Lesson Plan: “The Riddle Game”

Ladies and gentlemen, today I gift unto you one of my most successful activities of all time. Behold … THE RIDDLE GAME!

Joking aside, this is an activity that was in my textbook way back when I taught at my first hagwon. It worked so well, that I thought I’d modify it a bit. Since then, I’ve been using it for years, and I have yet to have it go poorly. So let’s get into it.


In this activity, students are put into teams and given secret pictures about which they write several clues. When all teams are finished, each presents their clues while other teams attempt to guess the secret picture of the presenting team. It can be used with low-level students to get them to practice sentence structure and adjectives, but works even better for exercising metaphorical and lateral thinking.


This activity is mostly for middle school through adult students. It could probably be done for 6th grade elementary school, and even lower, with substantial simplification.

Regarding class size, I’ve used this for full classrooms of around 35-40 students. Of course, fewer works better, but it can accommodate a fairly large student number.

Finally, this works best for intermediate students and above. That being said, low-level students can also act as valuable participants, provided they have enough Korean language support. To that end, I personally allow groups containing struggling learners to discuss in Korean, as long as their final results use the target English.


Long. For a full public school classroom described above, this will easily take two full class sessions, and even then you might need to keep an eye on the time. You’ll probably want teams to begin their presentations at the end of the first class if you want to finish in under three classes.


-Small pictures (photocopied or otherwise), 1 for each team. Preferably more just in case.

-Optional: papers for teams to write down their clues. Useful to keep students organized while presenting.

-A chalkboard or computer with screen share capability.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

1. First, you’ll need to introduce and model the lesson. Write the following diagram on the board or show it on a screen. (A simple word document works just fine for the latter.) You can modify it however you like; this is just an example.

Teacher PointsClass Points
Hint 106
Hint 215
Hint 324
Hint 433
Hint 542
Hint 651
Hint 760

Explain to the students that you are thinking of something that is not alive (not a plant, virus, animal, etc.) You will give them 7 clues (or hints). The more hints it takes them to guess the correct answer, the fewer points they get, and the more you earn. And then begin with your hints.

You can use whatever you want, but when I taught this for high school, I liked to use the example of fire. I usually start with more abstruse clues, such as “It cannot be held, but can be felt,” “It always eats, but never gets full,” and then get a bit more clear: “It has black breath,” “If it drinks water, it will die.” Make sure you give students plenty of guesses for each hint. You might want to consider giving them a time limit, or a certain number of guesses for each clue. Also, use your hand (or use Zoom’s annotate feature) to help students keep track of which hint you’re on, and how many points are at stake. In the event you get close to the last hints, you can start giving them more obvious clues like, “It is very hot,” etc., … but you might be surprised how good students can be at this activity! Don’t simplify it unless you need to. The more figuratively students have to think, the more fun they’ll have.

You might want to lead them through another round. I like to use a 500-won coin as an example: “2 of them together equal 1,000,” “It has two faces, but no body,” etc. Or anything else you can think of a lot of clues for.

2. Once students get the idea, put them into teams. Give each team a picture, and tell them to keep it secret. Some pictures I’ve found work well are: an onion, a glove, an ice cube, a clock, a tree, a shoe (although the kind of shoe can sometimes cause arguments), a plane, a star, a pencil, a chair and/or desk, and a subway train. Tell them to think of 7 clues for their item. You can also ask them more or fewer, but I’ve found that 7 gives just the right amount of information. They probably won’t be able to come up with 7 great clues, so it’s totally fine if they have some that are fairly basic, but I recommend encouraging them to try to be creative if possible.

Also, I recommend giving them a simple handout to help them remember, prepare, and organize their clues. Something like this could work well:

Note that the final part (“Our picture is ____.”) is important for you, the teacher, so you can know the answer (in case you’ve forgotten the pictures) and also so you can know what the team requires for an answer.

Tip: One problem with this activity is cheating. Sometimes students will find out other teams’ secret pictures in advance, and this leads to the issue of: “Was a student a good guesser or did he cheat?” While you can minimize this by giving teams ample space to work, it’s impossible to avoid it completely. So it can be worth a few minutes of class time to talk about this before the students begin. I often tell them, “Yes, it is possible to cheat, but you’ll make it un-fun for everyone else.”

I discourage students from being too vague with clues. Encouraging them to use “and” or “but” in their clues can help with this. For example, if describing a shoe, students will often say, “Its color is various.” Instead they can write “Its colors are various, but is often brown or black.” Or, if trying to encourage use of personification, “Its colors are various, but it likes to wear brown or black when it goes somewhere important.”

On the other hand, students should also be discouraged from making their answers too specific. For example, if giving a picture of a shoe, a team might expect the answer of “sneaker,” and this can sometimes lead to disagreements. If using the handout template above, you can preview their answer and avoid this issue.

If using this lesson to strengthen critical thinking, here are some tips I like to leave on the TV screen or board:

-Does is have any friends, brothers, sisters, parents, children, etc.?

