IH Teachers Online Conference – 50 years of IH Teacher Training

On Friday 25th May teachers from all of the IH schools around the world (over 150 in over 50 countries) will be coming together online to share experiences and knowledge and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first IH teacher training course, which took place at IH London in June 1962. 

If you work for Intermational house, you can find out everything you need to know about the conference here:


If you are a friend of International House, you studied with us in thepast or used to work with us, then you are invited to attend the plenary sessions:

10.00 GMT Things to do in your summer holiday by Shaun Wilden

Many schools are reaching the end of their academic year and while work may be the last thing on teachers’ minds as they head off for the summer, now is a good time to consider your CPD plan. CPD seems to be one of the buzzwords of this year in ELT. In case you don’t know CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development; a term for the process of taking responsibility for your own development as a teacher.  With the continued growth of the Internet as a teaching resource you can now attend conferences and workshops online, get easy access to research and enjoy the benefits of a global staffroom. Living in digital times means that it has never been easier to find a CPD path that best suits you as a teacher. IH world recognizes this fact and has recently launched a new initiative to help teachers plan their CPD through their career. This talk aims to open the door to self-access CPD, introduce you to our new scheme and give you some ideas for filling the hours either of your summer holiday or simply until your next class!

Shaun’s Bio

Shaun has been involved in English language teaching for over twenty years. He is currently the International House World Organisation Teacher Training Coordinator but also works as a freelance teacher trainer. Apart from that he maintains several online teaching sites including ihonlinetraining.net and is interested in the application of technology to teaching.  He is a moderator ELTon nominated  twitter #eltchat group which meets every Wednesday to discuss issues and ideas in ELT and membership secretary of the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG. Feel free to follow him @shaunwilden or read his blogs shaunwilden.com and appedelt.com.  When not sitting at a computer, Shaun enjoys growing food in his garden and then cooking it.

13.00 GMT The Decline and fall of coursebooks? by Simon Greenall

Coursebooks not only continue to get written, but continue to get written about and written off with equal regularity. The Decline and Fall of Coursebooks? will consider the present day polemic in favour of and against coursebooks, and set it against a review of their recent past history. It will examine the dilemmas and compromises which coursebook publishing and writing face today and in the future.

Simon’s Bio:

Simon Greenall has been an ELT textbook writer since 1982, is a past president of IATEFL and is currently an IH Trustee.  He has published many books including exam material, adult and secondary courses, as well as radio and television programmes for the BBC. Since 2000 he has been co-editor in chief of textbook series for Chinese primary, junior high and senior high schools and universities. He also works as a consultant to the ministry of education in Palestine on the teaching of English in state schools. He has given workshops and conference presentations in 45 countries.

17.00 GMT Surviving through songs – words of wisdom for NQTs by Neil McMahon 

The first year or two of teaching post-CELTA or teaching college are usually a wave of hits and misses, successes and insecurities.  In Surviving through song, we’ll look for words of wisdom from the best of the last fifty years of music that will help make our early (and not so early) days of teaching a more comfortable and rewarding experience as we continue to grow as teachers.  At the same time we’ll see a variety of ways of exploiting songs in class to promote engaging and personalised skills and language work and get the students thinking as well as singing.

Neil’s Bio:

As IHWO Academic Coordinator for Resources and DoS Support, Neil is responsible for developing and editing resources and materials for schools across the International House affiliate network, while supporting DoSes of IH schools in their day to day work.  Neil was a DoS himself for four and a half years, at IH Belgrano, Buenos Aires, before moving across town to become a full-time teacher trainer at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training.  He also tutors various IHWO courses on OTTI and gives conference presentations for both IH and Macmillan.  Before arriving in Argentina at the beginning of 2002 he worked in Prague for four years, where he began teaching and working for IH.   If he ever gets a break from the above jobs, he loves going for a run, watching football, cricket and opera, eating out or relaxing at home with his wife, two cats, a good book and an Argentine red, all of which he then records for posterity on his blog at amuseamuses.wordpress.com.

