Posted in EFL

Observation and Feedback



As of next week, I will be trying my hand at some teaching practice (TP) observation and feedback. During observations the tutor needs to record the stages of the lesson with a running commentary and complete an overall feedback sheet with strengths and areas to improve on. After the observation the tutor conducts a session with the trainee teachers.


I have observed a couple of these feedback sessions and noted the stages the tutor usually goes through. Here is a rough outline of the stages:

  1. Trainees are given self-reflection sheets to complete.
  2. (Optional) Trainees pair up and give feedback to each other.
  3. As a group the trainees write up key words on good and bad points in the TPs.
  4. The tutor goes through the boarded key words with the group.
  5. Comments are elicited from the group about one of the TPs.
  6. Then the trainee responsible for the TP comments on their own lesson.
  7. The tutor summarises the lesson and things to think about.
  8. The tutor comments on what has been achieved.
  9. Repeat of stages 4 to 7.
  10. The tutor recaps the important points to take away and boards key words.

In stage 5, the tutor may ask the trainee to sum up their TP in a couple of words. This summary is then explored using follow-up questions, such as ‘Why did you do that?’, ‘What did you do next?’, ‘How could you have done it differently?’. In stage 6, the tutor uses their notes made in the running commentary to structure feedback. Then in stage 7, the good/bad points form is used to comment on achievements in general.

My Reflection

Although this can be challenging for the trainees, a group approach to TP feedback better enable trainees to self-evaluate and learn from their peers. If trainees are able to notice their own areas for improvement, they may be more open to constructive criticism and advice. In fact, self-awareness is seen as a sign of progress in the CELTA and can make the difference between a pass and a fail in TPs. One of the most difficult things about giving feedback must be having to give negative feedback and/or failing students. However, this can be eased by giving the students a chance to spot their own difficulties, as facilitated by the procedure above, rather then just lecturing them.


Retrieved 18/1/18 from



Posted in EFL, English Teaching, languages, TEFL

Input Sessions: Classroom management


I’ve never been too keen on the input output metaphor of learning, I prefer the more socio-cultural view that knowledge is actively co-constructed through interaction with peers and the environment. However, in the CELTA, this is just the terminology used (input) to identify sessions that raise awareness of specific language teaching areas. It does not necessarily mean that sessions take on a spoon fed lecture format. In fact, quite the opposite in my experience, my own EFL training has been very hands-on with a strong emphasis on learning through practical experience. Last Friday, I observed two ‘input’ sessions, below is a quick description and reflection.

Classroom Management

This session mainly focussed on the following areas:

  • Teacher roles
  • Seating arrangements
  • Monitoring
  • Giving Feedback

Teacher roles and seating arrangements

First, trainees reflected on the previous sessions on warmers in groups. Each group had a slightly different set of questions and after the discussion group members were paired with students from another group. This was achieved by numbering the students from 1 to 5 and then bringing all the 1s and 2s etc… together. This was an example of learning through experience or ‘implicit instruction’ rather than telling the trainees how to do something ‘explicit instruction’.

In the questions the following teacher roles were introduced: Facilitator; Observer; Coach; Time keeper; Conductor; Resource; and Quality controller. Also, trainees reflected on the seating arrangements for a range of classroom situations: Exams; Class discussion; Group discussion; presenting new language; Pair work; Team games; and creating posters.

Monitoring and feedback

In the second half of the session trainees were given a selection of mini dialogues between teachers and students and asked to comment on them in pairs. After this, they were given headings to match to the dialogues. The issues raised were:

  1. Echoing Students (SS) correct utterances
  2. Finishing SS sentences
  3. Not responding to SS as people
  4. Flying with the fastest SS (assuming all SS have understood)
  5. Over-helping SS
  6. Lack of teacher (T) assertiveness

After trainees had completed the task, the tutor elicited potential issues that could arise from the teacher behaviours above. These included: (1) increased teacher talking time (TTT); appearing condescending; (2/3) damaging SS/T rapport; demotivation; and (6) confusing SS.

Finally, trainees discussed how the tutors had monitored in the sessions so far and then given some questions to reflect on.

