Alister McCarty, what’s your WHY?



Age: 33

Hometown: Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Current roles: Teacher, IH Riga, Latvia. Founder, Al’s Action English.

Previous teaching experience:  Maths teachers, UK, 2008-11; Head of Maths, UK, 2012-16


1. Despite achieving top marks in French and German at 16, I was largely unable to communicate with a real person, having been TAUGHT predominantly in English.

2. Just because you taught it, does not mean students learnt it!


1. Full IMMERSION in the target language with communication usually prioritised over fluency.

2. Student-led lessons solely focused on their learning with the teacher as a facilitator. Don’t be the sage on the stage. Rather be the guide on the side. Learners are encouraged to be responsible for their own improvement, alongside Growth Mindset.


1. Little or no L1 used in the classroom. This shouldn’t be misunderstood – L1 certainly has its positive uses and I’m all for this. The emphasis must be on maximising L2.

Here are more ideas to maximise L2 which I presented at the 2018 IH Budapest Conference.

2. Having questions/realia/activities immediately at the start of a lesson to set a precedence.

3. Asking students their WHY* for learning English and integrating this into lessons. Having them ask questions promotes critical thinking and ownership.

4. Sharing these ideas with my students, through my YouTube channel, Al’s Action English and to teachers locally and globally.

*It’s better to hear what my students have to say on this topic. Their learning is the driving force of what I do. 

Any comments, please shoot me an email at

Other articles in the What’s your WHY? series

Bronte Rose Ainsley

James Egerton (yours truly)

Is yours next?



5 thoughts on “Alister McCarty, what’s your WHY?

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