Category Archives: ELT Chat summaries

Even more statements on lesson planning: ELT Chat summary

Photo Credit: Diego Cupolo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Diego Cupolo via Compfight cc

The inspiration for the recent #eltchat on lesson planning came largely from  @michaelegriffin’s  post 29 statements about lesson plans. It seems that people have strong views about lesson planning, with some advocating a pure ‘jungle path’ approach (to use Jim Scrivener’s term) and others seeing benefits in planning, though not necessarily in following a plan rigidly.

The chat (05/06/13) started with two main questions posed by @shaunwilden: Is planning the same as preparedness  and do we need to plan at all?

Is planning the same as preparedness?

This thread was referring to a recent talk by Underhill and Maley at IATEFL

The summary of the talk: Teacher training has tended to focus on technical preparation, yet teachers often find themselves unprepared for the human unpredictability of real lessons. This workshop aims to open up discussion on the moment-by-moment improvisation which is at the heart of teaching, and to suggest ways of developing ‘preparedness’ for the unpredictable.

@teflerinha suggested that both preparation and preparedness were important, and @efl101 wondered if planning became preparedness with experience, and similarly @josayers commented that ‘planning some lessons moves us towards being more prepared for all lessons.’

 Is planning something newer teachers need to do more than experienced teachers?

There was certainly something of a consensus that newer teachers needed to spend longer planning. For example @ OUPELTGlobal  ‘When I was starting my career planning helped. With experience, I needed less planning.’

However, several people also felt that getting trainee teachers to plan in detail could be counter-productive. @harrisonmike commented ‘over planning can make you less prepared ‘it isn’t going as I planned PANIC’’ and that it was a problem that ‘minute by minute planning is indoctrinated in ITT.’ @Shaunwilden agreed that ‘training courses make teachers overplan to be honest ‘ and that ‘overplanning makes one less prepared and less flexible.’

On the other hand, @teflerinha pointed out that ‘planning in ITT serves a different function than planning in real life.’ ‘planning makes you think things through.’ And @shaunwilden added ‘It’s a way of showing a trainee can analyse language, has taken on board input etc.’ And @teflerinha again ‘To get teachers/trainees to think about why they are planning each stage and how it relates to the whole- and for observers to see that thinking.’

Many people felt it was a process novice teachers had to go through. For example, @OUPELTGlobal said ‘Yes, have to admit that all the planning I did helped in later years, but it didn’t feel great at the time.’ And @pjgallantry ‘you’ve got to know the ‘rules’ of a lesson, before you can bend/break them – hence why Lesson planning is important for new Ts..’

There was also a brief discussion about the value of scripting instructions. It was agreed that this can easily be taken too far (@efl101 had seen 5 hour lesson plan completely scripted), but that it could be useful for inexperienced teachers with lower levels (@harrisonmike)

@hartle said, as a very experienced teacher, ‘My plans maybe 5 lines, but still there, as a basis.’

Does writing a plan mean you have to follow it?

@jo_cummins: said ‘I always make a lesson plan. I don’t always follow it. I often don’t even look at it.’ This seemed to be an important point, that it might be the process of writing the lesson plan that was important, rather than having it as a crutch in the lesson, which might well end up going in a very different direction, in response to the students.

@shaunwilden gave an example of how aims and objectives might change, ‘ started thinking you were going to introduce language, and then on planning realise it’s more review.’

@OUPELTGlobal asked ‘@OUPELTGlobal: Does planning inhibit sts from “interrupting” the teacher? going off the plan?’

And @jo_sayers made the point that ‘predicting actual learning is much harder than we think and we are often wildly optimistic.’

@teflerinha responded ‘Totally agree, but still useful to have an idea what we’d like to achieve, and then be flexible..’

@pjgallantry added ‘you always have to factor in ‘Factor X’ into a LP – anything from Ss being unhappy over st to teacher having a screaming headache’

@TeacherAlan1 raised an important point, asking ‘Is anyone required to show their lesson plans to admin? Or require your teachers to show them to you? This might easily influence how much teachers feel they have to follow their plans.

But @michaelegriffin made the point ‘My current thought is that lesson plans only get in the way if we let them. Ss don’t feel blocked unless T blocks.’

Can students tell (or do they care) if you have a lesson plan?

@colm_smyth ‘I guess students can tell by structure of teacher’s board work, teacher’s composure and activity transition’

@michaelegriffin ‘I think teachers sense if a teacher is prepared and that may be based on having a lesson plan’

@rliberni ‘Do ss know when things are unplanned (as opposed to unstructured)? I think they probably do’

What about planning a series of lessons?

@teflerinha commented ‘What I really DON’T like is planning a series of lessons in advance, or using last year’s because can’t respond 2 what happens’

@oupeltglobal replied ‘I agree with that. Teacher should react to the students they have – different sts & different plans’

And @cioccas ‘Can’t plan far in advance when you’re constantly changing to meet changing needs in the class.’

Post lesson planning

@efl101 asked ‘how often do you analyse/review plan after lesson 2 compare what actually happened and why and what u can learn etc?

