Scholarship Circle “TEFLising EAP”

Today was the inaugural session of our new scholarship circle “TEFLising EAP”*. (You can read more about what a scholarship circle is and what it does here.) The idea behind this one is that EAP lessons can get a little dry – learning how to do things academically is not necessarily the most exciting thing in the world even if it is essential for would-be university students – and for the students’ sake (as well as our own!) it would be great to bring in more, let’s say ‘TEFL Tweaks’ – things that we used to do when we taught at language schools abroad (warmers, personalisation, fun activities etc!) and have got out of the habit of doing in the EAP context but that could actually be adapted for use here without losing the all-important lesson content.

The plan is to look at the lesson materials for the following week (all of the courses here except for the highest level one have a very structured week-by-week, lesson-by-lesson syllabus and materials) and share ideas for how to breathe some life into them. We shall be doing this between 12 and 13.00 on a Friday and all in all, we will be aiming, through some most excellent collaboration, to avoid this** happening in our EAP classrooms! ūüėČ


*not necessarily the official name!

**substitute ‘lesson’ for ‘lecture’!

Here are some of the ideas that came out of today’s session:

  1. For a listening and note-taking lesson: when you want students to work in pairs to use their notes to answer questions, make it impossible for them¬†not to¬†(or they won’t!) – you could do this by setting up the activity with clear stipulations i.e. one student to close their folder and one to read out the questions that they then work on together to answer. This avoids students getting buried in their folders, which is the tendency.
  2. For a citation and referencing lesson: students may be good students but may not be familiar with terminology that we take for granted, such as “semi-colon” or “bracket”. To ensure that you start the lesson with all students clear about the language you are going to use in teaching the lesson content, take that terminology (e.g. semi-colon, italics, brackets, et al etc) and use it as the basis for a backs-to-the-board game. This enables you to check that students know the terminology before you use it.
  3. A pronunciation warmer for working on minimal pairs: Minimal pairs phone numbers. Number the board vertically from 0-9 and give each number a word within which is a minimal pair sound. Here are the examples we had: 0-Annie, 1-any, 2-rise, 3-rice, 4-fool, 5-full, 6-light, 7-right, 8-sit, 9-seat. (Adapt it according to the sounds that your group of learners tend to struggle with) You read out your (invented) phone number by saying the word that corresponds with each number. So 989 would be sit seat sit. The students have to write down your phone number by deciding which word you have said and writing down the corresponding number. They can then do it in pairs. This gives them practice in both recognition and production of the minimal pairs.
  4. Do a speaking ladder at the start of the lesson based on the lesson content: It takes some time to do it, but the benefits range from giving the students (who have very long days at the college) an energy-levels boost, get them mingling, get them thinking/speaking in English and make them focus (as it generates a lot of noise, they have to listen very carefully to concentrate on “their noise”). It also gives them some bonus fluency practice.
  5. (This one was mine!) A warmer for a nominalisation lesson:¬†Make a grid of academic verbs, one verb per square. Put students in groups of three and give each group a grid, counters and dice (they can use a phone app and the change in their pockets if needs be!). The aim of the game is to “collect” as many squares as possible by turning the verbs into nouns. To do this, students roll the dice and move their counter the corresponding number of moves. If their square has not been claimed, they can claim it by giving the correct noun form. If they are correct, they draw their symbol on that square. They can move in any direction that gets them to an empty square (backwards, forwards, diagonally, vertically etc) in any combination. They continue until all squares have been claimed or the teacher calls a halt. The winner has the greatest number of squares when the game stops. You can then get the students to group the nouns they have made according to the different suffixes used to create nouns and then try to think of any more verbs–>nouns they know that work in the same way.
  6. Academic style:¬†When the activity requires students to edit sentences to make them more academic, here is a fun way to do it in groups. Write each sentence at the top of a blank piece of paper and make sure you have enough for each student in each group to have a different sentence. They write their edited sentence at the¬†bottom¬†of the sheet and fold it over to hide it. They then pass their paper to one student and take a sheet from another. Repeat this until all the students have written their edited version on each of the sentences going round in their group. At the end, as a group, they can look at all the different versions and collaborate to make a final “best version”, combining their ideas, and write that best version in their folder.
  7. Working with a text: take out ten key words, do a few rounds of backs to the board; once all words have been guessed and are on the board, get students to use them to predict the possible content of the text.
  8. Summary-writing tasks: get students to record it rather than write it for a change! Put them in pairs and give them time to make notes, discuss what they want to say and decide who will say what, then get them to record that. They can send you the recordings to listen to and give some feedback on.

