Posted in Odds and ends

Setting SMART Goals


Adult learners are often goal-orientated both in their personal and professional lives. In fact, most of them will have specific English-learning goals.

In this task, learners are asked to set some SMART goals. These goals can be personal, professional, or related to their English development.

Task Type

Categorising and assessing based on specific criteria.

Task Outcome

Students will create their own SMART goals after getting feedback from peers.

Language Feedback

Collocations with ‘goal’

Giving and asking for opinions and advice

Conditionals (1st and 2nd)

Task Preparation

  1. Show a picture of a football player. What is he doing? Scoring a goal.
  2. Ss individually define the word ‘goal’. A goal is……
  3. Ss share their definition with their partners than compare their definition with a dictionary definition
  4. Ss discuss synonyms : objectives / targets / ambitions etc.
  5. Ss review collocations with the word goal: establish, set, pursue. Follow, achieve, reach, attain.
  6. Discussion: How important and effective is it for you to set goals in a) your personal life b) your professional life.

Task Implementation

  1. Ss are asked what are the features of an effective goal.
  2. Ask if they know about SMART goals
  3. Show video: ss make notes about each of the aspects
  4. In pairs, ss discuss why each aspect is important.
  5. Ss set a personal/professional / English learning goal.
  6. In pairs, Student A analyses Student B’s goal. Switch pairs.
  7. Ss modify their goal based on their feedback from their partner.

Task Feedback and Reflection

  1. Ss share some goals with the whole class
  2. Teacher reviews any language mistakes and/or examples of useful language.
  3. In small groups, ss discuss if setting SMART goals is a useful tool in their opinion. Give reasons.


Here is a video (

Smart Goals



Posted in Odds and ends

Trinity Cert TESOL Course Report

Running a 4-week initial teacher training course, such as the Trinity Cert TESOL, is extremely rewarding but also rather draining.

Rewarding because your guidance and support allows your fledgling teachers to spread their wings and fly unaided by the end of the course.

Draining because you also have to deal with the inevitable emotional stress and strain that trainee teachers experience as they find themselves out of their comfort zone.

When the moderator arrives on the final day of the course, my own nerves are at breaking point. Trainee teachers rarely fluff their lines in the Materials Assignment interview (when they reflect on and evaluate a set of self-created materials) but a nagging voice at the back of my mind keeps reminding me that human beings are always capable of shooting themselves in the foot.

In the end, all but one of the trainees passed the course. One had to be referred due to a series of unfortunate events which I’m not going to discuss here.

The course finished a couple of weeks ago and in this post I’d just like to note down a few random observations which emerged and have been swirling around my head ever since.

Before the course

How do we access somebody’s suitability for the training course and teaching English here in Spain?

Trainee teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Even when I took my course (over two decades ago), I was surprised by how few of us fitted the TEFL stereotype of the student looking to explore the world and ‘find myself man’. The stereotype still persists of course, which is why I wonder how many people – who could potentially make effective teachers –  decide the course is not for them. Maybe it’s time to stop including so many young, attractive, perfectly-groomed young people in images advertising TEFL courses. Let’s find some older and less aesthically-pleasing to pose in front of whiteboards holding fake certificates.

On a more serious note, one of the trainees on the course really struggled with the demands of the course. Does it really need to be so stressful and overloaded with content?

During the course

One of the challenges facing course designers, directors and trainers is ensuring that content is covered and assessment is standardised. My co-trainer and I agree about lots of aspects related to teaching and learning. However, the trainees did mention that their trainers differed in terms of their assessment criteria. They were too polite to go into details but I have an idea of where our differences reside.

Which begs the question: to what extend should assessment criteria be standardised and consistent? We talk a great deal about individual learning differences but what about individual teaching differences?

Shove a group of EFL teachers in a room with plenty of alcohol and ask them to discuss their beliefs, opinions and experiences of language teaching and learning. You’d have them at each other’s throats in no time.

Time for a confession. I find myself promoting teaching techniques, approaches and strategies to trainees which I rarely use in my own teaching and doubt whether they result in effective teaching. The problem is that skills development is not a linear process. As our skills develop, we find ourselves discarding techniques which have served us well in the past and becoming passionate advocates of approaches which sound great in theory but fall flat in practice.

