Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Edublog Awards!

Check out the EDUBLOG website.

not only can you support your favourite educational webblogs, you can find a whole bunch of new ones!

you can vote ONCE a day, EVERY day between the 5th and the 13th of December.

My pick - and STRONG RECOMMENDATION for individual blogger is

Kieran Donaghy – Film English

If you haven't seen his website, check it out! I'm sure your classes, and your students, will benefit.

I love his work SO much, I also support it for the category


in any case, check out the nominees, you're sure to find excellent resources.

and be sure to share your favourites!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

MYSTERY warm-up

Here you have an example of some warm-up questions.

Boom Mystery Questions and my particularly fabulous ball which has LIGHTS that FLASH on impact.
This was the warm-up for the following class

Level: upper intermediate

Language task being worked towards: exploring and analysing a "mystery". 

Language focus: modals of possibility and deduction, (present and past)
(Language focus, in my classes, is modelled and 'noticed' as useful for the sorts of tasks students are asked to complete, but not insisted upon)  

TASK being worked towards:
Students will choose a mystery they find interesting - for example documented ghost stories, UFO sightings, the Bermuda triangle, diverse conspiracy theories, the pyramids, the Nasca Lines, etc. 

Investigate it and then make a presentation explaining and exploring
  • the story - what is the evidence
  • what "believers" claim to have happened
  • what "experts" and "critics" explain may have happened
  • finally what the students themselves believe must have happened.


In this case, we played BOOM!

A quick recap on how to play:
All you need to play BOOM are
  • slips of paper with some interesting and relevant questions, 
  • and a ball or throw object

Choose a BOOM number. This number, and all it's multiples will be replaced by the word BOOM as you toss the ball from person to person, each person must count off:

eg. boom number =3
1 - 2- BOOM! - 4 - 5 - BOOM! - 7 - 8 - BOOM! - 10 ....

When the ball is dropped, or thrown badly, or the count is messed up in any way, the person responsible takes a slip of paper and answers the question.


This was a very small class of adult learners. I find - perhaps even more than younger students, many adults - and certainly THESE adults - truly enjoy the chance to 'play' once more. Standing up from their places and forming a circle instantly gets them smiling and engaged.

These particular learners are very talkative, and not only answered each question, but spontaneously took on the task of being moderator leading a group discussion, asking other students what they thought and believed.

The group being so talkative, the activity which might take just 15 minutes, took all of 40! My classes go for 3 hours, so as long as students are engaged and producing meaningful language, I was happy to let them go for it.

If time is pressing you can always limit the number of questions answered to curtail the activity.



Walk! Stop and talk!....

When classes are large - and I consider anything over 10 students as large (and in the luxury of my status of working for myself with VERY small classes, I am tempted to write 8!) - any activity where only one person is talking at any one time should be minimized.

This is specially the case for a warm-up, which should be about students loosening up and using language meaningfully, working on the fluency, exploring the topic they will work with and 'activating' the language and ideas they already have for dealing with it.

If the warm-up is to go for 15 minutes, and you have 15 students, and say 8 questions, you may have a situation where only 8 students get to actually talk for a minute or so each, and 7 might miss out altogether.

So consider, instead of BOOM!, playing "Walk! Stop and Talk!"

  • something to write questions on for all the students to see.

Of course,  if you have some technology, you can take advantage of that and use Powerpoint prompts to discuss questions. Photos can also be discussed.


  • tell students to stand up and WALK!  - which is generally mill around. Though depending on the class, you might get them to do silly walks or what have you.
  • when they are sufficiently mixed up, write the question out, or project the question on the board and  call out STOP - AND  TALK! Students find a partner and discuss the question. 
  • If they deal with it quickly, you might have them WALK and find a new partner for the same question, or move on to the next as you prefer. 
The advantage over BOOM; all the students in a large class have had the opportunity to participate in personal conversation for the full 15 minutes of warm-up time. =)


A note on local references 
My questions include two local references: the first to Costa Rica's Pre-columbian stone spheres, the second alludes to the well-known phenomenon of local money launderers going from rags to riches overnight.