-Does it talk or sing?

-Does have any body parts: head, feet, guts, skin, etc.?

-Does it run, jump, dance, etc.?

-Does it eat or drink anything?

-What does it like or hate?

-“It has (a mouth) but cannot (eat).”

-“It has (a foot) but cannot (walk).”

Finally, tell students that their team can earn bonus points depending on how creative their clues are. This will place a bit of a burden on you as the teacher, since you’ll be expected to allot points based on subjectivity, but without this rule, teams end up getting rewarded for having vague clues (since these will be harder to guess.) I usually give a bonus point if their clue involves “and” or “but,” and another point if it uses some kind of metaphor or personification. If doing this with a more basic class, you could award points for using target vocabulary, or other things.

Once all teams are done, they present. A team comes to the front of the class and presents their first clue. I recommend using the score board from earlier, using check marks or annotations to keep track of which clue they’re on. I recommend having each student in a team read at least one clue. After a clue is read, allow a few seconds for the other teams to guess. Encourage them to raise their hands, and stress that there are no penalties for wrong answers. I often give encouragement by saying, “Good guess, but not quite.” You might even want to consider giving teams bonus points for guesses that are particularly good, but just slightly miss the mark.

After a few unsuccessful guesses, I like to make note of the team’s clue. For example, on the scoreboard, I might write, “Many colors, go somewhere important → brown or black.” Just enough so students (and I) can recall all the information. Alternatively, you could keep these notes to yourself and encourage students to keep their own notes as an exercise in personal responsibility!

Once the correct answer is guessed, you assign each team the points they’ve earned. I recommend keeping track on a chalkboard, or perhaps a simple word document if using Zoom. When all teams have presented, the one with the most points wins!


And that’s how it’s done. Hopefully I managed to avoid inundating readers with too much information; however, if you find it confusing but still want to try this activity don’t be intimidated. As long as you follow the basic idea, students will get thinking and speaking in English, and (generally) having fun. The rest is just details that you can figure out the more you do it. Good luck!

Getting Creative with Projects!

In her previous post, Angie went over ways to use online tools to create different projects. In this quasi follow-up post, we’ll go over some ways to get creative with projects using different online tools.

Using Online Resources to Your Advantage

Regardless of subject or topic, teachers can get creative with their projects! When faced with the difficulty of doing traditional classroom projects, such as making a poster or creating a paper model, while classes have been forced online or socially distanced, we can look to online resources that can replicate a similar type of knowledge or achieve certain learning goals. There are a plethora of websites with paid or free subscriptions that offer teachers access to a variety of templates (canva.com, slidesgo.com), platforms to post student work (padlet.com, flipgrid.com), and worksheet repository (liveworksheets.com, eslprintables.com).

Model House Project Utilizing Online Applications

For the national Korean elementary 5th Grade English curriculum, which requires students to be able to name and describe objects in rooms of a house, a “traditional” project would be to build a paper model house. While being somewhat time consuming, the ultimate objective is for students to demonstrate verbal or written mastery of the target language, rather than their ability to create a perfect model house.

One example of getting creative and moving this project online is to use the numerous room creator websites and applications available on the internet. Faced with this opportunity, I explored three very different platforms, each with their own educational merits:

In this first example, a free website created by a Korean furniture company, iloom, students can easily furnish and decorate a room in a house by selecting and moving furniture. The interface is in students’ L1, which is suitable if the learning objective is not to produce a picture of a room, rather to describe it in L2. When developing learning objectives, teachers must take students’ language proficiency into consideration. If the process of producing a project to too difficult, students may fail to achieve the true desired outcome.  

This particular platform allows students to take a 3-dimensional tour of the virtual room they or their classmates have created by adjusting the view icon. Imagine how engaging and interactive a gallery walk of these model rooms can be!

This particular website offers a distinctive learning opportunity as well. Students are able to get a statement of the cost of all the furnishings they had chosen for their particular room. To make learning even more impactful, the integration of subjects of skills is an effective approach. Seize the opportunity to teach students about budgeting or art (color, design, textures, etc.) or mathematics (area, size, perimeter, etc.) in tandem with this language project.

Source: https://iloom.urbanbase.com/

The following two websites, also free room creator platforms, are in English. If a language teacher finds an authentic learning opportunity in having students interact with and navigate a website in L2, there are online resources at various language levels and interface complexity.

This website offers a basic and simple layout. The ease of its “drag and drop” user experience is intuitive and accessible. One noteworthy feature of this following website is that students are able to print a comprehensive list of furniture they chose. A vocabulary list is a useful tool to scaffold students’ writing.

Source: http://www.planyourroom.com/

This final example is a more complex model with a higher variety of advance language. While being less user friendly than the previous two websites, it offers high proficiency students an opportunity to interact with new or unfamiliar terms in a meaningful way. This difference can allow teachers the ability to differentiate instruction with just one project.

