What have you learnt?

Hi Everyone!

Long time no read, right? I have been super busy.. So, I haven’t blogged in ages. But I am here today. I was actually thinking about how I went from face to face teaching to online teaching in a blink of the eye, and how that has changed my teaching……..

So, how has your teaching changed and what did you learn? That is the question of today’s post.

While Covid and lockdown restrictions have not completely gone away, I do think that we can reflect on our teaching and I want us to do this together. Let’s start a tag….Or let’s just share our thoughts.

What skills have you gained from this whole situation?

Tech-y (ish)

I, for one, have become better at using my university’s Virtual Learning Environment. Before Covid, I only used it to download materials. Now, I use it to share files and material, upload recordings, give feedback, mark and so many other things! I learnt how to use Collaborate, Zoom, Google Meets, Padlet and more.

Of course, I am not the most tech savvy person, but I am getting savvy-er-ish. Let me point out here that, while I do have a background in online teaching, I never had to do all my teaching online!


I think that because I now have a zillion tabs open when I am teaching or preparing, As I am a module leader now, I often have a couple of Hangout chats open, I am answering an email and creating worksheets. I have become better at multitasking and flipping between tasks. That is not always a good thing though. I have found that due to the vast amount of tabs open, I have often struggled to finish tasks.

Time management

Due to the nature of my teaching and because I am also a module leader, my time management has become better. Getting to work takes me three minutes. As I have no one to chat with at work, I go through everything way quicker.

My time management is too good (or bad) sometimes though. What I mean is that because my computer is in my living room, it is quite easy for me to delay lunch, not get up from my seat for ages, not take my eyes off my screen etc. It has also meant that I have found it quite difficult to draw the line and find work-life balance.

If I have something to do, I do it even though it is outside my 9~5 work hour. The fact that the pc is in my living room makes it very easy to go back to work when I am supposed to be relaxing and enjoying myself.

I am online twenty four seven. I shut down my pc, but find it hard to shut down my brain and not think about work.

Better instructions

Because I do not have face to face classes, I think that my task instructions and rubrics have improved. I actually spend a lot of my time thinking about how I can give instructions to my international students without being able to point at things or answer any follow up questions about my instructions. That is really important in the material my students have to use asynchronously. My students need to be able to understand what they are doing by just reading the worksheet. In the good old days, they could just ask me a question, now they cannot really. they can email me, but due to the time difference, I may not be able to answer on time.

Making lists or lack of…

I was Little Miss List It. I used to make lists and cross stuff out all the time. During the transfer to online teaching though, my lists became longer. Now lists stress me out. Actually, no, scratch that, long lists stress me out. So, instead of using my favourite To Do note book to write down what I have to do, I scribble stuff down and just cross them out when they are done. That works better for me… especially since my office is my living room.


All teachers know that it is very important to create rapport with your students. One of the hardest things for me was creating rapport with my students (especially when they refuse to turn on their camera). So what did I do, I made a point of having a chat with every student at the beginning of the class and telling them about the things I had been up to. That allowed them to get to know me a bit better and me to get to know them. By the end of the course, we were actually sad to finish the online course.

So how has your teaching changed? Will any of your new skills move with you back into your classroom? Let me know in the comments below. I have a few more posts coming your way, so if you enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

Till next time……


Moving to Online Teaching? The one about the Platform & Material

So coronavirus, huh?

I hope you are all healthy and you and your families are well.

Difficult times. A lot of us are looking at ways of moving from face to face to online. Whether it’s ELT or EAP, I am here to tell you that it can be done, but it will take time, planning and effort.

I have decided to write a few blog posts about how to transition from f2f to online. Before I start, a few rambley bits.

My Background & My Context

I have been teaching Business English online for about 7 years. I taught my last BE lesson this month. I thought that would be the end of an era…… but is it? I now work at a University and my main post is that of a pre sessional coordinator. So basically, I am working on this summer’s pre sessional EAP course (pre sessional courses are courses created usually for post grad students who need to improve their academic skills before progressing to their chosen MA). Some universities are already teaching online, others are starting to look at that. So, any thoughts/questions/advice? I have a few and will be sharing them with you.

Material and Your Platform

Myth: I can use what I created for my f2f lessons for my online ones. I already have them on my usb stick. Piece of cake.

Sorry to burst the bubble but maybe not…

You cannot use all the materials you created for your face to face class, for your online ones. Why? Well, for various reasons. One simple one, your material might be on a pdf file that is not what is compatible with the platform you are using. You may have linked a video on a PPT (which works when you use it in class), but the video does not work when you use your online platform. So, my first tip…. Know your platform. What are you using? Design for that. Just because it worked in Adobe, does not mean it will work in Zoom.

