The girlie side of ELT: planner reviews

Hi everyone,

I have officially gone…… nuts and, yeap, I made a YouTube channel (prepare yourselves for what follows).

One of my first videos is about planners because I love planning, organising, planners and pretty stuff. So, pour yourself some coffee, get some pop corn and watch me chat about planners.

If you want to, you can subscribe to my channel, but there will be a lot of makeup talk there , so consider yourself warned. Having said that, any support is appreciated….

So, here is a post about different planners and how I use them. You may get some ideas.

Thanks for stopping by.



I love to hate formal observations

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that my next post was going to be about formal observations cause well, loads of people are talking about them, and I thought, I’d join in. Now, loads of time has gone by since I said that, and this post has been sitting in my drafts section for quite a while now, but now is the time. Let’s talk about observations and formal observations (observations that are assessed).

So here is what I think. Formal observations are necessary, but evil (tell us how you really feel Jo). Now, evil is used for dramatic purposes. Before I go all full on about what I dislike about formal observations, I will start off with what I like about observations in general. You learn. You get constructive feedback and you see your teaching through someone else’s eyes. If you are a stronger personality, you may even ask the person observing you to pay attention to one of your weaknesses and give you tips on how to deal with that weakness. They help you improve, think out of the box, and maybe even approach a lesson differently next time. Anyone can observe you. A new teacher can give you fresh ideas a more seasoned teacher may give you practical tips and vice versa.

BUT as I said earlier, formal observations are not my cup of tea. Why? Cause even if you are the best eva prepared and qualified teacher, there is someone who is there looking at you,assessing you,  and this is stressful.


Assessment and formal observations

In cases where formal observations are part of a diploma/certificate, they become a ‘tool’ of assessment.Someone is  assessing you based on what? Criteria. Criteria set by whom? Do these criteria fit all teaching contexts, situations, learners and teachers?

So, my next question now is, if you have a 3-4 formal observation, will they really showcase how good or bad a teacher you are? And before you say… ”that’s not why formal observations take place Joanna”. I will ask you, “so why assess then?” That’s why, for me, the assessment part of formal observations shouldn’t exist. In my little brain, the sole purpose of an observation should be to help you find ways to become a better teacher. Does assessment take that away? Yes, when you are box ticking.

Now you may say, “Yes, but in order to get a certificate/diploma, we need to formally observe you and assess you.” Sure you do, but just cause I pass the assessment criteria, doesn’t mean I know how to teach. I could have read all the criteria and made a lesson that fits these crtieria, couldn’t I? Or I could be teaching this way to pass the criteria but in real life, I neva, eva teach like that.

And anyway, what is a perfect/ good lesson? Who defines good or bad? Finally, (this is just a question that will probably piss you off) but isn’t the person assessing you, assessing you the way s/he thinks the lesson should be because the criteria have become embedded in their brain?

So what do I suggest?

Of course I am in a position to make decisions, but in my perfect little pink world this would happen. Observations wouldn’t be assessed. Period.There would be no box ticking.

I would observe, but not assess.

I would ask the teacher being observed to tell me what they want me to focus on (some people to do that). I would then make suggestions. Not assess.

I would ask for lesson plans after the observation. I would give the teacher the time to sit down and write a lesson plan after the observed lesson. Don’t get me wrong, the teacher can make a little lesson plan prior to his/her lesson, but, I, the observer would get it after the lesson. Why? Cause for me, one of the hardest and most stressful part of a formal observation was sticking to my lp.

Final thoughts

I have had some very enlightening and helpful observations in my teaching career. I have gained a lot from them. How should teachers be assessed in order to get a diploma? I dunno. That’s not the purpose of this post!

Feel free to leave a comment in the section below. It’s all yours.

Till next time ………

The girlie side of ELT: organising your desk


Today I am going to show you a happy place on my desk and give you ideas on how to store your pens and all your stationery. I will also show you a few things on my amazon wish list and maybe inspire you (please keep in mind that I am using amazon affiliate links, so if you choose to buy something, I will get a small commission. You do not pay extra though). So, without further ado, here is how I keep my desk… a bit organised.



Mugs to keep your pens and pencils

I think mugs are so pretty and I have two in which I put pens and pencils. I am going through a stationery addiction at the moment and buying all these pretty little pens. I am trying to have more white and soft colours instead of black. I have a transparent glass mug with flowers and a white mug with zigzags. As I wanted it to be a bit more pretty I put some small flowers bouquets in the mugs.

