Change bad praise by effective praise

Change bad praise by effective praise

The previous article was about how we can deliver praise in an effective way. When I first started teaching, a million years ago, there are things I said or actions I took that I regretted. Blame it on my youth, as they say. We all make mistakes and it is important to acknowledge when we go wrong, especially when it comes to saying or doing things that may affect students in their learning. My point today here is to give you a –non- exhaustive list- of do’s and don’ts expressions to better praise your students and lead them in the right direction. The next items are part of a long list of things I heard during my career and even if they reflect all the anger, frustration and exhaustion of some of us, it is important to ban them from our language to help our students grow as well-rounded individuals.

1. Instead of “ I’m busy right now”
Try: “Ok, give a minute, I can’t help you right now as I am busy, but when I am done, I’ll come and see you”. I am still surprised to get some University students coming to see me sometimes for things I may consider futile at times when I am obviously unable to help them with their question. I was busy in a training session in the meeting room a couple of weeks ago when I got told that a student of mine had made it clear that he urgently needed to see me. The reason was that he wanted to give me his essay but he had questions about the marking criteria. Well, that is just a little something that can be perceived as annoying and to which we may not respond well. What happens when the learner is a primary school student or a secondary school one? They do not perceive the matter of urgency the same way we do, so if we dismiss them abruptly without any justified reason to their eyes we may make some enemies without even meaning it.

2. Instead of “ You are not good at languages”
Try: “Well, you may find some things difficult in languages, but I can tell you that there are things you will find easy to learn, fun and also interesting, don’t give up”. When we tell someone that they are not good at doing something in most cases they integrate this belief and become actually bad at doing it. I remember hearing my math teacher saying that -I quote-
“ She is not stupid, she has potential but math that is not for her.” Guess what? I gave up on math and the day I truly needed math and all the bloody vectors to get my Aeronautics certificate I couldn’t quite cope because I had believed all my life that I would never be able to cope with math. Imagine the same scenario with a young boy/girl. You may ruin some of his chances simply because your sayings were pretty bad.

3. Instead of “ You could do so much with more effort”
Try: “ You have the potential to succeed, now what can I do to help you unlock this potential fully?” When you say that a student has potential but don’t use it fully that is basically quite offensive. If you know as a learner that you do put the effort into your work but that for any reason the results are not what you are expecting, how do feel? And when your teacher pinpoint the fact that you didn’t do all you could do that feels just like a slap in the face.

4. Instead of “ Your brother/sister was good at languages, why can’t you?”
Golden rule in teaching: never compare brothers and sisters in terms of results or attitude. Even acknowledging that you remember having taught a student’s sibling, avoid any comparison whether positive or negative. Treat everyone as an individual. Period.

5. Instead of “I was expecting something better from you.”
Try: “Well, there are a couple of good things like the use of linking words in your writing, now what do you think could be improved to make it a better piece of writing?” Be specific when you give feedback. Even you are disappointed in the work of a student try to think about ways to improve the student’s work. Learning is a process. Everything can be improved.

These were just some of the examples of damaging expressions that can be detrimental to the learning and growth of students. If we all try collectively to ban those sayings, a lot would be done to improve education and learning.

Effective praise in the classroom

Effective praise in the classroom

What is effective praise about ?

We all know that a pat on the back can improve the way our students learn and it is a good way to motivate them and also reduce disruption in class. However, what if our praise is not delivered in an appropriate way or genuine?

