It was a surprise to receive Hall’s most recent publication to review, “101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students”, during the summer, and I was keen to share my thoughts and ideas. However, it has taken a while to write out and create a video, but I appreciate Hall Houston’s patience in the meantime. Nevertheless, I hope I do this review justice.
When I first opened this book on my computer, I was surprised how many different activities were included within the publication. Of course there are 101 activities, but it is sometimes hard to visualise the number of tasks within the contents page. The contents page covers three pages in length and the book is split into three key components: ‘Getting Off to a Good Start’, ‘Maintaining Motivation and Interest’, and ‘Ending the Semester Gracefully’.
The intention is obvious with the book offering ideas for the beginning, middle, or end of the course or term. There are a number of activities which are within each of these three components:
Getting Off to a Good Start: 38 activities
Maintaining Motivation and Interest: 38 activities
In this brief post / video, I share how I go about teaching the difference between ‘too’ and ‘enough’ with pre-intermediate or intermediate learners of English. These are some tips and feel free to either adapt or ignore this as what may work for me might not work for you.
1. Introduce Adjectives
The first step is to introduce common adjectives to learners with the use of flashcards. Print off some flashcards which represent common adjectives such as cold, hot, expensive, etc. and then elicit from students the language. While language is being elicited, board it up and check pronunciation by nominating students.
2. Students Predict Situations
Get students to think of particular situations with the selected adjectives, for example with the image of someone tired they could have worked for twelve hours. Give an example to all students with one flashcard and ask students to work together in pairs or small groups, noting down possible situations. Once students have written down some ideas, nominate groups to share their ideas, writing down them on the whiteboard.
3. Creative Dialogue
The next step is to get students to create a dialogue based on their predicted situations. Provide an example for all students to get them started: referring to the picture related tiredness:
Person A:Could you write the report for me by tomorrow morning?
Person B:Sorry, I am really tired!
Get students to work together in small groups or pairs, thinking of potential dialogue using the adjectives and scenarios as an idea. Give learners some time and then monitor them, helping where necessary. Check whether any learners have used the target language with ‘too’ or ‘enough’ so that you can nominate them for later. After ten minutes or so, ask students to read out their dialogue in pairs or small groups and share them with the rest of the class.
Make a note of any particular language such as the example dialogue above or the target language and write this up on the whiteboard for all students. If none of the students use the target language, you will have to present it to the class. For example, write the situation above and write the start of the sentence ‘I am too tired to … as I didn’t get enough sleep’ and get students to complete the sentence in small groups.
4. Using Target Language
Ask students to use the language ‘too’ and ‘enough’ with the images and situations, working together in small groups or pairs. After a short period, nominate groups to provide their example sentences using ‘too’ and ‘enough’. You could highlight the grammatical structure with the target language so students are aware of how to construct it.
The next step is for students to consolidate understanding and to review with the use of a gapfill exercise. Get students to complete this individually, and monitor or assist learners where necessary. Once students have completed this, get learners to compare answers in small groups or pairs. Here is an online gapfill activity which you could get students to complete.
5. Situational Complaints
The final task for students to undertake is for them to complain about certain situations using the target language. Hand out or board up some situations for students to share their complaints with others. Monitor learners and then provide feedback where necessary. I have included some topics in the Word document below which could be used with students.
I hope you found this grammar teaching post / video useful and that it gave you some ideas for teaching the language point, ‘too’ and ‘enough’. If you would like a future grammar teaching series to be included, kindly let me know in the comments.
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 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.
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/.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Teaching individual students can be a challenge to be honest, especially when learners expect their teachers to contribute more during online lessons. After teaching privately to individual students, especially for those that are preparing for IELTS, I wanted to share some of my favourite speaking activities that I tend to incorporate during online lessons to get my students speaking and communicating more.
Activity 1: Wheel of Words
Wheel of Words is a great tool which I tend to use for a variety of purposes – one of which is to randomise conversation questions. Essentially, you write in your conversation questions or copy and paste them into the text box on the right of the website.
