#ELTChat Summary 18/05/2016 CPD for teachers, using social media

ELTChat is a weekly Twitter-based discussion that takes place on Wednesdays at 7pm U.K. time under the hashtag #ELTChat. You can read more about it here and find a list of summaries of past discussions here.

The topic up for discussion on 18/05/2016 was CPD for teachers, using social media. I nabbed the summary writing duties (for the first time in ages, it seems!) as entering the online community in early 2011 was one of the turning points of my career.

In order to make this summary as user-friendly as possible, I am going to organise it by general comments and then by tool (titles are clickable links that take you to the site) and finish off with some thoughts of my own. So, feel free to read about them all or skip to the ones you are less familiar/more interested in. Order is random rather than some kind of ranking!


  • I think any social media is good for CDP depending on who/what you follow (@nahirco)
  • It really is about who you follow. Makes such a big difference. (@Hada_ELT)
  • Can anybody follow you (like Twitter)? Or do you have to accept them (like Facebook)? (@sandymillin – asking about Google+ but always a relevant consideration when newly using some kind of Social Media!)
  • Social Media is a great way to do CPD as most people already use it… just haven’t necessarily thought of using it for that purpose (@thebestticher)
  • One of the big questions – what to choose among this cornucopia of info (@Marisa_C)
  • It’s the five minutes a day thing for me, much like learning a language. Daily habits easier (@sandymillin)
  • I try to make Twitter and Facebook lists of interesting ELT/Phon profiles and¬†keep up with them once a week. Feedly helps me keep track of blogs. (@pronbites)
  • Curation principle the same in all these tools – look and feel is different of course – which is great (@Marisa_C)
  • The ability to read and type quickly both help too ūüėČ ¬†And now, lots of experience of what is worth sharing/saving/reading (@sandymillin)
  • My CPD saw a major shift when I linked it to social media. It got me into the ‘global classroom’ -sorry cliche but true (@Hada_ELT)
  • I tend to take what comes in on my timeline – but LOOK for stuff when preparing sessions for Delta or talks (@Marisa_C)
  • It’s often easier to be surprised when you don’t mind what you find (@SueAnnan)
  • Wanted to share a few links from my blog with guides to online CPD, then realised too many! Mostly here: ¬†(@sandymillin)
  • It’s also nice to be able to ‘talk shop’ without driving everyone I know insane ūüėČ (@thebestticher)
  • I presented this topic on the #vrtwebcon and shared the post on the #ltsig blog¬†¬†(@Marisa_C)
  • And we are mostly able to share info now beCAUSE of social media (@Marisa_C)
  • Sharing recent @iatefl_ltsig blog post on Social Media Symposium #vrtwebcon ¬†¬†– summaries, slides, recordings (@Marisa_C)
  • I switch(ed) all of the automatic things off on my social media accounts. Think I should choose when/where to post (@sandymillin)

1. Twitter (obviously!)

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 14.46.31

  • Twitter is home to #ELTChat (see above for more information).
  • I think with Twitter you assume people want professional connections, some people prefer to keep FB personal (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • Source of ELT info (blogs, events, books, freebies..) and of course new technology. Endless source of inspiration ¬†(@Hada_ELT)
  • The assistance is super fast on twitter whenever you need an ear (@SueAnnan)
  • And the learning – there is ALWAYS a great takeaway for me whenever I log in but I DO follow good people (@Marisa_C)
  • #ELTChat kick-started my professional development online and changed my life. (@sandymillin)
  • I tend to come across things on twitter when I’m being intentional about CPD (@thebestticher)
  • I wrote this post about Twitter for CPD ¬†(@LizziePinard)
  • The hub is Twitter in general for my CPD (@Marisa_C)
  • I find that work on #eltchat has improved my ability to say a lot in just a few words #eltchat have been able to describe lesson pln in 140 (@Marisa_C)
  • Twitter is my CPD (@fionaljp)
  • I love the random #ELT discussions I sometimes get into on Twitter – they end up being really informative. Great motivation (@Hada_ELT)
  • I find Twitter more serious than Facebook and Facebook can be more contentious (@SueAnna)

(Though it wasn’t discussed, don’t forget other hashtag discussions such as #ELTChinwag [alternate Monday evenings at 8.30pm UK time] and #TEChat [Friday lunchtime UK time], as well as hashtags that are always in use like the #IATEFL one and the #mawsig one.)

2. Facebook

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.29.07

  • Lots on Facebook now I’m friends with @sandymillin (@TeresaBerstwick – and I second it!)
  • I use Facebook a lot, am friends with lots of teachers who share interesting things so CPD kind of comes into it! (@Thebestticher)
  • FB has changed a lot in the last couple of years or rather WE have changed it (@Marisa_C)
  • My FB contains teachers that don’t use Twitter much. It means contact there too (@SueAnnan)
  • I only have one account (not separate) because I can’t be bothered with two, so I do try to think about who I add (@sandymillin)
  • Facebook¬†is the things I ‘stumble upon’ so to speak (@thebestticher)
  • I find that stuff is often duplicated on Facebook and Twitter. Depends which I opened first (@SueAnnan)
  • Which is actually good I think as I sometimes miss stuff on one that I catch on the other (@Hada_ELT)
  • There’s a way you can link the accounts I think so it posts automatically to Twitter but not sure if it then posts EVERYTHING you put on Facebook (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • 5 years of building up a network of people on Facebook means I tend to ask questions there – amazing discussions often result (@sandymillin)
  • Definitely more cosy on Facebook. Slower and a bit less ‘open’ (does that make sense?) (@Hada_ELT)
  • Some people prefer to keep FB personal (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • It’s also possible to have a couple of profiles on Fb – one professional and one personal (@Hada_ELT)

3. LinkedIn

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.30.15

  • I have to say that I can’t stand LinkedIn. I find it incredibly unwieldy and not user friendly at all. (@sandymillin)
  • I use it to connect my school – I find other kinds of connections- discussion groups mostly unwieldy though agree (@Marisa_C) (More information provided subsequently to this Tweet but extending on it:¬†people looking for me or my school for all services we provide – so yes more as a course provider/consultant)
  • I only use LinkedIn now to keep my CV up to date. I used to use the groups but not now (@MarjorieRosenbe)

4. Pinterest

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.31.15

  • Tried Pinterest but couldn’t get into it. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • For me, Pinterest looks pretty, but I don’t find it very useful for CPD. Good for crafts etc (@sandymillin)
  • I use pinterest a l ot when I prepare talks or seminars while doing background research/ ideas or reading (@Marisa_C)
  • I love Pinterest for new ideas and activities and the constant reminder to try new things (@thebestticher)
  • I have a pinterest account, but I get bored with it (@SueAnnan)
  • I love pinterest – let’s follow one another – i use it a LOT! (@Marisa_C)

5. Diigo

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.32.21

(Just in case you weren’t aware, Diigo is basically a social bookmarking tool, which enables you to curate bookmarks in way that they are available for anyone to see.)

