Have you ever found yourself at the end of class with a little extra time left over? How about those times when you’ve overestimated how long your planned lesson will take? Don’t worry about it too much; it really does happen to the best of us.
What you want up your sleeve is a series of activities that you can exploit as and when you need them; you need tried and tested ways to fill the time up with simple activities that will advance your learners in a meaningful way despite the time restriction.
So, that’s exactly the basis for my series of blog posts for the month of April: great listening exercises that are simple to set up, can be used at any time and in any situation, and that serve to energize learners while also delivering meaningful listening practice.
Are you ready? OK then, let’s get going with our first listening energizer!
Line up learners according to their birthday
This is a really quick game that works well using birthday order (numerical), although you could just as well choose anything else you like, such as favorite colors or foods to number of brothers and sisters to name of their street (these would be alphabetical order).
How to do it…
Learners have to speak to one another to find out when each person was born, so they can line up in the correct order, oldest to youngest. They can do this by year, or by month and day of the month if they are all nearly the same age (a class of young learners for example).
Have them call out their birth dates once they’re lined up to see if they got it right.
This stimulates the use of simple questions and answers and, as I mentioned, can be adapted to other subjects as and when needed.
Here are 5 things I did today
A simple yet funny game, this one requires learners to go around the room listing five things they have done today.
How to do it…
Quite simply, learners move around asking each other what they did that day. You can do it as a chain, or allow random mingling if you think that will work better
To make it more interesting, stipulate that they’re not allowed to repeat anything that someone has already said.
My advice: start this listening energizer with your weakest learners (and use the chain pattern rather than random mingling), since it does get tough toward the end.
Truth be known, I’ve been hectically busy writing my Master’s thesis and giving talks at conferences so far this year. something had to give, and unfortunately it’s been the amount of time I’ve been able to devote to this blog. Many thanks to all of you who have been dropping by despite the lack of action; I hope to be posting more regularly again soon!
Anyway, for the time being, here’s a quick presentation including links to some really useful vocabulary development and revision tools. Please take the time to investigate and play around with them!
Wow! The last year has passed so very quickly. Can it really have been so long since I last won the British Council Teaching English blog post of the month award (along with co-author Paul)?
One of the follow-ups to that award was an article I wrote for the British Council Voices magazine on the subject of using songs in the language classroom. That went down so well that I eventually turned the post into a workshop… which I unfortunately have never had the opportunity to present! If that sounds strange, then welcome to the weird and wonderful world of teacher training, in which you often prepare a workshop onşy for the institution who wanted you to do it to pull out at the last minute.
Waste not want not, I say. So, I thought I’d share the presentation here on the blog. Here then, is my guide for using any song in the language classroom…
If that doesn’t totally make sense to you, plese feel free to leave a comment below; I’ll be sure to reply to any quesries.
In this guest post Chris Westergaard discusses choosing a TEFL course tips, the do’s and don’ts, and everything else.
I get asked these questions all of the time and it’s pretty important to go over everything here. While I am clearly biased because I run TLH TEFL in Prague, I’m going to keep this post as honest and as un-adlike as a I can. The thing that I always tell people first is to not worry too much overall.
I’ve met and talked with dozens of potential English teachers who got so caught up in the course selection process that they never actually took any course at all and never taught abroad. Most courses do what they are supposed to do. If they are not doing that, they will be rated poorly on the internet. Whatever you do, do take the plunge and teach abroad. You won’t regret it.
Below are the main things you should consider.
1. Should I even Take a TEFL Course?
For the most part, yes you should for a variety of different reasons. If you are interested in teaching in some countries in Asia, you can probably get by without having to take a course, but you will probably do a pretty poor job in the classroom and not really leave learning anything. That’s not even touching on your students that have to deal with your fumblings. I taught for a year without any kind of real training, and looking back on it, I didn’t know what I was doing at all. If money is really tight, taking a course might not be an option for you. If that’s the case, use the internet for your initial training and watch experience teachers teaching. This isn’t ideal, but if you really can’t afford to get trained and certified, give it a shot.
