IATEFL 2017: Developing teacher talk

I’ve just watched Jamie Keddie’s talk entitled ‘Developing Teacher Talk’. I was excited about this one. I’m a fan of Jamie’s site and I recently watched his TEDx talk On Videotelling. Here’s a link to the talk (can’t embed again).

Keddie knows how to warm an audience and started at his anecdotal best in this talk. He was a model of good storytelling – reminding me a lot of a former colleague who was just as engaging. He started with a couple of stories about misunderstandings he (or people he knew) had encountered – barmaids mistaking ‘pints of lager’ for ‘pina coladas’ and a family member referred to as ‘a hungry old man’ rather than ‘a hundred year old man’.

These highlighted the point that anecdotes are a compelling way to introduce a topic. Keddie is known for his interest in using video in the classroom – he pointed out that teachers often use videos as a way to introduce topics when a story from the teacher could be just as effective. (more…)

An EFL book I’ve used: Incredible English

Last year our course book for primary level learners was Incredible English. This was the first coursebook I ever used for teaching primary learners, and I have to say I thought it was great. It seemed like the perfect book for a novice primary EFL teacher. Here are just a few of its great features…

  • Fun stories (in comic form) that really engage the learners
  • A standard structure to units which helps learners know what to expect in a lesson
  • A separate workbook which means the coursebook isn’t full of dull gap fills
  • Some excellent online and interactive tasks
  • Dialogues which are easy to extend and exploit
  • Nice visuals, not too cluttered layout

I’m just listing random points here. Above all though, it seems clear to me that Incredible English was written by experienced teachers of young learners. I mean, you’d hope that was the case (!), but some of the previous coursebooks I’ve used just don’t feel they’ve been written by a practising teacher… Hmm, that sounds so damning…

Our new primary product (in-house) is good too – I don’t want to put it down. But there are things I miss about Incredible English, and the stories are one of them.


example of the stories in Incredible English (c) OUP


Using story cubes

I bought these story cubes a few months ago, and I’ve tried them out a few times this term. They are basically dice with pictures onstorycubes1 them, so it’s really up to you how you use them. You can find a few ideas on the story cubes site, which include some demonstrations.

These are a pretty good tool to have in the classroom, and it wouldn’t be too hard to make your own (they can be a bit costly if you want a few sets). I find with my EFL classes that there’s rarely time for storytelling lessons, which is a shame as these cubes would be a great resource. However, I’ve tried to integrate these into lessons, with varied success. As you’d expect, the cubes mainly help students generate ideas for certain tasks. They’ve worked best with my teens.

Note: If you know about the specific sets of cubes then I’ve got ‘voyages’, ‘actions’ and the standard set.

Grammar tasks

A few weeks ago we did a review of using articles (a fairly common error for Thai learners) which was based on Jim Scrivener’s activities in Teaching English Grammar. The basis of this was creating a short story (about 5-8 lines). Student’s had to use articles correctly for new/known information. They then cut their story up line by line and gave this to another group to put in the correct order. The cubes helped with ideas and made the stories fun for other students to read. This also meant lots of emergent language. (more…)

Lesson idea: retelling a story in groups

Here’s a great group task for retelling a story. I came across it during the British Council summer school here in Bangkok. My teen group were doing activities based on the movie ‘Jumanji’, but this can work for any movie, fairytale, etc.

First, summarise your story in 100 words or so. You could use an existing plot summary from IMDB or even Wikipedia, and just cut it down as needed.

Once you’ve got the text, write it out into a table so that each word is in one of 4 columns, Here’s an example for the first sentence:

In 1869, two boys bury a mysterious and magical game – Jumanji.


1869 two boys
bury a mysterious and
magical game Jumanji


Here’s the important part. Jumble each line of the text up so the words are in a different order. Then number each line to help learners keep track of where they are. Here’s the handout I gave them: (more…)