The Orient Express: English Language Teachers Blogging

orient expressAre you ready?

I'm about to take you on the most exciting of adventures...

Along this journey, you'll be exploring some seriously interesting articles about teaching, language and our great ELT industry while journeying throughout the work of 22 ELT Bloggers who're based around the world.

We'll travel from Poland to Serbia, from Dubai to Italy, stopping off in Spain, Germany, the Oman, the US and the Philippines, Italy, before ending up in the UK - this is the blogosphere.

Packed your passport?

Shut down all the other windows on your computer?

Poured a glass of wine and pumped up that seat cushion?


It's a virtual explosion of talent out there - the best of June begins...

breakfastTips & Tricks

Jeremy Day in Poland discovered the usefulness of using the Google News function and changing the country of origin to gather media for ESP classes, honing in on complex grammatical structures and Alex Case served us up with yet another 15 ways to make writing interactive.

Janet, over in Italy, wrote about the IPOD generation (i.e Insecure, Pressurised, Over-taxed and Debt-ridden) and Natasa, in Serbia, took us and her students down a memory lane.

Natasa's lesson-tips weren't about Michael Jackson as might well be expected, given events last week, although Anthony Green's guest-piece for my student blog was: complete with VOICEbook, a free downloadable audio activity for our students.

While we're on the subject of the King of Pop, Benjamin Zimmer in the Language Blog, a.k.a the Indiana Jones of Linguistics, uncovered the origins of "ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma ku sa" - a fascinating modern-day-history-tour behind the 'Wanna be starting something' track from the Thriller album. (Hat tip to Alex Case for pointing me on over there).

One of his commenters also left this link to a visual map of songs arising from Soul Makossa.

pullmanDeveloping Professionally

Vicki Hollett, while discussing Madoff and learning to speak 'merican, cited:

"There have been some interesting instances in conversational research of ‘experts’ who sound authoritative and ‘experts’ who sound more tentative. The latter seem to collect more feedback.

So ironically, if you sound too much like an expert, it may prevent you from receiving the information you need to behave like expert"

which I really liked, rather Tao in its form.

It especially went well with Larry Ferlazzo's post Life is very lonely when you're always right.

Both articles support the humor in Chwa eeLoon's self-reflections on raising language awareness over in Japan with his ESP classes.


We'll now journey over on to Neal, also in Japan, who has started up a newer blog (his other is Teacher Stumpers) where he has scribbled some thoughts regarding the Twyths about Twitter, i.e. for those of you who aren't on it yet or you can't figure out what could possibly be so interesting that millions are flocking on and have the idea that Twitter is about talking about your cups of coffee...

"I think lots of people think twitter is stupid or/and useless because they don’t follow the “right” people. I’m an English teacher, interested in Web 2.0 and how to integrate it in the classroom, and if I weren’t following great English teachers and important educators, I’d probably think the same. Finding people with similar interests, who’ve got something to say, is the key in my opinion. (Found in comments)"

Come see what it is about- Thomas has written up a piece on the simple steps involved in setting up an account, Burcu in Turkey has posted up a list of the top ELT tweeters for you to follow and I've saved some core articles for you to explore here. I'm @kalinagoenglish.

sirkeci by paul

Talking About Teaching

Burcu Akyol had a conversation with a colleague of hers and then submitted a simply gorgeous piece on making a difference and having the power to change the future.

Henrik Edberg did a list of the 16 things he wished he'd learned at school and I must really figure out a way how to turn this into a lesson for my business students - if you do this before me, send it in and I'll post it up as a guest piece!

In Spain, Lindsay Clandfield decided to place a poll on his site of the most influential TEFLers/Linguists which set off a virtual hurricane of tweets and FB mobbing and he's currently gone into hiding.

There really were an awful lot of rather inspiring authors, TEFL hacks, SL acquisitionalists and edu-technologists who were not on that list - (Graddol, Hollett, Prensky, Pinker, L what were you thinking?) but no, we won't continue that fight over here as Scott Thornbury did indeed make the list - fortunately - his books have, of course, had the hugest influence on my teaching style and...

