ELT Experiences

Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Personal Update and Thanks for 10,000 Subscribers

Hello. This is a short blog post to provide an update with regards to my what has been happening recently and to thank all those that have subscribed to my YouTube Channel.

Over the past month, I have been rather quiet and took a short break from producing video content for my YouTube Channel – there has been quite a bit on my mind and I have had to process much. I shall share this in the future but for now I am happier and more content. One reason for this was being asked to teach a short week course for a group of Spanish teenagers for a local language school – you can read more about it in this blog post. This really got me out the house and put me back where I enjoy – the classroom!

Anyhow, there is a video below where I provide a bit of an update. I am planning to release more content on YouTube in the coming weeks and it would be wonderful if you could subscribe (if you haven’t already).

I told you this was a short blog post! Anyhow, that is it for me today and I hope you have a good rest of the week. Stay safe and happy teaching all!

The First Teenage Group of Students Post-Pandemic in the UK

In the old staffroom preparing for the week ahead and getting resources from LinguaHouse.

The past couple of years have really caused havoc for the English language sector in the UK, with many language schools closing completely down over the past two years. Only recently, in the UK, have we started to feel a sense of normalcy returning with some schools private English language schools opening up to international students once again. Only the past few weeks, have I noticed more students locally, wandering around my hometown – something which was once considered the norm a few years ago. On a personal level, I know a handful of people who have travelled from abroad to the UK with nominal checks before and after arriving. So in terms of English language teaching, the UK is open for business with international students having the opportunity to visit and experience what was lost the past few years, so much so that I was asked to teach a small group of teenage Spanish learners over the Easter break, for a week.

I popped into the school the week before to reacquaint myself with the various material available and to pencil down a possible weekly plan. It took a few hours to get everything together but I was quite happy and then I was asked to cover an adult class for an hour while my ex-Director of Studies undertook some tutorials with his students. It was quite an interesting lesson and I thought about focusing on pronunciation and vowel sounds as this would help these Elementary / Pre-Intermediate adult learners develop their skills with listening and generating appropriate awareness of British pronunciation. It included a listening task with some comprehension questions and the students done a good work picking out all the necessary answers from the listening. Personally, it was a good chance to be lowered softly into the private English teaching industry post-pandemic.

I had to take a little time to get used to using the physical whiteboard!

Before I knew it, the lesson was over and I was registering as an employee for the school for the week ahead. All was submitted and I was out the door, returning to the school to teach a new group of young Spanish teenagers, and this was when the butterflies and nerves started to grip. I guess some experienced teachers and tutors not mention the amount gravity of such apprehension when dealing with new students. First lessons always provide a healthy balance of nerves and keen me on my toes. Anyhow, I had a few days to relax before returning to the school to teach a full week with new students.

The weekend seemed to whizz by, and I was back in the school around 8am to get my material photocopied in preparation for the 9am start of class. I met all students, who were divided into three classes. I took my students into their classroom, where I decided to start what had been the usual get to know you activities with the true and false statements, with students having to predict which were true or false, but this ended up finishing far too quickly. I then realised that the students were not provided with any books or pens, so I had to incorporate some engaging yet ‘material light’ activities in class for the 45 minutes. I then rushed to the DoS’s room to collect said pens and materials for the students. I returned to class and most of the week, I attempted to connect both the morning lessons with the students social activities in the afternoon. I even used LinguaHouse’s material which was received adequately with the students. Interestingly, I have only used LinguaHouse’s material within an online environment and the students seemed appreciative of the tasks – one advantage of this material is it is topic-based and hopefully more engaging for students. The only time that I decided to focus on my own source of material was when I was introducing the learners to the phonemic chart and British pronunciation – I discovered early on that the Spanish group of learners had difficulty with ‘-ed’ verb endings, often mixing up the pronunciation from /t/ to /id/.

I attempted to introduce the phonemic chart to teenagers and use the phonemic script when teaching!

One thing the students reminded me to use in class was Kahoot! I had used this with face-to-face course in the past and it was so refreshing to use this application again in the last ten minutes of class. It engaged the learners and they were the ones requesting that we use it in class.

