5 Tips on How to Start a Course without a Coursebook

Starting is easy...But how can you finish your online course_

I like coursebooks, and after years of using them I’ve grown on some of them, but also I’ve never stopped looking for the perfect coursebook for me (alas! to no avail!). There are coursebooks that are decent enough to recommend to anyone, there are some that have some strong points, but require heavy supplementation in other areas, there are those that I find useless..

Apparently if I want to have a coursebook perfect for me, I’ll have to write it myself.

Quite often I find myself in a situation where books are not the issue. Some of my students want to pass an exam or take IELTS (I don’t need much choice when it comes to exam-oriented coursebooks). Most of my students, however, want to talk, to “keep using English, no grammar, you know, just talking”. Surprisingly, asking them “what do you want to talk about” results in a meaningful shrug, leaving you with a task of planning a course with speaking, virtually no grammar, probably some vocabulary and a lot of wishful thinking.

Fortunately, after years of dealing with students who are interested in classes but not really with coursebooks, I came up with five steps that will help you in case you’re stuck with covering for a teacher who’s forgotten to leave the teacher’s book, creating a very short course or managing a course that isn’t supplemented with students’ copies.

1 Analyse students’ needs

Seriously, this is the most important step whenever you start a new course – book or no book. If you ask your students about their needs, if you listen to their expectations and make notes, you’ll show yourself as more than a typical teacher – you’ll show yourself as a partner who’s willing to cooperate, not only preach.

Naturally, you will have to explain that sometimes it’s impossible to fulfil all expectations in one course (e.g. passing FCE on A2 level).

2 Define the goal of the course

Without the goal of the course it’s impossible to give full feedback. What do you want to achieve with your students? Do you want them to cover particular areas of grammar? Maybe you want them to communicate more fluently? Focus on pronunciation? Whatever it is, define it – as well as marking criteria, assessment methods and forms of feedback.

The most important question by students, the one they never ask, is “what am I going to know after this course?”. Take your time and give them a good answer.

3 Collect your favourite books and coursebooks

The course doesn’t have to be covered with a particular coursebook, but still, you will need some stimuli. Often have I seen students who expected a course without a book, only to find it tiresome and somewhat demotivating. The truth is simple: students need something to prove that they’re actually learning. Reading exercises, wordlists – doesn’t matter as long as they have a solid copy to ease their mind.

The sad truth is, most of them won’t even look at the copies, so if you don’t feel like wasting your time on preparing something special, use your favourite coursebook to make a copy of an exercise you know your students will like.

In my school, we’re focusing on communication, so my favourite book is definitely 700 Classroom Activities.

4 Open your favourite websites

When you’re in need there’s always someone online who will help you! I already made two lists of useful websites that may save your day (here and here), but I’m sure you’ll find more. Lesson plans galore (perfect for a short period when covering for an absent colleague), ideas, exercises, films and songs.

You may choose TEDed videos or pick one of the great YouTube channels – your students will certainly enjoy visual material which is not only educational, but also gives a great opportunity for discussion.

5 Create a short syllabus

This is my first year when I created self-made syllabuses for all my courses and I shared them with my students on our first meeting – and I believe this is a great idea, because now my students know exactly which lesson covers which part of the material and what they will  have to work on in case they skip the class.

Certainly, you probably won’t plan everything, and not everything will go according to plan, but a course without coursebooks tends to be more improvised and when your students expect proper classes, it’s better to offer them improvisation within a safe framework of a self-made syllabus.

That’s it – you’re ready to roll. However, as a bonus, take this hint:

Make a compilation of materials

You may create a neat file of printouts and copies, you may create a lovely e-book, or simply – which is my favourite option – make a padlet with your syllabus, ideas and materials. You will have everything organised for another course, all you will need are some minor changes.

I hope these short and simple steps will help you next time you face students who don’t feel like having to own coursebooks.

Enjoy!

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Role-Playing Teaching (Part 5: Character Creation)

role-playing teaching

It’s the fifth part of my Role-Playing Teaching series of articles and I can proudly say that we’re done with theory – today we’re going to start working on a proper RPG. Before we go on an adventure we need to create Players’ Characters. Since we’re going to talk on various topics during character creation, the minimum level required is A2+.

We already have the world where the adventures will take place – since I’ve mentioned my favourite environment (at least for educational purposes) would be urban fantasy, let’s assume the world is similar to the real world (doesn’t have to be identical, though). The place where I’ll start our adventure will be Dublin because I want my players to feel naturally with their English, and besides, I really like this city.

