How to Structure Online Chats for Better Participation

Blended learning has gone mainstream. Once upon a time, classes that were conducted both online and face-to-face were taught by professors with IT experience. However, it seems that all teachers are expected to be able to teach with technology now. This expectation doesn’t always meet reality as face-to-face teaching techniques don’t always translate to your online teaching platform, Internet forums, social media, or chats and messaging. In fact, as Sharon Hartle, author of Keeping the Essence in Sight and experienced online teacher says, we really should call it blended teaching, not blended learning. It’s really the teacher’s job to adjust […]

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Theater as the Ideal Group Project

Thunder claps, lightning strikes, and rain begins to fall as Jane and Margaret approach the bus stop. They are two students: one a model child with good grades, the other a bit of a misfit who doesn’t clean her room or get her homework done on time. But as an ordinary autumn rain turns into a natural disaster, the issue what kind of people we’ll really need in the future is called into question in a new way. This is the setting for Rising Water, a play written by Alice Savage for the ESOL classroom that uses the story […]

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Ways to Make Me Laugh

Humor can be a powerful tool in the classroom. As I’ve written elsewhere before,  Humor plays a large role in my teaching. I use jokes to lighten the mood and make learning fun. I use self-deprecating humor so that students feel comfortable challenging me and so that they understand that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. I use humorous stories to establish rapport. And I make silly skits and demonstrations of words or grammar points so that students will remember them. But humor is also different from culture to culture and from person to person. And while they […]

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Intonation Sensation: Using Emphasis in Speaking

English speakers use intonation to express meaning. We can emphasize a word to show that it is important. This may not be true of the other languages your students speak. In some languages, intonation is only applied at the sentence level. In some languages tone is linked to the meaning of the word itself. Students need a chance to practice using emphasis in speaking to make their meaning clear. This quick and easy activity comes from Rising Water. Students can listen to the audio recording or get the podcast of the play to hear where those actors chose to put […]

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Scripted Dramas to Teach Pragmatics

I’m excited to be exhibiting and presenting at the WATESOL Fall 2018 Conference in DC in a few days. I’ll be featuring some of our books about drama including Fortune and the Integrated Skills Through Drama series. I’ll be putting the whole presentation up along with handouts at some point but I’m proud of this activity idea from the Fortune series. When I talk about using a dramatic videos to teach pragmatics, I hear the same question from teachers a lot. Aren’t scripted dramas too artificial to teach authentic communication skills? After all, studying pragmatics is supposed to help students learn […]

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5 Ways to Keep Students Engaged

Keep students engaged and even the worst class will never have time to misbehave. I’ve never forgotten the 9th graders from Lyceum 33 in Astana. It was the worst class I’ve ever have. One student came to class early, stuck his head out the window, and started to smoke! While I was standing there. Another student simply refused to hand me back his test. I said I’d give him a 0 if he didn’t give it back to me and he said, “F*** your 0, who cares?” and walked out of class. I knew it wasn’t all my fault, […]

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Only the Best Intentions Shortlisted for English Language Awards

Shortlisted for an English Language Award

We are thrilled to announce that Only the Best Intentions by Alice Savage has been shortlisted for an English Language Award from the English-Speaking Union in the Resources for Secondary to Adult Learners category! The English Language Awards “celebrate and reward innovation and good practice in the field of English Language teaching.” It is awarded to original, quality resources that help students with oracy skills. And given how much we’ve learned about how students acquire spoken language and the realization that communication is more than just grammar and vocab, it’s wonderful that there is an English Language Award that recognizes materials that teach […]

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I Don’t Know an Interesting Fact About Myself

A while back, I did a workshop for teachers from the former Soviet Union and as a very quick icebreaker, I just asked everyone to say one interesting fact about themselves. The first teacher said, “My name is Elena and my interesting fact is that I am from Karaganda, Kazakhstan.” After that, the second teacher got up, said her name and told us where she was from. And so it continued. One teacher tried to say something fun about himself. I believe he said he liked going riding. However, the crowd quickly corrected him: “We’re saying where we are […]

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Icebreakers on the Second Day, Teaching Today

I just want to pass along this great point about icebreakers from the book Voices of Experience: How Teachers Manage Student-Centered ESL Classes by Janet Giannotti: It should also be noted that some teachers do not use an icebreaker in the first class. Some icebreakers may seem like games, and we don’t want our students to think they enrolled in our class to play games. Instead many teachers use the first class for diagnostic testing and save an icebreaker for the second day. Interestingly, I also got a similar piece of feedback from a well-known author who kindly gave […]

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Building Classroom Community Presentation

When I started writing this, I was coming off my high from an awesome TESOL 2018, and apparently it was a pretty good conference, as the first clause of this sentence is all I wrote before saving this to my drafts folder. So here, belatedly, is my presentation on from the TESOL Conference in Chicago on building classroom community. Specifically I talk about the four conditions that go into really building classroom community. For each principle, I’ve also shared a few activities that you can use in your classroom. I’ve posted about this elsewhere but I think the presentation […]

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