British Council

All change!

It’s the end of an era! I’ve spent nearly five years with the same language school (British Council) here in Thailand, which is a pretty long stint.

Overall, it’s been a good experience. I mentioned before that the pay and conditions were good at our centre in Bangkok, and that probably kept me there slightly longer than expected. It wasn’t easy as a materials writer being a full-time teacher too, and I’ve had to turn down some good writing opportunities over the years. But hey, teaching is always my priority.

As with any job, there are highs and lows. The highlights of my time in the job included…

… working in a close-knit team. We have five centres here in Bangkok, and when I first arrived I was placed in the ‘main office’. It was a regional hub which I found a bit anonymous to be honest. Most of the important managers hung out there, making it easy to bug them so they couldn’t hide behind their emails. But apart from that it was a bit… soulless? So, I took the opportunity to move out to a smaller branch. We had a team of only 7 or 8 teachers over the years, and everyone got on well. I had some great managers at that branch, loved my classes, really enjoyed working with the students and engaging with parents. Awesome, I’ll miss it. (more…)

Lesson idea: Viral videos

This was a context builder for a sequence of lessons on viral videos, viral ad campaigns, viral marketing, etc. It’s similar to the idea I shared for introducing recipes. Anyway, used this with B1+ teens, worked well.

Task 1

Find loads of links to (good) viral videos. Our focus was on viral marketing, so I chose lots of ads. Create a QR code for each vid and add these onto a handout in a table like this one:

I gave students this instruction: (more…)

Review: Ready to Run

This review was first published in the Winter 2019 edition of the ETAS Journal. Many thanks to ETAS for allowing the review to appear on this blog.

Ready to Run, from Digital Learning Associates (DLA), is a platform providing video-based lesson resources for ELT classrooms. Its resources are marketed as ‘engaging and authentic video experiences’ which cover a range of real-world topics. Ready to Run is a subscription-based service – each video lesson includes printable materials for students, teacher notes and video transcripts. The platform recently won a British Council ELTon for Innovation in Learner Resources.

The resource catalogue for Ready to Run is generally easy to navigate, although better tagging might make searching for relevant resources more efficient. There are currently about 10 videos available at each CEFR-aligned level (A1-B2). The digital content itself is certainly varied, and likely to be engaging for a wide range of learners. Videos are high quality, a suitable length (most around three minutes) and have been well-edited. The videos are initially sourced from vlogs, TV programmes, and other authentic broadcasts, and then are adapted for classroom use. The selection of topics is inclusive and relevant – it is good to see that the platform offers resources that address issues such as immigration, refugee crises, climate change, and minority groups. Topics are dealt with sensitively, and follow-up project-based tasks on the video content encourage learners to explore these topics in greater detail. The willingness of Ready to Run to deal with some topics that tend to be avoided in global coursebooks is certainly a strength. (more…)

Lesson idea: the ideal classroom

My secondary class (age 14+, B1) are exploring education in our latest module. We are building up to a ‘design your ideal school’ task. The first step was to consider what makes a good classroom/learning environment.

Step 1: General discussion questions as a lead-in, about what they think of their education system, their schools and learning environments, etc. Brief critique of our own learning environment.

Step 2: Brainstorm these concepts

A traditional classroom is / has… A non-traditional classroom is / has…
 

 

 
An inspiring classroom is / has… An uninspiring classroom is / has…
 

 

 

(more…)

Tweaking my young learner teaching

I start my PGCEi next month. I’m really looking forward to having an extra reason to reflect on my classroom practice, overall approach, etc, and delving into research about how children learn and develop.

I’m focusing on primary level learners during the course. I have experience teaching ‘upper’ primary age groups (aged 9-11), but I’d love to learn more about teaching younger primary learners. I felt a bit out of my comfort zone teaching younger learners during the CELTA YL extension course a few years ago. With this in mind, the PGCEi is a perfect opportunity to gain more experience and understanding of YL teaching and child development. (more…)

IELTS: identifying attitudes and opinions

Another ‘making things up as I go along’. This time in my IELTS Teens class.

Topic: Environment and the natural world

Context: We’d just done some vocabulary review / building activities. We’d also dipped into the book for some listening practice – a few activities on ‘identifying attitudes/opinions’. So, we had tonnes of new vocab, plus loads of phrases in a table like this…

Cue Teacher Pete’s random fluency practice, with the aim(s) of developing students’ ability to…

  • think on their feet
  • see things from different perspectives (whether they agree or not!)
  • justify opinions
  • wake up a bit after coursebook activities

(more…)

My dissertation

Sharing my recent MA dissertation for general interest. I say ‘general interest’, but I imagine the interest will be extremely specific! Here’s the title:

Pronunciation materials in an A2/B1 level British Council Adult General English course in Thailand – do they meet the needs of the learners?

The main reason I chose this topic is because it is applicable to my context and my own learners. I wanted to analyse our current resources and affect some kind of change, if any was needed. Alas, it has had very little impact.

In hindsight, I really regret choosing this topic. I enjoyed a lot of the reading, and the research has informed my own practice. However, I knew there were institutional constraints from the start. The sample size is so limited, it serves only to have an impact on my immediate context and nothing beyond that really. Plus, if I’m honest, there are a billion other topics in ELT I’m more interested in!

I don’t want to completely put you off, but the literature review is sparse, there are assumptions made about the value of the Lingua Franca Core, and some of the questioning methods are leading. Still, ya know, I’m accountable for that – my tutor was great and really pulled this study into line. Alan Pulverness, kudos!

If you find it useful, it’s there!

Materials writing news and views, April 2019

April update has got a bit long, sorry. It’s mainly because of IATEFL and ELTONS.

 IATEFL talks

There were some interesting talks related to materials writing. Equality, diversity and inclusion was certainly a theme.

Two interesting points from John Gray’s talk, Gender and sexuality in ELT

  • Gray notes from his analysis of 10 top-selling ELT textbooks that there was ‘a blanket avoidance of any LGBT representation’
  • He promotes ‘… a collective effort on behalf of teachers, teacher trainers, materials writers, textbook reviewers, etc to come together to create learning environments that address gender and sexual diversity.’

View the talk here. (more…)

Review: ELT Lesson Observation & Feedback

Lesson observations – where to start?! Jeanette Barsdell, the author of ELT Lesson Observation and Feedback Handbook, was thrown in at the deep end and expected to observe a teacher on her first day as a DOS. Despite being terrified, she got some great advice, hit the ground running and developed into a competent observer. She’s written a guidance book for anyone who observes or intends to observe ELT teachers, and overall is a great resource. (more…)