If you can afford to take a course, then do so. You will learn a lot. More than you can imagine and most course providers know what they are doing and do a good job at it. Besides the training, you’ll meet a lot of great people and have a school that hopefully fights for you and helps you get set up in that country (where you took the course) and abroad. The certificate is a lifetime thing and most schools will pay more for trained teachers. Also it will help you, regardless of where you are, in finding employment and negotiating a higher salary.
2. What Kind of Course Should I Take?
There are tons of different TEFL courses out there what to do?
A. You want to take one that is at least 4 weeks long and has an actual teaching component of 8 hours of observed teaching practice.
Ignore the online and weekend courses because they don’t actually have teaching practice as part of the curriculum. Not having actual observed teaching practice is the same as having a swimming class where you don’t ever get into the pool. You wouldn’t take a non-practice swimming class, so why take a similar kind of TEFL course?
B. You want to take the course in a foreign country.
At The Language House where I work, the TEFL methodology and training and is only part of the curriculum. We also train people on how to live abroad. If you take a course in your home country, you’re never going to get this secondary training.
Living abroad is tough stuff. You have to find an apartment, make friends, navigate through a strange city, deal with a strange culture… all while not (usually) being able to speak the language. You are going to want someone to help you deal with these things. If you take a course in your home country, they are not going to prepare you for these realities and when you actually fly out to your job, it’s going to be a potential nightmare.
Along with this, there is no way for any of these school to compete with the contacts that a local school has. I don’t care how large a TEFL organization is in the States, Canada, the U.K…etc They are not going to be able to compete with a local TEFL center in the country. Likewise a course in Prague, is not going to be able to compete with a TEFL course that is located in Spain. It’s just not possible.
My advice is to take a course in the location that you are interested in teaching. The only exception for this is in a lot of Asian countries because it’s still easy and usually the rule to get a job abroad.
3. What is Accreditation for TEFL and is it Important?
Accreditation in TEFL is usually just an outside body that vouches for the quality of the course. Is it important? Yes and no.
A. There are many different accrediting bodies in TEFL
These include but are not limited to – Trinity, the College of Teachers, IATQUO, Cambridge, local governments and random Universities. Overall there are tons of different accrediting bodies and there seems to be more every year.
B. IMO Accreditation doesn’t really mean anything on its own
Of course, it’s better to be accredited than unaccredited, but what does that mean? If a weekend TEFL course is accredited, it’s still just a weekend course. You still didn’t actually get any teaching practice and you still will have no idea what you are doing when you actually teach. If anything, accreditation is good because it shows that a course has been around for a bit and is connected, but it shouldn’t be the main thing while looking into a course.
C. OK, accreditation does mean something, but it can mean different things
Not all accreditation is the same. They all deal with the course/school paying someone something, but they do mean different things. For example, some accreditors don’t require much, others are really extensive. Some externally monitor a course, others just require you to sign a waiver of quality and assurance.
The accrediting agency that we work with (The Language House TEFL) required a long application process. It dealt with a 3 day visit by an examiner that spoke with all of the staff and looked (exhaustively so) at all of our materials, assignments, schedules…etc. We get monitored a few times a year and continuously go over the process. There are accreditors that do this and there are ones that don’t. Both courses are accredited, but they mean different things. Find out what the accreditation entails and info on who is offering it if you are concerned.
4. TEFL Class Size
Size does matter and smaller is better. Most courses run pretty small nowadays. I think when you get beyond 20 students, it’s getting too big. The reason why smaller is better is because you want to be able to use the services of the school afterwards. This could be visa assistance, housing assistance and of course job assistance. Usually there are only 1 or 2 people that help out with job assistance for a course and if this person has to deal with your class of 20, plus last months 20 students, they might be swamped. Careful with false advertising. Some courses say they have classes of 14 people max, but they are running double or even triple classes. So really their class size is 28 or more.
5. Teaching Practice
By far the most important feature of any TEFL course is the actual amount of teaching you get. The more the better. Make sure the teaching is real though. A lot of providers will say things like 10 hours of teaching practice, but it’s mostly peer teaching. That’s not the same! You want real teaching, with real students where you are observed and then critiqued by real observers. If we included all the teaching practice (with peer teaching involved) it would be something like 16 hours or so. We do about 12 hours of actual observed teaching practice and you should shoot for a high number.
