Ten Ways to Introduce Target Language

It has been a while since my last post, about two months actually. Apologies it has taken so long for this post but it has been a very busy period for us at LTC Eastbourne with a lot of young learners coming through for the summer school. Nevertheless, this blog post is all about the different ways us teachers could introduce or elicit target language during lessons. The benefit of getting students aware of target language is to activate schemata/schema which essentially means getting students tuned into the language and preparing them for the lesson. For example, if you say to students let’s talk about food, they can predict that the conversation will obviously focus on vocabulary related to food and nothing related to jobs. Anyhow, let’s get started!

1. Antonym Matching

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 14.31.02The usual way to introduce key language is to just write them up on the whiteboard and provide the definition. This, in itself, is rather mundane and predictable. So, to liven things up a little more is to write up the words on pieces of paper all cut up and then write the opposite meanings on different pieces of paper. Get students to match words with their opposite meaning. Not only does it give the learners a chance to think about the target language but it also gets them thinking about corresponding words which have an opposite meaning. An additional idea is to just type up all the target language on one side of paper and their corresponding antonyms on the other side – all mixed up – and then learners have to match it that way.

2. Definition Matching

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 14.47.41A similar activity to above is to write out the target language on one side of a worksheet and the corresponding definition on the other side and get students to match the word with the suitable definition. It is a good activity for learners and it is best to have some learner dictionaries to hand in case students want to check definitions if they are unsure. This activity is also a useful exercise at the end of the lesson for students to review the target language they have acquired during the lesson. An optional activity is to split up the class into two groups, give one half the class the target language to find and write out the definitions from a dictionary on a separate piece of paper and give the other half the class the remaining half of the target language to find in a dictionary. Once they have finished, collect the words and definitions from each group, redistribute the words and definitions and then the groups try to match words and definitions. It is a useful exercise and it would provide an opportunity for students to review language at the end of the class.

3. Unjumble the Words

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 14.32.04A simple and effective way for students to work out the target language is to jumble up all the letters from target language. It is such a popular activity for teachers and it takes little time to prepare for this activity. I just find it easier to write out the target language on a piece of paper and then write out the letters in any order just underneath it. When I go to class, I can refer to this when writing up the jumbled words on the whiteboard. Very simple and then you could then use one of the other ideas in this post to introduce the language to your learners.

4. Missing Vowels

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 14.33.16This is another quick and easy task for learners to focus on and is especially invaluable for Arabic learners of English, due to their weakness of reading and writing in English. It is very easy to do in MS Word and all you need to do is type out a few underscores where the vowels are. It is simple to do, type the word in MS Word and then highlight the vowel by pressing “Shift” and using the arrow keys. Then type the underscore where the vowel is located. Handout the worksheet to learners and give them a time limit to complete. Once learners have finished, you could nominate students to come up to the whiteboard and write out the words, without their worksheet, from memory. Again it places students to focus on the spelling when reviewing the language and you could then use some of the other activities in this post to exploit target language fully.

5. Flashcard Drills

This is one of my most popular activities for introducing target language and one that students also enjoy. You first show a picture or a word and then read it out in a clear voice and then get students to repeat. All students could repeat or you could nominate particular students to repeat. Another activity is to sit in a circle, select a flashcard, speak the word or phrase, pass the card to another and then that student repeats the word or phrase. The flashcard is then passed around the circle of students until it arrives back to you. This activity could be sped up by passing the flashcards to students on your left and on your right, with learners trying to keep up with saying the target language and all the flashcards being passed around.

6. Stress Patterns

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 14.32.08An alternative activity is to write out the target language that you would like to introduce and then determine where the stress is placed within the word. You then create a table with the different stress patterns and ask students to complete the table by placing the words under the corresponding stress pattern. It is a useful activity which could then lead on nicely to a pronunciation focus with target language.

7. Phonemic Words

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 14.39.37Another activity to focus on pronunciation is to write out the phonemic script for target language to get learners to become more aware how words are pronounced. It is also a great idea to get students thinking about how they would spell these words and they will start to see patterns with vowel sounds and the spelling of these. The teacher could first introduce the words one-by-one with the use of flashcards – and using idea 5 above – or the teacher could place all words on the whiteboard and nominate students to pronounce selected words. It is a quick and easy activity and it does not take a lot of preparation for this activity.

8. Lost in Translation

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 14.41.11I like this activity and used it a long time ago when I first started teaching elementary learners. I first translated target language into Korean and then asked students to try to find a suitable translation in English – this is called back translation and quite effective. Learners could use their mobile devices and electronic dictionaries to translate the target language. You may find that learners will discover synonyms of target language. A different activity which involves translation could include translating the target language in the learners’ first language and also having the language in English, on separate pieces of paper, and getting learners to match the translated words with the corresponding Korean words. Translation goes a long way and can be useful for students wondering what the language is in their first language or the other way round.

9. Disappearing Words

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 14.44.37A previous colleague of mine, Pete Clements, from LTC Eastbourne demonstrated this activity to me a few years ago and I was quick to use this in class afterwards. Essentially, what you do is write up all the words around the whiteboard, drill the language, explain the definition of the key language. You then tell students to close their books – if they were making any notes of the target language and their definitions – and tell them that they have one minute to remember as many words as possible. You then draw a circle around all words or phrases, point to it and students say the word. You slowly erase the words, keeping the circles that you drew around the word and then point to it. Students have to recall the word from memory and you then start to remove more and more words, so in the end all you have is a blank whiteboard with circles around missing words or phrases. It is up to the students to remember as many key words or phrases that they can remember and it is an engaging activity for all learners no matter their age.

10. Wordsearch

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 13.41.51This is a wonderful activity that I like to do either as a vocabulary review or an introduction, particularly for young learners. It is easy to create a wordsearch, all you have to do is search for the term ‘Wordsearch Maker’ in Google and you will be directed to various different websites dedicated to the creation of word search puzzles. However, I would recommend the Teachers Direct website as a tool to create puzzles for language learners. It is wonderfully simple to create and all you have to do is to type out the target language in the website. This activity lends itself well to non-romanic language learners such as those that are Arabic or Asian speakers as they must get used to the spelling of the English language.


There you have it, all 10 ideas for introducing target language in the classroom. What are your favourite ways to introduce language in the classroom? Do you have any additional ideas? Why not share your 10 ideas? Thanks for reading and I hope you get some of these ideas into the classroom in the future.

Preparing for the CELTA in Nine Easy Steps

A previous blog post looked at 10 books recommended for the CELTA course but I also received a number of questions on Twitter, Facebook and this blog from readers wondering about how to prepare for the CELTA or where to take the course. In this post, I will be referring to the four week intensive CELTA (or equivalent), with some additional information transferable towards the 12 week part-time or online CELTA course, and how best to prepare for such a course. The majority of certificate courses are usually held over four weeks and incorporate various teacher training sessions as well as observed teaching practice. Nevertheless, I have provided 9 tips and pieces of advice for those that want to do the CELTA with answers to some of the most common questions asked.

1. Where can I take the CELTA?

CELTA CentreThis is the first question you need to ask yourself is whether the course is available near to where you reside. You can find this out by going to the Cambridge English website and clicking on “Find a Teaching Qualifications centre near you“. You will then be directed to another page where you can find CELTA centres based on country and region within this country. What I do recommend is that you choose a centre which is in close proximity to where you reside otherwise you will be commuting to and from the centre as well as preparing for lessons in the evening. For example, I had to commute one and a half hours to the centre into Seoul and then back home again (a total of three hours each day) with me having to arrive at least by 8:30am. Thus, I had to be up by 5am to get the train to Seoul at 6am and especially not for the faint hearted. So try to choose a centre which is around 30 minutes away from where you will be residing during the next four weeks. I have heard that some people decide to do a CELTA abroad and find temporary accommodation during the period of their CELTA course.

