Thursday, February 26, 2015


As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Business English syllabus for English speakers

Teaching the English.........
                                      Business English

The other day a student of mine mentioned that she was dreading talking on the phone to an English business associate. Although she has improved as a learner, she is a low B1 level student, so I do understand were this insecurity may stem from. She then had another lesson with me and was very enthusiastic because she had spoken on the phone and had understood almost everything (the learner's words). She also mentioned that the English associate also offered to send a summary of what he talked about in an email and I thought, " Hmm!! How nice!!" Then again, is it?

This blog post is not about accuracy vs fluency or ELF, international English or any other  buzz term. My question and thoughts derive from a simple question, "Should native speakers receive some sort of training when doing business with non native speakers?' For me, the answer is "Definitely, yes!!"
In business, communication is everything, and whilst very often non native speakers are putting in all the effort and receiving training in Business English, what are most native speakers doing? We teach our German and French  learners how to negotiate in English, we teach them the tenses, we talk about cross cultural communication and so on, but if you are a business person and also a native speaker do you receive any training on how to be aware of the difficulties a non native speaker may have? Do native speakers assume that because their English is accurate and they are fluent, what they say is and should be crystal clear? Do they assume that they are doing good business because they are using English? I hope not. So, therefore, why not train them? I know it sounds a bit weird and you may be rolling your eyes right about now but bear with me, will you? If you ask me, business people who are native speakers need to learn a lot in terms of how to conduct business with their non native speaking colleagues.

Suggested Business English Syllabus:

Learner Profile: English, American, Australian or any other NS

  • Paraphrase and simplify
This is a very important skill. NS need to learn how to simplify what they are saying instead of repeating the same phrase 5 times (if he didn't get it the second time, he won't get it the 5th fellow NS).
  • Speak slower
No need to be in a rush. NSs need to learn how to take a breath, pause a bit. Listening to someone in real time is not easy, and a NNS only gets to listen to what you have said once, so NSs need to keep that in mind especially when doing business as every detail counts!
  • Tone down the heavy accent
Yes, when native speakers are talking to other native speakers it is OK to use a heavy accent but when you are doing business, it is essential to speak a bit clearer, toning down the heavy accent.
  • Avoid using too many phrasal verbs/ idiomatic expressions
The English language has an endless number of phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions. Using colloquial language when talking to those who understand it is a great way to communicate in an informal context. In international business communication though, non native speakers often feel perplexed by the nature of this talk. This is why native speakers may require a bit of training on what other words expressions to use when talking. It is possible that a NNS will know the word mention and not the phrasal verb bring up.

  • Summarise
Summarising points is something that people often neglect or forget to do (in my experience). In this case though, I think that emphasising the importance of summarising and training NSs on how to summarise is very important. When attending a meeting, making a presentation and in general talking for quite a while, the listener may get a bit disracted, summarising and using other words to point out the key issues is necessary.
  • Cross cultural communication
Wherever you come from you need to be aware of what is acceptable, polite or professional in one culture and comply with that. An English person may be aware of how the brits do business but does that necessarily mean that the Spanish or Chinese do it in the same way? Of course not. This is why cross cultural awareness is essential. True story: I showed a picture of an American CEO not wearing a tie to my French learners a while back and they commented on how badly (unprofessionally) dressed he was!
  • Presentation skills
Everybody in business would benefit from a few sessions on how to present. There are so many strategies and skills that go into a good presentation. It is not just about language!

I am aware that some companies do train their employees on how to conduct business with other nationalities but I think this is not enough. More training needs to be provided.

Most of these thoughts came as a result of a very long talk on Facebook in the Busines English Teachers group. Feel free to share your views in the comments section below.

Picture credits: Marina's pics

Till next time.....

As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Speaking time

Let them Speak
In today's post I am going to share with you something I did with my learners to get them to speak a bit, to take a long turn, a short monologue if you prefer. My students are intermediate level learners who feel a bit intimidated/challenged when they speak. Today though, was a completely different story, my learners had a lot of fun and actually spoke like they never had before! I was really pleased with today's session. They went from talking about something ordinary to something extraordinary. So, what did I do? 

Normal everyday pics- Stage One
I gave my students two A4 cardboard sheets with four pictures stuck on them. The pictures were of people doing everyday activities. There were lots of details in the pictures. I then gave my students some instructions.