Ways to monitor learners

  • Circulate
  • Read their faces
  • Sit away from SS
  • Don’t interrupt

What are you listening for?

  • Are they on task?
  • Are they using the target language?
  • What types of mistakes are they making with the target language?

Ways of giving feedback

  • Oral
  • SS ask other SS across the class
  • Prepare answers on Interactive whiteboard (IWB)
  • Write up on the board/IWB
  • Give answers on a handout
  • Get SS to write answers on the board/IWB
  • Give feedback on language and the way SS completed the task

Featured image

Retrieved 11/12/17 from

Posted in EFL

Teaching Practice


During the CELTA, trainees need to complete 6 hours of observed teaching practice (TP). After each TP, trainees reflect on how it went and receive feedback from tutors and peers. Last Friday, I observed the first 20 minute TPs, based on the warmers discussed in a previous post, and the subsequent feedback.


For this first set of observations I was given two forms: one for the stage plan; and one for overall comments.

After comparing with my mentor, I discovered that I had perhaps been overly critical of what was a potentially first teaching encounter for the trainees. I noticed a couple of interesting things from the other tutors’ notes.

  • Use of bullet points rather than prose.
  • Focus on the positive aspects.
  • Positive language, such as ‘Good/Excellent use of’.
  • Use of ticks or double ticks to highlight positive points.
  • Use of brackets for areas to work on.

Obviously, each tutor will have their own way of recording observations, and this is just a list of surface level considerations. As the course progresses, the observation focus will probably shift.


After the observation feedback was conducted in plenary with the TP group. After the observed trainee reflected on the lesson, other trainees gave their opinion. This was followed by praise and constructive criticism from the tutor. The idea was probably to get the trainees to notice areas to work on rather than telling them. The main points from each discussion were boarded, such as ‘instruction, demo, check’ and ‘you are the teacher’. Feedback from the tutor was structured to: first, highlight positive aspects; then, discuss areas to work on; and finally, to focus on the positive and what had been achieved.

Featured image

Retrieved 11/12/17 from



Posted in EFL

New forms of storytelling 2

More thoughts on teaching flash fiction

After introducing students to flash fiction, how can you help them write their own?

The first thing I would do is discuss the differences between, say novels and short stories and the considerations writers need to take in each. For example, one area might be eliminating unnecessary information or making sure details push the plot forward. Perhaps a simple wiki page could be used for students to systematically delete these excess details in class and outside. This is not the most creative idea but I mention it to highlight the simple advantages of editing functions in digital environments over paper.

For more considerations, a quick google search brings up a whole variety of advice like this or this , but quite a lot of it is conflicting. So rather than ask questions or impose one way of writing flash fiction, it might be a nice idea to get your students to come up with advice for each other. Students could do some research online and come to their own conclusions, or perhaps create their own top ten tips. This could be followed by a pyramid discussion, where groups combine and reduce the number of tips until they agree on a top 5 list.

From choose your own adventure to interactive fiction

In my last post I used the terms ‘choose your own adventure’ and ‘interactive fiction’ interchangeably, but now I’ve come to realise that a distinction needs to be made. As far as I understand it, choose your own adventure stories have their roots in children’s books in the early eighties. At the end of each page or chapter the reader is presented with choices and corresponding page numbers. Interactive fiction (IF), on the other hand, comes from text based digital environments where the reader/player uses commands to explore and solve puzzles.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a piece of interactive fiction called Playspent and the way it uses point of view to develop empathy in the reader/player. I recently tried another story called Lifeline, which has a similar effect. In Lifeline you receive messages from a stranded astronaut and help him/her survive. Messages arrive over a couple of days to add to the realism and you engage in a kind of conversation as the astronaut describes the situations. This approach allows for more linguistic complexity than the standard present tense 2nd person perspective of most adventure stories. The astronaut acts as narrator and can therefore vary tenses to reveal backstory elements. But what I really like is the way you interact with the story and the character, giving advice or choosing supportive or motivational comments. I killed the astronaut a couple of times before getting to a happy ending.


