Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scott Thornbury video and blog

A few months ago I posted about some teacher development videos I found interesting. I have discovered this recent lecture from Scott Thornbury about grammar:

Seven Ways of Looking at Grammar

Also, I highly recommend Scott Thornbury's new blog, which related to entries in his book, An A-Z of ELT:

An A-Z of ELT - Scott Thornbury's Blog

Very lively discussion in the comments sections.

Monday, December 07, 2009

9 variations of brainstorming

Brainstorming is an activity that's not new to ELT. It's a superb way to motivate students to work on all four skills, talking (or writing) about real topics and working towards solutions. Well-known ELT professionals, such as Natalie Hess, Rose Senior, Jane Willis and Dave Willis have all written about its strengths as a language learning activity. I've written here and here about the basic rules of brainstorming and how to have a successful brainstorming session. (In addition I can recommend JVC's excellent article, The Step by Step Guide to Brainstorming)

Today I'd like to share with you 9 different formats for brainstorming, each one with its own unique characteristics.

Brainwriting - Participants write ideas on slips of paper, then pass the slips of paper to others who can add comments. Ideal for classes that prefer to discuss through writing.

Brainwalking - Similar to brainwriting, but in this case, students write on large sheets of paper covering the walls. Each sheet of paper has a topic related to your problem, and students can walk around and add comments. This one is highly suitable for kinesthetic students who don't want to spend the whole class sitting down.

Imaginary Brainstorming - Here, you create a problem statement and give a traditional brainstorming session. Then, everyone suggests changes to some of the words to create a new problem statement, ideally one that is off-the-wall and bizarre. Brainstorm again and make a list of solutions. Now apply these solutions to your original problem.

Rawlinson Brainstorming - Unlike most ideas here, this one does not emphasize group interaction. One person presents his or her problem and the ideal situation he or she is looking for. Other group members present their solutions directly to the presenter in two-word phrases. The presenter focuses on the ideas that he or she finds most helpful.

Visual Brainstorming - Group members sketch solutions to a problem. The sketches are used as a springboard for more solutions. This variation will appeal to visual learners, as well as learners with artistic inclinations.

Negative Brainstorming - Participants begin with a problem statement that is the opposite of their goal (ex. How can we go out of business? or How can we make our workplace more depressing?). They brainstorm a number of ideas. Ultimately, they use their ideas as a springboard to more realistic and useful solutions to their actual problem statement.

Didactic Brainstorming - Begin with a question that is an abstract version of your problem statement (ex. What is beauty?). Get participants to discuss for a few minutes, and come up with a variety of answers. Then reveal your true problem statement (ex. How can we improve the appearance of our staff room?). This approach might appeal to more philosophical learners.

Rolestorming - Create a set of roles for a role play that represents a problem statement. Ask students to perform their role plays in groups. Next students will write down any solutions that came to mind as they watched and performed in the role plays.

Value Brainstorming - Ask the group to make a list of primary concerns regarding their problem statement. Then ask them to make a list of some of the hidden values behind these concerns. Participants should rank these values and clarify their meaning. Finally, the group should suggest solutions based on these values.

The Mycoted website has many more creativity exercises that are ideal for the classroom.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

new article on Web 2.0

I really enjoyed this new article by Cristina Arnau Vilà, an EFL teacher in Spain:

A clear introduction to Web 2.0, as well as many fascinating links (warning: you'll probably spend a few hours on the computer after reading this article!) Great stuff!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The book is out!

After a long wait, my second book, Provoking Thought, is now in print. I received my first copy a few days ago through the mail, and it is available through Amazon. I'm looking forward to seeing how my title does on Amazon.

You can see here a picture of me with my book, standing in the hallway outside the Department of Applied English at Kainan University.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

two ads for Provoking Thought

In order to promote my new book, PROVOKING THOUGHT, I've put together a couple of short ads to get the word out. Here they are:

Provoking Thought ad 1

Provoking Thought ad 2

(Thanks to and for their assistance with the two ads!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Creativity in ELT

Last night, I discovered this wonderful article on creativity and teaching:

The art of being creative

written by Marisa Constantinides. A well-written piece on how we can develop into more creative teachers. If you are interested in teacher training, you might also want to read her blog post over at Kalinago English:

How to Become an ELT Teacher Educator

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Positive Psychology and ELT

I found a link to the following site on ELT News:

ELT and the Science of Happiness

which contains some interesting reading and activities. It's the creation of Marc Helgesen. I'm always looking for activities that involve an element of psychology, so I think this will be worth trying out in some of my classes.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Book preview

Humanising Language Teaching webzine has just published a book preview of my new book, Provoking Thought. It contains a brief description of the book, along with 6 activities. Take a look:

Friday, August 28, 2009

a couple of interesting things

I haven't added much to this blog lately, so I thought I'd post a couple of links that caught my eye.

