You have probably heard about the recent earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand and the terrible devastation it has caused.  I just received an email on a discussion list for CELTA tutors from a teacher working over there and I am re-posting it here in order to publicise the situation over there and to try to do some good:

Dear colleagues,
Our language school in Christchurch, New Zealand, is preparing to reopen in temporary premises while our building and campus are checked for earthquake damage. We cannot enter our school building to retrieve materials or coursebooks so we are currently engaged in some lateral thinking on how to teach without materials! We won’t have a photocopier or printers or internet access, or whiteboards in our premises. Most of the staff have internet access at home however.
Does anyone know of any online articles or pages of ideas for teaching in this type of situation? The students are adults here for general English as well as business English and Cambridge/IELTS exam prep courses.
Many thanks in advance for any tips or advice!

As you can see, the situation is quite extreme.  I am asking on behalf of these teachers and their students for the help of any colleagues who read this posting.

You can help in any of the following ways at least:

  1. comment on this post with your ideas for low/no resources lessons.  The wider the applicability in terms of level, the better
  2. comment with links to useful websites containing low/no materials teaching tips – for example,
  3. comment with ideas or concrete lessons for managing exam preparation classes in the short-term without access to exam prep coursebooks or past papers.
  4. tell any colleagues you know who might have ideas or tips about this to visit this blog and comment

When posting, please bear in mind the circumstances; our colleagues in Christchurch have internet access at home or at cafes, but printing and/or photocopying is probably next to impossible.

I’ll be tweeting this link soon – please retweet if you can.  I’ll make sure that the original poster knows how to find this post and all your comments, so please be generous with your ideas – we’re all in this together.  On that note, and being cheeky: DELTA Publishing, any chance of having a few copies of Teaching Unplugged donated to the school in question?  Can we work together to make a difference?

Comment and let’s get this moving!

Thank you for reading, and thank you for helping!


POSTSCRIPT: as this blog is all about practising what you preach, I thought I had better do just that!  Here is a lesson idea that I got from my brilliant colleague Izzy…

Title: “Something that’s worth it”

Aims: By the end of the lesson, the students will have practiced speaking about something they are prepared to spend extra money (or time) on, and they will have received feedback on the language they used to do this.


Before the lesson

Think about (and if at all possible, bring in to show) something that you cannot live without and are prepared to spend a relatively large amount of money (or time) on – this could be something very “everyday” such as a $5 hair band (average price 50 cents) or something that you do regularly.  Think about what makes this item/activity worth the extra money or time for you personally.

Task set up

Show the students your item (or describe your activity) and tell them about why it is so important for you and why you think it is worth the money or time you spent on it.  Welcome questions and be prepared to defend your choice.

Ask students to think about something that they spend a little extra money or time on because they think it’s worth it.  Point out that it does not need to be an item; it could be a specific service or activity.  The only criteria are that they really do spend money or time on this item and you could get the same kind of thing cheaper or faster some other way.


Students stand and walk around, finding partners to talk to.  They describe their items or services etc and why they feel that it is worth the extra money/time, and listen to each other’s stories.  They ask each other for more information and move on, repeating the process with a new partner.  Students try to talk to as many people as possible in the time available.

Tips for keeping the conversation going:

  • Get all the students’ attention (e.g. clap) and tell them to find a new partner.  Repeat as necessary.
  • Wander round and encourage students to ask more questions.


Feedback on task

Learners sit down.  Learners take a moment to think about the following (or similar) questions:

  1. Whose item/service/activity was most surprising for you?
  2. Did anyone’s story convince you to spend more money/time on that thing next time you need it?

Ask some students to talk to you about these questions, encourage chat within the group.

Feedback on language

Use the board to give students feedback on interesting language they used*

* Remember this can be:

  • Good use of language
  • Language that you can help them use better



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