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…..

Speed Citations

The great thing about staff rooms is that they are excellent place to hear about a task and then use it in your class, so that’s what I am going to share with you today. A cool task on citations/ referencing.You can do this with your learners if you teach EAP or writing classes that require research and referencing. My colleague John, who works at the ELTC at Sheffield University, told me about this one, so shout out to him. I did change it a bit though.

Speed citations

I had already introduced citations and students were familiar with what they need to do when citing a source in their texts, but there was still a bit of uncertainty.  How does this task work? Students need to find the author and date of a publication as quickly as possible and write it down as they would do in in-text citations.


  • Give your students one publication/source each. If you have 12 students, you need 12 sources. I used books, journal articles, and a newspaper (I told them that one of the sources could not be used in their academic writing projects and that’s why the newspaper was in it. My students are not journalists and the newspaper was the Metro paper which is a free paper).
  • Put students in a circle and tell them that they only need a piece of paper and a pen.
  • Each student has about 30 seconds to find the author and the date of the source and write it down as they would as part of their in-text citation.
  • After the 30 seconds, students give their source to the person next to them and move on to the next source. This is done clockwise.
  • At the end, give them a couple of minutes to check what they have written on their paper and make necessary corrections.
  • In order to check their answers, each student comes to the board and writes what they have written. One source per student.
Music Department

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

My thoughts

Why is this a good task?
This was a follow up task, something like a revision which brought the element of ‘fun’ into my ‘dry’ academic writing classes. Students, especially Asian learners, struggle when it comes to identifying the difference between a first name and a family name. They also don’t know where to look for the date or which date they should put in their texts. Learners had a bit more fun cause this was like a game.
So, there you have it folks. Speed citations. If you are looking for more fun ideas, you may want to have a look at the calling all EAP tutors post and specifically the comments section.

Getting adult learners involved in peer- feedback for writing

So, today’s post is about using peer- feedback in the classroom. This post was originally written for the TESOL Greece Newsletter (issue 127) and since I will be doing peer feedback with my learners on Monday as part of my academic writing class, I thought it would be a  good idea to share that article here as well. So, let’s talk about peer feedback.

Feedback is a way for teachers to make suggestions on students’ written work and help their learners improve (Harmer, 2013). An alternative way to give feedback for writing is to get the students to peer-review and offer feedback. Peer-assessment does not replace traditional assessment but it does enhance the learning process (Topping 1998, cited in Peng).  But before moving on, what exactly is peer-assessment? It is:

an arrangement in which individuals consider the amount, level, value, worth, quality, or success of the products or outcomes of learning of peers of similar status.

                                          (Topping, 1998, cited in Peng 2010)

This feedback method works well with all learners, but especially adults. Therefore, getting learners to provide peer-feedback in an EAP, Business or any other type of English lesson aimed at adults is very beneficial. This article discusses why peer-feedback for writing can play an integral part in the everyday classroom routine and makes suggestions regarding different tasks a teacher ca use in class in order to encourage peer-feedback.

Why Peer-feedback?

There are many reasons why a teacher should encourage adult learners to give peer-feedback. Firstly, it promotes active learning as learners have to think about another student’s work. It helps build trust among students and is also a way to get students to co-operate and collaborate.

Why not peer-feedback?

It may affect the ‘balance’ between the teacher and the learner                                    (Gardner, 2000) as traditionally it is the teacher who provides the feedback and not the learner. The learners may not feel comfortable or may even feel unwilling to mark other students’ work. They might also be too generous and do ‘friendly marking’ which means that they are more interested in the fact that they are marking their friends’ work and not so much in the actual feedback.

While all these are quite ‘valid’ reasons why a teacher might avoid peer-feedback in the classroom, surely with lots of training, good monitoring on behalf of the teacher, and a constant reminder of why peer-feedback is necessary and how helpful it can be, both the learners and the teacher can benefit a lot from using the alternative feedback method.

Tasks that promote peer-feedback

There are lots of tasks that can be used in the language classroom in order to get the students to peer-assess. As the purpose of the article is to promote peer-feedback among adults, the activities chosen, are more appropriate for mature learners.

