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Split Infinitives in English Grammar

Scott & Spock arguing over Grammar

To boldly split.

Split Infinitives are a construction in English‏‎ when the infinitive of a verb‏‎ is cut in half by another word. For example:

Infinitive: to see
Split Infinitive: to barely see

The infinitive is most often split by an adverb‏‎ or adverbial phrase‏‎.

I attempted to carefully remove the plug.

She began to frantically and almost hysterically rip at the packaging.


The first written record of a split infinitive occurs in a 13th century manuscript in Middle English. Before this infinitives in English could not be split because they were one word only.

By the 14th century it was common in literature but two hundred years later in the time of Shakespeare in the late 16th century it had fallen out of fashion (Shakespeare only uses it once in his works) and the King James Bible, for example, translated in the early 17th century does not use it at all.

But then it came back into fashion, especially in colloquial speech, and by the 19th century it was very common. It was then that grammarians began to discuss the construction more often and then rail against its use.


In the 19th century grammarians began to classify English more strictly and put forward rules for usage. (Prescriptive Grammars were written with rules on how English should be used compared with the Descriptive Grammars written now which describe how English is actually used in real life.)

Whilst a few grammarians defended it, most did not, bringing into play 2 main arguments against its use:

  • The 19th century prescriptive grammarians felt that to was so closely associated with its verb that it was not right to arbitrarily split them.
  • The more educated – and ruling – classes did not tend to split their infinitives and thus felt it was more correct than the split infinitives used by the hoi polloi.

Note that today people often cite the 19th grammarians love of Latin as a reason why they objected to split infinitives; this is not the case, however. The argument goes that in Latin infinitives were not allowed to be split and therefore when the grammarians applied traditional Latin grammar rules to English they decided that splitting infinitives was wrong in modern English because it was wrong in Latin. However, this argument does not hold weight since it was not wrong in Latin, just impossible!

Modern Views & TEFL

With the availability of corpus linguistics and the trend to descriptive grammars, split infinitives are acceptable now to all but the most conservative and traditional users of English.

In a TEFL class it is not necessary to correct split infinitives or even mention them. Only pedants will object.


  • George Bernard Shaw wrote to the newspapers in the defense of split infinitives.
  • Arguably the most famous ever split infinitive is used in Star Trek: To boldly go where no man has gone before.
  • The author Raymond Chandler once wrote a piece for a magazine; a proofreader changed his piece to remove a split infinitive. Chandler wrote to them:

    By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss-waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will remain split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have.

Useful Links

Grammar Course – a course to learn the basics of English grammar

Descriptive vs Prescriptive Grammars – what is said vs what they want you to say

Corpus Linguistics – the basis of how modern grammars are written

Alphabet Dictation‏‎

sowemeetagainmrbondAlphabet Dictation is a simple way to have your students practice pronouncing the letters of the English alphabet‏‎.

This is ideal with a beginner level class as what they learn in this activity will help later when it comes to you spelling out new words for them.


Prepare two short texts of a suitable level and content for your class. Above all make the text interesting: a good idea is making the text a short joke or saying.

Print them out in a large sized font and copy them so there is 1 text for half the students in the class and another for the other half. The important thing here is that before you print them, you remove all spacing and punctuation so you end up with something like this:



Prepare a variety of texts for the class, all roughly the same length.


This is about pronunciation of the alphabet so go over the letters and how we pronounce them. You can practice with the class as a whole dictating out the spelling of different words and having the class write them down – and then make sure they understand the word they’ve written!

Of course you don’t need to do all the talking here (and in fact, you should never talk too much in class) so be sure to get a few students reading out words letter-by-letter for the whole class to listen to and copy down.

Once the class are familiar with individual letters, read out a short phrase with no spaces, letter by letter:



Play a little game here: the first student to guess the phrase wins a point, etc.

What happens here is that the students not only listen to the individual letter and write it down, but once that is done they need to go over their text carefully to work out exactly what it says.

Running the Activity

Once the class are familiar with the letters and have had a chance to practice them, divide them into pairs and give the first student in each pair one of the texts.

Quite simply the student has to read out the text one letter at a time to their partner who writes it down. While this is going on, you can walk around the class monitoring and checking on what’s being written. It will be quite easy to see when a student has either misheard or been told the wrong letter whereupon you can get the pair to check that particular letter and correct them where necessary.

When one of the pair is finished they get together and try and work out what the string of letters means. Then they swap roles and do the same with the second text.

Variations on a Theme

  • Remember to play with case as appropriate; this means you can sometimes write in all uppercase, sometimes in lowercase, etc.
  • With complete beginners, the first few times you run this activity you might want to leave the word spacing in the text and concentrate only on the letters themselves.

Teaching English to Adults

adult students

Some prefer teaching adults. Do you?

Teaching adults (or mature students) offers different challenges and rewards to teaching teenagers and young learners. This article looks at some of the issues and considerations involved.


With many teenagers and young learners the needs of the students are fairly standard. Often teenagers are in class in order to prepare for an examination or perhaps they are beginners‏‎ starting out with the language and expecting to go through the school system and during their teenage years take an examination and “finish” English.

Adults, however, are generally more varied here. There are many, many different reasons why adults take English classes. Perhaps the most common is for business but there are certainly many other reasons:

  • for holidays
  • for pleasure
  • for survival in a new country
  • for their job
  • for a pay rise (often companies abroad give bonuses to employees who have an English qualification)
  • for university in another country (EAP)

Thus it is especially important to run a needs analysis‏‎ with your class to find out exactly why they are there and what they will do with their English. There’s no point in teaching extensive grammar to a class who want to be able to order food on their trip to New York, and there’s no point in teaching someone how to order food when they will be using their English to telephone factory owners in Asia!

Plus a good needs analysis will also tell you what your class is interested in. Arguably the majority of teenagers are interested in music & celebrity so you can often almost guarantee a lesson based around music & celebrity will hold their interest (whether they love or hate the celebrity in question). However (again speaking very generally)  adults tend to have more diverse interests and so there’s no guarantee that the subject of your lesson will interest the majority of the class. Finding out what they enjoy will make future lessons much stronger.


Adults tend, on the whole, to want more value for money in the lesson. Unlike teenagers who don’t pay for the lessons themselves, adults are probably paying their own tuition fees so they want to see they’re getting what they’ve paid for. This means that winging a lesson isn’t going to go down well. You need to plan‎ well and make sure that each lesson is fully prepared. In other words, you need to be professional!

Research suggests that most adults have much clearer ideas about what they want to learn and are much more goal oriented than teenagers. Thus you need to make sure you give them what they need. Of course you can present material and have practice with all the resources at your disposal (video, internet, interactive whiteboard or whatever is at hand) but you must make sure they all focus to what the student needs.

Other Issues


One common issue with adults can be a certain reluctance to speak. In their adult life they may well hold positions of authority either at work or in their household, however in the classroom they are suddenly reduced to learners once more and this can cause some to be reluctant to speak for fear of making a mistake.

The answer is to make the classroom as safe an environment as possible and to never, ever, make a joke at the expense of someone’s  English. It can cause resentment towards the teacher!

Time Keeping

It’s often the case that adults are also working and have commitments outside the class. Whilst you need to make it clear that punctuality is needed, a little more leeway often needs to be shown to adults who turn up late.


Having said all this, the rewards of teaching adults are immense and it is not hard to build a great relationship with your students which can extend outside the classroom.

TEFL Battleships‏‎

TEFL Battleships is a game played by two players. In the original version of Battleships (a game dating from World War I) a grid of squares contains some “ships” and the players must try to guess their location and then sink them (see here for more on this game).

However, this game can be adapted for use in the EFL‏‎ classroom and used with words‏‎ rather than ships. It is good for practicing spelling, the alphabet‏‎ and also vocabulary‏‎, especially semantic fields.


Draw out a simple grid of squares, 8 x 8 (with more advanced classes you can make the grid bigger). Along the top and left side put numbers and letters so that each square in the grid can be identified:


Next, you can prepare a list of words which the students will use to add into their grids. For an 8 x 8 grid you could have

  • 1 x 6 letter word
  • 1 x 5 letter word
  • 2 x 4 letter words
  • 2 x 3 letter words

You need to make 2 seperate lists of words (so that when the students play in pairs, they don’t have the same words on their grids). The words you choose can be completely random or you can choose words which you would like your class to practice (e.g. a particular semantic field), or perhaps – if you wish to practice the pronunciation of certain sounds or letters with your class – choose words which are spelt or sound similar.

Later on when the class are familiar with the game, you can have them create their own word list.

A finished grid might look like this:


(This grid, obviously, contains words related to transport.)


If you have created the word lists according to pronunciation you can check with your class how to say various letter combinations in English. Also, you may need to go over the pronunciation of the alphabet with the class.

Finally you can show the class an empty grid and make sure they all understand how to identify a particular square, e.g. A3 or D5 – putting up an empty grid on the board allows you to play a quick game with the class.

Go through a game with the whole class getting them to call out grid references and you telling them if they have made a “hit” or a “miss”. If they make a “hit” then you can give them the letter and write it into the grid.

Suppose the class “hit” the letter K. From there you can have them guess letters around this and try and identify the word. Try and get the class to think about letter combinations (e.g. that K is followed by a vowel; K is often preceded by C; K can be the start or finish of a word, etc).

Eventually the class will complete the entire grid and identify all the hidden words. It’s then time to move on and allow the students to play independently.

Running the Activity

Get the class into pairs. Give each student 2 copies of an empty grid and a copy of the words they must put in the grid. Make sure they understand that this isn’t like a crossword and the words they put into the grid must not overlap or be adjacent.

While the students are adding the words to one grid (making sure their partner can’t see) go around the class and check they are filling the grid correctly.

The other grid they will use to try and recreate their opponent’s grid.

Finally get the students to play, taking it in turns to try and find the hidden letters and words.

The game continues until a student has found all the words on their opponent’s grid. When they have done this they can compare it to their opponents original and see if they have all the letters and words correct. You should also take a look at the grids and make sure that their are no mistakes; it may well be, for example, that Student 1 has said one letter which Student 2 consistently writes down as another letter.

Spain‏‎ – CAPS

CAPS (Conversation Assistant for Spanish Schools) is a privately run program placing teachers in Spain for 3 – 6 months to work as au-pairs and also teaching assistants in primary or secondary schools.

Candidates for the programme are:

  • 18 – 27 years old
  • have A levels or equivalent
  • friendly and outgoing

The work includes acting as a teaching assistant to primary or secondary school classes for a maximum of 25 hours per week. The work may well include one-to-one assitance, language lab work, helping explain the culture of Britain, teaching English.

At the same time the CA (Conversation Assistant) will be given help learning Castillian Spanish. It is not necessary to speak Spanish before embarking on the programme.



Included are:

  • accommodation
  • food
  • transport to/from the school each day

During the 6 month period the candidate will stay with a host family in a single room and be given breakfast and an evening meal included (full board at weekends and school holidays). Lunch, during schooldays, is provided by the school.

In addition there is 100 euro spending money given per month. The candidate will organise their own flight or travel to and from Spain.

The program is free of charge to take part in.



Home to Home
c/Riereta, 2
Spain 08184

Phone: 0034938648886

Official Website

Living Sentences‏‎

British Royal Guard lined up.Living Sentences is a fun exercise for younger children to give them practice in the way sentences are put together.


On A4 sheets of paper write single words which will go to make up sentences which are an appropriate level for your class.


And so on. It’s best to paperclip the words of each sentence together so you don’t mix them up.

Running the Activity

In class, go over the way in which sentences are constructed. Here you can concentrate on the kind of sentence your class is studying, for example making questions or negations or simple declarative sentences, etc.

As an example, get 5 students to the front of the class and give them each one word from the first sentence and have them stand in a group, holding the word they have above their head. Get the class to call out and tell those students where to stand in a line so that the sentence is formed properly.


or maybe


With the younger students this is great fun and leads to a lot of enthusiastic noise!

Variations on a Theme

Once the class is familiar with this you can:

  • turn the activity into a team game
  • use grammatical labels instead of words, e.g. ARTICLE – NOUN – VERB – ARTICLE – NOUN
  • use semantic fields and grammatical labels, e.g. ARTICLE – ANIMAL – VERB – ARTICLE – ANIMAL

Useful Links

Sentences‏‎ in English Grammar – formation, classification, examples.

Semantic Fields in TEFL – all about lexical fields and how to use them in your TEFL class.

Parts of Speech‏‎ in English Grammar – a look at the main class of words or PoS.

Image © aoberg


A vault in the Blue Mosque.Constantinople is a traditional word game that can be easily adapted for the ESL classroom. It works as an ideal filler activity at the end of class and can also be used to tire out lively students!

It practices vocabulary but can also be adapted for semantic fields.

Running the Game

Divide the board into two halves. At the top of each half write in capital letters, well spaced:


Then divide the class into two groups and have them stand in a line on either side of the class. Give the first person in each line a piece of chalk (or board pen as appropriate).

On your command they have to rush to the board and write down a word – any word – beginning with C and vertically down. When they’ve done this they rush back to the line and hand the chalk to the next student and sit down. The next student rushes to the board and writes a second word:


The first team to complete the word wins.

Variations on a Theme

  • make the key word different; if there are more than 22 students in the class then the word either has to be longer than CONSTANTINOPLE (which has 11 letters) or you need to divide the class into 3 groups (if the board is big enough)
  • to stop students preparing words beforehand, get the students to write their name on a piece of paper and put it in a team hat; whenever someone writes a word on the board they have to run back, choose a name from the hat at random and then that person must go to the board and write the new word
  • make all the words written apply to a single semantic field
  • any words written that are longer than 7 letters get an extra point for the team
  • the keyword can be an unusual one the students don’t know; after a couple of games with it they are sure to remember the word and then you can choose a new, strange, keyword

Political Sensitivity

In Turkey the city of Constantinople had its name officially changed to Istanbul in the 1930s. If you are playing this game in either Greece‏‎ or Turkey then you might want to use a different keyword to begin the game. Any long word will do!

Image © archer10 (Dennis)

J.C. Wells‏‎

JC WellsEmeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London, John C. Wells’ interests centre on the phonetic and phonological description of languages but also extend to lexicography and language teaching.

He directs UCL’s annual Summer Course in English Phonetics. He is a frequent contributor to BBC radion (R2, R4, R5, BBC English).

Based in Britain at UCL throughout his career, he has over the years given invited lectures in many different countries throughout the world. His best known publications are Accents of English (3 vols, Cambridge University Press 1982) and Longman Pronunciation Dictionary.


Teaching Adult Second Language Learners (book)‏‎

Author: Heather Mckay ; Abigail Tom
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Details: Paperback; 244 pages; Pub.1999
ISBN: 0521649900

This is the latest in the excellent Handbooks for Language Teachers series edited by Penny Ur. The book addresses the needs of adults studying English. It provides a useful summary of the principles involved in teaching adults as well as a wealth of activities specifically designed for adult learners. The text is divided into three sections:

  • Section I provides an introduction to the adult language learner and discusses the issues of assessment/placement and course/lesson organization.
  • Section II gives teachers techniques for building community in the classroom.
  • Section III provides activities designed for students at various levels that are organized thematically around topics such as self-identification, food, clothing, and work.

Many ESL teachers find it a helpful guide to help them plan lessons for their language classes. This is because each lesson is easily adaptable to all ages and levels, allowing you to tailor a lesson to your students’ needs. The lessons are organized according to topic and actually go in order, as if you are actually beginning a class, commencing with get-to-know-you exercises. And the activities included coincide with each lesson’s topic.

External Links

Teaching Adult Second Language Learners (amazon.com)

Teaching Adult Second Language Learners (amazon.co.uk)


One-to-One English Lessons

Face to Face

Face to Face. 1 to 1

1-to-1 (or One-to-One) lessons are those with just 1 student and 1 teacher.

Often, although not always, they are private lessons.

As with other lessons, these need to be thought out well and because the student will only be able to interact with the teacher (instead of with other members of the class) you will need to have plenty of extra activities prepared in case the student completes those you have set in a shorter time than you envisaged.

Useful Links

Private English Lessons – a look at teaching outside the classroom environment

Private English Lessons to Businesses‏‎ – to businesses

A First Private TEFL Lesson – how to get through that first one-to-one lesson when you don’t really know who or what you’ll be teaching

Personal Safety when Teaching Abroad


Would you walk down this underpass late at night?

Personal Safety is often a concern of teachers heading abroad for the first time. This article looks at the facts about personal safety abroad.


It’s often the case that people think the situation is worse abroad. It’s the fear of the unknown plus strange stories told by a friend of an aunt of the lady next door who went to a foreign land on holiday and had her bag snatched (or did she drink something poisonous?) and had to be brought home by air-ambulance. Add to this the hysterical reports on the news and no wonder your mother thinks you’re heading off to a war zone to teach English.

However, the truth of the matter is that in 99% cases you will probably be safer abroad than you are in your own country.

Here are a few facts and figures. They are taken from Nationmaster, a global statistics analysis site.

  • there is a higher crime rate in New Zealand‏‎ than the USA‏‎ and there are more crimes per person in Canada‏‎ than in Italy‏‎
  • you are more much likely to be the victim of sexual assault or rape in Canada or the USA than in South Korea, Thailand‏‎, Malaysia‏‎, Japan or Saudi Arabia‏‎
  • more people died in terrorist acts (per capita) in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand than in South Korea, Japan and China

And yet, people often fear going abroad to these countries and worry they won’t be as safe as they are in the West!

But, to make your time abroad as safe as possible, there are a number of simple precautions you can take in order to reduce the likelihood of becoming a statistic. (And of course these same tips can also apply to your own country to make you safer there!)


Take a look at the latest travel advice from your government. Their website will show you recent advice for traveling to certain countries.

These sites often have advice for specific countries and the latest information about possible issues in different countries.

Before you go:

  • get a guidebook and learn about your destination; here you’ll learn not only about places worth visiting but also places worth avoiding
  • make copies of your passports‏‎, credit cards, insurance card and any other important documents you have; once you arrive put these in a safe place so you can refer to them if one goes missing or better still, scan them and upload to your Dropbox‏‎ account.
  • make sure your smartphone is password protected and then copy important documents over to that; put a tracker on your smartphone as well
  • try to learn a little of local language so that if you do get into problems, you have a few words to try and help yourself out


  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash on you.
  • Keep some small notes and cash in your pocket so that you don’t have to pull out a wallet stuffed with money to pay for a ticket or some coffee.
  • Stay with other people; if you’re on a train or boat try and are likely to fall asleep, try to do so close to a “nice” looking family rather than in a totally quiet seat where you could lose your bag.
  • Wear a money belt if that makes you feel safer.
  • Don’t give your bags to someone else to carry for you (occasionally thieves will pose as porters in crowded railway stations). And of course, always padlock your bags closed.
  • Don’t listen to your iPod all the time; it’s best to be able to hear what is going on around you.
  • Take with a you small wedge if you’re going to be spending a night or two in a hotel. You may end up in a grotty hotel or pension so it’s best to be prepared; jam the wedge under the door before you go to be so no one can open it in the middle of the night and come in while you’re asleep!

When You Are There

As soon as you can get to know your area. Learn as much as you can about it by walking around, asking others and checking online. This way you will soon become comfortable about finding your way home after work or a night out. You’ll learn which areas are well lit and which aren’t. You’ll also learn where the local police station is!

  • Avoid unlicensed taxis!
  • Learn a little of the language as soon as you can; the less you look and act like a gullible tourist the better!
  • Especially in poorer countries or areas, don’t be obvious with your expensive smartphone or tablet. In other words, don’t attract attention to yourself as a rich foreigner (as though English teachers are rich!)
  • Never let your passport out of your sight. It’s yours and no one can take it away from you.
  • Learn the emergency telephone number for the country; it’s probably not the same as the one at home.
  • Take out your house keys before you reach your front door so you can let yourself in immediately.
  • Trust your instincts. If you are out with a group of people and you’re not happy with the attentions or attitude of them then leave.
  • Don’t hitchhike alone.
  • If you’re in the school alone late at night, make sure the door is locked.
  • If it’s late at night and you’re on public transport, sit near the driver.
  • Make sure you always have the cab fare home.
  • If you carry a bag, wear it across your body and not just over your shoulder (which is far easier to snatch) and hold it between your arm and your body and away from traffic.


There are a couple of major points to end with.

The first is that thieves look for the easy target. Given the choice between a dumb looking local with the bulge of a wallet in their pocket and a confident foreigner they will choose the dumb looking one. They are not after you, they are after the easy target. Knowing this means it’s simple to avoid 99% of the problems by walking confidently and looking like you know what you are doing – even if you don’t!

And the second point is that in all likelihood, nothing will go wrong. If you take a few simple precautions and keep your head on, then you’ll be fine.

Useful Links

What to Take With You‏‎ – things to pack before you go abroad to make your stay safer and more enjoyable

Culture Shock‏‎ – adapting to a new country

Socializing in a New Country‏‎ – meeting people in a new country

Insurance‏‎ & Health Cover – the insurance you should have when abroad

The Welcome Code‏‎ to your TEFL Classroom

A bouncer in TEFLThe Welcome Code is a TEFL game adapted from an old drinking game – but without the drinking! It can be used to practice vocabulary and spelling and semantic fields amongst other things and so it’s very flexible. Once your class is familiar with the game you can adjust it and use it time and time again with small variations.

Although you can use it specifically to practice a language topic, since there is little preparation needed it is also ideal as a 5 minute filler or lesson starter.

Running the Activity for the First Time

Get all of the students away from their desks and standing at the back of the room. Then tell them that at the front of the room there’s a party going and you all want to go. But… to get in to the party you have to say the right phrase and take the right present and get past the mean looking bouncer on the door (one teacher I knew had a cut out of a bouncer which she propped up for this bit).

Write up on the board:

My name is _____ and I’ve bought _____ with me.

Explain that they need to give their own name along with the right present. The trick though is that there is a code in the phrase: the name and the present must have the same first letter – but don’t tell this to the students!

So teacher Catherine might say:

My name is Catherine and I’ve bought a cake.

And teacher Sam might say:

My name is Sam and I’ve bought a sausage.

And teacher Eddie might say:

My name is Eddie and I’ve bought an egg.

And so on. Simply say the correct phrase with your name and a matching present and you can walk into the party at the front of the room.

Now, one by one, you ask each of the students to say the phrase with their name and a present so they can come and join you at the party. The chances are that the students will not understand and say their name and a random present which doesn’t follow the code so they can’t come in. Simply tell them they’ve bought the wrong present and they’ll have to choose another one and wait their turn in line.

However, sooner or later one of them will get it right, accidentally or not.

My name is Veronique and I’ve bought some vodka.

And then welcome Veronique in with open arms!

When you play this for the first time you’ll probably have to start dropping plenty of hints and, of course, let your students know that there’s a code involved which they’ll need to find out in order to get into the party. If a student thinks they have found it then make sure they don’t tell the others but they need to test it out on you when it’s their turn to see if it works.

And then carry on until everyone is in the party… giving stronger and stronger hints to those who are left outside till everyone’s in!

NB: one rule is that no one is allowed to bring a duplicate present, so make sure that Vicky doesn’t also try to come in with vodka!

Variations on a Theme

One good aspect about this activity is that once you have played it with your class they will be on the lookout for the code and you can start to make it more complicated and involved.

  • the present is a color
  • the present is an abstract noun
  • the present is smaller than a football
  • the present can be found in an average kitchen
  • (in a multinational class) the present begins with the same letter as your nationality

And then perhaps get very complicated:

  • the second letter of the present is the last letter of your name

You also change the basic scenario and phrases to suit the class.

I’m delivering a jacket for John.
I’m delivering a pencil for Paddy.
I went to Singapore and bought some sweets.
I went to Bangkok and bought some bananas.

And so on. Only your imagination limits what the code can be!

TEFL Theory

The activity works on several levels. Firstly, once the class are familiar with it, it encourages them to analyze what is being said very carefully. They will go over the phrase in their minds and try to work out a pattern and then they’ll listen some more and test their theory and then either adjust it or try it out themselves.

Because you choose the code, the students will need to think about what they are saying and come up with the right words. Suppose each student needs to bring an article of clothing as a present; they will listen to what you say, listen to what others say (so they don’t try and take the same present) and then have to think carefully of something they can take which belongs to the same semantic field.

Michigan Proficiency Test

Young adult sitting for the MET exam.The Michigan Proficiency Test (MET) is an exam which assesses general English language skills usually needed in social and work environments. It is the American equivalent to the Cambridge Proficiency Exam.

The MET is designed for adults and teenagers with at least a secondary level of education who need or want to have an evaluation of their general English language proficiency for work or study purposes.

Students for example can take it after completing an English language course to attest their level of proficiency. Workers may need it to prove their ability to speak English when applying for jobs or looking for a promotion.

Note: Although this test will certify the candidate’s language skills it is not valid as an admission test for students applying to universities and colleges in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The Test

The exam tests listening, reading, grammar & vocabulary. A speaking component is optional.

The exam consists of 135 multiple-choice questions supplied on paper.

The questions are divided in two sections:

Section 1. listing

Section 2. reading & grammar

The speaking test, when required, consists of a one to one interview between the examiner and the candidate.

Useful Links

Academic Success Media – a site all about the Michigan Tests.

Image @ Modern_Language_Center

Conditional Mood‏‎ in English Grammar

Daring skier jumping over a car park.

A true daredevil.

The Conditional Mood is the form of the verb used in conditional sentences to refer to a hypothetical situation or an uncertain event that is dependent on another set of circumstances.

In other words, the conditional mood talks about something which might happen if something else does!

When we talk about a conditional situation, we must be able to tell the difference between what is real and what is possible.

In English, then, there are three types of conditional sentences:


When he has a competition, I can’t watch.

It’s true; it is a fact! Every time he is in a competition I’m so nervous I find it impossible to watch him jump.


If he reaches the finals, I won’t be able to watch.

I’m predicting what will happen. From past experience I know this it is going to happen.


If I were to go to the next Olympics, I wouldn’t be able to watch him.

This is more contemplative. I’m wondering about the future and the consequences of what might happen. It’s very uncertain if he’ll make the Olympic team and if he does I’m not sure at all if I could watch him compete.

Meanwhile, the conditional mood can be expressed using several verb forms:


I would watch.

Progressive (aka continuous)

I would be watching.

Perfect Simple

I would have watched.

Perfect Progressive (aka continuous)

I would have been watching.

Useful Links

Conditionals in English Grammar – a general introduction to conditionals.

Conditional Clauses in English Grammar – more about building conditionals.

First Conditional or Second Conditional‏‎ – often confusing for students; which one to use?


ICAL TEFLPictionary is a classic game which you can use in the classroom to practice vocabulary‏.

The basic premise is simple: draw a picture to represent a word. This can be very easy to do with basic concrete nouns‏‎ where students can draw a picture of, for example:

  • a cat
  • a computer
  • a tree

and so on. But things get more difficult when it comes to more abstract nouns‏‎ such as:

  • love
  • envy
  • jealousy

And then they can become more difficult still when it comes to concepts and ideas such as:

  • sharing
  • return address
  • art

and so on.


Write the vocabulary you want to practice on a flashcards‏; over time you can collect these for use in different lessons and with different classes. The words should be related to previous lessons and used to practice what the students should already know.

Words can be grouped in different ways such as semantic fields or parts of speech‏‎ and so on. In the original board game (see below) words are grouped into the following categories:

  • person/place/animal
  • object
  • action
  • difficult (i.e. words which are difficult to represent visually)


There are different ways to play the game and run the activity, but this works well.

Divide the class into two (or more) teams. One student from each team comes to the board and chooses a card at random; they then have 1 minute to draw the word on the board while their own team guesses what it is.

If their team can guess the word within a minute, they get a point. After a minute the drawing stops and the other team get 1 try to guess the word for a point.

If neither team can guess the word correctly, you the teacher get the point!

Original Game

The original game was designed by Robert Angel and first published as a board game in 1985 by Seattle Games Inc. Since 1994 it has been published by Hasbro who have produced a number of versions.

Opposites Attract‏‎

A sleeping cat curled up on top of dog asleep.Opposites Attract is an activity you can use to practice opposites (or antonyms) in class.


Prepare a set of flashcards, each of which forms half of a pair of words.

  • big – small
  • always – never
  • cheap – expensive

and so on. The words you use should be of the right level for your class of course!

Running the Activity

In the classroom go over a few common antonyms to make sure the class understand what the activity will be about and they remind themselves of the vocabulary.

The next step is to shuffle and deal out one card to each student. They must then go around the other members of the class trying to find their opposite number. Once the class are all paired up, the activity finishes.

Note that sometimes there can be more than one opposite in the class when one of the pair can be used in different ways, e.g. FAT – THIN – THICK. In these cases it does not matter as long as the pairs are matched. You can use the confusion to explain the meanings of the words.

Variations on a Theme

You can add scoring to the activity to turn it into a game. The first pair to your desk gets a point and you give them each a new card to go off with; as other pairs arrive they get points and a new card. This makes the game last longer as well.

Useful Links

Antonyms‏‎ or Opposites in English – a look at the vocabulary of opposites

Flashcards‏‎ and English Language Teaching – the best way to make and prepare them

Image © virtualwayfarer

Teaching English in the Philippines

TEFL/TESOL in the Philippines

PhillippinesThe Philippines is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. Its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and its tropical climate make the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons but have also endowed the country with natural resources and made it one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world. An archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital city is Manila.

With an estimated population of about 92 million people, the Philippines is the world’s 12th most populous country. An additional 11 million Filipinos live overseas. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands. In prehistoric times, Negritos were some of the archipelago’s earliest inhabitants. They were followed by successive waves of Austronesian peoples who brought with them influences from Malay, Hindu, and Islamic cultures. Trade introduced Chinese cultural influences.

English and Teacher Demand

With great ethnic diversity, there are estimated to be over 170 different languages used in the country with Filipino (a variant of Tagalog) and English being the official languages.

This being the case, there are many local English teachers working in the Philippines and so demand for foreign native speakers is not high. Occasionally there are jobs in more remote areas, however.

In recent years the level of English has declined in the Philippines and the demand for teachers has risen, especially in the rural areas. In the cities you may well find yourself teaching students from South Korea or Vietnam‏‎ in your class.

Pay and Conditions

The most likely place to work is a private school teaching General English‏‎ or Business English‏‎. Pay is not great and tax runs at about 25%. With the cost of living being slightly higher than surrounding countries such as Thailand or Vietnam.

A degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate are required to teach in the Philippines.

Image © Storm Crypt

Proverb Match‏‎

Old japanese proverb:1 kind word can warm 3 winter months.Proverb Match is a nice, simple way of practicing proverbs. It also allows for plenty of speaking practice.


You will need to prepare a list of proverbs; each one needs to be written on two cards. 

Too many cooks   spoil the broth.
A stitch in time      saves nine.
A fool and his money     are soon parted.
The bigger they are      the harder they fall.
Wonders   will never cease.
There’s no time   like the present.
The customer   is always right.

…and so on until you have as many as you can make.

Here is a long list of proverbs‏‎ you can use.

