Friday 2 November 2012

Breaking rules with John Fanselow

iTDi is a community of international teachers who work together to help other teachers from all around the world. Membership is free, and they offer regular free webinars (online conference), forum and courses.
Next week they have a special course, as you can see from the above poster, imparted by John F Fanselow, quite a character, I can tell you! If I were you, I wouldn't miss it. You can read the details on the poster, so there isn't any need for me to repeat it. The direct link for the course is:

Now, the good news. If you register through the iTDi site, the cost is US$99, approximately 80€. If you're based in Spain, I have a special offer for you (we all know about the crisis!). You'll have to register through me though. Payment can be made via Paypal or bank transfer. Paypal is easier and quicker. Paypal charges no fee to transfer money. If you don’t have a Paypal account yet, you can set one up free at However, you don’t need to have a Paypal account to send money via Paypal. All you need is an international credit card.

Do hurry as I can only keep this offer open until 9th November! Spread the news to your fellow teachers! Email me at for further enquiries.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Voice #237 on an edventure

Once in a while someone catches me off-guard and this is one of those times. Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, runs a personal blog,, where he speaks to "heroes in education worldwide".

Each day the blog features an interview with someone in the education sector: "teachers, school leaders, policy-makers, business leaders, celebrities, NGO leaders, researchers - people who have embraced enhancing education as a core facet in their lives." Anthony tries to find out who these people are, what inspires them, what frustrates them, and what hopes they hold for the future of education.

So, when I was contacted to participate, how can I possibly refuse, right?

You can read about the interview here.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Re-blog: #ELTchat: the loss of – Plan B

This post was originally posted by Marisa Constantinides on TEFL Matters. I may not be a frequent attendee in the regular #ELTChat on Twitter, but I do pop in from time to time and I greatly admire and respect the organisers, moderators and the participants. It is a blow what has happened with but it isn't the end of the world. If anything, will grow and dwarf its predecessor, of that I'm sure.

For the last – well, almost two years now, since September 15 2010, #ELTchat has kept us on our toes and forged hundreds of professional and personal relationships amongst its followers who turn up on Twitter every Wednesday to talk about topics they have suggested and voted on – a community of peers which was created by a small group of colleagues – which grew and grew some more and became something that counts as an important part of our continuous professional development.
Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several.
And that is how #ELTchat was created.    ELTChat for educators in English Language Teaching
The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later.

Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy and announced the good news to us after the fact.
A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011,  he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health.
We never found out for sure.

We never received a single word of response to our emails. was and still is registered in his name.

And yesterday we lost it

On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.
The news is really upsetting.
The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment
We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.
But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased –

It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet
And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations
We will be back with a vengeance
We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!

We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!

See you all in September!!!
Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden
Chiew Pang

P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers,  teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers,  reposted this on your blog
If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Coconut carrot cake recipe, mmm... scrumptious!

Coconut carrot cake recipe on A CLIL TO CLIMB

I had some almonds and hazelnuts leftover from the chocolate cake I made almost a month and a half ago so I'd been thinking of baking another since then. Those of you who are following this blog and my Twitter account would probably have heard of (and seen) my healthy carrot cake recipe, so I thought I'd try to vary it a little and make it somewhat naughtier!

So, here goes.


200g corn oil (you can use any vegetable oil or if you can handle the cholesterol, butter)
200g brown sugar (you can reduce this a little if you wish, to about 150-175g)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 small eggs (approximately 55g each)
200g wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons (10g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
50g dessicated coconut

200g carrots, grated
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
150g almond-hazelnut mix, grounded


  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC and grease a cake tin with butter or oil.
  2. Pour the corn oil into a large bowl. If using butter, melt it gently and leave to cool before pouring it in.
  3. Stir in the sugar, vanilla essence, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt and the dessicated coconut.
  4. Mix it well.
  5. Add in the grated carrots, spices and the nuts.
  6. Blend it all thoroughly.
  7. Pour the mixture into the greased cake tin.
  8. Bake on a lower rack at 180ºC for about 40 minutes.
  9. Turn off the oven and leave the cake in there for a further 10 minutes.
  10. If an inserted skewer comes out clean, it's done.
  11. Leave to cool.
  12. When cool, slide a thin spatula along the edges to loosen the cake before attempting to remove it from the mould.
This turned out really good. My son thinks it's the best carrot cake I've done!

