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Category Archives: Lesson ideas

Aviation English Course: My TBLT Lesson Idea

One of the most exciting stages of designing a TBLT course is materials design. This TBLT lesson idea (I created on the TBLT course in 2019) is included in my Aviation English course materials (Module 3: Air Traffic Control).

Teacher’s notes + materials

Domain: Pilot/Controller communications

Learner need: vocational

Sector and/or profession: Airline Pilots / Air Traffic Controllers

Target task-type: Handle abnormal conditions in flight

Target task: Dealing with problems in flight and suggesting actions

Materials: YouTube video clip(s) of Live ATC communications – VASAviation; tapescript from clip(s) and handout with specific lines for micro-listening practice

Duration: 4 classroom hours (classroom hour = 45 minutes)


1.Learners watch YouTube video clip to tune into accents and get global understanding:

REAL ATC] Emirates B777 with EMERGENCY FUEL at Vancouver!

 (Learners read video transcript while listening)

2. Identifying the difference between standard phraseology and plain language. Learners read examples and decide in pairs which sentences are standard ATC phraseology and which are Plain English, then they write them under two headings: ATC phraseology // Plain English

3. Learners discuss the questions in small groups

4. Learners read two short texts: ICAO instructions on ATC Phraseology and Plain English use and they do True / False exercise

5. Short focus on contracted forms and connected speech patterns (e.g.  if you’d like; We’ll go to Vancouver; It’s about ten fifteen miles closer; … and understand you’re minimum fuel, I just wanna be clear here I can offer you…)

6. Micro-listening exercise with specific chunks to test recognition of function words and standard ATC phrases, plus some key vocabulary (synonyms are highlighted in the script)

7. Discussion on intelligibility & clear speech: Ls discuss the importance of effective aviation communication (ICAO guidelines and techniques for radio transmission)

8. Exit task:

Role play 1 & 2: simulation of ATC communications (reporting problems/incidents and suggesting actions)

[Learners are scored pass/fail according to whether they can perform the target task correctly]

Write an essay (around 250 words)

[Learners are scored pass/fail according to ICAO RATING SCALE, LEVEL 4: OPERATIONAL]


The lesson is based on Long’s version of task-based language teaching (TBLT). Target task is determined by needs analysis for a group of pilots and air traffic controllers (CEFR B2 level). In analyzing the discourse of ATC communications, this ATC live recording was chosen as representative. Beyond relevance, the materials aim to provide interesting tasks presenting sufficient intellectual challenge and the greatest possible approximation to real-world language use. Exit tasks are based on criterion referenced performance tests.

Focus on Form

Some difficulties that are likely to arise while students do the tasks include:

  • Difficulty understanding accent/connected speech and other pronunciation issues in performing the task
  • Possible communicative breakdowns in negotiating a solution
  • Focus on pronunciation issues: homonyms (no / know; to / too / two; for / four; here / hear; wait / weight; root / route; brake / break; dew / due; crews / cruise, aloud / allowed)
  • Focus on other language issues that can cause misunderstanding or miscommunication (ambiguity, synonyms, various accents, use of modal verbs, etc.)
  • Possible problems with teaching Aviation English as lingua franca (accommodation strategies, rephrasing, clarification, and so on)

Librarians as Teacher-Leaders


When talking about teaching and learning teachers do not immediately think about a school library. Most teachers see a library as just a place filled with shelves of books and a librarian as someone who is cataloguing, collecting and issuing books. In my view, teaching staff is mostly confused about the role and responsibility of a teacher-librarian. 

I try to challenge some librarian stereotypes, and I do my best to make our library a ‘hub’, a central place in school where students and teachers come together to share literature, read and learn.


School library is an invaluable resource for learning

Libraries are about Freedom. Freedom of ideas, freedom of communication, freedom to read, think and learn… Library is a safe space where everyone’s questions, suggestions and ideas are welcomed and encouraged; it is a unique place at school where each student is treated as an individual in their attitudes, needs and taste. A librarian responds to everyone’s enthusiasms and enjoys spending the time thinking/ recommending/ finding the right book for the right student.

In a school library teachers have the feeling of intellectual independence which is essential to the proper fulfillment of the teachers’ functions.

“The teacher, like the artist, the philosopher, and the man of letters, can only perform his work adequately if he feels himself to be an individual directed by an inner creative impulse, not dominated or fettered by an outside authority.” (“Unpopular Essays” on The Functions of a Teacher, Bertrand Russell).

Libraries are about values and ideals. School librarians strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing their own knowledge and skills, and also by encouraging the professional development of co-workers. They are passionate about reading and books, and about maintaining philosophical values that reflect wisdom, truth, and intellectual independence. They always express a commitment to lifelong learning, and try to develop humanistic, idealistic, and aesthetic values in school.

Libraries are very collaborative spaces. By observing the inner workings of a school from a slight distance, a teacher-librarian is in the privileged position of being able to work with teachers across all subjects and students of all ages: in some collaborative projects, CLIL / TBLT /Dogme lessons, seminars and lectures, extracurricular activities, blogging/ writing teaching journals, e-magazines, etc.



