There can be no doubt that EFL tutors are generally a positive, enthusiastic bunch. We love sharing tips with each other, will happily swap lesson plans and ideas and are quick to help out if other teachers are struggling with something.
Alongside this ‘get stuck in’ attitude, there is also a real commitment from many teachers to continual improvement. Observing colleagues is a fantastic way to pick up different ideas and learn from more experienced colleagues.
And in addition to the people around you, there are some great books that can help refocus and refresh your teaching. We’re not going to include textbooks in this list. Instead, we’re focussing on authors who look at pedagogy and reference books.
So, our favourite EFL books for teachers and the ones we would recommend most highly to a new colleague:
- Discussions that Work by Penny Ur. Full of ideas for oral practice that will help fluency rather than staged drills. With concise instructions, you can turn to this book and use an idea in your lesson immediately.
- Teaching English Grammar: What to teach and How to Teach it by Jim Scrivener. This is one of those books that starts to feel like a lifejacket. When you’re struggling for ways to present a complex grammar point, this will be invaluable.
- Taboos and Issues by Richard MacAndrew and Ron Martinez. Liven up lessons and get students fully engaged in discussion with controversial topics. Obviously, caution and discretion are necessary when deciding whether it would be appropriate to use this with your class.
- 700 Classroom Activities by David Seymour and Maria Popova. Packed full of ideas that you can either use as is or adapt, the index means you can find an activity relevant to your lesson in seconds.
- Practical English usage by Michael Swan. This seems a standard, perhaps obvious, choice. But if you’re one of the many new EFL teachers who lacks confidence in their grammatical knowledge, this will become your bible. Our copy is dog-eared and tea-stained and we love it!
Another way we can continue to improve is to stay engaged in the current discussion around EFL teaching. Social media offers an excellent opportunity to hear directly from leaders in the field such as Nik Peachey. Get online and get involved. There are fantastic blogs, Twitter chats and email newsletters, all of which will help inspire you and keep you up-to-date with the latest thinking.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on our list – what’s your favourite? Are there other books that you would put on the list instead?
There are so many ways that EFL teachers can make use of technology to aid their teaching. You can use pop songs for listening practice, direct students to useful websites for independent learning or bring technology into the classroom for a lesson with a difference. There are also multiple sites that, while not so useful in the classroom, are perfect for cutting down your preparation time.
We decided we couldn’t possibly tackle them all in one go so we’re going to run a series of posts on this subject. This post, the first in the series, focusses on how you can use technology to save you time.
Create self-marking tests
These won’t replace your own knowledge of how well students are doing but are great for quickly checking areas that your class needs additional support on. Or, you could set a reading for homework, followed by some multiple choice questions to check that students have understood. If you find yourself spending a long time marking quizzes then this video will show you how to let Google forms do it for you!
Whether it’s your weekly planning or always leaving homework setting to the last-minute, we all have an organisational weak spot. Programmes like Dropbox or Google Drive can help with this. Create a shared folder with your class (maybe ask them to submit their email addresses as part of your initial test) and upload each week’s homework assignment to the relevant folder. That way you can plan homeworks in advance but still easily edit if you need to make last-minute changes in response to a lesson.
Hand over to the experts
Sometimes it takes a lot of time and thought to get an interesting lead in for a dry topic like grammar. The British Council have a great series of grammar videos for teenagers – these make for a good introduction to grammar points through natural conversation. BBC Learning English also has some great videos that can be used for introductions or explanations. Either use these in class or get your students watching them at home in preparation.
Quickly check texts
Grab an interesting online article or extract, copy-paste it into Wordie and select your learners’ level. Wordie will tell you which words are at the appropriate level and which are likely to cause problems in class. You can then easily either edit the text, create a cheat sheet or set up a task. A lesson based on an authentic article in just a few minutes, perfect!
It can easy to get sidetracked by technology and I’m sure we’ve all been distracted by Facebook at some point when we should have been planning a lesson. But, there are times when it really can help you out!
What is Realia?
In the context of EFL and ESOL lessons, realia means the use of real objects or material to develop skills in the target language. Some EFL tutors will specifically mean real materials written in English, for examples leaflets or recordings original intended for native-speakers not for education. Other EFL tutors use the term for objects which are used a a spring-board for discussion in English.
Much realia like advertising boards, magazines and greeting cards can provide great vocabulary in the form of puns, idioms, and slang.