Source: https://roomstyler.com/3dplanner

This is just one example of a way you can integrate online tools into a project straight out of the curriculum. It only takes a little bit of time and effort to explore different ways to engage your students whether classes are online or in the classroom!

Authentic Media in the ESL Classroom

It is difficult to venture into a classroom in the 21st century without encountering some sort of multimedia. From pictures to videos and every Instagram post in-between, media has a way of grabbing students’ attention and conveying themes and information in a way they can relate to.

Media has a special place in the English as a second language/English as a foreign language (ESL/EFL) classroom. Often, visual representation of content is the catalyst for student understanding of language concepts and vocabulary. However, it can be tricky when media runs into cultural representation. Just as it is an easy way to engage our students and help them visualize concepts and content, it is just as easy to misrepresent cultures and people groups with inaccurate media.

This is why it is important to seek out authentic media when possible. Authentic media is multimedia that comes from authentic voices. Simply put, it is pictures, videos, music and more that comes directly from the culture which it is representing.

Think of it this way. Which seems like a more accurate representation of a culture; a travel video made by a Korean who is traveling for 3 days in this country, or a daily life video made by a native resident of the country? Of course, the native resident would have a more accurate understanding of the cultural practices and traditions of their home country. When we are showing videos, pictures, or other forms of media to students, it is the duty of the teacher to be sure that they are representing that culture as accurately as possible. In this way, we help our students to have a more informed worldview and a deeper understanding of cultures around the world, rather than looking at the world through the lens of their native country or through a west-centric point of view.

But how can we access authentic materials? Below I will outline a few tips for choosing materials, along with some great places to start looking.

Look at the author

A simple way to check for authenticity is to look at the author. Are they a native to this culture? Or are they merely an observer? Even reputable sources like National Geographic can hold bias in the images they present, so it is always prudent to check for media created by those living within the culture or people group that you’d like to showcase to your students. When looking at content where the creator is an outsider observing a particular culture or community, seek media that allow their subjects to speak. Meaning seek content such as videos that include interviews or tell the stories of specific people from that culture or community, rather than videos that tend to generalize like travel vlogs.

Look at the location

In many places, rural areas may look drastically different from metropolitan areas. It is important to consider this when presenting images of a particular country that your students may not have much information about outside of your class.

Look at the bias

Even those native to a culture or community can be biased in the presentation of their surroundings. It’s important to always remind students to seek multiple points of view and try to access more than one portrayal of a culture before making assumptions.

Places to Start Looking

Great Big Story- YouTube short video channel

Though they are no longer making new videos, the Great Big Story YouTube channel still has hundreds of videos to search through to find great stories from nearly every corner of the world. Though the channel itself is made by an American company (CNN), the videos center on real people and real stories, without any bias or commentary from the videographer or journalist. The videos range from one minute to fifteen minutes and often include English subtitles. Some may even have subtitles available in other languages.

The stories are compelling, and can showcase parts of a culture that are not often found within a textbook. The simplest way to find the perfect video is to use the “search” function on the YouTube channel page and type in the country, culture, or community you would like to represent in your classroom.

Use the search function to find the videos that cover the topic you are interested in

Here is a video about the Turkish whistling language

Great Big Story Homepage link


NasDaily YouTube Channel- Nuseir Yassin

Similar to Great Big Story, NasDaily, a channel run by Israeli Nuseir Yassin, is full of videos about many places around the world, not only the native country of the content creator. However, the videos he makes are authentic in a special way. What the author of these videos, Nuseir, does is allow the people from the culture he is visiting to tell their own story. In essence, the videos he makes, which range from 1 to 5 minutes, are about people. By keeping the stories human-based, the videos themselves become more authentic.

Here is a video about the Water King of Kenya

Also similar to Great Big Story, you can use the search function on the homepage to find videos that fit what you are looking for

A link to the homepage for NasDaily


Vlog- Personal-life Videos often found on hosting sites such as YouTube

Outside of these larger channels, smaller videos made by those within the culture or community you’d like to share with your students can be a powerful way to model authenticity to students.

Some of the easiest ways to search for these types of vides is to put “[country/community name] vlog” or “[country/community name] daily life” in the YouTube search bar. Vlog stands for “video log” and is usually a first-person account of the video author’s own experiences. However, avoid travel vlogs like the ones in the following image.

These videos are made by tourists to that country or community and will not produce the same authentic view as a video made by someone from within that culture. Instead look for videos of people speaking about their own lives. A good way to do this is to check the “About” section on their YouTube homepage like can be seen in the following image and see if the channel creator is a resident of the country covered in their vlogs.

This channel hosts videos made by Salta, a local Kazakh who makes videos about life in Kazakhstan, like this one

Here are a few more vlog examples

Russia with Yeah Russia, a channel from a Russian girl named Natasha

Nigeria with Eboh Media, a channel from Eboh Gee Chigozie, who takes an authentic look at Nigerian daily life.