Posted in EFL

Flipped classroom


I will look at my level 8 group C2.1 as this is the group I am designing my course for at the moment. Looking through the course book I thought it would be nice to flip the listening sections but unless I make copies of the CDs, get the students to buy the CDs or publish them illegally on YouTube this is not feasible. I therefore decided to flip a reading lesson.

The normal class procedure (following the book) would be the following:

  1. Speaking; SS discuss some questions related to the topic (health) of the reading while T monitors. the main aim of this is to engage students and activate schemata for the reading.
  2. SS read for gist; a general question is proposed and a time limit imposed. (not included in the book)
  3. SS read for detail; in this case complete an exam task, matching 4 narrators to paraphrased comments on there opinion or experience.
  4. Students discuss a brief opinion of their views on the reading
  5. Some kind of language analysis takes place; in this case, choice of verb for a more emphatic effect.

The flipped version

At home

  1. Discussion; students respond to the discussion questions in a forum/Trello/Popplet/Edmodo post… backing up some of their ideas with links to videos/articles…
  2. Students read the text; first gist question and task at home.
  3. Students add opinions about the text to previous forum
  4. Students identify more emphatic verbs and complete exercises.

In class

  1. Students discuss the questions from the forum face to face. (more informed by research)
  2. (if not done before SS compare answers from reading)
  3. T provides answers to exercises
  4. SS divide into groups and create a health campaign leaflet/poster/presentation to encourage teenagers to keep fit and healthy and make use of emphatic verbs in the process.

Pros and cons


  • More time for productive activities in class.
  • Students often find it hard to concentrate on reading and exam tasks in class.
  • Students encouraged to read/watch authentic content and delve deeper into the topic.
  • Students might have more to say about the topic.
  • Students encouraged to communicate with each other in L2 between lessons.


  • Students might not have time or motivation to complete the tasks at home having a knock on effect on the lesson.
  • Students might have lost interest in the topic by the time the lesson starts.
  • Students might have forgot what the reading was about and why they chose certain options by the time they come to class. (could be avoid by providing answers online).
  • Students might not follow the gist before detail procedure.
  • SS might use dictionaries/google as they read and not infer meaning from context.
  • SS might take longer to read the text and not adequately prepare themselves for potential exams.

From my experience EFL teaching in private language schools it has never been about lectures, so the idea of recording a lecture seems a bit irrelevant to my context. The way I see the flipped classroom is giving the homework before the lesson rather than after it to prepare the students for the class. Is that considered flipped?

image source:

Posted in EFL

Open Educational Resources

The tree of openness

Below is a Prezi I made to depict the relationship between creativity and openness in open educational resources (OERs) as described by Weller (2012).

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 17.31.52.png

On our course we were asked to come up with a list of evaluation criteria for OERs. After discussing suitable criteria in our Moodle forum we came up with the following:

OER Evaluation Criteria

Clarity/comprehensibility of content, Opportunities for deeper learning, Accessibility, Usability, Alignment to standards, Adaptability of content, Relevance of content, Interactivity, Connectivity/linkage, Coherence, Originality, Content quality, Up-to-date content, Opportunities to contribute, Opportunities for peer critique/correction, Communication, Ease of navigation

In the end I came to the conclusion that any tools that allow you to aggregate resources related to the specific field you are interested in could be used as an OER. One example is Pinterest.

Pinterest as an OER

Clarity/comprehensibility of content

Content is clearly displayed, often as info graphics

Opportunities for deeper learning

You can learn about anything and find suggested connected ideas, as content can come from anywhere you can collect and mix up ideas.


You need to create an account if you want to save your searches, but this is free.

Alignment to standards, Adaptability of content, Relevance of content

You can search for the levels and age groups you want by adding key words. So you can align to the standards you want and find relevant content.


You can create your own boards and remix content, add your own…


You can connect with others by inviting collaborators to your boards via a social network.


Coherence is created by the way you group ideas

Originality, Content quality

Quality and originality is mixed but you can add or delete as you wish

up-to-date content

Content is always being updated

Opportunity to contribute, Opportunity for peer critique/correction, Communication

Anyone can contribute as content is sourced from the web.

