Book Review: Presentation Lesson Hacks and some hacks for the EAP classroom

Phil Wade was kind enough to send me a copy of his book Presentation Hacks Book. I also read Helen Waldron’s post about the book and it is excellent ,so I started panicking. What can I add? Phil suggested writing a review/post about which hack I would use in the EAP class and voila. Here it is.

Using the book Presentation Lesson Hacks in my EAP classroom

Phil talks about various hacks that can be used to improve the learners’ presentation skills. Before we see which hacks can be used, let’s see what Phil means by hacks. They are:

activities at the micro-skill level designed to engage the students to raise awareness of their current abilities and to help become more productive in a low stress, engaging, student-centred and encouraging environment. The hacks are like short-cuts or back doors to gaining better presentation skills and becoming a real presenter rather than just someone who repeats memorised phrases or reads off a tablet or sheet. Presentation hacks incorporate teacher to student, student to teacher, student to student, pair and group activities as well as single student work, reflection and mental preparation. All of these are aimed at hacking the problems and weaknesses students have.

                                                                                                     (Wade, 2015)

Among the hacks Phil mentions, the ones that stand out to me and have relevance to my context, have to do with Voice (these are in the Body chapter or Phil’s book). In EAP, most of the students are international students who have a different L1, they often have difficulty with pronunciation, intonation and stress patterns (I call all these micro skills voice). My students are usually Asian and when Asian students present, their intonation seems to be, for the majority, quite flat, and they often sound quite ‘robotic ‘. Intonation is what I will focus on.

Intonation hack

Phil has a great idea for a hack that can address intonation. First of all, it is necessary to elicit students understanding of different intonation patterns.So, it is a good idea to practice a word like ‘really” with rising and falling intonation.  Then, the teacher can draw a line on the board and ask students to draw another line which goes up, down, or up and down depending on the intonation the teacher used when saying something. This will allow students to actually visualise the intonation pattern. After drawing different intonation patterns, the teacher and the students can discuss which one is the best in each circumstance! I am definitely going to use this hack next time I am teaching intonation to my pre-sessional students.

For more information about Phil’s book and how to order go to  smashwords!


Happy teaching everyone!!

Till next time……


Jason Fried TED talk -Lesson Plan

Today I am sharing with you another TED talk I used in my class. I teach the listening skill and my learners are adults who are studying English for academic purposes. The lesson I designed again focuses on note taking. It was very appropriate for them as most of them have work experience and they are also management students. This TED talk is appropriate for B2 upper-intermediate learners. It’s great for EAP and Business English students. Like the Amy Cuddy TED talk lesson plan I shared earlier this month, there is a lot of note taking but this time instead of getting them to write a summary, I asked them to use their notes to answer questions in their groups.

Since I was asked in the comments section, I think it’s a good idea to mention that these lessons are similar to attending mini lectures. During lectures students are asked to take notes. They then use their notes (detailed) and have little group discussions based on questions. They may even have a seminar discussion. That’s what I tried to practice with this lesson.

Jason Fried talks about distractions at work. He argues that managers and meetings are one of the biggest distractions at work and makes 3 suggestions on how to minimise distractions.

  1. Have a half day silent Thursday during which no one is allowed to talk.
  2. Go from active communication to passive communication such as emailing and I.Ms.
  3. Cancel the next meeting.

My class

My students loved this talk. They giggled quite a bit and the 3 suggestions got them talking. I actually got them to debate. The final task I chose was ”imagine your ideal office/ working environment”. This does not have that much to do with the TED talk, so you can omit it if you like. My students really had fun though, and gave mini pair presentations (which ties into what I am teaching them at this stage of the course). If you want the lesson to end with a blast, keep the ideal office task as well! This lesson took about 80 minutes. I have not included minutes in this lesson plan. The activities were done in groups.

The Video

The Tasks

Before listening

    1 You are going to watch a talk by Jason Fried called,

    ‘’Why work doesn’t happen at work’’.

    What do you think it’s about?

  1. Where do you go when you want to do something important like work or study?
  2. What kind of distractions do people have at work?
  3. If you were the manager of a company, what measures would you take in order to minimise distractions?

Watch the TED talk and take detailed notes. You will need your notes to answer questions later on.