The hour went by very quickly, it has to be said. Looking forward to more next Friday! ūüôā (I am planning to share the ideas here regularly but marking 30×3000 word essays [in chunks of 1 and 2000 words] is likely to get in the way somewhat! Hopefully I will catch up eventually though. )



2017 (Or, how to set better goals!)

Happy new year, everybody! The first 10 days of 2017 seem to have flown by. For my first post this year, I’m going to write about resolutions and effective goal-setting.

On Sunday I delivered a workshop as part of the Teaching Listening course that forms part of this year’s EVO.

(To quote EVO and explain what it is:  Every year in January and February, the Electronic Village Online (a project of TESOL’s Computer-Assisted Language Learning Interest Section) brings together English language educators from around the world to engage in free, collaborative, online professional development sessions. Last year, we had over 8,165 participants in 14 sessions.)

My session focused on helping learners become more autonomous listeners and the main task the participants will do this week is to set up an out-of-class listening scheme to use with their learners; considering, amongst other things, about what they want the learners to do, how they will introduce the different elements to the learners, how they will help learners to maintain their motivation. Of course, within my session, within the discussion on motivation, I talked about the importance of goal-setting and the features of an effective goal according to Dornyei and Ushioda (2012). Here is my slide which summarises these:


I always make New Year’s Resolutions. There is something magical about the beginning of a new year, and the potential it holds, that gets me really excited and I enjoy making my resolutions as a way of sizing up that potential and giving it some form. Usually, however, my resolutions are a bit fluffy and I forget about them fairly soon afterwards. This year, in order to help myself not to forget about them, I have copied them into a sticky note on my desktop so that I am reminded every day of the things that I set out to do. I also tried to make them more specific than usual, so that I can actually tell not only when I have achieved them but measure my progress along the way. It must have been preparing for the EVO workshop that subconsciously made me apply Dornyei and Ushioda’s (2012) principles for effective goals to my resolutions for 2017!

In the interests of gaining (extra) and maintaining motivation on the languages and ELT front, I’m going to communicate my resolutions relating to these areas here. Rather than just a list of goals, I am going walk you through the mental process I went through in making them, shaping them from a vague initial idea into something more specific, tangible and therefore achievable.

  • Learn Arabic. I started learning Arabic last year in around October, as I was going to be volunteering at a secondary academy here in Sheffield, working with a number of learners whose first language was Arabic. That fell through (2016 was one of those years?) and after an initial burst of enthusiasm, the Arabic fell to the wayside too. End of story? Evidently not. I didn’t stop wanting to learn Arabic but the related work situation had demotivated me somewhat so mentally it became easier to ignore both. 2017 seemed like the perfect way to reinvigorate it. First I reflected on why I want to learn some Arabic. Initially, it was instrumental motivation (the work situation). Theoretically, that is still potentially the case as ELT in the UK can often involve working with Arabic L1 students. But that vague possibility won’t in itself be enough to motivate me to study Arabic every day. What about enjoyment? Well, I enjoy learning languages (hence currently studying 11 of them, including Arabic) but why Arabic? I think it appeals because it is (to me) so different. It has an alphabet that doesn’t look like anything to me. Just as English has an alphabet that doesn’t look like anything to Arabic L1 speakers when they first encounter it. I am interested in the process of learning a language with a different alphabet. So, going back to my “Learn Arabic” goal, being as I am not a genius I am not going master Arabic in one year, not even nearly. So if I left my goal at that, I would be setting myself up for failure. I need to make it more realistic. How can I do that? Make it more specific. So my goal became: “Learn to read the Arabic alphabet and speak/write some basic words and phrases.” That seems entirely more realistic, it reflects my motivation for studying, progress will be measurable (by way of the number of letters and eventually words I can recognise and produce – which, by the way, there are more than you might think as they change a little depending on whether they are at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a word!), it is challenging (did you read what I just wrote in the last set of brackets?!). My completion date is 31/12/2017 but I do of course plan to monitor and decide if¬†the goal should be developed before then. It will depend on my progress: there is room for extension!
  • Continue with other languages.¬†Of course. That would be French, Italian, Spanish, German, Polish, Romanian, Indonesian, Mandarin. Plus the newly added Dutch and Swedish. But for this resolution to make sense, what exactly am I going to do with them? What counts as “continue with”? I need some parameters. For the first five, this means¬†Memrise¬†plus as much reading, listening, speaking and writing as possible. I’ve found someone with whom I will be able to practice my Italian and French, possibly also some Spanish, and as for Polish there is always my sister’s husband to practice with, when I visit them. I’ve catalogued all my DVDs so that although I don’t have the cases for most of them, I know easily what I’ve got and what language(s) I can play them in. For the second five, I’m going to focus on¬†Memrise¬†and shift into using them when I’ve got a bit more vocabulary. (The cool thing is Polish used to be in that category but now it’s in the “I need to use it” category – that’s progress! The other cool thing is that in the series episode I was watching with my housemate today, there was a bit of Mandarin with English subtitles and I heard and understood three words without the subtitles! For me and Mandarin, that is exciting, believe me!) I have ear-marked particular courses on¬†Memrise¬†that I want to complete and obviously goal way-points¬†will be in evident in the number of words/phrases learnt, number of days in a row studying consistently (or “streak” as they call it – for Polish currently 113!) and how well I do when reviewing stuff.
    This was a motivating way-point!