@shaunwilden answered: ‘I did in my first few years as a teacher but then sort of fell out of the habit of noting it down’  and @hartle ‘when I 1st started teaching I did a lot. Now, I analyse what happens in class more, interactions between stds, successes.’

@efl101 responded ‘same but think it would be interesting to see if there are patterns etc. but time often prevents proper reflection’

And a great point to conclude from @mstrep: ‘Good planning makes a good teacher. Ability to improvise and adaptability make a great one’.

Other useful links

@pjgallantry shared a great visual representation  of all the factors which contribute to teacher’s input, students’ input and output.

He also referred to The Secret DOS ‘s excellent recent post on lesson planning, The map is not the territory, which I won’t summarise here, but which is well worth reading.

@muranava referred us to this post by Willy Cardoso

Another relevant post is Steve Brown’s A case for anti-planning.

Dale Coulter’s post on lesson skeletons and retrospective planning 

Scott Thornbury and other luminaries on the IDTI blog  on How important is lesson planning?

And (if I may) my post ‘What’s the point of planning?’

Finally, @michaelegriffin gave us this link to Tessa Woodward’s book on planning lessons and courses, which he says ‘I did not enjoyed this book the first 3 times I looked at it but now love it’


Filed under Different ways to use a coursebook, ELT Chat summaries, Planning

Learner generated content:how to get your students to do the work instead!

Picture by @purple_steph on ELTPics

Picture by @purple_steph on ELTPics

To start this summary of the ELTChat on Learner-generated content, which took place at 12pm on 16th January 2013, I’d like to include this extended quote from a seminal article by Adrian Underhill, writing in the late 80s. @theteacherjames found the link, and commented that it had been a huge early influence on him.

Most teachers invite students to write stories and dialogues. Well, why not take their creations one step further and use them as the basis for all the types of elaboration, consolidation and practice which at the moment is done using the coursebook material? Instead of processing material written by someone else they can create their own material based on what they want to say and what they are able to say.

This yields two over lapping phases. Creation, which roughly corresponds to what the author usually does, and Exploitation, which roughly corresponds to the things we usually do with a coursebook.

So, If we want a dialogue we write it,

If we want a text we write one,

If we want a picture we draw one,

If we want a tape we make one,

If we want questions we write them,

If we want an exercise we construct one,

If we want to work with vocabulary we put ourselves in the position of needing it,

If we want a dictation we write one, or choose it from the reader,

If we want a role play we improvise it, or else we plan and write the parts.

If we want answers, we turn to resource books, especially the monolingual learners’ dictionary,

And if we need published text or tape material, then we find it.

We take this raw material and negotiate its correctness, we hone it and refine it, practise it, record it, tell it, act it out, draw it, summarise it, extend it, transform it, improvise it, and so on. In all of this there is a workshop atmosphere. with our own everyday life events and interests as the source material.’

Working towards a definition

The chat began by sharing how we might define learner/student generated/created content (settling on the terminology was a challenge in itself!)

@teflerinha For me, LGC is about getting learners to do as much of the work as possible (not in a lazy way)

@AlexandraKouk: also involves creativity and choice of topics, content etc. To which @Marisa_C commented So ss choose topic and content?  @theteacherjames responded I suppose we could use almost anything from the students with some creativity. @AlexandraKouk replied they can vote for topics, of course, or decide what kind of materials format they’d prefer.

@efl101 Isn’t student generated content anything sts do, say, write etc.?

@pjgallantry LGC can range from sentence -level and upwards to full-blown modules – depends on lesson focus.

There was some discussion about how far the term could be stretched:

@Marisa_C For example – would showing a S’s written work and generating some language awareness work fit the bill ? or not?

@efl101 Isn’t student generated content anything sts do, say, write etc.?

@Florentina_T Anything that the student can contribute to the class as a _person_ rather than a unidimensional learner ?

@majorieRosenbe I have created worksheets based on the mistakes that come up on tests.  Does that count?

And there seemed to be some crossover with other concepts such as learner- centredness:

@OUPELTGlobal There’s something about SGC that places the student in the role of the teacher – ? I think SGC brings the learning back to the student, using the language they are learning to communicate about them to others

@AlexandraKouk replied , the roles are not so clearly delineated: everybody teaches and learns at the same time

@yitza_Sarwono also saw similarities with the Montessori context in which she teaches.

@Marisa_C also pointed out the crossover with TBL.

Benefits and drawbacks

It was generally agreed that LGC has many benefits for learners, and teachers:

@shaunwilden So benefits include motivation, learning from each other….anything else?

@teflerinha Less preparation time?!

@Florentina_T All students know something that the T and other Ss can learn (from). Sharing in the L2 builds ownership and fluency

@AlexandraKouk Developing creativity and critical thinking skills?

@yitza_Sarwono Giving learners confidence and voice?

@OUPELTGlobal  Agreat benefit for me is that sts pay more attention to the language they use as they are communicating to friends

@theteacherjames One of the benefits of LGC is that it gives an extended life to the material that students will be possibly producing anyway

@teflerinha Lessons in FE context in UK (where I teach now) are usually 3 hours- so at least element of LGC very helpful

However, there were some downsides too:

@shaunwilden A teacher needs to be at the top of their game to handle LGC, don’t they? don’t know where you might end up.

