EFL 2.0 Teacher Talk

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“Functional” Videos

Language functions are a great way to focus student learning on communication. Showing students and having students study examples of language in use, language used to actually do and accomplish and communicate is a great methodology.

EnglishCentral now has many videos focused on all the important language functions. Greetings, talking about family, apologizing, using the phone etc …… Here is an example. Try it and see how great they are for teaching!  Go here to find them all.


Teachers Pay Teachers Pay Teachers

money-down-toiletEvery week or month brings another announcement within the educational tech space of a new player in the “Teacher marketplace” place.

I remember back in the early years online, before all the social media, Web 2.0 craze. It was natural and easy for teachers to share resources and help each other. In my own school board, we’d meet every month and share lesson plans. Our own intranet made it easy for colleagues to upload curriculum and share. My own community EFL Classroom 2.0 drew on that and it was great – every day, dozens if not hundreds of resources shared by enthusiastic teachers and IT WAS ALL FREE. Teachers helping teachers.

But now, the players and money men have moved in. It’s Teachers Pay Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s corporate boardrooms (think TPG now owner of TSL, owner of TES which owns or has 10 mil in Share My Lessons). It’s all a money grab, it’s making education all about the $$$$. Teachers are first asked to share resources freely. Then they are fed a line, a lie – you can make a great income. Don’t share, sell!

I recently got this invite from TES which for the last year or two has been allowing teachers to share their resources (with restrictions). Now they finally show their true colors and plan. Making money.  (And read this NYTs article just sent to me from a reader after I first posted this – Teaching Is Not A Business)


That would be great if teachers really did get the money paid for their great work and resources. However, it is far from the case, despite how these sites advertise it as such. I know, I’m active on many of these sites and you’ll not get anything more than 50%. The marketplace gets the other 50%. It varies but that’s the norm. And its unfair. Damn unfair. Teachers should pay teachers and not corporate entities. It’s even sadder given how easy it really is (and cheap) for teachers to now organize online and share. What ever happened to OER (Open Educational Resources)?

I have a lot of experience and a lot of perspective, selling on my own and on other sites, the resources and courses I’ve produced. My conclusion? Teachers shouldn’t pay for resources if they are paying some corporate entity that financially rapes (strong language but that’s what is happening). Imagine if you had a stand somewhere on the street and the city came up to you and said – give me 50% of all you make? You’d probably say, “Why?”. And they’d say, because, because we control the lights and the road and these are our “people”. Pay or you are out. You’d probably revolt but unfortunately nowadays, teachers just bend to the extortion thinking any bit is better than nothing.

And it gets worse. Most of these sites claim that they are “helping” teachers. BS. All they are is creating a culture whereby education is seen as owned and commodified not communal and shared. It’s hard to turn back after everything becomes a store.

Well there is an alternative. Look out for groups that freely share. EFL Classroom 2.0 had hundreds of thousands of resources to download. Even download videos. ELT teachers don’t have to pay. Plus they can share on the community.

But I don’t think this will happen – we’ve been brainwashed and the kind, hopeful days of open sharing during early web 2.0 are over …. and that’s sad.

Using photos when teaching

mostimportantIn a few weeks, The Image Conference is being held in Barcelona, Spain. I won’t be able to attend but EnglishCentral will be a sponsor. The future of language learning and teaching is visual, is controlled reality.

I got to thinking about all the powerful ways of using images when teaching. I’ll most certainly be making a “50 Ways” list but I was also reminded of a presentation I painstakingly put together several years ago:  The Best Photos Of All Time.

                                                  Get the version with commentary about the images HERE.  PPT HERE.

Here are a few ways a teacher might use these images in the classroom. 

1.  Discussion & Play and Pause.  Have students describe the photo and state the reason for its significance.

2.  Give students a photo and have them research it.  Use the 5Ws.  Present the background and information to the class.

3.  Describe and Draw.  A 2 way task students each describe their photo to the other who must listen and draw. Then compare against the original.

4.  Timeline.  Ask students to research the presentation and put the photos on an historical timeline.

5.  Ask students to list their top 5 photos in the presentation.  Debate in a group and then explain their group choices to the class.

6.  What makes a great photo?  Students can brainstorm and then share together the main criteria of what makes a photo “iconic”.

