EFL 2.0 Teacher Talk

"When one teaches, two learn"

Archives for websites

The #1 ….. (online pronunciation site)

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


There are some good pronunciation online sites, video or otherwise – but none beat the Univ. of Iowa’s Phonetics. I’ve been using and promoting it for almost 3 years and I’m always rewarded by how happy teachers are when they find the site. (how do I know they’ve found it through me online – well, I won’t tell you all my secrets but if the link is the above, it is probably scooped from me. I’ll avoid the discussion about “headsets” but enjoy the link just as it is…).

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

Students with distinct problems will find the site a wonder. It does two things that are SO crucial to the learner.

1. Shows a face slowly pronouncing.
2. Shows the articulation of the sounds in a clear fashion.

Pronunciation is one area where I do heartily believe in transfer – that we do have difficulties in pronouncing certain English phonemes based on our mother tongue. Students of many L1s will benefit practicing on Phonetiks.

I’ve will also mention that I’ve spent A LOT of time collecting the best videos and links for pronunciation on the internet. Lots of great material in one handy place for teachers or students. I’m streaming daily pronunciation from youtube’s API in HD format. Enjoy, great quality.

Here are all of EFL Classroom’s pronunciation videos.

The Teenaged Language Learner


Teenage Second Language Learning

Why they are different and why that matters

[see  my workshop materials for teaching teens – here. / Also this post is a reply to this post- The Captive Mind]

The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.

                                                                                          ~Raymond Duncan

Teaching teenagers is often the dread of many language teachers. In America, middle school teachers have an alarming professional drop out rate and the frustrations are evident if one talks with any teacher teaching teens. Consider these teachers’ comments from a podcast on teaching English to teenagers (Harmer, 2003 pp. 1-5) ;

“I am teaching a class of teenagers for the first time but I find it difficult to get through to them. They are so unmotivated compared to adults.”


“I’ve found that when I’ve taught a good group of teens, it’s been really good, but when I got a bad group? I don’t want to remember!”


“It’s so difficult that (getting them to study outside of school), isn’t it? “We” know that you get along much faster if you do some self-study, but teens don’t get it.”

Frustration and classroom management issues take precedence over learning. Why is this so? Is it true they really don’t care? Or is it something to do with who they are and how they encounter classroom learning? We need to examine the reasons for teen “apathy” and also how teachers might better adapt their pedagogy to this very unique age group.

Teenagers are different. They are not children nor are they adults. They bring to the classroom and the learning situation a very unique set of cognitive, emotional, social factors which teachers must consider when delivering content. They learn differently, they are “wired” differently. This paper will outline some of the major unique features of the teenage learner and most importantly, suggest what they mean for the language teacher.



A quick review of second language acquisition literature shows a startling dearth of attention to this very important age group.  Most comparative studies focus on children and adults to the neglect of the teenage learner. Teenagers are just “sort of in the middle”. When attention is paid to teenagers, it is mostly about pedagogy and how to “entertain” them, not how they learn language differently. Other times it is with exaggerated claims. For example, that teen laziness and emotional “angst” is because of genetic or developmental differences (small frontal cortex). In fact there is no evidence to suggest such (Epstein, 2007, p. 60).

Age and Second Language Acquisition


There is a popular misconception (even among teachers) that children are better at languages. In fact, there is no real “innateness” about language and even children have to learn language (Singleton, 1999 pg. 56) In general, adult learners are much better at the initial learning of language (Gaas , Selinker 2001, p. 336) because of their conscious metalinguistic skills but children perform better in the later stages of language acquisition (obtaining vocabulary, accent, patterning). This may be because of great plasticity and natural acquisition strategies in the young brain. Risk taking and affective factors also play a part. In any case, it can be said that the apparent “ease” by which children learn language is because of the immense opportunity they have and also the amount of time they can spend “learning” and not from greater ability.

I argue teenagers have the best of both worlds. They still have a very flexible and still developing cognitive network. Yet, they also have more “conscious” control of language and the ability to categorize, manipulate and test logically, the language they encounter.

Recently, a good deal of attention has been paid to teenagers as digital learners or as Prensky ( 2001) in his seminal paper labeled it, “Digital Natives”.  Teenagers learn differently, they have hypertext minds. They don’t learn in a linear fashion anymore. Images are the driving force of learning and text supports. Experience teaches and changes or “trains” their brain as they spend hours upon hours using computers, watching video, text messaging. This too often is not considered by the language teacher.

The Teenage Language Learner – Main Differences.

In so many ways, teenagers are like all learners. They respond to different forms of motivation, they take in language and try to make sense of it, they struggle with pronunciation and remembering vocabulary……. Still there are some very important differences (mostly in the affective realm) that need to be highlighted and noted so that teachers can adjust their curriculum.

Learner Autonomy

Teenagers are ego driven. They are becoming adults and want more control over the learning situation. Their world revolves around one question; “What does it mean to ME?”. Anderson ( 2008)  sees a need to let students have more choice and begin to take responsibility for their own learning.  Harmer (2003 p.1) states;

“Get them to write the questions, cut up texts (a bit too primary – like sometimes), write their own grammar exercises.  I mean somehow getting the ownership of the material over to them……put them in the center of the frame”.

