5 British Idioms- Eleni’s Love to Learn English mini lessons

What are idioms and what are some of the most common British idioms?

Here are 5! What’s your favourite idiom?

PS If you’d like the slides with the little activity, send me a message.


Comparatives and Superlatives- Eleni’s Love to Learn English mini lessons

As promised, my English mini lessons are back.

I thought I’d start with comparatives and superlatives, as sometimes it can be confusing when and how to use them.

There are 5 simple rules to follow and of course a few exceptions. I hope you find it useful. As always, suggestions, feedback and comments are welcome!



Endings, beginnings and change.

This week’s video it’s all about endings, the end of my first year of teaching English as a foreign language, new beginnings, which at the moment I have no idea what those would be, and change.

I hope significant change. I hope the black lives matter movement keeps going on until we all finally realise our white privilege, our implicit racism as well as racism deeply embedded into every layer of our society, justice system, the world and our responsibility to change that. And the first step: educate ourselves, as sad and uncomfortable it might feel. Imagine if we feel uncomfortable reading and seeing this injustice, how much worse is for the people living it.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately, at the moment I’m watching Kalief Browder’s story, a poor kid who at age 16 was sent to adults prison. He spent three years at Rikers Island, two of those in solitary confinement for a crime not only he didn’t do, but was never convicted for. After his release he was so scarred from all the abuse he suffered, he committed suicide.

So here is this week’s video



Conditionals in songs

Most EFL teachers do not enjoy teaching grammar but conditionals is probably one of the very few grammar points that is super easy to make fun to teach.

I personally love songs and drama and I try to use it in my teaching as much as possible so I was looking for an audio or a video that included all four conditionals to use with my FCE class as a revision.

I couldn’t find any so I put together one myself using a web app. It didn’t take that long actually, what it took the longest was choosing songs as there are a LOT of great songs with conditionals in their lyrics.

I thought I’d share in case you are in a similar position and you find this in any way useful. Below are the audio and the lyrics for each song snippet I used (you can turn it into a gap fill or listening activity or just as a warm up).

Let me know what you think!

PS I don’t own copyrights for any of these songs.


My top 5 tips for teaching online

I’ve been teaching online for six weeks now and I thought I’d share my top 5 tips for teaching online based on what I’ve learned so far.

Feel free to share your ideas, I’m still learning so I’d love to hear your tips and feel free to share with anyone that might find it useful!

Warm up ideas for online lessons

As a newly qualified EFL teacher in my first year I’ve been struggling immensely with information overload. There are hundreds of books, online resources, websites etc and what I ended up doing is to gradually, every couple of lessons learn something new, something practical that doesn’t take up a lot of time to adapt (no much free time I’m afraid, especially for new teachers!) and incorporate it into my teaching, I can’t possibly spend all of my time checking every single piece of information sent to me or even worse available online.

I don’t know about you, but ever since I switched to online teaching due to the Coronavirus nightmare, I’ve been bombarded with webinar links, lesson ideas, resources, almost every day, way more than I used to.

I found it extremely overwhelming and frankly I have no time to go through all of it, so again I read one thing or two, I focus on practical ideas, rather than activities that need a lot of time to prep (no time for that) and add it to every couple of lessons so I still enhance my teaching but I don’t fall into the trap of clicking on each link that comes my way.

I’ve been reading Interaction Online by Clandfield and Hadfield (2018) which is full of practical ideas, some of which I adapted as warm ups for my online lessons, mainly with my older teens and adults.

So if you’d like a few practical ideas, I put together a PPT with 5-6 of Clandfield and Hadfield excellent book and I thought I’d share so everyone can use. PS I highly recommend the book!

Hope you find it useful. Let me know if you try any of these.


The ‘disillusionment’ stage (of first year of teaching)

It’s Saturday, just after 12pm, my body aches, I’m still sleepy and exhausted but I’m slowly getting ready for my mini break. My body is struggling, it could do with a few days of rest but my mind desperately needs this break.

I thought long and hard, I’ve been trying for a while now to accurately describe how I feel. I’m normally pretty damn good at it, but not lately. When asked I just say I’m tired but it’s much more than that.

I’m exhausted, I struggle to keep up with the energy levels required to teach, especially children and on some days I lack the motivation, particularly when teaching 4 lessons back to back, running around from school to school.

It’s not an easy job to say the least, let alone when you teach 8 large groups of 16- 25 children (plus two large classes of 16 yr olds, three one-to-ones and a group of adults which also have their own challenges) and after the 100th time that you repeatedly told a student or a class that you don’t speak Italian or waited for them to stop talking so they can listen or gave the same instructions but they just don’t seem to get it or they shout ‘Non capisco!’ even before you finish your sentence, well it becomes frustrating.

