Technology post-CELTA (2): Filling in the gaps CELTA left one to bookmark, now!

Your CELTA course (CELTA: orginally, "Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults") is a short and intense month-long course and inevitably leaves a few gaps in the knowledge that you will require as a language teacher — and as a job seeker (see previous post in this series).

One of my jobs for the last 10 years and counting has been passing on jobs vacancies to trainees who have taken their CELTA course at IH Barcelona. Most of them (approx. 300 a year) are TEFL jobs in Spain and I'd say 75% or more of employers specify that they want people with experience of teaching young learners and/or Cambridge exams — which CELTA really didn't prepare you specifically for.

So here are a couple of websites that I always recommend people that cover some of the same areas your CELTA course did — and some it didn't.

1. | Teaching young learners
The first is (image above), which is produced by the British Council and the BBC, and which is great if you finish up teaching young learners, which the site divides into teaching "kids" up to 12, and teaching teens, with lesson plans, activities, articles etc. on both.

One Stop English your first stop site for many areas of English language teaching

You then have, which comes from the publishers Macmillan, which is also great for ideas and resources on teaching young learners (with resources again divided between children and teens), and many other things as well.

You have to pay for full access to it (details for individuals and for schools, and notice also the 30-day free trial option) but it's a site I always recommend (full disclosure: I've written articles on using technology for the site).

Both of the above two sites have the advantage over many things you'll find on the digital dungheap (aka the internet) that they've been produced by experts in the field.

TIP Where you're finding things elsewhere on the web, it can be helpful to ask yourself the question "What would [name of your CELTA course tutor/s] have said about this? How many ex-trainees have told me that works wonders?!

Technology isn't always the answer: one of the things I must have recommended most often on our post-course support group is reading books like these to help fill in those gaps.

And of course you also have workshops and courses that will provide you with useful ideas and knowledge (and look good on your CV). One of the most important things to do post-CELTA and for as long as your career in ELT lasts: go on learning to teach.

2. | Preparing learners for exams

Cambridge English exams your go-to exams site

If you teach in a language school, particularly in Spain, but in lots of other countries around the world too, Cambridge exams are hugely important. The obvious go-to site is, which tells you pretty much all you need to know.

If you're going for an ELT job interview, at the very least know what's on the exams and what PET and FCE are and be able to explain the different levels!

3. | Technology

It's not about what the teacher does with the technology!

Something else your CELTA course probably didn't tell you: it's not a question of what you do with technology!

We'll come back to this in another post in this series but it's been my experience that CELTA doesn't really point you in the right direction as far as technology is concerned.

My big "problem" with CELTA is that it — rightly — focuses on teaching you how to teach, whereas I'd suggest that 21st technology really needs to be in the hands of the learners, not the teacher, for it to be used most successfully.

Your CELTA course probably taught you that your classrooms ought to be learner-centred, didn't it? So why are you hogging the keyboard and displaying your PowerPoint? That's the equivalent, if you ask me, of your Mum posting stuff on Facebook for you and you only being allowed to watch!

For a website, or rather a blog, where you can find lots of ways your learners could be using technology, let me suggest my own blog here — or you could follow me on Twitter for more ideas on that 😉 !

But we'll come back to this one…

4. | Teaching 1-2-1
One other area that CELTA probably didn't cover was teaching one-to-one, private lessons (which you may well find yourself doing to make ends meet, as they tend to be considerably better paid what you get per hour in language schools).

You could Google that (though first I'd always search for results on and the results on OneStopEnglish). But you might again want a book for that specialised area and there's Peter Wilberg's One to One: A Teacher's Handbook (LTP; Amazon) or Priscilla Osborne's One to One (Keyways Publishing, Amazon) for that.

Did CELTA not prepare you for any other key areas? Tell us in the comments!

Coming up in this series

  • Technology for autonomy
  • Technology for becoming a better teacher
  • Technology for learning English
  • Technology for teaching English
  • Technology for filling in the gaps post-CELTA
  • Technology for finding work in ELT

7 super simple things I do on an interactive whiteboard

IWB page

The results of an "interactive dictation" (see below) done on an IWB page, exported from there as an image file, then imported here

Last week I posted 10 good, productive uses of an interactive whiteboard (IWB), which included some of my all-time favourite activities with an IWB.

Here are seven more things I do regularly, shown above in the image, captured while I was demonstrating the IWB in a workshop, with further explanation below.

They are all things which you should learn to do fairly immediately if you have an IWB and are starting out learning to use it.

