Snowball speaking


Here is a nice fresh activity from Teresa Bestwick to celebrate the winter mood: write topics on sheets of paper, have a snowball fight with them, keep one snowball each and write questions to interview your partner based on the topics. What makes this speaking activity different? The physical silliness of course – a perfect stirrer for a tired or fidgety group. Check the original post for a full description, or have a look at another of my favourites by this author: Scissor quizzes.


Slipping into conversation


I’ve stumbled upon these sets of conversation starters: why not use them for ELT, not just for building a community in the classroom or small talk? There are New Year prompts on paper slips (great for looking back on your year and making New Year resolutions), gratitude prompts (not only for Thanksgiving) and even integrity printables (these are nice as an idea but probably need a bit more fleshing out with examples). All in all, a great free resource, and the possibilities are almost endless.

Or would you say that tasks like this are a waste of time? 😉

Mini whiteboards – power to the students


If you ever feel like you don’t want to spend another minute in front of the classroom at the whiteboard, this post from Daniel Martin might be of help. It’s also good for developing speaking, writing (and spelling!) skills and learner autonomy, assists vocabulary revision and retention, creates an enjoyable challenge and brings variety. In fact, if you don’t have mini whiteboards, something could be fashioned out of paper, though the activity does involve wiping. Perhaps tablets? Anyway, the activity is interesting, and there are a few links to other whiteboard ideas at the end of the post – a nice candidate for morning bookmarking!

Update: And here’s another post in the series by Daniel: how to use mini whiteboards for collective answers in scattergory-like games.

PicLit: in for a picture


A screenshot of a PicLit picture I made with their word prompts

Here’s another teaching tool to bookmark. Yes, of course, you can always do a Google search for a nice copyright-free picture, add some words to it in Photoshop – but why all the hassle if there is a website where somebody has already done it for you? There are lots of pictures to choose from and type on, but I would recommend trying out the drag-and-drop wordlist: it’s a great timesaving and learning feature. You can also read the teaching tips, see what others have created, and save your own pictures with a link that can be sent to the students.

How can it be used? Well, writing and speaking prompts come to mind first;  vocabulary revision; flash reading – everything is better with a picture 🙂

Name tag, you’re it


Why do I always take a stack of A5 sheets to each new group? To me, the best way to learn the students’ names is to have them make name tags, or name plates – depends on how they fold the paper really. I don’t often go further than that though, yet Cristina from CristinaSkyBox has a lot of extra ice-breaking activities for you to try, complete with links to printable samples. And if you’re in a more serious mood (or teaching an EAP course), this post by Tyson Seburn can be a great inspiration. I didn’t expect pieces of coloured paper to evolve into academic reading, writing and revising so quickly!

Prime your classes with Flipgrid


Here is a wonderful article by Michael J Shehane about using Flipgrid in the language classroom. The advice he gives is invaluable: for example, what pitfalls of making Flipgrid videos are the most likely and whether it makes sense to discuss them with students; how you encourage students to do their Flipgrid homework without any conflict or contention; how exactly Flipgrid videos can help you achieve the learning objectives. The best I’ve read about Flipgrid so far!

Could be worth exploring this kind of ‘priming’ for teacher training – what do you think?


On and off collaboration


How do you work? When you have a complex problem to solve, do you prefer to work on your own or brainstorm together with several colleagues? Whatever your preference, you might be interested to know that research recommends doing both. Here is the original academic article by Ethan BernsteinJesse Shore, and David Lazer (Harvard Business School), and here is a more lightweight retelling of it from Science Daily.

To give you the gist (I know how many of the readers actually click on the links! ;)), there were three groups in the experiment: one never collaborated, another collaborated all the time, and the other worked together only from time to time. The researchers were not surprised to find that the first group provided the most original solutions with the lowest average quality. The second group collaborated so much that they weeded out all outlying solutions, so the average quality was higher, but they didn’t find the best solutions out there. What was unexpected for them, however, was that the intermittently collaborating group kept the high average quality and the best solutions.

Neat – and can be easily applied to the classroom. I’ll never cut down on individual prep time after reading this!