Equal Pay Day (It’s a hashtag)

Originally posted on Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis:

One of those times my old foe, the hashtag, is useful is showing trending events. Thanks to the #EqualPayDay hashtag I now know this is the day of the year when women start working for free compared with men thanks to unequal pay. I’m not in possession of enough information to say whether this affects ELT directly or not. As far as I know teachers earn the same, pitifully low, pay regardless of gender but I could be wrong. I also don’t know the stats to show the gender make up of managerial, higher paid positions and the equality of those salaries.

I do know, though, how one pay inequality happens in ELT.



It struck me the other day that the continued inequality of plenary/keynote speakers at ELT conferences actually has a financial implication. That unfairness means men have more chance of receiving some kind of financial benefit from…

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Choosing not to strike

Originally posted on Sam Shepherd:

You’d have hoped things would have changed but no. FE is still being squeezed, pay is being frozen, and generally things are looking bleak. It’s no surprise, then, that my colleagues in UCU went on strike today. I chose not to, and as I was informed, somewhat spikily, by a committed Union member that the decision about going into work yesterday was a “moral” one, I thought I might explain why.
For one, I’m not a union member, and as such I am a free individual without commitment to any politically motivated organisation. Therefore the decision, for me, is entirely personal. I owe no moral obligation to the union: I made use of their services on two occasions and did so as a result of my then fully paid up membership. I’ve never been a great one for arbitrary loyalty. I paid my dues, I received a service: simple.


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Scott Thornbury

Originally posted on NNEST of the month Blog:

October, 2015 guestScott Thornbury

Photo by Martin Seck

Scott Thornbury is a teacher and teacher educator, with over 30 years’ experience in English language teaching, and an MA from the University of Reading. He is currently Curriculum Coordinator of the MA TESOL program at The New School in New York. His previous experience includes teaching and teacher training in Egypt, UK, Spain (where he lives), and in his native New Zealand. HIs writing credits include several award-winning books for teachers on language and methodology, as well as authoring a number of papers and book chapters on language and language teaching. He is series editor for the Cambridge Handbooks for Teachers (CUP). He was also the co-founder of the dogme ELT group (see Articles). And, currently, he is an associate of the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi), an online campus dedicated to teacher development.

Interviewed by Isabela Villas Boas

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“Sod off, Reported Speech!” she exclaimed.

Originally posted on Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis:

I’ve spent the past two weeks in turns delighting and dismaying my FCE students with Reported Speech.

God, I loathe Reported Speech.

It’s everything I hate about everything all backshifted into one pointless morass. It’s prawns, brussel sprouts, hashtags, people who talk about themselves in the third person, carrot jeans, touching people I don’t know and Croc footwear.

It’s completely feckin’ made up. Reported Speech barely exists and barely matters when it does.

In class, I keep forgetting to backshift, particularly between past simple and past perfect when we’re doing endless FCE sentence transformation tasks because it just doesn’t bloody matter. Meaning my Native Speaker correct-because-I’d-say-it sentence is textbook wrong, confusing the students and confusing me as I try to “correct” my speech, so as not to sound natural but to fit the book.


At first students love RP. There are rules, logic (once you get past the fact…

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Stiff little fingers

image taken from www.healthtap.com

image taken from http://www.healthtap.com

We’ve all got them. We all use them. Most of the time without thinking. But how do you use them in your classroom?

On Friday night, I found myself teaching a 3 hour one-to-one with an A1 student. Almost immediately, my fingers began taking on a life of their own. Every time I asked my student a question, I would use a finger to represent each of the words in the question. Nothing ground breaking and I had done it before with my YLs but in this lesson I took it to a whole new level. All my questions were accompanied by my fingers, often bringing them together to indicate a possible contraction. When we reformulated my student’s responses to the questions, again the fingers were used to help the student along. I would keep them hanging there, and waggle the finger to indicate that the student hadn’t pronounced it correctly or that they had missed it out. I could see the student following my fingers as they came up and I genuinely believe that their employment was useful and I hope to continue using this in the subsequent classes. More importantly, I will ask my student if the fingers are useful or if she thinks I’m mad.