2. Pre-Interview Task

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After applying for the CELTA, you will be asked to complete a pre-interview task. The pre-interview task is your chance to show your awareness of the English language, the differences between similar words, the sounds of the English language as well as completing an essay related to teaching or what constitutes a successful lesson. With regards to the language awareness, you will be provided with several learner errors and asked to correct the mistakes by writing a grammatically correct sentence. Below are examples of the pre-interview tasks which have been sourced and are freely available from the University of Texas.

Error Correction:

Each of the exchanges below contains a mistake. In each case:

  1. write the corrected version in the space provided
  2. clarify your correction in simple English to explain the mistake

Example

  • Mr. Smith:  “Do you have much experience in the restaurant business?”
  • Giorgio:      “Yes, I’ve been working as a chef since 10 years.” 
  1. I’ve been working as a chef for ten years.
  2. We use ‘since’ before a point in time – for example, since Tuesday, since 1992, since 5 o’clock. We use for before a period of time – for example, for two weeks, for six years, for ten minutes. In this case ‘10 years’ is a period of time, so we need ‘for’.
Differences in meaning:

Comment on the difference in meaning between the following pairs of sentences, and outline how you might teach these differences in meaning.

Example:

  1. Claire is working late again; she’s so passionate about her work!
  2. Jane is working late again; she’s so obsessed with her work!

In the first sentence, the word ‘passionate’ suggests that Claire’s reason for working late is that she is driven by a love for her job and a healthy desire to succeed. In the second sentence, the word ‘obsessed’ suggests that Claire’s reason for working late is that she lacks a healthy balance in her life. She is so fixated on her work that perhaps she doesn’t do anything else, or perhaps other areas of her life are negatively affected.

To teach it, I would draw two pictures (or bring in two photographs). The first would be of a person working at her desk in an office. I would show the time with a clock on the wall (showing 9:30 pm). She would have a smile on her face to show that she was happy (and passionate about her work!)

For the second sentence, I would have a picture of Jane at her desk in her office, but she would look tired (and a little stressed). The time would still be 9:30pm on the clock. I hope these two examples would show the positive/negative aspects of the two sentences.

Word stress and stress patterns:

Word stress, which focuses on the stress within particular syllables, such as ‘banana’ and the stress being bolded and underlined: baNAna. You will receive a possible grid of particular stress patterns (oOo, Ooo, ooO, etc.) and you must try to place words under their corresponding stress item. The activity below will help you better understand what is expected.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 14.32.08

The final activity, related to the corresponding sounds of English, is attempting for you to connect same sounds with different words.  If you are able to complete the following activity, it will help you learn about the sounds of isolated units from words. You may receive an activity to connect words with the same vowel sound (lead & sheep). There may also be an activity whereby you have to connect consonants or focus on the endings and beginnings from different words. It is not a tough task but you do need to spend a bit more time on this activity. An example activity is available below and, again, you will be download this task from the University of Texas website.

Match the underlined sound of the words in column A to a word in column B with a corresponding sound. Note: the sound can correspond to any sound in the words in Column B. For example: advice goes with sip. Beware! The spelling of the sound may be different!

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All example tasks above are credited from the University of Texas ESL department.

3. Interview Questions

Prepare for the interview, Wikimedia © 2015

When you first decide to do the CELTA (or equivalent), it is best to prepare for your interview. You do not exactly go to a particular centre and expect the red carpet to be rolled out for you. You need to show that you are enthusiastic about teaching and keen to undertake a gruelling training course. One way for trainees and the centre to gauge your suitability for such a course is to interview you. When I went to the British Council in South Korea, I was interviewed with another possible trainee and we both had to work together on a particular task. We were then taken out of the room and interviewed individually. As well as being interviewed in person, we also had to write about a teacher that we admired when were students. So be prepared to write something in a short space of time – I think we had around 20 minutes. There are some questions that you should prepare in advance for the interview, as with any important interview. Some of the following questions you should consider answering for the CELTA interview could include:

  • Why do you want to do the CELTA course?
  • What do you know about the CELTA course already?
  • What is the most important thing to do in first lessons?
  • How do you see yourself in a team?
  • How do you react to feedback and criticism?

The interview is essentially to see if you are able to undertake such a demanding course as well as have the personality to that will aid you when working with other trainees.

4. Other Trainees

Get on with all other trainees on your CELTA course, Bloomsbury News Blog © 2015

When you are on the CELTA course with other trainees, it is important that you get on well with them and you should not be on a witch-hunt when observing other trainee’s teaching practice. The first day is important as you will meet the other trainees as well as the trainers. It is vital that you get on well with all people on the course and with your trainers as they will be providing and offering feedback on your very own teaching practice. If you end up giving a lot of negative feedback which is not so constructive and rather personal about your peers’ teaching practice or not listening to your own feedback from the trainers, you will find the course very tough indeed. Trainers will want you to incorporate a lot of what they mention into the teaching practice and you will be expected to offer constructive feedback on your peers’ teaching practice. I remember have heard trainees being shown the door if they are unable to take on board the feedback from input sessions or teaching practice or have difficulty adjusting to what is expected. Treat your other trainees with respect no matter how heavy the pressures are with the course. All trainees are in the same boat and you will be expected to work together as a team and helping each other (when needed) to assist in the preparation of your teaching. The biggest thing is not to lose your cool and not to start any personal vendettas against your fellow trainees.

5. Social Calendar

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 15.00.26When you are doing the CELTA course, you will find that you will have very little time to socialise during the week and at the weekend, you will feel like having a rest from the course.  It is a very tough and intense course, with very little opportunity to relax so best to cancel all those evenings out with your friends, forget birthday parties as well as your partner. They will see very little of you during the next four weeks. I remember having no social life during the four weeks. The Director of the school came into the session and compared the CELTA Course to a ‘boot camp‘ for English language teachers. It was a simple analogy but it is in fact very true. Once I finished the course, all trainees went out with the trainers to celebrate completion of the course and we had a lovely meal all together. During weekends, I was too tired to do anything and would wake up late on Saturday, spend time with family before returning to lesson preparation on Sunday for the Monday. It was a tough and arduous four weeks but you will feel a great sense of achievement. However, you should ask yourself if you have the support and understanding of family and friends while you are focusing on the CELTA Course for four weeks and have very little time to devote to them.

6. Lesson Planning

Harry Potter LessonPlanning your lessons is not meant to be easy and it will take a while for you to get used to the expectation from the CELTA trainers. Your trainers will probably give you an input session on the first day on how to write lesson plans and what they expect from their trainees. It is likely you will receive an electronic lesson plan template which you could use for all your lesson planning needs. Prepare to spend as much time on the lesson planning as much as preparing all the material for your lessons. There are some areas you need to consider when writing your lesson plan and you may have a coursebook to refer to when preparing your lessons. If you have a coursebook which you could refer to during the course, then read the Teacher’s Book. It will have a lot of information about the relevant pages from the coursebook as well as suggested staging of the lesson. You will be expected to supplement the coursebook as much as possible and incorporate some of the teaching ideas and activities suggested during teacher input sessions by the trainers.

When writing your lesson aims, it is best to focus on the following: “By the end of the lesson, students will have …”. This attempts you to reflect on your lesson and what your students will have achieved by the end of the lesson. If you look in the Teacher’s Book of the coursebook, you will see some aims and this will guide you completing this section of the lesson plan. When you look at subsidiary aims – those aims which are not as vital as those primary aims but do play a role in the classroom – you do need to access what skills and systems are being practised during the lesson. For example, if you are focusing on a role-play at a Post Office, then main aims are likely to be functional language and subsidiary aims could be question and answer formation, listening and speaking skills. As well as aims, there are other vitally important areas in the lesson plan, such as the class profile.

While writing the class profile, ask yourself the following:

  • What are their names?
  • What are their linguistic strengths and weaknesses?
  • How long have they been studying English?
  • Why are they studying English?
  • Are there any particular pronunciation issues?

