bird
  6. Chia Suan Chong
  7. Mike Griffin
  8. Ceri Jones
  9. Kevin Stein
  10. Kate Millin (my mum!)
  11. Liz Broomfield (a great proofreader and editor)

My questions to the nominees…

  1. What advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?
  2. Are you a tidy person or a clean person, or both, or neither?
  3. How often do you go to the cinema?
  4. Do you have a favourite word (in any language)?
  5. What’s your favourite meal? Can you cook it?
  6. What’s the phrase you constantly hear yourself saying?
  7. What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
  8. What’s your favourite method of procrastination?
  9. Do you like classical music?
  10. I don’t know much about poetry. Is there a particular poem you think I should read?
  11. And, a little bit of advertising. 🙂 What’s your favourite eltpic? (You don’t have to justify it!)

Update: answers to questions posed by Sharon Hartle

  1. Have you ever wanted to have another name?
    My name is actually Sandra, and I was called that until I was 18. I used ‘Sandy’ in my first email address, and to this day I have no idea why. When I went to Malaysia, I met the people I was going with by email first, so naturally they called me Sandy, and I found I preferred it. Now I get confused when people call me Sandra!
  2. What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you when travelling?
    Having the same conversation again and again with taxi drivers in Patagonia after I fractured my leg, sprained my ankle, and ended up on crutches for two months:
    – What happened? (I was walking down a mountain in Ushuaia and tripped over.)
    – Why are you in Patagonia? (I’m working in Paraguay and have two months off)
    – Why would anyone go to Paraguay? (Because I’d never been to South America and wanted to go somewhere unusual)
    – Do you have a Paraguayan/Chilean/Argentinian boyfriend? (No)
    – Do you want one? (No!)
    This conversation was very good for my Spanish…Sandy with a fractured leg
  3. If you could change one thing about your house, what would it be?
    I don’t have my own house or flat, so that would be the main thing I would change! One day…
  4. What is your ideal holiday?
    One where I go somewhere new, with lots of interesting things to see and do, with people I can spend hours chatting to (either who I take with me or meet there!)
    On the other hand, a week of lying about by a pool reading now seems to hold an appeal it never did a year ago…
  5. What is your favourite moment of the day?
    I love being up early in the morning before anyone else is, especially in cities. One of the best times I ever did this was on New Year’s Day 2007, when I wandered around the deserted streets of Buenos Aires at about 9a.m. – it was like a different city. Something similar happened to me in London in 2012, walking through the city for three hours on a Sunday morning, starting at 7a.m. It’s quite magical, and I really should do it more.
  6. Where do you listen to music?
    Wherever and whenever I can, although I probably listen to more podcasts. When I’m doing mindless things like cleaning or washing up, I always have music on.
  7. What is your favourite classroom activity?
    I don’t really have one favourite, more a whole bank of them.
  8. What would the five things be that you’d take with you to a desert island?
    Ermmm…too difficult!
  9. Are you a lark or an owl?
    Definitely a lark, as number 5 will attest!
  10. What is one adventure that you’re planning for 2014?
    A trip to Kiev with my best friend and her fiancé, and learning to be a CELTA tutor (I hope!)
  11. What is the one thing you know you shouldn’t do, but
 you do it anyway?
    Spend hours and hours and hours on the computer 😉

(And thanks to Ceri Jones for including me in her post)

Itchy feet

A few days ago I shared a lesson plan which Claire Hart created based on a recording I did about Moving to Sevastopol.

Now Lizzie Pinard has got in on the act, and created another set of materials based on the same recording. You can find the post she wrote about how she will use the materials on her excellent blog, as well as the materials themselves (scroll down to number 3: Itchy Feet).

I hope you find them useful!

Another gratuitous picture of Sevastopol, this time at Chersonesus
Another gratuitous picture of Sevastopol, this time at Chersonesus

Moving to a new country (Sevastopol)

A few days after I arrived in Sevastopol, Lea Sobocan posted this on facebook:

I have a request for my PLN – more specifically for the segment of you who have experienced living in another country/culture.

I’m currently discussing moving to another country/immigration with my students and I’d really appreciate any thoughts, feelings, difficulties and joys to be found in living abroad. Preferably in audio form, but whatever works for you.

Some of the people I’ve spoken with saw immigration to another country as something you just get up and do and they seem to be certain everyone will greet them with open arms. I’d like to offer a more balanced view and a first-hand account of someone who had this experience.

Any help, in form of text, audio clip or similar will be greatly appreciated.

Lea had helped me before by recording a clip about her favourite TV show, so I thought it was only fair I return the favour. I recorded this audioboo about moving to Sevastopol, then promptly forgot about it:

A few days later I was surprised to get a message from Claire Hart telling me that she had created a series of activities around my two-minute recording. I asked her to share the result with you, and I think you’ll agree, it’s a pretty good lesson. Thanks Claire!

How Claire used the recording

Killing a bit of time before the first class of the day, I found myself reading my Twitter feed. One of the tweets that popped up was from Sandy Millin. It was a link to an audio recording she had posted on Audioboo where she talked about her experience of recently relocating to Sevastopol, Ukraine. The class I was about to start teaching was a C1 group who had asked for practice listening to British people speaking because they tend to find their British colleagues difficult to understand. I’d been using excerpts from BBC television series and BBC world service podcasts with them over the previous weeks, but Sandy’s recording seemed to provide a refreshing alternative to that.

I decided to take a chance and improvise an activity around Sandy’s recording with just 2 minutes to go before the class started. This was a bit of a challenge, but I found that having to think on my feet rather than going through a pre-planned, pre-rehearsed routine made me more present and alert. What was striking is how surprised the learners were to learn that Sandy is a real person and she’s talking about experiences that she has really had. I suppose this just goes to show how learners get used to listening to people playing fictional characters having scripted conversations with each other. When I told them that I actually know Sandy, their enthusiasm shot up even more. I’ve used this recording with several groups at a range of levels and, interestingly, all of them seem to have understood more of what Sandy said than they usually understand when we listen to a recording designed for English learning. Even my A2 group could accurately recount the key points that Sandy made and include some of the detail.

The “real-ness” of this activity was particularly palpable when I used the recording with a group of eight, five of whom have moved to Germany from either Turkey, Hungary, Russia, Poland or Romania. When I asked them to consider why people would move to a foreign country, what difficulties you can face when you make that move and how you can overcome them, the non-Germans in the group were able to tap into their real experiences and share those with the others. When I asked them to write short texts evaluating the benefits and difficulties of moving to a foreign country, what I got back from them were honest and touching accounts of how hard moving to a foreign country can be, but how it can help you to find a better quality of life. They put a lot of effort into writing these texts because the topic was important to them. Even the learners who haven’t had the experience of moving to another country themselves, seemed to have a lot of empathy for Sandy and were keenly interested in what is going on in her life.

The lesson skeleton

1. Look at the statement “I’ve just moved to Sevastopol”

  • What have I done?
  • When did I do it?

2. Ask the learners if they know where Sevastopol is. Can they find it on a map of Europe? What do they know about Ukraine? Which countries are its neighbours? What languages do they speak there? What food do they eat? Have they ever visited this part of the world?

Memorial to Heroic Defenders of Sevastopol
Memorial to Heroic Defenders of Sevastopol

3. Show them information about the population of Sevastopol, its climate and its landmarks and ask them to say what questions this information gives you the answers to. You can also use this as an opportunity to practise saying long numbers, comparing temperatures or discussing what sights they enjoy visiting.

Chersonesus, an Ancient Greek town in the suburbs of Sevastopol
Chersonesus, an Ancient Greek town in the suburbs of Sevastopol

4. Ask them if they think Sevastopol would be a good place to go on holiday to. Why/ why not?

5. Ask them to brainstorm reasons why someone would move to Sevastopol. Then ask them to speculate about why Sandy, an English teacher who is originally from England but who’s lived in a few different countries, would move to Sevastopol.