1. Why is praise important
Let me tell you a story. A while ago I was teaching a group of young University students about techniques to write short-stories. One of them who wasn’t a straight A student –nor was he a struggling one- read his story to the rest of the class. This naturally shy student had written such a subtle, entertaining and moving piece of writing that I was taken aback.
“Adrian, that’s absolutely brilliant. That was sharp and full emotions.” I said.
I could see a smile on his face but his look showed more confusion than anything else. Later on, while the group was busy on a task, I came close to him.
“ You looked puzzled when I told you your work was great, why is that?” I asked.
“Well, I am not used to praise. My teachers usually tell me what is wrong rather than what is good. So, yes I am not quite sure about my work then.
“Your work was absolutely remarkable. If you don’t mind I would like to keep your writing and display it.”
If Adrian had been in a secondary I would certainly have called his parents or send a congratulation postcard, because praise is a powerful tool that can turn any child and even an adult into a great learner.
I have certainly already told you that story about another student the young teenager Clara that had just arrived in the UK. Her work was spotless and she would always ask for more challenging tasks. I praised her a lot in class but nothing was as moving as her parents crying during a parents’ evening. Those little moments are precious for the learner, the teacher and the parents because all of them play a part in the learning process.

2. What we do wrong
Now, let’s be honest, we don’t always praise students the way we should. We sometimes have bad days and we sometimes use too many “Good work!”, “Well done!” without even paying enough detailed attention to the actual work of our students. What does “good job” actually mean? How do you feel when your boss gives you that kind of general compliment? It is not specific and doesn’t tell you exactly what was actually good. Another thing we sometimes do, especially with tricky students whose behavior or work is not what we are expecting of them, is that we overpraise their work. Expressions such as “Amazing work”, “Fantastic attitude today” tend to be…too much! Young children like praise and respond well to it but as soon as they reach primary school they don’t respond to it so well, especially when they feel that the praise isn’t well earned or in line with the work or effort they have produced. That generally has as a consequence to demotivate them and we get back to the vicious circle of low standard work, low self-esteem, disruption etc.

3. What is effective praise
Fortunately, there are many things we do well when praising our students. This checklist will help you see if you are at the top of the game:
A. Make it personalized. Know your students by their names and use their names to praise their work.
B. Make it real, well-earned and genuine. Your student has to trust you when you praise him. Don’t over praise work or effort that is just standard work but praise any effort in attitude and work. Students have different potential and needs, so praise accordingly to what they can achieve but avoid at all coast any childish praise that would do more harm than good. Focus on the process and attitude towards improving work rather than ability.
C. Make is specific. If you are praising a piece of writing, tell them what it is you think is especially good. Give them tools to reach the next step of their learning as well.
D. Make it short, sharp and immediate. Feedback that comes after the ring bells is too late. When you spot great work, say it, praise it!
E. Adapt your praise. Some students like to show off: a praise in front of the whole class can be beneficial then. Other students, on the other hand, prefer when praise is discreet. Act accordingly, especially with teenagers who tend to prefer quiet verbal praise and silent praise.

As a conclusion, I would say that there are many ways to praise students, but the best is certainly to be sincere and to be well-aware of the praise we give.

Growth Mindset Teaching

Growth Mindset Teaching

Growth mindset for teachers
Have you ever thought about the endless possibilities we have in a lifetime? Life is short, they say. But it is even shorter if we don’t try. It is even shorter when we don’t dare because of the fears we have inside and because of all the preconceived ideas we have of our own abilities.
Many years ago, I realized that despite praise and endless encouragements, some of my students didn’t reach their goals. They didn’t reach the goals not because they were unable to, they didn’t reach the goals because they simply didn’t believe they could achieve them.

1. What is fixed mindset versus growth mindset?
There is nothing as powerful as our mind. What we tell ourselves or things we believe about what we can achieve can actually prevent us from getting where we want or they can allow us to reach our goals. Carol Dweck who is a well-known researcher at Stanford University defines the fixed mindset vs. the growth mindset as this: Students with a fixed mindset strongly believe that they are born with certain abilities, talents and intelligence. For them, these are just their natural traits. On the contrary students with a growth mindset understand that their talents and abilities can be developed. Good teaching, effort, perseverance will help them to grow.