Jewelry box

You know that nowadays you can find loads of jewelry boxes with draws. I got one with roses and polka dots. In the drawers I store little bits and bobs I need.

jewelry box


One drawer erasers, liquid paper, paper clips etc. I have another draw for chewies, pills I need to take everyday and a lighter. I have a drawer with hair ties, elastic bands etc, and my final drawer has all my usb sticks (FYI: I am an online teacher and well, a face to face teacher , so I need all this stuff lying around on my desk). I also have a few small notebooks next to the jewelery box/stationery organiser and of course my lovely Kawai erasers.


My wish list (amazon links)

Pretty mugs

Royal Albert China New Country Roses Cheeky Modern Mug, White/Pink . You can find it here.

Roayl albert mug.png

Paperproducts Design Gold Rose 11-Ounce Porcelain Mug, Set of 2 . You can get this here. I like how this has 2 mugs and it comes with a case which you can use to store envelopes, bills, notebooks etc.Mug set.png

Jewelry box

Jewelry Accessories Box – Colorful Flowers With Drawers. You can get it here.

jewelry box.png

Cute pens

Rbenxia Gel Ink Roller Ball Pens Plastic Cartoon Pin Type Office Students Pen Pack of 10pcs  You can get them here.


Amazon screenshot


Cute erasers

Sweet Treat Erasers Bakery 4 Pack . You can get them here.


Amazon screenshot



These are some of the things I like. You can go and check out similar things on Amazon, Etsy stores or your local stores.

stationery pin.jpg

Don’t forget to ‘pin’ this 😀



Subscribe to my blog if you like what I have to say. If you don’t, gimme another chance. Connect with me on Pinterest/ Instagram.Maybe even give my Facebook page some TLC?  Remember the comments section is all yours.

Till next time……

My day in four skills: #4skills1day

I posted this on my 2nd blog (cause one blog is not enough) and I had so much fun. So, here is my day in the four skills (cleva eh? toot toot. Tooting my own horn). This should become a #hashtag.  #4skills1day (There I even made it!!!Dunno if anyone will write something similar but you know me. I ❤ chains).

Listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Welcome to my day guys, or should I say my class?!? Yeap! Yeap! Me being random once again!!!!


So this tune played over and over today. Seriously, if you play it once, you will play it over and over again!!!! It reminds me of the good old pop songs. 80s? nice. Nice and nicer.


I read this article with my learners. It is sad. Disturbing and really makes you wonder about how much we are polluting the atmosphere and crazy ‘selling’ ideas. Full article can be found here.


I had a speaking lesson and my learner said that s/he enjoyed the session cause we were speaking and it didn’t feel like I was a teacher. Hmmmmmmm dunno how I feel about that.


Well, I am writing this blog post. I have already written another one and I wanna write one more for my edu blog. So writing x3

So there you have it. All four skills in one post. Can you describe your day in the same way? Let me know if you do (hashtag remember?)

Till next time……..

L1 vs. L2: where L1 wins

Many say that the learner’s L1 should not be used unless necessary, others say it should never be used, while there are those who use the L1 without really thinking that much about it. I would say that I am in the last category. I use English and Greek. The higher level the learner is, the less I use Greek, but with lower level learners I use Greek to give instructions, feedback, to explain grammar or concepts. I sometimes translate to show the difference between L1/l2. My students do end up speaking English well. They do become proficient and all is good in Joanna’s land. BUT what happens when you do not speak the learner’s L1 and the lesson is online?

You see, giving instructions during face to face lessons where you can point to things and show your learner, even take the learner by the hand and explain something, is easy. You can do it. If the lesson is online though, yes, you can use your camera, paraphrase, use the pointer (mouse), you can even draw, but you cannot do much if the learner still doesn’t get your instructions. Today I was trying to explain a writing tool in my virtual classroom, but my learner did not understand the word “type” and could not understand the term “press the button with the letter ‘T'”, so I got frustrated, my learner got frustrated. If I was in the classroom, I would have just pointed in the book or given an example and typed using these features.

I cannot do that when I teach online. The other thing I cannot do is speak French. I paraphrased, drew, paraphrased more, used the ‘T’ button myself, but nothing.

