At Work: Conference Small Talk

I’ve been rushed off my feet recently. Teacher Stories came out, I completed a journalism course – writing a dog story (there’s a big market for dog stories…) among other thing...

At Work with Convivial Tools

  My new book published by the Round as part of their ‘Minis’ series is out! Big thanks to Lindsay Clandfield for steering the book to completion, editor Penny Hands for her detail...

Oh, the Places We Could Go!

This is a short post to announce the release of ‘Teacher Stories’—a glimpse at the ups and downs of our lives as language teachers. You can download the anthology as a pdf here, or as an...

Bad subtitles 2

This is a lesson that improves learners’ spoken language and pokes fun at politicians. It’s aimed at B2+ / C1 Business English learners.   Procedure 1) Ask your learners to write down...

Building bridges in Budapest: BESIG 2015

Like the healing water of her world-renowned baths, something else was bubbling up in Budapest: the issue of NNESTs. Jeremy Day’s entertaining and informative plenary opened the IATEFL BESIG Sum...

Three steps to Heaven: Teacher Stories

  Teacher stories is a place where teachers tell their own stories. As working teachers we are drowning in resources, lesson plans and tips, but our everyday problems and feelings often go ignor...

Schizophrenic ELT

ELT is suffering from a mild case of schizophrenia around the question: are we an industry or a profession?* Which answer you arrive at stems from completely different sets of values which are, I w...

Toki Pona and invented languages

This lesson plan is about invented languages, which as a teacher and a language learner I find endlessly fascinating. The YouTube video is an excerpt from ‘The Universal Language‘, a short...

Finding our way

Over the last two weeks we have grown from a moment to a movement; a grassroots uprising of English teachers (NEST and NNEST) willing to question the status quo, wanting to talk about working conditio...

Start now!

I sometimes get asked the question: How do I do decentralised teaching? Decentralised teaching is not an item of clothing that you take out and wear once; it is a process, a way of developing your own...

IATEFL calling!

This is a post describing the return of the repressed. Last year myself and Nicola Prentis of Simple English blog put forward a proposal to IATEFL for a new SIG – Teachers as Workers Special In...

3 SXSWedu highlights

Mindlessly ‘twittering’ late one night I managed, by complete surprise, to win free admission to the SXSWedu conference from March 9–12  in Austin, Texas, courtesy of TES Global. So...

10 Minute Warmer (11): Show me your pen!

This is a very simple, no-materials pair work activity that gets learners talking! Procedure   Introduction 1) Write ‘Show me your pen!’ on the white board. 2) Tell the learners that ...

Bad subtitles

  In this activity learners watch a classic Seinfeld video with bad subtitles. This activity forces them to pay special attention to the vocabulary and pronunciation involved. Watch the YouTube v...

Messy Desk!

Do you have a messy or a tidy desk? What does this say about you as a person? This lesson is aimed at Business English Learners and develops all four skills. Procedure 1) Bring in a photograph of your...

Graphs for your week

I’m always looking for a way to give the small-talk at the start of your lesson a bit of a boost, which is why I cooked up this activity to get a bit more journey out of the first 10-15 minutes ...

A dummies guide to decentralised teaching

  I get asked this question a lot – so in this post I give a simple and clear explanation. I go through what decentralised teaching is, how it is different to other teaching approaches and ...

Paper Powerpoints

Webinar and blogosphere are well-known to teachers – but zonkey and labrapoodle?   (Zebra + Donkey)   (Labrador + Poodle)   These are all portmanteaus* (that’s so hard to spell...

How to…

  This lesson came from the first Lesson Jam last year that was organised by our teacher’s group – Berlin Language Worker GAS. Learners make a 1 minute ‘how-to’ video on t...

10 Minute Warmer (10): One minute writing

  This is a simple activity that aims to do three things:   Break the ice Get learners talking about a specific topic Introduce Present Perfect/ Past Simple together and show how they are di...

