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How To Teach English

All about TEFL teaching.

Do you want to teach English around the world? We can help you.

You can find here the answers to all the questions you might have about teaching from how to get work, to how to control the class, to the best way to present grammar, to how to meet other teachers in your area.

Everything you want is here. There are lesson plans, ideas for teaching, tips on how to use classroom resources.

A First English Lesson for Beginners

This article offers a simple First Lesson for Beginners. It assumes that all instruction will be done in English‏‎ and the class knows no English at all, i.e. the class are all complete beginners‏‎.
It is generally accepted that using English only‏‎ in the classroom (known as full immersion‏‎) is one of the more effective ways of teaching, however some teachers find this difficult in a very first lesson…

A First Private TEFL Lesson

You’ve been asked to give a private TEFL lesson to a new student. You know virtually nothing about them but you know you’ll be sitting in a room with them, one on one, for an hour and half.

This article is all about how to prepare for a First Private Lesson.
What Interests Them?
First lessons with private students are often difficult since before going into the…

Accent, Dialect & Language in English

What is the difference between Accent, Dialect and Language?

This article looks at the differences between the three terms. People often confuse them and there is a certain degree of overlap (even linguists don’t always agree on what the difference is between them) but generally speaking we can talk about:
Accent is all about pronunciation. Two people may use the same grammar, the same syntax and…

Accuracy vs Fluency in TEFL

English‏‎ is an international language which people from all over the world learn in order to communicate with each other. Accuracy and Fluency are two factors which can determine the success of English language students in the future.

Essentially accuracy is the ability to produce correct sentences using correct grammar‏‎ and vocabulary‏‎. On the other hand, fluency is the ability to produce‏‎ language easily and smoothly.

Acronyms & Backronyms in English

An acronym is a word formed by using one or more letters of the words in a phrase‏‎. It’s used as an abbreviation of that phrase.

In everyday life there are many commonly used acronyms. Some are formed from the initials of each word whilst others use parts of the words in the phrase.

AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
Interpol – International Criminal…

Advanced Level Students in English

Advanced is used to refer to learner levels‏‎ for students who can hold extended conversations and write extended texts. It is by no means a strict definition and there can be a great deal of overlap between advanced and intermediate students.

Generally speaking, however, advanced students should be aware of differences between formal and informal English and whilst they may make occasional grammatical mistakes and their pronunciation…

An Introduction to Teaching English Around the World (TEFL)

This article is a very user-friendly introduction to Teaching English Around the World.

That is, heading off for a year or so to a foreign country and teaching English to people there. Or even staying at home in your own country and teaching English to students who come over to learn the language.

There are many thousands of English teachers right around the world (one estimate puts the…

Audio-Lingual Method in TEFL

The Audio-Lingual Method is a method of teaching foreign languages popular in the mid 20th Century.

It is similar to the Direct Method (and is in fact descended from it) in that the teacher presents the students with plenty of language practice and examples in English and the students’ MT is not used at all. This, of course, is the way that native speakers learn a language…

Back behind a Desk – learning a new language

Well I'm on business/holiday right now but in Portugal‏‎ - a country I've never visited before. I always think it's a fascinating experience to be in a place where you know nothing at all of the language. It immediately reminds you what it is like to be a complete beginner. And that's something every teacher needs once in a while I think! There's the slight fear of saying anything in case it's
Read More

Behaviorist‏‎ Method in TEFL

At its simplest, the Behaviorist method to teaching English works like this:
a student gets into the habit of responding in a certain way when prompted
Notably, this is a habit and the student doesn’t have to think or work out what to say, it just comes naturally.

So, in the same way that the student knows that when the bell rings, the lesson is over, when…

Boring TEFL Lessons & Bored EFL Students

Famously there is an old adage, there is no such thing as a boring lesson, just a boring teacher.

It may be a little harsh, but all teachers will sooner or later come across a bored class. However, you have it within your power to change that.

There are many ways in which you can make the lesson interesting and get the students engaged and enthusiastic…

Business English‏‎

Business English is English as it is used in the business workplace.

Business English focuses on business phrases and typical workplace vocabulary in the context of language functions such as: negotiations, telephone conversations, interviews, presentations, meetings, conflict resolution, etc.
Teaching Business English
The main difference between teaching General English‏‎ and Business English is contexts. In a Business English course the language is often taught and practised by recreating…

CAE‏‎ – Certificate in Advanced English.

CAE stands for the Certificate in Advanced English. As the name suggests it is an exam for advanced users of English. It is generally aimed towards people who can use written and spoken English for most professional and social purposes and it sits roughly between the First Certificate in English‏‎ and the Certificate of Proficiency offered by Cambridge Assessment‏‎ – UCLES. Level of English for CAE CAE is at Level C1…

Callan Method of Teaching English

The Callan Method is a system of learning English which is a form of the Audio-Lingual Method of teaching.
The method relies on continual drilling through question and answer. In a 12 step program, beginner‎ students are asked a series of questions and then give their set answers (provided initially by the teacher).

The method is simple repetition of set phrases without looking into grammar‏‎ or vocabulary‏‎ or straying outside the…

Cambridge Assessment‏‎ – UCLES

Cambridge Assessment is the brand name of UCLES or the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate which is a non-teaching department of Cambridge University.

Cambridge Assessment is responsible for setting and grading a number of international English examinations. UCLES started in 1858 with their Proficiency in English examination introduced in 1913.

Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) is part of Cambridge Assessment and runs…

CEFR – Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The Council of Europe divided learners into 6 main bands (A1, A2; B1, B2; C1, C2) as part of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages:

A Basic User
A1 Breakthrough
A2 Waystage
B Independent User
B1 Threshold
B2 Vantage
C Proficient User
C1 Effective Operational Proficiency
C2 Mastery

Note: the CEFR applies to people learning…

Chalkface – Chalk & Talk

Chalkface is a term believed to have been coined by Professor Ted Wragg in the Times Education Supplement in the 1980s. It is a reflection of coalface, the toughest point in coal mining where coal is hewn from rock.

Like the coalface, the chalkface is where the real, dirty, tough, hard work is carried out. All the planning and preparation leads to this point and it is here where…

Classroom Focus in TEFL

Classroom Focus is concerned with who is the main focus of teaching in the classroom. Essentially there are two possible foci:

the teacher – the class is Teacher Centered
the students – the class is Student Centered

Traditionally classes have been Teacher Centered however more recently classes have become more Student Centered. And this improves learning.
Teacher Centered
In a Teacher Centered class…

Classroom Management

If only teaching were all about teaching and not about keeping order in the classroom or, as it’s sometimes known, Classroom Management.
A major part of teaching has nothing really to do with imparting information and helping your students learn. Instead it’s all about the lesson-to-lesson issues of running a class. This can be anything from late students, missing coursebooks‏‎, forgotten homework, noisy roadworks outside, malfunctioning air-conditioning and so on…

Classroom Motivation & TEFL

Classroom Motivation is concerned with getting your students involved in the lesson and enthusiastic about learning.