    This was a motivating way-point!

    As with Arabic, I will monitor my progress and adapt the goal/resolution as necessary. For example to make it include having a pop at watching or listening to something in one of the 5 ‘weak’ languages (or 6, counting Arabic!) if/when I feel it would be worth a go.

  • Do lots of CPD.¬†Do not we all start our year with this resolution? And perhaps renew it if academic year and calendar year don’t coincide (i.e. northern hemisphere), or when feeling inspired at the beginning of a new term. At the moment, for me, this is a tricky one. The only work I’ve got at the moment is a bit of private tuition. I had been all excited about volunteering in an EAL setting but that fell through (as mentioned above – and don’t get me started on academy management organisational skills…) which was a bit of a bump to the motivation. Currently I am also tutoring on the EVO course, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, but that is obviously a very short term thing. An interesting one, though, as it combines my interest in teaching listening and my interest in tutoring teachers! So, it would be easy to let CPD slip. In order to avoid that, I need some specific goals, rather than the nebulous ‘do some CPD’. I will be doing two sessions on the Leeds Beckett M.A. ELT Multimedia and Independent Learning module again this semester and I hope also to deliver a version of my IATEFL talk at the ELTC (I do it free of charge in exchange for the opportunity to work on my workshop delivery skills!). IATEFL itself is another focal point for me, in terms of workshops, as, hopefully, will be doing another British Council TeachingEnglish – related webinar. Additionally, each week I want to watch at least one webinar and read something ELT-related. Finally, as my pet project, I want to make some EAP-related materials in advance of the pre-sessional summer school period. As a specific starting point, I want to make some materials to help students become better able to synthesise sources effectively (this inspired by memories of my colleagues and I feverishly looking for any such resources last summer and not finding quite what we were after!). This will require looking again at the demands/criteria that we were trying to help the students to meet, as these would be similar this year at ISS or, if it turns out that way, other pre-sessional courses, reading relevant chapters from EAP Essentials and other such EAP teaching bibles (de Chazal’s comes to mind, though I forget its name!) and of course the actual materials creation and subsequent editing. Keeping with the weekly timeframe, I will expect myself to make tangible progress each week, which I will monitor via a log.

When I went through the mental thought processes described above, I wasn’t doing it with Dornyei and Ushioda’s (2012) principles in mind, but it’s clear that subconsciously they had an influence. And so I should think, the amount of time I’ve devoted to studying motivation, within learner autonomy, and trying to get students started on their autonomous learning pathways! I think as teachers, if we are able to apply what we want students to do to our own learning (of languages, of teaching) and have a clear idea of how to get ourselves from A to B (A being hazy ideas of goals, B being effective goals), we will be better able to help our learners go through that process themselves in the context of their language learning (if they want to then apply it to their New Year’s Resolutions and other aspects of their life, that is up to them!) with the idea that they leave our classroom better able to map and follow their learning goals. There is no one size fits all goal solution but we can help students become better able to set, and by extension meet, their own objectives more effectively.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Do share them in the comments – remember, communicating goals increases the motivation to achieve them! ūüėČ

I hope 2017 is a fulfilling, successful and peaceful year for you all.