You are welcome to download and use the PowerPoint, but I recommend, wherever possible, adjust activities to include references to your own local context and culture, which will make the class more relevant and engaging to your learners.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

another exellent free online training opportunity

Some time ago I mentioned how fortunate I was to have attended a workshop given by Angela Llanas, and some of the things I learned from her.

I see now that tomorrow 9 am Costa Rica and Mexico time, pan macmillan are offering a free webinar with the very same, very wonderful Angela. If you can make it, I urge you to log on!


Saturday, 5 November 2011

3 Fun Vocabulary Warm-ups

It is news to  no one that new vocabulary must be used and re-used before it is 'owned' by the learner.

So why not combine your class warm-up with a fun and painless vocabulary review?

#1 HANG MAN. -

a classroom classic - and for good reason! Of course, choose challenging words you are reviewing from the previous class.  It also has the advantage of giving students important practice in spelling, something I've found they often imperfectly learn in their first English classes, and may have rarely revisited since.

Extension: Once the word is discovered, have students write a question using the word in a real,  meaningful context. Give them a few moments to circulate and ask and answer questions of each other. Discuss as a class as necessary. This is very important in giving students the chance to use the vocabulary more personally and in meaningful contexts

#2 BOOM! -
You need :
  • relevant vocabulary for review on the board or on slips of paper.
  • a ball (or pencilcase or similar that can easily be tossed and caught.)
the game is played as followed:

  • Choose a "BOOM number" - 3 is a good one to start with.
  • Students stand in a circle
  • Toss the object from student to student randomly. 
  • Each person catching the object must count as they do so.
  • Whenever they come to a multiple of the BOOM number, they must say "BOOM!" instead of the number, as follows, "1 - 2 - BOOM! - 4 - 5 - BOOM! - 7 - 8 - BOOM!"
  • Whenever someone counts incorrectly or drops or misthrows the ball, they must take a slip of paper or choose a word from the board to make a question to ask of the group.
  • repeat until all vocabulary is dealt with.

This activity has the advantage of not only reviewing important vocabulary, but also giving students practice in the important communication strategy of 'talking around' the words they lack by describing them with other words. For higher level students, having a good opportunity to painlessly and naturally practice relative clauses is a bonus extra.

Once again all you need are the words written on slips of paper.
Students can be placed in teams which have their members take it in turn to choose a word.
This they must describe until their teammates identifies the word.

For example, if the word were say PAINTING, the student might say, "It is thing you put on the wall. It is art. They have many of them in an art gallery..."     

Points can be given to the teams if your class enjoys competition.
3 points for a word guessed correctly with the first students identification.
If the student is unsure of the meaning of the word, or if her teammates are unable to identify the meaning of the word, another team member can join her - but the team will only earn 2 points. 
Of course, any point system can be varied according to what works with the group.

As discussed in a previous post all important incidental vocabulary that comes up during a class can be recorded in a margin of the board for this type of follow-up use in the next class.

It is important to tell students they will be 'tested' on the vocabulary in the coming class.

Their delight on discovering the 'testing' is all in good fun does not diminish the formation of a habit of taking careful note of new vocabulary by knowing that it will be important to them in the coming class.

If you have any ideas to add, I'd be delighted to hear them!

I find one of the most important things is to vary warm-ups so that your classes are never predicitable.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Quick Fixes: making book work more engaging part 2: 'THE ACCURACY CASINO'

OK, so you have to do a certain amount of 'accuracy' exercises in your classes.

You have to
'work through'

'fill in'
the book.

As I suggested in a previous post,that is no reason why the dynamic and communicative part of your class needs to come to a sudden (ugly) stop.

I mentioned having students work in small groups to resolve and then change again to discuss problems.

A further suggestion on how to expediate the 'filling in of the book'  without compromising dynamism  - and even stimulating dynamic language analysis:


Let's suppose there are 10 problems in a given book exercise to resolve.