If you sign up to receive our alumni newsletter you will be sent all the information you need in order to attend these sessions.


You can also follow events at the conference online leading up to and on the day by following the Twitter hashtag #IHTOC50.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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Spring 2012 edition of the IH journal out now!

We are very pleased to be sending you the spring edition of the IH Journal – issue 32.   In this issue we have included the new special interest columns – Developing teachers and Young Learners.
The contents page below will give you a taster of what you can find in Issue 32

Celebrating 50 years of teacher training

Classroom Matters

  • Listening and self-access: a perfect partnership – Arizio Sweeting
  • Politeness and pragmatics in NNS interactions – Chia Suan Chong
  • Surviving your first year as an ELT teacher: what the CELTA doesn’t prepare you for as a NQT – Lewis Waitt

 Management Matters

  • Delegation – Letting go or losing control? – Maureen McGarvey

 Teacher Training and Development

  • The first ever IH Teachers’ online conference: ‘a proud moment in IH history!’ – Alastair Grant
  • Observations on observations – Chris Ożóg
  • IH CPD scheme – Shaun Wilden
  • Leaving a mark – Colin Barnett

Special Interest Columns

  • Young Learners – Kylie Malinowska, IHWO YL Advisor
  • Developing Teacher – Sandy Millin, IH Newcastle

Speak Out series – reviewed by Stefano Federici, IH Rome Manzoni
Digital Play – reviewed by Shaun Wilden, IHWO
Communicative activities for EAP – reviewed by Norman Cain, IH Rome Manzoni
Teaching the pronunciation of ELF – reviewed by Chia Suan Chong, IH London

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Two Years On – looking back on my CELTA experience

Lorraine Kipling, who took the CELTA with us in August 2009, looks back on her experience and how it helped during her first two years of teaching:

My CELTA training experience at IH Belgrano was entirely positive. Of course it was stressful at times, but that was to be expected.  Anyone who says they got through the CELTA month without the occasional wave of anxiety either has nerves of steel or pants on fire. Looking back, it makes me smile to think of the hours spent scrutinising the planning for a brief practice lesson. Oh for the luxury of such time in the real world! During training, however, there is so much to take in, and the intensity of being a trainee was both exciting and exhausting. It was also an invaluable introduction into a professional and communicative approach to teaching which I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Although I ultimately ended up back in the UK to get stable teaching experience, I am very glad that I chose to take the CELTA course at IH Belgrano. In addition to living abroad and immersing myself in a different culture, an experience which I would recommend to anyone considering becoming an English teacher, it was also useful for logistical reasons. For me, relocating to a new country meant that that I had to arrange my resources in advance, so that I would be able to dedicate my time to training. I didn’t want to be tempted by paid work, and being abroad also minimised other distractions that may have arisen had I stayed at home. I truly admire those who are able to train part time while continuing their day jobs, but I’m very glad I chose the full-time option abroad.

One thing I would have planned differently, though, is that I would have given myself more time to adapt to life in BA. Regrettably, I arrived just two days before starting the course. I was fortunate in that my fellow trainees were all lovely, and we would go out to eat or attempt tango lessons together at the weekends. However, the intensity of the course prevented too much socialising or tourism, and by the time I finished, I felt that I still hadn’t fully seen all that BA has to offer. I would certainly recommend that future trainees who are able take an extra week, or month, to get to know the city a little before the CELTA lockdown takes over.

In the end, I did get to see more of Buenos Aires. When CELTA was over, I got work with three different agencies teaching in-company at various locations around the city. I can’t count the number of times I crossed 9 de Julio in a week, dashing from class to class. In contrast to the stability of classroom teaching I had experienced at International House, this type of work wasn’t for me, and so, after putting my time in, I decided to look for positions outside of BA. That’s how I ended up back in the UK, and I am happy to say that I have been working in a very supportive Academy for over two years now.