Using rubrics/checklists

When a teacher first introduces the idea of peer-feedback, it is essential that this is done in a more controlled manner. The teacher can make a checklist or provide rubrics according to which the student gives feedback to his/her classmate’s work. If the group is quite weak, instead of providing feedback on grammar, learners could be asked to check if their classmate has a thesis statement or if there is a main idea in each paragraph and so on. Another good idea is to get learners in groups of four and form a feedback reading circle where each student gets feedback from the three other members of the group.


Reformulation is when the student hands in a piece of writing and the teacher reformulates the original with a better version. Instead of the teacher providing a better version, it can be the learners who are providing the improved version of their classmate’s work.

To conclude….

Peer-feedback involves ‘’students in their own destiny’’ and encourages autonomy as well as motivates them even more (Brown 2004, cited in Peng 2010). It can be a very useful feedback method for every teacher as long as it is monitored and planned well. It will probably never replace teacher feedback but it is a method that can be used to get adult learners more involved in their work.

How often do you use peer feedback in your adult classes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Gardner, D. (2000). ‘’Self–assessment for autonomous learners.’’ Links and letters: Hong Kong p.40-60.

Harmer, J. (2013). The Practice of English Language Teaching. China: Pearson.

Peng, J (2010). Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Second Language Research Forum, ed. Matthew T. Prior et al., 89-107. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Calling all EAP techers

So, today I am feeling inspired cause well, I have been feeling a bit uninspired lately especially when it comes to EAP writing. So, today you, my readers/fellow teachers are going to share with me your top tips. How on earth do you make your academic writing classes interesting and fun when teaching in an EAP context and especially if it is an intense pre- sessional EAP class?cam building

My context: a group of post grad Asian students who are having sessions in order to be ready for their master’s degree in September. I have loads of academic ‘stuff’ to go through and not that much time. Sure I do my pair writing, my peer feedback, I try to integrate more skills and introduce a summary writing task based on a speaking task. I say a few jokes, I may even offer a chocolate or something for the best writing but that’s about it. I bore my students to death and I get bored myself ( there. I said it).

So, how do you do it? So, take off your fun EFL teacher hat and put on your EAP cap and tell me what you do. How do you make academic writing less boring? The comments section is all yours..


Drawings in the EAP classroom (my Iatefl presentation)

Hi everyone,

Today’s post is a video. It is my Iatefl (Birmingham) presentation.Un fortunately, I was unable to go to Iatefl, so I thought I’d make a voiceover video.  My talk is about using drawings when teaching academic writing.

Before watching please keep in mind:

  • My presentaion was part of the forum on academic writing and it needed to be 15 mnutes long.
  • My abstract stated that I was going to also talk a bit about presentations and how to use drawings there, but I decided to only briefly touch upon that as this forum was about academic writing.
  • Even if you do not teach academic writing, you can still use some of these drawings in your classroom.
  • I was nervous!

So, I hope enjoy the video and feel free to leave a question, comment in the comments section below.

Thanks for watching.


Iatefl here I come!

Hi everyone!

I just though I’d pop in and write a quick post about my Iatefl talk and maybe entice you to come by. So,

What’s my talk about?

The main focus is on academic writing, as my talk is part of the forum on academic writing (but my drawings can be adapted for any writing class).

I will talk about using drawings in the EAP classroom. In my classrooms both the teacher and the learner draw. There will be a bit of ‘research talk’ but most of the talk will be about practical  classroom stuff.

I will tell you why I draw and what I draw during my presessional EAP sessions.

I will ask you (yeap, you) to draw too.

When is my talk?

Thursday the 14th at 10:25  Session 2.1. Hall 10b

I hope I see you there or anywhere at the conference!! By the way, I will be blogging about Iatefl hopefully from Birmingahma as well, so stay tuned!!


Nope, this is not my presentation, just a random pic 🙂



Thanks for stopping by.


Fun lesson ideas for February 29th

Hi guys!!

So, I know you probably have planned your Monday already, but I thought I’d pop on for a minute or five and share with you an idea or more :).

Monday is February the 29th and since it’s a leap year, you can do something different!


Articles to read and summarise as part of a research project, a speaking or writing activity.

The Telegraph just published an article with a video and loads of info. You can print it and share with your kids.

Wikipedia: Post about February 29 and a post about the meaning of a Leap Year.

