Recent books and resources

December 27, 2008

Hello again,

The ELT publishing industry forges ahead showing no sign as yet of suffering from the recession. Over the last two years a wealth of material ...

Controlling the class

October 14, 2008

Hello again,

Some classroom problems are always with us. In fact they are so predictable it is easy to just forget about them and carry on regardless. But really...

Giving learners frameworks

August 15, 2008

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It is important to give learners maximum opportunity to experiment and use language in whatever way is useful to them as individuals. Many of the mechanical ...

The Olympic Games

July 20, 2008

Hello again,

The Olympic games in China next month should provide a rich source of lesson material so it’s a good idea for schools to start collecting materials now. Firstly the topic is interesting in itself: from the original games that took place...

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

May 25, 2008

Hello again,

Language learning is, of course, a complex process and teachers have to reflect on many aspects of the psychology of successful learning. When it comes to the practical application of theory, one of the most succinct summaries of how we learn ...

Approaches to grammar

May 18, 2008

Hello again,

I was discussing grammar teaching last week and one teacher asked me what I thought was the best approach. Of course there is no “best” approach. It all depends on the context and the learning preferences of the students.

By context I...

Learner-friendly classrooms

April 25, 2008

Hello again,

As I said last time I want to explore this topic further. The individual teacher’s own milieu, the classroom, is the...

Long-term orientation: Confucian values

March 19, 2008

Hello again,

Hofstede's fifth cultual dimension, long-term versus short-term orientation, is very much an east/west division. Confucianism looks at life in the long-term rather than the short-term. Confucian teaching...

Culture and uncertainty

March 16, 2008

Hello again,
Uncertainty avoidance, Hofstede (2001), is “the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations.” Members of high uncertainty avoidance nations feel a stronger threat from uncertain and unknown...

The masculine/feminine dimension

March 12, 2008

Hello again,
When thinking about the extent to which a culture may be said to be more masculine or feminine we have to remember that the cultural values...

Collectivist and individualist cultures

March 04, 2008

Hello again,
Individualism and collectivism are two extremes of a spectrum. The USA, Canada, and Western European cultures veer towards individualism, as opposed to Asian, Latin American, and African nations, which tend to be collectivist. The individualist culture...

You don't need books to enjoy literature

November 22, 2007

Hello again,

Internet resources for ELT just get better and better. Recent developments to help teachers introduce their students to the rich world of English literature now mean you don’t even need ...

Mother tongue in the classroom?

October 18, 2007

Hello again,
Should EL teachers use the mother-tongue in the classroom? The rationale for not using the mother tongue was a mixture of pedagogical and pragmatic. First, use only of the target language allows learners...

Managing large classes

July 30, 2007

Hello again,
The question of class size is always a big issue for new teachers. Large classes are more common in reality than the small groups trainee teachers encounter for their teaching practice. To be able to...

A brief tour of methods

May 30, 2007

Hello again,

Teachers I have spoken to recently seemed somewhat confused about the history of teaching methods. Indeed the emphasis on a somewhat vague notion of humanistic approaches in the classroom seems to have blurred the idea of specific...

Technology or chalk and talk?

May 29, 2007

Hello again,

I was struck recently by the reluctance of some teachers to make full use of technological teaching aids. In touring a well-equipped teaching centre, I saw one ...

Peer response

February 19, 2007

Hello again,

I wrote recently when talking about accelerated learning of the importance of establishing a cooperative group atmosphere. The need for this is essential for a school thinking of setting up peer-response activities to help writing skills. Peer-response activities...

Accelerated learning

February 06, 2007

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel - Socrates

Hello again,

Second language learning is different from other forms of learning in that it requires us to think in the target language. If you learn curriculum subjects such as history or mathematics, or if you learn practical skills...

Who owns the learning environment?

