Last week, I was inducting some new teachers into our school: preparing them for their teaching career for the year ahead. We looked at various areas about teaching: classroom management, get to know you activities, games in the classroom, etc. The final area we looked at was about continuing professional development (CPD). We looked at formal and peer observations, attending workshops, contributing to workshops as well as blogging. All teachers with varying years of experience, including a teacher who had just completed her CELTA (or equivalent), had only come across the mainstream websites related to English language teaching (TEFL.com, Dave’s ESL Cafe or Teaching English) yet had not really considered blogging a tool for CPD.
What is a blog?
A blog is a website which is updated frequently and resembles a journal or diary. Most ELT bloggers used their personal website to reflect on teaching, suggest lesson ideas and activities, develop teacher networking, create a professional portfolio of achievements as well as to promote their own services either as an online English teacher or as a freelance teacher trainer.
Why should teachers have a blog?
Nowadays, people use their own blogs to write about experiences and opinions on a range of topics and interests. So a blog can be a personal space for teachers to share their ideas of teaching and to better reflect on what could be improved in the classroom. However, I have now found that initially it was a lot easier to draft up some ideas of posts about varying lesson ideas yet after more and more recognition, I have noticed that I now only want to write a post which is going to be recognised or bring in the number of visitors to my blog. Nevertheless, teachers can use a blog to connect with teachers, not just within the staffroom, and are not constrained by a physical location. Therefore, blogging teachers can communicate and share ideas, experiences and reflect on teaching and the overall profession with those that are based somewhere else in the world. Coupled with the fact that blogs encourage readers to leave comments or likes as well as offer tools to subscribe for future posts, promotes self-support.
What should I blog about?
When I started blogging, all I wanting to do was to create a diary of my teaching and to develop my written ability as I had decided to undertake an MA in English Language Teaching at the time. My very first blog post was just about a quote that I heard about language learning and I connected it to my teaching in such a somewhat cringy fashion. I deleted this blog post some years later, unable to really appreciate something that I first posted but it gave me direction and I suppose that if I had never really started blogging, this website would not be around now. After reading other blogs and deciding on a suitable focus, I have found the best areas to focus on:
The Top 10 Ways To …: This type of post allows me to think about an area of teaching and think of my favourite ten things associated with it. You can combine this with something associated with lesson planning, project work, pairing students, etc. You are not constrained by a topic but with a title such as “The Top 10 Ways To Get Students Working” will really grab the reader’s attention and offers practical ways for readers to incorporate ideas into the classroom.
How To Teach …: If you are struggling on one area of teaching, you can think about writing a blog post about. Again, similar to the idea above, you are not constrained by any particular idea. So if you are struggling with young learners in the classroom, why not read up a little bit more about it, plan a lesson, reflect and then write your post on “How To Teach With Young Learners”?
Teaching … In 5 Easy Steps: Do you want to think about the best way to teach a particular skill such as listening or reading as well as a specific grammar point? Then the best post would be to demonstrate your own ideas about this. You may get a reader thinking about something related and will thank you for your insight or you may get another reader who could offer a different idea about this and give you some further inspiration.
The Book Review: This is a solid blog post. If you buy a book or you read one in your staffroom, why not review it on your blog? It is simply and easy. You never know, you may get some publishers wanting you to review a new book or coursebook and you might be lucky enough to sent a free review copy. But don’t forget, it’s important to honour that support by publishers by posting up a book review.
The Lesson Plan: One of the popular posts that I seem to have on my website, and I really should tidy it up a bit more so that they are a bit more accessible to readers, are those of lesson plans. You can write up your own lesson plan with all the staging, materials and handouts included or attached/embedded to the post. Some teachers have devoted an entire website to lesson plans and lesson ideas. This is a great way to develop your own resources and to get feedback from other teachers who try it out for you. A real learning curve for materials development. Some publishing house may snap your ideas up and incorporate them into a new coursebook and ask for your help by finishing a chapter or the entire coursebook.
Learning English: As you can focus your entire blog to English language teachers, you can also dedicate part of your blog/website to English language learners. You can have a very simple lesson and include some tasks or self-study components for your own learners to supplement their own learning from the classroom but share it with the rest of the English learners in the world.
