I use Feedly as a blog reader to collate posts from the blogs I follow. I love the simplicity of the format, and being able to see at a glance what is waiting for me to read. I generally look at it for a few minutes each day, sharing posts that I think would be useful for others on social media and bookmarking them for future reference using Diigo.
Since I started reading posts on my phone this workflow has become a little more convoluted, and I often end up emailing myself things to bookmark for later as it’s not as convenient to bookmark from my phone. This post is a collection of many of those posts as I clear out my email folder, and could serve as a good starting point if you’re looking for blogs to follow. They show a cross-section of what I read, and demonstrate just how varied the ELT blogosphere is.
On a side note, if you’ve considering starting a blog but think ‘Nobody will care what I write’, remember that there’s room for all kinds of teachers and writers, and your voice is interesting too. You never know what will click for somebody else when they read what you write. The blog is also there as notes for yourself later – I’m often surprised when I come across posts from my archive!
Health and wellbeing
Lizzie Pinard summarised an IATEFL webinar on Mental health, resilience and COVID-19, adding her own experiences too. Lizzie also recommends Rachael Robert’s webinar on avoiding burnout for ELT professionals, and shares how she has been managing her workspace and mindset while working from home. I’ve been doing inbox zero for about two months now, as recommended by Rachael in a talk I went to in January, and it’s made me feel so much better!
If mental health is important to you (and it should be!) here’s my list of Useful links on Mental Health in ELT.
Activities for very young learners and young learners
Chris Roland’s ETprofessional article on Managing online fun is full of activities and classroom management tips for working with young learners online.
Anka Zapart talks about the benefits of online classes with very young learners, many of which are applicable to young learners too. She shares a useful site with online games with VYLs and YLs, and introduced me to colourful semantics as way of extending language production for children. She also has a very clear framework for choosing craft activities which would and wouldn’t work for a VYL/YL classroom, and this example of a very reusable caterpillar craft.
Pete Clements has a lesson plan for young learners (and older ones too!) which combines all kinds of different areas: environmental awareness, drawing, used to, modals of advice…all based on a single student-generated set of materials.
Activities for teens and adults
Making excuses is a game to practice making requests and making excuses, including both online and offline variations, from Mike Astbury’s incredibly practical blog.
Jade Blue talks about the benefits of drawing to learn language, including a range of simple activities that should help students to remember vocabulary and grammar structures, and process texts they read and listen to. She also shares ideas for exploiting authentic materials, both for intensive and extensive use.
Ken Wilson has started to post English language teaching songs he and colleagues wrote and recorded in the 70s and 80s. They still seem very relevant now and could still promote a lot of discussion. The first three are What would you do? (second conditional), It makes me mad (environmental problems) and Looking forward to the day (phrasal verbs / the environment).
Rachel Tsateri shares 10 simple and practical pronunciation activities (useful for listening too).
Julie Moore has written ten posts with vocabulary activities based around coronavocab. The last one has examples of phrases which learners might need to describe how coronavirus has changed their lives.
James Taylor has a lesson plan about helping students to set useful goals for their language learning. If you’re interested in making and breaking habits, you might like James Egerton’s 11 lessons from The Power of Habit (not an activity, but relevant!)
Alex Case has hundreds of resources on his blog, for example these ones demonstrating small talk using specific language points.
Hana Ticha has an activity for promoting positive group dynamics called the one who.
Cristina Cabal has eight different activities based around the topic of travel.
Marc Jones suggests ideas for and asks for help with speaking assessments online when your students just won’t speak.
Matthew Noble is writing a teaching diary of his fully online blended Moodle/Zoom courses, with lots of interesting insights and learning shared. Here’s the post from week two (on building group dynamics) and week five (on making sure your computer will work properly and encouraging students to have good online etiquette).
Rachel Tsateri shows how to exploit Google Jamboard as an online whiteboard, including vocabulary revision, brainstorming, and sentence structure activities.
Naomi Epstein describes the journey she went on when trying to add glossaries to reading texts for her students, and the problems she encountered when she was on a computer but they were on a phone.
John Hughes shares three ways you can exploit Zoom’s recording feature in lessons.