  • I bookmark every useful link I find using diigo. After 5.5 years, I have over 4500 bookmarks, but can find them again quickly ūüôā (@sandymillin)
  • All of my bookmarks are publicly available too, and other people can access/search them: ¬†Very easy to use (@sandymillin)
  • I add 3-4 links a day.That’s why I like diigo over something like Evernote – free + easy to share with other people ūüôā (@sandymillin)
  • You should be able to download a file of all your bookmarks from delicious. I try to backup diigo in case (@sandymillin)
  • Here’s my guide to diigo¬†(@sandymillin)

6. GooglePlus

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.33.20

  • It’s just another platform which has other possibilities of sharing -since it’s Google, it’s easier wth all shared docs I guess (@Hada_ELT)
  • Anyone can follow you and you can create circles or join circles. There’s also a totally private area. (@Hada_ELT)
  • So I guess that’s why it’s so good for MOOCs/ITDI – you don’t have to friend people (@sandymillin)
  • You get sent a link whihc gives you access to a ‘closed’ area where material is shared and convos take place (@Hada_ELT)
  • Google+ just doesn’t do it the same for me for some reason. Whatever I sign up too, Twitter and Fb still have the best connections (@Hada_ELT)
  • Have seen it used to great effect during a course – for example – or EVO MOOCs, very versatile (@Marisa_C)
  • Joined a MOOC in Google+ community and it worked really well as a platform for a course. (@fionaljp)
  • Oh yes, you remind me that I do use it and it’s great for the @iTDipro¬† courses (@Hada_ELT)

7. Feedly

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.34.27

(From the horse’s mouth (an American horse judging by the spelling of organise!):¬†A single place to organize, read, and share all the content that matters to you ‚ÄĒ and your team.)

  • For me, it’s about using a reader and having a routine. Feedly collects everything for me… (@sandymillin)
  • With feedly you cannot share¬† your feeds the way you could with google reader (@Marisa_C)
  • Feedly is a blog reader, whereas delicious is a bookmarker (@sandymillin)
  • I use feedly. Migrated to it after GoogleReader closed. 1 slightly annoying thing is you only have 30 days to read (@sandymillin)

8. Blogs/Blogging

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.35.39

  • I find blogging helps me reflect on CPD. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • Agreed – committing to a ‘new things I’ve tried’ post at the end of each month forces me to keep developing! (@thebesttticher)
  • (@sandymillin promised us a blog post about blogging, based on a recent talk she made at the Innovate ELT ¬†conference this year – well worth reading! – and has duly delivered. Enjoy!)

Passing mention was also made to Delicious (social bookmarking), Scoop.It (curating) and Pearltrees (From their website: “Pearltrees is a place to organize all your interests. It lets you organize, explore and share everything you like”).

Other online development options

We touched on this very briefly at the end!

  • We haven’t said much about webinars and recordings for online CPD. So many available! (@sandymillin)
  • Lots of @iatefl talks available to watch too, and you can read @LizziePinard‘s summaries of many of them: ¬†(@sandymillin)
  • Macmillan recorded all their sessions too (@LizziePinard)
  • Webinars are great, the conversations in the chat box are social interaction and reflection. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • Are there too many webinars these days? attendances seem to be low and people watch the recordings instead (@SueAnnan)
  • Guess they’re like blogs. You’ll find what you’re interested in, and ignore the rest. Depends what you’re looking for (@sandymillin)
  • I love webinars! There’s such a luxury. Chilling in my study, in the comfort of my home, I learn, for free! (@Hada_ELT)
  • the #Iatefl series us attracting good numbers, not sure about others (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Basically, as far as I can make out from that little lot, it’s mostly a case of personal preference. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” kinda thing. Twitter and Facebook seem to be the main ways of connecting with people, though Google Circles also put forward as useful in a course context. LinkedIn didn’t seem to have many fans, but Kirsten Holt swears by it for networking! There are lots of different content curation tools, some purely for bookmarks (Diigo, Delicious) and other for general content (Feedly, Pinterest, Pearltrees, Scoopit). Online webinars are another means of online development, as is blogging. There isn’t time to use all of it, so find what works for you and do it! Then, if using tools that involve following or friending people, think carefully about who you follow/friend as this impacts the content you are shown in your timelines. One thing I think is interesting, and which has just occurred to me while writing this summary, is that no one mentioned Edmodo! Yet, Edmodo is supposed to be an educational platform where teachers can connect with teachers and share stuff. (That said, I’ve only used it with students, which is its other, and perhaps main, purpose)

For me, my Twitter account is a professional account while my Facebook account is a personal account. That said, Facebook gives me some CPD too, through the people I’m friends with (e.g. Sandy Millin who shares lots of blog posts), the groups I am a member of (such as the IATEFL group) and the pages I “like” (like the TeachingEnglish page). I only “friend” people I actually know so sorry to all the people who have attempted to add me that I haven’t accepted – if it’s any consolation, all you are missing out on is photos of my garden/vegetable patch, my horse and the like! I also have a LinkedIn account but haven’t got to grips with it fully. I recently joined a load of groups but haven’t had time to follow up yet. Pinterest I use for vegan recipes, but when I say “use” – I have an account, it periodically emails me stuff that might be of interest (read: vegan recipes) which I occasionally click on. So, not exactly an active user! I used ¬†to use Diigo but forgot about it, feel like I should resurrect it at some point…¬†Finally, of course, there is my blog. There is always my blog. ūüôā¬†

ELTchat summary (14/05/14) – “Intercultural awareness: what our students need to know”

#ELTchat discussions take place once a week, on Wednesdays, at 12.00 or 21.00 each week, on a rotating basis. (To find out more about #ELTchat and these weekly discussions, please visit¬†the #ELTchat site.) On the 14th May the chat took place at 21.00 BST (22.00 CET – yawwwn!)¬†and the topic was ‚ÄėIntercultural Awareness: what do our students need to know?

What a can of worm! :-)

What a can of worm! ūüôā

It quickly became apparent that the answer to this question was a) definition-dependent b) context-dependent and c) the usual can of worms job!

To summarise this discussion, I have decided to go with the following structure:

  • Definition(s) – defining the topic
  • Context – need to knows/teaching ideas and issues
  • Context – need to knows/teaching ideas and issues
  • Context – need to knows/teaching ideas and issues
  • Activities/approaches we could use across contexts
  • Resources/Links
  • Conclusion

Here we go then…


Well, looking back over the talk, we picked at the issue of definition a bit but didn’t really come to any firm conclusions. To me, this mirrors how complex culture is – something that is further complicated by the fact that English is used as an international language and as a lingua franca. There is tension between ‘English as associated with western culture’ and ‘English as not belonging to any particular culture’, the relationship between language and culture in general, and the role of the English language teacher within this. Of course context and needs are very important – like so many other ELT issues, there is no one size fits all answer to be found with regards to this topic.

Topic is  huge methinks Рwe could only tackle aspects of it Рe,g, topics, culturally loaded materials, even approach to teaching (@marisa_constantinides)

So does it mean teaching the culture of the language or teaching culture in a wider sense? Or both? (@theteacherjames)

…or adapting teaching to cultural contexts or awareness of differences in class (@hartle)

A culture includes behaviours, traditions, food, socialising, etc – these are all topics included in materials – could extend topics. (@marisa_constantinides)

Shouldn’t the question be whether we serve as language teachers or as ambassadors of the broader English culture as well? ¬†(@angelos_bollas)

Depends on context – if students will mostly be speaking to native speakers or using ELF in which case need broader cultural issues. (@GemL1)

Well… in a UK context, using polite language is important in some situations (saying please, thank you, etc) (@esolcourses)

Because English is global maybe more useful to raise awareness that difference between its many users exist despite same language used. (@LizziePinard)

Depends on the student’s origin. For some, English equals western. (@angelos_bollas)

Wary of just English culture, Ss learning English will use it in China or South America too, English as way to view different world cultures. (@eilymurphy)

Isn’t it a question of context? What do the students need the language for? (@SueAnnan)

Culture is much more than grouping countries and labelling them. Many other factors involved. (@MajorieRosenbe)

From my wife’s cultural awareness studies: culture absorbs and changes language and vice versa (@ELTexperiences)

Culture isn’t static so you can’t teach it as a body of content? (@LizziePinard)

Culture even changes through generations within the same country. (@HadaLitim)

We also need to remember that within “a culture” are many subcultures. Very complex. (@LizziePinard)

So, having opened the can of worms, we discussed ways of dealing with all the worms, when it comes to our learners in our different contexts.