@teflerinha If students don’t produce much, then you don’t have much to work with #lessonplandownpan

@debzi_f have to be careful with sgc that other students don’t just focus on negatives of peers though

@jankenb2 wondered if some schools might not like SGC, though @efl101 responded would hope most schools would not object to sts creating things?

@efl101, OUPELTGlobal  and @Marisa_C agreed that LGC might work well as something to add onto a core cyllabus rather the necessarily providing the syllabus.

@shaunwilden wondered Are all sts happy to work with LGC isnt there an expectation of the teacher leading and telling them what to do?  But @teflerinha felt it’s about the content rather than the methodology isn’t it? And @theteacherjames commented The teacher will still be telling them what to do: Produce material  and then do something else with it.

Towards the end of the chat, the topic shifted towards feedback, but as this is a possible topic for next week, I won’t include it here.

Examples of Learner Generated Content Activities

The Language Experience Approach is one example of how to create and exploit learner-generated content.

@Marisa_C When I taught advanced ss in the past i used to get them to write stuff/ projects for lower levels – can done with other levels too @yitza_sarwono I usually get them to do booklet of selected topic in a month’s time

@michaelegriffin I love bringing something out the next week/class- @teflerinha Yes, shows you’ve paid attention to what they’re producing.- @michaelegriffin Exactly…and I think it tends to have a carry over for next time because Ss know that things will be re-used… And related is using something from loooong ago….and hopefully Ss can see clear progress

@kevchanwow I like to take the funniest sentence, deepest sentence, etc of the week and put them on handout for the class.

@majorie_rosenbe We created cooperative crosswords on vocab for other classes to solve. Great exercise and practice.

@teflerinha  Before students read a text, give them the comprehension questions and as them to write their own text using the questions as a guide. They can then read each others’ texts and answer the questions, before they start on the original text. Finally they can make comparisons between their texts and the original.

@kevchanwow When I have Ss summarise texts, one step in the process is generating questions for each other which I then use as comp check questions

OUPELTGlobal I have my students make wordsearch puzzles for a reading text. Then, give it to a friend to solve – student reading text 2x

@majorie_rosenbe Just gave HW to write 6 questions for others on material coming on test, then played snakes and ladders with the questions.

@theteacherjames Quick example (1:1 Bus Eng): St gives presentation, recorded, watch the video back & analyse their own performance. Self feedback

@Marisa_C On an English for Teachers course we used Pecha Kuchas – each presenter responsible for Qs to audience while listening @Majorie_Rosenbe added We are holding session on how to use Pecha Kucha in classroom at BESIG PCE in Liverpool at IATEFL.

@jankenb2 If you have access to a course page ask Ss for Youtube to preview a wk prior. Assign selected to Ss pair to generate novel lang exp. Also suggested Giving ss a rubric for a writing task, e.g. “write an invite to a party include time, place, location & welcome note” and asking them to write 3 answers: a good one, a satisfactory one, and one that needs more work.

Links and Further Reading

There are three main books that I know of with specifically learner-generated ideas, though of course Teaching Unplugged is along very similar lines.

Lessons from the Learner: Shelagh Dellar- Longman

Learner-based teaching- Campbell and Kryszewska- OUP

The Minimax Teacher- Jon  Naunton-DELTA Publishing

All three of these are written in the ‘recipe book’ format, and are useful additions to a teacher’s library.

A link to an article by @ddeubal  on student created content was offered by @michaelegriffin

Also a link to the ESL Learners Output Library, a forum for sharing work ESL students produce.

@AlexandraKouk suggested this article which looks at LGC taking webtools into account


Filed under Different ways to use a coursebook, ELT Chat summaries, Teaching methodology

Using the phonemic chart- or not?

Love it, hate it, feel guilty about it…or just mystified?

The first #ELTChat on Twitter 7th November 2012 discussed the phonemic chart (and script) asking ‘Do you use it? Why/why not? And how?’

There were quite a few participants who fell into the ‘love it’ category:

@worldteacher ‘I’m a huge fan of the phonemic chart and use it in every lesson.’

@BobK99 ‘Can’t see how anyone can teach English effectively WITHOUT IPA.’

@Julian_L’enfant ‘I use the phonemic chart with learners of all ages. An excellent resource & important for learner autonomy.’

Others, such as @teflerinha, @KerrCarolyn , @TEFL Geek , @jo_cummins, @sueAnnan  who like using it, but perhaps in more of an ad hoc way.

And those who didn’t use it, such as @bnleez, @michaelegriffin, @theteacherjames and @garyJones 01 (who preferred to use rhymes and tonguetwisters)

So the stage was set for a good discussion from different angles, though there were probably more people in favour of using the chart than against. The arguments on both sides are set out below.

Overwhelming, intimidating?

