Christmas Gift Idea

Not sure what to give an English teacher colleague for Christmas?

Published by Cambridge University Press.

Ho ho ho!


Mozambique and South Africa

Travelling is often not the straightforward smooth ride we hope for and I suppose that the more you travel the more likely it is that things will go wrong. I arrived in Maputo, Mozambique on Monday 12th November after a very long night flight to Johannesburg and then a long wait before another flight to Maputo. I had planned it so I had two full days of relaxation before training. Maputo is a fascinating city - some gems like the 100 year old railway station, roads filled with flame trees and jacarandas and streets with names like Avenida Vladimir Lenine, which tell a tale of the country's rocky history.

We started the day on Thursday with great enthusiasm but a dark cloud soon settled over us as news came through of a national strike in response to the government putting up the price of public transport. The word on the street was that there would be rioting and all major roads blocked with burning tyres. This news put off about half the teachers who had planned to attend my training. But those who did come certainly made up for it with their enthusiasm and determination not to let outside events bother them.

I am not sure whether I was relieved or disappointed when our taxi drive to the airport not only revealed a complete lack of rioters but delivered us there in record time as there were so few other cars on the road.

Our sessions in Jo’burg and Cape Town were snag-free and the teachers just as enthusiastic and ready to have fun as their Mozambique counterparts.

It was a delight to have a week of summer – a break from the greyness and damp of a London November. Saturday and Sunday lunch in Cape Town were both at oceanside restaurants. I even got sand between my toes on Sunday.

The other thing about travelling is how many more people you meet than when you stay at home (particularly if you work like me alone at the computer). Making new friends is a gift and meeting them again a greater one.


Olha on youtube

Here are two videos of me.

The first is of my plenary presentation at HUPE (Croatian Teachers of English Association) conference in April 2012. The title of my plenary was Teaching the World. It's about the role of culture in English Language teaching.

The second is a video of me teaching a class of elementary level students at CELT Athens.

I hope you find them interesting / useful. Do let me know.



As promised - for all those who attended my plenary and workshop on Saturday 27th October in Skopje - the handouts can be found by clicking on the HANDOUTS tab.

It was unfortunately a very quick trip, but nonetheless a very enjoyable one. I hope to see you all again soon.



It was very special for me to spend a week in Ukraine. Both my parents were born in Ukraine and although I was born and brought up in London, we only spoke Ukrainian at home when I was a child. I don't suppose at the time my parents knew what an incredible gift they were giving me. Being bilingual opens up so much knowledge and a fabulous grounding in languages. Now when I travel in Easter Europe and former Yugoslavia I am amazed at how much I can understand and pick up.

This half meter length sausage was just one of many gastronomic treats I had last week. 


The magic of puppets

 Whether it be Turkish teachers in Oxford
or British Council Teachers in Tunis
or young learners anywhere in the world, there is something very magical about using puppets to encourage the use of English in the classroom.
Children don't see the point of speaking English just for the sake of it. Why would they when they can so easily use mother tongue? But if it's part of a game, that's another matter. They give the puppet they have an identity and it's fun to use another language to interact with other puppet characters.
I once did this activity with a class of 5 and 6 year olds in Greece. The next lesson a mum came and told me that after the previous class her daughter had got home, grabbed her 3 year old sister drawn a face on her own finger and her sister's (creating instant finger puppets) and taught her sister the few phrases in English that she had used in class and they proceeded to 'play the game' of speaking in English in character. Magic!

YL Cake

I've never had a YL training cake before! Many thanks to the British Council, Tunis for this treat at the end of two days fruitful and fun training with twenty fabulous teachers. It was chocolate and pistachio - delicious.



Her Majesty is getting around and meeting all her loyal subjects. She was looking a bit weary so I lent a helping hand to support her!