Running the Activity

In the class divide the students into two or more teams. Shuffle the cards and then deal out all of them to the teams.

The first stage is to give the teams 5 minutes or so to put together as many full proverbs as they can with the cards they have; they should lay these out on their own desk for you to check and see.

Obviously each team will be able to make some proverbs, but for many of them they’ll be missing cards.

The next stage is swapping. The “extra” cards each team has are divided amongst its members who must mingle with everyone else to try and swap them for a card they need. This will entail different students talking to different other students and moving around trying to find the card they need and doing a deal with the person who has it.

After 5 or so minutes stop the game and see which team has the most completed proverbs on their home desk.

The whole activity can be followed up by a third stage where you can award points for teams who know the meaning of the proverbs they’ve created.

Image © bondidwhat

Anne Upczak Garcia‏‎

Anne Upczak GarciaA writer and a bilingual teacher in Colorado, she has lived and taught in South America for many years.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and an Master’s degree in Multicultural, Bilingual and ESL education from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

As a writer she has written for a variety of magazines including a sustainable business publication (LOHAS Journal), a travel periodical, and a Spanish-language magazine that focuses on politics and culture (Nuestra Gente Utah.). She recently published a professional development book for teachers titled Ladybugs, Tornadoes, and Swirling Galaxies.

In addition to her teaching and writing, she is currently presenting at state and national conferences as well as working with other teachers doing trainings and consulting work.

She is a member of several different professional organizations including the National Association for Bilingual Education, the Colorado Association of Bilingual Education, the National Council for Teachers of English, and the International Reading Association. She has also participated on a panel during the 2007 PEBC symposium in Denver, CO to examine how educators can better capitalize on research and professional development about Culturally and Linguistically Diverse learners.


Games in the English Language Classroom‏‎

Little girl enjoying herself in class.Using Games in the Classroom is an invaluable method of helping your students to learn English. Although some critics see it negatively and try to suggest that if your students are enjoying themselves they are not really learning, an overwhelming amount of evidence shows that games in the classroom help your students.


  • Students want to take part in the game. Suppose you are teaching animal vocabulary to a younger class. You might just show pictures and have them tell you what animal is being shown; some students will participate actively, others will tune out. However, if you change the activity into animal bingo‏‎, for example, then it is likely that the whole class will become actively involved. This is because the students will see this as a fun game rather than a learning activity.
  • Games can put language into context. Sometimes language teaching can seem remote. Discussing the use of the past simple has little to do with real life language use. However, if the past simple is presented as a role play between a “detective” and a “suspect” then it becomes much more relevant. Games then help students put language into real life rather than treat it as abstract.
  • Teenage students spend hours and hours in the classroom where, most likely, they are confronted with lesson upon lesson of repetition and standard teaching. Especially in more conservative countries rote learning is the norm. Games, therefore, are seen as a break from learning. There is a common misconception that learning needs to be serious and solemn but this is simply not true; students can learn as much (if not more) from a fun game than they can from a dull dictation.
  • Since games are fun they can help reduce anxiety in the class. A student who might be too shy to speak up and answer a question in a traditional class, may well find it easier to offer their opinion in the middle of a game.
  • Games often involve communication and interaction; as long as this is in English, it is useful.
  • Games often involve competition which encourages learning and participation amongst students. Competition unconsciously improves performance!

The Right Game

Games can be used any time in the classroom, however there are a few basic rules which help make them more effective.

  • Don’t use games just as a filler activity or a warmer. They can also be used as the main body of a lesson.
  • Choose your game to fit in with the overall syllabus or lesson plan‏‎, not the other way around. In other words, if you read about a brilliant game to practice the conditional tenses‏‎, use it when you have covered this aspect of grammar with your class rather than just spring it on them because you like the idea of a good game in class.
  • Good games will involve friendly competition.
  • The best games focus on language use; they should be about using language in real-life situations.
  • Make sure the game is of the right level and age for the class. Younger children enjoy running about (e.g. with Distance Dictation‏‎) but older children or adults will probably prefer more sedate games. Likewise think of the content: a game like Blind Date can be used with your class if they are old enough but may well cause problems with a younger class or if you are teaching in an ultra-conservative country.
Image © ijiwaru jimbo

English Speaking Union‏‎

The English Speaking Union LogoThe English-Speaking Union (ESU) is an international educational charity that promotes “international understanding and friendship through the use of the English language.”

It was founded at the end of the First World War by Sir Evelyn Wrench with the aim of promoting closer ties between the English-speaking peoples. One of its first Chairmen was Sir Winston Churchill.

Since then the Union has grown into a world wide organization operating in more than 50 countries creating international understanding through the use of English‏‎ – the language we teach.

With almost 40 branches in the UK, and over 60 overseas ESUs in countries in every part of the world, the ESU reaches out to young people world wide from every social background encouraging them to use English well to realize their own potential.

It partners and is supported by many of the world’s most famous companies and it deploys information technology to advance international understanding in every way possible.

The ESU offers, amongst other things,

  • courses
  • English speaking competitions
  • lunches
  • talks on various subjects
  • book clubs
  • debates
  • exchanges

Useful Links

Official ESU site

Uncovering Grammar‏‎ (book)

Author: Scott G. Thornbury
Publisher: Macmillan ELT
Details: Paperback; 12 pages; Pub.2005
ISBN: 140508006X

As teachers we often talk about “covering” grammar points. Thornbury explains why it is more useful to think about how we “uncover” grammar, to reveal the workings of the system to our students and encourage them to notice what is going on.

The book uses extracts from exchanges in real classrooms, authentic texts and language teaching tasks. It provides lots of practical activities so that you can immediately and easily put the ideas to work in your classroom.

See Also

Beyond the Sentence by Scott G. Thornbury

External Links

Uncovering Grammar (amazon.com)

Uncovering Grammar (amazon.co.uk)

TEFL Employment Agents (Recruiters)

Harvey Keitel from Pulp Fiction... the man who solves problems.

This man could solve your problems…

This article is all about using a TEFL Employment Agent or Recruiters to find work in a country.

Essentially an Agent is an individual or organization which matches up teachers and schools. They approach schools and promise to find them English‏‎ teachers for a fee. They then advertise and get in touch with teachers who want to work in the country. They then recruit some of those teachers and send them to the schools they are acting for.

This is the theory. In practice, however, there are a number of issues and sometimes problems with agents. In the TEFL‏‎ industry they tend to have a poor reputation among established teachers, but at the same time they can be very useful for new teachers.

How Agents Help

An agent can help teachers in several ways:

  • they find you work
  • they offer advice about visas and about the country you’re heading to
  • if you have a problem while you are in the country you can turn to them for advice or help

An agent, therefore, can be very useful for a new teacher.

If you have several years experience teaching in, say, China, then you will know your way around, you’ll understand some of the difficulties of living and working there, and if you have a problem you will have your own friends, colleagues and support network in China to help you.

But, if you are a new teacher and this is your first experience in a new country, you may well feel alone and abandoned. An agent becomes, therefore, someone to turn to if you have a problem.


An agent charges a school to find them a teacher. Reputable agent do NOT charge teachers to find them work. If an agent asks you for money, simply walk away. You should NEVER pay anyone a single cent to find you work; if you do, you are most likely being scammed.

So, an agent charges the school to find them a teacher. This means that the agent, essentially, works for the school. And this means that if there is some kind of contractual dispute between the teacher and the school, the agent is likely to take the side of the party which pays them: the school.

On the other hand, an agent wants to keep both parties happy because if the teacher leaves the school, they won’t get paid. In this respect they will try to resolve issues, but if it comes to deciding between you or the school, the agent will most likely choose the school.

Remember also that as agents make their money from schools, some of them are prepared to deal with schools which may not be the best. Some agents are very scrupulous here and will only deal with high quality schools which offer good conditions and a reasonable salary to their teachers; other agents will supply teachers to any old school which asks, regardless of reputation or conditions.

If you do have a problem with the school, it’s obviously first best to approach the school. If there’s still an issue, without an agent you are left with few alternatives. If you do have an agent, however, you can ask them to try and sort out the problem. Most agents are at least willing to smooth things over and try to find a compromise.


There are good agents and bad agents. If you are an experienced teacher who knows the ropes of a country then you are probably able to do without the services of an agent.

However, for new teachers in a new country, an agent can provide a backup if things go wrong. The other thing to consider is that you will have less control over where you are sent and may well end up teaching in a small town when you asked to work in a big city (which may not be a bad thing in itself, but that’s for you to decide).

Before selecting an agent, do a search online for them and see what others say, but do bear in mind that people who have used an agent and found them good tend not to post, whilst those who have a gripe do.

Useful Links

Finding Work‏ – a general look at how to find work in the TEFL industry.

Qualify to Teach – the essential qualifications to teach abroad

Counting Cards

© <a href='http://flickr.com/people/josefnovak33/' target='_blank'>josefnovak33</a>Counting Cards is an activity which lets you practice countable and non-countable nouns‏‎ with your class.


You will need to prepare a set of flashcards‏‎, each with a picture of a countable or a non-countable noun on them. You will need enough so that each student in the class can have at least 5.

The nouns you choose should also be of the right level so your class will be able to name each of them in English‏‎.

Running the Activity

Briefly revise countable and non-countable nouns with your class and make sure your students understand the principle behind them.

Now arrange the students in a circle at their desks and deal out – face down – around 5 cards to each student. Make sure the students don’t show anyone else their cards but they should look at them and work out which show countable nouns and which show non-countable.

Explain to them that the idea is to get a complete hand of either countable or non-countable cards. How do they do this? Each time you shout, “Change!” they must pass one of their cards to the person on their left. Pause so they can check their hand and then call, “Change!” again.

Keep doing this until one student stands up with a full hand of either countable or non-countable cards.The first time you play this game you can go quite slowly so the students have time to think about the card, work out whether it’s countable or non-countable, and whether what they receive needs to be kept or passed on. Likewise they’ll begin to think about what the students either side are collecting.

But – and here’s where it gets fun – once they’re familiar with the game you can start to speed up the changes. Your students will have less and less time to decide if the card is countable or non-countable and this will help to distinguish countable and non-countable nouns in a fraction of a second!

Variations on a Theme

With a little thought, this same game can also be played with other grammatical items: regular vs irregular verbs, adverbs‏‎ vs adjectives‏‎ and so on.

Teaching English in Montenegro

Sitting in the street in MontenegroMontenegro (which means Black Mountain) is a very small country in the Balkan region of Europe. It’s on the sea and has borders with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania.

Right at the outset we have to say that the chances of finding work here teaching English are not that great. The main stumbling block appears to be its size: there are less than ¾ of a million inhabitants (many living outside the main towns and cities) and just a handful of private and international schools. If they aren’t looking for teachers, there’s little other option other than to move to another country to look for work. (Fortunately this isn’t that difficult; Montenegro’s neighbors all have much greater opportunities for TEFL teachers.)

Right now you can email the handful of schools (see the links below) and see if they are looking for teachers. You might be lucky. But if you are actually in the country then appearing in person is likely to be more productive (and, as we said above, if this doesn’t work out there are plenty of jobs in neighboring countries).

But the good news is that this situation is likely to change. Tourism is increasingly important and Montenegro is a candidate country for the EU so obviously looking outward where English is the language needed most. Some reports suggest that more schools are opening up although they tend to be very small right now so the future could be very different.

On the subject of the EU, because they are not members yet this means Americans and other non-Europeans can get work permits for Montenegro as easily (or as hard, depending on your point of view) as European teachers. This will change once Montenegro joins the EU, but for now it’s open to all.

Finally private lessons are an option; the touristic regions need to speak English (or Italian) to serve the tourists so you may well be able pick up extra work here.

Notes on Montenegro

  • In summer it can get very hot in places like Podgorica (the capital); the coast tends to be cooler though. In winter it gets cold, especially in the higher areas, with heavy snowfall.
  • They have a reputation of being friendly and hospital people.

Useful Links

Teaching English in the Balkans – a look at the various countries where you can teach English in the Balkans

Education and Schools in Montenegro – a list of private schools and international schools in Montenegro

Image © stalkERR

Teaching English in Iceland


Grass roofing in Iceland

Iceland is a small country with a population of about 300,000.

Until 1999 the first foreign language taught in schools was Danish (Iceland was part of Denmark for 500 and shares a great deal of background, values and culture with Denmark). However, due to globalization and the dominance of English a decision was made to make English the first foreign language in schools. (Although Danish is still taught, it is not popular amongst children who feel it is not important or useful for them.)

In schools and universities English is becoming more popular and dominant (although this is resisted by some people who fear the erosion of the Icelandic language and culture).

Many programs on television are shown in English and this, along with the prevalence of English on the internet, means that many children attending school for the first time already have a very basic knowledge of English from these sources.


There are few, if any, job opportunities for teaching English in Iceland. By far the majority of schools are very well run state schools with very few private schools. Teaching in those state schools tends to be of a very high standard and carried out by local teachers.

Teaching English in Macedonia (FYROM)


Alexander The Great, Skopje.

Macedonia (FYROM or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) became independent in 1991. It is a landlocked country bordered by Kosova, Serbia, Bulgaria‏‎ and Greece‏‎ (with whom it has strained relations, partly due to a dispute over its name).

The largest city and capital is Skopje with a population of about half a million people. Overall there are about 2m people in the country. Following independence was a period of civil war and bombings. There has been peace for several years now and the country is safe for travel and work.

The country was formerly communist but since independence it is looking more towards Europe and whereas before the foreign languages taught were generally German‏‎ or French, these days English is becoming more important and teachers are needed there.

English Schools in Macedonia

There are a number of different options for English teachers wanting to work in Macedonia. There are several International Schools which are well organized and pay well – upwards of about €1500 ($1896 USD, £1206) per month.

There are a growing number of private language schools which pay between €500 ($632 USD, £402) and €1000 ($1264 USD, £804) per month. This is enough to live on reasonably well in the country.

In addition, the Peace Corps and other NGOs have a presence there alongside language schools.

Teachers working in Macedonia also often take on Private TEFL Lessons which pay around €10 ($13 USD, £8) per hour.

Students in Macedonia

Generally speaking many of the classes are for adults & Business English‏‎ with growing numbers of younger students as well who see English as useful, especially since Macedonia is a candidate country for entry into the European Union‏‎.

Students tend to talk a lot in class and are perhaps less strict when it comes to copying off each other!

Teaching Requirements in Macedonia

The usual requirements are a degree and a TEFL Certificate. The international schools may ask for higher qualifications.

If you are in the country it is relatively easy to find work; many of the smaller language schools do not currently advertise online.

A lot of teachers work on tourist visas which are valid for 3 months. It is fairly standard practice for teachers to nip over the border every three months and have their passport stamped and then return to teach another term.

At the moment Macedonia is not in the EU and there are a number of American and other nationalities working there (on tourist visas, as mentioned above).

Useful Links

ELTAM – the English Language Teachers’ Association of Macedonia

Teaching English in Sweden


Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden.

Sweden is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe; it borders Norway and Finland, and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Øresund. It is often ranked highly as well developed, socially aware and economically stable. In 2013 The Economist said that Scandinavian countries are probably the best-governed in the world with Sweden in first place.

English‏‎ is widely spoken in Sweden which means you don’t need to learn Swedish to find your way around the place though, of course, addressing people in their own language always pays off. Just a few words can get your landlord or local shopkeeper warm up to you.

However you will need to know the Swedish language fairly well if you want to apply for a teaching position in a public (state) school although this is not a strict requirement in private schools, or international schools,

Teaching Qualifications & Work Opportunities

To get a permanent job you will need solid teaching qualifications with a degree and a TEFL certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate being the minimum standard requirements. In addition some prior experience either as a teacher in general or more specifically as a TEFL teacher will help.

English is the second most spoken language in Sweden and children start early on their language education not only at public schools but also in private learning centers. However the highest demand is for ESP (English for Special Purposes) and Business English‏‎.

The Swedish government subsidizes English courses and private organizations like Lernia Education (Lernia Utbildning), ABF (claiming to be Sweden’s largest adult education association), and Folksuniversitet (comprised of five foundations attached to the Universities of Stockholm, Uppsala, Göteborg, Lund and Umeå) offer English language courses to adults across the country.

These companies also provide private lessons and tutoring for their business clients so there are also opportunities to get hired for one-to-one sessions. Private lessons are quite popular and many English teachers manage to build a good clientele list, advertising their services in local newspapers or relying on word of mouth.

Despite Sweden being one of the most advanced nations when it comes to information and communication technology teaching jobs are rarely advertised online and finding work is a matter of searching for it on site.

The major cities in Sweden where you will find work are Stockholm (pop. 850,000), Gothenburg (pop. 515,000), Malmo (pop. 295,000) and Uppsala (pop. 140,000) although of course there are also opportunities in smaller towns.

Another way to get into the job market is through volunteering‏‎ at one of the language centers, particularly those subsided by the government. As a volunteer you will be automatically put on the substitute list and have a chance to sit in for one of the regular English teachers who may be missing on occasions. If anything else you will be there at the right time should the center require a new teacher. Worst case scenario? You will end up with a letter certifying your teaching experience in a Swedish school, which will undoubtedly add to your CV/Résumé.

Salaries, Accommodation & Living Expenses

Compared to the high cost of living teaching salaries are low. They are enough to support yourself in the country but if your aim is to put aside a tidy sum than you would be better off looking for employment opportunities elsewhere.

Income tax on salaries is deducted by the employer, who pays it to the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) along with the social security contributions due. Individual income tax is currently between 30% and 57 % and one of the highest in the world.

To save, many teachers choose to share accommodation and what are known as “second-hand” rental contracts are common among foreigners living in Sweden. This is because you do not need a personal identity number and a guaranteed income to be eligible and the agreement is just between two private individuals.

The monthly rent for an average 1 bedroom apartment is about SEK 6,000 or €670 ($847 USD, £539). The rent increases the closer you are to upper-class, metropolitan areas.  Conversely outside the city center the same apartment will set you back around SEK 4,000 or €450 ($569 USD, £362)

For everyday living expenses such as food, clothing, you can expect the same amount again for a single person household. A few figures (updated Dec 2103):

  • Internet connection (6 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) is SEK 200 or €20 ($25 USD, £16) per month
  • electricity, heating water & garbage (for an 85m2 apartment) is SEK 1,000 or €115 ($145 USD, £92) per month
  • a meal at an inexpensive restaurant is about SEK 85 or €10 ($13 USD, £8)
  • a pair of Levi jeans cost about SEK 850 or €100 ($126 USD, £80)
  • a summer dress in a chain store (Zara, H&M, etc.) is about SEK 300 or €35 ($44 USD, £28)

Visas & Immigration

If you are a non-European citizen then you will need to secure a written job offer beforehand in order to apply for work and residential permit. If you are a European citizen then you do no require a work permit and you can stay in the country even after your teaching contract has terminated.

See Teaching in the EU for Non-Europeans for more on this subject.

Teaching English in Slovenia

A lively club in SloveniaTEFL/TESOL in Slovenia

Slovenia is a small country with a population of just over 2 million. It is located in south-central Europe and borders with Italy to the west, Austria‏‎ to the north, Croatia‏‎ to the south and southeast, and Hungary‏‎ to the northeast. The beautiful Slovenian landscape is varied and spans from the Alps to the Adriatic sea!

Previously one of Yugoslavia‘s six constituent republics, present-day Slovenia became independent in 1991. The switch to independence happened peacefully and with no bloodshed. Slovenia today is a parliamentary republic and a member state of the European Union‏‎ and NATO. The capital city is Ljubljana. The country enjoys a strong economy and a stable democracy. It is well connected to the rest of the world through a modern highway network, railway system, international airport and ports.

Importantly it is one of the most westward looking of the former Yugoslav countries and English is seen as an important factor in continued economic growth and prosperity.

English Schools & Working Regulations

English is taught at state schools but mainly in private language centers. There are many private language schools in Slovenia as well as a number of international schools, such as the British International School of Ljubljana, where all subjects are taught in English by teachers who are either English native speakers or bilingual.

Business English‏‎ and General English‏‎ are the two main areas of tuition covered in most private language institutes who usually ask for a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate from their teachers.

If you are an EU citizen then standard EU work regulations will apply. If you do not hold an EU passport then you will need to get a work permit and a visa to work in this country, although it must be said that some people do work on a tourist visa. As a non EU citizen planning to teach in Slovenia the first step is to inquire with your local Slovenian Embassy, though much information can also be found online.

Schools will usually assist you with finding accommodation and with the preparation of paperwork for official permits, etc.

Teaching Salary in Slovenia

Working for an international school offers many benefits.  For example at BISL teachers are paid €2750 ($3476 USD, £2212) before tax. There are also tax allowances for dependents at about €1650 ($2085 USD, £1327) net per month for people with no dependents, plus tax-free travel and lunch allowances for each working day.

You may also find part time work at international schools with lessons usually paid at €20 ($25 USD, £16) an hour (actual teaching time 45 min). In smaller private schools lessons tend to be paid less.

Accommodation & Living Expenses

Rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is around €250 ($316 USD, £201) per month. Utilities are €50 ($63 USD, £40) during the summer months but will go up in the cold winter months to about €100 ($126 USD, £80) as heating is quite expensive. However the cost of living in Slovenia is fairly low. On average you can live comfortably on about €700 ($885 USD, £563) per month.

  • Eating out is cheap with meals for less than €10 ($13 USD, £8).
  • Beers at the bar are €2 ($3 USD, £2).
  • Transport is fairly cheap.
  • Internet and cable TV run to about €30 ($38 USD, £24) per month.

The nightlife of Slovenia is very lively and offers a wide selection of theaters, cinemas, casinos and nightclubs in the larger towns. The capital city Ljubljana has a western outlook and a vibrant student population which contributes to a lively and “happening” atmosphere. Trendy cafés, interesting bars, and small art galleries dot the streets of the old part of town. Live music is played at numerous bars and restaurants. Jazz clubs, rock clubs and discos are very popular, and so are wine bars! Ljubljana also has a good opera house and the symphony orchestra plays regularly in the Cultural and Congress Center. Each year Ljubljana also hosts the International Summer Festival, which features a lively program of concerts and experimental theater.

Image © Tit Bonač

Teaching English in Luxembourg


Petrusse Park & Adolphe Bridge, Luxembourg city.

Luxembourg is a small country in Europe with just over half a million people. A large proportion of the population is foreign born and this has contributed to a strong multilingualism and a cultural pluralism which are evident not only in its customs and celebrations but also in the country’s architecture, its concert halls, museums, galleries, cultural centers, etc.

Luxembourg pays special attention to language education and the teaching of languages is featured prominently in the country’s educational system with language learning over the entire school career accounting for 50% of the curriculum.

German is taught in early education and the first years of secondary education. Then from the fourth year of study onwards French becomes the main language. English is added during secondary education, with students also having a choice of Latin, Spanish or Italian‏‎.

To teach English in a state school you must be a native English speaker and also speak French, German‏‎ and Luxembourgish. Outside the school system English lessons are in demand within the financial services industry and Business English‏‎ is taught mainly in-house.

Because of the relatively low demand for TEFL‏‎ teachers in language centers in Luxembourg, teaching English doesn’t pay well relative to the high cost of living, and teachers often supplement their income with either private English lessons or a second job. An average salary for an English teacher in a language center is about €1000 ($1264 USD, £804) per month but you can double your earnings by working for a university or at one of the international schools where typically children from expatriate communities are taught.

Income tax is paid at the source by your employer.

Typical requirements for a TEFL position are a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. In addition, most teachers have at least a couple of years experience and a European Union‏‎ passport. This does not mean non EU citizens cannot find work in Luxembourg but preference is usually given to English-speaking EU nationals (i.e British and Irish) as this means schools can spare themselves a lot of red tape.

Languages in Luxembourg

Luxembourg has not one but three official languages: German, French and Lëtzebuergesch (Luxembourgish) which are often used simultaneously in everyday life. English is also widely spoken as Luxembourg is a founding member of many international organisations such as the United Nations, NATO, OECD, and the European Union. Luxembourg City, the country’s capital and largest city, is the seat of several EU institutions and agencies.

German and French are used mainly in the press, in political and in religious life, while French is the official language of the administration, jurisdiction and legislation. Lëtzebuergesch is the language of integration, and the authorities have devised a unique concept in Europe to promote integration through language, that of ‘language leave’. Everybody is entitled to 200 hours to learn to speak Luxembourgish and people working in Luxembourg can take paid holiday to study the country’s language.

Teaching English in Lithuania


Artwork in Klaipėda.

The southernmost of the three Baltic States (the others being Estonia and Latvia‏‎) Lithuania is perched between three separate European cultures and for the TEFL teacher offers a wealth of new cultures and experiences.

While slightly more challenging for finding work than its near neighbor, Estonia, Lithuania offers a rewarding stay for those who can successfully negotiate it.

To the north lie the Scandinavian countries, while to the west, the great Central European nations of Poland‏‎ and Germany‏‎ exert a tremendous historical influence on their smaller neighbor and to the east Russia‏‎. Lithuania itself was under the sway of Moscow from the time it was absorbed into the Soviet Union in 1940 until winning its independence again in 1990.

Modern Lithuania & Teaching Opportunities

Today, Lithuania is a member of both the European Union (though it is not in the Eurozone) and NATO, marking categorically the direction that it, as a modern state, is facing. Its economy has continued growing throughout the global financial crisis, and its non-participation in the euro experiment has meant it can afford to keep exports and tourist prices low which is an added bonus for English teachers spending time working in the country.

With a population of just under three million, over 80% of which are ethnic Lithuanians, and a thriving capital city, Vilnius, opportunities for English teaching in Lithuania are quite high. Having good qualifications though, as well as taking a professional approach, is highly recommended in what is a very competitive market.

Qualifications & Requirements

For a foreigner to teach in Lithuania, an EU passport is virtually always a must; it is very difficult to get a response from a school, never mind the correct work permits, without it. The reasoning is that the school is responsible for the time and cost incurred for their completion and so it makes sense for them to give preference to EU citizens. (For more on this, see this article on Non-EU Teachers in the EU.)

There are a very high number of English teachers of varying quality within the country, so the higher your qualifications and experience, the better. The usual qualifications for finding work in Lithuania are a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate.

Also bear in mind that first hand reports from teachers who have worked within the Lithuanian system recommend having some knowledge of the language or at least making an attempt to learn upon arrival in the country.

Finding Teaching Work

Opinion is mixed about whether it is better to try and find work before traveling to the country or if applying in person is a better guarantee of success. The obvious approach to take in this instance is to try a mixture of both.

Once decided on Lithuania as a destination, email appropriate institutions or language centers with your TEFL/TESOL CV/Résumé and cover letter‏‎, as well as a date of arrival. At best, this could arrive on the right morning and result in a very quick reply and offer of work.

Once in the country, approach the colleges methodically. Get a local number and a map of the city. Mark the schools and colleges where you intend to apply, and then work out the quickest route to visit them all in order to maximize your time. Dress professionally and carry numerous copies of your CV, certificates and/or degrees, plus passport photos (necessary for many institutions). Upon arriving ask to see the principal or director of studies. If they are not available, make an appointment for later.

Teaching Salary & Conditions

Average salaries for English teachers in Lithuania are relatively low, varying from anywhere between €450 ($569 USD, £362) and €750 ($948 USD, £603) a month generally.

With higher qualifications and experience, this could reasonably be expected to rise. Entry to a school or college opens up the possibility of taking students on for private TEFL lessons which can increase a teacher’s take home pay quite significantly. This little bit extra can be very beneficial, as like many other rapidly developing countries, Lithuania’s cost of living has risen for the most part without a corresponding rise in salaries.

As in most countries, the cost of living varies between the capital and the various outlying regions. Generally, a one bedroom apartment in a large city centre will be about €400 ($506 USD, £322) to €500 ($632 USD, £402) a month, whereas a shared three bedroom apartment in the same location should come in at about twice that, making it sensible to share when possible. Looking for accommodation outside the city center makes sense, as rents can be half those mentioned in some places. Food is quite affordable with an ordinary restaurant meal or a McDonalds usually starting at around €4 ($5 USD, £3). Eating in makes sense as essentials like milk, eggs, and bread are very cheap to buy, a euro or two at most, in the supermarkets.

Note that when signing a teaching contract, ensure that it states the school will look after Social Security or else this will be deducted from your wages.

Teaching English in Finland


A Finnish Winter.

Although it has a very high standard of living and often ranks highly on quality of life scales, Finland nonetheless is not a particularly common destination for TEFL teachers.

Perhaps it’s the weather (often cold) or perhaps it’s the food (lots of fish) but it doesn’t seem to attract the same numbers as other countries despite it being a pretty amazing place to live and work.

Here, then, are the facts about living and working and teaching English in Finland.

TEFL Teaching Conditions & Requirements

Although Swedish is considered the second language of Finland, English is taught in pretty well all educational establishments from kindergarten to university. It’s a very popular choice and you’ll find English is spoken throughout the country.

Of interest to all TEFL teachers, there are quite a number of private language schools also and often locals will sign up for private lessons as well.

Although some teachers will work full time for a school, most are self-employed and may well spread their time working for several schools with private lessons supplementing their income as well. Some teachers will go to Finland without work and begin by offering private lessons while they look for a more permanent position – in cases like this Helsinki is probably the best first choice destination with the most teaching action.

One option to get a foothold and try out life in Finland is to sign up for one of the Winter language camps; these are popular and run for several weeks where you can get a good taste of life in Finland.

Requirements for TEFL Teachers will include:

  • EU citizenship – this generally means British or Irish teachers
  • being a native speaker; there are plenty of good English speakers in Finland so only native speakers are in demand from abroad

As far as qualifications go, the usual qualifications are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL 120hr Certificate. In higher institutes you may well need an MA or Diploma.

As for the actual lessons themselves students tend to be independently minded so as a teacher you will need to be well prepared and professional especially as in the state sector Finland out performs most other countries around the world.

Facts on Finland & its education system

  • Children don’t start school until they are 7 years old.
  • Lessons are usually around 45 minutes each (with a 15 minute break following).
  • They have far less homework than their peers in other countries.
  • There is only one standardized test, which students take in the final year of high school.
  • The national curriculum discourages schools to focus on narrow academic achievement.
  • Teachers have time to work together with their colleagues during the school day.
  • Schooldays are shorter in Finland than in the United States,

It is no surprise then that teaching is one of the most desired professions in Finland.


Finland is expensive, there’s no getting away from it. But salaries and pay can be good.

A typical salary for TEFL teachers employed at a private school will be between €1800 ($2275 USD, £1448) and €2500 ($3160 USD, £2010) per month. Accommodation is often included in the full package as can be airfares.

Although you won’t starve on this salary, remember that you’ll pay about 30% tax on this and day to day expenses can be high (eating out, heating bills in winter, etc).

Many teachers will also give private lessons which pay around €20 ($25 USD, £16) per hour.

