Wednesday, 22 February 2017


Tips for managing a large mixed-level class

Does this ring a bell?

Imagine you are meeting a new class for the first time. You walk into the classroom. The chatter of young voices begins to subside as you take your place in the front of the room, and more than forty young faces turn eagerly to look you over, trying to gauge how cool, hip, old, young, strict or stuffy you are. At the same time, you are surveying the sea of young faces, already knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that, in a perfect world, not all of these forty-two young people would be in the same class, and that getting them to operate as a single, cohesive group is going to be a challenge that you might not always be up to.

You introduce yourself to the group, then ask them to tell the class their names and a little about themselves. If you are observant, you are already learning something about the students as individuals, something beyond just names and interests. Some of them are eager to answer; they want to show off their skills and are more than ready to add to the skills their already have.  Others hesitate, their brains obviously working to come up with an appropriate response; they know they can say something, but don't feel sure about how accurate or comprehensible it will be. Still others look puzzled, distracted or just plain disaffected. They may not understand what's going on, or simply feel too insecure to even attempt to answer your question. They are the ones who have been left behind in other classes and feel that they will never be given a chance to catch up now.

The teacher's job, your job, is to bring the class together into a single unit – not at some later date when you've had time to think and prepare, but right from the beginning of the class. The tone you set in the first few minutes of meeting a class will stay with the students for the rest of your time together. Make it positive, and make it clear: everyone in the class is equal, capable, and a full member of a winning team.

Do you want some tips for managing the class described above?   Click here to read the whole article.

We hope you find it useful.

Sunday, 12 February 2017


It's a rare teacher who can stay 'up' all the time. Your class gets out of control, a 'fun' activity mysteriously fails to create anything but blank stares, test results don't come up to expectations or the sheer repetition suddenly starts to get you down. At times, whole groups of students develop a resistance to all of your best intentions and it seems there is nothing you can do to win them back. 
You begin to wonder if you are any good as a teacher and, if not, why on earth you are spending most of your life in classrooms full of students who – you half-seriously imagine – wouldn't notice if you got up, walked out and never returned. Such moments are probably unavoidable. 
Teaching can be an exhausting and mind-numbing vocation. Because repetition is part and parcel of teaching a language, boredom is always just around the corner, and discouragement is right behind it. 

How can you continue to be effective as a teacher, fulfilling the expectations of your school, your students and their parents, and still maintain the sense of adventure and discovery you started out with? It's a complicated question, and there are probably as many answers as there are teachers, but I would say that:

  • the first line of defence is to take a step back, remove your personal feelings from the equation, and try to figure out why teaching isn't working for you. 
  • If it's a single class that's giving you trouble, give them a break from the routine and spend a whole class session doing group activities, playing games, watching a movie or reading a story or just talking.   
  •  Select material or topics that will allow you to see your students in different classroom situations and talking about different issues. 
  • If you are attentive, you’ll observe gestures, attitudes, hear comments and have the chance to reflect on your practices, school facilities, objectives and so on. 
  • Ask them how they feel about the material you're teaching. Is it too easy, too hard, too young or old? What can be done to improve it? 
  • If at all possible, trade classes with another teacher for a session or two. Maybe they can give you some insights into the class dynamic that you simply can't see because you are too involved, and you can do the same for them. 

In any case, don’t take difficult classes as a personal failure. See them as a challenge and a tool for learning. After all, most professions have to deal with serious difficulties – why not us? 

  •  Most important of all, don't let yourself become isolated. Teachers who work at more than one institution sometimes have little contact with other teachers, and this can lead to problems. Make an effort to talk to other teachers, join forums, groups of teachers on learning platforms like Edmodo and social networks like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, . Knowing that they may be going through the same kinds of difficulties with them or feelings of discouragement is a help in itself, and exchanging ideas about how to liven up the classroom and rekindle your own enthusiasm can be invaluable. 

  • Create a network of teachers with an ongoing exchange of ideas. And don't listen to the little voice in your head that says you aren't a good teacher. 