Teaching is an increasingly important part of librarians’ work

I am broadly spending less time with collecting books and more time helping students with learning and doing homework… Thanks to my PLN (which is a great source of information and inspiration to me) and some online seminars on information and media literacy, I am knowledgeable about current research on teaching and learning, and skilled in helping students to access, evaluate, and use information from multiple sources in order to learn. I also provide students with materials and some useful tips on how to use the Internet, how to cite correctly and not plagiarize. Plagiarism is especially difficult for students to understand, as plagiarism has a wider meaning than just not being allowed to use a material without citing it.


ELT opportunities in the library



ELT extensive reading classes

Our school library has a large reading and study space. There is a wide variety of text types and topics to choose from. Students can read a lot and often and they can choose what to read. Reading purposes can focus on: pleasure, information and general understanding. Materials are within the language competence of the students. Reading is individual, and silent. The teacher-librarian is a role model… a reader, who participates along with the students.

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TBLT classes

In general English and ESP task-based lessons students can complete a task in pairs or groups using the language resources that they have as the teacher-librarian monitors and offers encouragement and help with the materials. In a task-based lesson the teacher/librarian doesn’t pre-determine what language will be studied, therefore the students are free of language control. The language explored arises from the students’ needs. This need dictates what will be covered in the lesson rather than a decision made by the teacher or the coursebook. As the students can use the quality online dictionaries or dictionaries and reference books in the library, they are exposed to a whole range of lexical phrases, collocations and patterns as well as language forms.

TBLT is a strong communicative approach where students spend a lot of time communicating; it is enjoyable and motivating. I have written before about a TBLT lesson in the library .


Dogme classes

If you love Dogme teaching but cannot apply it in the classroom (because of the imposed coursebook/ grammar syllabus) you can bring your students to the library and enjoy unplugged lessons.

In Dogme lessons there should be no methodological structures that interfere with the free flow of participant-driven input, output and feedback. The source of all activities is the students and teacher themselves. If a particular piece of material is necessary for the lesson, a library is a perfect place where that material is to be found. The only recorded material that is used should be that recorded in the library itself, e.g. recording students in pair or group work for later re-play and analysis.

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I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations with students in the library so far, on the topics they found relevant: food, travelling, sports, hobbies, future job(s), books and authors they love, etc.

A few weeks ago I enjoyed a conversation with Ana K., an avid reader and excellent 3d year student. Ana came in smiling and said hello to me, sat at a table and started writing something in her notebook. The library was bathed in sunshine; I was busy and quiet cataloguing some books. All of a sudden she said with a sigh that she was writing a poem for a poetry event, and that it was not at all easy because she is not a poet, but her teacher nudged suggested that she should write it for the event.

I suddenly thought that would be nice to ask her a few questions (in English) just for fun, as she once told me she loved English. We started talking spontaneously in English and I really enjoyed listening to her. I let her speak whatever came to her mind. She was talking fluently about some books she had read recently. I elicited some responses (re: giving opinions on the books) and then introduced some new words and phrases like: gripping, thought-provoking, witty, humorous, hilarious, make a pun, wordplay…

I explained these words by talking about the books I love, by giving some example sentences focusing on collocations/colligations and pronunciation, too. Then I wanted her to practise these words in context on her own, and so I mentioned a specific English humour based on wordplay and puns (which is often difficult to translate into our language). She nodded and gave me an example of a word with several meanings (tip), or read and red (words that sound similar) that can be used in a pun, just to show that she grasped the meaning of pun.

As we are both Monty Python’s fans we went on talking about Monty Python’s sketches and comedies, and their surreal humour based on wordplay, absurd situations and sublime silliness. We agreed about that there’s a barely a moment in either “Holy Grail” or “Life of Brian” that isn’t funny. I told her about my favourite “He’s not the Messiah” scene.

 20171030_110733Then we returned to Ana’s notebook (of poems). I recommended her the film Paterson by Jim Jarmusch, a film celebrating poetry, and living in the now, and appreciating those little things – small details in life…

“Paterson wants every day to be a blank page in the same book – one worth filling, but only with the right words.”

A few days later Ana came to the library just to tell me that she watched “Paterson” and liked it very much. She told me that the film was somehow different from the mainstream movies, and that it inspired her to write a poem.


September Reflections


There is something truly exciting about September…You are full of energy and enthusiasm after summer holiday. You are surrounded with some beautiful young people radiating joy while telling you their summery stories. September is the time of year when you reflect on the previous school year, and think about what went well, what could be improved this school year, and what you want to focus on in the coming year.


What went well last year

I learnt a lot from my students, colleagues and through my PLN. There were a lot of wonderful opportunities at the library to learn by listening to my students, collaborating with my colleagues, and sharing thoughts and ideas with my colleagues and friends from all over the world. Writing and blogging, reading books and listening to podcasts helped me to hone my English language skills.

Students were my constant source of inspiration. Students who loved spending their time at the library, reading, preparing tasks, and making video clips for their Aviation English classes… I enjoyed chatting with them, helping them with English, and recommending some useful books and sites for learning. They were particularly interested in: how to enrich their vocabulary in order to speak English fluently.

I truly enjoyed autonomy to plan my work and activities with students and teachers at the library. I had more time to read for pure pleasure, or to do what I found useful for my professional development. And I was so fulfilled.