I tend to share my screen when spinning the wheel, and once a question is chosen, confetti shoots up and the question is displayed fully. Students find this rather engaging and entertaining, then proceed to answer their question. The best thing about this is you can save questions in Word and then import them into Wheel of Words, or refer to the Internet TESL Journal website for inspiration on questions to ask on particular topics. Otherwise, you can choose a variety of common questions which may arise on certain topics within the IELTS exam and randomise the choice of them by using this website.
Activity 2: Tell Me Why / Give Three Reasons
A huge thanks to David Sweetham for sharing this activity with me on Twitter (refer to his Tweet below), but I have found this a joy to incorporate into most of my conversational lessons.
Based on the activity that was shared, you choose one card for student(s) to talk about for a few minutes. As David mentioned, you can attempt intentionally wacky topics or ideas to get students thinking outside the box. It takes minimal preparation – always a bonus for me based on my Dogme-esque approach – which can then be used effectively with online IELTS conversational lessons. Here are some example conversational prompts to give you an idea of how this task runs.
Give three reasons why everyone should learn another language.
Tell me why rabbits make better pets than hamsters.
Present three reasons in favour for national service.
Give three reasons outlining why social media is harmful.
As you can see, being as creative and wacky as possible is a bonus. Students are forced to reason or justify their thoughts. This will help students gain greater confidence with dealing those challenging questions in the IELTS exam.
Activity 3: Odd One Out
A popular speaking activity in the physical classroom is getting students to reason why a particular object or word is the odd one out compared to the others. There is not a correct answer, as long as the reason is valid. I used to incorporate this activity in lessons and students found this task engaging and motivating, often allowing learners to develop their fluency.
You can either provide each group of words one at a time, by using Wheel of Words or by some other tool, or all at once as a document. Whatever approach you decide, you can give your individual student a short while to prepare and then allow students a short time to explain their reasoning. This task is engaging and motivating, and can be adapted for groups of students if needed. It is also a suitable activity for those learners preparing for the IELTS examination.
Activity 4: Picture This
The final activity that I enjoy incorporating into my individual IELTS preparation online lessons is getting students to respond to pictures on similar topics. It is very quick to prepare a selection of images within PowerPoint, Word or Jamboard, and then share the screen to students asking them to talk between 2 to 3 minutes explaining the similarities or differences about the pictures.
It is a task which naturally focuses on the use of comparative forms but getting students to draw similarities will require a bit of practice and creativity, especially once you have sourced rather random images for the activity. Again, it is a task which lends itself well in preparing students for speaking in English, as well as developing their confidence in communicating and expressing ideas or opinions.
What are your favourite individual speaking activities to get your online learners developing their fluency? Have you tried any of the activities shared in this post? If so, how did learners respond to them? As ever, please share in the comments.
As some of you may know, during this precarious environment I have taken to teaching on Preply. For those that unaware, Preply is an online platform whereby it matches potential students with teachers. I have now been teaching freelance via Preply for over six months now and I thought it would be worthwhile to share possible suggestions for improving the platform as well as share my statistics (how many lessons I have delivered, overall rating, etc.). I believe this post (and the corresponding video) would benefit those that are attempting to find alternative English teaching platforms to find possible students, as well as supplement their income to make ends meet.
Suggestions for Preply
1. Student Learning History
The first suggestion that I have for this platform is for Preply to update is to offer tutors the chance to view potential student history. Whenever I have a new student start, it is difficult to find any information about the student other than the predicted level, the number of hours this student has booked, location they are based, as well as the language that they are studying. What I would prefer to know is how many teachers a student has had on the platform: am I their first teacher or have they had a number of tutors before on Preply? It would help all teachers be aware and prepare for trial classes (which is the first class where student and teacher meet) with their potential new students. This in itself could help aid me understanding why a student is moving from one tutor to another so that I would not make the same mistake as their previous teacher.
2. Confirmation of Lessons
The next suggestion which I hope Preply address or consider is the overall process on how lessons are confirmed. Without both the student and teacher confirming that they have been present for the lesson, Preply would not release payment for those classes unless automatic confirmation has been organised. There is the possibility (despite the risk being incredibly low) that a lesson could be challenged by the student and the tutor is not being remunerated.
