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......

Monday, January 5, 2015

Blog Challenge

What's Your Story?
I read about this blog challenge on Vicky Loras' blog and thought, "I want to take part in this challenge". So, here is my story.
I grew up in Sydney, Australia and at the age of 12, my parents decided that it was about time to move back to the mother land, Greece. So, we did. We moved from Sydney to Crete. At the beginning, my Greek was very very bad. So bad that my Greek teacher wanted me to repeat the class. I would not hear of that cause, well, I was a nerdy student. So, I studied a lot, had private lessons and manged to pass the class. I did always struggle with my Greek though. Anyhow, years went by, I got into university. I got a BA in English from the University of Athens and after finishing my studies I was ready to become a public school teacher. And I did. And I hated it. I was miserable. I actually resigned from a teaching job one year! So, I thought, " What will I do now?" I stopped teaching in the public sector and spent more time teaching as a freelance teacher and at different private language schools in my hometown. I also decided that it was about time to do an MA and I did. I got a M.Ed in Tesol. In my mind, at that time, I was a qualified teacher, a super duper one, and I wanted more.
In 2007, I decided to open a language school and I did with my sister. I was going to be a language school 'owner' and a DOS. Thirty years old, with an MA and a language school. I was doing something right (or was I?).
In 2011, my friend Anna suggested we apply for a summer school job in the UK. As she had experience teaching at a University she suggested we try applying for pre sessional EAP jobs. And we did. And I got an interview. My interview was successful and my first uni job was at Newcastle University. I loved it! I went back the next year and met Deirdre. We became very good friends and kept in touch. During the winter of 2013, she suggested I apply for a job as an online Business English tutor and I did. I got the job. I loved it!
I actually needed a second job because recession hit very close to home and my langauge school was not going well. During the winter of 2013, I was teaching business English online in the mornings and general English at my language school in the afternoons. EAP courses in the summer. Oh! That is when I also decided it was time to do the Delta (and I did). I also started blogging (yes, that is when this monster was born : p) and presenting at conferences. All was going as I had planned.
And then everything changed.
Septemeber 2014, my language school stopped existing. My sister and I decided that we could no longer run the business and that it was better to close. We did. I was very sad. I had spent 7 years of my life putting effort into something that did not succeed.
I still think about what else I could have done, but I am not going to dwell on the past any more. Everything happens for a reason. I do know one thing. I am not cut out to be a business woman. 

The present: I am still teaching Business English online, I have my one to one lessons and will probably be going back to Sheffield university this summer, so workwise I am alright. I blog and present at conferences. I am also writing my first article (yay). I have much more free time now as well. I am content with how things are.

Final thoughts.....
Today, what I really want to share with you in this blog post are my conclusions. Having been a teacher for 17 years, I think that it is important to learn and get qualifications. They make us better teachers and open doors. With these learning and teaching experiences, come people, and these people become our friends, they make our lives richer and help us when we need help. Finally, if there is one thing I have learnt this year, it is that you gotta take risks and if you fail, eh , who cares? You will get over it and move on. That is what I am doing.

Till next time.....