When each pin is selected a comments feed pops up at the bottom, after this you can chosse to visit the original site

Ease of navigation

Very easy to use and navigate.



Weller, M. (2012) The openness-creativity cycle in education-A Perspective JIME



Posted in EFL

Refining aims and objectives

giphy.gifLooking for aims and objectives in course books

The courses in my school do not have a course outline, the teachers structure the course around the course book and adapt and supplement it to the needs and interests of the students. Is this the same for anyone else? Anyway, in most of the exam based books I failed to find anything but a list of items to be learnt. I wonder why this is, could it be because the objectives are set by the CEFR? I did manage to find some aims in the teacher’s book for an FCE book, but no aims for the learners in the student’s book. On the other hand, in Messages, a pre-intermediate book aimed at younger learners, there were aims and objectives in the student’s book but not in the teacher’s. The aims and objectives were labelled You study (aims) and So that you can do (objectives).

Where I looked for help

Some thoughts from Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT



Objectives are not included 

I found this page that helped me identify the aims and objectives in the Messages book.

Then I started to question the difference between objectives and outcomes and found this

But still a bit unsure on this. I think I found the answer I like in Moon, J. (2002) as explained below.

Original aims and objectives from learning event (lesson)

Messages: Pre-intermediate A2.2

As written in student’s book

You study: names of everyday routines and link words. (aims)

So that you can: talk about everyday routines and write about your average day. (objective)

These aims and objectives have obviously been simplified so that the learners can understand them. I will therefore reword them slightly from a teacher’s perspective without changing the meaning.


The learners will study the names of everyday routines and linking words.


By the end of the lesson the learners will be able to talk about everyday routines and write about their average day.

Revision thinking


The learners will study the names of everyday routines and linking words.

Moon, J. (2002, p.62) Aims are related to teaching intention, outcomes related to learning and objectives are often written in the terms of both and are therefore confusing.

If aims are an intention, then we need to change ‘will study’ to perhaps ‘will be introduced to’.


By the end of the lesson the learners will be able to talk about everyday routines and write about their average day.

Moon, J. (2002, p.64) outlines three elements for writing outcomes; A verb (‘what the learner will be able to do), A word (that indicates on what and with what the learner is acting’) and a word (indicating the nature in context and standard).

  • So in the example: the verbs .. and write… about routines/average day are in place.
  • The ‘on what and with what’ could be routines and their average day.
  • However, it would also appear that the nature in terms of standard is missing. Therefore ‘will be able’ could be replaced by ‘will be better able’.

Final revised aims and objectives/outcomes


The learners will be introduced to the names of everyday routines and linking words.

Or… To raise awareness of lexis related to everyday routines and linking devices.


By the end of the lesson the learners will be better able to talk about everyday routines and write about their average day.

In reference to SOLO levels

The outcomes of this learning event seem to be limited to quantitative: pre-structural/uni-structural and multi-structural demonstrations of learning. Perhaps the writing section could be considered relational as they put everything together. However, opportunities for extended abstract are absent, unless you consider students applying the lexis to their own lives.


Image source:

In reference to constructive alignment

If later assessment of this lexis takes the form of a gap fill or multiple choice exercise students might try to memorise the items rather than truly understand their use and context. Biggs, J. (2003 p.1). However, in this lesson the outcomes are a piece of writing (perhaps it should be an email or something to give it context) which could lead to more individualised ‘constructed’ examples of understanding. (p.2).

Constructive alignment seems to dovetail into backward design (p.2) (correct me if I’m wrong).

What is a more desirable outcome? Being able to complete a multiple choice test or  having a personal understanding of how they can use the language for real-life tasks? If I want the second one this is going to completely change the aims statement above.


Image source:

In reference to Bloom’s taxonomy

To be honest I have a limited understanding of Bloom’s taxonomy. the only thing I am familiar with is this pyramid. My understanding of this image is that there is often little opportunity to engage in the top three categories. In other words, our systems of education tend to focus on the bottom three most of the time. This could possibly be because of misguided outcomes or assessment procedures. As our society and workplace becomes ever more participatory, it would seem that this imbalance needs to be addressed.


image source:


Posted in EFL

A break from Digital Technologies for Language Teaching Week 7

We are now, more or less, halfway through the first module of the MA, which is basically a week off. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to put a post together with links to all the posts so far. This is to organise my thoughts and for anyone who wants to to dip in and out of areas that interest them.

