Archive | October, 2011

Changes to CPE in 2013

31 Oct

In 2013 the CPE exam is not only celebrating 100 years of tormenting language learners and confusing their teachers, but will also be metamorphasising into its latest incarnation.  This post takes a look at what changes are being made and what it all might mean!  The full post is also available as a downloadable pdf.

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Halloween Teaching Resources

28 Oct

I’m not a great fan of “festivals” teaching in general, but this year my timetable has more young learner classes than usual and halloween is almost upon us, so here’s what I managed to find to help you cook up some devilish lessons for your learners…

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Global Population – 7 billion people and you

27 Oct

There’s a really nice app on the BBC website that lets you figure out where you come in the global population statistics – for example, when I was born I was the four billionth, 50 millionth, seven hundred and sixty four thousandth, one hundred and sixty first person alive on the planet.  It goes on to let you look at country population statistics and average life expectancy.  Check it out here:  BBC News – 7 billion people and you: Whats your number?.

The app is based (primarily) on data from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) , who have their own app at  This asks you for more detailed information, not only your date of birth, but birth location, current location and such like, but it does then break down the data into a much wider spread of infographics that compare the situation back then, with the way things are now.  Anyone who’s helping learners work with describing trends and/or numbers (big numbers!) would find this a useful place to go to get some personalised data for the learners to work with.

Also on the web via UNFPA, is which is hoping to inspire people to take positive actions in their communities and around the world.  One of the more powerful ways they hope to achieve this is by people sharing their stories:  7 billion stories.  There is a registration form to complete (the usual) and you need a picture to upload.  Participants also need to be 13 years old or over.  Then you write a 600 character “story” about yourself and how you hope to influence change, give it a title and go!

It seems like there’s a fairly obvious lesson plan there!  The kicker though, is that it is only 600 CHARACTERS – not words!  So learners will need to be concise!  It may also help learners to look at the existing stories to get a better idea of the type of content that’s expected of them.

Worth a look anyway!  At the time of writing, the world’s population stands at 6, 999, 175, 608.  So be quick if you want to get there in time for 7 billion!




teflgeek on paternity leave!

22 Oct

Following the arrival of a second research subject for the teflgeek occasional series “Studies in Child Language Acquisition”, teflgeek will  be taking a short break in order to mostly sleep and provide respite care for Mrs teflgeek and the first geeklet, all of whose nights are being disturbed by geeklet number 2.

As soon as mental capacity returns to a level capable of dealing with life inside the teflgeek household, the day job AND the outside world, normal posting service will resume.  (Probably in about a week?)

For those that are interested, geeklet number 2 is male, possessed of a healthy pair of lungs, weighed 3.3kg (7lbs 4oz) on arrival, and was dropped off by the stork last wednesday.


Making Mistakes & Error Correction

19 Oct

Simon Thomas answers the question “What causes ESL students to make speaking and writing errors? “ quite comprehensively in a recent blog post at

He looks at the differences between “mistakes” (lack of knowledge or understanding) and “slips” (performance errors) – which I think is a distinction originally made by Pit Corder in his 1981 book “Error Analysis and Interlanguage“.  Simon goes on to look at possible causes and possible solutions to learner errors.

Since I started typing this – Simon’s just published a further three posts extending and developing the topic (though I haven’t had a chance to read them all yet!):

If you’re a glutton for the error correction punishment, then why  not also look at Alex Case’s 2008 checklist of how to arrive at “A Well Balanced Use of Error Correction” from the Using English site?
Or get some great ideas from Colin Barnett’s onestopenglish article on Conversational Feedback and Effective Error Correction?
Or look at Scott Thornbury’s musings on the nature and source of mistakes (a brief look at the interference debate) in “E is for Error“?
There’s also an ELTChat summary by Michelle Worgan (containing some nice links to methodology articles and materials) on “How do you deal with fossilized errors and help students improve their accuracy?” which is worth reading.

Premier Skills English

15 Oct


A nice cross-curricular site for all those teachers with budding Cristiano Ronaldos in their classrooms!   But with plenty for those of us who love the game but are never going to make it on the pitch!

Premier Skills English is a collaboration between the UK Premier League and the British Council and it hosts a wealth of teaching resources that look at all of the different aspects of the modern game – and of course what happens on the pitch.  But there are lessons on things like healthy eating, good fan behaviour and some of the initiatives that clubs take to help their local communities, as well as shorter football themed activities that can be used in non-football based lessons.


Film English: MOVE, LEARN, EAT

13 Oct



There’s an excellent post at Kieran Donaghy’s Film English site called MOVE, LEARN, EAT |.

Thoroughly recommend it – even if you don’t use it with a class, the video choices are inspired and worth watching simply for your viewing pleasure!


Essential Criteria for Effective Learning?

10 Oct

This was the question posed the other week on my MA discussion boards:  “Based on your teaching experience, write down the criteria you think are essential for language learning.”  And it’s a good question.  In many respects the ultimate teaching question as it really gets down to the core elements of your pedagogical belief system – what do you know, or failing knowledge, what do you believe to be true?

So…  I had to think about that one for a bit…

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Teaching Resources: Steve Jobs

7 Oct

It’s not until someone goes that you realise the impact they had on your life – Steve Jobs was one of those public figures who inspired belief and achievement in others.

One of my classes was asking if we could talk about Steve Jobs and his life, and clearly he meant a lot to a lot of people – so here are some resources that you can use with your learners.

The Guardian has a reader tribute interactive here: “Dear Steve, your products changed my life.”  They also have a photo slideshow featuring reactions from around the world.

Also from the Guardian, this page “Steve Jobs: the 10 best tributes“.

The Lexical Press Blog from the American TESOL institute has a comemorative lesson plan available here:

Cecilia Lemos at Box of Chocolates has an obituary style lesson plan available here:

@MrTESOL tweeted this link to an interactive online Steve Jobs quiz:

Eva Büyüksimkeşyan at A Journey in TEFL has a lesson idea here:, she also mentions Sean Banville’s News English lesson:

Via A school at the end of the world – I just came across The New York Times’ Learning Network post: “Imaging Apple Without Steve Jobs”


Finally, you’ve probably seen it elsewhere on the web recently – but here’s Steve Jobs’ famous speech at Stanford university:


Free Technology for Teachers: 77 Educational Games and Game Builders

1 Oct



Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers has this excellent post:  77 Educational Games and Game Builders.

If you’re involved in teaching – you need to read his post!

Highlights I took away from it were:

Grammar Ninja – a fun game for practicing parts of speech, though I’m not sure about some of the answers….

Parade of Games in Powerpoint – having just watched a colleague’s seminar on using powerpoint with interactive whiteboards I was looking forward to seeing what Parade of Games had to offer.  It all looks good, but I had problems actually downloading the games.  Not sure why (it might be a Chrome thing).

CSI Web adventures – at least half the students in my classes are determined to become forensic analysts or pathologists.  Given that approximately 11 people per million are murdered in their country per year (at least according to this wikipedia article) – I’m not sure what demand there is for forensic pathology.  Nevertheless, the website might be fun, interesting and motivating for them.  Though i haven’t quite figured out a pedagogical rationale for using it yet!

I’m also intrigued by the Handipoints system.  We use a star chart system with attainment certificates as part of our school behavioural process.  I’m interested in the possibilities of moving this system online, so that there are additional rewards for the children, but also so that the parents can monitor their child’s behaviour over time, rather than by the occasional note home or by the lack of certificate.  One to explore further.

Anyway – again I urge you to explore Richard’s original post:  77 Educational Games and Game Builders.