Dornyei, Z. and Ushioda, E. (2012) Teaching and Researching Motivation (Applied Linguistics in Action). Routledge.


British Council Webinar Series: Exploring Continuing Professional Development

The British Council TeachingEnglish (TEBC) Webinar series can be found on the TEBC website. This is the link to Paul’s webinar that took place on the 19th May 2016. This is a summary of that webinar.

TEBC summarises the webinar thus:

“He [Paul] talked about the British Council’s CPD framework for teachers and different factors that can influence successful continuing professional development. This webinar explored some of the ways we can focus on our continuing professional development (CPD). We looked specifically at the British Council’s new CPD framework for teachers, the self-evaluation tool and resources on TeachingEnglish for professional development.”

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This is the quote that Paul Braddock starts us off with, one that is apparently much-used if you look on¬†Google.¬†However, it’s not as universally accepted as Paul thought before he read around it. The quote has been changed in the following way:

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According to Paul, Husbands (2013) argues that what makes the most different to pupils is teaching. All teachers can be better but it’s teaching that improves and develops. Focusing on teaching focuses on more on the need to work continuously to improve the quality of teaching across schools. This is where CPD becomes essential. Especially as teaching changes and the skills needed change over time. What was a good teacher ten years ago might not be a good teacher now. Teaching needs to be develop.

Paul moves on to look at the 7 things that influence positive professional development, based on a report by Walter and Briggs (2012). What 7 things make professional development a positive thing for you?

Professional Development that makes the most difference to teachers is:

  • concrete and classroom-based (looking at what teachers do in the classroom e.g. action research)
  • brings in expertise from outside the school (Potentially expensive but expense can be kept down by use of webinars, online conferences, social media e.g. blogs)
  • involves teachers in the choice of areas to develop and activities to undertake (includes using tools to help you identify your areas for CPD and this is where frameworks come in)
  • enables them to work collaboratively with peers (physically within a context or with an online community of practice – requires time and space!)
  • provides opportunities for mentoring or coaching (again, offline or online includes being¬†a mentor or a coach as well not just being mentored/coached)
  • is sustained over time (an action research cycle with the teacher him/herself as the focus)
  • is supported by school leadership (so the school recognises it’s important despite budget cuts etc.)

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In other words, investment in CPD is useful and worth money.

At this point, Paul introduces the British Council CPD framework:

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It is divided into 12 different aspects of professional practice:

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It¬†is also colour coded by stages of development (Awareness, Understanding, Engagement, Integration). The BC was trying to address the misconception that CPD is linear. This is to be a tool that would more accurately reflect this. It is supposed to empower teachers by providing a framework for them to engage with CPD. Also to be used by groups of teachers for collaboration and cooperation. For more information about each professional practice see the document linked to above. He says it is designed to be flexible and teachers can change/adapt it to better fit their context.¬†The process that you would go through is self-evaluation. The BC are currently developing a self-evaluation tool to help teachers decide which professional practice to focus on.¬†At the integration level, this is where you’d then look at mentoring or coaching.

Next, Paul draws attention to the BC TeachingEnglish website. Within the Teacher Development tab, there is a section for Continuing Professional Development.

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Here, you can find resources linked to each of the professional practices in the CPD framework Рarticles, blog posts, webinar recordings etc. (Fab! Look forward to exploring this!) The idea is, once you identify areas for your own development, you can use this site as a starting point for research, to support you in your journey. Click on the picture above to visit the page. This is an example of access to outside expertise!

TEBC also already offer out-of-the-box full courses such as Primary Essentials, TKT Essentials, Learning Technologies etc. These run for about 12 weeks, moderated or self-access. They are now thinking about how they can provide training that addresses aspects of the framework more closely. So, they have started to modularise the training, so by next April there will be the option of modules packaged into courses or individual modules you can follow (a module running for about 3hrs of study). This is so that you can bring in some training once you have identified which aspects within the framework that you want to develop.

From the 5th to 9th October, there will be an online conference run by TEBC too. (5th October is World Teacher Day!)

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This CPD-focused conference is being launched to coincide with World Teachers Day.  A date for our diaries! The picture above links to the link shown, for more information. This conference is free and aimed at teachers as well as teacher trainers. It will run from approx. 11 to approx. 4 UK time.

