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!

 

 

Slow does it

snail

What a refreshing article! From more measured teacher talk to giving students more time for deep work, Jamie Thom tells a story about his own experience of ‘challenging the cult of speed’.  What is effective teaching, anyway? Does it have to be full of ebullient energy, fast-paced, with a timer buzzing? “When we fly through our weeks at speed and in autopilot, we miss all the wonderful things that happen around us.” Hmm, one difference you can see in post-Delta teaching is exactly that: the teachers don’t flick through handouts at a neck-breaking speed anymore!

 

 

Dating profiles as a learning tool

frog-prince

Here is a great idea for in-depth analysis of a word or concept: have students create a dating or friendship profile for it. This post by Kelly Fitzgerald has absolutely hilarious examples and two Google Docs templates – not to be missed! I do find the first template more useful because it provides more scaffolding, but whichever you choose, it’s a fun, creative and memorable activity at the top of Bloom’s pyramid.  The Present Perfect Continuous, waiting for his true love’s kiss!

 

iFake it till you make it

ifake

In one of his recent posts on QuickShout, Nik Peachey describes a useful online tool with a very self-explanatory name: iFake Text Message. The app is quite intuitive and doesn’t need much in terms of technical guidelines; however, Nik also suggests multiple  teaching uses for it, from error correction to reimagining conversations between famous people. What about fictional characters, perhaps Sansa Stark texting Jon? I am definitely going to try this in one of my lessons!