Working on the 29th of February. Do you get paid? Interesting article for your BE/adult learner.

There are a lot of videos on Youtube about the 29th of February or explaining the leap year. I chose this one cause it is clear and quite easy to understand (B1+)

A video explaining the leap year

Apart from reading, talking or watching a video about the leap year or February 29th, you could also get your students to write an essay  or a letter to themselves (this does not require watching or reading anything about February 29th)

Ideas for writing

Write an essay about what you would like to have achieved/ done before  February 29 2020.

Write a letter to yourself telling him/her what you want your life to be like in 4 years from now. Or anything along those lines.

Tell your students you will be keeping this essay and making a poster out of it. When 2020 is here, you can have a look at the post again. You could also put the essays in a bottle and keep it somewhere in your class. You can also take a class photo and add it on the poster/ bottle.

Time Capsule

Turn this into a more creative class activity by making a February 29th time capsule. Tell your students to put things in this box and that future students will open it on February 29 2020. They can find newspaper clippings, they can make lists of popular songs/ games/ movies. Anything. They make the time capsule and it is stored somewhere in the class.

February 29th.jpg

So, sorry if this messes up your Monday plans, but I think it would be fun to do something different on a day that is here every four years!!

Do you have any other ideas? The comments section is all yours. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog or follow me somewhere somehow on the different types of social media shared on my sidebar.

Till next time…….


I don’t have any goals miss…..

The last day of classes and since I am really into planning and micro-goal setting, I thought I’d ask my B2 level students (teenagers) to write an essay about their goals for 2016 and what they are going to do to make them happen. I thought it was a great idea. “Think of something you want to achieve and say how you are going to make it happen”. Ummmm. Nope. My students hated the idea, and me being a stubborn/bad teacher, I insisted. I said, ” You must want to achieve something! Even if it’s going to a higher level of LOL (League of Legends=video game). I want you to tell me how you will become better at playing your game!”. Their response, ” But that’s not a goal miss” Yay! There is hope. So I said, ” Write about anything! Have a little/big goal and tell me how you will make it happen”. Total distress!! Again ” but we don’t have any goals…..”

So, this made me wonder about my teaching and my kids. I mean, OK, maybe I shouldn’t have set this as homework. Maybe I could have done a bit more brainstorming. We did talk about my goals and various things someone may want to achieve in a year. Big goals vs. little goals, but maybe they neeeded more help. Maybe even, worst case scenario,my kids are not mature enough to have, say, big goals. But they must have some!! What kind of world is this where teenagers say, ” I don’t have any goals miss!”? It’s sad and scary. Actually, and this has occurred to me after publishing the post, the worst scenario is this one: It’s because they are Greek kids living in the days of recession where money is tight, there is a lot of depression, and the news are just bombarding us with everything that is not working. Do my kids have no hope, hence no goals? That’s even sadder and scarier.

Anyways, I set this as an Xmas essay. I will tell you what they came up with once I have their answers!!


Till next time…

A fish, a thesis and ibid: Teaching (academic) writing through drawings

Drawing in the EFL class is something many teachers do in order to explain something like a grammar point or to have some fun like getting your learners to make a picture composition. I usually draw when I am teaching young learners, and I also draw when I want to show my emotions. For example, I will draw a smiley face after the Homework tasks have been written on the board to show my students that I will be happy when they do all their work.

But what about English for academic purposes? Do you draw in your EAP classes? I do, especially when I am teaching writing. I thought I’d share two of my favourite EAP pics which are on the wall somewhere in almost all my EAP classes. Keep in mind that these drawings can be used in any context where thesis statements and sources are part of a writing class, so these drawings can go beyond the EAP classroom.

The fish, the thesis and the arguments

It is quite hard for international students who are learning EAP for the first time to understand what a thesis statement is. They come from different educational backgrounds and they are trying to do a post-graduate degree in an English-speaking (that’s my teaching contexts) country. They probably have never heard or written a thesis statement before. Add the term argumentative essay, and things become even more complicated. This applies to any student who is first introduced to terms thesis and argumentative essay. That’s when  the Picasso in me takes action. I draw a fish.