Make some slides/sheets and put them on your virtual classroom and check them. How visible/accessible is the material? How small is the writing? Do you have students who have dyslexia and need different colour in the background? Do you have colour blind students who will struggle if your slides/ material have contrasting colours. How much space do you have for students to write on your onlinr material? Can you highlight on your chosen platform or do you need to highlight on your material. Do you have an answer sheet? Will you need an answer sheet that will be shared with you students?

Oh! Also, where is your learner? Are there restrictions on the internet? If your students are in China, will they be able to access what you are sharing? Not just the videos you have or the grammar links, but also the unexpected ones. For example, when a student asks you “what does XYZ mean?” and when you are in Europe, you send a link to an image or something. Can you do the same with your students in China? What can you use? My advice here would be to make a list of everything that you may want to use, check and find alternatives (Google images will probably not work in China, so what can you use?)

Devil’s advocate

I know my platform and my materials are fine… Are they? Really? Questions to ask yourself:

Is this a one to one lesson or a group lesson? My focus in today’s post is on group lessons.

What type of group activities can I use?

In an EAP context (that is what my context is) can you ask your students to hold a seminar? Can they do a reading/listening circle? You could do if your platform has breakout rooms, but in that case you will need to think about the fact that you may not be able to monitor all groups, so you need to think about how you could address that. Another thing you need to consider is if your breakout room has the same tools as your main room. If not, how will you work around it? Think about what you need your students to do in the breakout room and tailor your task based on that. Also, does your breakout room have the option of someone being a chair/ leader/presenter? Someone who will be responsible for giving permission for use of tools, who speaks when etc.

Other things to consider when designing group activities

Can your students collaborate? This depends on the functionality of the breakout room or your main room. If students were using the main room, I would maybe draw lines as to where students would write. That way you avoid students writing on each others work. You would also need to time the collaborative writing. Say for example student A needs to write five sentences which student B will correct and then student B will write five sentences which student A will correct. Again, think of ways to avoid having people write on each other.

Can they peer assess? Can they self assess? Here the answer is yes. You need to create sheets for peer and self assessments that can be used be used by you students during their group work or as part of their independent study.

Back to the Platform

How strong is the platform? What is your and your students’ broadband like? Can you have multiple cameras on at the same time? How long does it take to get back into the platform if you are chucked out? What do you do if the platform crashed? What is your plan B and C? Does your platform allow recordings? How will you share them with your students? Any GDPR concerns? Is there a delay in the audio? Will you have loads of people speaking at the same time? Probably. So what do you do? Mute students or ask them to use the ‘raise hand’ feature. What happens when a student gets cut off and exits the classroom. How do you manage your time?


Time difference between your students. How will that work and how does it affect the dynamics of your group? When everyone is in the same time zone, it’s easy….. What if they are not? Have you given your students enough time to prepare for an activity based on their timezone (sorry folks, don’t have all the answers)?

Anything else?

Uploading material

If I were you, I would have everything uploaded on my platform and ready to go. Sometimes this can take ages and you don’t want to be sat there waiting for stuff to upload.

Time management, My Platform and My Material

Now that is a tough cookie and I am getting tired…. So my next post will be about time management and online teaching. I hope I have helped you think about stuff. Probably haven’t answered lots of questions, but asking them is a good starting point.

Thanks for stopping by….

Till next time…

Merry Christmas & Stuff

Hi everyone,

2019 is coming to an end and I have not been here for ages. I thought I’d pop on to wish everyone Happy Holidays. May all your dreams come true and may 2020 be better than 2019. It’s a new decade folks. What do you see coming your way? I, for one, have a new job where I work. I will be coordinating during the presessional course. My title now is Associate Lecturer. It is a part time post though. 3 days a week I will be coordinating and 2 days a week I will be a Language and Study Skills Tutor. How will it work?? We will see. At last a dream came true. That’s the thing. Ever since I started working at the uni, I always said I wanted to get a more senior role. I applied for jobs and didn’t get shortlisted. Then I had training on how to write cover letters (would you like to see mine or a post on how to write one?). I had a couple of interviews which lead to temporary posts. Posts I did not shy away from. Posts I gave up summer hols for. I wanted the experience. I got the experience and now the job. So aim high, don’t give up. You will get there. I think I will start writing here again. If any of my readers are still here, thank you. Take care and have fun. till next time ….