Harris ( 1991, pp. 1-5 )  suggests many ways on how to get students more “into the frame”. These include; giving them roles to help the teacher and the class, highlighting students in a positive fashion and using rewards.

Teenagers learn language because it is meaningful to them. Children learn language because they have a natural affinity and also there is evidence of a deep need. Adults learn languages for many intrinsic reasons (and this may be a reason why they can be so good at learning languages, all things considered). Teenagers learn a language not only for marks but because it is meaningful.  Relating the rationale and purpose of language learning is a must with teenagers. As well,  a thematic curriculum should be developed that centers on their interests and their world. Presentations, role plays, projects are all language activities that give learners more autonomy.

It should be noted here that it is very difficult to learn a second language in “a class”. There just aren’t enough hours in the school year and the classroom is also a very artificial and many times “wasteful” language learning environment. Giving students more autonomy also means giving them more opportunity to become independent learners. Teachers should direct students to resources for learning outside the classroom and provide them with these opportunities. In the present age of telephony, this will become increasingly the case with successful language classrooms. Students can learn much more efficiently by themselves through input and the classroom can be time for more social and instructional focus on language.

The Cool Factor”


Teenagers are forming their social identity. As such,  they are heavily influenced by their peer groups (Waqui , 2000) . Learners of a second language want to “belong” and not be “strange”.  Speaking in a foreign language can be a scary experience and very necessary comprehensible output can be hard to achieve. Teachers must be sensitive to this and spend much time creating a very warm, inviting and risk taking atmosphere in the classroom. Teachers need to reflect upon the activities they undertake in the second language classroom and ask themselves – “Does it help or hinder peer bonding?”

Group work is essential and a less teacher centered delivery method a must. Teenagers along with control, want to learn in and by their peer group. Social networking and Web 2.0 tools are a big help for the computer literate language teacher in this area. Teachers need to move toward more richly interactive language use  and more cooperative learning.

The social nature of learning will only grow in importance. Teenagers are much more “social learners” and networking will become a larger focus of the learning paradigm. Chaos theory and everything being related to everything – knowledge growing exponentially – new technology which allows us to be “everywhere”, this will all change how we learn and live. The burgeoning field of “connection” will also play a part in describing this changing world (Siemens, 2005)


The downside of the “cool factor” is learner anxiety. Language learning can be traumatic and frustrating. Learners very often suffer from acute anxiety which effects acquisition and leads to fossilization. Many studies have concluded that anxiety and achievement are negatively correlated. (MacIntyre and Gardner, 1994). Hoffman (1986, p. 261) suggests, “affect can determine the extent to which semantic and non-semantic modes of processing are brought into play”.

Na (2003) in her study of high school students in China, found significant anxiety negatively correlated with achievement. Boys suffered more and it often became a vicious circle (anxiety – low achievement – more anxiety – low achievement ……). She suggests teachers plan appropriately and focus on making a positive classroom environment (no negative evaluations, less error correction, no ranking, less test focus, allowing students to express their own views).

Anxiety depends on the language learning situation students encounter (Gass, p. 357 ). It is situational and depends on a multitude of factors. For example, in some classrooms competition and games may be seen as “anxiety producers” whereas in others, they may be a very beneficial way to foster language acquisition.  Best practices would dictate that we give our learners the 2nd language anxiety survey (appendix) in their L1 to see if anxiety is indeed, a serious issue.

“The NOW”

Nothing dampens the spirit of the teenage learner more than drudgy, old, 30 year old language learning materials. Teenagers crave “the new” and “the now” , driven as they are by peer socialization. Content should be up to date and authentic materials promoted. Further, teachers should students more opportunity to produce materials in their classrooms and thus “ensure” current content.

We are only just now starting to understand the brain and recent efforts in SLA research into connectivism may shed light into how the teenagers use their brain and learn language. They crave rich and multimodal content. An adult might not like all the sensory input that a teenager would.

Prensky (2001, p. 3) elaborates;

Children raised with the computer “think differently from the rest of us. They develop hypertext minds. They leap around. It’s as though their cognitive structures were parallel, not sequential.”

Oblinger (2005, p.16) notes a number of differences with the “Net Generation”

Visual – ability to read visual images

Visual – Spatial skills – integrate the virtual and real

Inductive Discovery

Attentional Deployment – shift attention quickly, focus on only what concerns them.

Quick Response Time

These have important implications for the second language instructor. Teenagers brains are quite malleable and instructors need to provide very “rich” content. Text to Speech and video / music are essential for not only motivating teenagers with the “new” but also allowing them to learn effectively. Instructors should limit activity time (Anderson, 2008) . Language teachers should use more media and visual content to assist learning. More control should be given to students in terms of what they wish to study. Games will become an important component of any future successful language learning curriculum.

