A web site for the developing language teacher


February 2001 - issue 2/01

Welcome to the Newsletter

This month's theme is about cutting down on preparation time. Sounds good ..... We look briefly at teacher organisation & using what is in front of you in the classroom as opposed to running to the photocopier to run off more material. We hope you find the ideas interesting & useful - there may not be anything 'new' in the ideas but it will hopefully get you thinking about the area. There's also a Valentine's Day lesson plan - a reading lesson with a very exploitable text for intermediate students.

Keep the Recruitment pages in mind when you're looking for a job or from the other side, a teacher.

Contributions & suggestions are very welcome - e-mail them to

Happy teaching!





1. THEME - Cutting down on preparation time

A full version of this can be seen on the site.

How long do you spend on preparation time?

Do you spend minimal time & make it up as you go along, spend ages thinking of ideas but inevitably change them, make up a fortnightly timetable to use as the lesson plan on the day, cannot really quantify the amount of time, spend a sufficient time preparing, find that you can't spend too long as you teach 35 hours a week, spend much less time preparing now than you used to?

Whichever applies to you, I'm sure we'd agree that cutting down on preparation time while still providing quality lessons is a good thing.

Here are a few ideas:
1. organisational - the key to being an effective teacher
2. activities - to draw on & integrate.
using the students
using yourself
using the classroom

1.organisational - a few obvious suggestions

Organize yourself
Plan your month, weeks in the month, your days and your hours. Teaching can be an exhausting business so the more you are personally organised the less wasted energy you will expend. Planning and timing the activities in your day/week in advance can be very useful. Make yourself up a chart, a more detailed diary really, and give yourself strict time limits on activities. Afterwards compare your estimate with the reality and you should see how much time you actually waste in the day.

Do it for the coming month/two weeks. By timetabling you can ensure that there is balance, variety, continuity and a sense of progress for both the student and the teacher. Just because you have a timetable doesn't mean you have to stick to it - change it on the way. It also doesn't have to be very detailed either, just a basic outline to show you (& the students if you give it to them) where you are going. Sunday afternoon/evening is a good time to spend a couple of hours getting everything together to start confidently on Monday morning knowing that all you really have to do is get the materials together. At the beginning it does take longer but it certainly does help cut down on preparation time in the end.
See for a timetabling procedure

Know your materials
Put in a fair amount of time getting to know the materials that are available to you. It will be time well spent as you will always have them to draw on and you will be providing your students (and yourself) with interesting and varied lessons. File timetables & materials & ideas

Keep your old timetables and lesson plans
Create an organised file according to levels and do the same with your stock of materials that are lying around in a pile. Try and get your colleagues to donate copies of their timetables and materials to the school and create organised easy to find files for all to use. Write out role cards carefully and make sure the students don't write on them, chew them or eat them and get them back after the activity to use again next time - it's a good idea to plastify them.

Organise your staffroom
Not quite but it's worth suggesting that someone (you?) sort out the materials into easy to find sections. Start up a well-planned filing system for homemade materials. All that the teachers do is put a copy in the relevant file for others to copy.

Buy yourself a copy of 'Use Your Head' by Tony Buzan. Lots of ideas on becoming more efficient with your study skills in areas such as reading skills, increasing memory ability & note taking. Very thought provoking and useful information to pass on to your students.

2.A few activities - by no means comprehensive
A word of explanation - I'm not suggesting that we don't prepare lessons. The more experience teachers get the more they find to exploit & bring into their lessons. The activities below do just that & hopefully they give the lesser-experienced teacher a few more leads. They don't necessarily cut down on preparation time - it's just not necessary to constantly photocopy materials to take in when you can easily exploit what is around you - the students, the materials, you & the classroom. Link the activities below into what you are doing in the theme/coursebook unit/syllabus.

Using the students 'Learner-Based Teaching' by Campbell et al (OUP) is an excellent activity book that draws on the knowledge & experience that students bring to the classroom. Check it out for inspiration.

Self-study hours - students work individually or in pairs on problem areas in class with grammar books, dictionaries, coursebook etc or in the self-access centre. Get around & help them out with their research. Can easily increase preparation time if you need to get individualized materials together.

Speaking & Listening:
Use the students' jobs, families, experiences, holidays, weekends, plans, ideas etc. as a springboard. Integrate current affairs.

Prepare mini-talks for each other.

Write dialogues & then act them out from situation/cues given by you - applicable to just about any language area.