What could be improved

I should not be sensitive to the general opinion that a profession of a teacher-librarian is uninteresting, or not as dynamic, challenging, or important as teaching.

Also, I should improve my time management skills. I usually work late and spend a lot of time online (I enjoy reading and writing at night). A lot of coffee (or green tea) usually helps in the morning, but I hope to change this habit soon. Also, I tend to do the stuff I enjoy doing first, and to put off till later something so dull and formulaic like cataloguing books, for example, and thus there are so many books waiting to be put into my computer programme b++.


What I want to focus on in the coming year

Collaborating with teachers on some CLIL/TBLT projects, writing articles for my two blogs: English language teaching & my Library blog, and also for our school e-journal Vazduhoplovac (Aviator).

I’ve been musing lately about starting an English club at the library for the students who are interested in improving English. There is a large smallish, but lovely group of students who read my blogs, and who have told me lately that they would like to spend more time at the library reading and speaking English with me. Some of them told me that their classes were boring and they were not willing to speak English for fear of making grammar mistakes.

I am currently thinking about how to provide the students with lots of structured opportunities to hear and read English. These are some of the tenets that came to my mind while thinking about this idea: 

  • students should be responsible for their own learning (we should explore the language and learn together)
  • we negotiate the syllabus, topics, time and the way the students want to learn, each month (process syllabus)
  • students enrich their vocabulary by doing a plenty of language activities and tasks (more time for student-generated language)
  • grammatical concepts are presented in context, students are encouraged to reflect on the form and purpose of the structure before giving a name to it (inductive approach)
  • students reflect on their learning (discussing, creating portfolio, learning log, an online journal or using Twitter)


Some materials and activities that could be interesting for students:

Graded readers – for practising extensive reading (e.g. Gerald Durrell: My Family and Other Animals, OUP)

ELT magazines for teenagers, Airport magazines and brochures (for TBLT/CLIL projects)

Love – in literature & music & art (project work/ or: Five Love(ly) Lesson Ideas activities)

Flash fiction (Students write six word stories/ short stories up to 100 words: about themselves, or they look through the window, or choose a photo in their mobile phone, etc. and write whatever comes first to their mind/ a tweet up to 140 characters on the book they have read or the film they have seen recently)

Spooky Science (Instruction for play: two decks of cards, one in Serbian and one in English. Each deck contains: 54 cards with questions and four multiple-choice answers, 4 Joker cards and 2 master cards for the Judges with all the right answers. Two players from the same team collect more cards than the opposing team and win the game.)

Logic and Conversation: What are Grice’s conversational maxims (reading on the Net, and discussing logical thinking & logical fallacies)

Podcast – Cultural differences (Luke’s English Podcast: 381. Discussing cultural differences (with Amber and Paul)

#FlashmobELT  (teachers’ resources bank: activities created by teachers for teachers)

Interesting blog ideas: Cool things that happened today/this week/this month (writing & speaking activity)


This idea might sound pretty unrealistic for a Serbian public secondary school: motivating teenagers to learn English on their own, without grading them, just helping them to explore the language and see the importance of reflecting on how and what they have learnt! I promise to write about the English club, or some other similar learning adventure in the ensuing months.

My Top Ten Favourite Podcasts


21st century skills in action. (a photo and tweet by @C_Hendrick)

Teaching is a lifelong learning process of finding out about new philosophies, new methods and strategies, learning from the experts, from your colleagues, and also together with your students.

Good teaching is surely not about following the 21st century skills trend without truly questioning it, and without realizing what a really meaningful learning is.

One of the most effective ways of using the Internet for learning about the world and for practising English both inside and out of the classroom is podcastListening to podcasts (on a daily basis) can be very useful for improving your listening and speaking skills. Podcasts give you the chance to listen to various accents, and also to listen to the topics you are interested in. Almost all of the podcasts are free to download (you can upload them to your mp3 player, or just listen to the file on your computer too).

Podcasts that I enjoy listening to are not intended just for the English language learning; they cover many subjects from science to philosophy, art, social science, linguistics, etc.


This is a list of my ten favourite podcast sites:

Latest (national and international) news stories, a lot of insights, intelligent analyses, big political stories with lively discussion and expert comments and analysis, the best new comedies, and a lot more can be found on BBC Radio 4.

If you have an inquisitive mind and thirst for knowledge you’ll enjoy fun and interesting podcasts on Radiolab. You can read on the site: Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.

Space Place Musings: Podcasts are for those who are fond of science and earth & space exploration.

Open Culture offers 100s of cultural and educational podcasts ready to download onto your iPod.

A Podcast about Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics is an excellent podcast site for English language teachers.

“The social world is a world we create, that we all have in common. In this series of illuminating podcasts, hear leading social scientists present their perspectives on how our social world is created, and how social science can help us understand people and how they behave. Each podcast includes a downloadable written transcript of the conversation.”

  • Philosophy Bites – podcasts of top philosophers interviewed on bite-sized topics…

You can enjoy listening to Philosophy Bites interviews (podcasts) of excellent lecturers, and they are arranged by theme here.

New Statesman runs two weekly podcasts covering politics, policy and the arts.