Coconut carrot cake recipe on A CLIL TO CLIMB


Sunday 1 July 2012

Basic parts of a bicycle

It's been a long time since I created a tagging game, so it's about time I rectify that. Here's one on the basic parts of a bicycle. These are the answers. To play the game, click on the image.

  1. bell
  2. brake lever
  3. stem
  4. cable
  5. top tube
  6. brakes
  7. spoke
  8. fork
  9. valve
  10. flat tyre (puncture)
  11. front reflector
  12. down tube
  13. saddle (seat)
  14. seat post
  15. seat post clamp
  16. seat tube
  17. tyre
  18. chain
  19. crank arm
  20. pedal
  21. rear reflector
ELT CLIL EFL ESOL Bicycle parts game activity

If you need higher-resolution images, click on the following images.

ELT CLIL EFL ESOL Bicycle parts game activity
Image by C. Pang

ELT CLIL EFL ESOL Bicycle parts game activity
Image by C. Pang

Friday 15 June 2012

A case for CPD and PLN...

ELT EFL ESL CLIL PLN CPD Resources, images, ideas
Photos by me. See more here.

Here's an example of how a seed is taken and planted with care many miles away where it soon grows into a pretty flower. This flowering stem is again taken some distance away, where it grows and grows and we now have a lush beautiful garden...

It all started with a comment I made in Scott Thornbury's post on iTDi's blog "How important is homework?" I'd first talked about it in The Dogme Diaries, but I don't suppose many people read that ;-)

I mentioned that the homework I set a class of adult teachers was basically three questions:
  • What have you learnt today?
  • What part of the lesson did you like or dislike in the class today?
  • What would you like to do in class next week?
A couple of months later, Alexandra Chistyakova wrote to say that she'd used the questions with her class of university students, and how well that had gone down. You can read about how she moulded my homework to suit her personality and that of her class here:

Then, a little while later, Barbara Bujtás read Alexandra's posts and decided to adapt it to her class of 3-year-olds! You can read about it here:

You can see the beauty of her work here:

So, if you're not involved in a PLN (personal learning network) or have not been convinced of it, I hope this little episode will serve to change your mind!

Alexandra and Barbara, you both rock!

Learn about continuing professional development here:

Learn about the benefits of Twitter here:

Saturday 19 May 2012

Twitter hashtags for educators: an index, at last!

If you're using Twitter, chances are that you are at least aware of hashtags, even if you don't use them. And if you do use them, no doubt, you've sometimes felt somewhat overwhelmed and confused. Part of the problem is it's a free-for-all concept. There's no official body to register hashtags and everyone can use any words as hashtags, and as many as they want.

Through time, nevertheless, regular tweeps (people who tweet) tend to stick to a few they use for their own interests but still feel at a lost to what unfamiliar ones mean. Worse, for me, is the duplication of tags and the long ones, especially when abbreviation is possible. Bear in mind that each tag eats up on the 140-character limit that Twitter has!

A recent confusion on a tag was the impetus I needed to create an index, unofficial as it may be. Whether it works depends on the will of others to keep it going. It's done on Google Doc, free for everyone to update. As long as it's not vandalised, I'll keep it public. My wish is that educators would start streamlining hashtags and mark unused ones as OBSOLETE or REPLACED BY... so that the community will grow even more.

What's your opinion? Will you start using it and let others know, too?

Twitter education hashtags index
Twitter education hashtags index
Twitter education hashtags index

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Top 100 Language Lovers 2012 - Who are you voting for?

The Top 100 Language Lovers 2012 competition is on again! This year, there had been 935 nominations! A CLIL TO CLIMB has been included for voting in the language learning blogs category. There are four categories in all.

50% of the final score is based on user votes; the other 50% is based on Lexiophiles' judging team's criteria. If you have found this blog useful, your vote will be most appreciated!

Each person can vote once in all four categories.

  Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2012

The voting phase started on May 15th, and ends on May 28th, 23:59 German time. Read more about the voting phase here.

The results will be published on May 31st.

Saturday 12 May 2012

What would you do if...?

ELT ESL EFL CLIL Lesson plans images conversation dogme photos
Image by Chiew Pang
When I saw this...

At first, I just walked past. Later I thought, what if...

And I started fantasizing about the briefcase holding wads of crisp bills...

Then the language teacher ego took hold of me and said, hell, there's an awful lot of possibilities there for a conversation lesson, full of lexical challenges.