I cannot stress how valuable it has been to find work in a supportive environment where I have continued to develop my teaching skills and build on the foundation CELTA provided me. To a teacher fresh out of CELTA, it can be very tempting to accept whatever work is offered, but I would earnestly recommend that people think about what is best for them as a teacher, and what they want to do with their teaching in both the short and long term. For me, though I had not imagined the CELTA would take me back to the UK, it has been the best thing that could have happened in terms of my progression as a teacher.

I am now thinking about working abroad again, and am doing so with confidence in my abilities as a teacher and an eagerness to continue developing my skills. One of my colleagues once said that CELTA is not just a teaching qualification; it’s a licence to learn how to teach. I couldn’t agree more.

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Fifty Years of IH in Broad Brush Strokes – by Brita Haycraft

John and I arrived in Cordoba so that he could write and both of us could live on giving English classes. Neither of us was thinking of founding a school. But three weeks later sixty Cordobese people had passed through two patios and knocked on our door. Doctors, lawyers, clerks, waiters, olive salesmen, lace merchants, señoritas, students. We had become a school.

At once John laid the foundations: low fees ensuring small earners weren’t excluded; persuading students to join classes according to level not friendship; small classes, since ourrooms were small. The cold rising through the brick floor had everybody cluster round the table, with a brazier underneath, – perhaps the origin of our friendly circular classroom seating. Contradicting the reputation of the Spanish, our Andalucian students arrived punctually, regularly and wrote wonderful homework. On Sundays we’d meet for excursions. We decided to stay.

Expansion had already taken possession of John’s mind. In a year we had started Spanish Easter courses for Foreigners and people from England, France, Holland descendedfor a packed three-week programme, also sampling Montilla wine and flamenco dancing with our delighted Cordobese students.

Once in better premises, we started a library, a little bar was fitted out, classes of German and French began and speakers from England also stopped by to give talks. We organised ‘International Weeks’ and had ambassadors come down and be fêted by the Town Hall. We became not just a school but a ‘Casa Internacional’.

John wrote in the mornings, stimulated by the new enterprise. I was just as gripped by our projects though sometimes wished for longer spaces in between. Six years later, now with two babies, we had to settle and so returned to London.

IH London might easily not have happened.

After publication of his successful book Babel In Spain, John hoped his writing would take off and we both had journalism in mind but that was precarious with minimal savings. Suddenly the chance of a flat in Covent Garden came by, we grabbed it and the school process began again.

How different from Cordoba! By Christmas only six students had found their way to our third floor premises in tatty Endell Street. We tried to cheer up the grim metal stairwayand John also taught ILEA classes in West London to make ends meet. But when they closed for the summer, all John’s students followed him to Endell Street and never went back to the ILEA school.

Things looked up when the BBC commissioned John to write a course for English By Radio. Just then he was asked to go to Finland to polish President Kekkonen’s English before his state visit to Britain. In his palace quarters in the dark snowy North, when not tutoring the President, John wrote his BBC course.

Back in London, I manned the school, dropping our toddlers in a Greenwich day nursery. I spotted the ideal premises in Shaftesbury Avenue but was rejected, until a note in the Daily Express gossip column about John teaching Kekkonen made the agents smile. It was verycheap except that the lease had to be renewed every six months, pending reforms for Piccadilly Circus. We stayed 18 years. The eight-room flat was grotty but perfectly located at a stone’s throw from the famous Eros. Students filled the school. We needed teachers fast.

This is when John thought of a course to train teachers. A tiny ad in the magazine The New Statesman brought our first twelve trainees for two weeks in June 1962. There was a bold new component. Each afternoon, after their theory session, the trainees had to teach real classes watched by fellow trainees and their tutor. It worked, possibly because of the group discussion afterwards. And it was the 60s. At the end, we kept on the best ones as teachers. The course was to multiply.

Against tradition, teacher trainers didn’t stop teaching foreign students and so stayed in touch with classroom complexities, always upgrading the training course. The beauty of short courses was that you could see the result within months, rather than years. Swapping ideas and observing classes became the norm and I remember the excitement at the teachers’ meetings. Being a new school with new teachers made new ideas possible. This was only 1963-4 -5. We never looked back and some of our intrepid trainees have become today’s most popular EFL authors.

