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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

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


Maltese is primarily the language spoken in Malta (alongside English).

The language comes from Siculo-Arabic which is the form of Arabic spoken in Sicily about 1,000 years ago. The vocabulary of Maltese is about 50% derived from Italian‏‎ and Sicilian with around 15% English words.

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!

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 admin@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 admin@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 Scheme


photo credit: Pixabay (license)

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.

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

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, Hermes and in 2009 came runner up for his transltion of Rilke’s Du Nachbar Gott.

Useful Links

Practical English Usage (book)‏‎ – grammar by Michael Swan

www.mikeswan.co.uk – Michael Swan’s personal website

Mnemonics in TEFL


photo credit: A Reminder (license)

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

which is used to remember the colors of a rainbow in the order they appear:

  • Red (Richard)
  • Orange (of)
  • Yellow (York)
  • Green (gave)
  • Blue (battle)
  • Indigo (in)
  • Violet (vain)

Spelling Mnemonics

These are mnemonics to help learn the spelling of sometimes difficult words‏‎.

  • i before e except after c – although the rule is not very precise, it’s a good general rule for spelling.1
  • WE Do Not Eat Soup Day – wednesday
  • Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move Now – rhythmn
  • Not Every Cat Eats Sardines (Some Are Really Yummy) – necessary
  • To remember the start of beautiful: Big Elephants Are Ugly.
  • Mrs M, Mrs I, Mrs S S I, Mrs S S I, Mrs P P I – Mississippi

Grammar Mnemonics

The following are mnemonics for grammar‏‎ rules.

  • A cat has claws at the end of its paws. A comma’s a pause at the end of a clause‎.
  • OSASCOMP. Lists the order in which adjectives‏‎ should appear: Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Colour, Origin, Material, Purpose; this is also On Saturday And Sunday Cold Ovens Make Pastry.
  • FANBOY are the coordinating conjunctions‏‎: for, and, nor, but, or, yet. Alternatively BOY SAT with BEN can produce: But, Or, Yet, So, And, Then, Both…and, Either…or, Neither…nor ).

* See the article, Adjective Order‏‎ for more on this.

Parts of Speech‏‎ in general are here:

Every name is called a NOUN,
As field and fountain, street and town;
In place of noun the PRONOUN‏‎ stands,
As he and she can clap their hands;
The ADJECTIVE‏‎ describes a thing,
As magic wand and bridal ring;
The VERB‏‎ means action, something done –
To read and write, to jump and run;
How things are done, the ADVERBS‏‎ tell,
As quickly, slowly, badly, well;
The PREPOSITION shows relation,
As in the street, or at the station;
CONJUNCTIONS‎ join, in many ways,
Sentences, words, or phrase and phrase;
The INTERJECTION‏‎ cries out, ‘Hark!
I need an exclamation mark!’
Through Poetry, we learn how each
of these make up the PARTS OF SPEECH.


For remembering that the quotation marks come after any other closing punctuation‏‎ marks: P then Q in the alphabet.

When to start a new paragraph can be remembered using the following mnemonic:

Four “T”s, a little writing rhyme
Of Topic, Territory, Talker, Time
When there’s a change in one of these
Start a new paragraph if you please.

Useful Links

1 This article on concordancing‏‎ examines the “i before e except after c” rule in more detail.



Cornish pasty served with potato salad & sweet pickles.

Homographs are words which have the same spelling but different meanings. They may or may not have the same pronunciation.

Here the word has the same spelling and pronunciation, but different meanings:

bear – beə (a big animal living in Yellowstone park)
bear – beə (to carry a burden or weight)

But in this case the word has same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings:

bow – bəʊ (used to play the violin)
bow – baʊ (to bend from the waist when meeting the Queen)

The word homograph comes from Greek and explains what it means: ὁμός or homos meaning same and γράφω or grapho meaning write.

Origins of Homographs

Sometimes homographs come from one origin.

For example the Latin word pasta (which means dough) gave rise to the word pasty which is a kind of pie (the best ones are Cornish and filled with potato and spices). This is pronounced: ‘pæstɪ. But when someone is very pale looking and has skin the color of white dough, we say they are pasty pronounced ‘peɪstɪ.

Alternatively, homographs can come from different roots but just happen to have the same spelling.

For example, the word sewer (meaning the person who plants seeds) comes originally from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning to bind together. Meanwhile the word sewer (a drainage pipe) comes from Old French meaning sluice from a pond.

It is just coincidence that the words are spelt the same.

Type of Homographs

When homographs have the same spelling, the same pronunciation and different meanings they are known as Homonyms.

bank = building full of money
bank = by the river

When homographs have the same spelling, different pronunciation and different meanings they are known as Heteronyms.

row = ˈroʊ = line
row = ˈraʊ = argue

In Context

This table puts homographs, homonyms and heteronyms in context:

type of word spelling pronunciation meaning example
Homograph same same
different bank = building full of money; bank = by the river

row = ˈroʊ = line; row = ˈraʊ = argue

Heteronym same different different row = ˈroʊ = line; row = ˈraʊ = argue
Homonym same same different bank = building full of money; bank = by the river
Homophone‏‎ same
same different bank = building full of money; bank = by the river

pause = break; paws = dog’s feet

Heterograph  different same different pause = break; paws = dog’s feet
  different same same color = colour
Synonym‏ different  different same same = equal = alike
same different same leisure = ˈle.ʒə (BrE)
leisure = ˈle.ʒər (AmE)

Useful Links

Homophones – words which have the same spelling & pronunciation but different meanings

Synonyms – words with different spelling and pronunciation, but the same meaning

What is a Morpheme‏‎?

Morphemes in actionAs they say, a Morpheme is the smallest linguistic unit of language which has meaning.

Putting it simply, if you take a word like


you can break it down into 3 morphemes:

un = not
question = ask
able = able to be

Each of the 3 morphemes has a meaning and if you take one away, the meaning of the word changes.

Morphemes can’t be broken down any further; they are the smallest they can be.

Are Morphemes Syllables?

Often, but not always. The following are words broken down into their morphemes:

tele + vision
dog + s
anti + dis + establish + ment + arian + ism
John + ‘s

Sometimes then morphemes are the same as syllables, but occasionally not.

Are Morphemes Words?

Sometimes, but not always. The morphemes which go to make up

star + ship
bed + room

can stand alone. They are known as free morphemes.

On the other hand, the first and last morphemes in these words cannot:

un + concern + ed
dis + passion + ate

These are known as bound morphemes and often occur at the beginning or end of words as affixes.

Morphemes and TEFL

Sometimes it’s useful to refer to morphemes in TEFL although to keep things simple you should probably not use that word and instead just talk about affixes (prefixes and suffixes).

Explain, for example, that various affixes have specific meanings:

anti– = against, e.g. antiserum
non– = not or without, e.g. nonconformist

less = without, e.g. airless
ious = with the qualities of, e.g. melodious

This will be fine for most classes and will help your students work out the meanings of some unknown words.

Spoken vs Written Morphemes

In spoken language, morphemes are composed of phonemes (the smallest linguistically distinctive units of sound).

In written language morphemes are composed of graphemes (the smallest units of written language).

Useful Links

Phoneme‏‎s in English – about the morphemes in spoken language

Affix‏‎es in English – about affixes (prefixes and suffixes)

David Nunan‏‎

David NunanDavid Nunan is a linguist and ELT author who has published over 100 books and articles in the areas of curriculum and materials development, classroom-based research, and discourse analysis. Many of his English Language Teaching textbooks were written for Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Thomson Learning.

Nunan has also been involved in directing post-graduate programs in applied linguistics and language education in many different parts of the world for over thirty years.

Now serving as Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Anaheim University, Nunan served as Chair and Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Hong Kong since 1994 and has been involved in the teaching of graduate programs at Columbia University, the University of Hawaii, Monterey Institute for International Studies, and several others.

In 2000 he served as President of TESOL, the language teaching association for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

In 2002 he received a congressional citation from the United States House of Representatives for his services to English language education through his pioneering work in online education at Anaheim University.

In 2003 he was ranked the 7th most influential Australian in Asia by Business Review Weekly.

In 2005 he was named one of the top “50 Australians who Matter”.

Out and About (book)‏‎

Author: Amy Hemmert; Rick Kappra
Publisher: Alta Book Center Publishers
Details: paperback, 189 pages; 2002
ISBN: 1932383018

An interactive course in Beginning English with a dynamic, student-centered approach.

Each unit provides a well-defined series of picture-based vocabulary activities followed by contextualized, multi-skill practice activities. Key language and vocabulary are recycled and reinforced in creative and stimulating ways.

Addressing SCANS competencies and CASAS requirements, Out & About provides a language syllabus for adults of all ages.

Each unit provides a well-defined series of picture-based vocabulary activities followed by contextualized, multi-skill practice activities. Key language and vocabulary are recycled and reinforced in creative and stimulating ways.

Out & about helps students:

  • learn to communicate in everyday situations – from the classroom to the doctor’s office
  • master useful vocabulary related to everyday topics, including housing, clothing, and shopping
  • acquire important life skills through practical, hands-on activities related to reading maps, making appointments, and talking on the phone
  • build valuable study skills and critical thinking skills
  • gain independence and confidence

The book celebrates the diversity of the language classroom and the world we live in. Every effort has been made to avoid stereotypes. In doing so, Out & About features people of various ethnic backgrounds, women in traditionally male occupations, and non-traditional families, such as single-parent families and same-sex couples. Students will also learn language for expressing food restrictions determined by religious custom or cultural preference.

A free downloadable Teacher’s Guide is also available. This offers unit objectives, outlines, vocabulary lists, and step-by-step procedures – making even the most novice teacher feel comfortable working with true beginners.

The Teacher Resource Book offers supplementary games, crossword puzzles, class mingles, fluency circles, end-of-unit progress checks, and more. This photocopiable activity book can be used independently or in conjunction with the Student Book.

External Links

Out & About (amazon.com)

Out & About (amazon.co.uk)

Giving Directions‏‎

Giving Directions is an activity to practice giving and receiving directions around town. It’s simple to set up and involves practice in speaking and listening.


You will need a town plan (or section of a town) for the class. With beginner classes the plan can be very simple but with more advanced classes it can be bigger and more complex.

The plan should have major landmarks on it but not all streetnames. Tourist maps are quite good for this.


Mark on the plan the starting point. In the plan above, it’s the red dot in the top right.

Next you will need to photocopy one copy of the map for each student in the class.


Running the Activity

The first step in the activity is to revise some useful vocabulary with your class to do with giving and receiving directions, for example:

  • turn right at the crossroads
  • take the second on the left
  • just in front of your
  • go straight ahead

Now give out a copy of the map to each person in the class. Take one for yourself and mark on it a cross in any position. Explain to your class that you are going to tell them where you live and they need to follow your directions.

Begin explaining:

  1. From the red dot, walk into town over the river.
  2. At the first junction, take the second left.
  3. Walk all the way down into the square.
  4. When you reach the square, cross over it and take the road opposite.
  5. I live there on the right, opposite the restaurant.

Have the students mark your house on their map and then check to make sure they’re all in the right place!


Extending the Activity

Once the students understand how the activity works, they can play the game amongst themselves. You might have them in pairs, back to back, telling each other directions from the red dot to their house, or you might have them in small groups with one person standing and telling the rest where they live.

Beyond the Sentence‏‎ (book)

Author: Scott G. Thornbury
Publisher: Macmillan ELT
Details: Paperback; 192 pages; Pub.2005
ISBN: 1405064072

This is a witty and incisive book where discourse is taken apart to show how it is organized and how it helps communication.

The idea that we need to help students work ‘at the level of text’ as well as make correct sentences is not a new one. But here you will find suggestions – backed up by practical, fun activities – for how you can achieve this in your classroom.

Thornbury starts with an examination of genre, and then goes on to look at how we structure written and spoken text and how we use these structures in comprehending meanings.

Most importantly, Thornbury shows how insights into discourse can – and should – affect our work as language teachers.


External Links

Beyond the Sentence (amazon.com)

Beyond the Sentence (amazon.co.uk)

Racism in TEFL

The unfortunate state of affairs in TEFL… sometimes.

Racism in Teaching English does occur to a greater or lesser extent in most countries.

This article looks at racism in TEFL‏‎ outside English speaking countries; this is where it is most prevalent.

Reactions to Foreigners

In many countries foreigners can be the source of interest and speculation and this applies to any new face, regardless of color. This kind of interest can happen in any small town or remote location in almost any country from Spain‏‎ to Peru‏‎ to Australia.

In places like Asia, where people are more used to seeing white westerners, black people will find they attract more interest and curiosity.

On the whole this interest is usually confined to just that: curious interest. But sometimes (again, especially in more remote places) it can take some getting used to and if you are very sensitive to this kind of behavior, it should be something to bear in mind.

In places like South Korea or Japan, black people will be the subject of a prejudice fostered by local perceptions of them as violent and troublesome. This perception is by no means common, but it does happen and this kind of racist belief is perhaps on a par with the prejudices found in almost any country including both the USA and the UK.

Employment Opportunities

The basic fact is this: if you are white and Western you stand a better chance of landing a job than if you are not. If you are black or Asian then you may well be discriminated against.

Given two similarly qualified and experienced candidates, one white and one black or Asian, no one would be surprised if the white candidate gets the job. Then the Asian candidate. And finally the black candidate. Generally speaking, the darker one’s skin, the harder it is and this has led on to the situation where native speakers who happen to be black are passed over for non-native speakers of questionable ability.

However, that is not to say there are no black or Asian TEFL teachers. On the contrary, there are many (see the links below) but there can be issues finding work if you are not white.

There is one common reason why white teachers are preferred: in the mind of many people a typical westerner will be white and parents want their child to be taught by a typical westerner. There is sometimes the feeling that a black or Asian teacher is not western enough and that they will not have the same level of English as a white teacher.

In other words, if the teacher is tall, blond, blue-eyed and white then parents will think their child is learning better, more genuine English than if the teacher has African or Asian or Indian features.

Applying for Work

Most advertisements do not specify color, but some – often Chinese – do:

Hello, Our school is located in Dongguan in the Guangdong province of China, just about one and half hours drive to Hong Kong. We are currently seeking for 2 white teachers to start work on Monday(Feb. 23). The weekly workload is 20 lessons maximum. The salary is 7000RMB/month. Our students are middle school students with intermediate English level. If interested, send your full photograph, passport data page and visa section to our e-mail: dream.educ@gmail.com. VIOLET-13580794403 13713166806.

This advertisement was accepted by ESL Teachers Board in 2009 and was still on display in July 2012 although by December that year (3 years after accepting it) they had removed the offending advert. (We have left the email address in the advert in case you’d like to email them about their policy, we did.)

In many cases employers ask for a photograph to be sent along with an application for work. This is where many non-whites are removed from the process.

If you can approach the school in person, then often this will help secure work. It’s a matter of getting your foot in the door and showing a prospective employer the real you rather than have them assume all the wrong things from a picture.

On a good note, government run programs (such as JET, or EPIK) are generally very unbiased when it comes to selecting teachers and will look at qualifications and experience above everything else.

Country Watch

Generally speaking, Asia is known to be discriminatory in its hiring practice. It is often accepted as “the way things are” and little is done about it. There are few regulations in place to combat it and progress is slow in stamping it out.


The situation here varies. There are a considerable number of black teachers working in China and the need for teachers is overriding the consideration of wanting a white and Western teacher. For example, there is a large expat Jamaican community in China; one of the main issues has not been one of color, but of educating the Chinese schools that Jamaica is an English speaking country!

However, although many Chinese will pay lip service to equality, the bottom line is that many jobs are handed out to whites only; the blatant advertisement mentioned above is by no means unusual.


Not usually a problem but in less cosmopolitan cities there will be staring and interest (but this can be to any outsider).


Many black teachers report the difficulty of getting work; this also applies to Asian teachers who have the same problem. Schools are sometimes very up-front about this, telling black teachers they only hire white teachers and so on.

The schools here would like their teachers to be “foreign looking”, i.e. white and Western and have been known to show off their white teachers to prospective parents in order to impress them.

There is, however, a large non-white community of expats here and work can be found; it may just take a little longer than usual.

See also this ICAL Blog entry written by a black teacher in Korea – link below.


Again, white teachers are preferred over black in Morocco‏‎; rarely will Asian teachers find work in this country.


Racism exists in Taiwan‏‎ and you will occasionally come across advertisements for “whites only” to teach in schools (in much the same way that adverts will also specify age, marital status and so on). Taiwan is fairly insular in the way in which any foreigner – regardless of race – is pointed out and often singled out for special treatment (both positive and negative).


Reports suggest it is not a major problem for black or Asian teachers to find work in Thailand‏‎.

Useful Links

Korea, People, Racism – a blog from a black teacher working in Korea

Great blog written by Ashley Evangelista on teaching in China and color.

A black teacher’s experiences of teaching in South Korea

Rote Learning in TEFL


Parrot mirroing boy. Or is it the other way round?

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 the duck” (in Chinese). Many of these imply force feeding of information.


A typical rote learning scenario might occur in learning the conjugation of irregular verbs.

I am
You are
He is
She is
It is
We are
You are
They are

The class might sit and chant the conjugation a dozen times. Likewise with vocabulary, a teacher may give the class a list of 20 or so words to learn by the next lesson and the students go home and learn them by repetition.


Whilst rote learning does have a place in learning (for example, it can be useful to learn the lines of a script or a times-table in maths) the main problem is that it lacks any kind of contextual learning and it can, in a worst case scenario, provide learning without understanding. A student may well be able to learn a list of 30 English idioms and be able to repeat them flawlessly without having any idea of their meaning or when they can be used.

Whilst rote learning can offer quick results (a student might be able to learn vocabulary very quickly) it lacks depth and understanding that only learning in context can offer.


Many school systems around the world use rote learning as a matter of course and your students may well expect to learn English in a similar way. In China, for example, students will expect tables and lists as part of their classes. In countries like France, however, rote learning is disparaged and discouraged.

PGCE‏‎ or TEFL for Teaching English Abroad

PGCE AnnouncementOne frequently asked question is this: should I take a PGCE and/or a TEFL Certificate to teach English abroad?

This article answers that question and offers the best advice on what you should do when you’re given that choice. It looks at what the PGCE is, how they are seen by schools abroad, and what you can do with it if you want to teach outside the UK.

If you are thinking of teaching English abroad and have a PGCE, this will help you decide if you need to take a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate as well.

If you are thinking of teaching English abroad and are trying to decide what qualifications are best for you, this will help you decide on whether to go for the PGCE of the TEFL certificate… or both!

The PGCE and the TEFL Certificate Explained


Essentially, a PGCE or Post Graduate Certificate in Education is a British qualification for university graduates (with a BA or BSc) who want to specialize in teaching at a state school in the UK.

It is normally a 1 year course (or 2 years part time) which will include around 150 hours teaching practice in school. There are different flavors of PGCE for Primary or Secondary education; in the latter case they are geared towards subject areas, e.g. history, science, math, etc. Note, however, that there is not specifically a TEFL flavor here although it may be included as a subsidiary subject.

The course costs around £9000 ($14144 USD, €11191) which can be taken as a student loan and it is offered at many different universities and colleges in the UK.

A PGCE also counts as a credit towards a masters should the teacher want to study further.

TEFL Certificate

The TEFL certificate (also known as the TESOL Certificate) is a short course which looks into how specifically to teach the English language to people who speak another language as a mother-tongue.

It costs around £900 ($1414 USD, €1119) for a good in-house course but you can also get an 120hr online TEFL Certificate for £155 ($244 USD, €193).

I want to Teach in an International School

Looking at the international job section of the Times Educational Supplement you will see that jobs teaching abroad in international schools will require similar qualifications to those you might find in the state sector in the UK, that is QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) plus experience. Thus, for these kinds of jobs, a PGCE is fine, usually with several years’ experience as well.

However, if you are looking at teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), most jobs are in private schools abroad with a few more in state schools. Although international schools may have classes in TEFL, many will not as their students tend to be English mother tongue or bilingual. See below for these options.