To be motivated the students must be engaged. This means that they must feel personally involved in the lesson. If they are not involved then this opens up a distance between them and the material, them and you, and oftentimes, them and other students.

A number of factors influence motivation…

Cloze or Gap Fill Tests

A cloze test (or gap fill exercise) is a simple exercise where a text has certain words removed and students must suggest suitable alternatives to go in the gap. Cloze tests are a common activity teachers use to get students to focus on a particular language item. They can be used to check new vocabulary‏‎ or to test verb tenses for example. Construction First a text is chosen. This can…

Communicative Language Teaching‏‎

Communicative Language Teaching (or CLT) is a popular approach to language teaching which emphasizes using language in the same way that it’s used in real life.

In other words, you put your students in language situations which are as close to real life as possible.
Origins of CLT

Before the spread of communicative teaching, teachers tended to use traditional grammar translation‏‎ or audio-lingual methods of teaching.

In other words…

Competency-Based Approach to TEFL

The Competency-Based training method was developed primarily for Industry. The training was based on what people were expected to do in the workplace. It emphasized what people could actually do as a result of their training rather than simply looking at the amount of training that the employees attended.

This method allowed trainers to match the training with required job competencies thereby making the training totally relevant…

Concept Checking Questions in TEFL

Concept Checking is a way to make sure your students have understood what you have been explaining. It’s about asking the right questions‏‎.

These two examples show why concept checking is necessary in your classroom:

Example 1

You asked your students to read a passage in a book. Afterwards you ask them, “Did you all understand that?” The chances are that one or two students will say…

Content and Language Integrated Learning‏‎ in TEFL

CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning and it is based on the idea that subjects like geography, physics, history, etc. can be taught and learned in a language which is not the student’s mother tongue‏‎. (CLIL is also known as CBI or Content Based Instruction.) The emphasis in the CLIL learning process is not on the language used to teach the subject but on the subject itself, which…

Context in TEFL

Context is the positioning of a word‎ or phrase. This can be used by the teacher to help students gain an understanding of its meaning.

For example, look at this sentence.
I saw a bright red fligret in the sky.
This contains the unknown (and non-existent) word, fligret. However, we can look at the context in which it occurs to try and work out the meaning.


Conversation Classes in English Language Teaching

Conversation classes are those based almost entirely around getting the students to speak. This contrasts with classes where the other skills‏‎ are employed.

Often native English teachers will be used in conversation classes in foreign schools; sometimes this will be alongside a local assistant to help out.

See Speaking‏‎ for the main article on teaching speaking…

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning is a teaching strategy in which small teams‏‎, each with students of different abilities, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject.

Although cooperative learning takes place within teams of students it is not to be confused with mere group work. The main difference between the two is in the cooperative nature of the learning. In fact, cooperative learning has been found…

Copyright and Photocopying in the TEFL Classroom

There is a persistent image that crops up again and again when it comes to teachers: a sad and lonely figure standing at a photocopier printing off a huge pile of material for their class.

But is that sad figure breaking the law? Could the teacher who supplies their class with copies of an Auden poem to analyze be fined?

This article looks at copyright and…

Correcting Spoken English

Correcting Spoken English is the way in which student errors are corrected as they are speaking‏‎.

Before beginning though, remember that all students will make mistakes. It is part and parcel of learning a language (and bear in mind that children learning their first language will make mistakes also; it is a natural part of the process).
When to Correct
At one end of the spectrum are…

Correcting Work in TEFL

The best way to correct a student’s written work is not necessarily the most obvious.

If you’ve been to a traditional school then you will have probably had your homework corrected in full by your teachers – all the mistakes pointed out and the corrections put in.

And this will likely result in a piece of paper full of red ink!

But this isn’t very productive for…

CPE – Certificate of Proficiency in English‏‎ Examination

The Certificate of Proficiency in English or CPE is an advanced exam run by Cambridge Assessment‏‎ aimed at people who use English for professional or study purposes. Many employers, universities and government departments all over the world officially recognize the CPE as proof of proficiency in English and it is a popular exam to take after the Cambridge First Certificate. It is equivalent to the C2 level of the Common European…

Create a Crossword‏‎

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. Preparation 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…

Curriculum (pl Curricula) in Teaching English

The curriculum (plural curricula) is the program of work for a student in school. The hierarchy is this: the entire English language > what the student needs > curriculum > syllabus > lesson > activity Although in general usage curriculum and syllabus overlap, curriculum tends to be used more generally thus a curriculum will talk about general aims in teaching whilst a syllabus will talk about more specific aims in…

Deficit Paradigm‏‎ in TEFL

The Deficit Paradigm has been used to explain why students misbehave in class and underachieve. Essentially it means that the reason students perform badly is because they have problems with their families, their backgrounds, their community and/or their culture. They lack certain stabilizing elements and the theory goes that to raise their achievement levels they need to have those missing elements put back. This is often contrasted with deficiencies in…

Dictation‏‎ in TEFL

Dictation is often frowned upon and considered old fashioned, boring and unproductive by some people. But, handled properly, it can be productive, fun and very useful in the EFL classroom. The trick is to use dictation in a way that is both stimulating and relevant. The Text Firstly, make sure the text you choose is: the right level for the class the right subject for the class Don’t give a…

Different Types of English in TEFL

When you teach English as a foreign language you don’t just teach “English”.

No, you teach a specific type of English depending on your class: different people need different English.

You can view this in the same way as dance. If you go to a dance class you don’t just learn to dance in general but instead learn Latin or Ballroom or Jazz or Modern, etc…

Direct Method‏‎ in TEFL

The direct method was born out of a need for a more intuitive approach to language learning. Supporters of the DM maintained that language learning was more than the learning of grammar‏‎ rules and that learning a language could not be based only on one’s translation skills. They believed that knowing a language meant being able to speak it, and that second language acquisition should reproduced the way first language…

Discipline in your TEFL Class

Unfortunately TEFL‏‎ is not just about teaching English, the issue of Discipline also arises and needs to be covered and dealt with effectively.

Whilst discipline in language schools is not normally as much of a problem as it is in regular state schools, as a teacher you will likely come across classes which offer challenges. These are mostly – but not always – teenagers.

This article looks…

Do I Need To Know Grammar to teach English?

This question is often asked by new or potential TEFL teachers, especially since many schools in the UK and USA‏‎ do not teach grammar‏‎ as a matter of course and many high school graduates will not know a verb‏‎ from a noun.
Can you describe language?

It’s an important question. Grammar describes how a language works and, since you are teaching that language, you should be able…

Dogme in TEFL

Dogme language teaching is a methodology (and also sometimes thought of as a movement) for teaching English which encourages teaching through conversation and without textbooks in a naturalistic fashion.