Why would you move to Sevastopol?

6. Listen to the recording and give them level-appropriate questions to answer. A lower-level question could be: What words does Sandy think you should learn first when you move to another country and why? A higher-level question could be: What difficulties did Sandy face when she arrived in Sevastopol and how has she been able to overcome them?

7. As a follow-up or homework task, you can ask the learners to write a text on the benefits and difficulties of living a foreign country.

This presentation has slides connected to each of the steps in the lesson skeleton:

(You can download it by clicking ‘slideshare’ and logging in – it’s free to create an account, and you can link via facebook if you want to.)

What I’ve learned here is that if you make a recording where you honestly describe interesting, unusual or important experiences in your life and share it through sites like Audioboo, you can produce meaningful authentic audio material that learners will respond really well to because it’ll resonate with them and their lives. The response I’ve received to using this recording has been extremely positive and my learners are now keen to know what Sandy does next.

About Claire

Claire Hart

Claire Hart teaches general English, business English and technical English to university students and business people in Southern Germany. She frequently presents on topics such as using authentic materials, mobile learning and teaching technical English at ELT conferences. She’s also a course book and teacher’s book author and an online materials writer, specialising in business English and ESP materials.

Online Professional Development

Today I have done an updated version of my Twitter for Professional Development seminar. I have now decided to focus on:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Webinars

…as the Twitter site has improved a lot, although it can still be difficult to follow chats on it, and I now find that I get a lot out of facebook and webinars in terms of professional development.

You can still find my complete introduction to using Twitter for Professional Development, although the information about Google Reader is now outdated as it no longer exists. I have started using feed.ly instead.

Here is a complete recorded version of the presentation:

If you do decide to start using online professional development, I’d be interested to hear from you. I am also happy to answer any questions about it which I can.

Good luck!

Preparing for the Delta

There’s a lot I wish I’d known before I started studying for my Delta, and I thought I’d put it all into a post for anyone else preparing for the course. If you’ve got any tips you’d add, feel free to put them into the comments.

Before you decide on a centre to study Module Two at, I’d recommend asking this list of questions from Sue Swift.

1. Take a holiday

Before you start the course, make sure that you’ve relaxed as much as possible. However you do it, the Delta is incredibly intensive, and if you go into it already tired, like I did, you’ll regret it. If you need somebody else to tell you the same, Jye Smallwood also talks about the pressures of the course and the importance of being organised here.

2. Get reading

Start reading a few general books to get you in the zone. This will also give you a starting point when you are doing the course. Reading is something you probably won’t be able to take the time over during the course, so the more you can do before you start, the better. You’ll definitely return to the books again and again, but if you’ve read them once, it’s easier to find what you’re looking for later.

Some books which I found useful were:

  • Tricia Hedge: Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom* – a good Delta-level overview. It covers each area of ELT in separate chapters.
  • Michael Lewis: The English Verb – one of the few books I had time to read cover-to-cover during my Delta, I can honestly say that this book changed the way I thought about English grammar.
  • Adrian Underhill: Sound Foundations – a great guide to all of the sounds of English, designed to raise your awareness of how they are produced.
  • Scott Thornbury: About Language – half of the book has tasks to make you really think about English in depth, the other half has commentaries to tell you if you’re on the right track.
  • Scott Thornbury: An A-Z of ELT – not necessarily one to read from cover to cover, but good to open at random and test yourself. It will quite possibly become your bible during certain parts of the course.

*All book links are to Amazon, and I will get 10% if you buy after clicking these links. Thank you!

ELT books are pretty expensive, and it all adds up, so think carefully about which books you really need to spend money on, and which you can borrow. Ask around the people you know, especially if they’ve already done the course, and you may find you can borrow some of them. You might also be able to get them from your school or from a library. In the UK you could also try inter-library loans at a public library.

If you’re not sure how to approach your reading, Stewart has some ideas.

You should also use the resources available on the Cambridge website to find out more about the course criteria.

3. Brush up on your Word skills

You’re going to spend a lot of time in front of a computer, and every timesaver you can learn will make a difference. Regardless of how confident a Word user you are, it’s worth checking out my friend Liz Broomfield’s very clear posts about making the most of Word. She uses Word for Windows. If you have a Mac and can’t work it out, Google it first, then ask me and I’ll try to help – I have Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. I’ve picked out some of the things I found myself doing all the time.

Two more things you might find useful, taken from other sites (not Liz’s):

  • How to check the size of a file – Windows / Mac (Cambridge have a 10MB upload limit, especially annoying for Module 3)
  • How to add footers

Lizzie Pinard shares the three Word functions which she has found most useful.

4. Start learning phonemics

In the Module 1 exam you must use phonemics in question 4. If you don’t, you will lose marks. You may also need them for question 5, and you will probably also need to include them at various points in your Module 2 and Module 3 work. Even if you’re not comfortable with them and would never use them in the classroom, you MUST learn them.

Cookie studying the IPA
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @senicko, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Adrian Underhill has all the best materials for making you aware of how phonemics work. Try these to get you started:

  • Introduction to Teaching Pronunciation on YouTube – one hour, but well worth it
  • Sound Foundations – the book mentioned in part 2 of this post
  • Adrian’s Pron Chart blog – breaks down the phonemic chart into easy sections, often comparing two or three sounds, and goes into depth about how the sounds are produced

I learnt phonemics largely thanks to the English File pronunciation chart. I found the pictures really helped me to remember the sounds. However, my accent is largely standard British English, so most of the sounds aren’t a problem for me – I find the ‘u’ in ‘bull’ and the ‘ou’ in ‘tourist’ the most challenging sounds, and most of the time drop the latter, as it’s dying out in British English.

If you have an iPad or iPhone (possibly Android too, but I’m not sure), you could also try these apps:

  • English File Pronunciation – ÂŁ3.99 at present, limited free version available. Record yourself and compare your pronunciation to the original.
  • Macmillan Sounds – ÂŁ3.99 at present, limited free version available. Read and write phonemics throughout the app – great for forcing you to match sounds to symbols.
  • British Council Sounds Right – free, but no activities.

You can type IPA (International Phonemic Alphabet) using various typewriters online, for example here, then paste it into Word. When typing your documents, use a ‘Unicode’ font, for example ‘Lucida Sans Unicode’. If you’re not using a Unicode font, it may well turn into boxes like this [][][][][][] when printed.

5. Choose the four areas you’d like to focus on in Module 2

During Module 2 you have to teach four observed lessons (LSAs). These are divided into systems (grammar, lexis, phonology and discourse analysis) and skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking).

The four lessons you teach are made up of two systems and two skills lessons, one of which should be receptive (reading/listening) and the other productive (writing/speaking). To pass the course, you need to pass a minimum of two of your lessons, one systems and one skills. You cannot repeat an area, i.e. if you have done a lexis LSA, you cannot do another lexis one during the course.

If you have at least a rough idea of the four areas you’d like to investigate, you can start to read some of the most important books in those areas. For example, if you know you want to do a listening lesson, you might want to read Listening in the Language Classroom by John Field.

Note: please check with your centre before setting your heart on your four areas. They may have set rules about which areas they want you to focus on. For example, on Distance Delta, your first LSA is always grammar, and for the second you have to choose between listening or writing. You have free choice for the other two.

6. Choose your specialism for Module 3

In a similar vein, if you know the general area you will look at for Module 3, you can also start reading some of the books that you need. You can find the list of specialisms to choose from on page 68 of the Delta handbook. The handbook is generally a very, very useful document to have. This is the latest version I know about (if there is an updated version, please can you let me know. Thanks to Alex Case for doing just that!)