It’s complicated, takes time and students don’t know it (@michaelegriffin)

@bnleez: Pronunciation varies to such a degree, I find the Phon. chart would cause more confusion for learners than it needs to be

I found it intimidating as a new teacher, so what about students? (@jo_cummins)

Agree it can be overwhelming for ss and worse for ss without Roman alphabet perhaps? (@teflerinha)

Or empowering?

But using symbols empowers students (@worldteacher)

If trained in the chart, students can get word outside classroom and note down pron themselves (@TEFLGeek)

I agree with learner autonomy (@jo_Cummins)

Teaching in France, ‘improved pronunciation’ is one of the most common objectives (@KerrCarolyn)

I’ve found students who have followed courses w/pron more resourceful than new students entering the school (Julian_l’Enfant)


ELLs can use online dictionaries with sound files, so IPA is redundant (@bnleez)

I’m still not convinced the sts need to ‘see’ the pronunciation, just hear & reproduce it. (@theteacherjames)

Or a useful visual aid?

Students need to have constant access to internet and to already be able to differentiate between sounds (@TEFLGeek)

Great for use at home or if you have tech in the classroom – otherwise I’ll stick to paper charts & flashcards! (@worldteacher)

seeing it helps with highlighting the difference in form (@sueannan)

doesn’t seeing it help lock it into the memory? (@shaunwilden)

Some find it reassuring – identify visually what ears can’t deal with (@KerrCarolyn)


It’s complicated, takes time and students don’t know it (@michaelegriffin)

@bnleez: Pronunciation varies to such a degree, I find the Phon. chart would cause more confusion for learners than it needs to be

Or not so much…?

it just looks intimidating but once you start to study it it is logical. (@jo_Cummins)

Many symbols (e.g. consonants and some dipthongs) are self-evident (@teflerinha)

A restrictive model?

Does the idea of a ‘model’ (as suggested by using a uniform chart) undermine local accents & non-native teacher …(@laurahaha)

@teflerinha thought that different allophones (versions of the same phoneme) could be included in each phoneme)

There was also mention of the American IPA- see links below.

Unsuitable for learners without a Roman script, those with literacy problems or YLs?

Previous #ELTChat on similar subject made the point that study showed learning symbols made students with different alphabet more anxious (@michaelegriffin)

Interestingly my CELTA tutor told me its no problem for Korean/Japanese Ss to pick up easily because new scripts r easy (@michaelegriffin)

A new script shouldn’t be too hard. Japanese and Chinese know thousands of characters. And most consonants are the same.(@EBEFL)

@Marisa_C and @teflerinha both raised the point that it might not be a good idea for students who were already struggling with literacy (though @teflerinha would still probably use a few key symbols such as schwa)

There was also a brief discussion about YLs, and here opinion was divided.

I use it with adults but hardly use the symbols with YLs (@prese1)

When teaching YLs we’d use it as a secret code; Lee the Lion and Sid the Snake liked certain types of words.(@Julian_l’Enfant)

What does the chart or phonemic script offer in addition to the teacher’s other resources?

The teacher can model pronunciation (@bnleeez) but..

The chart can help with this as at least Underhills’ version (see link below) shows the mouth positions as well (@teflerinha)

It can really help with showing connected speech. E.g.(@harrisonmike):


This shows the intrusive ‘w’.

@theteacher James suggested it would be as easy to write ‘tu wapples’

But others disagreed:

No- could be ‘too wapplz’ (@Marisa_C)

No, because people write things phonetically in very different ways (@teflerinha)

‘Tu wapples’ could cause spelling mistakes (@harrisonmike)

@Harrisonmike also described giving Farsi and Urdu speakers text in script to work out, and @teflerinha agreed that this was useful. For example:

Would you like to…? Could be represented as /wʊdʒə’laɪktə/, which shows how this phrase sounds in connected speech much more effectively than the words alone.

Other ways to use the chart or IPA

@Kerrcarolyn said ’11 Colour vowel sounds are great. I use the colors with kids and they love coloring words and poems’

@harrisonmike ‘good one is with minimal pairs and a maze on the board. eg. forked paths, one is 15, the other 50, or bin/bean (Pronunciation Games)– this is a link to Mark Hancock’s blog, with lots of Pron Games and activities.

@musical pass the symbol (@worldteacher)

Great activity from Arizio Sweeting’s new blog Pronunciation Central on Chasing and Tagging Phonemes (and other pron activities too)

@Bobk99 ‘s Phonemic Bingo

For a much longer list of activity ideas see the previous #eltchat on a similar subject 

Different charts

This is Adrian Underhill’s chart and blog . Also see @CGoodey’s blog entry on Adrian’s presentation and her aha moment on using the chart.

On YouTube you can find Adrian Underhill going through the chart. Part 1 is here.

a The British Council interactive char also shows sounds in words with sound at beg, middle and end . You can click to hear these and it deals with allophones – the way phonemes can be slightly different in these different places.

@julian_l’Enfant suggested Celce-Murcia Brinton & Goodwin’s for an American English chart (there is also one on Adrian Underhill’s blog, link above)

@ElaWassell gave the link to Macmillan’s The sounds app

@michaelegriffin gave us a link to five charts, including the two above.