Before I knew it, I was now on Friday, having taught the students for the week. I asked the school if I were to be paid time and a half due it being Good Friday, but I was told this wasn’t the case. I was slightly miffed by this as another adult teacher was contracted to be paid time and a half, so my feathers were a little ruffled, which prompted me to share a poll on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of participants indicated that being paid time and a half should be the case.

Should EFL teachers be paid time and a half when working public holidays?

However, I should mention that there is no UK law in place where employees should be entitled to time and a half when working on public holidays. One thing that I used to do a few years ago was to work public holidays and then take the time off in lieu and combining with holiday entitlement, usually with a holiday to Korea or elsewhere. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to teach a group of young learners as it had been over three years – even before the pandemic – since I had last taught a closed group. Naturally, I was nervous to begin with but over the coming days, I rediscovered my passion for teaching, particularly face-to-face, and regained my confidence once again.

How do I feel moving on with teaching face-to-face? Well, I feel more comfortable and happy to teach groups of learners, whether adults or young learners. I am also aware that I hold a great deal of flexibility when it comes down to teaching either for a University, a local language school or independently as a freelance online tutor. As students regain their confidence to return to learning in-class or on-campus, I feel more confidence with my employability. It has certainly, without a doubt, been a challenging few years with many suffering from economically from the pandemic. I know some great EFL teachers who have moved on to other more stable forms of income, with some working within the NHS or within different industries. Personally, I am fascinated by languages, cultures, and travelling, with the opportunities to be exposed to varied cultures and individuals continues my fascination so it is unimaginable to think that I side-step General, Academic English teaching or exam preparation such as IELTS.

I hope you found my ramblings of some use and that it struck a chord. Here’s to a better 2022 for the English teaching industry.

Teaching About British Food: Full Lesson Plan

Hello all and welcome to a brief post featuring a full lesson with materials and lesson structure which you could use for your class. This lesson is geared towards Intermediate to Advanced learners and should last 60 minutes.

1. Lesson Introduction

Start the lesson by asking students there favourite food in the home country, as well as what food they like from the UK. Write up some of the language on the whiteboard and scaffold vocabulary where necessary. Choose one food that is from the student’s country and ask them to explain it in English, write up language and correct where necessary.

Tell students that they are going to learn a little more about British food and the type of food that is either cooked at home or ordered at a British pub. See what English food they know and tell them that there is more to food than just fish and chips.

2. Picture Matching

Explain to students that the first task is to match the name of the food to the corresponding picture. Tell them not to use smartphones or tablets to search for the food online but to guess, and not to worry about mistakes. Hand out the first task to students, explain that they should complete this alone, and monitor where necessary.

Once students have finished matching, ask them to compare their answers with each other for a few minutes. Finally, elicit potential answers from students, writing up their ideas on the whiteboard, and correct where necessary.

3. Description to Name Matching

Tell students that they are now to match the description of food, and that they should try to match the name and picture to this. Use the first description as an example and read it out to students, get students to predict the name of the food. Once you receive the correct name, tell them that they must write the name in the right-hand column on the worksheet.

Tell students not to translate any language at this point but to try to understand it from context. Hand out the worksheet and monitor learners assisting where necessary. Once students have finished, mix the learners up in class and get them to compare each other’s answers, before eliciting and sharing the correct answers with each other.

4. Language Review

The next step is for students to review some of the language from the reading. Tell learners to highlight or underline any language that they struggled with but to not check a dictionary or translation tool yet. Once students have highlighted language from the reading, get them to check with each other first to see if their peers know the language and vice versa.

The next step is to highlight ‘-ed’ endings with some of the language and to review pronunciation (i.e. ‘mixed‘ /t/ ‘pickled‘ /d/ ‘roasted‘ /id/). Create a table on the whiteboard and get students to highlight words with ‘ed’ endings and to decide what their pronunciation is; /t/, /d/, or /id/. Review as a class and assist where necessary, drill and correct.

Finally, handout Exercise 3 to the class with the key language, with students needing to decide what the word form is (noun, verb, adjective, etc.). You can hand a monolingual English dictionary out to students and ask them to look for definitions or ask them to head over to Google and ask them to type ‘Define [word]’. Google will provide a brief explanation of the word as well as an example sentence.