After listening

Answer the following questions

    1. How did people answer Fried’s question about where they go to do something important.

   2. What distractions do employees have at work?

   3. What’s the connection between work and sleep?

   4. What 3 measures does Fried suggest managers take in order to minimise distractions?

Debate about measures: In your groups discuss the effectiveness of the measures. Do you agree with them?

In groups decide on your idea working environment (office). When you have finished, you will present this to the rest of the class.

You can find the TED talk tasks on PDF here Jason Fried TED talk LP

If you try this lesson, let me know how it goes. Feel free to share.

Till next time…….

EAP Academic Speaking: Presentation Skills Needs Analysis Questionnaire

Here is a needs analysis questionnaire you may want to use with your EAP students when teaching presentation skills.  I teach pre-sessional EAP in the UK and my learners are international students who are doing an MA. I based the questions on this particular context. You may be able to use it with your learners as well if you teach EAP presentation skills. This questionnaire can probably be used with Business English learners as well, after a few adaptations are made to some of the questions.

Untitledeap questionnaire

You can find the questionnaire here:

EAP Academic Speaking (press open, save or save as)

Till next time……

My #1stobservation

If you ask a teacher to recall one of their best teaching moments, I am 100% sure the majority of those asked will say, ” Observations!!”  Yeah… um… maybe not. So, I am going to write two posts, maybe even more (yeap, cause one is never enough) about this ‘hot’ topic. This post will focus on my first observation, my next posts will be about… (I ain’t gonna tell you. It’s a surprise!!). Oh! I am going to add a hash tag #1stobservation cause I would really like to read other teachers/bloggers’ stories as well, and cause blog challenges are fun, you learn!!



Let me start by saying that I got properly observed for the first time in 2011. I had already been teaching for about 13 years, but only then did I experience an observation. Actually no, scratch that. My first ‘observation/spying experience’ happened when I got my first teaching job at a private language  school in Athens. The owner of the language school stood behind the door and probably listened to what I said during the session. I know she was there cause I could see the top of her head from the door window, and she made a few comments regarding the lesson. So, that was my first ever kinda observation. Can’t really say much about that one, so let’s get down to business and go back to 2011. As I said earlier, the first proper observation happened when I got my first EAP job in the UK.

(FYI: in Greece teachers don’t observe other teachers, at least they didn’t back in the day when I first started teaching. Some teachers may get observed when they first start teaching in the public sector but not always).

My #1stobservation

When I first heard I was going to get observed, I panicked. I thought to myself, ” Oh! No! What if I mess up? What if my coordinator/observer doesn’t like my lesson?” As part of the observation process, I had to go into the office and share my thoughts about what I was planning to do. I got a few suggestions from my coordinator, and then went home to make my super duper lesson plan. I had objectives, lesson outcomes, anticipated problems, tasks analysed, the lots. I was set. I had designed the crème de la crème of lessons!!

The day in brief: It was a reading class I remember. I decided to seat my students in two horse shoes. The students were seated in such a way that they could actually see each other. I cut the text into two parts. I was going to do jigsaw reading. I thought that it would be a good idea to pre teach each group’s unknown vocabulary. I did. Then the students read their texts, group A and group B. I then moved students around, so they formed pairs one student from group A, one from group B. They now had to talk about the whole text. They did. I read the instructions for the exercises, once, twice, checked to see if they understood the instructions.They then did  the reading comprehension exercises. We then did whole class error correction and checked all the tasks. All in all, a good lesson. My students were engaged, on topic and there was a really good atmosphere. So, while I do want to toot my own horn and tell you all the great things about this session, I won’t. Nope. I will talk about weaknesses. So, now fellow reader/teacher can you spot the weaknesses in this lesson? What could I have done differently?

Drum roll


My instructions: I read them 3-4 times. I thought that by repeating everything they would, at some point, get it. I should have read the instructions, asked CCQs and done an example with them.

Pre-teaching vocabulary based on texts: I taught and checked group A’s vocabulary and then group B’s. While I was working with group A, group B was in Lala land and vice versa. I could have ignored the unknown vocabulary and not pre taught it, or asked them to use a black marker and delete all their unknown words, and only read the words they understood and then deduce meaning from that. I could have also given them dictionaries and asked them to look for words if they thought it was necessary.