It aims to take language teaching back to its roots and was initiated by Scott G. Thornbury‏‎ in an article for IATEFL some 10 years ago (see here). The idea was that teaching had become too reliant on textbooks and…

DOs and DON’Ts for TEFL Teachers

This is a common sense list of DOs and DON’Ts for Teachers. It is especially relevant to teachers working overseas.

be punctual, consistent and fair
dress well – most countries put far more store in this than the UK and USA; conservative is good (see the links below for more on this)
be polite – you are a guest in the country…

Drilling in TEFL

Drilling is a simple technique used in EFL and ESL classrooms to practice English. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. And drilling is certainly practice. Essentially it is Repetition; the teacher says something and the students repeat it all together. Then the teacher says something else and the students all repeat that. Although it’s been used for hundreds of years in all kinds of classrooms, drilling really took off…

EAP – English for Academic Purposes‏‎

English for Academic Purposes (or EAP) is usually concerned with teaching English‏‎ to students who are involved in higher education at an English speaking university or college.

EAP students are usually current higher education students or they are hoping to go on to higher education after their EAP course. They need to learn English in order to succeed in their academic careers. Most EAP students are over 18 and they…

Eliciting in the TEFL Classroom

Eliciting is when a teacher gets the students to provide information rather than telling them directly.

For example, in an EFL beginners‏‎’ class a teacher could hold up a ball and say, “Ball. This is a ball. Ball.” Alternatively, the teacher could hold up the ball and ask different students, “What is this?” and using gestures and expressions go around the class until one student finally says…

ELT‏‎ – English Language Teaching

ELT is an acronym‏‎ standing for English Language Teaching, something of a catch-all term to describe teaching English to people who do not speak it as a native language. Of course there is not one “English Language” to be taught. What you teach will depend very much on the make-up of your students, for example what their level is and the reason they are studying English. The following classes are going…

English Language Students

EL 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? Anyone. You could find yourself teaching almost anyone. In my time teaching I’ve come across the following learning English: refugees just…

English Only‏‎ in your TEFL Classroom

Using the students’ MT in a TEFL class was be the basis behind the grammar-translation method, which was largely rejected as ineffective during the middle part of the last century.

Researchers and teachers discovered that translating into the MT as a teaching method simply does not produce the kinds of results our students need. There is rarely any advantage that can be demonstrated by doing so.

Here are…

English Speaking Union‏‎

The 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…

English Teacher Suspended for Explicit Lyrics in the Classroom

An English teacher in Florida has been suspended after giving their 8th grade class (13-15 year olds) explicit lyrics to analyze.

The students were having problems understanding concepts such as puns, similes, and metaphors so rather than continue using more traditional material to explain them, the teacher brought in the lyrics to Lil Wayne’s song, 6 Foot 7 Foot which contain a number of taboo words.

Parents complained and…

ESL – English as a Second Language

ESL is an acronym‏‎ for English as a Second Language.

ESL students are people learning English as a second language, that is, as another language after their mother tongue‏‎ or primary language.

ESL programs are mainly for people living in an English speaking country, for example many US citizens speak Spanish and learn English as a Second language to live and work in the USA‏‎. Likewise immigrants…

ESLdrama – Using Video Drama in the Classroom

ESLdrama is a brand new web series produced especially for learners of English.It’s stylish, clever and well produced. I watched the first episode earlier and found it completely engaging. Then I spoke to Sean James Sutton, the director of the series, to find out more…

Jenny – Sean, why produce a series like this? Surely there are plenty of video resources for ESL learners already?

Sean – The…

ESLdrama Web Series

ESLdrama is a web series (a drama for ESL students) designed specifically for learners of English.

It is essentially a soap opera built around the lives of half a dozen or characters. Each episode features several short scenes and the language used is basic. It has been designed to be both entertaining and also useful for all levels of classes from beginners‏‎ to advanced.

The video is the…

ESOL – English to Speakers of Other Languages

ESOL is an acronym meaning English to Speakers of Other Languages.

It is all about people who do not have English as a mother tongue, learning English.

A more common term to ESOL is ESL which means English as a Second Language and refers to people learning English to live in an English speaking country, e.g.

immigrants who have moved to a new country…

ESP – English for Special Purposes‏‎

English for Special Purposes or ESP is subset of English for a specific purpose which is likely related to their work.

For example, a doctor who wishes to work in an English speaking country will need ESP biased towards medical English; a footballer from Italy‏‎ signed to an English club will need English related to that sport.

ESP courses tend to be very specific and tailored to…

Everything Off in your English Language 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…

Exam Nerves‏‎

This is an article about Exam Nerves. You can print this out and use it with your class when they’re coming close to take an exam. Give a copy to each student so they can read it through at their leisure and prepare themselves.
What are Exam Nerves?
Some student get very nervous before they take an exam. They feel worried, they have butterflies in their stomach…

Example Lesson Plan

This is an Example TEFL Lesson Plan which illustrates some of the ideas presented in the article on TEFL Lesson Planning‏‎.

It will give you a good idea of how to approach the subject and lay out your plan. Obviously what we show here will need to be tweaked and changed for a particular class, but it’s a good start and will give you a good idea…

Expat English Teachers

There are many reasons why people move abroad, but it often happens that someone abroad is looking for work and stumbles over the idea of teaching English. This article is a quick guide for expats thinking about teaching English as a part-time or full-time job while they are abroad.

But first, a quick word on who we are talking about here; that is, the kind of people…

False Friends in TEFL

False Friends are pairs of words‏‎ or phrases‏‎ in two different languages which look and/or sound similar but which have very different meanings. False Friends are sometimes known as False Cognates.

Learners will often assume the corresponding word or phrase in the target language will have the same meaning as the word or phrase in their mother tongue‏‎. This often leads to mistakes.
Examples of False Friends…

Feedback the Teacher‏‎

Feedback the Teacher is an exercise which is all about the students offering feedback to their teacher about the class in general. It’s not for all classes or for all teachers, but if a teacher is serious about their job, it can provide invaluable help in making the lessons better. Background In many cases an English teacher will be working alone or in a small school. Whilst big organizations should…

First Certificate in English

The First Certificate in English or FCE is an examination in English from Cambridge Assessment which is internationally accepted.

The holder is generally thought of as being able to use English adequately in most everyday situations: exchanging basic information, asking and answering questions and suchlike. It allows the user in general to:

understand texts from a wide variety of sources
use English to make…

Five Tips for your First Day of TEFL

It’s your first minute in front of a new class. You have a room of expectant faces looking up at you waiting.

