Are you a fixer?


Jimmy Casas writes about trying to solve other people’s problems as a school manager: “It made me feel good that I was helping others and most of the time they appreciated it. However, what I eventually learned was that not only did the problems never seem to go away, they seemed to multiply ten times over to the point of frustration.”  With time, he found a way to coach his team so that they could come up with their own solutions. He lists 10 steps to greater independence of all team members, some of which can also be applied to classroom teaching. And the final empowering thought: “Almost every dilemma you will encounter as a classroom teacher or a school or district leader will have a solution, it just doesn’t have to be you who comes up with it.” Very true!


Add sound to silence


If you would like students to make video recordings of their conversations, but they are too shy to do it, this post by Nathan Hall can help. Instead of their own videos, students can write and perform dialogues for silent film shorts. Nathan describes the procedure very clearly and recommends several free web apps to combine video and sound. With a bit of adaptation, it should work equally well as a term-long project or as a one-off creative speaking assignment. A very useful workaround!

The non-verbal teacher

smurf teacher

To continue the talk about teachers as actors, here is another oldie-but-goldie from Jennifer Gonzalez about using paralinguistic signals in the classroom. The advice to “take an expansive stance” reminds me of the famous TED talk about body language by Amy Cuddy: not sure I would be able to pull that one off! Still, there’s more in the post, and even more in the accompanying podcast, so I’m sure you will find something that suits your particular teaching style.

Never forget to revise



Do your adult students complain that their memory is not the same? This article about spaced repetition might be just the thing they need. There’s a lot of advice that is applicable both to paper flashcards and to learning apps like Quizlet; as a bonus, the author is quite good at metaphors:

You can think of learning as being kind of like building a brick wall; if you stack the bricks up too quickly without letting the mortar between each layer solidify, you’re not going to end up with a very good wall. Spacing our your learning allows that “mental mortar” time to dry.

(I still prefer forget-me-nots to stones, so the picture has both.)

Do you pineapple?


I just love, love this idea of Pineapple Observation Charts. You don’t have to be a recognised expert on everything, just choose an exciting/experimental activity you would like to  show to a colleague and put the time and day on the weekly chart. If someone else is interested, they can drop in for an informal visit. So, the observer knows what they are going to see; the observee knows why and when they’re being observed; the ‘pineappling’ process is informal, pleasant and cool: mmm.

Handy headlines

grammaring news

If news articles are useful for language learning, their laconic and sometimes whimsical headlines are even more so. We can look at patterns in them (see a great post about this by Jennifer), focus on their ambiguity and clarity with the help of The New York Times, but perhaps the most elegant activities with them are about grammaring and de-grammaring (see pp.3-5 from Uncovering grammar by Scott Thornbury, an excerpt available here).

So, what’s your headline line?