Paul also encourages us to investigate the following names in relation to CPD.

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I’ll stick my neck out here and add Sandy Millin to the list! Her blog has a lot of useful content for developing teachers and also exemplifies reflection/reflective practice.

Here are the links provided by Paul finally:

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NB: You can access the teacher educator framework from the English Agenda website, which is a sister website to TEBC.

It’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into producing all these resources to help teachers develop – the frameworks, the accompanying resource curation on the TEBC website, the modularisation of the training courses that is to come. I certainly look forward to trying out a module without having to commit to a whole course. ¬†The abundance of resources available online for teachers looking to develop never ceases to amaze me and this is no exception. Thank you to the British Council¬†and TEBC for doing¬†their part in enabling this – by no means a small part.

Between discussions in the Teacher Education circle at work and watching IATEFL talk recordings such as the one by Kirsten Holt¬†(courtesy of Macmillan) and the one by Shirley Norton/Karen Chambers¬†(also made possible by the British Council!), I have been doing a lot of thinking about these teaching frameworks including the British Council one, so watching this webinar was the next logical step. I’m currently working on¬†a few ideas of my own as to how teachers can use the British Council framework to develop, which should hopefully complement what’s already out there, so watch this space!¬†

IATEFL 2016 Online: Stick or twist: the teacher to manager dilemma

I’m still enjoying working my way through IATEFL Online 2016 – isn’t it amazing how much quality content is housed in one place?! This session was presented by Shirley Norton and Karen Chambers who both work at the London School of English. You can watch the recording here.

Here is the abstract:

According to recent research, 53% of teachers drift into management unconsciously. This session aims to question why moving to management is considered a promotion and to argue that there are other avenues for teachers to pursue. In addition, it aims to look at the considerations teachers should make in order to make more informed decisions about their future career paths.

I don’t expect you to remember, don’t worry, but this ‘progression to management’ idea is something arose¬†in the first¬†¬†Teacher Education Circle¬† discussion. We agreed that not everyone wants to become a manager and that as teacher educators part of ‘our’ role is to help teachers who aren’t interested in management progress nevertheless. (I say ‘our’ – I think I’m more of an aspirant teacher educator than an actual teacher educator!)¬†I’m also one of those pesky teachers who doesn’t want to become a manager but still wants career development. So, I’m keen to catch up with this session as it sounds like it may complement the Teacher Education Circle discussions¬†that I’ve been lucky enough to participate in and provide more food for thought.

In fact, Shirley and Karen start by asking the audience who they are – are teachers who are thinking about becoming managers, teachers who want to develop without becoming managers or are they already managers. There seemed to be a fairly even distribution amongst these roles.

47% of managers drift into management, 35% don’t have any management training at all (possibly rather alarming!) With this in mind, the audience were asked to consider how much time/effort/money their place of work puts into teacher training vs. management training. Then, they were to think about the essential qualities of a good manager and the training needs of a new manager. Shirley and Karen canvassed teachers’ opinions at their schools and the result was this:

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The training needs that Shirley and Karen feel need to be addressed, that weren’t picked out by teachers, are:

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They suggest you won’t get a good manager if you don’t invest in them, i.e. ensuring that they have the skills they need to manage a team. If you want to turn a teacher into a manager, they need management skills.

Next to consider is ways a teacher can develop without going into management. If teachers don’t have that in your institution, you are likely to lose them. You need to give them something interesting, something different to do, to keep them engaged.


  • Materials development: updating existing materials, developing a course (tailored to teacher interest, what course would they like to make new lessons for)
  • Teacher training: actual teacher training (i.e. TESOL); peer teaching (teacher development sessions – teachers are given time in their schedule to prepare and are paid, not just expected to do it in their own time); external stuff (let teachers go to IATEFL, do talks etc: development doesn’t have to all be done in your institute, let them out!)
  • In quieter times, allow teachers to develop skills such as marketing¬†by doing an intern in other departments within the institution
  • Let teachers go and come back. Give them an opportunity to take a low-level risk i.e. work abroad for a year – like a “Sabbatical” – and be able to return afterwards, so basically longer term unpaid leave.
  • If you are part of a franchise, use it – share skills via webinars etc.
  • Take teachers off the schedule, not on cover, not on photocopying duty, they are given a work area and a plan for a project from start to finish for something that will benefit the school, which they will work on with support. A teacher who is not teaching is expensive, but Shirley and Karen feel that it is more costly not to develop teachers, so there should be a budget for it.
  • If you are looking to improve something e.g. social programme, generally you would ask the students and teachers, but with this you get people from all different parts of the school and give them the autonomy to make changes.
  • Academic management roles

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The idea is to give teachers opportunities to develop in different areas and develop new skills.