This is ‘the world’s leading forum for debate and intelligent discussion. You can listen to most interesting discussions and enjoy in the company of some of the world’s sharpest minds and most exciting orators.”


I suggest using podcasts in the English language classroom: while discussing various topics that are relevant to your students you can learn with your students, too.  You can get your students to do a project work, or debates/discussions on:

  • the philosophy that planet Earth does not belong just to us humans, but to all species
  • how to save the life on our beautiful planet, how to adapt to the impacts of global warming (with focus on environmental issues and the fact that developing countries generally have less capacity to adapt)
  • how to fight against greed and hatred and ignorance
  • how to encourage independent and rational thinking and fight against dogmatic, irrational beliefs
  • how to deconstruct all of the messages we’re getting that are false, that may be racist, or sexist
  • how to change our ideas about masculinity and femininity, how to fight against gender stereotypes, or cultural stereotypes, etc.

The most important of all is to teach our students how to have a skeptical look at the facts. They need to learn to question the truth of what they’re told by asking themselves: Can I prove it? Can I test it? Is it evidence-based? How accurate is it? Our students do have to learn logical thinking, the process of argument, the process of presenting facts, of proving their point of view; they need to learn that our first thoughts are very often not our best thoughts, that disagreement can be negotiated, and so on.

“Philosophy teaches its students to become thoughtful and reflective, and so to know themselves better. By so doing it opens them up to being careful about their own ideas and habits of thought. It is a matter of opening the questioning mind, taking charge of ideas, rather than being enslaved by them.” (Why there should be a philosophy GCSE, by Simon Blackburn, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge).

Listening to podcasts will bring a fresh impetus to our language learning/teaching. Also, hearing some intelligent discussions by great lecturers, their insights and interesting ideas can broaden our horizons, and even make us change some false beliefs. And, changing one’s opinions or strong beliefs is usually much more difficult than most of you think.

Thank you for reading the post. If you have any idea about how to use podcasts in the English language classroom, or if you have your favourite podcast site(s), please share in the comments.

Why doing tasks is the best way to learn (some thoughts on TBLT)



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When you think about the job of a librarian, the first thing that comes to mind is something to do with books: buying, cataloging, preserving, recommending books to students and teachers. In this post I wanted to show that an English language teacher-librarian is also a key pedagogical partner for teachers in school.

During this school year I talked with students about the books they loved, about how to learn effectively, how to find reliable information on the Internet, how to write well… I can remember many great moments, but the highlight of the school year was my participation in a few TBLL activities at the library. My main aim in the post was to illustrate how TBLT (task-based language teaching) was feasible, and effective in EFL/ESL secondary school classroom, and how an English language teacher – librarian could participate and help students do the tasks successfully.

In March this year a group of 4th year students (Milica, Dušica, Anastasija and Andrea) prepared a task and created a video clip for an ESP class. My participation in this task was in providing the students with the materials they needed, taking some photos, and giving them some help with pronunciation (of the words like: process, circumstances…). I was glad that they liked my ‘Aristotle philosophy box’, and that they used it while making the clip. And we had a lot of fun. 🙂


English for Specific Purposes – TBLT Lesson:  A plan of evacuation of a building

A group of four 4th year students (B2 level) created a clip (about 8 minutes long) – A Plan of evacuation of Hogwarts (which was set on fire by Lord Voldemort). They told me that the idea came to their mind as their teacher Jelena J.M. loves Harry Potter books. That was a fabulous idea, and very funny, too!  They recorded the Hogwarts news at the library, and the commercials: magic wand & magic chalk, in the school corridor. Ministry of Magic presented an elaborate plan of evacuation of the building. (Unfortunately, I could not embed the clip in the post as my blog does not support it, but I really enjoyed watching it.)

The English language teacher introduced the topic by giving some explanations and helped the students to recall some language (key vocabulary regarding a plan of evacuation of a building) that might be useful for the task. The students took notes and spent time preparing for the task.

The students completed the task using the language resources that they had.  The teacher-librarian assisted and offered encouragement while the students practised and rehearsed their roles. Then the students made a video clip with their smartphone at the library, and in the school corridor.

The students prepared a short oral report to tell the class what happened during their task. They then practised what they were going to say in their groups. The teacher-librarian helped the students to clear up any language questions they had.

Before the English language teacher played the video clip to others in the classroom the students reported back to the class what had happened during their task.  The teacher gave the students some quick feedback on the content.

The teacher then highlighted relevant parts from the text of the recording and the language that the students used during the report phase for analysis.

Finally, the teacher selected language areas to practise based upon the needs of the students and what emerged from the task and report phases. The students then did speaking and writing practice activities to increase their confidence and make a note of useful language.


What is the task-based approach?

TBLT is a strong communicative approach to language instruction which aims to provide learners with a natural context for language use. As learners work to complete a task, they have abundant opportunity to interact. Instruction is organized in such a way that students will improve their language ability by focusing on getting something done while using the language, rather than on explicitly practising language forms, as in more traditional methods of instruction. Content selection is based on the needs of the learners and they are encouraged to activate and use whatever language they already have in the process of completing a task. The most important tenets of the TBLT are: the provision of opportunities for learners to focus not only on language but also on the learning process itself, and the linking of classroom language learning with language use outside the classroom.