So you can see from the above six ideas that you are not really limited by anything apart from your own imagination. You can use some of the tried and tested ideas above to write your very personalised ideas and reflections about English teaching. In a future blog post, I shall look at what platforms available for blogging and things to consider when setting up your very own blog. I hope you have enjoyed this post, as it is slightly different to my normal blog posts, and let me know your own experiences of blogging. Anyhow, what ideas do you have when blogging? Why do you blog? What are the best areas to consider when blogging?
I recorded this lesson at my work of a fellow teacher preparing learners with functional language for debates and expressing points of view. It was a great lesson and I was so grateful being able to observe and record such a valuable lesson. I now thought that I will share this lesson with you all to see how my colleague is able to engage, motivate and support learners during a lesson. Enjoy!
Edit: One reader requested the handout which was used during the lesson. This can be viewed below.
On 8 October 2016, I gave a workshop at the University of Brighton as part of the IATEFL PronSIG event. It was a great event and there were some wonderful talks. Unfortunately, I had to leave at 3pm. As has been requested, I have shared my slides for my talk. I hope that these are useful and I will be uploading a video of the workshop in the next few days. Many thanks for the kind words and don’t forget to ask any questions below.
Here is a teacher training session which I gave over at Brighton. It focused on tips for teaching young learners.
I gave a teacher training session in Brighton earlier today, named “Top Tips for Young Learner Teachers“. The training session was around an hour and a half but there were plenty of things to keep everyone occupied. The training session was aimed for teachers, both experienced or those fresh of a CELTA Course, with relatively limited experience teaching young learners. The slides for this training session can be viewed below.
A few years ago I wrote a blog post about 10 Websites for English Language Teachers. At the time it seemed to be quite popular with readers but it suddenly dawned that I did not write about any websites which would be best suited for learners of English. So read on to find out the 10 websites which I recommend for learners of English.
1. ESOL Courses
This wonderful self-study website, ESOL Courses, is great for students as all lessons are available online, there is no registration so lessons are free and they cover a range of areas as well as levels. I was first introduced to this website when I met Sue Lyon-Jones and she was referring to this website. I would definitely recommend students to look at this website and do some of the lessons in their spare time.
2. BBC Learning English
I have been using the BBC Learning English website since I first started English language teaching in South Korea. I always used to refer my students to it so that they could develop their own listening and vocabulary skills in their own time. The website has obviously developed and improved over time and there are now videos and activities.
3. Five Minute English
This website, Five Minute English, was one that I came across by accident and it contains quite a number of lessons which focus on listening, grammar, vocabulary as well as a range of other skills. It is fantastic and students can look at this website in their free time. The website is basic but content is good for students to study a little bit more after lessons and is invaluable for those students who have very little time for self-study.
4. ESL Podcast
This website, ESL Podcast, has small listening lessons for students to learn vocabulary and idiomatic expressions related to a particular theme. When students look at the lesson, there is a script. There are not any activities but it is just an additional opportunity for learners to improve their listening skills in their own time.
5. English Page
English Page is an engaging learner focused website which offers areas of study with grammar, vocabulary as well as weekly lessons. It is a useful website with exercises within the website so students do not have to download or print activities. This can reinforce what is being studied during lessons.
Flo-Joe has been around for years and I was introduced to it when I was working in Korea as it was the go-to website as lessons were associated with Cambridge ESOL Examinations and it still is. It is still an invaluable website for those learners that are preparing for examinations such as the PET, KET, FCE or any other Cambridge ESOL focused examination. Students will develop a lot of exam skills and they will be able to use this in their free time.
7. English at Home
English at Home is a great website for students as there is a focus on spoken English, vocabulary and grammar. There are lessons available but most of the activities are basic ‘choose the correct answer’. However, it is a useful website that students could use to refer to during their selfstudy.
You cannot write a blog post for learners of any language who wishes to study in their own time without mentioning the great DuoLingo website/application. I have this on my phone whenever I feel inspired to study French or German. However, there are courses for students whose first language is not English but wish to selfstudy English. For example, a South Korean student can access DuoLingo and learn English with the ease of using their L1. You should definitely recommend your learners to access this website on their smartphones or on their laptop.
