Hooks for the online classroom

A short but sweet resource for today: how about a choice board from the great ELL 2.0 team? There are eight language-learning activities to start the lesson with a bang (or rather, a hook)? A lot of them are applicable to the face-to-face classroom, with some modifications. It’s great to have these ideas in one place, in a visually attractive format – and even though Padlet and Jamboard have become a staple of our work, there are less well-known webapps and sites to explore. Exciting!

P.S. There’s more on hooks in one of my previous posts.

Type it in the Chat

Here’s a great post by an ELT teacher Olivia about using the chatbox in online lessons for better student engagement, more effective feedback and a more inclusive and personalised environment. I particularly like the types of activities like interactive storytelling, secrecy games and modifying model texts. So much fun to be had in such a small window! The only thing that stops me from using the chat more is the typing speed of some learners – any advice on that?

Online personalities

I’ve recently read a BBC article about rather interesting research results: apparently, in the world of online work it’s not the charismatic people who are getting promoted nowadays. It’s the ‘working horses’ who do not rely so much on their charm and prefer to get the job done. The author of the article quotes one of the researchers: ‘Virtually, we are less swayed by someone’s personality”.

Naturally, I’m thinking about how this applies to the online classroom. If you tend to be a charismatic teacher, how well has this translated to the online medium? And who are the best teachers now? And, most importantly, how can we become the best teachers? Thinking…

Spin the web of speaking

Here’s a useful article from Edutopia by Emelina Minero about adapting traditional techniques for student engagement and participation to the online medium, both synchronous and asynchronous. I’m particularly concerned with the former: for example, how do you plan a think-pair-share? Do you need to introduce rules for using the chat? And an absolute cherry on top: you can do a spider web discussion! If you haven’t used it before, do check the original article: it can be done both online and offline and looks incredible (as long as you have a few nice markers).
So, which strategy would you like to try or revisit first?

Human and humane feedback online

Here’s a post with a rather nifty infographic with 5 ways of giving feedback in the online classroom by Aoife McLoughlin from ELT-Connect. The suggestions are not totally unexpected (e.g. record your video or audio with annotations), but they are presented very nicely. I have a question about ‘feedback buddies’ though: the recommendation is to pair stronger students with the weaker, and we all know how it can go! Also, there will be less reciprocity in this type of feedback – use at your peril. Nevertheless, the infographic is quite useful, and I can totally relate to this thought: traditional written comments can be misinterpreted, so using your voice and visuals is one way to avoid discouraging learners too much and perhaps will result in better learning, And what do you think?

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?

A very visual syllabus

Here is a great idea for the start of the year: before sharing the course plan or syllabus with your learners, make it easy on the eyes. Curtis Newbold at the Visual Communication Guy has a big article laying out several steps, from reducing the amount of text to adding graphics. He also mentions several tools that can be used to build infographics (I swear by Canva, but his choices are definitely more professional). This method can be used for online and f2f learning, and it’s something I’d like to try too!

Let’s all go on a virtual field trip

More than a week later, I’m still under the impression of a lesson I observed: the teacher took her upper primaries on a tour of the Lascaux Cave. And she hit all the goal posts: the kids were engaged throughout, there was language learning and practice (They had to say ‘stop!’ when another painting came into view and say what it looked like’), and their knowledge of the world incidentally grew, too. All this time I’ve been trying to come up with a way to introduce a VR tour into one of my lessons. While I’m still thinking, here are a few useful links – perhaps you’ll beat me to it and share your experiences?

Mireille Yanow at OUP ELT blog writes about using virtual museum tours, especially with young learners, and gives a lot of practical advice and several tried-and-tested links.

Radhika Gholkar at the British Council’s TeachingEnglish offers plenty of suggestions for pre-, during and after-visit activities, as well as advice on preparation.

And this list from MommyPoppins is one of the most complete lists of online opportunities for virtual field trips. I think I’ll start touring on my own now 🙂

A collection of ideas for Zoom

I’m still amazed at how much online synchronous teaching has evolved in the recent months. The power of the collective mind! And here’s one more example: I’ve no idea where I got this link from, but it’s an amazing live resource if you’re looking for something new to do in your Zoom class. While the description says ‘fun’ (which always makes me a bit suspicious), you can find very sensible activities that can be modified for many lesson objectives: Draw my picture, Go, Grab and Gab, Fortunately/Unfortunately and many others.

So, thank you whoever has created the Padlet and all who have been adding to it – and I’ll go and think how I can use Splats for vocabulary training 🙂

A feedback loop for teaching exam writing


This article in the EFL magazine drew my attention with the magical words ‘IELTS’ and ‘online’. Then I realised that the author is none other than Christopher Pell, the founder of my favourite website for IELTS prep: ieltsadvantage.com. I’ve always wondered why there is so much free content available, and the article offers an explanation. He also writes a lot about learning management skills you need to have for a successful online teaching business. But, perhaps most important of all, he also writes about his approach to teaching writing: create a feedback loop in which the student needs to do the task based on what he/she was taught, the teacher needs to give detailed feedback and then the student needs to act on the feedback. A very useful example of best practice for marking that is so difficult to follow!

P.S. I linked to a more general post about feedback loops here. Great for a better sense of progress 🙂