Whether you consider yourself to be in EFL, ESL or ELT our industry is littered with TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) Before I introduce you to another, have a look at this list and see if you know what they all mean. (NB not all are *TLAs, some are TLAs and some FLAs- see below for definitions. )

  1. PPP
  2. TPR
  3. CLIL
  4. ESA
  5. TEYL
  6. SLA
  7. CEF
  8. TBL
  9. DH
  10. CLT
  11. CLL
  12. CALL
  13. CBLT


This list is only a fraction, and probably represents how language is mutating. (tbh, I could have listed hundreds more)

Having identified their meaning, are there some that mean more to you than others? Ones that you can really relate to?  You don’t have to choose one that is here, or even  a TLA, but think of an idea or approach that means something to you.  Perhaps Dogme was an eye-opener for you, or The Lexical Approach?

When did you first come across these? How have they influenced your teaching? Did you have any ‘Aha!’ moments with them? (‘Aha’ is not a TLA, but a term Oprah Winfrey uses when you (or your students) have a ‘light bulb’ moment, i.e.where the penny drops and everything seems to make sense.) Take some time to think about how  you responded to these new ideas. Did you use them and adapted them to suit your own teaching situation? How did you do this?

At what point did you feel you had ownership of the concept and a sense that it belonged to you? Did you ever feel that you wanted to share it with your colleagues?

At this point I would like to introduce you to MMM. The term was originally coined by University of Nottingham ITE team and I discovered it hidden away in The Primary English Teacher’s Guide; Brewster, Ellis and Girard (Penguin 2002: 47,48). It describes a more learner-centred, child-friendly view of PPP, but in fact is a more humanistic idea of how learners acquire language. For me, though, it has become  more of a life philosophy.

MMM; Meeting new language, Manipulating it and Making the language your own.

(Or, if you prefer it as a mantra to chant, like I do: meet it, manipulate it, make it your own.)


Meeting new language

The way new language is presented depends on the resources available, but it often involves a visual image along with the teacher providing a spoken example.

At this point the teacher is trying to provide comprehensible input in an interesting way so that learners use their hearing, sight and knowledge of the world to put the language into context.

This means the teacher is responsible for introducing the meaning, form and pronunciation of the new language correctly and also for checking the students’ comprehension. It is at this stage where learners could be corrected gently and given the opportunity to practise saying the new language as a group, getting used to hearing what their voice sounds like saying the new language.


Manipulating the new language

The teacher should try and support the learners in manipulating the new language in a variety of activities. First in a controlled way and then moving into more guided manipulation where the learners select the language they want to use from the range of new language they have just encountered. In this way the learners become more and more responsible for remembering the language, but always with some support, such as actions, CDS, charts, chants, pictures, etc. As the learners manipulate the language they are more likely to be divided into teams, groups or pairs.


Making the language your own

In this stage the students are likely to be in groups or pairs for activities with a clear purpose so they need to communicate. This should be much freer, less controlled practice where the emphasis is on getting their meaning across and understanding others’ meaning. Too much correction at this stage could be de-motivating and inappropriate as the focus is on ‘ownership’ of the language. Corrections could be highlighted at the recycling stage in the following lesson, or at the end of the session. It is unrealistic to expect children to use new language perfectly at this stage. This stage is important for developing students’ interactional skills, listening and speaking, as well as literacy skills, reading and writing. Finally, children should be encouraged to review what they have done and learned, and be given plenty of opportunities to recycle language through a variety of activities.


I was introduced to the MMM concept when I was studying for my MA in TEYL at York University. I soon started using it and adapting it as I was writing teacher training courses for teaching YLs. It forms a central backbone in the planning session I wrote for the IHCYLT. More recently I introduced the concept to a group of trainees on CELTA as it is equally applicable for teaching adults.  I certainly feel I have ownership of the concept. Recently I was invited to present a training session in Shanghai, China as part of an ICELT course at General Plan. I introduced MMM as an idea for how to approach lesson planning, and before the end of the session the course director, Simon Cox, had managed to manipulate the concept and incorporated it into  the assignment he was setting on that day.  Basically, I had demonstrated some pairwork card games where the participants had to make their own cards and then use them to play a series of activities which followed the basic MMM principles (see below).  The participants were then encouraged to take these ideas (which they had just met) manipulate and adapt them and make them their own for their individual teaching situation. Loop input doesn’t get better than that!

How do you feel about MMM? Did you help your students meet, manipulate and make language their own this week? Have you been MMMing with tasks and activities? (yes, we can use it as a verb) And yes, I think there definitely is room for one more TLA in ELT!