The first is about a talk given by Ben Goldstein in April 2009 on the topic of "Breaking Taboos":

I'm sorry I missed the talk, but the handout and powerpoint are quite informative.

I also enjoyed this interview with Karenne Sylvester on TEFL Tradesman blog (Sandy McManus) :

I especially enjoyed her eloquent answer to question #6, What's wrong with the TEFL industry?

I'm now back in Taiwan, finishing up work on my second book. More on this subject next month.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More videos

I've discovered some new videos teachers out there might want to take a look at.

Here's Lindsay Clandfield talking about his books and his career:

and this clip features Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings describing their new book, Teaching Unplugged:

Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly, the arch-enemies of hardline Dogme teachers the world over, explain here why technology is not SO evil:

Duncan Foord can be seen here talking about his book, The Developing Teacher:

Finally, here's Mario Rinvolucri letting us know about the future of English language teaching:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Creativity in the News

According to a recent article, there is a connection between living abroad and creativity.

This article was published in the Economist and cites research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Conference presentation

Later this month, I will be presenting at Kainan University's 2009 National Conference on ESP. The topic of my presentation will be "Fostering Fluency In English Through Brainstorming". This will be my very first conference presentation.

For more about the conference, follow this link:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

ELT Weekly

Recently I've discovered a new periodical for ESL/EFL teachers. It's called ELT Weekly, and it's described as "India's first weekly ELT e-newsletter".

Some interesting content, including articles, ELT news and events and weekly features, such as book of the week, ELT blog of the week, and even ELT cartoon of the week.

This week's edition features a new article I wrote, titled "A Creative Approach to Lesson Planning". You can see the article here:

I would also recommend you read Mario Rinvolucri's blog, featured as this week's ELT blog of the week.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Speaking Cyclist

I came across this new blog from Mark Lloyd the other day:

It features speaking lessons he refers to as "speaking cycles". The approach is loosely based on the idea of Dogme ELT. There are already 7 cycles up on the site, and they're quite well written. I'm hoping to try some of these out in my lessons this month.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Videos for professional development

Usually, I tend to think of Youtube videos as teaching material for EFL courses. Recently, I've discovered a number of videos aimed at teachers. I will share a few of these here:

Macmillan has over 30 videos for ELT teachers, including some excellent presentations by big names such as Scott Thornbury and Lindsay Clandfield:

On another website, there is a nice series of short videos of Zoltan Dörnyei, with the title "Motivation in the language learning classroom DVD":

This was a wonderful discovery for me, since I'm currently reading his book, Motivation Strategies in the Language Classroom. The videos are helping me review the contents of his book.

The University of Oregon has a series of videos titled Shaping the Way We Teach English, introducing a series of important topics, such as contextualizing language, building language awareness, and integrating skills. Here's module 1:

Madridteacher has some some very clever tips on teaching. Here's his video on how to teach interesting English classes:

These final two are about language in general. There's an entertaining video of Steven Pinker talking about language at Google:

Finally, here's a video of Bill Labov talking about American English:

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thinking Skills in the News

Two recent news items caught my eye, as they are related to the topics of my next book (memory, creativity, critical thinking).

The first describes a study which suggests that color can affect our creativity and our attention to detail (which can help us remember):

Perhaps more research of this sort could give ELT materials writers some ideas for what colors to use in their coursebooks...

The second news article mentions some research indicating that doodling could possibly help us remember things better:

Hmmm, this could be an interesting idea for a vocabulary review session.

Friday, January 30, 2009

New article on Six Things

Just this week, my article on introducing topics was published on Lindsay Clandfield's wonderful Six Things blog:

This is really one of the better blogs out there for English teachers, and I'm glad to have contributed to it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Two clever sites for ESL/EFL teachers

I'd like to recommend a couple of websites for ESL and EFL teachers out there.

The first is Lindsay Clandfield's new Six Things blog:

The idea behind this site is quite simple. Each entry is a list of six items related to a topic. All blog entries are related to the world of English teaching. Recent topics have included "Six drinks for an English teachers New Year's Eve party" and "Six books to look out for in 2009". If you've read any of Clandfield's articles or books, you know this is a blog worth checking out.

The second website is Jamie Keddie's website

This websites contains over 30 clever lesson plans for using video clips in the TEFL classroom. the lessons are well-written and contain teacher's notes and handouts. I am looking forward to using some of these lessons in my classes this year (2009).