Teaching again

Apologies for my silence. I have spent the last five weeks at Brunel University in West London teaching a group of Omani University students.
What joy to not only be back in the classroom and have the luxury of getting to know a group of students really well on an intensive course but also to be part of a team of teachers working together again. I do so miss the staffroom buzz - sharing funny stories, seeking and offering advice and not feeling isolated. My usual modus operandi is working solo - spending a lot of time poring over the computer designing training sessions and then delivering them alone. Don't get me wrong, I invariably have people to support me (like the marvellous Lidija in Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia) but it's not the same as being part of a team of teachers.
The pleasure of this experience nearly made up for the abysmal English summer weather. How much rain can possibly fall??



How many faces can you see?

Astonishing how civilizations come and go. About 1000 years ago the area that encompassed Angkor Wat was a city of a million people while London had a population of 50,000. They were able to build these amazing structures and support their people with sophisticated agriculture and now they are back to ploughing the paddy fields with ploughs pulled by water buffalo and fighting poverty.

The teachers I met were incredibly enthusiastic and hungry for practical ideas. I was glad that I brought along lots of materials as they grabbed everything they could to take into their own classrooms.


Busy and Dizzy

Just back from Bosnia and Greece and leaving tonight for Cambodia! There really should be some moderation in my scheduling of work. But it's hard to say no, especially when often there are quiet periods.
I was in a classroom in a school in Bosnia and I noticed the times table on the wall and it just made me wonder about how things like this are established and accepted because the tables I learnt were the other way round - 1 x 3 = 3, 2 x 3 = 6 etc and we went down to 12 x in each list. What's the logic?

As always I was struck by how beautiful a country Bosnia is - rolling green hills, thick woods, fast-moving clear rivers, haystacks in front of houses. Once they get good roads built I am sure that tourism will take off.

It was with very mixed feelings that I arrived back in Athens. The current situation is very tense and I don't see how it will improve for some years. I just hope it doesn't get worse for the people who have already been suffering for years.

I met up with some very dear friends in Athens and have promised Stamatis that I'll do much more with this blog. I have lots of ideas I want to share but I have had so little time so far this year. Things will start calming down next month - so I will definitely make blogging a more regular feature of my life. But for now I have to return to my packing!




Just over 24 hours in Madrid. Busy day yesterday with a plenary and two workshops. Amazing how energising I find my work to be - all that positivity coming from the teachers, but must admit by yesterday evening I was feeling exhausted. I didn't have any time to do much in the city but managed to eat some delicious food.

Here with fellow presenters Alix Tegenza and Margie Marc as well as Louise Connolly, who looked after me so well both in Madrid and Barcelona.


Training in Oxford

Last July I trained on an Oxford Teachers' Academy Course in Oxford with fellow trainer Jules. You can read about the course and see a video by following this link. (I look nice and tanned).



WOW - presented here at the University of Barcelona on Saturday. A really beautiful room in a stunning University. Ironically I was talking about the old world of learning in such a venue.

I have uploaded the notes for my workshop - developing literacy skills under Handouts. Unfortunately the pictures didn't upload but I hope the text is enough to remind you of all the activities.

I happened to see a few of these cafes around the city. I am not sure what kind of coffee they serve - but I am sure it's uplifting!!


In action at HUPE

Handout for HUPE

If you attended my sessions at HUPE at the weekend, the handout is under the Handouts tag. Easy to find.

Ten things that make a conference great!

1.       Great organisation – the sort that you are never aware of, but underneath the smooth, efficient surface is a team of extremely hard-working people making sure that everything – and I mean everything down to the smallest detail – is planned and executed.

2.       Great presentations – not too many, so that the choice is not overwhelming and so that all speakers get a reasonably sized audience. A variety of talks that engage, interest and entertain. Talks that get better year after year: as speakers realise the quality of presentations around them, we try to up our game and improve our talks.

3.       Great location – makes it a treat to attend. Sea and sunshine are always a good combination, but noone can guarantee the sun!