I'm fighting the good fight by compiling a series on the most influential women in ELT, starting soon with a handful of guest-pieces.

champagneWelcoming in the Best New Blogger of the Month

Tamas Lorincz in Dubai has started blogging!

He's one of my best-Twitter-friends (we're actually writing a story tweet-by-tweet along with Neal Chambers, Marisa Constantinides and Blythe Musteric - read it backwards if you dare),

he says:

"During my years as a student, trainer, teacher and mentor I have met so many teachers who have lost (or never had) the spark, the love of sharing, giving, loving, enthusiasm and I believe that this happens because it is so easy to sink into the day-to-day drudgery of delivering lessons and being a ‘martyr’ of the profession."

He is so right.

breakfastFor Our Students

Miracel Juanta in the Philippines cracked out the whip for her students taking the IELTS and listed up the 7 habits of highly ineffective test takers.

Markus, in Deutschland, introduced me to the first bilingual blog I've ever seen - Der Englisch Blog!

Speaking of Speaking
orient expressBlythe in the US came up with 20 reasons why classroom discussions fail while Shelly, here in Germany asked what is the right question provoking us to think about how to create higher order queries for our lessons.

Jumping back to Korea (a lot of TEFL talent over in Asia), David Deubel wrote the seven sensational sins of great English teachers and Peter in Oman pontificated Power in ELT.

"One effect of the chat, for me, was that it made laughably absurd the idea of integrative motivation. These were highly motivated students; but there is little they’re motivated less by than the idea of integrating into British society.

In fact, it seems like something close to the converse is true: they were forced to appear more British in order to qualify for the privileges accorded to white people. They were motivated to learn English purely by the desire to be treated as equals."

watchShifting Paradigms

Diamondfingerz's posting led to Chwa's posting on money-making in ELT and then, interestingly, to an unscheduled detour on Sacred Words.

As a general rule, Gavin Dudeney's posts are snappy: he has a sharp tongue and dry wit and That'S Life is fast becoming a must-read.

This week's rant was on the seeming hypocrisy of writers and publishers regarding copyright issues - a brave and honest post considering he's an author!

"I urged them to look at the music on their iPods, their copies of Windows, Office…, their DVDs, the materials they take into class.

Do they own legal copies of them all?

Do YOU? Do I???
If we can answer ‘yes’ to even one of those questions then our moral outrage is at best a tad dubious…

While we're on the subject of copyright and copyleft, did you know that Wikipedia community and Wikimedia board have approved the cc-by-sa license for their entries there?

I'm distinctly pro creative-commons and see a great future in it, all the photos on these pages are from flickr and are used with permission, and I really believe that once all the kinks are ironed out and people understand how it all works we will see some beautiful and creative work coming out in lesson planning: see an old posting of mine on what creative commons is.

Our tour around the world has almost come to an end except that I really must get you to look out towards our left window towards a truly intriguing and cryptic hint coming from Cleve Miller (in Cambridge) on English 360:

"This long tail of content will provide the custom course work that will result in radically personalized learning – we’ll have as many courses as we have students.

And as we’ve seen with Wikipedia, it’ll be fast and it’ll be cheap.

And most importantly, what it will be is open."

Oh boy, teachers, there are really some very interesting things going on in education right now...

I'll leave you with the interesting diagram and question on evolution of classroom design and a heart-warming matching picture of a student's self-evaluation of her 7th grade class (read her comments too) - this simple drawing made me feel quite nostalgic for teaching the young ones.

And that, my friends, is it.

It's now time to shut down the computer and tidy my office! I do hope you've had a lovely journey.


Next month's train ride will be all about blogging and advice for those who'd like to become bloggers, joining in the fun and professional development - based on a carnival I'm running here.

See you soon!


p.s. For a slightly shorter journey, through my own postings in June, come here.
p.p.s Special mega thanks to Annie Mole for providing so many pictures of the Orient Express under creative commons, what a great gal!

