English through PC games


If you haven’t seen Nik Peachey’s latest post about a YouTube channel/website for learning English through multiplayer games, do check it out. Nik describes the website in enough detail for the reader to understand how it works, and then suggests how it can be used in the classroom. I actually went to the website and watched a few videos: it’s really great authentic material, and a lot of work has been put into it. You would still need to plan how to use it all best, it’s not something you could just assign for self-study or teach off-the-page. For example, what language in particular do you want to illustrate? Which games do your learners like, and which they hate? What kind of discussions do you think this or that clip is going to cause?

So, I’ve got a lot of questions, but I think it might be a good idea to experiment: after all, what do I see every time I go into my lower secondary class? A group of heroes squashing a zombie rebellion 🙂


The lost world of TED lessons


Here is a  collection of lesson plans related to TED talks from MENSA for kids. Now who would have thought they are so good? There are more than 20 different talks to explore, and the extension activities are absolutely to die for. There are also simple but entertaining questions that can be adapted to different ages and levels. Most are aimed at developing more or less abstract thinking or even critical thinking (core skills – check).

Plus, the choice of topics is great. I can imagine my lower secondaries enjoying some of these! And, to be honest, ‘Shape-shifting dinosaurs’ or ‘How are books a secret door’ are something I would like to do in the classroom.

P.S. If you’d rather do another talk, don’t forget about the great timesaver of a TED worksheet by Svetlana Kandybovich – I wrote about it here.

Receptive strategies for language learning


Here is a very enjoyable read by Andreia Zakime from WhatisELT.  She writes about top-down and bottom-up processing in reading, and I love her take on the Ukrainian and Russian linguistic landscape (she is staying in Ukraine at the moment). She analyses her own experience as a beginner reader, combines it with her teaching and teacher training skills and gives an excellent overview of the two strategies and how they can be used in the classroom to develop both receptive skills. Really nice!

Podcasting across the Universe


Here is a bit of inspiration for a rainy day! I know many people who don’t like listening to audiobooks or podcasts, but this post by Olly Lewis might convince them otherwise: educational podcasts can be a great source of professional development, and they can help you unwind (and develop) much better than music. How does it work? On your way to or from work, instead of rehashing the same old thoughts about your day or the thousand things you have to do, you listen to colleagues and experts offering new and intereesting ways to look at the profession. It distracts you from your own thoughts, and at the same time gives you new ideas. A perfect combination! Olly also has a great list of recommended podcasts, and most are already on my phone.

P.S. I once linked to Lana’s great post about all the CPD opportunities available for teachers. She writes about ‘pitfalls’ of different opportunities – I wonder what she would say about professional podcasts! 🙂

P.S.S. If anyone’s wondering about the headline, here is the source.

Reading Stevick 6 of 10: structured silence


Stevick considers ‘structural silence’ another type of audio aid, and says that it’s ‘the least used and least understood’. It’s so true! Sometimes we are so intent on filling all pauses that we are not using this wonderful tool enough. First of all, controlled silent moments can give students an opportunity to get their thoughts together without distractions (so Stevick recommends using longer silences at the end of the hour, after a big grammar presentation or a story, and shorter ones after each activity in a series. This can help separate stages and activities from one another, assist memorisation and accuracy, make language practice more meaningful. Finally, it may be helpful to combine structured silence with a visual aid to increase its impact. Wonderful, isn’t it?

Collaborative listening on Padlet


Here is another little gem from Daniel Martin at Keep It Simple Activities (a great blog, totally recommend it: start with the mini series about mini whiteboards). This post is about using Padlet to encourage students to do listening activities collaboratively, but in their own time. The teacher uploads a (difficult) recording onto a Padlet board; the learners listen to it as many times as they need, identify useful language and make a note of it on the board that everyone can see. In class, the teacher explores and explains the notes open class.

It’s hard for me to say what I don’t like about this activity. It’s easy to set up and use, it’s motivating and developmental, and it’s infinitely flexible and adaptable to the needs of the learners. If you try it, let me or the post author know!

Multicultural London English


If your students come back after their first trip to the UK slightly shocked (‘I didn’t understand a thing they said in the streets!’), this collection of materials from Queen Mary University of London can help. Even very proficient speakers will find some of the recordings challenging, and lower levels will appreciate the scripts and suggested activities. It’s definitely a resource for teachers, not for self-study, but what a great collection! You get 17 teaching units consisting of a short recording with a script and very comprehensive explanatory notes about discourse markers, slang, non-standard grammar, pronunciation features – amazing. I could spend the whole Christmas break there 🙂



Youglish as she is spoke


What an amazing find! Thanks to Ozge Karaoglu, I now have the greatest tool for checking how words are pronounced: by real people, in real-life contexts, in different situations. All this through YouTube videos. The search is incredibly fast: if you enter a word like ‘privacy’, you get more than 6 thousand hits and can watch every clip one by one and see how this or that particular speaker says it. There are also subs, which show conveniently large on the screen, and pronunciation tips if you scroll down. And you can actually filter speakers by region! (Yes, I do prefer to say ‘privacy’ as if the syllable is closed, and you?) A perfect teaching aid in and out of the classroom – but be warned, I’ve been watching videos all morning.

Music for the masses


I don’t think I’ve often mentioned music on the blog, even though it’s something I use in the classroom (and in the office!) a lot.It can set the mood, develop listening subskills, or simply filter off background sounds – this article by Andrew Starck will give you more examples, as well as quote from several more and less scientific sources (all very interesting to read). What I particularly like about this article is how Andrew ties all this together with his own experience as a teacher and teacher trainer, in a charmingly open and authentic voice. He also promises to use music in his teaching more often this year – and you?

What’s in a film

Have you seen this great post by Anthony Schmidt on how to use an online tool called PlayPhrase in the classroom? PlayPhrase is a small corpus of about 300 films and TV shows where you input any phrase into the search window and have the website play it to you in many different contexts.


It seems nice enough as it is, but Anthony goes further and creates several lessons around this tool! There are ready-made presentation files and explanations for seven different activities in his post – definitely not to be missed.