EFL 2.0 Teacher Talk

"When one teaches, two learn"

Archives for Prof. Development

EFL 2.0 Gems – Our Podcast Library

I’m a major “junk” collector and when I first started using Huffduffer, just couldn’t resist collecting all the best education/teaching related podcasts on the web. And I think I’ve achieved that, bar none.

You’ll enjoy searching with handy tags and you’ll be sure to find some “gems”. My favorite podcast has to be this one Aldous Huxley – On Language – but I’m sure you’ll have your own.

Follow the whole “gems” series HERE. If you like podcasts, you might also enjoy our Linguistics series on EFL Classroom 2.0.

Gems of EFL 2.0: Top Content

There is so much on EFL Classroom 2.0, the biggest challenge is finding it! I’m trying my best to help teachers and learners in this discovery process and work hard at making the main page search, tag search, tag clouds work. Posts like this “gem” series help too.

However, they is even a better way to find out what’s great on the community – Top Content. It’s a page full of what members think is “hot”. I recommend using it and finding lots of great content. Also, click the red sidebar tab. There, you can find a whole list of pages that members are on at the moment. People like to be where other people are! (you can even see all the data for the site there; visits, page views etc…. no secrets here).

The best way YOU can help others find great stuff? Just tweet, facebook, like it! Others will have a better chance of visiting it and knowing about it. You can now even comment right to facebook on all our pages.

Gems of EFL 2.0: ebooks!

There has been some talk in  ELT circles about “The Round”, a new endeavor in the ELT self publishing field.  I wish them all the best.

I’m all for this and have written extensively how others may make/design/market/sell their own book. Still, it seems like a lot of talk and I’m waiting for the beef.

I’m all for getting things real (espousing the 37 Signals philosophy) and my ebooks are representative of this. Lots of them, hard cover too. And what’s even better about this is that they are available for free!

So here’s my list of what I’ve produced to help teachers. By no means complete, I’m sure I’m leaving some out. Click on the links and you’ll get additional links for ordering a hard copy or for additional resources.

True gems and most are in pdf with photos/links you can click to go right to the source.  More gems here.

Happy reading!

EFL Classroom 2.0 ebooks – the perfect X-mas gift.

The #1 in ELT - all the best ideas/things for teaching English

The Unbearable Lightness of Being A Teacher: Selected Writings about education, teaching and language.

Teach | Learn: A Student Created Content Coursebook. Printables, worksheets, Full lessons, mulitmedia materials. Even ppts, a community and files you can edit. Way ahead of its time and free.

Zen And The Art Of Teaching:  a reflective journal for practicing and pre service teachers

Youtube In The Classroom.  All the best videos and commercials on youtube for teaching English.

Basic Dialogue Karaoke Coursebook:  Dialogues, videos, karaoke files for learning basic conversational English.

Flashcards 4 Teaching English:  A complete directory and library of both printable and online flashcards.

Co-teaching General Guidelines: a workshop booklet with resources and approaches for setting up success in the cotaught classroom.

All The EnglishCentral techbooks + get 1 month Premium access free!


For EFL Classroom Lifetime Supporters: (download after a lifetime supporters donation)

EnglishCentral Commercials: the workbook to help teach with videos students can speak.

EnglishCentral  Basic Workbook: for beginning students

EnglishCentral Famous Speeches: 20 famous speeches for listening and speaking with vocab. development.

Listening: A 4 Skills coursebook. 

Funny Stories for Teaching:  A collection of the best stories for retelling and listening activities. With audio and text.

The Power of Public Speaking:  A 20 hour, 4 module, multimedia  course on the skill of public speaking

Lessons In A Can: hundreds of lessons, downloadables, printables and ideas, fully described. Use online or with the ebook.


Electric Chair for the Sun: Selected Poetry 1990 – 2010 (also see my poetry blog if interested)

The Idiot’s Dictionary – a book that tests your knowledge (and challenges it) of words and their etiology.