2. Are you holding yourself back because of your own beliefs?
Well, most of the time we are our own enemies. I am no exception. I am the typical language teacher who would naturally say “I am not a math person”. This belief is something that I have developed from a young age and simply because I had no special interest in the subject I just dropped it. That is the same for our students. They come to our classes with the strong idea that they can’t speak languages or that it is too difficult. By having fixed mindset we teach our brain that we actually can’t do things even before having tried them. Even if our family and friends try to convince us that “When there is a will, there’s a way”, changing our perspective is a pretty hard task. So, how can we turn ourselves in better learners? By trying. We keep telling our students “Try! It’s ok! Don’t worry if you make a mistake” but the truth is, this a belief that has to come from them.

3. How can we move forward and change our beliefs?
Willingness to do so first. If you think that there are things about yourself that you should change for your own good, do it. Do it one step at a time. Set yourself some little goals to achieve. Small repeated actions will help your brain and body understand that “Yes, it is possible.” That is something you can use in your daily teaching life as well. Start with small goals, give yourself time, celebrate your achievements and move on to the next step. Isn’t it what we tell our students?

What makes a good teacher

What makes a good teacher

It is always nice to hear from other teachers and leaders about their perspective on what makes a good teacher.
I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Alonso Quintanilla Perez-Wicht, Vice Rector of San Pablo University in Arequipa, and I was nicely surprised to hear that he actually gave voice to students to demonstrate his point. He started his speech with a video of students from the university where they explained what a good teacher for them was, but also what a bad teacher was. Students made some valid points.

1.A good teacher is someone who…
– Cares. Some who will stay after class to reexplain a point
– Appreciates and values his/her students’ work. Grading a student means knowing the student. It also means establishing and sharing evaluation criteria with students.
– Has faith is his/her students. A good teacher trusts his/her students and give them the tools to achieve their true potential.

2.A good teacher is NOT someone who…
– Comes to class without preparation. A teacher prepares his/her lessons according to the syllabus and to the needs of his/her class.
– Doesn’t investigate. Teaching should be considered the same way as Investigating. Teaching is a science. We need to identify how many students we have, which themes need to be included, reinforced, which evaluation, which lecturing and which objectives are going to be put in place.
– Is late or absent and gives no reason
– Uses his/her cellphone in class
– Uses outdated technology or no technology at all
– Prefers lectures to active discussion
This list was an echo to Ken Bain’s book “What makes a great teacher great?”.  Ken Bain who is the actual President of the Best Teachers Institute and a former professor of history at Northwestern, Vanderbilt, the University of Texas, and New York University, insists on the idea that the best teachers know their subjects like the palm of their hand. Knowing and understanding a subject is one thing as he says, but engaging, motivating and challenging students is another thing. Great teachers combine both skills.
What do good teachers expect from their students? MORE. But this doesn’t mean more work or more pressure, it means valuing each student and considering them as people. Establish high teaching standard. Accepting nothing but the best. Leading our students towards excellence while supporting the ones that need it. It is not about classifying students but it is about valuing their abilities and understanding their needs.

And to do so, teachers need to create a learning atmosphere where students can use their critical thinking skills. The classroom should be the place where students confront their ideas, learn about intriguing topics and grow as individuals, learners and future professionals.
Being a great teacher is the ability to use our critical skills. We should be reflective professionals always willing to investigate and learn to bring our students the best of our knowledge and expertise. Because if we can teach, then they can learn.

Tesol Convention in Peru

Tesol Convention in Peru

The TESOL Convention was held two weeks ago in Chiclayo, Peru. It owed its success to the organizers and speakers that came from all over the world, but also to its 400 participants that made their ways from different Peruvian regions. (Apurimac, Tacna, Amazonas, Lambayeque, Lima and many others!)

The topic this year was English: Paths to success and I think no other topic could have been more suitable. It makes no doubt that English is the way to go in our globalized world. English as a key to unlock doors to knowledge and opportunities. We were invited to deliver speeches and give demonstrations about how English can be best used and developed in ELT classes and to tell you the truth 3 days were not enough to explore all the different strategies we talked about!