You will learn a lot from workshops and input sessions, but the actual teaching is where you will get to use these skills and grow. If you are not doing a lot of real teaching in your course, you’re not going to improve and you will leave the course without a solid base of skills. Check with the course you are applying to and find out how many actual observed hours you are doing.
5. Post-Course Support
This one is HUGE and usually totally overlooked. Accreditors don’t look at this element at all and I can’t think of a single accrediting body that accounts for post course graduate support. It’s kind of crazy actually, because it’s such an important thing. Take a course that takes care of its graduates. It’s that simple. You want to be able to ask for help in finding work, a place to live, job support…etc. Some schools do a great job with this, others couldn’t care less what happens to you. It’s such an important thing and it’s really easy to find out. Just get a list of graduates and contact them. Facebook makes it easy to do so these days and to make sure that they are real graduates of the program.
6. Job Assistance
There’s no such thing as a guaranteed job unless you are planning on teaching in Asia. You wouldn’t want that anyway. I mean I can easily guarantee you a job somewhere. It might be in a horrible location with horrible pay and conditions, but hey it’s a job. Don’t be sold on that promise and don’t buy into it. There’s a lot of things that courses can do for you, but at the end of the day it’s about you and what you put in and what you take away with you and what you use to succeed.
The TEFL program should offer assistance like the following. The most helpful thing besides the basics like mock interviews, an active job board and help with CV’s, is a sound network of past graduates. It’s the best way to find work and the best way to make the right choice in terms of moving to another location and working for a particular school. All TEFL courses should have a network of graduates all over the world. Find these people! Ask the course provider to get you in contact with people working in Asia and Europe that you can contact.
If the TEFL course you are thinking about doesn’t have this, you need to ignore them. We’ve always had tightly knit group of graduate support and recently created forums online and a web of graduates and new trainees that can communicate with each other. This honestly has been more effective than any job board or CV workshop that we had in the past. Pick a course that does this too. It helps so much and it’s such an important thing to have.
This is important, and google maps makes it easy to see where the school is located. Centrally located is obviously better unless you like the life of a hermit and the feeling of isolation.
Cost and extras
Just because something costs more doesn’t mean anything. Find out what are the direct costs of the course. Does it include anything? Some courses offer tons of extra stuff included in the price. Find out what you get for everything.
Fail rate and recourse
You don’t want to take a course that automatically passes people. You also don’t want to take a course where if you miss a few days or fail a few practice lessons you have to take the entire course over again at full price. One of the main problems with the TEFL course that I took back in 2002 was that one of my classmates (who was a great teacher) missed two classes because he was legitimately sick and they outright failed him. That was totally unacceptable to me at that time and still is today. Why should he have to take the entire course? It was two days. Why not just charge him for two days and have him make up those two lessons?
Not everyone is going to be a natural and there are some people that simply shouldn’t be teaching period. For most people that do not pass though, it’s small stuff. Easy things that can be fixed with a couple of extra days. Don’t take a course where if you fail off of some technicality you have to retake the entire thing. It’s simply bad and cheap business.
Easy stuff here. Get pictures from the TEFL school. Try not be charged an arm and a leg. Get an address and check the location in relation to the school. You don’t want to be 40 minutes away from where you are training. That’s going to be a rough morning each day for you.
Also a language school or educational environment
Not a crucial thing, but it helps. If your course is just a TEFL course, you won’t meet too many other people. It’s nice to be in a college or language school for the atmosphere. You get to also meet other teachers that are not connected with the TEFL course and get their perspective on things. Luckily for new TEFL trainees, today it’s so much easier to find out information about schools than when I first took got my TEFL training back in 2002. A simple internet search is really all you need to make sure you are taking a good program.
Regardless of where you get your training, it is what you put into that really counts. Learn as much as you can on your course and practice being as good as you can in the classroom. Feeling good about your teaching ability will greatly improve your overall experience in TEFL and living abroad.