Preparing for the course

Before we started the course I read a couple of introductory books on the subject of digital technologies in education. Here is my initial introduction on why I am writing this blog and the first book I read about the roles computers can take.

Introduction and Language, Learners and Computers by John Higgins 

The second book was about M-Learning, which led me on to the idea of increased spontaneity in class.

Going Mobile by Hockly. N, Dudeney. G,

The third book made me reflect on how and why the music industry changed due to an economy of abundance and granul

The Digital Scholar by Weller. M,

Inspired by the same book I extracted some advice and features of blogs.


The fourth book focussed on the role of computer games in language learning.

Digital Play by Mawer. K, Stanley. G,

Back to Weller again, this post reflects on the open web and privacy.


Week 1 Induction 

Then finally the course began! The first post is about my hopes and expectations.

Week 1

My first experience with SCMC.


Week 2 Let’s get started

Week 2 and my drivers for using technology.


Some thoughts on personalisation.


Defining facilitators and learner agency.


A bit more on learner agency.

Learner agency

Week 3 SLA & technology

My response to Blake’s four myths.


My first experiences with Padlet, Voice recording and Edmodo.

Trying stuff out

Week 4 The digital natives debate

Discussion on Digital natives, immigrants and wisdom.


Experimenting with Quizlet, Popplet and Wikis.

Trying more stuff out

Week 5 CALL applications

Talking about the normalisation of technology.


Thinking about how to go about action research.


Getting my head round the idea of digital technology as an environment.


Week 6 PLEs and VLEs

Criticisms of virtual learning environments. 


My first impressions of personal learning environments.


Memes, Roles in PLEs and the evolution of education.


Posted in EFL

What is a ‘facilitator’ in ELT? Week 2.3

I will try to answer the above question using my handy A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury!

The facilitator

The general idea is that the teacher is not directly responsible for learning, the teacher’s role is to aid learning by creating the right conditions. Thornbury states that the idea of the teacher as facilitator comes from humanist educational theory and critical pedagogy. Both of which I need to look into more. One consequence of acting as facilitator is that of increased learner agency, whereby learners take a more active role in the learning process rather than acting as passive receivers. One example of this in practice given in the A-Z of ELT is community language learning. (Thornbury, S. an A-Z of ELT, Macmillan, 2006).

Learner agency

From my experience, when there is more learner agency, students are more engaged and learning is more personalised. In a way, the tutorial I had on Adobe Connect last Friday was an example of facilitation and increased learner agency. The initial material for discussion was provided by the teacher before the session on Moodle, taking a flipped classroom approach. The teacher then used comments from the discussion forum to structure the tutorial. As we discussed our views, the students and the teacher had the opportunity to notice gaps in our understanding or use of terminology. The teacher then helped us by eliciting notions, asking questions and uploading a pdf file for extra support. In my opinion, this is far more engaging than simply being told the facts in a passive, one-way ‘traditional’ lecture format.


(Thornbury, Scott. an A-Z of ELT, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2006)

Posted in EFL

Personalisation as an affordance of digital technologies Week 2.2


Sir Ken Robinson in his book ‘creative schools’ argues that while personalisation is on the increase in commercial sectors it is often missing in education. Yet it is in education that catering for multiple intelligences, different interests and pace of learning are of utmost importance. (Robinson, K. Allen Lane 2015).

Disillusioned by the MOOC

Ronnie Burt argues in his blog that recent developments in online education, namely MOOCs, tend to promote a more teacher-centred approach with a pre-defined course path and little or no room to respond to learner needs. He criticises the approach MOOCs often take to learning, using video lectures and reading lists to deliver content which is then tested at the end of each module through quizzes or “drill and kill exercises”. (Burt, R. Edublogs Jul 23, 2013).

