Our Educational Message

Hi, and welcome to our blog. This space is designed to share ideas and methodologies that we use to teach Turkish teenagers. In particular, there is a strong focus on ICT-ELT, which means if you like visual and technological support for your style of teaching, this blog is for you. My colleague, Brentson Ramsey, has been working alongside me for three years. He is also a big proponent of the ICT-ELT Paradigm, which means he will also be posting from his own teaching perspective on the blog.

2010 was the beginning of this new journey, and although there is no definitive ICT-ELT road map available for everyone to follow, it is exciting to explore the technological means to make teaching more fun and affective for students. Our main message is for teachers to ADOPT & ADAPT the paradigm shift for their own needs, and remember that

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


This is the first Hindi film from Bollywood that I have watched, and although I have included four parts from it to use in this post, I didn't enjoy it that much.  However, this post is not about a film review.  It is about how we should consider why there are far too many teachers, lecturers, state edu-departments and school boards who appear to have got it all wrong when it comes to what students need and what, in fact, they want.

This first video shows...a typical classroom teacher asking for a definition (of machine). One boy stands and offers a simplistic, yet creatively amusing definition. His effort is severely rejected by the teacher. Then another boy stands and gives out the text-book definition, to which the teacher replies, "Wonderful, perfect."

The fact that the teacher wants to have the exact definition as laid down by an author, and in no way can it be described differently, is exactly what too many teachers want their students to do: rote learn, memorize and never question conventions. 

EQ: Why do teachers and schools wish for their students to only memorize, and not fully understand what it is they are being 'taught'?

EQ: Why should you use language you fully understand, and language that can be better understood by the audience?

The second video shows...how teachers and professors can have a power-hungry hubris that seriously affects and undermines students' confidence, development and creativity. Even though the student has flouted numerous attempts to make deadlines, he is castigated for this by failing his graduation.

EQ: Why should teachers and professors make themselves very clear and the serious outcomes for students not following conventions and norms expected at school?

EQ: Why are many students put off from following those conventions and norms by hubristic and annoying teachers?

The third video plays out a very emotive and affective scene...the main 'idiot' alludes to fact students are put under far too much pressure at school, and it is a huge problem causing suicides.

a great quote: 

"If engineers could make a machine to measure mental pressure, they would find that most suicides, in this context, are in fact murder."

The professor goes onto claim it isn't the fault of schools and teachers, but the students themselves.  
The student reminds him that there is no point to such ideals.  He adds that most students don't discuss ideas and conventions of theories, and they only "discuss grades, jobs and settling in the USA."

This is a serious issue in Turkey where I live, also. The desire of students and their families to get the highest grades, at all costs, so they can make that move to US universities that expect and accept only the students who are willing to conform and comply.

EQ: Why do parents force their children to sacrifice true learning & understanding for grades alone? 

EQ: Even though there is a movement to change this idea, why is it so difficult to break down antiquated conventions and norms in higher education?

The fourth and final video shows..."the number one idiot" giving the professor a lesson on how to teach. The scene highlights how ridiculous many tasks given in classes around the world are taught. Tasks that have no bearing on real life investigative enquiry.

He shows the students how they are so willing to do what they are asked without questioning it at all. He calls it a "race to nowhere" which I believe is a perfect summation.

A great quote: "A circus lion will get on a chair for fear of being whipped. Does that mean the animal is well-educated or well-trained?"

EQ: Why do teachers and professors not want their students to question their words of 'wisdom'?

EQ: Why are weaker and/or slower students far too often ignored or left behind the real learning-curve?

EQ: What is better for students, to be well-trained or well-educated?

I included several Essential Questions for you to use in your own classes.  My colleague and I will be using this lesson on our return from the festive holiday period. Thanks to Bollywood, but a wee tip: drop the dancing for such a serious subject (it is the only idiotic thing in the well-intentioned movie script).

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

IF YOU WERE A BOY, There WOULD BE Certain ConditionALS...

Even with all the frustrations teaching a foreign language brings, I have to be honest when I intimate that deep down I really love it.  One of the most plausible reasons for that is the explicit grammar instruction I include in our syllabus.  I have always enjoyed exploring, reading and listening to myriad of student grammatical errors, so that I could help them eliminate them in future work or correspondence.  

So, thankfully, in my own case, gone are the (horrifically ineffective, yet forced upon by line managers and badly written curricula) lessons with no explicit grammar instruction..., ONLY facilitated communicative activites, then "acquisition will happen, don't worry", no matter how poorly this gave forth support and instruction to a micro-generation of Turkish EFL students.  Indeed, this approach was heavily supported and blindly promoted in the late 90s-early 2000s as the 'best' way to teach EFL-Students.


Nowadays, many more people agree that explicit grammar instruction is also required, especially at the beginning stages of learning a new language, if the learners are to become genuinely proficient in the medium to later stages of their studies.

