Experimental School Gets Rid of Classes, Teachers

The New Country School in Henderson, Minnesota [website], has decided to do away with teachers, says this story on NPR.org, and pupils now "spend most of their day in front of their computers, working on interdisciplinary projects".

They have no classes, working instead on projects they select themselves; no teachers, no school bell, no fixed schedule, no walls and no janitors (the loos they have to clean themselves!)

Would it work…? Would it work with your learners…? What do they think…? Sounds like a discussion that might work…

NPR is also a great site for listening material — and one you could recommend to your learners.

BBC Learning English

Another one that came to me via my RSS feeds [explanation]. I was going to start looking for a text on which to base a lesson, and there was one about the Edinburgh Festival, sitting there waiting for me, from the BBC's Learning English section.

The section has lots of things you can recommend to your learners (the Words in the News section, for example, for reading and listening practice) and stuff for you too, including lesson plans.

Listening material on the Internet

Looking for listening material? There is some great audio material out there on the Internet…

The BBC World Service is a great site to recommend to students. On this page you get the news (and sports and business) bulletins — one I recommend my learners to visit every day, something which they can easily get into the habit of doing by making the page the default start page on their browser.

There is also some interesting stuff in the BBC documentary archive and note also the stuff you can download from the BBC.

Another great site for audio is National Public Radio.

A selection of other sites for listening material:

  • At StoryCorps you can listen to "extraordinary stories from everyday people".
  • At Short Story Radio, you have "English language short stories from around the world"
  • In the archives at Business Talk Radio, you have stacks of audio files (not just on business), which might be the place to look if you want American English.
  • On ihes.com, we have a 25-part radio series about language, language teaching and learning
  • At elllo.org (that's the English Listening Language Lab Online) you have a vast collection of listening files, with questions, tapescripts etc. Elllo also has its own podcast
  • Less easy to navigate are the free resources at learnoutload.com, which claims to be the "largest directory of free audio & video learning resources
  • For a really weird and wacky selection of downloadable MP3 audio files (with no problems over copyright) go to OneWorld radio.
  • At fonetiks.org, you've got practice on minimal pairs (and in a variety of accents!), if you really want it…

Real English
If you've ever worried that the stuff that comes with your coursebook doesn't sound authentic, or your students have said they understand you, but not "real" natives in England (or elsewhere), the BBC has another site on "the way we speak around the UK".

An alternative are the English Accents and Dialects on the CollectBritain site, or the University of Kansas has a similar site, with downloadable Mp3 files, if you want international dialects of English.

Listening activities
What do you do with your listening material? The excellent teachingenglish.org site has some suggestions for listening activities.

Project work
At RadioDiaries.org they suggest something that might make a great project: making your own radio diary. They provide lots of tips, apart from anything else.

Note that you could do the same sort of thing as a podcast [ >> what the @%$* is a podcast? ]