See you soon

This blog is waiting for its owner to return from annual leave. I’ll be back some time in October!

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Series: new page on the blog

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It’s fun to observe how this blog has evolved since last December: some tags grow, others fall by the wayside, posts link together and sometimes flock into series. In an attempt to reflect this, I’ve added a new page which contains links to all the series I’ve written so far. A good opportunity to check what you may have missed ūüėČ

Is this the real thing, is this just fantasy?

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I was reading this post about teaching critical thinking in history classes and thinking how great it must be to work in a school where subject teachers cooperate and teach their learners the same skills through different contexts. We don’t have that luxury in a language school! Still, I can use the historical images and the web app (Factitious) from the post and hope this helps the learners in more ways than one. For example, the ‘critical thinking test’ for spotting fake news from Factitious the author of the post describes is great for developing reading skills, internet search skills and of course critical thinking – several birds with one stone. Do try the test before giving it to students though: I got quite a few wrong!

Bixby, how do you spell ‘bee’?

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Bixby is the name of my favourite virtual assistant, but you might prefer Siri or, like Josh Underwood, Alexa. Whatever their name, AI virtual assistants are a fact of life and they can help us out in the classroom. If you need more convincing (or are simply looking for fresh ideas), just check out Josh’s amazing¬†IATEFL poster page¬†with links, references and a video where he explains how he uses AI assistants with primary and secondary students to encourage speaking, help with project work, save teacher time for more meaningful interaction… The list of possibilities is (virtually) endless! When do we start?

 

 

No zero policy

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I really need to share this post with you: it’s about an educator’s policy for submitting assignments which doesn’t accept ‘zeroes’ – non-submissions. The students are taught that it’s better to submit just a blank page with their name on it – at least this will give the teacher a chance to see that they need help. Imperfect assignments are ok; multiple submissions and regrading are expected. As a result, the students are not afraid to make the first step because they can ‘fail forward’, and the teacher will give them constructive feedback. ¬†Sounds great, doesn’t it? The only qualm I have about it is the name of the policy: ‘Once a zero, always a zero’. No wonder it gets some criticism from adult stakeholders (by the author’s own admission), at least until they understand what it really means!

So, I wouldn’t mind trying out a rule like this in my writing classes – but we need to think of another name for it, right?

 

The transient full stop

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Another excursion into language from Stan Carey: a post about the role of full stops in the sentence and how they can be perceived by writers and readers. How does electronic communication affect full stops? Why do some people replace them with emoji? And as a bonus, what did the professor mean when he/she put three full stops at the end of the sentence in an email to you?

Show and tell: student video projects

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If you were considering whether to start a video project with your students (secondary or young adults), here is an example of best practice: Clare Fielder describes a 13-week long project she did with her university students about the social class system in England (hmm, exciting!). There are a lot of useful tips in her post: how to start the project, what milestones to have, how to help students make their choices and organise their work. You can also see the videos that the students created: you don’t need parents’ permission for those!

Clare also speaks about the benefits of a long-term project: students get to develop their language and academic skills, as well as critical thinking skills; there is a lot more engagement than in case of traditional in-class presentations and a lot more bonding. Last but not least, they learn to use video-making tools and acquire other practical life skills. Very convincing, if you ask me.

 

Flipping pronunciation

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Now, this post deserves a long and careful reading! Martha Ramirez will take you through all the stages of preparing, teaching and reflecting on a flipped lesson which was designed to help students with pronunciation, -ed and -(e)s verb endings. What is particularly valuable is how the setup of all the stations is described and justified: there are flipped stations and practice stations, and a special discussion station that allows the learners to spend their time practising while waiting for their turn. And the students got the checklist to help them select relevant stations and track their progress – a great idea which compensates for the slightly chaotic nature of flips.

If you haven’t tried in-class flipping yet, you’ll have no excuse now.

 

Parents: on the other side of the trenches

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Here is a great post from Katie Martin (the name similarity is coincidental) which explains what parents might be thinking when they bring us their kids. (And it’s not always: “When are they going to do more grammar?”) They need to know if their children are going to be safe, if their unique needs are going to be met, if we can help them succeed in life and work together with the parents to achieve this – in short, they want to know if we care.

Do we care? I think it’s impossible not to. Do we show them we care?

Just a gentle nudge

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Another great post from Mark Makino: an unusual type of homework¬†he calls ‘nudgework’ which involves learners in communicative activities outside the classroom. Mark describes tasks typical of an ESL environment: take a tutor’s signature on the campus, spend 30 minutes at a local cafe without your phone (you’ll just have to talk to the barista or the other customers!).¬†Low-prep and no marking involved – what’s not to like?

But now I’m thinking: is it even possible to emulate this in an EFL situation, where English speaking stops as soon as you leave the cosy environment of the language school?