The ABC of ELT

20 Ways to Improve as a Teacher next Year

school classroom pens and books

The academic year has started for some of us and after some well deserved rest for all us teachers it’s time to start thinking about how we can make the best of next year. As such, I thought it would be great to come up with a list of ways that you can improve as a teacher next year.

1. Set a list of goals for the next year.

Setting some goals can really help you focus and give you a checklist to see how you do at the end of the year. It doesn’t have to be a long list but put it somewhere you’ll see it regularly.

2. Set a reflective blogging schedule and stick to it!

Regular blogging is hard to keep up but having a set schedule can be a great way to focus your efforts. Start off with a low schedule and then you can always do more. oh and one more great tip for a routine. You are more likely to stick to a routine if you have a prompt that you always do before hand. For example, if you go for a run as soon as you get back from work you’re more likely to keep it up than if you just do it at some point in the evening.

3. Teach a lesson out of your comfort zone

Try doing a lesson that you wouldn’t normally. Perhaps this could be a level/nationality/type of class that you don’t like (kids groups for an adult teacher, advance classes for the teacher who only teaches beginners etc.

4. Observe a teacher

Watching another teacher is a great way to learn new tricks and ideas from other teachers. Sometimes watching them in action can make them stick more if you read about them. What’s more, there might be an aspect of their teaching which they take as second nature and wouldn’t normally mention, but by observing you can check it out yourself.

5. Be observed

The flip side of the point above, although people are usually lesson keen to be observed than to observe. However, being observed has it’s advantages too. When someone watches someone else they person being observed usually puts more effort into their lesson. Reflecting on the differences can point out some things that you have forgotten. Having to talk through why you did (or didn’t do) something is also very useful to reinforce knowledge and can expose you to the way someone else thinks and works.

6. Go to a conference

Conferences can be great.

  • Sometimes you hear a big name speaker talk about something game changing.
  • Sometimes you find new activities that you can’t wait to try out in class.
  • Sometimes you research for a talk and learn more as you do.
  • Sometimes it just great to enjoy the break and let your hair down with other teachers.

In any case conferences can provide some great features.

7. Hangout with other teacher

Hanging out with other teachers can be great on a few level. You can share exciting things about work and become rejuvenated during the long hard stretches of teacher. You can share disheartening experiences too, vent and then move on finally getting over an issue (or go round and round in circles getting more and more irate!) You can ask for advice about a problem you’re having. Or perhaps you can just talk about something other than teaching.

8. Ask your students for feedback

Sometimes getting your students feedback will provide you with more insight than any observation or reading ever could. Students can try to protect your feelings and try to hide when a bad lesson was…well bad! However, giving them a chance to say what works and what doesn’t can really help see things from your student’s perspective. It also allows you the opportunity to explain why you do certain things in class and help students to understand the benefits of certain activities (and reinforce why you as a teacher do something). (be warned you might not get the answer you’re looking for.)

9. Join twitter

I could go into great depth on why Twitter is great but instead I’ll hand over to Sally Millin’s webinar which includes a handy guide to sign up.

10. Attend #ELTchat on Wednesday at 12:00 GMT and 21:00 GMT

#ELTchat is a great way to share, listen and learn from teachers all around the world in a whole host of different contexts. It can be very overwhelming at first, as the tweets fly and different people talk about different issues but you get used to it after a while. Each week the two chat topics are voted for and then discussed for an hour.

11. Write up an #ELTchat summary

Writing up a summary for #ELTchat is a great way to go over a subject again, look through all the links and share the best comments people made. (oh and it’s also a great way to get people to visit your blog)

12. Learn a foreign language

As an English Language Teacher learning another language is great to help see through your students eyes and empathise with their journey. There are some dangers of “over-personalisation” but that can happen even without learning another language. What’s more, by comparing your language with another language you can find out about different learner difficulties and see your language from another perspective.

13. Join has recently launched and has some great features. There is a great forum and some courses and lessons that you can buy. The blog has long been a source of inspiration for many teachers and their numbers include many well-known teachers and regular Joes.

14. Do a teaching course

Doing a training course can be a great way to focus on one (or multiple) area(s) of your teaching. This could be something like an International House certificate, the DELTA, or even a Ma in TEFL. There are lots of different options and with more and more moving online the option to do them whilst still teaching is becoming more present. Of course, some will be good to put on your C.V. and more for self fulfilment.

15. Read a book

There are loads of great teacher development books out there on such a wide range of topics. Such as the How to teach series

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 or the Delta development series
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 or even the good old Cambridge development series
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. I’m sure that one of these series has a book you haven’t read and could value. (of course for the more tech savvy who love ebooks there are the new offerings of the round to look forward to.

16. Read a journal.

There are lots of journals around, some of which are free to read online. Some have articles that other teachers have written ranging on a wide range of topics. Take for example the last IH Journal which can be found online here and has articles on Politeness with NNS interactions, Surviving your first year as a teacher, Management (delegation), Teacher training and even reviews of books.

There are also academic journals that have results of research that can be very interesting.

17. Write for a journal

Writing for a journal can be a really great way to focus your mind on a topic, do some research and then distill your thoughts for an academic purpose. This would certainly be a different experience to writing your average blog post.

