efl

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…
 

 

 

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How to annoy commissioning editors (and find work)

Another ‘how to become a materials writer’ article has popped up – Kirsten Holt’s article for ETPro  offers some more good advice for budding writers. Every time I read one of these posts I’m itching to chip in. I really want to help others get into materials writing. My advice is always the same:

  • It’s easier than you think.
  • As with most things, it requires effort at first (unless you’re lucky!).
  • There is something missing from lots of the advice already out there.

Read on, I’ll tell you what that is. (more…)

Learning to read the world through other eyes

I’ve just come across this booklet as part of the reading on the PGCEi at the University of Nottingham. It’s a brilliant open access resource for exploring global citizenship. It offers a series of cross-cultural exercises, which help learners to…

  • develop understanding of different belief systems and values
  • explore how these values may impact of development agendas
  • examine western and indigenous interpretations of notions such as equality, education and poverty
  • consider ways to improve dialogue and mutual learning.

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What are good working conditions in ELT?

I’ve read a lot about poor pay and working conditions in ELT recently. Keith Copley’s recent article in ETPro touched upon some of the many issues that influence working conditions in the industry – institutional power, neoliberal-romantic rhetoric that promotes certain other aspirations (freedom, life experience) above renumeration, and so on. I’ve read tweets about strikes over pay at ELT centres, discrimination of NNES teachers, university lectureship roles which require advanced qualifications yet offer relatively low financial reward, to mention just a few of the issues.

Obviously I fully support the push for better, fairer pay and conditions. Now that’s said, what I don’t read often are stories of good working conditions. I get why. I mean, no one wants to be smug and come across as ‘well none of this affects me, I’m doing quite well out of TEFL thank you very much’. The fact is though, jobs in TEFL with good working conditions do exist. Keith Copley knows this as well as I do; we work in the same institution where, overall, the working conditions are great.

Here are the benefits that our employer offers us here in Thailand. I consider this to be a working conditions WAGOLL. On balance, there are very good conditions in our organisation – you’ll find a lot of teachers at our school have been here a good few years, and it’s no surprise why. (more…)

Lesson idea: Great British Bake Off

It’s the penultimate week of term. State schools are on holiday, so the students have already requested something ‘fun’ and ‘light’ for lessons this week. The current topic is food. It’s lacked a creative task so far, and I don’t want to go over old ground (designing a themed restaurant, menus, crazy recipes, and so on). It’s time (I think) for the Bake Off…

Note: this lesson does not involve baking! (more…)

More on developing meaning-building skills in reading

This post follows on from Rachael Roberts’ great article on developing meaning-building skills in reading. 

As Rachael says, comprehension questions have their place but they also have their limitations. Tasks that develop meaning-building skills, which you could use alongside/instead of comprehension questions, encourage learners to engage with a text in a deeper and more personalized way. They also give teachers a better insight into how their learners process information in a text. This can highlight learner strengths or areas for development, hence inform practice.

Part of my remit as the co-author of Startup Level 8 (Pearson) was to create the reading skills lessons for each unit. The publisher had prioritized these meaning-building tasks at higher levels (this was C1+). They still wanted comprehension questions, but meaning-building tasks were the main focus.

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Trends in the ELT materials market (?)

I don’t know what the trends are. No facts here. Just my opinion. I’m interested – do you agree/disagree/take offence/think these are pointlessly general statements/etc? Please comment!

  1. Key markets for most publishers seem to be China, Mexico, Turkey and Brazil.
  2. In most cases, print still rules…
  3. … apart from in China, where everyone is obsessed with adapting coursebooks for a ‘virtual market’.
  4. Primary publishers don’t seem to fully trust a CLIL-based approach (to be highly profitable, I mean). They like to cater for more traditional (grammar/typical vocab) approaches in their range too, and the success of CLIL-based resources hinges on teacher training, which may mean more investment for publishers.

Wait. Just thinking more about that last point… (more…)