I want to Teach in a State School in an English Speaking Country

If you want to teach in a state school in an English speaking country – generally the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – then you will most likely need a PGCE. Your qualifications will need to be assessed and converted to their local equivalent, This can vary by state so if you want to teach in California or Delaware you may need different qualifications; likewise your PGCE may be acceptable to teach in certain schools in Western Australia but not the same kinds of schools in New South Wales.

In most countries the PGCE is well regarded and accepted and there is usually little problem in having it recognized.

I want to Teach English in a non-English Speaking Country

As said above, most jobs teaching English to non-English speakers abroad are with private schools. These schools, along with the state, will determine what qualifications their teachers must have.

The usual requirements for a teacher are a degree and a TEFL certificate. (Although you can sometimes find work without a degree‏‎.) In addition, experience teaching can help a lot when it comes to being offered a job.

Do I need a PGCE?

No, you don’t.

If you have the degree and TEFL cert then you can find work in the majority of countries around the world and there is no need to have a PGCE to teach in them.

I have a PGCE – do I need a TEFL Cert as well?

This will depend on the school. Some schools will simply not know about the PGCE and by default ask for a degree and a TEFL certificate. If you apply to a school like this they may well get back to you asking what the PGCE is or, in some cases, simply ignore your CV because it doesn’t contain the TEFL cert they asked for.

In cases like this it might be worth mentioning on your CV a little about what a PGCE is all about, especially if it contains a TEFL element. Stress the practical component of the course as well and, of course, any experience teaching you have had.

However, it can do no harm to take a TEFL certificate as well.

By taking one you will not only cover aspects of teaching specific to TEFL which your PGCE did not cover but it will also help you find work. Schools and education departments abroad know about the TEFL certificate but don’t always know about the PGCE.

Having a TEFL Certificate and PGCE will make you more marketable and you will find work more easily than with just a PGCE where you could miss out on good jobs purely because of the ignorance of your potential employer.


To sum up then:

  1. You don’t need a PGCE to teach English abroad.
  2. If you have a PGCE make sure you explain (briefly) what it is on your application CV.
  3. Stress your teaching experience.
  4. If you don’t have a PGCE then get a TEFL Certificate; it will be very useful.
  5. If you do have a PGCE, then if you can, get a TEFL Certificate as it may well swing the job in your favor.

Useful Links

TEFL Certificates to Teach English – an initial qualification to teach English

Essential Qualifications to Teach English – what you need in general to teach English

Masters Degrees for Teachers of English – an alternative to the PGCE

Image © johnturner55

Teaching English in Oman‏‎

A Muscat siteTEFL Teaching in Oman

Since the discovery of oil some years ago, Oman – the second largest country in the Middle East – has grown very wealthy with good opportunities for TEFL‏‎ teachers.

For those teachers who do end up in Oman, the country itself is very diverse with mountain ranges, salt flats, rolling deserts and pleasant green hills. Muscat is a thriving port and the capital city. As for the social life, whilst it can take a little time to get used to it, there’s certainly a lot on offer for the right kind of teacher.

Schools & Conditions

English has long been taught in Oman and in the public schools it is taught as a second language‏‎ beginning in the fourth grade. It is also taught in many colleges and also companies to serve both business and the service industries.

Most English teachers tend to be local and not often native speakers. This is because it can be quite difficult for foreigners to get a visa and residence permit for Oman. Certainly it’s not something that teachers can do on their own and you will need the school to help you with this.

The academic year‏‎ generally begins around September so recruitment takes place in August and jobs are available at both private schools as well as international schools and universities/colleges.

Working hours in private language schools can be quite long and sometimes anti-social as lessons take place often after business working hours; this is especially true for adult students.

There is also often a demand for private English lessons. It is common for university students to take these around exam time. However, bear in mind that due to the visa issues mentioned above, it’s almost impossible to go to Oman simply to teach private lessons. Normally established teachers will take on extra hours like this or expat English teachers who already have a valid visa (e.g. partners of expats working in Oman already).

Qualifications, Salaries & Benefits

Demand for well qualified English teachers is high and schools offer attractive salaries which often include free housing, airfare, insurance‏‎ & health cover, end-of-contract bonus and suchlike. A typical teacher’s salary can be up to twice the cost of living which allows teachers there to save a considerable amount of money during their contract.

In addition, an end-of-contract bonus or indemnity is paid by law and usually amounts to 15 (or sometimes 20) days’ pay.

Salaries, then, begin around $1700 USD (€1345, £1082) per month with good jobs at colleges offering double this, often tax free.

Because of these kinds of benefits, candidates for work need generally to be well qualified and experienced. The minimum qualifications are usually a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. A further degree and experience are also often required but occasionally there are jobs advertised which are looking for new teachers.

Living in Oman

The Omani people are known for their generosity and friendliness and, whilst often insular in their outlook, can be interested in other cultures and enjoy meeting people.

The extended family is important and often several generations will live together. Foreign workers often live in compounds or apartments. Some are multi-ethnic whilst others are composed of mainly one nationality.

The state religion is Islam and as with many Islamic countries, discretion in dress and attitude is expected. The holy day is Friday (equivalent to Sunday in most Western countries) with the Thursday or Saturday often a holiday as well. During Ramadam the working day is often reduced, however non-Muslims may be expected to work full days whilst their Muslim colleagues are on reduced hours.

Quick Points:

  • Temperatures can reach 50 C or 122 F in the height of Summer.
  • Health care tends to be good and of a high standard.
  • Accept refreshment when it is offered.
  • Only eat with your right hand.
  • Do not cross your legs or show the soles of your feet.
  • Do not offer alcohol to a Arab unless you know they drink it; it can be offensive to do so.
  • Do not enter a mosque unless invited in.
  • Be discrete. Do not drink or smoke in public and never engage in any sort of sexual behaviour (even an innocent kiss) in public!
  • “Face” is an important concept in Oman and you should avoid putting anyone in a position where they will lose face. This applies not only in your day to day life but also in the classroom where treating your students sensitively and avoiding “showing them up” is very important.
  • Do not beckon any student with your finger; it’s impolite. One might beckon a dog, but never a person.
  • In all classrooms one should avoid discussion of religion or politics, but it is especially true of the Middle East and Oman. What may be regarded as quite innocent to Western ears can be very offensive. This applies outside the classroom too and thus religious/political discussions should be avoided even when socialising.

Women & Men

Men are the traditional breadwinners and women are regarded more as home makers; when women do work in Oman it is often in the service industries and teaching and nursing. However pay for women is often less than for men in the same job so women are often seen as a cheaper alternative.

Arab women in Oman will often wear full veils and always cover their head. Western women must dress conservatively and cover their head whilst outside. Shoulders, arms and legs must covered. If not, the women will be thought of as a prostitute or at least of “easy virtue”.

Men should dress conservatively and avoid shorts or sleeveless shirts outside.

Image © Krishnakumar photography

Which Degree to Teach English Abroad?



The basic usual teaching qualifications for the majority of TEFL‏‎ jobs are a degree and a 120hr TEFL Certificate.

Although sometimes you can find work without a degree in some countries, this article looks at the type of degree which is best to have to teach English and which degrees are not usually acceptable.

Which Type of Degree?

By degree we mean a 3 or 4 year BA (or sometimes a BSc) degree from an accredited college or university in your country.

Remember, however, that Associate Degrees, Foundation Degrees and other shorter course qualifications are not usually accepted as degrees in most countries.

Which Major/Minor?

The degree is usually required for visa or work permit purposes; it is used to show the authorities in the country that you have a certain level of education.

So it’s often the case that the subject of the degree is not that important and certainly you will find teachers of English in entry level jobs with degrees in everything from Medieval English Literature to Mechanical Engineering to IT to Sociology.

This means that if you have a BA or BSc degree in almost any subject regardless of which major or minor you have then this will often be sufficient for a work permit and getting a job in a school.

However, having said this, to help get the job and show the school you know what you are talking about it’s obviously better for your degree to be English or language related. So you will find that most English teacher abroad have degrees in:

  • English language
  • English literature
  • Linguistics
  • A foreign language

But to reiterate, don’t be put off you have a degree in a completely different subject. It will be fine for most English teaching jobs abroad!

Choosing a Degree Subject

What this means in practical terms is that if you are looking towards a career (or at least a few years work) in teaching English abroad then you can take a degree in almost any subject.

So if you are thinking about which degree to take, you might want to think about taking something which interests you! There’s little point in spending 3 or 4 years studying something you dislike when, at the end of the day, you would be in the same position as if you’d studied something you enjoyed.

TESOL or TEFL Degrees

Some universities offer degrees in TESOL or similar. Bear in mind that if decide at a later date to leave the TEFL industry and enter mainstream employment back home then most employers will not know what this is. A degree in English is sometimes better since most people will be able to recognize this.

See Also

Masters Degree – for a further qualification if you are heading towards a career in TEFL.

TEFL without a Degree – if you do not possess a degree and wish to teach.

The Alphabet Game‏‎

Alphabet letters pictured with a corresponding word.The Alphabet Game is a very useful 5 minute end-of-lesson vocabulary game or warmer.

Simply get each student (or group) to write a letter of the alphabet on each line of a blank sheet of paper. If you play this game often with the class and they’re already familiar with the letters of the alphabet you can have these sheets already photocopied.

Now decide on a subject or semantic field and have the students try to find a words in that group which begins with each letter of the alphabet.

Suppose you choose “things you can eat” then the list might begin:

  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Cake
  • Duck
  • Egg

…and so on.

The winner is either the group which finds 26 items first or the group which finds the most items in the allotted time – say 5 minutes.


The game is very useful to revise vocabulary in a few minutes at the end of the lesson, especially when you have the items the students must find related to the general theme of the lesson. Suppose, for example, you have been looking at giving directions in the lesson, you could have the class put together an alphabet of buildings on a city street map:

  • Art Gallery
  • Bank/Bus Station
  • Car Park/Church/Cathedral
  • Delicatessen
  • E
  • Fire Station
  • Graveyard
  • Hospital/Hotel
  • I
  • J
  • K
  • L
  • Museum
  • N
  • O
  • Post Office/Park/Pub/Police Station
  • Q
  • Railway Station
  • Supermarket
  • Town Hall
  • University
  • V
  • Waterworks
  • X
  • Youth Hostel
  • Zoo

Of course, you can encourage swapping so that they can move around the class and swap items to try and fill their list. Needless to say students can only speak English during the swapping. No MT allowed!

Image © ~Bob~West~

General English‏‎

Ladies gossipingGeneral 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 and relationships
  • general news and current events
  • shopping
  • telling stories and relating events from the past

The grammar‏‎ content of General English courses tends to be taught on a “need to know” basis and is likely to cover the grammar needed for everyday conversation.

Often General English courses will include social and cultural elements as needed. This happens in classes where, for example, the students will be visiting an English speaking country for a holiday where the teacher will include discussions about social etiquette (e.g. queuing, speaking to strangers, paying for drinks in a pub as you take them rather than at the end of the evening).

How to Teach General English

In most situations you’ll be using a coursebook to teach and general coursebooks will include the kind of English used in everyday circumstances.

However, in a General English class it’s always useful to bring in current events and discuss them with the class. For example, any of these can be the starting point for a lesson:

  • a major festival in the country/town
  • roadworks outside the school
  • a member of staff getting married
  • someone in class with a broken leg
  • the latest episode of a popular soap opera
  • your new haircut

In other words, bring everyday life into the classroom.

To help teach and practice language associated with General English you will may well find that role plays are particularly useful. Set the class up in different situations and let them go for it!


Finally, if you are teaching General English be careful about discussing everyday subjects which relate to sensitive subjects and which could cause problems. Here we’re talking about

  • politics
  • religion
  • sex

As a general rule of thumb keep these out of the classroom unless you are sure about what you are teaching and the reaction of your DoS – in fact we would recommend not bringing up these subjects unless you have specifically discussed the lesson with your DoS and received their consent.

Useful Links

Role Playing in the TEFL Classroom – getting the class talking about everyday life

Sensitive Subjects‏‎ in Teaching English – what not to teach!

Learner Levels‏ in TEFL – how to rank students according to their ability in English

120hr TEFL Course – learn how to teach General English

The Good Grammar Book‏‎ (book)

Author: Michael Swan ; Catherine Walter
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Details: Paperback; 304 pages; Pub.2003
ISBN: 0194315207

This grammar book teaches all the grammar needed for speaking and writing in English. It explains the rules, shows how the language works, and gives plenty of practice. It has pre-tests and review tests. It also commits a number of pages to each grammar point, with an equal amount of practice pages.

It can be used either with the coursebook in class or as extra practice at home.

The back of the book states it’s for elementary to pre-intermediate learners, but some teachers feel it could be a little advanced for elementary level students.

A very popular book with university teachers, and highly recommended for self-study too.

External Links

Learning Teaching (amazon.com)

Learning Teaching (amazon.co.uk)


Lesson Preparation Tip – Delegating Tasks


Work comes from the top down.

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 an activity for your class. Let’s say you want to prepare some flashcards‏‎ with items of clothing on them.

Normally you’d sit in the staff room or at home going through magazines, selecting pictures and then carefully cutting them out, sticking them on card, writing the word in English on the back and then laminating them for future use.

Instead of doing all this yourself, you can turn this into a lesson!

Firstly get together the materials you’ll need: in the example above this means the magazines, scissors, card, etc.

In the class get the students into pairs then explain the first step – in English of course – and have the students go through the magazines looking for pictures of different items of clothing.

The students then identify them and cut them out, you might have them use a dictionary to find the right word or you could use a simple activity whereby if they don’t know the name of a certain item, they can ask other students for help.

Then give them simple instructions on preparing the flashcards, that is pasting the picture on a card, writing the word in English on the back and then (if available) laminating the card.

Finally you finish the lesson with an activity based around the cards you’ve created and you can be sure that the students will remember the new vocabulary quickly and effectively since they’ve been working on it all lesson!


This general idea can be adapted and adjusted for many different preparation ideas. It works on so many levels because the students are actively involved and learn through the process with an added bonus of you having to do less preparation in your own time!

Any activity which you might do yourself as preparation can be worked into a quick lesson. For example, if you want to make crossword for a class then get the students to do it. If you need semantic field for a lesson activity, get the students to put them together. And perhaps even a action maze‏‎ or a cloze or gap fill test…

Almost anything you need to do can be adapted with a little thought and imagination.

Student Names in English‏‎

Apu Kwik-E-Mart

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 have your students use English names without heading into problems.

Don’t Force Names

First off, do the students really want an English name? You may well find that some classes love the idea and some hate the idea. A name is a very personal thing so it’s always best never to force the issue and so you should always give them the choice whether to have the English name or not.

Some schools will insist on having English names for students and others will have an open policy. Before you rename the students, check with your Director of Studies to see what the official line is.

Although it’s hard to generalize, it’s often younger students who prefer to have an English name and also students whose names are very different from English. Perhaps an ideal class would be young Chinese students!

Having said that, you may often find older students wanting English names as well so you can never be sure. The answer here, then, is to play it by ear. In some cases you may find that giving English names to your class will be seen as linguistic imperialism and frowned upon.

So it’s best never try to force a name on someone.

Having said that, in some cultures there are common names and you may well find yourself in a class with 3 Marias and 3 Kostas. In this case you can try to persuade them to adopt different names to avoid misunderstandings.

The Naming Process

Ideally you should work with your class to name each student (excepting those who want to keep their own names). This being said, there’s often a case where the students don’t really know many English names so you need to prepare these before hand.

Make a List of Suitable Names

Sit down and make a long list of names. When you do this, it’s often a good idea to add both the “meaning” of the name (if it’s still relevant) as well as its equivalent in the local language. For example:

John (male) – in other languages, Giovanni, Johann, János, Ivan, Jan, Ján, Honza, Jovan, Ion, Eoin, Juan, João, Ivo, Jean, Joan, Jan, Gjon, Gjin, Ieuan, Ifan, Evan, Sean, Seán

A good resource for names is Behind the Name which has meanings and derivations.

Check for Suitability

When you have a good selection, make sure you ask another local teacher at the school to go through the list and remove any which might be unsuitable.

For example, the following are potentially dangerous names to give your students:

  • Peter to a French student; in French, péter means to fart
  • Dick to a German student, in German, dick means fat

In addition, some names are specifically associated with certain religions so are best avoided. In other words, keep the names “neutral”.

Offer the Names to the Class

With a list of names you can suggest them to your class. If there’s a Johann in the class who wants an English name, offer him John, for example. Alternatively he may want to choose his own name from the list or choose an alternative (perhaps a character he admires from cinema, for example).

Remembering Names

Once each student has their new name, the first thing to do is have a few activities where the students introduce themselves to each other. Later you can instruct them to create a name tag and you can turn this into a lesson activity in itself!

See also, Remembering Student Names‏‎ – a useful activity to help remember the names of your students in class.

Implementing the Lexical Approach (book)‏‎

Author: Michael Lewis
Publisher: EMEA British English
Details: Paperback; 176 pages; Pub.1997
ISBN: 1899396608

The subtitle reads “Putting Theory into Practice” which says it all. The book describes how the Lexical Approach works in the classroom and develops the theoretical position set out in Michael Lewis’ The Lexical Approach (book). It shows clearly how lexis, grammar and phonology interact in ways which directly affect how learners store new language.

Comprehensive, step by step classroom changes that can ensure more effective teaching and more efficient learning are provided along with detailed discussions on the importance of noticing, the value of repeating tasks, and the design of lexical exercises.

Also included are 30 sample exercise types, 50 activities with their lexical focus explained, and classroom reports from teachers already using the approach successfully.

Implementing the Lexical Approach is well written, exciting and, most of all, challenging. It will get you to seriously (re)consider what is important in foreign language learning and teaching.

External Links

Implementing the Lexical Approach (amazon.com)

Implementing the Lexical Approach (amazon.co.uk)


Cambridge Business English Activities‏‎ (book)

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Details: Paperback; 128 pages; Pub.2000
ISBN: 0521587344


This spiral bound is part of the Cambridge Copy Collection. It is a well designed user-friendly resource book containing 43 photocopiable activities to use in your Business English class.

The stimulating and highly adaptable material offers a variety of pair and group activities to practise the most common functions and language of business, from socialising and eating out to negotiating and marketing.

External Links

Cambridge Business English Activities (amazon.com)

Cambridge Business English Activities (amazon.co.uk)

Backward Spelling‏‎

Backward Spelling is a simple filler activity you can play at the end of your class for a few minutes before the lesson ends.

It helps with concentrated listening‏‎, vocabulary‏‎ and spelling.

Simply choose a word which the class will know and begin – slowly – to spell it backwards. Award a point to the first person who can guess the word correctly.

T: A… N…
S1: Can?
T: Sorry, no! A… N… A… N… A…
S2: Banana?
T: Good! One point for your team!

Of course the word you choose should be one the class is familiar with and one recently used. This activity helps reinforce what has been learned earlier.

Variations on a Theme

Once the class is familiar with the game there are a few to expand and vary it.

  • have students work in teams to guess the word
  • whoever guesses comes to the front of the class to spell backwards their own word (or one from a flashcard‏‎)
  • try throwing in a palindrome once in a while to see what happens!

British English

British English (BrE) is a variant of the English language, spoken mainly in the United Kingdom. Along with American English‏‎, British English is one of the main variants taught in most ESL/EFL programs.

Bear in mind, however, that here is, in fact, no single British English variation of English. Instead there are a considerable number of variations mainly found in different locations. Thus, for example, there is:

  • Scottish English
  • Irish English
  • Welsh English
  • Northumbrian
  • Norfolk
  • Cornish
  • The Queen’s English
  • BBC English
  • RP or Received Pronunciation‏‎

However, the differences between these variations are mainly ones of accent‏‎ and pronunciation with a few vocabulary variations rather than differences in grammar.

{youtube}iUPk5eKsGvs|225|175{/youtube}For most learners, British English is the type of English spoken in the South-East of England. A typical speaker of standard British English would be someone like Kate Winslet the actress – click the video to hear an example of her speaking.

