“Words are trouble, words are subtle Words of anger, words of hate Words over here, words out there In the air and everywhere” Tom Tom Club – Wordy Rappinghood

Getting students to learn new words can be difficult. Teachers might have memories of seemingly endless rote memorisation of words at school, but also appreciate that learning vocabulary is essential to learning language. In ‘The Big questions of ELT’ Scott Thornbury writes

“All in all, this suggests that the learner needs to assemble as big a lexicon as possible–even if this means putting other areas of language learning, such as the learning of grammar, ‘on hold’.”

On Sunday 21st of June at 8 PM KST #KELTchat will be discussing teaching students words. Questions discussed might include:

  • What does the teaching of new words look like in your classroom?
  • What have you found effective when teaching vocabulary?
  • What have you found ineffective?
  • What activities can teachers use to teach vocabulary in an engaging way?
  • How can you encourage students to increase their vocabulary outside of class?
  • What does it mean for students to learn or know a word?
  • What do you think is the role of L1 while teaching vocab?

Further reading

V is for vocabulary teaching

V is for vocabulary size

Misconceptions regarding learning/teaching

Even further information
(Kindly shared by @daylemajor)

Dealing with Vocabulary in Class. Vocabulary and Intensive Reading 
–a talk by Paul Nation.

Best Practice in Vocabulary Learning and Teaching
by Paul Nation


#KELTchat: Making sense of experiences (June 9 2015, 11am KST)

Announcing the next KELTchat slowburn on Tuesday 9th June 2015, 11am–7pm (KST). Check your local time here.

Topic: “Making sense of experiences”

Our jobs as English language teachers/professionals inevitably mean we encounter several experiences on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it could probably be argued that any professional’s life is made up of experiences. Some of our experiences in (or outside of) the classroom are positive, while others perhaps less so. But what do we do with these experiences, and how can we use them to better our teaching?

In the words of John Dewey:

We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.

In our next #KELTchat on Tuesday 9th June, our point of departure will be reflective practice, and how we can use it to develop professionally. There is no single ‘right way’ to engage in reflective practice, however, there are frameworks and suggestions to assist us. One such framework is the Experiential Learning Cycle, or ELC*. Familiarity with the ELC is not essential to join in with Tuesday’s KELTchat, but should you so wish to learn more about it, I highly suggest checking out Zhenya Polosatova’s blog post on the topic.

One part of the ELC is what is often called the analysis stage (although as you will see from Zhenya’s post, it does have alternative names). It is during this stage of the cycle that we try to make sense of our experiences. And it is this stage that has provided the inspiration for this KELTchat: How do you make sense of your experiences inside and outside of the classroom?

Questions that can be covered during the chat

  • What do you do after a negative experience in class?
  • Do you prefer to reflect on something that happens in class alone, or with a colleague?
  • Who do you usually talk to?
  • Do you like to think about experiences in class immediately or take some time before doing so?
  • Do you feel that talking to someone about what has happened helps you to make sense of an experience?
  • What do you consider “talking productively about teaching?”**
  • How productive/helpful/cathartic do you find “bitching” about teaching/your experiences?**
  • Does your place of work provide you with the support to reflect on your experiences?

*It is my view, as well as the view of others who use it, that to use the ELC effectively, one needs to complete the cycle from start to finish. However, I’d like to make it clear that this chat is not about using the ELC, but rather about how we think about our experiences. What we do can of course be incorporated into the ELC by reflective practitioners already using the cycle or those who would like to try it out.

**Questions copied/adapted from this post about ‘Talking about teaching’ by Mike Griffin.

#KELTChat: the great coursebook debate (Sunday 31st May 2015, 8pm KST)

It is time for another KELTchat. The next chat will be a one hour chat and will start at 8 pm Korea time– click here for times in other areas. Even for all the recent debate, it’s probably not that controversial to say that coursebooks are here to stay – but what should our relationship with them be? While many teachers may be at times frustrated with coursebooks, they may also be to some extent reliant on them. The issue of if and how we should use coursebooks is the subject of this #keltchat. Questions

  • Are textbooks beneficial to ELT?
  • What textbooks have you used? Which were most helpful and why?
  • What are the characteristics of a good/bad textbook?
  • How do you use textbooks effectively?
  • What are alternatives to using textbooks?
  • Why might some teachers choose to use textbooks in spite of their drawbacks?
  • What strategies might teachers use to make the most of a textbook that is ill-suited to their learners?
  • If we reject coursebooks on the basis that a grammar based, synthetic syllabus is not effective at causing learning, what alternatives do we have? Should we teach grammar at all?