Once students have found a definition, tell students to predict the possible translation in their L1 before they check the translation. This in itself develops learner confidence and usage in their L2. The more times learners are correct in predicting possible translations, the more confident they will become.

5. Review Vocabulary

You could review vocabulary by asking students to get into two groups in single files and playing a ‘broken telephones’ style game where learners whisper a word from above to the person in front and the student at the front of the class has to write the chosen word. An alternative to reviewing the vocabulary with this game is by playing ‘hangman’ or ‘pictionary’.


Lesson Material

The material for this lesson is available to download below. It is available in Word format and can be adapted to suit your teaching context.

If you do find this lesson useful or have feedback, please let me know in the comments. It would be great to know what you thought of it.

Using WordSift to Analyse Academic Articles and Essay Questions

I happened across a website called WordSift the other day, which offers teachers and learners the assistance to visualise vocabulary (and connected language) in a memorable and pleasing manner, and thought that this would be a useful tool for assisting students with their academic vocabulary development as well as offering teachers an additional resource. In this post, I shall share a few initial ideas that I have had about incorporating WordSift into possible future EAP and preparatory courses.

Analysing Academic Articles

The first thought that I had was for students to analyse the language within selected academic articles (related to potential student readings) that they have discovered from their initial research. In this example, I decided on an academic article, Assessing academic writing on a pre-sessional EAP course: Designing assessment which supports learning’ written by Seviour (2015).

I selected all text from the article, and then pasted this into WordSift, which provides an immediate review of all language in the form of a WordCloud. This WordCloud provides an instant visualisation of the most commonly used language within a given text. Each word can then be clicked upon to in the WordCloud and below connected lexis is given. For example, I clicked on the word ‘assessment’, which was used 47 times in the article, and a visualised thesaurus was offered.

As well as a visualised thesaurus, or what the website calls ‘WordNet Visualization’, related language is available to view with an ‘in context’ view. Such language includes ‘appraisal’, ‘judgement’, or ‘classification’. However, what I am more interested in are the chunks of language that allow teachers (and students) to analyse such lexis. Patterns are recognised promptly, with so much potential being offered. From a brief minute of analysing the word ‘assessment’, I discovered the following language chunks:

  • assessment activities
  • formative assessment
  • summative assessment
  • a particular assessment task
  • feedback on assessment
  • various assessment criteria

So how could this help learners? Well my thought is that EAP students could import particular reading related to a provided essay title which would allow them to discover the most common academic language by marking vocabulary from the Academic Word List, with such language being highlighted in blue.

Students could then analyse the most common academic language within context and build up their awareness of lexical chunks. This in turn would aid the academic writing process with students now using the most common lexical chunks that would be most natural within an academic essay.

Using Essay Titles

The final thought about WordSift is that students could use this to analyse essay titles to help them develop synonyms and other lexical connections to key words. Such language could then be used to search for suitable and related academic articles. I chose an essay title from a previous EAP course to see how this would fit with this process, this being related to national education and the aid of international agencies.

I copied and pasted the essay title/question into WordSift. This very brief analysis (of only 21 words), provided some insight into even the most common Academic Language, with 4 words being picked up from the Academic Word List. Such language highlighted from the visualised thesaurus provided potential synonyms which could then be used within an academic article search by students. It was an interesting exercise and I would very much like to incorporate WordSift into future EAP courses, and to see how student uptake is regarding this tool.

It would be interesting to see what other EAP practitioners think about WordSift and whether it has any potential in an EAP context. Share your thoughts and practical ideas of using this tool in the classroom in the comments – it would be good to hear what others would have to say.

How To Work With SEND Students

For the past month, I have been supplementing my English teaching income by working as a Teaching Assistant within the mainstream education system in the UK, especially with those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Having spent this time developing an awareness of the issues surrounding SEND and the all encompassing yet broad stroke applied to any students having difficulty with learning in an educational setting, I thought it would be nice to share my experiences and strategies that I have incorporated to deal with SEND students, particularly for those English language teachers finding themselves having to supplement their earnings who have minimal experience within this area of employment.