Not only does the TESOL give the opportunity to develop skills and learn new tricks to make English lessons better in terms of content and progression, but it is also an invaluable tool to meet people from different teaching contexts and to make links to further our knowledge in teaching. I have always found that meeting other teacher trainers with varied perspectives about education and teaching can broaden your mind and it is a critical asset that allows to rethink your work under a different angle.

Events like this are keys to ensure the professional development of teachers and in the unity of teachers.  Last year, Dr. Yilin Sun, the President of TESOL International explained that “ (teachers) should take every opportunity to improve on (their) practice, that’s what will lead to the path of teacher leadership”.

This year, in an inspirational opening plenary Laura G. Holland, from the University of Oregon opened up the audience’s mind on the importance of collegiality. Building our knowledge as teachers, as leaders but also as colleagues because the improvement in education will come through our ability to consider ourselves as an integrant part of a teaching community.
This year, participants and speakers went one step closer to leadership by putting the efforts into working together. Through the wide variety of workshops and proposed activities, there was room of each and everyone.

The Peru TESOL convention 2017 has one more time proven that it could gather teachers and speakers around a global theme. Teachers should now try to see themselves as leaders, and they should also see themselves as members of a large family willing to endlessly improve for the good of their students, their own good and the good of the whole society.

Check some of the workshops and talks that were delivered during the TESOL:

  1. Peer observation
  2. Speak up! Strategies to promote communication in class
  3. Grammar: Innovative strategies to motivate, Engage and Challenge everyone
  4. Teaching mixed-ability classes
  5. Teaching and Learning with the 21st century technology

1. Peer observation

Getting formally observed is usually an activity teachers are a bit reluctant to go through. Observations usually mean that a manager is going to observe your class and give you a grade at the end of it. The point of formal observations is to assess the skills and techniques of teachers. No doubt it can be scary! However, peer observation is very different in the sense that there is no grade or pressure as the idea is to help you improve on your skills and strengthen your existing abilities as a teacher.

In her workshop Peer observation made easy: Tips, Strategies and Leadership, Laura G. Holland shared ideas and peer observation models to make peer observations valuable tools for every teacher. So, are you ready to taste a recipe for successful peer observations?

Define the benefits of peer observation

Peer observations should happen in a non-threatening environment. An environment of trust, mutual respect and willingness to learn from one another. Because what is peer observation if not learning? You gain knowledge by being observed and by observing your peers. What are the implications of peer observations? What do you expect to earn from the process?

The challenges

The main challenge is Time. Finding time to set up such a process can be difficult if it is not already part of your school culture. The lack of administrative support can also be considered as an obstacle. Some teachers might not be willing to play the game. Some might consider themselves too experienced, while others might lack confidence to engage in the process.


  • Find a colleague you trust and you know will be non-judgmental.
  • Set common rules. What do you want to observe and why? What do you want to be observed on? How long will the observation process take place? When will you meet for a feedback?
  • Explain to your students beforehand the purpose of your colleague’s presence. You want a class that sounds as normal as it typically is.
  • Deliver your class as you would normally do. If you are the one observing the class, take as many notes as possible. Make sure they are clear and organized to read through them after the lesson.
  • Try to meet as soon as the class is done to keep all your ideas fresh.
  • Engage in a sensitive discussion where you will discuss all the positive elements of the observation.
  • Feedback on only 3 main points that you consider essential for further development.
  • Be sensitive to each other and super positive. In some peer observation models, there is no negative feedback of any kind. That type of model can be worth using for low self-esteem teachers.

Further suggestions. Extra tips

When observing a lesson, you may want to focus only on positive, successful or new strategies that you want to implement in your class. The use of videos can also be of great help to help teachers get involved into the process. Watching videos about teacher training with a fellow teacher can relief the pressure of being observed for the first time. You evaluate the positive aspects of the lesson and may discuss what could be improved in a non-judgmental way.