So, what would you do if you saw something like this? Ponder over it while I go back to my fantasies...

This image is part of the Project 366 series. If you're involved in it, (and if not, why don't you start?) please let us know in this Google Doc. My images are in Flickr, free for non-commercial use as long as they are properly attributed.

Sunday 6 May 2012

How to stay healthy the cheap & easy way

Have you heard the quotation “A sound body makes for a sound mind”? Well, actually, I'm not sure if such a quote do exist, but the ancient Roman poet, Juvenal, did say

orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

which can be translated as

It is to be prayed that the mind be sound in a sound body.

The latest topic in iTDi's blog is "Staying healthy and motivated" - if you haven't seen it, I suggest you do it soon. However, most of the advice was centred on tips on how to stay motivated, so I thought I'd redress the balance ;-) and write about health here. After all, if the body isn't healthy, the mind struggles to remain sound.

Inadvertently, when one talks about health, two topics come to mind - that of exercise and diet.

This article is written with those who are more in the physically inactive rather than the active camp. So, if you're already physically on the ball, what I'm about to say may not be all new to you.

My ideas are very basic and can be started upon straightaway. No need to enrol in a sports club or gym, no need to seek an expert trainer. Just a slight change in your habits, that's all. However, I must say that these opinions are my own. If you haven't been active for a long time, I'd suggest going for a medical check-up first and make sure you're fit enough to do some physical activity.


ELT iTDi CLIL health and motivation
Image by Chiew Pang
This is primordial, so primordial that most have forgotten how to do it! Right, you're probably thinking I've gone bonkers.

Many of us breathe too shallowly; and if I were to say, "Breathe deeply!" chances are that you'll inflate your chest to the maximum and struggle after a few seconds. Isn't that right?

Well, it is your stomach that you should be inflating, not your chest. The proper way to breathe is to use your stomach muscles, not your chest. Put your hand on your stomach and breathe - is it moving? Or does your chest move first?

Watch babies - they breathe the correct way. Naturally. In fact, there's one way to force yourself to breathe in the right manner. Lie face down and breathe. What do you notice? Your stomach moves, right? Now, stand up, and try to repeat it.

Whenever you remember, notice your breathing. Correct it. Take long deep breaths (with your stomach) instead of short gulps. Do it often until it becomes second nature. Just like to a baby.

The morning
Image by Malene Thyssen

What's your morning routine?

For as long as I can remember - and we're talking about 3 decades or so here - I follow a simple exercise routine. I must admit that the duration gets shorter and shorter as the muscles and the joints start complaining...

The morning is important as it sets your body (and the mind) up for the rest of the day. You don't have to hump and pump; just do light stretching and rotational exercises. You don't need to dedicate a lot of time either. 5 minutes is better than nothing.

Rotate all the joints: ankles, knees, hip, neck, shoulders, wrists...
Stretch gently - if you're too old to remember your PE classes ;-) try googling "stretching exercises".

Later on, when you're in better shape, you can add simple free-hand exercises such as sit-ups, squats and push-ups. Or you can do isometric exercises.

Notch it up

ELT iTDi CLIL health and motivation
Image by Chiew Pang
You've heard it, I'm sure - before jumping into your car, think "Can I walk instead?"

When you walk, just quicken your pace slightly. Feel your legs stride, your back strong, your breathing deep and regular (stomach moving!).

You've also heard this one before. Take the stairs. Do it! Start by walking down - it's often quicker than the lift anyway! Gradually, start walking up, too. If there are too many flights, do a few. Combine it with the lift.

Move on the escalators and the travelators; don't just stand still.

The premise is simple: move as much as you can, whenever you can. Your heart will be grateful to you for it.


ELT iTDi CLIL health and motivation
Image by Chiew Pang
Again, I go back to the morning. It's the most important part of the day. To break your fast, have a glass of water (at room temperature).

Then, you do your breathing and stretching exercises, and after that, you're ready for a nutritious breakfast! You need a high-energy, not a high-calorie, one. Carbohydrates, not fat; complex carbohydrate (like grains) not simple (like sugar). My breakfast usually consists of a steaming cup of tea and a bowl of muesli supplemented with a tablespoon of wheat bran, some yoghurt, a banana, some cornflakes, and soya milk.

