Proficiency Lesson Plan 1 – Reported Speech

Teaching English to learners who have successfully reached C2 level can be unforgiving, and is certainly not for the faint hearted. These are dedicated individuals who will pick apart your grammar explanations, ask you the difference between impossibly similar adjectives, and occasionally produce pieces of writings that are so beautiful you have to read them twice to find some improvements to recommend.

Despite C2 being perhaps the most difficult level to teach, I have often found a lack of resources to help educators plan valuable lesson content. That’s why I have made a few plans of my own and I would like to share them with you. First up, Reported Speech.

If you need to refresh your knowledge of reported speech before teaching it, have a look at my post on the subject: How To Teach Reported Speech

The full lesson plan with a breakdown of each stage can be found here: Reported Speech Lesson Plan C2

Reported Speech for Proficiency

Step 1 – Lead in

Begin by refreshing their understanding of a reporting verb with a sentence on the board.

My mother said that she had been to the supermarket.

A painfully easy sentence for them to analyse, I know, but we must start with the foundations.

Once they have correctly identified that the reporting verb is ‘to say’, tell them that your lesson is going to revolve around playing with nicer and more advanced ways to express the manner in which people say things.

Step 2 – Introduce the Vocabulary

Present them with a list of reporting verbs that are appropriate for their level. Below I have put some examples from the Masterclass® textbook, use these or add to them.

  • Acquiesce
  • Blab
  • Brag
  • Clamour
  • Clarify
  • Demand
  • Egg on
  • Fill in
  • Go along with
  • Gloat
  • Moot
  • Mouth
  • Mumble
  • Pledge
  • Propose
  • Rebuff
  • Spell out
  • Swear
  • Turn down
  • Urge

Ask students to work as a group to put these words into three categories.

  1. Words I know
  2. Words I don’t know
  3. Word I’m not sure about

Clarify any meanings of tricky ones once they have finished this.

Step Three – Tie in Grammar

You should now put the following five categories on the board;

  1. to + infinitive
  2. object + to + infinitive
  3. that
  4. -ing
  5. to + object + that

Students must separate the words they have learned into these structures, in most cases, more than one category applies.

Extension – To make this a little more applied, you could put example sentences with each category, this also makes it easier for students to place each word. For example:

  1. to + infinitive

The manager ______ to help the players win the championship.

The manager pledged to help the players win the championship.

The manager swore to help the players win the championship.


Step Four – Practice Makes Perfect

You now have some beautiful reporting verbs and they are separated into the correct categories. Now your students need some practice, use this worksheet to reinforce what you have taught them: Reporting Verbs Practice C2

Why Your EFL Students Aren’t Improving, and Why It’s Your Fault

So, your EFL students aren’t making any progress, you’re a good chunk of your way into the course and you’re just about ready to tear your own hair out, or theirs, in frustration. Maybe you’re even considering throwing the towel in altogether. Cutting your losses and moving to Mexico, certain that EFL teaching was never for you.

Well, hold fire with that trigger-happy resignation finger, all is not lost.

This is a frustration that many before you have faced, and you won’t be the last to do so. EFL teachers frequently burn out, give up, or simply plod along with the same ineffective methods year after year. Don’t be one of them!

There are a few ways that you might be inadvertently contributing to a lack of student progress. Read through my list to identify where you might be going wrong, let’s get your EFL career and their exam results back on track!

  1. You’ve lost your mojo

Teaching EFL can be overwhelmingly frustrating, using the same tired old textbooks and materials course after course. You know exactly what’s on the next page, exactly the jokes you’ll tell and the anecdotes you’ll share to aid learner experience during the next unit. You even know the answers to all the listening activities without so much as glancing at the teacher’s book.

First, well done you! This takes quite some memory, and a lot of solid teaching hours over the years.

But because of this vast knowledge, you’ve become bored, and are praying for a shake-up.

What effect is this having on your learners?

They can sense it; they see the tired look in your eyes and the lack of any real enthusiasm for the material. As such, they are less motivated to pay attention and do the work to the best of their ability. A catastrophe for their learning and ultimate results.

How do I fix it?

How about taking a break from the textbook occasionally? Even the most rigid of course structures allow for some freelancing. A change, as they say, is every bit as good as a rest. Bring a new game, activity, or worksheet to class one day and see how the students respond to your interest in it. Pick something that helps you to communicate the target language in a different way to achieve the same result.

