All things EFL… A collection of practical ideas, resources for the classroom and thoughts on EFL today

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Collaboration: improving outcomes

After writing a post celebrating my first anniversary blogging and sticking (more or less) to my personal goals of posting every couple of weeks, I’ve since managed not to (albeit with good reason!)

I had the amazing opportunity to attend Bett Asia 2017 in Kuala Lumpur with Chatta English last week. Consequently,  most of my “free” time over the past few months has been spent preparing for it (hence no posts.) Given that it was amazing opportunity which transpired to be an amazing experience, I don’t feel too bad…

The focus of both the Summit and the Expo was “Cultivating Global Collaboration in Education

“Collaboration is where two or more people or organizations work together to realize or achieve something successfully” – Wikipedia

Quite rightly collaboration enjoys the privileged position as one of the 4 C’s and we are constantly stressing (or should be) the importance of collaboration to our students. As well as highlighting the benefits for learning, we also teach our students this skill in the classroom in order to prepare them for real life beyond the classroom walls.  Due to globalisation and the advent of technology, our world is ever more connected and now, more than ever, students will need to demonstrate proficiency in this skill to become successful citizens of our modern society.

Neither can we underestimate the power of collaboration amongst educators.  I have achieved far more, and with much better results, from collaborating with colleagues and other educators around the globe.  Consequently, I’ve learned not to lock my knowledge and experience (however little) in the classroom cupboard, and share it with the world.

“Not only does a collaborative effort create more holistic results than individual efforts, but it also creates knowledge for a greater number of people” – An educator’s guide to the 4 C’s (National Education Association)

Although I didn’t have time to attend many of the presentations, panel discussions or roundtable sessions at Bett Asia, I did get the opportunity to talk to some inspiring educators and people involved in education who are committed to making a difference. I was truly blown away by many of the teachers I met who are looking for new and better ways to achieve educational excellence and outcomes for their students, and ways to collaborate to ensure this.  In fact one such teacher’s enthusiasm and determination, led to the first international partnership for Chatta English.

Born from Chatta  (founded by Chris Williams and David Andrews to improve oral literacy and help children become better communicators, readers, writers and thinkers) Chatta English helps English language learners develop communicative competence and the 21st century skills necessary to become successful global citizens (but that’s another blog post…)  I am proud to be part of something that puts students at the forefront of their own learning and not only promotes collaboration amongst students but also amongst educators who are encouraged to share their knowledge and experiences.  


My Chatta English colleagues and I went to Bett Asia looking to collaborate and establish meaningful partnerships to ensure the future success of students.  We were extremely fortunate to come across a wonderful English teacher and staff from Bandar Baru Bangi secondary school just outside KL whose vision is to provide their students with the tools they need to become competent and confident speakers of English.  Not only are these teachers enthusiastic, motivated and determined (if that wasn’t enough!)  they are open to collaboration in order to ensure positive outcomes for their students.

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Attending Bett Asia and meeting so many wonderful educators reminded me of the importance of collaboration in contributing to future successes.

Teach your students the art of collaboration by example and don’t lock away your knowledge and experience.  Find ways of sharing and collaborating, improving outcomes and achieving educational excellence…

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“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

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Save time planning lessons with Google Docs

It’s that time of year again…almost but not quite there! In some respects these are the most difficult days to plan for.  There’s no new content to be taught, exams are over and students are waiting for their reports, daydreaming about the summer holidays…  Unfortunately whilst students are in mode “relax,”  teachers are definitely not! There’s still class and you’re running around like a headless chicken: correcting exams, writing reports, preparing resits and planning lessons!

Over the years, teachers build up a large bank of resources. My problem is that over these years as my memory has suffered the effects of ageing, remembering and retrieving this information has become increasingly difficult.  Around this time last year while juggling everything else and desperately trying to remember “that great activity” I had done at the end of the summer term the year before (yes my memory is that short) I had a bright idea.  Once again my old friend Google had a hand to play (I make no apologies for being a Google enthusiast, I know it knows everything about me, but it makes my life a whole lot easier…)

Anyone already familiar with my blog may know that I am a huge fan of maximising time. I want to do my job well, however, I also want enough free time to re-energise and avoid burn out! I believe by making small changes we can save huge amounts of time (minimising frustration and stress) without compromising the quality of our classes. This is one of the reasons I created the page Bright ideas to share some of these small changes which have made a difference. Continue reading

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Creating dialogues using a cooperative learning strategy

Although dialogues in textbooks often include lots of good functional language to practise, the way to practise it can be uninspiring and predictable. cooperative learning strategyUsually students listen to a model dialogue (maybe after completing the gaps with target vocabulary), practise it and then create their own using prompts provided in the text book.

Although my students often found these activities quite dull,  I wanted them to learn the useful functional language, so I started to look for ways to make practising dialogues a bit more meaningful and engaging.  Round about the same time I got seduced by cooperative learning… Continue reading

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Learning and teaching with a wiki


After watching a great session from the British Council “Teaching for Success” conference presented by my good friend and former colleague Jo Budden, Helping learners survive – and thrive – in the digital world, it got me thinking about how I help my students to survive and thrive in this digital world.  At my school, ICT resources are quite limited. There is one computer room with, at best, a slow internet connection and a laptop and projector in each classroom, with dubious internet connection. There are no formal ICT classes and mobile devices are banned!  Faced with this situation and a determination to ensure my students leave school capable digital citizens, I needed a solution. The solution was a wiki… Continue reading