Home Training NATECLA Training NATECLA Training Sessions Training with Rachael Roberts

Training with Rachael Roberts

About Rachael Roberts

Training with Rachael RobertsSince 1989 Rachael has worked as a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer in both ELT and ESOL contexts. She started her career abroad, in Portugal, Brazil and Poland, then returned to the UK, where she spent ten years at Solihull College, before becoming a tutor on the ESOL Level 5 qualification at Warwick University. Currently Rachael spends most of her time writing teaching materials, but still teaches from time to time at Warwickshire College. She also spends rather too much time on Twitter (@teflerinha) and on her website, www.elt-resourceful.com. writing posts on different aspects of materials writing and teaching .

Rachael is offering the following training sessions for NATECLA Training:


HALF DAY SESSIONS (up to 3 hours with a short break included)


Thinking on your feet or put on the spot?

In recent years lesson planning has come in for a bit of a hammering.  Along with the use of course books, lesson planning is somehow seen as stifling, something only novices need to do, and not learner centred. However, research suggests that even experienced teachers are not as good at 
thinking on their feet as they imagine and planning, done effectively, can give  you the framework from which you can then branch out creatively and confidently. In this session we will look at some practical planning techniques to help  teachers use pre-prepared materials in creative, student centred ways, without  having to spend hours planning.

>> Back to list of sessions

Listen up and take notice: Using authentic materials productively

Teachers often want to use authentic listening resources in the classroom, but are unsure about where to find suitable resources or how to exploit them fully. Authentic listening resources can deliver much more than just an opportunity for a few comprehension questions, they can also help learners to develop the ability to understand natural spoken English, and provide them with useful models to develop their own language and speaking skills.
In this session we will look at some useful sources and try out some practical ideas for exploiting recordings in a variety of ways.

>> Back to list of sessions

What's your story?

Perhaps the largest part of our daily conversation is made up of stories: anecdotes, excuses, explanations, jokes. In this session we will explore classroom activities to help develop our learners’ ability to express themselves and relate to others through narratives. 

>> Back to list of sessions

All the world's a stage: Making Shakespeare relevant to ELT and ESOL Learners

How can a playwright from the 16th Century be relevant to ELT (students learning English as a foreign language), and particularly ESOL students (those learning English in order to live and work in an English speaking community) today? If many native speakers struggle to access the archaic language, how can it be appropriate to teach Shakespeare to students who don’t speak English as a first language?

A recent survey by the British Council, however, showed that Shakespeare is still the most recognised UK cultural figure in the world today and, I would argue, this is largely because his themes, and the beauty of his language, speak to people around the globe. 

In this session we will look at some different ways in which teachers and learners of English can approach Shakespeare with confidence.  From dealing with Shakespearean language to contextualising Shakespeare’s plays in the modern age, I hope to provide something of interest for anyone interested in teaching or learning more about Shakespeare.

>> Back to list of sessions

Making in-class writing fun

Often when students are writing, they’re heads down, working on their own. This may be useful,  but not necessarily ‘fun’. Teachers generally prefer their students to be heads up, out of their books and firmly in the classroom together, interacting .  

But if we therefore always get students to write at home, and leave class time for something more interactive, in what sense are we teaching them how to be better writers?  So, how can we make writing in class more attractive, more fun? Essentially this is about making writing every bit as communicative as speaking.

In this session, I look at what I think are the key ingredients for a successful, and fun, in class writing activity, giving lots of practical examples- some of which we’ll get to try out.

>> Back to list of sessions

Unlocking IELTS: A key to the exam for new students

IELTS students are likely to be amongst the most demanding of clients: they usually have a very specific (and often unrealistic) goal, and a great deal depends on their achieving it. For less experienced teachers, this in itself provides a challenge. However, to add to the pressure, the exam itself can seem very intimidating. IELTS is designed to discriminate between all levels of learners, up to near native or native standard, so the tasks can be very challenging. It is also built around a genre of English with which teachers may not feel very confident or familiar.

In this session we will look at practical ways to help teachers become more familiar with the different genres used in all four elements of the test, focusing on such things as layout, structure and typical language.
Clearly, there is no substitute for experience, but approaching IELTS in this way can go a long way towards unlocking its mysteries for both teachers and, in turn, their students.

>> Back to list of sessions

A step in the 'write' direction: developing lower level IELTS students' writing skills

For a lower level IELTS learner, the writing tasks can seem an insurmountable challenge. As well as lacking the necessary linguistic resources, they are also likely to be unfamiliar with the types of writing expected. In this session we will look at a selection of strategies and activities to lead learners, step by step, through the writing process.

>> Back to list of sessions

11-14 minutes of hell? Preparing your students to survive in the IELTS speaking exam

Many students seem to find the Speaking exam the most challenging part of IELTS. As an former examiner, it is very obvious which students have been well prepared (or not!) In this session, we will look at practical activities and techniques to help students develop their awareness of typical speech functions needed in the three stages and become more confident and fluent speakers. 

We will start by looking at some typical problems students have in the IELTS Speaking exam, and briefly look at how IELTS is assessed, considering how an awareness of the different speech functions needed for the exam could help improve the students’ score in all four areas. We will then try out some different activities to help students notice and appropriate the language used to express these functions, thus improving both the quality and fluency of their contributions.