What I would suggest Preply consider incorporating is to allow confirmation to be within the lesson, so that both the tutor and student are present allowing payment is delivered promptly with minimal risk of it being disrupted – much like a register. This is crucial with trial lessons, particularly as they are unpaid, and this could hold back future lessons or reduce the profile of the tutor for other students or being promoted for other committed students. I suppose both students and tutors do not wish to divert their time and energy into other managerial elements of being freelance with the platform such as confirming that a lesson has indeed been delivered and received successfully.
3. Offer a Donation Button
One aspect of teaching that I thoroughly enjoy is the ability to support learners achieve their English learning goals, whether it is allowing students to achieve a particular grade in an examination or improving their fluency. Occasionally, private students do share their achievements by rewarding their teacher with a coffee or something more personal. It would therefore make sense to make the opportunity for students to reward their teachers with a small donation.
This donation would motivate teachers, particularly in such a difficult time, that they are doing what they do best for their students. It would also make sense for students to reward their favourite tutors, with no commission taken by Preply. At the moment Preply take a percentage from a tutor’s rate for each individual lesson delivered depending on the number of lessons taught through the platform, and it would be rather cruel if Preply take a percentage of the donation from the student. Nevertheless, I know this donation tool could be quite popular amongst Preply tutors and offer a chance for students to reward their most valued teachers.
4. Update Teaching Material
Tutors using the Preply platform have varying degrees of experience of teaching online. Currently, Preply offer teaching material to support those teachers with less experience and need that aid, which is better than nothing. One of the biggest stresses facing teachers is delivering a quality lesson that students appreciate. Based on my experience, qualifications, and area of expertise (i.e. exam and academic preparation studies), I have to charge a rate which is commensurate. For less experienced teachers, I can understand their reliance on Preply material. Personally, I prepare all my lessons ahead of time and source material which would makes me feel more comfortable and confident. The material on Preply is varied with most in-class activities revolving round conversation prompts and most self-study activities including grammar, vocabulary, and reading tasks. I have dabbled with the Preply material once with a student and the lesson did not go as well as a lesson with self-prepared activities.
In order to improve current material would be to make it more adaptable for potential lessons. One aspect of online teaching and learning is the remoteness included with this. In order to reduce this, it would make sense for tutors within this platform be able to sharing material with each other – much like a physical staffroom. I would also like to see more suitable courses being developed, as currently there appears to be some sort of disjointness between all lessons as a whole. If teachers were able to upload and share PowerPoints, Word documents or other tasks within the platform, would help less experienced tutors prepare and deliver quality lessons to students
5. Update Trial Lesson Commission
The next area whereby Preply could improve is the aspect of trial lessons and the lack of remuneration. Currently, Preply take 100% the cost of the trial lesson from the student with nothing being paid to the tutor, regardless whether the trial lesson was successful with the student booking more hours or not. Therefore, at the moment, all Preply trial lessons are unpaid and it can cause some resentment among language teachers, as I have witnessed on the various Preply Facebook Groups.
In theory, a new tutor attempting to find their feet and become established on this platform could find themselves having to deliver a variety of trial lessons (all unpaid), with minimal paid bookings. It would be suggested that Preply review this by supporting those successful first lessons by rewarding teachers with say 50% of the cost of the lesson. Remember students are paying the cost of the lesson regardless, but this does not go toward the teacher. I know I am motivated when a new student joins, but I would be pleased to be rewarded and acknowledged by Preply with this updated trial lesson commission rate.
6. Offer Group Lessons
All my lessons revolve around individual lessons, with each student paying $30 per 60 minutes of class. This can be quite a lot of money for some students, but one way to make lessons more accessible would be to offer group lessons for a discounted rate. Imagine that I am able to market a group rate at $6 for six students, I would still earn more than my individual rate. Some students who are unable to afford the individual rate would still get a chance to have lessons at a more affordable rate. This is the final suggestion that I would recommend Preply to consider incorporating group lessons for particular courses, such as exam preparation or speaking lessons.
In this part of the post, I will be sharing my personal Preply statistics so that it helps you inform of the potential to discover more private students or to make a living through other aspects of freelance teaching.