If you liked this post, you might like ” The Future of The Textbook

June 27, 2007 12:44 am – my first EFL Classroom 2.0 post

[ I’m highlighting the “gems” of EFL Classroom 2.0 this month.  So, thought it appropriate to post up the first of over 1,500 blog posts in that time.  The start. ]

Educational Bliss

I really truly, madly deeply, believe in the power of education. Not as a way to knowledge but wisdom — as a way of forming a proper relationship between yourself and that “outside”. Tat tvam asi” , the brahman might say, “That art thou”.

Not to wax philosophically but I do think that as educators we should always carry this higher purpose within us and let it coat all the practicalities of teaching. I endeavour to do that and try, each day, to touch something infinite.

So I hope in the coming weeks, months, years , to turn here and “shut off the machine” and write what my mind meanders. About education and the larger purpose of things. Also about the small things. I don’t know who wrote the book but I read it in teacher’s college and was enlightened, “The Reflective Teacher”. Let this space be my mirror.

I also want to speak here about the role of technology. So much change but so much potential! Lots I hope to experiment with, try, tweak, throw away in my language teaching future.

I’ve come a long way from my steelworking days! Keep tuning in and turning off your own machine!


The #1 …. (teaching factor affecting student success)

Number One** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.

        The teacher’s own expectation of the students.

Yep, that’s right. Teachers who think their students are smart will have smart students (all things equal). It is the factor that is most important regarding student achievement.

I asked my teachers about what they thought was the most important teaching factor affecting student achievement. Most mentioned motivation, some classroom management factors, a few curriculum/materials. Many rightly suggested school culture. However not one (and I have 160 students) got it right nor had heard about the seminal research of Rosenthal and Jacobsen.Teachers’ Expectancies: Determinants of Pupil’s IQ.pdf

Their research raised more questions than it answered. Stimulating reading and subsequently tested and validated. They  set up a simple experiment where teacher’s were (wrongly) told their students in “x” classes (18 of them) were smart and high achievers. They were actually quite average and chosen at random. They controlled other factors. The result?  Students in the classes where the teacher “believed” they were top students suddenly became top students! All simply because the teacher thought they were teaching the cream of the crop.

They concluded that this happens most often with younger students. Also, there are a lot of other possible influencing factors. Yet, time and again, this experiment proves itself. Read more about expectancy effects.

I put the word “believe” in quotes because it isn’t as simple as just believing in your students. Most teachers believe in their students. What really counts is not just belief but what you really think/feel/know in your gut about these students. It isn’t hope but faith, Meister Echart might have written (for it is the same distinction – hope really means we know one thing but hope for another by chance. Faith means we really believe and that belief effects the outcome).

I really believe that what Rosenthal and Jacobsen illuminated was something Goethe suggested decades ago – commitment. Teachers who are committed to the possibility and achievement of their students will do very well. True commitment is what counts. Are you a committed teacher? I’ll leave you with two of his quotes that elaborate what I’ve talked about here.
If you enjoyed this post – you might enjoy: High Expectations


Thank You lesson

It’s Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S. which in Canada is also US). So I thought I’d share a lesson I really love. It is great for the end of the year, session and really is a great way to show that all students contribute to the class – that they all indeed, count.

1. On the board prior to class write on one side of the board.

Thank you for …………ing ………..

On the other side, possible replies.

You’re welcome. | No problem | Just being myself | Oh, don’t mention it | My pleasure etc….

2. Simply start by thanking some students in the class. “Thank you “student’s name” for ……….ing ……………”

Possible reasons: coming on time / always smiling / being so helpful / helping others / finishing your work / never complaining etc…

Students reply using the prompts on the board.

3. Give out the handout . thank you handout. Or this handout – ThankYouGame
This comes from my now public “techbook” Teach | Learn.
Tell students to fill out the first part, for each student in the class (or most).

