Tuesday, 8 April 2014

TEFL Tips: Cut out Spanish from your class

I’m not a massive fan of points, star charts and stickers to control my students behaviour and use of L1 in class, but there is one little trick that I’ve started to use recently which is a perfect way to eliminate excess Spanish.

Stop Spanish!
Photo by alrojo09
It’s funny how I spent a year busting my arse doing a DELTA to try to become a better teacher and increase the amount of English spoken in class, when all I needed to do was draw ten lines up in the top right hand corner of my board. I knew of this technique for cutting out L1 in class, but a little reminder after an observation a month ago has really helped increase the amount of English spoken in my classes. It’s really simple.

Here are the steps.

·        Tell your students you want an English only class.
·        Watch them squirm.
·        Draw ten lines up in the top corner of the board (right or left, whichever works best for you).
·        Then say “If you say Spanish, I will take off a line,” and rub out a line.
·        “If you say more Spanish, I will take off another line,” and rub out another line.
·        “After 5 lines then it’s double homework.”
·        Listen to the moaning and smile.
·        “If they all disappear then, lines.”
·        One student normally says “¿Que significa ‘lines’?”
·        Hold out your hand as if writing a line and repeat the word 'line' several times while moving your hand from left to right, all while smiling, of course.
·        Start the lesson.
·        Be extremely strict at first.
·        Make sure you give the double homework and don’t back down.
·        Ocassionally put lines back up if they’ve spoken a lot of English.

This works really well for all levels, but I haven't tried it with adults yet. Make sure they have expressions for asking you “How do you say x, in Spanish?” or “What does x mean?” Also I say that if they speak Spanish accidently, which does happen, but they quickly say it in English, then it’s fine. 

One final point. Some of my classes have really taken well to it, I mean really well, and there is no Spanish in class, which also means I can't set homework. Just make sure you don't shoot yourself in the foot.

Hope that helps.

Have you got any decent tips for cutting out L1 in class and increasing the amount of English spoken?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

TEFL Tips! Sending students out

Following on from my last tip on classroom management about my red and yellow card system, this one focusses on sending students out. I got sent out of class a few times as a student and it used to scare the pants off me, especially knowing that the Head could pop by and give me a roasting. 

Haven't tried it with adults yet.
Photo by 1200lle
I like sending students out of my class, especially one or two in the first week of a new course. I think it shows them who's boss and that you have the final say about what happens in your class. How should you go about it though? Here are a couple of tips.
  • Minute rule: I don't tend to send students out for long, one or two minutes is fine. Firstly in case they wonder off out the school, and secondly they will miss whatever you are teaching. 
  • A simple "Wait outside please," while pointing to the door is my usual tactic. It's polite, effective, and you don't have to raise your voice.
  • A chat: I always go outside after and have a chat about why I've sent them out. I normally ask them why, explain why whatever they have done is not acceptable and then let them in.
  • Set the tone: Like I said above, one or two in the first week is handy just to set the tone. Don't just send them out for no reason. I normally do if they are speaking too much Spanish, not listening, being rude, or not behaving well.
  • Check with your director. Double check with your director before you start sending students out. They might not like it and you could get in trouble. Find out what they consider are suitable punishments.
  • Don't let it get out of hand. I remember one year I was constantly sending students out and in the end it lost it's effect and students started to laugh (I think some even had a bet between them to see who could get sent out first). It's a useful tool, but don't over do it.
So there we go. Send students out, show them who's boss, and take control of your class. Next tefl tip will be about controlling L1 in your class.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

A Novel Spain: Blogs about Spain, Nostalgia, and Flamenco!

Apologies to all my followers. March has been a mental month for me and I haven't quite been focussed on Teaching English in a Foreign Land. I've just moved flats and started working on my novel so I haven't had much time for blogging here. I'll be back this week.

