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Headway Scholarship 2014 – Winners announced

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Headway Scholarship competition 2014, on behalf of Liz Soars and the Headway Foundation.

Headway Scholarship 2014 applicants map

Around 230 teachers from 54 countries took part in the competition, which was based on the theme of “Headway makes a difference”. Using short stories, blog posts, photo montages, presentations, videos or podcasts, and even some lesson plans and research papers, the teachers illustrated how Headway has made a difference to students, teachers, and the community. They drew on a wealth of experience, as between them they had taught more than 115,000 students over 1600 teaching years!

As well as showing what Headway means to them and their learners, the teachers had to show what difference winning the scholarship would make to their own professional development. The various tasks were judged and moderated by a team of specialists, including author Liz Soars herself, and we can now announce that the winners are:

Hanna Dudich Magdalena Dygala Olga Gurchak
Marianne Chavarría Hernández Irina Krestianinova Gloria Rossa

Exeter CollegeEach of these teachers has won a place on a 2-week English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Exeter College in Oxford, including flights, accommodation and meals – a wonderful opportunity to share and develop best practice.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Headway Scholarship and, thanks to the generosity of Liz Soars and the Headway Foundation, there are six first prize winners this year instead of four. To further celebrate this landmark, additional prizes have been awarded to 12 runners up, and so congratulations also go to:

Oksana Bondus Letizia Cinganotto Claudia Gambier
Catalina Iacobuta Kiomars Karami Maria Fernanda Montu
Elena Maximova Miglena Petrova Uliana Proshina
Magdalena Pedro Anna Savina Valeriya Tabarina

As a personal ‘Thank you’ to all the teachers who entered the competition, Liz Soars has recorded the below video, and everyone who applied will be receiving a Certificate of Acknowledgement.

Go to the Headway fourth edition page for more information, or the Winners Gallery to see all the winners.


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All for one and one for all? Fostering teamwork among your teaching staff

Group of teachers working togetherKaren Capel, an Academic Coordinator and teacher trainer, returns with another post for Coordinators and Directors of Study, sharing her tips for encouraging teamwork among teaching staff.

Teamwork must be at the core of any organisation’s corporate culture. Needless to say, it plays a crucial role in educational institutions, since it is teachers who represent their values and principles before students, in addition to building trust and respect.

In order for this relationship to be successful, we need to ensure teachers are acquainted with the philosophy behind our school, as well as any news or decisions that have been taken and may affect either them or their students. It is essential to bear in mind that even if students know us as coordinators and resort to us sometimes, this happens only in certain circumstances. Otherwise, it is their teacher who acts as the main source of confidence and information, and who consequently needs to be well-informed at all times.

It goes without saying that teaching can be lonely at times. We are always surrounded by students but the actual work is done solo: planning, doing research, creating materials, evaluating our performance after a lesson and even the delivery of the lesson itself. It is therefore the coordinator’s responsibility to make sure all teachers receive the necessary support and guidance so as to feel part of a team and supported.

Below you will find some tips which may help you achieve this not-so-easy task:

  1. Set common objectives and make sure everybody is fully aware of what these are and what they entail for each member of the team. It is vital for you to believe in these goals in order for the rest of your staff to believe in them as well.
  2. Roles need to be clear for everyone to do their job right, so let people know what their responsibilities are and how they fit into the organisation. This will help avoid misunderstandings, tasks which do not get done and overlapping of roles.
  3. Show your team a confident attitude. You need to show staff that if you pool your efforts, you will be able to achieve your goals.
  4. Share your knowledge and expertise when appropriate, especially with new or less experienced teachers who may need more guidance. Remember to always be careful that your suggestions are expressed in a non-patronising way. Staff should be encouraged to pop in whenever they feel they would benefit from some support.
  5. Leave your office doors open for teachers to share any concerns and/or suggestions they may have. Remember they are the ones in direct contact with students and therefore have access to first-hand information, which may prove of paramount importance to making the right decisions regarding courses, coursebooks, methodology used, etc.; all key elements to successful coodination. Being fully informed and keeping a close relationship with your staff paves the way to proactivity and, as a result, success.
  6. Be accessible and dependable. Leaving the door open should be an attitude rather than just an action. You ought to be a good listener and really pay attention to teachers’ ideas, suggestions or preoccupations. Follow-up on the different issues that may arise and make sure you answer their queries and provide them with the information they require. Adopt a democratic leadership style, asking for their feedback on any decisions taken and letting them have a say – even if the final decision will always be yours. Praise contributions and ideas and listen to constructive criticism. It takes courage to let the coordinator know you don’t agree with something, so value this as proof of motivation and a desire to work towards common goals.
  7. Communicate with staff on a regular basis, be it by email or face-to-face, before or after lessons, or at formal meetings. Make sure communication is two-way and that the necessary channels exist for staff to not only receive information but also share it, both with you and with other teachers. This can be done, for example, by having Google Drive groups where you can share links and materials found online or created by the members of the group. You can also organise events where teachers can share and present their ideas and materials to one another. Although this could be seen as time-consuming and difficult to organise, it has proven to be extremely useful for my teachers, due to the fact that it provides them with the chance to see ‘materials in action’ and get acquainted with their rationale.

What do you do to promote teamwork within your institution?


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Got a minute? Learn how to manage your time effectively

Man checking his watchDo you find yourself running out of time during your working day? Karen Capel, an Academic Coordinator and teacher trainer, shares her tips for managing your time effectively.

I have never met a Coordinator or Director of Studies who had time to spare. Our duties seem to multiply every minute, but of course the time we have to tackle them does not. So how can we do so much in so little time? Here are some ideas you may find useful:

1. Prioritise

How many times have you found yourself immersed in tasks which are, of course, important but which could have waited for other more urgent matters to be resolved first? I have to admit that happens to me many times. Why? Sometimes because unconsciously I choose to deal with issues or tasks I enjoy before undertaking activities I find tedious or which require more time to be done. Some other times because of lack of proper planning or because urgent matters like solving an emergent problem or answering a phone call prevent me from getting the ‘actual work’ done. It’s therefore necessary for us to take a minute and consciously analyse our ‘to do lists’ to rank activities in order of importance and urgency so that we work on those which are both important and urgent first, then on those which are urgent and maybe not that important – just because of their unwanted consequences – and finally on those which are important but not that pressing – the ones actually linked to professional growth and personal objectives. If not dealt with in time, these can become urgent as well and can also lead us to become reactive instead of proactive, as we’ll only be focusing on what’s already imperative and not on creating new projects or coming up with new ideas.

You can find a matrix and further details on how to identify important and urgent matters in the following website: http://entrepreneursystems.com/Products/Urgent%20Matrix.pdf.

More tips can also be found at: http://www.wikihow.com/Manage-Your-Time.

2. Delegate

I know how hard this is and sometimes we all get the feeling that nobody will do things the way we would, but let’s face it, we have an endless list of tasks waiting to be carried out and very scarce time, so it’s only logical to delegate those activities that someone else can do, be it administrative duties or paperwork, searching for information on a given topic, or correcting tests or mock exams. Keep only those tasks which require your knowledge and expertise for yourself – which are surely enough to keep you busy!

3. Plan as much as possible

Whenever possible, plan ahead in order to make the most of your time. Needless to say, there will be unexpected meetings, phone calls and so on and so forth, but the more organised your routine activities are the better you’ll be able to cope with these eventualities.

4. Don’t multitask

We tend to fall into this trap too often and reckon that if we do many things at once we’ll be more efficient and finish more in less time. Actually, it’s the total opposite. The amount of time required is exactly the same but we also run the risk of making far more mistakes due to not being properly focused on each task. Research has shown that multitasking can actually lead to our wasting 20-40% of our time, depending on what we’re trying to achieve. Multitasking prevents us from being ‘in flow’, i.e. fully focused on a particular thing. Being ‘in flow’ actually results in higher satisfaction levels and a higher chance of achieving goals faster.