About the author
Chris Westergaard is a teacher and teacher trainer that has lived in Prague for nearly a decade. He hosts the teaching abroad blog.
So, a gentleman by the name of Daniel got in touch with me from ImprovEDU, ”a volunteer-staffed organization focused on highlighting noteworthy resources so as to deliver on our goal of providing greater access to information for students and lifelong learners.” He guided me to this infographic on unlocking learners’ problem-solving skills and asked if I might share it here.
While I get requests like this every other day, this time round I was actually very impressed by the resource being suggested, so I’ve decided to share it with you, my dear blog readers. I hope it interests you as much as it did me!
Problem-solving skills allow us to process new concepts and interact with the world around us. This is one of many reasons why building students’ problem-solving skills is among the modern teacher’s most valuable strategies for ensuring students’ success in the classroom and in the world.
See how you can start unlocking students’ problem-solving potential today:
As with so many people working in language teaching, I find Larry Ferlazzo’s ‘websites of the day’ a constant source of inspiration. I was doing a bit of research into online reading recently and, as is so often the case, I found he’d made a great list of the ‘The Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers‘.
At present, I’m slowly but surely reacquainting myself with my much neglected YouTube channel. As such, I thought I’d take the opportunity to pay tribute to Larry’s fine work while at the same time showcasing some of the best online resources for helping young learners to read. The result is the video below…
If, like me, you find that one of the most commonly heard requests from your learners is to provide them with additional listening materials to study with outside of class, this post is definitely for you.
I’ve trawled the internet and the result of my extensive labors is the list of ten great resources you see below… enjoy!
This site doesn’t actually produce any of its own materials, but it’s as close as an encyclopedia of all ESL online listening materials as you’re ever likely to find. If you can’t find something here for your teaching context, you almost might as well stop searching!
Reasons why I use this site
Free to use (as are all on this list unless otherwise stated)
Elllo provides a wealth of listening exercises in video or audio format. What I particularly like about this one is that the listening exercises feature English speakers of different nationalities, meaning your learners are exposed to a variety of English accents like Australian, South African and Scottish among others.
Reasons why I use this site
Search results are given by level, topic, country or media
There is an option that allows you choose from games, audio or video
All of the exercises come with vocabulary lists, additional exercises or quizzes, as well as download links
This is an older site (and no longer updated), but a great resource for learners of academic English. It features lectures on many typical academic subjects, such as global warming, economics and drug use.
Reasons why I use this site
Each lecture contains a variety of accents
The resources are downloadable and a script is full script is available in most cases
The subjects are very relevant to academic English
Although not updated any more, this site links to many other free English listening resources on the BBC website for Business English, etc.
The original online ESL listening resource (this site has been going strong since 1998); still worth a mention after all these years. Teacher Randall Davis put together this very impressive site, filled with listening quizzes.
Reasons why I use this site
There are quizzes divided into Easy, Medium and Difficult levels
Each quiz comes with a pre-listening activity, a multiple-choice quiz based on the listening and post-listening activities that include vocabulary exercises
A wide range of ready-to-use listening activities for any level
It’s been 15 years since I took my language teaching certificate course and here I am, still going strong! Something I remember about the course is how tough it is to take in so much new information in such a short space of time. With that in mind, my one piece of advice is to get your reading caps on and get stuck in before the course starts.
This won’t necessarily guarantee you an easy ride when you start the course, but it will give you a solid background and set you nicely on your way. Here are the ten books I recommend you read to get a head start on your certificate course:
1. The one book you absolutely need to get started:
This is the one: if you do no other reading before embarking on your certificate course, make sure you read this. Don’t underestimate this book; after all these years I still have a copy of the latest edition sitting on my desk. This book is simply the complete manual of teaching English as a foreign language.
If you’re a native English speaker who’s worried about coming to terms with the grammar of the language this book will be a life saver, as it takes a practical approach, concentrating on examples of teaching and teaching practice rather than on detailed analysis of learning theory. Don’t start your course without this!
2. The other book you absolutely need to get started:
This is the other one! Together with Jeremy Harmer’s book, Learning Teaching is the essential guide for your first years as a language teacher and will remain an invaluable resource for your continuing career.
