Visual impairment and using the pron chart

Here it is 🙂 The humbling experience I had just as I started this lovely journey of further developing as an ELT teacher.
On my first month at Oxford House, I was assigned a C1 group that turned out to be quite special. Thanks to Adrian Underhill’s support, this is a true story of which I am so proud of.

Adrian’s Pron Chart Blog

To followers of this blog: A true story to start the year!!!la foto 1 Blog

Here is a very special post which tells a story. It takes place when Laila starts teaching her new class in September, following our July Pronunciation and Storytelling programme at Bell, Cambridge, in July.

I find it touching, which maybe a hallmark of a transformational human event. There is a quality here which you can feel, and is without words, and is a simple and fully human quality which we all recognise, and which we aspire to our teaching. Focus not on what I write, but on the experience of Laila the teacher, and Carme the learner, through the words of Laila and the pictures, and at the end through the words of Carme.

4 Sep 2014, Laila Khairat Gomez wrote: I have a new C1 class of 6 students who are really nice. My biggest challenge is…

View original post 2,146 more words

Arguing…Who doesn’t?

This turned out to be a great topic for an upper-intermediate adult class 🙂 : Men vs women stereotypical behaviour when arguing.

Flickr Photo by Niko Kahkonen under CC BY NC-SA- 2.0

Flickr Photo by Niko Kahkonen under CC BY NC-SA- 2.0

Outline of the lesson:

Lead in

  • Describe a scenario to the Ss where a couple (man and a woman) are having an argument, for example at a restaurant, at a bus stop, in the supermarket, etc.
  • Ask Ss to discuss in pairs: Stereotypically, how are they behaving differently?
  • Open class feedback


  • Provide your students with a vocabulary list on behavioural tendencies which they must categorise in a Venn diagram, whether it is more likely of a man, a woman or both.  Examples : withdraw, beat around the bush, be straightforward, cry, raise the tone of voice, be sarcastic, roll your eyes, etc.
  • Work on the vocabulary with the Ss – meaning and pronunciation – and have them work in small groups to contrast their opinions. This is more interesting if you can mix men and women within the same group.
  • Open class feedback


  • Ss will watch the following video : Weird things all couples fight about.
  • Before they do so, ask them to predict what they arguments will be about. Let them know they are everyday minor arguments a couple would have.
  • Play the video. Ss check for their predictions.
  • If want and have time, play it twice, the second time with the captions so that they can focus on language for further work on colloquial speech.

Role play

  • Ideally, pair up male and female students and ask them to switch roles for the task. (The man should play the woman and viceversa)
  • Give them time to prepare a 30 second role play of an argument similar to the ones in the video. Ask them to try and include as much stereotypical behaviour as possible.
  • Each pair will perform in front of the whole class. After each performance, the audience must:

(a) Describe what the argument was about

(b) Point out any stereotypical behaviour

(c) Rate the performance from 1-10 based on: creativity and humour, language use and dramatisation skills.

Could you whisper that again, please?

Photo from Flickr by Ricky Thakrar under CC BY -NC-ND 2.0

Photo from Flickr by Ricky Thakrar under CC BY -NC-ND 2.0

Here is an exciting and dynamic game I used in class the other day to review vocabulary. It is similar to the Chinese Whispers classic but with a competitive twist to it. 🙂


– Divide your students into two teams and your board into two halves. The teams will line up facing the board perpendicularly.

– Shout out a vocabulary topic you’d like to review.

– Starting from the last student in line, they will whisper a word along the team members and the first student in line will write it on the board. Once he/she has finished writing it, they must move to the end of the line and keep it going to write as many words as possible.

– If a member of the group considers there is a spelling error, they are allowed to correct it when it’s their turn to be at the board.

– To increase the excitement, after a couple of minutes, change the vocabulary topic. 🙂


– This game could also be used as a warm up task to brainstorm vocabulary on a topic that is about to be covered.

