Have Something Done activities page just added

Couldn’t find much good stuff online, but have added five useful links to my own speaking games on the topic, one that Cambridge FCE examiners love for some reason:

New have something done page

Posted in Cambridge First Certificate, Passives | Leave a comment

Can you recommend any campaigning TEFL blogs?

I’ve been thinking for a while that a TEFL blog carnival on more campaigning topics such as teaching pay and conditions, crappy schools and the like would make a great change to “Teaching ideas for…”, so if anyone with actual Twitter and Facebook accounts fancies giving it a try I’ll see if I can’t get back in campaigning mood and add something. In the meantime, I’m planning to start a section of my blogroll on blogs and blog posts on things which are meant to change the industry rather than just the way that individual teachers choose to teach. Suggestions below please.

Here are a few that I’ve found so far:

Marker pens and kryptonite on Decentralised teaching and learning

Five questions about fair pay, respect and equal pay for TEFL teachers on Cooperativa de Serveis Linguistics de Barcelona

Angry Language Brigade on Libcom.org

TEFL Equity Advocates

TEFL Blacklist (not to be confused with the original one, see below)

A Disabled Access Friendly World: ELT Lessons on TEFL Matters

Some older ones that I’d love to find active versions of:

Marxist TEFL

Critical Mass ELT

The TEFL Blacklist

and 11 of my own random ideas to change this industry of ours:

Random Ideas to Change TEFL

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | 1 Comment

10 beginning and ending emails classroom photocopiables

New page on the most important part of emailing in English, and the point I probably spend most classroom time on, now I’ve realised how pointless (if fun) it is to spend much class time on First Conditional and Past Continuous games:

Opening and closing emails materials page

Posted in Email | Leave a comment

A great warmer for managers who have to cover classes

This is based on an activity which managers in a chain of school that I work for love passing onto teachers in teacher training workshops. In order to repay the favour, I’ve adapted it to be more suitable for said Directors of Studies when they have to rush out to cover a teacher who is “sick” (or even a “teacher” who is “sick”).

The manager writes the ten statements below on the board and the students guess which are true, preferably after asking questions to get more details of each thing (during which time the DoS should continue lying if it is one of the untrue ones). The ten statements to write up are:

  1. I don’t believe your teacher is really sick
  2. I’m going to interrogate you later to try and confirm my suspicions that your teacher is an alcoholic
  3. I’m going to make your teacher suffer for making me cover this lesson
  4. I’m going to make him/ her suffer even more for not telling me how bad your English is before I prepared this class
  5. I’ve come to despise all English teachers since I’ve had to manage them
  6. What makes me hate them more is that I wanted to carry on teaching myself but my wife made me apply to be a manager
  7. I applied to be a manager because I hated teaching
  8. I applied to be a manager because I was such a terrible teacher
  9. Actually I wanted to be a poet but my poetry blog has got me nothing but abusive comments
  10. I’m sure one of the abusive commenters is your teacher

Come to think of it, at least 7 of those might be true for most people who try this game, so might need a little tweaking. Any other ideas?

Inspired (?) by a conversation with Tokyo Fox. More sensible bluffing games here and more TEFL silliness here.

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | Tagged | 2 Comments

31 EFL bluffing/ lying games (TEFLtastic Classics Part 23)


Q&A Lying games

Photocopiable worksheets

Present Simple cultural customs bluffing game

Relative clauses slang call my bluff

Job interviews Have you ever bluffing game

Past Continuous bluffing card game

Present Perfect Continuous say yes bluff

Past Simple Liar game

Regret dice bluffing game (Unreal Past with I wish and If only)

Meeting people and describing your company bluffing game

Xmas traditions passives bluff

Real or pretend functions review bluffing game

Free time sentence completion bluff

Modals personalised sentence completion bluffing game

Past Continuous and Used to bluff

Next weekend bluff

Rules and regulations bluff

Anecdotes bluff

Academic Word List call my bluff

Helping people past tenses bluff

Proverbs call my bluff

Money idioms call my bluff

Weekends and the news extended speaking bluff

Lying game and discussion on lying

Fresher week academic vocabulary bluff game

Describing Xmas foods bluff game

Headlines vocabulary sharing personal experiences bluffing game

Economics vocabulary sharing personal experiences bluffing game

Social Science vocabulary sharing personal experiences bluffing game

Types of news needs analysis and sharing personal experiences bluffing game

And many more to come.

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | Tagged | 1 Comment

New EFL negotiating games article and worksheets page

21 ideas in the article and 15 worksheets, including one I really should mention in my TEFLtastic classics series of posts where students can win a negotiation by accepting the easy jobs and fobbing off the longer ones on their partner:

Negotiating games/ worksheets page

New worksheet up there today, and should be another five or six soon.