4. Students get up and go around the class thanking all their classmates and responding to the “thank you”.

5. End by sharing as a whole class, some of the “thank you ” messages the students wrote. You might even make a Wallwisher where students can post public thank you messages to everyone!

Here’s a nice video I subtitled ages ago. A nice compliment to this lesson. Also click the other links provided on the handout. Some nice additions too!

Dido Thank You – Foldem’ listening lyric sheet

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

My own Egyptian moment (Part 2)

Previously, in the spring, I wrote about events in Egypt and my own feelings as a teacher. Given recent events, I’m revisiting these thoughts and thinking about my caution at the time, my fear that power will triumph over “education”.

By education, I mean what we SHOULD be teaching in schools. Here, in Egypt or in Kalamazoo. Teaching in a way that students realize their obligations as social human beings on this planet, to use their time for peace and in the vein of that ancient Greek Socrates, “contribute to the good”.

Recent events in America and Canada show the face of power – how we very much (and at all times do) are a police state. The level doesn’t matter, you either are or you aren’t. Read this post, “What have we been teaching?”, for more on this issue but as said there, “Frighteningly so, we have taught this”. Meaning, our own teaching and place as teachers has led to the baton, the tazer, the pepper spray, the hate, the thick lines of division…..

I don’t have answers and I’m being of necessity vague. But where is the curriculum in our schools that confronts students with the social realities of the day? Why isn’t “Peace” a subject and a credit course? Why is history as a subject a litany and list of who hit who?

I’m going to resurrect Project Peace this year. Do my own part but also ask myself how I can do more. Do more to raise the awareness of the students I’m investing my own energy and being toward. What can you do?

Let’s Ban “the ball”

Recently, a school in Toronto banned “the ball”  from school. The whole school. They are opting for something safer like badminton and bean bag tossing. My old school board, TDSB (Toronto District School Board) is considering a board wide ban. What’s next? Banning pencils?

Watch the video below for a great response to this issue. It would all be farcical if indeed there weren’t some really serious issues involved.

One of the joys of working outside of North America as a teacher has been not being overburdened with issues of  ”student safety”. Filling out reams of forms for the simplest of “outdoor” activities and excursions.  Constant monitoring of students wherever they are, whatever they are doing (are we “guards”?). Etc….

In the U.S. and Canada, teachers (and by default school boards) can be held accountable under civil law for student injury. So the issues are serious and wideranging. Here’s one interesting case as an example, one of many. This is one cause of the fixation on student safety.

Further, beyond issues of civil suits and legal negligence, there is the issue of just “what is school?”.  I mean, school is often seen as a place for “the neck up” as Ken Robinson would frame it. That despite all our progressive rhetoric, school is still seen as a place where we filter kids for academics and “brain power”. The arts, movement, sports – all just add ons and if issues of safety do arise, they can be easily sacrificed because our philosophy of education  doesn’t really take them seriously.

Listen to Rex Murphy and let these issues stir and simmer. What do you believe? How is it in your own part of the world?

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

They broke my records….

They broke my records…… and so this iconic film scene begins. The main character experiences an intense dilema about his own role as a teacher. Watch as he goes “on the record” in the high school staff room. Watch and ask yourself the question at the end of the film. {and maybe drop a comment as your answer}

I’ll certainly be showing this to my students before sending them off to their practice teaching sessions this week.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

Hat tip to Ira Socol, the best damn blogger I know out there – always with relevance and voice.

My Perfect Classroom

{ I originally published this in Barbara Sakamoto’s wonderful blog – Teaching Village. I revive it here because I think its message is pertinent and important. }

“The problem with our profession is that there is too much teaching and not enough learning”.

I said this recently during a discussion and I think it is such an important point to understand about “teaching” a language – that we have to get away from delivery systems that are teacher directed and more towards models where students are self-paced, self-motivated and learning independently. The future IS learning not teaching.