  • Put students into small groups. Rather than having each group complete every item, share the items out among the groups such that each group completes only one or two items. (If giving them 2 items, make it one from the early part and one from the late part of the set, as typically exercises start with easier items and become more challenging.)
  • Have groups write their answers on the board; Now the board is complete with 10 solutions, which may or may not be 'correct'.
 HERE IS WHERE you switch from BOOK MODE, switch into GAME MODE to play ACCURACY CASINO.
  • each group starts with 100 points with which to 'BET'.
  • ask how much of their 100 points they wish to bet on ITEM #1 solution, as it appears on the board, being correct.
  • give each group analysis time and time to decide their BET amount.
  • keep a record of bets made alongside the item.
  • finally discuss and have students explain why the answer was, in fact, correct or incorrect. 
  • add or subtract points from each groups 'betting fund' accordingly.
  • students write the 'corrected' example in their books. 
  • Continue with other items.
The group at the end with the most 'points' wins.

You should find this leads to extremely motivating, dynamic and effective language analysis, which sees 'the book' completed without the pain, strain and dull dull dull tediousness so often associated with bookwork.


And please do share any other ideas you might have!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Quick Fixes: making 'book work' more engaging

You've done the fun stuff. Watched some funny skits for input. Students have come up with and presented their own versions, given each other feedback and analysed together some common errors.

Now it's time for the dreaded dull bit: time to open your books. Grammar exercises. Focussed book practice. You can't avoid it, working through the book is required by the institution. Or perhaps you don't even wish to avoid it, some focussed practice is necessary to round-out your students' mastery of what you're working on.

But suddenly your high-energy, highly student-centred class comes crashing back down to normal old classroom-land with a thud and a yawn.

So how can you keep the energy zinging and at the same time have your students more dynamically engaged with the learning process?

  • have them work in pairs or small groups - instantly they must discuss and negotiate their answers and be more dynamically engaged with the subject matter. The number of skills being used rises, from the classic book reading and writing, they must also listen and speak, postulate, defend and negotiate answers.
  • have them switch partners to check answers. Monitor to check they are on the right path. Often 'whole group' checking may be proven unnecessary. 
  • another excellent alternative is while small groups work on exercises in their books, have particular groups come up and write their answers on the board. When they have finished, have them pass the marker on to another group. This provides for excellent and easy group discussion of any problem areas.
  • if there is something incorrect,  you can identify the problem area by underlining it and then hand the marker onto another group to have them try to propose a solution.
Students engage more actively and meaningfully with the problems they are working on, as they struggle collectively to come up with the answers. They also engage more communicative skills. More learning styles are catered to - there is student-generated visual as well as the classic auditory checking, and the kinesthetics of standing writing on the board, handing the marker on, switching partners stops them from yawning and tuning out.

Working with books does not have to be downtime!

Do you have any other book-work gems to share?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

FREE teacher training in the comfort of your own home

Consider attending the Macmillan Online Conference 2011
the 8th and 9th of November, UK time.

details here

and from the link above: 

I highlight in green what I find most interesting:

Tuesday 8th November:

Adrian Tennant Photo12.30-13.30: Ceri Jones: Getting the reading habit 
....In this practical workshop we’ll look at reading from a number of different perspectives and explore a range of different activities, both classroom based and not, that can help us guide our students to discover the pleasure of reading in English.

Adrian Tennant Photo13.45-14.45: Pete Sharma: "If you've got it, use it!": four approaches to using your IWB
This session is based on the latest book in the Macmillan Books for Teachers series: '400 Ideas for using Interactive Whiteboards'.....The session is aimed at experienced IWB users and those new to the technology. Many of the practical ideas in this presentation can be used with a simple lap-top and data projector.

Adrian Tennant Photo15.00-16.00: Malcolm Mann: Metaphorically speaking: how widespread is the use of metaphor in English?
In this online workshop, we'll examine what we mean by the term 'metaphor', and ask how important it is for students to recognise when language is being used metaphorically......

Wednesday 9th November:

Adrian Tennant Photo12.30-13.30: Lindsay Clandfield: 10 mlearning activities for language teachers
This session focuses on one of the newest developments in technology and language education: mlearning. We will look at (at least) 10 practical ways that teachers can help students make the most of handheld devices ) to improve their English inside and outside the classroom.

2011-dave_spencer13.45-14.45: Dave Spencer: How to teach secondary classes (without losing your sanity in the process)
This session will offer tips and practical activities for teachers of teenagers. Areas examined will include ‘How to encourage students to speak in English’, ‘How to remain calm, sane and happy when students don’t speak in English’ and ‘How to correct grammar exercises without students falling asleep in the process’. ....

