Blog
  • Ideal Idioms

    August 3, 2016

    I cannot stress enough that idioms are a critical part of learning English. Native speakers use idioms frequently, and idioms often do not have a literal meaning, which can make understanding them difficult. I tell my students that it is not necessary to use idioms yourself, but it is important to understand their meaning, so […]

  • The alchemy of song – Writing song lyrics

    November 18, 2015

    Song lyrics and writing song lyrics have been in my thoughts this week, since I’ve started teaching them as part of a new programme at Music Lessons Anywhere. Some kind of wonderful alchemy happens when words come together with music. Read for example these lyrics by James Warren: Change your heart
 Look around you 

Change your […]

  • The heady pleasures of learning

    October 24, 2015

    In a previous post I said I would return to the role of emotion in learning, since I had been thinking about differences between human interaction in on and off-line teaching. As many will know, Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis has been very influential here. According to Krashen, if the student is anxious or demotivated, this filter […]

  • Wanted: Online piano teacher

    October 8, 2015

    … just like me! Except I can’t write that. I have 10 students on my waiting list now and need to find somebody to work for my business. But I’m finding it surprisingly hard to give up control, and that is what I will partly have to do when I take someone on. So, perhaps […]

  • Second chances

    September 15, 2015

    I corrected my Spanish grammar as I came out of the shop, but by then it was too late; I had already had the conversation and couldn’t use my corrected version. I’m sure everyone has experienced this when learning a foreign language; you arrive at the correct version after the moment to use it has […]

  • The warmth of a human

    August 19, 2015

    The director of a London tutoring agency tells me that it does not provide Skype teaching. ‘We offer the warmth of a human, sitting beside a pupil to learn’, she says. To her, Skype lessons are second best and here she suggests two things they are not as good at. Firstly, giving emotional support and […]

  • Competing as teachers in the online world

    July 16, 2015

    ‘Que suerte!’ (what luck!) said Anna when she learnt I was an English teacher. Anna is my new Spanish-English conversation exchange partner, which means we chat for about an hour each week in the two languages (an informal arrangement with no money changing hands). Anna wants to improve her English for the impending visit of […]

  • Learning objectives: don’t you love them?

    June 17, 2015

    This week I have been writing learning objectives for a two-week full-time course, using the cognitive section of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. So I need to crystallise what students are expected to learn in each session, then express each objective with an appropriate verb. So for example, at initial stages of cognitive learning students will […]

  • Full circle

    June 3, 2015

    First of all, thanks to everyone who responded to my last post about starting an online school. It was great to see how much ideas and enthusiasm there is out there and also get some contacts in the bag. I’ll be putting some quality thinking and planning time into this when things quieten down in […]

  • Keeping it real

    May 14, 2015

    About three quarters of the way through this BBC Four programme, musician Robert Wyatt explains how he composes. He says ‘it’s like animals nosing about in the leaves. Hedgehogs, dogs and so on. They’re not working to a career plan – they’re following their nose. I think if something is organic and going in the […]

  • Would you like to be part of an online school?

    Student-side view of me teaching The idea of starting an online school has been at the back of my mind for the past couple of years, but recently it has come to the front. I have a full teaching timetable now, and am not sure where to go from here. I could certainly stay as […]

  • In praise of quiet websites

    April 19, 2015

    As promised in my last post, here are a couple of my favourite quiet websites. One is primarily visual, the other has plenty of white space. The first belongs to Ann Rippin, Management lecturer at Bristol University and passionate quilter. Two posts on this page show her progress with a quilt made of Laura Ashley […]