Mulled Wine – A Christmas Treat

Mulled WineI’ve had lots of requests for the mulled wine recipe I used at our Christmas drinks party last night, so here goes. It’s based on a Jamie Oliver recipe which can be found here.  It takes a bit more effort than the pre-prepared stuff you can get in tea bags, but it is definitely worth it.



  • 200g sugar
  • 2 clementines
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla pod (halved)
  • A couple of fresh bay leaves
  • A few gratings of whole nutmeg
  • 6 or 7 whole cloves
  • 2 star anises
  • A couple of bottles of red wine (I used a Sicilian Nero D’Avola, but any red wine will do fine I’m sure)


  1. Put the sugar into a large saucepan and place on a medium heat.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the clementines and the lemon, trying to get just the outer layer and avoiding the white pith (much like when peeling the lemons in my recipe for limoncello).
  3. Add the peel to the pan.
  4. Squeeze the clementines and add the juice to the pan.
  5. Add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, vanilla pod, nutmeg and cloves.
  6. Pour in a little wine, just enough to cover the sugar.
  7. Stir it all together and let the sugar dissolve.
  8. Bring the mixture to the boil for about 5 minutes. It should create a thick syrup, and will smell amazing. This stage is important as the high heat allows all the flavours to infuse.  If you add the wine before, then the alcohol will burn off with the heat.
  9. Turn the heat down, add the star anise and add the rest of the wine.
  10. Heat the mixture gently for 5 minutes or so.
  11. Ladle into glasses and enjoy.

Have a great Christmas everyone!

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How to write a TEFL CV


Part of my job involves teacher recruitment and therefore I’ve seen a good number of CVs over the years. Very few of the CVs have stood out, and many have been, quite frankly, terrible!

Some facts about CVs

Recruitment websites tell us that an employer on average spends anywhere between 5 seconds and 30 seconds to scan your CV, so you need to make an impact, fast.

Research cited by the Huffington Post here highlights that employers spend 80% of their brief review examining the following 6 key elements of a CV:

  1. Your name
  2. The current company you work for
  3. Your previous employment
  4. The start and end dates of your current position
  5. The start and end dates of your previous position
  6. Your educational background


A TEFL CV is not so different from a regular CV: it should include all the usual features you would expect. Ensure it is relevant to TEFL however.

Personal details

  • Naturally, a CV will need to include your contact details.
    Use a sensible, professional email address, an address like doesn’t give a great impression!
  • You might also want to include date of birth and nationality here; though this is not technically required in a job application, employers often want to know this.


  • Put all relevant teaching experience first. This is what the employer is looking for.
  • Write it in reverse chronological order, ensuring there are no unexplained gaps.
  • When writing about experience, use positive action words like ‘developed’, ‘planned’, ‘organised’, ‘achieved’, ‘responsible’.
  • In experience state the type of schools you have worked with, levels and ages you have taught, include any experience you have with ESP.  Include dates.
  • Demonstrate your development and career progression. Your CV should shout ‘career teacher’, not ‘backpacker’.
  • Briefly mention non-EFL related experience, particularly if it includes transferable skills.  Employers are often curious to know about your pre-TEFL career.


  • Be specific here, employers often want to know where you trained, when and what grade you achieved.
  • Do not lie, it’s quite easy to check this these days, and employers will want to see certificates.


  • Include key transferable non-TEFL skills here, particularly if you have little teaching experience. These could include communication, computer skills, public speaking, foreign languages, administrative skills, working with children, coaching etc.
  • If applying for work abroad, mention any experience of living abroad or travelling.
  • Do you have any other useful skills, like a first aid qualification or driving license?


  • There is some debate about whether to include this on a CV. I would suggest including things that show your initiative, responsibility, teamwork and other key transferable skills.
  • Avoid passive solitary hobbies – an employer wants to know you have good people skills and will get on with students and colleagues.
  • Relate interests to the job, what do you have particular interests in? Have you attended any ELT conferences for instance?


  • Include two key references, ideally current and previous managers or teacher trainers.
  • I would say include names, rather than using an ‘available on request’ type of phrase, unless you really don’t want your current employers to know about your application.
  • Bear in mind however, your recent employers are the people potential employers will want to speak to most and the world of ELT is rather small.