Context Рmonolingual classes 

Monolingual classes are generally associated with L2+ instruction happening in non-English-speaking countries. However, monolingual does not mean monocultural (see last tweet in the definition(s) section!) and even within these classes, intercultural awareness is important. For example, learners in these classes

Need to know behaviours, mannerisms especially in business settings, but also for classroom. (ChristineMulla)

Once we recognise that monoculture is non-existent, we can see that

Monolingual doesn’t necessarily mean mono-cultural (@HadaLitim)

Each group has a cultural mix in every individual even in monolingual classes, so by comparison of what is ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ for each of us.. (@hartle)

Agreed – personal, family, building, neighbourhood – many different kinds. (@ChristineMulla)

That’s true. There are sub-cultures as well as national cultures. (@ELTexperiences)

Learners learning in their L1 context, who have to deal internationally with other people, for example at work, may still struggle with culturally related issues:

My sts have great difficulties on conference calls etc (@theteacherjames)

Context – multilingual classes

Multilingual classes could take place in English-speaking countries but may also take place in non-English-speaking countries. If we associate language and culture, then it is immediately obvious that in such classes there is a lot of potential for raising intercultural awareness:

How about students teaching each other about culture? Less teacher, more student interaction. In my experience they love it. (@ChristineMulla)

Of course this approach is not precluded in any other contexts, as we have already seen. It is also not without issues:

Discussed culture yesterday and an Austrian student said she felt left out because foreign students form closed groups. Different perspective. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Context – ESOL

By ESOL contexts, we mean learners who have entered an English-speaking country with the goal of settling there. This would in due course involve citizenship tests:

With ESOL learners in the UK they need to be aware of cultural aspects to pass the Citizenship test! (@languageeteach)

Yeah they also need to know loads of silly facts for no apparent reason ūüôā (@Shaunwilden)

The need to integrate distinguishes ESOL contexts from other multilingual contexts: multilingual classes are not only found in English-speaking environments (E.S.E) and, even if such a class does take place in an E.S.E., the learners in them do not necessarily have any integrative goals: they could be young learners attending a summer camp, for example. However, there is still some overlap between the two contexts in terms of cultural resources within the class.

In ESOL classes, we can assume that learners will need to speak to native speakers, though not exclusively. Therefore certain elements of language and culture may need to be taught.

The ‘unwritten rules’ of correct behaviour in one culture don’t necessarily transfer to another one‚Ķ(@ESOLcourses)

Yes, and the importance of hedging language esp when asking for a favour. (@Languageeteach)

Some aspects of language, too – tag questions in particular can be confusing for learners! (@ESOLcourses)

I always cover them in small talk lessons (@SueAnnan)

Seeing students arrive in the UK and the progress they make to become more culturally aware is amazing. Good to monitor. (@ELTExperiences)

This doesn’t come without its issues:

With ESOL ls, especially mature learners, they can be reluctant or scared to assimilate into the target culture.(@Languageeteach)

A problem that I see with ESOL students is they incorporate their own culture in their home. …female ESOL students then have problems coming to class as their husband dictates when they can and can’t go.(@ELTexperiences)¬†

Of course, if we are thinking about immigrants spending a prolonged period of time in an English-speaking country, and potential issues they could face, we should also think of issues faced by students who study in such an environment:

An increasingly important issue is training L1 lecturers to teach an international class (@ShaunWilden)

Activities/approaches we could use across contexts

There were plenty of ideas for bringing culture into the classrooms and thoughts about how it could emerge naturally too, as well as potential issues…

I do games, activities, discussions and personal stories from me and from students (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Greetings across cultures – shake, nod, nose touch etc. (@ChristineMulla)

We use a great GTKY activity with our students to encourage cultural awareness. It prompts discussion on proxemics, etc. (@ELTexperiences)

I think these issues / topics tend to come up naturally in class either through the language forms (politeness etc) or discussions (Gem1)

Business E books often have units on intercultural awareness. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

“I tried to do it in an enjoyable way – quizzes, games, etc. So in the end yes. I teach at a public grammar school in CZE” (@HanaTicha)

I had to teach British culture to my Spanish students and it occurred to me that we could learn imperatives while making brownies (@anasainzc)

A fun activity which dealt with culture was to ask students to bring superstitions from their countries.  Fascinating. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Authentic videos are great for those who’re not sure about cultural aspects of different countries (@HadaLitim)

In my experience, I thought I learnt things from films etc but then I was very surprised when I got into trouble (@HanaTicha)

 A story of a faux pas might be a good lead-in to the topic  can elicit suggestions on how to get out of trouble! (@Philip_Saxon)

In business classes, case studies involving faux pas (or worse) can be instructive. (@Philip_Saxon)

Culture is a natural part of life Рsociety and language based. Automatic learning if open to it  (@ChristineMulla)

I also get students to discuss the importance of colour in their culture. (@ELTexperiences)

Gestures is always a great one (@HadaLitim)

Or personal stories. They work well as well. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Creative Drama would be great for culture awareness, too. (@angelos_bollas)

You could look at idiomatic expressions from other cultures and get students to tell each other idioms or expressions. (@ELTexperiences)

Creating realistic situations in the classroom, would be a great option. (@perikleis)

If learners are in an E.S.E, you could get them to do research then go and interview people on the street to learn more РI made materials to maximise the learning in these activities… (@LizziePinard)

Challenging stereotypes can be really interesting: thrifty Scots, direct Germans etc. (@Languageeteach)

But dealing with them and trying to see beyond the stereotypes can make a good lesson too. (@dimodeca)

Role-play situations in a TBL sequence might work – ask students to act out in own lang THEN watch in L2 (@Marisa_C)

Not hard in multilingual classes. Had a Saudi student trying to convince a Mexican about the advantages of having several wives (@ditaphillips)

Did PARSNIPs this week too and¬†Spanish students didn’t get what the big deal was till we discussed different cultures learning from same books! (@Noreen_Lam)

Can also try to get students from different backgrounds to work together in groups – they have a shared goal, after all. (@Philip_Saxon)

Should we try intercultural lessons? One class in one country connects w/ a class from another country and share experiences?

I did an exchange between teens in Brazil and S.Korea, they loved it and learnt so much, very effective (GemL1)

There are some great intercultural wiki collaborations going on as we speak (@Marisa_C)

Get sts to think about what they think is British Culture. I’ve heard a range of answers: men with top hats and walking sticks,etc. (@ELTexperiences)

Pitfall with teaching british culture, is: what is it? Danger of stereotypes.. (@hartle) [Applies perhaps as a potential pitfall for teaching about any culture.]

My school organise an international food day every 3 month. Ss and Ts make food from their country share! Yum! (@ditaphilips)

Topic of culture also allows students to be ‘experts’ on an area. Great for motivation.(@ChristineMulla)

Identifying cultural elements in films/video clips could be a class activity (@Marisa_C)

Can ask monocultural classes what advice they’d like to give to foreign students coming to their country to study. (@Philip_Saxon)

Can get students to turn local news into a BBC or CNN treatment and vice versa (@Marisa_C)

Organize an international day at school.Ss in charge of research, organization and reaching out. (@Laila_Khairat)

We can ask Ss to interview family members who have lived abroad (@Laila_Khairat)


Delta Publishing: Culture in our classrooms

ELTExperiences blog: British Culture quiz 

Why not try post-crossing: Post-crossing website

…or a virtual exchange project? – see Rose Bard’s project for inspiration!