By meandering away from and back to the textbook, you’re providing dynamic and enjoyable classes not just for learners, but also for yourself. With the added benefit of demonstrating that you don’t need to use the set books as a crutch. You are capable of innovating and creating new things for your students to learn from.

This doesn’t even have to mean more work for you. Collaborate with colleagues and the huge asset that is the internet to find things that reignite your passion for teaching.

  1. You aren’t encouraging independent learning

Learning a new language is a heavy undertaking. As anybody who has ever accepted the challenge will know, it’s so much more than classroom learning and takes a huge amount of dedication. Despite this, most of these people will also admit to sometimes allowing their studies to fall by the wayside. Neglecting their new language in favour of other pursuits.

Many EFL teachers make the mistake of not backing up classroom learning, thinking that it’s not their responsibility.

What effect is this having on your learners?

They come to class, they learn some English, they go home. The End.

Without constant encouragement, this is the story that is doomed to repeat itself forever more. It might not be your job to dedicate endless extra hours to helping them improve outside the classroom as well as in it. But make no mistake, it is your job to stay on top of them about it. Adults, teenagers and children alike.

How do I fix it?

There are many resources for English learners on the internet, with more being developed all the time. You need to make sure that you are communicating these things to your learners, while espousing the benefits of doing activities for themselves at home. If not, they will continue to think that practising for themselves is unnecessary and boring, putting all the responsibility on you for their learning.

Instead of putting all this pressure on you, and the 3 hours a week that you have with them, give it back to them and provide learners with the push they need to become responsible for their own improvement. It’s going to help you out in the long run.

Suggest things they might look at online, make book and TV series recommendations and discuss them in class. Encourage listening practice with websites such as LyricsTraining or free podcasts. There are so many things to help you out as a teacher, make sure that you pass them on to your classes.

  1. You’re too obsessed with exam success

In these troubled times, with overwhelming pressure from an increasingly competitive labour market, learners are almost shoved towards taking official exams and getting qualifications in order to demonstrate their skills to the world. This is no bad thing of course, having the structure of an exam and the urgency that comes with it helps people to focus and to continue improving.

How does this affect your learners?

We must be wary of concentrating too heavily on passing exams. The beauty of a learning a language is being able to speak it and developing skills that go beyond simply passing a test.

You will often find that learners who are too fixed on passing lose their passion, if they had any in the first place, for natural communication in English. As such, they are demotivated and can’t see any improvement.

How do I fix it?

Stop and smell the flowers occasionally!

Don’t spend a huge chunk of every lesson hammering on about exam technique.

Encourage activities and exercises that make them feel good about their language skills and make them want to practise all day long!

Got any other suggestions for improving learning? Let me know!

First Day TEFL Activities To Get Students Talking!

The start of another year has come around, which means new faces, new materials and maybe some new colleagues! It’s an exciting time for a TEFL teacher, but can be daunting for a new one. It can feel a little intimidating to have all of those new faces staring at you on the first day, and it’s always handy to have a few activities up your sleeve in case your lesson plan doesn’t quite stretch to the full hour.

Here are my favourite activities for the first day/week of class, let me know if you have any favourites to add to the list!

They don’t require many (if any!) materials, so you can crack them out with almost no planning.

1. Vocabulary Tennis

This is fantastic to play with children and teenagers. It’s fun, and it also gives you a rough idea of their vocabulary level.

How To Play – 

You can use a ball if you like, make sure it’s a soft one to avoid injuries, but if you don’t have one don’t worry!

Act like you’re holding a tennis ball in your hand, and pretend to bounce it like players do before they serve. Then give your best impression of Rafael Nadal hitting it to another champ, and shout a word in English. For example; Bakery!

The student you serve it to should then respond with throwing the ball back and saying the same word in their own language.

Variation – 

If you don’t speak your students’ language, or you would prefer to speak only in English, students should respond with a word related to the one you served. For example; Bread!

2. Know Me By Numbers

Again, this activity requires no materials apart from perhaps a whiteboard and a board pen, and is fun for all ages! It also practises questioning skills.

Method –

On the whiteboard, write 3 or 4 numbers that are in some way significant to you. I usually use these;

19 – The street number of my house

1 – The number of siblings I have

38 – My shoe size!

1995 – My birth year. I usually use this as the example, as it’s pretty obvious.

Students should then try to guess what the other numbers refer to using questions in English. For example; Do you have 19 close friends? or; Are you 38 years old? Etc.

When they have correctly guessed the significance of all of your numbers, you can get one of them to write some on the board and the game starts again.