We won’t need game mechanics yet, not at this stage of character creation, but sooner or later we will need a proper RPG system. You will see that game rules are really important to keep storytelling within some framework. For demonstration purposes I will use Monster of the Week as an example of an urban fantasy world. Don’t worry, there will be no monsters.

Yet.

Before creating the characters, I need to come up with a rough idea of a story. Let’s say, the main heroes of my story will be a group of working adults who live in the same area of Dublin. This will enable me to create adventures in the city, but also in other places (they’re working, so they may be travelling). Sounds good? Great, let’s get to work… or, rather – let’s make our students work!

Creating heroes

By now, we know time and place (Dublin now, in my case). All I need to do is to ask my students to come up with new characters and make them speak, talk, interact. Simple? Naturally!

The good thing about character creation is that it can be done as an individual or the whole group activity (which is a good idea if students decide to play a group of friends straightaway). We simply give them sets of “getting to know one another” questions typical for first classes, but ask them to answer as their character. Ask them to come up with a new name, age, place to live (Google Street View may be a great help here!), family, friends etc. Ask them to write down their ideas, because they will need to refer to their “history” during various points of the game.

This is the point where you may use a fake name generator – you can seriously use the email address to improve character immersion (if you want to read about other useful applications of fake name generator click here!).

I strongly suggest giving homework after PC creation classes: writing down a character’s history and personal details will help not only the players, but also you, as a GM (just remember to make a copy or ask students to email you their stories).

Language learning

Naturally, the higher their proficiency level, the more complex questions you may ask, because this part helps you assess your students’/players’ linguistic skills. Starting with basic “daily routine” questions, moving through “tell me about your childhood” you may end up with the passive (“Have you ever been snatched?”) or reported speech (“How did your parents react when you moved out?”). Something that is essentially a grammar revision and a vocabulary assessment turns out to be a completely new exercise. For this reason, character creation may take more that one lesson, but as long as you’re having fun, enjoy.

Communication

During character creation it’s important to create not only a character itself, but also relationships between all players (sure, you may start with everyone creating their own PC and then trying to build up a team, but it’s way easier to start as a bunch of friends). This requires pairwork and work in smaller groups to settle the relationships and common areas.

Relationships may be varied: some people may want to play siblings, couples, best friends, colleagues, neighbours, old flames etc. The more the merrier, as various levels of friendship will allow students to practise communication using various registers (you don’t talk to your brother the same way you chat with your neighbour after all, right?).

When you’re done with the character creation, you may suggest practising fresh characters. Don’t forget to remind your players that the true personality of their characters doesn’t have to be determined at this stage and it’s OK if they decide they want to change some aspects. Below are three typical situations you may use as activities.

Short role-plays:

  • Typical situation

A casual situation between two or three players.

Situation: You meet up on Wednesday afternoon and discuss how the day was and what to do next.

Player A: you’ve had a really terrible day at work

Player B: your child/pet got ill and you’ll have to take him/her to the doctor

Player C: you broke your tooth. Ouch!

  • Problem solving

Very often a problem emerges that needs to be solved by talking it through. This situation implies all characters trying to solve a simple issue.

Situation: You meet up on Wednesday afternoon and want to make plans for Friday evening.

Player A: you want to go to a pub and relax

Player B: you really feel like disco is the best option for Friday!

Player C: there’s a new exhibition in the art gallery and you’d love to see it with your friends

  • Conflict resolution

Situation: You meet up on Wednesday afternoon in your favourite café and enjoy coffee and cakes.

Player A: you realise you’ve forgotten your money… again. Ah well, Player B will probably help you.

Player B: Player A seems to have forgotten money… again. It riles you up because somehow it’s you who usually pays for both of you and A doesn’t usually remember to give it back to you.

Player C: You hate public arguments. Player A seems to be rather forgetful when it comes to money, but there’s no need of Player B to make a scene. You don’t like it, but you don’t want to pay for Player A as well.

You will probably notice that the conflict resolution activity takes more time that other scenes, and this is a very good beginning to introducing game mechanics and a character’s sheet, but this is something I’ll write about next time.

Enjoy!

 

How to complete an online course?

How can you complete an online course_

For a while now I’ve been sharing ideas on free online courses you can take up every month – hopefully you find them inspiring at least as much as I do. One of the comments I get is that while it’s easy to find a nice course and sign in, it’s far more difficult to complete it. Some people say that’s why paid courses are a better option as you feel the pressure on finishing something you paid for.