2. Speak up! Strategies to promote communication in class

During the TESOL convention I had the opportunity to deliver a workshop about Communicative strategies and tips in class. This was a nice way to reinforce the basics with teachers while offering them some food for thoughts with activities and games they may not had tried or heard about before.
We all know that implementing speaking skills can be a little bit tricky as our students may be reluctant to speak up. They might lack self-esteem and confidence, they might be shy or they believe that they don’t have the “right” pronunciation. So, it is our job to help them develop these skills. For that purpose, we need to find topics that interest them, we need to provide the tools, the vocabulary, the grammar they need to progress and we need to think about creative ways to engage and motivate them.
The best way to engage them is to follow a clear progression in our teaching first. A progression that has to be logical for them to acquire the skills they need to use both vocabulary and grammar efficiently.
There are 5 main steps to consider when teaching speaking skills.

1. Base: Grammar and Vocabulary:

The first step, the base is when we teach grammar and vocabulary. This step is essential as it will determine the rest of our teaching so it has to be planned carefully from A to Z. For the first step, what matters is to implement simple, clear language in chunks. We will focus on pictures-words matching up for beginners and definitions or questions/answers for most advanced students.

2.The short model

The second step is the short model when we provide students with listening activities so that they can get used to the vocabulary and grammar in context along with the pronunciation. The second can be an audio or a video. It has to be short, to build on their previous learning and we need to check their understanding.

3. The short practice

This step is more student-centered. Our students will progressively learn to reuse the language they have acquired in more autonomous ways until they reach the final step, the production step. Until now the steps were rather teacher centered. Now, students should be able to immerse themselves a bit more. For that stage, they will repeat the situation but they will change a couple of details. You will monitor their work and provide short feedback. You may also ask your students to perform in front of their classmates.

4. The longer practice

Here the context will vary a little and the structures can be a little more complex. You may want to insist a bit more on gestures here to make the use of language more natural and authentic. Do not hesitate to involve your students in acting as well.

5. The production

The final stage is the production stage. Sadly, this a step that is skipped a lot in class because of time constraint. We don’t always have time to get our students to use the language independently. We tend to use the longer practice as the final step but it shouldn’t. The production stage is really the stage when you can assess your students’ skills and that is the occasion for them to be fully creative when implementing the grammar and vocabulary they have learnt. Something that can be done if you are really limited in terms of time is to give them this activity as homework. You can even convert it into a PBL activity.

6. Extra tip

Last but not least: Pronunciation. Pronunciation is important, it is true but we need to bear in mind that it shouldn’t be an obstacle to learning. I mean by that that many students are reluctant to speak because they believe they don’t have the right pronunciation. Well, what is the right pronunciation? We all have different accents, this does not mean we can’t understand eachother, does it? So just my two cents here, but I think pronunciation should be taught as part of speaking skills ability and reinforced slightly at every stage but it shouldn’t be taught as a skill in itself.

3. Grammar: Innovative strategies to motivate, Engage and Challenge everyone

Another workshop I was really glad to present was the one about Grammar. Delivering a 90-minute workshop on grammar is never enough to explore everything with 35 eager-to-learn teachers, but that is always a good way to share ideas and promote communication between teachers, especially for those who may not be confident enough with their English proficiency level.

Teaching grammar can be daunting not only for newbies but also for seasoned teachers. Students may not be particularly keen on grammar either, so teaching it can be difficult. What if we tried to implement strategies where students were actually learning grammar with fun and interactive strategies? What if students could be challenged through active and collaborative activities? That was the whole point of my workshop. Finding ways and strategies to engage students and teachers in the teaching-learning process of grammar.

1. Main approaches to present grammar

For the presentation stage, there are two main ones: The deductive and the inductive approach.
The deductive approach is a bottom-up technique. We start with the base, the rules. Students get the rules and deduce when to use the rules. They are provided with a battery of examples. The rules are immediately followed by a practice.
For the inductive grammar, the technique is reversed. Students work out the use and formation of the structure. This technique can involve students a bit more in their learning and it has as the advantage of developing their critical thinking skills. When using this technique, the teacher is a facilitator rather than the one providing students with all the answers. Here’s how we can proceed with this method. You can provide students with a text and ask them a couple of questions that will trigger their critical thinking skills. What is it about? How/Why do you think we use this structure?