See Also

Varieties of English‏‎

Varieties of English Grammar – a list of grammar differences between British English and other types of English.

Varieties of English Vocabulary‏‎ – a list of vocabulary differences between British English and other types of English.

Careers in Teaching English

Careers in TEFL or TESOL are common. Many teachers start out in TEFL‏‎ as entry-level teachers in small schools around the world; some will stay a few years before going home and moving into a different field, but others will move on in TEFL. It is common assumption that TEFL is a stop-gap job, but this is simply not the case and there are many examples of teachers who have had lifelong careers in the industry.

This article explores longer term options in TEFL and how to get into those jobs.

New TEFL Teachers

Although reliable statistics are hard to come by, perhaps the majority of new TEFL teachers begin work overseas working in places like China, South Korea, or southern Europe.

Often the work will be in a small school of perhaps 200 or so students, working 20 hours a week with classes of 15 or so students. Some jobs will be in larger chains of schools, especially in Asia.

It’s often the case that new teachers will work a few years in the industry, enjoying learning about the country they are in and getting to grips with teaching. However, after a few years the country has lost its “foreigness” and the teaching is no longer new. A teacher may then well look at their life and job and wonder about other possibilities and ask themself the inevitable question: Will I be doing exactly the same job in 20 years’ time?

For some teachers this won’t be a problem and there are older teachers everywhere enjoying the same work as young teachers. But others may want to move on.

Staying in TEFL Teaching

Certainly a career as a TEFL teacher is possible. Whilst many teachers do move on from a school after one or two years, some teachers have remained with the same school for many, many years and often the school will try to keep a good teacher once they have found one.

If you prove invaluable to the school, this can lead to a good salary and great working conditions and occasionally becoming part of the management of that school. Of course you can always swap schools as good, reliable teachers are always in demand and many schools are happy to pay a premium for these qualities.

If you like teaching but are after something slightly different, one job to consider is teaching online. This is a growing business and combines the practice of teaching but from your own home rather than a school.

TEFL Management

There are sometimes possibilities to move out of the classroom and into a higher position but this is only possible where there are lots of teachers in the same school or group of schools and managerial positions are available.

The usual goal here for ambitious teachers is to become a Director of Studies or DoS. This is a kind of “academic manager” and their job will include running the academic side of the school: hiring and firing teachers, reviewing teaching performance, organizing and running courses for the teachers, reviewing work and attending conferences. Essentially it is a manager for the academic side of the school.

Generally speaking, the higher up the chain a teacher is, the less they will be in the classroom and the more they will be managing others. For some this is ideal but many teachers find they do miss the classroom side of things once they move up the ladder.

In general management positions are filled internally so it will mean firstly getting into a large chain school (or the British Council‏‎, for example) and staying a few years building up your reputation. When a vacancy does become available – simply apply for it!

TEFL Teacher Training

Teachers with experience and an interest in the art and practice of teaching may well decide to move into teacher training. This will usually mean taking further qualifications such as an Masters in TEFL. Good teacher trainers are in demand and can find work in large schools where they combine teaching language students along with running training courses for other teachers. There are also jobs in training schools offering TEFL Certificates and suchlike.

Finally there is freelance work running refresher courses for groups of teachers from different schools. Sometimes these will take place at conventions overseas and some teacher trainers are in demand for this kind of work. Good trainers can build up this side of work privately and turn it into a very rewarding experience.

Teacher training requires experience and qualifications. If you have these then you can start out quite simply by setting up and running a few half-day courses and getting to grips with the actual process of teaching teachers. This helps your CV/Résumé and the experience here is invaluable.

Your Own TEFL School

If you prefer to remain working in a small school and fancy running your own business in many countries you are allowed to set up and open your own school. This is often a good move since parents will believe sending their child to learn English at a genuine British/American, etc, school will be better than the usual local school.

This kind of work varies greatly but you do need to have a good knowledge of a country before setting up your own school there.

TEFL Publishing

ELT‏‎ publishing is big business and the big publishing houses have offices in most countries. Here they employ representatives to go around schools and conventions presenting new books and talking to schools and teachers. Often these representatives are native speakers and former TEFL teachers themselves.

In most cases these aren’t selling jobs and representatives are paid a normal salary rather than a percentage on sales. The job is more PR than anything else.

To find this kind of work try contacting the publishing houses in the local capital city; of course keeping an eye on the ELT press may turn up job advertisements as well.

TEFL Materials Writing

A few teachers will move into materials writing. At its most basic this means preparing tests for a class, but at the other end of the scale this will mean writing and presenting books (coursebooks‏‎, study aids, etc) which can be sold all over the world and can be incredibly lucrative.

Arguably the most famous ELT book is Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar In Use which has sold some 15 million copies. Whilst most materials writers will not have this level of success there are other options – for example the resources on this site you are reading now employ a number of freelance teachers to prepare articles here.

Most materials writers begin very small by preparing work for their own class. Keep everything you prepare if you do this and never be afraid to revise and adapt. Murphy’s grammar (above) was originally just worksheets for his classes before it was turned into a book.

TEFL Voicework

In some countries local publishers of material will often issue CDs or DVDs with their new books with spoken listening comprehension‏‎ type exercises on them. These all require native speakers to read the dialogs. If you have a pleasant sounding voice, this can be good fun and also provide extra income though it is rarely full time.

For this kind of work, contact local publishing houses to see if they need new voices; be prepared to send them an MP3 sample of your voice.

TEFL Employment Agents

If you are familiar with a particular country – especially if you speak the local language – then there are jobs available as an agent supplying native speaker teachers to schools who need them. In some cases this is fairly easy to set up on your own, but you can always look at working with one of the larger, more established, agencies.

See the main article, TEFL Employment Agents‏‎.

Word Frequency‏‎ in English

© <a href='http://www.flickr.com/thomashawk/' target='_blank'>Thomas Hawk</a>Word Frequency is listing words‏‎ according to how popular they are in the language. The method of determining the list is by taking a corpus‏‎ of language and simply counting the words in it and how often each one is used.

This usually brings up the following as the most popular:

  1. the
  2. of
  3. and
  4. to
  5. a

However, no list can be definitive. This is because the popularity of words will depend upon the source of the corpus. For example, a corpus of film and television scripts gives these as the top 5 words which is different from the more general list above.

  1. you
  2. I
  3. to
  4. the
  5. a

This being the case, word lists can be generated for specific fields or, in the case of general usage, from collating many different word lists.

Another consideration is when is a word the same as another. Most lexicographers‏‎ would agree that table is the same as tables in a list and should not be counted as two different words. Likewise verb forms‏‎ can be counted as the same word: take, takes, taking. But how about spy used as a verb and spy used as a noun? Or gross used to mean disgusting and gross used to mean 12 dozen?

Often because the counting of words is done by software there are no distinctions made between words with the same form and completely different meanings.

Word Usage Statistics

Different statistics exist for how commonly everyday words are used in English. One source suggests that:

  • the first 25 words on the list below are used in 33% of everyday writing
  • the first 100 words on the list appear in 50% of adult and student writing
  • the first 1,000 words on the list are used in 89% of everyday writing

In the Classroom

Although it might seem useful to have the word list in the classroom, it is perhaps too boring to teach the words on the list and make sure the students understand them. Word lists are useful as adjunct tools to your teaching. For example, materials writers will use them to make sure that the materials they create use words within a certain ranking so that the majority of their students will understand them.

(Note that most published ELT books will have gone through a process whereby the vocabulary‏‎ used is checked against a word list to make sure it is appropriate so there is no need for the teacher to do this.)

Word List

These are typical word frequencies based on the British National Corpus.

Rank Spoken & Written Spoken Written
1 the the the
2 of I of
3 and you and
4 a and a
5 in it in
6 to a to
7 it ‘s is
8 is to to
9 to of was
10 was that it
11 I n’t for
12 for in that
13 that we with
14 you is he
15 he do be
16 be* they on
17 with er I
18 on was by
19 by yeah ‘s
20 at have at
21 have* what you
22 are he are
23 not that had
24 this to his
25 ‘s but not
26 but for this
27 had erm have
28 they be but
29 his on from
30 from this which
31 she know she
32 that well they
33 which so or
34 or oh an
35 we got were
36 ‘s ‘ve as
37 an not we
38 ~n’t are their
39 were if been
40 as with has
41 do no that
42 been ‘re will
43 their she would
44 has at her*
45 would there there
46 there think n’t
47 what yes all
48 will just can
49 all all if
50 if can who
51 can then said
52 her* get do
53 said did what
54 who or as
55 one would ‘s
56 so mm one
57 up them its
58 as ‘ll into
59 them one him
60 some there some
61 when up up
62 could go could
63 him now when
64 into your them
65 its had so
66 then were time
67 two about out
68 out two my
69 time said two
70 my one about
71 about ‘m then
72 did see no
73 your me more
74 now very other
75 me out also
76 no my only
77 other when these
78 only mean me
79 just right first
80 more which your
81 these from may
82 also going* now
83 people say did
84 know been new
85 any people any
86 first because* people
87 see some her
88 very could should
89 new will than
90 may how see
91 well on very
92 should an made
93 her* time like
94 like who just
95 than want after
96 how like between
97 get come many
98 way really years
99 one three way
100 our by how
101 made here our
102 got put being
103 after ‘s those
104 think has such
105 between good down
106 many as one
107 years does make
108 er cos* through
109 ‘ve any over
110 those down even
111 go where back
112 being ~na* must
113 because* him know
114 down his year
115 ‘re other own
116 yeah five still
117 three in because*
118 good something too
119 back their get
120 make these good
121 such our three
122 on way last
123 there ca~ more
124 through actually take
125 year back however
126 over four government
127 ‘ll ‘d work
128 must should go
129 still gon~ man
130 even take well
131 take thing on
132 too look world
133 more those same
134 here why most
135 own things over
136 come no life
137 last only against
138 does like day
139 oh into might
140 say us under
141 no quite here
142 going* hundred does
143 ‘m right another
144 work lot* come
145 where make as
146 erm first us
147 us okay* think
148 government more old
149 same doing while
150 man done never
151 might twenty where
152 day went each
153 yes as again
154 however six found*
155 put give Mr
156 world thought
157 over again part
158 another off say
159 in might house
160 want year much
161 as her there
162 life last used
163 most like where
164 against much out of
165 again need in
166 never day number
167 under used without
168 old says going*
169 much still different
170 something about children
171 Mr mhm system
172 why ah put
173 each sort during
174 while years within
175 house never came
176 part little although
177 number than few
178 out of tell local
179 found* many small
180 off same before
181 different her* got
182 went another social
183 really money ‘ll
184 point place
185 thought bit* case
186 came being great
187 used anything off
188 children week always
189 always too ‘ve
190 four more ‘m
191 where ten most
192 without through ‘re
193 give eight why
194 few new something
195 within nice group
196 about work went
197 system always want
198 local thank thought
199 place next company
200 great must 1
201 during probably end
202 although saying party
203 small ‘d when
204 before pounds per cent
205 look nine women
206 next Mr about
207 when seven next
208 case also both
209 end wo~ men
210 things big find
211 social over information
212 most of course important
213 find getting give
214 group made took
215 quite after national
216 mean number often
217 five when every
218 party old state
219 every find given
220 company coming high
221 women thirty much
222 says fifty 2
223 important as well British
224 took thousand seen
225 much remember London
226 men as four
227 information anyway told
228 1 goes second
229 per cent today business
230 both different head
231 national out of taken
232 often a bit school
233 seen fact looked
234 given may family
235 school sure possible
236 fact else away
237 money came large
238 told sort of fact
239 away night hand
240 high house says
241 point morning water
242 night even such as
243 state every night
244 business end look
245 second use already
246 British having area
247 need keep set
248 taken perhaps asked
249 done over things
250 right own development
251 ‘d [= would] half left
252 having away money
253 thing much long
254 looked school having
255 London sorry yet
256 area C / c home
257 perhaps talking power
258 head looking perhaps
259 water council almost
260 right ooh point
261 family gone quite
262 long round himself
263 2 work really
264 hand aye John
265 like whether use
266 already mum nothing
267 possible though later
268 nothing somebody political
269 yet alright* called
270 large A / a country
271 left man days
272 side nothing young
273 asked let’s side
274 set so become
275 whether ask both
276 days try eyes
277 mm let whether
278 home forty far
279 called job room
280 John car general
281 development side since
282 week seen together
283 such as nineteen service
284 use ~n~* need
285 country children court
286 power alright* public
287 ca~ start members
288 later long market
289 almost feel towards
290 ‘d [= had] great before
291 young told face
292 council please use
293 himself P / p five
294 of course everything held
295 far area others
296 both part council
297 use place able
298 room problem felt
299 together few times
300 tell ninety war
301 little off available
302 political able law
303 before between full
304 able its police
305 become B / b interest
306 six Road done
307 general comes week
308 service pound ‘d
309 eyes ~ta* of course
310 members days problem
311 since ones early
312 times before form
313 problem wanted problems
314 anything trying research
315 market question 3
316 towards pay right
317 court better education
318 public yet help
319 others called though
320 face God best
321 full local body
322 doing maybe knew
323 war certainly mother
324 car name Britain
325 felt bad making
326 police eighty at least
327 keep obviously saw
328 held government office
329 problems sixty car
330 road life road
331 probably call tell
332 help whatever policy
333 interest leave turned
334 available took began
335 law moment services
336 best times thing
337 form working little
338 A / a important several
339 looking twelve like
340 early water seemed
341 making left period
342 today ever main
343 mother suppose less
344 saw stuff minister
345 knew back child
346 education kind using
347 work at all health
348 actually dad ever
349 policy S / s economic
350 ever everybody control
351 so already keep
352 at least talk million
353 office home ‘d
354 am am society
355 research shall am
356 feel wrong known
357 big E / e until
358 body together for example
359 door buy major
360 let started door
361 Britain most months
362 3 John itself
363 name read among
364 person ago including
365 services county upon
366 months against England
367 report believe report
368 question door father
369 using hear person
370 health minutes A / a
371 turned idea themselves
372 lot* within around
373 million move words
374 main group anything
375 though anybody level
376 words world book
377 enough whole looking
378 child bloody after
379 less mind enough
380 book T / t effect
381 period O / o name
382 until round areas
383 several person became
384 sure only likely
385 father case feel
386 for example each community
387 level M / m woman
388 control enough international
389 known help work
390 society home centre
391 major aha therefore
392 seemed under city
393 around tomorrow so
394 began percent question
395 itself room position
396 themselves women gave
397 minister paper provide
398 economic heard six
399 wanted taken real
400 upon so that let
401 areas lovely clear
402 after wan~ probably
403 therefore before staff
404 woman far action
405 England all today
406 city up to black
407 community party further*
408 only without act
409 including look special
410 centre looks yes
411 gave stop process
412 job business management
413 among used no
414 position such evidence
415 effect given only
416 likely making particularly
417 real members thus
418 clear second age
419 staff taking certain
420 black men open
421 kind policy line
422 read ai~* wanted
423 provide hand particular
424 particular couple 4
425 became before difficult
426 line hello death
427 moment problems either
428 international ha across
429 action book big
430 special me* read
431 difficult minute third
432 certain asked view
433 particularly best kind
434 either bring sense
435 open small mind
436 management report around
437 taking word taking
438 across eh whose
439 idea months century
440 further* sit seems
441 whole found white
442 age rather moment
443 process looked church
444 act particular rather
445 around fifteen idea
446 evidence hope industry
447 view write whole
448 better full sure
449 off information support
450 mind saw change
451 sense words behind
452 rather service range
453 seems country job
454 believe seventy brought
455 morning gets ca~
456 third understand European
457 else difficult care
458 half exactly study
459 white most free
460 death sometimes table
461 sometimes weeks order
462 thus turn history
463 brought either 10
464 getting better central
465 church wants believe
466 ten top groups
467 shall around sometimes
468 try happened Mrs
469 behind play better
470 heard bought doing
471 God Christmas air
472 table hour language
473 change I / i street
474 4 in~* result
475 support hours rate
476 back system little
477 sort both hands
478 Mrs o’clock trade
479 whose shop off
480 industry fine based
481 ago committee heard
482 free seems human
483 care police experience
484 so that high mean
485 order mother training
486 century absolutely food
487 range D / d similar
488 European yourself data
489 gone G / g team
490 yesterday someone yesterday
491 training line section
492 working young usually
493 ask reason programme
494 street later changes
495 home thinking common
496 word run role
497 groups meeting cases
498 history tonight 5
499 central yesterday Europe
500 all bed shall
501 study mine nature
502 usually TRUE voice
503 remember happy necessary
504 trade situation sir
505 hundred often so that
506 programme set UK
507 food across subject
508 committee somewhere back
509 air tea course
510 hours pick once
511 experience family indeed
512 rate war word
513 hands down ago
514 indeed means authority
515 sir eat companies
516 language view since
517 land show land
518 result certain committee
519 course knew God
520 someone office as well as
521 everything past patients
522 certainly live class
523 based land personal
524 team wait hours
525 section indeed all
526 10 cut systems
527 leave national herself
528 trying at least especially
529 coming du~* someone
530 similar level value
531 once head department
532 minutes mind former
533 authority paid simply
534 human of* single
535 changes thanks home
536 little makes private
537 cases general member
538 common funny working
539 role where practice
540 data/datum although long
541 TRUE change morning
542 Europe boy town
543 necessary sense short
544 nature myself half
545 class mummy TRUE
546 reason town because of
547 long company show
548 saying N / n reason
549 town million right
550 show dear countries
551 subject using try
552 voice happen oh
553 companies girl else
554 since while wife
555 because of training figure
556 simply through rather than
557 especially open bank
558 B / b lost until
559 department finished foreign
560 single plan type
561 short health need
562 personal eleven decision
563 as well as R / r price
564 5 long US
565 pay particularly terms
566 value York minutes
567 member hard financial
568 started putting needed
569 run questions university
570 patients during president
571 paper therefore run
572 private ~no* certainly
573 seven worked leave
574 UK forward recent
575 eight up club
576 systems chairman seem
577 herself Friday south
578 practice Mrs north
579 wife that friend
580 price table according to
581 type afternoon matter
582 seem bye lost
583 figure watch trying
584 former gave soon
585 rather than month quality
586 lost black ask
587 right possible strong
588 need Saturday gone
589 matter seem led
590 decision fire union
591 bank stay parents
592 countries interesting American
593 until matter production
594 makes usually as if
595 union phone date
596 terms nobody building
597 financial agree makes
598 needed Sunday everything
599 south city higher
600 university on to art
601 club course paper
602 president brought stage
603 friend sir 1990
604 parents father late
605 quality in terms of low
606 cos* because of conditions
607 building areas include
608 north development started
609 stage getting
610 meeting British Mr.
611 wo~ clear award
612 foreign happens shown
613 soon tape chapter
614 strong woman followed
615 situation amount ground
616 comes staff described
617 late services tax
618 bed trouble p.
619 recent David English
620 date street various
621 low page May
622 US send secretary
623 concerned around concerned
624 girl until king
625 hard easy despite
626 American difference royal
627 David lord pay
628 according to rest lot*
629 as if market meeting
630 twenty union results
631 higher basically expected
632 tax concerned David
633 used (to) form more than
634 production supposed April
635 various main clearly
636 understand centre B / b
637 led U / u schools
638 bring interest music
639 schools fair knowledge
640 ground real present
641 conditions London situation
642 secretary third hard
643 weeks letter girl
644 clearly love decided
645 bad white required
646 art eighteen students
647 start programme hospital
648 up to once poor
649 include Monday workers
650 poor child March
651 hospital position bed
652 friends power approach
653 decided ready friends
654 ~na* box series
655 shown okay* June
656 music dog tried
657 month plus ten
658 English speak ways
659 tried short game
660 game nearly remember
661 1990 takes natural
662 May stage anyone
663 anyone after field
664 wrong lots cost
665 ways others issue
666 chapter community love
667 followed red added
668 cost enough light
669 play special greater
670 present listen &
671 love themselves for
672 issue wonder bases
673 at all X / x month
674 goes age moved
675 described ought further
676 more than* towards understand
677 award H / h studies
678 Mr. till 6
679 king building 1989
680 royal unless news
681 results walk security
682 workers knows weeks
683 April trade hair
684 expected behind project
685 amount price feet
686 students F / f allowed
687 despite changed bring
688 knowledge piece amount
689 June less above
690 moved answer manager
691 news kids attention
692 light motion died
693 March expect heart
694 approach almost future
695 lord everyone actually
696 p. schools simple
697 cut authority 20
698 basis along kept
699 hair labour* met
700 required hell coming
701 further district force
702 paid anyone lord
703 series extra labour*
704 better type following
705 before bottom carried
706 field sell meet
707 allowed sitting movement
708 easy forget individual
709 kept ya analysis
710 questions food computer
711 natural yep French
712 live Paul considered
713 future carry success
714 rest large near
715 project education stood
716 greater social up to
717 feet cost easy
718 meet once agreement
719 simple love play
720 died fucking structure
721 for fairly 1991
722 happened news agreed
723 added jobs rest
724 C / c stand theory
725 manager worth cut
726 computer pardon account
727 security list current
728 near traffic per
729 met free population
730 evening giving paid
731 means kept evening
732 round half story
733 carried running questions
734 hear wish capital
735 bit* issue legal
736 heart cup whom
737 forward bits material
738 sent since performance
739 above normally modern
740 attention quarter growth
741 labour* actual Scotland
742 story game model
743 structure parents received
744 move hair sent
745 agreed order provided
746 nine period comes
747 & far in order
748 letter mentioned sort
749 individual both sea
750 force asking finally
751 studies change rights
752 movement points produced
753 account interested live
754 per hold board
755 call sent relationship
756 6 budget son
757 board cold parties
758 success become final
759 1989 chance environment
760 French body better
761 following telling letter
762 considered state books
763 current fourteen reached
764 everyone class authorities
765 fire pretty bad
766 agreement evening wrong
767 please add east
768 boy playing nor
769 capital church forward
770 stood shut everyone
771 analysis clearly 12
772 whatever tax property
773 population for example saying
774 20 numbers means
775 modern wife at all
776 theory sixteen built
777 books tried west
778 labour* felt behaviour
779 stop ways included
780 in order moved before
781 legal figures chance
782 Scotland doctor labour*
783 material daddy France
784 son hang record
785 received itself treatment
786 model allowed happened
787 chance size close
788 environment support fire
789 finally councillor prime
790 performance needs energy
791 sea friends previous
792 rights major director
793 growth available serious
794 authorities early example
795 provided spend recently
796 nice god significant
797 whom face space
798 produced south right
799 relationship experience total
800 talk meant boy
801 turn quid levels
802 built yo size
803 final friend design
804 east term along
805 1991 V / v normal
806 talking public July
807 fine late Peter
808 worked management start
809 west various quickly
810 parties need seven
811 size matter technology
812 record rather than 30
813 red board costs
814 close poor suddenly
815 property Jesus following
816 myself turned defence
817 gon~ meet giving
818 example use activities
819 space future details
820 giving quality choice
821 normal go loss
822 nor lady sat
823 reached simply red
824 buy gives issues
825 serious further term
826 quickly holiday income
827 Peter thirteen industrial
828 along yours pressure
829 plan bet away from
830 behaviour decision forces
831 France over there activity
832 recently girls worked
833 term hospital reported
834 previous houses scheme
835 couple figure hear
836 included bag continue
837 pounds a lot United
838 anyway moving association
839 cup Secretary throughout
840 treatment hot opened
841 energy colour cup
842 total care move
843 thank dinner consider
844 director planning relations
845 12 front hotel
846 prime floor won
847 levels story eight
848 significant paying Dr
849 issues straight parts
850 sat onto rates
851 income card hall
852 top Wednesday army
853 choice K / k generally
854 away from basis allow
855 costs bus 15
856 design worry myself
857 pressure hands outside
858 scheme accept sun
859 July written teachers
860 change single turn
861 a bit court spent
862 list support St
863 suddenly L / l stop
864 continue baby wide
865 technology imagine fine
866 hall team dead
867 takes known contract
868 ones bloody arms
869 details Oxford plan
870 happy fucking Soviet
871 consider definitely specific
872 won weekend lower
873 defence awful 7
874 following window military
875 parts department developed
876 loss places list
877 industrial quick wall
878 activities likely summer
879 throughout ball appropriate
880 spent picture appear
881 outside low top
882 teachers region season
883 generally coffee floor
884 opened reckon hon.
885 floor settlement de*
886 round light continued
887 activity however played
888 hope club product
889 points society George
890 association especially appeared
891 nearly decided takes
892 United rate call
893 allow section set
894 rates Thursday effects
895 sun quickly wo~
896 army chair unit
897 sorry law husband
898 wall normal ideas
899 hotel green announced
900 forces north basic
901 contract minus points
902 dead sorts investment
903 30 garden successful
904 Paul action original
905 stay possibly New
906 reported provide produce
907 as well ring showed
908 hour near style
909 difference otherwise 1988
910 meant station popular
911 summer Michael meant
912 county machine test
913 specific instead of village
914 numbers effect Germany
915 wide officers October
916 appropriate Peter whatever
917 husband books 1992
918 top himself change
919 played blue events
920 relations middle suggested
921 Dr happening products
922 figures air returned
923 chairman well Paul
924 set aware numbers
925 lower corner nearly
926 product bank beyond
927 colour learn science
928 ideas groups professional
929 George feet passed
930 St member each other
931 look agreed talk
932 arms terrible colour
933 obviously while interests
934 unless computer figures
935 produce and so on offered
936 changed foot event
937 season cost rules
938 developed project reasons
939 unit Tuesday economy
940 15 control risk
941 appear save direct
942 investment built employment
943 Soviet stupid top
944 test works couple
945 basic until dark
946 write soon September
947 village miles ensure
948 reasons earlier difference
949 military evidence resources
950 original open circumstances
951 successful whole help
952 garden lived happy
953 effects simple stay
954 each other upon aware
955 aware finish follows
956 yourself ground garden
957 exactly income commission
958 help husband designed
959 suppose involved sound
960 showed deal advice
961 style away from immediately
962 7 date a little
963 employment completely needs
964 passed issues America
965 appeared structure January
966 de* wall oil
967 page died unless
968 hold based goods
969 suggested anywhere sales
970 Germany football involved
971 continued space established
972 October along fell
973 offered help changed
974 products language buy
975 popular officer 8
976 science hit traditional
977 New financial window
978 window cars published
979 expect television Scottish
980 hon. hall lines
981 beyond totally blood
982 resources radio western
983 rules site chairman
984 professional wear goes
985 announced boys effective
986 economy sounds German
987 picture process fish
988 okay scheme picture
989 needs housing park
990 doctor Richard James
991 maybe industry response
992 events suggest degree
993 a little Britain please
994 direct strong press
995 gives needed operation
996 advice odd prices
997 running birthday hold
998 circumstances president round
999 sales music access
1000 risk terms title