Routledge: Language, culture and teaching: critical perspectives

Cambridge: Cambridge Intercultural Resource Pack

Kwintissential: International Business Etiquette website/app ; International Etiquette guides

Wiley: Multicultural Education: issues and perspectives

Adrian Holliday: Authenticity, communities and hidden potential – video presentation

and I would add:

Sandra MacKay: Teaching English as an International Language: rethinking goals and approaches  

Adrian Holliday: The Struggle to teach English as an International Language

Ed. Farzad Sharifian: English as an International Language: Perspectives and pedagogical issues 

Corbett (2003) An Intercultural Approach to English Language Teaching. 

Nault, D. (2006) Going Global: Rethinking Culture Teaching in ELT Contexts  in Language, Culture and Curriculum vol. 19/3  (If you have access РI no longer do but did when I was at Leeds Met!) 

 Рall of which I have read and highly recommend! 


It’s all very well but..

Speaking of cross cultural communication, I wish someone would teach English L1 speakers how to talk to an international audience! (@theteacherjames)

Seriously (although in all seriousness you can’t disagree with the quote above!), it was a very interesting discussion to have with a cross-section of teachers from a multiplicity of contexts – and surely a conversation we need to keep having, issues we need to keep interrogating…

In fact, we had a different version of this discussion a few¬†years ago, which I also summarised, called The effect of culture on teaching and learning. Might also be worth a look if you were interested by what we had to say this time around! ūüôā

Looking forward to the next #ELTchat – now that I’ve cleared my summary backlog! ¬†If you participated, let me know if I have missed anything you consider crucial or feel I have represented anything incorrectly.

#ELTChat Summary (7/5/2014) – “How we deal with passive learners”

#ELTchat discussions take place once a week, on Wednesdays, at 12.00 or 21.00 each week, on a rotating basis. (To find out more about #ELTchat and these weekly discussions, please visit the #ELTchat site.) On the 7th May the chat took place at 12.00 and the topic was ‘how we deal with passive learners’ – though as @teflgeek pointed out, shouldn’t that be…

the topic for #eltchat is how passive learners are dealt with

Hmmm! (image taken from pixabay.org via google search for images licensed for commercial use with modification)

Hmmm! (image taken from pixabay.org via google search for images licensed for commercial use with modification)

@Marisa_C, however, ¬†suggested that this recast sounded a bit threatening and started the ball rolling by suggesting we start with a definition of “passive learner”. This opened up a can of worms that turned out to be larger than expected.

What is a passive learner?

I think the most important thing is to highlight they do learn, just they are not active in class…as a result they might seem quieter, less ready to participate, but things are still going in. (@ashowski)

Prefer working silently, on their own. No discussion. No group work. DEF no role play! (@BobK99)

Are these not just introverted quiet learners, are they necessarily passive? (@LizziePinard)

I think we can tend to assume wrongly that passive = not learning (@OUPELTglobal)

At this point we started to realise what we had unleashed…

As @Teflgeek pointed out, “there’s a difference between introverted and passive, but easy to confuse the two!” I suggested that “‘passive’ has negative connotations of disengagement and should be distinct from quiet/introverted” but @ashowski) argued the exact opposite – “I’d rather be called a passive learner than introverted – for me ‘introverted’ has more negative connotations” (which I found very interesting! With some words connotations are more fluid than we might realise…).

So, when at 11.14, we still hadn’t really decided just which learners the discussion was to target, I made a suggestion:

Maybe we need to ditch the labels and describe the behaviour we are tackling? 

and @Marisa_C offered us the following ballpark to play in:

I presume then we want to talk about Ss who do not respond/participate/interact ?

@OUPELTglobal suggested that “this lack of response/ participation/ interaction would be not be good behaviour in a language class where the point is to communicate” but I argued that we “need to remember the quiet ones can still be learning, the loud ones aren’t necessarily learning…”, adding that ¬†we “can communicate by writing, communication isn’t by definition noisy”. @OUPELTglobal explained that he/she “wouldn’t equate activity with noisy” ¬†but I suggested that “if learners aren’t communicating when we think they should, then we often consider them passive” ¬†and @robertmclarty chipped in with “I’m¬†being passive but I wouldn’t say I wasn’t engaged in this chat”

However, @OUPELTglobal was not alone in thinking lack of response/participation/interaction could be problematic – @Marisa_C stepped in to argue that the¬†“point of language learning is language using not just exposure – so what would you do about it?” ¬†and then¬†@teflgeek threw in an interesting spanner:

Maybe a passive learner is one who takes more time to process the input and arrive at their own conclusions, thus seem less engaged

and @OUPELTglobal wondered if there wasn’t “a time to reflect (e.g. be passive) and a time to be more active”, with @Shaunwilden concurring: “Agreed, I think sometimes in ELT lessons are too focused on being active”. Meanwhile @ashowski gave us an example of one of his learners who might be mistaken for “passive”:¬†

I have a learner who gets 100% and writes English like a native but she won’t say a thing in class – learning is taking place‚Ķ

and continued by arguing that “we wouldn’t a learner to feel uncomfortable by pushing them further than they want”. @Shaunwilden objected to this, asking “but isn‚Äôt our job to push them?” to which @OUPELTglobal agreed, making the important point that “we need to offer challenge. That doesn’t have to be scary.”¬†

At this point, @Marisa_C reminded us all of the many ideas that arose in a previous #ELTchat on team building and cohesion, “to help learners feel easier/less afraid to participate”¬†and OUPELTglobal pointed out that lack of participation “could be fear. Our job is to help reduce it. Also could be cultural?”, and @Ashowski gave us an example of this:

 in Poland the culture is definitely to be a passive learner Рteacher does all talking. Nightmare for #elt

I agreed with the cultural issue and the fear issue, suggesting that “we can work on providing a conducive atmosphere, motivation, opportunities etc.”


So we seem to have moved to ideas for helping learners be more confident? (@LizziePinard)

Plus participate/interact more, yes (@Marisa_C)

The remainder of the talk was a glorious brainstorming of ideas, which took in various elements of teaching – how we structure activities, teacher role in the classroom, dealing with errors, generating motivation, providing scaffolding, ensuring learners feel supported, the importance of planning time and readiness…and more…:

  • “Could look at role of mistakes in learning and raise awareness of value of making them n learning from them. in supportive atmosphere” (@LizziePinard)
  • “Appreciate their character and encourage participation” (@ashowski)
  • “It would very much depend on the age for me ¬†– more play and chances to shine for YL’s show areas of strength” (@Marisa_C)
  • “It also depends when in the course, if early on could be initial shyness. Edmodo etc could help build confidence/rapport” (@LizziePinard)
  • “Maybe find ways to participate that fit their personality. EG if not groups, then 1:1” (@OUPELTglobal)
  • “With adults i usually end up talking about L2 acquisition and how it works best” (@Marisa_C)
  • “Extensive reading helped a quiet learner of mine to blossom – she’s much more confident now…more self-belief – she’s done well with the reading, done lots, never thought she could before” (@LizziePinard)
  • “One of mine won’t speak unless she feels comfortable/forced. I let her speak she wants but I do encourage it *no force” (@Ashowski)
  • “I usually use Tic tac toe choice board .Ss have the right to choose the activity first that fit their character” (@SalehiHosna)
  • “I had a student who barely said a word, but took a lot in. He barely said a word in his own lang, too. felt more¬†felt more comfortable with online chat and discussion boards” (@OUPELTglobal)
  • “Can position ‘peer push’ too, maybe less ‘forceful’; ultimately more fruitful if we want passive L to take models for active ness” (@NewbieCELTA)
  • “I found one of my Pass Ss responded well to online platforms. Maybe it helps having a different online ‘persona'” (@GarethSears)
  • “I ask learners to talk to themselves, record it, and self-correct. Confidence goes up and class participation improves!…I bring in class audio clips of me talking to myself! When they understand that it is ok, they do it all the time!” (@angelos_bollas)
  • “I would say then help them discover things they *can* do in English – e.g. extensive reading, listening, sharing on Edmodo etc to help build up their confidence.” (@LizziePinard)
  • “Teacher personality can draw students out of shell, too. strict but fair and encouraging. also willing to admit when wrong or make mistakes” (@OUPELTglobal)
  • “Also create a balance in the class of reflective activities and active ones. Experiential learning (Kolb cycle) requires both” (@OUPELTglobal)
  • “Maybe better¬†to focus on ‘passivity’ as condition/response not ‘passive’ as trait” (@NewbieCELTA)
  • “Let them teach you something in their language, and try it, be willing to make mistakes and have fun with it, so they see it’s ok” (@LizziePinard)
  • “Create balance between collaborative tasks and individual ones to suit different learning styles.‚Ķ” (@OUPELTglobal)
  • I think we try to push learners to THEIR line of challenge, not ours. also, I focus on ‘result active motivation’ rather than intrinsic/extrinsic: motivated by recent, felt success learning = desire for more, implicated more metacognition & knowing what/how learning is happening. (@NewbieCELTA)
  • “Students are often afraid of making mistake. For building confidence I prefer to start with Tiered activities.”(@SalehiHosna)
  • “I have also found that talking about how important making mistakes is changes Students’ attitudes – we need to ENCOURAGE mistakes” (@Marisa_C)
  • “Students I’ve had in mind during this chat rarely join in spontaneously but do when given planning time.” (@mattkendrickelt)
  • “Ensure that group work is more structured sometimes, so that students have clear roles” (@LizziePinard)
  • Students are often unconfident, because teachers don’t take into consideration the readiness level of them (@SalehiHosna)
  • With regard to¬†mistakes I find language ‘play’ helps, e.g. have Ss pick and repeat 1 mistake in conversation and until the other finds it. (@GarethSears)

Thank you to all who participated, it was a most interesting discussion! I hope I have summarised it reasonably accurately Рplease let me know if you feel I have misrepresented anything you said, so that I can make appropriate changes.  


#ELTchat summary 4/12/13: Getting the most from students’ writing journals

A long time ago, in a far off land called the Twittersphere, a group of teachers got together for a chat, joined only by a hashtag Р#ELTchat (find out more here)- and their love of teaching/learning. I was not amongst them. (It was in fact the 4th December 2013 Рso I was buried under a pile of IH Young Learner Course work.)

In those days, there were two chats each Wednesday and this was the 12.00 version. Fast forward a few months and the transcript was put up for auction to #ELTchat summary writers everywhere. I was the lucky winner, despite the aforementioned absence, and here is the summary: 

The topic up for discussion was:

¬†“Getting the most from students’ writing journals”¬†

(NB: hashtags removed and missing letters/punctuation added, to make reading easier!)

A mixture of experience with regards to using journals with students was brought to the table…

Different contexts of use/non-use and purposes, e.g. summer school, regular school, university; personal diary, reflective tool, as well as a mixture of success and failure:

“…never do journals” (@MarjorieRosenbe)

“Only thing close are self-reflection surveys on learning styles for research project.” (@MarjorieRosenbe)

“Used to do journals all the time at summer school. very effective” (@teflgeek)

“Only done them once in the school year. not so effective” (@teflgeek)

“I’ve tried journals several times, but it always ended in disaster. Students just copied entries or didn’t write anything. Wonder why?” (@teacherkristina)

“I have students write in a journal for 20 mins everyday” (@leedsacademy)

“Tried once, total fail.” (@Bobk99)

“Been using them this semester to encourage self reflection and review.” (@KateLloyd05)

“Have tried journals but always felt as an eavesdropper.” (@Marisa_C)

Suggestions for how to get the most from these journals

These were varied and focused on process and content, touching on issues of motivation and feedback…

  • Some participants were in favour of encouraging use of prompts to help learners write:

¬†“Maybe¬†a framework for journal entries? Something I heard / saw / read?” (@Teflgeek)

“Today we did a kind of framework for past narratives. where were you? with who? how did you feel? What were you doing? past continuous. What happened? past simple” (@leedsacademy)

I also assign personal topics for homework – works well and stays private (for me only) (@MarjorieRosenbe)

I’m thinking bout having direct questions for Friday’s entry. What did you learn this week? What was difficult?How will you remember?¬†¬†(@leedscademy)

  • Some had used freer forms of content:

 some students have used journals as a means to complain about their peers / notify the teacher of problems (@Teflgeek)

I don’t want to give too much structure because I don’t want it to feel like homework/task. Want it to feel free. (@leedscademy)

  • Others recommended the use of a diary as a reflective tool:

“Did learner diaries last year to have them reflect on learning styles. Interesting stuff.” (@Marjorierosenbe)

Also asked questions like ‘What did we do?’ How did it help you learn?’ (@Marjorierosenbe)

So maybe a reflective framework for journal entries? What I did / how I feel / what I can improve  Рsort of thing? (@teflgeek)

  • There was also an approach that mixed free choice and prompting:

“Always have leading questions. But they can choose which to use.” (@KateLloyd05)

  • Different forms of feedback and feedback issues were discussed:

“Does it even have to be accurate or checked for accuracy?” (@teacherphilli)

“Peer correction and feedback works very well. Students help one another, but also give meaningful/relevant feedback.” (@CotterHUE)

“Possible privacy issues with peer correction and constraining what the students write about” (@Teflgeek)

“I used to take them in every so often and provide a bit of content feedback / language feedback” (@Teflgeek)

“I often have Ss peer edit or comment on writing journals/tasks. Good for collaborative environment” (@CotterHUE)

“Wonder about journals as writing fluency practise, rather than accuracy.” (@Teacherphili)

“Maybe the topic is too personal to support correction. Happened when a S wrote about dead father.” (@leedsacademy)

“I agree with not marking journal entries but you can ask Ss if they would like you to like in light pencil?” (@marisa_c)

“It should be free and not part of assessment. Some guidance helps.” (@OUPELTglobal)

“I write personal responses to each of the students. don’t do much correction.”

