Glorifying graphic organisers

fishbone

If you have ever talked to me about teaching, there’s a good chance I have mentioned graphic organisers. In fact, I have probably bored some people to death, going on about graphic organisers! Instead, I should have simply asked everyone to read this article: The Great and Powerful Graphic Organizer by the great and wonderful Jennifer Gonzalez.

By the way, the illustration for my post is a fishbone organiser from Brainpop.com, one of my favourite sources of EAP and CLIL materials. There are interactive activities and printables related to school subjects, as well as free-access videos which change every day.

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Passion or proficiency?

book-passion

Here is an inspirational post from David Geurin about the importance of focusing on the emotional element of learning. He lists several steps towards creating a ‘passionate learning culture’: be a model of passionate learner, learn to ask interesting questions, help students see how they can make a difference, use emotions and creativity.  Applied to teaching foreign languages, this list reveals some interesting gaps. I have been lucky to observe a lot of lessons which are full of fun and creative energy, and quite a few lessons that help students achieve their learning aims. But what about enjoying language just for the sake of it, being curious about English and its wonderful idiosyncrasies, and sharing this with students? Do we do this often enough?

Just a teeny tiny minute, only 60 seconds in it

hourglass

Check out this very comprehensive description of a classical little activity called ‘Just a minute!’. It can help you energise your students when you’re not in the mood for slow teaching. I have tried it myself, even with one-to-ones: it helps keep the focus on accuracy or target language, at the same encouraging students to speak quickly and coherently (very useful for exam preparation). You might want to complement it with the famous radio show, but I rarely get students who are proficient enough to enjoy it!

Home-baked worksheets

sugar

If you have been reading my blog for some time, you may have noticed that I rarely write about very new articles or posts. It’s not because I am so behind on my schedule: in fact, my favourite curation method is to let things sit in my archive for a while. If I still remember an article after several weeks, it means it’s definitely worth sharing.

Kamila’s post about creating home-made materials is one of those pieces that only get better with time. Her description of the process is detailed and practical, the example activities are simple and easy-to-use, and the message is very clear and positive: yes, any teacher can make their own worksheets, and yes, it’s very easy and quick. And a lovely metaphor at the centre of it all: making materials for your own students is a bit like cooking for your favourite people. It really is, isn’t it?

Who’s afraid of the near peer?

peer dogs

Jade Blue writes for the Cambridge blog about the near-peer phenomenon in language learning and suggests that having a role model whose language competence is comparable to yours is very beneficial: it “has the potential to both empower the learner and to contribute to more effective acquisition of language”. Now I have even more questions: if the idea is shared with mixed-ability classes, what will higher level students say? Is it beneficial to be a near-peer? And how about non-native speaker teachers, should students consider them near-peers as well?

What do you think?

Learning myths busted

exploding glass

Did you know that we actually use much more than 10% of our brain? And that we don’t remember something better if we discover it for ourselves? This post from Andy Tharby debunks these and 13 more learning myths quite nicely. In fact, the text is simple enough to use it with English learners in a 15-minute reading and discussion activity. For a deeper and more academic treatment of the same topic, try this NPR ED article with a quick interactive test and links to research journals, or this article from the University of British Columbia for a different set of myths and very comprehensive study advice. I’m still reading some of those links!