Ellipsis‏‎ in English Punctuation

EllipsisEllipsis (plural ellipses) is a punctuation‏‎ mark or series of marks that usually show something is missing.

For example, ellipsis:

  • indicates an intentional omission of a word or words in a text
  • at the end of a sentence, it indicates a trailing off into silence or an unfinished thought
  • can also refer to a pause in speech or a missing sound

The missing words or thoughts need to be supplied by the listener or reader and are thus often open to different interpretations.

Ellipsis in Writing


In writing, we usually use three dots to indicate an omission. This can be used to leave out information not strictly necessary for the context. It’s often done when quoting from a book or other source.

For example, the first sentence here is in full. The second sentence quotes from the first but leaves out non-essential information that isn’t needed there and then:

Allied forces, desperate for a victory after recent setbacks, managed to secure the beachhead successfully.

Allied forces managed to secure the beachhead successfully.

Some style guides use the three dots inside square brackets to indicate that a piece of the original has been purposefully removed.

Allied forces […] managed to secure the beachhead successfully.

Note that whenever three dots are used to show removed text they should have a space before and after.

Meaningful Pause

Three dots can also be used to indicate a meaningful pause:

Dracula turned to me and spoke, “I never drink wine.”

Here the implication is that he drinks something else.

Note that the three dots here follow on immediately from the previous word, i.e. there is no space before they begin.

Trailing Off

Finally, in writing ellipsis indicates a trailing off of thought or idea:

She turned to me and gently took my hand. “Why don’t we…”

Depending on the context, the reader can imagine the missing words.

Note, again there is no space before the three dots begin.

Callan Method of Teaching English

ICAL TEFLThe 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 set structures and the general aim is to get students talking as soon as possible and beginners will soon be giving stock answers to set questions.

History of the Callan Method

The method was developed by Robin Callan and first came to the fore in 1959 on the wave of Behaviorist thinking. Callan was a teacher for Berlitz who used a similar method to teach soldiers basic German‏‎ in crash courses.

Following criticism of the method by such figures as Noam Chomsky‏‎, the method fell from popularity but is still used today.


The method has come in for a deal of criticism from many quarters. General concerns raised against it include:

  • boring; classes are highly structured and do not allow for freedom of expression or thought
  • restrictive
  • fluency; whilst students can become very fluent in the set answers they know, when they need to use the language in real life situations not studied before they can become quite lost
  • course level; it is only useful for beginners
  • context; language is presented out of context
  • for teachers it is dull – much repetition with no real freedom to experiment or innovate or take into account different types of classes or learning styles

Useful Links

Boring Lessons‏‎ & Bored Students – why are you students bored and what yo can do to change this.

Accuracy vs Fluency‏‎ in Teaching English – how these two factors can determine the success of English language students.

Feedback the Teacher‏‎

Roman Emporer giving a Thumbs Up sign.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.


In many cases an English teacher will be working alone or in a small school. Whilst big organizations should have a system in place for evaluation and professional development and criticism, many schools will not. Teachers in these schools often feel as though they are working in isolation and it’s difficult to know whether your methods and work are actually making a difference or not.

Likewise, because of language difficulties it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what problems the students might have.

The idea here is that the students are allowed to give their teacher feedback as to how they view their English class and doing this can provide valuable insight into how the class in general is going.

There are no typical responses as all classes are different, but these kinds of responses tend to come up more often than not:

  • We get too much homework.
  • The coursebook is boring.
  • I’d like to do less grammar.
  • I think we need more practice exams.
  • You are too strict.
  • I think you are great!
  • I’d like more games.
  • The coursebook is too easy.

If you think that you would benefit from this kind of feedback and if you are prepared to take the good with the bad, then this kind of exercise can be incredibly useful.


There are different ways you can take feedback from your students, amongst other ideas:

  • a short questionnaire along the lines of rating different aspects of the class
  • a blank slate where students can write what they like
  • two boxes for the students to fill in: what they like and what they dislike

You can make the main feedback as specific or as general as you feel comfortable with. The first time it is perhaps better to make it general, along the lines of, for example:

What I like about my English class:

What I dislike about my English class:

This does not focus on you, the teacher, but on the class itself so you may get replies about the coursebook or the atmosphere in class, etc which you were completely unaware of.

If you feel you are ready for it, you can also ask more specific questions about yourself or ask students to comment on your teaching style and methods.

You can also make the feedback anonymous if you like, asking students to drop it in your pigeon hole or on your desk whenever they prefer.

When and Who

Some teachers will only use this with more mature students. Others will take the whole class.

It’s not useful to do this at the beginning of term but it can be done mid-term or perhaps better still at the end of term (when you won’t have to face the class till after Summer by which time everyone will have forgotten about it!).

And one tip here, it’s best to get students to respond to this kind of survey individually. If they get together in a group and do it you’ll find they tend go with the general opinion of the group rather than voice their own opinions.


And once you have the feedback, what next?

It really depends on the teacher, but it’s generally good to go through everything and ignore the outrageously positive comments and ignore the outrageously negative ones first. The rest will help you build up a picture of what the class feels about itself, about you, and the lessons in general.

And from then, general assumptions can be drawn. Perhaps they are highly specific and practical, for example:

  • one class complained about the air conditioning being too noisy which the teacher hadn’t really considered a problem; the complaint was taken to the school owner and she organized a replacement unit
  • a number of classes complained about the quality of the coursebook which the teacher happened to agree was bad; it was changed for the following term
  • several students complained that their teacher kept them late to finish off the lesson; what the teacher didn’t know was that they needed to catch a bus and when they were kept late they ran the risk of missing it

Other times the feedback can be more general and relate to your teaching style. Perhaps the students feel you are too strict with them. Or maybe they’d prefer less written work in class. Maybe they feel you are distant with them or perhaps they would like more games in class.

As teachers it’s sometimes easy to get into a rut and give the same lessons year after year, barely changing style or content. By getting feedback from – essentially – your customers, you can adjust your methods and content to make them enjoy the lessons more. This in turn will have benefits for you and the students.

See Also

Lesson Snapshot‏‎ for English Teachers – a less personal way of seeing how you teach

How English Works (book)‏‎

Author: Michael Swan ; Catherine Walter
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Details: Paperback; 368 pages; Pub.1997
ISBN: 0194314561


Winner of the English Speaking Union’s Duke of Edinburgh Book Competition, this is not your traditional, dull grammar practice book. Combining rich illustrations and authentic exercises, How English Works makes the learning and practising of grammar both a pleasure and a challenge. Still hot from the press, it became an instant hit with students and teachers alike thanks to its original approach to the presentation and organization of the material.

The book covers all the key elements in the standard EFL grammar syllabus and provides answers and short clear grammar explanations and rules. Grammar is explained in layman’s terms and as concisely as possible. The humorous relief provided by its cartoons and jokes, give real and funny examples of grammar allowing the student to fully consolidate the target grammar point through a light-hearted approach.

Though designed for students working on their own, the book is an invaluable reference for EFL teachers. It divides English grammar into topic areas, and then subdivides these into lesson-length sections. The examples/exercise sentences are relevant and grown-up.

Amongst its key features are:

  • Entry tests to show students what they need to study most.
  • Short, learner-friendly grammar presentations followed by examples of correct use.
  • Simple traditional-type exercises to build confidence.
  • More challenging and innovative exercises to stretch the student.
  • Wide variety of factual, literary and other authentic texts.
  • Hundreds of illustrations, cartoons (many taken from Punch, Private Eye, etc) and other visual cues.
  • Full colour throughout.
  • Two editions available: with Answers and without Answers.

Recommended to EFL/ESL teachers and to intermediate and lower advanced level students (and higher) who want to consolidate their knowledge of the complex workings of English, this book is suitable for use in class, for homework, or for self-study.

External Links

How English Works (Teacher’s Book) (amazon.com)

How English Works (Teacher’s Book) (amazon.co.uk)

Teaching English in Kazakhstan‏‎

Almaty cathedral

Almaty cathedral.

According to the Lonely Planet Guide, Kazakhstan is the ideal country for those who “enjoy remoteness, wide open spaces, lunar landscapes, long hypnotic train rides and horse sausage!”

With a size comparable to that of Western Europe, the Republic of Kazakhstan is the ninth largest nation in the world, extending east to west from the Caspian Sea to the Altay Mountains, and north to south from the plains of Western Siberia to the oasis and desert of Central Asia.

Many people understand and/or speak English‏‎ but don’t expect to find a wealth of information in the language.

The cost of living in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau is very high. Rental prices are also expensive. However foreign English teachers working in private schools can do well.

TEFL in Kazakhstan

In good schools a base salary can start at $30000 USD (€23738, £19089). This is very good money for a TEFL teaching job and you should try to get it paid outside the country, whenever possible. Your salary package will include accommodation allowance, when not offering free accommodation. This is usually apartments owned by the school and let to their teachers. Living in the accommodation provided by the school – even if they are not top notch – can prove a smart move, financially speaking, as utilities are generally covered by the school if you accept their housing. This way you could save between 50 and 70% of your salary. All in all, not a bad deal for teaching English abroad! Of course, to take advantage of this you will need a degree and a good TEFL Certificate.

Since free accommodation and paid for round trip are standard practice you should make sure they are included in your contract. Particularly, given that both apartments to let and air tickets are expensive. Also included in a typical one-year contract are: end of contract bonus, paid holidays and free access to email & Internet facilities.

A year contract is standard but you may also find schools that are happy to hire you for a shorter period. If this is your first time in the country, you may want to avoid committing to more than a year to start with.

Employers usually help sorting out visas for their teachers but you should make sure this is done in advance. The government is very strict on visas.

In general the students are used to a very traditional way of learning with rote repetition often being the order of the day. Sometimes it can be awkward to get the students used to the more advanced (and much more efficient) methods of teaching such as the communicative method.

Entry Requirements

To enter the country a valid passport and visa are required.

As of February 2004, an invitation is no longer required for single-entry business and tourist visas, but multiple-entry visas require an invitation from an individual or organizational sponsor in Kazakhstan.

All travelers must obtain a Kazakhstani visa before entering the country. Overstaying the validity period of a visa will result in fines and delays upon exit. As a traveler you may be asked to provide proof at the border of your onward travel arrangements. Whatever you do, you are advised not hand over your passport at arrival!

For complete information concerning entry requirements, U.S. citizens should contact the Kazakhstani Embassy in Washington, or the Kazakhstani Consulate in New York.

Background to Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. However the bureaucracy and red tape typical of the Soviet nations still remains.

Oil and gas is the leading economic sector and Kazakhstan is a very healthy nation, financially speaking. So much so that in 2000 it became the first former Soviet republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – seven years ahead of schedule!

Astana is the official capital but Almaty (capital city till 1998) remains the largest city in Kazakhstan with a population of approx. 1.5 million, and the most fun!

Teachers’ Day in Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan teachers are celebrated during the first week of October. Classes are shorter than usual and during the extra time students prepare performances for their teachers. Some students will organize a short concert of song and dance which will sometimes include a humorous skit where they mimic their teachers. These are sometimes lavish (although noisy) affairs with parents, teachers, and students all watching together.

These days students will often make videos to remind them of their school days and to pay tribute to the teachers.

Also students offer their teachers small presents such as flowers and sweets. During this time the price of flowers rise as their is such a demand and one curious tradition is that in Kazakhstan giving an even number of flowers is only done on sad occasions (death or when visiting a sick relative) so teachers will either receive 1 flower (often a rose) if the student likes them or 3 flowers if they are a particular favorite of the student.

Useful Links

Teaching Corporate English in Kazakhstan – a personal blog on running an English school in Kazakhstan

First TEFL Lesson Interview

 First TEFL Lesson Interview is a good activity for a 1-to-1‏‎ lesson to break the ice and get to know your student. It can also be adapted for larger classes.

Quite simply, either before the lesson if you have the chance, or during the first few minutes of the lesson, ask your student to write down 10 questions‏‎ which they would like to ask you. Tell them the subject matter can be about anything they like: personal life, love life, professional life… whatever they wish.

Then, take those questions and simply ask the student to answer them (you might have to adjust them slightly depending on circumstances); you can follow this up with further conversation and also answering the questions briefly yourself.


The idea here is simple. In a 1-to-1 lesson especially it is good for the student to talk as much as possible so rather than have you answer the questions, get your student to answer them.

Another useful aspect of this activity is that when the student is thinking about the questions they would like to ask you, they will use subjects which interest them so you will quickly be able to get an idea of what your student is interested in. For example, if they ask you which is your favourite football team then this is probably a subject which they enjoy talking about.

Larger Classes

With larger classes you will need to break the students into pairs making sure they do not know their partner. Tell them to write 10 questions which they’d like ask and then once they’ve done this, simply get them to swap lists and ask each other the questions they’ve put down.

CPE – Certificate of Proficiency in English‏‎ Examination

ICAL TEFLThe 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 Framework of Reference for Languages.

The exam is considered passed if the candidate achieves a grade of A, B or C.