It’s like with season tickets to the gym – you wait until the season finishes to leave the dreadful place for ever…

Today I want to share some tips that should be really helpful to make your online courses noticeably easier to complete (and to do it on time!). So let’s start with the first step:

1 Pick your course carefully

Don’t go for a full 8 week long specialisation on Coursera as your first course. Pick something lighter, like Get Started with Online Learning on Futurelearn. You should pay attention to grading policy (if you know you won’t have much time for assignments, pick the course with in-course tests). Check the duration of the course (start with 2 or 3 weeks long ones) and the amount of time estimated for your work (2 hours a week sounds rather ok). You don’t have to choose the area connected with your work – one of the nicest courses I’ve taken was on witness investigation (I’ve learned a lot about how the brain works, I must admit).

2 Plan your learning

I mentioned that I might be slightly overly organised, but when it comes to online learning, it’s a serious advantage. Remember, that you can rely only on your inner motivation, and this may tempt you to complete most of the course at once and then stop, take a break… and forget about the course altogether. So the main rule is: hold your horses! Don’t do everything at once. The courses are divided into modules and after each module you should have a break. Like with learning a language you should spend 15-20 minutes a day learning (it’s a great opportunity for you to find yourself in your students’ shoes, teacher!). Remember about your homework, but…

3 Leave time for reflection

Don’t go with your homework activities immediately after you finish watching videos and reading articles. Give yourself some time to digest the knowledge. It’s a good idea to have a little reflective log or journal before you start learning online. You may take notes not only of the topics you learn, but also questions that arise. Like every student, you are not expected to grasp everything at once, and sometimes great help can be given by your fellow students in course chats or forums – you will get inspired and some of the people are guaranteed to change your perspective. In most courses, educators also take part in discussions, so you’ll have a chance to discuss your ideas before you send in your homework.

4 Think about a support group

You must gather your party before venturing forth.

Sometimes inner motivation is not enough – then we can count on other people! It’s always nice to have a learning buddy to support you if you don’t feel like studying or have a sudden motivation drop (happens every other day, I know). Sometimes having a learning buddy may result in some kind of competition and that’s also very useful: who doesn’t finish Module 3 by tomorrow gets us both coffee! Don’t forget that chatting online with your course colleagues is one of the ways to find new friends – and as every brony knows, friendship is magic.

5 Don’t give up!

Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better. Maybe it’s not the most optimistic attitude, but don’t let one failure cast shadow over your future. Just try next time, remember the moment you gave up and try to eradicate it. Find a teaching buddy to support you, plan everything better – and don’t give up!

It’s not too late to take up one of the courses starting in February!

Enjoy!

7 Free Online Courses in February

7 Free Online Coursesin February

Long winter evenings of February may look picturesque, but if you prefer staying in, I have a good excuse for you to do so: free online courses. A lot of teachers enjoy their winter break, so if you want to procrastinate without the slightest feeling of guilt, you may enjoy one of the options I’ve picked for you:

1 Becoming a Better Teacher: Exploring Professional Development by the British Council and UCL Institute of Education

Start: 5th February

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: teachers of EFL or educators who teach in English

I believe teaching is constant learning – this course only proves my point. The course is divided into simple modules that will show you how important CPD and its organisation is. From understanding Kolb’s cycle to learning through classroom observation and peer feedback – it will definitely help you develop your reflective skills and improve your teaching practice.

2 Language and Mind by Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Start: 5th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: new teachers or those who need to revise their linguistics

Some people believe language to be a social creation and language learning to take place through social interactions. Others point out biological foundations of the language. This course will try to make you familiar with relationship between language and human mind; to understand language as a special purpose cognitive ability; and to understand underlying mental computation for natural language processing.

3 Introduction to Psychology by University of Toronto

Start: 5th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: educators interested in psychology

This course focuses on the brain and some of the cognitive abilities it supports like memory, learning, attention, perception and consciousness. During the course you will look at human development from the perspective of individual growth as well as the influence of environment. The final part will focus on various forms of mental illness and the treatments that are used to help those who suffer from them.

4 Tricky American English Pronunciation by University of California, Irvine

Start: 12th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: English language learners who want to improve pronunciation of American English

In this course, you’ll practice the sounds of American English that might sometimes be confusing, as well as proper sentence stress. The access to all of the lectures and handouts is free to anyone, but the graded assignments and quizzes are only available in the paid version of the course. You will need to submit recordings of your own pronunciation for graded assignments.

