Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pre sessional EAP courses

Pre-sessional EAP courses..... bits and bobs

This post gives just a few tips on the whole pre-sessional EAP experience in the UK. So, before we move on you may ask, " What's a pre sessional EAP course?" In a few words, it is a summer course run by universities (usually their language centers) and the students attending these courses are international students (mostly Chinese) who have been accepted on an MA (or undergraduate program) by this or other universities. The aims of these courses are many but in a nutshell, the goal is to prepare learners for the university experience and help them improve their academic English. The courses are usually 4, 6 or ten weeks long.
I have taught on three courses at great universities with lovely managers and colleagues. It is a demanding but rewarding experience and I strongly suggest you try it. Some of my friends though ask me " How can I do it?" which gave me the idea to write this blog post. Here are a few suggestions:
Where do I begin?
  • Draft a CV which is connected to your studies and teaching experience. Apart from a CV, it is important to write a cover letter too with a more detailed description of what you have done and how it is connected to the EAP job you want to get. Some universities have application forms and a CV or cover letter is not necessary, but having one always comes in handy, even if you just copy paste stuff from your CV to the application form!
Where can I find job adverts?

I go to two websites:
How can I prepare for an interview?

You can't really prepare but if you want to read a bit on EAP, I would suggest reading EAP Essentials: A teacher's guide to principles and practice by Alexander, Argent and Spencer. Of course you can always do a Google search and reads loads about EAP.

What should I expect before/during an interview?

First of all, don't worry if you do not live in the UK because many universities hold telephone or Skype interviews. I only have experience of Skype interviews as I live in Greece. If you do live in the UK, well then you go to wherever the interview will be held : ).
If you get an interview invitation, some universities may ask you to do some tasks prior to the interview like provide a lesson plan of an EAP session you taught or assess a research paper.

What kind of questions do they ask?

Loads! Here are a few to get you thinking.
  • Describe a difficult situation with a teacher or student and how you dealt with it.
  • What are your three best teaching features?
  • Tell us about your education/qualifications and how they have shaped your teaching.
and some EAP questions...
  • What are the aims of a pre sessional course?
  • What's the difference between an EAP course and an Ielts academic English course?
  • What do you consider plagiarism and how do you deal with plagiarism? How can you help your students avoid plagiarism?
  • What are the differences between EFL and EAP?
  • What technology do you use when you teach EAP? Tell us a few of the EAP websites you go to when you teach your students.
they may also ask
  • Why do you want to work for.......... university?
  • What could you bring to our university? (yes, I got that one)
and many more questions.

So, that's all for now. Good luck with your interview : ) Feel free to add any other suggestions and tell me how you did!

Till next time......


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TBL with my business English students

TBL part 2: My business English class

My friend told me the other day that I have my fingers in many yummy pies. I do. I teach general English mostly to kids, I do business English with adult learners from other parts of Europe and I also teach EAP courses during the summer in the UK so it is quite a mix, and I love it!
In my last post, I talked about a TBL lesson I tried with my Ielts prep. class (posted on January 16th) and this time I will talk about using the same lesson with my Business English students. the material I used in both classes was the same and it was based on this video
The first question you may ask is "Why would I use a video based on  a true story of a 5 year old saving his dad's life with a business English student?". Well, three reasons:
  • It helps them with "small talk".
  • It facilitates practicing a long turn-using past tenses and other genre features of a narrative.
  • It is fun (are you allowed to have fun during a BE session? YES!!).
According to research "small talk" and using English for social purposes has proven to be very important for BE students (Basturkmen, 2006) and should not be neglected. Story telling does give the students an opportunity to talk for a longer time. How often is it that you just have you as a  teacher asking a question and the learner answering it? In real life, your BE students may have to talk about something that happened to them in the past, so in my view, story telling can be part of a BE syllabus. Finally, it is fun. So, they are business people and you teach them how to negotiate, deliver a presentation, send an email/memo, but your session with them may be a break from their hard day, so why not try something entertaining from time to time?
Feedback I got from my own learners
Most of my learners enjoyed it. Especially when they realized their story and the true story were completely different! It was fun, interesting.
There was one that did not like it though, cause she doesn't like using her imagination and telling stories (ok, fair point) but she did note that it did help her practice using past tenses (yay).
Such lessons can be quite demanding for the not so creative students so it is something that should be taken into consideration. They are great for the freer conversational session which can be part of business English syllabuses where the focus is on everyday English.
Final thoughts
I will definitely use this lesson again but instead of telling them to tell me a story about an emergency, any emergency, I would make it more related to their work. An emergency at work and how you dealt with it. So basically keep the TBL steps just change the follow up production tasks.
Till next time.....

Basturkmen, H (2006) Ideas and options in English for specific purposes. New Jersey: LEA

Thursday, January 16, 2014

TBL with my Ielts students

Using TBL with my IELTS  academic English class
As part of my Delta course I had to experiment with instructional frameworks and try new approaches. I chose Task Based Learning and designed a lesson based on information I found in the Willis ELT website ( ).
My class
My students were attending English classes as part of their preparation for the Ielts academic English exam. The lessons we had done so far were particularly exam oriented and focus was mostly on writing and speaking. There was no time for fun and all the lessons focused on gaining skills/strategies that would allow my learners to succeed in this exam. The lessons were quite dry so I thought this would be a great opportunity for something fun.
The lesson
The lesson was based on a video of a true story about a five year old who used his knowledge of the ABC to help save his father's life ( The tasks followed the TBL framework so I started with a warmer that made use of words from the story and asked my learners to quickly guess what they thought the story was about. I then asked questions and generated discussion that would get them to think more carefully about emergencies and what young children can do in such cases. Students then concocted a story and afterwards reported to the whole class. After the reporting stage, my learners watched the video and found out what had actually happened. We then talked about genre features specific to story telling and focused particularly on past tenses and extreme adjectives. The new language was presented and students used the structures whilst answering questions like " What kind of emergency have you ever faced? How did you deal with it?" As homework, my students were asked to watch the video again and tell me the story again.

Samples from the lesson
What is the story? What connections can you make?

The setting

New Jersey

The characters

A father

A five year old son

A grandmother

The paramedics

Some phrases from the story

“use your active listening skills”


School shoes


Route 22

1. In an emergency, what can a five year old do?

2. In an emergency, what can a grandma tell her five year old grandson to do?

3. What do you think happened in this story?

4. In pairs, try to guess what happened in this story.

5. Now, prepare a report of the story. One of you will tell the rest of the class what happened in this story. Let’s see if you have the same stories.

6. Now listen to the story. Where your predictions correct?
Feedback from my students
They loved the lesson!
  • They had a chance to talk about something that allowed them to use their imagination.
  • They got to watch an authentic video and see how close they were to the real story.
  • They noticed linguistic features which they made use of in later stages of the session.
 My thoughts

This was a memorable session and highly motivating one. There was a lot of noise during the session and the grammar facilitated the realization of the intended outcome. unfortunately though, I was unable to predict all the grammar and structures my learners may have needed to complete the task.
The thing my learner said and put a smile on my face
So, my students did take the IELTS exam in December and when they called me the first thing my learner said was, " I used lots of extreme adjectives when I did the speaking task". Out of all the sessions we had the most memorable one, the least exam oriented one, was the one that she remembered and mentioned after having taken the exam. This makes me rethink about lots of the material I use in class!
 I will follow up with a twist... I used this lesson with my BE students too! Till next time!