@harrisonmike shared a link to a tool which will transcribe into IPA for you (not perfectly)

Other Links

This is the most useful pron site I’ve found– really helps for teaching HOW 2 make the sounds (@phil3wade)P

Phonetic typewriter which might come in handy for worksheets.  (@EBEFL)

Cambridge has some awesome phon games (@Marisa_C)

Useful blog post from @clil2climb about teaching pronunciation (@ElaWassell)

@cybraryman1 My Pronunciation page Phonological Awareness  

#ELTChat takes place every Wednesday at 12pm and 9pm UK time. Do join us!


Filed under ELT Chat summaries, Pronunciation

Fresh and inspiring sources for your teaching: an #ELTChat summary

How do you make sure your classes stay fresh and inspiring and what sources and influences outside ELT do you use to find subjects for your lessons?

This is the summary of the ELTChat held on Twitter at 12pm Wednesday 18th July 2012. The topic was suggested by @theteacherjames and inspired, he told us, by the following quote:

‘Success depends on sufficient knowledge of the special subject and a variety of extraneous knowledge to produce new and original combinations of ideas.’ Rosamund E.M. Harding

@theteacherjames  kicked off by pointing out that ‘ELT is the subject without a subject, meaning we can basically use any topic we want for our classes’ So, ‘. How do we find ideas?’  The focus was particularly on ideas and topics not from ELT sources.

News stories

News stories were obviously a popular source. Many people used local newspapers, so that the stories would be very topical, but some useful websites were also suggested:

@cybraryman1 gave us the link to a whole page full of links to news sites:

@teflerinha gave the link to weird news stories from Metro (a free newspaper)

@esolcourses recommended Newsy, for short news videos

And Ken Wilson’s blog has a nice article on using the Yahoo home page:

Other articles and bits and pieces

@theteacherjames gave us a link to , an ‘interestingness digest.’

And his list of interesting’ sciency ‘people on Twitter!/thejamesabroad/interesting/members

@theteacherjames recommended the Guardian Family section and gave a link to his blog where he highlights some of what can be done with it.

@theteacherjames suggested ‘For fun facts and trivia, follow @qikipedia and @UberFacts.’

Films and clips

@leoselivan mentioned using films, and said that he used whole films in segments throughout the semester. @sharonzspace said she encouraged students to find suitable films, and there was a brief discussion about finding out what students are interested in rather than imposing our own favourites  on them, balanced with choosing films which are suitable and have linguistic benefits.

@esolcourses mentioned youtube and gave an example of a clip used on her blog at at

@leoselivan gave us the following link to the ESL Learner Movie Guide

@cliltoclimb Gave us this link to an interview with Kieran Donaghy on using films

@sharonzspace gave us a link to the TED page

@worldteacher’s students still love Mr Bean! @theteacherjames gave us a link to his blog with some examples of different silent movies. and @esolcourses gave us a clip of oktopodi

@teflerinha mentioned clip from youtube, which @designerlessons has turned into a lesson for advanced students. It’s from a series of videos 50 people, 1 question. This one interviews people in Denver about ‘What would make you happy?’  :

 Podcasts and other audio resources

 @worldteacher commented, ‘One of my favourite resources with higher level sts – From Our Own Correspondent podcast from BBC – 5 x 5-min stories each edition.’ @BobK99 agreed ‘Very good for looking at different accents (as there’s often a vox pop in the reports).’

 @teflerinha somewhat sheepishly added BBC Women’s Hour as a favourite source- and other fans came out of the closet too!

And @jamestheteacher said he often used  4 thought with business students.

@worldteacher also mentioned BBC Desert Island Discs

@jeaneoakes made the point that ‘ if students make podcasts they hear how they improve oral langauge skill. Use a rubric to score and set goals.’

Pictures and visual content

@Sharonzspace mentioned Facebook for visual content, and @worldteacher suggested that it pays to follow the British Council, as they post great links.


 @nancyteach pointed out that there are lots of free webinars and walkthroughs which can help teachers learn how to do many Edtech tasks.

 @Sharonzspace uses a closed group on Facebook with her students and @worldteacher’s students are motivated by using Edmodo (a secure social learning network for learners and teachers- good if Facebook is blocked)



@DanielaArghir told us about a routine she has with YLs where she starts each lesson with a ten minute slot on what is being celebrated that day (e.g. International Women’s Day, or something sillier like Chewing gum Day- can even make them up if necessary)

@cybraryman1 gave us a link to national holidays etc on

@worldteacher suggested that  ‘Taking students outside of the classroom whenever possible helps to keep things fresh.’

@esolcourses suggested using Googlemaps for virtual trips.

@BobK99 said ‘I use mats based on a free tourist h/o (maps, time, buying tickets, etc) but after the lesson give out up-to-date education.’ And @teflerinha agreed that realia can be really motivating- even simple things like brining in a real book to read aloud from rather than reading it off the coursebook page.