Chain stories - you start the story, student A continues, you provide a linker (and, but, however) & then student B continues and so on around the class.

Story telling - everyone knows a fairy story, maybe a horror story, an embarrassing experience, a joke - listening for pleasure.

Spontaneous roleplays - teacher tells class the situation, one that involves a number of people i.e. the whole class, e.g. a parents association meeting & problems at the school - when you stop talking they get on with the meeting.

Prediction work before using a text e.g. use pictures & headlines, use what they know about the subject, use the first lines/paragraph & predict what comes next.

Warmers & coolers e.g. Persuasion - students persuade each other that their favourite. colour, animal, season, anything! is better than their partners.

Trust exercises, voice, mime and roleplay activities - build up a stock of them for use whenever you can integrate them.

Get them to bring in an article in English they think all of the group might be interested in.

Get a class novel going - weekly discussion of thoughts on the novel and sorting the problems out. For ideas with Readers check out 'Class Readers' by Greenwood (OUP) for loads of creative ideas. Prediction work for all kinds of text.

Dictate own texts to each other.

Rotating a written story - all start a story then pass it to std on their right and then continue the story they receive and so on.

Summarise text as a way of checking comprehension.

Std/std correction of written work.

Write questionnaire to ask each other/another class/teachers in the school. Write comprehension questions for text for each other.

Brainstorm lexical areas - students draw lexical mind maps. Give word rose & students make up a stories - go for lead-ins.

Students bring 3 new words to class (as homework) & explain them to the others.

Test each other on last week's vocab. Use the vocab record card idea - see:

Error analysis - work on their problem areas.

Record a discussion or roleplay and work on part of it with the class.

Students research an area & then present it to the class.

Clothes & things in their bags/pockets/handbags - get a collection of things from the students & they then become the things on a dead person found in the Retiro in mysterious circumstances. The students then make suppositions 'He could've been .... because there's a ......' etc.

Using yourself
Disclose about yourself - you can't ask them to if you aren't really willing to do the same yourself. Tell them about your family, city, holiday, experiences etc just as you would do with a friend.

As a visual aid.

Mini-talks on homeland - the town/city you're from - the educational, judicial systems of your country.

Using the classroom
Realia in the room - I-Spy, teach vocab, tell story including 5 objects in the room etc.

The view from the window for descriptions, imagine conversations of those in the street, construct life history for passers-by etc.

Room becomes .... e.g. flat for estate agent & prospective buyer roleplay or any other place in a roleplay.

Use the posters on the walls. Try and get a world map or a map of your home country on the wall - describing holiday routes, where you used to live, where would you like to live, for current affairs discussions, for target language culture mini-talks, to discuss where to write holiday postcards from etc. A very useful aid.

In the full article there are suggestions for going into class with just one object. This is not to say we recommend this as a teaching approach. It is meant to stimulate imagination & help to exploit what we have in more detail.

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There's an intermediate reading lesson based around the text - 'A Love Story'. The lesson plan offers suggestions on how to tackle the lesson rather than just one way.



If you're based in Spain & looking for an ESL teacher check out Sarah Luckam. She has posted her CV on the site.

In response to comments in the last newsletter Lee Buckley writes:
'I'm one of those teachers who has been working for quite some time and I agree that the profession suffers from an image problem. I'm interested in doing something teaching-related to make more money (it would be nice to have some work in July and September, too) (no, not translations, as everyone suggests). The obvious solution is something to do with technology and the web. Anyone interested in a focus group/brainstorming group/well-behaved radical cell with drinks, whatever? I live and work in Madrid. Please pass my e-address on to interested people.'

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If you should be looking for someone to translate Spanish/English then look no further. Krystyna Sleziak is a very experienced professional translator - documents of any genre & simultaneous translation.
For a professional & speedy translation:



Send your questions about teaching to us. Anything from classroom management problems through to grammar problems.



Maximise your time by getting started on a quality personalised teacher development course.

