Category Archives: Activity Update

Claire in Beni Mellal, Morocco

Claire has just returned from a work trip to Beni Mellal, Morocco for Phase 2 of the British Council’s Digital Resources in the Classroom project. This phase began with the training of six local expert teacher trainers. Via a predominantly experiential learning approach, they were introduced to a digital resources course that focuses on the selection and use of the British Council’s LearnEnglish Teens in class. They in turn will cascade the training to 150, Year 9 & 10 English teachers in the Beni Mellal region in the New Year. Claire is looking forward to joining them for this stage of the training.

Claire would like to thank the trainers for their hard work and for their constructive suggestions on where alterations to the course should be made before the cascade training takes place. She would also like to thank the Académie Régionale de Béni Mallal Khénifra Region for hosting the event and being so welcoming. Lastly, her thanks to Salma Tbaik, Project Officer, English and Education, British Council for accompanying her on the trip and ensuring that everything ran smoothly.

Rob at the University of Civil Protection in Minsk

Rob was back in Minsk last week, working with twelve English language teachers from the University of Civil Protection of the Ministry for Emergency Situations of the Republic of Belarus, which trains fire-fighters and other rescue personnel. The course was based on the British Council CiVELT course and had a focus on the training of emergency call operators as Belarus is gearing up for the 2nd European Games which will be held in Minsk at the end of June. Rob was most impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment of the English teaching team at the University. The course was organised by the British Council in Ukraine and the British Embassy in Minsk.

In Rabat and Liverpool with Claire

Claire has had a busy couple of weeks. She paid a return visit to Rabat to work with the same group of Middle and High school English teachers on the LearnEnglish Teens ( mapping project. During the two-day workshop they finalised mapping the content from Teens to their Year 9 & 10 coursebooks. The teachers also created lesson plans to accompany the Teens content that they will pilot with their students later this month. They designed some excellent lessons and Claire wishes them every success with the trial.

After Rabat Claire travelled to Liverpool to attend the 53rd International IATEFL Conference ( She focused her attention on sessions related to teaching with technology and trainer development and came away with a couple of ideas to pursue! Best of all she caught up with a number of former colleagues and friends. She was especially delighted to meet the Cuban team, who she had worked with last year with her colleague Alan Pulverness, TransformELT namely, Yailet Landrove, British Council, Dr Santiago Rivera Pérez, Ministry of Higher Education, Dr Eduardo Garbey, University of La Habana, and Zoe Dominguez, University of Matanzas.

Claire in Rabat

Claire recently paid a flying visit to the beautiful and fascinating city of Rabat, Morocco’s capital. She was there to run a two-day workshop for English and subject teachers from Middle and High schools on the British Council’s LearnEnglish Teens website ( The aims of the workshop were to familiarise the participants with the website’s extensive content and to present a template for them to map, in a principled way, this content against their English language coursebooks for Years 9 and 10. The teachers also had the opportunity to practise mapping the digital content, a task that they will complete post workshop in readiness for a short pilot study during which they will use LearnEnglish Teens with their students.

Claire would like to thank the participants for their hard work and insightful input during the workshop and to wish them every success with the pilot study.

A Masterclass in Minsk

Rob spent last week in Belarus delivering a Masterclass in Teaching course for 14 Military Academy teachers at the Central Officer’s Club in Minsk. The course was jointly organised by the Military Academy, the Belarus MOD, the Defence Section of the British Embassy and the British Council in Ukraine. The revised British Council Certificate in Vocational English Language Teaching (CiVELT) course was used as the core of the programme, supplemented with McIlwraith Education materials.

The course considered all aspects of ESP teaching and the teachers were introduced to new ideas and activities for skills based lessons, and vocabulary and grammar teaching. The event was closed by HM Ambassador to Belarus, Ms Fiona Gibb, and Colonel Susha, Deputy Commandant for International Co-operation at the Military Academy.

It’s Ntja in Namibia!

