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!

Observations and Feedback

If you work as a teacher, you’ve probably had your boss or advisor observe one of your lessons. If you did a CELTA, you were observed by your instructor. What did you take away from it? Have you ever sat in on a colleague’s lesson? Was it a useful experience?

At the next Springboard get-together we’re going to talk about what’s effective in these encounters and how we can use them in our professional development.

We’ll also set out a framework so that you’ll have the opportunity to benefit from this experience with others.

Come meet, greet, and put a spring into your work on Thursday 27th October, at 8:00 pm.

We’re meeting at The Fitting Room in Welle 7. Hope to see you there!

Discussion: Testing and Assessment

This Friday Springboard will be bringing teachers together to chat and discuss testing and assessment. I’ve read an article by Dave Allan, which got me thinking about some questions that might be good discussion starters. What do you think? Post your comment below, and we’ll bring them to the discussion!


Discussion Questions: Testing and Assessment in Language Training

What’s the difference between testing and assessment?

Which is a better evaluation of a learner’s English capabilities: an objective test or a teacher’s assessment?  Why?

Do learners want to be tested? Why? Why not?

For assessment that involves various processes which go on over time, and measure more abstract traits such as discourse skills, fluency, flexibility and range, how can we give learners clear, formalised reporting on their language competence?

What are some best practices for teachers to integrate testing into a task based, communicative learning environment?

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.

Getting students talking with statistics

Jamie Karnik sent me a great tip after our last get together, about speaking activities. Here’s what she said:

Hey Dave,

I’m attaching a scan I made of the Business Options (Oxford, 1999) book I use sometimes. Protocal Statistics 2It’s an old book, but I still like a lot of parts in it. It’s got good grammar explanation and a lot of white space for students to think and take notes.

The scan is of the front matter of a chapter, as I explained on Friday. What I like to do with these pages is white out one word-like you mentioned- and have them discuss the topic (it also works well with one-to-one’s) and then guess some possible gap fills. Depending on what I want them to learn, I will white out words which fit to the rest of my lesson. Of course a lot of these statistics are outdated, but I just mention which year they are from. So far, they have worked well.

Thanks again for an interesting talk, and best of luck with the rest of your week!


Eight myths of learning/ teaching vocabulary

Do you have a go-to vocabulary activity that you use in class?

Do you ever have vocabulary that needs to be reviewed, and you’re not sure exactly what the best way to do it is?

Is vocabulary study best done as a homework task? How often do students study vocabulary on their own?

What exactly is the best way to learn vocabulary?

At our last get together, we debunked eight myths to vocabulary teaching. We shared experiences and best practices, and had a productive discussion about practical ways to do what sometimes seems almost impossible– get learners to expand their active vocabulary.

Click here for what the research says, and what you can do to teach vocabulary effectively.

One conclusion from our discussion was that what works depends on the learner. Now it’s your turn. Share your comments! What do you use that works?

Expansion Outro – Talib Qweli

Here’s a rap text which I often use to motivate my students to learn about narrative perspectives, as this is a man (the rapper himself) talking about the fates of three distinct African American women and about women’s role in society in general. The file below is glossed in German as some of the vocabulary is far above the target audience (B2):

kweli_for women

Please buy the song if you plan to use it, but there is nothing that speaks against a quick listening in:

A whole variety of activities with the song is imaginable:

  • Creative writing: from the information in the text create dialogues with the different characters that appear in the song.
  • Research: Put the students on the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power track and let them research some of the circumstances mentioned in the text, such as slavery, Mason Dixon, crack epidemic, aids or prostitution.
  • Compare women’s fate here to the reality in the USA
  • and many more…