First impressions count. If you stand there and falter the class will know what they’re dealing with. If you allow little Jimmy to answer his mobile phone then the class will know they can do what they want. If you don’t know what you are doing, they…

Flashcards‏‎ and TEFL

Flashcards are a fantastic resource for teachers. They can not only be used with all ages and levels‏ of students but they are very flexible and highly adaptable. This means a set of flashcards you might prepare for a beginner class of teenagers can also be used with a class of advanced Business English‏‎ learners. The majority of learners are visual. That is, they respond better to visual stimuli than written stimuli. A…

Fluency and TEFL

Fluency (or what some people might call Volubility and Loquaciousness) is the ability to speak smoothly and at length about a subject without effort. And if there are pauses, these are to gather thoughts or allow a point to sink in rather than to search for the right word. A fluent speaker can be understood by a native speaker easily even though what they say may contain grammatical or other…

Fossilized Errors in TEFL

If you’re a TEFL teacher then chances are you have had to deal with Fossilized Errors in your classroom, especially if you deal with older students or those past the Beginners‏ stage.

Basically a fossilized error is a mistake a student has made so many times that it has becomes part of their natural speech.

This article, then, is all about how to deal with these kinds…

Full Immersion in TEFL

Full Immersion or Total Immersion is throwing your students in at the deep end: a strategy for teaching English to students.

Essentially the students are given input in English only which means that the teacher does not speak any other language other than English. It is a very effective method of teaching but can take some time before the students are confident enough to produce (i.e. speak/write)…

Games in the English Language Classroom‏‎

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. Advantages Students want to take part in the game. Suppose you are teaching animal vocabulary to a younger…

General English‏‎

General English is a loose term used to describe the type of English‏‎ required for everyday situations. It can be compared to more specific English teaching such as Business English‏‎, English for Academic Purposes‏‎ and so on. What is General English? Typically following a General English course, students should be able to understand and communicate on everyday subjects such as (depending on their level, of course): general greetings the weather family news…

Gestures in Teaching English

Imagine you’re in a TEFL class and a student is speaking and they say something which is wrong.

The obvious mistake a new teacher makes is to stop them there and then, interrupt them, and correct them. But this is bad teaching on a number of levels not least because by interrupting the student the teacher is breaking the flow. It’s the verbal equivalent of tripping someone…

Giving Instructions‏‎ when Teaching English

{youtube}xOEMd8uenVI{/youtube}There is a right way and a wrong way to give instructions in your classroom. If you give instructions the wrong way you’ll end up with a class who don’t know what’s going on. It’s not rocket science, but it can make the difference between a successful lesson and a disastrous lesson. Prepare Make sure you know what is going to happen before you step into the classroom. This is…

Grammar Translation in TEFL

The Grammar-Translation method (or GTM) was the most popular teaching method for over 100 years and it continues to be used even today despite many years of criticism.

Essentially the GTM involves simply translating English‏‎ into the mother tongue‏‎ of the students. Grammatical rules and paradigms are learned by rote.

It is most often used when dealing with written texts and the listening‏‎ and speaking‏‎ aspects of language learning…

Group Work & Pair Work in TEFL


Groups or Pairs – small groups or pairs of students working together is a highly effective and essential strategy for teaching. The opportunity to use groups in your class should never be passed up and almost any activity can be adapted so that it can be carried out by small groups or pairs rather than the class as a whole.

Many papers have been written…

Group Work: Are You Doing It Effectively?

We’d like to welcome Larry Jarocki, MA Applied Linguistics, as a guest author of the ICAL Blog. Larry has been an ICAL tutor for over a decade. Here he talks about his recent findings on effective group work in the ESL classroom, following an eight days seminar on Cooperative Learning.
As a practicing ESL and English teacher for nearly two decades, I’d seen and conducted many lessons involving group…

Hands Down – Choosing a Student at Random

Here’s a quick teaching tip for the class which can be incredibly important. It’s surprisingly simple and surprisingly effective.

In fact, it can change the way you teach and the results you get. It’s all about how you choose a student at random to speak and making sure everyone in class is involved.

The result is leveling class participation, narrowing the gap between the good and poor students…

Hard then Soft in the TEFL Classroom

Hard then Soft is a general technique in classroom management which allows your classes to be productive and useful. Using this technique you do not end up with a classroom out of control and students being noisy and disrespecting their teacher.

It is based on the “first impressions” idea and it is highly effective. Quite simply, it works extremely well and cannot be faulted.

It is ideal for…

Homework and TEFL Teaching

Homework is simply work your students do at home rather than in the classroom.

Many teachers give it to their students as a matter of course.

Almost all schools will expect you to give it, often with a time caveat: “Give them at least 30 minutes of homework after each lesson!”

And almost all students will expect it with most not liking the idea at…

How to Speak to English Language Students

New teachers often have problems trying to decide how to speak to students so they understand them best.

Should they keep their grammar‏‎ really simple? Should they avoid unusual words‏‎? Should they slow down? Should they speak to students as though they were speaking to young children even if they are adults?

First to remember is that the way in which you speak to your students…

How to Teach Someone English (as a Foreign Language)

Many people think that teaching English‏‎ is simple. There is a common misconception that if you can speak the language, you can teach it but the simple fact is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Teaching someone English is challenging for lots of reasons.

It’s a bit like saying because I eat regularly I’m going to open a Michelin starred restaurant. It’s not as easy as…

How To Use Competition to Motivate Your TEFL Students

Today we have a guest contribution from Victoria Hughes. Victoria has been a TEFL teacher for 5 years and has lived in Poland, China and Turkey. She writes about job hunting, lesson planning and the joys and frustrations of teaching. 
Enter Victoria
I was watching the inspiring “Dead Poets Society” the other day, and I was struck by something the teacher, John Keating, says. “For me, sport is a chance for…

Humor / Humour in the TEFL Classroom

Using Humor (or Humour) in the classroom is always good and a good joke can really make a difference.

It’s an excellent way of breaking the ice with your students, getting the class relaxed and generally fostering a friendly atmosphere to work in.

However, don’t over do it – you’re a teacher not a stand-up comedian – and be careful with the jokes you use. Some…


IDP 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…

IELTS – International English Language Testing System

IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System and it is a test designed to assess how well a learner speaks English‏‎. In 2008 over 1.2 million people took the tests in 120 different countries. It is held regularly throughout the year, several times each month.

The test is jointly managed by Cambridge Assessment‏‎, the British Council‏‎ and IDP‏‎.

There are two versions of the IELTS exam: the…

Inductive vs Deductive Methods in TEFL

In the TEFL‏‎ classroom, inductive and deductive teaching methods are two different approaches used in teaching grammar.

Inductive teaching (sometimes known as inquiry or discovery teaching) involves giving the students examples of language and working with them to come up with grammatical rules. It is a more student centered approach to learning.