5. Be organised

Disorganisation can only lead to wasting time. Think of how much time you spend looking for papers or files you cannot find or how you can forget about an important matter just because you forgot to write it down or you fail to find the piece of paper where you did! Organisation is key to management and can prevent disasters from happening.

6. Minimise distractions

It’s worth pointing out that by this I don’t mean breaks, as these are necessary from time to time in order to recharge our batteries and focus once again on what we are doing. Nobody can be focused for eight hours non-stop – and it’s not healthy either. What I mean by this is that, for example, if you leave your email programme open and visible all day, it’s highly plausible that you interrupt whatever you’re doing in order to answer emails – important or not – every time you receive one. It goes without saying that this can impact on the quality of the work being undertaken.

7. Set realistic goals for your day

If you have endless to-do lists that you’ll never tick off, you’ll always feel frustrated. It’s alright to have a long list of pending tasks, but it’s also a good idea to use daily lists which reflect what you can really tackle in a day. This will allow you to make the most of the time you have and tackle as much as possible since you can choose to work on different tasks depending on the periods of time available. Let me illustrate this with an example: say you start work at 8 and have a meeting at 9. Think of which tasks from your list you would be able to start and finish in an hour and deal with one of those. Do the same with every period you have and by the end of the day you will have taken care of many issues that otherwise would still be waiting on your list. Doing this will help you to set realistic goals for each day and therefore leave the office with the sense of achievement you deserve!

Do you have any tips to add?


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10 (mostly) free apps for creative language learning

Girl in park with tablet computerHaving shown us 10 free apps for teachers to use for planning and classroom management, Shaun Wilden returns with 10 more apps to aid language learning in creative ways.

More and more teachers and schools are using mobile devices and tablets as a tool in and out of the classroom.  While the use of mobile assisted language learning is not just about using apps, it would be remiss to ignore the wealth of resources that are available.

Apps, if chosen wisely, can provide not only engagement and language practice but also create new ways of doing tasks. Utilising either the teacher or school’s tablet or employed as part of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, apps provide an excellent addition to a teacher’s toolbox. Actually, like any tool, it is not the app that matters but what you do with it. If chosen for clear educational purposes, apps can be motivational, lead to creativity and enhance student collaboration.

With thousands to choose from, coming up with a list of ten is quite challenging. We’ve tried to choose a range from those that give a new spin on an old activity, e.g. Bill Atkinson’s photocard that allows you to create postcards, through to those such as Aurasma which brings augmented reality to the classroom.  While some of you might complain not all the apps are free, those that do have a price are chosen because of their versatility and ability to be used time and time again.

Aurasma app iconAurasma

Free. Available on iOS and Android.

Augmented reality is tipped to be “the next big thing”. This app is an easy introduction to augmented reality providing a unique way to bring students work life. The easy-to-use app works by overlaying video on a chosen image. By doing this students can bring written work to life. This can be used for example, to create video book reviews of school readers, give audio commentary to a piece of written work and even be used to develop student created information guides for school.

PhotoCard app iconPhotoCard by Bill Atkinson

Free. Available on iOS.

Many course books include postcard writing in them though in reality it is likely that our students haven’t sent a postcard in a long while. This app is an engaging way for students to send a digital postcard. Though there are many postcard apps for both iOS and android, they often involve a cost for printing and sending of the postcard. In this app you can simply email your postcard. Being able to use your own photographs and also include voice recording make this a versatile app for creative students.

Bitsboard app iconBitsboard

Free. Available on iOS.

Bitsboard is an example of a flashcard app. It is a very easy way for you and/ or the students to create flashcards of the vocabulary topics in a course book. Either by using images in the app library or by adding your own, you can create flashcards on any topic. As well as using images, the app allows you to record the word so the flash card is both visual and aural. Having created the flashcards the app provides nine mini games for the students to practice the vocabulary.