If you have never participated in a chat before but would like to start, there are some useful hints on the how-to tab above. Questions and contributions of any kind are also welcome at our Facebook page. We hope you can join us for the chat.

#KELTChat Slowburn: “Participation: what is it, and (how) should we measure it?” 19th May 2015, 11am-7pm (KST)

Tuesday sees another longer form #keltchat Slowburn™, happening from 11 am to 7 pm KST (click here for times where you are). Slowburn™ chats are designed for people to drop in and out of the chat, and to allow topics to be developed in a little more depth than our one hour chats. You are not obliged or even expected to participate for the full eight hours. The topic for this chat is participation in class. As teachers in any context, this might be one of the ways in which we might judge a student. In fact, anecdotally speaking, a participation score seems to be a component of the grade in many university English courses in Korea, but less common in other contexts. Here is a link to one teacher’s participation rubric for you to read and which will form the basis for the chat: Participation Rubric. Here are some questions based on the rubric and the notion of assessing participation as a whole. These can form the basis for contributions to the chat and discussions, but input not based on these questions is welcomed.

  • What is your definition of participation? How does it differ from the rubric posted here? Would you like to share your own rubric?
  • Do you assess participation in your class? Is this something you would like to start or stop doing?
  • Does having a participation grade make it more likely that students will participate?
  • Are there any potential drawbacks from having a participation score?
  • Does a participation grade privilege naturally outgoing students? How could we compensate for this?
  • Should students be able to play a role in assessing their own participation, as suggested in the rubric here?

If you have never participated in a chat before but would like to start, there are some useful hints on the how-to tab above. Questions and contributions of any kind are also welcome at our Facebook page.

#KELTchat on “The myth of proficiency” May 10th, 2015

It is time for another KELTchat. The next chat  will be a one hour chat and will start at 8 pm Korea time– click here for times in other areas.

The main focus of the chat is “The myth of proficiency” as discussed by Donald Freeman at the IATEFL 2015 conference. The talk can be viewed here and is not required viewing in order to participate in the chat. Also, the slides from the presentation can be found here: Donald Freeman Plenary (1). Finally, Lizzie Pinard has written up the talk here: http:// http://reflectiveteachingreflectivelearning.com/2015/04/11/iatefl-2015-opening-plenary-donald-freeman/

Regarding this topic, one teacher says, “It struck a chord because my classroom seems a long way from the ‘real world’ and I don’t really feel as if my job is really readying students to go out and speak English, more to give them a bit of a peek at what they might have to do in future.”
What do you think?
How do you see your role as a teacher with reference to proficiency and preparing students for the real world?
If we are not preparing learners for the “real world”, what else can we be doing?

In the talk, Freeman quotes Nunan who says:

“Proficiency, simply put, refers to the ability to perform real world tasks with a specified degree of skill.”
Nunan, 1987.“The ghost in the machine,”

What do you think of this definition?
Do you share this definition?
Are there any problems with this definition?

Freeman points out that proficiency is often graded using terms such as “near-native”, but this is an experiential and geopolitical concept rather than an empirical and linguistic one. He argues that this makes it almost impossible to teach or assess on this basis because the concept covers a wide and shifting range of knowledge, skills and contexts; language is like water, not ice. He argues for a much more bounded view of language and proficiency in the classroom.

How might teaching towards “native-like” proficiency impact your teaching?
How might freeing yourself from the shackles of this myth impact your teaching?
What kind of boundaries do you or could you set up in your classroom to make clearer goals?
What about learners’ voices? How can a teacher involve learners in the critical consideration of this myth in order to determine how it affects language learning goals?