Trivia about Finland

These are sometimes strange but interesting nonetheless:

  • Finns are the biggest coffee drinkers in the world
  • in 2012 it was ranked least corrupt and most democratic country in the world
  • Finland created National Failure Day in 2010 to learn from their mistakes
  • there are no payphones in Finland (it is the home of Nokia)
  • in June & July the sun doesn’t drop below the horizon but in Winter it never reaches the horizon
  • it has the most heavy metal bands in the world, 53 per 100,000 people – and it holds the world championship air guitar competition

Useful Links

Teaching English in Europe – a general look at working in Europe

Teaching English in the European Union‏‎ – about working in the EU

Teaching in the EU for Non-Europeans – possibilities for non-Europeans to work in Finland

Why Finland’s schools are top notch – CNN article on the amazing Finnish education system

The Finnish teacher – a better and happier kind of teacher according to the Guardian UK.

Teaching English in Estonia

TEFL/TESOL in Estonia

A smiling girl in an early morning Estonian square.A relative newcomer to the European and international stages, Estonia is an old country with a very young outlook, and is the perfect place to see the beauty of the Baltic area while teaching English.

The most northern country of what are known as the Baltic States, Estonia lies at the apex of three major regions in North-Eastern Europe. To its immediate north lie Finland and the Scandinavian states, while to the west are Poland‏‎ and Germany‏‎. On its eastern frontier, Estonia is bordered by its giant neighbour Russia‏‎, which has had a large influence on the country’s development. Estonia was in fact absorbed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Apart from the three year occupation of Nazi Germany later in the 1940’s, Estonia would remain part of the Soviet Union until the early 1990’s.

Today, the country of less than 1.5 million people is made up of about 70% ethnic Estonians and 25% ethnic Russians, with the remainder a mix of groups from various neighbouring states and denominations.

Estonia is a member of the European Union and has adopted the euro as its currency. It has also seen a period of economic growth throughout the Euro Crisis while many larger and more developed countries have stagnated or indeed seen contractions in their economies. At the same time, Estonia’s tourist trade has grown exponentially, especially in the capital, Tallinn, which has become a popular destination for low cost weekend breaks. Estonia’s position on the shore of the Baltic also gives it some of the finest beaches in the area, great to visit during the warm months.

Requirements for English Teachers

Due to its growth and expansion of international trade, Estonians are eager to learn English in order to equip themselves better for business or travel. With an ICAL TEFL Certificate Course, teaching jobs should be pretty easy to come by once you arrive in the country. If you hold a degree, teaching qualification, or teaching experience the process should be easier still.

Teachers with full teaching qualifications (e.g. a PGCE‏‎) could also look to the international schools.

A passport from an EU country is a massive help here, as without one, there are a multitude of forms and waiting periods for those coming from elsewhere. This means most native speaker teachers are from Britain or Ireland; there are, however, some American (and other teachers) and for more on this see our article, Non-EU Teachers in the EU.

Teaching Conditions

Typical salaries for English teachers in Estonia range from about €450 ($569 USD, £362) to €750 ($948 USD, £603) a month; however, the relatively low income is offset somewhat by a low cost of living.

Those with experience can probably hope to get a little more. Private tutoring is also an option to bump up the number of hours teaching and will usually be more rewarding monetarily than ordinary language schools.

The number of hours expected vary and some schools will offer a choice, especially if you have taught there for a term or two. Working on Saturdays is not unknown.

Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, is the obvious place to start, but enquiries there may lead to work in other smaller cities around the country.
All in all, for those looking to see some of the new East, Estonia, with its nightlife, history, and fine natural beaches and countryside, is definitely a place to start.

Image © Wasfi Akab

Teaching English in Denmark

TEFL in Denmark

Bunker Mules: installations on Blavand BeachEnglish is taught in state schools from an early age and it is something of a de facto second language in Denmark. Many Danish citizens study English as a hobby, so there are a number of adult education colleges that cater for this. These institutions look for confident and engaging teachers who can keep students involved in lessons rather than teachers who have many formal qualifications.

So while inexperienced English teachers can find jobs (albeit with much difficulty) the better paying positions are those that teach Business English‏‎. However, the requirements for these positions are tough with business experience and confidence often given more weight than qualifications and teaching experience when hiring a teacher.

Regardless of where you teach, however, you’re guaranteed to work with extremely motivated students with a genuine desire to further their already high levels of English. This means that most students will be intermediate level and above rather than beginner. Beware though: The rewards of teaching such high levels come with an increased need for thorough preparation for all lessons. It’s also essential that you have a very clear understanding of what you are teaching – particularly when teaching grammar – or you may find yourself being corrected by the very students you’re teaching!

On another tack, for EU nationals who plan to settle in Denmark for the long-terms, opening your own language school can be very profitable and certainly more lucrative than working for hire.

Finding Work

If you’re hoping to teach in either a state or a private school, you will need the following qualifications:

However, language academies are less stringent requirements for teaching positions so these can be a good place to start.

Most jobs are found through word of mouth. If you’re hoping to find a job before arriving in Denmark, it’s worth contacting the British Council‏‎ which keeps an updated list of both private and state language schools in the country. You can also find language schools advertised on the online Yellow Pages while addresses for adult colleges (Folkeuniversitet) are listed on Folkuni. Non-EU nationals will need to arrange a work permit and a job in advance while EU nationals have more flexibility.

If you happen to be in Denmark already, look for English newspaper or expat groups – particularly teachers currently working in language institutes. Ad hoc conversation lesson work can also sometimes be found by placing adverts in bookstores, libraries, coffee shops or key stores. Also, take the time to learn some Danish – it will help you to connect better with potential employers and/or students!

Salaries and Benefits

Living costs are fairly high in Denmark although it is a beautiful and safe country to live in with incredible architecture, a rich history and culture, and strong infrastructures. Income tax is usually paid by your employer but there are significant differences in the salaries and benefits of jobs depending on the type of institution at which you work.

Typically, a job at a language center pays $800 USD (€633, £509) – $1500 USD (€1187, £954) per month with two weeks of annual leave and national holidays. Working hours vary from institute to institute but you may be required to work six days a week.

In comparison, a position at a national or international school and/or university generally offers a salary upwards of $2500 USD (€1978, £1591) per month, 10 weeks of paid vacation plus national holidays. Office hours of Monday – Friday, 9:00 – 16:00 are common with some weekend work required from time to time.

Visa and Regulations

A residence and work permit are needed for Denmark if you are not a citizen of the Nordic countries or the European Union‏‎. Your eligibility for the permits depends mostly on your qualifications although Denmark also has a Green Card type system that offers a three-year permit to highly-qualified individuals, and a Positive Points system in which visas are granted to professionals who are skilled in fields in which Denmark has a shortage. In many cases, you may be required to produce an offer of employment and a signed contract in order to get the Visa.

Upon arrival in Denmark, you will need to register with the police, open a bank account for your salary to be paid into and apply for a tax number at the local tax office.

With the abundance of native English speakers already available among EU nationals, most private and state schools are not keen to hire teachers from outside of Europe due to the red tape involved in hiring non-EU nationals. However, when they do hire non-EU nationals, it is generally easier for American teachers to find work than teachers from countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Check with your local Danish Embassy for language exchange programs such as Interexchange for Americans.

Another complication is that high schools are obliged to register their employees for social security and pay part of their contributions. Since there is a reciprocal system in the EU, employers are reluctant to hire people from countries that are not eligible for this system. One way around this is to freelance at an institute, which makes you responsible for your own tax and social security payments.

Culture Shock in Denmark

In moving to any foreign country, regardless of the country, you are bound to experience some form of Culture Shock‏‎ & Being Homesick.

These are some of the most common experiences that expats experience in Denmark:

  • Danes consider themselves equally European and Nordic. They have a strong sense of identity, which affects how they relate to others.
  • Initiating small talk with strangers is not something many Danes do. It is seen as more polite, not unfriendliness, not to attempt to engage in such idle conversation to avoid invading the privacy of another person.
  • Work and private lives remain separate. It is rare to be invited to the home of a colleague. For Danes, inviting someone to your home indicates a significant change in the friendship and is something that should be considered seriously.
  • It’s acceptable to invite colleagues to a coffee shop after work, but don’t be offended if some of them decline the invitation.
  • Most Danes value being a member of a social or leisure activity. Sports clubs are the most popular.
  • It’s not unusual to see people drinking beer at 10:30am at a café. Drinking alcohol moderately is a normal part of life in Denmark, but moderation is the keyword.
  • If someone invites you out for dinner, they usually pay. Among friends, however, it is more common to split the bill and tipping is not very common. Service charges are included in the bills.  
  • Punctuality is highly valued. However, in social settings, punctuality means not being too early or too late. In business, it’s acceptable to arrive early, but you will be kept waiting.
  • If you’re invited to a birthday, wedding or similar event, it’s customary for guests to gather together to introduce themselves formally by shaking hands and saying their names before the event. The idea is that you will have already broken the ice when you’re later seated next to someone you don’t know.
  • Dress codes tent to be informal in both business and social settings. Ties are worn by executives and financial officers. Smart casual is generally acceptable for social occasions unless you are told otherwise.
Image © blavandmaster

Conditional Links‏‎ – conditional activity

links of a chain

Links help connect.

Conditional Links is a very simple activity with no preparation needed; it’s ideal to practice conditionals and can be used as a quick filler to do just that.

Simply write up on the board the first clause of any conditional, e.g.

If I won the lottery…

Choose a student at random and ask them to finish the sentence:

If I won the lottery… I would buy a Porsche.

Now ask another student to complete a new sentence beginning with previous clause:

I would buy a Porsche… if I could drive.

And another student creates a sentence with the previous clause:

If I could drive… I would visit my girlfriend.

And so on and so on ad infinitum!

Useful Links

Choosing a Student at Random – how to choose random students in class

Conditionals in English Grammar – all about conditionals

Vocabulary Poker – vocabulary activity

Sopranos playing Poker

Could you beat these gentlemen at poker?

Vocabulary Poker is a great game for practicing vocabulary and semantic fields. It’s easy to play and great fun for the students.

Although it can be played by beginners, it’s probably best for intermediate and advanced students.

NB in some countries it may be culturally inappropriate to use a term like “poker” with its gambling connotations. If this is the case simply rename it to Vocabulary Challenge or something equally innocuous.


You need to prepare a set of cards with more than enough to go round the class. On each card write a category of a particular semantic field (set of words). For example:

  • clothes
  • colors
  • fruits
  • jobs
  • forms of transport
  • drinks
  • pieces of furniture

And so on. These should of course be of the right level for your class and they should know what they mean. The game is to practice recalling and not for teaching new vocabulary.

Running the Activity

Explain to the class that they are going to play each other for cards. The goal is to win as many cards as possible. Demonstrate how the game is played by getting two good students up to the front of the class, sitting opposite sides of a desk, and you showing them while the rest of the class watches.

  1. Put a few cards in the middle of the table, face down.
  2. Student A shuffles them and Student B picks one from the pile and puts it face up on the table.

Now explain that they must each “bet” on how many members of that semantic field they can name. They continue “betting” until one student “calls” the other. Suppose the card says, ANIMALS.

Student A: I can name 6 animals.
Student B: I can name 8 animals.
Student A: I can name 9 animals.
Student B: I call you: name those animals!

Student A now has to name 9 animals. If they succeed they keep the card, if they fail, the card goes to the other student. Whoever loses chooses the next card.

Once you have demonstrated the activity a couple of times, the class will be able to play on their own. Split the class into pairs and get them sitting opposite each other. Give each pair the same number of cards and let them begin playing.

Variations on a Theme

  • The game can also be played in small groups of 2 or 3 on each side as well.
  • You can get the student who calls to write down the vocabulary from their opponent; this not only allows you to check afterwards that all the words are suitable, but it also might mean the caller learns a few new words as well.

Useful Links

Semantic Fields in TEFL – all about semantic fields

Lining Up

A line of kittensLining Up in Alphabetical Order is a great ice breaker for a brand new class who don’t know each other yet. It’s best with younger classes, post-beginner level and, as a side-effect, it can also help you in remembering student names‏‎.

Five minutes into the first lesson, simply ask your students to stand up and come to the front of the class. Then tell them to get into alphabetical order.

The students must then use English only‏‎ to ask each other their name and work out who goes where while you stand back and let them get on with it.

Variations on a Theme

Of course there are many, many, variations you can use here. Each one will mean the students using different language and learning something about each other at the same time.

  • line up according to age
  • group according to the number of siblings each person has
  • group according to the football team they support
  • group according to their favorite food

Use your imagination here!

Eccentric Traits‏‎

Eccentric PeopleEccentric Traits is a really fun way to practice close listening‏‎ and speaking‏‎. It’s also very funny and can be used for all learner levels‏ although it’s probably most suited to more advanced classes.

Basically everyone in the class is given an eccentric trait. They then all mingle at a “party” and the object of the exercise is to find out the traits of as many people as possible.

The students will have to be careful with the way they speak and also very attentive in their listening. It’s very good practice for these skills.


Prepare a list of eccentric traits and write each one on a small flashcard. Some traits can be associated with language items, others can be general behavioral traits. For example:

  • you sneeze whenever the word ME is said to you
  • you think everything is funny
  • you do not understand anything said to you
  • you must try to finish other people’s sentences
  • you can only speak in the past tense
  • YOU must SAY every OTHER word LOUDLY and IN capitals
  • you can only answer with a question
  • you are really afraid of the person you’re speaking to
  • you want to argue at all costs
  • you are in love with the person you’re talking to (whoever it is!)
  • you think the person you’re talking to smells horrible
  • you can’t use any personal pronouns

And so on. The more inventive, the better, but when you prepare these do try to take into account the make up of your class and don’t put anything too provocative down.

On some of the cards you might want to add some examples and explanations if you think the class will need it.

Demonstration in Class

Explain to your class that they are going to a party. However, every person at the party will have a strange eccentric trait and the object of the game is to work out what the trait is.

At this point you might like to demonstrate the idea yourself. Choose a suitable trait and invite the class to ask you questions about anything; your answers will include the trait.

The only proviso is they can’t ask about the trait directly.

Suppose, for example, you chose to be hard of hearing. Every time a student ask you something, you can ask for clarification, ask them to speak louder, perhaps mishear what they said and so on.

S1: Where were you born?
T: Sorry? What did you say?
S1: I asked you where you were born?
T: Oh! I see. It’s quarter to five. Next question?

At the end of a couple of minutes invite them to guess what your trait was. It doesn’t matter if they are wrong in guessing, the point is to come up with some good and inventive ideas.

Once the class are happy with what to do, you can run the activity itself.

Running the Activity

Firstly, distribute the cards. You might like to have your students come up one at a time and choose a trait at random (or you may prefer to give them out yourself to suit the student) and then check that the student has understood exactly what the trait is. They must not, of course, tell anyone else!

Explain to the class that they will speak in pairs for a couple of minutes. During that time they can talk about whatever they want (as long as it’s in English!) but the object is to work out what the trait of the other person is.

When everyone has their trait, get everyone standing together with a pen and paper. Get them into pairs and on your signal they start talking, trying to work out from each other what the trait is.

After a couple of minutes, stop them and give them a few moments to write down what they think the trait of the person they spoke to was. Then have them find a new partner and repeat the exercise. This goes on until time is up or everyone has spoken to everyone else.

The final stage is to see if anyone has found the trait. One by one ask about individual students in the class and invite ideas about what the trait was.

Scott G. Thornbury‏‎

Scott ThornburyHe has been working in the private EFL sector as teacher, director of studies, school director and teacher trainer for many years. He now lives in Spain but his previous experience includes teaching and training in the UK and in his native New Zealand.

Teacher education has always been his special interest and was the subject of his MA dissertation at the University of Reading.

He has been involved with UCLES accredited teacher training schemes and he is presently Chief Examiner for the DELTA scheme.

Over the last ten years Thornbury has also worked as material writer contributing to several course book projects. He is the authors of a number of books on language teaching, including Beyond the Sentence and Uncovering Grammar, dozens of articles and reviews.

His particular interests include: discourse analysis, classroom interaction, second language emergence and critical pedagogy – and the relationship between all four.

Teaching English in Slovakia‏‎

Three girls around a bronze statue in Bratislava.Slovakia is in Eastern Europe. It is a relatively new state coming into existence in 1993 with the break-up of the former Czechoslovakia. Having said this, the Slovak people have lived in this area under one rule or another for over 1,500 years.

In 2010 the government passed a law making English a compulsory subject in state schools for students aged 9 and up. However, concerns have been raised over the lack of professionally qualified and experienced teachers. The demand for native English teachers is thus high in Slovakia and on the increase with more jobs being advertised than before. British English teachers are particularly welcome.

Qualifications & Requirements

As Slovakia is part of the European Union (EU) there is a preference for British/Irish teachers. If you do not have a passport from an EU member state you are unlikely to find work as the visa process is both expensive and time consuming and many schools find it far easier to hire EU teachers.

Qualifications vary but usually begin with a degree and a TEFL Certificate. Most jobs are found by applying directly to the school or by visiting them in person.

Pay & Conditions

Depending on the job pay usually begins at around €750 ($948 USD, £603) per month. This can go as high as €1500 ($1896 USD, £1206) for higher level jobs.

Some schools will also provide accommodation (and in doing so they will reduce the pay rate). Other schools may offer incentives such as a performance bonus, travel allowance and suchlike. Private accommodation can begin (shared) at €150 ($190 USD, £121) per month. The cost of living is relatively cheap and a full time job will offer enough to live on.

The pay from schools is not regarded as great; local teachers get paid very little and English native speakers are paid slightly – but not a lot – more. Often teachers will take on private students to help out. Some teachers will also work for a couple of schools in order to increase their hours and pay.


The country – especially in the East – is very beautiful and ideal for outdoors types. The capital, Bratislava, is known to be a pleasant city with plenty of both cheap and cheerful as well as trendy bars. It is very well located for traveling around that part of Europe with Vienna just 1hr away by train.

Vegetarians may well have problems finding decent food when they eat out. The food is often described as quite greasy and heavy and there is a lot of pork on offer.

The people are generally hardworking, conservative and friendly; however we have had some reports of casual racism and being non-white may mean getting a lot of attention.

Image © IcyRae

Macmillan ELT‏‎

ICAL TEFLMacmillan is one of the world’s leading publishers of English Language teaching and school curriculum materials, with over 150 years of publishing experience.

Based in Oxford, UK, and operating in over 40 countries worldwide, the Macmillan Publishers work with teachers, students, institutions, educational authorities and Ministries of Education to develop coursebooks and supplementary materials to suit the needs of teachers and students of all levels.

They have also developed a range of online resources to support both teachers and students. Macmillan Publishers Ltd. has several subdivisions.

In 2012 Macmillan announced plans to discontinue printing their dictionaries‏‎ and instead only have them available online.


In 2010 Macmillan was fined 11.2 million GBP (about 18 million USD or 14 million EUR) for bribing officials in order to print textbooks for South Sudan.

See the blog entry, Macmillan Bribery in TEFL.


Traffic Lights‏‎ in English Language Teaching

A row of plastic cups in various colours.Traffic Lights is a way of understanding if your students are with you in a lesson or if they’re having problems understanding what is going on.


During a class there are times when students have not understood what you are saying and are beginning to lag behind.

As a teacher you may well stop and ask the class if they understand what you are saying. Most likely they will answer yes, often because students fear they’ll look stupid or stand out if they don’t.

You may well ask concept checking‏‎ questions, but there’s still a chance students won’t be with you.

And a student will often feel embarrassed about putting up their hands and asking for additional explanation.

Following this, after the lesson it’s difficult for students to come back to you asking for extra explanations and help with a topic. Either they have to rush off for another lesson or the next week you don’t have time to go over the previous week’s lesson.

Slowly these students will fall behind the rest of the class.

To counter this problem, you can use a traffic light system in the classroom. It can be used both when you are giving explanations or when the students are working either alone or in small groups.


Essentially each student is given 3 plastic cups. One is green, one is orange and one is red. Explain in simple terms how your students should use them.

They put the cups inside each other until only the green show. This is the default color and it means they understand what’s going on and have no problems with what you are saying or the work they’re doing. If you look out and see green around the room, you can carry on in the knowledge the class are with you.

If a student is having a few issues with the lesson, perhaps they don’t quite understand what you are saying and need a bit of help, they simply change their cups so that orange shows. As a teacher you can look around the class and if you see one or two orange cups you can make a mental note to check with those students when you’ve finished the explanation you’re giving or – if you see a lot of orange in the class – you can backtrack there and then and cover the explanation again till the cups are all green.

Finally if a student is completely lost and needs immediate help, they show red. You may not be able to stop the lesson there and then to help that student, but the moment you can, you go to the student and work with them through the issue.

Of course if there are several reds amongst the greens you can get those students together to go over the problem with them as a group.


The traffic light system is ideal for the class. It allows students to let you know how the lesson is going and gives you immediate feedback as to their understanding without the whole class being disrupted by having to stop. This lets you tweak your presentation immediately so that all the class understands.

It also works while the students are working alone; you can walk around the class monitoring progress and immediately see who needs your help and who does not.

Image © Andy Holt

Everything Off in your English Language Classroom

A woman alone in a bare classroom.Students, especially young ones, are easily distracted. And sometimes, especially with bigger classes, while you are standing at the front talking, the students at the back are reading a book, doing their homework, doodling or otherwise not listening to you.

This is a very simple tip to make sure there are fewer distractions in class and the students pay more attention to you, thus helping keep discipline‏‎ in your TEFL class.

Quite simply if you need to explain something or have the students’ complete attention for a few minutes, call out Everything Off! and have them clear their desks completely. No books, pens, phones, paper or anything is left out; it’s all in their school bags.

Wait until every single desk is empty then begin. The students now have nothing in front of them to distract from you!

To begin with it may take the students a few times to get used to this; it may even take a few minutes before all the desks are empty. But after a while it will become the norm and if you make clearing the desks into a bit of a competition (e.g. “Today’s Super Fast Desk Student award goes to…”) then it happens even faster!


Sometimes you will find that students haven’t done their homework before class. It often happens that as you are taking register or explaining something at the front of the class, they are busily scribbling away at the back of the class so they have something (however rubbish) to turn in when you ask for their homework.

By using the Everything Off! rule, they won’t be able to do this. After a while they will understand that they simply won’t have the opportunity to do their homework in class and so they have to do it beforehand.

An added bonus of this tip!

Image © Pollobarba


OHPs or Overhead Projectors


A star projector, not your usual OHP!

OHP stands for Overhead Projector. This is a device for displaying a page from a book or a transparency enlarged on a wall for all the class to see. These days it has largely been replaced by interactive whiteboard‏‎s although many schools still employ their use, especially in less developed countries.

Overall the OHP is a good teaching tool but it needs to be used well, and teachers must be careful not to rely too heavily on it.

Here are some issues teachers, experienced and inexperienced, should be aware of:

  • Discipline can be a problem in a darkened room and sometimes the classroom can become “a sleep zone”. To avoid this, keep use of the OHP short and to the point and make sure you interact with the class while using it.
  • In the absence of a screen, many teachers use the wall. if the wall is dirty or painted in a dark color it becomes virtually impossible to see the transparency. To avoid this, plan in advance where you’ll project and make sure it’s suitable.
  • Some teachers doodle on the transparencies instead of planning the use of the whiteboard in conjunction with the OHP. To avoid this, plan your lesson and the transparencies well.
  • The OHP can limit the opportunity for class discussion. To avoid this, stop frequently and invite student comment and discussion.
  • The use of the OHP can make students lazy with information written for them and they take notes. Students tend to write more if the teacher is writing the information on the board as it’s discussed.
  • Teachers can become too reliant on pre-planned lessons not allowing for flexibility and variety.
  • It is important to avoid information overload.Too many transparencies or too much information included on each transparency can mean too much information for students. Keep them brief.
  • Note-taking can be difficult in a darkened room. Stop frequently and turn on the light to allow notes to be written.

In general then one can say OHPs should be used in short bursts and sparingly.

Teaching English in Malta


Melancholic Maltese fishing boat.

Malta is a small group of islands about 80km south of Italy‏‎; it is one of the world’s smallest states and also one of the most densely populated with about 370,000 inhabitants. It is part of the European Union‏‎ and so teachers wanting to work there stand a much better chance if they are from the United Kingdom or Ireland due to visa and work permit issues.

There are 2 official languages: Maltese (100% spoken) and English‏‎ (about 90%). Italian‏ is also widely spoken with about 66%.


The education system is based on the British system and classes are taught in both Maltese and English. Most university courses are in English.

As regards TEFL‏‎, for many years Malta has been a growing destination for students wanting to travel overseas and learn English (it helps that Malta is a popular tourist destination with some stunning sights and scenery). There are a great number of private language schools, many of which operate as Summer Schools. Overall about 40 schools teach something like 70,000 students each year.

However, in 2011 student numbers dropped and since then many teachers have been working only part time due to lack of work. Most jobs are found for the summer months beginning around April.

Many of the language schools belong to Feltom which is a trade organization comprising some 75% of private English schools.

Pay & Conditions

Most schools will help their teachers find accommodation off-site and some will offer furnished accommodation with the job. Prices vary with popular tourist destinations and city centers being up to <?php $base_curr = EUR; $base_amount = 1000; include ‘arathra/currconvert.php’; ?> per month however there is cheaper accommodation outside the centres and on the southern, less popular, side of the islands from about <?php $base_curr = EUR; $base_amount = 500; include ‘arathra/currconvert.php’; ?> per month.

The pay is around <?php $base_curr = EUR; $base_amount = 850; include ‘arathra/currconvert.php’; ?> to – <?php $base_curr = EUR; $base_amount = 1000; include ‘arathra/currconvert.php’; ?> per month depending on qualifications with 20% tax. The cost of living in Malta is relatively high and many teachers report that it is difficult to save much while working in Malta. Some schools will provide airfare.

Work is likely to be about 40 hours per week, sometimes working split shifts. There is also a reasonable market for private lessons although some schools do not like their teachers freelancing.


The minimum requirements to teach in Malta are:

  • Eighteen years of age
  • EFL Teaching Permit issued by the EFL Monitoring Board of the Ministry of Education
  • Advanced Level Certificate in English from a recognized institution, EFL Monitoring Board – English Examination or comparable qualifications
  • A recognized induction course in the methodology of teaching English as a foreign language, approved by the Ministry of Education, run by local schools
  • A clean police conduct certificate

External Links

Malta Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language

Teaching English in New Zealand‏‎

© <a href='http://www.flickr.com/chris_gin/' target='_blank'>Chris Gin</a>TEFL/TESOL in New Zealand‏‎

New Zealand is a beautiful island country in the south-west Pacific Ocean. It is notable for its stunning countryside which is often used for film locations such as Lord of the Rings. It is a well developed country ranking high on comparisons of life expectancy, civil rights, personal safety‏‎ and such like.

The population is about 4.3 million, a quarter of whom live in the largest city, Auckland which is also the main center for English language teaching.

Teaching English

English teaching is found in the state schools but importantly also in private language schools which are regulated by a government agency (the NZQA). Many students are short term coming over for a few months stay in an English speaking country to learn the language. Because of its location, many students are from Asia.

English language teaching in NZ is well organized with associations for both schools and teachers which hold conferences and seminars and generally promote the industry as well as offering professional development and networking for teachers and school owners. TESOLANZ has teachers from both the private and public sector and can be a useful source of information for teaching.

There is a year round demand for teachers, although this rises slightly from November to February (i.e. during the hotter winter months). Unlike many other countries, NZ often looks for teachers for short term contracts to look after study groups coming for one or two months.

Pay is not generally very generous but adequate for accommodation and basic living expenses.


The usual qualifications to teach in NZ are a CELTA or similar. Some schools will also accept other TEFL certificates such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate but you should check with the individual school to find out what they will accept.

The competition for jobs is quite high so the more qualifications you have, the better. Also, additional experience in other areas can be helpful as students often come to NZ to take specialized English courses such as English for Tourism and so on. If you have qualifications in this area this can sometimes help secure work.

To work in NZ you will have to either have a NZ or Australian passport or hold a visa allowing you to work in the country. It is VERY unlikely that you will get a school to sponsor you to teach there unless you possess strong qualifications and experience which make you an outstanding candidate for the job.

If you are under 30 you can get a working holiday visa, however, but check with your local NZ Embassy to see if you qualify for this as it varies depending on which passport you hold. This allows a certain number of people from different countries to come to NZ and work for a short amount of time. It works on a quota system.

The Price is Right – tefl activity

A TV witha Price TagThe Price is Right is a popular television game which can be adapted for the EFL classroom. It’s ideal for a class who are learning numbers and simple objects.


Get some flashcards and on each one have an everyday object; on the reverse put the price in local currency. A good source for pictures/prices like this are local brochures and advertising papers sent out by many supermarkets.

You can optionally include a short description but you don’t want to give too much away (the description should come from the students themselves).

Note, as a separate activity you can always get your students to prepare these flashcards!

Running the Activity

Introduce the game by showing a random card to the class. Elicit from them what it is, and go into as much detail as you can about the object.

For example, if the card shows a television set you can elicit from the class some detail. For a class of children you can keep this basic, e.g. colour television. For a teenage class who might be more knowledgeable about these things it could be Curved 105 inch colour television, high definition. Of course is this were a class of technicians who work for Samsung they’d probably tell you it was a Samsung UN105S9 Curved 105-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV!

The here idea is to get as much information out of your class as you can.

Once you’ve done this, ask the class to give you a price for the object. Go around each student and get a price from everyone.

Once you have this turn the card over and reveal the price. In the case of the television shown here, it was $120,000 USD. The student who is the closest “wins” the object.

When the class have understood the the basic principle you can start to play a little more with the game and involve the whole class more. For example, whoever won the previous prize has to come up an “sell” the next object, extolling the virtues and persuading the students that it is the greatest thing in the world.

Alternatively you can have the class work in small teams; once you have explained the object encourage them to get together to work out a reasonable price for it.

One Word Speeches – skills activity

One Word Speeches is a very simple activity which needs very little preparation but which is highly effective in giving your students practice in all four skills, especially listening and speaking.

It is very flexible and in different forms it works for both beginners right up to highly advanced students, for writing as well as speaking.

Explaining the Activity

The first time you run this activity with a class you can explain it on the whiteboard to make sure the students have a full understanding of how the game works.

Explain to the class that you are going to make a speech about what you did at the weekend. (This is just an example of course, any kind of subject matter will do to suit the circumstances.)

Write up on the board the opening:

At the weekend I…

Now ask any random student for the next word:


And another random student for the next word:

decided to

And another random student for the next word:

decided to visit

And another random student for the next word:

decided to visit the

And another random student for the next word:

decided to visit the zoo

And another random student for the next word:

decided to visit the zoo where

And so on. Each student adds a new word to the speech, gradually building it up. Of course if a word is grammatically wrong you can stop and ask why it is wrong and work out – with the student – a better word to put in. But feel free to allow strange slightly tangential words which will only serve to make your class think harder to continue the speech.

The speech, of course, can go in many different directions. What tends to happen is that each student has their own idea of where a sentence is going and if the next student puts in an unexpected (but correct) word then the others will have to adjust their own ideas of what could follow.

Running the Activity

Once the class is familiar with the way in which the activity works, split the class into groups of threes. Give them a subject they are going to talk about in the group. This can be almost anything.