A walk through my archives - June 2009

This month on Kalinago English I've been writing about teaching speaking in

and loaded up notes and teacher-training slideshares from two workshops I gave at the VHS in Leinfelden


Shared a vocabulary tip, inserting a bit of drama into this process and got some excellent extra suggestions and advice from readers in

Had a bit of a reflective moment and whittled on with thoughts on online relationships but also had a big ol' rant about teachers who are still not using technology in their classes in

...and according to a privately received email, the people who do these jobs are actually called Blacksmiths if they make the shoes and Farriers if they fit them on to the horses! See how much you learn when you're a blogger ;-), (Thanks, Bob!)


At the beginning of the month, I offered up my latest tech-tip on using google alerts and rss feeds to find information easily (important for bloggers too) in

Put out two call-outs for your participation & contribution to this page and still accepting your emails, recommendations, comments & forum additions via LinkedIn, Facebook or Yahoo!

But not Twitter, okay... I really do need more than 140 characters ;-).

captain bob

Offered up a poll looking for the best-class-busy-blogging here (results coming out: Wednesday!) and dealt with a frequent email request on how to find work in the TEFL industry by listing the links to the sites that usually deal with those issues here.

On How-2-Learn-English, my blog for students learning English, well... I lost my very newly smart, self-programmed, layout when tweaked one minor detail, so pah... another 10 hours down the drain!

Nevermind, I've uploaded a simple Blogger-supplied-Minima-template until I can find the time to redo it!

Wrote up a fun series on learning English through business quotations and included the wisdom of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sherman and Wayne Gretzky.


Posted up some videos and exercises for students:

  • Did you know, regarding the shifting paradigm the world is currently undergoing
  • The Break-Up, a funny web 2.0 best practices video which is especially good for marketing English students
  • Michael Jackson's Ben, in memory.

Discussed collocations that go with act and ask.

Dissected the words and expressions for saying nothing in Do you know your zeros and posted up a series of Business English pronunciation videos I got from Soxo-exchange.


I was also incredibly lucky:

Anthony Green of VOICEbook wrote up a lovely guest-piece for my students with a link to download a fab & free listening exercise - you can grab it too in

That's it!

I really hope you enjoyed your month with me.

Tomorrow I'll be listing up the links to all the fab blogs I've been enjoying from all across the blogosphere so prepare for a grand adventure, there are some truly brilliant minds out there.


Teaching Advanced Learners Business English, workshop

Attached you’ll find a recent presentation given at the VHS Leinfelden in June.

Below this, in order to provide a slight interactive nature to this posting, you’ll find numerous links to posts I’ve written about in the past as well as a number of questions - do please feel free to answer these, ask further ones or to continue the discussion on in any way.

Presentation Slides:

Why do students with mastery level in the English language keep taking classes?

Students recognize:

  • English is not like math, it’s like music.
  • Use it or lose it.

1. Can you think of any other reasons?

What do they usually want to learn? What do they usually need to learn?

Students want to increase vocabulary, practice difficult grammatical structures, erase fossilized errors and maintain their own identities in another language.

They’re also looking for ways to develop cultural awareness.

Principally, advanced learners need to develop their range of vocabulary especially through situational phrases, look at more complex expressions and idioms and also work on issues like their tone and register.


2. In your experience, what other areas need to be worked on?

Where are the resources?

3. Can you recommend any other blogs for language learners?

What about good interactive websites?

Using authentic videos

4. Would you like to recommend a good authentic video for us to use with our advanced learners?

‘Free-style’ speaking activities

5. Can you share with us your own tips on teaching speaking?

Adding drama to the Business English classroom

6. Do you do a lot of dramatic activities with your adult advanced language learners? What?

Problems teaching advanced learners

7. Can you think of other problems when teaching advanced learners?

8. What grammatical structures do you teach your advanced learners, how?

Any questions?

Click on comments and let me know your thoughts and thanks so much for coming and sharing your valuable knowledge with us all:

Simone, Elisabeth, Susan, Wilifriede, Gayle, Carol, Angelika, Adriana, Edith and Heidi.

It was a pleasure working with you!



Drama in the Business English Classroom, Workshop

SI851236 Patty, Verena, Frances, Corina, Gayle, Stefanie, Beate, Barbara and three Susannes gathered with me on a sunny Friday two weeks ago for some teacher training on using role plays, real plays and other dramatic activities within the Business English classroom.