4.       Great venue – everyone needs to be comfortable and eat well.

5.       Great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones.

6.       Great social programme – so there’s an opportunity to chat, laugh, dance and forget the stresses of everyday life.

7.       Great coffee breaks with scrummy cakes and excellent coffee to keep us all going.

8.       Great book exhibits to showcase the best that publishers have to offer.

9.       Great timing – all sessions starting and finishing on time. This may seem a small thing, but if just one person goes over it has a knock-on effect and can cause frustration and confusion.

10.   Last but certainly not least – Great people!

My warmest thanks to every single person who attended the HUPE conference in Opatija, Croatia last weekend. It was a GREAT conference.


Czech Republic and Slovakia

Just back from a four day trip - Bratislava, Ostrava, Brno and Prague. But why is it so cold in London?


Antalya, Turkey

Phew, just back from one day in Turkey. I have created a new page for handouts, so anyone who was at the event and wants the handout - it's on the handout page.

It was glorious to enjoy the spring sunshine on the coast.

Back in London it's wet, grey and chilly.



Just back from three days in beautiful Croatia, where the sun shone on the sea and Spring was definitely in the air. I was lucky to stay in Split which is a stunningly attractive city with a huge history. I also got to visit Makarska and Zadar.
What strikes me more and more is that teachers are willing to come to presentations after school (in Zadar on Friday afternoon after a long week) or at the weekend (when there are plenty of other important things they could be doing) and what they want is something practical they can take back to the classroom - be it a ready made task or an idea - something they have understood the value of, enjoyed themselves and know will make their teaching more effective. We trainers all owe it to these teachers not to waste their time and appreciate the sacrifices they make for their own self-development.
And thank you to everyone for their kind and thoughtful gifts!



I am just back from the IATEFL conference in Glasgow, where Spring was definitely in the air and over 2,000 EFLers gathered to share ideas, discuss and learn. And meet old friends - which for me is one of the best things about conferences like this.

I went to a number of fascinating presentations, but have been left with a very strong feeling about what makes an effective presentation. For me the best presentations were when speakers abandoned their notes, spoke from their hearts and told stories of real-life classroom situations from which we could all learn.
A plea to all presenters - please don't read your notes aloud, don't just read what's on your slides, tell us what you care about and illustrate your ideas with real-life stories - share your experiences. Consider what the listener is going to get out of your presentation - some practical ideas, an opportunity to see something differently, to learn something new. Or just send a link by email and we can read what you wrote ourselves.


Two new sections

I have just added:

Teaching mixed ability classes to TEENS


Topic Based Lessons - the weather to PRIMARY

In Riga, Latvia

The wind may have been cold but the welcome from the nearly 400 teachers who attended the OUP Day on Tuesday was definitely warm.


New page

I've just put up a new page -Olha - which is just a lot of information about me, in case you are interested.

New Posts

I have just uploaded two new sections on the TEEN pages - Getting Teenagers to Speak English and Writing Compositions.

I apologise for the way the way the font keeps changing on the page - ah don't you love technology when it has a mind of its own?

Some more primary sections coming very soon, I promise.


Road trip in Poland

I have been in Poland for a week giving presentations in Pila, Leszno, Poznan, Zielena Gora, Gorzow and Kalisz. Lots of driving through the Polish countryside – trees, snow, deer, old wooden buildings like windmills and churches rushing past my eyes.

I hope the next week here is as much fun as this one has been – thanks to the enthusiasm and hopitality of the teachers and OUP team.


Back in England

Apologies for the silence, but I have been moving back to the UK. It was with a great sense of sadness and disappointment that I left Athens. I will always love Greece and sincerely hope that the situation there gets better. Alas, I think it may take some time.
I have moved back to London and am slowly readjusting - more to the idea that I now live here than anything else. The weather is rather a shock, but it was snowing on Tuesday as I left Athens. So some kind of meteorological synergy happening there.
I look forward to getting my teeth into this blog now and sharing more teaching ideas as well as views and news of my travels.