All things EFL… A collection of practical ideas, resources for the classroom and thoughts on EFL today

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Collaboration: improving outcomes

After writing a post celebrating my first anniversary blogging and sticking (more or less) to my personal goals of posting every couple of weeks, I’ve since managed not to (albeit with good reason!)

I had the amazing opportunity to attend Bett Asia 2017 in Kuala Lumpur with Chatta English last week. Consequently,  most of my “free” time over the past few months has been spent preparing for it (hence no posts.) Given that it was amazing opportunity which transpired to be an amazing experience, I don’t feel too bad…

The focus of both the Summit and the Expo was “Cultivating Global Collaboration in Education

“Collaboration is where two or more people or organizations work together to realize or achieve something successfully” – Wikipedia

Quite rightly collaboration enjoys the privileged position as one of the 4 C’s and we are constantly stressing (or should be) the importance of collaboration to our students. As well as highlighting the benefits for learning, we also teach our students this skill in the classroom in order to prepare them for real life beyond the classroom walls.  Due to globalisation and the advent of technology, our world is ever more connected and now, more than ever, students will need to demonstrate proficiency in this skill to become successful citizens of our modern society.

Neither can we underestimate the power of collaboration amongst educators.  I have achieved far more, and with much better results, from collaborating with colleagues and other educators around the globe.  Consequently, I’ve learned not to lock my knowledge and experience (however little) in the classroom cupboard, and share it with the world.

“Not only does a collaborative effort create more holistic results than individual efforts, but it also creates knowledge for a greater number of people” – An educator’s guide to the 4 C’s (National Education Association)

Although I didn’t have time to attend many of the presentations, panel discussions or roundtable sessions at Bett Asia, I did get the opportunity to talk to some inspiring educators and people involved in education who are committed to making a difference. I was truly blown away by many of the teachers I met who are looking for new and better ways to achieve educational excellence and outcomes for their students, and ways to collaborate to ensure this.  In fact one such teacher’s enthusiasm and determination, led to the first international partnership for Chatta English.

Born from Chatta  (founded by Chris Williams and David Andrews to improve oral literacy and help children become better communicators, readers, writers and thinkers) Chatta English helps English language learners develop communicative competence and the 21st century skills necessary to become successful global citizens (but that’s another blog post…)  I am proud to be part of something that puts students at the forefront of their own learning and not only promotes collaboration amongst students but also amongst educators who are encouraged to share their knowledge and experiences.  


My Chatta English colleagues and I went to Bett Asia looking to collaborate and establish meaningful partnerships to ensure the future success of students.  We were extremely fortunate to come across a wonderful English teacher and staff from Bandar Baru Bangi secondary school just outside KL whose vision is to provide their students with the tools they need to become competent and confident speakers of English.  Not only are these teachers enthusiastic, motivated and determined (if that wasn’t enough!)  they are open to collaboration in order to ensure positive outcomes for their students.

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Attending Bett Asia and meeting so many wonderful educators reminded me of the importance of collaboration in contributing to future successes.

Teach your students the art of collaboration by example and don’t lock away your knowledge and experience.  Find ways of sharing and collaborating, improving outcomes and achieving educational excellence…

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“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – Helen Keller



Flipped learning. And we’re off…

If you read my blog post back in February Why flipped learning has got me excited, you will know all about my new found enthusiasm for flipped learning.  After months of delving deeper, doing courses and webinars (including getting flipped learning certified) and connecting with people in the FL community, I’ve finally made a start 🙂

I decided to flip with one class to begin with as I neither have much free time nor much experience…

After getting the go-ahead from school in September, I started to plan out how I was going to introduce the idea of flipped learning to parents and students.

I had the idea of flipping from the off.  

There was a whole class parents’ evening mid September with tutors, to give general information for the school year ahead; expectations, assessment, a reminder of school rules, any new implementations etc…

I decided to put an informative document on the school webpage about flipped learning and send a note home to parents explaining my intention to introduce a new model of teaching and learning and directing them to the information about it. I asked them to read the document before they came to parents’ evening and bring with them any questions or doubts that they had about flipped learning, essentially flipping instruction! A stroke of genius I thought, however, the date was changed and I couldn’t make it.  As it turned out nobody seemed to have any doubts and they all thought it was a wonderful idea according to the tutor!  

flipped learning video

My idea however, had been to demonstrate flipping in action; the idea of accessing and engaging with the information at home and the importance of coming to class prepared (with your doubts and questions if you have any.)  I was kind of hoping that at least one parent wouldn’t have done their “prep” highlighting (in a light-hearted manner of course ;-)) the importance of coming to class prepared!  

As for the kids, I introduced the term “flipped classroom” in class without giving anything away.  I checked understanding of the word “flipped” and we did a think-pair-share to discuss what a flipped classroom might be…

Students then went home and watched the video to check if they were correct.  I embedded the video in a google form and uploaded it to our wiki.  After watching the video they completed the quiz questions in preparation for class.

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When students came to class we checked understanding using the cooperative learning strategy “folio giratorio” (I don’t know what this activity is called in English.) In teams students passed a piece of paper round adding anything they remembered about flipped learning until I called time (if students can’t think of anything I generally allow them to pass and have more thinking time and they usually remember something by the time the piece of paper appears next time round.)  Teams shared their ideas in a whole class feedback session and any questions were answered.

