Archive | July, 2011

Fighting Fire with….

31 Jul

This is a post aimed more at those who live in countries where the risk of wild fires / forest fires is a regular hazard.

This is certainly the case where I live – wildfires are a frequent cause of much devastation and trauma, what always fazes me is the equanimity with which people here deal with it all as summer rolls around again.

So this is just a thought really – it would be interesting to talk about the issues with your classes, particularly younger learners.  What do they understand as the common causes of wildfires?  What do they think can be done to prevent them?  What information or campaigns have they encountered?

All of this initial discussion can lead to a comparison with the information found on the excellent USA Forestry Service anti-fire website:


There is a lot that can be used and adapted here:  online games for the kids (which I found confusing, but then I’m not a kid….), information about wildfire causes and prevention, and a brief history of the evolution of the Smokey Bear US Forestry Campaigns (might be interesting for business classes?  Evolution of the brand?  Adaptation to local markets?  Where next for Smokey Bear?).

Of particular interest to educators – there is a set of Teaching resources available to download….  These appear to be e-versions of print / physical resources available to US based educators.

If you live in an area where wild fires are an issue – this is probably something your learners should know about – and the resources here are definitely going to help you with that!




The Vortex Game

29 Jul

The Vortex Game.  This is a game I’ve created that can be used with any age or level – for pretty much any purpose.  It came out of a conversation with a colleague (thanks Sarah!) who was looking for an idea to help learners with minimal pronunciation pairs, but it can be used with pretty much anything!

I can’t claim complete originality here though – this game was inspired by a very old BBC tv show called “The Adventure Game“.  Now this is going back almost thirty years to a time when special effects were….  well a bit shoddy really.  But truly amazing by the standards of the time!  If anyone wants to look at the amount of progress the human race has made in the last quarter century, you only have to look at clips of the adventure game – of which more later…

Anyway – for game board, rules and different ways to play it (there’s a TPR style method) etc – read on!

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Tea, Coffee and Comparisons

14 Jul

Just a quick lesson overview rather than a full plan etc today:  this is an idea for helping learners with comparisons / comparatives.

Basically it starts out with the activity “Tea or Coffee”, follows up with the language input stage, invites comparisons between learners’ home country and the UK / USA etc and finishes off with an oppostion debate based around the initial “Tea or Coffee” activity.  It’s materials light – in fact there aren’t any!

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Working with Project Classes

12 Jul

This is an entry for everyone currently working at an ELT summer school somewhere in the world!  It’s not always easy and there’s a lot of hard work – hopefully this post will help out a bit!  I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy my summer school experiences immensely over the years and one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing most has been the project classes.  This post takes a look at what’s important to remember before the project class kicks off and gives some ideas for different projects and how to stage them.

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Another Guardian TEFL live Q&A

12 Jul

Back in March the Guardian held a live Q&A chat with a panel of experts, which I mentioned on teflgeek, and they’ve just posted in to say that they’re running another Q&A session later today (Tuesday July 12th 2011) on “How to find a Tefl job”.  I suspect most readers of this blog already have one, so it might not be entirely relevant, but the panel of experts includes representation from the British Council and International House as well as Cambridge ESOL, so it might be interesting to hear their take on things.

You can find out more details here:

Personally, I’ll be interested to see what IH and the BC think about the assertion in the Guardian article that “personality can be even more important for some recruiters than your Tefl qualifications”.  I take the point that qualifications alone don’t necessarily tell an employer everything they’d like to know about a potential addition to the teachers’ room – but on the other hand qualifications are fairly fundamental.  Making sure you have a recognised qualification that includes an assessed teaching practice component is also a good first step.


First Lesson Ideas / Warmers

10 Jul

For many teachers, though the school year might have just ended – the joy of summer school classes is about to start.  Or may have already, but I think lessons at my habitual summer haunt are due to begin on Monday morning – I’m not there this year, so not sure.

In any event this post contains a collection of getting to know you type activities / ice-breakers or first lesson warmers for you to choose from.  If you started teaching summer school last week – sorry about the delay – but you can probably use these or adapt these as warmer or lead in type activities – so it might still be useful!

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Postie Postie / Agony Aunt

7 Jul

This is a great activity that you can use as a warmer or as a fun practice task in a number of situations.

I should acknowledge that I originally saw my Dip tutor Peter Moran do this during a lesson in Wroclaw in 2006 – in various forms it’s been one of my staple activities ever since!

I can’t remember why Peter did this – though as I recall he was stepping in to cover an absent colleague – and I can’t even remember what the lesson was about…  In fact now that I think about it, it might have been an input seminar and not a lesson.  But there we go – the important things matter….

In it’s basic form, “Postie Postie” needs only a lot of scrap A4 paper chopped into quarters (or not – depending on how you want to adapt it).  As I recall Peter running the activity you give every learner or pair or small group a large amount of chopped up bits of paper.  The bits of paper then play the role of the message medium – in other words, the learners write short notes to each other.  When they finish writing the note, they shout “Postie Postie” and the teacher delivery system swings into operation – you collect and deliver the messages.  From that point of view, it’s probably a good idea to ask the class to address and acknowledge their messages in a “to” and “from” format.  The recipients then write their reply and send it back – and thus the conversation continues.


As a warmer – if you brainstorm topic areas / conversations issues to the board (i.e. what everyone did at the weekend – or for summer schools -what the trip was like yesterday / how hot are the teachers / what’s different between my country and yours).  Then learners simply write brief notes to each other in question and reply.

As a “freer” practice task – I have a suspicion that originally I saw this done in the context of “emailing” each other.  It could of course also work in the context of a text messageathon – if text english is a lesson focus.


I used it that other day as an “agony aunt” style task.  The learners were paired and had a bunch of scrap A4 paper.  They were encouraged to think Jerry Springer style (e.g.   My husband is in love with a tree  /  My daughter wants to marry our goldfish) but it was basically all their own work.  They addressed their “problem” to another  pair/group in the room and wrote their letter.  As a grammatically correct postman – I refused to deliver letters with mistakes in them – but that was my choice, you could be more lenient!  The agony aunts then wrote their advice by return and so on.

At the end of the task we decided which problems and which solutions were worthy of awards…..

The general idea is a nice variation on a mingle style task.  The learners can stay where they are and can work collaboratively in a way they can’t so easily in a mingle.  Plus, as teacher, you get to vet the messages (essential with any class under the age of 16…) for content appropriacy and grammatical accuracy.  As a really pedantic postman….. this task can run and run….!