Variation – 

To avoid the activity dragging out too much, you could give each student a certain number of guesses. Depending on class size, around 3-5 each.

3. AA Meeting Chat

You know how at a meeting of AA, they go round the circle to introduce themselves? Usually in this format; “Hi, my name is Caroline and I’m ______”.

Well that’s the structure we’re practising with this game.

Again, you can use a ball to pass around the circle to make it a little more interactive, but it’s not necessary.

Method – 

Get your students to stand in a circle, better than sitting down!

You start by saying your name, and something that you like which begins with the same letter. For example; My name is Caroline and I like Chocolate.

Pass the ball to the student next to you and they do the same with their name. This time, they must also repeat what you said; “My name is Fred and I like Football, Her name is Caroline and she likes Chocolate“.

Go around the circle until everybody has had a turn, it can get quite funny when people mess up!

Variations – 

  • Get students to use not only the same letter, but the same syllable.
  • If you don’t have many students, add another round after this one!
  • Instead of going round in a circle, throw the ball randomly around to students.

4. I Word I Learnt Today

This one is more for filling up those 5 minutes between the end of your lesson plan and the end of class, and doesn’t necessarily have to be played on the first day.

Method –

Either point to a student, or throw them the ball, and ask them to tell you a word that they have learned that day. It could be a word thy have learned in class, or from watching a programme or something. In the event that other students don’t know the word, they should also try to explain it.

Variations –

  • One student says a word, another explains it to the class
  • Choose a part of speech before you choose a student. For example; Tell me an adjective that you learnt today. This is perhaps for a higher level class.


Have you played any of these games in your classes? Did you have fun? Let us know in the comments below!

How To Psych Yourself For A Class You Don’t Like Teaching

We all have those days, or weeks. Maybe it’s the start or the end of the year, when there are less class options. Or maybe you have had the bad luck to land a class you hate teaching all year round. For me, it’s usually a kids class that I have no experience with, or business classes that I’m covering, without having much time to go over the material. Whatever it may be, it means that I might be tempted to watch the clock until it’s over, and can really ruin a perfectly good week.

So here are my tips for feeling more positive about those headache classes.

Be Prepared


It sounds obvious. But one of the reasons why many teachers feel uncomfortable with a class is because they haven’t prepared properly. This might be because they haven’t had sufficient time, information, or motivation to do so. If your class is usually taught by somebody else, make sure you get a full briefing from the normal class teacher. This can include things like:

  • Previous work completed
  • Class level
  • Aims and objectives
  • Class demographic
  • Troublemakers
  • Materials being used

If the class is using set materials like a textbook, planning doesn’t have to be arduous at all, a simple glance at the subject matter might be all that’s necessary if you’re already familiar with it. Alternatively, there’s nothing wrong with going off script for one day if you don’t fancy, or don’t feel able to continue with what they normally do.

Also, make sure you have some kind of activity up your sleeve for if they finish earlier tan you expected them to. A simple ten minute game should suffice. There’s nothing worse than delivering a great class but have to improvise for the last little bit. Students can tell, and you won’t feel comfortable at all.

Enjoy Being Challenged

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Perhaps you don’t like this class because they always ask the difficult questions. Questions that you don’t know the answer to, this was the case for me not long ago. But these are actually fantastic opportunities to hone your craft as a teacher.

Remember to look over what you’ll be teaching beforehand, to avoid being completely clueless when the time comes, this will help you to answer the basic stuff.

But for those things they ask you that you really struggle with, don’t give them half an answer. Remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with telling them that you’re not sure, and getting back to them next time. It will make you look more professional, and means that for next time, you’ll know how to explain something on the spot.

Remember You’re The Boss

I once had a class of 30 or so students, most of whom were young lads trying out for the police exam, for which they needed to pass an English test. Imagine, all the arrogance and attitude that comes with that group! It used to make me so nervous, enough to ruin my whole week.

But in the end, I was reminded that all of those students were there because I had something that they wanted, which was the knowledge to see them through their exam. Once I started to be a little more confident, they had a lot more confidence in me. I actually quite enjoy the class now!

Lesson learned. Even though it’s a horrible cliche, you need to believe in yourself just a little bit more.

Did you find these tips helpful? Let me know in the comments!

Improve EFL Listening Skills – Tips and Activities

Exam season has rolled around again! Hopefully you’re prepared for all the marking, extra hours and special planning you may be required to do in order to get your students up to scratch.