English Language Teaching has been progressing towards an understanding of this. CLT (communicative language teaching), PBI (project based instruction), TBI (task based instruction), collaborative learning and other approaches have made big inroads into traditional teaching models. But they’ve been baby steps. The emperor still believes he / she wears clothes and won’t “give up the ghost” and stop swinging the baton. It IS all and too much, about control.

I’m not going to belabor the point nor expound on my own beliefs about why self directed learning is the future of language instruction and learning (given the access to curriculum technology gives us). No. Let me be down to earth and simply describe my “perfect classroom”. This will give you an idea of what I mean by SDL – self directed learning and giving students increasing choice and independence over what and how they will learn.
My Perfect Classroom.   It looks like this.

The class starts without any teacher talk nor any teachn’ and preachn’. Students walk into the classroom, sign in and head towards their assigned computer. They glance at the whiteboard for the assignment of the day.

The students work with a headset to produce language, finish projects, practice vocabulary word banks using quizzes/flashcards. The activities are leveled and self-paced. Low level students work with the right content – higher level students can challenge themselves. They help each other through English only chat or directly in the class. They are the experts.

The teacher sits in the middle, coffee and tea at hand. With a ring of the bell – she calls for a group to come meet. The teacher practices conversation with the students, using the target language and grammar for the week. She tests the students on the language they’ve been learning. He assesses their needs in a small group and gets valuable feedback about the activities. After 5-10 minutes, it is time for the next group.

The last 15 minutes of class, students get the choice to work on a variety of online activities. Games, songs, blogging, chatting, watching videos – all accessible as provided by the teacher.

The class doesn’t really end. The teacher flicks the lights and the students log off and walk out of the class. They can go online anytime and do the same activities and access the same content. The teacher can download a nice handy log with graphs of student progress and especially time spent on task/activity.

The teacher feels refreshed. He gets another cup of coffee. She skips into the staff room among her weary colleagues.


That’s my perfect classroom. However, it actually did happen and I actually did teach like that! It isn’t pie in the sky. Moreover, it all worked like that described. The trouble-making boys became engrossed learners. The unmotivated high level students became engaged and ignited. I, the teacher, felt invigorated after a day teaching, not weighed down and kaput. It was like Sugata Mitra recently quipped, “When the students are motivated, the learning just happens.”

But we all can do similar things and take steps towards getting to true self directed learning. It isn’t so difficult and in fact it is what YOU as a teacher are doing right now, right this minute.

It can begin with the simple step of deciding it should be so…..

Let’s hear your stories and struggles to be a SDL teacher. We can all learn from them.

Interested in SDL with your students? You might start with these excellent sites – Young Learners: Mingoville Teens/Adults: English Central (sign up as a teacher). Flashcards: EFL Classroom 2.0 Quizlet sets

Guess the Educational Thinker

I recently created for teachers and professional development, a directory of videos and readings on “Educational Thinkers”. It’s interesting to think of these “crazy ones” and get inspired by their own enthusiasm and dedication. Let’s celebrate them, as this famous video does. Take a look below while you are here and “Can you guess these educational thinkers”?

Minimally Invasive Teaching

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, “the children are working as if I don’t exist.”
- Maria Montessori

During the last year, I’ve been following the KhanAcademy locomotive as it chugs on to distant fertile lands and glory.   I’m a big believer of video and its revolutionary impact to disrupt normal channels of educational delivery.  The KhanAcademy user group (google) emails are just mind boggling. Seems everyone from the granny on the couch to CEOs of major companies are leaving desperate messages – “get intouch with me!”, they scream.  However, I must say that they are on the wrong educational bandwagon.

This post I recently read, highlighted one problem not addressed by the Khan Academy – the motivation of the learner.  Even self directed learning won’t just magically generate a “self directed learner”.  What counts is the environment in which the learner is found. The teacher is essential to this. However, in a very indirect and “get out of the way”, way.

I firmly believe that given a free start, each child, each student, wants to learn and will learn.  We must create the environment from which their seed will grow.  Just like there are seldom any “bad” teachers, just teachers in the wrong environment and place – so too we must get students encountering a world of learning that they themselves encounter, they explore, they engage and nurture. Sugata Mitra has it right – learning is a self-organizing principle.