  • Choose 2 of the pictures you feel you can talk the most about. Tell me what you see and whatever else you think connects to the picture.
  • I will give you 5 minutes to plan and make notes BUT when you start talking about your pictures I don't want you to be looking at your notes.
  • I will not help you with any words. Use the vocabulary you know and paraphrase whatever you don't know.
  • There is no time limit. Speak for as long as you can.

I also wrote a few questions on a sheet of paper and put it in front of them. I said, " You can use these questions to get ideas if you want."

                           Wh  Questions:
                                      What/who do you see in the picture?
                                          What are they doing in the picture?
                                              When was this picture taken?
                                                  Where was this picture taking
                                                      How do the people feel? How does this picture make you feel?

Five minutes later...
I told them that they should close their notebooks and just talk about the pictures. If they got 'stuck' , they could then open their notebooks to get ideas. That's what they did. After each student spoke we had a short chat about things that had been said incorrectly and they also asked me about words they did not know. They took notes (these notes have been linked to the next session).

Stage two- A painting with people
After they spoke about the everyday pictures  I showed them this painting.

Picture taken from Pablo Picasso org. Link found here

I told them to do the same thing again. The instructions and questions were the same but I gave them an extra task. I told them that this was a painting and that they had to give it a title. This is when they started turning their heads, turning the pic upside down, and trying to figure out what they see. This time my students were a bit impatient saying things like, " tell us miss what is this?"  " I can see this and that but.. hmm... what is the other thing" They were extremely engaged.

Five minutes later....
Of course they spoke to me about what they saw in the painting and they were very amused with what they were describing. I then told them what the painting was called. It's the Three musicians by Picasso. They loved it! They then tried to figure out where the musicians were, what they were playing and so on. There were a lot of Uh hu moments today.

Final thoughts
Using pictures to get your learners to speak is a great start, especially when they are not mature enough to answer questions related to 'hot topics' or when they are quite weak. Prompting them is also important and this is why I used a few questions. I did not give them any vocabulary help because I thought that it is necessary that they rely on their own language to speak, and because paraphrasing skills are important and these tasks give them the chance to do so. I started with everyday pictures to make them feel comfortable and then moved to cubism (abstract art) to challenge them and to make them use their imagination. On the plus side, you can do this with ANY learner, no matter what the context is!

The outcome
My students had a lot of fun, spoke a lot and said, " When are we going to do this again?"

What I learnt today? Maybe the most rewarding lessons come from the simplest ideas + bring abstract art into the classroom : )

Till next time.....

As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Monday, February 16, 2015

Drawing during grammar

Time line with a twist
Every once in a while, I am sure you draw a time line on the board to help your learners understand a tense. Why not jazz things up a bit and instead of drawing a time line, draw a picture time line? Also, why not get your learners to do the same? This post is about picture lines, posters and making grammar fun and creative.

The other day, I was teaching the future perfect simple and the future perfect continuous and used the example I always use. I also drew the pictures I always draw when I explain the difference between the future perfect simple and the future perfect continuous tense so here goes.

Uses depicted in this picture time line:

  • Future perfect simple: action that will be completed by a specific time in the future.
  • Future perfect continuous: action that will be going on up to particular time in the future. We emphasize duration.

Example of a picture time line. A flight from Athens to London

I draw this on the board and ask my students a couple of questions based on my lovely sketch.

Examples of questions you can ask about the picture time line:
Where is Jack flying from?
Students: Athens.
Where is Jack going?
Students: London.
By 2:30 will the action (the trip) have finished?
Students: No.
By 4:00 will the action have finished?
Students: Yes.

Why draw when making a time line?
  • Your students can visualise the grammar.
  • In this case they can also see the distinction between the two tenses.
  • It's fun cause if you are great at drawing, your students admire your drawing/sketching skills. If your drawings are terrible (like mine), your students crack up and there is a nice Happy atmosphere in the class.
  • They will probably remember the 'rule' cause of your drawing (mine do)!
Personalise the Future Perfect Tenses
So you have presented the difference with a drawing, why not make the production stage of these tenses fun and creative for your students? Give them a big sheet of paper and ask them to make a list of their future plans. Tell them they need to make little drawings and use the future perfect simple and the future perfect continuous when talking about their future plans.
You should also make your own My Plans for the Future Poster.

My future plans poster

Add a twist-back to the picture time line
Once your students have made their "My Future Plans" poster, check it, and then get them to make their own picture time lines as well. After they have made their own picture time lines, they can share them with the class. Maybe  even be the teacher and show the rest of the class their examples.

Let me know how this goes!!  Have fun drawing. Have fun with your grammar : )

Till next time.....