@teflerinha suggested lessons where students make things, such as origami, can be good for a change and involve a lot of language use. @DanielaArghir gave an example of a recent class where her 11 year olds made windmills for Global Wind Day. And @worldteacher talked about her cookery sessions with adult students (lucky, her some of them own restaurants!)

@DanielaArghir gave us a link to a site about creative ideas for working with children.

@SueAnnan had used a foreign language music CD, which generated lots of language.

And, intriguingly, @jeanneoakes mentioned using a ‘culture bag’ but we never found out what that was?!

To conclude, @Shaunwilden reminded everyone that materials are not the only thing which makes a lesson fresh and inspiring. @teflerinha agreed that trying out different ways of doing things was also important, and @worldteacher mentioned CPD. @Cybraryman1 added ‘Important to start each lesson with something that will engage your students & is relevant. Vary your teaching approach too.’ And, finally, @MizLadyCaz pointed out that ‘The right scaffolding can allow for success with any resource.’


Filed under ELT Chat summaries

Is 1-2-1 teaching intrinsically better for students than being in a group?

Background to the question

This is a summary of the lively ELTChat on this subject, on 6th June 2012, moderated as well as ever by @Marisa_C and @ShaunWilden. See if you’re not familiar with this great institution!

I volunteered to write the summary, as I had proposed the question (so it was my fault!;) ). What sparked the question for me was an interesting post by @ukteachers on his blog An example quote:

The fact that teachers work with groups is part of the problem. The individual needs of each person simply cannot be met in a classroom environment. So teachers have to pitch things at the lowest common denominator in the classroom who is the student who more or less understands what’s going on. A great deal of what happens in classrooms is an exercise in training yourself to put your own needs last and the needs of the group and its consensus first. You don’t understand something? Tough – the teacher doesn’t have time for that.

The chat began by discussing 1-2-1 teaching in general.

Advantages of 1-2-1

Lessons can be tailor-made

@theteacherjames suggested that ‘An obvious benefit of 1-2-1 is that the lessons should be focused on exactly what the st needs to learn’ and, similarly, @Shaunwilden added the benefits of ‘personally selected material, run at sts pace, easier to monitor class.’ @Kevchanwow also pointed out that, ‘1 on 1 allows for all (2) participants to focus in on a clear set of goals.’

And @andivwhite made the point that ‘More than 1 student immediately means multilevel in terms of personality, interest, language, etc.  ‘

Some students will prefer this way of learning

@hartle and @RichmondELT mentioned the need to meet individual learning styles as well as goals and @Elawassell said, ‘Learning with a group may be frustrating 4 some Ss. The ones that get things quickly or for those who are slow…’

Several participants (such as @TutorMe_Online) also mentioned that students would need to participate more in a 1-2-1 setting, which might be good for shyer or less confident students.

Benefits in terms of accelerated learning

@TheteacherJames, ‘The st gets a lot of time to speak & listen to a high level language user. More demanding in that respect.’ And @rliberni felt that ‘It is tiring but very rewarding as you can see the student develop & improve before your eyes.’ @Elawassel referred to a student who was very clear that they found 1-2-1 much more effective.

@TutorMe_Online: Think 1-2-1 has the edge in terms of productivity & how much improvement a single student can make in 1 lesson

Disadvantages of 1-2-1

Difficult for the teacher?

Not everyone agreed that 1-2-1 was any more difficult for the teacher, but this was certainly the majority opinion. For example, @Marisa_C talked about being ‘on’ all the time, and AlexandraKouk said she found preparing and teaching ‘intensive’. @JoHart mentioned the difficulty with a shy or uninterested learner. @rliberni added ‘it can be tiring, also need to address issues as they arise which means you have to be on your toes always!’

On the other hand @theteacherjames felt that with experience, it was not necessary to do a lot of preparation, and @shaunwilden felt that there were ‘ways of taking a back seat’.

Not always best for the learner?

@esolcourses suggested that 1-2-1 could be isolating for the student and @teflerinha added that it could also not be the best preparation for the outside world. @worldteacher added that ‘many students gain confidence from a group setting’.

@kevchanwow made an interesting point, that ‘the power of peer modeling can’t be overestimated. The closer the peer is socially, the greater the impact.’ @worldteacher also mentioned the benefits of a group: less pressure, peer teaching, moral support, sharing, etc and @RichmondELT said ‘In groups independent learning is encouraged, students can help each other rather than always depending on the teacher.’

@teflerinha mentioned the fact that if we learn by negotiating meaning, that having to do so with a variety of people, some of whom might struggle to understand more than a ‘helpful’ teacher, could only be a good thing. Similarly, e_clements suggested a problem with 1-2-1 was that there was only 1 teacher voice and that ‘In a group Ss can interact with other NN/lower level speakers – probably more realistic for what they’ll need to do in real life.’ And @kevchanwow said, ‘Groups allow exposure to wider array of truly learnable structures, not structures teachers think should be learned.’

That said, @theteacherjames said he encouraged learners to listen to different voices outside the class, and a couple of people said that 1-2-1 classes in their context involved different teachers on different days.