So without further ado, here is the man. Click the photos of the presentation to get to my favorite presentations detailing his beliefs. See my own posts mentioning him.  Here’s my bio of the man for further reference.  Sugata Mitra

I sure wish Bill Gates would have given him that big bundle of cash. 






Why the “gatekeeping”?

Copyright and education – the necessity, the vital import of the free, unrestricted flow of information through the realm of education, has been a big concern and obsession of mine. See this post for some views, see my copyright tags, see my own “Captive Mind” series.

It is so important to not “possess” or appropriate ideas. However, our whole system is founded on the principle that some know and “own” this knowledge. The “neck up” types who’ve got to the sacred realm of the university towers.  They alone have ideas and all the rest of us just borrow them from these esteemed gentlemen.

Poppycock! It’s all about power. All a dice game. Read many of my posts, I won’t get into it here. What I do want to mention is a big peeve of my own.  I really get upset by how so many blogs, networks, communities ban/delete/prohibit/(choose your word) anyone who posts links.

You know that scene. You read a nice blog post. You want to post something you wrote or a link to something you are involved in. However, you hesitate, you know you’ll be blocked, banned or brushed up.   How  dare you try to help others by leaving a link!

This is the culture on so many sites/blogs. So proprietary. I’ve been deleted often, on many blogs in ELT that preport to be “open”.  All in the name of “keeping things on their own blog” and in essence, restricting the flow of information.  It stinks, I’m calling all this out.  It is as if they don’t think we are adults and can judge where information comes from and assess information in and of our own right. I say, “we don’t need any gatekeepers”.

On my own site, EFL Classroom, I’m always astounded by the emails I get from people asking to post a link, some information. I’m always flabberghasted – they are actually asking permission to post something informative on a social networking site? Go figure – that’s how much of a “walking on glass” mentality we’ve created with so much coveting and possessiveness in the realm.

I was recently interviewed by a student doing her Master’s. She was researching ELT blogs. She was so surprised when I mentioned that many ELT blogs were not open and were insular and all about their name and protecting their own – not really about open discourse and sharing – they don’t pass the litmus test of allowing members to post links in their comments.  She laughed when I related some stories about some ELT blogs – she said everyone else had told her we were one big happy family! I’m sorry but I got to call it as it is – there are too many protecting their own and not about information and sharing worthy things but all about building their name and presence. I say they have it backwards.

So to end this diatribe — please, please, please, post a link to your own blog, a link to any other information on the web – when you comment. As long as you aren’t spamming and copy/pasting on many blogs. It’s okay. We’ll all live. The world won’t stop……



Teach | Learn – download the “techbook”.

I published Teach | Learn about 8 months ago.  A lot of what I’ve learned and believe about teaching English to students in a classroom went into this simple book. It’s simplicity can be deceiving and it is based on my own belief in SCC or Student Created Content. Find out more through these tagged discussions on SCC.

Beyond representing my constructivists and progressive beliefs in education – I wanted to make a simple book that teachers could use with many levels. A book that didn’t “detrain” teachers but allowed them the freedom to teach but with some basic underlying structure.  Further, in publishing the book online, I was dedicated to my belief that individuals could write, design, publish, print, sell their own textbooks. Not only that – do so in a way that isn’t a money grab but still pays the author for his/her time and labor.

In this vein, I’m happy to let the world download and share Teach | Learn. (click the link to preview and download). I’ve sold enough copies online to recoup my costs (about 235 copies) and now it is time for the child to fly away from the nest.

The book also has accompanying editable lesson files, a voicethread and a power point of the whole book to show on a big screen. You can get these extras as a supporter of EFL Classroom 2.0.

Enjoy the book and all feedback welcome!


Top 5 Funniest Videos about Teaching English

Time for some levity!  It helps us survive our day in and day out teaching grind. It brings things into perspective. 