I chose Teaching Exam Classes, which I then narrowed down to reading and writing for IELTS. The first section of Module 3 is (loosely) about teaching general English is different to teaching students within your specialism, so in my case it was how general English classes differ to exam classes. You don’t focus on the specific exam until later. I found How to Teach for Exams by Sally Burgess and Katie Head particularly useful as a general overview.

7. Read up on needs analysis and diagnostic testing

While this is most useful for Module 3 (the whole of section 2 revolves around it, and it’s the basis for the whole course you put together), it’s also good to know to help you identify the needs of your students and justify your choices when putting together your LSA lesson plans in Module 2. I found Curriculum Development in Language Teaching by Jack C. Richards to be the most useful book in this regard, although they’re obviously covered in many other books. The same book was the one I referred to most when it came to justifying my course proposal too.

I didn’t really find out the principles of good needs analyses or diagnostics tests until very late in the course, meaning that my needs analysis and diagnostic test were thrown together very quickly for Module 3, and I then had to retrofit the theory to it – not easy!

(Sidetracking a little – I bought Syllabus Design by David Nunan to help with Module 3, but found it pretty confusing and not very practical. Could just be me though…)

8. Network!

Last, but definitely not least, start networking! Join Twitter and facebook, and find other teachers around the world on there. The Teaching English British Council and Cambridge Delta facebook groups are particularly useful. I could not have survived my Distance Delta without the support I got from my PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network). This may be different if you study face-to-face, but it’s still useful to have a set of people who can respond to questions you may have at any hour of the day or night.


You can read other people’s advice on how to survive the course in the Delta conversations series.

And with all that hard work, don’t forget to take time off, be with people and to find things to laugh at. 🙂

Good luck!

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 🙂

  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 🙂

  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 http://flickr.com/eltpics by @senicko, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Ana InĂ©s Salvi on her IATEFL research (guest post)

Like Sandy, I was very lucky to be awarded with the IATEFL – International House John Haycraft Classroom Exploration Scholarship, which gave me the opportunity to disseminate a successful story, and meet and share experiences and ideas with other practitioners.

My research was on learner autonomy and exploratory practice which is a kind of practitioner/ teacher research which involves learners in researching their own learning. This research was motivated by an interest in engaging learners in the classroom. I realised that by giving them more control over their learning process they became more involved and interested in learning. Also, suggesting working with their own interests and issues led to a deeper engagement with their learning experience.

I conducted this research in two different contexts: a summer school with teenagers and a pre-sessional course with postgraduate students at university.

If anyone is interested in watching my presentation, it is now available in the Teacher-Research section of the IATEFL Research SIG website at http://resig.weebly.com/teacher-research.html

Ana Inés Salvi

Note: Ana sent me this a few months ago, but unfortunately I managed to save it as a draft, rather than publishing it. Sorry! If you want to read about my IATEFL experience, click here.

Setting up a self-hosted blog (guest post)

This guest post was written by Chris Wilson, who has his own self-hosted blog at ELT Squared. On his blog one post is about choosing a blog provider to use with students. He has also written a step-by-step guide to for setting up a Posterous blog. Over to Chris:

If you reading this I’m guessing you’ve been convinced. It’s time to set up a blog.

Congratulations and welcome to the club!

Just to help you along the way I thought I’d pass on a few tips I’ve learnt during my many years of blogging, and by the end of this post, you’ll have set up your own self-hosted blog. But first let’s answer some important questions.

Why do you want a blog?

This can really affect every subsequent step you take. If this is something for yourself and you don’t really want anyone else to see then you’ll choose something completely different from someone who wants a blog to make money.

Why should you choose a self-hosted blog?

There are many great free blogs but they do lack some features of pricey ones (such as audio/video hosting or advertising). The free ones are great to start out on but from experience of changing between blogs three times it’s best to stick with just one.

How can you choose a name/style?

Go through these questions quickly and answer them honestly. They can help you pick a good name to use for your blog/persona.

  • Think of three adjectives to describe yourself
  • Imagine your ideal reader then try to write to them
  • Write down some books/blogs etc that you enjoy reading. What do you like about them/the way they write?
  • What other influences do you have? What is it that you like about them?

Setting up a self-hosted blog

Self-hosted blogs are very different from hosted blogs in that they require YOU to buy your own webhosting, basically a place where you can upload information, or in this case a website, to the internet and then other people can access it. Self hosting is obviously a lot more technical and requires a great deal of computer competency. It also costs money, thought the exact amounts vary.

However, the advantage is it is completely customisable! You can do whatever you want with it, install any add-ons you like, change the theme to any theme you like, have your own unique domain name etc.

I recently changed over to a self-hosted wordpress blog (wordpress are generally considered the best blog option) and I have not regretted it.

Here is the more detailed instruction process I followed

  1. Sign up to a hosting company.
    There are various webhosting companies which have different features and different pricing schemes. I use Zyma.com which is a British company that offers great support. Despite my issues in setting up, they quickly responded and helped me through every step. Their service costs only ÂŁ4.95 a year, but there is a hidden charge. You also have to pay for domain hosting. Despite owning my own domain before I went over to Zyma, I still had to pay for it for 2 years at ÂŁ18.98 in total.
    For a list of different companies check out this comparison list.
    Once you have your webhosting you will need to choose your domain name and you can even have one that ends in .com .co.uk or any other country domain!
  2. Installing wordpress
    Once you have signed up you need to log in to your cPanel (control panel) and then install wordpress. Many hosting services have a quick install option which is usually under a category like software and services. One of the great things about Zyma is the presence of this quick install option and video guides on their website for how to install a blog.
    For more detailed instructions on how to install wordpress with or without a quick install option click this link.
    Consider where to install your blog. If you install it in a subdirectory (like /blog) then you can have a website with several sections including a blog! When you are installing, it will ask you for an account name and a password. This is very important as they are your administrator account details.
  3. Getting the details
    Enter the email address where you want your blog details to be sent to (you may have got a free email address along with your domain and webhosting)
  4. Done!
    Once you have installed your wordpress blog, you’re basically good to go! Except you have to wait 24-48 hrs for the domain name to be registered for your blog and for your use. However, you can get your first post ready, find a cool theme, write your about page and much more! You should be able to log in to your admin page via your server address (a series of numbers) and /wp-admin/ or once your domain is up using this formula: http://www.domain name/wp-admin/

If you are considering a self-hosted installation, then there is no harm in setting up a blog on wordpress.com first so you can get used to the style of using wordpress ready for when you have your own site. [The blog you’re reading right now is hosted on wordpress.com.]

I hope this is a useful guide for how to set up a blog. If you have any more questions then leave a comment, visit me at eltsquared.co.uk or find me on twitter @MrChrisJWilson.

IATEFL Glasgow 2012: the emotional post

Ten days after the end of the IATEFL conference, and it feels like I’m living a whole different life now.

Back to earth with a bang and a serious case of post-conference blues, after one of the best weeks of my life.

As Adam Beale and Adam Simpson have already so eloquently said, it was a week of building (on) relationships that will hopefully last for a long time. It was a week of connecting with like-minded people face-to-face and immersing myself in an environment where everyone wants to improve, and I didn’t get complained at for talking about teaching at the pub!

I shared a room with Lizzie Pinard, so over breakfast each day and each evening after we returned to the hotel we compared notes, sharing information and impressions from the talks we attended and the people we met. And what people! Inspirational all, friendly, motivated and everywhere! No matter which part of the building I was in, or which talk I attended, there was always a fellow PLN member to chat to, and at no point during the week, even during the pre-conference events, did I feel alone. This is a major feat for such a big event, with over 2300 delegates. It would have been easy to become lost in such an environment, and I hope that those who went without a PLN managed to find support in the crowd.