It is important to ask students this in the first lesson and to keep a record of your learners as this will help you within this area of the lesson plan. Write your class profile and update if you learn something new and share this information with the other trainees. Finally, when writing the staging of the lesson, try to focus on the methods suggested by the trainers or those demonstrated during the input sessions. While thinking of the stages, think about the activities that you want to cover, the mini-stages as well as how to achieve your primary aims from the lesson plan. The first question asked by the trainers is, “Did you achieve your aims?” followed by “How do you think the lesson went?”. Keep the staging logical and try to refer to it as much as possible. The more practice you have with lesson planning during the course, the better you will get at anticipating how long activities may take.

7. Lesson Observations & Feedback

As mentioned previously, the feedback focus on your teaching practice will look at whether the aims and objectives were achieved but trainers will always ask leading questions to ascertain whether you think your lessons was satisfactory. Lesson feedback is not meant to criticise your teaching but is enabled to support you as a trainee and feedback, as was part of my course, was conducted in front of all other trainees. The other trainees are prompted to provide feedback so do not feel surprised by the trainers asking for opinions from other trainees. During the observation tasks, trainees will be requested to focus on particular areas related to the teaching practice. A memorable activity from my CELTA course which I was asked to conduct was to look at particular tasks or areas of teaching that I would like to incorporate in my classes and some suggestions for things to recommend for the trainee to incorporate into future lessons. It is very important to provide balanced feedback on a lesson that you have observed and to move away from pure criticism. The trainers and your peers, as mentioned previously, would not thank you for your negative contribution.

While teaching, try to take on board some of the feedback that you have received from your fellow trainees as well as from the trainers. If you demonstrate that you are incorporating their suggestions and taking on board their feedback, you will have minimal problems. Your trainers will praise you for doing what they recommended. It is easy to think that you know better than your trainers or fellow trainees but keep your opinions to yourself, there are only four weeks and you can return to what you think works better for your afterward the CELTA course.

8. Primary Reading

A previous post which I wrote related to the top ten CELTA books is incredibly useful but there might be additional reading that your centre will recommend. I would recommend reading as many books as possible related to teaching English as a foreign language whether they made my list of the top ten CELTA books or are recommended by your CELTA centre. You will receive a list of recommended books to purchase prior to starting the CELTA course and the majority of the books that I recommend are very useful. They can be referred to during the course and will help you while preparing your lesson plans as well as the written tasks which are provided later in the course.

The four books you should really consider purchasing for your course are:

  • “Grammar for English Language Teachers” by Martin Parrott
  • “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swan
  • “Learning Teaching” by Jim Scrivener
  • “Classroom Management Techniques” by Jim Scrivener

9. Enjoy the Course

The biggest tip that I can give trainees doing the CELTA course would be to enjoy their time and experience. The four weeks ends very quickly and you will find yourself missing the other trainees and trainers when you have finished. The course was fantastic and I learnt so much in such a short space of time. It is difficult to enjoy your time while doing the CELTA but if you relax, learn from all feedback as well as the input sessions and get on well with all other trainees, the course will a lot more manageable and you will receive a great deal more support from others. If you isolate yourself, you will be counting down the days until you finish. If you have enjoyed the course and the other trainees, you will make a lot of new friends and will end up keeping in touch with other teacher trainees. The trainers will also be able to offer some career advice regarding English language teaching and if you make a good impression, it may be possible that you secure some employment with the centre afterwards.


I hope all the advice above is useful and you take this on board. What did you take away from the CELTA course? Would you have any words of wisdom for our readers?

10 Tips for Lesson Observations

My previous post, 10 recommended books for the CELTA course, was somewhat well received and I have been thinking about a suitable follow-up for this post. Anyhow, after observing teachers during the week, I thought I would write up another post to support those teachers that have been successful for the CELTA course or those that have inspections or lesson observations due. In this post, I will recommend ten things to remember for any formal lesson observation.

1. What are your lesson aims?

You have planned your lesson, have a great idea for starting the lesson and also have cut-up all your material and you are ready to teach. However, look at your lesson plan and think very carefully what your aims and objectives are. I would really encourage any teacher to write their lesson plan by starting with this sentence: By the end of the lesson, students will be able to …”. It is important to know what your students will achieve by the end of the lesson. Ask yourself “Why am I teaching this? How will I know that I have achieved my lesson aims?”.

Get some practice by writing up a list of quick lesson aims on the whiteboard for students to know what they are going to do during the lesson. If you are using a coursebook with your learners, it will help your lesson aims as most coursebooks, these days, have language aims and “Can Do” statements adjusted from the Common European Framework. Unsuitable aims or objectives in lesson plans could include the following:

  • My students will learn vocabulary about …
  • Students will have some speaking practice about …
  • By the end of the lesson, students will have completed listening.

2. What’s in a name?

It really does show if teachers don’t remember the names of their students during observations. You cannot just wave your finger like a magic wand and say “You there! What is the answer to …?”. Not only does this illustrate that you do not know your learners’ names, it also suggests that you have not really thought about your learners when preparing a lesson. It is important to remember the names of your students and there are a few things you could do to help you out with this:

  • Keep a floor-plan of those students and where they are sitting. Refer to this when you are stuck and test yourself when you have a chance.
  • Get students to make a name card which can be made in the first lesson or with new students joining the class. Ask students to move around and then test yourself with students to remember their names.

If you can remember the names of your students, you are half-way there to generating rapport with students and learning more about them as individuals. Students will know if you don’t know their name. They will not be very happy if you cannot remember their name. How would you feel if you were in class and the teacher couldn’t even remember your name? You wouldn’t be happy.

3. Have a walkabout

When you are teaching a class, it is important to walk around a bit from time-to-time to monitor students. It doesn’t help if you are stationary during the lesson at the front of the class. It is important to walk around the classroom during lesson activities. Follow this basic advice and you will not go far wrong:

  • Whole class instructions should be given at the front of the class
  • Students are completing pair or small group activities and the teacher should try to walk around each small group or pair of students
  • Students are doing a presentation and the teacher could sit in the corner of the class or among other students at the back of the classroom

If you are constantly present at the front of the classroom, it may appear top heavy with the teacher controlling the lesson and the students’ contribution. It is better to merge within the classroom and this will reflect well in your lesson observations.

4. The computer says “No!”

If you are using interactive whiteboard (IWB) or a computer as part of your lesson, make sure it works. It really is soul destroying to see all your hard work fall flat if the technology decides not to work and you are left rushing around to try to find a solution. It inevitably ends up getting the IT person involved to help with the situation. What is more annoying is if you boot up your computer with five minutes to spare and then it decides to update and you are left with a PC that is just sitting in the corner and you cannot do what you planned to do as the computer is now out of action. There are a few things to consider when preparing your lesson observation, if it includes any form of technology.

  • Check that all equipment is working on the day and that you have a quick run through
  • Make sure that the PC you are using has been booted up and it has updated itself
  • Have a backup plan, should the unexpected happen, with a ten or fifteen minute activity to keep students occupied while you remedy any technological alarm

If you organise yourself well in advance and have a backup plan, you will be fully prepared for any situation or emergency. Teachers that are well organised are those that think about the unexpected happening.

5. Keep it short and sweet

You have nailed your lesson plan, you remember the names of all your students and, so far, the computer is not playing up. However, you have a task for students to do and you are about to give some instructions. You have not planned what to say but you know what the students have to do and so you commence this rather long commentary.

Okay everyone. We are going to do a speaking activity now so I want everyone to sit down. I am going to hand out this piece of paper. On this paper there is one word such as ‘Detective’ or ‘Nurse’ and you have to act out that particular character. Now, when you receive your piece of paper you must try and not show anyone else in the classroom but you must try to act like that person. The other person you are talking to must try to guess your job and write it down on this other piece of paper here. OK? Any questions?