7.  Vocabulary.   Give students a photo and have them pull out the vocabulary in the photo, label and then share with the class.

 If you liked this post, you might also like some of the other posts tagged “photos”

A Lesson On Stereotyping

Scott Thornbury offered up a stimulating blog post this week titled “R is for Representation“. About how textbooks don’t represent the world of the student, the spaces they live and walk among, the people they know nor the dreams they have for themselves. I won’t relate anymore, read the post and the fine comments, my own included. I’ve also written on this subject numerous times on this blog – here is one such post- Textbook Talk: Using SCC.

I will write about what I was reminded of when enjoying the post over Sunday coffee – a lesson on stereotyping I created years ago. It has some very vivid examples of 1980s textbook material that includes incredibly insensitive images of ethnic stereotypes. You might also think to yourself, “this could never be the case today!” and you’d be dead wrong. You see, the thing is we don’t see the images of our textbooks and materials as “offensive”. Why? Because by their nature, stereotypes are ingrained, not something we can see except from afar – be that in time or through a great break with our own culture.

It is a cool presentation that you can quickly use with a computer and screen (or IWB or class tablets/devices). It will challenge your student’s existing prejudices, no matter what part of the world they are in. I’ve used this in my curriculum development classes to get teachers seeing how materials can be unintentionally very offensive. I’ll also note my opinion that we should also try to use “local” content/images – what is relevant and closer to the student’s world. This presentation outlines this for where I was teaching at the time, Korea.

Poetic Justice: A restored book

It was over 20 years ago that I got my teaching credentials from Laurentian University (now Nipissing University: Schulich School of Education where I have been teaching – freaky teaching courses you once took!).

A requirement of one course was to make our own book.  It was a wonderfully practical exercise and I brought the book to many of my subsequent teaching gigs, showed and motivated students with the same activity. Back then it was low/no tech and we stitched the bindings and all that. I made mine by sitting one evening with a pile of my bathroom magazines and cutting and pasting magazine text and images.  I was proud of the book and still am – it has a place in our livingroom showcase.

Finally spent some time digitizing it. It was a laborious task and I didn’t catch everything. But here it is – a relic of the past brushed off and remade.  If you are into storybook making, check out this post on the topic!


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The #1 Second Language band …..

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



I spent part of the day with my Second language singer playlist playing in the background as I walked along and worked at my treadmill desk. My favorite group and by far the best representation of a multinational group singing in English is Outlandish.  So inspiring to our students!


The group consist of a Moroccan, a Pakistani, a Honduran, all singing in English while based out of Denmark. A plus is that their songs are about global issues, issues people around the world face. They get my vote by far! The greatest Second Language Singing Group (SLSG) ever.  Here’s a short interview with them.

Checkout the others I recommend and the songbook for teaching on the Second Language Singer page. Enjoy this fine example from Outlandish!

Simple Tasks For Teaching

Recently on the EFL Classroom 2.0 blog, I posted 3 lists of 50 tasks that teachers can use in their teaching – asking students to do them and “practice” language, the skill that is language speaking/reading/writing/listening.

Surprised to death at how popular these lists were! I know we all like lists but I guess I touched on a big need with teachers. Short, concise, easy to implement ideas that can easily be done in the classroom. No fuss, no muss teaching. I also think the “materials light / prep light” aspect of these really went over with teachers. We all know how overwhelming it can be when you get a good idea but it is an impossible circus act of 4 pages of instructions and how to dos. Just impossible to put into action in one’s own classroom.

So here are the three lists consolidated in one place. The lists may be downloaded on the original blog post, for the convenience to use offline and share offline. Enjoy and share your own ideas in these veins when you have the chance.


50 tasks for the English Language Classroom





50 Tech tasks for the English Language Classroom






50 tasks using only a blank piece of paper.



50 Holiday Friendly Activities for the classroom.

Memory Games and Generators

Over the years, I’ve found that one of the most popular of the simple games for studying language is the Memory Game. Here’s a sample so you know what I mean – find a nice list below.

Basically, the students flip cards and try to match photos, sound or text. They try to do this in the least amount of tries. With disciplined students it can promote vocabulary development but be cautious! With the wrong students it can just turn into flipping cards and matching images (and text can just be an image – if it has no reference to its meaning).