Or Egypt with Mahmoud Yehia, a film maker from Egypt who looks at a day in the life in an Egyptian village

Though this film mostly represents rural areas of Egypt, clips can be combined with the following video on a day in the life in Cairo, Egypt by Azat Akhunov

And many more…

All of the above resources are a great place to start, but there is plenty more authentic media outside of YouTube. Just search for authors making content about their own culture or community and you can access a plethora of authentic multimedia to enrich your lessons and provide context for the cultures and communities your students may come across in their textbooks.

Flipgrid: The Resource That Tricks Your Students Into Actually Talking

Speaking is scary.

This is something that’s applicable not only to English Learners (ELs), but also often native speakers. When I have to make a call, order food, or interact with someone I don’t know, I often find myself mentally rehearsing exactly what I want to say before even approaching the other person, and I know I’m not alone. 

However, as educators, we often expect students to be able to speak freely and unabashedly. While this is an important skill to develop, this remains difficult or even threatening to students. They often clam up and refuse to speak beyond monosyllables, answering in yes or no, or only following a set pattern given by the teacher.

There’s a lot of other issues that come with teaching speaking as well. First and foremost, how can someone objectively grade speaking? How can learners know their speaking errors, or how to improve? What’s a fun way to get students to practice?

One of the best solutions I’ve found to all of these problems is to use an online platform called Flipgrid.

While Flipgrid wasn’t necessarily made with ELs in mind, it is certainly perfect for the EL classroom. Flipgrid is a free online learning platform (also available as an app) that allows students to record short videos. It’s reminiscent of popular apps such as TikTok or Snapchat, which makes it a breeze for young learners to adapt to. I’ve been using Flipgrid for over a year now, and am a huge fan of its interface, what it allows students to do, and how engaged students are when using it.

Flipgrid is both free and simple to sign up for. You can simply create an account, then create a group. You can add your students to it (and choose your students usernames, which is a feature I love since many students tend to get ah, creative when choosing what to call themselves), set a discussion topic, and get started.

The discussion topics can take all sorts of different forms. It’s necessary to give your topic a title (be it a chapter name, grammar point, discussion question – you name it) and a prompt. In your prompt, you can give your students specific questions to answer, a minimum speaking time, a scaffolded answer for them to read off of, and more. You can also add media resources to encourage your students. In the past, I’ve often recorded a video myself for my students and used YouTube clips for them to talk about, but the choices are various.

You can use Flipgrid for a variety of purposes, ranging from having them answer simple speaking questions to making a speaking portfolio, which I’ll talk more about later. In my own teaching practice, I’ve mainly used Flipgrid to create projects for my students. For example, I had students create how-to cooking videos in one class, instead of doing the tired old imperative-tense exercises offered by the textbook. I was blown away by student videos – they truly went all out in what they made! 

Flipgrid is great because you can record whatever – in this cooking video, the student edited a lot and added text to aid their speaking.

In another class, students made commercials in groups. I was warned beforehand that these students were low-level and rarely spoke; however, by using Flipgrid students were able to write a script beforehand, which gave them a lower-threat environment to practice speaking. They can also do multiple takes or edit videos together, so if a mistake is made, it’s of no importance; students can simply take it out. 

I’m a firm believer that students will engage more with the material when they are interested by it, and creating an experience that resembles social media can really help students shine. Shy students who barely dare to pipe up on Zoom can create wonderful videos of themselves speaking. If a student is really shy about how they look, they also have the option to not show their face (such as in the above image) or use a filter. 

Another huge benefit of Flipgrid is that students can rewatch their own videos. This makes it possible for students to view their own problems. For example, I had a high-level student who often left the “s” off third person verbs (for example, she would say “the boy run to the store” instead of “the boy runs to the store”) and found it almost impossible to correct herself naturally. However, after only a few weeks of watching and listening to her own videos, the student was able to remedy this error!

Flipgrid also automatically generates closed captioning for videos. While these can sometimes be wildly incorrect – especially for students with heavier accents – it also allows these students to see a visual representation of what their pronunciation sounds like, which can be extraordinarily helpful. If the close captions guess that there is a curse word, it will automatically star it out. Don’t worry about any of this – you can go in and edit the closed captions if you so wish!

In this caption, you can see the student is repeating words as she realized she made a mistake.

Flipgrid gives a few options for student feedback. You can either use a built in rubric, or create your own. You can also write feedback or – as I prefer to do – record feedback. I use my recorded feedback to model pronunciation or grammar errors, as well as to give students more listening practice. Remember, if all else fails they can always read the closed captioning Flipgrid automatically supplies. You can scroll through the image below to see a completed rubric.

The feedback options leads me to one of the best features about Flipgrid: it can be used to create a “speaking portfolio” of sorts for students. With language learning, speaking is often one of the hardest, most obscure things to try to objectively grade. It can also be difficult for students to see their own progress, which can sometimes make students feel discouraged. Even if the educator only created one Flipgrid video of their students speaking at the beginning of the school year, it can allow both them and the student to look back and see how much they’ve progressed.