Does anyone else do the same thing? If so, what’s your reasoning behind it? Have you discussed it with your students? Do you have any tips? (pun intended)

Work-life balance – A business class idea

Photo taken from TED.com

Photo taken from TED.com

This lesson idea is based around a funny and thought provoking TED talk by Nigel Marsh. The talk is titled; How to make work-life balance work.

I have used the class with C1.3 and Proficiency students and each time the talk prompts different conversations within my groups, leading to good language work and exposure to authentic listening.

Here is the link to the talk – Nigel Marsh; How to make work-life balance work. (link will open in a new tab)

Here is what I did

  • Begin the class by asking your students to discuss two questions:
  1. Do you think you have a good work-life balance?
  2. If yes, how do you maintain this balance? If no, what would you like to change to create a balance?
  • An alternative opening could be to put the following statements, taken from the video onto the board/projector and ask the students to discuss and say which they agree/disagree with.

there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hateto enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you [as] they can get away with. It’s in their nature; it’s in their DNA; it’s what they do — even the good, well-intentioned companies.

We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that we want in our life.

  • Let this run, and try to make notes as you listen. Get feedback and ask any more relevant questions to push the students further.
  • Next, introduce the video and the title. Tell the students that they are going to listen to exactly the first 5 minutes of the talk. I prefer to use the video purely as audio. The video contains nothing of importance visually, i.e no slides, quotes etc. The only task for the student is to listen and when the first part is over, to say whether they agree with the points mentioned in this part. Encourage the students to write down any vocabulary as they are listening.
  • In my classes the following vocabulary was picked out and discussed; startled, thorny issue, getting to the nub of smthg and abattoirs of the human soul.
  • My students had a lot to say about the talk and most genuinely agreed with what was said. It was great for getting them to personalise the subject and talk(moan) about the companies they work for.
  • Once this dies down, remind the class that at the end of the 5 minute clip, Nigel Marsh begins to talk about how he sat down and wrote out his perfect working day. The video stops just before he tells us what it is. Get your students to write down or think about their perfect working day. It needs to be based around their current job. Get them thinking about what time they would start, how many hours they would work, time for lunch, when to finish and what they would do with their spare time.
  • Get feedback and ask more questions.
  • Now the students will listen to the remaining 5 minutes of the talk. They need to compare their ideal day with that of Nigel’s and again write down any vocabulary they want to discuss. In my classes the following vocabulary was discussed after the second part; daunting, upheaval, moronically simplistic
  • Again, work with the discussions that come up after the clip and ask how the students felt about Nigel’s perfect day. To finish off, here are some questions worth discussing;
  1. Is it true that we often neglect the intellectual, spiritual and emotional side of life?
  2. Do you dream of retiring or do you live for the hear and now?
  3. What small things could you change in your life to create a better work-life balance?

I hope the lesson is useful. As always, please feel free to comment and let me know how it goes. Remember that with all TED talks you can activate subtitles and also access an interactive transcript of the talk.


It’s been a ridiculously long time since I wrote anything on here. In order to blow off the blogging cobwebs I am going to try something different for the month of October. The idea is very simple. At the end of each of my lessons I am going to record my immediate thoughts, feelings and reflections on each lesson and upload the audio. To accompany each audio file I will hopefully have a photo of my board work, in order to provide a little more insight into the lesson. I am hoping to keep the audio short, although I will apologise now if I ramble. Let me know what you think and leave a comment below. The link for the first lesson is below.

Lesson 1 – This will take you to Soundcloud.com

Board work - Lesson 1 Own photo

Board work – Lesson 1
Own photo

Lesson 2 – Link will send you to soundcloud.com

own photo

own photo

Lesson 3  – Link will send you to soundcloud.com

Lesson 4 – Link will send you to souncloud.com

Lesson 5 – Link will send you to souncloud.com

own photo

own photo