The Basics of Course Planning

As the new academic year comes closer, many of you will be starting to plan your upcoming courses. Educational courses are usually governed by the basic principles of Curriculum Design and language courses are no exception. These principles included, among other things, the following:startup-593327_1280

  • Course goals
  • Course objectives
  • Course materials

However, for many in the English Language Teaching world course design isn’t an integral part of planning and preparation, though it probably should be. Most language teachers simply receive a coursebook from the school and are told to teach it over the course of the year.

The teacher who takes the coursebook and divides it up according to each month of the academic year has already taken a significant step in the right direction. However, this can be taken a little further.

How should a simple language course be laid out? What are course aims? Where does a coursebook fit into a course syllabus? These are some of the questions this post will try to address, so keep reading…  Continue reading

Observing a Real Lesson

There has been plenty of debate in English Language Teaching about the value of observations. Some of the key questions that have come out of the discussion so far have been:correcting-1351629_1280

  • Is the purpose of an observation to develop teachers or check standards?
  • Does a good observer need a plan to understand what is going on in the lesson?
  • Why do schools require written formal plans when this doesn’t happen on a day-to-day basis?

In this episode of The TEFL Show Marek Kiczkowiak and myself got into an extended debate on the subject of preparation, planning and formal observations. In the show, I emphasised how I had always had observations which were focussed entirely on Professional Development and resulted in professional development goals. I also pointed out that I saw the value of formal written lesson plans mainly because this gave the observer a greater deal of insight into the planned intentions of the teacher, which can later be compared with what actually happened during the lesson.

However, this week I had the opportunity to be observed by the Assistant Programme Manager who was quite happy to see a real lesson i.e. no formal written plan, no pre-meeting going over the stages, aims and intended outcomes, just simply watch and observe the lesson.

It has been quite an experience and has made me question how observations are currently executed. Keep reading to find out more… Continue reading

5 Good Teaching Habits

As teachers and learners, we all expect different things from learning and teaching. Some learners expect language-heavy courses, full of grammar and with lots of teacher explanation. Others anticipate a more social learning approach, where they play with the language and acquire it through practice, practice and practice. school-1223873

Whatever the style you take or whatever the style your learners expect you to take, there are some basic behaviours that all teachers should follow in the classroom. These go a long way to building an effective learning environment. Teachers come in all shapes and sizes and they vary greatly, but great teachers all share some common features i.e. the core basics of good teaching habits.

Whether you have been in teaching for five minutes or five years, reminding yourself of the core basics of good teaching is always a good refresher.

So, what are these top five teaching behaviours or habits? Keep reading to find out… Continue reading

Review: Education Umbrella

I sometimes get asked to test out educational websites, software and apps. One such recent request was for an online platform which is redefining how we access education publications.

Education Umbrella is an online platform which gives its users access to a wide range of books: from self-help books on how to support children with primary maths to teacher training books on language education.

The idea of an online store is nothing new – Kindle and iTunes have been providing electronic access to books for nearly a decade now. However, what sets Education Umbrella apart from the rest is the cost factor. Unlike other providers, where you have to pay the publisher however much they charge for the book, at Education Umbrella you pay to “access the book” for a year. What’s more, the access fees are really low – some as little as 99p for a year.

The people at Education Umbrella have really caught on to the zeitgeist of the youngest generation and acknowledged that, unlike in their parent’s day, the millenials don’t feel the need to own everything – they just need access to it.

It seems with this platform that the access-only trend, such as with Spotify and Netflix, has at long last reached the education sector. Even Apple has started providing a streaming service, which definitely means it is high time the education sector joined in, too.

Apple’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, claimed that iTunes was the answer to music piracy. Where iTunes might have helped reduced piracy among those who can afford it, you could go as far as to say Education Umbrella is the solution to printing piracy among educators. Its low cost access to books means teachers won’t have any excuse for finding a pirate PDF of the publication they are after when they can get a year’s access to it for as little as 99p.

The only drawback to the service is the publications which aren’t currently available on it. However, I imagine as it grows in popularity, the number of publishers making their books available will grow and grow.

This is an amazing service which gives educators and readers alike access to a breadth of tomes. At such a small cost and with such forward thinking, Education Umbrella is the future of education publishing.

Conferences, Content and Criticisms

The conference season is well under way. It kick started with the American Association for Applied Linguistics in Toronto, quickly followed by TESOL Canada. TESOL Greece has had its conferences in both the north and south of the country and IATEFL is next up on the list along with TESL Toronto.

Image courtesy of Matthew Noble (@newbieCELTA)
Image courtesy of Matthew Noble (@newbieCELTA)

All of these conferences, and many more, are spread across the globe. The cost of attending alone is significant, never mind the additional cost of flights, hotels and food.

Given that salaries in the industry are generally low, with most being at the local rate rather than at an international one, it comes as no surprise that most teachers struggle to raise the funds needed to attend conferences.

This brings it down to the schools and institutes to support teachers financially when attending conferences. However, most schools simply refuse to do this. Why? Is there truly nothing in conferences for them? Continue reading to find out… Continue reading

Whiteboard Aims & Objectives: Why Lesson Menus don’t Work

Over the last few weeks, the topic of sharing lesson aims and objectives with learners has cropped up several times. I was recently having dinner with my brother, who is a member of the senior faculty at a British secondary school, when we got on to the topic of lesson aims and objectives. It is an understatement to say he was surprised and shocked to learn that some ELT teachers don’t share aims and objectives with learners at the start of the lesson.

The topic has cropped up several times since and I have come to notice there are two schools of thought: those who believe in sharing lesson aims and objectives with the learners, and those who don’t.

There are arguments for and against sharing lesson aims. This post will consider both sides of the coin. Continue reading

Role of the Teacher in the ELT Classroom

One of the biggest things I got out of Delta was a better understanding of the role the teacher plays in the classroom. It wasn’t just a topic we had an input session on – it was something which significantly changed through the course as my understanding of teaching changed.

The role the teacher plays in lessons can vary quite a lot. At times the teacher is the “knower” and other times the teacher is more of a “friend” or “colleague.”

For most of my pre-Delta teaching, my main role in the classroom was setting up activities, letting them run and then feeding back on them. In fact, if anything caused me to stray from that course, I would get quite irritated: I didn’t like it when a learner asked me during an activity if the answer is X or Y. I would always tell them to wait and just to try their best.

Now, post-Delta, the role of the teacher is quite different. The teacher is the “knower” – the specialist you have paid all that money for. The teacher “knows” what is right and wrong – they can also help you to understand why something is correct or incorrect, by “explaining” or “eliciting.”

Continue reading