As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Done with the D

The emotional roller coaster aka the Delta
One day later
I am done. Finished. Hasta la vista Delta. 
In this post I am going to tell you the stages or some of the stages every Delta trainee goes through after submitting/finishing the final module. Of course, not everyone is the same, and the intensity of emotions does differ, but their is a kind of aftershock that prompted this post. So, let's see the stages.
You have just submitted the final assignment or taken the exams, and you get up from your chair.
Denial: You think, "Huh? Is that it? Is it over?" You start wondering if you actually finished. You wonder if you wrote your name correctly on the papers or if you forgot to add something. You doubt yourself. You think that something else is waiting for you around the corner. This can't be the end. No way.
Emptiness: After you have handed in your final paper and you go through the stage of disbelief/denial you feel a bit empty. It is Saturday night and there is no Delta. You can actually go out. Huh? How on earth did this happen? You have free time and you really don't know what to do with it (yeah right, as if). There is a void that needs to be filled.
One month goes by, then the second, and then results are just around the corner. That's when uncertainty kicks in. You wonder, " Hmmm, what if... What if my paper is not good enough. What if I actually did forget to write my name... what if I fail?"
Uncertainty and anxiety walk hand in hand, so yeap, you get anxious. You want to get the results. You start checking your mail 24/7 waiting... and waiting....and waiting.
Elation. Results are in and you have passed. Yeap you are done. You are on an adrenaline high. 

Back to the day after
Now what? For me, teaching is about learning. I like to learn and study. I may not be the best teacher-studentin the world, but I defo like to learn stuff. Any stuff. Since I already have an MA and now the Delta, I feel numb. What can I commit myself to?  I will find something for sure : )

One final thought
Doing the Delta is a great idea cause you learn stuff, you improve,  but it is intense, especially if you are working full time. While I have exaggerated a bit in this post, there are a lot of emotions you go through as a delta trainee and a lot as a candidate waiting for results. 
If you want more rambles on the Delta press here and here

How do you feel? Feel free to write your comments in the comments section below. If I have forgotten any 'stages', please let me know.

 Oh yeah... now it's party time. 
                                                 Done with the D.

Till next time.....
As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Teacher pep talk

I was watching the Voice the other day and noticed that whenever a young contestant was ready to perform, their family would say, " Go for it. Aim big!" Now, it is worrying to think that getting on the Voice for some is aiming big, but then again, this is the reality of the fame frenzy era we live in and this post is not one of those posts. No. Here I am going to talk about teachers and goals.

When you were young, did your loved ones tell you, " You can do it. Aim high. Shoot for the stars"? I think most of us have heard these phrases. What does it have to do with work though? If we take personal happiness and love out of the life equation, what does "shoot for the starts" mean for a teacher? What is aim big? Is it aim for the big bucks? For a higher ranking position? For fame? How high is high?

So, let's do the math
Aim for the big bucks: Now that is funny. I don't know any filthy rich teachers. I don't really think that any of us are on the Forbes list, or will be any time sooner. So, for a teacher, aim big is not money related.
Aim for fame: Well, superstar stardom is probably out of the question, but being popular among your students, being loved and respected by students and colleagues should be one of your aims. Is it aiming high? That depends on your psyche. For me, both take time and are not the easiest of goals. They are very important though. 
Aim for a higher teaching /ranking position: If you are a new teacher and you want to try something new in class, try it! If you want to become a headmaster, go for it. If you want to go from a freelance teacher to a university teacher, do it. You want to write a book about teaching? Pursue your dream! Of course it will be hard, but no pain, no gain and anyway, us teachers are tough cookies. So, these can and should be considered aiming high!
Going for it means you set a goal and try to achieve it. How do you do this?You educate yourself, you get qualifications, you listen to your superiors, your students, your colleagues. You are patient. You try to better yourself as a person and as a professional. You prepare yourself for failure, and if you fail, you pick yourself up and give it another shot.

A more personal note
I, for example, started by being a freelance teacher. I worked in both the public and private sector. I ran a business, lost a business. I initially applied for summer schools in the UK, but then thought, "Hey! I will try EAP". I did, and I got a job in the UK. I love it, I go every summer now. I started teaching online and I will now be developing materials for my company (material development is a new goal). I love blogging and have been asked to write guest posts (two very exciting ones are just around the corner), I want to start writing more and who knows where that will lead. FYI: I applied for two jobs that I probably won't get, but you know what? Big woop if I don't. At least I am setting goals and trying to make something happen : ).

