Boil a pot of joy

If my yesterday’s post didn’t bring joy into your teaching life, this article certainly will πŸ™‚ 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.


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 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 πŸ˜‰

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?

In with the new

Going through the pre-year training sessions, I find myself excited, but also a bit depressed: no mingling? No running dictations? No crafts? It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.

Then what’s so good about the post-Covid socially distanced classroom?

  1. The 1.5-2m bubble around every learner will create a natural information gap (learners won’t be able to look into each other’s books or whisper in L1 anymore) – I have to thank colleague R*** for this positive thought.
  2. Showing more stuff on IWB will make our f2f teaching more paperless than ever – yay for saving more trees.
  3. Electronic assignment submissions is here to stay – no-hassle student portfolios and a greater sense of progress.
  4. Personal miniboards and big-letter writing might become a thing again – great for motor memory and owning one’s learning.
  5. And all the backchannelling apps that will have to be used!

By the way, after one of our LAMSIG panels in June Sandy Millin wrote a great post about this – not to be missed.

Team-building activities for the virtual classroom


Here is a very useful article by Caitlin Krause at Edutopia about ways to build connections between learners when you’re teaching online. She writes from 10 years’ of experience, and the advice she gives is practical and clearly well thought out. First and foremost, we have to think about our well-being as teachers (that should be a given). Then, it helps to start every synchronous session with a connection exercise and an icebreaker (there are good examples linked to in the article). To be honest, I see a few issues with this part: learners are sometimes late (yes, even when they don’t have to commute! :)), so the connection activity will probably be interrupted; also, not every teacher and learner likes this ‘touchy-feely’ mindfulness style, so we need to be careful about how this is done.

Another interesting piece of advice, however, is very close to my heart: Caitlin suggests using team roles for asynchronous learning (one student could take on the role of the ‘lexicon builder’, another a ‘curator’ etc.), which lets the learners use their own strengths and contribute to everyone’s learning. There’s more, about encouraging questions and practising the art of listening (e.g. ‘mirroring’ activities in breakout rooms), so do check out the original post.

A positive Q&A with Sarah Mercer

sarah QA

Here is the link to a wonderful session with Sarah Mercer that LAMSIG organised yesterday (I helped a bit too :)). It’s a shame that I had to leave 30 minutes in to teach a lesson, but we have the recording – which I really recommend viewing, or even listening to, whether you are a teacher, a manager or a little bit of both.

There were lots of interesting discussions about the situation we are going through and whether we can expect any post-traumatic growth, what coping strategies work and which don’t (e.g. planning doesn’t work anymore!). Sarah spoke about the difference between resilience and flourishing, about blurred boundaries between home and work and, most importantly perhaps, about the role of the manager who is the hub of the team and as such has to support and connect the teachers with microconversations, appreciative inquiry and generally communicate openly and honestly.

The final question was about something that worries me too: what’s going to happen after the virus is gone? Watch the video to find out what Sarah thinks πŸ™‚

Zoom fatigue is real


Here’s an post to share with colleagues and students: a suggestion why teleconferences feel more draining than regular meetings (and face-to-face lessons). There are several reasons the author puts forward: trying to pick up on people’s body language in the absence of information, still learning to use the new medium, multi-tasking, bad physical posture, paying too much attention to one’s own image on the screen – these are pretty obvious. But the author goes further, into theories of perception, and writes about eye contact, body positioning in space and makes other interesting observations.

How about you, do Zoom lessons exhaust you or not so much? If yes, what can we do to mitigate this?

A coronadictionary to enjoy in our isocosm


Have you seen these amazing posts by Tony Thorne?Β The author has collected dozens of new coinages and repurposed lexis that people started using during the Covid-19 crisis. The first post in the series (#CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral) mostly deals with scientific terms like ‘flatten the curve’ or ‘shelter in place’ that suddenly became very popular in our conversations. The second (#CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral – 2) veers in the direction of slang and colloquialisms, and what a treasure trove it is: from coronanoia to covid waltz, quarantrolls and zoom mullet and even new emojis – it’s all there. A great collection to read on your own or share with friends, but I believe it can also have teaching uses. My lower secondaries are particularly keen on discussing the virus, so bits and pieces from these posts could be a great CLIL warmup. Advanced adults will probably appreciate the humour in some of the slangier expressions. If you have more ideas, let me know πŸ™‚

Cold and learning


I was dealing with a minor cold last week, and I got reminded how much a small thing like that can affect our cognitive functions! Apparently, researchers knew it all along. They found out that the cold virus changes our brain chemistry for a while, and our reaction slows down, our learning ability goes down and we can’t even retrieve information the way we normally do. Well, I couldn’t even make myself write a paragraph of text!

So, what do you do if a student comes in for assessment and they are a bit under the weather? Perhaps it would be a good ideaΒ to let them re-write the test, or give them a slightly higher grade? Or just let them brave it?

Surviving and thriving


What a trite thing to say – but it doesn’t become less important because it’s been said so many times. I was listening to this podcast and thinking: do we really know how to balance our life and work? So I came home and worked a bit more πŸ™‚ And then I googled and found this great post by Terry Heick, where he lists ten principles of being a happy teacher, from being creative to knowing when to shut your door.

The teacher trainer in me has already cut up the principles into strips and handed out to a group of participants for jigsaw reading, it’s that good.