The “Romantic” Learner


Teenagers respond to the “humanistic” learning environment. They are very idealistic and emotions seem to dominate their character. “ Loving at one moment, monsters at the next”, as one teacher put it.  Waqui (2000, p.3) suggests that the success of a language teacher is partly in being a good, empathetic role model. Learners will respond to a teacher that cares, especially teenage learners who carry a romantic spirit and crave authenticity, personality and presence over content.

The affective filter can also be reduced by giving students an emotional attachment to language and words (Harmer 2006, p. 58). Language is best retained when it has personal relevance and teachers can foster this. Further, as the preeminent psychologist Carl Rogers noted , “learners need to feel what they are learning is personally relevant to them, that they have to experience learning (not being taught) and that their self image needs to be enhanced”.

Taking care of the affective side of the teaching equation can be a huge task. Further, it should not be done at the expense of attention to the cognitive and intellectual development of the equation. Still, it can be accomplished through a teacher that shares their life with the students and also encourages language learning through personal growth and sharing. Anything creative is a proven classroom winner for the teenager “romantic” learner.


I have briefly outlined some important considerations for teachers when teaching teens. Teenagers crave autonomy (and there are some critics who see the problems of the teen years as arising from restricting teenagers and delaying their adulthood (Epstein, 2004) ), they also want to be “cool” and desire “new” materials. Teens also need much peer interaction. Personalization of content and delivery is essential and attention must also be paid to the “anxiety” levels of language learners.

The future is like a double edged sword for today’s teenage students. The world is changing under their feet. Will technology and rich content enable them to learn languages much quicker than traditionally? Or will it be a crutch, decreasing motivation, full of translators and “help” and allow them no “drive” and need to learn the language?

We should certainly hope for the former.

(get more resources/info. about teaching teens HERE)


Anderson, Gary, (2008), “Teaching Teenagers English”, English in Mind, Cambridge Univ. Press, Retrieved Aug. 01, 2008, http://www.cambridge.org/elt/englishinmind/teacher_resources/teaching_teenagers.htm

Driscoll, M. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Needham Heights, MA, Allyn & Bacon.

Epstein, Robert, (2007) “The Myth of the Teen Brain”. Scientific American Mind, pg 57-63.

Epstein, Robert,. (2004), The End of Adolescence. Philip Graham. Oxford University Press.

Gardner, R., and Lambert, W. (Eds.) (1972). Attitudes and motivation in second language learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Gass, M. Susan and  Selinker, Larry.  (2001). Second Language Acquisition, an introductory course, London., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,

Harley, B. (1986). Age in second language acquisition. London: Multilingual Matters

Harmer, Jeremy,. (2006). The Practice of English Language Teaching, 4th Edition, Essex, Pearson Longman.

Harris, Robert,. (1991) Some Ideas for motivating students, Retrieved Aug. 01, 2008, http://www.virtualsalt.com/mla.htm

Hoffman, M.L., (1986), Affect, cognition and motivation. In R.M. Sorrentino & E.T.

Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition (pp.244-280). New York, Guilford.

Jeremy Harmer,.“Teaching Teenagers”, ELT Forum, Sept. 2003. Retrieved August 01, 2008 from http://www.eltforum.com/articles/free/transcripts/23.pdf

Little, D. (1999). “ Developing learner autonomy in the foreign language classroom: a social-interactive view of learning and three fundamental pedagogical principles”, Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses 38: 77-88.

Marc Prensky, “Do They Really Think Differently?”, On the Horizon,. MCB University Press, 9(6), 1-6. Dec. 20001.

Marc Prensky, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, On the Horizon,. MCB University Press, 9(5), 1-5. Oct. 20001.

Na, Zhao., (2003) “A Study of High School Students’ English Learning Anxiety.”, Asian EFL Journal 9 (3)  Article 2,

Oblinger, G. Diane and Oblinger, L. James, (2005), “Educating the Net Generation”, Educause.

Rogers, C., (1969) Freedom to Learn, Charles Merrill.

Siemens, George,. (2005) Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age, Retrieved Aug. 01, 2008, http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

Singleton, David,. (1989), “Language Acquisition, The Age Factor.”, Multilingual Matters, Avon, England.

Twyford, Charles William,. (1988), “Age Related Factors in Second Language Acquisition”, NCBE Winter (2) 1-9.

Walqui, A. (2000). Contextual Factors in Second Language Acquisition. Washington D.C., Center for Applied Linguistics

