22nd June – The perfect student?

What makes a perfect student? I’m sure you can recall people in your courses who were a real pleasure to have. They did their homework, asked engaging questions, helped their classmates, made notable progress, and continued to sign up for the next course. Likewise, you’ve probably had poor students who showed none of these traits. There are also the mystery cases, when someone stops attending the course at some point for some reason, and we never find out why.

Read this short article for some insights. How do the factors listed fit with your experience? Can you use the strategies in order to foster more “perfect students”?

Come to our next get-together on 22nd June at The Fitting Room at Welle 7 in Bern and share! Hope to see you there.

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?

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…


Teaching Futures Using Comparative Grammar


Teaching English futures can be quite a hassle. As in levels A2-B1 students are expected to know three forms of future (will-future simple; going to; and present continuous in its future meaning) explicitly – implicitly including present simple in its future meaning – I have experienced that students encounter various problems connecting (verb-) form to use. On the level of Berufsmaturität (1st semester – lower B1) I therefore use the concept of comparative grammar to establish a solid form/use distinction.


The use of L1 is established, as T will explain the exercise in Swiss German. In groups SS are asked to establish real world examples of future use(s) in Swiss German. T coaches the distinct difference between (future) verb form and (future) use. (10’-15’)

The groups provide their examples. Correctness of use is established in a democratic process (“Would you actually say this in real life?”). T notes down one example each for will-future simple, going to future and, if provided, present simple in its future meaning. I personally do not order the contributions because SS then sometimes assume that will-future is “further away from present”. (10’)

With the three to four examples and enough space for an English translation in between T and SS try to establish the difference in meaning (or use) in these examples. T notes down keywords which should be as close as possible to the English: general prediction; plan; schedule. (5’)

Together with SS the sentences are now translated to English demonstrating the similarity in form and the complete unity in use between Swiss German and English (this does not work with standard German). T may now add: will future: instant decision/polite answer; going to future prediction in the near future and present continuous in its future use – though I think this rather covers an upper intermediate syllabus. (Time: open)

Exercises to be used ad libidum.

Please note that on the example below I have used the wrong color in the “use/meaning” column.

futures with L1

Subjunctive in English

Have any of your students ever stumped you with a question about grammar?

In a recent class, a student asked me why the verb could be either “was” or “were” and I couldn’t give a straightforward answer! Her questions caught me off guard. I knew both were correct, but couldn’t say why.

If I were to hypothesize, I’d say this has happened to all of us. Why? Because we learn grammar inductively in our native language. As we grow up it is necessary that we understand grammar from context without explicit rules. (Whether or not we demand that second language learners learn grammar like this is a topic for another discussion!)

But back to the subjunctive. For whatever reason, I never learned the rules. I even managed to avoid it in my teacher training.

But I can and do use the subjunctive! I was familiar with it despite not knowing the rules. In fact, I’ve used it three times already in this post. Can you find the subjunctives?

It was a joyous “aha” moment when I figured out, thanks to my ELT Springboard colleagues at our last get together, that “were” is used because it’s subjunctive! After some research and study, I now feel confident that I can answer my students’ questions, if they were to come up.   😉

I found this website to be helpful:


This quote is from that site. And doesn’t it ring true?

“If you’re confused by the subjunctive mood, don’t worry too much. As with all grammar and usage matters, the rules for subjunctive mood are based on centuries of convention. There’s no deeper reason; it just is what it is. But the subjunctive mood is useful, and it would be a shame if it were to go away.”

If you know something more about subjunctive in English or know of good resources, comment below!