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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New Holiday Activity

I am having way too much fun uploading worksheets out of 60 Positive Activities for Kids on to our Teachers Pay Teachers Store (Click on Build Positivity to find all the worksheets!) One of the things I’m really enjoying is that it gives me a chance to think deeply about how to use the resources in the classroom. As I was uploading this awesome New Holiday Activity I realized that this could be a one-off creative worksheet as the authors intended. But it could also spark a discussion comparing holiday traditions. You could even use it as the beginning […]

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Improvised Role Plays of Real-World Conversations

Improvisation allows students to prepare for real world situations, but often in regular role plays, the conversation runs more smoothly than in real life. In the real world, people find themselves challenged by awkward situations. In theater class, we address the pragmatics of minor conflicts through improvisation. First, we might read a scene in which a character is trying to send implicit messages in a socially acceptable way, such as a restaurant owner wants to politely get rid of a job applicant who is trapped by a flood in Rising Water. Students read the scene, discuss the intentions of the […]

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Play on Feelings: Using Intonation to Express Emotion

Intonation is notoriously difficult for English learners, yet it is important for sending emotional messages. When we are worried about a situation, we may express that as much with our tone as our words. The listener needs to pick up on that worry in order to fully communicate. When our students speak, they also need to convey their feelings to help others understand their needs. On the other hand, sometimes we speak ironically. If our students can’t understand a sarcastic tone of voice, they will take away the opposite message from that the speaker intended. And looking beyond communicating […]

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Technology in the ESL Classroom

I’ve just gotten back from the TESOL Convention and I learned quite a bit and met quite a few interesting people. One topic that kept coming up again and again was the question of technology in the ESL Classroom. Every year, it seems like there’s a new app or website for teaching English. And there’s always a new online tutoring company-the newest one this year had some kind of rabbit mascot that I only saw when they were filming promotional videos. In fact, with TESOL down and IATEFL still to go, there’s been quite a bit of chatter about […]

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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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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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