Adrian Tennant Photo15.00-16.00: Vaughan Jones: 'Class Scribe' and other ways of recycling vocabularyOff-the-cuff vocabulary explanations for unexpected language that tends to come up in lessons are very much the English teacher's stock-in-trade. Words and expressions are hastily scribbled on the board and then wiped off at the end of the lesson. However, without systematic recording and recycling this input rarely becomes intake. As the research into SLA shows, it is the quality and quantity of exposure to new language that is the single most important factor in our students’ progress. This session will focus on one idea to record this classroom ephemera and various ideas on what to do with it once recorded.


Is there anything there of interest to you?



Tuesday, 4 October 2011

emergency! emergency! - a fail-proof activity for when you must teach that emergency class.

Have you ever been in the position where you must take over a colleague's class with no prior warning?

Obviously you have no lesson plan, and very likely no indication of what the class has been working on. Sometimes you don't even have access to a copy of whatever coursebook students have been using, or any materials AT ALL. You're lucky indeed if you even have a marker in your hand.

It's happened to me, and more often than I care to recall.

Here is what I might do:

NOTE: NEVER let on to the students how horrified you are. For indeed, you have no call to be horrified at all. This is a case where less is more: you are free to enjoy a truly communicative student-centered class.

If the class is unknown to you have an 

  1. Model with yourself: Write on the board 4 things true about yourself and 2 untrue, in random order.
  2. Encourage Students to ask you questions to determine which are true and which are not.
  3. Now have Students do the same. If the class is small Ss can present their information to the whole group, or else break into smaller groups. 


  1. ask students to tell you what they've been working on
  2. brainstorm all information possible on the board.
  3. ask students to identify what they feel they most need to work on, what is most interesting, what is most useful. You can give each S a marker to circle what they like and dislike, and underline what they need to work on etc.
  1. Now have each Ss write (a) question/s based on the material developed on the board. Check questions with a partner for accuracy.
  2. PARELLEL CHAIRS*: have students sit in two rows facing each other with their question on a piece of paper in front of them. Discuss question with partner directly in front.  Give them three or four minutes as necessary. 
  3. Call out CHANGE: everyone stands and takes a step to the left, leaving the question behind and moving to the next chair, a new partner and a new question.
  4. repeat til end.
  5. REPORT SESSION. in Pairs discuss what question was most interesting, what anwer was most interesting.
Finally pairs report to the class.

TASK: based on the  material you have covered, and depending on its nature, have groups write a brief passage or roleplay based on material that arose. Present to the class or share with other for feedback.

 LANGUAGE FOCUS: as necessary work on elements identified by students.

have Ss give each other feedback on what is produced.

CLASS OVER before you even knew it! =)

* this is a wonderful technique I know not with whom to credit, but whoever they be: God Bless 'em; it's fabulous.

read-all catch all EFL newspaper! read all about it

Friday, 8 April 2011


GOOD teachers plan each class thinking about their students and what will best work for them :

GREAT teachers think over how the class went, what is worth reusing, how it can be reused, recycled, improved. identify what didn't work so well and how it could be rejigged to be more successful.

GREAT teachers never stop growing, never stop pushing and trying and working towards giving their students optimal learning opportunities.

Every aspect of teaching can be improved and optimised, not ever an easy or even realistic task, but always a worthy goal, one to strive for.

Some things however are way easier than others to straighten out, and I want to start with one of the most straightforward: cleaning up your boardwork.

Of course, straightforward is not the same as easy. Just as having a nice neat cupboard is actually a straightforward task, actually maintaining it that way takes work. However with just a little discipline and method, many aspects great boardwork can become almost second nature.

A good teacher caters to learners' visual learning style by backing up relevant points made visually and memorably on whatever type of board she may have available.

A GREAT teacher develops a system to make boardwork clearer and cleaner and include all relevant information possible that may assist their learners.

I suggest the following method to ensure better boardwork


    Why have class at all? what do you expect to achieve? to what degree?  how will you and the students know if the class was successful and worthwhile or not? obviously by stating and checking the practice of the class against an objective.