  • about my family
  • China
  • where my teacher will be in 10 years time

And then set them going. Quite simply they sit in their groups looking at each other and take it in turns to add a word to the speech; it can get very obscure and very interesting!

As teacher, you should walk around the class listening to what is happening and keeping an ear open for good stories!

Variations on a Theme

  • the speech can be written down by one of the students and then read out to the rest of the class
  • the speech can be turned into a written activity; this is useful for beginner students who have the chance to see what has gone on before and understand it a little better

Country‏ vs Countries vs Countryside

Countryside in ItalyThis is the vocabulary which often causes problems with learners: words which look pretty much the same and which most logical people would regard as closely related, but then when you look into it a little more, they’re all over the place!

Let’s start with Country and a couple of definitions:

  1. country = a nation or sovereign state, e.g. the USA‏‎ or Russia‏‎
  2. country = wide open space without buildings, etc

This last one makes it almost synonymous with Countryside.

The definitions on this page are worth bringing this up in your TEFL class when you come across either word.

Country as Nation

This is countable and refers to a nation. It is always capitalized when we name that nation.

Of course Australia is a large country.

I will visit Spain, Italy and Greece during my holiday this year.

There are 7 countries attending the conference.

There are 4 words associated with each country, all of which are capitalized.

  1. country name, e.g. America or Britain
  2. adjective‏‎, e.g. a German car or a Russian dance
  3. a singular noun for the person from that country, e.g. a Dane or a Spaniard
  4. a plural noun for the people from that country, e.g. the Danish or the Spanish

Often the adjective, singular noun and plural noun will be the same but there are exceptions.

Generally we use the neuter pronoun, it, to refer to a country:

San Marino is an enclave in Italy. It is one of the smallest countries in the world.

However, in a poetic (and often patriotic) sense we can refer to a country as male or female. This often happens when we personify the country and it is usually female, but not always.

England will never fall; she will always be victorious.

Mother Russia is in bad shape; she will recover, but it may take some time.

Country as Countryside

When talking about country meaning a wide open space without buildings (i.e. countryside), we use the country without a capital. It is non-countable and is used in a phrase with the definite article‏‎: the country.

I love the country in Autumn – all those colours!

Which do you prefer – the country or the city?

Here we only use the the personal pronoun, it.

I love the country at this time of year; it‘s so relaxing.

 photo credit ICAL TEFL via cc

TESOL France

TF LogoTESOL France is a non-profit organization of teachers of English in France run entirely by volunteers. Its purposes are to stimulate professional development disseminate information about research, books and other materials related to English strengthen instruction and research.

They publish a quarterly magazine, The Teaching Times, which contains articles, interviews, ready-to-use activities, and reviews.

In order to sign up to TESOL France, send an email to: tesol@enst.fr.


TESOL France operates through an Executive Committee responsible for, amongst other things, organizing events, publications and membership. The current president is Bethany Cagnol.

They are located at:

Télécom ParisTech
46 rue Barrault
75013 Paris

Useful Links

Teaching English in France – an overview of TEFL in France

Official Website – for TESOL France

Official Blog – for TESOL France

Official Twitter – for TESOL France

Ladybugs, Tornadoes, and Swirling Galaxies‏‎

Author: Brad Buhrow ; Anne Upczak Garcia
Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers
Details: Paperback; 187 pages; Pub.2006
ISBN: 1571104003


This book aims to help English language learners discover their world through inquiry. It rests on the idea that content comprehension is the obvious next step in comprehension strategy instruction. Here comprehension instruction and ELL best practices are skillfully blended to explore inquiry as a literacy pathway for English language learners.

The authors, both primary teachers in a diverse school in Boulder (CO) describe their classrooms and their teaching and show how literacy development for second language learners is the mediation of conceptual knowledge through visual imagery and oral interaction, coupled with the representation of these ideas in text.

The book is an engaging and vital resource for teachers endeavoring to address the needs of ELLs. It is full of photographs of student artwork that reveals the children’s inquiry process, and demonstrates the important role of art as a sign system in ELL literacy and language acquisition.

The authors provide explicit detail on the process they use as they move step-by-step with students from personal narrative through the independent inquiry process. They also discuss use of the Gradual Release Model, authentic assessment, and bilingual identities.

This book is a must read for all teachers, parents, politicians, and especially for anybody pursing a career in education.

External Links

Ladybugs, Tornadoes, and Swirling Galaxies (amazon.com)

Ladybugs, Tornadoes, and Swirling Galaxies (amazon.co.uk)

Till vs Until vs ‘Til


Waiting till… until…

Till and Until are synonyms‏‎. They are both prepositions of time‏‎ and refer to a period of time leading up to a specific time.

I worked for the bank from 1989 until 1994.

We were happily married till I discovered she was having an affair.

In both these examples we are talking about a period of time which started in the past and carried on until a specific time in the past. The end time is introduced by until or till.


Till was originally used more in the north of England while the south preferred until. Perhaps for this reason until is regarded as slightly more formal and is more common in written English than till.

Having said this, both are pretty much acceptable and interchangeable. Your students can use until any time; explain to them that till is slightly more informal and whilst they can certainly say it, it’s perhaps best used only in informal writing.

In addition, you’ll occasionally see ‘til in phrases like:

Shop ‘til you drop.

Here the original word is until and the apostrophe‏‎ shows that several letters have been removed. It is wrong to write it without the apostrophe as there is no preposition, til, in English.


There are a number of theories regarding the derivation of these two words. The most common belief – which is wrong – is that till is a shortened form of until. In actual fact the two words are completely separate and have never been joined.

Until is a form of unto meaning as far as or up to. Here, un comes from the Old Norse und (which is itself related to the Old English end).

Till comes from Middle English and originated in various Scandinavian languages. It may be derived from the Icelandic tili which means aim or purpose/goal, itself related to Old High German sil meaning aim or mark.

Superlative Millionaire‏‎

Scene from Superlative Millionaire is a game you can play with your class to practice superlatives.

Everyone knows the Who Wants to be a Millionaire game; this is a variation on that idea; it requires very little preparation on your part as the students themselves will be putting together the questions.

Preparation in Class

Firstly go over comparatives and superlatives with your class. Make sure they understand the basic principles and can come up with some examples themselves.

The next step is to divide the class into two teams. Explain to them they will be playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire against each other. But first they have to write the questions they’ll give to the other team. Within each team they can split up into smaller groups or pairs to come up with 10 questions. The only provisos are that the question must contain a superlative and should have four possible answers, for example:

How old was the oldest woman who climbed Mt Everest?

a) 53 years old
b) 63 years old
c) 73 years old
d) 83 years old

A few copies of the Guinness Book of Records is ideal, but questions can be taken online if there’s access in class. If not, you can bring in a pile of informative magazines or almanacs or guide books and so on. If there’s nothing available, have the students prepare some questions for homework to bring into the class.

While the class is preparing the questions you can write a table on the board like this:

Q Prize
10 1,000,000
9 750,000
8 250,000
7 100,000
6 50,000
5 25,000
4 10,000
3 5,000
2 3,000
1 1,000

Running the Activity

Once you have the questions the two teams can face off. Someone from Team A asks a question; if Team B gets it right, they move up a notch. If they get it wrong, they move down. Then they swap and Team B asks a question to Team A and so on.

Useful Links

Comparatives and Superlatives in English‏‎ – all about these two forms of adjectives.

Image © jacorbett70

Badger vs Baboon‏‎ – comparison activity

ICAL TEFLBadger vs Baboon is a fun game for young learners which can also be adapted for older learners as well!

It helps with basic vocabulary‏‎ for animals and can encourage speaking‏‎. It also is very useful indeed for practicing comparatives‏‎.


Cut out and prepare a selection of flashcards‏‎ with a picture of an animal on each one. Later you can include other objects depending on how you want to expand the game.

Running the Activity

In class, introduce the lesson by talking about some animals with the students and see what they can name. Talk generally and see who can guess which is the strongest animal of all, the fastest, the tallest, etc.

Then shuffle the cards and then take out the first one. Suppose it’s a badger. Elicit from the class the name of the animal and write it up on the board and then see if you can elicit some facts about it (which can include descriptions):

  • badger
  • lives in the woods
  • white stripes on its face
  • four legs
  • lives in a hole in the ground

Next choose another card and do the same:

  • baboon
  • long nose
  • hairy
  • climbs trees

And finally the key question: who would win a fight between a badger and a baboon? Depending on the level of the class you can encourage speculation or just have a show of hands to vote and put the winner in a special pile on your desk.

Do the same with another pair of animals and find the winner there to add to the winners pile. Once you have gone through all the cards you’ll have pile of winners on your desk. Shuffle these and go through them in pairs again to find the winners and discard the losers. And then go through the winners again and again until you whittle them down to the strongest winner of them all! Who chose that?

Higher Level Classes

With higher level classes once you have shown the process, deal out an animal to each students and then break them into pairs‏‎ and let them decide between them which is the strongest animal. The loser hands back the card to you and join two pairs together to go through the same process until there’s a class winner.

Variations on a Theme

If you prefer something less angry, and if it would suit your class more, you can change the basic idea and ask

  • which animal would make the best pet?
  • which animal is the fastest?
  • which animal would you be most afraid of?

Then of course you can move on to other themes: modes of transport, houses, people asking to find the fastest, biggest, smallest, most expensive, etc.

Useful Links

Comparatives‏‎ – how they work in English

Who Am I?‏‎

007 Daniel Craig posing next to Bond's Aston MartinWho Am I? is a fun warmup or icebreaker game which can be used to practice simple questions and answers.


Using small cards, write on each one the name of a famous person known to the class, for example:

  • Barack Obama
  • Lady Gaga
  • David Beckham
  • John Lennon
  • Einstein
  • Harry Potter
  • Queen Elizabeth

Shuffle the cards and have them face down. One at a time, each student comes to the front of the class and selects a card without seeing what it says. You then stick the card to their back using secure good sticky tape so that it won’t come off.


Once the whole class have chosen, they must mingle and ask questions about themselves to the other students. These questions can only be answered by a YES or NO answer.

During this time you need to circulate as well to make sure the class is mingling properly. You can sometimes enforce this by telling your students that they can ask each other only one question before moving on.

When a student knows who they are, they should come to you for verification. If they’ve guessed early, you can give them another identity to discover.


If the class needs help with the questions, you might like to revise a few ideas before handing out the names. Questions like:

  • Am I alive?
  • Am I a man?
  • Am I a child?
  • Am I a fictional?

Rather than just offer these questions to the class, make sure you elicit them from the students.

Variations on a Theme

Instead of using famous people, you can try using stereotypes such as:

  • cheerleader
  • politician
  • football hooligan
  • doctor
  • lawyer
  • homeless person
  • teenager
  • pensioner
  • immigrant
  • soldier
  • footballer
Image © Miguel Angel Aranda (Viper)

Got vs Gotten‏‎ in English

ICAL TEFLGot and Gotten are often considered to be synonyms in British English & American English‏‎. However, this is not so and there are a number of differences between their usage.

In British English the past participle of the verb‏‎, to get, is got.

I have got 3 parking tickets this week!

However, in American English there are two past participles: got or gotten. Their use depends on circumstances.

Usage: got or gotten?

In American English, both got and gotten are used as a past participle. However, there is a distinct difference between them.

Got is used to show ownership:

Yes, I have got a car.

In my collection I have got over 3,000 DVDs.

Gotten is used to show acquisition, development or movement:

I’ve gotten over 10,000 signatures on the petition!

He’s gotten worse since we last saw him.

He’s gotten away!

Gotten, then, has a more dynamic sense whilst got is static.

However it should be noted that some American commentators regard all use of gotten as vulgar.


Gotten has been in use since the 4th century in Britain and was used by Shakespeare. In Richard III he writes:

With much ado at length have gotten leave,
To look upon my sometimes royal master’s face.

When America was colonized, speakers of English‏‎ in both the old country and the new country all used gotten. However, over time in Britain the original past participle faded away and was simply replaced by got.

Compare this, however, to the way in which forget has not changed in British English:

forget – forgot – forgotten

Oxford Handbook of Commercial Correspondence‏‎ (book)

Author: A. Ashley
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Details: Paperback; 304 pages; Pub.2003
ISBN: 0194572137

A revised and updated reference guide to writing effective business correspondence.

External Links

Oxford Handbook of Commercial Correspondence (Teacher’s Book) (amazon.com)

Oxford Handbook of Commercial Correspondence (Teacher’s Book) (amazon.co.uk)

What is Lexicography‏‎?

Samuel Johnson stamped

Lexicography is basically all about compiling dictionaries.

It’s about sitting in a stuffy, darkened, room carefully going over words: examining them, investigating them, analyzing them. It’s about asking what exactly words are and what they mean. Perhaps even why people use one word over another.

And then writing it all down.

But although it might sound fairly straightforward, there’s a lot more to it than that. Questions a lexicographer needs to ask include:

  • Who is the dictionary for? A native speaker or a learner? A young child at school or a highly educated professor?
  • What needs to be included in the dictionary? Etymology‏‎? Examples of usage? How about pictures?
  • If there is going to be pronunciation, should that be in the IPA or maybe using the usual alphabet‏‎?
  • How should the words be organized? Alphabetically? By theme or meaning?
  • What about collocation‏‎s and phrases‏‎? Should they be included?
  • What about delivery? Online or in print?
  • What about lemma‏‎s and headwords?
  • How simple should the definitions be?
  • Is this going to be a monolingual or bilingual or multilingual dictionary?
  • etc…

And many more questions. Once you start to think about it, lexicography can get very complex and in-depth!

Etymology of Lexicography

The word, lexicography, was coined in 1680 and comes from Greek‏‎ roots: λέξις or lexis which means speech or word which itself is related to λέγω or lego which has nothing to do with small plastic bricks but means speak or say in Greek. 

Add to that the word γράφω or grafo (or you might like to spell this grapho) which means write and you have it: lexicography = word write.

So lexicography is all about writing words then. Often in a list with definitions: a dictionary. And as you might imagine, the person who does all this work is called a lexicographer.


The first modern lexicographer according to the Oxford History of Lexicography is Papias the Lombard who was a lexicographer before the word lexicography existed. In the mid 11th Century he wrote his Latin dictionary, Elementarium Doctrinae Rudimentum which is regarded as the first modern dictionary. The book has all the hallmarks of a modern dictionary: alphabetical words, definitions and sources.

Some people also like to talk about Aristophanes of Byzantium as being the first lexicographer; although he didn’t leave behind a dictionary he did invent a system of writing down pronunciation and punctuation‏‎ – this was around 200 BCE.

There are, of course, many other notable lexicographers including Noah Webster who wrote a significant American English‏‎ dictionary, Albert S. Hornby‏‎ who wrote a significant learner’s dictionary and others, many of whom wrote dictionaries which have helped influence the way we speak and write.

Noted lexicographer Samuel Johnson famously defined a lexicographer as a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words. He is shown in the picture above, a first day cover for a set of commemorative stamps from the UK.

The International Journal of Lexicography

Meanwhile the International Journal of Lexicography is one of the better known publications about lexicography. It was launched in 1988 and is concerned with every aspect of lexicography across all languages (although it focuses on European languages). 

It’s published 4 times a year and includes reviews or dictionaries, articles about compiling dictionaries and lots and lots of words.

For more on this, see the journal homepage here.

Useful Links

Etymology‏‎ – a look at where words come from.

Choosing a Good Dictionary – how to make the most of lexicographers’ work and choose the right dictionary for your classroom

Brief Reminders‏‎

ICAL TEFLBrief Reminders is an Ice Breaker activity ideal for a first class. It requires little or no preparation and can be great fun. This is probably more suited to an intermediate and above level class.


On the board simply draw a large bag shape. Ask the class what it is and invite discussion about it. Finally write above the shape: MY MEMORIES and explain that the bag contains some significant memories you have.

Next, inside the shape write a few simple reminders of important moments or people or things in your life. For example, you could put:

  • August 22nd, 2007
  • Sally
  • TVF879R

Invite discussion on these ideas!

What happened in 2007? How do the students think this was significant to you? Was it your first kiss (laughter in class) or perhaps when you first arrived at this school? Maybe your birthday or your Mum’s birthday?

And who is Sally? Your girlfriend? Your dog? Maybe your favorite teacher at school?

TVF879R sounds like a number plate; your first car maybe?

The idea is to generate as many ideas and as much discussion as you can and to use the students’ questions and your answers for them to find the right answers. Stress this last idea: you do not tell them the answer, they have to work it out with you.

Running the Activity

Each student now has a few minutes to draw their own memory bag on a piece of paper and put in 3 or so significant reminders from their life. After this, get the students into small groups‏‎ to share ideas and ask/answer questions.

Following this, you can have each student say something interesting about the person next to them to the whole class.

1999 – In 1999 Pedro’s little brother was born.

New York – last year Mari went on holiday to New York with her family.

What this activity is about is talking. Get the class to speak, to speculate and to guess. There are no right or wrong answers, it’s all about suggestions and ideas and at the end of the lesson you will have a rough idea of how the class can speak and your students will have a few interesting facts about each other!

Variations on a Theme

Rather than writing up these memories, you can also get the students to bring in 3 items which have a special meaning to them. For example, you could bring in an airline ticket, an old watch, a pressed flower, a photograph and so on. This would have to be on a second lesson, of course.

Market Leader (book)

Author: David Cotton ; David Falvey ; Simon Kent
Publisher: Longman
Details: Paperback; 176 pages; Pub.2008
ISBN: 1405881356

This Intermediate Business English Course Book is part of the Market Leader interactive series which ranges form beginners to advanced.

It consists of Coursebook, plus Class CD and Multi-Rom. The pack includes ‘Case Studies’ that range from planning a project to choosing the best supplier; Practice exercises to enhance the skills needed to carry out real business tasks such as taking part in meetings; Listening texts based on interviews with real business people; A new Self-Study CD-ROMs with a wide range of activities including interactive case studies and video. The topics are interesting and up-to-date.

A good starting point for any Business English teacher!

External Links

Market Leader (amazon.com)

Market Leader (amazon.co.uk)

Discarding Adverbs – adverb activity

Adverbs in MindDiscarding Adverbs is a game based on a simple set of cards which can be used to practice different kinds of adverbs with your class. The game is also useful in helping to create and practicing questions‏‎.

It helps if the class know each other, but it can also be used to get to know other students in the class a little better.


Create a set of flashcards‏‎, each with an adverb on it. If, for example, you wanted your class to practice adverbs of frequency, you would create a set of cards like this:

  1. always
  2. sometimes
  3. occasionally
  4. never

(This is a short list; depending on the level of your class you can make this longer of course.)

Have one word on each card and you will need enough cards so that each student in the class can have four or five (you can have duplicates, of course).

Running the Activity

Firstly explain the activity to your class. Take a card at random from the pile but don’t let anyone see it. Then begin to ask questions to each student telling them they MUST answer honestly with a single adverb of frequency. The aim is to find a student who gives the word on your card.

Suppose the word you have is: SOMETIMES

Teacher: John, how often do you go to the cinema?
John: Never.

Teacher: Maria, how often do you visit your grandmother?
Maria: Occasionally.

Teacher: Paulo, how often do you take the train?
Paulo: Rarely.

Teacher: Kelly, how often do you eat pizza?
Kelly: Sometimes.

And because a student has found the word on the card, the teacher can give up the card (i.e. discard it).

Once the class understands the principle, the next step is to get them to play it.

Get all the students sitting in a circle (if you can move them) and give each of them 2 cards; it doesn’t matter if they have duplicates when you deal them out. Tell them the aim is to get rid of their cards and the first person to do so is the winner.

Choose a student at random to start things off. They can ask anyone in the class a question. If that person answers with the word on the card then the student can give up the card to the teacher; if they don’t get the right answer then nothing happens and the next student in the circle asks a question of another student.

The trick then is to find the right question and ask the right person!

Keep going round the circle till finally someone has given up all their cards.

Variations on a Theme

The same game can be played with many different variations. With adverbs of manner or degree, for example.

Image © MyThoughtsMindMaps

Teaching English in Morocco

Morocco is located on the north west corner of Africa against the Atlantic and south of Spain‏‎. It has a population of 32 million with major cities being Rabat (the capital, pop 630,000) and Casablanca, largest, busiest and noisiest city of just over 3 million inhabitants.

The climate is Mediterranean which becomes more extreme as the country merges into the Sahara. There are also the high Atlas mountains so the temperature can vary greatly throughout the country.

It is a stunning country and very popular with travelers and teachers who want to travel and see something of the world. Because of its history, aside from Arabic‏‎ most people speak French and if you are planning on working there it’s useful to learn a little before you go.

Schools & Qualifications

To get a work permit you’ll need at least a degree which will be checked and verified. You will almost always need a TEFL Certificate. The process of submitting your papers should be carried out by the school.

In some areas you will also require a police clearance. Finally the official retirement age is 60 so work permits are not issued to people over 59.

There are quite a few schools in the major cities. These range from large chains including the British Council‏‎ and the American Language Centers to very small concerns. Some of these can be less than forthcoming with pay and you should choose your school carefully and be certain that you have a written contract with them in case of problems.

There are also English language departments in some universities. To work here you will need at least a Masters.


Morocco is a multilingual society with many people speaking French and Arabic‏‎ with English growing in importance. English is taught in state schools although teaching is not always at the highest level.

Most private classes will be helping high school students and university students. You may also find some Business English‏‎ and adult classes teaching English for Tourism‏‎, etc.

Students are motivated, enthusiastic about learning and enjoy their lessons. They will expect their teacher to be knowledgeable, firm, authoritative and professional. The days of backpacker teachers‏‎ in Morocco are long gone.

Work is often found by being in the country itself and approaching schools directly. Even if this informal method of obtaining work is successful, make sure you have a contract with your school which specifies your pay and the payment schedule.

Pay & Living Conditions in Morocco

A rate of $20 USD (€16, £13) per hour is about average for pay. In keeping with the Moroccan culture, you may well be able to haggle of this amount and get more. A monthly salary may add up to around $1000 USD (€791, £636) or, with private lessons, $15000 USD (€11869, £9545).

A 2 room apartment in a reasonable area will cost about $650 USD (€514, £414) per month and take much of your wages, but the general cost of living is quite cheap. Some better schools will offer accommodation paid or a housing allowance or you may be able to share an apartment with another teacher. Because of the bureaucracy involved in renting it’s often best to let the school sort this side of things out.

Pay, then, is not too high but many teachers enjoy the simpler lifestyle.

Alcohol is not always easy to come by but is not illegal in Morocco. Likewise many of the bars (especially in smaller towns) are men only and if you do see a woman there the chances are she is not simply out for a drink with friends.


Although Morocco can be a fantastic place to live, there are certain considerations for Westerners to bear in mind.

  • It can be the case that white teachers will find jobs more easily than other teachers; it is often the case that black Africans (and by association, black teachers from other countries) are looked down on. For more on this subject, see Racism in TEFL.
  • Couples who are not married may find it difficult to rent an apartment together or find work; Morocco tends to be quite conservative on this matter.
  • Female teachers often talk about hassle when they are out and about on their own; of course it depends where and in the major cities there is less of a problem, but in smaller towns unused to foreigners it can be a nuisance.

See Also

Morocco Universities move to English

Ransom Notes‏‎

Cut-out words on a board.Ransom Notes is a fun way to practice sentence building, especially with younger children.


For homework, simply ask your students to cut out 5 words, at random, from an English language newspaper headline. Tell them they can choose any word they want but ideally they should try to vary the words (i.e. get a noun, verb, preposition, etc).

Some of the students may well either forget the words or not bring enough, etc, so you can collect some newspapers in class and have some scissors handy for those who do this.

You will also need a cardboard box and for the lesson, get all the students to put their words into the box. Shake it all up (and add some words of your own – the more the merrier).


Go over sentence formation with the class. Make sure they are familiar with how to build a grammatically correct sentence.

Running the Activity

Split the class into small groups. Now have each member of the group come up and choose two words from the box but without seeing them. When the whole group have their words they must try to build one or more sentences with them using every single word they have. And if they can’t, they need to come back to the box to take another word to add to their stock.

Points can be awarded for the first team to use all their words, the best sentence, the longest sentence, the funniest, etc.

Useful Links

Sentences‏‎ in English Grammar – how sentences are formed.

Parts of Speech‏‎ in English Grammar – all about the main grammar items that help build a sentence.

Image © Darwin Bell

Blind Artists‏‎

Schoolgirl blindfolded playing outdoors.Blind Artists is a fun (and noisy) way to get the class talking. It’s good as a short activity at the end of a lesson or as a longer activity.


Two blindfolds; ideal are the masks from long-haul airplane journeys but a scarf will do.

Blackboard and 2 markers.


Make sure the students are familiar with giving instructions.

  • go up, go right, go left
  • further down, over to your right

This game is good for body parts so perhaps a quick revision of those will help.

Playing the Game

Start by splitting the class into two teams, left and right. Then draw a line down the middle of the blackboard.

One team works on the right, one on the left.

Now, call up one good student from each team and hand each a board marker. Tell them they must draw a face on the board which they will do.

Now erase the face and tell them to draw it again, but this time they will be blindfolded and their teammates will be giving them instructions!

Blindfold the students and then get their teammates to call out instructions. The students at the front will have to concentrate and listen carefully and with two teams shouting instructions (this game can get loud) it’s not that easy!

When both faces are drawn, the students can take off the blindfold. Now bring up two more students, blindfold them and they must draw the torso. Then two more for the arms. And two more for the legs…

Variations on a Theme

How detailed you want to go is your decision but this game can be great fun when students have to put on buttons or perhaps add color to a belt or something like this.

Also don’t just keep with body parts. You can extend this to other semantic fields:

  • an adult class can draw a car bit by bit
  • draw a house

Also you can bring in a large poster of almost anything and have the students copy it – blindfolded of course!

Image © AdamCohn

Derek Strange‏‎

Co-author of Chatterbox and American Chatterbox for primary learners, and Double Take for young teenagers, Strange is also:

  • author of Start Reading – a series of reading comprehension books for young learners
  • course consultant for Chit Chat
  • writer for Oxford’s range of graded readers

In the past, Derek was an inspector of schools for the British Council in Britain for 9 years and a materials consultant for the British Council on various overseas projects in China, Bhutan, and Mozambique.

Titles in English

Mr President & Mr Clooney

How would you address these two?

When we address people, we use certain conventions of style called Titles.

These come before a person’s name when we are talking about them (or to them).

They are usually used in formal situations or when we are being polite.

General Titles

These are general titles for men and women which we might use when we talk to someone we do not know well or when we want to show respect (e.g. to the parents of a friend, your boss, at an interview, etc).

Title Use
Mister or Mr men
Mrs married women
Miss unmarried women/girls
Ms women
Madam women (very formal)

All these words come before the person’s last name:

Good morning, Mister Bond. How are you today?

Can I speak to Mrs Jones, please?

Will Miss Moneypenny please come to reception?

Take this letter to Ms Galore’s office.

When we talk about a married couple, we often say:

Mr and Mrs Smith…

We can also use Mr or Madam before the title of someone very important when we are talking to them and put it with their office:

But Mister President, this would mean war!

I wish to object, Madam President!

Titles in the Classroom

In many countries teachers are addressed as Mr or Miss:

I haven’t done my homework, Mr Carter.

But Miss Jones, it’s time to go!

Notice that even though a female teacher may be married, she will often be addressed as Miss in the classroom.

When students talk to the teacher and do not use their last name, they usually use just sir or miss:

But Sir, the dog ate my homework!

Miss, can I go to the toilet please?

Other Titles

Aside from these usual titles above, there are many titles used to denote positions of authority or rank. These include:

General, Major, Colonel…

Archbishop, Rabbi…

President, Baron, King…

In the picture above, we have several options:

Mr Clooney & Mr Obama.

Mr George Clooney & President Obama

President Barack Obama and Mr Clooney.

Common Mistakes

In many countries and languages a title can go with the first name and if you are teaching abroad you may well hear this, however this is generally wrong in English:

* Mr John, can I leave early?

An asterisk means this is wrong.

A common mistake is also made by many Americans with British titles:

* Prime Minister Cameron…

In British English Prime Minister is not a title which goes alongside a name; instead it replaces the name.

* Sir Kingsley…

With Knights, the title goes with the first name and not the last.

Sir Ben or Sir Ben Kingsley

Useful Links

A long list of titles are here on Wikipedia.

Memory Pictures

Memory Pictures

Out to dry.

Memory Pictures is a simple game which involves the students listening carefully. The level can be changed to match the level of the class and also the subject can match their ages and interests.


Select some interesting cartoons or pictures from magazines, etc, and make them into flashcards. The pictures should be suited to the class, fairly simple in content and slightly unusual (so students cannot predict too easily what is there).

The picture on this page is ideal; it’s simple but with a number of different elements – ideal for practicing colors!

Running the Activity

Get all the students away from their desks in one corner of the room. Choose one of the flashcards and simply describe it to your class. Depending on the level of the class you can be as simple or as detailed as you wish but you mustn’t let them see the picture.

The point here is that when you describe the picture you do it in normal, everyday English and describe each element of the picture only once. This means that your students have to listen very carefully.

In the background is the sky. There’s a washing line with some pegs on it. There are nine pegs which are red or blue or yellow or green. One of the blue pegs has a yellow stuffed cat hanging from it.

The students can then ask you anything they like about the picture to clarify it. Then they go back to their desks and draw what you have just described. Stress that you’re not after artistic skill here, you’re after detail!

Give them a few minutes for this and then compare their pictures to the original with a prize for the best.

Variations on a Theme

  • Once the class is familiar with the game you can add a simple variation to involve more work. Instead of telling the whole class about the picture, divide them into two teams and then choose one member of each team and describe the picture to them. They have to go back to the rest of their team and tell them what they’ve just heard.
  • If there are good students in the class instead of you explaining the picture, have a student do it.

Disney English‏‎

Princess Jasmine in a modern day war zone.Disney English is a chain of English schools in China operating under the aegis of the Walt Disney Company in the US. When the first schools opened a number of non-affiliated schools using the Disney name were shut down.

The first school opened in Shanghai in 2008 and there are currently 23 schools in all in the country. Disney aims to teach 150,000 children annually by 2015, expanding to 148 schools by then.

The curriculum is developed in the US and marketed as the Disney I.S.A.(Immersive Storytelling Approach).

Classes are for ages 2 – 12 and taught with a native English speaker and a bilingual assistant. There is great emphasis on individual tuition alongside fun activities and games; most classes have a maximum of 12 or so students. As well as classroom time there are set homework activities and an online component.

For parents the cost per child is between 3,000 CNY (465 USD, 323 EUR, 291 GBP) – 12,000 CNY (1,800 USD, 1,250 EUR, 1,126 GBP) yearly.

The schools are strongly Disney themed with theme rooms such as Snow White, Lion King and Toy Story, etc. There is also a Disney Magic Theatre which combines computer, television and chalkboard to teach. Disney have stated that if the schools are successful they will potentially expand into other countries.