Before continuing the reading of this post, I would highly recommend the following TED Talk to give you an idea about living with autism.

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Developing Academic Awareness: Lesson Plan

One of the biggest challenges which was discovered is ensuring that the awareness surrounding academic culture with international students is accessible and that students, regardless their nationality, understand of what is expected of them in an academic setting. This lesson is best suited for international students first on their journey with UK academia.

Activity 1

Place students into small groups to discuss for 5 minutes:

  • What do you think are the biggest differences between studying at university in your home country and in the UK?
  • What do you think are the similarities between studying at university in your home country and in the UK?
  • What do you do to develop cultural awareness in the UK?
  • What clubs or associations could you join in a UK university? Have you joined any yet?

Once students have discussed, elicit and board up their ideas and answers to share as a class. Try to find out more information about a student’s home country and their academic culture.

Activity 2

Move students back into a small group again and hand out the following worksheet attached below. Allow students to discuss in their small groups, before checking answers as a whole class (suggested answers are included on page 2 of the worksheet and much depend on each individual institute).

Activity 3

Get students to compare academic behaviour and culture with their home countries to the UK. Get students to consider the potential drawbacks of cultural misunderstanding while studying at their undergraduate or postgraduate courses. Here are some suggested questions below to prompt discussion.

  • What advice would you give other students studying in your home country to help them understand academic culture?
  • What do you think are the differences between tutorials, seminars, and lectures?
  • How could misunderstanding hinder your studies and progress?
  • What is the best way to integrate into UK academia?
  • What resources are available to help you with your academic studies at university and how do you find this?

Activity 4

Introduce students towards what services or support is available for their academic studies or study skills to help them understand what is expected while they study at their university.

How To Complete IELTS Task 1: Bar Charts

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 can be rather complicated for students but as we know, there are a variety of graphs or data that needs to be reported – one of which are bar charts. In this post, we shall look at the elements required for completing IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 and reporting Bar Charts.

Despite a video tutorial being available to complement this post, I will also refer to the following bar chart below regarding Coffee Consumption Habits in Italy during 2019.


There is a recommended outline for writing IELTS Task 1 regardless the data, and this includes the following.

General Statement

I always recommend all my IELTS students to write a General Statement to guide the reader into the topic. If your data is to report on coffee consumption, it is best to write a brief sentence introducing the topic; i.e. ‘Coffee is now widely consumed by many people around the world.’

Introduction

In the introduction, you need to explain to the examiner what you will include in your written report; i.e. ‘In this brief report, I will look at how regularly coffee is consumed between males and females in Italy during 2019’.

Overview

Within the overview, it is recommended to write briefly about possible patterns or trends that you notice in the chart. For example, you could write ‘From the chart above, you may notice that the vast majority of male and females consumers of coffee purchase two or three times a day, while the least frequently are more than five times per day.’

Detailed Paragraph 1 and 2

This is where the candidate provides more information about the data and compares or contrasts information offered, so you could write ‘Despite those least frequently purchasing coffee for both male and female consumers, that being 5% and 6% respectively, there is minimal change for those that never purchase coffee with each being 8% and 9% respectively. Women typically consume more coffee compared to the male counterparts with those purchasing coffee either 2-3 times (53% to 48%) or more than five times per day (6% to 5%). However, most male consumers typically purchase coffee more than women once (18% to 17%) or 4-5 times per day. (21% to 15%).’

Final Points and Complete Writing

There are just a couple of points to remember. Try to write within the limit that is set. Normally, during the IELTS Task 1 Writing examination, candidates are expected to write no less than 150 words. It is important that you 150 words or more, but how much is too much? I would suggest that if you are writing more than 250 words, then it is too much. Here is the complete writing as suggested following the aforementioned structure below, with a total of 155 words.

Coffee is now widely consumed by many people around the world. In this brief report, I will look at how regularly coffee is consumed between males and females in Italy during 2019.

From the chart above, you may notice that the vast majority of male and females consumers of coffee purchase two or three times a day, while the least frequently are more than five times per day.