As far as food is concerned, I'm sure you know the drill: less fat, more protein; lots of fruit and vegetables; less frying, more grilling and steaming. Go easy on the sugar, but a treat once in a while doesn't do anyone any harm! ;-)

ELT iTDi CLIL health and motivation
Image by Chiew Pang

Stay healthy! Stay motivated!


Saturday 28 April 2012

Saturday Special for teachers by teachers

Today was a special day. Special for many reasons. Special because the world is full of dedicated teachers willing to give up their time to share their experience and expertise with others. Their willingness would not have come to anything if there wasn't anyone to give them a platform from which to shout. And all the shouting would not have come to any good if there wasn't anyone out there to listen.

So, Saturday, 28th of April, morning for some, evening for others, was special. A hundred or so educators sacrificed part of their weekend to listen to five dedicated females, Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, Özge Karaoglu, Ann Mayeda, Penny Ur and Kate Cory-Wright, discuss "What do we know about language teaching and learning?".

I'm sure most, if not all, felt it was well worth their time. Were you there? What did you take away from the webinar? If you weren't, watch out for the next iTDi event!

We were missing some fast tweeps (Twitter users); I tried my best, but I was moderating at the same time. Here is a collection of the back-channelling going on. Many thanks to these back-channellers, the participants, the speakers, and all the organising team, including the generous Heike Philp of The Virtual Round Table fame.

  Get Microsoft Silverlight

To watch on full screen, click as shown in the image below.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Healthy carrot cake with walnuts and raisins recipe

Teachers are human, too, right? We need to be fed and we need to feed our families. We need to feed our bodies before we can feed our minds, so, here's a healthy and tasty recipe of something to give us the energy and motivation we require to face a classroom full of anxious learners!

The last time I made a good carrot cake was decades ago and ever since we moved to where we are now, I don't think I've managed to get it right the few times I'd tried to make one - you know, different oven and all that... Anyway, I felt the urge to dust the cake tins and the spatulas about two weeks ago and although the result looked good, the taste and texture wasn't quite right. I circulated a photo of it on the net and it proved to be rather popular. I knew then that I had to do another sooner than later, so I made some adjustments and re-attempted.

I can tell you how wonderful it is, but who will believe me? Here's the recipe for you to try! You may need a couple of attempts to tweak the ingredients or the time of baking to suit your circumstances. Let me know!


75g seedless raisins, soaked in hot water (or rum/brandy, if you prefer)
380g carrots, grated (2 large ones as seen in the image below)
150g honey (amount depends on how sweet you want the cake to be)
200g wholemeal flour
150g walnuts, coarsely grounded
200g olive oil (or any vegetable oil of your choice)
4 eggs (in the image, you see a set of twin yolks)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
vanilla essence

For these and more, click here.

  1. Heat the oven to 175ºC.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients (oil, honey, eggs)  in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, walnuts, baking powder, spices) in a separate bowl.
  4. Drain the raisins and add to the dry ingredients, little by little, mixing as you add them.
  5. Add this dry mix to the wet, again, mixing as you add.
  6. Add the grated carrots and a few drops of vanilla essence.
  7. Mix well.
  8. Pour into a greased and floured cake tin.
  9. Bake on a lower rack in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes.
  10. At this point, the cake will probably start to crack, but will also be sufficiently brown. In this case, place a sheet of aluminium foil over it. Don't burn your hands!
  11. Leave it in the oven for another 15 minutes.
  12. Turn the oven off, but leave the cake in there for a further 10 minutes or so before taking it out.
  13. Leave to cool.
  14. When cool, slide a thin spatula along the edges to loosen the cake before attempting to remove it from the mould.

  15. Slice and serve. If you prefer, you can sprinkle some icing sugar, or accompany it with some honey or chocolate sauce.
  16. Enjoy!

Sunday 8 April 2012

Opportunity keeps on knocking!

iTDi International Teacher Development Institute

Last month, iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) held its first webinar and some of you might have been lucky to get in...or not. I myself had trouble obtaining entry because I had a class before and couldn't get back home early. I kept on trying and I eventually succeeded when some people had to leave the room early. By then, I'd missed the first half of it. Fortunately, there was a recording I could watch.

On 28th April, they are holding their second webinar entitled "What do we know about language teaching and learning?" Speakers are the glamorous five, six, if you include the omnipresent Shelly Terrell as the moderator. Barbara Sakamoto will start the session off with The Fashions of ELT. She's accompanied by Özge Karaoglu, Ann Mayeda, Penny Ur, and Kate Cory-Wright.

