Inclusive Practice news

I’m very excited to be on the acting committee of the brand new IATEFL SIG – IP&SEN (Inclusive Practices and Special Educational Needs).

As well as a chance to work with some highly qualified and very motivated people, it also gives me access to the resources and support that I need.

What I find particularly interesting is the work being done to support physical disabilities as well as learning difficulties. That’s why I was so pleased to come across Braille and lip-reading versions of the Cambridge exams here.

If you’re interested in joining then you can do so in the members’ area at IATEFL  or for more information, follow us on Facebook. As I said, we’re very new, so a little patience concerning the website is in order!

Posted in Special Educational Needs | 2 Comments

News from the Beachfront

Just in case you were wondering where I’d got to, here’s the latest!

  1. Busy with end-of-year stuffFullSizeRenderAlthough I HATE marking ( a strong word for a very strong feeling!) getting little notes like this makes it all worthwhile. The end of the year is a tough time, and it’s important to remember what makes it all worthwhile. despite the drain I often find this time of year leaves be buzzing with ideas for September – more of which later!

If you’re looking for a couple of projects for next year then check out the celebrations for Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday , this website sends a great ressource pack. There’s also this great project involving Ulysses and the Odyssey, set up by the wonderful Justin Bell  who I found on twitter.

2. Celebrating!


Geneva ETAS was guest editor on this summer’s special supplement of the ETAS journal, the subject was Creativity. This year long project has been a fantastic opportunity to link up with some fantastic educators and learn some amazing things.

3.Working on my Masters’ dissertation

This is becoming a kind of love-hate relationship, it’s the frog in my day, and while I’m looking forward to life post M.A. TESOL, I’m also wondering what I’ll do with my time, maybe another course, although I have made strong promises/threats to myself NOT to start anything before at least January, as I’ve plenty to keep myself busy.


My, what a lot of initials! Basically this is the new IATEFL Special Interest Group on Inclusive Practices and Special Educational Needs where we try and help teachers work towards a more inclusive education for all students. We’re just starting out and busy looking into the world of newsletters and websites, but you can find us here and I’ll be keeping you informed.

5. Realaxing!


It’s been really hard for me to let go this summer, but I now realise that I can’t, and shouldn’t work all day, even if I have a ton of stuff to get through. If you’re anything like me, you’ll never get half-way down that to-do list, so make sure “chill-out” is task number three (or four maximum) of the day, you’ll regret it come September if you don’t!

One way to do this would be to attend EDUFEST, this looks utterly amazing and I have thought long and hard about going, howeverI’ll just have to look forward to next year’s edition – where I’ll be the first to put my name down!

Another is to catch up on reading (I’m on book 7, week 4), a great place for ideas is #teacher5adayread.

Whatever you’re up to this summer, and please let me know, have a FAB one!

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Lego oral activity

My students really enjoyed this activity, although they did find it challenging.

You need:

-a blindfold per pair or per student if possible.

– some lego, about seven pieces per student, and the same pieces for each pair.


-One student is blindfolded.

-his partner creates a construction using all the pieces.

-the “seeing” student then describes his construction so that his partner can recreate it.


-Both students are blindfolded.

-the teacher creates a construction and gives it to one of the pair.

-this student must then feel and describe the construction so his partner can copy it.




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Jungle Dance

We have been reading ” Giraffes Can’t Dance” this week,


I love this book, it has a great “moral”:


Not only did we study jungle animals, but as all the animals dance to different types of music, we also looked at the waltz, cha-cha, tango etc.

If you don’t know it, the story is a great lesson in being different.

I found loads of ressources, including these, so we made our giraffes;


Then of course we held our own jungle dance;


All the animals were invited;


We ate jungle snacks like worms and crocodiles;


and we played lots of jungle games;


As you can see we played Pin the tail on the giraffe;


As well as “Guess the roar” – a blindfolded student had to listen and guess which classmate “roared”.

We also played my favourite classroom game; Sleeping Lions!


We all really enjoyed ourselves and learnt lots of fun things. (And of course the advantage of having animal masks is that our teacher could safely take and publish lots of photos of us;)





Posted in #YL, Fab YL ideas | 1 Comment

Stop sexism in ELT coursebooks!

Look at the picture below and write the profession for each person:

How do you know the profession of the person in the bottom left box? – Because she’s a woman of course. All the others are men, we couldn’t have a female surgeon after all.

This kindo of stereotype is rife, in chapters on jobs especially, but also sneaking into hobbies  and every other topic -no female skateboarders or footballers, the computer nerd is always a boy, and the person interested in healthy food is always a girl.


Posted in Blethering | 2 Comments

What would you do if….?

Revising conditionals is a great opportunity to ask some amazing questions, and as usual it’s the students who have all the best ideas…

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Collaborative Revision

Sometimes before a test there’s nothing to do but get through a pile of practice exercises. This is never particularly motivating, and that’s even more the case when it is grammar, especially the present perfect.