Work Conditions

A recent (Nov 2011) advertisement for Disney offered (along with the usual requirements):

  • 24 hours max teaching hours per week
  • working with assistant tutors in the class
  • participation outside the classroom in various events; these were not specified nor the time needed
  • starting salary of 10,500 RMB per month (1,650 USD, 1,146 EUR, 1,032 GBP) + housing allowance
  • airfare paid

Requirements were a degree and a TEFL certificate along with at least 2 years experience teaching children.


The schools have come in for criticism from various corners as being simply a marketing tool to promote Disney products rather than an educational system. For example, as a reward for classroom work, students are given “magic tokens” which they can redeem for Disney merchandise such as Mickey Mouse pens and bags.

It has also been criticised for promoting a very Western point of view including more general criticisms of Disney including sexism in the portrayal of women.

The company is currently building Disneyworld Shanghai at a cost of over 3 billion dollars.

Image © Dina Goldstein from her series on Disney (and other)  fairy tale characters
in a modern world; this picture depicts Princess Jasmine from Aladdin.

Quick Edit‏‎

the_word_mistake_mispletQuick Edit is a simple CALL‏‎ activity which lets students work together in writing texts. It helps with critical reading and also allows peer checking which means grammar, spelling and vocabulary checks. Essentially it is a form of Peer Correction.

Note that although this is presented as a CALL activity, with very little change you can use it in a class without computers!


Each student will need to have their own computer.

Ideally each computer should have Word installed with the spell checker and grammar checker both turned off. If you do not have Word, then other word processors will be fine.


Beforehand, select a interesting subject for the students to write about. This should be something which interests them, which they know about and which should be, of course, of the right level.

You can spend some time discussing the subject with your class and getting ideas off them, writing relevant vocabulary on the board and so on. This activity is more about the process of writing and concerned more with how something is written rather than what is written so the more your students are ready beforehand, the better.

During this process you can work with them to come up with a single title for the piece they are about to write. This should be short, specific and to the point, for example:

  • The London Olympics 2012
  • Global Warming
  • Lady Gaga
  • James Bond


Have each student sit in front of a computer. They then have 10 minutes to write a short piece on the subject. You can go around the class helping them here, but try to help out only with content rather than language.

The next step is to get the students to swap places and correct each other’s work. The important part here is that the corrections need to be highlighted in the text.

So, for example, if you are using Word you can turn on the Track Changes function. If this is not possible, then make sure that all corrections are shown in a different colored font and strikethrough so that they are easily identifiable.

Then, the students swap back and check their original work. They may decide to ignore the changes made by the second student, or they may decide to keep them. Encourage discussion between students here about why certain errors were flagged and what the correct English should be.

If there is time, you can then have students swap again with a different classmate to get further input on their work.

Finally, get the students to print out the finished version of their text and hand it to you for checking. This will enable you to see what errors were not picked up by the whole class and what may need to be covered in a future lesson.


Teaching English to Young Learners


Learning is fun!

TEYL or Teaching English to Young Learners refers to a more specialized area of teaching English‏‎ which deals with younger students.

Aside from the usual considerations which you should give to any TEFL class, there are certain extra considerations to take into account. This page offers general tips and ideas for the young learners classroom.

Note, young learners here are assumed to be about 3 – 12 years old.

First Lessons with Young Learners

In the first few classes with a YL group, it’s often good to just sit and play with the children and not to “teach” them. This way the children will begin to relax around you and not feel threatened or worried by the new face.

Also, and this is important, it’s good to speak English only. Young children who are learning languages are very proficient at working out what languages people speak and will switch automatically to what is appropriate. Even though you may understand the child’s mother tongue (MT) and be able to respond, unless it’s an emergency you should speak only in English with the child (while at the same time allowing the child to speak their MT).

Finally, speak naturally to the children. Don’t simplify your grammar‏‎ too much and speak “baby talk” to them, just make sure you use fairly basic words and phrases.

What to Teach Young Learners

A first general rule is to forget teaching grammar to young learners but instead concentrate on simple, useful phrases and conversations. Functional English in other words.

By this we mean don’t get them to learn and practice the present continuous‏‎, instead get them to talk about what they are doing and what their friends are doing. Young children do not tend to think in the abstract so make things real: talk about what they see and what they did and what they will do. Don’t practice conjugation‏‎s, instead read books together and get them to talk about their family and pets.

Tips and Tricks for Teaching English to Young Learners

Teaching English to young learners is a whole specialized field. Here we offer just a few ideas to think about when you begin.

Attention Spans of Young Learners

In general children have much shorter attention spans than adults. This means that while it is easy to get them motivated and involved, it is also very easy to lose them if the activity is too long or complex.

This being the case, it’s wise to break your lesson down into small segments. On the same lines, it’s also useful to break any instructions‏‎ down into small units (which you should do with any class).

For example, each activity should have an average length of perhaps 5 – 15 minutes at most. Once you see the children are getting a little bored or distracted, move on to something new.

Motivating Young Learners

Children are easily motivated by reward. They will do something because they will gain something at the end. If you can turn an activity into a competition with a prize (however small) it will motivate the students. Boys vs Girls is an easy one here.

Teacher Stress with Young Learners

TEYL can be more stressful than many classes. It’s noisier, young children have a shorter attention span and need more stimulation to keep them interested, and they are likely to give you less polite feedback!

In TEYL you need to try your utmost to keep calm during the class. There’s little point in getting mad or angry with children as it will upset both you and them further. Instead, after the lesson try to work out what went wrong and how it can be corrected for future lessons.

Abstract Thought in Young Learners

For children, the dominant sense is visual (as it is for most adults also, but for children it is especially important) so try to use as many visual aids as possible – flashcards‏‎ or realia‏‎ and especially toys. As children develop so too does their ability to think in an abstract sense so remember that whilst they are young it is easier for them to see a picture and understand what it is rather than hear a word and try to imagine it.

Language Development in Young Learners

The children in your class are probably still learning their own mother tongue. Although this is not going to cause a problem, remember that teaching grammar‏‎ is probably going to be out of the question since they will not even be able to apply to their own language and it will be extremely abstract for them to understand.

Instead, concentrate on teaching simple, useful language: colors, names, phrases and so on which are highly practical and useful and relevent to the classroom or their life.

Language Ability & Development in Young Learners

Even though the age of the students may be very similar, you are likely to find major differences in the abilities of your students as children develop at very different rates; this means you are very likely to be facing a mixed ability class.

To help counter this, build up a repertoire of different activities which you can change at a moment’s notice. Get the class used to working in small groups‏‎ on different kinds of activities as well.

Punishment & Young Learners

Try to avoid using punishment with children (and with classes in general, but especially in the TEYL classroom). They will be noisy at times and every so often there might even be a tantrum. But stay calm and let it pass.

Instead, reward positive behavior. It is a slightly longer process but worth it in the long run. Children will work because they want to please you, rather than because they are afraid of you.

Activities for Young Learners

Children love stories and there are plenty of books you can use – children’s books in English are fine with the right class since they are often very well written using very simple language. However, make sure to try and teach much of the key vocabulary‏‎ beforehand in other activities so the children do not lose track during the story telling and wander off (either mentally or literally).

Children also love games and songs so use them liberally in your class.

Mistakes from Young Learners

Avoid pointing out mistakes; instead, praise and point out correct English.

Other Children

Although you should encourage children working together in small groups, remember that young children can be very touchy about others in the class so you should avoid pushing students to work together when obviously one of them doesn’t want to be there and would rather work with their friend.

Parents of Young Learners

Bear in mind that the children in your class are likely to tell their parents everything which goes on! It is like teaching in a class with a dozen or more video cameras to avoid any problems, just imagine the parents are sitting there at the back of the classroom while you teach!

Related Articles

Teaching English to Teenagers – Tips on teaching students in their teens.

Teaching English to Adults – all about teaching mature students.

TEFL to Adults vs TEFL to Children –  be aware of the difference.



Sentence Mix‏‎

 Pick 'n' Mix.Sentence Mix is a simple game you can use to help your students practice sentence construction and revise parts of speech.

With no preparation it’s ideal as a five minute end-of-lesson activity or you can build it into something longer and more involved.

Simply write up on the board a long sentence suitable for the level of your class:

The old man worked hard during the afternoon on Friday.

Now, tell the students they have 10 minutes to come up with as many sentences as they can find using only the words you’ve written on the board. They get an extra point if they use all the words in the sentence as well!

  1. The old man worked hard during the afternoon on Friday.
  2. On Friday the old man worked hard during the afternoon.
  3. On Friday the man worked hard during the afternoon.
  4. On Friday the old man worked.
  5. The old man worked hard.
  6. The hard man worked on Friday.
  7. During the afternoon the old man worked hard.



There are a number of easy variations with the activity. You can get the students into groups and give them a handful of words to work with. Or perhaps the students can take turns in choosing a new word to add to a sentence you’re writing on the board.

Essentially, the more the students work on this, the better.

Useful Links

Sentences‏‎ in English Grammar – all about sentences

Parts of Speech‏‎ in English Grammar – an overview of the various PoS.

Image © nzbuu

Common Mistakes at CAE‏‎

Author: Debra Powell
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Details: Paperback; 64 pages; Pub.2005
ISBN: 0521603773


Common Mistakes at CAE…and How to Avoid Them is a nice resource book for teachers preparing students for the CAE exam.

The book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the exam – and shows how to avoid them. Based on the analysis of thousands of actual exam scripts in the Cambridge Learner Corpus, each unit targets a key problem area. Clear explanations and exercises help students to use the language accurately. Regular tests offer students a further opportunity to check and consolidate what they have learnt.

This little book features:

  • common mistakes that learners really make
  • short, snappy explanations focus on key problem areas
  • exam-style exercises

External Links

Common Mistakes at CAE (amazon.com)

Common Mistakes at CAE (amazon.co.uk)


Interrupting Students in your TEFL Class

Poster for the film Girl, Interrupted.

Do not interrupt her.

Interrupting Students is not a good idea in your TEFL classroom.

In everyday speech we interrupt each other, finish each other’s sentences and so on. This should be avoided in the classroom. Students (especially at lower levels) need to have time to gather their thoughts, often to translate from their MT into the TL‏‎, and to think about phrasing.

Interrupting them just breaks this silence and can often lead to discouraged students. In some cultures, it is also considered rude to interrupt someone who is speaking.

Look at this typical example:

T: What’s happening here? [shows picture of a man swimming in the sea]
S: There is… one man… er…
T: swimming in the sea. Good.

No it’s not good! Instead, the teacher should embrace the silence and wait for the student to gather their thoughts and complete the sentence.

If you do not do this, the students will subconsciously realize that they do not need to finish their utterances and speak and that the teacher will do the work for them. If, on the other hand, you remain silent and wait for the student they will understand that they need to work a little harder and keep going in class.

Useful Links

Teacher Talking Time – how to speak less in class and allow your students to speak more

Indlish or English‏‎

The Facts

Surat is a port city in the state of Gujarat situated on the banks of the Tapti river, in central India.

Surat is one of the largest and most populous cities in India. It is the administrative capital of the Surat District, the 2nd largest city in the state of Gujarat, and the 8th Metro city of India.

Gujarati is the main language spoken in Surat and the Surat district. It is an Indo-Aryan language, and part of the greater Indo-European language family. Overall there are about 46.1 million speakers of Gujarati worldwide, making it the 26th most spoken native language in the world.

Out of 80 millions Indians who use English in their daily life most use Indlish or Hinglish not English.

Indlish or Hinglish is a hotchpotch of the many languages and dialects spoken in India mixed with colonial English. It consists of mistranslated expressions from Indian languages; a khichri of officialese, legalese and commercialese of the eighteenth century; meaningless fad coinages; vague abstractions; automatic expressions; the use of nouns instead of verbs; un-English use of the passive voice, etc.


The News

Recently, the Surat District Primary Education Officer (DPEO) has ordered Gujarati medium students in rural areas to observe Saturdays as English Day.

Every Saturday, the Gujarati medium students attending primary schools will be taught English words in an informal manner so that they can use these words in their regular conversations with teachers, classmates, friends and even family members.

As per the DPEO’s instructions all the schools in Surat will have to use English words in Gujarati sentences on Saturdays. The teachers have been asked to explain the meaning of common English words so that the students can use them in their conversation.

To fight the fear these students have towards speaking English, the DPEO prepared a book consisting of English words and jokes, and distributed it among 8,000 teachers in 1,000 schools. Among other sentences in the book are “Chalo ahin sitdown thai jao, hun home jaoo chhun, Mummy breakfast ready kari de, Mummy mare bathroom ma jawanu chhe”.

Teachers will have to go through these books, which also explain how to teach English words to the students. Not only the students but teachers and principals will also have to use English words in their conversation on Saturdays.


The Concept

According to DPEO’s representatives, with primary education being the foundation of higher education in India, it was important to find a way to encourage Gujarati medium students to speak English. The best way to do that was to introduce a fun element in the English learning process. The DPEO believes their book and the mandatory English speaking on Saturdays fulfills this criteria. In the words of one of their representatives: “This will help the students use English words and later on, develop these words into sentences.”


The Question

Does this sound like fun to you? Is this the right way to go about it? Will this encourage more Indlish rather than English? The question is open for debate.


Anti-Word Association‏‎

Random words.Anti-Word Association is an ESL activity based on Word Association‏‎ but taking the opposite approach and rewarding non sequiturs‏‎.

In Word Association the idea is to have the students give words which are somehow related to the previous word. In this – much harder – version of the activity the idea is to give out words which have NO association with the previous word.

When it is turned into a game other students can challenge that there is an association and gain points for a good link.

Example Game

A game might start like this with each student taking a turn.

S1: banana
S2: street
S3: fellowship
S4: sausage
S5: car
S6: radio

At which point a student will challenge, explaining that cars have radios and so there is a good association between these words.

As you can see, this is much harder than normal word association and it helps to write the words on the board for consideration. During the game you can encourage your students to come up with inventive associations. For example a student might challenge the list saying that street and fellowship are associated since relationships are developed amongst neighbors and this could constitute a fellowship.

Whether this is a valid challenge will depend upon you as adjudicator. One idea here is to play this as a team game and award points for challenges which are inventive and/or valid and/or well explained.

Image © Chris Halderman

They’re vs Their vs There‏‎

These three are often confused by learners of English:

  • they’re
  • their
  • there

These words are homophones‏‎ (that is, they sound the same) but with very different meanings.

This article looks at the differences between these three and then how to teach them to your class.



they’re = they are

They’re here now.

What color are they?
They’re blue.


their is a possessive adjective:‏‎

Where did they park their cars?

Simon lost his wallet. Paul lost his wallet as well.
Simon and Paul lost their wallets.

And with an -s on the end, their becomes a possessive pronoun:

theirs = their + noun

Who does this money belong to?
It’s their money. It’s theirs.


there can refer to a place:

Where is the dog?
It’s over there.

there can also be used to talk about the number of people or things in a group:

There are eleven players in a football team.

There is one biscuit left.

Differences & How to Teach Them

There is no simple way to teach the difference between these 3 terms; the truth is that your students simply need to learn how to write them. This means taking their time and thinking before they write.

However, there are a couple of tips which may help when they do stop and think.

  • Take away the apostrophe; after you’ve written they’re, say in your head the full phrase they are and see if it still works in the sentence‏‎.
  • Not sure if their is the right word to use? Try substituting our instead; if the sentence still works then it’s ok to use their.
  • Talking about places: think of here and there – just one letter difference.

Where to Teach English as a Foreign Language

Luggage. Travel concept, world map.  High resolution.

Next stop, please!

Where to Teach is one of the key questions asked by newly qualified teachers as well as experienced teachers who are looking for a change.

On the plus side teaching English happens in pretty much every single country in the world so there are jobs available almost everywhere. On the negative side, there are certain practical and legal restrictions on where you can teach.

This article looks at destinations for teachers which might just suit you. If any country below peaks your interest, just click on the link to read more about it.

English Speaking Countries

In general, teaching jobs in English speaking countries ( the UK‏‎, Ireland‏‎, the USA‏‎, Canada, Australia etc) tend to be filled by well qualified and experienced teachers. It is not usually the case that a new teacher finds work in a language school in London or New York when there are many highly qualified and much more experienced teachers returning home after years overseas.

Thus, most new teachers head off overseas to pick up experience and have a few years enjoying life!


Due to European Union‏‎ regulations, schools in Europe tend to favor EU passport holders as this spares them the bureaucratic hassle they would get trying hiring non-EU applicants. In practical terms this means that most English teachers in Europe are from Britain or Ireland (with a small number from America and Australia who happen to have a second Irish passport).

For new teachers looking for their first job in Europe there are positions in Southern Europe: Turkey, Italy‏‎ and Greece‏‎ in particular and to a lesser extent in Spain and Portugal. However, Southern Europe is currently going through an economic downturn with schools closing and many parents not able to afford school fees for English. This means jobs are becoming harder to find.

In Northern Europe jobs are usually given to experienced teachers. Places like France and Germany are looking for professional teachers with a couple of years teaching at least on their CV/Resume‏‎. There are more opportunities to teach adults and Business English‏‎ in the north than the south.

In the north of Europe, especially Scandinavia, English is taught to a very high standard in state schools and there tends to be very few jobs for foreign teachers of English. If they are available, they are usually filled by well qualified and experienced teachers already in country and are rarely, if ever, advertised abroad.

This leaves Eastern Europe. This is a relatively new market (replacing the countries of Greece and Spain which were booming for English teachers some 20 or 30 years ago) and because of this there are many new opportunities there in places like Poland and the Czech Republic where there is good demand for teachers. Internet penetration is not so great in Eastern Europe so finding jobs there is sometimes a little harder while searching online, however.

As far as qualifications go in Europe, you will need a degree and a TEFL Certificate in most countries.

And as far as the language goes, remember you don’t have to speak the local language When you go abroad to teach; everything is done in English so even if you don’t speak a word of Chinese or Greek‏‎ you can still go to those countries and work there.


There are a lot of jobs in China. It is the new emerging market for teachers and a simple search online will bring up hundreds of jobs available there ranging from work in the big cities to small towns in the far end of the country. If you work here you’ll find teachers from many different countries alongside you.

You can look at China as the kind of “wild west” of language teaching. It’s huge, to a major extent unregulated, and you will find excellent schools and rubbish schools living side by side.

Theoretically you will need not only a TEFL certificate but also a degree to work in China, however since there are so many schools and such demand, the need for a degree is often overlooked and there are jobs there for unqualified teachers, albeit in the less prestigious schools.

Asia (excluding China)

Outside of China, common destinations are Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. In the same way that Europe is a common destination for British and Irish teachers, these countries are popular with Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian teachers although you’ll still find plenty of British and Irish working there too.

For an English teacher there is sometimes little to choose between these countries in terms of teaching and conditions.

  • Japan, following the recent earthquake, is pushing for more teachers to come over; conditions are sometimes awkward (lifts not working, for example) but things are getting back to normal. To entice more teachers, salaries have been raised and conditions made better (e.g. accommodation included, etc).
  • South Korea has been an incredibly popular destination for Americans (and others) for many years and continues to attract many teachers. Conditions vary from good to very bad in the schools but it is a fantastic place for new teachers to get experience on their CV.

Most countries in Asia require a degree and TEFL certificate and places like Korea are strict in enforcing this. However in Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand you will often come across teachers without degrees.


Russia is growing in terms of TEFL teaching and we are seeing more opportunities there. Teachers need a degree and TEFL certificate and although jobs are by no means common yet, it appears to be an emerging market and is slated to expand over the next few years. Most jobs are in the big cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, but work can also be found in smaller cities and towns.

South America and Central America

Mainly popular with American teachers, the more popular countries include Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

Although not as big as the Asian market, Central/South America does offer a lot of jobs. With the poor economic situation in places such as Argentina and Mexico jobs here do not tend to pay very well but, like Asia, they are a good training ground.

Many of the jobs in Central/South America are found by actually being in-country.

Middle East

Countries in the Middle East arguably offer the best salaries and working conditions. There is still money here but in return the teachers here tend to be well qualified and experienced. It’s not common for new teachers to find work in the Middle East. What might normally happen is that a newly qualified teacher will spend a few years in the usual places (e.g. Southern Europe or Asia) and then find work in the Middle East for a time to earn some decent money.


Africa is perhaps the largest untapped market. Although jobs here are possible (and often requirements in anywhere but South Africa are very lax) there is no real infrastructure yet and it’s a hit and miss affair. You may be able to find work through online advertisements in the north, places like Egypt or Morocco, but in the center and towards the south internet penetration is far less and little is advertised online. There may be volunteer opportunities but at the moment genuine ones are few and far between.

In the majority of cases, Africa is not to be recommended as a first time place for inexperienced teachers; resources are often limited and new teachers may well find themselves out of their depth in teaching large classes with little help.

Where do you want to go?

Many people have a destination in mind already. Perhaps you’ve fallen in love with someone from a certain country, perhaps you saw a photograph of a city when you were a child and it’s fascinated you ever since. Whatever the reason, if you are desperate to live in a certain place, it will be possible.

Useful Links

Where Can I Teach? – and interactive flowchart showing where you can teach around the world.

Where Do You Teach? – a quick poll on where TEFL teachers work around the globe

CV/Resume‏‎ – all about presenting yourself to a potential employer

Passport – your key to traveling the world

PELT (book)‏‎

Author: David Nunan
Publisher: McGraw Hill ELT
Details: Paperback; 342 pages; Pub.2003
ISBN: 0072820624

The entire PELT (Practical English Language Teaching) series offers a thorough yet practical overview of language teaching methodology for teachers and trainee teachers. The principles outlined in each chapter are richly illustrated with vignettes and extracts from real classrooms so the reader can see what the principles “look like” when realized in classroom teaching.

This book is divided into three sections: Exploring Skills, Exploring Language, and Supporting the Learning Process.

Critical areas of language teaching are comprehensively addressed with a specific focus on practical techniques, strategies, and tips.

Reflection questions invite readers to think about critical issues in language teaching while Action tasks outline strategies for putting new techniques into practice.

Thoughtful suggestions for books, articles, and Web sites offer resources for additional, up-to-date information.

Expansive glossary offers short and straightforward definitions of core language teaching terms.

External Links

PELT (amazon.com)

PELT (amazon.co.uk)

Teaching English in Nepal‏‎

A beautifully dressed Nepalese PrincessTEFL/TESOL in Nepal

Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia and is one of the world’s youngest republics. It is bordered to the north by the China, and to the south, east, and west by India. Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and the country’s largest city (about 2 million). The country itself has a population of about 30 million.

Almost 100 different languages are spoken in Nepal with Nepali being spoken as a Mother Tongue‏‎ by about half of the people. English is quite common in the major cities and tourist destinations. Hinduism is the most common religion (80%) with Buddhism (10%) the next most popular.

Tourism is the most important industry in the country and hence the need to learn in English is quite high.

Forty percent of the population live below the poverty line so if you are thinking of going there, an openness to a new way of life is an advantage!

Teaching English

Many schools lack decent funding and well qualified teachers are a rare commodity, hence qualifications such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate help greatly to get work.

The demand for teachers is high at both state and private schools.

Finding Work

Although many organisations offer TEFL Volunteering‏‎ work in Nepal this costs a great deal and there are some whose reputation is not as good as it could be. Check carefully if you go down this route.

Because Nepal does not have a huge internet penetration, many jobs are not advertised online. In fact, one way to get work is to appear in person at a school. This being said, it obviously carries a risk that you will arrive, spend some time looking and then not find work. One solution is to take a look at China next door. Work there is plentiful and easily found so you could try Nepal for a few weeks and then – if money is getting tight and the need for a job getting stronger – move next door for work.

The British Council‏‎ has offices in Nepal and also conducts IELTS‏‎ examinations in various locations throughout the country and if you are well qualified can help.

Image © mishox


Reading Comprehension‏‎


How sweet is this!?!

Reading Comprehension is one of the basic lessons often given by TEFL teachers. It simply consists of presenting a class with a text, have them read and analyse it, then check for understanding. There may be a few follow up activities based on the subject.

This article looks at simple, solid methods of presenting this type of lesson.


The text you present to the class is the foundation of this lesson. You need to choose a text which is the right level and subject matter for the class. For more on this, see the article, Reading.

You can present the text to the class in several different ways. Ideally you should vary the presentation method so the class do not become bored or complacent. Here are a few presentation ideas:

  • Quick Fire. Hand out the text to the class face down then give them 30 seconds to read as much as they can, as fast as they can, before they cover the text. Follow this up with a general Q&A with the class about the text. Who can remember something? Keywords? Ideas? Names? Work with the class in building up a general idea of what the text is about.
  • Pre-Questions. Before letting the class see the text, ask a few questions to them relating to the text to see if they can come up with some ideas. For example, suppose the text is a biography of Barack Obama; ask them what they know about him, ask them if anyone can tell you his policies, etc.
  • Title Only. Write up the title of the text on the board and have the class brainstorm some ideas about what the text is likely to be about.
  • Keywords. Write up some key words from the text (including likely unknown words) and go through them with the class. A picture of what the text is about might emerge.

The idea here is that before the class get to grips with the details of the text they will have a good idea of what to expect. In other words, they will have some solid knowledge about the text so that they won’t suddenly be presented by a mass of new information which is difficult to comprehend. Instead they will recognise various words and ideas in the text as they read it and thus be able to understand it more effectively.

Deeper Reading

Once the class has a good general idea about the text you can then move on to more detailed study. This can happen in various ways. What should always be remembered, however, is WHY the class is reading a text. Are they reading for specific information or for enjoyment, for example?

When it comes to deeper reading you’ll need to give the class some specific questions to answer. You could therefore give them a list of questions and have them work in pairs or small groups to come up with the answers. For example, if the text was a biography of William Shakespeare:

  1. Where was Shakespeare born?
  2. What was his first play?
  3. Where were most of his plays first performed?

And so on. The students will then have to go through the text in more detail to find the answers to these questions. The questions can be varied of course:

  1. True/False answer, e.g. Shakespeare never married, true or false?
  2. Single word/phrase answer, e.g. In what year was Hamlet written?
  3. Short answer, e.g. Why did Shakespeare travel to London?
  4. Long answer, e.g. How did Shakespeare’s work reflect the political environment of the times?

Of course just giving the students a list of questions is a simple idea. There are more inventive ways you can use to have them read deeper:

  • Jigsaw reading. The text is split into several parts and a student only reads one of them; they must then come together with other students to work out the whole text.
  • Have the students work in small groups to prepare reading comprehension questions for other groups.
  • Cloze testing; present the text with various words missing which the students have to complete. This can be combined with jigsaw reading above.


Once the class is familiar with the text you need to check their understanding further. Obviously the questions above will go a long way towards this, but there are more extended activities which can be used.

  • Concept Checking. When checking comprehension, always remember to use the idea of concept checking. This means (basically) not just asking the class yes/no questions, but getting them to prove to you that they understand what they have read.
  • Vocabulary comprehension. Any new words found in the text can be explored by the students. Understanding can be checked with multiple-choice type questions, for example.
  • Freer work: get the students to use the text as a jumping off point for their own work. If they read about Shakespeare, for example, you could have them write a short piece about a popular writer from their own culture. In this way they use the text as a kind of template from which they can derive a new piece of writing.
  • Debates. If the topic lends itself to the idea of a debate, have the class prepare a debate on the subject.

Mind the Gap‏‎

"Mind the gap" sign on platform.Mind the Gap is a simple, useful game which can be adapted for any age or class level. It helps with word recognition, word boundaries, and reading in general. One aspect of the game is that it can be used in any situation and with any class and takes very little preparation.

Basic Idea

The basic idea behind the activity is to take a text and remove the gaps to leave a string of letters. For example, an original text could be:

Cat people really are different from dog people, it turns out, according to a study that really was conducted and, presumably, really did receive some kind of funding. Specifically: dog people are more extrovert and agreeable; cat people are more neurotic, but also more open to new experiences.

Simply remove the gaps and punctuation to have:

catpeoplereallyaredifferentfromdogpeopleitturnsoutaccordingtoastudythatreallywasconductedandpresumablyreallydid receivesomekindoffundingSpecificallydogpeoplearemoreextrovertandagreeablecatpeoplearemoreneuroticbutalsomoreopentonewexperiences

Print the text out and have the students, either in groups or individually, add in gaps, capitals and punctuation to recreate the original.

The original text, obviously, needs to be suitable for the class. Make sure it’s the right level in terms of grammar and vocabulary and that it will be of interest to the students.

Variations on a Theme

Instead of using a text you can create a string of related words for the class. Suppose, for example, you are doing colors with a class. You might give them this string to gap:


Thus it’s infinitely adaptable and can be a fun way to end the lesson and practice the vocabulary learned at the same time.

Image © mikelo

Creative Writing‏‎ Activity

A weird looking paper animal.Creative Writing is all about using imagination. Often, however, if you ask your students to write about their holidays, or what they did at the weekend, they will spend too long trying to think about what to write and decide there’s nothing to say so will produce a boring essay.

Instead, here’s a simple activity which is designed to inspire your students to come up with something original and interesting.


One by one, put onto your desk a selection of random objects. As each one is added to the pile, get the students to tell you what it is and what it might be used for – and be sure to get them to use their imaginations here!

For example, suppose you put an empty orange juice carton on the desk. See if you can’t elicit some random ideas on what you can use it for:

  • carrying water
  • propping open a door
  • making a lampshade
  • a protective cover for a man who’s just had his hand cut off
  • with the bottom cut off, a funnel

Remember that: the stranger the idea, the better. You want to get your students into the frame of mind where they use their imaginations to the limit!

After you have finished get the students into pairs or small groups and then ask them to come up with a story which links all the items on your desk. Go around to help in this stage.

The final writing part of the exercise is set for homework. Each student goes away and writes their own story.

Notes & Variations

  • This can be combined with Kim’s Game where you show your class a selection of items for a few moments and then they have to write down all they can remember.Make sure the items you use are tailored to your class; this activity can be used with advanced classes or specialized classes (Business English‏‎, for example), if the items you select are focused.
  • Image © Urban Woodswalker

Susan Griffith‏‎

Susan Griffith is a Canadian freelance editor and writer who specializes in writing books and articles about travel, especially working and volunteering abroad.

After graduating in English from the University of Toronto, she went on to study at Oxford and then decided to stay on working in England.

She has plenty of personal experience of working abroad and in the last 25 years she has traveled extensively both for work and pleasure. Amongst the locations where Susan has spent substantial periods of her time are the Indian Subcontinent and the Antipodes, including Papua New Guinea, but also the Mediterranean.



Teaching English Abroad

Heard It!‏‎

Underprivileged school children raising their hands.Heard It! is a simple game to play in class which practices intense listening.

It’s also a good idea if you want a few minutes peace and quiet!

The game can be played successfully with young classes from beginners upwards.


Record a selection of spoken dialogs from the radio (or any other source) and have them ready to play in class. They should be fairly short and – of course – the appropriate level for your class.

First divide the class into small groups of four or five.

Next, write on the board a single word or phrase. Tell the class that they will listen to the dialog and when they hear the word or phrase they need to raise their hand as quickly as possible and call out, “Heard it!

If they get it right they win a point for their team. However, if they raise their hand and call out at the wrong time they lose a point for their team.