18. Do some action research

If you can’t find a course or book on an area of teaching you want to improve upon then Why not start some research into it? It’s the perfect chance for you to learn in an area you need to learn in and then use some of the other methods above to continue to learn. (This British council article has some good advice on active research)

19. Teach an Unusual lesson/Try a new form of teaching

Have you tried teaching a lesson without speaking like Kevin Stein? What about a [nearly] paperless lesson? Have you taught an uplugged lesson? or at the other extreme a lesson straight from the coursebook! Why not try an approach you would never normally do, reflect and see what lessons you might learn from it.

20. Do a Pecha Kucha video.

You may have seen my Minute Monday video series, which has been on a short hiatus recently. Well I found it really useful and thought I would open it up to everyone but with a twist. Watch this Monday’s video to find out more.


Bonus 21: Subscribe to other teachers blogs.

There are some great blogs out there and subscribing is by far the best way to keep up to date with them. There are different ways to do this, Email and RSS are the most common. Oh and by the way if you follow a blog try to comment on them every once in a while. I guarantee it will put a smile on their face and teach them something new (second part not guaranteed…come to mention it neither is the first part. however it will put a smile on my face if you do.)

Over to you! How are you going to develop as a teacher this year?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

14 Replies

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with each and every point except for one small comment – the one about blogging. I personally, do not believe in planning when I’m going to blog (though I do have a regular column about books, but that’s another matter). I have learned that I need to write when I read something I would like to discuss or when I need to work through events at school. In short, I feel a post coming on whenever I find myself in “reflection” mode and I need to “talk it out” through my blog.
    Great post!
    Naomi (naomishema)

    1. Glad you disagree Naomi. It seams there are people who need the routine and those who don’t. I find having the routine forces me to reflect (even when I’m feeling snowed under). Maybe it should be amended to create or abandon your blogging schedule (to see which is better for you?)
      Thanks for the disagreement 🙂

  2. Daniela Bunea

    22. 🙂 Team-teach.This is something I have done in the past, but only occasionally – we intend to give CLIL a chance in our school this way.

    1. Thanks for the comment Daniela. Just to clarify do you mean Two teachers teaching the class at the same time or at different times? I’ve heard both used in relation to team teaching. Thanks for the comment. Chris

  3. Great list, Chris and thanks for mentioning #ELTchat.

    I did a presentation on CPD yesterday and you have me covered fully – in fact, I had to control myself not to mention #ELTchat or let it take over my talk!

    Here are my slides and I plan to update them with some of your ideas 🙂



    1. Thank you so much for that Maria. I really like your introduction as to the stages of Development and why we resist. It’s a great lead into the different methods. I hope others check it out too.

  4. Kevin Stein

    Hi Chris,

    Great list and plenty to think about here. I’m really thinking about 4 and 5 this year and how to build a truly supportive observation/feedback system for my school system. I also love 8 and think all journal articles should require student feedback letting us know something about student perspective (sorry for the mini-rant). This year I’m going to try and improve outside of class. I’m hoping to make better use of my time with students in more informal situations. Thanks again for the read and mention.


    1. Thanks for the comments Kevin. I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to be observed this year so perhaps I’ll have to do some self observation via video or something (I guess that should be on the list too!) I like your point about informal setting with students. If you remember my trouble student from summer school, he was great in an informal setting but completely different in the classroom.
      Thanks for the comments and have a great year 🙂

  5. Eva

    Hi Chris, great blog you have. Just to answer on how to develop: I’m into drama techniques to teach a foreign language. I’ve had a training on drama in education and I know that it works! a few techniques to change your way of teaching such as tableaus, principle 21 and everybody, even the most introvert student participates in the class voluntarily. I encourage all teachers to give it a try with a drama moment in their lessons and the oral production will have a real purpose!

    1. Thanks Eva.
      I’ve done some limited Drama and I’ve found it can take a while to get going but generally students really enjoy it. I must make a note to do it more!

  6. Great points Chris. I’ve written about how learning a language and taking lessons shows you what being on the other side is like. I also just sent out some questions to my students asking them about my lessons. I was a little apprehensive but the feedback was great as I found out what they want to focus more on in class. It also seemed to give them a motivational boost too.

    1. That’s great Jack. I have to be honest and admit I haven’t done this much myself this year. I guess I should take my own advice!
      What sort of questions did you use? I wonder about the best approach here myself, sometimes if the question is too general it can be too open and hard to answer.

      1. The questions were focused both on their learning and the actual lessons. I asked them: Which class activities were helping them and what they would like to implement/stop doing, if they were happy with their progress, where they want to be in 12 months, and what more could they do outside of class.

        These questions were asked by email before my holiday last week. All responses were really positive and constructive and we talked some more about it in our lessons this week. By focusing some of the questions on what they can do I have found that most of my students are implementing new ways of practicing outside of class. One of my students especially needed reinvigorating and it’s great to see his enthusiasm come back.

        Also, it was great to see my students wanting more repetition. We talked about how they can repeat the lesson on their own, take it further using different techniques, and then review it again in future lessons.

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