Appendix 1

Twelve Things to Keep in Mind when Teaching Teenagers

by Gary Anderson

  • It seems that all teenagers are interested in pop songs, so exploit that interest by bringing music – and the feelings that can be expressed through songs – into the classroom.
  • Teenagers (perhaps especially the current need-to-know generation) like to be seen as cool and up-to-date, so bring in topics of current interest from IT, sport, entertainment and media, and English-speaking cultures that is personally relevant to your learners.
  • Teenagers are discovering (often with difficulty) a different relationship with others and group work allows individuals to interact with different classmates in a less stressful, collaborative atmosphere.
  • Teenagers are starting to define their proper personalities (sometimes it seems they have multiple personalities!) and role-play activities can allow them to try to express different feelings behind non-threatening, face-saving masks.
  • Part of growing up is taking responsibility for one’s acts and, in school, for one’s learning, so a measure of learner autonomy and individual choice can be helpful for teenagers.
  • It’s amazing how some teenagers will have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of a particular field, so let individual students bring their outside interests and knowledge into the classroom through cross-curricular work.
  • Variety – including surprise and humor – is the spice of classroom life (perhaps particularly with teenagers and their infamous short attention span), so try out different warmers, starters and fillers to change the pace and enliven the organization of your lessons.
  • Teenagers are discovering their (often awkward) bodies so use movement by giving students an opportunity to move around during class.
  • Teaching in secondary school often means teaching multi-level classes, but effective classroom management can help even with very large classes.
  • Use of the mother tongue can not only steer a whole class activity away from misunderstanding, confrontation and potential discipline problems (always a risk with teenagers), but also help avoid pressure on an individual by removing the impression that one person is being tested and put on the spot.
  • Games can provide not only purposeful contexts in which to use language but they also stimulate interaction, provide competition and are fun – as long as rules are clear and clearly followed by all participants.
  • Project work offers each individual a chance to use their individual talent to do something personally meaningful and motivating with the language they are learning – and the resulting posters and other visuals can be displayed around the classroom (just as teenagers decorate their rooms at home).


Extracted from -  http://www.cambridge.org/elt/englishinmind/teacher_resources/teaching_teenagers.htm


Appendix 2

English version of FLCAS (Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale)

1. I never feel quite sure of myself when I am speaking in my foreign language class.
2. I don’t worry about making mistakes in language class.
3. I tremble when I know that I’m going to be called on in language class.
4. It frightens me when I don’t understand what the teacher is saying in the foreign language.
5. It wouldn’t bother me at all to take more foreign language classes.
6. During language class, I find myself thinking about things that have nothing to do with the course.
7. I keep thinking that the other students are better at languages than I am.
8. I am usually at ease during tests in my language class.
9. I start to panic when I have to speak without preparation in language class.
10. I worry about the consequences of failing my foreign language class.
11. I don’t understand why some people get so upset over foreign language classes.
12. In language class, I can get so nervous when I forget things I know.
13. It embarrasses me to volunteer answers in my language class.
14. It would not be nervous speaking in the foreign language with native speakers.
15. I get upset when I don’t understand what the teacher is correcting.
16. Even if I am well prepared for language class, I feel anxious about it.
17. I often feel like not going to my language class.
18. I feel confident when I speak in foreign language class.
19. I am afraid that my language teacher is ready to correct every mistake I make.
20. I can feel my heart pounding when I’m going to be called on in language class.
21. The more I study for a language test, the more confused I get.
22. I don’t feel pressure to prepare very well for language class.
23. I always feel that the other students speak the language better than I do.
24. I feel very self-conscious about speaking the foreign language in front of other students.
25. Language class move so quickly I worry about getting left behind.
26. I feel more tense and nervous in my language class than in my other classes.
27. I get nervous and confused when I am speaking in my language class.
28. When I’m on my way to language class, I feel very sure and relaxed.
29. I get nervous when I don’t understand every word the language teacher says.
30. I feel overwhelmed by the number of rules you have to learn to speak a foreign language.
31. I am afraid that the other students will laugh at me when I speak the foreign language.
32. I would probably feel comfortable around native speakers of the foreign language.
33. I get nervous when the language teacher asks questions which I haven’t prepared in advance.

Woices – travel, record, listen …

Woices is Wonderful! It is a fairly new site which enables teachers or students to roam and listen to authentic audio about different places. Even download it for classroom use!

Basically, you browse a google map, find a region of the world you want to know about and then listen/search the audio that has been recorded there. If you sign up, you can even make your own recording and share your travels! Here’s an example I made – also see below, a more detailed screencast explaining many of the wonderful features of Woices in more detail. It is quite new but I’m sure as the audio library grows, it will become even more outstanding…. Get traveling, get recording!

Share your know how – your fav. sites!

I’ve been a cheerleader of Voicethread for years now (and that’s a long time in internet speak!). A collaboration and learning tool that is revolutionary. In that vein, I’ve made my “Top Sites” presentation into a voicethread.

Share how you use each tool. Or just leave a question about it also. Let’s help each other! It really isn’t the tool itself that is “the thing” but most importantly, how it is used. YOU – the teacher or learner have a lot of insight to share about that.

Looking forward to responses – this will be especially valuable for teachers new to using technology for teaching languages. A big thanks in advance to all who reply and help out.

Click on any title to go to the site or an example of the site/tool. Also, if you don’t want to comment but want a handy way to browse the sites – see this post. Note – The sites are listed in no particular order! Happy Hunting!

The “draw” of drawing in class

As a language teacher, I often use drawing as a way for students to “learn” language. Students love drawing and it is a very motivating tool that almost every student enjoys Even those students who have difficulty drawing can have fun given a teacher that shows their own inept drawing ability and keeps things “light”.