Memry is a cool way students can generate these games on their own using the Flickr API. (much like 5 card Flickr which I wrote about, does for storytelling). Just type in the tag and it’ll create a related memory game instantly. Here’s a screencast tutorial I did quickly while walking on my treadmill desk – forgive me poor memory!

Find more memory games on EFL Classroom 2.0 Games page (look for “Memory” in the title) and EFL 2.0 member ridivan – Flash Games. Also this page has some nice ones for different subjects and letters of the alphabet.

If you liked this post, you may enjoy Memory And Language: An Experiment.

5 Card Flickr – Storytelling….

Yesterday on twitter, I was pinged and asked about “Storyboards”. I offered my own collected resources, including Story Dominoes. Both fine resources with photos which students can use to either tell or write a story. A wonderful activity (and always make sure to get students to share their stories, the final part of the learning process – or should be!).
I got to thinking some more on this type of resource and shared my Writing with Pictures resources but then was reminded of the fantastic 5 card flickr website.

It is simple to play and students can either tell a story based on the photos or even write / read a story on the website.  Here’s one I made and which you can use for telling in class.

Students simply select one of five photos offered. They continue to do this 5 times and will have 5 images. Then they can save the story and write it or tell it. So simple!  Make sure to click the random button to get a random story!

Need just one story?  We have the largest online library of stories for all levels. You’ll be amazed!

Montage Maker

Today I was experimenting with a cool way to support your classroom instruction and contextualize the language you are teaching. Even make a game of it!

I returned to Grant Robinson, maker of the wonderful Guess The Google game. It’s since been retired but now he has adapted it into Montage Maker.

The idea is fairly simple – type in a word and it will pull up photos in a montage (40 of them). Great for showing students and explaining a word, talking about a topic. Put the topic in and you’ll have a great backdrop!

Further, as I show in the screencast, you can download the montages and easily make games, ppts, flashcard sets. A very handy materials development tool! Here are two I made – I feel ….. and Where Are You? Get the ppts on EFL Classroom 2.0.

Here are a couple of similar tools:  Guess The Tag, Fastr.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

There is no longer any “normal” – disrupting ELT

I’m all about ‘disruption” (to borrow Clayton Christensen’s term) and think this is the most potent role that technology plays in our society.

A disrupter thinks small and keeps moving.   Large companies/groups are about sustaining and normalcy – the small can dress up in innovation and act quickly – revel in change.  Technology in the hands of one man can upset the apple card and enable a fresh wind to blow and bring greater efficiencies, better learning and more freedoms.  That’s the revoluton.

There are two parts to disruption that I play. One  part is making things real, trying things and putting things out there – see my previous post about my successes and failures online – Muckin’ About.  That’s only a partial list, I could add many more.

But another vital part of disruption is promoting the creation of products by the lowly individual AND the access to those products by the many.  It is about open resources that allow  us to put money into classrooms and learning and not the coffers of larger profit barons (and we know who they are).  It is disruption through creating connections and access where before none exists.

But it takes time to change mind sets. Teachers will not even blink asking their students to pay large publishers $20, $30, $100.  The pact with the devil is that by using the kings of publishing we are buying authority.  Like Pascal’s quip that “a judge would not have his authority without his wig”, so too many teachers without a Pearson,  Cambridge or Oxford textbook.  But it is an illusion and will one day soon fall. In the meantime, I’m going to keep playing my part and getting others to see the emperor’s wear no clothes (and especially in language teaching where the real world is IT and not a text, where with video we now can bring the real world to our classes and can throw out the textbook).

The last few years I’ve produced many free materials for teachers. Ebooks or “tech”books.   I’m often asked where a teacher might get them all.  I’ve made partial lists but until now, had no definitive collection.  So here it is, a definitive collection, each with a brief description. Enjoy. Download to your hearts content Support my work if you can by becoming an EFL Classroom 2.0 supporter for a one time, lifetime payment of $19.95.  It all gets plowed back into my efforts to give power to the many and keep tipping over apple carts.

I’ll also mention here, though not a book, still pretty damn disruptive – The Free Basic TESOL Certificate course I created. You’ll even get a certificate after you complete it!