How it Works

The CPE exam consists of five papers:

  • Reading‏‎ – 1.30 hours where students will need to be able to understand the meaning of written English at words‏‎, sentence‎, paragraph and whole text level.
  • Writing‏‎ – 2 hours where students will have to show they can produce a number of different items such as a short story, a letter, an article, a report or a composition, each of about 300—350 words.
  • Use of English – 1.30 hours where students will be tested by tasks which examine how well they can control grammar and vocabulary as well as their summarizing skills.
  • Listening  – 40 minutes where students will need to show they can understand the meaning of a range of spoken material, including lectures, news programs and public announcements.
  • Speaking – 20 minutes where students will take the test with another candidate or in small groups. They will be tested on their ability to take part in different types of interaction: with the examiner, with the other candidates and by themself.

External Link

CPE – official webpage

Longman Pronunciation Dictionary‏‎ (book)

Author: J.C. Wells
Publisher: Pearson ESL
Details: Paperback; 80 pages; 2nd Ed. Pub.2000
ISBN: 0582364671

This dictionary deals with both English and American pronunciations and the variations of word pronunciations. It shows over 135,000 different pronunciations from British and American English, including technical vocabulary and proper names. If your intention is to acquire RP then this is the dictionary for you!

A fully revised third edition is also available. It includes new words such as iTunes, Skype and Tikrit and comes with a Pronunciation Coach CD-ROM which gives students practical help to improve their own pronunciation.

External Links

Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (amazon.com)

Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (amazon.co.uk)

Fewer vs Less‏‎

ICAL TEFLThe debate about using fewer or less when referring to quantity still rages. It is related to the concept of descriptive vs prescriptive grammars.

In terms of historical origin, less has been used continuously in English for hundreds of years to refer to comparative quantity with all nouns whilst the use of fewer is fairly recent and applies to countable nouns‏‎.

Grammatical Difference

The grammatical difference between the two is fairly straightforward:

less is the comparative for little and is often used with non-countable nouns:

The is only a little sugar left in the bowl.
There is less sugar in this bowl than in that bowl.

fewer is the comparative for few and is used with countable nouns:

There are only a few cars on the road today.
There are fewer cars on the road today than yesterday.


However, in everyday English many people will use less with countable nouns. Phrases like these are common:

? There are less cars on the road today than yesterday.

? We worked less hours than usual.

? a question mark at the beginning of a sentence is used to show a sentence which is grammatically questionable

While Google n-grams finds over 13 million examples of less than it finds just under 600,000 examples of fewer than. This means that regardless of whether you look at countable or non-countable nouns, less is, in fact, far more popularly used than fewer and appears to be driving fewer out of use.

For the TEFL Teacher

As a teacher, should you correct a student who says there are less words to learn or less students in class?

This will depend on whether you are teaching “correct” English as defined by traditional grammars or spoken English as defined by most speakers of English. The question you have to ask yourself is: does it matter? Some people think it does, some people think it doesn’t and who is to say who is right?

Useful Links

n-grams & TEFL – analyzing language for patterns

Descriptive vs Prescriptive Grammars – the difference in how we see language

The Practice of English Language Teaching‏‎ (book)

Author: Jeremy Harmer
Publisher: Pearson Longman ELT
Details: paperback; 4th Edition; Pub. 2007
ISBN: 1405853115

This Longman Handbook for language teachers comes with DVD in its 4th edition.

The book looks at various teaching approaches and discusses current ELT issues but it is also a practical teaching guide that covers everything from intonation through to the use of audio-visual equipment in class.

With its emphasis on the communicative approach, this book is considered an ELT classic and a great reference book for teachers, teacher trainers and ELT professionals.

External Links

The Practice of English Language Teaching (amazon.com)

The Practice of English Language Teaching (amazon.co.uk)


Greek vs English

Greek is spoken by about 12 million people. The majority of these are in Greece and Cyprus‏‎ whilst the Greek diaspora are generally bilingual.

This article looks at the kinds of problems Greek as a mother tongue speakers have in learning English.


In Greece English films are subtitled on the television rather than dubbed and exposure to English, albeit passively, is widespread. American and British music is popular as well so many students will already have some knowledge of English style, rhythm and idiom.

In addition, tourism is a major part of the Greek economy and tourists are everywhere; this means that many Greek families have regular contact with visiting foreigners who almost invariably speak English. Finally many Greeks emigrated during the second half of the 20th century and thus almost every Greek has a family member overseas; there is often contact between them and thus many Greeks have had further exposure to a foreign language.

Alphabet & Spelling

The first obvious difference between English and Greek is the alphabet‏‎ which is significantly different. This means that when writing, beginners‏‎ often have difficulty forming the letters properly and as a teacher you should allow some extra time here for explanation and practice.

There are often differences in official transliterations of place names and so on and since there is not always a direct correspondence between Greek and English letters and sounds, common mistakes occur (especially compounded by pronunciation). Thus a Greek beginner may write:

He ate some lamb.

But say:

/ hi et səm læmp /


Greek sentences tend to be much longer and more complex than the SVO‏‎ style of English. When writing English, Greeks will often use what English sees as longer, more convoluted sentence structure. Sometimes it is worth having lessons especially on the style of shorter sentences used in modern English.

Commas are common in Greek writing, especially immediately following the subject. This needs to be corrected.

Note also that Greek uses the semi-colon symbol as a question mark, for example:

Πού είσαι;

Where are you?

This will need to be corrected but does not usually cause too much of a problem.


Certain English sounds do not exist in Greek.

  • as in church
  • ʃ as in shape
  • ɪ as in hit

Time should be spent on these and minimal pair‏‎ practice can help here.


In grammar there are a number of common MT influences‏‎.


Greek commonly uses a direct article with a generic or abstract noun‏‎:

* I went for a walk in the nature.

* For some poor people, the life is difficult.

Note, grammatically incorrect sentences are shown with an asterisk at the beginning.

And there are no indefinite articles‏‎ in Greek so common mistakes include using one instead of a.

* Can you pass me one pen?

* I saw one car accident last night.

Greek also does not use an article after the copula so this is common:

* He is doctor.

* I am good student.


Common verb errors include confusing the present tense forms. This confusion arises simply because Greek tense forms do not correspond precisely to English tense forms:

* I am working here for five years.

* I make phone call now.

In addition, it is common to hear:

* I must to go!

Which can be a difficult habit to break especially since English is rather illogical on this point:

I must go!

I have to go!


Teaching prepositions‏‎ needs to be done carefully. Mistakes from Greek speakers are common in this area and are generally a result of MT influence such as:

* I have known her from many years.

* I depend from you.

Other Issues

There are a number of other common issues with Greek students learning English. Teaching in Greece you may well hear:

* I have closed fifteen years.

Meaning, I am fifteen years old. This is a direct translation from Greek.

* I have five months to see you.

Meaning, I haven’t seen you for five months. This comes from the way the perfect tense is used in Greek.

* Can you open/close the light?

Meaning, Can you turn on/off the light? This is a direct translation from Greek.

In using titles‏‎, Greek often uses Mr/Mrs along with the first name, thus it’s common to hear students (especially younger ones) addressing their teacher as Mister John or Miss Mary. You need to explain that terms like Mr/Mrs are only used with last names in English.

Zellig Harris‏‎

Zellig HarrisBorn in Ukraine in 1909, he was taken to the United States (PA) as a child.

A student in the Oriental Studies department, he received his bachelor’s (1930), master’s (1932), and doctoral (1934) degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He began teaching at Penn in 1931, and would go on to found the linguistics department there in 1947, the first such department in the country.

Harris carried the structural linguistic ideas of Leonard Bloomfield to their furthest logical development: to discover the linear distributional relations of phonemes and morphemes.

His “Methods in Structural Linguistics” (1951) established his scholarly reputation as a theorist. In subsequent work on discourse analysis, Harris suggested the use of transformations as a means of expanding his method of descriptive analysis to cross sentence boundaries.

Since Harris was Noam Chomsky’s teacher, some linguists have questioned whether Chomsky’s transformational grammar is as revolutionary as it has been portrayed, but the two scholars developed their ideas in different contexts and for different purposes.

Teaching English in Kuwait‏‎

© <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/yousefmalallah/' target='_blank'>Yousef Malallah</a>TEFL/TESOL in Kuwait‏‎

Kuwait is a small but very cosmopolitan country with workers and expatriates from many different countries living there. There is a thriving EFL market for the right kind of teacher.

Living Conditions

Kuwait is not necessarily the most interesting country to teach in when it comes to nightlife, going out, cultural experiences and so on. It does have a couple of museums and sights but it is essentially a city in the desert containing a lot of businesses and workers. Several teachers have mentioned that there is not a great deal to do in their time off – shopping, being the great exception.

Alcohol is prohibited although one can find it, especially amongst the expat population. Bringing alcohol into the country usually leads to its confiscation and nothing more however it is not recommended as it sometimes leads to stronger punishment. Some people create their own wine with sugar and grape juice which is popular in the supermarkets.

Censorship is rife, especially any film or print item related to sex, politics or religion.


Kuwait requires that English is taught at state school although most of the teachers are not native speakers. There is also a thriving private market teaching English to the locals in the service industries as well as expats hoping to improve their business English‏‎.

Because the students in these private schools are often working, classes are sometimes held at unsociable hours, either early in the morning or late at night.

Jobs here and at state schools and universities are advertised in local and national newspapers. Qualifications for other schools are a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. ICAL have a number of graduates working in Kuwait on the basis of our certificate. Experience is a good help but not essential.

Typically there will be 6 weeks holiday per year with health benefits, airfare and accommodation provided.

The other major area of teaching are private TEFL lessons (again advertised in local papers, clubs and through word of mouth). These will cover both business people as well as students, especially in the run up to their English exams.

The British Council‏‎ also has a center in Kuwait and recruits highly qualified teachers for placement here and there are some jobs at University level although higher qualifications are required (typically an MA, Diploma and experience). In addition, there are also a number of international schools mainly for expat children.

Trading Places‏‎

Trading Places posterTrading Places is a great ice breaker activity and a lot of fun. It’s also ideal for practicing questions‏‎. It’s simple to run this activity and no preparation is needed which means it’s great to know for those emergency situations in class!


With the class as a whole brainstorm some questions you can ask about each other. You should come up with a list something like this:

  • Where do you live?
  • How old are you?
  • Where were you born?
  • Do you have brothers or sisters?

For older students you can include questions such as:

  • What job do you do?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?

And so on.

The idea here is to get a good selection of everyday questions about people. With lower level classes you can leave the questions on the board; with more advanced classes you might want to erase them.

Running the Activity

Get the class into pairs. Then give them 5 minutes or so to ask and answer the questions; optionally you can allow them to make notes as they do this.

While this is going on, you circulate and help out where you can.

At the end of the five minutes tell them they have to trade places. That is, if Peter is paired with Costas then now Peter becomes Costas and Costas becomes Peter.

Get the class back in their places and choose a student at random and ask their name; they should, of course, reply with their new identity. Now ask a few questions to them and they need to answer in the guise of their new persona!

Once the class are familiar and understand the concept you can continue with new pairs and get the students to trade places several times. It gets confusing but it’s great fun!

Variations on a Theme

Rather than you ask questions of one student, have the class mix it up a little into a cocktail party situation where they mingle and ask each other (always as their new persona).

With more advanced classes the questions can be that much more advanced: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done? Why do you want to learn English? If you had the choice, what would be your favorite job? and so on.

Roots and English Words

A root is the very simplest form of a word without any affix‏‎es or changes. It cannot be made any smaller and is sometimes known as the base word.

For example, take the word important. This consists of 3 parts:

im (a prefix) + port (the root) + ant (a suffix])

So the root of the word is simply: port.

Often you will find that the roots of many English words are Latin or Greek‏‎.

Roots in TEFL

In TEFL‏‎, you can talk about the simplest form of the word as being the root. If you come across a new word with your class it’s often helpful to ask the students to identify the root of the word to help work out what the word means.

Suppose, for example, the class comes across the word converse in a text and they do not know what it means. You can guide them to working out the root which, in this case, is verse.

Now, work with the class in finding other words featuring this root:

reverse, adverse, verse, diverse, conversation

and so on. Explain that the root, verse comes from Latin and means to turn. From this the meaning of the different words becomes apparent:

reverse – turn back

adverse – turn against

diverse – different (moving in different directions)

conversation – talking (one person speaks, then the conversation turns and another speaks)

and so on. You can work with the class explaining the affix con with examples (usually meaning against) and come up with a good guess as to the meaning of converse:

turning against

Getting your class used to working out the root of new words helps them understand more easily new vocabulary and helps learning.

Grammatical Roots

As well as roots providing the building blocks for vocabulary, word roots can also be used to build different grammatical constructions. For example, if you add -ed to a word root this usually makes the past form of the verb.

walk > walked

work > worked

and so on. Other changes to the root help form other grammatical forms of the word.

Again, helping your class identify the root of the word can help them understand what grammatical function the word plays.

Useful Links

Lemma‏‎ – this is the headword you will find in a dictionary; a lemma is derived from a root

Affix‏‎es – along with roots, the building blocks of words

The Etymology‏‎ of English – where words come from

Content and Language Integrated Learning‏‎ in TEFL

CLIL word cloudCLIL 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 is often unrelated to language learning.

So, for example, you might teach electrical engineering in English‏‎ to a class of intermediate level students from several different countries around the world.

The result of this approach is that the learner gains knowledge about the ‘non-language’ subject while using and learning the foreign language.

Teachers working with CLIL are specialists in their own discipline rather than traditional language teachers. They are usually fluent speakers of the target language, bilingual or native speakers.

CLIL has been applied successfully for over 10 years to all sectors of education from primary through to adult and higher education.

How it Works in TEFL

CLIL is based on language acquisition‏‎ rather than enforced learning, as it has been proven that when students are interested in a topic they are more motivated to learn the language they will need to be able to talk or read about it.

CLIL is long-term learning process based on natural language development. Students become academically proficient in English after 5-7 years in a good bilingual program; compare this with the number of years it takes a child to learn their native language.

In CLIL fluency is more important than accuracy and errors are a natural part of language learning. Students develop fluency in the new language (English, for example) by using it to communicate for a variety of purposes.

In a practical way, CLIL can be brought into the TEFL classroom (albeit in a minor way) by running lessons where English is merely used as the medium of instruction and communication while the students are engaged in a very different task. Think here of the Dragons Den‏‎ Business Activity1 where the thrust of the lesson is about presentation and ideas rather than accuracy in English; or perhaps taking the students on a field trip to a local historical site and have them work on

Growth of CLIL

Despite the predominance of English as the lingua franca‏‎ in most of the private and public sectors, the need to accommodate the growing multilingual society brought about by the expansion of the European Union‏‎ has made CLIL more relevant than ever.

Government bodies and educational institutions have come to recognize the importance of people’s ability to work and interact in two or three languages. In fact, taking into account the ever more integrating world we live in, the European Commission has set as one of its objectives that all European citizens should have competence in two European languages on top of their mother tongue.

Thus more and more schools are looking at methods and forms of classroom teaching and learning that allow students to become pluri-lingual and pluri-cultural professionals. Learning a language and a subject simultaneously, as CLIL advocates, is viewed as a good way to catch two birds with one stone!

Useful Links

1 Dragons Den‏‎ – a business activity for students of Business English

Teaching Methodologies – a look at various TEFL methodologies

Family Tree – vocabulary activity

A family wedding in black and white.

Several generations

Family Tree is an ideal and fun activity for students to practice family relations and working within that semantic field.

The basic idea is that you give your students a series of statements about a family such as, “Joe is Mary’s brother” and, “Frank is Julie’s Grandfather” and so on and from these, the students need to construct a family tree. It takes not only knowledge of English but also a bit of lateral thinking on the part of the students and is an ideal group game.


First off draw a family tree with all the relationships you want to practice. This will only be given out to the students at the end of the exercise to check against their own.

This example will be able to practice the following vocabulary:

  • husband – wife
  • brother – sister
  • cousin
  • niece – nephew
  • son – daughter
  • father – mother
  • grandfather – grandmother
  • grandson – granddaughter
  • son-in-law – daughter-in-law
  • father-in-law – mother-in-law
  • brother-in-law – sister-in-law

Once you have this, prepare a number of statements about the relationships which will help your students construct the family tree from scratch.

  1. Joe is Philip’s father.
  2. Susan is Tom’s wife.
  3. Mary is Julia’s niece.

and so on. These can either be dictated to the class later or handed out on cards, etc.

Running the Activity

Firstly you might need to go through with the class some of the relationship vocabulary to make sure everyone’s aware of the different relationships.

Next, divide the class into small groups of two or three. Explain to them they’re going to construct a family tree from the relationship clues you’ll be giving them.

Start writing up the clues on the board, one at a time. As you write the students can begin work and start drawing the tree. It’s not necessary to write all the clues up so once you have written say five or six you can move around the class to see how things are progressing.

An alternative to this is pin the clues in one corner of the room; each group sends one student up to find a clue, read it and then come back and tell it to the group. This adds a bit of extra language practice to this activity.

At some point one group will work out the tree – in which case you can stop the activity to check against the master diagram – or they’ll get completely stuck in which case you can write up a few more clues.

The winner is the first team to put together a family tree identical to the original.

Variations on a Theme

Once you have done the basic activity with a class, you can start to bring in extras to make it harder

  • more generations
  • less common relations such as second marriages, adopted children, twins, gay relationships, etc

The Comparative Game‏‎


Which is bigger?

The Comparative Game is a simple way to get your class practicing comparatives. It’s best used at the end of a lesson where you’ve been looking at comparatives and adjectives and/or adverbs in general.

Playing the Game

Firstly divide the class into groups of four or so students each and tell them they’re playing against each other.

Then have them write a list of 10 adjectives down (ideally related to those they have been studying), e.g.


Then have them write a list of 10 countries, e.g.


They have 10 minutes to come up with a comparative sentence featuring each of the adjectives in their first list and all of the countries in their second list.

America is bigger than Japan.

Japan is smaller than America.

The south of France is usually than Alaska in America.

Variations on a Theme

The second list the students does not have to be countries. It could be:

  • foods
  • people
  • inventions
  • objects

Anything, in fact, which you’d like the students to practice.

You can also have a list of verbs to make comparative sentences with:

Usain Bolt runs faster than David Beckham.

Lady Gaga sings better than Madonna. **

** And invite discussion of course; some people in the class might disagree with a statement!

Useful Links

Comparatives‏‎ in English – on adjectives in their comparative form.

Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use (book)‏‎

Author: Stephen Krashen
Publisher: Heinemann
Details: Paperback; 112 pages; Pub.2003
ISBN: 0325005540

Stephen Krashen’s widely known theory of Second Language Acquisition has had a huge impact on all areas of second language research and teaching since the 1970s. This book amounts to a summary and assessment by Krashen of much of his work thus far, as well as a compilation of his thoughts about the future.

In this book Krashen reviews the fundamentals of SLA theory; presents some of the original research supporting the theory and more recent studies; offers counterarguments to criticisms; explores new areas that have promise for progress in both theory and application.

This Krashen’s book is easy to follow and has great explanations!

External Links

Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use (amazon.com)

Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use (amazon.co.uk)


Q & A Ice Breaker‏‎

Q and AQ & A Ice Breaker is an activity designed for a new class so that the students get to know each other and you, the teacher, can begin to understand the level and interests of your students.

There are a number of different ways you can use this activity. Essentially thought it begins with you preparing a series of flashcards‏‎ on which you have a lot of random questions. These should be interesting and provocative without being too personal or intrusive. For example, you could prepare questions like these:

  • What is your favourite film?
  • If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
  • What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
  • If you could meet anyone from history, who would you like to meet?

Notice that these questions include a number of conditionals‏‎ and so would not be suitable for a beginners‏‎ class. One method to make your questions useful to any class is to group them into levels by using colour coded card. For example, questions on red cards are for advanced students, questions on green card are for beginners and above.


The cards can be used in different ways depending on the class. Essentially though each student picks a card at random, answers it and then asks another student.

With small classes (or if the class is in groups‏‎) then each student can answer the question. With larger groups you can restrict it so perhaps just one or two students answer the question.

And of course, don’t worry if a discussion develops amongst the students from the question – as long as it’s in English!