Why use EFL Realia?
If you are learning or teaching English and don’t yet know all about IELTS then read on – it’s probably the most influential English test in the world at the moment!
What is IELTS?
IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It is similar in some ways to the TOEFL test.
Who takes IELTS?
IELTS is for non-native speakers of English, and there are two variations (although half the test is the same for both). Take the Academic IELTS test in order to enter an English-speaking university. Take the General IELTS test for any other situation, for example to demonstrate your level of English for a job applications. In addition some countries require a particular level in the test for immigration or visa purposes.
What’s the structure of the tests?
The test has four sections: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The first three sections are paper-based, roughly an hour each, and you will normally doing them in the morning. The speaking test is normally held in the afternoon although some test centres allow candidates to book a speaking test on a different day.
Is there a IELTS test for different levels?
No! This means that if you are a beginner or even intermediate level it can be daunting. The first task is often a graph or table of numerical information with questions. However if you have completed lots of practice tests you will be better prepared and find them less challenging.
What is the speaking test like?
In Parts 1 and 2 most of the questions are informal questions about you. You might get questions like “Do you enjoy reading?” do which you should replace with three or four short and medium sentences -try to give at least one specific answer.
Where do I take the test?
Go to ielts.org to find your nearest test centre. There are test centres all over the world! It is quite likekly to be at a language schools, college or universities.
How much should I prepare for the IELTS test?
Step 1: learn English – you made already have made good progress here, especially if you can understand the gist of this article. Step 2: practice your English – if you are in a native-English country then get out there and talk to and listen to real people. Step 3: do English practice exercises whether on paper or the internet. Do ensure you do a mix of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Step 4: get at least five IELTS practice papers and work through them.
Among native speakers small talk is a way to start or develop a conversation – we do this when we meet someone new, or strike up a conversation with someone we don’t know very well. That’s not to say it’s not interesting in itself – I’m always interested in what people do for a living, what their hobbies are and what their families get up to – but it is also a useful social skill to put you and the other person at ease when you don’t know each other very well.
By the same token it is helpful for EFL English Learners to learn about conversation starters and small talk. Speaking is often their biggest challenge and those that thrive will be those that get into real conversations in English.
If you are learning English in the UK, many conversation starters are based on the weather. This is because the weather is so changeable and often unpredictable (being at the meeting point of 3 weather fronts) so it is on many people’s minds – particularly if they have a BBQ or outdoor picnic planned for the weekend.
Some topics for small talk are sport, hobbies, the weather, family, holidays (past and future), news, sport, entertainment, where you live, work, hobbies, fashion and celebrities. There are some topics you should avoid talking about such as salaries and finances, sales, illness, death, and others you should be cautious as it can be easy to offend such as politics, religion and topics such as sexuality and racism.
Use the ideas below to start real conversations.
Start with the weather…
- Isn’t it a lovely day?
- Can you believe how much rain we’ve been having?
- It looks like it’s going to snow.
- I long for sun and sand.
- I hear hurricane Nico is on it’s way.
- How about this weather?
- Did you bring this sunshine with you?
What’s in the news?
- Did you catch the news today?
- Did you hear about that earthquake??
- Have you been affected by the strike?
- I heard on the radio today that…
- Did you read about the job closures in the paper?
- Who do you think will win the premiership?
At the office…
- How long have you been here?
- How was your weekend?
- What are you doing at the weekend?
- I hope that sales pick up?
- Are you working late this week?
- What’s news in your department
- What’ve you been up to?
- Have you heard….?
In previous posts I have given 100 common English proverbs and 100 common English expressions and now I shall continue the theme with 100 more English proverbs. I mentioned that the previous 100 English proverbs were common enough that I had used them in a real context. The following proverbs are less popular or less well-known, but the majority will be known by most native speakers. So if you or your class are advanced students who are keen to get closer to the elusive ‘speak it like a native’ then they will make for interesting reading
- In for a penny, in for a pound
- All for one and one for all
- The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing
- You made your bed so now lie on it
- Two heads are better than one
- A burnt child dreads the fire.
- Money cannot buy happiness
- He who sups with the devil has need of a long spoon
- A stumble may prevent a fall.
- Give the devil his due
- Let sleeping dogs lie
- Look on the bright side
- Lightning never strikes twice in the same place
- What’s done can’t be undone
- Forewarned is forearmed
- An Englishman’s home is his castle
- Time and tide wait for no man.