Student drawing

Student drawing

I wrote “learn” because the real purpose of getting students drawing is not so they “learn” language but rather unconsciously acquire language. The distinction between L1 language acquisition and L2 learning of a language – where, how, when etc… has long been a contentious and debated issue. Please read more here, clicking the links to some valuable ELT history/discussion on this issue. What I’d like to add here though is my belief that “drawing” is one way (music, drama, tpr, laughter, even alcohol are others) in which 2nd language teachers can tap into the unconscious mind and get students “acquiring” a language and not “learning” a language.

When we “draw”, we reach into some primitive and automatic process. We concentrate and relax at the same time. The mind opens up and language can “pour” in. It really can. So much of what we call, “good teaching practice” is only the teacher’s skill in relaxing students, even distracting students so that they can tap into the unconscious processes that allow language to be acquired. I do not believe that there is a “language window”. We can at all times/ages, open that window. It just gets more difficult as we age.

Still, I don’t like the word – “acquire”. I prefer the Chomskyian term “grow”. We grow a language. Yes, at first we consciously and explicitly plant a seed (memorize structures/vocabulary) – but that is only a small part of the whole process. The most important aspect is the care, the watering, the nurturing, the “time” of living and experiencing that allows growth. This is the teacher’s job, to set those conditions so that growth of language happens. Drawing is a great way – it is sunlight to the seed of language. Drawing also make a steel connection to the “ego” of the learner. It is highly personal and provides titanium like context – something invaluable for teaching and language acquisition.

But enough theory! Let’s get practical!

Here are some of the ways I’ve used “drawing” with my students. They work and I highly urge all teachers to use them when possible. And please note *** drawing is not just a “kids” thing!

1. Describe and Draw: One student describes a picture and the other draws it. A basic two way task. See my description with resources HERE. Another option is to just give students an A4 piece of paper. At the top, write a common title. Then ask students what they see. As they describe, draw together (the teacher draws large on the board). Label too, as you go along. A very informal but beneficial lesson….

2. Draw and Describe: Put on “mood” music. Give students a theme – let’s say, “At the ……..”. Then let them draw for 5 min. Afterwards, in groups, they label and describe their drawings.

3. Vocabulary “solidifying”. It is difficult to acquire “words”. However, when we draw those words while learning, we activate a powerful part of our brain. I have students draw pictures in their notebooks beside newly acquired vocabulary. I also have them do so on worksheets, word searches etc ….. One concrete example would be a 2 way task where a student tells their partner the vocabulary to draw in “X” box. See the example below.

4. Storybook Making / Cartoons: Students make story/picture books to help them acquire language. They first draw the pictures for the story using a storyboard (very easy to make, just fold an A4 piece of paper into as many boxes as you need to detail the story). Then, the students write the story for the pictures. The teacher or peers correct and then they make a final product / book. Susan Kapuscinski is an amazing resource and teacher whose Making Storybooks, I highly recommend. Use her videos (on ehow or youtube) showing how each book is made too!

5. Doodle Songs: much like making a storybook only this time, students “tell” the song by creating pictures to contextualize the lyrics. Do a song the students like. Give students parts/lines of the song (make sure they number their picture so you can put it in order afterwards!). The students draw a picture for their line of the lyrics. We have a full player of doodle songs on EFL Classroom. See the wonderful example above, a teacher on EFL Classroom made. More in our videos!

6. Pictionary: Yes, the obvious standard. Students are given a vocabulary picture they must draw. The other students guess and the first person guessing correctly wins a point. There are many variations. Here are two online options. A) Odopod sketch slideshow. Students watch and describe/guess. They will be WOWED. B) Draw My Thing – my game of 2009. Students can play at home or it can be used as a filler in class. Just like pictionary but in real time and online. You draw with your mouse and you compete for points!

7. Online tools: If you just want a handy way to draw on the computer or big screen – Go HERE or HERE. Scribble Maps is also a great way to draw with maps. Sketcast is also a big winner!

8. Other ways! Drawing can be brought into almost any lesson plan. Too many ways to elaborate but think about how you might incorporate drawing into each of your lesson plans if possible!

Technology and Teaching Languages

Here is a presentation in brief – focusing on how technology relates to curriculum. Some tips, some thoughts ……. HERE is the paper version.

Using Zoom Words

Zoom Words is a pretty cool way to present vocabulary. It is super simple to use and probably even quicker to use than Wordle or Tagxedo. However, it is browser based and you’ll have to have a webpage/blog to embed your creation in (or just use your page here on EFL Classroom. See my example below but let me describe what I did to make it and how I’d use it.

1. Get a list
of vocabulary items or phrases you want the students to practice.

2. Go to Zoom Words
and select your colors (white background is best I think).

3. Input your words or phrases/sentences, one by one
. Click the “add to list” button each time.

4. Press “Copy the code”
and then embed on your blog/webpage (or here on EFL Classroom). I think “Posterous” is perfect for this sort of thing. HERE is my creation on Posterous. Tip: increase the width/height in the embed code if you wish.

5. Get students to talk
about the words/phrases that appear by giving them some target language on the board or on paper. For my example, I provided the simple phrase:

I think __________(s) is / are

That’s it – Zoom Words, a great vocabulary tool and way to present language for learning. A big Hat Tip to Ana Maria’s Life Feast blog for this.

