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.

Things I take to class #4: Something non-technological

You could play Grammar Casino on your IWB… but is it necessary? And does it add anything…?

Sure, technology is important and it should be used in our 21st century classrooms but not everything has to be technology and if you limit the amount it is used, you'll ensure that the technology doesn't take over from the language learning, which is what you're really there for.

I like to ensure that in every class I plan and teach there's at least something which involves no technology at all.

Below, three activities I've always done a lot, all of which have been around a long time and pre-date most of the technology we use in classrooms today.

Grammar Casino
Grammar Casino essentially involves "betting" on which of a series of 4-6 sentences are right, and which are wrong — as in the example in the image, above — with the "winner" being the learner or pair of learners making the most "profit" on their initial €10 [full explanation]. The €10 are not real, obviously!

Here's a fun alternative to grammar casino, which works best if your class is not too huge!

Dictogloss has been around for at least as long as Ruth Wajnryb's Grammar Dictation (1990) and is my all-time favourite classroom activity. But because there's an interactive whiteboard (IWB) in most of the classrooms I teach in, I confess I sometimes do dictogloss on the IWB, but think the use of technology proposed is still commendably limited.

The word "Dictation" seems to have roughly the same effect on people that chalk screeching on a blackboard used to have. I don't actually use the word any longer but say "Can you just jot this down?" instead.

Here you have an example of activity which involves a "dictation" stage; it obviously isn't a formal dictation, or one done for the purposes true dictation might (still) be used for.

You could, instead, go to the trouble of typing up and photocopying a worksheet with the questions on, but isn't "dictation" (or "Just jot this down") a better way to keep your learners active, engaged and energised?

10 things I take to class
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten

45 minutes of debate from 10 seconds of YouTube

Here's something that will probably work only in Spain, where people have been getting a bit uptight about the satirical French TV show Les Guignols taking the mickey out of Spanish sportsmen in the light of the Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador having been found guilty of doping last week and banned for two years.

The idea originally came from the cycling blog The Inner Ring and, with a class last week, without any preamble, I showed about the first 10 seconds of the clip on a post there before someone reacted angrily (at which point I stopped the clip…) and we had around 45 minutes of at times quite heated discussion.

We got a lot of language out of the learners having to translate, as I pretended to understand no French, as well as their trying to explain just what people in Spain are getting so upset about.

In Spain at least, the alternative clip (above) would work equally well.