As well as the Twitterati, I also had the pleasure of meeting members of the Learner Autonomy SIG for the first time, fellow scholarship winners and an inspirational teacher from Sicily. I hope to stay in contact with them after the conference too.

I have already put together all of the tweets I sent out during the conference, which shows the diversity of talks which I was able to attend.

I was lucky enough to get the International House John Haycraft Classroom Exploration scholarship to be able to go to the conference. Without it, it would have been difficult for me to get there, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I was given. As a condition of the scholarship, I had to do a presentation at the conference, and this was one of the highlights of the week for me. I’m one of those strange people who enjoys public speaking 😉 and I was on such a high after the talk that I found it very difficult to get to sleep that night! Mike Hogan took an excellent photo (just one of many he took during the conference!) after it had finished, which sums up a lot of my memories of the week:

The PLN after my talk
The PLN after my talk

Memories of my first IATEFL conference will stay with me for a long time. I very much hope to be able to go to the next conference, and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible there!

Twitter and Blogs for Professional Development (post-IATEFL)

During IATEFL I had quite a few conversations about joining Twitter and starting blogs. I know that both of these processes can be quite daunting when you’re new – it’s only 18 months since I started, and the learning curve at the beginning was pretty steep!

To that end, I’ve collated a few blog posts which might help:

When I have a bit more time, I’ll hopefully write a beginner’s guide to blogging along the lines of the Twitter one above or my Independent English blog (shameless plug there!)

I hope these links help, and if there’s anything you need advice on that isn’t covered here, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!

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.
  • Scoop.it – 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… 😉
  • 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 – image 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 – they 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.

My new blog: Independent English

As if two blogs weren’t enough 😉

I set up ‘Independent English‘ for students, with the aim of giving them ideas to help them practise English at home. I plan to post roughly once a week, with each post being a step-by-step guide which they can work through alone or with a teacher. If I have time, I will also record myself reading the post so that students can listen to it if they are not confident readers. It is probably best for B1/Intermediate and higher at the moment, although some posts may be suitable for lower levels later.

The first entry is about podcasts, including a list of links to (in my opinion) good podcasts for learners and native speakers to listen to.

There is also a facebook page for you to ‘like’.

Please feel free to pass the link on to your students, and/or to give me feedback on how to improve the site. Hope you find it useful!

Twitter seminar for CELTA students, January 2012

Here is are the most important things from the seminar which I did this morning for the IH Newcastle CELTA students.

Link to the longer post on Twitter for Professional Development

Sandy Millin on Twitter

The tweets which were sent to us from other Twitter users (from newest to oldest):

Thanks to everyone who sent tweets!

Duncan Baker

duncan_lydburyDuncan Baker

@sandymillin Twitter is a really good way to have almost instant communication with all friends and colleagues round the world – friendly!
martha ador

elizzabetttamartha ador

@sandymillin Hi! I love it because you can interact with people any time and get inmediate response! Greetings from Mexico ! Good luck !
Winners Education
WinnersSchoolsWinners Education

@sandymillin #ELTchat Twitter’s great once you find the right connections.Groups you share interests with or “following” belong to are great
Lexical Leo
leoselivanLexical Leo

@phil3wade @sandymillin I was in Paris for best friend’s bday so didn’t hang out much in the eves with conf crowd – so missed all the action
Dave Cleary
daveclearyczDave Cleary

@sandymillin#eltchat New to twitter but finding it great because of the people, it is a social network not a technological one
phil wade
phil3wadephil wade

@leoselivan @sandymillin I wasn’t there but it seemed like a real benchmark in the EFL/Twitter world.
Lexical Leo
leoselivanLexical Leo

@sandymillin as someone commented yday – attending confs is a whole diff ball game when you get to meet your Twitter followeres f2f
Lexical Leo
leoselivanLexical Leo

@sandymillin seems half of my twitter buddies were at #TESOLFrance in Nov – I wish I’d been on Twitter then – could’ve met many inspiring Ts
Philip Pethybridge
PhilPethybridgePhilip Pethybridge

Twitter brings things to your attention; provides help/ideas; links to blogs/sites; online staffroom; fun diversions! #eltchat @sandymillin
Carol Goodey
cgoodeyCarol Goodey

@sandymillin Hope I’m in time! Twitter’s a gr8 way to keep up w/ what’s going on in ELT world, learn new ways of doing things, & get support
Chiew Pang
aClilToClimbChiew Pang

@sandymillin hi y’all. It’s grt PD bc the world’s open to us. We shr probs, thoughts, reflectns, resources, life, stories,… #eltchat
Ceri Jones
cerirhiannonCeri Jones

RT @DaveDodgson: @sandymillin  it takes time to build connections & reap the benefits. Definitely worth it though 🙂 #ELTchat > agree
David Dodgson
DaveDodgsonDavid Dodgson

@sandymillin Twitter IS great for PD BUT it takes time to build connections & reap the benefits. Definitely worth it though 🙂 #ELTchat
Michael Griffin
michaelegriffinMichael Griffin

@sandymillin Been using Twitter for about 2 months N have been really impressed with the active engagement in ELT from all around the world
Ceri Jones

cerirhiannonCeri Jones

@sandymillin  Hi!  twitter offers the most amazing variety of voices & experiences of committed, questioning Ts from all over the world

@sandymillin Twitter has led me to the fabulous community teachers that is #ELTchat & increased my PD 100-fold!
Andrea Wade
worldteacherAndrea Wade

@sandymillin Hi from Vietnam! I get all my best links and info from Twitter and I meet some great people who can answer all my questions!
mark andrews
marekandrewsmark andrews

@sandymillin twitter gr8 to share ideas,resources+ 4 you,entering the world of EFL,it’s gd 2 be in touch w/ people whose books u will read!

English students and their use of online materials

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

Go online: getting your students to use internet resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research QR code

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

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

Thank you in advance.


My Edublogs nominations

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

Here are my nominations:

Best individual blog

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

Best individual tweeter

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

Best group blog

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

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

Best new blog

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

Most influential blog post

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

Best Twitter hashtag

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

Best free web tool

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

Best educational use of a social network

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

Lifetime Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Mike and Vicky

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

Luke Meddings

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

Look at this!
Look at this!

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

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

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

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

Marisa and Sue dueting
Marisa and Sue dueting

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

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

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

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

Useful links for Business English teaching

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

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

Methodology and Resources

For learners

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

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

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

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

Coffee, a snack and the internet

Photo taken from eltpics by @aClilToClimb

P.S. Good luck Katy!


This is my 100th blog post 🙂

Buenos Aires art fair
One of my #eltpics

I started my blog back in October last year, but I only wrote a couple of posts before it got forgotten. At the end of December I took part in my first #eltchat on Twiiter, then preceded to have ten days off work with no voice and a bad cough. The combination of the high from #eltchat and an almost complete lack of face-to-face contact with the world was just the motivation I needed to get both my blog and my Twitter participation off the ground. Since then, the two have been intertwined, and have changed my teaching and my life.
Through Twitter I have met an amazing international group of educators from around the world who constantly motivate and inspire me to be a better teacher. They have opened up a world of technology which have helped to shape my contact with students and extended it to outside the classroom through sites such as Edmodo. I have learnt hundreds of activities through #eltchat, a weekly conversation which I take part in as often as I can and have many times written summaries for. I am now one of the curators for #eltpics, a resource which I am hugely proud to be a part of (with Victoria, Fiona and Carol). I have got work as a follow-up to entering a competition I heard about on Twitter. I have also received a scholarship for the IATEFL conference in 2012, when my presentation will bring many of these strands together by being based on research about how to encourage students to use online materials. I am greatly looking forward to the TESOL France conference in Paris at the beginning of November when I will finally get to meet many of these fascinating people, a conference which I didn’t even know existed before joining Twitter. Lizzie Pinard has visited me in Newcastle, and I’ve Skyped with Naomi Epstein, Barbara Sakamoto, Eduardo Siemens and Ceri Jones. I’ve also written a joint post with Ceri and blogged for Barbara. Twitter has also become my staple seminar -so far I’ve introduced five groups to the site, and hopefully they won’t be the last!
On the blog front, I feel like it’s been going from strength to strengh as my confidence has built up. I particularly enjoy sharing materials and hearing how others have used them. I would like to thank everyone who has commented and retweeted my posts – this helped me to overcome the common fear that I have nothing to add to the blogosphere. Now I feel like my blog has become a place to experiment and share my experiences so that others can build on them.
To end with, here are a few facts and figures:

Thank you for all of your support, and here’s to another hundred!