2. Approaches to practise grammar

For the practice, we may consider three to four approaches: The communicative approach, collaborative learning, task-based learning or Project based learning.
A. The communicative approach will encourage students to use grammar in true, authentic contexts with a real communicational-functional purpose. Grammar is a tool for communication and as such it will be embedded in speaking activities. The focus is on the communicative task rather than the language structure.
B. The collaborative approach towards grammar learning has to do with a team-building effort. Grammar is seen as a mental (and possibly kinaesthetic) construction that can be built within a group. It is not an isolated activity. We build knowledge and understanding together.
C. Task-based learning is part of the communicative approach in the sense that learners will start with a communicative task without any guidance on the form of language. After the task, there is a general feedback where everyone gets the opportunity to discuss how they achieved the task. One of the advantages of this technique is the freedom learners have in expressing themselves, the focus being not so much on accuracy than on free expression.
D. Project-based learning shares many aspects with TBL, but it is even more ambitious. Whereas TBL makes a task the central focus of a lesson, PBL often makes a task the focus of a whole month, term or year.
There are generally considered to be four elements which are common to all project-based activities/classes/courses:

1. A central topic from which all the activities derive and which drives the project towards a final objective.
2. Access to tools of investigation design, collect, analyse and use information.
3. Opportunities for sharing ideas, collaborating and communicating.
4. A final product (often produced using new technologies available to us) whose final form is chosen by students. It can be in the form of posters, use of technology, survey, articles, presentations among others.

To conclude, I would say that teaching grammar shouldn’t be feared. We need to use the tools we have at our disposal, including technology to offer our students a greater opportunity to develop their grammatical skills. Technology has also an important part to play to make grammar more fun, interactive and more effective for our students.

4. Teaching mixed-ability classes

What? You have missed my workshop about teaching mixed-ability classes? Here’s a catch up article that will sum up the main points I discussed for the TESOL.

To teach is to engage students in learning; thus teaching consists of getting students involved in the active construction of knowledge. . .The aim of teaching is not only to transmit information, but also to transform students from passive recipients of other people’s knowledge into active constructors of their own and others’ knowledge. . .Teaching is fundamentally about creating the pedagogical, social, and ethical conditions under which students agree to take charge of their own learning, individually and collectively
Education for judgment: The artistry of discussion leadership. Edited by C. Roland Christensen, David A. Garvin, and Ann Sweet. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School, 1991.

With inclusion, we have now a greater mix of students in our classes. Our students are different in terms of ability, needs, learning styles and learning backgrounds. The question is How do we make sure that we give our students the tools they need to develop their skills? How do we know that our planning provides each and every one of them the right opportunities to learn and grow? Differentiate instruction is one possibility to allow more learning opportunities for our students.

Differentiation or differentiated instruction is a method that allows greater possibilities for our students. There are three main ways to differentiate in our classes:

1. Differentiated content

The idea behind differentiating content is linked to the idea of providing a different learning experience to the whole group according to individual interests and needs. It has to do with the resources the teacher brings to class. The resources have to reflect the needs and abilities of the students. In other words, the material brought to class has to be flexible and adapted.

2. Differentiated process

Process has to do with the way you deliver the course and the way students integrate the content. Students need time to understand concept, they need time to make sense of what they learn. When we teach we need to know our students well to make sure that the process is adapted. You may need to consider different objectives depending on the level and ability of your students. Bloom’s taxonomy is quite useful here. You need to think as well about the way you deliver the courses. How much Teacher-Talking-Time do you use? Are your lessons Teacher-centered? How could you focus more on your students? Have you thought about having Carousel activities in your class?

