Jigsaw tasks

I’ve discovered an inspiring website stuffed full of resources, called Cult of Pedagogy. It’s aimed at school teachers, but certain articles apply to us language teachers as well. This page is about jigsaw tasks. There’s also a well done video about them here.
Do you use jigsaw tasks in your courses?
On Thursday 27th April, we’ll discuss information gap activities like the jigsaw, and other kinds of effective task based learning activities.
We’ll be at The Fitting Room, Welle 7, from 8:00 to around 10:00 pm.
Come be a part of it!

Reflecting on reflective teaching

The last gathering of Springboard teachers was another success! Teachers from a variety of contexts talked about how they reflect on their teaching, the methods they use to gather data, and how they use that data to improve what they’re doing.

Nick brought with him a resource about action research, something valuable not just to teachers, but applicable to  people in other professions and endeavors. Thanks again Nick!

It introduces the power of systematic reflection on your practice. It’s an easy to use process that can lead to perpetual improvement.

If you’ve got more ideas for how to get student feedback (like what questions you should ask on a survey), using self-reflection tools (like a diary or digital note-keeper), or how best to set the framework for peer observations, drop a comment below!

As a side note, I’d like to say a big thank you to the very friendly staff at our venue, The Fitting Room, for their great service! Without them Springboard get-togethers would not be the same!

Adrian Underhill’s Pronunciation Skills

Adrian Underhill’s Pronunciation Skills changed the way I teach pronunciation. You can teach all of the sounds of English in about 2 lessons, but most importantly, it gives students a way of “discovering” the sounds themselves. Have you ever done the repeat-after-me exercise that just results in each of you saying a different word because the student doesn’t hear or can’t produce the sound you want? This will give you a way of communicating about pronunciation together!

I give students a printout of Adrian’s pronunciation chart and we usually go through the vowels pretty carefully. This area of the chart is often where a lot of trouble spots are and it also highlights 3 of the 4 pronunciation “levers” or “buttons”. These are the physical ways in which we make sounds (lips, tongue, jaw and voice). You can watch Adrian do his workshop here, it’s really cool the way he gets the participants to provide the sounds (I don’t do it with quite so much pantomime).


Furthermore, Adrian has a YouTube channel where he demonstrates and elicits the sounds individually and in combination to help learners (and teachers!) understand how to make them. He provides a lot of really good strategies for communicating about pronunciation and operating the “levers” that enable it. He also posts regular updates about teaching pronunciation on his blog.

The Impotence of Proofreading

Oh, how we rely on technology… Everything’s good here, right?

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It’s rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
It’s letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

by Martha Snow*

I searched for the origin of the poem and most links led back here, where he takes no credit for it either. Ms Snow, thanks for your poem!

Learning with texts

I added a few links in a comment on Alex’s post about Links of Interest but there is one that I think  deserves its own page. Learning with texts is a really incredible tool that I try to use myself for learning German and that I’ve gotten one or two students to try for English. Watch this video to see a demonstration:

It’s a brilliant concept, in my opinion. Once you get it set up properly, you’ll see which words you know and don’t know in a text before you start reading. You can get translations and make flashcards directly from your texts. And you’ll be able to instantly check other texts in which a word has appeared. It’s not a perfect tool, by any means (not the most elegant UI, a bit of work to get set up, no use of word tokens (“dog” and “dogs” are unique words in its database), phrasal verbs and phrases are tough to put in the system, you need an internet connection and electronic texts, it takes some effort to make it work well), but it really is something that I think will be the future of language learning.

Imagine if you had a database that linked all the times you had read (or heard! imagine once usable text-to-speech is really here) a word. Imagine the connections you’d be able to make with meanings and experiences. Now imagine that you’re a teacher and you could see the real “learner corpora” of all of your students–you could run your texts through their databases and see which words your students have actually never seen before rather than just playing a guessing game. Could it happen in our lifetimes?


Teaching Teens

I’m not an expert on teaching teens. What I have done is content-based teaching of science, geography, and maths in English, and training and support of CLIL teachers – and that’s a lot easier than teaching English. The interesting lessons are often practical things, and mistakes in English are not even corrected!

Looking quickly for references for teaching teens, I found many coursebooks and online courses. I find the “interesting” themes are trivial and superficial – maybe I am too old! I don’t believe that these are much use in a Swiss environment, without British TV and pop culture.

I found https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/keeping-teens-interested is well worth reading. Please comment with your ideas.


Podcasts and apps from Alex

Alex St. John has contributed a list of links that you might find useful. Thanks Alex!

NEW Apps from the British Council:
LearnEnglish Elementary Podcasts by British Council
prepositions of place (giving directions)
Swiss Military:
 from Harvard Business School
and also download the script as PDF as of Feb 15:
Highlight any useful phrases Jorge uses.