courses – all the usual signs of dodginess

If you want to know how dodgy a TEFL course is, all you usually need to do is look at the accreditation page and look for these typical signs:

– Mention of membership of IATEFL (which is available to literally anyone, including your postman and paper boy, and so proves absolutely nothing)

– Inclusion of the IATEFL logo (which not only doesn’t prove what they want it to, but is specifically banned by IATEFL, and so proves the exact opposite)

– Meaningless weasel words like “leading” (and no answer when I asked them what that actually means)

– Not only having a link to an accreditation agency that only accredits other dodgy-sounding TEFL courses, but only being an “affiliated course” on their tiny list of accredited courses and so presumably not even directly accredited

– Stats that sound as impressive as they are supposed to for about ten seconds until a quick calculation shows how ridiculous they are (in this case “over 40 years of combined experience teaching”, which could be for example a whole course with just five trainers with eight years of teaching experience each, a calculation that would give Cambridge “thousands of years of combined teaching experience”)

All that from just the one page. And from other parts of their site:

– Limited time discount offers (not generally a good sign in any industry)

– Names of courses that make the low standards instantly clear like “Advanced” for an 80 hour online course and the hilarious “Master TEFL Expert Teacher” for the real length of a basic TEFL course like Trinity CertTESOL but of course in this case all online with no observed and graded teaching practice, the most important bit…

Posted in Online TEFL certificate | 3 Comments

Why I’m a TEFLer who doesn’t worry about money

Given the crappy pay and job prospects, a lot of TEFLer understandably have money worries. Not me! And unlike most TEFLers who don’t worry about money, it’s not because I haven’t thought about the future.

The way I see it, the future could go one of several ways, none of which will be affected by stressing about them, and the only future worth worrying about is so unlikely as to be hardly worth considering.

The reasonably possible futures are:

  • The invention of cold fusion, improvements in robotics etc will mean that all humans will be able to live a life of luxury on the moon or Mars, however bad their career choices up to that point
  • Someone who loves my worksheets will suddenly become filthy rich and offer me shitloads of cash to express their eternal gratitude for my help with making “this/ that/ these/ those” or the Unreal Past teachable
  • Enough authors working for the big publishers will unable to resist the temptation to rip off my free online worksheets that I’ll be able to sue them for a bucket full of gold coins
  • The boom in mixed-race minor celebrities in Japan will last long enough that I can live off vaguely amusing anecdotes about the childhood of my daughter
  • I’ll become the first foreigner to live permanently in a cardboard box with the homeless in Ueno Park in Tokyo
  • The environmental apocalypse will leave all us living in cardboard boxes in parks, sewers, fields, etc – making me feel much better about it
  • The stress of having to look for another job at age 60 when my employers lay me off at their obligatory retirement age without having actually offered me any pension plan up to that point will make me have a fatal heart attack or stroke in my last class at the age of 59 years and 364 days
  • I’ll save just enough money to be able to afford to be able to spend 3 months trying to drink myself to death in best possible way in the beer bars of Belgium (before going the Ueno Park route if I am unfortunate enough to survive any longer than that)
  • Aliens will invade and become benign overloads that sort out this screwed up society of ours
  • Aliens will invade and wipe us all out

The virtually impossible future that it’s not even worth thinking about is:

  • That I will save enough money to have a comfortable retirement
Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | Tagged | 6 Comments

New Cambridge First Certificate Writing Part One essays page

I’ve only managed to write one worksheet on this new part of the exam so far, but have tried to make up for it by linking to all of the few other updated resources online and my other relevant functional language and grammar pages:

FCE Writing Part One essays materials

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Changes to FCE exam from January 2015

Been updating my extensive but now slightly out of date FCE materials pages.

Changes to the exam from this month that I’ve least started to update my stuff to match:

– Use of English and Reading papers combined and so paper and some sections renamed

– No more stories in Writing Part Two

– No more letters or emails in Writing Part One

– Writing Part One now always an essay (see following post)

– Speaking Part Three now in two parts (discuss, then interrupted by examiner and then asked to decide), more like opinion questions than before, and based on written prompts rather than pictures

Changes I didn’t need to make because I never had anything on it:

– No more set texts and matching questions in the Writing

Changes to the exam I haven’t updated my stuff to match yet:

– Fewer questions in all sections of the Reading and Use of English paper

– Both Writing Part One and Writing Part Two now 140-190 words (presumably because there is no longer lots of text to read in Part One)

– No more emails/ letters with lots to read before you write

– Speaking Part One now 2 minutes instead of 3

Changes that I probably won’t be able to do anything about:

– There’s presumably a new version of FCE Result out, but I won’t be using it and so those pages probably won’t be updated.