EAP practitioner & identity crisis

So, the Baleap conference ended today. This was my first Baleap conference. If you do not know what Baleap conference is, it is a conference about EAP (English for academic purposes), I guess. EAP practitioners talking about EAP stuff.

I attended a lot of talks. I also presented with my colleague. A Pecha Kucha (that will be a different blog post). I learnt some things, but mostly started thinking about a lot of stuff. This conference made me want to blog and share some thoughts with you guys.

Thought number 1

One of the main themes of this Baleap conference was the role of the EAP practitioner.

Who are we?

A whole identity crisis (kinda).

Are we teachers? Are we academics? Are we support staff?

Who are we?

A whole plenary was dedicated to that.

We say we are not subject specialists

We do research/scholarship, so we are academics

We are counselors

We are language specialists

We are teachers

We are not just teachers

And lots more along these lines

The most interesting comment though (for me) was made by someone in the audience.

We do similar things at every single uni around the UK, but we all have different titles

(and salaries may I add) .

When teaching EAP, you can be called a language tutor, an EAP tutor, a lecturer, an Associate lecturer and many more. You can be a grade 5, grade 6 or a grade 7. Get paid something from 24K to even 40K (rough guesses folks) for the same thing.

So much inconsistency in the titles and the salaries, I do not get that. I am a person who has had the title EAP lecturer and language tutor. Both jobs exactly the same. Responsibilities, the same. My qualifications, the same.

I do not understand that.

We change title from institution to institution. How? Why?

Even the basics are not defined…. Blurred….

In 2013 I was called a Lecturer

In 2017 a Tutor

(and temporary staff…. )

As for my identity?

I consider myself an EAP teacher. I also find myself acting as a counselor a lot of times. I do not consider myself an academic because I come from an educational background where an academic is someone who has a PhD and publishes in journals. I do not.

So, thought number 1 blog post. Done.

Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments below. Oh! Don’t forget to follow my rambles or my social media stuff….

Till next time (which will be very soon)…..

What Would You Do?

Hi everyone,
I have’t written a blog post in forever, but I am back. I have a question for you. I will give you the context and invite you to share your advice.
What would you do?
International Students (mostly Asian) doing an EAP course. The students’ level is pretty much the same, but some do better in speaking than others. This session is a seminar/ discussion class. The students have been asked to write down a few questions they would ask their classmates and hold a discussion on X topic.
What happened
I put students in groups of four. Each student got to ask their question.
One of the stronger students asked a well formed complex question.
Student: XYZ. Why do you think this is?
Student A: XYZ. Why do you think this is?
Again silence.
Student A: XYZ. Why do you think this is?
Student B: I don’t understand the question…….
Student A: I have asked the question 3 times. What don’t you understand (voice high pitched and kinda angry).
Me: Ummmm, maybe you can try to use different words to ask the question. Why don’t you paraphrase?
Student A: I am they do not understand!!(getting more frustrated. Borderline pissed off).
Me: Ummmmm, maybe you should try again or why don’t you say what you think and give them some ideas. They might be able to answer your question that way…..
Student A: Grumbles…. repeats the question….
2015-05-30 12.42.20
So folks, discuss. What would you do?
I look forward to hearing your views and discussing with you in my comments section.
Till next time……

The fish bowl and peer feedback

Hi everyone,

Today I am going to talk about a task I did in class and the follow up. The activity I am talking about is a fish bowl task. What is it actually? Well, I had a seminar class, so I put my students in groups of four. They were the students taking part in the seminar. Then I had four students observe them and give them feedback. These students sat next to or were standing behind the students who were taking part in the seminar. So, imagine an inner circle (seminar participants) and outer circle (seminar observers).

Now, time for some context. My students are international students (Asian) who are in their fifth week of an EAP course. They are all intermediate/ upper intermediate students. This is their first time studying in the UK. They have taken part a few seminars before and they have self assessed and given peer feedback a couple of times. They are not very experienced at giving feedback.

The fact that their English is a bit weak and they are not very experienced at giving feedback affected the activity. In what way you may ask? Well, instead of asking them to give a lot of feedback, I focused on two aspects of the seminar. I asked them to look at the course’s assessment criteria, but only focus on the column that was about interaction. I need to mention here  that I went through the criteria with them and made them more student friendly (simplified the language and used emoticons!).So, that was one thing.

The second thing I asked the assessors to comment on  was the use of set phrases for taking turns and interrupting. These were part of the lesson as well. I printed out some useful phrases and asked the assessors to tick the phrases their classmates used.