Today I am focusing a post on improving listening skills for exams. Especially the gap fill exercises that pervade official examinations these days. There is often little time available to practise listening in class, and students hate doing it at home. So how to improve their skills quickly and effectively? Well, with the simple 3 step method, with some other tips and activities included at the end!

Step One – Train Those Reading Skills

Yes, I’m serious! Students need to be able to read quickly and effectively in order to get good marks in this part. So the best first step to improving those listening scores? Practise reading!

Collect some listening part 2 exercises and example sentences, and have them read them quickly, identifying the type of information necessary for the space. For example;

John decided to wear _______________ to keep him warm on his journey down the mountain.

First, students should identify that they need a NOUN, and then refer to the context to glean more specific information. From this, they will know that they are looking for some kind of clothing. They should note this down next to the question.

Why is this step helpful?

Well, for two reasons. Firstly, it focuses their listening, ensuring that they pay attention to the words that meet the criteria they have written down. Secondly, if they are left with no answer at the end of the listening, they will be in a better position to guess.

Step Two – Identify Distractors

This part of the listening is notorious for distractors, which will throw students off. Knowing that candidates will be looking for specific information, exam creators throw in lots of similar words in an attempt to ward off ‘word spotting’. The intention of this is that candidates focus on the gist and meaning of the entire listening exercise. So how to deal with them?

If, for example, students have correctly identified that they need a noun to complete the space, they should note down next to the question all of the relevant nouns that they hear. For example;

John decided to wear _______________ to keep him warm on his journey down the mountain.

Audio Script:

I often used to take a pair of gloves with me down the mountain, but in the end I never used them and they were taking up too much space. My mother suggested that I use a scarf to help keep me warm but it blocked my eyes and I decided against it. Then I discovered some other snowboarders using a face mask and found that it’s really effective in keeping the chill off, so I’m never without it these days!

There are three answers that perfectly fit the criteria here; gloves, a scarf, and a face mask. All are nouns, and all are things that one wears.

Students should, the first time they listen, note down all three options. The second time they hear the audio, an attempt should be made to narrow them down using the context.

Why is this step helpful?

By getting the general idea of the context the first time they listen, candidates will be better placed to choose between the options in a multiple choice they have created for themselves!

Step Three – Check Answers

The last and potentially the most crucial of the three steps. It would be a shame for your students to fall at the final hurdle! After they finish the listening, without really thinking about what the people said anymore, they should go back and read what they have put. The focus here is not on if the answer is contextually correct, but grammatically. Do they have a plural if the sentence requires one? Did they remember to put an article before the singular countable noun? Those small grammatical errors that cost students hundreds of points.

Also in this step, students must make sure to put an answer for every question! If, at the end of the test they have nothing, they should guess. Using the notes they made to help them. This is a matter of luck a lot of the time, but given that they have a context and a grammatical guideline, I have seen many points gained from guesses in listening part 2!

Other Tips –


  • Remind students that the answers come in chronological order, and they therefore shouldn’t get to hung up on a question, or they may miss the next. This information also helps them to locate where they are if they get lost.
  • Spelling is hugely important here, and another thing they should revise in step three.
  • Let them in on your secret, tell them about the three steps rather than simply training the skills. Students love methods and tricks, it helps with motivation!
  • Emphasise that they have a word limit of three. In FCE exams, it’s not common to see three word answers, but in CAE it is. So they should be expecting it!

Practice Activities!


  • Have a look first for some example exam exercises online, students always appreciate the chance to practise with genuine past papers.

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  • Check out my post on improving gap fill listening with TED talks! I love this activity because TED talks are usually super interesting and practise listening at the same time! Have a look at my examples and then you can make some of your own!

TED Talks for ESL Advanced Listening Practice (With Examples)

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  • The best one of all is lyrics training! The website omits words from popular songs, students must type the word before the timer runs out. Great for all ages, and is good fun for anybody who enjoys music. The website has helped countless numbers of my students to improve their listening skills while having fun.



I hope you’ve found these tips useful, happy teaching!

101 CAE Part 1 Speaking Questions For Busy Teachers!

Help your students improve their speaking ability with the following questions. Speaking part 1 of the CAE exam can cover a wide range of topics. Use these example questions throughout the course, to make sure that they take the exam completely prepared for whatever subject they might throw!

Before any of the 101 examples, an examiner will probably select one or two questions from the following;

  • Where are you from?
  • What do you do here/there?
  • How long have you been studying English?
  • What do you enjoy the most about learning English?