Points about teaching 1-2-1 in general

 The conversation turned to how people actually teach 1-2-1. A lot of people pointed out the danger of 1-2-1 simply turning into a ‘chat’. This provoked a lot of discussion, as several people pointed out that a chat was a great basis for learning- provided that students were enabled to ‘notice’ language and learn and develop. For example, @theteacherjames said, ‘I always start conversation led, then introduce relevant activities based on the conversation. Chat is priceless!’ or @andivwhite,’If the chat is structured with feedback and error correction, it’s perfect.’ Dogme was mentioned at this stage, but not really picked up on. (Incidentally I think 1-2-1 is perfect for a dogme approach, even IS a dogme approach..certainly that’s what I was doing 20 years ago teaching 1-2-1)

@ukteachers pointed out that ‘If u approach 121 as if you’re in a classroom and barricade yourself behind materials then sure – it’s dull as dishwater.’

@esolcourses reminded us of the danger of the teacher dominating, which point was taken up by several others. For example, @kevchanwow, ‘In 1:1 it’s hard to remember that silence is often necessary for production and consolidation.’

@Ukteachers said’I think of 121 as a specialised form of pairwork rather than being a TEACHER vs STUDENT situation.’

Horses for courses

At this point the talk moved on to whether groups were better. Many of the points had already been made when talking about 1-2-1, and the general consensus was that they were different things (not better or worse).

Essentially, most people seemed to agree that 1-2-1 was best for learners with very specific needs, but that groups had advantages too. Many of these are outlined above, but added were:

@hartle in 121 you can’t use grp activities that allow students time to repeat and consolidate new language etc. @teflerinha seconded the importance of task repetition.

@RichmondELT In groups independent learning is encouraged, students can help each other rather than always depending on the teacher

@MrChrisJWilson: #eltchat a teacher only has a set number of experiences, stories, input. Having other students increase the knowledge/stories in the room. Also allowing development of group skills as well as knowledge of grammar vocab and lexis

@ukteachers asked the question as to what we, personally would prefer. Obviously the answer varied according to the individual. Some preferred the intensive nature of 1-2-1, others the group experience- bringing up the intriguing notion that this might, like learning styles, be something that teachers had preferences for- and were thus in danger of assuming that everyone felt the same way as themselves.


 Next there was some discussion about cost, and whether students expected more ‘spoonfeeding’ for paying more (@MrChrisJWilson), or whether the extra benefit was worth the extra cost (@Michaelegriffin. The question was asked about usual rate in UK- and this seemed to be between £9 and £50 an hour.


@esolcourses brought up the fact that many classes she taught had a combination of 1-2-1 and group work (This is/was common in the ESOL context, but disappearing with funding cuts). Many people agreed that a combination of 1-2-1 and group would perhaps be the perfect scenario.

Perhaps the last word should go to @hartle ‘Lots of good points here about both contexts, but a good teacher should be able to manage both and the challenge is to adapt your skills.’


Filed under ELT Chat summaries, Teaching methodology

#ELTChat summary on Multiple Intelligences 07/03/12

This is a summary of the first ELT Chat on Wednesday 7th March 2012 about Multiple Intelligences.
#ELTChat takes place on Twitter every Wednesday at 12pm and 9pm BST
Shaun Wilden kicked off by giving us a link to the Wikipedia page on Multiple Intelligences. The link is below, but basically, it’s a theory proposed by Howard Gardner in the 1980s, which says that rather than there being just one kind of intelligence, there are different kinds of intelligence:
• Spatial
• Linguistic
• Logical-mathematical
• Bodily-kinesthetic
• Musical
• Interpersonal
• Intrapersonal
• Naturalistic
• Existential
(The last two were added at a later date)
The first part of the discussion mostly centred around whether MI theory had now been discredited, to what extent people believed in it and to what extent it was practised.
The overall view seemed to be that people were little sceptical about the scientific basis, but agreed that it was important to recognise that people learn in different ways, and to provide a variety of activities:

@louisealix68: think it’s good as T to know we all learn diff.(I’m visual) in order 2 help kids with learning strats best 2 them
@rliberni: yes agreed I think the idea of varying activities etc is imp and MI would help to highlight that
@breathyvowel: Yup but for me the varying comes first, and the relevance to MI is more or less incidental

@esolcourses also suggested that it might be impractical or unnecessary to devote too much time to individual differences when students actually had a lot in common. And other people suggested some drawbacks to focusing on MI:

@OUPELTGlobal: I think tchers should be careful of labelling their sts – different sts can use
different ints at different times.
@michaelegriffin: Just sort of the cultiness of MI puts me off. I am with @Marisa_C about
much of it just being sensible
@kevchanwow: agree that a wide range of activities is necessary to keep students involved. But does MI offer the right framework?

Several people felt that, irrespective of whether the science actually stood up, there was a benefit in discussing multiple intelligences with students so that they would be aware of different ways of learning and able to ‘play to their strengths’ (@OUPELTGlobal)

@kevchanwow: MI as a means for students to discuss how they learn. An exercise in empathy and to realize that there are many ways to learn and that it is OK to be (learn) different
@samshep: we cn be interested in how ss learn w/out labelling them. Also shd encourage thm to try diff things & expand capabilities
@kevchanwow recognizing what brings our students joy and how where they excel is key for rapport. But does MI help us do that?