I’ve written previously some top 5 lists about teaching/studying English.  Hilarious stuff there. However, I think I have some equally hilarious but showing teachers in classrooms. So let’s go. Here are my top 5 funniest videos about teaching English. 


1. Katerine Tate and Comic Relief.Imagine her in your class!  Sterling – ‘nough said. 


2. Stripes: Harold Remis. I think this typifies many English teacher’s first time in front of a class.



3. Mind your language. Classic series that really is worth watching in full. Try this other one about vowel sounds!


4. Bud Light Super Bowl Commercial 2007

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0



5. English Teachers: Low key series from Japan.

Philosophy of Education at the Movies

Click to take the quiz about your own philosophy of education

I’ve written lots about philosophies of education. How important they are to develop and sustain.  A lot of what is “stress” in today’s teaching world, derives from teachers working in settings that conflict with their own underlying philosophy of education – often, the teacher not really even knowing that this conflict exists!

I’m teaching philosophy of education with my students and one thing I had them do was to watch some film clips and try and match the “stylized Hollywood teacher” with a particular teaching philosophy. A great activity and I offer a simplified version here, to challenge you.

There are many labels and “types” of educational philosophies. Here are 5 main ones.

The challenge is – view the film clips below and match them to the philosophy of education. The films clips are from: Dead Poet’s Society | Stand and Deliver | Dangerous Minds | School of Rock | The Emperor’s Club . Match them to the correct philosophy of education: Perennialism | Essentialism | Progressivism | Existentialism | Social Reconstructivism

Put your answers as a comment and I’ll be awarding a free copy of my Teach | Learn techbook to all who get it right… Good luck! (click on the thumbnail of the movie to view)

Inspiration about education

There is nothing so inspiring, so uplifting than a well stated quote.  It really can stir the blood and get the mind moving.

I’ve made so many presentations over the years in this vein.  I present them here for your enjoyment and reference. Just click the link and off you go…..down the rabbit hole!

Thoughts About Education | Inspiring Quotes | General Quotes | Technology and Education  |  Thought of the Day  |  Language Quotes   |  McCluhan Quotes   |  Einstein Quotes

Full Screen  -  Random Quotes

What if …. The Flipped Conference (part 2)

My last post was about a new way of holding conferences.  A new way of professional development given current disruptive technologies and more inclusive practices.  Today, I’d like to elaborate on this briefly, to flesh it out and give it some muscle.

See my presentation on the Flipped Classroom below.  In the presentation, I ask about what a “Flipped Conference” would be like.

Here’s what a normal conference session might look like:

Contrast this with how I imagine a Flipped Conference session would look like:

In the normal conference, attendees have interest but most have little background knowledge to enable them to “join in”. The presenter remains all knowing, in control.

In the Flipped Conference, all presenters post up their lecture in video form on a youtube or vimeo channel or a website. Attendees can take a look, watch at length those they will attend. They can prepare, do the heavy lifting and be ready for a session that engages them and applies the knowledge of the video presentation.

They arrive at the conference session where they aren’t lectured to, presented upon. No. They are given tasks, they engage in discussion, they critically evaluate the concepts and form some kind of “tacit knowledge”, knowledge that is their own.  Key is that through a focus on the personal and being actively engaged, attendees relate their own class/teaching to the subject and thus we see the beginnings of transformation.

What’s your take on the Flipped Conference? Who’ll be the first to hold one and really begin for ELT, a process whereby teachers are the focus, not the “big names” and presenters.


What if? A new way to think about PD and conferences.

Practical Part 2
I just spent a delightful (but tiring!) weekend at the Korea TESOL conference in Seoul. Met so many teachers that I only knew online – it was truly overwhelming. A special thanks to all those who took in my presentations and/or helped with getting the news out about EnglishCentral. You are all essential components in this push to transform the way students learn English.

