Mastering the Mystery Skype


Here is a great selection of materials from Microsoft (in fact, it is a small online course in its own right) about an interesting feature they added to Skype to help education. You can find other teachers around the world and connect your classrooms so that the learners can play a guessing game (guess where in the world they are, or play ‘Mystery animal’ or something similar if the location is too obvious). There are a lot of useful materials and tips: for example, you can download a pdf with students’ roles. Even better, there is a template for the teacher’s professional development bingo – I’m definitely going to use this one!

I think this feature is just asking to be used in ELT: let me know if you decide to experiment!



Choosing priorities: what happens if it doesn’t happen?


Another of my favourite authors is David Geurin (you may have read the posts Passion or proficiency? or Teachers as warm demanders): his texts are sometimes controversial, but always encourage reflection. And this post, “What would happen you weren’t successful?”, seems a great find for the coming New Year and the plans we’re setting ourselves. There’s too little time and no enough resources to do everything, so how do you choose your priorities? David suggests thinking about the consequences of not doing what you have in mind. If nothing really horrible happens – well, then perhaps it’s not the biggest priority, and vice versa.

What do you think, would this work for you?



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 🙂

Exit tickets: show what you’ve learned


Todd Finley is one of my favourite writers at Edutopia (you may have seen these posts: Ride the recency effect or Group reading galore), so it was even more exciting to stumble upon this cool infographic by him:

I can easily see it on a poster in the teachers’ room or above a desk, to use as a lesson planning aid. Bloom’s taxonomy? Check. Assessment for learning? You got it. Sense of progress? Very much so!

The Corson technique for asking questions


Thomas Frank  writes in his great study skills blog about the Solution Finder mindset: when you’re stuck, don’t hurry to ask other people for help, grapple with the problem for another 15 minutes. He also mentions a technique popularised by Corson, a professor of engineering and president of Cornell University: if you have a difficult text to read, do it one sentence at a time, and ask yourself: what is it exactly that I don’t understand? Then, and only then, can you go and talk to your professor 🙂

I think it’s a great idea for learner training: when we want to give adult learners more challenge, but don’t want them to complain that the lesson was too difficult for their level;  when we want to help our young learners develop perseverance, grit, growth mindset, whatever you call it. What do you think?


Timesavers for the reflective teacher


When was the last time you had to write your lesson reflection? I remember staring at my blank screen for ages: how do I even start?.. After all those formal obs and post-obs, reflection seems a chore, and teacher journals a form of torture – unless you ask yourselves the right questions. Martyn Clarke’s post on the OUP blog can help you do just that.

There are five ready-made activities: about changes in your teaching, your ‘mistakes’ and successes, relationships with colleagues and even your emotions during the working week – and two sets of prompts: one to help you zoom in on the details of your experience and the other to encourage reflective thinking. Any of the tasks can be lifted off the page and carried into a peer professional development group, or a mentoring conversation, or a self-reflection journal. Easy and fun!

I’d probably start with my teaching mistakes, and you?

P.S. And for those who got to the end of this post, here’s a tiny plug for Martyn’s upcoming webinar on classroom research. He is my MA tutor, so I know it’s going to be good 😉

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.