Overall, I think that Flipgrid is a great tool that can easily be used in an ESL classroom by students of almost any age. It’s easy for students to use, provides a great opportunity for students to practice speaking in a non-threatening environment.

Gather Town, an Alternative to Zoom?


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, educators around the world had to adjust from teaching in an in-person, face-to-face setting to using an online platform. In past year and a half, Gyeonggi-do Institute for Language Education (GIFLE) also had to acclimate to online distance teaching and learning. Mostly, we have done classes and training programs through Zoom Video Communications and Google Meet. While using Zoom and Google Meet, we realized there are some limitations on teaching through these platforms. While searching for other online software, we have discovered Gather Town (gather.town) as an alternative to Zoom.

Gather Town is a video conferencing software program, much like Zoom and Google Meet. The difference is the format. With Gather Town, teachers can create a virtual world for their students that simulates real-life school and classrooms and interactions between people.

We’ve made a guide to help you get started with Gather Town! You can scroll through the presentation below to see how to get started.

When teaching through Gather Town, there are some things a teacher needs to consider. The following are benefits and cautions when designing a virtual world and teaching students via Gather Town.


  1. Movement is possible – One of the disadvantages of Zoom is that all movement and interactions need to be arranged beforehand. Once they are in a Zoom meeting, they must stay in the meeting room. The students cannot form partners or groups by themselves. Movement can only occur when the teacher creates breakout rooms and assign students to enter a breakout room. In addition, the students cannot spontaneously interact with other individuals, groups or the teacher privately. In Gather Town, spontaneous movement and interactions are possible. Since students are using an avatar, instead of being fixed on a screen, they can move their avatar around to move around the classroom to do assigned activities, form groups easily, and speak privately without the assistance of the teacher.
  2. Interactive Objects – With Gather Town, teachers have the ability to create objects in their virtual space that students can interact with. These objects can be embedded with videos, Powerpoint presentations, Google Docs, Google Slides, Youtube clips and etc. These objects are easily clickable and accessible for the students. Instead of sending files to the students and not knowing whether they received it or not, teachers can create an object where any student can click in order to access teaching materials. If the students need assistance with technical issues, the teacher are nearby ready to assist them.
  3. Mirrors real-life classroom – When preparing for in-person classes, teachers would try to arrange desks and decorate the classroom so the environment is conducive for learning. The Gather Town virtual space or classroom gives teachers the ability to arrange or decorate the classroom that their fit their lesson. This ability to design the classroom and the freedom of movement in the classroom provides the teacher with more options to mirror in-person classroom teaching in an online setting. There is less of an adjustment for trying to prepare lessons for online format. Instead teachers can take what they do in -person and create a virtual space that simulates the real-life classroom experience.
  4. No Camera Fatigue – When taking online classes via Zoom, the teacher and students are fixed in a certain position and staring at the screen. There is a physical toll when staring at a screen for a long time, especially if you are just looking at the same thing. In Zoom, people are just looking into the camera and viewing the other participants. This makes the teacher and students set physically in a fixed position. The eyes are on the camera and the posture is set so With Gather Town, there are a lot of things to see. People are moving and depending on the virtual space set up, the eyes are moving from one object or person to another. Even while sitting and taking online classes, the teacher and students can move their eyes and neck and change their posture while taking the class. It relieves a little of the stress of staying still.


  1. Too much movement – Since the avatars can move around the screen, it can be a distraction while doing classes. The students may pay attention to the movement in the classroom rather than on what the teacher says. Teachers have to spend time managing the movement in the classroom which takes away valuable teaching time. Basic Gather Town classroom rules and etiquette needs to be established in order to minimize movement distractions in the classroom.
  2. Cannot share files immediately(drag and drop) – In Zoom or Google Meet, the teacher can share documents or files by dragging and dropping them in the chat windows. This is important in case students don’t have the teaching materials immediately in front of them or they are not able to access any links. With Gather Town, documents and files cannot be sent using the chat window. Only messages can be typed in order to communicate with the teacher or other students. This means that the teachers need to spend some time to set up the classroom so the students can smoothly access documents and files. Usually, this will happen by creating various interactive objects with links embedded in them. Then the students are able to access documents and files while interacting with objects.
  3. All group discussion can be difficult – In the Gather Town classroom, students can move easily in and out of public and private areas in order to participate in group work or discussions. The students can talk to other trainees without being heard by others but still feel like they are not isolated in a breakout room. The discussions that can be difficult is the all group or class discussion. There are times when the teacher has to lecture to the whole class. During the lecture, a teacher can pose a question that he or she wants a student to spontaneously respond. This type of interaction may be difficult because students cannot swiftly and easily shout out the answer. The students either need to be given a spotlight function by the teacher or go to the spot with a spotlight indicator to speak. Then they can participate and speak to the whole group. This added step to speak to the whole group may make all group discussions not run smoothly.