Typical Questions

These are typical questions you might use; feel free to add your own to the list though and to tweak them for the class/culture you are working with.

Beginners (green)

  • Who is your favourite movie star?
  • What is your favourite food?
  • Are you a morning or night person?
  • What is your most valuable possession?
  • You were just given a yacht. What will you name it?
  • What’s your favourite sport?
  • You have won a million dollars. What will you do with it?
  • What’s your favourite song/movie?
  • Who is the most famous person you’ve ever met?

Intermediate (orange)

  • What was your perfect holiday?
  • Who is your favourite fictional character and why?
  • What is your ideal job?
  • What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
  • If they made a movie of your life which actor would you want to play you?
  • What was the best thing that happened to you this weekend?
  • What is your favourite way to waste time at work/school without getting caught?
  • Which famous person would you like to meet?
  • Where will you be in 10 years time?
  • What is your passion?

Advanced (red)

  • If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
  • What is one goal you’d like to accomplish during your lifetime?
  • If you could have any super power, what would you have?
  • If they made a movie of your life, what would it be about and which actor would you want to play you?
  • Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
  • If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?
  • Who would win a fight between a badger and a baboon?
  • If you had to teach something, what would you teach?


The game can be played with focus on a particular grammatical elements or structures if you wish. For example, with a class who are studying comparatives and superlatives‏‎ or the present perfect simple‏‎, the questions could be biased to this area, for example:

  • What’s the best recipe you know?
  • What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?
  • What’s the best thing you’ve ever smelled?
  • What’s the worst present you have ever given someone?
  • What’s the best present you have ever received?
  • What’s the worst film you have ever seen?

Teaching English in Puerto Rico‏‎

A colorful street in Puerto RicoTEFL/TESOL in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a small group of islands in the Caribbean; it is a self-governing territory of the USA‏‎.

With a population of about 4 million, the official languages are Spanish and English however Spanish is by far the most dominant language and despite English being taught in schools, many Puerto Ricans go through life without using it at all. The 2008 census reporting just 32% of Puerto Ricans speaking English at home.

TEFL Job Availability

Due to recent changes in the law, many existing teachers in the country were made redundant and so have turned to the private sector to find work. This means that there is a glut of teachers in the country at the moment and work is hard to come by. Most work is in the larger towns and cities (San Juan – 420,000; Bayamon – 200,000 etc), but work may still be found in some of the outlying islands.

However, in 2012 the governor announced an initiative to make the country bilingual by 2022. This is seen as a precursor to moving from a territory of the US to full statehood.

TEFL Pay and Conditions

Pay is not great and a new teacher can expect to start on about $1500 USD (€1187, £954) per month while the cost of living is quite high.

The usual qualifications to teach are a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. Knowing Spanish helps although it’s not a requirement. If you are lucky and already living in Puerto Rico, you may be able to pick up work without a degree.

State schools teach English and Spanish but are generally quite poor in resources and infrastructure. There are private schools which are generally better equipped and teach richer locals and diplomats, etc.

Image © Emilio Santacoloma

Applying as a Couple to Teach English Abroad


Love is in the air.

It is sometimes the case that two people – partners, friends, a married couple, etc – will want to head abroad and find work together, if possible in the same school.

Our advice is: do NOT apply to work in the same school.

There are several important reasons for this:

  1. There tend to be less jobs for couples than for single teachers. If you insist on going to work at the same school then you are severely limiting your opportunities. You are far more likely to find two jobs in the same town at different schools.
  2. Schools are often wary about hiring couples. Schools realize that if one of the teachers is unhappy then they may lose two teachers if they decide to leave. This costs them twice as much in terms of paperwork, advertising costs, replacements, etc.
  3. Suppose you both find work in the same school and then discover it is an appalling school. You are both stuck there till you find replacement jobs. If, on the other hand, you work in separate schools then in a worst case scenario, one of you can leave the bad school and as a couple you will still have an (albeit reduced) income to live off while they look for work.
  4. Working at the same school is no guarantee of having similar schedules. In fact, you may find that with split lessons you see less of each other when you’re at the same school, especially if it’s quite small. On the other hand, if you work at different schools you are more likely to have a similar timetable.
  5. There tend to be less job offers looking for couples; if you restrict yourselves to these then you will lessen your chance of finding work.

Of course there are exceptions to this and some couples have found excellent positions in the same school (in fact some schools like to advertise this giving the school a more “family” atmosphere) but in general, in our opinion, it is best to keep things separate.

On another tack many schools, especially religious ones in Asia, are very conservative and will not employ a couple who are not legally married. They have also been known to discretely remove teachers who have been found out to be living with another person or who are LGBT.

Cambridge University Press‏‎

CUP LogoCambridge University Press (known colloquially as CUP) is a publisher given a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1534, and one of the two major university presses in the UK (the other being Oxford University Press).

It published its first book in 1584, and has published at least one book every year since then, making it the oldest publishing and printing house in the world. It is both an academic and educational publishing house, a printing factory, and the printer for official documents for the University of Cambridge.

The Press is now a global organisation with a regional structure operating in the Americas, in UK/Europe/Middle-East/Africa, and in Asia-Pacific. Headquartered in Cambridge UK, the company has warehousing centres in Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, São Paulo and Singapore, with offices and agents in many other countries.

Its publishing output includes major ELT courses and learning aids such as dictionaries.

Teaching Exam Classes


The quiet before the quiet.

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 culture or literature of your home country, you instead end up teaching them rote fashion how to conjugate verbs, how to parse sentences and so on.

However, you must always remember that the needs of your students override your own needs. If the students are in the class to take the exam (often because they will benefit from having it) then that is your primary objective. Remember, for your students passing the exam is often extremely important!


The general aim of your class is to have your students pass the exam. In order to do this your students must:

  • be familiar with the language material they are likely to find in the exam
  • be familiar with the structure of the exam
  • be familiar with the likely conditions under which they’ll take the exam

This, then, means that you need to teach these 3 aspects of the exam.

Speak an Adverb‏‎

Tired... happy... in loveSpeak an Adverb is a way to have your students practice different kinds of intonation‏‎ and language register‏‎ in English and also to help them become aware of the importance they play in speaking‏‎.

A short amount of preparation is enough for different versions of the game and with right materials it can be used to practice intonation with many different ages and levels‏‎ of students.


Make up a list of cards‏‎ each of which has an adverb‏‎ style on it. For example:

  • happily
  • sadly
  • questioningly
  • angrily
  • lovingly
  • nervously
  • condescendingly

You can also include more situational types of adverb cards:

  • speaking to your boss; you’re worried he’s going to fire you
  • talking to a baby
  • talking to a customs official and your suitcase is full of smuggled goods
  • at a job interview
  • you know a terrible secret about the person you’re speaking to

and so on.

In Class

There are different ways to play this. For the first couple of examples, it is often best to show the class yourself. Then get a good student up to show them again, then the rest of the class.

First choose a good phrase that you’d like to practice with the class and write it up on the board. Make sure everyone understands what it means.

Now pick an adverb card at random from the pile and, without showing it to the class, read the phrase out in the style of the adverb. For example the phrase might be have a nice day! and you pick out the adverb grumpily.

The class then have to try and guess what’s on the card. Then of course you can bring different students to the front to play the game or have them in small groups doing this.

Variations on a Theme

Analysis. Depending on the class, you can take each adverb and examine it with the class, drawing diagrams and explaining how the intonation changes depending on the context.

Multiple Phrases. Instead of using just one phrase, have a list of phrases and the students each pick a different phrase before picking an adverb card. These phrases, of course, should be the right level for the class. You can include phrases you’ve recently worked on with the class on topics they are familiar with.

Taping. You might also like to introduce a tape recorder into the class to have the class listen to variations in intonation with the same phrase.

Competition. You can also divide the class into teams. A student from Team A comes up and has to speak the adverb to their team. If their team can’t guess, Team B tries to answer with points being awarded and so on.

Useful Links

Adverbs‏‎ – all about adverbs

Speaking‏‎ – a general look at speaking in ELT

Intonation‏‎ – an introduction to intonation

Language Register‏‎ – a look at language register and what it means

Image © unclefuz

Oxford University Press‏‎

OUP LogoOxford University Press or OUP is a publishing house and a department of the University of Oxford in England. It is the largest university press in the world, being larger than all the American university presses combined with Cambridge University Press.

It has branches all over the world including India, Pakistan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Nigeria and the Republic of South Africa.

It is one of the world’s leading publisher of ELT material and is especially known for its dictionaries.

Teaching English in Tunisia

Tunisia is a former French colony where traditionally students are taught in Arabic‏‎ in primary school, then in French in secondary school and at university, with English lessons starting in year five of primary school and carrying on throughout secondary school for three hours a week.

Now all this is about to change. In an effort to tackle its high unemployment rate amongst young Tunisians, Tunisia is working to transform its educational system.

Currently the budget of the Ministry of Education is one fifth of the whole state budget. It is hoped that by improving vocational training and developing a multilingual workforce Tunisia will be able to attract investment from Europe and lend its skilled workers to wealthy Gulf countries.

Boosting English language skills is seen as key in this move to invest in education. In its effort Tunisia Ministry of Education will be aided by the British Council, the UK’s international agency for education and cultural relations, to develop the English Reform Project (see below).

Teaching in Tunisia

The most usual qualification to teach English in Tunisia are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate.

It’s not usually difficulty to find work if you are already in the country although pay is not brilliant and conditions in school tend to be fairly basic. Monthly pay is around 1,700 TND or $1000 USD (€791, £636). Your school will help with the visa and it is not uncommon for English teachers to arrive on a tourist visa and then look for work, converting this into a work visa later on.

However, the cost of living is cheap (especially accommodation) and if you are into ancient history or a relaxed lifestyle it is perfect!

English Reform Project

The project aims at creating a new generation of school leavers who will be competent communicators in English, as well as in their first language, Arabic, and second language, French.

This nationwide ELT project will start across primary and secondary schools from 2010 and it will run for up to 10 years, with the BC acting as the Ministry’s exclusive project partner and principal funder for the whole period.

The project will introduce existing teachers to communicative teaching methods. The ELT curriculum will be completely overhauled, with new coursebooks and materials, and a new system of exams and testing will be introduced based on the Common European Framework for Languages, the widely adopted benchmarking system for assessing foreign language competence.

The BC will also develop a parallel programme to improve Tunisia’s vocational skills training, which will also have an English language teaching component.

The US State department has given $250,000 towards training teachers and the British Council is also building its presence in Tunisia.


Although it is not obligatory, many women wear headscarves. Foreign women often wear a scarf in respect of the local customs, however in some state buildings it is actually forbidden. As regards general dress, although Tunisia is not as strict as some countries, general decorum is expected.

Useful Links

No Marmite in Tunisia – a good blog from an expat in Tunisia

Guess Who – ice breaker activity


Who is this?

Guess Who is a simple ice breaker which can be used on the first day of class. There’s little preparation and it can easily develop into a chat or discussion with more advanced classes.

All you need to prepare this activity are small strips of paper; say two for each student. (Of course if you want to add more to the activity you can instruct the students on doing this for themselves.)

Running the Activity

Give each student two strips of paper and tell them to write on each strip an interesting, true, but unusual fact about themselves. For example:

  • I met the President 3 years ago.
  • My hobby is star gazing.
  • My sister is married to a national football player.
  • I once jumped out of an plane at 30,000 feet!

The slips are folded up and put into a shoe box and mixed up. Pick out a slip at random and read it out loud and then – with the class’ help – try to guess which student wrote it. You have 3 guesses and if you still haven’t found it, the writer must stand up and tell the class.

Depending on the subject of the fact, you can ask a few questions about it and it’s likely that others in the class will want to know more.

  • So where did you jump out of this plane?
  • How long have you been star gazing?

Once you’ve demonstrated it, the person who stood up takes a strip and reads it out then tries to guess who wrote it.

Of course this is just a basic version, it’s easy to turn this into a team game or develop it further into discussion and so on.

Teaching English in Angola


Angola Flag

Angola is a poor country in southern Africa. After independence from Portugal‏‎ in 1975 it entered a civil war which lasted several decades and cost millions of lives and refugees. The war officially ended in 2002 and since then the country is seen as developing fast and growing financially and culturally.

It has a population of roughly 18.5 million with the capital Luanda at about 2.7 million. Although Portuguese is the national language, there are 6 recognized national languages mostly divided amongst various ethnic groups in the country.

Training adults in English is a priority in Angola (as in many other African countries where the lingua franca‏‎ is Portuguese or French). On the other hand, English learning is certainly an expensive endeavor for Angolans as English teaching materials are strongly protected by copyright and consequently hard to buy on a mass scale.

Teaching Conditions in Angola

The majority of the population of Angola is extremely poor and whilst things are slowly returning to some semblance of normality since the ceasefire in 1994, things still have some way to go. Living conditions for teachers are simple and basic and there is a great demand for experienced teachers, especially in the more rural and remote areas where a school can be just the shade under a tree. Depending on the location, electricity is intermittent so lesson preparation should bear this in mind. Crime is also a problem and many foreigners live in specially guarded compounds.

Payment & Teaching Opportunities in Angola

Pay is usually sufficient to support one person. Depending on the school, pay can sometimes be made in local currency with a one off payment made into a foreign account in another currency.

Demand for highly motivated and well educated teachers is extremely high in Angola. Not just English teachers are in demand in this country but also teachers of science, pedagogy and other subjects. For some schools although a degree is preferred, work can be found with just a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate.

There are sometimes also work opportunities at the universities or one of the International Schools such as Luanda International School which occasionally advertises for teachers. For these kinds of jobs a first degree plus experience and specialization and higher degrees are often the norm. In addition, the British Council‏‎ has a presence in Angola (although no offices; it’s a sub-section of their office in Kenya) and works promoting English there.

The easiest way to go about finding work is to contact aid agencies such as UNESCO or missionary societies. Knowledge of Portuguese is useful since few people speak English.

Visas can be acquired in Angola but take up to several months to process.

Affixes in English


The building blocks of words.

An affix is a morpheme‏‎ that is attached to a root‏‎ (or stem) of a word‎ to form another word.

For example, take the word reason and add two affixes:

un + reason + able

Prefixes and suffixes are common types of affixes.

A prefix is an affix which is placed before a root.

un + kind = unkind

re + act = react

mis + lay = mislay

A suffix is an affix which is placed after a root.

reason + able = reasonable

look + ing = looking

danger + ous = dangerous

Teaching English in Belgium‏‎

Flags of the EU in Brussels

TEFL in Belgium‏‎

Belgium is a founding member of the European Union‏‎ and hosts its headquarters. It is a country of 11 million inhabitants which is bordered by the Netherlands, GermanyLuxembourg and France. It is also across the North Sea from the United Kingdom.

Linguistically the country is divided into Dutch speakers (approx 59%, known colloquially as the Flemish) and French speakers (approx 40%, known colloquially as the Walloons) with a smaller group of German speakers. Many people speak excellent English also and have access to British television stations being so close to the UK.

The country has relatively mild summers and cool winters and the people are known for their hospitality. Chocolate, french fries with mayonnaise and beer are Belgian specialities!

Finding Work

In general you’ll need a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate to get work. Many jobs are not advertised online and can be found by approaching the schools directly when you are in the country. This also opens up the opportunity to find work if you are not fully qualified or do not hold an appropriate visa.

Check out The Bulletin which advertises jobs.

The country is home to many, many foreigners (almost a third) and thus English has become almost the lingua franca‏‎; there are many opportunities for private lessons and in all likelihood the classes you teach at language schools will be made up of non-Belgians also.

Reportedly there is a high turnover of teachers so finding work need not be necessarily that difficult.

Prices and Pay

Accommodation is affordable even in the center of the capital, Brussels, and the country offers a very decent standard of living.

Pay in schools can be between 20 – 40 euro per hour depending on your level of experience and qualifications; this is before tax which runs between 20 – 25% although in your first year you will not pay tax.

Some schools will pay a normal salary, but these jobs will go to very well qualified and experienced teachers only with an MA in TEFL or similar.


To work in Belgium you will need to hold a passport from an EU country which allows you to enter the country freely and work there without a problem or visa.

If you do not have a passport from an EU member state, you may still be able to get work but it will be much harder. Your employer will be able to do the paperwork to get you a B Permit which is valid for that employer only and for one year. If you remain in the country for several years you may be able to transfer this to an A Permit which does not expire and allows you to work for any employer.

The image shows flags of the EU outside
the headquarters of the EU in Brussels, Belgium.

Grammar Practice Activities‏‎ (book)

ICAL TEFLGrammar Practice Activities by Penny Ur‏‎ is, as the subtitle reads, a Practical Guide for Teachers. This invaluable book is divided into two parts:

Part One provides a clear and concise introduction to teaching grammar‏‎ in the foreign language classroom, plus a useful guide to designing and presenting grammar-practice activities and some tips for getting the most out of coursebook exercises.

Part Two consists of nearly 200 game-like grammar practice activities. The activities are grouped into sections according to grammatical categories. The categories are ordered alphabetically and cross-referenced in the text. The descriptions of the activities are accompanied, where appropriate, by reproducible sample texts and visuals.

The activities are not classified by learner level or age but are readily adaptable to different levels and the author herself encourages teachers to adapt them to suit their own students. Likewise the activities are not classified by skill as many are designed or can be adapted to practise any or all of the four language skills‏‎.

The activities are listed by term, topic and title and can be easily searched through the simple but effective alphabetical index.

The guide is written in British English, so if you’re teaching American English‏‎ you may want to adjust some of the phrases or vocabulary‏‎. Other than that, the book’s easy-to-use format, comprehensive coverage, sturdy paperback construction and handy size make it an indispensable addition to any ESL‏‎ teacher’s tool-kit!

Author: Penny Ur
Publisher: Cambridge University Press‏‎
Details: Paperback; 296 pages; Pub.1989
ISBN: 0521338476
Buy from Amazon US Grammar Practice Activities
Buy from Amazon UK Grammar Practice Activities

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation‏‎ (book)

Author: Jane Straus
Publisher: Jossey Bass
Details: paperback, 176 pages; 10th Edition 2008
ISBN: 0470222689

An Easy-to-use Guide with Clear Rules, Real-world Examples, and Reproducible Quizzes. Hailed as one of the best grammar resources available, this concise, entertaining, user-friendly workbook includes easy-to-understand rules, abundant examples, dozens of reproducible exercises, and pre- and post-tests to help teach grammar to middle and high school, college, ESL, and home schooled students as well as adults.


External Links

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation (amazon.com)

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation (amazon.co.uk)

Oxford Essential Dictionary: For Elementary and Pre-intermediate Learners of English‏‎ (book)

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Details: Paperback; 488 pages; Pub. 2006
ISBN: 0194317188

Oxford Essential Dictionary is a new edition for Elementary and Pre-intermediate Learners of English.

A helpful guide for lower level learners, it provides the essentials students need in the first stages of learning English.

Especially suited for British English classes.

External Links

Oxford Essential Dictionary for Elementary and Pre-intermediate Learners of English (amazon.co.uk)

Teaching Grammar


The perfect face for 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 produce language based on these rules.

However, there are major problems with this.

  • The rules keep changing. Over time the grammatical rules of a language change and sometimes there are different ideas about what is good grammar and what is bad grammar.
  • In many cases it is very hard to make a hard and fast rule about grammar. Take verbs‏‎ for example. We can say that in certain situations we should use the present perfect simple‏‎; in other situations we should use the past simple‏‎. But these two overlap and we have a choice of which verb form to use and there are no hard and fast rules about which to choose.
  • Grammar is far too complex to learn fully. There are several well respected grammars of English which run to hundreds if not thousands of pages. How can anyone be expected to learn every single detail?

But by far the greatest problem with teaching grammar as a subject is that it is very different from the way in which language is learned in real life.

Take a child learning to speak. They are never taught grammatical rules by their parents and then expected to speak following those rules. All they do is simply copy what they hear around them and pick up language like this. In fact, a person can learn a language and speak it perfectly well through their entire life without ever knowing what a preposition‎ or a noun is.