    Ideally this should be:
    • stated, explained or negotiated at the beginning of the class,
    • referred to as you make steps towards it, 
    • reflected upon at the end of the class - how successful have you been in getting there?
      I therefore recommend never removing it in the whole class, or until the particular cycle has been satifactorily concluded and the objective met.

      2. LANGUAGE and/or LEXICAL FOCUS of the class in one corner
      • This may be already in your mind in planning the class, or it may develop in consultation with your students.
      • This empowers students to search for follow-up information and practice after the class

      3.  LEARNING STRATEGY GUEST STAR in the corner

      As great EFL teachers of course we are bursting with learning strategies. We model them, occasionally name them, and use them implicitly or explicitly perhaps by the dozen or more each class.

      Probably (hopefully?) good language learners ourselves, often we are not even aware that so much of what we try to convey to our students is learning strategy based. We can't MAKE our students learn, (try as we might) but we can help them to discover how best they learn themselves. 'Good' language students pick up learning strategies as if by osmosis. However all students can benefit by our EXPLICIT and SYSTEMATIC addressing of learning strategies, which might include NAMING, MODELLING, PRACTICING and RELFECTING ON these.

      Therefore, as I said, while possibly dozens of learning strategies may be worked with and named I recommend
      • chosing ONE relevant and important learning strategy to be worked with - named, modelled and practiced explicitly in each class
      • putting this in it's own special star-burst corner of the board, the special guest star of the class. 

      • a fixed column in which new and incidental vocabulary is written as it comes up, with explanation, be it a sketch, brief definition, or synonyms and antonyms. 
      • this can be used at the end of the class for a wind up activity where students are to incorporate all new vocabulary, 
      • record the information to use as the warm-up for the next class; try hangman, or a mime or a circumloction activity as relevant. 
      • also a fixed column, on the other side of the board where likewise troublesome or new words are written up
      • some kind of notation is developed, explained and consistently used to help students with the troublesome pronunciation aspects. 
      • stress might be illustrated by BIG circles and small circles over syllables
      • phonetic script, if used, must be taught to students and practiced in a meaningful and empowering way (a future post will be made on this)
      • an alternative can be to group the word/sound with other words it rhymes with,         
        • eg      bird        construction  
        •           word              /up\
        •            /her\
      • as for VOCABULARY, at the end of the class, you'll have recorded an instant snapshot of all the pronunciation issues that came up during the class for further review and practice


      Once you have established a clean and predictable place for all these incidental and most important aspects that will come up in each class, you have the main body of your board free for explanations and other work.

      • Exploit this valuable resource  - most sighted people are strongly visual learners
      • Keep it neat
      • Use colours and sketches to extend appeal. =)
      • Any particularly complex point you want to make might be worth planning out the boardwork in advance.
      • Don't let it get cluttered - take time to clean it up once the point has been made, so any new points made can take centre stage. Anything that consistently comes up in a particular class - such as irregular verb forms, or irregular plural forms - may warrant a semi-permanent column space to the side.
      • NEVER leave an error uncorrected - it may be recorded - even unconsciously - by the learner as correct!
      • Have students write on and use the board  as often as possible -For example, rather than have them do grammar exercises in their books, have students write them up on the board as a group, and correct them, handing the marker from one to the other.
      • As far as possible make the board student space, not teacher-only space!

      With just a little discipline points 1-5 soon become second nature.

      Point 6, the BODY of boardwork, continues to be most challenging to me, but always worth striving for, and reflecting on.


      Having pranted and prated a bit up there above, as if I manage perfect boardwork all the time, I'd better confess, my own boardwork is very much *ahem* a work in process. Like my cupboards, it has a long way to really meet the standard I am aiming for.

      I have a small board in my home classroom. I'd be happier if it were at least a third bigger, but as is, I need discipline to make it work without getting too cluttered. 

      As you can see below, in this case I certainly let my boardwork get out of control as the class  progressed.
      • There are a few leftover items on the board that should have been removed.
      • I should have put the bit on irregular plurals on the right hand side above the pronunciation column, 
      • I should have kept all the pronunciation work UNDER the heading of that.

      Even so, while clearly far from perfect, my own boardwork truly has improved tremendously thanks to observations from colleagues and supervisors, and it is something I continually try to improve. Just like that clean cupboard, there is always that little something that should be done more neatly and in a more organised fashion.