My thoughts on TBLT (regarding my TBLT experience)

  • TBLT is a learner-centred approach, and the focus is on collaborative learning.
  • The active involvement of the learners is central to the approach.
  • It offers learners a rich input of target language.
  • The students are exposed to a whole range of lexical phrases, collocations and patterns (the focus is on meaning as well as on form).
  • It is enjoyable and (intrinsically) motivating.
  • It involves a high level creativity and dynamism on the part of the teacher.
  • It requires resources beyond the textbooks and related materials generally available in EFL classrooms.
  • Some students may object to task-based language learning in that this type of instruction is not what they expect and want from a language class.
  • It can be used together with a more traditional approach.
  • Teachers (or facilitators) should take into account the learning context, and they need to negotiate with learners to ensure that they are motivated and happy to learn in that way.

As I don’t know much about TBLT, this has been an interesting and useful experience. I’m interested in exploring TBLT in the ensuing months. I also hope to do a lot more collaborative projects with the English language teachers at my school (not only ESP, but General English, too).


Further reading on TBLT

Mike Long, Second Language Acquisition and Task-Based Language Teaching, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

David Nunan, Task-Based Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Rod Ellis, Task-based Language Learning and Teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Criteria for identifying tasks for TBL – Jane Willis

Teaching culture as an integrative part of EFL

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Kalemegdan Park and Statue of Victory (in Belgrade) at dusk, photo taken by Ljiljana Havran

If we want to provide our students with genuine skills for effective use of English, culture must be incorporated as a vital component of language learning. Teaching culture should be integrated into the second language curriculum in ways that engage learners actively in the acquisition of language and culture.


What do we understand by the word ‘culture’?


  • reflects the values of a society
  • frames our attitudes and experiences
  • provides us with patterns of behavior, thinking, feeling, and interacting
  • influences our expectations of what is appropriate or inappropriate
  • affects every aspect of daily life

Cultural misunderstandings arise mostly out of culturally-shaped perceptions and interpretations of each other’s cultural norms, values, and beliefs.

Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist, has defined culture as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another”. The “category” can refer to nations, regions within or across nations, ethnicities, religions, occupations, organizations, or the genders.

The importance of teaching culture to the EFL students

Linguists have long recognized that the forms and uses of a language reflect the cultural values of the society in which the language is spoken. Cross-cultural pragmatics, intercultural communication, and intercultural learning are some of the areas of applied linguistics that study the link between language and culture.

Studying culture gives students a motivation to study the target language. It also plays a useful role in general education; studying culture, students could also learn about the geography, history, etc. of the target culture. Furthermore, it aids the growth of tolerance for differences, because communication with and about people from different backgrounds enables students to learn more about their lifestyle, their values, and customs, which in turn increases understanding and empathy, and eliminates ethnic stereotypes.

Linguistic competence alone is not enough for learners of a language to be competent in that language (Krasner, 1999). Language learners have to understand that, in order for communication to be successful, language use must be associated with other culturally appropriate behavior. They should also know that behaviours and intonation patterns that are appropriate in their own speech community may be perceived differently by members of the target language speech community. Language learners need to be aware, for example, of the culturally appropriate ways to address people, express gratitude, make requests, give or receive compliments, agree or disagree with someone, etc.

EFL teachers should identify key cultural items in every aspect of the language that they teach. Cultural information should be presented in a way that does not place value or judgement on distinctions between the students’ native culture and the culture explored in the classroom. Kramsch (1993) describes the “third culture” of the language classroom – a neutral space that learners can create and use to explore and reflect on their own and the target culture and language.

Learning to be intercultural involves much more than just knowing about another culture: it involves learning to understand how one’s own culture shapes perceptions of oneself, of the world, and of our relationship with others. Intercultural communicative competence is an attempt to raise students’ awareness of their own culture, and in so doing, help them to interpret and understand other cultures. Raising intercultural awareness implies the development of skills for successful communication, i.e. competent and peaceful interaction with people who are different from us.

Ways to develop intercultural competence 

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A cafe in the centre of Belgrade, photo taken by Ljiljana Havran

Students are eager to explore the world around them and there are numerous topics and activities related to various cultures that EFL teachers can use in their lessons.

You can:

  • Make your students think about a funny experience they once had related to cultural issues or misunderstandings. You can encourage them to share their funny stories and experiences (for example, by sharing your own experience first). Then they can discuss a few similarities and a few differences between the two cultures.
  • Use photos in class exploring new topics about various cultures and lifestyles and answering questions together. A photo can also expose students to unusual places/customs/food etc. that they might not be familiar with, promoting discussion and engaging students’ interest. It also gives the teacher a chance to learn something new and it enables a lesson to take the form of collaborative discovery.
  • Get your students to make quizzes about their own culture and the culture of the target language – several rounds of general knowledge questions to be answered in teams.
  • Teach students about the different foods, art and songs that have value in different cultures by incorporating important elements of cultural celebrations into an English language classroom. Films and music are often vital and engaging depictions of contemporary culture, as well.
  • Read articles or extracts from books, newspapers, magazines or websites written by people who have visited the students’ town, country or region. For example, there is a good source of articles from the travel sections of newspapers such as The Guardian or The Independent, the guidebooks on the Net such as Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, or extracts from books by travel writers, such as Colin Thubron, Bill Bryson, Jan Morris, etc.
  • Get students to recount their experiences if they have visited the target culture. If there is no such source available, students can do a valuable creative writing activity – imagining a journey into the target culture, predicting the problems and misunderstandings they may encounter and creatively resolving them.
  • Produce a guidebook, poster or webpage for visitors to their town, country or region. This should not only describe famous sites and places to visit, stay or eat, but also give visitors advice about what they may find strange or unusual about their own culture.