Twitter for Professional Development

Today I’m doing another introduction to the world of Twitter and blogs, this time for students following the DELTA at IH Newcastle. For those of you who follow my blog, you’ll know that I’ve done a few of these now, and I’m trying to refine the presentation to make it as useful as possible. This time I decided to create a post, then talk teachers through everything referring back to the post so that they can see where to find the information again (while attempting to avoid Death by Blogpost). All feedback appreciated!

P.S. Even if you’re not interested in joining Twitter, scroll down to ‘How do I remember all this stuff?’ to find a couple of other tools you might find useful.

How do I find out about what I’m interested in?

The amount of information available on Twitter can be a bit overwhelming. To help find the most interesting information for you, people create clickable hashtags, such as #efl, #elt or #learnenglish. Some of the most useful ones for EFL teachers are:

  • general: #efl, #elt, #esl, #esol, #tefl, #tesol
  • teaching associations: #IATEFL – International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, #TESOLFr – TESOL France
  • IATEFL Special Interest Groups (SIGs): #yltsig – young learners, #besig – business English
  • conference hashtags: these change depending on the time of year / day, for example #IATEFL11, #LABCI – Latin American British Cultural Institutes
  • my two favourites:
    #eltchat: weekly conversations based on various ELT topics chosen by us (that includes you if you join Twitter!) They happen at 12pm and 9pm GMT every Wednesday, and the hashtag has just celebrated it’s first birthday. I’ve written summaries on chats about Homework, Encouraging Teens to Talk, Literature in EFL, Writing Your Own Materials and Spreading What You Learn At Conferences.
    #eltpics: a hashtag for teachers to share their pictures. All images are added to a Flickr account, where they then become available for teachers anywhere to use in their classrooms under a Creative Commons license (where you only have to say who took the picture, without worrying about getting permission) Disclaimer: I am one of the curators of #eltpics, and am very proud of what we’ve managed to achieve so far (nearly 5000 pictures!)

Go to Tweetchat and type in a hashtag you’re interested in to find out what kind of information is being shared at the moment.

What are all of these strange symbols?

Anatomy of a tweet

Looks interesting. How do I join in?

Watch Russell Stannard‘s excellent step-by-step introduction to Twitter and follow his instructions. If you have any problems, feel free to leave a comment here and I’ll do my best to help you out!

There are so many people on Twitter. How can I find out who is worth following?

Well, clearly the first person you should be following is me 😉 After that there are a few other things you can do:

  • Look at the list of people I’m following, and choose a few who look interesting to you.
  • Use the search function to look for ELT people you may have heard of. For example Jeremy Harmer, Scott Thornbury and Jim Scrivener are all on Twitter.
  • Choose some of the people from Barbara Sakamoto‘s Starter PLN list. (‘PLN’ stands for Professional/Personal/Passionate Learning Network, and it something you’ll often see)
  • Don’t worry about following everybody immediately. There’s no rush, and you’ll soon start to work who it is useful to follow. If you walked into a staffroom, you wouldn’t try to talk to everyone on your first day, and Twitter is just the same.
  • Don’t feel obligated to follow everyone who follows you – it’s up to you who you choose to follow!

There’s so much stuff here. What if I miss something?

The answer to this is: don’t worry! If something is worth reading, it will be retweeted so many times that you’ll see it. To come back to the staffroom analogy – you don’t try to look at every coursebook and resource book on your first day at a new school. You’ll find the good stuff eventually, and the same is true of Twitter. Don’t be afraid to miss a few days or to lurk for a while before you start tweeting. In fact, as a survey I did a few months ago showed, almost everybody lurks before they dive in:

Graph showing length of time people lurk on Twitter for before joining in

I don’t have time for all of this!

You can use Twitter for as much or as little time as you like. Nobody will complain if you take a holiday for a few days – we all lead busy lives, and Twitter is just one part of them. Many people in the teaching community have family commitments and busy working lives. Even dropping in for a couple of minutes every few days will show you something useful, so don’t worry if you don’t have hours free each week!

Right, now that’s cleared up I’m ready to say something.

  • You have 140 characters. If you can text, you can tweet!
  • Talk about anything you think is interesting – don’t worry about what other people might think (within reason!)
  • Use URL shorteners like bit.ly to give you more characters to play with. (Some Twitter applications shorten links automatically)
  • Don’t forget to include hashtags if you’re sharing information. This will help people to notice what you’re saying.

Nobody’s listening to me!

It takes time to build up a following. Just keep talking, and somebody will listen to you. And don’t worry if you think you have nothing to say – we all have to start somewhere. As you use Twitter more and more, you’ll get the hang of what people are interested in. If you would say it in a staffroom (including the fun stuff!), you can say it here.

Fair enough. How can I make this all a little bit easier?

Download a free piece of software to organise your Twitter. My favourite is Tweetdeck. It allows me to organise everything on Twitter in one easy programme, so that I can see hashtags I’m interested in, tweets which mention me (@sandymillin) and private messages without having to click around the Twitter website. You can even follow multiple accounts at the same time (I have a private account where I follow celebrities like Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry). This is what it looks like:

Tweetdeck screenshotTeacher Training Videos has a step-by-step guide to setting it all up.

How do I remember all this stuff?

Do you have hundreds of bookmarks on your computer? What would happen if it died one day and you lost them all? Six months ago I started using diigo, an online bookmarking service, and I haven’t looked back (end of advert!) Without diigo, I would really be lost – as of today I have 1203 bookmarks, with a few more added each day. You can click here to see them all. Here are three links I have added today:

diigoAs you can see, every time I add a bookmark to diigo I use as many tags as possible to help me refind the links I need. Then all I need to do is click on one of the tags to find everything under that heading. I can even refine the search by clicking on more than one tag. For example, searching for speaking gives me 71 links, and refining the search by clicking lesson plan reduces that to 7 links, from which I should be able to find what I’m looking for.

One of my tags is DELTA, to which I add anything I think might be useful to those who are studying for this certificate. Feel free to raid the list for yourself.

Watch this video to find out how it all works.

What if I want to read/write more than 140 characters?

Blogs! You’re already reading my blog now. I use it to share materials I’ve created, information from seminars like this one and anything else I think might be interested to the EFL world in general. I then tweet links so that people know what I’ve written.

Here’s a list of blogs which I think might be interesting/useful to those studying DELTA (please let me know if you think there’s anything missing). You can also check out my blogroll, the list of (some of) the blogs I follow, found on the right of this page.

I use Google Reader to keep all of my blogs organised. It’s easy to set up, especially if you already have a Google account. Watch this video to find out how.

Google reader

As you can see, I’ve been super-efficient recently and only have 6 blogposts to read at the moment (30-40 is much more normal!) As I read each post, Google Reader automatically deletes them so that I can clearly see what is unread.