When looking at the instructions above, it can seem rather daunting to begin with and how to improve instructions but with a bit of preparation and awareness of the activity, it is rather easy. Think how to say a sentence between 4-10 words in length and you will improve your instructions and students will not be fazed any longer. If you have a chance, demonstrate the activity if it is quite complicated. For example:

This paper has a job title. You must act like that job. What is my job? [You act like a bus driver and students guess the job]. Good! You write the job on this [show another piece of paper]. All students have a different job. Keep it secret [place the paper to your chest].

With some preparation, your instructions will improve and observers will recognise the effort you went through to ensure the setting up of an activity.

6. Heads or tails?

You are handing out the first worksheet but you have not even given instructions to the students just yet so you decide to give instructions once you have finished the act of handing out worksheets. You then decide to tell all students what to do just to ensure that they know what they are doing. However, when you talk to all the students on what they are about to do, all you see is the top of their heads. They are not listening to you but are staring at the newly received worksheet. This is an example of how not to stage a lesson for worksheets until learners have received some instructions. Here is some advice for you to consider the next time you are about to provide a worksheet:

  • Tell students briefly what they are about to receive, what they are to do and a time limit.
  • Ask students some instruction concept questions (ICQs) to ensure understanding.
  • Hand out the worksheet to students and monitor.

If you follow the staging above with any worksheet, you will not have any problems with instructions, worksheets or student attentiveness.

7. Photocopy the day before

It is important to prepare as much as possible the day before your observation and this includes any photocopying you may have to do. Should you arrive in the staffroom the day of your observation with a plan to photocopy your worksheets and activities, you are bound to come across problems. Paper may be in short supply, it could be located in a different part of the building or there is a huge queue to the photocopier. No matter how tired you may feel, it is important to get all your photocopying and preparation done the day before. It will save any last minute issues and if there is an inspection, it will really stress staff if there is a battle to the photocopier.

8. Death by worksheets

All teachers, at some point in their career, have printed out worksheets to keep their students busy but this should not be considered a possibility during any observation. Worksheets are fine to consolidate and practice a language focus but you should not take a whole lesson with any form of worksheet. If you want to exploit a worksheet or a page from a vocabulary or grammar book, try to bring it off the page and personalise it for your students. Some ideas for exploiting material could include getting students to finish different parts and practising in context or creating their own worksheets for use in a future class. It is important to teach the learners rather than teach the material, as this will not go down well during any formal or informal observation. For example, if you want to teach a grammar lesson, refer to a grammar book, consider how you could present it, how the students could use the language in context and how it could be reinforced with language consolidation. Should you wish to teach a lesson using the Present Simple, you could do the following:

  • Present the grammar point by showing daily routine: I wake up at …, I get up at …, etc.
  • Show a time line and ask students to put the daily activities in order on a time line
  • Ask students to now write about their own routine but using their own personal time line
  • Get students to share their time line but to also think of questions as well as answers that could be considered about daily routine
  • Review the grammar focus by consolidating the lesson with the use of some grammar exercises (gap fill, sentence prompts, etc.)

It is not difficult but you just need to think about trying to get the students using the language in context and reviewing the language focus as a class. Stick to this, and you will not go far wrong.

9. The whiteboard

The whiteboard is sometimes one of those pieces of equipment which is often overlooked while planning a lesson. It is always used during the lesson and something to write up vocabulary, functional language, etc. When being observed, it is important to use the whiteboard effectively during these lessons and show that you are a ‘whiteboard wizard’. There are some simple tricks to keep you on top of any whiteboard issue:

  • I probably do not have to say it, but keep the whiteboard clean and free from smudges during observations.
  • Use margins on the whiteboard to split up between lesson aims and objectives, vocabulary and the main area for brainstorming language/ideas.
  • Try to use colours which are easily readable during the lesson. One pet hate is when teachers use a red pen on the board and then expect students to read it at a distance. Use black for main text and colours to highlight pronunciation, intonation or other lexical collocations.
  • Get students to copy down language and things from the whiteboard before erasing everything. It seems simple but the number of times that I have seen a teacher erase the whiteboard while students have not been given a chance to copy from the whiteboard or half-way through their copying is more common than thought. Do not be a whiteboard demon, get students to copy things from the whiteboard.
  • Write neatly and at a correct size for all to read. It seems such a basic idea but there are still teachers who write things on the board and both the observer and the students are unable to decode what has been written. If it is too small or too messy, both parties will have difficulty reading your board-work. It is best to write in non-cursive writing which is more reader friendly for language learners.

10. Relax and be yourself

Formal, as well as less formal, lesson observations can be a rather stressful time for teachers. With all the paperwork to prepare before the lesson observation, there is the prospect of a colleague, line manager or external observer coming into the lesson to see how things are going inside of the classroom. To make all our lives bearable, it is best to keep any negative comments to yourself and not to criticise those that are coming in to observe you. It is important to be as professional as possible and also relax a little. Take a deep breath and then just jump in with both feet. Essentially, lesson observations should not be a witch-hunt but they are not easy for everyone.

If the observation is part of professional development, then the feedback session will be a point of reflection for both the teacher and the observer. If you are observed, it is important not to defend every single thing that is pointed out in the reflection process but it is merely used to prompt a discussion to better understand why and how things were decided and staged during the lesson process. If the organisation is supporting those teachers that need assistance, there will be clear and attainable goals highlighted to consider and it is very important to follow these up and share your development with the person who observed you. Consider asking whether it would be possible to undertake peer-to-peer observations as these will be more beneficial and they will give you some more practical ideas which you could incorporate into future lessons.

Relax and be professional, as observations are there to help you.


There are some final tips for lesson observations and things which should be mentioned:

  • Don’t be late and try to arrive 5-10 minutes early in your classroom so that you are able to arrange the class for your lesson.
  • Don’t forget to print off your lesson plan the night before. It will not be a good idea to print the lesson plan on the day.
  • Don’t stress your students about the lesson observation. They are still your students and keep things as natural as possible.
  • Don’t change your entire lesson 5 minutes before you are due to be observed. It is a recipe for disaster.

Best of luck with your observations and I hope you enjoy them.

10 Recommended Books for the CELTA Course

It has been a number years since I took the CELTA Course, at least seven years since I actually completed the course at the British Council Seoul. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other Native English Speaker Teachers (NESTS) and Non-Native English Speaker Teachers (NNESTS) resident in Korea wishing to develop professionally as teachers. We all shared our commitment to the profession and wanted to improve our skills as teachers. I enjoyed the course so much that I created a CELTA Group on Facebook to keep in touch with the other trainees. Anyhow, I have been thinking about books that were recommended before starting the course, as well as books that I have come across after the CELTA course, and I thought a blog post suggesting potential books to aid the CELTA trainee would suffice.

1. “Learning Teaching” by Jim Scrivener

Learning TeachingThe first book, Learning Teaching, that was recommended for trainees as part of pre-reading and preparation before as well as during the CELTA course. It is an incredible book which looks at teaching various skills (reading, writing, speaking, etc.) and proposed approaches for the classroom, which when learning to teach English to language learners, is invaluable. Also, there are sections within the book which assist teachers, both experienced and less experienced, which cover classroom management, various styles of teaching, methods and approaches to language teaching as well as professional development opportunities to consider. I remember the CELTA trainers advising that this book should be our bible during the course and we should attempt to read the various sections when required. Not only is it a useful book for before and during the CELTA course, but it has always been a book that I have constantly returned to, when getting ideas on developing a curriculum or planning courses and lessons.

2. “Advanced English Grammar in Use” by Raymond Murphy

AGIUAnother book which I had discovered invaluable as part of lesson planning, language awareness and teaching practice was Advanced English Grammar in Use. It was incredibly helpful when I wanted to look at particular grammar points in context and in more detail. For example, Raymond Murphy offers additional focus the use of the Present Simple in context with daily routines or habits. You could look at some of these suggestions and personalise it for your teaching practice. As well as the demonstrating of isolated grammar points, Advanced English Grammar in Use offers some thoughts on written grammar practice and this again could either be recreated and personalised in your teaching practice. If you are new to the teaching of grammar, you could purchase the lower levels of English Grammar in Use to better understand the premise behind certain grammar structures.