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American Culture through Serbian Eyes by my student Maja Gašparović, who created this lovely brochure about her eight month stay in Colorado, USA, in April 27, 2007

For further reading: Culture in Second Language Teaching, Elizabeth Peterson and Bronwyn Coltrane, Center for Applied Linguistics 

Five Love(ly) Lesson Ideas


Hand-holding shadows – Photo taken from ELTpics –  by Sandy Millin, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license 

In this post I wrote about the five Lesson ideas about LOVE I’m going to try out with a group of teenage (intermediate/upper-intermediate level) students next semester.  


ONE SUMMER by Steve Turner  


  • to stimulate students to think and speak about the feelings of missing someone
  • show the students an unconventional use of words in poems


Ask the students:

Is there somebody who is far away from you and you miss him/her badly? How do you feel? 

Task 1: 

Ask the students to read silently the poem which is presented in a paragraph. Then, they try to make their own version of the poem by breaking the poem into separate lines the way they like.

One summer you aeroplaned away, too much money away from me, and stayed there for quite a few missed embraces. Before leaving you smiled me that you’d return all of a mystery moment and would airletter me every few breakfasts in the meantime. This you did, and I thank you most kissingly. I wish however, that I could hijackerplane to the Ignited States of Neon where I’d crash land perfectly in the deserted airport of your heart.

Steve Turner 

Task 2:

Teacher hands out / reads out the original version of the poem “One Summer” by Steve Turner for comparison. Students read / listen to the poem carefully.


One summer you

aeroplaned away,

too much money

away from me, and

stayed there for

quite a few

missed embraces.  

Before leaving

you smiled me that

you’d return all of

a mystery moment and

would airletter me

every few breakfasts

in the meantime.


you did, and I thank

you most kissingly.


wish however, that I

could hijackerplane

to the Ignited States

of Neon where I’d

crash land perfectly

in the deserted

airport of your heart.

Steve Turner


Photo taken from –

Task 3: WORDS

  1. Do you like the poem? Do you find it romantic/interesting/playful/funny….?
  2. Are there some strange words in the poem? What do you think they mean?


  • aeroplaned away >>  travelled by plane somewhere far away
  • kissingly >>  with love
  • hijackerplane  >>   have an important position in someone’s life
  • deserted airport of your heart >>  most inner and unrevealed part of someone’s heart and mind


Use your own title (e.g. Missed embraces, A deserted airport of your heart, etc.) and:

  • use the keywords in the original poem to make up a new poem
  • rearrange the lines of the original poem to make up a new poem

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Authentic materials in EFL classroom

Using authentic materials in EFL classes will engage students and keep them exploring and playing with English in a way that will help them use it in real life situations.

In this post I described two aviation English lessons I designed for upper-intermediate level students a few years ago. I used the authentic materials from the Internet.

This post was also part of an assignment I completed for a Serbian online seminar about developing information and media literacy in our schools.

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Learn English with Dreamreader


I learned a few days ago about, a very useful website for English language learners. The site was created by two EFL teachers who live and work in Japan, Neil Millington and Brad Smith. Several years ago they decided to create a site dedicated to offering students and teachers a free way to practice their English reading skills. I was curious about how the website came to be developed and read the post “The story behind the site.” where the teachers share their motivations for starting the site.

The site is a really great resource for EFL/ESL learners with a nice selection of activities/materials on a wide variety of topics. Not only does it offer academic English reading practice but it also features fun and easier content. There are five categories on the site: Easy English, Interesting English, Fun English, Practical English and Academic English. Most of the lessons across the sections have additional downloads such as worksheets (pdf) and audio for teachers/students to use. The website is very neat, easy to use, and it is updated regularly with new content.

You can learn more about the site by reading Michael Griffin’s latest interview on his wonderful blog where he spoke to Neil Millington, whom he met at a conference in Cambodia this year.

I also enjoyed reading the great post Dream Reader by Hana Ticha where she described her lesson and some lovely ideas she tried out with her students, and demonstrated how teachers can exploit the articles from the blog Dreamreader in a very effective way.

If you want to improve your English, go to , explore the site and enjoy learning English on your own.

You can also follow on Twitter. Read the rest of this entry

The first class – tips and ideas


The first class meeting of any course is one of the most important classes as it can greatly influence students’ opinions about the course and the teacher, as well. The first day of class is the time to introduce yourself and the course, gain the students’ interest, create a positive classroom atmosphere and foster teacher-student rapport.  What is, also, very important, the first day is an opportunity for you to get to know and begin to evaluate your students and assess their language skills.

