One of the beautiful things about language is that it is always changing, and therefore, as teachers of English, we need to ensure that we change with the times.  What would you say therefore to a student of yours who says that they do not want to be referred to by the pronouns 'she' or 'he'? Which has increasingly been the case in educational institutions in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and probably other countries as well. As 'transgender' people (a person whose gender is different from...

One of the pleasures of teaching private students is helping them negotiate the mindfield of school exams. I was doing so with one fourteen year old last week. Part of the language she had to revise were the first and second conditionals. Learners in my experience find these structures grammatically challenging, which they are, due to the amount of gramatical processing involved. However, in my opinion they shouldn't find the meaning as difficult to grasp as it is similar to Portuguese. But some do, and I put this down...

Yesterday, the results of an interesting study (the National Study of Online Charter Schools) were released. The findings are particularly relevant to all those involved in education (teachers, lawmakers, education providers, etc). The report, from researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the Mathematica policy research group, found that those students doing online courses in 'virtual classrooms' are doing less well academically than those who attend conventional schools, with face to face contact with teachers. Researchers found that only 2% of online schools outperformed their conventional equivalents in...

I have heard it being called 'emerging language' and 'incidental language'. However, I prefer 'emerging unplanned language ' (EUL) as 'emerging language' is often used in a wider language acquisition sense and 'incidental' can imply something of minor consequence, which it is not. If anyone has an existant word, or a better one, then please let me know. So what are we talking about? I am referring to the language which arises during the actual delivery of the lesson. The language which is 'unplanned', so to speak. The language...

I want to talk about drilling. To be more specific, repetition drills. A repetition drill is a technique, which involves the students listening to a model of a word or phrase, usually provided by the teacher, and then repeating it. The original rationale for repetition drills was based on a behaviourist view of language learning. The idea that learning a language was a question of habit formation and that repeating words and phrases ad nauseam would result in mastery of the language. This view of language learning has since been...

If you look up the word ´mantra´ in a dictionary, you will probably come across one of two defintions. Firstly, it can be a sacred verbal formula used in Hinduism, which is repeated in prayer or meditation. Or secondly, it is a commonly repeated word or phrase, which often becomes a truism, regardless of its validity. Both definitions can be applied to language teaching. I recently helped run a CELTA course here in Brazil. In the final fourth week of the course, I decided to ask the trainees what...

I was giving a lesson the other day to a group of students on the topic of pet hates. The students had to make a list of their pet hates and then compare with their partner in order to find out if they had anything in common. I then asked the learners what some of their pet hates were. Traffic, queuing, rain, and warm beer all came up. And then one student said, "people who don´t listen". People who don´t, or who are incapable of listening is also one...

I've been using quite a lot of translation recently. Maybe it's because I've forgotten what was drummed into me when I did my CELTA course all those years ago, or maybe because when used discernibly, it can be a very useful learning technique. Translation from the mother tongue into the target language has been much maligned. And I'm not surprised, to be honest. I well remember hours spent in my French lessons at school, agonizingly trying to translate stories about Marie Claire and Jean Pierre into English. However, I think...

Do you know, or do you remember, what a typical lesson plan template looks like? Let me just remind you just in case. Although plans vary slightly, they are invariably divided up into four or five columns, headed by ´Stage Name´, ´Interaction´, ´Stage Aims´, ´Procedures´ and maybe ´Materials´. What I really want to touch upon in this post is not lesson plans but stage aims, and the importance of having clear stage aims in mind both at the planning stage and at the moment of teaching, and some of...

Did you happen to see the story about the leader of the Green Party in the UK? Well, she went to give a live interview on the radio last week to kick off her party's election campaign. About two minutes into the interview, she was asked a question about her party's housing policy. Upon which she was suddenly struck down by what has been commonly called 'mind blank'. George Dvorsky (2015), a neurologist, says "catecholamine hormones, like adrenaline or noradrenaline, prime the body for violent physical action. This includes...