So, from an 'old' teacher, this is my advice. Set goals and try to achieve them. Little ones, big ones. Whatever makes you happy, cause bottom line is that for a teacher as well, the sky is the limit! Don't settle for second best!
Picture from: link here

I would really like to hear from you. What is the 'sky' for you? Have you reached it? What are you doing to make it happen? Comments are welcome in the comments section below.

Till next time......

Friday, February 6, 2015

Blogging confessions

My blogging style
I have read a few blog posts from other bloggers about how they blog, their blogging habits/history and really enjoyed how other people go about blogging (Zhenya started the blogging habit posts, Hana Micaela , Sandy and Vedrana have written relevant/similar posts too). After reading, I thought to myself, "Hey! I am going to write a post about this as well". Let me begin by saying that I find it weird when someone calls me a blogger and this actually defines my blogging style. I am a blogger, maybe even an educational blogger, but I don't feel like a blogger (then again, what does that feel like?). Do I make sense? (Nah) So, anyway, let's get down to business! What are my blogging habits? How do I blog?

Blogging habit #1
So, I guess from what you can already see from the first lines of this post, I blog the way I talk. For me, blogging is like chatting with my friends over coffee and cakes. So, if you expect me to be more 'proper' cause I am a professional, a teacher, forget it! Actually, my blog posts are more like spontaneous speech moments (is that even a word/phrase?) and less like a written text. I have a blurt-y blog.
Coffee in Paris

Blogging habit #2
Checking: I spell-check and read my texts once, maybe twice. So, one of my weaknesses is that you may come across a little mistake, a typo or some odd dangling modifier in my blog posts (Luckily, when people spot a mistake, they let me know so I edit. You know who you are : ). Why do I do this? I do not know! I am a teacher for God's sake! I should be checking my writing already!! Maybe when you always correct other people's mistakes, you stop noticing yours, or your brain just gives up on you and doesn't respond to your mistakes or yada, yada, yada. I think it is mostly cause I don't consider blogging as part of my job. I don't think it is teaching. It is something fun for me and my ideas bubble up, so when I want them to come out, that's what they do. They pop out!! I blurt em out!!  I also do not really realise/comprehend how many or if anyone reads what I write, so I am like, "Eh, it's me writing to myself. You just need to check once, twice and then publish".
Blogging habit #3
I stay up late at night or do not take a siesta cause I want to write a blog post. You want something even worse? I wake up at night and take notes of the things I want to share. I actually have a pencil and a note pad on my bedside table (seriously... should I start worrying about habits #2 & #3?).

Blogging habit #4
To write or not to write?: I have unfinished posts. I have a lot of ideas about things I want to write about. I start writing one post and then start writing another one. The one that inspires me the most is the lucky duck post. The one that gets finished first.  The other one just sits around waiting for TLC. I often write the outline of a blog post on the post's page. That way I have the backbone ready when I come back to the post later. The posts that take longer to write are the ones that have the unfinished 'statuses'. I have a post on conditionals pending at the moment. Why does this happen? Well, some of my posts require more brainstorming, longer texts, more pictures or finding more links to connect to my texts, so because they need more work, they take more time to finish. Writing a post about an ELT thought takes much less time. I sit down, start writing and am done quite quickly (see habit #2 for more info).
Blogging habit #5
I write about the things I am interested in. My blogging is like a me, me ,me fest. I write about the things I enjoy, and hopefully someone else, in a land far, far away will like it as well.
Blogging habit #6
My writing style is simple. I don't really use fancy words. I have noticed though that when I write posts about EAP, I tend to be a bit more formal. I think that is me, being a bit more 'academic'. I sometimes cross reference, I cite, I plan more, I draft and redraft. So, while in the rest of my posts I am chatty, wordy and the worst type of blogger eva, in my EAP posts, I am sometimes even a bit proud of my writing (nope, I am not getting big headed, I promise). On a more personal note here: I do feel that my writing has improved a bit since I first started blogging, so that is rewarding.
Blogging habit #7
I like chain or blog challenges. I sometimes take part in them. They are like taking a road trip with others.
Car in rural Crete

Blogging habit #8
Playful blog posts: I use emoticons or smiley faces (sometimes sad faces : (  as well). I use direct speech. I like using bullet points but I rarely use numbers in my lists. I like using color as well. I think it adds character to my blog posts and emphasizes some of the points I want to make. In terms of theme, almost all my posts are related to education BUT I have a tab on my blog which is called the gillie side of ELT, and there I write about fun, girlie ELT topics (yeah, I know.... ).
Blogging habit #9
I try to write regularly, at least one post a week. Sometimes I stick to my plan, others I don't!
Blogging habit #10
Once I have written a blog post, I start sharing. I share on Facebook, Twitter and sometimes LinkedIn. 