The teacher-training programme launched, John set off to newly liberated Algeria; bound to need English language training we thought. Some of our newly hatched teachers soon found themselves out there, including Ben Warren and Doug Case. Beirut followed. When a Libya contract was cancelled due to the Gaddafi coup, the teachers happily flew to Khartoum which also craved English. They were valiant and dedicated and brought valuable teaching ideas back to IH London.

From Rome, Ausonio Zappa would bring summer students regularly to London and in 1966 he asked us to run a teachers’ course there. In Rome’s unforgettably soft September we met a promising pick of trainees, Roger Gower, Sheila Sullivan, Edward Woods, Cathy Wallace, and other EFL experts-to-be. John was keen to start an IH Rome and a year later a building was found. John just said ‘OK Let’s go out and start it’. It was goodbye to Transinterpreter, my little translation agency, and I had to suspend my Longman pronunciation book, but I couldn’t resist Rome. Our children were taken from their primary school and off we drove. Four months later we were back home, as the school expanded into our lodgings.

Three years later it was off to Paris, which we knew well. The Parisians loved the lively and beautiful International House; but John’s wish to create a whole ‘village anglais’, pub and all, hit local resistance.

By then International House had some thirty affiliates and 40 Shaftesbury Avenue was a powerhouse of teaching and training, supplying teachers, materials and services to many UK schools too. We offered classroom videos, the English Teaching Theatre, a bookshop, ateachers’ monthly magazine, Salvatore’s restaurant, a students’ welfare bureau, an au pair agency, and the Teachers’ Centre. We never advertised until 1980. What we lacked was some large rooms.

In 1976 John happened to notice that 106 Piccadilly was to let (very cheaply) and after nine months’ wooing, he got us this splendid, totally unschool-like Georgian piece of elegance with some magnificent rooms where we still are. Doubting teachers all succumbed.

The teaching engine purred. Charles (Tim) Lowe created the DTEFLA distance course in theex-quarters of one footman. In the garret of the other footman, the business school was shaped by Joe Wiersma. And the EFL world, I think, was pleased to have a brilliant centre where teaching ideas could shine. Abroad, the affiliated schools were no longer fledglings: you could now train in Colin McMillan’s IH Lisbon or IH Rome or in Ben Warren’s IH Barcelona or in IH Cairo, also founded by IH London offspring.

In 1975 John persuaded the Bell School to run their first teachers’ course, as one of our teacher trainers was moving to Cambridge. In 1978 John told me the RSA wanted to model their new teachers’ course on ours and he’d agreed. I wonder if it ever crossed their minds what a gift that was. John felt education was there to be shared. We seconded teacher trainers to the Institute of Education from 1985 to 1990, at our expense. Slowly the CertTEFLA spread, even to the lofty universities.

In the late 80s John told everyone he was re-launching the Modern Language Department. No sooner said than done. Teacher trainer Elaine Walker produced the business plan overnight and Marisol Gower and Ana Palley gave the first TT course for Italian, Spanish, French and German teachers a month later. Japanese followed. It prospered.

IH know-how was to bring in schools in Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine and beyond. The dedication continues in more than 120 affiliated schools worldwide.

Together, the EFL opportunity and the IH inspiration have crafted an exhilarating and valued international profession. Let me express my awe and gratitude for a fantastic first fifty years.

Fifty Years of IH in Broad Brush Strokes

By Brita Haycraft

This article was written by Brita for the IH Journal and appeared in issue 14 which was to mark the 50th Anniversary of International House in 2003.

History – compiled by Brita Haycraft

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A Sporting Chance – Neil McMahon’s presentation – ABS Conference March 2012

Do you find yourself behind the eight ball when idioms come out of left field?  Are you out of your depth when idiom-loving friends call the shots? Give yourself a sporting chance to cover all the bases as we dive headfirst into the world of sport-inspired idioms, exploring their meaning and background to give ourselves the inside track in the idiom race, allowing us to paddle our own idiom canoes and put a new vocabulary arrow in our language quivers.