As with learning all new online software, tools and apps, there is going to be a learning curve. Don’t let frustrations and failures discourage you. Hopefully, with these how to instructions and advice on using Gather Town, you can utilize them in your own classrooms and have an online teaching experience that can be similar to your in-person classroom teaching.

Teacher Professional Development – Why to Do It, How to Do It, and Its Potential

Within education, professional development refers to improving your teaching skills, abilities, and overall know-how in order to better connect to your students, create a more efficient and engaging classroom, and, well, develop professionally.

Here at GIFLE, we’re big fans of professional development all around. We believe that PD can be done by anyone at any point in their career – not just those at the bottom of the ladder, but even by those at the top of their game. In this article, we’ll be going over different types of professional development, links and resources you can use for your own professional development journey, and talk about how professional development can help you out not only in the classroom, but in your overarching career. This is a pretty long post, so you can bookmark it and come back it anytime for all the professional development goodness you crave.

Why should I bother with professional development?

So, you already have a solid job in the ESL/EFL field, years of experience, and are overall feeling settled and comfortable in your classroom. You’re pretty good at grammar and have a good relationship with your students, co-workers, and principal. Why should you spend your time, money, and effort doing professional development?

The phrase “teachers are lifelong learners” sounds cliché, but it holds true. As educators, our field is constantly growing and expanding as our knowledge about how people learn does, and it can be important to keep up with new methods. Doing professional development can help you bring new ideas, teaching methods, and lessons into your classroom, expand your horizons as an educator, and even help you move up in your field. Furthermore, doing professional development can help you create connections that may be helpful to you in the future.

Lastly (and we know we sound like complete nerds here) professional development can be both rewarding and fun. It’s great to spend time talking and listening to other professionals in your field, bounce ideas off each other, and grow more as an educator. Don’t take our word for it – get out there and do some professional development yourself!

Okay, got it. Isn’t professional development really hard and time-consuming though?

While it’s true that high levels of professional development can take months or even years to complete, there are also plenty of easy options that you can do! In this post, we’ll look at some different ways that you can begin doing more professional development. We’ve divided it into three different sections for you – Easy-Peasy, Medium, and For the Enthusiastic.

The”Easy-Peasy” category represents free things that you can do with minimal time commitment. These are things you can easily incorporate in your everyday life without having to change or plan ahead too much.

The “Medium” category consists of things that will take a longer time commitment (hours and days, rather than minutes) or might have fees involved. These will boost your knowledge of your field more than the easy category; however, they are likely more difficult to accomplish.

The final category, aptly named “For the Enthusiastic,” will take a minimum of weeks to accomplish. They also may have quite a financial commitment attributed to them. However, doing this level of professional development may offer many more chances of career advancement than the first two categories, will add something substantial to your resume, and give you that oh, so satisfying sense of accomplishment.


Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  1. Read the literature, websites, blogs . . .

A lot (and we mean a lot) gets published about education, and specifically ESL and EFL every year. Why not take advantage of other people’s hard-done research and ideas for your own classroom? The great thing about using reading as professional development is that you can do it almost anytime or anywhere, and do it for as long or little as you like. It’s also easy to jump from subject to subject or even go down a rabbit hole of your interests (do you remember “footnote chasing” from your undergrad? It can get even more intense when you find a subject that interests you!). To get you started with reading, we’ve put some of our favorite websites, journals, and other resources down below, along with a brief description.

Description from the website:

Colorín Colorado is the premier [USA] website serving educators and families of English language learners (ELLs) in Grades PreK-12. Colorín Colorado has been providing free research-based information, activities, and advice to parents, schools, and communities around the country for more than a decade.

Description from the website:

The WIDA Consortium is a member-based organization made up of U.S. states, territories and federal agencies dedicated to the research, design and implementation of a high-quality, standards-based system for K-12 English language learners.

The Internet TESL Journal is collection of resarch papers, articles, handouts, lesson plans, links, teaching ideas – you name it, they probably have it. This is a great resource to go to when you need something specific, or even if you just want to browse for new ideas.

Description from the website:

The Korea TESOL Journal is a refereed academic journal concerned with teaching English as a foreign or additional language and related issues.

TESOL Journal (TJ) is a double-blind peer-reviewed, practitioner-oriented electronic journal that publishes articles based on current theory and research in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). TJ is a forum for second and foreign language educators at all levels to engage in the ways that research and theory can inform, shape, and ground teaching practices and perspectives. TJ enable an active and vibrant professional dialogue about research- and theory-based practices as well as practice-oriented theorizing and research.  

Description from the website:

Since 1981, Education Week has been America’s most trusted resource for K-12 education news and information. 1.6+ million readers. National Coverage. From teachers to principals and district leaders across the country. Education Week’s diverse audience turns to us for the most up-to-date information on K-12 education in the U.S., as well as innovative, high-value tools and solutions.