For more details and registration, visit iTDi's webinar page.

Please be aware that registration does not guarantee you an automatic entry; it will however, provide you with the "key" to the room before the doors are open to the general public. It's always advisable to be early, just in case there is software to be installed or updated, or you encounter audio-visual hiccups; in any case, it's good to be present before the start so you can soak up the atmosphere and chat with other attendees. Learning occurs before, during and after!

See you there!

Other links you may be interested in:

Continuing Teacher Development Scoop.It
Lonely Teacher Blues

Friday 23 March 2012

From Twitter to Glasgow (IATEFL 2012)

Barbara Sakamoto may be a familiar name in the international social media but she isn't usually present in the European conference circuit, so I was curious to hear what actually brought her over.

Barbara, in her interview with Nik Peachey and Kirsteen Donaghy, recalls how Twitter had brought her to Glasgow and how she got into Twitter in the first place. She believes that it is important to do things that makes us feel really stupid just to remind us of the feeling so that we know how it is to feel lost in a language learning class. According to her, she knew doing anything related to technology will make her feel stupid! Who would have guessed, right?

So, she got into Second Life and learned to become a webhead, got into Twitter, and to cut a long story short, Glasgow here she is!

You can watch her interview here:

Also, don't miss her interview in iasku:

IATEFL 2012 Glasgow

James E Zull on Friday morning's plenary
It's been a fast week, and Glasgow is preparing to say goodbye to those fortunate enough to be there. I must admit that I haven't been able to follow much of what's been happening this year although I hope to go through some of the archives in the next few weeks. You can see the interviews here and the recorded sessions here.

I did manage, however to watch (on and off, although I had my wireless headphones on) yesterday's opening plenary by Steven Thorne entitled "Awareness, appropriacy, and living language use". What I kept saying during his talk was "Hell, I can't even think this fast! How can this guy speak at this speed... and without notes, too?" You can watch it here. His presentation  examined out-of-school L2 digital engagement in environments such as social media, fan fiction communities, and online gaming.

The highlight of the evening was, undoubtedly, as it was last year, the Pecha Kucha. If you still haven't heard of it, it's basically a presentation of 20 slides of 20 seconds each. These evenings tend to be rather light-hearted, so a lot of us were waiting anxiously for it. The eight presenters, led by the always-funny Jeremy Harmer, including such PLN favourites as Shelly Terrell and Barbara Sakamoto, didn't disappoint us. You can watch it here:

Part One:
Part Two:

I won't say much so as not to ruin your fun!

Monday 19 March 2012

46th Annual IATEFL Conference aka Lonely Teacher Blues Part 3

Unless you're living in the woods - but even the woods are "connected" now - you must have heard about the IATEFL conference currently going on in Glasgow (19-23 March). We ought to be thankful that we're living in the age of miracles. Conferences are no longer the domain of the rich and the privileged - poor people like you and me need not miss out on what's going on in them.

If you've read my Lonely Teacher Blues Parts One and Two, you will have read that I strongly recommend conferences as part of the cure. I "attended" Brighton last year and I was hooked. Thanks to Brighton, I got to know people such as Anthony Gaughan and Dale Coulther, who, of course, later appeared in iAskU interviews.

This year, I'm a little busier, but still can't afford to go to Glasgow, and I can be seen running around the house with my wireless headphones on. Today, I managed to get a glimpse of Andi White, Nik Peachey and Kirsteen Donaghy (I fell in love with Kirsteen last year...her accent, I mean!); I also managed to catch Andi & Rob interviewing Chia Suan live. Chia was asked about her talk on English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) in the BESIG pre-conference event.

You might want to catch up on some spicy talk on ELF here and if you don't know Chia, I'd suggest you watch her iAskU interview.

The Glasgow IATEFL Conference will be broadcasting live each day (09:00-17:00 GMT) from the Glasgow Online studio. They'll be showing interviews with presenters and visitors, and general coffee talk. There's also a back-channel (or side-channel, more like it) chat going on at the same time. Interviews can be watched again later. Unfortunately, we can't watch the presentations live, but they'll be showing some plenaries and the Pecha Kucha!

After several days of waiting, I'm still unable to embed the video, so here's the link to watch Chia's interview:

Grammarly Blogathon: How to be a "superb" writer

These helpful hints are brought to you in partnership with the Superb Writers' Blogathon by Grammarly grammar checker. Grammarly understands the importance of the written word.

