Boil a pot of joy

If my yesterday’s post didn’t bring joy into your teaching life, this article certainly will 🙂 TeachThought.com lists 20 ways that can make the classroom a little happier. Much as I am against the notion of mindless ‘fun’, this post is different in that it recommends very sane and worthwhile things like project-based learning. consistency, telling personal stories and generally being human. And it’s just great to have all these ideas in one place.

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October Happiness

Mornings are getting darker and darker where I live – I can’t believe it’s 1 October already! To brighten up the autumn cold, here is a great printable calendar from ActionforHappiness.org: you can share it with students and encourage them to complete each daily task in English and write about it a special diary or even on Instagram.

My prinout with a bit of my desktop is featured in the photo – you can share yours 😉

A case against minimalism and for memorability

During one of my wilder Internet searches, I stumbled upon this article by a group of Canadian researchers about the effect simple and graphically embellished charts have on the reader. Their conclusions are clear: attractive visual elements are not ‘chart junk’. They don’t interfere with short-term recall and, most importantly, improve long-term recall. And they are more enjoyable to look at, which is also a plus!

How can this help ELT teachers? Why not explain to the students the value of a good infographic, improve our own boardwork or even spice up those IELTS preparation charts. We just have to be mindful of seductive details 🙂

In positivity we thrive

Here is an interesting article by Katy Asbury from the wonderful LearnJam – you can trust these guys to come up with new approaches to learning, especially learning online! In fact, I had to take a page of notes before I could write this paragraph because some ideas were less familiar to me. In a nutshell, Katy suggests a way to deal with the affective filter by introducing a kind of ‘positive framing’ which helps learners to self-regulate their emotions, cast their learning ‘story’ in a more positive light and thus get better learning results. How exactly can this be done? By constructing a special ‘learner persona’ which describes the goals, motivations and frustrations of the learner.

I suppose having a persona like this will help learners distance themselves somewhat from their learning pains! According to Katy, it will help if learners refer to themselves in the third person. … Hmm, maybe this teacher/blogger should start experimenting with herself and reframe her weak attempts at learning Chinese? 🙂

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…

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)!

Philosophy for learners

I’m still wondering how exactly I’m going to impose and enforce all these social distancing rules in the classroom – but isn’t it a great opportunity to have a good heart-to-heart talk about helping people in need, social responsibility, ethics and all that? This article gave me quite a few ideas (and there are useful links inside to philosophy lesson plans for children and to videos that can be used with adults). You can dig deeper and read about ethics of care, virtuous adversariality and discuss these concepts with upper secondaries. After all, we’re teaching the whole person, aren’t we?

Out with the old

I took the whole summer off blog writing: it seemed a perfect time to look back and re-evaluate things. As Glenn Wiebe wrote in his nice inspirational post, ‘it’s ok to throw some stuff out‘, even if it feels painful sometimes. So, over the summer I cleaned up my teaching and personal archives, unsubscribed from mailing lists and podcasts (ok, some podcasts) and chucked out my Delta lesson plans from 2013 🙂

Enter the new academic year: with insane classroom restrictions and drastic changes in methodology, timetables, training and professional development… But I’m kind of looking forward to all this because limits are often what inspires creativity (a topic for another post.)

Have a nice September, everyone! And please keep safe.

Paying it forward

I was reading the PBS Research Digest this morning and found this account of research done by the University of California: apparently, random acts of kindness in the workplace encourage the recipients to ‘pay it forward’ and result in ten times more prosocial actions within a month. While the application of this effect in the workplace is obvious: let’s just be kinder to each other on purpose, I was wondering if the same idea could be used in the language classroom. For example, students can be assigned a random buddy that they need to help in secret, or they need to observe their ‘buddy’ more closely and write down the best language they have used in the lesson… I haven’t experimented with it myself, but it sounds very promising!