General tips for writing a TEFL CV


  • Write it in English if you are applying for a job with a private language school abroad.
  • If you are applying for work in state schools, then you may need to translate it into the local language.
  • Write it in good English, there really is no excuse for spelling and grammar mistakes in applying for a job as an English teacher.
  • Go through it with a fine tooth comb, get friends and colleagues to proofread it; mistakes are sometimes easier to spot if you read it from the bottom up.

Layout and presentation

  • Keep it to one or two pages – clear & concise, short & sweet.
  • Avoid ready made templates. Your CV should have a personal touch.
  • The upper middle first page is where the eyes naturally fall, so include key information here.
  • Ensure information is logically ordered and easy to read.
  • If printing the CV, use good quality white paper. (I was once given a CV with tea stains on it!)
  • If submitting an electronic version, consider sending a PDF to ensure formatting is not compromised and compatibility is not an issue.
  • Give the file a sensible file name, one which is easy to find.

Do your research

  • Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for.  Write your CV specifically for that role.
  • Include a covering letter and do the same here, it’s very easy to spot a generic letter sent out to loads of institutions, and an employer will probably stop reading when they notice this.

Other considerations

  • Think about your online presence, employers may Google you.  Tidy up any social networking profiles or up your privacy settings.
  • Consider creating a LinkedIn profile to support your CV.
  • You could include hyperlinks in your CV to any work you have done online.
  • If the job advert asks for ‘native speakers only’, write back explaining why such adverts are discriminatory – visit TEFL Equity Advocates to learn more about your rights and see a sample email.

Remember, a CV is your first contact with a potential employer and acts as an appetiser for an interview so it needs to have immediate impact.  Time invested in putting it together can really pay off.

Any other tips for writing a TEFL CV?  Comments welcome below.

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Warmer of the Week – Polarisation

Here’s an idea for a simple, low preparation, communicative activity to set the context and lead in to your lesson.


The basic procedure

  1. Write ‘I agree’ on one side of the board and ‘I disagree’ on the other side of the board.
  2. Write a statement on the board related to the context of the lesson.  Something a little controversial works well.
  3. Ask students to think about the statement and decide if they agree or disagree. Give them a minute or two to think about their reasons.
  4. Ask students to stand up and move to one side of the classroom, according to their opinion.
  5. Now you can either ask students to discuss the statement with someone who has the same opinion, or pair them up with someone from the other side of the room with a different point of view.

Lessons types this activity works well with:

  • A lead in to a reading or listening lesson dealing with a controversial topic.
  • A lead in to a writing lesson looking at a for and against discursive essay as a way to brainstorm and generate ideas.
  • A speaking lesson focussing on spoken discourse – providing practice of discourse markers used to express opinions (e.g. ‘as far as I’m concerned’, ‘if you ask me’, ‘that’s not the point’, ‘I see what you mean but’…etc.)
  • A warmer at the beginning of the lesson to get students out of their seats and working with different members of the group.

Some things to bear in mind:

  • Be ready with a back up plan if all the students share the same opinion and all gather in one half of the classroom. You could ask half  of the class to come over to the other side and try to think of reasons to support the opposing view.
  • This generally works better with a smaller class where furniture allows students to move around freely.

With thanks to James Blackburn for first telling me about this idea.

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Thank you for 100,000 hits!

imageSo after starting this blog as a New Year’s resolution back in early January, today sees me welcoming my 100,000th view.  I must say I’ve been rather overwhelmed by how far reaching the blog has been:


180 countries and counting… I don’t think I could name 180 countries if you asked me!

So thank you to all the readers, commenters, sharers and rebloggers.  Big thanks also to the British Council Teaching English Facebook page, which has sent many visitors my way.

With a six-figure view count, I’ve decided to register a new domain for the blog, so the blog can now be found at the easier to remember and type in addition to the original

Grazie a tutti, happy teaching (and cooking!)


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Routines with Young Learners – A guest post by Jenny Holden

Today I have the great pleasure of publishing a guest post written by the Young Learner Coordinator at my school. I’ve been trying to persuade Jenny to share her YL expertise here for some time and she finally surrendered. Some great reading for anyone who teaches young learners, especially for those of you starting new classes. One to bookmark!

Over to you Jenny…

IMG_1748It’s that time of year again as the new term kicks off and we meet our new students for the year. Meeting our new YLs can be a daunting prospect and it can often feel like we’re herding cats rather than teaching English for the first few months. Routines, or established patterns of behaviour, could be the solution…

Why Routines?