3. “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swan

PEUThis was another book which was on my recommended reading list for the CELTA course and I ordered it specially from the UK and it was delivered a week later in Korea. It is incredibly informative and will help trainees with preparing lessons focused solely on key vocabulary and grammar. This book is very well organised alphabetically from ‘abbreviated styles‘ to ‘yes and no‘. I have used this book to prepare lessons on vocabulary for higher learners such as newspaper headlines as well as focus on grammar. When you combine this book with other recommended books in this post, it is really really useful and I would urge any potential CELTA trainee or experienced teacher to go and buy this book. It is most likely in most English teacher’s staffroom but it is one of those books that you will return to and those teachers that have completed the CELTA, who had not bought this book, should really purchase Practical English Usage.

4. “Teaching English Grammar” by Jim Scrivener

TEGThis is the second book by Scrivener that I am recommending but this is not to suggest that I swayed by his books. Although Teaching English Grammar had not been published when I took the CELTA course in 2008, I was introduced to it when it was first published. Had this been available in my course, it would have helped immensely during the lesson planning stage. Scrivener aids the reader through various things to consider when teaching areas of grammar with suggested context building activities, language practice ideas, suggested concept checking questions  (CCQs) as well as possible learner errors occurring for each grammar item. It is incredibly useful and despite not having this book during my CELTA days, it has been great to get some ideas for teaching.

5. “Grammar for English Language Teachers” by Martin Parrott

GFELTThis is a wonderfully organised book which breaks down grammar into easy-to-understand chapters. As with some of the previous books which I have recommended, Grammar for English Language Teachers was recommended for the CELTA course as it could be referred to during the written assignments. As with previous reference books, this grammar book offers the reader the chance to consider some key aspects, provides the key forms of the referred grammar, typical difficulties for language learners, as well as some consolidation exercises to practice what has been learnt and improve your skills as a language teacher. When I speak to other teachers, they always tell me this is a good place to start when preparing lessons for teaching grammar.

6. “The Book of Pronunciation” by Jonathan Marks and Tim Bowen

TBOPThere are a few books that focus solely on pronunciation and after my CELTA course, I purchased Sound Foundations, by Adrian Underhill. I just found this book a little too theoretical yet with a bit more reading and focus, there were some suggested practical ideas and they were great. I do in fact recommend Sound Foundations for those that are interested in pronunciation as an area. However, with The Book of Pronunciation, the authors have created some fantastic ideas for isolated lessons on a range of pronunciation areas such as homophones, stress, intonation, as well as many other areas. This book offers some interesting areas which CELTA trainees could incorporate as part of their lesson and had I acquired this book before my training, I would have been able to experiment during teaching practice.

7. “An A-Z of ELT” by Scott Thornbury

AAZOEWhen you start your CELTA course, there is a lot of acronyms you need to get your head around; TTT, STT, CCQs, ICQs, PPP, etc. It can all be a bit overwhelming to be honest and you have a lot of other things to think about such as your lesson planning, assignments and input sessions that you need to attend. Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT offers a quick reference for all those hard-to-learn acronyms and abbreviations, and as everything is in alphabetical order you can find terms quite quickly.  As well as this, the book provides the trainee some background reading into some of the theories and ideas behind language acquisition and learning. Once you have finished the CELTA, Thornbury’s book can be referred to as you develop as a teacher and is also recommended for the DELTA, should you decide a few years later to do this.

8. “Classroom Management Techniques” by Jim Scrivener

CMTApologies but this is going to be the third and final book that I recommend which is written by Scrivener, but to be honest his books are great for those individuals undertaking or wishing to undertake the CELTA. Nevertheless, one key element which is focused on the CELTA course is the area of classroom management which is heavily focused upon during the observed teaching practice. I remember the trainers telling me to improve my instructions and reducing teacher talking time (TTT). Of course it is useful to receive such feedback about classroom management but there was minimal reading with relation to this. However, with Scrivener’s latest publication, Classroom Management Techniques, he hopes to fill this void. The book is easy to read with some great illustrations, and it great for any teacher training sessions which I focus on with experienced teachers. There are many areas that Scrivener focuses on which include; the classroom, the teacher, the learner, lessons, etc. As with previous recommendations, this book is invaluable for the day-to-day running of a course and it offers some wonderful ideas to think about should you have trouble with a class or selected learners. At the end of each chapter, there are some questions for reflection on particular areas of classroom management. Unfortunately, this book had not been published when I took the CELTA course but it was one of those books that I purchased immediately as soon as it was available.

9. “ABC of Common Grammatical Errors” by Nigel Turton

ABOCGEThis book, by Nigel Turton, seems to be in short supply but if you can get your hands on ABC of Common Grammatical Errors, it would be highly recommended. The book is organised alphabetically with particular words and grammar forms. Nigel illustrates some common errors – these could unsuitable words, word order or grammatical errors – as well as their corrections in a systematic and organised way. This book can be easily referred to during the CELTA course to assist in anticipated errors for students and this could be written into lesson plans.  It would also assist in the developing awareness while teaching English and the potential pitfalls that language learners may encounter. With this book, you will be armed to to write your lesson plans in the best way possible. Get this book and you will not regret it. However, what this book lacks in possible errors that particular nationalities may encounter is recommended by the final book in this post.

10. “Learner English” by Michael Swan

LEThis is the final book for this list and also the second recommended in this post which is written by Michael Swan. Learner English, much like ABC of Common Grammatical Errors, is a highly informative book which prepares trainees in teaching and possible errors and first language interference possible language learners may encounter while acquiring English. Swan’s book focuses on potential phonological and grammatical errors based upon particular language speakers and this is invaluable for trainee teachers or those teachers new to particular speakers of a language. Each focus on language speaker, such as Arabic, has a general breakdown of phonological areas which are common in their first language and those phonological sounds which are not transferred to English. As well as this, the book also covers grammar and sentence construction with a literal and more reader-friendly translation to aid readers in judging how particular nationalities create sentences in their own language and better anticipate potential first language interference. As with other books, this book will help teachers develop their awareness of teaching various learners as well as monolingual groups of students. It is really useful and I would always recommend this book to trainee and experienced teachers.


So this is my top ten list of recommended books for the CELTA but what books would you recommend? Do you have any favourite books that you like to refer to on a daily or weekly basis? What books do you always read? As always, leave your comments below.

10 Websites for English Language Teachers

All teachers enjoy reading and gaining access to more resources for lesson ideas or developing material for classes and I thought I would share the ten websites that I like to refer to when I am seeking for lesson ideas or material to use in possible lessons.  These ten websites below are my favourite websites that I like to refer to when preparing lessons, reading up on methodology or creating material.  So without any further delay, these are my ten must visit ELT-related websites.

1. British Council Teaching English

British Council Teaching English

For me the British Council Teaching English website is such a wonderful resource with many videos and blog posts that you can find a lot of information about teaching in particular contexts.  I do enjoy the regular updates that this website offer for those in English Language Teaching (ELT) from lesson plans and materials to interesting blog postings about language learning.  I use this website a lot with their videos for in-house Teaching Training sessions, particularly related to young learners.  This website is now also offering webinars which you could register and watch either live or at a later date. To add to the already abundant resources which you could gain, there are also the annual seminars which you could attend at the British Council or watch streamed via the internet.

2. ISL Collective

ISL Collective

There are not many free websites around for lesson material but ISL Collective really is a gem and would highly recommend teachers to consider using this website to seek for lesson ideas or materials.  You can search for material based upon grammar focus, skill, level of student or age.  Naturally, you have to consider the appropriacy of materials and edit them where necessary but the best thing about this website is that you can download the material in Word format and edit them where you see fit. If you visit other EFL-related websites, much of their material is in PDF format and non-editable. And unless you enjoy the unhappy task of recreating the worksheets, you will not be able to edit the texts.

