Language teaching is wonderful. We get to make an impact on our students’ lives, spark their curiosity, and celebrate success with them. But there are also frustrating moments, moments when our motivation dips and it’s just at this point when we need to shift our focus back on ourselves. With this in very much in mind, we thought we’d share five super easy CPD tips which may just give you the boost you need.
1 - Try the old adage: “something old, something new, something borrowed…”
Why not revisit an old activity? Think back to the things you loved doing as a language learner. One of my favourites was Bingo! and there are so many variations on this game; the students could draw write down prepositions or particles on their grids (3 X 3 works well) which go with adjectives or phrasal verbs. You then read out a gapped sentence, e.g. “I’m really keen <BLANK> Japanese cartoons” or “We had to put <BLANK> the festival because of the rain.” For the gap, you can either say “blank” or some silly word like “banana”. The students listen, think about the missing word and if they have it on their grid, cross it off. When a student or team shouts ‘Bingo!’, they have to call out their prepositions or particles in a complete correct sentence.
Challenge yourself to try something new. Research one of these activities online; running dictation, balloon debate or hot seating; or one of these tools: a poll on Mentimeter, an escape room or infographic on Genial.ly or background noises on noises.online. Try one activity out in the classroom and then ask your students for feedback. Extend it further and ask them to write a review with a star rating.
Finally, borrow an idea and activity from a colleague (and we do mean borrow). They’ll need to physically give you something (it could be a lesson plan, a worksheet or perhaps an object) which you’ll need to promise to look after. When you return it, let them know how it went.
2- Keep a journal
“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey
Reflection can be a powerful CPD tool. Set aside some time at the end of your teaching day to write some very brief observations on an activity, one specific class or even the whole day. This is particularly useful when you’re trying something out for the first time or after a long time, as you’ll be able to go back to the journal and see what worked, what didn’t and how you would improve it next time. You may find it useful to ask yourself these three questions:
- What worked well? Why?
- What didn’t work well? Why not?
- What changes would I make next time?
3- Grow your connections
‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ English saying.
This is not to say that a language teacher’s life is full of problems but there’s nothing more rewarding than sharing knowledge, experience, and ideas with others. Find yourself a buddy, someone who you can exchange thoughts with on lesson ideas, new techniques, or concerns. Don’t forget that your colleagues are no longer limited to the people in your staffroom or the local teachers’ association. Social Media means that distance is no longer a barrier. There are teacher communities for language teachers on Facebook. Alternatively, connect with teachers on LinkedIn. Search for “ELT Teacher,” check the profile and start connecting with like-minded people. When you connect, add in a short message so that the person you are connecting with knows you are for real, something like:
“Hi, I’m an English Language teacher in [place], teaching mainly [level of students], I hope you’ll agree to connect.”
4- Milk the world wide web!
You don’t need to spend a fortune on ELT methodology books to keep abreast of the latest trends. There is so much out there for free. Start with Richmond ELT’s own Go Beyond ELT site which has a wealth of resources, such as news from the world of ELT, training opportunities, classroom materials and so much more.
Google your favourite ELT author. Many of them have their own websites and regularly blog about methodology, innovation, and teaching ideas or try a search for “ELT blogs.” And remember to ask your new connections on social media for their recommendations.
No time or energy for reading? Consider listening to a podcast while commuting, taking the dog for a walk, doing the housework… A search for “TEFL Podcast” or “EFL Teaching Podcast” should bring up some interesting results but you can also search for your favourite authors or an area you’re particularly interested in, for example “learner motivation,” “learning technologies,” or something as simple as “teaching vocabulary.”
5- Attend events, sign up for a course!
So much of our life is now online which means that we can attend training events all around the world, often for free! Again, check out the training opportunities on Richmond’s hub. After that, some ELT international concerns, like the British Council and IATEFL regularly offer training, and within Spain, TESOL Spain runs an annual conference in March for a modest fee.
For those of you who would welcome a little more depth, Future Learn offers free online courses over 3 – 6 weeks with a time commitment of about 2 – 3 hours a week. Search their website using keywords such as “Teaching English / TEFL,” “English Grammar for Teachers,” “Language Assessment in the Classroom,” “Inclusive Teaching,” or even “Educational Neuroscience.”
For a fee, you can sign up for short online courses which combine self-paced learning with some synchronous sessions. A google search of famous names plus “online course” is bound to bring up numerous possibilities.
We’d love to hear how you’ll be supercharging your CPD this year. Please post your comments and ideas below.