  • Purpose, context and learner awareness were suggested to be key in terms of influences on motivation:

“Feel that type of student/class (e.g. YL/EAP) has big bearing on whether journal keeping will be of benefit.” (@teacherphili)

“Motivation is big issue here. Autonomy, too, surely?¬† Need to know point of writing before getting most out of it.” (@teacherphili)

“For the student to get the most from journals, do thy need to see it as a process rather than a product?” (@Teflgeek)

“Talk about their experiences, and what they can get out of them. (@KateLloyd05)

“Agreed, i‚Äôd also discuss how they want to keep them, paper, pod, app etc. (@Shaunwilden)

“We did learning style surveys and then I explained what I wanted them to observe about themselves.” (@MajorieRosenbe)

“Need to be clear with the sts what the purpose is” (@Teflgeek)

  • There was some discussion around format, with emails, pen and paper, a note book, audio-recordings and TREEPAD all being suggested as possibilities:

Tech suggestion: I used Treepad for my PGCE reflective journal. Easy to use, but v. limited (in the freeware version). (@BobK99)

Pen and paper.  summer school also used them as scrapbooks (@Teflgeek)

“Do/did you get them to handwrite or could they do it digitally? Use app such as Penzu?” (@shaunwilden)

“For me pen and paper. Arabic Ss need all the practice they can get. I guess digital would be ok” (@leedsacademy)

“I‚Äôd also discuss how they want to keep them, paper, pod, app etc” (@shaunwilden)

“Reflective learning could be done through audio recordings, but thought journals suggested writing practice” (@teacherphili)

“Good point to mention blogs – because class blogs are used as a kind of journal writing activity, aren’t they?” (@teacherphili)

“There are loads of free apps provided sts have devices, equal access etc” (@teacherphili)

“What about oral journals?” (@OUPELTglobal)

  • There were also some nice ideas for using journals creatively:

“Could make them write their journal as their favourite celeb or book character. Would avoid¬† personalisation issue” (@katkander)

“A bit like joining facebook as one of a film, book or play characters :-)” (@teacherphili)

“I also assign personal topics for HW – works well and stays private (for me only)” (@MarjorieRosenbe)

“I tend to write follow-up Qs to what they wrote before. sometimes, change topic” (@leedsacademy)

Time worked against the participants, as it so often does. However, as you can see, they covered plenty of ground in the time they did have. Hopefully the transcript and this summary can help you get the most out of using journals with your students.

Recommended reading:

I haven’t used journals with students before (got a major experimentation backlog ūüėČ ) but @Sandymillin has, and has written a detailed blogpost about her experiences which you can read here. – Highly recommended.

#ELTChat Summary for 18-09-2013: How can we help learners produce natural talk in everyday, casual conversation?

For anyone who is not yet aware of it: #Eltchat is a Twitter hashtag which offers Twitter-based discussions that take place every Wednesday at 12.00 and 21.00 BST/GMT (when the clocks change). The topics, all related to the ELT industry, are listed on the  #Eltchat website, together with some background reading, a few days in advance of the discussions. The tag #eltchat can also be seen throughout the week as an identifier of all things that might interest those who work in the EFL industry.

On 18.09.2013, the 21.00 BST discussion was on the topic¬†‚ÄúHow can we help learners produce natural talk in everyday casual conversation‚ÄĚ. (I was busy finishing my dissertation at the time, so couldn’t take part, but volunteered to do the summary when it was offered on the #ELTChat Facebook page!)

The suggestions were many and varied. (I’ve divided them into categories and expanded abbreviations to make it easier to process!):

Authenticity and Input

  • Authentic materials help a lot!¬† I use “Real Lives, Real Listening” series a lot. (North Star ELT -now Collins) (@elawassell)
  • I encourage watching soap operas – in English – lots of natural exposure, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea (@elawassell)
  • The thing that needs to be most authentic is the reason for their communication – it has to mean something to them. (@theteacherjames
  • By using listening that contains natural talk rather than ‘model dialogues’ (@Marisa_C)
  • Get involved in social media communication…find real friends to speak English with. (@HanaTicha)
  • Role of input via listening also quite important #eltchat and types of activities which focus on chunks of language (@Marisa_C)
  • Ask sts to repeat what you’ve just said now and then.¬† See if they’re noticing these natural language chunks. (@ljp2010)
  • Use typescripts etc for them to identify useful chunks. (@Shaunwilden)
  • Teach them discourse analysis¬†i.e. do¬† conversational analysis – moves, politeness rules, coherence etc (@Marisa_C)
  • Record an authentic conversation on video and use @dotsub to transcribe and share with Ss. Using authentic models are helpful (@ESLhiphop)


  • Acting out whether playacting (rehearsing) or roleplaying (producing more freely) can help ¬†(@Marisa_C)
  • We’ve been using scenarios for our students..Today is Thurs..your essay should be in by Fri..you are not ready..you have to chat with your tutor.. (@shaznosel)
  • One activity I have used with monolingual classes – act out scenario in L1 then listen in L2 and compare – language/attitudes, style. ¬†Have them prep their improvisations in groups or pairs – act out THEN listen or watch video – it’s fascinating to watch.¬†Often they don’t [end up with similar things] – which is interesting – the cultural element is interesting as this raises awareness of that. (@Marisa_C) ¬†I do something similar by asking students to¬†look at video with no sound and working out conversation from gestures (@Shaunwilden)
  • For freer activities I keep a set of situations which Ss improvise as a skit and class spots roles, setting, relationship etc (@Marisa_C)
  • Drama can include relaxation, trust building and fun, can lead to role-plays and that… with less anxiety (@Marisa_C)


  • I’ve seen the suggestion that the use of masks can help learners become more uninhibited – they adopt the character of the mask (@pjgallantary)
  • What about props? small things to lend credibility to the new identity? ¬†(@Marisa_C)

Small Talk

  • I think small talk starts with the teacher. It can settle a class and it produces natural language (@SueAnnan)
  • It’s really important to engage students in normal conversations outside of class time, while waiting, break time etc. Helps them relax (@theteacherjames)
  • Finding out about students usually produces natural speech too (@SueAnnan)
  • @sandymillin shared her lesson on #smalltalk here:http://t.co/Yg205gQlGv¬†my Ss found it useful (@Ela_Wassell)

Methodology, Approaches and Techniques 

  • Rehearse and then revisit, all too quickly teachers move on (@Shaunwilden)
  • ¬†How about some good old-fashioned drilling then? (@ljp2010)¬†yes why not? Not necessarily old fashioned but well conducted, snappy oral practice can help a LOT! (@Marisa_C)
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. ALM is not “stylish” today, but it has its merits (@ESLhiphop)
  • Speaking’s like tennis practice: you need to intensively practice a single stroke, but you also learn by playing games. You need both. (@ESLhiphop)
  • As a variation sometimes you could ask Ss to define the topic and stage manage a CLL lesson where they learn and eventually record new chunks (@Marisa_C)
  • How about getting them to create their own personalised phrasebooks – with functional headings (@Marisa_C)¬†Or a voice memo one should they wish to hear it instead? (ljp2010). Nice idea, phones help with that too as they can record the pronunciation (@Shaunwilden)¬†or make their own recordings on something like¬†Vocaroo¬†and email it to themselves
  • Learning a language again: what sparks our classes are topics we care about, then we make effort even with minimum vocabulary (@annabooklover)

Some potential pitfalls were also identified:

  • When I lived in Brazil, everyone told me watching soap operas was a good way. I’d prefer not to learn the language!! (@theteacherjames)
  • If someone asked me to wear a mask I’d feel about 10x more self conscious! (@theteacherjames)
  • The problem students have with natural talk is ‘performance anxiety’ – in sports parlance, some sudents end up ‘choking’ (@pjgallantary)
  • I think it [new identity] can go too far, e.g. giving Chinese students Western names (@pjgallantary)

Meanwhile emerged some other questions that need to be pondered:

  • It does raise issue of what is ‘identity’ – many students feel like different person when speaking in English. (pjgallantary)
  • Personally I have observed that lack of fluency in any given area is often caused through the teacher’s reluctance to ask students to rehearse (@marisa_c)
  • Do you think teaching language chunks more could help? I think it’s important for fluency (@elawassell)
  • I’m not keen on the new identity, but being forced to temporarily be someone else can be useful (@theteacherjames)
  • But here’s a question: do you feel like a different version of ‘you’ when speaking in different languages? I do! (@pjgallantary)
  • The question is how to scaffold a speaking activity… ¬†(@marisa_c)
  • Does improvisation work that well esp. at lower levels? (@Shaunwilden)
  • Control vs freedom always a worry but teachers need to intervene when needed – either facilitating or providing language needed (@Marisa_C)
  • How do you raise awareness of what is natural and what isn’t? (@Marisa_C) ¬†Aye this is quite tricky, was thinking that listening to people in London today, nothing like we expose students to (@Shaunwilden)
  • Can drama activities help? (@Marisa_C)
  • What do confident,fluent, but not necessarily accurate speakers do that grammatically accurate but reticent speakers don’t? I suspect that confident,but inaccurate,speakers actually don’t give a stuff for the lang. ‘target’ and get lost in the performance¬†(@pjgallantary)
  • How else can one practise a variety of language functions unless some kind or role activity – new ID or self in other contexts? (@Marisa_C)

So plenty of ideas and plenty of food for thought – what more could you ask from an #Eltchat?! ūüôā

#Eltchat 29.05.13 Summary: How to use a great resource like eltpics for your teaching

For anyone who is not yet aware of it: #Eltchat is a Twitter hashtag which offers Twitter-based discussions that take place every Wednesday at 12.00 and 21.00 BST/GMT (when the clocks change). The topics, all related to the ELT industry, are listed on the  #Eltchat website, together with some background reading, a few days in advance of the discussions. The tag #eltchat can also be seen throughout the week as an identifier of all things that might interest those who work in the EFL industry.

On 29.05.2013, the 12.00 BST discussion was on the topic “How to use a great resource like Eltpics for your teaching”. Here is a long-overdue summary of all the fantastic ideas that were generated during this #Eltchat:

First of all, what is Eltpics? 

  • Eltpics began in 2010 as an image resource bank created by and for teachers in the ELT sphere ¬†(tweeting an intro from FB page) (@Marisa_C)
  • Great idea by them, and helps to avoid copyright issues etc. Also, nice and easy to access. (@jo_sayers)
  • RT @Marisa_C: huge congratulations for making the shortlist at the #Eltons awards in 2013 #eltchat > yay, seconded!! (@cerirhiannon)
  • Here is the link to the #eltpics on facebook¬†¬†(@Marisa_C)
  • Here also you can find the #eltpics photostream on Flickr (@Marisa_C)
  • So, it looks like a great collection of free images for teachers by teachers (@Marisa_C)
  • best to follow the #ELTpics FB page. Every 2 weeks new set announced (@JulieRaikou)
  • And here’s an article in Spanish to introduce #eltpics to non ELT Spanish teachers (@pacogascon)
  • And great to not have to worry about copyright (@jo_sayers)

Ok, great, sounds good, but how do I use these #Eltpics images correctly and legally?

  • What’s the proper way to attribute #eltpics if using them on the web? #eltchat – in class I would assume there is no issue right? (@Marisa_C)
  • [This is] for [correct]¬†image attribution¬†¬†(@JulieRaikou)
  • If using pics on the web, author name, license details (for example, CC BY-NC 2.0) and link back is good practise (@esolcourses)
  • Using them in class is not an issue, although if you are printing out/sharing then you should include author credits (@esolcourses)
  • And if you embed in blog, the photo itself will link back to the flickr page (@jo_sayers)

What about some practical ideas for what I can do with these images in the classroom?

  • The¬†“take a photo and…” #eltpics blog is a great place to start ¬†(@cerirhiannon)
  • I like using the sets with¬† mosaic maker¬†¬†¬† –¬† set the no. of squares ¬†for mosaic , paste in the URL & voila! (@cerirhiannon)
  • Another thing I like to do is ask students to spot pics that have been/could have been taken in their part of the world (@cerirhiannon)
  • Making collages can be useful. was introduced to @PicMonkeyApp the other day too, via @ij64 (@teacherphili)
  • Great for personalising vocab sets (@cerirhiannon)
  • Picmonkey is one of my favourite sites for editing images, with great tools for adding text and effects (@esolcourses)
  • Picture Karaoke is a fave – slideshow images with or without words/phrases to use obligatorily (@Marisa_C)
  • –> Slideshow of images – with timer – and you can add a word or phrase at bottom or not. Ss keep talking storytelling (@Marisa_C)
  • Students can choose photo and write crazy captions a la Spike Milligan – see old post here¬† (@Marisa_C)
  • For anyone who’s interested there are a few ideas and a web tutorial on PicMonkey here¬†¬†(@ij64)
  • Did a 10min talk on mobile photos recently, ideas would work just as well with #eltpics (@Shaunwilden)
  • Do check out the blog (address here)¬†lots of guest posts on how to use #eltpics in different ways (@Marisa_C)
  • Here’s a link to a write up of @fionamau ‘s presentation on using #eltpics at TESOL Spain this year (@cerirhiannon)
  • Ask ss to find the pic that best represents them (either from topic or all) (@jo_sayers)
  • Good use for critical thinking skills is getting students to find/make connections between pics (@jo_sayers)
  • Students makes a connection (the less obvious the better), and others decide if they agree/it’s true and discuss. (@jo_sayers)
  • Like @fionamau ‘s idea – choose faces from feelings set to set up role cards and talk about different opinions on the same topic (@cerirhiannon)
  • Learners take pictures of places that are important for them and then describe them here¬†or upload ELTPics (@Whippler)
  • Here is one of the reasons I love #ELTpics
  • Start the class with 4 pictures based on the same topic/subject and ask students to work out what the connection is between them (@nroberts88)
  • Describing pictures in only 6 words (@nroberts88)
  • Loved this close-ups post by @cerirhiannon on #eltpics¬†back in the days (@Marisa_C)
  • Describing pictures in only 6 words #eltpics; nice one.. then make a poem ūüôā (@Marisa_C)
  • ask students to look for images to replace the ones in a CB¬† from one of the #eltpics sets & explain their choice (@cerirhiannon)
  • Term-long proj: redesign CB! (@BobK99)
  • Here’s a link to the post (replacing images in CBs) (@cerirhiannon)
  • You could get students to take a pic to add to #eltpics themselves! (@jo_sayers)
  • How about getting students to choose an eltpic and then try to recreate it for homework, then show result next lesson and tell about how they did it (@LizziePinard)
  • Then play spot the difference between students’ pictures and originals (@LizziePinard)
  • A follow-up to idea of a pic for HW: Ss pick one write detailed description – exchange with sb else who must draw pic (@Marisa_C)
  • More ideas for using images:¬†here¬†(@LizziePinard)
  • Give students a few key words/ask them to think of words related to topic, then give random pic and challenge to make relevant sentence (@pjgallantary)
  • If you make mosaics mixing students ‘like/hate/love’ or ‘wish I had,could,were/wish I hadn’t/wish people wouldn’t pics, partners speculate (@fionamau)
  • Give ss a pic each – they describe and partner draws pic OR they arrange items in room/other students into a tableau (@pjgallantary)
  • You can use images from the Sequences set for “blind” ‘spot the difference’ pairwork i.e. don’t show partner, describe & find differences (@fionamau)
  • Choose four/five pics – ‘which one is the odd one out and why?’ (@pjgallantary)

And if I want more images than #eltpics has to offer?

  • You can use this page to just search Flickr for creative commons images (@esolcourses)
  • Or this has all kinds of search options¬†(@jo_sayers)

I know – hard to believe so many ideas could be generated in a single hour! But so it was. I hope you enjoy experimenting with them – why not comment below and let us how it went? And if you have any ideas for using images, please also share them with us by commenting below. ūüôā

Summary of 20th February 2013’s #Eltchat Discussion on Materials Evaluation

The topic this week was:

Materials evaluation: What would be your top tips for effectively evaluating materials for language teaching? What do you look for? What do you avoid? What influences your decisions in using or not using a given material?