We started our session off with a suggestion I took from Lindsay Clandfield on using images to create scenarios and beamed a photograph on to the wall encouraging the participants to tell me

  • where we where we were

  • what we waiting for

  • how long we’d been waiting and

  • how they felt.
A series of fantastical dialogues started off very quickly – exposing just who in the room knew the most about art and modern-day artists!

SI851240Later we chatted about the relevancy of this activity in the language classroom and how giving students visual clues helps stimulate their ability to converse and covered the questions of

  • why drama should be used in the language classroom

  • when to use it

  • how to manage the activities

Based on those issues, we chatted about the appropriacy of using dramatic activities with adult Business learners and discussed things which can go wrong when doing these with students.

We all agreed that one of the factors to watch for is that adult business students often think the activities will be a total waste of time - or that they look at the page and aren't able to make a personal connection to the scenario described and also, often, can't see the connection to the language they just learned.

Issues related to structuring drama activities (should one, should it be left to chance?) came up quite a bit –
some participants feeling very strongly that role-plays should have a very clearly defined outline and others feeling that going with the flow helps students to find their own voices.

In the 2nd part of our workshop we looked at published role play and real play activities, covering those provided by Market Leader and Intelligent Business, as well as photocopiable materials from:

  • Business Roles

  • Business English Pair Work

  • InCompany Case Studies

Midway through our session we did another activity based on Ken Wilson’s Be Someone Else (from his book Drama and Improvisation in the Language Classroom).
This activity calls for students to recreate another personality all together and answer questions.

SI851229This led us, naturally, on to talking again about the differences between providing real plays (a.k.a simulations) and clearly fantasy experiences.

As mentioned above, often adult students studying Business English, prefer activities where they are still themselves.

However younger adults do often jump in to do the crazier activities with enthusiasm.

In some respects this does come down to the teacher’s attitude to drama him/herself.
Lindsay’s suggestions in his Straightforward guide on using realia to set the scene was very useful - we talked about how the simple things in an office, when a teacher is working in-company, can really help to set a scene.

SI851244 In the 3rd part of our workshop we reviewed using my Conversation Control sheets as a method of providing feedback related on emergent language and entered the last part of our session with a video from Taylor Mahil (here), finishing our day with the participants creating their own scenarios: based on both realia and/or textbooks and we shared what everyone came up with.

All in all, it was a day full of fun, drama and we all learned much!!



Useful links related to this posting:

Murder Of A Superhero. Weapon? An Item Of Office Equipment.
Resource Books for Teachers: Drama and Improvisation
Amazon UK, US, DE)

Straightforward Guide: Roleplay + free activities

The Workshop Slides:

p.s. If you have any questions about any of these slides or what we discussed during the workshop, don’t hesitate to post your questions here by clicking on the word comments below.

A conversation about death, dying and the famous dead

Like all issues of great importance there are those who believe in one thing and there are those who believe in another.

Personally, I reckon that no ill should be spoken of the dead, especially not in their first week of passing.

I wonder if that's a general societal meme regarding the departure of the soul or if it's just something from my own culture?


What do you think?

How were you raised?

You know, while we're on the subject of culture and norms, death is so much a major part of our lives yet it is so rarely discussed in the English language classroom.

Is it because words like funeral, autopsy, grave, headstone, memorial and cancer are not important - that this lexis is a no-go area?

Or is it because it's so emotive and teachers may have to deal with tears?

I remember once, it was such an odd situation because although he was a part of a group, for three weeks straight P was my only student. I have no idea how we ended up talking about it - usually he was a happy, dynamic man who laughed and made the other students laugh - yet when we were alone, bit by bit, the very awful story of his young son's death came out.

The freaky part was that P's son had known he was dying a year before he actually did and it was this that was ripping my student's heart out. His son had actually said things like "I won't be here for that next year," "Klaus will miss me when I'm gone" and "You don't need to buy me a bicycle, I won't use it for long and it's a lot of money."