Start playing the dialog. The students need to sit silently and listening intently for the chosen word or phrase. If several teams get it together then award points all round.


You can store the dialogs as MP3 files on your laptop to play in class. Of course you can always copy them to your iPod and use that or even burn them to a CD to use.

Over time you can build up a selection of dialogs of different levels.

Useful Links

Podcasts‏‎ in Teaching English – how to make the most of podcasts, that is, audio or video files in your lessons.

Image © GlobalPartnership for Education

Eric H. Roth‏‎

Eric H RothA writer and teacher, Eric H. Roth lives in Venice, California with his wife, Laurie Selik, and Chimayo, their wonderful border collie.

Roth has traveled to over 30 countries, and has helped over 5,000 immigrants become naturalized United States citizens as citizenship director of CES Adult Education Center.

Roth holds an M.A. in Media Studies from the New School University and a B.A. in Philosophy and American history from Wabash College. Roth currently helps engineering students learn the pleasures of technical writing, public speaking, and sharing their knowledge of our modern world at University of Southern California. He also collects old postcards, reads odd books, and plays a mean game of chess on the beach.

Roth is co-author of Compelling Conversations along with Toni Aberson.

Useful Links

Compelling Conversations (book)

Roth’s Blog‏‎ on the British Council Website


ICAL TEFLIDP is a global company offering student placement and English language testing services. It is based in Australia.

It has a network of over 75 student offices in 29 countries and places international students into all sectors of the Australian education system, including higher education and vocational education and training.

It is also a partner in IELTS‏‎ along with the British Council‏‎.

IDP was established by Australian universities in 1969 and has nearly 40 years’ experience in international education. Half of IDP’s equity is owned by 38 Australian universities through their holding company IDP Education Australia Ltd. The other half is owned by SEEK Ltd, Australia’s leading online employment and training company.

External Links

IDP – official website.

Pronunciation Snake – tefl activity

Pronunciation Snake is a simple game you can use to have your students practice particular pronunciations. It’s especially good for those problems that a particular class might have in similar sounds. It can be used with both words and single sounds.

For example, some students find it difficult to distinguish between the /b/ or /p/ sounds. This activity will help give them practice with this.

The first step is to go over the sounds in class with the students. Talk about the problems; explain, give examples and let the students practice. Basically cover the topic well. The activity can then be used as a final bit of practice to this.

Get the students into 2 lines leading back from the whiteboard to the back of the class; at one end of the line is the writer with a marker pen, at the other end is the feeder. You stand between the two feeders.

Get the two feeders to come to you and simply tell them a word which they should not have a problem with. The feeder then tells the next student in their line and that student passes it on and so on until the word reaches the writer who must write it down on the board. Check that it all looks ok. Since you’ve given them a simple word there should be no problems with this.

Once the students are familiar with the process you can start making things more difficult. For example, you can give minimal pairs to the feeders who must pass them on.

  • bat – pat
  • these – this
  • sheep – ship

Both words, of course, have to be written up on the board in the correct order.

There is no rush with this game, the students can ask for clarification from the student before them and encourage them to think carefully about the words and say them carefully, too.

See also

Voiced and Voiceless in English Pronunciation

Pronunciation Whispers‏‎

Big Sentence Scramble‏‎

The longest word - 1909 letters. Big Sentence Scramble is based on the British television game, Countdown. In the original version contestants choose letters (consonants or vowels) and have to come up with the longest word they can. Although that’s a possibility too, in this version contestants choose words and have to come up with the longest sentence possible.

This activity encourages analytical thinking on the part of the students; they will also practice their sentence construction and of course revise parts of speech. It is best for intermediate and above students.


You will need sets of words according to their parts of speech. Thus you can make a set of flashcards for the closed classes:

  • prepositions
  • conjunctions

And then larger sets for the open classes:

  • verbs
  • nouns
  • pronouns
  • adjectives
  • adverbs

The more you can make, the better.

Running the Activity

In class you might need first to revise the parts of speech. Once your students are familiar with them, lay out each set of cards at the front of the class, shuffling them first. Divide the class into small groups and then invite a good student from one of the groups to choose any class of word. Choose a card from that class and put it where the class can see (if you can attach it to the board somehow or prop it in view, all the better).

Then get another student to choose another class of words. Then another and so on until you have a selection of, say, 10 words on the board (this number can vary, as you play it with the class you’ll get an idea of what kind of length is best).

Now, each group has 5 minutes (or whatever time you decide) to construct the longest possible sentence they can with the words on the board. They can use the words in any way they want (e.g. a noun can be used as a verb if it fits) and they can conjugate and decline in whatever way they want (e.g. if the verb is walk they can have walked, walking but NOT have walked which would require another word, have).

Let’s suppose a student picks out these words:

  1. pronoun: they
  2. pronoun: we
  3. noun: car
  4. noun: dress
  5. noun: teeth
  6. determiner: the
  7. verb: eat
  8. verb: think
  9. verb: run
  10. adverb: strangely

Possible sentences here include:

Thoughtfully we dressed the car strangely.

Strangely, they think we ate the car.

As you can see the sentences needn’t be too logical. As along as they are grammatically correct, that’s fine. You can award points for the team with the longest sentence and perhaps extra points for any particularly clever or amusing sentences as well.

Once the class have played this a few times they will be better able to pick out certain classes of words which they think will go together more effectively. In other words, through a game they will working out effective sentence construction.

Useful Links

Parts of Speech‏‎ in English Grammar – PoS explained.

Image © Eddie Awad

A Basic English Grammar (book)‏‎

Author: John Eastwood; Ronald Mackin
Publisher: OUP
Details: paperback; pub. 1982
ISBN: 0194329402

An excellent first grammar which covers the basics of English grammar in clear and precise form. Ideal for new teachers and students to get to grips with the basics. This can be followed up with a book like Practical English Usage

See Also

Understanding and Using English Grammar

Fundamentals of English Grammar


External Links

Practical English Usage (amazon.com)

Practical English Usage (amazon.co.uk)

You know you’re a TEFL teacher when… (TEFAL)‏‎

A hungover teacher...You know you’re a TEFL teacher when…

…you watch Eastenders and want to correct their pronunciation and grammar.

…you think it’s perfectly fine to say close the light.

…you meet the parents and understand immediately why the child is the way it is.

…you want to correct the apostrophes outside greengrocers’ shops.

…you want to laminate your birth certificate, your shopping list, post-it notes and any other random piece of paper you find.

…you believe IQ tests should be given to people before they’re allowed to breed.

…you add an explanation whenever you use a difficult word in speech.

…you begin to have “feelings” towards the photocopier.

…you hear about a terrible national tragedy on the news but don’t feel sorry; instead you just wonder how it can be turned into a lesson plan.

…you own more than four red pens.

…you know the difference between a preposition and a participle and wonder why everyone doesn’t.

…you feel the urge to use correct grammar and full spelling when you text message.

…you see a webpage or forum post entitled you know your a… and can spot the mistake.

…you genuinely drink alcohol for medicinal purposes…

…and a hangover is an occupational hazard.

…you have regularly explained that English people don’t all wear bowler hats and drink tea all day.

…you arrive back in your home country and can’t use the money properly.

…you know the difference between your and you’re and their, there and they’re and you wince when you see them used wrongly.

Image © ChrisCarpenter

Apostilles in TEFL


To apostille, or not to apostille, that is the question.

An Apostille is an official stamp or note that guarantees a document is original and genuine. For example, a teacher working in Mexico‏‎ may need to have their degree certificate from home apostilled to prove that it is from an accredited public university.

The regulations regarding apostilles are set out in the Hague Convention. Documents need to be certified in the country where they were issued and they only need to be certified if they are to be used in a country that has signed the Hague Convention.


As far as TEFL teaching goes, in the majority of cases schools or visa authorities will not ask for apostilles and – since they are often expensive to get – it is probably not useful to get them unless they are specifically requested.

Documents which can be apostilled are:

  • degree certificates from public universities
  • birth certificates, etc
  • criminal records check‏‎
  • some TEFL certificates depending on provider

Apostille Issuing Authorities

In the USA‏‎ if the document was issued by a state (e.g. degree or a birth certificate) then the apostille is issued by the Secretary of State for that state. If you are outside the state but need to have it apostilled by the state then you first need to get the document notarised to prove it is genuine, then apostilled.

In the United Kingdom it is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. The document needs to be certified by a solicitor and then apostilled by the FCO.

In Australia, the office of Foreign Affairs and Trade; in New Zealand‏‎ the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; in South Africa‏‎ the Ministry of Education.

Canada‏‎ is not a party to the Hague Convention so Canadian documents must be legalized instead. Documents need to be legalised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and then sent to the local embassy or consulate of the country you’re going to for further paperwork.


For TEFL teachers the usual stumbling block in Mexico is the apostille. Generally speaking getting the appropriate visa means having your birth certificate and degree apostilled (i.e. apostilled from the issuing state or country). However, some states of Mexico may require having the TEFL certificate apostilled also; other states may not and some may not require your birth certificate apostilled. It is usually best to approach the local office with your school owner who will be able to help here.

What is Morphology‏‎?

MorphologySimply put, Morphology is the study of the words in a language.

It does go deeper, but generally speaking it studies and looks at language in terms of:

  • spelling
  • pronunciation
  • definition
  • part of speech
  • etymology (and obsolete usages)
  • non-standard or slang/taboo usage

Importantly morphology looks at the way in which words are formed and their parts: morphemes, affixes and so on.

Questions which Morphology Asks

Morphology overlaps with other linguistic disciplines, but if ever you were to stumble upon a group of morphologists in earnest discussion they could well be asking and answering questions like these:

  • Is there a rule for which country adjectives end in -ish (Swedish, English) or -ese (Burmese, Chinese)?
  • What is a word? If I use a made-up word like morriconisation then because I’ve used it at least once, does that mean it’s a word now?
  • Why doesn’t sheep have a plural?
  • If faster means more fast; then why doesn’t better mean more bet? Isn’t bet the same as good?
  • Why don’t we get paid more?

Useful Links

What is a Morpheme‏‎? – a look at morphemes, the building blocks of words

Alias Words‏‎ (or Don’t Say a Word)

A woman with a colored mouth, not speaking!Alias Words (also known as Don’t Say a Word!) is a flexible activity which can be used in many different ways with speaking‏‎ activities.

The basic idea is that a Chosen Word cannot be used in the classroom and must be exchanged for another, nonsense, Alias Word. For example, the Chosen Word might be SCHOOL and when anyone needs to use this word, they must replace it with the Alias Word DINKLE (or any silly, madeup word).

What does this do? It helps students stay focused and think carefully before they speak. It makes students more careful in preparing their language and slows down the process of speaking.


First off you need to set the Chosen Word. You can do this for the entire lesson or perhaps just a short activity. Suppose you are running an activity where students need to answer questions about a text they have been studying. You might decide that the Chosen Word is HE and the Alias Word is BLUMP. Write up on the board:


The class is divided into two teams, say boys and girls. A quick Q & A might go like this:

T: Gianni, who was Neil Armstrong?
Gianni: BLUMP was the first man on the moon.

T: Good. Maria, where was BLUMP from?
Maria: I think he was American?

And the boys get a point because one of the girls made a mistake and said the Chosen Word.


Aside from being good fun, the use of Alias Words means that students have to think very carefully before they speak. They must form their utterances‏‎ and concentrate on what they are doing. When you use randomly ask students they need to pay careful attention to what you are saying to be able to answer properly and without losing a point.

If you decide to make the Chosen Word a part of speech it will also help students think on their feet to identify these (see below).

Variations on a Theme

Once the class are familiar with simple versions of this activity, you can introduce all kinds of variations.

  • if you as teacher say the Chosen Word then both teams in the class score a point
  • have more than one Chosen Word
  • allow the Alias Words to be conjugated‎ or declined as needed
  • run the activity for the entire lesson with a simple word; or run if for a few minutes alongside another activity
  • make the Chosen Word a part of speech‏‎ so, for example, every single preposition is replaced by THID

    I walked thid the room and saw that thid the table there was a ten dollar note.

Image © madamepsychosis

Word Association‏‎

An upturned ink bottle with words falling out.Word Association is a simple 5 minute activity for the end of a lesson. It gets students talking and thinking about vocabulary‏‎.

Explain to your students what word association is: when you hear a word, you say another related word that pops into your head.

The difference with this game is that you might be asked to explain the association between the two words so your students have to think hard and fast and make sure the words are related. And of course, no repetition of words.

Running the Activity

Choose a word at random (you might like to write it up on the board, especially if the class is of a lower level).


Now choose a student at random (using lolly sticks is ideal for this task) and ask them for a related word; encourage them to respond as quickly as possible and write it on the board.


Pause long enough for the word to sink in with the class and allow them time to think of a new, associated word, and then point to another student at random (again, using the lolly sticks makes this faster and more random) and that student has to give a word associated with the previous and so on.

Any time a student comes up with what seems like a major non sequitur you can challenge them to explain the association.

T: elephant
S1: grey
S2: suit
S3: businessman
S4: Toy Story
T: Toy Story?! What’s the link there?
S4: well, er, um… I don’t know

Variations on a Theme

  • scoring can be introduced and teams as well
  • if a student is challenged for an association and comes up with an inventive one they win a round of applause, etc
  • you make the goal of the game to reach a certain word; in other words you give them two very unrelated words and the student who can legitimately say the second word in association with a previous word wins

See Also

Anti-Word Association‏‎ – an ESL activity based on the opposite of this one.

Image © Aan Cleaver

Mad Libs‏‎ – parts of speech activity

A Mad Lib hallpassMad Libs is a quick and amusing game which is ideal for teaching parts of speech‏‎ (word classes) and semantic fields. It’s ideal as a warmer or 5-minute end-of-lesson activity.

Basically the game involves completing blank spaces in a template with various parts of speech and the results can often be very amusing.

For example, the template could be:

Yesterday a large [animal] was found [preposition + place] eating my [noun].

Leading to results such as:

Yesterday a large dog was found in Spain eating my leg.
Yesterday a large ant was found under the desk eating my hat.


Have a few template sentences ready. You can restrict the missing words to more or less specific classes of words or phrases depending on the level of your students, their age and interests.

For example, you can ask for a general noun or specifically for a countable noun or a word from a certain semantic field, etc.

Then, once you have a good list of templates, check them to make sure they work and try them out with random words to see if they produce decent results. Here are a few examples:

When I grow up I want to be a [job title]; all day I’ll [verb] in my office and drink [drink],

I found a [noun] in my soup. No problem, I [transitive verb] it!

Running the Activity

Choose a suitable template, but don’t let the students see it.

I [adverb of frequency] [intransitive verb] before I go to [place]

Clear the desks except for a piece of paper and a pen. Ask the students to write down

  1. an adverb of frequency
  2. an intransitive verb
  3. a place

Now write the template on the board and get the students to read out their versions using their words:

I often sleep before I go to bed.
I sometimes eat before I go to Paris.
I never cry before I go to school.

You can then perhaps vote on which student has the best result.

And once the students have played the game a few times they’ll begin to get more inventive with their suggestions as they see how it works and they’ll begin to try and guess the original template and make their answers fit to that.

Mad Libs in the TEFL Classroom

In your lessons you can often use the Mad Libs concept to help explain words and to give the students practice with certain forms. For example, suppose you were explaining the concept of adjectives‏ to a class. You can write up a template like this for them to see:

He drove a ____ car.

And the class can suggest suitable words which would work here. All well and good.

Alternatively perhaps, you could ask for some random adjectives from the class first:

brown, smelly, cold, sexy, expensive, complicated…

And when the template is revealed it’s much more fun (and therefore memorable) to the class!

External Links

Mad Libs was invented in 1953 by Leonard Stern and Roger Price, who published the first Mad Libs book themselves in 1958. It resembles the earlier games of Consequences and Exquisite Corpse. Mad Libs books are still published by Price Stern Sloan, an imprint of Penguin Group, co-founded by Price and Stern.

If you want to experiment with templates and ideas, see the website It’s a Mad Lib World which has plenty of ideas.

The image comes from a download
taken from the Mad Libs website.

Noam Chomsky‏‎

ICAL TEFLThe founder of modern linguistics‏‎, Noam Chomsky was the first to devise a theory about the biological innateness of language.

Born in Philadelphia in 1928 he studied linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania focusing on the systematic structure of Hebrew. After graduation, he became a linguistics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has remained ever since.

Chomsky is renowned the world over for his groundbreaking theories in the field of Psycholinguistics. He asserts that we all have an innate language faculty which enables us to acquire language. This language faculty has a biological origin and all languages share the same underlying deep structure, a sort of universal grammar.

The individual grammars of our particular languages spring from this universal grammar, which consists of a series of fixed principles and several parameters whose values become set as a child acquires language.

Noam Chomsky, Political Theorist & Activist

Aside from pursuing linguistics matters, Chomsky is also an active leftist social critic of American foreign policy and media.

He began by openly criticizing the Vietnam War and much of ensuing American foreign policy. He has been freely critical of the media as well, accusing it of helping government to spin bad policy and failing to educate the people. He is a strong opponent of the Israeli government and also an authority on matters regarding the Middle East.

Despite being labeled by critics as anti-American, Chomsky’s anti-government leanings and his ability to link politics and linguistics are highly regarded and never go unnoticed. So much so that in September 2008, as the first wave of the economic crisis surged, Chomsky was one of several experts asked by the BBC to predict the future of capitalism.

Coloring Dictation

Outline of a house for dictation to children.Coloring Dictation (or Colouring Dictation if you prefer British English spelling) is a simple activity which is ideal for young learners. It’s fun and easy to set up.


You need to find an outline drawing of a suitable subject for your class. It should have specific areas for coloring such as the picture on this page and how complex the drawing is will depend on the age and abilities of your class.

The next step is to write a set of instructions for colors. These will later be dictated to your class:

  1. The front door handle is black.
  2. The front door is blue.
  3. The bottom left window is green.
  4. The bottom right window is orange.
  5. The top left window is yellow.
  6. The top window is white.
  7. The roof is black.
  8. The chimney is brown.
  9. The walls are gray.
  10. The sky is blue.

Finally, you need to have a finished version of the picture with all the colors. This will be shown to the class so it needs to be big enough.


In the class go over the colors with your students to make sure they know them well in English. Also check they know the difference between LEFT and RIGHT and TOP and BOTTOM. Finally go over the vocabulary for the house: wall, door, window, roof, chimney.

Make sure each student has a copy of the blank picture and the correct coloring pencils/crayons. Explain that they can only color what you will say.

Carefully read out the first statement and allow the class time to color. Then the next and so on. Finally you can compare the students’ efforts with the finished drawing you have.


  • Give the children plenty of time to “translate” what you are saying into what color they should choose and where it should go.
  • They will probably copy each other. This isn’t a problem, however, since there is language transfer going on while they are doing this.
  • Once the class are familiar with the game, post the instructions up on a wall so that the students themselves have to rush up to it, read a line, rush back and tell their group and complete the drawing.
  • For older students, see also: The ESL Art Activity‏‎.

Create a Crossword‏‎

Randonmly scattered Scrabble tiles. Create a Crossword is a great game you can play with Intermediate to Advanced classes. It’s a variation on usual crossword puzzles and gets your students thinking about the way in which words are constructed and spelt simply by using crosswords.


Draw then photocopy a 5 x 5 grid of squares on a page. You’ll need one per student.

The next requirement is a way of choosing random letters from the alphabet‏‎. The ideal way is to use the letter tiles from a Scrabble set; put them all in a bag and make sure they’re thoroughly mixed.

If you don’t have Scrabble tiles, you can use alternate ways for your students to pick random letters:

  • a page with all the letters of the alphabet randomly placed on it (the student will shut their eyes and point at one randomly)
  • a page of writing from a newspaper (as before, the student with closed eyes points to a letter at random)

And so on.


Explain to the students how the game will work. One at a time a letter of the alphabet will be read out loud. The student can put this letter in any empty space on their grid. Then another letter will be read out and again, this goes anywhere on the grid. This happens 25 times till the grid is full.

The first time you play this game you can read the letters out yourself. Later you can have students choose a letter randomly.

The students then have to count up the number of 5 letter words they have produced (vertically or horizontally).


Once the students have played the game once or twice you can work with them on developing a strategy. For example, certain letters are less used in English so if an X is pulled out, this needs to go somewhere less important, say a corner. Explain that:

  • letters like Q, Z, X and J are less common and shouldn’t go in prime spots
  • few words end in C
  • a Q must be followed by a U

and so on. Some general rules of English spelling can be explained and examined here.


When students are familiar with the game, allow each one to call out the next letter of their choice (rather than choose a random one). This allows students to choose letters which will help them fill their own grid.

With lower level classes, once the grid is filled you can allow them to find words of any length in their grid.

Students don’t have to work alone; get them in pairs to work together.

Allow students to use a dictionary to find words that they didn’t necessarily know (make sure they understand the meaning of the word as well!)


The first modern “word-cross” was created by Arthur Wynne, a gentleman from Liverpool (UK), and got published in the New York World (a US newspaper) in 1913, although similar puzzles had been around in different forms since Egyptian times.

Crossword solving in fact involves several useful skills including vocabulary, reasoning, and spelling. For this reason it has been adopted by EFL‏‎ESL teachers and used in the English class as a more active review technique and an engaging type of learning.


Crossword Compiler‏‎s are programs which can be used in the CALL classroom for students to compile their own crosswords.

Image © allyrose18

Puns in TEFL Teaching


What grammar related pun is shown here?

Puns are ambiguous; they are words (or phrases) which sound the same but which have two very different meanings used for humorous effect. (A traditional explanation of a pun is a “play on words” but since this defines everything from puns to Spoonerisms to Malapropsims to Pig Latin it really is too general to use here.)

This example illustrates a pun well:

A boiled egg for breakfast is hard to beat.

There are two meanings here of hard to beat:

  1. not able to be surpassed, i.e. nothing is better than a boiled egg
  2. cannot be whisked, i.e. because the boiled egg is hard you can’t whisk it into scrambled eggs, for example

The usual response to a pun is a groan from the audience. Traditionally, making a pun never leads to laugh-out-loud humor. Joseph Addison the playwright reportedly said that puns were, “the lowest form of wit”; the usual response is to say this is because they are the foundation of all humor.

In the TEFL‏‎ classroom puns are useful for several good reasons:

  1. They break the ice. A bad pun (and most of them are) releases tension and relaxes everyone.
  2. They can be very useful to explain homonyms; the students will remember the word and its two meanings if its associated with a pun.

Because a good pun relies not on the similarity of words but also of meaning, it has a place in TEFL.

Homophonic & Homographic Puns

Homophones‏‎ are words which are spelled differently but sound the same. Examples of homophonic puns include:

Atheism is a non-prophet/profit institution.

Doctors need plenty of patience/patients.

Shakespeare writes in Richard III:

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son/sun of York.

Here the pun relies on the sound of son and sun. (Interestingly, some modern scholars estimate that almost half of Shakespeare’s puns have been lost, however, due to changes in the pronunciation of English since they were written.)

Some homophones, however, will need specific pronunciation:

As a boy, Henry VIII was taught by his personal Tudor/tutor.

This example above works in many dialects but by no means all.

Usefully for teachers, almost any homophone can be worked into a pun and this will help the class remember it. Suppose you come across the word, copse, in a text. Explain to the class the meaning and then give them this homophonic pun to remember it:

Where do policemen hide? In a copse!

Meanwhile homographs‏‎ are words which are spelled the same, but have different meanings and pronunciation. Because of this they work best when written.

Corduroy pillows are making headlines.

Did you hear about the optometrist who fell into a lens grinder and made a spectacle of himself?

Of course you can mix homographic and homophonic puns:

You can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish. Unless of course, you play bass.

This sentence from Douglas Adams relies on the homophonic pun tune a and tuna along with the homographic pun of bass (as in the instrument and the fish).

Puns vs Malapropisms

A malapropism is a word used wrongly – and accidentally – in place of a correct word. Someone might want to say:

Our distinguished guest is Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

But instead say:

Our extinguished guest is Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

This is not a pun as such, but the same principle could be used humorously in the right circumstances:

I read a book on proctology; it’s a vast suppository of information.

Here the word suppository is used instead of repository. It is not a pun per se, but could almost be classed as one due to the similarity of the two words.

Example Puns

The following puns are all related to language, teaching and grammar in some way.

Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

A backward poet writes inverse.

There was once a cross-eyed teacher who couldn’t control his pupils.

He traveled all over the world to practice his intonation.

See those birds over there? They’re speaking pigeon English.

And these are less so but worth repeating:

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

I couldn’t quite remember how to throw a boomerang, but eventually it came back to me.

He drove his expensive car into a tree and found out how the Mercedes bends.

If you don’t pay your exorcist you get repossessed.

A lot of money is tainted. ‘Taint yours and ‘taint mine.

A plateau is a high form of flattery.

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The Buddhist refused pain-killers during the root canal because he wanted to transcend dental medication.

Phonemes in English

Keep Talking

Keep Talking; the image shows the cover of the Pink Floyd album The Division Bell by Storm Thorgerson.

Phonemes are the smallest possible sounds in a language which have a distinct meaning.

So what does that mean in practice?

Well, take these two words:

kiss – miss

When we say them, the only difference is the very first sound of each word:

k and m

This means that those two sounds, k and m, are phonemes because when one changes to the other, the meaning of the whole word changes.

Practically Speaking

In practice, a phoneme is a sound in a language.

Putting it simply, you can compare phonemes to the letters in the alphabet: in writing we have letters which go to make up words, in speaking we have phonemes which go to make up words.

When we write the sounds or phonemes we use the IPA since the sounds of English don’t correspond to the letters of the alphabet. All in all there are approximately 44 phonemes in English which can be combined in different ways. Thus we can write:

the cat looked at a king
ðə kæt lʊkt ət ə kɪŋ

Notice how in writing we might have different letters for the same sound or phoneme:

cat – kæt
king – kɪŋ

So a single phoneme can be written using different letters of the alphabet.

Phonemes and TEFL

Is it necessary to use the word phoneme with your EFL class?

Some teachers do and some don’t. Often teachers will restrict themselves to talking about sounds instead of using the probably unknown word, phoneme. This is a viable and practical option.

So in class by all means talk about the sounds in a word, perhaps how you produce the s sound in a certain way (instead of talking about the s phoneme).

But whatever you do, it’s often very useful to introduce very gradually the IPA so your class can learn how to write down the sounds of words as well.

minimal pairs

And above all, get your class used to working with minimal pairs which are highly effective in showing where individual phonemes can make a huge difference when it comes to teaching pronunciation.

Talk about:

sheep – ship
saw – shore

and so on and by all means use the IPA to write the individual sounds down (or phonemes if you decide to use that word in class).

Strictly Speaking

The exaplanation above is very simple. Note, however, that linguistically speaking phonemes take on a deeper and more complex meaning.

For example, take the word path. There are 2 common pronunciations:


Same word, two different pronunciations. There are obviously two different sounds here, however exchanging them does not change the meaning of the word. What we have here is a single phoneme with two allphones (or variations).

On the other hand, take this pair of words:

tarn – tɑːn
tan – tæn

The difference between them is the same difference as the two pronunciations of path above, but here changing the phoneme changes the meaning of the word entirely.

Note, however, that it is almost never necessary to go into this kind of depth in dealing with phonemes and an ELT class.

Useful Links

IPA – International Phonetic Alphabet – how we write phonemes

Minimal Pairs‏‎ and TEFL – using very similar words to teach pronunciation

The English Alphabet‏‎ – phonemes and letters; two sides of the same coin

Background Checks in TEFL


The dreaded form!

You want to teach English. And you’re not a hardened criminal, right?

Of course not! But you may well need to prove this last fact to get a job.

Many countries (though not all) ask prospective teachers to provide a valid Background Check when they apply for a teaching job. This is simply an official document from your home country saying that you have never killed anyone or done anything terrible!

These checks are variously known as a:

  • Background Check
  • Criminal Records Check or CRC
  • Police Clearance
  • Subject Access Check
  • Certificate of Character

What they are called depends on which country issues them. In most cases this is by the national authorities of your home country (and not, for example, the local authorities).

This article is all about what a background check is and how you can go about getting one.

Applying for a Background Check

Although the process varies according to your nationality, in most cases it will begin by submitting your fingerprints on an official form along with various other documentation which will include your ID, contact details, current and former names, etc.

This is sent to the official authorities in your country (e.g. the FBI or national police; for links see below), often with a fee which varies depending on where you are. The checking process can take several months to complete so it is best to apply for a background check as early as possible allowing at least 3 months for the whole process in case of delays.

Following receipt of the background check it may need to have an apostille‏‎ depending on where you will be using it; this can include having it verified by the embassy of the country you’re intending to work in.

In general, background checks cannot be older than 3 months to be used. They are normally required from your home country however if you are currently living in another country and have been there longer than six months then you may be required to get a background check from this country also.


In the USA the FBI have allowed so-called channelers to help with the process of getting a background check. For a fee these can speed up the process and if you are pushed for time it may be the way to go.

Channeler obtained background checks are accepted by most countries including South Korea, however you should always check this before submitting your documents.

Convictions & Countries

Although there are no hard and fast rules, in many cases, minor convictions (e.g. for traffic offences) can be overlooked.

However, those offences which are likely to cause problems are:

  • drug offences
  • sexual offences

In some cases you may need to write an official letter to the authorities of the country you are going to work in to explain any convictions. This will be detailed on your application depending on where you are going.


  • Australia – click here for details. Checks supplied by the either the state police or the federal police depending on your location.
  • Canada – click here for details on the process from the RCMP website (cost: 25 CAD + 50 CAD)
  • Ireland – CRC checks can be obtained from your local Garda station and are known as a Certificate of Character.
  • New Zealand – The Ministry of Justice is frequently asked to provide a CRC for persons who wish to apply for residence in a foreign country. See here for more details.
  • South Africa – click here for details on obtaining your CRC, known as a Police Clearance Certificate.
  • UK – a Subject Access Check can be issued from the local police station in England, Wales or Northern Ireland; in Scotland you will find more information at the Disclosure Scotland website.
  • USA – click here for more information; the CRC must be made to the FBI and CRCs from the state authorities are no longer acceptable; you may, however, use an authorized channeler to speed up the process (link here).

Free ICAL Teaching Tips & Tricks


The ICAL Newsletter is worth reading!

Do you want to receive weekly free advice on teaching English as a Second or Foreign language?

The ICAL TEFL Newsletter brings updates, advice and articles on teaching TEFL/TESOL right to your inbox. It gives you the latest articles on:

  • how to find the best jobs
  • where to teach and what different countries are like
  • great classroom activities
  • effective teaching methods
  • clear grammar tips & explanations

and much more!

Sign up for our free ICAL Newsletter below. Just include your email address. We will then send you an email asking for address confirmation. Once you have confirmed, you will be added to the Newsletter list… and you’ll start getting ahead of the game!

Subscribe to our Newsletter

WorkSmart – help teaching English when you need it


Be part of the WorkSmart Team

ICAL WorkSmart is an exclusive mentoring program designed to help ICAL TEFL teachers and students find work and then be successful in their teaching.