As you can see in the first part of my statistics, I have had over 20,000 views on my Preply profile, with my current hourly rate being $30. With those 20,000 views, I have had a conversion rate of 0.22% with 45 students booking trial lessons with me. The current profile score (which is calculated by your profile picture, description, etc.) is at 100%, with my profile position being 120, but this position continues to change every day. In terms of new students, I have converted just over 62% of those 45 trials into regular lessons. The average number of hours booked by students is 5.7 hours.
In relation to the earnings, I have managed to earn around $3,400 in over the six months that I have been using the Preply platform. If you divide the number of tutoring hours by my net earnings, it does not equate to my hourly rate (actually . This is due to the trial lessons being included as well as my initial rate being $20 per hour. I increased this rate in increments of $5 in the past few months, finally agreeing the $30 hourly rate. In the following months, I am reported to have earned:
April 2021: $26.80
May 2021: $393.20
June 2021: $452.70
July 2021: $206.25
August 2021: $262.50
September 2021: $455.63
October 2021: $495.00
November 2021: $793.35
December 2021 to date: $380.25
Remember, that earnings include both unpaid trial lessons as well as those that students have attended before Preply take their commission from your earnings. What may appear to be quite a good month so far ($380.25) is far below what I have earned due to trial lessons being booked and Preply taking 22% out of my hourly rate as commission.
Final Reflections About Preply
Preply is a good platform which enables students to find suitable tutors, but as can be witnessed above, the opportunity to improve earnings takes a while until you are an established tutor. Once you have established yourself as a professional teacher, you will start to find your earnings increase but it takes time. It is important to find alternative sources of income, particularly in this rather precarious environment so it is best to juggle your online teaching with private students, other teacher and student platforms as you may find yourself struggling to make a liveable salary.
There are some great benefits of teaching with Preply (you are capable of deciding on the best rate to charge potential students, gaining online teaching experience, seeing students develop, etc.) and this is not to be disregarded, but the overall ‘gig economy’ and precarious nature of language education causes much stress for those involved. As a self-employed tutor (whether it is with Preply or elsewhere) offers no security in terms of earnings, pension contributions, etc. and you are liable for all your income tax. Essentially, a third of your earnings could be liable for tax if you earn above the taxable threshold (which I think is around £12,000 in the UK), but I doubt this would be achievable in the near future based on my earnings with Preply.
Anyhow, I do hope you enjoyed this post and if you recommend that I try other online teaching platforms, then it would be great to hear your suggestions in the comments.
I have decided to start a weekly livestream which is currently on Mondays at 1pm (UK time) to answer questions that others may have about teaching online, tips for teaching English or address any thoughts or opinions that you may have. Today marked the second week (hence Episode 2) and decided to do something that may resonate with other teachers.
The first week, I had some technical issues which meant I started at a later time – 30 minutes to be precise. I never realised that streaming via my MacBook would be so complicated. I was relying upon using my Sony ZV-1 as a webcam but YouTube Studio had issues recognising this, so I had to end up using OBS to stream. To eventually get everything working took 30 minutes to resolve.
This week, I started Episode 2 of Teacher Talking Time but noticed something quite odd after the livestream. I realised that the scheduled stream did not connect with OBS – I made a mistake and learned afterwards what I must do. However in Episode 2, I was able to share my screen and used this function quite regularly during the livestream. I will use this function in next week’s episode. It was great to answer questions from viewers and share a corresponding website to answer their queries. I also created a countdown timer on one screen but be sure not to watch the timer and skip the first 5 minutes of the video below.
Hopefully from Episode 3, I will be able to use the correct scheduled link for the livestream rather than creating a new link. It would also be wonderful to get another teacher to join the livestream in the future but I will have to see how best to stream a Zoom call or other tool. If there are any other English teachers who have experience of streaming and inviting a guest to virtually join this, then it would be great to hear your advice. Another area that I would like to develop is to share particular questions on the screen asked by those in the stream. I would need to improve my knowledge of OBS and create more scenes in the future.
As ever a huge thanks to all who have contributed past and current livestreams and if any readers have questions about streaming and using OBS, then please let me know.