Blogging habit that tops all the other blogging habits
I ramble, but I guess you already know that cause of the name of my blog : ) (see top of this page).

Notes to my future blogger self (or action plan if you prefer!):

  • I need to proof read and edit myself more, and then even more.
  • I need to get out of my comfort zone and maybe even write about something I don't really know that well. Something like a research writing blog post.
  • I want to take part in more chains/challenges. I like reading people's stories and taking part in them.
  • I want to improve my writing skill. I need to look into courses on writing (maybe even creative writing).
  • I need to stop using the word so so much.
  • I want to start using Eltpics and learn how to make infographics.
A final note
A friend of mine once told me "Joanna, you really like laughing at your own jokes" I think that applies to my blog posts as well. I smile when I write cause I think I am funny and I draw joy from my posts. I think that and the fact that I love teaching is what keeps me going. Blogging gives me the chance to talk about a great love; teaching. When you write about what you love, you write good (stuff).

Almost done....
I am really thankful to all the people who read, comment and share my posts.  I feel really happy when I get asked to write guest posts or articles for blogs/ newsletters. It feels like I am doing something right in Blogsville.
Chania, Crete

Feel free to comment in the comments section (I love reading comments btw so go ahead and write  in the comments space, that's your space). If you have written a blogging habits post, add the link in the comments section and I will then add it to this post. Thanks for reading : ).

Till next time......

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Presentation skills

Using assessment criteria to teach presentation skills

If you teach presentation skills for Academic or even Business English Purposes, you may find this post interesting. Today, I will talk to you about a little project I did and talked about at the Cultures of EAP online conference held last week. This is actually me, reporting about my talk and digging a bit deeper into issues I mentioned and some I neglected to mention during my talk. So, anyhow, let's take things from the beginning.

A bit of context: An idea is born
I was doing module 3 of the Delta and decided to specialise in EAP presentation skills. My aim was to create a presentation skills course, but....where would I start from? My first step was to start thinking of the elements of a good presentation. If I wanted to make a syllabus, I needed to know the characteristics of a good and effective presentation. As I had taught presessional English many times, I had been trained on how to teach EAP presentations skills, I had assessed my students' performance in them and I had access to loads of material, I thought I would start there.I also had three very important sheets: Presentation Skills Assessment criteria from three UK universities (Newcastle, Bristol and Sheffield) and voilà.

Time to create my syllabus
Why and how can I use assessment criteria?
I am not a presentation skills guru. I know some things about presentations, but I felt a bit insecure to design a whole course and define the objectives and aims based only on my experience. I decided to combine all the assessment criteria sheets into one and then decide what should be part of a presentation skills course.
What are the elements of a good presentation?
Based on what I found, when students present their  research or give an academic presentation ( this of course, extends to all kinds of presentations), they should focus on the following criteria and relevant sub skills/strategies/features:
Task fulfilment & Content/Structure:
Here the focus is on the introduction/overview, main body and conclusion of a presentation. Stages of a presentation are integral as well. This criterion also addresses issues related to backward and forward referencing. Key question: Is the subject matter clear?
Language (Lexis and Grammar):
Closer look: when giving a presentation, the learners' language needs to be clear. A variety of structures should be used. Discourse markers are also important. On the whole, a very good control of the language is what is essential here.
Here the focus is on the pronunciation of the words and connected speech. Voice and rhythm. Is the speaker monotonous? Does the presenter know which words/ how to attract attention? What about intonation?
Technique/Communicative effectiveness/Presentation skills: 
Closer look: This has to do with eye contact and using gestures/facial expressions when delivering a presentation.Visuals and timing also affect the delivery of a presentation.

So should we be using criteria to asses or inform? Or Both?
In my case, presentation skills assessment criteria were used as a way to informally asses my students through formative assessment. It also was a great teaching and learning tool. Giving your learners assessment criteria at the beginning of a course works wonders as well:

  • It allows the learners to familiarise themselves with the aspects of a good presentation.
  • Students can self assess their performance.
  • They can pinpoint the areas where they are having difficulty with.