Pronunciation focus: Ask students to come up with vocabulary that includes certain phonemes.

Grammar focus: Shout out a prepositions and students will write down matching verbs. HAVE FUN 🙂

Blind dates

I found a lovely video that I used with a Pre-Intermediate class on blind dates and I couldn’t help sharing it. 🙂

Outline of the lesson:

  • Use the video as a lead in. Stop it at various points and ask students what they think will happen next.
  • Elicit the context (a blind date) and provide them with some discussion questions related to what happened in the video.
  • What does he/she look like? vs. What is he/she like? Teach descriptive adjectives for physical appearance and character/personality.
  • Provide students with some dating profiles. In pairs they can focus on the language style and the vocabulary and discuss which personal qualities would be more valuable or important to them.
  • Using those same dating profiles or asking students to write their own profile on a post it note ( it could be about a person they know) ask them to mingle, ask questions and try to find the perfect match.
  • Finally, give them some general questions about blind dates (personal experiences, what could go wrong?, advice on good spots for a blind date in their city, who should pay? etc)

<p><a href=”″>Blind Date</a> from <a href=”″>Hallie Wilson</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

So much more than a Teacher Development course

Wow! 3 months! Really? I haven’t written for that long?  Well, today seems to be the perfect day to reflect on how much I’ve experienced, learned and grown since then. 🙂 The first 15 days of July, at Bell Teacher Campus (Cambridge), I was one of the six lucky people to be part of the From Sounds to Storytelling course by Adrian Underhill. One of the things we discussed as a group is how the title makes no justice to the real experience of this course. Yes, we did study the phonemic chart, progressively working with individual sounds, words and connected speech as well as using all that knowledge to work on our storytelling skills, but in fact that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Pronunciation Police Coffe Corner

“Pronunciation Police Coffe Corner” at Homerton College

Here is a list of all that went on:) :  

  • A pleasant and highly motivating atmosphere in the classroom from day 1 and tons of wonderful moments when the room was filled with laughter.
  • The phonemic chart: countless tips, ideas and discussions related to our own pronunciation difficulties, our students’ most common mistakes, discovering the logical and physical sense of the chart and how to introduce it and use it in our lessons.
  • Adrian’s natural way of finding the balance between group work and 1:1 work without every loosing our attention as learners.
  • All the great games, activities and chats were we had the opportunity to loosen up and connect as a group. Strong bonds and friendships remain 🙂
  • All the poems and stories we had the chance to listen to and work with.
  • I never had the sense of rushing. Everything went so smoothly.
  • Lots of scaffolding and coaching to build our knowledge and confidence working on all the different elements that must be taken into account when performing/telling a story.
  • Discussions on ELT matters and our own experiences.
  • Live, first hand demonstrations of Demand High techniques.
  • Workshops and plenaries on various topics.
  • Reflecting on our teaching and learning style(s).
  • Other socially-enaging activities organised by Bell Teacher Campus.
A well rounded conversation :)

A well rounded conversation 🙂

What might you do differently?????

This course and this question in particularly, have made this experience a turning point in my teaching career. Whenever we openly discussed teaching methodology and techniques, Adrian would ask this question, and it still swirls in my phonological loop with his own personal voice 🙂 There are various things I have tried to keep in mind since then whenever I am in a classroom or planning a lesson. Many of them were pointed out to us (the trainees) to analyse and reflect as teachers. Others are those personal and unique traits of a teacher in particular which I had the luxury to observe for two whole weeks in full action. They are:

  • Mistakes are the syllabus : This one definitely flips what most teachers do, including me (until now 🙂 ). Building up from students’ previous knowledge as a starting point is good but not enough. Mistakes gives us so much information as teachers and most of the time we focus on correcting them rather than working with them.
  • Time is precious – hand it to your students: Yes we plan but like Adrian explained we mustn’t stick to it if something better and more meaningful in taking place in the classroom.
  • Teach less – Guide more : Many ELT methodology books look into the facilitator role of a teacher and I can now say I have seen it live and rollin’. There is a great deal that students already know, kind of know, can be intuitive about and are definitely capable of achieving without the teacher providing the direct answer, correction or alternative. This also has a lot to do with the element of time. Teachers sometimes feel like they have to jump in and save the student from “drowning” in a pool of confusion but in fact all they need better equipment, that is their own resources and awareness to help them dive in and explore consciously.  Ask yourself  “How helpful is my help?”
  • Manage the energy in the room: Like I’ve said before, we did loads of different things and I never had the sense of rushing. The teacher is responsible for this one and I think it is a skill worth developing. Projecting calmness, genuine interest and openness as well as deciding what, how, when and why to reach of the objectives we have planned in a realistic and smooth manner makes a great difference.
  • Listen, don’t just hear: This is a good one for life itself. We tend to be thinking about other things while someone is talking to us. Be mindful 🙂 Listen. Really listen and see what happens. 
  • Brainstorming, discussion, reflection and cooperation

  As you can see… it was much more than just another developing course 🙂

Than u Adrian :)

Thank u Adrian 🙂

Liebster Award nominee :)

This weekend couldn’t have started any better 🙂 An emotional last day for students and as I got home, ready to write a new post about my upcoming plans, I read a message that said  “I recently discovered your blog and nominated you for The Liebster Award” 🙂 🙂 🙂  Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. It seemed to good to be true considering my blog is two months old and has only 11 posts so far. I had to rub my eyes and read it several times 🙂

Thank you Ms. L-P. I am really flattered. Nice blog by the way ( : ELT + Yummy things. It can’t get better than that 🙂


Official rules for the Liebster award:
  1. List 11 random facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the questions designated by the blogger(s) who nominated you.
  3. Place YOUR nominations for the Liebster Award! Nominate five (or more) other bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Make sure to notify them via comment/email, etc.
  4. Make up a set of questions for those nominated bloggers to answer.
  5. Display the Liebster award badge on your blog!

Here I go …..

11 Random facts about me: 

1. I’m an early bird.

2. I have recently started running… and hurt my knee already 😦

3. I’ve got the travelling bug. Can’t go too long without catching a plane.

4. Can’t say no to Lindt chocolates.

5. I like making presents rather than buying them.

6. Drama and comedy are my favourites.

7. I’m not so good at remembering things in the long term… oops!

8. I hate being late. I was 20 mins late on my first day as a teacher because of the train. It was so embarrassing 😦

9. I love languages but I don’t really like grammar…

10. I’m a dog lover. Don’t really know how I went about without a dog for so many years 🙂 They are the best companions!

11. Starting this blog has been wonderful. I’ve connected with professionals from all over the globe. Love it!

My answers to Ms L-P’s questions: 

1. If you could travel back in time, what time period would you go to?

1920s  To take part in fighting for the women’s suffrage. Plus, the music was great at that time!

2. If you had to change professions for some reason, what other profession would you choose?

I would like to be a language interpreter for social services, including sign language which I would have to learn 🙂

3. Which of your blog posts are you most proud of?

My BE DARING !!! Vicky Loras’ advice on CPD .  I watched a webinar by Vicky Loras on CPD as part of my webinar watching marathon and wrote a reaction post to it. The feedback was incredibly positive. Vicky Loras herself really liked it so she contacted me via social media and even reblogged it 🙂  I also like it because I share a lot about my teaching journey.

4. If you could take over Aren Duncan’s for a day, what policy changes would you put in place?

Ufff… There’s so much to do, but to start with, I would carry out the necessary reforms so that the Educational curricula would be developed by educators, teachers and pedagogical experts. I would also like to abolish Standardise Tests.