While preparing the first class and reflecting on how to establish the goals for the first day of class and strategies to meet these goals, we should have in mind that:

  • as the first class sets the tone for what is to follow, teachers should behave the same way they will behave for the remainder of the semester
  • in the first class of the semester, and when a lot is happening, there is no need to cover everything to the point where students are overloaded with the course information
  • it is important to create a relaxed atmosphere conducive to a positive learning experience, this being an essential starting point for effective learning in any classroom

The first class should be well structured with a variety of activities and an appropriate pace. These are some of the first class ideas I have found interesting and useful for my (intermediate and upper-intermediate level) students:

1.  Students ask the teacher whatever they feel is important to know about the course.

(apart from the course related questions, they can ask you some personal questions, if they want to, and of course if you are willing to respond to such questions)

This is an activity for fostering teacher-student rapport. It also creates an environment where meaningful questions about the course are not only wanted but expected. Students usually want to know what is in the syllabus, how much work to expect, and what the teacher’s policies on attendance are.

While you do not want to discuss personal information such as, for example, your age, a divorce, etc., there are some things you would want to share about yourself (how you would like to be called by your students, your educational background, why you are enthusiastic about your job or the course, etc.)

2.  Teacher writes a few things/phrases about herself/himself on the board. Students ask questions in order to guess and find out what the phrases are about.

This is a fun activity for creating a positive learning atmosphere and teacher-student rapport, fostering students’ interest and curiosity, and also a very useful way for practising making questions.

3.  Interview your partner about her/his expectations of the course. Tell the class what your partner’s expectations of the course are.

This activity communicates key elements and expectations for the course. This is also an opportunity for the teacher to discuss the roles/responsibilities of the teacher and students, and is beneficial to the teacher and student because it draws the students into the course content.

4.  Finish the sentence: A good way to learn English is…

Give students the following sentences (on the whiteboard, on an overhead projector, or as handout). Tell them they can agree, disagree, change the sentences, or add their own sentences. This can lead into a class discussion about how to learn a language, as well as past experiences learning a language.

A good way to learn English is…

  1. Speaking English in class with a professional English teacher.
  2. Speaking English with other students in the class.
  3. Speaking English in a café with a native speaker of English (not necessarily a teacher).
  4. Living in a country where people speak English.
  5. Watching films and TV in English.
  6. Reading books and newspapers in English.
  7. Repeating what the teacher says in class.
  8. Keeping a notebook of new words.
  9. Doing some English homework (writing or reading) very often.
  10. Having lots of tests in class to help us remember.

5.  Flash fiction (or Microfiction)


  • look through the window / choose a photo in your mobile phone, etc. …and write whatever comes first to your mind (in 100 words)
  • write a story in just six words
  • write a tweet on the book you have read recently (140 letters)

Flash fiction is a short form of creative writing to use in class. This activity does not require students to write a lot, but they must stick with the 100 word / six word / 140 letters… rule.

This is a great way to practise editing and reformulating ideas. You have to condense the idea of a story into one image or idea. It also requires students to have a very good grasp of English, and particularly to have a large vocabulary to be able to express themselves in different ways and control their writing.

Twitter is the ultimate modern short form of writing (or flash fiction) with the restraints of 140 characters.

You can find a lot of six word stories on: Six-Word Memoirs and your students can also submit their six word stories there.

I found some of the activities I described here on the Internet, or I heard about them at various seminars. As I have used them for so many years I no longer remember where it was from originally (so I cannot reference it).

Cool things that happened during the winter holidays

?????????? Read the rest of this entry

How to enrich your vocabulary


Wordle1 Read the rest of this entry

The Simple Joy of Reading

The aim of these activities is to encourage the habit of reading books and to kindle imagination and creativity in your students.

The use of video as a starting point for a lesson

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Recipe for A Good Teacher


These four months I’ve been reading many wonderful blogs and thinking a lot about what makes a good teacher. The thing is that all teachers who really love teaching English spend a lot of time reflecting on their teaching and pondering the new methods that will be more useful and motivating for their students.

You may find this post a little ridiculous or silly, but I enjoyed a lot writing this recipe for a good teacher. Actually, I was inspired by a great activity from an amazing book Teaching Grammar Creatively by Gunter Gerngross, Herbert Puchta and Scott Thornbury. It was about the teacher’s favourite cocktail – Cosmic Cocktail for which he got the recipe from a magician many years ago. Students should guess the ingredients (e.g. milky way, comet, stars, galaxies, planets, honey).

You write the following model text on the board (it’s not the same as in the book, I slightly changed it), and afterwards they create their own texts based on that model.

I have blended everything nicely,
a bit of the milky way,
a comet
several stars
three planets
and four galaxies.
I have added honey
(I like it sweet you know)
I have boiled it for half an hour
and stirred it carefully.
Maybe you would like to taste it:
my wonderful cosmic cocktail.

The ingredients of my recipe for a good teacher are: understanding, patience, imagination and creativity, kindness, ordered mind and consistency


I have blended everything nicely,
1 Head full of understanding
2 Heaped cups of patience
1 Heart full of love.
I have added ordered mind and consistency
Sprinkled generously with kindness
And plenty of imagination and creativity.
I have boiled it for half an hour
and stirred it carefully.
Maybe you would like to taste it:
my wonderful teacher cocktail.