What are the implications of using assessment criteria to create a course?
If you design a course that focuses on using assessment criteria as a guide to syllabus, there may be a few implications you may need to consider. The course I designed focuses on criteria which are assessed in EAP presentations. This, of course, may not be connected to the students' real life needs later on. Assessment may lead to anxiety as your learners may always feel that they are being assessed which may make the lessons less fun. ‘’Receptive skills can be tested objectively but productive skills usually require subjective testing’’ (Jordan, 2012, p. 86) So, you, the tutor, may have undergone standardisation on how to assess, but subjectivity is always an issue in these cases. Also, the assessment criteria focus on general academic skills, so if your group is a specialised group of students and you are teaching English for specific academic purposes, you may need to focus on some criteria more than others. For example, a student majoring in mathematics  will probably not have the text size of a student majoring in history and so on.

I gave a talk about using assessment criteria in order to design the syllabus of a presentation skills course at the Cultures of EAP Web Conference. You can watch the presentation here Of course, I know I am not really talking about something new in this post, but it is definitely worthwhile knowing the elements of a good presentation prior to teaching one. Assessment criteria enable you to do that!

Till next time....

 Jordan, R. R. (2012) English for academic purposes: a guide and resource book for teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fun tasks for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day <3

Looking for something to do with your students on Valentine's day? Search no longer,fellow teacher.!In this blog post you will find ideas for different things you can do on that day.

Online quizzes, vocabulary games for young and older learners
There are lots of websites that offer online quizzes for young learners. You may want your students to play an online game and match pictures and words or an online crossword (this is more suitable for older learners).

Love songs (the songs with * have fairly simple lyrics)
There are so many love songs to choose from. The lyrics will definitely be available somewhere as well. You can do gap filling tasks with these songs. I have added the link to the YouTube video in case the title does not ring a bell.
Frank Sinatra LOVE
*The Contours Do you love me?
The Cardigans Lovefool 
Gloria Gaynor I love you baby
Whitney Houston I will always love you

A Project about Valentine's Day
Why not get your students to do research on Saint Valentine, the origing of this celebration, how it is celebrated around the world and so on? This should be organised a few days earlier. Your students can present their projects on Valentine's day.
Picture taken from here

Jigsaw reading about Valentine's Day around the world.
Why not read about Valentine's day and strange traditions from all around the world. Student A reads about 5 countries and Student B the other 5. Once they have read their texts and taken notes, take them away and ask your students to tell each other about the strange Valentine's Day traditions.

Remember this old TV show? Watch an episode or one round of the game. Stop when the timer shows who the man or woman is going to choose (this is minute 5 on the link I have shared with you) and ask your learners to summarise the 3 contestants' answers and then guess who will get chosen. I would suggest using this with older learners or adults. This is a blast from the past!! The sound quality is not that great either, so I also suggest using it with stronger students.

Make a card
You can make Valentine's day cards with your students. You can either print colouring pages and get them to add this to cardboard and make a card or print actual card templates. You can also try this cool Valentine's Day 3D pop up card. If I have young learners who are shy and they don't want to make a card for the one they love, I say that you can make this card and give it to mummy/ daddy or grandparents. Of course the poem that goes in the card is:

                Roses are Red
                         Violets are blue
                                     Sugar is sweet
                                                  and so are you.

Valentine's day debate
Split your students into two groups. One group in favour of celebrating Valentine's Day and the against it. Each team should have a spokesperson. Give them about 5 minutes to prepare.  Once both teams are ready, they can debate over whether we should or should not celebrate this day.

Colouring page screen shot taken from here

Valentine's day cupcake topping ideas
How about watching a video about cupcake toppings? Ask your students to take notes of the way they can add a flower or a rose topping on a cupcake. You can add subtitles if you have weaker students. There is also a transcript option.


Valentine's Stepping stones Odds and Evens
You can revise numbers, teach your students the difference between odds and evens by using this great odds and evens stepping stone coloring page.

I have made a lesson plan about first dates and the growth of a relationship. The language focus is on Make and Do collocations. You can find that here

Couldn't resist embedding the song : )


If you want more ideas, have a look at this website:

Feel free to add any other ideas in the comments section below.

Till next time........

Saturday, January 24, 2015


My daily ELT routine

So, what's your life like as a teacher? What do you do when school is in, and you are the busy bee teacher? If you ask a teacher about their daily routine, you will probably get what you are about to read in this post. So, here is my #dailyELTroutine (note to the blogger/teacher/reader:
it would be so cool if this turned out to be a chain if other teachers shared their daily routines. Teachers from around the world.Let me know if you do).Ah, yes, a bit of context: I live in Greece and have been teaching for 17 years.