Everyone has it, and in 99% of cases it isn't telling the truth. The mere fact that you are aware enough to question your abilities means that you really care, you know what good teaching looks like and, with time and the support of community, you can regain the passion that will reward both you and your students with a positive learning experience.

Friday, 9 December 2016

More interesting classes

Like any job, teaching can become as dull and routine as cleaning offices or counting dollar bills. (Though usually not that many dollars come into it!) You, the teacher, trail into the classroom, greet the class, do corrections, present a point or read a text, practice, assign homework, go into the next class and repeat.

The difference between teaching and other jobs, though, is that you can decide to break the mold when things get too repetitive. Of course there's material you have to cover, and a timeline to follow, but the whole lesson doesn't have to go out the window in order to inject some variety into your lessons. Here are a few simple ideas to break out of the doldrums and find some new life in your lessons.

Let your students teach

 Assign pairs or groups. Let them know what they will be presenting to the class in the following lesson, set a time limit, and ask them to come up with an original way to do it, for example by using music, movement, a short theater piece or even a piece of art. Even a new grammar point can become fun and memorable in this way.

Make it a game

Almost any aspect of language-learning can be turned into a game. There are ideas all over the Internet – including on this site – and don't assume that if your students are older, or even adults, that they won't profit from or enjoy a bit of play. Having fun makes the brain more receptive to new information, it breaks up the routine of the class and it gives every student a chance to shine. One word of warning: Try not to use the same game ideas over and over, no matter how popular – you defeat the purpose by turning play into another kind of routine.

Talk to your students

 Set aside ten minutes or so at the end of the lesson to talk to and listen to your students. Set a topic, or ask students for suggestions. Make it meaningful to them: they've already done the environment and life in other countries, so try talking about their own lives, the place where they live and things that concern them. Do it in English as much as possible, but tolerate lapses. Make real communication the point. Your class will bond, and will become more tolerant of periods of the class when routine and repetition are necessary evils.

Do you have any comment or idea on this topic? Please, post them here. Thanks!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Blog Talk: The Curse of Ms Black

An urban myth tells us that if you dare to become a teacher, like Ms Black, you'll be doomed
  • to commute long distances every day.
  • to carry a back-breaking load of books and papers everywhere you go.
  • to walk, trip, skip, hop and other kinds of ‘workout activities’ in crowded  classrooms.
  • to try to remember hundreds of different names every year.
  • to miss most weekends doing PC  (preparing and correcting).
  • to work in the hottest and coldest classrooms on earth.
  • to persuade 'I-couldn’t-care-less’ people to provide a decent a budget for education.
  • to be an amateur therapist to parents, students and fellow teachers.
  • to constantly have to explain to people that being a Teacher of English is more than just having a good command of the language.
  • to doing useless paper work rather than educating people.
aren’t  teachers the happiest professionals who walk the streets today? Most people look drained of energy and hopeless; but teachers are still enthusiastic and have fun planning and organizing events in hopes of making learning enjoyable for students.

Teachers like teaching because, unlike accountants, they are in contact with kids and young people who still believe the world is a wonderful place with a good future to come. It’s the teacher’s job to help them communicate with that world, opening doors to learning about other cultures, entertainment, places in the world, people, better job opportunities, just  to mention a few.

So, by being a teacher, you’ll be given the opportunity…
  • to live in contact with ‘the future’.
  • to have fun with your students.
  • to experience a feeling of renewal when discovering the world with your students every day.
  • to see the world in terms of building and creating.
  • to have the honorable job of giving people the tools to become better individuals.
  • to do real teamwork with other teachers even if not demanded by the authorities.
  • to learn from your students as much as they learn from you. 
  • to be invited to birthday parties, weddings and family reunions, just because your students love you.
  • to find pleasure in simple activities like reading a good story or cooking a good meal.
  • to have a smile on your face because, in a money-oriented world, you know how to live without it!
So maybe...
we need to scream louder sometimes just to get what we deserve in order to make of this enriching job a profession respected by everyone.

What do you think?