Reading and speaking: Twitter joke

READING AND SPEAKING: British pair arrested in U.S. on terror charges over Twitter joke’

AIMS: For students to practise reading and speaking and to revise vocabulary and grammar they have learnt this term 


SKILL FOCUS: reading and speaking

TIME: 45 minutes


MATERIALS: handout

CLASS INTERACTION: pairwork and groupwork (groups of 3/4 students)



1.  Ask students a few questions about the Internet and social networking sites they use.

  1. What do you usually do on the Net?
  2. What social networking sites do you usually use? Why?
  3. Have you ever used Twitter?
  4. What do you know about Twitter?
  5. Do you find the warning sign funny? Why? Why not?

2. Pairwork – Before reading the story about a pair of British tourists Leigh and Emily, ask students to read the prompts in order to predict what happened in the story.

Leigh Van Bryan and Emily Bunting / British tourists / trip to Los Angeles / airport / passport control / security officials / arrested / terrorist / excited tweet / destroy America / commit crime / passports and bags confiscated


3. Ask Ss to read the text ‘British pair arrested in U.S. on terror charges over Twitter joke’ to find out what really happened and whether their predictions are right or wrong. 


4. Students read the text once again in order to find out if the sentences are true (T) or false (F).

5. Ask students to match the sentence on the left with a sentence with the same meaning on the right.


6. Groupwork – Ask Ss to do the crossword.

7. Aviation English vocabulary  –  Ask students to match the word with its meaning.


8. Ask Ss to summarise the story in a few sentences.

  1. Why were Leigh and Emily arrested at Los Angeles airport?
  2. How long were they detained by the US guards?
  3. What did the US officials suspect them of planning to do?
  4. What did the US officials do to the British pair?


9. Group discussionHave you or someone you know ever had an unpleasant experience at an airport?

Twitter joke_for students

Twitter joke_lesson plan


Looking down 19 Read the rest of this entry

The Arctic Light


This was filmed between 29th April and 10th May 2011 in the Arctic, on the archipelago Lofoten in Norway.

Watch the video clip and answer the questions:

1. Did you enjoy the magnificent show of colour and light? Can you describe the colours?
2. Did you like the background music composed by the young and talented composer Marika Takeuchi? Why?
3. What were you thinking about while you were listening to the composition? How did you feel?
4. Did the photographer have a very difficult trip? What happened to him during the trip?
5. How long has the photographer been going up there to take photographs and make the film of the Arctic light?
6. Was he happy because he had succeeded in making such an amazing film about the Arctic light?

Creative Writing

ImageThis activity was inspired by a great post by Jo Cummins Creative Writing Prompts 


Aviation English

Level: B1, B2

Write a short story of about 200-250 words.

1. You have 30 seconds to list items you can find at an airport. Write the story that includes all the words in the list but don’t set your story at or near an airport.

2. Use the following words in a short story: aeroplane, jazz festival, musician, baggage limits, saxophone, weapon, hold, fragile.

3. Amy Angler, 37, from Los Angeles, California, likes to always feel in control. She is strong-willed, determined and perfectionist. Put Amy at an airport where her plane is announced cancelled. She is on her way to the most important meeting in her career. What does she do?

4. Juliet Moore and Jason Tidwell meet on an aeroplane after his break up. One of them has a fear of flights.

5. The story starts when your protagonist says the wrong thing while going through airport security. Another character is a ski instructor who has stolen a photograph that belongs to your protagonist.

6. The story starts when your protagonist finds an old book on a friend’s shelf. Another character is a scientist who invents strange planes.

7. The story starts when your protagonist goes on round the world trip. Another character is a pilot who has a gift for poetry.

You could stick the stories up around the walls and the students could read them and vote on which was the most interesting, the funniest, the strangest, etc.

Listening practice – Dreams, dreams

Reading or listening practice every day is a very good workout for your brain and the best way to improve your English. Practise listening to English and enjoy soft melodious voice of Lily Allen.


1.Complete the lyrics of the song with the words below.

stories reminiscing reminding feeling
remember memories dreams friends

“Littlest Things”

Sometimes I find myself sittin’ back and __________
Especially when I have to watch other people kissin’
And I __________ when you started callin’ me your miss’s
All the play fightin’, all the flirtatious disses
I’d tell you sad __________ about my childhood
I don’t know why I trusted you but I knew that I could
We’d spend the whole weekend lying in our own dirt
I was just so happy in your boxers and your t-shirt

Dreams, Dreams
Of when we had just started things
Dreams of you and me
It seems, It seems
That I can’t shake those __________
I wonder if you have the same __________ too.

The littlest things that take me there
I know it sounds lame but it’s so true
I know it’s not right, but it seems unfair
That the things are __________ me of you
Sometimes I wish we could just pretend
Even if only for one weekend
So come on, Tell me
Is this the end?

Drinkin’ tea in bed
Watching DVD’s
When I discovered all your dirty grotty magazines
You take me out shopping and all we’d buy is trainers
As if we ever needed anything to entertain us
the first time that you introduced me to your __________
and you could tell I was nervous, so you held my hand
when I was __________ down, you made that face you do
There’s no one in the world that could replace you


2.Use the words from the exercise 1 and write a poem or a short story.