      Having a system to follow helps see me move towards the BETTER boardwork and helps me be more clear about where I need to improve.  

      I hope these ideas are useful for you! Please add any ideas or techniques of your own you find useful!


        Sunday, 13 March 2011

        teaching 'unplugged' and dogme

        DOGME is a fascinating teaching philosophy which seems to capture many things I am trying to do with my 'freestyle' classes - I am using no course books and trying to go much more student centered in direction of classes. with an emphasis on communicative, authentic language.  all sounds very much in accordance with the points put forth in the wikipedia summary and some other articles I've read.

        See the ten main points as listed in wikipedia

        "Dogme has ten key principles.
        1. Interactivity: the most direct route to learning is to be found in the interactivity between teachers and students and amongst the students themselves.
        2. Engagement: students are most engaged by content they have created themselves
        3. Dialogic processes: learning is social and dialogic, where knowledge is co-constructed
        4. Scaffolded conversations: learning takes place through conversations, where the learner and teacher co-construct the knowledge and skills
        5. Emergence: language and grammar emerge from the learning process. This is seen as distinct from the ‘acquisition’ of language.
        6. Affordances: the teacher’s role is to optimize language learning affordances through directing attention to emergent language.
        7. Voice: the learner’s voice is given recognition along with the learner’s beliefs and knowledge.
        8. Empowerment: students and teachers are empowered by freeing the classroom of published materials and textbooks.
        9. Relevance: materials (eg texts, audios and videos) should have relevance for the learners
        10. Critical use: teachers and students should use published materials and textbooks in a critical way that recognizes their cultural and ideological biases."

        It was all sounding very appealing, however I just read Jo Bertrand's article  which sounds a lot more DOGMAtic on a number of points than I am willing to go. Paradoxically, I see it as both too inflexible   and too anarchic for me - or most of my students -  to feel comfortable using in such a way.

        Inflexible in terms of methodology, what a teacher must do to teach DOGME style. (And I'm going to call it DOGME style, because I still can't quite get over what an ugly name chosen for a rather nice if idealistic teaching philosophy...)

        Anarchic in not allowing the teacher to pre-plan a route through the class, or indeed perhaps, to plan the class at all. Even the multiple contingency plan addendums to plans that all teachers probably get good at leaping around in is too structured to meet true DOGME style teaching. It takes a special kind of teacher, with a special kind of character and charisma, and an encyclopedic memory for effective activities (- and I DO know there are some of them out there! bless them! -) to be able to orchestrate a sterling, top-notch class, filled with meaningful learning opportunities off the top of their head, on the fly, as it were, right there and then in the classroom, and with no use of outside resources.

        No, let me correct that; I doubt even this type of teacher - and we have probably all had to try to be this type of teacher at least once or twice in our careers - is able to orchestrate their MOST successful, sterling top-notch class filled with meaningful learning opportunities in these circumstances.

        I am a good teacher. I have had my moments of glory - as well and misery -  and the occasional DOGME style no-resources SUCCESS. BUT I am not comfortable - actually I am quite a LOT horrified - by the prospect of going into a class without a plan, and contingency plans, and a few great extra activities up my sleeve, and knowing I can provide rich and varied input for students - reading, listening, multimedia -  to stimulate the learning process.

        Most teachers I know I can't working optimally or even happily under DOGME style restrictions as outlined by Bertrand.

        And I suspect this might be even more the case for students. The idea sounds more feasible for upper intermediate an advanced students, but for lower level students the concept is more challenging. Even with my very small groups, I can't see my students being happy just coming to class and identifying in each what they wish to work on. Particularly in the case of my beginners, I just can't see it working effectively for them to be establishing what they need in each class, when we all know,  what they need is EVERYTHING.

        SO while I love what I have read of the general philosophy of DOGME teaching (except for that awful name!) - I am less than convinced by some of the claims of the optimal way to bring the principles into the classroom for all but perhaps a handful of teachers who have the necessary package of tools incorporated in their very personalites to make it happen just right.

        This shall be a point of further reflection and practice, how it works for me and my students and
        I shall be returning to this topic as I continue tripping happily with my students down my course-book free path.