And then start with these……

  • Do you consider yourself an empathetic person?
  • Do you care more about material or intellectual wealth? Why?
  • How is watching a film at the cinema different from watching it at home?
  • Do you always vote in your country’s elections? Why?/Why not?
  • Do you prefer to be with lots of people or alone?
  • After English, which language would you most like to learn?
  • Tell me about a book that you have read recently.
  • Which animal do you identify with the most? Why?
  • Tell me about an activity that you have always wanted to try.
  • When you are tired, what do you do to try and stay awake?
  • Do you get scared watching horror films?
  • Are you afraid of anything in particular?/Do you have any phobias?
  • Are you good at cooking? What do you like to make if you have lots of time?
  • Are you a creative person?
  • What kind of music do you like to listen to while relaxing?
  • Is there anything in your home town which ‘puts it on the map’?
  • Do you prefer giving or receiving gifts?
  • What is your weakness when it comes to food?
  • Which area of the world would you like to know more about?
  • Do you like to keep up to date with the latest news? Why?/why not?
  • Would you prefer a night out dancing, or a quiet dinner at home on a Saturday night?
  • Do you think that it’s important to always be learning new things?
  • Tell me about someone that you admire.
  • What is a regret that you have, something you would change if you could?
  • Which celebration do you like the most in your country? Why?
  • Tell me about a story you have seen in the news recently.
  • If you had the chance to live in another country, which would it be? Why?
  • What do you to feel better when you’re sad or demotivated?
  • Do you think that there are enough green spaces where you live?
  • What bad habit should you cut down on?
  • What is your favourite type of weather? Why?
  • Do you consider yourself a hard-working person? Are there things you could do to improve?
  • Are you a conscientious person?
  • What fashion trend do you dislike? Why?
  • Tell me about a story you have seen in the news recently.
  • Would you like to study anything just for interest? What would it be?
  • Do you like to play board games? Which ones?
  • Are you good at accepting criticism? Why/why not?
  • What sport are you good at? Is there a sport or game that you would like to try?
  • What is your favourite film? Why?
  • What do you think is your biggest weakness?
  • What is the most valuable piece of advice that you have ever been given?
  • Which celebrity would you most like to meet? Why?
  • Do you feel comfortable speaking on the phone in English? Why? Why not?
  • Would you like working with children? Why? Why not?
  • If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? Why?
  • Do you prefer going to bed early or waking up late? Why?
  • Do you feel comfortable speaking in front of lots of people? Why? Why not?
  • What do you think is your biggest weakness?
  • What is the most valuable piece of advice that you have ever been given?
  • Which celebrity would you most like to meet? Why?
  • Do you feel comfortable speaking on the phone in English? Why? Why not?
  • Would you like working with children? Why? Why not?
  • If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? Why?
  • Do you prefer going to bed early or waking up late? Why?
  • Do you feel comfortable speaking in front of lots of people? Why? Why not?
  • What weather do you like the most? Why?
  • Do you prefer late nights or early mornings? Why?
  • What is your signature dish?
  • Tell me about your best friend.
  • Do you consider yourself an honest person?
  • Would you prefer to be an employer or an employee? Why?
  • What qualities do you appreciate in other people?
  • What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
  • Do you believe in love at first sight? Why? Why not?
  • Are you an organised person?
  • Where would you go on your perfect holiday?
  • Tell me about your dream job.
  • Would you prefer to have a relaxing holiday or one with lots of activities?
  • Do you persevere with things? Or do you usually give up easily?
  • Do you have any bad habits?
  • Do you ever watch television or other things, in English? If so, what?
  • In there a lot of crime in the area where you live?
  • What is your favourite season of the year? Why?
  • Where you live, is live music common? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you like the least about your work / studies? Why?
  • Are you a patient person?
  • Do you have any allergies? If so, what are you allergic to?
  • What sport would you choose to watch on TV if you had to? Why?

Did you find this list useful? Share it with other busy teachers and let me know in the comments!

6 Of The Best Online ESL Jobs To Make Some Extra Money

If you have a home computer and a table internet connection, and don’t teach online, you’re missing a great opportunity! Make some extra money in your free time with one of these fantastic companies:

1. English Hunt

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These guys are based in South Korea, but also run courses for students in China and Japan. They work in shifts, and you must be available to teach for the entirety of the shift you choose. If you have lots of free time you can even work both shifts and laugh all the way to the bank! Their curriculum is provided for you.