Camera app iconCamera apps

Available on iOS (as default) and Android.

Creativity is not all about the apps. All tablets have at least one camera in them and the power of images and video should not be overlooked. Using the camera makes for a simple but effective piece of homework. For example, taking a photo of your free time, turning vocabulary lists into visual dictionaries or taking a photo to contextualise a language point. The video camera can be used to bring role plays to life.

Comic Life app iconComic Life

£2.99. Available on iOS and desktop.

This app is an excellent way to get students creatively writing. Using photographs the students have taken on their phones or digital cameras, they can create comics. The students simply drag and drop the photos they wish to use into a template and then use speech bubbles and captioning to create the text for the story. Once finished, the comic can be read on the tablet or saved as a PDF.

Pic Collage app iconPic Collage

Free. Available on iOS and Android.

Pic collage is an example of a collage maker, of which there are many in both stores. A collage maker allows you and the students to gather photos together into one image. .  A student can use their mobile device to take photos on a topic for example, ‘English words in their town’.  The photos are then put into a collage to make a poster.  Students can be tasked to make tasks similar to those that appear in oral exams by again taking photos then combining them into a collage. Handing task creation over to the students is an excellent way to increase motivation and engagement.

Puppet Pals 2 app iconPuppetpals 2

£2.99 (though you can download the original for free). Available on iOS.

This is a very popular app with teachers who teach children though its charm will spark creativity in anyone. Basically the app allows you to make an animated movie. You can choose from a wide variety of characters, locations, vehicles and music. You can also take a photograph of yourself and animate that. Using the characters in the app, students can tell and record their stories. These can be saved and shared.

Rory's Story Cubes app iconRory’s Story Cubes

£1.49. Available on iOS and Android.

This is the app of the long established cube story game.  By shaking your devise you get a random selection of 9 cubes.  These can be used for a number of classroom activities.  The cubes provide prompts for language practice e.g. linking two of the cubes together using a grammatical structure. The 9 cubes can be used as prompts for story writing or collaborative story telling.

Socrative app iconSocrative

Free. Available on iOS and Android.
NB: there are two apps you need for Socrative – student and teacher.

Socrative describes itself as a smart student response system. In real terms socrative is a way to set quizzes for your class. The quizzes can be answered on the students’ mobile devices or if a student doesn’t have a device, via the website. The quizzes can be multiple choice, written responses and also be image-based. The app can be used to review revise vocabulary and language points. The app aids differentiation as each student is responding through their own device and at their own pace. The teacher app provides you with a report of how each student did and allows you to get feedback from each student.

Spreaker app iconSpreaker

Free. Available on iOS and Android.

Spreaker is an app that turns your mobile device into a simple recording studio. It allows you to create an off-line recording for a podcast or even broadcast live online. Each recording can be up to 30 minutes in length. This is an excellent app for making podcasts. It can be used in many activities from creating audio dictionaries through to a weekly class radio podcast.


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10 free apps for teachers to use for planning and classroom management

We know teachers can find it hard to make time to plan their lessons, or to manage their classes both in and out of the classroom, so Shaun Wilden has compiled a list of his top 10 free apps to help make your planning more productive and time-efficient. You may also find some of our apps for learning English useful.

Over the last year there has been a large growth in the number of apps aimed at educators. There are now apps that can do everything from helping you plan your lesson to helping you take attendance. Though your school might not yet be ready to move into a paperless world; given you are likely to be carrying your mobile device with you to and from school there are a number that can make your life easier.