Again, the really practical approach makes it a perfect introduction to teaching English as a foreign or second language.
3. The book to stop you panicking about not knowing English grammar:
Let’s face it… we need to talk about grammar! If, like me, you’re a native speaker, the chances are you know next to nothing about the mechanics of your native tongue. The beauty of Grammar for English Language Teachers is that it is designed to help trainee teachers develop their knowledge of English grammar systems.
It encourages teachers to appreciate factors that affect grammatical choices, as well as evaluating the kinds of ‘rules of thumb‘ that you’ll see presented to learners in course materials. The consolidation exercises provide an opportunity for you to test these rules against real language use and to evaluate classroom and reference materials. If you’re stressed by the prospect of having to teach grammar, but this book!
One thing I can guarantee you is that you will be asked questions about grammar that you can’t immediately answer… a state of being that will probably continue for many years! That’s where Practical English Usage comes to the rescue!
This classic reference guide succinctly – and comprehensively – addresses all of the problem points in the English language as encountered by learners and us as teachers. It gives information and advice that is practical, clear, reliable, and easy to find. Don’t leave home without it.
What do you need to know about language teaching and what will you encounter on a four-week certificate course? If you want a text that will act as an easy to read and easy going book reference guide discussing the various methods of teaching English, this is the book for you.
While this is ideal for your initial teacher training, it will remain a useful reference for when you become a fully-fledged teacher. The book combines theory and practice, with each unit containing tasks that encourage reflection and discussion, plus action tasks such as classroom observation and practice.
6. The orientation to the four-week training course
While the purpose of this post is primarily to list the books you should be reading before undertaking your four-week certificate course, I hope the message is also coming through that you should get cracking in advance and not wait until you’ve started!
The course itself may probably represent the most difficult month of your life, so reading this title – which wasn’t available when I did my course, unfortunately – will enable you to orient yourself in advance and know exactly what to expect when you get started. A word of caution: reading this won’t enable you to take the course easily; you’ll still have a huge mountain to climb. Nevertheless, this is an extremely useful primer.
7. The comprehensive introduction to how to teach listening
Listening isn’t something you’ll necessarily have given much thought in your non-language teacher phase of life… so be prepared for a bit of a shock when you have to teach listening in the classroom.
Luckily, the wonderful Penny Ur is here to help us with this fantastic text in which she defines the characteristics of real-life listening, analyses the problems encountered by language learners, and discusses the considerations involved in planning successful classroom listening practice. The book also contains loads of example tasks to give you plenty of ideas about how to deal with listening in class.
8. The comprehensive introduction to how to teach reading
Reading isn’t something… aagghh, just see the above paragraph and replace the word ‘listening’ with ‘reading’! Developing Reading Skills is the kind of book that you’ll want to keep close at hand whenever you’re planning a reading lesson.
This is a comprehensive reference handbook offers a wide range of sample reading comprehension exercises which will enable you to incorporate meaningful reading into your lessons. I was using this book years after my certificate course when I did the DELTA and still refer to it on a fairly regular basis.
Get your thinking caps on and be ready to be in this for the long haul. This is one of the first books I bought in the run up to doing the CELTA course, although it took a while for its usefulness to sink in.
Not the immediate go-to-guide that you’ll get with most of the titles I’ve mentioned here, Discover English operates as a language-awareness workbook which highlights and explores selected areas of grammar and vocabulary. The exercises are designed to confront myths and preconceived ideas, and to explore common areas of difficulty, while commentaries offer support to all users, especially English teachers. Think of this as a course for you to take to learn about the language :trust me, you’ll almost certainly need it!
10. What’s your number 10?
I’ve noticed that these lists tend to work best when I leave the final choice open to you.. so here you go!
In this collection of lessons Luan Hanratty has readapted some of the most successful and entertaining gameshow formats from US and UK television and radio from over the last forty years. This set of lessons forms the third pillar in Luan’s ‘theory of communicative learning’. This is a great read and is guaranteed to give you many ideas for spicing up lessons with interesting and motivating games.