Here’s a link to the storify of the chat in case you missed it or just want to re-live it.

#KELTchat Slowburn: My #YoungerTeacherSelf. 28th April 2015, 11am–7pm (KST)

This Tuesday, we have another #KELTchat slowburn. Join us from 11am–7pm (KST)—find out what time that is in your part of the world here—to discuss what advice you would like to give yourself (if you could) and how your teaching career has developed over the years (or months).

The title of this #KELTchat is my #YoungerTeacherSelf, which is inspired by Joanna Malefaki’s post from March. In her post, Joanna wondered what advice she’d like to give her 20-something self about teaching. Her post inspired several other bloggers to think about what advice they’d like to give themselves (links below), and got us thinking that it must be a pretty popular topic.


As always, the chat can take several directions, and we encourage you to come and participate with any advice that you’d like to give your younger self. To get you started, here are a few questions you might like to consider?

  • What three things would you like to tell yourself when you were just starting out teaching?
  • Think of a moment in class that didn’t go as planned. How did you react then. How would you react now?
  • Can you remember the first class you ever taught?
  • What made you want to get into teaching? How did you feel during your first week? month?
  • If you could go back and change one thing? Would you? What would you change?
  • What’s the biggest regret you have as a teacher?
  • What’s the biggest achievement you have as a teacher?
  • How has your opinion of teaching ‘approaches’, ‘methods’ changed over time?
  • Do you have a cringeworthy moment from your early days teaching that you just cannot forget?

If you can think of any other questions suitable for the topic, please leave a comment below, and we’ll be sure to add them here.


In addition to the questions, you may like to try the following task before or during the chat:

  • Read one (or more) of the posts that you haven’t read yet and share a tidbit that speaks to you.


Joanna has shared links to all of the other bloggers’ posts on her post, which if you haven’t read yet, I highly recommend you go and do. Here are the links from Joanna’s post:

Hana Ticha, Marjorie RosenbergTheodora PapapanagiotouChristina Chorianopoulou, Sylvia Guinan, Sandy Millin, Angelos Bollas, Zhenya Polosatova, Fiona, Phil Wade, Mike Griffin, Sophia Khan, David Petrie, Ageliki Asteri, T. Veigga, Clare

We hope to see you at the #KELTchat this Tuesday, and don’t forget, the beauty of the slowburn is that you can dip in and out at your leisure.

#KELTChat: Politeness, inter-cultural communication and ELF. Sunday 19th April 2015, 8pm (KST)

We’re having a one hour #keltchat this weekend, on the topic of politeness as it relates to communication between non-native speakers of English from different cultures. However, politeness itself is a slippery concept, and may not mean the same thing even to members of a culture or community of practice. Post-modern theories of politeness see the phenomenon as dynamic and requiring a bottom-up approach rather than imposing categories from above (Watts 2003). For teachers, it may be helpful to approach the topic of politeness in the same way. In light of this, here are some questions that might be useful to think about before the chat:

  • Do you agree that politeness must be approached from the bottom up?
  • How can this be done in an EFL classroom?
  • What kinds of strategies can we use to become aware of inter-cultural miscommunication?
  • What kinds of strategies can we teach students in noticing and navigating different norms of politeness?
  • What experiences have you had of trying to teach politeness in your classroom?
  • What have your students done in class that might be considered rude? Why so?
  • Where might we get the materials to discuss politeness?
  • Do you think that there are any universal or widespread notions of politeness that might be useful to teach students?
  • Have your students ever shared stories or experiences of inter-cultural miscommunication or politeness failings?
  • How can we start discussions with students about politeness in an inter-cultural sense?

If you have never participated in a chat before but would like to start, there are some useful hints on the how-to tab above. Questions and contributions of any kind are also welcome at our Facebook page. We hope you can join us for the chat.


Watts, R. J. (2003). Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

**UPDATE** Further Reading

Here are some free-to-view links related to politeness and intercultural communication that may be of interest to anyone interested in the topic.