So, this is my day. Let's call it Monday

8:17. This is when the dreadful alarm clock goes off. First thing I do is turn on the light. Second... check my phone. I look at my emails, my facebook notifications and check to see if I had any missed calls or text messages (my phone is on silent mode when I am sleeping).There is actually a term for this. It's called FOMO (fear of missing out). My day starts with a severe FOMO attack.

Between 8:20-8:45. I have breakfast, get dressed and slap on whatever creams I have laying around somewhere.

8:45-9. As I teach Business English online, I need to:

  1. Send my learners an email with a link to the platform we are using.
  2. Log into Adobe and upload all the material I will be using.
  3. Check my learners' management system and download any teaching material, lesson notes necessary.
  4. Call my learner.
9-2:30 Teach, teach, make lesson notes and pretty much repeat what I do from 8:45-9.

* I often have gaps between lessons and as I am an online teacher, I get to do other stuff at home.  Stuff means: check twitter and read blog posts or articles I find interesting, write a blog post, ride my bike (stationary workout bike of course!) and listen to music whilst also reading MC or Elle (yeah, I am a multi task bike rider). I may also make lunch, call a friend or just watch sth on TV. Doing some marking, planning or writing up lesson notes is also a given.

4:00 to 9:00 More teaching. I teach all ages and all groups. Some of my students come to my house, others don't,so I go to theirs. I only teach one to one or little group sessions (maybe I should say pair sessions but does that even exist? Pair as in two students and me.. dunno).

9- undetermined: Correcting+planning.  This varies cause every day I have different things to correct or upload (for my online learners). I would say though that roughly this takes about an hour.

Then dinner time followed by some serious YouTube video watching. This is when I stop thinking of teaching and I watch women talk about makeup, lifestyle etc.. etc. and then....


And that folks is #dailyELTroutine.

Pretty much teach, teach and teach. 
Yeah, and I'm loving it cause, I may have a schedule, but as you know, no lesson is like the previous one : )

Till next time....

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Online Presentations, CPD and the lots

Presenting at an Online Conference: 
                                                 food for thought

The other day I presented at "The cultures of EAP" online conference and my presentation got me thinking (yay, you get to read another one of my rambles), so,  I now really want to share with you some of my thoughts about online conferences, how I experienced the conference as a member of the audience and my views as a presenter as well.

Why attend an online conference?

  • For continual professional development.... obviously!
  • They offer the option of recordings, so everything is saved. If you miss a session, you can watch it later. 
  • They are convenient. You are at home, in your jammies and learning in the most comfortable of ways.
  • Participants can be from all over the world, so you may hear a talk from someone who would not be able to present at a face to face conference (for presenters who are not key note or invited speakers, face to face conferences can be a bit expensive in terms of travel expenses).
  • The platforms that host online conferences have chat boxes so you also get to interact with the other attendees. There are no ''shhhhh" moments in this case (while they are an an excellent opportunity for some serious chatting, they can be a bit distracting though).
Why present at an online conference?
Well, why not? OK, if you need a bit more persuading, here goes.
  • You, the presenter, don't have to go anywhere. You are at home, so actually there are no expenses! It is also probably the most comfortable way to present (you are in your slippers, in your own chair etc, etc)!!
  • Because presentations get recorded, you can reflect on what went well in your presentation and what needs to be improved. You can also keep your presentation in some sort of e-portfolio ( I add mine to my blog page). 
  • You may be nervous, but not as nervous as when presenting face to face. So, if you want to start presenting your views, an online conference is less nerve wracking.
  • Your audience is from all around the world!
  • It is good for the CV fellow teacher.
  • Like any conference presentation, you get to dig deeper into issues you are interested in, share your views and even learn something from the audience's comments. It is a win-win situation.
The PPP of an online presentation: advice to the presenter
If you do submit a proposal for a talk at an online conference, this is what I suggest. Plan your talk, make you slides and then practice what you are going to say. Time yourself because while at a face to face conference someone will probably warn you when you only have 5 minutes left, at an online one that does not really happen so it is easier to lose track of time. Finally, start promoting your talk. If you want people to attend your talk, inform them by tweeting about it (systematically), share the info on Facebook and LinkedIn groups. If you have a google+ button, press it. 

