How to avoid planning into midnight


To follow up on a conversation in the teachers’ room: we just don’t have the time to create those beautiful flipcharts for every lesson. Still, it’s not a totally hopeless situation: as one of the colleagues recommended, why not build a collection of the most typical topics (like the Past Simple vs Past Continuous) and use them, adapting where necessary. And then I remembered a series of posts by Steve Smith about having a repertoire of teaching activities: using sentence builders, exploiting reading texts, preparing universal Powerpoint presentations (yes, the same excellent idea), and remembering a range of low-prep consolidation and review activities. I like the focus on teacher well-being here: it’s too easy to lose the track of time and just keep planning away, so it makes sense to reflect on better, more efficient ways to do it.

P.S. There was also an interesting exchange about time management I linked to here.

From meh to great with one sticky note


As the students go in, they are invited to stick a post-it to one of the sections of the whiteboard: I’m fine, I’m meh, I’m struggling and so on. My first thought would be that it’s a sense of progress activity, but in fact it’s a way to check on the students’ mental state and help them get through the day.  On the one hand, I’m a bit wary of these touchy-feely activities; on the other hand, what an amazing and human way to engage with the students from the very first minute of the lesson! And the academic manager in me revels in the efficiency of a simple sticky note and the challenging descriptors 🙂 Definitely a routine to try.

P.S. It’s interesting to compare this idea with ‘Sticky notes to balance the challenge’ when the students also use post-its to give non-verbal feedback to the teacher and acknowledge their emotions regarding error correction. And my most popular blog post links to where Terry Heick from TeachThought writes about similar activities to bring a positive mood into your classrom from the very start. Some of them are not challenging linguistically, but sometimes it’s ok just to focus on motivation, isn’t it?

P.P.S. These connections are exactly how my Zettelkasten works!

Time management secrets from the busiest


I rarely link to Twitter threads, but this one definitely merits attention: Teacher2Teacher asked colleagues around the world about the strategies that help them manage their time, and got quite a lot of interesting answers. If you’re a teacher trainer, you can cut them up and use for a warm-up discussion! Or just scroll through for nuggets of practical wisdom: for example, plan in lists of three things; use colour codes and Google apps; OneNote, or just the good old paper notebook…  What’s your time management poison?

Looking for serendipity


Do you remember this cool book called ‘Teach like a pirate’? Well, Dave Burgess, the author, is not alone: there’s a group of innovative educators who write books, speak and generally inspire teachers and learners. These two books in particular seem exciting: The Path to Serendipity and The Princes of Serendip by Allyson Apsey. The former is about life, the universe and everything – how you can find joy in lucky and beautiful moments (that’s what I got from the blurbs, but the book is now on my Kindle). If the first book is for adults trying to make sense of their life, the other one is its companion for children, instilling the same values through a story with pictures. And now I really want them both 🙂

Why I’m telling you all this? Just to ask if you have any thoughts about serendipity and if it has any place in your classroom or workplace. Are you one of those princes on the journey to Serendip? Do you want your learners to be?

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?

Always look on the bright side of things


And here is something positive to get the new working week started. George Couros is thinking about the power of assumptions in education. When we assume that ‘Students don’t want to learn’ or ‘Teachers don’t want to change’, perhaps it would be better to say: ‘Students need us to acknowledge their current strengths and start from there?’ Or ‘Teachers would like to help their students, but they need a better understanding of how change can help them do it”?

Isn’t it true of many other things at work and in life in general?



How can teachers be like cats?


Here’s an interesting post by Paul Murphy, a teacher and book author: he suggests that teaching ‘like a pirate’ day in, day out is too exhausting, and that we need to look to our chill feline friends for inspiration. For example, it’s a good idea to stay calm most of the time (true!), with rare moments of fun and high energy; to always ask for what you want in a clear way; to ignore critics and – sleep more: “You can’t be any good if you’re tired all the time.” A very relevant post, especially in view of all the recent discussions of teachers’ mental health!

So, are you more like a cat or like a pirate? Which would you rather be?