        Monday, 28 February 2011

        teaching kids EFL

        Many teachers I know working in teaching English as a Foreign Language really are more interested and more comfortable, more experienced and trained in teaching adults - I include myself here. Be that as it may, it seems so many of us must serve at some time or other, like it or not - teaching children and teens.

        The skills necessary to do well at this we try to grab somehow, and most of us rapidly see we need to structure classes and activities very differently from how we might go about teaching out  adult students. We fluff and flounder a bit, and even when we do somehow manage GOOD classes, we come out WAY more exhausted and bewildered by it all than we might teaching adults.

        Last year I was fortunate to attend a small workshop on using storytelling to teach children EFL with Pan Macmillan author Angela Llanas. Angela originally trained in theatre, and her workshop was an absolute treat, most entertaining, and also full of highly useful ideas.

        A quick summary of some important points I picked up

        • "Relax and they'll have fun. Make them love you and they'll learn". Think about it as play and fun, not study and work.
        • PARTICIPATION is the key: if they're not engaged with the langugage, they're NOT learning
        • We can't expect kids to TALK ABOUT things as we might expect adults. They need a lot of structure and frameworking. 
        • CHORAL REPTITION, and much REPETITION in general, is GREAT for KIDS
        • Use strongly structured stories, the details of which you and they can embellish. CHORAL STORIES are GREAT. (If you think about it, even first language stories for kids are like this, with variations on the same situations and structures over and over)
        • Use lots of sound effects, visuals and guessing. 
        • First you can have the kids provide sound effects for the story you tell, then YOU make the sound effects and THEY tell the story
        • Use "CLASSROOM friends" to stimulate communication: puppets, dolls and visuals. Children are not very likely to speak to each other or even you in the foreign language when a first language is available, but they respond delightfully to puppets and such if they're told these speak only the Foreign Language.
        • Teach in BLOCKS, employ frequent changes of mood and activity.
        Related to this, perhaps the most valuable thing I picked up and have benefited from applying in my classes, both with adults and children:
        • We can concentrate and be fully engaged by an activity roughly for the AGE that we are. eg, a 2 year old concentrates for 2 minutes, an 8 year old for 8 minutes, a 12 year old for 12. after that they need a CHANGE of activity. 
        • Up to around 20 years old, which is roughly the MAXIMUM time of MAXIMUM engagement in any one activity. after that, our attention tends to waver sna needs some kind of pick-up.

        IF you have any other tips, I would be delighted if you would share them!

          Friday, 18 February 2011

          more excellent listening resources

          the more INPUT you get, the easier it becomes to create OUTPUT

          here are some more excellent sites for interesting listening

          REAL ENGLISH LISTENING - featuring short, unscripted audio

          some easy dialogues which you can listen to and read

          and my all time favourite, the wonderful, very complete and versatile

          Tuesday, 15 February 2011

          excellent ready made resources for ESL/EFL classes!

          very wonderful ideas, flashcards, roleplays...

          a real treasure trove to enrich your classroom and your teaching practice

          I absolutely recommend you explore

          Thursday, 10 February 2011

          how to learn a foreign language. how to teach a foreign language

          how to learn a foreign language

          1 - be exposed to it (a lot)
          2 - use it for real communication (a lot)

          so easy

          but very time consuming.

          frequently frustrating. also frequently rewarding, fun, and SO good for your brain. for humanity. and the general good.


          you want to speed up the process, do more of each, more of the time.


          how to 'teach' a language: - forget teaching - work on facilitating the learning of a new language (this is a little more complicated to do well)

          provide exposure to the target language (lots and lots) - preferably make much of it challenging but not TOO challenging, just above the level the student can produce. provide models of what they might need to express. make it interesting. make it intriguing. make it real.

          provide opportunities for real communication (lots and lots) - make it fun. make it exhilarating. make it useful. make it real.

          facilitate the breaching of any gaps between what is intended and what is produced.
          provide opportunities to reflect on successes and failures of attempts at communication.
          provide your students tools and strategies to go about communicating despite any lacks.
          motivate them to practice outside class, to find ways to increase their exposure to and use of the language.


          there is more, so much more, for good language teaching


          learning can be speeded up in various different ways.

          but basically it comes down to

          maximize exposure to target language, and maximize your use of it.