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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

How to Engage Reluctant Writers

There was a recent piece in The Atlantic about a teacher who helped her students who get over their fear that they couldn’t write well or that writing wasn’t for them. How did she engage reluctant writers? By forcing them to write a lot. Once they had built a portfolio of writing, they couldn’t say they weren’t writers. They clearly did know how to write because they had written a lot. Beyond that, this teacher engaged with her students, less as students and more as writers. If you focus too much on correcting, you end up marking up all […]

Read More

Back to School but Keeping the Essence in Sight

This is the perfect time to pick up a copy of Keeping the Essence in Sight by Sharon Hartle. Why now? It’s August already. The first day of class is on the horizon. Or for some of you, it’s already here, or there was no summer break at all. If you are one of those poor souls, then you know better than anyone the importance of finding time outside the classroom to reflect on our practice, find new ideas to chew on, and prepare for the coming term. In short, we need time to think outside class in order to be […]

Read More

Project-Based Learning with Plays

Curious to try project-based learning in your classroom, but not sure where to start? Want an engaging project to do with students that teaches authentic communication skills and provides practice in teamwork skills? Consider project-based learning with plays, using one of the Integrated Skills Through Drama books that guides your class through the process of rehearsing, performing, and producing an original short play. I always like to share resources that contain something a little different in this end of summer, back to school, period, when teachers have time to prepare something like project-based learning (PBL). The wonderful thing about […]

Read More
Students Disagreeing

Let’s agree to disagree: a lesson in pragmatics

Another great post from Alice on using theater to teach pragmatics, in this case the pragmatics of disagreement. In this day and age especially, it can be useful to teach our students how to express disagreement, and to go beyond useful words and phrases, to the construction of logical arguments. Last spring, Maissa and Bushra were discussing fall courses, and Bushra casually mentioned that she was not planning to take grammar. “It’s all online.” She said, “I don’t need it.” Bushra has a point. Youtube has made it possible for anyone with a cell phone to post a grammar […]

Read More

If the students love it, who we to argue?

When I asked our latest author, Taylor Sapp, to collect some review quotes and blurbs about his new book, he did something I’d never thought of! Sure, he asked his colleagues and some big names in ELT for quotations. But he also asked students what they think. And here’s what they said (only lightly edited): “These creative, intriguing short stories that made me think and wonder what if? Absolutely amusing miscellaneous topics that I enjoyed” “I think it’s useful because we can train a skill that we guess the stories even if we have a lot of vocabulary that […]

Read More
build rapport with students

Can We Measure Rapport?

We all know we’re supposed to build rapport with our students. But what are the concrete steps we can take to do that? What exactly do we mean by rapport? Is it something we can measure concretely? As it happens, the answer is yes This article, The Importance of Establishing Rapport with Your Students, aims to demonstrate how rapport benefits learning. However to do that, the authors had to measure behaviors that build classroom community. In other words, they had to break  down rapport into specific behaviors. As a teacher,  you can use their scale backwards to build classroom community with […]

Read More

Four Conditions for Creating Community in Your Classroom

Most teachers I talk to agree that we need to create strong communities in our classroom. Now a few teachers do claim that relationships in the classroom don’t matter much, and that we should focus on the content of the class. However, even they concede that creating community helps with classroom management and that creating a sense of belonging is not a bad thing. However, we also know that helping students get to know each other is a slippery thing. While some students love a good icebreaker where they share a fact about themselves, others are reticent. Being forced […]

Read More
Two students acting out a role play. A tall student has his hand on the shoulder of a girl. He is reassuring her, but she looks skeptical.

Why Do Drama in the Classroom?

Speaking lessons are my favorite lessons to teach. I love writing a really interesting role play and having students go at it. At their best, students get so absorbed in the role and the situation that they start speaking fluently. They don’t overthink their grammar or stress about their mistakes. And they are so motivated to get an idea across, they start talking over vocabulary gaps, using so much language. Then afterwards, they are so hungry to learn the real words! So drama in the classroom can be fun and motivating for students. And it teaches them fluency. But […]

Read More