More proof of the value of pre-watch activities

Here’s an article from the BPS Research digest which describes how researchers explored the testing effect in learning.

Answering prequestions may be a simple and effective way to boost your learning from videos and perhaps short lectures too” – and from reading texts, I bet! I know, it all seems a bit obvious to us ELT teachers, but it’s still nice to have scientific evidence for what we were assuming all along. Also, it might help deal with those doubting Thomases in the classroom…

Human and humane feedback online

Here’s a post with a rather nifty infographic with 5 ways of giving feedback in the online classroom by Aoife McLoughlin from ELT-Connect. The suggestions are not totally unexpected (e.g. record your video or audio with annotations), but they are presented very nicely. I have a question about ‘feedback buddies’ though: the recommendation is to pair stronger students with the weaker, and we all know how it can go! Also, there will be less reciprocity in this type of feedback – use at your peril. Nevertheless, the infographic is quite useful, and I can totally relate to this thought: traditional written comments can be misinterpreted, so using your voice and visuals is one way to avoid discouraging learners too much and perhaps will result in better learning, And what do you think?

How ‘s your intuition these days?

To continue the discussion about keeping a fresh outlook on things, I’d like to share this article from Harvard Ed. Magazine: “Teacher’s Intuition” by Lory Hough. It’s a warm and sympathetic piece of writing about teachers who make intuitive decisions every day – and now their job has become much harder. Whether you are teaching online and getting just a fraction of the information about your learners’ non-verbal reactions, or you’re observing them in a socially distanced classroom behind masks in their little silos, it’s really difficult to ‘read the room’. If it’s so much harder, what do we do? According to the article, we can use science (i.e. understand how people learn in these new environments), reflection, data collection about students… Also, the author recommends distancing our work from our personal experiences. Not an easy feat, right?

Finnegan, begin again

I’ve been re-reading this article for quite some time: it’s about the so-called ‘shoshin’, or the beginner’s frame of mind. Apparently, the term related to Japanese Zen, but the idea can be applied to other spheres, especially professional development. Christian Jarrett, the author of the article, explains in a very clear and simple way how overestimating one’s expertise can lead to close-mindedness, and then lists several ways to keep one’s mind fresh and open, like the mind of a beginner. For example, it’s useful to notice gaps in one’s knowledge, develop a growth mindset and – a rather unusual technique of finding things that inspire awe.

P.S. You can laugh all you like, but tonight I was feeling awed by the sheer beauty of English grammar (infinitives with modals of deduction, of all things)!

Getting-to-know-you activities

This link might be a little late in the week, but I simply have to put it into my ELT crate! Rachel Tsateri has a nice collection of icebreakers (and links to more icebreakers) for online and f2f teaching. What I like about this collection is how techie and at the same human-oriented many of the activities are: just what we need right now in our socially and/or virtually distanced classrooms.

My favourite activity is the Acrostics, and yours?

P.S. If you’re looking for more traditional and well-tried icebreakers, check out this post (Break the ice safely).

Lesson study for teacher teams

Apparently, generations of teachers (especially in Japan) have been using this great CPD approach, but I only found out about it several months ago, in a random article on materials writing. Here is a great resource to start with: What is Lesson Study? at Teacher Development Trust. The gist of the idea is that several teachers get together, plan one lesson, teach it in turns and meet up regularly to discuss, make modifications and reflect. What makes it different from, say, regular action research? It’s very much a team effort where several heads are put together and different strengths and weaknesses of the teachers can compensate each other (and it’s also more fun). Also, because one and the same lesson is re-taught again and again, you can address the tiniest details and get to very interesting conclusions. I suppose some products and syllabi lend themselves better to this approach, but the idea is definitely worth exploring!

A very visual syllabus

Here is a great idea for the start of the year: before sharing the course plan or syllabus with your learners, make it easy on the eyes. Curtis Newbold at the Visual Communication Guy has a big article laying out several steps, from reducing the amount of text to adding graphics. He also mentions several tools that can be used to build infographics (I swear by Canva, but his choices are definitely more professional). This method can be used for online and f2f learning, and it’s something I’d like to try too!

Stacking your talents

Here is a very interesting idea to consider for professional development in the broader sense: it’s hard to reach the absolute top in one area, but it’s much more realistic to be in the top 25% in two areas that, taken together, give you a unique profile. Kyle Kowalski describes the idea in detail in this longread and then applies it to his own work experience, qualifications, personal strengths and interests.

Applied to the ELT world, good ‘stackable’ skills could be teaching exam preparation classes, being an examiner – and perhaps something less usual, like statistical analysis or universal design… For my own part, I’ve been focusing on very similar, language-related skills (translation, interpreting, teaching) So, perhaps it’s time for a professional audit and a venture into a totally new, but complementary area?

Business mazes for serious learning

If you’re looking for a serious game for your Business English or workplace skills learners, you might want to check this oldie but goldie: Business Mazes by Joni Farthing (published in 1982, but a few examples have been converted to html and read quite well). You don’t have to be a fan of ‘choose-your-adventure’ stories to enjoy them: the participants are easy to identify with, the dilemmas are more or less easy to resolve but require some discussion. They could even inspire some of the students to write a few mazes of their own!

So boring that it’s not

Here’s an idea for Friday night lesson prep. Why not have students retell their favourite films (or books) in the most boring way possible? For examples see this hilarious collection where things are totally turned on their head. How do you like this one: ‘Guy finds a ring, and his nephew returns it to the factory’. 🙂

Apart from the obvious linguistic challenge of summarising, it can give excellent vocabulary practice and, perhaps most importantly, increase the awareness of what makes a text less boring – au contrario. I’m definitely going to try it as soon as I can!