3. ELTChat

ELTChat

One of the first websites that I was introduced via Twitter was actually ELTChat.  The aim of the website is to create a “freely available social network for ELT professionals” in order to assist CPD.  ELTChat host weekly chats on Twitter on a range of topics ranging from blended learning to dealing with mixed ability classes.  Their chats on Twitter are usually every Wednesday in the afternoon at 12pm or evening 9pm (GMT) and the chat is followed through the use of a hashtag (actually #ELTChat). Despite the chats remaining on Twitter, the transcript is then downloaded, analysed by us bloggers and then written about. It is a wonderful resource and you can find various blog posts about the discussions on all the various topics that ELTChat has incorporated in their weekly chats.  Summaries of discussions can be seen here.

4. Designer Lessons

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If you are quite keen to incorporate Dogme into your lessons but don’t know where to start, worry not as there is a wonderful website which offers teachers a wonderful selection of Dogme-esque teaching ideas which you could incorporate into your lessons.  Designer Lessons is a wonderful resource full of teaching ideas for those teachers which are keen to experiment with Dogme ELT and I would highly recommend teachers to consider using this resource to develop their repertoire of lessons and ideas for developing lessons for a range of levels.  As well as Dogme style lessons, there is also a range of lessons catered for exam preparation lessons as well as more traditional lessons organised into levels.

5. Wordle

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If you have seen other teachers create words clouds (essentially text generated in an easy to read and quite artistic manner) but do not know how to create such works of vocabulary art, then I would recommend Wordle.  I usually use Wordle on a weekly basis to create word clouds and I usually create key vocabulary or a review of vocabulary from the previous day this style of word cloud.  It is incredibly easy to create and it generates student interest straight away, as it is usually different to the standard “Do you know this word?” or “Let me explain this word that I have just written up on the board!”.  You can create an interesting and engaging introduction to key vocabulary by printing out the word cloud and doing the following:

  • Students look up words in a dictionary and then write out the definition in their notebook.
  • Students try to create groups of lexis – usually quite useful if you have a range of vocabulary with different groups (i.e. jobs, verbs, etc).
  • Look for the words in the text (if it is a reading).
  • Guess the topic or story.

6. One Stop English

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You are searching on the internet for a lesson related to Thanks Giving but most lessons which you have found seem rather boring as well as a bit teacher centred. Worry not, as One Stop English is offering a variety of engaging and motivating activities to suit a range of levels as well as ages.  If you want to develop the students’ awareness of American culture, then there are a range of engaging activities to achieve this ranging from webquests to listening.  Yes you have to pay for becoming a member of this website but the range of lessons offered really will benefit teachers and there are numerous activities and blog posts which support newly certified teachers.  I do pay for membership of this website and would continue to do so in the future as the activities involved with listening lessons are wonderful and it is such a relief to steer away from the coursebook from time to time.  Finally, this website is a great resource for those young learner teachers who are keen to develop their CLIL-related material as there are lessons and activities for teachers to incorporate in class.

7. BBC Learning English

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This was one of the first websites which I started using and referring to back in 2005 in my first year of teaching in order to gain an understanding with teaching.  I remember being asked why I used this website in my CELTA interview and how I use it.  I essentially mentioned that the BBC Learning English was a wonderful website and I prepared lessons using some of the ideas posted on the website, which was mainly geared for self study language learners.  However, I do enjoy browsing the activities and lessons for students as well as incorporating some of these ideas in the classroom.  There is a wonderful podcast which is updated on a regular basis which offers a grammar focus for students.  I usually enjoy preparing lessons involving the listening from the podcast to supplement a grammar point and some of the practice activities are great.  I really enjoy browsing this website and looking at some of the lesson ideas which are recommended.  Although this website is aimed for self-study, it is a free resource and with a little bit of work, the lessons developed could be adapted for a range of classes.

8. Cambridge English Online

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If you are looking for a website to develop flashcards related to the phonological chart or phonemes, then Cambridge English Online is an invaluable website.  You can create your own flashcards using their stock of images or uploading your own images, inserting phonetics for words.  It is a great website and I have used the applications on their website with my young learner and adult lessons.  There are other applications which focus on idiomatic language or the phonemic chart and you could use these within a classroom should you have an IWB or projector and computer in your classroom.  You could get students to create their own flashcards and print these out and then laminate them for possible flashcard games.  For more ideas for games involving flashcards, read my previous post here.

9. Lesson Stream

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A few years ago I was looking for lesson ideas related to images and fortunately I came across a wonderful website which contained loads of suggested lessons. I remember that I prepared a lesson related to the Mr Men series with the help from Lesson Stream.  Jamie Keddie has a lot of suggested lessons graded by level which teachers could incorporate in their lessons.  There are teacher notes and material all available on Jamie’s website and much of the material could be incorporated into adolescent classrooms with the correct amount of adjustment.  It is a wonderful resource and would supplement any coursebook.  Furthermore, this great website is free of charge for any teacher and all material can be downloaded for use with potential classes.  Personally, I used lesson ideas with both adolescent and adult learners and is a refreshing change to the coursebook.

10. An A-Z of ELT

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The final website which I would recommend any professional English language teacher to view is Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT blog.  It is a wonderful website stocked full of rich and engaging content in relation to the theory of language learning, acquisition and teaching.  It supplements the ELT dictionary, published in 2006, which is also called “An A-Z of ELT” and is a must read itself.  Nevertheless, there is a lot of content which is not included in the original edition of the book published on this blog.  Unfortunately, it is now no longer a live website but Scott has kindly allowed access for readers to view – “Thanks Scott!” – and if you are curious about the methodology of language teaching, learning and acquisition then this blog will assist you delve dipper into the profession and become more knowledgeable.  It has always been a useful ‘go to’ website, especially when studying a post-graduate or diploma in ELT as it has been invaluable for teachers looking at developing professionally.


So these are my ten favourite and must visit websites which I would recommend other teachers to visit.  I hope this helps you develop as a teacher and also support you when creating engaging and motivating lessons for your students.  Anyhow, what are your favourite ELT related websites?  What websites would you recommend that I visit?

20 More Ways To Be A Better English Language Teacher (Part 2)

In the first part of these blog postings, we looked at various ways to develop and enhance your career as a language teacher with 20 ideas which could be incorporated within your personal CPD goals or aims.  The second part of this series looks at another 20 ideas which you could incorporate at any stage of your ELT career.  Before I start this blog post, I would like to thank all those that have visited this post – it has been the most popular blog post on this website despite only being live for a short period.

1. Volunteer with a Special Interest Group (SIG) or Association

If you have joined an ELT association such as IATEFL, or a local association in your country, then you could volunteer to help them in your free-time.  There are numerous posts that may require your skills or assistance.  For example, if you are able to use technology affectively or have organised your own Google Hangout, then you maybe able to help organise a similar event for the association or if you have experiences of writing book reviews then you could help co-ordinate the editing of these.

2. Improve your board work

I have now made a conscious decision to improve my board work in as much as learning how to draw various places, activities, etc.  It definitely shows to those observing your lessons that you are able to draw or use your board effectively.  You will become more confident on using your board effectively and shall become quicker during lessons.  I have had students photograph my whiteboard after a lesson as they find it more visually appealing.  More information about the whiteboard in the following blog post here.

The (White) Elephant in the Room

3. Create a (video) podcast

If you don’t have the time to dedicate to writing blog posts, you could look at creating a (video) podcast about your experiences of ELT.  It is very simple to do.  You can just use your smartphone to create them and then can upload to: YouTube (for video podcasts) or SoundCloud (for audio podcasts).  Share them with your colleagues in the staffroom or via other social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

4. Learn a language

I started learning a foreign language, more information available on my other blog “Kimchi Bites“, Korean to be precise, to put myself in the shoes of my learners and to become more aware of what a language learner is like: the difficulties, possible habits, etc.  Learning a language and how your students keep making mistakes can be aided by learning about their language and culture.  You will then be able to relate to your students in both inside or outside your classroom.