The fish

Why a fish? Well, it gives a good representation of the connection between the thesis and the arguments. The back bone of the fish is the thesis statement, and the arguments are the fish’s bones, all the bones are connected connected to the backbone. I often tell my learners that if a bone breaks, then the fish is in trouble, Just like their essays. I say, ”Your arguments need to be linked to your thesis statement and what you are trying to prove”.


Follow up task: When I am teaching writing and students have written a thesis statement and have a draft of the main body of the  essay, I ask them to go over the main body and write down the arguments (main ideas). I then tell them to look at their thesis and see if there is a connection and what that connection is. They can even draw their own fish if they want to!

The ‘referenced’ drawing

In-text citations are also quite hard for students. I find that my students get overwhelmed by the hard vocabulary in paraphrased sources or quotes (especially in academic texts) that they lose sight of the mechanics of referencing. Very often I show them how to do in-text citations by drawing. Below you can see two examples. One shows how I explain citing a secondary source and the other shows them what ibid means. So, after going through all the websites that are dedicated to referencing, I turn these concepts into visuals.

                      IBIDblack and Jackson

These pictures are all on my wall and help me explain in a very simple way some really hard things!

What do you use drawing for? Feel free to leave a comment below and share this post if you like it! Thanks for reading    🙂

Till next time…..


E-books: An Interview with Phil Wade

Hi Phil,

First of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview. As a teacher and a blogger, I am really interested in e-books, so I thought it was time to pick your brain a bit, and ask you a few questions about e-books. So, here are my questions.

What is an e-book (what are its properties) and how can it be read?

That is a good question. I think the simplest ebooks are PDFs. You can read them on any device. The most popular version is the ePub format that most online ebook distributors use. There are various other formats too but for me, I just think about the original Word Doc on my computer and then select ‘all formats’ when I upload them. Doing this helps anyone with any device read them from iPads to Kindles to phones to maybe even watches I guess.

Why e-books? I mean why did you decide to make an e-book as opposed to sharing everything on your personal blog for example?

Well, I went through an article writing phase where I felt that articles were a good way to share ideas and help people learn things. Then I went into blogging and learned about how I can interact with people quicker and become part of a blogging community. After that, I realized that I wanted to write longer blog posts but in the same kind of direct style. So, I started writing short ebooks as I loved the idea of having a collection on my iPad and reading short books on the bus, at break time or at home. I really liked having complete books i.e. introductions, main parts and samples. Each could deal with one subject and looked professional, I hoped.

What are the advantages of an e-book?

For me, I can read them on my phone. I use my phone all day for everything almost. Being able to open an ebook and read a page when I have some time between lessons or on my commute is very helpful. I can also quickly move through the book and change books.  Every week, I am able to select my weekly reading list and put them on my phone or iPad too. If I come across something new, I can download it on the bus and read it there and then. As I also teach with a phone and tablet, having books handy to open and use is very convenient and not as heavy as carrying around textbooks.

Are there any disadvantages?

I wouldn’t sit and read for hours on my phone, iPad or even computer. I prefer to read a short book or just a part in one go. Long ebooks can take time to download too. Some people use black and white or grey Kindles which I am not keen on. I much prefer a colour iPad Retina for reading.

Can teachers make an income from e-books?

Hmmmm. The golden question. I would say NO. I don’t know anyone who does but I guess some must do as there are lots of ebook writers. Probably novels make better money but only if the writers are known and they do marketing, lots of it. Most of the comments I have had from teachers/writers is related to this. Some are not happy about free ebooks or ebooks in general. Actually, I approached several publishers and none were interested. You can’t blame them though. I like writing and sharing them. If you think it is going to make you millions, you will be very surprised.

The majority of new ebook writers seem to be either bloggers eager to make a book or writers at publishers who want to make better money. I advise both to research costs and potential profits. The new VAT rule devastated the industry so you will make a lot less money now than before. When you end up with less than 50 or 40% of a book and then have to pay taxes in your own country, you do have to question if it’s worth the hassle.

I’d like you to now give us a step to step guide on how to go about making and uploading/sharing an e-book. Let’s call this the e-book starter kit.