3. Differentiated product

When we say differentiating product we mean that we give students different options of format for them to give evidence of what they have learned. The way they will present evidence if their learning has to be individualized and personalized. It has to show their knowledge in a personal way because we all learn in different ways and the way we integrate knowledge an understanding is very personal.

4. More food for thought

Carol Ann Tomlinson is an American educator whose focus has been instruction for struggling and advanced learners, effective instruction in heterogeneous settings, and encouraging creative and critical thinking in the classroom. I would suggest you read some of her works available here:
1. The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition, Tomlinson, C.A (2014)
2. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom
Tomlinson, C. A. & Moon, T. R. (2014)

5. Teaching and Learning with the 21st century technology

Faster, more diverse, more complex, more competitive, more technological: the world has changed and so has the teaching-learning process. The ESL world has also been affected by the changes brought by a globalized and digitized world. How can English language educators offer the tools their modern learners crave?
It makes no doubt that traditional forms of teaching such as lecturing or other teacher-centered methods are no longer adapted to the new generation of learners. But who are these learners? What are the conceptions and misconceptions about them? What are the needs of these learners?
In a motivational plenary, Doctor Karen Jogan, from Albright College in Reading PA, offered some technological tools to be used in class and outside the classroom to bridge the gap between teachers and their digital native learners. Here’s an overview of the great ideas and tools that can be used inside the classroom and outside the classroom.

1. Digital material: Pros and cons

The wide variety of technological tools we have at our disposal should be seen as a plus but in no way as a replacement to planning and teaching. Maria Brown, whose work at the Education Department, at Dubai Women’s College and her great contribution to the ELT world through TESOL Arabia, also highlighted this important feature. Technology is a tool to improve learning and to make our students grow. As a result, those tools have to be carefully chosen and they have to be embedded in the teaching-learning process in a sensitive way. The use of technology should be synonymous with personal and intellectual growth rather than waste of precious teaching-learning time. So, once we are clear about our teaching-learning objectives, then we are ready to implement digital tools in class. Not before and not the other way round. You will find a non-exhaustive lists of material I use and other teacher-trainers use in class and outside the class to create more engaging interactions and to facilitate learning.

2. Digital teaching tools in class for students

Kahoot a free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn – any subject, in any language, on any device. You just need to create an account, browse quizzes or even better create your own!

Popplet. In the classroom, students can use Popplet as a mind-map. Popplet helps students think and learn visually. Students can capture facts, thoughts, and images and create links between the different ideas.

Socrative. Another way to create quizzes with multiple choices, true-false or short answers activities.

Textivate. An interesting tool to work on text. If you create an account you can simply copy and paste a text you want your students to understand and/or memorize and the platform automatically creates activities based on your text (matching up, filling gaps, punctuation, games…) Good tool for literacy. The interesting version is not free though, but it is worth the try.

3. Digital teaching-training tools for presentations and webinar

Cue Prompter. If you want your students to deliver a presentation but they lack confidence in doing so, this tool can help them gain confidence. If is also a good way to avoid that they read their papers while delivering a speech.

Zoom. Probably one of the best tools for meetings, webinars and training online. The basic free version allows you to actually do quite a lot.

Swivl. If you are working as part of team, this is a great tool to buy to monitor students’ work, listen to their dialogues in class and prepare filmed presentations.

Office Mix. A good way to make your powerpoints more interactive.

4. Learning Management Systems and Open Educational Resources

In our digital world, more and more students start learning online with their laptops, tablets and/or cell phones. LMS have facilitated learning in such a way that learning material is available everywhere at anytime.

Learning has been made easier with an access to material, videos, blogs, assignments, feedback available to facilitate the life of students and teachers. Here you will find three interesting platforms:

1. Blackboard
2. Canvas
3. Moodle
With the access to Internet we can now have a greater access to learning. OER can be used for learning at a lower cost. Check these ones:

Openstax. A good way to cut down/off the price of textbooks
Coursera. Online courses from top universities like Yale and Stanford
Udemy. Online courses with a wide variety of subjects
OER commons. A digital library where you can explore publications, textbooks and resources for free while joining a network of educators

As a conclusion I would simply say that 21st century technology has brought to us learners and teachers an incredibly unlimited possibility to continue learning and keep on teaching. It is now up to us to embrace the change and implement those tools in our classes.