However, instead of going to see a medical specialist, his parents had taken him to see a psychologist to probe into the boy's death complex.

The autopsy later revealed a brain tumor.

He told me that he and his wife never discussed it anymore, that two years on they were just trying to put their lives back together again however he felt guilty that he hadn't done the 'right thing,' that he hadn't taken his boy seriously.

So I listened and gave him the vocabulary he needed to express himself adequately while helping him let go of some of his pain. And, yes, I corrected his English, throughout his tears.

gravesMichael Jackson and Farah Fawcett left us this week and if your students are in the 30 - 60 year old range, there's a real good chance they will want to talk about their passing with you.

So my tip is to do this lesson, dogme style.

You don't really need to prepare anything, it's pretty obvious what will come out in the conversation: Farah's beauty, Michael's skin condition, the controversies, the illnesses, the memory of how Princess Diana died in the same week as Mother Teresa ...if they bring it up, it's simply the most perfect opportunity to deal with teaching this type of lexis and expressions of sympathy and empathy, safely.

So go on ahead and let it RIP.


p.s humor is allowed.

Useful links:

Edu-bloggers on the same subject:
Larry Ferlazzo has put together a list of excellent sites you can use.
Jeffrey Hill has done a posting on using a cartoon of Michael Jackson
Anne Hodgson has typed out the lyrics for Dangerous (for students)

From the media:

Farah Fawcett
Michael Jackson
My favorite video of Michael Jackson is below. Which was your favorite? What do you most remember of Farah Fawcett?

Go in peace, Michael. Thank you so much for giving us the music, the dance and the memories.

Farah, may the Angels be charmed by your laughter but may they also send you quickly back.

Advice for N00BIE bloggers in ELT

Carnival Reminder

Have you got sumthin' to say to all a us 'bout what iz like being a blogger and a' English Language Teacher?

What's the best part?

When you wake up in the morning are you simply buzzing with ideas?

How do you organize these? Is your desk a lost cause of endless stickies with post ideas for next week and for all the weeks leading 'til next Easter?

Or is it harder to find inspiration? How do you get through bloggers' block?

Have you learned any html or css?

Is there anything that really, really gets on your nerves about the companies (or other bloggers) who visit your page? What?!

What's your opinion on blog rolls? Why?

How do you market your posts? What's proven to be most effective, what hasn't?

Have you learned anything interesting about yourself as a teacher, teacher-trainer or author? Has blogging made any kind of impact on your life professionally?

  • Are you an old hand at all this with some fab advice you'd like to share with those newly entering the blogosphere?
  • Are you a mid-lifer facing a blogger's crisis and would like to moan about why this is/ warn the others off or share how much you've grown as a professional?
  • Are you a fresh pup, eager to share a new trick you just learned but wish you'd known 2 months ago when you started?

Write up a post on your own blog, mention that the posting is part of the blog carnival on giving advice to ELT new bloggers (link to this page) and enter it in the blog carnival here.

Important details
Deadline: July 15th
A summary posting of the best advice will be posted up end July/early August.

Can't wait to read it!

(p.s. if this type of blog posting doesn't fit the theme of your own page however you'd still really like to contribute - ask to do a guest-piece for one of the techie+ELT bloggers - the summary will link to both your own blog and the host site's).

Useful link:

Original posting about the blog carnival
- lots of suggestions if you're lacking inspiration ;-) + find out what a blog carnival is.

How it will work
Using the blog carnival program, I will then collate all the postings and create a summary + analysis of the best advice given from English teachers bloggers to English teachers who'd like to set up a blog.

This posting will be sort of similar to the monthly wrap-up postings, (see here and here ). Each entry selected will link back towards the blogger's own blog.

Murder Of A Superhero. Weapon? An Item Of Office Equipment

hole punch confetti'Spiderman's dead.' I said, stifling a giggle.

My Business English students looked up from their dryly written Email English books of highly useful exercises and very necessary practice.

The lesson was on formal and informal language in emails.

I had tried to make it interesting, I promise, getting them to take turns figuring out which phrase on the right-hand side matched the phrase on the left but now they were individually comparing two grey boxes, side-by-side, and their faces were bored.