On a more personal note... my talk..... my reflections....
I talked about the impact of presentation skills assessment criteria on syllabus design. This was my first EAP related talk, so I was really enthused about it. I am not going to toot my own horn about the things I think I did well. I am going to tall you what I did do though. I had a lot of things to say and that was mistake numero uno. My planning. I timed myself at home, but lost track of time due to nervousness and stumbling over my own words. I also made a major omission.I talked about presentation skills assessment criteria, learner problems and syllabus design, and how criteria can inform syllabus design. However, I did not mention any implications to such an approach. Ironically, I always tell my learners, you gotta mention implications when you talk about your research. Yeah, practice what you preach, Joanna!!Sadly enough, a friend who attended my talk, spelt this one out for me : (. 
Notes to my future online (and offline) presenter self:
Even though you think you have planned your presentation well, you haven't, so, plan more.
If you know anyone who knows anything about what you are talking about OR has experience presenting, ask for advice regarding your presentation. You may hear something helpful.

Final thoughts
I am really thankful to everyone at Sheffield university's English Language Center and Oxford University Press for organising/hosting the "Cultures of EAP" conference and giving me the opportunity to attend and present at the conference. The conference was about the Cultures of English for Academic Purposes (for more information go here). 
If you have presented online and want to share your own thoughts, feel free to comment in the comment section below. 

Till next time...
As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


EAP Presentation skills: Learner perceptions, problems and an itsy bitsy case study

In this post I am going to talk a bit about EAP (English for academic purposes) and presentation skills in relation to learner problems and students' perceptions. I will do this by sharing with you a small case study. Before moving on, let me just let you know that in EAP very often students are asked to give a presentation about something they are doing research on. Presentation skills are also assessed as part of many/almost every pre-sessional EAP course.

My experience
I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to teach pre-sessional EAP at 3 great universities (in the UK). Moving around the UK whilst teaching EAP, has allowed me to see how different universities teach presentation skills and how presentation skills are assessed. It has also given me the opportunity to witness presentation skills learner problems. Whether the learner is Chinese, Iranian or Greek, international students do tend to face the same or similar problems.

What do learners know about presentations anyway?
A bit of context: I had a group of four EAP students, all Greek and all post-graduate level learners, studying at a university here in Greece. During our first session, I asked them, " How do you prepare for a presentation?" Their answer surprised me. They had never had any input whatsoever on how to give a presentation in English, although they were expected to, and had, given one or more presentations in English while attending university.
When I first meet my Chinese students during their EAP courses, I ask them about their presentation skills experience, 99% of the times I get the same response.

What do you consider important when giving a presentation in English?
I asked my (Greek) learners the million dollar question (what do you consider important for a good presentation?) and this is what they thought:
1st Planning
            2nd Language (General vocabulary)
                    3rd  Signposting language
                             4th  Pronunciation

                                       5th  Appearance of visuals

Valid points, don't you think? All the above are important when giving a presentation. But there are more.....
So, I then observed my learners in order to see what kind of difficulties they had when presenting research in English. I observed them without having given them any guidance on how to deliver a presentation in English. They used material they had actually used at older conferences, material they had presented before. I looked at structure/content of a presentation, language, pronunciation and voice, communicative effectiveness and presentation skills. This is what I found.

Learner Problems
Structure/Content of presentation:

  • Missing slides ( overview/introduction, main body, conclusion format was not followed)
Pronucniation/ Voice:
  • Speech often monotonous, robotic
  • Intonation similar to their L1
  • Mispronunciation of key words
Content/Task Fulfillment:

Whilst all learners knew what they were talking about, there was an over reliance on their research papers. They did not elaborate on their ideas.

  • Grammar/lexical range was basic (not enough complex structures)
Communicative Effectiveness/ Techniques:
  • Students were not giving a dynamic presentation. They stayed glued to their computer (some did not even stand up as a chair was available)
  • No eye contact with audience
  • a lot of reading from slides
  • Visuals were too wordy with a lot of unnecessary animation
Finally, during their first presentation, my learners plagiarised a lot, but they didn't know they were plagiarising!

Both my Chinese and Greek learners have similar weaknesses when presenting in English.   Presentation skills in EAP require the bringing together of many sub skills. In order to help the learners, it is essential to know what the individual learner problems are and address them in class. Knowing general learner problems is a good starting point though.

Want to hear about assessment criteria, learner problems and syllabus design?

On Thursday the 15th of January I will be giving a short talk on my experience teaching presentation skills to a group of Greek learners. I will look at assessment criteria (used by 3 universities) and learner problems, and how they inform syllabus design.
The conference is free, online and hosted by Sheffield University and Oxford University Press.
If you are interested in hearing the talk, press here for more information.

Till next time......