But I’m not writing a self congratulatory piece. What I’d like to reflect upon is a thought that came over me as I was giving my talk about “The Flipped Classroom”.

My presentation was well attended and I think I accomplished my goal – to provoke a new way of thinking about how we deliver our curriculum / classes. That said, as I was going through my slides and outlining the what/how/why of the Flipped Classroom, I kept having a strange feeling come over me. I wanted to “STOP” and get off this train, stop and just talk with everyone. Discuss, relate, bob and weave. Flow.  Why should I have a goal, a method beyond us being / sharing / learning together?

You see, presentations and workshops as we know them are fake. Contrived performances.  We all agree not to see the pink elephant in the room. You can call this beast many things; power, protocol, role playing, “going through the motions” etc… but it all boils down to most presentations being an event with a social veneer – a veneer that says, “I agree to listen and do what you want – you agree to play the authority and all knowing”. Then, the next one and so on….

Again, I say this is a crock and we should be doing more to make it so that each person in the room finds relevance, gets connected, is energized. But how to do this without the conventions of “the presentation”? How to deal with the pink elephant in the room, an elephant that I think was laughing at me while I was presenting?

What if we had presentations without a set topic? Where people show up without an organized agenda. Where the discussion goes this way and that way – as the experience and knowledge of those in the room dictate and NOT as the set delivery of the typical presentation would dictate.

I would love just to go to a conference as David Deubelbeiss. No topic, no agenda (or as Van Morrison might have said, “no teacher, no guru, no method”). Just come and let me share my knowledge, scatter my filing cabinet onto the floor for all to see. Teachers could come and get what they want – not what the presentation dictated they must learn. The discussion could range from where to download great video content to the role of grammar in direct instruction. It could have stories or hard data. It could roam into applied linguistics or talk about making our students happy in the classroom. They key is – no set agenda/course. The focus is on the art of the presenter to direct the winds that arrive from those in the room. To guide the ship and bravely sail into “knowing”.

What if ……

The #1 …. (quality of a successful student)

Number One** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.

Grit / Perseverence

I asked my B.Ed. students this question recently – the number 1 quality that research shows will lead to a “successful” student. They came up with many great qualities but didn’t hit the nail on the head –  probably (and admirably) because they were focused less on student achievement and more on student personal growth.

But when using student achievement as the measuring stick – “grit” stands out. The quality to keep going, to endure, to not give up when obstacles appear and get in the way.  It is based on the work of Angela Duckworth .  A lot of research showed self control as being the most important quality for student achievement and long term success at school. We all remember the famous Stanford “marshmallow experiment”, I’m sure.  Students who could postpone short term gratification for long term pay off – excelled at school (see Larry Ferlazzo’s great list of resources on this topic). However, Duckworth went further, studying these successful students. She found that many did not end up succeeding later on. Yet, those with “grit” did achieve long term success. She devized a simple scale to determine if a student might have “grit” – what it takes to carry on.

You can take/see the short version of her quiz HERE. 


I find this fascinating. Looking at my own  students, the ones that I thought would succeed later in life, I see this so well.  It begs the question if we can “teach” grit,  help students develop this quality early on in life.

I think we can (but the question of “do we want to? is debatable).  Especially for language learners, we should expose them early on to lots of ambiguity, so they learn to tolerate the fact they can’t understand everything and will be in a state of frustration and may I say “pain”.  And if we can do this early enough – expose students to initial hurdles that we can help walk them through, hand in hand, in a safe environment – we will promote and help instill the quality of “grit”.

As Angela Duckworth so well addresses – measuring achievement by “intelligence”, isn’t a right measure. Also, “success” isn’t latent, it isn’t just talent that rises to the top. It is “industry” or “work”. It was my badge of honor as a runner – no talent but just would work and never give up. This quality we MUST develop in language learners. If you have any ideas on how to do this – please comment.

Here she outlines here ideas about “True Grit”, in fine style.

If you liked this, you may enjoy: Having Teaching Endurance and Keeping Going