Requirements –

  • 48 college credit hours or a TEFL qualification.
  • Stable internet connection. (You will be required to prove this)

Pay –

  • Classes run for 10, 15 or 20 minutes at a rate of $2 per 10 minutes.
  • $10 per hour average with breaks included.

Apply Now

English Hunt Application

2. iTutorGroup

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This is one of the biggest online tutoring services in the world, they connect qualified EFL teachers with huge numbers of students in Asia. You can work completely from home and have a very flexible working schedule. They also provide classes for young learners and adults. So if you have a preference, this might be the company for you.

Requirements –

  • Bachelors Degree (or higher)
  • TEFL Qualification
  • Experience in the field desirable
  • Stable internet connection

Pay –

They seem to be a little cagey about this, but here’s what I could figure out;

  • Standard base rate plus regular performance bonuses.
  • Base rate depends on experience and qualifications.
  • Anywhere between $10 and $20 per hour.

Apply Now

iTutorGroup Application

3. Gogokid

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This one is exclusively based in China, and connects teachers around the world with Chinese students, mostly of school age. They offer a flexible timetable and have very good reviews from past and current teaching staff. All the classes are one to one and it’s not necessary to prepare any teaching materials.

Requirements –

  • Stable internet connection.
  • Bachelor’s Degree or higher.

Pay –

  • Anywhere between $14 and $25 per hour.

Apply Now

Gogokid Application

4. Dada


Strange name, I know. But this company also has a good reputation for teaching online classes. It connects teachers from all over the world to students in China and has some prestigious partners, Cambridge University Press and Pearson Education among them.

Requirements –

  • Bachelor’s Degree.
  • TEFL Teaching Certificate.
  • Criminal Background Check.
  • Stable Internet Connection.

Pay –

The website and teacher reviews don’t give a specific figure for this, but here is what I found out.

  • Regular Student Bonus of 30% of base rate pay.
  • Trial Class Bonus of $7
  • Incentive Bonus of $1 per finished class.
  • Pay increase according to performance.

Apply Now –

DadaABC Application

5. 51Talk

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Although you may never have heard of it, these guys are industry leaders. Their website boasts of 50,000 classes per day! They are even listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company connects teachers in the Philippines with students all over Asia.

Requirements –

  • Bachelor’s Degree.
  • Stable Internet Connection.
  • TEFL Qualification.
  • Experience in the Field Desirable.

Pay –

  • $15 per hour as a starting wage.
  • Chances to increase salary up to $22 per hour.

Apply Now –

51Talk Application

6. VIPKid

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There are many benefits to working with this company. No class preparation, flexible working hours, completely home based, what’s not to love!

Requirements –

  • Bachelor’s Degree.
  • Stable Internet Connection.

Pay –

  • Up to $22 per hour.
  • Pay rises evaluated at the end of each contract.
  • Teacher referral bonus.

Apply Now

VIPKid Application

Any more companies I should add? Let me know in the comments!

A Guide To EFL Job Hunting – How To Get The Job You Want

Typically, getting a job in EFL is not difficult. As there is such a demand for teachers around the world, you’ll find that employment comes relatively easily. However, some roles are better than others. There can be a vast disparity between what schools and institutions offer you, and it’s worth your while to look around for different options before you jump on the first offer you receive.

So what should you consider before applying for work in EFL? I’ve tried to put together a little guide on getting the job you want!

Find A Good Fit

Wherever in the world you look for a job in EFL, there is likely to be a million options. Especially if you look in a city. So be picky to start with. Use all the resources at your disposal to find out which schools and institutions in the area have the best reputation. You can use search engines, teacher review sites, Facebook groups for that area, etc. Try and find somewhere that has affiliations with other companies or examining groups, as they usually have standards to adhere to and are less likely to be ‘Cowboy Employers’.

Once you’ve found one or two that you think could be great, do your research. What courses do they run? How many teachers do they have? What kind of management structure is there? All of this information will help you to adjust your CV accordingly and also know who to send it to.

Craft Your CV

When I applied for a new role a little while ago, I had to dig out my CV from the deepest depths of my computer hard drive. Suffice to say, it wasn’t ready to send anywhere. Having not used it to apply for anything for at least 5 years, I needed to update it big time. Here are some things I tried to keep in mind;

  • Be Succcint

Nobody wants to read a CV that runs for 5 pages and lists all of your jobs since you were 15 years old. Nor do they want to see endless qualifications listed, unless they relate directly to the job you’re applying for.