Rob has spent the last two weeks in Windhoek, Namibia, trialling his new Military English course book with officers of the Namibian Defence Forces. The training took place at the School of Military Science at the University of Namibia. Twenty-three officers – from captain to full colonel – took part in the course. The course was opened and closed by the Deputy Minister of Defence, a sign of how seriously the Namibian’s take the English language proficiency of their soldiers. It was a joint project with the British Council in Namibia and the Namibian Ministry of Defence, and part of McIlwraith Education’s ongoing engagement with Africa. Rob waived his usual fee and covered his own costs. Rob will now make final revisions to the course and move towards publication.

Claire at IATEFL

Last week Claire visited the IATEFL Conference and Exhibition in Brighton, UK. During her three days there she attended some excellent plenaries, in particular Brita Fernandez Schmidt’s on the work that Women for Women International carries out helping women in countries affected by conflict. It was an incredibly sobering, yet inspirational talk, which left a strong impression on Claire. (The plenary can be watched at:  She also attended as many workshops as she could in the time, which focussed on research, teaching with technology and teacher training. She found these really stimulating and they left her buzzing with ideas to develop further.

As a book lover Claire enjoyed visiting the publishers’ stands scanning them for new publications. She was excited to pick up a copy of Best Practices for Blended Learning by Pete Sharma and Barney Barrett, and was delighted to see that they have drawn on her questions for blended learning course designers from her book Blended Learning in English Language Teaching: Course Design to Implementation to create a checklist for successfully implementing Blended Learning.  The two other books that she came away with were Mind the App! 2.0 by Thomas Strasser, and a new British Council publication entitled A Handbook for Exploratory Action Research by Richard Smith and Paula Rebolledo, so she has plenty to keep her occupied!

Last, but not least, IATEFL is about catching up with friends and former colleagues, and Claire was delighted to spend a sunny lunchtime on Brighton’s beautiful beach with three members of the Macedonian team, Snezana, Jasmina and Aco, who she’s worked extensively with over the years!  She also found the time to take a flight on British Airway’s i360, a 162-metre/531-foot vertical cable car, which provided stunning 360-degree views across Brighton and the South Downs.

All in all, she found it to be a highly enjoyable, productive and stimulating conference – roll on IATEFL 2019!

Rob in Minsk

Rob was in Minsk last week delivering elements of the British Council Certificate in Vocational English Language Teaching course (CiVELT) to a group of 25 teachers from institutions from around Belarus. The 35-hour intensive course took place at the Minsk State Linguistic University in the centre of Minsk. The course covered modules on ESP, professional profiles, needs analysis, creating positive classroom interactions, using authentic materials and evaluating coursebooks. The participants were extremely positive and enthusiastic about learning and developing their professional skills, and hopefully this course will mark the beginning of a period of sustained engagement for us in the Republic of Belarus.

Working with the STANAG Team in Macedonia

Rob recently spent four days in Skopje, Macedonia, working with the Macedonian Testing Team to moderate reading and listening test items for STANAG 2 and 3. The team worked very hard on revising the items and writing new types of items for their exams. The moderated items now need to be trialed. He had time to fit in a day’s trout fishing on the beautiful Radika River to catch four Macedonian trout before moving on to Minsk. But more of that next time…

Workshop Training in Skopje

Last week Claire paid a return visit to Skopje to run Part 2 of the Trainer Development workshop for the experienced team of English language teachers, who teach military personnel in the Army of the Republic of Macedonia.  In this second stage of the training, the participants had to design and deliver 50-minute workshops on a topic of their choice, with a target audience of less experienced local English language teachers in mind. The topics they selected predominantly focused on teaching with technology and included: using QR codes; using infographics; using computer corpora for vocabulary teaching; activities to promote speaking and – roleplays/simulations; and teaching vocabulary with online dictionaries.

The teachers had put a great deal of thought into the selection of their topics prior to the workshop and worked hard on the design during the preparation stage of the course. Their hard work paid off and Claire, along with her co-trainers, Snezana Stojanovska, Head of Foreign Language Training Centre and Natasha Andonova Jovanovska, a senior member of the teaching team, were impressed by the high quality of their workshops. It is hoped that with their newly acquired skills they will be able to train local and regional English language teachers, when the opportunity arises.

Claire would like to take this opportunity to thank the UK Defence Attaché, Lt. Col. Andrew Layton MBE, for closing the workshop and presenting the certificates.