ELT EFL ESL CLIL Writing skills how to be a superb writer

When Grammarly first approached me and asked if I would like to contribute a short post to the blogathon, my first thought was, “Mmm… so I’m a superb writer, am I?”

I know that not to be true, of course, although I have to admit that I do spend a lot of time mulling over words and sentences. I accepted their offer, the sucker that I am for such things, and here then are some of what I consider essential ingredients of good writing.


Primordial. I’ll include spelling and punctuation under this section, too. Bad grammar makes reading difficult, worse, if your readership is likely to include teachers! A grammar checker, such as Grammarly, can help you sometimes, but you must know your stuff first, to be able to decide if the corrections are right or wrong. I’ve seen typical bad errors such as you’re-your and their-there-they’re even in professional writers’ blogs, and that’s just so embarrassing. These errors are common because the signal connecting the fingers to the brain sometimes fails, which is why it is imperative to proofread over and over again - see below.

Contentious issues such as split infinitives, or beginning sentences with a conjunction, are fine, in my opinion; if you know what you’re doing, they may mark your style and they are not necessarily wrong. But where mistakes are glaringly obvious or when they affect meaning, then they are definitely a no-no.

If you know that you make the same errors over and over again, it’s useful to compile a list of such errors so you can check your drafts against it. Here are some common ones:

  • subject/verb agreement
  • incomplete sentences (fragments can be all right, but you’ll have to be sure)
  • prepositions
  • tenses - be consistent
  • collocations (a good collocation dictionary is useful)


It helps to have an extensive vocabulary. By this, I don’t mean you need to know “big” words which will send most of your readers diving into their dictionaries, but rather so that you don’t use the same words repeatedly. In any case, in these days of free online dictionaries and thesauri, it takes only a matter of seconds to look for alternatives. Having said that, there are times when words are repeated to create impact, especially in speeches. A good writer knows when to employ this technique.

Who’s your audience?

Knowing who your audience is important because it will (or should) affect how you write. Should you be writing in a formal or informal register? Longer or shorter sentences? Are you too technical or are you too condescending? Do you use too much jargon? Do you know what they are expecting to read? Is the language level appropriate? Will they find it interesting?


“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things” -  Jean Cocteau

Bear in mind the pace in which we live. Most of us don’t spend much time on detailed reading, especially on the web. We mainly skim through lots of material until we find something that catches our eye, something that is of interest to us. So, be clear and concise. Are you saying something to the point or are you being excessively long-winded? Is your use of language and content correct? Is it easy to understand?


Is your material well organized? Is there variety in sentence and paragraph lengths? Does it flow smoothly? Have you made good use of strategic linkers?


Proofread your output over and over again. Sleep on it. Read it again the next day. Read it aloud. I do this all the time because often when we read silently we miss certain things as the eyes seem to register what the mind wants to. Reading it aloud has always thrown up weaknesses I’d failed to spot while doing it silently. This is especially true with repetition.

Though by no means a comprehensive list, nor are these innovative ideas, I nevertheless hope that they will put you on the right path towards superb writing!

Saturday 10 March 2012

Project 366: Spring is in the air, so let the fun begin!

Spring is in the air for those of us lucky enough, I guess. In any case, I suspect even our cousins far up north can feel it after the cold spell that had hit most of Europe recently.

So, we're three-and-a-half months into Project 366 and I'm still hanging in there. So far, I've managed to snap at least one photo a day and with the warmer weather, the gardeners have been out and flowers are mushrooming all over the place. It's hardly surprising, then, that I've decided to focus on flowers in this post, is it?

ELT CLIL EFL ESL idioms flowers free interactive online game resources

Pre-lesson task: Ask students to take a photo of a flower or flowers and send them to you. Mount a mosaic like you see above.

Level: Any. Ideas have to be adapted to the level, naturally.

Lesson ideas

1.  Brainstorm names of flowers.

2.  Show mosaic. See if they can guess who took which photo. Language: I think... it can/could/must be... the reason why... I'm sure it's...

3.  Try to identify the flowers. It doesn't matter if you don't know them - perhaps some of the students do. If, at the end, some of the flowers still remain unknown, set it as a task - see who succeeds in identifying them.