There was also seen to be a benefit in teachers at least considering MI, so that they would not assume that all learners learnt the same way (or the same way the teachers did)

It was questioned whether MIs needed to be formally assessed, but @Marisa_C suggested a possible test for anyone who wanted to do so, the Barsch Learning Styles Inventory, available online. @worldteacher also provided a short MI quiz (see below)
@ louisealix68 mentioned Thomas Armstrong (link below) as a good place to go for more information on MI.

People started to discuss other systems of learning styles:
@samshep surely multiple intelligences is just learning styles dressed in different clothes w same pitfalls and questions.
@shaunwilden: @samshep I agree and there are far too many learning styles models out there, can get very confusing 🙂
@teflerinha asked whether people felt that multisensory learning (link below), which has some crossover with MI, was particularly suitable for YLs. It was generally agreed that it was, though the point was made by @worldteacher that it could also apply to adults.
@louisealix68 raised the question of whether males had different learning styles to females. @breathyvowel commented: I definitely find that the atmosphere changes with gender balance, so perhaps unconsciously yes and @teflerinha commented: Thnk gender cn affct way class interacts. Once had all male CELTA & all activities finished superfast.

A little later there was also discussion of naturalist and existential intelligences and how these might be accommodated. @teflerinha made the point that existential or spiritual intelligence was becoming a big thing in coaching and business training(essentially about connecting with your inner wisdom and with others) and @leoselivan suggested that naturalist intelligence lent itself well to categorising and ordering tasks.

@cherrymp commented that perhaps Emotional Intelligence was more important to cultivate than MI (“the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups”.)

@Marisa_C asked for examples of MI based activities which had been used successfully:
@teflerinha: Extended project type work tends to be good for MI I think as there are a variety of tasks
@louisealix68: e.g. use running dictation for kinsaesthetic. Dictogloss = linguistic/math
@esolcourses: Online drag and drop picture quizzes on my website 4 spacial intel. – work well as ind. or group activities.
@louisealix68: learn vocab=rote (music); organise alphabetically – math; read/cover = ling
@rliberni: used to do dictation in teams with paper up on wall 1st grp to complete with all correct won
@teflerinha: And giving ss the opportunity to work alone as well as in pairs or groups- for intrapersonal learners
@michaelegriffin: Drawin’, movin’, clappin’ actin’, connectin’, solvin’ (puzzles),
@OUPELTGlobal : Asking sts whon learn visually to find their own images for texts, adds to their understanding/learning of the text

There was a questions from @SueAnnan as to whether MI meant more planning. Some comments:
@leoselivan: no but it does require thinking on your feet sometimes. I think if a T is aware u
don’t need to spend MORE time planning
@teflerinha: Not so much a lot of prep as bearing it in mind when choosing activity types I
@shaunwilden: No cos it is everyday teaching anyway 🙂
@OUPELTGlobal: I don’t think so. Once I was aware of them, and my sts too, we sort of
helped each other. Awareness is very important!
But @SueAnnan made the point that, while she agreed to an extent, she had seen ss turned off by non traditional activities. @michaelegriffin agreed, ‘I think that is a very good point and quite common… Like “why are we drawing in English class???!?!” “Give me verbs!”’
@SophiaKhan4suggested that it was ‘sometimes hard to go out of your own comfort zone when choosing activities tho’ and @NikkiFortova agreed ‘@SophiaKhan4 so so true, but if we don;t go out of our comfort zone from time to time, we don’ t learn @shaunWilden said that ‘thats only natural isn’t it, if we have a class we need to cater to all which might mean some are happy when others aren’t.’

Perhaps a good conclusion would be @shiftparadigm’s comment,’ In practice, might a good place to start be recognizing and accommodating a student’s strengths?’

List of useful links (please let me know if any don’t work)

Link to Wikipedia page on MI (@ShaunWilden)
Link to Thomas Armstrong’s webpage
Link to Barsch Learning styles inventory (@Marisa_C)
Link to MI Quiz (@worldteacher)
Link to Howard Gardner’s book on Googlebooks (@Marisa_C)
Link to info on multisensory learning (VAK) (@teflerinha)
Link to VARK learning styles @rliberni)
Link to Bonnie Tsai, interesting speaker on MI (louisealix68)
Whole set of links on MI (@cybraryman1)
Googlebooks link to Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (@marisa_C)
Link to page on Multiple Intelligences (@cherrymp)
Link to Multiple Intelligences lesson plans (@cherrymp)
Link to a whole list of learning styles resources, diigo by @carldowse (@SueAnnan)
Link to article on Integrating MI in ESL/EFL classrooms (@worldteacher)
Link to MI lesson plan (@shaunWilden)
Link to Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences and Education (@cherrymp)
Link to an interactive version of Blooms Taxonomy, revised for 21st Century (@nikkiFortova)


Filed under Differentiation, ELT Chat summaries