What Do They Know About You?

Why do I recommend a Get-to-Know-the-Teacher activity on the first day of class? I remember the first time I was grilled by a new class. I was teaching middle-schoolers in a public school in Kazakhstan and many of them had never seen an American before. I started the class off with a little orientation speech about class expectations and so on. A hand went up. I called on the student who asked, “What’s your favorite NBA team?” I said I wasn’t a big basketball fan, and the class exploded. “I thought you were American. All Americans love basketball.” “We watch […]

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First Day of Class Tips

I usually update this post in August to get ready for the back to school season. But that first day of class after winter break feels a lot like the first day of school sometimes. And it’s a great time to think about building community again and reminding students how to be in a classroom. Plus sometimes we really have forgotten their names over the break. So here’s some general tips and tricks for getting through that first day. Please feel free to add your own advice, tips, tricks or first day hacks in the comments! Write your name […]

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An Interactive Way to Review the Syllabus

On the first day of class, we often need to review the syllabus. Students do need to know the rules, how their grades will be calculated, and the outline of the course. But if you lecture at them, they tend to get bored, get distracted, and forget. If you pep up your syllabus review with jokes and personal stories, they remember those stories forever. Not so much the important stuff. I don’t think anything engages the brain and helps students memorize more than making them do the work, and making it fun. That’s why I’m a big proponent of […]

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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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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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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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Back to School Advice from Our Authors

We’ve had a post up for a long time on classroom community builders and icebreakers full of back to school advice. And now that the back to school season is upon us, I wanted to highlight a few articles and activities shared by our authors. But do bookmark that page, to read and comment on, and send in your own links and resources. We’ll even give you a coupon for 10% off if we link to your resource! On to some back to school advice from Patrice Palmer, teacher, trainer, interviewer, and self-care coach: Group Work Gone Right: Setting Students […]

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