Line’em up


Don’t you just love ‘quick fixes’? Take that cool teaching idea into the classroom as soon as you hear it – or read about it on the OUP blog. Here’s a great collection of techniques for random grouping, which is your favourite? I really like ‘what’s your favourite food’ because it feels so cosy, and ‘words from the unit’ for maximised usefulness – and you?

What’s better than cure in education


I once wrote about ‘black swans’ and tried to imagine what they would be in English language teaching; here is another article about them, this time in education. If these sudden unpredictable changes can make a project fail, why not attempt to predict them. Looks like a contradiction in terms: how can you predict the unpredictable? And yet the author’s idea is sound enough: if you do the ‘premortem’ discussion and imagine what could have gone wrong, you can still prevent some of the risks and prep your mind for early detection of others.

I wonder if Delta lesson write-ups aren’t like little premortems. I anticipate problems with this, this and that….

Action-reflection sandwiches


To support a recent post about reflection followed by action, which was teacher-oriented, here is an interesting take on the same topic, but in a business environment. It’s by my favourite Dan Rockwell aka Leadershipfreak: a self-reflection ‘sandwich’ where reflection is just a thin layer of peanut butter between two hefty slices of action. He ends the post with a list of useful journal questions to reflect on the actions of the day, such as ‘What did I plan to do?’, ‘What actually happened?’, and ‘What do I really want?’. I’m almost tempted to cook a series of my own action-reflection-action sandwiches on this blog!

Should or must

Warning: this is a rather touchy-feely post, and it’s not really about grammar rules! Nevertheless, I think it builds quite nicely on the idea of Do-Nothing Teaching, and the questions the writer asks are very close to my heart. It’s actually a book summary, and it seems that the whole book is a worthwhile read. Call me an idealist, but isn’t this a great quote? 

“When you follow Must every day, you impact not only what you create for your work, but also who you become in your life. This is how your work and your life become one and the same.”

That said, you can also use the article for extra noticing practice with higher-level students 🙂

P.S. My ‘Listening to now’ widget has stopped working, so here is a nice song I got stuck on as an illustration: 

Do-nothing teaching can do good

This concept has resurfaced in my little Internet neck-of-the woods recently, and it makes me wonder: how often do we do too much in the classroom just because we can, or because we think we should? Wouldn’t it be better sometimes to stop and wait to see what really needs to be done? I found this series of posts on an extinct blog and was really inspired by how the writer applies this idea to everything from his own teaching to teacher training and mentoring. Once, when he was giving a talk at a conference, he asked the audience to do absolutely nothing for 2 minutes! Do read on for stories like that one, and for very interesting reflections.

For my own part, I’m planning to sit down and do absolutely nothing for as long as 5 minutes when I come home tonight – and you?

Mini whiteboards – power to the students


If you ever feel like you don’t want to spend another minute in front of the classroom at the whiteboard, this post from Daniel Martin might be of help. It’s also good for developing speaking, writing (and spelling!) skills and learner autonomy, assists vocabulary revision and retention, creates an enjoyable challenge and brings variety. In fact, if you don’t have mini whiteboards, something could be fashioned out of paper, though the activity does involve wiping. Perhaps tablets? Anyway, the activity is interesting, and there are a few links to other whiteboard ideas at the end of the post – a nice candidate for morning bookmarking!

Update: And here’s another post in the series by Daniel: how to use mini whiteboards for collective answers in scattergory-like games.

Napoleon learning English


You may have seen it around your networks, but it would be too much of a shame to miss it – an article about “Englich” lessons that Napoleon took on Saint Helena, his reactions to the learning process, mistakes he made. Hilarious and so true! Like so many learners of today, he tries to calculate how many words there are in the English language and how many years it will take him to learn it, complains about no sense of progress, insists on using French pronunciation – and at the same time plays with words, tries his hand at book reviews and courageously makes jokes in a new language. Some good learning habits there!

Mystery trash for the end-of-lesson routine


Here’s a fun activity to encourage young students to clean up the classroom before they leave: you select an object that could be rubbish, but could also be something out of place, and don’t tell the students until they pick everything up. Once someone has it (and the room is clean), you announce the winner. There are some caveats to this game, and I suggest you check the original post for more advice, as well as child protection rules of your school before you give out sweets as prizes – but boy do I love this game!


On doing the work in learning


Here is a nice inspirational post by Erin Whalen about students ‘doing the work’ in the classroom (rather than the teacher). The idea is that even though sometimes it’s easier just to do something for them, we need to let them try, and make mistakes, but learn. She lists several benefits, like longer retention and sense of accomplishment, but my concern at this time of the year is with the teachers’ level of energy and workload. Erin has the answer to that as well: if you let the students do some work for you (including those paper cutouts!), you can free some time to focus on the students, listen to their needs and build relationships with them. Or just to be a little less overworked.



PicLit: in for a picture


A screenshot of a PicLit picture I made with their word prompts

Here’s another teaching tool to bookmark. Yes, of course, you can always do a Google search for a nice copyright-free picture, add some words to it in Photoshop – but why all the hassle if there is a website where somebody has already done it for you? There are lots of pictures to choose from and type on, but I would recommend trying out the drag-and-drop wordlist: it’s a great timesaving and learning feature. You can also read the teaching tips, see what others have created, and save your own pictures with a link that can be sent to the students.

How can it be used? Well, writing and speaking prompts come to mind first;  vocabulary revision; flash reading – everything is better with a picture 🙂