tefl

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.

(more…)

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…)

Lesson idea: ‘used to’ for describing past appearance

I made this activity up in class and it worked well! Really creative, loads of interesting language, and also a good way to practice ‘used to’ for describing past appearance.

Procedure:

  • Students work in pairs
  • Everyone has some scrap paper (or the back of their handout). Tell students they have 1 minute to draw their partner. 1 minute only.
  • So, Student A has drawn student B, right? Now, Student As swap drawings with each other. Student Bs swap too. They have one minute to add loads of random features onto each drawing. Random things like strange tattoos, unicorn horns (!), I don’t know… anything they want. Then they give the sketch back to the original artist.
  • Pause for some laughter
  • So, Student A now has a distorted sketch of their partner, Student B. Tell them that this is what their partner looked like 10 years ago. Back then, Student A and Student B were old schoolmates… They haven’t seen each other in ages!
  • Board part of a dialogue, like this…

(more…)

Materials writing conversations #4: the artwork brief

This is a completely imaginary conversation. No characters in the convo are based on real people – I’m just bored and imagining conversations I might have with editors…

[Researched photo: someone sunbathing]

Comment (design): Can you be more specific? E.g. male/female, etc

[Researched photo: an image to match the phrase ‘I enjoy sunbathing’. A male, perhaps…]

Comment (design): Can you be more specific? Is the speaker male or female?

[[Researched photo: an image to match the phrase ‘I enjoy sunbathing’. I’m not sure if the speaker is male or female. I have requested that the speaker is male, but I don’t know until this is recorded. Maybe the best thing to do is stick with a generic reference to sunbathing, e.g. an image of a bottle of sun cream]

Comment (development editor): Given issues with appropriacy, perhaps a male would be better? (more…)

Materials writing conversations #3: natural, authentic speech

This is a completely imaginary conversation. No characters in the convo are based on real people – I’m just bored and imagining conversations I might have with editors…

Editor: So, do you have any suggestions for the pronunciation stage? We were thinking of, maybe, catenation.

Me: Right. Okay, I can do that. If it appears in the listening text I mean.

Editor: What do you mean?

Me: Well, just… if catenation is a feature of the text. Like, if catenation is actually used by the speakers in the dialogue.

Editor: Well… it will be. If we decide it’s the main pronunciation point for this spread then…

Me: Hang on, can we back up a bit here? Aren’t we doing things backwards? (more…)