Google Scholar, JSTOR, and other similar scholarly search engines are also great if you want to read up about a particular or specific topic.

2. Share ideas with your fellow teachers

Sit down with your fellow teachers (in-person and online both work great here!), pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew, and talk through all of your classroom ideas. Here at GIFLE, we brainstorm about our ideas, struggles, and successes within the classroom.

Another great way to share (and frankly, steal) ideas with your fellow teachers is to sit in on each other’s classes. Every teacher runs their classroom differently – why not take advantage? You can individually talk to teachers in your school to plan when you’re going to sit in on a lesson, or use tools such as pineapple charts to collaborate.

3. Listen to a podcast

If you’ve not drunk the podcast Kool-Aid quite yet, let us try to get you on board. Podcast are excellent, very convenient little snippets of information, conversations, interviews, and more given by live people. You can get a feel for personality and passion more than by simply reading a text. Plus, podcasts are very widely available nowadays, – you can listen on your phone while taking the bus, put one on while you’re scrubbing out your bathtub, or even have one talking to you while you’re directly making a lesson plan. There are a ton of education podcasts out there, ranging in topics from curriculum design to classroom management. Below, we’ve included a few of our favorite podcasts at GIFLE to get your new playlist started.

Description from the website:

“Teaching strategies, classroom management, education reform, educational technology — if it has something to do with teaching, we’re talking about it. On the podcast, I interview educators, students, administrators and parents about the psychological and social dynamics of school, trade secrets, and other juicy things you’ll never learn in a textbook. Other episodes feature me on my own, offering advice on ways to make your teaching more effective and more fun.”

Description from the website:

Talks with Teachers brings you the stories and inspiration behind America’s great English educators. Each episode features a master ELA/Literacy/English teacher sharing what worked, what didn’t and the wisdom gained from their years of classroom experience. Intended to boost morale and help teachers find joy and purpose, Talks with Teachers is a great resource for K-12 English, Literacy, and ELA teachers

Description from the website:

FreshEd with Will Brehm is an interview-style podcast that showcases cutting-edge research in the field of education. It is used in dozens of university courses around the world. All episodes are transcribed and some are then translated into Mandarin, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Portuguese.

Description from the website:

The Google Teacher Podcast is designed to give K-12 educators practical ideas for using G Suite and other Google tools in classrooms and schools. Hosted by Matt Miller (Ditch That Textbook) and Kasey Bell (Shake Up Learning).

Description from the website:

The PBL [Project-based learning] Playbook from Magnify Learning is meant to help you navigate your PBL questions and problems, build your PBL confidence, and add strategies for success to your own playbook! 

What the “Easy Peasy” stage unlocks:

By doing the “easy peasy” stage of professional development, you’ll gain knowledge of new teaching methods, curriculum design, projects, lesson plans, and more. You’ll also be able to hold your own more when talking to other education professionals. People at dinner parties will relish conversation with you.


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  1. Gain new certifications

It’s likely if you’re reading this that you already have a TESL or TEFL certificate of some sort. However, these are truly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to certificates within the ESL realm, especially as ESL certificates have no overarching certifying board, no set number of mandatory hours, and some don’t even offer real classroom experience. If you want to increase your teaching knowledge (as well as pad your resume and get more professional clout), there are many more courses and certifications you can get within the ESL sphere that are guaranteed to impress.

Nowadays, certifications are offered both on and offline, which makes them more convenient to those currently working or unable to take time off. What certifications that you do are, of course, dependent on your interest and where you want to go within your field. Some popular certifications are:

Description from the website:

The CELTA course covers the principles of effective teaching, and gives you a range of teaching techniques and practical experience. You get hands-on teaching practice and observation of experienced teachers, and you’ll apply your learning by delivering communicative teaching with English language learners.

Description from the website:

DELTA is an advanced blend of theory and practice that provides professional development for teachers with at least one year’s experience. It gives you skills and techniques that will help you throughout your career.

Description from the website:

TKT is a series of modular teaching qualifications which test your knowledge in specific areas of English language teaching. It will help you to build your confidence, and is a cost-effective way to get an internationally recognised qualification. Whether you are a new teacher or have years of experience, TKT is ideal for people who need to prove their teaching knowledge with a globally recognised certificate.

These three certifications are all offered by Cambridge and are widely, internationally recognized. (For similar certificates, you can also check out these offered by Trinity College in Dublin.)These certifications are all different, targeting different learners and aspects of education, so make sure you do your research about what exactly you want before obtaining it.

There are also a lot of free certificates out there, for those interested in learning for the sake of learning. Sites such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer courses developed by universities online, for free, which offer tons of great information to those who are willing to take the time to complete them. For example, recently, our instructor Autumn has been doing a course on Coursera in order to learn more about how to teach students studying with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia.

Note: certificates obtained on sites such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy might not be recognized by an employer, but they’re still useful for expanding your knowledge and trying out new interests.