The #1 …(way to do a Needs Analysis)

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

Wall Wisher

Wallwisher is a place where students can go and put up “post it notes” about a topic. I can think of many ways to use Wallwisher with students but none better than getting students to reply about what they want to learn in the course or what they liked best about a course. It is a tremendously powerful tool for soliciting student feedback.

Needs surveys are important and can be pre, during and post course. They allow the teacher to alter the curriculum and tailor it to the student’s learning style, levels, beliefs and motivation. HERE is a nice presentation I use with my graduate students about Needs Analysis.

Teachers can simply post up a simple question and let students reply in short post its. Example questions might be – “What do you like best / hate about the textbook units?” “How do you learn best?” “What should we do more of in class?” “What is your favorite topic?” etc….

Think about using Wallwisher with your students and giving them some input about the course, the textbook or the teaching/learning! See my complete tutorial and guide on ELT and TECH. Download this nice “How to use Wallwisher” guide and also see my recent Website of the Day post. Go HERE to find some more amazing ways to use Wallwisher!

Here’s one example!

Zooburst – Make, Share, Read pop up books!

I really love making pop up cars with my students so I thought Zooburst would be a great site to check out. It is currently in “alpha” but I got an invite, maybe you can too!

You can upload photos, search photos and easily create pop up books with dialogue. Wonderful for creating stories or teaching vocabulary. Works fine and I created my “Simpson’s” book in about 15 minutes (I already had the photos). No glitches and very intuitive. Not too many choices available for templates / scenes at the moment but that’s probably for the better.

What do you think about this? A good concept? I must say, I had fun making the book and think that it would work best if students were making their own books and then sharing them. I hope Zooburst will develop this feature for teachers – signing up students and creating a private community for their books (much like Storybird does).

Hope you enjoyed my presentation and get Zoobursting!

Twiducate – a simple and safe online classroom

Twiducate gives me goosebumps! I really get excited when I see a tool that teachers can use with their class – a tool that genuinely gets students communicating in a “real” and purposeful fashion.

Twiducate functions like private twitter. Teachers sign up and invite students. Students choose from some nifty avatars and then begin “tweeting” to each other – responding. The teacher can “peg” questions to the top for students to respond to but I think they’ll enjoy just communicating with each other. The teacher can post urls on the side and also important dates. Most importantly it is totally private, safe and FREE!

I set up a “sandbox” for any teacher to try it out first before signing up. Simply enter our classcode – eflclassroom20 and a password (below) that I’ve generated (the teacher creates the student accounts by hitting “students” at the top and entering their name and generating a password. Use any of these student accounts or sign up yourself to view and play around!

107119 / 631128 / 490215 / 824690 / 52681 / 580835 / 971419
Here is how some grade 1 students used Twiducate to talk about their weekend! Real communication! See the screencast below, made by an EFL teacher outlining some features I’ve discussed – but check this out either in our sandbox or by making your own class!!!!!!

Famous Children’s Author’s Interviews

Reading Rockets has a fantastic page of interviews with loads of famous children’s authors. All with transcripts too!

Wonderfully insightful, I’ve spent most of the day avoiding marking and enjoying them.
Here Eric Carle of “The Hungry Caterpillar” and “Head to Toe” talks about writing and the challenges of making “beauty”. Also the secret behind the success of the Hungry Caterpillar. So many other gem interviews too!

Verbalearn – Adv. Vocabulary Practice

VerbaLearn is a new site which does a lot of things well. I’m not usually a big fan of learning English through “word study”, however, it is a reality and it does work for many students. Also, VerbaLearn caters to those who are trying to pass all those significant tests….GRE / SAT / ACT and though not directly or yet – TOEFL.

On the site, you are prompted and can test yourself. The words you get wrong, are put into a word list for later study. You can then use that list to be tested upon continually until you’ve learned the words. If you get them right, absolutely (by hitting the “I know” prompt and not guessing), the word is eliminated from your study/test list.

This could be a great place to refer higher level students. And this is a major job of most teachers — we can’t really teach everything in class, there isn’t enough time to conquer the 6-7,000 words needed for academic success….

Also included here – a few word lists which will come in handy!!!! If you also haven’t checked it out on our Practice page – visit Word Count. A “real time” analysis of the most popular words in use on the internet! Maybe use it to get your students to guess what rank “X” word will be. Could be a fun game!

Please also see these other resources including an article on word lists/study by two of the top authorities in this area… Further, don’t forget to visit WORDAHEAD. A video vocab site with much the same high level vocab. I also highly recommend our Vocabulary discussion – loads of ideas and resources there!

60 Sec. Recaps – for digital types…

60 Second Recaps is a neat concept. You can find there most high school English literature – classic books like Animal Farm, Hamlet, To Kill a Mockingbird etc…. What’s cool is that they are explained in 4-6 neat 60 second recap videos. Think Coles Notes for the digital native!

The recaps are very engaging. However, she speaks quite fast for second language speakers, so filter as necessary. Still, they are done in very “social” language and would probably make life a lot easier for ESL students needing to know this material.