'They found him outside by the fountain." I sounded serious.

MJ looked up at me. It's a Pre-intermediate class so she figured she'd misunderstood and looked back down to finish up matching the words of Latin origin with the shorter words in the other box.

We went through their answers.

"Provide = give" "Verify= check or prove." They said.

"Good job." I acknowledged, while correcting the difference between ask and ask for vs request and enquire.

"Spiderman died this morning." I tried again. What if it doesn't work, what if they don't get it? Should I give instructions?

Four faces stared blankly.

"Do you know how he died?" I asked.

spidermanThey looked at me, just the tiny-weeny-bittiest afraid that their English teacher was nuts.

I sighed as if I was making sense.

"There was something next to him, I heard one policeman say to another, when I arrived for class, something about an item of office equipment?"

No answer. Just bemused looks exchanging between them.

"Didn't the receptionist send an email to everyone this morning?"

"No" replied MS but there was a 'does-this-have-something-to-do with-emails' look in her eye.

It took the strength of angels for me not to laugh.

I gave up and started chuckling. "It's not true, it's a story and we're going to make it together."

MJ smiled.

"Do you know what the item was? It was something from the office, right?"

"Yes," her grin spread "it was a punch holer."

"A hole punch."

"What's a hole punch?" W asked and MJ indicated with her hands the action of piece of paper being stamped.

V wasn't having any of this nonsense. "A hole punch, how could a hole punch kill Spiderman? He's a Superhero."

hole punchMJ responded with conviction "It went flying out the window, because my colleague threw it out. He was angry because he was late to work, a suicider lay on the train tracks and he got to work late and missed an important date. It broke the window."

She paused, a little flash of both surprise and pride on her face. That was a lot of speaking in English all in one go.

"Appointment or meeting." I corrected. "Meeting" MJ nodded.

MS joined in the fun. "It happened at 10 o'clock this morning."

W "I don't think this could happen. It is not true. He..."

V "No, it must be something else, not a hole punch. Could it be that Spiderman was sick?"

MJ "It was the punch-holder, er, the hole punch. I saw it. I saw it happen. It was very bad. He was climbing the window and then it hit him in the face and..."

And on and on the story continued unfolding with all of us laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.

Once all the facts and details were ironed out, I then told them there were four emails that needed writing.

MJ, who had very clearly seen the whole thing happen, had to write an email to the police chief (formal language).

V had to write to the Job Council to find out if they could send a replacement Superhero (formal language).

I got MS to scribble a note to her best friend to pass on the delicious gossip and told W that he was actually, secretly, a Superhero himself and that he should write the community of Superheroes to let them know that one of their own was gone (informal language). As his level is the highest in the class I also asked him to reuse expressions from our last lesson.

emailThey also took turns answering each others emails, sparking another round of laughter: V's was rather droll, demanding an immediate start of the new Superhero who should also have a protective mask and our lesson ended with W's, who'd managed to bring up the possibility of a conspiracy between the bank and the bad guys.

I don't think it'll be a lesson they'll forget soon.

I know I won't. Thanks, Ken.


Useful information related to this posting:

This activity is an adaptation from Ken Wilson's:
Resource Books for Teachers: Drama and Improvisation
(Amazon UK, US, DE)

  • Do you think this lesson would work well with your students? In what other ways could we use it - to teach what structures or skills?
  • The original version of this activity calls for a Superhero, a location and an item of kitchen equipment and I can't wait to try it out on my 'dogme' group of over age 60s. What other adaptations would you like to suggest?
  • What do you think, in general, of adding drama to Business English lessons? Would you like to give some tips on what you do by either commenting below or, maybe, write a guest-piece for this blog on this topic?

She in ELT: help me make a definitive guide

updated 12 August 2008

This is a call-out for help on a series of pieces I would like to do about women in the field of English Language Teaching, Applied Linguistics or anything that is related to TESOL, TEFL, TESL...

the valkyries
Could you please tell me who influenced your teaching and/or who inspired you to become a better English language teacher?