  • Interactive dictation (example in the image, above). For language classes, I love dictation — even old school ! — but by "interactive" dictation I mean that I dictate and my learners interact with me and vice versa. I have a short text, sometimes a list (as you can see in the image), which I dictate and get them to jot down. You didn't hear that? I repeat. You can't spell it? Here's how… Then they check with each other that they got the same thing, etc. It's not a test, I don't mark it: instead, it's not so much an interactive whiteboard as interactive listening and writing — and it works great on an IWB.
  • Dictogloss (which was also included last week) is such a great activity for language classes.  Dictogloss on an IWB works really well as it gives you interactive students and an inactive whiteboard, which as I suggested last week probably really ought to always be your objective
  • I display images on the IWB, often not more than one, and use them for a variety of different tasks. A favourite is hiding the image with the coversheet or spotlight tool (see below) and getting the learners to guess what (or who) is in the image. Another is to show the image for 3 seconds, turn off the projector and get the learners to talk to each other about what they think they saw (no, you don't really need an IWB to be able to do that!)
  • Download and import YouTube clips (I use KeepVid, and realise that strictly speaking I may be contravening YouTube's terms of service — for the purposes of education, you understand 😉 !). Here's a couple of YouTube clips that always work well used in conjunction with the IWB.
  • Have the learners create things on the IWB and then export them (to a class blog, Edmodo group, etc…), such as the results of brainstorming activities. Brainstorming (i.e. beginning with a single, totally blank IWB page) can then lead on to a ranking activity, both great for language classes. Here's an example of a brainstorming task that always seems to go down well in Barcelona 😉 ! And below, another example from way back, possibly the first use ever made of an IWB at IH Barcelona, to create an "A-Z of Love" (!!!) in a beginners Spanish class:

A-to-Z of Love

  • Import and go over a limited number of things, including errors, from students' work, possibly from blogs, etc. Your IWB has a "camera" tool which allows you to capture and import text from wherever in a question of seconds
  • Use some of the tools (camera, coversheet, spotlight, timer and stopwatch…). The coversheet and spotlight allow you to focus on things, such as a single paragraph of a longer text, or a grammar or lexical point in a text. You remember OHPs and how you could cover part of a slide with a sheet of paper? Well, your IWB has more sophisticated tools to do that. See below for an explanation of the timer.

Fun with your IWB timer
Here's a fun speaking activity for practically any sort of class, but perhaps especially for exam classes where you have to prepare learners to "speak for a minute" on a given topic in an oral exam. Your timer probably resides in the "gallery" of things you can pull in on to an IWB page.

You need to set up the activity as in the diagram below, with two speakers  with their backs to the board, unable to see the seconds counting down. When one runs out of something to say, they have 1 second to tag in the partner, like in tag wrestling:

Fun with the IWB timer

It makes a pretty boring task fun and gets people to really listen. Stop the clock when anyone "objects" to a possible repetition or hestitation and people get really into the game. It almost makes me wish I still taught First Certificate 😉 !

Note that you could do exactly the same thing with a browser timer (I use, free. Do you really need an IWB…?

Two other important things I don't do:

  • I don't use the IWB very much (don't have it on and in use for an hour, in other words)
  • I don't actually touch it myself, but get my learners to operate it

And one further "don't" I would add to that list: I don't spend hours creating material for IWBs.

If I did have something that was going to take me more than 10 minutes to prepare, I'd much rather have it in a shareable, cloud-stored Google Drive document — one I can access again from outside the classroom, one I know I'll be able to re-edit from any computer outside the classroom, which you won't find is the case with IWB software.

See also
Lisa Nielsen's Ten No Nos of Teaching with a Projector or Interactive Whiteboard

How to make your Interactive Whiteboard interactive

How not to see or use your IWB

What do you do (or not do) on your IWB?
Tell us, in the comments…

My top 12 sites for language teaching and learning

2 for the price of 1: song clips that tell stories…

These, in fairly random order, are a dozen of the sites I always recommend language teachers on pre-service courses like CELTA, and on others too.

They are sites I believe all language teachers should know about, though you'll notice that most are intended for the learners, rather than the teacher, to use.