With grammar back in vogue I co authored, and now implement a strongly-focused syllabus on language-in-use, i.e. the mechanics; especially during the first semester of the year (approximately 350 contact hours). That does not mean other skills and attention to detail are neglected. On the contrary. We are strong proponents of Grammar-in-Use (not the Murphy version btw) through practice & drilling of exercises & speaking, plus grammar instruction through reading and writing in context.  In the first semester, we use explicit grammar instruction as the primary focus, with the other skills used to support the grammar being taught at that moment.  It is that approach which leads me to the validity of this post...

THE SECOND CONDITIONAL (as a label) or THE CONDITIONAL used to describe unreal or unlikely events for the present and future. I think this picture sets the tone perfectly :-)

So, using songs has long been a favourite of most language teachers, since it definitely
taps into the students' 'likeabilty' and 'engagement' of grammar factors.  It all depends on the student audience for which songs you can use, but generally, with teenagers, it has to include a catchy upbeat, or emotional downbeat, a likeable singing-hunk or gorgeous- primadonna, tacky boy or girl group, and most importantly, a cool YouTube promotional video.  

If you have any or all of the above you are off to a flyer!

The song we use for this Conditional is Beyonce's,"If I Were A Boy".  It has all the cool elements required by teenagers.  For older students it would also suffice, since the lyrics are very powerful pro-feminism and anti-mysoginistic in their tone. Truly emotive for both sexes to eagerly and enthuisastically respond.  However, with younger teens, and at pre-intermediate levels, the following worksheet is what we use, and we found it to be very effective and had all the students joining in.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Common Curriculum: An Amazing Resource for Lesson Planning

Common Curriculum, simply put, is an ICT resource that every teacher should have.  Just imagine that instead of writing out your daily lesson plans in Microsoft Word or even on paper, you could save them in a place that is easy-to-use, accessible 24/7 from any computer, and with the ability to share lessons and units with colleagues at the click of a mouse.  Then, for the extra cherry on top, when you come back to school from your summer holiday, all of your lesson plans that you entered into the website will still be there, ready for you to simply change the date of the first day of school, and away you go.  Common Curriculum will put all of your lessons into place as you had them in the previous year.  So, while your colleagues feverishly try to remember what they did last year, and put all brand new lesson plans for the upcoming academic year, you can sit back and chill.

Luckily for me, my colleague, David, stumbled upon this website last year.  In fact, he made a introductory blog post to the website, which you can read by clicking here.  It is a brilliant way to understand the basics of what the website is all about.  This post, however, is about the major updates and features that the creators of Common Curriculum have added to the site this year.  They have made it even easier to collaborate with your colleagues.  There are so many new features, in fact, that I decided the best way forward would be to show you the website in action. Check out the video feedforward below...

In order to try to keep the video somewhat short, I was only able to show you the major updates to Common Curriculum.  There many more to see.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment on the blog, or contact the creators from the website.  They will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

IDIOMATIC LOVE & Star-Crossed ESL Students...

Students frantically sharing love-idioms and building correct sentences before submitting their work to the "Grammar-Doctor", ie their English teacher

These idioms have been used casually, automatically and by rote ever since we realised all those years ago, on February 14th,  Valentine's Day, had some kind of emotional cross-over between ourselves and first-loves in Middle School.  Although it is traditional for the idioms to roll off the tongue in February, for us as native speakers, it is not the same for second-language learners. These phrases are soaked in cultural nuances, and as they are quite rarely used by anyone other than English native speakers, since the subject is almost always catered for in the students' own language, it is not so easy to get them at all.  But don't let that deter you.  Once mastered, idioms play a great role in student-student communication, and almost certainly help to build self-confidence.  

We have this as a suggestion for idioms, and any other vocabulary or grammar point you may wish to try it with.

Post the pictured idioms at various places around the room.

Separate the students into pairs and have one student sit at a desk as listener-recorder, while the other waits to be the reader-runner.

The reader-runner goes to one of the walled-idioms and reads it, plus the definition.

The reader-runner returns with it in his mind and shares it with the listener-recorder. They then have to come up with a sentence together, that is both logically sound and grammatically perfect. (This could further consolidate any new grammar point taught that week).

Once each idiom has a sentence written for it by the students they take their joint-effort to the teacher who checks them for correctness.

Inevitably, there are careless errors from spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic of the idomatic usage of the phrase.  So, the teacher sends them back to their table to correct the error.  It is more fun to go down the list and send back on each mistake. It takes longer, and it builds suspense in the students.

at this point, it is a good idea to inform the students they would do better to check for errors by reading the sentences to each other, as it will save them time.  But since excitement takes over, nobody listens to the advice and (reasonably organised) frantic chaos ensues, as the students attempt to fix their mistakes under pressure. 

It is a great fun activity for getting students to use idioms and idiomatic language in the ESL classroom. We really recommend this as an addition to your ELT-Tool Bag.