The apps I have chosen are ones you can use with a class on your own device. While you might not want to use all of the apps suggested, I hope the ones I have chosen will provide you with some useful tools as well as whet your appetite to discover others for yourself. The apps have been chosen to highlight the range of possibilities for a teacher. Some, like ‘Too nNisy’ provide a simple classroom management tool while others, like the ‘Evernote’ and ‘Dropbox’ help you keep track of notes and plans by synching with your computer or cloud. Apps like ‘Skitch’ allow you to write on photos, while an app like ‘iBolt’ can be a life saver when you want to use an online video but find yourself in a classroom without a connection.

ClassDojo app iconClassDojo

Available on iOS and Android.

ClassDojo is a classroom tool designed to help teachers improve student behaviour. It is particularly effective in young learner classes and is, essentially, the 21st-century version of a reward system. A teacher sets up their class, giving each student an avatar. Using your mobile device you can easily reward student behaviour, task completion and homework.  ClassDojo allows you to save, analyse and print reports on the class.

Dropbox app iconDropbox

Available on iOS and Android.

Dropbox is an example of cloud-based storage. If you use dropbox then rather than have your documents scattered over many devices, you can store them online and access them anywhere. It is also a great way to share files, photos and so on with students.

Edmodo app iconEdmodo

Available on iOS and Android.

Edmodo is becoming increasingly popular with teachers who want to collaborate with their students outside of the classroom. Edmodo provides a secure network for teachers and their students to collaborate and share content. Though also accessible from a computer, the Edmodo app allows you to access the network from anywhere.

Evernote app iconEvernote

Available on iOS and Android.

Many teachers have turned to this app as an effective way to lesson plan.  It is a note taking app that allows you to create notes that include text, photos, video and audio. Once created, Evernote synchs the note between your devices and your computer.  This makes it ideal for a teacher to plan their lessons, create to-do-lists and even store copies of documents that can be accessed anywhere.

iBolt app iconiBolt Video Downloader & Manager

Available on iOS.

This app is the solution to no Wi-Fi in the classroom when wanting to watch a video online. Ibolt allows you to download a video from a webpage. It is easy to use; simply type the URL into the Ibolt browser and press the download link.

Screen Chomp app iconScreenchomp

Available on iOS.

Screenchomp is an example of a screen recorder. You can find a number of examples of screen recorders on iTunes and each teacher has their favourite. Screenchomp is made by the same people who created Jing. I prefer it as there is no need to create an account and after recording you are given a link to your recording, which you can share with your students.  By recording your screen you can create personalised tutorials for your students or video explanations of language points. Screen recording is popular at the moment due to the interest in the ‘flipped classroom’ approach to teaching.

Skitch app iconSkitch

Available on iOS and Android.

A stand-alone app that is part of the Evernote suite of tools. Skitch allows you to annotate photographs, charts and PDF. This makes the app useful for highlighting, explaining, and for creating language practice activities. For example, the students can use the app to illustrate both grammar and vocabulary.

TeacherKit app iconTeacherKit

Available on iOS.

TeacherKit is an app that covers most teachers’ classroom administration. TeacherKit manages everything from attendance records and grades through to seating charts. It also allows importing and exporting your files and synchs with dropbox. It’s an excellent way to keep track of all your students and reduce paperwork.

Too Noisy app iconToo Noisy

Available on iOS.

Too Noisy is an app to control noise levels in the classroom. Particularly affective for young learner classes, this app shows if there is too much noise. The app is simply a display of the noise level in a room. When there is a smiley face the levels are acceptable but if the noise becomes too loud the smile turned to a frown. However, in speaking activities, the teacher can encourage noise by asking the class to make sure the smile disappears.

Stop Go app iconStop Go! / Traffic Light Timer

Available on iOS and Android.

An app such as traffic light gives the teacher a different way to control and time activities. Setting the timer and the colour of lights shows to students if and how long they should be doing an activity. The red light is also useful for controlling when things can and can’t be used in the classroom. For example, putting the light on red when a student is not allowed to use their mobile phone. This can be particularly effective if the tablet is being projected.

Have you found other apps that have helped your lesson planning or classroom management? Let us know what they are in the comments below.