Lesson observation dilemmas: part 1

This two-part post is a summary of some of the dilemmas I have faced as an observer since 1994, when I sat in on another teacher’s lesson for the first time. My intention is to raise a few (hopefully) relevant questions without necessarily proposing any easy – or complex – answers or solutions. I will […]

Reading tasks: 3 pitfalls to avoid

Most of us like to use authentic, non-coursebook, hot-off-the-press texts in class from time to time. This entails not only choosing interesting, level-appropriate material, but also devising tasks that will enable students to get as much out of the text as possible. Writing good comprehension questions is trickier than meets the eye, though. Here are three pitfalls to […]

2 kinds of noticing tasks

1. Why is noticing even a buzzword, anyway? Noticing in language learning is perhaps ELT’s most user-friendly buzzword. To have a vague understanding of what it is, you don’t need to delve into the works of Rod Ellis, Peter Skehan or even Richard Schmidt, whose 1990 study essentially put the term on the map. Perhaps […]

Listening through video: 7 things to keep in mind

A few months ago I was talking to a friend who’d just dropped out of his English classes halfway through the course. Here’s a condensed version of our conversation: “It was not a bad course at all, and the teacher was very friendly and knowledgeable. It’s just that…” “What?” “Well, I got tired of traveling […]

10 tips to help you give feedback on writing

There have been a lot of pendulum swings in our profession since the early 90s, but the teaching of writing seems to be a bit of an exception. Compared to, for example, the sibling rivalry between PPP vs. task-based learning, the half-hearted nod of approval translation’s finally starting to get or, say, the recent comeback […]

The hazy line between lexis and grammar

This post is a short account of two lessons I taught in 2002 which helped me to make sense of something I’d read about in the late 90s, but couldn’t get my head around. Not until then anyway. If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I’m a big believer in experiential […]

Feel vs. know

For the past six months I’ve been teaching a close friend of mine once a week, on a one-to-one basis. He’s what most people would refer to as an elementary learner, but in many important ways he’s anything but your typical A2. And that’s partly because he’s highly intuitive. The more I teach him, the […]

Life Beyond Gap-fill?

In the 70s and early 80s, when functional syllabuses and communicative language teaching gained prominence in ELT, our profession was a relatively gap-fill-free zone. For controlled and semi-controlled practice, students were usually asked to engage in A-B exchanges, role-plays or any other activity types that included some degree of choice, information / context gap, personalization […]

4 tips to help you teach advanced students

I don’t think I have ever taught or observed an advanced lesson that went seriously wrong. I mean cringe-worthy wrong. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, advanced students have been in the game long enough and know enough English to ensure that most of our lessons run – at worst – relatively smoothly. […]