What did I end up doing? I asked someone to call the learner and explain some of the features and maybe even use French. So, everything is going to be OK, but I wish I could speak French cause in this case I wouldn’t have wasted valuable time explaining something that ended up not being explainable!

So, have any of you had sistuations where you wished you could speak the student’s L1? Let me know in the comments section below.

coffee break

I need coffee

Till next time……


Video Based session- The hot coffee case

Today, I am sharing with you a lesson I made for my B2 adult learners. They wanted a few video- based sessions that would get them to practise their listening and speaking. I designed a lesson that focused mainly on those two skills, but I also added an optional email writing task that can be done in class or as homework (in my classes email writing had been covered so I was able to link it with previous sessions).The video is approximately 12 minutes long.

My Context/ How I carry out these sessions

I call these lessons conversational/chit chat sessions as the main reason I do them is to get the learners to talk as much as possible. While they talk, I make notes of any errors they make and then we do a bit of error correction towards the end of the session. If the errors are impeding communication or re-occurring, then I correct on the spot. I also ask them to do a bit of intensive listening and answer listening comprehension questions. After the listening tasks, the students talk again and answer some more general follow up questions which allow them to share their views. If I have time I ask them to write something based on what they watched/talked about.

Screen shot from the New York Times video. Link found here

Screen shot from the New York Times video. Link found here

Below you will find a brief lesson plan, the video, and a PPT.

Brief lesson plan ( for a 45-60 minute session)

  • Aims of the lesson (2-3 mins).
  • Lead in. General discussion about McDonald’s and ‘predictions’ on what can happen there (5 mins).
  • Students create a story based on the words and the pictures they see on the PPT slide (slide 4).
  • Students read the listening comprehension questions (2-3 mins).
  • Students watch the video (approx. 12 mins).
  • Students discuss with their partner/teacher what actually happened in the story and discuss if their predictions were correct (5-8 mins).
  • Students check listening answers ( slide 6 2-3 mins).
  • Follow up questions (5-8 mins)
  • Email writing. This depends on your time. You can assign it as hoemwork or do it in class.


Video Based session-Stella Liebeck (2)

The Video

Final thoughts

I use this lesson when I teach one to one online. If you have bigger classes, you may need to spend more time. You can do the activities in pairs. You can also do a jigsaw listening task where half the students watch up to minute 6 and the others the rest. You then ask them to share the information, answer the questions and make the story again. There are also loads of articles written about this story, so you may want to look for those as well.

You can adapt and change the ideas here as much as you like. Make the lesson yours. I can assure you that they story is very interesting and whenever I use it, my students really enjoy it! You may need to warn the students that there are pictures of Stella’s burns in the video.

You can use this with adults and university students studying journalism or law as well.

Let me know how it goes. Feel free to leave a comment below and add your own twist to the session. remember no lesson is written in stone 🙂

Till next time.

The girlie side of ELT: Free planner printables

If you read my blog, you know I have gone planner cray-cray. I have actually shared a couple of decorative planning related posts here. The posts with free printables have been quite popular so whenever I have one, I share it here as well. I interviewed GabisPlannerPrints and she talks about herself, her store and is so kind to share a printable and a coupon code just for us!! (yay). So, let’s see what Jennifer (the store’s owner tells us). BTW you might get an idea for a Business English lesson plan here 🙂

Hi Jennifer! Thanks for agreeing to chat. So, can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m Jennifer and I live in the beautiful state of Oregon with my husband of 5 years, 2 kiddos and my third is due to join us in January.  I love all things crafty and working with my hands.  I made my first quilt when I was 9 years old!!  I also enjoy cooking, baking, sewing, and I can do one heck of a chain stitch when I crochet 😉   My Erin Condren Planner is an extension of my brain and my pregnancy brain would be lost without it.  Playing with my planner is my #1 hobby right now because it gives me a chance to brain-dump and some much needed me-time after the kiddos go to sleep.  I find that I sleep much better and fall asleep quicker when I can get my to-do list and thoughts down on paper.

How and why did you start making stickers?