Think of us as a knowledgeable, friendly professional who can help you with advice and suggestions; someone you can turn to when you’d like a second opinion; someone who has many, many years experience in the TEFL industry and who is there to help you.

Once you register for an ICAL course you are part of WorkSmart.

It is 100% free to all ICAL students while they are taking the course and then for 12 months following their graduation from ICAL.

What ICAL WorkSmart offers

ICAL WorkSmart helps you when you’re looking for work:

  • We’ll help you prepare your TEFL CV/Resume.
  • We’ll help you prepare your cover letter and job application.
  • We will look at your specific skills and circumstances and then offer you real, practical advice on the best places to find work and how to go about getting a decent job.
  • We will offer you advice on job advertisements and proposals and give solid, impartial advice on which sound good and which you had better avoid.
  • We will advise on which countries would best fit your profile and requirements.

ICAL WorkSmart helps you when you are offered a job:

  • We’ll take a look at the contract and paperwork and make sure it all looks good.

ICAL WorkSmart helps you after you’ve started work:

  • Help and advice once you’re teaching. Our many years of experience can be used to give you a heads up if you come across a problem in the class or with the school admin. We are here to offer you good, practical advice on any problem or situation you may face where you’re or if you’re uncertain or worried about what to do.

And much more!

Join ICAL WorkSmart

If you are an ICAL student currently taking the course then you are already part of ICAL WorkSmart and there’s no need to do anything else. You can already ask us for advice, get suggestions from us and run ideas past us.

Quite simply, just email us on worksmart@icaltefl.com along with your ICAL Student ID and we’ll get back to you.

How can ICAL WorkSmart help me?

Every teacher is different and every teacher uses ICAL WorkSmart in a different way. Here are a few examples of what we have done to help teachers find work and make the most of it.

What is important to remember is that ICAL WorkSmart works for you: you may not need some help in certain areas, but you might in others. Whatever you need, however, we are here to offer advice and help you.

CV/Resume & Cover Letter

Your CV/Resume and Cover Letter are crucial in finding work. We will take a look at these and help you format and present them in the best possible light for prospective employers. We’ll work with you in this so that they really reflect you and your personality to show people who you really are.

We will also advise you on presentation techniques that will help you make a lasting impression on potential employers.

Work Permit, Visa, etc. – Document Preparation

Often getting a teaching position abroad involves getting some sort of work permit or visa. Visa types in particular can be many, and they vary from country to country. We will advise you on which one is best suited to your particular situation and the best way to go about obtaining it.

Finding Work

The world is a big place and there are TEFL teachers everywhere! We have worked with teachers looking for work across the globe. One recent teacher was heavily into rock climbing; in the end he found work just an hour from a national park in southern Europe where he climbs each weekend. Another teacher was nervous about her first time overseas so we advised her to head for a friendly town where we knew there was a thriving community of foreign teachers for her to meet. She’s now loving life there!


Unfortunately they exist.

On several occasions we’ve had teachers send us job offers which we’ve identified immediately as scams. They followed our advice, deleted them and saved themselves a lot of heartache as well as financial loss!

In the Classroom

Being a new teacher isn’t always easy.

We’ve had several teachers who have found themselves facing disruptive students in their class. In cases like these sometimes it’s nice just to have someone to talk to about the situation but practical advice is helpful too and we’ve worked with those teachers in finding effective ways of dealing with troublesome students.

A recent situation one of our teachers faced was dealing with a class who just wouldn’t respond to her teaching. They would sit and watch and barely do a thing for the entire lesson. We helped this teacher adjust her style and prepare more stimulating lesson plans and in the end together we helped her get the class talking and involved.

Outside the Classroom

Culture shock happens to teachers when they move overseas. We’ve helped several teachers with practical advice on finding new friends and dealing with being in a new country and environment.

And Sometimes…

And sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing you aren’t alone. ICAL WorkSmart means that there’s always someone you can turn to if you need advice or want to get something off your chest!

Remember, if you are an ICAL student then you are already part of ICAL Work Smart – it’s included in our course fee. Just email us on worksmart@icaltefl.com along with Student ID and we’ll get back to you.

The ICAL Student Center

The ICAL Student Center or ISC is the home for each student taking an ICAL course. It is not only a virtual classroom and library, but also a place to meet and interact with other students.

As soon as you register in an ICAL course you are given a unique ID number and password which allow you to access the ISC and take advantage of all the facilities there.

On an educational level the ISC allows you to:

  • Read and download the course material
  • Send the course assignments to your tutor & receive feedback
  • Keep track of your progress on the course and check your grades, etc.
  • Access the help files for each course module as well as other useful information about your course
  • Discuss with other students aspects of the course on the forum

On a more personal level the ISC is also a mini social-networking site devoted to ICAL students and teachers. Here you can meet other students near you, “friend” others and interact with them. You can join groups, upload photos and videos and use the environment as a closed Facebook type area – it is not viewable by the general public so you can chat away happily with others in a safe and friendly atmosphere, knowing that your privacy will always be respected.

Current Students

Current students can log into the ISC here.

ICAL TEFL Partner and Affiliate Schemes


photo credit: Pixabay (license)

ICAL is involved in two partnership schemes.

  • Website Affiliate Scheme – for owners of TEFL related websites who would like to promote our courses
  • Educational Partner Scheme – for school owners wanting to offer their teachers quality ICAL training

These two schemes are outlined below. For any questions, please contact admin@icaltefl.com.

Website Affiliate Scheme

If you own a website you can promote our courses with a simple banner or text link. Each sale is rewarded with a commission. Signing up to this is free. Simply click here and you will be taken to our affiliate provider where you can sign in, download banners and links and begin earning commission through selling and promoting quality ICAL TEFL courses.

Alternatively, contact us directly to discuss affiliate and partnership terms and possibilities.

ICAL Educational Partner Scheme

Through the ICAL Educational Partner Scheme any English Language School or Educational Institute can offer their teachers quality training and recognized TEFL certification at a considerably discounted price.

We co-operate with several schools around the world training their teachers on a regular basis. Each school is unique and we endeavor to cater for their individual training needs.

Some schools choose ICAL to give their new teachers a thorough grounding in TEFL. Other schools contact us because they want their existing teachers to take a refresher course. Others still want to monitor their teachers’ teaching practice with a view to improving it.

In each case we work on a tailored made solution and we reward the trust the school put in ICAL by offering a discount on our registration fees.

The discount rate varies depending on the number of teachers applying through the scheme.

Contact us at admin@icaltefl.com to see how we can help your school grow.

The Educational Partner Scheme will allow you to enhance your teachers’ performance and put your school above the competition without going over budget!

Jobs with ICAL


Hard at work at ICAL

This article has information on jobs available at ICAL for TEFL teacher trainers and administrative staff.

Note that if you are a TEFL teacher looking for work in an English school, please see our WorkSmart program and also our TEFL Jobs page.

ICAL Personal Tutors

ICAL personal tutors work closely with our students and are an integral part of the course and as ICAL grows, we often take on new tutors to meet increasing demand.

ICAL tutors have the following qualifications:

  • a second degree (MA or equivalent) in English or other relevant field
  • a higher TESOL or TEFL qualification (or equivalent)
  • several years experience as an TESOL or TEFL teacher
  • relevant teacher training experience and qualifications

All ICAL tutors are native English speakers (American, British, Australian, Irish, South African, etc) and have a good level of computer literacy with regular email access.

Finally, the tutor-student relationship is crucially important to us and we pride ourselves on having tutors who are not only highly professional but also friendly and outgoing with a strong desire to help and inspire their students.

If you match this profile and feel you could join a team like ICAL, then get in touch with us and let us know!

ICAL Administrative Staff

There are currently no vacancies for administrative staff at ICAL TEFL.

TEFL Course Scholarships

Could you – or your organization – benefit from a scholarship to take an ICAL TEFL course?

Perhaps you would like to take a TEFL course but need help with the cost?

Maybe a recent government shutdown has left you out of work or on furlough?

In that case, ICAL may be able to help!

Do You Need a Scholarship?

Currently, we can give part scholarships to anyone who meets any 1 of these criteria:

  • anyone working for a charity involved with education
  • anyone who is unemployed or receiving government assistance
  • anyone in full-time education (e.g. you are at university/college studying)
  • anyone on furlough
  • anyone on income support/benefit
  • anyone who is over 65
  • anyone who has a disability
  • anyone who is a single parent
  • anyone who is a prison inmate or teaches in a prison
  • anyone who works for an English school in one of the countries listed below
Burkina Faso
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
East Timor
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé and Príncipe
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
South Sudan
Sri Lanka

Can You Help Me?

Maybe you don’t belong to one of the categories above but still need help.

At ICAL we’re open to suggestions. If you think that you – or your organization – would benefit from a scholarship to take our TEFL course and that afterwards the community where you work would benefit then do get in touch!

In the past we’ve given scholarships to all sorts of charities and schools in under privileged areas.

See also our page on charitable donations.

How Much are the Scholarships Worth?

The amount of our scholarships varies and are offered according to circumstances and situation. They begin at 15% discount but we look at who you are and how the community will benefit from your TEFL training.

How to Apply for a TEFL Scholarship

If you would like to apply for a part scholarship to take an ICAL TEFL course then please get in touch with us and we will be happy to talk over the options with you.

But please note that we will require all applications to be accompanied by official documentation. You must apply & be accepted for a scholarship BEFORE you register; sorry but we are not able to process scholarships after registration has been made.

English Language Students

Lots of FacesEL or English Language Students are the ones learning English!

They come in all shapes and sizes and could be almost anyone. But here we’ll discuss very generally the kind of students you’re likely to find yourself teaching as a TEFL teacher around the world.

Who are EL Students?


You could find yourself teaching almost anyone. In my time teaching I’ve come across the following learning English:

  • refugees just arrived from a war-torn country
  • the sons of a Saudi prince
  • a footballer from Italy playing in the English premier league
  • a team of circus acrobats
  • homeless children who came for a lesson and some food
  • doctors and nurses
  • business people
  • a dentist specializing in gum disease
  • a South American beauty queen
  • kindergarten children

And although you could end up teaching anyone, the chances are that you will teach teenagers at some point. In fact, probably the biggest number of learners are teenagers in foreign countries who are learning in either a state school or a private school.

What do they Learn?

Well of course they are all learning English, but not just any old English.

The majority of learners are after General English which is a vague term which means they’ll be able to hold a conversation on a non-specialist subject; they’ll be able to follow a film or watch the news and so on.

But other groups will want more specialized English:

  • Business English – for those doing business abroad
  • English for Academic Purposes – for those going to study in an English speaking country
  • English for Tourism
  • Survival English – for those just arrived in an English speaking country

But you’ll find even more specialized courses. The footballer above needed specialized language to understand his teammates and the manager; doctors and nurses will require specialized knowledge and you may well end up having to teaching highly technical language in your classes.

But in the majority of cases you’ll be teaching General English and this will be heading towards an examination.

What Level are the Students?

All levels!

They could be from complete beginners without a single word of English to extremely advanced learners who perhaps need to perfect a specialized aspect of their English. Perhaps, for example, they are extremely competent speakers who rarely make a mistake but who would like to polish off their accent or perhaps be able to write specialized academic texts. Who knows?

English teachers talk informally about beginners, intermediate, and advanced students and you may well find yourself teaching any of these.

Where do they Learn?

Again, almost anywhere.

Most teaching is probably done in a small language school or a state school. However, you could find yourself teaching anywhere from a huge multi-media lecture theater in a university to the corner of a room in a rundown drop-in center for underprivileged kids.

Sometimes, of course, you’ll be teaching private lessons and these can be held either at your place, your student’s place or even in a public place like a cafe.


But this is what makes teaching English as a foreign language so wonderful.

You meet such a vast range of people of the years and every single student is different. You can teach young learners at a school in the morning, middle-aged housewives in their homes in the afternoon, and body-builders in the gym in the evening*

* a friend of mine actually had this combination one memorable month

But you do keep to roughly the same system to teach. You start with a good needs analysis where you work out what it is they need to know, then you give them what they want.

It’s as simple as that!

Useful Links

Needs Analysis‏‎ for TEFL – how to work out what you need to teach

General English‏‎ – what most students learn, certainly to begin with

TEFL Certification – learn how to teach English

How to Speak to English Language Students – how you should talk to your students learning English

Image © Zohar Manor-Abel

Story Chain

Dog sitters out with several dogs.A Story Chain is a simple method of passing a story around the class, giving each student plenty of practice in storytelling.

Prepare a Story

There are many different ways to do this. The stories should be short and able to be told in a minute or so. Most importantly they should be told in the first person.

  • brainstorm ideas with the class by writing up keywords and have them develop a story themselves
  • prepare the key moments of a story on a card and hand out a different story to each student
  • get the students to prepare and come up with their own stories

Remember that stories can be anything, including jokes and anecdotes, and don’t have to be genuine. If the class has access to computers you can find websites where short anecdotes are told and have the students use this as a resource for finding material.

Since many people often find it hard to come up with stories off the cuff, it’s best to prepare these beforehand, perhaps as homework. And for the same reason you might want to prepare a few stories yourself for those students who simply can’t come up with anything.

For a business class they can related work related stories; for a teenage class a simple story from school.

Running the Activity

Once each student has their own story they are given time to work through it, checking any unknown vocabulary and so on. The next step is to pair up students randomly.

When the pairs come together, each student tells their story in the first person:

I took my dog for a walk this morning. We went into the next road and he suddenly saw a cat. He began to run after it and because he was pulling so hard, he pulled the lead out of my hand and went off down the street. I ran after him but he was completely lost. I telephoned my sister and got her to come out and help me look for the dog. After an hour of searching we went home. I was so worried to tell my parents. But when we got home we found the dog sitting outside the front door waiting for us! He was wagging his tail and very happy. We were exhausted though!

The next step is to break up the pairs and move them about. They then have to tell their new partner the story they just heard:

Manny took his dog for a walk this morning. When they were nearby the dog saw a cat and chased it and ran away. Manny lost the dog and so he started looking for him. He telephoned his sister who came out to help him. After an hour they went back home still without the dog. But when they arrived home they found the dog outside the front of the house! He’d gone home by himself!

You can do this several times. At the end you get individuals from the class to recite the last story they heard and then compare it with the original, see if it has improved in the storytelling, see what facts have changed completely and maybe see if the original storyteller can actually recognize their story!

Useful links

Storytelling‏‎ in Class – all about this ancient art and how it can be used successfully in your TEFL class.

Image © Ed Yourdon


Popty Ping the Welsh neologism for the beep of the microwave.A Neologism is newly created (or “coined”) word.

New words often apply to new concepts or inventions, or perhaps when an old idea takes on a new meaning.

Some random neologisms:

  • aspirin
  • hyperspace
  • internet
  • Islamaphobia
  • wiki
  • bling
  • wmd
  • phishing

Quite simply, these words did not exist several years ago.


Washington Post columnist Bob Levey ran a monthly neologism competition for over 20 years (from 1983 til 2004, when he retired). Readers were invited to send in new words made by taking existing words and adding, subtracting, or changing one letter to yield a new definition. Here are a few wordplays he received over the years.

Cashtration   The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
Intaxication   Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
Bozone   The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
Reintarnation   Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
Foreploy   Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of obtaining sex.
Sarchasm   The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the recipient who doesn’t get it.
Inoculatte   To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
Hipatitis   Terminal coolness.
Osteopornosis   A degenerate disease.
Burglesque   A poorly planned break-in.
Karmageddon   It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like a serious bummer.
Glibido   All talk and no action.
Ignoranus   A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
Image © Brett Jordan

Jill Hadfield‏‎

Jill HadfieldJill Hadfield has been involved in EFL either as a teacher or teacher trainer for over 20 years and is the author of over 20 books for teachers, some written with her husband Charles.

She has taught and trained teachers in Britain, France, China, Tibet, and Madagascar, and held workshops and courses for teachers around the world. She is currently senior lecturer in the School of English and Applied Linguistics at Unitec, Auckland, NZ.

She is the author of Resource Books for Teachers: Classroom Dynamics, and co-author of Presenting New Language, Simple Listening Activities, Simple Speaking Activities, Simple Reading Activities, and Simple Writing Activities, all in the Oxford Basics series published by Oxford University Press.

Categories Word Search‏‎

Class of students with their hands up.Categories Word Search is a simple exercise which gives students practice in grouping and thinking about either semantic fields or parts of speech‏‎ (word classes) or both.


You will need a method of choosing a letter of the alphabet‏‎ at random. This could be by using flashcards‏‎ with one letter of the alphabet on each. In this case these will need to be made. Alternatively you could use a Scrabble bag (which is useful as the letters are numerically distributed according to frequency so letters like X or Z or Q will turn up less often.

Finally if none of these are available you could get a student to close their eyes, open a book and point at the text at random; whichever letter is under their finger becomes the chosen letter.

Running the Activity

Have the students take a sheet of paper and write down a number of categories. What categories you suggest will depend on the class. You could make them word classes:

  • Noun
  • Verb
  • Adverb

and so on; in general these should be open classes (i.e. avoid prepositions‏‎, pronouns‏, etc). Or you could make them semantic fields:

  • Job
  • Food
  • Country

Next, choose a letter at random using one of the methods above. Call out the letter and the students have 30 seconds to write down one word beginning with that letter for each category:

Suppose you picked out M

  • Noun: mountain
  • Verb: make
  • Adverb: merrily
  • Job: mandolin player
  • Food: meat
  • Country: Madagascar

After thirty seconds (or 1 minute, whatever time frame you think is appropriate) all pens are down and the class all put their hands up.

Ask the first student for their noun. If they are the only student in the class with that word they get a point and put their hand down. If other students in the class have that word as well, no points are given out and those students put their hands down. Go round the class and give out points to all students with unique nouns.

Then have them put their hands up again and move on to verbs‏‎ and do the same. The idea here is that you want your students to come up with different and more unusual words, that is you want them to think a bit about what they are doing.

Of course at the end of the activity you tot up the scores and see which student is the most original.

Variations on a Theme

  • The activity can be run as a team game with points won for the team rather than the individual.
Image © audio-luci-store

A Long List of Proverbs‏‎


Old adage.

This is A Long List of Proverbs. It can be used with activities such as proverb match‏‎ (see below).

A cat may look at a king
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link
A change is as good as a rest
A drowning man will clutch at a straw
A fish always rots from the head down
A fool and his money are soon parted
A friend in need is a friend indeed
A golden key can open any door
A good beginning makes a good ending
A good man is hard to find
A house divided against itself cannot stand
A house is not a home
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
A leopard cannot change its spots
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
A little learning is a dangerous thing
A little of what you fancy does you good
A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client
A miss is as good as a mile
A new broom sweeps clean
A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse
A penny saved is a penny earned
A person is known by the company he keeps
A picture paints a thousand words
A place for everything and everything in its place
A poor workman always blames his tools
A problem shared is a problem halved
A prophet is not recognized in his own land
A rising tide lifts all boats
A rolling stone gathers no moss
A soft answer turneth away wrath
A stitch in time saves nine
A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly
A thing of beauty is a joy forever
A trouble shared is a trouble halved
A volunteer is worth twenty pressed men
A watched pot never boils
A woman’s place is in the home
A woman’s work is never done
A word to the wise is enough
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Absolute power corrupts absolutely
Accidents will happen (in the best-regulated families).
Actions speak louder than words
Adversity makes strange bedfellows
After a storm comes a calm
All good things come to he who waits
All good things must come to an end
All is grist that comes to the mill
All publicity is good publicity
All roads lead to Rome
All that glisters is not gold
All the world loves a lover
All things come to those who wait
All things must pass
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
All you need is love
All’s fair in love and war
All’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds
All’s well that ends well
A miss is as good as a mile
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
An army marches on its stomach
An Englishman’s home is his castle
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Another day, another dollar
Any port in a storm
April showers bring forth May flowers
As you make your bed, so you must lie upon it
As you sow so shall you reap
Ask a silly question and you’ll get a silly answer
Ask no questions and hear no lies
Attack is the best form of defence
Bad money drives out good
Bad news travels fast
Barking dogs seldom bite
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Beauty is only skin deep
Beggars should not be choosers
Behind every great man there’s a great woman
Better late than never
Better safe than sorry
Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t
Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all
Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool that to speak and remove all doubt
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts
Big fish eat little fish
Birds of a feather flock together
Blood is thicker than water
Boys will be boys
Brevity is the soul of wit
Business before pleasure
Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion
Carpe diem (Pluck the day; Seize the day)
Charity begins at home
Cheats never prosper
Children should be seen and not heard
Cleanliness is next to godliness
Clothes make the man
Cold hands, warm heart
Comparisons are odious
Count your blessings
Cowards may die many times before their death
Crime doesn’t pay
Cut your coat to suit your cloth
Dead men tell no tales
Devil take the hindmost
Discretion is the better part of valour
Distance lends enchantment to the view
Do as I say, not as I do
Do as you would be done by
Do unto others as you would have them do to you
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
Don’t burn your bridges behind you
Don’t cast your pearls before swine
Don’t change horses in midstream
Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched
Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it
Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face
Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself
Don’t let the bastards grind you down
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
Don’t meet troubles half-way
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Don’t put the cart before the horse
Don’t put new wine into old bottles
Don’t rock the boat
Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar
Don’t throw pearls to swine
Don’t teach your Grandma to suck eggs
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water
Don’t try to walk before you can crawl
Don’t upset the apple-cart
Don’t wash your dirty linen in public
Doubt is the beginning not the end of wisdom
Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
East is east, and west is west
East, west, home’s best
Easy come, easy go
Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die
Empty vessels make the most noise
Enough is as good as a feast
Enough is enough
Even a worm will turn
Every cloud has a silver lining
Every dog has his day
Every Jack has his Jill
Every little helps
Every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost
Every man has his price
Every picture tells a story
Every stick has two ends
Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die
Everything comes to him who waits
Failing to plan is planning to fail
Faint heart never won fair lady
Fair exchange is no robbery
Faith will move mountains
Familiarity breeds contempt
Feed a cold and starve a fever
Fight fire with fire
Finders keepers, losers weepers
Fine words butter no parsnips
First come, first served
First impressions are the most lasting
First things first
Fish always stink from the head down
Fish and guests smell after three days
Flattery will get you nowhere
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the man was lost
Forewarned is forearmed
Forgive and forget
Fortune favours the brave
From the sublime to the ridiculous is only one step
Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains
Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration
Give a dog a bad name and hang him
Give a man rope enough and he will hang himself
Give credit where credit is due
God helps those who help themselves
Good fences make good neighbours
Good talk saves the food
Good things come to those who wait
Great minds think alike
Half a loaf is better than no bread
Handsome is as handsome does
Hard cases make bad law
Hard work never did anyone any harm
Haste makes waste
He that goes a-borrowing, goes a-sorrowing
He who can does, he who cannot, teaches
He who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day
He who hesitates is lost
He who laughs last laughs longest
He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword
He who pays the piper calls the tune
He who sups with the Devil should have a long spoon
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned
Hindsight is always twenty-twenty
History repeats itself
Home is where the heart is
Honesty is the best policy
Hope springs eternal
Horses for courses
If anything can go wrong, it will
If a job is worth doing it is worth doing well
If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again
If God had meant us to fly he’d have given us wings
If ifs and ands were pots and pans there’d be no work for tinkers
If life deals you lemons, make lemonade
If the cap fits, wear it
If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
If you can’t be good, be careful
If you can’t beat em, join em
If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen
If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys
If you want a thing done well, do it yourself
Ignorance is bliss
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
In for a penny, in for a pound
In the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king
In the midst of life we are in death
Into every life a little rain must fall
It ain’t over till the fat lady sings
It goes without saying
It is best to be on the safe side
It is better to give than to receive
It is easy to be wise after the event
It never rains but it pours
It takes a thief to catch a thief
It takes all sorts to make a world
It takes one to know one
It takes two to tango
It’s all grist to the mill
It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good
It’s better to give than to receive
It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all
It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness
It’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive
It’s never too late
It’s no use crying over spilt milk
It’s no use locking the stable door after the horse has bolted
It’s the early bird that catches the worm
It’s the empty can that makes the most noise
It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease
Jack of all trades, master of none
Judge not, that ye be not judged
Keep your chin up
Keep your powder dry
Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone
Laughter is the best medicine
Least said, soonest mended
Less is more
Let bygones be bygones
Let not the sun go down on your wrath
Let sleeping dogs lie
Let the buyer beware
Let the dead bury the dead
Let the punishment fit the crime
Let well alone
Life begins at forty
Life is just a bowl of cherries
Life is what you make it
Life’s not all beer and skittles
Lightning never strikes twice in the same place
Like father, like son
Little pitchers have big ears
Little strokes fell great oaks
Little things please little minds
Live for today for tomorrow never comes
Look before you leap
Love is blind
Love makes the world go round
Love thy neighbour as thyself
Love will find a way
Make hay while the sun shines
Make love not war
Man does not live by bread alone
Manners maketh man
Many a little makes a mickle
Many a mickle makes a muckle
Many a true word is spoken in jest
Many hands make light work
March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb
March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers
Marriages are made in heaven
Marry in haste, repent at leisure
Might is right
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow
Misery loves company
Moderation in all things
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for its living,
And a child that’s born on the Sabbath day
Is fair and wise and good and gay.
Money doesn’t grow on trees
Money is the root of all evil
Money isn’t everything
Money makes the world go round
Money talks
More haste, less speed
Music has charms to soothe the savage breast
Nature abhors a vacuum
Necessity is the mother of invention
Needs must when the devil drives
Ne’er cast a clout till May be out
Never give a sucker an even break
Never go to bed on an argument
Never judge a book by its cover
Never let the sun go down on your anger
Never look a gift horse in the mouth
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today
Never speak ill of the dead
Never tell tales out of school
Nine tailors make a man
No man can serve two masters
No man is an island
No names, no pack-drill
No news is good news
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
No pain, no gain
No rest for the wicked
Nothing is certain but death and taxes
Nothing succeeds like success
Nothing venture, nothing gain
Oil and water don’t mix
Old soldiers never die, they just fade away
Once a thief, always a thief
Once bitten, twice shy
One good turn deserves another
One half of the world does not know how the other half lives
One hand washes the other
One man’s meat is another man’s poison
One might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb
One law for the rich and another for the poor
One swallow does not make a summer
One volunteer is worth ten pressed men
One year’s seeding makes seven years weeding
Only fools and horses work
Opportunity never knocks twice at any man’s door
Out of sight, out of mind
Parsley seed goes nine times to the Devil
Patience is a virtue
Pearls of wisdom
Penny wise and pound foolish
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
Physician, heal thyself
Possession is nine points of the law
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely
Practice makes perfect
Practice what you preach
Prevention is better than cure
Pride goes before a fall
Procrastination is the thief of time
Put your best foot forward
Rain before seven, fine before eleven
Red sky at night shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Revenge is sweet
Rob Peter to pay Paul
Rome wasn’t built in a day
See a pin and pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck; see a pin and let it lie, bad luck you’ll have all day
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
Seeing is believing
Seek and ye shall find
Set a thief to catch a thief
Share and share alike
Shrouds have no pockets
Silence is golden
Slow but sure
Softly, softly, catchee monkey
Spare the rod and spoil the child
Speak as you find
Speak softly and carry a big stick
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me
Still waters run deep
Strike while the iron is hot
Stupid is as stupid does
Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan
Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves
Talk is cheap
Talk of the Devil, and he is bound to appear
Tell the truth and shame the Devil
That which does not kill us makes us stronger
The age of miracles is past
The apple never falls far from the tree
The best defence is a good offence
The best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley
The best things in life are free
The bigger they are, the harder they fall
The bottom line is the bottom line
The boy is father to the man
The bread always falls buttered side down
The child is the father of the man
The cobbler always wears the worst shoes
The course of true love never did run smooth
The customer is always right
The darkest hour is just before the dawn
The devil finds work for idle hands to do
The devil looks after his own
The early bird catches the worm
The end justifies the means
The exception which proves the rule
The female of the species is more deadly than the male
The fruit does not fall far from the tree
The good die young
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world
The husband is always the last to know
The labourer is worthy of his hire
The leopard does not change his spots
The longest journey starts with a single step
The more the merrier
The more things change, the more they stay the same
The only good Indian is a dead Indian
The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings
The pen is mightier than sword
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot
The squeaking wheel gets the grease
The truth will out
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach
There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream
There are none so blind as those, that will not see
There are two sides to every question
There but for the grace of God, go I
There’s a time and a place for everything
There’s an exception to every rule
There’s always more fish in the sea
There’s honour among thieves
There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle
There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip
There’s more than one way to skin a cat
There’s no accounting for tastes
There’s no fool like an old fool
There’s no place like home
There’s no smoke without fire
There’s no such thing as a free lunch
There’s no such thing as bad publicity
There’s no time like the present
There’s none so blind as those who will not see
There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear
There’s nowt so queer as folk
There’s one born every minute
There’s safety in numbers
They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind
Third time lucky
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it
Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
Those who sleep with dogs will rise with fleas
Time and tide wait for no man
Time flies
Time is a great healer
Time is money
Time will tell
’tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all
To err is human; to forgive divine
To every thing there is a season
To the victor go the spoils
To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive
Tomorrow is another day
Tomorrow never comes
Too many cooks spoil the broth
Truth is stranger than fiction
Truth will out
Two blacks don’t make a white
Two heads are better than one
Two is company, but three’s a crowd
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Variety is the spice of life
Virtue is its own reward
Walls have ears
Walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs
Waste not want not
What can’t be cured must be endured
What goes up must come down
What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander
When in Rome, do as the Romans do
When the cat’s away the mice will play
When the going gets tough, the tough get going
When the oak is before the ash, then you will only get a splash; when the ash is before the oak, then you may expect a soak
What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over
Where there’s a will there’s a way
Where there’s muck there’s brass
While there’s life there’s hope
Whom the Gods love die young
Why keep a dog and bark yourself?
Women and children first
Wonders will never cease
Work expands so as to fill the time available
Worrying never did anyone any good
You are never too old to learn
You are what you eat
You can have too much of a good thing
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink
You can’t have your cake and eat it
You can’t get blood out of a stone
You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs
You can’t make bricks without straw
You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
You can’t tell a book by looking at its cover
You can’t win them all
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
You pays your money and you takes your choice
Youth is wasted on the young

Useful Links

Proverb Match – an activity to practice proverbs

Teaching Idioms in TEFL – how to teach idioms

Generative Grammar

A diagram of a man with a suit.Generative Grammar is a branch of theoretical linguistics that tries to provide a set of rules that can accurately predict which combinations of words‏‎ are able to make grammatically correct sentences‏‎. Generally speaking it suggests that humans have the ability to learn language built in and just by exposure to language they can learn it.

In basic terms it looks at the way English is put together and tries to discover an underlying system which makes it work. In doing this, it will analyze the way in which grammatically correct sentences are put together and try to work out why one sentence can be grammatical, but a very similar sentence is not:

I woke up this morning and had a cup of coffee.

* I woke up this morning and had coffee a cup of.