HOWEVER, there is a small catch - I don't want just names and sorry, no boys, straight or bent. ;-)

And... I want details!

i.e. not = Penny Ur

e.g. Vicki Hollett
Author of Business Objectives and Business Opportunities, Tech Talk and The Jericho Conspiracy. Her blog, on learning to speak American is at Here's a youtube video of her in the recent Virtual Round Table.

And then your thoughts if you'd like to add them.

You can write an article about how this person affected your career, conduct an interview either a written piece or on video.

You could discuss one of their books or methodologies.

Tell me about the online community leaders, bloggers, conference speakers, professors or publishers - any female that is up and coming or already leading the way.

You do not need to write about someone "famous."

In fact I would like to have a global perspective to the series, not focusing on only European biggies so if there's a very special teacher-trainer, an author from your own country all the better - if you had a great female DOS, the head of teaching association who did great work, a publisher you worked with or a book you loved from cover-to-cover, do please feel free to contribute.

You can email me directly with this information or simply add your comments below.

  • Name of female in ELT who inspired or influenced your teaching
  • List of publications where applicable
  • Website address where applicable
  • How influenced you
  • State if you'd like to have your own name/website address listed at the bottom of the posting in the thanks section.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Useful links related to this posting:
Sexy ELT by Gavin Dudeney
The Six Things Poll by Lindsay Clandfield


Use it: Don't Let Them Lose It!

You've just done a really weighty, vocabulary rich text with your English language learners.

It was a great article from Business Spotlight or maybe something you downloaded from an online news source.

Perhaps it was a reading out of a textbook a little above their level (oops!) or you had them review sections from an authentic, bestselling, business book in their field.

You were so keen - it was exactly their interests, you sigh, yet it was just too much vocabulary.

Now you're all feeling a bit overwhelmed and they're looking at you like you are the meanest English teacher in the world.

So you buckled down and successfully explained the words, spent a chunk of class time dissecting the meanings, giving/getting examples with some of the students hitting their translators or looking in their dictionaries.

At the end of the lesson, you had them list the new words in their language journals.

Done. Ready to scurry on out of that failed lesson?


There were at least 12 words they had never seen before. It might have been 20. *Blush*

Deep down you know there's a real good chance they may not know them next week either, let alone in a month's time.

shotputWas it important vocabulary, I mean did you choose the article because it was stuff they expressed an interest in, it's topical and relevant to their lives?

So they would benefit from knowing that great lexis. Right?

It's your task now to transfer some of those into their active vocabularies.

Instead of using a whole lesson dissecting words (or rather you teaching them the vocabulary) why not work on a few and put these into active use.

Here's one tip on how to do this:

1. What's important?
Not all of that lexis is stuff they're going to be able to use again. Get your students to individually decide which words are most relevant and encourage them to choose no more than 8 that they can see as being useful.

All the better if they can choose whole phrases, i.e. a prudent investment is stickier than "prudent."

2. Let's share what was so hard
Get one of the students to go up to the board eliciting words and phrases that the rest of the class want to learn. Encourage students to share at least 4 - add numbers when you hear a word or phrase repeated.

At the end of this, draw a circle around these highest ranking words.

3. Why those words?
Look at the highest ranking words and phrases. Ask students why they chose these, getting them to repeat them as they explain their reasons.

4. What's the situation?
Ask your students to brainstorm circumstances when these phrases might be used in a conversation.

Would it be on the telephone? In a meeting? A meeting about what?

At a business dinner? Throw out some ideas and get them to tell you others.

5. Who's using those words?
Tell them they're eavesdropping on a conversation. It's awfully interesting. Who's speaking?

caber6. What are they saying?
Divide your students into groups and tell them to write out a dialogue. Get volunteers from each group to become the secretaries.

7. The screenwriting event.
The secretaries' post-task activity is to type up the mini-screenplays and bring in copies for the rest of the class.

The rest of the students should either

look for examples of these words in context on google (see here) or
use at least two words/phrases during the week with their colleagues or clients and report back with the who and how in the next lesson.

You know what's coming next, right?