5. Describe a time you messed up, but learned a valuable lesson.

During my CELTA, on a Teaching Practice session students where meant to do a role play. The lesson had gone well so far but when it came to giving them the instructions for the role play I just kept complicating it more and more. The anxiety of being evaluated made me really nervous and it kept getting worse and worse. The students were quite reluctant to the task and they wouldn’t stand up. In the end, by the time I got around it they had very little time left for the role play, which also took away time for delayed feedback.

I felt like it had been such a disaster but actually after the feedback with the tutor and my colleagues, it turned out that they didn’t see it as horribly as I did  and we ended up having a great discussion on students reluctancy to participate, how to deal with it and how to prepare better for delivering instructions.

From this I learnt:

1. Don’t be so hard on  yourself, specially if  you are in the middle of a learning process

2. Mistakes are the best teachers for you and for others.

3. Sometimes you’ve got to go wrong to identify what’s right.

6. What is one book or movie that you think more people should read/watch?

Shifting Sands: A guidebook for Crossing the Deserts of Change  by Steve Donahue

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 8.43.11 AM


Once in a while I read it again. It makes you ask yourself wether you are a “mountain climber” as most western societies, focusing on the final goal or a “dessert crosser”  someone who experiences every step of the journey and focuses on the present. This book influenced me as a teacher, reminding me to focus on the process as much as the results and enjoy it while I’m at it.




7. What is something you hope will be true about your life 10 years from now?

Next September I will be taking a detour on my career and step out of my comfort zone to try the TEFL traveler experience for a few years so I hope that in ten years time I will have fulfilled that dream.


My nominees 

Laura Edwards: Grown Up English

Angelos Bollas : Narratives of a TEFLer

Eva M. Gutierrez : ELT Stuff 

David Mainwood : The EFL SMARTblog

Hana Tichá: How I see it now


My questions for the nominees:

1. What can’t you go about without in a classroom?

2. What’s your favourite season of the year and why?

3. They say cooking can be therapeutic. How do you unwind?

4. Share a positive experience you had with a student.

5. Find a qoute that reflects your teaching.

6. Cats or dogs?

7. What age range do you prefer teaching?

8. Describe a funny classroom moment.




The gift of being a misfit

Today I have time travelled. 

Reading Chia Sua Chong’s post A rose by any other name has taken me back to my personal experiences in the United Arab Emirates. It has also been an inspiration to achieve my third goal for Shelly Sanchez’s 30 Goals Challenge : Tell your Story 🙂 Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 1.33.52 PM

 image from Flickr by John ‘K’ under CC BY NC-ND 2.0

The first time my family and I moved to Abu Dhabi I was 6 years old, entering 1st of Primary Ed. On the first day of school I had this conversation with several of my classmates:

X: Hi! What’s your name?
Me: Laila Khairat Gómez
(dad and mom’s surname as is done in Spain)
X: Where are you from?
Me: Spain
X: But your name is arabic.
Me: Well, my dad is from Egypt and my mom is from Spain.
X: So you are Egyptian 
Me: ………
X: Is your father a muslim?
Me: Yes
X: So you are Egyptian and a muslim

Even at such a young age all these questions and explicit deductions of whom I was or had to be felt wrong. I was looking forward to a new school, new classmates and new friends. I assumed I would be playing around during break time as I had always done but instead I got interrogated again and again and by the time the bell rang I hadn’t smiled once.

Soon I learnt that in Abu Dhabi, you could belong to one of three existing social groups:

a) natives from arab speaking countries; they shared the language, cultural customs and religious beliefs

b) foreigners; both parents had to be from the western part of the world with a western mentality and lifestyle

c) the in-betweens or misfits; everyone else (including me, my sisters and all the Indians, Pakistanis, Turkish, Indonesians, Ethiopians, etc. )

There wasn’t really much choice. 

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 2.14.39 PM

image from Flickr by Tess under CC BY 2.O

Why would 6 year olds care about such things? Didn’t they prefer exchanging glittery stickers or playing hide and seek? Well, yes they did, but first the boundaries had to be set and nothing or no one even slightly different had to be allowed in.