2. Take courses and join seminars

If you’ve ever been in school – and chances are that you have – you’ll know that courses and seminars are a great way to not only learn about a subject matter, but to get the chance to talk with an expert in the field, socialize with classmates, and get some hands-on practice. There are a myriad of courses and seminars out there, ranging from ones you can complete within a few hours to ones that last for months. Even if you’re loathe to get up off of your sofa, a lot of these courses and seminars are held online nowadays, making them accessible to anyone who has an internet connection.

The courses or seminars you join are probably contingent on your own personal interests and professional development needs. You can simply join a seminar that’s taking place in Korea (Autumn’s local library in Suwon used to offer free seminars in English on Saturdays!), check out online courses (a quick Google search will show you heaps), or even go as far as to look into university courses.

3. Attend a workshop

As an ESL teacher in Korea, there are a lot of different types of workshops that you can attend for free. If you’re reading this and are familiar with us at GIFLE, you’ll already know that we provide many different kinds of teacher trainings and workshops for those living within Gyeonggi Province. However, if you’re living outside of Gyeonggi-do, don’t worry! There are plenty of other resources for you to take advantage of. One of our favorites here at GIFLE that we ourselves take shameless advantage of is KOTESOL.

KOTESOL (the Korean branch of TESOL, that is, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) alone has chapters in almost every province that offers seminars and workshops – many of them free – along with larger (but paid-for) conferences. These workshops are generally run by instructors or other education professionals and can give you everything from lesson ideas to new know-how of how to best run an online classroom. You can also walk away with new friends, networking opportunities, and even full PPTs and lesson plans to use in your own class.

What the “Medium” stage unlocks:

Doing midlevel professional development will help you increase your knowledge in the field of education and gain more hands-on experience. It will also add great things to your resume.

For the Enthusiastic

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  1. Give a presentation at a workshop or seminar

Chances are that you’ve had some absolute smash-hits with your class, or have some really great ideas about how to implement different things into your classroom. You might have also studied a lot of different teaching techniques or pedagogy that you want to share with the world (or at least, some colleagues).

Workshops, seminars, and other professional events are a great way to share what you’ve learned with others, and get some professional, resume-boosting clout while you’re at it. In Korea, conferences are regularly held both in-person and online by KOTESOL, but many, many more opportunities to present exist. Start by performing a simple Internet search to see what’s happening around you in the professional world, gather your materials to create a killer presentation, and get started! If you’ve not done a conference or seminar before, it might be useful to watch and participate in one beforehand, so you have a clear idea of what’s expected.

2. Do research and publish an article

At first, this option probably sounds a bit intimidating, especially if the last paper you wrote was done during a Red Bull-fueled writing frenzy during your undergrad at three in the morning. However, it’s likely that within your classroom you’ve done research, whether advertently or not. You’ve probably searched for activities and lesson plans that work for your students and classrooms, tried out different methods, and might have even kept track of your students grades and test scores. Even these simple things can have great value to research and other educators within the EFL sphere.

As mentioned in the “Easy Peasy” section of this post, there are a lot of publications and blogs focusing on ESL and EFL. You can start by seaching which one fits your research the best, send them what you’ve written, and (hopefully) get published.

3. Become a licensed teacher

Gaining your licensure in teaching is a great option for those who want to really expand their knowledge of the teaching field. If you want to teach in your home country in the future (or level up to working at international schools or other such institutes), this is likely a great option for you, since you’ll need certification to legally work in most public (and some private) schools. Each state has different requirements for licensure, so make sure you do your research about what is required and the proper steps you’ll need to take in order to become a fully legal licensed teacher.

Believe it or not, it’s possible now to become a licensed teacher from abroad, through online programs such as TeacherReady or Moreland University.* These can be a great option for those currently abroad or those who have busy schedules.

*Note – these programs are for teacher licensure in the United States only. If you’re from another country, you’ll need to research licensure requirements

4. Get a Master’s or PhD

This is the granddaddy of all professional development. The big one. The top. If you get a Master’s (or PhD, if you are really blazing towards it), you will be an expert in your field. There are a ton of different choices for which direction you want to go in with your Master’s degree within the ESL field. Some popular choices are:

  • Masters in TESOL
  • Masters in Applied Linguistics
  • Masters in Education

However, as everyone has different wants and interests, the choice of the best Master’s or PhD degree varies from person to person. Here at GIFLE, five completely different Master’s are held by six instructors. Although we all followed our different interests in education, it still gave us the opportunity to work together and become professional education experts.

What the “For the Enthusiastic” stage unlocks:

At the highest level of professional development, you’ll be able to advance your career as an educator. All of these things will look fantastic on your resume, and give you an in-depth knowledge of your field.

This post should serve as an guide for how to begin your professional development journey. Remember, every person needs to engage in professional development depending on who they are as an individual, interests, education, and more so there really is no “one-size-fits-all” model you can follow.