OK, this might seem like shameless self-promotion, but as this is in the top 5 of downloaded ELT books on Smashwords, I feel justified in plugging it here! If you enjoyed No. 1 on my list, this makes for a good companion text. Contents include: 10 good reasons why we should use games in the language classroom; Are we really sure about using games in the language classroom?; The 9 golden rules of using games in the language classroom; 3 strategies for incorporating games into beginner level classes; Great kids games to use with adult language learners; 3 great games for verb tense review; Using games to teach vocabulary?
Just in case you did download Vol. 2 which I mentioned in my last post, make sure you don’t miss out on Vol.1! Like the follow up, this e-book has 7 lesson plans for ELT teachers that cover Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, Isms and Pork in an engaging and enjoyable style. Written by Mike JC Smith, Cecilia Lemos, David Petrie, Adam Simpson (me!), Katherine Bilsborough, Noreen Lam, Phil Wade and cover designed by Kati Alice Bilsborough.
Jonathan Homa invites us to ‘speak the language of the American workplace‘ in this e-book. 305 colorful and commonly used American workplace expressions have been organized into twenty categories like “Working Smart” and “Thinking and Imagining”. Each expression or idiom is accompanied by a brief explanation, a fun illustration and several examples of use.
With access to 45 minutes of free audio, this is the first book in Stephen Harrison’s bestselling series. Each book contains fifteen articles on a variety of topics such as: history, religion, the natural world, science, travel, food and more. it is perfect for students of English who want to improve their reading and listening comprehension. it’s also great for exams. You need to join his website to access the audio, but it’s worth it.
This may have the worst book cover in the history of the written word… but don’t judge the book by its cover! Practice your English by reading some funny conversations from their Facebook page. You can learn new vocabulary and other tips about learning English from this book and have a lot of fun at the same time.
‘Do you need to prepare for a job interview in English?‘ asks T.J. Taylor. If so, download this free workbook with 5 mini-lessons to help your learners improve their English and answer the questions with confidence. This book may be used as a self-study course, or together with a teacher as a guide to common interview questions in English, how to deal with difficult questions, and with lots of role-plays The free teacher book is also available.
People can ‘learn English quickly & easily with this book’, exclaims Faiza Raintree. This is an intensive reading program for ESL students, a great resource for both adults and children. There are 25 units and a total of 150 activities, including: pictures, pre-reading tasks, comprehension/discussion questions, graphic organizers, vocabulary, grammar and writing.
Phil Wade is one of the most prolific e-book writers in ELT and is especially adept at collaborating with people to get books out there (trust me, I’ve been there!). This one offeres 30 Coaching and Mentoring activities for ELT professionals to try out.
Stephen’s second book on the list is a reader, written especially for learners of English as a second language. It tells the story of what happens when vampires take over the world. As well as being exciting and enjoyable, it is also easy to follow. There are twenty chapters and each has about five hundred words. At the end of each chapter there is a glossary which explains difficult words and expressions.
Any books I’ve missed off my list? Please let me know; I’m always happy to expand posts like this to include suggestions.
It’s 2016, and what better way to start the new year than with a brand, spanking new e-book for all of my dear readers!
If you’ve already downloaded volume 1 of our series Parsnips in ELT, then you’ll have an idea of what this book is about. The PARSNIP is, as many of you will know, a reference to all those topics that are commonly left out of the standard ELT coursebook: Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, -Isms, Pork.
Written by, Rob Howard, Noreen Lam, David Petrie, Adam Simpson, Mike Smith, T. Veigga and Phil Wade, this ebook has 7 lesson plans for ELT teachers that cover Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, Isms and Pork in an engaging and enjoyable style.
The Parsnips in ELT project is an attempt to provide resources and support for teachers who do want to engage their classes in more meaningful topics and discussions. Or at the very least to do something different!
It is however, up to you and your own personal and professional judgment whether you choose to use these lesson plans in your context and with your classes, or even if you choose to read them at all!
Inevitably, there will be some lessons that you will feel are inappropriate to use and some that you feel will really get the class engaged in the topic and the discussion.