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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How to Pronounce Your Students’ Names

You’ll never be able to pronounce my name,” the student from Uzbekistan said. Little did she know I had lived in Kazakhstan for several years and the two languages are very similar. Nor was her name really all that difficult, just long. “Is it Zulfizar Abduraimova (not her real name)?”I pronounced her name fairly well, I think. She was floored. It was a small thing, pronouncing a student’s name correctly. It had extra impact because you don’t see a lot of Uzbek students in the US and it’s not a popular destination for Americans, either. Of all the English […]

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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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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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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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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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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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