The Task

The seminar participants took part in the seminar. The assessors listened quietly and gave feedback. Then the students swapped roles.

After the seminar

Students sat next to each other and gave each other feedback. They told each other what they did well and what they needed to work on.

When the whole activity ended, I asked my students to tell me what they thought about this task (I used a Google classroom comment thread).

What they said

Most students enjoyed the activity. They felt that their classmates gave them good feedback. They enjoyed the role swap and that they were not asked to give a ton of feedback.

There were a few comments about feeling shy and embarrassed, but those students did say that this was not a big problem because in the end they did find the task helpful.

Practical stuff

I printed out the helpful phrases check list.

The student friendly rubric was on the board and students had to take notes.

As for timing, this whole activity took about 40 minutes. The feedback part was an extra 10 minutes. I asked them to spend 5 minutes on student A and then five minutes on student B. That meant that each member of the pair got 5 minutes worth of feedback. The whole activity lasted for 50 minutes.

aa0a3-dsc01572Will I try this again? Yes. My students really enjoyed it and I found it very helpful. have you done something similar? let me know in the comments below.

Till next time……

Can chatting be a lesson or is it just being lazy?

It’s has been a while, hasn’t it? I have been busy with life and haven’t had edu-blog post inspo for a while now, but I am back which means I have a ramble for you. I actually have a ramble and loads of rhetorical or not so rhetorical questions.

I took time off and my learners were taught by ‘cover’ teachers. I came back and got my students back.
When I had my first lesson with one of my students, I asked her what she had been up to.
She said,
I had lessons with a lovely lady and we were talking a lot. It did not feel like a lesson. I did not feel like I learnt a lot. I am glad I am back with you.
That got me thinking about lessons that are chatty. Lessons that may focus on having a conversation with a student but where there is no actual material or maybe the learner feels like there is no material….
Is that a lesson?
Can it be called a lesson?
When can having a conversation, be called a lesson?
Speaking- chatty- conversational sessions
First, of all what is the definition of these sessions? Well, in my context as an online teacher, conversational sessions can be a chat with a student about whatever the student wants to talk about. They can be based on a video or article you read together or the student watched/ read alone.
Is this (the chat bit) teaching unplugged? Is it being more adventurous with your lessons or just being lazy?
In your own context is chatting with your student a lesson or not?
Here is what I think. During my so called convo sessions, you do not necessarily need to have handouts when having a speaking session (like the one I defined earlier). What you do need though is some kind of structure and maybe even a mentioning of what the aim of the session is.
For example,
Today we will be chatting about your everyday life. I want you to talk to me about your daily routines. I will point out any grammar or vocabulary points which I will note down for you or which I would like you to take note of.
Today we will be watching a short video and we will talk about what it showed. We will also discuss A, B, C.
If you say something like that, the student will know that there is some kind of purpose to the lesson (that is advice to new teachers I guess).
When a speaking session is based on an article or video it is more structured and can be viewed more like a lesson.
But what about when it is more conversational?
Chatting with a student and not making any language comments is not really learning…. or is it? When you are chatting, do you interrupt to make language comments or do you just go with the flow? Is that learning though? What does the student learn? Does the paying student feel like it is a lesson… or it isn’t.
You, as a teacher may feel like you are teaching when you repeat/ rephrase what the learner said without pointing out any mistakes, but is the learner getting that? What I mean is, is your learner noticing that you have made a correction? How do you know?
So, if you decide to have a chat, what can be learnt from the chat?

Well, as I said, you need to make the chat look more like your normal sessions:

  • Mention aims/ purpose etc.
  • Make notes of whatever language is learnt/ corrected
  • Ask the student to reflect on the conversation. What did s/he do well, what do they need to work on?
  • Ask the student to summarise your chat or visualise it!!Make a mind map of what you discussed.

I think I may have lost my blog mojo, but I did have a few thoughts on this and wanted to share, get your thoughts. So, the comments section is all yours.

Till next time…

What I thought I knew was not what I thought

I have shared with you guys (maybe even over shared) so much. Now, more sharing.

There I was. Shocked. Feeling a bit robbed. Questioning myself. How could I not know? The mind plays tricks on us.

I thought I was red/ green colourblind. Turns out I don’t see any colours.

I have achromatopsia (or some sort of incomplete achromatopsia).

I am what is known as colourblind. Literally. So, I don’t just mix up my colours. I actually don’t even see them! Or do I?