5 Speaking Effectively by Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

Start: 5th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: educators and students of English

This course focuses on the dynamics of effective spoken communication. It defines speaking as an autonomous medium with a particular vocabulary, syntax, structure, style and register. You will start with body language and basic conversation skills before moving on to such aspects as appearing in interviews, making formal presentations and participating in meetings.

6 Storytelling for Change by +Acumen

Start: 13th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: trainers and educators who want to use the elements of story to get closer to the audience

The course focuses on something that seems to be present in all aspects of our lives – storytelling – as an essential tool for changing the world because it starts with changing conversations around, what we see, hear, feel and know to be true. The course is also quite innovative as you will be expected to form a Story Team as part of this course. Story Team meetings are an important and fun part of the course. This is where you will discuss the material, practice with a friendly audience, and learn from each other. This course will consist of a mix of team and individual assignments.

7 MOOC-ED: Learning Differences by Friday Institute and North Carolina State College of Education

Start: 5th February

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: educators including teachers, coaches, administrators, or people who play a role in meeting the needs of all students

Historically, schools have approached student learning with a one-size-fits-all mentality and have struggled to adapt to changing student needs. That ends now – and this course is to help you change the way you teach and the way your students learn. You will focus on understanding learning differences, motivation etc. as the course focuses on providing a more personalised learning experience for all of your students.

I hope you’ll find something useful to enjoy over a cup of hot cocoa on a cold February night. If you belong to the vast majority of people who are eager to start online courses but struggle with systematic learning – don’t worry, next week I’ll post some tips that will help you choose, start and finish an online course.

Enjoy!

“Authentic Learning in the Digital Age” – can we connect technology and better education?

www.thatisevil.wordpress.com (1)

Traditional model of teaching may seem quite obsolete, especially when we look at technological advancement visible in all areas of our lives, including education. Even my blog reflects changes that have been influencing the whole TEFL process, most of them provoked by technological development. Even now, one of the most common questions regarding teaching focuses on technology – shall educators introduce technology in the classroom and if yes, to what extent?

Larissa Pahomov is a part of Science Leadership Academy, and the book she wrote offers not only her insight on creating an authentic learning environment, but also bears the mark of a true practitioner and some of the answers are the ones that make this book more than a guide for other SLA teachers.

“(…) Real learning happens anywhere, anytime, with anyone we like – not just with a teacher and some same-age peers, in a classroom, from September to June” (Will Richardson, Why School? [2012])

Trying to grasp the ideal learning environment, the book is divided into five core values:

Inquiry: students need to be able to ask their own questions in order to engage with their education

Research: students need to learn how to collect and interpret both data and sources of information

Collaboration: working together not only helps students to learn better, it also supports them in developing interpersonal skills essential for their future professional life

Presentation: students learn how to present themselves and their work appropriately and effectively

Reflection: a necessary part of a learning process to improve with each cycle of learning

Each part is detailed by a very organised set of information: description (how the value can transform the learning process and how a digital solution can enhance it), step-by-step outline (making the shift and various examples), solutions (many possible roadblocks and workarounds given), suggestions (how to implement the value not only in one classroom, but in the whole school) and anecdotes (mainly from ex-students, giving a very valuable feedback).

My favourite part of each chapter is the one focusing on challenges and ways to overcome them – and this is probably the highlight of the whole book. It is not very often that a publication mentioning collaboration states the most common issue connected with group projects like “my group-mates are not working as hard as me or doing what I tell them to” or a typical students’ excuse which is “we don’t have time to meet outside of school” – and yet it does and offers some insightful solutions.

I find this book highly valuable for anyone attempting to introduce technology in their curriculum on a regular basis, rather than using it as some kind of fun once in a while.
The sensible and down-to-earth approach has supported me in my DoS work to help my teachers realise the importance of using technology in the classroom and to answer their doubts and insecurities. I can truthfully say this was the most inspiring CPD publication I read in 2017 and I can only hope you’ll find it at least as useful as I have.
Enjoy!
“Currently, teachers and schools often fall into an embrace/reject dichotomy when it comes to using technology in the classroom. (…) this “digital divide” often reflects a misguided focus on the what of technology, instead of why and how. (…) adjustment means shifting away from looking at technology as an end in itself and toward using technology as a medium for all kinds of learning. To make that shift, schools and teachers need to be asking the following question: How can technology transform education?” (Larissa Pahomov)

Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry
Author: Larissa Pahomov

Published: November 2014 by ASCD

ISBN: 1416619569 (ISBN13: 9781416619567)

Role Playing Teaching (Part 4: Games From Distant Worlds)

koata beach

One of the things that have set me on the quest of finding Holy Grail of the RPG in TEFL is the tedious environment of the coursebook-oriented curriculum. After years of using the same scheme of lessons, of omnipresent PPP model (slowly trying to include elements of TBT) occasionally interrupted by games, role-plays and authentic materials, I’ve started to dream of a course where changes would be part of its curriculum. Hence my idea of joining RPGs with TEFL – a match made in R’lyeh and blessed by Cthulhu’s tentacles.

What gives RPGs such allure is certainly its variety – declaring actions (as acting out is not really a necessity), following the plot and building a story is similar everywhere, differences are in the worlds – and those are aplenty.

Today I want to share some examples of the environments and systems you may enjoy with your students. You may take your students to the adventure in the Wild West followed by a crime story a’la film noir in an urban fantasy setting… So, the environments I can recommend to each and every teacher are:

Fantasy

Probably the first thing that springs to your mind after you hear “Role Playing Games” – thanks to the most popular RPG in the world, namely Dungeons and Dragons.  Fantasy worlds full of magic, adventures and heroes. If you’re into ever-popular Tolkien’s Middle-earth, you may choose The One Ring. If you prefer a grim world of perilous adventure – here’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Do you love Terry Pratchett? choose Discworld RPG, and have fun! I would recommend these settings for those who actually are familiar with the concept of RPG, as one of possible problems may be convincing people that they are not only having fun, but also learning.

Science-fiction & the future

The logical step from fantasy – sci-fi. Now, there are many RPGs that happen in the future, but not all of them are true sci-fi, as there isn’t enough science in them to be called so. Eclipse Phase, Traveller and my favourite Blue Planet RPG have a truly sci-fi approach and may be awesome solutions for yet another environmentally-oriented classes on higher levels. If you’re teaching soldiers, go for CthulhuTech (future, mechs and Cthulhu, awesome!), if you prefer matrix-like world, go for Cyberpunk, or choose post-apocalyptic world as Neuroshima (Polish only, though you can play in English).

(Alternative) history

If you think fantasy or sci-fi is just too much for your students, you may try some historically accurate systems. As teachers of EFL, you may probably enjoy Pendragon, a system where you play a chivalrous knight in the arthurian realia. Aces & Eights may be a great solution of you’re into life in the alternative version of the Wild West. If you’re Polish who enjoys the history of their country, choose Dzikie Pola and enjoy the atmosphere of the Poland of old.

Non-human

Well, this may come as a surprise, but playing non-human characters may be a lot of fun! For more mature students I could recommend the World of Darkness universum, where you can play a vampire, a mage, a werewolf or a fae. Sounds too creepy? Think about something else – why not play an agile feline in Cats? Or maybe a heroic mouse in Mouse Guard? And we can’t forget of the game that at the moment is extremely popular among fellow gamer-parents who introduce their offspring to the world of role-playing games: My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria!

Urban Fantasy

The last, but not the least – urban fantasy systems, the ones I would pick for everyone who hasn’t tried RPGs before. It’s close to our own world, but you can – can, not must! – add a bit of the unreal. Think of the X-files: you can live the adventures in Delta Green, even when you leave Cthulhu mythology out of the equatio (can’t think of a reason why, though). Speaking of Lovecraftian Mythos, you may pick Call of Cthulhu and choose any period of time you wish – from roaring twenties to modern times. If you’re not into Cthulhu – choose Dresden Files or Monster of the Week – I’m sure you’ll have fun.

I myself believe urban fantasy is the best start to show the potential of using RPGs in teaching EFL, as you can introduce regular situations people experience in the real world – business conversations, small talks, negotiations etc. with no element of fantasy or supernatural. Try to think of it as a prolonged role-play exercise where each student having the same character, only facing different situations.

I hope you’re getting the general idea of what RPGs are – next time I’ll show you how to create Players’ Characters and why it may be an English lesson itself.

Enjoy!

Tell them what we’re doing! (guest note by Ewa Torebko)

Ready forSummer!

I met Ewa last August during Luiza’s Wójtowicz-Waga’s workshop where she shared her way of lesson planning and sharing it with her students. I found the idea just brilliant, so I asked her to write a guest post for my blog, so that you have the opportunity to learn from the master herself.