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I stumbled across this the other day. If you have access to computers in your class & your students are interested in the Net then this is a great tutorial to work through - reading, speaking, language work & 'content' teaching (teaching a subject through English). It's ideal for the one-to-one professional/business class. Excellent! It aims to 'teach people to evaluate the quality of information that they find via the internet.' It's free, downloadable in various formats & available in English, French & Dutch. The site goes on to say, 'The tutorial's educational content includes worked examples, "try it yourself" sections and interactive quizzes and exercises with automated feedback. The supporting materials include a PowerPoint presentation, handouts and practical suggestions for incorporating the tutorial into a course curriculum.... As well as being used by individuals, the tutorial can support teachers, lecturers and trainers who wish to teach Internet information skills. It can be used as an "off the shelf" teaching aid.'
The Internet Detective comes out of the 'DESIRE project (which) ran from July 1998 until June 2000 and was a collaboration between project partners working at ten institutions from four European countries - the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. The project's focus was on enhancing existing European information networks for research users across Europe through research and development in three main areas of activity: Caching, Resource Discovery and Directory Services.'
Here's some interesting reading material for class. Each article debags an empty theory & gives further links to follow up. They say there are 'over 400 skeptical definitions and essays on occult, paranormal, supernatural and pseudoscientific ideas and practices with references to the best skeptical literature.'
If you are a budding/experienced writer then this is a site for you - an on-line writers' resource centre. There are lots of ideas to help writers refine their skills - articles, poetry & book reviews, as well as a 'time out' section & inspirational monthly quotes. New & experienced writers are equally welcome.
Another dictionary to bookmark. This one's the Academic Dictionary of Science & Technology, consisting of 2.500 pages & 'contains a total of 133,007 entries, making it the largest scientific dictionary ever compiled in the English language. Included among these 133,007 entries are 112,227 main entry words and 20,780 secondary entries.'
A search engine about famous quotes plus lots more encyclopaedias, dictionaries & thesauri.
A word engine to download - Word Web - 120.000 root words, 100.000 synonym sets, definitions & synonyms, proper nouns & related words. It links into MS Word & is a 4.5 Mb download.
The Babylon Translator has been around for a long time now. This provides a desktop translator that works efficiently. I didn't realise that, apart from the different dictionaries, you can also download a host of glossaries to use in the programme. From computer terms to golf to the weather. The programme download size is 1.5Mb. A handy little programme to have installed - for free!

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As always, free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail. This week's tip is titled 'Going with the flow'. Sign up!



Train in Spain - Courses running in the near future at the British Language Centre in Madrid:
GETTING TO GRIPS WITH PHONOLOGY A twelve hour course taking place over six Fridays, 12.00>>14.15 Starts on 9th February.

PRE-DIPLOMA DEVELOPMENT COURSE A thirty two hour course, Monday & Wednesday mornings - 11.00>>13.15 Starts on 5th February.

CAMBRIDGE CERTIFICATE IN ELT - CELTA Full-time four-week courses: February, March, April ... Twelve week part-time courses: April>>June.

CAMBRIDGE DIPLOMA IN ELT - DELTA Full-time eight-week courses: April & May & then July & August

Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged for the duration of all courses. You can see brief descriptions of all of the current courses on the BLC web site The postal address of Teacher Education at the British Language Centre is Calle Bravo Murillo 377, 2, 28020 Madrid, Spain. The phone number is (00 34) 733 07 39 & the fax number is (00 34) 91 314 5009. The e-mail address is

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10. PS  
MusicMatch Jukebox is an indispensable programme on my computer. It looks after all of my mp3 collection, allows me to transfer these to CDs & vice versa. It has a variable compression rate so you decide on the quality & size of the files & a host of other features. There is a pay version, which would be useful for burning CDs if you didn't have software such as Nero - otherwise the free version is probably all you need.
Online Conversion - a very useful site to have bookmarked. Convert anything you can think of - length, temperature, speed, volume, weight, computer, time, cooking, angles, area, power, energy, density, force, light, clothing, fun stuff......among many more categories.
A very useful site to have bookmarked in the (likely) event of problems with your Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Windows ME operating systems. A host of tips, articles & advice to help sort you out, each section beginning with a diagnostic flow chart.
If you'd like a free second opinion on how your system is shaping up get along to the Pit Stop. The site puts your computer through its paces & gives you an analysis & tips on performance improvement. You need Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher.
Microsoft Office Template Gallery - as they say: "For those times when you know what you need but don't want to start from scratch, we've created the Template Gallery. We've partnered with content experts to provide you with hundreds of useful templates to get your work done. We already have hundreds of templates: resumes, cover letters, sales and marketing documents, collection letters, legal documents, complaint letters, and much more. And, we're just getting started. We are working with a growing set of partners to provide additional templates based on suggestions from our customers like you."

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