8. The Oscars
In the next class, check and edit the screenplays. Encourage students to mix into different groups to read and review each others dialogues. Ask for volunteers to do one as a quick play.

Ask some of the students if and how they used the words they chose during the week or if they read them anywhere else.

Over the coming lessons, throughout the following weeks, you now have two different here's-one-I-made-earlier ice-breakers/ warmers /fillers at hand and can get different students acting out the various dialogues or discussing how students have managed to use the vocabulary.

They love that part, especially if they inject the words into a later conversation and you notice.

weightAs always, hope this works for you as well as it does for me!

You can apply these steps to any lesson which involves teaching a lot of lexis in one go.

Before you dash off though, do you have another tip or suggestion for us on making vocabulary sticky?

Share your ideas by clicking comments and thanks very much!

Useful links related to this posting:

What to do with emergent language
Beam their errors on to the wall
Finding articles in your students fields
Noticing the News
Reading turned into speaking


Poll: Best Class Busy Blogging in the EFL classroom

Have you thought about creating a class blog to record lessons, provide links for your students, share videos and follow up on questions that occur in class?

Wouldn't you like a way to get your students continuing their English lessons outside the classroom?

These great teachers have found a solution - pop along to their blogs, check out what their students have been up to and vote for one of them below!


Useful links:
Some ideas for blogging wannabees
On Money and Edublogging
My blog for language learners


Thoughts On Friendship

morningAs I climbed up the hill which leads to the nearest train station, thoughts of Dennis flickered through my consciousness, interrupting my mental preparations for the teacher-training workshop I was on my way to give.

Dennis shares several of the online communities I roam in and while I don't always agree with what he says, I noticed his marked absence in a 'fight' about the use of technology in the classroom which had kicked off on one of them.

I was worried about him simply because he and his opinions weren't there. I've not met Dennis yet somehow, oddly, he has crept into my 'circle of people I care and think about.' I wondered if I should tweet and check that all was okay with him.

Later on, in the workshop (I was subbing for another trainer on a subject am not the expert in), when I told the trainees that a quick sos via my tweetdeck had provided all the research, materials and groundwork I needed for the session, they asked me to explain the value of Twitter.

A big old grin spread right across my face as I told them stories of Neal Chambers and his help with a techie problem, Scott Thornbury's bee-in-his-bonnet about IWBs vs Jeremy Harmer's, Seth Dicken's and Gavin Dudeney's wise retorts; Neal, Marisa and Tamas' story unveiling in 140 characters; Aniya's expresso machine and unending links.

Although I didn't tell them about Burcu's birthday cake, I thought about it and I felt happy.

Alright, I felt choked up.

I said, Twitter, like most of the online communities I belong to, has opened my life up to having conversations with other like-minded (and not like-minded) colleagues from all around the world and some of these are fast becoming my friends.

What is friendship? I questioned as I climbed back down the hill later on in the evening. Why have some of these people become as important to me as the real people I know?

Is it because I'm a nerd, who needs to get a 'real' life, as two list-members from this particular yahoo!group described people who use technology in their classes as?

And that is your speaking lesson tip for the week ahead.

Our students all have friends, in real life and some virtually, but what is it, exactly?

When virtually, how does it manage to cross the borders of physicality?

What about the friends they meet at work? Are they their friends simply because they see them everyday or because of shared interests?

eveningHow does one define friendship? Why do some people creep into our hearts before we have realized it? Do we choose our friends, do they choose us or does it just happen?

Ask them to describe the wonderful people in their life circles, how they met them and ask why friendships are the nearest thing to happiness.


How do you find a job teaching English overseas?

For some odd reason, in the last couple of days I've been asked in several forums, FB, twitter-tweets and by email:

How do you find a job in TEFL?

Of course, each time I hear this question it makes me, on initial reaction reach for that very special google link -you know the one I mean? - but the second I've had a chance to think, I remember how confusing (and exciting) it all was in the beginning for me too.

So here are the really useful links which will answer this question:
job boards
ning communities
twitter search
new global freelance network

Did I miss another useful book, site or do you know of @twitterhandle with links to new jobs?

Go on ahead and add the details below.


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