4.  Discussion:
  • Do they like flowers? Why?
  • Why do people like flowers? (eg appearance, colour, smell)
  • What's their favourite? Why?
  • What colours do they come in? Which is the most common? Which do they like? Is that their favourite colour?
  • Does it smell? Can they describe it?
  • Do they have a garden? Would they like to have one? What would they do with it? If they have one, what is in it? Describe their garden.
  • When they think of flowers, what springs to mind?
  • Why are they regarded as romantic? Why do women appreciate flowers more than men?
  • Ask the men - do they often buy flowers for women? When was the last time? Have they ever received any flowers? From whom? When was the last time they received any? Ask the women similar questions - if they often buy flowers for men and so on. What about buying flowers for someone of the same sex?
  • Would you buy flowers for someone you consider just a friend? If no, why not?
  • If you could only buy one for a partner, which would you choose - flowers or chocolate? Why?
  • Brainstorm uses of flowers: births, christening (note pronunciation: /ˈkrɪs(ə)nɪŋ/), corsage or buttonhole, tokens of love, expression of sympathy or grief (as in funerals), worship (the Hindus, for example, offer flowers as gifts to the temple), home decoration, food, drinks and spices, health (medicine, essential oils), beauty (perfume and other beauty products), and the list goes on...
  • Symbolism: do they know of any?
          - Red rose for love, beauty, passion
          - Poppies for consolation
          - Lillies for life or resurrection
          - Daisies for innocence

  • Religion and culture: Different religions or culture may attach certain importance to certain flowers, eg the lotus flower has special significance to the Hindus. Do they know of any others?
  • Morphology: Do they know the parts of a flower? Teach them by playing the games below.
  • Quotes: Do they know of any flower quotes? Arguably, the most famous is from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
  • You can find more flower quotes from here.
  • Idioms: Do they know of any idioms? Teach them by playing the game below.

Click on the image below to start the labelling game.

ELT CLIL ESL EFL Parts of a flower game activity

Click on the image below to start the alternate labelling game.

ELT CLIL ESL EFL Parts of a flower game activity

Click on the image below to start the idioms game.

ELT CLIL EFL ESL idioms flowers free interactive online game resources

Thursday 23 February 2012

Project 366: Carnival and other eccentricities

ELT CLIL EFL ESL Carnival photos, ideas, resources
Images by C. Pang. See here for more.
Carnival! Some like it, some don't, but whether you do or don't, you'll most likely associate it with colour, music, fun, dance, Brazil, etc.

So, what's my lesson idea this time?

Aim: Mainly to get the students speaking!
Level: Any
Language: Emergent
Length: As long as a string
Material: Your students' photos

Ask your students to bring in a photo (preferably taken by themselves) associated with carnival, or even better, have them send it to you digitally. Collect them and prepare a mosaic like the image above. You can also set them a webquest task: find out where in the world they have carnival, when they celebrate it and how it got started in the first place.

You can arrange the students in pairs, groups or you can work individually - it depends on the size of your class.

Each student chooses one image. They describe it without saying which. The others try to guess.

Then, they're asked why they chose that particular photo.

Further discussion: Do they like carnival? Why? Why not? Do they dress up? What disguises have they used? What was the latest? What was their favourite? What's the most popular costume this year? What's the most popular ever, in their opinion? For example, in the Canaries, I think the most popular is men dressing up as women, but in a vulgar and grotesque manner: one of the images in the mosaic is a typical case. Oversized bust, badly painted lips, torn stockings, and generally, they make sure they can be easily identified as men: beard, moustache, hairy legs, etc.

What other festivals are there in which people dress in fancy costume? Do they (the students) participate in these? Why do people like to disguise themselves? What about safety in these occasions? Are there usually problems? Have they ever been involved in one?

Written task: Write about their choice of image as discussed in class.

Have you got any other great ideas?

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Project 366: What's cooking?

ELT EFL ESL CLIL Blog Lesson idea using images for speaking, writing
Images by C. Pang. More of the same here.

Yeah, what's cooking, people? Literally and non-literally. Do you know that to be cooking can mean to be happening or planning (often secretly)?

In case you're wondering...mmm... how come only 7 photos? You may be thinking that I haven't been able to keep up with the project. Well, you're wrong! Here's 36 from February. To see more, click here.

