The benefits of varied practice


Here is another voice speaking against the 10,000 hour rule (I linked to an interesting article by James Clear about deliberate practice some time ago): this time it’s about varied, spaced and interleaved practice. Yes, I know it’s all very unscientific, but this article (or rather, excerpt from a book by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel called Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning) can be a great conversation starter in an English lesson with higher levels to develop learner autonomy, or in a teacher training session. To me, it’s a serviceable explanation of why some things work and some don’t: why cramming and drilling give limited results, why revision of several units seems more effective than looking back on just one. Anyway, do check it out and let me know what you think!


Dogfooding as a method


Don’t worry, eating your own dog food is a metaphor here and shouldn’t be taken literally – Jennifer Gonzalez has borrowed it from software developers and uses it to suggest that we do our own teaching assignments ourselves before giving them to students. She lists several advantages of it: for example, we will have more realistic expectations, improve our instructions and generally improve the tasks. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like to be a beginner!

Adventures of adventure book writers


Here is an inspiring post by Alastair Lane about writing ‘gamebooks’, or ‘choose your own adventure’ stories for language learners. Much as I love reading, I have never been a fan of those books: I just want to focus on one storyline and one world that the author has created for me. On the other hand, these books are a great opportunity for narrow input and revision, and they can be incredibly motivational provided they are written well and use elements of gamification. And, judging by the post, Alastair’s and his co-authors’ books are definitely worth checking out!

P.S. I’ve already linked to an article about QR codes to make adventure stories in the classroom; ‘A hero’s journey’ describes the power of narratives for learning. If you’re interested in the process of creating graded readers, check ‘Up a level, down a level’.

Deepening the digital


I’ve heard it said before that it’s not enough to replace VHS with YouTube, or blackboards with IWBs. It’s just digital substitution, and it’s considered better practice to do something with the help of technology that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. And yet – original use doesn’t always mean deeper learning, and this interview at takes things further: there is advice about redesigning edutech activities so that they actually move our students closer to deep learning: how to encourage meaningful dialogue, achieve meaningful work, make the learning experience authentic. Interesting!

Snowball speaking


Here is a nice fresh activity from Teresa Bestwick to celebrate the winter mood: write topics on sheets of paper, have a snowball fight with them, keep one snowball each and write questions to interview your partner based on the topics. What makes this speaking activity different? The physical silliness of course – a perfect stirrer for a tired or fidgety group. Check the original post for a full description, or have a look at another of my favourites by this author: Scissor quizzes.

Out of the Zero-Learning Zone


Here is a great overview article by Jim Knight about professional development – it’s actually a manual on how to avoid stagnation! It covers the reasons why are we sometimes stuck in a rut, what is it that we fear, and how we can get out of the ‘Zero-Learning Zone’. The author offers a lot of techniques to try, from design thinking to doing a hope audit (that’s a new one for me), and after reading this there can be no more excuses – would you agree? 🙂

The superpower of the Present Perfect


This blog post  from Bright Classroom Ideas contains a useful checklist to engage the emotional side of young learners when planning or teaching a lesson. The author addresses the text mostly to parents, so you will see phrases like ‘your kid’ – just add the plural 🙂 There are 15 great ideas: from singing-clapping-dancing to engaging their inner rebel. And the most amazing advice: think of a topic as if it was a superhero and find its superpower. Hmm, what would the superpower of the Present Perfect be?



Relax your teaching persona


Here is a practical text to complement the idea of ‘warm demanders’: how we can keep being strict and kind at the same time. The author of the post lists as many as ten steps that teachers, and whole schools, can take to make the learners comfortable without compromising on standards of learning or behaviour. My favourites are: “Don’t relax your expectations, but relax your persona”, and “Frame corrections positively”. Could be useful in other situations!


Job crafting for teachers


Today I’ve been trying to make sense of this article from ‘Popular Psychology’ popularising research into teachers’ job satisfaction. The central idea of it is ‘job crafting’ . To explain it, the author (Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.) quotes the original article: people “re-engineer their jobs from within as a way to find increased meaningfulness”.  Apparently, for teachers this means not only adapting their teaching approach to different groups of students, but also changing and re-defining their roles at work, especially during the times of big organisational changes.

Is job crafting viewed as something positive? On the one hand, yes – people take ownership of their work and see it as their ‘calling’. On the other hand, the research showed that teachers engage in more job crafting when they get less administrative support and are less satisfied with their work – so it’s more of a coping strategy and a sign that the teachers need more help.

What do you think? Do you do a lot of ‘job crafting’ at work?

From pedagogy to andragogy


Here is an interesting article to consider: Julio Vieitas from RichmondShare is talking about adult learners and what makes them different (and sometimes difficult). Yes, they are not ‘empty vessels‘ and have previous experience that can affect their attitudes to learning. They need real-life skills and they need to understand what exactly they are being taught. All this seems common teaching sense – but do we think about this often enough, and do we help our adult learners the way they need to be helped?