Elements of Effective Instruction and the Art of Mario Brothers

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing with my son lately. I love to draw and I always have, but I don’t think I’m incredibly good at it. A lot of my art in high school was pretty bad. But I think I’ve come a long way in the past couple of years. And so has my son. We love to draw freely, but sometimes we try to copy Pokémon characters from his books or Mario Kart Drivers from the Internet. And sometimes we do a guided video to learn to draw something new. We particularly like Art for […]

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Those Students: Deictic Expressions and Real-World Communication Skills

I’ve been doing a lot of presentations on pragmatics recently and thinking about how to teach students real-world communication skills in English. The problem is that in the classroom we often communicate at a very literal and direct level. Outside the classroom, we don’t! We leave things unsaid, assume knowledge on the part of the listener, even exaggerate or outright lie! We also use idiomatic language, fixed expressions, and deictic expressions, language that take their meaning from context. And maybe the hardest group of deictic expression is “insider expressions” when we talk to people. These are expressions that people […]

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Best of the Year!

I feel like this is the year that we are less looking forward to a new year, as looking forward to saying goodbye to the old year! But there were definitely some highlights of the year. I’m amazed at how so many teachers found ways to survive and even thrive in 2020. It meant adapting to new tools and situations, but we did it. Even if it was a very small success, we managed to pull it off. So below find our top posts of 2020, best-selling books, and our most desirable authors (ok, the authors whose archive pages […]

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Why a Teacher Shared Her Burnout Story

Patrice Palmer had been teaching English for 20 years when she left teaching in 2015. She felt no desire to continue teaching even though she loved ESL. But she didn’t realize that she had burned out, unaware that teacher burnout was a thing. Ironically, not teaching every day may have been what gave her the time to start reading about educator stress and teacher burnout. She read about useful tools such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory. She discovered the research on how frequently teachers were leaving the profession. And googling “teacher well-being”, she discovered the Teacher Self-Care Conference.All well […]

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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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The cover of Keeping the Essence in Sight by Sharon Hartle, a guide to reflective practice in EFL teaching

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 […]

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Pragmatics is Everywhere

I got this amazing feedback from an educator about one of our drama books a while back. I introduced the idea of using [Her Own Worst Enemy] in the classroom to my principal, and she loved the idea! I also did a tiny lesson on pragmatics with some of my ninth graders, and they seemed to enjoy it. A few weeks after the lesson, a special needs student was able to connect pragmatism to another lesson we were doing. There are powerful things for students to learn in this play! This is why we keep putting out books. It’s […]

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Plays as the Ideal Group Project

Thunder claps, lightning strikes, and rain begins to fall as Ajax and Magnus 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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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 […]

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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 […]

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