September 21

Fortnightly Focus #2 – preparation for the new course

Just in case you’re not interested in my reflection on the previous Fortnightly Focus, here’s the topic for the next two weeks:

We often think about routines when planning for our YL and VYL classes.  What routines can we establish with higher levels and older learners?

My previous Fortnightly Focus was a proactive engagement with the course before it started and the focus was, “What am I doing in preparation for the new term?”

One of my personal PD goals for this year is to work on establishing a stronger home-school connection with my VYLs as I’ll be teaching four groups this year and I want to look at how they can share the lesson’s resources with their families, as well as developing the role of English outside the classroom.  I’ve created a website and bought some finger puppets who will be the class mascots.  My plan is that to start with, I’ll build the learners’ relationships with the puppets (e.g. in yesterday’s first lesson they each drew a picture of themselves with their class mascot) and by engaging them in the puppets’ lives (by taking photos of the puppets in familiar places), so that in the near future, they’ll take the puppets home and create their own adventures with them in English which we’ll then share in class.  Obviously it’s early days yet and it’s not something I’ve ever tried to do before, so I’ll update my thoughts on the process and outcomes here!

And, on a techy front, I’ve gone Triptico crazy with my classes!  I’ve got Random Name Generators (Text Spinners) for each class; I’ve created a variety of activities with Word Magnets for the PET and FCE groups (such as matching dependent prepositions); and I’ve also created Text Spinner activities for the Movers group to practise frequent language, such as clothes, prepositions of place and the weather.

And talking of Movers, I also downloaded the Cambridge Picture Books for both Movers and Starters – you can project them and use them for team games, e.g. using fly swatters to identify parts of the picture or teams can take it in turns to make a sentence about the picture without repeating a previous statement.

And finally, as always, I’ve had a good sort through of last year’s material to see what I might use again this year and what I can put back on the shelf for the future!





September 7

Ten years later #2

Today’s piece of paper becoming a blogpost is all about materials:

M is for motivating and method

A is for appropriate, adaptable and appearance

T is for timing and teacher-friendliness

E is for educational and enthusiasm

R is for relevant, recyclable and realistic goals

I is for interesting and imaginative

A is for affordable and authenticity

L is for level and learning outcomes

S is for suitability and skills



October 31

Timetable Fit

I’ve just discovered the British Council’s monthly blog topics and, as it’s October 31st and I’m still in time to blog about one of their October topics, here goes:

In the British Council’s new CPD Framework, being able to ‘describe how a lesson is linked to those before and after it’ is one of the elements in planning lessons and courses. Often called ‘timetable fit’, this is covered and expected on most teacher training courses, but it tends to become less thought about in day-to-day teaching. In your planning, how much do you plan for a sequence of lessons and incorporate recycling of previous language or skills into what your learners do?

Firstly, I would say that nowadays and in the short-term, coursebooks do a lot of this work for us.  Generally divided into units by topic, each section of the book builds upon itself incorporating new linguistic points and reviewing them through the unit.  The teachers’ book often provides a warmer which includes an element of revision from the previous lesson and in Cambridge’s Face to Face series, each double-page spread tends to include a question to review something from the page before.

The linguistic islands of Footprints 4 (Macmillan)

The lingusitic islands of Footprints 4 (Macmillan)

However, units within a book can frequently be seen as ‘linguistic islands’, with little reference to previous input when we move from one unit to another.  This is where it’s important for the teacher to build routines into their lessons which allow the recycling and revision of previous input.

I feel that it can sometimes be more difficult to review language as we work with higher levels where the input becomes much greater and more abstract.  For example, with a group of six-year-olds following a more lexis-based syllabus, we can easily review the input by playing games with the accompanying flashcards.  Also, grammatical structures with younger learners are more limited so it’s easier to encourage full sentences when working with the lexis.

That said, with older learners and higher levels we can use conversations to review language, for example by having some questions on the board for learners to talk about as they come in, allowing us a moment to monitor and check comprehension and production.

February 4

The Whats, Whys and Hows of TEFL

We’re about to start teaching practice with out current part-time course at Active and so were talking about lesson planning and defining aims.  The problem trainees often have is confusion over writing aims and at first they often define aims as the activity they’ll be doing, rather than the linguistic objective.

In my mind, we can think about aims in three ways: the What, Why and How.


Here we categorise the aim into Lexical, Grammatical, Phonological or its Skill (Reading, Writing, Listening and Communicative).  Whilst some professionals may argue that there should always be a main communicative aim in our lessons, I disagree – though obviously there should be a communicative focus in our lessons.  However, I think we can do a lot of communicative work around our main aim and we should differentiate between a main Communicative aim, such as creating a roleplay set in a restaurant and communicative activities which practise the main aim, for example a Find Someone Who activity in which learners are practising the present perfect.


This is the real question – why are you doing this activity?  We can use this to think about main aims, subsidiary aims and stage aims.  Here we often use the infinitive of purpose, with language like:

To review…

To practise…

To introduce…

To revise…

To consolidate…

To extend…

Or in the case of skills:

To scan for…

To listen for…


This is now where we look at the activities we’re going to be doing.  On the lesson plan templates we use on the course, these ideas would be seen in the “student activity” column.  Here you would find jargon such as gapfill, mingle or board race.