* an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence marks it as ungrammatical

Generative grammar tries to explain why one of these sentences is fine and the other is not.

More on Generative Grammar

The study of generative grammar began in the 1950s as the result of work performed by Noam Chomsky‏‎, who took a naturalistic approach to the study of language.

A key component of his work was the theory that the properties of generative grammar come from a universal grammar that is common among all spoken and written language forms.

The primary components studied by experts in generative grammar include syntax‏‎ (structure of sentences), semantics (linguistic meaning), phonology‏‎ (sound patterns of language), and morphology‏‎ (structure and meaning of words).

Linguists working in this field rely on “derivation trees”. These are diagrams that help view a sentence as a tree with connected subordinate and superordinate branches as opposed to a simple string of words.

Generative grammar theories are based upon the belief that humans have an innate language faculty that allows children to learn to speak their native language in little or no time with a very minimal amount of conscious effort.

While generative grammar may first appear to have very limited practical applications outside language studies, it is interesting to note that the ideas behind this particular branch of theoretical linguistics have also been used to advance the study of music. Schenkerian analysis helps define tonality in music by apply the principles of generative grammar. Notable composer Fred Lerdahl has also used generative grammar to advance his musical studies.

Learning Teaching‏‎

Author: Jim Scrivener
Publisher: Macmillan ELT
Details: Paperback; 224 pages; Pub.1994
ISBN: 0435240897

This book is not your average a how to book but a well written and informative text that analyzes the different aspects of teaching, the classroom as well as materials used, and gets you thinking!

Particularly useful to experienced language teachers who wish to perfect their skill but a valuable read also for the novice ESL teacher.

The chapters are developed around common teaching themes such as classroom management, planning, and vocabulary. It also includes teacher toolkits which contain activity suggestions, observation tasks and teacher reflection ideas.

External Links

Learning Teaching (amazon.com)

Learning Teaching (amazon.co.uk)


Anagrams & TEFL

An anagram of Anagram.

Did you mean?

What are Anagrams?

Anagrams are simply rearrangements of letters from one word‏‎ or phrase to make another word or phrase.

The word itself comes from the Greek, anagrammatismos, ana- (up, again, back, new) + -gram (letter).

For example, the following are a few interesting anagrams.

dormitory dirty room
Clint Eastwood old west action
Madam Curie radium came
a telephone girl repeating “Hello”
the eyes they see
waitress a stew, Sir?
desperation a rope ends it
conversation voices rant on
mother-in-law woman Hitler
sycophant acts phony
a gentleman elegant man
debit card bad credit

Anagrams and TEFL Teachers

Anagrams are fun to use in class just to let your students play with letters and words.

However, for learners of English, anagrams are generally quite difficult to create themselves. To begin with, you can make things easier by giving one-word anagrams – of an appropriate level – and asking your class to find them. Possibly with clues.

In some cases you can just write them on the board and let the class (in groups) work on them with pen and paper, otherwise, if you can, have them use Scrabble tiles.

For example, with a beginner class you could give these words and ask students to rearrange the letters to find new words.

  • dog
  • read
  • care
  • form

And so on. With slightly more advanced classes you can make the anagrams longer.

  • stripe (there are actually 5 other words possible from this)
  • unite
  • three
  • settler

Quick Anagram Activity

Here’s a quick anagram activity you might want to try in class.

Simply get a short text and for each word, jumble the letters up. (We’re not creating anagrams as such, but it’s close enough!) You will end up with something like this:

Ni airyfalest, twiches saylaw rawe llysi labck tash nda ackbl stoac, nad yeth ried no roombrickss. Tub sith si tno a lairyfaest. Isht si utabo lare chestiw.

Simply put the class into groups and have them work out the text, word by word!

PS, if you are wondering, this is the opening paragraph of a famous book. If you can work out which one, leave a comment below and you will win our admiration!

Imperfect Anagrams

An imperfect anagram is an anagram which doesn’t use all the letters of the original and is perhaps slightly more useful for the TEFL teacher. For example, give your class the word English and ask them to find as many words in that as possible:



There are many more words you can make from ENGLISH so it’s easy to get a mini competition going in class to see which group can find the most words.

This is easy to make into as a five minute filler activity at the end of a lesson, particularly if you use a juicy word you’ve encountered during the lesson! Let’s suppose you’ve been doing a text with your class and come across the word elucidate which you’ve explained and worked on with your class but which they perhaps find a little difficult to remember. Now, five minutes before the lesson ends you write the word up on the board and ask your students to see who can find the most words “hidden” inside it. This will surely help them remember the word!

English Teacher Anagrams

Finally, a list of anagrams for the phrase, English teacher:

highest cleaner
sheltering ache
healing retches
a gentle cherish
cereal then sigh
encase her light
the lies changer
charge then lies
his gentler ache

Useful Links

The best anagram maker online is the Internet Anagram Server. The anagrams on this page were taken primarily from this site.

Lemmas in English Vocabulary

Simply put, a lemma is the base form of a word, typically found in a dictionary where it’s known as a headword.

From the lemma we can form many related words. So, for example, here are a few lemmas and their forms:

do: do, does, did, doing

run: running, ran

fruit: fruits, fruity, fruitful

Interestingly, the 10 most common lemmas make up about 25% of all words we use!

Lemmas in Linguistics

In morphology‏‎ a lemma is the standard form of a lexeme‏‎. The lexeme refers to the set of all the forms that have the same meaning, and the lemma refers to the particular form that is chosen by convention to represent the lexeme.

In lexicography‏‎, a lemma is usually the headword by which it is indexed. In a dictionary, the lemma go represents the inflected forms go, goes, going, went, and gone. The relationship between an inflected form and its lemma is usually denoted by an angle bracket: “went” < “go”.

Lemmas are used often in corpus linguistics for determining word frequency‏‎.

Note that a lemma is derived from the root‏‎ of a word and that sometimes a root will give more than one lemma.

Forming the Lemma

In English, the headword of a noun is the singular: e.g., mouse rather than mice; fruit rather than fruits.

For multi-word lexemes which contain possessive adjectives‏‎ or reflexive pronouns‏‎, the headword uses a form of the indefinite pronoun one: e.g. do one’s best, perjure oneself.

With verbs‏‎ a lemma is usually either the infinitive or the present tense in the first person singular‏‎.

Martin Parrott

Martin Martin ParrottParrott worked for many years as a teacher and teacher trainer at International House, London, where he was also the Director of Teacher Training.

He has taught and trained teachers in many parts of the world and in the Universities of London and Bristol. He currently teaches at the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, London, UK.

In addition to Grammar for English Language Teachers, he is the author of Tasks for Language Teachers and wrote and produced Teaching Matters, a series of 14 radio programmes for BBC English (BBC World Service 1994).

Accreditation & TEFL Courses

banana skin

photo credit: banana skin (license)

There is currently NO independent, international board of accreditation or assessment for TEFL certificate providers.

This means that each institute, school, or organization recognizes their own certificate and accreditation comes from good practice, professional standards and reputation.

There are a number of organizations which have been set up nationally. And there are a number of organizations which have been set up by schools as supposedly independent accreditation agencies to accredit their own courses. These latter fall under the banner of TEFL Scams‏‎.

The simple truth is that unfortunately, many TEFL courses which claim to be accredited are not and when taking a course, great care should be taken in checking out accreditation credentials which are often claimed but also often faked.

Right now, TEFL accreditation has a bad reputation and whilst there may be one or two straight players, many are simply charlatans. As they say: Caveat Emptor – buyer beware!

Accreditation Agencies

The following are commonly cited as accreditation agencies by course providers. Not all of them are reputable, trustworthy, international and independent.

  • ACCREDITAT – private agency.
  • ACTDEC – accredit a small number of schools and were originally set up to accredit their own school; their independence is often called into question.
  • Cambridge Assessment UCLES‏‎ – they accredit their own CELTA course and franchise schools running the CELTA course.
  • CEA – this is an American accreditation which accredits schools teaching English; it does NOT accredit TEFL courses
  • College of Teachers – currently accrediting 1 TEFL provider.
  • IATEFL – this organization does NOT accredit any school; if a school says they’re IATEFL accredited they are lying.
  • IATQuO – currently accrediting 6 TEFL providers. Possibly defunct.
  • ODLQC (Open & Distance Learning Quality Council) – private organization which accredits different courses (not just TEFL). They currently accredit 3 TEFL schools.
  • QCDA (Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency) – former UK agency; closed now and no longer operates.
  • SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) – for Scottish based courses only; they do not accredit international courses. .
  • Trinity College – they accredit their own courses internally and franchise schools running Trinity courses.

Useful Links

Accreditation & Recognition for TEFL Courses – more on accreditation

Beware of TEFL Scams‏‎ – what you should be careful of when choosing a TEFL course

Spain – MoE

Spain Ministry of Education


The Ministry of Education in Spain offers positions in state schools in Spain to US and Canadian teachers of English. The usual hiring period is from November to March for work beginning in mid-September.

Each year about 2,000 American or Canadian teachers take advantage of the program to spend 8 months or so in Spain teaching. In Spanish the position is known as, Auxiliares de Conversación.

Note that this program is completely free; some scam agents are beginning to charge for this program but if you are interested you can work with the Spanish Ministry of Education direct and pay nothing; this is the ONLY way in which you can join this program.


  • hold a US or Canadian passport
  • be a native English speaker
  • be a college student or hold a degree
  • have intermediate or advanced Spanish language skills

Candidates are usually between 21 – 35 years old although some older candidates are chosen if required.

To apply you will need the usual paperwork along with

  • a letter of recommendation from your college professor or work supervisor
  • a medical certificate proving you are free from major illnesses and are not a drug addict
  • a police/FBI clearance


Teachers will work alongside Spanish teachers as assistants. There is between 12 -16 hours of teaching per week and with the main classroom teacher you will offer conversation lessons, help, classroom activities, extra-curricular activities and so on as needed in the school.

You may be working as the only assistant in a school or you may work with others. The school is selected by the MoE which means you are unable to choose which city or town you would like to work in, however in your application you can select a preference.


As well as the obvious cultural benefits, the program offers:

  • minimum 700 euro per month allowance (about 925 USD)
  • orientation course before starting work and ongoing training
  • medical insurance
  • plenty of free time to explore the country

Renewing the Contract

Some teachers will opt for a second year in Spain. In this case they are given priority over new candidates, however to do this they must have a good report from their school for the first year’s work. A third year is possible, however third year candidates do not have priority over new candidates.


To apply to the program make sure you have the basic requirements listed above. The application process is free and can be done online following detailed instructions available on the program website (see below).

If your application is successful you will need a visa (if you have an EU passport this isn’t necessary, however).

Useful Links

Official Page from the MoE

Line Talking‏‎

A child's ear.Line Talking is a simple way to get your students listening and speaking carefully. It can be used with any type of speaking activity where an exchange of information is necessary.


Divide the class into pairs. Each pair will need to exchange information between them. For example, one student may know the first half of a story and the other student may know the second half; they need to work together to find the whole story.

Get each pair to stand opposite each other in a line; they should be about 3 meters apart.

Now they can talk to each other – the entire class at the same time. But make sure they do not shout; they must use their own normal speaking voice!


As each students tries to listen to their partner on the other side of the room, they need to focus extremely well and concentrate 100% to firstly hear and secondly understand what is being said.

The speaker, on the other hand, needs to enunciate carefully to make sure what they are saying won’t be misinterpreted or misunderstood.


There are different ways this method of talking can be used:

  • Giving instructions. One student gives a set of instructions to their partner on the other side of the room who has to follow them, e.g. with a city map guide their partner from the town hall to the bus station (and of course other pairs in the room have different destinations to make it that much more difficult!).
  • Mix and match. One student has a list containing a few half-sentences; their partner has a corresponding list of half-sentences in a different order and they have to match them:

 Student  A

It was raining and I didn’t have my umbrella…

On Thursday night…

She had lived in New York…

Student B

…for twenty-two years.

…I stayed in and watched television.

…so I got wet.

Image © clogsilk

What is Discourse Analysis‏‎?

Discourse AnalysisDiscourse Analysis – or DA – is all about examining and analyzing spoken or written language (and to a lesser extent, sign language).

It’s about taking language, putting it under the microscope and looking at it closely to see how it works and then taking it out and looking at it again in the wider world.

A bit like examining a coin from the time of Julius Caesar and then going on to talk about how it fits into the the economy of Rome.

So discourse analysis is about examining language and then asking questions about how that language is used. Questions like:

  • Why is this word used instead of that word?
  • How did this speaker know when to interrupt that speaker?
  • Is it true that women use question tags more than men?
  • How do we change our speech in different circumstances?
  • etc, etc

In other words, it’s about analyzing how we use language in the widest possible sense.

The Raw Material for Analysis

To begin with, DA needs something to analyze. It needs language samples.

Unlike some grammatical analysis for example, DA does not invent examples to look at but instead always uses real life examples from real people – ideally people who do not know that what they say will be analyzed later on!

The start of DA, then, is collecting samples of language.

spoken language

With spoken language these will be audio recordings. These could be two people talking in the pub; a newsreader giving an announcement on the radio; kids talking during break at school; a manager explaining their business to a group of investors… anything really.

However, once it’s been recorded it will then be transcribed. When this happens it’s not only the words which are written down but also the interruptions, interjections, pauses, turn-taking and so on.

A transcription could look something like this:

A: I was… was comin’ out out of the shop when-
B: Before I saw-
A: [pause] Yeah, I was comin’ out the shop when you called-
B: Ha, yeah.
A: But it weren’t what you-
B: I know! I know!
A: Yeah, you didn’t-

And so on. Although this is a simple transcription, it tries to show interruptions, who is speaking, something of the dialect and so on.

NB Some transcriptions will use IPA notation, time stamps, markup – grammatical notation – and so on.

But as well as the actual language produced, DA also needs to know the context of how and when it was produced.

  • Was it in an informal setting, e.g. the pub or a more formal setting such as an interview?
  • Did the speakers know they were being recorded?
  • Who were the speakers? What was their relationship?
  • When was it recorded?

written language

When it comes to written language, as you can probably imagine these come from all kinds of sources: newspapers, books, Twitter, phone texts, learned periodicals and so on.

Importantly though context – again – plays a major part and you need to know who wrote the text, when they wrote it and why. For example a newspaper article might have been written for a left-wing newspaper in order to persuade people to vote a certain way in an election. A love letter, on the other hand, is written with a different purpose in mind.

So context plays a part and the wider world needs to be thought about.

DA in Action

Once you have the source material it is time to analyze it.

This will mean going through the material very carefully and working out not only exactly what was said and why plus also how it was said and how it relates to the context.

This will involve looking at various elements of language which can include:

turn taking

One interesting aspect of DA is turn-taking, that is how one speaker knows when another speaker has finished and it is acceptable to interrupt. Or how we stop someone from interrupting us when we want to continue speaking.

Does it matter who the speakers are their relationship? Does it matter where the conversation is taking place?

discourse markers

These are words and sounds which don’t really add to the content of the conversation but nonetheless are useful in helping to keep it going. Words like:

uh, um, er, well, ok, like…

So why do people use them? Is it to keep their turn and stop the other person from speaking? Do different classes of speaker use different discourse markers?

speech acts

This is all about not what someone says, but what they mean.

For example who uses question tags the most and why? Who gives or receives compliments the most and what this means.

It also includes the sub-text of the language and how people can say or suggest without actually saying or suggesting out loud.

Is this your cup?

That might mean:

Are you the owner of this cup?


It’s dirty, you go and wash it now!


Why is my cup in your bag?

And so on.

choice of vocabulary

Why did a certain newspaper describe someone as a terrorist while another newspaper used the term freedom fighter? What dictates our choice of words in any particular circumstance?

The Results of Discourse Analysis

After a lot of analysis a linguist might decide they have enough evidence to suggest a generalization.

These might be along the lines of:

  • Women use question tags more than men.
  • Women give and receive compliments more than men.
  • Political discourse often includes metaphors about movement.
  • Dominant white groups display their racial prejudices in the language they use.

Then the linguists will go off and analyze some more and either decide that the generalization is quite good or it’s not and they’ll argue about it some more.

Image © NTNUmedicine

Planning Lessons and Courses (book)‏‎

Author: Tessa Woodward
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Details: Paperback; 266 pages; Pub.2001
ISBN: 0521633540

This handbook will help you design sequences of work for your ESL/EFL classes. Whether it’s plucking out an activity to start or finish a lesson or whether you’re at your wit’s end on how to deal with a large and unruly class – this book offers ideas and help.

It deals with the kinds of everyday questions working teachers face as they plan lessons and courses. Each chapter contains an analysis of the issue under discussion, as well as practical principles and sample activities.

The author provides a lot of intriguing suggestions for lesson planning using an easy-to-follow approach.

Overall a useful book for new and experienced teachers alike!

External Links

Planning Lessons and Courses (amazon.com)

Planning Lessons and Courses (amazon.co.uk)

Teaching English in Bahrain‏‎


Bahrain, Grand Mosque.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is an island country in the Persian Gulf off the Eastern coast of Saudi Arabia‏‎. The name Bahrain literally means Kingdom of Two Seas. It has a population of 800,000 and is a wealthy country with the fastest growing economy in the Arabic world.

The climate is hot in the summer,and pleasant for the remaining eight months of the year. The country has a modern infrastructure with reliable internet, satellite TV and telephone access.

Teaching & Conditions

There is a reasonable demand for teachers, however many jobs seek highly qualified individuals with a commensurate salary. The minimum qualification to teach here is usually a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. Many higher paid jobs will look for experience and an MA as well. A criminal background check‏‎ may also be required.

Teaching is General English‏‎ but there is also a great demand (as might be expected) for Business English‏‎. Because you may well be teaching adults, this will take place out of normal working hours either early in the morning or in the evening.

Accommodation is usually provided by your employer or at least organised by them before you arrive. You may well be given an allowance to cover this. Some schools (though not all) will also reimburse the cost of your flight to Bahrain; they may also include health cover, etc. Teaching contracts‏‎ are usually for one or two years.

The school will usually arrange your residency permit and help with the visa which must be obtained before you arrive in the country. Although some teachers come over on a 15 day tourist visa at the peak hiring time (end of August/beginning of September) it is usually best to arrange work beforehand by contacting schools directly.

Salaries start at around $1500 USD (€1187, £954) per month rising to around $3000 USD (€2374, £1909) depending on experience and qualifications. Private lessons at around $50 USD are a useful way of supplementing your income. Income is often tax free.


Bahrain is one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East, bear in mind that it can still be very different to what you might expect. Women, for example, will find it more restrictive than most western countries however less restrictive than, say, Saudi.

Bahraini society is heterogeneous and cosmopolitan. Western style shopping malls, restaurants, bars and clubs are numerous. Western food items, cigarettes and alcohol are readily available (except during Ramadam). Western dress is acceptable for both men and women, although dressing modestly in public is advised for both. All faiths and races are welcomed and there are no restrictions on the practice of religion.

Punctuating Direct Speech‏‎

A quote from the Dalai LamaThis article gives the rules and conventions when it comes to Punctuating Direct Speech, that is the words actually spoken by someone, i.e. direct speech‏‎.

Inverted Commas

Inverted Commas or Quotation Marks are used to enclose whatever someone says. Note that other punctuation comes inside these marks.

“Where are you going?”


“It’s very cold outside.”

New Paragraphs

Every time a speaker changes, begin a new paragraph.

“Where are you going?” asked Jim as he yawned.
“To the supermarket,” murmured Harriet, even though she knew he wasn’t listening.
“Bring me back some beer,” Jim said into his newspaper.
Harriet glanced at him for a moment but said nothing.


“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” said Bing.

Note the use of the comma here in the second example. What is said makes up a complete sentence, and if it weren’t direct speech it would have a period or full stop at the end – as it does in the first example.

However, because it’s followed by the speaker, we use a comma at the end to show it runs on to the speaker.

Likewise, if we put the speaker, it is these which are followed by a comma before the direct speech.

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”
Bing said, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

And if the direct speech is interrupted, we use two commas to break it up thus:

{speech + comma} + {verb + speaker + comma} + {speech}

“I’m dreaming,” said Bing, “of a white Christmas.”

However, if there is a definite end to the first speech, it’s followed by a period and then capital letter:

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” said Bing. “Just like the ones I used to know.”

Teaching English in Switzerland


photo credit: (license)

Switzerland is a landlocked country in the middle of Europe. Although it is surrounded by the European Union‏‎ and has close ties to it, being out of the EU means it is easier for American and other non-European teachers to work there.

The country is beautiful. It has the Alps, lakes, greenery and is incredibly well organized. It is also quite expensive in some cities and the language can take some getting used to (although most Swiss speak a good level of English as well as German‏‎, French or Italian‏‎.)

Qualifications for Switzerland

To teach in Switzerland the usual qualifications are a degree and a TEFL Certificate. A lot will depend on the school, however, and some may ask for more and some may ask for less.

There is also a good demand for private lessons which pay very well.

Getting a work permit can be difficult and if you live outside the country you may need to move there without a job, set up and then apply which can be a very expensive process. Ideally you should try to find work beforehand or be able to rely on a partner to provide income until you are settled and working – which can take some months.

Pay, Conditions & Finding TEFL Work

Pay varies according to which part of Switzerland you are working in and can be between 50 CHF or €40 ($51 USD, £32) to 120 CHF or €100 ($126 USD, £80) per hour.

Native speakers can also find work in the public schools which pays very well.

Most teaching jobs in Switzerland are freelance and schools pay by the hour. The work is usually early mornings, lunchtime or evenings. In order to live and work in Switzerland you will need the appropriate visa. It is thus sometimes difficult to get a visa via a job in a school; normally it will be the other way around.

Most jobs are also found by actually being in the country. Often teachers will start off with a part-time job in one school and then add on a few hours extra from another. There are plenty of private lessons to give and these are often teaching Business English‏‎ and you can sometimes find these advertised in online forums such as the English Forum Switzerland.

Swiss students – on the whole – tend to be quiet, respectful and hard working. And they will expect the same from you!

Common Phrasal Verbs‏‎ in English

The Great EscapeThis is simply a list of common phrasal verbs‏‎ which your students should know. There is no easy way to learn phrasal verbs as their meaning cannot be guessed by their make-up. Likewise many phrasal verbs have several completely unrelated meanings.

This means that phrasal verbs must simply be learned in context.

This list can be used in conjunction with different phrasal verb activities.

See the main article, Phrasal verbs‏‎.

Common Phrasal Verbs

back up – support
break into – enter illegally
break off – separate, remove
break out – escape
break up – dismantle, take to pieces
bring about – cause to happen
bring off – succeed in doing s.t.
bring round – help regain consciousness
bring up – raise (a child)
call off – cancel
call up – conscript into the army
catch on – become popular
check out – examine
check up on – make sure s.o. is working
clear up – tidy up a mess
come into – inherit
come up with – think of, invent
counted in – include
count on – rely on
cut off – disconnect (e.g. telephone)
do away with – abolish s.t.
do down – criticize badly
do up – repair, renovate
drop off – fall asleep
face up to – accept and deal with
fall for – suddenly attracted to s.o.
get back – take possession of again
get by – survive
get on with – be friends with
get round to – find time to do s.t.
get through to – communicate to
give away – part with
give off – emit, exude
give out – emit; distribute
give in – stop trying
give up – stop doing s.t.
go for – attack
go off – become bad, moldy etc.
go through – examine, check
hang onto – keep, not let go
hang up – put the phone down
hold back – restrain
hold down – manage to keep (a job)
hold up – delay; rob at gunpoint
join up – enter the army
keep in – stop from leaving
keep up with – be as good/fast etc. as
knock off – finish work; steal
knock out – hit unconscious
leave out – omit
let down – disappoint s.o.
let in – admit into
let off – free without punishment
look after – take care of
look for – search for s.t.
look up – search for s.t. in a book
look up to – respect
make for – head towards
make out – discern, see clearly
make up – invent (a story etc.)
own up – admit
pass away – die
pass by – go past something
pass out – faint
pass up – not take advantage of
pay back – return s.t. borrowed
picked up – acquire (habits)
pick out – choose
pull down – demolish (building)
pull up – stop (a car)
put off – postpone; dissuade
put up with – tolerate
ring off – put the phone down
ring up – call on the phone
run into – meet unexpectedly
run off with – steal and leave
run over – knock down with a car
see through – finish a (difficult) job
send for – call s.o. to visit you
set off – begin, start (a journey)
soak up – absorb
stand by – support; reserve
stand for – tolerate; represent
stand in for – replace as a substitute
stand out – be obvious
stand up to – resist, fight against
stop over – spend the night
take after – resemble
take down – write down
take off – imitate; remove; leave the ground
take over – assume control of
take up – start a new hobby
try out – test to see if it works
turn up – arrive unexpectedly
wear off – fade away
wear out – tire

Word Ladder‏‎

A ladder game.Word Ladder is a simple game invented by Lewis Carroll (author of the Alice books).

It’s perfect as a quick 5-minute activity at the end of the lesson and is ideal for practicing and playing with vocabulary.

A slight variation has it great for dictionary practice as well. The activity is perhaps best used with students in pairs.


Make up a list of word pairs. To begin with, each pair should be 3 letters long, for example:

  • can – get
  • run – eat

Keep this list handy so you can pull it out in class when the need arises and play the game.

Before presenting them to the class, however, you need to make sure that each pair can be resolved (see below).

Pre-Teaching in Class

The first time you play this game with a class you’ll need to demonstrate it. Simply write up on the board this table:


Explain that they need to change the first word into the last word by changing one letter at a time. Each new word they create must be a valid English word as well.

Chances are you class will know this game already, but if they don’t show them how. Work with them to get this sequence:


You may want to run through a couple more to make sure everyone understands but once they have got it, divide the class into pairs and get them all to work on the next example:


Of course, there may be more than one solution so look out for this. Also, if students are unsure if a word exists or not, by all means have them use a dictionary as long as they are able to tell you the meaning afterwards.


  • Once the class is familiar with the process, they can start to work independently. Teams can compete by preparing a pair of words for their neighbors to “crack”.
  • The game can be made harder by making the word pairs longer with four and five letters long (and even six with more advanced classes).
  • Make the ladder up and down: CAT > GET > BIT

You can also introduce other ways to change the words. Lewis Carroll offered these alternatives:

  • add a letter
  • remove a letter
  • change a letter (as above)
  • use the same letters in a different order (an anagram)

Rather than rush all these variations on the class, once they are familiar with the usual replace-letter method you can introduce the others, one by one.

Image © Pensiero

Teaching English in North Korea

North Korea — Pyongyang Art StudioLocated in the northern half of the Korean peninsula with the South Korea to the south and the China to north and west, along with a small of border with Russia‏‎ to the east, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) (or North Korea as it’s more commonly known) is unlike any other country in the world and, to all intents and purposes, very difficult to access for foreign TEFL teachers.

With a government that is in effect a communist monarchy, it is one of the most secretive states on the planet. Its constant threats against its neighbors, particularly South Korea and Japan, as well as its insistence on building and maintaining a nuclear arsenal, has meant that it is also one of the most isolated countries in existence. The only country in the world that has anything like a normal relationship with the country’s government is China, although it has been ever so slightly distancing itself from North Korea as its levels of dependence on international trade have grown exponentially along with its newly opened economy.

In marked contrast, North Korea’s isolationist and aggressive foreign policy has meant that it has enjoyed none of the increases in living standards that China has in the last two decades. Indeed, international sanctions, chronic economic mismanagement, and the maintenance of one of the world’s largest militaries has meant that North Koreans are now probably worse off than they ever have been before.

TEFL in North Korea

Although for many years Chinese was the most popular foreign language for North Koreans, more recently English has started to gain ground. The current dictator Kim Jong Un was educated in Switzerland and speaks English; he has dictated that English is taught to many officials (including the North Korean secret service) and even amongst general students English is proving a popular choice.

But it must be said that currently North Korea is not one of the more popular destinations for English teachers. While the capital, Pyongnang, is safe, what strikes most people who visit dictatorships is the fact that they are actually quite boring places to live once one has settled in. What is clear, however, is that obtaining a teaching position in the country will bring you into contact with a society unlike any other, albeit one where your every movement and possibly conversation will be monitored by government minders.

North Korea is very strict about allowing foreigners to enter the country and this extends to working also. Anecdotally, there are stories of employment recruiters and North Korean consulates offering positions, but these should be approached with caution.

Those who have found work in North Korea tend to have the usual qualifications for teachers, namely a degree and a TEFL certificate.

One option that is available is to apply through the British Council‏‎, which organizes teacher placements in the country. Though miniscule in number, they offer free flights, competitive salaries and accommodation upon arrival. The small number of positions means that the qualification requirements are quite high with a degree and/or a DELTA‏‎ certificate being the minimum. Unfortunately, due to restrictions, even these positions are open only to those holding valid UK passports. Also, the Council makes clear that although exceptions could possibly be made for married couples, these are unaccompanied posts, meaning that you travel to the country alone.

If, then, you are determined to teach in North Korea then your first approach should be the British Council if you are a UK teacher or otherwise visit your nearest North Korean embassy or consulate and see if they are able to help.

Issues on Living in North Korea

Even when just visiting North Korea, extreme caution should be exercised in the sharing of opinions or even just making simple observations, particularly regarding the country’s leading family. One American visitor to the country found himself imprisoned for a week when he ill-advisedly querying why the country’s now deceased “Dear Leader”, Kim Yong Il, was so fat when the vast majority of the country’s citizens were so thin.

Some missionary organizations try to send missionaries to North Korea disguised as teachers but be very wary of this. In 2014 a visitor who left a bible in a public area was arrested for disseminating religious information.

photo credit: (stephan) via cc

Marianne Celce-Murcia‏‎

Marianne Celce-Murcia‏‎ Presently Professor Emerita in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at the University of California in Los Angeles and Dean of English Programs at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan.

Over the years Dr. Celce-Murcia has been an active member of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL); the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and the California Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (CATESOL).

She is the author of many book-length publications and researches and co-written numerous books, including The Grammar Book.

Michael Swan‏‎

Michael Swan

Michael Swan

Michael Swan – who describes himself as a “freelance writer” – is most well known as an established TEFL writer specializing in reference and teaching materials.

His Practical English Usage is regarded as something of a grammar bible and many ESL teachers swear by it.

His interests include pedagogic grammar, mother-tongue influence in second language acquisition, and the relationship between applied linguistic theory and classroom language-teaching practice, on which topics he has published a number of articles.

Michael has had extensive experience with adult learners and has worked with teachers in many countries. He is a Visiting Professor at St Mary’s College, University of Surrey this despite not actually being formally qualified as a TEFL teacher!


Swan first began teaching after he graduated from Oxford. He taught part time at a local school whilst he took a research degree (18th Century German poets) and enjoyed the work so much he decided to take it on full time.

With his first wife he set up a language school – the Swan School – which they ran together until they split up after which he moved to Paris in the 1970s where he taught English and also began writing for CUP.

Aside from writing TEFL books, Swan is also a published and award winning poet and translator. In 2005 he also won a Stephen Spender award for his translation from German of Rilke’s Orpheus, Eurydike, Herme