10 Minute Warmer (9): How to say it

This lesson forces learners to use accurate classroom language and works well with lower level learners. It is also a good activity to use with a group of new learners or for CELTA/TESOL teaching prac...

ZX81 and Demand High

  The ZX81, “…both a delight and a disappointment” – something it shares with teaching English.     Look at this Youtube video and weep. The ZX81 was my first c...

best #decent lesson plans – 2014

Goodbye 2014! I started this whole project in October 2013 with one group of learners. Since then I’ve put up 20 free lesson plans for teachers which I hope you found useful. Last year I also st...

10 Minute Warmers (8) Small Wins

What motivates you at work? Pay, nice colleagues, coffee?     Maybe the answer is simpler than you think.   Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer emphasize the importance of ‘Small Wins&...

Low-tech teaching (3): Paper Emails

Today I’m giving you THREE ways to simulate an email exchange – without an internet connection! A big thanks to Dale Coulter for contributing one of the email tasks here. Uber-busy teacher...

Decentralised tech (2): Doxie

I’ve always wanted to find a way of scanning documents in class, such as learner’s written work. I also teach in companies, so the ability to scan docs in situ is something that would real...

Low-tech teaching (2): Paper Twitter

This is another lesson plan in the series low-tech teaching aimed at teachers who want to bring tech into their classroom. Without the tech. So anyone working with a bad wireless connection or even no...

Decentralised tech (1): Piratebox!

In this post I introduce you to Piratebox – a way of communicating and sharing files in the classroom with no internet connection. How cool is that? Introduction I’ve experimented with a l...

Low-tech teaching (1): Paper websites

  Did you know that when you open your email – you hold your breath? Or that using a tablet can affect your melatonin levels, making it harder for you to sleep? In this presentation Alex So...

10 Minute Warmer (7) Teachee Filmee

I had the idea for this Lesson plan while going to see Pride, a drama about the 1984-84 Miner’s strike in the U.K. It’s worth seeing for Imelda Staunton and the all-star cast alone! Uber-b...

Learner Autonomy with a coursebook?

In this video by Pearson education we are told that the coursebook package ‘Choices’ fosters Learner Autonomy. Let’s suppose that this is true. The next question is: if this is true,...

10 Minute Warmer (6) Face Down!

“Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.”   I’ve opened a can or worms. It all started with a frantic search for an activity to use in class. Then I came across Face d...

The Homeless Coder

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted’. Aesop In this lesson we explore the issue of homelessness and philanthropy with Leo Grand, the ‘homeless coder’. Uber...

10 Minute Warmers (4) World ball throw

This is a variation on that old chestnut ‘Ball Throw’. In my version I use a ball with a world map on it – then learners talk about which countries they have been to. Uber-busy teach...

Marker pens and kryptonite

Want to set up your own grassroots teaching association? Feel like organising your own Lesson Jam? If yes, then read on… Uber-busy teachers feel free to download  Here are also some cute pics f...

10 Minute Warmers (3) Red Herring questions

In this activity learners rearrange mixed up questions and ‘tinker’ with words. This raises their awareness of question forms in English and it’s fun! Uber-busy teachers can download the ful...

10 Minute Warmers (2) What mood are you in today?

Here’s another 10-minute warmer tried and tested with my learners! This one is called ‘What mood are you in today?’ and can be used with all levels. Uber-busy teachers can download the lesson pl...

10 minute Warmers (1) Unusual Statistics

I’m going to provide a series of 10 minute warmers – all of them tried and tested with my learners! This warmer is called ‘Unusual Statistics’. It can be used with all levels, ...

Anger is an energy!

After criticising an established ELT website last week I wasn’t prepared for the negative reaction I would get. My criticisms were not all valid, but I believe that some were  and I stand by th...

Office Space

  People love to talk about where they work. Over 200, 000 years we’ve gone from running across the African savannah to staring at a computer monitor in a white, airless box. This lesson is...