Those of us who write blogs welcome comments from the readers so that we know what you’re thinking. The comments section of a blog is often a place of discussion and analysis, allowing you to go into more depth. Once you’ve commented on a few blogs, you should start feeling confident enough to start your own blog. If you need help with that, let me know.

Have you finished yet?

I hope so! If you have any problems or would like any help, please let me know by commenting here. I look forward to seeing you on Twitter or reading your blog in the near future. There’s only one thing it remains for me to say:

Welcome to our community!

P.S. From Twitter…

During the seminar I asked my followers to tweet useful links/people/blogs to start new Tweeters off. These were their responses:

  • @Marie_Sanako: Hi Sandy, currently in Manchester UK, and I wd recommend Linoit or Wallwisher, and @SeanBanville ‘s resources for starters!
  • @SueAnnan: Good morning Sandy and Deltees. I’m in Jersey and my site is bit.ly/u9mj4 . You will find everything you need there.
  • @katemillin: Dudley. Any library website is useful
  • @cerirhiannon: Hi @sandymillin 🙂 tweeting from CĂĄdiz, Spain – I don’t know if this is cheating but my recommendations are 2 hashtags #eltchat & #eltpics
  • @aClilToClimb: 0900! I’m tweeting frm Sunny Canaries. My fave site is my own, naturally 😉 Thr’s a pg of ext links: bit.ly/dEZP90 Anothr fave is anothr blog of mine 😉 It’s a blog roll: bit.ly/qKkzL9
  • @shaunwilden: It’s 8am GMT so Good Morning Sandy I am in Oxford and it’s a gloriously sunny day
  • @MotherChina: @sandymillin <hello from Taiwan!
  • @KalinagoEnglish: Hey Sandy’s folks @sandymillin Check out Sue Lyon Jones @esolcourses and Sean Banville @SeanBanville + their websites. Oh, forgot to say – I’m Karenne in Manchester doing MA EdTech+TESOL
  • @mgraffin: Hi from Perth, Western Australia. I’m the Project Coordinator for (http://theglobalclassroomproject.wordpress.com/) and blog @ mgraffin.edublogs.com

Twitter 101

This is an introduction to Twitter and three associated tools (Tweetdeck, Google Reader and Diigo) which I did at IH Newcastle on 18th August 2011. I’ve edited it slightly from the original presentation to make it easier to read online. Hopefully it should give you a basic idea of how to use these tools. If you need help, feel free to ask in the comments.

I look forward to seeing you on Twitter.

You might also find these pages interesting:


P.S. Here is a screenshot of the tweets people sent me when I asked them to say where they are from and what they’ve learnt from Twitter. Click to make it bigger. It’s a good way to find people to follow to start you off!
efltwitter101 tweets

Update: Here is my comprehensive (I hope!) guide to Twitter for Professional Development

Day-to-day photos

Thanks to Fiona Mauchline’s At the deep end and Paul Braddock’s Mobile Storytime, I’ve just had a roomful of engaged and motivated learners for a whole two hours.

I teach this Elementary group for four hours every day (9-11 and 1-3). We’re doing a lot of pronunciation work in the first session, so I’m trying to do speaking in the second class to put the pronunciation into practice. Yesterday I set them the task of taking five pictures on the way home or on the way to school this morning (checking they all had cameras of some variety first!).

I did the same thing, printed the photos and stuck them around the room to start the lesson. Here they are:

First, I elicited ‘wh-‘ questions on the board. We looked at one photo and they asked me some questions about it. Then they walked around the room in small groups discussing what they could say. To finish this stage, I elicited their thoughts and told them why I chose to take each picture, as well as giving them any vocabulary they needed. We also added extra things to talk about on the board (e.g. feelings, opinions).

In small groups, students showed their photos to each other and asked and answered questions. Each student then chose their ‘best’ or ‘favourite’ photo from their set.

I placed a piece of scrap paper with ‘Questions for [X]’ on each desk and students put their photo on display. Students circulated and wrote questions based on the photos and their earlier discussions e.g. ‘When did you take this photo?’ As the students are elementary, there were obviously some problems with question formation, so the next step was for students to check the grammar and make sure the questions were ‘perfect’.

Next they wrote a short paragraph answering all the questions in continuous prose, before correcting each other’s work, with me underlining some things if students were insistent that they had finished 😉

This lesson has highlighted a couple of areas of grammar which require further work, so next week I plan to focus on question formation and there is/are, as well as doing some revision of irregular verb forms.

Thanks very much Fiona and Paul!

My new blog: PLN Fun Finder

I regularly read tweets from our PLN about good books, travel ideas, recipes, fun songs and lots more. Because three blogs just ain’t enough, I decide it would be fun to try and crowdsource a set of ideas for us to relax with, in the process of which you might learn something too!

I kicked it off this evening with the first post, ‘Take a Photo‘, plus an ‘About‘ page. The idea is that the blog is curated by me, but written by many teachers, inspired by Barbara Sakamoto’s excellent Teaching Village. I’m looking for posts about anything and everything, from language to sport, from good books to the best places to visit on holiday, from a good video game to a tasty recipe. The only prerequisite is that it’s fun and relaxing.

Looking forward to seeing what you have to offer!

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 🙂 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!

Mini reviews

If you have a few minutes between now and Wednesday 25th May 2011, I’d be really grateful if you could contribute to a collection of book/film reviews I’d like to use with my Advanced level students. I’m looking for your own opinions, rather than links online (as I could find them myself) 🙂

I’m trying to encourage them to use a larger range of adjectives than just good/bad/interesting/boring, so anything you could add would be great! They can be as long or as short as you like, and I would really appreciate some negative reviews too, as these are often neglected I think.

How to join in

  • Add a review to the comments in this post.
  • Post your review by adding a post-it note to this page in this link.
  • Record a short review using audioboo
  • Send me a review any other way you choose!
Thank you very much for joining in, and watch this space for a lesson plan showing how I used them.

The Eternal Teacher: Interviewing Naomi

I’ve just finished interviewing Naomi Epstein (@naomishema on Twitter) as a response to Brad Patterson‘s great blog challenge. As soon as I saw his challenge, I knew I wanted to interview Naomi. She’s the most regular commenter on my blog, and her own blog, Visualising Ideas, is a fascinating read. After a few technical hitches, we eventually managed to chat through Google video and here are the results.

The Bio

Naomi lives in Kiryat-Ono, Israel with her husband and two sons (one of whom has his birthday tomorrow – happy birthday!). She has been teaching English to deaf and hard-of-hearing students attending Yehud Comprehensive High School for 21 years. As well as five days at school, she works as a counsellor on Thursdays, helping other teachers who have deaf or hard-of-hearing students in their mainstream classes.

The Questions

For the challenge, Brad gave us five questions to put to the interviewees. This is what Naomi had to say:

1)    If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

Naomi with booksI’ve been thinking about this, and it all depends on which student you ask and what day it is. The kids I work with don’t mince words, and will tell you exactly what they think of you with no inhibitions. I think they would all agree that I’m unfashionable – I wear sneakers to class, don’t paint my nails and always wear casual clothes. But they would also say I’m patient and always there. I don’t go to the teachers’ room very often, and the kids are surprised if I’m not in the English room. Some of them must think I live there!

2)    What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

Most of the interviewees seem to have pretty empty fridges, but mine is the exact opposite because I have a whole family to feed. I cook all of the time, although blogging seems to have got in the way a bit! It’s time-consuming too because my husband and younger son are vegetarians, while I and my older son aren’t, so I need to make something for everyone. I have baked ratatouille pie and majadera (a local dish of rice and lentils – not something my parents ate!) in the fridge at the moment, and it’s well-stocked with basics like bread, milk and cheese too.