Alternatively, deductive teaching begins by giving students the rules and working with them to produce…

Intermediate Level Students in English

Defining a student as intermediate is a very approximate classification of how well they speak English. There is no set definition of what intermediate means, however as a very rough guide students at intermediate level‎ can talk and read about a wide number of subjects using appropriate vocabulary‏‎ and fairly correct, if basic, grammar‏‎. They can confidently use all the main tenses‏‎, and are beginning to use phrasal…

Interrupting Students in your TEFL Class

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…

Keep the Classroom English

I’ve just been reading a very interesting article about language interference.

It recounts the story of a Chinese student in the US who, during a fluent English presentation, happened to glance over to her Chinese professor and accidentally used a simple Mandarin word instead of the corresponding English word.

Further studies showed that when we speak a language we have a lot of cultural baggage associated…

KET – Key English Test

The Key English Test or KET is an international examination looking at beginners learning English. It is offered by Cambridge Assessment‏‎. There are 3 parts to the exam: Reading & Writing Listening Speaking The total time for the exam is 1hr 50mins and there are 3 passing grades: pass, merit, distinction…

Language Items in TEFL

TEFL teachers often talk about Language Items. But what exactly do they mean? Simply put, they are small self-contained pieces of language which you can teach or practice in a lesson. (That’s the most usual definition in TEFL.) Once you have the language item, you can prepare one or more activities to present and practice it with your class. Language Items, then, are the building blocks of a lesson. Arriving…

Learner Levels in TEFL

TEFL/TESOL teachers talk about students being Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced and so on. But what does that really mean?

There is no single method used to describe the learner level of an English‏‎ speaker, however this article will provide a rough idea of how to classify a student and how they are generally classified in TEFL.

Note that no single system is definitive and there are overlaps and…

Lesson Preparation Tip – Delegating Tasks

Here’s a quick tip which serves two purposes: less work for you, more English practice for the students.

Here we’re talking about TEFL lesson preparation, but the same idea applies during the lesson itself for many tasks. It’s well worth adopting this general approach to your teaching as we’re sure you’ll find it a win-win situation all round!
A Simple Example
Suppose you need to prepare…

Lesson Snapshot for TEFL Teachers

Lesson Snapshot is a method by which you as a teacher can try to look objectively at the way you teach and check out your style and methods from the point of view of your students.

Basically you video a typical lesson to provide a snapshot of your lesson which lets you see how it works from the students’ point of view.

It is an invaluable…

Lesson Targets in TEFL

A Lesson Target is the focus of an individual lesson. It is, if you like, the single main point that you are trying to teach in that particular lesson. Often it can be summed up in a single sentence thus: At the end of the lesson the students will know how to… …order a pizza. …ask the time. …apologize for being late. These targets are all language functions‏‎. Sometimes more…

Lexical Chunks

A Lexical Chunk is a unit of language which is made up of two or more words.

Here are a few examples of lexical chunks:
Good morning.
Nice to see you!
What’s the time?
Other lexical chunks can include phrasal verbs‏‎, idioms, collocation‏‎s and so on.

Lexical chunks are the common coinage of English. They’re the bread and butter, the everyday and the mundane. They’re the…

Listening‏‎ Skills in Teaching English

Listening is one of the four main language skills‏‎ along with reading‏‎, writing‏‎ and speaking‏‎.

Whilst in reading and writing we talk about sentences‏‎, the spoken (or heard) equivalent is an utterance.
The Components of Listening
Listening is often confusing for an English learner. There are a number of reasons for this partly because of the various parts which go to make up listening:
Layers of Sound
Unlike reading…

Michigan Proficiency Test

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…

Mini Whiteboards in TEFL

Mini Whiteboards in class are a truly excellent way to achieve greater student participation and to allow the teacher to see immediately whether the class have understood the topic under discussion.

Using mini whiteboards can really make a major difference in your class and with a bit of effort it will achieve fantastic results! Trust us, we’ve tried it and we know!
At the beginning of the…

Minimal Pairs and TEFL

Minimal Pairs are pairs of words‏‎ (and sometimes phrases‏‎) which differ in their sound by just one element.

They are an incredibly useful tool in the TEFL teachers’ bag and if you haven’t started yet, you should learn about them and use them!

Mostly minimal pairs are used as pronunciation practice where the meaning of the word is not really important at all – it’s the…

Mixed Ability Classes‏‎

A Mixed Ability Class is a class where the students have different levels‏‎ and abilities in English. To a certain extent, all classes are mixed ability and you will find stronger and weaker students in every group. However many schools, due to financial reasons, find it useful to put as many students as they can in each class and often you will find students in the class who most definitely belong…

Mnemonics in TEFL

Mnemonics (pronounced /nəˈmɒniks/ with a silent ‘m’ at the beginning) are short devices (sayings, poems, etc) used to remember longer, more complex ideas or lists (also known as aides memoires or memory aides).

Think of them as poetic versions of string tied around your finger to help remember something!

A good example of a first letter mnemonic is:
Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

Monolingual Classes & TEFL

As a TEFL teacher, you will be faced with one of two types of classroom: Monolingual or Multilingual.

In a monolingual classroom, all the students speak the same first language and they are all learning English. This type of classroom is typical in countries like South Korea, Spain and Brazil‏‎ where English speaking teachers teach the classes in the students’ own country.

The second type of…

Mother Tongue (MT) Influence

MT Influence or Mother Tongue Influence is when the grammar‏‎ or vocabulary‏‎ of a student’s Mother Tongue‏‎ influence the way in which they use their Target Language‏‎ or TL.

For example, in Greek‏‎ (and a number of other languages) people say open or close a light instead of turn on and turn off. Thus a Greek learner may well say:
* I closed the light and went to sleep.

Move Them on Day 1‏‎

This is an excellent tip for teachers concerned about classroom discipline‏‎. It is best for Day 1 of your new class. With slightly noisy classes it’s often a good idea to move the disruptive students away from each other or to the front of the class. However, if you try this in middle of term then it’s likely to lead to more noise and possibly downright refusal from the students…

Multilingual Classes & TEFL

Generally speaking, we can divide language classrooms into two types: monolingual and multilingual.

In a monolingual TEFL class all the students speak the same mother tongue‏‎ and are learning English‏‎.

In a multilingual TEFL class, however, the students speak a variety of different languages and the only thing they may have in common is that they all are learning English!

This article then is all about teaching in…

Multiple-Choice Questions in TEFL

Multiple-Choice Questions are a tried and tested method of checking how much your students know.

This article looks at the practical side of things for TEFL teachers: writing a good question and preparing your students for multiple-choice questions in exams.

Before going on, a couple of items: the first part of a multiple-choice question is called the stem; then come (usually) 4 responses; within these there are usually…

Needs Analysis for TEFL Teachers

The Needs Analysis is a simple concept and an extremely important one at the same time. It is the cornerstone of teaching English and its importance cannot be underestimated.