>> Back to list of sessions

The joy of drilling

Many people see language drills (repeating language) as dull, patronising and outdated. They can be all of those things. However, done in the right way, they can in fact provide an enjoyable way for students, especially those with low literacy levels, to gain confidence and ultimately develop fluency. 

In this workshop we will try out a range of drilling-based activities which require little or no preparation or resources, that are directly relevant to the needs of your students, and that I guarantee you and your students will enjoy!

>> Back to list of sessions

The portals of discovery: Why feedback isn't just a teaching technique

Feedback is sometimes seen as a kind of optional add-on to a lesson; the bit that can be skipped if we run out of time. However, having observed hundreds of lessons, I would say that what happens (or doesn’t happen) in feedback tells me much more about the calibre of the teacher, and how effective they are in promoting learning, than any number of fun activities or even interesting texts.

In this session we look at why  feedback is, in fact, at the very centre of what we do as teachers. And why, as John Hattie says, ‘the most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement is feedback.’  Bearing this in mind, I share some practical ideas for developing and honing our own feedback skills as well as training learners to give themselves effective on-going feedback.

>> Back to list of sessions

Of course: Using a coursebook and engaging with emergent language

Recently there has been a focus on dealing with ‘emergent language’, rather than following a syllabus. But does this mean that coursebooks are irrelevant? Surely coursebooks are ultimately a collection of topics, texts and tasks- the bedrock of any course. In this session we look at some ideas for using coursebooks while still allowing the teacher to facilitate and engage with emergent language. 

We’ll start by looking at the idea of emergent language: that rather than prescribing what students learn, we need to recognise that students will learn what they need to when they are ready. One of the features of this focus is a ‘materials light’ approach, which has been taken to mean that coursebooks should not be used. In fact, the originator of dogme, Scott Thornbury simply said they shouldn’t be the tail that wags the dog.

Having briefly covered the theory, we will then look at (and try out) some ideas for using  a coursebook (any coursebook) in a way which allows the teacher to facilitate and engage with emergent language by:

  • Exposing students to natural language
  • Encouraging ‘noticing’ of language 
  • Providing plenty of opportunities for output
  • Giving students feedback on their output, allowing them to notice the gap between their own interlanguage and their target.
Activities will include versions of dictogloss and dictations, using transcriptions of recordings, live listening and the Language Experience Approach. The workshop is intended to leave the audience with the sense that they have plenty of tools to use and adapt existing materials, rather than that they always have to create their own lessons from scratch, something which is often daunting and even impractical.

>> Back to list of sessions

More than just a worksheet: How to write effective classroom materials

Many teachers produce their own materials, either from necessity or to provide something more tailored to the needs of their students.However, writing materials for a whole lesson, which really engage the learners and focus effectively on language, is quite a challenge. Teachers learn through experience, but are rarely given much support or training in this area.

In this session we will look at a simple recipe or template (based on Hutchinson and Waters 1987) for producing complete lessons, and consider a variety of do’s and don’ts taken from my experience as a professional materials writer. We will look at plenty of practical examples, and participants will carry out a number of tasks. The aim is for participants to go away more confident in their ability to create their own materials.

>> Back to list of sessions

HALF DAY SESSIONS (up to 3 hours with a short break included)

Teaching the students, not just teaching the lesson

A half day session in which we will: Consider how learners differ from one another, including strengths outside the subject area and learning styles. Understand the principles behind differentiation. Review and develop a range of strategies for differentiating by task, teaching method and outcome.

>> Back to list of sessions

Good practice in developing ESOL resources

In this half day session we will look at some of the reasons why materials are successful (or not) in the classroom, analysing both published materials and the participants’ own materials. Through this process we will put together some checklists for participants to take away. The second part of the session will look at ways of helping learners to create their own  material, an inevitably learner centred process, which also has the advantage of reducing teacher preparation time.

>> Back to list of sessions

Teaching listening skills

Very often listening skills are ‘taught’ by simply giving lots of practice in listening. This is all well and good, but how can we actually help learners to develop their skills? In this half day session we will start by looking at what is known about the process of listening, and move on to consider different listening skills in detail, including the often neglected bottom up listening or decoding skills. The participants will then have a chance to develop their own listening materials, using some authentic videos.

>> Back to list of sessions

Making the most of the mother tongue

ESOL classes can be astonishingly diverse, with learners speaking perhaps ten different languages between them. In these situations, can there be a case for using the learners’ mother tongues as a resource? We will look at a variety of approaches and activities most of which you can use even if you don’t speak a word of any of their languages!

>> Back to list of sessions

Talk is work in the ESOL classroom

Speaking is a key part of learning in the ESOL classroom. As well as providing learners with opportunities to speak in English, we need to help them actually develop their skills. In this session we will explore different components of the speaking skill, looking at practical classroom ideas and activities.

>> Back to list of sessions

Approaches to teaching grammar

Traditional ELT type approaches to teaching grammar are not necessarily a very good fit in the ESOL classroom. However, does this mean that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater and not teach grammar at all? How is that even possible, when grammar is such a fundamental part of language? In this session we will explore the idea of emergent grammar, an approach where the teacher, and students focus on language as it arises. We will look at what this means in practice, and how teachers can also apply the ideas to more traditional ways of planning lessons, to find a middle ground they and the students feel comfortable with.

>> Back to list of sessions