Carol Read (the Queen of teaching YLs) sheds light on this in her excellent book ‘500 Activities for the Primary Classroom‘. Her main points are summarised below:

IMG_1750Routines promote a positive learning environment as they help learners (who may have just been thrust into an alien environment with a new teacher who speaks a strange language) to feel secure and confident in the classroom. They help create a sense of community in the classroom too; encouraging co-operation, and shared purposes.

One of the most rewarding aspects of using routines is the opportunities which arise for natural language acquisition. When your students start parroting your instructions back to you or they’ve learnt a chunk of classroom language, not only does it reflect how we learn L1 but it provides the building blocks for noticing patterns in language for learning in later life.

But the greatest benefit of routines is that once your YLs are on board, they become more autonomous and your life as a teacher becomes much easier; it’s less stressful, less draining and it allows the focus to return to learning not just classroom management.
Not just a positive learning environment, but a positive teaching one too!

My top routines for primary students.

Before Class
Routines start outside the classroom; students should know where and how to wait for class. Encourage learners to line up outside and enter one by one as you welcome them in. It can be motivating to set up a ‘password’ system which is decided upon at the end of the previous lesson (A throwback from the much-loved I-Spy series).

Start of Class:
As YL teachers we’re not just teaching English but we play a part in developing the whole child too; help them develop their organisational skills; coats come off and are hung up as soon as they enter the classroom; students sit down and get everything out of their bags that they’ll need later on.


Encourage students to create a ‘book cake’ of their belongings under their chair for easy access (this will cut down on faff time later).


Date and weather 

Elicit and board the date and weather from the students; it’s then ready to be copied into their note books later on in the lesson. Or hand this over to the learners; students at this age love helping the teacher; take advantage of this!

Taking the register

  • The register provides a great opportunity to recycle and review previously studied language (and let those latecomers trickle in).
  • You could ask each child a question about last lesson to help them ‘switch on their English brains’.
  • Or, as above, why not ask a student to take the register for you; it’s a great way to review those pesky question forms!

A wake up shake up!


Movement at the start of the class is a great for you to take control of energy levels; wake up tired minds or wear off excess energy: Try this in a circle with your class (I’m sure you can imagine the moves!):

Hands up! Shake shake, shakety shake!
Hands down! Shake shake, shakety shake!
To the left, to the left, to the left, left, left!
To the right, to the right, to the right, right right!
Jump in, jump out and turn around!
Jump in, jump out and sit down!

(With thanks to Jack Williams for this)

Giving out materials/tidying up
Never do anything yourself that a student can do for you… just make sure you stage and model your instructions carefully!


  • Student signals

IMG_1756Surely one of the most common sounds from the YL clsssroom is ‘finished, finished, finished’. Having signals in place creates a much calmer atmosphere. Encourage students to put their hands on their heads / fingers on noses when they finish an activity. When playing or working in teams extend this to the whole group.

  • Teacher signals

If you want students to know that an activity is coming to the end, give time warnings followed by a countdown.  If you’re still struggling to get their attention try saying ‘1,2,3, Look at me!’ And wait. Be a lighthouse if necessary (sit in the middle of the classroom and look around the room until you have everybody’s attention. It just takes one student to understand and they’ll help the others catch on.

Closing routines

  • Allow ample time to set up homework, remembering to model activities so students understand what to do.
  • Encourage ss to record their homework (e.g on a homework record sheet).
  • Ss can then put their belongings away.
  • Use early finishers to help you tidy up the classroom; cleaning the board holds untold pleasure for students!

How to implement routines successfully

Routines do take time to establish, so have patience.

  • Start when planning, how will everyone know what is expected of them and what they should do?
  • Never explain when you can demonstrate; allowing time to introduce routines at the start of the term will pay off in the long run.
  • Use TPR or ‘Simon Says’ as a fun way to get your students trained. E.g. Simon says stand in a line, Simon says stand in a circle, put your hands on your head etc. This will soon become second nature to the learners.
  • Reward your students for doing as you want them to; smile at them, praise them, give them a sticker/smiley face/star. Show them that their behaviour pleases you and they’ll be keen to do so again.

I am sure many of you have your own routines; it would be great to hear about them.


