Warmers for Online ESL Classes

In our new-to-many online learning environments, icebreakers, getting-to-know-you activities, and other warmers are perhaps more important than ever. Starting a class off on the right foot is a great way to help students feel comfortable and safe. So, I’d like to share some of my favorite online warmers. There’s a getting-to-know-you activity, a get-to-know-the-teacher activity, a set-the-tone activity, and a way to do the syllabus or class rules interactively online! Some of these work best on the first day of a new class or new term. 3-2-1 Introductions This is an activity I learned from Shelly Terrell and it’s […]

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Set Your Roleplay to Music

Looking for a way to make your roleplays more engaging and also help students explore communication tools more effectively? Try music. We all know the power of music to set a mood. Television shows and movies exploit this all the time. You probably know the famous theme from the film Jaws: Duh-duh…duh-duh…duh-duh,duh-duh,duh-duh-duh! It builds suspense even when nothing particularly frightening is happening on screen. The music alone tells you something bad is about to happen and evokes a mood that makes the appearance of a deadly shark even more terrifying! Soundtrack to Life Or think of a man and […]

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Resources for Distance Learning

We know we aren’t the first and we probably won’t be the last people you hear from to talk about our resources for distance learning (or that work well teaching online). But we assume if you’re reading this blog, or getting this email that means you like what we do. And we certainly like what we do and think they’re pretty useful. Now when I say resources for distance learning, I mean a few different things. First, it could mean resources that are well-suited for online learning platforms like Zoom or Google Classrooms. Some of our resources are on […]

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Get Students Writing and Talking!

As more and more teachers are turning to online teaching and distance learning for the forseeable future, and students may be considering self-study options, I’d like to introduce our free prompt generating tool, English Prompts, with three different kinds of prompts: creative writing, speaking, and role-plays. The first, Stories Without End, generates a random short story prompt that ends on a cliff-hanger. The genres vary from horror to comedy to sci-fi to realistic fiction, so there’s a broad range of topics. Don’t like the story? Click “New Story”! Here are some ideas to use it with students: Have students […]

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Kinesthetic Grammar Activities: Getting Grammar on the Move!

We’re thrilled to be publishing a book on Kinesthetic Grammar Activities from Alice Savage and Colin Ward. Kinesthetic grammar is a great way to practice language dynamically. The benefits are many:The benefits are many: Vary the pace of the classroom Help teach nonverbal language and gesture in communication Activate embodied mind and improve the memorability of target grammar Build classroom community! I’ve included an excerpt from Alice and Colin’s wonderful blog post. I highly recommend checking out the full post, which includes some example activities. Then come back here and check out the book, 60 Kinesthetic Activities, coming out […]

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The Art of Exams

There’s a lot of takeaways in Sharon Hartle’s new blog post, THE ART OF GATHERING… EVEN FOR EXAMS. I think assessment and examinations are a neglected topic in TESOL/EFL circles. Particularly in a world where examinations are necessary, there’s rarely much reflection on what exams mean and their purpose. As Sharon writes, too often we think of exams as a form of assessment. The goal seems to be to judge. We take it for granted that some people will fail. We assume exams should be stressful and unpleasant. However, this (unconscious) attitude to examination does little to help our students […]

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Storytelling for EFL Students

Storytelling is an important skill for EFL students to learn. In fact, being able to tell a story is a helpful human skill as we are constantly constructing narratives to explain what we are doing, to persuade others, to ask for help, to offer advice. Many EFL students have trouble improvising fluently though. It’s hard to tell a story, remember the right words, get your grammar correct, and speak comprehensibly all in a foreign language. So students need a lot of practice telling a story and doing so fluently, without much hesitation. So we’re giving away one of Cristian’s […]

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Public Speaking in English is Scary. Drama Can Help

Poor Emilio! He seemed like such a confident student, but when he had to give a talk in front of the class, he ran to the bathroom and was sick. Emilio’s case might be extreme, but according to the psychologist, Michelle Lynsky, public speaking is one of the most terrifying experiences of modern life, and that’s for people performing in their first language. To feel confident, speakers need to feel the audience is on their side. For this to happen, they need believe that a) they have something interesting to say, b) that the audience will understand it, and […]

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Back to School Tips

This is one of my most popular posts, so I like to repost it every August as we get ready for back to school time. Of course, this tips here are applicable to any classroom, not just school. I collected most of these ideas as I was working on my book 50 Activities for the First Day of School. I always love learning from others, so please do feel free to add your own advice, tips, tricks or first day hacks in the comments! Back to School with Style Write your name and your students’ names down. Fast-paced activities […]

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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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