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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: http://cybraryman.com/news.html

@teflerinha gave the link to weird news stories from Metro (a free newspaper) http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/

@esolcourses recommended Newsy, for short news videos http://www.newsy.com/

And Ken Wilson’s blog has a nice article on using the Yahoo home page: http://kenwilsonelt.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/the-yahoo-home-page-dull-scary-or-engaging/

Other articles and bits and pieces

@theteacherjames gave us a link to  http://www.brainpickings.org/ , an ‘interestingness digest.’

And his list of interesting’ sciency ‘people on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/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. http://theteacherjames.blogspot.be/search/label/The%20Guardian

@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 http://esolcourses.blogspot.com/

@leoselivan gave us the following link to the ESL Learner Movie Guide  http://www.eslnotes.com/

@cliltoclimb Gave us this link to an interview with Kieran Donaghy on using films http://iasku.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/kieran-donaghy/

@sharonzspace gave us a link to the TED page http://www.ted.com/

@worldteacher’s students still love Mr Bean! @theteacherjames gave us a link to his blog with some examples of different silent movies. http://theteacherjames.blogspot.be/search/label/silentmovies and @esolcourses gave us a clip of oktopodi  http://esolcourses.blogspot.com/2009/09/learn-english-twitter-esl-writing.html

@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?’  : http://designerlessons.org/2012/02/20/esl-lesson-plan-happiness-one-question-generating-discussions/

 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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010q0n0 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  http://cybraryman.com/calendar.html

@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. http://www.childcareexchange.com/

@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