Anyway, I recommend that you watch the recording to find out more about what Shirley and Karen have done in their school – it sounds really good!

Here are some thoughts of mine after having watched the talk:

  • I think the key thing that institutions can give to teachers in order for development to happen is time. I think anybody would agree that when you already have 10 places to put every minute, it’s difficult to develop, not least because you are too tired to! This is one aspect of my current job that I feel very fortunate in – there are key times that are very busy (e.g. the weeks where you have 25 x 2000 word essays to look at and give feedback on) but generally there is time and opportunity built in for development, and funding available too, e.g. for speaking at conferences.
  • I like the diagram. I think, by and large, though, that the ideas are all¬†quite top-down, in that they rely on being enabled by the powers-that-be at the institution in question. I suppose, thinking back to the point made about the likelihood of losing teachers if you don’t provide development opportunities, it also depends on how fussed the institution in question is about holding on to teachers: do they want to keep as many of their teachers as possible for as long as possible or is a high turnover not really an issue for them?
  • For some reason, the “Career Progression Wheel” diagram really makes me want to make something similar for bottom-up development options. It could be a fun project! <watch this space!>
  • One thing’s for sure, looking at the ‘Training needs of a new manager’ list just reconfirms that management does not even remotely appeal to me! Just as well¬†I don’t feel short of other ways to develop… ūüôā “Author of the Month”

Well, I hadn’t really thought of myself as an “ELT Author” until my editors at Onestopenglish¬†asked me to complete a questionnaire. I feel like it’s still something I’m aspiring towards! Still, working with Onestopenglish¬†has been a lucky start for me.

Rather than any kind of competition, the idea of the Author of the month page is to enable the users of the website to learn a bit more about the authors who write for it:

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I also hadn’t thought of myself as one of an “amazing team of expert authors” (I mean, while I can believe the others are experts, I wouldn’t put myself in the ‘expert’ bracket!), but there we are! I’m honoured to be included on the list as a result of the on-going (but nearly complete) work that I’m doing on Compass¬†with my editors at¬†Onestopenglish¬†as a result of that Macmillan-sponsored ELTon I won a couple of years ago.

I had to answer the following questions:

  • Tell us a little about yourself
  • How would you describe yourself in five words?
  • How did you start your writing career?
  • Where‚Äôs the most interesting place you‚Äôve taught?
  • What‚Äôs your proudest teaching moment?
  • What‚Äôs your most embarrassing teaching moment?
  • What‚Äôs your favourite joke?
  • What are your tips for becoming an ELT author?

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To find out my answers to the rest of the questions, you’ll have to visit the page (which you can access by clicking on the photo of it above)!

Thank you, Macmillan/Onestopenglish folk! ūüôā

Happy Birthday, Blog…??

So, today this popped up in my comment notifications:

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Whoop whoop! Except…erm…

Seems like last¬†year¬†they sent me this message on the 1st May?! So, really, who knows.¬†I published my first ever blog post on the 8th May 2011, so maybe I should make that my blog’s birthday? Either which way, I can’t believe how¬†old¬†my blog is getting. It’s seen a whole five IATEFL’s, for goodness sake! (Seems strange to think that I have too, come to it.¬†It feels¬†like no time since¬†I won a scholarship to my first one in 2012. And yet…lifetimes too!)

Another year gone (pi√Ļ o meno anyway!) and like all its predecessors, it’s been fairly jam-packed! Being a teacher may be many things – dull is certainly not one of them.

Anyway, Happy (un?)Birthday, Blog! Here’s to another exciting year! ūüôā


Networking Macmillan style (Or, my very delayed summary of Kirsten Holt’s webinar!)

