Tagged: low materials

the se7en deadly sins of elt – talk

I gave this talk at IATEFL 2012 as part of the TDSIG Special Programme and heard later that many people who wanted to see it could not get in to the room because it was full.

I may resurrect the talk live in some new form in the future, but in the meantime here is a recording I made of it in its original form a few years ago.

I’ve made some edits for length and privacy purposes, so sorry if there are any continuity errors.  My hair is unruly and the sound quality is not optimal, but I hope that you like it.

(Runtime: approx. 35 minutes)

Question: should I write a book or not?

Someone recently messaged me to encourage me to publish a book of low-resource ideas for initial language teacher training.

I think I would like to write such a book (when I get the time, that is!), but I would hate to do it if the world doesn’t seem to want something like that with the Teacher Training Unplugged twist.

So here is a bit of fun with a serious purpose: if you have a moment, please answer this simple question and I promise I’ll act (sooner or later) on the results!



If you can’t see the poll question, it is because your browser is blocking the embedded content from PollDaddy – this could happen if you use Ghostery or NoScript to protect yourself online.  Please allow PollDaddy if you want to see and answer the question.

Thanks for participating; I’m really looking forward to what you think.

What makes a lesson GREAT? Pt. 2

This is the second instalment of a series of five posts that I have started in order to expand on a short answer I gave to Mike Harrison over on the IATEFL Facebook group page in response to the question what makes a lesson GREAT?

It was the capitalisation that gave me the idea to fit my ideas on this into the letters composing the word at issue – GREAT. The first post, on Group Dynamic, you can find here. In writing it, I noticed that far from being an answer, it threw up a whole load of questions around the idea that I had blithely posted earlier.

This is one thing I love about these short professional development exchanges on the IATEFL and IATEFL SIG facebook pages, and I encourage you all to take part here and here for starters.

But onto what I thought was the second component of a GREAT lesson…

R for Relevance to learners’ lives Continue reading

Christmas ELT Appeal: Worst Case Scenario Survival Toolkit

Toolkit - courtesy of Wikimedia commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I got an email a few days ago from a teacher in Australia called Rufus. She works with teachers in parts of the world where resources that many of us take for granted can be scarce, and where others that we may occasionally get our hands on are pure pipe dream.

She asked me to contribute to some upcoming training she would be leading in Cambodia, with teachers whose local resources were limited and whose confidence in their own English proficiency may also be limited, and who may not have been fortunate enough to have received much in the way of formal teacher education in the recent past.

In particular, she asked me what I considered my essential teachers’ toolkit: what, as a teacher, I considered a bare minimum of resources with which I could imagine working effectively with groups of students more or less anywhere. Continue reading

ELT BITES Materials-Light Lesson Challenge!

Thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/pshab/ for this image
Acknowledgement: Thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/pshab/ for this CC licenced image

Richard Gresswell over at ELT BITES posted a low-materials challenge for teachers recently – you can find the challenge and instructions here.  I thought I would try, so…

Lesson Idea: “What’s up?  There’s been a powercut”

True story – I arrived at work one morning many years ago to find the school in darkness and dismay – there was a powercut and nothing was working.  Our morning courses didn’t have coursebooks assigned but there was a course plan.  I had nothing prepared yet. Continue reading

Why ELT needs to cut like a knife

Thiers knife
Every boy should have a penknife…

A few weeks back I was working with a group of CEF B2 learners. I had recently returned from a holiday in France and had brought a souvenir back with me: a pocket knife made by hand in the traditional heart of French blade-making, Thiers.

The knife itself (as you can see in the picture) is not particularly attractive or interesting – there were many other shinier, more beautifully made display pieces in the dozens of specialist shops in the town.

But this was the one that had found its way from a mediaeval town in France into a language class in a Hanseatic town in Germany. Continue reading



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. Continue reading