Keeping the ideas flowing….

I think that the godhead, the soul, the core of the new technology paradigm is “the pipeline of ideas”. We now have the ability to correspond, share, connect, learn with, learn from, engage so many, all over the world. This is truly revolutionary and changing the world – especially our own teaching world.

So I’ve spent more work and energy to share with my fellow teachers!

1. I returned to a site I created Teaching Recipes and gave it a makeover. Now more shareable, now easier to share your own recipes/ideas. Give it a try and share what you know with other teachers.

2. Lessons In A Can is something I’m very proud of. Hundreds of full lessons described with resources. Not only described but a perfect training vehicle for teachers as I outline the rationale for the materials and the purpose of the lessons and materials. Take a view here of all the lessons available.

3. Of course – use the free coursebook I provide for all teachers Teach | Learn.

Lets keep the ideas flowing………..

Finding Stuff

It’s not easy on the web these days. There is so much and seemingly so little time. The more search engines are perfected, the more social media evolves, the more notifications improve, we still seem way behind and fail at keeping up with “the new”. Noise abounds too….

I guess like that marvelous Beckett (Godot) quote, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” So for my own community EFL Classroom 2.0, I keep fighting the good fight and helping teachers find what’s there in our vast library.

Two recent things might help.

1. Page Highlights. We have hundreds of pages with great content to help teachers. But not easy to find them, especially the “gems”. So here is a presentation giving you what I feel are the best that are there. Go HERE to browse and search them all at your leisure.


2. Lessons In A Can. These 131 lessons are for Supporters of EFL Classroom 2.0. Supporters pay a one time, life time lasting $19.95. It gives them great resources including access to these Lessons. The money raised helps cover our costs. Lately, not a lot of supporter donations and I feel mostly because many don’t know the value of these lessons. Nothing out there like this – each fully described, with amazing downloads/printables/media/ppts included. So this presentation gives a peek at these lessons (links for the materials not working). Lots of recipes to last a lifetime.


Video Courses For All – Coming Soon!

I wear many teaching hats. Besides my courses at the university teaching education & schooling and tending to EFL Classroom 2.0 and my own online school, most of my waking hours are spent working with video for language teaching through EnglishCentral. I’m keen and bullish on this approach to learning/teaching a language – authentic video where there is both input/output, in context vocabulary study and constant feedback for the students and teachers. Come join the video teaching revolution!

It’s not official yet but given my role, I am able to give readers a small preview of our release of courses next week – timed for  TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia which I’ll be attending. We’ll be launching many great courses with more to come weekly. They’ll be in many categories:

Business | Academic | Media | Social | Travel | Young Learners

Included will be ESP video content from Garnet Education and sensational video courses from Nat. Geographic.

I can’t let the cat out of the bag and we’ll have an official post on the EnglishCentral blog soon. However, note that they are a multimedia online textbook.  Students study the units by watching and speaking the video and studying the vocabulary in quizzes and in the video itself.  The units are designed to reflect a week’s study and teachers can add individual videos for study, to complement the professionally curated courses.  Teachers can add courses to their class page for students to study – just like they presently add topics on EnglishCentral.

Look for the launch post on the EnglishCentral blog. We are excited, I’m excited. We are bringing something to the fore that we think is intuitive and will appeal to schools and teachers.  Here’s an example of the preview page for a course, with how the course looks in a class page.

Recommended Videos for ELT

I am a big believer in using video in our classrooms – bringing rich context and “the real” into the artificial laboratory that is our classroom.

We have thousands of teacher recommended, curated videos on EFL Classroom 2.0. All specific to teaching English. A marvelous resource for our profession. But I always get asked – What are the best videos? While this depends a lot upon your teaching environment, I’ve finally put up an interactive presentation that makes it easy to find what I think are the real gems for teaching. This compliments a previous Top 100 list you’ll find linked on that page.

Enjoy these wonderful videos. Share with friends and colleagues. Comment and tell us how you use them in class. Would love to know what other videos you’d like on this “Recommended” list.