5. Demand more from yourself

As in the previous blog post – demanding more from your students – you should demand more from yourself to keep yourself evolving as a teacher.  If something didn’t go well, change it.  Evolve with the changes otherwise you may become that teacher who is always moaning in the staffroom and trust me you don’t want to end up being that teacher.

6. Consider doing another course

You completed your CELTA a number of years ago and have gained some classroom experience.  But things are not just developing as you have expected in the past year or two.  You could consider doing an additional course to supplement your CELTA or equivalent such as a young learner extension course, a Diploma or Masters.  You will meet similar teachers when you do this type of course and it will further confirm your desire to continue in this profession.

7. Take a break

To avoid any form of burnout, you need to take time out from teaching during the year.  The time you take away will give you the space and time to unwind, relax and have a well deserved break.  During this period of relaxation, try to meet with friends or family, listen to some music or read a non-ELT book.  If you are suffering from burnout, your lessons will be difficult to plan, learners will notice your lack of motivation or concentration during lessons and they will likely complain to your line manager.  So if you need a break, tell your boss and arrange a mutually agreed period to have time off.

8. Collect books for your school

Your learners will likely have access to eBooks via their tablets, smartphone or computer but reading a traditional book still has its place in any school.  Unfortunately for many schools, they do not have the resources to purchase brand new books and stock them up similar to a local library.  However, you could collect or ask for a donation of unwanted books from family, friends or hotels.  Hotels are a wonderful place to request for books as they are likely to receive them from tourists who leave them in their room or lobby.

9. Use smartphones in class

Rather than banning the use of smartphones outright in the classroom, you could incorporate them during dedicated lessons.  A previous blog post that I had written offers 7 wonderful ideas of the use of smartphones in the classroom.  Perhaps you can create your own lesson(s) with your learner’s smartphones or get students to record speaking to review at a later date.

10. Create a school magazine/eBook

If you want to be a bit more creative and would like to showcase all the wonderful work that students have completed over the course of an academic year or so, then creating a school magazine (available as PDF or digital download) would be fantastic.  I created a school magazine for a group of young learners who were studying at our school during the period of four weeks.  This was then emailed to the group leaders so students could then download or print their own personal copy.  It is a great opportunity for students to share their work with family, friends or other teachers.School eBook

11. Pilot material for publishers

There is a chance, should you wish, whereby you can get in touch with the main ELT publishers and pilot any of their material or their coursebooks which they are considering for publication.  After a period of piloting material, you will build up a good relationship with the publishers and they may offer additional opportunities for you to consider in due course.  There is a new website set up for teachers who wish to get into authoring with publishing houses known as “ELT Teacher 2 Writer” and it is free to register.  Once you have registered, you will find possible courses on starting to write for various publishers.

12. Mentor a new teacher

When you were a new teacher, as was the case for me, everything was probably quite overwhelming and there was a lot to take on board at the time – keeping registers, marking students writing, dealing with student queries as well as preparing and planning lessons.  However, I was fortunate to have the support from various teachers at the time but unfortunately, I hadn’t had the chance to be mentored during this period.  These days, I take a very active role in developing teachers and in one way, I get more experienced teachers to mentor less experienced, or newly qualified, teachers.  So, consider mentoring a teacher over a period of time and help your team out during the year.

13. Watch a webinar

The brilliant result of technology these days is that a lot of the seminars are now available to watch via Google Hangouts or recorded with Adobe Connect and you don’t have to watch exactly on the day or time of the online web-seminar (webinar), as you are able to rewatch these again and again.  Some free webinars which are available include: British Council Seminars, Macmillan or OUP ELT Webinars.

14. Write a teacher diary

Blogging about your experiences of an English language teacher can be quite open and lack any form of privacy.  However, you may wish to write about your experiences but keep them private and, in this case, within a diary.  You could decide not to share this diary with any other teachers and reflect on things that had happened during the week or look back at what you had done, with the intention to review your progress from any given date.

15. Rearrange seating in the classroom

If you are having trouble with motivation or lack of focus during lessons, you could consider rearranging the seating in the classroom, then monitor to see how the response is with regards to this change.  You are then able to note any positive changes in classroom dynamics with the seating of the classroom.  I have done this personally a number of times as well as nominated seating for particular students around the class.  There is both positive and negative feedback if you go ahead and tell students where they have to sit but sometimes it is nice to spice up the lessons a bit.

The Developing Teacher” (2012)

16. Specialise

Just teaching is not the be all and end all of language education.  There are plenty of opportunities for teachers to specialise in this field.  For example, you may find that you find an opportunity to train teachers, organise social events or be responsible for stock in the Teachers’ Room.  If you are able to become more responsible for more than just teaching, you will find that you are given more responsibility and are responsible for other aspects of running a language school.  Should you be incredibly lucky, you may secure permanent employment.

17. ELTPics in the Classroom

ELTPics is a wonderful yet unknown resource for English language teachers.  All teachers should become more aware of the possibility of using ELTPics in the classroom.  The benefit of using ELTPics in the classroom is that you do not have to worry about copyright law as all pictures are under Creative Commons Licensing and Attribution law.  As teachers, it is important that we use a stock of images that we are confident that do not place us in a legally difficult area.  For more ideas about using ELTPics in the classroom is available from a previous blog post here.

18. Get Involved with ELTChat

As with ELTPics, there are plenty other websites available to consider.  ELTChat is also another wonderful discussion group on Twitter which teachers of English around the world could consider using.  Every week on a Wednesday (either at 12 noon or 9pm GMT), the moderators organise a discussion on various topics for those that are interested.  Obviously being held on Twitter, it is necessary for teachers to join Twitter before contributing to the discussion.  More information about the ELTChat discussion group is available to read on their website.

19. Write an ELT book review

As with my previous suggestions in the last series of this blog post, you could read various books about English language teaching.  However, you could start reviewing ELT-related books for journals or other publications.  Read other book reviews and try to choose a style which is most suited for the journal or publication that you wish your book review to be published.  For example, a book review in the ELT Journal would be quite academic compared to the EL Gazette, which would be less formal and academic.

When writing your book review, consider the following questions to help you:

  • What is the type of book?
  • What is the contents of the book?
  • Who is the book aimed for?
  • What way is the book different to other books?
  • What did you like about the book?
  • What did you dislike about the book?
  • What is your evaluation of the book?  Would you recommend it for other readers?

If you are able to answer the following questions about the book you would like to review, you will then find writing up a book review relatively stress-free.  You can read up on my own book reviews here.

20. Create your own online teaching portfolio

The final blog post in this series looks at documenting and organising your own CPD.  As with anything, it is important to keep a record of your professional development so that they can shared to various organisations or individuals when requested.  To help assist you in producing your own online teaching portfolio, you can use the Cambridge ESOL Teacher Portfolio website, which is completely digital.  It is easy to create your portfolio and if you spend a little bit of time on each week or month, you will then be able to provide a digital copy when requested.

20 Ways To Be A Better English Language Teacher (Part 1)

English language teaching can be a challenging and difficult process, especially if you are seeking for new ideas and thoughts on improving your day-to-day teaching.  Much of the challenge is learning to develop yourself, especially once you have found your place in this career and feel settled.  You must continuously strive to improve your own teaching day in and day out.  Here are some ideas to consider when you want to improve and develop your own teaching or if you want to be a better teacher overall.

1. Reflect on your lessons

It seems like commonsense but for some teachers that I have observed, they have difficulty reflecting and improving their own lessons.  If you have observed or a teacher has taught a lesson which didn’t go as expected, most would have the knowledge that their lesson could have been improved.  So, next time you teach a prepared lesson, reflect on the lesson afterwards and try to learn or improve it for next time.  When reflecting on lessons, consider the following:

  • Did the students enjoy the lesson?
  • Did I achieve my personal aims at the end of the class?  Why/why not?
  • Were all students engaged?
  • Was I interesting?