Colour is perception. Light, rays, rods and cones all join in to send a message to the brain. The brain then ‘sees’ the light/ colour. That is my simplistic explanation. A bunch of people see the same colour and give it a name…..


But now I know that what I thought was colour, was probably a tone or a texture, an illumination. My images are shades of grey, white, and black with an occasional dash of pink (or something….or nothing….).

How could I not know? What games was my mind playing on me?

I have all the symptoms of an achromat

Nystagmus (wobbly iris)


Photophobic/ photosensitive (I squint a lot and wear my sunnies all day long, even when there are clouds)

How I found out

I was so excited on Saturday. I was going to try these glasses that claimed to restore colour vision. You would put on the glasses and see colours. Of course, these glasses do not work on everyone (I was warned). I wanted to try them. But first, they needed to determine what type of coulourblindness I had. I did the tests and got the diagnosis.


Very rare (2000 people in the UK).

So, what do I do with this information?

I am still the same person.

That is what everyone is telling me.


You see colours your way.

That is what people tell me.

You still see the way you saw.

That is what everyone is telling me.

But I don’t. I don’t know what I see. I want to know what I can see. Still coming to terms with this. I have to adjust to a new normal. Was what I thought was pink or purple actually grey? Is everything grey? I am confused. Still confused.

Two days later.

How to mark online without… crashing

Nowadays a lot of marking is being done online. Marking online can be very effective.
  • Results and feedback do not get lost as it is stored in the world wide web’s cloud.
  • It is easier to highlight, add links and comments when the essay/ piece of work is being marked online.
  • It saves paper, so it is better for the trees.
Marking online can be quite stressful and tiring.
I get the benefits, but I do find it hard to mark online. That’s why I decided to dedicate a post to marking online. I have been teaching at various universities for the past few years and I have been and will be marking online quite a bit…..

My Top Tips for Survival

Be rested, calm, and relaxed

When technology (aka the pc) acts up, you need to be prepared to take a breath and find a solution to the problem. Panicking because you cannot save your comments does not help. You may also need coffee or tea.

Back up

Always keep some kind of trail of any kind of feedback that is important, grades for example. Sometimes things vanish or do not get saved and that may cause a lot of problems.

coffee break

Coffee time

Comment/ Feedback Bank

When you are marking online, it is a good idea to make your own feedback bank. A document where you can write generic comments which you can then add to wherever you think is necessary. You can keep a list of useful links which you can add as part of your feedback.

Check your settings

Make sure that when you are marking online everything is going as it should. Do you want your feedback to be private until a specific day/ time?

Two screens/ printouts?

Sometimes you have to mark a second draft of something. In that case it might be helpful to have a printout of the first draft or maybe a second screen which you can refer to whilst marking.
Finally, just remember the first 500 are the hard ones, it gets easier after that!!
Do you have any top tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Don’t forget to follow my blog is you liked what you read. Feel free to check out my beauty blog if you like… beauty.
Till next time…..

Online teaching journal: reflections ….

So, as I said in Wednesday’s post, today I will reflect (#weeklyreflections). I will reflect on this week’s sessions and make note of the things that went well, what didn’t work as planned, and whatever else pops into my mind.

Harvard referencing
I watched a very helpful video on Harvard referencing and did the exercise that accompanied the video as a classroom activity (the one where students shout out the answers). What I noticed though was that not everyone was shouting out answers.
Next time: do it in smaller groups/ pairs.
Teaching the conditionals
I went into my EAP class with the assumption that my students were familiar with the conditionals. They were not. I mean, they were able to form some sentences, but they were not able to understand and explain the meaning of the conditionals or new how to form the so called 3 conditionals. I was going to look at mixed conditionals, but decided to scrape that.
Note to self:don’t assume they know the grammar even if they have been learning English for ages or they have been here for months!
Phones in class
I ‘let’ my students use their phones in class when they want to look up a word. I also ask them to create WeChat groups, where they share things we do in class. I do wonder though when they are looking at their phones if they are actually looking up a word. I have seen a few turn their phones upside down when I get closer to them. I need to rethink this whole phones in class issue.
Summarising a lecture
My students had to summarise a lecture, but they used the exact words that the lecturer used. there was no real summarising.
Note to self: Summarising  lectures requires more scaffolding.
While I was writing this post, I checked Facebook and saw that a colleague shared a good website. Talk to books. I will use this in class as soon as possible. You need to check that website out!! You ask a question and you find the answers in books!Like talking to a book!!
So, how was your week? Anything you’d like to share? Go for it in the comments section or in your on blog post.
Till next time….