There are also other video resources. Literary terms are explained in some and there are also videos to help right term papers. Pretty neat for a high school ESL teacher or someone at an International school.

Here’s an example. From one of my fav. novels – Crime and Punishment. In this part, she explains the main character Raskalnikov.

2 for 1 – Screenr and the Subservient Chicken!

It’s worth taking a look at ALL these blogs!

worth taking a lookSo I’m finally getting around to my recommendations for the “It’s worth taking a look at these blogs” request. I’ve been intending to do this for awhile but just busy with many end of semester things (and still am). However, inspiration got hold of me and also because I DO think it such a great idea — I forced myself to come up/out with something. Thank you to all who read my blog or mentioned my blog. Bless your soul.

Jason Renshaw (bless his combative soul), really threw down the gauntlet by posting  THIS. A kind of “J’accuse” and manifesto stating that all those not playing this game are mean spirited and unhelpful and …. You get the point.

He wrote:

All in all, the It’s Worth Taking a Look at this Blog idea worked well – really well.

For those who actually grasped it, that is.

I’m sorry, but I DO grasp it but I really don’t buy into it. This whole henpecking, ranking people/teachers and constant breast pounding, jolly be good, jolly I’m good streak that runs through blogging. It is in many forms, however you put lipstick on the pig – just plain pandering to something I’m most against in education – comparing people.

Our schools and classrooms are full of it (pun intended). All through my career as a teacher I’ve played the game. All the while getting the last laugh and finding a way to give everyone an A. Yeah, that’s right. If you are in my class, you get an A. The marks don’t matter to me — only what the student thinks of themselves and how they connect with their own learning.

Everyone's a winner

But back to blogging. I really wanted to participate in this but really couldn’t find a way without offending others and participating in the “this is better than that”. So I decided to just give everyone an A!

Please click the random ELT Blog Generator and get taken to new and old bloggers alike. You be the judge – we all will fall in love with different ones. There are 130 blogs in the bunch, culled only in two ways. 1. They have been regularly updated (at least 1 post in the last 3 weeks) 2. Are not commercial mouthpieces (however soft).


If you like the idea, copy down the code and put a nice button linking to the generator page. Happy blog roulette!

Also – this means that if you are in the generator – you are tagged!

<a href=”http:eflclassroom.com/randomeltblog.html” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://eflclassroom.com/images/buttons/randomeltblog1.png” alt=”Random ELT Blogs” /></a>

PS. Jason, no slight intended. I know you heart is always in the right place….bless your soul.

12 To Dos for Student learning English

It isn’t easy learning a language. I’ve learned 3 of them and had success in 3 completely different ways! I’m going to work on a fourth and probably will stumble along with a 4th method.

What this means is “to each his own”.  We have to find what works for us.  However, along the way, I’ve stumbled upon a few “key” ideas, almost secrets – so obvious as to be blind to many. Here they are in one nice presentation to motivate all you language learners!

Let me know what you think and what worked for you as a language learner. Which tip do you feel is the strongest?

TEACHERS? Who Needs Them?

Please see my Top Websites which complements this presentation!

I also really like this presentation. Excellent overview of why so many traditional language learning approaches DON’T work!

Teachers / Students – the gap narrows

If you look at one constant in education (over 100s of years), we see one very clear trend — the blurring of the lines between teacher / student. Technology is only speeding up this process and it is especially true for English Language Teaching. We are no longer custodians of knowledge but seeds of knowledge. Self – service has come to our profession.

Power corrupts, so I’m all for this new “paradigm” and teachers will have to change their role into that of a “one who councils” and a motivator. I await the day when we chuck the term teacher for that of “language councillor” . I think the moment of truth will come when we finally shrug the ‘testing monkey” off our back. When we throw away the false and quacked up yardsticks by which we ill compare each other – we’ll be free to focus more on self improvement. The question is always – “Am I improving?” (education) not “Am I better/worse than my peers?” (schooling).

So in that vein, here is my technological council – for both teachers and students. In particular, see the links below for more reading / resources for teachers and students.

Click on any picture for examples / the site

STUDENTS: (if you don’t want to register for EFL Classroom – just use ID/PW – [email protected] / eflclassroom)

Tips for Learning Languages
– My Prezi!

EFL Classroom Directory – see Games / Arcade / Listening / Stories in particular.

Also our Language Lab.


Web 2.0 Tools – a list.
Using Technology in the Language Classroom
Best ELT Blogs
Classroom 2.0
Inductive Teaching
EFL Classroom’s Professional Development Training page & Resources for Professional Development
TEFL Training page
ELT Jobs Twitter feed.

Quizlet now has voice recognition for student practice!

I’ve started up our long dormant Quizlet flashcard group. Even make your own flashcards and share them (use our ID/PWeflclassroom/eflclassroom

However even better, is to get your students playing the games online. Yes, you can print and cut out all the flashcards (this is superb!!!) but now with their new “speaking” component, there are more reasons for your students to practice online. Students can “speak” the flashcard word or sentence and try to make it disappear. Really works!