2. Record your lessons with video

If you have any difficulty on reflecting your lessons, or you wish to consider studying your lesson in more detail, you could record your own lesson to analyse afterwards.  You will be able to see your own habits, become more aware of where you are usually placed in the classroom as well as see your own instructions or pick up any things that could be lost during the process of teaching.  It is a really useful activity and I would highly recommend doing this at least once every six months.

3. Consider your aims

When you are preparing your lessons, think about the following: “By the end of the lesson, students will be able to …”.  If you follow this mantra, you will be able to improve your aims/objectives of the lesson and the lesson itself.  For example, if you want to get students to practice reviewing/remembering irregular verbs, you could think about how you could students to review or remember the verbs.  Do you want to create a pelmanism game or do you want to create a bingo game?  It seems so simple but the number of times that I have seen teachers struggling to prepare a lesson for their learners is surprising.

4. Incorporate the phonemic chart in lessons

Newly certified teachers have little confidence in using the phonemic chart in class but it takes a short amount of time to become more comfortable with this.  Try to incorporate a little but often.  Watch the phonemic video on YouTube with Adrian Underhill and you will find opportunities to include during the lesson.  If you are pre-teaching vocabulary, look up or try to guess the phonemic spelling in an English dictionary and then be prepared to include phonemic spelling in one section of the lesson.

5. Use flashcards in lessons

Teachers don’t often use flashcards as much as they could, especially for young learner classes.  Try to create some flashcards for use in a lesson, so if you are teaching parts of the body, create some flashcards on this lexical area and use some flashcard teaching ideas to include in lessons.  Learners will be more engaged and you will have less classroom management issues if you are dealing with the whole class during drilling or pronunciation activities with the flashcards.

More ideas for teaching flashcards available here.

6. Observe your peers

If you are keen to improve your lessons, try to observe your peers.  Ask your Director of Studies or line manager whether you are able to observe other teachers and focus on one area whilst observing: instructions, classroom management, drilling, etc.  You will pick up new ideas for teaching and find yourself more confident after observing your colleagues.  However, it is incredibly important that you have time to have a chat with your observed teacher afterwards so you can share ideas, opinions and general views of the lesson.

7. Being observed

If you are keen to observe other teachers, it is natural to open your classroom to your colleagues.  Furthermore, it is always important to be observed as well as observe your peers.  You could ask your colleagues if they are able to look at one aspect of the lesson if you are concerned about it.  Just like observing other classes, it is important to chat with the observer to find out any further information about your class.

8. Expect more from your students

If you are putting in the effort with your classes but the students remain limited or passive with their response to this, tell them to be more active in class.  Obviously, you won’t be able to change the dynamics of the classroom but you can gently remind them that it is in their best interest to be more involved in their learning.  Praise students who do make the effort to participate and are more active during the lesson and students will change accordingly.

9. Experiment during lessons

When teaching, you may often find yourself repeating or organising lessons with a similar format, try something new.  If you have not taught much grammar, try to cover this area of language, if you are keen teach a bit of pronunciation include it or if you haven’t included any form of technology, try using it.  You will learn something if you experiment or push yourself to try new things in the classroom.  However, should you decide not to experiment during lessons, your classes will be affected.

10. Become less coursebook reliant

There are two distinct types of teachers, those that follow the coursebook religiously and those that like to trek off the well trodden path while taking the most advantage from exploratory teaching techniques.  Try to create lessons with your aims in mind and use your coursebook to springboard ideas.  Refer to other supplementary worksheets or exercises to assist in the development of becoming less reliant on the coursebook.

11. Read books on ELT

You have finished your CELTA and you are constantly referring to “Learning Teaching” (Scrivener) or “The Practice of English Language Teaching” (Harmer) but you haven’t read anything else since.  Visit some online book shops (Amazon or BEBC) and order some additional books on ELT or specific areas of interest (teaching young learners, technology, listening, role-play, etc).  The majority of these books will often contain various lesson ideas which you could incorporate in the classroom.

12. Start an ELT blog

If you have started your career in ELT, it is often a difficult to take on board everything when you start teaching.  One way around this is to get your thoughts, ideas and views written down and to share these with other teachers.  You will retain a lot more if you read and reflect what you consider important in ELT and you will also get to know more about other ELT bloggers.

13. Follow ELT blogs

You have made your first step of creating your very own ELT blog, as recommended before, but you want to connect with other ELT bloggers, so what is the best way?  It is very simple.  Follow some other ELT bloggers, add some comments, connect with other bloggers and respond to what you have read – whether you write up your own blog post as a response or comment in the comment’s section is up to you.  When you connect with other English language teachers, you will be able to share like-minded ideas or opinions.

14. Consider yourself a learner

When planning your lessons, try to put yourself in the learner’s shoes and consider what you think would work well in your learner’s opinion.  Forget what you believe is important and appropriate, but try to teach what your learners expect.  When you are able to deliver lessons that your learners want, you will have no trouble at all finding work in the future.

15. Attend a conference

Setting up your own website or blog could be a great chance to connect with and share ideas with other English language teachers but it is not the same as meeting ELT professionals face-to-face.  One place to meet other English language teachers could be at an arranged ELT-related conference such as the annual IATEFL Conference held each year, or more regular events arranged by English UK or the Teaching English Seminars.  You will be able to attend a conference, learn a bit more about the profession as well as meet other attendees.

16. Give a talk at a conference

So you are attending all these conferences but you feel that you have the desire to share your experiences or ideas, then giving a talk at a conference is an ideal suggestion.  Naturally, you will feel slightly nervous the first talk that you give at a national or international conference but the more practice and experience you gain at an event, the more you feel better placed to train other teachers.  You will have some teachers at the end of the talk share their experiences or request that you give a talk at another venue and opportunities will develop.

17. Use authentic material

Whether you want to move away from the coursebook or you have a desire to bring in the real world to the classroom, for the benefit of your learners, authentic material has a place in the language classroom.  Try to, at least once per week, bring in some authentic material to the classroom: a clip from a radio show, a video from YouTube or newspapers.  You may find that you are intrinsically motivated to push your students further and expose them to natural and less artificial English, which may be the case with some graded coursebooks.

You don’t just have to restrict yourself to the authentic material and may find yourself seeking for authentic and natural contexts to prepare learners for the topic in the coursebook.  For example, if your topic for the lesson is about pets and animals, you may find a clip from a TV or radio show appropriate to develop interest, but there is a little preparation required.  However, students will recognise the effort you put into your lessons and, hopefully, appreciate it.

Example of Context Building:

  • What is the name of the cat?
  • Why is the cat at the vet?
  • Do you think vets are cheap or expensive?
  • Are vets cheap or expensive in your country?
  • Has this surgery with a cat been done before?
  • What is the vet’s opinion of the surgery?
  • Where do you think this surgery is located?

18. Try out different methods of teaching

You are slowly becoming aware of the different methods of teaching due to continued reading and reflection but you are stuck with incorporating your very own communicative approach in the classroom, but you feel that you would like to push the boundaries or your knowledge and try something new in the classroom.  One way to do this is to try a more traditional approach, such as drilling or a less student centred approach.  You will learn that there is a place for various methods and approaches in the language classroom and that they will also inform your very own teaching.

19. Write a journal article

When you are teaching and you notice something that other teachers or educationalists do not initially recognise, a good approach to inform those is to write an article for a respectable journal such as IATEFL Voices or for another publication such as one of the Special Interest Groups in ELT.  You will learn more about language teaching and you shall have the chance to share your experiences, opinions or views with potential readers.  One possible opportunity which may come from this could be being invited to give a talk on the article that you had written.

20. Read a journal article

If you are writing an article for a respected journal, you may as well read other articles and respond to these articles by getting in touch with the contributor and sharing your very own ideas, opinions or views.  You will extend your subject knowledge of ELT and acquire more information about teaching in various other contexts such as South East Asia, Europe, etc.  Furthermore, you may discover some teaching ideas from the various journals that you are reading and this could be incorporated into your future lessons.