Just to keep you updated on my other blog A Novel Spain my latest blogs are about a nostalgic feeling finally in place, 5 reasons not to live in a city centremore blogs about Spain, and a book review of Duende, a Journey in Search of Flamenco.


Thursday, 27 February 2014

TEFL tips! Classroom management: Red and Yellow card

This is the first of a new series of blogs titled TEFL tips. After 10 years of teaching I reckon I have enough sneaky tips for new and experienced English teachers to warrant a few blogs. The main idea is that these blogs will be short, informative, and useful so you can read them quickly and immediately apply them to your lessons. Each month will have a different focus.

Would love to have one of those in my class!
Photo by Stefan
This month’s focus is classroom management and my first tip is about a red and yellow card system I use. I’ve spoken about this before but it’s worth mentioning again. At the start of term I tell my students that they could receive a red or yellow card during class. If they get three red cards in one term then I tell their parents about their behaviour, or lack of. Two yellows in the same week make a red. After each week the yellow card is void.

You can set your own rules, or get them to decide, but I normally use the following:


Using too much L1.
Not paying attention or listening.
Arriving late (as long as it’s not the parents fault).
Generally messing about.


Not doing homework.
Inappropriate behaviour: too much L1, swearing, insults.
Persistently not doing enough work.
When I feel like giving one out.
If a student catches me out too. I have received a couple of the years.

Students hate getting a red card. It’s a great system and after the first couple of weeks I rarely have to use the cards. I’ve never called a parent either.

Have you got a useful system for controlling student behaviour? Next week there will be a tip on sending students out of the class.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Songs with phonetics: Michael Jackson, Black or White

Nothing like a bit of Michael Jackson to show your students what real music is all about. The idea of these songs is to review and revise the phonetic symbols. If you haven't taught your students yet, then have a look at ways to teach phonetics.

There are a couple ways you can do this lesson.

1- Students listen to the song first and try to fill the gaps. Then put the words in the correct columns and listen again.
2- Students look at the missing words first and put them in the correct columns. Then listen to the song and complete the gaps.

I've prepared the song with numbered gaps, an activity to put the words in the correct column, plus the full lyrics and answers. I plan to get my students to learn the chorus and sing it a few times. Everything is on this word document: Michael Jackson: Black or White.

Have fun.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

This month's top TEFL blogs

Here's a month's worth of useful TEFL blogs.

Familiar travel image
Photo by alex schwab
Life on the road
Check out these excellent images of madness on the road by Lillie on aroundtheworldl.

Getting a job
Are you looking for a new TEFL job at the moment? Or maybe your first one? Check out this article What you need before you apply for TEFL jobs by Ted on tefl newbie.

How many children in the world can't read or write?
Sometimes I get frustrated with my students because they take education for granted. I tell them they are lucky they can learn another language, some take it on board, others check the time on their mobile phones (which I then confiscate). Anyway, check out this article on ELT experiences which reveals just how many children in the world can't read or write.

Being your own boss
Sounds like a great idea to me, sorry boss. There's an interesting article on tefl-tips which gives you the ins and outs of getting a self-employment visa in various countries.

Managing class behaviour
I'm not a massive fan of fancy ways to control students. I tried all that points and star stuff, but in the end I just use a firm stare and make my students realise why they are in my class. But if you fancy something new with technology then have a look at this post titled managing behaviour in digital age.

Improve students speaking
Alex Case has some excellent ideas for the classroom, and here's another great post by him on tefl tastic. It's called Key word card games and has some great ideas for improving speaking in the class.

That's all for this month. Cheers.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Short story and a tribute!

Sevilla, Avenida Constitucion
Photo by R. Alessandro
Here are the latest two posts on my new blog A Novel Spain. The first is a short story set in Seville based around a wedding. It's called The Golden Cross. The other is a tribute based on someone I met in Seville, Salvador, who changed my life. It's titled A Tribute, Salvador, A Remarkable Man. Hope you enjoy reading them.