TLA Definition
CALL Computer Assisted language Learning
CBLT Content Based Language Teaching
CEF Common European Framework
CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning
CLL Community Language Learning
CLT Communicative Language Teaching
DH Demand High
ESA Engage, Study, Activate
PPP Presentation, Practice, Production
SIG Special Interest Group
SLA Second Language Acquisition
TBL Task–Based Learning
TEYL Teaching English to Young Learners
TPR Total Physical Response
TTT Test-Teach-Test (or Teacher Talking Time)


This is a knife!

da da da

Yesterday I ate an apple 

Instructions for mini books

Engaging YLs with content,language and learning skills

What a fantastic session with some great teachers in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday 8th Nov 2014.

Here is the presentation. I hope it impacts on your teaching and you found the ideas and activities useful.

My 3 takeaways (from a presenter’s point of view)

Some teachers really picked up on the little things I said, which weren’t planned or one of the aims. Remember that this happens in class too. Learners will acquire the language they are ready to learn, which might not be the same thing that you have intended to teach.

A teacher with an MA in TEYL said that she learned loads of new things. It doesn’t matter how much experience we have, or what qualifications we have there is always room for more learning.

Feeding ideas to teachers breeds more ideas. There was so much creativity going on. I love the thought that they will go on and share the ideas with their colleagues, which in turn will influence their learners. There is something to be said for cascading knowledge.

I look forward to returning to  ETAS one day 🙂

Promoting learner Autonomy


Here is a power-point presentation summarising some sessions I presented recently

fostering learner autonomy

We all think to ourselves, and have an ‘innervoice’. To help or students improve their English encourage them to think about what  they could say to themselves. Set a home-learning task for them to  think in English for 5-10 minutes every day. They could do this while they are walking or travelling to work/college, while they are cooking, having a shower, or just before they go to bed! (Then hopefully they will dream in English…the ultimate goal!) 

Here is a handout you could use.

 Thinking in English jmhdr



Reflecting on Teacher Talking Time.

As with everything in life, you will be unable to make any changes unless you first acknowledge what it is that you are actually doing. It is much easier to make yourself aware of what is going on in your classroom if you take the time to reflect and make notes about what you think happened in your classroom today. As a teacher trainer (for the International House Certificate in teaching Young Learners – IHCYL) I used to record the lessons using an mp3 or smart phone. Without listening to the recordings myself, I would email them to the individual teachers to listen to and ask them to reflect on what actually took place in the classroom (as opposed to what they thought had taken place).


One teacher noticed how different her classroom voice was to her natural voice. It was higher in pitch and louder in volume. She was hardly able to recognise herself in the recording however, there was a vast improvement in her delivery in the following lesson. Another teacher realised that not only had she drilled the language for the students she was so focussed on completing an activity she was unaware that the students had not actually produced any language. Other teachers realised that their TTT (Teacher Talking Time) was vastly greater than that of the students, and that the lessons overall were far too teacher centred. Recording the lessons also helped teachers see how long (and sometimes how boring) some of the activities were, which resulted in an improvement in their planning and their overall expectations of what is achievable.


Most importantly, all of the teachers noticed their own classroom language and instructions. Some had made the instructions too complicated for the level of the students, while others kept changing their instructions which confused the students. As a result the teachers all started planning in more detail their classroom management and the language they wanted to use. Given that many classroom routines and teaching strategies are applied almost automatically, it seems to make sense to take the time to ensure that these habits are well formulated and considered good practice.


Self-reflection task

Make yourself aware of what you are saying and what your voice sounds like from the learners’ point of view. It is very easy to record yourself nowadays using a smart phone or mp3 player. Choose a lesson which is fairly communicative (ie not a long listening or writing)


  • How do you think you sound to your learners?
  • Are your instructions clear enough?
  • How much do you dominate the lesson?
  • Do you react efficiently to different situations?
  • Time how long you spend on each activity. Is the time appropriate? Is the timing of the lesson stages/ activities balanced? Do students get enough practice activities?
  • What phrases do you say or noises do you make repeatedly? Are they helpful? Could they be repeated by the students?
  • What could you do differently?


#IATEFL Glasgow

What a fantastic conference we are having here in Glasgow.

Here are the slides to my presentation…which are unfortunately mainly pictures, but will probably trigger some spark to help you remember. I will try to add some text  here as soon as I can ( when I return to the real world)

Singing, Chanting and Rapping Creatively in the