Essentially it is the process of assessing the needs of your students (or student if you are doing this for a 1-to-1‏‎ lesson). In other words, what they know already, what they want to know, and finally what interests them…

Non-Native Speakers as TEFL Teachers

Can a non-native speaker get work as a TEFL or TESOL teacher?

This usually depends where. If you have the right qualifications then you can pick up work in your home country quite easily. Schools will often employ several local NNS (non-native speakers or those whose Mother Tongue‏‎ isn’t English‏‎) for each NS (native speaker) they employ.

Getting work outside your home country is a little more difficult. If…

OHPs or Overhead Projectors

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…

Old Fashioned Teachers & Music

Most teachers are old in comparison to their students. And because most teachers choose materials for their class, this often means that the materials they use are old. And by old, I mean stuck in the past and out of date.

When a TEFL teacher decides to use music in the classroom it inevitably means dredging up music from the past – the Beatles in particular seem…

One-to-One English Lessons

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…

Open-Ended Questions‏‎ in TEFL

An Open-Ended Question is a question‏‎ which cannot be answered with a simple Yes or No answer and one which requires more thought.

It is the opposite of a Closed Question. And like a door, an open question could lead anywhere, a closed question stops everything.
Open-Ended vs Closed Questions
In teaching, an open-ended question will elicit a more complex and longer answer. For example, you…

Peer Correction‏‎ in English Language Teaching

Peer Correction is a method of correcting work where other students in the class correct mistakes rather than having the teacher correct everything. It is useful in that it means involving the whole class in the moment and it also allows the teacher to check what the rest of the class knows. If, for example, it becomes evident that no one in the class really knows where the problem lies then…

PET – Preliminary English Test

PET stands for Preliminary English Test. PET is an exam for people who can use everyday written and spoken English at an intermediate level. It covers all four language skills, providing practical language practice in a variety of everyday work, study and leisure situations. This examination if offered by Cambridge ESOL, a department of the University of Cambridge (UK). Level of Proficiency PET is at Level B1 of the Common…

Placement Tests

A Placement Test is simply a test of English which a student will take to determine their learner level. They are often used during a needs analysis‏‎ and when a new student joins a school. The result of the test will give the school a good indication of which class is most suitable for the student. Some institutions such as universities in the USA‏‎ and United Kingdom will use tests such…

Process Writing in English

Writing is not just a matter of putting pen to paper. It requires some thought and a certain level of language skills.

We talk about good writing when the written work – be it an essay or an email, a poem or a business letter – expresses a clear point, has substance, is tightly structured, is grammatically and syntactically correct, and last but not least, is interesting…

Production‏‎ in TEFL

Production, in TEFL terms, is simply producing language; in other words, speaking or writing. It is taking the raw material (language) and forming it into coherent utterances and sentences for others to hear or read. Language learning often follows this pattern: INPUT > COMPREHENSION > PRODUCTION In general terms, the process works like this: The teacher introduces a new language item, for example the Past Simple. The teacher explains it…

Qualifications for EFL/ESOL Students‏‎

Qualifications for Students indicate how well a person knows English.

NB For qualifications in order to teach, see Essential Qualifications to Teach English.

There is no single, standardized qualification system showing how well a person can use English, however over the years a number of qualifications have risen in popularity and have become de facto standards in this area. Whilst by no means universal, these are…

Recasting & Uptake in TEFL Teaching

Recasting is a form of error correction‏‎ from a teacher to a student; uptake is how the student reacts to this.

Basically, recasting is when the teacher repeats what the student says but in correct English. Uptake is when the student hears the correction and repeats the phrase.

This is an example of recasting in action:
Student: Yesterday I go at the park.
Teacher: Ah, you went…

Red Card Yellow Card

This is an interesting way to keep order in a classroom. Basically you find out from your Director of Studies what the usual punishment in the school is be it detention, lines, expulsion from the class, calling parents, etc.

Next, prepare a couple of cards: one yellow and one red.

Now, in the classroom use these like a football referee does. A yellow card is a warning and…

Remembering Student Names

Remembering Student Names is important in building up a good relationship with your students. If you know their names and use them it makes you more approachable.

Over time you will remember their names, but it’s important to try and get them off pat as soon as you can.

With a new class who don’t know each other, it also helps bond the students if they…

Role Playing in the TEFL Classroom

Role Plays or Simulations are an extremely valuable method for learning and practicing the English in your TEFL/TESOL classroom.

Essentially the students are placed in a certain fictitious situation where they must use English. It allows creativity on the part of the student and offers a freer practice than written tests. The role play situation is easily chosen but should be related to the current language level…

Rote Learning in TEFL

Rote Learning is an old-fashioned method of learning by continuous repetition. It is derived from the idea that if a student says something enough times they will learn it and be able to produce it when the time comes.

In English it is also called learning by heart however there are more derogatory terms for it such as learning “parrot fashion” (in English and Greek) and “stuffing…


I think we have all found that giving clear instructions to our students, especially lower proficiency students, can be a real challenge. We quickly learn that giving only oral instructions can be futile in getting our students to understand what it is we want them to do. The temptation is to explain the activity again, only to find that our students are even more confused, resulting in failure…

Seating Arrangements‏‎ in your English Classroom

There are many different seating arrangements available to you, the teacher, and lessons can be enhanced by paying attention to them. Unfortunately many teachers keep the same seating arrangement for the entire lesson, and throughout the academic year and then throughout their career.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different seating arrangements, even within a single lesson. A quick seating change can increase motivation and make activities…

Semantic Fields in TEFL

A semantic field (sometimes known as a lexical field) is a group of words related by meaning. In teaching a semantic field could be:

verbs of perception‏‎

In practical terms the definition is quite loose and general.

Sometimes a word will belong to just one semantic field but more usually it will belong to several. For example the…

Sensitive Subjects in TEFL

Some things are better left unsaid.

There are certain subjects which should – in general – be avoided in your English teaching classroom, especially when you are working abroad and are (effectively) a guest in a foreign country.

These subjects include:

Taboo Words‏‎

The simplest rule is not to teach any of the above subjects. Avoid them…

Shy Students‏‎ in your Class

Shy Students can be found in almost any class. This article looks at ways of bringing shy students into the learning process and getting them to participate more in the class. In general, shyness brings on feelings of apprehension and anxiety when a student is placed in the spotlight, as it were. If you as a teacher ask a shy student to speak in front of the whole class, they…

Silent Period‏‎ and English Language Teaching

A Silent Period is a period of time during which English Language Learners avoid speaking in English. They may write in English, they may well understand what is being said in English, but they will shy away from saying anything in the language they are learning. This can be due to several factors including: feeling inadequate, inability to formulate certain sounds correctly, peer pressure, performance anxiety, bad teaching, cultural influences…

Skimming and Scanning in TEFL

Skimming and Scanning are two skills which are often talked about in TEFL when it comes to reading.

