Monthly Archives: April 2012

Great guest post from Emi Slater on Chia’s blog. For all you teachers wondering how #Dogme actually works in the classroom, this is the blog post to read.


During this entire Teach-Off, we’ve decided to implement a open-door policy in which any teacher who wanted to watch the class could walk in at any time. As a result, we’ve had Shelly Terrell, Adam Beale, Emi Slater, several of colleagues at IH, and my DOS, Varinder, who will be teaching the coursebook lessons in the second half of this teach-off, come watch the class unfold.

On Thursday, Emi Slater sat in with us for the whole three hours, from 9am to 12noon.

So far, all of the blogposts on the Teach-Off have been from my point of view (POV).

We thought that it would perhaps add some objectivity to the experiment if we could hear the observer’s POV.

It is in this spirit of objectivity that I invited Emi to guest blog about her POV…

So, here is Emi Slater:

Thursday 19th April 2012-04-20

In the spirit of…

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#ELT #Coursebook Audio Files Defiled: How to Deal With Badly Acted Coursebook Dialogues.

Now, just as a preamble, I want to say that I like coursebooks, I use coursebook material in many of my lessons and I have the utmost respect for  coursebook authors who often come up with some great stuff.

That being said,  I have a question: Who recruits the actors for the audio files? I mean come on! Why are like 80% of  them played by people who, I’m sure are very nice, but who can’t act….at all.  The acting is often so bad that it often renders perfectly good material close to unusable. I mean, it’s so bad that before using an audio file in class I systematically have to check if it sounds somewhat believable. Most of the time it doesn’t.

We teachers shouldn’t have to do this. Can’t the big editors find decent actors? And if they’re looking for someone with a German accent, can’t they find an actual German? Why do they force English or American actors to put on a fake Japanese, French and Spanish accents? It just ends up sounding ridiculous. Listen to this clip below that I took from a popular coursebook from one of the biggest publishers in the industry (I put the images in as a representation of what I picture in my head as I listen to this dialogue).

Do you see what I’m saying? The first guy sounds like the butler from some bad sitcom, and the women sounds like a robot! I mean she literally sounds like she runs on electricity. How am I supposed to get my students to take that seriously?

Well, I’ve found the answer: I don’t ask them to take it seriously. I now openly make fun of the acting before playing clips like this. I say something like, “Ok guys, we’re now going to listen to a project planning meeting. Try to focus on the following points……..Now mind you, this dialogue is completely unrealistic. They plan out an entire merger in 2 minutes time and the acting is horrible. Try not to laugh and focus on the language that you could use in your jobs”.

It actually works! I’ve tested it about 50 times now. Once students know that you know that the dialogue is kind of ridilulous they can take it for what it is, a text that was made to display predefined language chunks. If you sit there and pretend that you’re genuinely interested in the dialogue, you generally genuinely lose their interest and probably a little of their respect. Just because our students are learning English doesn’t mean they’re dumb! Come on editors, find some decent actors!

#Teacher Training: Pedagogy Beyond #ELT….Continued

Last week I wrote a post describing the mission I was recently assigned: to design and teach (in French!) a 12-hour training course for in-house trainers in my company who will be training other staff in an area of expertise (network engineering, the new IPv6 protocol, fiber role out, to name a few).

In a series of posts, I’d like to share some of the content of this training course, which I named in French “Animer une formation”, or ‘animating a training course’. I personally think something like “how to teach adults” would have been a more appropriate title, but hey, in French, trainers don’t teach, they ‘animate’.

After thinking about the subject for a while and looking at what had been done on the subject in the past, I decided to cover were the following topics:

Beliefs and attitudes

–          Perceptions and beliefs about teaching

–          What is an appropriate role, as in-house trainers?


–          How to start a lesson

–          What basic principles should all training courses and trainers adhere to?

–          What are the basic principles of adult learning and pedagogy?

–          What are the basic pedagogical approaches that can be used in the classroom?

–          How to set clear objectives for your course and for each activity

–          How to give constructive feedback

–          How to create discussion and communication in the classroom

–          How to keep students energized and motivated

–          How to set up a successful group-work/pair-work activity

Teaching tricks and tips

–          How should a trainer move around/position him or herself  in the room?

–          What practical tips should every teacher know before going into a classroom.

–          What kind of materials should be used and how to write appropriate materials

The next thing I had to decide was how I was going to organize the course? What types of activities would I do? How would I break the material up?

I decided to do was split the course in three:

1) A couple of hours of discussion and teaching ‘theory’

2) A series of10-15 minute role plays where I ask the students to take the reins of the class and become trainers for a short time. Each role play followed by constructive feedback and tips.

3) A few hour wrap-up/feedback session at the end of the course.

I basically applied a ‘teach-do-teach’ structure that I use a lot in my English lessons. So far, it seems to be working!

I’ll be writing more shortly about each of the topics mentioned above, so stay tuned!

#Grammar and #ELT

A wonderful video and set of related quotes on grammar and language. Thank you, Scott!

An A-Z of ELT

A hobby-horse of mine, I know, but I thought I’d make a video this time, rather than write about it all over again.

Some relevant quotes and references (the numbers don’t correlate with my ‘8 issues’ but the order more or less does):

1. “Of the scores of detailed studies of naturalistic and classroom language learning reported over the past 30 years, none suggest, for example, that presentation of discrete points of grammar one at a  time bears any resemblance except an accidental one to either the order or the manner in which naturalistic or classroom acquirers learn those item”.

Long, M. and Robinson, P. (1998) ‘Focus on form: Theory, research and practice’, in Doughty, C., and  Williams, J. (eds.) Focus on form in classroom language acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 16.

2. “In helping learners manage their insights into the target language we should be conscious that our…

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Balancing Family and ELT

Great post from my partner in crime at TESOL France, phil3wade.

#Teacher Training: Pedagogy Beyond #ELT

When ELT professionals get involved in teacher training, they generally train soon-to-be English teachers, or more experienced English teaching looking to spice up their approach. They pass on their knowledge of methodology, their classroom tricks, and their passion for language and teaching.  I’ve often thought of training other teachers as a logical next step in my career, after having taught for a number of years.  Well, this year, I was given the opportunity to get my teacher trainer feet wet, so to speak.

The telecommunications sector is a fast-moving business and hence training is key. Keeping our staff highly skilled and up-to-date with the latest and greatest is a huge part of our strategy, it’s how we stay ahead of the competition.  As with most companies, a large part of our training program is done by specialized external training organizations. However, a number of areas of expertise and skills are best shared and passed on in-house. The only problem is that sometimes the person with the knowledge or skill that needs to be passed on knows very little about how to teach.

That’s why I was asked to devise and deploy a ‘train the trainers’ course aimed at staff members who train other staff, new recruits or suppliers on a particular subject of expertise.

Basically, my mission was to teach the art of teaching.

Working on this project, I’ve had to ask myself some pretty tough questions. What are the best practices of pedagogy? How do I help people become better pedagogues in a 12-hour course? What tips should all teachers know before going into a classroom? In a series of upcoming posts, I’d like to share some of my answers to these questions. Stay tuned!