Slides: A Sporting Chance

Handout: Neil_McMahon

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Activating the passive – Anya Shaw’s presentation – ABS Conference March 2012

Activating the passive
We teach the passive voice… The the passive voice is taught…
Have a look in most coursebooks and this is how the passive is presented and practised. However, the challenge faced by students and teachers alike is not how it is formed or what it means but when and why it is used.  In Activating the Passive, these key questions, impliactions for the classroom and practical ideas will be explored.  Click here for ppt presentation: Activating the passive

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Clem Duran’s story

I have been asked to write something about my relationship with English; something to do with my first steps perhaps, or my difficulties or problems at Teacher Training College (the Profesorado), or even after that.

After changing my mind several times I’ve chosen to start with some of my failures. This may sound rather off-putting but seen from a distance, some dire situations seem quite funny.

So, here goes:

To start with time and place: I was born in Rosario, in 1925 (!!) and as soon as I graduated (1945) I started working at ARCI (Asociación  Rosarina de Cultura Inglesa)  Two years later I was chosen to join a group that would travel to the UK to  spend 2 months in London and another month visiting universities where Spanish was taught: Oxford ,Cambridge,  York , Manchester, and several others. The tour was sponsored by the British Council. The idea was that as soon as we got back to Argentina a group of English university students would come to Argentina on a similar kind of tour.

But every day I spent away the feeling that I didn’t want to go back to Argentina grew stronger. There was so much that was completely new to me; I was fascinated.  The fact that two of my best friends in the group had decided to stay on made me feel that this adventure would be easier than it proved to be. Both friends held British passports, which made all the difference. One of them had decided to stay for good and immediately got a job as a school teacher. She had already been teaching English in Córdoba. The other one didn’t have to work because her parents had bank accounts in England, which enabled her to enjoy a few months more just traveling around.

I started my search for a job. It was painful. Wherever I tried to apply, the first question I was asked was: Have you got a Work Permit? Which I didn’t have and the interview was over. So I decided to get a Work Permit, but that was easier said than done. This time the question was: Have you got a job?

Jobs were scarce and foreigners could only apply if there were not enough Britons with the necessary qualifications. So again the interview was over before it started.

After many attempts, or so I thought, somebody connected me with a firm that sent articles on fashion to most countries in South America and they needed somebody who could translate the articles into Spanish.

I was delighted with the idea. Success at last. Translating into one’s own language is much easier than the other way round. Furthermore, fashion doesn’t need technical knowledge of any particular science. It’s just every day language or jargon – or so I thought.

I was given an article to translate, and I was allowed to take it home. I took it back to the office feeling confident and very pleased with myself. I had not realized that my boss was a Spaniard. He was horrified with my wonderful piece of work. He had underlined in red every other word.

Some examples:

a) He asked me what I meant by pollera (skirt). He said that for him that word meant a woman who sells chickens (pollos)!!! It could also have the meaning of a skirt but only in the context of clothes worn at the beginning of the 19th century, huge and held by hoops or crinoline to make them look wider. Most readers might never have heard the word in that context. It was news for me too, The correct translation for skirt was falda,

b) I used the word angosta (narrow.) This was considered very old fashioned, poetical, suitable to describe a medieval street, for example. The corresponding word should have been estrecha. To make matters worse I had used this adjective with pollera. So the translation for a narrow skirt became, for the Spanish reader, a slim crinoline – what a contradiction in terms!

c) Jacket was translated as saco. This word for a Spaniard meant

bag or sack or something along those lines. He couldn’t see any connection with the rest of the text unless I meant that it was fashionable to wear clothes made of sackcloth or hessian!!!

d) Overcoat should have been sobretodo, but I chose tapado which just made him laugh.

And there were many more “mistakes”. Looking back, I don’t think they were that terrible, at least not for many Latin American Spanish speakers.

