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


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.

Captura de pantalla (332)

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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Creating dialogues using a cooperative learning strategy

Although dialogues in textbooks often include lots of good functional language to practise, the way to practise it can be uninspiring and predictable. cooperative learning strategyUsually students listen to a model dialogue (maybe after completing the gaps with target vocabulary), practise it and then create their own using prompts provided in the text book.

Although my students often found these activities quite dull,  I wanted them to learn the useful functional language, so I started to look for ways to make practising dialogues a bit more meaningful and engaging.  Round about the same time I got seduced by cooperative learning… Continue reading


Why flipped learning has got me excited

I’ve been pretty busy lately working on projects and doing courses.   Sometimes (especially when I arrive home from a hard day at school, exhausted and still have 25 essays to correct…) I wonder why I do this to myself, but then I do a course like EVO flipped learning 2017 and remember why.  Somehow, despite the extra hours and lack of sleep, I feel rejuvenated!flipped learning

Every year, there’s always something which interests me in the EVO sessions and it’s often hard to choose.  The flipped learning sessions have caught my eye before but it wasn’t until this year I opted for them.  

Even though, due to other commitments which arose during the course, I couldn’t participate as fully as I would have liked, this course has been a complete game-changer for me.

The terms “flipped classroom” and “flipped learning” have been on my radar for a while now and I’ve always thought it sounded an interesting concept. However, I haven’t known quite enough about it to consider implementing it in class and when I started the course, I soon realised that what I thought I knew wasn’t the whole truth…   

What I thought I knew…

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Christmas…time for a song!

merry-christmas-isolatedThe classic, “Do they know it’s Christmas?” provides lots of opportunities for language work,  investigation and discussion.  I have used this song with different levels for different learning outcomes.  This particular lesson is aimed at upper elementary/intermediate teens to:

  • revise/extend christmas vocabulary
  • identify and practise previously taught diphthongs (although they could be introduced at this stage too)
  • research information
  • discuss the message of the song
  • consider some wider global issues

How many sessions you dedicate to this will depend on where students do their research (in class or at home), how you organise the discussion stage (whole class, pairs, groups…) and how much time you want to spend on it, if any.  Depending on your students you may want to make it a bit more light-hearted and not delve into the wider global issues too much.

I tried to make make it more relevant to my students (teens) by incorporating the 30th anniversary version, sung by more recent artists.  However, they did enjoy the original version,  laughing at the fashion and hairstyles and trying to guess the year…

Click on the link below to get the PowerPoint (lesson plan)


Merry Christmas!

people speaking


Big classes and speaking activities that work

Setting up and managing a speaking activity can be a tricky business – even more so with a big class.  The problem doesn’t seem to be with reproduction or monologue style activities, this kind of speaking practise is relatively easy to set up and manage even with a big class.  Unfortunately, however, speaking practise is sometimes limited to these kinds of activities (practise/change the information and practise the dialogue with your partner… ) The problem arises when we want our students to interact with each other to develop fluency.  Pair work in the form of ask and answer the following questions, might be apparent in some classrooms, but anything more is often considered impossible with large classes or not even considered.  I know because I’ve been that teacher…  

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First day of class? 3-2-1 go…

Since I started this blog in May, until a few weeks ago,  I have been pretty good at sticking to my schedule and posting something every couple of weeks.  The past few weeks however I’ve been neglectful as it’s that time again…back to school time!  I’ve been rummaging in bags flung in a corner in June, not to be opened till “nearly back to school time” and taking out folders that were gathering dust while I’ve been getting high on summer, trying to remember just what that new education reform was all about, how many students had resits, and where on earth my pencil case was… In short, I’ve been trying to get my head around going back to school.

The other day I started to plan the first week of class and started looking through my folder called “first day activities.”  I came across one that I have used a few times since learning about it from Shelley Terrell on an EVO session3-2-1.

If you read my last post about using Powtoon to enhance teaching and learning, you might remember it.

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