The EFL world

In regard to the EFL world, there are a multitude of course books with pre-defined syllabi, which can be equally restrictive. That said, I would hope that few teachers follow their course book page by page. This should also apply to MOOCs which I see as a tool for learning not an approach. One of the key elements behind student success is engagement and motivation. If the syllabus has no room for personalisation, students will soon lose interest in their studies and may even stop coming to class. According to Wikipedia, this is exactly what is happening with MOOCs, completion rates are lower than 10%. (1). Despite this rather pessimistic data, this may well be due to the fact that most MOOCs are free or offer no official accreditation rather than the approach teachers are taking.

The affordances of technology

Joe Dale in his article for the Guardian, paints a far rosier picture of technology-enhanced learning and states that the affordances of technology allow for greater creativity, collaboration and personalisation. Dale gives examples of making films, animation, blogging, recording audio and video conferencing to back up his claims. Despite this, Dale suggests that a large number of teachers only use technology for technology’s sake and fail to promote higher order skills.  Finally, Dale sums up his argument by saying that effective technology-enhanced learning ultimately depends on the pedagogy that a teacher employs. (Dale, J. Guardian 2013). I also currently believe that technology is a neutral tool, it has no pedagogy attached to it, and like any tool it can be used well or misused. Nevertheless, due to the personalisation and choice we all enjoy in our digital worlds, some educators might need to up-date/transform their approach to meet learners’ expectations.


Joe Dale, Are language teachers leading the way with education technology. (The Guardian Thursday 16 May 2013 07.00 BST)

Ronnie Burt (Edublogs Jul 23, 2013)

Ken Robinson. Creative Schools, (USA, Allen Lane 2015)


Date visited (5/10/15)

Posted in EFL

Game speak


When I think about computer games a lot of fond memories come flooding back. From my first console to my first arcade game, I was always a generation behind. My first console was the Atari 2600 in the eighties, followed by the commodore 64, the Megadrive, Playstation one, PS2, Gamecube, Wii and now PS3. I can remember friends and family and their corresponding console of choice, the games we played and all the other things that were happening in my life. The games that left their mark were, Combat, Zork, Salamander, the last Ninja, Falcon, Outrun, Sonic the Hedgehog, The first Tomb raider, Command and Conquer, Abe’s odyssey and the list continues.

Photo on 05-08-2015 at 22.24

Being in the zone

The fact is computer game culture goes back quite a long way now and has developed a rich variety of genres which can be used as content for language learning. When we study language we usually look to text based content such as books and articles or from audio, songs and video clips. Computer games on the other hand combine all these media to create an interactive narrative that can be far more engaging. In the book ‘Digital Play’ Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley describe the concept of ‘flow’ as ‘a state of immersion and clarity you enter when you are experiencing absolute concentration on a task’, (Mawer, K. Stanley, G. 2011). From another perspective, this is usually what parents experience when they try to talk to their hypnotised controller twiddling children. Just imagine if you could get your students to experience this while they were learning a language.

Language learning games

Unfortunately, according to this book, the majority of games designed for language learning are ‘doomed’. This is due mainly to bad game design based around testing but also inadequate visuals, sound and narrative. For this reason Mawer and Stanley suggest using commercial games rather than specific language learning games, (Mawer, K. Stanley, G. 2011). For me it’s like using any other kind of media, an authentic text or listening is always going to be more interesting and engaging. What’s important is how you organise and grade the activities/tasks around the material.

Back to school

This book is divided into three parts; the first part looks at game culture, the second part is full of practical activities, and the third part is a guide to implementing digital play in your institution and teacher development. Some of the activities require specific equipment or an internet connection but there is also a range of activities that require nothing but pen and paper. In fact it’s the discussion activities in this book that I’d like to start with next year. Then maybe we can start with some mobile games and finally I’ll bring in my Wii and we can all play Super Mario! As I tried to demonstrate above, some people have a lot to say about computer games, so let’s start talking about it!

Has anyone used computer games in or outside class? How did it go?

Has anyone got any suggestions for games or ideas?


Featured image (GT Interactive 1997)

Mawer. Km, Stanley. G, ‘Digital Play’ (Delta Publishing 2011)