- Barking dogs seldom bite
- Look after the pence, and the pounds will look after themselves
- Revenge is a dish best served cold
- Virtue is its own reward
- Waste not, want not
- The devil looks after his own.
- A friend in need is a friend indeed
- Give him an inch and he’ll want a yard
- A tree is known by its fruit.
- There is no such thing as a free lunch
- Spare the rod and spoil the child
- A watched pot never boils.
- There is no point in flogging a dead horse
- What goes up must come down
- Speech is silver, silence is golden
- Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer
- A job worth doing is a job worth doing well
- The devil makes work for idle hands.
- There no honour among thieves
- Starve a cold, feed a fever
- Marry in haste, repent at leisure
- A constant guest is never welcome.
- A swallow does not make the summer.
- When in Rome do as the Romans do
- An army marches on its stomach
- Loose lips sink ships
- Like cures like
- Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
- A worry shared is a worry halved
- Little strokes fell great oaks
- A rising tide lifts all boats.
- The first step is the hardest
- Procrastination is the thief of time
Conferences give you are chance to see new resources for your teaching and to give you related ideas. They also give you the opportunity to listen to some enthusiastic people in the field. But most importantly they give you the opportunity to meet fellow tutors – take up the opportunity to go to any seminars on offer, to talk to people on stalls, and even to make new random friends as you wonder around.
Do look out for fellow tutors – whether they are sitting on their own having coffee, or asking similar questions to you at stalls. Try wearing a big badge saying “I am an EFL tutor – happy to chat to other EFL tutors”.
Any prices given are estimates for guidance only and for one day.
Annual Conferences around the world
North America Annual Conferences
European Annual Conferences
UK Annual Conferences
We would love to add more to this page to make it a more useful resource. Do send us more links – we want to share good practice and support.
Are you an English learner and want to talk like a native speaker? Below are 100 English expressions which are regularly used by contemporary native speakers. I have, at some point, said them all in a real context. The occasional proverb may have crept in, but on the whole these are not proverbs.
If you are an EFL/ESOL teacher you will find them fantastic fodder for your lessons. Depending on the level of your learners, you may want to ask them which of the expressions they are already familiar with. You might then want to select additional expressions that are very likely to crop up in conversation to support their understanding in real situations. The remainder will be useful for discussion.
A fun activity for intermediate to higher students is to ask them to explain what an expression means without using any of the words from the given expression. As with proverbs it is also interesting to explore expressions from their own languages.
- Revenge is sweet
- Give credit where credit is due
- Live and let live
- Grin and bear it
- Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
- The buck stops here
- Practise what you preach
- Time flies when you’re having fun
- It will keep the wolf from the door
- The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
- See which way the wind is blowing
- If you want a thing done right, do it yourself
- If you give him enough rope he’ll hang himself
- Winning isn’t everything
- Six of one and half a dozen of the other
- The die is cast.
- Laughter is the best medicine
- No pain, no gain
- Truth is stranger than fiction
- never say never
- Little things please little minds
- Hope for the best, expect the worst
- Little by little and bit by bit
- Like a bull in a china shop
- No time like the present
- Crime does not pay
- You win some, you lose some
- Beggars can’t be choosers
- I have eyes in the back of my head
- Burn the candle at both ends
- Tomorrow never comes
- Money doesn’t grow on trees.
- He doesn’t do things by halves
- You’re never too old to learn
- From the sublime to the ridiculous
- Learn to walk before you run
- You can’t have things both ways
- Great minds think alike
- It never rains but it pours
- Let bygones by bygones
- It takes two to tango
- Never say die
- If it’s not one thing it’s another
- Old habits die hard
- The end justifies the means.
- If you can’t beat them, join them
- Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.
- History tends to repeat itself
- He is his own worst enemy
- The customer is always right
- The thin end of the wedge
- All in good time.
- Desperate times call for desperate measures
- A bad penny
- Bad news travels fast
- A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
- Accidents will happen
- Live and learn
- He who dares, wins
- Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill
- Like the blind leading the blind
Below are 100 English proverbs. They are common enough that I have, at some point, said them in a real context.
