Blogging – PD in Focus 8

(Image taken from:
(Image taken from:

And the last post in the PD in Focus series is here. All about blogging!

I started blogging almost four years ago, during a not very nice time in my life, which you can read here. I connected with Ken Wilson on Twitter (creating a Twitter account was something I was also wary of doing) and while we were exchanging emails about my situation, he motivated me to start a blog. I wasn’t particularly warm about the idea at first, not because I didn’t trust Ken, but I was thinking:

– Who is going to be interested in what I write?

– What if I write something silly?

– I don’t have a job, how can this help me feel better? (Unemployment really threw me down and my feeling of self-worth had never been so down before.)

So I started and I love it! I don’t always have the right answers – but I try to share as much as possible, good moments and bad, I try to intearct with others and I absolutely love the exachange of opinions. There is agreement, there is disagreement that makes you think, as long as it is constructive criticism. There are so many ideas you get from other educators and so much inspiration! Many are the times when I think what a great idea someone has had, how much I would like to apply someone’s ideas for the classroom and appaud them on that as well.

There are so many things that can be done through blogging:

– Writing and sharing. Something you think is a simple idea for you and you have been doing it for many years in the classroom, could be a revelation for someone else. Just go ahead and share! Your experiences, troubles, happy moments, lesson plans, anything you can express yourself through! There is a welcoming and supportive community of teachers out there waiting to read.

What's Your Story? (A screenshot of my blog challenge)
What’s Your Story? (A screenshot of my blog challenge)

– Blog challenges. An educator invites others to contribute to a common theme – for instance, it can be about vocabulary teaching, or Business English, or teaching idea at all. Some call it a blog carnival, which sounds fun! I held one on my blog a couple of years ago, called What’s Your Story? and 27 educators shared their stories on it: some very personal moments, teaching experiences, anything that they wanted to share. And I really appreciated it. And a lot of people did and we saw ourselves in those stories, and we felt better. We are not alone! There are others out there who share the same experiences as we do.

– Pages. Blogs can become treasure troves of ideas and different kinds of posts: you can organise your blog into pages and have different topics there. Lesson plans, different areas of ESOL, photos, whatever you think expresses you.

– Reflection. A blog can be a journal. There are educators out there who blog every single day about their teaching, education in general or various educational issues that interest them. That doesn’t serve everyone, though. It can be once a week, once  a month, or whenever you have inspiration – you will find your own pace: as long as you use it as a reflective tool, a journal that you can revisit and see what has changed, what has improved or not. It has helped me tremendously as an educator and I feel I am constantly changing and evolving. Still making mistakes but learning from them!

– Guest posts. You can invite other educators whose work you admire to write for you! The reflection coming from these posts are amazing. Plus, you get to network with these educators and exchange ideas. My first ever guest blogger was George Couros, all the way from Alberta, Canada.

It is a firm belief of mine that blogging is a great way for educators to develop professionally, as you can reflect and learn from your teaching – it is also good to write these thoughts down, as you can revisit them. Yesterday, I got to read an amazing post by Dean Shareski, who is an educator from Saskatchewan. (The post was actually tweeted by George – which led me to Dean’s article…the beauty of social media! A whole different post though.) He sums it all up perfectly in How to Make Better Teachers and is honestly one of the best posts I have come across on blogging and professional development. The post is from 2010 and as current as ever.

I truly thanks Ken for motivating me to start my own blog – it has helped me in so many ways! No matter if you are a new teacher or an experienced one, a blog is one of the best things you can do for your own learning.

Here is a great list of ELT blogs, by Chiew Pang:


My Contribution to Eva Büyüksimkeşyan’s Blog Carnival #24 – Warmers and Fillers

Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, English teacher and good friend!

I am delighted to be asked to take part in the 24th Blog Carnival on Warmers and Fillers for the first days back at school, hosted by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, an English teacher based in Istanbul, and since last November, a dear friend! Eva teaches at Esayan High School and does a lot of great projects with her students. She also collaborates internationally with other teachers around the world. Eva writes the most amazing posts on her blog, A Journey in TEFL. Thanks so much for this opportunity, Eva!

I am very happy to teach English as a Foreign Language both to children and adults. I enjoy working with both age groups and in this post I will share my ideas, which I hope you will find useful and like! I try to come up with new activities every year, but these are our favourites and as an educator, I see that they help both children and adults make a great start to their lessons.

