Dogfooding as a method


Don’t worry, eating your own dog food is a metaphor here and shouldn’t be taken literally – Jennifer Gonzalez has borrowed it from software developers and uses it to suggest that we do our own teaching assignments ourselves before giving them to students. She lists several advantages of it: for example, we will have more realistic expectations, improve our instructions and generally improve the tasks. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like to be a beginner!


Adventures of adventure book writers


Here is an inspiring post by Alastair Lane about writing ‘gamebooks’, or ‘choose your own adventure’ stories for language learners. Much as I love reading, I have never been a fan of those books: I just want to focus on one storyline and one world that the author has created for me. On the other hand, these books are a great opportunity for narrow input and revision, and they can be incredibly motivational provided they are written well and use elements of gamification. And, judging by the post, Alastair’s and his co-authors’ books are definitely worth checking out!

P.S. I’ve already linked to an article about QR codes to make adventure stories in the classroom; ‘A hero’s journey’ describes the power of narratives for learning. If you’re interested in the process of creating graded readers, check ‘Up a level, down a level’.

The IKEA lesson effect


Do you know why we love writing our own activities even when there’s no time for lesson planning? I’ve found the answer on The Teacher Habits by Paul Murphy: when we write our own materials, we tend to overestimate their value, just like people who buy furniture from IKEA like it more because they had to build it themselves. Paul calls this ‘the IKEA effect’, which apparently is a psychological term denoting a type of cognitive bias. We love the fruit of our labour, so to say – even if the quality of published materials (or the activities in the teacher’s book) is better.

This explains a lot… Do you agree?

P.S. I’ve written about this blog before: for example, have a look at Mystery trash for the end-of-lesson routine or How can teachers be like cats? Great advice for teachers of any subject.


Task-setting to slow down fast finishers


This article is about creating online learning activities, but parts of it can be easily applied to any materials creation and, in fact, all kinds of task-setting in a lesson. How do you make sure that your learners don’t focus on finishing faster, but take the slow path and achieve more learning? John Allan, the author of the article, suggests ten solutions, from limiting easy question types like True/False to making questions that are impossible to answer without listening or reading the input again. Seems common sense, but it’s also something we tend to forget about 🙂

Imagine a perfect writing prompt

Now, this is what I call graphic organisers! If you’re looking for a fun writing activity for younger learners (I would say up to 13 years old, but I could see myself adapting some of these to an adult classroom), go no further – seriously, Make Beliefs Comix are amazing. There are sections on Science, Friendship, Holidays and a separate category on ESOL with teaching advice and videos. Even better, the characters are very diverse, not just ethnically, and there are prompts that could encourage discussions about bullying or the news. And the best part is that you are allowed to download and use any of the printables in the classroom or at home free of charge, no strings attached.

So, which one are you going to use this week? 🙂

Use quotes you must


Here’s a great collection of quotes from Mensa for Kids which ticks quite a lot of boxes: the development of critical thinking, reading, speaking and language practice, working at stations, source of inspiration (and a great timesaver for teachers). It is in fact a lesson plan based on 65 quotes with discussion questions, followed by a slew of alternative ideas about how to use quotes, e.g. origami, bracket challenge and of course yoda-cizing.  Don’t forget to check the extra links at the end – absolute gold.

New series: a sense of progress


Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about making progress. How do we know we’re getting somewhere – in the classroom, at work, in our professional and personal development? Much as I’d like to give you a comprehensive treatment of the topic in one huge and clever post, I can only move one step at a time. If you’d like to join me on this short trip, over the next 10 days I’ll be sharing the best articles and posts I’ve found that look at the issue from different angles. Let’s read and think together!

And the first installment in the series is The SMART Goals Evaluationator from none other than Duncan Foord and Daniel Barber. They suggest using a simple graphic organiser to encourage learners to set SMART goals – a coaching tool adapted to the classroom. Looks deceptively simple, but you would need to do a bit of learner training to make it work. What do you think?