3)    If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

This is a really difficult question. I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

When I was in my first year of college I worked in a chain store selling everything you could possibly need for a new baby. The best bit about the job was explaining to people why they needed all of these things, but I wasn’t a very good salesperson because I would explain, then tell them to shop around and come back if they wanted to. So it was the teaching I liked, not the selling!

4)    What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

You’d think that after teaching for 25 years, I would tell you about something from the beginning of my career, but actually the hardest thing about my job is and always has been behaviour problems. In Israel, there is a strong push for children who have hearing problems, but regular intelligence and no other problems, to be put into mainstream education, so the children who attend self-contained classes become more and more difficult, especially behaviour-wise. Some can be agressive and it never gets easier teaching them. For example, this year there is one boy who comes to my classes even when he’s not supposed to, because he wants to be there. The problem is that he’s the class clown and wants everyone to look at him – it’s hard enough teaching him when he’s supposed to be there, without him coming for extra classes!

But I love adapting materials for the students [you can see lots of these materials on Naomi’s blog] and it can be very rewarding sometimes. There are real ups and downs: one hour can be great, and the next really depressing. [This is one of the reasons I wanted to interview Naomi – I wanted to know how she could have stuck at what seems to me to be an incredibly difficult job for such a long time. It really proves how patient she is!]

5)    What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

I’m a book animal! Every Saturday I blog about the book I’m reading. At the moment, it’s a book calledStones from the River by Ursula Hegi. It’s set in Germany, starting after World War One, and I know it will continue to World War Two. It’s beautifully written.
My husband and I enjoy watching international films. Some of the good ones we’ve seen recently were a Turkish film called On the Edge of Eden and an Iranian film called Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame, about a girl who desperately wants to go to school to learn to read and write (highly recommended, especially for teachers). We also loved The King’s Speech. Most of the films we see aren’t at the cinema. We tend to record them off the TV with our DVD recorder. I would recommend getting one! We both work very hard, so we watch them when we have time.

Naomi by the water

The DVD Extras

The main thing I wanted to know was how Naomi got into teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the first place. On her blog she says “I got my B.A in Education of the Deaf, my B.E.D in EFL and my M.A in Curriculum Development.” but that doesn’t tell the whole story. When she was little she always wanted to be a first grade teacher because she loved reading so much. After high school she did some substitute teaching at an Elementary school and decided that 40 kids per class really wasn’t for her. Now she teaches up to ten students, although with that many students, each with their own problems, it can be very challenging. Ideally, she has six in any one class, which is made easier if she has help/good volunteers.

Her other motivation is that she shares her birthday with Helen Keller, so it was clearly meant to be!

Naomi supporting the walls (as well as her fellow teachers!)

For her counselling job, Naomi supports teachers across Israel. The tendency towards mainstreaming mentioned above means that many teachers have one or two students with special needs in a class of thirty to forty students. She sometimes visits schools, but mostly sits at her computer/on the phone giving advice about how to help to adapt classes so that these students learn too.

The End

I really enjoyed interviewing Naomi, as I find her such an inspirational part of my PLN. She definitely deserves her holiday in Alaska this summer!

Naomi relaxing
Thanks Naomi!

Tools for the 21st-Century Teacher

This is my take on the tools presented by Niall Creaney during the closing plenary at the PARK Conference in Brno on 2nd April 2011. If you have a problem with any of the links, please let me know in the comments. The tools are:

  1. Twitter
  2. Blogs
  3. Google Reader
  4. Social bookmarking
  5. Glogster
  6. Prezi
  7. Dropbox
  8. Evernote
  9. Quizlet
  10. Wallwisher
  11. TitanPad
  12. Skype
  13. Word clouds

I have also added a bonus tool:

11b. Google Docs

1. Twitter (@sandymillin)

Twitter has opened so many doors since I started using it in October 2010. It’s a micro-blogging site, where you send messages 140-characters long out into the world. For teachers, this means an international community full of support, inspiration and ideas. To find out more about what it’s about and how to get started, take a look at this conference presentation I did about blogs and Twitter for teachers. (Update: I also have a complete introduction to Twitter for Professional Development)

It seems scary at first, but if you keep going back and try to spend an hour or so playing with it at some point, you’ll get the hang of it. For the first couple of months I lurked, which is completed normal (find out more by taking a look at the post on the Online Professional Development survey I did in January 2011, through Twitter of course!) Now I spend a few minutes every day having a quick look at the links, and I always find something to make it worth it: useful, thought-provoking and/or fun.

As well as using it for professional development, many teachers use it with their students. I haven’t tried it myself, but here are some links to people who have:

2. Blogs

I started this blog in October 2010, but nothing much happened on it until I started posting regularly in January 2011. Partly through promoting my blog on Twitter and partly through presenting at conferences and promoting it, my stats look like this:

Apart from giving you a great positive feeling every time you see your stats :), writing a blog is an excellent way to reflect on your teaching. You can use it to share ideas, connect with other teachers, get inspiration and so much more! As with Twitter above, you can find out more about what teachers use it for on my Online Professional Development Survey post, and see how to get started with it in the Whole New World of ELT one.

3. Google Reader

As well as writing your own blog, there are hundreds of other teachers in the blogosphere sharing their ideas. To get you started, take a look at the sites in my blogroll (on the right of this page).

The best way to keep track of the blogs you read is to use a reader, such as Google Reader. Once you’ve signed up (free), you add the links to the blogs you want to follow and the reader does the rest. This is what my page looks like:

This is the first page I see when I go onto the site. In the centre are all the posts that have been added to blogs since I last went on the site. As I read them they automatically disappear from the main page, but I can access them again by clicking on the name of the blog in the bottom left-hand corner. Of course, you can also go back to the original blog address too!

Here are some links to help you get started:

4. Social Bookmarking

So now you’ve had a look at Twitter and blogs and you’ve found loads of great new ideas. How do you keep track of them? The answer is Social Bookmarking. Rather than keeping your links on your computer, where you could easily lose them if anything went wrong, you can use a site like Delicious or Diigo. You can access your bookmarks from any computer, without having to worry about being on the same machine. You can also tag them with as many words as you like, making them easier for you to find again.

This is my page on Diigo:

As you can see, each link is tagged with various key words which I have chosen myself. To find a page again, I have various options:

  • I can search for any word I remember from the title / post using a box in the top right (not shown);
  • I can search for a specific tag by typing it in the box at the top (where it says ‘filter by tags’)
  • I can click on a tag underneath a link
  • I can click on a tag in the menu on the left

This is the little bar which appears in my browser (Safari) whenever I want to add a site to my bookmarks:

You simply click ‘Bookmark’ when on the page you want to share, change any of the options you choose, and hey, presto! it’s added to your bookmarks. You can also upload the bookmarks from your computer straight onto the social bookmarking site to keep them all together.

As for the ‘social’ part of social bookmarking, you can subscribe to other people’s links and be updated whenever they add to them. My Diigo page is here if you’re interested.

Here are some pages to get you started:

5. Glogster

This is the first of the tools which is mainly for students to use. The slogan is ‘Poster Yourself’, and it does what it says on the tin. Here are some examples of work created by 14-year-old boys in the UK: they created glogs about Spanish-speaking celebrities as part of their Spanish studies at secondary school. It is an easy tool for students to use, and the results look impressive quickly. You can include pictures, videos and text, then embed your glog in other sites, such as on a class blog or a school webpage. This one was embedded into a wiki (via @tperran). Students could use it as an alternative to traditional paper-based homework, then email you the link. There is even an option to create a Glogster for Education account, where you can create accounts for your students for free.