My tasks: The jigsaw reading was done all wrong. I should have told them to read the texts, take notes. I should have then taken away the original texts, and then put them into pairs. Afterwards, I should have asked them to recreate the texts based on their notes.

My super duper lesson plan: was too super duper. I made a lesson plan that resembled the ones I did during my MA, the ones that were part of my dissertation. It was not at all practical. I flipped through pages and was panicking a lot!! I could have just used ticks and post it notes!!!

Checking tasks: I spent a lot of time checking errors and correcting tasks. I could have showed on the projector some of the answers, did a bit of peer correcting as well.

After the lesson I had a meeting with my coordinator. He gave me some very helpful suggestions. I learnt, took a deep breath and prepared the next lesson.

So, yeah. That was it. I survived my first observation and I learnt so much from it! If you do write a blog post about this and add the hash tag #1stobservation, please let me know!! If you want to leave a comment, feel free to do so.

Till next time…..

Iatefl 2015 Chris Smith’s talk


Christopher Smith

Chris Smith started his talk with a bit of information about the history of error correction. He mentioned how different approaches viewed error correction. He gave the example of Audiolingualism, where the teacher used to correct everything and Humanistic approaches where the notion is to correct nothing . Chris did point out that these statements -correct everything/nothing- are a simplistic /caricature view of how the approaches dealt with error correction. He then moved on to talk about Krashen and Terrel’s approach towards error correction. According to them, error correction did not work due to the affective filter (students got scared and embarrassed and this hindered their learning). This kind of attitude affected communicative language learning greatly.

Screen shot of Chris Smith's slides: Krashen and Terrel quote

Screen shot of Chris Smith’s slides: Krashen and Terrel quote

BUT research shows that error correction does work. Students who receive error correction improve.

Screen shot of Chris Smith's slides: Ellis' quote

Screen shot of Chris Smith’s slides: Ellis’ quote

Chris Smith then moved on to the main part of his talk which was his research. He  carried out research regarding error correction on speaking.

Chris Smith’s research

Learner Profile

200 EAP students (pre-master’s students). 2/3 of the learners were Chinese and the rest from the Middle East, Iraq. Kazakhstan. Most learners were in their mid-twenties. Language level: upper-intermediate.

Chris’ research started with general statements/research questions about error correction.

1). I believe error correction helps me improve.

Very strong agreement.

2). I want more error correction than what I get.

Agree (students, in general, want more error correction than what they receive).

But some people say you have to be careful with the amount of error correction you give. You might scare/upset your learners. This lead to Chris’ third statement/research question.

3). Being corrected by a teacher about speaking is embarrassing.

Strong disagreement.

Techniques for Error Correction

What kind of error correction technique do students prefer?

Student to student dialogues: Suggested techniques

  • Interrupting students and giving error correction.
  • Emailing students with error correction.
  • Writing errors on the board and then doing group error correction.
  • Giving bits of paper with individual feedback.

The most popular technique was giving individual feedback on bits of paper.

Recommendations on how to do that:

  • Use Postit notes so they can stick the bit of paper somewhere and because it is neat.
  • Cover the whole class. All the students must receive individual error correction on a Postit note.

What kind of error correction technique do students prefer?

Student to teacher dialogue: Suggested Techniques

  • Teacher elicits self-correction.
  • Open the error correction discussion to the whole class.
  • Repeat with the correct feedback.
  • Stop, correct and explain.

The most popular technique was to stop, correct and explain. Students prefer direct correction. Eliciting answers came third and the least popular technique was opening error correction to the whole class. According to Chris’ findings for these students, it is OK for the teacher to correct, but if the teacher tells another student to correct a mistake, this may mean that the mistake was a simple one, a mistake that another student can correct. This may make a learner feel more embarrassed.


Screen shot of Chris Smith's slides

Screen shot of Chris Smith’s slides

Final thoughts

The teacher needs to think of the time s/he will do error correction, plan it and use the most suitable techniques. Error correction does work and students want more of it!!

Screen shot of Chris Simth's slide. More error correction.

Screen shot of Chris Simth’s slide. More error correction.

Chris Smith works at the English Language Center of Sheffield University. You can watch his talk here More Iatefl 2015 posts Donald Freeman’s talk Joy Egbert’s talk   Till next time……….