ELT EFL ESL CLIL Blog Lesson idea using images for speaking, writing

Why there are only 7 in the first mosaic is to do with my lesson idea to go with these images. Set a task for your students. Write K-I-T-C-H-E-N on the board. Their task is to take pictures of what they can find in their kitchen beginning with those letters. Scroll back to the top image - can you guess the names of those objects?


Knives, iodised salt, tea canisters, cereals, heat, eggs and nuts.

When they bring in their photos, they compare them with each other's collection. What's the most common? The most unusual? Check vocabulary, check spelling.

How far you can take this lesson depends on the level of your class. Here are some suggestions:
  • Who cooks in the family?
  • Do you eat in the kitchen?
  • What's the size/shape of your kitchen? Describe it.
  • Which is your favourite meal?
  • How many meals do you eat in a day? What do you eat?
  • What is your favourite food?
You can take it a step further like this (I got this idea from Brad Patterson, although his may be a little different): Mine is CLIL-influenced. ;-) Think ecosystem. Instead of you asking the question, get the students to do it after demonstrating it first.

What did you have for breakfast?
Ham sandwich and a coffee with milk.
Where does the milk come from?
What do cows eat?
What does grass need to grow?
Where does water come from?
And on and on it goes.

You can do cooking verbs (click to see an example), and if yours is an advanced class, you can venture into idioms (such as "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen) and phrasal verbs (cook up). I have quite a few activities on idioms. Go to the index file, and search (Ctrl F) for "idioms".

Food is a topic you can do so much with. You can have them write their own recipes (good for imperatives and linking words), you can discuss food expenditure, health, marketing, etc.

If this is successful with your class, you can, naturally adapt this for the other rooms of the house. You may like them to do my activities on Objects in the house either before taking the photos or after. For other activities go to the index file, search (ctrl F) for "houses".

For other ideas on using images in the classroom, search for "Project 366" or "Images" in the index file.


Friday 10 February 2012

Error correction: a free webinar, aka Lonely Teacher Blues, Part 2

Image by C. Pang. More like this here.
A couple of months ago, I posted about the loneliness of teachers and how this can be overcome in Lonely Teacher Blues. One of the easiest ways, I said, was to attend webinars, which are becoming, unsurprisingly, increasingly popular. Attending it is easy - all you need is a computer with internet connection, and a little time.

Error correction seems to be the topic on everyone's lips lately. If you've been missing a lot, be sure to follow my on Continuing Teacher Development, where the latest news regarding conferences, webinars, etc. are posted, and follow me on Twitter, too. It's also apt that iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) will be hosting its own free webinar on error correction next month.

Their directors Scott Thornbury, Steven Herder, and Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto will be presenting on this webinar to be held on Saturday, 3rd March 2012 starting at 12:00 GMT. See what time it is for you here.

Steven Herder will be asking ,"Why correct ESL errors in an EFL class?", Scott Thornbury will be provoking your thoughts in "Does error correction really work?" while Barbara, in her usual affectionate way, will encourage you to "Embrace mistakes!"

Note it down on your diary, don't miss it. To avoid disappointment, register here.

Sunday 5 February 2012

VI Premio Espiral Edublogs 2012

Premio Espiral Edublogs 2012 idioma Inglés

Once again, this blog is participating in the annual Premio Espiral Edublogs. These awards are primarily for Spanish-language blogs, but there are sections for foreign languages, where this blog is competing under. With the new layout and the increasing importance of English as a global language (yes, believe it or not, not everyone attaches mush significance to it), I'm hoping the jury will be more impressed than last year!

Anyway, it's not all that important - it's just widening my readership: what's the point of writing if no-one is reading, right?

IaskU, my interview blog, is also participating. You can comment on that, too, by clicking here.

If you wish to make a comment on the official page, please click on the image above. It doesn't have to be in Spanish. Thank you!

Thursday 2 February 2012

Project 366: The First Month

Wow! I've made it through the first month without missing a day. Every day I've tried to shoot a few photos  but not all made it to the page. The lack of control over my automatic constantly frustrated me! To see the mosaics better, click on the images or if you wish to see the individual photos, January's lot are here.

Would you use any of these photos in your lessons?

Here's an idea for you. Beam these images up on the screen. Have the students work in small groups. Ask them to invent a character or characters, then choose 7 photos, and write up a story of a week in the life of their imaginary personality or personalities.

When they finish, they read their stories out to the rest of the class. Post it here if you wish!

For more ideas on using images, go to the index file of this blog and search (ctrl F) for "images" or "Project 366".