So be choosy about what you include, both in your professional experience and qualifications. It’s okay to adjust your CV for every role you apply to. You should have clearly marked sections for your professional background, qualifications (with final grade included), other skills such as languages or other relevant competencies, and perhaps a small section on interests. Your CV should never exceed 2 pages!

  • Include References

No decent employer would ever call your referees before they have interviewed you personally. So you can stop worrying about a surprise phone call to your boss. Usually, at the end of any chat you have with your potential employer, they will ask you if it’s okay to call your references.

So make sure to update these as much as you would any other part of your CV. I don’t want to hear about your talents from a university professor that taught you 5 years ago. I also don’t want a million options to choose from. In general, you should include one professional reference and one personal. Make sure that your professional reference is someone who has supervised you directly and was fairly recent, if not bang up to date.

It’s also a good idea to warn whoever you put down that they may be contacted, as they get time to consider what to say and are not caught unawares.

For more tips, have a look at this guide on creating a good CV from the International House group – CV Advice

Write A Decent Cover Letter

Where I work, we get a lot of CVs. But that’s all, just CVs. Which is mildly frustrating. If you wish to pip the competition to the post to get the job you want, include a cover letter with your CV. Nothing elaborate, nothing over the top. Just let them know that you’ve chosen their establishment for a reason, not just fired off a million CVs to everybody in the area.

Personalising the letter to each job you apply for will massively increase your chances of being invited for an interview.

The Interview

Typically, a job interview in this field will take place in two stages. First comes the meeting between yourself and whoever is responsible for hiring, whether it be on Skype or face to face. Secondly, if they are happy with you, an invitation to teach a few classes under supervision. This second stage doesn’t always happen, although I strongly believe that it should.

It may seem obvious, needing to let them see how you teach. But I see teachers who are unwilling to be in front of a class until they have a contract signed. Frankly, this seems a little ludicrous to me. You should always be ready to do a few supervised hours of class, even if they don’t mention it straight away at the interview.

Not making yourself available for this could have unfortunate consequences for your application.

Ask Questions

It’s very important to know if the job you’re applying for suits your needs and ambitions. So fire away with the questions! Interviewers appreciate somebody who doesn’t jump in feet first, but takes the time to make sure it’s a good fit. Apart from anything else, asking questions makes you seem interested and alert during an interview, so go ahead!

Here are some things you might like to consider asking about;

  • Timetable commitments. What kind of hours you will be expected to work each day / week.
  • Planning / Contact time. Do they provide any contracted time for planning?
  • Pay. It’s an uncomfortable subject for many people, but important to know before you dive in!
  • Opportunities for Professional Development.
  • Support Network. Who is there to help you as a teacher?

Many more things could be included here, but in the interests of not blowing them away with question, I would consider these to be the most important.

Any tips on getting an EFL job? Anything to add? Let me know in the comments below. Happy Hunting!


EFL Debate Topic – Gun Control

This week’s debate topic is gun control in countries around the world. To prepare for a class on this topic, have a look at the post below, and it might also be a good idea to research the laws and restrictions that exist in the country where you teach.

As with all of my debates, students should be encouraged to speak their mind about a topic and contribute to the discourse. They should use vocabulary that’s relevant to the topic, which I list at the bottom. If they are given a point of view to talk about which doesn’t reflect how they feel, it is often beneficial for them to be the ‘devil’s advocate’ and try to win the debate anyway.

Here are both sides of the argument and the points for and against, use these as guides for the students and encourage them to come up with their own.

Guns should be restricted to law enforcement only

  1. Firearms should be a last resort only, for use in law enforcement.
  2. Countries with less restrictive gun control policies often have higher mortality rates related to gun crime.
  3. Without proper training, handling firearms can be highly dangerous and often cause unintentional injuries and even death.
  4. Regulating guns can be difficult, making it almost impossible for police to control the sale of firearms.


Citizens should be allowed to carry guns for protection

  1. The high crime rate in many countries around the world means that la enforcement is stretched and people to take action for themselves.
  2. Farmers and other primary industry workers use guns for animal control.
  3. Many restrictions and license requirements exist for gun owners, which can be tightened if the public wishes.

Good Vocabulary

  • Pistol
  • Ammunition, Ammo
  • Trigger
  • Firearm
  • Crime Scene
  • Shootout
  • To fire
  • Gunfire
  • Gun Crime
  • Firearm Permit / License
  • To load
  • Penalties
  • Gun laws
  • Injury
  • Trigger Happy
  • Self Defence
  • Protection


Anything to add? Let me know in the comments below!