Go the easy way and use an online platform. Write your book on it, select a cover and click ‘publish’. Done. I spent weeks of pulling out my hair doing formatting and I almost quit. I saw the other day and it seemed good. I find writing on these platforms to be much easier than writing a Word Doc. Here is a much better explanation of the full process than I could give:


Can you tell us a bit about your e-books? What do you write about? How do you get inspired? How has writing e-books affected/benefited you, your career?

I wrote 10 ebooks for Business English teachers. They are based on years of teaching and aimed at helping teachers become better at BE. My aim was to focus on developing teachers so they can help themselves rather than just be dependent on using books and worksheets all the time, even though they are good. I also crowdsourced a TEFL Teacher Tips ebook with some newish friends and co-wrote an IELTS Tips ebook.

The first 6 books were almost fully formed in my head as I had been thinking about them for years and I had already written articles on them so the books were a natural extension. The other 4 in the series I had to come up with from scratch as I decided to do a series. I had always been jealous of series and series editor and I thought “why can’t I have one?”. No publisher would ever let me write a BE book let alone a series. So the other books took some time to come up with. I just kept teaching and writing down possible topic ideas that colleagues would like.

The Teacher Tips one had ideas from all of us so I can’t take any credit for that one and the IELTS one I only helped with as my colleague, Jenny Bedwell, is an IELTS genius.

I have about 6 more ebooks in various stages on my computer. I am great with the ideas but writing 10+ pages is hard. I can easily write 5-10.

As the first 10 are free, I have made no money from them but I really enjoy seeing the downloads and hearing nice comments from people who find them useful. Most of these have been from poor areas where they can’t afford or even get traditional books. I also love writing and the whole process. I found a wonderful editor, Noreen Lam, who is very positive like me and really helps me come up with good ebooks. At the beginning, I was 100% against having an editor because some previous ones I had worked with had been a bit too tough, I needed more of a thinking partner than a member of the grammar police 😉 And someone who understood ebooks and edevices. They aren’t just books on phones.

I benefit from increasing my PLN too and I have been lucky enough to get to know other writers and people in the industry. We all support each other. As I see it, the main problem is always advertising. It is very very hard to promote indie ebooks as not every journal or TEFL association wants to review them. Perhaps though this is a good thing as it makes a very distinct line between traditional publishing and digital. This does mean that we need to develop the alternative publishing industry though which is why I created a marketing campaign for me and 3 other authors (Adam Simpson, Jorge Sette and Tyson Seburn) . I started with some images showing our ebooks and added the ‘by teachers for teachers’ and ‘for teachers by teachers’ slogans and #ELTebooks. As I see it, if each author advertises all the books, we each get more coverage and hopefully, the amount of writers will grow. This really is ELT writers making ebooks for other ELT teachers. Some critics have said the quality isn’t as good as real books and that we may be lowering coursebook writers incomes or pay etc but I don’t agree. From what I know, all publishers are having a tough time and really should be moving more into technology. These ebooks are a new niche as they are very specific, short and accessible. Published books tend to be longer, more formal and more general. They need mass markets and to be based on market research and forecasts. Our ebooks can be about anything and made much faster. This is a completely different market, as I see it.

Another point is that I actually haven’t worked anywhere in years that has used traditional coursebooks as nobody can afford them and they aren’t convenient. Every place I work uses digital materials and the odd handout. I even make ebooks for my courses now at the end to revise everything. I’m not bashing publishers or coursebook writers at all. I think they are great and I wish I could work on them but I’m not that good, famous or lucky. I believe in diversity and empowering teachers. I hope my books appeal to teachers and help them develop.

Oh, I entered the BE books for the David Riley award too and they were mentioned. That was incredible. My ELTons application wasn’t quite as succesful.

Where can someone find your e-books?

On Smashwords and iTunes. I don’t use Amazon which nobody seems to understand why. I don’t think you can give free books on there and I heard there is a set minimum price. I like the culture of Smashwords as it is for indie writers and iTunes is all about quality.

Business English Teacher Development series:

Top IELTS Speaking Tips:

TEFL Teacher Tips



Thank you so much for this interview!

My pleasure. It was very nice to be asked. I love your blog and your FB posts    🙂

Follow #ELTebooks on FB

ELTebooks blog



Phil has worked in ELT for 15 years. His current teaching interests are Business English, speaking skills and Blended Learning. He is a qualified Coach and Mentor and does ELT Marketing work.