9. Breaking News English
This is a wonderful website for students who wish to learn more about what is happening around the world, with regular updates to Breaking News English by Sean Banville. Students have free access to all lessons and activities as well as the audio. Students may need some support and introduction to the website but you could always get learners to complete a listening activity as part of their homework and then share their experiences of learning through this website.
10. University of Victoria Study Zone
The University of Victoria has free access to a Study Zone and learners may benefit from the numerous online lessons. It is primarily aimed for students from the University of Victoria. This website has a lot of resources available for students with a focus on grammar, vocabulary and reading. It does require a bit of learner training but once students have developed confidence with the website, it could supplement lessons quite nicely. Lessons are organised into levels and there is also a grammar index.
As an idea for getting students to become more aware of online content to complement their studies, I try to show the websites in class with a class set of laptops or Chromebooks, students then choose a lesson, from one of the websites, to complete during the lesson. After they have completed a lesson, they then chat to their partner about the website and for homework I organise students to write about their thoughts of the self-study content and a review with a Google Drive document, which can then be shared to all other learners when they return to class another day.
What are your favourite websites to get students to learn English outside of the classroom? Do you recommend any that have not been mentioned here? Do you have any activities that you incorporate in class to supplement learner autonomy and training?
*An update to this post and to all my readers. I was nominated and successfully won the delightful Teaching English Blog of the Month Award. A huge thanks to everyone at the British Council for their support and massive thanks to all my readers, colleagues and friends for their help. To receive recognition for the work that I do and the blog that I maintain is fantastic, so a big thank you to everyone.
It has been an incredibly busy year at work and home. Unfortunately, the biggest problem this has created is the lack of opportunity to blog more consistently. The flip side is that what I have written – which I aimed to be more practical and supportive for English language practitioners – was practical with some ideas for readers to incorporate in their own class. I have decided to review five of the most popular posts from this year.
This was initially written to answer some of the questions which my Facebook Group is constantly faced with: “What books do I purchase for the CELTA?“. It seemed rather popular with over 7,000 visitors checking this post out and commenting on it as well. Many thanks for finding this a useful post.
Another popular post was, again, CELTA-related dedicated for those wishing to undertake a CELTA (or equivalent initial teacher training) course. It followed the most popular format on my blog by offering small nuggets of information which the reader could digest and use.
This post was more practical and aimed for current teachers of English. When I wrote this, I was always looking for a different way to introduce target language and wanted to be as creative as possible. In the end, I thought it would be worthwhile to put some of my ideas down and share with my readers.
At our school, we were going through a process of observing teachers and during this time, I thought about some of the lessons that I had observed with teachers with years of experience but was still left scratching my head with questions such as “Why did you do that?” or “What did the students get out of the lesson?”. I decided to get some things straight by sharing some things to consider when you, I or anyone else has a lesson observation. Read the post for more information.
In our school, we had some in-house teacher training sessions and one was the idea of using QR Codes as part of lessons. After the training session, I decided to get back to the drawing board and by writing up some lesson ideas to accompany the session and share with my teachers in our school. It seemed so worthwhile and, as has experienced, some of the teachers needed a helping hand on how to create the QR Codes and what to do with them. Thus, after I created a handout to share, I decided it was worthy of a blog post and decided to share with my readers. I hope you found it worthy.
So these were the most popular posts for 2015. What was your most popular post on your blog? Nevertheless, apologies for my lack of writing this year. It is one of my aims for 2016 is to write more often and to engage more with you, the readers.
What would you like to see next year? Are there any areas of teaching you would like to me to cover? Thank you for deciding to visit my blog over the year and I do hope you found it useful.
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?
This 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
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.
Each of the exchanges below contains a mistake. In each case:
write the corrected version in the space provided
clarify your correction in simple English to explain the mistake
Mr. Smith: “Do you have much experience in the restaurant business?”
Giorgio: “Yes, I’ve been working as a chef since 10 years.”
I’ve been working as a chef for ten years.
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.
Claire is working late again; she’s so passionate about her work!
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.
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!
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
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
When 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
Planning 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?