I empathise with Chia Sua because as a result of this, happening year after year, at about the age of 10 I decided to do something about it. From then on, my name was Laila Gómez, and I was from Spain. I knew I still wouldn’t be part of the “foreigners” but I sure didn’t want to be part of the “native arabs” because they were imposing on me a language, a religion, a dress code and a cultural norm which I had to immerse into if I wanted to be accepted instead of criticised and look down on.

As time passed, I came to realise that all those children were just reproducing the attitude and ideas they had learnt from adults. Those were the questions their own parents would ask them back home when they’d share they had a new classmate and their behaviour was basically what they knew was expected from them. Even after knowing this, it still surprised me as it sure was internalised and came across as their own judgment.To rebel, Chia Sua decided to embrace her culture and language. In my case, I did so by holding strongly to my Spanish half and consciously decided to stop growing as a member of the Arabic culture (at least publicly). This meant:

  1. No more studying Arabic (I didn’t want to understand their gossiping and preferred to use English to communicate. English seemed the neutral option, the language that helped create bridges, the language I used with my misfit friends.)
  2. No more listening to Arabic music or at least not the popular one. (Didn’t want to have hobbies and likes in common with those who decided to block us out.)
  3. No more discovery of the muslim religion. (I was quite sure by then that many of the prejudices rooted from it.)

We lived there for 10 years and this never changed, no matter the age or the school. Nevertheless, when I look back some of my memories also include: image.jsp     Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.00.01 PMbollywood_by_shestheorientxpress-d3dqtgh Singing my heart out to Sezen Aksu’s songs, one of my Turkish friend’s favourite singer 🙂 Acting out and dancing like a Bollywood star with my Indian friends 🙂 Eating some of the delicious Naan bread my friend’s mom would make specially for us 🙂

The way I saw it back then: Why can’t we all just sing, dance or eat together? Who cares if we are different? Isn’t that more fun anyway?
The way I see it now: I couldn’t be part of something but as a consequence I was part of many others I would have probably missed out otherwise. 

  At the age of 16 I moved back to Spain. The first day at the American School of Madrid, with students from about 70 different nationalities, where being different was common, the introductions and first conversations flipped 180 degrees:

X: Hi! What’s your name?
Me: Laila Gómez
X: Laila? Like the Eric Clapton song! Nice!
Me: (smile)
X: Where are you from?
Me: My mother is Spanish and my father is Egyptian
X: Really? How cool! 
Me: (smile)
X: So, you speak Spanish then….here most of us speak “Spanglish” (smile) 
Me: (smile) Yes, of course
X: Great! You won’t be missing out then 🙂 And Arabic?
Me: not really… I can read it and write it but I don’t speak it fluently
X: Wow! Could you write my name in Arabic?
Me: 🙂

I’ll admit it saddens me a bit to have missed out on the opportunity to learn and master another language, my father’s language. But like I said, I feel I gained a lot from being a misfit, specially due to cultural and diversity issues. Some gifts of having been a misfit:

  • Learning to build the strength to go against all odds
  • Turning a negative situation into something positive
  • Discovering the beauty of real friendship
  • Getting goosebumps at airports, international day at school and language exchange programmes.

The greatest gift of all : UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANCE AND VALUE OF AVOIDING PREJUDICE BY ALL MEANS 🙂 Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 5.31.58 PM     As adults and teachers, it is our responsibility to educate the young generations and teach them the values of respect, acceptance, empathy and equality.

P.S : My name is Laila Khairat Gómez 🙂 I am currently studying Arabic, love dancing and listening to Arabic music and enjoy delicious desserts like Baklawa and Konafa.


Image sources:

Sezen Aksu: image from

Bollywood drawing; image from Flickr by TMAB2003 under CC BY ND 2.0 Naan bread; image from