Students then worked in their teams to come up with a kind of “protocol” (rules and guidelines) to ensure flipping our classroom would be successful.  We discussed and combined all the ideas to create our final list.

And so it all began, full of hope and optimism…

I’d love to say that it’s going swimmingly, however, I’ve already faced one of my biggest fears 😦  The next video and quiz I assigned for the preparation task at home was completed by 14 out of 25 students! Imagine my horror!  What happened to the “protocol”??? Protocol Schmotocol…. Needless to say there were issues addressed in class that day…

Now, I’d like to say there’s a happy ending to this story, however the story is just beginning…

Things are looking up though, I’ve just assigned the next video task and although the deadline isn’t for another 2 days, half the class have already done it (including some of my “no shows” from last time and it’s bank holiday!) so I’m feeling optimistic 😉

The only way is up…. (surely?)

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Flipped learning meets cooperative learning: #1 the spider’s web

September, the start of the new school year and time for reflection.  What worked last year? What didn’t? What can I do to improve learning in my classroom? What can my students do to become better learners?  What innovations in education might benefit my students? What’s working for other teachers and students?  These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself over the last couple of weeks as I’ve been getting my teaching head back on (not that we ever really get it off, par for the course being a teacher!)

Back in June after reflecting upon the year and doing some self/student evaluations, I decided that the protagonists of my classroom this year (apart from my students of course) will be flipped learning and cooperative learning. Flipping in earnest will be new for my students this year, however cooperative learning is something we introduced last year. Students are finally getting used to this way of working and starting to understand (and reap) some of the benefits…

After doing a couple of courses at school, most of the teachers in my department have engaged with cooperative learning methods and students are now familiar with various CL strategies.  So, I’ve been thinking about how to incorporate some of these strategies to make the best use of the extra class time I’ll have when I start flipping learning with one of my classes this September.  

spider´s web

One of my favourite cooperative learning activities is the Tela de Araña (Spider’s web). I’ve also heard it called the “web of understanding.”

To use this strategy you’ll need a ball of wool (and a bit of patience if you’re working with younger learners!)

Students sit or stand in a circle and the ball of wool is passed to and fro to create “a spider’s web.”

Although our course leader demonstrated the spider’s web as a team-building, getting to know you activity, it can used in many more ways, from storytelling to checking understanding to recalling facts, summarising… It’s as versatile as you are creative…

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Making videos: Flipped learning

Feeling inspired this week as I’ve just got my Flipped Learning level 1 certification (Flipped Learning Global Initiative) and I’m ready to take up the challenge offered at the end of the course. I know Why flipped learning makes sense, I know How to do it (the theory) now all that remains (the challenge) is to DO it!

I’ve already dabbled in FL Flip writing in the EFL classroom, Why flipped learning has got me excited but have yet to make my first video and flip in earnest. Although I have learnt that flipping is not all about the videos, they will be an integral part of flipping vocabulary and grammar in my classes.  My aim this summer then, is to get to grips with some of the video making options and tools, lose my inhibitions (!?) and make some videos…


Apart from some great advice offered on the course, I’ve also been getting inspiration from other educators who are already flipping their teaching. Continue reading

What makes a good teacher word cloud

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Anyone who read my very first post Blogging and the art of procrastination will know that, among other things, it took me a while to find a name for this blog.

Why ACE?  What can I say, I’m an 80’s kid… Everything that’s “awesome” now, was “ace” in the 80’s (where I was growing up) and it’s one of my all-time favourite words. Synonyms are; excellent, outstanding, first-class, first-rate, brilliant, expert

So, am I an ace English teacher? Not always.  Do I aspire to be?  Of course, hence this blog…

light bulb

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Save time planning lessons with Google Docs

It’s that time of year again…almost but not quite there! In some respects these are the most difficult days to plan for.  There’s no new content to be taught, exams are over and students are waiting for their reports, daydreaming about the summer holidays…  Unfortunately whilst students are in mode “relax,”  teachers are definitely not! There’s still class and you’re running around like a headless chicken: correcting exams, writing reports, preparing resits and planning lessons!

Over the years, teachers build up a large bank of resources. My problem is that over these years as my memory has suffered the effects of ageing, remembering and retrieving this information has become increasingly difficult.  Around this time last year while juggling everything else and desperately trying to remember “that great activity” I had done at the end of the summer term the year before (yes my memory is that short) I had a bright idea.  Once again my old friend Google had a hand to play (I make no apologies for being a Google enthusiast, I know it knows everything about me, but it makes my life a whole lot easier…)

Anyone already familiar with my blog may know that I am a huge fan of maximising time. I want to do my job well, however, I also want enough free time to re-energise and avoid burn out! I believe by making small changes we can save huge amounts of time (minimising frustration and stress) without compromising the quality of our classes. This is one of the reasons I created the page Bright ideas to share some of these small changes which have made a difference. Continue reading

Quote determination


Blogging and the art of determination

This post is a “Happy Birthday” message to my blogging self and a kind of sequel to my very first blog post Blogging and the art of procrastination.  It may have taken me a while to get going, but I’m still here one year on (along with my handful of followers, thank you!)

When I realised I’d been blogging for nearly a year, I decided to look back at my first post in which I list my initial doubts and reservations about becoming a blogger (the reasons for my procrastination.)  So, one year on, what have I learned?  What have I still got to learn and how did procrastination become determination? Continue reading