Headline Post

[5 Apr 2014 | No Comment | ]
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tastatur-Umlaute-deutsch.jpg Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

As I’ve been exploring the materials writer world more and more, I’ve learned a lot about a wide range of things from task design to publishing services to textbook company expectations. One area that I haven’t seen as much information on is actual document or visual design. I think that’s something that is very important. If you’re a teacher, the design of the handouts or worksheets can help students understand the information better and it also shows that you care, that you took time to make something nice for them. …Continue

Read the full story »

Recent Posts

Paid Content, TOEFL »

[18 Apr 2014 | No Comment | ]

Many years ago, I found myself with not much going on at work. So I began working on my own TOEFL iBT textbook and practice tests, as one does. There was a plan to have them published in Kazakhstan and to have the tests used by a scholarship program, but it never came to much. So I figure I might as well put them up here. They include the grammar and style questions as well as reading comprehension and listening.
These were written a few years ago, so they might be …Continue

ESL, Teaching »

[17 Apr 2014 | No Comment | ]

Note that I wrote this post while trying to design a syllabus for an entire course, an enterprise that was so daunting it made me feel like a total idiot who knows nothing about teaching at all. Or an egotistical madman. In the process of some research, I found this quote that hits exactly why I sometimes find teaching a language to be such an arrogant profession:
And what, then, is communication and what are its preconditions? This is what Dakin says:
“Communication is essentially personal, the expression of personal needs, feelings, …Continue

Activity/Game, Reading »

[13 Apr 2014 | No Comment | ]

Here’s another reading quiz I came up with to go with Reader’s Choice, one of my favorite reading textbooks out there. The beginning chapters really emphasize four reading skills: Scanning, Skimming, Comprehension, Critical Reading.
So I devised a Reading Skills Evaluation to isolate and test all four of those skills: 
For scanning, I wrote a fake train schedule and had students look for trains in fairly realistic questions. For skimming I gave students standard pre-viewing questions, such as what is this text? What is the topic? For comprehension, I did some standard reading comp questions and then a few critical …Continue

Activity/Game »

[10 Apr 2014 | No Comment | ]

We all teach students to preview but I have never really seen a good evaluation for testing previewing. So I made one of my own. This Reading Previewing Quiz presents a newspaper article and asks students to:

look at the headline and make predictions.
look at a picture and make predictions.
Then skim the article and answer basic comprehension questions

I would give students the first page and then take it away so they can’t update their predictions once they have the actual article. To ensure that they are really skimming, give a strict …Continue

Teaching »

[2 Apr 2014 | One Comment | ]

A nice activity, or maybe just a thought experiment, from Nick Robinson at ELT Jam taken from the Pareto Principle. Apparently, the Pareto Principle says “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”. So here’s Nick’s challenge:
Grab the nearest ELT coursebook. Open up a lesson and look at the lesson objectives. Bearing those lesson objectives in mind, read through the lesson and start crossing out (in pencil, of course!) anything that you don’t consider 100% essential to helping the student achieve that objective. Nice warmer activity? …Continue


[30 Mar 2014 | One Comment | ]
My Post-TESOL Reading List

I know I just got back from the TESOL Convention in Portland last night (to encounter a flooded backyard and happy ducks because I didn’t get enough rain in Portland), but I feel like if I don’t do this now, I’ll never do it. I met a lot of new people and saw so many new books and got a million new ideas. In short, I have a huge new to-do list!
So I’m putting up my list of books and articles and blogs that I discovered at TESOL that are …Continue

Teaching »

[20 Mar 2014 | One Comment | ]

Putting students in groups is something teachers do all the time. It’s something that preferably happens quickly and seamlessly without interrupting class too much. Alternatively, there are methods of putting students into groups that also teach or at least provide practice. I’ve been working on my e-book about cooperative or collaborative learning, so I’ve also been collecting methods of grouping and pairing. Feel free to add more in the comments.
1. Counting off: The easiest way to do it. Give each student a number from 1 to however many groups you …Continue

Activity/Game »

[10 Mar 2014 | No Comment | ]
Ireland WebQuest for St. Patrick's Day

This is an activity I designed to introduce St. Patrick’s Day to my students. I really like Webquests as a way to pique students’ interest in a topic or to show them how what seems like a simple topic is actually quite complicated and broad. Many of my students knew about leuprachauns and so on, but not about any of the history of Ireland or its rich culture. So this Ireland Webquest introduces it to them. I find that students come back with a lot of questions about Ireland. You can almost …Continue

Resources »

[7 Mar 2014 | No Comment | ]

As my loyal fans will know, I am a huge fan of mysteries and I love using them in the classroom. Mysteries are fun for students. You can bring up fun topics like murder and mayhen in an acceptable way. They teach logic , inference, and connection-making. And they lend themselves to practicing speculation, modals of certainty, not to mention mixed verb tenses.
So I was excited, if confused to see a post about teaching argument writing with mysteries on the English Companion Ning. It included a link to this school textbook …Continue


[4 Mar 2014 | No Comment | ]

I hate teaching introductions and conclusions! There, I said it. It’s so hard to define clearly what makes a good introduction!

A good introduction should make the topic interesting–but what’s interesting to you isn’t always interesting to me.
A good introduction should have enough background information to open the topic but not too much–and how much exactly is that?
We need a clear, strong thesis statement-but how manyexcellent pieces of writing do you read where the thesis statement is implied, or broken into two sentences, and those sentences are located far away from …Continue

Goal: Share a Page of Your Future Textbook
by Walton Burns from Branford, CT, USA.
Originally posted at English Advantage: Share a Page of Your Future Textbook

Welcome! This year the 30 Goals Challenge for Educators: Make a Difference is on a world tour and I am happy to be your Inspire Leader for this part of the journey. So where in the world is the 30 goals? We are visiting Branford, CT  I invite you to accomplish the following goal- Share a Page of Your Future Textbook.
To accomplish this goal:

Pick a page …Continue

This is my reflection on the latest 30 goals challenge: Let Them Be Stars proposed by Cristina Monteiro Silva.
I remember a colleague once saying that we almost watch our students grow up as they go from level to level. When they start out in the beginner and elementary levels, their language skills are so low, they seem like children. As their language improves, they “grow older and older”. At the time, I thought there was some truth in that, but later as I reflected on it, I thought about …Continue

Activity/Game, Lesson Plan »

[26 Feb 2014 | No Comment | ]

This is one of my favorite ways to review grammar before a test. Students really enjoy the quick pace they need to evaluate sentences and it does wonders to fix common mistakes in their minds. Plus a

A set of sentences with some correct and some incorrect. Be sure that the mistakes reflect common mistakes students make. Keep it at level. I prefer to make slightly more incorrect sentences than correct but that’s just me.
Some samples I’ve made that you are welcome to use or adapt:

Present Simple Sentence Auction for beginners
Parallel …Continue