Well anyway, my would-be-boss called me to her office to say I was getting the sack. She was a sweet elderly lady and tried to do her job without hurting me too much, but she was puzzled. She said“ I don’t understand. You are talking English to me and you say your mother tongue is Spanish…

So back to square one.

I crossed the street and found myself at the door of a Lyon’s Corner House. This was one of a huge chain of restaurants famous for their reasonable prices. (Note to back packers: they no longer exist so don’t get your hopes up) Even then they were far beyond what I could afford as a general rule, but for that once, a proper meal might just help stave off my incoming depression. Sitting at a real table with a table-cloth, a waiter to wait on me and a proper, printed menu etc. made me feel as if I belonged to the aristocracy.

I read the menu and was surprised at the sight of an extremely cheap dish I had never heard of.
The menu said :

Chutney: (apples and tomatoes)  The price was ridiculously low – something like 10 % of the cost of anything else that I might choose. I imagined this was a sort of salad, a mixture of apples and tomatoes.

So when the waiter asked what I would like I simply said: Chutney, please.

Waiter: And what would you like the chutney with?

Me: I just want chutney

Waiter: But you can’t have just chutney.

Me: Why not?

This went on until the waiter produced a very tiny dish with very little sauce, just enough to add seasoning to something. That was when I learnt that chutney was a kind of sauce and that there were two kinds: one made of apples and the other made of tomatoes, but obviously you couldn’t order just the relish for a dish you hadn’t ordered.

I felt very embarrassed, thanked the waiter and ordered fish and chips I can’t remember if I added chutney to my order.

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Old Chestnuts …some tough nuts to crack by Lisa Phillips


An “old chestnut” is a subject or joke that has been repeated so many times that it is no longer funny or interesting.  This is what I learnt from my Director (being from Australia, I’m lucky to even know what a chestnut is!), who wanted to discuss recurring issues that seem to plague even some of the most experienced teachers.  Looking back through past observation reports, we came to realize that we were seeing the same old problems again and again.  Essentially classroom management issues, we believe these “chestnuts” are fundamental to a good learning environment and are the foundations for good teaching practice.  How to change the “old chestnuts” into fresh, tasty treats was the challenge.  The slogans that follow are the result of a brainstorming session with the teachers of International House Buenos Aires (Recoleta), with the aim of making these points memorable for everyone involved.

  1. Voice, your choice!

Much is said about the need to simplify your language for lower level learners and this is no doubt true.  But what about those who are more advanced?  The primary source of input for students is often the language in the classroom, so this needs to be of high quality. It may require us to simplify or increase the complexity of the language we would ordinarily use. 

The way the voice is used is also important.  The voice is just another tool and needs to be trained to be effective.  For example, a slightly longer pause allows the learner value processing time.  Use a confident, clear voice – if you don’t sound sure, how can your students be?

While the idea that “students need to get used to natural speech” has its place, the place for authentic listening in the classroom is within the framework of a controlled listening lesson with proper support.  Not being conscious of the effect of your voice is just laziness.

  1. The lesson is not over until the homework is done.

Homework is not additional part of the lesson but an integral part of it.  How much is set is up to the individual institute, but is should be varied, relevant, meaningful, doable and as enjoyable as possible.  It should also be written clearly on the whiteboard so that students know exactly what they are supposed to do and can copy it down, and checked using a variety of methods. The homework may even provide the subject matter or material for the following class.

  1. All a-board!

The teacher’s number one visual tool is the whiteboard.  It is from here that students copy down a record of the class to take away for self-study, so it is vital that this be legible, logical and carefully planned.  A vocabulary column down one side and use of different colours consistently are healthy routines which allow work to stay on the board and be revisited during the class.  This can then also cross over into your learners’ notes, so scrappy, odd vocabulary scattered around willy-nilly is not allowed.

  1. What day is it?  It’s ti-day!

This one is self explanatory.  Cleaning your whiteboard, putting chairs back into place and returning any other resources to the appropriate places in the teachers’ room or library just makes everyone’s lives easier.