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A Story out of Context

Today I cleared out a cupboard full of old teaching material (I know how to have fun!)  I had accumulated files full of worksheets and little cut up cards I had made or photocopied years ago and inexplicably saved. I threw the vast majority out but found a couple of gems I haven’t seen for what must be 5 years or so.

One such gem was this storyboard:


I’m afraid I have no recollection of the source, so if anyone recognises it, please help me reference it appropriately. It must be pretty old as the invitation in picture 2 says 1969!

At first I couldn’t remember what on earth I had used it for in class, in fact it got me thinking about other things you could use this story for.

Stories have great potential in the language classroom, the value of storytelling is neatly summed up by Andrew Wright here.  In this post however, I want to look at using stories as a way of presenting new language, rather than the art of storytelling itself.

A Contextual Vehicle

I’m a fan of using short stories and anecdotes as contextual vehicles for presenting language. There are so many language points you can draw out from a story to focus on and present grammar or vocabulary.  With a storyboard, the pictures provide a very visual representation of meaning to work on with the students.  Below are 3 possible language points for the storyboard above.

Narrative Tenses
Most stories have a number of different time references so an obvious language point to highlight when using a story is narrative tenses.  A teacher could elicit or highlight these tenses from the context of the story.  For example:


Pic 1 – Tony was relaxing at home when he suddenly remembered he had been invited to a party.
Past continuous (background events), past simple and past perfect (passive) all in one picture.

imagePic 3 – He ran upstairs, put on his suit and ran downstairs.
Past simple (events in chronological order).


Pic 4 – He tried to start his car but it had run out of petrol.
Past simple and past perfect.

IMG_1693 Pic 6 – When he got to the phone box, a woman was chatting and it was raining.
Past simple and past continuous (actions in progress).

IMG_1694 Pic 7 – He realised he hadn’t taken any money with him.
Past simple and past perfect.

IMG_1695 Pic 12 – When he finally arrived, his friends were leaving and the party had finished.
Past simple, past continuous and past perfect.

You could probably squeeze in some past perfect continuous too (He‘d been looking forward to going to the party for ages).

Phrasal verbs
I originally used the story as a presentation for phrasal verbs, at an intermediate level if I remember rightly.  The story could contain a number of phrasal verbs, of course the choice and complexity of the story is dependent on level.

Phrasal verbs that could be drawn out of this story:

Pic 1 – sit down, chill out, put (feet) up, stay in, not go out
Pic 2 – look forward to (going to the party)
Pic 3 – put on (his suit), go out
Pic 4 – get in (the car), run out of (petrol)
Pic 5 – come up with (an idea)
Pic 6 – queue up
Pic 7 – run out of (money/coins)
Pic 8 – get on (his bicycle)
Pic 9 – (He shouted) ‘Look out!’
Pic 10 – crash into (a policeman), fall off (his bike)
Pic 11 – get in (a taxi)
Pic 12 – turn up (to the party)

Expressions with get
Similarly, the lesson could focus on uses of get. There are many possible examples to draw out of the story:

Pic 1 – get home from work
Pic 3 – get changed
Pic 4 – get in (his car), get angry
Pic 6 – get to the phonebox, get angry
Pic 7 – get worse
Pic 8 – get on (his bike)
Pic 10 – get into trouble
Pic 11 – get a taxi
Pic 12 – get to the party

A possible procedure for this type of lesson:

Here’s what I would generally do with this kind of presentation.

1.  T leads into topic (in this case, being late).  T could ask learners to think about the last time they were late for something, they could brainstorm the worst things to be late for, or they could have some discussion questions about punctuality.

2.  T tells class he/she is going to tell them a story about a time when the T/friend of T was late (more fun if it is personalised).

3. T gives ss picture cut up (remembering to cut off or tippex out the little numbers in the corners!), and asks learners to put the pictures into a logical order.

4. T tells story and learners listen and check their order.

5. T elicits story from the learners picture by picture, eliciting or feeding in the target language, concept checking and drilling as necessary.  (A large version of the storyboard on the whiteboard or IWB helps here to get everyone focussed.

6. As story builds up T keeps returning to the beginning of the story and re-eliciting it, paying particular attention to the target language, perhaps asking students to tell the story in a chain, with each student talking about one picture each. T insists on accuracy at this stage.