…there’s something quite powerful about doing revision exercises in groups. Students have to work through their thought process to explain their answer to their neighbours, and by doing so reinforce or question their decisions. It not always the stronger students that lead the discussion, in fact I find the contrary to be the case.

I have also noticed that students often understand better when something is explained by another student rather than by myself, this doesn’t say much about my teaching!

As I write this I’m listening in on a great learning moment between a couple of students who are deciding whether I have “still forgotten” the German I learnt at school. 

I still think that there is a place for teacher- led correction, and I see that my students still expect me to “give” the final answer, but by letting them work it out first I have given them the opportunity to discover exactly what they understand first.

Saying that, one student has just asked me if Aristotle is still alive, so I guess there’s still a place for me in the classsroom!

Posted in Blethering, teaching journal | 2 Comments

Some Ideas on differentiating homework

It’s hard enough to get homework right at the best of times. It’s the end of the lesson, school policies (and parents!) call out for it, kids loathe it and you end up wasting half your next lesson working out who has done it or not (I’ve done the first part, that means I’ve done it, doesn’t it??)

Best practices suggest it should be used for practice, preparation, study (for tests etc.) and extension, which covers just about everything, after all if it’s in English then it’s practice, isn’t it?

The challenge is getting it right for all the different students in the class, bearing in mind their abilities, strengths and styles. Something that everyone can succeed at, but at the same time stretches them – not too much, but just enough.

And while we’re at it, why not make it interesting?

Collaborative homework:

A good idea that Chrissi Florides talks about in her article in the upcoming ETAS journal. Now they’re all chatting all night on social media, get them to do their homework together – they are anyway! This can include vocabulary or solution brainstorming.

BUT – remember not all your students like working in groups or have access to social media on a school night. AND bear in mind, that asking for “as many words as you can think of” might mean staying up to 2am to do just that for some students  (those on the autistic scale for example) so something along the lines of “as many…. in twenty minutes” will be fair for all.

Photos to prepare for Oral:

Not all students with learning difficulties see oral activities as the soft option, short-term memory difficulties can make speaking difficult, so ask students to take photos to spark discussion in class the next day. For example ask your students to take a photo of the fridge and tell you what is (or isn’t) in there next lesson.

Don’t Talk – DO

Often we spend a lot of time in class talking about everyday actions, so ask students to do them, and think about the English phrase as they do it, or again – take photos. One of my favourites is when my class learn about chores and I ask them to do a couple at home and take a photo – parents love this one too!

Thinking Journal

Ask your students to stop a couple of times a day and think through what they’ve done in English.

Many of these activities may seem a cop out for some teachers, but in my opinion they’re no worse than the homework activities the students copy from the class swot 5 minutes before class starts, or those gap fills they complete with the first word that comes to mind – because then when the teacher passes round the class it looks like they’ve done something. At some point we have to trust them to take responsibility for their own learning.

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What I learnt at IATEFL 2016

There’s nothing like a few days with several hundred English teachers to motivate me & get the ideas flowing.

To ask my students “STOP-START-CONTINUE”, what do you want me to stop/start/continue doing?

Birmingham is a great place for a conference:IMG_6302

I want to start vlogging with students, I must get familiar with and use imovie maker or something like that, – any suggestions?

And maybe do a “Humans of…” series like the Humans of New York series.

I have pile of apps  & sites to check out; voice thread, newsela (which provides current affairs articles of varying difficulty), fotobabblemove note,  and tons more. A lot came from a great forum on apps in ELT, and a fab talk from the great girls at

I have a pile of books to add to my must-read pile;


And a pile of magazines and freebies to look through;


I must download the British Council publication “Creating an Inclusive Learning Experience for English Language Learners with Specific Needs”

How to get a cabbage, a goat and a wolf across a river (and something for Monday!).

A load of great spelling ideas from Anette Igel.

To look out for EU projects like PopuLLa, CLOHE, and others.

A load of other stuff that I need to think about.

And most importantly, that “your vibe attracts your tribe” and I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful conference buddies who are doing some fantastic things:


not to mention the fantastic ETAS team!



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Vocabulary cards

The final dissertation of my Masters TESOL with Sheffield Hallam will be on the subject of Vocabulary Learning Strategies. Every week we will be studying different ways of learning vocabulary.

Today we wrote vocabulary flip cards (with L1 translation on the back), after reading them out loud and testing themselves, the students tested their partner.

Then students classed the words, this week’s list was about food so they put them in order of their favourite to least favourite:

For homework the students have to read and test themselves regularly. Already some have mentioned they like learning this way, we’ll see what the reults say in the vocabulary test next week!

Posted in Vocabulary Learning Strategies | 2 Comments