Teaching grammatical rules can result in students who spend so long trying to work out the correct way to say something that they don’t have time to say anything!


The primary role of language is communication and current thinking tends to favor the communicative approach to language teaching. That is, we teach students how to use language in real-life situations.

To contrast this with teaching grammar, take these two scenarios:

  1. A teacher drills their class in grammar; the class know all the verb forms and can take a verb and conjugate it perfectly.
  2. A teacher teaches their class how to order a train ticket or book a table at a restaurant.

Which is more useful?

Having said this, when older students learn to speak English they do not do it in the same way as children learning their mother tongue. In most cases they do not have the time or circumstances to learn that way. A child will spend some 10 years to learn to speak and be surrounded by their mother tongue all their waking moments. An adult learner meanwhile may be in class 2 hours a week where they’ll hear English.

The child learning their mother tongue will hear thousands upon thousands of examples of, for example, the past continuous‏‎ and will after a time begin to understand how to make it and when to use it. An older learner of English might only have a few lessons where this is covered.

To overcome these differences, grammar is a very useful tool which acts as a shortcut to the learner. Instead of inferring the rules subconsciously, they learn them explicitly.

Teaching Grammar

In teaching grammar we recommend 2 basic rules:

  1. Teach it on a need-to-know basis; only teach it when it needs to be taught otherwise avoid it.
  2. Keep it simple; forget all the details and exceptions and never overcomplicate things – in time your students will pick up the exceptions and variances, but for now just stick to the basic facts.

And on the point of teaching grammar, it is better if a class learns than be taught. In other words, rather than just state the grammar rule, work with the class to see if they can work out the rule themselves.

German vs English


The joys of German!

German (Deutsch) is a Germanic language, related to English and Dutch.

It is the second-most spoken language in Europe after English. It is spoken by approximately 105 million native speakers and also by about 80 million non-native speakers. It is spoken in Germany by more than 95% of the population, but also in Austria‏‎ by 89% of the population, and in Switzerland by 65% of the population. German is also spoken by the majority of the populations of Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

Other European German-speaking communities are found in Northern Italy, in the East Cantons of Belgium‏‎, in the Alsace region of France and in some border villages of the former South Jutland County of Denmark.

Standard German

Standard German originated not as a traditional dialect of a specific region, but as a written language.

It differs regionally in vocabulary, grammar and spelling, and some instances of pronunciation however this variation has little to do with the variation of the local dialects.

Standard German is widely taught in schools, universities and Goethe Institutes worldwide. It is a phonetic language.

Alphabet & Spelling

German uses a Latin-based alphabet‏‎ consisting of 26 letters which is the same as the English alphabet. A few of these letters appear rarely and then often only in loan words (e.g. X, Y, Q).

However, it also uses three letters with diacritics and one ligature:

  • Ä/ä
  • Ö/ö
  • Ü/ü
  • ß

The first three are vowels‏‎ with an umlaut, the final is called the eszett (sz) or scharfes S (sharp s).

Thus, orthographically, there is often very little problem in dealing with the English alphabet for German learners during reading. However, if you are spelling words to the class, often it is useful to write them as well as German speakers will often confuse letters with sounds, e.g.

  • i is transliterated as e
  • a is transliterated as r


However, there are issues with pronunciation. As said above, German has phonetic spelling so that you pronounce what you read. This is not the case in English and German Students should be made aware of this.

Likewise there are pronunciation issues with certain letters:

  • W is pronounced as /v/ in German
  • V is pronounced as /f/ in German

Care should be taken with teaching the pronunciation of words like vowel, word and verb. As a TEFL teacher you should spend some time practicing this sound with your German students.

  • /r/ – its articulation is described as a ‘roll’ or ‘trill’ – English does not have this type of sound so as a TEFL teacher you may need to train your German students to soften their ‘r’.
  • δ is not used in German; practice should be given to the difference between words like /think/ and /this/


All German nouns are capitalized. This applies even to infinitives used as nouns. This of course only happens rarely in English with certain nouns.

False Friends

German shares a great deal of vocabulary with English. However, whilst many of these words have a similar meaning, some are false friends‏‎ and care should be taken as a TEFL teacher to make sure your students understand the difference.

A few examples are:

German Word English Meaning
also thus
Ambulanz outpatient dept
Art kind or manner
Bad bath
bald soon
Dose can or tin
fade boring
fast almost
genial brilliant
Gift poison
Handy mobile phone
Kollege colleague
Kost food
Labor laboratory
Menu today’s special (at a restaurant)
Mist manure
Objekt house or property for sale
Peperoni hot chilli peppers
Rat advice/counsel
Roman novel
sensibel sensitive
tasten touch
Wall embankment
winken wave
Zylinder top hat


The following are notes on differences between German and English grammar which can cause problems in class. Obviously when you come across these issues you will need to explain them carefully to your class.

Continuous Tenses

German does not have continuous tenses‏‎ so whereas English would say

I am talking now.

German will say

I talk now.

Past Tense

The German past simple‏‎ is roughly equivalent in meaning to the German present perfect simple‏‎. Both are used to refer to action or events that occurred in the past.

However the German simple past is generally used in formal writing i.e. books and newspapers, whilst the present perfect tense – also know as conversational past, is more commonly used in spoken German.

Because in spoken German the present perfect is used instead of the past simple, as a TEFL teacher you will need to help your German students understand when the present perfect is used in English. You may often hear sentences like this:

I have watched television last night.

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs‏‎ do not exist in German. To make a question it is necessary to invert the subject and verb whereas in English it is necessary to use do or is. This leads to German speakers learning English to say things like:

Comes he?

Have you the time?

Useful Links

Teaching English in Germany – finding work and teaching in Germany

Teaching English in Switzerland – what it’s like to work and teach there

False Friends – confusing words from different languages

Teaching English Abroad (book)‏‎

Author: Susan Griffith
Publisher: Vacation Work Publications
Details: paperback, 576 pages; 8th Edition pub. 2010
ISBN: 1854583522

Griffith’s book is a reference source for British or Britain-based teachers who are looking to embark on an EFL teaching career in Western Europe.

Although when it was first produced it was well received, in recent years the book has become increasingly outdated due to the internet and has come in for some criticism regarding its content which is often full of advertisements.

The book includes a list of schools and contact details, a number of which are out of date. Some of the schools also have a bad reputation amongst teachers and are still included.

Likewise, criticism is levelled at some of the providers of TEFL qualifications which are promoted in the book, including some questionable accreditation agencies.


External Links

A Course in Language Teaching (amazon.com)

A Course in Language Teaching (amazon.co.uk)

Black English‏‎

Rapper LL Cool JBlack English is a very broad term used to refer to British English and American English‏‎ as spoken by the black communities in the US and the UK. To a lesser extent it’s also used to refer to black communities in places like the Caribbean and Africa.

Two of the major sub-varieties of Black English are African American Vernacular and British Black English (see below for more on these).

Interest in the existence of Black English began in the early twentieth century with several publications by linguist George Philip Krapp who attributed the existence of Black English to the “baby-talk” that he assumed slave masters must have employed when speaking to their slaves. He hypothesized that slave masters addressed their servants in a simplified English, similar to that used with babies.

The view that black people who spoke in Black English were deprived of a real, dynamic, and multi-faceted language continued through the 1960s untill William Labov, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by J.L. Dillard, Geneva Smitherman, and other linguists, mounted an impressive defense of the legitimacy of Black English refuting the language deprivation theories of previous times.


African American Vernacular English or AAVE is a distinct dialect of English, sometimes classed as a variety of English. It is also known as Ebonics though this is not a term used by linguists and is sometimes used pejoratively.

AAVE has its roots in the slave trade where people captured in various parts of Africa, and from a variety of language backgrounds, were forced to create a pidgin‏‎ or creole (a common language composed of fragments of their native languages) in order to communicate. Eventually this incorporated elements of English so it could also be used to communicate with the slave owners.

AAVE has a language structure which has much in common with a number of African languages. One interesting aspect of AAVE is the tenses used which appear to be less rigid than in standard English. For example it distinguishes between the recent past and the distant past.

I been done it.
I done it.
I did it.

In this example above the first is distant past, the second is recent past and the third is very recent past.

AAVE is used extensive in popular music, most recently in hip-hop where artists such as LL Cool J (pictured) will use typical AAVE phrases such as:

She said her name Shayeeda.


British Black English (BBE) has some similar origins but is based on a Jamaican creole spoken by Caribbean communities, mainly in London but also in large cities such as Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and Nottingham.

There is a history of British sugar planters in Jamaica, which was a British colony until 1948, after which in the 1950’s there was significant immigration to London as England welcomed workers in its post war expansion and rebuilding. Jamaican Creole is recognised as an independent variety with its own grammar and vocabulary.

Increasingly British Black English speakers are finding their own voice in literature such as rap poetry and song, with Benjamin Zephaniah a respected name. There is no standard form of orthography so much of the language is written semi-phonetically – “yuhself” for “yourself” “dat” and “dem” for “that” and “them”, “nuff” for “enough”, “respek” for “respect”.

Some of their culture appeals to young native white English speakers who in turn adopt features of BBE speech mixed with their native accents such as Cockney.

Image © Leigh Righton

Read My Mind‏‎

digital image of the brain and its workingRead My Mind is a simple game which you can play at the end of a lesson. It is ideal for groups of 3 or 4 and practices vocabulary and speaking.

If this is the first time you have played the game with the class, begin by demonstrating it to everyone and making sure everyone understands how to play it.

Playing the Game

Once the class know how to play, divide them into small groups of 3 or 4. One person in the group is the Thinker. They must think of a concrete noun. Any noun will do and there are no restrictions here. They write it down on a piece of paper and leave it folded on the desk.

In turns, the other members of the group – the Guessers – have to try and guess the noun on the paper. They only get one go.

The chances of guessing the noun are very small. However, this is where the fun begins. Once each of the guessers has tried the hidden word is turned over and revealed. The guessers then have to explain how their guessed word is related to the hidden word.

For example, suppose the hidden word is banana.

The first guesser tried chair which is wrong. They might explain the relationship between banana and chair thus:

Bananas grow on trees and trees are made of wood which is also what most chairs are made of.

The rest of the group give this a thumbs up or a thumbs down. This is a pretty poor explanation so it would probably get a thumbs down.

The next guesser tried straw. They might say:

Mattresses are made of straw. In the jungle, if you don’t have straw you can pick loads of bananas and then peel them and put them in a big bag and sleep on that!

It’s quite an inventive suggestion and may get a couple of thumbs up!

The final guesser tried lemon. They could say:

Not only are both lemons and bananas fruit; they’re both yellow!


As you can see this game needs imagination and a reasonably good vocabulary so it is perhaps best suited for more advanced classes. However, if you want to play the game with beginners you could adapt it slightly by creating a series of flashcards on each of which you have a simple noun (choosing carefully so there are both duplicates and obvous relationships between them).

Image © digitalbob8

Behaviorist‏‎ Method in TEFL


Dog hears bell. Dog salivates. A conditioned response.

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 the teacher says How are you? the automatic response is Fine, thank you, and you?

In the context of learning, the behaviorist model for learning is all about “do as I say” and very much teacher-centered.

Behaviorists saw language as something that could be broken down into a mass of habits and once each was learned, then the language was learned. This approach, though effective for some, neglected somehow the usage of language in the real world, since the language taught is not presented as a natural activity, but rather as a set of isolated sentences which are practiced to memorize a form. Additionally, this method does not cater for gifted students who need more learning challenges.

Different Types of Behavior

There are two main strands to behaviorism in teaching.

classic conditioning

Simply put this is when a neutral stimulus calls for an automatic response.

In TEFL this means teaching simple phrases which are practiced over and over again until they become automatic and don’t require any thought. Entire conversations can be developed like this.

operant conditioning

This is slightly more involved and is about using punishment or rewards for certain behaviors.

The student doesn’t do their homework and they are punished. After time they will learn that not doing homework will lead to punishment so they do their homework. (That’s the theory, anyway!)

On the other hand, they also learn that doing something well will lead to a reward.


Pavlov and his dogs was one of the first psychologists looking into this field. During the 1890s he carried out a number of experiments on dogs whereby he taught them to associate the sound of a bell ringing with food. Each time the bell rang, the dogs began to salivate. This was a learned reaction.

Later the American psychologist B. F. Skinner, regarded as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century and the father of Behaviorism, argued that cause and effect is what controls behavior, not the mind or reasoning.

Useful Links

TEFL Methodologies – an overview of different methologies

Teaching the Spoken Language (book)‏‎

Author: Gillian Brown; George Yule
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Details: Paperback; 176 pages; Pub.1983
ISBN: 0521273846

Not exactly hot from the press (it was first published in 1983) but still a book teachers recommend when it comes to teaching spoken production and listening comprehension.

The book presents in a highly accessible form the results of the author’s important research on teaching and assessing effective spoken communication. The authors examine the nature of spoken language and how it differs from written language both in form and purpose. A large part of it is concerned with principles and techniques for teaching spoken production and listening comprehension. An important chapter deals with how to assess spoken language. The principles and techniques described apply to the teaching of English as a foreign and second language, and are also highly relevant to the teaching of the mother tongue.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • Data: recorded materials and transcripts
  • 1. The spoken language
  • 2. Teaching spoken production
  • 3. Teaching listening comprehension
  • 4. Assessing spoken language
  • Illustrations
  • Bibliography
  • Index

The book comes with an accompanying cassette which contains extracts from original source recordings which are transcribed as examples in the book.


External Links

Teaching the Spoken Language (amazon.com)

Teaching the Spoken Language (amazon.co.uk)

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.

He Said She Said Circle – tefl activity

He Said She Said Circle is a simple activity for students to practice their reported speech‏‎ (also known as indirect speech).

Ideally you should run this activity after a lesson where students have been working on reported speech. If not, you should quickly run over the rules and principles of turning direct speech into indirect speech.

The nice thing about this activity is that it takes no preparation time and you can adjust the language you use in it to suit the class both in terms of level and also to what they have recently been studying.

Running the Activity

  1. Get all the students into a circle.
  2. Make a simple statement, e.g. “I speak German.”
  3. Point to a (good) student and tell them to turn that into indirect speech. The student should say something like, “Teacher said she spoke German.”
  4. Point to another student and get them to report what the previous student said. This should be something like, “Mario said the teacher said she spoke German.”
  5. Point to yet another student and get them to report what the previous student said. This should be something like, “Suzi said Mario said the teacher said she spoke German.”
  6. Point to yet another student and get them to report what the previous student said. This should be something like, “Arnaldo said Suzi said Mario said the teacher said she spoke German.”

And work slowly round the group making the sentence longer and longer till confusion (and hopefully laughter) reigns.

Once the students are familiar with this, use a beanbag. Make a statement then toss it to a random student who has to report your statement. That student then tosses the beanbag to another student who has to make reported speech about the reported speech about the statement and so on.

Variations on a Theme

Once the students are familiar with this you can bring in extra details.

  • reporting verbs: whisper, shout, sing, ask
  • start with a question
  • encourage the class to bring in variations and play with the idea

Maria speaking to Tom: “Do you speak German?”

Tom tells the class: Maria asked me if I spoke German.

Katerina tells the class: Maria asked Tom if he spoke German.

Louis whispers to Tariq: Katerina said that Maria asked Tom if he spoke German.

Tariq tells the class: Louis whispered to me that Katerina said that Maria asked Tom if he spoke German.

Karl tells the class:Tariq said that Louis whispered to him that Katerina said that Maria asked Tom if he spoke German.

And so on…

Useful Links

Reported Speech – a guide to reported speech

Teaching Beginners in TEFL

Woody Guthrie, American singer-songwriter and musician.

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 are likely to be met by a classroom full of blank looks and uncomprehending shrugs! Quite frankly, if you spend the next twenty minutes explaining adjectives to them they’re still going to be none the wiser!

No, with beginners you need to do things differently.

Put Yourself in their Place

This is useful if you’re living in a foreign country. Remember the time when you first arrived and barely spoke a word of the local language. Think of how little you understood and how when you listened all you heard was a stream of sound.

That’s what the beginners in your class think of you now.

So you need to break it down. And by this, I mean really break it down!

This means when you teach beginners:

  1. forget grammar – don’t even think about giving them grammatical explanations
  2. build on what they already know
  3. give examples, practice and more practice

A Practical Example

So let’s say you want to introduce adjectives to the class.

Start with what they know:

  1. Show a model of a car to the class, elicit the word car and make sure everyone understands and knows this word.
  2. Show a hat to the class, elicit the word hat and make sure everyone understands and knows this word.
  3. Show an apple to the class, elicit the word apple and make sure everyone understands and knows this word.

Then introduce something new:

  1. Bring out the car and show them the color of the car which in this case is: red.
  2. Bring out the hat and show them the color of the hat which in this case is: red.
  3. Bring out the apple and show them the color of the apple which in this case is: red.

Say the word several times, write it up on the board, get the class to say the word.

Then join the new with the old. Spend time practicing red car, red hat and red apple with the class. Get them used to it. Get them comfortable with it.

When the class is comfortable bring out a variation: a green car, a green hat and a green apple.

And then it’s a matter of moving on very slowly. This means giving the students plenty more practice with the material you’ve introduced.

This means games, activities, practice exercises and so on. It does not mean introducing more new material! No, that only happens when your class is 100% sure of what has already been introduced.


The same principles (with minor tweaking) apply to your classes regardless of what level they are and what you are teaching. When teaching English

  1. forget grammar – this happens on a need-to-know basis only; avoid it if you can.
  2. build on what they already know – always start from the known and move into the unknown
  3. give examples, practice and more practice

Useful Links

Teaching Grammar‏‎ – Should you? And if you must, how?

How to Speak to English Language Students – how you should talk to your class

A First English Lesson for Beginners‏‎ – that very first lesson!

Chatterbox (book)‏‎

Author: Derek Strange
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Details: Paperback; 80 pages; Pub.2006
ISBN: 0194728013

This activity book is part of the new edition of the ever popular Chatterbox course for young beginners (7yrs and older).

A complete comic-strip adventure story runs through each book, featuring ace detective Captain Shadow. This provides a memorable context for new language and maintains motivation.

The book involves children in a variety of fun activities, such as songs, rhymes, games, and puzzles, which are all used to practise language in an enjoyable way, giving them a thorough grounding in the main language skills.

New Chatterbox brings this much loved series up-to-date with brand-new content reflecting changes in teaching practice and an increase in cross-cultural awareness. The core syllabus, structure, and approach remain the same.

The new Starter level makes the course ideal for complete beginners. Following are Level 1 and 2 by Derek Strange and Level 3 and 4 by Jackie Holderness.

External Links

Chatterbox (Activity Book) (amazon.com)

Chatterbox (Activity Book) (amazon.co.uk)

Dragons Den‏‎

Dragons Den Screenshot


Dragon’s Den is a detailed and long-term activity ideal for a class studying Business English‏‎. It is based on the popular television program where would-be entrepreneurs pitch their business idea to potential investors to try and raise money to get their business off the ground.

The activity can be run over the course of several lessons. It can be broken down into shorter segments which can run anything from a few minutes to a full lesson and more.

Explain to your class that they are trying to set up a new business. They need money for this so they will be approaching a group of venture capitalists or “Dragons” and pitching their idea to them. Hopefully the Dragons will like the idea enough to invest in the business.

However, each group must have all the facts and figures of their business at their fingertips if they want the Dragons to be impressed enough to invest their own money in the business.

If you can, the activity should be run with one or more small groups of two or three students each. Tell the class that the Dragons will only invest in one business so they are competing against each other for the money!

The Idea

The first step is the idea. What, in other words, will the business do? It may be manufacturing or sales or a franchise or a service company, etc.

If your students all work in a particular field then this should reflect that field. The idea needs to both be related to the work interests of the students and to be of use to them in the real world.

But because this is an exercise it can also be fun. This is a chance for the business people in your class to play with ideas and enjoy themselves also.

For example, if your students all work for a company which manufactures car parts then you can explain they are going to set up a brand new company to produce a high-end supercar. If they are all sales people perhaps you can ask them to sell something exotic – a new blockbuster film for example.