In fact, some teachers swear by them; every reading lesson (they maintain) should include practice with these skills because they feel their students will benefit enormously from knowing how to skim and scan effectively.

But what exactly are they? And do they do any good? Are those TEFL…

Stage Fright – Overcoming Teaching Nerves

All performers – and teachers when they stand in front of a class are performers – feel stage fright when they begin.

However, experienced performers (including teachers) channel that fright into performing energy. Fight your fears and the rewards will soon outweigh the anxiety and you’ll begin to relax enough to find the pleasure in teaching.

On this page you’ll find a selection of ideas which…

Sticky Fingers – is a noun countable or non-countable?

Sticky Fingers is a simple way to demonstrate to your class whether a noun is countable or non-countable.

The idea here is that you begin by telling your class whether a noun is countable or non-countable. Then you have a visual sign for this along with telling them. Then you just use the sign.

There are several advantages to this:

you speak less; less…

Storytelling in your TEFL Class

Storytelling is an ancient art that developed alongside the development of language and it is one of the earliest forms of folkart.

The story can be of a real event or it can be made up. Storytelling has been used over the millennia not only as a means of entertainment but also of education.

Storytelling techniques can be used to get TEFL students to practice listening‏‎…

Student Age Groups in TEFL

When it comes to the age of different students in TEFL, there are no set definitions which all teachers agree on. However, generally speaking, we can talk about the following general Student Age Groups in TEFL: Young Learners These are students aged from just a few years old to about 16 or so. In other words, these are students who are probably still at state school as well. Some teachers…

Student Names in English‏‎

It’s common in many classrooms for teachers to give English names to their students. The students often find this fun and it also helps the teacher remember the names of their students.

However, it is not as easy as it seems and there can be issues caused by simple misunderstandings which can lead to problems in the class.

This article is a guide to how to…

Survival English

Survival English is a term we used to talk about the essential English someone needs to know in order to survive – live or work – in an English speaking environment. Typical students of Survival English might be: going to the US on holiday taking an English course in Australia where they will live for 3 months with a host family going to a conference in the UK attending a…

Sweet Incentives in TEFL Teaching

Many teachers like to use Sweets or Candy as Incentives for their students, especially with younger classes. TEFL teachers heading abroad will often fill their bag with candy from back home not only to motivate their class but also offer a little bit of cultural input as well.

But is giving candy a good idea? Is this praising and rewarding your students or is it just bribing…

Taboo Words and TEFL

Taboo Words (sometimes known as swearwords, curse words, or profanity) are those words and phrases which some people find shocking or offensive. They can often cause problems for TEFL‏‎ teachers and learners of English‏‎.

In general, the best advice is to avoid both using and teaching taboo words in the classroom. A number of teachers have lost their jobs through using and teaching taboo words and it is…

Target Language‏‎

The Target Language or TL is the language your students are learning. In this case, English. This needs to be contrasted with a student’s Mother Tongue‏‎ or MT which is the language they first learned as a child. The TL is of primary importance in the classroom and should be used as much as possible by both the teacher and the student. TL within a lesson In the context of a…

Task Based Language Learning‏‎ in TEFL

Task Based Language Learning (TBLL) is basically geared towards the students performing a particular task. In the ELT classroom this might: ordering a meal asking directions discussing a film preparing a job application It’s all about getting the students focused and using authentic language. The students are doing meaningful, practical and useful tasks which they may well come across in the real world. Often those tasks have a clear purpose such…

Teacher Talking Time in the TEFL Classroom

Teacher Talking Time (TTT) is the amount of time the teacher talks in the classroom. It pays to make this as little as possible.

Look at this typical TEFL classroom dialog:
Teacher: Jimal, what’s your favorite TV show?
Jimal: Er…
Teacher: Baywatch? American Idol? Top Gear?
Jimal: Baywatch.
Teacher: Great! [teacher writes up Baywatch on the board] Now, the rest of you, what are your favorite TV…

Teaching Beginners in TEFL

Let’s suppose you are in your beginner level TEFL class and – for the purposes of this explanation – it’s time to introduce them to adjectives‏‎.

You could simply say:
“An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun. To modify a word is to describe the word or to make its meaning more definite”
And if you did say that to beginners, you…

Teaching EFL Exam Classes

Exams are big business and a great number of students work towards one of the major English exams; many more work towards local exams.This means that preparing students for exams is also big business and many teachers either take this on with classes approaching and exam or specialize entirely in the subject.

This article looks at the ideas behind Exam Preparation classes and how they differ from…

Teaching English to Adults

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…

Teaching English to Beginners‏‎

When you Teach English to Beginners you should work on the basic principle that everything should be given in short, simple, steps. Then everything should be totally relevant and interesting to your students. This is likely their first time learning English so you want to make it a positive, interesting, and useful experience. You don’t want to put them off for life! Oh, and before going on let’s bust a…

Teaching English to Teenagers

There are 3 approximate (and overlapping) groups when it comes to TEFL: adults, teenagers, and young learners.

This article is all about teaching English to Teenagers, possibly the most likely scenario for new teachers and arguably the most difficult… but also quite possibly the most rewarding!
Who Are Teenagers?
Teenagers are students in your class from about 13 to 18 years old. Obvious really!

But it’s…

Teaching English to Young Learners

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…

Teaching English Vocabulary

When Teaching Vocabulary, many teachers still resort to long word lists which the students are expected to translate into their mother tongue, learn and remember.

This approach to teaching vocabulary‏‎ is rather dull and mechanical. It has limited impact and there is very little student involvement.

On the other hand there are better methods.
An Example
Here’s a short text for a intermediate level class. You might well…

Teaching Exam Classes

Teaching Exam Classes is often asked of teachers who are teaching English as a Second or Foreign language.

As you will find, it is often the case that the only reason the students are in the class learning English is in order to pass a First Certificate or Proficiency exam.

Sometimes this can be off putting to a teacher. Instead of teaching your students about the…

Teaching Grammar

The subject of Teaching Grammar is often discussed and there are many different views and approaches. New teachers often feel that to properly teach a language they must teach grammar.

However this is not the case.
In the past it was thought that students must be given explicit grammatical rules. Students were taught about subjects and objects‏‎, parts of speech‏‎ and so on and then expected to…

Teaching Idioms in TEFL

An Idiom is a phrase which has a very different meaning from what it appears to be. It has a figurative meaning which is very different from the literal meaning. For example, in The Godfather famously Luca Brassi sleeps with the fishes This doesn’t literally mean that Brassi sleeps with the fishes, it’s a mob related euphemism meaning that he is dead. It’s very important for learners of English to…

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

This acronym‏‎ is commonly used in Europe and by European teachers – mainly British and Irish.