When we evaluate materials, we inevitably ask lots of questions. Turns out discussion of materials evaluation generates a great quantity of questions too. Here is the summary I have cobbled together from a particularly challenging transcript:

(NB: I have filled in the missing letters from all tweets containing abbreviations, just to make reading easier!)

@Marisa_C helpfully defined materials for us: “Materials = coursebook, supplementary, own design, downloads, anything” and everybody jumped in with criteria they consider important. Further criteria arose throughout the discussion, but for convenience and clarity, they are all gathered together here:

Needs to provide good mix of skills and be interactive. Lots of heads-up activities. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Also important is clear structure and engaging topics. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Level should be appropriate. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Materials able to be connected to students’ intrerests/background/culture..? (@TomTesol)

We usually look at  whether suited to specific learning situation  + offer valid methodology in relation to course aims. (@AlexandraKouk)

I think materials need to allow us to communicate well with students – that creates rapport. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

For me, the point of a book is to help me present new input to ss — I have to do the rest (communicative stuff) (@TomTesol)

For me, an important criterion is how memorable is the topic/.content going to be so that language can stay ‘glued’ to it. (@Marisa_C)

How does the material lend itself or be adapted) to natural,meaningful,relevant communication? (@CotterHUE)

I don’t think a book should tell you what, but rather present a selection of things to choose from. (@teflgeek)

F=fun R=rapport I=ideology N=needs D=design. …Sorry missed the E=education (as in principles of) (@Marisa_C)

When I look at a page of material I see if I would be interested myself Рthen I decide. And I ask sts what they think too. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

I like materials which show you something interesting about the world and help learn/practise language/skills (@robertmclarty)

Systematically:¬† Does it fit age, level, syllabus criteria… (@teflgeek)

I also feel materials need to appeal to variety of learner types…Learner types can be sensory perception (VAK) but also global-analytic cognitive processing types. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Another issue to consider with mats is that subject matter might interest you, but does it interest sts? (@pjgallantary)

Assess supplementary audio: is it an EIL approach with non-natives holding conversations? Or native English speakers? (@CotterHUE)

Done and dusted? I think not. Materials evaluation is a complex business.

I posed the question “how do you identify the criteria and which are more/less important also?” and @pjgallantary supplied a useful answer: “course books are¬†where we all start – knowing how they work helps us understand what to look for in materials” ¬†Of course, being able to evaluate effectively isn’t the whole story – there are institutional constraints to take into consideration too. @Shaunwilden reminded us that course books ¬†“are establishment enforced more often than a choice by teacher and students” and¬†@teflgeek told us about a group evaluation process in which nobody agreed, and the resolution? “There were three of us and the DoS got the casting vote”. ¬†Meanwhile,¬†@TomTesol reminded us that materials evaluation is not just about selection prior to the beginning of a course but a continuing process involving “constantly reviewing, getting students’ and faculty feedback…”

The discussion meandered naturally into the question of materials adaptation, which is a common follow-on to evaluation and identification of shortcomings. Why do we adapt the all-singing, all-dancing glorious multi-colour materials on the market these days?

The following reasons emerged:

Books written for a specific demographic with set format from publisher…which doesn’t match your students (@CotterHUE)

Problems with delivery but mostly missing keys and audioscripts which meant I had to copy them for students (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Other reason was that book on ICT was really outdated. Or book for BEC prep didn’t deal with exam (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Main issue with coursebooks is their homogeneity – T needs to be able to make relevant to own students (@pjgallantary)

Ultimately NO book is ever going to be right for your class because it wasn’t designed specifically for your class. (@teflgeek)

The point in the book is that you may HAVE to use it in which case try to salvage what you can & improve (@Marisa_C)

I constantly adapt and update materials based on surprises, feedback, etc. design new materials too. Assessment important (@CotterHUE)

And how do we go about it?

To lessonize: first, look at relevance of content¬† i.e. what u want it for –¬† to teach language point, vocab., skills etc (@AlexandraKouk)

As to developing own materials, As ever we must start from sts needs -WHY are we using this text, this video, etc, then HOW (@pjgallantary)

I create materials for PEO using articles – lots of things you can do – vocab, discussion, grammar etc. (@MarjorieRosenbe)

I adapt to suit the SKILLS I want them to develop (@TomTesol)

As Marisa implied, if you can’t figure out a way to adapt materials so the inpurt will stick, your evaluation is finished: They stink. (@TomTesol)

The question of the role of the¬†Teacher’s Book within the evaluation process, and ultimately teaching, was touched on a few times throughout the discussion and opinons were varied:

Never really use the teachers book, except for answers. Looking at teachers book means I’m unresponsive to the class.(@CotterHUE)

Depends. Came across word I didn’t know in ESP book, now have printed teachers notes.(@MarjorieRosenbe)

Most are now online and often very long. 120 pages or so of pdfs to print out.But lots of info. (@Marjorie Rosenbe)

Teacher’s Book Important to most ‘non-natives’ I’ve worked with. (@TomTesol)

Or inexperienced ‘natives’. Or experienced ‘natives’ looking for new ideas or something to bounce off maybe. (@LizziePinard)

For me not very [important] but if I am choosing for a group of teachers it is something I look at closely. (@Shaunwilden)

Well, depending on the market and availability of training – sometimes that’s all a Teacher can get – a good Teacher’s guide. (@Marisa_C)

A few curveballs were thrown near the end – broadening the scope of “materials” but there wasn’t enough time to go into this in any depth as the hour was fast drawing to a close and next thing we knew everyone was being invited to contribute their final five minute words of wisdom. This is what emerged amongst fielding of curveballs:

Constant assessment of materials, be it website, publisher, etc. What works with your style and students? What doesnt work? (@CotterHUE)

I think to evaluate effectively you need more awareness of your own beliefs/principles etc and good awareness of context etc (@LizziePinard)

Test drive stuff before landing yourself with a CB for a year of pain! Use good placement to match students to level especially important first (@oyajimbo)

Finally, here are the links that were thrown up throughout the discussion:

Very old blog post on choosing a CB or materials (@Marisa_C)

Here’s more recent research with v. useful checklist on p.6 (@AlexandraKouk)

Subject matter might interest you but does it interest sts? Wrote about that (@CotterHUE)

A useful research paper  (@AlexandraKouk)

Another useful research paper (@AlexandraKouk)

Have a look here and add sth if you can – been collecting interesting texts/topics for developing lessons. (@Marisa_C)

Pecha Kucha with mnemonic for evaluation (@Marisa_C)

This is a MATERIALS mnemonic from Tanner and Green (back in the day) (borrowed) (@TomTesol)

Phew! That finally brings me to the end of this summary. Thanks all for a great discussion. And, if you have any criteria you want to add to the list, anything you want to add, agree, or indeed disagree with, feel free to do so in the comments section. Nobody will object to the discussion continuing, I am sure!

Thank you to all who participated. ūüôā


If you want an overview of all the literature out there on materials development and have access/can wangle access to journal articles, @HeatherBu2011 recommends the following:

“State-of-the-Art Article:¬†Materials development for language learning and teaching”¬†by Brian Tomlinson in¬†Language Teaching (2012), 45.2, 143‚Äď179.

And here is an article I found on evaluating E-textbooks, which may lend itself to interesting comparisons with what we’ve discussed today…