You may have to choose an idea for the class or you may allow them to come up with their own idea. You can also offer them several ideas.

The Process

Each group now needs to prepare their final pitch to the Dragons. For this they need to have an intimate knowledge of what their business will do and how it will do it. They will also need to know everything about how the business will be run in order to answer questions posed to them by the Dragons in the final pitch.

Each of the elements below is a separate activity which the groups can work on during the course of several lessons.

Company Structure

Is the company going to be a partnership or limited company? Give the group the options available to them in their country and have them work through each option to decide which is going to be best. There are plenty of resources online where you can get this information but make sure you allow the students to have input here and ideally find out by themselves about this.

Once this is decided, the group must decide together what their individual roles will be in the company. Who is boss? Who isn’t? This may need a vote.

Choosing a Name

The name should reflect the company and its objectives. This stage – as will many others – is going to involve a lot of discussion and voting.

But they need to make sure that the name is available and that it doesn’t already belong to another company. This will involve research online at Companies House (or the equivalent, see below).

Business Planning

Explain to the class that they will need to have a solid Business Plan they can give the Dragons. They will need to sit down and work out:

– The Objective

What exactly will the business do?

– The Market

What is the potential market likely to be for the business? This means researching the current market and finding how the new business can fit in.

Here they will need to research and find out about:

  • Competitors. The Dragons will want to know how the new business will fit into the existing market and what makes the new business different from the competitors.
  • Customers and Demand. How many customers are out there? If there group wants to produce a new fizzy drink then there are potential millions of customers, but if they’re making a supercar then the market is very limited.

– Advertising

The Dragons will want to know how the new business is going to promote and get its message across. The group will need to think, amongst other things, about:

  • Print ads
  • TV spots
  • Websites
  • Viral marketing
  • Newspaper stories
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Billboards

During this kind of activity – and all activities here – try and step back as a teacher and allow the students to make all the decisions. You are there to help with the language only and to guide the class through the activities, not to lead them.

– Money

Stress to the group that they will need to come up with real facts and figures here which will involve them getting online and finding answers. The Dragons will ask them for financial details and they need to be able to answer questions like:

  • How much will it cost to produce the product?
  • What is your marketing budget?
  • What will be your turnover for the first year?
  • When do you expect to make a profit?
  • What is the potential market for the product?

And much, much more!

Here the group needs to look into the financial aspect of the company. It is a specialized area but with the right guidance the students can at least provide a decent overview of this area. They will need to look at income, expenses, taxes, staff costs, production costs, etc.

The idea here is that the class become familiar with the typical expenses of a company. In real life they would hire an accountant, but at least by doing this exercise they are getting a basic knowledge in English of what is involved.

At the end of this stage they will need to produce a breakdown of income and revenue for the first three years of the company so they can tell the Dragons how much they hope to make over that time and what kinds of costs they’ll incur.

The Pitch

This is the culmination of the whole activity. The group needs to get together and prepare a detailed pitch to give to the Dragons. They need to look at how they will present the new business (try and get them to think outside the box and come up with innovative and memorable introductions here).

They may want to use props, slideshows, models, samples and so on. Let them.

Finally they will need to have all the facts and figures of their business at their fingertips.

The Dragons

You need a panel of Dragons to listen to each presentation and ask questions about this. It might be possible to have other students from different classes help out here or if all your students work for the same company you may be able to get a few managers from that company (who have a decent level of English) to come in and listen to the pitches and make unbiased decisions based on what they see.

You might also like to act the part of a Dragon yourself to ask some awkward questions.

Whatever method you choose you will have the Dragons prepared to ask questions about the business and make genuine inquiries about its viability.

{youtube}859olTvuink{/youtube}Finally, of course, each group makes its pitch. The Dragons ask their questions and then decide which is the best idea and where they will invest their money.


The video shows a segment of BBC’s Dragons Den program. This can be used with the class to give them an idea of where the activity is going.

External Links

Dragon’s Den UK. Details of how the TV program works.

Setting up a new business. Step-by-step guide.

Companies House. Details and names of existing British companies. Other similar resources exist for other countries.

The image is from the BBC program; here a new company, Kiddimoto,
made a successful pitch and took home 75k in funding.

Teaching English in Singapore‏‎

Bussorah Steet - Kampong Glam - SingaporeSingapore is a city-state on the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula. For many years it was a British colony until independence in 1963 when it merged with other local states to form Malaysia‏‎. However, two years later it seceded from Malaysia and became independent.

On independence Singapore made a decision to choose English‏‎ for day to day life and this decision is credited with helping the country become the economic and cultural center it is. Increasingly it is developing its language facilities and hopes to become the premier hub of English language learning in Asia.

It is a highly Westernized state and perhaps the most advanced in SE Asia. It has a population of 5 million, many of whom speak and understand English. The ethnic majority is Chinese.

The city is built around business and thus Business English‏‎ is much in demand.

Finding Work

Although some jobs are advertised on the internet, many people find work by actually being in the country and cold calling schools and businesses.

One useful resource for finding work is the online Straits Times classified section which includes many advertisements for more traditional English teaching – often for the British O and A level examinations.

Qualifications, Salary and Conditions

Most schools require a degree which is needed to get the necessary employment permit. There are few exceptions to this rule, notably if you have a job offer of more than 7,000 SGD or $5500 USD (€4352, £3500) per month which is very unlikely at a school.

As well as a degree to work at any decent school you will also need a TEFL Certificate and at least a year’s experience. On that note experience counts for a great deal and the more you have, the easier you will find it to get a good job.

Pay varies, but a decent job will give around 3,700 SGD or $2900 USD (€2295, £1845) per month which will provide a very comfortable lifestyle. Less qualified teachers will receive less.

However, if you are teaching to businesses or privately, you may be able to find work without experience. Pay here can be about 60 SGD or $47 USD (€37, £30) per hour.

Split shifts are common and you may need to work on Sundays. Since English is the language used in state schools, most students tend to be older. It is not untypical to teach a multilingual class of adults from several countries in SE Asia.

On such a small, highly populated island accommodation is inevitably expensive. Mostly it will be in one of the blocks of flats which are generally either HDB (something like public housing) and high quality condominiums which may include swimming pools, gyms and so on.

HDBs are cheaper and sometimes without many facilities including air conditioning. Prices start at around 750 SGD or $600 USD (€475, £382) per month with condos starting around 1,500 SGD or or $1200 USD (€950, £764) per month.


The city is vibrant. It is expensive to live there but eating out can still be done very cheaply in one of the many incredible food courts. Generally it is a safe city with relatively few drug related problems. Perhaps best avoided, however, is the red light district along the Geylong Road.

There are two main seasons: wet and dry. Every day is hot, however, and most schools are air conditioned.

photo credit: neilalderney123 via cc

Grammar for English Language Teachers‏‎ (book)

ICAL TEFLGrammar for English Language Teachers by Martin Parrott won the prestigious  English Speaking Union‏‎ Duke of Edinburgh’s English Language Award in 2000. This comprehensive and practical guide is a refreshingly new type of grammar reference book and an invaluable bank of ideas, tasks and inspiration for developing language awareness of your students and your own.

Each grammar point is explained in detail; each area of grammar is dealt with expansively and broken down in its components, which further outline specific teaching points such as construction and use.

The grammar explanations are very accurate yet easy to follow. The author offers them from the perspective of a real classroom environment.

The layout is also good and easy on the reader with large sections of text broken up with tables and bullet pointed lists and examples. Chapters are put in logical order and paragraphs are well spaced. Clear sub-headings include Key Considerations, What Is…, Consolidation Exercises, and Difficulties For Learners sections.

With its focus on classroom instructions, this quality grammar reference book is a useful reference guide for prospective and practicing teachers and teacher trainers alike.

The Award

The prestigious English Speaking Union Duke of Edinburgh’s English Language Award is made annually for the best and most innovative work in the field of teaching or learning the English language. In 2000 the award went to Martin Parrott and his grammar book for teachers which was chosen from over 30 entries by a panel chaired by Lord Randolph Quirk.

The panel said “The book fills a gap in the market. Mostly grammar books approach the language from a student’s perspective. This approaches it from a teacher’s point of view and gains much insight for doing so.”

The prize was presented by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh at a special ceremony held in Buckingham Palace, and attended by author, Martin Parrott and the Senior Commissioning Editor, Alison Sharpe.

Author: Martin Parrott
Publisher: Cambridge University Press‏‎
Details: Paperback; 528 pages; Pub.2000
ISBN: 0521477972
Buy from Amazon US Grammar for English Language Teachers
Buy from Amazon UK Grammar for English Language Teachers

TEFL Teaching English Online

A teacher using Skype to teach English

TEFL teaching via Skype

Teaching English Online or Virtual English Teaching is a growing business. Essentially it means teaching students – usually 1-to-1‏‎ – from your own home and thus bypassing a school. With the advent of new technology and the prevalence of broadband internet (allowing audio/visual communication) it is gaining ground on traditional methods of teaching.

This article explains exactly how to teach English online.

Some of the features of teaching online include:

  • students from many different nationalities and locations
  • a freer timetable; the teacher sets when lessons take place
  • no interference from management; as your own boss you decide what happens
  • much better pay than most schools

Having said this, it is also a long process. In a similar way that teachers moving into teaching only private TEFL lessons have found, it can take time to build up a solid base of students allowing you to work full time.

The article explores the steps to move from teaching in a school to teaching fully online.

Step 1 – What to Teach

The first question to get sorted, is what you will teach.

It is obviously English‏‎ but this may mean teaching General English‏‎ or specialising in Business English‏‎. Do you have any special skills which you can bring to the lessons. For example, if you spent several years working in advertising before going into teaching then this is a niche you might be able to exploit.

In general, the market seems to be looking for exam preparation teachers so if you have experience of preparing students for First Certificate in English‏‎ or TOEFL‏‎, etc, then this might be for you. Of course if you don’t have that experience you can pick it up, but the important thing to remember is that you will need to know your subject!

Since you are teaching on your own, you will need to have access to all the books and reference material. It may well be that a student requires help with a certain aspect of grammar‏‎ in which case you will need to send them a worksheet to complete. Obviously at the start you won’t have these as you won’t really know what your students will need, but you will need to be prepared to do your own writing and preparation so that you can give your students exactly what they need.

Teacher Tip: if you need to send students user-friendly information about a grammatical point, by all means send them the link to right page on this site!

To help, get yourself a system to catalogue and file all these electronically so in the future when a student needs something, you can quickly find it on your computer and send it over within a few minutes. There are several note programs out there where you can store not only details of your students but also links to online grammar points, pages of information, notes and suchlike.

Step 2 – Equipment

At the very basic you’ll need:

  • A headset/microphone. These should be comfortable to wear for several hours at a time and the earpieces should cover your ears fully and block out external sounds. On this point you’ll need a reasonably quiet place to work – a home office is usually fine.
  • A webcam. One extra use of the webcam, aside from seeing your students, is that it will allow you to record short videos on various aspects of teaching. You might, for example, spend five minutes recording a video on how to pronounce certain words and then upload this to YouTube (see below). (Remember, however, that in cases where your students have a low bandwidth connection, you can turn this off for better results.)
  • A Skype account. This is free and, amongst other features, it allows you to send files to each other when the need arises. Although there are other programs on the market which offer bells and whistles such as collaborative whiteboards and so on, Skype is very popular and most of students will already be familiar with it. It is simple to use and this is good.
  • Decent internet access. This is important; if your access keeps dropping or slowing down you will lose students.
  • Payment collection. The easiest is through PayPal – just set up an account and make sure your students have paid before you teach them.

When it comes to equipment, you should try and get the best you can afford. Because you will appear on screen to many of your students, remember also to set it up with a decent background. You do not want a grubby bedroom scene in the background when you talk to students!

Step 3 – Finding Students

This is perhaps the most difficult part of the process. There are several ways of getting students into your virtual classroom:

  • Online schools which sell teaching services – this is often where most new teachers start, however in all but location it is little different from teaching in a normal school. The wages are often very low – rarely much above $15 USD (€12, £10) per hour and often much less – and there are restrictions on when and where and what you can teach. They can be useful for new online teachers to get the hang of how things work, but if you can avoid these places then do so.
  • Online markets which brings students and teachers together – teachers sell their services to students. The problem here is that while you have more independence than in online schools, competition means that teachers are selling themselves at ridiculously low prices and students are often happier to pay a few dollars less to a poorly qualified and inexperienced teacher than a few dollars more to a highly qualified and experienced teacher. In addition, there are commission fees to be paid for the market owner who finds you the student.
  • Independently. This is by far the best way to attract students. Firstly you will not pay a commission to get the student. Secondly you will likely be able to charge a reasonable rate for your services. However, this is the hardest way to find students so requires a lot more work.

Attracting Students

Although not all these methods will apply to you, the following list gives some ideas on how to attract students. Essentially it is the same as any other business – you need to get your name out there and known. You need to have a presence.

To help with this you firstly need to select a simple name or moniker so people will come to recognise you and know you. This might be your name or something to do with your profession, but it needs to be memorable and easy for non-native speakers of English to use.

Then spread the name – and yourself – around:

  • Get a webpage where you can write more information about yourself; small websites‏‎ can be set up freely online and this is a good idea as long as you don’t have adverts there for other teachers! A good idea is to have a place on your website where you can have material for students for free and a forum where you can encourage potential students to come and learn.
  • Get a YouTube account. You can use this to upload short videos you make relating to your lessons and looking at specific elements of language. These videos can also be embedded in your website above and provide more online presence.
  • The more you write online, the better. Write a blog about your work, for example.
  • Sign on to all the language forums and visit them every day to answer questions and take part in the debates. Good ones are those which have questions from learners of English asking for advice. Many forums will allow you to include a link to your own website so use this to let readers find out more about you.
  • Make a Facebook page for your services.

 Tips for Successful Online Teaching

  • Look good. Dress well and be presentable so your students can see you’ve made an effort.
  • Make sure you have all your files well organised. If a students asks for an example of some minimal pairs‏‎ for example, you should be able to browse to the right place and send them over immediately; if they ask for more help with countable and non-countable nouns‏‎ you should be able to send them this link within a few seconds. This means building up a good database of resources.
  • Be patient and calm. It is slightly more difficult than face to face teaching, but when there is a silence allow your students time to think and then speak. In other words, don’t feel anxious to fill every void with your voice!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that it is possible to build up a really good business teaching online and make decent money doing this. However it will take time and effort. But the more time you put into it and the more effort, the more money you will make. It’s as simple as that.

Useful Links

Private English Lessons – how to find and run private lessons

Skype – connect to students around the world

James J. Asher‏‎

James J AsherA professor of psychology at San Jose State University in California, Asher is a researcher, writer, and originator of the Total Physical Response (TPR).

He is the author of Learning Another Language Through Actions.

Student Age Groups in TEFL

Neil Young - young, old, very youngWhen 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, however, talk about Young Learners aged up to about 12. They include another group:

Teenage Learners

Is this a sub-group of Young Learners or a group on their own after Young Learners and before Adult Learners?

The answer to that really depends on who you talk to!

Adult Learners

As the name implies, this is used for students who are over 16 or so, working rather than at school. However, we’re more likely to call EAP students at university “adult” than anything else.

Useful Links

Teaching English to Young Learners‏‎ – or TEYL: the specialized discipline of how to teach young learners; here generally aged up to about 12 or so

Teaching English to Teenagers – more on how to deal with teenagers and TEFL

Teaching English to Adults – more on the specific problems in teaching English to adults

Teaching English in Croatia‏‎

Two girls diving in a clear blue sea in Croatia.TEFL/TESOL in Croatia‏‎

Croatia is a beautiful country in central/southwest Europe in the Balkans. It has a population of about 4.5 million with Zagreb being the capital and largest city (pop. 800,00).

After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Croatian war of Independence, the country was internationally recognized in 1992. The economy since the war has slowly recovered and nowadays Croatia is a popular destination for tourism and has a growing international business sector.

There is a high demand for teachers right now in Croatia.

Schools & Teaching Conditions in Croatia

State schools in Croatia teach English and some classes use English as a medium to teach other subjects. This means that English teachers are in slightly less demand than countries where English is not taught so strongly in state schools. However there is a very strong demand for English for Tourism‏‎ and Business English‏‎.

A degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate are the usual requirements for most jobs with demand being high for native speakers as there are relatively few native speakers working in Croatia as oppose to neighbouring countries like Italy‏‎ or Greece‏‎.

Contracts‏‎ are usually for the academic year (which runs from October 1st – June). In private language schools pay is around €600 ($758 USD, £483) per month but the cost of living is quite low so this is enough to live on (although not extravagantly).

Accommodation tends to be quite expensive and could take up to half the monthly wage. It is also quite difficult to find in many places so you should try to get the school to organize this for you.

Visas and the EU for Croatia

Most tourists can enter the country for up to 90 days. However, to work you need to organize a visa before you enter the country. The school should be able to help with this. If you are already in the country you can still get a working visa if you find work (although again, the school will have to help you with this).

Note as well that Croatia recently joined (in July 2013) the European Union‏‎ which means that non-Europeans will find it difficult to secure a working visa.

On the other hand, being in the EU also means that there is a strong demand for English as the country hopes to have greater business ties with the EU and English helps this. Thus the demand for Business English is thus quite strong and if you have experience in this field it will help a lot in getting work.

Croatian Culture

Croatians are generally regarded as warm and friendly people; teachers have respect here and classes will be formal and hard working.

Image © alistercoyne

TEFL Coursebooks


Your pick!

Coursebooks are extensively used in the TEFL‏‎ classroom and also big business with the ELT publishing industry worth billions every year who churn out books by the dozen to make money.

There are many different coursebooks available to the teacher, however it must always be remembered that there is no single coursebook which is ideal for a class.

The debate on whether to use a coursebook or not has been going on for years. Supporters claim it provides a good, well developed properly prepared framework of English‏‎ for a class and for new teachers, they can provide a valuable and useful tool for the classroom without which you may feel abandoned and somewhat on your own.

Detractors, on the other hand, say it is constricting and too general and lulls the teacher into a false sense of security and stifles experiment and precise lesson planning.

Whatever the truth, most schools do use coursebooks and the chances are that as a teacher you will be required to use one, too.

Choosing a TEFL Coursebook

Every class is different. The students will have different needs and goals in the course and students will have different issues with learning English.

One student, for example, may have problems with pronunciation whilst their classmate may have problems with prepositions‏‎ and no coursebook will be perfect for both.

The best a teacher can do is find a decent coursebook which will suit most of the students and provide them with a good framework of English. And while using a coursebook, the teacher must always be prepared to deviate from it to tailor the lessons specifically to the class – it’s NEVER a matter of tailoring the class to the book!

The first step in choosing a good coursebook is a needs analysis‏‎. You need to work out exactly what level‏‎ your class is now and what it is they need to learn. You also need to know the class makeup and what interests them, and have a good idea of the kind of material which will work well in the class.

With the needs analysis done, you should look at the books which are available to you, get a general list together of those which suit the age and level of the class. Email the ELT publishers and see if you can get sample copies sent over to evaluate (if the publishers are too mean to do this, you might want to forget the book and move on). And then go through each one, asking specific questions about them, in no particular order:

  • Is there a teacher’s book with additional ideas, answers and ideas on how to present the lessons?
  • Are the topics appropriate to the age/level of my students?
  • Is the material appropriate for the class?
  • Is equal time given to the 4 language skills‏‎?
  • Can we use all the DVDs, CDs, etc, which come with the book?
  • Is the language authentic?
  • Is it interesting? Do I like the book? Will my students like the book?
  • How expensive is it? Will the school/parents be happy to shell out for it?

Using a TEFL Coursebook

Once you have selected a suitable coursebook, the next step is to use it. Most courses are generally well written and have been carefully graded, reviewed and planned. For a new teacher this is invaluable as you can start on page 1 and move through the coursebook methodically. However, never be afraid of skipping boring or unnecessary exercises and inserting your own material for the class.

In fact, this final suggestion is inva