Here are some tutorials to start you off:

6. Prezi

Prezi is a web-based alternative to Powerpoint, used to create striking presentations which you can either present online or download to your computer. If you’ve seen my Whole New World of ELT presentation, then you’ve already seen your first prezi. As with Twitter, it looks a little scary at first glance, but once you’ve had a look at some other examples of presentations, followed the tutorial you are given when you first log in to Prezi and played around a little, you’ll soon get the hang of it. One tip: zoom out as far as you can before you start making your presentation if you intend to have a lot of ‘layers’ – the default setting is slightly zoomed in.

You can use it in the classroom too. Here is an example of a presentation made with American primary school students (via @surrealyno). And here are more ideas:

These are the Prezi Learn pages – an excellent guide to get you started.

7. Dropbox

Dropbox is a free online file-sharing site. First download their desktop application, then drag the file you want to share into the folder on your computer. Dropbox will automatically ‘sync’, making your online Dropbox look exactly like the Dropbox folder on your computer and vice-versa (if somebody updates the file online, it will update in your Dropbox too). You can then invite people to see your files and folders. Here is a video tutorial to show you how it works. This is my homepage:

The free account comes with 2GB of space, with an extra 0.25GB added for every person you refer to the site. I have now referred 3 people so I have 2.75GB.

It’s a great way for students to submit work to you as they don’t have to worry about space limits. It’s a lot easier than traditional file-sharing sites in my opinion. I haven’t used it with my students as yet, but it’s been useful for sharing materials with colleagues en masse.

One teacher (lucky enough to have computers for every student!) used Dropbox to synchronise student presentations. To see an excellent summary of everything you ever needed to know about Dropbox, including links to a few lesson plans (mostly primary and secondary), click here.

8. Evernote

This is the first of these tools which I’ve not used myself, so I’ll let them explain themselves to you:

EvernoteIt seems it’s an easy way to take notes on anything and in any way you could possibly imagine: use it to type notes, take screenshots, store photos and much-more – it’s like an online, searchable filing cabinet. It can be accessed from computers and mobile devices. Here is their guide to find out how to get started. I reckon the best thing to do is just go and play, then come back here and let others know what you’ve been doing with it… (Thanks in advance!)

9. Quizlet

This is a customisable flashcard site purposely designed for language learners to use for self-study. It is incredibly easy to use, and you don’t even need to create an account if you already have a facebook one. Once you’ve signed in, there are three big blue buttons to greet you:

You can search for flashcards that have already been created or make your own quickly and easily. Quizlet’s own guide is here. Once you’ve created the set, your students can then look at the flashcards and play two fun games to help them practise the words. This set about vegetables (created by @NikkiFortova) is a good example that you can play with. You can also create groups so that all of your students can see the flashcards you create for them. It’s principally designed for self-study, and the makers recommend allowing students to choose when / if they want to use it.

Update: I have created a complete beginner’s guide to Quizlet.

10. Wallwisher

Wallwisher is one of a variety of online bulletin boards. Others include Primary Wall and Lino-It. All of these tools allow you to post notes, pictures, videos and links on a ‘wall’ which looks similar to a real-world noticeboard. This is the demo screenshot they have on their homepage:

Here is a wall I created for students to post suggestions on how to practise English outside class (unfortunately students didn’t get into it in this class, but I know others who have!) Apart from the example just mentioned, I’ve only added to walls other people have made to send birthday wishes, but there are many other uses for it!

11. TitanPad

This is the only other tool on the list which I have not used myself. TitanPad is designed for online collaboration when creating documents. This is the example they show on their homepage:

As you can see, each collaborator has their own colour, clearly marking who has edited what in the file. You can save versions of the file and export it in various formats. Up to 8 people are allowed to collaborate on each document. The main attraction is that no sign-up is required – you can create a pad directly from the homepage. Unfortunately, it also has some disadvantages, as the pad is public to anyone who has the url. This post explains how it can be useful.

11b. Google Docs (update: now called Google Drive, but still does the same thing!)

If you’ve ever used Microsoft packages, you can use Google Docs without any more effort than simply logging in. You can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online, as well as professional-looking forms. It looks similar to other offline software, making it very quick to learn if you are already familiar with document etc. software. Here is Google’s tour of their docs function.

As with TitanPad, you can view changes made by other collaborators and the documents are updated in real-time. You can also find out who else is viewing the document at the same time as you. You need to sign in, but don’t have to have a Google account to do this.

Google Docs have myriad uses in the classroom. My students used a document to give me definitions of words and a form to answer reading comprehension questions of an online article during a webquest. Here are some suggestions from other teachers:

12. Skype

Skype is a piece of software which you can download to your computer, then use to make phonecalls to people anywhere in the world. Watch the visual explanation to find out more (they explain it better than I can!):

In March 2011, Skype created an Education section of their website. This enables teachers to set up projects with other schools around the world, as well as finding inspiration for Skype-related projects. Here are 50 suggestions for using Skype, based on real projects which teachers have done. It’s a great way to bring the real world into your classroom.

13. Word clouds

A word cloud of this blogpost so far made using Wordle…
…and the same text entered into Tagxedo

As you can see, word clouds look visually stunning, and encourage students to read and think about what is there. The online software processes the text, making each word appear once in the cloud sized according to how often it appeared in the original text (i.e. the more a word appears in the original text, the bigger it is in the cloud) I won’t go into too much detail here, as I have already blogged and created presentations about word clouds. The posts can be found here, and include links to tutorials for both Wordle and Tagxedo, as well as many ideas on how to use them:

So, that’s it: thirteen (plus one!) tools presented at the PARK Conference, explained in my own words. If you have any more suggestions on how to use the tools, or think I need to make any corrections, feel free to comment on the post. I look forward to hearing what you think!


25th March 2011: I’ve just discovered that the original plenary session on which I based my list of tools was taken from this page: http://issuu.com/mzimmer557/docs/tools_for_the_21st_century_teacher. You will find more tools and more information there.

Clouding my blog

Here’s my response to Dave Dodgson’s mini challenge based on his wordclouds presentation from the 2011 Virtual Round Table conference:

In word cloud format (using wordle) you can see that I’ve just done a post on Cuisenaire rods with Ceri, hence the large ‘rods’ and ‘one’, the latter of which also comes from the articles post. I didn’t realise how much I’d used the word ‘one’ until it appeared here! As with Dave and Vladka, I’m happy that the word ‘students’ is so large in the cloud too. You can draw your own conclusions from the rest of it!

To see what I’ve done with word clouds with my students, take a look at the first part of the presentation in this post.


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!

Be a Beam (30goals challenge)

The view from my balcony - another inspiration
The view from my balcony - another inspiration

This is a response to Shelly Terrell’s 30 goals challenge. Goal Number One was ‘Be a Beam‘:

Offer a student or other educator you see struggling support. It could be a colleague who is stressed or a student struggling with another subject. Who in your life needs your support?

On Wednesday night after evening classes at our school, I was in the staffroom getting ready to go home. One of my colleagues came in and told us about her elementary-level class. She’s struggling with it, as one student is very strong and talks all the time, while the other three students in the class are much weaker (below the level of the coursebook) have real trouble understanding, and find it difficult to speak. She asked for some help, and through the many ‘beams’ in my own PLN, I was able to pass on some tips:

  • record the students in class (with permission), email it home and ask them to give feedback
  • encourage the students to record themselves at home – this may make them more confident and willing / able to participate more in discussion at home
  • differentiate tasks, so that the stronger student is asked to record more than the weaker ones
  • take a look at the eltchat discussion on TTT and STT for some ideas about how to improve the quality and quantity of student talking time.

Being able to help my colleague with something I would have struggled a lot with myself only a couple of months ago really is testament to the quality of my PLN. Thank you!

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 http://www.wordle.net)
  • 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! 😉
  • 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 🙂 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!