The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures

Barefoot Beginners: Ceri Jones at IATEFL2106

Thanks to a super crazy schedule this last week, I’ve only just got around to watching some of the sessions from the IATEFL conference in Birmingham. For my first session I watched the session Barefoot Beginners presented by Ceri Jones.

The scenario?  She was teaching a class of Beginner students with no coursebook, the focus being on a materials-light, student-led approach.

Which sounds like an amazing idea, but the fact that she managed to do it for a 3-month course (2 x 1.5 hour lessons a week) is pretty impressive – as are the results.

So here’s the interesting part:

Remember: there’s no coursebook so whatever happened in the classroom came from her or her students.

After the first lesson she wrote a lesson summary as a way of recording what was done (and learnt) during the lesson. In the beginning it was simply a short list of words and phrases for her own records, but which she also gave to her students as a record.


The next lesson, Ceri was able to use that summary to inform her lesson. She first made a revision dialogue based on the language from the previous lesson and the rest of the lesson logically followed on from the previous one.


The next summary was another list, which was easy to do because she very cleverly took a photo of her board to remind her later of what happened. Records of work made easy 🙂

And this continued throughout the term. The summaries developed into a lot more than lists, though. Sometimes there were a description of the lesson which was used as a gap-fill revision exercise for the students; sometimes it was a step-by-step account of what happened in terms of language, including links to appropriate revision exercises or reference materials if students needed extra help.


In terms of a language focus, Ceri made mention of a language note when it came up, but otherwise she let the students direct the flow of the lessons. For example, when the students started to need and use the past simple she pointed out the -ed morpheme and irregular verbs and made sure it came up in revision exercises later.


For me what was interesting, though, was what happened at the end of the course. Ceri sat down at the end of the course to consider what had been covered throughout the term (as we all love to do). Surprisingly, it corresponded pretty much with the same coursebook which would’ve been used, which (a) gives points to the coursebook for knowing what to put in (we’ve all had our doubts!) and (b) should give more confidence to teachers to let their students (and themselves) have more control than the coursebook.

To be honest, this is similar to what I do anyway but it was great to see that if I developed it more or put more thought and effort into a coursebook-free classroom it can really work. It really sounds like her students enjoyed the lessons more and were getting out of them exactly what they want and clearly learning at the same time.

One thing’s for sure, I’m definitely stealing the summary idea for my records of work –  so my scribblings can look a bit more professional and to help me with planning!

If you’re still a bit sceptical, have a look at what one of her students produced at the end of the term, after being a Beginner for 3 months – you can find it here.




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This entry was posted on April 20, 2016 by in conferences, Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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