It makes me wonder whether this job is for me. Do I still enjoy it? I’m not even sure if I’m good at it. Will it get better? Will it get easier? If I decide to pursue this career does that mean I’ll never have free time again??

Then I remembered a little chart I came across last month, my friend and fellow teacher sent me a kind, encouraging open letter for first year teachers and in that letter it had the following graph (by Wisconsin Education Association) which is so far bang on the money.

To begin with it was exciting, the anticipation of applying everything I learned was off the charts and the first couple of months of teaching was all about survival, keep going, trying to plan amazing lessons in less time and improve whilst also having to do a million other things, but lately I feel sad and disappointed at times.

Disillusionment: a feeling of being disappointed and unhappy because of discovering the truth about something or someone that you liked or respected.

I’m not sure this is what I signed up for and I can’t but wonder whether this is for me, not just mentally but also physically. I guess the fact this is not my first job, I’ve lived and worked and led a different life plays a part. Perhaps this is just a phase. Some lessons are absolutely incredible, the students happily take part in most of the activities, they enjoy learning, I enjoy teaching them and time flies by, others there are so disappointing, disheartening, I don’t even want to be there.

It doesn’t help that I have very little free time to do other things not just work related e.g. lesson planning, if only I had more time to plan more engaging lessons, or time to read resources to help with my teaching and expand my knowledge but also just for myself: write, read, play my guitar, go for a walk, explore.

I’ll give it some time before I make a decision, maybe I’ll soon enter the ‘rejuvenation’ stage, but for now I just need to find the mental and physical strength to keep me going.

Who knows, maybe spending a few days in Barcelona, a city I’ve always wanted to visit, with my bestie who I haven’t seen for months, might do the trick and help me see things clearer.


5 minutes of mindfulness

About two and a half years ago I went to a talk on recognising signs of mental health problems, by Hugh Clarke, the Former Head of Counselling services at London Met University and counselling Psychologist.

It was a brilliant talk (you can read about it here), informative, thought-provoking, we chatted about it for a while afterwards. I still remember how it started, a 5 minute mindfulness activity guided by Mr Clarke. I absolutely loved it and everyone in the room seemed to have enjoyed it too. No surprise there of course. Mindfulness (focusing in the present moment, whilst accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and body sensations, in a nutshell) has been scientifically proven to alleviate anxiety, reduce rumination, improve attention, manage chronic pain amongst many many other benefits .

A lot of people are sceptical, I was initially too. I had tried to practise mindfulness myself before that day but I found it incredibly hard to focus (my overthinking brain struggles to concentrate on just one thing at a time) and ‘aids’ I discovered (e.g. apps), made me giggle, perhaps too cheesy for me. But Hugh’s 5 minute guided exercise completely changed my mind. It wasn’t cheesy, funny, or superficial. It worked fine and by the time we were done I forgot about everything else and my whole attention was turned to the session. It was just perfect.

Fast forward to about a month ago, Nour and I were thinking of ideas on how to start our presentation for our ‘Survival Guide for New EFL teachers’ session and then I had an epiphany. Hugh’s mindfulness opening activity was so effective I still remembered it after all this time, and we all, especially newly qualified teachers desperately need to be able to focus in the moment, do one thing at a time instead of trying to multitask and failing miserably, so why not start our session by giving our audience 5 minutes to relax and forget about anything else?

So, I found a 5 minute mindfulness activity online, similar to Hugh’s but the language used was too ‘formal’ and frankly tacky, so I created my own using my personal experience and a mixture of Hugh’s activity and the ones I found online (I may have borrowed some beloved expressions from Yoga with Adriene). I thought I’d share it in case others would like to use it. A colleague suggested I made a video (for those that may want to try it on themselves) and I would love to but that takes time so for now here’s the instructions (remember to take your time with each step, check your participants’ reactions and act accordingly):