I had intended to watch this webinar live, but it turned out that I was away at the time (Easter holiday!) so couldn’t. Thanks to the wonders of technology, and the fact that it is only 45 minutes long, I got to catch up with it during my lunch hour at work! I decided it was worth writing up as Networking is something all us professionals have to do at some point and Kirsten had some useful suggestions for how to do it better…)


When I think of networking, what immediately comes to mind are the ELT publisher networking events at IATEFL conference and, I will confess, a slight shudder runs through me.¬†Being in a big room full of people I don’t know (or only know by sight/name e.g. the Scott Thornburys’ of this world) with the apparent purpose of making conversation is something that thoroughly daunts me. More specifically, the going up to people and starting up the conversation. (Does anyone else feel the same?!) When I think of networking, I think of something I ought to do but would rather avoid. When I think of networking, I think “it’s just not my thing”!¬†So, my hope was that Kirsten Holt (who has taught, trained teachers, been a director of studies and currently works at Macmillan) would give me some ideas for getting over this dread.

First she talked about why.

Why indeed… ūüėȬ†

  • It can help you develop outside normal teaching day
  • You can share ideas, knowledge, best practice
  • Because a problem shared is a problem halved: for example, you can discuss what is going on in your classroom etc. with other professionals.
  • It gives you an outward facing ELT profile, enables other people to see your capabilities
  • It can help you develop business relationships (Kirsten has often applied for jobs having met the person in advance)
  • It’s interesting! (hear about opportunities that other people don’t know about)


Start small and develop as you go through. Can be nerve-wracking but is easy to get to grips with. Lots of events from ELT organisations and publishers. (hahaha!)

Go online!

For me, this is interesting! I had never thought of all my online activity as networking until IATEFL this year when I discussed the Cambridge event and my ‘fish-out-of-water’ feelings towards it with one of my old course mates from my M.A. at Leeds Met, and she suggested that I should play to my strengths by avoiding such events and continuing to do what I’m good at doing online e.g. connecting with people via my Blog and Twitter, for example. Kirsten’s suggestions in this area seem to build on that conversation, as far as I am concerned!

Kirsten suggests:

  • FB pages e.g. IATEFL and Macmillan, if someone says something interesting in a comment, send them a message on FB alluding to the comment and asking for more info about it.
  • LinkedIn, also groups like the ELT technologies that you can join. (More information about LinkedIn below)

You can push yourself beyond the norm, beyond your social group. That’s what’s useful about these online resources.

Of course, conferences and other such events put on by Teaching Associations, or events at work where guests also attend, are all potential opportunities for networking too.

Key part of networking: Preparation

Do your research – about the online group (is it right for you, does it match what you want form it) or the event you are planning to attend; plan what you will say to the people you introduce yourself to. Think about the type of people and companies you’d like to ¬†make contact with and do some research. If there is someone you really want to meet, search for them on LinkedIn or for profiles on company websites. It doesn’t work all the time – people might not have their picture up there for example. However, if you’ve seen their face you know who you are looking for and can say, “Hi. You’re blabla” etc. (Hence the earlier point re avoiding dog and flower type profile pictures!)

Make business cards that stand out

(There was I thinking I was doing well by actually having a business card – not to mention, remembering to take them with me to whichever event! Turns out there’s a whole other layer of things to consider!)

  • shape
  • something unsual (Top Trumps style, Bitesize with a bite taken out out…)
  • extra thick

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 12.40.55

  • Personalised touch: e.g. editing the card based on what was being talked about at the event.
  • Don’t let the other side of the card go to waste. (E.g.¬†Macmillan have a quote on one side and details on the other)

Vistaprint and Moo are apparently good – you can play around with the design online.


Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 15.12.44

Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. It’s basically a glorified CV online. It’s also a good idea to adapt it depending where you are headed to so that it is relevant to the areas you are planning to network about. On LinkedIn¬†you can also access groups such as ELT Technologies. ¬†(Hint from me: If you go to your ‘My Groups’ which you can find under ‘Interests’, and go to ‘Discover’ it will show you a ream of groups based on those your contacts are members of. You can then request to join them!) Avoid profile pictures of flowers or dogs!

This year Kirsten is talking a lot about developing teachers so her profile shows what she has done in that area.

Another thing to consider: does it showcase your talents? Use it for¬†self-promotion. Do you have any testimonials? Look at Kirsten’s profile on LinkedIn for an example of this.