Young Learners:

  • As I like to incorporate culture in my classes and I am fortunate to have multicultural classes, I begin by asking them where they are from and if they can tell us a greeting in their language, sing a small song or tell us a small poem or rhyme. For the reason that on first days young learners can be very shy, I start by demonstrating the task myself! That can help the kids a lot and keep the activity going.
  • We make posters on A3 paper. They can write their name, if they are able to, and around it make little drawings of things they like, their families, their hobbies and so on. When they are finished, they can make a small presentation to the whole class so we can all get to know them!
  • My name is Vicky and I like basketball! We can all sit down in a circle and take turns, rolling a ball or giving each other a stuffed toy and introduce ourselves – our names and our favourite thing or activity. That way they can hear each other and learn names – perhaps even find out common things they like!

Adult Learners:

  • Incorporating culture again, I make a little introduction of myself (My name is Vicky Loras, I was born in Canada of Greek parents and I am an English teacher) – it welcomes them to the first lesson and they can feel more comfortable. They can even start asking me or even better each other questions. Plus, they like this small talk for the first lesson – we can start talking stock markets and hedge funds in the following lessons!
  • Then taking some questions from a book I absolutely adore, Cambridge Business English Activities, we start talking (culture is in here too and the questions can lead to some interesting and sometimes funny discussions!). This kind of discussion loosens them up in the first lesson, because they can be nervous as well and serves as a great introduction to fantastic lessons to follow. The questions are of the kind: If you were at a reception, would you take the last piece of cake? or Do you work on a problem by analysing it or using your instinct? or How would you react if a colleague got the job you wanted? and so on.
  • What I have noticed is that they love talking about their work and working environment, their position in the company and perhaps what they did before, so I just let them talk to us about it. If they are from the same company, they can fill in for each other when they remember something, so everyone gets a chance to talk – or if they have not see each other before, they can learn more about the people in their class.

I hope these tips have helped you. Stay tuned to Eva’s blog to read great ideas form other educators who are also taking part in the Blog Carnival. Thank you for reading!

My Blog Post for ESL/EFL Carnival of Business English and ESP – Teaching Business English in Switzerland

First of all, many many thanks to Anne Hodgson, for suggesting I write for the Blog Carnival and helping me find my inspiration after my three-month hiatus! Thank you so much, Anne!

This year, I am teaching at a new school and its students are late teens and adults. During the week, I teach professionals either on the school premises or I visit the respective company or bank of the students.

Making Business English as enjoyable as possible! (Image taken from

I start the first lesson in a way that I have found breaks the ice, gets them talking and combines Business English and cultural elements. I use the book Cambridge Business English Activities for this reason. In the introductory lesson, questions arise such as:

– If you were at a reception and there was a last piece of cake on the table, would you take it?

– How would you feel if a colleague took the job you wanted the most?

– When you are given a new project to attempt, how do you approach it – by instinct or by analysis?

– Would it be unusual for you to lose your office or house keys?

It is so interesting to see how all these people, who have different personalities and who come from different cultures, tackle the questions and their answers are very interesting. In this way, we can understand what is acceptable or not in each culture, in business interactions and in daily life. It can become really humorous too, so learning becomes more of a carefree process for them and they enjoy it after a hard day’s work.

What we also do a lot is role-playing and situations, or what we call conflict situations (I give them a situation that involves disagreement or clarifying a misunderstanding). I give them a situation, which usually involves a problem. For instance:

– You have a deadline on a project this Monday but you need more time to complete it, due to obstacles that were not your responsibility (bureaucracy, an unco-operative colleague and so on). What do you tell your manager?

– You would like to work on a project with the partner you have chosen, but think it will be good to work together over the weekend as well, in order to complete it. How do you convince him or her?

– You are very upset with a mistake a colleague of yours has made on a shared project. How do you tell him/her? Are you diplomatic and let it pass and you correct it, or do you confront this person and inform them of the mistake and the severity of it?

They are all great in this. We learn how it is acceptable to say something in English, how to be tactful in the language and we always benefit from learning new vocabulary, which I am sure to write on the board and leave there throughout the lesson if possible, for the reason that the visual factor plays an important role.

Another thing we do is that they prepare small presentations of projects and we go through their slides and powerpoints and they present to me they way they would on the day. This additionally helps them get rid if some of the stress they feel for the actual presentation!

Sometimes we do e-mail writing. They bring in one of the e-mails they have composed so we can look for mistakes, or I let them think for a minute or two and then they “compose” it orally. We can then write expressions they can use and if they would like to and have the time, they do this at home as practice and that they have understood and then they bring it to class next time and we look at it. Sometimes, they come up with really good ideas of their own that they have added and the whole group benefits from this!

Writing e-mails, comparing and describing charts...the list is endless! (Image taken from

There are countless ideas to use in the Business English classroom. Sometimes books, websites like YouTube or the Financial Times can help; sometimes it is the students themselves who come up with great ideas – then you can use them with all your other groups!