Adrift a video drama series for English Language Learners from Alphabet Publishing and Chasing Time English

Are You Teaching the Hidden Grammar of Conversation?

We’re excited to a brand-new series, Adrift, a four-episode video drama and accompanying coursebook for learners created by Chasing Time English for C1+/advanced language learners. The videos (available for free on the Chasing Time English site) provide engaging input for natural language as well as demonstrating how body language, gesture, facial expression, and voice are used to communicate non-verbally. And the story line will get students talking as if it were their new favorite TV show: A man wakes up in a mysterious room. An unknown agent interrogates him about his last job, a job that went wrong, unbeknownst […]

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How to Put on a Play in Class

The benefits of drama in the English classroom are surprising. Students learn and practice a variety of acting skills, using their bodies and voices to make meaning. When they put on a play, what to say is given to them so they can focus on how to say it. Speaking with emotion and attitude are skills we don’t always find in our coursebooks. And when students act a role, it’s a sort of safe space where they can make mistakes. Plays are also usually written in natural language so they are a wealth of idioms and conversational expressions. They are […]

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Copyright Page for Textbooks

If you’re a small publisher or self-publisher, keeping your business afloat is not easy. And one thing that eats into your profits is when teachers photocopy books that aren’t photocopiable. Textbooks and workbooks make money by selling class sets; that’s just how it works. So while I sympathize with teachers who buy a book and photocopy it over and over (If you can’t afford class sets, talk to your school administrators. They should be providing you with the tools you need in the quantity you need them.) , that practice makes it impossible to continue producing quality work.  So, […]

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Prewriting Activities for Young Learners and Lower Level Students

Prewriting is really just a fancy way of saying planning to write. For many writers, it includes brainstorming and outlining. But prewriting activities for young learners, or students with lower proficiency in English, need to be designed carefully. Even something as simple as brainstorming may be hard because they don’t have a lot of vocabulary around a topic. And outlining can be equally intimidating. Now graphic organizers can be helpful, but how do you explain a graphic organizer to a student with low levels of English? That’s one reason I really like Teresa X. Nguyen‘s books of illustrated creative […]

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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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What Are Your Students Worth?

Have you ever thought about what your students are worth? What would you pay them for the work they do on a project? It’s a sort of backwards question, as generally students pay us to learn. I’m asking this question because of a group work evaluation method I learned from Patrice Palmer in her wonderful book, Successful Group Work. Instead of asking students what grade they think they deserve (or how they’d grade their teammates in a group project), ask them: How much would you pay yourself for the work you did? or if you want them to evaluate each other, you […]

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Creating a Classroom Community Builder

Here’s a nice article with a good set of questions for choosing and implementing classroom community builders or other icebreakers. I’m a big proponent of using these kinds of getting to know you activities. But I know you should definitely do them mindfully. This article is a great guide to choosing and using an icebreaker thoughtfully. Or if you’re like me, you love to create my own activities. In that case, this article is a great guide to creating a classroom community builder of your own. Questions to Consider Among the things to consider when creating a classroom community […]

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Genre Switching for Better Writing

I belong to a Facebook group for self-published fiction authors many of whom routinely make thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a month. The key to their success? Pick a genre that readers like, read as many examples of it as you can, and then write to that genre. While some might dismiss this approach as putting formula over art, their ability to sell does highlight the importance of genre to readers. When we read a detective novel, we expect certain things to happen. In a horror novel, there are certain things characters will never do or say. […]

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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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Conversational Moves

So many speaking materials focus on micro-language: application of a grammatical form, pronunciation of a syllable, maybe memorization of a useful phrase. But students do not get much scaffolding for a macro-approach that integrates larger elements of language such as longer turns, or whole sections of a conversation with a particular purpose or theme. Richard Swales talked about analyzing written work in terms of rhetorical moves, or places where we start new sections with a new objective. We can apply the same analysis to conversations, showing students different ways we perform conversational moves such as, starting a conversation, engaging in […]

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