In most cases TEFL is synonymous with TESOL and TESL‏‎, however there are differences at a deeper level.

Essentially TEFL is teaching English to people who need the language for business or for pleasure or for an exam. In most cases…

TEFL Introductions – Fun or Dull?

Arguably the most important part of the lesson is the very beginning. Here you can either capture your students or lose them.

What you need to do is make your introductions as interesting as possible so they hook your students attention and make them want to learn more.

Put it this way, which of these is more likely to get your class interested?


TEFL Lesson Planning

A Lesson Plan is the outline of what will be taught in a single lesson. It is, if you like, a road map for the hour or 90 minutes or so you will spend with the class.

Creating a good lesson plan is vitally important for a successful lesson and good teachers invariably prepare good lesson plans. In fact, one of the easiest mistakes a new teacher…

TEFL Lessons

Quite simply, a TEFL Lesson is a set period of time where you – as a TEFL teacher – work with your class in learning English.
It is part of the hierarchy of learning English where the yearly syllabus is divided into short periods:
English > Syllabus > Lesson > Activity

TEFL Lesson Length
The length of a typical TEFL Lesson is usually either 60 minutes or…

TEFL Methodologies

TEFL Teaching Methodology looks at the general approaches or methods used to teach English‏‎ as a foreign language. Over time they have changed and borrowed from research, developed from each other and expanded on previous methodologies.

As you will see below, many of these methods overlap and often teachers will not use a single method but blend them and mix them according to their preference and the…

TEFL Syllabus

The Syllabus is the outline of language to be taught to a class over a particular course (term, semester, etc).

It can be seen as a step in the hierarchy of learning and teaching English‏‎. At best it will be designed by the school Director of Studies; at worst there won’t be a syllabus or if there is one it will be merely using a particular book…

TEFL Teacher Portfolios

A Teaching Portfolio (sometimes also called a Teaching Dossier or Teaching Profile) is a valuable tool used by TEFL teachers to document who they are, what kind of teacher they are and what they have achieved.

It’s also a great tool to help you get that TEFL job!

That’s because it’s often used by teachers to support their application for a job. Along with their TEFL/TESOL CV/Résumé…

TEFL Teachers: Appropriate & Inappropriate Touching in School

Touching, has the power to enrich lives but also to ruin them and touching children is a potentially thorny issue and one which can cause difficulties across cultures.

This article looks at various aspects of the way in which teachers and children can interact and how this works teaching English as a foreign language.
“Hands Off” Approach
Due to a number of high profile cases in the…

TEFL to Adults vs TEFL to Children

Do children have all the advantages when it comes to learning a foreign language?

This article looks at the fundamental general differences between language learning amongst adults and children.

Talk to any family who have moved abroad with young children and you’ll soon find out that whilst the children have had no problem learning the language of the new country (and have often become almost bilingual)…

TEFL to Blind & Visually Impaired Students

This article looks at a few ideas you should bear in mind if you have blind or visually impaired students in your TEFL class.

Over the years we at ICAL TEFL have had a number of blind and visually impaired teacher trainees taking our course and we have worked with them in preparing material and instruction based on their individual needs. We have also had sighted teacher…

TESL‏‎ – Teaching English as a Second Language

TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. It’s pronounced TESL to rhyme with WRESTLE.

Simply put, this means teaching English to people who are not native English speakers but who live in a country where English is the main language. For example, teaching English to Chinese speaking immigrants in Canada.

It used to be quite a common acronym in the US and Asia. However…

TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

TESOL is an acronym  standing for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Generally speaking it is the same as TESL‏‎ or TEFL‏‎ and it is used as an umbrella term primarily in the USA‏‎.

TESOL refers to the teaching of the English language to students whose mother tongue‏‎ (MT) is not English‏‎. Typically these students live in an English speaking country (such as Canada or the USA‏‎) and need…

The 7 Commandments of Effective TEFL Teaching

TEFL Commandments are simply basic teaching rules which TEFL teachers follow in the classroom. Some call them maxims, others call them aphorisms, others still call them sayings.

But whatever you call them, they are useful to read over and think about every so often and can help both new and experienced teachers!

1. Repeat, repeat and then repeat again.

In giving new material to students, the…

The Ideal TEFL Classroom

The Ideal TEFL Classroom is the best possible place where you can give your lessons.

And remember that since it’s probably the most important room in your professional life so it’s worthwhile getting it right!

In the world of TEFL‏‎ it’s not easy to predict exactly what your next classroom will be like. You could be teaching in an ultra-modern school in the Middle East with air…

The Most Common Words in English

In 1953 the General Service List was published. This was a list of about 2,000 most commonly used words in English. For many years this was used as a basis for materials writing.

This list was useful in learning because anyone who knew all the words on the list would understand about 90% of spoken general English and about 80% of written general English.

However, since…

Timelines, Verbs and TEFL

Timelines are a teaching aid we use to help explain how different verb tenses‏‎ are used. They are a visual representation of the passage of time.

This is an empty timeline:

Here, the timeline shows an event in the past (last night) and can be used to explain the past simple‏‎:
Last night we ate curry.

For explaining continuous tenses‏‎, we tend to use…

Tips on Using Blackboards & Whiteboards

Here are a few quick tips for TEFL teachers on using your blackboard or whiteboard or interactive whiteboard in class.
Face the Class‏‎
Don’t stand with your back to the class!

Doing this is an opportunity for them to tune out and start talking.

While you are writing on the board, stand at an angle so that the class will see your face while you talk…


TOEIC or Test of English for International Communication is an English exam designed to test a user’s ability in the workplace.

The test consists of a 2 hour multiple choice test of 200 questions on listening‏‎ and reading‏‎ comprehension. There is also a TOEIC writing‏‎ and speaking‏‎ test as well.

It was developed in Japan and first produced in 1979 following a deal between the US based ETS…

Total Physical Response in TEFL

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a teaching method based on the idea that a new language can be learned through actions and that movement can help students learn and understand. It was first developed by James J. Asher‏‎ over 30 years ago.

We all have preferences for the sensory system we rely on to process information. Some people prefer the visual system. Others prefer the auditory system. Others…

Traffic Lights‏‎ in English Language Teaching

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. Background 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…

Using Realia in TEFL Teaching

The word real on which this word is built gives a big clue to what realia is.

In foreign language instruction realia are real-life objects used in the classroom to illustrate and teach vocabulary‏‎ or to help students learn and produce. Realia can consist of almost anything including both objects from a country where the target language‏‎ is spoken as well as objects from the teacher’s home country…

What is the Lexical Approach?

Will the right grammar or a few choice phrases get you served in a French cafe?

Think about when you have just arrived in a foreign country, perhaps on holiday or maybe to teach English there.

You don’t speak the local language but you need to communicate.

So you learn a few phrases and head out:
Good morning!
A coffee, please.
A croissant, please.