Improving Exam Writing – Help Your Students Get Better Marks

Exam writing can be tough for students to master, especially if they find it difficult to write in their own language, which is increasingly common in the digital era. Combined with topics that can be a little dull, and that they would rarely speak about in their mother tongue, teaching students to produce exam standard writing can be very challenging.

If you want to know more about Cambridge exam writings, check out my previous blogs on the topic here –

Essay Writing For The Cambridge FCE

A Teacher’s Guide To The Cambridge PET Reading And Writing Exam

CAE Example Essay With Examiner Comments

Essay Writing For The Cambridge CAE

Writing Exam Preparation Tips

Today, I’m focusing on skills that students should practise in order to produce a decent writing assignment.

Vocabulary – Be Creative!

Nobody wants to read an essay or letter that uses basic language and lacks flair. Consider this;

  • English grammar is relatively easy, having a look at different levels of textbook will tell you that the grammar taught at each level is the same. The might build on things already taught before, adding things and making it a little more challenging. But the basic grammar is very similar across all levels. So what will examiners look at in a writing to determine the level of the candidate? Largely, they will look at the vocabulary they use, if it relates to the topic, if it’s used appropriately, and if students can effectively use synonyms and a variety of vocabulary to avoid repeating themselves and the words used in the question.

So here are some tips for improving vocabulary use –

  • Before they sit down to write anything, encourage to brainstorm vocabulary that relates to the topic they need to write about. Making sure that the words and phrases are appropriate for their level. They can start with nouns, then make different sections for verbs, adjectives, adverbs, expressions, etc. While they are writing, they should check back to this list and see what they can add from it.
  • After they have finished their writing, they should go back and read it again, twice if necessary, Presentation isn’t marked in the exam, so it’s no problem if they add things afterwards, as long as it’s readable! They may focus on things like adverbs, which are always easier to add after the sentence is already formed.
  • Students should, as far as possible, avoid repeating themselves and using the same words and phrases over and over again. Synonyms and originality are to be praised here. Also, get them to try and rephrase the words used in the question.

Answer The Question!

This may seem the most obvious thing in the world, but I often see students struggling with this! Between the introduction and the conclusion, they forget to look at the question as often as they should and end up deviating from the goal. I’m not saying they start talking about something completely different, but they sometimes forget to give a definitive response to the question originally asked.

  • Get them to constantly refer to the task while the are writing, each time they finish or start a new paragraph for example.
  • After they finish writing. Encourage them to put the question and their conclusion together, do they match? Does the conclusion leave the reader in doubt about the opinion of the writer? Does the writing in general provide a satisfactory answer to that question? Or does it deviate and end up answering something similar, but slightly different.

Let It Flow!

A student might use the most wonderful language, use perfect structures in all the right places, and answer the question perfectly, but be caught out if their writing doesn’t flow naturally. It’s not the be all and end all, but could net them some of those elusive points for organisation.

  • Stress the importance of producing a plan before they begin writing, and actually follow it.
  • They should make sure that their essay or letter or whatever, uses appropriate linking expressions and cohesive devices, so that it has a nice flow.
  •  An easy way of doing this is using a set uniform set of words to start new paragraphs. E.g. Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, etc.

The Little Things Count

In the rush to finish the task and get it over with, little things are often, tragically, forgotten.


Please! Please encourage students to focus on their spelling, mistakes are usually easy to avoid. But they can lose a lot of points for errors.

  • When they finish, get them to go back and read their work again! It sounds obvious, but so many don’t! Check for spelling mistakes and other problems.
  • Throughout the course, be conscious of the mistakes that your class as a whole, and individual students, constantly make. They should make a list of these, perhaps 10 or 15 words, that they have problems with. Revise these periodically to make sure they get it right on exam day!

Appropriate Style

Every type of writing has different rules. Among the most important differences is the formal / informal style. These rules are easy to learn and remember. For formal writing;

  • No Contractions
  • No Phrasal Verbs (With a few marked exceptions)
  • No Idioms
  • No Abbreviations

These are easy things to avoid using when writing, for example, an essay. Candidates should also check back when they have finished, making sure that they haven’t used any.

This is just an example, make sure that they are familiar with all the rules associated with different forms of writing tasks.

Any more tips for improving writing? Let me know in the comments!