What makes a great teacher?

Need something uplifting for Monday? This one i found on Adam Simpson's All things ELT Scoop.it (more about Scoop.it), the kids being 12-13 year olds, if I've understood the Australian school system correctly.

Such things are fun for kids to create and record (either as a podcast or on a mobile phone) and super instructive, I think, for teachers to listen to.

I provided technical support for a similar project recently where the kids talked about what makes a good learner. There was a privacy issue (the school involved vetoed any videos being uploaded to YouTube) so instead the videos were shared on/via the kids' phones.

The recording had to be done outside class (the school has a ban on mobiles being used in schools) but that (ie. the former!) isn't necessarily a bad thing: classroom time was used for discussion and rehearsal, with the recording being done outside class.

Why I love Edmodo

Here's a quick one from Twitter:

Leah is a 5th grade science teacher but that's what I love about Edmodo — and lots of other Web 2.0 tools, blogs or podcasting with SoundCloud, for example: if you put them in the hands of the learners, if it's not you that's using technology, it also makes learners (especially anyone under the age of about 21) excited about school.

Wonderful job interview ad for class

This one would work particularly well with adults, level say B1+, with experience of job interviews.

As an obvious lead-in, you have your learners' experience of job interviews (bizarre or otherwise). A series of "What if" questions might also be discussed such as, "What would you answer if you were asked "What's your management style?" or "What would you do if your interviewer collapsed?" (watch the video!) might be an alternative.

For a while-watching task, you could then get learners to observe what the "candidates" actually answered and did and then stop the video at 2'00" to discuss who they think got the job. (There's another obvious question and "stopping" point, earlier at 30".)

As with all ads, post-watching the question of whether or not the ad is a successful one (and why/why not?) is always possible.

If you wanted to be more creative, and you've been reading some of my suggestions for podcasting, you could also divide your class into teams and get them to brainstorm tough questions and then interview (and record) candidates.

Podcasting 101: More complex tasks

In a previous post, I suggested some tasks for getting started with podcasting. Here, also from my recent session at our Conference, are a couple that are a little more complex…

Role play and podcasting make a great combination, and not everyone needs to be recording all the time

Particularly with adults, role playing the sort of situations that arise at work (job interviews, telephone calls, asking for a pay rise…) makes a great subject for podcasting — apart from anything else as they can then be played back for comments and an improved, language-enhanced second performance.

The feedback doesn't have to come from the teacher. What I find works well is to have people (C and D, above) in non-recording roles, possibly with a checklist (eg. the one in the yellow box, above) for peer feedback.

Again, as I've suggested previously, it's the rehearsal, the feedback and the repeat performance — not the actual recording — that really interests us as language teachers.

Getting creative with podcasting

We can get more creative with role play and podcasting by having learners storyboard four connected episodes that go together to make up a coherent story, as outlined above.

As well as any rehearsal, there are so many opportunities for language practice in storyboarding before anyone goes anywhere near a recording device. It goes without saying, of course, that such things need to be done in English for full advantage to be taken of them (which can sometimes be difficult when learners get excited about such things).

If such stories are being posted on a blog, a certain amount of "setting the scene" text will help keep the story coherent.

And finally…
In the next and final post in this series, I'll look at a couple of ideas for a regular podcasting program.

Podcasting 101: Tasks for getting started

Amazing moments: an easy task for getting started

One of the few difficulties to be overcome when you start podcasting with a class is the learners' reluctance to be recorded — because they're initially horrified to discover that they sound like that!

To overcome the problem, I can highly recommend the following, apart from anything else as it's super adaptable to just about any language point you want to practise. In my talk at our recent conference, I suggested "Amazing moments" as the theme.


  1. Have the learners write down a couple of the most amazing moments in their lives (the birth of a child, visiting Thailand, Barça winning the Champions…), to be described in a single sentence
  2. Pick a director (to boss people around!) and a sound technician (to operate the technology)
  3. Get the director to sort out 6-8 people who have interesting "amazing moments" (one moment each)
  4. Fire the director (seriously!) if s/he doesn't do a good job
  5. Rehearse, with the people saying (eg) "The birth of my daughter" (etc), with a view to recording it all in a single take
  6. Re-rehearse (because it's rehearsal that matters!)
  7. Record
  8. Upload to share and comment (for which I've suggested Blogger or Edmodo)

It works apart from anything else as people have to say very little (a single sentence) and because it's a collective effort, with only a very little of each learner on the recording.

The director and the sound person are important: you get more language out of podcasting if there's discussion of what has to be done, etc. If you did have anyone who really did not want to be recorded, they can also take on one of those "non-recorded" roles.

Possible adaptations

  • What learners like/dislike
  • What they had for breakfast
  • What's wrong with school
  • Etc

You could obviously get higher level learners to say a lot more, but even there — initially — I'd recommend getting over that first shyness.

I'll come back to more complex, more demanding tasks in the next post.

NOTE A task like this will obviously work best if you have a digital voice recorder or a smart phone to do the recording.