Transforming teaching and learning for the 21st Century

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Motivated teens

Rather than “Motivating teens” I called this post “Motivated teens” as I am particularly interested in seeking out, building on and maintaining intrinsic motivation.

Providing teens with a quick fix of extrinsic motivation is not that difficult. Show me a teen that doesn’t like a Kahoot, a game of Bingo or some kind of reward (preferably one that improves their mark or tastes yummy…) The more difficult task is setting up and maintaining the conditions for learning where intrinsic motivation comes to the fore (bringing about more sustainable learning.)

On the Teaching English website read about an activity that I am using in class to try and do just this …

Motivated teens: A cross cultural digital exchange


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An activity to build rapport and promote a positive classroom atmosphere

We know that building rapport with students is fundamental if we want to get the best out of them.  Establishing positive student-student and teacher-student relationships also helps create a positive classroom atmosphere which in turn leads to more effective learning.

How can we build positive relationships?

  • Listen
  • Show interest
  • Personalise
  • Show respect
  • Share responsibility for the learning process
  • Make learning brain-friendly (realistic, attainable objectives; scaffolding; relevant…)
  • Provide choice
  • Show we care

This is an activity to help build rapport and create a positive classroom atmosphere which addresses all of the above. I do it at the start of the school year but it can be done at any time, especially if you see a need for students to sit back and reflect on their personal situation and/or what is happening in class (and how they can help change the situation.)

Step 1 Reflection

  1. Students write down their passions and interests (1)
  2. Students reflect on their strengths and weaknesses related to learning English (2,3)
  3. Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses they identified, students make their objectives for the term, thinking about what they need to focus on to be the best they can (4)
  4. Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses they identified, students think of ways they could help their classmates be the best they can (5)

action plan example

In this step students reflect on the reality of their situation and ways of making me progress (especially in the areas where they are not so strong.)  Ideally they create objectives linked to their interests and passions, making learning more personal, relevant and motivating.

Step 2 The Challenge

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BOT: Why every teacher should have one!

It’s the start of a new school year here in Spain and I’m busy sorting through my bag of tricks…

What is a bag of tricks?

A bag of tricks (BOT) is a combination of items that could be used to help out in a sticky situation, solve a problem or respond to a need” (my personal definition.) 

I’m a firm believer in a BOT for all occasions.  Hence my “everyday BOT” (baby wipes, plasters, tweezers, hair band, glasses cleaning wipes, mosquito bite cream, lip balm…) my “camping BOT” (sellotape, matches, glue, puncture repair kit, corkscrew…) and of course my “classroom BOT” which I am never without, just in case…  

What’s in my bag of tricks?

items in bag of tricks

When do I use my bag of tricks?

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Bringing real life into the classroom

This will be a short but sweet one, but oh so very sweet!

If anyone isn’t aware, last night Liverpool FC left us all at a loss for words and wondering what the heck had just happened?

Liverpool faced a monumental task going into the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, having lost to Barcelona 3-0 in the first leg at the Camp Nou.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, star players got injured and it seemed like it had been good while it lasted…

However, while many were busy writing them off, some never lost hope (least of all the players and the manager) and Liverpool ended up beating Barcelona 4-0!  An incredible example of resolve, strength and belief; the shirts said it all “Don’t give up!” It’s hard for anyone not to admire what Liverpool managed to do last night (even a Barcelona fan!)

So off I toddled to class today ready to wind a few students up (who incidentally had been winding me up all week…) What I hadn’t considered was the potential that this surprising news had for learning opportunities (until they hit me in the face that is.) Continue reading

group of students

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Projects: Setting students up for success

“Projects are a great way to develop language and other essential skills, however we need to give students a bit more than an “Off we go…” to ensure quality learning is taking place.”

Read my latest post Projects: Setting students up for success on

I discuss some of the benefits of doing projects in class and how I set them up to ensure all students are organised, prepared, engaged and learning.

Below you can find a couple of examples of the accompanying presentations and information available to my students for some of the the projects I mention in my post.

High five to project work 😉

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Christmas activities to keep students engaged and learning

Christmas is just around the corner, exams have finished but classes still go on… Make the most of the class time left with a Christmas activity or two…

Activity 1

I adapted the following activity from a blog post I read a couple of years ago on elt sparks.  The activity is based on a Christmas ad for H&M by the director Wes Anderson. My students were really struggling with the past tenses (past simple, past continuous and past perfect) and needed more practice.  I decided to use a narrative (the advert) to facilitate understanding and provide further practice. 

The advert tells the story of some passengers who are stuck on a train after bad weather and mechanical difficulties cause the train to be delayed.  This delay means they will miss Christmas with their families. The conductor and his assistant decide to organise a Christmas brunch in the cafeteria for all their passengers to make them feel better and they have an ingenious idea to execute their plan… Continue reading

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Empower students with flipped, cooperative learning

Here’s a link to my latest blog post Empower students with flipped, cooperative learning on where I answer the following question:

More and more, we are told that our role as teachers is changing. We are told that the skills our students need for the future workplace in a globalised world are different from how they used to be. Creativity and imagination, collaboration, critical thinking, citizenship, student leadership and digital literacies are all things our students need to be competent in. How do you provide a focus on these skills in your classes? What activities do you do that help your students develop these?

I discuss how I integrate flipped learning and cooperative learning in my classes to help students develop these essential skills and prepare them for life beyond the classroom…



Teaching and learning with a wiki: Part 2 Google Sites

I recently updated a post from 2016 Learning and teaching using a wiki following the closure of Wikispaces (the platform I was using to host my wiki.)  When I heard about the impending closure of Wikispaces my first reaction was to panic!  What was I going to do? I had spent hours learning how to use it and hours adding content and, whatsmore, so had my students.

After the initial panic, I started to consider my options rationally.  Without a doubt I wanted to carry on using a wiki with my students so the next step was to research the alternatives on offer.   Continue reading

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3 activities to promote storytelling in the language classroom

Stories are all around us, be it in oral or written form. Some entertain, some educate, some explain and many transmit our feelings, beliefs and values. Every day, every year, every meal, holiday, encounter, memory… tells a story.  We think in narratives all day long, making up stories in our heads for every action and conversation. It’s how we understand the world.

Telling stories is nothing new, we’ve been doing it since ancient times and the power of a story is undeniable, but what makes stories so engaging?

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Technology to reach more students, more often.

I am excited to have been accepted as a TeachingEnglish blogger on the British Council’s website and to have published my first blog post there.  The topic I chose to write about this month is one that I feel passionate about, using technology to enhance the teaching and learning process.

What ICT tools or resources do you currently use in your classrooms and why? What are the pedagogical benefits of the tools you use and how do you evaluate their effectiveness as a learning resource?

Read about how I use Google Classroom and wikis to break down the classroom walls, making learning English more personal, relevant and engaging.

Technology to reach more students, more often.