Despite those least frequently purchasing coffee for both male and female consumers, that being 5% and 6% respectively, there is minimal change for those that never purchase coffee with each being 8% and 9% respectively. Women typically consume more coffee compared to the male counterparts with those purchasing coffee either 2-3 times (53% to 48%) or more than five times per day (6% to 5%). However, most male consumers typically purchase coffee more than women once (18% to 17%) or 4-5 times per day. (21% to 15%).


As you can see above, there is a specific structure to IELTS writing regardless what you are reporting. Nevertheless, there is also a suggested video that demonstrates how I respond to a possible IELTS Academic Task 1 question related to bar charts below. This will offer a little more information regarding how to structure and include the aforementioned points into IELTS academic writing tasks.

I hope the post helps either students or those English teachers that wish to learn a little more about how best to prepare students for IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. If this did indeed help, don’t forget to let me know in the comments as this would be greatly appreciated.

Ask Lingua: Website Review

I hope you have had a good week with all your teaching. It has been a while since I have reviewed a website for teaching or potential learning opportunities for students. Funnily enough, I was asked to review one website which is aimed for language learners which is similar to the game that I used to play as a child called ‘Guess Who’. The website in question is Ask Lingua.

You are greeted on the first screen whether you wish to choose American English, British English, or Spanish. Some guidance is provided but I feel that a brief video on repeat detailing this information would be better. Nevertheless, if you have played ‘Guess Who’, then the main principle is intuitive.

You compete against the computer, with both you and the website selecting an individual character. During the game, you must ask controlled questions such as ‘Does the person have green eyes?’, ‘Does he/she have long hair?’ or ‘Does he/she wear a hat?’. The computer or yourself, answers ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and over a short while, characters are removed. The aim of the game is to decide which character the computer has chosen, and vice versa. The winner is to successfully determine who the chosen individual is.

I played the game twice: the first time I managed to win within five minutes, while the second time I lost. What I found beneficial for potential students is the fact that learners can reinforce question formation structure and asking questions: ‘Does he/she have …?’, ‘Is he/she …?’, etc. There are a variety of tasks to aid learners with question structure – similar to DuoLingo in a way: word ordering, typing, and multiple choice question selection.

Students are able to create question forms using a variety of tasks such as the word ordering activity above

The website is accessible on both laptop and mobile devices – I tried both. The game is fun and engaging, particularly with young learners, and it reinforces potential language focus: question formation and describing people. Personally, it would be a fun website to be used in the class with an interactive whiteboard, encouraging learners to compete against the computer. It would certainly be more interactive if learners were able to compete against each other with a person-to-person function. However, it is a great little application which you could get online learners to use as part of you lessons.

The overall score regarding this website is four out of five. It has great potential for both the physical and online classroom, but there are possibilities for it being made more interactive and connected in both virtual and physical classrooms. Nevertheless, one website to bookmark and use with students.

Overall Score: 4/5

Developing Materials for Online Lessons

Welcome to another daily blog post where I look at another aspect of online lessons, and today I am look at develop materials for remote purposes. In this post, I’ll be sharing personal thoughts that I have regarding the creation of materials more suitable for online lessons.

One of the biggest challenges faced by tutors moving from a physical classroom to a remote environment, or possibly newly certified English language teachers, is the development of materials for potential online lessons. Essentially, teaching material should be engaging, memorable, and accessible, which helps supplement the overall aims and strategies of the lesson.

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Feedback In An Online Teaching Environment

Today’s blog follows on eight hours of online lessons over the course of a day – probably one of the longest stretches of teaching remotely – so apologies for the lack of readability or stating the obvious. Anyhow, in this post, I thought that it would be best to focus on the aspects of feedback provision within an online environment, after previous posts on dealing with first lessons with private students and another with online activities to get students speaking.

When one is not within the constraints of a physical classroom, an English teacher may find the online distance further enhances the separation to provide feedback in a prompt and candid manner. Most students that book private lessons, explain that they have received little feedback from previous teachers, and the main reason for finding another tutor is due to this. Thus, it is crucial for all online private tutors to provide a level of feedback that is expected by students.

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