  1. First, sit comfortably on your chair. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders. Place your feet on the floor, if comfortable, your entire soles touching the ground. If you want to giggle, then feel free to do so!
  2. Take a long deep breath (take a deep breath yourself). Now let’s focus on your toes. Wiggle them, feel them, then curl them really tight. Keep curling…. and release. Take another deep breath.
  3. Now move up to your ankles. Again, notice how they feel (pause) and now move on to your knees. Do they feel tense? If so, relax.
  4. Any thoughts that may come up in your mind e.g. what you are doing after this, what you are having for dinner, imagine they are in a bubble and let them float away. Take a deep breath.
  5. Now relax your bottom (pause), your pelvis (pause) and then begin to notice any tension you may have on your back. Take another deep breath.
  6. Now focus on your shoulders. How do they feel? Now lift them up, lift, lift, lift and…. release. Wonderful. Take another breath.
  7. Now relax your neck, gently twist your head left to right and let any tension go.
  8. Now focus on your jaw. Is it tense? Are you clenching? If so, relax your jaw muscles and take a deep breath.
  9. Finally focus on the top your head. Notice if you are frowning, we often do without realising, and relax your eye brows.
  10. Now lift your shoulders once more, lift, lift, lift…. and release. Let any remaining tension go.
  11. Now focus your attention on what’s happening in the room. Notice any sounds you can hear, any smells…
  12. Take one last deep breath… and open your eyes. How are you feeling now?

Survival guide for new EFL teachers

When we were asked by one of the DoS (Director of Studies) whether we’d like to present at the IH South Italy conference, although I was overwhelmed with all the additional work I took up on top of teaching (putting together promo videos and planning events, which I absolutely love but God it takes time) and barely had time to do anything else, I really wanted to.

I’ve never presented at a conference before. Sure I gave presentations at work and uni, but never at a conference.

‘But what can I talk about? I’ve only been teaching for two months, what can others learn from my experience?’

Most of the days I’ve been over stressed, overworked, overwhelmed, wondering whether I’m doing this well, if my students are really learning and whether all this it’s worth the anxiety, the lack of me-time, of any time to do anything else other than work. If you are a newly qualified teacher you probably nodding your head reading this.

And that’s when I had a light bulb moment. What if I put together a ‘survival guide’ for newly qualified English teachers using the wisdom of existing teachers? I’ve already learned a lot from my manager, our DoS and fellow teachers in the couple of months I’ve been working as an EFL teacher, so imagine gathering all these little nuggets of advice and summarising them into a couple of pages?

I asked James (one of our DoS and the kindest man on earth) if he thought that would be a good idea and he seemed to like it. It’s hard to tell if he really liked it or he was just being polite as he always is but I thought ‘Let’s do it’, I might not get the chance again, who knows where I’d be and what I’d be doing next.

I asked around the room if anyone wanted to present with me, not that I was shy presenting on my own, but there are a lot of NQTs in our school and it would be a good opportunity for someone if they’d like to present. One of my fellow teachers wanted to present with me and to cut a long story short I set up a survey, sent it to teachers we knew and posted it on FB groups and got around 40 responses in just two weeks. Time management is a huge issue for new EFL teachers!

We gave the presentation at the IH South Italy conference yesterday, summarising and demonstrating some of the most common advice on topics we, newly qualified EFL teachers struggle with the most, and I thought I’d share it here too, to hopefully help other newly qualified teachers who may be struggling.

The CELTA can’t prepare you for what’s about to happen when you start teaching children or large classes or full time (also forget CELTA lesson planning time when you start teaching 4-5 hours a day!) so if you need any ideas on how to reduce your lesson planning time and manage your time better in general, or what you can do to help you with teaching young learners, or how to look after your mental health and wellbeing, have a read below.

What I’ve learned so far and I’d advise others (which most teachers recommended in the survey):

-Always have pre-prepared, low resource activities in hand (see ideas below) or lesson plans you have already prepared (start building your own archive), so if you hadn’t had time to plan in detail or ran out of material you can still have a great lesson.

– Plan less, don’t spend hours on it. Most of the time you can’t afford to spend hours. Not every lesson has to be amazing with heavy resource and planning activities. Use the coursebook and extend/adapt some of the exercises, students will still enjoy it (though it is more fun not using the book, especially if the material is not engaging for the students).

-Ask for help. We all regardless of experience give each other ideas and we all help each other with little and not so little things. And if you are struggling, talk to someone!

-Make time for yourself, your hobbies, your passions. Teaching shouldn’t take over your whole life. There is is much more in life than work.

-Making a mistake is not the end of the world. In fact that’s how you learn!

-Look after yourself. Rest, have breaks, sleep. At the end of the day teaching is just a job. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing/ you are too tired/ drained it not only affects your teaching but it’s not worth doing if it compromises your mental and physical health.

(the session started with a 5 minute mindfulness activity I’ll share on another post and also included demonstrations of a classroom routine, giving clear graded instructions, planning an activity for a lesson in a few minutes-yes, it’s definitely do-able- and finished with the audience getting to know each other outside their teacher remit and catching up with friends they haven’t messaged in a while).

Feel free to share and spread the wisdom. The survey is still open if you’d like to share yours. I thought instead of closing it, try to get as many teachers filling it in with their own ideas and advice instead (https://forms.gle/7wqyKbtQ789jVLeu9).