See this TEFL Geek page and the Cambridge FCE handbook for two complete updated sample tests for a more systematic description of the changes.

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | 2 Comments

New present tenses activities

My last three articles have been on this topic, including a brand new one on combining and contrasting the two present tenses, and there are also new worksheets on the relevant index pages:

Articles with present tense activities

36 fun classroom activities for Present Simple and Continuous

35 fun classroom practice activities for Present Continuous

56 classroom activities for the Present Simple tense

Index pages with links to those articles, worksheets, stories and songs

Present Simple and Continuous games, worksheets, stories and songs

Present Continuous games, worksheets, stories and songs

Present Simple games, worksheets and songs

Posted in present continuous, Present simple for routines etc., Present simple/ continuous, Present tenses | Leave a comment

New English teaching photocopiable activities Nov/ Dec 2014

Happy New Year! Out with this (very slightly) old, then back to Starbucks to continue working on the new… Just in reverse chronological order, so the most useful is probably halfway down the page somewhere.

Rephrasing in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

Modals of obligation, prohibition and permission green initiatives debate

Explaining Japanese things verbs of sensation practice

Offers in business practice

Company security Present Perfect Simple and Continuous

Comparing IELTS Academic Writing Task One and Two

Negotiating for points game

Can/ Can’t mimes lower level version

Possessive S miming race game

Family, favourites and possessive S guessing games

Animals, body and possessive S pictionary advanced version

Clothes, body and animals possessive S pictionary game

Language learning adverbs of manner practice

Christmas and New Year Trends

Longer negotiating phrases card games

Negotiating Language Board Game

Clothes and Possessives Drawing Game

IELTS Speaking What you and the examiner should say games

Define the quoting sources vocabulary

Present Perfect things in common game

Present Simple and Continuous things in common

IELTS Speaking Roleplays

Defining and Non-Defining Relative Clauses Bluff Game

IELTS Speaking Part One The Same or Different

Countable & Uncountable Categories Board Game and Presentation

Uncountable Categories with Countable Examples Board Game

Starting presentations tips and useful phrases

IELTS Speaking prepositions and articles pairwork guessing game

Requests & Enquiries Board Game

Present Simple Chain Stories (Consequences)

FCE Speaking Part One functional language board game

FCE Speaking Part One functional language card games

Dealing with foreign guests meeting criteria board game

Different kinds of business communication meeting criteria board game

Meeting People Jigsaw Dialogues and Useful Phrases

Hedging & Quoting Sources

Functional Language Dice Game

Emailing- formal and informal functional language

Patents Vocabulary and Discussion

If only & I wish unreal past regrets dice bluffing game

Posted in Photocopiable worksheets | Leave a comment

The most popular TEFLtastic photocopiables in 2014

2014 was a record breaking year for TEFLtastic, finally recovering from the chaos after the split from and then reaching over 1,500,000 annual page views. I’d love to think that was because my attempts at humour have been wonderfully successful, but over 95% of the popular stuff was of course photocopiable classroom activities. Which particular ones got all the hits seems completely random, but here they are anyway in case you are interested:

1.      Second, third and mixed conditionals discussion questions
2.      Mr Bean Narrative tenses
3.      First conditional sentence completion guessing game
4.      Can Can’t match the person to the sport
5.      Present Perfect Continuous Discussion Dice game
6.      Comparatives and superlatives personalised speaking games
7.      Third conditional sentence completion guessing game
8.      FCE Speaking Part Three language learning tasks and useful phrases
9.      First conditional consequences
10.   Comparatives and superlatives recommendations challenge
11.   Headlines vocabulary guess the story (Modals of probability/ possibility)
12.   Technical English Measurements and Superlatives Lesson
13.   Guess the future time
14.   Reporting verbs guessing and story telling
15.   Can can’t sports mimes
16.   Third conditional things in common personalisation game
17.   Do It Yourself Mr Bean (Infinitives of purpose)
18.   Country guessing You can game
19.   Present Continuous /Present Perfect Continuous guessing game
20.   Present Perfect Continuous guessing game
21.   Present Perfect Simple and Continuous job interview roleplay cards
22.   Inventions guessing game (Modals of deduction)
23.   Yesterday by the Beatles Past and present tense review
24.   Present Perfect Continuous complaining competition
25.   Simple Past Liar! game
26.   Present Perfect Continuous and jobs Guess the changes
27.   Food Vocabulary Comparatives and Superlatives
28.   Discussion questions about festivals, celebrations and public holidays
29.   Guess the job 20 questions and personalisation
30.   2nd conditional sentence completion guessing game
31.   People who speak to you Reported speech game
32.   Going to and Will for predictions Mr Bean The Exam
33.   Going to for plans/ will for spontaneous decisions helping game
34.   Describing objects 20 questions and extended speaking
35.   IELTS Speaking on festivals and celebrations
36.   Past continuous and remembering/ forgetting
37.   Advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of holiday
38.   Logic Puzzles Reading Comprehension
39.   Homes and architecture vocabulary Pictionary
40.   2nd conditional chain writing (consequences) game
41.   This that these those Pictionary
42.   Talking about your job and company first class
43.   Wallace and Gromit The Wrong Trousers modals of probability/ possibility
44.   Spot this that these those flashcards game
45.   Ghosts storytelling vocabulary game
46.   Starting and Ending Conversations Lesson
47.   Prohibitions guess the place
48.   Present Perfect Simple sentence completion guessing game
49.   Being Around by the Lemonheads (Second Conditional)
50.   Media vocabulary list dictation
51.   Feelings and amusement park vocabulary
52.   Countable and uncountable foods presentation and speaking
53.   Second conditional supernatural error correction and discussion
54.   Your city Comparatives and superlatives recommendations and quiz
55.   Modules 1 and 2 vocabulary Past Continuous accusations game
56.   Your weekend Present Perfect and Simple Past
57.   What does this sign mean prohibitions pictionary
58.   Medical moral dilemmas (2nd conditional)
59.   Conditionals review sentence completion guessing game
60.   Third conditional and past modals advice
61.   Good rules and bad rules
62.   Reported Speech functional language guessing game
63.   Going to for plans and future continuous for predictions
64.   Supernatural modals of probability discussion
65.   Business English Present Simple or Continuous discussion questions
66.   Past simple/ continuous/ perfect logic puzzles
67.   Travel Advice country guessing (modals)
68.   Present Perfect Continuous Say Yes Bluff
69.   Past continuous memory game
70.   Functional language reported speech storytelling game
71.   Comparing places and things for tourists
72.   Present Perfect Simple and Continuous personality quizzes
73.   IELTS Speaking Parts Two and Three on Animals
74.   Third conditional vocabulary revision random pelmanism game
75.   Defining architecture vocabulary
76.   Cultural rules modals pairwork
77.   Your weekend and life predictions and probability
78.   Business negotiations Second conditional
79.   Reported speech chain stories (consequences)
80.   Present Perfect Continuous How questions
81.   IELTS Speaking Parts One, Two and Three on food
82.   Second conditional ghosts discussion questions
83.   Narrative tenses storytelling game
84.   Dependant prepositions Jigsaw text
85.   Describing objects
86.   FCE word formation challenge game (Use of English Part Three)
87.   Countable uncountable 20 questions
88.   Present Perfect and changes
89.   Crimes and Misdemeanours 20 questions
90.   Hotel negotiations pairwork roleplay
91.   The story of your life Mini presentations
92.   Rules and regulations bluff game
93.   Media discussion questions
94.   This that these those mimes
95.   Technical English countable uncountable definitions game
96.   The past and present comparatives practice
97.   Compare and contrast the places
98.   Adjectives to describe last week
99.   Advanced architecture vocabulary
100.Comparatives and superlatives Last weekend


Posted in Photocopiable worksheets | Leave a comment

TEFLtastic attempts at humour in 2014

I was too busy following my own recommendations on Kaizen TEFL and endlessly polishing up worksheets to see the funny side very much in 2014, but I did come up with these when I was really trying to take a break and cheer myself up. In approximate order of how much I think they might be worth remembering… 

What student compliments really mean

What you should be and really are thinking in class

21 signs that I was fated to be a TEFLer 

13 reasons why chairs with flaps are better than tables 

More realistic lesson aims 

Freelance teachers’ survival kit 

Adding spirituality to teaching English

A great warmer for managers who have to cover classes 

My computer corrected me in class!

How to cash in on Scottish independence – a guide for TEFLers 

I also didn’t have much time to read other blogs and TEFL forums, so recommendations for TEFL humour elsewhere gratefully received.

There are also these from earlier years which someone must have rediscovered if the spike in their stats is anything to go by:

The best slogans for crappy English schools 

Don’t do the CELTA

What we really should ask in level checks and needs analysis

Earlier years’ lists are here:








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Freelance teachers’ survival kit

Perhaps the saddest of the many things I like about being freelance is that packing up for a day out and about teaching reminds me somewhat of setting out on a camping or backpacking trip. Here’s a list of things I take with me, or would if I had them and could fit them in my already incredibly packed bag. Given that lack of space, priority is given to things with multiple uses, some of which you might not have thought of. The list could also provide suggestions for Xmas presents for your TEFLing loved ones.