Lesson A Day

I’m busy producing a second edition of “Lesson A Day”. I’ve had lots of nice feedback and teachers are appreciating this organized but low key approach. Just click on the lesson idea and get the suggested resource. Enough for one a day for a whole month! Also use the voicethread for this and get the Teach / Learn coursebook with it.

All my “tech”books

EnglishCentral Basic Business English CoursebookI like the term “tech”books. I’ve been busy the last couple of years creating lots of free books for teachers, books meant to bypass the clutter of the textbook vultures out there. Kind of born of my angst against how textbook culture (and it is a culture, so many are so deep into it, so “hooked”, like culture they can’t even see so), how textbook culture addicts teachers/schools and more seriously, de-trains teachers from actually teaching language in a personal, direct and “human” fashion. Time we all withdraw from this drug and low/no cost techbooks are the answer. Direct, simple and what teachers need – meant to supplement their teaching not suppress their teaching and make teaching into,”exercise 1, exercise 2, now class, turn the page and read”. OMG!

I’ve finally collected all the EnglishCentral techbooks I’ve produced, on one handy page. Take a look and just print and use with students along with the video. You can sign up as a teacher, make a class page of these videos and use the videos there with your students (and get reports, track students).

The normal delivery is

1. Ask some video theme specific discussion questions
2. Play the video, repeat as necessary.
3. Play parts, pause and have students repeat.
4. Students role play the video
5. Students complete the techbook vocabulary exercises.
6. Students go to EnglishCentral and study further, speaking the video etc…

But the point is, the teacher is in control. These are low/no cost, there is no huge pressure to use to the nth degree. They are used as will benefit the learners and the teacher.

Listening – UGC (User Generated Content)

The whole world is the English Language Teacher’s oyster. Nowadays, with the proliferation of technologies and especially the internet – we don’t have to use the staid old materials of “usually” dried up, old white men who write textbooks and run up publisher’s expense accounts. Nosirree. There are great authentic materials everywhere which we can harness, control and use for presenting great classroom material, all with little effort. “Ecrasez l’infame” said Voltaire, “Down with the infamy”. Same applies here, we don’t need experts anymore – the textbook emperors have no clothes.

Here’s one simple example of the power of video that can be brought right to the classroom and used effectively as a language teaching aid. HP Computers – Getting Personal: You On You contest videos. [see all my other players full of great material for the classroom – HERE]

People from all over the world uploaded “headless” videos of themselves. Here’s an example. I have a full player of the best for the classroom HERE.  These videos are absolutely brilliant and I specifically chose one of the worst to highlight how even these are great for teaching.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

It’s easy to use these videos. Simple play one a few times and allow students to record the information about the contestant. Use this nice badge/card (made at the wonderful Big Huge Labs). After, play again and take up the info. pausing the video as you go.

Here’s my answer to the example video!

Another great activity is to just let the students watch and then guess which are the top 3. (the first three in the player were the winners :) )

If you really want to do something amazing – get your students to make their own You On You videos. Have your own contest! Getting students to be the authors of their own language learning materials (what I call SCC or Student Created Content) is the be all and end all of language teaching.

Enjoy using these great videos!

Disappointed Books

Books will always be with us and like poetry, will be valued more as they become less… They are personal and secret things – therein lies their power.

I’m busy writing another one, always busy with “the word”. Today, looking at my book shelves and feeling good that I have my books together in one place. Been traveling the world for a lot of years and they sat in boxes so long.

I say this by way of introducing this wonderful video – The Diary Of A Disappointed Book. It makes for a simple but powerful lesson. Students write down the months of the year and then must note what happened to the book each month. Do this as a writing exercise or just pause the video and speak about what happened each month. Any way you look at it – this video is a gem. Especially for us bibliophiles.

Like this post? You may like: Gems of EFL Classroom 2.0: ebooks

Gems of EFL 2.0: Poetry in the Classroom

Poetry is in my soul (read my own, if interested HERE) and I think if used correctly, it is a powerful activity in the EFL Classroom.

In that vein, find a plethora of resources on the Poetry In The Classroom page. Lots of ideas and printables (click the links at the top of the page), you can use immediately in your classroom. Your students will discover the English poet in themselves and when students use language in creative ways, they become very empowered and more confident, less fearful of the second language.

* Read my full blog post on this topic. Read about more gems of EFL Classroom in this series.