7. Once T is confident learners have the story, T hands over to students to practise telling the story in pairs.  T monitors and helps where necessary.

8. As an extra challenge, T could then remove the story and students have to remember it all.

9. Follow up controlled and freer practice of the language point.

10. Follow up task (E.g. Students create their own story using the language).

Advantages of using a storyboard to present language

  • Pictures give a strong visual representation of meaning, they are efficient and much clearer than wordy definitions.
  • Stories are engaging and memorable for the students.
  • The storyboard allows the teacher to go back to the beginning, repeating, recycling and reinforcing the language.
  • This kind of approach involves lots of opportunity for eliciting language and getting the learners working together.
  • The meaning of new language is clear from the context.
  • Meaning comes first when eliciting.

Perhaps you could find some other things to use this storyboard for.  Any suggestions welcome in the comments below.

Now back to that cupboard…

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Getting Instructions Right

This is my third post in a series of posts going ‘Back to Basics‘, re-examining techniques and ideas introduced on teacher training courses.


One of the first things that is often taught on a teacher training course is the importance of clear instructions when setting up activities. Classic examples are often given of bad instructions, such as those below when setting up a ‘find someone who…’ activity.

What I’d like you to do in a minute, if you could just listen to me for a second, I’d like you to look at this worksheet (T distributes worksheet) and look at the sentences like ‘find someone who likes cycling’, then stand up and ask everyone if they like cycling, then if they do, write their name and if they don’t ask someone else, then ask different people different questions and try to find someone for each sentence, all right? Ask questions and find the people… Stand up, you’ve got 5 minutes. Yes Luca, stand up and ask questions… Oh and ask other questions too.

Some tips for better instructions

1. Get full attention
There’s nothing worse than having to repeat yourself over and over again. Wait until everyone is looking at you and listening to you. Think about your position in the class, can everyone see you? Avoid giving instructions whilst writing on the board.

2. Grade your language
Slow down a little and use clear, uncomplicated language, use imperatives.

3. Cut out unnecessary language
Lose things like cleft sentences (‘What I’d like you to do now is…’), which are often just noise.

4. Stage the instructions
Is it necessary to give instructions for the entire activity? Just give the essential instructions first, then further instructions later. Do students need to know that when they have finished writing they are going to check with another student? Tell them this later.

5. Plan your instructions
Think carefully about the exact wording and write the instructions in your lesson plan. You may or may not actually use them in the lesson, but the process of planning them should help.

6. Don’t explain, demonstrate
Demonstrations and gestures are always better than wordy explanations.

7. Worksheets after instructions
If you have a worksheet, give it out at the end of the instructions, hold one against your chest to demonstrate, or display it on the board. The minute you give students a worksheet, they generally stop listening to you and start reading.

8. Use Information Checking Questions (ICQs)
Ask the students a few simple questions after you have given your instructions to check they have understood.

9. Monitor the activity straight away
As soon as the students start, check they are doing what you intended, help those who appear to have misunderstood.

Let’s see if we can improve those instructions for the ‘find someone who…’ activity again.

T writes on board:

Find someone who … likes cycling. ___________________

T – ‘What’s the question?’
Ss – ‘Do you like cycling?’
T – ‘Good, Sara, do you like cycling?
Sara – ‘No, I don’t’
T – ‘Enrico, do you like cycling?’
Enrico – ‘No, I don’t’
T – ‘Giusi, do you like cycling?’
Giusi – ‘Yes, I do’
T – ‘Oh, how often do you go cycling?’
Giusi – ‘Sometimes I go cycling at the weekend’

T writes ‘Giusi’ in space next to sentence.

T holds up worksheet to chest pointing at sentences.

T – ‘Here are ten similar sentences… for example… find someone who has visited Paris… What’s the question?’
Ss – ‘Have you ever visited Paris?
T – ‘Good… Ask the other students questions… If someone says yes, write their name and ask for more information… You have 10 minutes’.

Follow up with some ICQs:

T – ‘Do you speak to one person, or lots of people?’ Ss‘Lots of people’.
T – ‘What do you do if the person says no?’ Ss‘Ask another question’, ‘ask someone else’.
T – ‘What do you do if the person says yes?’ Ss‘Write their name and ask for more information’.
T – ‘Do you write a name or an answer?’ Ss‘A name’.
T – ‘How much time do you have?’ Ss’10 minutes’.

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