  • Scissors (for endless cutting worksheets up into bits of paper, trimming nose hair, etc)
  • Glue (for putting things together on one worksheet, patching up bag and shoes, sniffing for a quick pick-me-up, sticking hyperactive students to their chairs, putting in messy hair, etc)
  • Blutack (to stick things to the classroom wall, chew in the place of chewing gum, etc)
  • Paperclips (to stop bits of paper from getting mixed up, to stick into your thigh to stop yourself falling asleep during class, etc)
  • Clip-on tie (for those rare days when anyone actually checks what you are doing)
  • Alcohol-based wet wipes (for getting rid of pen off your shirt, for a quick wipe of the armpits when you didn’t have time for a shower, etc)
  • Laptop computer and portable printer (for preparing lessons, Skypeing your children to read them bedtime books when you are on the train back home, etc)
  • Box set of DVDs (to watch on the train or in cafés between lessons)
  • MP3 player (for speech radio, to retain the ability to speak English at above Pre-Intermediate level)
  • Several plastic bags (for disposing off paper offcuts, wrapping things on rainy days, putting smelly socks into, carrying extra worksheets in when your backpack is full, using as improvised wellies when the weather turns bad, peeing into during long train journeys, long classes and days with no breaks between classes, etc)
  • Flask of tea or hot water (for secretly topping up your Starbucks cup to kill time when you have five hours between classes)
  • Cutthroat razor and/ or Swiss Army knife (for personal grooming between classes, cutting things up, threatening really lazy students, self-defence etc)
  • Peanuts, Kendal Mint Cake and glucose tablets (for survival, to secretly eat during classes to make up for lost meals, etc)
  • Caffeine tablets
  • Hipflask of whiskey (for medicinal purposes, to have a little party on the train home to reward yourself for a hard week, etc)
  • Inflatable pillow or paperback book (for napping on the train or in a café between classes, putting under your butt in particularly long classes with uncomfortable chairs, etc)
  • Alarm clock (to wake you up before the train gets to your station, 15 minutes before your lesson starts, or when students finish a practice exam)
  • Sleeping bag (for secretly spending the night under a desk, in a café or in a park when you have a late finish and early start)
  • Cattle prod (for motivating students, keeping yourself awake, self-defence etc)
  • Stretchy exercise band or 100 rubber bands (for exercising while on the train to the next class)
  • Passport and traveller’s cheques (in case not complaining about being made to travel further and further to do classes leads to you actually being made to switch countries during your working day)
Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | Tagged | Leave a comment

More realistic lesson aims

One of the strongest criticism of PPP is that it never achieves typical lesson aims like “Students will be able to produce Future Continuous and use it in communication”. Or at least it seems like a strong criticism until you realize that no other approach can achieve that either in a single lesson and if they are more successful it is often simply by setting the bar lower. That’s a technique that I think we can all use, so here are some more realistic goals that you can set for your lessons, PPP or not:

“My aim for this lesson is:

  • Not getting any complaints
  • Students not being more confused about this language point than when they came into the classroom
  • At least not get any blank faces when I have to completely reteach this language point in three weeks’ time
  • Students vaguely remembering this language point when they learn it all over again in the next level class
  • Dodging any questions which I can’t answer
  • Getting through without racist comments by anyone
  • Students being motivated to learn the language by my lie that it’s useful for TOEIC
  • No one realizing how useless this lesson’s language point is
  • Not forgetting to do more than one of the stages on my lesson plan
  • Not allowing students to distract me into ranting about something or talking about my holidays again
  • Doing at least 40% of the things that I’ve planned
  • Finding all the problems with this lesson so that I can use it with a more important class next week
  • Proving that this lesson was never going to work
  • Not yawning
  • Not sighing
  • Not losing the will to live
  • Not letching at any students
  • Collecting at least two amusing student errors
  • Not getting any pen on my shirt or face
  • Not spitting on anyone when I’m demonstrating pronunciation or getting particularly passionate in my error correction
  • Not reminding anyone of Basil Fawlty or Mr Bean
  • Getting fewer than 10 yawns or patronizing looks
  • Not giving away too much personal information
  • Not using exactly the same stories to illustrate language points as in previous classes
  • Not using exactly the same example sentences to illustrate the grammar as in previous classes
  • Not having to explain the activities more than four times
  • Still having enough energy left to teach my other lessons without snapping at anyone or nodding off
  • Still having enough energy left to get through this month’s sex with my partner tonight without snapping at anyone or nodding off
Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | Tagged | Leave a comment