Without going overboard, English proverbs are a useful tool for the occasional EFL lesson. English learners like to know that they are learning real language and real expressions, and to know new things that native speakers know. The meaning of many is intuitive but some will need explaining – the process of discuss them will bring in new situations and new vocabulary. I recommend that you start by asking them to discuss what they think each one means with each other, then to explain it to the class, as which point you can complete the explanation, along with any new vocab that has cropped up in the discussion.
A fun followup activity, usually interesting for the whole class, is to ask them for any proverbs from their own countries that have the same meaning – some can, to an English native speaker at least, be quite amusing.
- An empty vessel makes the most noise
- He who pays the piper calls the tune
- All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
- Rats desert a sinking ship
- Measure twice, cut once
- Don’t judge a book by its cover.
- The proof of the pudding is in the eating
- A bad workman blames his tools.
- Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
- Man cannot live by bread alone
- Where there’s a will there’s a way
- Don’t hide your light under a bushel
- You reap what you sow
- All good things come to an end
- When the cat is away the mice will play
- A stitch in time saves nine.
- Kill not the goose that laid the golden egg
- A problem shared is a problem halved.
- Kill two birds with one stone
- Don’t cry over spilled milk
- You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink
- Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know
- Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me
- You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
- All is fair in love and war.
- The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
- A lender nor borrower be.
- Strike while the iron is hot
- Birds of a feather flock together
- When the going gets tough, the tough get going
- Robbing Peter to pay Paul
- Let him who is without sin cast the first stone
- A bird in hand is worth two in a bush.
- Dead men tell no lies.
- The early bird catches the worm.
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
- Don’t put the cart before the horse
- It’s no use locking the stable door after the horse has bolted
- All’s well that ends well.
- Actions speak louder than words
- It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all
- A rotten apple spoils the barrel.
- The best things in life are free.
- Curiosity killed the cat
- A leopard cannot change its spots
- Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today
- The best laid schemes of mice and men often fail
- One good turn deserves another
- Cut your coat according to your cloth
- All that glitters is not gold.
Gained some great teaching experience in the UK or overseas? Come back to the UK (or been here all along) and want to put your experience to good use – and earn a living – although the competition has stiffened somewhat since the Governments accouncement that they have cut funding for ESOL courses with immediate effect MRN article– as per usual without putting alternative provsion in place. Or head back abroad and teach in a hot and dry climate – as i-to-i say “there couldn’t be a better time to become a TEFL teacher, with an increasing demand for TEFL teachers worldwide” – although they do sell TEFL qualifications so could be biaised!
Start with searching good to see if you get lucky with a plumb job immediately:
- Search Google for “ESOL Job” and add your county or nearest town/city. This might come up with a few good options immediately. Top tip: if you get a lot of results you don’t want, e.g. lots of sites saving “advertise your job” then you can add “-advertise” to your search to not include those results.
Go to the larger job websites and search for ESOL and then other variations each as EFL, TEFL, EAL etc.:
If looking abroard then search for TEFL instead:
These general sites are good too, but mostly relist jobs from the sites above:
Whatever yo u end up wanting to do – good luck – and remember that ABCDEnglish have some great resources to support your teaching of English. If you get a good job via another website do send us the link to add to the information above.
How useful any one of these tips is depends on the context, whether you are teaching mixed or the same nationality, the age of your learners, how well behaved they are, their ability, and your own strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. Whether you’re a new TEFL teacher or an experienced ESOL teacher, I hope you find them useful:
1. Learn your students’ names as quickly as possible
The sooner you learn their names, the quicker you will build up a rapport, earn their respect and start off on the right foot. If necessary use name cards, take photos, draw a room plan if they don’t move about, and challenge yourself to speak to each and every learner in the first few lessons.
2. Target language from day one.
Make it clear that you want your learners to learn think in English, which they will only if they speak in English all the time. If you expect this you can make it happen, if you don’t they will of course take the more comfortable route for discussing in their native language with their partner.
I’ll start by pointing out that in the UK the fields of English and languages is split into three areas:
- Native English speakers (who can therefore already speak English) study the subject ‘English’, a field which is often split into ‘English Literature’ and ‘English Language’.
- Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) which addresses the learning of languages such as French, German, Spanish and Italian by native English speakers.
- EFL/ESL/ESOL amongst other acronyms etc. which addresses the learning of English by non-native speakers
Motivation is the most important element when teaching anything, including English. Learning English when not motivated is one of the most difficult things in the world – but when motivated it turns into a pleasure with improvement and positive reinforcement.