Thank you ever so much, Ewa!

Tell them what you’re doing and why!

Should you inform your students what the objectives of your lesson are?

Should you sum up or ask them to sum up what has been done and what they have learnt?

Do students remember best the things from the beginning and from the end of the lesson?

Yes, yes, and yes!!!

How do you inform them? How do you sum up? Do you simply tell them, write it on the board, elicit it from them?

One day, I decided I needed a clear graphic system that would help me with presenting the objectives and summing up the lesson. I found some images online, I drew others, I printed them out and laminated them, and this is what I came up with:

Ewa Torebko

photo by Ewa Torebko

  • an ear – for listening activities,
  • a open book – for reading activities,
  • a mouth – for speaking activities,
  • a pen – for writing activities,
  • I  ❤  grammar – (surprisingly) for grammar tasks,
  • a pile of flashcards – for vocabulary work,
  • two stickmen with speech bubbles – for pairwork,
  • three stickmen with a thought bubble and a light bulb in it – for groupwork,
  • a stickman doing a high jump and letter B – for ‘matura’ exam tasks at the basic level,
  • a stickman doing a high jump and letter E – for extended level tasks,
  • E=mc2 – for eliminating mistakes by correcting them a lot (feedback sessions when students correct mistakes from their written work or speaking tasks – no name calling unless students feel the need to own up to their mistakes),
  • a jigsaw puzzle with one piece missing – for all kinds of Use of English tasks,
  • a spiral – for a variety of revision activities, big and small,
  • a question mark – for anything that does not fit in with the rest or because every teacher needs to be mysterious from time to time.

How does it work? I’ve got all the images stuck to the wall with blue tack and select them for a particular lesson either before the students arrive or before they unpack and settle in, or sometimes I select them as I go along while telling the students what we’re going to be doing in the lesson. I stick the chosen images together in the order I planned the activities and tell the students what the agenda is or I elicit it from them once they are familiar with the images and what they signify.

During the lesson I refer to the images from time to time so that the students have a sense of order and purpose.

At the end of the lesson, I recap the class with the help of the images or ideally, the students do for me, sometimes with some prompting required, at least in the beginning. If there was a reading task, what did they read about? What reading strategies did they employ? Why did they read before doing grammar tasks or speaking tasks? If there were speaking tasks, what were they? How many were there? How many partners did they have a chance to talk to? What did they talk about? What language functions did they use? What vocabulary was useful for getting their message across? If there were revision tasks, what did they revise, how, and why, etc.

Did we do all the activities that had been planned? Did we do them in the order planned? If not, why? Perhaps some activities proved more challenging than anticipated? Why were they difficult? Did the teacher decide to skip certain activities and/or extend some of them? Why? How much were the students responsible for the changes?

How about not presenting the images at the beginning of the lesson and asking the students to recall the activities at the end of it? You might tell them it will be required of them or not. If you do, you will certainly have their attention.

Sometimes I sneakily mix the images up when the students are not looking and ask them to reorder them at the end of the lesson. Other times, I go even further and remove them completely so that the students have to recreate all the activities in the correct order.

If you want, you could ask the students to plan the lesson using the images, making sure they justify their order. How about asking your students to come up with their own images? Perhaps there is something they would like to add? Something that is unique and understood only by you and that particular group of students?

I find the images are useful for explaining your methodology, raising students’ awareness of what is happening in the classroom and why. They give us an opportunity to ask the students why they think the teacher planned certain activities and/or used particular methods, how useful they find them and why.

I also believe the images ensure that the students leave our lesson with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of closure – they help them realise the lesson was geared towards improving certain skills, expanding a particular set of vocabulary or preparing them for very specific exam tasks. Hopefully, when asked by a parent about what they did in class, they will be able to say more than just: “exercises” or “games”.

A final piece of advice: don’t be a slave to the images. I find them extremely useful with new groups that are going through the beginning stages of group development. They help with classroom management, establishing rapport and presenting your expertise as a teacher. With time, however, I tend not to use the images in every lesson because it can become tedious and repetitive. Sometimes you need to shake things up and add colour and variety to your classes.

Give it a try and make it your own! I highly recommend this method. It has helped me a lot since I implemented it. Apart from having all the benefits for the students that I mentioned above, it made me think more deeply about what I was doing in class and why. Isn’t conscious competence what we as teachers are trying to achieve?