  1. YouTube There's just so much brilliant material for language classes on YouTube (and see also Vimeo, in the next item below). Particularly great are song clips that tell stories [above and here's my favourite example], giving you 2 for the price of 1 — the song and the story (can your learners tell the story, explain and extend it?) | More ideas for using YouTube.
  2. FilmEnglish If you want lesson plans to go with your YouTube clips, then Kieran Donaghy's brilliant FilmEnglish is the best of a number of similar sites (see "Video lessons" in the sidebar, for more), partly because the choice of clips is always so inspired (many in fact don't come from YouTube but from the classier Vimeo).
  3. Google Drive Formerly known as Google Docs, Google Drive is brilliant because you will never ever again have to concern yourself with which is the right version of your document: there is only one version, up in the cloud, accessible from any device; brilliant because you can share documents with people (colleagues, students…); and brilliant because your learners can create the documents and collaborate within them, including in real time (in a chat window… oh, wow!). Absolutely amazing for creative, collaborative writing projects; great too if you have your learners make presentations. And all that without having to fork out for Micro$oft Office! | See also Getting started with Google Drive
  4. Edmodo | I just love Edmodo, and every class I know that's tried it has loved it too — provided the teacher has seen it for what it is: a kind of private Facebook group, one designed for education (and not for sharing every detail of your private life). An Edmodo group is for learners to do stuff, share it and comment on it; it doesn't work nearly as well if you see it as a place to provide the answers to "exercises" and little more. It gives your learners a digital space in which to do things. Welcome to the 21st century!  | More ideas for using Edmodo.
  5. Blogger For a more complex digital space than Edmodo, on which things can be kept looking more organised, a blog is a great option, with Blogger being easier than the very popular WordPress for anyone new to blogging. Fantastic for project work of all kinds | More ideas on blogging.
  6. WhatsApp Absolutely my favourite app for taking advantage of the technology learners come to class already equipped with — and with the app already downloaded, installed and familiar to them. Absolutely great, and addictive, for randomly sharing whatever, and great too for sharing photos on an agreed theme.
  7. SoundCloud | My second favourite app, Soundcloud turns your learners' mobile phones into audio recording devices (which they already are) for podcasting but also gives them somewhere in the cloud to store the files and do various other things with them (like commenting and linking). Podcasting I'd say is definitely one of the most successful uses I've ever had learners make of technology in language classes, though note that I don't recall ever having actually made a recording myself for use in class. | More ideas, information on podcasting.
  8. Twitter It took me a while to see the value of Twitter but I recommend it because it brings me ideas and materials (like the outstanding images on 500px); not to mention ELT job offers; and stuff (unrelated to work) that I just like and enjoy; because having learners "follow" someone — a celebrity of some kind — is a great way for them to get more, self-motivating reading practice; and because I've also seen it used a bit like an Edmodo or WhatsApp group, for sharing things between the members of a class , with one of the best examples being this project by Daniel Rodriguez (content in Spanish) | Me on Twitter (and check out who I follow for more ideas on who you could follow!)
  9. Especially — but not exclusively — for newly qualified language teachers, Teaching English is a must-have favourite. Everything your CELTA course forgot to mention (and lots that it did) is there. Got a newbie question and you don't have a colleague at hand to turn to? Go there! If you're on Facebook, they also have a Facebook page that is well worth "liking".
  10. OneStopEnglish In many ways very like Teaching English, OneStopEnglish requires subscription (currently 42 GBP, or €53 pa) for full access, though if you're lucky, your school already has school access to it. Another great site to turn to when the DoS gives you classes (business English, exams…) that CELTA didn't prepare you for!
  11. Cambridge Exams And talking about exams, all teachers should know about them, acquire knowledge  of them and experience of teaching exam classes. In Europe, the Cambridge Exams are the most popular, and schools want teachers that have that knowledge and experience. Here's where to acquire at least the former, which is a definite plus to your CV.
  12. Tech ELT Blog I've left technology till last as I think it's the least important (but still vital) ingredient in a language classroom. I going to recommend my own blog here  (!!!) as a site to bookmark because — I hope — virtually everything here is (a) easy to put into practice in a language classroom; (b) interaction- and language-rich but technology-light, and not the other way round: and (c) involves learners rather than teachers using technology — which is as I think it should be. You want alternatives? Look at some of the "Blogs I learn from" (see sidebar).

What must-favourite sites for language learning do you think I've missed? Tell us in the comments…

Another brilliant video for class discussion

Thanks to Karen for this one, which I think is wonderful for sparking class discussion: fabulous with teens and probably also if you have classes of young adults of university age.

For class, I like to adhere to a strict, self-imposed "no photocopies" rule. Do we actually need a photocopied listening "exercise" with material this good?

Watch, and then get your learners to — individually — summarise what is being said. Then put them into pairs or threes to compare notes, before watching again and then producing a (collaborative) written summary of what is said in a maximum of 120 words, as a starting point for class discussion (which could be continued outside class on something like Edmodo).

As a follow-up, possibly with a short oral presentation by each group, have the learners propose radical alternatives for education… which could alternatively be done as a piece of formal writing if you're teaching for Cambridge exams.

Note that you can have "captions on" for subtitles in English if your learners find it hard to follow what is said.