I was a scrap booker for many years and I’m pretty sure that is where my love for stickers started.  I have been using planners for years and stumbled onto Erin Condren while watching a vlogger that I follow.  In the process of using a planner more, scrapbooking less, having children, and realizing that I have too many things to tuck into my memory bank to remember; my planner started to become a memory keeper as well.  I started to use my scrapbooking stickers but they didn’t match the color themes of my Erin Condren Planner and I wanted to change the headers to fit my needs.  I do not buy anything that I can make myself.  This is why I have not dabbled in cake decorating yet… I would eat all the cake all the time!  So, I went to my encyclopedia of learning known as Youtube and realized that I can make my own stickers!  I have really enjoyed designing the stickers, and using my own creation is rewarding.  My 4-year-old daughter thinks that having a mama who makes stickers is the greatest thing ever!

What about ideas? Can you tell us what inspires you?

Life, my kiddos, and the Erin Condren color themes.  I named the store after my kids:  Gabriel + Abigail = Gabi’s.  You all will have to wait until January to know what the “s” is for.  My designs are always evolving to match the needs of what I am currently planning and the monthly color schemes play a big role in that as well.  I love florals and jewel tones!  I’m finding that I write SO MUCH in my planner that I have decided to get a second planner and just recently a 3rd planner!!  I love the EC for my 3 main uses: To Do, Work/Homeschooling, Little Things (this is my memory section and kind of like a scrapbook)  I’m running out of room to write and I don’t want to tote all that information along with me when I leave the house.  My Erin Condren will be my planner for all things work/Etsy related.  I want a Plum Planner to be my household/home binder of all things important and daily tasks.  And the 3rd planner for all the wonderful memories of my family and life.  This will be especially helpful for tracking milestones for baby #3.  I have not decided what type of planner yet.  Any suggestions would be lovely!  Now that I am expanding my style of planners; I will also be offering stickers to fit ALL of them.

Jennifer's planner spread.

What can someone find at your Etsy store?

So far, I have been designing stickers based on what I would want in my own planner.  Actually, almost all of the stickers that are in my shops are there because I made them for myself and decided to share them with others.  Planning can be a very expensive hobby.  I wanted to offer printable’s and stickers that are affordable, low shipping costs, good quality, and thin so that they don’t add too much bulk to our planners.  Printable’s are great for those who enjoy DIY projects, saving money, and getting more bang for your buck.  I am adding more designs weekly as I create the stickers for my own weekly spreads.

I have been having a lot of fun making paper clips to match my themes.  I will be adding decorating kits to my shop very soon.  The kits will have washi and paper clips that coordinate with the stickers.  I too am on a budget and have limited storage space.  And that inspired me to create kits.  Just enough washi to create a spread without owning a whole roll!

If you could turn back time to the day you opened your store, what advice would you give yourself? Any top tips?

Keep printable’s separate from physical stickers so that customers are not confused about what type of product they are receiving.  Originally my shop, Gabi’s Planner Prints, was printable’s and then I added physical stickers.  I have recently separated them and the physical sticker shop is Gabi’s Paper Co.  I am now in the process of redesigning the physical stickers with the correct shop name and retaking photos.  Must have good lighting!!  This is another reason why I am re-doing my photos.  It is all a learning process.
Now let’s move on to planning. 6. How do you plan? Planning usually takes place on a quiet evening after everyone has fallen asleep.  I gather my: stickers, black Pilot G-2 .05 pen, washi tape, lemon ginger tea with honey, and I sit at my desk and enjoy the process.  It’s the end of the day and I finally sit down to relax; therefore, cue the baby and the kicking!  I reposition my stickers often due to my arm touching my belly and it getting kicked.  I look forward to planning because it is just me, the baby, and my thoughts.  I treasure uninterrupted thoughts 😉  I decorate my week and plan for Monday and a little bit for Tuesday.  Add over the last month I have tried different styles of decorating to showcase my product and share it on Instagram and Facebook.  I have learned that I am NOT a no-white planner.  I have way too much to write and I find that all the color makes focusing on the words a bit difficult for me.  I really enjoy looking back at my weeks and reading my “Little Things” sections.  Plus the pages are decorated and it is like looking at a scrapbook.

Connecting with you :). Where can people find you?

Instagram:  @gabispaperco

Periscope: Gabi’s Paper Co – Jen Homutoff


Jennifer has kindly given us two printables and a coupon code.

Coupon Code for both shops: MyPinkRambles25 25% OFF any order from BOTH shops.


November Sparkle Sticker Set-

2nd Printable

Talk soon!!!Ti

Horiz November Sparkle Sticker Set-page0001

Till next time!!!