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | 1 Comment

“The data is” or “The data are”?

I got asked this question twice in the same week as I heard both the British presenter and Australian guest on the fab statistics podcast More or Less agree with my prefered form just as I was beginning to doubt myself on it. Like with IELTS Writing Part One conclusions, after having researched it a bit to find out, I have both a strong opinion and an open mind about this controversial question.

First of all, it cannot be denied that “data” comes from the plural of the word “datum”, meaning “data” was historically plural. Therefore if you are perhaps a computer engineer who still uses the word “datum”, then you maybe have my special permission to say or write “The data are” if you really must. However if for you, like for the rest of us, “datum” is basically a disappeared word, “data” is uncountable, making “The data is” the only sensible form.

Here are some other reasons why:

- Nobody says or writes “three data”, meaning it has become uncountable

- “Information” is uncountable in English, so it kind of makes sense for “data” to be too

- Like most uncountable nouns, you can add “a piece of” to make the countable expression “a piece of data”

- Like many uncountable nouns, there are countable equivalents if you really want to add a number or “a”, making the relationship between “The data is” and “The statistics/ figures/ numbers are” the same as that between the uncountable “My advice is” and “My recommendations are”

If you Google this question, you’ll find that Wall Street Journal and The Economist basically agree with me while the APA style guide is just as confident about it but in the opposite way.

Posted in countable and uncountable nouns | 1 Comment

Does IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 need a conclusion?

Opinions on this vary a lot. I have a quite strong and clear point of view on it, but not being an IELTS examiner I still have enough doubt about it that I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts.

First of all, IELTS Academic Writing Task 1  must not finish with an actual “conclusion“. A conclusion is something meaning “therefore” leading logically on from the evidence given in the body of an essay such as choosing the better of two options, but in IELTS Academic Writing Part One you should only select, summarise and compare. No opinions or speculation are acceptable in Task 1 (unlike Task 2), so there can not be any kind of conclusion.

If there is a final paragraph after the body, that would have to be a summary. As that is often what students mean when they ask if a conclusion is needed, the question then becomes “Is a final summary paragraph needed?” This is where opinions are split, but my personal position is a clear “No – introduction, two main paragraphs, then just stop”. Here are my main reasons why:

- The whole essay is supposed to be selecting and summarising. If you have done that successfully in the introduction and body, it doesn’t make much sense to end with the summary of a summary.

- If you’re going to briefly summarise the overall trends etc, it makes much more sense to do that as a single sentence in the introduction (as would usually be the case in real academic writing).

- The closest thing to this kind of writing in real academic writing is a description in a (much) longer essay under a graph or similar, in which case the next paragraph would be the kind of interpretation that you must avoid in this IELTS task. Students should therefore think of it as part of a much longer essay and just stop.

- A good summary should give the same information as the body (not new information) in different words and in a way that makes reading it worthwhile. This is almost impossible to do well, especially as students will have already been trying to avoid repeating words from the task and from earlier in their essay in the introduction and body.

- A tip that really helps with IELTS Writing generally is to avoid one-sentence paragraphs.  It’s almost impossible to write a two- or three-sentence final summary paragraph in Task 1.

- The time and words used to write a summary are almost always better used on the introduction and body.

- Fewer than 5% of student attempts to write a final paragraph after body that I receive are acceptable. All the rest would lead to a lower mark than avoiding one would have.

Here are some other views on the topic from two of the few IELTS sites I would recommend:

IELTS Writing Task 1: overview not conclusion on ielts-simon.com

Academic Task 1 – conclusions on dc-ielts

And your views are?

Posted in IELTS Writing | 3 Comments

How to remember the spelling of definitely

A student recently refused to believe me when I corrected his spelling of “definately” and then he had a minor breakdown when his iPhone confirmed that he’d been spelling it wrongly for the last five years or so. He didn’t seem convinced either by the method that I use to remember the spelling, which is to sound it out as “de fin ite ly”, pronouncing the problem syllable as “ait”, to rhyme with “fight”. I then suddenly realised that it starts the same way as the much easier to remember word “definition”, which seemed to be an “aha” moment to the last few doubters/ panickers. We’ll see in their next IELTS essays if it actually worked…

Posted in Typical spelling mistakes | 5 Comments

TEFL in the news August 2014

Most recent stories top:

Dope smoking TEFLers arrested in Korea (Korea Times)

17 years TEFLing in Taiwan – what the hell do I do now? (Guardian)

Malawi adopts English medium schooling (Al Jazeera)

VSO/ British Council to send first foreign teacher trainers to Myanmar (VSO website)

Demos say 700,000 affected by cuts to ESOL funding in UK (Huffington Post)

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | Tagged | Leave a comment