Classroom Clutter Hacks

The classroom can be a messy place, especially if you are working on projects or teaching Young Learners. Even during a standard adult lesson the classroom can end up in tatters, covered in pieces of paper, pens left behind and books and folders everywhere.

I recently came across this infographic from Quill. In the style of the Life Hacks you see on social media day in day out, this infographic is a Classroom Hack filled with top tips for keeping classroom clutter to a minimum.

I hope you find it useful. Some of the hacks seem so simple, yet so innovative, that they might just be the trick you’re looking for.


Mobile Phones in ELT

Mobile phones – or cell phones as the Americans like to call them – are often cited as a nuisance, a disturbance and a pest by teachers across the world.


Not only in English Language Teaching but in every subject, educators battle on a daily basis against the disruptive presence of the mobile phone.Some schools have gone as far as to ban mobiles all together – tackling the problem by removing the cause from the classroom.Other schools have taken a subtle approach, encouraging learners to reserve their phone usage for break time and lunch time.

But what about in ELT? What is the situation of the mobile phone and the classroom? Continue reading

Controlled Use of L1

A former colleague of mine has gone on a bit of a teaching advantage, taking up a post in the Galapagos islands! He recently sent me an interesting query about the place of L1 in the classroom, particularly in monolingual classrooms. DELTA Series ImageHere’s his question:

Have you got any good sources of information for the use of L1 in the classroom? There is no institutional policy against L1 here and it is very difficult to eliminate it entirely when students are allowed to use it with other teachers. Also, what about L1 in beginner classes? I’m starting to think that given the circumstances very careful use of L1 might save time and even facilitate learning and instruction giving. Do you think this is the case? If so, do you have any tips on how to do it in a way that does not hamper the students learning of communication strategies and their ability to derive meaning from context.

L1 is something we’re normally encouraged or enforced to avoid in the classroom at all costs. Although there are sound reasons for this, it seems to me that those reasons are more often than not underappreciated or even ignored and L1 is banned from the communicative classroom on ritualistic grounds as opposed to principled grounds.

Here’s my response to my colleague:

Continue reading

Making Spelling Fun

Young Learner courses are most often associated with fun and games. What about the more serious stuff? How do we bring in the ‘boring bits’ without killing the life and soul of the lesson? Spelling is a topic which definitely falls under the ‘more serious’ department. However, it does not have to be all bore – there is a way to get fun and games out of

Given the nature of children, it is inevitable that Young Learner classes contain some element of fun – most usually a game of some sort. Lessons with my younger learners (under the age of 12) always contain games. In fact, lessons are structured around revision + game and new input + game. Due to the consistent presence of games as well as to avoid regrouping the learners every lesson to create an atmosphere of comradeship and team spirit, the learners belong to a permanent group: The Koalas, The Tigers, The Pandas. Throughout everything they do in class, regardless of who they are working with, they represent their group: if they misbehave, their group loses points, if they score in a game then the whole group is rewarded with points.

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International House Poland: Teacher Training Day @IH_Torun

IH Torun has held a training day every spring since as far back as any member of staff can remember. However, this year the city of Torun played host to a Poland-wide mini conference in the form of the IH Poland Teacher Training Day: IH schools were invited from around the country, with attendees coming from as close as Bydgoszcz  and as far as Bielsko-Biala as well as a representative from IH World.


Throughout the day seven individual workshops were held, ranging from practical ideas for warmers and fillers, through ideas on how to free yourself from the photocopier, to more in-depth methodology workshops on learning styles and developing receptive skills.

In addition, there were two plenaries: a Q&A session with a panel of ELT experts, including Mike Cattlin from IH World, as well as a live plenary direct from Boston (USA) with Catherine Mazur-Jefferies – the co-author of National Geographic’s new Reading and Vocabulary Focus series. and a former teacher of IH Torun. You can check out the series here:

So, what did each workshop entail and what did the attendees get out of them? Find out below. Continue reading

Making Drilling Fun

When native speakers converse, their speech involves a mixture of voluntary speech acts, freely formed to convey their thoughts and ideas, as well as a number of automated responses. Consider this beginning of a conversation with a friend and ask yourself: How much of this constitutes freely-formed speech acts; How much is automated response?photo

John: Hey Bill! How’s you?
Bill: Not too bad, thanks. You?
John: Yeah, not too bad. Well, I’ve actually just found out I failed my exam.
Bill: What?! Oh man, that’s terrible. Sorry to hear that.
John: Yeah, well, never mind eh.

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Scaffolding: help them out a bit

This weekend a teacher posed what is perhaps the most asked question in ELT: how do you stop them speaking in their L1?


Undoubtedly, the teachers out there reading this blog will probably immediately react by saying either “yip, I know that situation” or “there’s loads of ways to stop it!” And I’d agree, there are lots of techniques to discourage the use of L1 in the classroom.

However, why throw a multitude of quick-fixes at the problem when we could, somewhat more wisely, ask ourselves what causes the problem: why do Young Learners use L1 in the classroom?

Continue reading