December 15, 2006

Hello again,
I don’t know if it is still de rigeur but there was a time when a lot of teachers insisted on playing music in the background while a class was in progress. Okay, it was never as bad as supermarket or restaurant ‘musak’, indeed it was often the best from the Baroque Period. But I often wondered whether students had a say in this use of music. For myself, music...

Which hat are you wearing?

November 10, 2006

A useful idea for structuring a discussion

Hello again,

Do your classroom discussions deterioriate into an unstructured slanging match? If so, perhaps you would like to try this approach. Edward de Bono’s book, Six Thinking Hats, offers a problem-solving model whereby people look at an issue from six different angles, wearing, as it were, six different hats. I think this ...

World events in the classroom

July 27, 2006

Can teachers avoid reality?

Hello again,

My topic today is a serious one. It concerns the horrors of world conflicts and whether there is any place for such topics in the classroom. Many schools and teachers, either consciously or tacitly, operate a ‘non-controversial’ policy for topics to address in the classroom. This is understandable. Teachers are not always best placed to be arbiters ...

Welcome Brenda to ESL School!

February 24, 2006

Greetings ESL experts,

Allow me to say thanks to Jake for his introduction of me and for giving me the honor or presenting to you the newest member of the ESLemployment team, Brenda Townsend Hall, PhD.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with her work, Dr. Townsend Hall is a communications consultant trainer and course designer. Now, she’ll be blogging for ESL School and writing for the ESL Expert newsletter. She offers face-to-face and distance training in the fields of interpersonal communications, business English, written communications and cross-cultural awareness. She also has runs a distance-learning training course, Teach Business English, for teachers wishing to enter the field of business English . . .

Humor in the ESL Classroom

February 03, 2006


International tension over cartoons in the western press deemed blasphemous by the Islamic world has reminded me how culturally biased humor is.

Satire is part of the political fabric of western democracies. The egalitarianism at the heart of our systems means we don’t like anybody or any creed to be protected against, what to us, seems a healthy appetite for debunking and cutting down to size. Of course individuals and groups protest. The Monty Python film . . .

When ESL Students Won't Write

January 31, 2006


Reluctance to write has many possible causes. Writing may seem the most artificial of the language skills unless the writing tasks reflect the reality of the students’ worlds.

Free writing also requires greater effort than any other language skill: after all, if you speak, you don’t have to think about correct spelling! Also for students whose own language does not use the same alphabet, writing can be slow and laborious . . .

The Skills Balance in ESL

January 30, 2006

Dear Bloggers,

The relative importance of the four language skills has been on my mind. One group of teachers I have spoken to recently told me how difficult it is to persuade their students to speak while another group couldn’t get their classes to write.

From a teacher’s point of view the importance of these skills is obvious but what is the students’ perspective? I want to use this blog to talk about speaking and the next one to discuss writing. The reasons for students being reluctant to talk are various . . .

Managing ESL Groups

November 08, 2005

I might be slightly out of touch, but I am not confident that teacher training courses concentrate enough on group management.

Mixed Ability ESL Classes

October 04, 2005

In reading comments on this blog, my heart went out to the teacher who has such a difficult mixture of levels in one class, from beginners up.

The classroom agenda

June 30, 2005

Hello. It's early morning and I'm writing this blog before my office gets hot and sticky.

I talked recently about lesson content and expressed my view that teachers should leave their personal opinions outside the classroom. To be honest I expected a vigorous debate but I've had just one comment from a teacher who felt that her opinions were an integral part of the knowledge she brings to the classroom.

Brain Gym

May 10, 2005

Hello again. I was encouraged to see the comments on my recent blog from a reader about her successful employment of a non-native speaker teacher. Her experience should remind us to look beyond our preconceptions and prejudices.

I've always felt that English language teaching is in the vanguard of innovative ideas for keeping the classroom lively. Lots of activities involve students mixing and mingling, working in pairs and groups and being active rather than passive learners. But to the best of my knowledge these traditional classroom actvities, with the exception of some that are music-related, are not designed to stimulate the brain to learn more efficiently.