After the course

On the whole, I am fairly pleased with and proud of the training course I have designed. It is informed by second language acquisition research; it’s dynamic and practical, and the trainee teachers learn how to plan and deliver lessons which the learner (the Spanish students who attend the teaching practice classes) enjoy. Whether they really benefit from the classes is another matter; at the very least, they get lots of speaking practice.

Like most TEFL / TESOL courses, broadly speaking we train our teachers in the Communicative Approach to language learning. However, when I talk to local teachers working in private academies in Spain, I’m concerned by what I hear. Most academies sell exam preparation classes which means that lots of teachers seem to be teaching exam strategies and asking learners to do lots of controlled practice exercises. Authentic communicative tasks seem to be on the wane.

So, that’s my main worry. Is our training course really preparing teachers for the reality of teaching English in private academies in Spain? I’m not sure.



Posted in Odds and ends

Free gift: A Short Guide to TEFL (90 pages)

As a special gift for followers of this blog:

I have written an e-book for people who are:

  • thinking of becoming TEFL teachers
  • people who are currently doing the course
  • newly-qualified teachers.

It is currently for sale as an e-book for Amazon Kindle readers – at $2.99, it’s the price of a cup of coffee.

A Short Guide to TEFL
A Short Guide to TEFL

The good news is that I am offering it as a free pdf document for followers of this blog until Tuesday 12 February.

I only have one small favour to ask:

If you like the book, please write a complimentary review on Amazon UK.

smile-16134 or 5 stars would be great!!!

So, for your free copy become a follower of this blog and I’ll send you the e-book next week.

Thanks for your time,

Dylan Gates

Posted in Odds and ends

Things you shouldn’t say in an interview for a TEFL job

Job interviews

Over the years, I’ve interviewed about 50 TEFL teachers. Some people walked through the door and I automatically knew they weren’t appropriate for the job: body odour, 3 hours late with no explanation, tattoos all over their face…..little things like that.

Other applicants seemed fairly normal and then made certain comments which convinced me not to employ them.

Here are some things you should never say in job interviews for TEFL positions.

I don’t like teaching grammar. I like my students to chat and play lots of games

Does this comment suggest a professional approach to teaching?

My favourite coursebook. Well, that would be Face2Head, no, I mean Facehead, wait, I meant to say Faceway, Cutting Head, Cutting Face, New English Face, way, head…..

Does this teacher have a memory ravaged by heavy drug use  or alcohol abuse?

How would I describe myself as a teacher? I like to be their friend, go out to bars with them, maybe date some of the cute ones. Ha ha, only joking! I don’t do that much now.

This teacher clearly has an ulterior motive!

Did you just say that?

Well, I don’t want to stay in teaching very long. Is it a problem if I sometimes miss classes or arrive late? I have a lot of interviews to go to. TEFL teaching’s not a proper job, is it?
This teacher will disappear very soon.

I believe in correcting every single tiny mistake my students make. It’s the only way they learn.

This teacher is going to scare students off.

Sometimes, I tell my students to sit cross-legged on the floor and close their eyes. Then, I put on some Bach and then I read them some of my poetry.

For every student who loves this approach, 10 others will go straight to the boss and complain.

I prefer to teach Beginners. Higher level students ask some really difficult questions.

This person has no idea about the difference between a noun and a verb.

I prefer to teach Advanced levels. Lower level classes are boring.

This person has no patience.

Most days, I show my students a movie. For homework, I get them to write reviews of the films. Then on Friday, I get them to vote for their favourite and we watch it again.

Do the students do anything else? Practise speaking or learn grammar for example.

Welcome to TEFL
Welcome to TEFL


  • Trained teachers who can actually remember what they did on the TEFL course
  • New teachers are fine if they show they are willing to learn and develop their skills
  • Friendly and enthusiastic personalities
  • Professional teachers who will be reliable and flexible

If you enjoyed reading this blog, why not have a look at my new e-book: A Short Guide to TEFL by D P Gates. Available on Amazon (for Kindle) or Smashwords (many formats, including pdf).