In my trainings I like to use the example of the students taking a class on how to fold a parachute that will be used the next day to jump out of an airplane. The students tell me “It was a wonderful class—the teacher explained and showed how to fold the chute step by step. Then the camera moves to the students and they are taking notes—very engaged in the lecture. They all pass the written test. The question is, will they now be able to successfully fold their parachutes in a way that they will have a successful jump? What would you suggest that the teacher did differently? I have always loved Michael Jerald’s (my SIT TESOL Cert trainer) question(s), “What did they learn and how do you know they learned it?” Now we are talking about skills, not knowledge—and effective communication is a skill. The parachute teacher had no way of knowing that they would be successful, even though they had aced the written test. So, whether or not face-to-face or by way of video, the nature of student engagement is the most important issue. It needs to be observed!
Zhenya also wrote about a reflective activity called Four suitcases, which could be particularly useful for anyone feeling down about the current state of the world and their place in it.
Jim Fuller has recently completed the Cambridge Train the Trainer course. His weekly posts about the course were good reminders of what I did on my NILE MA Trainer Development course last summer, including this one on exploratory talk and observation and this one on course design and developing as a trainer.
Pete Clements offers advice on finding work as a writer, including various smaller publishers you probably haven’t heard of.
Distractions can make the writing process much longer than it needs to be. Rachael Roberts offers tips on how to deal with them on the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group (MAWSIG) blog.
John Hughes has a comprehensive selection of tips on materials writing on his blog, for example this checklist for writing worksheets or these tips on writing scripts for audio recordings. Explore the blog for lots more.
Chris R from What they don’t teach you on the CELTA suggests a range of techniques to help you teach more student-centred lessons. Stephen J has written an accessible beginner’s guide to task-based learning and describes one way he worked with learners to make the most of a coursebook he was using, rather than mechanically moving from one page to the next. Charlie E shares ideas for recording and recycling emergent language which pops up during a lesson, including an online variant.
In a guest post on the same blog, Kip Webster talks about the importance of explicitly teaching directness and indirectness, particularly for maintaining group dynamics, and taking advantage of ‘teachable moments’ during lessons. In another guest post, Miranda Crowhurst shares an excellent range of tips for using social media to advance your teaching career. (As you can see, it’s a blog well worth following!)
If you’re thinking about alternative approaches to lesson planning post-CELTA, Pete Clements talks about the steps he went through when moving towards materials-light teaching. This reflects my experience too.
Monika Bigaj-Kisala reviews Scott Thornbury’s Uncovering Grammar, which helped her to change her relationship with grammar in the classroom.
Pete Clements reflects on the differences between an MA, PGCEi or DipTESOL, all of which he’s done. He also hosted a guest post from Michael Walker on the benefits of student and teacher reflection journals, particularly how it worked as an avenue for him to get regular feedback from his students which influenced future lessons.
Russ Mayne shares 5 non-evidence-based teaching tips, all of which I agree with.
Helen Chapman answers the questions Should I teach in English in Morocco? in this very comprehensive post (not necessarily professional development, but doesn’t fit anywhere else!) You might also be interested in a similar but less comprehensive post I wrote about why Central Europe should be on your list of dream TEFL destinations.
Questioning our practice
Philip Kerr’s posts are always thought-provoking. Mindfulness for beginners questions the strength of research behind the attention mindfulness is now receiving in education.
Russ Mayne asks should we use translation software, especially questioning its role in EAP contexts, and how we might need to update our teaching and assessment criteria to assess the inevitable student use of this ever-improving tool. He also writes about retraction in ELT and shares examples of research which has been retracted. (This BBC Inside Science episode has an interview with Stuart Ritchie which I would also recommend.)
Classrooms and coronavirus
David Petrie talks about how he helped his exam students prepare for doing speaking exams in masks.
Alex Case shares ideas for coronavirus changes for EFL classes. While this might be tongue-in-cheek, I’m sure some of them aren’t that far from things we might be seeing in our classrooms/schools over the next couple of years!
You might also be interested in my post on social distancing in the ELT classroom.
What have you been reading recently? What currently active blogs have I missed here?