Watch the tutorial I unprofessionally made – it does the job of introducing you to it. Then send your students to Quizlet for practice. This is cool — your voice has magic and what you say can make things happen!

Flikr Poet

Flikr poet is so simple it is astonishing! A great example of how web 2.0 applications are transforming our teaching and classrooms. No doubt, Flikr Poet makes learning happen – happen quicker, better, faster than many other methods.

What is it? Well, Flikr Poet gives you pictures for the words you type in. It makes a nice collage that you can use for instruction. I imagine it could be used in the following ways;

1. Just for simple instruction and vocabulary review. Simply type in your lesson/units vocabulary words and have students review or make sentences

2. Guessing games. Put in your vocabulary words. One student chooses one photo and others ask questions to guess it. Set a limit and if they don’t guess the right picture after “x” number of questions, that student wins.

3. Story Dominoes. Much like my powerpoint game, you can make a Flikr Poem and challenge students to take turns telling the story. First in groups and then share the stories or the best stories.

*** One tip. After getting your first selection of photos, keep refreshing the page and seeing what new photos show up. You will invariably get a perfect example/meld of pictures after a few times.

Many other great ways I’m sure. Try Story Dominoes with this Flikr Poem I produced! Or try the vocabulary “ing” one!

Twitter – Love it / Hate it!

twitter_logo_headerOkay, it has been 6+ months (and 1,200 tweets later)  that I’ve been on twitter and prompted by a discussion I had with my  Practicum students about this medium (I was urging them to form/make their own PLN) – I have to speak out.

I definitely have a love / hate relationship with twitter. It is like a one of those friends you so love for their excited demeanor and energy but also hate because there are times you just can’t stand how chattering and vain they are.

love hate

I have been using twitter since the start. But only impersonally for EFL Classroom 2.0 and what I consider my major achievement for ELT – Twitter Jobs (all the jobs over the net come to one place using simple pie aggregation and my knowledge of slicing/dicing rss). I also promote twitter for ELT through the ELT Twitter page that many new educators use to get a kind of understanding of Twitter.

I recognized its value right from the get go and along with Voicethread, it gets my “first decade of the 21st century tool for educators” award. Twitter allows access to knowledge, dispersion of knowledge and information. THIS no matter what anyone tells you – is the role of education – ACCESS TO KNOWING/KNOWLEDGE.  There is a reason every school had a library and there is a reason every teacher should be on twitter…..

However, to make a long story short, I was coaxed by a few people to use twitter in a more personal fashion. I agreed and entered the fray as ddeubel. I do believe in utter transparency and also in being “personal” so this allowed me to be more transparent toward twitter.  And in this belief, I’d like to give my own + and – report on twitter. You may not agree but that’s okay – just like on twitter, you don’t have to follow and can vote with your mouse! But this is how I feel.

I LOVE that:

1.  Twitter creates community. Love this, love this, love this. It allows others to know about events, information, great posts, the latest trends etc…..

2.  Twitter connects like minds. The online world was such a hard place to exist in prior to twitter.  Crowded rooms/networks where nobody understood….now twitter helps solve that.

3.  Twitter allows us to share. Post up a url/address and BAAM – it plus and minuses across the netiverse.

4.  Twitter focuses on people. And yes, at the end of the day, we ARE human and despite keyboards, memory boards and monitors – there is a loving, tender and REAL person there. Twitter brings that out in shortform.

5.  Twitter doesn’t cost. Yeah, obvious but so important. If and even WHEN they start with an obtrusive business model/approach – I hope people will leave in droves. Twitter, if they want to make money should approach governments (read: the people) for support to keep it open and accessible. False idols proposed as I’ve recently read – will not do.


So now let me count the ways I hate thee O twitter!

1.  People who tweet about their recent post more than once. Okay, we got the message/mail/tweet. Shut up.

2.  Vote for me. This drives me nuts. Twitter is not your means to be loved/liked/adored.

3.  Idle chatter. Yes, I like what you tweet but then you go off on these long love in things with others that just can’t be ignored but which drive me up the wall.  I unfollow all those who treat twitter in too light a fashion and as a means of “chatter”.  I’m most disappointed in many of the  big names of ELT who mostly partake in such shallow public chit chat. Give me the BEEF or tweet up.

4.  You don’t follow me so I won’t follow you. So many play this assinine game and I really don’t even need explain why it is something I hate. Plain wrong. If you need to be loved – don’t go to Twitter for it!

5.  Telling others what you are doing. “Hi, I’m right now waiting to board a flight to this conference….” or “just letting you know I don’t like the view in my hotel room”. TWEET UP! Get a life.

5b.  Twitter as a vanity mirror. Yeah, it can really suck you in. Look at me, look at me! And pretty soon you don’t even know you’ve fallen and are drowning in its waters…… Every now and then give twitter a good smash and put it in its place!

There is a lot more that I could go on with – about my love hate relationship with twitter.  I’ll stop, this has been enough.

If though, like me, you love information – I recommend just following these two Titan tweeters. Larry Ferlazzo and Tonnet