Thank you to everyone who filled in the survey, my co-presenter Nour, my lovely colleagues Maria and Mariah for their super useful feedback and ideas and a very special thank you to James who not only advised and helped me with the survey and PPT from the beginning, even during the Christmas holidays but also for his encouragement and mental support. He even saw the session twice. What a man.


Non parlo Italiano!

About two months ago…

I desperately needed a haircut. I couldn’t even look at my hair. Everything happened so fast I didn’t get the chance to have my hair cut before I moved to Italy and the last one I had was early in the summer in Southampton (I miss the UK so much more I dare to admit sometimes).

Of course it wasn’t about the hair. It was all about self care and I’d started neglecting myself, pretty dangerous for me, it lets the depression and severe anxiety demons creep in and slowly take over without me realising until is too late, so I had to get my hair cut. Urgently.

I’m not sure if you remember where I live now, it’s a small city where very few people you come across speak English, so even the thought of attempting to book an appointment I found intimidating.

But self-preservation prevailed and I wouldn’t let my very poor Italian get in the way. (My Italian hasn’t improved much since, in case you are wondering.)

If you asked me what the most common expression I’ve used so far during my first three months in Italy was, it’s not ‘scusi’, or ‘per favore’ but..

‘Non parlo Italiano’.

It’s my opening line most of the time. Oh no, I actually first speak in English, as I often forget they won’t understand me, then I notice the baffled expression on their face and I explain.

So here’s how I managed to get a (decent) haircut with minimal communication but plenty of awkwardness.

Eleni- ‘Hi, I’d like too…, oh sh**. Non parlo Italiano, parle Inglese?

Hairdresser- Mmmm, no… (waves at one of the other hairdressers who knows a bit of English apparently).

El- Taglio (cut). Pointing at my hair. ‘Un po’ (How the hell do you say ‘trim’ in Italian?)

H-Si. Quando? (Yes! Finally a word I know!)

El-Sabato, matina (morning)?

H– (After checking their appointment book). Mm, tredici? (1pm, Italians tend to follow the 24hr format).

ESi, si, grazie!

Pheew. First step done. I managed to book an appointment!

Saturday (haircut day)


I couldn’t remember if the appointment was at 11am or 1pm. In my head numbers were mixed up the minute I left the hairdressers two day ago. Full time teaching does that to you, messing up your brain. So I went at 11am, just to check. The hairdressers burst into laughing. I thought I’d attempt to go food shopping since I got up anyway, but the supermarket was way too busy for my liking (Damn, I could have stayed in bed a little longer).


I walked in. I had no idea what to say or do. The place was full of customers chatting away. I felt paralysed, mute. I couldn’t let any words out. I didn’t know how to. I could understand some of the conversations but I couldn’t take part. A horrible feeling.

That’s how my students must feel… I kept thinking.

After about half an hour wait (which I was ‘lucky’ as quite often you wait way longer, I was told), I was summoned on the chair.

The stylist asked me how I wanted my hair. I managed to explain (thanks to Antonella, Elena and Google translate) that I just wanted a trim and layers but not too short.

I was terrified. What if she gives me a horrible haircut, what if I end up looking like a pencil?

Image result for fleabag i look like a pencil meme

We didn’t speak much after that. She couldn’t speak English, I couldn’t speak Italian. She made an effort, which I appreciated, she asked me if I was a student, thankfully I knew how to say ‘I’m an English teacher’. My second most used expression (‘insegnante di Inglese’).

An hour later and after a lot of miming and gesturing (and a few word exhanges partially thanks to similarities between Greek and Italian), I left the hairdressers relieved I didn’t look like a pencil, it was actually a decent haircut and cheap compared to UK prices (12 euros).

But it was the most awkward hairdresser’s experience I ever had. And kind of funny at the same time. I had a little giggle afterwards. It’s fascinating how we humans manage to communicate even when we don’t speak the same language, although sometimes we can’t communicate even if we do speak the same language. The irony.

A month later and I’m none the wiser when it comes to Italian. My timetable doesn’t allow me to attend Italian lessons anymore, though I’m still learning from my students, who feel incredibly proud judging by the huge smile on their face every time they teach me an Italian word.

I’m not sure I’d like to stay in (Southern) Italy after my contract ends, but one thing I discovered is that I love living somewhere I’ve never lived before, being thrown into the deep, learning how to… well how to adopt and survive in another country, another culture, another life. That’s something I definitely want more of.

For now, I’ll enjoy the rest of my stay at this little, odd town that is Reggio Calabria.