  1. Mind the gap!

Class dynamics are affected by the way in which the space is used.  There is a tendency for students to put their chairs in a line against the wall in a “judging panel” formation.  Instead, get them into a tight semi-circle with no gaps between them (bags and jumpers can go elsewhere) and if space allows, move away from the wall.  This lets all members of the group make eye contact, and also gives the teacher a good monitoring position behind the students.  Encourage students to fill out the seats from the middle, leaving a seat or two near the door free for latecomers.  This helps to avoid disruption. 

  1. Oi, you!

Ever been into a class halfway through the year and heard, “You know…… her”?  Obviously, the teacher needs to know and start using the students’ names as soon as possible, but it is also important to spend some time getting the students to learn them too.  This is extremely important for class dynamics, bonding and rapport.  And don’t forget those who join a little later on.  Repeat these ‘getting to know you’ activities after one week, one month, whatever is necessary to build a community of learners, and give your classes that personal touch by using their names or nicknames as much as possible.

  1. Instructions or ructions?

Give clear instructions in stages and concept check the learners’ understanding.  This is given a lot of attention on CELTA courses, and it often those teachers who are fresh out of one who do it best.  Old lazy habits can set in quickly, so we can make sure even the slowest students understand by doing an example across class, writing instructions on the board, showing the page and asking for repetition by a class member.  Pause, and think before you speak.  Keep instructions clear, short and to the point.  Check understanding by asking closed concept questions, followed by open ended ones.  And remember – ‘Is that clear?’ and ‘Does everyone understand?’ do not count!

  1. A little a day keeps the ADoS away.

Unfortunately, administrative paperwork can’t be avoided but keeping it up-to-date should stop it getting out of hand.  Whether this is absences, homework records, exam scores or your students’ frequently occurring errors, this data not only is a requisite of the job but makes you appear more professional.  Regular liaisons with the office also help to provide clear channels of communication and in turn, smoother operation of an institute from the front desk to the classroom.

  1. Cas-te-lla-no – don’t let it go.

Of course we want our students to speak as much English as possible in classes, however, there is sometimes a place for the learner’s L1 (in this case, Castellano).  If someone is upset or doesn’t know how to say something, it makes sense to use this resource if you have it at your disposal.  Make sure you give your students the classroom language they need to communicate in English during the lesson, and establish your expectations of when it is acceptable to use the L1.

  1. On your bike, again?

Finally, this cryptic crossword style clue refers to recycling.  Nation (2001) says that it’s necessary to encounter a lexical item in different contexts between 8 – 12 times to know it, and that spaced repetition with insertion into previously learnt language over time is more effective than massed into 1 or 2 exposures.  Varying your techniques to appeal to different learning styles and keeping and using vocabulary bags are a couple of principles that the teachers here have taken on board. Games, too, have a valid place and collocation work becomes increasingly important at higher levels.  Learner training also falls into this category, and it is essential to give students at all levels the tools they need to become successful language learners e.g. ways of recording vocabulary.

Since coining these slogans, the frequency of these problems in observations has reduced.  I have heard some teachers in conversation about their feedback commenting on the number of “chestnuts” they had broken, and being determined to improve upon this next time.  There is a poster on the back wall of every classroom in the institute to remind us of these good teaching practices.  Some of them are specific to our teaching context here at IH Buenos Aires (Recoleta), but the essence can be transferred to almost any situation.

When we have these basic principles in place, we have more opportunities to experiment and develop our teaching practices and methodologies.  As some wise bloke once said, “You have to know the rules before you can break them”.


Hedge, T.  (2000)  Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom.

Oxford University Press.

Nation, P.  (2001)  Learning Vocabulary in Another Language.

Cambridge University Press.

Scrivener, J.    (1998)  Learning Teaching.


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Online Teacher-Training courses with IHWO

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Bruce Thompson – Buenos Aires Herald interview – 7th August 2011

newspaper_note-bruce-thompson mod


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