If you are catching someone in a brief break between sessions, bear in mind they may be after a comfort break or tea, so keep it snappy (90 seconds to 2 mins tops – if people want to follow up on you later, they will – on LinkedIn etc). What you do, who you work with, what’s your teaching situation. Say what you want to do. “Hi Im Kirsten I work as a publisher in teacher development, I’m interested in teachers who will help me with reviewing material” is the example Kirsten gives. Also try and give a sense of who you are. It’s sharing your personality as much as sharing your life. If you can, have a one-liner, can make you stand out. Practice with your friends and family. Even on your own. Do a little recording of yourself and play it back. Or use a mirror. Kirsten discovered how much she used her hands and now keeps them more contained!

Be aware of how the other person is reacting. If they look bored/disinterested, stop! Don’t waste time talking to people who aren’t interested. Thank them for their time and leave it there. Move on to someone else. Not everybody will be your friend, that’s fine. Don’t take it personally, it’s not meant personally!

General Tips

  • Kirsten says volunteering is good if you find networking daunting. Setting up, marshalling, helping people register – it’s a great way to meet people without taking too much on yourself. Can create more ‘natural’ ways of networking.
  • Show up early – before everyone arrives – there are fewer people to deal with. If you arrive very early and the speaker is setting up, allow them to set up, leave them be, meet other people. If you meet people early on, you might be more memorable.
  • Introduce yourself to the organiser (the person you corresponded with in order to attend the event etc.) and they can introduce you to other people if they have the time. This could help you get going.
  • Have a special number in mind, particularly for larger events like conferences. E.g for the first time maybe 10 people. And then when you achieve it, reward yourself. Or if you are at a talk, the two people next to you is even enough. It’s your special number. Your personal number of how many people you’d like to meet.
  • Be engaged. As you are meeting people, think about your handshake. It stays with you if someone doesn’t have a very good one! Firm and dry is good… And look at the person as you meet them. Show that you are interested. Don’t nod at EVERYTHING but show that you are listening. Building this rapport helps you develop the relationship further. Just as you would with your students, but this time with business contacts.
  • Don’t assume! Think about what you are saying and who you are saying it to. E.g. If you are meeting someone, don’t assume it’s their first time at the event just because it is yours. Or if a person is in work or out of work. “How’s work going?” could be a nonstarter… Wait to hear them describe their job before asking this question. Of course next time you meet them, you could refer back to what they say.
  • Don’t say “do you remember me?”. Think how many students you meet in a term. Teachers. Teacher trainers. People at conferences. People in your personal life. Hundreds of people. So it can be a difficult question to be put on the spot with. In a sea of faces it’s hard to stand out. So if you know the person, remind them how you know each other “I was at x with you, a, b and c were also there, we did y”. A clue is very helpful!
  • Be interested not interesting. Ask the other person questions, don’t just talk about yourself. At the same time, be thinking about what you can offer this person and what you want from them. Remember that they might know another 10 people, one of whom might be the person you really need to speak to.
  • Use your time wisely. If it’s not working with a person you are speaking to, don’t give your card out willy nilly, only give it to appropriate people.
  • Be very specific about who you are, what you do and what you are looking for.
  • Take notes. On the back of their business card is a good place – something to remember them for, something from the conversation. It takes seconds. E.g. “Met at x event, date, interested in y”

What happens after you network?

Log your contacts so that you can remember them. Connect with them on LinkedIn straight away. There is a 48hr window. Don’t let cards sit in the draw in your office or in your conference bag. Make a little contact. I met you at event x and it was interesting to talk about y. You mentioned z and I’d really like to hear more about that. It’s a way to open a conversation and remind them who you are after the event. If it is a large event like IATEFL, up to a week is fine. Once you’ve made contact, don’t bombard them. Don’t send hundreds of emails. A little bit of contact is a follow-up, don’t move into the area of stalking!

Kirsten finishes by saying networking is not a competition, not about numbers, quality is more important than quantity. It’s about using your contacts wisely and having enjoyable conversations with people, sharing ideas and knowledge. (See, this actually sounds more like fun! Maybe this is what I need to remember next time I find myself at an ELT publisher event or similar so that I can enjoy it instead of feeling slightly queasy…)

Thank you, Macmillan and Kirsten! If you are interested in this topic, then I would highly recommend watching the complete webinar here¬†¬†on the Macmillan Website, it’s freely available and Kirsten is a good speaker, so why not?! Oh, and do feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn! ūüėČ )