Fun with english grammar

Fun with english grammar

Fun with english grammar – How to teach grammar the funny way

As I said earlier teaching grammar is not easy. Most students will cringe when hearing the word grammar and teachers may also have some headaches.

However I also mentioned that it is an essential part of the acquisition of language if we want to make progress in the language learnt.

First of all, let’s be clear about what grammar is. Grammar is the study of how words and their components combine to form sentences to convey a meaning. Some will argue that grammar is the study of the rules that govern the structuration of sentences. It is therefore the study of morphology, syntax and phonology. I would clarify this by saying that grammar is the study of temporary and evolving rules that are an integrant part of language.

But in any case, whatever the jargon we use, deductive, inductive, prescriptive or descriptive, grammar can and should be taught in a fun and creative environment.

Now how can we have fun with english grammar ?

Fun with english grammar
  1. Teach grammar within a context 


Instead of lecturing your students with endless rules they must apply without even knowing the reason behind the rules, have them to look for the grammar in an article, a podcast or a video. Give them some real authentic material to work from. Put them in the shoes of a detective. Guide them, give them clues. Be a facilitator but avoid teaching from the front. They must make hypothesis, analyse and finally come up with an idea of the how and why such or such bits of language work the way they do.


  1. Vary your teaching style

Dust off your teaching practice and make grammar synonym for fun. How? Be flexible and innovative. Avoid at all cost having your students immersed into their textbooks and exercises. Make your lesson alive. Plan your lessons in such a way that you embed different teaching styles. Use carousel activities to have group works, use a variety of games, include competitions. Have your students to move out of their seats and move around the classroom or even outside. Don’t underestimate the power of technology and interactive learning with online practice.


  1. Don’t take it too seriously

If you show your students that you are having a great time while teaching them grammar they will have a great time too. No doubt. You can mime things, pretend you lost your memory and need the help of your students. You can also ask your students to be the teacher and prepare the grammar lesson. Bring realia to the class. Make your class active and enjoyable. Crack jokes, use different accents. In other word don’t be afraid to act up and to involve your audience.

how to have fun with english grammar

English grammar games that work

Four corners: This is a good way to get all your class involved. Have a set of questions with 4 possible answers on the board labelled A-B-C-D. Label the four corners of your class with these letters. When the question appears on the board, your students need to run to the corner related to the correct answer. If they get it wrong they go back to their seats.

Dice games: They are a good way to motivate students and engage them in some kind of competition. They can review or practice any king of grammar point.

Who wants to be a millionaire: The questions are prepared in advance. I personally use it as a general review. I split my class in two or more teams and I give them 4 possible answers to choose from. The team that gets it right gets the money involved. As I don’t have a million to give them it is usually converted in some kind of prize.




Loopy sentences: Split the class in two halves. Give every student a piece of paper. Let’s say you are teaching about the second conditional. One half of the class is going to write the beginning of a sentence: Eg: If I had money…, the second half of the class write the end of the sentence without knowing what the others have written. Eg: … I would travel to the moon. Then have them to stand up and to find a partner to match the beginning and end of sentences. You can come up with really loopy, silly sentences!


Sticky notes on forehead: This one is one of my all time favorites. If you are teaching your students about physical/personality description and/or jobs, this is a good tool to use. Give sticky notes to all your students. Each one of them is writing the name of a celebrity on it. Collect the sticky notes and hand them out at random. Students rub their forehead and stick the sticky notes without looking at the name of the celebrity. They need to guess the name of the celebrity by asking Yes-No questions.

Now that you have some more ideas, time to shake your practice and to try some of these tips to have fun with english grammar. Don’t forget to have fun, and to share your ideas on how to teach grammar your funny way!